B’nai B’rith International President Gary P. Saltzman and CEO Daniel S. Mariaschin have issued the following statement:
B’nai B’rith International strongly condemns the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization’s (UNESCO) World Heritage Committee (WHC) for naming Hebron’s Old City and the Cave of the Patriarchs to the list of World Heritage Sites in Danger. The vote took place by way of a secret ballot in Krakow, Poland, at WHC’s 41st session. Out of the 21 member states, 12 countries voted in favor of the anti-Israel resolution, three voted against it and six countries abstained.
Unlike countless cultural and religious sites in the broader Middle East, the Cave of the Patriarchs is in no danger. The Cave of Patriarchs is open to people of diverse faiths. However, until Israel gained control of Hebron in 1967, Jews had not been allowed to enter one of Judaism’s holiest sites for centuries. Israel exemplified its open and tolerant society when the sacred site was opened to all visitors.
By contrast, the International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS)—an advisory body of experts to the WHC—pointed out that the Palestinian proposal focused too heavily only on eras of Muslim rule in the city, giving scant attention to the Jewish historical connection to Hebron and the Cave of the Patriarchs. ICOMOS did not endorse the Palestinian proposal.
The WHC decision is yet another instance of UNESCO erasing and appropriating Jewish history. Using the international community and its institutions to assist the Palestinians in furthering a false narrative is an appalling waste of time and money, and is further proof of global efforts to delegitimize Israel.
UNESCO’s blatant disregard for the history of the Jewish people must end if the organization is to retain any relevance in the future in the areas of cultural and historical preservation.