Photo Credit: Asher Schwartz

By Yona Schnitzer

The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) Executive Board has adopted resolutions 28 and 29, stating that the Cave of the Patriarchs (Maarat Hamachpela) in Hebron and Rachel’s Tomb in Bethlehem are both “an integral part of the Occupied Palestinian Territories”.

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The resolutions, titled “Occupied Palestine,” went on to condemn any “Israeli measures aimed at altering the character, status and demographic composition of the Occupied Palestinian territory.” The language in the resolutions, sponsored by Jordan, Lebanon, Egypt, Oman, Qatar, Sudan and Morocco, repeatedly referred to Israel as the “occupier” in Hebron and Bethlehem.

Last December, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu instructed Israel’s envoy to UNESCO Carmel Shama Hacohen to officially announce Israel’s withdrawal from the organization, two months after US President Donald Trump ordered that the United States withdraw due to an “anti-Israel bias.”

Israel was set to officially withdraw from the UN body on December 31st 2018, after being a member since 1949, however, in June, in response to efforts by newly appointed UNESCO Director General Audrey Azoulay, a French-Moroccan Jew, to combat the anti-Israeli bias within the organization, Shama Hacohen said: “Israel shouldn’t ignore the new spirit that is blowing in its direction from UNESCO,” adding that “together with the US, [Israel] should reevaluate the question of leaving or at least weigh the possibility of a certain delay so we send a positive signal to all involved.”

In September, Azoulay extended an invitation to Prime Minister Netanyahu to participate in a conference organized by UNESCO aimed at combating anti-Semitism, to which he declined.

“While I commend all efforts to combat anti-Semitism, I have decided not to participate in this week’s UNESCO conference on anti-Semitism due to the organization’s persistent and egregious bias against Israel,” Netanyahu said in a statement, adding that “since 2009, UNESCO has passed 71 resolutions condemning Israel and only two resolutions condemning all other countries combined. This is simply outrageous.”

Netanyahu asserted that, should UNESCO want to remove it’s “mark of shame”, “it must do more than host a conference on anti-Semitism. It must stop practicing anti-Semitism, and it must stop the absurdity of passing resolutions that deny the connection between the Jewish people and the Land of Israel – between the Jewish people and our eternal capital, Jerusalem.”

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