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.