UNESCO ‘regrets’ Israel’s withdrawal

While confirming Israel’s departure in 2018, the head of the UN cultural body urged the Jewish state to work “inside UNESCO” to “overcome differences.”

By: Ebin Sandler, World Israel News

Director-General of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), Audrey Azoulay, announced on Friday that Carmel Shama Hacohen, Israel’s Ambassador to UNESCO, officially submitted a letter of withdrawal from the organization. Israel’s departure will be effective as of December 31, 2018.

While Israel has been a UNESCO member since 1949, mounting hostility in the UN body toward the Jewish state left Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and a number of other Israeli elected officials questioning the the benefits of UNESCO membership.

UNESCO’s recent anti-Israel initiatives include a July resolution supported by Muslim-majority countries declaring Israel an “occupying power” in the Old City of Jerusalem, which is both the home of Judaism’s holiest site, the Temple Mount, and territory that Israel secured via its military victory in 1967’s Six Day War.

Previously, UNESCO’s World Heritage Committee considered motions to keep the Old City of Jerusalem on its list of endangered sites and to have the Old City of Hebron – including the Jewish holy site the Tomb of the Patriarchs – added to the list and registered under the “State of Palestine.”

Among other anti-Israel positions that have been supported by UNESCO members are resolutions declaring that Israel lacks any right to Jerusalem and describing the Temple Mount as only a Muslim holy site.

In response to Israel’s impending withdrawal, Azoulay commented, “I regret this deeply, as it is my conviction that it is inside UNESCO and not outside it that states can best seek to overcome differences in the organization’s fields of competence,” reported AFP.

Israel’s departure from UNESCO followed the US’ decision to withdraw from the organization earlier in the year. State Department spokesperson Heather Nauert commented at the time, “This decision was not taken lightly, and reflects U.S. concerns with mounting arrears at UNESCO, the need for fundamental reform in the organization, and continuing anti-Israel bias at UNESCO.”