The United Nations Educational, Scientific, Cultural Organization (UNESCO) on 7 July 2017 declared West Bank city of Hebron a heritage site, an issue which triggered a new Israeli-Palestinian clash.
UNESCO passed an anti-Israel resolution by voting to have the Tomb of the Patriarchs, in the Old City of Hebron in the West Bank, to be inscribed as a Palestinian World Heritage Site in Danger.
The voting took place along with a secret ballot at the UNESCO World Heritage Committee’s 41st annual summit in Krakow, Poland with 12 countries voting in favour of the move, while three opposed it and six countries abstained.
Generally, votes to inscribe sites onto UNESCO’s World Heritage List are usually done by a show of hands among all the member states. But three countries Poland, Croatia and Jamaica requested a secret ballot.
The members of this year’s World Heritage Committee include five countries with which Israel does not have diplomatic ties, and a number of others that routinely support pro-Palestinian resolutions.
The 21 member states are Angola, Azerbaijan, Burkina Faso, Croatia, Cuba, Finland, Indonesia, Jamaica, Kazakhstan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Peru, Philippines, Poland, Portugal, South Korea, Tunisia, Turkey, Tanzania, Vietnam and Zimbabwe.
About Tomb of the Patriarchs
The Tomb of the Patriarchs is considered as a sacred place as the Biblical burial place of the Jewish patriarchs and matriarchs.
With this declaration, Tomb of the Patriarchs is now the third cultural site on UNESCO’s List of World Heritage in Danger that located in the State of Palestine. The other two are the birthplace of Jesus in Bethlehem and the cultural landscape of Southern Jerusalem.
Earlier in July 2017, the World Heritage Committee passed a resolution denying Israeli claims to the Old City of Jerusalem. Israel condemned the text, although it was much softer than similar resolutions passed in previous years.
This resolution is originally a contentious 2016 resolution that denies any legal or historical Israeli links to Jerusalem. This resolution was ratified by UNESCO’s executive board in May 2017.. The resolution also criticized the Israeli government for its archaeological projects in the capital and in Hebron.
In the resolution, the UN agency mentioned that Hebron (and Bethlehem) was an integral part of the Occupied Palestinian Territory. However, Israeli officials angrily rejected the resolution, despite its softened language.