In a 24-6 vote, UNESCO on Thursday gave its preliminary approval to a resolution that ignores Jewish ties to its most holy religious sites: the Temple Mount and the Western Wall in the Old City of Jerusalem.
Another 26 nations abstained and two were absent all together.
After the vote, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that “UNESCO’s theater of the absurd continues” and added that with this vote, the organization lost what little legitimacy it had.
“Today the organization took yet another hallucinatory decision that says that the people of Israel have not connection to the Temple Mount or to the Western Wall,” Netanyahu said.
“Forget about asking if they have read the Bible. I suggest that UNESCO member visit the Arch of Titus in Rome. There you can see what the Roman brought to Rome after they destroyed and looked the Temple which stood on the Temple Mount 2,000 years ago.
“Engraved in the Arch of Titus you can see the seven-branched Menorah, which was and remains a symbol of the Jewish people and is also a symbol of today’s Jewish state,” he said.
“Soon UNESCO will say that UNESCO will say that the Emperor Titus was in the business of Zionist propaganda,” he said.
“To say that Israel has not connection to the Temple and the Western Wall is like saying that China is not connected to the Great Wall of China or the Egypt has no connection to the pyramids,” Netanyahu said.
The Prime Minister added, “I believe that historical truth is more powerful and this truth will prevail.”
Those countries who voted in support of Israel were: the United States, Great Britain, Lithuania, the Netherlands, Germany and Estonia.
According to Israel’s Ambassador to UNESCO Carmel Shama-Hacohen said the remaining European states on the UNESCO commission abstained. This includes, France, Greece, Italy, Slovenia, Spain and Sweden.
“From the morning we said we were certain it would pass, but the issue who would support it,” he told Army Radio.
He was pleased therefore, that Europe either voted against the resolution or abstained. Sweden’s abstention is particularly significant, because it typically supports such Palestinian resolutions in international bodies, he said.
The vote was taken by UNESCO’s 58-member Programme and External Relations Commission in advance of its ratification next Monday or Tuesday, by UNESCO Executive Board, made up of the same member states.
Opposition Leader and Zionist Union party head Isaac Herzog said, “Whoever wants to distort fact and to completely invent the fantasy that the Western Wall and Temple Mount have no connection to the Jewish people, is telling a terrible lie that only serves to increase hatred.
“On this matter there is no disagreement among the people of Israel and I urge UNESCO to withdraw this bizarre resolution and to engage in protecting, not distorting , human history,” Herzog said.
In advance of Thursday’s vote, Israel’s Mission to UNESCO in Paris had given board members and international diplomats a brochure detailing the deep historical connections Judaism has to those sites, which are also holy to Christianity and Islam.
In the draft of the Executive Board resolution dated September 2016 that was shown to The Jerusalem Post, the Western Wall was mentioned twice in quotes. Otherwise it was referenced in the text by its Muslim name of the Buraq Plaza.
The text, however, does state that Jerusalem and its Old City walls is important to all three religions.
When UNESCO’s 58-member Executive Board met in Paris in April, 2016 it adopted a resolution that spoke solely of Muslim ties to the Temple Mount.
In July, another resolution with the same linguistic issue was brought forward by the Palestinians and the Jordanians to the 21-member World Heritage Committee.
The matter was moved to the October 24-26 meeting without a vote, when the failed coup in Turkey forced UNESCO to cut short that July session.
UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova has in the past spoke out against such resolutions stating: “To deny or conceal any of the Jewish, Christian or Muslim traditions undermines the integrity of the site, and runs counter to the reasons that justified its inscription in 1981.”
Ultimately, however, the decision to pass these resolutions is up to the member states on the various UNESCO committees.
A bi-partisan group of 39 US Congressmen led by US Senator Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla) wrote a letter this week to the Executive Board members asking them to vote against the latest resolution when the matter is brought up on Thursday and Friday of this week.
“This resolution flies in the face of, among other things, science as recent archeological excavations, notably in the City of David, have revealed incontrovertible, physical evidence that reaffirms Jewish and Christian ties to the holy city of Jerusalem,” Cruz said.
Rep. Ros-Lehtinen said that the resolution implies that “Jerusalem is inconsequential to Jews and Christians, with the intent of laying the groundwork for additional UN efforts to delegitimize Israel and undermine its status as the capital of the Jewish State.”
“UNESCO was created to build intercultural understanding yet, as is the case across the entire UN system, intolerance and intentionally corrosive behavior on the part of many of the organization’s members has undermined its original mission and only further underscores the need for drastic reform throughout the entire UN system,” Ros-Lehtinen said.
Jewish groups, the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations and B’nai B’rith, had also called on UNESCO’s Executive Board to reject the resolution.