A press release from UNESCO I just received states that the organization is concerned about Netanyahu's declaration that Rachel's Tomb, in Bethlehem, and the Cave of the Patriarchs, in Hebron, are Israeli national heritage sites. I didn't think it was necessary for Bibi to do this, for any number of reasons: a) These are holy sites to Jews regardless of politics; b) I'm often a fan of the unspoken status quo, which is to say, Jews now have free access to these holy sites (something they didn't have when Jordan occupied the West Bank), so why mess with something that works? I'm all for negotiations about the permanent disposition of these sites, but this move seemed over-assertive and needless. On the other hand, the UNESCO statement reads:
UNESCO has been mandated by its Member States to provide assistance to the Palestinian Authority in the fields of education and culture. In this regard, UNESCO has been working for many years with the Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities of the Palestinian Authority and the Palestinian civil society to protect and preserve the cultural heritage sites in the West Bank and is committed to continue doing so.
Indeed, the Director-General is committed to strengthening "UNESCO's financial and technical assistance to the Palestinian educational and cultural institutions in order to address new needs and problems resulting from recent developments", as requested by UNESCO's General Conference at its 35th session (resolution 35/Resolution 75).
Well, that's very nice, except for the fact that UNESCO doesn't seem to recognize that Rachel's Tomb is a Jewish holy site, and the Cave of the Patriarchs is a Jewish site, as well as a Muslim site. Part of the anxiety felt by Jews around issues like these -- anxiety that prompts over-assertiveness -- is that organizations like UNESCO scant Jewish history and the Jewish narrative.
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