NEW YORK — Chairman Stephen Greenberg and Executive Vice Chairman-CEO Malcolm Hoenlein issued the following statement on behalf of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations denouncing the UNESCO resolution designating Rachel’s Tomb and the Cave of the Patriarchs as solely Muslim holy places:
”The passage of the Palestinian-initiated resolution by the executive board of UNESCO is offensive and a distortion of history.”
The leaders lauded the six countries that voted against it (US, Germany, Estonia, Netherlands, United Kingdom and Czech Republic) and expressed appreciation for their efforts and those of UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova “to oppose the resolutions content of recognizing that it is a total distortion of the truth and is an affront to Judaism, Christianity, and those who value Judeo-Christian traditions and religious heritage.
“Through their efforts, the outrageous reference to the Western Wall being a part of the Al-Aqsa Mosque was removed.
”The resolution remains a blatant distortion and runs contrary to centuries of historical accounts including those by Muslim sources. For time immemorial, Rachel’s Tomb and the Cave of the Patriarchs have been identified as Jewish holy sites.
”It was not until the 1990s that the idea emerged that Rachel’s Tomb was the burial place of Bilal Ibn Rabah. Since the 16th century, Arab historical descriptions, legal documents, and in virtually every account for 1000 years, this tomb was a Jewish holy place. Bilal Ibn Rabah is known to have died in battle in 642 CE during the war of Islam in Syria and was buried in Damascus.
”What is to be gained by the Palestinian Authority or the Palestinian people by these insulting and blatant distortions, except to deny the rights of Jews to their national homeland? How could 26 countries in the 21st century support in what they surely know is a propagandistic ploy and 25 other countries abstain, including western democracies like France?
”This will only add to the tensions in the region and appear to reward those engaged in violence. Such actions will not just hurt Israel, but every country facing the challenge of terrorism and extremism.
“UNESCO has once again shown that it is not a body protecting cultural and social interests, but a platform for bias and incitement and is dominated by automatic voting blocs.”