No laughing matter: The cutting of UNESCO funding

The theory behind this ill-considered measure is that any recognition of Palestine as having an independent government and statehood aspirations should be discouraged in order that Palestinians and Israel may settle their nearly 64-year dispute via direct negotiations and with no outside assistance from the international community to balance the playing field between the state of Israel and the dispossessed Palestinian people. To some this may sound rational except that Israel holds all of the cards, even following the 1993 Oslo Accords that were supposed to lay the foundation for the establishment of an independent, legitimate Palestinian state living at peace with Israel.
 

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It remains completely unclear to any independent observer how Palestine entering into UNESCO would influence negotiations that are not taking place.  What it does do is to display to all who wish to see that the Palestinians are viewed by most of the world as a legitimate nation of people who have the right to fully operate at the international level.
 
Rather than advance Palestinian freedom – unacceptable in today’s Washington – the US Congress decided it was permissible to damage UNESCO. As The Daily Show pointed out, this means that all sorts of social programs have been placed in jeopardy or outright destroyed for lack of funding (Click here to watch the video). The one that caught my attention was the funding of a literacy program for Afghan police officers. One would assume that the USA would be interested in the Afghan police being fully able to read.
 
Too few in Congress have been willing to speak out on the need for justice for the Palestinian people for fear of retaliation being carried out by anti-Palestinian political groups in the USA. Yet one would assume that more progressive constituencies, such as the Congressional Black Caucus, could be counted upon to point out the self-defeating nature of the decision by the US to cut funds for UNESCO and its impact of further embarrassing the US in the court of global public opinion.
 
Regardless of the rhetoric out of Washington suggesting that the USA intends to be even-handed when it comes to the Palestinian-Israeli dispute, the political elite falls all over itself to demonstrate its loyalty to Israel. Consequently, we watch the results of a short-sighted and biased action that is permitting a much-applauded component of the United Nations to wither on the vine.
 
This is political stupidity and The Daily Show was right to call it out. If Congress had an iota of shame it would move to rectify its opposition to Palestinian freedom and to restore funding for vital UNESCO programs.
 
Fletcher, Jr. is a senior scholar with the Institute for Policy Studies, the immediate past president of TransAfrica Forum and the co-author of "Solidarity Divided."