Tuesday, November 08, 2011

Letter to UNESCO Director General by ICJW President. November 2011.

TO: Mme. Irina Bokova
Director General
7 Place de Fontenoy
75352 Paris 07 SP

Dear Mme. Bokova:

As President of the International Council of Jewish Women, I am writing to express our dismay and disappointment at the recent action taken by UNESCO in granting member state status to the Palestinian Authority.

While we fully acknowledge and applaud UNESCO’s work in overseeing numerous projects or programs which address the educational, scientific,
cultural and educational needs of people around the world, we also fully
acknowledge the fact that UNESCO is a political reality in today’s world.
It is, in our opinion, that political reality which resulted in the regrettable action by 107 member states who voted to accept the Palestinian Authority’s petition and 52 member states who simply chose to “abstain” and remain silent.

Several weeks earlier the Palestinian Authority had failed in its attempt to be admitted as a member state to the full body of the United Nations in New York.

In presenting the same case to UNESCO, the Palestinian Authority has, in
effect, chosen to maneuver around the United Nation’s official position and
seek legitimacy through what might be called the “back door”. Sadly, they
have succeeded and in doing so the face of UNESCO’s “political reality” rather than its humanitarian face has been exposed. At a time when the humanitarian needs of disenfranchised and victimized peoples around the world are greater than ever, more’s the shame that UNESCO has chosen a course which seems to serve only its own political ends.

Further, in seeking to blunt this reality by suggesting that it will be because of the United States’ decision to withhold funding for other UNESCO programs as a consequence of this action, it appears the agency is offering a faintly disguised effort to hold the United States responsible for any reduced humanitarian and educational efforts in the future. Mme. Bokova, we believe this position is patently untrue. It is our understanding that the United States has long affirmed its position that admission of the Palestinian Authority as a member state in UNESCO as a result of bypassing the UN-approved processes, would result in funding consequences. Thus the decision by the 159 member states who voted in the affirmative or chose to simply abstain was taken with full knowledge of the probable consequences of their action. We believe that the responsibility for any untoward results with regard to humanitarian programs and projects fall clearly at the feet of those member states who chose to accept the Palestinian Authority’s application.

The International Council of Jewish Women has long supported the safe existence of the State of Israel and the search for an enduring peace agreement. Consistent with this policy we cannot stand silent when a prominent UN agency allows the peace process to be sidestepped. In permitting the Palestinian Authority to shortcut the acknowledged peace process, UNESCO has done just this. ICJW’s consultative status as an NGO at the United Nations and at UNESCO requires us to speak out when it appears that they are flouting their own rules and procedures.

Mme. Bokova, it is with deep regret that I am sending you this letter. The International Council of Jewish Women values our consultative NGO status at UNESCO and we have no wish to jeopardize our standing with the agency by virtue of speaking out. But the matter is of such significance to our organization that I believe I have had no choice but to state our position clearly and without malice.

Thank you for your kind attention to our statement.


Sharon Gustafson, President
International Council of Jewish Women

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