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Erasing history

Palestinian denial of Jewish ties to the land of Israel make a farce of the historical record and bar the way to peace

As yet another US administration tries its hand at resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, come additional reasons to believe that the Palestinians prefer business as usual.

The latest example is set to take place at the World Heritage Committee’s upcoming meetings in Krakow, Poland (July 2-12), where the Palestinians will press for designating the old city of Hebron as a Palestinian heritage site. The committee, a UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) — affiliated body, is being asked to erase the 3,000-year connection of the Jewish people to the place where its patriarchs and matriarchs are believed to be buried, and which served as King David’s first capital, before being moved to Jerusalem.

The campaign to not just re-write history, but to eliminate it, has been a priority agenda item for the Palestinians for years. Yasser Arafat, with a straight face, famously told President Bill Clinton at the Camp David talks in the summer of 2000 that the Temple never existed in Jerusalem. While fixated largely on Jerusalem, this revisionist offensive has seen the Palestinians claim that Bethlehem’s Tomb of Rachel was a mosque, and therefore a Muslim holy site.

Beginning in 1996, and continuing for nearly a decade, mobs sporadically attacked the site, placing Jewish worshippers in danger. In recent years, the Palestinians turned to the World Heritage Committee, which in 2010 gave both Rachel’s Tomb, and the Tomb of the Patriarchs, approbation as Palestinian holy sites, and demanded that Israel withdraw them from a list of Israeli (read: Jewish) national heritage sites.

Still working within UNESCO, the Palestinians and their allies in historical revisionism, nearly a year ago, secured an Executive Board resolution to re-name the Temple Mount with the Arabic/Muslim “Haram al-Sharif,” and the Western Wall Plaza the “Al-Buraq Plaza.” This resolution took a big eraser not only to the Jewish connection to the site, but the Christian one as well.

Voting for the resolution were several European countries, including France, whose majority Roman Catholic population would certainly tie the life of Jesus to the Temple Mount. That historic connection, at least in UN parlance, has now been relegated to secondary mentions only. When a European diplomat was questioned at the time by a colleague of mine as to why his country voted to change the name, and how he would explain it to his grandchildren, that diplomat offered only a weak defense, saying that the original language in the resolution was worse.

Two additional UNESCO resolutions on Jerusalem have followed. And even though France, Italy and a few other countries that voted for the original resolution have since either abstained or voted against, and though these new measures recognize the importance of the city to the three religions, that has not stopped the Palestinians from working day and night to deny Israel’s/Jewish connection to the city. Some small glimmer of hope in this regard was the last UNESCO Executive Board vote on Jerusalem, which was adopted with 23 votes for, 10 countries against and 22 abstentions.

The Palestinians often cover these hit-and-run efforts to delegitimize Jewish claims to the holy places with charges that Israel has inflicted damage to the sites, usually through archeological excavations or safety improvements aimed at protecting worshippers, tourists and pilgrims. Israel’s stellar reputation as an international leader in the field of archeology notwithstanding, such attacks surely resonate with the Palestinians’ fellow travelers in the international community.

And so, the effort at de-legitimization continues, this time in Krakow where the 21-member World Heritage Committee will convene its 41st meeting. The membership of the committee includes a number of close Palestinian allies, who will certainly provide their automatic votes for anything that is hatched at the Palestinian Authority’s (PA) headquarters in Ramallah. That said, there are other countries—from Europe, Africa and Asia, that must be getting the message that these one-sided fusillades aimed at Israel, within the UN system and beyond, produce zero results in moving the peace process forward.

The new UN Secretary General Antonio Gutteres has already made it clear that fairness, not bias or politicization, will save the organization from irrelevance. In his speeches on the subject, he clearly has the unfair treatment of Israel in mind.

From what we have learned about President Donald Trump’s face-to-face meetings with Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas, the former is said to have warned against glorifying terror by paying pensions and stipends to imprisoned terrorists or to the families of suicide bombers, and to end the incessant incitement against Israel and Jews.

To that, US Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley has repeatedly called out the UN system on its obsession with resolutions and pronouncements against Israel at the General Assembly in New York, at UNESCO in Paris, and especially, at the Human Rights Council in Geneva.

The Palestinians, as the saying goes, “have not yet received the memos.” The state of denial in which they have placed themselves has serious ramifications for the current effort by the administration to re-start a process, already stymied time and again by the zero-sum approach of the PA. If it can operate only on the basis of denying what everyone knows — the Jewish connection to Jerusalem, Hebron and Bethlehem—they will never be reliable, believable partners for co-existence with Israel, much less for a real peace.

The World Heritage Committee can throw a splash of cold water reality on the Palestinian world view, when it convenes in Krakow. For it to do otherwise would be to make a farce of the historical record and to place us further from, and not closer to, resolving the conflict.

About the Author
Daniel S. Mariaschin is the CEO of B’nai B’rith International
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