US loses UNESCO Voting Rights: How Kow-Towing to Israeli Policy Weakens America

President Obama called America “the greatest country in the world” on Friday, but the same day the US lost basic voting rights on the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (Unesco). The US stopped paying its dues in fall of 2011 because Unesco accepted Palestine (now a non-member observer state of the UN like the Vatican) as a member. Among Unesco’s recent activities has been helping with cultural recovery in earthquake-stricken Haiti.


Palestine Ambassador and Permanent Delegate at Unesco H.E. Elias Sanbar

Although the US says it favors a state of Palestine, in fact it has been rather gleefully helping screw over the Palestinians since 1948 and has de facto gone along with virtually any new outrage the Israelis could think up to inflict on them, from putting the children of Gaza ‘on a diet’ to gradually usurping the best land and water resources on the West Bank. Whenever the international community tried to pressure Israel to stop, and to allow stateless Palestinians to have the basic rights of citizenship and property, the US used its veto at the UNSC to ensure the Palestinians were kept down. Now, for the sake of making sure no one recognizes Palestine as a state, the US has cut off its $22 million a year dues to Unesco and has lost its voting rights on the committee.

This childish behavior, of taking your marbles and going home if you can’t win the playground game, is not befitting a superpower, and has the opposite effect of the one hoped for. It reduces US influence in the world and harms the American interest in seeing Unesco activities succeed. Are we really uninterested in preserving the world’s cultural heritage or in influencing world educational ideals?

It is an example in miniature of how US slavish acquiescence in aggressive and expansionist Israeli policy is hobbling the US, not increasing its stature.

Founded in 1945 and coming into force in 1946, Unesco has been important in preserving world heritage and archeological sites and promoting education and culture. Ironically, the US was recently using it to promote “Holocaust awareness” and to educate against genocide in Africa.

Unesco does so much worthy work that it deserves to have the US $22 million replaced. If 22 million people each gave a dollar a year, that would do it. But Unesco needs to join the 21st century– its Cultural Diversity contribution page doesn’t allow paypal or credit cards, just checks and bank wires! If somebody there were on the ball, they could start achieving a relationship with the world public and stop being so dependent on big states, and could get funded properly in that way.

In the meantime, American hawks who complain that the US is losing influence by having withdrawn militarily from Iraq and from declining to get involved militarily in Syria have it all wrong. Quagmires don’t increase your influence. But the US withdrawal from Unesco in a fit of pique over a Palestinian diplomatic achievement, now that is a loss of influence. And it demonstrates how knee-jerk US support for Likud Party policy is a liability for US foreign policy and makes the US less effective.

30 Responses

  1. Knee jerk reactions? Look who’s talking John. Just mention the word “Israel” and you have script all written out.

    • “Knee jerk reactions? Look who’s talking John. Just mention the word “Israel” and you have script all written out.”

      And nowhere is that “knee-jerk reaction” more obvious than in Congress where Operation Cast Lead was approved by all but very few senators and representatives even though most people who could think for themselves, including the Goldstone Commission, saw that assault on Gaza as a major crime. There have been reports that some people in Congress are offended by some of Israel’s actions, but their “knee jerks” in obeisance to the Israel lobby mean whatever moral courage they might have is reserved for some other event.

      A few weeks after Operation Cast Lead, Israel’s “commander-in-chief” addressed Congress whose denizens rose 29 times like trained seals in a circus to give him a standing ovation. Yeah. Knee jerk is right.

    • Another knee-jerk reaction:

      “Sabotaging an Iran nuke deal: Israel’s leadership and America’s neocons are shifting into overdrive to block a plan that would put the brakes on Iran’s nuclear program, seeking confrontation, not conciliation, notes ex-CIA analyst Paul R. Pillar.” – link to consortiumnews.com

  2. “In the meantime, American hawks who complain that the US is losing influence by having withdrawn militarily from Iraq and from declining to get involved militarily in Syria have it all wrong.”

    And American voters keep returning these hawks and warmongers to Congress. So what does that say about the “American people”?

    • Uninformed. Couldn’t care less about other people. Easily entertained, yet susceptible to superstition (‘prophecy’), fanatically partisan, superiority complex, materialistic.

    • The American voters picked the candidate who promised Iraq withdrawal over the one who promised to continue the fight.

      The hawks your talking about are a minority. What does it say about the American people than such hawks represent a minority faction? It says that we are a house divided.

