Thursday, January 21, 2010

On Desecrations of Cemeteries Or, Disproportionality

Is this a matter of disproportionality?

[see UPDATE below]

The BBC has a West Bank Muslim graves damaged story:-

Damaged graves and racist graffiti have been found in the Palestinian village of Awarta in the northern West Bank after a Jewish group visited the area. Palestinians told an Israeli rights group they saw Jewish pilgrims and Israeli soldiers in the area which is also a Jewish burial site, on Tuesday. The Israeli military says it is investigating the incident.

...At least two tombstones were damaged in the cemetery outside the village, and food and rubbish were left on graves.

In the village, offensive slogans about Arabs were found scrawled in Hebrew, English and Russian. Israelis are forbidden from entering Awarta, but the Israeli military occasionally organises group trips for settlers to visit nearby Jewish tombs.

Palestinians told the Israeli rights group B'tselem that such a visit had taken place on Tuesday night, and the damage was discovered on Wednesday morning. B'tselem said the tombs may have been ones that had been previously broken and repaired.

Local media quoted a group that organises visits by settlers to Jewish tombs as saying "we have no right wing or anti-Arab ideology and if someone from our group is found responsible for these acts, we would be the first to condemn them".

Cemetery desecrations are terrible. Like this:

At the end of 1949, Israeli lookouts posted on Mount Zion reported that Arab residents began uprooting the tombstones and plowing the land in the cemeteries.13 The destruction of the cemeteries continued over the course of the 19 years that the Jordanians ruled eastern Jerusalem. Four roads were paved through the cemeteries,14 in the process destroying graves including those of famous persons. Skeletons and bones were strewn about and scattered.15 Tombstones were used as paving stones for roads in the Jordanian Army camp in Azariya, east of Jerusalem. In Azariya a telephone booth was found built out of tombstones, and Jewish tombstones were also used as flooring for latrines. Uprooted tombstones were also used in Jordanian military positions surrounding the city. Both the newer sections and ancient graves were destroyed, some a thousand years old.

A gas station and other buildings, including the Intercontinental Hotel, were erected on top of ancient graves. Israel attempted to focus global attention and alert international institutions to the destruction that was being perpetrated, but to no avail. In 1954 Israel protested to the United Nations over the destruction of graves and the plowing up of the area. In 1956, the Jordanians attempted to pave a new road through the cemeteries, Israel complained, and the work was halted. In July 1963, Israeli lookout posts again reported that Jordanian soldiers were destroying the tombstones. After the site was liberated in 1967, about 38,000 smashed or damaged tombstones were counted.16 The slow rehabilitation of the mount and the tombstones has continued until this very day, and Jewish burial at the site was renewed.17

...In December 1975 a number of tombstones were smashed in the section belonging to the Sephardic Community Committee on the Mount of Olives.20 In March 1976, 14 tombstones in the North African immigrants (Mughrabi) section were totally destroyed.21 In 1977, tombstones were shattered in the Tzur section opposite the Panorama Hotel22 and the grave of the rabbi of the Gura dynasty was desecrated.23 In August 1978 a small explosive charge went off near the Intercontinental Hotel next to the Jewish cemetery.24 In May 1979 the Jerusalem Cemetery Council reported a series of complaints by relatives of the deceased on the desecration of graves and the displacement of tombstones on the Mount of Olives.25

During the course of the first intifada, the Mount of Olives became a focal point for the desecration of Jewish graves. In his book The War of the Holy Places, attorney Dr. Samuel Berkowitz recounted some of the incidents.26 In February 1988 the Yemenite section was desecrated and many tombstones were smashed. In May and July 1989 and June 1991, about ten large PLO flags were drawn on the support walls of the cemetery. In May 1990, 13 tombstones were shattered in the Sephardic section and crosses and hate inscriptions were drawn. In June 1990, 68 tombstones in the "Kolel Polin" section and 11 tombstones in the American section of the cemetery were smashed with heavy hammers. A year later about forty additional tombstones were found shattered in the Sephardic section on the Mount of Olives. On October 6, 1992, on the eve of Yom Kippur, 25 graves were desecrated at the burial site where Prime Minister Menachem Begin was buried, and nationalist slogans in Arabic were spray-painted.

Scores of additional incidents of this type have occurred in recent years as well...

13. Miron Benvenisti, Opposite the Closed Wall (Weidenfeld and Nicholson, 1973), p. 78.

14. Shmuel Berkowitz, How Terrible Is this Place (Carta, 2006), p. 19.

15. The description of the destruction of the cemetery during the Jordanian period is taken from the booklet Sacrilege - How the Synagogues and Cemeteries Were Desecrated, published in October 1967 by the Israel Ministry of Religious Affairs, accompanied by photos documenting the destruction. However, the description appears in more recent sources as well as in contemporary newspapers.

16. Benvenisti, op. cit., pp. 78-79; see also Berkowitz, How Terrible, p. 19.

17. The desecration of Jewish graves on the mount and the theft of tombstones took place in previous generations as well. Rabbi Benjamin of Tudela who toured Jerusalem circa 1173 attests to this and also wrote in a letter dispatched from Jerusalem that the Jerusalem rabbis were complaining about the Arab "lords of the land" who were wreaking havoc with the graves. Testimonies about similar actions in various periods are plentiful.

18. From the reports by the author in Ha'aretz over the years in his capacity as Jerusalem Affairs correspondent and on the basis of talks that he conducted with security figures.

19. Ibid.

20. "Tombstones Were Smashed on the Mount of Olives," Ha'aretz, December 22, 1975.

21. "Tombstones Were Desecrated on the Mount of Olives," Ha'aretz, March 26, 1976.

22. "Tombstones Were Desecrated on the Mount of Olives," Ha'aretz, November 29, 1977.

23. "Unknown Person Damaged the Grave of the Rabbi of Gura on the Mount of Olives," Ha'aretz, September 28, 1977.

24. "An Explosive Charge Detonated on the Mount of Olives," Ha'aretz, August 13, 1978.

25. "A Complaint on the Desecration of Graves and the Destruction of Tombstones on the Mount of Olives," Ha'aretz, May 15, 1979.

26. Berkowitz, p. 7.

I hope the perpetrators are caught and punished.

All of them, without regard to race, color, religion or political correctness.


the defaced gravestones at the Arab cemetery story appears to be falling apart:-

...The investigation thus far has cast doubt on the accusations. It turns out that there were no Hebrew inscriptions on gravestones in the Muslim cemetery. However, it is possible that someone scribbled something on slabs of marble at a distance from the cemetery. At least one photo shows the Hebrew word 'Palchod', which is the name of military unit.

An IDF source told Arutz Sheva's Hebrew service that members of the far-Left NGO B'Tselem admitted to IDF officers that the photos which were featured in the press, and which purported to show writing in Hebrew and Russian on Arab gravestones, were misleading.

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