Unesco recognises Hebron as Palestinian world heritage site

Monday, 10 Jul, 2017

Hebron is an especially contentious territory, because both Jews and Muslims revere a same site as the traditional burial place of the biblical patriarchs and matriarchs.

For the Palestinians the move is more than just a diplomatic and moral victory as it recognises the outstanding universal value of a city inhabited by more than 200,000 Palestinians and a few hundred odd Israeli settlers.

Palestinians eagerly welcomed the resolution as affirming their belief that the historic site belongs exclusively to them.

"Of course this did not prevent the UNESCO World Heritage Committee last Friday from passing yet another delusional resolution which determined that the Tomb of the Patriarchs, the same Cave of Machpelah, is a Palestinian heritage site". "Shame on @UNESCO", he wrote on Twitter after the decision taken in a secret ballot by the World Heritage Committee meeting in Krakow.

"Despite a frantic Israeli campaign spreading lies and distorting the facts about the Palestinian rights, the world has recognised our right to register Hebron and the Ibrahimi Mosque under Palestinian sovereignty", the statement added.

Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman responded by calling UNESCO a "politically slanted organization, disgraceful and anti-Semitic, whose decisions are scandalous", Haaretz reported. "The global community should be aware that efforts such as the Palestinian campaign to claim holy sites through UNESCO, not only undermines efforts to build Israeli-Palestinian trust, but reinforces the perception among Israelis and Jews around the world that the Palestinians do not recognize the Jewish connection to Israel and are not serious partners to peace". UNESCO has passed several other resolutions to this effect in the past.

When the Hebron Rehabilitation Committee thanked the World Heritage Committee, it did not mention the word Jewish or Christian in connection with Hebron or the Tomb of the Patriarchs.

"Clearly, this was yet another politicized, anti-Israel maneuver manufactured by the Palestinian Authority", said Yishai Fleisher, the worldwide spokesman for the Hebron Jewish Community.

"Israel won't renew cooperation with UNESCO as long as it continues to serve as a tool for political attacks instead of a being a professional organization".

Her comments came within hours of the UN's main cultural heritage body, awarding the old city of Hebron, endangered status and recognising it as a Palestinian area.

All this points to the fact that the United Nations recognises the diplomatic battle that Palestinians are faced with day after day, while also understanding the significance of the city of Hebron.

"The city of Hebron is an open archive of history, it's so important to protect these sites, which are under threat from the Israeli occupation", he said. "And it further discredits an already highly questionable United Nations agency".

The tomb is considered the second holiest place in Judaism and was constructed by Jews in Hebron 2,000 years ago.

Gheit also credited the Palestinian leadership and its diplomacy with the success, Afify said. "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".

Arabs massacred 69 Jews there in 1929.

That's the goal of at least one Palestinian leader.

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