This week, as a 60th birthday present to the nation of Israel, the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) approved a pointless resolution declaring the control of Jerusalem (all of Jerusalem, not just East Jerusalem this time) by the nation of Israel a violation of international law, and therefore illegitimate. UNESCO’s passage of silly declarations like this one in recent years has made it a laughingstock. UNESCO has become the childish and irrelevant poster child of its parent organization, the United Nations (UN) – itself an increasingly irrelevant and wasteful black hole for the world’s financial resources and diplomatic efforts.
Ever since its disastrous intervention in the Korean war nearly seventy years ago, the United Nations has proven itself over and over again to be totally impotent and ineffectual at almost anything except spending money, wasting effort, and running off at the mouth. The UN’s very name is a sad parody. Never since its founding have the member nations of the UN actually been united in any effort at all. Perhaps the most iconic image of the UN member nations’ “unity” is that of Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev pounding the speaker’s rostrum at the General Assembly in 1960 in a fit of abject rage. But UNESCO’s recent resolutions rise to new heights of inanity and pointlessness even in the “proud” history of the UN.
UNESCO’s constitution (ratified in 1946) defines the organization’s admirable purpose…
The purpose of the Organization is to contribute to peace and security by promoting collaboration among the nations through education, science and culture in order to further universal respect for justice, for the rule of law and for the human rights and fundamental freedoms which are affirmed for the peoples of the world, without distinction of race, sex, language or religion, by the Charter of the United Nations.
Constitution of the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization – quoted May 3, 2017, http://portal.unesco.org/en/ev.php-URL_ID=15244&URL_DO=DO_TOPIC&URL_SECTION=201.html
This is a high calling, indeed. As part of its cultural preservation and education effort, UNESCO has named over 1000 natural and man-made “World Heritage Sites” over the course of its history, 10 of which are situated within Israel. These World Heritage Sites are ostensibly protected from damage in war by the Geneva Convention treaty…
Article 53. PROTECTION OF CULTURAL OBJECTS AND OF PLACES OF WORSHIP. Without prejudice to the provisions of the Hague Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict of 14 May 1954,’ and of other relevant international instruments, it is prohibited:
(a) To commit any acts of hostility directed against the historic monuments, works of art or places of worship which constitute the cultural or spiritual heritage of peoples;
(b) To use such objects in support of the military effort;
(c) To make such objects the object of reprisals.
Geneva Convention Article 53 – quoted May 3, 2017, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/World_Heritage_Site
Clearly UNESCO has found it much easier to place a cultural or natural site onto its list of World Heritage Sites, and declare that it is therefore protected from hostile acts than it has to actually enforce such protections, or punish violations. Some cases in point are the Taliban’s destruction of two 1500-year-old statues of Buddha in Afghanistan in 2001, and the obliteration of many sites in Syria and Iraq by ISIS.
Possibly because fulfilling the actual mission of its constitution has proved so difficult, in recent years UNESCO has become nothing more than a “bully pulpit” for the political agendas of its member countries, particularly the Arab/Muslim countries. In 2016, for example, there was a move to declare that the Temple Mount in Jerusalem had no Jewish history. Of course, this is patently ridiculous. The Temple Mount is the world’s largest man-made platform, built by King Solomon after he had constructed the Milo landfill between the two peaks of Mount Moria to connect the lower part of ancient Jerusalem (the ancient Jebusite city now known as the City of David) with the higher peak of Mount Moria to its north. After constructing the Milo, Solomon then constructed the level platform supported on stone vaults the Jews know today as the Temple Mount. This platform was greatly enlarged by King Herod the Great in the 1st century BC. All of this happened well over half a millennium and more before the rise of Muhammad and Islam. The iconic Dome of the Rock, and Al-Aqsa mosque which now stand on the Temple Mount as UNESCO World Heritage Sites, weren’t built until the 8th century AD – long after the Jewish Temple of Herod on the Temple Mount was destroyed, and most of the Jewish occupants of Jerusalem cast out of the city by the Romans. Clearly the claim that the Temple Mount had no Jewish history was an abject lie. In the end, the 2016 UNESCO declaration simply protested Israeli archeological work and security control efforts in the area of the Temple Mount, and tacitly denied the Jewish connection to the site by referring to it only by its Arabic name. In response to this UNESCO declaration, the government of Israel understandably stopped all funding for UNESCO – a move which the United States and other world governments would do well to mimic in my opinion.
Even more ridiculous is the May 2017 declaration which UNESCO just passed stating that the control of any part of Jerusalem by the Israelis is illegal under international law, and therefore illegitimate. It is true that UN resolution 181 which created the state of Israel called for the city of Jerusalem to be governed by the UN itself as an “international city” not to be part of either of the two the new nations of Israel and Palestine created by the resolution through partition of the British mandate of Palestine which had been occupied and governed by Great Britain under the terms of the Treaty of Versailles after World War I. But as usual, the UN made no effort to enforce the terms of the resolution, or to take over government of Jerusalem. The British occupiers simply walked away leaving the new nation of Israel to fight for control of the territory and city against all of the surrounding Arab nations. In that struggle, the Jews miraculously won control of west Jerusalem leaving Jordan in control of the Temple Mount and the remainder of East Jerusalem. Jerusalem remained divided until the six-day war of 1967.
In that war, against all predictions, Israel wrested control of East Jerusalem, and all of Palestine from Gaza to Lebanon, and from the Mediterranean to the Jordan River in the south, and the Golan Heights in the north from their Arab neighbors. Despite having taken the Temple Mount, the Israeli government returned its summit including the Dome of the Rock, and the Al-Aqsa mosque to Arab control as a gesture of peace. After seizing the entire city, and the Judean and Samarian wilderness to its east, Israel moved the capital of the nation from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem where it has remained.
Despite the fact that many nations do not recognize Jerusalem as the capital of the state of Israel, the Israeli government is there, and will never relinquish the city to Arab/Muslim control without a struggle. This is absolutely clear which makes the latest UNESCO declaration completely pointless like virtually all UNESCO declarations and UN resolutions. Having said all that, though, I must also point out that unlike any of its Arab neighbors, the state of Israel is a true representative democracy. It is conceivable (although not likely) that the majority of Israeli citizens might one day vote to relinquish control of all Jerusalem to Palestinian Arab control, and move the capital of Israel back to Tel Aviv or somewhere else. After all, this democracy has already relinquished the vast majority of the territory it seized in 1967 and 1973 to the so-called Palestinian Authority.
But even in the unlikely event the citizens of Israel do vote to peacefully surrender control of Jerusalem to Arab/Muslim control, it will have nothing whatsoever to do with any childish, silly UNESCO declaration.