US Will Withdraw From Unesco, Citing Its 'Anti-Israel Bias'

UNESCO and Jerusalem

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says Israel plans to pull out of the United Nations' cultural agency following the "brave and moral" decision by the United States to withdraw from UNESCO.

In a statement released Thursday, the State Department said the move won't take effect for more than a year, noting the withdrawal will be as of December 31, 2018. He said UNESCO had "turned into a theatre of the absurd; instead of preserving history, it twists it".

While the U.S. stopped funding Unesco after it voted to include Palestine as a member in 2011, the state department has maintained a Unesco office at its Paris headquarters and sought to weigh in on policy behind the scenes.

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". It might be alluding to the fact that Palestine, which has not been granted full membership to the United Nations, is a UNESCO member, and that the West Bank city of Hebron was recently named an official world heritage site in a UNESCO statement that also called Israeli occupation of the territory illegal.

"On October 12, 2017, the Department of State notified UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova of the USA decision to withdraw from the organization ..."

"The US relationship with Unesco is a matter for them".

UNESCO was once a low-profile United Nations agency best known for producing a list of World Heritage sites such as the Grand Canyon or Cambodia's Angkor Wat, as well as running science, media and cultural programmes internationally.




Unesco director-general Irina Bokova, who is Bulgarian, expressed "profound regret" at the decision and said the departure was a loss for "the United Nations family" and for multilateralism.

The cultural aid agency - which seeks to coordinate global efforts in education, science and heritage remembrance - has been at odds with the USA since 2011, when it voted overwhelmingly to offer full membership to a state of Palestine.

The 2016 resolution condemned Israel's "escalating aggressions" regarding a holy site in Jerusalem's Old City, known to Muslims as al-Haram al-Sharif and to Jews as the Temple Mount.

The lack of staffing and funding plans for Unesco by the U.S. have been accompanied by repeated denunciations of Unesco by senior USA officials, including U.S. ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley.

It's not the first time the US has pulled out of UNESCO: Washington did the same thing in the 1980s because it viewed the agency as mismanaged, corrupt and used to advance Soviet interests.

"This is a loss to UNESCO", she added.

Hegadorn said the US would remain a force at the cultural agency in the same way as it was from 1984, when the country withdrew under then-President Ronald Reagan. It also withdrew under the Reagan administration in 1984, and rejoined in 2002 under President George W. Bush.

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