French chief rabbi: Paris ‘ignored Jewish ties to Jerusalem’ in UNESCO vote

Haim Korsia slams his country’s backing for resolution that refers to Temple Mount, Western Wall plaza by Arabic names

The Western Wall (photo credit: Sliman Khader/Flash90)
The Western Wall (photo credit: Sliman Khader/Flash90)

In an unusual commentary on his country’s foreign policy, the chief rabbi of France spoke out against its vote at the United Nations on a resolution that he said ignored Jewish ties to Jerusalem.

In a statement Thursday, Rabbi Haim Korsia expressed his “strong disapproval” of the April 16 resolution by UNESCO, the Paris-based UN organization dealing with education, culture and heritage, which refers to the Temple Mount area solely as Al-Aqsa Mosque/Al-Haram Al Sharif, except for two references to the Western Wall plaza that were put in parentheses.

The broad-ranging resolution, which France’s mission to UNESCO supported in a vote, condemns Israeli actions in East Jerusalem, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, but focuses in large part on Israeli actions with regard to the Temple Mount and Western Wall plaza.

UNESCO has passed similar resolutions in the past, also with French support but the April 16 resolutions provoked particularly strong-worded condemnations from French Jewish groups, with Roger Cukierman, president of the CRIF umbrella group of French Jewish communities, calling the French vote in favor of it “scandalous.”

Chief Rabbi of France Haim Korsia, speaking with French media. (screen capture: YouTube)
Chief Rabbi of France Haim Korsia, speaking with French media. (screen capture: YouTube)

Korsia wrote that French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault told him France did not mean to downplay Judaism’s ties to Jerusalem with the vote.

France, Russia and China were among the 33 countries the voted in favor, along with Sweden and Spain. Seventeen countries abstained while six voted against, including the United States, Estonia, Germany, Lithuania, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom.

Judaism, Christianity and Islam all consider the Temple Mount to be a holy site. The text approved also referred to the plaza area by the Western Wall, Judaism’s holiest prayer site, as al-Buraq Plaza — language that the Simon Wiesenthal Center alleges was lifted from Hamas literature.

“On the eve of Passover, a holiday when Jewish pilgrims would ascend to the Temple in Jerusalem, the chief rabbi of France reaffirms the indestructible ties that unite the Jewish people and Jerusalem and urges UNESCO executive council to reconsider their position as soon as possible,” Korsia’s office wrote in the statement.

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