Rashid Khalidi Responds to Avra Shapiro and Gil Troy by Rashid Khalidi
It was disappointing to read Avra Shapiro’s letter on behalf of the Simon Wiesenthal Center. Sadly, it was full of red herrings, distortions and falsehoods. Firstly, Ms. Shapiro claims, “the campaign to stop construction of the Museum of Tolerance Jerusalem was…intended to undermine the sovereignty and authority of Israel and its juridical institutions.” She cites as evidence the role of “a declared Muslim extremist,” in initiating “the petition to Israel’s Supreme Court.”
Exhumed bones from the Mamilla Cemetery, from the CCR petition
But the sixty members of families whose ancestors are buried in Mamilla have nothing to do with the suit brought before the Israeli courts. Ours is an effort entirely organized by the families, supported by the Center for Constitutional Rights, with no connection to anybody or anything else. So Ms. Shapiro’s histrionics about Shaykh Raed Salah are misplaced.
To see how shabbily the Israeli High Court acted, ignoring evidence from the chief archaeologist assigned to head the excavation by the Israeli Antiquities Authority (IAA) that massive numbers of remains were dug out and thousands more remained buried on the site, consult our petition. We have uncovered evidence that excavations are ongoing, with human remains still being found.
Secondly, Ms. Shapiro argues that “no Muslim individual or group ever protested that this was an ancient Muslim cemetery” and that our indignation is thus artificial. But in fact, there were many earlier protests against earlier desecrations of this site. Our petition lists these protests against these actions, taken in spite of previous Israeli government pledges to respect the cemetery.
Moreover, when the first such desecrations started in the early 1960’s, Palestinian inside Israel were under martial law and could not travel without permission of the General Security Services, let alone protest. Protests against the SWC project by Palestinians and Israelis alike have been ongoing since it was publicized that human remains were being exhumed. The plans had already been approved by the Israeli government by the time the public found out about it.
Ms. Shapiro points out that part of the SWC site was previously a parking lot built in the 1960s; but this does not dilute the fact that several layers of graves were paved over to construct it. These layers have now been dug up to build the Museum of Tolerance. The SWC knew full well that the site was part of the cemetery before they began any construction, having been informed of this fact by the IAA. This point was subsequently confirmed when the IAA excavations began to exhume hundreds of human skeletons and gravestones from the site. Today, the IAA continues to search for suspected additional graves and bones on the perimeter of the site, as confirmed by photographic evidence that CCR has recently obtained, putting the lie to the SWC claim that the site is currently “clean.”
Thirdly, Ms. Shapiro claims that there is no reason not to relocate the graves, as the cemetery was declared “mundaras” (or abandoned) by “the President of the Sharia Court at the request of the Mayor of Jerusalem allowing public use of the area on the basis of its no longer bearing contemporary significance and lack of use.” But the cemetery was incorrectly declared “mundaras” in 1964 by a Muslim judge in Jaffa (not the President of the Shari’a Court, as Shapiro claims), appointed by Israeli authorities, who was coincidentally dismissed for fraud the following year from the Israeli government’s Sharia court system. entire article at source