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UNESCO to be hurt by US withholding of funds

by TonyBerkman (editor), Costa Rica, November 02, 2011

Monday's vote to allow the Palestinians into UNESCO will threaten the agencies' ability to provide services to those most in need.

M.J. Rosenberg wrote in Al Jazeera what he calls "the UNESCO mess." Rosenberg claims that the United States is committed to carry out Israeli' wishes whether it is in U.S. national interests or not. Rosenberg uses the term Israeli wishes and not interests since he believes that it is not really a matter of Israeli interests being hurt by the Palestinian move. Rosenberg fails to recognize the interests of those in the world whose lives will immediately be affected by the decision the Palestinians to seek admission into UNESCO and the fact that it undermines efforts being made to achieve peace.

For Rosenberg the Palestinians' move is purely symbolic. In Jerusalem, however, Yigal Palmor, a spokesman for Israel’s Foreign Ministry, said the Palestinian strategy will not only undermine the peace talks, but also could cause grave damage to the workings of the United Nations. “There will be huge collateral damage for the working of international institutions,” he said.

The reason the Palestinian strategy will hurt international institutions and world communities is the Palestinians "triggered" a long-standing congressional ban on US funding to UN bodies that recognize Palestine as a state before an Israeli-Palestinian peace deal is reached. By triggering the U.S. law the Palestinians have effectively cut funding to UNESCO, estimated to be approximately 22% of UNESCO's budget. This in turn will seriously hamper UNESCO purpose to bring clean water to the poor, promote educational and curriculum building in the developing world, and managing the tsunami early warning system in the Pacific.

In the 1990's the U.S. Congress passed legislation that prohibits the U.S.from funding any UN body that admits Palestine as a member before there is a Peace Deal. There is no provision for the president to waive any of these prohibitions.

The Palestinians quite aware of the global repurcussions and to the health and welfare of those most in need have stated that their strategy is to continue to join as many other UN agencies as possible. According to a Palestinian envoy in Geneva, joining UNESCO opens the door for us to join 16 other UN agencies within the coming weeks. The impact of the US not funding these agencies is not yet clear though it is crystal clear that there will be global repurcussions that will affect those least able to fend for themselves. The Palestinians fails to "get this."

“Now we are studying when we are going to move for full membership on the other UN agencies,” Khraishi said. “It’s our target (to become members of ) international organizations and the UN agencies.” “We are working on it, one by one,” he said. “Because it’s now precedent that we are a full member in one of the biggest and one of the most important UN agencies, UNESCO. So it will open the door for us now to go further in our efforts to join other UN agencies.” The Palestinians have been denied full membership into the United Nations however individual agencies are entitled to admit members based on a majority vote of the agency.

It was not a surprise to UNESCO or the Palestinians that the Obama administration was forced to cut off funding after Monday’s vote as this law has been on the books since the 1980s. US officials have warned (the Palestinians and the UN) of a “cascade” effect at other UN bodies that might follow suit.

Despite warnings and concerns by some US officials, on both sides of the aisle, that halting US funding of UN agencies will lead to less US influence, the alternative will have more dire and deadly implications for those around the globe, that depend on the U.N. for health and human services. It will also undermine the Peace Process which is a key to a future stable world.

Support prevails even though politicians admit that it is disastrous for the U.S. "While leading senators in both parties acknowledge that such an outcome would be negative for U.S. interests and influence, they have no intention of intervening to change the law. To the contrary, several top senators in both parties told say they support the policy and will work to enforce it, despite the consequences."

Given the importance of Peace in the Middle East it is understandable why the U.S. would not want to change this law. It is Peace in the Middle East that is of utmost importance to achieving a peaceful world. There are many in the U.S., Canada and Israel who would be pleased though if the U.S. withdrew completely from the "puppet" run UN.

Canada has also deplored the admission of Palestine to UNESCO. It will likely cut some funding that it provides to the organisation. Canada doesn't have a law requiring this but the Prime Minister seeks a peaceful solution to the problems in the Middle East and like the U.S. does not believe that the admission of the Palestinians into UNESCO will help to achieve this ultimate outcome.

On Tuesday Palestinian authorities alleged that hackers disabled the PalTel, the Palestinian internet provider. Palestinian official allege that attack was 'organized by 20 or more foreign countries, connected to Palestine’s UNESCO membership. PalTel recorded some 1 million attacks per second on the Palestinian grid, a coordinated effort disrupting services across the occupied territories. However, PalTel on early Tuesday morning said that a technical fault was to blame for the outage.

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2 comments on UNESCO to be hurt by US withholding of funds

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By MUGISHO N.THEOPHILE on November 03, 2011 at 01:59 am

Palestine deserve the right to be part of UNESCO and a free country.

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By TonyBerkman on November 03, 2011 at 02:30 am

They do they there are also consequences that they were aware of. The United Nations did not accept Palestine in. There needs to be Peace between the Israelis' and the Palestinians. This seems like a move that is disruptive to the Peace Process and not good for the people that are helped by aid that the US gives to UNESCO. It seems like a bad move for the world as it doesn't factor in the ultimate effects. Israel and the Palestinians need to sign a Peace Agreement. Then they need to start seeing each other as decent humans. This does not further that goal. In fact it hurts it.

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