Israel officially left the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) on New Year’s Day in protest at the agency’s inability to combat its own politicization and profound anti-Israel bias.
The United States completed its withdrawal from the Paris-based UN cultural agency at the same time.
“UNESCO is a body that continually rewrites history, including by erasing the Jewish connection to Jerusalem,” Israel’s Ambassador to the UN Danny Danon told the Times of Israel in an interview ahead of the pullout that came at midnight Paris time (1 a.m. in Israel).
“It is corrupted and manipulated by Israel’s enemies, and continually singles out the only Jewish state for condemnation. We are not going to be a member of an organization that deliberately acts against us.”
Both countries announced their decisions in 2017, but, according to the UNESCO statute of membership, withdrawals go into effect at the end of the following year — in this case after the final tick of the clock on December 31, 2018.
The departure comes after a series of anti-Israel decisions by the body, including accepting Palestine as a permanent member in 2011 and in July, 2017 declaring 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.
— Breitbart London (@BreitbartLondon) October 26, 2016
Another UNESCO decision disavowed Israeli sovereignty over Jerusalem.
This ignores the fact some of Judaism’s holiest sites are located in the West Bank and eastern Jerusalem, including the Temple Mount and Western Wall in Jerusalem; the Tomb of the Patriarchs and Matriarchs in Hebron; and Joseph’s Tomb in Nablus.
Israel had joined UNESCO on September 16, 1949, and is home to six UNESCO World Heritage Sites, including Masada, the Old City of Acre, the Bahai Temples in Haifa and the “White City” of Tel Aviv. The Times reports they will all remain on the list.
The U.S. has pulled out of UNESCO before.
It left the body under President Ronald Reagan in 1984 over claims the body had a pro-Soviet bias. The U.S. re-entered in 2002 during the Bush administration but later cut its funding to the body in 2011 over the decision to admit “Palestine,” which is not a state.
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