Thursday, April 27, 2017

UNESCO Director General promises to defend the rights of all three monotheistic religions in Jerusalem

First, for those who missed the story when it was in the news in 2016, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) passed a resolution denying Israel's historic connection to Jerusalem. As reported by Atara Beck in World Israel News, October 13, 2016 (links in original):

Israelis across the political spectrum reacted in outrage and defiance to a hostile resolution passed Thursday by UNESCO that rejects the historic Jewish connection to the Holy City of Jerusalem.

The United Nations Educational, Cultural and Scientific Organization (UNESCO) passed an absurd resolution, denying the ancient Jewish connection to Jerusalem’s holy sites.

The resolution, initiated by the Palestinians, states that the Temple Mount – Judaism’s holiest site, where the First and Second Holy Temples stood – is holy to Muslims only.

The Temple Mount is Islam’s third-holiest site, second to Mecca and Medina. The resolution uses the Muslim name Haram al-Sharif, but not the Hebrew term, Har HaBayit.

It also refers to the Western Wall – the Kotel, in Hebrew – by the Arabic name, al-Buraq.

Ambassador Carmel Shama HaCohen, Israel’s permanent delegate to UNESCO, said that “Israel and the Jewish people do not require UNESCO’s or any other country’s confirmation of the special connection between the Jewish people and the State of Israel and Jerusalem in general, and the holy sites such as the Western Wall and the Temple Mount in particular.”

“There is no connection of another people to another place in the world that comes close to the strength and depth of our connection to Jerusalem from a religious, historical and national perspective, a connection that has stood the test of 2,000 years,” he said.

Israeli President Reuven Rivlin stated Thursday morning, just days before the holiday of Sukkot, which begins Sunday evening, that “there is no festival more connected to Jerusalem than Sukkot. The festivals of Israel all highlight the inextricable bond between our people and our land, and no forum of body in the world can come an deny the connection between the Jewish people, the Land of Israel and Jerusalem – and any such body that does so simply embarrasses itself.”

“We can understand criticism, but you cannot change history,” Rivlin asserted.

“The UNESCO theater show goes on,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu declared. “Today that organization 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. 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,” he quipped.

“To say that Israel has no connection to the Temple Mount and the Western Wall is like saying that the Chinese have no connection to the Great Wall of China and the Egyptians have no connection to the pyramids,” he added. “By this absurd decision, UNESCO has lost what little legitimacy it had left.”

“I was outraged to hear of UNESCO’s vote today, which denies thousands of years of Jewish connection to Jerusalem’s Western Wall,” Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat stated. “Would UNESCO vote to deny the Christian connection to the Vatican? Or the Muslim connection to Mecca?”

According to Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein, the UN is “disconnected from reality and history,” and the resolution passed Thursday “is a message to inciters and rewriters of history working tirelessly out of hate.”

Zionist Union leader Isaac Herzog, Leader of the Opposition, concurred, stating that “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.”

Twenty-four countries supported the resolution, six – the US, UK, Lithuania, the Netherlands, Estonia and Germany – voted against, and 26 abstained.

The Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs released a pamphlet showing the historical Jewish connection to Jerusalem, which was distributed to all 120 permanent delegates of UNESCO representing countries that have diplomatic relations with Israel.
UNESCO Director General Irina Bokova expressed her opposition to the resolution, as reported by World Israel News, October 18, 2016 (bold in original):

UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova received death threats after expressing personal opposition to the resolution passed by her organization that denies the Jewish connection to Jerusalem.

The anti-Semitic resolution passed by UNESCO on Thursday, initiated by the Palestinians, states that the Temple Mount – Judaism’s holiest site, where the First and Second Holy Temples stood – and the Western Wall are holy to Muslims only.

“Nowhere more than in Jerusalem do Jewish, Christian and Muslim heritage and traditions share space,” Bokova had stated, adding that she would fight against the delegitimization of Israel and Holocaust denial.

“The director-general has received death threats and her protection had to be reinforced,” Carmel Shama HaCohen, Israel’s permanent delegate to UNESCO, said on Monday.

“Israel and the Jewish people do not require UNESCO’s or any other country’s confirmation of the special connection between the Jewish people and the State of Israel and Jerusalem in general, and the holy sites such as the Western Wall and the Temple Mount in particular,” Shama HaCohen stated upon the passing of the resolution.

“There is no connection of another people to another place in the world that comes close to the strength and depth of our connection to Jerusalem from a religious, historical and national perspective, a connection that has stood the test of 2,000 years,” he said.

Israel suspends cooperation with UNESCO

Israel suspended cooperation with UNESCO on Friday.

“Following the shameful decision by UNESCO members to deny history and ignore thousands of years of Jewish ties to Jerusalem and the Temple Mount, I have notified the Israel National Commission for UNESCO to suspend all professional activities with the international organization,” Education Minister Naftali Bennett declared.
Ms. Bokova is now declaring her support for the rights of Jews, Muslims, and Christians in Jerusalem, as reported by Ben Ariel in World Israel News, April 25, 2017:

UNESCO Director General Irina Bokova on Monday pledged to defend the rightful links of all three monotheistic religions to Jerusalem.

Speaking to the World Jewish Congress’ 15th Plenary Assembly in New York, Bokova said that the “recognition, use and respect” for the names of the holy sites in the city is “paramount.”

“The Al Aqsa Mosque/Al-Haram al-Sharif, the sacred shrine of the Muslims, is also the Har Habayit – or Temple Mount – the holiest place in Judaism, whose Western Wall is revered by millions across the world, a few steps away from the Saint Sepulchre and the Mount of Olives holy to the Christians,” Bokova said.

“The outstanding universal value of Jerusalem, and the reason why it was inscribed on the World Heritage list, lies in this synthesis, which is an appeal for dialogue not confrontation,” she added.

“To deny, conceal, or erase any of the Jewish, Christian or Muslim traditions runs counter to the reasons that justified its inscription on the UNESCO World Heritage list,” Bokova added.

Her comments come after UNESCO passed a series of resolutions which attempted to erase the connection of the Jewish people to the holy places in Jerusalem and to present those places as holy to Muslims only.

The organization is supposed to vote on another resolution next month, but Israeli diplomatic efforts have resulted in significant portions of anti-Israel content being cut from the wording of the new resolution.

Bokova was among those who spoke out in October against UNESCO’s executive board decision to adopt a resolution that disregards the Jewish connection to the Temple Mount and the Western Wall.

The resolution was supported by 24 states, including Russia and China. Six countries opposed and 26 abstained.

The resolution maintains that the Western Wall and Temple Mount will be referred to by their Arabic names and the Hebrew terms for the sites will only appear in quotation marks in UN references.

In her address to the World Jewish Congress on Monday, Bokova also launched a new policy guide for educators on teaching about the Holocaust, genocides and mass atrocities. She described the guide as an important tool to promote education and the history of genocide as a tool for peace.

“With this innovative and one of a kind policy guide, UNESCO speaks to the next generation of leaders, of teachers, of citizens around the world. We must empower future generations with the lessons from the Holocaust, equip our children and grandchildren with the tools they need to vanquish intolerance and hate, bigotry and anti-Semitism, racism and prejudice.”

“Education about the Holocaust and preventing genocide” is the first step in a series of projects conducted in partnership with the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum and with the support of the Canadian Ministry of Foreign Affairs,” said Bokova.

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