New UNESCO resolution ignores Judaism's connection to Temple Mount
The UN cultural agency's World Heritage Committee adopts a resolution that, like its parent organization's, disregards the Jewish ties to its holiest sites in the capital. Israel's UNESCO ambassador is displeased, though the PM is satisfied that 8 of 21 countries abstained.
UNESCO's World Heritage Committee adopted a resolution on Jerusalem that ignores Judaism's connection to the Temple Mount on Wednesday. The committee's resolution is similar to the one passed last week by the UN's cultural agency.
Although some Israeli officials, including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's office, said there had been some improvement in the language, the new resolution continues to ignore the Jewish link to the Temple Mount, where Jews believe the First and Second Temples were built and destroyed, and revered as the religion's holiest site.
The new resolution came the same day that the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) displayed a rare papyrus dating to the First Temple Period—about 2,700 years ago—which has the oldest known mention of Jerusalem in Hebrew. A spokesman for the IAA said the papyrus was believed to have been plundered from a cave in the Judean desert and is one of only three Hebrew scrolls from that period.
Lebanon and Tunisia submitted the resolution on behalf of Jordan and the Palestinians, who are not among the 21 member states of the World Heritage Committee. The Arab states had originally wanted the resolution to pass without a vote and toned down some of the original language. For example, the resolution refers to the Western Wall, without using quotation marks as the previous resolution did.
However, it still only refers to the Temple Mount by its Muslim name, Haram al-Sharif or the Noble Sanctuary. Netanyahu's office said that the fact that the vote was even held, and that eight nations abstained, was a victory of sorts.
"More nations moved this year from support to abstentions," the statement says, attributing this to "intense efforts by the prime minister and the Foreign Ministry."
But, in a sign that the Prime Minister's office and the Foreign Ministry do not always coordinate, Foreign Ministry Spokesman Emmanuel Nachshon tweeted a photo of Israel's ambassador to UNESCO, Carmel Shama-Hacohen, throwing a copy of the resolution in the garbage (which was later deleted), followed by an angry tweet.
"UNESCO's vote on Jerusalem is a piece of rubbish, rightly dumped in the garbage can by our Ambassador!! Long live Jewish Jerusalem!!!" Nachshon tweeted.
Unlike a Security Council resolution, the UNESCO vote does not have policy implications. It is, however, another example of growing international criticism of Israel.
"Israel should care about its standing and its image in the world," Tamir Sheafer, a professor of political science at Hebrew University in Jerusalem told The Media Line. "(Jerusalem) is something that unites a majority of Israelis."
For Palestinians, the resolution does not go far enough.
"Israel's illegal attempts to change the identity of Occupied East Jerusalem, including its Christian and Muslim traditions, have been ongoing since its occupation of the city in 1967," PLO Secretary General Saeb Erekat said in a statement. "The State of Palestine, in full cooperation with the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, through diplomatic channels, has been doing everything possible in order to preserve the status quo of the historical Holy Sites in the city in line with the internationally recognized status quo arrangement and all international resolutions and treaties."
Article written by Linda Gradstein
Reprinted with permission from The Media Line