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Defunding UNESCO

 November 02, 2012
By Jamal Kanj

Lead by Israel on October 31st, the US and its truckling planetary ring of countries voted against Palestine’s full membership at the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).

Nations like Palau and Vanuatu, which were challenging for me to pronounce and locate on the world map, joined with Israel, US, Canada and Germany rejecting Palestine’s entry to the UN organization. Furious over the overwhelming UNESCO’s General Assembly vote, the US decided to defund the UN organization.

The ill-advised US decision reminded me of a discussion I had a while back with a colleague on abortion rights. The person was expressing his dismay with the US court position legalizing abortion, stating: “I don’t want my tax money to support abortion.” For which I retorted: and I don’t want my money to support the military industrial complex.

I continued: if every tax payer had the privilege to withhold taxes from programs they disagreed with, there would be no public funding for many of the essential services provided by the government, like your son’s college financial aid.

This takes us back to US’ displeasure with the international community vote to admit Palestine to UNESCO. Voting at UN agencies is almost always not unanimous. Imagine then, if each country disagreeing with a UN vote decides to withhold its contribution to the respective UN agency. Will there be a UN today?

No single nation should be allowed to blackmail the collective well of the international community in order to serve local political gains by self-centered politicians seeking parochial votes and money. This is certainly the case in the US where pro Israel Jewish money and votes are coveted by political hopefuls from both parties.

The US and its submissive voting club at UN organizations, like Samoa and the Solomon Islands as well as the aforementioned nations, counted for less than 10 percent of the votes at UNESCO on October 31st. Yet by flexing its financial muscle, the US wants to overrule the international community’s vote of more than one hundred nations.

Undoubtedly at twenty two percent of UNESCO’s annual budget, the US funding is considerable. However, the US benevolent contributions were not merely altruistic. For the funding allowed the US to direct substantial resources from UNESCO and other UN organizations to its war zones.

For instance, following the war and occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan, the number of UNESCO staffing and programs in these countries reached unprecedented levels.

The lack of funding will likely lead to reduction in UNESCO services and staffing forcing the US to supplant the war necessitated UNESCO programs with US personnel and money. Or else, the lack of these programs will undeniably weaken US efforts to establish lasting peace in these countries.

While UNESCO is expected to suffer from the shortfall in US funding, the US will correspondingly lose its influence over UNESCO’s global programs, as it did for 16 years when Reagan pulled the US out of UNESCO in 1984.

The US vote against Palestine’s full UNESCO membership was influenced by Israel’s lobby and its twisted view of the never ending peace negotiation. By being on the wrong side of the UNESCO vote, America has nothing to gain but international isolation and Arab public resentment for supporting Israel’s irrational disregard to international norms.