UNESCO adopts new resolution ignoring Jewish link to Temple Mount – EU member states fail to object

Brussels, October 26th, 2016 – UNESCO, the UN agency for education, culture and science, has voted for the third time in less than two weeks to deny any Jewish and Christian links to the Temple Mount, which is the most holy site in Judaism. The vote of the 21 member strong UNESCO World Heritage Committee (WHC) *) comes only one week after the executive board of the same UN organisation had approved a similar resolution, which caused an international outcry in the Jewish world and even made UNESCO’s own Director-General, Irina Bokova and UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon officially distance themselves from the resolution. Nevertheless, when the so-called 40COM 7A.13 resolution was presented to the World Heritage Committee on Wednesday morning, only two members out of twenty-one voted against the resolution which was conducted in a secret ballot. Jamaica was absent and did not vote. According to media reports on Wednesday the four EU member countries in the committee (Croatia, Finland, Poland and Portugal) had earlier indicated that they would abstain.

“Denying an entire people their undisputable historical link with the most holy site in their religion will only strengthen those radical forces that see no place whatsoever for Jews in Israel. As of today, they can base their claims on a UNESCO resolution which denies that there have ever been any Jews in Jerusalem, hence there can be no future for them there either. This is simply diplomatic ethnic cleansing by denying a people their own history and identity and it cannot be tolerated”, ECI Founding Director Tomas Sandell said in a statement after the vote on Wednesday.

ECI has been raising awareness of the upcoming vote since the month of July when the issue was first presented to the WHC at its annual meeting in Istanbul. The vote had to be postponed to October due to the failed Turkish military coup.

“This is a major disappointment for anyone who would like to put their trust in the UN system”, Sandell said. “How can anyone take a UN resolution seriously anymore, after this clear twisting of historical facts for political motives?” However, Sandell did not put all the blame on the Director-General Irina Bokova, but on those WHC member states who either voted for the resolution (10) or who accepted the results by abstaining (8).

“This is a clear wake up call for any true friend of Israel from around the world. Unless we hold those governments who accepted this resolution accountable, we will have accepted the claim of those who try to erase the Jewish people from our history”, Sandell warned. “To quote George Orwell: ‘Those who control the past control the future’.”

Furthermore, the words of Dietrich Bonhoeffer remind us of our civic responsibility on such a tragic day: “Silence in the face of evil is itself evil: God will not hold us guiltless. Not to speak is to speak. Not to act is to act.”

*) Angola, Azerbaijan, Burkina Faso, Croatia, Cuba, Finland, Indonesia, Jamaica, Kazakhstan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Peru, Philippines, Poland, Portugal, South Korea, Tunisia, Turkey, Tanzania, Vietnam, Zimbabwe



ECI joins UN Secretary-General in rejecting UNESCO vote
- Resolution is flawed and undermines confidence in UN system

New York, October 17th, 2106 - In a private meeting in the office of the Secretary-General of the United Nations in New York on Friday, the European Coalition for Israel condemned a recent UNESCO resolution which denies any Jewish connections to the holy sites in Jerusalem.                                              

During the meeting Chief of Cabinet,Edmond Mulet (picture), affirmed that Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon was deeply disappointed by the UNESCO resolution which was adopted on Thursday. On Sunday Ban Ki-moon issued a public statement saying that “the Temple Mount is also a Jewish and a Christian holy site and any perceived undertaking to repudiate the undeniable common reference for these sites does not serve the interests of peace and will only feed violence and radicalism” and called on all sides “to uphold the status quo in relation to the holy sites in the Old City of Jerusalem”.

The resolution has caused a major uproar in the Jewish community around the world and the Director-General of UNESCO, Irina Bokova has also publicly distanced herself from the resolution, clarifying that this is not a resolution supported by her as Director-General but by some member states.

ECI first warned about the danger of hijacking the UN agency for education, science and culture when the Palestinian Authority was accepted as a full member in 2011, despite failing to fulfil the criteria for membership. The Palestinian Authority has since misused the organisation for its own political objectives by embarking on a political vendetta against the State of Israel. Already in April the Executive Committee issued a resolution denying any Jewish connection to the Temple Mount in Jerusalem. A few months later, in July, the same issue came up in a UNESCO World Heritage Committee meeting in Istanbul, but was postponed because of the attempted military coup in Turkey. A new vote is expected in Paris on October 26th.

“Politicized resolutions which deny historical facts, such as the 3000 years old connection between Jerusalem and the Jewish people, risk undermining the confidence in the international system,” warned ECI Founding Director, Tomas Sandell in New York on Friday. “If historical facts can be altered in order to achieve dubious political objectives, we may soon have a resolution denying any Christian connection to the St Peter’s Basilica in Rome. If we follow this logic, the next step is to also deny any link between Islam and Mecca.”

“However, instead of putting all the blame on an international institution which was set up to foster cultural dialogue and cooperation, we need to make those 24 UN member states that voted in favour of the resolution and those 26 UN member states that abstained accountable for their actions”, he added.

Only six UN member states rejected the resolution. *)

“UNESCO should not be a platform for historical revisionism but for dialogue and cooperation”, Sandell concluded.

