Of the 20 WHC members who cast their vote, 10 voted in favor of the text, 8 abstained and 2 voted against. The members on the committee are Angola, Azerbaijan, Burkina Faso, Croatia, Cuba, Finland, Indonesia, Jamaica, Kazakhstan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Peru, Philippines, Poland, Portugal, South Korea, Tunisia, Turkey, Tanzania, Vietnam and Zimbabwe.
Earlier on Wednesday, Ronald S. Lauder called on the body to reject the draft decision. “The members of the World Heritage Committee have an opportunity to rectify the error made by the UNESCO Executive Board last week and reject this blatantly dishonest, inflammatory, and fundamentally flawed decision, which blindly condemns Israel and denies the importance of Jerusalem to all three monotheistic religions,” Lauder said.
“Denying the fact that the Temple Mount existed prior to the advent of Islam, and that it is the holiest site to Jews, is a clear distortion of history and an aggression against the Jewish people and the State of Israel.”
“As seen again and again, UNESCO has been hijacked by countries seeking to demonize Israel for their own political gain, gutting it of its credibility and preventing it from serving its function of adopting fair and balanced decisions based on fact, for the sake of the entire international community. We urge the members of this committee, and of all UN bodies, to reject these attempts to rewrite history, and to stand up for truth and justice,” Lauder said.
Lauder also called on the UNESCO Executive Board, which is expected to vote on another similar draft decision next April, to “stand up against the next inflammatory draft and embrace the opportunity to repair the damage already done. This malevolence is spreading like a computer virus, and like any virus, the only way to stop it is to reboot the entire system.”
Like the decision adopted by the Executive Board on 18 October 2016, the World Heritage Committee’s draft accuses Israel of provocation and illegal excavations in the Old City of Jerusalem, and makes no mention of the Temple Mount, referring to it only by its Arabic name Al-Aqsa Mosque / Al-Haram Al-Sharif, and declaring it “a Muslim holy site of worship and as an integral part of a World Heritage Site.”
US representative says UNESCO's legitimacy is undermined
After the vote, a number of UNESCO representatives made statements. The representative of Kazakhstan strongly condemned the politicization of UNESCO and the WHC and said such resolution should in future be adopted by consensus. The UNESCO representative of Indonesia said his country was committed to two-state solution and peace process. Its representative stressed the importance of the international community in resolving. Political issues are beyond the mandate of the WHC, expressed regret that the decision went through a political process.
Israel’s UNESCO ambassador said yet another resolution against Israel and Jewish people had been adopted. Israel was the only country in the region that was actually upholding UNESCO’s values. “The battle for Jerusalem has not started with the last vote, and it will not end with today’s. Jerusalem’s future will be determined by truth.” This decision was like the 1975 UN General Assembly resolution equating Zionism with racism, which was rescinded in 1991. He said the resolution belonged to the “garbage place of history” and then dumped the paper in a waste bin on his table.
Jordan’s representative said the role of UNESCO was to preserve the situation in Jerusalem prior to the Israeli occupation in 1967, while the Palestinian UNESCO ambassador said it had been a consensual resolution which had been tabled by “our European colleagues” in Istanbul earlier this year. He said he was “surprised” by the reaction of the Israeli ambassador, and Israeli anger was "completely unjustified." He then accused Israel of "trying to politicize religion."
The US representative to UNESCO said the item should have been defeated as it damaged the reputation of the organization. The text was inflammatory and one-sided. Member states of UNESCO must focus on core priorities. “Politicized decisions don't further the mandate of UNESCO, she said, but undermined the legitimacy of the organization.
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