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October 13, 2016 12:36 pm

American Jewish Groups, Israeli Politicians React With Outrage to New UNESCO Resolution Ignoring Jewish People’s Ties With Jerusalem

avatar by Barney Breen-Portnoy

The Western Wall in Jerusalem. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

The Western Wall in Jerusalem. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

Major American Jewish groups and top Israeli politicians reacted with outrage on Thursday after the UN’s cultural body approved a resolution that ignores the Jewish people’s ties with Jerusalem holy sites.

“The theater of the absurd continues at the UN,” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in a statement. “Today UNESCO adopted its second decision this year denying the Jewish people’s connection to the Temple Mount, our holiest site for over three thousand years. What’s next? A UNESCO decision denying the connection between peanut butter and jelly? Batman and Robin? Rock and roll?”

“Is it any wonder the UN has become a moral farce when UNESCO, the UN body tasked with preserving history, denies and distorts history? Israel will continue to fight the lies, hatred and double standards at the UN. Israel will prevail because truth will prevail.”

24 countries voted in favor of the UNESCO Executive Board resolution and six — the US, UK, Germany, Holland, Lithuania and Estonia — voted against. 26 countries abstained and two countries were missing from the vote.

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The vote on the resolution — which was submitted by Algeria, Egypt, Lebanon, Morocco, Oman, Qatar and Sudan — had been postponed from July. However, a previous similar resolution was approved in April.

Rabbi Abraham Cooper – the associate dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Los Angeles — spoke with The Algemeiner from Jerusalem on Thursday following the resolution’s approval and said, “This was a full-blown assault on Jewish history and the rights of the Jewish people. And it’s something that we’re going to have to do our best to combat and make sure that this false narrative isn’t allowed to gain further traction around the world. I think this is one of those situations in which all Jewish groups have to join with the State of Israel in ensuring that the truth gets out.”

“The real problem is that the language of the resolution is much worse than the one that [was postponed in July],” Cooper said. “The language of the resolution does not mention the Temple Mount once, using just the Arab connotation. The Western Wall was only mentioned in quotes, using the Arabic designation, and it threw in the Cave of the Patriarchs and Rachel’s Tomb for good measure.”

One piece of good news, Cooper said, was that no European country voted in favor of the resolution. Cooper also noted the irony of countries like Morocco, Qatar and Sudan — “three paragons of human rights,” as he sarcastically put it — backing the resolution.

Israeli opposition leader Isaac Herzog said in a statement, “Whoever wants to rewrite history, to distort fact, and to completely invent the fantasy that the Western Wall and Temple Mount have no connection to the Jewish people, is telling a terrible lie that only serves to increase hatred. On this matter there is no disagreement among the people of Israel, and I urge UNESCO to withdraw this bizarre resolution and to engage in protecting, not distorting, human history.”

Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat said in a statement, “I was outraged to hear of UNESCO’s vote today which denies thousands of years of Jewish connection to Jerusalem’s Western Wall. Would UNESCO vote to deny the Christian connection to the Vatican? Or the Muslim connection to Mecca?”

“The UNESCO vote claims that there is no connection between the Jewish people and the Western Wall. In fact, it is the UNESCO vote that has no connection to reality.”

Ahead of the vote, the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations issued a statement calling the resolution a Palestinian bid to “rewrite the Judeo-Christian history of Jerusalem.”

The resolution “purposefully distorts, denigrates and ultimately seeks to deny the millennia long historical reality of the profound Jewish connection to sites which are among the holiest in Judaism, Christianity and other faith traditions,” the statement said.

In an interview with The Algemeiner last week, Malcolm Hoenlein — the executive vice president of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations — said UNESCO’s disregard of the Jewish people’s historic connection with Jerusalem represented a “war on Jewish history.”

“It’s an attempt to deny our past in order to deny our future,” he said.

In a statement released on Thursday, World Jewish Congress President Ronald Lauder called the passage of the resolution “shameful.”

“What happened today in Paris is anti-Semitism on steroids,” he said. “It is a total travesty and an insult to the Jewish people to pretend that the holy sites in Jerusalem are only Muslim sites, and to ignore the fact that the Temple Mount was already the holiest place of Judaism well before the advent of Islam…There are Hebrew names for the Temple Mount and the Western Wall, and they exist for a reason: because these are Jewish holy sites. One would expect a body like UNESCO, which was created to safeguard important sites like this, not to succumb to political pressure from governments that want to play politics with UN bodies.”

Furthermore, Lauder noted, “next year will mark the 50th anniversary of the reunification of Jerusalem. Since then, the State of Israel has protected that all major religions with ties to the city — Judaism, Christianity and Islam — enjoy access to their holy sites. The text adopted by UNESCO in Paris today shows that these sites cannot be entrusted to other governments.”

American Jewish Committee CEO David Harris said in a statement, “A minority of UNESCO members, led by the Palestinian Authority and Arab countries, has sought for a long time to exploit this body to castigate Israel. The United States, United Kingdom, Germany, the Netherlands, Lithuania and Estonia have asserted moral leadership by firmly and unequivocally rejecting this blatant historical revisionism. Let’s be clear what’s at work here: This is another attempt to undermine the very foundation of the State of Israel and the documented, age-old historical Jewish connection to the land. And unlike previous such resolutions, notably, not one European nation lent its support this time.”

The American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) characterized the UNESCO resolution as an “affront to the truth and a crude attempt to delegitimize the Jewish state.”

“By approving such an untruthful and one-sided resolution, UNESCO undermines efforts to seek a peaceful resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict by giving support to forces in the Palestinian community that reject reconciliation,” the AIPAC statement said. “Unfortunately, this resolution is also demonstrative of Palestinian efforts to circumvent direct negotiations by manipulating international institutions.”

And in a congratulatory message to Antonio Guterres of Portugal on his election as the next UN secretary general on Thursday, Israel’s UN envoy Danny Danon said, “On a day when UN agencies have again chosen to slander Israel and UNESCO adopted a resolution which attempts to sever the historical connection between the Jewish people and Jerusalem, I expect the new secretary general to be a fair leader.  We hope that he will end the obsession with Israel, and will work together with us against the antisemitic and anti-Israel forces in the UN.”

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