There’s been an almost universal outcry in the Israeli media about a resolution passed by a UNESCO World Heritage committee concerning repeated Israeli violation of the status of the Haram al Sharif holy site. Headlines called the resolution “anti-Israel.” Haaretz claimed it “nullified Jewish claims to the Temple Mount.” i24 News claimed it “denies Jewish ties to Jerusalem holy sites.” Netanyahu called it “absurd” and “a moral farce.”
Compare this to the far more measured coverage by international media. The Wall Street Journal made no mention of nullifying Jewish rights. Instead it spoke of the resolution “raising Israeli ire.” The Guardian referred to “Israeli anger.” Interestingly, Haaretz’s Hebrew headline was more measured as well. It characterized Netanyahu’s views on the matter, but made no claims such as the ones in the English edition headline.
Bibi Netanyahu released this typically moronic statement which was meant to convey to foreigners the absurdity of the resolution, but which instead highlighted the absurdity of the prime minister’s powers of analogy:
“What’s next? A Unesco decision denying the connection between peanut butter and jelly? Batman and Robin? Rock and roll?”
Leader of the nominal Opposition, Issac Herzog also completely mischaracterized the text when he wrote it:
…Completely invent[s] the fantasy that the Western Wall and Temple Mount have no connection to the Jewish people.
Unlike all the reporters, editors and politicians who wrote this meretricious nonsense, I actually found the resolution (pdf) and read it. Suffice to say, it offers none of the things claimed above. It does “affirm the importance of Jerusalem’s Old City and its walls” for the Jewish, Christian and Muslim faiths. Nowhere in the text does it denigrate a Jewish bond to what Israel calls the Temple Mount. It simply doesn’t address the issue at all. Nor should it.
This committee is entrusted with preserving World Heritage sites. As such, it reports on threats to those sites which have received such designation. If Israel had submitted a claim that the Western Wall was under threat as a site sacred to Jews, then UNESCO would have investigated and made a finding on the matter. The truth is that Israel refuses to engage with UNESCO at all. So whose fault is that? The reason the resolution appears one-sided to pro-Israel advocates is that the Israeli side chooses to boycott everything to do with this process.
The resolution mentions a long list of Israeli violations of the sovereignty of Haram al Sharif, including police assaulting Al Aqsa mosque and trashing the holy site; pilgrimages to the site by settler activists who seek to destroy the mosques and replace them with a Jewish Temple; restrictions against full Muslim access to the Haram which last year precipitated a year-long Knife Intifada, which caused the deaths of over 200 Palestinians and nearly 40 Israelis.
The resolution requests that return of the status quo ante of 2000 (before Ariel Sharon’s assault which incited the 2nd Intifada) by which the Jordanian Waqf maintained the Haram. It calls on Israel to cease archaeological excavations which are designed to further Jewish claim to the Haram and encroach on the Muslim holy sites.
The absolute truth is that no Muslim authority is attempting to encroach upon Jewish access to the Western Wall, which is the traditional site where Jews have congregated and prayed since 1967. While the Israeli government is constantly provoking violence by imposing limitations on Muslim worship and permitting encroachment by settler groups led by provocateurs like MK Yehuda Glick. As I wrote in last night’s post, there is a powerful movement among settler Jews seeking to destroy these Muslim holy sites. Which means that both Muslims and UNESCO have excellent reason to be on their guard and alert the world to violations of the sites.
When I was last in Israel in 1980, I visited the Haram and it was a peaceful place of worship for all who visited, including Jews. In 1969, an Australian evangelical Christian attempted to bring the Second Coming by burning down Al Aqsa. Israel acted swiftly to lock him up and cool any tensions that arose. Today’s Israeli government would pin a medal on him and make him the Religious Affairs minister. So how much closer are we to the vision of this Christian lunatic than we were in 1969??
The current Israeli coverage continues the hasbara attack on international bodies deemed insufficiently pliant to Israel. It deliberately mischaracterizes their work in an attempt to undermine any independent oversight on these matters. We must push back against such journalistic hoaxing whether it comes from the pages of the supposedly liberal Haaretz or the pages of the right-wing media like Ynet, Jerusalem Post, or Arutz 7.