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UNESCO officially adopts resolution denouncing Israeli policies at Al-Aqsa

Oct. 18, 2016 6:32 P.M. (Updated: Oct. 19, 2016 11:42 A.M.)
BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) -- The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) adopted on Tuesday a resolution sharply criticizing Israeli policies in Jerusalem, almost a week after the UN agency voted for a draft resolution on the topic, drawing Israeli ire.

According to the Associated Press, the UNESCO executive board adopted the resolution by consensus in a morning session in its headquarters in the French capital Paris.

The passage of the resolution came amid Israeli uproar, as Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu claimed that the UN agency had “denied the over 3,000 year old connection between the Jewish people and its holiest site in Jerusalem.”

Israel suspended its cooperation with UNESCO following the passage of the draft resolution. Israel had previously suspended its funding to UNESCO in 2011, when the UN agency voted to admit Palestine as a full member.

The resolution criticized Israeli policies around the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound in occupied East Jerusalem, the the Ibrahimi Mosque in the occupied West Bank city of Hebron, and the Bilal Ibn Rabah Mosque -- also known as Rachel’s Tomb -- in Bethlehem.

It mainly focused on Israeli policies around Al-Aqsa, which UNESCO and rights groups have claimed increase tensions between Palestinian worshipers and Jewish visitors, while sparking fears in Palestinians that Israel could further deny their right to access Al-Aqsa.

Netanyahu did not release a comment responding to any of the criticisms presented by the UNESCO resolution.

When the draft resolution was put for a vote on Thursday, 24 countries voted in favor, six against, 26 abstained, and two were absent for the vote.

There was speculation on Monday and Tuesday that Mexico would trigger a clause to recast its vote on the resolution, after its initial vote in favor of the draft resolution reportedly caused discontent amid its Jewish population.

However, Mexico did not ultimately call for a revote, choosing instead to issue a statement expressing that it wished to abstain. However, its statement will not effectively reverse its prior vote.

While the resolution did not outright reject Jewish ties to the Al-Aqsa Mosque -- known to Jews as Temple Mount -- it was highly critical of Israeli policies in and around the site and Israeli attempts at changing the status quo, which prohibits Jewish worship at the site, and referred to the site only by its Islamic name “Al-Aqsa/Haram al-Sharif,” and did not mention the name “Temple Mount.”

However, the resolution did make clear that UNESCO recognizes the importance of the Old City of Jerusalem for the “three monotheistic religions” -- Islam, Judaism, and Christianity -- and highlighted the significance of the holy sites in Hebron and Bethlehem for all three religions.

The Palestinian Authority (PA) hailed on Thursday the passage of the draft resolution, saying that it reflected the “continued commitment of the majority of member states to confront impunity and uphold the principles upon which UNESCO was founded.”
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