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UNESCO and Israel

Last month as the UN General Assembly was passing resolutions in New York conferring legitimacy on the Palestine Liberation Organization, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization in Paris, by excluding Israel from its European regional activities, was anticipating and, as Raymond Aron and Jean-Paul Sartre said in a remarkable joint statement, "justifying in advance Israel's physical annihilation." The Arab-inspired resolutions included terminating UNESCO's small aid to Israeli cultural institutions and asked that UNESCO's director general undertake to supervise educational and cultural institutions in Israeli occupied territories. But it was not the imagined threats of archeologists to the Omayyad palaces of Jerusalem that provoked the series of punitive moves. That an international agency dedicated to intellectual freedom and confined by its charter to cultural concerns should be a vehicle for such political reprisals is disheartening.

Scholars in the sciences and humanities, Nobel laureates among them, already have severed their ties with UNESCO. France's newly designated minister for women, Françoise Giroud, refused to appear at a UNESCO session. Unfortunately the Vatican has gone forward with its plans to bestow on UNESCO the Pope John XXIII Award--though Pope Paul VI sharply disassociated the Holy See from the organization's anti-Israel stand.

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee voted to cut a $16 million contribution to UNESCO from the foreign aid bill, the money to be restored only in the event that UNESCO rescinds its resolutions. Financial retaliation against an international organization is a crude way of expressing disapproval, reminiscent of earlier Soviet withholding of funds. But how else are the Communist, Moslem and Third World countries to have impressed upon them that by compromising the universality of the UN, which only recently admitted the People's Republic of China to its ranks in the name of universality, they will in the end undermine the world organization itself?