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April 20, 2014 / 20 Nisan, 5774
At a Glance

Posts Tagged ‘UNESCO’

When Rules Don’t Count, Anything Goes

Wednesday, July 11th, 2012

UNESCO proved once again that UN rules mean nothing if they get in the way of furthering an anti-Israel agenda.

It will be recalled that last October, an overwhelming majority of UNESCO members voted to recognized “Palestine” as the organization’s 195th member despite the fact that the Palestinian Authority did not, by any measure, meet the established standards for statehood. Last week, UNESCO again broke its own rules and indulged the Palestinians by accepting a Palestinian bid to list the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem on UNESCO’s World Heritage List and to have it located in “Palestine.” The PA is nominally in control of day-to-day governance in Bethlehem but Israel remains in overall authority as to who and what goes in and out.

This prompted a statement by Hanan Ashwari, who leads the PLO Department of Culture and Information, applauding the development as “a welcome recognition by the international community of our historical and cultural rights in this land.”

Further, not only were the rules for statehood again ignored by the “Palestine” reference, but the church was also placed on the List of World Heritage in Danger, which UNESCO’s technical and administrative staff advised was wholly inappropriate, since it in no way met the operative standard of “imminent danger.” And while UNESCO fictively attributed the “danger” to damage from water leaks, Palestinian officials spun the listing that the site itself is endangered by Israel.

Thus, Ms. Ashwari said in a statement that the UNESCO decision

emphasizes that Israel must be bound by international law and treaties, particularly pertaining to its illegal and detrimental measures as a belligerent occupant and as a major threat to the safety and the responsible preservation of that important segment of human civilization in Palestine.

Palestinian officials briefing reporters also claimed the UNESCO action represented a vote in favor of self-determination and cultural rights for the Palestinian people.

Predictably, the PA is now saying that following its UNESCO success respecting the Church of the Nativity it will seek to have additional religious West Bank sites recognized by UNESCO as endangered World Heritage sites. And given past experience, they will be successful. Regrettably, these obvious farces have gained legitimacy in the anything-goes universe of anti-Israel activism.

Carmel Caves Voted a UNESCO World Heritage Site

Monday, July 2nd, 2012

On the heels of UNESCO’s decision last week to name the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem as “Palestine’s” first World Heritage Site, the UN body voted to list the Nahal Me’arot Nature Reserve as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Nahal Me’arot (the Carmel Caves), located on the western slopes of Mount Carmel in northern Israel, are a group of prehistoric caves where early man lived continuously for hundreds of thousands of years. The caves were first excavated in the 1920s and 1930s; tools, animal bones, and human burials found in the Caves have “contributed greatly to the understanding of the physical and cultural evolution of man in the early phases of his existence,” according to a statement on the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs website.

Nahal Me’arot joins seven other World Heritage sites located in Israel. These are: the Old City of Jerusalem; the Bahá’i Holy Places in Haifa and the Western Galilee; the Biblical Tels of Megiddo, Hazor, and Beer Sheba; the Incense Route – Desert Cities in the Negev; Masada; the Old City of Acre; and the White City of Tel-Aviv.

Of course, the most dubious recent addition by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization was the Church of the Nativity, not least because it was admitted as a site under a state that does not exist – ‘Palestine’. This was made possible by the UNESCO’s vote last October to admit Palestine as a full member.

“This is proof that UNESCO is acting out of political considerations and not cultural ones,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said at the time. “The world must remember that the Church of Nativity, which is sacred to Christians, was desecrated in the past by Palestinian terrorists.”

PA to UN: Make Church of Nativity World Heritage Site in State of Palestine

Wednesday, June 13th, 2012

The Palestinian Authority will attempt to register the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem as a world heritage site in the country of Palestine when the World Heritage Committee meets in Russia from June 24 to July 6.

Bethlehem, situated just outside of Jerusalem, is the resting place of the Matriarch Rachel, and features prominently in the biblical story of Ruth, as well as in that of her great-grandson, King David.  It is also significant in Christian theology as the birthplace of Jesus, and became home to a church commemorating his alleged birth at the site.  In the years following Oslo, Bethlehem has become overwhelmingly Arab and Muslim in population.

