UNESCO Director distances herself from Temple Mount decision

Yesh Atid Chairman Yair Lapid sent a letter sharply criticizing UNESCO’s decision to completely disregard the Temple Mount’s religious and historic significance for Jews on Saturday. Irina Bokova, current head of UNESCO and in the running to be the next UN secretary general, sent a letter to Lapid in response on Wednesday in which she distanced herself from the resolution.

UNESCO claimed that “Israel attacks the Temple Mount” and completely ignored the fact that the area is sacred to Jews in addition to Muslims. The decision also claims that Israel is “planting fake graves in Muslim cemeteries”.

In her letter, Bokova said that the decision to thus define the Temple Mount was a political decision and that Bokova herself was opposed to it.

“This decision was made by the economic council and the management council of UNESCO which are both management bodies, and was not made by me,” she wrote.

The letter continues, “I published a statement immediately after the council meeting ended where I said, ‘Jerusalem is a Holy Land of the three monotheistic religions, a place of dialogue for all Jewish, Christian and Muslim people, nothing should be undertaken to alter its integrity and authenticity. It is a mosaic of cultures and peoples, whose history has shaped the history of all humanity. Only respect and dialogue can build the trust we need to move forward – this is the strength of UNESCO, for the benefit of all.'”

Bokova’s letter then went on to state, “I’ve said several times in the past that it should be forbidden to politicize UNESCO. As the director general, I took a clear stance regarding circumstances which might have inflamed already heated issues in the Middle East, the Old City of Jerusalem and its walls, which are both recognized as UNESCO World Heritage Sites.”

According to Bokova, the organization promotes interests which are important to Israel.

“Perhaps you remember the special event UNESCO had in cooperation with the Wiesenthal Center called ‘People, Book, Land,’ an event which presented the 3,500 year connection of the Jewish Nation with the holy land, and which was held in the Knesset on November 30, 2015. I am determined to work towards the goal of strengthening and building trust between us based on respect and mutual understanding, which are two driving principles of UNESCO,” the letter said.

The letter concluded by saying, “In closing, I want to promise you that my efforts to combat anti-Semitism and violence will continue.”