A Palestine Liberation Organization official Monday evening slammed Israel’s theft of a historical baptismal front from the Bethlehem-district town of Tuqu‘ as an act of colonial plunder.
“Israel’s theft of a baptismal font dating back to the Byzantine era from Bethlehem overnight is an abominable act of thuggery and cultural appropriation,” PLO Executive Committee member Hanan Ashrai said in a press release.
“A hallmark of Israel’s system of colonial occupation and oppression has been its disdainful attempts to erase Palestinian presence, culture and heritage, including the illegal appropriation and theft of heritage sites and artifacts. This systemic policy of plunder is a war crime that must not go unpunished,” she added.
“In the past weeks, Israel has taken other illegal steps targeting Palestinian heritage sites, including sealing off the entrance of Jabal Al-Fureidis (or so-called Herodium) in the Bethlehem District to restrict the access of Palestinians to the site, which Israel has illegally appropriated as an “Israeli National Park”. Israel has also repeatedly targeted other historical and archaeological sites, including UNESCO Heritage sites in Palestine such as the Old City of Jerusalem, the Battir terraces in Bethlehem, and the Ibrahimi mosque in Hebron.”
She called on the international community, particularly the UNESCO, to hold Israel accountable for its plundering of Palestinian heritage.
“Israel must be held accountable for its egregious war on Palestinian heritage and its attempt to appropriate our history and pillage historical artifacts that are an integral part of Palestinian and world history. UNESCO and its Director General, Audrey Azoulay, have a moral and official duty to speak out and protect Palestinian heritage. Their continued silence in this regard is an unacceptable abdication of responsibility.”