The deeply corrupt (herehere and here), highly politicized (here and here) United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) will vote later this week on declaring Jericho, an ancient Jewish city, a “World Heritage Site in Palestine.”

UNESCO is convening in Saudi Arabia from September 10-25 for its 45th session and to vote on new sites to include for its World Heritage List. The Palestinian Authority submitted a nomination of Jericho, which it wants to rename Tell es-Sultan.


If UNESCO votes to declare (yet another) ancient Jewish city a Palestinian heritage site, it will not only amount to a falsification of history but also exacerbate tensions in the region toward the widespread war that Iran and its proxies have openly been trying to provoke (herehere and here). In addition, this interference in the Israeli-Arab conflict is one Arab conflict in which the UN body has no authority to meddle: UNESCO’s purpose is to promote “international cooperation in education, sciences, culture, communication and information” which it is supposed to do through “knowledge sharing and the free flow of ideas.” Nowhere does it say that UNESCO has the least right to meddle in ongoing conflicts and create make-believe “facts” on the ground.

This illegitimate imposition is not the first time that UNESCO is putting on display its anti-Israel bias, penchant for faking history and an impressive tradition of lying (herehereherehere and here).

In 2010, UNESCO renamed the Jewish site of Rachel’s Tomb the “Bilal Bin Rabah Mosque,” stating that it was part of “occupied Palestine.” In addition, UNESCO criticized Israel for including Rachel’s Tomb on its heritage list, and urged it to remove it from the list. The resolution also criticized Israel for including the Cave of the Patriarchs in Hebron on its national heritage list, as UNESCO considers both Hebron and the Cave of the Patriarchs to be Islamic sites, having renamed the cave the Al-Ibrahimi Mosque. At the time, only the US voted against these straight-faced falsifications of Jewish history.

In 2016, UNESCO declared Jerusalem’s Temple Mount – site of the two biblical Jewish temples – “a Muslim holy site of worship” and mentioned it only by its Islamic names, the “Al-Aqsa Mosque/Al-Haram Al-Sharif.” It also renamed the Western Wall — a retaining wall which is all that remains of the Jewish Second Temple that was destroyed by the Roman Legions in 70 CE — “Al-Buraq Plaza”.

At the time, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said:

“This time they decided that the Tomb of the Patriarchs in Hebron is a Palestinian site, meaning that it is not Jewish, and that the site is in danger. Not a Jewish site?! Who is buried there? Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Sarah, Rebecca and Leah – our patriarchs and matriarchs! And the site is in danger? It is only in those places where Israel is, such as Hebron, that freedom of religion for all is ensured.”

In 2017, President Donald Trump announced that the United States would leave UNESCO altogether, primarily because of its anti-Israel prejudice. The Trump administration referred to “mounting arrears at UNESCO, the need for fundamental reform in the organization, and continuing anti-Israel bias at UNESCO” as reasons for the decision.

In December 2018, the US withdrew from the UN. It was not, however, the first time that the US had withdrawn. Under President Ronald Reagan, in 1984, the US had also withdrawn from the organization, stating:

“UNESCO has extraneously politicized virtually every subject it deals with. It has exhibited hostility toward a free society, especially a free market and a free press, and it has demonstrated unrestrained budgetary expansion.”

Corruption, politicization, and the falsification history do not appear, however, to bother the Biden administration in the least. In July 2023, the United States rejoined UNESCO, even though the organization has been called “a byword for inefficiency, nepotism and corruption” and was cited “among the most corrupt and politically biased UN agencies.”

Not only is the Biden administration rejoining the organization, it will also be paying more than $600 million taxpayer dollars to UNESCO in back dues. The US stopped financing UNESCO in 2011 after the organization invited “Palestine” to become a full member.

Unsurprisingly, the US and its tax dollars were greeted with open arms by UNESCO’s director general, Audrey Azoulay, who clearly understands how much unwarranted legitimacy US membership grants the corrupt organization.

“It is a strong act of confidence in UNESCO and in multilateralism,” she said when she told the body’s member states in Paris about Biden’s decision to rejoin.

The excuse that the Biden administration made for rejoining the corrupt UN organization was that it was necessary “to counter China” – a pretext instantly shot down by former National Security Advisor and former US Ambassador to the United Nations, John R. Bolton:

“Biden’s excuse for rejoining UNESCO is to counter rising Chinese influence.

“The State Department argues, for example, that ‘we can’t afford to be absent any longer from one of the key fora in which standards around education for science and technology are set.’

