Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Obama/Power seek waiver to UNESCO funding prohibition

From South Florida Sun-Sentinel, 15 Jan 2013, by Ileana Ros-Lehtinen*:
Ileana Ros-Lehtinen

October 31st is known to Americans as Halloween but to an agency at the United Nations, it is also a day it chose to trick the U.S. taxpayers by admitting a non-existent state of "Palestine." That act triggered current U.S. laws that precludes us from funding UNESCO or any other body at the U.N. that recognizes a Palestinian state.
After initially upholding the law, although reluctantly, now the Obama administration is lobbying Congress to undermine these laws by restoring full or partial funding by asking for a waiver to this legal prohibition.
But President Obama is not alone: UNESCO has been trying to coax members of Congress who have sites in their state or district that may be considered for designation as a World Heritage Site with the promise of bestowing upon their local treasures such a designation. The most common argument made to fund UNESCO is that a World Heritage Site designation will add to the allure of a site and bring in additional tourists, and therefore add to the local economies. However, UNESCO itself has said that owing dues will not affect the application of sites for consideration as a World Heritage site.
That's over one-third of a billion dollars total in U.S. taxpayer money to a corrupt U.N. entity that continually seeks to undermine the United States, and works against our interests at every turn.Last November, when I met with the newly appointed U.S. Ambassador to the U.N., Samantha Power, she expressed to me that the administration was going to make it a priority to seek waiver authority in order to restore funding to UNESCO. The administration is seeking to not only restore almost $80 million in taxpayer funds for this fiscal year, but it is also seeking to pay nearly $250 million more in arrears to an agency that has an anti-U.S., anti-Israel agenda, because it opted to remain a part of UNESCO rather than withdrawing membership.
Aside from its anti-Israel biased agenda, UNESCO continues to mock the ideals of the body by allowing gross human rights abusers like Syria, Cuba, China, Venezuela and Saudi Arabia to serve on its executive board and on its committee that examines the exercise of human rights – the Committee on Conventions and Recommendations of the Executive Board.
Just so we are clear: UNESCO opted to revoke the United States' and Israel's voting privileges for not paying dues, but allowed the brutal dictator Assad and the Syrian regime to remain on its human rights committee – even as the death toll in Syria surpasses 130,000.
Abbas and the Palestinian Authority continue to refuse to recognize Israel as the Jewish State of Israel and is deafeningly silent when it comes time to denounce acts of terror. I am concerned that if we even partially fund UNESCO, we are tacitly agreeing with the UN scheme to undermine the peace process by granting de facto recognition to a Palestinian state without it first coming to an agreement with Israel to resolve the conflict.
A vote to circumvent the existing laws that prohibit U.S. funding to UNESCO not only would set us on a slippery slope and embolden an already intransigent Abu Mazen and Palestinian Authority, but it would also be the impetus for other entities at the U.N. to recognize Palestine and undermine the entire peace process.
UNESCO and other U.N. organizations are free to carry out their own agendas as they see fit, but the U.S. does not need to be complicit in that. If these entities wish to make dangerous choices – choices they knew carried consequences – then the U.S. taxpayers should not subsidize them.
The U.N. is in a tragic state of disrepair. The only way we can deter other U.N. entities from following in UNESCO's footsteps and bring about any reform is to leverage our funding (some $7 billion a year in taxpayer money!) and change our mechanisms for funding the U.N.
The administration should not only abandon its quest for a waiver or partial funding, but it should do the sensible thing for the taxpayers and immediately withdraw from UNESCO so it does not irresponsibly accrue hundreds of millions of dollars of arrears payments.
*Ileana Ros-Lehtinen is a Republican who represents Florida's 27th congressional district. She is chairman emeritus of the House Foreign Affairs Committee and current chairman of its Middle East and North Africa subcommittee.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Pope Francis to open Holocaust archives

Catholic leader to review actions of predecessor, wartime pontiff prior to canonization of Pius XII.

Jewish organizations praised Pope Francis on Sunday following a report that the Catholic leader will open the Vatican archives to investigate the actions of his predecessor Pius XII during the Holocaust. Pius, who is currently being considered for canonization, has been criticized by Jewish groups for failing to speak up against the persecution of Jews during the Second World War.
Pius' beatification has been a sore subject in Jewish-Catholic relations. Thus far, Pius has passed two of the four stages necessary to reach sainthood.
The Sunday Times quoted Argentinean Rabbi Abraham Skorka, a close friend of Francis, as saying that the pope will follow through on a prior promise to examine Pius' wartime role. Prior to ascending to the papacy, Francis, who was known as Cardinal Bergoglio expressed his position on the issue in his book, On Heaven and Earth, which he co-wrote with Skorka in 2010.
"Opening the archives of the Shoah [Holocaust] seems reasonable," the future pope wrote. "Let them be opened up and let everything be cleared up. Let it be seen if they could have done something [to help] and until what point they could have helped." “If they made a mistake in any aspect of this we would have to say: ‘We have erred.’ We don’t have to be scared of this — the truth has to be the goal.”
Yad Vashem, Israel’s Holocaust memorial institute, praised Francis’ intention to open the archives, stating that it “would allow researchers to gain a clearer picture of the Vatican and the Pope's behavior during the Holocaust.”
Holocaust survivors also welcomed the news.
“This is something that we have been asking for and hoping for for decades,” Menachem Rosensaft, the senior vice president of the American gathering of Jewish holocaust survivors and their descendants, told The Jerusalem Post. “It is yet another proof that pope Francis is an exceptional individual who repeatedly demonstrates great sensitivity and integrity.”
"If the story is correct, it is very encouraging news," WJC President Ronald S. Lauder told the Post. "It is important to open the archives once and for all to clarify the historical record. It would be yet another sign of Pope Francis's tremendous personal integrity. He is a great friend of the Jewish people.”
The opening of the archives would be "a great step forward," Holocaust historian Deborah Lipstadt told the Post. "The facts would emerge and lay to rest the concerns of Jews who feel he was guilty of turning a blind eye to the Final Solution, of Catholics who feel he has been unfairly maligned, and, above all, of the historians who are anxious to know the facts so that the full story can emerge." staff contributed to this report.