Israel Antiquities Authority

Has the United Nations become a tool for advancing Muslim nations' religious agenda?

Has the United Nations become a tool for advancing Muslim nations' religious agenda?

It's a journalistic truism that mixing biblical archeology and religious claims with contemporary Middle East politics generally condemns a story to a tar pit of irreconcilability. But of course it's done all the time by all involved parties, with deadly consequences. It's standard fare in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Some Palestinians argue that they're indigenous -- and hence the rightful political heirs -- to what today is Israel/Palestine. Their claim -- dubious, I'dsay, given the scarcity of provable evidence -- is that they descend directly from the ancient Canaanite tribes that once roamed the area. That, despite the region's thousands of years of history involving marauding armies and cultural upheaval -- not the least of which was the 7th Century C.E. Arab Muslim conquest of the Levant.

Most traditional Jews (supported by some Christians but not by some anti-Zionist ultra-Orthodox Jewish sects) point to the biblical Book of Genesis that says God promised Eretz Israel (the Land of Israel) to the patriarch Abraham, making Israel the rightful political power.

This takes us into the realm of theology; either you believe it or or you don't.

Islam, of course, has its own narrative about the land -- and in particular Jerusalem -- further complicating the picture.

Get the United Nations involved and it becomes even more of a briar patch -- which is what's happened of late with the UN's chief cultural agency, the United Nations Economic, Scientific and Cultural Organizational (UNESCO).

I'm referring to the recent series of votes by UNESCO and its World Heritage Committee that referred to what Jews -- and, hence, Israel -- call (in English) the Temple Mount, and what Muslims -- and, therefore, the Palestinians -- call the Noble Sanctuary. In addition to criticizing Israeli actions there, the resolutions referred to the sites using only their Muslim names.

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