Thursday, March 15, 2007

UNESCO Ambiguates on Old City Dig

UNESCO's HQ in Paris

The report of UNESCO's investigation of Israeli excavations in the Old City of Jerusalem was published Wednesday. I can't find the full text on UNESCO's website. Only a press release. In any case, the gist of the matter seems clear. First of all, the report clears the Israelis of the accusation that their work is in any way deleterious to the Muslim holy site. But second, it criticizes the Israeli's for not communicating with the Waqf, the Jordanians, etc., in advance of the project. it would be interesting to see the full text of the report in order to gauge the relative emphasis placed on these two points.

I was somewhat dismayed to read a BBC story in which the now officially discredited accusations of some Muslim leaders were presented as banal -- as potentially truthful. As the BBC puts it,"Palestinian critics and Muslim figures internationally say the work could damage the mosque foundations." Thanks to the report summarized in this very BBC story, we now know this not to be the case.

The other issue, namely, Israel's prerogative in undertaking activities of this nature in land occupied in 1967, is much more complicated. According to Haaretz, Israeli diplomats fear that coordination with the Waqf and Jordanians would be tantamount to renouncing Israeli sovereignty over the Temple Mount. For my part, I don't understand why the excavations should be stopped immediately if they are deemed harmless. UNESCO says that the Israelis have seen enough, but that is almost never the case in archaeology. Still, I can imagine that, perhaps, in hindsight, a more multilateral approach might have been taken to this sensitive problem.


zed said...

Am I the only one who finds it ironic that the UN's cultural organization has such an ugly HQ building?

Eliyahu m'Tsiyon said...

The international law status of Jerusalem was decided in 1920 at the San Remo conference which juridically erected the whole country into the Jewish National Home. This decision was endorsed by the League of Nations in 1922 and confirmed in Article 80 of the UN charter after WW2. Since the partition resolution of 29 Nov 1947 [kaf tet b'november] was only a recommendation as are all General Assembly resolutions on political issues, it was not binding on the parties. The Arab side rejected the proposal and made war on it and on the yishuv starting on 11-29-47 or 11-30-47.

The armistice agreements did not set borders and the Arab parties to the agreements did not view them as peace accords. Hence, the prior legal status of the Jewish National Home remains in effect till today. Hence, there is no legal obstacle to digging in the Old City of Jerusalem. There are only political obstacles motivated by the Judeophobia of the Western powers, as well as the Arabs.