(JTA) – The World Heritage Committee of UNESCO adopted a resolution that ignores Jewish ties to the Temple Mount, marking the second time this month that an entity of the United Nations’ cultural agency has passed a similar measure.
In a secret ballot, the resolution passed Wednesday in Paris with less than a majority of the committee’s 21 members – 10 states voted in favour and two were opposed, with eight abstaining and one absent. Nine Arab countries and Vietnam are believed to have voted for the resolution, which was submitted by Lebanon and Tunisia on behalf of Jordan and the Palestinians, who do not serve on the committee.
The resolution refers to the Temple Mount only by its Muslim names, Haram al-Sharif and Al-Aqsa mosque, but does refer to the Western Wall in a Jewish context, unlike the resolution passed earlier this month by the executive board of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, which also denied a Jewish connection to the Western Wall and other Jewish holy sites.
The wording of this week’s resolution reportedly had been softened further in recent days, so it could be adopted by consensus rather than put up for a vote. Jordan and the Palestinian Authority reportedly had threatened to make the language more contentious and strengthen the Muslim claim to the Temple Mount in the resolution if it was not approved by a consensus vote.
Tanzania and Croatia had asked for a secret ballot, The Jerusalem Post reported.
“This is yet another absurd resolution against the State of Israel, the Jewish people and historical truth,” Israel’s ambassador to UNESCO, Carmel Shama-Hacohen, said in a statement on the vote.
“The absurdity continues, and UNESCO has adopted yet another ridiculous decision that is completely disconnected from reality. UNESCO embarrassed itself by marching to the tune of the Palestinian pipers. All attempts to deny our heritage, distort history and disconnect the Jewish people from our capital and our homeland are doomed to fail.”
The evening before the vote, Shama-Hacohen and the heads of two pro-Israel organizations – Shahar Azani, executive director of the New York-based StandWithUs organization, and Yifa Segal, director of the Israel-based International Legal Forum – submitted a petition to Irina Bokova, UNESCO’s director-general in Paris, with more than 76,000 signatures calling on UNESCO to recognize the deep historic, cultural and religious connection between the Jewish people and the land of Israel.
In addition, a group of U.S. senators and Congress members earlier in the week sent a letter initiated by Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, and Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Fla., to the World Heritage Committee urging it to reject the resolution.
The 21 voting countries were Finland, Poland, Portugal, Croatia, Turkey, Azerbaijan, South Korea, Indonesia, the Philippines, Vietnam, Kazakhstan, Tunisia, Kuwait, Lebanon, Peru, Cuba, Jamaica, Burkina Faso, Zimbabwe, Angola and Tanzania.