Emek Shaveh’s Response to UNESCO Executive Board 200 decision


In response to UNESCO’s Executive Board’s decision on Palestine in the (Executive Board 200 session on Occupied Palestine) we would like to say the following:


In the last year we have witnessed a number of harmful, groundless UNESCO decisions, which, due to political pressure, disregard the Jewish people’s historical and religious relationship to the Temple Mount and the Western Wall. The choice to ignore the deep, fundamental Jewish relationship to the Western Wall and Temple Mount is not only an offensive archaeological and historical mistake, but mostly a spiteful political mistake. UNESCO’s decisions will not change the political situation in Jerusalem. Calling the Western Wall Al-Buraq while putting the Hebrew name in quotes won’t convince anyone in Israel or in the world, that the Israeli people’s ties to the Western Wall and Temple Mount has diminished. These statements only keep the Israeli public from taking UNESCO seriously as an organization that holds respect for the past and the heritage of all the city’s nations and faiths, despite political pressures. Such extreme decisions, headed by Palestinians, are only detrimental to the trust in any possibility for a political solution at heritage and religious sites in Jerusalem. They also decrease the chances of convincing the Israeli public to support the transfer of responsibility to Palestinians over sites that are also sacred to the Jews.


Extreme decisions can only strengthen extremists on either side. Now that an international, professional entity like UNESCO has disregarded the deep relationship of the Jewish people to the Western Wall and the Temple Mount, they’ve only made it easier for the Israeli right to convince the Israeli public that Jerusalem is in danger. A political solution for Jerusalem can only be successful if it is founded on respect for the complex heritage of each and every site in the Historic Basin. One-sided moves (physical or declarative) from both sides will score a few points internally but they keep us all from accepting each other. For Jerusalem, even removing the quotation marks from the Hebrew name could have been a step in the right direction. It could have been a significant accomplishment for UNESCO and for those of us who want to advance trust in a political solution.