By Lea Speyer
Israel’s Foreign Ministry sharply rebuked a major United Nations agency on Monday for its efforts to “distort history” ahead of a controversial vote in which the historical Jewish ties to Jerusalem and the Temple Mount will be challenged.
In an open letter to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), Director General of Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs Dore Gold said the “completely one-sided draft resolution on the Old City of Jerusalem…deliberately ignores the historical connection between the Jewish people and their ancient capital.”
The resolution was submitted to UNESCO through a joint effort by the Palestinian Authority and Jordan. The text calls for a return to the “historic status quo” — the pre-1967 lines — of the Temple Mount and al-Aqsa Mosque, and fails to acknowledge that the highly contested site is considered Judaism’s most hallowed ground.
Further, the resolution undercuts Israel’s ties to Jerusalem and the Temple Mount by referring to the Jewish state as an “occupying power,” and placing references to the Western Wall Plaza in quotation marks, using the Arabic name Al-Buraq Plaza instead. The resolution — which refers to the Temple Mount as an exclusive “Muslim holy site of worship” — also “fails to acknowledge Christianity’s ties to Jerusalem,” Gold wrote.
In the resolution’s text, the authors accuse Israel of “intrusive constructions, tunneling and underground excavations” and “aggressions against religious sites and prayer places.”
According to Gold, “UNESCO’s adoption of utterly false allegations about Israeli archaeological practices is misplaced and hypocritical, at best. This resolution is full of distortions and is totally disconnected from reality on the ground.”
“We urge you to oppose this effort to distort reality, which will offend the members of the Jewish and Christian faiths, and undermine the credibility of UNESCO in the future,” Gold wrote.
The UNESCO World Heritage Committee is expected to vote on the resolution during its annual meeting in Istanbul, Turkey, which began on July 10 and will run through July 20. A similar resolution was adopted by UNESCO’s executive board in April and was resoundingly rejected and criticized by Israel.
The World Heritage Committee is made up of 21 countries, including Angola, Azerbaijan, Burkina Faso, Croatia, Cuba, Finland, Indonesia, Jamaica, Kazakhstan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Peru, Philippines, Poland, Portugal, Republic of Korea, Tunisia, Turkey, Tanzania, Vietnam and Zimbabwe.
(c) 2016 The Algemeiner Journal