Time and again, we’ve demonstrated The Independent’s propensity to publish the most inflammatory charges against Israel, often without any real evidence – typically, based largely on claims by Palestinian activists or officials.
Here are the allegations:
Israeli authorities have demolished several graves in occupied east Jerusalem’s historical Bab al-Rahmeh cemetery next to a long fought-over mosque, a Palestinian official has said.
Parts of the ancient cemetery were confiscated in September 2015 by Israeli authorities to make way for a national park according to local sources.
“Personnel from the so-called Israeli Nature Authority – backed by large numbers of Israeli forces – stormed the historical Bab al-Rahmeh cemetery and knocked down eight graves,” Mustafa Abu Zahra, head of the committee for the preservation of Islamic cemeteries in Jerusalem told the Turkish state-run Anadolu news agency.
In a varying account of the damage, Mr al-Qiswani, told Palestinian news agency Ma’an six graves had been destroyed,
Palestinian Authority adviser on religious and Islamic affairs Mahmoud al-Habbash told Ma’an the destruction of the graves was a sign of “Israeli political confusion” following the decision [regarding the Temple Mount] by [UNESCO]
The Independent has contacted Israeli Nature and Parks Authority for comment.
First, it’s telling that the only real source is a Palestinian official, and that, other than the only publications linked to are Ma’an News Agency (background here) and the Turkish state-run Anadoulu. The only other outlets reporting the malevolent ‘grave destruction’ that we found were Palestinian sites and propaganda outlets like Russia’s RT and Iranian PressTV. Remarkably, we couldn’t even find a ‘report’ on the alleged incident at Electronic Intifada.
Moreover, though the Indy journalist claimed to have contacted Israel’s Nature and Parks Authority (NPA) for comment, we were able to immediately reach Tali Tenenbaum, spokesperson for NPA, to comment on the story. Tenenbaum told us, in a phone conversation earlier today, that the “graves” in question were not in fact located in the historic Bab al-Rahmeh cemetery, as the story claimed. Rather, they were outside the cemetery, clearly within the boundaries of an existing antiquities site and national park – an area along the southeastern slopes of the Temple Mount wall (outside the Mount) which had never once served as a cemetery.
Tenenbaum also told us that the “graves” didn’t actually have bodies in them. They were merely empty gravestones possibly built to prevent archeological work in an area which, according to Israeli journalist Nadav Shragai, contains the “best-preserved ancient ruins” from the First Temple era in Israel.
Such Palestinian efforts to build de facto “cemeteries” on top of sensitive archaeological sites have been going on for many years. In 2004 and 2005, the Committee to Prevent the Destruction of Antiquities on the Temple Mount petitioned the High Court to prevent such illegal ‘burials’.
In other words, what the Indy sold to readers as the wanton destruction by Israeli officials of a historic cemetery to demolish Muslim “graves” can arguably be characterized as nothing but a cynical public relations stunt within a long pattern of Palestinian efforts to destroy Temple Mount antiquities and erase Jewish history.
Though there are other factual errors in the article, the main sensational assertion regarding the putative destruction of Muslim graves – which the Indy journalist fails to critically scrutinize – is akin to the inflammatory agitprop and incitement routinely peddled by professional Palestinian propagandists.
UPDATE: Following our communication with editors at The Independent, an addendum was added to the bottom of the article noting following:
“Tali Tenenbaum, spokesperson for the Israel Nature and Parks Authority, said the sites in question were not located in the Bab al-Rahmeh cemetery but in the area of the national park”.