Israel furious as UNESCO rebuffs its claim to Hebron

Israel tries to use Jewish reverence for the Ibrahimi mosque in Hebron as a pretext to claim sovereignty over the occupied West Bank city.

Najeh Hashlamoun APA images

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.

Twelve states on the World Heritage Committee voted in favor of the resolutions and three voted against. Six abstained.

The vote means that Hebron’s Old City and the Ibrahimi mosque, the place where an American Jewish settler massacred 29 Palestinians in 1994, will be added as Palestinian World Heritage sites on UNESCO’s register.

Both sites are also now considered endangered, which means the UNESCO’s World Heritage Committee will convene every year to evaluate their status.

Hebron’s Old City is home to about 800 Israeli settlers, who move about freely under army protection, while thousands of Palestinians are subjected to harsh military rule, roadblocks and checkpoints.

Mimicking Trump

Israel, backed by the United States, had tried to rally enough member states to block the resolutions.

But after their effort failed, Israeli leaders reasserted Israel’s claim to the occupied West Bank.

Apparently mimicking the style of President Donald Trump, the spokesperson for Israel’s foreign ministry tweeted an attack on UNESCO: “This irrelevant organization promotes FAKE HISTORY.”

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who called the decision “surreal,” immediately announced Israel would withhold another $1 million of membership dues to the United Nations, saying the funds would be used to establish a museum of Jewish heritage in Kiryat Arba, the colony where Baruch Goldstein, the settler who carried out the 1994 mosque massacre, lived.

“This time they decided that the Tomb of the Patriarchs in Hebron is a Palestinian site, meaning not Jewish, and that it’s in danger,” Netanyahu said. He went on to list the names of biblical figures that Jews believe are buried there.

The Tomb of the Patriarchs is the name used by Israel for the Ibrahimi mosque.

Netanyahu – as Israeli officials always do – conflated Judaism with Israeli control. There is of course no contradiction between a site being Palestinian, on the one hand, and being revered by Muslims, Christians or Jews, on the other.

After the vote, Elias Sanbar, the Palestinian Authority’s representative at UNESCO, said that the resolution simply acknowledges that the mosque is in Palestinian territory.

“Palestine has not inscribed a religion on the World Heritage List,” Sanbar said. “Religion cannot be inscribed on such a list. It can only be something that can be felt, something we can fight for.”

Sanbar acknowledged that Palestine encompasses lands “which are sacred to all three monotheistic religions.”

Denying Palestinian existence

Following the vote, a representative of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, an Israel lobby group based in Los Angeles, claimed that since Palestine was admitted into UNESCO in 2011, the Palestinians have been using “heritage as war by other means.”

In fact it has been Israel that has relentlessly tried to use Jewish reverence for various sites in the occupied West Bank, especially in Jerusalem, as a pretext to try to assert Israeli sovereignty over them.

Predictably, Israeli officials have tried to spin the international rebuff of their transparent efforts to assert sovereignty over occupied territory as discrimination.

Defense minister Avigdor Lieberman called the UNESCO vote “anti-Semitic.”

“No decision by this irrelevant organization will undermine our historic right over the Tomb of the Patriarchs, or our right over the country,” Lieberman added, giving as clear an indication as possible that Israel does not recognize Palestinian existence, let alone self-determination in the West Bank or anywhere else in historic Palestine.

Lieberman urged the United States to help ensure that UNESCO is “defunded.”

Lies and distortions

The Palestinian Authority foreign minister Riad Malki, called the vote a diplomatic victory.

“Despite a frantic Israeli campaign spreading lies and distorting the facts about the Palestinian rights, the world has recognized our right to register Hebron and the Ibrahimi mosque under Palestinian sovereignty,” Malki stated.

Israel and the United States, which has openly denounced the resolution, had called for the vote to be secret, to allow member states to vote “without paying a political price,” according to Haaretz.

But UNESCO only allowed the vote to be “partially secret,” meaning member states were not required to reveal how the voted, but the vote did not take place behind a screen.

The vote occurred during the annual World Heritage Committee meeting that is currently taking place in Krakow, Poland.

Earlier this week, the committee approved a resolution reaffirming that Israel occupies East Jerusalem and calls its annexation of the city “null and void.”

That resolution also reaffirms the importance of Jerusalem’s Old City to all three monotheistic faiths.

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Apart from the fact that a good deal of the bible is fairy tale, written by mere mortals like us, does not even constitute a historic document, and is meaningless for Muslims, Atheists, and all other non-Christian religions, Jeremy R. Hammond in his collection of essays "The Israel-Palestine conflict", Myth 8, poignantly debunks the fallacy with actual quotes from the bible.

"What Jewish and Christian Zionists omit from their Biblical arguments in favor of continued Israel occupation is that Yahweh also told the Hebrews, including the tribe of Judah (from whom the “Jews”
are descended), that he would remove them from the land if they broke the covenant by rebelling against his commandments (Leviticus 26: 14, 15, 32-33, 28), which is precisely what occurs in the Bible (2 Kings 17:18, 23 and Jeremiah 3: 7-8).

Thus, the theological argument for Zionism is not only bunk from a secular point of view, but is also a wholesale fabrication from a scriptural perspective, ......" since ".....the Hebrews were rebellious against Yahweh in all their generations."

So by founding israel in 1948 the zionists, pretending to represent the will of world Jewry, went against Yaweh once again because he had already kicked them out of Palestine before. Or did they think that by doing it fraudulently (intentional misinterpretation of UN resolution 181) that Yahweh would somehow not notice, or forgive?

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Charlotte Silver

Charlotte Silver's picture

Charlotte Silver is an independent journalist and regular writer for The Electronic Intifada. She is based in Oakland, California and has reported from Palestine since 2010. Follow her on Twitter @CharESilver.