August 14th, 2010
09:31 AM ET

Muslims oppose Israeli construction at Islamic cemetery

[cnn-video url= http://www.cnn.com/video/#/video/world/2010/08/13/vo.cemetery.demo.cnn%5D

Eve Bower in Atlanta and Kareem Khadder in Jerusalem submitted this report:

Just before midnight on August 9, the bulldozers moved in and destruction of Jerusalem's best-known Islamic cemetery was once again under way.

The controversy surrounding the project - new construction on an area overlapping the cemetery of Ma'man Allah (God's Sanctuary) or Mamilla, as it is known in West Jerusalem - had simmered for years. That night, over 100 more graves in the ancient cemetery were demolished, further eroding what Palestinians see as a losing battle to preserve a sacred cultural landmark.

Mamilla, Jerusalem's oldest Islamic cemetery, dates back to the early days of Islam in the sixth century AD. Many of the people buried in the cemetery are believed to have been Islamic scholars and others who knew the Prophet Mohammad, including Islamic warriors who fought the crusaders in Jerusalem.

In more recent years, the cemetery has been in the spotlight amid controversy over Israel's plan to build a number of structures on top of the site, including the Museum of Tolerance, a parking lot, a park and an Israeli government building. The announcement of the construction plan outraged many Palestinians, who saw the project as one that desecrated holy land for the sake of a tourist attraction.

The Museum of Tolerance, affiliated with the Simon Wiesenthal Center, says that the site of the proposed development has not been part of the cemetery for almost 50 years, and cites as justification for the development's location a 1964 declaration by "the highest Muslim religious authorities" that the "entire area" was "an abandoned, ancient cemetery where public facilities may be built."

Palestinian groups petitioned the United Nations to intervene in efforts to go forward with the building project, but the Israeli courts ruled that since the graveyard had been in disuse for several decades, building could commence, and in 2006, the proposed development came one step closer to reality: Then-mayor of Jerusalem Ehud Olmert and California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger laid the foundation stone for the museum.

Since then, sections of the cemetery have been periodically razed by developers seeking to move forward with new construction, but progress is halting, as protests from the cemetery's supporters occasionally result in the suspension of additional building.

On Monday, the Jerusalem Municipality, working as the project's developers, obtained the Jerusalem Magistrate Court's approval to resume demolition and the bulldozers moved in late Monday night. Journalists at the cemetery reported that police officers and private armed security personnel tried to bar filming and documentation of the efforts under way on the grounds that they were endangering their lives.

CNN shot footage of the tombstones being destroyed before journalists' access was denied. These same tombstones have emerged as yet another flash point in the controversy.

Opponents of the construction site argue that the tombstones that have been destroyed recently dated back to ancient times. There were Israeli media reports, however, that the tombstones that were destroyed had been added to the land only recently, with the intent to obstruct the construction project.

Israel's Channel 10 reported on August 5 that "in the last month, surprisingly, 150 new tombstones were added. The Jerusalem municipality decided to demolish the fake tombstones."

Zaki Ighbarieh, head of The Aqsa Foundation, said, "Their claim that we have built new graves is an excuse for them to destroy the entire cemetery. We will continue to repair the graves that were destroyed because the land is for graves."

He added, "We believe this is a completion of a land confiscation process by a museum and other venues like a parking lot and streets." The Aqsa Foundation is a group dedicated to preserving Islamic heritage and culture, and had undertaken the restoration of a number of the headstones.

The legal framework in which the grave preservations and demolitions happen is fraught with mixed messages and competing jurisdictions, leaving the permissibility of either action hotly contested by various groups.

The Aqsa Foundation challenges the legality of the demolition efforts of the past week, which it says have included the destruction of nearly 350 graves altogether.

"I can call it theft of graves," the group's lawyer, Mohammad Suleiman Ighbarieh said, due to the fact that demolition had restarted on August 3 without a court order. It was only after hundreds of graves were destroyed, Ighbarieh said, that the Jerusalem Magistrate gave approval for the demolition to resume.

According to the Aqsa Foundation, for the past year, the Islamic Sharia Court in Jerusalem has had a verbal agreement with the Municipality of Jerusalem to allow the Aqsa Foundation to carry out cemetery improvements and renovations of graves.

To resume grave demolitions, Aqsa spokesman Mahmoud Abu Atta argues, the developers would have needed to obtain agreement from the Islamic Sharia Court, which has been appointed with power of attorney as caretaker of the Mamilla cemetery.

Even where formal judicial approval for the demolitions is granted, the activity itself remains highly controversial.

"If they say they have court orders to demolish, then why are they demolishing in the middle of the night?" Abu Atta said.

Ighbarieh took photos and other evidence from the cemetery to the court and filed a formal request for the court to order that the grave demolitions stop.

The decision, issued Tuesday, August 10, mandated coordination with Islamic power of attorney in order for any construction to continue. This meant that if the municipality wanted to resume demolition from Tuesday onward, it would need the express consent of the Islamic Sharia Court.

Despite the Islamic Sharia Court's refusal to consent, on Tuesday night, demolition continued.

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Interfaith issues • Islam • Israel • Judaism

soundoff (430 Responses)
  1. BSD12

    Islam is not a religion, nor is it a cult.

    In its fullest form, it is a complete, total, 100% system of life.

    Islam has religious, legal, political, economic, social, and military

    components. The religious component is a beard for all of the other


    Islamization begins when there are sufficient Muslims in a country to agitate

    for their religious privileges.

    When politically correct, tolerant, and culturally diverse societies agree to

    Muslim demands for their religious privileges, some of the other components

    tend to creep in as well.

    Here's how it works:
    As long as the Muslim population remains around or under 2% in any given

    country, they will be for the most part be regarded as a peace-loving

    minority, and not as a threat to other citizens. This is the > case in:

    United States - Muslim 0..6%
    Australia - Muslim 1.5%
    Canada - Muslim 1.9%
    China - Muslim 1.8%
    Italy - Muslim 1.5%
    Norway - Muslim 1.8%

    At 2% to 5%, they begin to proselytize from other ethnic minorities and

    disaffected groups, often with major recruiting from the jails and among

    street gangs. This is happening in:

    Denmark - Muslim 2%
    Germany - Muslim 3.7%
    United Kingdom - Muslim 2.7%
    Spain - Muslim 4%
    Thailand - Muslim 4.6%

    From 5% on, they exercise an inordinate influence in proportion to their

    percentage of the population. For example, they will push for the

    introduction of halal (clean by Islamic standards) food, thereby securing

    food preparation jobs for Muslims. They will increase pressure on supermarket

    chains to feature halal on their shelves - along with threats for failure to

    comply. This is occurring in:

    France - Muslim 8%
    Philippines - 5%
    Sweden - Muslim 5%
    Switzerland - Muslim 4.3%
    The Netherlands - Muslim 5.5%
    Trinidad & Tobago - Muslim 5.8%

    At this point, they will work to get the ruling government to allow them to

    rule themselves (within their ghettos) under Sharia, the Islamic Law. The

    ultimate goal of Islamists is to establish Sharia law over the entire world.

    When Muslims approach 10% of the population, they tend to increase

    lawlessness as a means of complaint about their conditions. In Paris , we are

    already seeing car-burnings. In Russia, grade-schools were attacked. Any

    non-Muslim action offends Islam and results in uprisings and threats, such as

    in Amsterdam, with opposition to Mohammed cartoons and films about Islam.

    Such tensions are seen daily, particularly in Muslim sections, in:

    Guyana - Muslim 10%
    India - Muslim 13.4%
    Israel - Muslim 16%
    Kenya - Muslim 10%
    Russia - Muslim 15%

    After reaching 20%, nations can expect hair-trigger rioting, jihad militia

    formations, sporadic killings, and the burnings of Christian churches and

    Jewish synagogues, such as in:

    Ethiopia - Muslim 32.8%

    At 40%, nations experience widespread massacres, chronic terror attacks, and

    ongoing militia warfare, such as in:

    Bosnia - Muslim 40%
    Chad - Muslim 53.1%
    Lebanon - Muslim 59.7%

    From 60%, nations experience unfettered persecution of non-believers of all

    other religions (including non-conforming Muslims), sporadic ethnic cleansing

    (genocide), use of Sharia Law as a weapon, and Jizya, the tax placed on

    infidels, such as in:

    Albania - Muslim 70%
    Malaysia - Muslim 60.4%
    Qatar - Muslim 77.5%
    Sudan - Muslim 70%

    After 80%, expect daily intimidation and violent jihad, some State-run ethnic

    cleansing, beheadings, stoning, and even some genocide, as these nations

    drive out the infidels, and move toward 100% Muslim, such as has been

    experienced and in some ways is on-going in:

    Bangladesh - Muslim 83%
    Egypt - Muslim 90%
    Gaza - Muslim 98.7%
    Indonesia - Muslim 86.1%
    Iran - Muslim 98%
    Iraq - Muslim 97%
    Jordan - Muslim 92%
    Morocco - Muslim 98.7%
    Pakistan - Muslim 97%
    Palestine - Muslim 99%
    Syria - Muslim 90%
    Tajikistan - Muslim 90%
    Turkey - Muslim 99.8%
    United Arab Emirates - Muslim 96%

    Is this the future of the United States?

    Vote OUT all liberal Democrats in public office!

    August 14, 2010 at 7:40 pm |
    • Lee Oates

      Absolute hate mongering. Disgusting.

      August 14, 2010 at 8:16 pm |
    • ligaya143

      Thank you for that enlightening information. In the present age I noticed that Muslims can't tolerate their non-Muslim neighbors resulting to conflict. Muslims vs Christians in Lebanon, Egypt, Philippines,Pakistan,Europe, Muslims vs Hindus in India, Muslims vs Buddhists in Thailand, Myanmar, Muslims vs other MUslims in Iraq, Iran Pakistan. Its always been Muslims vs other faiths.So waht you are actually saying make sense.

      August 14, 2010 at 9:50 pm |
    • SDL

      Yes, vote for Republicans like Bush, walking and holding hands with Saudi King.

      August 23, 2010 at 11:31 pm |
  2. brown

    We need the crushed skulls of the Muslim to pave our streets. Forget about
    the dead Muslims, I say get some fresh live Muslims, grind their stinking corpses
    and continue the construction.

    August 14, 2010 at 7:39 pm |
  3. LetEmSquirm

    auschwitz is only 60 something years old. tear it down and build a new BMW factory over it. Anyway, the jews are messing with some serious stuff, might want to let those warriors of the past rest in their graves. They defeated the jews before, if I were a Jew I wouldn't mess with them!

    August 14, 2010 at 7:34 pm |
  4. Brian James

    The land is not significant. The remains are. Return the remains and PUT THE LAND TO USE.

    August 14, 2010 at 7:25 pm |
  5. Grant

    I can't believe how many people see this as ok because "Muslims" get a mosque near ground zero, or because you believe that they would do the same if they had the power. The mosque builders didn't bulldoze the area, take it by force and whether a few blocks from ground zero is actually sacred ground is debatable so it's hard to compare. But none of that matters because what a group of people do in New York has nothing to do what a completely different group do in Israel. Two wrongs don't make a right, counting an entire religion guilty for the actions of a few is unjust, Backing your friend (Israel) when they do the same thing you decry your enemies for doing is base hypocrisy in it's most obvious form. Is morality to you completely fluid? Do you have no principles that stay steady even if you change the name of the belligerents around? "Do unto others as you would have the do unto you" is not "do unto others what you believe they would do if they were you".

    August 14, 2010 at 7:05 pm |
  6. Yasin

    How ignorant and hateful can people get, Israel is on a course of self destruction, their acts aren't displaying, the acts of a nation that want peace. Their actions will only strengthen the view held by the so called terrorists.

    August 14, 2010 at 6:58 pm |
  7. Moi

    The Israelis seem hell-bent on actions that make them look foolish and aggressive. And as to the Mosque in NYC issue... let's see. Al Capone was Catholic, and he killed people. So should they forbid the building of Catholic churches in Chicago?

    August 14, 2010 at 6:12 pm |
  8. Anthony

    How the Israel gov. expect to ever make or live in peace with Arabs and the Islamic believers, 1.2 billions of them in the world! If it was a Jewish cementery that is being destroyed then they will bring up all the holliest and biblical references why the place is being desecrated. then why is the Jewish gov. trampling all over Islam? You are only fomenting hate for the Jews...and I can understand that not all Jews may be in agreement with this proyect "Museum of Tolerance." Well I ask you Jewish people...where is your TOLERANCE of freedom of religion?????!!!!!!

    August 14, 2010 at 6:07 pm |
  9. James Mason

    Is land so dear that Israel has to do this? I realize that the entire Holy Land is a potential archaelogical site, but when you're trying to make peace with someone – ripping up their sacred relics just isn't going to help.

    August 14, 2010 at 6:03 pm |
  10. Calph

    We need bulldozer to demolish all illegal settlements by illegal immigrants from Europe.

    August 14, 2010 at 5:59 pm |
  11. Jim

    I have just returned from central Europe, where I visited several synagogues and cemeteries desecrated by the Nazis during the holocaust. That the Israelis would perpetrate such a sacrilege on their Muslim neighbors shows a deliberate willfulness to disregard the history of their own people. What was done to the Jewish people through centuries of persecution in Europe was wrong. What the state of Israel is doing to Muslims in Palestine is equally wrong. Having gone through the horrors of the Holocaust (and its predecessor pogroms and persecutions) does not give the Jewish people any right to visit the same horrors on others. The Torah places an obligation on the Jewish people to be a light to the nations. I revere them for this. I wish that the state of Israel would live up to this calling, instead of acting like the Nazis who tried so very hard to exterminate the children of Israel.

    August 14, 2010 at 5:38 pm |
  12. LTF1

    It seems the part of the graveyard slated for demolition has been neglected for some time (decades in fact) and has only recently become "holy" to Muslims there. This suggests to me the motivation to "preserve" the site is not cultural, but political. Bull-doze away.

    August 14, 2010 at 5:34 pm |
  13. JR

    Well, I can't wait to visit A Great Tolerance Center when I visit Israel.

    August 14, 2010 at 5:30 pm |
  14. ck

    This is just wrong. This cemetary pre-dates the nation of Isreal by centuries and is a historical site. I can not believe there not more international outrage over this. My comments have nothing to do with support for one side or the other over the broader range of conflicts between Isreal and Palestine. A commentor was mentioning how "Muslim hate filled mongers have defiled Christian and Jewish graves for centuries" and tragically calls him/herself "Educated". IT WILL NEVER BE RIGHT NO MATTER WHO IS DOING IT. Historically infamous leaders have been using the same line to justify their own twisted agendas "for centuries". I am not questioning your education, I am questioning the focus of your education.

    August 14, 2010 at 5:22 pm |
    • WhatTheHuh

      apparently this cemetery pre-dates the religion of islam too... education is a *good* thing-look into it!

      August 14, 2010 at 6:06 pm |
  15. nonimouse

    This is why people HATE israel.

    August 14, 2010 at 5:21 pm |
  16. Karen M

    When Muslims took over Jerusalem they stold the tombstones of the old Jewish burial sites and used them for other building projects, even to build roads. Just a few years ago the Muslims were digging out Jewish artifacts from under the Dome of the Rock in the middle of the night. They desecrated 3000 Christian churches in Palestine including the cathedral and tomb of Joseph in Bethlehem, Jesus' step faither. They used Bibles for wiping their asses. If those tombstones weren't fake as others have said they were then maybe it is just payback time. I doubt it though.

    Israel and its Jews have been teaching this Christian alot about loving your enemies and praying for those who persecute you. I am inspired by this group of people who continually meet the physical needs of the Muslims around them when all the Muslims can do is lie about them and plot their demise. They are never grateful for their kindness.

    God Bless the Jews! God Bless Israel!! and then remember all North Americans that God said, referring to Israel, that he would bless those who bless you and curse those who curse you. God said that as the Pharoh of Egypt was given the priviledge of declaring his own punishment. That when he said to kill all Israel's first born that God would give him and his nation that same fate. Similarily, the judgement the nations of the world place on Israel will be the judgement that Jesus will place on them when he returns to Jerusalem. So if Iran wants to exterminate the Jews off the face of the earth then that is what will happen to them. If America will not support and defend Israel and forces them to divide up their land America will pay great consequences for this. Jesus says when he returns He is coming to avenge his people against those that are trying to divide up HIS land. Note that He thinks it is HIS land. Are you going to take him on?

