Josef Olmert

Again Umm is not Shmumm-Unesco is a serious matter

In a previous piece I related to the growing role of the UN with regard to the problems with the Palestinians and the possibility
of a binding UN Security Council decision against Israel, without an American veto. I referred to Ben Gurion’s iconic reference
to the Umm Shmumm[a game of words in Hebrew mocking the UN], and cautioned against a complacent attitude on behalf of the State of Israel and the pro-Israel community at large. Now, we have more examples of the emerging pattern of UN war on Israel, and again, Israeli complacency is at display- it is both stupid and dangerous. I do not refer to the shameful appearance of Btzelem in an informal session of the Security Council , attacking settlements, attacking Israel. These guys cannot even be thrown to the dustbin of history, as even this place is too respectable for them. I refer to the Unesco resolution. This is a red light even bigger than the shameful Zionism is Racism resolution from 1975, and why?

It was in 1975, when the anti Zionist resolution was adopted. The international environment was toxic against Israel, after the Yom Kippur War, the oil crisis, Arafat speech in the General Assembly and the Cold War at its height. Still, there was a genuine outrage, a near universal Jewish anger, an unforgettable speech of the late Haim Herzog, and not less so by the American Ambassador, Daniel Patrick Moynihan. And now? PM Netanyahu jokes about it in his tweets, and altogether the anger is muted, hardly heard at all. But here is a bigger problem-it took the Jewish people 16 years to bring about the abrogation of this decision and this achievement was connected to the convention of the Madrid Peace Conference, as well as the end of the old Cold War. Nearly a generation later , and we are at square one, again facing the most fundamental challenge to the very existence of a Jewish history in our HOMELAND, not just in Jerusalem. The lesson? well, as sad as it is, one must come to the painful conclusion, that no matter what international circumstance sexist , Israel the state, and the Jewish people are not naturally, indisputably recognized as a legitimate entity. The problem here is chronic. What makes it worse , is the almost universal lack of friendly international reaction, and even more so, the lack of Jewish reaction. Where is the Jewish people? If I am to borrow the immortal words of the great Nathan Alterman, ”A people does not run away from the barricades of its life”[pardon me if I ruin in translation the beauty of the Hebrew lines…], and Mount Temple IS the most basic barricade of our life. But, we seem to be running away.

” We” means a government which has allowed the continuous erosion of the Status Quo on Temple Mount, in fact, many governments over a long period, which kept a blind eye to the systematic destruction of any Jewish symbols in the so-called Shlomo Stables, and the building of another Mosque there, the Marwania Mosque, as well as an on-going concessions to every demand by the Muslim Waqf, and a near paralyzing fear from the reaction of the Hashimites in Amman. Yes, whether we like it or not, there is a Muslim claim to Temple Mount and Jerusalem, as well as a Christian claim. We have to respect them, but we CANNOT do it on the expense of our rights and claims. Let us be honest about that-by not insisting on our rights and claims we are the people which is running away from the most important barricade of our lives. The battle over narrative is thus decided against us, and today this is THE battle. We can expect more to come, because the Palestinians and their supporters understand the basic rule, that nothing is more successful than success. Sa’ib Eraqat, the head of the Palestinian negotiations team with Israel, declared a while ago, that the
”so-called” Jewish Temple was built by King Solomon, who was a Muslim. This statement was greeted with derision, as we , the Jews, are always so rational, so sober, so realistic, and therefore cannot bring ourselves to understand collective folly on the part of other people. Oh no, the collective folly is ours, believing that historic narrative of this kind is of no significance. Eraqat gave us the history lesson, not Unesco, as this decision was in the making for a long time, and we did not see the signs, and did not hear the voices. Prior to Eraqat , it was Arafat who stated that the Kotel is Muslim in the Clinton-organized Camp David talks with Ehud Barak in 2000. Well, one thing we cannot take away from the Palestinians-their consistency and historic commitment.

It may be, that we , the Jews, the nation of long history , are the ones who lack consistency and historic commitment. We can try to run from our history, but it will not run away from us, and surely our enemies will continue to use this very history against us.

About the Author
Dr Josef Olmert, a Middle East expert, is currently an adjunct professor at the University of South Carolina