Palestinians to push heritage agenda at UNESCO, seek status for Bethlehem

October 10, 2011

(Tourists walk outside the Church of the Nativity, the site revered as the birthplace of Jesus, in the West Bank town of Bethlehem October 10, 2011/Ammar Awad)

The Palestinians will seek World Heritage status for the birthplace of Jesus once the U.N. cultural agency admits them as a full member, and will then nominate other sites on Israeli-occupied land for the same standing, an official said. Hamdan Taha, a Palestinian Authority minister who deals with antiquities and culture, said UNESCO membership was the Palestinians’ natural right. He described as “regrettable” the objections of some governments including the United States.

UNESCO’s board decided last week to let member states vote on a Palestinian application for full membership, seen as part of a Palestinian drive opposed by Israel and the United States for recognition as a state in the U.N. system.

“UNESCO membership carries a message of justice and rights. Why must the Palestinians be left outside the international system?” Taha said. “I see it as crowning long efforts over the past 20 years.”

He said that after gaining full UNESCO membership, the Palestinians will revive their bid to secure World Heritage status for Bethlehem and its Church of the Nativity, revered as the birthplace of Jesus. The nomination was rejected this year because the Palestinians were not a full UNESCO member. “This is a simple example of how Palestine has not been able to preserve its cultural heritage through the tools granted to every state in the world,” Taha said.

“We will call on the World Heritage Committee to activate this application,” said Taha. “We expect that after Bethlehem, other sites will follow.” These are likely to include Hebron, an ancient city home to a shrine holy to Jews and Muslims, which is one of the most volatile spots in the West Bank.

Read the full story here.

.

Follow FaithWorld on Twitter at RTRFaithWorld

rss buttonSubscribe to all posts via RSS

No comments so far

We welcome comments that advance the story through relevant opinion, anecdotes, links and data. If you see a comment that you believe is irrelevant or inappropriate, you can flag it to our editors by using the report abuse links. Views expressed in the comments do not represent those of Reuters. For more information on our comment policy, see http://blogs.reuters.com/fulldisclosure/2010/09/27/toward-a-more-thoughtful-conversation-on-stories/