Why are the US and Israel quitting Unesco?

The US and Israel are withdrawing from the UN cultural organisation Unesco on the grounds that it is increasingly adopting anti-Israeli positions. The move comes after a confrontation over the membership of the Palestinian National Authority. Europe's press discusses the background to the decision.

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El País (ES) /

Trump worse than Reagan

El País points out that the US has withdrawn from Unesco before, in 1984 under Ronald Reagan:

“But while Reagan's decision can be seen as a tactical manouevre in the context of global politics from which the then president never withdrew, Trump's decision appears to be the result of a complete lack of understanding of the need to be present in all scenarios where major decisions are taken. If he doesn't like the Unesco resolutions on Israel, the logical thing to do would be to use his influence from within the organisation to counter or soften them. An empty seat is always a renunciation and Trump should be aware of the damage he is doing to his country - and to his allies - with this increasingly isolationist policy.”

Corriere della Sera (IT) /

A justified rebellion against antisemitism

Unesco should interpret the withdrawal as justified criticism and not elect Qatari diplomat Hamad bin Abdulasis al-Kawari as its new director-general, Corriere della Sera warns:

“This is a last-minute decision that comes just before Unesco nominates its new director-general. Qatar has long been regarded as one of the four or five states that most actively support Islamic fundamentalism. ... Moreover it was Kawari [in his capacity as Qatar's minister of culture] who played a key role in having Doha chosen as the capital of Arab culture in 2010. No less than 35 anti-semitic books, including new editions of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion and four editions of Mein Kampf, were to be found at the book fair in the Qatari capital. How can such a person even be considered for the post of Unesco chief? The answer is obvious: Qatar has 'given' Unesco ten million dollars.”