Dome of the Rock tops CNN list of structures on verge of extinction


The Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem’s Old City tops CNN’s list of “25 magnificent structures on the verge of extinction.”

“A holy city for three different religions, it attracts millions of tourist with over 200 monuments, including the majestic Dome of the Rock. But political tension has hardened relations between Israel and UNESCO, preventing any preservation plans from moving forward,” CNN wrote in its feature.

The Old City and its walls have appeared on the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organizations List of World Heritage Sites in Danger since 1982.

The media watchdog Honest Reporting condemned placing the Dome of the Rock on the list, saying it is not under threat of extinction.

“CNN was under no obligation to buy into this outrageous nonsense, particularly as the Old City is probably the most protected heritage site in the Middle East,” Honest Reporting said in a statement. “All religious sites are protected by law and freedom of religion. Even the most disputed of those, the Temple Mount, is under the control of the Muslim Waqf under an agreement to maintain the status quo.

“In fact, the biggest threat to the heritage of the Old City is from the Palestinians themselves who have carried out unsupervised excavations on the Temple Mount, destroying many priceless antiquities in the process.”

No. 2 on the CNN list is the ancient city of Petra in Jordan. The United States had two sites: the Union Terminal in Cincinnati, Ohio, at No. 9, and the Portland Public Services Building in Oregon, at No. 24.

House approves funding bill including Iron Dome missile system


The U.S. House of Representatives included missile defense assistance for Israel in a massive funding bill.

Included in the $1.1 trillion bill passed Wednesday was $205 million for Iron Dome, a new Israeli short-range missile defense system aimed at containing rocket attacks from the Gaza Strip and Lebanon, as well as $200 million for existing joint U.S.-Israel missile defense programs like the Arrow.

“This was a priority of Congress and President Obama, and it is the first funding of its kind for this important short-range rocket and artillery shell defense system,” said Rep. Steve Rothman (D-N.J.), who as a defense appropriator helped craft the bill. “This is only the latest example that when it comes to defense, military and intelligence cooperation, the relationship between the U.S. and Israel has never been stronger.”

The Democratic-led House passed the “continuing resolution” 212-206 along partisan lines, mostly as a means of funding the federal government at 2010 levels because the U.S. Senate has failed to pass any appropriations bill.

Senate Republicans, using minority prerogatives, have blocked passage of spending bills as they seek a greater say in the wake of midterm elections in which Democrats will lose control of the House as of January.

Republicans and Democrats in the Senate are now working to pass an omnibus spending bill for 2011 that would incorporate moneys in the “continuing resolution” as well as other funds in President Obama’s budget, including the $3 billion Israel otherwise receives annually in defense assistance.

House approves Iron Dome


The U.S. House of Representatives overwhelmingly approved President Obama’s request for an additional $205 million in assistance to Israel for a short-range missile defense system.

The vote approving funding for “Iron Dome” passed Thursday 410-4. The money is above the $3 billion in annual defense assistance Israel already receives from the United States.

The Democratic leadership framed the passage in terms suggesting unstinting support for Israel, part of a friendship offensive after several weeks of tensions between the Obama and Netanyahu governments over Israel’s settlements policies.

“With nearly every square inch of Israel at risk from rocket and missile attacks, we must ensure that our most important ally in the region has the tools to defend itself,” said Rep. Howard Berman (D-Calif.), the chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee. “The president’s unprecedented request and the House’s quick approval speak for themselves—both President Obama and the Congress are actively and unshakably committed to Israel’s security.”

The American Israel Public Affairs Committee also praised the bill’s passage. “Make no mistake, the United States stands shoulder-to-shoulder with the people of Israel in their quest for peace and the right to live lives free of terrorism,” it said in a statement.

The bill seeking approval of Obama’s proposal was initiated by Rep. Glenn Nye (D-Va.), who has experience in the Middle East from his earlier career with the U.S. Agency for International Development.