During the last some weeks, images and videos of Palestinians clinging to the graves of their beloved ones as Israeli forces arrest, beat, and tried to pull them away by force widely viral on social media platforms. Occupation authorities of Israel in Jerusalem are executing their plans to build a Jewish national park and set to open in mid-2022 over parts of the cemetery, which spans over 1.4 hectares (fourteen dunams) of land.
Around twenty days ago, workers from the Israel Nature & Parks Authority and the Israeli-controlled Jerusalem municipality uncovered human remains during diggings, which caused unleashing and deadly protests and prayers at the area. Since then, Palestinian people have been trying to increase their presence at the cemetery, including those to protect the remains of their dead and opposing Israeli forces. In return, the Israeli forces fired stun grenades, tear gas, arrests, physical beating, and temporary bans of Palestinian demonstrators visiting the graveyard.
Palestinians vow to defend graves in Jerusalem cemetery Palestinians have been protesting against Israeli excavations in a Muslim cemetery in Jerusalem to build national park.
— Deji Sadiq (@deji_of_lagos) October 31, 2021
On Friday, the Israeli forces detained seven Palestinians and wounded three following Muslim prayers at the graveyard. Past few weeks, they arrested several other Palestinians and physically beat them. Palestinian lawyers based in Jerusalem filed a lawsuit against the ongoing excavations, and its hearing expected to take place at the Israeli Jerusalem District Court next week.
Demolishing of Palestinian Graves
The Cemetery of the Martyrs was named after the Palestinian, Jordanian, and Iraqi fighters who were martyred in Jerusalem while defending their holy place against Israeli forces during the 1967 war. Soon after the Israeli occupation of East Jerusalem, Gaza, and the West Bank in 1967, the Jerusalem municipality captured the land upon which the graveyard sits.
During the last ten years, occupation officials took brutal steps to change the characteristics of the site. They issued a directive in 2004 to demolish several graves to be-longing to Jordanians. The Jerusalem municipality of Israel started to implement the park project in December 2020 and demolished one of the walls lining the graveyard, along with sets of archeological stairs in the site.
Head of the Committee for the Preservation of Islamic Cemeteries in Jerusalem, Mustafa Abu Zahra, told Al Jazeera the Israeli Nature & Parks and the Israeli occupation’s municipality planned to destroy the landmarks surrounding the Al-Aqsa Mosque. According to him, the graves in the Al-Yousifiya Cemetery belong to the Palestinian Jerusalemite families of Bashir, Nababta, Rashadeh, Bakarat, and others.
Judaizing Landmarks of Muslims
The head of the committee said the excavations of graves in Al-Yousufiya are part of Israeli policy targeting several Islamic sites in Jerusalem. Abu Zahra said that attacks on Islamic cemeteries in Jerusalem started since the occupation of Jerusalem in 1967, intending to destroy and Judaize Islamic and Arab landmarks. He also pointed to many Palestinian graveyards with such policies, including the Ma’man Allah Cemetery.