The PCUSA’s Israel Palestine Mission Network has developed a habit of linking to and advocating positions indistinguishable from the anti-Israel and anti-Semitic far left (and sometimes far right, as well). Over the weekend, it linked to a piece by Lawrence Swaim at Counterpunch, which has been an outlet for a variety of haters (including Norman Finkelstein, Gilad Atzmon, Neve Gordon and others) for years. In the process, IPMN found itself parroting propaganda that is off base to a degree amazing even for this kind of nonsense.
All you really need to know of Swaim’s article is contained in the first two paragraphs:
In June, 2005, the Simon Wiesenthal Center of Los Angeles began construction in Jerusalem of an ambitious new facility. This project was variously referred to by Rabbi Marvin Hier, the founder and “dean” of the SWC, as the “Center for Human Dignity,” the “Center for Human Dignity—Jerusalem” and most pretentiously, the “Center for Human Dignity—Museum of Tolerance.” (Ground-breaking on the construction site had occurred in 2004, giving Arnold Schwarzenegger an opportunity to fly to Israel for one of his many photo ops with Rabbi Heir.) This sprawling structure was to be built on a parking lot that was supposedly adjacent to a historic Muslim ceremony; but which actually turned out to be directly on top of a part of it.
The cemetery, called the Mamilla Cemetary (Ma’Man Allah in Arabic), was an extremely old Muslim burial ground that was once the most important in Palestine, and in the Middle East generally. The Center for Constitutional Rights in New York, in a petition to the UN and other international organizations to stop construction of the Wiesenthal Museum, wrote as follows: “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, scholar, notables and Jerusalemite families have been buried in the cemetery over the last 1000 years. The Muslim Supreme Council declared the cemetery a historical site in 1927, and the British Mandate authorities pronounced it an antiquities site in 1944. It was an active burial ground until 1948.”
There’s lots of supposed details, but the point is that Swaim is alleging that the Wiesenthal Center is engaged in a racist disregard for Muslim cultural and religious sensibilities by building the Museum of Tolerance on top of a Muslim burial ground. The IPMN, in the link on its Facebook page, comments, “Time to point the finger back at the Simon Wiesenthal Center.” There’s just one problem: Muslims themselves built over the cemetery decades ago. The Wiesenthal Center found an article in the Palestine Post, the precursor of the Jerusalem Post, that describes the plans initiated by Muslim authorities three years before the founding of Israel:
An area of over 450 dunams in the heart of Jerusalem, now forming the Mamillah Cemetery, is to be converted into a business centre. The townplan is being completed under the supervision of the Supreme Moslem Council in conjunction with the Government Town Planning Adviser. A six-storeyed building to house the Supreme Moslem Council and other offices, a four-storeyed hotel, a bank and other buildings suitable for a college, a club and a factory are to be the main structures. There will also be a park to be called the Salah ed Din Park, after the Moslem warrior of Crusader times.
The remains buried in the Cemetery are being transferred to a spot round the tomb of al Sayid al Kurashi, ancestor of the Dajani family, in a 40 dunams walled reserve.
In an interview with “Al Wihda,” the Jerusalem weekly, a member of the Supreme Moslem Council stated that the use of Moslem cemeteries in the public interest had many precedents both in Palestine and elsewhere. He quoted the cases of the Bab al Sahira (Herod’s Gate) Cemetery, which formerly stretched down Saint Stephen‘s Gate; the Jaffa Cemetery, which was converted into a commercial centre and Queen Farida Square in Cairo, which not long ago was a cemetery.
The member added that the Supreme Moslem Council intended to publish a statement containing dispensations by Egyptian, Hejazi and Damascene clerics sanctioning the building programme. He pointed out that the work would be carried out in stages and by public tender. Several companies had already been formed in anticipation, and funds were plentiful, the correspondent concluded.
So the “controversy” over the Wiesenthal Center plans is simply the wailing of a coterie of far left Israel haters and their Muslims allies who know suckers when they see them. Another way to look at this is that Swaim, Counterpunch, the IPMN and others who are so outraged by this can’t bear the idea of land that was once held by Muslims being sold to Jews for their use: territory that was once part of the dar al-Islam being sold to Jews! You decide which way makes IPMN and its far left friends look worse.