      • “The hawks your (sic) talking about are a minority.”

        But that minority is not a small one, and despite being a minority it managed to manipulate a majority of Congress and the American people into supporting the war on Iraq, one of the greatest crimes against humanity in this young century. Kind of like a cancer. It can only be a miniscule part of your body but enough to kill you.

        “The American voters picked the candidate who promised Iraq withdrawal over the one who promised to continue the fight.”

        The promised withdrawal was only one of several reasons Obama was re-elected. Another was that he was seen as the lesser evil. As for that withdrawal, Obama didn’t really want it when the time came, but the Iraqi government rejected Obama’s terms and the unglorious departure followed.

        • “The promised withdrawal was only one of several reasons Obama was re-elected. Another was that he was seen as the lesser evil.”

          Far from it, Mr. Bodden. Obama was re-elected because his supporters almost unanimously approved of him in a positive sense, not because they saw him as the “lesser evil.” Don’t project your own Narrative onto others.

    • And talking about accountability check this about one of the senate’s leading warmongers:

      John McCain says NSA chief Keith Alexander’ should resign or be fired’: Senator gives interview to Der Spiegel, saying general should ‘be held accountable’ for Edward Snowden leaks by Karen McVeigh – link to theguardian.com … “And now we have a contractor employee, not a government employee, who has access to information which is, when revealed, most damaging to the standing prestige of the United States and our relations with some of our best friends,” (Since when did friends spy on friends?) … “It’s outrageous, and someone ought to be held accountable.” (And the warmongers who got us into the Iraq war should be held accountable.) The full Spiegel interview is here – link to spiegel.de

  3. Americans’ sympathies lean heavily toward the Israelis over the Palestinians, 64% vs 12%. Support for Israel has increased over the last decade among Americans, according to Gallup.

    • And in another poll:

      “German trust in the United States plummets: The NSA spying scandals have taken a toll on Germans’ opinion of their longtime ally, according to a new survey. Mistrust in the United States has skyrocketed, and more Germans are viewing whistleblower Edward Snowden as a hero.”- link to spiegel.de

    • “Americans’ sympathies lean heavily toward the Israelis over the Palestinians, 64% vs 12%. Support for Israel has increased over the last decade among Americans, according to Gallup.”

      Perhaps there is a connection to this:

      “Paradise lost: Paranoia has undermined US democracy: While far from a dictatorship, the United States has employed a number of paranoid tactics that delegitimize its democracy. This phenomenon is on display in the fictional TV series “Homeland,” which depicts hysterical CIA agents in a hysterical country.” – link to spiegel.de

    • In the UN, Israel, the US and the island of Palau often vote together against reasonable initiatives from many regions throughout the globe. Consistently, over many decades now.

      At the end of the day, the rest of the world has learned that the consequences of the ignorance of America must be contained to America, if at all possible.

      You may object to that last sentence, but it would be understood in any language around the globe, and people are reorganizing themselves to act upon it.

  4. Not only does the USA have NO interest in education, culture or science,as shown by its policies, but Palestine and Haiti are two of its most cruelly treated targets.

  5. The people, left and right, who view Israel as an important ally that advances American policy in the region have it exactly backwards. Israel is nothing but a drag on American foreign policy. They don’t advance our interests in any manner, and our support for them imposes all sorts of costs.

    • But the potential is there.
      When the political leadership of Israel has in the past included people who could hear the voice of God,
      Who claims the Palestinians as His own,
      Israel truly advanced US security and values.

      I long for those days.

  6. I can’t help but think about how the US, when occupying Baghdad, took care to protect files of the Oil Ministry, but ignored looting and destruction of the museums that held the artifacts from the “cradle of civilization.”

  7. I have stated it many times, but it bears repeating. Israel is no “cat’s paw” for US interests in the Near East. That everyone from Bush to Obama, and every President before them (not to mention Congress), ritually repeats the mantra that Israel is the only democracy in the region and that Israel’s interests are our interests are simply blowing hot air. United States interests in the Near East do not lie with Israel. Israel is a burden, not a boon, to the US pursuit of its interests in the region.

    Secretary of State George C. Marshall and the State Department recognized that Israel would be a thorn in both the region and in the side of the US when President Truman was advised to withhold diplomatic recognition of the new state of Israel in 1948. It has proven to be a thorn in the US side every since. Our interests in the Near East have not been well-served by running interference for Israel in the United Nations and elsewhere.

