If Algeria introduced a resolution declaring that the earth was flat and that Israel had flattened it, it would pass by a vote of 164 to 13 with 26 abstentions. – Abba Eban
What’s next? A UNESCO decision denying the connection between peanut butter and jelly? Batman and Robin? Rock and roll? – Binyamin Netanyahu
או”מ שמום (UN, shmoo-en) – David Ben Gurion
It seems like everyone in the country is talking about the Palestinian-prompted UNESCO resolution which calls the Temple Mount and Western Wall only by their Muslim designations, implying that there is no Jewish connection to these sites. Not only does the phrase “Temple Mount” not appear, but the document refers to the “Al-Aqṣa Mosque/Al-Ḥaram Al-Sharif,” suggesting that the entire Mount is part of or identical to a mosque.
Israelis have responded with wall-to-wall condemnation of the resolution; even Israel Radio’s pre-holiday music program played numerous songs about Jerusalem, which the DJ carefully noted were “dedicated to UNESCO.” The resolution crossed a red line, the one that separates the supposed “political criticism of Israel” from outright Jew-hatred, although everybody knows that unofficially that line was crossed long ago. But people are angry, and want action. They don’t want to hear, yet again, “it’s the UN, what do you expect?” The feeling is that we don’t have to take this abuse, not the physical abuse of terrorism and not the delegitimization that pours from the “international community” on a continuous basis. We know that the purpose of delegitimization is to set the stage for the destruction of our state and the Jewish nation.
The reality and importance of the connection of Jerusalem and the holy sites to the Jewish people doesn’t need to be proven; no one halfway literate can honestly ignore the historical and archaeological evidence; no one can deny that the texts of Judaism and Christianity – and even Islam for that matter – refer to the Jewish Temple on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem. Only “Palestinians,” a people that created itself with the help of Soviet psychological warfare experts some 50 or so years ago, have ever had the chutzpah to say that all this is false.
But we know what to expect from “Palestinians,” masters of the made-up narrative, inventors of “Pallywood.” We are not surprised that Pakistan, Iran, etc. voted for it. What is harder to understand is why, out of 56 nations voting on the UNESCO resolution, only 6 – Estonia, Germany, Lithuania, The Netherlands, United Kingdom and United States – voted against it. Among the 26 abstentions were Italy, France and Spain, countries surely familiar with the history and traditions surrounding the Jewish Temple. Are we to believe that these countries, with their Christian traditions, didn’t understand the significance of the resolution?
And those who voted for it, including some countries that recently had supposedly improved their relations with Israel significantly, like India, Russia and China – or Chad, where the Director-General of Israel’s Foreign Ministry traveled in July to meet with its President – don’t they understand that their vote is more than a conventional and unexceptional slap at Israel, but a viciously anti-Jewish act? Are they really historically illiterate enough to believe the implication of the resolution, which is that the Jewish people have no connection – and even more, no right – to their holiest places?
I don’t think all of the abstainers or those who voted ‘yes’ are too ignorant to understand this. Certainly they get it in France, Spain and Italy! The explanation has to be that arguments against the resolution from Israel and the US, were counteracted by pressure to vote for it. But pressure from whom?
Not the “Palestinians,” who have no persuasive leverage. I think the most likely main culprit is Iran itself, which today unashamedly carries the banner of Hitlerist Jew-hatred in the world. Iran is selling large quantities of oil in the Far East, and the slavering greed of Europe to do business in the newly-unsanctioned Iran is well-documented. Russia (the folks who gave us the word ‘pogrom’) is now allied with Iran in the Syrian war, and perhaps prefers not to strain relations with it.
Today, the delegitimization of Israel, combined with the promulgation of “traditional” Jew-hatred, is a major project of Iran, which incidentally also finances much of the physical terrorism carried out against Israel. Iran also created and supports Hizballah, today Israel’s major conventional military threat.
Regardless of the pressure that may have been exerted, the fact that many “culturally advanced” nations could take part in an expression of pure Jew-hatred, which they must have understood as such, tells us much about the lack of moral backbone of their leaders – and must be a warning to us for the future.
The resolution is scheduled to come up for final approval in UNESCO’s Executive Board today (Tuesday). Although UNESCO’s Director-General, Irina Bokova, and other staff members oppose it, it is hard to imagine enough votes changing to result in a different outcome. The pressure from Iran will not let up regardless of what “moral” arguments are made.
I expect that a few more votes might be moved from “for” to “abstain,” and a few abstainers switch to the opposition, but it will pass. We can expect similar challenges in the near future.
Why is this happening? Part of it is our failure to use our power to obtain diplomatic objectives, and part is that we have never succeeded in maintaining a positive image of Israel in the world public. Both our direct diplomacy and our “public diplomacy” or “hasbara” efforts have been failing for years.
This is a massive screw-up, and there isn’t a simple solution. Our Foreign Ministry is in disarray. The Director-General just quit for unspecified “personal reasons,” and we haven’t had a Foreign Minister in some time (the PM is in charge of it in addition to his other duties). The Europeans and Iran spend heavily on anti-Israel propaganda and subversion, while our public diplomacy budget is minuscule.
Fixing this is a long-term task, which will require attention at the highest levels of government. But a response to UNESCO’s challenge is needed now. Israel has a responsibility, not just to itself, but to the Jewish people of whom it aspires to be the protector, to force UNESCO members to override this resolution with another that explicitly recognizes the Jewish connection to Jerusalem and its holy sites.
Israel has leverage – what about the technology that the PM has recently promised to African nations? What about the natural gas that is about to become available? What about security and counterterrorism cooperation? Egypt, that is struggling with our help against Da’esh and the Muslim Brotherhood, is taking a leading role in promoting this resolution. Why shouldn’t it have to pay a price?
The muscles are there. Flex them. And then begin to make the changes to our diplomatic apparatus that will prevent us from being blindsided like this in the future.