The United Nations’ Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, UNESCO, has once against reached a consensus to pass a resolution on Jerusalem’s Temple Mount, angering Israel’s Ambassador to the organization who said the Jewish state would “not take part in this ugly game.” The site is revered by Jews and Muslims alike, known to Jews as the Temple Mount, where both biblical Temples once stood, and to Muslims as the Haram al-Sharif, where the al-Aqsa mosque stands today. A draft however of the latest version of the resolution, which was submitted by seven Muslim countries, including Algeria, Egypt, Lebanon, Morocco, Oman, Qatar and Sudan; repeatedly described the site only by its Muslim names, denying its biblical history.
“We will not negotiate and we won’t take a part in this ugly game. This game, there is no place for those games in UNESCO. This noble organization was established to preserve the history, not to rewrite it. And the Palestinians and the other countries want to rewrite the history of Jerusalem. And we don’t need any approval, not from the Palestinians, with all due respect, and even not from the executive board. The history link between the Jewish people and Jerusalem is so strong that nobody on earth can break it,” said Carmel Shama-haCohen, Israeli Ambassador to UNESCO.
Even though only Muslims are allowed to worship at the site, contradicting basic international law, ‘freedom of worship’, as well as the peace treaty between Jordan and Israel which clearly instructs both countries to preserve the freedom of worship for all monotheistic religions in the agreement’s article nine, subsection three; The resolution vehemently condemns Israel for restricting Muslim access to the site, and for aggression by its security forces. The resolution was voted through on Thursday of last week, with 24 votes in favor, six against, and 26 abstentions, with two countries absent. The Palestinian ambassador to UNESCO stressed following the vote, that the resolution was about ownership and sovereignty on the sites of East Jerusalem, which he said were occupied by the state of Israel, a perceived reality which was adopted by UNESCO’s Executive board.
“What we are talking about is the ownership and the sovereignty on the site which is East Jerusalem. We are recalling Israel that they are the occupying power there and as an occupying power they have obligations to respect and they have more than obligations even; they are tied by the international law that requests them first, not to conduct any work and second not to change the names in this site. Israel is trying to change, to focus the attention on a secondary problem which is the appellation and things like that, forgetting the essence of the problem, which is the occupation by Israel,” said Mounir Anastas, Palestinian Ambassador to UNESCO.
Mexico, under pressure from Western states, decided to back away from its initial intention to call for a new vote on the resolution, in order to withdraw its support, allowing the Executive Board to ratify the draft resolution with 24 in favor and 6 against.