Israel and the US officially quit UNESCO

The United States and Israel officially quit the U.N.'s educational, scientific, and cultural agency at midnight, January 1, as both states cite the organization's anti-Israeli bias.

The Associated Press reports, "The Paris-based organization has been denounced by its critics as a crucible for anti-Israel bias: blasted for criticizing Israel's occupation of east Jerusalem, naming ancient Jewish sites as Palestinian heritage sites and granting full membership to Palestine [sic] in 2011."

What's not to hate?

The withdrawals will not greatly impact UNESCO financially, since it has been dealing with a funding slash ever since 2011, when both Israel and the U.S. stopped paying dues after Palestine [sic] was voted in as a member state.  Since then officials estimate that the U.S. – which accounted for around 22 percent of the total budget – has accrued $600 million in unpaid dues, which was one of the reasons for President Donald Trump's decision to withdraw.  Israel owes an estimated $10 million.

UNESCO Director General Audrey Azoulay took up her post just after Trump announced the pullout.  Azoulay, who has Jewish and Moroccan heritage, has presided over the launch of a Holocaust education website and the U.N.'s first educational guidelines on fighting anti-Semitism – initiatives that might be seen as responding to U.S. and Israeli concerns.

They put up a website on the Holocaust, and this is supposed to make up for all the Holocaust-denying members?  Sheesh.

In recent years, Israel has been infuriated by repeated resolutions that ignore and diminish its historical connection to the Holy Land and that have named ancient Jewish sites as Palestinian heritage sites.

The State Department couldn't comment because of the U.S. government shutdown.  Earlier, the department told UNESCO officials the U.S. intends to stay engaged at UNESCO as a non-member "observer state" on "non-politicized" issues, including the protection of World Heritage sites, advocating for press freedoms and promoting scientific collaboration and education.

The U.S. could potentially seek that status during UNESCO Executive Board meetings in April.

If UNESCO could be seen as a neutral organization that recognized the legitimacy of Israel's security concerns and cultural heritage, the organization would be relatively harmless.  But as with most other U.N. agencies and the U.N. in general, virulent anti-Semitism reigns.

Israel needs not U.S. "protection," but solidarity in recognizing that the attempt to name Jewish heritage sites as Palestinian is completely unacceptable from a historical point of view.  In fact, many Muslims do not recognize Jewish presence in Israel prior to Islam's creation, even preventing Israeli scientists and archeologists from examining significant finds on Muslim-occupied soil. 

The U.S. is finally using its huge financial contributions to the U.N. to challenge the ideological orthodoxy of member-states.  We should now put the world body on notice that it risks our annual contributions to funding all of its agencies, including the Security Council, if it doesn't institute meaningful reforms.