Israel Faces Tough Time at UNESCO
Menu JTA Search

Israel Faces Tough Time at UNESCO

Download PDF for this date

The Arab countries belonging to the “Rejection Front” and the Socialist bloc states are preparing a series of resolutions to condemn Israel at UNESCO’s general conference, which opens here Tuesday. Diplomatic observers say these Arab and Communist states want to score a political victory against Israel so as “to wipe out the Camp David defeat.”

The general conference is UNESCO’s equivalent of the United Nations General Assembly. One hundred and forty-four countries are represented at its two yearly meetings, which serve to map out general policy and make political decisions.

The extremist Arab states plan to condemn Israel for what they claim is its discriminatory policy in the West Bank and Gaza Strip’s school system. The organization’s director, Gen. Amadou m’Bow, is due to present a report asking the general conference for renewed instructions following Israel’s refusal to permit an UNESCO representative to supervise education in the occupied territories.

M’Bow has up to now refused to release a neutral report on the school situation in the territories which in the main is favorable to Israel and has agreed to circulate only a brief summary from which all findings favorable to Israel have been omitted. Israel’s view on the educational debate is that the entire issue is pointless following the conclusion of the Camp David agreements, which provide for local autonomy in the territories enabling the local population to administer its own educational programs.


The Arabs also plan to rap Israel for allegedly disregarding former UNESCO resolutions and continuing to undertake archaeological diggings in the Old City. The Arab extremist states have reportedly prepared a resolution condemning Israel for the Ophel digs near the Old City’s Dung Gate.

They are also circulating copies of Israeli newspapers showing Jerusalem Mayor Teddy Kollek accepting a $1,250,000 check from South African fund-raisers who are sponsoring the Ophel project. The Arabs apparently hope to mobilize the African states by showing that South Africa and Israel are “cooperating on the project.”

The diplomatic battle will start as soon as the conference will open when the Arab-Communist bloc will try to force the conference to vote on its next chairman. Normally the executive committee agrees on a nomination. This year, it agreed to name Canada’s Napoleon Leblanc as representative of the Western group of states, to whom the office should go by rotation.

For the first time in UNESCO’s history, a secret ballot for the chairman’s election is being called for by the Arab-Communist bloc. The Arab candidate will be Jordanian Minister of Culture Abdel Salam Majali, known for his anti-Israeli sentiments.


The general tone of the forthcoming conference is hostile both to Israel and to the Western world. One of the key subjects to be discussed will be a report on press and news agencies presented by UNESCO experts with the backing of the Third World and the Communists.

This report calls for government action in controlling the press “to prevent the spread of racist propaganda.” It also contains a reference to the UN General Assembly’s resolution equating Zionism and racism. The Arabs apparently hope to use this formula to pass a similar resolution within the general conference.

Israeli observers say that in spite of, or maybe because of, the Camp David agreements, Israel will have to wage a tough battle during the month-long conference here.

Founding Funders

The digitization of the JTA Archive would not have been possible without the generous support of the following donors:
  • The Gottesman Fund
  • Righteous Persons Foundation
  • Charles H. Revson Foundation
  • Elisa Spungen Bildner and Robert Bildner, in honor of Norma Spungen
  • George S. Blumenthal
  • Grace and Scott Offen Charitable Fund