A controversial United Nations body that granted Palestine member status has falsely claimed that Israel is intentionally destroying holy sites in Jerusalem, prompting complaints from the United States, the Israeli government, and American Jewish groups.
Critics of UNESCO claim that it has been hijacked by the Palestinians, who they say are using the body to delegitimize Israel and undermine U.S. efforts to get the parties back to the negotiating table.
UNESCO lost U.S. funding two years ago after it accepted "the State of Palestine" as an official member, a move U.S. officials said undermined the peace process.
UNESCO issued its controversial resolution during the 37th meeting of its World Heritage Committee (WHC), which oversees the preservation of historical sites across the globe. The meeting closed on Thursday.
The resolution, which was offered by Jordan on behalf of the Palestinians, falsely slammed Israel for carrying out archeological digs that are said to be damaging Muslim sites on Jerusalem’s temple mount.
It was reportedly passed by the WHC with the backing of just eight of 21 member nations, according to the Times of Israel. Ten members abstained from the vote, while Switzerland, Germany, and Estonia voted against it.
The resolution cited Israel for "the construction of a visitors’ center" in Jerusalem’s Old City, "plans to build an elevator by the Western Wall, and accusations of archeological excavations said to be damaging Muslim sites atop the Temple Mount," the Times reported.
Israel’s Foreign Ministry slammed the resolution in a statement that chastised UNESCO, which has financially supported anti-Israel nonprofit groups, for backing such a blatantly false accusation.
"The Palestinians are exploiting their admission to UNESCO as a member state in order to hijack the agenda and drag this important U.N. agency into the abyss of politicized manipulation," Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a statement.
U.S. Ambassador to UNESCO David Killion also expressed outrage in a statement issued following the vote.
"Such attacks are deeply regrettable because they complicate efforts to build trust between the parties and threaten the credibility of a program that should be sowing the seeds of peace, not deepening divisions," Killion said. He also accused UNESCO of being "hijacked and used as a vehicle to attack Israel."
Palestinian representatives, including President Mahmoud Abbas, have publicly accused Israel in recent days of plotting to destroy Muslim holy sites in Jerusalem, such as the Al Aqsa Mosque.
Palestinian leaders have perpetuated similar claims for years in an attempt to undermine Jewish historical connections to Jerusalem and the land Israel was established on.
Western experts said that these comments and action at the U.N. provide definitive proof that Abbas and his cronies have no intent of seriously participating in Kerry’s peace push.
"If they [the Palestinians] really had any intention of coming to the table without preconditions to discuss the issues that separate Israelis and Palestinians they wouldn’t be resorting in the middle of this effort to business as usual," Daniel Mariaschin, executive vice president of B’nai B’rith International (BBI), told the Washington Free Beacon.
BBI, a world aid organization, has had observers stationed at the United Nations for decades and has closely tracked the Palestinian’s abuse of the world body.
BBI petitioned UNESCO to explain why it permitted the latest resolution, but has yet to receive a response.
A UNESCO spokesperson would not comment directly on the resolution, but told the Free Beacon "that UNESCO serves the World Heritage Committee in the organization of its work, but that the Committee's decisions are taken independently."
"Business as usual for [the Palestinians] is to use international forums, particularly the U.N., to advance their issues at Israel’s expense," Mariaschin said. "They do this every time and right now is no exception."
In addition to UNESCO, the Palestinians have pushed anti-Israel initiatives at the World Health Organization, the U.N.’s Human Rights Council, and other bodies since Kerry began his latest Middle East peace push.
"The only message which I read from this is to further undermine Israel, further delegitimize Israel," Mariaschin said. "The Palestinians have used every excuse and gone every which way to avoid siting down [to negotiations] without preconditions."
Mariaschin was not optimistic about the Palestinians taking Kerry’s efforts seriously.
"I hope on this visit Secretary Kerry will make it clear to the Palestinian side that not only is this a repudiation of Israel, but also his efforts" to foster peace, Mariaschin said. "At a certain point, those responsible members of the international community should start referring to the Palestinians as rejectionists. I don’t see any other way."