The Palestinians and the Jordanians are the ones who are trying to preserve the ancient sites in Jerusalem, Palestinian Liberation Organization Secretary-General Saeb Erekat said on Wednesday.
“The State of Palestine, in full cooperation with the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, through diplomatic channels, has been doing everything possible in order to preserve the status quo of the historical Holy Sites,” Erekat said.
He spoke in the aftermath of a 10-2 vote by the World Heritage Committee to reaffirm the placement of Jerusalem and its Old City walls on the World Heritage in Danger list. Eight countries abstained and one was absent from the room.
Although the Palestinian Authority along with the Jordanian government secured enough support to pass the resolution, they failed to obtain the consensus support they desired.
Israel’s campaign against this resolution and others like it, swayed a larger number of countries than anticipated to withdraw their support from the resolution which describes the Temple Mount, as a solely Muslim site.
It has charged that the Palestinians are trying to rewrite history in a way that ignores Jewish and Christian ties to the site.
Erekat said that the truth was exactly the opposite.
“Israel's illegal attempts to change the identity of occupied east Jerusalem, including its Christian and Muslim traditions, have been ongoing since its occupation of the city in 1967,” Erekat said.
“Through an orchestrated campaign, Israel has been using archeological claims and distortion of facts as a way to legitimize the annexation of occupied east Jerusalem,” he said.
Although the text in question does not mention Judaism or Christianity, Erekat said that the resolution reaffirms “the importance of Jerusalem for the three monotheistic religions, Christianity, Judaism and Islam.”
In particular, he said, it also calls for respect for the “status quo of its religious sites, including the al-Aqsa Mosque Compound that continues to be threatened by the systematic incitement and provocative actions of the Israeli government and extremist Jewish groups.”
In addressing the World Heritage Committee in Paris, Jordan thanked the 10 members who supported the motion.
The resolution, he said, is based on international law, which considers that Israel illegally occupies east Jerusalem.
It seeks to keep “the city as it was before the Israeli occupation in 1967.” Jordan has a role to play in the proceedings, because the country’s King is the custodian of all the holy places in Jerusalem, he said.
The Palestinian representative told the committee, that the storm Israel has created over these resolutions “perplexes him,” including its opposition to a consensus vote.
“Israel is trying to politicize religion. This is not about religion it is about breaches of rights given the scope of the mandate,” he said as he added that he hoped that the debate on such texts is over.
As events move forward, “I think it will be clear to all which is the party that is trying to politicize in dangerous ways the issue of religion and which is the party that is operating within the confines of UNESCO’s mandate.”
Israel’s Ambassador to UNESCO Carmel Shama-Hacohen minced no words in his statement to the committee as he explained that the resolution is against Israel, the Jewish people and the “historical truth.”
It stands, he said, “in complete and utter contradiction to all values, which this disintegrating organization is supposed to stand for.”
“The fate of this resolution,” he said, “shall be no different than that of UN resolution 3379 adopted in 1975, which equated Zionism with racism. That absurd resolution was cancelled 16 years later, but the moral stain still remains on all those who adopted it.”
He then dramatically proceeded to throw it into a trash bin, with the word history on it, that he had placed on the desk in front of him.
In so doing, he said, he was placing the resolution in its rightful place, “the garbage place of history.”