Join 3,414 readers in helping fund MetaFilter (Hide)


tolerate this, suckers
October 31, 2008 7:58 AM   Subscribe

Israeli court approves construction of Museum of Tolerance. With a design by starchitecht Gehry, whats not to like? Well, for one, it is being built on an ancient Muslim burial site.

It's important on its own, but more interestingly this is the yet another front in the ongoing emergence of a politics of land and archeology in Israel. Even in Los Angeles, the Museum finds itself in trouble.
posted by yonation (56 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite

 
No one cared when a parking lot or a hotel was built on the same burial site.
posted by amro at 8:09 AM on October 31, 2008


"No one cared when a parking lot or a hotel was built on the same burial site."

Really? No one?
posted by Baby_Balrog at 8:14 AM on October 31, 2008 [2 favorites]


Good post. Thank you. Although the word "ancient" may not be the best one. My understanding of history is that Muslim soldiers did not capture J-town until 638. Presumably the graves couldn't be much older than that or am I missing something? Perhaps I misunderstand the definition of ancient? Arguably 1,370 years is a looong time.

Overall though this is what makes the Palestine issue so tricky. So many peoples have a legitimate historical claim and as the article said, "The answer is every place in Jerusalem, if you dig, you will find bones."
posted by jlowen at 8:20 AM on October 31, 2008


jlowen, the graves are 300 to 400 years old.

Baby_Balrog, no one cared enough to lodge an objection.
posted by amro at 8:26 AM on October 31, 2008


Why must they have this site? Can't they just bulldoze a few houses in the west bank for their museum of tolerance?
posted by fleetmouse at 8:29 AM on October 31, 2008 [8 favorites]


jlowen, the graves are 300 to 400 years old.

In the US, we don't build on colonial gravesites which are the same age. We study them.
posted by smackfu at 8:39 AM on October 31, 2008 [1 favorite]


I've been to the Museum of Tolerance in LA, and on the first floor there's a lot of exhibits about intolerance all around the world, of everyone from gays to Tutsis. Then you go up a level and it's nothing but holocaust, holocaust, holocaust. And no mention of any of the 5 million non-Jewish victims. The museum really does place an undue emphasis on antisemitism, I think.
posted by Citizen Premier at 8:41 AM on October 31, 2008 [1 favorite]


Wouldn't Jerusalem be like Cario or Rome? (i.e. There isn't a patch of land that isn't something famous and important to someone)
posted by PissOnYourParade at 8:42 AM on October 31, 2008


So, you know, building something which could be conceived as a supporter of Jewish nationalism on a Muslim cemetery might not be a good idea.
posted by Citizen Premier at 8:44 AM on October 31, 2008 [1 favorite]


Although the word "ancient" may not be the best one. My understanding of history is that Muslim soldiers did not capture J-town until 638. Presumably the graves couldn't be much older than that or am I missing something? Perhaps I misunderstand the definition of ancient? Arguably 1,370 years is a looong time.

Islam teaches that the Koran was completed in 632 (that is to say that this is when Mohammed last received dictation from Allah), so 638 - only six years later - would be about as close to "ancient" as Islam gets. That said, I didn't find anything in the posts that indicated these graves were any more than 400 years old . . . not "ancient" even in relation to the relatively short history of Islam.

I'll take the Rabbi (in the link provided) at his word. He says that he wasn't fully aware of the cemetery when use of the land was proposed, and it's also agreed that protests were not lodged earlier when part of the cemetery was used for a parking lot, or during an approval process. Mistakes happen. That said, unless one is loony enough to suspect that people waited until the last minute to screw things up the most, those facts aren't particularly relevant. A lot has happened since the parking lot went up; people's perception of history and identity have changed. (And not just from an Islamic perspective, but from a Jewish one as well . . . our understanding of the Holocaust and modern-day stress on the importance of its lessons is greatly different than it was, say, in 1960.)

