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French Jews hold protest against France's decision to abstain in key UNESCO vote on Jerusalem

France's Jewish umbrella bodies on Thursday rallied opposite the French Foreign Ministry in Paris to protest France's failure to vote against UNESCO resolutions that ignore Jewish ties to Jerusalem.

CRIF, the political lobby group representing French Jewish communities, and the Consistoire, French Jewry’s organ responsible for religious services, called to join a protest rally on Thursday at the Quai d'Orsay. The gathering came in reaction to the passing of two resolutions on Jerusalem this month by UNESCO committees.

France was among 26 countries that abstained from voting during the first resolution, at the UNESCO Executive Board last week. It refers to the Western Wall and the Temple Mount only by their Arabic-language names. Similar language was used in a decision adopted this Wednesday by the World Heritage Committee, a UNESCO body.

In an article, CRIF President Francis Kalifat, who is also a vice-president of the World Jewish Congress, wrote: "France decided to abstain. But to abstain when the choice is between truth and a lie, between honoring history and the infamousness of revisionism is not worthy of France and its values."

Kalifat added: “We were shocked by the anti-Israeli obsession of UNESCO and are now revolted by its disavowal of its own values."

Noting that the street protest was not initiated by CRIF, he wrote: “Other groups decided to take this indignation to the street and I salute their initiative.”

Kalifat also called on “all of CRIF’s member groups to join [the protesters] to make audible a loud voice, faithful to historical veracity.”

UNESCO panel adopts another decision denying Jewish link to Temple Mount

WJC, The World Heritage Committee of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) on Wednesday adopted by a secret ballot a decision which accuses Israel of damaging the character of Jerusalem and ignores the Jewish and Christian connections to the holy sites in the city. Earlier, World Jewish Congress President Ronald S. Lauder had called on the 21 members of the committee to reject the “blatantly dishonest, inflammatory, and one-sided" text.

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.

PM Netanyahu discusses UNESCO Temple Mount decision

​This absurdity in the theater of the absurd continues, even if with reduced force. But it must be understood that in the end this absurdity that hurts not only historical truth and present truth, but also the UN itself.

Following is an excerpt from Prime Minister Netanyahu's remarks at the dedication of the Adelson School of Entrepreneurship at IDC Herzliya:

"Today, the UNESCO Heritage Committee passed a decision which caused disappointment among the Palestinians and several Arab countries. It was supposed to be passed unanimously, by consensus, because the UNESCO Secretary General said that if it was not passed unanimously, then the decision would not be implemented. I would like to thank the leaders of Tanzania and Croatia for demanding a vote. I spoke with them and I very much appreciate their willingness to take a stand there. Because it reached a vote, it will not be implemented, because it was not unanimous.

Eleven out of the 21 countries that are members of the Heritage Committee, as they call it, did not support the vote. For Israel, this is a significant result because one year ago, with a membership that was much more comfortable for us, we received a result that was not as good. Countries such as Germany, Japan, India and Colombia left, and all kinds of other countries, which are familiar to you, entered: Lebanon, more Arab countries, Angola, Zimbabwe, etc., etc., and with a membership that was not as good we came out with a better result. This advances what I have been telling you, and what I told the UN, is happening: that Israel's bilateral relations will also – in the end – be reflected in international forums, even though this will take time. It takes time and a little help from above. I said that it would take ten years, in my mind less than ten years, to break the automatic majority in UN institutions, especially of the bloc of African countries, 54 countries. The decisive majority will go from opposing Israel to supporting Israel. This process is happening and it is also expressed in today's vote. The change that is taking place is finding expression here. I would like to thank the personnel at the Foreign Ministry, the National Security Council and our UNESCO embassy, who assisted me in my talks with the various leaders.

Of course, we are trying to change the reality, but the fact that, even if this decision will not be implemented, it was raised at UNESCO, is absurd; that we – pay attention, Israel in the Middle East – that it is we who are violating the rights of the various religions, that it is we who are not safeguarding the holy places. Is it possible to conceive of anything more absurd? We are not safeguarding? We are the only ones who are scrupulously, carefully and zealously safeguarding. Who would do so if not us? We all know what is happening here in the Middle East as radical Islam blows up mosques, blows up churches, blows up historic sites, slaughters Yazidis, slaughters Muslims who do not agree with them, slaughters Christians, slaughters whoever it can. Who is deserving of condemnation? Certainly not Israel. Israel deserves all possible praise on this issue, as a beacon of light and progress, tolerance and rights.

