Israel quits UNESCO as it is slammed for excavations in occupied East Jerusalem

25th Jan 2019
Israel quits UNESCO as it is slammed for excavations in occupied East Jerusalem

The Old City of Jerusalem and its Walls was placed on UNESCO’s endangered list
(Photo: Andrew Shiva/Wiki Commons)

Nadine Osman

The US and Israel quit UNESCO on new year’s day after the latter was slammed for its failure to cease illegal excavations in the occupied East Jerusalem.

Palestinian officials have called for an international investigation of Israeli excavations in the occupied city of East Jerusalem and beneath the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound.

“These excavations aim to cause cracks in Palestinian houses, with Israeli authorities ordering residents to leave these houses on the ground that they are not fit for living,” said the Palestinian Foreign Ministry in a statement on December 30.

The Ministry branded the eviction of Palestinians from their homes as a “large-scale, systematic ethnic cleansing”. Israel refuses to allow access to the specialised United Nations agency to examine the holy sites in East Jerusalem.

The Trump Administration filed its notice to withdraw in October 2017 and Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, followed suit, accusing UNESCO of anti-Israel bias. The Paris-based organisation has previously criticised Israel’s occupation of East Jerusalem and granted full membership to Palestine in 2011.

In 2015, the Bab al-Rahma cemetery was subject to demolitions after Israeli authorities announced plans to seize parts of the cemetery for a national park trail.

UNESCO adopted a resolution, in July 2017 reaffirming the international body’s non-recognition of Israeli sovereignty in East Jerusalem, and condemned Israeli policies in the Old City.

The resolution referred to Israel as an “occupying power” in East Jerusalem, and stated that UNESCO “regrets the failure of the Israeli occupying authorities to cease the persistent excavations, tunnelling, works, projects and other illegal practices in East Jerusalem, particularly in and around the Old City of Jerusalem, which are illegal under international law.”

The resolution further stated that “legislative and administrative measures and actions were taken by Israel, the occupying power, which has altered or purports to alter the character and status of the holy city of Jerusalem…are null and void and must be rescinded forthwith”.

Israel occupied East Jerusalem during the 1967 Arab-Israeli War. While Israel annexed East Jerusalem in 1980, according to Palestinians and the international community, the city has remained an intricate part of the occupied Palestinian territory and would be considered the capital of any future Palestinian state as part of a two-state solution.

Canada voted against UN resolution on Palestinian sovereignty over natural resources

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