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PA Plan: Use UN to Cement Claims to Jewish Holy Sites

The PA plans to use anticipated membership in UN committee to make claims on Jewish holy sites in Judea, Samaria.
By Maayana Miskin
First Publish: 10/10/2011, 2:54 PM

Tomb of the Patriarchs in Hevron
Tomb of the Patriarchs in Hevron
Israel News photo: David Wilder

The Palestinian Authority plans to use membership in the United Nations’ UNESCO cultural committee to lay claims to Jewish holy sites, PA ministers said Monday, speaking to Reuters.

PA Minister of Culture Hamdan Taha said the PA would seek World Heritage status for several sites, beginning with Bethlehem. The PA has already had some success in claiming Bethlehem sites for the Arab world – in 2010, UNESCO agreed to declare the Tomb of Rachel a mosque and “an integral part of the occupied Palestinian territories.”

UNESCO also agreed to criticize Israel for declaring the Tomb of the Patriarchs (Me'arat Hamachpelah), in which most of the Jewish patriarchs and matriarchs are buried, an Israeli heritage site. The organization responded to Israeli protests by erasing them from the record; Israel responded by cutting ties with UNESCO.

The PA will seek UNESCO recognition for its claims in Hevron as well, Taha said. It will also seek recognition for Shechem, the Shomron (Samaria) city that is home to Joseph’s Tomb.

“We think that every old city has the right to prepare a nomination file” for heritage site status, Taha said.

Another site the PA hopes to earn heritage status for is the Dead Sea, he stated.

The PA bid to seek full UNESCO membership has led to conflict as the U.S. warns that by accepting the PA, UNESCO will be putting its U.S. funding at risk. U.S. Secretary of State termed UNESCO’s decision to vote on PA membership “inexplicable,” and said the group should leave voting to the United Nations.