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Mexico’s UNESCO ambassador considers resignation over Jerusalem vote

Posted by Tip Staff - October 17, 2016


When UNESCO, the United Nations’ cultural agency, approved a resolution on Thursday that denied Jewish and Christian historical ties to Jerusalem, Mexico’s ambassador to UNESCO Andres Roemer walked out in protest against his country’s decision to vote in favor of the text. He contemplated resigning his post but was discouraged from doing so by his Israeli counterpart Carmel Shama HaCohen.
“It was personally moving to see you leave the room during the vote in order to actively avoid the vote against your conscience,” HaCohen wrote in a letter to Roemer. “Moreover, I found your consideration to resign from your post as pre-matured and rushed. I am sure that you will be a great asset to Mexico and a friend to Israel.”
Numerous congressional leaders, as well as White House officials, have expressed deep dismay over the Jerusalem decision. “One-sided, unhelpful resolutions have been a recurring challenge at UNESCO in recent years, and the United States has strongly opposed these resolutions at the UNESCO Executive Board,” a senior Obama administration official told The Jerusalem Post. A bipartisan letter signed by 39 members of Congress criticized the resolution for “attempting to erase the Jewish and Christian connection to this sacred city” which would “further damage the prospects of peace between Israel and the Palestinians.”
“Yesterday’s actions are only the most recent display of long-running bias against the Jewish state by the organization you will soon lead,” Rep. Peter Roskam (R., Ill.) wrote in a letter to incoming UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres. “Since its founding in 2006, the U.N. Human Rights Council has adopted 135 resolutions targeting specific countries. Sixty-eight of these have been directed against Israel, comprising more that 50% of the body’s work. In the past four years, the U.N. General Assembly has adopted 97 resolutions chastising specific nations. Eighty-three of these have targeted Israel, over 85% percent of the total.” Roskam said that the resolution “flies in the face of history, archaeology, science, and reason.”


The Iranian-backed Houthi rebels may have fired missiles at U.S. Navy vessels operating off the coast of Yemen over the weekend, according to American defense officials. U.S. Chief of Naval Operations Adm. John Richardson said that it appeared that American ships “have come under attack in the Red Sea, again from coastal defense cruise missiles from the coast of Yemen.” The Pentagon declined on Monday, however, to say whether or not missiles had definitively been fired: “We are still assessing the situation. There are still some aspects to this that we are trying to clarify for ourselves given the threat – the potential threat – to our people.”
Last Wednesday, U.S. Navy vessels destroyed three Houthi-controlled radar sites with missile strikes authorized by President Barack Obama. The strikes came just two days after the Houthis fired two missiles at the USS Mason, which was traveling north of the strategic Bab al-Mandab strait, where it was “conducting routine operations in international waters,” in the words of Pentagon spokesman Captain Jeff Davis. The missiles did not hit the ship and no American sailors were injured. The U.S. Navy destroyer was deployed off the Yemeni coast after a ship from the United Arab Emirates was struck and severely damaged by Houthi rockets there two weeks ago. The day after the American strike, Iran dispatched two warships to the Gulf of Aden.
The Yemeni government announced a 72-hour ceasefire with a possible extension last Monday; the Saudi government had previously expressed its support for a ceasefire provided that the Houthis also agreed to it.
The Houthis seized control of the Yemeni government in 2015, prompting a military intervention by a Saudi-led coalition of Arab countries. The United Nations has identified Yemen as a “humanitarian crisis,” reporting that more than 10,000 people, including 3,800 civilians, were killed between March 2015 and August 2016.
The Houthis, whose logo reads in Arabic “God is great, Death to America, Death to Israel, Curse on the Jews, Victory to Islam,” have received arms—including missiles—and training from Iran. American, French, and Australian vessels have intercepted weapons shipments from Iran on their way to the Houthi rebels. After the capture of Yemen’s capital, Sana’a, in 2014, Iranian parliamentarian Ali Reza Zakani, who is close to Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, boasted that Iran now controlled four Arab capitals, the other three being Damascus, Baghdad, and Beirut.
Secretary of State John Kerry has previously expressed his concern about Iranian missiles being delivered to the Houthis, and then being fired over the border into Saudi territory.


The Israel Democracy Institute’s October monthly survey shows that Israel’s Arab community has a positive outlook for the new year, which just started in Israel about two weeks ago. Most Arab Israelis were even more optimistic than their Jewish counterparts.
More than 50% of Arabs expect Israel’s overall situation to be “much better than last year” or “a little better than last year” as compared with only around 20% of Jews. The gap remains wide in the socioeconomic domain, where 42.6% of Arabs predict Israel’s situation will improve—double the number of Jews who think so. Arab Israelis also outnumbered Jews by 3:1 on the question if disputes between different parts of the public will be better.
Trends show Arab Israelis increasingly assimilating into Israeli society—most recently in education. Between 2013 and 2016, the number of Arab Israeli teachers in Israel’s state schools rose by 40%. The result is largely the product of a government-sponsored initiative to integrate more Arab Israeli teachers into public schools. Likewise, the number of Arab Israelis attending universities is trending upwards, and 14.4% of Israel’s bachelor degree students were Arab in 2015—an extremely high success rate considering the country’s population is around 20% Arab.

Thanks to its unique position at the crossroads of three continents, Israel boasts a soaring birdlife that delights ornithological beginners and experienced birders alike. “Israel is a meeting of zoo-topical zones, so in this small country you can see a high diversity of species which are represented in Europe, Asia and Africa,” Jonathan Meyrav, tourism director of Israeli Ornithological Center, tells ISRAEL21c. “Our specialties are some of our desert birds like MacQueen’s bustard, five species of sandgrouse, and the Syrian serin, which is a bird that breeds only in the mountains of Syria, Lebanon and Israel. We also have two very rare night species — the desert tawny owl and the Nubian nightjar. These two have a very small distribution and Israel is the best place in the world to see them.” The two migration festivalsHula Valley Birds Festival, which begins on November 20th this year, and Eilat Birds Festival in spring — when some 500 million birds fly over Israel, are the most popular times for birders to visit. During these peak times, birders can catch sight of 150 to 200 species of birds. (via Israel21c)

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