The United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization passed a resolution Wednesday condemning ongoing Israeli archaeological excavations near the Temple Mount and elsewhere in Jerusalem’s Old City. The resolution proposal had originally sought to name the Western Wall a Muslim religious site, but Arab states struck that demand from the draft earlier in the day.
t also condemned the “aggression and illegal measures taken against the freedom of worship and access of Muslims to Al-Aqsa Mosque and Israel’s attempts to break the status quo since 1967.”
Twenty-six UNESCO representatives voted in favor of the resolution, six voted against, and twenty-five abstained.
The resolution also recognized Rachel’s Tomb in Bethlehem and the Tomb of the Patriarchs in Hebron as Muslim sites.
The vote came hours after the Arab states withdrew their demand that UNESCO declare the Western Wall an “integral part” of the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound on Jerusalem’s Temple Mount.
The executive board had been scheduled to vote Tuesday on the resolution, but Bokova postponed the vote until Wednesday.
In a statement, Bokova called on the UNESCO board “to take decisions that do not further inflame tensions on the ground and that encourage respect for the sanctity of the Holy Sites.”
“The United Nations and all its institutions have a responsibility to work against any escalation of the conflict. UNESCO must reject any attempt to deny the Jewish connection to the Temple Mount,” he said.
In a statement, the Foreign Ministry called the proposal “an attempt to distort history and blur the connection between the Jewish people and its holiest place and to create a false reality.”
The Western Wall is one of the few remnants of the ancient retaining wall that held up an artificial plateau on which a refurbished Second Temple stood in the reign of King Herod the Great. The Temple and much of the wall were later destroyed by the Romans in 70 C.E.
According to Muslim tradition, the Temple Mount is where Mohammad tied the winged animal Buraq, which he rode on the night he ascended to heaven. Atop it lies the Dome of the Rock — a Muslim shrine — and the Al-Aqsa Mosque.
The proposal to recognize the adjoining Western Wall as a Muslim holy site was submitted by six Muslim countries on behalf of the Palestinians, according to a Ynet news report.
The proposal also calls for the international community to condemn Israel for urging “its citizens to bear arms in light of [the] recent terror wave,” as well as for recent actions by Israel and the Israel Defense Forces in Jerusalem. The document, a copy of which was obtained by Ynet, refers to Jerusalem as “the occupied capital of Palestine.”