When the Secretary-General of the United Nations and the Director-General of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization both back away from a draft resolution regarding Jerusalem’s Temple Mount, you know the guys at UNESCO are in hot water. Through a spokesman, Ban Ki-moon asserted “the religious and historical link of the Jewish, Muslim and Christian peoples to the holy site,” while Irina Bokova of UNESCO reminded the world, “The heritage of Jerusalem is indivisible, and each of its communities has a right to the explicit recognition of their history and relationship with the city.”
So what’s the fuss about? You have to read the UNESCO document. In item after item, the resolution lodges complaint after complaint against “Israel, the occupying Power” (and Israel is always referred to as “the occupying Power” throughout the document), while making it clear that the Al-Haram Al Sharif (the Arabic name for the Temple Mount, and the only way this sacred site is named) is sacred only to Muslims. Only to Muslims, not also to Jews. In fact, there’s no acknowledgment that the Western Wall of the Holy Temple — Judaism’s most sacred shrine — is located there. And that is what has sparked outrage. By the way, since Jesus Christ preached the gospel at the Temple, and he and his twelve Apostles worshipped at the Temple, it is also revered by Christians, but that gets no play in the document, either.
It is the kind of pro-Palestinian, anti-Semitic nonsense that the UN issues from time to time, and it demands strong language, or at least a heavy sigh and an eye-roll.
But the UNESCO resolution has its defenders, including Hamas, whose spokesman accused Bokova of “giving in to Israeli pressure.” Bokova countered that the UNESCO proposal, by insisting that Muslims have the greatest interest in the site, has stirred up divisions among Jews, Christians, and Muslims over a place that all three faiths consider holy ground.
Then Edgar Vasquez, a U.S. State Department spokesman weighed in, reminding his listeners that, “One-sided anti-Israel resolutions have been a recurring challenge at UNESCO since 2009.” And, he added, the new UNESCO resolution could be used as an excuse “to inflame tension in the region and alter the status quo at the holy sites.” Considering it has taken centuries to hammer out what religious group has custodianship of which holy site, that’s a big deal.
The resolution was proposed by seven nations with large, in most cases majority Muslim populations. Twenty-four UN members voted in favor of the resolution, including Iran, Russia, and China. Six voted against it: the United States, the United Kingdom, Germany, Estonia, Lithuania, and The Netherlands. And another 26 countries abstained, among them France, Italy, Spain, India, and Japan.
Naturally, Israel’s prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, denounced the resolution: “The theatre of the absurd continues with UNESCO and today the organization has made its most bizarre decision by saying the people of Israel have no connection to the Temple Mount and the Western Wall…. Obviously they have never read the Bible.”
Remind me again, why does America stay in the UN? And imagine the condo complex New York could build on the East River if the city got back that pricey piece of real estate.
Thomas J. Craughwell is the author of St. Peter’s Bones: How the Relics of the First Pope Were Lost and Found… Then Lost and Found Again.