February 21, 2018

UNESCO passes controversial motion calling Hebron endangered heritage site

10 July 2017, 12:55 | Marlene Fleming

Issa Amro inspects one of the Youth Against Settlements offices on 8 November 2015 after it was raided by Israeli troops

Issa Amro inspects one of the Youth Against Settlements

By the 20th century, access had been restricted to Muslims only, until Israel captured the city during the Six Day War in 1967.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced on Friday he had ordered a $1 million cut in Israel's annual United Nations after UNESCO, the world body's cultural and scientific arm, declared Hebron's Cave of the Patriarchs as an endangered Palestinian heritage site.

UNESCO will be required to annually evaluate the situation in the old city, where a few hundred Jewish settlers live under heavy Israeli military protection in the midst of more than 200,000 Palestinians.

He tweeted: "This irrelevant organisation promotes FAKE HISTORY".

As with the disgraceful resolution on Jerusalem adopted by the World Heritage Committee earlier this week, if the four European Union countries on the Committee who abstained, had voted against the resolution, it would have failed to get the necessary two-thirds of those voting in order to pass.

"The Jewish connection to Hebron goes back thousands of years".

"The @UNESCO decision on Hebron & Tomb of Patriarchs is a moral blot." foreign ministry spokesman Emmanuel Nahshon tweeted shortly after the vote.

The members of this year's World Heritage Committee include five countries with which Israel does not have diplomatic ties, and a number of others that routinely support pro-Palestinian resolutions.

It is one of the most important religious sites to Muslims and Jews alike.

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Israel announced in May that it would withhold $1 million in its United Nations funding following the passage by UNESCO of a resolution that condemned the country's sovereignty in Jerusalem. The Hebrew name of the complex reflects the very old tradition of the double tombs of Abraham and Sarah, Isaac and Rebecca, Jacob and Leah, considered the Patriarchs and Matriarchs of the Jewish people, who are all believed to be buried there.

Another moment of intrigue saw Hacohen take the floor after the vote, only to keep being interrupted by his cell phone.

Both Biblical sites are the two holiest and the most historically ensconced in Judaism, but are precariously located from a geo-political standpoint.

Israeli soldiers and police officers abducted, Sunday, 37 Palestinian workers, reportedly for trying to enter Jerusalem without permits.

Hebron has a long history of violence.

Education Minister Naftali Bennett said UNESCO "denies history and distorts reality, knowingly serving those attempting to erase the Jewish state".

She added that the vote "does no one any good and causes much harm". "We also call on the worldwide community to recognize the manipulation to which bodies like UNESCO are being subjected". "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".

Adding a site to the list allows the allocation of immediate World Heritage Fund assistance to the endangered property and alerts the worldwide community in the hope it will join efforts to save the endangered sites. Israel says the future of the settlements also must be decided through talks.

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