The ongoing dispute between Israel and the Palestinians may doom San Antonio's hopes that the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization will grant 'World Heritage Site' status to San Antonio's historic Spanish Colonial Missions, 1200 WOAI's Berit Mason has learned.
Shannon Miller, the City of San Antonio's Historic Preservation Officer, says the U.S. stopped paying dues to UNESCO in 2011, to protest UNESCO's decision to allow the non-nation of Palestine to become a full member of the organization.
"The Untied States does not currently pay its dues to UNESCO or to the World Heritage Committee of UNESCO, so there is some concern," Miller told 1200 WOAI News.
The Missions were nominated for World Heritage Site status in 2010, in a four year process which is supposed to be finalized by next year. World Heritage Site status would be a huge boost for San Antonio, by some estimates, it would increase the city's revenues from international tourism by hundreds of millions of dollars each year, as more visitors from around the world visit the Missions.
Many international tours involve taking travelers specifically to World Heritage designated sites. The Missions would be the first World Heritage Site in Texas, joining natural attractions like the Grand Canyon and landmarks like Independence Hall in Philadelphia on the list of the world's most elite tourist destinations.
"The final nomination doesn't go in until next year, so there is still a little bit of time, and it is an in depth and through process so we are still working away on it," Miller said.
UNESCO voted over Obama Administration objections in 2011 to violate its own rules, which claim that only sovereign nations can be members of the organization, to admit 'Palestine' to the group. 'Palestine' is not only not a sovereign nation, its own leadership is disputed among Palestinians, with the Palestinian Authority leading one part, and its deadly enemy, the terror group Hamas, leading another part.
Part of long term Palestinian strategy is to play on international anti-Semitism to get voted onto shadowy world bodies like UNESCO and then use that position to formally accuse Israel of committing various crimes against 'the Palestinian people.'
A U.S. law from the 1990s bars the use of U.S. tax money to support any United Nations organization which includes 'Palestine' as a member, so the vote immediately cost UNESCO fully one fourth of it's annual dues.
Miller says there are attempts behind the scenes to come up with a solution. Indeed, just last month Israel agreed to wok with UNESCO on projects to restore and preserve the Old City of Jerusalem.
"There is an interest in finding some way to have Congress come up with a waiver so those dues can be paid to the World Heritage Committee," Miller said.
But right now, there is a concern that the only way UNESCO will show its opposition to the U.S. withholding dues is to block the U.S. request to have the Missions be declared as World Heritage Sites.