UNESCO Delegation Visits Territories

For the first time since UNESCO condemned Israel for archaeological diggings in East Jerusalem two years ago, a delegation of that international organization is visiting the territories. The purpose of the week-long visit which began today is to study the educational and cultural services in the occupied territories.

The visit was approved by the Israeli government following the Nairobi UNESCO conference earlier this year in which Israel was admitted to the European region of UNESCO. Until the Nairobi conference, relations between Israel and UNESCO had deteriorated as a result of anti-Israel resolutions pushed through by the Arab-backed majority in the international organization.

The acceptance of Israel by the European organization–following pressure of international public opinion and, more specifically, threats by the U.S. government to cut off funds for UNESCO–changed the situation. Subsequently, Israel dropped her initial objection to cooperate with a UNESCO delegation.

One other reason for the change in Israel’s policy was a visit by the World Health Organization (WHO) delegation which gave a favorable report on the health services in the occupied territories. As a matter of fact, the report was so positive that Arab delegates managed to force the WHO into rejecting the report of its own delegation.

Originally, Israel wanted the members of the delegation to be representatives of countries with whom Israel has diplomatic relations. Alternatively, Israel suggested, they should at least be professional educators.

MAKEUP OF DELEGATION

Half of the six-member delegation are from countries with which Israel does not have an relations. The members are: Vladimir Velebit, Yugoslavia, a former general in the Yugoslav Army; Joaquim Ruia Jimenez, Spain, former Education Minister; and Ms. Samuel Cookey, Nigeria. The delegation is headed by Paul Mare Henri, a consultant to the European Economic Community, a veteran official of the UN. A fifth member is Jacqueline Henin, a professor of Arabic at Paris University, of Moroccan origin. The sixth member of the organization is Pierre de Senarclens, a political scientist of the University of Lausanne, Switzerland.

The delegation began its first day of tours today at this hamlet of Salfit, half-way between Ramallah and Nablus in the West Bank. They met with teachers in the local nursery and girls’ school and heard a general briefing of the educational system in the area. The discussion was mainly technical. The guests refused to discuss any political issues.

Asked for his impressions, Henri told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, “It is too early to tell.” Senarclens said he was certain the delegation’s report will be objective, since they are all professionals.

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