Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister Stéphane Dion has denounced the latest UNESCO resolution downplaying Judaism’s ties to the Temple Mount in Jerusalem.
“Canada strongly rejects UNESCO World Heritage [Committee for resolution] singling out Israel & denying Judaism’s link to the Old City + Western Wall,” Dion tweeted on Oct. 27.
“Old City important to 3 faiths – to deny one undermines integrity of site for all and the purpose of UNESCO.”
On Oct. 26 in Paris, the World Heritage Committee of the United Nations Educational, Cultural and Scientific Organization approved a new resolution, submitted by Tunisia and Lebanon, on the status of conservation of the Old City of Jerusalem. Israel suspended its relations with the agency in protest and the United States decried the measure as “inflammatory” and damaging to UNESCO’s credibility.
A week earlier, the 58-member UNESCO executive board gave final approval to another resolution, submitted by seven Arab countries, that Israel says dismisses Jewish ties to holy sites in east Jerusalem, namely the Temple Mount and Western Wall, site of the two Temples. It also condemns “Israeli aggressions,” blaming Israel alone for recent tensions on the Temple Mount.
The latest resolution refers to the Temple Mount only by its Arab name – Haram al-Sharif – and criticizes Israel for continuing to refuse experts access to the sites to determine the state of their conservation.
The Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA) denounced the latest resolution as “outrageous,” tweeting: “UNESCO embarrasses itself [with] yet another resolution denying Jewish & Christian connection to Jerusalem holy sites.”
In the House of Commons on Oct. 27, Conservative foreign affairs critic Peter Kent stated that UNESCO has “embarrassed and disgraced itself yet again, allowing itself to be used as a tool of hate.
“[D]enying the existence of the Jewish temples is only a ‘blood libel’ step away from denying the existence of the Jews.”
Kent said the resolution “effectively denies” Jewish and Christian ties to the Temple Mount and that this is the second time in a month a UNESCO body has “flagrantly denied history with a clearly anti-Semitic, Palestinian-drafted resolution that ignores the importance of Jerusalem to the three monotheistic religions that share its history.”
Mount Royal Liberal MP Anthony Housefather told The CJN: “Of course, I join the government in condemning this completely illogical and unhelpful resolution denying the site’s Jewish history and heritage.”
CIJA reiterated the position it took following the presentation of the resolution earlier in October.
CIJA chief executive officer Shimon Koffler Fogel stated that the first resolution “attempts to erase the centrality of Jerusalem and its holy sites to the Jewish People. This flies in the face of 3,000 years of archeological and historical evidence, which undeniably confirm the intrinsic link between the Jewish People and the Western Wall and the Temple Mount… the holiest sites in Jewish tradition for millennia.”
He said UNESCO’s “anti-Israel obsession… will only inflame existing tensions surrounding the Temple Mount” and the resolution is “a symptom of the longstanding Palestinian and the larger Arab world’s rejection of the historical connection between Jerusalem and the Jewish People.”
The Oct. 26 vote by the 21-member state World Heritage Committee’s was by secret ballot. Ten countries voted for the resolution, two against, eight abstained and one was absent. The Jerusalem Post, citing diplomatic sources, reported that Tanzania and the Philippines, were the two opponents. Canada, Israel and the United States are not on that body.
The resolution represents Palestinian and Jordanian complaints that recent Israeli actions, including archeological excavations and tourism, are endangering the Temple Mount, a UNESCO World Heritage site since 1981, and that Israel is trying to legitimize the annexation of east Jerusalem by increasing its presence at the site.