Israel suspends cooperation with Unesco after Jerusalem vote

Resolutions refer to ‘Occupied Palestine’ and aim to ‘safeguard Palestinian cultural heritage and distinctive character of East Jerusalem’

Gulf News

Occupied Jerusalem: The Israeli regime suspended cooperation with Unesco on Friday after the UN cultural organisation adopted two resolutions on annexed (Occupied) East Jerusalem ahead of a final vote next week.

In a letter sent to Unesco Director General Irina Bokova, right wing Education Minister Naftali Bennett accused the body of ignoring “thousands of years of Jewish ties to Jerusalem” and aiding “Islamist terror.”

“I have notified the Israel National Commission for Unesco to suspend all professional activities with the international organisation,” he said.

The resolutions adopted at committee stage on Thursday refer to “Occupied Palestine” and aim to “safeguard the Palestinian cultural heritage and the distinctive character of East Jerusalem.”

They refer to the Al Haram Al Sharif in Occupied East Jerusalem’s Old City — Islam’s third holiest site — without any reference to the site also being revered by Jews.

Irina Bokova, the head of Unesco, expressed dismay with the wording of the draft resolution, stating that “different peoples worship the same places, sometimes under different names. The recognition, use of and respect for these names is paramount.”

“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,” Bokova said.

“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.”

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’s government in the West Bank welcomed the resolution, as did Hamas, the group that rules the Gaza Strip. A spokesman for Hamas called the resolution a “step in the right direction.”

Participants said that the resolutions, which were put forward by several Arab countries including Egypt, Lebanon and Algeria, were adopted by 24 votes to six with 26 abstentions and two absentees.

They are to be put to the Unesco executive board on Tuesday, but in general it votes in line with the decisions taken by committees.

The status of Occupied Jerusalem is the thorniest issue of the decades-long Palestinian conflict.

Israel captured East Jerusalem during the 1967 war and later annexed it in a move not recognised by the international community, declaring the whole city its “indivisible capital”.

The Palestinians see Occupied East Jerusalem as the capital of their promised future state.