ZOA Opposes Obama Illegally Seeking to Fund Anti-Israel UNESCO
News Press Release
December 16, 2015

The Zionist Organization of America (ZOA) has strongly criticized President Barack Obama for attempting to restore U.S. funding to the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). Reports indicate that the State Department has issued funding requests, petitioning Senator Patrick Leahy (D–VT), a member of the Senate’s Appropriations Committee, to consider restoring these funds to UNESCO. In its petition to Senator Leahy, the State Department has asked for a funding waiver in the 2016 appropriations bill that would allow the U.S. government to restart yearly payments of $76 million to UNESCO. The administration also is seeking authority to give the organization up to $160 million to help erase outstanding debts.


 The proposed language would undermine over two decades of U.S. policy against funding U.N. organizations that admit the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) or other non-state actors as members.

The U.S., in accordance with U.S. law, terminated its annual approximately $80 million funding for UNESCO after the latter voted in 2011 to accept ‘Palestine’ as a member state. U.S. law requires that the U.S. end funding of any U.N. organization that recognizes a Palestinian state other than one that emerges through an Israeli/Palestinian negotiated settlement. 


“The proposed language would undermine over two decades of U.S. policy against funding U.N. organizations that admit the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) or other non-state actors as members,” Senators Mark Kirk (R–IL) and Marco Rubio (R–FL) wrote in a recent letter to the Senate and House leaders.


The ZOA has also criticized the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) for supporting the illegal restoration of U.S. funding to the anti-Israel UNESCO.  We hope this is not due to effective White House pressure on Obama’s friend and former colleague, former Special Assistant to President Obama and now newly hired national director of the ADL Jonathan Greenblatt. 


ZOA National President Morton A. Klein said, “We have urged the Obama Administration since 2011 to withdraw from UNESCO, not merely to defund it. 


“In fact, we praised President Obama for defunding UNESCO at the time –– prematurely, as it turns out, for it later emerged that he sought (unsuccessfully) to maintain and even increase funding for UNESCO.


“UNESCO has a long history of anti-Israel and anti-American activity, even by the depraved standards of the United Nations. In fact, the U.S. withdrew from UNESCO from 1984 until 2003, only rejoining when UNESCO accepted the need to make certain reforms. In fact, it has changed little and UNESCO continues to harm American interests.


“Since Mahmoud Abbas’ Palestinian Authority (PA) is pressing ahead to gain membership in other UN agencies, the Obama Administration should set an even higher price on acceptance of PA membership by these UN agencies – withdrawal.


“The Obama Administration’s answer to UNESCO and the PA’s record of behavior, their efforts to obtain Palestinian statehood without negotiating a peace agreement with Israel, should be cutting U.S. funds and withdrawing from UNESCO –– not ignoring U.S. law and rewarding it with money for its actions. 


“The answer is certainly not seeking to vote UNESCO even more money to make up for the shortfall it knowingly incurred on account of its anti-Israel actions, which contravene U.S. legal requirements for its continued funding.


“U.S. refunding of UNESCO would send the message that, even when the U.S. acts on its law and principles to penalize international actors for their anti-peace actions, we don’t really mean it –– in a few years, we’ll acquiesce in their acts, restore funding and even help them to recoup their recent, consequent shortfall. 


“Such a course of action does not deter their anti-peace acts –– it encourages them to do more. It assures them that they will ultimately pay no penalty and face no consequences.


“Accordingly, we strongly criticize President Obama for this effort to restore funding to UNESCO, as well as the ADL for supporting it. 


“We strongly urge the Senate Appropriations Committee to deny the Obama Administration’s request to restore U.S. finding to UNESCO and we also urge all supporters of Israel, Jewish and non-Jewish, to contact their congressional representatives, urging them to oppose the Administration’s request, which contravenes the letter and spirit of U.S. law.

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