Entertainment for Bored Diplomats
UNESCO is at it again. Earlier this week, the World Heritage Committee of UNESCO began its 10-day 40th session in Istanbul, Turkey in which it will examine proposals to inscribe 27 sites on UNESCO’s World Heritage List as well as examine the state of conservation of 108 sites already on the World Heritage List and of 48 sites on the World Heritage in Danger List. The World Heritage Committee of UNESCO meets once a year and comprises 21 representatives from the affiliate states.
These are all noble purposes, but also the kind that most country representatives probably find a bit dull and 10 days is a long time to be discussing the conservation of old buildings when all you really want is to sip champagne and sample the buffet. Fortunately, these diplomats have Israel to provide the requisite entertainment — because honestly, what fun would a UN meeting be without some serious Israel-bashing?
Jordan and the Palestinian Authority have taken it upon themselves to submit to UNESCO a draft resolution denying Jewish affinity to the Temple Mount, including the Western Wall and also, as is their habit, accusing Israel of damaging Islamic holy sites. According to UN Watch, the draft resolution is even more extreme than the one that was adopted in 2015: The new version refers 10 times to Haram Al-Sharif, exclusively using the Islamic term for the Temple Mount, without any mention that it is Judaism’s holiest site. The new version also uses the Islamic term Buraq Plaza three times, while placing the parallel name, Western Wall Plaza, in scare quotes and not even in parentheses, as it had done previously, intensifying the denial of any Jewish affinity.
At this point, it should be mentioned that the World Heritage Committee of UNESCO is a political body and that the director general of UNESCO, Irina Bokova, actually spoke out forcefully in April against the politicization of UNESCO in the past and has distanced herself from previous attempts to deny Jewish affinity to the Temple Mount. She said, “I published a statement immediately after the council meeting ended where I said, ‘Jerusalem is a Holy Land of the three monotheistic religions, a place of dialogue for all Jewish, Christian and Muslim people, nothing should be undertaken to alter its integrity and authenticity. It is a mosaic of cultures and peoples, whose history has shaped the history of all humanity. Only respect and dialogue can build the trust we need to move forward — this is the strength of UNESCO, for the benefit of all’ … I’ve said several times in the past that it should be forbidden to politicize UNESCO. As the director general, I took a clear stance regarding circumstances which might have inflamed already heated issues in the Middle East, the Old City of Jerusalem and its walls, which are both recognized as UNESCO World Heritage Sites.”
The 21 states currently comprising the World Heritage Committee — and the ones that will ultimately decide whether this insidious resolution will be approved, are: Angola, Azerbaijan, Burkina Faso, Croatia, Cuba, Finland, Indonesia, Jamaica, Kazakhstan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Peru, Philippines, Poland, Portugal, South Korea, Tanzania, Tunisia, Turkey, Vietnam and Zimbabwe.
Should the draft resolution be approved, it will only serve one purpose — to add further fuel to the flames in the ongoing terrorist wave against Israelis orchestrated by the PA. The “world community” will have once more proven how unfit it is to call itself just that, when all it will have done is to join the Arabs in their incitement against a Jewish presence in the Old City of Jerusalem.
Nevertheless, around the world, and this includes the Western world, the UN continues to be viewed as the repository of international legitimacy. That is one of the reasons why this latest maneuvering, this latest draft resolution, cannot simply be shrugged off as just more shenanigans from the crazies. Because “the crazies” happen to make up the world community, they presume to preside over matters of international law (while they themselves make a mockery of it). What is decided at the UN is taken at face value as truth by dangerously many hapless observers.
This is why Israeli diplomats are seeking to put pressure on members of the World Heritage Committee to vote against the draft resolution — and why everyone who cares not only about Israel but about respect for international law, should do what they can to explain that the singling out of Israel for condemnation at the UN is not only morally wrong but in no one’s interest at all.
Perhaps then, some day, diplomats will find a more appropriate pastime than bullying Israel at the UN.
Judith Bergman is a writer and political analyst living in Israel. Twitter @judithbergman. This article was originally published by Israel Hayom.