New Palestinian World Heritage site faces defacement threat   no comments

Posted at 12:16 pm in the places I would like to go

By Ido Liven

The Palestinian village of Battir, just six kilometres southwest of Jerusalem and a similar distance from Bethlehem, is the latest to be trapped in the gap between international recognition and Israel’s policies in the West Bank.

The village’s agricultural terraces covering the surrounding hill slopes, and the spring water-fed open irrigation channels that run through them, have been in use for centuries.

Last month, this unique landscape was designated a World Heritage site by the UN. Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO), making it only the second such Palestinian site after the Old City of Jerusalem site.

Already in autumn last year, the World Monuments Fund, an international organisation working to preserve important cultural heritage sites, had added Battir’s ancient terraces to its 2014 World Monuments Watch.

Local residents, who depend on agriculture for their livelihoods, have been campaigning against the six-kilometre long Separation Barrier plans since 2005, and fear the barrier will take a toll, not only on the centuries-old living landscape, but also on their way of life.

The decision to inscribe Battir in the World Heritage list comes amid Israeli plans to establish a new section of its Separation Barrier at the foot of the terraced hill slopes, cutting through the Palestinian village’s lands.

According to the Israeli military authorities, this section of the Separation Barrier is mainly intended to protect the railway on the margins of the village’s lands. Military representatives told the Israeli Supreme Court in 2011, there is “specific intelligence about attempts of terror organisations to infiltrate into Israel from this direction.”

However, they also reiterated that “the above mentioned security threat is not at all posed by residents of Battir, but from other hostile elements active in this area and those especially coming to the Battir area due to the fact the barrier route is still incomplete there”.

Local residents, however, who depend on agriculture for their livelihoods, have been campaigning against the Separation Barrier plans since 2005, fearing the new six kilometre-long barrier will take a toll, not only on the centuries-old living landscape, but also on their way of life.

Over the years, their campaign has garnered much support, including from environmental groups such as the Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel and Friends of the Earth Middle East (FoEME). Two perhaps unlikely other sources of support have been an Israeli field school in the settlement bloc of Gush Etzion and the Israeli Nature and Parks Authority (INPA).

Their environmental support might be genuine, but their objection to the Separation Barrier also fits well with their own political agenda, says Ofer Zalzberg, a Jerusalem-based senior analyst with the International Crisis Group.

INPA, in particular, has added its voice in support of protecting the Palestinian village’s traditional terraces, while managing a number of national parks – some of which are included in the tentative list of Palestine’s World Heritage sites.

In May last year, the Israeli Supreme Court ordered suspension of the works on the section of the barrier in Battir’s lands, but a final ruling is still pending. Now, the petitioners from the village and from FoEME are hopeful that the new World Heritage status could influence the court’s decision.

Nevertheless, Battir’s eggplants, vines and olives are closely intertwined with the greater Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The World Heritage nomination was submitted under a special emergency procedure a day after the latest court session, and right before this year’s deadline.

But it could have been made already a year earlier if it had not been for a request from US Secretary of State John Kerry, according to Israeli daily Haaretz. Freezing the Palestinian bid, the paper reported, was meant to allow the renewal of peace negotiations. “Senior Foreign Ministry officials in Jerusalem noted that Israel is keeping track of the Palestinian move and will try to prevent it,” Haaretz added.

Palestinian news agency Ma’an reported that suspending Battir’s nomination was part of a deal whereby, in exchange, Israel would allow a UNESCO team to examine the Old City of Jerusalem, another World Heritage site.

Eventually, Battir’s application was successful and, in acknowledging the threat to the site, the World Heritage Committee also agreed to include it in its ‘in danger’ list, despite an expert opinion from the International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS), the professional cultural heritage body advising UNESCO, which was generally sceptical about the merits of the site’s inscription.

However, Israel’s Ministry of Defence remains intent on going ahead with the barrier plan. “The barrier’s route in the area of Battir is intended to protect the citizens of Israel from terrorists and terror entering [the country],” read a statement from the ministry to IPS.

“The Security Barrier’s route will be established with no harm to natural assets,” it continued. “No terrace will be destroyed and the irrigation system will not be harmed. The IDF [Israel Defence Forces] is sensitive to the natural assets at the site, but it is first and foremost committed to the security of the citizens of Israel.”

And it does seem rather unlikely that Battir’s World Heritage inscription will have a significant impact on the Supreme Court ruling.  “I’d be surprised if, on these grounds, the Supreme Court categorically rejects building the barrier there,” Zalzberg told IPS.

