Palestine Enters UNESCO in 107 to 14 Vote
by James M. Wall
To mounting excitement and wild applause, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), voted 107-14 with 52 abstentions, to approve full Palestinian membership in the international body. The vote came on Monday.
Fully aware that the negotiations track pushed by the US and Israel does nothing but enhance Israel’s continued take over of Palestinian land, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas has chosen to enlist the UN in Palestine’s request for justice.
The UNESCO vote is step one, and a hugely popular step it is, outside of the US.
In addition to leaving the US and Israel with a demonstratively shrinking number of friends in the international community, the UNESCO vote has far-reaching implications for the PLO’s earlier request to the UN Security Council, which requested full statehood membership in the UN General Assembly.
MJ Rosenberg was out Tuesday morning with his Huffington Post summary of the consequences of the vote to US interests. He starts with a dire warning from former Sen. Tim Wirth (D-CO), President of the UN Foundation:
The United States is on the brink of abandoning its decades-long leadership in several international organizations – a process that will fundamentally undermine American national security and economic interests.
Israel’s grip on the US Congress led to the passage of US laws in 1990 and 1994 that locked the US in a dangerous embrace with disaster.
The laws are strict. When Palestine is admitted to a UN agency, the United States must automatically stop paying its membership dues. The laws were written to prevent any future president from waiving these prohibitions, even if such a waiver is in the national interest to do so.
The US has made a deal with the destruction of its own national interest. Wirth adds:
UNESCO leads global efforts to bring clean water to the poor, promotes educational and curriculum building in the developing world, and manages a tsunami early warning system in the Pacific, among other important tasks.
Rosenberg points to this warning from Politico’s Jonathan Allen:
American tech companies — such as Apple, Google and Microsoft — and movie studios that use UNESCO to open markets in the developing world and rely upon an associated entity, the World Intellectual Property Organization, to police international disputes over music, movies and software.
Potentially, the damage can be much, much worse if Palestine seeks and gains recognition from such other critical U.N. entities as the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and the World Health Organization (WHO).
The IAEA is the agency that the U.S. government has relied on to restrain nuclear weapon development (and proliferation) by Iran, North Korea, and others. The WHO works with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta to protect us from potential pandemics like the Avian flu.
Those two Congressional fail-safe votes in the 1990s were written to keep Palestinians stateless. In Stanley Kramer’s prophetic film, Dr. Strangelove, this was called a “doomsday machine”. US reliance on its “negotiations” track has led this country to trigger the “doomsday machine”.
The American empire can no longer strike back. The laws passed in the 1990s has forced an automatic halt (on October 31, 2011) in US funding to UNESCO programs. This represents a loss of at least 23%, or $80 million a year, of UNESCO’s budget.
UNESCO must either drastically cut important programs, or find new funding sources. Among positive votes for the Palestine entry into UNESCO were Russia, China, and Saudi Arabia, a trio of financial centers for which an annual gift of $80 million will pose no problem.
By admitting Palestine to membership in UNESCO, the international community announces, “we will manage without the Yankee dollar”.
Let the US waste its billions on wars against small nations. The rest of the world prefers to take a different path.
The Institute for Middle East Understanding (IMEU), a Washington-based organization, released the three minute video above which shows delegates casting key votes in the UNESCO session. The video captures the emotion of a UN body willing to defy the American empire.
The growing excitement in the hall begins early in the video with the surprise announcement of a positive “oui” vote by Austria (pronounced in the roll call in French as Autrische). It took a few seconds for delegates to realize Austria was a “yes” vote.
The 59 abstention votes are not counted in the final tally, so they are irrelevant, except for the fact that they reduce the number of votes required to pass the resolution. Among the abstentions was the United Kingdom, a vote which was surprising since the Israel Lobby has almost as much control over UK politics as it does that in the US.
Canada, which also has a strong Lobby presence, joined the US and Israel in voting against the resolution. The total 14 negative vote count included anti-Palestine votes by Australia, Czech Republic, Germany, Lithuania, the Netherlands, Palau, Panama, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Sweden, United States of America, and Vanuatu.
