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Join the Campaign: A Museum of Tolerance built on top of a Muslim Cemetery in Jerusalem? Hard to Believe?

A Museum of Tolerance built on top of a Muslim Cemetery in Jerusalem? Hard to Believe?

It must be stopped!!!!

Join the Campaign


October 29, 2008

Can you even imagine the possibility of the State of Israel and the Jerusalem municipality building a Museum of Tolerance on the site of a Muslim Cemetery in the heart of Jerusalem? Well it is happening. We tried to fight it in court but we lost. Imagine what would happen if someone in Europe - in Germany or Austria for instance, tried to build a Museum of Tolerance on top of Jewish graves.

The legal battle has been lost, now we must move on to the political battle. We must prevent this museum from being built on that site. Jerusalem will never be a city of peace if this is allowed to move forward.

Jerusalem is the one city in the world where there is a real potential to demonstrate that Jews, Christians and Muslims can live together in peace, understanding and real tolerance. Jerusalem is the place where we can learn to celebrate the diversities of our civilizations. If the construction of this museum is allowed to resume on top of a Muslim cemetery of religious and historical importance in the center of Jerusalem, this Holy city, will never realize its potential.

For the peace of Jerusalem, for the chance of peace, understanding and tolerance between Jews, Muslims and Christians we must stop this dangerous act.

We call on the Government of Israel and the Municipality of Jerusalem to stop the construction of the Wiesenthal Museum of Tolerance in name of public safety and in protection of the reputation of the State of Israel and the safety of Jews all around the world.

We call on Jerusalemites, Israelis and Palestinians to join our campaign.

We call on the candidates for Mayor of Jerusalem and for the Jerusalem City Council to speak out during the remaining days of the campaign – promise us that you won’t let this Museum be built in the Mamilla Cemetery.

We call on the Chief Rabbis of Israel not to let this shame on Judaism take place. In the name of Judaism, do not allow this Museum to built on top of Muslim graves.

We call on Israelis and Palestinians alike to send letters to your Presidents, Prime Ministers and Foreign Ministers urging them to stop the construction of the Museum in that location.

We call on Jews all over to write to the Wiesenthal Center Director Rabbi Hier urging him to change the location of the Museum. We urge Jews everywhere to write to the Government of Israel voice your objection to building a Museum of Tolerance on top of Muslim graves.

We call on Rabbis around the world to join the campaign. We are looking for several Rabbis who will coordinate organizing a Rabbis letter against the building of the Museum over Muslim graves.

We call on citizens of the world to join the campaign – raise your voices, - write to your own governments urging them to pressure the Israeli government to cease the construction of the Museum in that location.

Useful addresses and contacts:

President Marvin Hier, Dean, Wiesenthal Center
Fax: ++1-310-553-4521
email: information@wiesenthal.net

President Shimon Peres
Fax: ++972-2-567-1314
email: president@president.gov.il

Prime Minister Olmert
Fax: +972-2-670-5475
email: pmo.heb@it.pmo.gov.il

Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni
Fax: ++972-2-530-3367
email: sar@mfa.gov.il

Mayor of Jerusalem
Fax: ++972-2-629-6014
email: mankal@jerusalem.muni.il

Sfardi Chief Rabbi of Israel, Rabbi Shlomo Amar
Fax: ++972-2-537-1305
email: rabbis@rabbinate.gov.il



Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi of Israel, Rabbi
Fax: ++972-2-537-7872
email: rabbia@rabbinate.gov.il

President Mahmoud Abbas
Fax: ++972-2-240-9648

Prime Minister Salam Fayyad
Fax: ++972-2- 295-0970

Foreign Minister Riad Malki
Fax: ++970-2-240-3372 or ++972-2-240-3372
email: mofapal@gmail.com



The following is some factual information about the issue:

ISRAEL'S SUPREME COURT RULES CENTER FOR HUMAN DIGNITY-MUSEUM OF TOLERANCE JERUSALEM CAN BUILD ON WEST JERUSALEM SITE

The Israeli High Court of Justice has ruled that the building of the Museum is legal and the construction can continue. In February 2006 the High Court issued an injunction for freezing the construction. Since that time the Court has been considering the evidence presented for and against building the Museum. The decision of the Court places the burden on the Muslim Authorities to accept the “offers” made to them by the Wiesenthal Center to move the graves that will be affected by the building the Museum. The Muslim Authorities rejected all of the offers and claimed that the sanctity of the whole cemetery must be respected. In the initial groundbreaking and first construction some 300 skeletons were dug up and “boxed” by the Israeli Antiquities Authorities.

Furthermore, the Court rejected the claims by some experts (supported by IPCRI and others against the building of the Museum) and in favor of other experts brought by the Wiesenthal Center, that the construction of the Museum would not lead to a disruption of public order and that the Arab and Muslim world would accept the construction of the Museum as they had accepted the construction of the parking lot over part of the Museum in the mid 1960’s.




http://www.jpost.com/servlet/Satellite?cid=1225199598269&pagena...



Site for J'lem tolerance museum okayed

Oct. 29, 2008
Etgar Lefkovits , THE JERUSALEM POST

The Islamic Movement in Israel vowed to fight a Supreme Court ruling on Wednesday that a Museum of Tolerance could be built on its planned site in central Jerusalem even though it was part of the old, deconsecrated Mamila Muslim cemetery.

Work on the $250-million museum, which is being built adjacent to Independence Park by the Los Angeles-based Simon Wiesenthal Center, hit a snag three years ago when dozens of Muslim graves were found on a section of the site during the required preliminary excavations. Two years ago, a court ordered a freeze in construction.

The museum said Wednesday that construction would resume immediately.

But a showdown is expected, with the Islamic group set to announce its plans at a press conference in east Jerusalem on Thursday morning.

"All citizens of Israel, Jews and non-Jews, are the real beneficiaries of this decision," said Rabbi Marvin Hier, founder and dean of the Wiesenthal Center. "Moderation and tolerance have prevailed."

In their unanimous ruling, the justices noted that no objections had been lodged back in 1960, when the municipality put a parking lot over a small section of the graveyard, and that for the past half-century the site had been in public use.

The court said that an alternative proposal put forward by planners - including reburial of the bones or covering the graves - was "satisfactory" in trying to reconcile religious attitudes toward respecting the dead with the requirements of the law.

The court also noted that the Islamic organization that had filed the appeal, Al-Aksa Foundation, which is connected with the Islamic Movement, was declared illegal by Public Security Minister Avi Dichter earlier this year for its alleged ties with Hamas. Nevertheless, the court found, this in itself was not grounds to reject the appeal.

The court also said concerns that violence would break out if the construction went ahead were "not within the confines" of the ruling.

