Monday, November 07, 2011

Latest on UNESCO and Palestine


The Toronto Star has an analysis of recent developments with attention to archaeology:
UNESCO membership deepens Mideast cultural war fought with picks and shovels

Published On Sat Nov 05 2011

By Olivia Ward Foreign Affairs Reporter

The Palestinians’ struggle for United Nations membership seems set to go nowhere, as the UN Security Council prepares to table a report Tuesday that is expected to show little more than confusion on the members’ stance.

But their pre-emptive strike — a successful bid to join the UN’s educational, scientific and cultural organization — has touched off an explosion of political reaction across the world.

Viewed as a bold leap toward statehood by some — and a covert tiptoe to recognition by others — it sparked instant de-funding of UNESCO by the United States Congress and Israel, an Israeli freeze on $100 million in transfer payments to the Palestinians and a threat, later reversed, to pull Canada’s $10 million annual contribution from the Paris-based UN body.

But the UNESCO membership also bares the heart of Israelis’ and Palestinians’ existential hopes and fears, and deepens the cultural war that surrounds their heritage in the small territory they have shared for millennia. It’s a war that is being fought not just with words, but with picks and shovels in the hundreds of historical sites across the region.

The Jerusalem Post reports a new development:
PA to sue Israel for ‘destroying’ Arab, Muslim antiquities

11/05/2011 17:50

As member of int'l organization, PA will take Israel to court for changing the Arab and Islamic character of holy sites in J'lem.

Following its admission to UNESCO, the Palestinian Authority is planning to pursue Israel legally in international forums for allegedly stealing Palestinian antiquities and changing the Arab and Islamic character of holy sites in Jerusalem, Palestinian officials said over the weekend.

“Now that we have joined UNESCO, we will take Israel to court for systematically destroying and forging Arab and Islamic culture in Jerusalem,” said Hatem Abdel Qader, former PA minister for Jerusalem affairs. “We are also seeking to file lawsuits against Israel in international courts and bodies for stealing Arab and Islamic antiquities and assaulting Islamic and Christian holy sites.”

And the Egyptian Gazette has an opinion piece by Idris Tawfiq:
Opinion: Preserving Palestine’s heritage

By Idris Tawfiq - The Egyptian Gazette
Saturday, November 5, 2011 01:42:39 PM

It was only to be expected that the state of Israel would try to ruin any attempt to celebrate Jerusalem as Capital of Arab Culture back in 2009. How could it be otherwise, with the Zionists telling the world that Jerusalem has been their capital for the last three thousand years and that it will be the eternal capital of Israel?

If the existing Judaisation of Jerusalem carries on at its present rate there will be little left of Jerusalem as a capital of Arab culture for anyone to celebrate. Systematically, the Arab nature of the city is being uprooted and destroyed, whether it be monuments going back to the Middle Ages and before, or to modern dwellings where the Arab citizens of Jerusalem live.

All of it is happening before the eyes of the world, but very little is being done to stop it. Although the very streets themselves shout that this is an Arab city so much of Jerusalem’s Arab past is being demolished or disguised. To get rid of it all, however, the Zionists would have to destroy the city itself!

At long last, though, something happened this last week that is of immense significance in the long process towards restoring peace and justice in Palestine. UNESCO has admitted Palestine as a full member. The significance of this action cannot be underestimated. Its importance, though, has nothing whatsoever to do with the bid for Palestinian statehood at the UN.

There is considerable projection in the first two paragraphs, in that much Palestinian propaganda in recent years has been devoted to attempting to de-Judaize Jerusalem, especially the Temple Mount. And I have to say that I have never encountered anyone who argued that Jerusalem did not have a considerable Arab past.

Speaking of the Temple Mount, this is the first of two pasages in the article that require additional comment:
For too long, those who have re-written history and airbrushed the Arab heritage of Palestine from its pages have managed to focus the eyes of the world away from the truth, fooling them into believing a version of history that is not true. In digging under the foundations of Al-Aqsa Mosque for the last forty years to find their lost Temple, the Israeli archaeologists have not managed to find even a cup or a saucer to prove their claim!
This is obviously nonsense and Dr. Tawfiq, who is a former Catholic priest with a degree in Sacred Theology from the Pontifical University of Saint Thomas Aquinas in Rome, should know enough about the history and archaeology of Jerusalem to know better. The Western Wall is part of the Herodian Temple Platform on which the Herodian Temple stood. And back in the nineteenth century two copies of a Greek inscription were excavated which warned gentiles to stay out of the Temple compound. I have collected other archaeological and literary evidence for the Jewish and Judean temples on the Temple Mount (as well as evidence for a Judean presence in Jerusalem in the Iron Age II) here and here. Regular readers will be aware of how much I harp on these themes, but I do so wearily, only in response to the continued stream of bogus propaganda about them.

On attempts by the Waqf to de-Judaize the Temple Mount through illicit excavations, and on the Temple Mount Sifting Project, which has tried to undo a little of the damage, see the links in the second half of this post.

The second passage:
The tunnels being built under Al-Aqsa, to weaken its foundations and bring about its collapse, are presented to tourists as archeological excavations which they are invited to walk along and see.
This unsupported claim keeps being repeated too. I have addressed it here and here (and links at the end of the latter post). Foreign reporters have had ample opportunity to explore such tunnels as there are, and none go under the Al-Aqsa Mosque. (This is not to say that every tunnel being dug in the vicinity of the Temple Mount is necessarily a good idea.)

Some past posts on tunnels and caves in Jerusalem are here, here, here, and here, with many links. I have been following these stories for years.

Background to the UNESCO story is here with links. Cross-file under "Temple Mount Watch" and "Jewish-Temple denial."