Sunday, November 20, 2011

The Conflict In The Middle East Fought On An Ancient Muslim Cemetery

Arab, Israeli and Western archaeologists request the cancellation of plans to build a Museum of Tolerance in Jerusalem - a project that has been controversial for years. Joseph Croitoru reports.

archaeology excavation

Construction and politically sensitive projects are re-turned earth moving polemic in the holy city. One of the conflicts surrounding the construction of the archaeological context, "Museum of Tolerance", a project launched in 2005, the Simon Wiesenthal Center (SWC), and then moved several times. Original design renowned architect Frank Gehry has been criticized by many for being pompous and pretentious, as soon as his public presentation.

Then, an Islamist group won an Arab-Israeli injunction against the Israeli Supreme Court against the construction of the base of the old abandoned cemetery is part of Islamic Mamilla site.

"Protest the ranks of domestic and foreign archaeologists': Mount Zion Cemetery is a cemetery is located on the west Muslim historian of the Old City walls of Jerusalem. Cemetery is still the figures at the beginning of the Islamic period, several Sufi shrines and tombs of the Mameluke, Finally, a massive construction budget of $ 250 million proposed by SWC seen a lot of criticism that had to be cut.

Gehry was not happy with the new conditions and left the project in 2010. The Tel Aviv office Chyutin Bracha and Michael was in charge of developing new plans. Their design was much more modest. Construction plans in the form of s to be consistent with the environment and a glass façade provides a clear picture of part of the old cemetery site.

Construction has already begun in mid-October, but this was postponed due to internal disputes between the parties involved in the project. Two months ago, Shimon Kornfeld, on-site manager of the project, quit smoking. In early November, the Israeli press has reported an irreconcilable disputes and architects Chyutin SWC. And now, the protest occurred in the construction project of the ranks of domestic and foreign archaeologists.

Archaeological finds at risk

More than 80 archaeologists, supported by the American organization Human Rights Center for Constitutional Rights, has recently published an open letter to the Board of Directors SWC, the mayor of Jerusalem, the Israel Antiquities Authority Director, and the United Nations in favor of end of a building. Archaeologists, including Arab and Israeli scientists, as well as a number of colleagues in Europe and the United States, accusing the SWC is irreversibly destroyed by the archaeological remains of the site.

Above all, they criticize the careless handling of excavated human remains, which not only violates the human dignity of death, but fails to comply with the archaeological scientific criteria. Moreover, archaeologists, the authorities refuse to consider any construction plans for the upcoming controversial site because they consider him "one of the oldest cemeteries and most beautiful in the world."

Archaeology is political: "The conflict can not be isolated from sustained efforts by the Israeli government to withdraw the control of land and property of the Muslim minority," writes Joseph Croitoru. In the photo: Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu According to the Israeli press, the Simon Wiesenthal Center overlooking the initiative as another of the archaeologists, the pure politically motivated attempt to thwart the project. A similar attempt by the Palestinians failed in early 2010. The FCC says that archaeologists not only distorted the facts, but also ignored the ruling of the Israeli Supreme Court, which in 2008 gave the go ahead for the development of the region. Since then, the controversial construction project itself become a subject of scientific study.

Political scientist Yitzhak Reiter, the famous Jerusalem Institute for Israel Studies has recently published a comprehensive study of the dispute. In his article "safe harbor of God. The controversy surrounding the cemetery of Mamilla and the Museum of Tolerance - a struggle for physical and symbolic landscape," the investigator for the United States that the escalating conflict was out good reason.

The ulterior motives of both parties

The nuclear dispute revolves around the fact that the Jewish, wants to appropriate the historic site of Muslim burial, all that the name of tolerance. Conflict can not be dissociated from the persistent efforts by the State of Israel to remove the monitor, where possible, land and property of the Muslim minority.

For their part, Muslims have tried to stylize a building in a national conflict and thereby deflect criticism that the Muslim side, was the first to have spent part of Mamilla cemetery for purposes other than those provided by the building ground and leaves in a state of neglect for decades.

Although the plaintiffs could not prove the Islamic court that the manufacturers knew from the beginning that the work is based on an ancient Muslim cemetery large, this does not remove the fact that it is an important archaeological site seriously. According to Reiter, the court is not the place to resolve the controversy surrounding the Museum of Tolerance. The ruling only involved in the conflict received international attention and attract even more opposed to the construction of the museum.

Reiter recommends that in future if the Israeli government to leave such decisions on how to deal with religiously sensitive areas of a special committee interfaith repository of full legal authority.

Attempts to cement Jewish claims on the land

Reiter recommendations will probably be too late, and if they had been applied to the city of David just as controversial excavation project in the south wall of the Old City of Jerusalem, Israeli archaeological community would probably have been spared another conflict. But the Israeli government has entrusted the project to the right Elad Foundation, which resulted in a clear approach to archeology politicized in order to provide evidence of the supposed monumental size history of Jerusalem.

Critics on both sides of the Israeli and Palestinian officials say it threatens the stability of underground excavations architecture Palestinian homes. Photo: A Palestinian woman is next to a tent where the Israeli authorities demolished a house in the Silwan neighborhood of Jerusalem, March 2009 The biblical account is the aim of achieving the true state of the concrete historical claims land Jewish. For years, he was critical of both sides of the underground excavation of Israel and Palestine, which took place mainly in Arab East Jerusalem, Silwan district deputy, threatening the stability of Palestinian homes and architecture in general, is to gradually expelling the Palestinian residents.

However, these events have not been able to avoid the continued expansion of this project. On the contrary, given the general trend towards the right in Israeli society, Elad was allowed to proceed with its objectives. Not only received permission to build his own museum in the base and train their guides, but also to close a portion of land to visitors on the day of rest - a precedent for Nature and Parks Authority of Israel , which has jurisdiction over the city of David.

While opponents of the project are filing claims against the new permissions, Elad is stronger than ever and proudly presents a very important supporter of the cause - nothing less than the writer and Nobel laureate Elie Wiesel, who has recently taken a position on the board of directors of foundations. This unfortunate event can be considered as part of the right to the consolidation of power, which is currently underway in some of the leading authorities of the Israeli government, especially those that are directly related to archeology.

A new law should be adopted to allow the privatization of the Israel Nature and Parks Authority. The bill is very controversial, as is the appointment recently announced the radical Israeli settlers Goldstein, currently mayor of Gush Etzion settlement bloc south of Jerusalem, to the position of general nature of Israel and Parks Authority. Goldstein assumed the task is to ensure that the privatized facilities emerging on the political scene "appropriate" hands.

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