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State Department Flack Tacitly Concedes U.S. Opposition to Palestinian UNESCO Membership Stems From Protecting Israel

IMPORTANT: I urge all my readers to make as generous a gift as you can to UNESCO to express your disgust with Obama administration policy toward the organization.  Support UNESCO when Obama deserts it.  I must say the organization makes it difficult to contribute.  You can only donate to three specific programs at this link and you have to register to do so.  I’ve found links to specific programs (and the children’s program here) within UNESCO to which you may donate.  But I haven’t found any way to do so directly to the overall organization.  If any readers know how to do this please let me know.

Reporter Matt Lee sticks it to State Department spokesflack Victoria Nuland (who is married to neocon analyst Robert Kagan) as she argues that U.S. opposition to the Palestinian bid for UNESCO membership and our immediate defunding of that body arises from our concern for a “rise in tension” it would cause.  After Lee repeatedly asks her what “tension” the vote creates except Israeli anger, she ends the interchange charging him with mounting a “polemic.”  In other words, she has just tacitly conceded that the only reason we oppose UNESCO membership is because it pisses off the Israelis.

Once or twice during the questioning a frozen smile creeps across her face–or I should say flickers on her lips.  It’s not really a facial smile, but rather an almost involuntary grimace that mimics a smile.  Really scary.  A mirror into the mind–though a jumbled, obtuse one it must be.

Among the other sophistries she tried to pass off were a claim that the membership bid would deflect from the goal of creating a Palestinian state; that the U.S. continues to support creating such a state; and that it continues to support UNESCO.

Of course, if you continue as a member of such a body after turning off 22% of its budget, you’re not going to be considered a member in good standing and your influence will decline dramatically.  This of course will hurt U.S. interests and the greater values that we’re promoting by belonging.  To say you support an organization after shutting off the spigot is a mite hypocritical.

Important to note that all the U.S. could muster in the vote was 12 other countries opposing the membership bid.  Twelve.  Over 100 countries defied us and Israel.  As Matt Lee says in the video, this should be telling us something.  100 other countries think the main tension caused in this conflict is by Israel, not Palestine.  Twelve agree with us.

Also, the U.S. claim that it supports a Palestinian state when it has now taken three decisively hostile votes against such a state within the UN framework (veto of the anti-settlement resolution, threatening a veto of a Security Council statehood resolution, and defunding UNESCO) are dramatic contradictions of our statements.  I’ve always believed that to know a politician’s true values you watch the way he votes, not what he says.  The same is true in international affairs.  We’ve flown our true colors today despite the white lies offered by Victoria Nuland.

U.S. policy is seriously off-track.  It is totally skewed toward Israel at a time when the rest of the world is moving in a diametrically opposite direction.  Though Obama has prided himself on a return to multilateralism in the aftermath of the fiasco of Bush era foreign policy, we are moving precisely in the direction of unilateralism in our relations with the Palestinians and Arab states supporting it.  We’ve seen the disaster that is unilateralism.  How can we return to it?  This is becoming a slow motion train wreck.  You see the train coming.  You see the eyes of the engineer and the brake handle right in front of him which he can’t or won’t grasp.  What’s going wrong?  Can’t he see disaster ahead?

Now the fun begins in earnest.  The Congressional chicken hawks will be screaming for us to cut off the PA and Israel will be considering sanctions as well.  Guys, I’ve got a few brief words for you: IT WON’T WORK!  Palestine has been financially destitute before.  Sure, it will hurt.  But the truth is that Israel has stifled the Palestinian economy, which might stand on its own without Israeli interference.  So the blame has always been upon Israel for a relatively stagnant economy.  The blame will still be on Israel, and now the U.S., when they shut off the tap.  Let’s be sure to show the world the pictures of the babies doing without medical care and proper nutrition from this anticipated aid cutoff.  Let’s show the world pictures of former UNESCO programs cancelled or curtailed due to U.S. obtuseness in enforcing a 20 year old law which violates stated U.S. policy recognizing a two state solution.

