Hebron is home to the Tomb of the Patriarchs—the ancient Biblical burial place of Israel’s patriarchs and matriarchs—but that didn’t stop a United Nations cultural organization from passing a resolution labeling the site as located in “Palestine.” Furthermore, the U.N. Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) put the site on it’s endangered heritage site list after Palestinians accused Israel of threatening the site, according to the BBC. Israel was appalled by the decision, which passed in an unusual secret ballot with 12 nations on the committee approving, three opposed and six abstaining.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, in a statement released by his office, said that by calling the site “Palestinian”, UNESCO effectively said it was not Jewish. “Not a Jewish site?! Who is buried there? Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Sarah, Rebecca and Leah—our patriarchs and matriarchs!,” said Netanyahu last Friday. “And the site is in danger? It is only in those places where Israel is, such as Hebron, that freedom of religion for all is ensured. In the Middle East, mosques, churches and synagogues in every other place, are being bombed—in places that are not Israel. We will continue to protect the Tomb of the Patriarchs, freedom of religion for all and the truth.” Israel wasn’t the only nation disturbed by the decision.
United States ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley called the UNESCO move “tragic.” In a statement released by her office, Haley said, “It represents an affront to history. It undermines the trust that is needed for the Israeli-Palestinian peace process to be successful. And it further discredits an already highly questionable UN agency. Today’s vote does no one any good and causes much harm.”
The Americans have already cut funding to UNESCO for admitting the Palestinians as a member state. The U.S. Mission to the U.N. press release said the country is “currently evaluating the appropriate level of its continued engagement at UNESCO.”
Israel, meanwhile, sliced off another $1 million of their dues to the U.N. in response to the decision. Instead, the money will go to supporting heritage initiatives related to Hebron, such as the “The Museum of the Heritage of the Jewish People in Kiryat Arba and Hebron”, according to Netanyahu.
In his comments at the weekly cabinet meeting published by his office, the Israeli Premier also read from the Biblical book of Genesis in which Abraham purchased the tomb in Hebron from locals living there as a familial burial place.
“The connection between the Jewish People and Hebron and the Tomb of the Patriarchs is one of purchase and of history which may be without parallel in the history of peoples,” said Netanyahu, calling the UNESCO resolution on Hebron “delusional.”
More than a third of the UNESCO World Heritage Committee are predominantly Muslim nations, including Lebanon, Turkey and Indonesia. A number of other nations are in the bloc of nations that often vote with Muslim nations, such as Cuba. Just four of the 21 member states are from Europe or other so-called “first world” nations.
This was highlighted by Israeli Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely in a press statement on the UNESCO vote. “The automatic Arab majority succeeded in passing the proposed resolution that attempts to appropriate the national symbols of the Jewish people,” said the Israeli diplomat “…The same automatic majority would also have passed a resolution that the sun rises in the west and not in the east. Israel will not surrender to historic distortion and will continue the fight against the bias of UN institutions regarding Israel.”
(By Joshua Spurlock, www.themideastupdate.com, July 9, 2017)