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Jewish state fumes at UNESCO declaration of Jericho archaeological site as ‘World Heritage Site in Palestine’

Israel condemns the decision as 'another sign of Palestinians’ cynical use of UNESCO and politicization of the organization'

Jericho archeological site (Photo: Shutterstock)

The United Nations Education, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) on Sunday declared the ruins of the ancient city of Jericho as a World Heritage site in the “State of Palestine.”

The decision was taken at a meeting of the UN World Heritage Committee in Saudi Arabia’s capital Riyadh.

Israel’s Foreign Ministry condemned the move, calling it “another sign of Palestinians’ cynical use of UNESCO and politicization of the organization” and promised “to change the distorted decisions that have been made.”

Israel withdrew from UNESCO in 2018, after the organization passed 47 resolutions between 2009 and 2014 that criticized nations worldwide, 46 of which targeted Israel and only one targeting Syria.

UNESCO first recognized Palestine as a state in 2011 and currently lists three sites as part of a Palestinian state: The Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem, the Al-Khalil Old Town of Hebron, including the Tombs of the Patriarchs, and the terraces of the “cultural landscape” of Battir, south of Jerusalem.

Jericho, most famous for the story of its conquest by the Israelites in the Bible, is under the administration of the Palestinian Authority (PA), as it is in West Bank Area A.

Israeli citizens are forbidden from entering territories designated as Area A and are, therefore, unable to visit the archaeological site.

The PA application to the World Heritage Committee mentioned “the long and diverse history of Jericho," citing “10,000 years of human civilization.”

On Sept. 6, a group of lawmakers from the Knesset Land of Israel Caucus conducted a field tour of the archaeological site in anticipation of the UNESCO decision.

Israeli Heritage Minister Amichai Eliyahu said Jericho’s connection to Jewish history is clear to any person with biblical knowledge.

Simcha Rothman, co-chair of the Caucus, and Chairman of the Knesset Constitution, Law and Justice Committee, said that UNESCO’s declaration would “condone the eradication of the physical record and the denial of history.”

Rothman's comment referred to the fact that only the portion of the site under Israeli jurisdiction is a protected archaeological site with signage and organized access. The area under Palestinian control has been paved over.

The All Israel News Staff is a team of journalists in Israel.

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