Rep. Ted Lieu (D – Calif.), an Air Force veteran and a member of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, harshly criticized the vote by UNESCO, the UN’s cultural organization, to approve a resolution that did not acknowledge Jewish and Christian connections to Jewish holy places in Jerusalem.
Lieu released a statement on Sunday accusing the organization of living in an “alternate universe…where you will see unicorns and flying dragons,” but no Jews or Christians.
The statement reads: “Many people have told me that they have heard the following greeting upon entering the alternate reality known as UNESCO: Welcome to UNESCO, where we live in the land of make believe. The ‘S’ in our name actually stands for science fiction. We at UNESCO don’t care about historical facts and some of our members are rabidly anti-Semitic and anti-Christian. That’s why we at UNESCO like to pass bigoted resolutions, such as this silly one that revises history and denies the known Jewish and Christian connections to the Temple Mount. Please visit our alternate universe often, where you will see unicorns and flying dragons. But in the UNESCO alt-reality, you won’t encounter any Jews or Christians because they don’t exist.”
The vote was also criticized by outgoing United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon, UNESCO director-general Irina Bokova, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President Reuven Rivlin, and nearly 40 other members of Congress. The U.S. was one of only six countries to vote against the resolution, along with Estonia, Germany, Lithuania, the Netherlands, and the UK.
African nations are eager to pursue business and diplomatic ties with Israel, a spokesman for the Ivory Coast’s ruling political party said Wednesday. He was in Jerusalem attending the 37th annual Feast of Tabernacles gathering, which has drawn 5,000 Christian pilgrims from some 90 countries as well as political officials from around the world. The event was hosted by the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem, which calls itself a “worldwide, non-profit ministry of Christian supporters of Israel.” Many African countries that have traditionally backed the Arabs in international fora have turned toward Israel in the wake of much of the chaos gripping the Arab world. The organization stated, “Even leaders of Muslim-majority African nations have expressed their strong interest in restoring relations with the Jewish state – a message we have faithfully conveyed to Israeli officials.” Its executive director, Jürgen Bühler, said, “There is a possibility to change voting patterns [in the UN], even from countries who have been against Israel for decades.” Indeed, Cameroon, Guinea, the Ivory Coast, Kenya, and Togo all abstained from voting on the anti-Israel UNESCO resolution that was passed last week.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has placed an emphasis on effectuating such a shift. Israel has been conducting intensive diplomatic efforts with African countries this year. Netanyahu convened a summit with at least 15 leaders and representatives of African nations at the UN last month. He “told his interlocutors that he believes that Israel could be an amazing partner for their countries. He said that technology changes everything, including in communications, medicine, agriculture and education. He noted that Israel wants to share its technology with African countries.” When Netanyahu, his wife Sara, and Israel’s ambassador to the UN Danny Danon went to an event titled “’Israeli Technology and Innovation for Africa,” they were welcomed with a standing ovation and the blowing of a shofar.
Netanyahu visited Uganda, Kenya, Rwanda, and Ethiopia this summer. The Republic of Guinea, a Muslim-majority African nation, restored diplomatic ties with Israel after a 49-year break. Israel has a long history of sharing its expertise with African countries. The Israeli prime minister has made it a priority to strengthen Israel’s commercial, diplomatic, and security relations with African countries.
Following the 6.6 magnitude earthquake that struck Taiwan in February and killed 117 people, Israel has decided to donate 117 “earthquake-proof” tables. The first batch of 60 tables has already been delivered to the people of Tainan, Taiwan’s oldest city and the epicenter of the earthquake. Israel’s Bezalel Academy of Arts and Design explained to The Jerusalem Post, “During earthquakes, it is generally recommended to duck under a sturdy desk in order to increase the likelihood of ending up in a ‘survivable void space,’ and thereby escape flying debris if a building collapses.”
“The gift of 117 earthquake tables to the children of Tainan is a wonderful example of the way design can contribute to the safety of children and enhance friendship between people,” said Professor Ido Bruno, a professor at Bezalel whose student Arthur Brutter designed the tables. “I am proud that we are educating our students to look at the many ways they can improve people’s lives, not only the rich and powerful, but rather the vast majority of people who need simple, trustworthy, accessible design solutions they can afford.”
Israel’s envoy to Taiwan, Asher Yarden, cancelled a celebration for Israel’s Independence Day in May so the funds could instead be allocated to buy the tables. Each table can provide shelter for up to two students.