U.S. to Leave UNESCO over Anti-Israel Bias

Randolph Lopez
October 15, 2017

One diplomatic source explained the rather peculiar wording of the Prime Minister's Office statement, that the premier had directed the Foreign Ministry to prepare for the withdrawal from the organization in parallel with the U.S., as a way to retain some wiggle room in case a new leader will change the direction of UNESCO and the United States will decide to remain a full member.

Foreign Minister, Riyad Malki, said that the U.S. decision to withdraw from the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) under the pretext it was biased against Israel is regrettable.

Indeed, this decision by the USA could very well foreshadow further retrenchment of U.S. engagement with the United Nations system in general, in the face of the administration's call for changes to its structural and financial arrangements. The work of the 195-member organisation has focused on matters of global development, including sex education, gender equality and literacy.

While most famous for designating various places World Heritage Sites, UNESCO also sponsors a range of worldwide cultural and intellectual activities. The US responded by cutting off funding to any organisation that recognised independent Palestine and its 22 per cent share of the annual UNESCO budget, which was then US$80 million, was also suspended.

The decision recognized Palestine as an actual sovereign country, something unacceptable to the United States and Israel.

"The United States indicated to the Director General its desire to remain engaged with UNESCO as a non-member observer state", Nauert added, "in order to contribute USA views, perspectives and expertise on some of the important issues undertaken by the organization, including the protection of world heritage, advocating for press freedoms, and promoting scientific collaboration and education".

The strained relationship continued during the Obama years: According to Foreign Policy, after the group accepted Palestine as a member, the Obama administration was required to cut off more than $80 million a year in funding due to a 1990s-era law that prohibits USA funding for any United Nations agencies recognizing Palestine as a state.

After the United States informed UNESCO on Thursday about its withdrawal on December 31, 2018, UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova said it would be a loss to the United Nations and "a loss to multilateralism". France's United Nations ambassador encouraged the U.S.to remain part of the global agency this week, but the administration moved ahead despite the objections from close allies.

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The world has always been used to U.S. President Donald Trump taking a stance against multilateralism.

President George W. Bush put the US back in the organization in 2002.

She said that UNESCO needs the leadership of all states "at the time when the fight against violent extremism calls for renewed investment in education, in dialogue among cultures to prevent hatred". UNESCO's decisions reflect the collective will and the opinion of the majority of its member states and no single state has the right to challenge or change these decisions.

Again, there's complexity here that we're skimming over - Barack Obama and others in the U.S. have still frequently criticised Israel's settler expansion, and expressed support for a two-state solution amenable to both Israel and Palestine (much, much easier said than done).

"I'm here to emphasize that the United States is determined to stand up to the U.N.'s anti-Israel bias". "Expect lots and lots more UNESCO resolutions bashing Israel, for a start". It comes as UNESCO is voting to choose a new director.

Tourists visit the Longmen Grottoes Buddhist sculptures, one of China's UNESCO World Heritage sites, in Luoyang, central China's Henan province, 30 July 2007.

What has been the reaction in the US and around the world? It not only wins Egypt's praise, but will surely cast China in a favorable light among Arab states in UNESCO at the same time the USA withdrawal, tied to its support of Israel, will add to tension between the US and the Arab states of the Middle East.

Israel shortly followed suit announcing it too will be pulling out of the group, and commended the US for standing up on its behalf.

Other reports by GlobalViralNews

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