To the honored members of the UNESCO World Heritage Committee — from Angola, Azerbaijan, Burkina Faso, Croatia, Cuba, Finland, Indonesia, Jamaica, Kazakhstan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Peru, Philippines, Poland, Portugal, South Korea, Tunisia, Turkey, Tanzania, Vietnam, and Zimbabwe – currently meeting at the 40th Session of the World Heritage Committee.
And to anyone concerned about a just and lasting peace in the Middle East who is willing to stand up bravely for truth.
As you probably have noticed there is a Palestinian-Jordanian resolution about the Temple Mount / HarHaBayit/ Noble Sanctuary/ Haram al-Sharif on the agenda. This resolution denies all connections to this holy site except the Muslim ties. It reflects the lack of historical knowledge that unfortunately seems to be taking over the whole world. Even the knowledge about Jewish connection to the Temple Mount presented in a 1924 pamphlet issued by the Supreme Muslim Council is being forgotten – or deliberately ignored.
What is more: the resolution is filled with baseless accusations against Israel – accusations that only serve to increase intolerance, hatred, and ignorance.
Similar resolutions have been proposed and adopted by the UNESCO Executive Board December 2015 and April 2016. Both times UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova along with concerned professionals and politicians succeeded in getting the resolutions modified, although they still found the final results unfortunate – to say the least.
This is no longer the time for modification. If adopted in any form this resolution will tarnish the reputation of the Committee for ever. It must be thrown out. Those who have put it forward should be publicly chastised and given extensive coaching about the responsibilities of bodies such as UNESCO.
A new resolution is needed. It only needs a few points, and should be used to start a process of learning and reconciliation.
NOW is the time for UNESCO to step forward to claim the Temple Mount as a site on which people of ALL faiths may pray … where the police are authorized to remove rowdy people and people who litter … and where the police are authorized to remove stockpiles of rocks and other weapons, even if they are in a mosque or shrine.
NOW is the time to make sure that the sites in Jerusalem have a prominent place in the ongoing work to protect holy sites all over the Middle East. Inclusion of Jewish sites in this work is happening all too slowly. Now is the time to band together to demand improvement in how all authorities – including the Israeli – preserve holy sites, making these treasures accessible to all nations, peoples and religions. Now is the time to join together in the joy of learning.
NOW is the time to ask the international community to help Israel, the Palestinian Authority and the Jordanian Waqf authorities create and protect a holy place of gathering.
Although a backlash can be expected – most likely a violent one – standing together to create a just situation on this holy site could well prove to be one of the most important contributions towards a meaningful peace that anyone could make. The vote is secret, so if everyone on the Committee – or at least a large majority – rejected the resolution, the amount of back-lash damage that could be done to any single country would be minimized.