Israel condemns UNESCO's Hebron declaration as 'shameful'

Israel has reacted with rage after the United Nations cultural organization UNESCO passed two resolutions recognizing Hebron's Old City and the Ibrahimi mosque, in the occupied West Bank, as endangered Palestinian heritage sites.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has chose to cut an additional $1 million from the tmembership funds that Israel pays to the United Ntions, following the resolution passed by the UNESCO World Heritage Committee regarding the Tomb of the Patriarchs in Hebron.

Avigdor Lieberman, the Israeli defence minister, released a furious statement after the vote and called for US President Donald Trump to punish UNRSCO by cutting its funding.

The resolution agreed by the committee also lists the old city and the religious site as being "in danger", meaning the world heritage committee will discuss the area's status annually.

The colonisers living in Hebron are protected by hundreds of Israeli soldiers, with Palestinians saying the settlements and heavy military presence are degrading and make their lives impossible.

In a secret ballot conducted on Friday, 7 July, at the UNESCO annual summit in Krakow, Poland, 12 country members of the organisation voted in favour of the resolution - which had been brought by the Palestinians - while three opposed and six abstained, AFP reported. "It's a decision that at best stems from utter ignorance and at worst from hypocrisy and antisemitism", Yair Lapid of Israel's Yesh Atid party.

Rejecting the vote, the spokesperson for Israel's Minister of Foreign Affairs, Emmanuel Nahshon, took to Twitter after the decision to condemn the UNESCO outcome as a promotion of "lies".

Mr Bennett, leader of the nationalist Jewish Home party, also heads Israel's national Unesco Committee.

Israeli troops heavily guard Hebron's small Jewish community, and control access to holy sites there considered sacred by Jews, Christians and Muslims. Israel condemned the text, although it was much softer than similar resolutions passed in previous years.

Jews have claimed Hebron's Cave of the Patriarchs as the burial site for Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Sarah, Rebecca and Leah. It is only in those places where Israel is, such as Hebron, that freedom of religion for all is ensured, " Netanyahu said.

Israel should carefully reconsider the charges it is pursuing against Palestinian human rights defender Issa Amro, two United Nations independent experts said today.

"The city of Hebron is an open archive of history, it's so important to protect these sites, which are under threat from the Israeli occupation", he said.

Palestinians celebrated the committee's decision. The resolution also criticized the Israeli government for its archaeological projects in the capital and in Hebron.

Just as it would be inconceivable for UNESCO to deny the Islamic character of Medina, it is outrageous for the wold body to do the same to Judaism's second holiest site.

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. In an intractable and long-running battle, Unesco's recognition is, at least, a move in the right direction for Palestinians. In 1994, an Israeli settler shot and killed 29 Palestinian worshippers at the holy site before he was beaten to death.

  • Delores Daniels