GENEVA, April 15 – In an urgent letter sent today to UNESCO director-general Irina Bokova (see letter below), UN Watch demanded immediate action to stop the Hamas bulldozing of a 3000-year-old Gaza harbor for use as a terrorist training camp, as reported today by Al Monitor Palestine Pulse. A copy was also sent to EU foreign minister Catherine Ashton calling on the EU to take action.
The partial destruction of the ancient Anthedon Harbor—which includes the ruins of a Roman temple and archaeological remains from the Persian, Hellenistic, Roman and Byzantine eras—comes exactly one year after the area was nominated by new UNESCO member state Palestine as a World Heritage site.
UN Watch, an independent Geneva-based monitoring group, called on Bokova to bring the issue before the UNESCO executive board now meeting in Paris.
Although the biannual UNESCO meeting, which runs until April 26, lists five agenda items concerning Palestinian issues—which US Ambassador Killion has described as “highly politicized” and designed to “single out Israel”—there is currently no scheduled discussion to address the month-long Hamas bulldozing of the proposed heritage site. UN Watch’s letter as sent today to Ms. Bokova and Lady Ashton follows below.
Ms. Irina Bokova
Director General, UNESCO
7, Place de Fontenoy
75352 Paris 07 SP
cc: Catherine Ashton, European Union High Representative for Foreign Affairs
15 April 2013
Dear Ms. Bokova,
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.
That the UNESCO executive has so far failed to place the Hamas destruction and cynical abuse of this site on its agenda underscores the tragic politicization and diversion of the agency’s mission to protect world culture and heritage.
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.
Previous UNESCO resolutions on these five items were rightly described by US Ambassador David Killion as “highly politicized” and designed to “single out Israel.” The extreme politicization even prompted Russia to successfully oppose discussion of these items, despite vehement Palestinian opposition, at the previous 190th session in October.
UNESCO’s admission of Palestine as a member state in 2011, which caused the organization to lose almost a quarter of its budget when the US suspended its contributions, was justified as a measure to help protect world heritage sites in Palestinian areas. Yet as Hamas turns a cultural heritage site into a terrorist training ground—the antithesis of culture—the silence of UNESCO now places the very credibility of the organization at stake.
Hillel C. Neuer