Jaffa Islamic Council wages legal battle against ‘desecration’ of Muslim graves
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Jaffa Islamic Council wages legal battle against ‘desecration’ of Muslim graves

High Court issues injunction against Tel Aviv municipality building a homeless shelter on top of an Ottoman-era cemetery

Muslim graves discovered at a construction site in Jaffa, May 2018. (Screenshot: YouTube)
Muslim graves discovered at a construction site in Jaffa, May 2018. (Screenshot: YouTube)

Negotiations that have been going on for a year between the Tel Aviv-Jaffa Municipality and Jaffa’s Islamic Council have reportedly failed, with authorities saying they intend to go ahead with the construction of a homeless shelter at a site where Muslim graves were recently discovered. Israel’s top court has issued an injunction temporarily stopping the works.

The graves — more than 30 — were discovered about a year ago when the municipality demolished an old Ottoman-era structure in Jaffa used as a shelter for the city’s homeless, aiming to build a three-story building a the site that would house both a homeless shelter and businesses.

According to estimations, the site was a Muslim cemetery during the Ottoman era. After it was discovered, the Islamic Council and local Muslim residents staged demonstrations protesting what they said was desecration after some human remains were left exposed by municipality employees.

On one occasion, in May 2018, they broke into the compound, buried the remains and built concrete gravestones over them. The municipality denounced the act, called it trespassing and removed the concrete slabs.

Since then, talks have been ongoing between the city and the Islamic Council, but the sides have failed to reach an understanding, the Haaretz daily reported on Sunday.

The municipality has said it will not go back on its plan to construct the building, saying work at the site has mapped the graves and that none of them will be harmed by the works.

The Antiquities Authority has not defined the site as a cemetery or as an antiquities site, according to Haaretz, and has green-lighted the construction work.

The Islamic Council, which said the municipality’s offers were “insulting,” last week petitioned the High Court of Justice, which issued an injunction prohibiting the work — planned to start last week — until the issue is discussed by the court.

The council has threatened to renew the protests, and has twice this month asked the Turkish government to intervene, the report said. The two Muslim city council members have also criticized the municipality and supported the Islamic Council’s position.

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