AJC Decries UNESCO Acceptance of Palestine

October 31, 2011 – New York – “This is a sad day for UNESCO,” said AJC Executive Director David Harris, after the world body voted today to accept the non-existent state of Palestine as a full member.

“Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas knows that neither UNESCO nor any other UN agency can deliver a state for his people,” said Harris. “Only direct talks with Israel, as U.S. President Barack Obama has said, can bring about a two-state solution within the context of a comprehensive peace accord.”

The vote was 107 in favor and 14 opposed, with 52 abstentions. The United States, Canada and Germany were among those nations voting against Palestinian membership. Russia, China and France supported the Palestinian bid.

“We applaud the 66 nations that refused to go along with this counter-productive Palestinian gambit,” Harris said. “Shame on the other governments who opted for political convenience over the hard and necessary work of advancing the peace process.”

U.S. contributions account for 22 percent of UNESCO’s budget, or about $80 million. But a law passed in the 1990s prohibits U.S. funding of a UN body that admits any organization “that does not have the internationally recognized attributes of statehood.”

“The real tragedy for UNESCO is that this shortsighted Palestinian initiative could severely weaken the global organization,” said Harris. "Attention will now turn to Washington and the relevant U.S. law."

Of relevance, the U.S. had withheld its funding of UNESCO and withdrew from the organization in 1984, saying the organization had become politicized and poorly managed. Following UNESCO’s efforts at reform, the U.S. rejoined in 2003.
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