“I think that’s not good for the image of Israel to be destroying World Heritage sites,” says Nader al-Khateeb, FoEME’s Palestinian co-director.

But Zalzberg believes such designation would not be seen by the Israeli government as a major factor. “There are already places where Israel has taken its own stance on things that are much more serious in the eyes of the international community,” he said.

Rather, an Israeli decision to go ahead with the barrier in Battir, thus defying the UN agency, “could be part of a trend where Israel further pushes UNESCO to the wall on anything related to managing sites, possibly also in Jerusalem”.

From the court proceedings, it seems that a barrier will eventually be built. In its latest session on the case, in January, the Supreme Court focused on ways to mitigate damage to the terraces, for example by examining the option of removing one of the train tracks, and by ordering the Israeli military to allow Battir farmers access to their lands through gates in the barrier.

Opponents, however, are concerned about additional, collateral damage to the ancient terraces landscape from the construction process involving heavy machinery.

Akram Bader, mayor of Battir, is concerned that building the barrier would not only take a toll on the local cultural heritage, but also on the peaceful situation in the area. “Through the last 64 years there have been no incidents in the area, so why are they saying they want to build a Security Barrier?” he asks.

In fact, establishing the barrier, ostensibly to ensure Israel’s security, could lead to violence, Bader warns. “If the terraces are damaged, it means that the people will not think about peace in this area. They will change their minds about it.”

Israel is, at least formally, committed to protecting cultural heritage in the West Bank, as a member of the UNESCO World Heritage Committee and also as one of the earliest signatories of the 1954 Hague Convention for the Protection of Cultural Heritage in the Event of Armed Conflict.

Meanwhile, Battir might not be the last case of its kind. At least two proposals on Palestine’s World Heritage Tentative List could overlap the route of Israel’s Separation Barrier. In one, Umm Al-Rihan Forest, the barrier already exists. In another, El-Bariyah, also known as the Judean desert, plans to establish a stretch of the Separation Barrier triggered vocal protest from Israeli environmentalists six years ago.

In response, Amir Peretz, then Defence Minister and today Environmental Protection Minister, ordered works to be halted.

In July 2004, the International Court of Justice had issued an Advisory Opinion on Israel’s Separation Barrier, concluding that it was “contrary to international law” and calling on Israel to cease its construction. Exactly ten years later, Israel’s Separation Barrier looks set to defy the international community once again.

Article source: http://www.middleeasteye.net/news/new-palestinian-world-heritage-site-under-threat-defacement-1027099861

Written by enfoquec on July 18th, 2014

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New Palestinian World Heritage Site Under Threat of Defacement   no comments

Posted at 11:59 am in the places I would like to go

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View of the terraces in the Palestinian village of Battir, now a World Heritage site. Credit: Courtesy of Wikipedia

BATTIR, West Bank, Jul 13 2014 (IPS) - The Palestinian village of Battir, just six kilometres southwest of Jerusalem and a similar distance from Bethlehem, is the latest to be trapped in the gap between international recognition and Israel’s policies in the West Bank.

The village’s agricultural terraces covering the surrounding hill slopes, and the spring water-fed open irrigation channels that run through them, have been in use for centuries.

Last month, this unique landscape was designated a World Heritage site by the U.N. Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO), making it only the second such Palestinian site after the Old City of Jerusalem site.

Already in autumn last year, the World Monuments Fund, an international organisation working to preserve important cultural heritage sites, had added Battir’s ancient terraces to its 2014 World Monuments Watch.

The decision to inscribe Battir in the World Heritage list comes amid Israeli plans to establish a new section of its Separation Barrier at the foot of the terraced hill slopes, cutting through the Palestinian village’s lands.

According to the Israeli military authorities, this section of the Separation Barrier is mainly intended to protect the railway on the margins of the village’s lands. Military representatives told the Israeli Supreme Court in 2011, there is “specific intelligence about attempts of terror organisations to infiltrate into Israel from this direction.”

However, they also reiterated that “the abovementioned security threat is not at all posed by residents of Battir, but from other hostile elements active in this area and those especially coming to the Battir area due to the fact the barrier route is still incomplete there.”

Local residents, however, who depend on agriculture for their livelihoods, have been campaigning against the Separation Barrier plans since 2005, fearing the new six kilometre-long barrier will take a toll, not only on the centuries-old living landscape, but also on their way of life.

Over the years, their campaign has garnered much support, including from environmental groups such as the Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel and Friends of the Earth Middle East (FoEME). Two perhaps unlikely other sources of support have been an Israeli field school in the settlement bloc of Gush Etzion and the Israeli Nature and Parks Authority (INPA).

