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Wiesenthal Center opposes NYC mosque, supports museum on Palestinian graveyard

Zakaria: ‘Does Foxman think bigotry is OK if people think they’re victims?’

The Simon Wiesenthal Center, a human rights organization devoted to fighting anti-Semitism, has been accused of hypocrisy for joining the ADL in opposing the Ground Zero mosque, while supporting the construction of a “Museum of Tolerance” on top of Palestinian grave sites.

Rabbi Meyer May, the center’s executive director, told Crain’s New York that building a mosque near the site of the 9/11 attacks was “insensitive” to the people still dealing with the wounds of that tragedy.

“Religious freedom does not mean being insensitive…or an idiot,” May said. “Religion is supposed to be beautiful … Why create pain in the name of religion?”

Critics say Meyer should be asking himself the same question. The Wiesenthal Center has provoked outrage by funding the construction of one of its Museums of Tolerance on top of 12th-century Palestinian graves in Jerusalem.

More than a dozen families have filed a petition with the UN to stop the construction of the Jerusalem branch of the museum.

Columbia University professor Rashid Khalidi told Democracy NOW that he has relatives buried on the site. He said Israeli authorities have been “nibbling away” at the cemetery for three decades in an effort to remove it from history. He added that Israeli authorities claimed to have moved the burial remains but no one knows where they were moved to.

On Thursday, the city of Jerusalem defended the move, saying the grave sites dating back to the 12th century were built “illegally.”

The Wiesenthal Center’s opposition to the mosque, while funding a museum on Palestinian burial grounds, could be called “supremely ironic,” writes John Aravosis at AmericaBlog. “Yes, a Jewish tolerance museum built on top of dead Muslims. Think that makes anyone uncomfortable? … So, to summarize. Mosque near cemetery, bad. Jewish museum on top of cemetery, good. Entire story, sick.”

CNN’S ZAKARIA RETURNS ADL AWARD OVER OPPOSITION TO MOSQUE

The Anti-Defamation League has found itself on the defensive after CNN correspondent and Newsweek contributor Fareed Zakaria returned an award he was given by the group because of its opposition to the “Ground Zero mosque.”

In a column published online Friday, Zakaria announced that he had returned the plaque and $10,000 honorarium the ADL gave him in 2005.

“I was thrilled to get the award from an organization that I had long admired,” Zakaria said in a letter to ADL head Abraham Foxman. “But I cannot in good conscience keep it anymore. … I urge the ADL to reverse its decision. Admitting an error is a small price to pay to regain a reputation.”

The ADL was accused of “siding with bigots” when it announced last week that it opposed the construction of the Cordoba House, a Muslim community center and mosque being planned for a location several blocks away from the WTC site.

In a response to Zakaria, Foxman said he was “not only saddened but stunned” by Zakaria’s actions.

“What we did was to make an appeal based solely on the issues of location and sensitivity,” Foxman argued. “If the stated goal was to advance reconciliation and understanding, we believe taking into consideration the feelings of many victims and their families, of first responders and many New Yorkers, who are not bigots but still feel the pain of 9/11, would go a long way to achieving that reconciliation.”

That’s a line of reasoning Zakaria rejects. “There were, after all, dozens of Muslims killed at the World Trade Center. Do their feelings count? But more important, does Foxman believe that bigotry is OK if people think they’re victims? Does the anguish of Palestinians, then, entitle them to be anti-Semitic?”

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