The offered compromise seems fair to me as well, but the reality still is that it wouldn't be reasonable to everyone, and this is particularly of concern in museum of "tolerance."
posted by Dee Xtrovert at 8:49 AM on October 31, 2008 [1 favorite]


Wow ... sorta like building a Mosque on a Temple.

Maybe they can trade?
posted by RavinDave at 9:00 AM on October 31, 2008 [2 favorites]


In the US, we don't build on colonial gravesites which are the same age. We study them.

we build over cemeteries all the time in the US. Not to mention Indian burial sites.
posted by amro at 9:01 AM on October 31, 2008


In the US, we don't build on colonial gravesites which are the same age. We study them.

We also have a lot more empty space.

Also, that building is butt ugly.
posted by delmoi at 9:01 AM on October 31, 2008


I'll take the Rabbi (in the link provided) at his word. He says that he wasn't fully aware of the cemetery when use of the land was proposed, and it's also agreed that protests were not lodged earlier when part of the cemetery was used for a parking lot, or during an approval process. Mistakes happen. That said, unless one is loony enough to suspect that people waited until the last minute to screw things up the most, those facts aren't particularly relevant.

Well said. Clearly the Rabbi genuinely feels bad for the mistake, but at the same time, "nobody lodged a complaint" is a bit of an obfuscation. It's also unclear to what degree the museum would be on the "parking lot" part of the land, versus the part that's obviously still a cemetery (even if it's "mostly abandoned," that's not "entirely abandoned," and the article thinks it's enough of an active cemetery to note that the fellow objecting to the museum hadn't visited his father's grave in some time -- not something that would be a reasonable expectation if the entire plot was covered in cars).
posted by Amanojaku at 9:04 AM on October 31, 2008


Wow ... sorta like building a Mosque on a Temple.

Good point. Maybe they can agree to halt any further construction on both projects. That seems fair.
posted by Amanojaku at 9:07 AM on October 31, 2008 [1 favorite]


~ Wow ... sorta like building a Mosque on a Temple.
Maybe they can trade?


Building a religious building, dedicated to God, in memory of another religious building, dedicated to the same God, which cannot be rebuilt until the End Times, and even then not by normal people, is the same as building a tourist attraction lauding Jewish Nationalism onto of the bones of saints whose followers the Jewish Nation is actively persecuting?

Really?
posted by paisley henosis at 9:08 AM on October 31, 2008 [3 favorites]


This is really nauseating stuff. I clearly remember my visit to the museum in L.A. I suppose it was completely ridiculous of me to expect any mention at all of the Nakba - the forced migration and ethnic cleansing of 800,000 Palestinians before, during and after the Israeli war for independence.

Last night I attended a costume party. At first I was excited to see someone wearing a keffiyeh and the very same "Free Palestine" t-shirt I had picked up during my time in the Old City. Until I asked him what his costume was and he laughingly replied - "I'm an anti-semite!"

Respect for the people and heritage of this ancient place has now become "anti-semitic."
posted by Baby_Balrog at 9:16 AM on October 31, 2008


i was trying to resist opinion in my post, but what the hell.

amro: so if your grandparents didn't care about their house and farm because of a given political condition (say, dust bowl 1930s) but you now do, its irrelevant what you think because their decision?

also: so what if the grand mufti said that back then? how is he speaking for the very different political/social conditions islam faces right now in that particular part of jerusalem?

ALSO: this is another reason frank gehry sucks big time. from atlantic yards in brooklyn to this place, he just is one of those architects who doesn't give a fuck about the politics of building.
posted by yonation at 9:24 AM on October 31, 2008


You should have spent the rest of the night showing his costume off to friends, but introducing him as "a racist." I'm sure he would have assumed you meant it in the way he did, but the snark might have made you feel better.
posted by Amanojaku at 9:25 AM on October 31, 2008


amro: so if your grandparents didn't care about their house and farm because of a given political condition (say, dust bowl 1930s) but you now do, its irrelevant what you think because their decision?

