You have to hand it to the Palestinians.
They decided to abandon the
peace process and seek international recognition of the “State of Palestine” – a
state in a de facto state of war with Israel. And they are pursuing their goal
This week their efforts bore their first fruit with the
UN’s Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization’s (UNESCO) vote to accept
“Palestine” as a full state member.
It is not a coincidence that the
PLO/PA decided to apply for membership for “Palestine” at UNESCO first. Since
1974, UNESCO has been an enthusiastic partner in the Palestinians’ bid to erase
Jewish history, heritage and culture in the Land of Israel from the historical
In 1974, UNESCO voted to boycott Israel and to “withhold
assistance from Israel in the fields of education, science and culture because
of Israel’s persistent alteration of historic features in
UNESCO’s moves to deny Jewish ties to Jerusalem and the rest
of historic Israel have continued unabated ever since. For instance, in 1989,
UNESCO condemned “Israel’s occupation of Jerusalem,” claiming it was destroying
the city through “acts of interference, destruction and
In 1996, UNESCO held a symposium on Jerusalem at its
Paris headquarters. No Jewish or Israeli groups were invited to
Beginning in 1996, the Arab Wakf on the Temple Mount began
systematically destroying artifacts of the Second Temple. The destruction was
undertaken during illegal excavations under the Temple Mount carried out to
construct an illegal, unlicensed mosque at Solomon’s Stables.
never bothered to condemn this act. It was silent despite the fact that the
Wakf’s actions constituted a grave breach of the very international laws related
to antiquities and sacred sites that UNESCO is charter bound to protect.
Similarly, UNESCO never condemned Palestinian desecration of Rachel’s Tomb, of
Joesph’s Tomb or of any of the ancient synagogues in Gaza and Jericho which they
razed to the ground.
The reason for UNESCO’s miscarriage of its
responsibilities is clear. Far from fulfilling its mission of protecting world
heritage sites, since 1974 UNESCO has been a partner in one of the greatest
cultural crimes in human history – the Palestinian and pan- Arab attempt to wipe
Jewish history in the Land of Israel off the historical record. And UNESCO’s
crimes in this area are unending. In 2009 it designated Jerusalem a “capital of
In 2010, it designated Rachel’s Tomb and the Cave of the
Patriarchs in Hebron as “Muslim mosques.” UNESCO’s campaign against Jewish
history is not limited to Israel. In 1995, it passed a resolution marking the
50th anniversary of the end of World War II. Despite requests from Israel, the
resolution made no mention of the Holocaust.
In December 2010, UNESCO
published a report on the history of science in the Arab world. Its report
listed the great Jewish doctor and rabbinic scholar Rabbi Moshe Ben Maimon –
Maimonides – as a Muslim renamed “Moussa ben Maimoun.”
In light of
UNESCO’s virulently anti-Jewish policies and actions, it is not surprising that
it cooperated with the PLO/PA’s bid to achieve recognition of a state that is in
a state of war with Israel.
MORE SURPRISING than UNESCO’s behavior was
the behavior of all but five EU member states.
Aside from the Czech
Republic, Germany, Lithuania, the Netherlands and Sweden, all EU member states
either voted in favor of the Palestinian membership application or
The reason it is surprising is because the EU has made
strengthening UN institutions and speeding up the peace process between Israel
and the Palestinians to facilitate Palestinian independence the central aims of
its foreign policy. And by supporting or failing to oppose the Palestinian
membership bid, the Europeans undercut both aims.
UNESCO was weakened by
the vote for two reasons. First, since US law bars the government from funding
UN agencies that accept “Palestine” as a member nation outside the framework of
a negotiated peace with Israel, in accepting “Palestine” UNESCO reduced its
budget by the 22 percent covered by US contributions.
accepting the Palestinians as a member state, UNESCO undermined its legitimacy
and organizational viability. Accepting “Palestine” represents a breach of the
organization’s charter. The charter stipulates that only states can be accepted
Moreover, it represents a repudiation of the goals of UNESCO
as laid out in its charter. Those goals involve among other things promoting
cooperation in education and advancing the rule of law. As a recent report by
the Institute for Monitoring Peace and Cultural Tolerance in School Education
(IMPACT-SE) showed, PA textbooks remain imbued with Jew-hatred at all education
By enabling this breach of the UNESCO charter, the Europeans made
a mockery of UN rules and so weakened not just UNESCO but the UN system as a
The Europeans’ claim to support the cause of peace between Israel
and the Palestinians was rendered hollow by their behavior at UNESCO. The peace
process between Israel and the PLO/PA is predicated on the latter’s commitment
that a Palestinian state can arise only as a consequence of a peace treaty with
Israel. By supporting the Palestinians’ breach of this fundamental commitment at
UNESCO, the Europeans diminished the possibility of achieving a negotiated peace
that will lead to Palestinian statehood.
What the Europeans’ behavior at
UNESCO indicates is that just as UNESCO is willing to undermine its mission to
harm Israel, so the Europeans are willing to undermine the declared goals of
their foreign policy if doing so will harm Israel.