The decision came after seven months of arbitration failed to resolve the dispute.

An attempt to reach an out-of-court settlement broke down when Islamic officials rejected an offer by the museum to move the bones to a nearby neglected Muslim cemetery and to renovate it. The Wiesenthal Center refused to relocate the museum or to avoid construction on the small section of the site where the bones were found, saying the area was needed for the museum.

The bones, several hundred years old, were found on 12 percent of the site.

Islamic officials, who had repeatedly ruled out any construction at the site, criticized Wednesday's ruling.

"We did not expect much from the court, and it is clear that it is part of the Israeli establishment," Islamic Movement spokesman Zahi Nujidat said. "We will not give up easily."

In the past, public protests organized by the movement have turned violent.

The museum was originally expected to be completed in 2007. The Wiesenthal Center has spent millions of dollars in legal fees.

Hier said construction would take between three and three-and-a-half years.

According to the court's decision, construction can resume immediately, except for the small section where the human remains were found.

The court gave project managers 60 days to agree with the Antiquities Authority on a method for either removing any human remains for reburial or installing a barrier between the building's foundations and the ground below that would prevent graves from being disturbed.

The site was the city's main Muslim cemetery until 1948.

The Wiesenthal Center has cited rulings by Muslim courts, the most recent in 1964, that canceled the sanctity of the site because it was no longer used.

Hier said that the site, which was given to the center by the Israel Lands Administration and the Jerusalem Municipality in the '90s, had never been designated by Israeli authorities as a cemetery, and that for three decades it had been used as parking lot.

He added that throughout the Arab world, including in the Palestinian Authority, there had been extensive building on abandoned cemetery sites.

The museum construction site was dedicated with great fanfare in 2004, with top government officials and California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger in attendance.

The museum - which is being designed by world-renowned architect Frank Gehry and will include a theater complex, conference center, library, gallery and lecture halls - seeks to promote unity and respect among people of all faiths.

"Jerusalem is 3,000 years old, and every stone and parcel of land has a history that is revered by people of many faiths," Hier said. "We are deeply committed to do everything in our power to respect this sacred past, but at the same time, we must allow Jerusalem to have a future."



From the Weisenthal Center Web site:



“All citizens of Israel, Jews and non-Jews, are the real beneficiaries of this decision.” Rabbi Marvin Hier, founder and dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center.

The Simon Wiesenthal Center applauded today’s Israeli Supreme Court decision allowing the Frank O. Gehry-designed Center for Human Dignity - Museum of Tolerance Jerusalem (MOTJ) to be built on its planned site in the center of the city. "All citizens of Israel, Jews and non-Jews, are the real beneficiaries of this decision," said Rabbi Marvin Hier, founder and dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center. "Moderation and tolerance have prevailed. The MOTJ will be a great landmark promoting the principles of mutual respect and social responsibility." Construction on the project will resume immediately.
(cllick on above photo for hi-res image)

“Jerusalem is 3,000 years old and every stone and parcel of land has a history that is revered by people of many faiths. We are deeply committed to do everything in our power to respect that sacred past, but at the same time, we must allow Jerusalem to have a future and we are honored to be given an opportunity to be a part of that future,” Rabbi Hier concluded.

http://www.wiesenthal.com/site/apps/nlnet/content.aspx?c=fwLYKnN8Lz...





Here’s something interesting from July 2007:



Jews outraged by construction
at site of famed Vilnius cemetery
By Dinah A. Spritzer

PRAGUE (JTA) -- Jews inside and outside of Vilnius are outraged at Lithuanian officials who have allowed construction on land believed to cover part of the country's largest Jewish cemetery.

Development of the King Mindaugas apartments is the second building project in two years that authorities have allowed on the area, one of the Lithuanian capital's prime real estate sites.

The city in May reportedly agreed to an international expert committee's recommendation that construction on the site be halted and that a geophysical survey be carried out in the disputed area. But construction has continued nonetheless.

“The government is playing a game with us, saying one thing and doing another," Simon Gurevichius, executive director of the Jewish Community of Lithuania, told JTA in a telephone interview.

Gurevichius said Lithuanian President Valdas Adamkus promised the Jewish community that a second building would not go up, “and meanwhile the digging is going on at a frantic pace where we know there are Jewish bones.”

Estimates put the number of those buried at the Snipiskes Cemetery at some 10,000 over six centuries, although many bodies were removed by the Soviet regime when it controlled Lithuania. Prior to World War II, Vilnius was one of European Jewry's most vital centers of religious life and education.

The city first sold part of a vast tract of land in the city center, occupied in part by the cemetery, to a local developer in 2003. Despite complaints by the 5,000-strong Jewish community, the city in 2005 allowed the construction of an apartment complex. Gurevichius estimates that apartment prices start at $400,000.

This February, the city granted a second building permit after receiving permission from the Ministry of Culture, which has the power to stop projects that interfere with ancient sites and ruins.

Based on archival research it commissioned, the city argued that the current construction does not overlap with the cemetery grounds.

After pressure and intervention from international voices such as the U.S. Embassy in Vilnius and the American Jewish Committee, the Lithuanian Prime Minister's Office agreed in March to an expert committee of Jewish leaders, government officials and members of the historical institute that would try to resolve the boundary dispute.

The state-run Lithuanian Historical Institute declared in May that the construction area in question does encroach on the cemetery's borders, but its recommendation to stop construction has been ignored. In an apparent bureaucratic snafu that Gurevichius attributes to ill will, the city and state authorities claim they are not following the institute document because it lacks the proper signatures.

Ina Irens, chief officer of the Vilnius municipal government's international relations department, wrote JTA by e-mail that the city was aware of the controversy on the cemetery boundaries and was still waiting for the expertise from the Lithuanian Institute of History and the final document from the panel of experts.

The document in question was signed by the institute's director, Gurevichius said, but one copy lacks the signatures of the two researchers who helped him. Now he worries that in a few months, the apartment building will be completed and the city will say, "It's here now, it would just cost too much to tear it down,” Gurevichius said.

Andrew Baker, director of international relations for the American Jewish Committee, said the expert group's 10 members -- half of whom were Lithuanian -- unanimously recommended that construction be halted until further research was conducted.

Baker said he told Lithuanian officials, including the foreign minister, that "this is an unacceptable response and surely the government could do more. It is hard not to conclude that the Lithuanian government has acted in bad faith.”

While the wrangling continues in Vilnius, the London-based Committee to Protect Jewish Cemeteries in Europe is convinced that the ongoing apartment construction, according to its own research in Vilnius, is disrupting the dead, which is a violation of Jewish law.

The cemetery committee, the Conference of European Rabbis and some 100 observant Jews held a prayer vigil in front of the European Commission in Brussels last week to protest the construction.

Abraham Ginsberg, the executive director of the cemetery committee, said: “We will protest at Lithuanian embassies around Europe, and men in black hats and long beards will lay down on the site if the construction does not stop.”











Gershon Baskin and Hanna Sinoira - Co-CEOs, IPCRI



gershon@ipcri.org hanna@ipcri.org



http://www.ipcri.org



Contribute to this Campaign



Make your contribution online



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Israel/Palestine Center for Research and Information

P.O. Box 9321, Jerusalem 91092

Tel: +972-2-676-9460 Fax: +972-2-676-8011

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ZIONISM

http://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/books/features/avra...

November 1, 2008
Avraham Burg: Israel's new prophet

Avraham Burg was a pillar of the Israeli establishment but his new book is causing a sensation. It argues that his country is an "abused child" which has become a "violent parent". And his solutions are radical, as he explains to Donald Macintyre

In shorts, T-shirt and cotton kippa, Avraham Burg is sitting in his sukka, the temporary booth that every observant Jewish family in Israel builds outside their home for the joyous religious holiday of Sukkot, and talking with some disdain about the holocaust "industry".

The sunlight is filtered through the roof of palm leaves, the decorative strings of apples, coloured balls and paper streamers almost motionless on this still October morning. Nearby the autumn desert flowers are blooming and a ladder up against a tree indicates that someone has recently been picking olives. Here in Nataf, the select, upper-middle-class community idyllically set in the Jerusalem Hills where Burg lives with his wife Yael, just 1,000 metres from the border with the West Bank, it's momentarily hard to focus on the sombre subject matter of his latest, explosive book, one which by his own – if anything understated – account "singlehandedly shook the foundations of the Zionist establishment overnight".

It isn't long since Burg was a blue-chip member of that same Zionist establishment. The son of a long-serving government minister, from the time of David Ben-Gurion's government, he has a classic top-drawer Israeli profile. True, he was on the left: after army service as a paratroop officer and graduating from Hebrew University he was a star of the movement against the first Lebanon war – his charisma if anything enhanced by the fact than unlike many of his comrades he was religious. He was injured in the grenade attack by a right-wing fanatic on a Peace Now protest in 1983 which killed another demonstrator, Emil Grunzweig. But he was quickly swept into mainstream public life, becoming first an adviser to the then Prime minister Shimon Peres, then a Knesset member, then Speaker of the Knesset, head of the Jewish agency and the World Zionist Organisation and the almost-victorious candidate for the Labour Party leadership in 2001.

It was not until his last year as a Knesset member that he began to build a reputation as something of an enfant terrible in Israeli intellectual and political life. In 2003 he wrote a widely publicised and much argued-over piece in Israel's mass circulation Yedhiot Ahronot in which he said that Israel had to choose between "racist oppression and democracy" and that "having ceased to care about the children of the Palestinians, should not be surprised when they come washed in hatred and blow themselves up in the centres of Israeli escapism".

But his book The Holocaust is Over: We Must Rise from its Ashes – published this week in Britain – caused a much bigger sensation when it came out last year in Israel, at once becoming a best-seller and provoking a furious reaction not only from the right but from many of Burg's former colleagues on the political centre-left. In the book – a compelling mix of polemic, personal memoir, homage to his parents and meditation on Judaism – Burg argues that Israel has been too long imprisoned by its obsessive and cheapening use – or abuse – of the Holocaust as "a theological pillar of Jewish identity". He argues that the living role played by the Holocaust – Burg uses the regular Hebrew word Shoah or "catastrophe" for the extermination of six million Jews in the Second World War – in everyday Israeli discourse, has left Israel with a persistent self-image of a "nation of victims", in stark variance with its actual present-day power. Instead, the book argues, Israel needs finally to abandon the "Judaism of the ghetto" for a humanistic, "universal Judaism".

The implication of Burg's analysis, one that perhaps only an Israeli would have dared promote, is that the fostered memory of the Holocaust hovers destructively over every aspect of Israeli political life – including its relations with the Palestinians since the 1967 Six Day War and the subsequent occupation. "We have pulled the Shoah out of its historical context," he writes, "and turned it into a plea and generator for every deed. All is compared to the Shoah, dwarfed by the Shoah and therefore all is allowed – be it fences , sieges ... curfews, food and water deprivation or unexplained killings. All is permitted because we have been through the Shoah and you will not tell us how to behave."

For Burg, whose own father Yosef was a German Jew, and for many years leader of Israel's National Religious Party, the "real watershed moment" in this deforming process was the trial and subsequent execution in 1962 of Adolf Eichmann, which Yosef Burg vainly opposed from inside the Cabinet. Instead of Eichmann's death symbolising, as it was meant to do, "the end of the Shoah and the beginning of the post-Shoah period," he says, in reality "the opposite happened... The Shoah discourse had begun." I put it to Burg that for many Israeli holocaust survivors who during the late Forties and Fifties had had to brave the indifference, sometimes even contempt, of those of their fellow citizens who had already left Europe by the time the Shoah began – a painful phenomenon vividly covered in the book itself – the Eichmann trial was actually a liberation, a positive rather than negative, after which Israelis who had not lived through the Holocaust at last began to understand the pain of those who had.

Burg's answer is that recognition and sympathy for the victims and survivors of the Holocaust are indeed essential components of "any kind of progress from the departure point of trauma to the final destination of trust". On the other hand "what I criticise in the Eichmann trial and the entire Shoah industry is the contempt, the cheapening attititude of the public system; everything is Shoah. It legitimises everything, it explains everything, it is used by everybody." Here he cites two everyday examples – the first an interview about the Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad given last month by Benjamin [Bibi] Netanyahu, the right-wing former – and possibly soon to be again – Prime Minister: "Ahmadinejad is no doubt a problem," says Burg. "He is an issue in the Western world and for Israel's sense of confidence in particular. So what is Bibi's soundbite? 'It is [19]38 all over again.' Do me a favour. Did we have such a powerful state in '38? Did we have this onmipotent army in '38? Did we have the most important superpowers siding with us in '38? It's not '38 however you look at it. And even Ahmadinejad, when you compare him with Hitler, you diminish Hitler." But because the "Holocaustic language is so common, so well understood," says Burg, the reflex attitude is: "Why not use it?"

Last year, he adds, Jerusalem's gay and lesbian community wanted to have a parade in the city. "Immediately all the gut juices of Jerusalem erupted like a wellspring. Immediately the ultra-orthodox in masses went out on the streets. So the police went out to separate the supporters of the parade from their ultra-orthodox opponents ... so one of the ultra-orthodox shouts at a policeman (who happens to be a Druze [Arab]): 'You are a Nazi. You are worse than the Germans, blah blah blah...' The Shoah was privatised, so to say. All of these people who exploit it, violate the sacred memory of the individual [victims] and the collective."

