For at least the last five decades, the United Nations General Assembly has blindly adopted Palestinian resolutions, allegedly aimed at addressing the “Palestine question. Lacking imagination and not asking or answering any relevant questions at all, what has now become known as the “Palestine Package” is not only detached from reality, but uses language so charged in favor of the Palestinian narrative that it serves only to fan the flames of conflict rather than to disperse them.
Language scholars have long understood the power of language to make or resolve a conflict. Now is the time for world leaders – and especially their representatives on the world stage in New York – to take a closer look at their own actions and the language they use when they have a chance to positively influence the most closely studied regional conflict in the world.
The one-sided language began to dominate in UN forums almost as soon as Israel was recognized by the vote on the partition plan on November 29, 1947. The Arab countries rejected this vote, and in an effort to appease them and later the Palestinians, member states are now using robots to support proposals that undermine the legitimacy of my country. In doing so, they are also erasing 3,000 years of Jewish history in Jerusalem.
This point is most evident in the United Nations’ insistence that the holiest place of Judaism be designated by its Muslim name alone. In no other conflict and with no other religion is the systematic bias of the UN so obvious. Where else in the world would the international community show so much disrespect and contempt for such a sensitive religious place?
There is no dispute about the Jewish connection to the Temple Mount – the site that Muslims refer to as Haram al-Sharif. Countless archaeological artifacts have been discovered there, which prove beyond doubt that Jews have prayed there for thousands of years. The Temple Mount and the summit of Mount Moriah on which it stands are mentioned several times in the sacred texts that Jews from Europe to Africa to America have recited and wept for generations. This truth is also recognized in the texts of the other Abrahamic religions.
Yet UN bodies such as UNESCO, UNRWA and the various committees set up to deal with the so-called “Palestine question” make no attempt to reflect these historical facts.
The erasure of our history is leading to the UN being detached from reality – and Israelis are beginning to turn their backs on an institution that does nothing to defend their right to pray in their holiest place. In recent years, under my leadership as minister in the Israeli government, the number of Jewish visitors to the Temple Mount has more than tripled. It continues to rise.
By ignoring our 3,000-year connection to the Temple Mount, the UN is confirming the Palestinian refusal to recognize our right to exist as the only Jewish state in the world. Its dismissive language of Jewish connection to our holiest site allows Palestinians to teach their children that we do not even have the right to be present in Jerusalem. This encourages them to hate rather than seek reconciliation and coexistence. And hidden behind the shield of these annual resolutions, Palestinian leaders are allowed to continue their negative policies.
Most ironically, many UN member states already recognize that there is a problem with this charged language.
In 2017, the European Union agreed to formally adopt the double name “Tempelberg/Haram al-Sharif” when referring to the holy site. Austria’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations, Ambassador Jan Kickert, repeated this call in 2018 on behalf of the EU, stressing that “the language used in the holy sites of Jerusalem must reflect the meaning and historical significance of the holy sites for the three monotheistic religions and respect religious and cultural sensitivities”.
The Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, Nikolai Mladenov, a former Foreign Minister of Bulgaria, is a rare UN figure who recognizes these sensitivities and is careful to use both names when reporting regional events to the Security Council.
Earlier this month, Czech Foreign Minister Tomáš Petříček highlighted the injustice in a column and pointed out that his country is likely to break with the typical European consensus when these resolutions are put to the vote in the General Assembly on Wednesday.
As we enter a new era of peace in the Middle East, marked by the signing of the Abraham Agreement, I believe it is high time that other countries also consider this. They should look closely at how, by letting these resolutions and their problematic language pass unchallenged every year, they are helping to make a solution even more difficult to achieve.
If other countries refuse to make any changes, it will be clear to me that the UN members are not serious about resolving this conflict, but prefer to maintain an absurd situation that only exacerbates the Palestinian rejection and drives the sides even further apart.
Gilad Erdan is Israel’s ambassador to the United Nations and Israel’s new ambassador to the United States. Prior to that, he served for more than a decade in the Israeli government in various ministerial posts, including the Security Cabinet and the Israeli Knesset.
The views expressed in this article are those of the author.