PA officials defend UNESCO resolution on Jerusalem

PA representative to UNESCO says the resolution on Jerusalem is "all about occupation".

Ben Ariel ,

UNESCO headquarters in Paris
UNESCO headquarters in Paris

The Palestinian Authority's representative to UNESCO, the UN's cultural agency, defended on Tuesday the omission of any reference to the Jewish connection to the Temple Mount in a contentious resolution passed last week about Jerusalem.

Earlier on Tuesday, UNESCO held a revote on the resolution and passed it again. The second vote occurred after Mexico changed its mind on the issue and called to change its vote and also to hold a revote on the question altogether.

The PA envoy, Mounir Anastas, speaking to reporters in Paris and quoted by Haaretz, said that the vote was "about occupation."

Elias Sanbar, a second PA representative to UNESCO, said that Jordan had "wanted" to include the Jewish reference but asserted that this was "impossible." He claimed that the Geneva Conventions required referring to the site by its name from the period before Israel liberated eastern Jerusalem in the 1967 Six Day War.

Sanbar also suggested, however, that it may have been possible to revise the resolution to nclude a Jewish reference to the site. "This text is not holy, it can be changed," he was quoted by Haaretz as having said.

Anstas accused reporters of going around in circles about the issue. "You're just asking the same question over and over again,” he said. "This resolution is about occupation not about a name.”

UNESCO officials, who have already issued clarifications to Israel about the resolution, said they would have preferred a more consensual process.

Among them is the agency's Director General Irina Bokova, who on Friday spoke out against the resolution, stressing that Jerusalem is the sacred city of the three monotheistic religions and pointing out that “the heritage of Jerusalem is indivisible.”

Israel's ambassador to UNESCO, Carmel Shama Hacohen, on Tuesday called Palestinian diplomacy over the resolution "brutal."

“This was not a resolution aiming to protect Jerusalem, it was a political initiative meant to harm Israel’s sovereignty and to rewrite history” Hacohen said, according to Haaretz. “It’s not legitimate morally or historically.”

“No other country has been treated this way in UNESCO," he added.

Hacohen said was hopeful, though, that Israel would someday reverse the decision the same as a 1975 United Nations resolution condemning Zionism as racism was eventually revoked.