U.S. announces intent to withdraw from UNESCO over anti-Israel posture

by WorldTribune Staff, October 12, 2017

Citing a continuing “anti-Israel bias” at UNESCO, the United States on Oct. 12 announced that it is withdrawing from the UN’s educational, scientific and cultural body.

UNESCO headquarters. / Reuters

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

The Trump administration’s concerns over Paris-based UNESCO increased after a fight erupted over who will next lead the organization. One leading candidate, Qatar’s Hamad bin Abdulaziz al-Kawari, has been openly accused of anti-semitism by Jewish and Israeli groups.

In recent months, UNESCO members “have pushed the body to recognize Jerusalem as a holy site exclusive to Muslims, without recognizing its Jewish roots,” the Jerusalem Post reported.

Irina Bokova, current director-general of UNESCO, said in response to the U.S.’s decision: “I wish to express profound regret at the decision of the United States of America to withdraw from UNESCO. Universality is critical to UNESCO’s mission to strengthen international peace and security in the face of hatred and violence, to defend human rights and dignity.”

Bokova’s statement did not address U.S.’s charge of an anti-Israel bias, a main reason for the American exit from the organization.

The U.S. said it would “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 organization, including the protection of world heritage, advocating for press freedoms, and promoting scientific collaboration and education.”

Trump administration officials such as Nikki Haley, its UN ambassador, had warned that pulling out of UNESCO would be a possibility if the body fails to reform.

The United States’ withdrawal will take effect on Dec. 31.

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