Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Once Again, the Intolerance of the Museum of Tolerance Issue

Excerpts from Shmuel Berkowitz's article on the Muslim cemetery under the Museum of Tolerance issue:

Indeed, there was a cemetery at the site but 75 years ago, its sanctification was lifted and purpose changed.

In 1927, the Supreme Muslim Council, headed by the mufti, built the Palace inside the cemetery. As Benvenisti himself wrote in his book City of Stone, the mufti ruled that there should be no more burials there, and even ordered skeletons found at the site moved to another burial ground.

According to the 14th century Muslim wise man, The Great Hanafi Faher al-din al-Zilai, "if the corpse has disintegrated and become soil - it is permissible to sow seeds and build on it."

The last great Hanafi, Mohammed Amin Ibn Abadein, who was mufti of Damascus in the 19th century, also ruled the same. That judgment set the position of the Hanafi school that determines Muslim law in the Land of Israel. An explicit expression of this appears in Ottoman law and is quoted in many Israeli legal rulings as the "determining ruling" in Muslim law.

In 1946, the Supreme Muslim Council and the Supreme Arab Council decided to build the Arab league headquarters on the eastern flanks of the cemetery. Lacking resources, the plan was never fulfilled, but other public buildings did go up. In 1964, then-Jerusalem mayor Mordechai Ish-Shalom asked the Qadi of Jaffa and the chairman of the Sharia court of appeals, Sheikh Haher Hamad, to lift the sanctity of the cemetery in Mamilla to enable the city to establish a park there. The mayor proposed that part of the cemetery be preserved as an historic monument.

The Sharia court responded to the request and ruled that "the Mamilla Cemetery in Jerusalem is cemetery that is mondris" (abandoned), and that "its sanctity ceased to exist and since such sanctity is not eternal, and not like the sanctity of Muslim mosques - it is permissible to do on abandoned cemeteries what is allowed on any other land that never was a cemetery."

Against this background, the opposition to the construction of the Museum of Tolerance on the cemetery is odd. If in 1964 the Sharia court of appeals ruled that Independence Park could be built in the area of the cemetery, why suddenly complain about the establishment of a museum on the site, 41 years later?

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