Riots on West Bank Over Alleged Violation of Hague Convention

Posted on February 24, 2010


The Palestinian Center for Human Rights (PCHR) condemned a decision by Israel to name the Cave of Machpelah (also called Cave of the Patriarchs, and known to Muslims as Ibrahimi Mosque) on the West Bank as an Israeli “National Heritage” site.  Another last minute addition to the list of Israeli holy sites was Bilal Ibn Ribah mosque outside of Bethlehem.

The decision is seen by Palestinians as an attempt on Israel’s part to hijack Muslim holy sites.  The areas of the sites are in occupied territory and already under Israel’s military control, but the designation was interpreted as an attempt to lay permanent claim to area of great religious significance to Muslims.

PCHR has alleged that Israel is violating the Hague Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict of 1954.  Specifically, PCHR points to Articles 1 and 2, which define cultural property and provide for the safeguarding of and respect of such property.  PCHR also sited to Article 9, which prohibits the transfer or removal of cultural property.

Israel named 150 such sites on February 22, 2010, all of which are slated to receive added funding from the government.  The West Bank site additions were not among the sites which were expected to receive such designation.

Mahmoud Abbas, the president of the Palestinian Authority and PLO leader, cautioned that the Israel’s decision would exacerbate tensions and lead to renewed conflict.  Indeed, various sources are reporting that riots have been taking place in Hebron in opposition to the designation.

Sixteen years ago, the Ibrahimi mosque was the site of a massacre of worshipping Muslims, leaving 29 dead and 125 injured.  Another 29 died in the ensuing riots.  The killings occurred on February 25th, 1994, which PCHR has pointed out is very close to the date chosen by Israel to announce the heritage designation.

Judaism and Islam agree that the Biblical and Qur’anic patriarchs Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob are entombed within the site, as well as the matriarchs Sarah, Rebekah, and Leah.  The site is considered to be the second most sacred site for Jewish people, just after the Temple Mount in Jerusalem.

Read More Hebron riots follow Cave of Machpelah decision on Israel National News.

Read PCHR condemns Israeli heritage designation on Ma’an News Agency.

Read Anger over Israeli plan to hijack Muslim holy sites on the National.

Much thanks to Heather Harkess, a scholar in Middle Eastern conflict resolution and a dear friend of mine, who understands the political and social aspects of the foregoing much better than I do and was able to help me understand.

**** UPDATE ****

UNESCO indicated on Friday, February 26, 2010, that it is concerned about Israel’s plan to rehabilitate Jewish religious shrines in the occupied West Bank.  Read the full article on Reuters: UNESCO worried about Israel heritage plan on West Bank.