GENEVA, July 10, 2016 — United Nations Watch, a Geneva-based watchdog organization, expressed concern today that UNESCO may fuel anti-Jewish incitement and violence, and the increasing Palestinian denial of Jewish religious and cultural rights, by adopting an Arab-sponsored draft resolution that denies Jewish ties to Jerusalem’s Western Wall and Temple Mount.
The Jordanian-Palestinian draft text on the Old City of Jerusalem was submitted to the 21-member World Heritage Committee, which meets over the next 10 days in Istanbul for its 40th annual session.
“This inflammatory resolution risks encouraging the past year’s wave of Palestinian stabbing and shooting attacks in Jerusalem and other parts of Israel, which began with false claims that Israel was planning to damage holy Muslim shrines,” said Hillel Neuer, executive director of UN Watch.
Under the battle cry of “Al-Aqsa mosque is in danger,” incitement in September by Fatah, Hamas and Islamic Jihad sparked a wave of terror attacks across Israel which began on the Temple Mount and eastern Jerusalem. At least 40 have been killed and more than 500 wounded. The Palestinian attacks include 155 stabbings, 96 shootings, 45 car ramming attacks, and one bus bombing.
The draft now before UNESCO includes the following problematic language:
- The draft ten times refers 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.
- This year’s proposed draft is even more extreme than the resolution adopted in 2015. The new version three times uses the Islamic term Buraq Plaza while placing the parallel name “Western Wall Plaza” in scare quotes, implying skepticism or disbelief concerning 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. Last year’s resolution also sought to diminish the Jewish connection by putting the name Western Wall in parentheses after the Islamic term, yet the new use of quotation marks intensifies the denialism that was famously promoted by Yasser Arafat’s negotiator at Camp David, and which continues in Palestinian Authority statements.
- Israel, which is referred to throughout as “the Occupying Power” in Jerusalem, is called to restore “the historic Status Quo,” with the new word “historic”—a change from last year’s text—implying a reversal of any changes since 1967.
- 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.
- 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.
During this same time period, UN Watch’s examination of all UNESCO Executive Board decisions and UNESCO General Conference resolutions showed that not a single other country in the world was censured even once.