Earlier this month, the committee announced it would be considering registration of 36 heritage sites around the world, including the Church of the Nativity, which was submitted for consideration by the Palestinian Authority.  This marks the first time the committee has contemplated listing a world heritage site as Palestinian.

The PA has a right to submit its request for the Church of the Nativity recognition because the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) recognized Palestine as its 195th member state in October, giving Palestine full state rights in all UNESCO bodies, including the right to register sites on the World Heritage List.  The UN General Assembly has not recognized Palestine as a state.

The PA seeks to register the church and an associated pilgrimage path under an emergency provision for endangered sites.  The International Council on Monuments and Sites has recommended that the PA application be rejected, as it found the site to be neither under imminent threat or severely damaged.  The group recommended the PA resubmit its application for regular consideration by the World Heritage List.

Committee members  to consider the application include Algeria, Cambodia, Colombia, Estonia, Ethiopia, France, Germany, India, Iraq, Japan, Malaysia, Mali, Mexico, Qatar, Russian Federation, Senegal, Serbia, South Africa, Switzerland, Thailand and the United Arab Emirates.

Say No To UNESCO Waiver

Wednesday, February 22nd, 2012

We were disappointed by the Obama administration’s announcement that it intended to ask Congress to waive a ban on funding UNESCO because of its recognition of Palestinian statehood.

U.S. funding for UNESCO, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, was stopped late last year because of laws banning U.S. funding of any international organization that recognizes Palestinian statehood in the absence of a peace agreement with Israel. American law bars U.S. contributions to “any affiliated organization of the United Nations which grants fall membership as a state to any organization or group that does not have the internationally recognized attributes statehood.”

Unfortunately, at the time of the UNESCO controversy, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, while urging the Palestinians to back off their effort to win UNESCO recognition and warning UNESCO stay out of the political thicket, also told reporters she was “strongly making the case to members of Congress that at some point we need some flexibility because pretty soon, if we don’t pay into these organizations, we lose our right to participate and influence their actions.”

Perhaps. But it would seem a matter of fundamental statecraft that there is no profit in ignoring national law. What is the message when a government seeks an end-run around its own laws in a transparent effort to accommodate an adversary?

As New York Congressman Gary Ackerman put it, while he supports the work of UNESCO, “actions have consequences…. We told the other members of UNESCO that U.S. law would compel us to withhold our funding…. Now both we and they have to live with the consequences…”

Obama Seeks Continued Funding of UNESCO, Despite Recognition of ‘Palestine’

Thursday, February 16th, 2012

WASHINGTON (JTA) – The Obama administration formally announced its intention to ask Congress to waive a ban on funding UNESCO over its recognition of Palestinian statehood.

“The Department of State intends to work with Congress to seek legislation that would provide authority to waive restrictions on paying the U.S. assessed contributions to UNESCO,” says a footnote in the budget that the White House submitted to Congress this month.

The footnote was quoted in a press release issued Wednesday by Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.), the chairwoman of the U.S. House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee, who says she plans to oppose such a waiver.

U.S. funding for UNESCO, the United Nations educational, scientific and cultural organization, was stopped late last year because of laws banning U.S. funding of any international organization that recognizes Palestinian statehood in the absence of a peace agreement with Israel.

The Palestinians launched a bid last year to achieve statehood recognition through the U.N. and its affiliates.

The bid’s virtually only success was with UNESCO, which granted the Palestinians membership. But after the U.S. stopped funding for the body, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon warned against Palestinian efforts to push for recognition in other U.N. bodies.

At the time, State Department officials had suggested they would seek a waiver on the funding ban.

Ros-Lehtinen said that waiving the provision could start the statehood ball rolling again.

“Any effort to walk back this funding cutoff will pave the way for the Palestinian leadership’s unilateral statehood scheme to drive on, and sends a disastrous message that the U.S. will fund UN bodies no matter what irresponsible decisions they make,” she said in a statement.

Denying Israel’s Biblical And Historical Roots

Wednesday, November 30th, 2011

There appears to be a newly energized effort underway to delegitimize any identification of the modern state of Israel with biblical Israel. This sort of thing has been around for a while but it was usually engaged in by Arab nations and hardcore  critics of Israel.

