The United Nations has been a hotbed of anti-Israel sentiment for decades. Whether the issue was war, terrorism, blockades, the security barrier, peace talks, settlements, refugees, etc., the vast majority of countries have been very vocal and very critical of Israel.
The UN also has a long history of ignoring Jewish rights to their sacred sites, as described in “The United Nations and Holy Sites in the Holy Land.” The various countries in the UN had a chance to add their own voices to that history.
In the fall of 2015, Palestinian Arabs claimed that Jews were going to overrun the Al Aqsa mosque on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem, and proceeded to kill and attempted to kill dozens of Israelis. Those events made the countries at the UN focus on discussing the Temple Mount itself. Their comments on October 22, 2015 were interesting.
A Muslim Holy Site
Not surprisingly, the Muslim countries referred to the Temple Mount as an exclusively Islamic holy spot.
- “State of Palestine” called the location the “Haram al Sharif,” the Muslim name for the Temple Mount.
- Angola discussed the “Al Aqsa Mosque,” which is Islam’s third holiest spot, located on the southern tip of the Temple Mount
- Qatar mentioned the “Holy Shrine”
Some countries went further, and stressed that the Temple Mount compound was important only to Muslims.
- Maldives stated “Haram al-Sharif must be restored. Israel must stop altering the Islamic and Arabic character of the city”
- Egypt noted that the “Holy Shrine was extremely important to more than one billion Muslims worldwide,” and said nothing about Jews
- Iran called the site “Haram Al-Sharif, and called for respect for the rights of Muslim worshippers to pray at that site in peace.”
Others were more extreme in their calls against Israel:
- Saudi Arabia said that “Israel had failed to protect Islamic holy sites, demolished the gates of Haram al-Sharif and turned it into a prayer place for Jews. Israeli extremists had set fire to the Cave of the Patriarchs in Hebron”
- Kuwait described “attacks on Al-Aqsa mosque were an unprecedented assault against the inalienable religious rights of Muslims all over the world. The OIC reiterated the historic and present Hashemite custodianship of the Islamic and Christian holy sites in Jerusalem, including Haram Al-Sharif/Al-Aqsa Mosque.”
- Morocco was alarmed at the situation of “Islamic holy sites. Jerusalem was the very essence of the Palestinian question and there could be no peace without clarifying the status of Al-Quds as capital of a Palestinian State. Any harm brought against the Al-Aqsa mosque would heighten tensions.”
The surprise in the singular call of the Islamic character of the site, was that a single western country also only mentioned the Arabic and Muslim name for the site: the United Kingdom.
Just Holy Sites
Some countries avoided the controversy, like Spain, Chad, Nigeria, Norway, Korea and France, just referring to generic “holy sites.” Such language was impartial and neutral. That was perhaps logical in a tense and violent environment.
The Holy See mentioned that the location was sacred to “Judaism, Christianity and Islam.” An ACTIVELY balanced approach, which pulled all of the monotheistic religions to Jerusalem.
Turkey’s approach was a mix. Like the Holy See, it noted that “Jerusalem, a city sacred to Islam, Judaism and Christianity, should be treated with the utmost respect.” But then went on to attack Israel’s practices at the site saying that Israel was “targeting holy sites and all other provocative activities undermining the status and sanctity of Haram al-Sharif must immediately stop. The Jordanian role as custodian of the holy sites in Jerusalem was crucial for the preservation of Haram al-Sharif as an Islamic sanctuary.” It would appear that Turkey was willing to acknowledge the centrality of Jerusalem to Jews, just not the Temple Mount.
Most countries like: New Zealand; Venezuela; China; Chile; the United States; Russia; Sweden; Lebanon; Malaysia; Guatemala; Brazil; Japan; India; Bangladesh; Costa Rica; Kazakhstan; Iceland; Botswana; Sri Lanka; Bahrain; Cuba; and Pakistan did not mention the holy site itself.
Yes, that many countries weighed in about the situation in Israel.
Three Countries Recognize Judaism at the Temple Mount
In the long list of world condemnation, there was a silver lining, and it came from the unlikeliest of countries. Three countries besides Israel, referred to the platform as the Temple Mount, recognizing the history of Jews at the location and the sanctity of the spot in Judaism.
- Lithuania, a country not known for being a strong Israeli ally, said that the “Haram al-Sharif/Temple Mount was a sacred place for both Muslims and Jews.”
- Ukraine mentioned the Al Aqsa mosque, but then also said “It was important for both parties to find the courage to respect holy places in accordance with the principles specified in the fundamental international documents, particularly those of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), and the agreements that regulated the status of the Temple Mount complex.”
- Zimbabwe also said that “Access to the Temple Mount and other holy sites must be preserved under the status quo arrangements.”
These are not remarkable statements by these three countries on their face. But to consider that dozens of countries – including Israel’s allies – would not recognize the centrality of the Temple Mount to Judaism, does make their statements noteworthy.
Ukraine has a long history of anti-Semitism, but it was among the few countries that referred to the site by its historic Jewish name. The three countries did go on to chastise Israel for actions on the Temple Mount, but at least they had the decency to not ignore Jews and Judaism also.
Six months later, in April 2016 in Paris, UNESCO itself weighed in that there was no Jewish connection to the Temple Mount when it drafted 40 points of rebuke against Israel, that only referred to the Jerusalem site by Islamic and Arabic names 19 times. This was very deliberate, as seen when UNESCO went through the courtesy of referring to the common names of other Jewish holy sites in discussing “The two Palestinian sites of Al-Ḥaram Al Ibrāhīmī/Tomb of the Patriarchs in AlKhalīl/Hebron and the Bilāl Ibn Rabāḥ Mosque/Rachel’s Tomb in Bethlehem.”
Decades ago, several countries would not acknowledge the Jewish State, and many Arab countries to this day still refer to Israel as the “Zionist Entity.” Much of the world is still so backwards, that it cannot even recognize the history of the Jewish people and the holiest spot for Judaism.
Send a note to the governments of Lithuania (email@example.com), Ukraine (firstname.lastname@example.org) and Zimbabwe (email@example.com) and let them know that their statements, while seemingly insignificant, meant a lot to a small nation with a little country in the middle of a hostile neighborhood and United Nations.
Consider sending a note to your home country and the UK (fax 212 745 9316) as well, relaying your disappointment. You are welcome to attach this article.
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