The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization on Friday voted the old city of Hebron on the West Bank as a world heritage site, sparking outrage from Israel, reported The Guardian. Twelve countries on the world heritage committee voted in favour of a Palestinian request to name Hebron a heritage site, while three voted against it. Six others abstained from voting.
Hebron includes a holy site known to Muslims as the Ibrahimi mosque and to Jews as the Tomb of the Patriarchs. The resolution also states that the old city and the religious site are “in danger”.
The voting was held despite efforts by Israel to derail the proposal. Israel had proposed that a secret ballot be used to determine the status of the city, believing that countries were more likely to support its case. However, despite the secret ballot, the vote went in favour of Palestine.
The vote, which took place at the Unesco annual summit in Poland’s Krakow, drew an angry reaction from Israel’s Unesco ambassador. Carmel Shama-Hacohen stormed to the desk of the session’s chairperson after the vote, and accused the committee of not conducting a truly secret ballot.
Israel Education Minister Naftali Bennett denounced the move and accused the body of being “a political tool, rather than professional organisation”. “The Jewish connection to Hebron goes back thousands of years. Hebron, the birthplace of King David’s kingdom, and the Tomb of the Patriarchs, the first Jewish purchase in Israel and resting place of our forefathers - are our people’s oldest heritage sites.” He asked UN to reject the resolution.
Meanwhile, the Palestinians hailed the move. Rula Maayah, the Palestinian minister of tourism, said it was a “historical development because it stressed that Hebron and its mosque historically belong to the Palestinian people”. Palestine had argued that Israeli actions in Hebron threatened its cultural heritage.