Thus it was disappointing, but not surprising, that in his September speech to the UN General Assembly, PA President Mahmoud Abbas referred to the Holy Land as the “land of Palestine, the land of the Prophet and the birthplace of Jesus.”

And UNESCO’s granting of full membership to the Palestinians is certain to stimulate ever-greater efforts by that body to undermine Israel’s cultural and historical connection to the Holy Land. A little over a year ago, UNESCO classified Kever Rachel as a mosque and “an integral part of the occupied Palestinian territories.” And the Palestinians, separate and apart from the negotiating process, are asking UNESCO to recognizing 20 sites – including Hebron, Jericho and Bethlehem – as “Palestinian World Heritage Sites.”

Particularly dismaying is the broad traction achieved by a new book, The Unmaking of Israel, from Israeli journalist and longtime settlement critic Gershom Gorenberg. Mr. Gorenberg’s thesis is that by keeping and settling territory it conquered in 1967, Israel has undermined both its status as a democracy and the rule of law. He says it has led to corrosive ties between state and synagogue, promoted religious extremism and distorted Judaism.

Absent from his analysis is any notion that Israel has biblical/historical ties to the lands it won in 1967. And the fact that Israel has been given no real opportunity over the years to accommodate the Arabs (other than by marching into the Mediterranean) seems to play no role in Mr. Gorenberg’s thinking.

Not surprisingly, the Gorenberg book has been well received in academic and intellectual circles. Also hardly a surprise, The New York Times this past Sunday saw fit to publish an op-ed piece by Mr. Gorenberg (titled “Israel’s Other Occupation”) which was basically a screed against Israeli policies within the so-called “green line,” accusing Israel of doing to its Arab citizens what it is allegedly doing to the Palestinians of the West Bank.

Another article meriting mention is political scientist Ronald R. Krebs’s “Israel’s Bunker Mentality: How the Occupation Is Destroying the Nation,” which appears in Foreign Affairs, the influential journal published by the Council on Foreign Relations. Mr. Krebs argues that Israel’s continuing presence in the territories has played a central role in transforming a country once brimming with optimism into an increasingly despondent and illiberal place.

Like Mr. Gorenberg, Mr. Krebs not only provides a distorted narrative about the facts on the ground, he seems quite oblivious to the realities foisted on Israel by the Arab world and totally unconcerned with Israel’s biblical/historical ties to the land.

We hope to see informed rejoinders to the likes of Messrs Gorenberg and Krebs, in both popular and intellectual media outlets, in the coming weeks.

The UNESCO Paradigm

Wednesday, November 23rd, 2011

We always bristle at the preachments of even Israel’s few friends that it should rely on agreements and international good will as significant elements in its national security planning as it negotiates its final borders. In the final analysis, realistic borders based on a serious evaluation of probable military threats must be primary.

That principle was only reinforced by the recent goings-on at the UN and UNESCO.

UNESCO’s granting of full membership status to the Palestinian Authority in clear and direct contradiction of the standards for membership shows quite clearly that majority politics, rather than the legitimate interests of individual states, will always be the deciding factor.

And the PA’s failure by one vote to garner sufficient support in the Security Council for full membership – meaning that eight members were prepared to approve the laughable notion that the Palestinians meet the established criteria for membership – also makes the point.

Imagine – the PA came so close without a viable economy, without borders, without an army, and with Israel in control of most of the PA’s claimed territory and Hamas in control of most of the rest. And it is a foregone conclusion that, given the chance, the General Assembly would overwhelmingly vote for full membership for the Palestinians.

The recent UNESCO flap over a Haaretz cartoon, while comical, makes the point as well. Two weeks ago Haaretz ran a cartoon depicting Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak sending off an air force squadron to attack Iran, with Netanyahu saying  “And on your way back, you’re gonna hit the UNESCO office in Ramallah.”

Coming soon after the UNESCO vote on Palestinian membership, the satirical point was unmistakable. Remarkably, though, a senior official at UNESCO called Israel’s ambassador to UNESCO in for a tongue-lashing. He was read a formal protest and told the cartoon constituted incitement: “A cartoon like this endangers the lives of unarmed diplomats, and you have an obligation to protect them. We understand that there is freedom of the press in Israel, but the government must prevent attacks on UNESCO.”

