UNESCO and the Palestinians (updated)

Tomorrow, UNESCO will vote on a Palestinian proposal to recognize the Temple Mount as a Muslim World Heritage site.

Before we jump into the numerous outrageous aspects of this proposal, let us make one thing clear: Regardless of whether Muhammad’s “Night Journey” actually happened or whether it involved Jerusalem, Muslims clearly believe this to be the case and have acted in such a manner for hundreds of years. Therefore, recognizing a Muslim connection to these sites and the history behind them is not in and of itself a problem as long as other appropriate historical and religious connections (cough Jewish cough) are highlighted as well. Israel itself recognizes and explains to visitors the Muslim connection to these places, protects it and invests in archaeology to uncover the history of the Land of Israel regardless of whether that history is Muslim, Jewish, Christian or Pagan.

Now that we have that out of the way, let’s examine just how absurd this proposal actually is:

First, the idea that anyone could submit a proposal to anything, let alone UNESCO, about the Western Wall and Temple Mount and fail to mention any connection to Judaism and Jewish history is disgusting. This is like having a discussion about the Vatican without mentioning Catholicism. It would have been incredibly easy for this proposal to include both the Hebrew and Arabic terms for these places and explain the importance they hold for both religions (any Christianity). Had it done so, this proposal would deserve support. However, the goal of the Palestinian proposal is not to recognize Muslim history but rather only to rewrite history in a way that removes any reference to Jews, Judaism and Israel.

Second, the proposal itself actually complains about archaeological digs being done by Israel near the site. This is duplicitous for two reasons:

  1. Any UNESCO resolution should welcome archaeological digs that seek to uncover and preserve history. But as we’ve already established, this is anathema to the Palestinian bid.

  2. The main archaeological digs being condemned here include The Temple Mount Sifting Project that goes through mounds of destroyed archaeological debris that was illegally removed from the Temple Mount by the Waqf! The Waqf and Palestinian Authority have been carrying out unauthorized destruction of irreplaceable artifacts on the Temple Mount for years and instead of stopping it and provoking a violent reaction (clearly this is working!) Israel has allowed this to continue and makes the best of a horrible situation by sifting through the destruction. If this wasn’t enough, the Palestinians are openly complaining that Israel is trying to undo their illegal destruction of history!

Third, the Palestinians condemn Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat’s call for “citizens to bear arms in light of recent terror wave.” You read that correctly. The proposal does not condemn the wave or terror itself or the incitement causing it, but rather attempts by Israelis to defend themselves against it!

Fourth, it condemns Israel for “illegal measures taken against the freedom of worship and access of Muslims to Al-Aqsa Mosque.” While asserting that Jews have no rights whatsoever on the Temple Mount, the Palestinians, without a trace of irony, complain that their freedom of worship is being impinged. Given that over 4 million Muslims visited the Temple Mount last year while only 12,500 Jews did the same, this claim would be laughable if it wasn’t being taken seriously.

The Palestinians are complaining that Israel has periodically instituted restrictions on who can enter the compound as a result of Palestinian violence at the site, while ignoring the violence that prompted the restrictions in the first place! Cause and effect is apparently a concept the Palestinians either cannot or refuse to understand.

Fifth, the Palestinians complain of “Israel’s attempts to break the status quo since 1967.” The JPF has already debunked the “1967 Status Quo” fallacy. But what is important to recognize here is that since the Palestinians insist that only Muslims be allowed to pray at al-Aqsa, now that they are demanding the Western Wall be recognized as part of al-Aqsa, they are essentially saying they want all Jewish prayer there to stop as well!

Sixth, this proposal again calls for an end to the “attacks on al-Aqsa” by “right-wing extremists.” Who cares if no such attacks have ever happened, Abbas has been pushing this lie for too long to stop now. He already repeated it at the UNGA in front of heads of state from around the world, so why not repeat it to UNESCO. Who cares that this lie was what prompted the Manasra boys to try to stab and kill Jews? Clearly not the Palestinians.

Given the Arab-Muslim majority, there is every indication that this resolution will pass… along with any remaining doubts about UNESCO’s impartiality.


After a bit of outrage from UNESCO’s Director-General and some Western countries, the resolution dropped its call to reclassify the Western Wall as a Muslim site. Also removed were references to Jerusalem as the “occupied capital of Palestine” and condemnations of calls for Israeli citizens to bear arms to defend themselves against Palestinian terror. The other major outrages remain without any mention in the press of course.

However, the new resolution did recognize Rachel’s Tomb in Bethlehem and the Tomb of the Patriarchs in Hebron as Muslim holy sites (something that wasn’t widely reported as journalists focused solely on the Western Wall drama). Recognizing the Tomb of the Patriarchs as holy to Muslims in addition to Jews would be fine and appropriate but that is not what happened. There is no recognition of Jewish attachment to this, the Second Holiest site in Judaism. But given that the Temple Mount (the First Holiest) isn’t recognized either, this should be no surprise. (UNESCO did recognize both claims in 2010, but did not upload that in this new resolution).

The Elder of Ziyon has a great post regarding Rachel’s Tomb, which was not treated as a Muslim holy site until very recently (they started in the ’90s and only changed to the new name in official textbooks in 2001) and is claimed to be a mosque honoring someone without any connection to the biblical Rachel.

Given that this new claim has no historical basis, was not a firmly held belief among Muslims and only arose when Israel asserted its claim over the site, it is not appropriate to treat this site as the others and recognize both claims as though they are equal. An ancient and long sustained claim and presence is superior to a new, politically motivated claim that has no historical basis.

But, given that the entire Palestinian national project is based upon the exact opposite being true, we shouldn’t be surprised that they continue to invent new claims. Sadly, the world continues to uncritically accept them.