Battir | UNESCO

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From Wikipedia

In 2011 UNESCO awarded Battir a $15,000 prize for "Safeguarding and Management of Cultural Landscapes" due to its care for its ancient terraces and irrigation system.[8]

In May 2012, the Palestinian National Authority sent a delegation to UNESCO headquarters in Paris to discuss the possibility of adding Battir to its World Heritage List. The PNA's deputy minister of tourism, Hamadan Taha, said that the organization wants to "maintain it as a Palestinian and humanitarian heritage," making special note of its historic terraces and irrigation systems.[13]Due internal Palestinian disagreements, the nomination of Battir was blocked at the last minute because the formal submission was too late.[14]

From The Guardian

The future of an ancient agricultural landscape, incorporating extensive stone-walled terraces and a unique natural irrigation system, could be decided on Wednesdaywhen a petition against the planned route of Israel's vast concrete and steel separation barrier is heard by the high court.

The terraces of the Palestinian village of Battir, near Bethlehem, are expected to be declared a world heritage site by Unesco, the United Nations' cultural body, in the coming months.

But, Friends of the Earth, which filed the petition, says Israel's decision to construct the West Bank barrier through a valley running between the terraces threatens to inflict irreversible harm to the landscape.

The case has been bolstered by a last-minute U-turn by Israel's nature and parks authority, which called on the court on Tuesday to accept the petition, saying the "special and valuable area" should be protected in the public interest. The authority argued there was no longer an emergency security environment requiring environmental considerations to be cast aside.

From The Jerusalem Post

Friends of the Earth’s Middle East (FOEME) division filed the emergency petition on December 2.

FOEME reported that, in an unprecedented development, the Israel Nature and Parks Authority has taken FOEME’s side against the Defense Ministry, the IDF and the rest of the government.

The government says that the placement of the barrier along its planned route is necessary for security reasons and that it will not do any irreversible damage to the site.

But according to FOEME, the Nature and Parks Authority said that when the route was planned in 2005, significant environmental concerns were pushed aside for security reasons.

The authority reportedly said that the site constitutes an important public interest that is special and valuable for the benefit of the public and future generations, and that the route of the barrier should be reconsidered.

Also, the fact that since 2005, the barrier in this area was never erected suggested that the project of building it was no longer operating in an emergency environment, the authority reportedly said.

Gidon Bromberg, Israel director of FOEME, said, “The NPA should be congratulated for keeping true to its mission and clarifying to the court that the barrier, if built, would indeed lead to irreversible damage, highlighting the need to reassess the impact of the barrier even beyond Battir.

“We find it odd that the military is stating an opinion pertaining to environmental and cultural heritage values – issues on which it has no expertise – contrary to the opinion of the NPA, known to the military in advance, and without attaching a single expert opinion to support its position,” continued Bromberg.

In addition, a letter from the PA from November 27 indicates that the Palestinians listed the site on their Tentative List for World Heritage.

The PA application to UNESCO was accepted on October 31, 2011, making it the first UN agency to accept “Palestine” as a member, over a year before the recent UN General Assembly vote recognizing “Palestine” as a non-member state.

The PA also hired an international expert to survey the site sometime later this month, in order to submit an official application regarding the site to UNESCO by January 31.

Bromberg added, “The Israeli government is obliged to protect heritage sites on the basis of various international obligations including the UNESCO World Heritage Convention and the Hague Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict.”

FOEME said that following the UN General Assembly admission of Palestine as a non-member observer state, this case raises concern that any destruction of cultural property associated with the building of the barrier could lead to criminal proceedings against Israelis under international law.

FOEME also claimed that the site is 4,000 years old and that then OC Central Command Maj.-Gen. Moshe Dayan had carefully preserved the site in a 1949 armistice agreement.

The IDF Spokesman responded that it had no comment at this time other than to state that the issue was before the court for it to make a decision.