Israel suspends cooperation with UNESCO after vote
JERUSALEM: Israel suspended cooperation with UNESCO yesterday after the UN cultural organization adopted two resolutions on the occupied Palestinian territories including annexed east Jerusalem ahead of a final vote next week. In a letter sent to UNESCO Director General Irina Bokova, Education Minister Naftali Bennett accused the body of ignoring “thousands of years of Jewish ties to Jerusalem” and aiding “Islamist terror”. “I have notified the Israel National Commission for UNESCO to suspend all professional activities with the international organization,” he said.
Bokova distanced herself from the resolutions in a statement, saying “nowhere more than in Jerusalem do Jewish, Christian and Muslim heritage and traditions share space”. The resolutions adopted at committee stage on Thursday refer to “Occupied Palestine” and the need to “safeguard the Palestinian cultural heritage and the distinctive character of east Jerusalem.” They refer to the Al-Aqsa mosque compound in east Jerusalem’s Old City - Islam’s third holiest site - without any reference to the site also being revered by Jews as the Temple Mount.
On Thursday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu complained that saying “Israel has no connection to the Temple Mount and Western Wall is like saying China has no connection to the Great Wall of China or Egypt has no connection to the pyramids”. Bokova did not specifically mention the resolutions in her statement but did refer to the Temple Mount. “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,” she said. “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.”
Participants said the two resolutions, which were put forward by Arab countries including Egypt, Lebanon and Algeria, were adopted by 24 votes to six with 26 abstentions and two absentees. They are to be put to the UNESCO Executive Board on Tuesday but in general it votes in line with the decisions taken by committees. Washington has expressed its strong opposition. “We are deeply concerned about these kinds of recurring politicized resolutions that do nothing to advance constructive results on the ground and we don’t believe they should be adopted,” said State Department deputy spokesman Mark Toner. — AFP