Friday, 6 July 2012

Middle East: Where arms struggle fails, culture ‘may succeed’



By Tajudeen Sowole
 If the U.S. continues to exclude itself from funding United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), in the next one and a half year or less, the global body may expel the world super power from its membership. 

One of Israeli soldiers guarding the barricade set up at an entrance to the Church of the Nativity, in in the occupied territory, Bethlehem, Palestine.
 Row between the U.S. and UNESCO started last October after Palestine was admitted as a member of the world body. And based on a 1994 law of the U.S., which empowers the government to cut off funding of a UN affiliate that recognizes or grant state membership to any entity that has no defined or recogised international borders, the U.S. reacted by withdrawing its funding of UNESCO. The 18-year old law, according to analysts, was a deliberate move by the U.S. to stop Palestine’s statehood. The U.S. alone funds UNESCO to the tune of 22 percent.
  
However, the recent granting of Palestine’s request – against the anger of U.S. and Israel –to list Church of the Nativity in the Palestinian town of Bethlehem as an endangered World Heritage Site further places U.S. in an awkward position.
 Middle East analysts, even in the U.S., project that UNESCO’s continue defiant against U.S. may just be the pedestal on which the more than half a century old Palestinian-Israeli conflict would be resolved in the future without an escalated arms struggle.

Palestinians had argued that Israel’s occupation of the West Bank is a threat to the heritage of the church. The Church of the Nativity is said to mark the birthplace of Jesus. UNESCO agreed with the Palestine’s alarm last week when it voted 13-6, snubbing the objection of Israel and U.S. It was the second defeat to U.S. as the world body had also voted 107 to 14 when it admitted Palestine last October.

Since last year when UNESCO started snubbing U.S., over the Palestine membership, the status of the world super power country appeared to have dropped as some countries, including China has stepped in to fill the 22 percent funding gap in UNESCO’s $325m annual budget.
 

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