CAIR Refutes Wiesenthal Center’s ‘False Claims’ on Muslim Cemetery - Museum of Tolerance
(LOS ANGELES, CA, 12/4/08) The Greater Los Angeles Area office of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-LA) said today that it has sent a letter to the Los Angeles-based Simon Wiesenthal Center addressing what the Islamic civil rights group called “false claims” the center is using to justify building a museum of “tolerance” on a Muslim cemetery in Jerusalem.
According to historians, the planned museum site was once the largest Muslim cemetery in Palestine. Companions of Islam’s Prophet Muhammad and Islamic jurists and scholars are said to be buried there. The Israeli government go-ahead on Oct. 29 for construction of the museum came only after a lengthy court battle.
The Wiesenthal Center has falsely claimed that the land it is building on is a parking lot and that there have been no protests regarding building on the cemetery in the past 50 years.
SEE: An Intolerable Spot for a Museum (Forward)
In the letter to the Wiesenthal Center, CAIR-LA Executive Director Hussam Ayloush stated:
Thank you for your response to our letter of November 20 regarding the Center for Human Dignity being built atop the Ma’manullah (Mamilla) cemetery in Jerusalem. However, I respectfully find your assessment of the situation to be inaccurate.
It is a leap in logic to argue that because a parking lot has been built over part of the Ma’manullah cemetery or that power and sewage lines have been placed underground, the cemetery ceases to exist or it ceases to be revered as such.
As stated in our initial letter, the cemetery land, along with other property in the waqf Islamic trust, was designated as “absentee property” when West Jerusalem came under Israel’s control after 1948. The land was ruled no longer sacrosanct in 1964 by a body called the “Islamic Sharia Court,” whose members were appointed by Israel and largely distrusted by the Muslim population. In violation of international law, the land was then designated by Israel as public open space, and the municipality built a parking lot over it.
Your additional claim that there has not been any opposition to the building of the parking lot ignores the fact that Israel imposed martial law on Palestinians from 1949 to 1966. Under this martial law, Israel ensured that any indications of national spirit or identity among Palestinians were quickly and forcefully crushed. Despite this, Muslims in Israel did legally oppose the designation of waqf land as absentee property in the 1960s, lobbied to rebuild and maintain the Ma’manullah graves after the 1967 war, protested the desecration of the graves in the 70s and 80s, and have been opposing the building of the Center for Human Dignity on the cemetery land. One cannot blame Muslims in Israel for sounding their claims upon deaf ears.
Ironically, the same Wiesenthal Center that now plans to desecrate a historic Muslim graveyard previously spent 15 years forcing the removal of a Catholic convent from Auschwitz, stating that the Jewish cemetery “deserved universal respect.”
Should a different set of standards be applied toward non-Jewish cemeteries? The fact that the Supreme Court of Israel “rendered a unanimous decision allowing the Center for Human Dignity to go forward” is clear. However, a center of your stature – whose proclaimed mission is to protect the human rights and dignity of all people – must understand, this issue is not one that can be resolved only in courts of law.
After all, the crux of the dilemma is simple: the land on which you plan to build is the site of a Muslim cemetery, a historic landmark, and a place revered by many. The Israeli Supreme Court’s decision cannot erase the fact that more than 150 skeletons have been unearthed at the cemetery, under the Wiesenthal Center’s supervision. Neither can the Court’s ruling erase the historic and religious value of the cemetery. You may claim the legal power to build the museum on the cemetery, but you do not possess the moral right to carry out such plans.
Please note the concern and outrage your construction plans have garnered around the world. Muslims, Jews, Christians, peace activists and architects around the globe are urging moving the location of the Center for Human Dignity. Also, nearly 2,000 people to date have signed on to an online petition sponsored by CAIR in efforts to halt construction of the museum over the Muslim cemetery. SEE: Urge Wiesenthal Center to Halt Construction of Museum on Muslim Cemetery
I raise these points in hopes of convincing you that, at the relatively small cost of relocating the Center for Human Dignity, you can help propel our communities to a more peaceful future and ensure that the Center for Human Dignity truly and honorably lives up to the noble principle for which it was named.
The letter was signed by CAIR-LA Executive Director Hussam Ayloush, Rabbi Steven B. Jacobs (Progressive Faith Foundation), Sydney Levy (Jewish Voice for Peace), and Rabbi Haim Beliak (Jews on First).
Please Visit “Help the Peace Makers” Website and send a fax to Wiesenthal Center’s members of the board of trustees: http://salsa.wiredforchange.com/o/1285/t/3697/p/dia/action/public/?action_KEY=73
and sign the petition to urge the Wiesenthal Center to hald construction of the Museum on a Muslim Cemetery http://www.gopetition.com/online/23494.html
A monument to insensitivity http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/1039555.html
Fact Sheet on the controversy around the Museum of Tolerance http://cair-california.org/index.php/Front-Page/Fact-Sheet-on-the-controversy-around-the-building-of-the-Museum-of-Tolerance.html
Gehry-Designed Tolerance Museum Inflames Jerusalem Passions http://www.bloomberg.com/apps/news?pid=20601088&sid=aJMkhlxaz.bY&refer=home