(European Coalition for Israel, New York) – ECI has reached out to key members of the 21 member strong Unesco World Heritage Committee as they convene in Istanbul this week to consider, among other things, the status of the Western Wall in the Old City of Jerusalem. In the resolution, which has been submitted to the conference by the Palestinians and the Jordanians, the Temple Mount is referred to only with its Islamic term, Al-Haram Al Sharif, without mentioning the fact that the Temple Mount has been the most holy site in Judaism for several thousand years.
"There can be no denial of the over 3000 year connection between the Jewish people and Jerusalem," Tomas Sandell wrote in a letter to key members of the committee ahead of the vote.
In April the 58 member strong Executive Committee of Unesco issued a similar resolution with only six members (Estonia, Lithuania, United Kingdom, Germany, Netherlands and USA) opposing the resolution and with 18 abstentions. The vote caused an angry reaction from the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu who reminded the committee about ”the unique connection between the Temple Mount, the site of two temples for 1,000 years, and the place to which Jews prayed for thousands of years.”
In an ECI meeting in New York on Wednesday, renowned International lawyer Jacques P. Gauthier made clear that ”the Unesco resolution violates the fundamental rights granted to the Jewish people in respect to the Holy Places of Jerusalem.” Dr Gauthier has spent the last thirty years of his life studying the legal aspects of Jerusalem and is the author of Sovereignty over the Old City of Jerusalem: A study of the Historical, Religious, Political and Legal Aspects of the Question of the old City.
"The historical and religious connections between the Jewish People and the Holy Places of Jerusalem, including the Temple Mount and the Western Wall, were part of the claims presented on behalf of the Jewish people to the Principal Allied Powers on February 27, 1919 during the Paris Peace Conference. The Great Powers recognized these historical claims at the San Remo Conference of April 25, 1920 resulting in legal entitlements. These rights were then incorporated in the provision of the Mandate for Palestine approved by the Council of the League of Nations in July, 1922. The Mandate treaty specifies that 'recognition has thereby been given to the historical connection of the Jewish people with Palestine and to the grounds for reconstituting their national home in that country'. These rights are now protected under international law and under the provision of Article 80 of the Charter of the United Nations," Gauthier explains.
His conclusion is that ”the Unesco resolution violates the fundamental rights granted to the Jewish people in respect to the Holy Places in Jerusalem."
"We appeal to the UN member states, and in particular to the 21 member states represented in the Unesco World Heritage Committee, among them Croatia, Finland, Portugal and Poland to respect and acknowledge the Jewish connection to the Western wall as codified by international law by voting against the proposed resolution. Historical and legal facts cannot be twisted for the sake of religious and political fanaticism," Sandell concluded.
Unesco´s World Heritage Committee is holding its 40th session in Istanbul, Turkey from 10-20 July. The Committee will nominate new cultural and natural properties for the World Heritage list. A vote on the resolution about the Western wall can be expected any day.