Hypocritically We Stand: UNESCO, Palestine and America

Once again Israel’s
iron grip on American foreign policy in the Middle East
has been vividly demonstrated, and once again the United
States has humiliated itself in the eyes of
the world.

On October 31 UNESCO, the United
Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, voted overwhelmingly
to grant Palestine full membership
in the organization.  Of the 173 nations
voting 107 voted in favor, 14 voted against and 52 abstained.  Among those voting against the resolution
were the United States,
Canada, Germany
and Holland, while Italy
and Britain
abstained.  David Killion the US
ambassador to UNESCO, called the initiative “counterproductive” and
certain to “harm negotiations,” though he did not explain how.  The apparently aptly named Israeli ambassador,
Nimrod Barkan, called the vote a tragedy, also neglecting to explain why that
is so.

Israel’s
loudest voice in the US Congress, Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, demanded
immediately that the government honor two petty and now obsolete laws passed in
the nineties and cut off the US
contribution to UNESCO.  As a result
UNESCO has now lost 22% of its $653 million budget.  Ros-Lehtinen, incidentally, has over her
career received $203,240 from pro-Israeli PACS.
It is apparently not just Wall Street that has been buying American
politicians.

While there are many legitimate
reasons to criticize the UN, since the major reforms of UNESCO in the last
decade the agency has received only praise for its work around the world.  Even former Rep. Tom Lantos, another staunch defender
of Israel and a
Holocaust survivor, spoke highly of the organization.  The recent reforms seem to have eliminated
the waste and corruption and transformed the agency from a sometime anti-American
platform to an arm of the UN that is actually focused on its mandated duties.  These include decades of cooperation with the
Palestinians building the cultural and educational infrastructure in the Occupied
Territories and attempting to
protect historically and culturally important sites around the planet.  Ironically, UNESCO has been working with the US
in developing Afghanistan,
particularly in the area of education.

In 1984 President Reagan took the US
out of UNESCO because of concerns that the organization was a mouthpiece for
the communists, but President Bush rejoined it in 2003, a demonstration of the
impact of the reforms.  Israel, on the
other hand, was booted out of the agency in 1974 for the damage being done in
its excavations on the
Temple Mount, but was reinstated in 1977 when the US threatened to withhold $40
billion in contributions.  In 2010 UNESCO
complaints about the Israeli destruction of Palestinian historical sites caused
Israel to
suspend cooperation with the organization, the Israeli foreign minister suggesting that the complaints were
part of a Palestinian scheme to discredit Israel.

Solely because of domestic political
concerns – criticize Israel
and you do not get reelected – the US
relationship with Israel
has become the “passionate attachment” that George Washington warned
against in his Farewell Address.  Continuing
and unqualified support for the Jewish state despite their increasingly
outrageous behavior and the violation of every international covenant we have signed
has seriously tarnished America’s image not just in the Arab world but around
the globe and marked us as the hypocrites that we have become.  As an example, we maintain that for some
unexplained reasons Palestine being a member of UNESCO would hinder the peace negotiations
(that have achieved nothing in the last twenty years), yet we say little and do
absolutely nothing about Israel’s continued construction of settlements in conquered
territory, a clear violation of international law and a recognized and real hindrance
to negotiations.  Even Germany,
whose relations with Israel
are for obvious reasons very delicate, is considering holding up the sale of
submarines to Israel
because of their plan to build more settlements in Arab Jerusalem.

Ironically, our credibility has
suffered even more under President Obama, whose election brought the
expectation of an at least somewhat more balanced policy in the region.  He is probably sympathetic to the plight of
the Palestinians and certainly despises Prime Minister Netanyahu, but he of
course desires to be reelected and for all his beautiful speeches he has done absolutely
nothing and has silently suffered constant insults from our “ally.”  Well, in this instance he can claim his hands
were tied by laws passed by the Congress, but not too loudly.

I am mightily ashamed of my country,
as are many caring Israelis about theirs.

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