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UNESCO resolution on Jerusalem confirms Palestinian history

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OPINION by Shafiq Morton

THE recent [18 October 2016] UNESCO resolution on Jerusalem and West Bank historical sites – voted into being by 24 states with six against and 26 abstaining – in no way undermines Jewish faith, as is being claimed by the Zionist government, and its international covey of shills.

Judging by their pot-banging in the media, it’s almost as if they haven’t read the document. For in its condemnation of Israeli violations in the Holy City and the West Bank, it states specifically that Palestine’s historical sites are sacred to Jews, Christians and Muslims alike.

This is something that needs to be brought forward in reports of UNESCO’s document 200 EX/25. To date, much of the commentary has been focused on the status of the western wall to create the false impression of Jewish victimisation.

In fact, the UNESCO resolution merely raises questions that have been troubling the international community for decades.  What is really causing the ruckus surrounding the resolution is the fact it is sensitive to historical truth. This is because it states that the Al-Buraq Plaza – or the “Wailing Wall” – is Muslim property.

The word Al-Buraq Plaza [named after the place where the Prophet Muhammad tied his heavenly steed] and the use of inverted commas when the Israeli term “Western Wall Plaza” is mentioned in the report is what has caused hackles to rise in Tel Aviv and Washington.

The UNESCO draft resolution – proposed by Algeria, Egypt, Lebanon, Morocco, Oman, Qatar and Sudan – decries much-publicised Israeli aggression and occupation in the sacred Al-Aqsa precinct.  The resolution expresses concerns about Israel preventing much-needed renovations by the Jordanian authorities [who have legal jurisdiction over Al-Aqsa] and the ongoing illegal excavations under the mosque.

The resolution goes on to express its disapproval of the deliberate destruction of the ruins of Ottoman, Mamluk and Ummayad mosques and buildings at the Maghribi gate, which is the focus of illegal Israeli expansion. The report says the Maghribi, or Moroccan, gate is an integral part of Al-Aqsa.

Adding to Israeli discomfit is a statement expressing concern over the Gaza siege and further clauses decrying belligerent Israeli interference at the Ibrahimi mosque in Hebron, and the tomb of Rachel and the Bilal ibn Rabah mosque in Bethlehem, which it says are all part of Palestine.

In essence, the UNESCO resolution deals with the obvious. But it is, without doubt, a critical juncture in the Zionist narrative – which because of its crimes against Gaza and growing litany of human rights abuses elsewhere – is being called out for its unwillingness to accommodate Palestinian nationhood.

Even another, milder UNESCO resolution [passed on 26 October 2016] and submitted by Lebanon and Tunisia on behalf of Jordan and Palestine, is accused of “ignoring” Judaism’s connection to Al-Aqsa.

The UNESCO resolutions have made it clear that the Zionist lobby will not be able to bully countries on Israel so easily now, despite Mexico’s bizarre stand-down. Significantly, two Security Council members, Russia and China, voted for the first UNESCO resolution.

Indeed, at the UN, Israel has either benefited unduly from US or European vetoes, or has had to rely on lobbying, luck – and even skulduggery. For example, in 1947 when the UN was proposing the Partition Plan, Zionist lobbyists were at edge of their seats.  The Plan – to create a Jewish state on existing Palestinian land – needed a two-thirds majority to be passed. It only squeaked through by three votes.

State Department files reveal that it took 75,000 dollars to change a South American diplomat’s mind, and that Harvey Firestone Junior had told the Liberian government he would disinvest from its rubber industry if it voted against the plan.

When it comes to the question of the Al-Buraq Plaza and its environs, the fact is that it is part of the Al-Aqsa waqf [a communal endowment], created by Caliph ‘Umar in the 7th century and expanded by the Kurdish leader, Salahuddin Ayyubi, in 1187. When I was researching my book on Palestine, Surfing behind the Wall, I discovered that the Al-Buraq wall had enjoyed no Jewish significance from 135 CE until the 16th century, a period of over 1,400 years.

Prior to that, worship had been conducted at the Mount of Olives, or on some rare occasions outside the Golden Gate – but never at the western wall, whose precincts had been a market during Herodian times.

The instrumental figure in allowing Jewish worship at the wall was the Ottoman Caliph, Suleiman the Magnificent. After the defeat of the Mamluks in 1517, he allowed Jews to worship at the Buraq wall at selected times. The Caliph issued a “firman”, and the agreement was that Jews could worship at a section of the wall, but that it would remain Muslim waqf.

To this effect, the UN Security Council document S/8427 [issued February 1968] declares that the Buraq, or western wall, is Muslim property. The beef of Islamic scholars today is not that Jewish worship takes place at the wall, no, but rather the aggressive colonisation of a sacred space by political Zionism.

The critical point – one that is spectacularly missed by Zionists – is that the Islamic sanctity of the area has been violated by the architecture of occupation, not by Jewish worship. It is political Zionism, hiding behind the skirts of religiosity, which has ripped a centuries’ old agreement to shreds.

Indeed, since the 19th century, the Al-Buraq wall has been at the centre of Zionist-inspired conflict. In the 1870s both Baron Rothschild and the British banking tycoon, Sir Moses Montefiore, tried to “buy” the wall. In 1929 efforts to bring in furniture and screens on the back of Third Temple notions by the recently immigrated Ashkenazim – all in violation of the existing waqf – fomented a nation-wide uprising in Palestine.

Finally, the UNESCO report’s concern at Israeli “archaeology” – which has damaged the foundations of Al-Aqsa – is the most damning. A frantic 50 year dig for Jewish evidence of hegemony in Jerusalem has revealed no corroborating evidence whatsoever.  The Ummayads, who built the Dome of the Rock and the Al-Aqsa mosque, were great builders and most times, it is Ummayad ruins that emerge from the centuries of silt.

Shafiq Morton is the presenter of VOC’s Drivetime show. He is also a veteran photo-journalist, columnist, author and media lecturer.

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