Writing in the Australian (4/11) in support of the decision by UNESCO to grant membership to the Palestinians, Izzat Abdulhadi, head of the General Delegation of Palestine to Australia, claimed, “Israeli occupation has not seen the protection and preservation of these riches. Israeli occupation has seen deliberate neglect, damage and the ongoing seizure of Palestine’s cultural heritage and territory as its own, violently and with impunity, excluding the interests and rights of all others. Yet Australia voted no to Palestinian membership of UNESCO, preferring, it would seem, the theft and destruction of Palestine’s and the world’s heritage and saying no to peace.” By contrast, he claimed, “Palestine is committed to the protection and preservation of these treasures.” The track record shows the opposite to be the case. While Israel has rigorously protected the holy sites of all religions, Jewish sites such as Joseph’s tomb, and Christian sites such as the Church of the Nativity, have been damaged by Palestinians. Not to mention that, between 1948 and 1967, every synagogue in the old city of Jerusalem was destroyed. The Palestinians’ seeming determination to deny any historical Jewish connection to the area also cast doubt on Abdulhadi’s claims. Abdulhadi also claimed that Palestinians are “committed to negotiations being effective and enforceable.” This is hard to believe given the Palestinians have refused to even negotiate at all with Israel’s government since February 2009. The one exception was that they agreed to meet nine months into Israel’s ten-month moratorium on building of houses within settlements, but all they would agree to talk about was extending the moratorium. In reality, the Palestinian tactics are about avoiding negotiations altogether, and achieving their goals without agreeing to peace.
A Grandstanding Seat
Abdulhadi was responding to an editorial in the Australian (2/11) titled “Australia strong on UNESCO” and subtitled, “Palestinian grandstanding won’t advance the cause of peace.” It noted, “The Palestinians will doubtless use their new membership to get UNESCO to grant World Heritage status to important historical sites as part of Palestine, especially those in areas controlled by Israel. That will only exacerbate the situation. There is no aspect of the UNESCO vote that makes sense beyond grandstanding and the desire to make a symbolic gesture. It neither changes the situation on the ground in the Middle East, nor does it advance the cause of getting peace talks restarted. Instead, it prejudices UNESCO’s best interests and riles the US and Israel, the two countries with which, like it or not, the Palestinians will have to negotiate if they are ever to achieve statehood.”
The Australian (2/11) carried a report from AFP that was important, but missing from our other papers. It noted that, in her new memoir, former US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, when she received Ehud Olmert’s offer of a Palestinian state in 2008 “recalled thinking ‘Am I really hearing this?’ She presented the proposals the next day to Mr Abbas, who said he could not accept the return of only 5000 of about four million refugees.”