UNESCO and the Denial of Jewish History
For years, Palestinians and other Arabs have tried to deny the historical record and usurp Jewish holy sites. Their latest attempt to do so takes the form of a Palestinian-Jordanian draft resolution to UNESCO’s World Heritage Committee, calling for a return of the Temple Mount to its alleged “historic” status quo before 1967 — as if history starts and ends with Jordan’s 19-year, illegal occupation of eastern Jerusalem, during which Jews were expelled from the area.
Although the resolution was based on falsehoods, there was no guarantee that the UN’s cultural organization would dismiss it. After all, UNESCO had just three months earlier sided with Palestinians to pass a resolution condemning Jewish visits and policing of the Temple Mount. This time, however, members of the World Heritage Committee decided to delay voting on the contentious resolution.
A positive vote by UNESCO would reject historical fact: Jewish reverence for the Temple Mount long predates the building of the Dome of the Rock and Al-Aqsa Mosque in the 7th century CE, and even predates the construction of the first Jewish Temple by King Solomon almost 2,000 years earlier.
King Solomon’s Temple was built, according to Jewish tradition, on the Even Hashtiya, the foundation stone upon which the world was created — the epicenter of Judaism, where the Divine Presence rests; where the biblical Isaac was brought for sacrifice; where the Holy of Holies and Ark of the Covenant housing the Ten Commandments once stood; and where the Temple was again rebuilt before being destroyed by the Romans. The Western Wall, a remnant of the outer retaining wall built by Herod to level the ground and expand the area that housed the Second Jewish Temple, derives its holiness from its proximity to the Temple site and specifically the western wall of the Temple’s Holy of Holies.
These facts were not challenged by Muslim sand Arabs in the past. In 1924, the Supreme Moslem Council published an English-language tourist guide to the site that readily acknowledged the Temple Mount’s centrality to Jews. Entitled “A Brief Guide to al-Haram al-Sharif,” the guide stated:
The site is one of the oldest in the world. Its sanctity dates from the earliest times. Its identity with the site of Solomon’s Temple is beyond dispute. This, too, is the spot, according to universal belief, on which David built there an altar unto the Lord, and offered burnt offerings and peace offerings.
But the Council’s honest description of that time has been replaced with dishonest revisionism that turns the truth on its head. Instead of Muslims appropriating Jewish holy sites, it is Jews who are accused of “stealing” Muslim shrines. The current head of the Supreme Moslem Council — the former Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, Sheikh Ekrima Sabri — has, for decades, tried to invalidate Jewish claims to the area. He denies Solomon’s Temple as an “unproven allegation,” which Jews concocted out of “hatred and envy.” He claims the Western Wall, too, is “a Muslim religious property” to which Jews “have no relation.”
And he is not the only one. Parties such as the Jordanian Waqf (the Islamic religious trust that manages the Muslim mosques on the Temple Mount), Turkish Islamists, Mahmoud Abbas’ Palestinian Authority and Fatah party, Hamas, Sheikh Raed Salah’s Northern Islamic Movement, and Hizb ut-Tahri (the Islamic Liberation Party) all vie with each other for supremacy over the site, while at the same time denying non-Muslim connections and freedom of worship in the area. Hizb ut-Tahri, the dominant force on the Temple Mount, was founded as an anti-Hashemite party opposing Jordan’s authority over Al-Aqsa. Its goals are to establish a global Islamic caliphate to be proclaimed from the Temple Mount.
Those preaching from the Al-Aqsa Mosque agitate for war not only against Jews, but against all non-Muslims and the West. They call for an “Islamic caliphate” whose armies would “liberate” the land from its “filth.” They vow that “America will be trampled by the hooves of the horses of the Caliph of the Muslims,” that their war is with “the Byzantines, with America and Europe.” They call for “a second battle of Badr” (where Mohammed was victorious over his enemies) to restore an Islamic Caliphate that will continue to “lead the armies to war against the infidels.” These sermons are readily available on the internet, translated by MEMRI and Palestinian Media Watch.
ISIS too has released a series of videos calling on Palestinians and Muslims to “liberate Al-Aqsa from the defilement of the sons of apes and pigs” and to “combat the Jews and Christians, who work day and night to convert Muslims.”
By endorsing political propaganda and lies about Jerusalem’s holy sites, UNESCO would not only be discrediting its own reputation and mission, but could be fueling a larger jihad that would extend far beyond the Middle East.
A different version of this article was originally published by CAMERA here.