Perhaps unsurprisingly, given Burg's paternal origins, Israel's multidimensional relationship with Germany, past and present, looms large in this book. In a notably striking – and for many Israelis highly provocative – passage, Burg points out that Israel actually reached – arguably "too soon" – a "hasty reconciliation" with Germany after the Second World War, before saying:

"We will never forgive the Arabs for they are allegedly just like the Nazis, worse than the Germans. We have displaced our anger and revenge from one people to another, from an old foe to a new adversary, and so we allow ourselves to live comfortably with the heirs of the German enemy – representing convenience, wealth and high quality, while treating the Palestinians as whipping boys to release our aggression, anger and hysteria, of which we have plenty."

Yet Burg believes that Germany remains also "traumatised" by the Holocaust. "We are both along the same ocean of suffering," he told me. As evidence he points out that so far – and unlike in France, Britain, the US, and Italy – no edition of his book is yet planned in Germany where the publishers warily wait to see what its impact will now be on "world Jewry". In the book Burg, who admires the cultural and artistic milieu of modern Berlin – where he recently ran the marathon (in just under four hours) – argues that in the "day we leave Auschwitz and establish the new state of Israel, we also have to set Germany free".

In the meantime, however, one of his most controversial themes is what he himself calls a "both embarrassing and frightening" analogy with Germany's Second Reich. In drawing attention to the importance of the military – and the lack of "any alternative, civilian school of thought" – in the political life of Israel as in Bismarck's Germany, or of the parallels between the lack of representation of Israeli Arabs in many key tiers of public life and the exclusion of Jews from the officer class of the pre-Hitler German Army, or the impunity with which the extreme right can make racist statements about "the other", Burg is emphatically not seeking comparison with the Nazi era, but "of the long incubation period that preceded Nazism and that gave rise to a public mindset that enabled the Nazis to take power".

On the one hand, Burg asserts his strong admiration for "my teacher and mentor" Professor Yeshayahu Leibowitz, who thunderously prophesied almost immediately after the Six Day War – in a passage quoted with warm approval in Burg's book – that the "inclusion of one and half million Arabs within Jewish jurisdiction means undermining the Jewish and human essence of the state" and that the occupier will be "a state that is not worthy of being and will not be worth to let exist". Burg reinforces his own comparison with pre-Nazi Germany by referring to Israelis being "locked off" in denial of the ominous stirrings of the extreme right in their midst. And he does not shrink from a reference, in his discussion of the Holocaust's legacy in Israel, to the "pathological circle of the abused child becoming a violent parent". On the other hand he parts company with Leibowitz's depiction of the occupying Israeli forces as "Judaeo-Nazis", which he also regards as "cheapening the conversation... an act of contempt for the lesson of the Holocaust".

The German comparison nevertheless fuelled the outrage felt about the book by one of Israel's leading journalists and commentators, Ari Shavit. Last year, in an ultra-combative interview with Burg in the newspaper Haaretz that certainly helped to publicise the book but also to demonise its author among his enemies, Shavit, once an ally of Burg in the campaign against the Lebanon war, wrote that he found the book "anti-Israeli, in the deepest sense" and a "one-dimensional and unempathetic attack on the Israeli experience" that unjustly depicted its citizens as "psychic cripples". In one of many acerbic exchanges, Shavit took issue with Burg's description of the occupation of the West Bank and the Golan Heights as an "Israeli Anschluss". "What do you want me to say about what we're doing there?" Burg retorted. "That it's humanism? The Red Cross?"

The reaction was predictable. Otniel Schneller, a Knesset member in the ruling Kadima Party, said portentously that when Burg dies he should be refused burial in the part of Jerusalem's Mount Herzl National Cemetery allotted to national figures, declaring: "He had better search for a grave in another country." Yossi Klein Halevi, a writer, and professed friend of Burg said: "That interview really destroyed him, or he destroyed himself." True, Burg gave as good as he got in the interview. "I told him, Ari, you are the best insight writer in Israel; the problem is that your insights are lousy," he says now. But what it really exposed was the chasm that, at least for now, separates Burg even from many of his own mainstream centre-left generation in an Israel whose future he believes is increasingly being steered by the ultra-orthodox on the one hand and the religious Zionist settlers in the occupied West Bank on the other.

"Now Ari represents Mr Israel," says Burg. "He is the camp fire. He is the virtual tribe. He was a kibbutznik, in the middle of the road, a bit of security, a bit of social conscience and a bit of secularism, a bit European, a bit Middle Eastern. Along comes Avrum [his much used nickname] Burg and tells him: 'Ari it is hollow, your Mr Israel: you abandoned the two links to the past to the hands of your enemies. You surrendered the responsibilities for the rituals and traditions to the hands of the ultra-orthodox who bitterly oppose your modernity; and you abandoned the responsibility for the connection to the place to the hands of messianic eschatological settlers. Both are fundamentalists. One is redemptive. And the other is just religious. [You are neither] but you need them in order to feel you are hooked into your past. Can't you create a different, independent, renewed approach to your past and to your future?'" Burg who frequently states his affinity, as a modern observant Jew, with the liberal B'nai Jeshurun synagogue in New York, well known for a strong commitment to social justice, continues: "I told him maybe there's a another world out there. What about Jews in the diaspora, those who worked in the past 200 years to renew Judaism, to make it compatible with humanism and universalism which is part of your secular modern attitude? Don't you want to bring that in? And abandon your pathological relations with the ultra-orthodox and ultra-messianic?' Then he says: 'Are you a Zionist?' The ultimate punch! 'Are you a Zionist, Mr Burg?'"

So what is the answer to this undoubtedly relevant question? "For me, Zionism was the scaffolding that enabled the Jewish people to move from the previous exilic reality into sovereign responsibility. The Zionists succeeded two-fold: we have sovereignty and, second, even exile was redeemed and became 'diaspora'. We have the most impressive diaspora, politically, culturally, economically. Never did Jews have so much influence on so many superpowers round the world and we have unbelievable sovereignty, stronger than King David's. So isn't it about time to remove the scaffolding and see the beauty of the structure? I am a human being. I belong to humanity. My middle name is 'I'm Jewish' and my given name is 'I'm Israeli'. I do not need a fourth definition unless this fourth, artificial definition is a tool to discriminate in Israel against some elements that are not necessarily Jewish, in a very inhuman way."

