The United Nations’ scientific and cultural body UNESCO formally appointed a French former culture minister as its head Friday, just weeks after the Trump administration pulled the U.S. from the organization over its alleged anti-Israel bias.
Audrey Azoulay, the second woman to hold the position, was confirmed after being nominated for the post in October. Azoulay succeeds Director-General Irina Bokova of Bulgaria, whose time as UNESCO chief was plagued by criticism over “Palestine’s” inclusion in 2011 as a member state.
In 2011, the Obama administration stopped funding the body after it accepted Palestine as a member. The Trump administration went a step further last month and pulled out of the controversial body after it made a number of anti-Israel decisions.
Most recently in July, member states declared the Tomb of the Patriarchs – considered the second holiest site in Judaism after the Temple Mount – to be a Palestinian world heritage site in danger. Another UNESCO decision disavowed Israeli sovereignty over Jerusalem.
“The purpose of UNESCO is a good one. Unfortunately, its extreme politicization has become a chronic embarrassment,” U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley said in a statement. “Just as we said in 1984 when President Reagan withdrew from UNESCO, U.S. taxpayers should no longer be on the hook to pay for policies that are hostile to our values and make a mockery of justice and common sense.”
Azoulay made a reference to the U.S. pullout by telling member states that they needed to stand “shoulder to shoulder” in the months ahead.
“The unity you have shown in this vote is a good omen for the coming period, in which we need to stand shoulder to shoulder,” Azoulay said after she was confirmed, according to the Times of Israel.
Last month when she was nominated, she urged members to work to reform the body, not to walk away. Azoulay now faces an uphill struggle in convincing Israel not to leave the body – a move that looks increasingly likely in the wake of the U.S. departure.
“In this moment of crisis, I believe we must invest in UNESCO more than ever, look to support and reinforce it, and to reform it. And not leave it,” she said.
Azoulay beat a candidate from Qatar by just two votes, disappointing Arab states who had hoped to lead the body.
Adam Shaw is a Breitbart News politics reporter based in New York. Follow Adam on Twitter: @AdamShawNY.