Commentary Magazine


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UNESCO Aids Palestinian Campaign to Expunge Jewish Heritage

The decision of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) to admit the Palestinian Authority as a full member state is more than just another front in the effort to bypass the peace process. The PA’s UNESCO triumph will enable them to step up their struggle in another equally important fight: the battle to expunge the Jewish heritage of the West Bank and Jerusalem.

Though Israelis and American Jews may disagree about the wisdom of the settlement movement,and many ardently desire a two-state solution that would leave much of the territories in the hands of a Palestinian state at peace with Israel, there ought to be no disagreement about the fact that this land is the historic homeland of the Jewish people. Yet the PA’s goal — which has been aided and abetted by UNESCO — is not so much to dispute the future of this territory as it is about its past. Yet that is a fact a Washington Post article published today about the role UNESCO may play on the West Bank conveniently omits.

The piece, written by longtime journalist and sometime leftwing gadfly Joel Greenberg, treats UNESCO’s role in the West Bank as aiding the Palestinians’ effort to resist the supposedly rapacious plans of Israel to usurp material and sites that would boost the putative state’s tourism industry. But rather than, as Greenberg quotes a Palestinian spokesman saying, the UN helping to “halt the looting of antiquities” by Israel, the agency has a record of assisting the PA in seeking to seize Jewish shrines and destroy remnants of the area’s ancient Jewish heritage.

The complicated relationship between the Palestinians and archeology is hinted at in the article that notes the Arabs have seen the science as a “tool of Israeli occupation.” That may be understandable, as there is no better way of proving the roots of Jewish life in the country than by digging in the soil. Doing so yields little if any evidence of the more recent Arab presence on the land. Those instances where the Palestinians have conducted excavations on ancient sites — such as the Temple Mount — have led to the wholesale destruction of antiquities which would, in the eyes of the Palestinians, undermine their claim to Israel’s capital. The idea that Israel would hand over precious Jewish archeological finds to the PA is absurd, but it is a position UNESCO appears to support.

Greenberg fails to mention that preposterous Arab myths about there being no ties between the Jews and the land are a staple in the official Palestinian media which speaks of even the Western Wall as a Muslim site usurped by the Jews. But rather than defending the truth or at least staying out of this dispute, UNESCO has in the recent past weighed in on behalf of the Palestinians condemning Israeli excavations in Jerusalem and even designating shrines such as the Tomb of the Patriarchs and the Tomb of Rachel as mosques.

The latter says a lot about not only the malevolence of the PA but of the bias in Greenberg’s reporting. He claims the Tomb of Rachel is holy to both Islam and Judaism but — in distinction from the Tomb of the Patriarchs which was used as a mosque for centuries after the Muslim conquest — there is no evidence of any ties between Islam and the site. Even the Ottoman government, which prevented Jews from ascending any higher than the seventh step of the shrine in Hebron, designated Rachel’s Tomb outside Bethlehem as being an exclusively Jewish site. The effort to re-write history, assisted by both UNESCO and now the Washington Post, is part of a Palestinian campaign to systematically re-write history to eliminate the Jews.

UNESCO membership will allow the Palestinians to continue this campaign of destruction with the imprimatur of the world body. It is one more reason, among many, why the United States Congress must not give in to the entreaties of the Obama administration to rescind the law that mandates an end to all funding of UNESCO. What’s more, those who argue that the administration is a good and faithful friend of Israel must wonder why it is trying to help a UN agency that is so essential to the Palestinian effort to delegitimize Zionism and the Jewish state.