Martin Hier of the Simon Wiesenthal Center has lately produced a 1945 article in the Palestine Post– later the Jerusalem Post–describing Muslim plans to build a commercial center on a portion of the Mamilla Cemetery that Hier now covets for his… Museum of Tolerance. Hier is saying, Hey, Muslims were prepared to desecrate this site, why can’t we? Richard Congress, who is active on a committee in support of Mamilla petitioners to international bodies, responds:
1) The most obvious point is that whatever was planned, the center was never built. Hier doesn’t seem to think that’s of any importance. Why wasn’t it built? Maybe too many people objected, just as we are objecting now. Maybe it was nothing but a lot of hot air that got one sensational newspaper article in 1945.
2) Hier seems proud of his "gotcha" moment when he says "what chutzpa" that the same people who wanted to build on top of the Mamilla Cemetery are now telling Jews not to build on the same cemetery. This speaks volumes about Hier’s stereotyping of all Muslims… and it’s also nonsensical: the people (Moslems, Christians, and Jews among others) who are protesting the desecration of Mamilla now are not the same as the ones who supposedly in 1945 wanted to build on top of Mamilla. They are the opposite and would have protested against any building project in 1945 as well.
3) Referring to the 1945 Jerusalem Post article, Hier says that a "Supreme Muslim Council" had approved building on top of the Mamilla Cemetery. However, this Supreme Muslim Council (appointed by the British Mandate authorities) had no Muslim clerics among it and there also was no Mufti in office. Only a Mufti would have had the religious authority to approve building on the Mamilla Cemetery. It is part of the historical record that the last Supreme Muslim Council headed by a Mufti was dissolved by the British Mandate Authority in 1937.
4)Tthe 1945, non-clerical, British-appointed Supreme Muslim Council did not have the authority to issue a religious fatwa (or ruling) that would have had the power to make any big changes in the status quo. The only thing this 1945 SMC could do is administer Islamic waqf affairs.
5) In 1944, the British Mandate put the Mamilla Cemetery on its list of Antiquities. The British Mandate was the only lawful governing authority at that time. Why would the put it on an antiquities list in 1944 and then allow the destruction of the cemetery the following year? Why doesn’t Hier say that the Mandate approved the building of this commercial center? Most likely because they did not.
6) A final question is why is this one 65-year-old article the only mention of any project by Muslim businessmen, backed by Muslim clerics to build on the Mamilla Cemetery site? Was it ever a serious plan to begin with? There is no evidence that it was.
Information for this piece comes from research done by Asem Khalidi in Jerusalem.