I am annoyed, kittens. Very, very annoyed. Why am I annoyed? Because the recent uproar over a UNESCO resolution on the status of occupied Palestinian holy sites has been spun in a most ridiculous manner. Reading Israeli and mainstream press you might think that UNESCO has made a resolution that says there are no Jewish ties to Jerusalem or to the Second Temple. People are outraged! Netanyahu is all over the place giving stern, solemn and deeply racist speeches(which is his default state). And you know what? If an international body did say that Judaism has no place in Jerusalem or that the area of Al Aqsa is not important to Jews it would be outrageous as well as obviously factually wrong.
Except. It. Doesn’t.
I’m also annoyed by some on the “pro-Pal” side who are claiming the resolution affirms that there is no Jewish connection to Jerusalem/the Temple/Palestine. Kittens, Palestinian Jews have been an integral part of Palestinian culture for its entire history. Palestinian Jews were about 6-8% of the total population, not a majority but certainly not an insignificant minority. Jews were an integral part of Palestinian society and in many other countries in the Middle East prior to Zionism. Denying the rights of Palestinian Jews to Palestine and of Judaism’s connection to the area is a form of bigotry. That is, of course, distinguishable by Zionism’s demands for Jews to have supremacy or exclusive control of Palestine and its history and by Zionism’s use of Palestinian Jews as “place holders” so that a Western European society modelled on settler colonialism could be established.
Here is the full text. Read it. In the desire for accuracy, I want to go through it, point by point.
1. Refers to the submission of the complaint by Palestinians, the complaint having to do with Israeli abuses in Jerusalem.
2. Cites relevant international law concerning occupation, laws of war and the protection of cultural sites & artefacts.
3. Affirms the importance of Jerusalem to Christianity, Islam and Judaism. States nothing in this document will affect UN Security Council or UN decisions on the status of Jerusalem or the rest of Palestine.
4. Condemns Israeli refusal to comply with prior UNESCO decisions and its refusal to appoint a representative to monitor the situation.
5. “Deeply deplores the failure of Israel, the Occupying Power, to cease the persistent excavations and works in East Jerusalem particularly in and around the Old City, and reiterates its request to Israel, the Occupying Power, to prohibit all such works in conformity with its obligations under the provisions of the relevant UNESCO conventions, resolutions and decisions”
7. Condemns Israel for changing the long-held status quo after 2000
8. Condemns Israel for hindering the ability of Muslims to worship at Al Aqsa/Al-Haram al-Sharif.
9. Condemns Israel allowing right-wing settlers(who seek to demolish Al Aqsa/Al-Haram al-Sharif and replace it with a new Temple) to storm the compound on a regular basis.
10. Condemns Israeli military aggression towards civilians and worship leaders at the compound.
11. Condemns Israel’s prevention of worshippers during 2015 Eid al-Adha
12. Condemns Israel’s refusal to grant visas to UNESCO researchers.
13. Condemns Israel using military force to damage parts of Al Aqsa through military force & violence.
14. Condemns Israel’s refusal to allow repairs and restorations in parts of the compound.
15. Condemns Israel’s refusal to allow Jordanian restoration projects.
16. Condemns Israeli plans to build a cable car linked to a building whose purpose is to promote the destruction of the Al Aqsa compound, also condemns plans to build another extremist centre, on occupied land, near the compound.
17. “Reaffirms that the Mughrabi Ascent is an integral and inseparable part of Al-Aqsa Mosque/Al-Haram Al-Sharif;”
18. Takes note of submitted reports.
19. Condemns Israeli building and changing the entrance at the Mughrabi Gate.
20. Condemns demolitions of historical Ottoman, Ummayyad and Mamluk structures & excavations near the Mughrabi Gate.
22. Urges Israel, as the occupying power, to honour its commitments to work with the Jordanian Waqf.
23. “Stresses yet again the urgent need of the implementation of the UNESCO reactive monitoring mission to the Old City of Jerusalem and its Wall”
24. If Israel refuses to meet its obligations under international law, other actions must be taken to ensure compliance.
25. Notes that Israel has consistently failed to meet its obligations under international law & prior decisions.
26. Notes Israel’s lack of cooperation with UNESCO & other international bodies on this issue.
30. Condemns military violence that causes death & injury to Palestinian civilians in Gaza as well as harm to cultural & educational efforts by UNESCO, UNRWA & other agencies.
