World Jewish Congress (WJC) President Ronald S. Lauder today warned UNESCO against exacerbating tensions in Israel by adopting a Palestinian-sponsored resolution that declares the Western Wall in Jerusalem a part of the Al-Aqsa Mosque.
Ahead of a vote by the UNESCO Executive Council later this week, Lauder said the proposal “goes in the face of the UNESCO Constitution, which very clearly states the organization’s aim to contribute to peace and security by promoting collaboration and coexistence. It would make a mockery of that founding principle if the UNESCO Executive Council were to back such a resolution. UNESCO must not be turned into a battleground for conflicts between religions.”
The WJC president added: “For thousands of years, Jews have lived and prayed in Jerusalem. Since 1967, the State of Israel has safeguarded the right of worship of all three monotheistic religions present in Jerusalem, including the right of Muslims to pray on the Mount.
“However, declaring the Western Wall of the Temple Mount, Judaism’s holiest place, a Muslim site would be a travesty. Instead of fostering peace, it would only encourage extremists to step up their campaign against Jews, both in Israel and beyond.”
Lauder appealed to all 58 member countries on the UNESCO Executive to vote against the proposal: “Everybody should see that this is not about protecting holy sites; it’s about bashing Israel, it’s about sowing the seeds of strife, and it’s about legitimizing violence. It must be stopped.”
The proposal, which is sponsored by six Arab states (Algeria, Egypt, Kuwait, Morocco, Tunisia and the United Arab Emirates) on behalf of the Palestinians, proposes to declare that the Western Wall is part of the Al-Aqsa Mosque and called Buraq Plaza.
It also blames Israel for the recent wave of Palestinian violence and terror, urges that the Jewish state is condemned for the excavations near the Temple Mount and in the Old City of Jerusalem, and for what is termed the “aggression and illegal measures taken against the freedom of worship and access of Muslim to al-Aqsa Mosque and Israel's attempts to break the status quo since 1967".
Moreover, the draft resolution seeks to confirm an earlier UNESCO decision that the Cave of the Patriarchs and Rachel's Tomb, two West Bank sites holy to both Jews and Muslims, are part of a Palestinian state.