As I reported in a post yesterday, the World Heritage Committee of UNESCO has in the past week adopted a couple of resolutions that have aroused Israeli indignation. One of the resolutions–the one which seems to have sparked the most fury–recognizes the old city of Hebron as a Palestinian World Heritage site.
According to the video in the embedded tweet below, Israel has now announced a cut of $1 million in UN funding, apparently in retaliation.
As I reported in yesterday’s post–and as the video above also mentions–the World Heritage committee, in addition to designating the site as Palestinian, also declared it to be endangered. Reportedly the concern here, or at least one of the concerns, is the threat from vandalism. Given that Hebron is inhabited by Israeli settlers, who seem to be free to commit crimes against the Palestinian population with impunity, the apprehension is probably justified. But of course this aspect to the resolution’s passage in all probability had the effect of arousing Israeli anger all the more.
The Israeli official in the video I posted yesterday–the man who interrupted the proceedings by calling for a moment of silence for “six million murdered Jews” and who was accused by the representative from Cuba of turning the meeting into a “politicized circus” by way of response–this man’s name, apparently, is Carmel Shama-Hacohen, and he reportedly is Israel’s ambassador to UNESCO. According to a report here, shortly after the Hebron resolution was passed, he declared that fixing his “toilet” was more important than the vote just taken:
Israel isn’t known for its fondness of the United Nations and its institutions, but a resolution passed on Friday questioning Israel’s continued occupation of the ancient West Bank city of Hebron and the damage it might be causing to holy sites there drew an unusual response.
“Sorry … I have a very urgent … sorry, Mr Chairman … it’s my plumber in my apartment in Paris,” Carmel Shama-Hacohen, Israel’s ambassador to the United Nations Education, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO), said sarcastically while addressing the forum’s annual gathering.
“There is a huge problem in my toilet, and it’s more important than the decision you just adopted, thank you.”
Also in yesterday’s post I made an offhand observation regarding the impression that comments by Israeli officials often leave with me. Specifically, I said:
From turning a meeting into a circus sideshow by calling for a moment of silence for “six million murdered Jews,” to accusing a people living under a brutal occupation of being responsible for their own misery and suffering–there is something about the behavior of Israeli officials that somehow always seems to remind me of the proverbial rude guest who showed up for a party uninvited.
When I wrote those words yesterday, little did I know that Israel does not even hold a seat on the World Heritage Committee–which would seem to lend a sort of special significance to my comment about the rude guest showing up uninvited. But indeed, I made that discovery today.
If you go to the UNESCO World Heritage Convention website, you can find a PDF document that lists the current members of the World Heritage Committee. There are 21 of them in all. Here is a screen shot from the document (click to enlarge):
As you can see, Israel is not on the list. In other words, Hacohen, who spent part of the meeting importuning a lengthy moment of silence and then talking about his toilet, is not even a member of the committee. But yet, according to Israelis, it is the committee members who are guilty of bad behavior.
By the way, the World Heritage Committee’s deliberations are taking place in Krakow, Poland, and they are not over yet. The session is supposed to continue through Wednesday, so there may be more to come.