The Palestinian and Jordanian delegations to UNESCO, the United Nations’ cultural body, threatened the organization’s member states if they did not vote in favor of an upcoming anti-Israel resolution that denies Jewish and Christian connections to holy sites in Jerusalem. UNESCO’s World Heritage Committee will vote on the draft resolution on Wednesday in Paris. Both the Palestinian and Jordanian delegations expect the draft resolution to pass unanimously, so that it does not have to go to a vote. “Otherwise,” they warned, “the delegation of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan and the delegation of Palestine would and according to the rules of procedure be obliged to consider other options.” The resolution only refers to the Temple Mount, Judaism’s holiest site, as al-Haram al-Sharif, its Muslim name.The vote comes two weeks after a previous anti-Israel resolution was passed by the member states of UNESCO and then ratified by the body. Mexico and Brazil later announced that they regretted voting in favor of the resolution, and would abstain from similar resolutions in the future. Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi said last week that his country, which abstained, would vote against such resolutions in the future. “I think this is a mistaken, inconceivable resolution,” he said. “It is not possible to continue with these resolutions at the UN and UNESCO that aim to attack Israel. It is shocking and I have ordered that we stop taking this position…even if it means diverging from the position taken by the rest of Europe. I have asked diplomats handling these issues to cease doing so.”
Carmel Shama-Hacohen, Israel’s envoy to UNESCO, said, “The Palestinians and the Arabs understand that after Mexico and Italy they can expect a number of additional unpleasant surprises.” With this warning, he continued, they are trying to say: “Stop abandoning us or we’ll burn the house down with extreme anti-Israel resolutions that will cause tremendous damage to the organization.” Mexico, Brazil, and Italy are not, however, on the World Heritage Committee and therefore will not be casting a vote on this resolution’s text.
U.S. lawmakers from both sides of the aisle and both houses of Congress signed a letter that was sent to the committee, emphasizing that “attempting to erase the Jewish and Christian connection to this sacred city will further damage the prospects of peace between Israel and the Palestinians.” Last week UNESCO director-general Irina Bokova wrote to Israeli Education Minister Naftali Bennett, “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.”
Dual Iranian-American citizen Reza Shahini, 46, was sentenced to 18 years in prison in Iran over the weekend, Vice News reported. He was penalized for charges related to espionage and “collaborating with a hostile government.”“It was a terrifying moment, and they blindfolded me and they took me to the custody and I did not know where I was,” Shahini said, speaking to VICE News via phone from prison. “They were interrogating me every morning, every afternoon, and I was always by myself in my cell.”
Shahini also said Iranian officials refused to reveal the evidence against him and that “they are all brainwashed to think that the U.S. is a hostile government. Even the judge.”
This comes after just last week when Iranian-American Siamak Namazi, a businessman who advocated for closer ties between the U.S. and Iran, received a 10-year prison sentence along with his 80-year-old father.
Iran has a history of arresting dual nationals, which it does not recognize, meaning that the individuals cannot receive consular assistance; the number reached six in July, which, according to Reuters, comprised “the highest number of Iranians with dual-nationality detained at one time in recent years to have been acknowledged.” One more dual national, a former member of the Iranian nuclear negotiating team, was arrested in August. Many analysts believe that Iran is “seeking concessions from the West in exchange for releasing” dual nationals, the Associated Press wrote that month.
The United Nations has abandoned plans to evacuate patients from east Aleppo, which it had hoped to accomplish during a three-day lull in fighting last week. Eastern Aleppo is currently under siege by the Assad regime and its allies: Russia, Iran, Hezbollah, and various Shiite militias. An estimated 250,000 people remain trapped in the city.
“The evacuations were obstructed by various factors, including delays in receiving the necessary approvals from local authorities in eastern Aleppo, conditions placed by non-state armed groups and the government of Syria’s objection to allowing medical and other relief supplies into the eastern part of the city,” UN Under-Secretary-General for humanitarian affairs and emergency relief coordinator Stephen O’Brien said in a statement.
The news of the aborted mission comes the same day The Wall Street Journal published a devastating article on the destruction of Aleppo. Aleppo is “another Srebrenica, another Rwanda,” said United Nations Special Envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura. “Thousands of Syrian civilians, not terrorists, will be killed.”
Only 30 doctors are left in eastern Aleppo, and their overworked skeleton staff does not have adequate resources. One doctor recounted delivering three babies during the winter only to watch each one of them die almost immediately due to lack of warm blankets. The massive influx of dead bodies has also caused a shortage in burial sites—forcing relatives to bury their loved ones in their own small vegetable gardens.