The Zionist Organization of America (ZOA) has praised President Donald Trump for his decision to withdraw the United States from the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) on account of its extreme and persistent anti-Israel bias and politicization of its work.
In notifying the UNESCO Director-General, Irina Bokova, of the US decision to withdraw, the State Department spokesperson Heather Nauert said, “This decision was not taken lightly, and reflects US concerns with mounting arrears at UNESCO, the need for fundamental reform in the organization, and continuing anti-Israel bias at UNESCO” (‘The United States Withdraws From UNESCO,’ Press Statement, Heather Nauert, Department Spokesperson, October 12, 2017).
The US withdrawal will take effect at the end of 2018, thus ending accumulating US dues, now totaling $550 million, that have been withheld since 2011 when UNESCO, contrary to US law, admitted the Palestinian Authority (PA) as the state of ‘Palestine,’ obliging the US to cease funding the specialized agency.
One State Department official said that the US withdrawal “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” (Felicity Vabulas, ‘Trump is pulling the U.S. out of UNESCO. The bigger pattern is the problem,’ Washington Post, October 16, 2017). US Ambassador to the UN, Nikki Haley, said, “the purpose of UNESCO is a good one … Unfortunately, its extreme politicization has become a chronic embarrassment” (‘Press Release: Ambassador Haley on the United States’ Withdrawal from UNESCO,’ October 12 ,2017).
Some recent UNESCO anti-Israel, pro-dictatorship acts:
- Repeated UNESCO resolutions refer to Israel as an occupying power, a legally inappropriate designation, given that the territory in question, Judea/Samaria (the West Bank), is unallocated territory under international law and not previously part of the sovereign territory of a existing country.
- In July 2017, UNESCO voted to designate the Old City of Hebron and the Tomb of the Patriarchs as part of Palestinian territory and a World Heritage site, thereby ignoring its prior and millennial Jewish historical connection and the Jewishness of the sites, a move correctly described at the time by US Ambassador Haley as “an affront to history.”
- In October 2016, UNESCO approved a resolution which again ignored the Jewish history of Jerusalem by referring to the holy sites in the city exclusively by their Muslim names, thereby denying Judaism and the Jewish people’s historic connection to Jerusalem’s Temple Mount and casting doubt on the link between Judaism and the Western Wall. The resolution also denounced Israel as an “occupying power,” condemning it for a number of “aggressions and illegal measures” at the holy site, including alleged “storming of of Al-Aqsa Mosque/Al Haram Al Sharif by Israeli right-wing extremists and uniformed forces.” (In fact, it was Jewish visitors who had been assaulted on Temple Mount by Muslims, not the reverse; and it was Muslims who violated the sanctity of the mosque to stockpile stones and other weapons to attack Jews, not “right-wing extremists and uniformed forces”).
- Kept Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad on the UNESCO human rights committee even after his regime’s murderous crack-down on peaceful protesters.
ZOA National President Morton A. Klein said, “We strongly praise President Trump for his decision to withdraw the US from UNESCO, a perniciously biased anti-Israel body with a record of passing dishonest, ahistorical and politically distorted resolutions relating to Israel, Jerusalem and various holy sites in the country.
“President Trump’s decision is in keeping with his pre-election promise to see that Israel is not treated like a second-class citizen and that the US calls out anti-Israel bias and campaigns against Israel in international organizations.
“UNESCO should desist from enabling outright, proven Palestinian historical fabrications and lies about the Jewish and Muslim connections to parts of Israel. It should cease and desist from tabling pernicious and absurd, flat-earth resolutions, which not only bring it into disgrace and disrepute, but help fuel anti-Israel terror and jihad.
“President Trump has made the right decision, as has Israel, which will also shortly be withdrawing from UNESCO.
“It is wrong to dignify with US membership and participation in an organization that has been turned into an instrument of the Palestinian anti-peace campaign against the legitimacy of Israel and the unimpeachable prior, Jewish historical and religious claims and connections to the land, which the PA is going to such great pains to deny.
“By approving absurd anti-Israel resolutions denying Jewish history, UNESCO became an active contributor to the prolongation of the Palestinian Arab war on Israel which seeks to delegitimize Israel as a Jewish state as prelude to its eventual elimination. US taxpayer funds that prop up such an organization are therefore misused and we strongly applaud President Trump for putting an end to it.”