Huh? That doesn't make any sense. Unless you're asking if my grandparents sold their house in the 1930s are my feelings about that irrelevant? Uh, yeah. They are.
posted by amro at 9:34 AM on October 31, 2008


i was trying to resist opinion in my post, but what the hell.

Oh, and you didn't resist very well. Your opinion was apparent from the wording of your post.
posted by amro at 9:46 AM on October 31, 2008


amro, i'm using an example that maybe you could identify with, say a grapes of wrath style abandonement of home because of greater socioeconomic conditions (much like the Naqba). The point is that just because somebody left a piece of land or building at one point doesn't mean it has no significance to their children, who are thinking beings on their own terms.

much like, say, the jews from europe and the arab countries who wanted to return to israel after many years of diaspora.
posted by yonation at 9:50 AM on October 31, 2008


and the fact that you can't possible see the irony in calling this a musem of tolerance is somewhat ridiculous.
posted by yonation at 9:50 AM on October 31, 2008


Tolerate this!
posted by klangklangston at 9:53 AM on October 31, 2008 [1 favorite]


This is like the setup for a zombie movie.
posted by johngoren at 9:59 AM on October 31, 2008


Hey yonation, my grandparents sold their shore house when I was a kid, and that kind of bums me out because now I don't have a free place to stay when I go to the beach. But that was their decision, and there's no reason that I should have had a say in it.

And this is a dumb analogy.
posted by amro at 9:59 AM on October 31, 2008


And this is a dumb analogy

You see, it's sort of like a car.....
posted by Dark Messiah at 10:00 AM on October 31, 2008


Oh Christ!
posted by MarshallPoe at 10:12 AM on October 31, 2008


No one cared

Well, you know, not real people.
posted by Artw at 10:13 AM on October 31, 2008 [2 favorites]


Hey, you naysayers and other nattering nabobs of negativity should really watch the Director's Cut of The Shining, with Kubrick's long-lost happy ending footage. Danny now helps Mom and Dad run an axe factory that employs 4000 hard-working Americans.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 10:21 AM on October 31, 2008


Not to mention Indian burial sites.

Yeah, but that didn't turn out so good.
posted by kirkaracha at 10:39 AM on October 31, 2008


we build over cemeteries all the time in the US. Not to mention Indian burial sites.

Man, that's just dandy. "Other people do this all the time." What a brilliant justification. Opens the door to all kinds of fuck-you activities.

And yeah, who gives a shit if Muslims are voicing objections to this now? They should have spoken up louder, and more vehemently, before an agreed-upon Outrage Deadline.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 11:12 AM on October 31, 2008 [1 favorite]


I'm not justifying anything. I was just responding to smackfu's assertion that we don't do the same thing in the US. Man, there's a lot of putting words in people's mouths going on here.
posted by amro at 11:26 AM on October 31, 2008


Respect for the people and heritage of this ancient place has now become "anti-semitic."

Which more than ironic. Since the Palestinians are also Semites.
posted by tkchrist at 11:30 AM on October 31, 2008 [2 favorites]


Man, there's a lot of putting words in people's mouths going on here.

Oh, you're just misunderstood. You were merely correcting him. We should have been able to guess through that statement and "No one cared when they built a parking lot" that you weren't justifying this. Alright then.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 11:40 AM on October 31, 2008 [1 favorite]


we build over cemeteries all the time in the US.

I'm really surprised that you would say that. Around here in the Northeast, that has not been my experience. There are little graveyards from the 1700s/1800s all over the place.
posted by smackfu at 11:47 AM on October 31, 2008


Look, no one lodged an objection when a parking lot was built there. Please feel free to disprove that fact. Show me how stating a fact = justifying an action, while you're at it.
posted by amro at 11:49 AM on October 31, 2008


Show me how stating a fact = justifying an action, while you're at it.