31. Condemns the illegal blockade of Gaza by Israel.
32. Urges reconstruction of educational and cultural sites
35. Reaffirms sacred sites in Al-Khalil/Hebron & Bethlehem to be integral parts of Palestine.
36. Reaffirms the importance of sacred sites in Al-Khalil/Hebron & Bethlehem to Christianity, Islam and Judaism.
37. Condemns illegal Israeli building and excavations in these cities that limits freedom of movement and worship & threatens the integrity of holy sites.
38. “Deeply deplores the new cycle of violence, going on since October 2015, in the context of the constant aggressions by the Israeli settlers and other extremist groups against Palestinian residents including schoolchildren, also asks the Israeli authorities to prevent such aggressions”
39. Condemns the visual impact of the apartheid wall on the holy sites.
40. Condemns consistent Israeli refusal to comply with international law & prior decisions.
So what can we take away from this.
There is nothing, nothing, nothing, nothing, nothing, nothing in this resolution that says there is no Jewish ties to Jerusalem, to holy sites in Palestine. In fact, it TWICE reaffirms the importance of all three Abrahimic religions.
The resolution deals with contemporary issues, facts on the ground and concrete actions. Each point refers to actions, mostly by the Israeli government. There is nothing in this document that discusses history, or which group has a greater claim or has no claim based on their religious merits. The rights to the holy sites are governed by international law and international law prohibits an occupying power from destroying holy sites or replacing occupied holy sites with facilities for its people(something Israel has been refusing to do since the Nakba and continues to do).
The resolution is a response to a Palestinian complaint over repeated Israeli violations of international law and Palestinian rights in Jerusalem, in the West Bank and in Gaza. Why would a complaint brought in response to an aggrieved party address issues outside the scope of what they were brought to investigate.
Note that Israel is the occupying power, in Jerusalem, in the West Bank and in Gaza. As the occupying power, under international law, it has different obligations than the occupied population and any outside state.
Note also that Israel has repeatedly refused to work with UNESCO, to work with any investigation. It is the height of chutzpah to block an investigation, refuse to cooperate with an investigation, insult international bodies while you’re at it, and then complain that the report did not address any of your issues.
So, no it does not mention the Temple Mount, it has no reason to. There is currently no temple at the area, it is currently, and for hundreds of years has functioned as a mosque. Israel has refused to cooperate and therefore denied itself to bring up any issues it wanted to bring up.
It’s like complaining that your cell phone contract does not complement your recent graduation from university.
So, why is Israel putting forth a hysterically FALSE claim about a resolution addressing its human rights violations against Palestinians at their holy sites?
First of all, because the report does condemn concrete violations of human rights and the hysteria is a way to deflect attention from human rights abuses against Palestinians and bring the focus on poor Israel, persecuted because it is a “Jewish” state. It isn’t the Palestinians, who are often prevented from praying at their holy places, subjected to violence, to the continued theft of their lands who are the victims, it is the military regime of Israel that is, all because something, something, everyone hates Jews.
It is also an attempt to paint yet another UN body as hopelessly antisemitic. With a majority of the world recognising Palestine as a state, and supporting either a two-state or a binational solution to the occupation, and with American support for Israel declining generation after generation, the occupation is unsustainable. The “us versus the world” is a persistent theme in Israeli politics and culture. There is a constant drumbeat of “the world hates us because we are Jews,” of course, to deflect and delay having to act in any manner to end the occupation that will eventually end, and end in a potentially devastating way not just for Israel but the whole region. But politicians need to get re-elected and right-wing NGOs need donations and a long-term approach isn’t going to get those things to happen; on the other hand, fear sells, and well.
There is a danger here, politically, with the rise of the extreme religious right in Israel and the mainstreaming of people like Yehuda Glick, now a member of the Knesset, who actively seek to demolish Al Aqsa and build a Jewish Temple. Momentum from the lies an propaganda about this resolution could fuel either formal Israeli action to further restrict Palestinian rights to worship and access not just Al Aqsa but other holy sites. This also could fuel individual extremism and violence. The massacre of worshippers at the Ibrahimi mosque in Al-Khalil/Hebron in 1994 gave Israel an excuse to put the entire population of the Palestinian city under siege. Fundamentalism is dangerous, and such incitement from all levels of the Israeli government could easily fuel violence.
As for me, I’ll be writing to my landlord and complaining that my lease doesn’t talk about how blue really brings out the colour of my eyes.