The United Nations Educational, Cultural and Scientific Organization’s (UNESCO) World Heritage Committee adopted a resolution on Tuesday reaffirming the international body’s non-recognition of Israeli sovereignty in occupied East Jerusalem, and condemning Israeli policies in the Old City, sparking reactions from both Palestinian and Israeli officials.
Ten member states voted in favor of the resolution, three against, while eight states abstained. The resolution referred to Israel as an “occupying power” in East Jerusalem, and stated that UNESCO “regrets the failure of the Israeli occupying authorities to cease the persistent excavations, tunneling, works, projects and other illegal practices in East Jerusalem, particularly in and around the Old City of Jerusalem, which are illegal under international law.”
The resolution, unlike one in October 2016, did not mention specifically the issue of the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound. Israeli Ambassador to the UN Danny Danon condemned the resolution as “disgraceful.” “No faux ‘heritage committee’ can sever the bonds between our people and Jerusalem,” Danon said. The Israeli Foreign Ministry meanwhile slammed the resolution as “sad, unnecessary, and pathetic.”
"This is another absurd and irrelevant UNESCO decision, which serves only the enemies of history and truth," the ministry said in a statement. It went on to reiterate the Israeli claim that Jerusalem was “the eternal capital of the Jewish people” and of Israel -- a claim not recognized by the international community.
The Palestinian Authority, meanwhile, hailed the latest UNESCO vote coming in the wake of a number of resolutions critical of Israeli policies against Palestinians. Official Palestinian news agency Wafa quoted PA spokesman Yousif al-Mahmoud as saying that the resolution rejected Israel’s narrative in Jerusalem. Al-Mahmoud went on to call the international community to “enforce these decisions on the ground in order to lift injustice, oppression, and domination practiced by the occupying power against our steadfast people in the city of Jerusalem and against its Islamic and Christian holy places.”
The UNESCO resolution comes days ahead of a planned vote over whether to place the Old City of the occupied West Bank city of Hebron and the Ibrahimi Mosque on the World Heritage in Danger list. Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) Executive Committee member Hanan Ashrawi denounced on Wednesday statements by US ambassador Nikki Haley against the vote over Hebron’s status, calling Haley, known for her unconditional and outspoken support of Israel, a “one-woman crusade against Palestine at the UN.”
“(Haley’s) approach has been a consistent means of evasion to exclude and suppress any consideration of Palestinian grievances at the UN,” Ashrawi said. “By creating diversions and focusing on other issues, Miss Haley seems to believe that the UN should give Israel a free pass based on the logical fallacy that one injustice negates another.” Both Israel and Trump’s administration have regularly criticized the UN for what they deem is the unfair targeting of Israel over its breaches of international law, particularly its illegal settlement expansion in the occupied Palestinian territory.
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