    • Bill,

      I think that you are giving G. C. Marshall too much credit. Yes he did have some foresight, in that he was only concerned with upsetting the oil-rich monarchs.

      The US support for Israel was lukewarm up until 1967. There are cases of support and opposition. For example, Eisenhower basically forced Israel to leave the Sinia after it collaborated with the French and British for the takeover.

      Everything changed after 1967. Gamal Abdel Nasser was destroyed by Israel –a man who was the soul of Arab nationalism, with aspirations for a free and powerful Arab nation (federation?) with sovereignty and control over resources. There’s one “value” point.

      Along with Turkey and Iran, Israel was policing the Middle East and controlling the region on behalf of the US and England. After Iran’s revolution in ’79, Israel became even more important for preserving US (economic – geopolitical – imperialist) interests in the middle east (and elsewhere); all that was very well aligned with Israel’s expansionist interests in the region. More “value” points.

      Israel provided (and still provides) many subsidiary services to the US. It helped the US evade the sanctions against apartheid SA; supported terrorist states and groups in Latin American when Reagan’s administration was blocked by Congress; and by proxy made America the dominant actor with the strongest military in the Middle East. Some more “value” points.

      Also, Israel is a huge financial and technological center; its high-tech industry is very closely linked with America’s high-tech industry, both very militarized… speaking of the defense industry…

      So until the National Interest can no longer be equated with short-term, economic and corporate interests, I think that the US will continue to support Israel for some more time.

      • “I think that you are giving G. C. Marshall too much credit. Yes he did have some foresight, in that he was only concerned with upsetting the oil-rich monarchs.”

        Secretary of State George C. Marshall deserves full credit for having the foresight to see where United States interests actually lay. Every country in the world looks after its own national interests, and that’s where Marshall and the State Department had it right with regard to U.S. national interests.

        “Along with Turkey and Iran, Israel was policing the Middle East and controlling the region on behalf of the US and England.”

        Turkey has been a strong NATO ally of the U.S. in many areas of the world. Iran, under the “Nixon Doctrine,” was to become a force for U.S. interests in the Near East.

        You have it wrong, however, that Israel advanced U.S. interests by “policing” the Near East on behalf of the U.S. There is no way that Israel has advanced U.S. interests in the Near East that would not have been much more advanced were the U.S. dealing with the Arab World without the burden placed upon it by having to consider Israel. Since its establishment in 1948, Israel has been a burden, not a boon, to the U.S. in the region.

        • I should clarify that I wasn’t questioning G.C. Marshall’s integriy and/or intentions. Yes he did have the US national interest in mind, but, what I meant was that he was singularly focused on not upsetting the oil monarchs with the US’s recognition and support of Israel, thereby not negatively impacting the relationship with the monarchs, hence not causing harm to US interests in that region.

          That’s why you shouldn’t give him too much credit. I doubt he was able to foresee Israel’s land expropriations, expansionist inclinations, random attacks, vile human rights abuses, warcrimes… Etc.

          I respectfully disagree with your last statement though. It’s certainly flattering, but I don’t see how the US would have profited more. Definitely would have been easier, less bloodshed, probably a Palestinian state by how (or maybe binational one-state?), much more advanced Arab societies… Very different.

      • I can’t help but notice that none of the substantive examples you provide of Israel advancing US interests take place in the Middle East, despite your assertions of such in the preceding paragraph.

  8. In an odd sort of way, now that I think of it, the U.S.’s “childish behavior” reminds me a bit of Saudi Arabia’s temper tantrum when the ruing king recently overrode his diplomats at the UN and refused that seat on the UN Security Council. So Saudi Arabia played the same ploy, grabbed its marbles and went home to sulk.

  9. There does seem to be a link on the right-hand side of the UNESCO page for online donations – it’s a big yellow button, and lets you use PayPal. Could maybe clarify that.

  10. For what it’s worth:

    “White House adviser Susan Rice says Congress must regain US Unesco vote: National security adviser uses Twitter to call loss of vote over UN stance on Palestinian membership ‘shameful'” – link to theguardian.com

  11. So the US pulls out of international forums whenever Palestine is admitted? Interesting information.

    The precedent I was thinking of was when the Soviet Union refused to attend the UN Security Council in 1950 because of some long forgotten slight. The US then pushed through UN security council support for the South in the Korean conflict, and the Soviets were unable to veto it.

    Perhaps the fit of pique by the US opens possibilities.

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