UNESCO resolution on Jerusalem holy sites draws criticism from U.S., Israel

UNESCO, the UN's World Heritage organization, is being criticized for a resolution approved Wednesday on the status of conservation in Old Jerusalem — a document that Israel says denies Judaism's deep ties to the Temple Mount holy site.

Document refers to site Jews call Temple Mount only by its Arab name, triggering Israeli condemnation

Palestinians hold placards in support of a UNESCO resolution denying a Jewish connection to the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound. For Muslims, Al-Aqsa represents the world's third holiest site. Jews, for their part, refer to the area as the Temple Mount, claiming it was the site of two Jewish temples in ancient times. (Ali Jadallah/Anadolu Agency/Getty)

UNESCO, the UN's World Heritage organization, is being criticized for a resolution approved Wednesday on the status of conservation in Old Jerusalem — a document that Israel says denies Judaism's deep ties to the Temple Mount holy site.

In the secret ballot, the international body agreed to keep the site on its list of endangered locations and criticized Israel for its continued refusal to let experts access Jerusalem's holy sites to determine their conservation status.

The document refers to the site Jews call Temple Mount only by its Arab name — a significant semantic decision also adopted by UNESCO's executive board last week, triggering condemnation from Israel and its allies.

"This item should have been defeated … These politicized and one-sided resolutions are damaging the credibility of UNESCO," U.S. Ambassador Crystal Nix Hines said in a statement to The Associated Press.

They are politicizing religion, and this is very dangerous.- Palestinian ambassador to UNESCO, Elias Sanbar

"These resolutions are continuously one-sided and inflammatory."

The resolution was passed by the committee's 21 member countries. Ten countries voted for, two against, eight abstained and one was absent. Israel, the U.S. and Palestine are not on the World Heritage Committee.

Israel suspended ties with UNESCO earlier this month over a similar resolution.

Elias Sanbar, the Palestinian ambassador to UNESCO, fired back at those upset with the resolution, which was sponsored by his delegation.

"What Israel wants, in fact, is to put politics in religion. This is the most dangerous thing that is happening now in UNESCO," Sanbar told AP. "They are politicizing religion, and this is very dangerous."

The resolution is the latest of several UNESCO measures that Israelis see as evidence of ingrained anti-Israel bias within the United Nations, where Israel and its allies are far outnumbered by Arab countries and their supporters.

The site in Jerusalem has been on the endangered list since 1982.

UNESCO's World Heritage Site list is known throughout the world for its work on highlighting sites of historic and cultural significance, and endangered global heritage.