Israel

Israel Slams UNESCO Vote Calling Hebron a Palestinian Historical Site

Israeli officials slammed UNESCO on Friday after it passed a Palestinian-backed resolution calling Hebron “Islamic” and designating its Old City, home of the biblical Tomb of the Patriarchs, as a Palestinian world heritage site in danger.

The vote took place at this week’s World Heritage Committee’s 41st summit in Krakow, Poland, with 12 countries voting in favor, three against, and six abstaining, The Times of Israel reported.

While such votes are usually taken by a show of hands, Poland, Jamaica, and Croatia asked for a secret ballot. However, the secrecy of the vote was compromised as each delegate was required to place an envelope with their vote in a box at the front of the room, in full view of other diplomats, rather than in private. Israel had pushed to have a secret ballot in order to enable moderate Arab countries to vote against the Palestinian bid.

Israeli Ambassador to the UN Danny Danon dismissed the UNESCO decision, saying, “This attempt to sever the ties between Israel and Hebron is shameful and offensive, and eliminates UNESCO’s last remaining shred of credibility. To disassociate Israel from the burial grounds of the patriarchs and matriarchs of our nation is an ugly display of discrimination, and an act of aggression against the Jewish people.”

Earlier this week, UNESCO approved a resolution denying Jewish historical claims to the Old City of Jerusalem. Late last year, the organization also passed two resolutions denying Jewish claims to Jerusalem, just as archaeologists uncovered even more evidence of the centuries-old Jewish presence in Jerusalem.

“They are trying to rewrite Jewish history and the history of the region,” Israeli Foreign Ministry Spokesman Emmanuel Nahshon told Agence France-Presse.

Calling the vote a “success,” Palestinian Authority Foreign Minister Riyad al-Maliki said, “Despite the aggressive Israeli campaign, spreading lies, distorting and falsifying facts about the Palestinian right, the world recognized our right to register Hebron and the Ibrahimi Mosque under Palestinian sovereignty and on the World Heritage List.”

Al-Maliki’s statement indicates that the Palestinian Authority still accepts Article 20 of the Palestinian National Charter, which denies Jewish historical claims to the land of Israel. The article states, in part, “Claims of historical or religious ties of Jews with Palestine are incompatible with the facts of history and the true conception of what constitutes statehood.”

In 1993, PLO chairman Yasser Arafat promised, as part of the Oslo peace process, to revoke elements of the charter that deny Israel’s right to exist. After initially failing to keep his commitment, Arafat specified in a 1998 letter to President Bill Clinton that Article 20 would be among those that would be revoked. In December 1998, the Palestinian legislature officially voted to revoke those sections of the charter that were inconsistent with the Palestinians’ commitment to peace.

[Photo: Gershon Elinson / Flash90 ]