The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) voted Monday voted in favor of admitting Palestine as a full member. Although I am not an ardent supporter of Mahmoud Abbas’ bid for statehood (I’m of the opinion that we don’t need to “bid” for self-autonomy), I am touched by the growing international support for the Palestinian cause. Those hostile to the idea of a sovereign Palestine typically frame the country and its people as a threat to the entire world, so it is both refreshing and relieving to see nations from every corner of the world prove otherwise.
Almost immediately after the UNESCO vote, the United States cut funding to the agency. According to the Washington Post, a $60 million payment to UNESCO will now be withheld. But while this is totally expected, it does reveal a lack of principle: The U.S. is willing to undermine a global agency for the sake of preserving failed negotiations and a nation that goes out of its way to build illegal settlements as part of its contribution to the peace process.
UNESCO’s stated mission is “to contribute to the building of peace, the eradication of poverty, sustainable development and intercultural dialogue through education, the sciences, culture, communication and information”. If anything, recognizing and accepting Palestinian culture as a tool for the development of an interconnected global network could be the first step towards a just resolution. Said differently, and maybe this is what makes the U.S. and Israel so agitated, this could be the first step towards undoing the ethnic cleansing and settler colonialism that has plagued this land for so many decades.