Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Tolerance, Human Remains and Weird Israeli Politics

Building plans for the Simon Wiesenthal Museum of Tolerance in Jerusalem have just been approved, and building should commence soon. One would think that the museum would be fairly uncontreversial. However when dealing with Israel, nothing can ever be easy. Jpost reports:

Palestinian leaders claim the site, opposite Independence Park, is an ancient Muslim cemetery from the twelfth century. The Center had previously completed the long approval process following a four-year legal battle over the controversial location. 
So is Israel building a Museum Of Tolerance on-top a Muslim cemetery from the twelfth century? well no. Or at least not exactly. According to the findings in the Supreme court's (Bagatz 52/06) the graves were discovered by accident. Since the 1960's The land on which the museum is planned to be built was being used as a car park, with no one thinking it was part of the cemetery. For 50 years or so no one protested – since the clear border of the cemetery did not involve this land. As such all the stages of planning were passed without anyone even imagining there was a problem. Only once they started to dig on the site, did they start to discover graves – apparently about 300 years old. In other words, we are not dealing with an active or even known cemetery, but rather with a previously unknown site which was discovered only after work had begun. The court after much deliberation let the work continue.

Is Israel treating the Muslims differently than it does Jews? Luckily one highly publicized case involving jewish remains occurred only a year ago. Israel wanted to expand a hospital wing in the town of Ashkelon. Extreme Ultra Orthodox groups objected and even rioted when human remains – allegedly Jewish were discovered on the site. Despite their protests, the court ordered the work to continue. Weirdly enough this is an example of Israel being consistent in the application of the law.

And this is where the weird politics of Israel come into play again. According to Channel 1 Muslims and Extreme Ultra-orthodox groups are in negotiations for a deal. The Muslims want the Ultra-Orthodox to protest the construction of the museum, as they did the construction of the Hospital. In return they are offering to make sure that Jews visiting the Jewish graveyard on the mount of Olives will stop being harassed.

Never a dull moment.

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