{ 43 comments… add one }
  • Menil October 31, 2011, 1:51 PM

    Indeed, that was one of the most disgraceful performances by the State Department. It makes it appear as if the US is Israel’s puppet.

    • John Farbarik October 31, 2011, 7:49 PM

      Everyone who cares knows it – the US is Israel’s puppet, panderer.

      I am ashamed of the State department, of Obama.

      • Simone November 1, 2011, 1:06 PM

        That is SO ridiculous. What in the world can Israel offer the US, to make her dance to Israel’s tune?

    • Weindeb November 1, 2011, 12:35 AM

      It is.

  • dickerson3870 October 31, 2011, 2:54 PM

    RE: “…Victoria Nuland…argues that U.S. opposition to the Palestinian bid for UNESCO membership and our immediate defunding of that body arises from our concern for a ‘rise in tension’ it would cause.”

    TRANSLATION: We’re in campaign mode until 2013, and we can’t take a chance on alienating any of our major donors to the the DNC and/or the Obama reelection campaign.


    …Saban has been a generous and consistent donor to the United States Democratic Party according to his mandatory Federal Election Commission filings…
    …During the 2000 presidential election, Saban increased his rank to 5th among individual donors with a combined contribution of $1,250,500.[14] Matthew Yglesias wrote that “Saban was the largest overall contributor to the Democratic National Committee during the 2001–2002 cycle” and related the support from Saban to the fact that “the party leadership was backing the Iraq War and Terry McAuliffe was DNC chair.”[15] Saban’s donations during that 2001–2002 period exceeded $10 million, the largest donation the DNC has received from a single source up to that time

    SOURCE – link to thefullwiki.org
    P.S. FROM WIKIPEDIA: “…Saban contributed between $5 million to $10 million to the William J. Clinton Foundation.[19]…”

    ALSO SEE: Saban family tried to give [Rahm] Emanuel over 1/2 a million [for his mayoral campaign] – link to mondoweiss.net

    P.S. “Money is the mother’s milk of politics.” ~ Jesse “Big Daddy” Unruh, Speaker of the California Assembly from 1961 to 1968

  • Michael October 31, 2011, 2:55 PM

    The United States is doing nothing but hurting its interests. As we can see, despite the no vote, Palestinians have been admitted. Furthermore, as the economic power in the East is growing at much faster pace, the direct influence in this part of the world is declining at a very fast pace. Discrimination has a cost. The middle eastern nations are going to remember when it is time to chose between Asian and American companies to build their infrastructure, etc. This is called soft power and in the long run, it is always more powerful than the power of blackmail or even bombs.

  • Brad October 31, 2011, 6:31 PM

    Alternatively, from the point-of-view of growing powers or powers with ambitions to play a larger international role, such US actions present opportunities. Perhaps other nations will increase their funding to UNESCO to some extent.

    Pull out, back off, say no, refuse. Go US go! Away! Others can more easily take over then and the sooner the better.

    • Castellio October 31, 2011, 6:53 PM

      I am in Asia and witness daily its strange love/hate relationship with America. But yes, Brad is right, more and more there is an understanding of the huge gap between the expressed sentiments and its actions.

      America as exemplar is long past its due date. The taste is sour.

    • Richard Silverstein October 31, 2011, 7:46 PM

      Arab states have said they would make up the difference which would be great except that they don’t seem the best aligned with the values of UNESCO.

      • JONDS November 1, 2011, 12:19 AM

        “Arab states have said they would make up the difference” – BIG LOL on that. It’s like the time when they said that they will donate to the Palestinian Refugees and their cause and to the PA. Until now, the countries which have been donating the most significant amounts were European countries. So dont count on the Arab states’ words.

        • Richard Silverstein November 1, 2011, 8:47 PM

          If anyone here needed to hear anti-Arab propaganda I’m sure they wouldn’t choose to hear it from you. If that’s what you see yr job as here then give it a rest. If you don’t, I will give you a forced rest.

      • Simone November 1, 2011, 1:04 PM

        For once I agree with you, Richard. The Arab states are probably among the worst aligned with the values of UNESCO.
        But as for making up the difference – if I were Abu Maazen, I wouldn’t hold my breath.

