US quits UNESCO in support of Israel


The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) is one of the most important and most useful international organizations for humanity. It was established in conjunction with the establishment of the United Nations. It is an extension of the International Committee on Intellectual Cooperation (ICCP), which was an advisory organization of the League of Nations, established after the First World War. The United Nations replaced the League of Nations after the end of the Second World War and it inherited several agencies and organizations founded by the League.

UNESCO replaced ICCP, while the International Bureau of Education (IBE), the global center of excellence in curriculum and related matters, remained a part of UNESCO maintaining its legal status. UNESCO works in the field of education, science and culture away from politics and diplomatic maneuvers.

The United States has pulled out of this world body for its alleged anti-Israel bias. However, it is difficult to know whether there is any anti-Israel bias on the part of UNESCO as claimed by the US. Was it not Israel that expelled the people of Palestine from their homeland in 1948, forcing them to live in refugee camps? Was it not Israel that launched a war against the Arab states during which it occupied the West Bank and the Gaza Strip in 1967, and continues to occupy it, besides laying siege to the Gaza Strip for the past 10 years? Is not this Israeli occupation the oldest and the worst form of occupation on the face of the earth? Was it not Israel that was a signatory to the Oslo Accord with the Palestinians that was based on the so-called two-state solution? Is it not Israel that has failed to abide by that agreement?

When Israel entered into negotiations with the Palestinians, it resulted in nothing more than negotiations for the sake of negotiations. At the same time, Israel continued building settlements so that there would not be any land remaining on which to establish a Palestinian state. Moreover, the Jewish state also pursued its policy of Judaization of Jerusalem through unjust laws enacted by Israel with the objective of driving the Arab population out of Jerusalem. It also constructed a segregation wall that cuts off some regions of the West Bank from others.

Unjust and illegal Israeli practices, such as the construction of the wall or Judaization of Jerusalem or the building of settlements, are in flagrant violation of international laws, United Nations resolutions and Geneva Conventions, which prohibit the occupying power from changing the demographic structure of the occupied land. Israel is engaged in the violation of all these laws and conventions with the open support of the United States of America, which, unfortunately, considers Israel to be an entity above the law.

Even though all successive US administrations have considered Jerusalem and the West Bank to be occupied territories and settlements to be illegal and an obstruction to the peace process, they have pursued a policy of quickly retreating from demanding Israel to respect international resolutions on Palestine. The US has no hesitation even in exercising its veto power in the United Nations Security Council against any resolution condemning Israel, no matter how fair, logical and objective it might be. On the other hand, the US seeks more concessions from the Palestinians and attempts to persuade them to come to the negotiating table. But what is the value of negotiations if Israel makes it an end in itself and has no desire for solutions that comply with international conventions and safeguard the rights of Palestinians even at a minimum level?

If we examine the decisions of UNESCO that have angered the United States and have caused it to withdraw from the organization, we find that these decisions are no different than the resolutions adopted by the United Nations and approved by the United States earlier. One of the major decisions of UNESCO was its denial of Israel’s right to Al-Aqsa Mosque, and that Jerusalem is an occupied city. Is there any discrimination against Israel in this so as to cause the US to withdraw from UNESCO? Is this a civilized and democratic act? Where are American values and human rights? Where is the respect for law on the part of the US? Why does it stand by Israel’s false claims? Did not Israel excavate for half a century in the vicinity of Al-Aqsa Mosque and did it find any single piece of evidence that gives it the right for any claim on the holy mosque?

Are not all the claims of Israel based on myths and lies that do not amount to the historical and archaeological facts under which UNESCO operates? The withdrawal from UNESCO does not harm the organization but it does harm the US itself. The world knows the facts and stands by them. It knows Israel’s lies, racism and injustice to the Palestinian people. The world also knows the falsity of Israel’s democracy and its practice of abhorrent apartheid against the Palestinian people, no less than the apartheid practiced by the white minority in South Africa. International pressure led to the abolition of apartheid in South Africa and its replacement with democracy with the participation of all the people of the country.

It is high time for the world in general and the United States in particular to come forward to stand by justice and truthfulness in the case of the Palestinians.

— Dr. Ali Al-Ghamdi is a former Saudi diplomat who specializes in Southeast Asian affairs. He can be reached at