UNESCO Will get First Jewish Director, Day After U.S. Leaves Over ‘Anti-Israel’ Bias

UNESCO Gets First Jewish Director, Day After U.S. Leaves Over ‘Anti-Israel’ Bias

A day after the US and Israel pulled out of the U.N. tradition and schooling physique citing anti-Israel bias, UNESCO elected its first ever Jewish director normal.

Audrey Azoulay, France’s former tradition minister, eked out a win over Qatar’s candidate and frontrunner Hamad bin Abdoulaziz Al-Kawari. UNESCO’s govt physique voted on Friday.

Azouley will take the helm of UNESCO because it battles money shortages, geopolitical rivalries, and the lack of two member states. This week, as first reported by Overseas Coverage, the US stated it could pull out of the group, which it stated has an “anti-Israel” bias. Israel quickly adopted.

U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley didn’t mince phrases when she outlined the U.S. withdrawal in an announcement launched on Thursday: “Its excessive politicization has change into a power embarrassment,” she stated, citing a “lengthy line of silly actions” together with designating the Israeli-occupied historic metropolis of Hebron as a Palestinian world heritage web site, and conserving Syrian chief Bashar al-Assad on a UNESCO human rights committee.

“U.S. taxpayers ought to now not be on the hook to pay for insurance policies which can be hostile to our values and make a mockery of justice and customary sense,” Haley stated.

UNESCO’s outgoing director normal, Irina Bokova, pushed again in opposition to prices the U.N. physique had an anti-Israel bias and stated her successor has their work minimize out, in a phone interview with FP simply earlier than Azoulay’s win.

“Whereas I’m not completely shocked by this transfer, I all the time thought one thing extra was at stake,” Bokova stated in regards to the U.S. departure. She acknowledged that the U.S. departure, coupled with that of Israel, is “a blow to the group. It would actually take its toll.”

However she sharply disputed the cost UNESCO was anti-Israel.

“My duty as [director general] has all the time been to have a look at the very balanced and particularly reasonable method towards our mandate,” she advised. “I might not say that UNESCO is a humiliation,” she added.

Certainly one of UNESCO’s chief duties, she famous, dovetails with a prime Trump administration international coverage precedence: Countering violent extremism. UNESCO runs packages to battle the unlawful antiquities commerce that helped bankroll the Islamic State, and likewise conducts literacy and education schemes in Afghanistan and Iraq meant to wither potential roots of radicalization. The group has additionally restored cultural websites within the conflict-ridden Sahel.

“This work is so profoundly essential…Safety of heritage isn’t just a cultural concern, these days it’s a safety crucial,” she stated.

Azoulay’s election was a victory for the French, and can allay fears about UNESCO being led by candidates from authoritarian governments. Different frontrunners had been Qatari, Egyptian, and Chinese language candidates.

Her sudden victory was additionally proof constructive of the lingering diplomatic fissure within the Persian Gulf. The Qatari candidate couldn’t spherical up assist from fellow Gulf Arabs, a pointy blow to Doha’s efforts to emerge from diplomatic isolation since Saudi Arabia and its neighbors minimize off ties in June.

Whereas Haley and different U.S. officers made a lot of UNESCO’s alleged anti-Israel bias, diplomats accustomed to the U.S. deliberations stated the choice to depart was prompted by penny-pinching considerations. U.S. funds to UNESCO at the moment are in arrears to the tune of about $550 million — and diplomats had been frightened that complete would proceed to develop.

Picture credit score: JACQUES DEMARTHON/AFP/Getty Pictures