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.

About wallwritings

From 1972 through 1999, James M. Wall was editor and publisher of the Christian Century magazine, based in Chicago, lllinois. He was a Contributing Editor of the Century from 1999 until July, 2017. He has written this blog, wall, since it was launched April 27, 2008. If you would like to receive Wall Writings alerts when new postings are added to this site, send a note, saying, Please Add Me, to Biography: Journalism was Jim's undergraduate college major at Emory University, Atlanta, Georgia. He has earned two MA degrees, one from Emory, and one from the University of Chicago, both in religion. He is an ordained United Methodist clergy person. He served for two years in the US Air Force, and three additional years in the USAF reserve. While serving on active duty with the Alaskan Command, he reached the rank of first lieutenant. He has worked as a sports writer for both the Atlanta Journal and Constitution, was editor of the United Methodist magazine, Christian Advocate for ten years, and editor and publisher of the Christian Century magazine for 27 years. James M Wall died March 22, 2021 at age 92. His family appreciates all of his readers, even those who may have disagreed with his well-informed writings.
This entry was posted in Middle East, Middle East Politics, United Nations. Bookmark the permalink.

19 Responses to Palestine Enters UNESCO in 107 to 14 Vote

  1. Sam Jones says:

    Thanks for the outstanding piece Jim, which lays out just how odious this legislation (from the mid-90’s no less) is, both as blackmail and an affront to how we define our “national interests”. The tenacious journalist in the clip not only pointed out just how naked the emperor is, but did a good job of illustrating the basic point of current diplomacy…don’t upset Israel.

  2. Dwain Epps says:

    Thank you, Jim. Not least for giving us a dose of the kind of journalism we have been talking about needing so badly.

    As you rightly say, the U.S. operates against its own, and the world’s self-interest yet again.

  3. Don Wolf says:

    Our Zionist policy has for a long time not been in our best interest. It is a policy that was supposed to help Israel take over all of the Palestinian land and in fact more then just Palestine, but eventually also Lebannon and Jordan. Of course, Syria is also on their conquest list.

  4. UmerSultan says:

    Great Historical Moment of 2011.
    Salute to James Wall for staying true to Journalism.

  5. Pingback: Palestine Enters UNESCO in 107 to 14 Vote by James Wall | The Sultan's Corner

  6. Bill Gepford says:

    An excellent piece of journalism, Jim. Speaking truth to power (which accurately describes the Prophets of old) does pay off eventually. And we can all be grateful that you represent the incarnatioiin of that concept.. Amen, brother!
    Bill Gepford

  7. John Kettelle says:

    Most of us gentiles who are old enough to remember the holocaust not only tolerated but in fact welcomed the Jewish establishment of the nation of Israel. Also, you can make a very good case that Judaism is just as much a race as a religion. Furthermore a relatively very intelligent one. Their behavior in the Middle East is making them their own worst enemy. Weird..

  8. If you cannot get in the front door, go in the back door – in peace.

  9. Pingback: UNESCO versus Palestinian human rights « quintessentialruminations

  10. Excellent article. It is disturbing to see the USA increasingly step away from the leadership it once offered the world through the international organizations it helped to create following WWII. “American Exceptionalism” is now leading us away from that “exceptionalism” which calls us to service toward an “exceptionalism” of exculsion and isolation, a position hardly conducive to the demands of the 21st century.

  11. Helen Marshall says:

    It is very disturbing to note that Sweden is one of those few nations that voted with the US on this issue. That suggests that now that Julian Assange has lost his fight against extradition to Sweden, it cannot be long before the Swedish government turns him over to the US – to be killed or driven insane.
    I don’t know enough about Swedish politics to understand why they are doing this, but the trend is clear.

  12. Ann Fontaine says:

    We don’t like the way the Palestinians are doing things so we are going to pick up our marbles and go home. Shameful conduct on the part of the US.

  13. Patricia Pynchon says:

    THank you Mr Wall for the live videos and a direct report.
    I loved your remark that Saudi Arabia and other Arab states together with Russia, South Africa and other oil-producing countries could easily make up the 80 million. Let’s hope they will.
    Sad that my country does not do everything to heal the suffering of Palestinians and stands by Israel’s criminal actions (pushing Palestinians off their land without compensation, continually stealing and settling more land, destroying their houses, occupying their land and ruling their lives with sadistic measures such as limiting their freedom to move, travel, to study, to work, uprooting their olive trees and their livlihood, stealing their water, checkpoints,) and the list of crimes goes on without the U.S complaining on their part Never questioning what is an unpardonable criminal behavior, almost equal to the holocaust, or even worse ,as the Israeli policy is to torture a race alive. Are we already a fascist nation? I’llstop sounding off on a matter which touches me deeply.Thanks again for your report.

  14. Robert H Stiver says:

    I must add my admiration for Jim’s always-wordperfect commentary and for all the comments. I do feel the need to gently inform Mr. Kettelle that it is not “weird” to observe and be aghast at Israel’s behavior in the region in which it was imposed: Militant Zionism, as an ideology with evil adherents, has overtaken Judaism and Israel. At the same time, Militant/Political Zionism has cleverly taken control of the U.S. and all too many of the “power centers” of the world. It has descended to the nadir of criminal psychosis, and that is not “weird.” It is dangerous and frightening and fraught with all-too-possible ramifications to every denizen of our planet.

  15. Don Wolf says:

    This has been so obvious for so many years. Why are the citizens of the USA in such denial?

  16. Pingback: What Did The Children Learn in School Today?

  17. Samia Khoury says:

    Sorry Jim for a late comment. I was taking a break from the computer for some time and I just read your excellent (as usual) article about the UNESCO vote. Indeed Sweden was a great surprise, and for France to break away from the normal axis of USA, Britain and France was a fresh breath of hope, but was too good to be true now it has announced backing up at the SC vote. By cutting funding, the US seems to be cutting its nose to spite its face. We will still be around without the dollar.

  18. Pingback: Palestine Granted UN Observer State Status « Wallwritings

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