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Weekly Standard: Lawmakers Urge Opposition to Another U.N. Measure Denying Jewish, Christian Links to Jerusalem

By: Jenna Lifhits

U.S. lawmakers are urging members of the United Nations' cultural body to oppose a resolution that will effectively sever Jewish and Christian ties to holy sites in Jerusalem, only a week after the body passed a similar, controversial measure.

The latest United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) measure, "Old City of Jerusalem and its Walls", is scheduled for a Wednesday vote and uses language similar to a resolution that passed last week. The approved resolution, "Occupied Palestine", refers to the Temple Mount and Western Wall only by their Muslim names.

A number of countries, including Mexico, Brazil, and Italy soon expressed regret over abstaining from or approving the "Occupied Palestine" draft measure. Texas senator Ted Cruz, one of the leading lawmakers speaking out against the resolutions, urged the Obama administration on Monday to capitalize on those changed opinions ahead of the latest vote.

"It's very encouraging to see friends and allies from Latin America to Europe shifting their positions in favor of Israel. This is a great chance for the United States to rally this support and expose the anti-Israel bias at UNESCO for what it is," Cruz told THE WEEKLY STANDARD. "It's confounding to me that the Obama administration isn't seizing this opportunity, but hopefully action from Congress can keep the momentum going."

Such congressional action includes a bipartisan letter to UNESCO World Heritage Committee member states, led by Cruz and Florida representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, in which the lawmakers called the newest resolution "another attempt to rewrite history."

"Jewish and Christian ties to the holy sites in Jerusalem are irrefutable, and attempts to distort this historical truth undermine the very purpose and integrity of UNESCO," their letter said. "The upcoming resolution at the World Heritage Committee is every bit as divisive as the Executive Board resolution."

Earlier this month, Cruz, Ros-Lehtinen, and a group of 41 lawmakers voiced opposition to UNESCO's "Occupied Palestine" resolution, which passed in a 24 to 6 vote with 26 abstentions.

That measure triggered outrage from Israeli and U.S. lawmakers, as well as American Jewish groups. U.N. officials, including Secretary-General Ban-Ki Moon, were also quick to distance themselves from the vote.

The chairman of UNESCO's executive board, Michael Worbs, apologized for the measure after its preliminary approval, while Irina Bokova, director-general of UNESCO, made clear to Israeli officials that not she, but member states, had passed the resolution.

"Allow me to reassure you of my absolute commitment to continue all efforts in countering all forms of anti-Semitism, including those drawing on partial or distorted visions of culture and history, as well as those that seek to challenge the existence of Israel," Bokova wrote in an October 18 letter to Israeli Education Minister Naftali Bennett. Israel suspended cooperation with UNESCO when the "Occupied Palestine" resolution passed the committee stage earlier this month.

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