Analysis: Israel wins UNESCO battle, but not the war

At the United Nations, including at UNESCO and the Human Rights Council, professional expertise pales in comparison to the power of member states.

October 18, 2016 21:53
3 minute read.

Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu responds to UNESCO vote on Temple Mount, Western Wall

Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu responds to UNESCO vote on Temple Mount, Western Wall


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What a difference half a year can make.

Just last April, in a first of its kind resolution, a majority of the UNESCO 58-member Executive Board ratified a text that ignored Jewish ties to the Temple Mount.

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The vote was 33 in favor, six against and 19 abstentions. Two countries were absent from the room.

On Tuesday, a similar text failed to gain majority, passing 24 to six, with 26 abstentions. Two countries were not present.

On top of that, Mexico, who traditionally votes against Israel, announced that it withdrew its support and Brazil indicated it might do likewise should the resolution come again before the board.

Their statements do not impact the overall vote. But for those keeping score, the Palestinian attempt to linguistically reclassify the site – holy to Judaism, Christianity and Islam – solely by its Muslim names of al-Haram al-Sharif is slowly losing support with only 23 and possibly 22 countries supporting it.

On top of that, a trio of significant United Nations officials spoke against such texts, including UN Secretary- General Ban Ki-moon, UNESCO Secretary-General Irina Bokova and UNESCO Executive Board chairman Michael Worbs.

Even so, the language contained within such resolutions has begun to enter UNESCO’s lexicon.

The body of historical, archeological and religious evidence that the Jewish Temple, the religion’s holiest sanctuary, stood at that site 2,000 years ago has had no bearing on the debate.

That’s because at the UN, including at UNESCO and the Human Rights Council, professional expertise, pales in comparison to the power of member states.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has often noted that UN member states could pass a resolution that the world was flat if they wanted to.

Channel 10 anchorwoman Ayala Hasson in an interview with Worbs on Friday pressed the point of what the accuracy line could be when it came to texts by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization.

Hasson asked a startled Worbes if UNESCO would accept a resolution that said the Christians had no ties to the Vatican or that Muslims had no ties to Mecca? “Such a resolution would never happen,” Worbs replied.

Although he didn’t explicitly state it, his answer implied that reality is erased when it comes legitimizing Jewish history.

The Bible might be the most read book in the world, but it has no bearing on the geopolitics at the UN, which heavily favors the Palestinians, so much so, that even countries with Christian majorities are willing to forgo their own roots.

Even Italy, where the Vatican is located, preferred to abstain rather than oppose the motion.

Countries like France, Sweden, Slovenia and Sweden who in April supported the resolution, chose this time to abstain. French statements over the last six months asserting Jewish ties to the area, did not move the country into the opposition category.

Palestinians who began their drive to reclassify Judeo-Christian holy sites as exclusively Muslim in 2015, have no reason to stop and intend to keep proposing such resolutions at every opportunity.

Israel should have earned a chance to appreciate that countries the world over changed their votes in the last six months.

Instead, it must turn around and fight the issue all over again next week at the World Heritage Committee, which is set to debate a similar text.

Until the nations of the world are willing to vote for history instead of politics, or until the UN finds a way to set a basic accuracy standard that resolution must meet, Israel will find itself again and again battling against such texts.

Thursday’s vote, therefore, was just one fight, in a prolonged war, over history and religious heritage.

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