The executive board of UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organisation) yesterday officially approved a controversial motion which failed to recognise any Jewish connection to the Temple Mount in Jerusalem.
The executive board ratified the resolution, which was approved last Thursday by member states in Paris. Mexico, which had originally voted in favour of the motion, altered its stance during the interim period. Although Mexico did not force a re-vote, it did note for the record that it now adopts a position of abstention. Meanwhile, Brazil said that it was unlikely to support such motions in the future.
Israel’s Ambassador to UNESCO Carmel Shama-Hacohen said: “We have moved forward a step-and-a-half toward dismantling the automatic majority that the Palestinians and the Arab states have against Israel.”
The original resolution, which six countries including the UK opposed, was submitted by the Palestinian delegation with the support of Egypt, Algeria, Morocco, Lebanon, Oman, Qatar and Sudan. It alleges “Israeli escalating aggressions and illegal measures… against the freedom of worship and Muslims’ access to their Holy Site Al-Aqsa Mosque/Al-Haram Al Sharif”.
Although the motion acknowledges that Jerusalem is holy to the three monotheistic religions, the section dealing specifically with the Temple Mount says the site is sacred only to Muslims, failing to acknowledge its significance to Jews. It refers to the Western Wall, the world’s most significant Jewish prayer site, by the Arabic term Buraq Plaza, while quotation marks pointedly accompany the phrase “Western Wall”, the Jewish name for the site.
Following Thursday’s vote, the motion was condemned by leaders across Israel’s political spectrum, who often accuse the UN of an institutional bias against Israel.
The Director-General of UNESCO, Irina Bokova also signalled her disappointment at Thursday’s vote, saying: “The heritage of Jerusalem is indivisible, and each of its communities has a right to the explicit recognition of their history.”
However, the Palestinian Authority’s (PA) deputy Ambassador to UNESCO Mounir Anastas said that yesterday’s approval of the resolution “reminds Israel that they are the occupying power”.