Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu branded a UN body as the “theater of the absurd” after Thursday’s resolution that stated there was no Jewish heritage connection to the Temple Mount.
Instead, the Palestinian-drafted UNESCO resolution only referred to the site as Al-Aqsa Mosque/Al-Haram Al-Sharif and declared that it belonged to Muslims while referring to Israeli sites as “so-called.”
The draft was submitted by Algeria, Egypt, Lebanon, Morocco, Oman, Qatar and Sudan and advocates “safeguarding of the cultural heritage of Palestine and the distinctive character of East Jerusalem” and “deeply deplores the failure of Israel, the occupying Power, to cease the persistent excavations and works in East Jerusalem particularly in and around the Old City, and reiterates its request to Israel, the occupying Power, to prohibit all such works in conformity with its obligations under the provisions of the relevant UNESCO conventions, resolutions and decisions.”
At a meeting of the Bible Study Circle at his Jerusalem residence today, Netanyahu said UNESCO “adopted another delusional decision stating that the Jewish People have no connection to the Temple Mount or the Western Wall.”
“Even if they do not read the Bible, I would suggest that UNESCO members visit the Arch of Titus in Rome. On it one can see what the Romans brought back to Rome after they destroyed and looted the Second Temple on the Temple Mount 2,000 years ago,” he said. “There, engraved on the Arch of Titus, is the seven-branched menorah that is the symbol of the Jewish People and, I remind you, is also the symbol of the Jewish state today. Soon, UNESCO will say that the Emperor Titus engaged in Zionist propaganda.”
“To say that Israel has no connection to the Temple Mount and the Western Wall is like saying that China has no connection to the Great Wall of China or that Egypt has no connection to the pyramids. By this absurd decision, UNESCO has lost what little legitimacy it had left. But I believe that historical truth is stronger and that truth will prevail. And today we are dealing with the truth.”
Countries voting in favor of the resolution were Algeria, Bangladesh, Brazil, Chad, China, Dominican Republic, Egypt, Iran, Lebanon, Malaysia, Mauritius, Mexico, Morocco, Mozambique, Nicaragua, Nigeria, Oman, Pakistan, Qatar, Russia, Senegal, South Africa, Sudan and Vietnam.
Voting against the resolution were the United States, the United Kingdom, Germany, the Netherlands, Lithuania and Estonia.
Among the 24 abstentions were France and Italy. Serbia and Turkmenistan were no-shows for the vote.
State Department spokesman Mark Toner said the U.S. “strongly opposed these resolutions” and “issued a very strong statement, an explanation of vote, along with our vote, and as we made clear, we are deeply concerned about these kinds of recurring, politicized resolutions that do nothing to advance constructive results on the ground. And we don’t believe they should be adopted.”
Asked if the administration plans on doing anything to stop such resolutions in the future, Toner vowed that “we’re going to use our vote.”
“We’re still a member of the – or on the board, the executive board” of UNESCO, he added. “We have opposed and will continue to oppose and use our vote as part of that executive board to oppose these resolutions.”
Toner acknowledged that the resolution passed, “but it’s still important to have a U.S. voice in that process.”
He noted that anti-Israel resolutions “have been a recurring challenge at UNESCO in recent years, and we’ve obviously strongly opposed all of them at the executive board.”
“And as I said, we won’t hesitate in the future to use our veto power – or not our veto power, our vote, rather – at these board meetings to oppose these resolutions; that, in and of itself, it’s important, as I said, to have a voice in that discussion that basically calls these resolutions for what they are,” Toner said.
The American Israel Public Affairs Committee called the resolution “an affront to the truth and a crude attempt to delegitimize the Jewish state” and “demonstrative of Palestinian efforts to circumvent direct negotiations by manipulating international institutions.”
Anti-Defamation League CEO Jonathan Greenblatt stressed that “to expunge the Jewish connection to Jerusalem is to deny the very cultural heritage of Jerusalem.”
Zionist Organization of America national president Mort Klein condemned UNESCO’s “erasure of the paramount and original Jewish identity and significance of Jerusalem’s Temple Mount, Hebron’s Tomb of the Patriarchs and Rachel’s Tomb, as well as its politicized attack on Israel, the only country in the region to properly protect the religious rights and freedom of worship of all religions under its jurisdiction.”
“It would be hard to think of a historical and religious connection, like the millennial Jewish connection to Jerusalem and Temple Mount, that is older, stronger or better documented,” Klein said. “…There is a reason that Temple Mount has been immemorially called by that name, rather than ‘Mosque Mount’ or some other name associated with the 7th century Muslim conquest of Jerusalem.”
Rep. Alcee Hastings (D-Fla.) called the resolution anti-Semitic.
“Jewish ties to Jerusalem are indisputable, and dangerous resolutions like this one only deepen existing divisions,” Hastings said. “World bodies do not have the right to rewrite history.” He added it was noteworthy how UNESCO held the vote “just hours after the conclusion of Yom Kippur, the most holy day in Judaism.”
Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) highlighted how “anti-Semitic UN agencies continue to target the Middle East’s only free-market democracy.”
“And now they shamefully attempt to rewrite history and deny Jewish and Christian people have any connection with Jerusalem,” Rubio said. “This is just another attempt in UNESCO’s disturbing trend of attacking Israel and delegitimizing the Jewish state and does nothing to promote peace.”