John Pazmino
 2017 April 22 initial
 2017 August 13 current
    For some time over a year I received no invitations for a United 
Nations event. In years past I erraticly got invites to sit a this or 
that show sponsored by a UN office. It was a different ones for each 
    This favor of invites, as best as I could figure out, was an 
effort by the UN to ease the discomfort and annoyance to its 
neighborhood induced by the massive reconstruction  on its campus. 
And, I suppose, also to show off the good and worthy programs it runs. 
    In almost all cases the invites were personal to me, among likely 
hundreds of other 'civic and cultural leaders' in the City. No, I 
never learned how or why I got into this scheme. And it seemed from 
time to time that some how I ran out  of invite  chances. 
    In early April 2017 I spontaneously got an  invite, from yet an 
other UN office, to sit a conference about the current destruction of 
cultural properties in the Middle East during the ongoing ideological 
warfighting. Like for most previous invites I have no clue why I was 
so favored since I do not go around destroying cultural sites. 
    This particular invite stipulated the meeting was open to the 
public and suggested that the invite be passed along to other 
interested parties. 
    I recall only one public meeting, a supper-music celebration of UN 
Charter Day in 2015. I got that one only a day ahead, leaving no time 
to circulate it to others.
    The meeting was set for 3PM EDST on Wednesday 19 April 2017, about 
a week after getting the invite. With this ample leadtime I circulated 
the invite to NYSkies. A couple NYSkiers had questions about the 
invite, which I answered from previous experience with UN events. 
    I sent back a reply, as instructed in the notice, to the 
sponsoring office. One crucial next step was to print and bring the 
acknowledgement of response to be let into the UN campus apart from 
the tourist crowds. 

Before the meeting
    The full title of this event was 'Protecting cultural heritage in 
times of conflict'.  It recalled to me a similar event in the early 2-
thous concerning looting of antiquities in Iraq during warfighting 
there. It was not a UN event and it was staged in a museum's, or other 
large, auditorium. 
    I walked to 42nd St to get the 42nd St bus that goes right to the 
United Nations campus. The day was chilly, a bit too much for the thin 
jacket I wore. The bus came quickly, leaving me at the UN at about 
2:30PM. The conference started at 3PM on this April 19th. 
    In follow up correspondence for the show advised the attendees 
to muster up at the Visitors Entrance on 46 St.. I found a gaggle of 
people huddled around two women with clipboards. Yes, this is the 
gathering for the culture-conflict conference. I offered my name and 
showed my acknowledgement printout. 
    Oops! I wasn't in the roster! And about a dozen others -- 
including one NYSkier -- were missing. The conference agents made many 
calls by cell, speaking in some foreign language!, and got word that 
we dozen were copassetic. The agents advised that an official from the 
conference will come to bring us inside the campus as a group. 
    It took about 20 minutes for this official to show up.  Soonest he 
arrived he swiftly escorted us thru a simplified security check and 
 into the meeting hall. Along the way our group dispersed and I lost 
track of the other NYSkier. 
    We entered the hall, somewhere inside the Sectretariat Building 
during the opening remarks of the meeting. I later learned the meeting 
started late, so our group didn't miss any substantial material. 
    Once in the hall we were left to sit any where. I picked a seat on 
the main floor, where just about every one else was seated,  a 
comfortable distance in front of a large-screen wall display. The 
speaker at the podium was televised in this screen. There were tow 
screens with the same image facing into the left and right sides of 
the auditorium. 
The audience
    I noticed at this event a greater portion of 'outsiders' than at 
previous UN events. The invite probably reached at least a slice of 
the public. These folk were awed by the experience of being 'inside 
the United nations'.  Some played with the audio earpiece and 
delegation sign panel. Every one was calm and well behaved. 
    We could sit any where in the hall. Almost all took seats on the 
main floor, leaving the peanut gallery just about empty. Total 
attendance, based on a capacity of 500 for this room, as i later 
earned, was some 200. 
    The main floor had the classical curved rows of tables with the 
sign panels and earpiece-microphone set out along them. 
    There was for this meeting no language interpretation.  The 
earpiece had amplification in case the room's audio was too low. It 
was for me loud and clear enough to hear directly. 

Clunky seats 
    The seats against the tables were, uh, altogether awful.. They 
were typical lounge chairs meant to stand in one place. They were far 
too heavy to nudge by foot, they digged into the rug, and were 
contoured with no grips to lift or pull them. I had to stand, shove 
the chair into place, than step over and into it. 
    After the meeting I asked an usher about the chairs. He explained 
they were not the standard ones for the delegatrs table. They were 
moved to here from else where in the building as rooms were rebuilt. 
    A second tier of seats, far easier to muscle, was arrayed away 
from the tables, being for support crew of each nation's delegation. I 
saw no one using them. Maybe the large fraction  of public in audience 
felt the furniture belonged in place and should not be disturbed? 