  • Casper Larsen October 31, 2011, 7:21 PM

    Matt Lee owned Nuland once again during the press conference today.

  • David October 31, 2011, 7:40 PM

    This whole fiasco reminds me of the skinny kid who gets beaten up for 63 years by his steroid-enhanced neighbor and for 40 of these years has been going to the corrupt cops on the corner for justice, and receiving none.

    So he finally hops on the bus and drives downtown to a different police station and, lo and behold, they at least record his complaint and promise to look out for him a bit.

    Meanwhile, the corrupt cop, when interviewed, expresses his dismay that the little kid didn’t keep trying to talk to the goon on steroids.

  • Johnboy October 31, 2011, 10:42 PM

    Matt Lee is indeed dogged, though I feel he needs to think much harder about his questions before he enters those press briefings.

    Anyway, the best “zinger” came from one of the other hacks:
    “Toria, I mean, you could explain this as the U.S. becomes a deadbeat at UNESCO; it’s there but it’s not paying its dues. And others say that this overall undermines the influence of the United States. What do you say to that?”

    That is a hum-dinger of a question.

    After all, even Ronald Reagan – as stupid a man as ever held elected office – had the brains to realize that if you turn off the money tap then you really are also obliged to walk out the door.

    Only deadbeats think otherwise….

    • chet380 November 1, 2011, 10:35 AM

      Johnboy – it’s a pleasure to read your insights in light of what appears to be a total banning from the Haaretz comments (as, unfortunately, I am as well).

      While Matt Lee and some of the others regularly put Victoria Nuland on the spot with their I/P questions, those important confrontations that so expose US hypocrisy and Israeli bootlicking never see the light of day in the MSM.

      It’s comforting to know that someone is asking the right questions, but they are of little to no effect unless they are disseminated.

  • Rod Brown November 1, 2011, 5:11 AM

    RS: “..and Israel will be considering sanctions as well”

    It Seems they will according to Haaretz:

    “Among the ideas are cancelling the VIP status of senior Palestinian officials which enables them to cross through Israeli checkpoints, increasing settlement construction, and halting the transfer of tax money which Israel collects for the Palestinian Authority.”

    link to haaretz.com

    I found the UNESCO vote of interest to with regard to UNSC members:

    United States

    Bosnia and Herzegovina
    United Kingdom

    South Africa

    • Carl November 1, 2011, 12:58 PM

      notice Bosnia and Herzegovina on the abstains; B-H was being lobbied by Lieberman to be a no vote in the Security Council; bummer for Israel and the US.

  • External November 1, 2011, 5:55 AM


    UNESCO has managed to survive w/o the US for nearly 20 yrs : 1984-2003 . Thus it will be able to continue on w/o the superpower (sic) . Now if only we can kick the top level executives out because UNESCO was forced to hire them based on quota – No funding no key positions for your citizens. Now I am waiting for “Steve” Harper to make his move : Canada has also shown its pro-Bibi angle by voting NO.

  • Bob Mann November 1, 2011, 7:30 AM

    There were a total of 67 countries who did not vote to support membership. 88 if you include the 21 countries that were not present for the vote.

    That’s almost half (45%) of the countries in the UN who did not vote in favor of membership (88 out of 195).

  • Rod Brown November 1, 2011, 7:56 AM

    @Bob Mann

    Well, in that case, using the same “logic”:

    There were a total of 159 countries who did not vote against membership. 180 if you include the 21 countries that were not present for the vote.

    That’s almost 23/25 (92%) of the countries in the UN who did not vote against membership (180 out of 195).

    • Bob Mann November 1, 2011, 8:03 AM

      Right – which is the point the owner of the blog established in the post that we are all commenting on. He wrote that the US only managed to get a small number of people to vote no.

      My point, though, is that there was also a pretty sizable number of countries who chose to abstain or not vote at all.

      So, one can look at it the way the original piece presents it (and what you are repeating here) – that only a very small number opposed membership.

      Or one can look at it another way and take note of the fact that a fairly sizable minority (close to half) of the countries in the UN did not vote yes on membership.

