[”Even by U.N. standards, last week’s vote at UNESCO’s World Heritage Committee meeting in Krakow, Poland, was diplomatic theater at its most absurd.- Rabbi Abraham Cooper, Associate dean, Simon Wiesenthal Center]
With civil war, ethnic and religious cleansing and ISIS terrorism blowing Muslim and Christian sites to smithereens across Iraq and Syria, UNESCO chose to focus instead on the nonexistent threat of Israeli control over the Cave of Patriarchs. In a move that would have left George Orwell scratching his head, the committee voted to erase Jewish history, demean the Bible and register the Old City of Hebron and the Cave of Patriarchs to the nonexistent “State of Palestine.”
In a semi-secret ballot, 12 countries voted in favor, three voted against and six abstained.
The Cave of the Patriarchs, whose purchase by Abraham is recorded in the Bible, is considered to be Judaism’s second holiest site and Islam’s fourth.
Understandably, Israelis and Jews around the world reacted with outrage. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu donned a yarmulke to read the passage in Genesis that details our Patriarch Abraham’s negotiations and payment for the Cave where he would soon bury his beloved Sarah. All other patriarchs and matriarchs of the Jewish people (except for Rachel, who was buried in nearby Bethlehem) were buried on this hallowed site.
But instead of safeguarding a 3,500-year-old legacy, UNESCO desecrated and endangered Ma’arat Hamachpelah (the Hebrew term for the site). The U.S. ambassador to the U.N., Nikki Haley, denounced the move as “an affront to history.”
Another outrage came when the German ambassador decided to join with the Cuban ambassador in requesting a moment of silence for Palestinian “victims” after a moment of silence for the six million Jews murdered by Nazi Germany during the Holocaust. An incensed Israeli ambassador confronted the German ambassador directly, demanding to know if the diplomat was equating Anne Frank to Palestinian youngsters who stabbed innocent Israeli civilians. If he was expecting an apology, it never came.
Could it get any worse?
Actually, yes. Much worse.
Witnessing the vote in Poland was Tayseer Abu Sneineh, the recently elected mayor of Hebron, the city with the largest population controlled by the Palestinian Authority on the West Bank. Abu Sneineh was Fatah’s local candidate this year, but he had a different title back in May of 1980. He was part of a terrorist cell that murdered six Israeli yeshiva students and wounded 16 others as they danced and prayed their way from Beit Hadassah on a Sabbath Eve. The youngsters were ambushed as they approached the very same Cave of the Patriarchs.
All four attackers, including Abu Sneineh, received life sentences in Israel. They were released in prisoner exchange deals in the 1980s.
In announcing Abu Sneineh’s candidacy, Fatah — the ruling party of the Palestinian Authority (PA) — described the terror attack as “one of the most important battles and acts of bravery of the Fatah Movement” and “one of the most courageous self-sacrifice operations. ” It praised the killers as “heroes” and men “of delicate emotions.” Abu Sneineh joined the PA in the 1990s, serving in the ministry entrusted with guarding holy places.
And now the UNESCO vote tells Palestinians and Israelis alike: Terrorism from ISIS, Al Qaeda, Al Shabab, Taliban, is to be denounced. Terrorism from Palestinians against Israelis will be rewarded.
Without a doubt, mass murderer Abu Sneineh must feel vindicated. After his election, he was asked if he felt remorse for the 1980 killings: “All of us in Fatah fought for our national rights, and international law allows us to resist the occupation by all means,” he declared.
With the Hebron “victory” in his back pocket, PA President Mahmoud Abbas, who is in the eleventh year of his four-year term, rushed to Cairo to counter “diplomatic” moves by terrorist Hamas. During his visit with the head of the Arab League, he asserted he supported anti-terrorist moves and backed a two-state solution.
And why shouldn’t Abbas continue his lies and doublespeak? The international community doesn’t demand transparency for how the PA spends its more than $4-billion-a-year budget or accountability for its deeds, which include bestowing hero status upon terrorists like Abu Sneineh.
Indeed, Abbas bristles at demands, now enshrined in bills pending in the U.S. Congress and Israel’s Knesset, that he stop rewarding terrorists and their families based on the number of Jews they kill.
The European Union won’t stop them. Human rights NGOs, many churches and peace activists give a wink and a nod to Palestinian terrorism. UNESCO has gone even further, rewarding Palestinian lies, murders and diplomatic deceit.
The only thing that will change the way the PA behaves will be if the global funders demand it.
That leaves America standing alone with the clout to demand change in Palestinian behavior. Without such change, no Israeli government – Right, Center or Left – can ever reach a peace deal with the Palestinians.