UNESCO is critical of how Israel is handling a situation in east Jerusalem. This Tuesday, UNESCO’s executive board passed a resolution that criticizes Israel policies. The document makes reference to how Israel is mishandling access to a Jerusalem holy site. The site is of importance to both Muslims and Jews.
The U.N. Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization put it to a vote last week. 26 diplomats on the executive board abstained. Out of those who voted, 24 voted in favor of the resolution and six voted against it. Also, it is noteworthy that Arab countries sponsored the resolution.
Israel is Unhappy with UNESCO’s Resolution
Israel was not happy with the resolution and decried UNESCO’s decision. In their opinion, the resolution fails to recognize the historic ties between Jewish people and the Jerusalem holy site. Also, the resolution criticizes the security measures that Israel took against Palestinians.
Carmel Shama-Hacohen is Israel’s ambassador to UNESCO. On Tuesday, he called the resolution an “ugly game”.
“There is no place for those games in UNESCO. This noble organization was established to preserve the history, not to rewrite it. And the Palestinians and the other countries want to rewrite the history of Jerusalem.”
Said Carmel Shama-Hacohen.
The representative of Palestine, Mounir Anastas, was supportive of the resolution. As the document calls Israel an “occupying power” and condemns the changes that Israel is making in and around the Jerusalem holy site.
“As an occupying power, they have obligations to respect … they are tied by international law that requests them first, not to conduct any work and second, not to change the names in this site.”
Said Mounir Anastas.
Israel Suspends Cooperation with UNESCO
The Jerusalem holy site goes by two different names and is important to Muslims as well as Jews. The Jews call the site the Temple Mount and it is the holiest place in their religion. The Muslims call it al-Aqsa mosque. It is the third holiest site in Islam.
After Israel seized the eastern part of Jerusalem in 1967, an agreement was reached regarding the holy site. Jordan is in charge of overseeing the site. But, despite international efforts to keep the peace, the holy site is the reason for tensions between Jews and Arabs. For almost 50 years, the Temple Mount or al-Aqsa has generated discord in the region. Both sides of the issue accuse the other one of trying to restrict access as well as the right to worship at the site.
The UNESCO resolution refers to the site as al-Aqsa and does not use the name Temple Mount. The resolution says that it “deeply regrets” and that it “deeply deplores” the construction work in and around the Old City in east Jerusalem. UNESCO sees this as actions that mean to limit the access of Muslims to the holy site. The resolution also decries the resistance on Israel’s part to having a UNESCO representative permanently there.
Last week, Israel suspended cooperation with UNESCO. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that it was impossible to deny the ties that Jews have to the Temple Mount. He likened it to saying that China doesn’t have a connection to the Great Wall or that the Egyptians don’t have a connection to the pyramids.
Image source: here.