The Palestinian Authority has asked UNESCO to protect Hebron’s Old City from Israel, in a letter to the organization urging that the site be inscribed on its World Heritage List in Danger next month.
The Palestinian delegation to United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, in a letter to the World Heritage Center, spoke of “alarming details about the Israeli violations in Al-Khalil/ Hebron, including the continuous acts of vandalism, property damage, and other attacks.”
The letter was written to the center’s director Metchtild Rossler in March but obtained only on Wednesday by The Jerusalem Post.
“Some of the above mentioned violations have irreversible negative effect on the integrity, authenticity and/or the distinctive character of the property,” the letter said.
The PA initially intended to propose inscribing Hebron’s Old City – including the Tomb of the Patriarchs and the Cave of Machpela, what it calls the Ibrahimi Mosque – on the World Heritage List in 2018, but decided to try getting it inscribed this year through an emergency procedure that places it on a list of endangered properties.
Israel, the Palestinian delegation said, has also ignored 10 resolutions by UNESCO’s executive board. Previous Palestinian complaints to UNESCO about the site have also been ignored, the delegation said.
It presented the World Heritage Center with a lengthy list of alleged Israeli violations in over the last three years in Hebron’s Old City and at the Tomb, including refusal to allow Muslim worshipers access to the site and failure to make necessary repairs.
On its list of complains was the placement of security barriers by the Tomb of the Patriarchs and in Hebron’s Old City, as well as an attempt by Jewish residents of the city to purchase property. The Palestinian delegation also protested the use of tear gas in the Old City.
The International Council on Monuments and Sites, which makes recommendations with regard to the World Heritage List, has yet to issue a report on Hebron. It has request permission from Israel to visit the area but has yet to receive a reply.
Israel defended itself against Palestinian allegations in a letter its Ambassador to UNESCO in Paris Carmel Shama Hacohen wrote to World Heritage Center Director Rossler on June 15.
“This Palestinian initiative is politically motivated, completely unfounded and intended to embroil the World Heritage Committee… in a highly sensitive issue, already drawing the attention of Israeli public opinion and Jewish Organizations around the world,” Shama Hacohen wrote. “By listing fallacious accusations regarding alleged actions taken by Israeli Authorities in and around the Cave of the Patriarchs, the Palestinian Delegation to UNESCO wishes to create the impression that Israel is adopting unilaterally measures which have a bearing on the soundness of ‘the Site.’”
Shama Hacohen gave an example from April 2018, in which the Civil Administration at the request of the Wakf, made repairs to the Herodian structure that houses both the tomb and the mosque.
“The inscription of the Old City of Hebron as a Palestinian World Heritage Site in Danger will stir resentment and fierce reactions in Israel and throughout the Jewish world. This is why we ask to reject the Palestinian request to discuss this sensitive issue,” Shama Hacohen said.
The 21 member states of the World Heritage Committee will vote on Hebron, along with 34 other sites, during its 41st session that it will hold in Krakow, Poland.