Another Jewish cemetery has been vandalized. According to news reports, some 75-100 headstones were knocked over at the Mount Carmel cemetery in Philadelphia sometime either Saturday night or early Sunday morning.
It is the second vandalization of a Jewish cemetery in a week. The previous one took place at the Chesed Shel Emeth Cemetery, near St. Louis, an incident I reported on in a post several days ago.
“We are horrified by the desecration at Mount Carmel Cemetery,” said Nancy K. Baron-Baer, a regional director for the ADL, in commenting on the latest attack.
Other Jews seem to be equally horrified. The Anne Frank Center, headquartered in New York with an additional office just opened in Los Angeles, issued a statement similarly impassioned–if not more so.
“WE ARE SICKENED, SICKENED, SICKENED,” read read the group’s rather unrestrained outpouring posted on Twitter. “More Jewish gravestones were found vandalized today, this time in Philadelphia.”
In its mission statement, the Anne Frank Center “calls out prejudice, counters discrimination and advocates for the kinder and fairer world of which Anne Frank dreamed.”
And as for the ADL, so horrified and sickened are its officials by recent events they have even put up a $10,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the vandals.
“This act is cowardly and unconscionable, and is all the more despicable coming on the heels of a similar vandalism at another Jewish cemetery in St. Louis last week,” said Baron-Baer. “We urge anyone with information on this crime to report it immediately to the Philadelphia Police Department at 215-686-TIPS.”
“I’m so upset,” said Millard Braunstein, who went to the cemetery Monday morning and discovered his mother’s headstone is one of those that had been knocked down.”This is such a terrible thing.”
“It’s just very disheartening that such a thing would take place,” said Aaron Mallin, another man with a relative buried in the cemetery.
And a Philadelphia rabbi who has also visited the cemetery and seen the damaged grave sites seems particularly heavy of heart.
“After you start walking from row to row it quickly moves from a random act of vandalism to something with larger intentions and a systematic approach to things,” said Shawn Zevit, the rabbi at the Mishkan Shalom synagogue.
While desecration of a cemetery is a despicable act, one wonders if any of these people bothered to voice their concerns over the desecration and paving under of a Muslim cemetery in Jerusalem. And if Zevit is concerned about the “systematic approach” taken by the vandals in Philadelphia (who damaged a mere 100 graves) he should stop and reflect that it doesn’t even begin to hold a candle to the “systematic approach” taken by the Israelis at the Mamilla Cemetery. Here is a bit from Wikipedia:
Mamilla Cemetery is a historic Muslim cemetery located just to the west of the walls of the Old City of Jerusalem, Israel.The cemetery, at the center of which lies the Mamilla Pool, contains the remains of figures from the early Islamic period,several Sufi shrines and Mamluk-era tombs. The cemetery grounds also contain the bodies of thousands of Christians killed in the pre-Islamic era, as well as several tombs from the time of the Crusades.
Its identity as an Islamic cemetery is noted by Arab and Persian writers as early as the 11th century. It was used as a burial site up until 1927 when the Supreme Muslim Council decided to preserve it as a historic site.
Following the 1948 Arab–Israeli War, the cemetery and other waqfproperties in West Jerusalem fell under the control of Israeligovernmental bodies. A number of buildings, a road and other public facilities, such as a park, a parking lot and public lavatories have since been constructed on the cemetery grounds, destroying grave markers and tombs. A plan to build a Museum of Tolerance on part of the cemetery grounds, announced in 2004, aroused much controversy and faced several stop work orders before being given final approval in July 2011.
The “Musem of Tolerance” mentioned by Wikipedia is a facility the Simon Wiesenthal Center is seeking to build in Jerusalem as a companion to its museum of the same name in Los Angeles. Ironically the Simon Wiesenthal Center is among those now expressing concern over the vandalization of Jewish cemeteries in the US.
