20 November 2008

Ethnic cleansing in the graveyard

Israel's squeezing of Palestinians off their land now includes the dead. The Simon Wiesenthal Center has been given the OK by the Israeli Supreme Court to build a Jewish "Museum of Tolerance" in Jerusalem on part of a Muslim cemetery. Needless to say, local Muslims are not happy. The Mufti of Jerusalem, Sheikh Mohammad Hussein, called the court's decision an "outrage" and "disrespectful of the dead," which would seem appropriate.

Rabbi Marvin Hier, representing the Simon Wiesenthal Center, referred to the land as "derelict," and said only that part of the cemetery that had already been turned into a car park would be dug up. The cemetery is not used for burials anymore; however, it is still considered sacred by Muslims and is visited by families of the dead. According to Mohammed al-Dejani, whose great-grandfather is buried in the graveyard, "Some of the warriors of Saladin are buried there and other great Muslim leaders from many years ago."

It doesn't help that the proposed museum is designed by prominent architect Frank Gehry. Typical of Gehry's work, it shows absolutely no respect for the architecture or history of the area, but imposes itself on the neighbourhood like an assortment of fancily-wrapped Christmas presents. The first challenge the Museum of Tolerance will pose for local Muslims will be tolerating the desecration of their dead, the second tolerating Frank Gehry's architecture.

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