The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) voted to inscribe Hebron’s Old City and Hebron’s Ibrahimi Mosque in the occupied West Bank on the World Heritage in Danger list on Friday, despite diplomatic efforts by Israel and the United States to block the move.
The resolution, filed by the Palestinian Foreign Ministry, Ministry of Tourism, Hebron municipality, and Hebron rehabilitation committee, argued that Hebron’s Old City urgently needed protection from Israeli violations in the area that harmed the exceptional international value of the site.
Friday’s vote asserted that Hebron’s Old City and the mosque will be registered in UNESCO’s World Heritage List, and also stated that the two sites are to be recognized as being in danger, meaning that each year UNESCO’s World Heritage Committee will convene to discuss their case.
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas stated that the resolution’s passing was “due to Palestinian diplomacy and the support of our friends in the world,” and added that it was passed “despite the pressure exercised on many states by Israel and the United States,” according to Palestinian news agency Wafa.
The Palestine Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a press release that UNESCO had made “the only logical and correct decision,” describing the move as a “victory for tolerance and diversity.”“This vote celebrated facts and rejected the shameless high-profile political bullying and attempts at extortion,” the ministry said, and argued that Hebron’s Old City and the mosque have been “under threat due to the irresponsible, illegal, and highly damaging actions of Israel, the occupying power, which maintains a regime of separation and discrimination in the city based on ethnic background and religion.”“Inscribing Hebron as World Heritage under threat rejects the exclusionary ideology that fought this inscription based on prejudice and the rejection of others,” the statement continued, and expressed gratitude for member states that approved the decision for “(promoting) tolerance, preserving world heritage, and (rejecting) the toxic tirades of exclusivity and exclusion.”
A statement released by the Palestinian Minister of Antiquities and Tourism Rula Maaya stressed the importance of the “historic event” that she said confirmed the Palestinian identity of Hebron and the Ibrahimi mosque, which “by its heritage and history, belongs to the Palestinian people.”
Maaya said the recognition would help protect the site from the “ongoing Israeli violations and continued attempts to Judaize the site,” and said the vote also represented a rejection of Israeli claims over the Ibrahimi mosque, which is known to Jews as the Tomb of the Patriarchs.
The minister also claimed the inscription would benefit the Palestinian tourism sector by drawing visitors to the site, and would also attract development projects geared towards preserving Hebron’s cultural heritage and rehabilitating tourist infrastructure.
Palestinian authorities have planned to introduce the site for consideration on UNESCO’s World Heritage List for years
, but recently decided to fast track the site’s application owing to routine Israeli violence in the Old City, which Palestinians have claimed threatens the integrity of the Ibrahimi Mosque, and instead propose the area as an endangered site.
Hebron’s Old City, which is under full Israeli military control, is home to some 30,000 Palestinians and around 800 Israeli settlers who live under the protection of Israeli forces. The Ibrahimi Mosque, where the Prophet Abraham is believed to be buried, has been a focal point of violence for decades, as the site is holy to both Muslims and Jews and has been a prime site for Israeli settler activities in the area.
The holy site was split into a synagogue and a mosque after US-born Israeli settler Baruch Goldstein massacred 29 Palestinians inside the mosque in 1994. Since the split, Muslim worshipers have been denied access to the site during Jewish holidays and vice versa in effort to prevent violence from erupting.