image Je fais un don

Open letter to Madam Audrey Azoulay, Director-General of UNESCO, Paris
From Dr Shimon Samuels, Wiesenthal Centre Director for International Relations

Paris, 2 August 2023

Madam Director-General,

The Simon Wiesenthal Centre is delighted to inform you of our work concerning World Heritage:

- With Argentina for Moises Ville, the village founded in 1889 by Jewish immigrants fleeing the pogroms in Tsarist Russia and Eastern Europe;

- With the Dominican Republic, as the only State willing to take Jewish fugitives from Nazism, at the 1939 League of Nations conference in Evian. The refugees founded the town of Sosua;

- With Azerbaijan, to seek World Heritage status for the village of Qırmızı Qəsəbə, where the Caucasus region highland Jews had lived for centuries.

Sadly, on the other hand, Madam Director-General, as the Wiesenthal Centre is Associate Partner to UNESCO, we turn to you regarding your policy for depoliticization among the member-States, especially in the case of claims by “Palestine”.

Since its accession to UNESCO in 2011, its policy has been ID theft of Jewish and Christian heritage, through its appropriation of historical sites.

In 2012, the first alarm was the claim that Jesus was a Palestinian – though all historical and religious sources indicate him as Jewish.

This was promptly followed by the demand for the Church (or Basilica) of the Nativity in Bethlehem. Though the site is formally under the custodianship of the Greek Orthodox, the Roman Catholic and the Armenian Apostolic churches, in the current context they hardly risked speaking out freely regarding cases of intimidation... In a visit to Yerevan, the Catholicos of All Armenians admitted to us that he had not even been informed beforehand by the Palestinians, regarding their intention to take control over the Basilica.

Since then, there have been a number of other claims by “Palestine” over both Jewish and Christian heritage sites:

- “Battir, Land of Olives and Vines” – also called Khirbet al-Yahud, “ruin of the Jews”. This is the ancient Hasmonean fortress of Beitar, the base of the Bar Kochba Israelite revolt against the Romans;

- Rachel’s Tomb, the burial site of the Biblical matriarch, claimed as the Bilal bin Rabah Mosque;

- The Western Wall, the holiest shrine of Judaism, renamed as the “Buraq Wall”, to honour Muhammad’s winged steed, Buraq, tethered to the Wall as the Prophet spent the night in Heaven;

- Hebron and the Tomb of the Patriarchs, also known as the Machpelah Caves, claimed as the Ibrahimi Mosque;

- The Qumran Caves and the Dead Sea Scrolls – the oldest manuscripts, mostly in Hebrew, but some also in Aramaic and Greek, of essential historical and religious significance - foundational documents for Judaism and Christianity.

The ID theft of Jewish or Christian sites, heritage and narrative, is how “Palestine” seeks its own validation.

Madam Director-General, we call your attention to Palestine’s voracious appetite, now craving for Jericho, that is a holy site for both Jews and Christians, based on the Biblical story of the Israelite leader, Joshua.

On behalf of our Centre, we urge you to be again consistent with your intent to depoliticize, so that the WHC may focus on the protection and preservation of all heritage sites. This year the World Heritage Committee is to meet in Riyadh. We wish Saudi Arabia, as host, a great success.

Most respectfully,

Dr Shimon Samuels
Director for International Relations
Simon Wiesenthal Centre

* * *

For further information, contact