U.S. lawmakers criticize upcoming UNESCO committee vote on Jerusalem proposal


(JTA) — A group of U.S. senators and congressmen have called on a UNESCO committee to vote against a second resolution that diminishes Jewish and Christian ties to the Old City of Jerusalem.

The bi-partisan letter initiated by led by Senator Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Florida) was sent on Monday to the World Heritage committee of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, which is currently holding its annual meeting.

The committee’s 21 member states are scheduled to vote on Wednesday on its “The Old City of Jerusalem and its Walls” resolution. The resolution, which is expected to pass by a wide margin, is similar to a resolution passed earlier this month by the UNESCO executive board.

The letter reads: “The Old City of Jerusalem is important to the three monotheistic religions, and we celebrate the heritage and cultural ties of these religions to Jerusalem. Unfortunately, this proposed resolution is yet another attempt to rewrite history by denying Jewish and Christian ties to Jerusalem. The Temple Mount, the holiest site in Judaism, along with the Western Wall, where Jews from all over the world come to pray, are again described exclusively as Muslim holy sites and are referred to only by their Muslim names. References to the Western Wall are in quotation marks implying that the title is unofficial and not based on historical fact.”

“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. The upcoming resolution at the World Heritage Committee is every bit as divisive as the Executive Board resolution, despite Jerusalem’s inscription as a holy city for Judaism, Christianity and Islam on UNESCO’s World Heritage list. Furthermore, attempting to erase the Jewish and Christian connection to this sacred city will further damage the prospects of peace between Israel and the Palestinians,” the letter also said.

The letter is similar to one signed earlier this month by 41 U.S. lawmakers in advance of the executive board vote: 24 votes in favor and 6 against, with 26 countries abstaining.

Monday’s letter also is signed by Sens. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), and Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.); and Reps. Ted Deutch (D-Fla.), Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.), Kay Granger (R-Texas), Nita Lowey (D-N.Y.), and Ed Royce (R-Calif.).

Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton in a statement issued Tuesday condemned the heritage committee for considering such a resolution.

“It is disappointing and wrong to see that UNESCO’s World Heritage Committee is considering a resolution on Jerusalem that fails to recognize and respect the deep and historic ties of the Jewish people to Jerusalem and its holy sites. Tomorrow’s planned vote follows an outrageous UNESCO vote last week on a similar resolution. I have always stood with Israel to reject these biased actions at the United Nations, and I always will,” the Clinton statement said.

Both Clinton and Republican candidate Donald Trump last week criticized the UNESCO executive committee for its vote.

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