    The conference was a series of presentations by various officials 
associated with looking after structures vulnerable to loss in 
warfighting. Most merely spoke with their echo on the display screens. 
One gave a slideshow, in place of his talking head, illustrating 
buildings ruined by bombing or arson in the Middle East. I didn't find 
a handout program for the meeting, S quick web search on following 
days yielded no meeting program.  
    It seems there was a shuffle of speakers. The moderator at times 
noted that so-and-so isn't here or that a so-and-so is added to the 
slate. I put away the invite notice with its schedule of speakers. 
    Some speakers discussed specific instances of heritage loss. 
Others stressed the general importance of protecting heritage. Some 
wanted the traditional UN offices for heritage to act more 
aggressively against heritage destruction. 
    All discussion was for loss of heritage thru an incoming society 
displacing an existing one. The new society regards the older culture 
as not suitable to maintain or preserve. 
    Loss from disasters like earthquakes, tsunamis, volcanos were not 
treated at this meeting. Nor were looses from decay, neglect, 
abandonment. Modifying or replacement of heritage structures was also 
off of the program. 

Cultural heritage 
    The meeting treated only physical structures, like monuments, 
churches, temples, public halls. Loss of cultural heritage can also be 
removal or denial of printed or digital information, such as books, 
Internet, pictures and posters, audio recordings, broadcast spectrum, 
publishing facilities. props and tools. These other, 'softer', means 
of eradicating heritage were not part of this session, altho in the 
Middle East they are in wide practice by many parties in the region. 
    Now comes the 64-dollar question. What is 'cultural heritage'? Who 
decides that a this or that building is part of a society's cultural 
    Nominally the very society itself handles these questions thru its 
cotidian life nd active history. 
    Many societies do not have so high a level of heritage concern. 
They may never have been involved with keeping its history intact. Its 
activity may maintain a short-term past and present, with no enduring 
interest in a remote past. 
    In this meeting we saw that mostly it was an external society, not 
part of the warfighting, that deems certain buildings to be heritage 
sites within the enclosing society. This tactic is both good and bad. 
On the down side it smells like a new empirialism, being told by an 
outsider what is 'important' to keep and what to let go. 
    On the up side the external society may have properly and duly 
assembled a competent history of the prevailing culture. it can make 
useful and valuable selections for heritage preservation. 
    If the society is too weak or poor to maintain the structures, the 
external one may offer labor,, skills, finance, tools as assistance. 

Eradication methods 
    In the theme of this conference there are three major eradication 
methods. One is collateral destruction in warfighting. The building is 
within the zone of combat and is struck by stray bombs. The 
eradication is reckless and sometimes only partial. 
    An other method thru warfighting is targeting. One side uses the 
building for military support. It attracts bombing to kill its 
occupants and lay waste to their resources. In this case the ruin may 
be complete, even excessive. 
    The third method is employed after the new culture supplants the 
old. The new society deliberately demolishes the  heritage structure 
under a relatively peaceful setting. The ruin may be either partial or 
compete according as the means of demolition. The intent is to make 
the building useless and show the old culture that it is no longer 
unworthy of history.. 

Deliberate eradication 
    In the Middle East deliberate eradication is a significant means 
of losing heritage. In this region several competing cultures adhaere 
to ideologies that abhor other cultures. Given the power and chance 
they smash the victim culture's heritage sites. The concept is that 
because the incoming culture is the 'best' or 'only' proper way of 
life, all previous cultures must be removed for being in the way. 
    This specially the case for buildings standing for values contrary 
to those of the new society. The typical example is a temple of a 
deity who is an enemy in the new society's folklore. Such buildings 
are commonly the first ones to suffer. 
    Other structures  in line for eradication are colleges, musea, 
meeting halls, and institutes. They support values and ideals declared 
'unacceptable' to the incoming culture. 
    This deliberate destruction is done in a calmer scene than that of 
a war zone. There is no effective resistance from the old society. 
Realization of the eradication is usually slower, like by looting, 
vandalism, arson, staggered dynamiting. Sometimes it's part of a 
public show to make the victim people 'know' that their culture is now 
gone for good. 

Intervention and protection
    While all of the speakers gave woeful stories of destroyed 
buildings and monuments,, NONE described positive effective means to 
protect any structures. Several referred to UN declarations and 
resolutions against eradicating cultural heritage. None of these are 
honored by the warring parties. None are seriously enforced by the UN 
or specific nations. I didn't keep track but there were probably a 
dozen declarations and resolutions mentioned during this conference. 
    More than not showing current interventions, no speaker proposed 
credible prospects for remediation of the heritage destruction 
situation. They offered up bland tame 'should' programs with no 
substance behind them. 
    Intervention by the victim society, in all fairness, is usually  
not practical or possible. The victim may be in warfighting against 
the incoming society. It may not have the capability and resources to 
defend its heritage structures. it's the case of a stronger element 
overpowering the weaker one. 

