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Garrett: Under Israel’s Protection, Kotel, Cave of Patriarchs Is Open to People of All Faiths

Last week’s burning of Joseph’s Tomb by the Palestinians was treated to a virtual news blackout. The Muslim media barely covered it, and Jewish media was able to achieve only limited coverage so it registered barely a blip in the world news or mainstream media. “If it had been the other way around, the injustice would have been reported in the four corners of the world,” said Rep. Scott Garrett (R-NJ), who visited Israel last week as part of a group called Proclaiming Justice to the Nations, which encourages Christians to stand in solidarity with Jews and Israel against anti-Semitism. Serving since 2003, Garrett represents Congress from Northern New Jersey, including Bergen County.

Garrett told the Jewish Link that he and four other congressmen went to Israel to meet with leadership and to see the status of things on the ground. “We went over there during an uptick in the violence by the Palestinians. It was a turbulent time to be there,” he noted.

One of Garrett’s main takeaways was the flawed way the mainstream international media was covering the violence. “They are totally distorting it. Just because Abbas says something and it’s reported in the New York Times doesn’t make it true. Abbas was not actually putting out fires, but stoking them, by his comments,” Garrett said.

Garrett stated, for example, that Abbas and his followers were continuing to foment a story that the Israeli government was creating a hindrance to the Dome of the Rock and in fact, the case was and is just the opposite.

“Part of the lie being perpetrated was that the Israeli government was somehow blocking access. It was actually Arab youths who were inside. They were using incendiaries or flares that were causing threats to anyone near there who looked Jewish,” Garrett said.

In light of the turnaround nature of the incitement, one thing was made extremely clear to Garrett. “When these holy sites are located within the confines or protection of the Israeli government, they remain open to people of all faiths, whereas when the territory is governed by the PA, they exclude people of the Jewish faith and in some violent cases, repel people of any faith.”

“If there is any doubt that the Western Wall or Dome of the Rock was in the confines of PA control, we would not be able to go where we went to this past week,” said Garrett. He explained that since his last visit, especially on the new highway circumventing Bethlehem, there are huge red signs warning Jews not to go into certain areas due to extreme danger. “But Palestinians can go freely through the checkpoint, to work or school or whatever. This is not being covered by the mainstream media.”

In light of his experience, Garrett also noted the one bright spot from the week was the rejection of a proposal put forward by the Palestinians, with the support of six Arab nations, that would, in fact, declare the Western Wall a Muslim holy site by UNESCO.

Algeria, Egypt, Kuwait, Morocco, Tunisia and the United Arab Emirates made the proposal on behalf of the Palestinians to the UN’s Education, Scientific and Cultural Organization, which designates world heritage sites.

The proposal was met earlier this week with alarm by Israel, national Jewish organizations, government officials from the U.S. and Europe and, in this case of the Western Wall designation, even from Irina Bokova, UNESCO’s director general.

“The protection of cultural heritage should not be taken hostage as this undermines UNESCO’s mandate and efforts,” she said. “We have a responsibility to UNESCO’s mandate to take decisions that promote dialogue, tolerance and peace.”

Israel’s Foreign Ministry said it was working with other nations and UNESCO officials to defeat the proposal.

In addition to its attempt to reclassify the Western Wall as the “Buraq Plaza,” the proposal, which was ultimately passed without the Western Wall language, but with language designating Rachel’s Tomb and the Cave of Machpelah as Muslim World Heritage Sites, also called for the international community to condemn Israel for urging “its citizens to bear arms in light of the recent terror wave,” according to Ynet News, which obtained a copy of the proposal.

Nathan Diament, the Orthodox Union’s Executive Director for Public Policy, said, “This shameful resolution completely ignores the historical connection of the Jewish people to Jerusalem and this particular site—the site of the ancient Holy Temple—which dates back more than 2,000 years. In addition, this resolution is a brazen attempt to rewrite history, and will further inflame the ongoing wave of violence and terrorism against Israeli citizens. We call upon the international community to recognize this resolution for the absurdity that it is.”

Ronald Lauder, president of the World Jewish Congress, said that adopting this resolution would exacerbate tensions in Israel.

The proposal “goes in the face of the UNESCO Constitution, which very clearly states the organization’s aim to contribute to peace and security by promoting collaboration and coexistence,” Lauder said. “It would make a mockery of that founding principle if the UNESCO Executive Council were to back such a resolution. UNESCO must not be turned into a battleground for conflicts between religions.”

The American Jewish Committee called on the UNESCO board to reject the proposal.

“Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas is shamelessly seeking to undermine the truth, change the status quo, add to an already volatile situation that he irresponsibly created, and thereby once again set back the quest for peace and coexistence,” said AJC Executive Director David Harris.

“In view of Palestinian attempts to bring about resolutions at UNESCO that constitute a distortion of reality and a falsification of historical facts in Jerusalem, thus purporting to present the Wailing Wall (Western Wall) as if it were a Muslim holy site, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, headed by Director General Dr. Dore Gold, is actively working to put a stop to this underhanded maneuver,” the Israel’s Foreign Ministry said on Monday in a press release. “The Ministry of Foreign Affairs is engaged with friendly countries and with the heads of UNESCO in order to ensure that this Palestinian attempt fails.”

The Kotel resolution comes four years after UNESCO voted to accept the Palestinian Authority as a full member, an action that led the U.S. to cut funding to the UN body, and five years after another UNESCO resolution declared that two historic Jewish sites, the Cave of the Patriarchs and Rachel’s Tomb, are “Palestinian.” Both sites are among the most sacred in Jewish tradition.

While all of this was happening on an international stage, a bipartisan group of five U.S. Congressmen, including Rep. Garrett, were in Israel as part of an educational and solidarity visit.

“We have a true love for Israel,” said Rep. Garrett from Jerusalem. “Administrations come and go but when it comes to the House where I serve, it has always been a strong bipartisan experience in support of Israel.”

Israel is also getting support from European countries who oppose the UNESCO resolution. According to a European diplomat, the Russians are considering submitting a no-action motion, which would mean the Palestinians’ resolution would be withdrawn and not voted on. Many European Union member states would support such a move, a senior European diplomat said.

“Broadly, we agree with the comments from the director-general,” the diplomat said, referring to UNESCO chief Bokova’s statement deploring the Palestinian proposal regarding the Western Wall, since it “could further incite tensions.”

By Elizabeth Kratz and Phil Jacobs

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