Fiamma Nirenstein

Heritage and no culture in UNESCO’s deeds

Yesterday, after the resolution by the World Heritage Committee with which UNESCO again declared Jerusalem’s destruction as the birthplace of Abraham’s monotheism by rewarding it solely to the Muslims, Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu summoned its ambassador for consultations. It’s a signal to the entire world: it is a heartfelt “enough” to the international perversion that seeks to distort history, removes rights on the sly, and renders the good as the aggressors and attacks them.

It marks just the undoing of the organization created to protect world culture, which instead now seems bent on destroying it. UNESCO’s failure is such that the time has arrived for us to hope for not only its demise, but also its sister organizations, as well as the many other UN agencies, bloated with functionaries, besieged by bribery, and dominated by an anti-Semitic lobby in which the Islamic bloc has become affiliated with what used to be the Communist and Third World blocs, and with various fainthearted European nations.

US ambassador Crystal Nix Hiness said she thinks it is a resolution that will create a fire. And as a matter of fact the terrorist attacks in the name of Al-Aqsa Mosque are plaguing the world. However, the roof has cracked this time under the excessive weight of anti-Semitism and it can bring to the definitive collapse. Instead of speaking Wednesday morning, the Israeli ambassador Carmel Shama Hacohen threw in the trash can the resolution in which the Temple Mount in Jerusalem, i.e., the heart of Jewish history, is called only by the Muslim name, which in Arabic is Al-Haram Al-Sharif.

The crack presented itself at the time of the vote: in the wake of Italy’s statements, as well as Mexico and Brazil’s regret over the October 13th resolution, the 21-member states of UNESCO’s World Heritage Committee (of which Italy, Mexico and Brazil aren’t members and therefore couldn’t participate yesterday) were warned not to oppose or abstain by the Palestinian and Jordanian delegations.

The latter remarked that if the resolution wasn’t unanimously adopted that they’ll bombard UNESCO with “other options” and “retreat from all consensual language.” They wrote this in a letter in which they asked all delegations to submit their positions before Tuesday afternoon. But the secret votes in favor were 11, whereby 8 abstained, 2 oppossed and 1, Jamaica, was absent. If those who abstained were counted together with those who opposed and were absent, the anti-Semitism that prevades UNESCO would this time have been defeated.

The vote is secret but obviously, all the Arab states plus Vietnam and Cuba (both part of old Soviet alliance!) voted in favor, and among the Europeans, Poland, Finland, Croatia and Portugal abstained. Croatia and Tanzania were the states that asked to go for a vote, leaving out the consensus approval. ù

Meanwhile, Italy has stated that they will vote “no” next time. However, in the meantime, does anyone feel reassured and protected by an organization like this? Who possibly thinks that it will preserve history, tradition, squares, and painters?

The over one thousand sites within its listings, beyond the immense destruction in Syria and Iraq, are also suffering here at home in relation to the systematic architectural looting that is destroying our most beautiful urban landscapes: writing in the British daily, The Guardian, Oliver Wainwright complained about UNESCO’s impotence over a year ago, citing London and Dresden, but also about its failure to protect nature, as happened in Oman when UNESCO removed its sticker from an antelope conservation sanctuary because the government slashed the park’s size by 90 percent.

Often in order to obtain UNESCO’s stamp of approval, countries rush into inflated and Hollywood-like restorations as happened on the border of the Forbidden City in Beijing when its residents were driven out from its surrounding neighborhoods in order to make way for restaurants and bars.

Even the Great Wall has suffered a purely touristic destiny under UNESCO’s flag, a third of it has now disappeared. Niagara Falls is punctuated with hotels and restaurants, the sacred city of Angkor Wat in Cambodia has turned the nearby town of Siem Reap into a mini Las Vegas… Italy, with its cultural heritage, which inhabits every village and landscape, should care more than anybody else that the platform for culture is cleaned up and stays true to its original purpose.

Europe in general has every interest in defining UNESCO for what it is, namely a political and ideological stage, an organization devoted to “Culture” and “Heritage” that denies the importance of the jewish “Heritage” or “Culture” in Jerusalem.

Translation by Amy K. Rosenthal

This article originally appeared in slightly different form in Italian in Il Giornale (October 27, 2016)

About the Author
Fiamma Nirenstein is a journalist, author, former Deputy President of the Committee on Foreign Affairs of the Italian Chamber of Deputies, and member of the Italian delegation at the Council of Europe.
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