Citing anti-Israel bias, U.S. to withdraw from UNESCO

The United States will withdraw from UNESCO, the United Nations agency focused on education, science and culture, at the end of next year, State Department Spokeswoman Heather Nauert announced in a statement Thursday morning.

“This decision was not taken lightly, and reflects U.S. concerns with mounting arrears at UNESCO, the need for fundamental reform in the organization, and continuing anti-Israel bias at UNESCO,” Nauert said in her statement.

Although the U.S. played a role in UNESCO’s founding following World War II, it has not always been a member. Former President Ronald Reagan pulled the U.S. from the Paris-based organization in 1984 over complaints that UNESCO had a pro-Soviet Union, anti-Western bias. Former President George W. Bush brought the U.S. back into the organization in 2002.

Under the administration of former President Barack Obama, the U.S. cut its funding for UNESCO dramatically in 2011, reducing U.S. contributions by 22 percent in response to the organization’s move to admit Palestine as a member. Those funding cuts have put the U.S. in arrears on its dues to the organization by more than $500 million, according to a Foreign Policy report published Wednesday.

More problematic, though, have been actions by UNESCO perceived as anti-Israel. Last year, Reuters reported that a UNESCO resolution characterizing to Jerusalem’s Dome of the Rock – a site referred to by Jews as the Temple Mount – as only a “Muslim holy site” prompted Israel to recall its ambassador to the organization.

Israel further suspended ties with UNESCO last summer, The Atlantic reported, following the organizations declaration that of a portion of the West Bank city of Hebron as a Palestinian World Heritage Site, a step Israel complained did not acknowledge Jewish connections to holy sites there.

Nauert said Thursday that the U.S. will remain part of UNESCO until its withdrawal is official on Dec. 31, 2018, after which it will intend to remain involved with the organization as an observer state.

“The United States indicated to the Director General its desire to remain engaged with UNESCO as a non-member observer state in order to contribute U.S. views, perspectives and expertise on some of the important issues undertaken by the organization,” Nauert said. “Including the protection of world heritage, advocating for press freedoms, and promoting scientific collaboration and education.”

Source: http://www.politico.com/story/2017/10/12/united-states-withdraws-unesco-243708

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