This state of affairs
has important consequences for Israel. To date, Israel has placed fostering good
relations with EU member states high on its list of priorities. In light of the
Europeans’ behavior at UNESCO, this ranking should be revised. The Europeans do
not merit such high consideration by Israel.
Finally, the UNESCO vote
exposed disturbing truths about US President Barack Obama’s position on Israel.
Obama has been widely praised by American Jewish leaders as well as by Prime
Minister Binyamin Netanyahu for his announced commitment to veto the draft
Security Council resolution recommending that the PLO/PA be granted full state
membership at the UN. Obama’s pledge – forced out of him by massive
congressional pressure – is touted as proof of his commitment to the US alliance
But Obama’s response to the PLO/PA’s bid for UNESCO
membership tells a different story. In the lead up to the vote, the Obama
administration went out of its way not to threaten UNESCO. It did not threaten
to withdraw the US from the organization. Instead, just days before the vote, US
Under Secretary of Education Martha Kanter addressed the body and praised the
“great things [that] have happened at UNESCO,” over the past year. Kanter then
announced the US’s bid for reelection to UNESCO’s executive board.
administration did not attack the move as one that undermines chances of peace.
It did not note that by endorsing the PA/PLO’s decision to act unilaterally,
UNESCO was making it all the more difficult for Israel and the Palestinians to
achieve a negotiated peace deal. Rather, State Department spokeswoman Victoria
Nuland sufficed with claiming that the move was “regrettable,” and
Administration officials did not make clear that in
accordance with US law, all US funding to UNESCO would end if the Palestinian
membership bid was approved. Rather administration officials joined forces with
UN officials to lobby Congress to change the law.
As Claudia Rosett
reported in Forbes on Tuesday, David Killion, the US ambassador to UNESCO, made
what bordered on an apology for the US funding cut-off when he said, “We
sincerely regret that the strenuous and well-intentioned efforts of many
delegations to avoid this result fell short.”
Killion added, “We pledge
to continue our efforts to find ways to support and strengthen the important
work of this vital organization.”
So after UNESCO thumbed its nose at the
US, undermined its mission, breached its own charter and seriously diminished
chances of Palestinian peace with Israel by accepting “Palestine” as a member
state, the Obama administration reacted with near groveling
TO UNDERSTAND the full significance of the administration’s
behavior, it is important to contrast it with the administration’s response to
the Israeli government’s decision in the aftermath of the UNESCO vote to approve
the construction of housing for Jews in Jerusalem, Ma’aleh Adumim and Efrat. All
of the housing units will be built in areas that will remain part of Israel even
after a peace deal. And the administration knows this.
But speaking of
the government’s decision, a US official told Reuters that the administration is
“deeply disappointed by the announcement.
“We continue to make clear to
the [Israeli] government [that] unilateral actions such as these work against
efforts to resume direct negotiations and do not advance the goal of a
reasonable and necessary agreement between the parties.”
So on the one
hand, the Palestinians’ move to abandon the peace process and UNESCO’s support
for their move is merely “regrettable” and “premature.” But on the other hand,
Israel’s decision not to discriminate against Jewish property rights undermines
efforts to resume peace talks and harm prospects for an agreement.
entering office, Netanyahu has repeatedly characterized Arab and leftist efforts
to delegitimize Israel as “a strategic threat” to the state. In truth, he
overstates the danger. Delegitimization is a political threat, not a strategic
threat. Israel will not be destroyed by the UN or by professors at Oxford and
Columbia or by trade unions in Norway.
But still it is a threat that
Israel cannot ignore.
Since September 2009, citing the need to
demonstrate the dishonesty of the delegitimizers’ accusations against Israel,
Netanyahu abandoned his lifelong opposition to a Palestinian state. He believed
that Israel had to embrace the PLO/PA as a legitimate partner for peace in order
to prove to the likes of Obama and his supporters that Israel has a right to
exist. In the meantime, and in the face of Netanyahu’s staggering concession,
the PLO/PA abandoned the peace talks and escalated its political war to
criminalize Israel and delegitimate it.
UNESCO’s acceptance of
“Palestine” demonstrates that Netanyahu’s chosen policy is misguided.
accepting the legitimacy of the Palestinian demand for statehood, Netanyahu
indirectly conceded Israel’s rights to Judea and Samaria and at a minimum placed
its right to sole sovereignty over Jerusalem in question. In so doing, Israel
gave the Palestinians’ supporters at the UN, in Europe and at the White House no
reason to reconsider their anti-Israel bias.
With the Palestinians
relentlessly asserting their rights, and Israel conceding its rights, why should
anyone side with Israel?
In the end, the only way to defeat those who
delegitimize Israel and deny our rights to our land, our nationhood and our
history is to expose their corruption, and their malevolent, dishonest and
hateful intentions towards the Jewish people and the Jewish state. That is, the
only way to defeat the delegitimizers is to delegitimize them by proudly and
consistently asserting Israel’s historic and legal rights and the justice of our