US, Israel to quit UNESCO

Friday, 13 Oct, 2017

The US claims it's leaving the organization in protest of UNESCO's anti-Israel bias.

"President Trump's decision is courageous and moral, because UNESCO has become a theatre of the absurd and because, rather than preserve history, it distorts it", the statement said. The government stopped paying its dues in 2011 after UNESCO voted to include the Palestinian Authority as a member.

The Israeli leader called the U.S. decision to exit UNESCO "brave and moral", according to a statement. "Unfortunately, its extreme politicization has become a chronic embarrassment".

Mr Netanyahu condemned the agency this year for declaring the old city of Hebron in the West Bank a Palestinian World Heritage site.

UNESCO is a specialized agency in the United Nations that encourages worldwide peace and security through education, science, culture and communication. The site is regarded as sacred by Jews, Christians and Muslims.

The text denounced "all legislative and administrative measures and actions taken by Israel, the occupying power, which have altered or purport to alter the character and status of the Holy City of Jerusalem".

Irina Bokova, outgoing UNESCO director general, reacted to the development with "profound regret", calling "universality" key to its mission.

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Nikki Haley, the U.N. ambassador, has repeatedly criticized the United Nations for what she called its anti-Israel bias.

UNESCO was once a low-profile United Nations agency best known for producing a list of World Heritage sites such as the Grand Canyon or Cambodia's Angkor Wat, as well as running science, media and cultural programmes internationally.

It was founded in 1945 as allied countries "were looking for ways and means to reconstruct their systems of education once peace was restored" in the wake of World War II, according to the organization - which now has 195 members and eight associate members.

Israel, which remains a UNESCO member, said the move by the Trump administration marked a "new era" for the United Nations and showed there was a "price to pay for discrimination against Israel".

Many saw the vote to include Palestine as evidence of long-running, ingrained anti-Israel bias within the United Nations, where Israel and its allies are far outnumbered by Arab countries and their supporters. "This is a loss for multilateralism". UNESCO also works to improve education for girls in poor countries, help them enter scientific fields, defend media freedom and coordinate world knowledge about climate change, among other activities.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that Israel was preparing to pull out of UNESCO, the UN's cultural and educational agency, hours after the United States made a similar announcement.

"At the time when conflicts continue to tear apart societies across the world, it is deeply regrettable for the United States to withdraw from the United Nations agency promoting education for peace and protecting culture under attack", she added.