The United Nations’ cultural organization UNESCO is to vote next Tuesday, May 2, on a resolution introduced by the Palestinians and several Arab states rejecting Israeli sovereignty over the entire city of Jerusalem, including its majority Jewish western half.
The draft resolution, submitted by Algeria, Egypt, Lebanon, Morocco, Oman, Qatar and Sudan on behalf of the Palestinians, with input from European Union countries as well, states that “any action taken by Israel, the Occupying Power, to impose its laws, jurisdiction, and administration on the City of Jerusalem, are illegal and therefore null and void and have no validity whatsoever.”
Both the Israeli government and the Trump Administration, which has frequently hinted that it will recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, are reported to be pressuring UNESCO officials and the organization’s 58 member states to postpone or oppose the vote. The struggle is an uphill one, as the Arab states have an automatic majority at UNESCO, and the resolution is expected to go through.
Israel responded angrily to the wording of the draft, saying that UNESCO had exceeded its mandate by intervening on the issue.
“UNESCO’s executive board refuses to stop the politicization that has been undermining the organization’s status,” an unnamed Israeli diplomatic official told Ynet News. “Against the recommendation of UNESCO’s director and the promises and declarations made by different leaders over the past year, UNESCO is repeating the ritual of passing political, anti-Israeli resolutions that undermine any action Israel takes in Jerusalem, adopting past resolutions that denied Jewish ties to the city, and recycling political condemnations against Israel on Gaza.”
American Jewish groups also appealed to UNESCO to reconsider. A letter sent to UNESCO’s Executive Board by a trio of high-level officials of B’nai B’rith International, including CEO Daniel S. Mariaschin, declared: “Passage of the draft in question would further critically undermine the standing of UNESCO in those areas that are within the organization’s competency, and your government must reject complicity in an outrageously ahistorical affront not only to Israel but to Jews as well as Christians around the world.”
UNESCO member states, Bna’i Brith said, “have an especially profound moral duty to oppose attempts to deny, question or obscure Jews’ ties, historic and contemporary, to their most sacred of sites in Jerusalem and elsewhere in the Holy Land, including Rachel’s Tomb, the Cave of the Patriarchs, the Western Wall and above all the Temple Mount.”
The row over the draft resolution comes just three days after UNESCO Director General Irina Bokova emphasized the links to Jerusalem of Judaism, Christianity and Islam alike.
“The Al Aqsa Mosque/Al-Haram al-Sharif, the sacred shrine of the Muslims, is also the Har Habayit – or Temple Mount – the holiest place in Judaism, whose Western Wall is revered by millions across the world, a few steps away from the Saint Sepulchre and the Mount of Olives holy to the Christians,” Bokova said, in an address to the World Jewish Congress’ 15th Plenary Assembly in New York.