| 20 May 2024, Monday |

Israel ‘targeting Jerusalem cultural events’ as cemetery destruction goes viral

Threats of inflaming tensions and damaging US-Israel relations, are ignited by an increase in aggressive actions by Israel in Jerusalem against Christian and Muslim worshipers.
The Israeli municipality in the city began this week to plow through the Yousefieh cemetery, a sacred site outside the walls of Jerusalem that holds the remains of many, including Jordanian soldiers who died in the 1967 war and others.
Videos and the images of the cemetery’s destruction — with Palestinian relatives of the dead clutching gravesites — went viral around the world.
Images also showed kippah-wearing Israeli civilians joining in with officials.
Local Israeli figures have argued that the cemetery must be moved to make way for a public park that would be accessible to Palestinians. But many locals fear that the real purpose is to construct an accessway to the Al-Aqsa Mosque.
Azzam Khatib, director of the Jordanian Waqf council in Jerusalem, warned that the situation in Jerusalem and Al-Aqsa is “very explosive.”
In an interview with the Akhbarelbalad website, Khatib said that he expected the situation “to get even worse.”
He added: “Since the occupation of Jerusalem in 1967, all our land in the city has been under the threat of expropriation.”
While many Jerusalem citizens are steadfast in protecting their land and holy places, he said, “it is important that others give us support — we count on the free world to support us as well as our Christian brothers who are also facing Israeli restrictions, too.”
Meanwhile, on Oct. 27, Israeli plainclothes police and security personnel interrupted cultural activities being held in the Catholic House of Abraham in East Jerusalem, claiming that the event was “illegal.”
The religious program was supported by the Ramallah-based Palestinian government.
The order to interrupt the activities was signed by Omer Barlev, Israel’s minister of public security, based on the British Emergency Regulations of 1945.
Wadie Abu Nassar, adviser and media spokesperson of the Assembly of Catholic Ordinaries of the Holy Land, told Arab News that the Israeli order was based on “totally false information” and that the church “had a mission to work with everyone in Jerusalem.”
He said: “The funding came from France and Austria, and anyway, we believe that Jerusalem is an occupied area and that unilateral decisions should not be carried out against the Palestinian population.”
Israel and the US are also in public disagreement over the fulfillment of a promise made by US President Joe Biden to reopen the US Consulate in Jerusalem and on the need to suspend all illegal settlement building in the occupied territories.
Israel claims that after the Oslo Accords, Palestinians gave away any rights to East Jerusalem and that the Palestinian Authority has no right to have any engagement with fellow Palestinians.
But Palestinian leaders reject this claim. The Palestinian-Israeli agreement makes Jerusalem one of five permanent status issues that were to be negotiated in the five-year interim period.
The Israeli government made a written commitment to honor existing organizations in East Jerusalem, but has closed Orient House and Chamber of Commerce using the same British emergency regulations.
Numerous public events in East Jerusalem have also been repeatedly banned on Israeli orders.
Palestinians celebrating the success of high school graduates in 2020 were ordered to abandon the event.
A puppet festival at the Palestinian National Theater was also banned, as was the premiere of a film that investigated rampant illegal drug use in East Jerusalem.