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August 15, 1975 - Image 56

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1975-08-15

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56 Friday, August 15, 1975


UNESCO Disregarded Its Own Investigators

Jerusalem and the UNESCO Resolutions

Editor's note: the fol-
lowing article was written
by Marion Bodian, and is
excerpted from the Israel
Ministry of Religious
Affairs publication
"Christian News from Is-

On Nov. 20, 1974, a resolu-
tion was adopted by the
General Conference of
UNESCO cutting off aid to
Israel and condemning it
"for persistently altering
the historical features of the
city of Jen.L5alem and un-
dertaking excavations which
constitute a danger to its
It was the claim of the de-
legates who supported the
resolution that they were
concerned solely with the
unique human legacy that
lies within the walls of Jeru-
Shown above are photographs of the Istanbul Synagogue, which was desecrated while the Old City of Jerusalem
was controlled by Jordan after 1948, and how the building was restored after the Old City was recaptured by Israel
They asserted that, since in 1967.
-1967, Israel had pursued a was not only permitted but that, in the event of a terri-
The recommendation was with these plans, salvage ex-
consistent policy threaten-
authorized by the Jordanian tory being occupied, the oc-
never intended to prevent ei- cavations were organized
ing this legacy: that it had government.
According to cupying power is barred ther continued excavations under the direction of Pro-
deliberately sought to de-
at established sites or res- fessor Nahman Avigad of
stroy those features of Jeru- testimony gathered by a from seizing cultural prop-
appointed by erty or attacking it by way
cue digs carried out at sites the Hebrew University.
salem which belong to the commission
where imminent building or • South of the Temple
cultural and spiritual heri- Israel in July 1967, that gov- of reprisal, and is under ob-
other development projects Mount, large-scale excava-
tage of Christianity and Is- ernment granted conces- ligation to aid the occupied
sions to merchants allowing country in preserving its
are planned. tions were started under the
lam: that it had done so by them
to remove stones from treasures.
Although the Convention, direction of Professor Ben-
means of archeological exca- the cemetery and appointed
To ensure compliance
and the recommendation of jamin Mazar of the Hebrew
vations, clearances, and con-
caretaker to discourage with its provisions, the Con- .1956, are the legal instru- University.
struction of new buildings; a "unaiithorized"
vention provides for the ap-
ments which provided the
The work done in each of
that, in doing so, it had vio-
The construction of resi- pointment of an interna-
rationale for Jordan's corn- these areas eventually be-
lated the provisions of The
plaints, and thus, even- came the target of claims
Hague Convention of 1954;
tually, for the charges made that Israel was violating the
and that these facts were Ophel, site of David's city, investigate complaints,
in 1974, it is a curious fact Convention.
substantiated by reports which had been preserved and a local representative to
by the British throughout be appointed by each coun-
that neither is specifically
In May 1969, Commis-
submitted to UNESCO by the
Mandate period; and the try involved.
mentioned.in it.
sioner-General Reinink
Dung Gate — once an Otto-
There is no clause prohi-
At various times, the Di- reported to the Director ,.
Despite the sweeping
archeological excava-
rector-General of UNESCO General of UNESCO con-
language of the resolution,
for pedestrians = was wid- tions. The issue was debated
chose -to send his own per- cerning the implementa-
a look at its history will ened
for automobiles, with- before the Convention was
sonal representatives to Je- tion of the Convention. He
show that it grew out of a
rusalem to report. Prof. G. dealt with two issues
series of complaints con- out any prior study of what adopted but was deliber-
De Angelis d'Ossat, of the raised by the Joidanian
cerning the protection. of was thus being destroyed. ately omitted for the reason
Univergity of Rome, was government: Israel's right
certain Muslim properties That was the face that Jor- that there are occasions
sent in that capacity in to carry out archeological
in Jerusalem. All of these dan turned on Jerusalem's when controlled excavations
1969, and Prof. Raymond excavations and its right
complaints were made by antiquities during 19 years are actually- necessary for
government. the preservation of cultural
Lemaire, professor of archi- to engage in construction
the government of Jordan. of The
framework within
tecture at the University of and restoration.
In May 1948, East Jerusa- which the current corn- treasures.
In 1956, a recommenda-
Leuvain and secretary-gen-
As to excavations, he
lem was occupied by the plaints against Israel de- tion
was passed by the
e•al of the International pointed out that he had no
Arab Legion and in June veloped was that of The General Conference of
Council for Monuments and power to do anything but re-
came under Jordanian rule. Hague Convention for the UNESCO to prevent new
Sites, made visits in 1971, quest that they not be car-
What followed was a cruel
of Cultural excavations in occupied
1973, and April of 1974. ried out, and stated that he
period for those monuments Protection
Property in the Event of territories. The recom-
Shortly after the Old City was satisfied that the "ex-
and institutions of the Old Armed Conflict, signed by mendation was prompted
was recaptured by Israel on cavations of Prof. Mazar do
City that represented the the member-states of by fears lest, should exca-
June 7, 1967, consideration not threathen the Mosque
memories and aspirations of UNESCO in 1954. vations happen to turn up
was given by Israeli authori- quarter of Jerusalem,-which
its Je vs.
This agreement, intended real treasures, these might
ties to initiating restoration is unique in the world."
Within a matter of to protect cultural treasures
expropriated by the oc-
work and archeological ex- On the second matter, too,
months, the face of theJew- from acts of war, stipulates • be
cupying power.
cavations in certain areas. he rejected Jordan's view.
ish Quarter was wholly
Within a short time, the fol- Apparently Jordan had ex-
tranformed. Fifty-eight
lowing works were under- pressed objections to plans
synagogues and yeshivot in
to rehabilitate the Jewish
it were destroyed, their in-
• Debris was cleared from Quarter, fearing that the
teriors plundered, their
the Western Wall, expos- intention of the Israeli gov-
Ncrolls of the Law and
ing two additional rows of ernment was to demolish
hooks stolen.or burned.
its ashlars. A wide square this part of the city. Writes
along them was the Hurva
in front was cleared and Reinink:
synagogue, most magnifi-
paved. In the course of this
". . . I am convinced that
cent of the Ashkenazi syn-
work, a group of Muslim this is not at all the inten-
agogues in the Old City.
dwellings known as 'the tion of the Israeli authori-
The Jewish cemetery on
Abu Saud houses' was de- ties. On the contrary, they
the Mount of Olives — the
molished, and the occu- wish to restore this part of
largest and-oldest Jewish
pants were relocated.
the town, which Fras been
graveyard in the world, a
• Operations to remove de- greatly neglected in the
sanctuary that dates back to
kris from chambers near past, and to make it look as
biblical times—fell victim
the Western Wall were be- it used to do."
to the same expression of
gun by the Ministry of Reli-
It might be noted here
gious Affairs.
that responsibility for reli-
Of 50,000 tombstones,
• A department was estab- gious and cultural prop-
some 38,000 were shattered
lished in the Prime Minis- erty in Jerusalem has,
or taken away to be used,
ter's Office to plan recon- since the 1850s, been
among other sacrilegious
struction in the Jewish vested in the authorities of
purposes, -in the structures
Quarter. _Archeological, the community to which it
of military bun-kers, bar-
historical and architectural belongs. This policy is en-
- rack latrines, and private
studies were begun at once, unciated in an Ottoman
as well as work of restora- firman of 1852, which has
4 ,,
There is evidence that the
The renovated wing of the Ben-Zakkai Synagogue
tion in the sourhern part of never been rescined.
destruction of the cemetery in the Old. City- of Jerusalem,
the Quarter. In conjunction
Thus restoration work in



