GENEVA, June 13, 2012 – The United Nations circulated a draft resolution rejecting a Palestinian bid to list the birthplace of Jesus as an endangered World Heritage site, citing a report by international experts who investigated and dismissed claims that the Church of Nativity was under any specific danger. CLICK HERE FOR UNESCO TEXT.
The draft resolution will be considered by UNESCO’s 21-nation World Heritage Committee at a meeting in St. Petersburg, Russia, later this month. The panel has the power to overturn the expert-drafted text but insiders say that Arab states may not win the required two-thirds majority, noting that Russia, as the host country, may be hesitant to upset an objective evaluation submitted by UN professionals.
“This is the first time in recent memory that a draft resolution circulated by the United Nations — let alone by UNESCO, which recently elected Assad’s Syria to its human rights committee — openly rejected a Palestinian claim or position,” said Hillel Neuer, executive director of the Geneva-based UN Watch monitoring group.
“At the UN, whose General Assembly each year adopts more resolutions criticizing Israel than on the rest of the world combined, this is a spectacle as rare as Halley’s Comet.”
“The reason for the extraordinary occurrence is that the Palestinians just joined UNESCO, and this is their first time using the World Heritage procedure, which, as they may not have realized, is governed in several stages by non-political experts, such as the International Council on Monuments and Sites, instead of the UN’s usual country voting,” said Neuer.
“While there’s no question that holy places are valid heritage sites, the experts’ complete rejection of the Palestinian claims underscores the unfortunate manner in which President Mahmoud Abbas is improperly politicizing a vital process for protecting the world’s culture.”