JERUSALEM (JTA) — Muslims living in prestate Israel had plans to build a business center on top of Jerusalem’s Mamilla cemetery, the planned site of a museum, the Simon Wiesenthal Center claimed.
The Wiesenthal Center on Tuesday called opposition to its plan to build a Museum of Tolerance near the ancient Muslim cemetery "full hypocrisy" after the unearthing of an article from the Nov. 22, 1945 Palestine Post — the forerunner of the Jerusalem Post — announcing the then-Moslem Council’s plans.
According to the article, the Supreme Moslem Council had gotten dispensations for the plan, which was to include a building for the council and other offices, a hotel, bank, college, club and factory. The remains from the cemetery were to be transferred to a walled reserve.
Islam has many precedents for using a Muslim cemetery for the public interest, the article said.
Palestinian families appealed to the United Nations last week to prevent construction of the museum from proceeding.
Construction of the museum has been delayed since the 2004 groundbreaking after Palestinian and some Israeli advocacy groups claimed that the ancient Muslim cemetery would be desecrated.
The Israeli Supreme Court considered the legal arguments for nearly four years, finally giving the go-ahead last year to the Los Angeles-based Wiesenthal Center.
The museum is being built on a former parking lot that was not being used as part of the cemetery, the center asserts. The graves have been removed from the site and the remains reburied on the edge of the construction site, according to Haaretz.