The UN cultural and scientific organization passed a resolution on 2 May that calls Israel’s annexation of East Jerusalem “null and void” and calls on Israel to cancel any “legislative and administrative measures and actions” taken to “alter the character and status” of the city.
Calling Israel the “occupying power,” the resolution demands Israel halt “persistent excavations, tunnelling, works and projects in East Jerusalem.”
The city’s al-Aqsa mosque compound, atop what Jews call the Temple Mount, has long been the target of Israeli government-backed extremist groups whose declared aim is to destroy the existing Muslim holy sites and replace them with a Jewish temple.
Under the guise of “archaeological” excavations, Israel also allows settler groups to exploit and profit from sites in occupied East Jerusalem.
The UNESCO resolution was submitted by Algeria, Egypt, Lebanon, Morocco, Oman, Qatar and Sudan.
Twenty-two countries voted in favor and 23 abstained, including France and Spain.
Sweden was the only Western country to back the resolution. The United States, Germany, United Kingdom and Italy were among the minority of members that voted against it.
“We will defend our heritage and culture, our past and our future,” Palestinian Authority foreign minister Riad Malki said, welcoming the resolution’s passage.
Israel’s false claims
“Israel will not sit by while the organization calls for the denial of our sovereignty in Jerusalem,” he added.
The resolution “will not affect our determination to operate in Jerusalem,” Israel’s foreign ministry said.
But Israel’s efforts to portray the resolution’s language as outrageous and out of line with international norms are belied by a long record of decisions it has flouted for decades with impunity.
Israel’s annexation of East Jerusalem, which it militarily occupied in 1967, has been rejected as illegal by the UN Security Council and other world bodies.
No government keeps an embassy to Israel in Jerusalem, because none formally recognizes its sovereignty claims there.
In 2016, Israel paid nearly $12 million in UN membership fees, which are calculated based on a country’s size. But over the last year, Israel has made repeated slashes in response to critical resolutions.
It cut $2 million at the end of March, following a UN Human Rights Council decision condemning its settlements on occupied Palestinian land.
Prior to that, Israel cut $6 million after the Security Council passed its resolution against settlements.
Last October, Israel suspended cooperation with UNESCO after the organization adopted a resolution denouncing its aggressive actions in and around the al-Aqsa mosque compound.
The uproar at the time was based on Israel’s false claim that the resolution denied a Jewish connection to the historical site, which includes the Western Wall, but there was no language in the motion suggesting such denial.
Israel’s misinformation campaign, then as now, was aimed at asserting sovereignty over the occupied city.