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November 1, 2011
Washington is cutting off all U.S. funding for the U.N. Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) because its members voted 107 to 14 (with 52 abstentions) to approve the Palestinian Authority’s full membership in the organization. That means a cutoff of $60 million in U.S. funds due this month.
House Foreign Affairs Committee chair Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), who has accepted a career total of $203,240 in pro-Israel PAC contributions, called yesterday’s UNESCO vote “reckless” and “anti-peace” and demanded the U.S. defund UNESCO over the Palestinian vote. She and other members of Congress who care more about Israel than America are citing two laws (Public Law 101-246, passed in 1990, and 103-236 Title IV, passed in 1994) to prohibit U.S. funding to any U.N. agency that accepts the PLO (the Palestinian Liberation Organization) or Palestinians as full members.
These laws are archaic and should have been repealed long ago, especially after Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and PLO Chairman Yasser Arafat exchanged letters (the Declaration of Principles) in 1993 recognizing each other’s right to exist.
By defunding UNESCO Washington will likely jeopardize:
Including press freedom around the world, art, creative writing and music programs, literacy programs for women in Afghanistan and children in Iraq. Other programs include peace building in Somalia, illiteracy in India, education and housing for blind street children in Vietnam. UNESCO’s educational programs seek to prevent culture and religion from being used as tools to incite hatred. Don’t Americans want to support these efforts?
UNESCO programs help build sustainable, green societies, and the agency recently launched a tsunami warning system in the Indian Ocean. Don’t Americans support these efforts?
UNESCO safeguards historic world heritage sites. It helped protect Libyan sites, such as Leptis Magna, from being destroyed in the recent NATO aerial attacks in Libya. UNESCO is trying desperately to prevent illicit trafficking of historic treasures, which is what occurred in Iraq during the U.S. invasion. If these treasures are lost, like so many Iraqi artifacts, it will be because UNESCO couldn’t pay its bills.
The U.S. defunded UNESCO once before, 18 years ago, but in 2002 Republican President George W. Bush rejoined UNESCO and praised its mission to advance human rights, tolerance and learning. Rep. Tom Lantos (D-CA), at the time the ranking Democrat on the U.S. House Committee on Foreign Affairs (and a Holocaust survivor), said, “In promoting education, and scientific collaboration worldwide, UNESCO addresses new threats to America’s security... UNESCO’s programs to promote understanding across cultures are a critical asset in our global effort to defeat the hatred that breeds terrorism.”
Individuals around the world do not have to stand by helplessly as these vital programs are threatened. We can step up and open our own wallets to donate to UNESCO. Visit its Web site, <http://whc.unesco.org/en/
donation>, and use your credit card to show UNESCO that we support the brave step its members took on Oct. 31, 2011 to support Palestinians and help protect Palestinian culture.
For more information watch a five-minute video of the grilling Associated Press reporter Matthew Lee gave State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland on the Obama administration's reaction to the UNESCO vote: http://www.youtube.com/watch?