Israel Joins US in Leaving UNESCO, Netanyahu Says UN Body ‘Platform for anti-Semitic Decisions’

Israel agrees with the US on UNESCO. Illustrative. By Joshua Spurlock

The Americans withdrew their full member status at the United Nations cultural body in part due to an anti-Israel bias, so it’s not surprising that the Israelis have joined the United States in leaving the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). Last week, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu instructed the Israeli Foreign Ministry to pull out of UNESCO “in parallel” with the decision by U.S. President Donald Trump, which Netanyahu called “courageous and ethical” in comments released by his office. The Israeli leader accused UNESCO of having become “a theater of the absurd and instead of preserving history, distorts it.”

Among other acts, UNESCO has designated Hebron and its Tomb of the Patriarchs as Palestinian and challenged Israel’s connections to Jerusalem. On Sunday, Netanyahu escalated his complaint against UNESCO, saying it “has become a platform for delusional, anti-Israeli and—in effect—anti-Semitic decisions.”

The Americans further clarified their decision in comments to reporters on Thursday. US spokesperson Heather Nauert, in comments released by the State Department, noted that US membership in UNESCO had been under review for a while.

She said that the United States owed more than $500 million dollars in back fees to the cultural body and decided not to pay and stay as members in light of a Congressional decision prohibiting funding of UN bodies that admit the Palestinians as a member state. The Palestinians have been seeking such memberships in a variety of organizations to move closer to statehood and effectively get around peace negotiations with Israel.

Nauert said that they also want UN groups to reform. “We’d like to see the politics kept out of it, and we see with this anti-Israel bias that’s long documented on the part of UNESCO that that needs to come to an end,” she said. “…If UNESCO wants to get back and wants to reform itself and get back to a place where they’re truly promoting culture and education and all of that, perhaps we could take another look at this, but we haven’t seen that taking place.”

Israel feels similarly. Said Netanyahu on Sunday, “We hope that the organization will change its ways but we are not pinning hopes on this; therefore, my directive to leave the organization stands and we will move forward to carry it out.”

(By Joshua Spurlock,, October 15, 2017)

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