UNESCO and Jerusalem

“What are the facts? Shun wishful thinking, ignore divine revelation, forget what ‘the stars foretell,’ avoid opinion, care not what the neighbors think, never mind the unguessable ‘verdict of history’–what are the facts, and to how many decimal places?” — Robert Heinlein, “Time Enough for Love”

The reactions to the UNESCO resolution have gone down a slippery slope through inaccuracy, blurring, and distortion to downright bullshit.

“The document only refers to the Haram ash-Sharif by its Arabic name, not the Temple Mount” — this is a fact.

“The document fails to acknowledge the Jewish connection to Jerusalem” — this is already interpretation. It’s kind of true, through there is a half-hearted phrase near the beginning about “affirming the importance of the Old City of Jerusalem and its Walls for the three monotheistic religions.” Honestly, Jerusalem is a bit more than “important”.

The next step is very small, but it makes a huge difference:

“The document denies the Jewish connection to Jerusalem”. Note that we have gone from passive “failing to acknowledge” to active “denial”. This is again interpretation, and legitimate interpretation in the context of the original, but it doesn’t stay in the context of the original. It becomes the executive summary of the document, and people reading it on its own don’t know that the writer meant “by failing to acknowledge the Jewish connection the document is denying it”. So we get to the next step:

“UNESCO passes resolution saying that Jews have no connection to Temple Mount”. By now we have left the facts completely behind. This is simply bullshit. People hearing this and not Reading The Full Article or the actual resolution believe that UNESCO made an explicit statement to this affect, or even that this was the whole topic of the resolution.

This is a terrible missed opportunity. Why isn’t Israel working on criticising the document for what it says, which is ludicrously one-sided, instead of for what it doesn’t say and what it doesn’t doesn’t say, if you see what I mean? We should be getting the document amended to include some deploring of the waqf’s destructive and unsupervised construction projects on the Temple Mount — and certainly not breaking ties with UNESCO, Mr. Bennett!! That is about the dumbest response possible.

And we should also be taking a good hard look at the rest of the resolution and working on what we can and should be doing with our responsibilities to respect the integrity, authenticity and cultural heritage of Al-Aqṣa Mosque/Al-Ḥaram Al-Sharif/Har Habayit, as reflected in the historic status quo, as a Jewish/Christian/Muslim holy site of worship and as an integral part of a world cultural heritage site. Because yes, we are the occupying power, and yes, we do have responsibilities.