A Palestinian educational institution in Israel has called for a demonstration on Thursday in front of Sheikh Mo'nes Cemetery in Tel-Aviv to protest at what it says is "the violation" of those buried there. Israeli construction company Solel Bonei has started to bulldoze the cemetery to prepare the ground to build student halls of residence for Tel-Aviv University.
Iqraa Educational Institution has criticised the university's project an act that violates human rights and academic principles. "How can students, Muslims or Jews, trust the university's academic credentials when it is prepared to violate the sanctity of the dead?" it said in a press statement.
Researcher Ahmed Tobasi from Al-Tadamun Human Rights Organisation discovered the plans about a month ago. This led to a demonstration at the beginning of August organised by Al-Aqsa Foundation for Islamic Endowments and Heritage. The head of the Islamic Movement in Israel, Sheikh Raed Salah, joined many Palestinian activists in the protest. "The cemetery is being reduced in size from 20 acres to just 1.5 acres," he said.
According to Sheikh Raed, Tel-Aviv University itself was originally built on the land of the Islamic cemetery after razing hundreds of graves and throwing out the bones of the dead. "Today, the university shows its determination to violate human rights by deciding to extend its premises at the expense of the remaining cemetery land." It is absolutely shameful to teach students about human rights while you violate them, the Sheikh added.
The head of student activities at Iqraa, Mohammed Farhan, also criticised the university: "Its construction work in the cemetery violates its academic message and has aroused the anger of many international academic institutions." The university, he pointed out, criticised the academic boycott by international universities but today had proved that it is far removed from academic and human values and is thus deserving of boycott action.
Farhan said that students will continue to protest against the university's desecration of the Muslim cemetery. "Tel Aviv University has to respect the rights and feelings of the Arab students study therein."
A lawyer acting on behalf of Al-Aqsa Foundation, Mohammed Ighbareyah, submitted a petition last week to the Israeli High Court demanding a court order to stop the construction. He described the work as a "dangerous escalation against Islamic sites which constitutes a severe violation of human rights by a university which considers itself remarkable among world academic institutions". Legal efforts will continue, he said, until the construction of the students' halls on the land of the Islamic cemetery is stopped.