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Palestine, UNESCO and Legal Realities

By David Singer - posted Tuesday, 16 November 2010

The cynical Arab use of UNESCO to pass resolutions concerning two Jewish sacred and biblical sites - the Tomb of the Patriarchs in Hebron and Rachel's Tomb in Bethlehem - is part of an ongoing Arab obsession to deny any Jewish claims to sovereignty in any part of the West Bank

Their latest attempt to hijack UNESCO also flouts UN Security Council Resolution 242 passed on 22 November 1967. That resolution recognized that there would be a termination of all states of belligerency and that the armistice lines existing at the conclusion of hostilities between the nascent Jewish State of Israel and six invading Arab armies in 1948 would be replaced by secure and recognized boundaries between Israel and its neighbours, Jordan, Lebanon, Syria and Egypt.

Israel and Egypt achieved this in 1979 - as did Jordan and Israel in 1994 - when they concluded peace treaties and established full diplomatic relations.


However there was one little glitch contained in both treaties.The permanent boundaries so established were without prejudice to the determination of the final status of the Gaza Strip and the West Bank.

This still remains the legal position in 2010.However the Arabs have made it abundantly clear for the last 43 years that they are determined to have sovereignty in the West Bank resolved completely in their favour to the total exclusion of Jewish claims to sovereignty in these areas.

Their pursuit of this objective was made abundantly clear with the recent decision of UNESCO's Executive Board resolving that the Tomb of the Patriarchs and Rachel's Tomb "are an integral part of the occupied Palestinian Territories".

This resolution represents one more insidious attempt by the Arabs to determine the final status of the West Bank as exclusively Arab territory and to deny the Jews the legal rights vested in them to settle there for the declared purpose of reconstituting their national home in accordance with Article 6 of the Mandate for Palestine and Article 80 of the United Nations Charter.

In arriving at its decision on 21 October - UNESCO's Executive Board had in its possession an explanatory note presented on 19 March by 7 of its 58 member States - Algeria, Egypt, Kuwait, Morocco, Saudi Arabia, Syria and Tunisia - supporting their request to have the Board place the issue of the two sacred Jewish sites on the Board's agenda for consideration.

That explanatory note falsely purported to represent the legal position existing in the West Bank in the following terms:


"Israel's military occupation of Palestinian territory is inherently temporary and does not give the occupying power (Israel) sovereignty or title over the occupied territory. The seminal principle in international law is reflected in Article 43 of the Hague Regulations which requires the occupying power to re-establish and maintain public order and civil life for the benefit of the occupied population, and to respect existing laws and institutions in the occupied territory."

Apart from describing the West Bank as "Palestinian territory" whilst its legal status still remains undetermined - the Arab position on the applicability and interpretation of Article 43 was totally misconceived and indeed deceptive and misleading.

Article 43 states:

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About the Author

David Singer is an Australian Lawyer, a Foundation Member of the International Analyst Network and Convenor of Jordan is Palestine International - an organisation calling for sovereignty of the West Bank and Gaza to be allocated between Israel and Jordan as the two successor States to the Mandate for Palestine. Previous articles written by him can be found at

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All articles by David Singer

Creative Commons LicenseThis work is licensed under a Creative Commons License.

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