Mexican Jews welcome government change of heart over UNESCO resolution

Jewish community pressure may have led to unofficial retraction of vote in favor.

October 19, 2016 18:23
3 minute read.

UNESCO resolution on Temple Mount in Jerusalem

UNESCO resolution on Temple Mount in Jerusalem

The Jewish community of Mexico lauded its government’s decision to withdraw its support for a UNESCO resolution that ignored Jewish ties to the Temple Mount. Mexico initially voted in favor of the resolution, but later called for a new vote so that it could change its vote to abstention. Under pressure from Western states it backed away from this call, but noted for the record that its position on the matter was one of abstention.

The Central Committee of the Jewish Community of Mexico released a statement Tuesday night expressing its gratitude to the Mexican government, and particularly to the president and Ministry of Foreign Affairs for its change of heart, which it described as “just, in light of the more than 3,000 years of continuous Jewish history in Jerusalem, since King David made it the capital of his kingdom, and his son King Solomon built the Holy Temple right in the esplanade of the Temple Mount.”

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“As Mexicans, and as Jews, we will continue to promote UNESCO resolutions that focus exclusively on educational, scientific and cultural issues, and leave politics to the appropriate forums,” concluded the letter, whih was signed – alongside three other Jewish community leaders – by Salomon Achar, president of the Central Committee, the umbrella organization of Jewish communities in Mexico.

A statement posted on the Mexican Foreign Ministry website said it decided to change its vote to abstention in recognition of the undeniable Jewish cultural heritage that is located in east Jerusalem, and out of a deep appreciation for the contribution the Jewish community has played in Mexico’s economic, social and cultural development.

The vote sparked uproar among Mexico’s Jewish population of 45,000, and many wrote letters to the government or took to social media to express their outrage.

“Every Jew in Mexico was involved in some way,” said May Samra, editor-in-chief of the Mexican Jewish news site “Enlace Judio”, who observed the raging dialogue over the matter on Twitter and Facebook. Samra told The Jerusalem Post that she believes the Mexican Jewish protest of the decision helped shift the balance. She estimates that 90% of the country’s Jewish population is pro-Israel, and many celebrate their bar mitzvas at the Kotel, making the subject matter close to their hearts.

Samra also expressed disappointment over the dismissal of Andrés Roemer, Mexico’s Ambassador to UNESCO, who walked out of last Thursday’s vote over disagreement with his government’s initial decision to support it. The Foreign Ministry gave several reasons for his dismissal, including that he failed to give them the proper context of the vote.

“I was personally hoping they would have kept him because he is a great intellectual, and UNESCO is about science, art and culture and he is one of biggest intellectuals in our country,” said Samra.

Roemer’s role in the vote sparked an array of reactions, with some angry that he didn’t prevent Mexico from supporting the resolution in the first place. “He was in a very hard position,” said Isaac Ajzen, director of the Jewish Mexican “Diario Judio” website. “Some people are angry he was fired, some thought he should have been fired before. There are many opinions,” he told the Post.

Ajzen also believes the Jewish community played an important role in explaining to the government the importance of Jerusalem to Israel and to Jews around the world. “Mexico has a good relationship with Israel,” he noted. “The president [Enrique Peña Nieto] was just there for Shimon Peres’s funeral. We have many joint ventures,” he added.

Tovah Lazaroff contributed to this report.

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