UNESCO to vote on measure denying Jewish ties to Hebron

Nomination of Hebron
In 2012, the Palestinian delegation to UNESCO nominated Hebron to be included in the World Heritage List. Since then, the site has only been included on UNESCO’s tentative list, having never been deemed qualified for the official list.
In January 2017, the Palestinian delegation submitted a request for Hebron to be included in the UNESCO World Heritage Centre’s List of World Heritage in Danger. In March 2017, they updated their request to “Emergency Basis” so that it would be voted on during the 41st session of the UNESCO World Heritage Committee in July 2017.
Here is what is included in the original 2012 Palestinian nomination of Hebron for the World Heritage List:

  • The nomination refers to “Hebron/al-Khalil” as an “Islamic city”
  • It defines Hebron’s geographical position as “on the natural crossroads of Southern Palestine, Sinai, Eastern Jordan, and Northern Arabia”
  • It refers to the Cave of the Patriarchs/Me’arat ha-Makhpela as the “Haram ash-Sharif, otherwise known as the Ibrahim Mosque”
  • When it refers to the Cave of the Patriarchs in English, it calls it the “Tomb of the Prophets” (The Jewish Patriarchs are prophets in Islam, but not patriarchs)
  • The nomination compares the site to “the Medina of Marrakech and Fez in Morocco, the Kasbah of Algiers in Algeria, the Medina of Tunis in Tunisia, Islamic Cairo in Egypt, the ancient cities of Aleppo and Damascus in the Syrian Arab Republic.”

Click here to see the Palestinian delegation’s 2012 nomination for Hebron to be included in the UNESCO World Heritage List.
ICOMOS Expert Opinion
The International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS) inspects all nominations to the World Heritage List to provide an expert opinion to UNESCO.
Here are highlights from the 2017 ICOMOS evaluation of the Hebron nomination:

  • “the association of the wider town of Hebron with Jewish and Christian as well as Islamic culture has not been highlighted even thought extensive remains testify to these links”
  • “Unlike other historic cities in the region with rich Mamluk heritage, such as Cairo, Jerusalem, Damascus, or Aleppo that experiences considerable developments during the Ottoman period which drastically changed their urban fabric, the Old Town of Hebron/al-Khalil had more modest changes that did not affect the urban structure and layout of the Mamluk city.”
  • “ICOMOS consideres that there appears to be the potential for a strong case to be made for considering Hebron as a pilgrimage centre but to support this Tell Rumeida would need to be included and a clearer focus on sites relating to Jewish heritage.”

ICOMOS concluded in its report that it “considers that the comparative analysis has not so far justified consideration of this property for the World Heritage List” and rejected that the nomination meets any of the three criterion that is should be scored by.
Click here for the ICOMOS Report.
Ambassador Nikki Haley Pens Letter to UN Secretary-General and UNESCO Director-General
“The Tomb of the Patriarchs, which is sacred to three faiths, is in no immediate threat. Such a designation risks undermining the seriousness such an assessment by UNESCO should have.”
“Many precious sites — from the Democratic Republic of Congo to Libya to Iraq to Syria — are under real and imminent threat of destruction today. They urgently demand UNESCO’s full and immediate attention, which should not be wasted on this sort of symbolic action.”
“As the United States is engaged in trying to increase the chances of a peace deal that is in the best interest of both Israelis and Palestinians, this effort at UNESCO… is particularly ill-timed and unfortunate,” Haley went on. “I hope you will join the United States in opposing this measure.”

UN Watch