Given the venom, incitement and threats Arab UNESCO members routinely hurl Israel’s way without any protest from UNESCO, it’s plain the rules don’t apply where Israel is concerned. That a major organ of the UN would engage in such a stretch and accord seriousness to such an obvious political joke is proof positive that Israel, as always, must rely on its own devices.

We are not suggesting that Israel can go it alone. What we are saying is that Israel must rely chiefly on boundaries that provide for its optimum defense – and never on promises and commitments that depend on unreliable international bodies for implementation.

Administration Reacts Swiftly To UNESCO Vote On Palestinian Membership

Tuesday, November 8th, 2011

WASHINGTON – The immediate consequence of UNESCO’s vote to grant the Palestinians membership is clear: A cutoff of American funding for the UN agency governing the protection of cultures and sharing of scientific knowledge, which stands to lose roughly a fifth of its budget.

What’s less certain is what effect the defunding, mandated by a U.S. law banning aid to UN bodies that recognize Palestinian statehood, would have on American – and, by extension, Israeli – influence worldwide.

The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization voted Monday at its General Conference in Paris to designate Palestine as a full member state. The vote at the agency’s Paris headquarters was 107 in favor to 14 opposed, with 52 abstentions.

France cast a surprise vote in favor, while Britain abstained and the United States, Israel and Germany were among the countries voting against. Cheers from the assembled delegates greeted the results.

UNESCO had been warned for weeks that a cutoff of American funding was inevitable if the agency granted full membership to the Palestinians. Among Democrats and Republicans in the U.S. Congress, the Palestinian statehood push at the United Nations is seen as a way of circumventing Israel’s demand for a return to direct talks to negotiate a peace agreement.

“I expect the administration to enforce existing law and stop contributions to UNESCO and any other UN agency that enables the Palestinians to short-cut the peace process,” Rep. Kay Granger (R-Texas), the chairwoman of the foreign operations subcommittee of the House Appropriations Committee, said in a statement.

Granger had the backing of the committee’s senior Democrat, Rep. Nita Lowey (D-N.Y.).

“Consistent with current law, UNESCO’s action also has put at risk its funding from United States taxpayers, who provide more than one-fifth of UNESCO’s budget,” Lowey said in her statement. “UNESCO must understand that such irresponsible actions have serious consequences.”

Richard Stone and Malcolm Hoenlein, respectively the chairman and executive vice chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, said in a statement, “We trust that the administration and Congress will take the appropriate action under U.S. law at the earliest possible time.”

The Obama administration, for its part, acted almost immediately. By Monday afternoon it was already announcing that funding would be cut off, and that UNESCO would not get about $60 million due on Nov. 1.

“Palestinian membership as a state in UNESCO triggers longstanding legislative restrictions which will compel the United States to refrain from making contributions to UNESCO,” said a statement from Victoria Nuland, the State Department spokeswoman.

Some supporters of the Obama administration’s multilateralism, however, expressed concern about the impact that the tough U.S. line on UNESCO would have on American influence.

“Here is this old law, first written in 1990 and updated in 1994, compelling a drastic measure that doesn’t fit the offense,” said Matt Duss, a policy analyst for the Center for American Progress.

Duss outlined what he said were gains that the Obama administration has made at the United Nations: intensifying international sanctions isolating Iran and increasing awareness of human rights abuses in that country.

“The re-engagement at the United Nations has been an important agenda item for the U.S.; it’s done a lot of good,” he said. “Part of that influence is to Israel’s benefit.”

Pulling funding from UNESCO also could jeopardize many non-controversial programs administered by the body, including tsunami early-warning systems and clean water efforts in poor countries.

Conservative critics, however, reject the assertion that taking a tough line with the UN harms American interests.

“Can someone explain to me why it is this is a problem for the United States? It’s a problem for UNESCO,” said Danielle Pletka, vice president for foreign and defense policy studies at the American Enterprise Institute.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/news/israel/u-s-reacts-swiftly-to-unesco-vote-on-palestinians/2011/11/08/

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