“This claim is entirely specious. There is little to no need for America to rejoin UNESCO to prevent harmful Chinese influence.

“UNESCO ‘standards’ for any sort of education are irrelevant, if not harmful to real education, as we’ve learned over many painful decades…

‘The UN General Assembly and Human Rights Council have also become essentially irrelevant, leaving only the question of which UN specialized and technical agencies are still worth protecting.

“Some certainly are, such as the World Intellectual Property Organization and the International Maritime Organization.

“But UNESCO, which never had a clearly defined mission, fails under any sensible cost-benefit analysis.

“Biden is making precisely the same mistake as Obama, and, if Biden proceeds further, Congress should firmly block any UNESCO funding, as it has consistently done.”

The readmission of the United States to UNESCO will “help us address a key opportunity cost that our absence is creating in our global competition with China,” according to Undersecretary of State for Management John Bass.

“If we’re really serious about the digital-age competition with China, … we can’t afford to be absent any longer from one of the key fora in which standards around education for science and technology are set.”

That is nonsense. Spending US taxpayer dollars on and legitimizing a massively corrupt organization, which does not, or should not be, “setting the standards” for anything, does nothing to counter China, Russia, North Korea or Iran, but does do a lot to demoralize those countries hoping that the US will still be the leader of the Free World. UNESCO’s corruption, with America’s backing, is simply driving these countries still further into the waiting arms of China.

If US membership in UNESCO is to have any purpose at all, the least the Biden administration can do with its taxpayer dollars is all it can to prevent Jericho from becoming a “Heritage site in Palestine.”

For a start, there is no “State of Palestine.” In fact, until 1964, there was not even a “Palestinian people”. As published in an interview with James Dorsey in the Dutch news outlet Trouw on March 31, 1977, Palestinian leader Zoheir Mohsen confirmed:

“The Palestinian people does not exist. The creation of a Palestinian state is only a means for continuing our struggle against the state of Israel for our Arab unity. In reality, today there is no difference between Jordanians, Palestinians, Syrians and Lebanese. Only for political and tactical reasons do we speak today about the existence of a Palestinian people, since Arab national interests demand that we posit the existence of a distinct Palestinian people to oppose Zionism.

“For tactical reasons, Jordan, which is a sovereign state with defined borders, cannot raise claims to Haifa and Jaffa, while as a Palestinian, I can undoubtedly demand Haifa, Jaffa, Beer-Sheva and Jerusalem. However, the moment we reclaim our right to all of Palestine, we will not wait even a minute to unite Palestine and Jordan.”

The only times there were Palestinians was around 135 CE, when the Roman Empire renamed Judea to “Syria Palaestina” to strip it of its Jewish identity– or from April 1920, during the British Mandate for Palestine, until Israel declared its independence in 1948. During the British Mandate, Muslims, Christians, and Jews all had “Palestine” on their passports.

Until 1918, the area was part of the Ottoman Empire, although never administrated independently or as a whole territorial unit. In April 1920, the Ottoman regions that are now Israel and Jordan were handed over to Great Britain to administer, and the regions that are now Syria and Lebanon were handed to France.

The Philistines (from whom the term “Palestine” came), in antiquity, also came to the area — often referred to as Canaan — mainly from Crete.

It is important to remember: Until the seventh century there were not even any Muslims in the world, let alone Palestinians. The Qur’an was reportedly only begun in approximately 609 CE, more than a millennium after Joshua in 1,400 BCE conquered the ancient city of Jericho (which dates back to 9,000 BCE). Now a “Heritage Site in Palestine” – presumably to avoid saying “A Palestinian Heritage Site” – obliquely refers to a people who were not even there at the time, and whose identity was lifted, with changes and embellishments, more than two millennia later, from the Jews, who were there at the time. Ibrahim is the Arabic name for Abraham, Moussa is Moses, Youssef is Joseph, Yacoub is Jacob, Daoud is David, Jibril is Gabriel, Suleyman is Solomon, Issa is Jesus, and scores more. How is that for “cultural appropriation”?

In 2021, UNESCO published a handbook: “Journalism, ‘Fake News’ and Disinformation: A Handbook for Journalism Education and Training.” Perhaps the good folks at UNESCO might read it before they vote?

Failing that, the US Congress should “should firmly block any UNESCO funding, as it has consistently done” — as Bolton suggested.

(Robert Williams is a researcher based in the US)


{Reposted from Gatestone Institute}


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