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Israel 'angry' about UNESCO Hebron decision

Palestinians are often tormented by Israeli settlers in Hebron [Getty]

Date of publication: 7 July, 2017

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While Palestinians welcomed the UNESCO decision, Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu called it “another delusional decision by UNESCO."
The UN cultural agency on Friday declared the old city in the West Bank town of Hebron as a Palestinian World Heritage site, a decision that outraged Israeli officials who say the move negated the deep Jewish ties to the biblical town and its ancient shrine.

The move was the latest chapter in Israel’s contentious relationship with UNESCO, an agency it accuses of being an anti-Israeli tool for its condemnations of Israel for its heinous crimes against the Palestinian people.

While the Palestinians welcomed the action, Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu called it “another delusional decision by UNESCO.”

Read more: Israel 'sad' about UNESCO Jerusalem motion

Both Jews and Muslims revere the same site in Hebron as the traditional burial place of the biblical patriarchs and matriarchs – Jews call it the Tomb of the Patriarchs, while for Muslims it is the Ibrahimi Mosque.

The 12-3 vote, with six abstentions, came on a secret ballot at an annual UNESCO World Heritage Committee meeting in Krakow, Poland. The proposal came from the Palestinian side. Israel contended that its historic links to Hebron were ignored and its ambassador to UNESCO left the session.

UNESCO spokeswoman Lucia Iglesias confirmed that Hebron’s old city was put on the agency’s World Heritage list and on the list of sites in danger. She would not elaborate, saying the exact wording would be decided later.

The decision obliges the World Heritage committee to review its status annually.

“This is a historical development because it stressed that Hebron and the Ibrahimi Mosque historically belong to the Palestinian people,” said Palestinian Minister of Tourism Rula Maayah.

But Israel’s Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely said UNESCO’s “automatic Arab majority succeeded in passing the proposed resolution that attempts to appropriate the national symbols of the Jewish people.”

She added: “This is a badge of shame for UNESCO, who time after time chooses to stand on the side of lies.”

Netanyahu expressed outrage that UNESCO determined the Tomb of the Patriarchs in Hebron “is a Palestinian site, meaning not Jewish, and that the site is in danger.”

“Not a Jewish site?!” he asked sarcastically. “Who is buried there? Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Sarah, Rebecca and Leah – our patriarchs and matriarchs!”

Hebron is known for its extortionately hostile environment due to its high concentration of settler population. Its Palestinian residents live in fear due to Israeli aggression and apartheid. 

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