UNESCO – where the ‘E’ stands for ‘education’ and the ‘C’ for ‘culture’ – is the “intellectual agency” of the United Nations, charged with “a commitment to peace-building, mediation, conflict prevention and resolution, peace education, education for non-violence, tolerance, acceptance, mutual respect, intercultural and interfaith dialogue and reconciliation”. You’d think, therefore, that its resolutions would be moderately-worded, historically-informed, factually-accurate, politically-latitudinal and impeccably respectful of cultural difference and religious diversity. How otherwise do you foster peace and reconciliation in the minds of men and women?
Perhaps the history of Israel doesn’t matter to UNESCO: Judaism is inconvenient, especially in Jerusalem, and the Jews are a manifest hurdle to peace.
To the delight of the Palestinian Authority, a UNESCO resolution was passed which denies Jewish ties to its most holy religious sites – Temple Mount and the Western Wall. All references to the site referred to it by its Arabic name; Some 24 nations supported the resolution; six opposed (including the USA and UK). 26 nations abstained; two were absent.
Let that sink in for a moment: just six nations opposed historical revisionism; the eradication of Jews from Mount Zion; the expunging of Judaism from the holiest place of Divine presence. This is where Talmudic tradition places the creation of Adam; it is Mount Moriah where Abraham offered Isaac; the hill which the prophet Isaiah called Zion; where King Solomon, son of David, Israel’s greatest king, built his Temple; where the prophets Haggai, Zechariah and Malachi witnessed the building of the Second Temple after the Babylonian captivity. It is a 3000-year-old Jewish shrine – the Holy of Holies – settled in the Judean hills of the Jewish capital city of the Jewish State. It is where Mary and Joseph found the boy Jesus sitting in the midst of the learned, who wondered at his understanding. It is where the Jewish Messiah drove out the money-changers who had turned his Father’s house into a den of thieves.
According to the UNESCO resolution, it is the Al-Aqṣa Mosque and Al-Ḥaram Al-Sharif (‘the Noble Sanctuary’). Islamic names are adopted throughout. The Western Wall is referred to twice, in scare quotes: ‘Kotel ha-Ma’aravi’ appears nowhere. Israel is “the occupying Power” (mentioned 15 times, in case you don’t grasp the point).
Some people (Christians, indeed) think this is just a resolution concerned with “breadth of religious access”, which is a good a wholesome thing; Christian, indeed. But if you deny the Jewish connection to the Temple Mount, you deny the Christian also. Indeed, UNESCO sends a clear message to the whole world that the history of the Old City of Jerusalem is Islamic; the theology is based on the doctrine of Allah; the supreme prophethood is that of Mohammed; Abraham offered Ishmael, and so the third-holiest shrine of Islam trumps the holiest place on earth for Jews.
A couple of mentions in passing which affirm the “importance of the Old City of Jerusalem and its Walls for the three monotheistic religions” doesn’t quite cut it. “Israeli right-wing extremists and uniformed forces” are the aggressor: Palestinians are the oppressed. Israel is not only the “occupying (upper-case) Power”, the resolution associates her with “refusal.. aggression.. illegal measures.. violations.. obstruction.. blockade.. attacks on schools..” You get the picture. There is no mention of Palestinian terrorist atrocities; of Hamas rockets launched from Gaza on Israeli villages; of suicide bombers who target shopping malls and restaurants; of the mobs of Muslims who patrol Temple Mount to assault, intimidate and harass Jewish visitors.
..And among these nations shalt thou find no ease, neither shall the sole of thy foot have rest: but the LORD shall give thee there a trembling heart, and failing of eyes, and sorrow of mind (Deut 28:65).
This UNESCO resolution is a demonic delusion which tarnishes every other UN body. The demand for Judaism’s holiest site to be recognised as primarily a Muslim holy site is a denial of history and the dissemination of falsehood. It is political and religious propaganda; an abomination of desolation. The Arab/Muslim claim to the Old City of Jerusalem may not be won with the bombs and bullets of intifada, but in the High Court of the United Nations the war is waged with insidious and inciteful resolutions. This is not the way to foster reconciliation, and it is not a path to the priestly blessings of peace.