During the 2016 presidential campaign, Donald Trump often voiced his criticisms of NATO and the UN insofar as they drained America’s coffers and harmed America’s global interests. Now, as President, Mr. Trump has moved to strike back against at least one operational arm of the United Nations.
This week it was announced that the Trump administration will be pulling the United States out of UNESCO due to “anti-Israel” bias. State Department spokesperson Heather Nauert reiterated that the US is still interested in participating in UNESCO as a “non-member observer, however.
Nauert added that the Trump administration’s decision to leave UNESCO was not an easy one: “This decision was not taken lightly, and reflects US concerns with mounting arrears at UNESCO, the need for fundamental reform in the organization, and continuing anti-Israel bias at UNESCO.”
The official withdrawal will go into effect on December 31, 2018.
UNESCO may seem, to outsiders, like one of the more harmless organizations under the UN umbrella. After all, UNESCO works to preserve historic sites with its World Heritage program, plus UNESCO is deeply involved in funding scientific research and childhood education throughout the developing world.
However, despite UNESCO’s role in promoting education about the Holocaust, many American conservative groups have long denounced UNESCO and the UN for supporting and sustaining an anti-Israel, pro-Palestinian bias.
Commentary writer Sohrab Ahmari characterized the UNESCO’s culture of antisemitism by tweeting out a rundown of a planned minute of silence for Holocaust victims. The moment was hijacked by a Cuban diplomat, who not only told the body that only the Chair of UNESCO could call a minute of silence, but that his delegation and others were going to stand in silence for “all the Palestinians who have died in the region.”
— Sohrab Ahmari (@SohrabAhmari) October 12, 2017
President Trump, like fellow Republican Presidents George W. Bush, George H.W. Bush, and Ronald Reagan, sees Israel as America’s greatest ally in the Middle East. Therefore, the UN and UNESCO’s culture of anti-Israel sentiment is seen as an attack on one of America’s key international partnerships.
While the announcement may have caught some in the media off guard, the US stopped funding UNESCO back in 2011 after the body decided to include a Palestinian representative.
Similarly, the United States pulled out of UNESCO in the 1980s due to financial mismanagement and a belief that UNESCO was being manipulated for political, specifically pro-Communist, anti-West ends.
America did not rejoin until 2003.
Following the Trump administration’s decision, Israel similarly decided to leave UNESCO. In a prepared statement, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu congratulated the Trump administration for its “bravery.”
“This is a brave and moral decision, because Unesco has become a theatre of absurd. Instead of preserving history, it distorts it,” Netanyahu said.
So far, the United Nations has only tepidly complained that America and Israel have done damage to the international body’s mission of promoting world peace.
“At the time when conflicts continue to tear apart societies across the world, it is deeply regrettable for the United States to withdraw from the United Nations agency promoting education for peace and protecting culture under attack,” said UNESCO director general, Irina Bokova. “This is a loss to the United Nations family. This is a loss for multilateralism.”
President Trump’s decision conveys the US’ strong relations with Israel, standing in stark contrast with the lackluster efforts of the previous administration.