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08JERUSALEM2114 2008-11-24 15:34:00 CONFIDENTIAL Consulate Jerusalem
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1. (SBU) Summary: The Israeli High Court of Justice decided
on October 29 to allow the Simon Wiesenthal Center to resume
construction of the Museum of Tolerance on the site of the
Mamilla Muslim cemetery. The ruling, plus the rapid
appearance of construction equipment at the site, has already
sparked protests and harsh condemnation. The site is located
in West Jerusalem, some several hundred meters from the
Consulate General. Post recommends that the USD 5 million
grant for the museum be canceled unless a new site is chosen.
End Summary.

High Court Decision


2. (SBU) After a prolonged court battle, the Israeli High
Court of Justice rejected a petition submitted by the Al-Aqsa
Company for Development of Holy Muslim Assets to stop the
construction of the Museum of Tolerance on the site of the
Mamilla Muslim cemetery in West Jerusalem. (Note: The
cemetery is across the street from the Consulate General.
End Note.) Construction of the Museum of Tolerance has been
delayed since 2006, when Israeli High Court issued an
injunction halting construction (Ref A).

3. (SBU) The High Court ruled on October 29 that the planning
of the museum was completed prior to the discovery of graves,
that the site had not been classified as a cemetery for
decades, and that plans for the museum were prepared properly
and without public opposition. The ruling received strong
condemnation from Palestinians and from Israel's Arab and
Muslim communities. According to press reports, hundreds of
opponents to the museum's location held a non-violent
demonstration at the Mamilla cemetery on November 6.

Rapid Construction Begins


4. (SBU) In the few weeks since the ruling, ConGenOffs have
seen construction equipment on-site and what appears to be
the rapid commencement of excavation or land clearing.

Comment and Action Request


5. (C) We expect strong reactions from Palestinians and
Israeli Arabs as construction proceeds. Popular reaction -
both here and across the region - will be enflamed once there
is publicity about the USD 5 million State Department grant
to the Wiesenthal Center for this museum. Local protests
could also be directed at the Consulate given our proximity
to the site. Post strongly recommends that his grant be
terminated immediately, unless the center agrees to move the
Museum to another site.