Ariella Brown

Thoughts on the UNESCO vote

“The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men should do nothing.”

This quote is often attributed to Edmund Burke, though that may not be wholly accurate. Regardless of who first coined the phrase, the concept is correct. We saw this in the last century in the world’s silence in the face of the Holocaust. Now we are seeing it in the world’s acquiescence with revisionist history that attempts to uproot the deep connection Jews have to Israel, and Jerusalem in particular.

Anyone who reads this publication knows about  UNESCO’s resolution to condemn Israel and consider the entire Temple Mount as a Muslim holy site that Jews have no claim to. As you can see here, the breakdown of the vote, as you can see  was as follows:

Voting in favor were: Algeria, Bangladesh, Brazil, Chad, China, Dominican Republic, Egypt, Iran, Lebanon, Malaysia, Morocco, Mauritius, Mexico, Mozambique, Nicaragua, Nigeria, Oman, Pakistan, Qatar, Russia, Senegal, South Africa, Sudan and Vietnam.

Voting against were: Estonia, Germany, Lithuania, The Netherlands, United Kingdom and United States.

Abstaining were: Albania, Argentina, Cameroon, El Salvador, France, Ghana, Greece, Guinea, Haiti, India, Italy, Ivory Coast, Japan, Kenya, Nepal, Paraguay, Saint Vincent and Nevis, Slovenia, South Korea, Spain, Sri Lanka, Sweden, Togo, Trinidad and Tobago, Uganda and Ukraine.

Absent were: Serbia and Turkmenistan.

I’m feeling rather incensed about the whole thing. But what really gets me is seeing tweets in which a country like India is held up as heroic for abstaining. It’s not heroic to merely abstain. As Rabbi Shraga Silverstein often said in class, “Silence is acquiescence. If you do not acquiesce, do not silent.”

Certainly that is the view of our Sages as we see from the Talmud in Sotah 11a:

Rav Chiya son of Abba said in the name of Rav Simai: “Three were involved in Pharaoh’s plan for the Jewish population. He had three advisors, Bilaam, Yithro, and Iyov that he consulted on the problem. Their fates were determined by their actions at the time. Bilaam who counseled [to kill the baby boys] was killed. Iyov who was silent  was punished with afflictions.  Yitro who fled [because he objected but knew that was not what the king wanted to hear] merited his descendants to sit in the Chamber of Hewn Stone.

This is what I see replay in UNESCO’s vote. The ones voting for are in the camp of Bilam. The ones voting against are the in the camp of Yisro. The ones abstaining – who consider themselves the good guys – are really like Iyov. They don’t feel another’s pain and just consider it not their problem.

But abstaining is just another form of silence, which is tantamount to acquiescence. In the face of evil, one must object and cry out – if only to register that they are not oblivious to the injustice. That kind of silence or doing nothing is all that evil needs to triumph.

The UNESCO resolution is the modern form of attempted annihilation of a people an attempt to invalidate their claim on their own heritage, erasing thousands of years of history in the attempt to appease particular interests that would prefer to uphold a narrative that doesn’t fit with the fact. Silence in the face of revisionism motivated by blatant anti-Semitism.

About the Author
Ariella Brown published Kallah Magazine from 2005-2011. Now, she runs a blog for topics of both general and Jewish interest at
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