Paris, 6 July 2020
This week, the UNESCO World Heritage Committee (WHC) was to have convened in Fuzhou, China. The Wiesenthal Centre, as the only Jewish organization accredited to that body, each year lobbies against Palestinian theft of Jewish heritage.
Due to COVID-19 and financial strictures, the WHC was cancelled. In its place, the 58 member-State Paris-based representatives convened at the UNESCO Executive Board, bringing along its biannual anti-Israel baggage.
In the absence of the United States and Israel, the Wiesenthal Centre reports from the field.
As in all UN bodies, UNESCO decisions are subject to bloc solidarity, the largest being the ‘Arab/Muslim’ plus the so-called radical ‘non-Aligned’, followed by the African group, the Latin American/Caribbean (GRULAC) and the European. This would normally guarantee passage of pro-Palestinian issues – especially as abstentions do not count.
“Today’s passage was consensual without a vote, thus avoiding a debate. In any case, items 24 and 25 passed,” explained Permanent Observer to UNESCO and Wiesenthal Centre Director for International Relations, Dr. Shimon Samuels.
Item 24, entitled “Occupied Palestine” and presented by Jordan/Palestine, is the most outrageous. The decision’s text includes:
- On Jerusalem: “All legislative and administrative measures and actions taken by Israel, the Occupying Power, which have altered or purport to alter the character and status of the Holy City of Jerusalem... are null and void and must be rescinded forthwith.”
- On Gaza: “Deeply deplores the ongoing military development around the Gaza Strip and their heavy toll of civilian casualties...”
- On “The two Palestinian sites of Al-Haram Al-Ibrahimi/Tomb of the Patriarchs in Al-Khalil/Hebron and The Bilal Ibn Rabah Mosque/Rachel’s Tomb in Bethlehem”... “Reaffirms that the two concerned sites... are an integral part of the Occupied Palestinian Territory...”
This document is followed by item 25, concerning “Educational and Cultural Institutions in the Occupied Arab Territories”... including:
- On “Occupied Palestine”: “...deep concern [about] the Israeli censorship of the Palestinian curricula of schools and universities in East Jerusalem...” and “Deeply regrets the destruction by the Israeli authorities of schools..."
- On “Occupied Syrian Golan”: same charges.
Two further proposed decisions that appear harmless, but could result in historical abuse, are:
- Bahrain’s campaign to support the UN’s initiative, to declare 5 April an annual “Day of Conscience.”
- An Albanian/Palestinian move to expand the working group of the UNESCO “Memory of the World Programme.”
The latter has already led to conflictual situations between China and Japan. While Israel was still a UNESCO member, the Palestinians were blocked in their presentation to this programme.
“Charges are today one-sided, singling out Israel, with no mention of terrorism and missiles from Gaza, UNRWA school textbooks in the West Bank and Gaza replete with antisemitism and all other forms of incitement to violence and the perpetuation of the conflict...”
“It is for the Jewish NGOs to fill the vacuum, as it behoves our Centre at UNESCO,” concluded Samuels.