The Simon Wiesenthal Center has rejected demands by Palestinian and international human rights groups that its construction of a planned Museum of Tolerance in Jerusalem be halted due to claims that the proposed location is the site of a historic Muslim cemetery.

Opponents of the museum petitioned the United Nations on Thursday, maintaining that construction at the site would disturb centuries-old graves and desecrate the cemetery, although any response from the UN’s top rights official would be symbolic and not legally binding.

Be the first to know - Join our Facebook page.

Press conferences were also held in Jerusalem, Geneva and Los Angeles on Thursday.

The Simon Wiesenthal Center, however, released a statement Wednesday in advance of the petition and press conferences, stating that “the Museum of Tolerance project is not being built on the Mamilla Cemetery.”

“It is being built on Jerusalem’s former municipal car park, where every day for nearly half a century, thousands of Muslims, Christians and Jews parked their cars without any protest whatsoever from the Muslim community,” Rabbi Marvin Hier, the center’s dean and founder, said in the statement.

“Telephone cables, electrical lines, drainage and sewage lines were laid deep into the ground in the early 1960s, again without any protest,” he went on.

“We also want to emphasize that the Israel Antiquities Authority has confirmed that there are no bones or remains on the site, which is currently undergoing infrastructure work,” Hier said. “Remains found on the site, which have now been reinterred in a nearby Muslim cemetery, were between 300-400 years old. No remains from the 12th-century era were found.”

In 2004, Palestinian and Israeli advocacy groups filed a petition against the planned construction. The Supreme Court considered the legal arguments for nearly four years, finally giving the go-ahead in 2009 to the Los Angeles-based Simon Wiesenthal Center.

AP contributed to this report
Relevant to your professional network? Please share on Linkedin

Think others should know about this? Please share