Hillel Neuer
International human rights lawyer, writer & activist

UNESCO reneges on Israel exhibit, surrenders to Arab pressure

Wisenthal UNESCO invitation frDays before the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization was to launch a landmark exhibit at its Paris headquarters on “The 3,500 Year Relationship of the Jewish People and the Land of Israel,” curated together with the Simon Wiesenthal Center, the world body reneged.

The surprise here isn’t that UNESCO chief Irina Bokova surrendered to the Arab League’s protest, rudely cancelling an event for which invitations were already sent out, and which involved painstaking work over two years by Hebrew University scholar Robert Wistrich.

Rather, the only surprises here — for an organization that up until several weeks ago grotesquely featured Bashar al-Assad’s Syria on its human rights committee — are that Bokova ever gave her approval in the first place; and that it took this long for the Arab states to go ballistic, given that the Wiesenthal Center, back in 2012, had been loud and clear that the exhibit would counteract “malicious lies being spread, particularly in the Arab world,” and would be shown “not in a synaogue or Jewish community center, but rather at UNESCO headquarters in Paris and the United Nations where this historic truth [the Jewish connection to Israel] is too often buried under an avalanche of lies.”

For anyone who knows anything about UNESCO — which in November 2011 became the first UN body to deem “Palestine” a state — surrender to Arab pressure was entirely predictable.

Despite the repeated claims of the Obama Administration that UNESCO is God’s gift to the Jews, the opposite is true: it is arguably the most anti-Israel body in the entire United Nations. If the notorious UN Human Rights Council dedicates a full 50 percent of its resolutions to Israel, at UNESCO it is 100 percent. That’s right: all of the condemnatory resolutions at UNESCO are against the Jewish state.  Consider the facts:

  • In 2009, the UNESCO Executive Board adopted eight resolutions against the Jewish state at its 181st  session and 182nd  session, and then another two resolutions against Israel at the 35th session of the General Conference.
  • In 2010, the UNESCO Executive Board adopted 10 decisions against Israel at its 184th session and 185th session.
  • In 2011, the UNESCO Executive Board again adopted 10 decisions against Israel at its 186th session and 187th session, and another two resolutions against Israel at the 36th session of the General Conference.

Astonishingly, during this same time period, an examination of all UNESCO Executive Board decisions and UNESCO General Conference resolutions — just click on the links above — shows that not a single other country was censured even once.

Exceptionally, in 2012, UNESCO condemned Syria for its bloody crackdown, in one resolution. Yet this took place only after Western countries were pressured by UN Watch’s protest against UNESCO’s shameful election of Syria to its committee that judges human rights petitions, as well as to the committee that oversees non-governmental organizations.

This condemnation of Syria, however, was a one-off, and it failed to reappear in 2013. Instead, Israel returned once again to being the only country singled out by UNESCO.

Consider the audacity: Bokova said her cancellation of Monday’s pro-Israel event was justified by UNESCO’s concern not to endanger the fragile Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations — yet somehow this noble peace principle never stopped UNESCO from targeting Israel incessantly.

Consider the tragedy: Founded in 1945 with the express purpose of combating the doctrine of the inequality of men and races, UNESCO today has sadly become a serial perpetrator of inequality.

About the Author
Hillel Neuer is executive director of UN Watch, a non-governmental human rights organization in Geneva, Switzerland. An international lawyer, Neuer has been described by the Tribune de Genève as a human rights activist who is “feared and dreaded” by the world’s dictatorships. Israel's Ma’ariv newspaper ranked Neuer as one of the “Top 100 Most Influential Jewish People in the World.” Hillel Neuer is a renowned speaker who has published widely, testified before the United Nations and the U.S. Congress, and appeared on CNN, BBC, and Al Jazeera. On September 14, 2016, the City of Chicago adopted a resolution declaring “Hillel Neuer Day” in recognition of his work as “one of the world’s foremost human rights advocates.” In June 2018, McGill University awarded Neuer with an honorary Doctor of Laws degree, citing his work as “an innovator” in “creating global platforms for courageous dissidents and champions of human rights from around the world,” and for being “a passionate advocate for human rights, fighting tirelessly against discrimination, torture, and injustice."