Tuesday, October 18, 2016

UNESCO adopts anti-Israel resolution on al-Aqsa Mosque

Palestinian leaders have welcomed a decision by the United Nations cultural agency to adopt a resolution on occupied East Jerusalem that sharply criticises Israeli policies around the al-Aqsa Mosque compound, while Israel says it ignores Jewish ties to the key holy site.

A spokesman for Paris-based UNESCO said on Tuesday that the resolution, which caused Israel to suspend its cooperation with the agency, was adopted without a new vote after being approved at the committee stage last week.

The text, which touches on Israel's management of Palestinian religious sites, refers throughout to the al-Aqsa mosque compound site in occupied East Jerusalem's Old City only by its Muslim names: al-Aqsa and al-Haram al-Sharif.

Al-Aqsa Mosque compound is the third-holiest site in Islam. Jews refer to the site as the Temple Mount.

Palestine's deputy ambassador to UNESCO, Mounir Anastas, told reporters the resolution "reminds Israel that they are the occupying power in East Jerusalem and it asks them to stop all their violations", including archaeological excavations around religious sites.

  • The UNESCO resolution also condemned Israel for restricting Muslim access to the site, and for aggression by Israeli police and soldiers, while also recognising Israel as the occupying power.

"By criticising the report for the omission of the words Temple Mount, [Israel] glosses over more than two dozen detailed criticisms of Israeli actions in and around the Old City, which is after all occupied territory," Al Jazeera's Paul Brennan, reporting from West Jerusalem, said.

The resolution was submitted by Algeria, Egypt, Lebanon, Morocco, Oman, Qatar and Sudan - and was originally passed with 24 votes in favour, six against, and 26 abstentions.

Benjamin Netanyahu, the Israeli prime minister, said in a statement on Thursday that UNESCO had lost its legitimacy by adopting this resolution.

"The theatre of the absurd at UNESCO continues, and today the organisation adopted another delusional decision which says that the people of Israel have no connection to the Temple Mount and the Western Wall," Netanyahu said.

In April, UNESCO also passed a resolution condemning "Israeli aggressions and illegal measures against the freedom of worship and Muslims' access to the al-Aqsa Mosque", also failing to mention the site's Jewish name.

In 2011, the Palestinians were admitted as a member state of the organisation, which led the United States to suspend its payments to UNESCO.

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