The logo of UNESCO is seen inside the headquarters in Paris.
(photo credit: MAL LANGSDON/REUTERS)
In keeping with the spirit of the Jewish New Year, UNESCO may be trying to repent its notorious anti-Israel behavior by electing a French Jew to head the organization whose self-declared mission is to reform it. The fact that the experienced diplomat Audrey Azoulay defeated a reputedly antisemitic Qatari diplomat for the job is the honey on our apple.
It is no coincidence that Azoulay’s victory in the race follows quickly on a US decision to pull out from the UN agency, citing its undeniable anti-Israel bias, an exit that was immediately echoed by its favorite victim, Israel.
The new and (one wishes) improved UNESCO suddenly brings hope for the future under its new management, not the least due to the resolution filed last week in Washington by Sen. Ted Cruz and Rep. Matt Gaetz defending Israel and condemning UNESCO , including an endorsement to reconsider backing out if reform does occur.
In her upset victory, the former French culture minister defeated Qatari diplomat Hamad Bin Abdulaziz al-Kawari just when the organization was seen ready to continue its anti-historic campaign against the Jewish people by choosing its first Arab leader. The dark horse Azoulay was nominated at the last moment by lame duck president François Hollande and actively supported by France’s new president, Emmanuel Macron, who enlisted French diplomacy to deliver her unprecedented win.
“She has all the qualifications to make changes. She is very talented, educated and professional, and has the support of one of the [world] powers, France,” said Israel’s Ambassador to UNESCO in Paris, Carmel Shama Hacohen.
“If I’m confirmed and brought to lead this institution, the first thing I will do is work to restore its credibility, restore the faith of its members and its efficiency so it can act on the challenges facing our world, because it is the only organization that can,” Azoulay said after the vote.
UNESCO ’s apparent repentance was further stimulated by the Senate companion introduced by Cruz to House Resolution 570 introduced by Gaetz (R-Florida), reaffirming the deep historical connection between the Jewish people and its capital of Jerusalem. The resolution also expresses support for the Israel’s ongoing protection of religious freedom for all faiths, and condemns UNESCO for the anti-Israel resolutions it has passed in recent years.
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The surprise declaration by the State Department that the US would be leaving UNESCO next year because of its anti-Israel bias was immediately lauded and then echoed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who called President Donald Trump’s decision “brave and moral.”
Cruz agreed, “The Trump administration has demonstrated strong moral clarity in deciding to withdraw and continuing to withhold US taxpayer dollars from UNESCO as a result of its relentless hostility toward our close ally Israel.
This resolution reaffirms the profound historical connection of the Jewish people to Jerusalem that has existed for thousands of years, describes archeological excavations at the City of David that have revealed incontrovertible, physical evidence of the Jewish, as well as Christian, ties to Jerusalem, and denounces efforts at UNESCO to delegitimize Israel and deny historical truth.”
Gaetz added, “The Jewish people, and the people of Israel, have a deep and ancient connection to the holy city of Jerusalem. Yet the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, UNESCO , is actively trying to rewrite history. UNESCO has not been silent in their condemnations of Israel. Each year brings new horrors. Their cruelty, their attempts to erase history, and their antisemitism cannot be tolerated any longer.”
In an interesting sidebar, it was revealed that Azoulay’s father, Andre Azoulay, is a senior adviser to king Mohammed VI of Morocco, and previously advised Mohammed’s father, King Hassan II, which appears also to have generated the tacit support of some Arab states, including Egypt.
Since the declared US and Israeli withdrawals are not scheduled to take place until December 2018, true reform within the organization could sway both countries to remain. Israel should decide to change its decision based only on action and performance reflecting a change in UNESCO ’s longstanding policy against the Jewish state.
A new, improved UNESCO could fulfill its true mission of preserving and protecting all of the world’s cultural resources.
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