US to quit UNESCO over anti-Israel bias: report

Thu 12 October 2017 12:27 GMT | 16:27 Local Time

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The United States is planning on quitting UNESCO over its perceived anti-Israel bias.

The decision comes as part of the Trump administration's attempts to slash its funding to the organization, which it owes some $500 million, the report said. But Trump reportedly wants to withdraw the US from the cultural agency entirely, citing the passing of a number of proposals which have singled out Israel for criticism, including a resolution declaring the Old City of Hebron, to be Palestinian territory and a world heritage site.Hebron is home to the imposing Tomb of the Patriarchs, the resting place of the Biblical figures Jacob, Isaac and Abraham and an important religious site to Muslims and Jews alike.US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley at the time called the decision an "affront to history" and announced that Washington would evaluate "the appropriate level of its continued engagement at UNESCO."

The organization has voted through several decision that have enraged Israel, particularly resolutions that appear to downplay or omit the importance of holy sites in Jerusalem and West Bank to Judaism.

Trump would not be the first US President to withdraw support from UNESCO.Trump's predecessor Barack Obama slashed US funding to the organization in 2011 after it voted to accept Palestine as a full member-state.Former president Ronald Reagan quit the organization altogether in the 1980's. The US only rejoined under the administration of President George W. Bush some two decades later.The global heritage and conservation body is currently in the midst of electing a new head, with Qatari candidate Hamad bin Abdulaziz Al- Kawari and French-Jewish candidate Audrey Azoulay currently leading the field. None of the candidates expressly mentioned the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in their pitches for the body's helm, but many are indeed focused on what they see as the organization's politicization.

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