The Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) has documented the continued desecration of an ancient Muslim cemetery, the Mamilla Cemetery, in Jerusalem, for the construction of the “Museum of Tolerance,” despite international condemnation, including Human Rights Council resolutions, a public petition signed by nearly 10,000 individuals from around the world, a letter from 84 respected archaeologists decrying the archaeological practices employed on the site, a resolution by the Central Conference of American Rabbis opposing the project, and the opposition of numerous prominent Israeli scholars. The new evidence, documented on video by the CCR, shows continuing excavations on the “Museum of Tolerance” site suggesting that it still contains archaeological artifacts and human remains, contrary to claims by the Simon Wiesenthal Center, which is constructing the museum, that bedrock has been reached on all portions of the site. Video footage shows the Israeli Antiquities Authority (IAA) inner closure and excavation pit.
CCR and other groups have filed a petition on behalf of the Palestinian descendants of those buried in the cemetery. The petition, which was filed with several international bodies, urges Israel to: halt construction of the “Museum of Tolerance” by the Simon Wiesenthal Center; investigate human rights violations; rebury human remains; and declare the Mamilla Cemetery a protected antiquities site.
The Petitioners are individuals whose human rights have been violated by the destruction and desecration of an ancient Muslim cemetery, the Ma’man Allah (Mamilla) cemetery in Jerusalem, by the government of Israel working in conjunction with the Simon Wiesenthal Center (“SWC”) of Los Angeles, California. Petitioners also include human rights non-governmental organizations concerned about this desecration. A significant portion of the cemetery is being destroyed and hundreds of human remains are being desecrated so that SWC can build a facility to be called the “Center for Human Dignity – Museum of Tolerance” on this sacred Muslim site.
The Mamilla Cemetery is an ancient Muslim burial ground and holy site believed to date back to the 7th century, when companions of the Prophet Muhammad were reputedly buried there. Numerous saints of the Sufi faith and thousands of other officials, scholars, notables and Jerusalemite families have been buried in the cemetery over the last 1000 years. The Muslim Supreme Council declared the cemetery an historical site in 1927, and the British Mandate authorities pronounced it an antiquities site in 1944. It was an active burial ground until 1948. After the new State of Israel seized the western part of Jerusalem in 1948, the cemetery fell under Israeli control, and like other Islamic endowment properties, or waqf, the Mamilla Cemetery was taken over by the Custodian for Absentee Property. Since then, Muslim authorities have not been allowed to maintain the cemetery.
The Israeli government and the Simon Wiesenthal Center (SWC) are currently building the “Center for Human Dignity–Museum of Tolerance” on a portion of the Mamilla Cemetery. This construction project has resulted in the disinterment of hundreds of graves, and the whereabouts of the countless human remains that have been disposed of are unknown. Israel and the SWC plan to continue the erection of the museum atop thousands of more graves.
The importance of the Mamilla cemetery to Muslims is well-known to Israel. In 1948, the year control of the cemetery was taken over by Israel, the Israeli Religious Affairs Ministry recognized Mamilla “to be one of the most prominent Muslim cemeteries, where seventy thousand Muslim warriors of [Saladin’s] armies are interred along with many Muslim scholars. Israel will always know to protect and respect this site.” As recently as 1986, in response to an investigation by the United Nations Education, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) regarding Israel’s development projects on Mamilla, the Israeli government stated that “no project exists for the deconsecration of the site and that on the contrary the site and its tombs are to be safeguarded.” Despite these reassurances and the cemetery’s inclusion in a Israeli Antiquities Authority list of “Special Antiquities Sites,” Israel in fact destroyed a large section of the cemetery during the period in which the statement was made.
Despite officially recognizing its importance, Israel has steadily encroached on the Mamilla Cemetery with the erection of buildings, parks and even parking lots. The construction of the “Center for Human Dignity – Museum of Tolerance” is only the latest such development project. Israel and the SWC have attempted to justify this development by claiming that the cemetery is no longer sanctified, based on a 1964 proclamation by a Shari’a or Islamic law judge who lacked legitimacy in the Muslim community. The President of the Shari’a Court of Appeals in Israel has since deemed this ruling to be void, and affirmed that the sanctity of cemeteries is eternal in Islam.
For additional information and video footage, see the link below