U.S. withdraws from UNESCO, the UN's cultural organization, citing anti-Israel bias

Laura Christensen
October 13, 2017

The agency's board members are set to vote this week to elect a new director-general, with Arab candidates from Qatar and Egypt vying with a French competitor. She emphasized the importance of unity when combating the rise of terrorism and conflict.

The cultural aid agency - which seeks to coordinate worldwide efforts in education, science and heritage remembrance - has been at odds with the US since 2011, when it voted overwhelmingly to offer full membership to a state of Palestine. The U.S. now owes about $550 million in back payments.

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. It cited USA belief in "the need for fundamental reform in the organization".

Mr Netanyahu said on Thursday that Israel will also withdraw from the agency, which had become a "theatre of the absurd because instead of preserving history, it distorts it".

Israel has accused UNESCO of making a politically motivated move, part of what it says is an attempt to deny the Jewish character and heritage of certain key sites in the Holy Land.

He said he has ordered Israeli diplomats to prepare Israel's withdrawal from the organisation in concert with the Americans.

"UNESCO has become a battlefield for Israel bashing and has disregarded its true role and objective", Danon said.

Nauert said the state department had notified Bokova of their decision earlier on Thursday.

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And in 2015, Unesco adopted a resolution that criticized Israel for mishandling heritage sites in Jerusalem and condemned "Israeli aggressions and illegal measures against freedom of worship".

Israel has also announced today that they will be quitting the United Nations agency, and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called the decision by the U.S. "brave and moral".

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

UNESCO chief Bokova defended her agency's reputation, noting its efforts to support Holocaust education and train teachers to fight anti-Semitism — and saying that the Statue of Liberty is among the many World Heritage sites protected by the United Nations agency.

Its head, Irina Bokova, earlier called the U.S. withdrawal a matter of "profound regret". She called Washington's step a "loss to multilateralism".

"This is another example of the Trump's administration's profound ambivalence and concern about the way the U.N.is structured and behaves, and it shows the administration's determination to separate itself from its predecessors", said Aaron David Miller, a former Middle East negotiator and adviser in Republican and Democratic administrations.

The U.S. joined UNESCO at its creation in 1945.

Other reports by My Hot News

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