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Experts prepare to take Jerusalem case to The Hague

Arab experts on Wednesday took the first steps towards taking international legal action against Israel for ongoing excavations near the old city of Jerusalem. 

The Dome of the Rock Mosque in the Al Aqsa Mosque compound is seen through a fence in Jerusalem's Old City, March 9, 2011 (AP photo)
Arab archaeologists, conservationists and heritage experts met in Amman yesterday to gather what they claim are documented impacts of ongoing Israeli projects altering the identity of the Holy City. 

The two-day gathering of the committee of experts, held under the auspices of the Islamic Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (ISESCO) at the Department of Antiquities (DoA), aims to take Israel to task for violations ranging from changing historical street names to excavations underneath Al Aqsa Mosque. 

Once the documentation is complete, the committee will draft a report and issue recommendations for a case to be brought before the International Court of Justice, according to DoA Director Ziad Saad. 

“We aim to gather sound scientific evidence for politicians to take up the case at the international level,” he told The Jordan Times on the sidelines of the meeting, which was opened by Minister of Tourism Haifa Abu Ghazaleh. 

Moawiyah Ibrahim, Jordan’s representative to the UNESCO World Heritage Committee, said the move comes amidst concerns that Israeli authorities are abusing archaeology for political ends. 

“Israel has used Biblical texts to support their national narrative and have disregarded Arab-Islamic heritage,” he said. 

One of the major sources of concern for experts is the City of David Project, an archaeological park in the heart of Arab Jerusalem neighbourhood of Silwan. 

While Israel touts the dig as an archaeological discovery from the time of David, the experts view the project as a pretext for an increased Israeli presence in East Jerusalem and as a threat to Al Aqsa Mosque. 

“Israeli archaeologists themselves have disproved that this tunnel belongs to the time of David. They are using the project to claim that Jerusalem is first and foremost a Jewish city,” said Raef Nijem, a conservationist who has worked on the renovation of Al Aqsa Mosque. 

Other issues raised during the meeting included the construction of the Jerusalem light rail project, which experts claim is part of overall plans to physically and ideologically link the Old City with West Jerusalem. 

Ismail Tellawi, secretary general of the Palestinian National Committee for Education and Science, said the committee, in its report, will also demand an increased role for UNESCO, which has listed the old city of Jerusalem on its endangered heritage sites list. 

“Israel has prevented UNESCO from monitoring developments on the ground and this has to change,” Tellawi said. 

The committee, which includes experts from Egypt, the Palestinian territories, Jordan and Syria, is expected to conclude its meetings today.  

Author: Taylor Luck | Source: The Jordan Times [March 17, 2011]


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