UNESCO rejects Palestinian heritage proposal of Bethlehem church

Paris, 26 May 2011, Art Media Agency (AMA).

The Palestinian proposal of the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem for the UNESCO world heritage list has been rejected.  The international institution has given Palestine’s political status as the reason for the rejection.

The World Heritage Committee will meet from 19 to 29 June to study the forty-two cultural and natural heritage sites that have been submitted for inclusion on the World Heritage List.  The selection includes eleven sites in the Near East.  The Bethlehem church will not be considered.

“The World Heritage Committee will not be able to consider the nomination until, if and when Palestine becomes a state party to the [World Heritage] Convention,” said Louise Haxthausen, head of UNESCO’s office in Ramallah in an interview featured in the Art Newspaper.

Only sovereign states recognized by the United Nations can submit proposals to the committee.  The Gaza strip and the West Bank have UN observer status and are thus not fully-fledged members of the UN, disqualifying them from proposing sites.

The rejection of the Palestinian bid comes in the midst of an intransigent battle by both the Palestinians and Israelis to stake their claim on historical sites, in view of the possible recognition of the Palestinian state by the UN.