French Jewish Leaders Decry Country’s Support of UNESCO Resolution Denying Jewish Ties to Temple Mount
France’s recent support of a UN resolution denying Jewish ties to the Temple Mount is a “total travesty,” a prominent French-Israeli artist and political activist told The Algemeiner on Wednesday.
Ron Agam was referring to an April 16 United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) resolution labeling Judaism’s holiest site — and Islam’s third — as a Muslim holy site only. In the motion ahead of the vote, the Paris-based organization referred to the Temple Mount by its Arabic name, Al-Haram Al Sharif.
Following the vote, Agam wrote on Facebook: “This week France voted at UNESCO for a resolution that denies any connection of the Jewish people to the Temple Mount in Jerusalem. At the same time, France wants to convene an international summit for peace between Palestinians and Israelis. How can Jews and Israelis trust France’s integrity when on the eve of Passover, they insult the entire Jewish people with this shameless vote?”
Elaborating on his post, Agam told The Algemeiner, “It is a total travesty that a country like France, with such an illustrious past, will compromise its dignity and honor with such an unthinkable revisionist attitude.”
French Chief Rabbi Haim Korsia also weighed in, issuing rare criticism against his government last week. He expressed his “strong disapproval” of the UNESCO motion, JTA reported. “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 said in a statement.
Roger Cukierman, president of the CRIF umbrella organization representing French Jews, labeled France’s support for the resolution “scandalous.”
The UNESCO resolution also condemned Israeli action in East Jerusalem, the Gaza Strip and West Bank and called both Hebron and Bethlehem “integral” parts of “Palestine.” Hebron is the location of the Cave of the Patriarchs, considered holy by both Jews and Muslims. Rachel’s Tomb is located in Bethlehem, which is also the birthplace of Jesus. According to UNESCO, Israel is “planting Jewish fake graves in other spaces of the Muslim cemeteries.”
This is not the first time the cultural organization has passed controversial resolutions regarding holy sites in Israel. In 2010, Rachel’s Tomb was reclassified as “Bilal bin Rabah Mosque.” Thirty-three countries, including France, Russia and China, Sweden and Spain, voted in favor of the UNESCO resolution. Seventeen countries abstained while six — the US, UK, Germany, Netherlands, Estonia and Lithuania — voted against it.
In response to the resolution, a Change.org petition is calling on UNESCO to recognize “the deep historic, cultural and religious connection between the Jewish people and holy sites in the land of Israel.” Created last week by the International Legal Forum and pro-Israel advocacy group StandWithUs, the petition has garnered over 11,500 signatures from people around the world.
According to the petition, UNESCO is violating the “basic human rights of Jews everywhere, as well as those of other religions whose beliefs and heritage include the spiritual and historical connection of the Jewish people to Jerusalem.” The recent resolution, according to the authors of the petition, will lead to global violence and “also hurts any prospect of peace and vicariously supports a radical ideology that denies the Jewish connection to the land of Israel and its holy sites.”
Ruth Lerner, a signatory from the UK, wrote on the petition page: “I’m fed up with the lies perpetuated by these evil organizations run by evil people for their own evil ends.”
David Peters, a supporter from California, wrote: “The UNESCO resolution was motivated by hate, by antisemitism and by anti-Zionism. It flies in the face of 3,000 years of recorded history and facts apparent to the unprejudiced eye. This is one more action that proves the biased and blinded positions taken over the years by UNESCO.”
The petition will be delivered to the UN and UNESCO once it reaches 15,000 signatures.