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Palestine drops bid to register new UNESCO heritage site
Published Sunday 16/06/2013 (updated) 01/07/2013 18:00
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A PLO official says leaders in Ramallah decided to drop plans to seek
UNESCO heritage status for Battir. (MaanImages/Nadine Abu Mor)
By Ammar Owaineh and George Hale

BATTIR, West Bank (Ma’an) -- Palestine is backing down from plans to ask UNESCO to place an ancient West Bank village on its World Heritage in Danger list, a year after the UN scientific and cultural agency voted to include Bethlehem’s Nativity Church.

Residents of Battir, southwest of Jerusalem, which is home to an ancient Roman irrigation network in continuous use for centuries, expected the Palestinian delegation to nominate the farming village for inclusion on UNESCO’s rosters during its annual convention, which opens Sunday in Cambodia.

Experts in Battir and Bethlehem who helped draft the application told Ma’an that the Palestinian delegation in Paris received a completed file in January. It should have submitted it by a February deadline but did not, the officials said. This is because in early 2013, Palestinian and Israeli officials worked out an informal agreement to freeze the nomination, a PLO official with knowledge of the decision said.

In return, the Israeli government indicated it would permit the UN agency to send an investigative team to Jerusalem, the official said, speaking on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the sensitive negotiations with Israel.

“All the paperwork was ready for the Battir application ... It was stopped in exchange for the delegation to Jerusalem,” the official explained.

Israel ended up reneging on the deal weeks after the deadline to submit Battir had passed.

“What we did was bad. It was a really big mistake ... They were never going to allow UN investigators into their ‘undivided, eternal capital,’” the official added, referring to Israel's vision for Jerusalem. Israel occupied the city after a 1967 war and later annexed it in a move never recognized abroad.

Israeli officials say they were unaware of the change of plans and denied that delaying or canceling the vote at UNESCO was part of the deal to bring the delegation to Jerusalem.

“This comes as a surprise,” said Foreign Ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor. “I really can’t think about why they would do that. They did seem very keen on pushing that forward.”

Palmor told Ma'an late Saturday that the informal deal to bring the UNESCO delegation to Jerusalem included shelving five pro-Palestinian resolutions at the UN, but not Battir’s UNESCO application. “As far as I know, the concrete measure was (only) to freeze a number of resolutions.”

Israel announced approval in April of a UNESCO monitoring visit to Jerusalem, the first since 2004. It followed demands from Jordan, which has historically administered Muslim and Christian holy sites in the city. In May, however, Israel said it was no longer cooperating because the Palestinians "politicized" the visit.

'Missing a great chance'

The decision to put off the nomination angered Palestinian experts and local officials who had selected Battir based on imminent threats they said its cultural sites faced from Israel’s wall.

The Battir municipality is locked in a court battle with the Israeli army to re-route the barrier, and they hoped the global attention from a successful vote might even the playing field.

“Palestine is missing a great chance by not submitting the file,” according to Battir mayor Akram Bader. “We are in court against the wall.”

Bader said the Palestinian leadership neglected an opportunity to offer "protection against Israeli violations" as well as boost the economic, cultural and historical value of the village.

UNESCO's 21-member World Heritage committee meets once a year to discuss the management of existing heritage sites and to consider nominations for new ones. It was at this conference in June 2012 that the agency narrowly voted to accept Palestine's first submission, the Nativity Church, over the objections of Israel and the United States. Palestinian officials said they would submit Battir in 2013.

The village sits upon the slopes of two rocky, green hills where its farmers still use a 2,000-year-old Roman irrigation system that runs down the sides of both hills.

Battir's lands are uniquely within all three designations of a 1995 agreement with Israel, divided into areas "A," "B," and "C,". If Israel's plans go forward, the wall will section off some 30 percent of areas "B" and "C," lands which contain most of the village's vital farmlands, officials say.

Giovanni Fontana Antonelli, a cultural programs specialist for UNESCO, called the Palestinian Authority's decision "very inexplicable" and charged that it could "jeopardize the site forever."

Antonelli, who helped prepare the application in December and January, said that UNESCO's recognition would have made it "more difficult for Israel to grab that land."

He also said it would have become a natural tourism destination. "People in Battir (could) start to have small businesses there instead of migrating," he said.

Nada Atrash, head of research and development at the Cultural Heritage Preservation Center in Bethlehem, agreed that the nomination "would help Palestine but at the same time add to its responsibilities."

Atrash, who was also involved in preparing the application, says the nomination "will not stop vandalism" because UNESCO can only issue statements and condemnations.

