US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley (AP/Sean Rayford) (AP/Sean Rayford)
US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley

Haley urges the UN to reject a demand to label Hebron a Palestinian heritage site.

US Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley is calling on the UN’s Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) to reject the Palestinian Authority’s (PA) demand to declare the Tomb of the Patriarchs in Hebron a “World Heritage Site in Danger” at the UNESCO’s 41st annual World Heritage Committee conference.

In a letter sent to UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres and UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova on Monday, Haley stated that “The Tomb of the Patriarchs, which is sacred to three faiths, is under no immediate threat. Such a designation risks undermining the seriousness such an assessment by UNESCO should have.”

“Many precious sites — from the Democratic Republic of the Congo to Libya to Iraq to Syria — are under real and imminent threat of destruction today. They urgently demand UNESCO’s full and immediate attention, which should not be wasted on this sort of symbolic action,” she wrote.

While such a resolution would be futile, it could have negative implications for a potential diplomatic process between Israel and the Palestinians, Haley underscored.

“As the United States is engaged in trying to increase the chance of a peace deal that is in the best interest of both Israel and the Palestinians, this effort at UNESCO — the motto of which is ‘Building Peace in the Minds of Men and Women’ — is particularly ill-timed and unfortunate,” Haley warned.

Israel’s Persecution at the UN

Israel’s ambassador to UNESCO, Carmel Shama-Hacohen, thanked Haley for her message.

Haley’s letter “speaks for itself about the absurdity that is the persecution of the Jewish state in every international forum and especially at UNESCO,” Shama-Hacohen said.

“Unfortunately, a new US Ambassador to UNESCO hasn’t yet been appointed, and if only we had on our side here an ambassador who had the determination and the courage of Nikki Haley, the conditions of our battle would be entirely different,” he added.

A report issued Friday by the International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMAS), an advisory body to the World Heritage Committee, said the Palestinians’ request to register Hebron as a Palestinian heritage site had given “little recognition” to the town’s Jewish history.

“Although it is stated that the nominated property is thought to be one of the oldest cities continuously inhabited in the world, the emphasis of the nomination is on a small period of that history in the form of the Mamluk town, apart from the earlier structures of the Al-Ibrahimi Mosque/The Tomb of Patriarchs. This means that the association of Hebron with Jewish and early Christian societies is given little recognition,” the ICOMAS report explained.

The Palestinian request will be up for vote on Friday at UNESCO’s annual World Heritage Committee assembly in Krakow, Poland.

The PA resolution is likely to generate significant support from Arab States and is expected to pass, but Israel hopes it can muster abstention or opposition from European and Western countries.

By: Max Gelber, United with Israel