US, Is­rael exit ‘bi­ased’ UNESCO

The West Australian - - WORLD -

The US and Is­rael are quit­ting the United Na­tion’s cul­tural agency UNESCO af­ter Wash­ing­ton ac­cused it of anti-Is­raeli bias.

The with­drawal of the US, which is meant to pro­vide a fifth of UNESCO’s fund­ing, is a huge blow for the Paris-based or­gan­i­sa­tion, founded af­ter World War II to help pro­tect cul­tural and nat­u­ral her­itage.

UNESCO is best known for des­ig­nat­ing World Her­itage Sites such as the an­cient city of Palmyra in Syria and the Grand Canyon Na­tional Park.

“This de­ci­sion was not taken lightly and re­flects US con­cerns with mount­ing ar­rears at UNESCO, the need for fun­da­men­tal re­form in the or­gan­i­sa­tion and con­tin­u­ing anti-Is­rael bias,” the US State Depart­ment said.

Hours later, Prime Min­is­ter Ben­jamin Ne­tanyahu said Is­rael would quit, too, call­ing the US de­ci­sion “brave and moral”.

UNESCO di­rec­tor-gen­eral Irina Bokova ex­pressed her dis­ap­point­ment: “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.

Wash­ing­ton has with­held its fund­ing for UNESCO since 2011, when the body ad­mit­ted Pales­tine as a full mem­ber.

The US and Is­rael were among just 14 of 194 mem­bers that voted against ad­mit­ting Pales­tine.

Wash­ing­ton’s ar­rears on its $US80 mil­lion an­nual dues are now more than $US500 mil­lion.

Re­cently, Is­rael has re­peat­edly com­plained about what it says is the body tak­ing sides in dis­putes over her­itage sites in Jerusalem and the Pales­tinian ter­ri­to­ries. “To­day is a new day at the UN, where there is price to pay for dis­crim­i­na­tion against Is­rael,” Is­rael’s UN am­bas­sador Danny Danon said.

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