The Iran Project

UNESCO votes to declare al-Khalil’s Old City ‘a heritage site’

Press TV – UNESCO has approved a Palestine-proposed resolution, declaring the Old City of al-Khalil (Hebron) a protected heritage site in a secret ballot despite Israeli attempts to thwart the vote.

On Friday, the UN’s cultural arm voted 12 to three — with six abstentions — to give heritage status to al-Khalil Hebron in the occupied West Bank, which is home to more than 200,000 Palestinians and a few hundred Israeli settlers.

“Just inscribed on @UNESCO #WorldHeritage List & World Heritage in Danger List: Hebron/Al-Khalil Old Town,” the organization said on its official Twitter feed.

Proposed by the Palestinians, the resolution declared al-Khalil’s Old City to be an area of outstanding universal value.

The vote irked the regime in Tel Aviv, which had reportedly been involved in a campaign to thwart the UNESCO vote. Emmanuel Nahshon, a spokesman for the Israeli ministry for foreign affairs, called the decision by the “irrelevant organization” as a “moral blot.”

‘Win for diplomatic battle’

However, Palestinians hailed UNESCO’s listing as a success for diplomacy.

“This vote is a success for the diplomatic battle fought by Palestine on all fronts, in the face of Israeli and American pressure on member states,” the Palestinian Foreign Ministry said.

The Gaza-based resistance movement, Hamas, also said the measure was an “affirmation of our full rights in Hebron and all Palestinian land.”

“Despite a frantic Israeli campaign spreading lies and distorting the facts about the Palestinian rights, the world has recognized our right to register Hebron and the Ibrahimi Mosque under Palestinian sovereignty,” the statement added.

The Old City of al-Khalil is home to the Ibrahimi Mosque, one of the key holy sites in the Muslim world.

Al-Khalil’s Old City ‘a pure Muslim site’

A day earlier, a Palestinian official said Tel Aviv was seeking to thwart Palestinian efforts to include the Old City of al-Khalil on UNESCO’s List of World Heritage in Danger

Deputy Mayor of al-Khalil Yousef al Jabari made the remarks to a group of journalists visiting the Old City of al-Khalil on Thursday, one day prior to UNESCO’s vote on the matter.

Jabari described Ibrahimi Mosque as a “pure Muslim” site and said, “We will do everything we can [for] this place to remain a mosque, and a mosque for Muslim worshipers only.”

With the latest vote, the Old City of al-Khalil becomes the third site registered under “Palestine” since the UNESCO recognized it as a member state in 2011.

Jabari argued that he did not recognize Jewish ties to the Old City.

“The real religious Jews do not come and pray in the cave (Ibrahimi Mosque). It is only settlers who come to pray. It is not the religious Jews. If Jews think they have a connection or ties to [Ibrahimi Mosque], why do only settlers go to this site?” he asked.

According to Palestine’s Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities, the old city of al-Khalil urgently needed protection from “assaults that harm the exceptional international value of the place.”

On June 30, US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley wrote to UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres and UNESCO Director General Irina Bokova, claiming that Ibrahimi Mosque “is in no immediate threat. Such a designation risks undermining the seriousness such an assessment by UNESCO should have.”

She further expressed hope that other countries would join the US in opposing the measure.

A view of the Ibrahimi Mosque the Old City of al-Khalil in the southern West Bank on June 29, 2017(Photo by AFP)

Palestine’s Foreign Ministry hit back at Haley, accusing her of being “racist and anti-Palestinian” and serving as an ambassador for Israel, rather than the US at the UN.

It also condemned “the crude intervention of the US ambassador in the work of UNESCO and the attempt to influence the independence of the UN organization.”

Israel an ‘occupying power’

On Tuesday, the UNESCO passed a resolution, denouncing Israel’s “illegal” practices in East Jerusalem al-Quds and describing the regime as an “occupying power.”

The resolution slammed “the failure of the Israeli occupying authorities to cease the persistent excavations, tunneling, works, projects and other illegal practices in East Jerusalem [al-Quds], particularly in and around the Old City of Jerusalem, which are illegal under international law.”

It further called Israel “the occupying power” and reaffirmed UN resolutions that rejected the regime’s claims to East Jerusalem al-Quds.

Hamas spokesman Abudllatif al-Qanoun welcomed the vote, saying that UNESCO’s resolution demolishes the false Israeli narrative and asserts the Palestinian right in Jerusalem al-Quds and al-Aqsa Mosque.

PA spokesman Yousef al-Mahmoud also hailed the resolution and called on the international community to “enforce these decisions on the ground in order to lift injustice, oppression and domination practiced by the occupying power against our steadfast people in the city of Jerusalem and against its Islamic and Christian holy places.”

Israel occupied the West Bank and East Jerusalem al-Quds during the Six-Day War in 1967. It later annexed East Jerusalem al-Quds in a move not recognized by the international community.

Israeli UN Ambassador Danny Danon condemned UNESCO’s resolution and said, “Nothing is more disgraceful than UNESCO declaring” Israel the occupier of the Western Wall and Jerusalem al-Quds’ Old City.

Last year, UNESCO adopted a similar resolution, titled Occupied Palestine and sponsored by several Arab countries.

The previous resolution “strongly condemns the escalating Israeli aggression and illegal measures against… the freedom of worship and Muslims’ access to their holy site al-Aqsa Mosque/al-Haram al-Sharif.”

Enraged by such anti-Israel measure, Tel Aviv has cut ties with UNESCO and reduced its UN budget, putting the 2017 payments at $3.7 instead of the original $11 million.c

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