Wiesenthal Centre to French Foreign Minister: "We are Outraged that France intends to Vote for Palestinian Heritage over Bethlehem Church of Nativity"

St.Petersburg, Russia, 27 June 2012

In a letter to French Foreign Minister, Laurent Fabius, the Simon Wiesenthal Centre's Director for International Relations, Dr.Shimon Samuels, expressed "outraged to learn that France is the only European State-Party to the UNESCO World Heritage Committee (WHC) that will vote in support of Palestinian heritage status over 'The Birthplace of Jesus, the Church of the Nativity and the Bethlehem pilgrimage route'".

The Centre noted that "never in the history of the WHC, has a purely religious site been inscribed on its list without the consent of the religious authorities."

Samuels stressed that "France will find itself in direct conflict with the expressed position of the three custodian churches of the Nativity site; the Vatican, the Armenians and the Greek Orthodox," (according to a 11 June letter picked up in an Associated Press despatch released on 23 June in the Daily Star of Lebanon).

Centre pointed out, "Indeed, this nomination was to be addressed on an emergency basis.

According to its Draft Decision 36 in numbers COM 8B5, WHC, 'Does not consider that the conditions required by Paragraph 161 of the Operational Guidelines are fully met, concerning damage or serious and specific dangers, to the Church of the Nativity that makes its condition an emergency...' [and] 'decides not to inscribe the Birthplace of Jesus...on the World Heritage List on an emergency basis'.

Thus this vote is, ipso facto, in violation of a WHC decision based on its expert advisory body, ICOMOS (International Council on Monument and Sites)."

The letter suggested that "it is inconceivable that France would endorse such a reckless resolution that can only bring dishonour to the World Heritage Committee itself."

"We urge you to withdraw your support and, indeed, to vote against this irresponsible resolution," concluded Samuels.

For further information contact Dr. Shimon Samuels on 0033(0)609770158, join the Center on Facebook, www.facebook.com/simonwiesenthalcenter, or follow @simonwiesenthal for news updates sent direct to your Twitter page or mobile device.

The Simon Wiesenthal Center is one of the largest international Jewish human rights organizations with over 400,000 member families in the United States. It is an NGO at international agencies including the United Nations, UNESCO, the OSCE, the OAS, the Council of Europe and the Latin American Parliament (Parlatino).