the Seq el-Qattani is carried
out by the Waqf. the Mus-
lim Religious Council. Like-
wise, three Christian com-
munities are presently
renovating the Church of
the Holy Sepulchre.
Charges over the years by
Jordan were refuted hv
Prof. Lemaire's report.:
in July 1974, UNES(.. --.. 6
executive board cited Israel
with non-compliance with
the conventions and cited
Lemaire's report in support.
This was the step that led
to the resolution of Nov. 20,

The decision did not re-
quest the Director-Gen-
eral to make a report to the
General Conference, a fact
which evidently surprised
him. On his own initiative,
he submitted a brief fac-
tual report pointing out
that the matter had been
examined on several occa-
sions by his own personal

The question came before
Commission III of the Gen-
eral Conference at UNESCO
in October 1974. At that
time, a draft of the resolu-
tion of Nov. 20 was pre-
sented by 34 countries rep-
resenting an Arab-
Communist bloc.
Though brief, the draft
represents a summary of all
_of the claims and arguments
that appear in the earlier
decisions of the executive

In the opening para-
graphs, it states that the
General Conference is act-
ing out of concern for cul-
tural property in the Old
City of Jerusalem, on ac-
count of its "exceptional
importance . . . to all hu-
manity." It then cites the
entire series of decisions of
the executive board since
1968, charging Israel with
non-compliance with the

Concluding from this
that Israel "defies will-
fully the world conscience
and the international com-
munity," the resolution
"condems Israel for . . .
its persistence in altering
the historical features of
the city of Jerusalem and
by undertaking excava-
tions which constitute a
danger to its
In conclusion, it calls Oh
the Director-General to
withhold funds from Is-

When debate opened on
this measure in the Corn-
mission, many of the old
charges that had been re-
jected -repeatedly in the Di-
rector-General's reports
were revived!- In addition, a
new note was struck by a
number of delegates, one so
tendentious as to abandon
even the pretense of concern
for antiquities.

Adoption of -ihe resolu-
tion was urged, by these de-.
legates, as a response to
"the danger which Zionism
— as distinct from the Jew
ish religion = constituted."

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