UNESCO: An American Folly

It goes without saying that Israel should not be part of UNESCO, the U.N. organization that promotes education, fights illiteracy and preserves humanitarian heritage, because Israel is an occupying country which fights the Palestinian right to education and life, seeking to obliterate their historical heritage by fabricating stories about the historical accounts of Palestine’s holy sites.

The problem is the American position and its pro-Israel bias, which concluded with Washington announcing that it is withdrawing from UNESCO for the third time in its history with the organization.*

The decision was set in advance, but was to be announced after the election of the organization’s new director as per the request of the French president, whose country was battling for leadership of UNESCO. The resolution’s leaking to the media, however, prompted Washington to hasten its announcement.

It is worth mentioning that in 2011 the U.S. suspended its $80 million financial contribution to the organization.

The U.S. withdrawal coincided with the response of UNESCO’s executive council to a Jordanian-Palestinian resolution put forward by Arab members on the council and which confirms the bundle of previous decisions taken by the heritage committee. These consider Jerusalem and the al-Aqsa mosque as special places for Muslims and the Old City of Hebron as Palestinian territory under Israeli occupation, placing them on the list of world heritage sites that are endangered by Israeli occupation measures. It is foreseen that the member states in the organization will adopt the resolution by consensus during the round currently held in Paris.

The humanitarian side of UNESCO shaped its many achievements with respect to Palestine, and this was the result of an enormous Palestinian-Jordanian effort that has long angered Israel and America.

The Israeli government repeatedly tried to influence the will of member states to deter them from their support of the Palestinian historical right. A while ago, Netanyahu made a direct intervention to exert pressure on the presidents of Western countries. Jordanian and Palestinian diplomacy, however, in coordination with the Arab group and friendly countries, managed to thwart Israeli plans with shrewd steps. They succeeded in passing a resolution which confirmed the resolutions previously made by the organization regarding Palestinian heritage and the historical right of the Palestinians, and that considered the law enacted by Israel in Jerusalem as a part of null and void measures that should be immediately canceled and abolished, as they form an inseparable part of this Israeli law.

In July, Washington considered UNESCO’s resolution to announce the Old City of Hebron as a World Heritage Site “an affront to history.” If there is any insult to history, then it is Israel’s membership in UNESCO and U.N. organizations.

While having racial measures that were less invasive than Israeli measures, South Africa’s apartheid regime was punished by the world, whereas Israel, which commits crimes against humanity in Palestine, is considered a victim in Washington’s eyes, worthy of sympathy and solidarity.

The Trump administration is committing a great folly in its decision to withdraw from UNESCO to show solidarity with the Israeli occupation. It is unbelievable that the American administration places Israel in one hand, against the unique humanitarian role played by UNESCO to serve the population of the world in the other hand.

In the absence of Israel and its Washington ally from UNESCO, Arabs have a chance to achieve more gains to benefit the Palestinian cause and to put an end to Zionist attempts to forge historical facts.

*Editor’s note: The United States has announced its withdrawal from UNESCO two, not three times: in 1984 and 2017. In 2011, the U.S. stopped its contributions to the organization in protest of Palestine’s addition as a member state and subsequently lost its voting power, but was still considered a member.

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