The US Ambassador to UNESCO condemned as “inflammatory” a resolution approved Wednesday by UNESCO’s World Heritage Committee on the status of conservation of the Old City of Jerusalem and its Walls, a document that Israel says denies Judaism’s deep ties to the holy site Temple Mount. In today’s secret ballot, the international body agreed to retain the site on the list of endangered world heritage and criticized Israel for its continuous refusal to let the body’s experts access Jerusalem’s holy sites to determine their conservation status. The document refers to the Jerusalem site that Jews called Temple Mount only by its Arab name, a significant semantic decision also adopted by UNESCO’s Executive Board last week that triggered condemnation from Israel and its allies.
“This item should have been defeated … These politicized and one-sided resolutions are damaging the credibility of UNESCO,” U.S. Ambassador Crystal Nix Hines said in a statement to The Associated Press. “These resolutions are continuously one-sided and inflammatory.” The resolution was passed by the World Heritage Committee’s 21 member countries. Ten countries voted for, two against, 8 abstained and one was absent. Neither Israel, the U.S. nor Palestine is on the World Heritage Committee.
Israel suspended ties with UNESCO earlier this month over a similar resolution. Elias Sanbar, the Palestinian ambassador to UNESCO, fired back at those upset with the resolution, which was sponsored by his delegation.
“What Israel wants, in fact, is to put politics in religion. This is the most dangerous thing that is happening now in UNESCO,” Sanbar told the AP. “They are politicizing religion and this is very dangerous.” The resolution is the latest of several measures at UNESCO over decades that Israelis see as evidence of ingrained anti-Israel bias within the United Nations, where Israel and its allies are far outnumbered by Arab countries and their supporters.
The site in Jerusalem has been on UNESCO’s endangered list since 1982. UNESCO’s World Heritage Site list is known throughout the world for its work in highlighting sites of historic and cultural significance, and endangered global heritage.