A new version of a UNESCO resolution that strongly condemned Israeli policies in the occupied Palestinians territory was approved yesterday after widespread uproar from Israel and its supporters claimed that the previous text denied Jewish ties to Al-Aqsa Mosque in occupied East Jerusalem’s Old City.
The resolution was backed by ten World Heritage Committee member states, opposed by two, with eight abstaining.
However, Israeli media sites reported that the revised version continued to “ignore Judaism’s connection” to the holy site, as the text still only referred to the compound by its Arabic and Muslim names – Al-Aqsa or Al-Haram Al-Sharif – and not as the Temple Mount as it is known to Jews.
Amid the uproar, the issues raised in the resolution itself regarding several Israeli policies against Palestinians at the holy site have largely fallen to the wayside.
As a Palestinian representative to UNESCO put it after the initial text was approved, the resolution was “about occupation, not about a name”, asserting that the Geneva Conventions required the site be referred to by the name that predated Israel’s illegal occupation of East Jerusalem in 1967.
The wording of the new resolution was “softened”, according to Israeli newspaper Haaretz, removing the term “occupying” force in regards to Israel, and now refers to the Western Wall by its Jewish name and not in quotations as it had been previously.
However, Israel’s ambassador to UNESCO, Carmel Shama-Hacohen, reportedly said after the vote: “This is yet another absurd resolution against the State of Israel, the Jewish people and historical truth.”
Israel’s ambassador to the United Nations, Danny Danon, also slammed the new resolution, saying, “UNESCO embarrassed itself by marching to the tune of the Palestinian pipers. All attempts to deny our heritage, distort history and disconnect the Jewish people from our capital and our homeland, are doomed to fail.”
The revised resolution followed a robust diplomatic campaign by the state of Israel, which reportedly included Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu personally making phone calls to foreign ministers and heads of UNESCO member countries to convince them to demand a vote and to oppose or abstain.
According to Haaretz, contacts were made by Israel and the US via “secret channels”, which culminated in a panel session yesterday morning when Palestinians and representatives of the Arab countries “were surprised” that Croatian and Tanzanian ambassadors demanded a secret vote, rather than passing the decision by consensus, as is permitted by UNESCO regulations.
Israeli Envoy to UNESCO, Carmel Shama-Hacohen, throws Jerusalem resolution into the trash