U.S., Is­rael quit UNESCO

Our mis­sion is in line with Amer­i­can val­ues, says UNESCO

The Hindu - - FRONT PAGE - (With inputs from AFP) Vargh­ese K Ge­orge

The U.S. on Thurs­day an­nounced its with­drawal from the United Na­tions Ed­u­ca­tional, Sci­en­tific and Cul­tural Or­ga­ni­za­tion (UNESCO), ac­cus­ing it of “con­tin­u­ing anti-Is­rael bias.”

UNESCO is the first UN agency to have ad­mit­ted Pales­tine as a full mem­ber in 2011. As re­quired by law, the U.S. has stopped fund­ing UNESCO since then. The U.S. with­drawal will take ef­fect on De­cem­ber 31, 2018. Un­til then, it will re­main a full mem­ber.

Is­rael has also de­cided to pull out of UNESCO, Prime Min­is­ter Ben­jamin Ne­tanyahu said. “The Prime Min­is­ter has in­structed the For­eign Min­istry to pre­pare Is­rael’s with­drawal from the or­gan­i­sa­tion along­side the U.S.,” his of­fice said in a state­ment.

The United States’ de­ci­sion to with­draw from the UNESCO is “a loss for mul­ti­lat­er­al­ism”, said the UN her­itage agency’s Di­rec­tor Gen­eral Irina Bokova.

“This is a loss to UNESCO. This is a loss to the United Na­tions fam­ily. This is a loss for mul­ti­lat­er­al­ism,” Ms. Bokova said in a state­ment.

The U.S. State Depart­ment cited the agency’s “anti-Is­rael bias” as one of the rea­sons for its with­drawal. “The United States in­di­cated to the Di­rec­tor Gen­eral its de­sire to re­main en­gaged with UNESCO as a non-mem­ber observer state in or­der to con­trib­ute U.S. views, per­spec­tives and ex­per­tise on some of the im­por­tant is­sues un­der­taken by the or­gan­i­sa­tion, in­clud­ing the pro­tec­tion of world her­itage, ad­vo­cat­ing for press free­doms, and pro­mot­ing sci­en­tific col­lab­o­ra­tion and ed­u­ca­tion,” State Depart­ment spokesper­son Heather Nauert said.

She said the U.S. would seek a per­ma­nent observer mis­sion to UNESCO. “This de­ci­sion was not taken lightly, and re­flects U.S. con­cerns with mount­ing ar­rears at UNESCO, the need for re­form in the or­gan­i­sa­tion, and con­tin­u­ing anti-Is­rael bias at UNESCO,” she said in a state­ment.

U.S. Sec­re­tary of State Rex Tiller­son no­ti­fied Ms. Bokova of the de­ci­sion.

U.S. laws bar fund­ing to any U.N. agency that recog­nises the Pales­tinian state.

Ms. Bokova said, “de­spite the with­hold­ing of fund­ing, since 2011, we have deep­ened the part­ner­ship be­tween the United States and UNESCO, which has never been so mean­ing­ful.”

In a state­ment, the of­fice of Is­raeli Prime Min­is­ter Ben­jamin Ne­tanyahu said, “The Prime Min­is­ter in­structed the For­eign Min­istry to pre­pare Is­rael’s with­drawal from the or­gan­i­sa­tion along­side the United States.”

‘Theatre of the ab­surd’

Mr. Ne­tanyahu “wel­comes the de­ci­sion by Pres­i­dent [Don­ald] Trump to with­draw from UNESCO. This is a coura­geous and moral de­ci­sion be­cause UNESCO has be­come the theatre of the ab­surd and be­cause in­stead of pre­serv­ing his­tory it dis­torts it.”

In a state­ment, the UNESCO chief un­der­scored that the mis­sion of the body was con­so­nance with the “val­ues of the peo­ple of Amer­ica”, and listed a se­ries of ini­tia­tives it has taken to com­bat anti-Semitism.

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