UNESCO passes controversial motion calling Hebron endangered heritage site

Posted July 10, 2017

The United States said on Friday it was reviewing ties with UNESCO after the UN cultural agency declared the Old City of Hebron to be Palestinian territory and a world heritage site.

Netanyahu announced that Israel would further reduce its membership dues to the agency by $1 million in protest at the decision, and would instead spend the funds on establishing a museum of Jewish heritage in the Hebron area.

The resolution is seen as a victory for Palestinian diplomacy and would be cited by Israel as a fresh example of what it alleges is the UN's inherent anti-Israel bias. The resolution described a Muslim history of the city while entirely ignoring the Biblical narrative describing 3,000 years of Jewish connection to the site.

The ruling also puts Hebron on Unesco's "in danger" list, which allows for the allocation of immediate World Heritage Fund assistance and is created to alert the global community to endangered sites.

Rula Maayah, the Palestinian minister of tourism, said it was a "historical development because it stressed that Hebron" and its historic mosque "historically belong to the Palestinian people".

The Ibrahimi Mosque, known to Jews as the Tomb of the Patriarchs, is holy to both faiths and has always been a flashpoint of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Many viewed Friday's UNESCO decision as the latest example of an ingrained anti-Israel bias at the United Nations and its institutions, where Israel and its allies are outnumbered by Arab countries and their supporters.

Israel's president Reuven (Ruvi) Rivlin also harshly criticized the decision, stating: "The decision by UNESCO proves once again that this is a body determined to continue spreading anti-Jewish lies while remaining silent as the region's heritage is being erased by brutal extremists".

Israel's ambassador to UNESCO Carmel Shama Hacohen laughed off the resolution on Friday, saying his plumbing at home was more important.

The tomb of the Patriarchs near Hebron.

The Palestinian Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a statement that Hebron's designation as a World Heritage site "transcends geography, religion, politics and ideology". Does UNESCO not believe that the Bible is heritage?

It notes the ancient origins of Hebron's Jewish community and that Jews left the city "after the eruption of violence in 1929", an allusion to the massacre of 69 Jews that year by Palestinian nationalists. "It represents an affront to history", Haley said in a statement.

All this points to the fact that the United Nations recognises the diplomatic battle that Palestinians are faced with day after day, while also understanding the significance of the city of Hebron.

Gheit also credited the Palestinian leadership and its diplomacy with the success, Afify said.

"The UNESCO vote on Hebron is tragic on several levels". "When I mentioned that this site will be protected under the new classification, it also means UNESCO will not allow the Israelis to do whatever they want there". In 1994, an Israeli settler shot and killed 29 Palestinian worshippers at the holy site before he was beaten to death.