The United Nations is hardly close to being my most favorite of international organizations out there. Yet it keeps doing ridiculous things to merit my disdain. On October 13, the United Nations Education, Science, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) passed a one-sided resolution about Israel's alleged assault on Palestinian rights, while naturally ignoring any Palestinian atrocities. It continues by condemning Israel's "aggressions" and "illegal measures" towards Muslims being able to worship at the Temple Mount.
The resolution, which was submitted by Algeria, Egypt, Lebanon, Morocco, Oman, and Qatar, does not simply and blatantly call Israel "The Occupying Power." Never mind that none of these aforementioned countries are a shining light for religious freedom, and would be significantly more oppressive to non-Muslims in their own country. The UNESCO resolution goes on to deny history. Take a look at the resolution for yourself. The resolution does not reference the Jewish name of Har HaBayit (הר הבית), or even the English equivalent of Temple Mount. The resolution only refers to it as the Al-Aqsa Mosque (المسجد الاقصى) and Haram al-Sharif (الحرم الشريف).
Let's consider the Jewish connection to the site for a second. According to Jewish tradition, it is the site where Abraham nearly sacrificed his son. This is also the site where the First Temple was built by King Solomon, and the site of the Second Temple built by King Herod. Observant Jews pray for the building of the Third Temple [on the Temple Mount] three times a day. Jerusalem is mentioned over 300 times in Hebrew Scriptures, and the word "Zion" an additional 148 times. Even better, there is more than enough archeological evidence to support Jewish connections to the holy site. It doesn't take a bonafide Zionist to realize what intentionally disregarding the long-standing, historical connections that Judaism has to the Temple Mount. The Jewish ties to the Temple Mount are undeniable. You know something is up when the Far-Left Israeli newspaper Haaretz is criticizing UNESCO for this fiasco. To write those ties off the way that UNESCO does is negligent and unconscionable. If UNESCO cannot get the most basic of historical of facts correct, how can we trust such an organization with fulfilling its mission? It makes me wonder how such an organization is capable or confident to preserve the world's history if it does not know simple, historical facts. But let's go beyond this latest debacle to see why UNESCO is problematic.
According to Congressional Research Service, the United States had been responsible for 22 percent of UNESCO's funding, or about $80 million per annum (p. 12) before it ceased payments to UNESCO. The United States withdrew funding in 2011 because UNESCO admitted Palestine as a member of UNESCO. The United States did so because it legally cannot fund any U.N. organization that recognizes the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) or any similar organization without internationally recognized attributes of statehood. This would not be the first time that the United States has withdrawn from UNESCO. It did so back in 1984 because it was perceived to have departed from its original mission, and was not acting either in global interests or American interests due to severe politicization. Organizational reforms were made in the late 1990s and early 2000s, which partially led to the United States returning back in 2003. Nevertheless, I wonder about the United States' transitionary state of being a member without providing funding.
From an American perspective, it is unfair for the United States to disproportionately fund UNESCO while only receiving one vote, which is especially important when determining how funds are allocated. There is also the matter of organizational efficiency. As this 2012 Heritage Foundation report on UNESCO points out, UNESCO fundings are primarily on facilitation, not on implementation. In the 2012 report, Heritage Foundation found that 72 percent of the budget was dedicated to staff, while an additional 10 percent was dedicated to travel and operating expenses. Looking at the 2016 approved budget, it looks like little has changed in ways of paying for staff.
This is not simply about politicization getting in the way or how its selection process of world heritage sites has been problematic (e.g., Keough, 2011). It is about having other countries foot the bill for entrenched management that claims to be preserving important sites. With all of this money going towards bureaucracy, it leaves little room for actually preserving heritage sites. It might seem pretentiously prestigious for a heritage site to have UNESCO status, but at the end of the day, UNESCO is nothing more than expensive smoke and mirrors.