Israel ‘not at all likely’ to reverse decision on leaving UNESCO

After years of UNESCO’s “systematic attacks” on the Jewish state, Israel is ‘not at all likely’ to reverse its decision to leave the organization, Foreign Ministry spokesman tells WIN.

By Steve Leibowitz, World Israel News

Israel’s letter of resignation to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) is already prepared and will be handed over to the organization’s Secretary General Audrey Azoulay immediately after the Christmas holiday.  Foreign Ministry spokesman Emmanuel Nahshon told World Israel News (WIN), “The decision has been made, the letter written and it will be sent to the organization within a day or two.”  According to UNESCO policy, the decision does not take effect immediately, so Israel will still officially be a member of the UN cultural organization until December 31, 2018.

Asked whether a change in UNESCO policy could reverse Israel’s decision during the next year, Nahshon said, “Not at all likely.  The group is dominated by Arab and Muslim countries that have no interest in being fair toward Israel.  We are making this move together with the United States, which announced its decision earlier.  Of course we will keep open minds, but a decision has been made.”

It’s somewhat ironic that the Israeli letter of withdrawal will be sent to UNESCO Director-General Audrey Azoulay, the agency’s first Jewish leader.  A French Jew, Azoulay is not known to hold anti-Israel views. Nevertheless, according to Nachshon, Azoulay has “some responsibility and authority, but unfortunately a large majority of nations ensure that UNESCO maintains a clear anti-Israel and anti-US direction.”

Funding from Israel, US already halted

The decision was based on what Israel called “UNESCO’s attempts to disconnect Jewish history from the land of Israel.”  Earlier this year the US announced its withdrawal from UNESCO and gave similar reasons.  Recent UNESCO resolutions baffled and enraged many Israelis and Jews around the world who viewed the declarations as historically distorted and a total dismissal of the Jewish people’s ties to Jerusalem and the Land of Israel.

Both Israel and the US have already halted their funding for UNESCO after officials determined that the organization has been completely hijacked by an anti-American, anti-Semitic agenda that fabricates what amounts to a revisionist history.

Most recently, UNESCO issued a paper in which Jewish history is denied. The original paper claimed Muslim, not Jewish, ties to the Temple Mount in Jerusalem.  After an uproar of complaints, a reference to the Jewish holy site was included.  In the same document, the Western Wall is referred to by its Arabic name, Buraq Plaza, and identified as the spot where the Prophet Muhammed mounted a horse for his night flight to Mecca.

Last week Prime Minister Netanyahu announced the UNESCO decision to the Cabinet, saying, “I think that this is appropriate, given this organization’s biased, one-sided and absurd attitude toward us, and against the background of the US’s strong stand at the UN, which we welcome.”

UNESCO has a long and tension-filled history with both the US and Israel.  Formed with the help of the US in the aftermath of World War 2, UNESCO was originally part of the program for the “denazification” of Europe. Over the years many nations joined, and the political orientation of the organization changed.

‘Taxpayer money can be put to better use’

The US pulled out of UNESCO in the 1980s, during the Reagan administration.  UNESCO initiated a series of reforms and the US rejoined the organization in 2002, when President George W. Bush did so as part of an effort to garner international support for the war on terrorism.

The main argument against leaving UNESCO is that by removing themselves from an international forum, the US and Israel limit their ability to bring about change from within. Dan Diker of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs told WIN, “UNESCO’s denial of Israel’s 3000 year history has cost the group its moral and historical clarity.  Its new leader may try to restore some credibility.  Perhaps over the course of time the group could again become relevant and Israel and the US could re-join.  For now, both the United States and Israel are convinced that little can be gained by participation in UNESCO. Taxpayer money can be put to better use elsewhere.”