UNESCO votes in favor of 6 resolutions condemning Israel

UNESCO votes in favor of 6 resolutions condemning Israel

UN cultural body slams Jerusalem for canceling mission to inspect Old City; Israeli envoy says preoccupation with Jewish state ‘obsessive’

Jerusalem's Golden Gate, which abuts the Temple Mount. (photo credit: Keren Freeman/Flash90)
Jerusalem's Golden Gate, which abuts the Temple Mount. (photo credit: Keren Freeman/Flash90)

The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) voted in favor of no fewer than six resolutions condemning Israel at its 192nd Session of the 56-member Executive Board in Paris on Friday.

In its 6th resolution, the UN body criticized Israel for not fulfilling an agreement reached in April to allow a visit by a UNESCO delegation seeking to inspect Jerusalem’s Old City. In May, Israel canceled the visit at the last minute.

The visit had been heralded as a possible sign of a thaw in ties between Israel and UNESCO, after Jerusalem cut off contact with the UN body following its recognition of a Palestinian state in 2011.

A government official said the cancellation was due to Palestinian “politicization” of the UN mission contrary to the agreed parameters of the visit.

Israel had announced in April that it would allow a mission from UNESCO to visit the Old City in May, in exchange for an agreement from the Palestinians to postpone a UN debate on five resolutions condemning Israel’s occupation of the West Bank.

UNESCO members voted in favor of these five previously pending resolutions on Friday, condemning Israel over a variety of issues including the preservation of archaeological sites in the Old City, the construction of a visitors’ center, plans to build an elevator by the Western Wall, accusations of archeological excavations said to be damaging Muslim sites atop the Temple Mount, the alleged deterioration of educational and cultural institutions in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, and plans to invest in sites its considers national heritage sites, like the Tomb of the Patriarchs.

The UN body’s Arab and Islamic bloc led the drive for the adoption of the resolutions, backed by Russia and France. The UK and Italy abstained while the US was the only country to vote against.

The Israeli envoy to the organization, Nimrod Barkan, blasted the decisions, calling UNESCO’s “preoccupation” with Israel “obsessive.”

UNESCO was the first UN organization to accept the Palestinian state as a member following the failed bid by President Mahmoud Abbas in 2011 to achieve upgraded status for Palestine; a year later, the UN General Assembly upgraded Palestine to non-member state status.

UNESCO lost an estimated $80 million per year in donations from the US following the admittance of the Palestinians.

AP contributed to this report.

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