B’nai B’rith International Asks UN and UNESCO to correct Statements
B’nai B’rith Asks U.N Secretary-General, UNESCO Chief to Correct Statements on Jewish Holy Site
Report from BBI ICHRPP Newsletter
Letters Follow Adoption of UNESCO Resolution Erasing Jewish Ties to Jerusalem
B’nai B’rith has sent letters to U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) Director-General Irina Bokova asking them to correct statements they issued Friday failing to recognize Jerusalem’s Temple Mount as the holiest site in Judaism. While acknowledging the two leaders’ implied criticism of a new UNESCO resolution, formally adopted Oct. 18, that effectively whitewashes the Jewish history of key holy places in Jerusalem B’nai B’rith said that their identification of the Western Wall as Jews’ most sacred spot obscures the fact that the Wall’s significance is derived solely from its connection to the Temple Mount.
As part of Palestinians’ ongoing effort to deny the legitimacy of Jews’ presence in the Holy Land, UNESCO’s Executive Board passed a resolution that uses Arabic names, while omitting primary Judeo-Christian ones or placing them in quotation marks, for the Temple Mount and even the Western Wall, thus effectively reclassifying them as predominantly Islamic sites. A growing number of countries, though, have declined to vote in favor of such offensive, revisionist motions, and the two senior U.N. officials took the rare step of chiding the campaign that advocated them. Ban’s spokesman said that any “undertaking to repudiate the undeniable common reverence for these sites does not serve the interests of peace and will only feed violence and radicalism.”
In their letter to the secretary-general, B’nai B’rith International President Gary Saltzman, Executive Vice President Dan Mariaschin and Director of U.N. and Intercommunal Affairs David Michaels write: “The extraordinary religious and historical importance of the Western Wall as a place of prayer for Jews is founded solely upon its status as the remnant of the ancient Temple Mount complex that is the very heart of Jewish civilization across time—the site toward which Jews around the world have prayed for thousands of years.”
B’nai B’rith noted: “Misrepresenting, however unintentionally, this critical truth, in an official statement on the very subject to which it relates, risks overshadowing the value of the statement itself and linking your name to the negation of the fundamental, age-old Jewish tenets that first bestowed upon Jerusalem and its Temple Mount their special place in the heritage of humanity. Accordingly, not least as UNESCO will continue to deliberate related matters over the coming days, we appeal to you to issue a clarifying correction of your original statement.” The letter pointed out that the latest move to deny Jews’ fundamental history comes just as they celebrate Sukkot (Tabernacles), “one of the three major yearly festivals when the Jewish people would collectively ascend in pilgrimage to the Temple Mount.”
“Those more concerned with erasing the history of Jews than with building genuine coexistence,” the letter added, “have showed that they will sink deeper and deeper into overt anti-Semitism, importing this corrosive bigotry into major international organizations… Where once global outrage was forced to battle to revoke the lie propounded at the United Nations that Zionism is a form of racism, now people of decency may be obliged to struggle to rescind UNESCO declarations that deny the centrality of Jerusalem to Jews.”
“We hope you will ensure that you will be known for an unambiguous and impactful leadership role at this vital moment. To this end, we ask you to move quickly to correct what was identified in your name last week as the holiest place in Judaism,” the letter concluded.