Mounting Distrust

Jewish Light Editorial

There seems to be no limit to the extent to which arms of the United Nations will adopt positions that are aimed to delegitimize and demonize the Jewish State of Israel.  In the most recent—and one of the most egregious—of such actions, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) adopted a resolution last week in which Jewish ties to the Temple Mount and the Western Wall area in Jerusalem’s Old City are completely obliterated or ignored.

According to the Times of Israel, the resolution refers to Israel as the “occupying power” at every mention and uses the Arabic al-Aqsa Mosque/Al-Haram al-Sharif without ever calling it the Temple Mount, as it is known to Jews, and as it has been known for centuries. The text does refer to the Western Wall Plaza, but places that term in quotation marks, after using the Arabic Al-Buraq Plaza without setting it off with quotation marks.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, appropriately and quickly denounced UNESCO’s action, stating, “This is yet another absurd U.N. decision. UNESCO ignores the unique historical connection of Judaism to the Temple Mount, where the two Temples stood for a thousand years and to which every Jew in the world has prayed for thousands of years.  The U.N. is rewriting a basic part of human history and has again proven that there is no low to which it will not stoop.”

It has been generally accepted by biblical scholars, archaeologists and historians of the Middle East that the Temple Mount was the site of both the First Temple, built during the reign of King Solomon, and destroyed by the Babylonians in 586 BCE, and of the Second Temple, which was destroyed by the Romans in the year 70 CE. For centuries, Jews have prayed “Next year in Jerusalem” at the Kotel, the Western Wall. And that ancient goal has been achieved in our time with the liberation of the Old City during the 1967 Six-Day War.

At no time during the 19 years that the Kingdom of Jordan occupied the West Bank and the Old City of Jerusalem, forbidding Jews to enter and pray at their holiest site, was there a UNESCO or other U.N. resolution referring to Jordan as an “occupying power,” even though Jordan seized it during Israel’s 1948 War of Independence, in defiance of the U.N. Partition Plan.

The odious UNESCO resolution also falsely accuses Israel of “planting fake Jewish graves in other spaces of the Muslim cemeteries,” and of the continued conversion of many Islamic and Byzantine remains into “so-called Jewish ritual baths or into Jewish prayer places.”

Incredibly, the resolution also weighs in on the recently approved plans to build an egalitarian prayer service space near the Robinson’s Arch, falsely claiming that it results in “restriction of access” to the site during Muslim holidays.

Jerusalem is mentioned 600 times in the Hebrew Bible and is not specifically mentioned in the Koran, the holy book of Islam. There is a Muslim belief that the Prophet Mohammed ascended to paradise on a steed from atop the Temple Mount.  Muslims regard Jerusalem as the third-holiest site in Islam after Mecca and Medina. In view of the fact that the Western Wall is the holiest site in Judaism, UNESCO should formally recognize that fact.  The Temple Mount is not the holiest site in Islam,  yet UNESCO’s resolution recognizes its claims while ignoring the historic and religious ties of the Western Wall to the Jewish faith.

The UNESCO resolution continues to add invective after invective throughout its one-sided wording. Sadly, the resolution was approved by 33 states, including France, Russia, Spain and Sweden. Some 17 countries abstained, while six voted against it, including the United States (to its credit), Estonia, Germany, Lithuania, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom. The vote provides a useful guide to Israel’s friends and adversaries within the U.N.

It is highly regrettable that the United Nations, whose 1947 Partition Plan paved the way for Israel’s Independence the following year, has evolved into a virtual lynch mob capable of ignoring history, religious beliefs and common decency by adopting such resolutions as the one approved by UNESCO.