American Jewish groups on Thursday lambasted the United Nations’ cultural body for adopting a resolution that ignores Jewish and Christian ties to the Temple Mount and the Western Wall, accusing the organization of rewriting history as a way of undermining the legitimacy of the State of Israel.
The UNESCO (UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) resolution — adopted in a 24 to 6 vote at the committee stage — used only Muslim names for the Jerusalem holy sites and was harshly critical of Israel for what it termed “provocative abuses that violate the sanctity and integrity” of the area. The Executive Board of UNESCO is set to consider, and almost certainly approve, the resolution next week.
“To expunge the Jewish connection to Jerusalem is to deny the very cultural heritage of Jerusalem,” Anti-Defamation League CEO Jonathan Greenblatt said in a statement. “This is not only unethical, but it contradicts the role of UNESCO to build intercultural understanding and protect cultural heritage.”
“Resolutions such as these poison the atmosphere and sow mistrust making steps toward reconciliation all the more difficult,” he charged.
The resolution “deeply decries the continuous Israeli aggressions against civilians including Islamic religious figures and priests, decries the forceful entering into the different mosques and historic buildings” into Muslim holy sites by Israelis, including employees of “the so-called ‘Israeli Antiquities.’” It also urges Israel to “end these aggressions and abuses which inflame the tension on the ground and between faiths.”
The Orthodox Union also condemned the UNESCO resolution for what it called “unmistakably nefarious intent.”
“UNESCO’s leadership has approved a blatantly biased resolution that attempts to erase the specific deep-rooted, historical connection of Jews (and Christians) to Jerusalem, Israel’s eternal capital,” wrote OU’s public policy director Nathan Diament.
The American Jewish Committee said the resolution was a case of “blatant historical revisionism.”
“Let’s be clear what’s at work here: This is another attempt to undermine the very foundation of the State of Israel and the documented, age-old historical Jewish connection to the land,” said AJC chief executive David Harris, who also praised the six UNESCO member states to vote against the resolution (Estonia, Germany, Lithuania, The Netherlands, United Kingdom and United States).
— AIPAC (@AIPAC) October 13, 2016
The American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) called the resolution an “affront to the truth and a crude attempt to delegitimize the Jewish state,” which “outrageously attempts to undermine historic Jewish and Christian ties to the Old City of Jerusalem.”
The Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs, a Canada-based advocacy group, likened the UNESCO resolution to a story worthy of the satirical news website The Onion, and also highlighted what is said was disregard for Christian tradition.
“1,900 years before #UNESCO, Jews prayed facing & mourned the destruction of our Temple. Our memory is not determined by a UNESCO vote,” the CIJA tweeted. “To deny Temple Mount’s Jewish roots is to erase Christian Bible too. How many faiths did #UNESCO offend today?”
1/2 1,900 years before #UNESCO, Jews prayed facing & mourned the destruction of our Temple. Our memory is not determined by a UNESCO vote.
— CIJA (@CIJAinfo) October 13, 2016
A statement released by the Conference of Presidents of Major Jewish Organizations slammed UNESCO for “erasing the indisputable historical connection of Jews, Christians and faith traditions other than Islam to holy sites in Jerusalem.”
“This is a moral issue. There can be no equivocation,” the umbrella Jewish group said.
The resolution begins by affirming the “importance of the Old City of Jerusalem and its Walls for the three monotheistic religions,” but then goes on to accuse Israel — which it consistently calls “the occupying power” — of a long list of wrongdoings.
In Israel, the document was swiftly condemned by lawmakers from both the right and left as “absurd” and “anti-Semitic.”
The text “firmly deplores the continuous storming” of the Al-Aqṣa Mosque/Ḥaram Al-Sharif — Muslim names for the Temple Mount compound and the mosque located there — “by Israeli right-wing extremists and uniformed forces.”
It also decries Israeli works in the Western Wall Plaza, which it terms the al-Burak plaza after the Muslim name for the site.
The Western Wall, the outer retaining wall of the Temple Mount, is the holiest site where Jews today can pray, and is located at the bottom of the Temple Mount, Judaism’s holiest spot as the site of the Biblical temples. It was built during the Second Temple period.
The Al-Aqsa Mosque, regarded by Muslims as the third-holiest site in Islam, sits atop the Mount, known to Muslims as the Haram al-Sharif, along with the Dome of the Rock.
The Temple Mount compound has been a repeated flashpoint for clashes between Palestinian protesters and Israeli security forces. While Jews are allowed to enter the site, non-Muslims cannot worship there under arrangements instituted by Israel when it captured the area from Jordan in the 1967 Six Day War.