“This inflammatory UNESCO resolution overshadows the positive steps that the United Nations has taken this year in recognizing the Jewish holiday of Yom Kippur, which was celebrated last week”, ECI's UN Director Gregory Lafitte commented.

“The good news is that the United Nations Secretariat is now beginning to officially recognise and respect the Jewish culture and its contributions to mankind. It is most unfortunate that a flawed resolution from the Executive Committee of UNESCO, which only has the support of 24 members, gets all the media attention. While we should not deny the negative consequences of the UNESCO resolution we should not let it take away from the fact that Israel is being increasingly recognized for its positive contributions in the UN”, he said.

ECI has campaigned for UN recognition of the Jewish religious holiday of Yom Kippur since 2013 and was invited to the office of the Secretary-General on Friday, October 14th, only two days after the UN, for the first time in its history, had recognized Yom Kippur, the holiest day in the Jewish calendar.

“Our invitation to the highest office of the United Nations is also a recognition of the work of the Forum for Cultural Diplomacy, which was set up by ECI in 2013 to promote better inclusion of Jewish culture at the UN,” Lafitte concluded.

The issue regarding UNESCO vote is discussed more thoroughly in the October European Report (view here).

*) Voting result of UNESCO’s executive board on October 13th, 2016:

In favour: Algeria, Bangladesh, Brazil, Chad, China, Dominican Republic, Egypt, Iran, Lebanon, Malaysia, Morocco, Mauritius, Mexico, Mozambique, Nicaragua, Nigeria, Oman, Pakistan, Qatar, Russia, Senegal, South Africa, Sudan and Vietnam.

Against: Estonia, Germany, Lithuania, Netherlands, United Kingdom and United States.

Abstaining: Albania, Argentina, Cameroon, El Salvador, France, Ghana, Greece, Guinea, Haiti, India, Italy, Ivory Coast, Japan, Kenya, Nepal, Paraguay, Saint Vincent and Nevis, Slovenia, South Korea, Spain, Sri Lanka, Sweden, Togo, Trinidad and Tobago, Uganda and Ukraine.

Serbia and Turkmenistan were absent.



ECI makes appeal for stronger transatlantic partnership for Israel

Washington D.C., October 12th, 2016- European Coalition for Israel (ECI) has made an appeal for a stronger transatlantic partnership in support for Israel ahead of its launch of a new sister organisation, American Friends of ECI, on Thursday night in Washington D.C.

"Europe is today ground zero when it comes to fighting growing anti-Semitism. But it does not stop here. The current assault on the Jewish people and the State of Israel is a global phenomenon,” ECI Founding Director Tomas Sandell said in a press statement on Tuesday. He mentioned the BDS (boycott, divestment and sanctions) movement in particular as a new form of anti-Semitism. The BDS movement has been condemned by a number of national parliaments, including Great Britain, and according to the High Court in France, its activities are in clear violation of international trade laws.

Sandell is not alone in expressing concern over the situation of the Jewish communities in Europe and the current demonisation of the State of Israel. According to the European Union, the Jewish population in Europe has declined from about 2 million in 1991 to 1.4 million in 2010. Last year, more than ten thousand Jews left Europe and immigrated to Israel.

Two weeks ago, the European Parliament organised a special conference in Brussels about the future of the Jewish communities in Europe, where several speakers warned about a new exodus from Europe following the growing violence against Jews on the continent.

In the conference, former British Chief Rabbi, Lord Jonathan Sacks accused the European leaders of failing to understand how anti-Semitism mutates over time and takes different forms in different ages. He said, “In the Middle Ages, Jews were hated because of their religion. In the nineteenth and early twentieth century they were hated because of their race. Today they are hated because of their nation state, the State of Israel. It takes different forms but it remains the same thing: the view that Jews have no right to exist as free and equal human beings.”

"This form of anti-Semitism is not limited to Europe," Sandell warns, "but is also spreading in the United States and other parts of the world. It is often hidden under the cover of 'human rights campaigning'. But whilst Israel is today the only country in the Middle East which fully respects fundamental rights and freedoms by law, it is paradoxically the only country to be singled out for boycotts by Western campaigners, including some Christian denominations."

"Christians should know better. When campaigners shout 'kauf nicht bei Juden', (do not buy from Jews) trouble is around the corner," Sandell warns.

But standing in support for Israel does not prevent ECI from also expressing legitimate concerns for the Palestinian people. In the past, the organisation has held Palestinian human rights events at local universities in Europe, where they have raised awareness of the problems which Palestinians are facing today, not only from the Israeli authorities, but also from their own political leaders.

"Whilst Europe may not be considered Israel´s best friend, we have a historic obligation to speak out and to do so in time, when we see Jews being targeted for boycotts and hunted down by terrorists in Europe. But in a global world we need to stand together with all those who value freedom, compassion and humanity, hence the need for an American sister organisation," Tomas Sandell explained.

The new organisation is headquartered in Washington D.C., but has its main focus on the United Nations in New York. It will offer partnerships for fighting anti-Semitism in Europe and the US, as well as a platform for diplomatic activities at the European Union in Brussels and the United Nations in New York and Geneva.