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The Student News Site of Hyman Brand Hebrew Academy


The Student News Site of Hyman Brand Hebrew Academy


The Student News Site of Hyman Brand Hebrew Academy


U.S. Pulls Out Of UNESCO, Citing Anti-Israel Bias


Slider image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

On Thursday, Oct. 12, the United States withdrew from the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) due to perceived anti-Israel bias. UNESCO is responsible for coordinating international cooperation in the areas of education, science, culture, and communication and is also tasked with strengthening ties between nations and societies. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu welcomed the decision to withdraw from the organization, and he has instructed Israel’s Foreign Ministry to prepare Israel’s withdrawal from UNESCO alongside the U.S.

U.S. Permanent Representative to the UN, Ambassador Nikki Haley shakes hands with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at his office in Jerusalem. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

In an official Facebook post, Netanyahu lauded the move, calling it “a courageous and ethical decision because UNESCO has become a theater of the absurd and instead of preserving history, distorts it.”

Although the United States has announced its withdrawal from UNESCO, the decision does not officially go into effect until Dec. 31 2018, pursuant to Article II (6) of the UNESCO constitution. Despite this fact, UNESCO’s Director-General, Irina Bokova, expressed disappointment at the decision. “This is a loss to UNESCO, this is a loss to the UN family, this is a loss to multilateralism,” said Bokova in a statement on UNESCO.org.

UNESCO’s Director-General, Irina Bokova, expressed disappointment at the decision of the US to withdraw from the organization. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

The American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), a bipartisan lobbying group that advocates pro-Israel policies, applauded the Trump administration’s decision to withdraw from UNESCO in a recent press release. AIPAC insists that “UNESCO has betrayed its original laudatory mission… and chosen instead to unfairly target the Middle East’s lone democracy, Israel.” AIPAC also asserts in its statement that UNESCO’s one-sided attitude toward Israel hurts the chance of peace between Israelis and Palestinians because it “support[s] forces in the Palestinian community that reject reconciliation [with Israel].”

While some believe there is a need for fundamental reform concerning UNESCO’s treatment of Israel, the US would lose the opportunity to help change UNESCO for the better by opting to leave the organization. “I believe that … the US should [continue to be] part of UNESCO and help to promote ideals that are vital, such as education and culture,” said Shiran Cohen, the Israeli Emissary with the Jewish Federation of Greater Kansas City. Cohen clarifies that the US should only remain part of UNESCO, however, if the organization commits to “chang[e] this absurd situation” of anti-Israel bias.

Because the United States’ decision to leave UNESCO doesn’t take effect until the end of 2018, UNESCO has “a full 14 months to change course by act[ing] towards Israel in good faith,” said Rabbi Scott White of Congregation Ohev Sholom. Although White is hopeful that this will happen, he doesn’t count on it because of “the UN’s history of Israel-bashing”.

UNESCO has until the end of 2018 to convince the United States to remain a member state of the organization. In order for that to happen, UNESCO has to prove to the US that it does not employ anti-Israel bias. It is yet to be seen if this will be successful.

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