The Islamic Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization has been exerting every effort for the protection of Islamic sanctities in Al-Quds Al-Sharif and the safeguard of its Arab and Muslim cultural identity. For this purpose, ISESCO established Al-Quds Unit within the framework of the External Relations and Cooperation Directorate.
The missions falling within the ambit of Al-Quds Unit consist in the following: establishing contact with organizations and institutions concerned with the issue of Al-Quds Al-Sharif in order to take stock of relevant programmes as well as consult with them regarding coordination and cooperation, to make proposals on means to procure necessary funding resources for the execution of the programmes devoted to Al-Quds, to coordinate and follow up the implementation of the programmes dedicated to the protection of cultural assets in Al-Quds, to draw up the Reports submitted by the Director General to the Executive Council and the General Conference on the activities carried out by the Unit, and to undertake any task entrusted to it by the Director General in connection with Al-Quds.
The Organization has also established Al-Quds Al-Sharif Fund and opened a bank account dedicated to financing activities for the protection of Al-Quds cultural assets. ISESCO carries on contact with relevant institutions and influential personalities to facilitate fund-raising efforts.
In compliance with the recommendation made by OIC Islamic Committee for Economic, Cultural and Social Affairs at its 20th Session whereby ISESCO was entrusted to dispatch a specialised delegation to the territories of the Palestinian National Authority in order to assess the educational situation and identify the needs of educational institutions in Palestine; ISESCO former Deputy Director General Mr Omar Saad Touré, who headed the delegation, paid a visit to the Palestinian Authority territories on 20-26 November 1996. During this visit, the delegation made an assessment of the situation of educational institutions in Palestine and reported its findings to the OIC Council of Foreign Ministers at its 24th session (Jakarta, December 1996). The report was published in three editions (Arabic, English and French) bearing the title of “ISESCO in Palestine: Report on the educational situation in the territories of the Palestinian National Authority”.
In response to an official invitation from Palestinian President Mr Yasser Arafat, ISESCO Director General paid a visit to the Palestinian territories on 15-18 March 1999. He visited the city of Al-Quds and met with Mr Faisal Husseini, head of the Orient House, and together they went on a tour of some of the cultural institutions and Islamic landmarks. ISESCO Director General also visited Al-Quds Open University and Birzeit University and met with officials in both institutions. He also toured educational, scientific and cultural institutions in Nablus and Ramallah.
ISESCO contributed to the celebration ceremony of Al-Quds as the Capital of Arab Culture for 2009, by providing support to educational, scientific, cultural and social institutions in the sacred city.
Up to May 2012, ISESCO implemented hundreds of activities for educational, scientific cultural, media and social institutions in Al-Quds Al-Sharif, since Al- Quds Unit was first established at ISESCO.
These activities, carred out in collaboration with Palestine’s National Commission for Education, Culture and Science, feature:
- Providing support to develop teaching curricula and programmes for the benefit of schools and vocational education institutions, and producing a book series on Al-Quds Al-Sharif.
- Holding training sessions for schools teachers and administrative staff in Al-Quds Al-Sharif.
- Providing support to educational, scientific, cultural and social institutions in Al-Quds Al-Sharif.
- Holding training sessions for teachers of special need categories in Al-Quds Al-Sharif.
- Supporting educational and vocational institutions catering for special need categories in Al-Quds Al-Sharif.
- Supporting and equipping cultural centres in Al-Quds Al-Sharif to serve local population, raise awareness and strength sense of belonging.
- Supporting Al-Aqsa Library within Al-Aqsa Mosque.
- Supporting the project on library photography and e-publication in Al-Quds Al-Sharif.
- Supporting national theatres in the sacred city.
- Supporting associations of the handicapped and special need categories in Al-Quds Al-Sharif.
- Providing support to produce a book series, booklets and other cultural material on Al-Quds Al-Sharif.
- Providing support to conduct training and qualification sessions for Palestinian teachers in Al-Quds Al-Sharif schools.
- Providing support for the restoration and maintenance of Islamic landmarks in Al-Quds Al-Sharif.
- Providing support to institutions focusing on the safeguard of Islamic manuscripts in Al-Quds Al-Sharif.
- Holding a training session in manuscript maintenance and restoration in Al- Quds Al-Sharif.
- Supporting manuscript restoration in Al-Quds Al-Sharif.
- Support project on historical document photography in Al-Quds Al-Sharif.
- Holding training sessions for women leaderships.
- Supporting “Reading for All” family book project.
- Producing documentaries on Al-Quds Al-Sharif.
- Supporting educational, cultural and media institutions in Al-Quds Al- Sharif.
- Supporting Palestinian National Commission to purchase computer equipment.
- Producing book series on Al-Quds Al-Sharif.
- Supporting learning, professional training and qualification projects for employment.
- Providing support to organize international conferences, symposia and exhibitions on Al-Quds Al-Sharif.
- Providing support to organize (Al-Quds Ramadan Competitions).
- Providing support for Al-Quds cultural days in Member States.
- Supporting Palestinian art and handicraft learning projects.
- Supporting Palestine’s TV Broadcasting Corporation.
ISESCO also convened and co-organized several international conferences and symposia, in addition to regional meetings, in a bid to help protect Islamic and Christian shrines in Al-Quds Al-Sharif. These include:
- International Symposium on “Al-Quds and its Cultural Heritage within the Framework of Islamic-Christian Dialogue” (Rabat, 19-21 October 1993).
- International Symposium on “Al-Quds, City of Peace” (Cairo, in cooperation with the OIC and the Arab League, 12-14 March 1995).
- International Symposium on the “Current Situation of Al-Quds City and the Future of the Peace Process” (London, in cooperation with Centre for Geopolitical Studies, 15-16 June 1995).
- First International Conference on the “Protection of Islamic and Christian Sanctities in Palestine” (Rabat, 7-8 June 2002).
- Cultural Symposium on the “Introduction to Intellectual and Resistance Symbols in Al-Quds Al-Sharif” (Al-Quds, August 2002).
- International Conference on the “Psychological Effects of Occupation and Aggression against Civilians: Case of Palestine” (Cairo, in cooperation with WHO Regional Office for the Eastern Mediterranean, 22-24 October 2002).
- International Conference on “Documenting the Israeli War Crimes” (Rabat, jointly with Morocco’s Human Rights Ministry, Moroccan Association for Support to Palestinian People, and Arab Organization of Young Lawyers, 27 February – 1 March 2003).
- Second International Conference on “The Protection of Islamic and Christian Sanctities in Palestine” (Amman, 23-25 November 2004).
- First Meeting of ISESCO Archaeology Experts Committee on “Israeli Excavations in the Precincts of the Al-Aqsa Mosque” (Rabat, 27-28 February 2007).
- International Conference on “Israel: War Crimes and Genocide“ held in Rabat: 14-15 February 2009 .
- Second Meeting of ISESCO Archaeology Experts’ Committee on “Israeli Excavations in the Precincts of the Al-Aqsa Mosque” (Amman, 15-16 April 2009).
- Meeting of ISESCO Task Force to Complete Lawsuit against Perpetrators of War Crimes against Palestinian Intellectual Property (Rabat, 2 October 2009).
- International Conference on Preserving Religious and Cultural Monuments in Al-Quds Al-Sharif (Amman, 12-13 October 2009).
- Training Session in Al-Quds on E-Maintenance of Palestinian Documents and Manuscripts (Al-Quds, 6-9 January 2010).
- Meeting of ISESCO Archaeology Experts’ Committee on Preparing Reports on Attempts to Judaize Al-Quds Al-Sharif (Amman, 16-17 March 2011).
At invitation from President Mahmoud Abbas of Palestine, Dr Altwaijri had decided to visit Ramallah at the end of December 2012, at the head of a delegation from ISESCO, to assess needs and achievements of educational, scientific and cultural institutions in Palestine. ISESCO today in a communiqué faulted Israeli decision denying delegation entry to Palestine as a flagrant breach of international rules, underlying that Palestine, both as a member State of ISESCO and UNESCO, and as a non-member observer State of the United Nations, has the full right to receive visiting delegations from the Muslim world and beyond, including personalities with outstanding services to the Palestinian people. In the same vein, the Palestinian National Commission for Education, Culture and Science has denounced the Israeli act as unethical. In a statement on that occasion, the Commission said: “The interdiction of ISESCO’s delegation headed by Arab and Muslim scholar Dr Abdulaziz Othman Altwaijri, representing the countries of the Muslim world, will only strengthen our determination to continue standing steadfast against Israeli occupation policies and its ongoing aggression on educational and cultural institutions in Al-Quds.” “Together with ISESCO, we will continue to lay bare Israel’s mischievous plots to judaize Al-Quds and obliterate its Islamic and Arab identity,” the Commission further stressed. ISESCO also pledged persistent support to educational and cultural institutions across Palestine, insisting that Israel’s denial of entry into Palatine to ISESCO’s delegation will only heighten the Organization’s resolve to maintain its support to the State of Palestine.
Mrs Irina Bokova, Director-General of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), denounced Israel’s denial of entry into Palestine to Dr Abdulaziz Othman Altwaijri, Director General of the Islamic Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (ISESCO), who was to head a delegation from ISESCO as part of an official visit. In a letter sent to ISESCO Director General, UNESCO Director General deplored Israeli decision to prevent this visit aimed at promoting peace and stepping up the educational efforts deployed by the competent authorities in the State of Palestine. Mrs Bokova also stressed that she will bring this regrettable incident to the attention of the Israeli Permanent Delegation to UNESCO. For the record, ISESCO Director General had intended to make a visit at the end of this month of December to Palestine in response to the invitation of President Mahmoud Abbas to assess the needs of educational, scientific and cultural institutions in Palestine. On 13 December 2012, ISESCO released a communiqué wherein it faulted the Israeli decision as a flagrant breach of international rules, underlying that Palestine, both as a Member State of ISESCO and UNESCO, and as a non-member observer State of the United Nations, has the full right to receive visiting delegations from the Muslim world and beyond, including personalities offering educational, scientific and cultural services to the Palestinian people.