By Ilana Messika/TPS
On Israel’s 69th Independence Day, the executive board of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) voted on a new anti-Israel resolution denying Israeli sovereignty over Jerusalem. During its the 201st session, a total of 22 states among the 58-member board voted in favor of the resolution, 10 voted against, 23 abstained, and three were absent.
Voted for Resolution: Russia, China, Brazil, Sweden, South Africa, Iran, Malaysia, Mauritius, Nigeria, Senegal, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Vietnam, Nicaragua, Chad and seven Arab countries.
Opposed the Resolution: Germany (which had initially pushed for the resolution), United States, Italy, Great Britain, Holland, Lithuania, Greece, Paraguay, Ukraine and Togo.
Abstained: France, Spain, Slovenia, Estonia, India, Argentina, Mexico, Japan, Haiti, Dominican Republic, Saint Kitts, Kenya, Trinidad, Albania, Cameroon, Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana, Mozambique, Uganda, El Salvador, South Korea and Sri Lanka.
Absent: Nepal, Serbia and Turkmenistan
“Reminding that all legislative and administrative measures and actions taken by Israel, the occupying Power, which have altered or purport to alter the character and status of the Holy City of Jerusalem, and in particular the “basic law” on Jerusalem, are null and void and must be rescinded forthwith,” stated the resolution under the item titled “Occupied Palestine.”
The UNESCO executive board further reiterated its demand “to cease the persistent excavations, tunneling, works and projects in East Jerusalem, particularly in and around the Old City, considered illegal under international law.”
The 1967 Law and Administration Ordinance (Amendment No. 11) Law extended Israeli law and jurisdiction over eastern Jerusalem, while the 1980 Basic Law of Jerusalem mentioned in the UNESCO resolution states that “Jerusalem, complete and united, is the capital of Israel” and that the holy places shall be protected.
UNESCO passed a resolution last year that denied a Jewish connection to the Temple Mount and referred to the site using only its Muslim name, Al-Haram Al Sharif, in the text of the resolution.
Despite its ultimate approval, the resolution passed this Tuesday was approved with a small majority relative to other recent UNESCO resolutions on Israel, a fact that Prime Minister Netanyahu described as a positive change.
“The number of countries that support this absurd proposal at UNESCO is shrinking; a year ago it was 32, six months ago it dropped to 26, and it now dropped to 22, but I want us to move forward and to continue making an effort,” said Netanyahu during an Independence Day reception with Israeli diplomatic staff.
Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely criticized UNESCO for continuing to “falsify history” and applauded the countries that voted against the resolution.
“UNESCO’s decision not only harms the relevance of the organization, which is supposed to preserve its heritage and culture, but again and again fails in its role when it comes to Israel,” she argued. “Israel does not need approvals from political bodies for the unshakable historical connection to our eternal capital of Jerusalem, a 3,000-year-old connection that speaks from every stone of the city.”
“This is absurd. We have become used to the concept of ‘fake news’. Well, welcome to fake history,’” she contended.
Although Germany played a significant role in the crafting of the resolution, Berlin still decided to vote against it. Nevertheless, the German delegation had worked on a compromise with the Arab member states to soften the language of the resolution in order to maximize the chances of the resolution being passed with the support of the UNESCO executive board’s other European members.
Italy, however, kept the promise it made to Israel during Foreign Minister Angelino Alfano’s visit to Israel in March that it would change its stance at UNESCO. While Italy had maintained a consistent policy of abstention, it became the first European country to officially reject the resolution.