The Meaning of UNESCO’s Decisions Regarding Jewish Heritage in the Holy Land

UNESCO has unwittingly proved once and for all that the Mideast conflict is religious, not nationalistic, in nature

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The latest UNESCO decision to recognize Hebron and the Cave of the Patriarchs as a threatened “Palestinian” world heritage site sparked a tantrum among Israeli leaders. 

Though it is a given that Hebron is an indisputably Jewish heritage site, in all fairness at least the Cave has become a Muslim heritage site, too. UNESCO’s manifest about old town of Hebron al-Khalil & its environs demonstrates its unforgivable bias that conveniently skips any Jewish history in the area. Yet, to argue that Hebron has nothing to do with Islam is to miss the point entirely.

Stressing the importance of Hebron for Islam inevitably shifts the conflict from the nationalistic to the religious sphere. Whether wittingly or not, UNESCO has agreed to prefer Islam’s version of the Bible, transforms Abraham into the father of Islamic faith. When Prime Minister Netanyahu says in response that Abraham is the father of the Jewish people, he says nothing Muslims don’t know. They would agree, but would also insist that because Jews have forsaken the teachings of the prophets, they no longer belong to the heritage of the prophets, Abraham being the first of them.

Netanyahu and UNESCO demonstrate best of all what happens when the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians is finally placed in its correct context: A fight over God’s inheritance that can never be compromised. 

This sober reality means that the conflict will end only when Israel or the Palestinians accept the other side’s interpretation of the Bible. This, we all know, will never happen. Furthermore, if the conflict is primarily religious in nature, as indeed it is, a Palestinian state should be viewed as a tool designed to achieve a greater Islamic goal, which is to free the Promised Land from the grip of the most vile of infidels, the Jews.

Unfortunately, since its miraculous victory in 1967, Israel has been content to pay little more than lip service to Jewish heritage sites like the Temple Mount and the Cave of the Patriarchs. Even Netanyahu’s decision to divert money from UNESCO to building a Jewish heritage center in Hebron is pathetic. Rather than strengthening living Jews, he has opted for building a memorial for the dead. 

For some, this comes as little surprise, considering that it was Netanyahu who, in 1997, agreed to pull out of Hebron under the Oslo Accords. And it wasn’t only Netanyahu. Every Israeli prime minister since then has been willing to surrender more and more of Hebron, along with its sacred Jewish heritage sites, to the Palestinians. Such a policy leaves the onlooker wondering about the level of Jewish commitment to their heritage.

Nevertheless, UNESCO’s greatest service is in its insistence on clearly revealing the true nature of the conflict. By its consistent decisions denying Jewish heritage in the Holy Land, UNESCO says loud and clear that a significant part of the international community prefers the welfare of Islam over that of the Jewish people.


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