Today the State Department released a statement saying that they would no longer be an active member of the U.N. Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) due to its continued “anti-Israel bias” and “mounting arrears.”
This is not the first time that the U.S. has left the organization. The U.S. previously withdrew from UNESCO in 1984 during the Cold War under President Reagan, but rejoined in 2001 under George W. Bush.
The reason for our departure in 1984, according to Brett Schaefer, Senior Fellow at the Heritage Foundations Margaret Thatcher Center for Freedom, was “to protest its growing politicization, anti-Western bias, rampant mismanagement, and advocacy of policies that undermine freedom of the press and free markets.”
This still holds true today.
A resolution that was passed by UNESCO on October 12th, 2016, entitled “Occupied Palestine” lays out “rules about the preservation of holy sites in Jerusalem, and uses only the Islamic name for a hilltop compound sacred to both Jews and Muslims,” reported USA Today.
UNESCO’s decision to rule against Israel in regards to the historic value of the Temple Mount was surely a factor in the decision making for the United States withdrawal.
Many are upset at the fact that although the site is shared by the Jewish, Christian, and Muslim religions, it is only being acknowledged, by name, as an Islamic historical site by UNESCO.
“UNESCO’s tendentious semantics play into an ongoing propaganda campaign by the Palestinian Authority to ‘de-Judaize’ the identity of Jerusalem, the foremost Jewish city on earth,” states the Boston Globe editorial.
Why is the Temple Mount so important?
The Temple Mount, located on Mt. Moriah is home to the Dome of the Rock and The Western Wall, which are two of the holiest sites in Judaism and Islamic faiths. The Dome of the Rock is where the Foundation Stone is located, where Abraham prepared to sacrifice his son Isaac.
The Temple Mount wasn’t always home to the Dome of the Rock, as it was first the home to two Jewish Temples. According to the Book of Deuteronomy, The First Temple was built by King Solomon around 957 BC and was destroyed by the Babylonians around 587 BC. The Second Temple was completed around the year 561 BC by Cyrus the King of Persia but was destroyed by the Romans around the year 70 AD, according to the Book of Ezra. The temples were originally places of worship for the Jewish people, and there have been several unsuccessful attempts after this to build the temple again.
For Muslims, this location is known as Al-Haram al-Sharif (“the noble sanctuary”) and is the site in which Muhammad ascended into heaven with the Angel Gabriel. According to the Muslim religion, this happened in the year 621 AD several thousand years after Abraham tried to sacrifice Isaac at the same site.
The site, known as the Dome of the Rock, is an Islamic shrine built on the site of the original two Jewish Temples after Muslims conquered Jerusalem.
“When the Muslims conquered Jerusalem in the seventh century they built a mosque (as is their custom) on the very spot the vanquished had held sacred,” wrote David Brog, executive director of Christians United For Israel. “This is why the plateau where the First and Second Temples once stood – the holiest site in Judaism – is now the very place where the Al-Aqsa mosque and the Dome of the Rock stand today.”
According to Live Science, “Irina Bokova, the director-general of UNESCO, who was not part of the board, was not happy with the resolution’s wording and the perception that Jewish ties to the site were being denied or downplayed.”
“The heritage of Jerusalem is indivisible, and each of its communities has a right to the explicit recognition of their history and relationship with the city. To deny, conceal or erase any of the Jewish, Christian or Muslim traditions undermines the integrity of the site, and runs counter to the reasons that justified its inscription on the UNESCO World Heritage list,” said Bokova in a statement.
The Temple Mount has much historical value to all three of the religions, but many are troubled by UNESCO’s resolution only acknowledging it by its Islamic name. Although the name of the site won’t change its history, some Jewish and Christian people feel that their religions are being undermined in favor of another.
“UNESCO doubled down on its reflexive anti-Israel bias by voting for yet another resolution that deliberately distorts history and denies the specific connection of the Jewish people to Jerusalem going back thousands of years,” said Ted Cruz in part of his statement on the UNESCO resolution. “Congress must redouble its efforts to counter these pernicious attempts to falsely attack and delegitimize our close ally through international institutions by continuing to withhold funding from entities that participate in such activities, and reaffirm our commitment to stand unshakably with Israel,” he concluded.
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