Agence France Presse has reported that Israel has given the go ahead to build a planned “tolerance museum” on top of a Muslim burial site. The plans were the subject of a lengthy legal battle brought by Palestinians, some of whom have family buried under the proposed site. The Israeli Interior Ministry has given the go ahead for construction of tolerance museum on the site of a Palestinian Muslim burial ground. The path to starting construction had been cleared following a 2008 Israeli court decision that the site was no longer a burial ground.
Construction will go ahead on the site despite the objections of Palestinian activists, many of whom have family buried in the area. Activists say that building a museum dedicated to tolerance on a burial ground is self contradictory.
Interior Minister Efrat Orbach told AFP, regarding the decision to start construction, that ‘it was the first step towards building, which means that they have the permission to start digging. From yesterday they can start digging for that project. But the project itself was already approved about 10 years ago.’
Israeli courts ruled in 2008 that the area was no longer a burial site citing the fact there was no objections to car park built in the area in 1960. The city has also offered to transfer coffins to an area on the site that will not be affected by the building but relatives have rejected the offer.
Campaigner against the building Huda Al-Imam has stated that activists will continue to fight against the planned project and will take their fight to the UN as well as international leaders. ‘They should respect human heritage and human dignity and not build this museum of tolerance on a Palestinian cultural site and try to delete our identity”, Imam said to AFP.
The project is one of a series of controversial plans by the Israeli Jerusalem municipality for cultural sites on Palestinian land including the “City of David” archaeological site in Silwan.