Shavit was also agitated by Burg's enthusiasm for the European Union, reinforced by his startling assertion that Israel "from my point of view is part of Europe". In particular Shavit highlighted Burg's French second passport (Burg's wife is French-born) and his "far-reaching" and "pre-Zionist" act in voting in last year's French presidential election. (Burg, who told Shavit that he had done so as a Jewish "citizen of the world" explained to me that he had voted for Ségolène Royal in protest at Sarkozy's 2005 condemnation of Paris's mainly Muslim banlieu residents after the 2005 riots as "scum".) Certainly Burg sees the EU as a potential lever for a solution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, which the parties cannot, in his view reach without external help and – here Burg is striking out, for an Israeli, in unusual territory – the prospect of belonging to something bigger than this perpetually fought-over land.

Fearing that the days of the conventionally envisaged two-state solution may be "numbered" Burg says both societies have been "abducted" by fundamentalist religious elements who believe in their competing versions of a single state. "We are abducted by the settlers; they are abducted by Hamas. If Bibi Netanyahu comes back to power and Hamas stays in power there will be an awful clash between our one-state-solution vision and their one-state-solution vision. None of these religious zealots really expresses the real will of the people and one of the only ways I know how to redeem the people from being hostage is to offer an alternative background."

Europe is a model, he says, because of its success, after centuries of war, in achieving peace and a "kind of biblical process of unification". Much more ambitiously, however, he argues that if the EU were to hold the prospect as it has, however ambivalently, to Turkey, in a decade's time or more, of actually admitting Israel and an infant Palestinian state to membership, this would itself be an irresistible incentive to reach an agreement. Experience suggests that Israel reacts to mere rhetorical demands to give by saying "But we've got gonish" – Burg uses the Yiddish word for nothing – in return. "Nobody buys it. But if you say that at the end of the process Israel will have borders to the East and openness to the West, Israel will say, you know what, that's a deal. The entire Europe for the West Bank? That's not bad." And, he adds, "just imagine what that would do for a Palestinian in the West Bank or in Gaza. His children might get the best education in France or Italy and then come back again. It's free. It's open. The minute you see a process beginning like this the killing will stop or will be reduced. The minute you don't have a vision, you don't have an outlet. Killing is the outlet."

Given Israel's strong tendency to be as suspicious of Europe as it is attached to its alliance with the US, isn't this too much to expect? Burg – who does not even rule out the EU also making similar offers to, say, Lebanon and Syria in return for a full panoply of democratic institutions and universal human rights – accepts that it is a "challenge". But Burg argues that whereas the US expects to "meld the previous identities of its members in an American oneness" the European model creates a "civil political entity" that preserves "all the previous identities of its various members". Which is better for the Jews, he asks? "Is it getting lost into the American melting pot or is it being a stone in the ongoing beautiful mosaic of Europe?"

To be fair, Burg is anything but starry-eyed about the EU's ability to play the much more important role in the Middle East he is clear he wants it to. "The problem is that in the past 60 years too many politicians in Europe owe their tranquillity to being guaranteed by American rifles," he says. "They won't jump in and assume responsibility." The international Quartet, in which the EU is supposed to be an equal partner with the US, is "not functioning". He is scornful of the EMU inability to persuade the US to join in a determined new policy that would say: "We can't tolerate a nuclear arms race in the Middle East; we can't tolerate fundamentalism here; we cannot tolerate the suffering in Gaza, we cannot tolerate the road blocks, the settlements. But we say stop this and we offer you something in return. That's a new conversation."

The failure to achieve this so far especially rankles because "even with Obama in the White House, America is too far away to hear what's going on here. It doesn't hear the knocks on the door. Europe hears the knocks on the door. Europe sees the shadows passing under the window." For Burg's vision of an EU stretching out to the eastern Mediterranean – in its own interest – has a much bigger goal: dealing with the growing presence of Islam in its midst. Burg says ominously that far-right Europeans such as the late Jörg Haider , Jean Marie Le Pen, or the Swiss anti-immigration politician Christoph Blocher "have a solution. We've tried it a couple of times in the past. Let's do it again. They're nicer. They dress OK. They don't have a funny moustache but at the end of the day they have the formula."

The alternative, he argues, is the long-term development of a democratic, "European Islam". "What happened to Judaism when it encountered Christian democracy? What happened to Christianity that was so violent only a couple of centuries ago when it met and merged with democracy? It was changed. Now imagine in 50, 75, 100 years' time you have a European Islam [in which people are told] we respect you for respecting your roots and origins and traditions and rights. And we would love it if you internalised the value systems of our world as well – equality and liberties and so on. And now imagine this 100 million people, or 50 per cent of them, saying: you know what? This big devil is not so diabolic. All of a sudden from the Noah's Ark of Europe the harbinger sends a message: Islam and democracy can function together. And it's not one individual, it's the masses of European Islam, like European Jewry, like European Christianity."

For Burg this is impressively personal. As a representative of European Jewry that was "kicked out and expelled from Europe because of [its] otherness I have to give my utmost to prevent the late Mr Haider and other fascist semi-racists making the Muslims in Europe the new Jews." Which brings us back to the book. Utopian or not, his alternative vision for Israel, laid out with especial eloquence in the final chapter, is for it to become a beacon of liberty and racial tolerance, its humanistic values drawn on centuries of Jewish existence preceding the Holocaust and "with the acceptance of the other as an equal to be appreciated". Part of this process, he argues, is for Israel to replace the Holocaust as a memory exclusively for Jews and use it instead to become the vanguard of the "struggle against racism and violence against the persecuted" throughout the world. "There are two kinds of people coming out of Auschwitz," he told me. "Those who said never again for the Jews and those like me who say never again for any human beings."

Burg remains what he has always been: a vehement opponent of the post-1967 occupation. One of the reasons for right-wing fury at the book was its repeated references to the misery it inflicts on the Palestinians. But he says that while "until recently" he was sure that if that "primary reality" was solved "you solve everything", he now believes that "even the occupation is the outcome of something earlier and this is the mentality of trauma, be it 2,000 years of trauma or the intensifying of it in the six years of the Second World War. In order to solve these traumas I have to address my fears, my ghosts, my genies. And that's what I'm trying to do here." He says he wrote the book partly because "Israel became a very efficient kingdom with no prophecy. You don't have real political thinking here. You have academia living in their ivory towers or politics that has no brain whatever. What I tried to offer is some alternative political thinking."

What has most encouraged him about the book's reception is its impact on younger Israelis, groups of whom he is still invited to address 18 months after its publication. "All those who wanted to kill me are Labour centrists, 50-plus, secular, well-off economically, and they said, 'Well Avraham now that we've made it, you come with your stupid questions. Stop it immediately.' I lost many of my classical supporters in the centre. On the other hand I gained very interesting new ground among the younger generation who understand that something is not working in this kingdom."

