Wiesenthal Centre and International Christian Embassy Poll UNESCO Director-General Candidates on Jewish and Christian Heritage, Antisemitism and the Peril to Christians in the Middle East

Wiesenthal Centre and International Christian Embassy Poll UNESCO Director-General Candidates on Jewish and Christian Heritage, Antisemitism and the Peril to Christians in the Middle East

“Mr./Madam Candidate, do you endorse the position of current Director-General Irina Bokova that, “to deny conceal or erase any of the Jewish, Christian or Muslim traditions undermines the integrity of the City of Jerusalem and runs counter to the reasons that justify its inscription in the UNESCO World Heritage List.”

Paris and Jerusalem, 20 April 2017

Simon Wiesenthal Centre Director for International Relations, Dr. Shimon Samuels, and Dr. Jürgen Bühler, President of the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem, together submitted three questions on Jewish and Christian Heritage, Antisemitism and the peril to Christians in the Middle East to the nine candidates for the post of UNESCO Director-General. The candidates from Azerbaijan, China, Egypt, France Guatemala, Iraq, Lebanon, Qatar and Vietnam are to be interviewed by the UNESCO Executive Board in Paris on 26-27 April.

Drs. Samuels and Bühler stated, “In view of your forthcoming interview, our respective constituencies would appreciate your responses to the following questions,” adding

“These have been posed to all nine candidates and shared with all 58-member states of the Executive Board” (see address list here):

1. The UNESCO World Heritage Committee is a vital instrument for protection and preservation. Yet, since 2012, it has served to strip Jewish and Christian holy sites of their identity and integrity. From the Western Wall of Judaism to the Church of the Nativity of Christianity and the Temple Mount, itself sacred to the three monotheistic faiths – Jerusalem and the Holy Land have become targets for Palestinian-led exclusive claims to Jewish and Christian heritage and narrative – a strategy now current also in the Executive Board. Mr./Madam Candidate, do you endorse the position of the current Director-General Irina Bokova, in Brussels on 30 March, ‘to deny conceal or erase any of the Jewish, Christian or Muslim traditions undermines the integrity of the City of Jerusalem and runs counter to the reasons that justify its inscription in the UNESCO World Heritage List.’

Will you guide the member-states to vote for acknowledgment and respect for the heritage of the other as a peace-building mechanism?

2. Education is one of the four pillars of UNESCO and the Organisation is mandated to vet school texts and other pedagogical materials. The Simon Wiesenthal Centre annually monitors incitement to hate and violence on the display stands of six Arab book fairs and the Frankfurt Book Fair. Similarly, terrorist recruitment on the internet and social media threaten Jews, Christians and now general society.

Will you denounce Antisemitism and Christianophobia, together with Islamophobia and take measures to withdraw UNESCO sponsorship or financial support from the purveyors of hatred?

3. Ancient Christian communities and cultures are endangered and under assault without precedent – from Syria and Iraq to Lebanon and Egypt, across the Middle East and beyond.

What measures do you propose, within UNESCO’s competence, to contain this growing peril?”

“Mr./Madam Candidate,
Your responses will be shared with our constituencies and our sister NGOs.
Your sympathy to our concerns, should you be elected, will encourage us in our work with you over the next four years. Your silence in these matters would betray the principles of the UNESCO Constitution of 1946, whose preamble declares that ‘since wars begin in the minds of men, it is in the minds of men that the defences of peace must be constructed’”, the letter concluded.
This poll was shared with all 58-member states of the Executive Board (see attachment) and its Chairperson, Ambassador Michael Worbs.
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The Simon Wiesenthal Centre is an international Jewish NGO that defends human rights worldwide. Founded in Los Angeles in 1977, the Centre has a constituency of over 400,000 members. It applies the lessons of the Holocaust to fight antisemitism and other contemporary forms of discrimination and hate. The Wiesenthal Centre holds the status of Associate Partner with UNESCO and is an accredited NGO at the United Nations, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), the Organization of American States (OAS) and the Council of Europe.

The International Christian Embassy Jerusalem is the world’s largest Christian ministry dedicated to building support and understanding for Israel and the Jewish people, with branch offices in over ninety nations and members drawn from more than 160 countries worldwide. Headquartered in Jerusalem since 1980, the Christian Embassy works in national and international forums to promote religious tolerance, and to combat anti-Semitism and anti-Israel bias.
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For further information, please contact Shimon Samuels on +33 609 77 01 58 or David Parsons, VP & Senior Spokesman of the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem, on +972-(0)2-381-6214 or by email at david.parsons@icej.org.