Op-Ed: UNESCO Declares War on Jewish Hevron

Report: The Palestinian Arabs use UNESCO to prohibit and restrict Jews from worshipping at Hevron’s Tomb of the Patriarchs and other holy sites.

Giulio Meotti

The writer, an Italian journalist with Il Foglio, writes a weekly column for Arutz Sheva. He is the author of the book „A New Shoah”, that researched the personal stories of Israel’s terror victims, published by Encounter. His writing has appeared in publications, such as the Wall Street Journal, Frontpage and Commentary.


“Jews will not be permitted to pray at the tombs of Biblical Patriarchs once the sites come under Palestinian control”, proclaimed the late Palestinian Religious Affairs Minister Hassan Tahboub in 1995, referring to the Machpelah Cave in Hevron, Rachel’s Tomb and Joseph’s Tomb.

“We will not allow Jews or Christians to pray in our mosques”.

Seventeen years later, supported by UNESCO and financed by the European governments, the Palestinian Authority feels closer than ever to this project. Now that ‘Palestine’ has been voted into the United Nations Education, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), Palestinian Authority officials are preparing applications for the organization’s marquee designation: „A World Heritage Site”.

The Palestinian Arabs want to use UNESCO to prohibit and restrict Jews from worshipping at Hevron’s Tomb of the Patriarchs.

“It’s a mosque!”, Khaled Osaily, the Mayor of Hevron, said recently. “You don’t have to be an architect to see it! Will you allow me to pray in a synagogue or a church?”.

Several days ago, the Palestinian Rehabilitation Committee raised the UNESCO flag next to the national ‘Palestinian’ flag in front of the Tomb of the Patriarchs. The decision is part of UNESCO’s strategy to erase the Jewish character of the holy sites and city.

Hevron Mayor Osaily just returned from Paris where he took part in a UNESCO conference at the Institut du Monde Arabe in support of adding Hevron’s holy sites to the World Heritage List. “We started a campaign three years ago to add Hevron to the UNESCO list”, Osaily said. “Now the request is ready and we will present it to UNESCO in February”.

To understand why the Palestinian Arabs feel they have a winning strategy about the Jewish holy sites, one has to look at the members of the “International Committee for the preservation and the promotion of the Old City of Hevron”.

You will find Boutros Boutros-Ghali, former Secretary-General of the United Nations and Federico Mayor, former Director of UNESCO. Hamdan Taha is a key figure in this cultural Intifada as the Palestinian Authority minister who deals with antiquities.

Last January, National Geographic magazine ran a “Travel Palestine” ad that appeared to blot out the State of Israel’s existence. Published by Taha’s Ministry of Antiquities, the ad said that “Palestine lies between the Mediterranean coast and Jordan River”.

Taha gets funds and cooperation from UNESCO, the European Union and societies like the Studium Biblicum Franciscanum, a major Catholic institute in Jerusalem. Taha currently manages ten research excavations conducted with foreign funding.

The Dutch government, through UNESCO, just donated 300,000 euros to the Palestinian Authority, meant to finance the excavation of an ancient site outside Nablus, the home of Joseph’s Tomb, one of Judaism’s holiest sites.

The renewed excavations at Tel Balata and the establishment of the archaeological park are being conducted jointly by Taha’s ministry, the Dutch government and UNESCO. Taha hopes that the dig will help in “writing or rewriting the history of Palestine”. Despite Tal Balata being identified with ancient Shechem in Samaria, where the Israelites buried Joseph’s bones when they returned from Egypt, Palestinians now claim that the tomb in reality is the final resting place of a Muslim Sheikh.

The biblical town of Shiloh is another target for Taha’s denial. Despite Shiloh being the capital of the Jewish nation for nearly four centuries and the Jews having brought the Tabernacle there, making Shiloh the religious center of the Israelites before Jerusalem became their capital, Taha is convincing the international community that the Jewish Shiloh never existed:

“In Shiloh the settlers pretended to have found the tabernacle”, he proclaimed. “They can find the chicken bone my grandfather ate 50 years ago and say it was a young calf for ancient sacrifice”.

A feature entitled “Jerusalem, a City Crying Out for Justice” on the PA’s Internet site said that “all historic studies and archeological excavations have failed to find any proof” for the existence of the ancient Jewish Temples in Jerusalem.

The Spanish government financed a joint programme in Hevron and called it „occupied Palestinian territory”. In the UNESCO official documents, Hevron’s Cave is already labelled as “a Palestinian site”.

“Implementation of 186 EX/Decision 12 on ‘The two Palestinian sites of al-Haram al- IbrahimiTomb of the Patriarchs in al-Khalil/Hevron and the Bilal ibn Rabah Mosque/Rachel’s Tomb in Bethlehem’”, says a recent UNESCO resolution.

Over the years, the UNESCO World Heritage Commission erased Jewish life in Hevron by supporting the Palestinian Arab claims. In 2002, UNESCO criticized “the destruction and damage caused to the cultural heritage in the Palestinian Territories, in particular the old City of Hevron”. In 2005 UNESCO decried “the damage inflicted to the cultural heritage of Hevron as well as the new building constructed above the archaeological remains of Tell Rumeida”.

In 2010, it decided that Rachel’s Tomb and Hevron’s Cave are officially “Muslim mosques”.

However, Jewish Hevron is now seriously at risk. Palestinian minister Taha, who says that the Bible is a “mythological narrative”, wants to put together a case to take Israel to the International Court of Justice in the Hague to condemn the Israeli excavations in Hevron, Shiloh, Jerusalem and elsewhere as “crimes against humanity”.

Should Hevron’s site again be placed under Islamic control next February, Jews will no longer be allowed to worship at the holy place as they do in the tens of thousands today, as was the case for 700 years, as the Arabs consider it to be a mosque (and according to Islam, only Muslims may pray in a mosque).

UNESCO’s beaurocrats, sitting in Paris, are following the steps of Sultan Baybars, who barred Jews from the Tomb of the Patriarchs.