UN body condemns Israel for 'illegal occupation' in Jerusalem of Muslim holy sites

by Gregory Tomlin |

(REUTERS/Amir Cohen)A general view of Jerusalem's old city shows the Dome of the Rock in the compound known to Muslims as Noble Sanctuary and to Jews as Temple Mount, October 25, 2015. A new resolution would ignore Israel's ancient claim to any of the land, including the Western Wall.

JERUSALEM (Christian Examiner) – Israel has no claim to the historic Temple Mount and is an illegal occupier using "fake" evidence to tighten its grip on East Jerusalem and Muslim holy sites, a United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) resolution announced April 15.

Passed at the close of UNESCO's meeting in Paris at the behest of six Arab countries (Algeria, Egypt, Lebanon, Morocco, Oman, Qatar and Sudan), the resolution ultimately called for Israel to cease any archaeological excavations in "occupied Palestine" – especially in the locations Muslims call Haram Al-Sharif, the "Noble Sanctuary," and around the Al-Aqsa Mosque.

No Jewish history at the site, including the location of Solomon's Temple and the Second Temple, is mentioned in the resolution, and the names of sites are only referred to by their Arab names. For instance, the Western Wall – the last remaining retaining wall of the Second Temple – is referred to as "Al-Buraq Plaza." The location is purportedly the site where the prophet Muhammad tied up his winged creature after his flight to Jerusalem.

UNESCO ignores the unique historic connection of Judah to the Temple Mount, where two temples stood for a thousand years and to which every Jew in the world has prayed for thousands of years. The UN is rewriting a basic part of human history and has again proven that there is no low to which it will not stoop.
- Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu

Even though the resolution has no teeth, as it does nothing to affect official UN policy or the work of the UN Security Council, it is another in a series of UNESCO statements about the status of Jerusalem that ignore Israel's ancient claims to the land.

In October 2015, UNESCO also put a resolution that claimed the Western Wall, where thousands of Jews pray daily, was an "integral part" of Islam's heritage. That resolution died, however, when Russia, China, and even Cuba withdrew support for it.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu condemned the latest resolution as "another absurd UN decision."

"UNESCO ignores the unique historic connection of Judah to the Temple Mount, where two temples stood for a thousand years and to which every Jew in the world has prayed for thousands of years. The UN is rewriting a basic part of human history and has again proven that there is no low to which it will not stoop," Netanyahu said.

Carmel Shama Hacohen, Israel's representative to UNESCO, said in a press release the resolution does nothing to alter the Jewish history of the sites or change the country's position on maintaining Jerusalem as its capital. He also said the timing of the resolution is problematic due to the recent acts of terrorism committed by Palestinians against Israelis.

"It gives a stamp of authenticity to Palestinian violence against Israel," Hacohen said. "It only adds more fuel to the fire (and) both sides will pay in blood for that decision."

Outside of Israel, the resolution was well-received. A Jordanian newspaper called the resolution of triumph for the country after a "diplomatic showdown" with Israel.

Jordan had been the historic custodian of the sites mentioned in the resolution until 2000, when Palestinian violence led the Israelis to exert authority over the Temple Mount.

Jews can visit the Temple Mount under agreements reached with Jordan after the Six Day War in 1967, but they cannot openly worship there.

The resolution also addressed more than just the Temple Mount and the Western Wall. It also claimed Israel was "planting fake Jewish graves" in so-called Palestinian lands and converting many Islamic and Byzantine ruins into Jewish ritual baths and "Jewish prayer places.

Hebron and Bethlehem, both sites associated with the biblical King David roughly 3,000 years ago, were also said in the resolution to be "an integral part of Palestine."

 Argentina, France, Spain, Slovenia, Sweden, India and Russia supported the current resolution demanding Israel end its activities in "Occupied Palestine."