Trump pulls USA out of UNESCO, citing anti-Israel bias

13 October, 2017, 00:27 | Author: Ora Austin
  • United States Announces Withdrawal From UNESCO, Cites 'Anti-Israel Bias'

The Trump administration announced on Thursday that it would withdraw from Unesco, the United Nations cultural organization, after years of America distancing itself because of what it called the group's "anti-Israel bias".

The withdrawal, effective December 31, 2018, won't be the first for the United States.

The U.S. would seek to "remain engaged with UNESCO as a non-member observer state", the statement added.

Netanyahu accused UNESCO of "becoming a Theater of Absurd because instead of preserving history, it twists it".

A press statement from the State Department says the decision was also based on "the need for fundamental reform in the organization" as well as stacking up bills the USA owes UNESCO.

The decision follows a string of UNESCO decisions that have drawn criticism from the U.S. and Israel.

The Israel controversy re-ignited this summer after UNESCO named Hebron's city center a Palestinian World Heritage Site.

Netanyahu announced a US$1 million (S$1.3 million) cut in funding to the United Nations, saying the Unesco vote ignored Jewish ties to the site.

Just hours after that vote, the USA made a decision to cut its payments to UNESCO, while still maintaining its membership.

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Travelers are likely to be most familiar with Unesco through its world heritage sites such as the Grand Canyon National Park and Yellowstone National Park in the US.

Bokova released a statement in light of the news.

In 2011 the United States cut its funding to the agency - slashing its budget by 22 percent - in protest at its decision to grant full membership to the Palestine.

The 2016 resolution condemned Israel's "escalating aggressions" regarding a holy site in Jerusalem's Old City, known to Muslims as al-Haram al-Sharif and to Jews as the Temple Mount.

He said he has ordered Israeli diplomats to prepare Israel's withdrawal from the organisation in concert with the Americans. "Partnership between UNESCO and the United States was so deep and strong because it was based on shared values", she said.

Unesco director-general Irina Bokova, who is Bulgarian, expressed "profound regret" at the decision and said the departure was a loss for "the United Nations family" and for multilateralism.

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. The US only rejoined under the administration of President George W. Bush some two decades later. Under the Reagan Administration, the USA quit UNESCO in 1984, at the time accusing the agency of a pro- Soviet Union bias.

UNESCO is a specialized agency in the United Nations that encourages worldwide peace and security through education, science, culture and communication.

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