Israeli leaders blast UNESCO resolution on access to Al Aqsa mosque
October 14, 2016
Israeli political leaders have reacted angrily to UNESCO’s preliminary approval of a resolution that condemns Israeli restrictions on access to the Al Aqsa mosque, which is located on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem.
The UNESCO resolution calls for restoration of a system under which Muslim officials controlled the area of the Al Aqsa mosque, and condemns “the escalating Israeli aggressions and illegal measures” to restrict access,” including “the continous storming of Al Aqsa mosque by Israeli extremists and uniformed forces.”Israeli security officials have intervened frequently around the mosque to end confrontations between militant Muslims and Jews around the Temple Mount.
The UNESCO resolution argues the need to “safeguard the Palestinian cultural heritage and distinctive character of East Jerusalem,” and refers negatively to Israeli “occupation” of the area.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that the resolution, suggesting that Israeli Jews do not have a culture connection with the Temple Mount, “is the same as saying that the Chinese do not have a link with the Great Wall or the Egyptians with the Pyramids.” He said that UNESCO “has lost the little legitimacy that it had left.” Yuli Edelstein, the speaker of the Israeli parliament, agreed: “If the Jews are not tied to the holy places, UNESCO and the UN have no connection with the history and reality.”
UNESCO’s director general, Irina Bokova, has argued that the cultural heritage of Jerusalem is “indivisible,” and all religious groups should have access to the city’s shrines and “explicit recognition of their history and connection with the city.”
The UNESCO resolution criticizing Israel was approved by a vote of 24 in favor, 6 opposed, and a remarkable 26 abstentions. A final vote is due on October 18.
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