The Trump administration is continuing its campaign to separate the United States from the rest of the world this week with the abrupt Thursday morning announcement that we will be withdrawing from the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization.
To be sure, the United States has withdrawn from UNESCO in the past; we did so under President Ronald Reagan during the Cold War era.
This time around, the State Department’s reasoning for its withdrawal includes concern with alleged “anti-Israel bias” in the organization.
As State Dept. spokeswoman Heather Nauert put it:
‘This decision was not taken lightly, and reflects U.S. concerns with mounting arrears at UNESCO, the need for fundamental reform in the organization, and continuing anti-Israel bias at UNESCO.’
Indeed, UNESCO has attracted scrutiny from right-wing Israel advocates in the past for its openness to the Palestinian cause. The committee has declared sites viewed by some as solely Jewish/ Israeli to be Palestinian.
As for the “fundamental reform” aspect of the issue, the Trump Administration has been open in its view that other countries should contribute more to international organizations than they do.
The UNESCO Director-General expressed “profound regret” at the United States’ decision, which it was reportedly informed of on Thursday at about the same time that the information was made public.
The U.S. will assume a role as “a non-member observer state in order to contribute US views, perspectives and expertise.” Besides the stated reasons for our departure from the organization, the Trump administration has also sought steep budget cuts, and international programs have been among the first up to the chopping block. The decision to withdraw from UNESCO has reportedly been in the works for months and comes at a time when the president and the Secretary of State are, by all appearances, not on good terms.