It is UNESCO that deserves condemnation, not only for its present blindness, but for its past blindness as well. That scandalous decision, the scandal that they decided upon two weeks ago, to the effect that the Jewish people have no connection to the Temple Mount, or to Jerusalem at all, is contradicted by the Bible and the entire historical record. Did you know that Titus was a Zionist propagandist? On Titus’ Arch, they are carrying, 2,000 years ago, after they destroyed the Temple – it was not a mosque, Islam had not yet been founded; that would take another few hundred years – they are carrying the seven-branched menorah. You know that. And the member states of UNESCO also know it.

But this distortion, that plasters over the whole notion of historical truth, of history in general, this distortion was covered over by another historical find that was made public today by the Israel Antiquities Authority. This was a document, a shipping invoice, that was sent over 2,700 years ago from Na'arat [see Joshua 16:7], near Jerusalem, and it says in ancient Hebrew, and this is the critical word, but you can see it in Hebrew, '[me-a]mat. ha-melekh. me-Na'aratah. nevelim. yi’in. Yerushalima'. 'From the king’s maidservant, from Na'arat, jars of wine, to Jerusalem'. Here is a letter from the past to UNESCO. It is written Yerushalima. It explains, in Hebrew, our connection to Jerusalem and the centrality of Jerusalem. A servant of the king, certainly a king of Judah. It is from over 2,700 years ago – Jerusalem. Not in Arabic, not in Aramaic, not in Greek or Latin – in Hebrew.

And, indeed, this absurdity in the theater of the absurd continues, even if with reduced force. Therefore, I have decided to summon home for consultations our ambassador to UNESCO, and we will decide what to do, what our future steps will be vis-à-vis this organization. But it must be understood that, in the end, and it will take time, this absurdity that hurts not only historical truth and present truth, but also – in my view – hurts the UN itself, this absurdity will end as Israel's strength grows and expands."

World Jewish Congress head urges UNESCO to reject resolution to declare Western Wall a Muslim site

NEW YORK, World Jewish Congress (WJC) President Ronald S. Lauder warned UNESCO against exacerbating tensions in Israel by adopting a Palestinian-sponsored resolution that declares the Western Wall in Jerusalem a part of the Al-Aqsa Mosque. Ahead of a vote by the UNESCO Executive Council later this week, Lauder said the proposal “goes in the face of the UNESCO Constitution, which very clearly states the organization’s aim to contribute to peace and security by promoting collaboration and coexistence. It would make a mockery of that founding principle if the UNESCO Executive Council were to back such a resolution. UNESCO must not be turned into a battleground for conflicts between religions.”

The WJC president added: “For thousands of years, Jews have lived and prayed in Jerusalem. Since 1967, the State of Israel has safeguarded the right of worship of all three monotheistic religions present in Jerusalem, including the right of Muslims to pray on the Mount.

“However, declaring the Western Wall of the Temple Mount, Judaism’s holiest place, a Muslim site would be a travesty. Instead of fostering peace, it would only encourage extremists to step up their campaign against Jews, both in Israel and beyond.”

Lauder appealed to all 58 member countries on the UNESCO Executive to vote against the proposal: “Everybody should see that this is not about protecting holy sites; it’s about bashing Israel, it’s about sowing the seeds of strife, and it’s about legitimizing violence. It must be stopped.”

The proposal, which is sponsored by six Arab states (Algeria, Egypt, Kuwait, Morocco, Tunisia and the United Arab Emirates) on behalf of the Palestinians, proposes to declare that the Western Wall is part of the Al-Aqsa Mosque and called Buraq Plaza.

It also blames Israel for the recent wave of Palestinian violence and terror, urges that the Jewish state is condemned for the excavations near the Temple Mount and in the Old City of Jerusalem, and for what is termed the “aggression and illegal measures taken against the freedom of worship and access of Muslims to Al-Aqsa Mosque and Israel's attempts to break the status quo since 1967".

Moreover, the draft resolution seeks to confirm an earlier UNESCO decision that the Cave of the Patriarchs and Rachel's Tomb, two West Bank sites holy to both Jews and Muslims, are part of a Palestinian state.

