Pro-Israel organizations StandWithUS and the International Legal Forum (ILF), along with Israel's Ambassador to UNESCO Carmel Shama Hacohen, met on Tuesday with UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova to present a petition made against UNESCO's recent resolutions denying Jewish ties to Jerusalem and draft resolution to be voted by the agency's World Heritage Committee on Wednesday.
"The atmosphere in the meeting was very friendly. Director Bokova repeated her criticism of the resolution, which she called 'regretful'," said Yifa Segal, director of the ILF, to Tazpit Press Service (TPS).
Segal said that although the petition would not likely change the outcome of Wednesday's vote, it formalizes Jews' protest against destructive resolutions that attempt to rewrite history. That, in turn, could give Israel a chance to win in the court of public opinion whether the resolution passes or not.
"Even though Director Bokova is not entitled to cancel the vote, her position is extremely important in amplifying Israel's position and bestowing upon it credibility," Segal concluded.
The UNESCO resolution criticizes Israeli actions on and around the Temple Mount, Judaism's holiest site, but contains no reference to the Jewish names for the site. Instead, the draft refers only to the Muslim name, al-Haram al-Sharif, or the Noble Sanctuary. Even the Western Wall is mentioned in the resolution mainly by its Arabic name, al-Buraq Plaza.
The petition, signed by over 76,000 people so far, says the resolution's language violates the rights of Jews everywhere, as well as members of other faith communities whose heritage and beliefs reference the spiritual and historical connections of the Jewish people to Jerusalem.
In effect, the resolution also denies any Christian connection to the sites and to the Old City, describing them as holy to Muslims only.
In a letter to UNESCO Director Bokova, Roz Rothstein, CEO of StandWithUS, said the resolution violates UNESCO's own mandate to bring nations together and protect heritage and warned that the language could support anti-Semitism and incite anti-Israel violence.
"With this resolution, 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,'" she posited in the letter.
Wednesday's resolution follows a similar one approved on October 13 by UNESCO's Executive Board. Following several countries' declarations of support for Israel, the text was modified by the sponsoring countries, Kuwait, Lebanon and Tunisia, along with the Palestinians to secure a consensus vote on the text.
Shama Hacohen approved the sentiment and claimed, "This petition is yet another manifestation of the deep bond between Jerusalem and the Jewish people. The list of states and leaders expressing remorse for their past votes and object."
"The petition presents a strong moral voice, much more than the immoral Arab proposal trying to erase 3000-year-old history with ignorance and insolence," he concluded.
Article reprinted with permission from TPS.