Palestinian-Israelis protest as Muslim cemetery in Jaffa bulldozed to make way for housing project
Dozens of Palestinian residents of the city of Jaffa, south of Tel Aviv, protested on Tuesday evening against the destruction of a historic Muslim cemetery by Israeli authorities.
Bulldozers lon Monday evening, accompanied by large numbers of Israeli police, began digging up graves in the Isaf Cemetery - which dates back to Ottoman times - to make way for the construction of a privately-owned housing project.
Prior to the creation of Israel, Jaffa was a predominantly Palestinian Arab city.
Most of its Palestinian residents were forcibly expelled by Zionist militias in the 1948 Nakba (Catastrophe), during the establishment of Israel.
Today, around 16,000 Palestinians, who hold Israeli citizenship, remain in Jaffa, which today has about 30,000 Jewish residents.
Jaffa was annexed to Tel Aviv by Israel in 1950. Like most Muslim religious endowment (waqf) property, the Isaf Cemetery was placed under the control of the Israel Land Authority. Palestinian-Israelis have been unable to recover waqf land taken over the Israeli government.
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Kayed Abu Din, a Palestinian-Israeli activist living in Jaffa, told The New Arab's Arabic-language service that residents of Jaffa were taken by surprise by the Israeli decision to bulldoze the cemetery.
"We woke up on [Monday] morning to news of the Tel Aviv-Jaffa municipality's decision to bulldoze the Isaf cemetery. Not many Muslims in Jaffa understood the danger of such an act. God forbid, all the other cemeteries could be in danger in the near future."
Israeli police fired tear gas and used sound bombs against the Palestinians protesting the destruction of the cemetery, who assembled at the Clock Tower Square in Jaffa.
There were reports that several protesters, including a child, were injured.
The Tel Aviv Municipality says that the buildings which will be built over the cemetery will provide housing to Tel Aviv and Jaffa’s homeless and poor residents.
However, Mohammed Durai’i, a lawyer who heads the Jaffa Islamic Council, told The New Arab’s Arabic service that the decision to destroy and desecrate the cemetery showed that Israel’s campaign to displace Palestinians was still ongoing.
He dismissed the Tel Aviv Municipality's justification for the destruction of the cemetery, saying that there was already plenty of land which could be used for the housing project.
"The Palestinian people's Nakba is still continuing in its ugliest forms and even the dead are being displaced. In Jaffa there are 45 parks, used only for walking dogs, covering over 10 dunums [one hectare]," he said.
"But despite this the Municipality wants to build this building - which naturally will only benefit Jews - on top of a sanctified Muslim cemetery."
Israel has previously desecrated other Muslim cemeteries to build apartment blocks, shopping malls, and other facilities.
In 2016, several graves in the Bab al-Rahmeh cemetery in East Jerusalem were destroyed by Israel to make way for a "national park".