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Protest poster hung in Jaffa
Protest poster hung in Jaffa 
 
 

Citizens protest destruction of Muslim cemetery

Jaffa's Arab residents hang posters protesting destruction of Muslim cemetery after sale of land to private hands. Councilman Turk: Residents must defend holy sites

Anat Shalev
Published: 05.17.08, 23:27 / Israel News

Posters bearing the slogan 'Hast thou killed, and also taken possession?' above a praying skeleton were hung throughout Jaffa during the weekend. The posters were put up in protest against the decision to destroy a Muslim cemetery in Jaffa's Tel-Kabir neighborhood and build a commercial center in its stead.

 

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The residents' anger is mostly directed at the Board of Trustees, the organization they had trusted to support them in their property battle. A legal debate over the property has been going on for 35 years, ever since the board approved the sale of the cemetery's land to a private party.

 

Recently the High Court determined that the sale was legal, and demanded that the Waqf transfer the graves to another location. The verdict caused rage to break out among the Arab population in the area.

 

Tel Aviv Councilman Rifat (Jimmy) Turk told Ynet that he was behind the posters. "I created them with my Jewish friend, Meir Mendelsohn, in order to enlighten the residents of Jaffa to the present situation, which has not ceased to trouble me. They must awaken from the coma they are in before it is too late, to defend their holy sites," he said.

 

"What will we do in seven or eight years? Will they throw our bodies into the sea? This is what will happen if there is no change. There are no other burial options for Muslims in Jaffa. I wonder about myself. Will I be cremated? Will they throw us away like dogs?" he added.

 

He called on the residents to band together in non-violent protest against the destruction of the graveyard. A society for the Arab residents of Jaffa has also launched a formal letter to Tel Aviv Jaffa Mayor Ron Huldai and Prime Minister Ehud Olmert asking for their response to the issue.

 

A representative for the society said that the government had elected the Board of Trustees to preserve Muslim territories, and for this reason the property sale could not be considered legal. The society appealed to the government, which had elected the board in the name of the Arab population and thus caused their current predicament, to find a solution.

 

According to the representative, the sale has enraged the residents, most of whom have family members buried in the cemetery in question.

 

Tel Aviv Jaffa Municipality responded that "the issue has been debated in court for dozens of years, and should remain between the Board of Trustees and the entrepreneurs who bought the land. The Tel Aviv Municipality is not involved in the real estate deals conducted in the area.

 

"The cemetery appears in all maps and data as a graveyard, and we have no information as to the owner's intentions for the land. However, the mayor is aware of the sentiments the issue raises in the Arab community, and has requested that municipality officials look into the matter, to see if anything can be done to help. The municipality is opposed to any threat or harm done to any and all sacred places."

 

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