Powered by WebAds

Sunday, June 08, 2008

Israel's 'Supreme Court' afraid to rule against Islamists?

I have discussed the saga of Los Angeles' Simon Wiesenthal Center's efforts to build a Museum of Tolerance in Jerusalem on several occasions, mostly going back a year or two. The reason I have not discussed it recently is because it has been more than a year since any kind of hearing has been held in the case pending before the Supreme Court.

For more than two years now, the Simon Wiesenthal Center has been subject to a restraining order preventing it from constructing a Museum of Tolerance on a plot of land in downtown Jerusalem that includes a part of an ancient Muslim cemetery. The Islamic Movement's Northern Front filed a petition with the Supreme Court in January 2006 arguing that the cemetery cannot be disturbed. I discussed the history of that cemetery at length here. The bottom line is that there are four reasons why the construction ought to be allowed to go ahead:

First, the Muslim Shari'a court declared the cemetery mundras (no longer holy) in 1964. In fact, the cemetery's 'sanctity' was being eroded long before that. The 'Palestinian' mufti, Haj Amin al-Husseini, attempted to build a college on the same plot in the 1920's, and in fact, graves were removed for that purpose (see the drawing below). The ruling that was issued in 1964 was in connection with the construction of Independence Park in the 1960's, the central public park in downtown Jerusalem. In fact, the portion of the cemetery on which the Museum is slated to built was a public parking garage for the last 25 years.

Second, moving graves to accommodate public building projects is accepted practice throughout the Muslim world - except in Israel. For example, graves were moved in Egypt to make way for the ring road around Cairo.

Third, the matter was submitted to arbitration and the arbitration failed. The reason it failed was that the Arabs refused three offers of compromise from the Wiesenthal Center.

Fourth, the intention to build the Museum on the site on which it is planned to be built was vetted before various city and national agencies in public hearings for several years. It was only once the building started - and after millions of dollars had been spent - that the Islamic Movement decided to file its petition.

But the matter has not been heard in more than a year, and that just might be because the Supreme Court is afraid to issue a ruling that goes against the Islamists.
Attorney Boaz Arad, who is representing the Ometz movement in the High Court, says that some of the delays in rulings stem from the fear on the part of the court of becoming deeply involved in issues that are controversial out of the hope the problem will solve itself and the fear that the justices will be accused of judicial activism.

"There is no doubt that the High Court of Justice is loathe to intervene in severe differences of opinion over religious-secular or Jewish-Arab relations, especially at times when the court is the subject of criticism from politicians who attempt to restrain it," he says.

When it comes to matters of security, the High Court is likewise in no hurry to hand down rulings.


The delays in handing down rulings can cost a lot of money. That is what happened in the case of the Museum of Tolerance, which is slated to be built in the center of Jerusalem. This educational project, which is headed by the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Los Angeles, is intended to encourage the involvement of individuals in society and its cost is estimated at more than $200 million. In January 2006, the Al-Aksa Company for the Development of the Wakf (Muslim religious trust) petitioned the High Court with the claim that part of the area of the museum harmed an ancient Muslim cemetery. At a later stage, the petitioner claimed that a large part of the entire area is Muslim holy ground.

Following an attempt to prevent the digging through an Islamic religious court, a hearing was fixed in which Barak was due to head the bench. The sides were sent to arbitration and meanwhile an order was issued that froze the work at the site. When the arbitration failed, the sides appealed to the High Court and the last hearing was held in April 2007. Since then, the sides have been waiting for a ruling. According to an expert who estimates the construction cost of large projects, whose opinion the Museum of Tolerance submitted to the court, every month in which the project is held up costs the backers more than $5 million.
If the court was going to rule against the Wiesenthal Center, the ruling would have been made already. But it's likely the court is going to rule against the Islamic Movement and it fears the resulting backlash in the Islamic world. The court is sitting on the case hoping it will go away. But with deep pockets on both sides of the equation and a deep commitment from the Wiesenthal Center to the project, that appears unlikely.

Will the Supreme Court find the courage to do the right thing?


At 11:33 PM, Blogger NormanF said...

The Israeli Supreme Court is dominated by the Left and of its Justices don't represent the views of Israel's Jewish majority and their values. Its always taken sides against religious Jews in Israel's culture wars. In that regard, it probably is as afraid of Islamists as secular leftists are elsewhere. After all, its easier to pick on the Jews since they don't fight back. Or do they?

At 3:48 PM, Blogger JIDF said...

As I've mentioned elsewhere, this is a shame. If Israel didn't recognize Sharia Law in the first place, none of this would have been an issue.


Post a Comment

<< Home