Pales­tini­ans to claim Tomb of Pa­tri­archs on UN Her­itage List

Jerusalem Post - - FRONT PAGE - • By TOVAH LAZAROFF

The World Her­itage Com­mit­tee is set to de­bate in­scrib­ing the Old City of He­bron – in­clud­ing its Tomb of the Pa­tri­archs – to the “State of Pales­tine” when it meets from July 2 to 12 in Krakow, Poland.

“This is a new front in the war over the holy places that the Pales­tini­ans are try­ing to ig­nite as part of their pro­pa­ganda cam­paign against Is­rael and the his­tory of the Jewish peo­ple,” Is­rael’s Am­bas­sador to UNESCO Carmel Shama HaCo­hen told The Jerusalem Post on Thurs­day.

The World Her­itage Com­mit­tee op­er­ates un­der the aus­pices of the United Na­tions Ed­u­ca­tional, Sci­en­tific and Cul­tural or­ga­ni­za­tion.

For the last three years Is­rael has waged a stiff bat­tle at UNESCO to pre­vent the Pales­tini­ans from lin­guis­ti­cally re­clas­si­fy­ing Ju­daism’s holi­est site, the Tem­ple Mount, solely as the Mus­lim re­li­gious site known as al-Haram al-Sharif.

“This is a clear con­tin­u­a­tion

of the at­tacks and hal­lu­ci­na­tory out­ra­geous votes in UNESCO re­gard­ing Jerusalem, the Tem­ple Mount and the Western Wall,” Shama HaCo­hen said, draw­ing a clear link be­tween the two bat­tles for Is­rael’s Jewish her­itage.

UNESCO rec­og­nized Pales­tine as a state in 2011, a move that al­lowed the Pales­tinian Au­thor­ity to in­scribe two sites on the World Her­itage List: Beth­le­hem’s Church of the Na­tiv­ity and the pil­grim­age route in 2012; and the an­cient ter­races of Bat­tir in 2014.

It fast-tracked both in­scrip­tions by claim­ing the sites were en­dan­gered. It is now mak­ing the same ar­gu­ment with re­gard to He­bron’s Old City. This in­cludes the Tomb’s Hero­dian struc­ture that houses both Jewish places of wor­ship and the Ibrahimi Mosque.

If the 21-mem­ber com­mit­tee ap­proves the PA’s re­quest, it would mark the first time that a Jewish holy site un­der Is­raeli con­trol was reg­is­tered to the “State of Pales­tine.”

The World Her­itage Com­mit­tee on Thurs­day pub­li­cized the list of 35 sites that it plans to con­sider in­scrib­ing, in­clud­ing He­bron. But PA doc­u­ments to ex­plain the ra­tio­nale for the in­scrip­tion as well as a tech­ni­cal eval­u­a­tion by a pro­fes­sional sub­group of the World Her­itage Com­mit­tee has yet to be posted on UNESCO’s web­site.

Is­rael has al­ready been work­ing for the last month to sway the com­mit­tee mem­bers to re­ject the re­quest based on five ar­gu­ments, Shama HaCo­hen said.

The Tomb and the city of He­bron is the sec­ond holi­est site in Ju­daism, af­ter the Tem­ple Mount and its Western Wall, he noted. The Bi­ble clearly records its pur­chase by Abra­ham.

In­scrib­ing the site to the Pales­tini­ans would also be prob­lem­atic diplo­mat­i­cally, be­cause the area is un­der Is­raeli con­trol based on the 1997 He­bron pro­to­col signed by the PA and Is­rael, Shama HaCo­hen added.

The Pales­tini­ans are fast-track­ing in­scrip­tions at the ex­pense of other coun­tries who some­times work for close to a decade to ful­fill all the nec­es­sary in­scrip­tion re­quire­ments, the am­bas­sador said.

“This is a process that nor­mally takes years.” In this case, he said, there was no dan­ger to the site.

Is­rael has worked to­gether with the re­li­gious author­i­ties in He­bron with re­gard to up­keep and re­pairs to the site and to en­sure ac­cess for Mus­lim wor­shipers to the Ibrahimi Mosque, he said.

Lastly, he as­serted, reg­is­tra­tion of sites jointly used by Is­raelis and Pales­tini­ans should wait un­til such time as there is a fi­nal sta­tus agree­ment that ends the con­flict.

This would al­low both Is­rael and the Pales­tini­ans to jointly ask for the site’s in­scrip­tion, Shama-HaCo­hen said, adding that to reg­is­ter the site to one party prior to such an agree­ment will only end up deep­en­ing the con­flict.

The Con­fer­ence of Pres­i­dents of Ma­jor Amer­i­can Jewish Or­ga­ni­za­tions wrote a let­ter to UNESCO’s Di­rec­tor-Gen­eral Irina Bokova ex­plain­ing that it was im­por­tant for UNESCO to “stand up for the truth.”

Con­fer­ence chair­man Stephen M. Green­berg and chair­man and ex­ec­u­tive vice chair­man Mal­colm Hoen­lein, who penned the let­ter, told Bokova that “Pales­tinian of­fi­cials, in­clud­ing the leader of the Wakf of He­bron and the Wakf of the Cave, have praised the co­op­er­a­tion of Is­raeli author­i­ties re­spon­si­ble for the se­cu­rity of these holy sites in He­bron and pub­lic safety ar­range­ments for wor­shipers at the Cave.

“The Pales­tinian re­li­gious lead­ers have pub­licly ac­knowl­edged Is­raeli re­spect for free­dom of wor­ship for all and ex­pressed ap­pre­ci­a­tion for the sen­si­tiv­ity shown by the Is­raeli author­i­ties in re­spond­ing to Pales­tinian spe­cial re­quests,” they added.

The 21 com­mit­tee mem­bers are: An­gola, Azer­bai­jan, Burk­ina Faso, Croa­tia, Cuba, Fin­land, In­done­sia, Ja­maica, Kaza­khstan, Kuwait, Le­banon, Peru, Philip­pines, Poland, Por­tu­gal, Repub­lic of Korea, Tu­nisia, Turkey, United Repub­lic of Tan­za­nia, Viet­nam and Zim­babwe. •

(Am­mar Awad/Reuters)

THE TOMB of the Pa­tri­archs is seen in the city of He­bron.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Israel

© PressReader. All rights reserved.