Palestinians Laud UNESCO for Dismissing Jewish Ties to Temple Mount: Clear Message to Israel

The Palestinian Authority also expressed regret over what it said was a 'few countries succumbed to the PR bullying orchestrated by Israel.'

Jack Khoury
Jack Khoury
The Temple Mount.
The Temple Mount.Credit: Moshe Milner, Reuters
Jack Khoury
Jack Khoury

Officials in the Palestinian Authority expressed satisfaction over a UNESCO vote on Thursday that disregards Judaism's historic connection to the Temple Mount and casts doubt on the link between Judaism and the Western Wall. The resolution, the officials said, sends a clear message to Israel from the international community.

Nabil Abu-Rudeineh, spokesman for Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, told Haaretz that the passage of the resolution requires the United States to engage in soul-searching and reexamine its backing for Israel. "There is also a clear message here to Israel that it must end the occupation and recognize a Palestinian state with East Jerusalem as its capital," he said. Israel must recognize the city's sites that are holy to Islam and Christianity "and bring about an end to a policy that is poisoning the atmosphere" and has "implications on the entire region," he added.

The resolution actually received the support of only a minority of the UNESCO executive board members. It passed b 24 to 6, but about 26 member countries abstained and two were absent from the vote.

Israel, which annexed East Jerusalem and its holy sites in 1967, maintains that it has scrupulously maintained freedom of religious practice in the city. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reacted to the resolution by saying: "To say that Israel has no connection to the Temple Mount and the Western Wall is like saying that China has no connection to the Great Wall of China and that Egypt has no connection to the pyramids."

A separate statement from the Foreign Ministry of the Palestinian Authority expressed regret that "[a] few countries succumbed to the PR bullying orchestrated by Israel, which shifted the focus from Israel's illegal and colonial actions in occupied East Jerusalem to issues irrelevant to the content and objectives of the resolutions." Israel, the statement continued, must "understand that the only way to be treated like a normal state is if it starts acting like one, by ending its occupation of Palestine."

The resolution, which condemns Israel on several issues regarding Jerusalem and its holy sites, was advanced by the Palestinians along with Egypt, Algeria, Morocco, Lebanon, Oman, Qatar and Sudan. It acknowledges that Jerusalem is holy to the three monotheistic religions: Judaism, Islam and Christianity, but it includes a special section about the Temple Mount that says the site is sacred only to Muslims and fails to mention that it is sacred to the Jews as well. In fact, it mentions neither the Hebrew term for the site – Har Habayit – nor its English equivalent, the Temple Mount. The site is referred to only by its Muslim names – Al-Aqsa Mosque and Haram al-Sharif.

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