U.S. Israel and 10 Other Nations Walk out of UNESCO Conference in Protest Against a Draft Resolution
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U.S. Israel and 10 Other Nations Walk out of UNESCO Conference in Protest Against a Draft Resolution

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The United States, Israel and 10 other nations walked out of the UNESCO conference here today in an angry demonstration of protest against the adoption last night of a Yugoslav-sponsored draft resolution which included a clause calling attention to the UN General Assembly vote for the measure equating Zionism with racism, Several other countries, among them Norway, Ecuador, Austria and Venezuela, remained in the hall but are refusing to participate in the proceedings or have served notice that they will vote against the final document.

The walk-out countries included eight member states of the European Economic Community–the ninth, Luxembourg, was absent–Australia and Canada, Mexico also was absent and boycotted the vote. Letters bitterly condemning the Yugoslav amendment were sent to the conference chairman by the U.S. delegate, Donald F. Stowe, and the Italian delegate, Ludovico Carducci Artenisio on behalf of the Common Market states.

A letter stressing that the amendment was “in flagrant contradiction of the declared aims of the meeting,” was submitted by the Israeli delegate, Avraham Primor. The conference chairman Joseph Grohman of Czechoslovakia, refused to read the letters to the conference on grounds that such a step was contrary to UNESCO procedure.

But the effect was obvious to all delegates and spectators. The conference hall in the UNESCO building was half empty as a result of the walkout and the absence of many other delegates who preferred to remain outside while awaiting instructions from their governments.


The crisis was precipitated last night when UNESCO voted 36-22 with seven abstentions to include in a draft resolution a reference to the UN General Assembly’s Nov. 10 vote identifying Zionism as a form of racism. The resolution itself was concerned with how the world news media should deal with subjects such as racism and war propaganda. The draft resolution will go before the UNESCO general conference when it convenes in Nairobi, Kenya in October, 1976;

Adoption of the anti-Zionist reference against powerful objections from the Western states and Israel was another example of the well-oiled Arab-Communist-Third World machinery at work in a UN agency. But their “triumph” this time was less than impressive. Many countries, including Mexico, boycotted the vote with the result that the Yugoslav amendment was adopted by less than a quarter of the UNESCO member states–36 out of 136.

Israel, nevertheless, took a serious view of the matter. In a statement before the vote, Primor urged delegates to defeat the amendment “so as to stop UNESCO’s moral and spiritual decadence.” He said the measure “is not only a reference to a General Assembly vote but is a blow to Israel’s very existence” since Zionism “is the ideology which helps Jews regain their national identity and dignity.” Israeli sources said they considered the vote “serious” because it will be presented before all international organizations with unpredictable results.


Israeli sources expressed hope that today’s walk-out will make other international organizations “think twice” before trying to adopt anti-Israel resolutions. The Arabs are known to be planning to submit similar resolutions to the World Health Organization (WHO), the Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) and several other bodies.

A senior Western source said the walk-out of the 12 nations and the non-participation of a number of others meant that the Arab-Soviet bloc could not “steam-roll through” any resolution they wanted. None of the Western states said they would return to the conference, U.S. delegate Stowe told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, however, “We reserve for ourselves the right to come back to make an additional statement if we feel this to be necessary.”

In his letter to the conference chairman, Stowe said “Yesterday’s vote in no way modifies the fact that Zionism is not racism…the vote simply imposes a debilitating handicap on those delegations which were trying to maintain the credibility and intellectual integrity of those deliberations.” The Italian delegate’s letter on behalf of the European Common Market stressed that the very “essence of the Yugoslav amendment is unacceptable” and that the vote transgressed against “the principle of a consensus” on which the conference had tacitly agreed earlier.


UNESCO officials seemed highly unhappy over the crisis and the ensuing walkout. The organization’s director, Amadou Makhtar M’Bow, said in a television interview that yesterday’s vote “is not in any way a UNESCO decision. UNESCO has only two organs; the general conference which will meet next October and the executive council. It will be only after the general conference studies the draft that it can be adopted by UNESCO.” He said that accusing UNESCO “is a matter of bad faith.”

It seems, sources here say, that UNESCO officials fear that yesterday’s vote and today’s walkout will widen the rift with the U.S. and consequently hit hard at UNESCO’s budget. The U.S. last year out off American funds from the organization to protest against last November’s anti-Israeli resolutions.

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