U.S. and Israel Withdraw From UNESCO Over Anti-Israel Bias
U.S. and Israel Withdraw From UNESCO Over Anti-Israel Bias
GETTYStonehenge in Wiltshire is one the UK's 31 UNESCO World Heritage sites
14 October, 2017, 08:25
The State Department says the U.S.is pulling out of UNESCO because of what Washington sees as its anti-Israel bias and need for "fundamental reform" of the United Nations cultural agency.
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson gave formal notification of the U.S. withdrawal on the grounds of "continuing anti-Israel bias" and "mounting arrears".
The U.S. ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley said the decision was necessary after an "outrageous and politically based decision" to designate the Old City of Hebron and the Tomb of the Patriarchs as part of Palestinian territory.
Hours later, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced his country would also pull out and praised America's "brave and moral decision".
The United States, meanwhile, has indicated its desire to continue to work with UNESCO "as an observer country without being a member of this worldwide structure". "I believe the term "anti-Israel" as it applies to UNESCO is not accurate".
The US has long used UNESCO as a stage for political gestures: In 1984, the Ronald Reagan withdrew the US from UNESCO, accusing it of being pro-Soviet, anti-Israel, and anti-free market.
"It sends a strong message that we need to see fundamental reform in the organization, and it raises everyone's awareness about continued anti-Israel bias", said one official, speaking on condition of anonymity under department ground rules.
The United Nation's education, cultural and scientific agency has passed several resolutions against Israel.
It says the withdrawal will take effect December 31, 2018.
UNESCO is well known for designating World Heritage sites such as the ancient ruins of Palmyra in Syria, the Grand Canyon National Park in the USA, and the Imperial Palaces of the Ming and Qing Dynasties in China.
This is a loss to the United Nations family.
"Today's decision is a turning point for UNESCO".
UNESCO was once a low-profile United Nations agency best known for producing a list of World Heritage sites including tourist favourites such as the Grand Canyon or Cambodia's Angkor Wat, as well as running science, media and cultural programmes. Since then, the USA has maintained a presence at UNESCO and lobbied behind the scenes.
With no funds forthcoming, the USA lost its vote in the agency in 2013.
UNESCO has been in the process of selecting a new head and after four days of secret balloting, Qatar's Hamad bin Abdulaziz al-Kawari qualified for the Friday runoff. That body approves UNESCO's budget and establishes a range of programs dealing with education, science, and culture around the globe. "America will participate fully in its mission to advance human rights, tolerance and learning", Bush said at the time.
She said the USA and UNESCO working together matters more than ever because "the rise of violent extremism and terrorism calls for new long-term responses for peace and security".
Last year, Israelrecalled its ambassador to UNESCO in protest after Arab governments in the organization secured support for a resolution denouncing Israel's policies regarding religious sites in East Jerusalem and the West Bank. But who stands to lose the most from this Not just UNESCO.
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