A new battle front has opened around Jerusalem’s Holy Sites in the conflict between the Israeli authorities and UNESCO, the UN organization for education, science and culture.
Last Thursday Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu strongly criticized two
draft resolutions submitted and approved at first reading on "occupied
Palestine", stressing that the agency "has also lost the little
legitimacy that it had left”.
The commission yesterday adopted the documents, presented recently by
seven Arab nations, with 24 votes in favor, six against, 26 abstentions
and two absent. For final approval, however, it will need the green
light of the Executive Council; the vote is scheduled for October 18th.
The resolutions are intended "to safeguard the Palestinian cultural
heritage and distinctive character of East Jerusalem", the Palestinian
part of the city was occupied and annexed by Israel in 1967.
These terms, together with the definition of Israel as an "occupying
force", are the same as a document adopted last April and that he had
already raised the criticism of Israel, because it denied "the
historical connection between the Jewish people and the Temple Mount ".
The resolution refers to Temple Mount by its Arabic name and contains a
"long list" of "violations" committed by Israel in the area of the
al-Aqsa mosque, Islam’s third most holy site after Mecca and Medina. The
text denounces the "persistent excavation works" promoted by Israel in
East Jerusalem, especially in the Old City, and the lack of "free
access" to the mosque.
"To deny the link between the Temple Mount and the Kotel [the Western
Wall, also known as the "Wailing wall"] - said Netanyahu – is the same
as saying that the Chinese do not have a link with the Great Wall or the
Egyptians with the pyramids".
Speaker of Israeli parliament Yuli
Edelstein, said that "if the Jews are not tied to the holy places,
UNESCO and the UN have no connection with the history and reality."
Diplomatic sources explain that in the draft resolution approved
yesterday speaks of "the importance of the Old City of Jerusalem and its
walls with regards all three great monotheistic religions." Meanwhile,
Palestine has welcomed the adoption of the resolution, which reflects
"the commitment of the majority of Member States to the UNESCO
In a statement released in recent weeks, the Director General of
UNESCO Irina Bokova pointed out that the historical and cultural
heritage of Jerusalem "is indivisible" and that each of the communities
"have the right to the explicit recognition of their history and
connection with the city".