Their environmental support might be genuine, but their objection to the Separation Barrier also fits well with their own political agenda, says Ofer Zalzberg, a Jerusalem-based senior analyst with the International Crisis Group.

INPA, in particular, has added its voice in support of protecting the Palestinian village’s traditional terraces, while managing a number of national parks – some of which are included in the tentative list of Palestine’s World Heritage sites.

In May last year, the Israeli Supreme Court ordered suspension of the works on the section of the barrier in Battir’s lands, but a final ruling is still pending. Now, the petitioners from the village and from FoEME are hopeful that the new World Heritage status could influence the court’s decision.

Nevertheless, Battir’s eggplants, vines and olives are closely intertwined with the greater Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The World Heritage nomination was submitted under a special emergency procedure a day after the latest court session, and right before this year’s deadline.

But it could have been made already a year earlier if it had not been for a request from U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, according to Israeli daily Haaretz. Freezing the Palestinian bid, the paper reported, was meant to allow the renewal of peace negotiations. “Senior Foreign Ministry officials in Jerusalem noted that Israel is keeping track of the Palestinian move and will try to prevent it,” Haaretz added.

Palestinian news agency Ma’an reported that suspending Battir’s nomination was part of a deal whereby, in exchange, Israel would allow a UNESCO team to examine the Old City of Jerusalem, another World Heritage site.

Eventually, Battir’s application was successful and, in acknowledging the threat to the site, the World Heritage Committee also agreed to include it in its ‘in danger’ list, despite an expert opinion from the International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS), the professional cultural heritage body advising UNESCO, which was generally sceptical about the merits of the site’s inscription.

However, Israel’s Ministry of Defence remains intent on going ahead with the barrier plan. “The barrier’s route in the area of Battir is intended to protect the citizens of Israel from terrorists and terror entering [the country],” read a statement from the ministry to IPS.

“The Security Barrier’s route will be established with no harm to natural assets,” it continued. “No terrace will be destroyed and the irrigation system will not be harmed. The IDF [Israel Defence Forces] is sensitive to the natural assets at the site, but it is first and foremost committed to the security of the citizens of Israel.”

And it does seem rather unlikely that Battir’s World Heritage inscription will have a significant impact on the Supreme Court ruling.  “I’d be surprised if, on these grounds, the Supreme Court categorically rejects building the barrier there,” Zalzberg told IPS.

“I think that’s not good for the image of Israel to be destroying World Heritage sites,” says Nader al-Khateeb, FoEME’s Palestinian co-director.

But Zalzberg believes such designation would not be seen by the Israeli government as a major factor. “There are already places where Israel has taken its own stance on things that are much more serious in the eyes of the international community,” he said.

Rather, an Israeli decision to go ahead with the barrier in Battir, thus defying the U.N. agency, “could be part of a trend where Israel further pushes UNESCO to the wall on anything related to managing sites, possibly also in Jerusalem.”

From the court proceedings, it seems that a barrier will eventually be built. In its latest session on the case, in January, the Supreme Court focused on ways to mitigate damage to the terraces, for example by examining the option of removing one of the train tracks, and by ordering the Israeli military to allow Battir farmers access to their lands through gates in the barrier.

Opponents, however, are concerned about additional, collateral damage to the ancient terraces landscape from the construction process involving heavy machinery.

Akram Bader, mayor of Battir, is concerned that building the barrier would not only take a toll on the local cultural heritage, but also on the peaceful situation in the area. “Through the last 64 years there have been no incidents in the area, so why are they saying they want to build a Security Barrier?” he asks.

In fact, establishing the barrier, ostensibly to ensure Israel’s security, could lead to violence, Bader warns. “If the terraces are damaged, it means that the people will not think about peace in this area. They will change their minds about it.”

Israel is, at least formally, committed to protecting cultural heritage in the West Bank, as a member of the UNESCO World Heritage Committee and also as one of the earliest signatories of the 1954 Hague Convention for the Protection of Cultural Heritage in the Event of Armed Conflict.

Meanwhile, Battir might not be the last case of its kind. At least two proposals on Palestine’s World Heritage Tentative List could overlap the route of Israel’s Separation Barrier. In one, Umm Al-Rihan Forest, the barrier already exists. In another, El-Bariyah, also known as the Judean desert, plans to establish a stretch of the Separation Barrier triggered vocal protest from Israeli environmentalists six years ago.

In response, Amir Peretz, then Defence Minister and today Environmental Protection Minister, ordered works to be halted.

