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September 18, 2014 / 23 Elul, 5774
At a Glance

Posts Tagged ‘UNESCO’

Russia Scuttles Anti-Israel Resolutions at UNESCO

Thursday, October 18th, 2012

In a rare instance of breaking step with the Arab world, Russia’s envoy to the United Nations Education, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) caused the organization to defer condemning Israel in a series of votes on Wednesday.

Five resolutions proposed by the Palestinian Authority, Jordan, and Syria were scuttled by Russia, which presented a plan to delay the resolutions for 6 months in order to send a UN fact-finding team.  The plan passed, with France the only European country to vote against.

The resolutions accuse Israel of trying to change the character of Jerusalem by conducting archaeological digs without the approval of former occupying country Jordan, allowing Jewish prayer on the Temple Mount, allowing Jews to live in Judea and Samaria, neglecting education in Gaza, and alleged mistreatment of the Druze residents of the Golan.

UNESCO considers the entire Old City of Jerusalem and its surrounding walls as a world heritage site.

The Palestinians Reveal the Jewish Connection to Palestine

Thursday, September 13th, 2012

The Palestinians have inadvertently contributed to the truth of the historic relationship of Jews with the land of Israel.

How?  By asking the World Heritage Committee (WHC) of UNESCO to recognize Battir, a village about 5 miles west of Bethlehem, as a World Heritage Site and add it to the 936 sites already maintained by UNESCO.  Unwittingly, the Palestinians have given the world the opportunity to learn about a historic relationship.

The Palestinians in October 2011 were granted full membership in UNESCO, which they hoped would lead to international recognition of a state of Palestine.  As a consequence of this membership, they are a party to the proceedings of the WHC, which has 21 changing members, presently including Russia, Qatar, Algeria, and the United Arab Emirates, but not including the United States or Britain.

The request regarding the recognition of Battir is connected with the Palestinian’s more ambitious claim to be accorded by UNESCO the heritage over the basilica of the Church of the Nativity, regarded as the birthplace of Jesus, and the Pilgrimage Route, Bethlehem.  Already, UNESCO has designated two Jewish sacred sites — Rachel’s Tomb, the burial place of the matriarch Rachel, the wife of Jacob, and the Cave of the Patriarchs in Hebron — not as Jewish holy sites, but as mosques.  Only the United States voted against this proposal that was approved by 44 of the 58 members of the board of UNESCO.

The claim made by the Palestinians for Battir to be recognized as a Heritage Site is ostensibly based on its unusual topography of historic terraces and its Roman irrigation system.  The Palestinian Authority (PA) asserts that that it is a “historically sensitive area … where a millenary irrigation system is still in use to water the vegetable gardens of Battir.”  The village, which has grown in recent years to a population of 4,000, does have seven natural springs, an old Roman bath, and an irrigation system that waters fruit and vegetables.

However, the reason for the Palestinian request is more political than aesthetic.  The PA argues that Israel is planning to build part of its security fence through the valley and that it will damage a site that it claims, in accordance with the UNESCO operational guidelines concerning the acceptance of World Heritage Sites, is “representative of a culture.”

The Palestinian complaint is that the Israeli fence will deny the ability of the residents to enjoy their natural heritage and sustain the land.  The village, they argue, should be maintained as a landmark of Palestinian and humanitarian heritage.  The complaint has gone to the Israeli Supreme Court, which will adjudicate the question of the exact route of the fence, whether it should be rerouted, and whether the route is in accordance with Israeli security considerations.

All will almost certainly acknowledge the pleasant nature of the village and its picturesque character.  Yet the Palestinians’ ambitious claim is deficient in a number of ways.  Though the Roman irrigation system is historically interesting, in fact, the village gets most of its water from the West Bank Water Department, the public water network established in 1980.  The village has grown substantially since then, and the natural heritage there is threatened more by increased housing development than by any Israeli action.  Moreover, pretty though the area might be, it does not meet the objective requirements of UNESCO — namely, that a Heritage Site be a place of beauty, of importance, and of outstanding universal value.

But most important, the Palestinians have unwittingly drawn attention to the historic Jewish relationship with and claim to the land of Palestine.  The original name of Battir was Betar, the last fortress of Bar Kochba (son of a star) in his revolt against the Romans in 132-135.  The revolt led to the creation of an independent state of Israel over parts of Judea for over two years before being crushed by the Roman army of six legions.  The result was the killing of thousands of Jews — perhaps half a million — and the loss of Israeli independence and of Jewish religious and political authority.  The Romans did not allow the Jews to bury their dead in Betar.

