wnol.info July 20 2018

Israel reduces United Nations funding after Hebron shrine declared Palestinian

July 20 2018, 08:28 | Rex Rios

Israel reduces United Nations funding after Hebron shrine declared Palestinian

Israel reduces United Nations funding after Hebron shrine declared Palestinian

About 1,000 Israeli settlers live in the heart of the city and for years it has been a place of religious friction between Muslims and Jews.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called the move "another delusional UNESCO decision".

"It undermines the trust that is needed for the Israeli-Palestinian peace process to be successful, and it further discredits an already highly questionable United Nations agency".

The city's old souk has also been closed down with Palestinians being forbidden access to it as Shuhada Street now leads to an illegal Jewish only settlement.

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.

The voting took place along with a secret ballot at the UNESCO World Heritage Committee's 41st annual summit in Krakow, Poland with 12 countries voting in favour of the move, while three opposed it and six countries abstained.

But Palestine's minister of tourism, Rula Maayah described it as a "historic development" because it stressed the city and its famous mosque "historically belong to the Palestinian people".

"UNESCO on Friday made a decision to recognise Hebron's Old City and a holy site sacred to both Jews and Muslims as endangered Palestinian heritage sites", an Israeli diplomatic official, who did not wish to be named, said.

Regardless of Israel's course of action, the decision was yet another symbolic victory for Palestinian self-determination.

"It's disappointing and embarrassing to see UNESCO denying history and distorting reality time after time to knowingly serve those who try to wipe the Jewish state off the map", said Naftali Bennet, Israel's education minister and chairman of the Israeli UNESCO committee, according to Israeli news site Haaretz.

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He was convicted in 2014 on charges of accepting bribes to promote a property project in Jerusalem and obstructing justice. The charges pertained to a period when he was mayor of Jerusalem and trade minister before becoming premier in 2006.

Israel's president Reuven (Ruvi) Rivlin also harshly criticized the decision, stating: "The decision by UNESCO proves once again that this is a body determined to continue spreading anti-Jewish lies while remaining silent as the region's heritage is being erased by brutal extremists".

"This time they decided that the Tomb of the Patriarchs in Hebron is a Palestinian site, meaning not Jewish, and that it's in danger", Netanyahu said.

Israel's ambassador to UNESCO Carmel Shama Hacohen laughed off the resolution on Friday, saying his plumbing at home was more important.

United Nations Educational, and Scientific Cultural Organization (UNESCO) declared the Tomb of the Patriarchs, the ancient burial place of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, as Palestinian territory.

Khaled Qawasmi, an elected member of the Hebron City Council, said he hoped that the Hebron Municipality and the committee to rebuild Hebron would "take good care of this heritage and act in a unified way to ensure its preservation for future generations".

From a political perspective, the Unesco listing is bound to help the Palestinians as it will elicit greater interest and support from the global community.

While Maaya said she looks forward to the potential financial boost from an increase in tourism in Hebron, she also thinks foreigners making their way to Hebron, one of the most controversial and unsafe cities in the occupied West Bank, will foster support for the greater Palestinian cause.

"UNESCO unfortunately succumbed to the manipulations of the Palestinian Authority to politicize holy sites", said Jonathan A. Greenblatt, ADL CEO.

Hebron is also a stark symbol of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

She said: "It undermines the trust that is needed for the Israeli-Palestinian peace process to be successful".

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