Brazil has become the second country after France to apologise for its role in a United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) vote denying the Jewish link with the Western Wall.
The apologies came after a resolution adopted in April by UNESCO labelled Judaism’s holiest site — and Islam’s third — as a Muslim holy site only. Both countries voted in favour of the resolution.
The Brazilian Israelite Confederation condemned the resolution, stating: “In practical terms, it [the resolution] was more a pretext for the Arab world to disseminate hatred against Israel”.
Echoing this line, the Brazilian Foreign Ministry has admitted that the negation of a link between Judaism and the Western Wall was an “error which makes the text partial and unbalanced”.
The Western Wall is one of the only remnants of a retaining wall built around the Jewish Second Temple, which was later destroyed by the Romans in 70 C.E. Jews are forbidden by Israel from praying on the Temple Mount to prevent tensions arising with Palestinian worshipers. The Western Wall is a shrine and considered Judaism’s holiest site where Jews are allowed to pray.
France was the first country to offer a formal apology after French President Francois Hollande wrote to the local Jewish community pledging to not support any similar resolutions.
France’s Chief Rabbi Haim Korsia also made a rare intervention on his country’s foreign policy expressing his “strong disapproval,” of the resolution and urged “UNESCO executive council to reconsider their position as soon as possible”.
The resolution also condemned Israel for the creation of a “visitor’s centre” and an “elevator” in AlBuraq Plaza.
While the change of mind from Latin America’s biggest country was welcomed by Jerusalem, the motion submitted by Algeria, Egypt, Lebanon, Morocco, Oman, Qatar and Sudan will still pass with thirty-three countries voting in favour, 17 abstaining and six opposed. The UK was among six countries opposing the motion including the U.S., Germany and the Netherlands.
Placed in context, the UN resolution comes as little surprise as since the nine years of the UN Human Rights Council’s (UNHRC) inception, it has singled out Israel in condemnatory resolutions 61 times. By comparison, the rest of the world – including Syria, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, North Korea and Sudan – received 55 resolutions combined.
To read the full resolution click here.