merig00 (merig00) wrote in ontd_political,

Holy site sparks row between Israel and UN

A religious site outside Bethlehem revered by both Jews and Muslims has emerged as the latest diplomatic battlefield between Israel and the United Nations. Known as Rachel's Tomb to Jews and the Bilal bin Rabah mosque to Muslims, the site was included in a resolution by Unesco last week, which described it as a mosque and noted that it formed "an integral part of the occupied Palestinian territories".

The UN body in charge of culture, education and science also urged the Israeli authorities to remove the site from its national heritage list, where it was placed in February this year. The resolution – which also refers to the site as Rachel's Tomb – triggered an angry response from Israel yesterday. "We strongly condemn this resolution that is tainted with blatant political bias," said a spokesman of the Israeli foreign ministry. He added: "It ignores the historical fact that Rachel's tomb was never a mosque."

The grand mufti of Jerusalem and Palestine, Mohammed Hussein, argued the opposite. "It has always been a mosque, but the Israelis banned the access to Muslims for decades. They cannot enter to pray since 1967," he said.

Rachel's Tomb is the third holiest place in Judaism and a Jewish pilgrimage site, located in the occupied territories. For the Muslims, it is a mosque and a cemetery. Every year, in a 24-hour period, tens of thousands of Jews visit what they consider to be the grave of their biblical matriarch. The pilgrimage is especially popular among women longing to get pregnant. Israel's West Bank barrier surrounds the site and separates it from Bethlehem.

Unesco's decision was backed by 44 countries, with only the US opposing and 12 countries abstaining. It also voiced criticism of Israel's decision to include the Tomb of the Patriarchs in Hebron on its list of national heritage sites. The day the list was adopted, Binyamin Netanyahu, the Israeli prime minister, said: "Our existence depends not only on the IDF or our economic resilience. It is anchored in our store of knowledge and the national sentiment that we will bestow upon the coming generations, in our ability to justify our connection to the land."

The Palestinian Authority opposed the decision, which it considered to be political and part of the settlement project.


Tags: history, islam, israel, judaism, palestine, united nations
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