Israel Allies Foundation brings together 23 MPs to condemn UNESCO decision
October 22, 2016
A resolution signed by a group of international legislators criticizing the recent UNESCO resolution, which denies Jewish ties to the Temple Mount, was a “crowning moment,” World Jewish Congress President Ronald Lauder said on Friday.
Ongoing interfaith activity drew the 23 parliamentarians, who were in the country for the Israel Allies Foundation’s annual Jerusalem Chairman’s Conference, sponsored by the World Jewish Congress and the International Christian Embassy.
The resolution, issued from Jerusalem, said that the UNESCO vote seeks “to deny Jerusalem’s Jewish origins and Christian beliefs and heritage.” It also served to declare support for a united Jerusalem and to congratulate Israel on the 50th anniversary of the reunification of the capital and on the upcoming 100th anniversary of the Balfour Declaration.
“It demonstrated that interfaith relations and understanding is not just possible, but also necessary. We must continue to work together and support each other,” Lauder told The Jerusalem Post the day after he delivered a speech, via video from the US, to the attendees at the Jerusalem Payis Arena.
“This will be a raison-d’etre to go back to their parliaments and take real stands against these efforts, like UNESCO, to rewrite history and to basically use antisemitic canards of the past to demonize Israel,” said Josh Reinstein, Israel Allies Foundation executive vice president, who added that this was the first international group of parliamentarians to condemn UNESCO via their own resolution.
The three-day visit by the MPs – who chair Israel Allies caucuses in their countries – included a strategic, geopolitical tour of Jerusalem and the surrounding areas in the West Bank, including Gush Etzion. They also paid a visit to the Cave of the Patriarchs in Hebron, before attending a conference covering issues such as delegitimization efforts against Israel, Palestinian incitement, and the 50th anniversary of the reunification of Jerusalem.
“This conference, held in the capital of Israel, is an important sign that Israel does not stand alone, and that the Jewish people have strong Christian allies in parliaments and governments around the world on which we can rely,” Lauder emphasized.
He added that it was important to understand that the “insulting and inflammatory” UNESCO decision was an affront to Christians as much as to Jews, as well as to “all those who value the vital role of historical truth in navigating current global issues.”
The resolution spoke of the Temple Mount and the adjoining Western Wall almost solely by their Muslim names of Haram al-Sharif and the Buraq Wall, thereby ignoring their importance to both Jews and Christians.
The World Jewish Congress has been a partner in the Israel Allies Foundation event since 2012, and has for many years invested in interfaith dialogue, establishing a solid relationship with the Catholic Church and with Evangelical Christians. “It’s important for Israel to have these allies, when there are so many enemies out there,” Lauder told the Post.
“Through this support, Israel and the Jewish people know that we are not alone in the world. And the Christian churches know that we respect their religious connection to the Land of Israel, and that they will always have a partner. We have common values and a common destiny, and we must not be afraid to speak together and work together for a better world,” he said.
Lauder acknowledged that Israel by no means has the support of all streams of Christianity, as there are many voices in Protestant churches around the world that are critical of Israel. But he also pointed out that the Evangelical movement is particularly supportive of Israel.
According to Reinstein, Christian support of Israel has grown tremendously in recent years. Remarking that Christian backing of Israel used to emanate primarily from the US, he said that today it comes from Africa, Latin America, the Caribbean, Asia and Europe too. “This movement is growing in leaps and bounds,” he told the Post, stressing that there are now 35 Israel Allies caucuses in parliaments around the world, with over a thousand MPs “who take their biblical support of Israel and turn it into real, concrete political action.” Reinstein asserted that faith-based diplomacy is growing exponentially almost every year.
Lawmakers attending the conference came from diverse countries, such as the Netherlands, Finland, Latvia, Spain, Switzerland, Lithuania, Slovakia, Denmark, Italy, Portugal, Malawi, South Africa, Uruguay, Costa Rica and Chile.
“Faith-based diplomacy has become the most important weapon in diplomatic arsenal, because if you have an economic or political agenda, you’re not necessarily going to stand with Israel,” said Reinstein. “But if you put values and beliefs ahead of economic and political concerns, you’re always going to stand with the one free democracy in the Middle East, Israel.”
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