Politics bars Dead Sea from World Wonders contest

Sun Jun 28, 2009 9:04am EDT
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By Douglas Hamilton and Ali Sawafta

JERICHO, West Bank (Reuters) - The Dead Sea will be eliminated next week from a contest to choose the seven natural wonders of the world, because of a Palestinian boycott over the participation of an Israeli settler council.

Its almost certain exclusion from a competition which it had good chances of winning underline how the bitter politics of the Middle East conflict permeates every aspect of Palestinian life, no matter how harmless or even beneficial it may seem.

The New 7 Wonders of Nature is a global Internet contest under the slogan: "If we want to save anything, we first need to truly appreciate it." In 2007 it chose the new seven man-made wonders of the world.

Its rules state that if a nominee site is located in more than one country, all countries in which it is located must form an Official Supporting Committee (OSC) by July 7.

Israel and Jordan have both done so for the Dead Sea, which they share, but the Palestinian Authority has decided against.

For the Dead Sea, a win would highlight the environmental threat to a unique lake which has shrunk dramatically in the past 30 years due to human exploitation of the Jordan River feed waters and Dead Sea mineral extraction.

"We will not be forming a committee," Palestinian Tourism Minister Khouloud Douaibes told Reuters, because the Israeli committee "has been consulting with settler councilmen on occupied land and this contravenes international law."

"Therefore, we are not interested in the issue," she said reflecting a view that renders the contest and its potential benefits insignificant next to the Palestinians' long struggle against Jewish settlers in their midst.   Continued...

<p>A woman floats in the Dead Sea in Ein Bokeq November 27, 2008. REUTERS/Eliana Aponte</p>