She said it was up to the Palestinian people to protect their land, but she hoped the Palestinian leadership would reconsider the application.

Calls to Nabil Abu Rudeina, a spokesman for President Mahmoud Abbas, were not immediately returned. Nor did Riyad al-Malki, the Palestinian foreign minister, respond to inquiries Saturday.

Palestine's delegation to UNESCO did not respond to repeated requests for comment by phone and email. Aides to ambassador Elias Sambar refused to make him available for interview.
1 ) Mel / USA
16/06/2013 02:04
The irony is,is that the WHOLE OF HISTORICAL Palestine should be on the World Heritage in Danger List,seeing as occupier Israel & Eurasian Revisionist NaZionists are trying to wipe Palestine OFF THE MAP of Middle Eastern history! Just like Hitler/Nazi's wanted to exterminate the Jews & any other"non-Aryans"from European history,too. That was the ultimate crime then.But when Jews do it to"others",well the "powers that be",just don't give a sh*t! How unconscionable is that!

2 ) Colin Wright / USA
16/06/2013 08:44
'...Israel ended up reneging on the deal weeks after the deadline to submit Battir had passed...' Is anyone surprised?

3 ) shirleyS / australai
16/06/2013 11:11
there it is another taotal failure of the PA who caved in TO US pressure and thats what it is after decades of dealing with Isrealthey should have known it would happen and caving in to US as US does not support a state of palestine look at how Jordan is being taken over and where is jordans neutrality in the syrian conflict when world knows what US EU have been doing in Syrai shows Jordan plans this crap and meddles in PA decisions on US behalf Joran like Egypt should not stab Russian efforts

4 ) AKeenReader / UK
16/06/2013 11:19
Why don't the Palestinians learn from experiences with the Israeli govt. They can never trust Israeli govt with informal agreements because Israel doesn't abide by most agreements already reached or abide by International Law. Israel used delaying tactics and still continue to build settlements. Haven't decades of lies by Israel taught Palestinians any lessons?

5 ) Outsider / EU
16/06/2013 12:16
Elections, now.

6 ) Rami / Palestine
16/06/2013 12:17
#2 Not at all. I'm also not surprised that the Palestinian "Authority" crucified its own people in order to appease the Israelis who never gave a damn about Palestinian interests.

7 ) Jackie Jaidy / Palestine
16/06/2013 12:21
This sounds very fishy to me. With deals like this it is easy to see why the Palestinians still don't have a state!

8 ) Eldad / USA
16/06/2013 13:30
It is fascinating that in this long article, it is not mentioned once that "Battir" is actually the ancient Jewish fortress of Betar,and at least the upper retaining walls of the terraces were built to defend the town from the Romans during the Bar Kochba Revolt. In other words, for all the talk about Israeli supposedly erasing Arab heritage from the land, here is a case where the PA is explicitly erasing Jewish heritage by ignoring this momentous history of the town.

9 ) Lynx / Palestine
16/06/2013 16:12
At this point, this crippled "Authority" has become the enemy of the Palestinian people. NO to this undemocratic, and imposed gang of profiteers! They are messing with Palestine's history and culture by deferring everything....everything...to the Zionists...Is there anyone with an iota of conscience left in the West Bank, or all silent and obedient slaves? What a sad state of affairs - Palestinians in the diaspora should immediately get to work to remove this criminal "Authority".

10 ) Wissam / Palestine
16/06/2013 16:16
Now that the dead body of the "2-state solution" has decomposed beyond recognition, Israel comes defecating on it...While the sick PA continue to entertain "dialogue" and "negotiations" with a party hell bent on annihilating every shred of Arab identity in this land. I wish this rotten Fatah militia would go back to Tunis and free Palestinians rising to the challenge and renewing the Palestinian National Council and PLO - worldwide. These sick PA people were not elected, they are criminal.

11 ) southparkbear / usa
16/06/2013 16:18
fist full of dollars

12 ) Umm it's called history / Canada
16/06/2013 16:44
Maybe the PA. Is finally respecting others and is not denying history? first step to curing yourself from ignorance is to accept Israel does have a history!!

13 ) Arnold / Canada
16/06/2013 17:06
Palestine = Israel = Palestine = Israel . Just use your brains and study the Roman map of Palestine. it is right there on the world wide web to study. Romans named the land of the Jews Palestine. It was larger and touched on several countries including what is now today Lebanon , Jordon, and Syria.

14 ) researcher / usa
16/06/2013 18:17
Surprisingly, eldad is correct. I did a little research and it turns out the modern village is Based around an ancient site named khirbet el-yahud (ruins of the jews) .the modern agricultural terrace follows the line of the ancient fortress wall.

