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Goodbye, UNESCO: Israel and US quit UN heritage agency

Published: January 1, 2019
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Source: dw.com

The countries announced in 2017 that they would withdraw from the UN Educational, Science and Cultural Organization, accusing it of bias against Israel. That went into effect at the stroke of midnight.

The tumultuous relationship between Israel and UNESCO came to an end with the close of 2018. And the US has followed suit, leaving the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization after accusing it of bias against Israel. "Unfortunately, UNESCO has adopted systematic discrimination against Israel and UNESCO is being used in order to rewrite history by people who hate the Jewish people and the state of Israel," a Foreign Ministry official said on Sunday. 

The United States and Israel had announced their decisions in 2017, but, according to the UNESCO statute, 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.

Israel joined UNESCO in 1949. The agency is best known for its World Heritage program, which designates cultural sites and aims to preserve traditions. But it also works to defend press freedom, promote education for women, and fight extremism and anti-Semitism. Israel has nine World Heritage Sites, including the Bahai Gardens in Haifa, the biblical site of Masada near the Dead Sea, and the White City in Tel Aviv. The Old City in East Jerusalem is listed with no territorial status specified. UNESCO has added three locations within the Palestinian territories to its World Heritage List. 

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The US State Department confirmed the country is officially withdrawing from UNESCO, the UN’s cultural body it helped found in 1945, citing “anti-Israeli bias” and the need for reform. The move will take effect on December 31, the US announced. “This decision was not taken lightly, and reflects US concerns with mounting arrears at UNESCO, the need for fundamental reform in the organization, and continuing anti-Israel bias at UNESCO,” the State Department said in a Thursday statement cited by Reuters.  

Related Links:

Israel officially withdraws from UNESCO [middleeastmonitor.com]

US and Israel formally quit UNESCO [aljazeera.com]

UNESCO’s turn: Washington & Tel Aviv ditch international body over ‘anti-Israel bias’ [rt.com]

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