The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) expressed deep disappointment that the UNESCO World Heritage Committee succumbed to the politicized Palestinian bid to put Bethlehem's Church of the Nativity on the list of endangered World Heritage Sites.
"With this vote, the UNESCO World Heritage Committee has forsaken its responsibility for protecting the world's most important and sacred sites, and has proven to be another hackneyed, politicized body," said Abraham H. Foxman, ADL National Director, who added that the United States should, therefore, "re-evaluate the value of remaining a member of UNESCO.”
"We do not dispute that the Church of the Nativity is a treasured and sacred site that could qualify for special status," Foxman said. "We dispute the process, which supported the Palestinian's cynical strategy to circumvent World Heritage procedures and facetiously claim the site to be endangered. In bowing to this perverted Palestinian bid, the committee ignored the recommendations of their own advisory council's investigation and the entreaties of the church's own religious leadership who must live with the practical implications of this decision."
ADL expressed appreciation to the six countries that voted against the measure in keeping with established procedures and norms. Thirteen countries voted in support of the designation, and two abstained.
The Palestinian Authority applied for expedited World Heritage status for the church, which is one of the most holy sites in Christianity, claiming it was endangered. This procedure is generally used for sites deemed to be in dire physical danger of destruction, but since that is not the case, many claim that the PA is using it to further its own politicized agenda.
Moreover, in a letter leaked to the media, the three guardians of the Church, Theophilus III, the Patriarch of Jerusalem, Pierbattista Pizzaballa, the Custos of the Holy Land, and Archbishop Torkom Manoogian, Patriarch of the Armenian Church, wrote to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas opposing the authority's bid for emergency UNESCO status.