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US and Israel Withdraw From UNESCO

US and Israel Withdraw From UNESCOUS and Israel Withdraw From UNESCO

The US has announced it will withdraw from the United Nations Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), accusing the body of “anti-Israel bias”.

Heather Nauert, US State Department spokesperson, said on Thursday the US would establish an “observer mission” to replace its representation at the Paris-based agency, Al Jazeera reported.

In a statement announcing its withdrawal, Israel called the US administration’s decision “courageous and moral”, and accused UNESCO of becoming a “theatre of the absurd”.

“The prime minister instructed the foreign ministry to prepare Israel’s withdrawal from the organization alongside the United States,” Benjamin Netayanu’s office said in a statement.

Irina Bokova, the outgoing UNESCO head, called the US withdrawal a “loss to multilateralism”, saying she is convinced that “UNESCO has never been so important for the US, or the US for UNESCO”.

At a 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 said.

Thursday’s development demonstrates the US administration’s “complete and total bias” towards Israel, says Mustafa Barghouti, secretary-general of the Palestinian National Initiative, a political party comprising mostly secular intellectuals.

“Sooner or later they will see Palestine in every UN agency. Will the US respond to that by withdrawing from the WHO or the World Intellectual Property Organization? They will be hurting only themselves.”

The US was angered in 2011 when UNESCO members granted Palestine full membership of the body, despite opposition from its ally Israel.

That year the US stopped paying its dues to the 195-member organization but did not officially withdraw.

The US opposes any move by UN bodies to recognize the Palestinians as a state, insisting that this must await a negotiated Middle East peace deal.

In July, the UN body declared the Old City of Al-Khalil in the occupied West Bank an endangered World Heritage site.

Netanyahu announced a $1m cut in funding to the UN, saying the UNESCO vote ignored Jewish ties to the site.

A UNESCO resolution on Beit-ul Moghaddass in May strongly criticized Israel’s occupation of the eastern part of the city.

 

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