Israel

Hamas: UNESCO Vote on Jewish Ties to Temple Mount Was “A Victory for the Palestinian People”

The resolution passed last week by UNESCO, the UN cultural organization, which denied any historical connection between Jews and Jerusalem, was a “victory” for the Palestinians, spokesmen for the Palestinian terrorist group Hamas said on Tuesday.

Spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri released a statement saying that his group “welcomes” the resolution, which he characterized as describing Temple Mount to be “of purely Islamic heritage.” The body’s decision, he declared, is a “victory for the Palestinian people.” Abu Zuhri added that the resolution “demolished the Israeli fiction” that the Jewish Temple stood on the Temple Mount. (Respected archaeologists are in near-unanimous agreement that the Temple was in fact at that site).

Another Hamas spokesman, Izzat al-Resheq, said in a statement to Al-Jazeera that the resolution applied to areas beyond the Temple Mount itself, and into the Kotel, the holiest spot where Jews are allowed to pray. “We commend the vote at the UNESCO that denied any historic claims between Jews and the al-Aqsa Mosque and its Western Wall,” al-Resheq said.

UNESCO director general Irina Bokova denounced her own organization’s resolutions, stating that such efforts to “to deny, conceal or erase any of the Jewish, Christian or Muslim traditions undermines the integrity of the site.” Bokova’s condemnation was echoed by outgoing United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon, whose office issued a statement saying that Ban “reaffirms the importance of the Old City of Jerusalem and its Walls for the three monotheistic religions and stresses the importance of the religious and historical link of the Jewish, Muslim and Christian peoples to the holy site.”

Among the others to have expressed their opposition were Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, President Reuven Rivlin, and a bipartisan group of 39 members of Congress. The Obama administration also weighed in: a senior official told The Jerusalem Post before the vote that “One-sided, unhelpful resolutions have been a recurring challenge at UNESCO in recent years, and the United States has strongly opposed these resolutions at the UNESCO Executive Board. We will not hesitate to use our vote at the current Board meeting to oppose these resolutions.” The U.S. was one of only six countries to vote against the resolution, along with Estonia, Germany, Lithuania, the Netherlands, and the UK.

The official Palestinian position—as expressed in the Palestinian National Charter posted on the website of the Palestinian Authority’s United Nations delegation—is that “the claims of historic and spiritual ties between Jews and Palestine are not in agreement with the facts of history or with the true basis of sound statehood.” At the Camp David summit in 2000, then-Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat unsettled President Bill Clinton by denying that there had ever been a Jewish temple in Jerusalem. Arafat’s successor, Mahmoud Abbas, has repeatedly and explicitly lashed out against suggestions that Jews have links to Jerusalem, which is mentioned by name over 600 times in the Jewish Bible.

Palestinian attempts to erase or cast doubt on the well-established historical connection between Jerusalem and the Jewish faith, which The New York Times noted in October of last year, is a phenomenon that former Israeli Foreign Ministry Director-General Dore Gold 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.

The latest Temple denial claims validated what Petra Marquardt-Bigman wrote in The Tower earier this week, when she called the UNESCO decision a reward for “almost a century of Palestinian intransigence and deadly incitement.”

[Photo: Sliman Khader / FLASH90 ]