So would the politician-turned-prophet, who was once the great Prime Ministerial hope of the Israeli left, turn back to politician again? Burg, who at 53 is currently a partner in running a labour-intensive agriculture business, acknowledges there is pressure – "I won't say a lot, but some" – to do so. He is, he says, no longer "obsessed" by the idea as he once was. But "if the situation happens, maybe I'll say yes." What's more important, he insists, is that "if people today ask me, Avrum, why don't you come back to politics, for me it's a huge, encouraging statement that the day will come when my views might be represented in the Knesset, that someone who was only a year ago the national pariah is perceived as an alternative to so many problems here. That's amazing."

'The Holocaust is Over: We Must Rise from its Ashes' is published by Palgrave Macmillan. To buy this book at a special price (with free p&p) call 08700 798 897
I think Burg is a good sign of the trans-national phase we all take more responsibility for our actions.

Rony suggested to invite him to have open discussion with us, what do you think?
I think that is an excellent idea.
Mazin
I received a letter from a friend of mine, Gershon Baskin, that is ahead of the organization, Israel/Palestine Center for Research and Information, and he gave me the article from the Jerusalem post, explaining what the Israeli government's claims/reasons are for building the Museum on top of the cemetary. (The article also refuted my friend as well).

Here is the article.
Please let me know what you think.
Cheers
Stephanie


Right of Reply: A center of hope and reason

Nov. 8, 2008
RABBI MARVIN HIER , THE JERUSALEM POST

When the idea to build a Museum of Tolerance in Jerusalem was first conceived, the Simon Wiesenthal Center had no particular location in mind. We were shown various properties by representatives of the Jerusalem Municipality before we were offered the current site in the center of west Jerusalem. The site was jointly owned by the Israel Lands Administration and the Jerusalem Municipality.

For almost half a century, that parcel functioned as the city's municipal car park (a portion of it included three levels of underground parking), serving the diverse communities of Jerusalem. Everyday, since the 1960s, hundreds of Jews, Christians and Muslims parked their cars there. The city of Jerusalem also laid electrical cables and sewer lines below the ground.

During the High Court hearings, lawyers representing the project's chief opponent, Sheikh Raed Salah, head of the Aksa Association, argued that everyone knew that the site had always been part of a Muslim cemetery. And yet, during the almost half-century that it served as a parking lot, no Muslim group, including today's most vociferous critics of the museum - Hamas, Hizbullah and Gershon Baskin, of the Israel/Palestine Center for Research and Information - raised a word of protest. Where were their expressions of outrage and indignation about the graves of their ancestors then? This was not just a lapse of a few weeks or a few months - we're talking about a half a century.

When the project was in its design stage, a model of the Frank Gehry design was placed at Jerusalem's city hall for a week, followed by newspaper ads announcing the new project in Hebrew, Arabic and English. Not a word of protest was heard from any one.

They were silent because, as the High Court said, "...the area has not been classified as a cemetery for decades." The bones found during construction were between 100 and 300 years old. They were unaccompanied by a single marker or monument identifying any individual name, family or religion.

WHY IS that? Because Jerusalem is more than 3,000 years old. Because every stone and parcel of land has a history that is revered by people of many faiths. Hardly a street or neighborhood is without bones or relics. We could declare Jerusalem one large cemetery, off limits to everyone - a city of the past, with no future - or we could find a better way in which the past is revered and respected, without impeding or choking off the future.

Muslim scholars and religious leaders have dealt with such issues for centuries, and in seeking to resolve such difficulties ruled that a cemetery not in use for 37 years is considered mundras - an abandoned cemetery that has lost its sanctity. In fact, in 1946, the grand mufti of Jerusalem, a supporter of Hitler, presented plans to build a Muslim university of 15 buildings on the entire Mamilla cemetery (now Independence Park). In fact, we submitted the drawings of that proposed university to the High Court. The mufti was relying on the concept of mundras‚ which was and is invoked throughout the Muslim world. Today, it is widely sanctioned and practiced throughout the Arab world, in Jordan, Lebanon, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the Palestinian territories.

While Judaism does not have a mundras concept, Halacha also dictates a sensitive and practical way to deal with such issues. To suddenly demand that Jews be held to a higher standard than the Muslims hold for themselves is preposterous, dishonest and hypocritical.

It is important to note that the Simon Wiesenthal Center did not initiate the proceedings before the High Court; Sheikh Salah did. The court immediately ordered mediation between the parties to be conducted by former court president Meir Shamgar. Our center was very sensitive to the issue and offered numerous compromises, but they were all rejected out-of-hand by Sheikh Salah, who insisted that the court rule on the matter. Now that after two years of deliberation, the court has handed down a 119-page unanimous verdict in favor of the Museum of Tolerance Jerusalem, Sheikh Salah, who sought the court's relief, is agitating against its decision because he lost.

Gershon Baskin has it totally wrong. It is not those who lie beneath the ground who threaten the stability of the Middle East. It is the blind hatred and intolerance of extremists above the ground which impede any prospects for civility and peace.

From this half-century former parking lot in the center of west Jerusalem will rise an institution that offers hope and reason to all the people of Israel and the world. We are committed to the high praise given to our project by the High Court in its decision which emphasized the great importance of the Museum of Tolerance to the development of the center of Jerusalem as well as its ethical importance in advancing the values of tolerance, human dignity, mutual trust, brotherhood and the advancement of democratic values.

LET ME end with a translation of part of that court ruling: "The importance and benefit of realizing the plan to build the Museum of Tolerance in the center of the city of Jerusalem are very great. The Museum of Tolerance embodies an ideal of establishing a spiritual center that will spread a message of human tolerance between peoples, between sectors of the population and between man and his fellow-man. The establishment of the museum is likely to make an important national contribution to the whole country, in which no center has yet been built with the purpose of addressing the issue of tolerance in all its aspects, and to bring about the assimilation of this idea among the general public.

"This center is supposed to serve as an important focus of attention both in Israel and for the countries of the world. It is supposed to attract visitors from throughout Israel and from around the world, who will visit it and encounter the conceptual, architectural and artistic experience that it is intended to express. The location of the museum in the center of Jerusalem has special significance, since it is a city that has a special ethical significance for three religions and an ancient history, which is unique to human civilization.

"Moreover, the existence of a Museum of Tolerance in the capital of Israel against the background of the ongoing Israeli-Arab conflict has special weight in the context of the dynamics of dialogue and the mediation efforts between the opposing sides. The building of the museum in the center of the city of Jerusalem is intended to make an important contribution to the development of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and to promote the urban development of the city center as a municipal center of local and national importance and significance. The construction of the museum is a part of a broader development plan for the city center, whose purpose is to rejuvenate the central area that has suffered in recent decades from a serious economic and cultural slump. "The development plan seeks to return Jerusalem to its former glory."

