UN staff swiftly declines Netanyahu's invitation for Israeli history lesson

"UN staff in Jerusalem know the history of the region, its people and religions all too well," said UN's special coordinator for the Middle East peace process, Nickolay Mladenov, in a statement.

May 7, 2016 19:10
2 minute read.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addresses the Knesset in Jerusalem

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addresses the Knesset in Jerusalem. (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)

The Prime Minister’s Office and the UN sparred over the weekend regarding the latter’s knowledge of Jewish history, with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu inviting UN diplomats to a lesson on the Jews’ connection to the Temple Mount, and the UN saying, “Not interested.”

In the wake of a resolution passed last month by the UNESCO Executive Board that expunged any Jewish connection to the Temple Mount, Netanyahu pasted a Facebook post on Friday saying he will personally host a “seminar on Jewish history for all UN personnel in Israel.”

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“Two weeks ago, I was shocked to hear that UNESCO adopted a decision denying any Jewish connection to the Temple Mount, our holiest site. It is hard to believe that anyone, let alone an organization tasked with preserving history, could deny this link, which spans thousands of years,” he wrote.

Netanyahu wrote that the seminar will be given by a leading scholar of Jewish history “and will be free to all UN staff and diplomats, including of countries, which voted for this outrageous decision.”

Thirty-three countries voted for the resolution, six against and 17 abstained. Among those that approved the resolution were four EU member- states – France, Sweden, Spain and Slovenia – as well as a number of countries that have strong ties with Israel, such as India, Russia, China, Mexico and Vietnam.

The resolution blasted Israel for its policies on the Temple Mount and referred to it only by its Arabic name Haram al-Sharif. In two instances where the resolution referred to the Western Wall Plaza, it put the words “Western Wall” in parenthesis, referring to the plaza by the Arabic “al-Buraq Plaza.”

The UN’s special Middle East envoy, Nickolay Mladenov, was quick to turn down Netanyahu’s invite, telling AFP on Saturday that the “UN staff in Jerusalem know the history of the region, its people and religions all too well.”

UNESCO, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, is headquartered in Paris, and Mladenov said that “if someone wants to issue invitations, they should be for Paris and addressed to the ambassadors of the member-states of UNESCO there.”

Netanyahu’s spokesman David Keyes had no response to Mladenov’s rejection. He said the lecture is expected to take place next week, and that it was a serious invitation, not just an effort to make a point, though the Prime Minister’s Office did expect people to attend.

“I think I would come and hear what is going to happen,” he said. “If they don’t come, I think that would be more illuminating than anything.

It is an opportunity. The truth should not be controversial, denying the truth should be controversial.”

Denying the Jewish people’s connection to the Temple Mount, which goes back thousands of years, is not only ahistorical, Keyes said, “it actually makes peace harder to achieve.

“Peace is forged through respect and understanding,” he said. “This shows neither respect for history, nor an understanding of the Jewish people.

It is an outrageous distortion of basic fact. I hope many diplomats will attend the seminar, because everyone should hear the truth.”

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