UNESCO Can’t Admit a Biblical City’s Connection to Jewish History

Like other organs of the United Nations, the supposedly apolitical Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) is often used as a weapon for attacking Israel. Look no further than its decision last weekend to make the city of Jericho a world heritage site. The editors of the Jerusalem Post explain:

Ancient Jericho is indeed a site of great historical importance. Largely regarded as one of the oldest cities in the world, [the city bears] evidence of human settlement stretching back some 11,000 years. It appears numerous times throughout the Bible and was notably the site of the Israelites’ first battle in their conquest of the Land of Israel, as documented in the book of Joshua. The city was an important center during the Hasmonean and Herodian periods and the remains of several spectacular synagogues have been uncovered in and around the city.

UNESCO’s description omits all that. The carefully worded text that accompanied the site’s designation refers to “vestiges from the Middle Bronze Age” that “reveal the presence of a large Canaanite city-state occupied by a socially complex population.” And that’s where it ends. Absent is any reference to the city’s Jewish history or its centrality to the biblical narrative.

But perhaps the most outrageous part of UNESCO’s designation of the site is its collusion with Palestinian efforts not only to erase the city’s Jewish heritage but to claim it as their own, by ascribing it to the “state of Palestine.” This is not the first time that UNESCO has played along with Palestinian attempts at historical appropriation. Three more West Bank locations have been designated as world heritage sites and ascribed to the “state of Palestine” since 2012.

The United States rejoined UNESCO in July in large part, it said, to serve as a check on the body’s anti-Israel bias.

Read more at Jerusalem Post

More about: Anti-Semitism, Jericho, Palestinian statehood, UNESCO

Recognizing a Palestinian State Won’t Help Palestinians, or Even Make Palestinian Statehood More Likely

While Shira Efron and Michael Koplow are more sanguine about the possibility of a two-state solution to the Israel-Palestinian conflict, and more critical of Israel’s policies in the West Bank, than I am, I found much worth considering in their recent article on the condition of the Palestinian Authority (PA). Particularly perceptive are their comments on the drive to grant diplomatic recognition to a fictive Palestinian state, a step taken by nine countries in the past few months, and almost as many in total as recognize Israel.

Efron and Koplow argue that this move isn’t a mere empty gesture, but one that would actually make things worse, while providing “no tangible benefits for Palestinians.”

In areas under its direct control—Areas A and B of the West Bank, comprising 40 percent of the territory—the PA struggles severely to provide services, livelihoods, and dignity to inhabitants. This is only partly due to its budgetary woes; it has also never established a properly functioning West Bank economy. President Mahmoud Abbas, who will turn ninety next year, administers the PA almost exclusively by executive decrees, with little transparency or oversight. Security is a particular problem, as militants from different factions now openly defy the underfunded and undermotivated PA security forces in cities such as Jenin, Nablus, and Tulkarm.

Turning the Palestinian Authority (PA) from a transitional authority into a permanent state with the stroke of a pen will not make [its] litany of problems go away. The risk that the state of Palestine would become a failed state is very real given the PA’s dysfunctional, insolvent status and its dearth of public legitimacy. Further declines in its ability to provide social services and maintain law and order could yield a situation in which warlords and gangs become de-facto rulers in some areas of the West Bank.

Otherwise, any steps toward realizing two states will be fanciful, built atop a crumbling foundation—and likely to help turn the West Bank into a third front in the current war.

Read more at Foreign Affairs

More about: Palestinian Authority, Palestinian statehood