J Street is profoundly disappointed by today’s adoption by member states of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) Executive Board of a resolution that outrageously seeks to rewrite history by erasing the Jewish people’s deep historical and religious ties to the Temple Mount, known in Hebrew as Har HaBayit.
While noting both Jerusalem’s status as holy to the three major monotheistic religions and the Jewish connection to the Tomb of the Patriarchs in Hebron and Rachel’s Tomb in Bethlehem, the resolution fails to mention the sacredness of the Temple Mount to Jews. The original sacredness of the site stems from the location there of the First and Second Temples, centuries before the advent of Christianity or Islam. The resolution notably fails to mention the site’s English or Hebrew names. Nor does it mention, except in one minor reference, the English or Hebrew names for the Western Wall plaza.
These shocking omissions reveal contempt for factual history and for the Jewish people’s sacred bond to its holiest site. They are not oversights, but part of a deliberate effort by some UNESCO Member states to ignore and dismiss the importance of these holy sites to Israel and to Jewish people around the world. Such prejudice does harm to UNESCO’s and the international community’s ability to address legitimate concerns about policies and actions relating to the Temple Mount and other holy sites.
Sadly, the adoption of such damaging statements by UNESCO Member states is eased by the United States’ recent loss of leverage in the body. This has followed from the US cut-off of contributions to UNESCO in the wake of Palestinian accession to membership.
As J Street has long noted, the self-defeating laws mandating this defunding undermine our own national interests and deprive Israel of the full diplomatic weight of its most vocal and powerful advocate in the organization. UNESCO programs that the American pro-Israel community has long championed in the areas of anti-extremism, Holocaust education, literacy, science, clean water, education and equal treatment for girls and young women continue to suffer due to this significant loss of US payments, now totaling over $470 million since 2011. It is long past time for Congress to restore the United States’ ability to make these critical payments and regain its leverage in UNESCO.