Arab envoy wanted to support Israel in UNESCO vote

Glen Mclaughlin
July 10, 2017

An Arab ambassador to UNESCO, the United Nations' cultural body, apologized on Friday to his Israeli counterpart for voting in support of a resolution that characterized the Old City of Hebron, including the Tomb of the Patriarchs holy site, as a Palestinian heritage site "endangered" by Israel.

Hebron, thought to be 6,000 years old, is considered by Muslims to be the fourth holiest site for almost 1,000 years.

Israeli officials, such as Michael Oren, deputy minister in Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's office, have called on the Trump administration to leave UNESCO completely, and members of the Jewish community in Hebron reiterated that demand of Israel's historic ally on Friday.

Palestinian attacks against Israeli soldiers and Border police in Hebron's Old Town would also be under increased UNESCO's scrutiny, with requests for the global body to evaluate the validity of the IDF's response to such incidents. While the latter is seen as more universal, the former touches on Israel's ideological premise of owning that which they deem first and foremost Jewish.

Calling the vote a "success", Palestinian Authority Foreign Minister Riyad al-Maliki said, "Despite the aggressive Israeli campaign, spreading lies, distorting and falsifying facts about the Palestinian right, the world recognized our right to register Hebron and the Ibrahimi Mosque under Palestinian sovereignty and on the World Heritage List".

The Israelis living in Hebron are protected by hundreds of Israeli soldiers, with Palestinians saying the settlements makes their lives impossible.

Regardless of Israel's course of action, the decision was yet another symbolic victory for Palestinian self-determination.

Palestinians, who brought forward the proposition for Hebron to be named a "site in danger", have accused Israel of an "alarming" number of violations, including vandalism and damage to properties.

"We intend on making sure that Hebron remains Jewish".

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Israel said the Hebron resolution - which refers to the city as "Islamic" - denies thousands of years of Jewish connection there. ICOMOS reached the same conclusion with similar claims concerning two other UNESCO "Palestinian heritage" sites - the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem in 2012 and the ancient irrigated terraces of Battir, near Jerusalem, in 2014.

This will intensify the worldwide spotlight on Hebron, a city with over 220,000 Palestinians, which is already one of the most contentious hotspots in the West Bank.

Palestinian Tourism Minister Rula Maaya told Mondoweiss that she is "overwhelmingly happy" over the outcome of the UNESCO vote, which she believes will offer protection to the contentious city.

US President Donald Trump might be working to push forward an Israeli-Palestinian peace process, but at UNESCO the battle between Israelis and Palestinians for historical legitimacy is just heating up. Netanyahu said in a statement. Jews were praying at this site half a millennia before Islam was even invented. "And it further discredits an already highly questionable United Nations agency".

Palestine's Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities previously said al-Khalil urgently needed protection from "assaults that harm the exceptional global value of the place".

Hebron has a long history of violence.

In 1994, an American Jew named Baruch Goldstein opened fire on Palestinians praying at the site, killing 29 before being beaten to death by survivors.

That's the goal of at least one Palestinian leader.

Other reports by MaliBehiribAe

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