Danger of UNESCO heritage committee's Jerusalem resolution

26 Apr 2005, JERUSALEM, Israel --- Ultra-Orthodox Jewish men pray during Passover prayers at the Western Wall in Jerusalem's Old City April 26, 2005. --- Image by © OLEG POPOV/Reuters/Corbis
26 Apr 2005, JERUSALEM, Israel — Ultra-Orthodox Jewish men pray during Passover prayers at the Western Wall in Jerusalem’s Old City April 26, 2005. — Image by © OLEG POPOV/Reuters/Corbis

GENEVA, Oct. 25, 2015 — A UNESCO committee will vote tomorrow on a resolution concerning Jerusalem that refers more than ten times to “Al-Haram Al-Sharif”—the Islamic term for Temple Mount—without ever mentioning that it is the holiest site in Judaism. The text was drafted by the Palestinian and Jordanian delegations, and officially submitted by Kuwait, Lebanon and Tunisia, the Arab states on the 21-nation panel.
Hillel Neuer, executive director of UN Watch, a Geneva-based watchdog organization, said the resolution’s likely adoption “dangerously risks fueling anti-Jewish incitement and violence, and legitimizing the escalating Palestinian denial of Jewish religious and cultural rights.”
“This inflammatory narrative, praised last week by Hamas, rewards the past year’s relentless Palestinian stabbing and shooting attacks in Jerusalem and other parts of Israel, which, we mustn’t forget, began with false claims that Israel was planning to damage holy Muslim shrines,” said Neuer.
The original draft on the “Old City of Jerusalem and its Walls” was submitted to the World Heritage Committee’s 40th annual session, which met in Istanbul in July. But the attempted coup in Turkey caused a postponement of the vote, which will be resumed tomorrow in Paris.
Under the battle cry of “Al-Aqsa mosque is in danger,” incitement by Fatah, Hamas, and Islamic Jihad, sparked a wave of terror attacks across Israel which began on the Temple Mount and eastern Jerusalem. Dozens have been killed and hundreds wounded in stabbings, shootings, car ramming attacks, and one bus bombing.
The draft now before UNESCO includes the following problematic language:

  • The draft times refers 11 times to Al-Haram Al-Sharif, exclusively using the Islamic term for Temple Mount, without any mention that it is the holiest site in Judaism. This is part of a larger campaign at the UN, and particularly in UNESCO, to Islamize sites historically belonging to other faiths.
  • The latest draft, similar in many respects to the resolution adopted in 2015, speaks of the “Western Wall of Al Aqsa Mosque/ Al-Haram Al-Sharif,” an effort to Islamize what is the most hallowed site for Jewish worshippers over two millennia, due to the ancient wall’s connection to the Holy Jewish Temple destroyed in 70 CE. The language intensifies the denialism famously promoted by Yasser Arafat’s negotiator at Camp David, and which continues in Palestinian Authority statements.
  • Jerusalem’s light rail, which is used daily by thousands of Arab residents among others, is accused of having a “damaging effect” on the “visual integrity” and “authentic character” of the walls of the Old City of Jerusalem—even though the track passes through an existing highway and only facilitates transportation for visitors of all faiths.

The 21 members on the UNESCO world heritage committee are: Angola, Azerbaijan, Burkina Faso, Croatia, Cuba, Finland, Indonesia, Jamaica, Kazakhstan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Peru, Philippines, Poland, Portugal, South Korea, Tunisia, Turkey, Tanzania, Vietnam, and Zimbabwe.

UNESCO and Israel

UNESCO may be the most anti-Israel of all UN agencies. In a typical year, the organization’s legislative bodies will condemn Israel 10 or more times, with no criticism adopted for any other country in the world.
For example:

  • In 2009, UNESCO adopted 10 decisions against Israel (eight at the 181st and 182nd sessions of the Executive Board, and two at the 35th session of the General Conference).
  • In 2010, UNESCO adopted 10 decisions against Israel at the 184th and 185th sessions of the Executive board.
  • In 2011, UNESCO again adopted 10 decisions against Israel at the 186th and 187th sessions of the Executive Board and two resolutions against Israel at the 36th session of the General Conference.

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