RAMALLAH, October 15, 2016 (WAFA) – Foreign Minister Riyad Malki strongly criticized statements by UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova in which she denounced a UNESCO vote on Jerusalem.
The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) voted on Thursday in favor of a resolution submitted by Palestine and other Arab countries that denounced Israel’s practices in occupied East Jerusalem, particularly at the Muslim holy place Al-Aqsa Mosque.
Bokova, a Bulgarian, claimed in a statement criticizing the vote that the resolution attempts to deny Jewish ties to the city.
“The heritage of Jerusalem is indivisible, and each of its communities has a right to the explicit recognition of their history and relationship with the city,” she said. “To deny, conceal or erase any of the Jewish, Christian or Muslim traditions undermines the integrity of the site, and runs counter to the reasons that justified its inscription on the UNESCO World Heritage list.”
She said that when divisions carry over into UNESCO, “an organization dedicated to dialogue and peace, they prevent us from carrying out our mission.”
Bokova, said Malki, “has out stepped the scope of her mandate by speaking out against a resolution adopted by the Executive Board of the organization,” he said in a statement.
“This unusual and unacceptable position is an affront to the will of the Member States who voted to adopt the resolution successfully,” he added. “Further, Ms. Bokova‘s explicit and outspoken declaration undermines the work and authority of the Executive Board and is hence completely unacceptable.”
Malki accused the UNESCO director general of choosing to appease Israel’s “bullying campaign” against the resolution and the member states.
“She willfully ignored the text of the resolution, which reiterates Jerusalem‘s character as a city central to the three monotheistic religions,” he said.
“The UNESCO Director General would be better advised to implement the mandate of the organization and safeguard cultural and heritage sites, like the Old City of Jerusalem, from the continued violations and transgressions it has endured for decades. Rather than serving the provocative and misleading agenda of those cynically sidetracking the discussion to issues irrelevant to the content and objectives of adopted resolutions,” said Malki.
“Ms. Bokova should focus her efforts on implementing the will of member states and preserving Jerusalem from the occupying power‘s systematic colonization, including its assault on the character of the City and the basic rights of its Palestinian residents.
“Finally, and in line with her mandate, we expect Ms. Bokova future public declarations to address the ongoing colonial policies in Palestine, which systematically assault and target our rich heritage, cultural, and religious sites, undermining coexistence and tolerance. We also expect to hear her indignation at Israel‘s continued provocations of religious fervor through allowing raids of the Haram Al-Sharif by political and religious leaders who openly call for the destruction of the holy compound,” he said.
The Foreign Ministry welcomed the adoption of the resolutions at UNESCO.
“The State of Palestine welcomes the adoption of two resolutions in UNESCO, which reflect the continued commitment of the majority of member states to confront impunity and uphold the principles upon which UNESCO was founded,” it said in a statement.
“We regret that some countries succumbed to the public relations bullying orchestrated by Israel, which shifted the focus from Israel‘s illegal actions in occupied East Jerusalem to issues irrelevant to the content and objectives of the resolutions, which aims to put an end to Israel‘s dangerous and illegal actions against holy sites in Jerusalem and Palestinian rights, including the right to worship. This is especially regrettable since those member states are well aware of the dangerous situation in Jerusalem,” it said.
“Rather than spending millions to spin its illegal colonization into normalcy and distort reality, Israel, the occupying power, must understand that the only way to be treated like a normal state is if it starts acting like one, by ending its occupation of Palestine and seizing its irresponsible and illegal actions in the occupied land of the State of Palestine, specially East Jerusalem.
“Palestine will continue to defend the rights of our people through all available legal and diplomatic avenues, including UN organizations. Our peaceful agenda will not be derailed by propaganda, nor will our tolerance and adherence to international law be altered by fallacies and cynical spin. Palestine will not be deterred by distortions and smear campaigns and will continue to press the international community to assume its responsibilities towards the situation in Palestine and to confront Israeli transgressions,” concluded the Foreign Ministry.