Withholding 60 million dollars from a UN agency that stepped out of line by taking a vote and democratically chosing to admit a new member state, Palestine...This was the US's latest fiscal punishment, that came with a further warning issued to those who favor Palestine in any what way, shape or form: 'and US officials warned of a "cascade" effect at other U.N. bodies that might follow UNESCO's lead.'
"Its stated purpose is to contribute to peace and security by promoting international collaboration through education, science, and culture in order to further universal respect for justice, the rule of law, and the human rights along with fundamental freedoms proclaimed in the UN charter".
This is the mission statement of the UN's cultrual agency and widely supported, UNESCO. Harmless and harldy threatening to the big political players or world balance in power, right? Wrong. A proto-country like, say, maybe, Palestine, given membership, could boldly put forward its Church of Nativity for nomination for world heritage status. God forbid! (Though I doubt the Almighty would).
When yesterday, on American's auspicious Halloween (the Ghoulish Festival- that has captured the world's imagination for years, as other American exports,) UNESCO declared its decision to grant Palestine a full membership of its body, the US response was less than pleased, nor pleasing. Hardly the behavior of the 'bigger player' or nation, but more akin to a child at Halloween. Obama's team decided in a knee jerk reaction to cut off funding for the UN cultural agency, after its (delinquent) member countries defied an American warning and approved a Palestinian bid for full membership in the UNESCO.
The lawful vote taken on the full membership for Palestine to the UN agency, UNESCO (ahead of any consensus or announcement on their bid for a seat at the UN 'supreme') provoked an American response less apple-pie-sweet, and more sour-grapes. This was not befitting of the 'caretaker' of the world. It was rather more reminiscent of a full-blown adult taking candy from a child's clutches. 'Well then you can't have our money or support then if you want THEM to join your team!!" they yelled, and stomped off in a churlish huff.
One could be forgiven for asking if it were wrong to hold the United States to a higher standard than that of a member that stooped to withdrawing charitable funds that might support anyone but their chosen few?
Their response to the affirmative vote for Palestine's full membership was to pull a sulky move, in fact quite a mean-spirited 'trick' to withdraw their 60 million USD pledged funding for November this year, to UNESCO. This hefty withdrawn stream comprises almost 22% of UNESCO funding pools.
The opposers or nay-sayers made up a stark and motley collection of the US plus 13 other countries opposed (see the name listing below). For the US's part, it was in fact provoked to pull off this cash pullout, it transpired, by a long-standing congressional ban on U.S. funding to U.N. bodies that recognize Palestine as a state before an Israeli-Palestinian peace deal is reached. The State Department said a $60 million payment to UNESCO scheduled for November would not be made as a result, (of the 'favorable', but displeasing to the Great Powers that be, vote) and U.S. officials warned of a "cascade" effect for other UN bodies that might follow UNESCO's lead. Petty politics seem to be provoked when it comes to Palestine.
But, while Nuland the official spokeperson and 'messenger' for the US's dirty business, said the U.S. would maintain its membership and activity in UNESCO, the organization's rules and regulations will strip them of their vote if the US doesn't pull up its school-child socks, by failing to pay its 'dues' for two years. The US is not the 'boss' of the UN, apparently.
This show of mean and childish (not to mention ghoulish) spirits was not a completely individual sore and petulant display. The US stance was shared together with a mean-spirited tranche of UNESCO insiders: the already priviledged full-fledged members of the UNESCO elite, like the usual suspects: take for example 'Vanatu'. (Because there's a country who's earnt international recognition- sorry, just escaped my notice til now- ed.)
As for Israel, its part in all this was quite unremarkably unsurprising. As the CNN's version has it: "Huge applause broke out in the room when the result was announced...There was laughter in the room after Israel voted no."
The club of Party Poopers or Palestine Sovereignty Spoil Sports included a bunch of other Halloween meanies and 'bad' souls:
Here's the list of shame member states who decided that Palestine did not deserve a seat at the cultural table.
Australia, Canada, Czech Republic, Germany, Israel, Lithuania, the Netherlands, Palau, Panama, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Sweden, United States of America, Vanuatu.
Why on earth not, some in the region were asking? Are Palestinians regarded as too Philistine for UNESCO?
