The Palestinians were objectively unready to ascend to UNESCO. Palestinian schoolbooks, for instance, were checked by the Institute for Monitoring Peace and Cultural Tolerance in School Education (IMPACT-SE) for compliance with UNESCO’s guidelines on “international standards on peace and tolerance.” Suffice to say that IMPACT-SE found fault with passages like “Muslim countries need urgently jihad and jihad fighters in order to liberate the robbed lands and to get rid of the robbing Jews from the robbed lands in Palestine and in the Levant.”
But the Palestinians persisted and – because ostensibly objective international law is whatever anti-Israel partisans want it to be – they managed to easily join the UN body. Their tactical victory was described by the Associated Press under the meticulously objective headline “UNESCO Euphoria: Palestinians step up UN efforts/” It came over the objections of the U.S. and other Western countries, objections that were themselves described by Hezbollah as “racist” because Islamists long ago learned to couch their positions in soft multiculturalist language.
The actual vote count isn’t really important any more, but it’s worth noting that Czech theoretical physicist Lubos Motl was moved to suspend his cutting-edge string theory blogging so he could declare that “a majority of the educated, scientific, and cultural world has been against Palestine’s membership [but] this subtle fact cannot matter” because of the UN’s anti-Western majority. He also noted that “the Palestinians are optimizing the ways to radicalize and sacrifice their children for the cult of terror,” which is similarly tangential to the news below about the Tomb of the Patriarchs but is undeniably true.
Having overlooked the Palestinians’ pro-genocide textbooks, UNESCO spent the next few weeks complaining about Ha’aretz political cartoons and electing Syria to a human rights-related committee. That was a nice break from their usual and elaborate practice of conducting anti-Israel lawfare, but now they’re back in their wheelhouse:
There’s not much about the [Tomb of the Patriarchs] that’s in doubt, including what Palestinian officials aim to do with the property if they get control of it — stop Jews from praying there. The stated reason: The massive stone structure built atop the cave by King Herod, a Jew, and held for a time by Christian Crusaders, has since the 14th century been a Muslim house of worship. The Ibrahimi Mosque has minarets, rugs, washrooms for ablutions and anterooms lined with racks for storing shoes. “It’s a mosque!” says Khaled Osaily, the mayor of Hebron. “You don’t have to be an architect to see it! Will you allow me to pray in a synagogue or a church?”
There’s precedent for this move. Just last year UNESCO declared that Rachel’s Tomb, a Jewish holy site attested to by extra-Biblical references dating back to the 4th century AD, was now a mosque. Scholars believe that the tomb’s absence from pre-Crusade Muslim texts shows that it was unimportant to early Islam. but – like so much in the Holy Land – its importance to Jews seems to have sparked renewed veneration among Muslims.
Next up will be Jerusalem itself. During the summer, UNESCO made a halting gesture at the idea that Jews have some claim on the city. Hamas – which you’ll recall is very much not a UN member-state with the same rights and prerogatives and Israel – promptly and strongly objected, and then UNESCO rushed to take the whole thing back. Not a promising precedent.