UNESCO slams Israeli occupation of Palestinian sites

PNN/Bethlehem

In the beginning of April, in a resolution, UNESCO stated that the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound, know for Jews as the ‘Temple Mount’ and holy sites in Hebron and Bethlehem are an “integral part of Palestine.” The organization also criticized Israel, “the occupying power,” for planting fake graves in Muslim cemeteries.

Two tourist destinations, the Cave of the Patriarchs in the heart of the old city of Hebron and Rachel’s Tomb in Bethlehem, are named in the paper as “Palestinian sites.”

The draft decision by the UNESCO executive board on occupied Palestine was released April 11.

The organization “strongly condemns the Israeli aggressions and illegal measures against the freedom of worship and Muslims’ access to their Holy Site Al-Aqsa Mosque/Al-Haram Al Sharif, and requests Israel, the Occupying Power, to respect the historic Status Quo and to immediately stop these measures,” the statement says.

UNESCO called on Israel to stop “banning Muslims from burying their dead in some spaces and by planting Jewish fake graves in other spaces of the Muslim cemeteries.”

The organization also criticized “the continuous Israeli blockade of the Gaza Strip,” which causes an “intolerable number of casualties among Palestinian children,” as well as “the attacks on schools and other educational and cultural facilities and the denial of access to education.”

Israeli authorities have reacted with anger to the UNESCO document.

“This is yet another absurd UN decision,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said, as cited by Israeli media. “UNESCO ignores the unique historic connection of Judaism to the Temple Mount, where the two temples stood for a thousand years and to which every Jew in the world has prayed for thousands of years. The UN is rewriting a basic part of human history and has again proven that there is no low to which it will not stoop,” he added.

The document was passed by 26 votes to six – those against being the US, the UK, Germany, the Netherlands, the Czech Republic and Estonia.

A part of the resolution follows:

OCCUPIED PALESTINE DRAFT DECISION

Submitted by: Algeria, Egypt, Lebanon, Morocco, Oman, Qatar, and Sudan

I. – I.A Jerusalem

The Executive Board,

1. Having examined document 199 EX/19,

2. Recalling the provisions of the four Geneva Conventions (1949) and their additional Protocols (1977), the 1907 Hague Regulations on Land Warfare, the Hague Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict (1954) and its additional Protocols, the Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property (1970) and the Convention for the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage (1972), the inscription of the Old City of Jerusalem and its Walls at the request of Jordan on the World Heritage List (1981) and on the List of World Heritage in Danger (1982), and the recommendations, resolutions and decisions of UNESCO on the protection of cultural heritage, as well as resolutions and decisions of UNESCO relating to Jerusalem, also recalling previous UNESCO decisions related to the reconstruction and development of Gaza as well as UNESCO decisions on the two Palestinian sites in Al-Khalil/Hebron and in Bethlehem,

3. Affirming that nothing in the present decision, which aims, inter alia, at the safeguarding of the cultural heritage of Palestine and the distinctive character of East Jerusalem, shall in any way affect the relevant Security Council and United Nations resolutions and decisions on the legal status of Palestine and Jerusalem,

4. Deeply regrets the Israeli refusal to implement UNESCO previous Decisions concerning Jerusalem particularly 185 EX/Decision 14 and notes that its request to the Director-General to appoint, as soon as possible, a permanent representative to be stationed in East Jerusalem to report on a regular basis about all the aspects covering the fields of competence of UNESCO in East Jerusalem,has not been fulfilled and reiterates its request to the Director-General to appoint the abovementioned representative;

5. Deeply deplores the failure of Israel, the Occupying Power, to cease the persistent excavations and works in East Jerusalem particularly in and around the Old City, and reiterates its request to Israel, the Occupying Power, to prohibit all such works in conformity 199 EX/PX/DR.19.1 Rev. – page 2 with its obligations under the provisions of the relevant UNESCO conventions, resolutions and decisions;

6. Thanks the Director-General for her efforts to implement previous UNESCO decisions on Jerusalem and asks her to maintain and reinvigorate such efforts.

The complete resolution here.