Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attends the weekly cabinet meeting at the Prime Minister's office in Jerusalem September 5, 2018..
(photo credit: RONEN ZVULUN/REUTERS)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu refused to accept an invitation to attend Wednesday night’s antisemitism forum that is sponsored by UNESCO and was to take place on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly.
The forum will be attended by heads of state and United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, but Israel’s head of state will be absent, underscoring the country’s opposition to the organization’s biased treatment of Israel, which includes annual resolutions disavowing Israeli sovereignty in Jerusalem.
“While I commend all efforts to combat antisemitism, I have decided not to participate in this week’s UNESCO conference on antisemitism, due to the organization’s persistent and egregious bias against Israel,” Netanyahu said. “Since 2009, UNESCO has passed 71 resolutions condemning Israel and only two resolutions condemning all other countries combined. This is simply outrageous.”
The prime minister said, “The mark of antisemitism was once singling out the Jewish people for slander and condemnation. The mark of antisemitism today is singling out the Jewish state for slander and condemnation.”
His statement comes in advance of Israel’s and the United States’ planned departures from the organization at the end of this year. UNESCO director-general Audrey Azoulay has worked to neutralize the slew of anti-Israel resolutions, including texts that spoke solely of the Muslim identity of Judaism’s most holy site, the Temple Mount.
“If UNESCO wants to remove this mark of shame, it must do more than host a conference on antisemitism,” Netanyahu said. “It must stop practicing antisemitism. And it must stop the absurdity of passing resolutions which deny the connection between the Jewish people and the Land of Israel, between the Jewish people and our eternal capital, Jerusalem.
“No matter what UNESCO says, the Western Wall is not occupied Palestinian territory, and the Cave of the Patriarchs – the burial site of Abraham and Sara, Isaac and Rebecca, Jacob and Leah – is not a Palestinian Heritage Site.
“In withdrawing from UNESCO in 2017, Israel and the United States made a clear moral statement that UNESCO’s antisemitism will no longer be tolerated. If and when UNESCO ends its bias against Israel, stops denying history and starts standing up for the truth, Israel will be honored to rejoin. Until then, Israel will fight antisemitism at UNESCO and everywhere else.”
In June, UNESCO launched it first-ever policy guide for educators on antisemitism.
On its website, UNESCO said: “Antisemitism is a security issue for Jewish communities and individuals in regions across the world and the driving force of a range of violent extremist ideologies. Like all forms of intolerance and discrimination, antisemitism has a profound impact on the whole of society, undermining democratic values and human rights.”
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