When Israel announced that it was including the Sanctuary of Abraham and Bilal Ibn Rabah Mosque to an Israeli national heritage list in defiance to international conventions, I happened to be on a visit to the US to return an ancient Egyptian sarcophagus of great beauty and magnificence that is over 3000 years old, as it was stolen from Egypt.
In a conversation with a friend, I found that he was completely biased towards the Israeli view and what was being published in American newspapers. I was surprised when he said, “These antiquities are [located] within the Israeli state therefore it is their right to register them as Jewish artifacts even if they are Christian or Islamic!”
This comment was extremely provocative and infuriating especially as it goes against all human principles, rules and values and even international systems…I explained the matter to my American friend and said that these archeological sites are located on occupied Palestinian land and changes to or registration of these sites is a change to its identity and this goes against international conventions particular to heritage.
There have been international conventions since the middle of the 20th century preventing any occupying state from violating the heritage of an occupied country…we must know that the antiquities of Gaza, the West Bank and occupied Jerusalem are Palestinian antiquities. There is UN Resolution 242 which considers these territories occupied territories and any measures taken against them are wrong. From this point of view, Israel does not have the right to add any antiquity or archaeological site to its lists as it is an occupying force and it is not allowed to make any changes to the land it occupies.
I asked my friend can the US, which is occupying Iraq, suddenly announce that it is adding archeological sites to an American heritage list related to the civilization and heritage of Iraq?! Therefore, in accordance with international law, an occupying force cannot make any demographic or architectural changes to the sites!
I began to explain to the people with me that the Sanctuary of Abraham is a building surrounded by a huge wall within the city of Hebron and within it now is a mosque and a beautiful minaret. It is believed that Abraham (peace be upon him) is buried in this place. It used to be a church dating back to the Roman era and was turned into a mosque after the Islamic conquest. When the Crusades took place and Jerusalem was occupied, the mosque was turned into a church and then after the Battle of Hattin in 1188, Salahuddin al Ayoubi converted it into a mosque once again.
What Israel is doing now is considered a violation of international rules and values. The Sanctuary of Abraham and the Bilal Ibn Rabah Mosque have no connection to Jewish history whatsoever. In fact it is the result of, and part of, the heritage and civilization of Palestine. The international community must not ignore this crime.
But is it enough to blame the international community whilst we watch the Arabs with their hands tied holding symposiums and issuing condemning statements without actually pressuring the international community and its media. In order for us to emphasize that we are in the right and in order for us confront falsehood with the truth for the thousandth time, we must unite our words and speak in one voice and with one heart so that others will listen to us…if we don’t we will lose the Sanctuary of Abraham and the Bilal Ibn Rabah Mosque as well as al Aqsa.