Battle Over Arab UNESCO Plan to Claim Kosel

YERUSHALAYIM -

Israel’s efforts to defeat an Arab resolution in UNESCO which reclassifies the Kosel as a Moslem site appeared to bear fruit on Tuesday as the agency’s own director-general spoke out against the move.

On the eve of Wednesday’s vote on the resolution, UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova urged member states not to further inflame regional tensions by tampering with the status quo.

Israeli diplomats were described as working hard behind the scenes to prevent the contentious proposal from gaining passage.

Israeli Ambassador to UNESCO Carmel Shama Hacohen told The Jerusalem Post that he doesn’t think there is sufficient support for such a reclassification of the Kosel, something which they have never attempted before.

The resolution “affirms that the Buraq Plaza [i.e., the Kosel] is an integral part of al-Aqsa Mosque/al-Haram al-Sharif,” and makes no mention of any Jewish claim to the site.

“We all have responsibility to UNESCO’s mandate, to take decisions that promote dialogue, tolerance and peace,” said Bokova.

The six-page draft resolution — submitted by Egypt, Tunisia, Algeria, Morocco, Kuwait, and the United Arab Emirates on behalf of the Palestinian Authority — also condemns Israeli actions in Yerushalayim, Yehuda and Shomron and Gaza.

Hacohen called the resolution “a total Islamization” of a site that is revered by both Jews and Muslims.

Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely added that the resolution is another attempt by the Palestinians to rewrite history by denying the ancient Jewish connection to the Kosel and Yerushalayim.

In the U.S., the Anti-Defamation League denounced the “cynical and incendiary” effort — spearheaded by Palestinian leaders and six Arab members of the UNESCO Executive Board — to pass the resolution.

“It is a tragic irony that while the Israeli government actively recognizes Muslim holy sites in Yerushalayim and across the country, and guarantees and protects freedom of worship, the Palestinians and their allies on the UNESCO executive are instead trying to diminish, deny or replace the undeniable Jewish connection to holy sites in Yerushalayim,” said ADL CEO Jonathan A. Greenblatt.

In the UK, the Jewish Leadership Council condemned the proposal as yet another attempt to “delegitimize Israel.”

“The motion submitted to UNESCO seeks to delegitimize Israel by denying one of the central pillars of its character, its religious connection to the land,” JLC Chief Executive Simon Johnson said in a statement. “Those who have put forward the motion seek to be deliberately inflammatory at a time of considerable instability in the region.

“For the Kosel to be named as part of the al-Aqsa Mosque as proposed in this motion, would be an affront to Jews everywhere, not just in Israel,” he added.