Wednesday, 13 December, 2017

USA withdraws from UNESCO, the UN's cultural organization, citing anti-Israel bias

Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization logo is at UNESCO's headquarters in Paris France Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization logo is at UNESCO's headquarters in Paris France. Francois Mori AP
Howard Terry | 13 October, 2017, 00:22

The "Department of State notified UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova of the USA decision to withdraw from the organization and to seek to establish a permanent observer mission to UNESCO", State Department spokesperson Heather Nauert said.

The US claims it's leaving the organization in protest of UNESCO's anti-Israel bias.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called the vote "another delusional decision" by UNESCO, which promotes education, cultural development and free media initiatives around the world.

Commenting on the move, Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu hailed it as "a fearless and moral decision".

Netanyahu accused UNESCO of "becoming a Theater of Absurd because instead of preserving history, it twists it".

Washington has also protested against UNESCO's decision to grant full membership to Palestine, deciding to suspend regular payments to the organization in 2011.

"The goal of UNESCO is a good one", US Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley said in a statement. "Unfortunately, its extreme politicization has become a chronic embarrassment", Haley said in a statement.

In July, Unesco declared the ancient and hotly contested core of Hebron, in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, as a Palestinian World Heritage site in danger, a decision sharply criticized by Israel and its allies.

America has made a decision to withdraw from Unesco, the United Nations programme responsible for corralling worldwide cooperation on issues such as science and education and designating world heritage sites. The site is regarded as sacred by Jews, Christians and Muslims.

In October 2016, Israel suspended its ties with UNESCO after the organization voted in favor of a resolution that warns over the escalating violence around the holy site in East Jerusalem, a territory that Israel seized in 1967 and annexed shortly later.

"We will be carefully watching how the organization and the new director general steers the agency", Hegadorn said. Under the Reagan Administration, the United States quit UNESCO in 1984, at the time accusing the agency of a pro- Soviet Union bias.

She said the U.S. and Unesco matter to each other more than ever now because "the rise of violent extremism and terrorism calls for new long-term responses for peace and security". "This is a loss for multilateralism".

One of UNESCO's founding nations, the United States has had a rocky relationship with the Paris-based organization over the years.

She argued that Unesco is "so relevant to the political agenda of the American government it's incredible", citing its work on trying to prevent violent extremism through educational and cultural programs in the developing world.

Irina Bokova, UNESCO's outgoing director-general, said she "deeply regrets" the decision and is convinced that "UNESC has never been so important for the USA, or the United States for UNESCO" given the rise of what she called violent extremism and terrorism in the world.

"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.

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