All of Israel’s work with the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) will cease after the organization passed a resolution on Thursday denying Jewish connections to Jerusalem and condemning Israeli action on the Temple Mount.
Education Minister Naftali Bennett, president of Israel’s National Commission for UNESCO, announced on Friday that all of Israel’s meetings with UNESCO officials, participation in international forums and professional cooperation will be suspended until further notice.
“Yesterday’s (UNESCO) decision is a denial of history and gives a boost to terror,” Bennett said.
The draft decision acquiesces to radical narratives, which should concern the Western world as well, Bennet added.
“Whoever rewards jihadists…could be next,” he said. “The next terrorist will feel legitimized by yesterday’s miserable decision. Cutting Jerusalem off from Israel will produce a domino effect that will eventually hurt the entire Western world.”
Jerusalem has long been regarded home to three religions with sites holy to Judaism, Christianity and Islam. The Temple Mount area and the adjacent Western Wall are considered the most holy site to Judaism, but the UNESCO resolution referred to the area only by its Islamic name: Haram al-Sharif.
UNESCO voted 24 to 6 to approve this draft resolution submitted by seven Arab countries. Twenty six countries abstained from the vote.
The draft calls on Israel, “the occupying Power, to cease the persistent excavations and works in East Jerusalem particularly in and around the Old City” and condemns “the escalating Israeli aggressions and illegal measures against the Awqaf Department and its personnel, and against the freedom of worship and Muslims’ access to” the Muslim holy site.
UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova on Friday slammed the draft.
“The Al Aqsa Mosque [or] Al-Haram al-Sharif, the sacred shrine of Muslims, is also the Har HaBayit – or Temple Mount – whose Western Wall is the holiest place in Judaism,” Bokova said in a statement. “The heritage of Jerusalem is indivisible, and each of its communities has a right to the explicit recognition of their history and relationship with the city. To deny, conceal or erase any of the Jewish, Christian or Muslim traditions undermines the integrity of the site, and runs counter to the reasons that justified its inscription on the UNESCO World Heritage list.”
The UNESCO vote united the spectrum of Israeli politicians.
“To say that Israel has no connection to the Temple Mount and the Western Wall is like saying that China has no connection to the Great Wall of China and that Egypt has no connection to the pyramids,” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said. “With this absurd decision, UNESCO lost the little legitimization it had left. But I believe that the historical truth is stronger and the truth will win.”