The following statement was issued by the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations on 10/20/2015:
The United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) will be taking up a draft resolution prepared by the Palestinian Authority and to be introduced by six Arab states that would designate the Western Wall as part of al Aqsa Mosque and the tomb of Rachel as the burial place of Bilal Ibn Rabah, a companion of the prophet Mohammed. It would also declare the Cave of the Patriarchs as a Muslim shrine and part of Palestine. This initiative is the culmination of a long process led by Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas that seeks to deny the existence of the Temples and to erase any Jewish and Christian ties to Jerusalem’s holy sites. Mr. Abbas even declared that the Temple Mount and the Church of the Holy Sepulchre “are ours”.
At a meeting of ISESCO in Amman in 2011, the motion was introduced that the Western Wall also be called Al-Boraq’s Wall, named for Mohammad’s horse. From time immemorial the site was called the Western Wall/Wailing Wall (Kotel Hamaaravi) and was known to be the outer retaining wall for the site of the Temple. The Palestinians now want to take it a step further by seeking to gain UNESCO recognition of the Wall as part of the Al Aqsa Mosque which was built many centuries after the destruction of the Second Temple in the year 70 CE. This claim of exclusivity to the holiest sites of the Jewish people and revered sites of Christianity, central to tenants of both religions, is an outrage that would not be tolerated in any other circumstance.
At UNESCO’s World Heritage Council meeting in Bonn, Germany in July 2015, President Abbas advanced the same ideas. The automatic pro-Arab majority in virtually every UN body assures automatic passage of even the most ludicrous and counterproductive proposals. We hope that every nation that respects religious freedom, historical truth and seeks to foster mutual understanding among religious groups, will reject this outrageous resolution. Palestinian leaders have been engaged in incitement claiming in public statements, sermons, broadcasts, media reports, that al Aqsa was “under siege” and calling on Palestinians to rally to its defense. Mr. Abbas also spread this message into neighboring Arab countries. The resulting violence has taken almost 50 lives with many more injured in recent days. By inciting passions over the Temple Mount and fomenting disputes these religious sites, Mr. Abbas is turning a political conflict into a religious war.
The UNESCO Executive Council is expected to take the matter up on Wednesday and it may go to the full plenum, where Palestine is a recognized member state. The resolution declares the Western Wall and Mughrabi Gate are part of al Aqsa Mosque on the Temple Mount. The resolution then goes on to condemn the excavations in the Old City despite UNESCO decisions approving them. It condemns “Israeli aggression and illegal measures against the freedom of worship and access of Muslims to al Aqsa Mosque and Israel’s attempt to break the status quo since 1967”. The litany of condemnations includes accusations of attacks by extremists on the mosque, and opposes the building of a cable car in east Jerusalem, and attacks actions by Israel and the IDF in Jerusalem. These charges and the Palestinian drive to de-Judaize Jerusalem and deny the Christian attachment to the holy places, should be the subject of condemnation. Passage of this resolution will be seen as a reward for terrorism and violence of recent days and further exacerbate any chance for meaningful negotiations.
It should be noted that the only desecration of the Temple Mount was as a result of Palestinian actions which destroyed vast archaeologically significant sections. More than 400 tons of debris were taken off the Temple Mount as the Waqf expanded an underground mosque in Solomon’s Stables. For ten years, volunteers have been sifting through the debris and finding many important antiquities.
We urge all member organizations to immediately contact the CEO of UNESCO, Ms. Irina Bikova at firstname.lastname@example.org and Ms. Marie Paule Roudil, head of the UNESCO Liasion Office to the UN at email@example.com.
We also urge you to issue press releases and enlist non-Jewish allies in public statements.
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