On several of my trips to Israel, I visited during times of serious diplomatic fallout between Israel and the United Nations. Frankly, it is likely any time you visit Israel, there will be some fissure between Israel and the UN. I am reminded of graffiti and street comments containing the expression “Um-Shmum."
What does it mean? It’s hard to find “Um-Shmum” in the dictionary, and Google Translate is of no use. When translated into Hebrew, the abbreviation for the “United Nations” is UM. The “Shm” prefix (making Shmum) is a pejorative add-on signifying dismissal and contempt. “Um-Shmum,” therefore, is a uniquely Israeli expression that indicates disgust and disregard for the UN and its ridiculously biased anti-Israel declarations that the body churns out. It is not a new expression; sources date its use back to 1955 by Prime Minister David Ben Gurion.
And if I was in Israel a few weeks ago, I am certain “Um-Shmum” was being uttered all over the place.
At the end of October, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) Executive Board essentially voted to rewrite history and exclude Jewish and Christian connections to Jerusalem. Similar resolutions have been adopted by UNESCO political bodies in the past. The resolution passed in October continued to refer to the Temple Mount/Holy Sanctuary solely by its Islamic name, Haram al Sharif, and formally referred to the Western Wall Plaza as the Al-Buraq Plaza. As always, the resolution included numerous highly politicized allegations and false charges against Israel, including of Israel denying Muslims religious access to holy sites and Israel destroying Muslim sites. The only tacit acknowledgment of Judaism’s connection to Jerusalem is a first-time reference to “the importance of the Old City of Jerusalem and its Walls for the three monotheistic religions …"
ADL’s Jonathan Rosenblatt put it succinctly when he wrote, “To expunge the Jewish connection to Jerusalem is to deny the very cultural heritage of Jerusalem. This is not only unethical, but it contradicts the role of UNESCO to build intercultural understanding and protect cultural heritage. Resolutions such as these poison the atmosphere and sow mistrust, making steps toward reconciliation all the more difficult.'
By approving such an untruthful and one-sided resolution, UNESCO is eroding efforts to seek a peaceful resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict by giving support to forces in the Palestinian community that reject reconciliation.
The resolution is an affront to the Jewish people and our over two-millennia connection to the Western Wall and the Temple it once supported. By acknowledging the holy sites both on and around the Temple Mount solely by their Arabic names, this resolution seeks to invalidate any claim the Jewish people have to our holiest site. The result of this aggressive effort will be to heighten the already palpable religious tensions in Israel and the surrounding region.
At no point does the proposal acknowledge a Jewish association with the Western Wall, one that clearly dates to ancient times. Instead, it ignores any Jewish connection to the site altogether. This gross attempt to erase history by UNESCO is unconscionable. This revision of history is political, offensive and without factual merit.
The resolution was put forward by Algeria, Egypt, Lebanon, Morocco, Oman, Qatar and Sudan. Although it passed, more countries abstained than voted in favor. So absurd was the resolution that both the Trump and Clinton campaigns were united in their condemnation of UNESCO.
Anti-Semitism and Israel bashing is not new at the UN. From its creation in 2006 to 2016, the UN Human Rights Council over one decade adopted 135 resolutions criticizing countries, nearly 60 percent targeted Israel. From 2012 through 2015, the United Nations General Assembly has adopted 97 resolutions criticizing countries; 83 (86 percent) were against Israel. In addition to the recent resolution, each year UNESCO adopts about 10 resolutions criticizing only Israel; UNESCO does not criticize any other UN member state in a country-specific resolution (with but one exception in 2013). Not to mention the biased and discredited Goldstone Report on a Hamas instigated war against Israel, and the deplorable Durbin Conferences on Racism that are so obviously anti-Israel that several countries, including the United States, abstain from participating.
And, Israel – despite its contributions to science, technology, higher education and over a dozen Nobel prizes – continues to be denied a seat on the UN Security Council, a privilege that has been given to countries such as Venezuela, Pakistan, Syria, Cuba, Libya, Saudi Arabia, Iraq and Iran. Go figure.
There will soon be a new leader of the United Nations. Some predict, along with growing positive diplomatic relationships between Israel and many African and Asians nations, that we will begin to see a change in the anti-Israel and Anti-Semitic bias at the UN.
I hope so. In the meantime, it’s just more “Um-Shmum.”