The United States has formally notified the UN’s world heritage body Unesco that it is withdrawing its membership of the organization citing “continuing anti-Israel bias”.
The announcement by the Trump administration was followed a few hours later by news that Israel was also planning to quit the financially struggling cultural and educational agency. In a statement Benjamin Netanyahu, the Israeli prime minister, welcomed the US move saying: “This is a brave and moral decision, because Unesco has become a theatre of absurd. Instead of preserving history, it distorts it.”
The body is best known for its world heritage listings of outstanding cultural and natural sites but has often drawn the ire of Israel and the Trump administration for a series of decisions, including the listing of Hebron, a city in the southern part of the occupied Palestinian territories, as a Palestinian world heritage site. Unesco’s director general, Irina Bokova, expressed her “Profound regret” over the US decision. “This is not just about World Heritage,” she said, describing the withdrawals as “a loss to both the organization and the US”.