French Jewish woman to lead UNESCO as Israel, US withdraw from organization


( Former French Minister of Culture Audrey Azoulay will be the first Jewish director-general of the United Nations cultural body UNESCO after winning a narrow vote last Friday against Qatari frontrunner Hamad Bin Abdulaziz Al-Kawari.

Audrey Azoulay. Credit: Didier Plowy via Wikimedia Commons.

Azoulay’s win in the 30-28 vote came a day after the U.S. and Israel separately announced they would withdraw from UNESCO due to its anti-Israel bias.

“In a time of crisis, we need more than ever to get involved [and] work to strengthen the organization,” said Azoulay, who was raised in Morocco and France and is the daughter of André Azoulay, an adviser to Morocco’s King Mohammed VI. 

Following the surprising result, Israeli Intelligence Minister Yisrael Katz told Israel’s Channel 2 that despite the victory by a Jewish candidate, “don’t expect UNESCO to suddenly now become a Zionist organization.” He added that if UNESCO “does change its policy,” Israel “certainly” could reconsider its withdrawal.

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 all Jewish and Christian connections to Jerusalem’s holy sites.

Before the vote, Jewish groups had expressed concern about Al-Kawari’s connections to anti-Semitism.

Posted on October 15, 2017 .