Leading Jewish Group Warns of Negative Ramifications for Israel if Qatari Diplomat Becomes Next UNESCO Chief
A leading Jewish human rights group is warning that condemnation of Israel at UNESCO will only intensify should a Qatari official assume the director-general’s post at the international cultural agency in November.
Dr. Shimon Samuels — a permanent observer on the UNESCO Executive Board from the US-based Simon Wiesenthal Center, told The Algemeiner that Hamad Bin Abdulaziz Al-Kawari emerged as a front-runner during a meeting in Paris last week. UNESCO is selecting a successor for Irina Bokova, its current leader.
Out of nine candidate countries, Samuels said, France, China and Qatar emerged as serious contenders. However, France and China face an obstacle in the fact that both European and Asian officials have recently led the organization. Paris is also the host of UNESCO’s headquarters.
“The former Qatari culture minister, Al-Kawari, has been a diplomat, politician and businessman,” Samuels said. “In a sophisticated presentation, he did not hide his ability to provide the funds to resolve UNESCO’s cash crisis, since the United States ended its funding due to Palestinian entry into UNESCO in 2011. The American unpaid debt now stands at $400 million and counting.”
In Samuels’ view, Al-Kawari’s answers to questions asked by country representatives about Jewish and Israel-related issues were concerning. When asked by the American delegate if he would ensure Holocaust education, Al-Kawari merely responded: “I respect the decisions of the organization.”
Queried by the Serbian delegate how he might deal with the “politicization” of UNESCO, Al-Kawari replied that the agency “must deal specially with issues that are against international law.” This answer indicates that UNESCO’s annual practice of condemning Israeli sovereignty over Jerusalem might continue with Al-Kawari in charge.
Samuels said the Simon Wiesenthal Center had twice written to Al-Kawari when he was Qatar’s culture minister regarding the Doha International Book Fair. “That fair was replete with antisemitic texts on the display shelves, but we received no answer,” Samuels said.
Samuels added that his group — together with the International Christian Embassy in Jerusalem (ICEJ) — sent out a poll of three questions to all nine director-general candidates on the issues of antisemitism, heritage and the fate of Christians in the Middle East.
“Only the French candidate agreed to respond,” he said. “Perhaps Al-Kawari has already answered in his own way.”
The world’s wealthiest state per capita, Qatar has long provided generous financial and political support to Palestinian extremists, including the Hamas terrorist organization. The Freedom House classifies Qatar, where Islamic sharia law prevails, as “Not Free.”
Qatar is among the sponsors of a resolution to be voted on by UNESCO this Tuesday that condemns Israel’s very presence in Jerusalem. As reported by The Algemeiner on Thursday, the draft being circulated states that “any action taken by Israel, the Occupying Power, to impose its laws, jurisdiction, and administration on the City of Jerusalem, are illegal and therefore null and void and have no validity whatsoever.”