Wednesday, April 20, 2016, New York, NY… The Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations strongly criticized the outrageous decision on holy sites in Jerusalem adopted last Friday by the Executive Board of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). The offensive distorted UNESCO statement defies thousands of years of Jewish history and tradition, and undermines chances for future peace.  Considered under the agenda item “Occupied Palestine,” the UNESCO decision omitted any reference to the Jewish biblical connection to the Temple Mount, the holiest site in the Jewish religion and sacred to Christians and others, referring to it only as Al-Buraq Plaza and Haram al-Sharif, names associated exclusively to Islam.

Stephen M. Greenberg, Chairman of the Conference of Presidents, and Malcolm Hoenlein, Executive Vice Chairman and CEO said:

“Last Friday a thirty-three member majority of UNESCO’s Executive Board went along with the relentless Palestinian efforts to negate the Jewish connection to the holiest sites in the Jewish religion and deny any Jewish relationship to the Temple Mount in Jerusalem, exclusively calling it Haram al-Sharif and using the term Al-Buraq Plaza for the Western Wall (Kotel) and referred to Israel only as ‘the Occupying Power” not by its sovereign name. 

This decision is a disgrace and it brings shame to UNESCO.  It is an insult to the Jews and Judaism as it is to Christians and other traditions while completely disregarding Israel’s recognition of and respect for Muslim holy sites in Jerusalem and across the country, and its commitment to protecting freedom of worship for all religions.

We are deeply disturbed that only six countries, including the United States and the United Kingdom, voted against the resolution, while such countries as France, Spain, Sweden and Russia voted with the majority to support a bigoted, one sided misrepresentation.  Seventeen other countries abstained.  We appreciate the efforts of the United States to secure a more balanced outcome.

UNESCO Director General Bokova has been an advocate for evenhandedness on the issue of the religious sites in Jerusalem.  It is unfortunate she was not able to lead the Executive Board to act responsibly in this instance. In response to the decision, she called on the Executive Board to act with “integrity and authenticity”, neither of which characterized this UNESCO action.  Director General Bokova acknowledged Jerusalem as holy to the three Abrahamic religions, but was absent from the Executive Board decision which went so far as to falsely accuse Israel of ‘planting fake Jewish graves’ in Muslim cemeteries, something that did not happen and would violate fundamental Jewish precepts.

These false accusations and baseless claims have serious and potentially tragic real world consequences, often manifested in bloodshed and violence. 

The Jewish community cannot sit by as our heritage is violated, our history denied, our rights denigrated.”



The Conference of Presidents is the central coordinating body representing 54 national Jewish organizations on issues of national and international concern

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