New York,Israeli Policies in Jerusalem: The Case of the Mamilla Cemetery

Professor Rashid Khalidi and Michael Ratner, President of the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR), will give some important background on this groundbreaking case and address some of the legal strategies pursued. In addition, they will discuss Israeli policies in Jerusalem and its impact on Palestinians.

When Israel gained control of West Jerusalem in 1948, it undertook the responsibility of respecting and protecting significant religious and cultural areas in its sovereign territory pursuant to both domestic and international mandate. The Mamilla Cemetery in West Jerusalem has been one of the more important sites. Despite its status as protected Waqf land, the site has been largely neglected since 1948, and large parts of the cemetary were turned into a park in downtown Israel.

In 2005, the Simon Weisenthal Center (SWC) - with the support of the Israeli government - has been pursuing the construction of a "Museum of Tolerance" atop the Mamilla Cemetery, in the face of protest by both Arab and Jewish residents of Jerusalem. En route to that construction, the project has already disinterred dozens of remains, and will inevitably unearth many more if the project continues.

Arab civil rights groups, in conjunction with individuals whose ancestors are interred in Mamilla, challenged the plans before the Israeli Supreme Court, raising claims under domestic Israeli law protecting sites like Mamilla. In a very problematic ruling that ignored the highly sensitive and symbolic nature of this undertaking, the Israeli Supreme Court allowed the construction to continue.

Having exhausted domestic litigative remedies, concerned parties have pursued other avenues. They have appealed to a variety of bodies including the UNHCR and UNESCO, UN Special Rapporteurs on Freedom of Religion and Belief and Contemporary Forms of Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance, claiming violations of the right to protection of cultural property, the right to manifest religious beliefs, and the right to freedom from discrimination.

Sponsored by Columbia Students for Justice in Palestine, TURATH, MSA, the Arab Student Association at SIPA and Qanun.

***Refreshments will be served.
Wednesday, April 14, 2010
7:30pm - 9:30pm
Room 501, Schermerhorn, Columbia University
116th Street between Broadway and Amsterdam
New York, NY