Here is Nadia Hijab writing beautifully about the destruction of Mamilla cemetery to make way for a Museum of Tolerance in Jerusalem. It begins with her own clumsy effort to bury her father’s ashes on a road in the land of his origins, near Nablus.
[The Moroccan Jewish cab driver] asked hesitantly, “Don’t you have rites like ours, including visiting loved ones’ graves?”
In fact, at no time is the loss of Palestine more piercing than at a loved one’s passing, reinforcing the realization that, Muslim or Christian, Palestinians are as scattered across the globe in death as in life. But how could one explain 100 years of history in a cab ride? “Yes, but you’ve made it impossible for us to practice ours.”…
The battle over Mamilla encapsulates many aspects of Israel’s approach to Palestinian rights since the conflict began, and it is worth considering five here.
First, the use of legal garb to shroud illegal acts. ..
Second, the over-reach. The move on Mamilla spotlights not just Israel’s occupation of Arab East Jerusalem in 1967, but also its original take-over of West Jerusalem. The international community still does not accept Israeli sovereignty over West Jerusalem because the basis for the establishment of the Israeli state — the 1947 United Nations partition plan — provides for a corpus separatum for Jerusalem, as the European Community reminded Israel in 1999.
Third, the ongoing creation of facts on the ground to erase evidence of the indigenous inhabitants. As former Israeli leader Moshe Dayan told Technion University students back in 1969, “There is not one place built in this country that did not have a former Arab population.”…
Fifth, the delegitimization — not of Israel, which is a secure member state of the UN — but of the Zionist ideology that resulted in Israel’s creation. These actions remind the world that one people was displaced by another. The project architect, the renowned Frank Gehry, has since withdrawn his plans. Further international attention to the Mamilla case can only add to the growing global campaign to boycott Israel until it upholds international law.
Mamilla is not just about family history but also a nation’s history, as Dyala Husseini-Dajani — who comes from one long-established Jerusalem families and married into another — told a journalist while at the cemetery to say a prayer to her forebears. She added, “One day I want to be buried here. And I want my grandchildren to come and say this prayer for me.” As I read those words, I wished the Moroccan Jewish taxi driver would read them too.