UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organisation) is set to vote today on a Palestinian-spearheaded motion which appears to question any Jewish connection to the Temple Mount in Jerusalem.
The resolution has been tabled for discussion at UNESCO’s Executive Board meeting, taking place in Paris. It has been submitted by the Palestinian delegation with the support of Egypt, Algeria, Morocco, Lebanon, Oman, Qatar and Sudan.
Haaretz reports that despite Israeli diplomatic efforts the resolution is expected to pass with ease. The paper, which has obtained a copy of the resolution, says that it while it asserts that Jerusalem is holy to the three monotheistic religions: Judaism, Islam and Christianity a section dealing specifically with the Temple Mount says the site is sacred only to Muslims, failing to acknowledge its significance to Jews as well.
The resolution also refers to it exclusively by the Arabic term Al-Haram Al-Sharif, or the Noble Sanctuary. The Western Wall, the world’s most significant Jewish prayer site, is also referred to by the Arabic term Buraq Plaza, while quotation marks pointedly accompany the Hebrew phrase for “Western Wall”.
In July, UNESCO’s Director General that “the Old City of Jerusalem is the sacred city of the three monotheistic religions – Judaism, Christianity and Islam”.
A similar motion was submitted to the UNESCO Executive Board at their meeting in Istanbul in July, but the meeting was cut short due to an attempted coup in Turkey. Unlike the July resolution, the current motion does not refer to Israel as the “occupying power” and nor does it call for a return to what it called “the historic status quo” at Jerusalem’s Temple Mount.
Israel’s Ambassador at UNESCO Carmel Shama-Hacohen has written a letter to the board’s member states, calling the resolution “an attempt to rewrite history in a dangerous, unfair and one-sided manner”. A brochure was also sent to member states underlining archaeological and historic evidence of the Jewish connection to Jerusalem.
Today’s vote is the latest controversial motion regarding Jerusalem to be debated at UNESCO. Last October, a similar motion was carried accusing Israel of “aggression” at the Temple Mount. In April, another like-minded resolution was adopted by UNESCO’s executive board.