Essential for UNESCO to put Hebron on endangered heritage list
Israel’s fanatic settler movement and its extremist government continue to push Holy Land heritage sites to the edge of destruction through their racist policies that discriminate against Christians and Muslims. It is important that UNESCO has placed Hebron on its endangered heritage list, regardless of the political lies of Israel’s officials or America’s racist UN Ambassador Nikki Haley
Published in the Arab News July 10, 2017
By Ray Hanania
Israel is outraged that UNESCO has put the Old City of Hebron on the World Heritage in Danger List, but the world should really be outraged at Israel.
Israel claims UNESCO (United Nations Education, Scientific and Cultural Organization) has denied the “Jewish” heritage of Hebron, a city that has been under a brutal and vicious military occupation since 1967.
But that’s not the truth. It is Israel that denies the Christian and Muslims heritage of this ancient Biblical city.
UNESCO tried to send delegates to inspect the city but Israel refused to allow them entry. UNESCO has historically challenged oppressive policies of governments around the World, but Israel believes it is special and above accountability. And there is a reason why.
I’ve been to Hebron and saw firsthand the brutality not just of the Israeli soldiers, but of the fanatic Israeli settlers who have forcibly taken the homes, businesses and lands of the city’s Palestinians.
As President of the Palestinian American Congress, I traveled in 1995 with a delegation of Palestinian American leaders to witness Israel’s brutality firsthand.
Israel forced the Palestinians to leave the center of the city around the Ibrahimi Mosque, a Holy Site important to Jews, Christians and Muslims. Buried there in double tombs are Abraham and Sarah, Isaac and Rebecca, and Jacob and Leah. Jacob’s second wife Rachel is believed buried in Bethlehem. All of the Prophets there are important to all three religions, but Israel doesn’t care.
The Israelis militarily occupied the entire Mosque structure, limiting Muslim access to the Ibrahimi Mosque, which is the fourth most important in Islam. They established, Kiryat Arba, one of the most vicious and hatedriven of Israel’s illegal Jewish settlements.
I met these hate-driven settlers face-to-face. I went to the Ibrahimi Mosque to the damage Israel has inflicted on the Palestinian presence in the city. I also wanted to pay homage to the location where, one year before, an Israeli American Jewish terrorist, Baruch Goldstein, gunned down with the help of the Israeli military, 29 Palestinian Muslims as they prayed inside the mosque. More than 125 other Muslims were seriously injured before Goldstein was killed.
Bullet holes are still in the Mosque walls, fired from Goldstein’s Israeli military issued weapon. Everyone in Kiryat Arba carries an automatic weapon, including the young Jewish children who are taught to hate non-Jews and Palestinians.
Israeli soldiers stopped me at a checkpoint and machine gun turret on Al Shuhada’a Street, which has been renamed to “King David Street” as a part of Israel’s ongoing process to erase Palestinian street names and identity.
The Israeli soldiers spit at me as I approached and pointed their weapons at my head.
I was wearing a suit. I held my hands up in the air, and in one displayed my American Passport. The Israelis spit even more when I told them I was American.
“Go back to your America,” they yelled in disdain.
Contrary to popular belief, many Israelis, especially the radicals who dominate the Israeli military, hate Americans. They reject our principles of civil rights, fairness and justice, which stand in the way of their religious supremacy.
Despite their screaming, the commander seemed concerned that I was American. So, I pushed my way through and he let me walk up Al-Shuhada’a Street to the mosque.
At the steps of the mosque, I was told I could not enter. But I insisted. They asked if I was Muslim, claiming that if not, I could not enter. I told them I was and they ordered me to recite the Shahada, which I did.
“Illa ha illa Allah wa Muhammed Rasul Allah,” (There is no God but God and Mohammed is the Messenger of God). And I quickly added, “Salamu alaikum wa ramatillah allah wa barakatum” (May the peace, mercy, and blessings of Allah be with you.)
They may have heard Palestinians profess their Islamic faith in the past, but I bet they never heard a Christian say it to their faces.
The soldiers followed me as I entered the Mosque, still suspicious. When I was done, I walked back to the checkpoint and found myself confronted by a gaggle of screaming Israeli settlers. The settlers yelled and threatened to kill me. They waived clubs and weapons in the air. Their children screamed at me the loudest with faces twisted by hatred.
I have never seen so much hate in my life. It made me understand how easily these vicious Israeli fanatics can kill Christian and Muslim women and children.
No wonder UNESCO adopted a resolution declaring Hebron an Endangered Heritage Site. It is in danger.
Civil rights, human dignity and justice are all threatened in Hebron, under the thumb of Israel’s brutal occupation.
UNESCO’s declaration puts a spotlight on Hebron’s dire situation, which angers the Israelis. Having been there, I can see why.
(Ray Hanania is an award winning Palestinian columnist and author. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.)