Pursuant to Max’s post yesterday, I’d like to weigh in on UNESCO’s latest effort to persuade Washington to restore the funding it lost when it recognized “Palestine”: Quite aside from UNESCO’s anti-Israel animus (see, for instance, its erasure of Jewish history by declaring millennia-old Jewish holy sites to be Islamic), America shouldn’t be financing an “Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization” that thinks education, science and culture are best promoted by suppressing freedom of the press. The following Haaretz report is not a joke:
Israel’s ambassador to UNESCO didn’t know whether to laugh or cry when a senior official at the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization called him in for a tongue-lashing on Wednesday [November 9]. The reason? A cartoon published in Haaretz.
The November 4 cartoon, a riff on the government’s anger at UNESCO’s decision to accept Palestine as a full member, showed Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak sending an air force squadron to attack Iran, with Netanyahu ordering, “And on your way back, you’re gonna hit the UNESCO office in Ramallah!”
When he met with Eric Falt, UNESCO’s assistant director general for external relations and public information, Ambassador Nimrod Barkan was stunned to be handed a copy of this cartoon and an official letter of protest from UNESCO’s Director General Irina Bokova. Falt told Barkan the cartoon constituted incitement.
“A cartoon like this endangers the lives of unarmed diplomats, and you have an obligation to protect them,” Falt said, according to an Israeli source. “We understand that there is freedom of the press in Israel, but the government must prevent attacks on UNESCO.”
Barkan tried to explain that in Israel, the government doesn’t control the media, but to no avail. He might have added that if it did, Haaretz – a virulent critic of the Netanyahu government – would have been closed long since. He might further have added that Falt misunderstood the cartoon, which, far from encouraging attacks on UNESCO, was meant to heap scorn on Jerusalem’s anger at the organization: Haaretz, unlike the government, has largely supported the Palestinians’ UN bid, and it reliably opposes any and all Israeli military action. In other words, Falt’s censorship campaign was ironically aimed at one of the UN’s very few champions in Israel.
But that’s beside the point. The point is that UNESCO’s agenda, like that of many other UN agencies, is often antithetical to America’s. That isn’t what Harry Truman intended when he pushed to establish the UN in 1945; he saw it as a tool for promoting American values. But since the “one country, one vote” principle gives the UN’s anti-democratic (and anti-American) majority automatic control, many of its organs have instead become tools for promoting anti-American values – with America underwriting 22 percent of the cost.
Clearly, America shouldn’t quit the UN entirely. But at a time of fiscal austerity, it’s far from clear it ought to continue funding every last UN agency. Instead, Washington should put some of the worst offenders, like the Human Rights Council, on notice: Either shape up, or kiss your U.S. funding good-bye.