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Palestinians Protest as Israel Seeks Control of Archaeological Sites in Occupied Territories

Posted On: 18-07-2023 | National News , Culture
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 In light of the recent coverage by Israeli media regarding the Israeli government's approval of a new law granting occupation authorities control over archaeological sites in Palestinian territories, and the announcement today by the Israeli government to resume direct work on Palestinian archaeological sites and extend its control over them, allocating a massive budget of 150 million shekels under the pretext of development and maintenance of heritage sites in the occupied West Bank, including 32 million shekels to annex the archaeological site of Sebastia and isolate it from its surroundings.

According to sources, this budget will be allocated to develop archaeological sites in the West Bank with the aim of increasing the number of visitors among settlers and continuing the policy of Judaization pursued by the Israeli occupation government.

The ministry stated that this decision aims to acquire and control Palestinian tangible and intangible heritage, falsifying its reality with a fabricated biblical narrative that serves settler ideological policies and motivations. It also aims to annex more of the occupied Palestinian lands, resulting in depriving the Palestinian people of their land and heritage, and robbing them of their cultural identity of humanitarian value. This decision is a serious and unprecedented violation of the Declaration of Principles Agreement for 1993 (Oslo 1), the Interim Agreement for 1995 (Oslo 2), and other subsequent agreements between the Palestinian and Israeli sides.

According to the ministry, this decision also constitutes a violation of all international agreements and conventions related to the protection of cultural properties under occupation, including the Hague Convention of 1907, the Fourth Geneva Convention of 1949, the Hague Convention of 1954 concerning the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict, UNESCO recommendations of 1956 preventing occupation from conducting archaeological excavations in occupied areas, the International Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export, and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property of 1970, the Convention Concerning the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage of 1972, Security Council resolutions on the protection of cultural properties, and other international resolutions and recommendations related to cultural properties in the occupied Palestinian territories.

The Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities confirmed that since its establishment, it has been working to protect Palestinian cultural heritage to the best of its capabilities and has succeeded in protecting, restoring, rehabilitating, and developing a large number of these sites according to scientific and international standards, despite all the obstacles caused by the continued occupation and its arbitrary measures.

The ministry called on all relevant international bodies and organizations to work towards halting these escalatory actions and hold the occupation authorities accountable for their responsibilities as an occupying force, immediately stopping the encroachment on Palestinian national heritage, and transferring full responsibility for all archaeological sites in the occupied Palestinian territories to the Palestinian government, in accordance with the signed agreements between the two sides, allowing the ministry to continue its responsibilities in protecting, developing, and promoting Palestinian heritage according to internationally recognized methodologies and standards.

The Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities also affirmed that it will monitor and respond to the actions taken by the occupation authorities regarding Palestinian archaeological sites and has prepared the necessary plan to confront such actions.

For his part Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh warned today that Israel seeks to control all Palestinian archeological sites in the West Bank under various pretexts, calling on UNESCO to shoulder its responsibility toward these sites and protect them.

Speaking at the start of the weekly cabinet meeting held in Ramallah, Shtayyeh said that Israeli aggression and settlers’ terrorism has been on the rise against Palestinian archeological sites such as historical Sebastia, in the north of the West Bank, and Husan village with its water springs and pools in the south.

He warned that the Israeli occupation authorities and settlers want to turn these sites, some included on UNESCO’s World Heritage List, into tourism and religious sites for the settlers by taking full control over them and preventing any Palestinian presence in these areas.

Turning into another subject, the Prime Minister described as racist a decision by the Israeli Mekorot water company to reduce the water share for the Hebron and Bethlehem governorates.

“This is a dangerous racist and discriminatory measure that deprives our people in these two governorates of their most basic rights to water while doubling the quantities of water for the benefit of the settlers,” he said. “While the average Palestinian per capita water consumption does not exceed 72 liters per day, the Israeli consumes 320 liters per day.”

Israel controls all Palestinian water resources in the occupied West Bank and sells back the water to the Palestinian for high prices.

The Prime Minister also welcomed the adoption by the Human Rights Council of a resolution calling for updating the database of companies operating or engaged in direct or indirect activities in the illegal Israeli settlements, thanking the countries that sponsored and supported this resolution given its importance in the annual updating of the database of companies that contribute to the Israeli colonization system.

He called on the countries that did not support this resolution to reconsider their positions and stop encouraging the occupation authorities to continue their crimes, noting that the positions of these countries is not anti-human rights only, but also against international law.

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