In July 2004, the International Court of Justice had issued an Advisory Opinion on Israel’s Separation Barrier, concluding that it was “contrary to international law” and calling on Israel to cease its construction. Exactly ten years later, Israel’s Separation Barrier looks set to defy the international community once again.

 

Article source: http://www.ipsnews.net/2014/07/new-palestinian-world-heritage-site-under-threat-of-defacement/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=new-palestinian-world-heritage-site-under-threat-of-defacement

Written by enfoquec on July 16th, 2014

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The Middle East’s Christian Diaspora   no comments

Posted at 11:59 am in the places I would like to go

Anyone who obtained too much power in Saddam Hussein’s Iraq had two choices: join the Ba’ath Party or die. Joseph Kassab, a medical researcher at the University of Baghdad, chose a third option—flee to the United States. Thirty-five years later, he describes his success here as “an American dream story.” But he is a Chaldean Catholic, and he worries for the fate of his people, the Christians of Iraq.

“Do we want our people to leave Iraq? The answer is no,” he told TAS. “Our ancestry in Iraq goes back 2,000 years before Christ.”

The Christian population of Iraq, which has its roots in the ancient Assyrians who embraced Christianity in biblical times, numbered 1.3 million before 2003. Over the next decade, nearly a million Christians fled to neighboring countries. Many who became refugees fled to the West if they could.

Most joined the Chaldean Christian community in Michigan, which began in the 1870s. They had helped build the automobile industry, saving factory wages to bring family members to the land of opportunity. The Detroit community of Chaldeans now numbers 200,000 and has associations for every profession from pharmaceutics to CPAs.

The Iraqi Christians were an enterprising group and established smaller communities in San Diego, Chicago, Arizona, and Las Vegas, while maintaining ties to faith, family, and their home country community.

“The Christians in Iraq are known for being problem-solvers, the people who extend the olive branch to others for reconciliation, bridge builders,” Kassab said.

In the violence and rising sectarianism that followed the United States invasion in 2003, Iraqi Christians fled to any country that would take them. Christians generally left Iraq in a higher proportion than did Muslims because they lacked resources to protect themselves from regional conflicts. According to Open Doors, which serves persecuted Christians worldwide, if trends continue, Iraq will lose all its Christians within four years.

“[The Christians] are the weakest of the weak because they don’t carry arms, they don’t form a militia, they don’t have a police force, and the government is too weak to protect them,” Kassab said.

Between the beginning of the Iraq war and 2010, the Chaldean Christians in the United States added 60,000 to their number. Another 60,000 fled to Sweden, and 20,000 each fled to Canada and Australia, according to a Pew Research study.

Many Iraqi Christians fled to Syria, which is culturally similar to Iraq. Syria was known as the safest country for Arab Christians until the civil war proved to be the ultimate betrayal.

“The persecutions [against Christians in Syria] are being committed by people on all sides of the dispute,” said Robert George, who has been chairman of the United States Commission for International Religious Freedom. “It’s a terrible tragedy that these ancient communities in the Middle East, in the cradle of Christianity, are being emptied.”

Iraqi Christians continued to leave Iraq even after American troops did. While most Americans would not now call Detroit a land of opportunity, four new Chaldean Catholic parishes have opened there in the last five years. Father Andrew Seba of the St. Thomas parish said the refugees will go to whoever will take them, trading the threat of death and loss of religious freedom in Iraq for the stress of unemployment and culture shock in Detroit.

“Right now it just seems as if there is no hope, but only time will tell,” he said.

Only 330,000 Christians remain in Iraq, but they are now threatened by extreme Islamists. ISIS now occupies the Nineveh plain, the site of Iraq’s remaining Christian villages, and has already murdered some Christians there for refusing to follow its ultra-strict rules.

The Christians from Mosul and its neighboring villages have fled to Kurdistan, where they feel somewhat safer. The Kurds have been friendly to the Christians because, during their own period of intense persecution by Saddam, they found support and safety in Christian communities. The Kurds now return the kindness they once received by protecting Christians; however, housing is expensive in Kurdistan, and the Christian children are hampered in school because they do not speak Kurdish.

One Christian woman wrote from Kurdistan that the economy is in shambles. They are trying to find a way to flee to Turkey and register with the United Nations there, but they struggle to find fuel.

The complete emigration of this ancient Christian community would be the world’s loss, said Robert George, both as a blow to religious liberty and to the Christian heritage. He lamented a lack of awareness among American Christians, and pointed to how they lobbied the government through churches on behalf of the Jews trapped behind the Soviet Iron Curtain. 

