Ramallah: Palestinians have welcomed the decision of the United Nations’ cultural agency UNESCO’s designation of Hebron’s Old City, including Ibrahimi Mosque, in the occupied West Bank as a World Heritage site.
Although UNESCO’s final resolution emphasized the importance of the site to Jews, Christians and Muslims, it was totally rejected by Israel. The World Heritage Committee of UNESCO passed the resolution at its 41st session with a secret ballot. Israel opposed the resolution, passed 12-3 with six abstentions, using only religious-laden terminologies. From prime minister to president, to defense minister, the Israeli attack focused on a claim that the resolution was “anti-semitic.”
The site where Abraham, who is the father of the three monotheistic religions, and his family are buried is in the heart of the Palestinian territories that are illegally occupied by Israel. The UNESCO World Heritage Committee resolved that the old city of Hebron/Al-Khalil was a world heritage site in danger.
PLO executive committee member Hanan Ashrawi welcomed the UNESCO resolution, saying she was happy with the “important decision that is part of the incremental effort aimed at curbing Israeli attempts of theft and destruction of our sites, and the collective character of Palestine.” Ashrawi said Israel had been trying to “impose a monolithic reality on historical Palestine.”
Rula Ma’ayah, Palestinian minister of tourism, said that the UNESCO resolution was passed despite extreme pressure on member states. “The fact that it was passed overwhelmingly, despite being held in secret, shows how deep the international will is on this issue.” Ma’ayah said the decision would improve Palestinians’ morale. “We feel that we are not alone now and that there is an international body that is also concerned about the preservation of this historical site.”
Hebron Governor Kamel Hamed said the resolution showed that Hebron is important to the whole world. “With its cultural and human heritage, this decision shows that Hebron is important to the entire world and not just Palestinians,” Arab News reported quoting Hamed as saying. Khaled Qawasmi, an elected member of the Hebron City Council, said he hoped that the Hebron Municipality and the committee to rebuild Hebron would “take good care of this heritage and act in a unified way to ensure its preservation for future generations.”
Nayef Hashlamoun, president of Al-Watan Center, described the decision as “a signal” of world support to the Palestinian people. “This is a just and human resolution which stresses the Arab identity of Hebron with its heritage, culture, building and history.”