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UN Organization Attempts to Re-write History

Nov 7, 2010

By: Alan Levine

This week, the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) re-classified two Jewish historical sites in Israel as “Palestinian.”  The UNESCO board declared the Cave of the Patriarchs and Rachel’s Tomb to be “an integral part of the occupied Palestinian territories.”  Furthermore, "any unilateral action by the Israeli authorities is to be considered a violation of international law . . ." The UN has not been friendly to Israel since 1947, but UNESCO has now taken UN discrimination against Israel to an unprecedented level.

Hasbara Fellowships 2010 visits Cave of the Patriarchs


The mission of UNESCO is to protect historical sites around the world.  It’s ironic that UNESCO, of all agencies, would adopt this narrative since the Palestinian Authority has a dismal record of protecting ancient sites.  When Joseph’s tomb (a Jewish holy site) came under PA control, it was desecrated and destroyed by angry mobs.  Muslim and Christian holy sites, in contrast, have flourished under Israeli control.

The first site in question is Rachel’s Tomb in Bethlehem, the burial site of Jacob’s wife, and one of the four foremothers of the Jewish People.

The Cave of the Patriarchs is the burial place of the rest of the Jewish forefathers and foremothers, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Sarah, Rebecca, and Leah.  It is considered the second holiest site in Judaism.

The sites are also holy to Muslims due to Islam’s connection to the biblical forefathers.  Muslims did not always refer to the former site as Bilal bin Rabah Mosque, but rather called it “Rachel’s Tomb,” as Jews and Christians do.  As Michael Freund brilliantly put it in the Jerusalem Post:

Muhammad al-Idrisi, the great Muslim geographer and cartographer of the 12th century, wrote: “On the road between Bethlehem and Jerusalem is the tomb of Rachel, the mother of Joseph and Benjamin.” Needless to say, neither he nor anyone before him ever described it as a “Palestinian site.”

This incident perfectly exemplifies the Palestinian and modern Islamist approach to history—namely to re-write it in order to fit a political agenda.  Yasser Arafat called Jesus a Palestinian and spread the lie that there was never a Jewish temple under the Al-Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem, a lie that is widely believed in the Muslim world.

This latest example is part of the wide attempt to discredit the Jewish connection to Israel.  It is part of the wider narrative that the Jews were Europeans who began to steal Palestinian land 100 years ago.  This is widely believed in the Arab and Muslim worlds and is a key obstacle to peace.

Medieval Islamic historical and holy works, ironically, accept that there is a Jewish connection to the land.  There is even a verse in the Quran about it.  The less educated have never heard about the Jewish connection to Israel and the more educated read headlines such as the Arab Monitor’s “Israel suspends relations with UNESCO until it accepts Zionist paradigm.”  And there lies the problem—they call historical facts that they do not like “Zionist paradigm.”

This time, it is different:

This is the first time that a UN body or major Western organization joins the chorus of delegitimizing Israel’s connection to its homeland.  The UN is often anti-Israel, but it takes on Israel’s right to self-defense, its military policies, and border disagreements.

The utter rejection of Israel’s connection to its homeland has traditionally been reserved for Israel’s enemies in the Muslim world.  Until now.  What started as intense criticism of Israeli policy in the West is now spilling over into delegitimization of Israel’s right to its own homeland.  We hear that narrative on college campuses and now at the UN.

In the words of ADL National Director Abraham H. Foxman this week: this is a UN approval of “Palestinian rejection of the Israeli and Jewish narrative, making peace impossible."

I would only amend the word “Palestinian” in Foxman’s statement.  This is wider Arab rejection of Israel, and can turn into Western rejection of Israel if we are not vigilant.  We must get the message out on campus that these types of lies about Israel—as oppose to legitimate criticism about Israel’s policies—are utter anti-Semitism.

We would not allow international organizations to erase the history of any other nation, and Jewish history should be no exception.



Additional Reading:

UNESCO and the Cradle Of Jewish History,Jerusalem Post

Our World: The Age of Dissimulation,” Caroline Glick, Jerusalem
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