UN Ambassador Haley Slams Upcoming UNESCO Hebron Vote as ‘Wasted Symbolic Action,’ Urges Focus on ‘Precious Sites Under Real Threat of Destruction’
The US Ambassador to the UN, Nikki Haley, has strongly criticized the Palestinian campaign for the Tomb of the Patriarchs and the Old City in the West Bank town of Hebron to be recognized as “Endangered World Heritage Sites” by UNESCO, the UN’s global cultural agency.
The Palestinian proposal is scheduled to be put to a vote on Friday, during the 41st meeting of UNESCO’s World Heritage Committee which began last Sunday in the Polish city of Krakow.
In a letter addressed to UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres and UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova – a copy of which was seen by The Algemeiner – Haley stated the Tomb of Patriarchs, which is “sacred to three faiths, is under no immediate threat.” To designate it as an “endangered” site, Haley said, risks “undermining the seriousness such an assessment by UNESCO should have.”
“Many precious sites – from the Democratic Republic of Congo to Libya to Iraq to Syria – are under real and imminent threat of destruction today,” Haley said.”They urgently demand UNESCO’s full and immediate attention, which should not be wasted on this sort of symbolic action.”
A key holy site for the Jewish faith under Israeli control since 1967, the Tomb of the Patriarchs – known as the Machpelah Cave in Hebrew – houses the tombs of Abraham and his wife Sarah, their son Isaac, and their grandson Jacob and his wife Leah.
Since 2009, when the “State of Palestine” gained entry to UNESCO, the Palestinian strategy has been to force UNESCO to consider Jewish holy sites such as the Cave of the Patriarchs and the Western Wall in Jerusalem – which they refer to as the “Al-Buraq Wall” – as Palestinian world heritage sites.
In May, as Israel celebrated its 69th Independence anniversary, UNESCO approved a resolution that condemned what it called Israel’s “illegal” presence in Jerusalem.
That resolution stated that “all legislative and administrative measures and actions taken by Israel, the occupying Power, which have altered or purport to alter the character and status of the Holy City of Jerusalem, and in particular the ‘basic law’ on Jerusalem, are null and void and must be rescinded forthwith.”
Holy sites outside Jerusalem were also included in the resolution. Two shrines sacred to Jews — the Cave of the Patriarchs in Hebron and Rachel’s Tomb in Bethlehem — were defined by the resolution as the “two Palestinian sites of Al-Haram Al-Ibrahimi/Tomb of the Patriarchs in Al-Khalil/Hebron and the Bilal Ibn Rabah Mosque/Rachel’s Tomb in Bethlehem.” Both, the resolution said, “are an integral part of the Occupied Palestinian Territory.”