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UNESCO Director: Denying Jewish, Christian Ties to Jerusalem Undermines Its Cultural Integrity

The general director of UNESCO acknowledged the centuries-old links between Jews and Christians to Jerusalem on Friday, days after her organization postponed a vote on a controversial resolution that prioritizes the city’s Islamic history.

“The heritage of Jerusalem is indivisible, and each of its communities have a right to the explicit recognition of their history and relationship with the city,” Irina Bokova, a candidate for the position of secretary general of the United Nations, said in a statement. “To deny or conceal any of the Jewish, Christian or Muslim traditions undermines the integrity of the site.”

The executive board of UNESCO last April passed a resolution that pointedly ignored any Jewish connection to the historic sites of Jerusalem. The Temple Mount — the holiest site in the Jewish faith — was referred to by its Islamic name of al-Haram al-Sharif, the Western Wall was referred to as al-Buraq Plaza, and Israel was called “the occupying power.”

The world heritage committee of UNESCO is now due to consider a similar resolution, which was jointly submitted by the Palestinian Authority and Jordan. While Israel has repeatedly expressed its opposition to the measure, most of the 21 nations currently on the committee routinely vote against the Jewish state in international fora. Among them are Cuba, Kazakhstan, Kuwait, Lebanon, and Zimbabwe.

A vote on the resolution was planned for this month’s committee meeting in Istanbul, but was rescheduled during the attempted coup on Friday and Saturday. A new vote is expected in October.

Attempts to erase the historical connection between Jerusalem and the Jewish faith, which The New York Times noted in October led many Palestinians to “increasingly [express] doubt that the [Jewish] temples ever existed” is a phenomenon that Dr. Dore Gold, former Israeli ambassador to the UN and director general of the Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs, described as “Temple denial.” Days after the Times report, the Mufti of Jerusalem, who was appointed by Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, claimed that the Temple Mount has been the site of a mosque “since the creation of the world” and that it never housed a Jewish temple, despite ample evidence to the contrary.

David Hazony, editor of The Tower, wrote in 2007 that “Palestinian leaders, writers, and scholars have embarked on a campaign of intellectual erasure […] aimed at undermining the Jewish claim to any part of the land.”

[Photo: Zachi Evenor / Flickr]