U.S. withdraws from UNESCO over "anti-Israel bias"

Saul Bowman
October 13, 2017

The United States announced Thursday it is pulling out of the U.N.'s educational, scientific and cultural agency because of what Washington sees as its anti-Israel bias and a need for "fundamental reform" in the agency.

She recalled that in 2011, after the suspension of Washington's financial participation in the organization, she said that "UNESCO has never been more important to the United States, and the United States has never been so important to UNESCO".

Unesco was dependent on the United States for 22 percent of its budget, then about $70 million a year. "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".

While the United States withdrew from the group, the Trump administration said it wanted to continue providing American perspective and expertise to Unesco, but as a nonmember observer. It might be alluding to the fact that Palestine, which has not been granted full membership to the United Nations, is a UNESCO member, and that the West Bank city of Hebron was recently named an official world heritage site in a UNESCO statement that also called Israeli occupation of the territory illegal.

The US claims it's leaving the organization in protest of UNESCO's anti-Israel bias.

The agency is known for designating world heritage sites such as Syria's Palmyra and the US Grand Canyon.

The head of UNESCO, Irina Bokova voiced, "profound regret" on Thursday over the withdrawal, which she called a "loss to multilateralism".

The US stopped paying dues to the worldwide body in late 2011 after the agency voted to accept a Palestinian bid for full membership and now owes approximately $550 million, a State Department spokesperson said.

But according to Nikki Haley, the USA ambassador to the United Nations, the Trump administration found it to be a step too far when the agency decided this summer to designate "the Old City of Hebron and the Tomb of the Patriarchs as part of Palestinian territory".

The U.S.is preparing to leave the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization in December, according to a new report.

"This is a loss to UNESCO".

The lack of staffing and funding plans for Unesco by the U.S. have been accompanied by repeated denunciations of Unesco by senior USA officials, including U.S. ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley. Israel would pull out on the same date as the U.S.

The U.S. joined UNESCO at its creation in 1945.

America has made a decision to withdraw from Unesco, the United Nations programme responsible for corralling global cooperation on issues such as science and education and designating world heritage sites.

Former president Ronald Reagan quit the organization altogether in the 1980's.

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