Jewish leaders lambaste Italian government for abstaining on UNESCO vote


ROME (JTA) – Italian Jewish leaders slammed the controversial UNESCO resolution that makes no mention of Jewish ties to the Temple Mount and sharply criticized the Italian government for having abstained on the vote.

In a statement widely publicized by the Italian media, Noemi Di Segni, the president of the umbrella Union of Italian Jewish Communities, or UCEI, called Italy’s abstention in the Oct. 13 vote “very serious.” She said Italy, along with other countries that had abstained or voted for the resolution, bore “heavy responsibility” for “one of the most serious and at the same time most grotesque pages in the history of the United Nations.”

Jewish observers said such strong official Jewish criticism of government policy was “unprecedented.”

On Sunday, Di Segni had issued a letter to Italy’s president, prime minister and other senior leaders calling the abstention “incomprehensible” and saying it “cast a shadow” on Italy’s “solid friendship with Israel and the entire Jewish people.” She said the abstention represented “an insult to the fundamental values of Italy, of the constitution, and of Europe itself, called to forcefully defend any attempt to distort, deny and revise history.”

The UNESCO resolution criticizing Israel’s administration of holy sites, adopted Oct. 18 by the executive board of the United Nations cultural agency, refers to the Temple Mount only by its Muslim name. It also uses the term Buraq Plaza, placing “Western Wall Plaza” in quotes, appearing to deny a Jewish connection to the site. The Tomb of the Patriarchs in Hebron is referred to as the al-Ḥaram al-Ibrahimi and Rachel’s Tomb, outside Bethlehem, is noted as the Bilal ibn Rabaḥ Mosque.

In a related development, at least 200 people, some waving Israeli flags, staged a protest Wednesday against the resolution outside the UNESCO office in Rome. The demonstration was organized by the right-wing, pro-Israel newspaper Il Foglio. Among the participants were Rome’s chief rabbi, Riccardo Di Segni, and the president of the Rome Jewish community, Ruth Dureghello, as well as several right-wing political figures.

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