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Is UNESCO Going to Erase Jewish History From Another Israeli City?

Sep 11, 2023 | Justin Amler

A room in Herod the Great's palace near Jericho (image: Flickr/Ian Scott)
A room in Herod the Great's palace near Jericho (image: Flickr/Ian Scott)

Algemeiner – 8 September 2023

When the United States rejoined the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) in July of this year, there was some cautious optimism that perhaps the US presence would temper the organization’s anti-Israel sentiments and agenda, which has been on display for years.

Unfortunately, those hopes appear to have been premature, as demonstrated by UNESCO’s agenda at its upcoming World Heritage Committee session, which will be held in Saudi Arabia later this month.

During the session, various locations around the world will be officially listed by UNESCO as world heritage sites. One of those sites, which was submitted at the behest of the Palestinians, is ancient Jericho. The Palestinians want its location listed as the “state of Palestine” — thus ignoring or negating the thousands of years of Jewish history at the site, and creating a Palestinian state where none exists.

The revisionist approach to Jewish history in Palestinian discourse and diplomacy is not new.

Jews have witnessed similar assertions for decades — yet they very clearly gained impetus when UNESCO became the first UN body to recognize “Palestine” as a full member state in 2011. Since then, UNESCO has passed resolutions defining the Temple Mount in Jerusalem — Judaism’s holiest site — as solely a Muslim holy site. It’s also declared that the Tomb of the Patriarchs in Hebron — believed by both Jews and Muslims to be the burial place of the Jewish patriarchs Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob — is a Palestinian heritage site.

It was these malicious and absurd attacks on Jewish history that led both Israel and the United States to withdraw from UNESCO in 2017.

Jericho is considered the world’s oldest city, and is most famous from the Bible as the first city that Joshua conquered when the Israelites entered the land of Canaan after 40 years in the desert. Today, the ancient site of Jericho contains ruins of synagogues that are thousands of years old, where mosaics inscribed with Hebrew writings have been discovered. This is unequivocal archaeological evidence of the historical Jewish presence in the ancient city.

The push to name Jericho as a “Palestinian heritage site” is just part of the larger Palestinian objective of rewriting the evidence-based historical record in the Holy Land, and replacing it with a fictitious narrative designed to sever any Jewish connection to the Land of Israel.

This campaign of falsification and cultural nullification by Palestinian leaders is facilitated and enhanced through the use of an array of international political tools made available to them through membership of world bodies, such as UNESCO. Such a dystopian assault on the historical record itself is offensive to anyone who cares about the truth, but especially to Jews, who are seeing their rich heritage, culture, and history in the Land of Israel erased and reclassified.

The comprehensiveness of this Palestinian campaign is frequently demonstrated in both word and deed.

For many years, Palestinian leaders have openly stated that no Jewish Temple ever existed in Jerusalem — even though numerous ancient non-Jewish sources, including Muslim writings, as well as archaeology, prove this beyond any doubt. As recently as May of this year, Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas stated in a speech at the UN that there is no proof of any Jewish ties to the Temple Mount in Jerusalem, saying archaeologists dug everywhere and couldn’t find anything.

Yasser Arafat said the same thing during the Camp David Summit in 2000. In 2015, the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, Sheikh Muhammad Ahmad Hussein, said in an interview with Israeli TV that there has never been a Jewish house of worship on the Temple Mount, instead claiming that it had been home to a mosque “from the creation of the world” — despite Islam existing for far less time than the creation of the world.

Palestinian academics often appear on Palestinian TV saying that Jews are “colonialists” and “occupiers,” who only arrived in the area in 1948, denying the abundance of archaeological evidence of Jewish history in Israel.

In September 2021, a 65-page document released by the Shilo Forum and the Shomrim al HaNetzach organization, a watchdog group dedicated to protecting Israel’s archaeological treasures, examined a selection of important national and cultural Jewish archaeological and historical sites in the West Bank. The report found that of the 365 sites examined, a staggering 289 had been damaged or destroyed, including sites dating back to Biblical times, as well as those from the Second Temple era.

It is scandalous that sites that have survived thousands of years of occupation by Romans, Persians, Arabs, and Ottomans, are today being destroyed by the corrupt Palestinian Authority, which appears to be attempting to erase all evidence of Jewishness before then claiming them as “Palestinian heritage sites.”

UNESCO is supposed to be a body that preserves the cultural history of the world. Yet by furthering and facilitating the Palestinian agenda of erasing Jewish history from the Land of Israel, UNESCO is not only failing in its mission, but completely subverting it by participating in the corruption and falsification of history itself.

Justin Amler is a policy analyst at the Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council (AIJAC).

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