      I just wanted to put that alternative interpretation out there for consideration.

      • Rod Brown November 1, 2011, 8:15 AM

        @Bob Mann

        No, you were playing a silly numbers game which was very transparent, and had you truly wanted to make the “point” you claim, you’d have made it in your original response and not waited until your “play” on numbers was shown to be completely silly. The only votes were “yes” or “no”, and the no’s were very sparse on the ground despite the US’s blackmail and it leaning on other members.

        • Bob Mann November 1, 2011, 4:06 PM

          No silly numbers game being played here. Just trying to help assess what went on at the UN with respect to this vote.

          The abstentions are actually just as important as the no votes, despite your claims to the contrary. The reason being, that in order for this vote to have succeeded, there needed to be a high enough percentage of countries voting “yes” – the abstentions would could against this number in exactly the way that a “no” vote would.

          Do you have evidence to support your claim that the US “blackmailed” countries to vote no? Some of those “no” votes included Sweden, Germany, and the Czech Republic.

          Are you claiming that the US blackmailed the fifty-something countries that abstained as well?

          Only the countries that voted yes were voting their conscience?

          • Johnboy November 1, 2011, 5:16 PM

            That is utter nonsense.

            An abstention is exactly that i.e. it is not a vote in favour of a motion, nor is it a vote against a motion.

            So long as a quorum is reached then what matters in “a vote” is “the voting”, and in this case:
            1) A quorum of votes were cast
            2) That vote ended up 107-14 in favour of the motion

            Q: What about the abstentions?
            A: They. Are. Not. Votes.

            Q: So they don’t “count”?
            A: By definition an abstention is not a vote, and so by definition an abstention does not count.

            *sheesh* This isn’t rocket science…

          • Bob Mann November 1, 2011, 8:40 PM

            If a majority of members of the United Nations General Assembly or one of its committees abstain on a measure, then the measure fails.

            This particular vote was 107-14 with 52 abstentions.

            That so many countries decided to abstain rather than vote yes seems worth noting.

            If you think it doesn’t matter, that’s fine too, but there is certainly no harm in at least being aware of the numbers.

            There is, you must admit, a difference between voting yes and abstaining.

          • Johnboy November 1, 2011, 11:30 PM

            “If a majority of members of the United Nations General Assembly or one of its committees abstain on a measure, then the measure fails.”

            You are talking about a quorum.

            But this is the important point about quorums: once you have a quorum then what matters is how the votes pan out.

            Nothing more. No less.

            “This particular vote was 107-14 with 52 abstentions.”

            If 121 votes are cast then there is a quorum, and therefore the issue is Decided On The Votes.

            “That so many countries decided to abstain rather than vote yes seems worth noting.”

            No, it is completely immaterial i.e. once you have enough votes cast so that a quorum is reached then It Is The Votes That Count, and any abstentions from that vote are – quite literally – “worthless”.

            “If you think it doesn’t matter, that’s fine too, but there is certainly no harm in at least being aware of the numbers. ”

            Point to them as much as you want, but don’t insult everyone by pretending that they have “worth”.

            They don’t.

            They. Are. Worthless.

            You may as well claim that Obama didn’t win the last election because you insist on counting all the registered voters who didn’t turn out to vote on that day.

          • Rod Brown November 2, 2011, 12:09 AM

            @ Bob Mann : “The abstentions are actually just as important as the no votes, despite your claims to the contrary.”

            Oh dear, no, they are not, only in your mind and according to your agenda, and as shown if using your “rule of thumb” they are then also as important as yes votes. but they are non votes.

            BM:”Do you have evidence to support your claim that the US “blackmailed” countries to vote no?”

            The blackmail, despite your fanciful meanderings as to what I was referring, was the usual from Israels lawyer (the US), vote as we want or we will take away funding.

      • Carl November 1, 2011, 1:02 PM

        also, voting against is what counts, it’s like ‘yes’ votes in the Security Council, however many abstentions in that case don’t make a hill of beans.

