Al-Aqsa Association for Religious Endowment (Waqf) and Heritage has accused the Israeli occupation authorities of planting thousands of fake Jewish tombs around Al-Aqsa Mosque and the Old City of Jerusalem. This, claims the association, is taking place in a wide area covering the Mount of Olives (to the east of Al-Aqsa), Wadi Selwan (south) and Wadi Al-Rababa.
In a press statement, the association said that the Israeli government is using bodies such as the Elad Association and the so-called Nature and National Parks Authority to carry out this activity. Tombs have been created while supposed “reconstruction, maintenance, reform, development, engineering survey and statistics” work has been done. Al-Aqsa Association has emphasised Israel’s ongoing Judaisation policy at Al-Aqsa Mosque and the rest of the Old City. The Israelis, alleges the association, want to gain complete control over the Waqf and Palestinian lands to turn them into cemeteries, settlements, biblical and national parks, and Jewish areas.
Historically, under the Ottoman Empire, Jews were allowed to bury their dead in Waqf land but the amount of land so used is much less than what the Israelis claim it to be. The agreement for such use was not renewed due to the Israeli occupation. Moreover, since 1967, Israel has taken control of dozens of square kilometres of Waqf and Palestinian land and turned them into new Jewish cemeteries with “tombs” containing no human remains at all.
Al-Aqsa Association claims that Israel is involved in the major fabrication of geography and history in an attempt to give legitimacy to the fake Jewish tombs and thus “prove” that these are sacred Jewish places. The association bases its claims on field patrols, continuous observation, historical research and eyewitness accounts from the areas around Al-Aqsa Mosque. It concludes that the Israelis have been creating thousands of false Jewish tombs while preventing Muslims from maintaining or reconstructing historic Islamic tombs in Jerusalem. In fact, Israel has demolished many Muslim tombs, not least in the historic Ma’man Allah Cemetery.
The fabrication of a Jewish heritage for the Old City stands in stark contrast to Islamic tolerance, whereby the Jews were allowed to bury their dead in Waqf land. The Israelis have taken advantage of this respect and tolerance in order to promote the Zionist aim to turn Al-Aqsa Mosque and its precincts into a Temple.
Field visits and eyewitness accounts:
Al-Aqsa Association staff have made a number of field visits to Waqf land at the Mount of Olives, Silwan and Wadi Al-Rababa, of which the latest was last week. According to Abdul-Majid Muhammad, who took part in the visits, “The Israeli occupation in Jerusalem is committing a very serious crime on the lands of the Palestinians and the Islamic Waqf, whereby it is planting thousands of fake Jewish tombs.” While the people of Silwan, who have lived here for many years, acknowledge that there is a limited number of genuine Jewish tombs at the sites, he continued, the Israelis are imposing a new reality by planting the fake tombs. “There is a paradox that the Israelis are creating fake Jewish tombs while destroying genuine Islamic tombs to build car parks and hotels.”
When asked whether he is against or in favour of Jewish tombs, Mr. Muhammad answered: “Any tomb is sacred, be it Jewish, Christian or Muslim. But here we’re talking about an act of theft, fabrication and the imposition of a new reality. The Israelis are planting tombs which are not, in fact, tombs at all on a piece of land which is not a cemetery. We are against this act; we are not against the genuine tombs. We Muslims have preserved Jewish tombs in Palestine for centuries, as well as places of worship.”
Local knowledge and evidence on the ground determine whether or not such tombs are genuine. A lack of headstones, for a start, and when land is cleared it is obvious that there are no tombs. “The Israelis bring their own rocks to the sites to plant ‘evidence’. Eyewitnesses have observed groups of Jews bringing rocks with Hebrew inscriptions on them and placing them on the so-called tombs. Overnight, places which have never been cemeteries are suddenly full of tombs.”
Objectives and implications:
According to Hajj Sami Rezq-Allah Abu Mukh, Deputy Chair of Al-Aqsa Association, who took part in the field visits, “The Israelis are clearly seeking to create a fake Hebrew history for the site of Al-Aqsa and thus create Jewish rights over the area.” This is all about control, he added. “We know for sure that according to historical evidence in the city of Jerusalem, there were only a few Jewish tombs on Islamic Waqf land which were rented by the Ottomans to the Jewish community in Jerusalem to bury their dead.” If, he said, the cemetery has only been rented and used for 99 years, how is it possible for the Israelis to claim a history of 3000 years?” Is it not a paradox that a few Jews living in Jerusalem needed vast areas of land to bury their dead? “That is what the Israelis would have us believe,” said Hajj Sami.
In his book The City of Jerusalem: Residents and Land, Arabs and Jews, and based on documents and statistic in the Ottoman archive, Dr. Mahmoud Eisa Salhiya mentions that the number of the Jews who were charged the tribute as non-Muslims in the Ottoman Empire totalled 60 married couples. Assuming 8 people per household, that would make a total of just under 500 people in the community (even less with smaller family groups).
Archive book number 342 dates back to 970 AH in the Islamic calendar, corresponding to 1562 in the Gregorian calendar; it does not mention any Waqf or other property registered in a Jewish name, neither in Jerusalem nor its surrounding villages, nor in Hebron and its surrounds. Even the Jewish cemetery at Ras Al-A’amoud near Silwan was part of the Islamic Waqf rented for Jews to bury their dead; it is part of the Salahuddin (Saladin) School in Jerusalem that was rented in 967 AH/1559 CE. In the registries of the Islamic Court in Jerusalem there are documents which mention that people used to pay for renting the cemetery in the years 968 and 969 AH (1560 – 1561). In the year 1061 AH/1650 CE, the land known as Al-Thawri was rented for Karaite Jews to bury their dead, excluding the Ashkenazi Jews (Western Jews). Jews used to live as a minority in the Old City of Jerusalem and rented houses from Muslims.
In his book Al-Mufassal fi tareekh el-Quds, A’arf el-A’arf says: “As for the cemetery at which the Jews used to bury their dead today, which is located on the road between Jerusalem and Jericho, and Silwan and Al-Toor, the land belongs to the Islamic Waqf. Muslims allowed its use for a certain amount of money paid to the Waqf undertaker.”
When East Jerusalem fell into Israeli hands in 1967, vast areas of Waqf land was seized and the project of “reforming” Jewish tombs was initiated. The project declared there to be many Jewish cemeteries on the foothills of the Mount of Olives, to the east of Al-Aqsa Mosque. The Israelis named it Har Zitim Cemetery. They also declared another cemetery located to the south of Al-Aqsa Mosque, towards the Wadi Silwan/Tantoor Far’on cliff, and claimed that there were graveyards for Jews and for a number of Israelite prophets, such as the tomb of Zachary and Absalom. Another claim was that there was a cemetery on the western foothills of Silwan, towards Wadi al-Rababa, and the Israelis named it the “Sambuski Cemetery of Poor Jews”; and that yet another cemetery was located at Al-Thawri hill; they called it the “Karaite Cemetery”. All of these were in addition to alleged graveyards in various caves around the area, making a total of 300 dunums (approximately 75 acres) of land supposedly in use for burial purposes.
The Israelis claim that Jews have been buried in these cemeteries for almost 3,000 years, from the days of the alleged First Temple. At the same time, some Israeli scholars agree that there is neither historical nor archaeological evidence to support the conclusion that there is a history of Jewish tombs which date back to the days of the Temples. In fact, they tend to agree that the history of the tombs and burial practices date back just 500 years, and that in the days of the Ottoman Empire Jews used to pay to bury their dead.
Moreover, Israel builds illegal settlements and outposts in different places known as Jewish Cemeteries, along with tracks, signs, lights, watchtowers and cameras. All are part of the plan to “Judaise” the Old City of Jerusalem upon a fabricated history.
Government policies and international visitors:
The planting of fake Jewish tombs is part of the Israeli government’s Judaisation policy; it is implemented directly by the Prime Minister’s Office. The budget for Judaisation projects in the Old City, especially around Al-Aqsa Mosque, is set at 480 million New Israeli Shekels (£80m) for 2006-2013.
Among the most significant projects is the reformation of the Mount of Olives Cemetery, which includes an information centre and security measures (installing dozens of CCTV cameras). More than 7,000 tombs have been “reconstructed” as part of this programme. The importance of this project was shown by the visit of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in February 2012. The Israeli mayor of Jerusalem has also paid a special visit to the cemetery.
In February 2011, officials from the Israeli government along with the leaders of US Jewish organisations, and Israeli activists, toured the Mount of Olives Cemetery. A statement issued subsequently by the government press office, said, “The international committee for preserving the Mount of Olives Cemetery… is working constantly with the government, including the Prime Minister’s Office, for… the reclamation of the cemetery.”
The Israelis took control of the Waqf land at the Mount of Olives and Silwan to turn it into a vast Jewish cemetery in the early days of the occupation. Many government directives were issued precisely for this purpose in 1968, 1998 and 2004. In 2006, a new bill was submitted concerning the establishment of a new authority under the name “The Mount of Olives Authority” for the year 2009. Special sessions were held in the Israeli Knesset, wherein it was noted that the Israelis have, ever since 2004, been trying to promote control over the Waqf land and turn it into a Jewish cemetery and a sacred Jewish heritage site. Since 2010, there has been an escalation in planting fake Jewish tombs, following a special report issued by the office of the “State Comptroller”, along with field visits by the Interior Committee of the Israeli Knesset June 2010 and the State Comptroller Committee in October 2010.
Many executive arms of the Israeli government are planning and executing the planting of fake Jewish tombs under the name of “reclamation/development of tombs”; or establishing Talmudic and biblical parks. These include the Prime Minister’s Office, the Hebrew Municipality of Jerusalem, the so-called Jerusalem Development Authority, the Eastern Jerusalem Development Authority, the Ministry of Construction and Housing, the Israeli Antiquities Authority, the Elad Association, the Nature and National Parks Authority, and various burial associations and companies. Global Zionism supports this project through the International Committee for the Preservation of Jewish Cemeteries and the International Committee for the Preservation of the Mount of Olives Cemetery.
In March 2012, Israeli newspapers reported that the Israeli-run Jerusalem Municipality has set aside 2 million NIS for the reclamation of the Jewish cemetery at the Mount of Olives.
It is important to note that the Israelis have detailed Judaisation schemes in place to turn Al-Aqsa Mosque and the Old City of Jerusalem into biblical and national parks, like the detailed scheme for Wadi Qadroun. Other special studies were conducted in regard to this by the Jerusalem Institute for Israeli Studies. These studies address the Jewish cemetery and biblical parks as part of the Jewish efforts to cast Jewish sanctity on the area of Al-Aqsa Mosque, and use misleading Judaisation terms such as “The Holy Basin” or “The Historic Basin” to describe the areas in question.
Source: Al-Aqsa Association
Photography by Al-Aqsa Association and Abdullah Zeidan
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