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October 26, 2016 5:33 pm

UNESCO Slammed for Another ‘Ridiculous’ Jerusalem Resolution, But Some Also Note Diplomatic Progress

avatar by Barney Breen-Portnoy

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The Western Wall and Temple Mount in Jerusalem's Old City. Photo: Paul Arps via Wikimedia Commons.

The Western Wall and Temple Mount in Jerusalem’s Old City. Photo: Paul Arps via Wikimedia Commons.

Israeli politicians and American Jewish groups once again condemned UNESCO on Wednesday after the global cultural body’s World Heritage Committee approved a resolution similar to the one passed by its Executive Board earlier this month that ignored Jewish and Christian history in Jerusalem.

“The absurdity continues, and UNESCO has adopted yet another ridiculous decision that is completely disconnected from reality,” Israeli Ambassador to the UN Danny Danon said in a statement on Wednesday. “UNESCO embarrassed itself by marching to the tune of the Palestinian pipers. All attempts to deny our heritage, distort history and disconnect the Jewish people from our capital and our homeland, are doomed to fail.”

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu also criticized the resolution and called Israel’s UNESCO envoy Carmel Shama-Hacohen home for consultations. In reference to the vote total on the resolution, Netanyahu’s office noted progress, however, saying, “More nations moved this year from support to abstentions.”

At Wednesday’s vote, ten countries backed the resolution, while two voted against it and eight abstained. One country was absent.

According to diplomatic sources speaking with the Jerusalem Post, Tanzania and the Philippines were the two countries who opposed the resolution. The sources also told the Post that Lebanon, Cuba, Kuwait, Tunisia, Turkey, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Indonesia, Vietnam and Angola supported it, while Poland, Portugal, Croatia, Finland, South Korea, Burkina Faso, Peru and Zimbabwe abstained and Jamaica was absent.

Dr. Shimon Samuels — the Simon Wiesenthal Center’s director of international relations — praised Tanzania for “cracking the Palestinian conception of ‘consensus’ — as meaning unanimity” by ensuring the vote be conducted by secret ballot.

American Jewish Committee CEO David Harris said in a statement, “In back-to-back measures, during the holiest month in Judaism, member states of two UNESCO bodies have thrown truth to the wind. Instead, they have succumbed to the pernicious designs of the Palestinian Authority and Arab countries that have long sought to exploit this forum to castigate Israel and deny the indisputable link of the Jewish people with Jerusalem. It would be like refusing to recognize Islam’s connection to Mecca and Catholicism’s ties to Rome. This step may be self-satisfying to the Palestinian leadership and its allies, but, let’s be clear, it moves us further away from any prospect of peace and coexistence.”

Roz Rothstein – the CEO of the pro-Israel group StandWithUs – said in a statement, “Through these polarizing and mendacious resolutions, UNESCO is inciting dangerous ill will against Israel, the Jewish people and Judaism. This puts UNESCO in the position of both sanctioning the world’s ‘oldest hate’ of antisemitism and destroying the confidence of millions in it as a credible agency of the United Nations. Indeed, UNESCO has allowed itself to become a vehicle for fomenting conflict, intolerance, misunderstanding and injustice in stark contrast to its aim ‘to contribute to the building of peace’ and ‘intercultural dialogue.’ These resolutions render UNESCO ineffective in creating the cultural bridges between Israelis and Palestinians that are so sorely needed.”

On Tuesday in Paris, Shama-Hacohen — joined by Shahar Azani, StandWithUs’ Northeast executive director, and Yifa Segal, director of the International Legal Forum — presented UNESCO Director General Irina Bokova with a petition that called on UNESCO to “recognize the deep historic, cultural and religious connection between the Jewish people and holy sites in the land of Israel.” The petition was signed by almost 80,000 people.

The Simon Wiesenthal Center’s European office warned on Wednesday that the World Heritage Committee resolution’s reference to the Western Wall as “part of Al Aqsa Mosque/Al Haram Al Sharif” might “provoke further violence against Jews in Israel and Christians throughout the Middle East… Mosques, media and schools throughout the region can now claim that non-Muslims at the Wall are trespassing on Al Aqsa. UNESCO bears responsibility for the consequences.”

Zionist Organization of America National President Morton A. Klein said in a statement, “This resolution is nothing other than part of the Palestinian, Arab and indeed international campaign to delegitimize Israel’s existence, and to increase the likelihood of boycotts and sanctions based on monstrous lies endorsed by resolutions of this type by international organizations…We call upon the Obama Administration to publicly condemn this resolution as the pernicious, anti-Semitic, historical travesty that it is.”

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