The secretariat of UNESCO’s World Heritage Committee has come out against a bid
by the Palestinian Authority to use an emergency procedure to register
Bethlehem’s Church of the Nativity under the country of “Palestine” as a World
“At the UN, where the General Assembly each year adopts
more resolutions criticizing Israel than on the rest of the world combined, this
is a spectacle as rare as Halley’s Comet,” UN Watch executive director Hillel
He first published news of the rejection on his blog, and
circulated it to the media.
“This is the first time in recent memory that
a draft resolution circulated by the United Nations – let alone by UNESCO, which
recently elected Assad’s Syria to its human rights committee – openly rejected a
Palestinian claim or position,” Neuer said. His Geneva-based nonprofit group
monitors UN activity.
The secretariat’s resolution echoes a conclusion by
the International Council on Monuments and Sites, whose professional staff
similarly concluded that the Palestinians should pursue World Heritage
registration through regular channels. It, like the secretariat, said that more
could be done to improve the technical nature of the application.
Church of the Nativity is one of the 36 potential new World Heritage sites. A
World Heritage Committee of 21 countries is set to debate their inclusion during
a meeting that will be held from June 24 to July 6 in St. Petersburg,
The draft resolution posted by the secretariat on the World
Heritage website states that the Palestinians should “resubmit the nomination in
accordance with normal procedures for nomination, to allow a proper assessment
of integrity, authenticity and conversation, and proper consideration of
management arrangements and appropriate boundaries for the property.”
final decision will be made by a two-thirds vote of the 21 countries that are
members of the World Heritage Committee.
The PA has asked the World
Heritage Committee to consider adding the church to its list through an
emergency procedure reserved for endangered sites.
Approval by the
21-member committee would mark the first time that a World Heritage Site has
been registered to the country of “Palestine.”
The United Nations has not
recognized Palestine as a member state. But in October, UNESCO vote to include
Palestine on its list of 195 member states, and to accord it full state rights
in all UNESCO-related bodies, such as the World Heritage Committee.
March, after the PA signature on the UNESCO’s Convention Concerning the
Protection of World Cultural and Natural Heritage was ratified, the PA asked the
World Heritage Committee to register the church and the pilgrimage route in
In its application, the PA said, “The combined effects of the
consequences of the Israeli occupation and the lack of scientific and technical
measures for restoring and preserving the property are creating an emergency
situation that should be addressed by an emergency measure.”
opposed registering the site under Palestine, until such time as it becomes a
state as a result of a negotiated end to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. It
has opposed all unilateral steps toward statehood by the PA.
however, support registering the church as a World Heritage site, and would have
wanted to present it to the committee together with the Palestinians as a joint
Israel’s position at present is simply to urge the 21 member
countries to support the secretariat’s position.
The Palestinians in turn
say that the church is endangered and that it is their right to register the
site solely under Palestine.