A magistrates’ court in Jerusalem has given the legal go-ahead for the destruction of more than 200 graves in historic Ma’man Allah Cemetery in Jerusalem, considered to be the oldest and largest Muslim cemetery in the Holy City. The legal decision has been described by Al-Aqsa Foundation for Heritage and Endowments as a “major crime”. The Foundation said that the destruction may be carried out soon as part of the Judaisation of Jerusalem by the Israeli-controlled municipality and “Israel Lands Administration”. In a statement, the Foundation added that it will exert its best efforts using all legitimate means to prevent the desecration or abuse of the cemetery by the demolition contractors.
The judge in the case, Dov Falk, issued his decision on 19 January to Mohammed Suleiman Igbarieh, the lawyer acting on behalf of Al-Aqsa Foundation. Judge Falk rejected the request made by the cemetery’s waqf (religious endowment) officials, Haj Sami Rizkallah Abu Mokh and Alhaji Mustapha Abu Zahra; the court had been asked to provide a temporary injunction to prevent the destruction of more than 200 graves in the cemetery. This was opposed by the Israeli municipality of Jerusalem and the Israel Lands Administration which claimed that the officials of the cemetery had built “fake graves” in Ma’man Allah during restoration work. They also claimed that the cemetery belongs to the Israel Lands Administration according to the Absentee Property Law, which gives the administration sovereignty over the land.
The judge’s decision came after nearly four months during which around 300 graves were destroyed by Israel in Ma’man Allah cemetery. In the same period, Al-Aqsa Foundation and the cemetery trust cleaned and restored 25 acres of the Ma’man Allah. This included the removal of more than 70 large trucks of wood and waste as well as the restoration of 1,000 tombs.