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Crossed Words – Anti-Judaism at the UNESCO – By Julio María Sanguinetti

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Besides being a historical absurdity, not recognizing the link between Judaism and Jerusalem is an offensive expression of Judeophobia which becomes even more serious since it occurred within a multilateral organization devoted to education, science and culture.

UNESCO World Heritage Committee, once again, takes an attitude of not recognizing the Jewish presence in the old sector of Jerusalem. The resolution, passed by a majority vote, although with a strong abstention (higher than the favorable votes) declares Al-Aqsa Mosque with the entire Temple Mount as an exclusive unit, which means that even the Western Wall would lose its character of a holy monument of the Jewish People. The Old City would become entirely and uniquely Muslim, which also excludes the Christian world, whose holy places are also within that area.

Director-General of UNESCO has recently stated, very sensibly, that the heritage of Jerusalem is indivisible and that if it was inscribed on the UNESCO world heritage list, it is precisely because the three monotheistic religions coexist in that place. As she recalls, in the Torah, Jerusalem is the capital of King David, where Solomon built the Temple and placed the Ark of the Covenant; in the Bible, it is the city of the passion and resurrection of Jesus Christ. In the Quran, it is the third holiest site in Islam, where Mohammed arrived after his night journey from Mecca to Al-Aqsa.

In spite of this statement, similar to the one by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and his successor Antonio Guterres, the Executive Board of UNESCO ratified the controversial decision of its Heritage Committee.

Unfortunately, UNESCO, badly influenced by a regimented group led by certain Arab countries, has not helped to reach a real understanding between Palestinians and Israelis. Successive statements against Israel, far from being helpful, anger the parties. Israel feels offended and the Palestinian Authority thinks they can be fully recognized without any concessions. What happens is that it has been accepted as a State at UNESCO, beyond the United Nations, to which it is a “non-member observer state.”

As it was expected, the Palestinian Authority constantly uses this place as an open forum to request things, just as it has recently done together with Jordan. It has the automatic vote of the Arab world and several like-minded countries. In this opportunity, however, its excess led certain countries such as Argentina, Spain and France, who used to vote against Israel, to now abstain.

What is disturbing is this attitude of blunt denial, which in its extreme version does not recognize the Holocaust or even the existence of Israel and tries to dissociate the Jewish history from the places that relate the most to its existence. Jerusalem is referred to 656 times in the Old Testament as part of the Jewish world and the Bible places the conquest of Jerusalem by King David in 1004 BC, that is, 3212 in the Talmud. The Jewish sovereignty falls when Jerusalem is taken by Emperor Titus, an episode commemorated in the Arch built in his honor in Rome, where a big Menorah, the traditional seven-lamp lampstand mentioned in the Book of Exodus, can be seen.

Historically, Jerusalem has only been the capital of the Jewish People, never of the Muslims, whose holiest places are Mecca, where their prophet was born, and Medina, the first city of their religion. For Christians, several places in Jerusalem (and Palestine in general, like Bethlehem, where Jesus of Nazareth was born) are linked to their tradition; however, they do not take actions of revindication. On the other hand, the capital of the Catholic world is, naturally, Rome. This does not imply that the Christian or Muslim traces in that region should not recognized; what is really necessary to say is that Jerusalem is the heart of Judaism; it has been its legendary capital and the place generations and generations of Jews have prayed to return to.

It is inexplicable that some Latin American countries can lend themselves to this permanent manipulation exerted by Palestine and some Arab States, each one for a different reason. Far from getting closer to the longed-for peaceful solution, we are moving further and further away from it and indirectly validate a terrorist action that constantly attacks the Jewish State. It is inexplicable that Brazil or the Dominican Republic can allow such a thing.

Unfortunately, Israel is paying a high price for its survival. It is no longer the small David in front of the powerful Goliath of the five Arab armies that tried to prevent its birth. In spite of its small territory and scarce population, Israel has been able to build an exemplary democracy – the only one in the region – and an island of modernity. This cannot be forgiven. And that is why among its enemies – or within the big party of indifference – are many countries which supported its birth and, by principle, should stand by her side more than ever.