A bipartisan group of US lawmakers sent a letter on Monday to the Executive Board of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) condemning an upcoming “blatantly biased resolution” denying the historically Jewish nature of Jerusalem and its holy sites.
The resolution officially passed on Thursday.
The resolution, read the bipartisan letter, describes the Temple Mount, the holiest site in Judaism, and the Western Wall, where Jews from all over the world come to pray, “exclusively as Muslim holy sites and referred to only by their Muslim names. When the Western Wall is referenced, it is only with quotation marks, implying that the title is unofficial and not based on historic fact.”
The resolution would “diminish the historic and verified Jewish and Christian ties to the Old City of Jerusalem in an effort to delegitimize Israel,” the signatories charged in a press release. The initiative, led by US Senator Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.), was joined by 39 of Cruz’s and Ros-Lehtinen’s colleagues in the US Senate and House of Representatives.
“The United Nations’ obsessive hostility towards Israel will be on display yet again this week as UNESCO considers another blatantly biased resolution that unjustly singles out our close ally Israel with false accusations and criticism, and attempts to erase the specific deep-rooted, historical connection of Jews and Christians to Jerusalem, Israel’s eternal capital,” wrote Cruz in a statement.
UNESCO’s anti-Israel agenda has been visible through a series of resolutions gradually chipping away at the Jewish nature of Jerusalem and its holy sites, including the Temple Mount and Western Wall, and legitimizing the Muslim claims to their historical significance. In June, the UN body passed a motion which would require the Temple Mount – the location of the two Holy Jewish Temples – to be referred to as “Al Aqsa” in all official documents.
UNESCO was originally set to vote in July on a resolution which would declare the Temple Mount sacred to “Muslims only”, sparking outcry from Israel and many Jewish and pro-Israel groups. The vote was delayed due to the Turkish coup attempt. It is scheduled to take place in the coming days at a UNESCO session in Paris.
“For thousands of years, Jerusalem has played a defining, central role in the history and identity of the Jewish people. For Christians, Jerusalem is a seminal spiritual site,” Cruz declared.
He added that the resolution would deny and defy archaeological excavations in Jerusalem which have “revealed incontrovertible, physical evidence that reaffirms Jewish and Christian ties to the holy city of Jerusalem.”
The letter made special mention of a recent City of David discovery and restoration of floor tiles of the Second Temple – the first-ever archaeological evidence found proving the existence of the Temple.
“Members of the UNESCO Executive Board should vote against this intentional campaign to deny these historical truths, rewrite the history of Jerusalem, and delegitimize Israel,” he concluded.
Ros-Lehtinen said the attempt to “undermine Jewish and Christian ties to Jerusalem” was “shameful”.
“The resolution’s ill intent is unmistakable: to deny the historical record of the Jewish peoples’ connections to their holiest city and to imply that Jerusalem is inconsequential to Jews and Christians, with the intent of laying the groundwork for additional UN efforts to delegitimize Israel and undermine its status as the capital of the Jewish State,” she said.
The UN is notoriously anti-Israel. Last year at the 70th General Assembly, the UN adopted 20 resolutions against Israel – and a total of three against the rest of the world’s countries, combined.
Furthermore, stated Ros-Lehtinen, the UN’s resolution also lays the blame for the current wave of terror and violence on Israel “while ignoring the acts of terror and violence that are being incited by the Palestinian Authority and Abu Mazen.”
The full text of the letter is included below.
As the 200th session of the Executive Board of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) prepares to meet in the coming days in Paris, France, we write to urge your mission to oppose Item 25 of the provisional agenda under “Occupied Palestine” that diminishes the historic and verified Jewish and Christian ties to the Old City of Jerusalem.
As acknowledged by the draft text of Item 25, the Old City of Jerusalem is important to the three monotheistic religions. Numerous archaeological excavations have uncovered a myriad of antiquities that scientifically prove the historical connection of all three religions to Jerusalem, such as the discovery of the Pool of Siloam or the restoration of floor tiles of the Second Temple in the City of David. We celebrate the heritage and cultural ties of these religions to Jerusalem and the importance of Jerusalem to millions of people around the world.
Yet, this resolution seems to prioritize the Muslim heritage of the Old City, while diminishing the ties of either of the other religions. For example, the Temple Mount, the holiest site in Judaism, along with the Western Wall, where Jews from all over the world have come to pray, are described exclusively as Muslim holy sites and referred to only by their Muslim names. When the Western Wall is referenced, it is only with quotation marks, implying that the title is unofficial and not based on historic fact.
UNESCO’s mission is to build intercultural understanding through protection of heritage and support for cultural diversity. This unnecessarily divisive and selective resolution undermines the very purpose and integrity of UNESCO by seeking to rewrite Jerusalem’s history, rejects Jerusalem’s multi-cultural heritage, and undercuts Jerusalem’s extraordinary diversity. Forged in the aftermath of World War II, UNESCO strives to establish peace on the basis of humanity’s moral and intellectual solidarity. Attempting to erase the Jewish and Christian connection to this sacred city will further damage the prospects of peace between Israel and the Palestinians. It is incumbent upon all Member States of the Executive Board to respect and protect the religious, cultural, and historical significance of Jerusalem as they would all other World Heritage sites and to uphold the values and ideals enshrined in UNESCO’s Constitution.
We therefore respectfully urge your mission to UNESCO to oppose Item 25 of the provisional agenda for the Executive Board’s 200th session.
Sen. Ted Cruz, Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah), Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), Sen. David Perdue (R-Ga.), and Sen. Mike Rounds (R-S.D.)
Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, Rep. Gus Bilirakis (R-Fla.), Rep. Steve Chabot (R-Ohio), Rep. David N. Cicilline (D-R.I.), Rep. Carlos Curbelo (R-Fla.), Rep. Ron DeSantis (R-Fla.), Rep. Ted Deutch (D-Fla.), Rep. Robert J. Dold (R-Ill.), Rep. Jeff Duncan (R-S.C.), Rep. Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.), Rep. Lois Frankel (D-Fla.), Rep. Kay Granger (R-Texas), Rep. Alcee L. Hastings (D-Fla.), Rep. Steve Israel (D-N.Y.), Rep. Lynn Jenkins (R-Kan.), Rep. Doug Lamborn (R-Colo.), Rep. Leonard Lance (R-N.J.), Rep. Sander M. Levin (D-Mich.), Rep. Nita M. Lowey (D-N.Y.), Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.), Rep. Grace Meng (D-N.Y.), Rep. Jerrod Nadler (D-N.Y.), Rep. Scott Rigell (R-Va.), Peter J. Roskam (R-Ill.), Rep. Edward R. Royce (R-Calif.), Rep. Matt Salmon (R-Ariz.), Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.), Rep. Albio Sires (D-N.J.), Rep. Christopher H. Smith (R-N.J.), Rep. Steve Stivers (R-Ohio), Rep. Juan Vargas (D-Calif.), Rep. Randy K. Weber (R-Texas), Rep. Ted Yoho (R-Fla.), and Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-N.Y.).