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Rubio, Kirk Lead Successful Effort To Stop U.S. Funding For Anti-Israel Unesco

Dec 17, 2015 | Press Releases

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senators Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Mark Kirk (R-IL) issued the following statement after Senate and House negotiators rejected the Obama Administration’s request to create a back-door mechanism in the 2016 omnibus spending bill to fund the U.N. Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). On December 11, 2015, Rubio and Kirk urged Senate and House Republican leadership to reject the administration’s request.

“We thank Republican leaders in Congress for working with us to uphold longstanding U.S. laws that forbid funding to UNESCO, the U.N. organization whose anti-Israel member states granted membership to the non-state actor of ‘Palestine’ in 2011 and more recently tried to designate the Western Wall in Jerusalem as a Muslim holy site,” Rubio and Kirk said.

UNESCO lost U.S. funding after the U.N. body’s member states voted to grant membership to the non-state actor of “Palestine” in October 2011. U.S. laws passed in 1990 and 1994 require the U.S. to withhold funding to any U.N. organization that grants membership to the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) or “any organization or group that does not have the internationally recognized attributes of statehood.”

The full text of the letter is available below.

December 11, 2015

Dear Leader McConnell and Speaker Ryan:

We write to oppose the inclusion of language in the fiscal year 2016 omnibus appropriations bill to restore U.S. funding for the U.N. Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). The proposed language would undermine over two decades of U.S. policy against funding U.N. organizations that admit the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) or other non-state actors as members.  The Department of State formally requested inclusion of the proposed language in a letter dated December 7, 2015.

Under U.S. laws passed in 1990 and 1994, the United States is required to withhold funding to any U.N. organization that grants membership to the Palestine Liberation Organization or “any organization or group that does not have the internationally recognized attributes of statehood.”  After UNESCO admitted “Palestine” as a member in October 2011, the United States accordingly withheld funding from UNESCO.

We note on several occasions, most recently in the February 2015 jury decision for Sokolow v. PLO in a New York Federal District Court, U.S. courts have found the PLO to be liable for hundreds of millions in damages for supporting terrorist attacks that killed and injured Americans.

The proposed language also creates a deeply troubling precedent. U.N. organizations, which seek to follow UNESCO’s example and grant membership to non-state actors, may be encouraged to do so believing that the United States would eventually create another exception for them and restore withheld U.S. funding.

Neither the House Committee-passed nor Senate Committee-passed appropriations bills included this proposed language.  We oppose inclusion of this language in the FY2016 omnibus appropriations bill.

Sincerely,

U.S. Senator Mark Kirk

U.S. Senator Marco Rubio

CC: The Honorable Thad Cochran, The Honorable Hal Rogers