UNESCO Head Faces ‘Death Threats’ Over Jerusalem Vote: Israel

Irina Bokova, Director-General of UNESCO, speaks during the first-ever hearings of candidates seeking to become the next secretary-general at UN headquarters in New York on April 12, 2016. Over the next three days, eight contenders are expected to take the podium before the General Assembly's 193 nations to lay out …
KENA BETANCUR/AFP/Getty

JERUSALEM (AFP) – UNESCO chief Irina Bokova (pictured) has received “death threats” after expressing reservations about Arab-backed resolutions on the holy sites in Jerusalem, Israel’s ambassador to the United Nations organisation said on Monday.

“The director general has received death threats and her protection has had to be reinforced,” Carmel Shama Cohen said on Israeli public radio.

“These threats were made after her criticism” of two resolutions adopted last week at committee stage ahead of a final vote, Cohen said, accusing Arab countries of “appalling conduct” over the drafts.

Bokova distanced herself from the resolutions in a statement, saying “nowhere more than in Jerusalem do Jewish, Christian and Muslim heritage and traditions share space”.

The resolutions refer to “Occupied Palestine” and the need to “safeguard the Palestinian cultural heritage and the distinctive character of east Jerusalem”.

They refer to the Al-Aqsa mosque compound in east Jerusalem’s Old City — Islam’s third holiest site — without any reference to the site also being revered by Jews as the Temple Mount.

Israel suspended cooperation with UNESCO on Friday, a day after its committee adopted the two resolutions, which the Jewish state said ignored “thousands of years of Jewish ties to Jerusalem”.

The two resolutions are due to be put to the executive board of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization on Tuesday, which generally votes with the line taken by committees.

But Michael Worbs, who chairs UNESCO’s executive board, told AFP he hoped a final vote would be postponed to allow time for a compromise to be worked out.

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