The Paris, France-based UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) is making “an attempt to distort history” in favor of Palestinians by voting to declare Judaism’s holiest site, the Western Wall, a Muslim holy site.
Israel’s Foreign Ministry called the proposal “an attempt to distort history and blur the connection between the Jewish people and its holiest place and to create a false reality.”
According to the Jewish Telegraph Agency, a vote scheduled to take place Tuesday on the proposal that refers to Jerusalem as “the occupied capital of Palestine,” was submitted on behalf of the Palestinians by six Muslim Arab countries: Algeria, Egypt, Kuwait, Morocco, Tunisia and the United Arab Emirates.
“This shameful and deceitful Palestinian attempt to rewrite history will fail the test of reality,” Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely reportedly said on Monday, denouncing the bid.
UNESCO was the first U.N. body to accept “Palestine” as a member and the JTA notes that the proposal could have a good chance of passing because the majority of UNESCO’s 58 members have historically supported Palestinian bids, the majority of which have presented hostility towards the Jewish States.
In 2013, the U.S. refused to pay its $80 million dues (which accounts for 22% of UNESCO’s budget) and Israel also suspended its dues, both nations losing their voting rights there, over UNESCO’s decision to make “Palestine” a member in 2011. The decision reportedly brought the agency to the brink of a financial crisis and in apparent retaliation one of the programs it cut back was U.S.-led initiatives such as Holocaust education.
According to the World Jewish Congress, the UNESCO proposal reportedly blames Israel for the recent escalation of violence which was ignited when Arab-Palestinians started a wave of terrorist attacks on Jewish people by targeting and stabbing them with knives. The JTA notes that the proposal seeks to confirm an earlier UNESCO decision that the Cave of the Patriarchs and Rachel’s Tomb–which are two West Bank sites holy to both Jews and Muslims–are part of a Palestinian state.
On Friday, a Palestinian mob set fire to the Joseph’s Tomb, a Jewish holy site located in the Fatah-controlled West Bank. Fatah still takes direction from the the terrorist group Hamas which reigns over the Gaza Strip.
In a statement Monday, Ronald Lauder who serves as president of the World Jewish Congress, said adopting the UNESCO resolution would exacerbate tensions in Israel.
Lauder said the proposal “goes in the face of the UNESCO Constitution, which very clearly states the organization’s aim to contribute to peace and security by promoting collaboration and coexistence. It would make a mockery of that founding principle if the UNESCO Executive Council were to back such a resolution. UNESCO must not be turned into a battleground for conflicts between religions.
Declaring the Western Wall of the Temple Mount, Judaism’s holiest place, a Muslim site would be a travesty. Instead of fostering peace, it would only encourage extremists to step up their campaign against Jews, both in Israel and beyond.
The Western Wall, known as the Kotel in Hebrew, is one of the few remnants of the Jewish people’s ancient Second Holy Temple (Beit HaMikdash) which the Persian King Cyrus the Great had authorized the Jews to rebuild. The Beit Hamikdash stood erected during the reign of King Herod the Great but was destroyed by the Romans in 70 C.E. The Romans considered this atrocity such a great victory that they commemorated it by erecting the triumphal Arch of Titus, which still stands in the Roman Forum.
The Wall is adjacent to the Temple Mount, a site which is considered to be holy to both Jews and Muslims. Muslims believe the Temple Mount is where Mohammad tied the mythological winged animal called Buraq (which is likened to Pegasus in Greek mythology) to the Wall, which he rode on the night he died and ascended to heaven. It was in the 1920s that the Palestinians first began referring to the Kotel as the Al-Buraq Wall. The UNESCO bid aims to falsely claim that the Western Wall is part of the Al-Aqsa Mosque and to call it the Buraq Plaza.