The Cave of Patriarchs, Hebron..
(photo credit: TOVAH LAZAROFF)
In a letter to UNESCO Director-General, Audrey Azoulay, Simon Wiesenthal Center Director for International Relations, Dr. Shimon Samuels, expressed grave concern regarding Palestinian State of Conservation Reports on cultural and historical sites at the upcoming World Heritage Committee (WHC) session, specifically regarding the 'Old City of Jerusalem and its Walls' and 'Hebron/Al Khalil Old Town (Palestine)'.
The letter stated that, “Each year, since the entry of Palestine into UNESCO in 2011, Jewish heritage has been trampled and stolen to validate a Palestinian narrative... ’Palestine’ is designated as the ‘State-Party’, while Israel is derided as ‘the Occupying Power’.”
The State of Conservation report for Hebron submitted to the committee by the Palestinian delegation consistently refers to Israel as the "Occupying power", as do UNESCO'S own documents.
Included in a document regarding the List of World Heritage in Danger, the WHC wrote, "Reminding that all legislative and administrative measures and actions taken by Israel, the occupying Power, which have altered or purport to alter the character and status of the Holy City of Jerusalem, and in particular the "basic law" on Jerusalem, are null and void and must be rescinded forthwith."
Samuels continued, "We view the I.D. theft of the Jewish heritage through UNESCO - what is considered by much of world Jewry - as an antisemitic campaign to deJudaize the Holy Land, that encourages attacks on Jews in Europe and beyond. UNESCO cannot be abused as a platform for distortion and hatred."
The letter also stressed, “We join our Christian friends, who were the first victims of such I.D. theft in the 2012 Palestinian takeover of the birthplace of Christianity, the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem, after the Church had been violently occupied by Palestinian terrorists.”
In 2012, Palestine was granted the 'Birthplace of Jesus: Church of the Nativity and the Pilgrimage Route, Bethlehem', traditionally the holiest site in Christianity.
Christians in Palestine have come under increasing attacks by the Muslim-majority population, including two attacks on churches
in Ramallah and Bethlehem earlier this year.
Samuels concluded his letter saying, "Madam Director-General, you entered UNESCO with a well-appreciated campaign for depoliticization of the WHC. Now is the moment to prevent repoliticization, beginning with Hebron and the Caves of the Patriarchs - a site of truly Jewish, Christian and Moslem narrative and world heritage, but not Palestinian heritage!”
In 2017, UNESCO caused outrage in the Jewish world by recognizing Hebron and the Cave of the Patriarchs
, one of the holiest sites in Judaism, as part of the State of Palestine, one of a number of decisions viewed as simply ignoring Jewish history and heritage.
Israel and the US eventually left UNESCO in December 2018.
The 43rd session of the World Heritage Committee begins on Sunday in Baku, Azerbaijan.
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