As Israel celebrated its 69th Independence Day on Tuesday, UNESCO — the cultural arm of the United Nations — voted by a 22-10 margin (with 23 abstentions and three absences) to approve a resolution that condemned what it called Israel’s “illegal” presence in Jerusalem.
However, the number of “yes” votes was down from similar past resolutions — a development one watchdog group viewed as progress.
“Israel lost the vote today, but it did score a moral victory by winning more votes than ever before, including from leading democratic members like the US, Britain, Germany, Italy, and the Netherlands,” Hillel Neuer — executive director of the Geneva-based UN Watch NGO –told The Algemeiner.
“The Palestinians at UNESCO are hemorrhaging support for their ritual anti-Israel resolutions: last April they had 33 yes votes, then in October it was down to 24, and today it’s down to 22. And once again, India — an increasingly important friend of Israel — has voted to abstain, showing that its recent break from decades of lockstep voting with the Arab states is now a fixed policy.”
The resolution passed on Tuesday stated that “all legislative and administrative measures and actions taken by Israel, the occupying Power, which have altered or purport to alter the character and status of the Holy City of Jerusalem, and in particular the ‘basic law’ on Jerusalem, are null and void and must be rescinded forthwith.”
Holy sites outside Jerusalem were also included in the resolution. Two shrines sacred to Jews — the Cave of the Patriarchs in Hebron and Rachel’s Tomb in Bethlehem — were defined by the resolution as the “two Palestinian sites of Al-Haram Al-Ibrahimi/Tomb of the Patriarchs in Al-Khalil/Hebron and the Bilal Ibn Rabah Mosque/Rachel’s Tomb in Bethlehem.” Both, the resolution said, “are an integral part of the Occupied Palestinian Territory.”
The resolution also “deplored” what it described as “the continuous Israeli closure of the Gaza Strip, which harmfully affects the free and sustained movement of personnel, students and humanitarian relief items.”
Israeli officials were likely to be pleased with the list of countries that either abstained from the vote or opposed the resolution.
Abstentions included Albania — which has a Muslim majority — and four African states with whom Israel now enjoys revived relations: Ghana, Guinea, Kenya and Uganda.
The US voted against the resolution, as did key European nations like France, Germany, Greece, Lithuania and the Netherlands.
There was a similar lack of consensus among the Latin American delegates. Paraguay voted against, while Argentina — an ally of Iran before current President Mauricio Macri defeated incumbent Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner in the November 2015 election — also abstained. Other abstentions included the Dominican Republic and El Salvador. Brazil was the only Latin American country to vote “yes.”
Arab and Muslim states, among them Qatar and Iran — both of whom have extensive financial and political ties with the Palestinian terrorist organization Hamas — voted overwhelmingly in favor.
Israeli Ambassador to the UN Danny Danon condemned the passage of the resolution, which was entitled “Occupied Palestine.”
“This biased and blatantly deceitful decision, and the attempts to dispute the connection between Israel and Jerusalem, will not change the simple fact that this city is the historic and eternal capital of the Jewish people,” Danon said. “Israel will not stand silently by in the face of this shameful resolution.”
Earlier on Tuesday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said at the International Bible Contest in his nation’s capital, “There is no other people in the world for whom Jerusalem is as holy and important as for the Jewish people, even though a meeting will take place at UNESCO today that will try to deny this historical truth.”
“We denounce UNESCO and uphold our truth, which is the truth,” he continued.
(C) 2017 . The Algemeiner Ben Cohen