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“Jordanian fears of a Saudi takeover of the Custodianship for Jerusalem Holy sites, together with Palestinian suspicion of U.S. support for Riyadh, seemed to have split the UNESCO Arab group, thus permitting the so-called 'depoliticization' of the scheduled Jerusalem and Hebron resolutions – as insisted by the firm Azerbaijan Minister of Culture and Chairman of the Committee.”

“Even if non-binding and adopted without debate or vote, the very passage of these resolutions scapegoats the Jewish heritage and are an insult to the Jewish people” ... “The resolutions will reappear at the Paris meetings of the UNESCO Executive Board in October and the General Assembly in November.”

Baku, Azerbaijan, 5 July 2019

5 July 2019
Dr. Shimon Samuels with Dr. Abulfas Garayev, Azerbaijan Minister of Culture
and Chair of Baku World Heritage Committee.

Wiesenthal Centre Director for International Relations and Chief Observer to UNESCO, Dr. Shimon Samuels, directed the following statement to the UNESCO Secretariat:

“My last intervention at the World Heritage Committee was two years ago in Crakow, when I found myself in the company of a former Mayor of Hebron. He had reportedly murdered six Talmudic students in the Cave of the Patriarchs.

How had he been registered to attend this assembly is still a serious unanswered question, especially as the Hebron Resolution comes up again.

The Wiesenthal Centre is the only Jewish NGO accredited to this Committee. Our worldwide membership exceeds 400,000 Jews, Christians and a growing number of Muslims. Our Centre holds the highest NGO status at UNESCO as Associate Partner.

We are here to endorse Jewish heritage sites such as Moises Ville in Argentina, Krasnaya Slobodna/Qirmizi Qesebe in Azerbaijan and other sites in the pipeline. 

We do not speak for the State of Israel – which together with the United States decided to leave UNESCO. We address this Committee only for our constituency. In the cases of Jerusalem and Hebron, however, we are a voice of World Jewry and Judaism itself.

I came here from a Geneva UN meeting on Jerusalem organized by the ‘Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People’ (CEIRPP). There, the speakers’ aim was clear – the de-Judaization of Jerusalem and the Holy Land.

The Palestinian people, indeed, have an inalienable right to its own heritage. But their narrative cannot be validated by the I.D. theft of Jewish heritage.

Since our first participation in the World Heritage Committee in the year 2000 – held in Cairns, Australia –, we felt pride in the Committee's conservation and preservation work, on that occasion regarding a discotheque opened in Auschwitz-Birkenau.

In 2011, that focus had been overshadowed by constant Palestinian demands on Jewish heritage and their wish list even includes the Western Wall and the Qumran Dead Sea Scrolls.

The German strategist von Clausewitz called diplomacy ‘a war by other means’. Today, heritage is its battlefield.

For the Jewish people and Judaism, manoeuvres such as ‘consensus’, ‘Annex’ and the adoption of cosmetically presented resolutions, to be regurgitated every year, are an offence.

The passage of these resolutions is still an acceptance of a distorted annual antisemitic litany of ‘violations by the Occupying Power’ (Israel) in the Old City of Jerusalem and its Walls and Hebron/Al Khalil with the Cave of the Patriarchs, presented by ‘the State Parties’ (Jordan and the Palestinians). This is language offensive to Jews everywhere.

We feel a palpable fatigue in this Chamber, that yearns for the pristine professional agenda to which the World Heritage Committee was bound.”


Annex:  At the Geneva meeting, a Palestinian official announced a series of measures in international organizations and principally UN agencies:

- In the World Court (ICJ), against the United States’ transfer of its Embassy to Jerusalem;

- The UN Security Council, to protest the opening of a tunnel under the City of David and Jerusalem municipality plans for a cable-car to cross the Ben Hinnom valley for tourism. The latter would replace a rusty funicular to Mount Zion in the Old City, used to feed Jews under Arab siege in 1948. It became defunct during the succeeding 19 years of Jordanian occupation;

- In 2012, the Palestinians received the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem as their heritage, which was listed as an endangered site. 

In Baku, this week, the WHC removed the site from the danger list, to a paroxysm of applause from across the auditorium. Notably, Christian leaders remained seated.