Rabbi Hier is the founder and dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center and its Museum of Tolerance.
Gershon also told me that the land that would build the museum is currently a parking garage, that was bulit over a cemetary. When the people in charge of building the cemetary were digging the ground, they unearthed some skeletons.
Also, here is another article from the BBC (I personally feel that the BBC is the best new source to rely on, since it tries to give a fair and honest view point of world events):
http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/middle_east/7715921.stm


Row over Jerusalem Muslim cemetery
By Wyre Davies
BBC News, Jerusalem


Religious leaders in Jerusalem are warning of dangerous consequences after a decision by Israel's Supreme Court to allow the destruction of part of an ancient Muslim cemetery.

The graveyard has not been used for more than 50 years, but contains the bodies of some important Islamic figures.

Many of those bodies will now be disturbed to make way for a new Jewish "Museum of Tolerance".

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.

Outrage

Located just inside West Jerusalem, the cemetery is not used for burials any more but Muslim leaders made clear they still regard it as sacred, as they arrived for a rally reading verses from the Koran.


The $250m complex was designed by Frank Gehry (Image: Wiesenthal Center)

The Mufti of Jerusalem, Sheikh Mohammad Hussein, led the peaceful but passionate demonstration.

He called the court's decision an "outrage" and "disrespectful of the dead".

The $250m (£160m) complex - designed by Frank Gehry - will be built by the Los Angeles-based Simon Wiesenthal Center and is bold and ambitious.

Its sharp, futuristic lines will dominate the immediate area. In what is already a crowded city, Rabbi Marvin Hier, from the Simon Wiesenthal Center, said the museum was a sensible use of "derelict land".

"Jerusalem is a city built on top of thousands of bones - Jewish and Muslim," he said. "If we declared the whole of Jerusalem one huge cemetery, we'd never be able to build anything."

He pointed out that only part of the graveyard would be demolished to make way for the new centre.


Mohammed al-Dejani says the cemetery is older than the US

Muslims disagree, and point out that the graveyard is still visited by the families of the dead.

"The cemetery is older than the United States - it's been used for hundreds of years," said Mohammed al-Dejani, whose great-grandfather is buried in the graveyard.

"Some of the warriors of Saladin [Muslim warrior who retook Jerusalem from the Crusaders] are buried there and other great Muslim leaders from many years ago."

Despite the strength of feeling among an increasing number of Muslims, there is no doubt that much of the cemetery is run-down.

Some graves have been vandalised - others are in a poor state of repair. The Simon Wiesenthal Center says that it will deal respectfully with any human remains it uncovers or graves disturbed by the building work.


Plans for cemetery have triggered angry protests
Ruling in favour of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, the Supreme Court noted that no objections were lodged in 1960 when part of the graveyard was made into a car park.

Many of those opposed to the new building say that any proposal to build on top of a Jewish cemetery would never have been allowed.

Construction work has already begun in a corner of the graveyard. Dozens of bones have been dug up and no decision has been taken over what to do with them.

The cemetery is still a relatively quiet, peaceful place - but one which could become another dangerous flashpoint between Jews and Muslims in this divided city.
But this brings up another question.
Was the garage built post 1967, after Israel gained full control of Jerusalem, or was it built by the Jordanian government, when it controlled the West Bank? Did people protest when the garage was being built?!
I also think that from reading the histories from both sides, why was there no big uprises when other holy or special sites were demolished?
Cheers
Stephanie
Dear Friends

The Director of the Wiesenthal Center from Los Angeles had a piece in the Jerusalem Post which included a direct attack against me. I wrote a response to the Post but they have responded that they have given both of us our say - which is true. So I want to share my response with you because it concerns the continued building of the Wiesenthal Museum over the Muslim cemetery in Jerusalem. I will first put in my response followed by Hier's piece . Take note that he in no part of his arguments addresses the original concerns that I raised in my piece in the Jerusalem Post. (You can see my original arguments against the Museum at:: http://www.ipcri.org/files/cityoftolerance.html)



Dear Editor


Shame on you Marvin Hier (JP November 9, 2008). You argue the right of the Wiesenthal Center to construct a Museum of "Tolerance" on top of an ancient Muslim cemetery on legal grounds predicated on various interpretations of Islamic Law. You then go on to associate me with Hamas and Hizbullah because I have raised my voice against the selected location of the Museum. I, Mr Hier am an Israeli by choice, a Jew and a Zionist who has built a home and a family in Israel, in Jerusalem out of my deep sense of belonging to this people. My arguments against the building the Museum on a Muslim Cemetery are Jewish, Israeli and Jerusalemite arguments. You call yourself a Rabbi. You know as well as any Jew that we can find Jewish texts and Rabbis to justify almost anything. The same is true in Islam. Find yourself a Sheikh. You certainly did, the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem who collaborated with Hitler and another Israeli State appointed Islamic Judge, during the time when all Israeli Arab citizens lived under Military Government, who was later removed from office and imprisoned for corruption.

I never claimed that it was the bones and skulls of those who are beneath the ground, soon to be beneath your Museum of Tolerance, who will threaten the stability of the Middle East. It is people like you, Mr. Hier, very much alive, who seek to bring animosity to the State of Israel and hatred between Israelis and Arabs, Muslims and Jews. It is you who is causing great damage to the good name of the State of Israel, to the City of Jerusalem and to the Jewish people. Shame on you, living on your high moral ground in Beverley Hills, far away from this disaster that you have laid at our doorstep.

If the government of Israel had any courage, it would step in to stop this project, in the name of public safety and to protect the good name of the State of Israel. I wonder how many envelopes filled with cash made their way into the hands of those in charge of advancing this embarrassment.

Finally, I can only smile at the fact that your attack against me, Mr. Hier, appears just below an article entitled "When good men did nothing" - you can imagine what that one is about.

Gershon Baskin, November 9, 2008


++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Here is Hier's article from today:

Right of Reply: A center of hope and reason
Nov. 8, 2008
RABBI MARVIN HIER , THE JERUSALEM POST

When the idea to build a Museum of Tolerance in Jerusalem was first conceived, the Simon Wiesenthal Center had no particular location in mind. We were shown various properties by representatives of the Jerusalem Municipality before we were offered the current site in the center of west Jerusalem. The site was jointly owned by the Israel Lands Administration and the Jerusalem Municipality.

For almost half a century, that parcel functioned as the city's municipal car park (a portion of it included three levels of underground parking), serving the diverse communities of Jerusalem. Everyday, since the 1960s, hundreds of Jews, Christians and Muslims parked their cars there. The city of Jerusalem also laid electrical cables and sewer lines below the ground.

