The United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization (Unesco) took a strong slap this Thursday as the United States formally notified the world heritage organization that it is withdrawing its membership.
This move comes after decades of systematic anti-Israel abuse. The US state department stated that “this decision was not taken lightly, and reflects US concerns with mounting arrears at Unesco, the need for fundamental reform in the organisation, and continuing anti-Israel bias”. Earlier this year Israel suspended its own ties with Unesco over a motion that omitted the connection of the Jewish people to Jerusalem. The resolution was followed by an additional one few months ago, in which the Paris-based body declared the Old City of Hebron in the West Bank an endangered world heritage site.
Unesco’s Director General Irina Bokova, said that she had received formal notification of withdrawal from the US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and expressed her “profound regret” over the decision. “This is not just about World Heritage…[it is] a loss to both the organization and the US”, stated Bokova. This is not the first time the US has taken action in response to anti-Israel bias, in 2011 the US cancelled its financial contribution to Unesco in protest against the admission of Palestine as a full member state.
These days UNESCO members are voting on a replacement for Bokova, whose term in office is will end soon. After few days of a secret ballot, Qatar’s Hamad bin Abdulaziz al-Kawari is reportedly leading, which point out the failure of US and Israel efforts to secure the post for a figure more balanced and unbiased, that is not of a country complicit in violation of human rights, oppression of minorities, actively practice enslavement and investing huge sums of money in anti-Israel propaganda (i.g. Al Jazeera, AJ+ and other media platforms that are fully funded by Qatar).
Unesco has continuously failed at their core mission—which is to promote international education and culture—and instead has morphed into a tool at the hands of Arab-Islamic countries as they join other non-democratic countries to bully the world’s only Jewish state. However, this is unsurprising. Unesco’s actions are merely a symptom of a greater illness within the United Nations—a body that was funded to fight the exact type of bigotry that it is promoting today. From my work as an Israeli liaison officer to the United Nations between the years of 2008 and 2012 in the West Bank, I know first-hand how hateful, biased, and bigoted the United Nations can be towards Israel. Countless staff members in the West Bank outwardly expressed bias opinions, ignored Palestinian human rights violations and were fanatically on a mission to defame Israel. Many times at the expense of helping the Palestinian civilians, that they were there to help. Focusing their energy and effort into bashing Israel and not into improving the lives of the people and promote peace.
Based on the US’s recent withdrawal from Unesco, and the UN’s track record of anti-Israel obsession (in 2016 alone the UNGA adopted 20 resolutions against Israel and only 6 resolutions on the rest of the world, combined) it seems that he United Nations is no longer the body that fights injustice around the world. It is now the body that enables and effectively promotes injustice. It is operated and abused by a coalition of countries that are leading the charts of human rights violations and their only focus is defaming the Jewish state to divert international attention from their own actions to a country that, while not perfect, is the only free democracy in the Middle East.
My main question is; how did we allow things to go so far? The United Nations was founded as a light for people around the world, the hope for the oppressed, assuring them that they are not alone. Yet one UN body after another is ignoring many truly oppressed communities around the world that are in desperate need of international intervention, Meanwhile, the UN continues to focus on Israel.While I do not wish to celebrate the US withdrawal from Unesco, as it is an unfortunate act of desperation, that is the only way to stop this obsession and unwarranted bias. UN bodies must realize that there will be a price to pay for ignoring their missions and abusing the precious power that was given to them.
The United Nations mission statement describes 4 main goals: To keep peace throughout the world; To develop friendly relations among nations; To help nations work together to improve the lives of poor people, to conquer hunger, disease and illiteracy, and to encourage respect for each other’s rights and freedoms; To be a centre for harmonizing the actions of nations to achieve these goals. It is time to try focus on these goals. Even one of them will be a good start.