I do so enjoy it when people do this. "I'm merely stating facts, guys, stop putting words in my mouth." It's a great way to express an opinion while weaseling out of being blunt about it. It also happens to be a fact that there are people voicing an objection to the building of this museum. I don't hear much talk about that "fact" on your part. The emphasis that you place speaks volumes so please, don't insult anyone's intelligence.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 11:54 AM on October 31, 2008 [2 favorites]


Remember kids, Israel is our friend, so no matter what they do, they're always right and anyone who disagrees with them disagrees with us. And you know what happens when someone disagrees with us...
posted by blue_beetle at 12:01 PM on October 31, 2008


This is like the setup for a zombie movie.

I'm not sure how it is, but I like the image of barricading myself in with a bunch of strangers at the Museum of Tolerance, shotguns and molotov cocktails to hand.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 12:06 PM on October 31, 2008 [1 favorite]


Look, no one lodged an objection when a parking lot was built there. Please feel free to disprove that fact. Show me how stating a fact = justifying an action, while you're at it.

Actually, you'll note that the "nobody objected" comment was from the Rabbi who is now in charge of building the museum. Questions of objectivity aside, his knowledge of the subject would depend on the very same authorities who neglected to inform him that it was a Muslim cemetery in the first place. So "nobody objected" should be read as "as far as the people who are interested in the project going forward are aware, nobody objected." It's an important difference.
posted by Amanojaku at 12:12 PM on October 31, 2008


Amanojaku: Actually, the judges deciding this case ruled that since no one had objected to the parking lot built in 1960, they would not block construction of the museum. I think you're confused. They didn't just take some rabbi's word for it.
posted by amro at 12:19 PM on October 31, 2008


amro, are you really arguing a point here or trying a derail? Do you not agree that there exist substantive differences between people 50 years ago and people today, even if they believe in the same religion?
posted by yonation at 12:33 PM on October 31, 2008


Oh yeah, Palestinians and Israelis got along great in the 60s.

/sarcasm
posted by amro at 12:44 PM on October 31, 2008


And with that, I am done with this. It's too nice a day to argue with a bunch of strangers.
posted by amro at 12:47 PM on October 31, 2008


They've also annexed a lot of the Palestinians they kicked out pre-1960 since then.
posted by Artw at 1:14 PM on October 31, 2008


Amanojaku: Actually, the judges deciding this case ruled that since no one had objected to the parking lot built in 1960, they would not block construction of the museum. I think you're confused. They didn't just take some rabbi's word for it.

Fair enough. I didn't mean to overemphasize the rabbi's statement specifically, just to point out that it's impossible to prove nobody objected in 1960; only that the authorities have no record of anyone objecting, and that considering these are the same authorities who neglected to tell the rabbi it was a cemetery (upon which he wouldn't have begun building if he had known) in the first place, it makes for poor precedent, and a good argument for why "nobody objected then" should be irrelevant in the face of "people are objecting now."

And that, of course, is to say nothing of the events of the intervening 48 years, or the question of whether the museum will have the exact same footprint as the parking lot, and so on.
posted by Amanojaku at 1:35 PM on October 31, 2008


Sorry kid, if your grandfather didn't care to vote I don't see why we should let you.
posted by Citizen Premier at 2:27 PM on October 31, 2008 [1 favorite]


Durn Bronzefist: This is like the setup for a zombie movie.

I'm not sure how it is, but I like the image of barricading myself in with a bunch of strangers at the Museum of Tolerance, shotguns and molotov cocktails to hand.