    Israel is currently less than 1/6 of 1 percent of the middle eastern lands. The other lands are all occupied by Islam. Ten years ago there were 150,000 Jews in Iraq. Today there are only 8 Jews, all over seventy years old. Many Iraqi Christians are being targetted by the Muslims and some are being held in concentration camps. Muslim terrorists have taken over Lebanon, which was the only majority Christian Arab country in the middle east. They committed horrible autracities against the Christians. Christian girls are being kidnapped, raped, and forced into Islam in Egypt while we speak. Jews and Christians cannot become citizens of Saudi Arabia. All Jews were forced out of Saudi Arabia in 1948. Many were murdered in the process. Israel assimilated all the surviving Jews. You cannot even be caught with a Bible in Saudi Arabia let alone have a church there and non-Muslims are not allowed to even enter the city of Mecca.

    Someone explain to me why Americans are so quick to tolerate these murdering, lying, raping, enslaving supremists. Someone said when you tolerate intolerance all you get is more intolerance. Muslims in America are not any different than the Muslims in the countries they come from. If they were, they would become apostates of Islam.

    August 14, 2010 at 5:07 pm |
  17. Dave

    All graveyards are a waste of good real estate. Check the graves for anything of archeological importance, catalogue the Name. DNA, noticeable signs of death, remove the gold from their teeth, and throw the bones into the ocean.

    August 14, 2010 at 4:47 pm |
  18. Educated

    Everyone knows this land has always belonged to Israel! It always will too. Palestine doesn't even get acknowledged on a map! Muslim hate filled mongers have defiled Christian and Jewish graves for centuries, and suddenly when a few graves made of plaster last month get wrecked, its desecration and the world gets in an uproar? Where was this uproar when Palestinians were doing this to Israeli graves when Israel was forced to move off their own territory for the terrorists a few years ago?

    August 14, 2010 at 4:42 pm |
    • Tina

      You're right, I think. But are you sure those tombs are not legitimate? I not trying to push your buttons. I really want to know where you found that information.

      August 14, 2010 at 4:46 pm |
    • asher

      Lots of talk on this topic with no proof...just blatant hate...if this were the other way around...The Israelis would retort with deadly force...this whole defending Israel for doing to the morally wrong thing just shows the the morality of the defenders too...everyone can say things with no proof...try again...Israel and her supporters have been doing this for decades.

      August 14, 2010 at 4:51 pm |
    • Educated

      If it was the other way, and this was done to Israel, the world would tell Israel to shut up and take it. Thankfully Israel wouldn't. There is public information showing those grave markers were only put there recently. Their agreement in 1964 states that land can be built on. There is no issue here, the only issue is how much anti-Jewish semitism there is in the world, and what should be done about that. I build concrete every single day. Do you see how easy those fake covers broke when nudged with a loader? I can't built crappy concrete that breaks that easy, I even tried to once just to test concrete strength! Those things are made of nothing more than plaster. All designed for media propaganda. No one complains when Israel gets pushed around, well, this is on Israel's one land, they are welcome to do what they want.

      August 14, 2010 at 7:33 pm |
    • One Whose Name Means Beloved of God

      So–if you're reading this Biblically... When God lead the Israelites into a land flowing with milk and honey (i.e. modern Israel), there weren't any other people there? Hmmm... I seem to recall several books of the Bible dedicated to the hostile take-over of that land...

      Or are you arguing that the original inhabitants simply do not have a claim on the land because God said so?

      August 15, 2010 at 10:50 am |
  19. Yehonatan

    Ok I think everyone should... I can't believe I am saying this.. .but everyone should read the New York Times Story on the situation surrounding the Mamilla Cemetery and fake graves. They give a much more balanced and less one sided argument than CNN: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/08/14/world/middleeast/14israel.html?src=mv

    August 14, 2010 at 4:42 pm |
    • Matt J.

      And it is certainly more balanced than YOUR claims, too. I notice how they are careful NOT to claim that they know for a fact that the headstones are fake. Why couldn't you show the same caution? Why have you automatically taken the side of the city, which claims to know they are fake, even though the Judge ordered ALL sides to come back with more evidence of their respective positions?

      August 16, 2010 at 6:08 pm |
  20. Cochise

    Chuck- don't worry about hollow claims. Do your own research and stop worrying about whether comments are based on fact. You're looking in the wrong area for knowledge. If it was this easy university would be useless.

    August 14, 2010 at 4:16 pm |
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About this blog

The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.