UN Declares Ancient Jewish Holy Site Is Now Palestinian

A United Nations body ruled Friday that an ancient Jewish holy site is now part of Palestinian heritage.

The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) voted Friday to recognize the Tomb of the Patriarchs and the Old City of Hebron Palestinian heritage sites, despite intense push-back from Israel and the United States, The Daily Caller reports.

Twelve member states voted in favor of the resolution, which the Palestinians initially put forward, while only three were against it.

UNESCO’s decision sparked a fiery response from Israeli leaders, who feel the organization is being used as a political tool in the ongoing conflict between Israel and the Palestinians.

“It’s disappointing and embarrassing to see UNESCO denying history and distorting reality time after time to knowingly serve those who try to wipe the Jewish state off the map,” said Naftali Bennet, Israel’s education minister and chairman of the Israeli UNESCO committee, according to Israeli news site Haaretz. “Israel won’t renew cooperation with UNESCO as long as it continues to serve as a tool for political attacks instead of being a professional organization.”

Palestinian Foreign Minister Riyad al-Maliki touted the decision as a victory over the U.S. and Israel.

“This vote is a success for a diplomatic battle fought by Palestine on all fronts, in the face of the Israeli and American pressure on the member states … and a failure and a tremendous defeat Israel,” said al-Maliki in a statement, according to the Times of Israel.

While Hebron’s Old City and the Tomb of the Patriarchs are now considered to be Palestinian heritage sites, hundreds of years of Jewish tradition are associated with the areas that predates both the modern Palestinian territories and the Islamic faith.

Jewish tradition claims that Abraham, Sarah, Isaac, Rebecca, Jacob and Leah, are buried at the site. All six are considered the Patriarchs and Matriarchs of the Jewish faith. The tomb is located in Hebron, in the southwest corner of the West Bank.

The resolution originally proposed by Palestinians includes two main clauses. The first asserts that Hebron’s Old City and the Tomb of the Patriarchs are Palestinian heritage sites, and will be registered as such in UNESCO’s World Heritage List. The second asserts that the two sites are to be recognized as being in danger, meaning that each year UNESCO’s World Heritage Committee will convene to discuss their case. 

The Hebron Jewish Community called on the international community to cut off funding to UNESCO in response to the decision.

“We call upon the government of Israel to issue an appropriate answer to this reprehensible decision: to immediately suspend all payments to UNESCO and transfer those very same funds for projects that will strengthen Jewish Hebron,” said Yishai Fleisher, international spokesman for the Hebron Jewish Community, in a statement provided to The Daily Caller News Foundation. “We also call on the international community to recognize the manipulation to which bodies like UNESCO are being subjected. We urge countries to follow in the footsteps of the United States and cut off funding to the prejudiced and discredited agency.”