A Jewish entity was not again the center of religious, cultural, and political life until the 20th century, but Betar remained an important symbolic reminder of the Jewish past.  The Revisionist Zionist youth movement, formed in 1923 by Vladimir Jabotinsky, took its name from the fortress.  The movement played a role in fighting against Nazi Germany in World War II.  Interestingly, Jabotinsky’s main political opponent, David Ben Gurion, is said by some to have taken his Hebrew name from one of the generals who fought in Betar.

When Rules Don’t Count, Anything Goes

Wednesday, July 11th, 2012

UNESCO proved once again that UN rules mean nothing if they get in the way of furthering an anti-Israel agenda.

It will be recalled that last October, an overwhelming majority of UNESCO members voted to recognized “Palestine” as the organization’s 195th member despite the fact that the Palestinian Authority did not, by any measure, meet the established standards for statehood. Last week, UNESCO again broke its own rules and indulged the Palestinians by accepting a Palestinian bid to list the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem on UNESCO’s World Heritage List and to have it located in “Palestine.” The PA is nominally in control of day-to-day governance in Bethlehem but Israel remains in overall authority as to who and what goes in and out.

This prompted a statement by Hanan Ashwari, who leads the PLO Department of Culture and Information, applauding the development as “a welcome recognition by the international community of our historical and cultural rights in this land.”

Further, not only were the rules for statehood again ignored by the “Palestine” reference, but the church was also placed on the List of World Heritage in Danger, which UNESCO’s technical and administrative staff advised was wholly inappropriate, since it in no way met the operative standard of “imminent danger.” And while UNESCO fictively attributed the “danger” to damage from water leaks, Palestinian officials spun the listing that the site itself is endangered by Israel.

Thus, Ms. Ashwari said in a statement that the UNESCO decision

emphasizes that Israel must be bound by international law and treaties, particularly pertaining to its illegal and detrimental measures as a belligerent occupant and as a major threat to the safety and the responsible preservation of that important segment of human civilization in Palestine.

Palestinian officials briefing reporters also claimed the UNESCO action represented a vote in favor of self-determination and cultural rights for the Palestinian people.

Predictably, the PA is now saying that following its UNESCO success respecting the Church of the Nativity it will seek to have additional religious West Bank sites recognized by UNESCO as endangered World Heritage sites. And given past experience, they will be successful. Regrettably, these obvious farces have gained legitimacy in the anything-goes universe of anti-Israel activism.

Carmel Caves Voted a UNESCO World Heritage Site

Monday, July 2nd, 2012

On the heels of UNESCO’s decision last week to name the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem as “Palestine’s” first World Heritage Site, the UN body voted to list the Nahal Me’arot Nature Reserve as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Nahal Me’arot (the Carmel Caves), located on the western slopes of Mount Carmel in northern Israel, are a group of prehistoric caves where early man lived continuously for hundreds of thousands of years. The caves were first excavated in the 1920s and 1930s; tools, animal bones, and human burials found in the Caves have “contributed greatly to the understanding of the physical and cultural evolution of man in the early phases of his existence,” according to a statement on the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs website.

Nahal Me’arot joins seven other World Heritage sites located in Israel. These are: the Old City of Jerusalem; the Bahá’i Holy Places in Haifa and the Western Galilee; the Biblical Tels of Megiddo, Hazor, and Beer Sheba; the Incense Route – Desert Cities in the Negev; Masada; the Old City of Acre; and the White City of Tel-Aviv.

Of course, the most dubious recent addition by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization was the Church of the Nativity, not least because it was admitted as a site under a state that does not exist – ‘Palestine’. This was made possible by the UNESCO’s vote last October to admit Palestine as a full member.

“This is proof that UNESCO is acting out of political considerations and not cultural ones,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said at the time. “The world must remember that the Church of Nativity, which is sacred to Christians, was desecrated in the past by Palestinian terrorists.”

PA to UN: Make Church of Nativity World Heritage Site in State of Palestine

Wednesday, June 13th, 2012

The Palestinian Authority will attempt to register the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem as a world heritage site in the country of Palestine when the World Heritage Committee meets in Russia from June 24 to July 6.