“Christians ought to be able to do for their fellow Christians in Egypt, Syria, and Iraq what they did for the Soviet Jews,” George said.

Kassab has spent the last thirty-five years advocating with the government on behalf of his fellow refugees, even traveling to Iraq eleven times during the war. 

“I thought, if God gave me this golden opportunity [to come to the U.S.], what can I do for others?” he said. He believes that the Christian population in Iraq can be saved only by international support or, if they are allowed to have their independence, Kurdish protection.

He spoke of his people as devout and faithful Christians, but unique as “the only people who could understand Jesus Christ speaking Aramaic in The Passion of the Christ.” As Christians, he said they are no strangers to fleeing because of persecution.

“Mary and Joseph fled as refugees to Egypt,” he said. “This will strengthen our faith and give us more belief in God, and give us determination to make us more faithful.”

Article source: http://spectator.org/articles/59960/middle-easts-christian-diaspora

Written by enfoquec on July 16th, 2014

Tagged with , ,

New Palestinian World Heritage Site Under Threat of Defacement   no comments

Posted at 9:36 am in the places I would like to go

BATTIR, West Bank, Jul 13 (IPS) – The Palestinian village of Battir, just six kilometres southwest of Jerusalem and a similar distance from Bethlehem, is the latest to be trapped in the gap between international recognition and Israel’s policies in the West Bank.

The village’s agricultural terraces covering the surrounding hill slopes, and the spring water-fed open irrigation channels that run through them, have been in use for centuries.

Last month, this unique landscape was designated a World Heritage site by the U.N. Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO), making it only the second such Palestinian site after the Old City of Jerusalem site.

Already in autumn last year, the World Monuments Fund, an international organisation working to preserve important cultural heritage sites, had added Battir’s ancient terraces to its 2014 World Monuments Watch.[pullquote]3[/pullquote]

The decision to inscribe Battir in the World Heritage list comes amid Israeli plans to establish a new section of its Separation Barrier at the foot of the terraced hill slopes, cutting through the Palestinian village’s lands.

According to the Israeli military authorities, this section of the Separation Barrier is mainly intended to protect the railway on the margins of the village’s lands. Military representatives told the Israeli Supreme Court in 2011, there is “specific intelligence about attempts of terror organisations to infiltrate into Israel from this direction.”

However, they also reiterated that “the abovementioned security threat is not at all posed by residents of Battir, but from other hostile elements active in this area and those especially coming to the Battir area due to the fact the barrier route is still incomplete there.”

Local residents, however, who depend on agriculture for their livelihoods, have been campaigning against the Separation Barrier plans since 2005, fearing the new six kilometre-long barrier will take a toll, not only on the centuries-old living landscape, but also on their way of life.

Over the years, their campaign has garnered much support, including from environmental groups such as the Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel and Friends of the Earth Middle East (FoEME). Two perhaps unlikely other sources of support have been an Israeli field school in the settlement bloc of Gush Etzion and the Israeli Nature and Parks Authority (INPA).

Their environmental support might be genuine, but their objection to the Separation Barrier also fits well with their own political agenda, says Ofer Zalzberg, a Jerusalem-based senior analyst with the International Crisis Group.

INPA, in particular, has added its voice in support of protecting the Palestinian village’s traditional terraces, while managing a number of national parks – some of which are included in the tentative list of Palestine’s World Heritage sites.

In May last year, the Israeli Supreme Court ordered suspension of the works on the section of the barrier in Battir’s lands, but a final ruling is still pending. Now, the petitioners from the village and from FoEME are hopeful that the new World Heritage status could influence the court’s decision.

Nevertheless, Battir’s eggplants, vines and olives are closely intertwined with the greater Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The World Heritage nomination was submitted under a special emergency procedure a day after the latest court session, and right before this year’s deadline.

But it could have been made already a year earlier if it had not been for a request from U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, according to Israeli daily Haaretz. Freezing the Palestinian bid, the paper reported, was meant to allow the renewal of peace negotiations. “Senior Foreign Ministry officials in Jerusalem noted that Israel is keeping track of the Palestinian move and will try to prevent it,” Haaretz added.

Palestinian news agency Ma’an reported that suspending Battir’s nomination was part of a deal whereby, in exchange, Israel would allow a UNESCO team to examine the Old City of Jerusalem, another World Heritage site.

Eventually, Battir’s application was successful and, in acknowledging the threat to the site, the World Heritage Committee also agreed to include it in its ‘in danger’ list, despite an expert opinion from the International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS), the professional cultural heritage body advising UNESCO, which was generally sceptical about the merits of the site’s inscription.

