UNESCO condemns Israeli action at Temple Mount

The Western Wall (Kotel) is the western support wall built during the widening of the Temple Mount Plaza in the reign of King Herod in the first century C.E.
The Western Wall (Kotel) is the western support wall built during the widening of the Temple Mount Plaza in the reign of King Herod in the first century C.E.

The United Nations cultural agency condemned Israel over claims that the Jewish state attempted to break the status quo at the Temple Mount. Plans to designate the Western Wall as a Muslim site were abandoned.

On Wednesday morning in Paris, the executive board of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization voted 26 in favor of the resolution, six against and 25 abstentions.

The original six-page draft resolution was submitted to UNESCO on Tuesday by Egypt, Tunisia, Algeria, Morocco, Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates, on behalf of the Palestinian Authority. It “affirm[ed] that the Buraq Plaza is an integral part of al-Aqsa/al-Haram al-Sharif.”

The resolution accuses Israel of changing the status quo on the Temple Mount, referred to in the resolution only by its Arabic name, and condemns Israel for security measures taken during the ongoing “stabbing intifada.”


Language declaring the Western Wall as part of the al-Aqsa Mosque complex and referring to Jerusalem as “the occupied capital of Palestine” was removed ahead of the vote. However, the resolution did recognize Rachel’s Tomb and the Cave of the Patriarchs in the West Bank as Muslim sites that are part of a Palestinian state. Both locations are holy in Judaism.

In an interview with The Jerusalem Post ahead of the vote, Israeli Ambassador to UNESCO Carmel Shama Hacohen called the resolution “a total Islamization” of a site holy to Jews and Muslims.

“To disconnect the Jewish people from the Western Wall is one step too much, even for nations that are the most anti-Israel,” said Hacohen.

Jewish Federations of North America issued a statement condemning the original resolution, calling it “an affront to the Jewish people and our over two millennia connection to the Western Wall and the Temple it once supported.”

“We urge the United Nations to see this for the anti-Israel attack that it is, to consider the damaging effects this change would have to Israel and the entire Middle East, to oppose the resolution and to remove it from the agenda forever,” the JFNA statement said.

The Jewish Council for Public Affairs likewise urged the executive council of UNESCO to reject the resolution and noted that the recent arson of Joseph’s Tomb “has only made the subject of respect for holy sites that much more critical.”

Jewish lawmakers Reps. Nita Lowey (D-N.Y.) and Ted Deutch (D-Fla.) registered their objection in a joint letter to the U.S. Ambassador to UNESCO Crystal Nix-Hines.

Lowey and Deutch wrote that Palestinian efforts to exert exclusive rights to the holy sites and their denial of Jewish ties to them “reveal a central obstacle to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict — Palestinian refusal to acknowledge the very existence of Jews in the ancient Jewish homeland.”

JTA contributed to this report.


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