Celebration at the Cave of the Patriarchs and Matriarchs. (Flash90) (Flash90)
Kotel Western Wall

Thousands of Jewish worshipers at the Kotel, Western Wall. (kavram/Shutterstock)

Israel condemned a UNESCO resolution that declares holy Jewish sites as Muslim, saying it is a distortion of history which only adds fuel to the flames of violence in the region. Israel “totally rejects the shameful resolution on ‘Occupied Palestine‘” adopted on Tuesday by UNESCO’s (United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization) Executive Board, confirming an earlier decision that the Cave of the Patriarchs in Hebron and Rachel’s Tomb in Bethlehem, two prominent Jewish holy sites, are part of the none-existent “State of Palestine.” “The resolution aims to transform the Israeli-Palestinian conflict into a religious confrontation and its adoption is a disgrace for UNESCO’s Executive Board. The Executive Board has joined the pyromaniacs seeking to set fire to the most sensitive sites to humankind,” Israel’s foreign ministry announced after the vote that had 26 members voting in favor of the Palestinian proposal, six against and 25 abstentions. “The decision is an abuse of UNESCO’s mandate.” UNESCO’s Director-General Irina Bokova expressed her strong opposition to the resolution, which constitutes “taking the protection of cultural heritage hostage” and “undermining UNESCO’s mandate and efforts”. Before the vote, Bokova stated that she “deplores the proposals” and appealed to the UNESCO Executive Board to take decisions that “do not further inflame tensions on the ground and that encourage respect for the sanctity of the Holy Sites”. “Instead of striving to reduce tensions, the authors of the resolution are working to fuel the flames in the region, using irresponsible religious rhetoric and distorting history,” Israel charged, saying the decision was “yet another step in the continuous Palestinian endeavor to rewrite history and distort the sources of World Heritage in this part of the World.” “The Palestinian leadership’s attempt to claim for themselves Jewish and Christian Holy Sites doesn’t bode well; suffice to look at the torching of Joseph’s Tomb by Palestinians just a few days ago,” Israel warned in the statement, adding that “the deep Jewish ties to the holy sites in Jerusalem and its surroundings are undeniable and no decision of UNESCO can alter that.” The resolution also condemned Israel for “aggression and illegal measures taken against the freedom of worship and access of Muslims to the Al-Aqsa Mosque” and for another longlist of alleged offenses.

UNESCO Bows to ‘Radical, One-Sided Palestinian Demands’

World Jewish Congress (WJC) President Ronald Lauder condemned the decision, saying that “the UNESCO Executive has given in to false claims and to radical, one-sided Palestinian demands. Alas, this will do nothing to calm the tensions in Jerusalem and the Holy Land – on the contrary.”

Irina Bokova

Irina Bokova , the Director-General of UNESCO. (AP/Jacques Brinon)

He praised Bokova for taking “a courageous stand by opposing this incendiary resolution” and thanked her for helping to remove a critical reference in it which would have declared the Kotel, Western Wall, currently the holiest place where Jews are allowed to pray, a Muslim site. Lauder spoke with Bokova on the phone on Wednesday and expressed his appreciation for her successful efforts in toning down what he called “unacceptable and inflammatory language” used in the original resolution text, including a reference to Jerusalem as the “occupied capital of Palestine.” The proposal was sponsored by six Arab states, Algeria, Egypt, Kuwait, Morocco, Tunisia and the United Arab Emirates on behalf of the Palestinians, and proposed to declare that the Western Wall should be considered by UNESCO as an integral part of the Al-Aqsa Mosque. Lauder also praised the six countries that voted against the resolution – the Czech Republic, Estonia, Germany, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom and the United States – for taking a “principled stand.”

By: Max Gelber, United with Israel

Sign the Declaration to Keep Jerusalem United

Ramadan Shalah sings Jerusalem Song

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I declare that Jerusalem is the eternal capital of the Jewish People and support all efforts to maintain and strengthen a united Jerusalem as the undivided capital of the State of Israel.