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Claiming Bias, U.S.A. And Israel Pull Out Of UNESCO

The U.S. could potentially seek that status during UNESCO Executive Board meetings in April.

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The logo of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) is seen druing a conference at UNESCO headquarters in Paris, France, Nov. 4, 2017. VOA

The United States and Israel officially quit of the U.N.’s educational, scientific and cultural agency at the stroke of midnight, the culmination of a process triggered more than a year ago amid concerns that the organization fosters anti-Israel bias.

The withdrawal is mainly procedural yet serves a new blow to UNESCO, co-founded by the U.S. after World War II to foster peace.

The Trump administration filed its notice to withdraw in October 2017 and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu followed suit.

The Paris-based organization has been denounced by its critics as a crucible for anti-Israel bias: blasted for criticizing Israel’s occupation of East Jerusalem, naming ancient Jewish sites as Palestinian heritage sites and granting full membership to Palestine in 2011.

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UN Educational Scientific and Cultural Organisation. Image Source: www.mid-day.com

The U.S. has demanded “fundamental reform” in the agency that is best known for its World Heritage program to protect cultural sites and traditions. UNESCO also works to improve education for girls, promote understanding of the Holocaust’s horrors, and to defend media freedom.

The withdrawals will not greatly impact UNESCO financially, since it has been dealing with a funding slash ever since 2011 when both Israel and the U.S. stopped paying dues after Palestine was voted in as a member state. Since then officials estimate that the U.S. — which accounted for around 22 percent of the total budget — has accrued $600 million in unpaid dues, which was one of the reasons for President Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw. Israel owes an estimated $10 million.

UNESCO Director General Audrey Azoulay took up her post just after Trump announced the pullout. Azoulay, who has Jewish and Moroccan heritage, has presided over the launch of a Holocaust education website and the U.N.’s first educational guidelines on fighting anti-Semitism — initiatives that might be seen as responding to U.S. and Israeli concerns.

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Migrants wait in line for food at a camp housing hundreds of people who arrived at the U.S. border from Central America with the intention of applying for asylum in the U.S., in Tijuana, Mexico, Dec. 12, 2018. VOA

Officials say that many of the reasons the U.S. cited for withdrawal do not apply anymore, noting that since then, all 12 texts on the Middle East passed at UNESCO have been consensual among Israel and Arab member states.

In April of this year, Israel’s ambassador to UNESCO said the mood was “like a wedding” after member nations signed off on a rare compromise resolution on “Occupied Palestine,” and UNESCO diplomats hailed a possible breakthrough on longstanding Israeli-Arab tensions.

The document was still quite critical of Israel, however, and the efforts weren’t enough to encourage the U.S. and Israel to reconsider their decision to quit.

In recent years, Israel has been infuriated by repeated resolutions that ignore and diminish its historical connection to the Holy Land and that have named ancient Jewish sites as Palestinian heritage sites.

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Israel Flag, Pixabay

The State Department couldn’t comment because of the U.S. government shutdown. Earlier, the department told UNESCO officials the U.S. intends to stay engaged at UNESCO as a non-member “observer state” on “non-politicized” issues, including the protection of World Heritage sites, advocating for press freedoms and promoting scientific collaboration and education.

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The U.S. could potentially seek that status during UNESCO Executive Board meetings in April.

The United States has pulled out of UNESCO before. The Reagan administration did so in 1984 because it viewed the agency as mismanaged, corrupt and used to advance Soviet interests. The U.S. rejoined in 2003. (VOA)

Next Story

Israel to Help India with Desertification and Water Management

World Day to Combat Desertification, which is observed every June 17 to promote public awareness of international efforts to combat desertification

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The country is one of the world's leading nations in desert technologies and methods of dealing with desertification. Wikimedia Commons

At a time when several parts of India are facing acute water shortage and drought situation, Israel has expressed its keenness to share its experience in dealing with desertification and water management, in which it is a world leader.

Israel, with over 60 per cent of its territory being a desert and another 20 per cent semi-arid land, has developed a variety of solutions to desertification through desert agriculture, irrigation, desalination, aquaculture, afforestation and management of water resources. The country is one of the world’s leading nations in desert technologies and methods of dealing with desertification.

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The statement assumes significance as it comes at a time when several parts of India are facing acute water shortage and drought situation. Wikimedia Commons

“As part of our growing partnership with India, Israel is keen to work together and share all its experience and cutting edge technology in our joint fight against desertification, including a strategic partnership on water management and water security,” said Israeli Ambassador to India Ron Malka in a statement.

His statement came in the context of World Day to Combat Desertification, which is observed every June 17 to promote public awareness of international efforts to combat desertification. The statement assumes significance as it comes at a time when several parts of India are facing acute water shortage and drought situation.

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World Day to Combat Desertification, which is observed every June 17 to promote public awareness of international efforts to combat desertification. Wikimedia Commons

A statement issued by the Israeli Embassy said MASHAV, the country’s Agency for International Development Cooperation, places special emphasis on development cooperation and assistance in the fight against desertification and drought by introducing international programs of capacity building, training, project development and research.

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MASHAV’s approach is based on Israel’s experience in facing harsh climatic conditions, combines the transfer of adaptable technology, research and development, and a hands-on experience originating from leading Israeli experts and institutions, it added.

Under the Indo-Israeli Agricultural Project with the federal and state governments of India, the centre of excellence for date palms in the heart of the desert in Bhuj, Gujarat introduced Indian farmers to date palms suitable for arid conditions made more common by desertification, the statement said. Date palms are ideal value crops for farmers in arid conditions that can be found in India and Israel alike, it added. (IANS)