  • Kern de Gaud November 1, 2011, 8:24 AM

    “100 other countries think the main tension caused in this conflict is by Israel, not Palestine. Twelve agree with us.”

    I don’t think this is strictly accurate. Institutionalized Holocaust guilt (with limits, this is not a bad thing) and financial dependence are more obvious reasons for voting ‘no’ for most of the twelve. I know nothing about the leadership of the minor financial dependencies, but I do know that European elites aren’t complete idiots. Many if not most of them know very well what is going on in Israel/Palestine. It is in their back yard.

  • External November 1, 2011, 9:22 AM

    NO: Australia ( well who is surprised), Canada ( ditto for Stevie- needs those votes), Czech Republic, Germany ( Holocaust guilt) , Israel, Lithuania, the Netherlands ( Holocaust guilt), Palau, Panama, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Sweden, United States of America, Vanuatu.

    Abstentions: Albania, Andorra, Bahamas, Barbados, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Burundi, Cameroon, Cape Verde, Colombia, Cook Islands, Côte d’Ivoire ( couldn’t be on the wrong side of either the US or France – FrancAfrique is well and alive) , Croatia, Denmark, Estonia, Fiji, Georgia, Haiti, Hungary, Italy, Jamaica, Japan, Kiribati, Latvia, Liberia, Mexico, Monaco, Montenegro, Nauru, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, Poland, Portugal, Republic of Korea, Republic of Moldova, Romania, Rwanda, Saint Kitts and Nevis, San Marino, Singapore, Slovakia, Switzerland, Thailand, Macedonia, Togo, Tonga, Trinidad and Tobago, Tuvalu, Uganda, Ukraine, United Kingdom, Zambia

    I understand the positions of Bulgaria and Hungary – because one heading UNESCO and the other one the General assembly bureau but the others – either they are playing chicken like the UK or have got their arms twisted in return for money, compensations, benefits such as plush positions at the UN and its agencies – yep democracy at work

    IMHO: Same qualifiers for those who didn’t show up for the vote – cowardice . They all want to live and work (sic) in Paris at UNESCO or OECD but when it is time to show who has courage, they are M.I.A

  • External November 1, 2011, 9:55 AM


    Check the whole press conference here:
    link to smpalestine.com

  • chet380 November 1, 2011, 10:41 AM

    Can anyone provide a reason (or a speculation) why Sweden voted NO.

    • External November 1, 2011, 12:40 PM

      “From a cursory investigation, it seems that UNESCO issues fall under the minister of education in Sweden, who is to the right within Swedish coalition politics and might well have taken the lead in making this call).”

      link to newamerica.net

    • SimoHurtta November 1, 2011, 1:40 PM

      Swedish FM tries to explain that the voting decision was made because of timing of the voting and not because of issue of the voting. They also try to “explain” that voting time was not fitting the Quartet’s suggestions.

      link to svd.se

      Now the opposition (socialdemokraterna) is rather furious about Sweden’s voting and the smaller parties in the government try distance themselves from the voting decision.

      link to svd.se

      Olof Palme must be rolling in his grave.

  • Rod Brown November 1, 2011, 10:48 AM

    chet380:”Can anyone provide a reason (or a speculation) why Sweden voted NO.”

    This was all I could find, when wondering the same thing:

    link to thelocal.se

    • chet380 November 2, 2011, 8:29 AM

      There appears to be a substantial racist element in Sweden as exemplified by this passage in a website devoted to the Assange case:

      “Swedish journalism and rape cases

      Jan Guillou, a journalist, writer and social commentator has been very critical of Swedish journalism ethics in the face of sex crimes allegations.

      The wrongful conviction of Billy Butt is, together with the conviction of ’serial killer’ Thomas Quick and the da Costa murder case, one of the most infamous cases of miscarriage of justice in Sweden in recent decades.

      In Butt’s case the tabloid Expressen (which ran the ’double rapist’ healdine about Julian Assange) actively started a campaign for his conviction, calling for other ’victims’ to step forward. 24 women did, nine of those cases went to trial. Butt, a music producer, had promised to advance the women’s careers in exchange for sexual favours. When he failed to deliver, many of his ’victims’ felt cheated. Butt was sentenced to four years’ prison. He appealed the case and was acquitted on all counts.

