Visiting mayors slam UNESCO holy sites stance

In Israel, 20 heads of cities across the world object to UN cultural body’s resolution ignoring Jewish, Christian links to Jerusalem

Delegation of global mayors in Tel Aviv (Courtesy)
Delegation of global mayors in Tel Aviv (Courtesy)

Twenty mayors from around the world who are part of a delegation visiting Israel have expressed opposition to two recent UNESCO resolutions that omitted Jewish and Christian links to Israeli holy sites in Jerusalem.

The mayors, visiting Israel as part of a conference organized by the American Jewish Congress and the American Council for World Jewry, signed a joint statement criticizing the recent adoption by two UNESCO committees of resolutions that ignore Jewish ties to Jerusalem’s Temple Mount and other holy sites in Israel, while highlighting the Islamic connection.

The statement was signed during a ceremony at the Foreign Ministry in Jerusalem.

The statement was to be presented to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during the 21 mayors’ meeting with the premier on Thursday afternoon.

The mayors resolved “to work to end politically inspired falsehood and distortions, and to speak the truth about all relevant history.”

The statement also called on UNESCO to “cease repeatedly exacerbating tensions, as evidenced by the most recent news of disputing Israeli heritage of the Dead Sea Scrolls, one of the major archaeological discoveries of the 20th century that sheds light on the biblical era.”

The resolution signed by the mayors calls on UNESCO to cease exacerbating tensions and to refrain from “injecting false narratives as part of a disinformation campaign by biased parties.”

The city heads are participating in the 31st International Mayors Conference organized by the American Jewish Congress and American Council for World Jewry (ACWJ).

In October, UNESCO ratified a controversial resolution that ignored Jewish and Christian ties to Jerusalem’s holy sites. Israelis and many Jews around the world view the move as the latest example of an ingrained anti-Israel bias at the United Nations, where Israel and its allies are far outnumbered by Arab countries and their supporters.

Ellie Stern (left) AJCongress Executive Director, AJCongress President Jack Rosen, and Dr. Munr Kazmir, AJCongress Vice President, hold the signed resolution (Courtesy)
Ellie Stern (left) AJCongress Executive Director, AJCongress President Jack Rosen, and Dr. Munr Kazmir, AJCongress Vice President, hold the signed resolution (Courtesy)

The delegation includes mayors from across five continents: from Beverly Hills, Bridgeport, Irving, Miami Beach, in the US, the mayor of Tainan in Taiwan, Lviv, in the Ukraine, San Miguelito in Panama, Homabay County in Kenya, Jaen in Spain, George in South Africa and Viseu in Portugal.

“We were deeply disappointed with the UNESCO World Heritage Committee for adopting a resolution that was extremely discriminatory and seeks to undermine Jewish and Christian history,” said Jack Rosen, the president of the American Jewish Congress and chairman of the American Council for World Jewry in a statement. “This resolution, signed by mayors of different faiths and backgrounds, demonstrates that this sentiment is held by many across the world. We urge UNESCO to understand the strength of feeling opposing this decision and reconsider their resolution.”

The delegation has met in Israel with high-tech, energy and cyber companies as well as urban development experts.

The aim of the delegation is “make new friends for Israel,” said Rosen in a phone interview earlier this week. “We want to expose them to seeing the reality on the ground, get them to see some of Israel’s tech innovation” to counteract some of what they see via the media in their home countries, he said.

As part of their trip, the mayors visited Jerusalem Innovation Center and Israel’s largest telecommunications company Bezeq, and took part in a Tel Aviv startup tour.

They also met with representatives of local municipalities, including the Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat and Tel Aviv Mayor Ron Huldai.

Philip Levine, the mayor of Miami, said in a phone interview that he had discussed initiating a nonstop flight from Miami to Tel Aviv with the Tourism Ministry.

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