176 EX/Special Plenary Meeting/1 PARIS, 13 April 2007
Special Plenary Meeting
(16 April p.m. to 17 April 2007 a.m.)
LATEST DEVELOPMENTS IN THE SITUATION OF
THE WORLD HERITAGE SITE OF THE OLD CITY OF JERUSALEM
This document was submitted by Algeria, Bahrain, Egypt, Lebanon, Morocco and Yemen as an explanatory note attached to their letter dated 14 February 2007, requesting that a special session of the Executive Board be held to discuss the latest developments under way at the site of the Old City of Jerusalem.
In the meantime, the Bureau of the Executive Board, in agreement with the aforementioned signatories, has reached a consensus to recommend that the Executive Board hold a special plenary meeting during the 176th session of the Executive Board on Monday afternoon, 16 April and Tuesday morning, 17 April 2007.
On the request to convene a special session of the Executive Board immediately
to examine developments in the situation at the site of the Old City of Jerusalem
On the morning of 6 February 2007, the Israeli occupation authorities began to demolish and remove the earthen ramp leading to B ā b al-Maghāriba (the Gate of the Maghribis, also known as the Moors’ Gate) in the southern wall of al-Aqsà Mosque in Jerusalem, which is the only remaining part of the historic Hārat al-Maghāriba (Maghribi quarter), which the occupation authorities razed completely in 1967.
This ramp is the only path leading to al-Aqsà Mosque from that side, and is considered to be an integral part of Jerusalem's al-Haram ash-Sharīf (the Noble Sanctuary), and furthermore contains rare historic Islamic buildings and archaeological remains. The Israeli occupation authorities have announced that the excavation and removal works are to continue for at least eight months, with a view to constructing a glass bridge connecting al-Burāq Square to al-Aqsà Mosque. According to them, the demolition work is aimed at making way for the support columns for the elevated bridge that is to be built above the Bāb al-Maghāriba pathway.
There is little need to stress that this work being undertaken by the Israeli occupation authorities, without referral to the specialized bodies responsible for the preservation of these heritage sites and without prior consultation of UNESCO, constitutes a flagrant violation by Israel of the terms of the World Heritage Convention, and of the decisions adopted by the World Heritage Committee at its most recent session held in Vilnius, Lithuania, in July 2006 regarding the historic site of Jerusalem inscribed on the List of World Heritage in Danger, which Israel, as a member of that Committee, agreed to. It further constitutes a naked challenge by the Israeli occupation authorities to all the juridical decisions adopted by the international community regarding the legal status of the city of Jerusalem and the principle of not altering the authentic historic character of that city, which is of global historic value given its status as a World Heritage Site shared by all humankind, and which is also a sacred symbol for the various revealed religions.
These moves by Israel have triggered angry reactions at the global, regional and local levels. Numerous international and regional organizations and specialized agencies have expressed their great alarm over these works, and have called for an immediate halt thereto. They have also urged UNESCO to shoulder its responsibilities, since ensuring that UNESCO's Member States observe the Operational Guidelines for the Implementation of the World Heritage Convention lies at the very core of UNESCO’s responsibilities and duties.
On the basis of the foregoing, the League of Arab States has issued a statement concerning the Israeli actions against al-Aqsà Mosque in which it warned of the consequences of a continuation of the flagrant Israeli violations against one of the holiest Islamic sites in Jerusalem, and stressed the illegal, illegitimate nature of those repeated actions, which are aimed at annexing Jerusalem and altering its geographical, demographic and archaeological characteristics. The group of Arab States Members of the Executive Board of UNESCO have been entrusted with submitting a request for the convening of an immediate special session of the Board to discuss this dangerous escalation.
The Arab States group at UNESCO further wishes to express its satisfaction with the numerous international statements issued by many international bodies in support of Arab positions and rights in the city of Jerusalem and in condemnation of the Israeli actions. They draw particular attention in this regard to the statements by the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) and the Arab League Educational, Cultural and Scientific Organization (ALECSO), and commend the statement issued on this subject by the Director-General of UNESCO.
The group of Arab States Members of UNESCO urges friendly States Members of the Executive Board to lend their support to the Arab request to hold this immediate special session, and to ensure that such a session is convened and that its legitimate purposes are crowned with success.
UNESCO's success in shouldering this tremendous responsibility will constitute a reaffirmation of the importance of its role and effectiveness as trustee for the protection of the world heritage shared by all humankind, and will be seen as practical proof of the solidarity of UNESCO's Member States with one another in furtherance of the lofty principles of UNESCO and in advancement of its noble objectives.
In view of all the above, the group of Arab States Members of the Executive Board urge the Chairperson of the Executive Board of UNESCO to respond rapidly by issuing an immediate convocation to such a special session in view of the gravity of the current situation.
14 February 2007
Document Type: Arabic text, Chinese text, French text, Report, Russian text, Spanish text
Document Sources: United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO)
Country: Algeria, Bahrain, Egypt, Lebanon, Morocco, Yemen
Subject: Agenda Item, Education and culture, Holy places, Jerusalem
Publication Date: 14/02/2007