UNESCO declares Hebron, West Bank, a world heritage site

Israel Has No Sovereignty over Jerusalem UNESCO

Emek Shaveh, an Israeli group of left-leaning archaeologists and activists, said that "rather than squabbling and scoring points", both sides should have agreed on inscribing Hebron as a World Heritage site, but added that the Palestinians could also have expanded on Hebron's importance in Judaism.

No sooner did the decision emerge than Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu took to social media to condemn the move as "anti-Jewish" and reduced the United Nations membership fees contributed by his country by $1 million (Dh3.6 million).

Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman called the United Nations' Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) "anti-Semitic, politically biased and an embarrasement". "It's disappointing and disgraceful that time and again UNESCO denies history and distorts reality, knowingly serving those attempting to erase the Jewish state".

The Palestinian-led move asked UNESCO's heritage committee to recognise Hebron's Old City as a protected heritage site, while also referring to the city as "Islamic". She would not elaborate, saying the exact wording would be decided later.

The secret vote in the Polish city of Krakow saw the Palestinian proposal pass 12 to 3 with six abstentions.

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Rula Maayah, the Palestinian Minister of Tourism, said in a statement it was a "historical development because it stressed that Hebron" and its mosque "historically belong to the Palestinian people", AP reported.

The vote means that Hebron's Old City and the Ibrahimi mosque, the place where an American Jewish settler massacred 29 Palestinians in 1994, will be added as Palestinian World Heritage sites on UNESCO's register.

US Jewish organizations continued to react to the decision with severe criticism of UNESCO on Friday.

The Foreign Ministry labeled the vote a "moral blot" on the world body, while President Reuven Rivlin said that UNESCO seemed "intent on spreading anti-Jewish lies".

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". UNESCO has passed several other resolutions to this effect in the past. It is only in those places where Israel is, such as Hebron, that freedom of religion for all is ensured, " Netanyahu said.

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Israel tries to use Jewish reverence the Ibrahimi mosque in Hebron as a pretext to claim sovereignty over the occupied West Bank city.

"Hebron's Old City and holy site is under threat due to the irresponsible, illegal, and highly damaging actions of Israel, the occupying power, which maintains a regime of separation and discrimination in the city based on ethnic background and religion", the statement said.

Hebron is also a stark symbol of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

"It represents an affront to history".

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Emad Hamdan of the Palestinian Hebron Rehabilitation Committee told the assembly after Friday's vote, "We think we are shouldering the responsibility and you proved you are there to shoulder the responsibility". At issue, however, is less the question of one more Palestinian victory toward statehood, but rather world recognition of Jewish history irrespective of geo-political boundaries.

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