Last month, UNESCO, the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization passed a resolution condemning Israel that falsely claimed that the Jewish state was denying Muslims access to their holy places on Jerusalem’s Temple Mount. The bias of the measure is seen in the utter disconnect between its charges and the truth. The only time in history when all faiths have had access to their holy places in Jerusalem has been the last 49 years, during which all was united under Israeli control. But the bias of the measure is also obvious in its language. It only refers to the Temple Mount — the site of the biblical holy temples of Jerusalem — by the name used by Muslims: the al-Aksa Mosque/al-Haram al Sharif. Just as offensive was the reference to the Western Wall by its Arabic name, the al-Buraq plaza.
In other words, the United Nations is joining the Palestinians — who instigated the resolution — in not merely bashing Israel but in attempting to erase Jewish history. The Palestinians have always claimed that the Jews are foreigners in their ancient homeland and done their best to promote myths that deny that the Temple Mount is the site of the Temples. Of course, this is nonsense. They can call the Western Wall anything they like, but what do they think those ancient stones and all the archeological evidence in the area (or at least all the evidence that has not been destroyed by vandalism carried out by the Muslim Waqf that Israel allows to administer the Temple Mount) signifies? The irony is that the only religious group that still suffers any discrimination in Jerusalem are the Jews, who are prevented by regulation from praying on the Temple Mount — the holiest site in Judaism — in order to avoid offending Muslims who view their presence near their mosques as an insult to Islam.
In response, Prime Minister Netanyahu announced today that he would be hosting a Jerusalem history seminar at his office for UN personnel in Israel. He’s also inviting diplomats stationed in the country, including those from the countries that voted for the offensive resolution, a list that includes supposedly civilized nations like France, Spain, and Sweden, as well as Russia and a number of Third World and Muslim nations (only the United States, the United Kingdom, Germany, Lithuania, Estonia, and the Netherlands voted no).
Of course, it’s just a public-relations stunt. But it would not be amiss if the campaigns of both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump committed to have any people they might hire to staff the State Department and the National Security Council to take such a course.
As our Max Boot wrote earlier today, a profile of Deputy National Security Advisor Ben Rhodes published in the New York Times Magazine details the arrogance and the unwillingness to learn from its mistakes that has characterized the Obama administration’s foreign policy. The most outstanding example of these qualities concerns its approach to Iraq, Syria, and terrorism, in which their contempt for their predecessors has the administration to focus only on past American mistakes. This contempt has also blinded Obama and his people to their own mistakes, which have led to the rise of ISIS and the collapse of Syria and Iraq as well as the empowerment of Iran.
But the current administration is also guilty of refusing to pay heed to the intractable nature of Palestinian hatred for Israel and the Jews that is reflected in their efforts to erase Jewish history. At its core this historical revisionism about Jerusalem is not so much about politics or an effort to sympathize with the Palestinians but anti-Semitism. As I noted last week, these UN resolutions and the various Palestinian efforts to prevent Jews from praying–not only at the Temple Mount but at other shrines like the Tomb of Joseph in Nablus–is part of an effort to deny Jewish rights to only pray and even to live anywhere in the country.
The Obama administration came into office in 2009 determined to create more “daylight” between the U.S. and Israel because it foolishly believed doing so would encourage the Palestinians to make peace. In the more than seven years since then, it has continued to make that mistake and has, as a result, encouraged both the Palestinian Authority and Hamas, as well as meddling outside parties like Iran, which is funding Hamas and Islamic Jihad, to become more intransigent not less so. Though the administration did the right thing on this UNESCO resolution, their willingness to treat Jerusalem as a Jewish “settlement” rather than as Israel’s capital has exacerbated the problems there.
Everybody in the White House and the State Department consider themselves to be very smart and, no doubt, the same will be true of anyone hired by Clinton and Trump (though the latter is as painfully ignorant of the facts and history of the Middle East and other important topics as any major party candidate for president within memory). But they probably all could use a refresher course on the history of the Middle East. More important, they will need to understand that so long as the U.S. continues to validate noxious hotbeds of anti-Semitism like UNESCO by remaining in the organization, it is part of the problem, not the solution.
All the pious platitudes uttered by the United States and other Western powers about memory of the Holocaust and against anti-Semitism are meaningless if they are also unwilling to combat expressions of Jew hatred that seek to ignore the truth about Jerusalem’s past and its present. If the next administration, whoever leads it, makes the same mistake, the bloody results of the last few years will be repeated.