The United Nations is infamous for subjecting Israel to “obsessive, unbalanced, and relentless criticism,” in the words of Susan Rice, President Obama’s U.N. ambassador for five years. As Democratic vice presidential nominee Senator Tim Kaine once put it, the Jewish state is the “perennial punching bag” at the U.N., which “hold[s] Israel to a standard that’s different than other nations.”
Usually, this animus is cloaked in the garb of anti-Zionism. This morning, however, the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) dispensed with all pretense and passed a blatantly anti-Semitic resolution erasing Jewish ties to Jerusalem’s Temple Mount, Judaism’s holiest site.
The Palestinian-drafted resolution, which passed 24-6 with 26 abstentions, claims that the site of the two Jewish Temples is sacred solely to Muslims. It refers to the area only by its Islamic names: Haram al-Sharif and Al-Aqsa Mosque (the shrine situated on the site). This is essentially the equivalent of passing a resolution airbrushing Muslim ties to Mecca, a move which would rightly be deemed Islamophobic. (Incidentally, in 1925, the Islamic Waqf overseeing the Temple Mount published a pamphlet stating that “the identity of the site with Solomon’s Temple is beyond dispute.” Obviously, the Waqf did not anticipate the ingenuity of the United Nations.)
Unsurprisingly, the United States, Britain, Germany, Estonia, Lithuania, and the Netherlands voted against the resolution. Shamefully, the other three European countries on the UNESCO executive board—France, Sweden, and Spain—could only bring themselves to abstain in the face of textbook anti-Jewish bigotry. (They had each previously voted for a previous incarnation of the same resolution, before realizing how badly it reflected on their countries.)
Adding to the bitter irony of UNESCO’s anti-Jewish turn is the fact that yesterday was Yom Kippur. Predictably, the liturgy of Judaism’s holiest day makes repeated reference to Judaism’s holiest site. One of the most frequently cited verses in the day’s lengthy prayers is Isaiah 56:7, in which the prophet imagines an interfaith utopia on Jerusalem’s Temple Mount:
וַהֲבִיאוֹתִים אֶל־הַר קָדְשִׁי וְשִׂמַּחְתִּים בְּבֵית תְּפִלָּתִי עוֹלֹתֵיהֶם וְזִבְחֵיהֶם לְרָצוֹן עַל־מִזְבְּחִי כִּי בֵיתִי בֵּית־תְּפִלָּה יִקָּרֵא לְכָל־הָעַמִּים׃
I will bring them to my sacred mount and let them rejoice in my house of prayer. Their burnt offerings and sacrifices shall be welcome on my altar, for my house shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples.
The UNESCO resolution is perfectly in keeping with Isaiah’s ecumenical sentiment, as long as one adds in “except the Jews.”
To be fair, perhaps the resolution’s supporters—which included such noted experts on Judaism as Iran, Pakistan, Russia, and Qatar—were not familiar with this particular verse of Isaiah, nor the myriad of other references to the Temple Mount in Judaism, nor the extensive archaeological and other evidence for the Jewish Temples that stood there. But one would think they’d be familiar with the famous prophecy of Isaiah carved into the wall outside the United Nations in New York:
The full prophecy reads:
And the many peoples shall go and say: “Come, Let us go up to the Mount of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob, that he may instruct us in his ways, and that we may walk in his paths.” For instruction shall come forth from Zion, the word of the Lord from Jerusalem.
Thus he will judge among the nations and arbitrate for the many peoples. And they shall beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation shall not take up sword against nation; they shall never again know war.
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