UNESCO and the Palestinian Authority: Will the Administration Circumvent or Uphold the Law?
The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO)'s 36th General Conference is convening from October 25 to November 10 in Paris, where it is scheduled to take up the Palestinian bid for membership. Should it pass, the U.S., which contributes $80 million (22%) of UNESCO's budget, would be mandated by U.S. law to cut off funding.
Although UNESCO has no power to confer statehood, Palestinian admittance to this U.N. body will be a launching pad to attack all Jewish and Christian historical claims to the land of Israel. UNESCO has already been complicit in Palestinian historical revisionism when it voted that two of Judaism's holiest sites, the Cave of the Patriarchs and Rachel's Tomb, are not Israel's heritage sites, but mosques. Palestinians will most likely leverage their UNESCO membership to claim the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem and the Western Wall of the Temple as wholly Palestinian heritage sites. The Palestinian Authority has already issued a paper denying Jewish connection to the Western Wall.
Palestinian claims to sacred Jewish sites can't possibly be based on religious connections. Consider that the Temple Mount is currently being used for picnics and soccer games by Palestinians, and when Palestinians gained control over Joseph's Tomb, they tried to burn it down -- twice. The purpose of laying claim to Jewish holy sites is to erase over 3,000 years of Jewish presence in the land. Denying Jewish history is a stepping stone to denying a Jewish future.
Responding to the UNESCO executive board approval of the Palestinian bid earlier this month, the U.S. warned UNESCO that it could lose U.S. contributions. Meanwhile, a bipartisan group of ten House members issued a strong letter to UNESCO Executive Director Irina Bokova calling on UNESCO not to move forward with consideration of Palestinian membership. The letter, signed by the heads of the House Appropriations State and Foreign Ops subcommittee, Kay Granger (R-TX) and Nita Lowey (D-NY); Jerry Lewis (R-CA); Tom Cole (R-OK); Jesse Jackson, Jr. (D-IL); Steve Austria (R-IL); Charles Dent (R-PA); Mario Diaz-Balart (R-FL); and Adam Schiff (D-CA), states:
We ... respectfully request that you do everything in your power to ensure that the Palestine Liberation Organization's application to become a Member State does not come before the UNESCO General Conference[.] ... Any recognition of Palestine as a Member State would not only jeopardize the hope for a resumption of direct Israeli-Palestinian negotiations, but would endanger the United States' contribution to UNESCO.
U.S. law prohibits giving funds to the United Nations or any U.N. agency that grants the Palestine Liberation Organization the same standing as member-states. U.S. Code Title 22, Section 287e, states, "No funds authorized to be appropriated by this act or any other act shall be available for the United Nations or any specialized agency thereof which accords the Palestine Liberation Organization the same standing as member states" (P.L. 101-246, Title IV). Another law (P.L. 103-236, Title IV) bars U.S. contributions "to any affiliated organization of the United Nations which grants full membership as a state to any organization or group that does not have the internationally recognized attributes of statehood."
Palestinian membership in UNESCO would also grant immediate membership in the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) and the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO). The PLO is expected to submit its application to other U.N. bodies, including the IAEA, WTO, WHO, World Bank, and others. The U.S. would be required to stop any funding of these agencies which accept the Palestinian bid.
U.S. law is clear. However, recent reports indicate that the U.S. administration is looking for a way to circumvent the law. According to the New York Times, "[n]either the Obama administration nor Unesco wants the cutoff to happen, and diplomats are desperately negotiating with Congress, the Palestinians and other Unesco member states to find a resolution that will preserve the agency's budget."
Again, U.S. law is clear. U.S. policy should be equally clear. The U.S. checkbook is closed to U.N. bodies which violate international agreements, sabotage historical rights, and undermine the possibility of peace.