However, Israel’s Ministry of Defence remains intent on going ahead with the barrier plan. “The barrier’s route in the area of Battir is intended to protect the citizens of Israel from terrorists and terror entering [the country],” read a statement from the ministry to IPS.

“The Security Barrier’s route will be established with no harm to natural assets,” it continued. “No terrace will be destroyed and the irrigation system will not be harmed. The IDF [Israel Defence Forces] is sensitive to the natural assets at the site, but it is first and foremost committed to the security of the citizens of Israel.”

And it does seem rather unlikely that Battir’s World Heritage inscription will have a significant impact on the Supreme Court ruling.  ”I’d be surprised if, on these grounds, the Supreme Court categorically rejects building the barrier there,” Zalzberg told IPS.

“I think that’s not good for the image of Israel to be destroying World Heritage sites,” says Nader al-Khateeb, FoEME’s Palestinian co-director.

But Zalzberg believes such designation would not be seen by the Israeli government as a major factor. “There are already places where Israel has taken its own stance on things that are much more serious in the eyes of the international community,” he said.

Rather, an Israeli decision to go ahead with the barrier in Battir, thus defying the U.N. agency, “could be part of a trend where Israel further pushes UNESCO to the wall on anything related to managing sites, possibly also in Jerusalem.”

From the court proceedings, it seems that a barrier will eventually be built. In its latest session on the case, in January, the Supreme Court focused on ways to mitigate damage to the terraces, for example by examining the option of removing one of the train tracks, and by ordering the Israeli military to allow Battir farmers access to their lands through gates in the barrier.

Opponents, however, are concerned about additional, collateral damage to the ancient terraces landscape from the construction process involving heavy machinery.

Akram Bader, mayor of Battir, is concerned that building the barrier would not only take a toll on the local cultural heritage, but also on the peaceful situation in the area. “Through the last 64 years there have been no incidents in the area, so why are they saying they want to build a Security Barrier?” he asks.

In fact, establishing the barrier, ostensibly to ensure Israel’s security, could lead to violence, Bader warns. “If the terraces are damaged, it means that the people will not think about peace in this area. They will change their minds about it.”

Israel is, at least formally, committed to protecting cultural heritage in the West Bank, as a member of the UNESCO World Heritage Committee and also as one of the earliest signatories of the 1954 Hague Convention for the Protection of Cultural Heritage in the Event of Armed Conflict.

Meanwhile, Battir might not be the last case of its kind. At least two proposals on Palestine’s World Heritage Tentative List could overlap the route of Israel’s Separation Barrier. In one, Umm Al-Rihan Forest, the barrier already exists. In another, El-Bariyah, also known as the Judean desert, plans to establish a stretch of the Separation Barrier triggered vocal protest from Israeli environmentalists six years ago.

In response, Amir Peretz, then Defence Minister and today Environmental Protection Minister, ordered works to be halted.

In July 2004, the International Court of Justice had issued an Advisory Opinion on Israel’s Separation Barrier, concluding that it was “contrary to international law” and calling on Israel to cease its construction. Exactly ten years later, Israel’s Separation Barrier looks set to defy the international community once again.

Article source: http://www.iede.co.uk/news/2014_4924/new-palestinian-world-heritage-site-under-threat-defacement

Written by enfoquec on July 14th, 2014

Tagged with , ,

Can an urban solution conquer the curse of the commons?   no comments

Posted at 9:16 am in the places I would like to go



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With dog bins arriving at Woodbury Common on East Devon’s pebblebed heathland,

Jeremy Boyden ponders on the urbanisation of our wilder – and most beautiful – places

Are you a bag-it-and-bin-it dog owner? Or an exponent of the stick-and-flick technique? Or perhaps a detestable poo denier?

Whichever way you deal with your best friend’s worst feature while out walking, averting your eyes and just admiring the view ahead is not an option.

It’s always been the bane of a street cleaner’s life in towns and cities. Now, as the dog population grows , so does the problem – everywhere… from city streets to the wilder corners of the beautiful Westcountry.

It’s become so much of a cause for complaint that one big landowner is borrowing something from the urban streetscape and placing it in one of the most stunning landscapes to help ease the problem.

Almost half of the 5,000 people who visit East Devon’s Pebblebed Heaths every day – me included – walk their dogs on the commons.

Possibly the biggest complaint among visitors to the heaths, which are one of the region’s most important wildlife sites, is dog fouling, so now Clinton Devon Estates is starting a trial of bins at a number of key car parks on Woodbury Common.

