UNESCO condemns Israel for attempts to break status quo on Temple Mount

Marcy Oster

(JTA) — The United Nations cultural agency in a resolution condemned Israel for what it said are attempts to break the status quo at the Temple Mount, but did not stick to plans to label it a Muslim site.

However, the resolution approved on Wednesday morning in Paris by the executive board of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, or UNESCO, recognized Rachel’s Tomb in Bethlehem and the Tomb of the Patriarchs in Hebron as Muslim sites that are part of a Palestinian state.  Both of those sites are listed in the Old Testament as burial places of Jewish forefathers and foremothers.

The vote was 26 in favor of the resolution, six against, and twenty-five abstentions.

The six Muslim Arab countries that submitted the proposal on behalf of the Palestinians — Algeria, Egypt, Kuwait, Morocco, Tunisia and the United Arab Emirates — earlier on Wednesday removed from the proposal a statement declaring the Western Wall in Jerusalem part of the al Aqsa Mosque complex, naming it part of the Muslim religious site. It also removed references to Jerusalem as “the occupied capital of Palestine” in order to garner support for the proposal.


The resolution condemned the “aggression and illegal measures taken against the freedom of worship and access of Muslims to Al-Aqsa Mosque and Israel’s attempts to break the status quo since 1967.”

On Tuesday, UNESCO  head Irina Bokova said in a statement that she “deplores” the proposal and called on the board to “take decisions that do not further inflame tensions on the ground and that encourage respect for the sanctity of the Holy Sites.” She postponed the vote on the proposal from Tuesday to Wednesday.

Israel’s Foreign Ministry said it was working with friendly countries and UNESCO officials to defeat the proposal.

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