(JNi.media) Earlier this week, the UNESCO World Heritage Committee voted 13-2, with five abstentions, to keep the Old City of Jerusalem on its list of endangered World Heritage sites. That sounds harmless enough, seeing as Jerusalem is one of the culturally dense cities on the planet, probably the densest, while being at the center of so much violence: terrorist bombings, Molotov cocktails thrown at Jewish homes and cars, Arab drivers charging their cars into unsuspecting pedestrians, violent clashes between Palestinian youths and police on Temple Mount. There’s plenty of evidence supporting the holy city being endangered.
But that, apparently, was not on the minds of the Heritage Committee when it took its vote. In fact, the resolution does not mention even once the possibility that Arab violence might play a role in the danger the Eternal City is facing every day.
In fact, the words Arab or Palestinian are not mentioned in the resolution text. Jordan is mentioned twice, in relation to the report by the Waqf, which was adopted on its face, while the comprehensive Israeli report, answering in great detail every one of the points raised by the committee, was ignored in its entirety.
Moreover, no one over in Bonn, Germany, even bothered, it seems, to fix the error in translation from the original Arabic to English. And so, for instance, The UNESCO resolution is “deeply concerned by the persistence of the Israeli illegal excavations and works conducted by settler groups in the Old City of Jerusalem and on both sides of its Walls.”
The term “settlers” is attached regularly by Arab media to any Israeli doing anything outside what is perceived as pre-1967 Israel. In this context, it reaches an absurd imagery, which was totally lost on the authors, of archaeology-craving settlers, wrapped in their tzitzis, digging up historic treasures.
Now, the reference to the excavations being illegal has nothing to do with whether or not those archaeologist have obtained the proper permits for their projects, but with the fact that they’re working on the wrong side of the 1949 armistice line, in an area Israel annexed after 1967.
The problem is that the purpose of the UNESCO heritage project is not to decide political issues, but to protect cultural sites, such as those archaeological relics that are being demolished en-masse by Islamic State fighters in Iraq and Syria, or Buddhist temples blown up by the Taliban in Afghanistan. Now, that would be the UNESCO kind of illegal.
Indeed, there are six sites in Syria alone the current resolution is concerned about, but they all are dealt with after the biggest problem site — Jerusalem.
UNESCO also “Regrets the damaging effect of the Jerusalem Light rail (tram line) at few meters from the Walls of the Old City of Jerusalem.”
No one knows what those damaging effects could possibly be. Since the invention of the automobile, those sturdy walls have done just fine standing as they do, a few meters from Jerusalem’s perpetually jam-packed streets. If anything, the light rail helps the situation by reducing traffic.
UNESCO also hates the new “City of David National Park” in Silwan (note the use only of the Arabic version of the name) at a distance of twenty meters from the Walls of the Old City.
The City of David National Park was intended to provide protection to the walls, keeping them away from construction, in a modern Jerusalem that is as skyscraper hungry as any modern metropolis. The park includes a lovely promenade, and important sites of archaeological excavations, and the Ophel Archaeological Garden, with finds from Solomon’s Temple period.