Jerusalem is a Holy Land for the Jewish, Christians and Muslims. Hence, it is a hub of colorful cultures and a place where religious beliefs clash. There had been fights that end with deaths between Palestinians and Israelis recently. According to the United Nations, there are violence and clashes in more than 50 different locations in region, including in east Jerusalem, Ramallah, Hebron, Bethlehem, Jenin, Tulkarm and Nablus.
Tensions in the region escalate as Palestinians are said to be lobbying to have the Western Wall declared as part of al-Aqsa Mosque, hence making it exclusive for Muslims. A proposal is said to be submitted to UNESCO on Thursday, Ynet reported. The proposal includes condemnation against the Israeli government for encouraging its people to bear arms against the Palestinians.
The proposal was submitted by six Arab states namely Algeria, Egypt, Kuwait, Morocco, Tunisia and the United Arab Emirates on behalf of the Palestinians since Palestine is not recognized as state by the Executive Council of UNESCO. Citing unnamed sources, Ynet is reporting that the Palestinians are also lobbying to have the proposal move to the UNESCO plenum where Palestine is recognized as a state.
The president of the World Jewish Congress, Ronald Lauder, issued warning to UNESCO against the proposal. He said that by adopting the Palestinian resolution, tensions in Israel will only be escalated.
Lauder stressed that the proposal go against the values set by UNESCO. In a statement, Lauder said that “it 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.”
He explained that for thousand years, Jews, Muslims and Christians have peacefully co-existed at the Temple Mount. “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,” he said, explaining that “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 has called for the 58 members of the UNESCO Executive Council to vote against the Palestinian resolution. “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,” Lauder said.
On Oct. 20, Irina Bokova, the Director-General, has called for the member states to pursue constructive dialogue and uphold the UNESCO’s constitution. She criticizes the said resolution and called for the UNESCO Executive Board to come up with a decision that will not further the already boiling tensions at the Holy Sites.
“We all have responsibility to UNESCO’s mandate, to take decisions that promote dialogue, tolerance and peace. This is especially important for young people, who should be nurtured and educated for peace,” Bokova said in a statement.
Meanwhile, United Nations Secretary-general, Ban Ki-moon, is meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to discuss the escalating tensions in the region. The secretary general is deeply concerned about the violence in Israel and Palestine, according to a statement from his spokesman.
Ki-moon is particularly concerned with the situation at the Temple Mount and the religious dispute over it. He said such religious conflict has serious repercussions not only for Israel and Palestine but throughout the region.