For the entire positive vote list, and the abstentions, click on the blog, The Human Province, which notes the split, no doubt dictated by both domestic and international politics, among European nations. The shrinking US influence in international affairs is reflected in the voting. The Human Province concluded:
Most of these are no surprise, although it is worth noting the division in Europe, with Spain, France, Ireland, Austria, Finland and Greece voting “yes,” Germany, Czech Republic and Sweden voting “no,” and the UK, Italy and Denmark abstaining.
It’s also probably worth noting that the US didn’t manage to get a “no” vote from such solid supporters as countries like Latvia (which voted “no” to bringing the motion to the General Assembly earlier this month but abstained today) and Tuvalu, Nauru and other island states that almost always support the US in international forums.
Sweden, which has a reputation for supporting human and civil rights, cast a surprising vote against Palestinian membership.
US and Israel trotted out the usual talking points to defend their votes. Since nothing they now say is new and has been shown repeatedly to be devoid of meaning, it is sad to hear how feeble the rhetoric is on a world stage.
The swagger of an AIPAC rally or congressional campaign oration fades rapidly when exposed to the enthusiasm of those 107 international positive votes at the UNESCO General Conference.
President Abbas’ decision to lead the Palestinian Authority and the PLO away from the dead-end track of “negotiations” into the United Nations track has worked. As a strategy to defy both the US and Israel, it was a remarkable step.
UNESCO membership brings with it both a way of showing UN backing for a Palestinian state and access to some significant UN units
The Institute for Middle East Understanding points out that “the PLO’s push for full membership to UNESCO was, in part, a litmus test of UN support for Palestinian claims to statehood”.
UNESCO membership means that Palestine is now in a position to become a member of several important UN bodies, none of whose membership rolls are subject to a US veto.
UNESCO membership also means that Palestine can become a member of the UN Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO), the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), and the UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), as these bodies allow UNESCO members to become full members.
It also places the Palestinians in a good position to become members of the International Telecommunications Union (ITU), the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), where admission is similarly contingent on a majority or two-thirds majority vote.
If an increasing number of UN agencies admit Palestine as a member state, it strengthens their claim to statehood, internationalizes the Israel-Palestine conflict, and opens up avenues previously closed to the Palestinians to pursue grievances related to the Israeli military occupation of their lands.
In addition to these agencies, Mondoweiss points to the blog of former British Ambassador Craig Murray, who writes that the UNESCO vote sets a precedent for Palestine to join the International Criminal Court:
The UNESCO membership is crucial recognition of Palestine’s statehood, not an empty gesture. With this evidence of international acceptance, there is now absolutely no reason why Palestine cannot, instantly and without a vote, join the International Criminal Court.
Palestine can now become a member of the International Criminal Court simply by submitting an instrument of accession to the Statute of Rome, and joining the list of states parties.
Rashid Khalidi, Edward Said Chair in Arab Studies at Columbia University, identifies yet another benefit to a Palestinian state’s membership in UNESCO:
“The vote to accept Palestine into UNESCO is a long overdue recognition from international community that Palestinian culture is a part of the rich heritage of the Middle East and the world. The idea that this vote is a threat to Israel or the U.S. is another absurd example of how Israeli policy (with U.S. support) is directed at the erasure of Palestinian identity and culture in addition to the denial of political, legal and human rights.”
State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland wilts under intense questioning from AP’s Matthew Lee, as she tries to defend her country’s automatic cut off of funds to UNESCO. (For more on Matthew Lee versus the State Department, click here.)
To watch, listen, read (full text here) and mourn the level to which Israel has dragged American diplomacy down into Zionist darkness, click below, twice.
The exchange between Spokeswoman Nuland and Matthew Lee, is worth the double click.
If you want the CNN (edited) version of this exchange, with all of Lee’s questions deleted, watch below, and weep for the state of America’s controlled media. You will not have to click twice.
Filed under: Middle East, Middle East Politics, United Nations | 19 Comments