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April 17, 2013

Where's the Coverage? Hamas Bulldozes UNESCO Heritage Site to Build Terrorist Training Camp

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Monday, watchdog group UN Watch sent a letter to the Director General of UNESCO, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization:

UN Watch is alarmed by the reported destruction by Hamas of parts of the ancient Anthedon Harbor in Gaza for use as a terrorist training camp. We urge you to bring the matter immediately before the UNESCO Executive Board, currently meeting at its 191st session in Paris, for protective action.

We note the tragic irony that this destruction by the rulers of Gaza comes exactly one year after the area was nominated by new UNESCO member state Palestine as a World Heritage site.

As you must know, earlier last month, despite criticism from nongovernmental organizations, the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades of Hamas bulldozed a part of the Anthedon Harbor in northern Gaza along the Mediterranean Sea, according to yesterday’s report by Al Monitor Palestine Pulse.

Hamas damaged the harbor in order to expand its “military training” zone, which was initially opened on the location in 2002, according to your own UNESCO representative in Gaza, Yousef al-Ejla.

UNESCO itself describes Anthedon, the historical significance of which dates back to 800 BCE, as a port that continued to thrive thru Neo-Assyrian, Babylonian, Persian, Greek, Roman, Byzantine and early Islamic periods:

The present site consists of a variety of elements which spread in the area from the seashore, including the underwater archaeology, to the inland: the ruins of a Roman temple and a section of a wall have been uncovered, as well as Roman artisan and living quarters, including a series of villas, testifying of the city of Anthedon. Mosaic floors, warehouses and fortified structures are found in the area.

Despite the importance of the site, its at-least-partial destruction has attracted very little mainstream news media attention. Outside of the Jewish and Israeli press and some blogs, CAMERA could find coverage in only The Washington Times, The Washington Free Beacon, FrontPage Magazine, and TheBlaze.com. The New York Times, The Washington Post, USA Today, NPR, the network news, cable news channels... nothing.

Al-Monitor quotes Deputy Minister of Tourism in Gaza Muhammad Khela saying that the location was taken for "military" use:

“We can’t stand as an obstacle in the way of Palestinian resistance; we are all a part of a resistance project, yet we promise that the location will be limitedly used without harming it at all,” Khela explained.

[…]

“If the location was excavated already, I don’t think it would have been possible for anyone to take it over,” Khela explained, adding that “it should be UNESCO and other donating groups' job to do so.”

Yet, UNESCO and Palestinian leaders have repeatedly failed to protect sites that have been excavated and that are even in use to this day. Though UNESCO’s constitution, Article 1 Paragraph 2c, states that the organization’s purpose is to “maintain, increase and diffuse knowledge by assuring the conservation and protection of the world’s inheritance of books, works of art and monuments of history and science,” UNESCO has been mute on repeated attacks on archeologically significant Jewish sites that were, if not allowed by, at least ignored by Palestinian authorities obligated to protect them.

Rachel’s Tomb, described by some as the second holiest place of worship in Judaism, comes under frequent rock and Molotov cocktail attack as do the Jews who worship there.

Visitors to Joseph’s Tomb report that vandals had urinated at the entrance to the tomb and there were indications on the wall and window of attempts to start a fire there.

Instead of protecting these and other sites from Palestinian damage, UNESCO, like many United Nations agencies, focuses disproportionate criticism on Israel. UN Watch notes in its letter to the organization:

According the current UNESCO session timetable, there are in fact four agenda items dedicated exclusively to Palestinian issues: Items 9, 10, 34, and 35, while Item 5 includes a fifth report on this issue. Israel is the only country in the world that is targeted for specific criticism in this session.

Though the United States withdrew funding for UNESCO when the organization admitted Palestine as a member state in 2011, the Obama administration seeks to restore $77.7 million in funding in the proposed 2014 budget:

The Administration seeks Congressional support for legislation that would provide authority to waive legislative restrictions that, if triggered, would prohibit paying U.S. contributions to United Nations specialized agencies that grant the Palestinians the same standing as member states or full membership as a state. Should the Congress pass this waiver legislation, the FY 2014 funding specifically requested for UNESCO would cover the FY 2014 UNESCO assessment and the FY 2013 and FY 2014 Contingent Requirements funding would cover arrears which accrued in FY 2012 and FY 2013.

Jewish heritage sites, which should be protected by the Palestinian Authority, are regularly desecrated and Hamas destroys a 3,000-year-old archeological treasure in Gaza yet UNESCO does nothing? Where's the outcry in the archeological community? Where's the outrage among academics? Where, oh where’s the coverage?

Posted by SC at April 17, 2013 02:01 PM

Comments

The destruction of archaological sites and
Jewish heritage sites for terrorist training camps is
a disgrace and needs to be addressed by
Unesco and the archaological community and
brought to the attention of American communities.

Posted by: Selma Soss at April 19, 2013 04:04 AM

My mainstream media did not take this story.

http://www.israelnetz.com/arabische-welt/detailansicht/aktuell/mit-bulldozern-gegen-kulturerbe/#.UXEZKEozjq0

Posted by: Ulrich Sahm at April 19, 2013 06:16 AM

No coverage - No outrage.

Posted by: ofer at April 22, 2013 06:25 AM

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