UNESCO Declares Israel's Sovereignty Over Jerusalem 'Null and Void'

UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) has declared Israel's sovereignty over Jerusalem to be "null and void" and acknowledged the Jewish state's presence in the city as an "occupying Power."

REUTERS/Ronen ZvulunA general view shows the Israeli settlement of Ramot in an area of the occupied West Bank that Israel annexed to Jerusalem January 22, 2017.

The organization's executive board made the declaration in a resolution it passed on Tuesday.

"All legislative and administrative measures and actions taken by Israel, the occupying Power, which have altered or purport to alter the character and status of the Holy City of Jerusalem, and in particular the 'basic law' on Jerusalem, are null and void and must be rescinded forthwith," said the resolution submitted by Algeria, Egypt, Lebanon, Morocco, Oman, Qatar and Sudan.

It also reaffirmed "the importance of the Old City of Jerusalem and its Walls for the three monotheistic religions."

A spokesman for UNESCO told Al Jazeera that the resolution was backed by 22 countries. The United States, Germany, Italy and seven other board members, however, voted against it.

Reacting to the resolution Tuesday, StandWithUs, an international Israel education organization, condemned the resolution which it says effectively disavows Israel's sovereignty in any part of Jerusalem. The group charged that it also minimizes 3,000 years of Jewish history in the city.

"UNESCO's resolution reconfirms the ongoing politicization that marks the decline of this UN agency. This vote repeats a UN ritual of political assaults against the legitimacy of Israel's presence in its own capital city. Yet it is also clear that the tide is turning, as more nations opposed or abstained than voted in favor of the resolution, despite the fact that Arab states watered it down in hopes of getting wider support," Roz Rothstein, CEO of StandWithUs said.

While many Republicans have pushed for the U.S. government to recognize Jerusalem as Israel's capital, official U.S. policy recognizes Tel Aviv as the capital of the Jewish state. If the U.S. should recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel outside of a peace agreement it would likely result in conflict over the disputed territory.

Rothstein said Tuesday: "This latest assault on Israel's claim to the Jewish people's holiest city will only serve to fuel further conflict, rather than justice and peace between Israelis and Palestinians."

This latest resolution from UNESCO comes just six months after the organization's board angered Jews around the world by adopting a resolution they say denied Jewish ties to the Temple Mount and the Western Wall.

The resolution, titled "Occupied Palestine," lays out rules about the preservation of holy sites in Jerusalem, and uses only the Islamic name for the hilltop compound both Jews and Muslims deem sacred. The site includes the Western Wall, a remnant of the biblical temple and the holiest site where Jews can pray.

Jews refer to the hilltop compound in Jerusalem's Old City as the Temple Mount while Muslims refer to it as al-Haram al-Sharif, Arabic for the Noble Sanctuary. It includes the Al-Aqsa mosque and the golden Dome of the Rock. It is the holiest site in Judaism and the third holiest in Islam, after Mecca and Medina in Saudi Arabia.