A committee at the United Nations Educational, Cultural and Scientific Organisation (UNESCO) on Wednesday morning approved a contentious resolution that ignores Jewish and Christian ties to the Temple Mount in Jerusalem.
The decision came a week after a similar resolution was approved by UNESCO, despite international condemnation and criticism from the body’s own Director-General.
Convening at its annual meeting in Paris, UNESCO’s World Heritage Committee adopted Draft Resolution 40COM 7A.13, entitled “Old City of Jerusalem and its Walls”, by a large majority, with 10 countries voting in favour, eight abstaining and two opposing the text.
Eight “yes” votes were needed for the resolution to pass.
The 21 nations with voting rights on the World Heritage Committee were: Finland, Poland, Portugal, Croatia, Turkey, Azerbaijan, South Korea, Indonesia, the Philippines, Vietnam, Kazakhstan, Tunisia, Kuwait, Lebanon, Peru, Cuba, Jamaica, Burkina Faso, Zimbabwe, Angola and Tanzania.
The resolution, which accuses Israel of various violations, echoed last week’s decision in referring to the Temple Mount compound solely by its Muslim names, “Al-Aqsa Mosque/Al-Haram Al-Sharif,” and defined it only as “a Muslim holy site of worship”.
As the site of the two Biblical temples, the Temple Mount as been the holiest place in Judaism for over 3,000 years.
Israel’s Ambassador to UNESCO, Carmel Shama-Hacohen, said after the vote: “This is yet another absurd resolution against the State of Israel, the Jewish people and historical truth”.
At the opening of Wednesday’s session, the chairperson of the World Heritage Committee, Turkish diplomat Lale Ülker, proposed that the resolution be adopted “by consensus”, which would have given the appearance of a unanimous decision.
A majority of member states supported her proposal, but Tanzania and Croatia asked for a secret ballot. Despite vociferous opposition by Lebanon, Tunisia, Cuba and other states that pushed for “consensus”, the committee’s legal adviser eventually ruled that a secret ballot would be held on the resolution, paving the way for the two “no” votes and the eight abstentions.
The adoption of last week’s resolution creates an absurd situation whereby the archaeological digs on and around the site of the Temple Mount, which have unearthed copious evidence of a Jewish connection to the site, may now be designated as destruction of the Muslim site.
The UN has a history of singling out Israel. In the past decade, the UN passed 67 resolutions condemning Israel, and 61 resolutions condemning human rights violations across the rest of the world.
In 2014, the UN General Assembly passed 24 condemnation resolutions and 20 of them were against Israel, while only one dealt with Syria.