Clashes between Israelis and Palestinians increased this week as Israeli plans for a new theme park around a Palestinian graveyard were recently revealed. According to the Middle East Eye, the “latest plans to build a biblical-themed park atop al-Yusufiya cemetery have provoked Palestinians and led to confrontations with Israeli forces.” The al-Yusufiya cemetery is known as “the martyrs’ cemetery” and is sacred to the Palestinian community that lives nearby.
The Israeli municipality has announced that the graveyard will not be harmed in the construction of the theme park. Despite this reassurance, Palestinians remain unconvinced. Three weeks prior, Israeli bulldozers exhumed numerous graves in the area and uncovered bones and dentures. Ola Nababta is the Palestinian mother of Alaa Nababta, who passed away four years ago, and she often comes to his grave in the cemetery to guard it. Due to the exhumation of other graves nearby, she fears her son’s grave will suffer the same fate: “[on the day of the exhumation] I broke down and collapsed to the ground when I saw that the graves being exhumed neighbored that of my son Alaa, and I realized that his grave would undoubtedly be next.” According to Reuters, Jerusalem deputy mayor Aryeh King stated that Nababteh was evacuated because she was too close to the construction site and that the authorities don’t have any intention of touching her son’s grave. In regards to the exhumation, he told Reuters that the affected gravesite was not authorized and “had been buried illicitly in the ground many years ago.”
The escalation in tensions between the Israelis and Palestinians comes as no surprise. With Israel steadily claiming wider control of Palestinian territory, it isn’t unlikely that the decision-making with regards to sacred Palestinian sites will be out of the hands of the indigenous communities. According to Middle East Eye, those Palestinian communities only have access to Bab al-Rahmeh and al-Yusufiya for now, as Israeli authorities took control of two other historic cemeteries in Jerusalem. It’s upsetting to witness the propaganda and misinformation spreading by Israeli officials in an attempt to deny the existence of the cemetery, but not shocking. The Israeli authorities hold little respect for those who are buried in these sacred sites, as is evident in their decision-making and handling of delicate situations like this one.
Divisions between Israelis and Palestinians run deep and have a long history. In the early 1900s, there were already discussions in the West regarding the creation of a Jewish settler state in the region known as Palestine, but this conversation was severely intensified after the end of WWII. Eventually, the 1949 Armistice Border formed, causing Palestine to split between the Arabs and the Jews. Before the official creation of Israel, various tribes would live relatively peacefully among one another, but the creation of the state only exacerbated religious and ethnic divisions. Over time, due to wars, military spending, and foreign aid, Israel has been able to accumulate more land than initially promised, resulting in Palestinians having to flee their homes and become refugees or face the brutality of the government.
The international community should be outraged at this situation regarding the cemetery. As current authority figures in the region, Israeli officials need to display respect and delicacy towards an escalated state of affairs. There should be a punishment from the international community to prevent this type of problem from recurring. With regards to land, violence and divisions between the two entities are always high. Due to the heated circumstances, the Palestinians deserve proper treatment and their graveyard should be held with importance.
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