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U.S. Cites Unesco’s Anti-israel Tilt As Reason for Not Rejoining Agency

An anti-Israel tilt and favoritism toward the Palestine Liberation Organization on the part of the U.N. Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization are among the reasons cited by the United States for its decision not to rejoin the Paris-based organization.

But the chief reason for refusing to rejoin UNESCO is its poor management, the State Department said in a report released Tuesday.

“The United States withdrew from UNESCO at the end of 1984 because of the organization’s excessive politicization, poor management and long-term lack of budgetary restraints,” the report says.

Since then, “little or any true reform has taken place,” John Bolton, assistant secretary of state for international organizations, told reporters Tuesday.

While Bolton stressed this aspect of disenchantment with the agency, the report spells out in detail UNESCO’s anti-Israel stance and its decision to enhance the status of the PLO.

The report notes that UNESCO postponed action on the PLO’s request for membership until 1991, mainly in hope of “securing the return of both the United States and the United Kingdom.” Britain also recently rejected returning to the organization.

“In the interim, the PLO observer will be able to make direct requests for UNESCO participation program assistance, thereby possibly gaining increased control of aid flows to Palestinians in the occupied territories,” the report says.

DISTANCING HIMSELF FROM ISRAEL

At the United Nations, a spokesman for UNESCO said Tuesday that postponing consideration of the PLO membership bid was the most the agency’s director could accomplish when the issue came up last November.

“It was hailed at that time as a triumph for constructive diplomacy,” said Joseph Mehan, the spokesman.

Mehan also rejected the U.S. report’s complaint that UNESCO’s director general, Federico Mayor Zaragoza of Spain, had recently appointed a high-level “coordinator for cooperation with Palestine,” which, the report charges, “gives the PLO a special status in UNESCO’s program of work exceeding that of any member state.”

He called appointing a specialist “a sensible and practical step,” adding, “No one ever accused U.N. Secretary-General Javier Perez de Cuellar of taking sides because he appointed someone to keep a close eye on what was going on.”

The State Department report also accuses Mayor of paying considerable attention to the PLO while distancing himself from Israel.

“In a report that he prepared for the (UNESCO) executive board on the question of PLO participation in UNESCO, the director general proposed levels of assistance and participation that went far beyond what had been anticipated by member states,” the report says.

It says Mayor’s letters to Israel’s permanent representative to UNESCO “have omitted normal diplomatic courtesy phrases, and on two occasions were so abrupt as to be returned unanswered by the Israeli ambassador.”

Furthermore, when Mayor went to Israel for a symposium sponsored by the Weizman Institute of Science in Rehovot, he refused to meet with Israeli government officials and later apologized to the Arab countries for having made the trip, the report says.

“He also refused repeated requests from the Israeli government for access to grants from UNESCO’s participation program, something which is supposed to be available for every member state,” the report says, adding that such access have been granted to the PLO.

The report also charges that UNESCO has continued to adopt “heavily biased resolutions, often based on false accusations” against Israel.

(JTA correspondent Allison Kaplan at the United Nations contributed to this report.)

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