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77,000 Israel supporters sign petition demanding UNESCO nullify Al-Aqsa resolution

Oct. 25, 2016 6:35 P.M. (Updated: Oct. 25, 2016 10:39 P.M.)
BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) -- A petition urging the nullification of the recent UNESCO resolution, which strongly condemned Israeli policies in the occupied West Bank and Gaza, was submitted on Tuesday to the organization’s director-general by a group of Israeli organizations.

According to Israeli media, more than 77,000 people signed the petition, which claimed that UNESCO had violated the “basic human rights of Jews everywhere,” by not including “Temple Mount” -- the Jewish name for Al-Aqsa -- into the resolution.

While the resolution condemned several Israeli policies against Palestinians at the holy site, including highlighting destructive Israeli policies in the besieged Gaza Strip, the content of the resolution has largely fallen to the wayside amid Israeli leaders and groups decrying the lack of usage of the term “Temple Mount” in the document.

Israeli media quoted the petition as saying “UNESCO’s denying the Jewish connection to Jerusalem and its holy sites violates UNESCO’s own mandate by erasing the heritage of millions of people and violating their religious and cultural rights. It also hurts any prospect of peace and vicariously supports a radical ideology that denies the Jewish connection to the land of Israel and its holy sites.”

The petition is set to be handed to UNESCO’s director-general during a meeting with an Israeli envoy, which includes Yifa Segal, the director of the International Legal Forum, and Shahar Azani, executive director of StandWithUs Northeast region, who created the petition together.

The UNESCO resolution passed last week has caused a storm of criticism aimed at the international organization, as Israeli leaders and groups have accused the UN agency of denying Jewish ties to the Al-Aqsa Mosque/Temple Mount, despite the resolution emphasizing the importance of the holy site to all three monotheistic religions -- Christianity, Judaism, and Islam.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu slammed the decision at the time, calling it "delusional" and adding that "to say that Israel has no connection to the Temple Mount and the Western Wall is like saying that China has no connection to the Great Wall of China and that Egypt has no connection to the Pyramids."

"With this absurd decision, UNESCO lost the little legitimization it had left. But I believe that the historical truth is stronger and the truth will win," he added.

However, the resolution mainly focused on Israeli policies around the holy site that UNESCO and rights groups have claimed increase tensions between Palestinian worshipers and Jewish visitors, while sparking Palestinian fears 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.

Israel also responded by suspending all cooperation with UNESCO following the passing of the resolution.

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