UNESCO’s latest resolution on Jerusalem: Much of the same

It is nothing more than a non-binding, politicized expression of the political opinion of the states voting for it. It has no legal status whatsoever.

May 3, 2017 20:46
4 minute read.

UNESCO headquarters. (photo credit: REUTERS)


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Nobody should take seriously the latest UNESCO resolution entitled “Occupied Palestine.”

It is nothing more than a non-binding, politicized expression of the political opinion of the states voting for it. It has no legal status whatsoever.

In a highly transparent and obvious attempt to “camouflage” in UNESCO language what is nothing other than one more blatantly hostile, Israel-bashing resolution, the Palestinian leadership has been, once again, devoting its international efforts to abusing an international organization in order to delegitimize Israel, rather than to instill mutual good faith and to seek peace.

Such hysteric and concentrated activity by the Palestinian leadership aimed at delegitimizing Israel, on the eve of the projected visit by Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas with US President Donald Trump, represents a distinct “finger in the eye” of the new US administration. It is a telling sign of the Palestinian leadership’s disdain for any serious attempt to restore a peace-negotiation process, and of its lack of “clean hands.”

Hiding behind accepted UN and UNESCO terminology of “safeguarding the cultural heritage of Palestine and the distinctive character of East Jerusalem” the Palestinian leadership is once again dragging UNESCO – once a credible and reputable professional organization – into the pit of politicization.

Ostensibly to deceive and recruit the support of the European countries and others for what they claim is a “watered down” text, the Palestinians and their Arab colleagues have devised curious terminology that is tantamount to political and legal acrobatics.

While attempting to pay lip service to the “importance of the Old City of Jerusalem and its Walls for the three monotheistic religions” and to the “religious significance for Judaism, Christianity and Islam of the Tomb of the Patriarchs in Hebron and Rachel’s tomb in Bethlehem,” they go on to deny and nullify any legal, historical or political affinity between the Jewish People, the State of Israel and the “Holy City of Jerusalem” and Jewish sites in Hebron and Bethlehem.

For good measure, the resolution also includes the usual, commonplace and routine condemnations of Israel’s actions to defend its citizens and territory from terrorism emanating from the Gaza Strip and the Hebron area.

Curiously, they even attempt to dress this in UNESCO camouflage by adding that such actions by Israel have a “negative impact in the fields of competence of UNESCO.”

After having conducted their own unsupervised and pirate excavations under the mosques of Jerusalem’s Temple Mount, including trashing thousands of tons of valuable historic and religious artifacts, the Palestinians and their Arab supporters have the hypocritical gall to use UNESCO to condemn Israel’s supervised and scientific archeological excavations.

All this to persuade a naïve international community, including the Trump administration in the US, that they have produced a reasonable and moderate resolution that they feel is acceptable to all.

This resolution, as well as the previous resolutions of UNESCO adopted at the behest of the Palestinian leadership and Arab states, and supported by a majority of state members of the organization, were generated out of a blatant and deliberate lack of bona fides and in dire disregard of the purposes and functions of the organization.

They are inherently partisan and politically motivated, as part of a general effort to deny and invalidate the prior Judaic and Christian origins of the various holy sites, whether in Jerusalem, Hebron or Bethlehem.

In so attempting to rewrite and corrupt history and truth, and in permitting itself to be manipulated and politicized, UNESCO is in fact acting contrary to its own constitution. Since accepting the full membership of the Palestinians in UNESCO in 2011, the organization has permitted itself to be taken hostage by elements intent on undermining the universal character of UNESCO as a professional, educational and cultural organization, all with the political aim of delegitimizing Israel.

According to the founding constitution of UNESCO adopted in 1945 (as amended from time to time): “The purpose of the organization is to contribute to peace and security through promoting collaboration among the nations through education, science and culture in order to further universal respect for justice, for the rule of law and for the human rights and fundamental freedoms which are affirmed for the peoples of the world, without distinction of race, sex, language or religion, by the Charter of the United Nations.”

In its constitutional principles, the organization views ignorance, suspicion and mistrust to be the main causes of prejudice, inequality and war.

The UNESCO Constitution heralds the wide diffusion of culture and the education of humanity for justice, liberty and peace as indispensable to the dignity of man, constituting a “sacred duty which all the nations must fulfill in a spirit of mutual assistance and concern.”

“Intellectual and moral solidarity of mankind” and “unrestricted pursuit of objective truth” are declared to be the basic components of peace.

Sadly, UNESCO can no longer be regarded as an objective, universal and professional specialized agency. As such, its special character as the educational and cultural organ of the UN has been gravely and irreparably polluted and prejudiced.

For this reason one might expect that serious and responsible states disassociate from and reject such resolutions and review their positions regarding continued membership in UNESCO.

By the same token, one might expect the Palestinian leader to come to the president of the US with clean hands.

The author is a former ambassador to Canada and director of the Institute for Contemporary Affairs at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs.

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