JERUSALEM (JTA) — Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel rejected an invitation to participate in a United Nations conference on anti-Semitism.
The conference was held Wednesday at U.N. headquarters in New York under the auspices of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, or UNESCO, on the sidelines of the world body’s General Assembly.
“While I commend all efforts to combat antisemitism, I have decided not to participate in this week’s UNESCO conference on antisemitism due to the organization’s persistent and egregious bias against Israel,” Netanyahu said in a statement issued Wednesday. “Since 2009, UNESCO has passed 71 resolutions condemning Israel and only 2 resolutions condemning all other countries combined. This is simply outrageous.”
Israel announced in late December that it would withdraw from UNESCO, several weeks after the United States announced its decision to withdraw, citing “continuing anti-Israel bias.” The U.S. decision also came days after the General Assembly passed a resolution rejecting any recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel in the wake of the pronouncement by President Donald Trump two weeks earlier.
In recent years, UNESCO has passed resolutions rejecting Israeli sovereignty over Jerusalem, and placed the Cave of the Patriarchs and the Old City of Hebron in the State of Palestine on the list of world heritage sites in danger.
The withdrawal from UNESCO by Israel and the U.S. will become official at the end of this year.
“The mark of antisemitism was once singling out the Jewish people for slander and condemnation,” Netanyahu also said in his statement. “The mark of antisemitism today is singling out the Jewish state for slander and condemnation.
“If UNESCO wants to remove this mark of shame, it must do more than host a conference on antisemitism. It must stop practicing antisemitism. And it must stop the absurdity of passing resolutions which deny the connection between the Jewish people and the Land of Israel, between the Jewish people and our eternal capital Jerusalem.”
On Wednesday, U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres in remarks to the conference called on member states to recognize anti-Semitism as a problem to be addressed internationally.
“Jewish boys should not be afraid to wear yarmulkes in the streets of our cities. Jewish youth should not have to travel to school under the protection of armed military or police. Jewish cemeteries should not be desecrated,” he said. “Anti-semitism has survived across the millennium but should have no place in the 21st century.”
He added: “The origins of the United Nations itself are rooted in the need to learn the lessons of the Holocaust. Being true to our charter means combating anti-Semitism and hatred with all our energy and will.”