Knesset blasts UNESCO resolutions

Education and Culture Committee says it will support government's non-compliance; Foreign Ministry representative claims passing process was departure from UNESCO norms.

temple mount311 (photo credit: courtesy)
temple mount311
(photo credit: courtesy)
Governmental agencies reject a series of UN resolutions that Israel has blasted as “discriminatory,” government representatives said Tuesday during a meeting of the Knesset’s Education and Culture Committee about the resolutions.
At the meeting, a Foreign Ministry representative complained that the process by which the five resolutions had been passed by the executive board of the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization was a departure from the norms of UNESCO decision-making.
The committee met to discuss the five resolutions, which were all passed in late October with the support of Arab bloc countries – all of which either explicitly or implicitly criticize Israel.
According to Foreign Ministry representative Tibor Shalev-Schlusser, the resolutions cite Israel’s work on the Temple Mount and support the establishment of a delegation to oversee the situation on the Mughrabi Ramp to the holy site; express alarm “at the ongoing excavations” in and around the Old City of Jerusalem, calling for the appointment of an international supervisor for those excavations; blast the government’s February decision to include Rachel’s Tomb and the Cave of the Patriarchs on the list of national heritage sites; call for an international forum to discuss the situation in Gaza following Operation Cast Lead; and slam Israeli treatment of Palestinian heritage sites in the West Bank and Golan Heights.
Shalev-Schlusser said that the resolutions signaled a change in the usual decisionmaking process at UNESCO, which was characterized by compromise and dialogue between Israeli and Arab delegations. He added that he believed that it was not the Arab states, but the Palestinian Authority that was responsible for initiating this change.
Ram Shalev of the Israel Antiquities Authority said that the IAA opposed any decision to send international observers to oversee antiquities efforts in the Old City, which UNESCO has defined as an endangered world heritage site since 1981. Shalev said that such a move would be rejected by the IAA, as the organization already cooperated with foreign bodies including UNESCO and Jordan and operated with complete transparency.
In addition to the IAA, representatives of the Tourism, Education and Environmental Protection ministries all expressed their dismay at the resolutions’ implications.
Shalev-Schlusser emphasized during the hearing that his ministry was still working on outlining its full response to the resolutions, and did not rule out the possibility that a UNESCO-appointed emissary would be denied entry to Israel.
On the other hand, he noted, Israel has enjoyed extensive cooperation with UNESCO in the past, and he warned against “throwing out the baby with the bathwater.”
Israel has already discussed the issue with the United States, which sits on the key UNESCO council, and the Jewish organization B’nai B’rith has already organized a letter-writing campaign to UNESCO director- general Irina Bokova, said Shalev- Schlusser.
“These resolutions undermine the mission of UNESCO as a scientific and cultural group that encourages cooperation throughout the world,” complained committee chairman Zevulun Orlev (Habayit Hayehudi). “The resolutions are completely disconnected from scientific and historical facts and are based only on the political majority of the Arab bloc that opposes Israel.”
The committee ruled that it “supports the government in taking all of the possible steps to prevent the realization of these decisions” and said it would “consider turning to friendly parliaments in the world as recommended by Foreign Ministry to encourage their parallel committees to deliver a message to UNESCO not to make decisions that are in complete contradiction to archeological, historical and architectural values of professional preservation.”
The committee also recommended that an international team of experts be put together to disprove the allegations made in the UNESCO resolutions.