(photo credit: REUTERS)
Once upon a time UN institutions would issue outrageous declarations against Israel and no one would bother to protest, except the US and Israel – and Micronesia.
But the times have changed. Following the UNESCO executive board’s vote last Tuesday – which ignores Jewish ties to the Temple Mount – a number of countries have already come forward to voice their opposition.
One of the most surprising was Mexico.
On the same day of the vote on the resolution – which has a special clause dealing with the Temple Mount that states the site is sacred only to Muslims and fails to mention that it is sacred to Jews, as well – Mexico asked to trigger a special clause in UNESCO’s bylaws enabling a revote.
However, Mexico caved in to pressure from a number of Western countries that voted against the resolution. They convinced Mexico not to invoke the clause, due to the precedent that would be set regarding a future vote on Crimea.
Apparently, these countries do not want Russia or countries sympathetic to the Putin regime to bog down the United Nations Educational, Cultural and Scientific Organization with a revote on the issue of Russia’s forced annexation of Crimea.
In any event, Mexico announced during an executive committee meeting Tuesday morning that it had changed its stance, due to the position being offensive and biased against the Jewish people and its historic connection to Israel.
A statement from Mexico’s Foreign Ministry stated that the Mexican government recognizes the undeniable connection of the Jewish people to the cultural heritage in east Jerusalem. The statement also noted Mexico’s deep appreciation for the contribution of the Jewish community to Mexico’s economic, social and cultural development.
As noted by The Jerusalem Post’s Tamara Zieve, the vote sparked an uproar among Mexico’s Jewish population of 45,000. Many wrote letters to the government or took to social media to express their outrage.
May Samra, editor-in-chief of the Mexican Jewish news site Enlace Judio told Zieve that “every Jew was involved in some way.”
The activism of Mexico’s Jewish community was refreshing.
Though American Jewry has been particularly successful at lobbying US politicians to advance issues important to the Jewish community, Jews elsewhere have been less successful at organizing to protect Jewish interests.
Hopefully, the Mexico precedent will be an inspiration to other Diaspora communities to become more assertive in pressuring their governments to adopt more evenhanded policies vis-a-vis Israel.
In the case of Mexico, it was helpful that Mexican President Ennrique Pena Nieto is a friend of Israel. He reportedly promised during his visit to Israel for former president Shimon Peres’s funeral that Mexico would not support the UNESCO resolution on Jerusalem.
Another surprise in the UNESCO vote was Brazil, which supported Mexico’s decision to express its dissatisfaction and reservations concerning the wording of the UNESCO decisions. Brazil’s representative added that it found it difficult to support the resolution in its current iteration for future votes.
The 21-member World Heritage Committee is expected to vote on a resolution regarding the Temple Mount and other holy sites in Israel during its October 24-26 meeting in Paris.
Czech’s lower parliament, meanwhile, voted 119-4 on Wednesday to condemn the UNESCO Jerusalem resolution.
Lawmakers warned that the vote strengthened antisemitism.
On the same day, a group of 15 Christian parliamentarians from Europe, Africa and Latin America visited the Tomb of the Patriarchs and other parts of Jewish Hebron.
The visit was poignant international affirmation of the fact that the Land of Israel is inundated with Jewish history stretching back thousands of years.
The cases of Mexico, Brazil, the Czech Republic and the contingent of parliamentarians visiting Hebron are not isolated incidents. Other countries are waking up to the huge discrepancy between the reality on the ground in Israel and the accusations leveled at the Jewish state in international forums – or the doctoring of history in the case of UNESCO. Today the US – and Micronesia – are not the only countries willing to take a stand.