TEL AVIV – Israel slammed a United Nations agency for attempting to “distort history” ahead of a vote on a resolution denying any Jewish connection to the Temple Mount in Jerusalem.
Foreign Ministry Director-General Dore Gold on Monday accused the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), of being “disconnected from reality” and accepting a “completely one-sided draft resolution on the Old City of Jerusalem that deliberately ignores the historical connection between the Jewish people and their ancient capital.”
The agency called on Israel to suspend all its archaeological and restoration work in and around the Old City.
“As the historical heritage sites of this area are being systematically destroyed by jihadist forces, such as the Islamic State, in Syria and Iraq, UNESCO’s adoption of utterly false allegations about Israeli archaeological practices is misplaced and hypocritical, at best,” Gold said.
The resolution will be voted on by the 21 members of UNESCO’s World Heritage Committee within the next week. Submitted by Jordan and Palestine – the latter now recognized as a member state of UNESCO – the resolution asks that the committee maintain the Old City’s status as an endangered site.
The resolution refers to Israel as “the occupying power” and attacks Israeli practices around the Temple Mount, including accusations that Israel is engaged in “intrusive constructions, tunneling, and underground excavations” and “aggressions against religious sites and prayer places.”
The text referred to the Western Wall only once and even then in quotation marks.
In October, UNESCO had intended to vote on a resolution stating that the Temple Mount is exclusively a Muslim holy site, but retreated due to international pressure.
Nevertheless, the agency’s 58-member Executive Board adopted a resolution in April that entirely ignored any Jewish ties to the Temple Mount. The Temple Mount, the site of both Jewish temples, is considered Judaism’s holiest site.
The latest resolution “also fails to acknowledge Christianity’s ties to Jerusalem,” Gold said, adding that even though the Old City was “ethnically cleansed” of Jews from 1948 to 1967, Jews maintained their connection to the holy site.
“We urge you to oppose this effort to distort history, which will offend the members of the Jewish and Christian faiths, and undermine the credibility of UNESCO in the future,” Gold wrote.