Bethlehem, situated just outside of Jerusalem, is the resting place of the Matriarch Rachel, and features prominently in the biblical story of Ruth, as well as in that of her great-grandson, King David.  It is also significant in Christian theology as the birthplace of Jesus, and became home to a church commemorating his alleged birth at the site.  In the years following Oslo, Bethlehem has become overwhelmingly Arab and Muslim in population.

Earlier this month, the committee announced it would be considering registration of 36 heritage sites around the world, including the Church of the Nativity, which was submitted for consideration by the Palestinian Authority.  This marks the first time the committee has contemplated listing a world heritage site as Palestinian.

The PA has a right to submit its request for the Church of the Nativity recognition because the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) recognized Palestine as its 195th member state in October, giving Palestine full state rights in all UNESCO bodies, including the right to register sites on the World Heritage List.  The UN General Assembly has not recognized Palestine as a state.

The PA seeks to register the church and an associated pilgrimage path under an emergency provision for endangered sites.  The International Council on Monuments and Sites has recommended that the PA application be rejected, as it found the site to be neither under imminent threat or severely damaged.  The group recommended the PA resubmit its application for regular consideration by the World Heritage List.

Committee members  to consider the application include Algeria, Cambodia, Colombia, Estonia, Ethiopia, France, Germany, India, Iraq, Japan, Malaysia, Mali, Mexico, Qatar, Russian Federation, Senegal, Serbia, South Africa, Switzerland, Thailand and the United Arab Emirates.

Say No To UNESCO Waiver

Wednesday, February 22nd, 2012

We were disappointed by the Obama administration’s announcement that it intended to ask Congress to waive a ban on funding UNESCO because of its recognition of Palestinian statehood.

U.S. funding for UNESCO, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, was stopped late last year because of laws banning U.S. funding of any international organization that recognizes Palestinian statehood in the absence of a peace agreement with Israel. American law bars U.S. contributions to “any affiliated organization of the United Nations which grants fall membership as a state to any organization or group that does not have the internationally recognized attributes statehood.”

Unfortunately, at the time of the UNESCO controversy, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, while urging the Palestinians to back off their effort to win UNESCO recognition and warning UNESCO stay out of the political thicket, also told reporters she was “strongly making the case to members of Congress that at some point we need some flexibility because pretty soon, if we don’t pay into these organizations, we lose our right to participate and influence their actions.”

Perhaps. But it would seem a matter of fundamental statecraft that there is no profit in ignoring national law. What is the message when a government seeks an end-run around its own laws in a transparent effort to accommodate an adversary?

As New York Congressman Gary Ackerman put it, while he supports the work of UNESCO, “actions have consequences…. We told the other members of UNESCO that U.S. law would compel us to withhold our funding…. Now both we and they have to live with the consequences…”

Obama Seeks Continued Funding of UNESCO, Despite Recognition of ‘Palestine’

Thursday, February 16th, 2012

WASHINGTON (JTA) – The Obama administration formally announced its intention to ask Congress to waive a ban on funding UNESCO over its recognition of Palestinian statehood.

“The Department of State intends to work with Congress to seek legislation that would provide authority to waive restrictions on paying the U.S. assessed contributions to UNESCO,” says a footnote in the budget that the White House submitted to Congress this month.

The footnote was quoted in a press release issued Wednesday by Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.), the chairwoman of the U.S. House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee, who says she plans to oppose such a waiver.

U.S. funding for UNESCO, the United Nations educational, scientific and cultural organization, was stopped late last year because of laws banning U.S. funding of any international organization that recognizes Palestinian statehood in the absence of a peace agreement with Israel.

The Palestinians launched a bid last year to achieve statehood recognition through the U.N. and its affiliates.

The bid’s virtually only success was with UNESCO, which granted the Palestinians membership. But after the U.S. stopped funding for the body, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon warned against Palestinian efforts to push for recognition in other U.N. bodies.

At the time, State Department officials had suggested they would seek a waiver on the funding ban.

Ros-Lehtinen said that waiving the provision could start the statehood ball rolling again.

“Any effort to walk back this funding cutoff will pave the way for the Palestinian leadership’s unilateral statehood scheme to drive on, and sends a disastrous message that the U.S. will fund UN bodies no matter what irresponsible decisions they make,” she said in a statement.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/news/us-news/obama-seeks-continued-funding-of-unesco-despite-recognition-of-palestine/2012/02/16/

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