Israel furious at UNESCO decision to fund science chair at Islamic University of Gaza (HAŽARETZ NEWS) By Barak Ravid 07/12/12)
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Relations between Israel and UNESCO have reached a new low following
the organization´s inauguration of a Chair in Astronomy, Astrophysics
and Space Sciences at the Islamic University of Gaza, which Israel
identifies with Hamas.
The inauguration, by UNESCO´s Secretary-General Irina Bokova, was
made possible after the organization accepted Palestine as its 195th
member, several months ago.
Palestine´s acceptance caused the United States to cut off its
funding to the agency.
After holding heated discussions with UNESCO officials on Wednesday,
the Israeli ambassador to the agency, Nimrod Barkan, will submit a
formal letter of protest on Thursday.
A senior Foreign Ministry source said the Israeli Embassy to UNESCO
received a press release from the organization a few days ago saying
UNESCO was sponsoring a chair at the Islamic University of Gaza. The
chair is seen as a stamp of approval from the international body,
implying recognition in the university´s importance as an academic
The move angered Jerusalem, especially because the university has
served for years as a political hub for Hamas support. Israeli
officials said numerous Hamas engineers have been trained at the
university to manufacture explosive charges and rockets.
During Operation Cast Lead, in the winter of 2008-2009, the Israel
Air Force bombed one of the university´s wings, in which Israel said
laboratories for rocket and bomb production were located.
Israel was especially furious that the first Palestinian university
UNESCO chose to cooperate with was the IUG, rather than other
universities in the Palestinian Authority, such as Al-Quds or Birzeit.
Foreign Ministry officials see UNESCO´s Bokova as fully responsible
for this development and said the cooperation with IUG is part of her
campaign to be elected for a second term in 2013.
"Bokova wants to be elected at any price," a senior Foreign Ministry
official said. "Third world states have a majority in UNESCO so she´s
fawning on the Arabs to ensure her reelection. It´s another sign of
the growing politicization of a UN agency that is supposed to deal
with culture, education and science," he said.
Barkan spoke to officials responsible for the Middle East in UNESCO´s
secretariat on Wednesday. "This is an institution that assists terror
and has been involved in terror in the past," he said. "We don´t
think it was proper to give a chair with such lack of caution,
without even checking the institution first."
On Thursday, Barkan is expected to submit an official letter of
protest, together with information about IUG´s reported ties with
Hamas, with an emphasis on the organization´s military faction.
"This decision is a combination of irresponsibility and lack of
judgment," a senior Foreign Ministry official said. "Before UNESCO
gave a chair to the Technion and the Interdisciplinary Center
[institutions in Haifa and Herzliya, respectively] they checked
things with a magnifying glass. In Gaza no one checked."
A senior Foreign Ministry source said Bokova is now pushing for U.S.
President Barack Obama to sign an order to resume UNESCO funding,
bypassing Congress legislation.
The legislation was enacted after Palestine was accepted as a full
UNESCO member. The United States, which had financed about a quarter
of UNESCO´s budget, immediately cut off funding to the agency. (©
Copyright 2012 Ha´aretz 07/12/12)
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