Victory for Palestinian Authority: Church of the Nativity becomes UNESCO World Heritage site
Bethlehem; First time for a Palestinian site to be included on UN list. Palestinians celebrate and seek recognition for 20 other sites in East Jerusalem, Gaza and West Bank.
Criticism from Israel and the United States who see a "politicization" of UNESCO, contrary to the peace process. For Custody of the Holy Land the decision is "great news". The Churches have received assurances from Abu Mazen on their freedom as places of worship, according to the status quo. But the holy places should be "places of peace and serenity" for all the pilgrims.
Israeli criticism and the quiet appreciation from the Custodian of the Holy Land are the sentiments that dominate in Bethlehem after UNESCO announced it was including The Church of the Nativity and the pilgrimage route between Jerusalem and Bethlehem on its list of World Heritage Sites. This is the first time a a Palestinian site has been included on the list.
Meeting yesterday in St. Petersburg , 21 member Heritage Committee of UNESCO voted with 13 yes, 6 no and 2 abstentions to the proposal of the Palestinian National Authority (PNA), presented in an "emergency procedure ",'' because of the decay and degradation'' of the site and the "separation barrier", consequences of the occupation by Israeli forces.
Hanan Ashrawi, a Christian Orthodox, on behalf of the Executive Committee of the PLO (Palestine Liberation Organization) said that'' the Palestinian people gladly welcomes this decision as a moment of national pride and an acknowledgment of the uniqueness and the richness of their own identity and their heritage.''
Nabil Abu Rdeina, spokesman for Palestinian President Abu Mazen, said that "this is a historic day for justice" that the world - he added - has again expressed its opposition to the occupation and was on the side of justice and of international legitimacy, recognizing the Palestinian right to a State.