The Heritage Committee of the UN’s Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) adopted on Friday a Palestinian request to declare Hebron’s Old City—and with it the Cave of the Patriarchs—as a Palestinian World Heritage Site.
Israel’s efforts to foil the resolution failed after 12 member states voted in favor of the resolution, three voted against it, and six abstained.
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While Poland, Croatia, and Jamaica asked for a secret ballot vote on the resolution to enable at least one nation that doesn’t have diplomatic ties with Israel to vote against the resolution, the vote was not held in a voting booth, but rather out in the open with each representative marking their vote on the ballot from their seats.
“Despite the agreement with the Polish chairman, who promised to ensure the secret ballot vote will be done in a voting booth, the ‘secret’ vote was held in front of all, in the middle of the hall, with dozens of eyes and cameras around every voting representatives,” Israel’s Ambassador to UNESCO Carmel Shama-Hacohen said. “This nixed the possibility one Arab nation would vote for us.”
Arab nations were also able to thwart Israeli efforts to soften the resolution’s language, bringing the original resolution draft from June 30 to a vote instead of an amended version.
The initial version distorted and misrepresented an International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS) report, which determined the Palestinian claim does not meet any of the three criteria needed for recognition of the Cave of the Patriarchs and Hebron’s Old City as a Palestinian World Heritage Site. Furthermore, ICOMOS determined, the Palestinian request ignores most of the Jewish and Christian history of the site.
The recommendations section of the Palestinian resolution draft removed findings from the report unfavorable to the Palestinians, leaving only the claim that Israel refused to allow the ICOMOS delegation access to the site.
Upon discovering this, Shama-Hacohen turned to UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova, who ordered the document be altered accordingly. But the Arab nations protested the change, and the committee decided to vote on the original language.
Israel slams decision
“We’ve done all we could and beyond that,” a visibly upset Shama-Hacohen said after the vote. “The Poles reneged on our agreement with them and sold us out to benefit the Arab gang.”
The Israeli ambassador also said a phone call he had just received from his plumber was more important than the “disgraceful” decision UNESCO made.
“I’m sure the Israeli government will consider how to respond, including sticks and carrots to the relevant bodies, to ensure Jewish life and heritage in Hebron will not only not suffer, but prosper,” he added.
Before the vote, Shama-Hacohen slammed the mayor of Hebron, who was at the UNESCO gathering, reminding member states the mayor was a convicted terrorist with Israeli blood on his hands.
He also slammed Cuba for refusing to stand during a minute of silence in memory of the victims of the Holocaust and instead asked to stand in memory of Palestinian victims.
Shama-Hacohen didn’t spare his rod from the German ambassador either after the latter failed to condemn the Cuban ambassador’s behavior.
“Do you represent the German government with your disgraceful behavior?” Shama-Hacohen asked the German Ambassador in anger. “Is there no difference between Anne Frank and a Palestinian woman who stabs innocent Israelis with a knife? I ask that you clarify your shameful actions and you insist on not doing so.”
Israel’s Ambassador to the UN Danny Danon called the vote “a disgraceful decision that destroys any shred of credibility UNESCO had left,” adding that “this grave attempt to cut the ties between Israel and Hebron and the graves of the fathers and mothers of our people is an ugly move, which is offensive to the Jewish people.”
Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman condemned the decision, calling UNESCO “a politically biased, disgraceful and anti-Semitic organization, which passes outrageous decisions.”
“No resolution from this irrelevant organization can hurt our thousands of years old historical right over the Cave of the Patriarchs, or our right over Israel,” Lieberman added, further saying he hoped the US helps defund UNESCO.
“This decision also proves, once more, that the Palestinian Authority is not looking for peace, but rather to incitement against and besmirching of Israel in the world,” the defense minister concluded.
Deputy Defense Minister Eli Ben-Dahan dismissed the resolution, saying, “If the Palestinians try to pass a resolution in UNESCO that the world was square, a majority would be found for that as well. That’s the level of credibility a UNESCO decision has.”
He added, however, that “fortunately, the majority of the world, including the Muslim world, understands one cannot just erase the rich past of a people and a nation and replace it with made-up and rewritten history of a made-up Palestinian people.”
Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked joined the chorus of condemnation, saying the resolution “is another stain on the international organization and on each of the countries that voted in favor of it.”
She noted that “The Cave of the Patriarchs and Hebron are not just Jewish heritage sites, but also sites over which the people of Israel have a historical, possessory and legal right, based to international law as well.”
Shaked vowed to “work to ensure our right over these important sites will be realized.”
By Ynet News