(JNS.org) The United States will withdraw from the United Nations cultural body UNESCO citing an “anti-Israel bias” among the 195-member state body.
The State Department made the announcement Thursday, saying the move will take effect at the end of 2018, but the U.S. would remain involved as a non-member observer.
Irina Bokova, the director-general of UNESCO, expressed “profound regret” at the Trump administration's decision to pull out, saying universality is critical to UNESCO’s mission to strengthen international peace and security in the face of hatred and violence, to defend human rights and dignity.
The U.S. has been highly critical of UNESCO over its treatment of Israel and stopped paying its dues in 2011 after UNESCO admitted the Palestinian Authority as a member. At the same time, senior Trump administration officials, including U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley, have spoken out against decisions made by the organization.
Reacting to news of the withdrawal, Israel's Ambassador to the U.N. Danny Danon said, “UNESCO has become a battlefield for Israel bashing and has disregarded its true role and purpose. Today’s decision is a turning point for UNESCO. The organization’s absurd and shameful resolutions against Israel have consequences. The United States stands by Israel and is a true leader for change at the U.N. The alliance between our two countries is stronger than ever. "
In July, UNESCO approved a resolution denying Israel’s sovereignty in Jerusalem’s Old City as well as a measure declaring Hebron’s Cave of the Patriarchs, where the biblical Jewish matriarchs and patriarchs are believed to be buried, as an endangered Palestinian heritage site. In October 2016, UNESCO passed two resolutions ignoring Jewish and Christian connections to Jerusalem’s holy sites.
Earlier this week, the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) expressed concern over former Qatari Culture Minister Hamad Bin Abdulaziz Al-Kawari, a leading candidate to become the next director-general of UNESCO, over his involvement in promoting anti-Semitic conspiracy theories.