Tensions Rise as Israel Puts Two Religious Sites in the West Bank on Heritage List

By Meredith Lee-Clark
Impunity Watch Reporter, Middle East

JERUSALEM, Israel/West Bank – Clashes between Palestinian youths and Israeli forces entered their fourth day as Palestinians protested the naming of two West Bank sites on an Israeli heritage list.

The protests have centered around the West Bank city of Hebron, an ancient city that is home to the Cave of the Patriarchs, a site where both Jews and Muslims believe the prophet Abraham is buried. Palestinians have been particularly enraged by the what the new designation is intended to lead to—part of Israel’s $107 million (US) plan to rehabilitate the sites. Palestinians have characterized the move as reminiscent of a 1994 massacre in the Ibrahimi Mosque in Hebron, when Israeli settler Baruch Goldstein entered the mosque and killed twenty-nine Palestinian worshipers.

“This is playing with dynamite. “The Israelis are perhaps not actually conscious of what they are doing,” said Qaid Abdul-Karim, a member of the PLO Central Committee, an executive committee that strongly influences Palestinian policymaking.

This latest escalation in Israeli-Palestinian tensions began at an Israeli cabinet meeting on February 21, when the cabinet released its latest list of heritage sites. Apparently almost as an afterthought, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu added two West Bank sites—the Ibrahimi Mosque in Hebron, and the site known as Rachel’s Tomb in Bethlehem. Since the designations were announced, both Palestinians and international observers have worried that it would trigger a third intifada, or uprising.

“We will not be dragged to violence by the terrorism of the settlers, and the terrorism of the settlement project,” said Salam Fayyad, the Palestinian prime minister. “Our objection to this lies in the fact these sites are on Palestinian land that was occupied in 1967, precisely the lands upon which the independent Palestinian state will be established.”

The head of UNESCO also condemned the action, calling it “provocative.” UNESCO Chief Irina Bokova, who is responsible for maintaining international World Heritage sites, released a statement that “expressed her concern,” and maintained that “cultural heritage should serve as a means for dialogue.”

For more information, please see:

 Al Jazeera – Concerns Over Israel Heritage List – 27 February 2010

 The Guardian – Clashes as Israel Puts West Bank Religious Sites on Heritage List – 26 February 2010

Middle East Online – UNESCO Chief Concerned Over West Bank Holy Sites – 26 February 2010

New York Times – More Clashes Over Israeli Claim to Shrine – 25 February 2010

Christian Science Monitor – Tensions Spike After Israel Names Two West Bank Sites to National Heritage List – 24 February 2010

Author: Impunity Watch Archive