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Bias against Israel prompts Trump admin to pull out of UNESCO

Photo by Nora Houguenade / UNESCO
Opening ceremony of the 38th session of UNESCO General Conference in Paris in 2015.
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Culturally-important sites around the world in greater danger without US support of UNESCO, say experts

OKLAHOMA CITY— Claiming that their decision was based on “anti-Israel” bias, the Trump administration announced earlier this month that the United States was pulling out of UNESCO, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization beginning in 2018.

Writing in The Hill, U.S. Rep. Ken Calvert, a California Republican, wrote that President Trump was wise in pulling out, highlighting UNESCO’s decision earlier this year to designate the Old City of Hebron and the Tomb of the Patriarchs – a site holy to the Jewish people – as part of the Palestinian territory, something Trump, Calvert and others viewed as “yet another anti-Israel measure that denies facts and continues it abhorrent pattern of behavior,” which included UNESCO’s approval of a resolution that “rejected Israel’s legal or historical claims to the city of Jerusalem.”

Added Calvert: “Actions that refute Jewish connections to historical sites only move us further away from peaceful and sustainable solutions to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.”

But is a complete withdrawal, based on this issue, worth the U.S. completely leaving UNESCO?

Many scholars and archaeologists disagree.

On Oct. 31, 2017, inThe New York Times , opinion writer Hugh Eakin, with the New York Public Library’s Culman Center, wrote that with radical groups like ISIS take pleasure in destroying culturally-important sites like the 12th century Great Mosque of al-Nuri in Mosul, Iraq, which was blown up by the group. They also blew up important sites in Palmyra, Syria, while also decapitating the Syrian archaeologist, Khaled al-Asaad, 84, who had devoted his career to the Palmyran sites.

The outgoing UNESCO director, Irina Bokova, previously stated that attacks on global cultural heritage must be viewed by the world as “an international security issue.”

However, a coalition of American archaeological organizations have come out and criticized the decision.

Wrote Eakin: “With its misguided decision, the United States is forfeiting its leadership in a cause on which UNESCO and its partners in the United States, Europe and beyond are finally making progress: protecting art, sacred buildings and other historic treasures from deliberate attacks during armed conflict.”

Also, a coalition of American archaeological organizations have come out and criticized the decision.

In a statement released last week, this coalition wrote “The United States has long strived to protect heritage around the world. Through participation in UNESCO the United States has signaled the importance of international cooperation in education, science, cultural awareness and communication, all of which serve to strengthen ties among nations and societies. These messages stand at the heart of American democracy and underlie the activities of our organizations. Despite its regrettable decision, we call upon the United States to continue to work with UNESCO and the broader international community to promote appreciation of the outstanding value of our shared cultural heritage.”

And locally, Oklahoma City-based archaeologist Renee Erickson said UNESCO requires the US to fully fulfill its responsibility to protecting culturally-important sites, including archaeological sites.

“As an archaeologist, my personal mission is to ensure the conservation of historic cultural resources for future generations through the investigation of the archaeological record,” Erickson told Red Dirt Report. “UNESCO follows a similar mission on a global scale, by creating World Heritage Sites to preserve both a natural and cultural legacy for the benefit of future generations. Withdrawing from the organization is an unfortunate political action undermining the efforts of multiple nations to secure irreplaceable treasures around the world.”

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Andrew W. Griffin

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Andrew W. Griffin received his Bachelor of Science in Journalism from...

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About Red Dirt Report

Red Dirt Report was launched July 4, 2007 as an independent news website covering all manner of news, culture, entertainment and lifestyle stories that affect and interest Oklahoma readers and readers outside of our state. Our mission is to educate, promote civic engagement and discourse on public policy, government and politics. Our experienced journalists provided balanced in-depth coverage of news stories that affect Oklahomans. Our opinion/editorial stories come from a wide range of political view points. We carry out our mission by reporting, writing, and posting news and information. read more

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