Well actually, yes said Israel: 'You can't admit a 'non existent state' to a 'science association'. ' Which left the only question of the day unanswered: 'Where can you admit a non-existent state' - - to the club for non-entities, we daresay?
Well others point to the more obvious explanation-- that the US and Israel camp (with a re-affirmed following that now includes Canada, Sweden, the Netherlands) feel insecure that the UNESCO admission might strengthen Palestine's case for full statehood. A prospect scarier than Halloween itself!
The US quoted 'legislative restrictions' that 'compelled' them to withdraw funding. A heavily Republican Congress then, that had made a pact to halt U.S. funding to U.N. bodies that recognize Palestine as a state before an Israeli-Palestinian peace deal is reached.
There were 14 “no” votes, 52 abstentions and 107 “yes” votes. There were also absentees amounting to 21 Member States absent (which makes a sum total of 73 not wanting to be dragged into this world- Palestine-Question- fray that's been simmering to fever pitch lately, and feeling particularly frail for some, given the changing Middle East 'new' order.)
In full, the breakdown:
No: Australia, Canada, Czech Republic, Germany, Israel, Lithuania, the Netherlands, Palau, Panama, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Sweden, United States of America, Vanuatu.
Abstentions: Albania, Andorra, Bahamas, Barbados, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Burundi, Cameroon, Cape Verde, Colombia, Cook Islands, Côte d’Ivoire, Croatia, Denmark, Estonia, Fiji, Georgia, Haiti, Hungary, Italy, Jamaica, Japan, Kiribati, Latvia, Liberia, Mexico, Monaco, Montenegro, Nauru, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, Poland, Portugal, Republic of Korea, Republic of Moldova, Romania, Rwanda, Saint Kitts and Nevis, San Marino, Singapore, Slovakia, Switzerland, Thailand, Macedonia, Togo, Tonga, Trinidad and Tobago, Tuvalu, Uganda, Ukraine, United Kingdom, Zambia.
Yes: Afghanistan, Algeria, Angola, Argentina, Armenia, Austria, Azerbaijan, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Belarus, Belgium, Belize, Benin, Bhutan, Bolivia, Botswana, Brazil, Brunei Darussalam, Burkina Faso, Cambodia, Chad, Chile, China, Congo, Costa Rica, Cuba, Cyprus, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Democratic Republic of Congo, Djibouti, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Egypt, El Salvador, Equatorial Guinea, Finland, France, Gabon, Gambia, Ghana, Greece, Grenada, Guatemala, Guinea, Honduras, Iceland, India, Indonesia, Iran, Iraq, Ireland, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Kenya, Kuwait, Kyrgyzstan, Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Lebanon, Lesotho, Libya, Luxembourg, Malawi, Malaysia, Mali, Malta, Mauritania, Mauritius, Morocco, Mozambique, Myanmar, Namibia, Nepal, Nicaragua, Niger, Nigeria, Norway, Oman, Pakistan, Paraguay, Peru, Philippines, Qatar, Russian Federation, Sant Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, Serbia, Seychelles, Slovenia, Somalia, South Africa, Spain, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Suriname, Syrian Arab Republic, Tunisia, Turkey, United Arab Emirates, United Republic of Tanzania, Uruguay, Uzbekistan, Venezuela, Viet Nam, Yemen, Zimbabwe.
Absent: Antigua and Barbuda, Central African Republic, Comoros, Dominica, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Guinea-Bissau, Guyana, Madagascar, Maldives, Marshall Islands, Confederated States of Micronesia, Mongolia, Niue, Sao Tome and Principe, Sierra Leone, South Sudan, Swaziland, Tajikistan, Timor-Leste, Turkmenistan.
(Or perhaps those absentees also haven't paid their due 'fees' for membership? thus foresaking the right to vote?)
So good luck Palestine, and here's to more UN wins and acceptance speeches!
Again, God forbid that the Church of Nativity be nominated for world heritage status. The Lord wouldn't want that now. He frowns on transgressions such as the admission and full recognition of holy places like Palestine, after all.
Update: In response to the UNESCO vote, Israel has withheld tax revenues from the PA, has announced surge in settlement building, and, since yesterday, there is a sustained attack on the internet services for the West Bank and Gaza.
By Dina Dabbous
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