U.S., Is­rael to exit UNESCO, cit­ing its ‘anti-Is­rael bias’

Honolulu Star-Advertiser - - WORLD -

4 WASH­ING­TON >> The Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion an­nounced Thurs­day that it would with­draw from UNESCO, the United Na­tions cul­tural or­ga­ni­za­tion, af­ter years of the United States dis­tanc­ing it­self be­cause of what it called the group’s “anti-Is­rael bias.”

The ad­min­is­tra­tion also cited mount­ing ar­rears at the or­ga­ni­za­tion as a rea­son for the de­ci­sion. “We were in ar­rears to the tune of $550 mil­lion or so, and so the ques­tion is, do we want to pay that money?” Heather Nauert, a spokes­woman for the State Depart­ment, said Thurs­day at a news briefing. She added, “With this anti-Is­rael bias that’s long doc­u­mented on the part of UNESCO, that needs to come to an end.” UNESCO is a global de­vel­op­ment agency with mis­sions that in­clude pro­mot­ing sex ed­u­ca­tion, lit­er­acy, clean water and equal­ity for women.

In a lengthy writ­ten state­ment, Irina Bokova, UNESCO’s di­rec­tor gen­eral, ex­pressed re­gret at the de­ci­sion and said the Amer­i­can peo­ple shared the or­ga­ni­za­tion’s goals.

Cul­tural or­ga­ni­za­tions in the United States crit­i­cized the de­ci­sion, say­ing UNESCO played a key role in pre­serv­ing vi­tal cul­tural her­itage world­wide.

In July, UNESCO de­clared the an­cient and hotly con­tested core of He­bron, in the Is­raeli-oc­cu­pied West Bank, as a Pales­tinian World Her­itage site in dan­ger, a de­ci­sion sharply crit­i­cized by Is­rael and its al­lies. And in 2015, UNESCO adopted a res­o­lu­tion that crit­i­cized Is­rael for mis­han­dling her­itage sites in Jerusalem and con­demned “Is­raeli ag­gres­sions and il­le­gal mea­sures against free­dom of wor­ship.”

In a state­ment re­leased Thurs­day, Prime Min­is­ter Ben­jamin Ne­tanyahu of Is­rael praised the move by the United States and pledged to with­draw Is­rael from the or­ga­ni­za­tion as well.

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