Tuesday, November 24, 2020

US and Israel withdraw from UNESCO over ‘anti-Israel bias’

By Rhiannon F. - October 17, 2017
Section: [Main News]
Tags: [culture] [UN]

The United States and Israel have withdrawn from UNESCO citing its "anti-Israel" bias.

The US has long been critical of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, particularly in 2011 when Palestine was granted full membership to UNESCO.

Funding from the US to UNESCO was subsequently cut off after this declaration resulting in the nation being in arrears of over $500 million to the agency, as stated in Foreign Policy magazine. In turn, the US lost its voting power.

Most recently, in July 2017, UNESCO members voted in a secret ballot to declare the old city of Hebron, in the West Bank, an endangered Palestinian world heritage site.

This site includes the Tomb of the Patriarchs, known to Muslims as the Ibrahimi mosque and related to in all the Holy Books; the Torah, Bible and Quran, as the site bought by Abraham as a burial plot.

Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu cut $1 million in funding to the UN in retaliation of this listing, saying the agency ignored Jewish ties to the city.

Listing Hebron as a Palestinian endangered site, on top of older resolutions passed by UNESCO stating Israel is an occupying force in Jerusalem and condemning the state’s continuation of illegal excavations in East Jerusalem, have angered Israel and the US as its major ally.

After the US announced its withdrawal from UNESCO, Israel issued a statement describing the presidency’s decision as "courageous and moral".

On the same day, Director-General of UNESCO, Irina Bokova released a statement expressing “profound regret at the decision of the United States of America to withdraw from UNESCO.”

Bokova went on to say that the partnership between UNESCO and the US had been “deep, because it has drawn on shared values.”

She listed the efforts of the agency to develop new educational tools against forms of anti-Semitism as well as promoting “education for remembrance of the Holocaust across the world as the means to fight … genocide today” as examples of working on a common path with the US.

The Director-General continued to express her deep regret of the withdrawal “at the time when the fight against violent extremism calls for renewed investment in education [and] in dialogue among cultures to prevent hatred.”

UNESCO focuses much of its work on preserving world heritage as well as promoting education in developing countries.

The withdrawal of the US and Israel will come into effect at the end of December 2018.


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