“Attacking a cemetery, especially one that is all-Jewish, all-Catholic, or whatever it is, is basically an attack on the culture, the identity of the people that cemetery represents,” Aaron Brietbart, a Simon Wiesenthal researcher, told the Washington Post following the attack on the Jewish cemetery in Missouri.
Compare Brietbart’s remarks to those of another Simon Wiesenthal official, Rabbi Marvin Hier, who insisted to the BBC in 2008 that construction of the Museum of Tolerance–on top of the Mamilla Cemetery–was an appropriate use of “derelict land.”
“Jerusalem is a city built on top of thousands of bones – Jewish and Muslim,” Hier said. “If we declared the whole of Jerusalem one huge cemetery, we’d never be able to build anything.”
The Museum of Tolerance seems to be rather aptly named–since what we are being ordered to show tolerance for in large part is the Simon Wiesenthal Center’s hypocrisy.
You’ll also note–in the tweet above–that the Anne Frank Center demands President Trump “deliver a prime-time nationally televised speech, live from the Oval Office, on how you intend to combat not only #Antisemitism and #Islamophobia and other rising forms of hate.”
All well and good perhaps, but why doesn’t the Anne Frank Center seem concerned about the Islamophobia running rampant in the state of Israel? Surely apartheid, walls, occupation, home demolitions, and cemetery desecrations are not part of the “kinder and fairer world of which Anne Frank dreamed.”
Perhaps instead of delivering a live speech from the Oval Office on anti-Semitism or Islamophobia, Trump should call his advisors together to develop a national strategy for dealing with the Jewish inability to self-reflect.
And finally, one other point before closing: the fact that Muslims in America have raised money to help pay for damage done by vandals at Jewish cemeteries is, in light of attacks upon the Mamilla Cemetery in Jerusalem, ironic to say the least. After the destruction at the cemetery in Missouri, US Muslims rallied with a very successful crowdfunding campaign. Now it seems they are doing it again. Here is what is being reported by CNN:
Once again, dozens of Jewish headstones have been vandalized, stoking fears of heightened anti-Semitism. And once again, members of the Muslim community are rallying to help.
The latest spate of destruction came over the weekend at the Mount Carmel Cemetery in Philadelphia, where 75 to 100 tombstones were toppled over. A week earlier, at least 170 headstones were damaged at a Jewish cemetery in St. Louis.
Muslim activist Tarek El-Messidi, who had started a fund-raising campaign to help clean up the St. Louis cemetery, sprung to action again after the Philadelphia attack.
“I want to ask all Muslims to reach out to your Jewish brothers and sisters and stand together against this bigotry,” he wrote on Facebook.
“Last week, our Muslim community raised money for the vandalized Jewish Cemetery in St Louis. Since we raised well above the goal, we can now use extra funds to help here in Philadelphia.”
As of Tuesday morning, the campaign had raised $138,000 — nearly seven times the original goal of $20,000.
El-Messidi said he immediately visited the Philadelphia Jewish cemetery and offered his support after hearing the news. After all, Muslims can relate to the feeling of racial intolerance.
And here is a little more from the Wikipedia article on Mamilla Cemetery:
At the time of Israel’s assertion of control over West Jerusalem in 1948, the cemetery, which contained thousands of grave markers, came under the administration of the Israeli Custodian of Absentee Property and the Muslim Affairs Department of Israel’s Ministry of Religious Affairs. By the end of the 1967 war that resulted in the Israeli occupation of East Jerusalem, only a handful of broken grave markers remained standing. A large part of the cemetery was bulldozed and converted into a parking lot in 1964 and a public lavatory was also built on the cemetery grounds.
In the 1950s, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, sensitive to how the treatment of waqf properties would be viewed internationally, criticized government policy towards the cemetery. A ministry representative described the vandalism to tombstones, including their use by the guard appointed by the Religious Ministry to build a henhouse beside his shelter in the cemetery, and the destruction of ancient tombs by bulldozers cleaning the Mamilla Pool. Noting the site constituted waqf property and lay within sight of the American Consulate, the ministry said it viewed the situation, which included plans for new roads and the parceling out of portions to private landowners as compensation for other properties confiscated by the state, with deep regret.
