COP condemns UNESCO vote on Hebron

10 July 2017, 12:15 | Robert Harris

An Israeli soldier aims his weapon at Palestinians as Israeli settlers take over houses in the West Bank old city

An Israeli soldier aims his weapon at Palestinians as Israeli settlers take over houses in the West Bank old city

Emek Shaveh, an Israeli group of left-leaning archaeologists and activists, said that "rather than squabbling and scoring points", both sides should have agreed on inscribing Hebron as a World Heritage site, but added that the Palestinians could also have expanded on Hebron's importance in Judaism.

The vote drew a sharp denunciation from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who described it as "another delusional decision by UNESCO", while the United States announced it would review its ties with the agency.

The resolution was fast-tracked on the basis that the site was under threat, with the Palestinians accusing Israel of an "alarming" number of violations, including vandalism and damage to property.

A few days prior, the World Heritage Committee passed a resolution denying Israeli claims to the Old City of Jerusalem. She would not comment on whether Hebron had been recognised as Palestinian, saying the exact wording would be decided later.

Kuwait, Lebanon and Tunisia are the three Arab states on UNESCO's heritage committee, which voted for the controversial resolution on Friday afternoon at its meeting in Krakow, Poland.

UNESCO designated Hebron and the two adjoined shrines at its heart - the Jewish Tomb of the Patriarchs and the Muslim Ibrahimi Mosque - a "Palestinian World Heritage Site in Danger".

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Israel's internal security minister, Gilad Erdan, tweeted: "UNESCO will continue to adopt delusional decisions but history can not be erased".

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".

A United Nations body ruled Friday that an ancient Jewish holy site is now part of Palestinian heritage. "Only in places where Israel exists, like in Hebron, is freedom of worship guaranteed for all", he said.

Israel tries to use Jewish reverence the Ibrahimi mosque in Hebron as a pretext to claim sovereignty over the occupied West Bank city. Jews were praying at this site half a millennia before Islam was even invented. "The Israeli military court system - which all Palestinians in the West Bank are subject to - has a conviction rate above 99%, which raises serious concerns about the system meeting numerous global standards of due process required by human rights and humanitarian law. It represents an affront to history", Haley said in a statement.

Palestine's Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities previously said al-Khalil urgently needed protection from "assaults that harm the exceptional global value of the place". "And it further discredits an already highly questionable United Nations agency", she said in a statement. "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". As Palestinians gathered to pray, Goldstein opened fire inside the compound, killing 29 people including children.

Israel blames the violence on incitement by Palestinian religious and political leaders, compounded by social media.

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