Faith

UNESCO Resolution Ignores Jewish Ties to Temple Mount, Calls Israel an 'Occupying Power"

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The ideological perfidy and willful ahistoricism of the United Nations and its affiliate entities was on despicable display again last week when an official resolution by a U.N. body  referred to Israel as an “occupying power” of the famous Temple Mount in Jerusalem, among other outrageous indignities.

As a large part of a broader, virulently anti-Israel resolution, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) refused even to refer to the Temple Mount as such, instead adopting the Arabic title, the “Al-Aqsa Mosque/Al-Haram al-Sharif” – while refusing to even acknowledge the factually undeniable, age-old Jewish links to the famous Western Wall and its environs.

The resolution even complained about Israeli plans to build what the Times of Israel described as “an egalitarian prayer service space” at the nearby, remarkably handsome Robinson’s Arch.

This is worse than tendentious; it’s vicious. There is no doubt – historical, archaeological, cultural, or religious – that the Temple Mount and especially the Western Wall is, in toto, the single holiest site for all Judaism, the very location most central to the entire religion. By comparison, the Al-Aqsa Mosque there is considered only the third holiest site for Islam, which can point to no historically verifiable connection to the site until well after Islam was founded.

Yes, adherents of Islam now claim that Muhammad once was transported hundreds of miles, in a dream, to the spot – but even if someone doesn’t find the claim fanciful (I make no judgment here), it clearly gives Muslims less reason to treasure the area than Jews do. Muslims, after all, still have their Mecca (prayers at which are, by some Islamic traditions, worth 200 times the value of prayers said at the Al-Aqsa Mosque).

To what should be Israelis’ everlasting credit, they use their control of the Temple Mount area to keep it open to people of all faiths – something that cannot be said for the mosque, which is forbidden even for visits by non-Muslims.

A prior UNESCO resolution had harshly criticized Israeli archaeological excavations near the Old City, which even further establish Jewish ties to the area for three full millennia, well over twice as long as Islam’s more tenuous links thereto. UNESCO is, by its very name, supposed to be dedicated to education, science, and culture, yet when Israel pursues scientific and cultural research for educational (and other) purposes, the hypocrites at UNESCO urge that the research be halted.

This is a sign of intense moral rot at the heart of UNESCO and the UN.

Twenty months ago I visited the Old City of Jerusalem. The Israelis’ dedication to maintaining it as a place open to all, even amidst terrorist attacks (including a recent series of terrorist stabbings in and around the Temple Mount itself) is extraordinary, and extraordinarily admirable.  The cultural richness observable there is wonderful. The intermixture of Christian, Jewish, and Islamic merchants and pilgrims is exactly what UNESCO should celebrate. And the archeological excavations nearby are not only fascinating but also, in some ways, awe-inspiring: We in America who thrill to visit the Mount Vernon where George Washington lived 220 years ago can find ourselves dumbfounded to see real evidence of King David’s palace walls 3,000 years before we now live and breathe.

Israel is not an “occupying power” of its own holiest site; it is a humane steward and protector of the site for the good of all mankind. Here’s hoping it will remain so for the next 3,000 years – long after tawdry organizations such as UNESCO have disappeared without leaving the slightest beneficial mark on human history.

Quin Hillyer is a veteran conservative columnist. He has an undergraduate degree in Theology from Georgetown University and has served for years in various forms of ecumenical lay leadership.