International

Temple Mount, Jerusalem
Only six countries vote against contentious resolution claiming Temple Mount is sacred only to Muslims

The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) on Thursday passed a contentious anti-Israel resolution denying Jewish connections to the Temple Mount and Western Wall in Jerusalem.

24 UNESCO member states voted in favor of the resolution, 26 abstained, and only six countries voted against.

The proposal, put forth by the Palestinians, along with Egypt, Algeria, Morocco, Lebanon, Oman, Qatar and Sudan, condemns Israel on several issues related to Jerusalem and its holy sites.

The draft resolution, a copy of which was obtained by Ha'aretz, acknowledges that the city of Jerusalem is holy to Judaism, Islam, and Christianity but says the Temple Mount holy site is sacred only to Muslims and fails to mention its significance to Jews.

An entire section of the proposal dedicated specifically to the Temple Mount complex refers only to the site's Muslim names (Al-Aqsa Mosque and Haram al-Sharif) and fails to mention its Hebrew or English names (Har HaBayit or Temple Mount).

Gil Cohen/AFP

The resolution refers also to the Western Wall plaza by its Muslim name (al-Buraq plaza) and only mentions its Hebrew-Jewish name (Hakotel Hama'aravi) later in quotation marks.

The flashpoint complex is considered Judaism's holiest site, once the site of the first and second Temples, and is the third holiest to the Muslim faith.

Israeli politicians, led by President Reuven Rivlin, were quick to condemn the vote on Thursday, slamming the resolution even before the vote had taken place in Paris.

“No forum or body in the world can come and deny the connection between the Jewish people, the Land of Israel and Jerusalem – and any such body that does so simply embarrasses itself,” he said at an event in his Jerusalem residence. “We can understand criticism, but you cannot change history.”

Agricultrure Minister Uri Ariel sent a letter to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu calling on him to act by encouraging nations to end funding for the UN.

“We in the government in general, and you as the foreign minister, should demand that the nations of the world condemn these anti-Semitic decisions, and immediately stop funding the UN,” he wrote.

He also called for the government to “strengthen the Temple Mount, and to to increase the control and Jewish presence in the holiest place for Jews — the Temple Mount.”

Opposition leader Isaac Herzog said UNESCO is giving a “bad name to diplomacy.”

“Whoever wants to rewrite history, to distort fact, and to completely invent the fantasy that the Western Wall and Temple Mount have no connection to the Jewish people, is telling a terrible lie that only serves to increase hatred,” he said. “On this matter there is no disagreement among the people of Israel, and I urge UNESCO to withdraw this bizarre resolution and to engage in protecting, not distorting, human history.”

UNESCO passed a similar resolution in April referring to the Temple Mount soley as Al-Aqsa Mosque and the Western Wall as the Al-Buraq Plaza drawing harsh condemnations from Israel.

France was among the 33 countries that backed the resolution in the 58-member body causing a diplomatic spat which resulted in French President Francois Hollande pledging that France would not support such measures in the future.

Israeli diplomats have over recent weeks attempted to convince UNESCO member states to oppose or at least abstain during the vote.

Thomas Coex (AFP/File)

Israel's foreign ministry published a brochure featuring archaeological findings providing evidence of Jewish connections to Jerusalem generally and specifically to the Temple Mount complex.

In a letter submitted to UNESCO's executive board, Israel's ambassador to the world cultural organization wrote that, without undermining other religions' ties to Jerusalem's holy sites, the archaeological findings "leave no doubt…of the deepest and longest Jewish presence in Jerusalem since ancient times," according to Ha'aretz.

He wrote that the initiative challenging the Jewish people's ties to Jerusalem "is an attempt to rewrite history in a dangerous, unfair and one-sided manner."

Read more:

- French PM slams 'unfortunate' UNESCO Temple Mount resolution

- Allowing 'unbalanced' UNESCO resolution to pass was an 'error': Brazil

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