America and Israel quit UNESCO over “Palestine” fiasco

October 16, 2017 by David Singer
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UNESCO’s decision to admit “Palestine” as a member state in 2011 in apparent breach of UNESCO’s own Constitution has come back to bite UNESCO with a vengeance – as America and Israel now give formal notice of their intention to quit UNESCO on 31 December 2018…writes David Singer.

State Department Spokesperson Heather Nauert asserted America’s decision was not taken lightly and reflected U.S. concerns with mounting arrears at UNESCO, the need for fundamental reform in the organization, and continuing anti-Israel bias at UNESCO.

American arrears owing for UNESCO dues now total US$550 million.

UNESCO anti-Israel decisions since “Palestine” was admitted to UNESCO membership have included:

  1. January 2014 – the cancellation of an exhibition at its Paris headquarters on the Jewish presence in the land of Israel
  2. October 2016 – disregarding any Jewish ties to the Temple Mount – only referring to it by its Muslim names – then several weeks later – passing a softer version of the resolution that referred to the Western Wall by its Jewish name – though still ignoring Judaism’s ties to the site.
  3. May 2017 – UNESCO’s executive committee passing a resolution critical of Israeli conduct in Jerusalem and Gaza.
  4. July 2017 – designating Hebron and the two adjoined shrines at its heart — the Jewish Tomb of the Patriarchs and the Muslim Ibrahimi Mosque — as a “Palestinian World Heritage Site in Danger”.

UNESCO appears to have acted outside the terms of its own Constitution in admitting “Palestine” to membership.

That decision was open to possible legal challenge for two reasons:

  1. Only states can be admitted to UNESCO under Article II (2) of UNESCO’s Constitution – and “Palestine” was not a state,
  2. 129 votes from 193 members were required to admit “Palestine” – not the 107 votes received from those “present and voting”. 14 had voted against, 52 abstained and another 21 were absent from the vote.

UNESCO’s questionable and highly controversial decision should have been referred to the International Court of Justice under Article XIV (2) of UNESCO’s Constitution to determine whether:

  1. “Palestine” was a “State” entitled to membership of UNESCO.
  2. 129 votes or 107 votes were required for “Palestine’s” admission to UNESCO

UNESCO did not seek this judicial interpretation – which would have cost it US$100000 – even though I presented it with detailed reasons why it should.

Had the International Court ruled “Palestine’s” admission to UNESCO was unlawful – then the American funding tap would have been turned on again five years ago.

Instead UNESCO lobbied the Americans to cough up what amounted to 22% of UNESCO’s annual budget. That lobbying was never going to succeed – since the chances of Congress backing away from America’s domestic law mandating the suspension of funds to any United Nations Agency that accepted the PLO as a full member – outside of negotiations with Israel – was doomed to failure

Australia’s Head of Mission – Ms Gita Kamath – gave Australia’s reasons for its negative vote at the time:

“Our decision to vote against reflects Australia’s strong concern that consideration of Palestinian membership in UNESCO is premature. The matter of Palestinian membership of the UN has recently been placed before the UN Security Council for its consideration. We should allow the United Nations Security Council process to run its course rather than seek first to address this question in different UN fora.

Our decision also reflects our concerns with the possible implications of a successful vote on UNESCO funding.”

UNESCO would not be in the parlous financial straits and ignominious position it finds itself today had its member States heeded Australia’s sage advice.

UNESCO’s foray into the Arab-Jewish conflict has been an unmitigated disaster.

David Singer is a Sydney Lawyer and Foundation Member of the International Analysts Network



4 Responses to “America and Israel quit UNESCO over “Palestine” fiasco”
  1. Liat Kirby says:

    Adrian, I take it you have no objection to the UN turning itself into an institution that practises bigotry and injustice, allowing so many of those 190 countries you mention to single out one country, Israel, for continued unwarranted attack?

    For you to say that the loss of the USA to the UN is not important is just ludicrous.

    • Adrian Jacskon says:

      The UN is a democratic organisation and the majority vote, or a 2/3 majority vote, rules in this democratic organisation.

      Australia has just been successful in being elected to the UN Human Right body and was a Security Council member before that.

      New Zealand saw Helen Clarke as a finalist for Security General too.

      The world is no longer ruled by the USA, and their lackeys, like in the 20th century.

      In the 21st century, like it or not, China, India and Russia are the new world powers.

      The USA, since the end of WW2, has gone from one military disaster to another (Korea, Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan), when they are not picking on small nations like Grenada and Cuba.

      Economically the USA has been largely responsible for economic catastrophes like the recent Global Financial Crisis and in 1987 the stock market crash.

      The USA has neglected it citizens on wages, health care and civil defence.

  2. Liat Kirby says:

    Yes, it has been an unmitigated disaster, and rightly so. If it had not been, we would have even more to worry about.

  3. Adrian Jackson says:

    If the USA dont pay their subscriptions to the UN then they should leave the organisation.

    The US bullies are trying to use financial bribery to get their way.

    Anyhow there are about 190 countries in the UN so the loss of the USA is not important.

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