The initiative is in collaboration with East Devon Council, whose dog warden will be keeping an eye how the public engage with the project.

Dr Sam Bridgewater, conservation manager for the East Devon Pebblebed Heaths and the River Otter Estuary, said: “The Pebblebed Heaths are an amazing place for wildlife, and a popular recreational area.

“Dog walking comprises one of the primary uses of the Commons but, sadly, dog fouling, especially around car parks, makes the environment unpleasant for everyone. It also has a detrimental impact on the habitats and wildlife.”

Dog fouling, apparently, typically occurs within ten minutes of a walk starting, so the bins are being placed near car parks. Dog walkers are also being reminded that they have a legal obligation to pick up after their animals under the Clean Neighbourhoods and Environment Act of 2005.

The results of a survey carried out two years ago among a sample of 1,571 visitors to the heaths found that 42 per cent had one or more dog with them.

The hope is that placing dog bins at key locations will be met “positively and respectfully”. by dog owners and other users, and that it will help keep the Pebblebed Heaths an area of outstanding beauty that can be enjoyed by all.”

The bins are being installed by East Devon District Council and will be serviced by its contractors, Sita, although the scheme is being funded by Clinton Devon Estates, which will also monitor the trial.

So far, so good. Who can argue with anything that encourages dog owners to be socially responsible. Certainly not me – I’ve complained long and hard about the filthy dog owners who think it’s acceptable to let Rover pop straight out of the car and deposit a pile in the middle of the nearest footpath.

On my daily forays across Bicton, East Budleigh and Woodbury commons I’m always bagged up (so to speak) and ready for action any time, any place. And where the opportunity allows it, I’m a great fan of the stick-and-flick technique, approved by the Forestry Commission

– probably the most environmentally friendly way to deal with your friend’s little load. (By the way, for non-dog walkers you really don’t want to know about the intricacies of this method of clearing up – particularly when your dog thinks it’s a game.)

But this “urbanisation” problem starts when you begin to consider whether the shiny, red bins are aesthetically compatible with an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

The East Devon AONB is one of 46 across the country designed to protect the natural landscape. It encompasses vast areas of heathland, river valleys and breathtaking cliffs and includes a section of the Jurassic Coast – England’s first natural World Heritage Site.

And that’s the view you get from the heathland car parks beyond the bright red bins – which have brought a little bit of the city into the heart of our beautiful countryside.

But is it a problem? Absolutely not, I say. Anything that encourages dog owners to clear up and keep the public paths clear for all users – toddlers, mums with buggies, pensioners with their tiny hairy dogs and Royal Marine recruits crawling through the undergrowth on vital training missions.

The cleaner the paths from those car parks the better it is for everyone to enjoy the wonderful views I see every morning – the glorious sweep of 2,800 acres of heathland high above the equally beautiful Otter Valley.

As Councillor Iain Chubb, East Devon’s cabinet member for environment, said: “I’m pleased that the council can work with private enterprise to help ensure our beautiful countryside is a place that everyone can enjoy. We have many years’ experience of helping the public to clean up after their dogs and it’s good to see a major landowner doing its bit for the environment by expanding on the current arrangements that we have in place around the district.”

So, to all dog walkers – the bins are there: now use them!

Article source: http://www.westernmorningnews.co.uk/urban-solution-conquer-curse-commons/story-21447236-detail/story.html

Written by enfoquec on July 12th, 2014

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Sufism in Fez   no comments

Posted at 8:57 am in the places I would like to go

The mosque is named after Ahmed Tijani, the founder of one of the leading currents of Sufi Islam. Pilgrims have for many years come here from across West Africa, often on their way to Mecca. Tijani, who died in Fes in 1815, has millions of followers around the world.

Fes is known as the spiritual capital of Morocco, a country with a strong Sufi heritage. In recent years, however, competing conservative currents of Islam have gained ground among the youth here.

Sitting on a bench outside the Tijani mosque, Abdullah Gurnech, a retired army officer who has been coming to the mosque since his youth, says that poverty is one of the factors that has encouraged many to turn to Wahabism.

“The youth are more conservative today,” he says.

Still, he says he is starting to notice more local worshippers at the Tijani mosque praying alongside the mainly Senegalese pilgrims.

Two Gnawa performers wander through the winding streets of Fes, hunting for foreign tourists to play for. Just as similar performers have been doing for decades, they also earn a living performing Sufi-inspired ceremonies in the homes of Moroccan families. Such mystical ceremonies, influenced not only by Islam but also West African traditional mysticism, draw the ire of ultra-conservatives, yet for many Moroccans they are part of their heritage.