International Holocaust Remembrance Day 2014

January 27, the anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz-Birkenau extermination camp in 1945, was declared International Day of Commemoration in memory of the victims of the Holocaust by the United Nations in 2005. The memorial day this year is built around the theme "Journeys through the Holocaust".

On January 27, 1945, Soviet forces liberated the Auschwitz-Birkenau extermination camp, discovering the largest Nazi killing center in Europe. Auschwitz has become a symbol of the Holocaust, representing the depths of man's inhumanity to man.
In November 2005, the United Nations passed a resolution to mark January 27 as an international day of commemoration to honor the victims of the Holocaust, and urged member states to develop educational programs to impart the memory of this tragedy to future generations. Over 60 governments have legislated January 27 as an annual Holocaust Memorial Day and Holocaust remembrance ceremonies will be organized on the international, national, regional and local levels, including in universities and schools.
The theme "Journeys through the Holocaust" recalls the various journeys taken during this dark period, from deportation to incarceration to freedom, and how this experience transformed the lives of those who endured it. These are stories of pain and suffering, yet ultimately also of triumph and renewal, serving as a guiding force for future generations.

Sixty MKs and ministers, accompanied by 24 Holocaust survivors, State Comptroller Joseph Shapira, Supreme Court Justice Elyakim Rubinstein, Chief Rabbi David Lau, Yad Vashem Chairman Avner Shalev and some 250 other public figures are scheduled to arrive in Poland on January 27, 2014 – Holocaust Remembrance Day – for a one-day visit. This is the largest delegation of MKs to be sent since the Israeli parliament's establishment.

Knesset Speaker Yuli-Yoel Edelstein: ”The elected parliament of the nation in Israel is travelling to the valley of the killings in order to feel part of the pain and allow the memory to be engraved in our hearts. The significance of this difficult journey is huge, and I hope and believe that it will leave an impression that will honor the survivors and the memory of the Holocaust. I am proud of the Knesset, its members and the dignitaries who are accompanying them for their impressive undertaking.”

The delegation will march to the Birkenau concentration camp, followed by a memorial ceremony in which some 1,000 people, including members of the Polish parliament (the ”Sejm”), are expected to take part. Later, an inter-parliamentary gathering will take place in Krakow with the participation of MPs and prominent figures from Israel, the United States, Poland, Canada and other countries.

Yad Vashem "I Remember Wall"

When you join the "I Remember Wall", your Facebook profile will be randomly linked to the name of a Holocaust victim from the Central Database of Shoah Victims' Names. Your profile will then be posted to the wall together with the photo and name of the Holocaust victim.

At the United Nations headquarters in New York, a Holocaust Memorial Ceremony on January 27, 2014 will feature a message from the United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, and remarks by H.E. Mr. John W. Ashe, President of the 68th Session of the General Assembly; H.E. Mr. Ron Prosor, Permanent Representative of Israel to the United Nations; H.E. Ms. Samantha Power, Permanent Representative of the United States to the United Nations and Holocaust survivor Rena Finder. Filmmaker Steven Spielberg will deliver the keynote address.

A panel discussion on "The Rescue of Jews in Albania" will explore the circumstances and values that led Albanians to bravely save the lives of the innocent during the Holocaust. In extraordinary contrast with much of the rest of Europe, Albania - a Muslim-majority nation occupied by Nazi Germany in 1943 and 1944 - proved a place of refuge for virtually its entire Jewish population and others who sought haven there. In all, some 2,000 Jews were rescued from the Nazi genocide in this small country.

In addition, a new exhibit entitled “A Remembrance of the Holocaust in Hungary” will open, presenting a historical account of the Holocaust in Hungary in observance of the 70th anniversary of the deportation and extermination of the Hungarian Jews.

Promoting the role of education in preventing genocide, UNESCO will commemorate the genocide of the Jewish people and the millions of victims of the Nazi regime with an international seminar on “The impact of Holocaust education: how to assess policies and practices?” This seminar, organized in partnership with the Georg Eckert Institute for International Textbook Research and the International Bureau of Education of UNESCO, with the support of the Delegation of Hungary, will discuss the content and quality of Holocaust education in several countries of the world. It will be followed by a ceremony in memory of the victims.

