|The Palestinian flag is raised alongside the UNESCO flag for the |
first time, at the Tomb of the Patriarchs in Hebron in Dec. 2011.
(Hazem Bader/AFP/Getty Images)
[AS ALWAYS PLEASE GO TO THE LINK TO READ GOOD ARTICLES IN FULL: HELP SHAPE ALGORITHMS (and conversations) THAT EMPOWER DECENCY, DIGNITY, JUSTICE & PEACE... and hopefully Palestine]
Destruction and Appropriation of Palestinian Heritage
For almost a century, Palestinian cultural heritage located in what is today Palestine and Israel has been subjected to destruction and appropriation by different administrations. Since 1967, Israel has damaged and destroyed historical, cultural, religious and natural sites throughout the OPT. Immediately after the occupation, Israeli authorities razed the Moroccan Quarter in the old city of Jerusalem and seized historical and religious buildings, such as the Palestine Archaeological Museum (now known as the Rockefeller Museum).
Since its illegal annexation of East Jerusalem, which is not recognized by any other country, Israel has subjected the city's cultural heritage to its national legislation. Ongoing archaeological projects include the "City of David" park, located in East Jerusalem’s Silwan neighborhood. In October 2011, the Israeli High Court ignored Israel’s obligations under UNESCO treaties and protocols and deemed the archaeological works as consistent with Israel's domestic law.
An equally shocking example is the Simon Wiesenthal Center's construction of the Museum of Tolerance in West Jerusalem, which entailed excavations at the ancient Mamilla Cemetery with hundreds of exhumations of graves and remains. Dating from the 7th century, the cemetery was designated as an antiquities site in 1944 by the British Mandate authorities. The excavations continue in violation of Israel’s obligations under the 1972 UNESCO’s World Natural and Cultural Heritage Convention and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. The US Center for Constitutional Rights has filed a petition to U.N. bodies and the Swiss government on behalf of Palestinian descendants of those buried at the Mamilla Cemetery in Jerusalem.
In the West Bank, Israeli military operations in the Old City of Nablus in 2002 resulted in extensive damage of cultural heritage, including structures dating to the Roman, Byzantine and Ottoman eras. Some have argued that the 2002 Israeli military attack of the Church of the Nativity was a war crime. Israel has, in addition, used archaeology as a pretext to forcibly transfer Palestinian residents, demolish villages and gain territorial control over Palestinian land to further its illegal settlement project and exploit the OPT’s natural resources.
There is a strong argument that each of these cases violates Israel's legal obligations as a party to the 1954 Hague Convention and its First Protocol, as well as its obligations under other international laws. Even the US State Department 2009 religious freedom report notes the discriminatory nature of Israel's policy in protecting and funding only Jewish holy sites while neglecting many Muslim and Christian sites, many of which are "threatened by property developers and municipalities." However, to date, Israel's legal obligations have not been enforced.
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|A Palestinian holds his national flag in front of the Nativity Church in |
Bethlehem, Palestine's first listed World Heritage Site. (Ammar Awad)
The first installment of a two-part policy brief from Al-Shabaka, the Palestinian Policy Network.
Al-Shabaka is an independent non-profit organization whose mission is to educate and foster public debate on Palestinian human rights and self-determination within the framework of international law.
The policy brief is co-authored by Valentina Azarov and Nidal Sliman.
Palestine gained membership of UNESCO in 2011 but its representatives have not yet made best use of this new status due in part to pressure by Israel and the United States. Al-Shabaka Policy Member Nidal Sliman and Guest Author Valentina Azarov review the value of UNESCO in the quest to fulfill Palestinian rights and to apply the relevant international law instruments to the case of Palestine.
They make a compelling argument that Palestine can gain significant practical advantages from its UNESCO membership, including reasserting sovereignty over its land and sea and obliging third states to hold Israel accountable for its obligations.
Why UNESCO Membership Is Important...READ MORE