Israeli flag and Temple Mount .
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
Palestinian Authority Foreign Minister Riyad al-Maliki admonished UNESCO chief Irina Bokova on Friday for expressing her discontent with a resolution that ignores Jewish connections to the Temple Mount.
The draft measure approved on Friday by UNESCO member states refers to the site solely by its Islamic name, Haram al-Sharif (the Noble Sanctuary).
“The director-general of UNESCO has overstepped the scope of her mandate by speaking out against a resolution adopted by the Executive Board of the organization,” Maliki said. “This unusual and unacceptable position is an affront to the sovereignty of the governing body of UNESCO. Further, Ms. Bokova’s declaration undermines the work and authority of the Executive Board and is hence completely unacceptable.”
Maliki added that Bokova decided to capitulate to Israeli pressure to block the resolution.
“Ms. Bokova chose to appease the PR bullying campaign, run by Israel, against the resolution which addresses illegal Israeli practices in occupied east Jerusalem,” the PA foreign minister said.
“She willfully ignored the text of the resolution, which reiterates Jerusalem’s character as a city central to the three monotheistic religions,” he continued.
While the UNESCO resolution affirmed the connections between Judaism, Christianity and Islam to Jerusalem, it made no mention of Judaism’s connection to the Temple Mount, which is the holiest site in Judaism.
In a statement on UNESCO’s website, Bokova said she opposes denial of historical connections to holy sites in Jerusalem.
“The heritage of Jerusalem is indivisible, and each of its communities has a right to the explicit recognition of their history and relationship with the city,” Bokova remarked. “To deny, conceal or erase any of the Jewish, Christian or Muslim traditions undermines the integrity of the site and runs counter to the reasons that justified its inscription on the UNESCO World Heritage list.”
The UNESCO chief added that she believes it is essential to recognize the different names of Jerusalem’s holy sites.
“In this microcosm of humanity’s spiritual diversity, different peoples worship the same places, sometimes under different names. The recognition, use of and respect for these names is paramount. Al-Aksa Mosque/Haram al-Sharif, the sacred shrine of Muslims, is also Har Habayit – or Temple Mount – whose Western Wall is the holiest place in Judaism,” she said.
Bokova has previously signaled her opposition to resolutions that ignore Jewish connections to the Temple Mount, saying in July that she is concerned about “efforts to erase history and instrumentalize culture.”
In the latter half of his statement, Maliki called on Bokova to condemn Israel for its policies regarding the Temple Mount.
“We expect Ms. Bokova’s future public declarations to address the ongoing colonial policies in Palestine, which systematically assault and target our rich heritage, culture and religious sites.”
Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri also criticized Bokova’s statements, saying she surrendered “to Israeli pressure.”
Education Minister Naftali Bennett condemned the UNESCO resolution on Friday, and said he instructed the Israeli committee to UNESCO to freeze ties with the UN body.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu also denounced the resolution, saying, “The theater of the absurd continues at the UN.”
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