Where was UNESCO? 
    A week or so after publishing this article, I got many comments 
about it. Comments about my articles  are most welcome and can lead to 
revision of the piece. That's what the  'initial' and 'current' issue 
date in many articles mean. Intermediate revisions rolled up into the 
current date. 
    In this present case almost all comments included a question: 
Where was UNESCO? UNESCO, United Nations Educational, Scientific and 
Cultural Organization, is a major unit of the UN, set up when the UN 
was founded. It, among other functions, catalogues and documents 
'World Heritage Sites' as monuments to human civilization. They span 
most of recorded history and are located in various sectors of the 
world. it issues catalogues of special interest sites, such as for 
astronomy, all available on the UNESCO web.
    With the ongoing destruction of heritage buildings, why didn't I 
mention UNESCO in the initial article? The answer is dead simple: No 
where in the printed or vocal material for this conference included 
UNESCO. It appears that it had no role, to sponsor, fund, endorse, 
promote the meeting. 
    There is more, thanks to your comments and discourse with people 
in the know. UNESCO probably did not take part in the conference  from 
ideological reasons. We would think UNESCO looks after heritage sites 
and supports their host countries to maintain and protect them. UNESCO 
activity in the past several years suggest an opposite program, 
seeming to ensure eradication of many sites in the Middle East by 
allowing antagonist parties to administer them. 
    These are sites in Israel, under Israeli curatorship and 
protection, that UNESCO wants the Palestinian Authority to take care 
of. These include, but likely are not all, Temple Mount, Western Wall, 
Tomb of Joseph, Cave of Patriarchs & Matriarchs, jerusalem walls and 
attached structures. UNESCO says these are really sacred holy places 
only for Islam, with no Jewish history associated with them. 
    UNESCO also wants the sites to be known only by an Arabic name, no 
longer a Western one. The Temple Mount, for example is carried in 
UNESCO's books as, by one translitteration, ' Al-Aqsa Mosque'. Asking 
UNESCO about the Temple Mount returns a 4'04' error. 
    Already as I learned, the Joseph Tomb is under Palestinian 
operation and has been, erm, trashed to hell and apparently abandoned. 
No Jews or any other religious visitors are allowed and, as far as I 
could find out, there are no substantial visits by Islamic followers. 
    I emphasize the Israeli sites because they are highlighted in 
American news media and political circles. One curious opponent of the 
UNESCO action is the leftists, who agitate for a one-world domain. 
UNESCO is locating the places from one jurisdiction to an other 
against the concept of global collective management. 
    With such behavior from UNESCO -- it may not be limited to the 
Middle East -- I appreciate why it stayed away from this conference. 

Cultural heritage in America 
    We normally think of destruction of cultural heritage as a feature 
of aggressive uncivilized societies. Not always. It is also a feature 
in the United States during flare-ups of social or political tension. 
Altho such incidents are temporary, the restoration and reparations 
can come slowly. 
    One cycle we see in 2017 is the attempt to remove statues and 
monuments of Confederate Civil War figures. There is a movement to 
tear down thee structures as representing a history now unacceptable. 
    In this peculiar instance a counter-flow of opinion urges to keep 
the monuments as rallying stations for the modern softer Confederacy. 
Some states are rejecting federal authority, as was done in the Civil 
War, by becoming 'sanctuary states'. They assert political autonomy 
without actually leaving the United States..  
    An other, and this is hardly the end of the list, is the agitation 
to rename schools and institutes away from their original ones. The 
honored person no longer belongs in today's social theme. Two examples 
are facilities named for Woodrow Wilson and the entire Stanford 
University. Wilson's public service was modulated by his southern 
upbringing under his father, a segregationist minister. Stanford, 
founder of the college, was a frothing antagonist against nonwhite 

    Six or seven speakers gave their stories. After the presentations 
the moderator gave closing remarks. She apparently was the director of 
the roof org for the meeting, International Federation for Peace and 
Sustainable Development. Because there seemed to a shuffle of 
participants, I wasn't sure. In her remarks she thanked the assistance 
from several UN  countries. The invite notice didn't mention them, 
which I found curious. Normally publicity is careful to give credit to 
contributing parties. Among the countries i recall from her comments 
were Iran, Yemen, and Syria. 
    No, I'm not making this up! 
    These countries are ruled by societies  now engaged in vigorous 
campaigns of cultural eradication against their enemies. I can't 
imagine that they would have any sincere desire to join a heritage 
protection and preservation project. 
    The meeting ended at about 5:30PM. There was no Q&A for the 
audience. The moderator merely thanked us for attending and let us 
leave. We departed quickly, guided by ushers. 
    I ran into two other NYSkiers whom I missed earlier.  I waited 
around for others who may have attended. By 6PM I left the UN campus. 
    I got a 42nd St bus toward Times Square, where I got my train to 
my home in Brooklyn