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The Hypocrisy of UNESCO

Sara McCleary

It’s a wonderful document full of beautiful, well-written ideas, like the argument that “since wars begin in the minds of men, it is in the minds of men that the defences of peace must be constructed.”

And that “the wide diffusion of culture, and the education of humanity for justice and liberty and peace are indispensable to the dignity of man and constitute a sacred duty which all the nations must fulfill in a spirit of mutual assistance and concern.”

I think my favourite section, though, is the declaration that “a peace based exclusively upon the political and economic arrangements of governments would not be a peace which could secure the unanimous, lasting and sincere support of the peoples of the world, and that the peace must therefore be founded, if it is not to fail, upon the intellectual and moral solidarity of mankind.”

I’m talking, of course, about the constitution of the United Nations Education, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), the document that UNESCO blatantly disregarded last Thursday when it passed a draft resolution called “Occupied Palestine” that fully discounts Jewish ties to the Temple Mount.

The resolution opens with a lip-service claim that it “[affirms] the importance of the Old City of Jerusalem and its Walls for the three monotheistic religions,” yet throughout the five-page document, the holy site in question is referred to only by its Muslim name, Al-Haram Al Sharif, and not once as the Temple Mount or the Kotel. Instead, in rather pointed language, the resolution, “Calls on Israel, the occupying Power, to allow for the restoration of the historic status quo” and, “Strongly condemns the escalating Israeli aggressions… against the freedom of worship and Muslims’ access to their Holy Site Al-Aqsa Mosque/Al-Haram Al-Sharif, and requests Israel… to immediately stop these measures.” Absurd demands, to be sure, since Israel is doing no such thing.

That the resolution did not receive as much support as a nearly identical one passed in April is at least somewhat encouraging. Previously the draft received 33 yes votes and 17 abstentions, with only one state – the United States – voting no. Last week, the barely-updated version received 24 votes in favour, six votes against, and a whopping 26 abstentions. Israel and the U.S. had been working hard to gain support and they obviously saw some luck, but it is disappointing that they were unable to convert more states fully into votes against rather than simply convincing them to abstain from the vote. 

If UNESCO truly believed in its own constitution, such a resolution would not even be up to a vote. If “The purpose of the Organization is to contribute to peace and security… in order to further universal respect… for the human rights and fundamental freedoms which are affirmed for the peoples of the world, without distinction of race, sex, language, or religion, by the Charter of the United Nations” as its Constitution states, how can it accept a motion that fully disregards the historic relationship between Jews and the Kotel, along with other Jewish historic sites?

The answer, unfortunately, is a deeply-ingrained anti-Semitic, pro-Palestinian sentiment. To accept the resolution at face-value, with its misleading language and lies of omission, shows a willingness to maintain an anti-Israeli attitude rather than a desire to learn the truth. It is to disregard another passage from UNESCO’s own constitution that states, “That ignorance of each other’s ways and lives has been a common cause, throughout the history of mankind, of that suspicion and mistrust between the peoples of the world through which their differences have all too often broken into war.”

It is disappointing that the organization that claims to work against “ignorance of each other’s ways and lives” instead promotes it by accepting and endorsing a resolution that disregards more than 2,000 years of Jewish history.

Sara McCleary has written extensively on a wide range of topics while working as a news reporter and freelancer. She has also completed a master’s degree in history, and further graduate work in interdisciplinary humanities.