Letters: Whoever wins control, Jerusalem belongs to the world

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The Independent Online
Sir: Professor Hughes (letter, 2 October) is right to note the 1978 Unesco resolution deploring the Israeli excavations in Jerusalem and the American and British withdrawal from Unesco.

It is a little publicised fact that in 1980/1 the Old City of Jerusalem was nominated, and listed, as a World Heritage Site; such sites, under the terms of the World Heritage Convention, drawn up under the auspices of the same UN agency, are defined as places to be protected for their "universal importance to mankind". The nomination was made by Jordan and accepted by Unesco because the city is of vital cultural importance to the Moslem, Christian and Jewish religions.

Israel has never accepted the listing, arguing that it was politically motivated, and that because Israel is the de facto authority in the city, Jordan has no legitimate right to make it.

In 1982 the Old City was included on the list of World Heritage Sites in Danger. One of the criteria for inclusion on the list is (to paraphrase) "the serious loss of cultural or historical integrity". The nomination, again by Jordan, came about after the shooting of a number of Palestinians within the Haram al-Sherif (Temple Mount) and in response to increasing frustration in the Arab world, and international concern at the scale of urban development within and without its walls. Again Israel did not recognise the listing.

The recent opening of the tunnel finally draws attention to many similar actions since 1967. Many of these are illegal under the terms of the Hague Convention.

Eventually, the negotiations on the final status of Jerusalem will decide who will be responsible for its care, and it is time that the parties involved woke up to the fact that whoever is granted that responsibility will be guardians, not owners, of Jerusalem for the millions of Moslems, Christians and Jews around the world.


London W6

Sir: Professor Hughes refers to a Unesco resolution in support of his claim that Israeli archaeological excavations in Jerusalem are an attempt to "reinforce sovereignty" in the city. He fails to point out that following the resolution, a Unesco-appointed expert committee headed by Professor Raymond Lemaire, Unesco's representative to Jerusalem, reported in 1983 that allegations linking the excavations with damage to Muslim structures were "groundless".


London EC1