15 ) Herman / South Africa
16/06/2013 19:25
The statement "While the sick PA continue to entertain "dialogue" and "negotiations" with a party hell bent on annihilating every shred of Arab identity in this land.", is really ironical. This is exactly what the Palestinians envisage. An "apartheid" state where no Jews will be allowed is the reason why Israel has the full right "to stick to her guns" and preserve the only real democracy in the Middle East.

16 ) Colin Wright / USA
16/06/2013 20:09
...and the usual Zionist vomit follows. I'll point out that the descendants of the putative ancient Jews of 'Betar' are probably still there -- as the Palestinians of 'Battir' (note the lack of a name change). Everything else is fine -- it's the sick Nazi perversion that is Zionism that is the problem.

17 ) izzy / new york city
16/06/2013 20:22
"the sick PA continue to entertain "dialogue " and "negotiations" etc. WHO ARE YOU KIDDING. Israel has been begging for negotiations! The PA begins with a list of pre-conditions - and that is why there heve been no negotiations for years. If the PA believes that Israel does not want peace, let them sit down with Israel - and then PROVE that their claim is vindicated!!

18 ) Colin Wright / USA
16/06/2013 21:42
To izzy #17: 'WHO ARE YOU KIDDING. Israel has been begging for negotiations!' I want to 'negotiate' with you about how much of your bank account I should have. While 'negotiations' are ongoing, I'll keep helping myself to it, alright? What, you want to impose 'preconditions'?

19 ) @12 / bulGarIa.kz
16/06/2013 22:04
lol.why do only zionists believe they own bs

20 ) Jeffrey / UK
16/06/2013 22:27
It is not surprising at all that the modern village is based around the ruins of an ancient Jewish site. The whole area is historically Jewish. There is absolutely no reason why Israel should agree to allow the PA to occupy any Jewish sites. They represent Jewish history, not Arab history. It is the Israelis who are the inheritors of Palestine, which is the Roman name for the ancient Jewish state. No amount of lies or propaganda or equating Israel with Nazis can avoid that basic fact.

21 ) Maureen / Australia
16/06/2013 22:34
#11 Israelbriberyparkbear, hmm, see the other headline re Palestinian and Israeli finance ministe's meeting...

22 ) Eric / USA
17/06/2013 13:23
fact #1, the Christians in control of the Church of the Nativity were unanimous against the UNESCO bid. Of course the article ignored that fact. The article also ignored the fact thta there has been a flight of most Christians in Bethlehem thta began 20 years ago(What happened 20 years ago that precipitated that I wonder? answer->Palestinian control)

23 ) Eric / USA
17/06/2013 13:24
fact #2, only a united Jerusalem can protect the rights of all peoples. Since the the 1498 armictice lines, East Jerusalmen was under the Occupation of Jordan who enforced religios based laws. (Ironically, thats also where the historic Jewish Quarter is). Previously, the British and Ottomons occupied Jerusalem. Other than for the Jews, Jerusalem has been a backwater. Only one people made Jerusalem a captial. Only after reunification (liberation) of Jerusalem in 1967 do all people have equal righ

24 ) Greg / UKR
17/06/2013 14:10
Who cares about stinking UN and UNESCO. Mother-fire-truckers.

25 ) Rami / Palestine
17/06/2013 15:48
#22 As a Palestinian Christian involved very much in Palestinian Christian communities in Palestine, I can honestly tell you that your "fact" is complete and utter BS. You'd like to create some new sob story to pull at the heart strings of Christian Zionists in the West, wouldn't you? Well, let me tell you that the oppression of Palestinian Christians is not due to the "Palestinian control" but the repeated human rights violations of the Israeli occupying forces. THAT sir is a FACT.

26 ) Mel / USA
17/06/2013 16:34
#25:Rami/Palestine:Bravo! #22,23 has a lot of REAL history to learn,but pro-Zionists rarely want to learn FACT,merely revise it to suit "end"goals.When he mentioned the "flight...20 yrs ago",I stopped reading.It takes too long to un-brainwash the brain-dead.Amongst intelligent pluralists,Zionists/Dispensationalists are viewed as a lunatic fringe.Even my Jewish friends,who refuse to go to Israel(post concentration camps)can't stand 'em!

