Israel joins U.S to quit UNESCO

In news

The United States and Israel announced on Thursday they were quitting the U.N.’s cultural agency UNESCO, after Washington accused it of anti-Israeli bias.

When did this all started?

Washington has already withheld its funding for UNESCO since 2011, when the body admitted Palestine as a full member.

The United States and Israel were among just 14 of 194 members that voted against admitting the Palestinians.

In recent years, Israel has repeatedly complained about what it says is the body taking sides in disputes over cultural heritage sites in Jerusalem and the Palestinian territories.

Impact of this desicion

The withdrawal of the United States, which is meant to provide a fifth of UNESCO’s funding, is a major blow for the Paris-based organization, founded after World War Two to help protect cultural and natural heritage around the world.

The US withdrawal will become effective at the end of December 2018 – until then, the US will remain a full member.

Unesco’s  timeline in trouble

November 1945: Unesco founded by 37 countries in the immediate aftermath of World War Two, its purpose “to contribute to peace and security by promoting collaboration among nations through education, science and culture”.

1974: Congress suspends US contribution after Unesco criticises Israel and recognises the Palestinian Liberation Organisation (PLO) – but later rejoins.

1984: Under President Ronald Reagan, US withdraws from Unesco, saying the agency is politically left-wing and financially irresponsible.

1985: UK withdraws, rejoining under change of government in 1997.

2003: US rejoins under George W Bush.

2011: US withdraws funding in protest at Palestinian membership of UN; arrears begin to accumulate.

Reaction of few countries

The American Israel Public Affairs Committee (Aipac) applauded, saying that for years, the agency had “betrayed its original laudatory mission… and chosen instead to unfairly target the Middle East’s lone democracy, Israel”.

Russia said it regretted the decision, but agreed Unesco was too politicised. President Vladimir Putin’s aide for culture Vladimir Tolstoy reportedly called the news “flabbergasting”.

UNESCO in brief

The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO; is a specialized agency of the United Nations (UN) based in Paris.

Its declared purpose is to contribute to peace and security by promoting international collaboration through educational, scientific, and cultural reforms in order to increase universal respect for justice, the rule of law, and human rights along with fundamental freedom proclaimed in the United Nations Charter.

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