What, are you TRYING to get yourself killed? Molotov cocktails + zombies = walking torches: setting fire to the building, coating windows with soot, & sucking the oxygen out of the room.
posted by Pronoiac at 3:13 PM on October 31, 2008


Unfortunately, at least one other site in Israel is built on a muslim cemetary. Zippori/Sepphoris is a pretty famous archaeological site with Roman mosaics. Like many archaeological excavations in Israel (and the rest of the Mediterranean and Middle East) is covers many historic periods but emphasizes the Roman period and pretty much ignores "modern" history. The visitor center also emphasizes the importance of the site to the Jewish tradition- it was said to be the birthplace of Mary and also where the Mishna was codified. The fact that the site rests on the ruins of a city which was Palestinian until 1949, and that information is suppressed, is pretty disturbing. And as much as I hate the idea of building on a truly ancient cemetery, I can't imagine how Palestinians might feel knowing that their family cemetery is now part of a national park. If anyone's interested, Joel Bauman wrote a great article about the way archaeology and history has been politicized at this site- it's called "Tourism, the Ideology of Design and the Nationalized Past in Zippori/Sepphoris, an Israeli National Park."

Thanks for pointing this out, yonation. Part of my thesis deals with the role of museums in conflict zones- this case study will be an interesting addition!
posted by Mouse Army at 3:23 PM on October 31, 2008 [1 favorite]


Mouse: You might be interested in The Political Lives of Dead Bodies.
posted by snuffleupagus at 5:03 PM on October 31, 2008


What, are you TRYING to get yourself killed? Molotov cocktails + zombies = walking torches: setting fire to the building, coating windows with soot, & sucking the oxygen out of the room.

Dude, this thing needs to move toward the climax, which will probably not be in the original building we take cover in. Ya gotta move the plot forward!

That reminds. Less than 4 hours till NaNoWriMo. *gulp*
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 5:12 PM on October 31, 2008


"Even in Los Angeles, the Museum finds itself in trouble."

For some reason I expected that link to go to this story:
Today my History class took a feild trip to the Museum of Tolerance. Its a museum showing kids not to be prejudice and all that good stuff.

Anyways, one exhibit is two doors next to each other. One door has a sign hanging over it saying “Those with prejudice walk through this door” The other door’s sign said “Those without prejudice walk through this door”. Obviously the door for people without prejudice isn’t openable because as the tour guide says “Everyone has prejudice”.

So, I start tugging on the door and say “What the hell is wrong with this damn door, did some damn Jew make this?” and the tour guide kicked me out and i had to sit in the bus for 15 minutes.
posted by shii at 5:13 PM on October 31, 2008 [3 favorites]


@ snuffleupagus: Thanks! I will check it out :)
posted by Mouse Army at 5:08 AM on November 1, 2008


In the US, we don't build on colonial gravesites which are the same age. We study them.

Perhaps you do, but that would be because European colonization of the Americas isn't much older than this cemetery. Although, honestly, can you tell me that this "study" would go further than recording the tombstones? Because the tabled offer was to move the graves to an adjacent cemetery and I presume that the stones would come too. Anyway.

You're telling us that this would be quite an old cemetery by US standards. By Middle Eastern standards it's not old at all. It dates back to the Ottoman Empire, which means that it's from the most recent but one group to rule the area. It would be a bit more interesting if it dated back to the Mamelukes (kicked out by the Ottomans in 1516), but I don't think anyone would be excited by it unless it was well over a thousand years old.

I don't know the rights and wrongs of this particularly ironic controversy, but it does look to me as though a normal civil procedure was followed. Nobody here has suggested that the decision was mistaken or that the process is biased against Palestinians. I can vaguely recall hearing about several protests involving Jewish cemeteries and I have no reason to believe that the protesters were any more successful in those cases.
posted by Joe in Australia at 5:35 AM on November 1, 2008


and the fact that you can't possible see the irony in calling this a musem of tolerance is somewhat ridiculous.

At first blush, yes very ironic. But not if you go to any of the Simon Weaselthal Centers of "Tolerance". They are propaganda centers mainly designed aimed at destroying anti-semitism but promoting intolerance toward Muslims and Arabs. One service they provide that is admirable is their monitoring of race hate web sites in the US.
posted by Azaadistani at 2:51 AM on November 2, 2008


« Older Former Redskins linebacker Ken Harvey wants to bri...  |  For many people who lived in H... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments