U.S. and Israel withdrawn from the UNESCO

“This is a loss to the United Nations family. This is a loss for multilateralism,” said Irina Bokova, Director-General of UNESCO
UNESCO headquarters, in Paris – Photo: Christian Hartmann/AP
Jonh Irish
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On Thursday, the United States State Department said in a statement, that the U.S. is withdrawing from the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), a United Nation’s agency, effective on December 31.

“This decision was not taken lightly, and reflects U.S. concerns with mounting arrears at UNESCO, the need for fundamental reform in the organization, and continuing anti-Israel bias at UNESCO,” State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said in the statement, adding that the United States would seek to “remain engaged ...as a non-member observer state in order to contribute U.S. views, perspectives, and expertise.”

Irina Bokova, Director-General of UNESCO, expressed her disappointment: “At the time when conflicts continue to tear apart societies across the world, it is deeply regrettable for the United States to withdraw from the United Nations agency promoting education for peace and protecting culture under attack,” she said.

“This is a loss to the United Nations family. This is a loss for multilateralism,” she concluded.

Hours later after Washington accused the U.N.’s cultural agency of anti-Israeli bias, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Israel would quit too, calling the U.S. decision “brave and moral”.

The withdrawal of the United States, which is meant to provide a fifth of UNESCO’s funding, is a major blow for the Paris-based organization, founded after World War Two to help protect cultural and natural heritage around the world.

Washington has already withheld its funding for UNESCO since 2011 when the body admitted Palestine as a full member. The United States and Israel were among just 14 of 194 members that voted against admitting the Palestinians.

In recent years, Israel has repeatedly complained about what it says is the body taking sides in disputes over cultural heritage sites in Jerusalem and the Palestinian territories.

Netanyahu told world leaders at the U.N. General Assembly last month that UNESCO was promoting “fake history” after it designated Hebron and the two adjoined shrines at its heart (the Jewish Tomb of the Patriarchs and the Muslim Ibrahimi Mosque) as a “Palestinian World Heritage Site in Danger.”


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