At stormy meet, UNESCO declares Hebron an endangered Palestinian site
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Israel's delegate says 'secret ballot' was unfairly handled

At stormy meet, UNESCO declares Hebron an endangered Palestinian site

Israel says resolution calling the biblical Tomb of the Patriarchs a Palestinian heritage site is 'shameful'; second anti-Israel vote in three days

Israel's ambassador to UNESCO Carmel Shama-Hacohen (R) protests a vote to declare Hebron's Old City, including the Tomb of the Patriarchs, an endangered Palestinian heritage site, on July 7, 2017 (Screenshot/ UNESCO)
Israel's ambassador to UNESCO Carmel Shama-Hacohen (R) protests a vote to declare Hebron's Old City, including the Tomb of the Patriarchs, an endangered Palestinian heritage site, on July 7, 2017 (Screenshot/ UNESCO)

The United Nations Educational, Scientific, Cultural Organization (UNESCO) passed an anti-Israel resolution for the second time in less than a week on Friday, voting in a stormy session to have the Tomb of the Patriarchs, in the Old City of Hebron in the West Bank, inscribed as a Palestinian world heritage site in danger.

The vote took place by secret ballot at the UNESCO World Heritage Committee’s 41st annual summit, which is currently taking place in Krakow, Poland.

Twelve countries voted in favor of the move to inscribe Hebron’s Old City, including the Tomb, as an endangered heritage site, while three opposed it. Six countries abstained.

Votes to inscribe sites onto UNESCO’s World Heritage List are usually done by a show of hands among all the member states. But three countries — Poland, Croatia and Jamaica — requested a secret ballot. Several states objected, leading to a shouting match between delegates, and Israeli Ambassador Carmel Shama-Hacohen storming to the desk of the session’s chairman to make Israel’s case. The kerfuffle ended after the chairman, a Polish diplomat, called in security.

A general view of the West Bank city of Hebron with the Cave of the Patriarchs, on January 18, 2017. (Lior Mizrahi/Flash90)
A general view of the West Bank city of Hebron with the Cave of the Patriarchs, on January 18, 2017. (Lior Mizrahi/Flash90)

Shama-Hacohen accused the session’s chairman of not conducting a truly secret ballot, as the chairman ordered the delegates to come up to the front of the hall and put a sealed envelope into a box in front of the other diplomats. The Israeli envoy claimed he was promised the vote would take place behind a curtain, hoping that would enable delegates from moderate Arab states to reject the Palestinian-led bid.

The membership of this year’s Heritage committee includes five countries with which Israel does not have diplomatic ties, and a number of others that routinely support pro-Palestinian resolutions. The 21 member states are Angola, Azerbaijan, Burkina Faso, Croatia, Cuba, Finland, Indonesia, Jamaica, Kazakhstan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Peru, Philippines, Poland, Portugal, South Korea, Tunisia, Turkey, Tanzania, Vietnam and Zimbabwe.

Israel’s Ambassador to the United Nations Danny Danon slammed the decision.

“This attempt to sever the ties between Israel and Hebron is shameful and offensive, and eliminates UNESCO’s last remaining shred of credibility. To disassociate Israel from the burial grounds of the patriarchs and matriarchs of our nation is an ugly display of discrimination, and an act of aggression against the Jewish people.”

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