As readers are probably aware, the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem has recently been granted World Heritage Site Status on an emergency basis:
“These sites are threatened with total destruction through the Israeli occupation, through the building of the separation wall, because of all the Israeli sanctions and the measures that have been taken to stifle the Palestinian identity,” permanent delegate Elias Wadih Sanbar said.
Israel’s permanent delegate, Nimrod Barkan, said his country supported awarding World Heritage Site status to the Church of the Nativity under a completely different, non-emergency procedure that carried no implications for the stalled Middle East peace process.
According to a report issued by the International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS) the Church’s situation did not warrant this emergency step.
[T]he Church of the Nativity and the Pilgrimage route in Bethlehem, Palestine should not be inscribed on the World Heritage List on an emergency basis. . .ICOMOS does not consider that the conditions required by paragraph 161 of the Operational Guidelines are fully met, concerning damage or serious and specific dangers to the Church of the Nativity that make its condition an emergency that needs to be addressed by the World Heritage Committee with immediate action necessary for the survival of the property.”
Meanwhile in Mali Muslim tombs are being destroyed by Islamists who are threatening to destroy every shrine in Timbuktu, a city with a centuries old tradition of Islamic scholarship and culture. The attacks, ironically, seem to have been prompted by the fact that UNESCO decreed that the city should be classed as an endangered world heritage site:
“They have raped Timbuktu today. It is a crime,” said a source close to a local imam in the town known as the “City of 333 Saints” … Ansar Dine, one of the hardline Islamist groups which seized control of the vast desert north of Mali in the chaotic aftermath of a March coup in Bamako, said no site would be safe in Timbuktu.
“Ansar Dine will today destroy every mausoleum in the city. All of them, without exception,” spokesman Sanda Ould Boumama told AFP through an interpreter from the city.
The Ansar Dine spokesman suggested Saturday’s action was in retaliation for the UNESCO threatened by the armed conflict in the region.”
News of this wanton destruction has the effect of putting the claims that the Church of the Nativity was also in danger of ‘total destruction’ into perspective.