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Paris, 18 September 2023

Madam Director-General,

As the Israeli Delegation and the Wiesenthal Centre left the World Heritage Committee (WHC) in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, homeward for Rosh Hashanah (the Jewish New Year 5784), “Palestine” accomplished its annual heritage grab, yet again claiming “danger” to hasten the WHC’s voting process.

The prehistoric site of Tell es-Sultan/ancient Jericho dates back to 10,000 BCE, whereas the first historical references to that site are in the Jewish Holy Scriptures and situated during the Bronze Age (around 1,500 BCE).

Therefore, the claim by President Abbas that the site “testifies to the authenticity and history of the Palestinian people” is clearly a political provocation, forcefully extorting the backing of UNESCO.

Striving to build an identity and a historical narrative, since 2011, “Palestine” is effectively misappropriating Jewish and Christian heritage sites and culture – such as the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem or the Tomb of the Patriarchs in Hebron...

Today, what points to only Tell es-Sultan prehistoric ruins might rapidly turn to other Judeo-Christian sites and heritage tomorrow.

This will pave the way for next year’s possible demand over the “Dead Sea Scrolls and the Qumran caves and monastery,” that are already on the Palestinian “shopping list”. The Dead Sea Scrolls in particular shed light on Judaism and the roots of Christianity and have no connection whatsoever to “Palestine”.

An aggravating factor is the “consensus” process, a format that includes all voting member-States who under a closed ballot might have voted otherwise.

Finally, we call on UNESCO to follow the regular calendar of World Heritage Committee meetings – usually occurring in June/July – rather than beginning September, which often coincides with Jewish and other high holidays.


Dr Shimon Samuels
Director for International Relations
Simon Wiesenthal Centre

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