Friday, November 4, 2011 publishes US Campaign member's analysis of UNESCO debacle recently published the following article, written by US Campaign Steering Committee member and director of the New Internationalism Project at the Institute for Policy Studies, Phyllis Bennis. The US Campaign has been organizing around the issue of Palestinian membership in the UN in recent months, and has assembled educational material on the subject which can be found here.

Defunding UNESCO for the 1 percent
Putting Israeli interests ahead of American interests begins to backfire

We’ve been hearing a lot lately about the 1 percent — the rich, the powerful, the ones who buy off our government, impose their wars, avoid paying their taxes, you know the ones. The 99 percent — the rest of us – are the ones who pay the price.

But there’s another 99/1 percent divide: over U.S. policy toward Israel and the whole world. Here the 1 percent are really on a roll. Right over the rest of us.

This struggle concerns the American people’s support for the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization known as UNESCO. The organization does a lot of important work, including identifying and protecting World Heritage Sites, working to broaden educational opportunities around the world and helping poor countries get access to scientific information.

One could certainly argue that for a self-interested American, UNESCO isn’t crucial to U.S. national interests. One might say it does nothing more than make sure that tourist sites like the Cambodian temples of Angkor Wat or Australia’s Great Barrier Reef are still there when you want to see them. In fact, during the Cold War, Ronald Reagan pulled the U.S. out of UNESCO altogether; no one except maybe the historians, anthropologists, educators, cultural workers and a few insignificant others seemed to mind. It was almost a decade later that George Bush rejoined the organization.

And here we are again. This time the U.S. Congress announced it is withholding this year’s UNESCO dues, within hours of the global organization welcoming a new member: Palestine. In certain basic ways, UNESCO (like the United Nations itself) is like every little kids’ club: You don’t pay your dues, you’re out. In her press briefing just after the Paris vote, State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said the vote by the member states of UNESCO to admit Palestine as a member is “regrettable, premature and undermines our shared goal of accomplishing a comprehensive, just and lasting peace in the Middle East. The United States remains steadfast in its support for the establishment of an independent and sovereign Palestinian state. But such a state can only be realized through direct negotiations between the Israelis and the Palestinians.”