Denver, Colorado—October 26, 2015—Jewish Community Relations Council (JCRC) and JEWISHcolorado join Jewish organizations and leaders worldwide in condemning a Palestinian-initiated resolution passed by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) last week criticizing Israel for its handling of the holy sites and designating Rachel’s Tomb and Cave of the Patriarchs as solely Muslim holy sites.
JCRC Chair Ben Lusher and JEWISHcolorado President & CEO Doug Seserman called the resolution “a blatant distortion of history and an offense to Judeo-Christian beliefs. Rachel’s Tomb and the Cave of the Patriarchs have been identified as Jewish holy sites for more than a millennium. Those facts are well-documented by historians, including Muslim scholars.
We likewise condemn the false claims spread by Palestinian leaders that Israel is planning to change the status quo on the Temple Mount. Through their reckless incitement they have inflamed passions and encouraged deadly attacks on Israeli citizens,” they said.
While the resolution approved last week in Paris by the executive board of UNESCO dropped plans to label the Temple Mount a Muslim site, the organization designated Rachel’s Tomb in Bethlehem and the Tomb of the Patriarchs in Hebron as Muslim sites that are part of a Palestinian state. Both sites are holy to Jews and listed in the Bible as the burial places of the Jewish patriarchs and matriarchs. The resolution also condemned Israel for what it said are attempts to alter the status quo at the Temple Mount.
The vote was 26-6 in favor of the resolution, with 25 abstentions. The resolution was backed by six Arab UNESCO members – Algeria, Egypt, Kuwait, Morocco, Tunisia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) – who spearheaded the initiative on behalf of the Palestinian Authority.
We thank the six countries who voted against the resolution – United States, Germany, United Kingdom, Estonia, Netherlands and Czech Republic – and UNESCO Director-General Irina Bukova for helping to ensure that language classifying the Western Wall as part of the al-Aqsa Mosque was pulled from the text. Bokova said in a statement that she “deplores” the proposal and called on the board to “take decisions that do not further inflame tensions on the ground and that encourage respect for the sanctity of the Holy Sites.”
Israel has shown remarkable restraint in dealing with the current crisis, but it cannot be expected to tolerate repeated assaults, some deadly, against its citizens. Surely, no other country would acquiesce to a similar reality.
We particularly applaud the United States who made the following points in explaining its no vote:
- We were once again presented with this highly politicized agenda item, which was even more inflammatory than previous items.
- …UNESCO must adhere closely to its mandate, be judicious in not escalating tensions, and respect the interests and histories of all parties.
- Harsh and inflammatory resolutions only distract from the positive work of UNESCO, running counter to the principles of the Organization, and calling into question the credibility of this Body and its efforts to foster peace and promote innovative global cooperation
- These politicized resolutions at UNESCO do nothing to facilitate the atmosphere needed to achieve this urgently needed commitment.
The resolution ignores the historical Jewish presence in the Land of Israel and its unbreakable connection to its holy sites. We reiterate our belief that true peace and security for both Israelis and Palestinians will only be possible by direct negotiations between the two parties toward a two-state solution and not by unhelpful unilateral moves.
Founded in 1946, JEWISHcolorado, formerly known as Allied Jewish Federation of Colorado, is the umbrella community organization inspired by the collective responsibility to build and sustain Jewish life in Colorado, Israel, and around the world. Its mission is to secure, steward, and share philanthropic and human resources in support of vibrant Jewish life as well as to mobilize the community in times of need. JEWISHcolorado is a proud member of the Jewish Federations of North America, which is among the top ten charities on the continent. JEWISHcolorado raises and distributes funds in support of a wide variety of programs and partner organizations both locally and globally. Last year, JEWISHcolorado’s Annual Campaign raised $10.7 million and the Endowment and Planned Giving arm houses more than $55 million in long term assets for individuals, agencies and synagogues in the community. For more information, visit www.JEWISHcolorado.org