The Temple Mount in Jerusalem contains at once some of the holiest sites of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. Besides being the historical site of the Jewish Second Temple (Herod’s Temple) and possibly other temples (confirmed by archaeological evidence), and the Western (“Wailing”) Wall, it’s reputed to contain the stone on which Abraham almost sacrificed Isaac. (I am not, of course, saying I believe these myths, but the presence of early Jewish temples is undeniable.) This makes it special to Christians and Jews. It also has two very holy mosques, including the Dome of the Rock (deliberately built on the holy site of “earlier” religions, since Islam is the “final truth”), which contains the Isaac Stone (unviewable by Christians and Jews, who are denied access to the mosque. Since 1967, access of Jews and Christians to the Temple Mount has been severely restricted by the Israeli government, and Jews are not allowed to either wear religious garb on the Mount (save a yarmulke) nor pray there. It is a contentious place where three religious groups vie for access, and where a resolution of the competing claims seems impossible.
Two days ago, the members of UNESCO (the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization, with 195 member countries) adopted, by an overwhelming “yes vs no” vote (with many nations abstaining), a resolution denying the connection between Judaism and the holy sites on Jerusalem’s Temple Mount, and basically designating it as a Muslim holy site alone (you can see the full resolution here). This is what the Palestinians have been trying to accomplish for many years. The implication is that Jews (and Christians) should have no access to the Temple Mount or even the Western Wall.
PARIS — UNESCO’s executive board on Tuesday approved a resolution that Israel says denies the deep historic Jewish connection to holy sites in Jerusalem — and that has angered Israel’s government and many Jews around the world.
The resolution is not expected to have concrete impact on Jerusalem itself, but it aggravated diplomatic tensions around the city and within UNESCO, which is also facing a dispute between Japan and China that threatens funding.
It’s the latest of several measures at UNESCO over decades that Israelis see as evidence of ingrained anti-Israel bias within the United Nations, where Israel and its allies are far outnumbered by Arab countries and their supporters. Israel’s concern has mounted since UNESCO states admitted Palestine as a member in 2011.
The resolution, titled “Occupied Palestine,” lays out rules about the preservation of holy sites in Jerusalem, and uses only the Islamic name for a hilltop compound sacred to both Jews and Muslims. The site includes the Western Wall, a remnant of the biblical temple and the holiest site where Jews can pray.
Jews refer to the hilltop compound in Jerusalem’s Old City as the Temple Mount. Muslims refer to it as al-Haram al-Sharif, Arabic for the Noble Sanctuary, and it includes the Al-Aqsa mosque and the golden Dome of the Rock. It is the holiest site in Judaism and the third holiest in Islam, after Mecca and Medina in Saudi Arabia.
The board adopted the resolution by consensus Tuesday at the Paris headquarters of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization. A draft form of the resolution had already been approved by a commission last week.
Here’s the vote. 24 nations, including many Muslim-majority countries, voted for the resolution, only six against (including the UK and US), and 26 countries abstained because they were too cowardly to take a stand. The cowards include France, India, Italy, Japan, and Sweden.
Given the historical evidence, this kind of vote cannot be seen as anything other than either anti-Semitism or catering to Muslim desires to keep the peace (there’s not much difference there given that Jewish claims to the territory are rejected). But it goes along with the UN’s recent anti-Israel stand. As Benjamin Netanyahu tweeted (and I’m just quoting his quip, so don’t go off on the man for other things):
What's next? A UNESCO decision denying the connection between peanut butter and jelly? Batman and Robin? Rock and roll?
— Benjamin Netanyahu (@netanyahu) October 13, 2016
One more quote from 12 years ago: