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The Temple Mount in Jerusalem | Wikimedia
The Temple Mount in Jerusalem | Wiki­media

On Oct. 26th, the United Nations’ Edu­ca­tional Science and Cul­tural Orga­ni­zation voted away more than 2,700 years of Jewish history.

The 10 – 2 decision with eight abstaining made by the organization’s exec­utive board, the World Her­itage Com­mittee, claimed that the State of Israel and Jewish people don’t have enough his­torical or cul­tural con­nection to the Temple Mount in Jerusalem to justify using tra­di­tional Hebrew terms for the site, claiming instead that it is exclu­sively a Muslim holy site and must be referred to by its Islamic name, “Haram al-Sharif.”

One could just as soon claim that Protestant Chris­tians own the Vatican.

What UNESCO doesn’t realize is that you can’t vote on history. Although the Temple Mount is one of the holiest sites in the world for three major reli­gions, Jews built the Mount and gave it its meaning; the first Temple housed the Ark of the Covenant 3000 years before the life of Mohammed. The Jewish reli­gious and cul­tural claim to the Temple Mount is unas­sailable. Islam merely co-opted it, claiming the Mount as the place Abraham sac­ri­ficed his second son, Ishmael.

Even apart from reli­gious sig­nif­i­cance, the ear­liest known mention of Jerusalem in Hebrew outside of the Bible is dated to 700 B.C. But Islam can’t lay claim to the Temple Mount until 638 A.D. when Muslims con­quered it fol­lowing the death of Mohammed.

Islam has only ever had a martial claim on on the site, con­quering the Holy City from the Byzantine Empire in 638 and then recap­turing the city from the Cru­saders in 1187, a status which held until Israel solid­ified its post-World War II claim to the city in the 6-Day War of 1967.

Since then, the Israeli gov­ernment has allowed the Dome of the Rock mosque on the Temple Mount to stand and for Muslims to worship there freely, but the Jor­danian-con­trolled Wakf, the Muslim authority over the Haram al-Sharif, has main­tained strict rules allowing Jews and Chris­tians to visit, but not pray.

Israel permits Muslims to make restric­tions on the holiest ground in the Jewish religion as a show of good faith, but UNESCO’s per­sis­tence in blotting out Jewish history is blatant proof of the anti-semitism that has taken root in the organization’s exec­utive World Her­itage Com­mittee. Of the  21 nations that com­prise the WHC, nine are Muslim.

Israeli Prime Min­ister Ben­jamin Netanyahu fre­quently refers to the com­mittee as “a theatre of the absurd,” and he’s not wrong. Since Palestine was rec­og­nized as a State by the UN in 2012, pro-Israel nations have found it more and more dif­ficult to gain mem­bership into UNESCO and the WHC.

With the pro-Israel nations of Columbia, Germany, and Japan all losing their mem­ber­ships, the WHC has made a habit of voting “by con­sensus,” which gives the appearance of una­nimity in a decision and relieves nations of the need to vote on record.

This is why, despite the cir­cum­stances, last Wednesday’s vote was a small victory for Israel. Two unlikely allies, Croatia and Tan­zania, forced a vote by secret ballot to the chagrin of Lebanon, Tunisia, Cuba, and other anti-Semitic nations. The secret ballot crushed the faux una­nimity of the decision, exposing the anti-Israel plu­rality.

According to the Jerusalem Post, the 10 nations that voted against Israel were Angola, Azer­baijan, Cuba, Indonesia, Kaza­khstan, Kuwait, Lebanon,Tunisia,Turkey, and Vietnam. Mean­while, Burkina Faso, Croatia, Finland, Peru, Poland, Por­tugal, South Korea, and Zim­babwe abstained. Jamaica was absent alto­gether.

Only Tan­zania and the Philip­pines voted against the res­o­lution.

But revealing the source of UNESCO’s injustice is only the first step. The European WHC member coun­tries of Finland, Por­tugal, and Poland must stop abstaining from votes and take an active role in com­bating the anti-Semitic plu­rality made up of the nine Muslim coun­tries and Cuba. While last Wednesday’s decision was limited in its effect on Israel as a sov­ereign state, it is only a matter of time before the culture of anti-Semitism in UNESCO pro­duces more sub­stantial effects.

The reaction of every nation on the com­mittee should have mir­rored that of Israeli ambas­sador Carmel Shama-Hacohen, who scoffed at the res­o­lution to reporters, saying, “It is not even worthy of the energy needed for tearing it apart,” and then pro­ceeded to lift up a black garbage can with the word “history” on it and toss the res­o­lution inside.

Mr. Hagstrom is a senior studying pol­itics and jour­nalism.