27 ) Clara / Occupied Haifa
17/06/2013 17:13
No, Colin.No surprise at all. And no surprise THE HOUSE NEGROS ( the pa) did not submit the application, since their attachment is not for Palestine but for their virtual positions, huge salaries and VIP cards

28 ) Leslie / USA
17/06/2013 21:57
@ Colin Wright As long as you continue to equate Zionism with Nazism your comments are lacking any merit whatsoever. As one whose grandparents, uncles, aunts cousins were gassed by Nazis and whose parents were slave laborers in 6 concentration camps - your comments show you to be ignorant of history and your the par with Holocaust deniers.

29 ) southparkbear / usa
18/06/2013 03:56
it is one thing to forget you check book when you go to buy something, it's totally borderline criminal to try buying knowing that you don't have a bank account to begin with

30 ) Colin Wright / USA
18/06/2013 03:59
To Clara/Occupied Haifa #27. GREAT address. Otherwise, you're right about the PA -- although to be fair to them, I think they were more seduced into their position than consciously chose it. It all bears some striking similarities to the Vichy regime in occupied France.

31 ) ian / australia
18/06/2013 14:35
Certainly looks like the PA blew it attempting fancy deals with the devil. Perhaps there's more to it but they look like ridiculously slow learners. But most posts here miss the point. The ancient history of Battir/Betar doesn't matter. Bar Kokhba, Jewish ruins, Roman irrigation, the ancestry of its inhabitants. None of it. All that matters is where it is now. And though in the past it was in Roman Judea, under Roman rule and before that Egyptian, Canaanite, Hittite and Babylonian

32 ) ian / australia
18/06/2013 14:37
(contd.) (and Arab, Ottoman and British since), it's NOT in Israel.

33 ) ian / australia
18/06/2013 16:07
#28 "- your comments show you to be ignorant of history and your the par with Holocaust deniers." You'll have to choose there Leslie. Colin either sees parallels between Nazi Germany and Zionist Israel in the cruelty and contempt shown their victims and the ideologies underlying it (racial supremacism, "Lebensraum" etc.) OR he DENIES that the Nazis did anything especially heinous (being on par "with Holocaust deniers"). You can't have it both ways.

34 ) Battir / Canada
20/06/2013 15:35
As usual BDS trolls are getting exited over their repeated zombie lie It is fascinating, it is not mentioned once that "Battir" is actually the ancient Jewish fortress of Betar, but who cares lets be bad energy and hate Jews, BDS trolls live a sad lonely life!!

35 ) Maureen / Australia
20/06/2013 23:00
#29 bankruptparkbear, is that why the U.S. hands over $3 billion annually to Israel - helping to cover - up Israel's criminality?

36 ) Outsider / EU
21/06/2013 08:40
#17 "If the PA believes that Israel does not want peace, let them sit down with Israel - and then PROVE that their claim is vindicated!!" Abbas has been talking with Israelis since the eighties, starting with Ariel Sharon. In that time, how many "settlers" have moved into Palestine?

37 ) mike / Canada
22/06/2013 03:05
So the arabs are trying AGAIN to steal the history, rights, and land of the Jews at Betar. You arab immigrants, go back to Egypt, Jordan and leave the peace loving Israelis alone in their tiny state that you are so eager to steal. Stop thieves!

38 ) Rami / Palestine
23/06/2013 09:36
#36 - Ariel Sharon wasn't the Israeli Prime Minister in the 1980s and Abbas wasn't the Palestinian Authority President back then either. In fact, the Palestinian Authority did not exist in the 1980s and Abbas was only mildly involved in the PLO. He only really became involved in the leadership in around 2003 after the U.S. and Israel decided that Arafat had become their pariah. So, you really don't know what you're talking about and therefore have no argument.

39 ) Rami / Palestine
23/06/2013 09:45
#37 - To Mike the Colonist living on land stolen from the aboriginal people of Canada: 1) you capitalized "Jews" but did not capitalize "arabs." We're human beings too. I'm sure you're shocked. "Immigrants"? We are neither from Egypt nor Jordan...& you speak of stealing "history, rights, and land o the Jews"..."AGAIN". I'm curious, when was the first time? Seems to me Israel is doing just fine erasing the history of Palestinians (the JNF helps them w/that) & denying us of our land & rights.

40 ) southparkbear / usa
25/06/2013 14:44
you'd expect from invented roma, palestinians to invent many 'stories'

41 ) conscience / Palestine
28/06/2013 11:53
The question is: What is the interest of Palestine to drop the file?Is it to increase the chances of the acceptance of the Church of the Nativity, or is it a political deal? I ask PA officials for clarification.

42 ) southparkbear / usa
04/07/2013 13:05
really #41, do you expect them to stop counting the money and listen to you?
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