New York, October 17th, 2016 – In a private meeting in the office of the Secretary-General of the United Nations in New York on Friday, the European Coalition for Israel condemned a recent UNESCO resolution which denies any Jewish connections to the holy sites in Jerusalem.
During the meeting Chief of Cabinet, Edmond Mulet (picture), affirmed that Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon was deeply disappointed by the UNESCO resolution which was adopted on Thursday. On Sunday Ban Ki-moon issued a public statement saying that “the Temple Mount is also a Jewish and a Christian holy site and any perceived undertaking to repudiate the undeniable common reference for these sites does not serve the interests of peace and will only feed violence and radicalism” and called on all sides “to uphold the status quo in relation to the holy sites in the Old City of Jerusalem”.
The resolution has caused a major uproar in the Jewish community around the world and the Director-General of UNESCO, Irina Bokova has also publicly distanced herself from the resolution, clarifying that this is not a resolution supported by her as Director-General but by some member states.
ECI first warned about the danger of hijacking the UN agency for education, science and culture when the Palestinian Authority was accepted as a full member in 2011, despite failing to fulfil the criteria for membership. The Palestinian Authority has since misused the organisation for its own political objectives by embarking on a political vendetta against the State of Israel. Already in April the Executive Board issued a resolution denying any Jewish connection to the Temple Mount in Jerusalem. A few months later, in July, the same issue came up in a UNESCO World Heritage Committee meeting in Istanbul, but was postponed because of the attempted military coup in Turkey. A new vote is expected in Paris on October 26th.
“Politicized resolutions which deny historical facts, such as the 3000 years old connection between Jerusalem and the Jewish people, risk undermining the confidence in the international system,” warned ECI Founding Director, Tomas Sandell in New York on Friday. “If historical facts can be altered in order to achieve dubious political objectives, we may soon have a resolution denying any Christian connection to the St Peter’s Basilica in Rome. If we follow this logic, the next step is to also deny any link between Islam and Mecca.”
“However, instead of putting all the blame on an international institution which was set up to foster cultural dialogue and cooperation, we need to make those 24 UN member states that voted in favour of the resolution and those 26 UN member states that abstained accountable for their actions”, he added.
Only six UN member states rejected the resolution. *)
“UNESCO should not be a platform for historical revisionism but for dialogue and cooperation”, Sandell concluded.
“This inflammatory UNESCO resolution overshadows the positive steps that the United Nations has taken this year in recognizing the Jewish holiday of Yom Kippur, which was celebrated last week”, ECI’s UN Director Gregory Lafitte commented.
“The good news is that the United Nations Secretariat is now beginning to officially recognise and respect the Jewish culture and its contributions to mankind. It is most unfortunate that a flawed resolution from the Executive Board of UNESCO, which only has the support of 24 members, gets all the media attention. While we should not deny the negative consequences of the UNESCO resolution we should not let it take away from the fact that Israel is being increasingly recognized for its positive contributions in the UN”, he said.
ECI has campaigned for UN recognition of the Jewish religious holiday of Yom Kippur since 2013 and was invited to the office of the Secretary-General on Friday, October 14th, only two days after the UN, for the first time in its history, had recognized Yom Kippur, the holiest day in the Jewish calendar.
“Our invitation to the highest office of the United Nations is also a recognition of the work of the Forum for Cultural Diplomacy, which was set up by ECI in 2013 to promote better inclusion of Jewish culture at the UN,” Lafitte concluded.
The issue regarding UNESCO vote is discussed more thoroughly in the October European Report (view here).
*) Voting result of UNESCO’s Executive Board on October 13th, 2016:
In favour: Algeria, Bangladesh, Brazil, Chad, China, Dominican Republic, Egypt, Iran, Lebanon, Malaysia, Morocco, Mauritius, Mexico, Mozambique, Nicaragua, Nigeria, Oman, Pakistan, Qatar, Russia, Senegal, South Africa, Sudan and Vietnam.
Against: Estonia, Germany, Lithuania, Netherlands, United Kingdom and United States.
Abstaining: Albania, Argentina, Cameroon, El Salvador, France, Ghana, Greece, Guinea, Haiti, India, Italy, Ivory Coast, Japan, Kenya, Nepal, Paraguay, Saint Vincent and Nevis, Slovenia, South Korea, Spain, Sri Lanka, Sweden, Togo, Trinidad and Tobago, Uganda and Ukraine.
Serbia and Turkmenistan were absent.