During the High Court hearings, lawyers representing the project's chief opponent, Sheikh Raed Salah, head of the Aksa Association, argued that everyone knew that the site had always been part of a Muslim cemetery. And yet, during the almost half-century that it served as a parking lot, no Muslim group, including today's most vociferous critics of the museum - Hamas, Hizbullah and Gershon Baskin, of the Israel/Palestine Center for Research and Information - raised a word of protest. Where were their expressions of outrage and indignation about the graves of their ancestors then? This was not just a lapse of a few weeks or a few months - we're talking about a half a century.

When the project was in its design stage, a model of the Frank Gehry design was placed at Jerusalem's city hall for a week, followed by newspaper ads announcing the new project in Hebrew, Arabic and English. Not a word of protest was heard from any one.

They were silent because, as the High Court said, "...the area has not been classified as a cemetery for decades." The bones found during construction were between 100 and 300 years old. They were unaccompanied by a single marker or monument identifying any individual name, family or religion.

WHY IS that? Because Jerusalem is more than 3,000 years old. Because every stone and parcel of land has a history that is revered by people of many faiths. Hardly a street or neighborhood is without bones or relics. We could declare Jerusalem one large cemetery, off limits to everyone - a city of the past, with no future - or we could find a better way in which the past is revered and respected, without impeding or choking off the future.

Muslim scholars and religious leaders have dealt with such issues for centuries, and in seeking to resolve such difficulties ruled that a cemetery not in use for 37 years is considered mundras - an abandoned cemetery that has lost its sanctity. In fact, in 1946, the grand mufti of Jerusalem, a supporter of Hitler, presented plans to build a Muslim university of 15 buildings on the entire Mamilla cemetery (now Independence Park). In fact, we submitted the drawings of that proposed university to the High Court. The mufti was relying on the concept of mundras' which was and is invoked throughout the Muslim world. Today, it is widely sanctioned and practiced throughout the Arab world, in Jordan, Lebanon, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the Palestinian territories.

While Judaism does not have a mundras concept, Halacha also dictates a sensitive and practical way to deal with such issues. To suddenly demand that Jews be held to a higher standard than the Muslims hold for themselves is preposterous, dishonest and hypocritical.

It is important to note that the Simon Wiesenthal Center did not initiate the proceedings before the High Court; Sheikh Salah did. The court immediately ordered mediation between the parties to be conducted by former court president Meir Shamgar. Our center was very sensitive to the issue and offered numerous compromises, but they were all rejected out-of-hand by Sheikh Salah, who insisted that the court rule on the matter. Now that after two years of deliberation, the court has handed down a 119-page unanimous verdict in favor of the Museum of Tolerance Jerusalem, Sheikh Salah, who sought the court's relief, is agitating against its decision because he lost.

Gershon Baskin has it totally wrong. It is not those who lie beneath the ground who threaten the stability of the Middle East. It is the blind hatred and intolerance of extremists above the ground which impede any prospects for civility and peace.

From this half-century former parking lot in the center of west Jerusalem will rise an institution that offers hope and reason to all the people of Israel and the world. We are committed to the high praise given to our project by the High Court in its decision which emphasized the great importance of the Museum of Tolerance to the development of the center of Jerusalem as well as its ethical importance in advancing the values of tolerance, human dignity, mutual trust, brotherhood and the advancement of democratic values.

LET ME end with a translation of part of that court ruling: "The importance and benefit of realizing the plan to build the Museum of Tolerance in the center of the city of Jerusalem are very great. The Museum of Tolerance embodies an ideal of establishing a spiritual center that will spread a message of human tolerance between peoples, between sectors of the population and between man and his fellow-man. The establishment of the museum is likely to make an important national contribution to the whole country, in which no center has yet been built with the purpose of addressing the issue of tolerance in all its aspects, and to bring about the assimilation of this idea among the general public.

"This center is supposed to serve as an important focus of attention both in Israel and for the countries of the world. It is supposed to attract visitors from throughout Israel and from around the world, who will visit it and encounter the conceptual, architectural and artistic experience that it is intended to express. The location of the museum in the center of Jerusalem has special significance, since it is a city that has a special ethical significance for three religions and an ancient history, which is unique to human civilization.

"Moreover, the existence of a Museum of Tolerance in the capital of Israel against the background of the ongoing Israeli-Arab conflict has special weight in the context of the dynamics of dialogue and the mediation efforts between the opposing sides. The building of the museum in the center of the city of Jerusalem is intended to make an important
contribution to the development of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and to promote the urban development of the city center as a municipal center of local and national importance and significance. The construction of the museum is a part of a broader development plan for the city center, whose purpose is to rejuvenate the central area that has suffered in recent decades from a serious economic and cultural slump. "The development plan seeks to return Jerusalem to its former glory."

Rabbi Hier is the founder and dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center and its Museum of Tolerance.

This article can also be read at http://www.jpost.com/servlet/Satellite?cid=1225910066718&pagena...
I notice that Gershon Baskin also does not address the main point raised by Rabbi Hier.

If the site was used as a parking lot for decades, starting during Jordanian occupation in 1964 or so,
and no Muslims were outraged by such a secular use during those decades...

...that makes the current objections to a secular use seem like a simple discriminatory double standard.

Aimed not at preserving religious dignity, but at denying to Jews those same rights which Muslims permitted themselves.
I do not know what Gershon Baskin think but ...

The issue of what is proper act in such case does not relay on historic ground. The is no "fair" to be respectful to other people feelings and even if there is some political drive, I do think the many Palestinians as offended by such act. It is opportunity to give respect NOW where the cost is much less important and I as I appreciate Gery work I wish that Israel authorities will respect the Muslims.

This perspective is what Rabbi Hier is missing. He have no compassion, just a calculation of cost and debates of historic facts.
I agree with you in general, but you're missing the point I'm making, Neri.

The issue of what is proper in such a case depends precisely on historical grounds.
It is the historical fact that there is a cemetery there that makes this issue.
But if it is also a historical fact that Palestinians were not offended by its use by Muslim authorities as a parking lot, then their taking offense just because it is Jews building a museum there, is itself discriminatory.
Sometimes the simple fact that someone says they are taking offense is not the ultimate issue.
Whether that offense is reasonably taken can be a further issue.

Someone might be offended that we are free to have this discussion. That's their problem.
few things about the "point" I am missing:

Public emotions is a dynamic thing, and relate to the political climate - but it is real. So if there were other situation where other government build this parking lot and this sentiment were not present then this is history and not a justification to do that again as Israel.

I think we should not ask ourselves of what the Palestinian are doing, as solving this conflict is Israeli interest too. such conflicts ends up creating more delay and violence, we do not need to be "the right ones" I am sure we can win much more by respecting the feeling of the people who are our blood-brothers to the conflict. Trying to show them that they are politically biased to support non-Israeli side will not provide any progress.

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