June 27, 2017
The following letter was sent to the 21 foreign ministers of member states belonging to the UNESCO World Heritage Committee.
Dear Mr./Madam Foreign Minister:
I am writing to you regarding the upcoming meeting of the UNESCO World Heritage Committee in Krakow.
The members of the Committee will vote on two issues related to biblical holy sites in Israel and the West Bank. The first, an application put forward by the Palestinian Authority, requests the Committee “fast track” their application for Hebron, including the Tomb of the Patriarchs, to be declared a “World Heritage Site in Danger,” falsely claiming the “occupation and its actions” are endangering the site. The second, a resolution put forward by Jordan, on the “Old City of Jerusalem and its Walls” reiterates old half-truths and misrepresentations, alleging numerous measures by the “occupying Power” to alter the character and status of Jerusalem.
It is a regrettable reality that the Palestinian Authority, Jordan and others have continued to use UNESCO as a tool to politicize biblical holy sites and gain an international audience for their spurious charges against Israel. As we have seen in recent years, these efforts have not only included the manipulation of facts, but most egregiously, the denial or diminution of the Jewish connection to holy sites in Jerusalem, and indeed, to the Land of Israel.
At this time, the United States and the international community are making important and intensive efforts to build trust between Israelis and Palestinians and to restart a negotiations process. Efforts such as these campaigns before the UNESCO World Heritage Committee not only undermine current trust-building efforts, but also to reinforce the perception among Israelis and Jews around the world that Palestinians and their Arab allies do not recognize the Jewish connection to Israel, and are not serious partners to peace.
We respectfully urge your country to vote against these initiatives and ensure that these holy sites are not politicized.
Jonathan A. Greenblatt