Sheri Oz

Sheri Oz – UNESCO Plays Politics Even While Claiming Innocence

UNESCO’s Director General Irina Bokova poses with the Simon Wiesenthal Center’s Rabbi Marvin Hier and a poster for the original exhibit on the Jewish people’s 3,500-year connection to the land of Israel, in January. (photo credit: Courtesy Simon Wiesenthal Center)

UNESCO’s Director General Irina Bokova poses with the Simon Wiesenthal Center’s Rabbi Marvin Hier and a poster for the original exhibit on the Jewish people’s 3,500-year connection to the land of Israel, in January. (photo credit: Courtesy Simon Wiesenthal Center)

Sheri Oz – UNESCO Plays Politics Even While Claiming Innocence

UNESCO claims to make decisions divorced from any potential political applications. This is a lie. We can find evidence of this in the most recent draft resolution on Jerusalem (and Gaza and Hebron) and in a previous resolution regarding Bet Shearim.

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UNESCO claims to be apolitical. I copy here Item 3 of Section IA of 200 EX/25, the draft resolution in which Israel is taken to task for its behaviours in the Old City of Jerusalem and the attempt made to sever the connection between us and our capital:

Affirming the importance of the Old City of Jerusalem and its Walls for the three monotheistic religions, also affirming that nothing in the current decision, which aims, inter alia, at the safeguarding of the cultural heritage of Palestine and the distinctive character of East Jerusalem, shall in any way affect the relevant Security Council and United Nations resolutions and decisions on the legal status of Palestine and Jerusalem,

As an aside, and not directly related to the topic of this discussion, let me just point out that there are more than three monotheistic religions. For UNESCO to suggest that only Judaism, Christianity and Islam are monotheistic shows the ignorance of its members before we even get to looking at their antisemitism. So the draft resolution claims that there is no intention to “affect . . . decisions on the legal status of Palestine and Jerusalem”. Interesting way of putting this; makes it seem that the legal status of Israel is of no concern to UNESCO, eh? I think we can see how unconcerned UNESCO is with politics by looking at a screenshot of the top of the document:


Here is a list of five ways in which UNESCO plays politics with Israel’s future.
  1. UNESCO refers to the Palestinian Authority as “Occupied Palestine”.

The title of Item 25 is “Occupied Palestine”. That is a political statement if I ever heard one. You know the saying: repeat a lie often enough, etc etc etc”. UNESCO engages in that tactic. The UN, in all its branches, should be using the terminology agreed upon by Arafat and Rabin and Peres in the signed Oslo Accords, whereby the area under contention was named “The Palestinian Authority” and the state of occupation was formally ended.

Throughout the document, there is no single reference to the PA, but only to “Palestine” and even, in paragraph 18, to the “State of Palestine”, an entity that does not exist anywhere but in the overactive imaginations of those who still dream of tossing all us upstart Jews into the sea.

  1. UNESCO calls Israel “the occupying Power”.

Not to worry – while Israel does not merit any mention at the opening gambits of the draft resolution, we do merit mention throughout the document. In fact, “Israel” is mentioned 17 times, 15 of these thus:

Israel, the occupying Power

In the other two instances, Israel is (1) urged to grant UNESCO employees visas; and (2) obligated “. . . to respect the integrity, authenticity and cultural heritage of Al-Aqṣa Mosque/Al-Ḥaram Al-Sharif, as reflected in the historic status quo, as a Muslim holy site of worship . . .” Guess they just forgot to add the “occupying power” bit, or maybe they thought it was a bit of overkill as it is.

  1. UNESCO does not use the Jewish names for the sites in Jerusalem.

While the document does suggest that the site under discussion is of some import to Judaism and Christianity as well as to Islam, in no place is it ever referred to as The Temple Mount or as the site of the Second Temple. The only places the Wailing Wall, the closest Jews can get to their Holy of Holies, is obliquely referred to, it is put in quotation marks: “Western Wall Plaza”.

Furthermore, you might be interested to learn that UNESCO does not believe we really have an antiquities department, as that is in quotation marks as well: “Israeli Antiquities” officials, is how they put it.

Interestingly, in the section of the draft resolution concerning Hebron and Bethlehem, Hebron is called Hebron in addition to its Arabic name and the Tomb of the Patriarchs is referred to as such in addition to its Arabic name. Rachel’s Tomb in Bethlehem is also named both by its Jewish name and Arabic name.  Israel, the occupying Power, is slammed for dividing these sites into a side for Jews and a side for Muslims and Christians and for doing archaeological work there, but at least our sites get named properly.

  1. UNESCO ignores facts on the ground in Gaza.

The draft resolution accuses Israel, the occupying Power, of maintaining an illegal blockade of Gaza.

Strongly deplores the continuous Israeli blockade of the Gaza Strip, which harmfully affects the free and sustained movement of personnel and humanitarian relief items as well as the intolerable number of casualties among Palestinian children, the attacks on schools and other educational and cultural facilities and the denial of access to education, and requests Israel, the occupying Power, to immediately ease this blockade;

I guess UNESCO knows nothing of COGAT – this is just from the past few days:

The UNESCO draft resolution ends by giving thanks.

“Also thanks the Director-General for initiatives that have already been implemented in Gaza in the fields of education, culture and youth and for the safety of media professionals, and calls upon her to continue her active involvement in the reconstruction of Gaza’s damaged educational and cultural components;”

This would be laughable if it wasn’t so disgusting.

  • 5.    UNESCO uses its powers to determine World Heritage Sites as a means to declare the acceptable boundaries of the State of Israel.

Just over a year ago, in July 2015, UNESCO voted for Bet Shearim to be recognized as a World Heritage Site. The proposal was supported by warm recommendations on the parts of 17 countries, some of which, such as Turkey, we may not have expected to support us. I bring THIS as proof of UNESCO exploiting its power to declare World Heritage Sites in order to determine the “acceptable” boundaries of the Jewish State of Israel. Bet Shearim lies within the undisputed boundaries of our country. By saying that Bet Shearim is Jewish, UNESCO has anointed itself with the authority to say that Jerusalem is not.

In the case of Bet Shearim, I guess we do have real antiquities officials and not “Israeli Antiquities” officials, because this resolution expresses trust in us to maintain Bet Shearim to the standards UNESCO deems appropriate.

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The best thing to happen as a result of this latest UNESCO draft resolution on Jerusalem was for Education Minister Naftali Bennett to cut all ties with the organization. Hip hip hurray!

 This is a slightly modified version of an article that first appeared on Israel Diaries.


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