Saturday, September 26, 2020

Israel cancels UNESCOís visit to the Old City in occupied East Jerusalem

By Leona Vicario - May 22, 2013
Section: [Main News] [Life under Occupation]
Tags: [Israeli government] [Jerusalem] [Occupation] [UNESCO World Heritage Site]

Photo by Lazar Simeonov.


 On Sunday 19 May, a few hours before a UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) mission was due to arrive in Jerusalem to carry out an examination of the state of conservation of the Old City, the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs came up with a surprising announcement, cancelling the visit at the last minute. 

Last April, a UNESCO technical team was approved to supervise preservation and rehabilitation work on almost 20 sites inside the Old City in occupied East Jerusalem, including mosques, synagogues and churches. 
The aim of the visit was, according to the UN agency UNESCO, “[to] examine the state of conservation of the Old City of Jerusalem and its walls, a World Heritage Site,” and later on, to present conclusions and recommendations at the World Heritage Committee’s annual meeting in June. The city has beenon the “World Heritage in Danger” list since 1982.
To explain the move, an Israeli Foreign Affairs spokesman stated that “the Palestinians violated all the agreements we had with the UNESCO: that was to be a purely professional, not a political visit.” 
“At the last minute, the Palestinians decided to violate the understandings that had been obtained,” the official stated, making reference to the agreement reached with UNESCO whereby Israel would allow the technical delegation in, provided the visit did not include the Temple Mount and the Mughrabi Gate Bridge and in exchange for delaying the discussion regarding five anti-Israel resolutions on UNESCO’s board’s agenda. 
Israel alleges that the Palestinian Authority was trying to take advantage of UN staff presence and modify the terms of the previous agreement. According to the Israeli newspaper Haaretz, the reversal comes after the Israeli Foreign Ministry examined the UNESCO representatives’ agenda and found out that the Palestinian Authority had arranged meetings with Palestinian politicians and, contravening the original compromise, Palestinian officials were looking to take the technical team to the Muslim holy sanctuary, the “Haram al Shareef”, home to the Dome of the Rock and the Al Aqsa mosque.
According to the same Israeli official, remarks by Palestinian Foreign Minister Riyad al-Malaki on Thursday 16 May equating the UNESCO mission to “an investigative committee examining the occupation’s attempts to judaize Jerusalem,” further contributed to Israel’s decision to cancel the visit.  
This would have been the first visit of the UN agency – which has recognized Palestine as a full member since 2011to the holy city for Christians, Muslims and Jews since 2004. 
Although no new date has been released so far, Israeli sources have assured that the inspection has not been completely called off, but for now, “the delegation as a delegation [has] been postponed.”

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