Israel has suspended cooperation with UNESCO a day after the UN cultural body passed a resolution that sharply criticised Israeli policies around Al-Aqsa Mosque compound, while supposedly rejecting Jewish ties to the holy site in occupied East Jerusalem. In a 24-6 vote, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization on Thursday gave preliminary approval to a resolution. The resolution condemned Israel for restricting Muslims access to the site, and for aggression by police and soldiers. It also recognised Israel as the occupying power. Estonia, Germany, Lithuania, the Netherlands, the UK and the US voted against the resolution, while Those who supported and voted in favour included Algeria, Bangladesh, Brazil, Chad, China, Dominican Republic, Egypt, Iran, Lebanon, Malaysia, Mauritania, Mexico, Morocco, Mozambique, Nicaragua, Nigeria, Oman, Pakistan, Qatar, Russia, Senegal, South Africa, Sudan and Vietnam. Absent countries included Albania, Argentina, Cameroon, Cote de’Ivoire, El Salvador, Spain, France, Ghana, Greece, Guinea, Haiti, India, Italy, Japan, Kenya, Nepal, Uganda, Paraguay, South Korea, St. Kits and Nevis, Slovenia, Sri Lanka, Sweden, Togo, Trinidad, Ukraine, Serbia and Turkmenistan
Israeli prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu slammed the vote stating: “The theater of the absurd continues at the UN.” On the other hand, The Palestinian Authority, however, welcomed the result. Rejecting the Israeli criticism, Palestinian leaders urged UNESCO chief to implement will of cultural body’s member states. The Palestinian ministry of foreign affairs said it welcomed the adoption of the resolution that reflected “the majority of member states commitment to confront [the Israeli] impunity and uphold the principles upon which the UNESCO was founded”. Palestinian Foreign Minister Riyad al-Maliki also criticised Irina Bokova, UNESCO director-general, after she distanced herself from Thursday’s vote. He said, “The Palestinian government expects Ms. Bokova to focus her efforts on implementing the will of member states and preserving Jerusalem from the Israeli systematic colonisation and assault on its Palestinian character.” He also said – “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.
Nabil Abu Rudeineh, the official spokesman of the Palestinian President Mahmoud said-“This is an important message to Israel that it must end its occupation and recognise the Palestinian state and Jerusalem as its capital with its sacred Muslim and Christian sites.”
Al-Aqsa Mosque compound is the third-holiest site in Islam. It is located in East Jerusalem, which Israel annexed following its invasion in 1967 – in a move never recognised by the international community – as part of its subsequent military occupation of the West Bank.
Jewish settlers and Zionist organisations have called for complete Jewish control over the mosque compound.