UNESCO’s failed history test
Jordanna McMillan. . . .October 18, 2016
The UNESCO resolution is a modern pogrom against the Jewish people’s
connection to its historic homeland.
UNESCO voted last Thursday to ignore thousands of years of Jewish history in
Jerusalem, passing a resolution brazenly entitled “Occupied Palestine.” The
resolution reflects the general anti-Israel bias that pervades many of the UN’s
The passing of the resolution comes at an ironic time as this week the Jewish
people celebrate Succot – the Feast of Tabernacles. Succot is one of three
pilgrimage festivals where the Jewish people were commanded to make a pilgrimage
to the Temple in Jerusalem.
The biblical book of Zechariah prophesies: “...it shall come to pass that
everyone who is left of all the nations which came against Jerusalem shall go up
from year to year to worship the King, the Lord of hosts, and to keep the Feast
During Succot this week members of parliament from many of the nations that
voted on the UNESCO resolution – Sweden, South Africa, Brazil, the Netherlands,
Lithuania, Italy, Greece, Spain and others – will come up to Jerusalem for the
Israel Allies Foundation’s Chairman’s Conference. Annually held in Israel’s
capital city, its location and its international participants send a message
that the world cannot ignore. When the UN and its bodies fail to recognize the
Jewish connection, and by extension Christian heritage as well, to Jerusalem and
the Temple Mount, there is an international network of world leaders – from the
US to Europe, from Latin America to Africa and down under to Australia – who
refuse to “abstain” from engaging or succumb to political convenience.
In a preemptive measure urging opposition to the resolution before the vote,
members from the Congressional Israel Allies Caucus in the US House of
Representatives together with their colleagues in the Senate issued a bipartisan
letter to UNESCO condemning “a resolution that would diminish the historic and
verified Jewish and Christian ties to the Old City of Jerusalem in an effort to
UNESCO is not just responsible for protecting these heritage sites, but for
ensuring the preservation of their historical integrity as well, lest humanity’s
past become subjected to the current political and religious agenda of a few.
UNESCO director-general Irina Bokova released a statement last Thursday as
well; the exact same statement was also released by outgoing UN
secretary-general Ban Ki-moon: “The Al Aqsa Mosque/Al-Haram al-Sharif, the
sacred shrine of Muslims, is also the Har HaBayit – or Temple Mount – whose
Western Wall is the holiest place in Judaism, a few steps away from the Saint
Sepulcher and the Mount of Olives revered by Christians.”
Even in their criticism of the resolution, they failed to rightly identify
that the Western Wall is not the holiest site in Judaism, but rather the Temple
Mount itself, where Solomon’s Temple once stood. It’s as if the Jewish people
randomly built a wall to pray at thousands of years ago and the 36-acre platform
above it did not hold meaning until a mosque, centuries later, was built there.
The resolution does not end with Jerusalem – it goes on state how Israel
refuses to remove two “Palestinian sites” – The Tomb of the Patriarchs in Hebron
and Rachel’s Tomb in Bethlehem – from its national heritage list.
The tomb of the matriarch Rachel, who is not mentioned by name in the Koran,
is buried at the northern entrance of Bethlehem – the ancient city of King
David. Bethlehem, the city where, despite Yasser Arafat’s wildly successful
propaganda to the contrary, a Jewish Jesus was born to Jewish parents.
Representatives of UNESCO’s executive board sit back and condemn the audacity
of the Jewish claim to Abraham’s burial place as their heritage – the very man
and his descendants that God deeded the Land of Israel to. Abraham purchased the
cave that is today the “Tomb of the Patriarchs” some 3,700 years ago at full
market value to bury his wife, Sarah. Hebron is not only the second holiest site
in Judaism and the world’s oldest Jewish community, but the Jewish people have
lived in Hebron continuously throughout the Byzantine, Arab, Mameluke and
Ottoman periods. It was only in 1929 that the city became temporarily “free” of
Jews as a result of an Arab pogrom instigated by the grand mufti of Jerusalem,
Haj Amin al-Husseini.
This resolution is not about heritage or preserving it, it’s about replacing
It is a modern pogrom against Jewish history – a campaign of delegitimization
against the Jewish people’s connection to the land.
UNESCO’s stated mission is to “build peace in the minds of men and women.”
Denying reality, the facts on the ground and thousands of years of history will
not lead to peace.
It is this very attitude that currently exacerbates the Arab-Israeli
conflict. If UNESCO wants, as its director-general states, to “foster this
spirit of tolerance and respect for history” I suggest they begin by ensuring
their judgments are based on historic fact, not deliberate denial to suit a
How can the nations and their elected representatives respond to a vote that
either denies or overwhelmingly sits on the fence of history? By introducing
legislation to begin the movement of their diplomatic missions and embassies to
the historic capital of the Jewish people and the State of Israel – Jerusalem.
Moving embassies to Jerusalem will not only uphold a right afforded to every
other nation in the world, but will send a message to the surrounding Arab
nations that introduced this UNESCO resolution: while Jerusalem may be a city
revered by three faiths, it has only ever been the capital of the Jewish people
despite ample opportunity for conquerors to make it their own. Or in the words
of the great statesman Winston Churchill: “You ought to let the Jews have
Jerusalem; it was they who made it famous.”
The author is the director of outreach and communications at the Israel
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