UNESCO will also present several exhibitions on that day: “Journeys through the Holocaust”, testimonies of Jewish refugees by the USC Shoah Foundation and UNESCO; “In the Footsteps of the Lost”, photographs by Matt Mendelsohn with the Shoah Memorial; “The World Knew: Jan Karski’s Mission for Humanity”, by the Permanent Delegation of Poland and “Les Rescapés de la Shoah: courage, volonté, vie”, paintings by Alain Husson-Dumoutier, UNESCO Artist for Peace.


WJC ANALYSIS - The choice between two evils: the PLO and UNESCO and the crisis in Gaza

While Gaza presents Israel with a military and security challenge, the government in Ramallah is challenging Israel's very legitimacy and identity


By Pinhas Inbari
WJC, Last week Israel was twice tested by the Palestinian leadership. On the one hand, its territory was bombarded by missiles out of Gaza, while on the other, the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) was admitted to UNESCO as a permanent member of the organization. These events illustrate the challenges Israel is facing with regard to Hamas and the Fatah, Gaza and Ramallah, and the decisions and choices it must make.
While Gaza presents Israel with a military and security challenge, the government in Ramallah is challenging Israel's very legitimacy and identity. Immediately after the vote in UNESCO, the PLO announced its plans to question Israel's connection to the holy land in Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria (the West Bank) and on the entirety of Israel’s territory. It also announced its plans to pursue legal action against Israel for the "identity-stealing" of the Arab character of Palestine, Judaizing the legacy of Jerusalem and antiquities theft. The PLO will task UNESCO with the mission of reconstructing the genuine Arab character of the land, allegedly distorted by Israel.
It has been suggested that Israel's government actually prefers dealing with Hamas instead of the Fatah, as it does not essentially confront the Hamas government in Gaza, but its rival – the Islamic Jihad. Moreover, Hamas – through Egypt – is cooperating with Israel by calming down the tensions and stopping the missiles attacks on Israel, in contrast to Ramallah, who is directly confronting Israel in UNESCO and other international bodies.
Surprisingly, Israel's neighbor Jordan also prefers Hamas over the government in Ramallah. It was reported that the new prime minister of Jordan, Awn al-Khassawneh, declared that closing down Hamas’ headquarters in Amman in 1999 was a mistake. It was even reported that a visit by Khaled Mash'al in the royal palace would be welcomed by king Abdallah in the near future.
The PLO's success with UNESCO is thus clouded by Hamas communication with Israel via Egypt and the looming possibility of the return to their headquarters in Amman. Jordan is troubled by the PLO joining UNESCO because until now Jordan represented Jerusalem at the organization. The Palestinians are now asking it to step aside and relinquish custody of the al-Aqsa mosque. This matter is not taken lightly in Amman, which may be more amenable to improving relations with Hamas as a way to get back at the PLO.
On his part, PLO leader Mahmoud Abbas still plans to retire. Abbas has tried to arrange a meeting with Hamas' Khaleed Mashal to coordinate early elections that will end his tenure in office, but so far to no avail. For Hamas, elections do not constitute a priority. Nor does the organization trust Fatah to run a fair election in the West Bank, claiming that the Palestinian Legislative Council could go another ten years without an election, as it has under Fatah. In addition, Hamas is demanding that Fayyad's government be ended and the US-trained Dayton forces be dispersed.
However, in contrast to the PLO, Hamas is against the dismantling of the Palestinian Authority because it provides legitimacy and power to an organization that would otherwise be considered as a mere militia.
Hamas is faced with its own challenges in Gaza. While trying to improve its status as a regional player, it is besieged by internal trouble in the form of Iran-supported Islamic Jihad, unhappy about the Schalit deal. It is telling that the commander of the Qassam Brigades, the military arm of Hamas, Ahmad Ja'bari, has come out of hiding and now moves about freely in Gaza, unafraid of being targeted by Israel. The Palestine Resistance Committees and Fatah believe this new development is a direct consequence of the Schalit deal, which has given Hamas further opportunities to steer away from the 'resistance' policy in Gaza.
The choice between running a government or pursuing a policy of resistance is the real test Hamas is facing — not only with regard to Israel, but also in its relations with Jordan and Egypt. Time will tell if Hamas is as able at running a government as it is at running the 'resistance'.

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