Former Israeli UNESCO Envoy: New Resolution Ignoring Jewish Ties to Jerusalem ‘Truly Scandalous,’ but Will Have ‘No Real-World Impact’
UNESCO’s approval of a resolution that ignored the Jewish people’s ties with Jerusalem holy sites was “truly scandalous” but will have “absolutely no real-world impact,” a former Israeli ambassador to the global cultural body told The Algemeiner on Thursday.
David Kornbluth — who worked as an Israeli diplomat for more than three decades and served as Israel’s UNESCO envoy between 2005 and 2009 — said such resolutions have only two tangible effects — “putting off Israelis with UNESCO and the UN” and “inciting extremists among the Arabs to carry on with fairytale propaganda.”
“Unfortunately, UNESCO has gone the wrong way,” Kornbluth told The Algemeiner. “The Executive Board, which passed this resolution, has always been very problematic. But until a few years ago, it didn’t dare to attempt to do anything that was so counter-intuitive and so contrary to the facts.”
The resolution, Kornbluth emphasized, “doesn’t help the Palestinians in any way and it doesn’t help get peace negotiations going.”
Furthermore, he noted, “it pushes any possibility of ever reaching an agreement on matters like Jerusalem even further away.”
At Thursday’s meeting of the UNESCO Executive Board in Paris, 24 countries voted in favor of the resolution and six — the US, UK, Germany, Holland, Lithuania and Estonia — voted against. 26 countries abstained and two countries were missing from the vote.
Kornbluth took some solace in the fact that no European country backed the resolution.
“You can’t call it a diplomatic success, but it wasn’t a bad vote total for Israel,” he said. “It used to be just America, and maybe one or two other countries, who would vote with us on issues like this.”
“I think more countries have come to realize that these resolutions are destroying UNESCO,” Kornbluth continued. “I would’ve liked to have seen France vote against the resolution, but it’s hard to get Europeans to stand up and be counted. The United States, however, all through the last decades, has been a staunch ally of Israel at UNESCO.”
Kornbluth went on to say, “Prime Minister [Benjamin] Netanyahu has been saying for a while now that Israel’s status is improving at UN organizations and there will be more and more states that come out to support us or abstain. So this might be a step in that direction.”
Promoters of the resolution included a slew of authoritarian Middle Eastern regimes, Kornbluth pointed out, and the two biggest world powers to support it were China and Russia.
“In democracies, history is history and we don’t change it by UNESCO resolutions,” Kornbluth said. “But that is not the case with these dictatorship countries. These countries don’t have the same relationship as the Western world does with the facts. As [the late US Ambassador to the UN and New York Senator] Daniel Patrick Moynihan said, ‘Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not his own facts.’ Hopefully, there will be even more Western states who realize that next time, as it’s really their history that is being challenged as well.”
The language of the resolution, which uses Arabic names for Jewish holy sites like the Temple Mount and Western Wall, “plays into the hands of those around the world seeking to delegitimize Israel,” Kornbluth said. “It plays into the old lie of Zionism is racism. It plays into all those old lies from decades ago. And it gives extremists more energy. But in truth, the whole thing will not get them very far. However, they do enjoy it in their propaganda world.”
Kornbluth did say there would be many people at UNESCO who would be upset by the resolution, as it would lessen the chances of the US Congress restoring funding to the organization — funding that was cut off after UNESCO admitted “Palestine” as a member state in 2011.
“This whole thing is very sad for UNESCO,” Kornbluth said. “The passage of the resolution is worse for UNESCO than it is for Israel, that’s for sure.”