One wonders what India's Permanent Delegation to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) is doing in Paris today. India joined it way back on November 4, 1946. Given the potential of this cultural agency in spreading enlightenment derived from scientific education and fostering development throughout the world, New Delhi sent to the organization internationally acclaimed philosopher and future President, S. Radhakrishnan as a member. He rose to become its chairman during 1948-49. New Delhi's abstention from voting on the October 18 resolution in UNESCO's Executive Board, however, indicates the Indian delegation now in Paris is absolutely ineffective.
In a 24-6 vote, the Executive Board ratified a resolution that refers to Jerusalem's Temple Mount and its adjoining Western Wall solely by their Muslim names of Al-Haram Al-Sharif and the "Buraq Wall." The nations that voted for it included: Brazil, China, Dominican Republic, Egypt, Morocco, Mexico, Mozambique, Nicaragua, Nigeria, Oman, Russia, South Africa, and Vietnam.
The six countries that voted "no" were Estonia, Germany, Lithuania, Netherlands, United Kingdom and United States.
Those that abstained included: Albania, Argentina, Cameroon, El Salvador, France, Ghana, Greece, Guinea, Haiti, India, Italy, Ivory Coast, Japan, Kenya, Nepal, Paraguay, Saint Vincent and Nevis, Slovenia, South Korea, Spain, Sri Lanka, Sweden, Togo, Trinidad and Tobago, Uganda and Ukraine.
New Delhi's abstention from voting on this resolution falls short of the expectations the enlightened international community probably has on the issue of the Jewish Temple. India, which boasts an age-old slogan, "Satyamev Jayate" ("Let Truth Triumph"), recalls, since ancient times the Temple Mount as part of India's indelible memory. In his historic address to the Parliament of the World's Religions at Chicago in 1893, India's legendary spiritual thinker, Swami Vivekanand, said:
"I am proud to tell you that we have gathered in our bosom the purest remnant of the Israelites, who came to Southern India and took refuge with us in the very year in which their holy temple was shattered to pieces by Roman tyranny..."
The Temple Mount refers to a walled compound having two magnificent structures -- the Dome of the Rock and the al-Aqsa Mosque -- and the Western Wall. For the last 3000 years, the complex has served as a witness to the faithful of the three great monotheistic religions. King Solomon built the First Temple here around 1000 BC. The Babylonian King Nebuchadnezzar tore it down 400 years later. In the first century BC, King Herod refurbished a Second Temple. It is here that Jesus Christ lashed out against the money-changers. The Roman General Titus exacted revenge against Jewish rebels, sacking and burning the Temple in 70 AD.
The second Jewish Temple, completed by King Herod in 19 BC, was destroyed by the Romans in 70 AD (depicted at left in a 1626 painting by Nicolas Poussin). The current al-Aqsa Mosque (right) on the Temple Mount was first built in the year 705 AD, seventy-three years after Muhammad's death in 632, and rebuilt several times after earthquakes. (Images source: Wikimedia Commons)
Muslims call the Temple Mount "Haram al-Sharif" ("the Noble Sanctuary"), and the al-Aqsa mosque "the farthest mosque" -- although no one knows how far the farthest mosque actually was; it may well have been in Arabia -- where in a dream the Islamic Prophet Muhammad supposedly ascended to the "Divine Presence" on the back of a winged horse.
In modern times, the antiquity of the complex can easily be determined by archaeological excavations and scientific tools. But this has not been acceptable to the authority of the compound, an Islamic council called the Waqf, which spuriously insists that archaeological excavations would amount to a desecration of their religious sites. In the late 19th century, European adventurers conducted some clandestine surveys. Some minor archaeological work was conducted by the British from 1938 to 1942, when the al-Aqsa Mosque was undergoing renovation.
It is clear from the history of faiths that the holy scriptures of the Jews are far older than the Islamic ones. The Temple Mount is the ultimate -- and only -- physical expression of the Jewish faith in God. The Prophet Muhammad's Islam and its symbols, Al-Haram Al-Sharif and the Buraq Wall (where Muhammad is said to have chained his winged horse upon entering Jerusalem in his dream) came in the world at least a thousand years later.
Regrettably, UNESCO seeks to erase this history of faiths and replace it with a jihadi narrative that would deny both Christians and Jews their age-old access to the symbols of their faiths.
UNESCO is supposed to help preserve the entire world's heritage, but this cultural agency seems to have been hijacked by the leadership and allies of the Palestinians and the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC). UNESCO accepted "Palestine" as a member state in 2011, although the United Nations has not done it so far. Since 2015, the Palestinian leadership has been on a drive to change UNESCO's terms of reference not only for the Temple Mount but also for every trace of legitimate Judeo-Christian history. Is what we are sheepishly witnessing actually the perversion of history, the perversion of the work UNESCO knows full well that it is supposed to be doing and a submission to the counterfactual demands of a group that is expansionist and predatory? What mutilation of reality will be next?
It is heartening to note that the resolution has been criticized by the White House, outgoing UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon, UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova, and nearly 40 members of the U.S. Congress. Bokova distanced herself from it, saying in a statement "nowhere more than in Jerusalem do Jewish, Christian and Muslim heritage and traditions share space."
India, as a leading democracy, would do well fully to support a historically and morally correct stand on the UNESCO resolution. It must see to it that the UNESCO does what it is supposed to: spread education and enlightenment.
India recognized Israel in 1950. Israel stood by India in 1962, 1965 and 1971. Since India's Prime Minister P. V. Narsimha Rao established full diplomatic relations with Israel in 1992, ties between the two democracies have grown from strength to strength in the areas of defence, counter-terrorism, intelligence, agriculture, science and technology.
India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi is openly appreciative of what Israel does in its self-defence, and sees it as a model for India.
New Delhi must not allow any anti-Israel bias within the United Nations to prevail. It must constantly bear in mind that the resolution in question could be passed only because at the UN, through the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (56 Islamic states plus "Palestine"), Muslim nations with an Islamist agenda dominate it. If they are not stopped, the Islamist backers of the UNESCO resolution will be emboldened eventually to back Islamist elements in India to question its Hindu historical and religious sites.
After so many recent votes at UNESCO erasing Judeo-Christian history in favour of Islamist misrepresentation, and now in this fraudulent representation of Judaism's holiest site (a city more than twice as old as Islam) as primarily Muslim, one thing is clear: the sooner democracies leave the UN, the better. Consider the UN's oil-for-food scandal of 2004-2005:
"bribes, kickbacks, fraud, smuggling; stories of graft involving tens of billions of dollars and countless barrels of oil, and implicating big business and high officials in dozens of countries; allegations that the head of the program himself was on the take..."
Consider also the UN's growing sex-for-food scandal that is still ongoing after more than a decade. Now, with the UN's wholesale erasure of Biblical history, the only intelligent response is to head for the exits. The UN in its present form seems nothing more than a bloated, corrupt jobs program of champagne for diplomats. It does far more harm than good. Nothing worth having can come from such a degraded place.
Jagdish N. Singh is a senior journalist based in New Delhi.