The United States has formally withdrawn its membership of The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), the UN’s body which helps to preserve and educate young generations about important cultural heritage sites and artefacts throughout the world.
The US stopped funding UNESCO’s cultural initiatives in 2011, after UNESCO admitted Palestine as a member. This marks the second time that the US has withdrawn from the body. The first US withdrawal came in 1983 when the Reagan administration cited an ‘anti-western’ and ‘anti-Israel’ bias in the group.
The US has been unique in its desire to base its position towards UNESCO on Israeli statements, as UNESCO is known to be an apolitical body whose only concern is preserving historical sites and allowing ease of access to them, under the motto, “building peace in the minds of men and women”.
While the US rejoined UNESCO under the George W. Bush administration, under Trump it is out again. The most recent withdrawal comes weeks after Israeli leader Benjamin Netanyahu slammed UNESCO during his speech to the UN General Assembly for using the word Palestine to describe an ancient Levantine historical site.
Netanyahu sarcastically stated,
“So is there no limit to the UN’s absurdities when it comes to Israel? Well, apparently not. Because in July, UNESCO declared the Tomb of the Patriarchs in Hebron a Palestinian World Heritage Site. That’s worse than fake news; that’s fake history. Mind you, it’s true that Abraham, the father of both Ishmael and Isaac, is buried there, but so, too, are Isaac, Jacob, Sarah, Rebecca – Sarah’s a Jewish name, by the way – Sarah, Rebecca and Leah, who just happened to be patriarchs and matriarchs of the Jewish people. Well, you won’t read about that in the latest UNESCO report, but if you want to, you can read about it in a somewhat weightier publication. It’s called ‘the Bible.’ I highly recommend it. I hear it even got four and a half out of five stars on Amazon. And it’s a great read. I read it every week”.
The Israeli regime has also complained publicly that UNESCO recommended Israel remove its fortress like barricades from the Noble Sanctuary. This summer, Tel Aviv shut Muslim worshippers out of the Noble Sanctuary in a move that was widely condemned by Palestinian groups and the wider international community. The barricades have since been replaced by electronic espionage equipment.
The broadly apolitical issue of allowing the freedom of worship at holy sites has been wilfully politicised by Tel Aviv and now, the United States has followed suit in withdrawing both its funding and its membership of UNESCO.
The US released the following short statement commenting on the decision to withdraw from UNESCO:
US formally announces it is withdrawing from UNESCO pic.twitter.com/A7E7iSsmgy
— Barak Ravid (@BarakRavid) October 12, 2017