UNESCO declares Old City of Hebron a Palestinian world heritage site

Posted July 10, 2017

The United States said on Friday it was reviewing ties with UNESCO after the UN cultural agency declared the Old City of Hebron to be Palestinian territory and a world heritage site.

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. "As it is now, the Israelis think and work only as an occupying force in Hebron, they don't care about protecting the Palestinians there anymore than they care about protecting the historical Old City and other important sites".

UNESCO's World Heritage committee voted on Friday to approve an urgent Palestinian request to include the Old City of Hebron on the register of culturally and historically significant locations, citing Israeli harm to the city's historic locations.

Iglesias declined to comment on whether Hebron had been recognized as Palestinian, saying the exact wording would be decided at a later time.

The 12-3 vote, with six abstentions, came on a secret ballot at an annual UNESCO World Heritage Committee meeting in Krakow, Poland.

The city is home to more than 200,000 Palestinians and a few hundred Israeli settlers, who live in a heavily fortified enclave near the site known to Muslims as the Ibrahimi Mosque and to Jews as the Tomb of the Patriarchs.

Mr Bennett, leader of the nationalist Jewish Home party, also heads Israel's national Unesco Committee. Israel condemned the text, although it was much softer than similar resolutions passed in previous years.

"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.

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Netanyahu read from the Bible to demonstrate that UNESCO's resolution on Hebron negated religion, history and the facts.

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It notes the ancient origins of Hebron's Jewish community and that Jews left the city "after the eruption of violence in 1929", an allusion to the massacre of 69 Jews that year by Palestinian nationalists.

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

"They are trying to rewrite Jewish history and the history of the region", he said.

The proposal was submitted to the United Nations body's Cultural Committee by Arab states who originally presented a much harsher version which was formulated together with the Palestinians. Jews were praying at this site half a millennia before Islam was even invented.

In 1994, Israeli-American Baruch Goldstein opened fire on Muslims praying at the site, killing 29, before being beaten to death by survivors.