President Trump’s WH released an announcement last Thursday that the U.S. is about to withdraw its membership from UNESCO.
The U.S. has been distancing itself from UNESCO for years. In 2011, after the group recognized Palestine for full membership, the Obama administration cut funding to the group. As a result, the U.S. lost its voting privileges two years later.
The Trump administration says the decision to pull its membership came because of UNESCO’s “continuing anti-Israel bias.”
The New York Times reports:
“This decision was not taken lightly,” according to a State Department statement on Thursday. Along with the anti-Israel bias, the department also cited “the need for fundamental reform” and “mounting arrears” at the organization.
[…] While the United States withdrew from the group, the Trump administration said it wanted to continue to be engaged with Unesco to provide American perspective and expertise, but as a nonmember observer. The United States withdrawal goes into effect at the end of 2018.
[…] The Obama administration cut off funding to Unesco in 2011 because the group admitted Palestinians as full members, which the United States saw as undercutting its influence in countries around the world. America lost its vote in the organization in 2013 because it ended its financial contributions.
The withdrawal will become official on December 31st.
UNESCO is well known for its educational efforts and promotion of literacy, clean water, and women’s rights. The group also designates World Heritage sites, which have been hotly controversial this year.
In July, UNESCO pronounced Hebron, home of the Tomb of the Patriarchs, a Palestinian World Heritage site. Israelis believe that the city is the birthplace of the Jewish people, and Israel denounced UNESCO as “shameful and anti-Semitic,” calling on the U.S. to slash funding.
The Guardian reports:
The UN’s world heritage body has recognised the old city of Hebron in the West Bank as a Palestinian world heritage site, sparking outrage from Israel.
Furious efforts by Israel failed to derail the Unesco ruling on the city, which includes a holy site known to Muslims as the Ibrahimi mosque and Jews as the Tomb of the Patriarchs.
The ruling also puts Hebron on Unesco’s ‘in danger’ list, which allows for the allocation of immediate World Heritage Fund assistance and is designed to alert the international community to endangered sites.
[…] The Unesco resolution notes Hebron’s claim to be one of the oldest cities in the world, dating from the Chalcolithic period or more than 3,000 years BC and at various times conquered by Romans, Jews, Crusaders and Mamluks.
Jews believe the Tomb of the Patriarchs (also known as the Cave of the Patriarchs) is where Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and their wives are buried. Muslims, who, like Christians, also revere Abraham, built the Ibrahimi mosque, also known as the Sanctuary of Abraham, in the 14th century.
The religious significance of the city has made it a focal point for Israeli settlers, who are determined to expand the Jewish presence there.
UNESCO also recently passed the resolution on “Occupied Palestine,” which states that Israel has no legal or historical rights to Jerusalem, Israel’s capital.
Last year, UNESCO passed a resolution ignoring Jewish ties to the Temple Mount and the Western Wall in Jerusalem.
Plans for the US to withdraw membership include efforts to maintain a conversation with UNESCO, offering an “American perspective.”
The New York Times continues:
While the United States withdrew from the group, the Trump administration said it wanted to continue to be engaged with Unesco to provide American perspective and expertise, but as a nonmember observer. The United States withdrawal goes into effect at the end of 2018.
The move, if anything, is long overdue, considering the loss of U.S. voting rights in 2013.
Liberals will certainly object to the administration’s decision, conveniently ignoring the agreement on UNESCO’s anti-Israel biases from the previous administration. Luckily, we have an administration that is standing by our closest and most reliable ally in the Middle East.
Bokova, the director-general, said the partnership between the United States and UNESCO “has never been so meaningful,” despite the withholding of U.S. funding.
“Together, we have worked to protect humanity’s shared cultural heritage in the face of terrorist attacks and to prevent violent extremism through education and media literacy,” she said.
She added: “The American poet, diplomat and Librarian of Congress, Archibald MacLeish penned the lines that open UNESCO’s 1945 Constitution: ‘Since wars begin in the minds of men, it is in the minds of men that the defences of peace must be constructed.’ This vision has never been more relevant.”