Mom told me a story once about her mother and how she had once been a history teacher in the Soviet Union. She was helping her students prepare for a big exam and reminding them how a certain general was a “hero of the people.” During the week of preparations, this general became an “enemy of the people,” so all the questions about him were changed to reflect his new status. Grandma was disillusioned and changed careers to become an accountant.
That was the Soviet Union then. This is now.
This week a UNESCO resolution is trying to rewrite history and suggest that Jews and Christians have no connection to the Old City of Jerusalem. I mentioned the resolution in a blog post in July and discussed very briefly the postmodern idea of “narratives of history” in May.
The main problem (among many others) with the resolution is that it purposely eliminates or minimizes the Jewish names of the holy sites: Al-Aqsa Mosque/Al-Haram Al-Sharif is never referred to as the Temple Mount and Buraq Plaza is the name for the “Western Wall Plaza” (quotation marks in original). Full text is reprinted here.
The “Buraq Plaza” of 1916-1917 – not much of a plaza and not a Muslim site.
The Office of Foreign Affairs posted this on their Facebook page to highlight the changing of history aspect of the purposeful elimination of names.
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu issued a statement that said:
To say Israel has no connection to the Temple Mount is like saying that China has no connection to the Great Wall of China or that Egypt has no connection to the pyramids. With this absurd decision, UNESCO has lost the modicum of legitimacy it had left.
And he followed it up with this tweet.
In my opinion, the most worrisome thing is the vote. The resolution was approved in committee 24 for and 6 against, with 26 abstentions. The countries that stood up to vote against this resolution were: Estonia, Germany, Lithuania, The Netherlands, United Kingdom and United States. I applaud their strength! I wonder about the countries that abstained. They chose not to vote yes, but could not bring themselves to vote no. Abstaining doesn’t mean they get to pretend this resolution didn’t happen.
UNESCO’s Director-General issued a lukewarm statement mentioning that all three monotheistic religions have a connection to the Old City, but did not cancel or condemn the resolution.
In response, Israel’s government has suspended cooperation with UNESCO at this time. And rightly so.
Being a UNESCO Heritage Site used to be a badge of honor. But if UNESCO can vote on and pass resolutions that skew and twist history to suit a particular agenda, doesn’t it call into question all of UNESCO’s decisions and resolutions? Is UNESCO a new totalitarian regime telling us what history is?