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April 30, 2017 11:43 am

US Official Criticizes New Draft of ‘Delegitimizing’ UNESCO Resolution Labeling Israeli Presence in Jerusalem ‘Illegal’

avatar by Ben Cohen

UNESCO headquarters in Paris.

The latest draft of a resolution entitled “Occupied Palestine” to be voted on this Tuesday by UNESCO, the United Nations cultural agency, has been sharply condemned by a US official.

The resolution – submitted by Arab states Algeria, Egypt, Lebanon, Morocco, Qatar and Sudan –  declares as its aim the “safeguarding of the cultural heritage of Palestine and the distinctive character of East Jerusalem.” The resolution goes on to attack Israel in the harshest terms, stating that all measures taken by the Jewish state in its capital are “illegal” and “null and void.”

“UNESCO is too often used as a vehicle by member states inclined to delegitimize the State of Israel,” the US official told The Algemeiner. “Although several of these anti-Israel resolutions are typically adopted biannually by UNESCO, over time they have become increasingly political in nature and now question Israel’s basic claim to historic sites.”

The official concluded: “These resolutions are counterproductive to the core work of UNESCO and do nothing to advance the goal we all share of a two-state solution.”

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Although the resolution — a copy of which was obtained by The Algemeiner — reaffirms “the importance of the Old City of Jerusalem and its Walls for the three monotheistic religions,” it continues by asserting that “all legislative and administrative measures and actions taken by Israel, the occupying Power, which have altered or purport to alter the character and status of the Holy City of Jerusalem, and in particular the ‘basic law’ on Jerusalem, are null and void and must be rescinded forthwith.”

The Basic Law on Jerusalem was passed by the Knesset in August 1980. It affirms that “Jerusalem, complete and united, is the capital of Israel.”

The mention in the current draft of the “Holy City” of Jerusalem is a slight modification of the original draft, which read: “Any action taken by Israel, the occupying power, to impose its laws, jurisdiction, and administration on the city of Jerusalem, are illegal and therefore null and void and have no validity whatsoever.”

The new wording might be taken to suggest that the focus of the resolution is now on the eastern half of Jerusalem, where the holy places are located, rather than the entire city. However, a source with knowledge of the matter told The Algemeiner that one Latin American diplomat attending the UNESCO Executive Board countered that, “as the Palestinians regard every stone in  Jerusalem as holy,” the resolution remains at best ambiguous on whether it recognizes Israeli sovereignty in any part of Jerusalem.

In language reflecting the routinized excoriations of Israel at the UN General Assembly and the UN Human Rights Council, each section of the resolution ends in condemnation. The resolution says that UNESCO “regrets the failure of the Israeli occupying authorities to cease the persistent excavations, tunneling, works and projects in East Jerusalem, particularly in and around the Old City of Jerusalem, which are illegal under international law.” It also slams what it calls “the Israeli refusal to implement the UNESCO request to the Director-General to appoint a permanent representative to be stationed in East Jerusalem.”

Nor does the resolution restrict itself to Jerusalem. It “deplores” what it describes as “the continuous Israeli closure of the Gaza Strip, which harmfully affects the free and sustained movement of personnel, students and humanitarian relief items.”

Egypt, a co-sponsor of the UNESCO resolution, shares a large border with Gaza and has frequently shut down entry and exit points into the coastal enclave, which is home to 2 million Palestinians. The Egyptian army has destroyed a total of 21 cross-border tunnels along its border with Gaza since mid-January.

Other holy sites come into the resolution’s frame as well. Two sites sacred to Jewish worshipers – the Cave of the Patriarchs in Hebron and the Tomb of Rachel in Bethlehem – are defined by the resolution as “The two Palestinian sites of Al-Haram Al-Ibrahimi/Tomb of the Patriarchs in Al-Khalil/Hebron and the Bilal Ibn Rabah Mosque/Rachel’s Tomb in Bethlehem.” Both, the resolution says, “are an integral part of the Occupied Palestinian Territory.”

Israeli and American diplomats at UNESCO in Paris are urging allied members to vote against the resolution – a difficult task given the in-built majority enjoyed by the Arab states at the agency.

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