And lately, says Khalid Hamid, a 30-year-old dressed in a dark purple gown, business has picked up among Moroccan clients. The Gnawa, like the Tijani, are one of several Sufi brotherhoods prevalent in Morocco.

“There’s been more demand lately,” Hamid says. “At weddings and exorcisms of women who’ve been possessed.”

The Moroccan authorities have for several years been actively promoting Sufism, a strategy that has been aimed partly at taking some of the wind out of sails of political Islam.

“There have been very strong attempts at a top­-down revival by the ministry of religious affairs, on many levels,” explains Dr Isabelle Werenfels, head of the Middle East and Africa research division at the German Institute for International and Security Affairs.

The original idea was to counter the rise of political Islam since the 1980s. In Morocco, the country’s dominant Islamist party is the Justice and Development Party (PJD).

When there was a burst of political dissent in February 2011, King Mohamed VI was more nimble than many of his counterparts at managing the tensions, allowing the PJD to join the government for the first time in 2011 (they had spent the previous 14 years in opposition). The king’s critics, however, say the democratisation is happening too slowly, and that it is too tightly controlled and superficial.

Some see the strategy of building allies in the Sufi brotherhoods as just another form of clientalism. The Boutshishi brotherhood, as Dr Werenfels notes, has been condemned in opposition media as the ‘Sufis of the palace’ and the ‘free masons of Morocco’.

The fostering of Sufism has also been aimed at competing with the appeal of ultra-conservative Wahabism, which many here blame the Gulf states for propagating in a bid to exert power across the region.

By bolstering the role of the zawiya, as the Sufi lodges are known, the Moroccan authorities are filling a vacuum to prevent perceived foreign influence.

Two other reasons for the policy which Dr Werenfels highlights are as a diplomatic and economic tool in generating goodwill, the better to facilitate Morocco’s relations with West Africa, and also encouraging tourism.

“It fits into the overall discourse of patrimony and a modern revival of history. This is how it’s being sold,” she says.

A similar strategy has been followed in neighbouring Algeria, with President Abdelaziz Bouteflika building a strong support base among Sufi actors.

It can be hard to measure the success of the King’s strategy. In mid-June, the annual Fes Sacred Music Festival saw tens of thousands of tourists descend on the town to celebrate Morocco’s unique Andalusian-Sufi heritage.

Then last week, also in Fes, a cell allegedly recruiting Moroccan volunteers to fight in Syria and Iraq was busted by the Moroccan authorities, evidence that the ultra-conservative fighting networks view the many unemployed youths here as fertile for recruitment.

Abdelfettah Bennis, widely seen as one of the most renowned Sufi singers of his generation, is a staunch supporter of the king’s policy of the state’s promotion of Sufism. He says it’s having a clear impact.

“The youth are much more interested in Sufism than they were ten or twenty years ago,” he says.

Two years ago, Bennis helped open a school teaching Sufi music to children. He also performs regularly at Fes’s annual Sufi Cultural Festival, now in its eighth year. But the role of Sufi figures goes well beyond the purely cultural.

“The interior ministry is reinforcing the zawiya to eliminate wahabism,” he says. “Thanks be to God, the Sufis are strong here.”

Morocco’s Sufi revival is likely to mean Sufis will play a growing role not only in national political life, but also as a tool for furthering Morocco’s regional, and even international, influence.

Article source: http://www.middleeasteye.net/news/sufism-fez-212503515

Written by enfoquec on July 10th, 2014

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Palestinian village registered as World Heritage site   no comments

Posted at 8:57 am in the places I would like to go

JERUSALEM (JTA) — The Palestinian village of Battir was named a World Heritage site by UNESCO and put on the List of World Heritage in Danger.

UNESCO’s World Heritage Committee on Friday approved the West Bank village, about six miles west of Jerusalem, for inclusion on the lists.

Battir is known for its ancient stone farming terraces and an irrigation system established in Roman times that remains in use.

It was put on the danger list due to the start of construction of Israel’s security fence. According to the committee, Battir was added “after finding that the landscape had become vulnerable under the impact of socio-cultural and geo-political transformations that could bring irreversible damage to its authenticity and integrity, citing the start of construction of a separation wall that may isolate farmers from fields they have cultivated for centuries.”

Battir is the second World Heritage site registered as being in Palestine, which was accepted as a member site by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization 2011. The first was the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem.

Article source: http://www.jta.org/2014/06/22/news-opinion/israel-middle-east/palestinian-village-registered-as-world-heritage-site

Written by enfoquec on July 10th, 2014

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