High Court orders mediation on Tolerance Museum dispute

Both parties express dissatisfaction over the ruling; ADL reverses call to halt construction.

tolerance museum 298.88 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
tolerance museum 298.88
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Both parties to the petition over potentially explosive plans by the Simon Wiesenthal Center to build a museum in Jerusalem's Independence Park expressed satisfaction Thursday with the High Court decision to issue an interim injunction halting construction for 30 days and ask former Supreme Court president Meir Shamgar to help negotiate a compromise solution. "The Simon Wiesenthal Center welcomes the decision of the Supreme Court of Israel to appoint former chief justice Meir Shamgar as mediator for a 30-day period, to help facilitate a resolution regarding the [human] remains found on the construction site of the Center for Human Dignity - Museum of Tolerance Jerusalem," the center said in a press statement. Attorney Durgham Saif, who represents three Muslim Jerusalem families who say their ancestors are buried on the planned construction site, said Thursday's court decision was "a victory at this stage. We welcome it." In another development, the Anti-Defamation League has withdrawn its call to halting construction on the site. Abraham H. Foxman, ADL national director, reversed the League's stance after receiving assurances from the Wiesenthal Center that the human remains discovered during excavation of the site would be handled respectfully." "It is clear the Wiesenthal Center is taking adequate steps to deal respectfully with the human remains found on the construction site," Foxman said. "We are also in agreement with Thursday's Supreme Court decision appointing a mediator to help facilitate a resolution." The League had earlier called for cessation of construction until the issue could be resolved. Supreme Court President Aharon Barak and Justices Ayala Procaccia and Salim Joubran wrote in their decision, "We propose to the parties to bring the issue of the petition for mediation, in order to find a suitable solution for the dispute that has arisen. Retired Supreme Court president Meir Shamgar has expressed willingness to assume the responsibility of mediation. We ask the parties to contact president Shamgar as quickly as possible, as is called for given the nature of the matter." The court issued an interim injunction covering the 30-day period, "prohibiting the continuation of the work at the site and of any activities that would change the existing situation." It said that the injunction did not prohibit the Antiquities Authority from continuing "essential activities in its emergency preservation excavations." Antiquities Authority spokeswoman Osnat Goaz told The Jerusalem Post Thursday that the rescue work would be completed by the end of the day. However, the mediation effort may only postpone what appears to be an irreconcilable conflict between the petitioners and the Wiesenthal Center, which is backed by the government and the Jerusalem Municipality.