Unesco, the United Nations’ cultural agency on Thursday passed a draft resolution that played down Jewish ties to religious sites in Jerusalem, in a decision Israel called “absurd.” The resolution from the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, or Unesco, heavily criticized Israel’s actions toward holy sites in Jerusalem’s Old City.
The resolution omitted the Jewish name for a shrine holy to both Jews and Muslims. Instead, it referred to what Jews call the Temple Mount as the Haram Al-Sharif, as it is known to Muslims.
A 58-member committee passed the draft resolution, put forward by Arab states at meeting in Paris. It will be referred to Unesco’s executive board for formal approval next week and isn't expected to be challenged.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the failure to acknowledge the Jews’ connection to the Temple Mount was “absurd” and called the U.N. and Unesco a “moral farce.”
“What’s next? A Unesco decision denying the connection between peanut butter and jelly? Batman and Robin? Rock and roll?” he said in a statement posted to Facebook.
The Temple Mount is home to the Al Aqsa Mosque, one of Islam’s holiest sites, and is also where two renowned Jewish temples once stood. The plaza is abutted by the Western Wall, which is also sacred to Jews.
In the resolution, published online, UNESCO affirmed the importance of the Old City of Jerusalem to Islam, Christianity and Judaism. But it was also critical of Israel’s actions in the city, citing excavations of historic sites and restrictions on Palestinian visitation.
It repeatedly called Israel the “occupying power,” referring to what Palestinians label Israeli occupation of the Old City.
Israel won control of East Jerusalem and the Old City from Jordan in the 1967 Arab-Israeli war. Palestinians claim East Jerusalem as the capital of a future state.
The resolution said it deplored the “storming” of the Al Aqsa compound by “Israeli right-wing extremists and uniformed forces” and condemned “provocative abuses” that violate the sanctity of the site. The Temple Mount and Al Aqsa mosque have been a frequent site of Israeli-Palestinian violence in recent years.
Palestinians accused Israel of changing access rules to the compound for non-Muslims, who are allowed to visit but can’t pray on the site.
Conservative Israeli lawmakers have proposed changing access rules and routinely visit it. But the Israeli government has repeatedly denied any changes are planned.
The Palestinian Authority welcomed the Unesco resolution, commending member states’ decision to “confront impunity and uphold the principles upon which Unesco was founded.”
“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,” the Palestinian foreign ministry said in a statement.