B'nai B'rith International Denounces UNESCO's World Heritage Sites Committee for Invoking Emergency Action to Include Church of the Nativity on List
On June 29, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) World Heritage Committee voted to inscribe on an “emergency” basis the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem as a site in “Palestine” on the agency’s World Heritage List. B’nai B’rith International condemns those who voted for this measure, among them France—which, unlike virtually all its counterparts, publicly announced its support for the measure in advance.
The Palestinians brought this to a vote on an “emergency” basis, insinuating that Israel had caused the site to become endangered. However, a World Heritage panel of experts determined that the church does not qualify for emergency consideration and recommended that the committee’s 21 member countries reject the Palestinian bid. Senior Christian leaders in the Holy Land had themselves quietly expressed opposition to the measure.
“The Palestinians have defamed Israel, and misappropriated a Christian holy site to this end, by insinuating that the wellbeing of the Church of the Nativity is threatened by Israel,” said B’nai B’rith International President Allan J. Jacobs.
The church, which remains in ongoing use and receives millions of tourists, is under the direct control of the Palestinian Authority. Palestinians, then, should be expected to exercise their ability to provide the ancient site with the care it needs, if it needs care.
The measure passed by a vote of 13-6, with two abstentions. Though the vote was held by secret ballot, eligible voting members included Algeria, Cambodia, Colombia, Estonia, Ethiopia, France, Germany, India, Iraq, Japan, Malaysia, Mali, Mexico, Qatar, Russia, Senegal, Serbia, South Africa, Switzerland, Thailand and the United Arab Emirates.
“The Palestinians have once again successfully politicized the U.N. system to serve their goals, importing tension and conflict into the world body and devaluing the World Heritage process,” said B’nai B’rith International Executive Vice President Daniel S. Mariaschin.
At the same meeting, among other sites added to the World Heritage List were a series of four adjacent caves in the Mount Carmel region in northern Israel. These caves join six other Israeli sites already on the World Heritage List in the cultural category.
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