Israeli authorities bulldozed several tombs in the cemetery, including some of those identified as Frankish by Clermont-Ganneau, to establish Mamilla Park (or Independence Park) in 1955. Two of the largest and finest tombs survived, though the lid of one was overturned when it moved from its original spot. The other is the Mamluk era funerary chapel known as al-Kebekiyeh (or Zawiya Kubakiyya), now located in the eastern end of Independence Park.
Besides Independence Park, other parts of downtown Jerusalem erected on the cemetery grounds include the Experimental School, Agron Street, Beit Agron, and Kikar Hahatulot (Cats’ Square), among others. Government buildings on the cemetery grounds include the main headquarters of the Israeli Ministry of Trade and Industry, and the Customs Department building, which is said to be located on what was once the site of the chapel dedicated to St. Mamilla.
In 1992, the Custodian of Absentee Property sold the cemetery grounds to the Jerusalem Municipality, a sale the Mufti of Jerusalem, Ikrema Sabri, said they had no right to make. The Israeli Electricity Company destroyed more tombs on 15 January 2005 in order to lay some cables.
A major protest against attacks upon the cemetery took place in Jerusalem in 2008. Here is what the BBC reported:
Earlier this week hundreds of Muslims – young and old – marched through the centre of Jerusalem towards the city’s Mamilla cemetery.
Police helicopters flew overhead and security was tight. The focus of the march, and of increasing Muslim anger, was the Israeli Supreme Court decision to sanction a controversial new building on part of the Muslim cemetery.
And finally a bit more from Wikipedia:
On 9 August 2010, 300 Muslim gravestones in the cemetery were bulldozed by the Israel Lands Administration (ILA) in an area US Jewish human rights activists said was very close to the planned site for the Museum of Tolerance. A reporter from Agence France Presse witnessed the destruction of 200 graves until the work was briefly suspended while the court heard a stop work petition it rejected, allowing demolitions to continue that same day. The judge later issued an order prohibiting harm to ancient graves and mandating that the ILA coordinate work with the Israel Antiquities Authority and representatives of the Islamic Movement.
The Jerusalem city council issued its first official response in a written statement on 12 August, saying that, “The municipality and the (Israel Lands) Authority destroyed around 300 dummy gravestones which were set up illegally in Independence Park on public land.” It said these “fake” gravestones were not erected over any human remains and were placed in the park in an effort to “illegally take over state land.”
Mahmud Abu Atta, a spokesman for the Al-Aqsa Foundation, denied the city council’s claim that new tombs were added illegally. He said that between 500 and 600 tombs had been renovated in total “with the municipality’s agreement,” that “some of the tombs had to be totally rebuilt,” but that “all the tombs that we built or renovated contain bodies.”
Twenty graves were completely destroyed or had their tombstones removed by vandals in January 2011. On the night of 25–26 June 2011, about 100 gravestones in an intact part of the cemetery were destroyed by Israeli bulldozers. Footage filmed by local media and activists appeared on Al Arabiya and Al Jazeera and showed the bulldozers pulling out quickly after realizing they were being filmed; Israeli officials made no comment on the incident.
Later that same year, fifteen gravestones in the cemetery were spray painted red with racist slogans reading “Death to the Arabs”, as well as “price tag” and “Givat Asaf“, the name of an Israeli outpost slated for demolition.
The Mamilla graveyard (shown in the background) as it appeared in 1948
Though the statements from the Anne Frank Center and some of the other Jews quoted in this article are rather amazing, perhaps the Academy Award for hypocrisy goes to an Israeli official by the name of Emmanuel Nahshon. A spokesperson for the Israeli Foreign Ministry, Nahshon tweeted the following in response to the attack on the cemetery in Philadelphia: