UNESCO: A theatre for Anti-Israel Bias
The United States of America, in an eye-catching move, pulled out of the UN’s world heritage body- UNESCO. It formally notified that it is withdrawing its membership of the organization.
This came as a shocking move. It cited “continuing anti-Israel bias” for the step taken. The State Department of the US announced the decision to withdraw from the UN’s cultural, scientific and educational organization and become a permanent observer instead. Israel praised the move.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu signalled his approval, tweeting: “I welcome @realDonaldTrump’s decision to withdraw from Unesco … I have instructed the Foreign Ministry to prepare Israel’s withdrawal from Unesco in parallel with the United States.”
He further added, “This is a brave and moral decision because Unesco has become a theatre of absurd. Instead of preserving history, it distorts it.”
Days after the Trump Administration’s withdrawal announcement, Israel followed suit. The news of Israel planning to quit the financially struggling cultural and educational agency made headlines. UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova expressed her “profound regret” at the US’s decision. The United States had helped in setting up the UNESCO in the wake of Second World War. It was to ensure peace through the free flow of ideas and education.
It also came to light that the decision to pull out was making the rounds in the administration since a few months. US Secretary of Rex Tillerson informed the French President Emmanuel Macron in a meeting with Donald Trump late last month.
United Nations’ body to ‘world heritage sites listings is the UNESCO. Also, it is known for outstanding cultural and natural sites. It has often drawn the ire of Israel and the Trump administration for a series of decisions. This included the listing of Hebron.
Change at the Helm
After the US’ pull out, there was also a change at the top post at the UNESCO. A new chief made her mark- Audrey Azoulay named and elected to head the UN’s cultural agency.
Audrey Azoulay is a French National. The former French culture minister beat her Qatari opponent. Azoulay, 45, came from behind to defeat Hamad bin Abdulaziz Al-Kawari, also a former culture minister, after he failed to pick up support from other Gulf states which are part of a Saudi-led coalition blockading Qatar. The vote was 30 to 28.
It remains to be seen, however, if her appointment is confirmed by the 195-member General Assembly next month. If this happens, she will replace outgoing Director-General Irina Bokova of Bulgaria. Financial woes marred the Bulgarian’s eight-year term. The outcome was a blow for Arab states that have long wanted to lead the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization.