State Department Withdraws From UN Cultural Group Over 'Anti-Israel' Bias

Katrina Barker
October 15, 2017

According to Foreign Policy, France's United Nations ambassador, Fran├žois Delattre, hoped the USA would stay within UNESCO.

The American ambassador to the UN, Nikki Haley, said in a statement Thursday following the USA announcement to withdraw that "the goal of UNESCO is a good one", but "unfortunately, its extreme politicization has become a chronic embarrassment".

US officials have told The Associated Press that the United States is pulling out of UNESCO, after repeated criticism of resolutions by the U.N. cultural agency that Washington sees as anti-Israel.

USA officials said Secretary of State Rex Tillerson made the decision. It is a special multi-country agency, formed in 1945 and based in France, that promotes sex education and literacy as well as improving gender equality in countries around the world.

Well known for designating and protecting worldwide landmarks called World Heritage Sites, UNESCO was founded after World War Two on the broader principles of confronting extremism and promoting peace around the flow of ideas and culture. The withdrawal was confirmed Thursday by USA officials speaking on condition of anonymity because they weren't authorized to be publicly named discussing the decision. Until then, it will remain a full member. In 2011, under President Barack Obama, the United States stopped paying its UNESCO membership dues after the body voted to make the Palestinian Authority a full member of the organization.

The decision of the United States to withdraw from UNESCO has not gone well with the United Nations. France's United Nations ambassador encouraged the U.S.to remain part of the global agency this week, but the administration moved ahead despite the objections from close allies.

Donald Trump's administration is also reviewing many of its multilateral commitments, pursuing what he calls an "America First" foreign policy.

The Reagan Administration chose to withdraw from the organization in 1984, at the height of the Cold War, citing corruption and what it considered an ideological tilt towards the Soviet Union against the West. President George W. Bush rejoined the organization in 2002, claiming it had gotten its books an order and expunged some of its most virulent anti-Western and anti-Israel biases.

She also noted UNESCO efforts to support Holocaust education and train teachers to fight anti-Semitism.

Given Trump's decidedly more pro-Israel stance, a move like withdrawing from UNESCO is not a surprise. UNESCO's decisions reflect the collective will and the opinion of the majority of its member states and no single state has the right to challenge or change these decisions.

In recent years, Israel has repeatedly complained about what it says is the body taking sides in disputes over cultural heritage sites in Jerusalem and the Palestinian territories.

UNESCO has become a battlefield for Israel bashing and has disregarded its true role and objective. Then in 2013, after the United States had missed several payments to UNESCO, its voting rights were suspended.

Other reports by AllAboutTopnews

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