A contentious draft United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) resolution that challenged Jewish historical ties to the Old City of Jerusalem, has been postponed due to lack of support.
The Palestinian and Jordanian delegations had proposed the resolution, but could not secure enough votes from the 21 members of UNESCO’s World Heritage Committee to ensure its passage, forcing them to abandon the vote.
The text of the draft resolution calls for a return of the Temple Mount and the Al-Aqsa Mosque to what it called “the historic status quo” following the 1967 Six Day War, under which the Jordanian Waqf religious authority had the right to administer all aspects of the sites “including maintenance, restoration, and regulating access”.
In the UN document, Israel is repeatedly referred to as the “occupying power” while being accused of causing damage to the site, conducting illegal excavations and preventing the Jordanian Waqf, which administers the site, from conducting repairs and renovations. The text also refers to the Western Wall plaza in quotation marks, after using the Arabic term Al-Buraq Plaza without qualification.
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 worshippers. The Western Wall is a shrine and considered Judaism’s holiest site where Jews are allowed to pray.
The proposal came after Brazil and France last month formally apologised for their role in voting in favour of an April UNESCO motion denying the Jewish link with the Western Wall.
There has been a long-running campaign by the Palestinians for UNESCO to adopt a resolution to designate the Temple Mount – Islam’s’ third holiest site – as an exclusively Muslim area, going back to October 2015. In this instance, UNESCO appears to have disguised this reclassification, by referring to the area exclusively in Muslim terms, ignoring Jews’ links to the area. The Temple Mount is known to Muslims as Al-Haram or Al-Sharif.
Before the plans had been shelved, Israeli Foreign Minister Director-General Dore Gold submitted a scathing letter to UNESCO to urge UN members to reject the vote, in which he accused the body of being entirely “disconnected from reality”.
Gold said: “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 claimed that the scrapped resolution also “fails to acknowledge Christianity’s ties to Jerusalem”, and would therefore “offend the members of the Jewish and Christian faiths, and undermine the credibility of UNESCO in the future”.
It is unclear if the Palestinian and Jordanian delegations will propose the resolution again.
Placed in context, the proposed UN resolution had come 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.