      The case also revealed the racist in the judgement: Butt is a visible minority. The judgement included, as part of the reasoning of his guilt, ’a peculiar physique’ – this is also the title of the book Butt wrote about his own case. Guillou’s take on the judgement of the lower court was that “the court considered it implausible that young women would freely choose to get in bed with a 40-year-old man with a ’peculiar physique’, a darkie so to speak. Therefore all women must have been raped.”

      link to swedenversusassange.com

  • Johnboy November 1, 2011, 2:08 PM

    An interesting question is to ask how the countries that are currently sitting in the Security Council voted.

    Germany and the USA voted no, as expected.

    But Bosnia and Colombia – two countries that the USA was relying on in the SC – didn’t vote against the proposal.

    And, more importantly, Gabon and Nigeria actually voted yes, which must be a big blow to the Americans.

  • weindeb November 1, 2011, 2:15 PM

    Never underestimate the official stupidity of the most powerful (alleged) nation on earth as it kneels in abject deference to its chief patron and Middle Eastern ally. Possibly it’s all a pragmatic function of next year’s election and desire not to present President Obama as Israel’s worst enemy, thus costing him lots of votes and financial support. On the other hand, given our consistent patron/client relationship, I suspect that even without the forthcoming iconic prospect of the vote the United States would still pick up its marbles and go home. And we wonder why THEY hate us so and why THEY dispatch terrorists to attack such a just nation as ours. I mean, really, our intentions are as honorable as such can be.

  • Johnboy November 1, 2011, 6:05 PM

    Here’s an interesting thought experiment.

    The Palestinians have applied to full membership of the United Nations, and the USA has, indeed, said it would veto that application in the Security Council.

    But I would point out that it umm’ed and ahhhh’ed for a considerable period of time before making that statement i.e. it is perfectly possible that the USA can reverse its own decision and, indeed, allow that membership application to proceed.

    Think about that.
    Think long and hard about that.

    Because this monumentally stupid law is so ridiculous that it can lead to a manifestly absurd result i.e. the USA could end up being “forced” to defund the entire UN because of a vote that the USA i.t.s.e.l.f. casts.

    It Is Beyond Bizarre.

  • steepincline November 2, 2011, 5:13 PM

    Coming from a link put up at FDL … also had seen /read a piece at DK over past two days which may have come from this site? Not sure about the DK connection — does not matter– what does matter is I made placed a comment on a DK open comments thread about UNESCO/UN and WashingtonDC/TelAviv connections/ politics.

    Within three hours this comment had been HRed.

    Only having signed up at DK recently I had not seen this HRing until this example fell on me. It was a thuggish thing to behold and find myself responding to. A string of crossfire comments ensued.

    Final grade given to DK by me — F/ Severe Fail

    DK is a hostile place.

    Happily I now have ome upon this site.

    DK really has real thuggery issues as to who gets HRed or The DK Ban. A web site that should succeed? Ummm…no.

    Have read and made comments at GG and FDL sites for years and never had the type of experience I have now had at DK. Two of my comments now HRed by unknown thugs who did not approve of my views on TelAviv/WashingtonDC affairs and this impending UNESCO/Palestine/USA collision in making.

    DK gets the push off.

    Tikun Olam gets a pick up. :-)

    • Richard Silverstein November 2, 2011, 5:39 PM

      Daily Kos is not a healthy place for free debate on I-P issues or many other matters. Many of us have been axed. You’re welcome here.

      • steepincline November 2, 2011, 8:53 PM

        Richard Silverstein

        Thank you for the warm welcome to Tikun Olam

        Upon further exploration around TO I noted you have had a taste of DK spiteful behavior as well.

        We now share encountering DK site thuggery/spitefulness.

        I will try to visit,review and read TO often going forward.

        I am pleased to have now come across Tikun Olam as it appears to be an oasis of balanced ME views/takes and well grounded on high voltage I-P conflict/political surges.

        Again — thank you for a warm welcome.

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