TEL AVIV (Christian Examiner) – Israel's foreign ministry is bristling at a new resolution from the United Nation's Education & Science Organization (UNESCO) which attributes Arab names to Jewish sites, ignores ancient Jewish claims to Jerusalem, and downplays Christian ties to the city.
According to The Times of Israel, Algeria, Lebanon and Qatar submitted the resolution to UNESCO's World Heritage Committee – meeting in Bonn, Germany, this week – blasting the Jewish state for "the persistence of the illegal excavations and works conducted by the Israeli occupation authorities and the extreme settler groups in the Old City of Jerusalem and on both sides of its walls."
According to the UNESCO resolution, based on a lengthy report on the safeguarding of world heritage sites, Israel has destroyed archaeological artifacts and Islamic holy sites on the Temple Mount and damaged the "visual integrity and the authentic character" of the Old City walls with the installation of a new light rail line.
Most shocking, however, is the resolution's reference to the Jewish Wailing Wall, the only portion of the ancient Jewish Temple complex still intact and the holiest site in Judaism. It refers to the site as "Al Buraq Plaza," or the site where Muhammad, the supposed prophet of Islam, tied up his fanciful winged horse (Buraq) on his nighttime visit to Jerusalem.
The Temple was destroyed in A.D. 70 by Roman forces after the Jews of the city rebelled. The Herodian stones at the site are now the location of daily Jewish prayers. Jews who visit the wall insert prayers on tiny slips of paper into the cracks of the wall, but many times Palestinian protestors throw rocks from above where the Dome of the Rock and Al-Aqsa mosques sit.
Jerusalem's Old City has been on UNESCO's List of World Heritage in Danger sites since 1982 when Jordan, which lost its control of East Jerusalem to Israel in the Six Day War in 1967, sought to undermine Jewish control of the city through a request to categorize the Temple Mount as endangered.
The tactic has been employed by multiple Arab neighbors to Israel since. They frequently complain about the destruction of "Muslim artifacts" when archaeological discoveries supporting Jewish history are made.
In the report preceding the resolution, a section provided by Jordan discusses the "aggressions and violations against the historic character of the Old City of Jerusalem and its walls" by "Israeli Occupation Authorities." The report also many times references Israel's "illegal" occupation of Jerusalem and claims new tunneling and excavation projects are meant to contribute to the "Judaization" of the historic sites.
Israel's Foreign Ministry blasted the report and the proposed resolution. Director General Dore Gold said the resolution was "full of distortions and is totally disconnected from reality on the ground."
He also charged that it "deliberately ignores the historical connection between the Jewish people and their ancient capital," along with Christianity's ancient ties to Jerusalem.
"The Jewish people restored their majority in Jerusalem in the mid-19th century. Their ancient synagogues were destroyed and desecrated by a coalition of invading armies in 1948, who ethnically cleansed the Old City of any Jewish presence," Gold told the Jerusalem Post.
According to The Times of Israel, Gold accused the UN agency of hypocrisy. "," Gold said.
CNN seems to be cooperating with UNESCO in its push to bolster Arab claims to the Temple Mount. In a report on the 25 most-endangered structures in the world, the Dome of the Rock mosque tops its list as "on the verge of extinction."
"No other site has spent more time on UNESCO's List of World Heritage in Danger – the Old City of Jerusalem has held a spot since 1982. A holy city for three different religions, it attracts millions of tourists with over 200 monuments, including the majestic Dome of the Rock. But plans for its preservation have been moving forward very slowly."
Israel captured the Old City from Jordan in the 1967 Six Day War. The international community has never recognized Jewish control of the area.
On July 3, the UN Human Rights Commission also adopted a resolution condemning Israel for abuses of human rights, generally stemming from the 2014 conflict in Gaza. Israel responded after rockets were fired from Gaza and terrorists used tunnels to infiltrate Israeli land. The full UN report on Gaza, which gave birth to the resolution, included descriptions of Palestinian attacks on Israel but, importantly, did not call on the Palestinians to recognize Israel's right to exist as a nation.
The United States was the only country to vote against the July 3 resolution.