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US and Israel quit over UNESCO’s love affair with 'Palestine'

By David Singer - posted Thursday, 17 January 2019

UNESCO's decision to admit "Palestine" as a member state in 2011 in breach of UNESCO's own Constitution has come back to bite UNESCO with a vengeance – with America and Israel both quitting their membership of UNESCO on 31 December 2018.

America's designated funding of 22% of UNESCO's annual budget will now have to be met by other member states or UNESCO's programs severely curtailed.

In October 2017, State Department spokesperson (now UN Ambassador-elect) Heather Nauert, clarified that America's decision had not been taken lightly - citing continuing anti-Israel bias at UNESCO and the need for fundamental reform in the organization.


UNESCO anti-Israel decisions since "Palestine" was admitted to UNESCO membership have included:

  • 2012 – 8 resolutions condemning Israel, 1 condemning Syria and 0 other countries.
  • 2013 - 6 condemning Israel and 0 other countries
  • January 2014 – Cancelling an exhibition at UNESCO's Paris headquarters on the Jewish presence in the land of Israel
  • October 2016 - Disregarding any Jewish ties to the Temple Mount - only referring to it by its Muslim names – then several weeks later - passing a softer version of the resolution that referred to the Western Wall by its Jewish name - though still ignoring Judaism's ties to the site.
  • July 2017 - Designating Hebron and the two adjoined shrines at its heart - the Jewish Tomb of the Patriarchs and the Muslim Ibrahimi Mosque - as a "Palestinian World Heritage Site in Danger".

UNESCO's admission of "Palestine" to membership breached Article II (2) of UNESCO's Constitution which only allows States to be admitted to UNESCO. "Palestine" was not a state under the criteria laid down under international law by the 1933 Montevideo Convention.

107 states voted to admit "Palestine" whilst the remaining 86 voted "No", "abstained" or "did not vote".

UNESCO's legally questionable decision was never referred by UNESCO to the International Court of Justice or an arbitral tribunal for confirmation under Article XIV (2) of UNESCO's Constitution.

Given what has transpired – such failure was a monumental misjudgement.


President Trump's National Security Adviser - John Bolton - recently exposed the fiction that there is a legally-constituted state called "Palestine":

[Palestine] is not a state… It does not meet the customary international law test of statehood. It doesn't control defined boundaries. It doesn't fulfill the normal functions of government…calling it the so-called 'State of Palestine' defines exactly what it has been - a position that the United States government has pursued uniformly since 1988 when the 'Palestinian' Authority declared itself to be the state of 'Palestine.' We don't recognize it as the state of 'Palestine.' We have consistently across Democratic and Republican administrations opposed the admission of 'Palestine' to the United Nations as a state, because it's not a state.

Australia's Head of Mission – Ms Gita Kamath – gave Australia's reasons for its negative vote on admitting "Palestine" at the time of the 2011 UNESCO vote:

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About the Author

David Singer is an Australian Lawyer, a Foundation Member of the International Analyst Network and Convenor of Jordan is Palestine International - an organisation calling for sovereignty of the West Bank and Gaza to be allocated between Israel and Jordan as the two successor States to the Mandate for Palestine. Previous articles written by him can be found at

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Creative Commons LicenseThis work is licensed under a Creative Commons License.

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