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News Releases 2012

A Report by the Simon Wiesenthal Centre's Director for International Relations, Dr. Shimon Samuels

St. Petersburg, Russia, 1st July 2012

Today, by a two-third majority of 13 to 6 member states voting and 2 abstentions,the UNESCO World Heritage Committee(WHC) has inscribed "the Birthplace of Jesus, Church of the Nativity,the Pilgrimage Route,Bethlehem" as a Palestinian Heritage site.

St. Petersburg, Russia, 27 June 2012

In a letter to French Foreign Minister, Laurent Fabius, the Simon Wiesenthal Centre's Director for International Relations, Dr.Shimon Samuels, expressed "outraged to learn that France is the only European State-Party to the UNESCO World Heritage Committee(WHC) that will vote in support of Palestinian heritage status over 'The Birthplace of Jesus, the Church of the Nativity and the Bethlehem pilgrimage route'".

The Centre noted that "never in the history of the WHC, has a purely religious site been inscribed on its list". 

Samuels stressed that "france will find itself in direct conflict with the expressed position of the three custodian churches of the Nativity site; the Vatican, the Armenians and the Greek Orthodox".(according to a 11 June letter picked up in an Associated Press despatch released on 23 June in the Daily Star of Lebanon). 

St. Petersburg, Russia, 27 June 2012

As the only Jewish organization accredited to the 36th session of the UNESCO World Heritage Committee meeting in St Petersburg, Russia, the Simon Wiesenthal Centre focussed its proposal on "the role of heritage  as a powerful tool in tolerance-building".

The Centre's Delegate and Director for International Relations, Dr.Shimon Samuels, emphasized its institutional imperative as "the transmission of memory to draw its lessons to contemporary issues of prejudice", adding "each ethnic and faith community in both domestic and national jurisdictions deserves respect for its narrative as a contribution to its host country and to universal heritage.Our Centre thus encourages the States Parties to the World Heritage Convention to celebrate the cultural sites of their minorities". 

Paris, 25 June 2012

In a letter to World Bank President, Jim Yong Kim, the Simon Wiesenthal Centre's Director for International Relations, Dr.Shimon Samuels, "urged an investigation into the meeting in Gaza, reported last week, of Inger Andersen - his Vice-President for Middle East and North Africa - with Hamas political leaders."

The letter noted that "both the EU and US have designated the political and military wings of Hamas as terrorist organizations,which are at this time daily firing missiles into Israel." 

Samuels considered that "Ms. Andersen's statement that Gaza has a fiscal crisis 'could only be facetious'. 

Blog by Dr. Shimon Samuels
published in The Jerusalem Post
13 June 2012

In my youth in England, football was not considered an appropriate pastime for a good Jewish boy. 

Hence my passive appreciation of "the beautiful game" was platonic : "play" for the footballers, "tonic" for me. 

The 8 June opening of the Euro 2012 championship in Warsaw was a personal epiphany.