SWC to World Heritage Chair: "UNESCO Denial of Jewish Sites Deletes Jewish Existence"




Paris, 1 November, 2010

In a letter to World Heritage Chair, H.E. Sheikha Mai bint Mohammed Al Khalifa (also Minister of Culture and Information of Bahrein and Founder of the Arab Regional Centre for World Heritage), the Simon Wiesenthal Centre's Director for International Relations, Dr. Shimon Samuels, protested "decisions taken at the UNESCO Executive Board that impugn the Jewish character of heritage sites in the Holy Land,such as Rachel's Tomb and the Cave of the Patriarchs"

The letter noted that "Israel, as custodian, has always provided free access to these, and all other sites, that are sacred also to Christians, Muslims and other faiths", continuing," This was not the case under the British Mandate (1922-1948), when Jews could descend no further than the seventh step into the Cave purchased by Abraham as the Biblical founding family's burial vault."

"Under Jordanian occupation (1948-1967), they were denied access completely to the Cave, the Tomb of Rachel (mother of the Children of Israel), and, even to Judaism's holiest site - the Western Wall of the Temple".
Samuels stressed that "UNESCO's mandate is the promotion of education, science, culture and - more recently - a dialogue between civilizations for peace. Moreover, the World Heritage List of 911 "properties of universal value" should reinforce that culture of peace. In fact, the politicization of UNESCO and the World Heritage Centre can only exarcerbate conflict and sadly diminishes the credibility of both bodies."

The Centre made clear that "historical revisonism in determining sites that have been Jewish - centuries before Christianity and over a millenium before Islam - as mosques by reason of conquest, is aggravated by denial of any Jewish affinity past, present or future.

The campaign, reportedly instigated by Turkish President, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, in the Saudi daily, Al - Watan, can lay a slippery slope:

--perhaps the archeological site of Troy should be on the Greek heritage list, rather than that of Turkey?

--maybe the Old City of Jerusalem and its Walls, is a Jordanian proposal of misplaced patrimony?

--what if Iran were to demand the UNESCO Executive Board to redesignate Bahreini sites in line with the territorial claims of the Islamic Republic?"

The letter pointed out that "our mentor - the late Simon Wiesenthal - embraced a maxim that "what starts with the Jews always ends as a general scourge". So it was with Nazism, and today, with terrorism and the rewriting of history."

The Centre urged the Sheikha,"as Chair of World Heritage, to publicly call for the repeal of the defamatory and offensive Resolutions of the Executive Board States of UNESCO".

"For you to remain silent would be construed as hijacking the eminent principles of your predecesors to stain the image of UNESCO and the work of the World Heritage Centre. It would also be seen as an endorsement of those who wish to delete Jewish existence from time and space",concluded Samuels

For further information call Shimon Samuels at +33609770158.




Letter TO World Heritage:

SIMON WIESENTHAL CENTRE-EUROPE
66, rue Laugier
75017 Paris-France
Tel:+33(0)1 47 23 76 37
Fax:+33(0)1 47 20 84 01
E-mail:csweurope@gmail.com


H.E. Sheikha Mai bint Mohammed Al Khalifa ,Chair,The World Heritage Centre,
Minister of Culture and Information of Bahrein,
Founder of the Arab Regional Centre for World Heritage
UNESCO
7 Place de Fontenoy
Paris 75007

Paris, 1 November 2010

Your Excellency;

The Simon Wiesenthal Centre is an international Jewish human rights organization with a worldwide membership of 440,000. Established in 1977, with headquarters in Los Angeles, it draws the lessons of the Holocaust to the analysis of contemporary issues of prejudice and discrimination. The Centre is an NGO in consultative status to the United Nations, UNESCO, the OSCE, the Organization of American States and the Council of Europe.

Our members are appalled at decisions taken at the UNESCO Executive Board that impugn the Jewish character of heritage sites in the Holy Land,such as Rachel's Tomb and the Cave of the Patriarchs

Israel, as custodian, has always provided free access to these, and all other sites, that are sacred also to Christians, Muslims and other faiths.

This was not the case under the British Mandate (1922-1948), when Jews could descend no further than the seventh step into the Cave purchased by Abraham as the Biblical founding family's burial vault.

Under Jordanian occupation (1948-1967), they were denied access completely to the Cave, the Tomb of Rachel (mother of the Children of Israel), and, even to Judaism's holiest site - the Western Wall of the Temple.

Madam Sheikha, as you are well aware, UNESCO's mandate is the promotion of education, science, culture and - more recently - a dialogue between civilizations for peace. Moreover, the World Heritage List of 911 "properties of universal value" should reinforce that culture of peace. In fact, the politicization of UNESCO and the World Heritage Centre can only exarcerbate conflict and sadly diminishes the credibility of both bodies.

This historical revisonism in determining sites that have been Jewish - centuries before Christianity and over a millenium before Islam - as mosques by reason of conquest, is aggravated by denial of any Jewish affinity past, present or future.

The campaign, reportedly instigated by Turkish President, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, in the Saudi daily, Al - Watan, can lay a slippery slope:

--perhaps the archeological site of Troy should be on the Greek heritage list, rather than that of Turkey?

--maybe the Old City of Jerusalem and its Walls, is a Jordanian proposal of misplaced patrimony?

--what if Iran were to demand the UNESCO Executive Board to redesignate Bahreini sites in line with the territorial claims of the Islamic Republic?

Your Excellency, our mentor - the late Simon Wiesenthal - embraced a maxim that "what starts with the Jews always ends as a general scourge". So it was with Nazism, and today, with terrorism and the rewriting of history.

We urge you, as Chair of World Heritage, to publicly call for the repeal of the defamatory and offensive Resolutions of the Executive Board States of UNESCO.

For you to remain silent would be construed as hijacking the eminent principles of your predecesors to stain the image of UNESCO and the work of the World Heritage Centre. It would also be seen as an endorsement of those who wish to delete Jewish existence from time and space.

Most respectfully

Dr. Shimon Samuels
Director for International Relations


c.c.
Rabbi Marvin Hier, Dean and Founder Simon Wiesenthal Centre, Los Angeles
Rabbi Abraham Cooper, Associate Dean, Simon Wiesenthal Centre, Los Angeles