The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) has come under fire by Israel for its recent adoption of a proposal by Arab states condemning Israel for what they say is Israel’s endangerment of the Old City and Temple Mount in Jerusalem.
The resolution was adopted Wednesday at the World Heritage Committee’s 39th annual session in Bonn, Germany.
Algeria, Lebanon and Qatar, the authors behind the proposal, have made the claim that the construction of a national park and the remodeling of the Western Wall Plaza will lead to permanent damage of historical sites.
The proposal claims that the sites are endangered due to “the persistence of the illegal excavations and works conducted by the Israeli occupation authorities and the extreme settler groups in the Old City of Jerusalem and on both sides of its walls.”
Further, an additional attack on the Jewish state said that the Jerusalem Light Rail, which runs near the outer walls of the Old City, built by Sultan Suleiman in the 15th century, is damaging the “visual integrity and the authentic character of the site.”
Construction of the Light Rail was completed in 2010 and has had no adverse effects on the walls. Over the past five years of operation, the trains have not caused damage to the walls either.
Responding to the attack, Israel’s Foreign Ministry called the resolution “completely one-sided” and “full of distortions disconnected from the realities on the ground.”
The Foreign Ministry added that UNESCO “deliberately ignores the historical connection between the Jewish people and their ancient capital.”
In a statement, Foreign Ministry director- general Dore Gold slammed UNESCO for failing to acknowledge Jewish and Christian ties to Jerusalem and only referring to the Temple Mount as a “Muslim holy site of worship.”
“In fact, the Jewish attachment to Jerusalem has survived from ancient to modern times,” Gold said. “The Jewish people restored their majority in Jerusalem in the mid- 19th century. Their ancient synagogues were destroyed and desecrated by a coalition of invading armies in 1948, who ethnically cleansed the Old City of any Jewish presence.”
Amidst the destruction of priceless historical, cultural and religious artifacts across the Middle East by ISIS, Gold pointed out that Israel consistently defends “against the tide of intolerance” in the region.
“As the historical heritage sites of this area are being systematically destroyed by jihadist forces, such as the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq, UNESCO’s adoption of utterly false allegations about Israeli archeological practices is misplaced and hypocritical, at best,” he said. “The resolution is full of distortions and is totally disconnected from reality on the ground,” he concluded.
The Temple Mount is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1982 and hold the record for the longest listed endangered site by the organization. The Temple Mount was originally placed on the endangered list at the behest of Jordan.
CNN recently reported that the Temple Mount was on the verge of extinction, placing it atop the 25 most endangered sites in the world. The media outlet failed to mention the UNESCO heritage site of Palmyra in Syria where ISIS continues to destroy artifact after artifact.