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Opposition to UNESCO Funding

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

Ms. ROS-LEHTINEN. Mr. Speaker, I rise today to call attention to and stand in unyielding opposition to the latest push by the administration and some in Congress to subvert U.S. law that prohibits the United States from funding any agency at the United Nations that admits a nonexistent state of Palestine to its membership.

When UNESCO opted to grant Palestine membership to its ranks in October of 2011, it did so knowing full well that U.S. law was obligated to cut off its funding. And they did it anyway.

However, now the Obama administration is making a full-out push to not only restore funding to UNESCO, which will cost the U.S. taxpayer nearly $80 million a year--think of $80 million of your hard-earned taxpayer dollars going to this U.N. institution. But it is not only $80 million this year, it is to pay nearly $250 million that we owe in arrears because the administration decided to remain in UNESCO. We could have opted to pull out of that disgraceful body and not have any late fees, but now it is $80 million to get in and $250 million for the late fees.

Remember, this is the same U.N. that allows to sit on its human rights committee regimes such as Cuba, China, Venezuela, and Syria--yes, Syria, where the Assad regime has been responsible for the deaths of over 130,000 people during its tenure on the Human Rights Committee. These nations are human rights violators. They do a disservice to UNESCO, whose stated mission of peace through solidarity and the protection of basic freedoms is not being upheld. But what they really do well is push the strong anti-U.S. and anti-Israel agenda at UNESCO.

Let's be honest: that is why they remain in their positions.

Mr. Speaker, we must not equivocate. We must not mince words. We will not sit blithely by while some try to circumvent or undermine these laws to, once again, fund UNESCO. No.

Giving the administration the authority it seeks to fund UNESCO would not only set a dangerous precedent by showing those with an anti-Israel agenda at the U.N. that the U.S. does not have the courage of its convictions, nor the fortitude to enforce our own laws, but it would also give the green light to the rest of the bodies at the U.N. to follow UNESCO's lead, to admit Palestine, thereby granting it de facto recognition to a non-existent state.

This is a way for the PLO and its collaborators at the U.N. to use that body to gain statehood without having to first come to an agreement with Israel over the conflict.

A vote to fund UNESCO in this body is a vote to undermine the peace process and any hope of resolving this issue. To my colleagues, I would say that you must not fall for the latest bamboozle trick that UNESCO is pushing by playing on your soft spots.

What are they going to do?

UNESCO's going to come to some of us and promise to highlight the great buildings in our districts, the monuments in our districts, the cultural sites in our districts, and say they will designate them world heritage sites. We will bestow upon them official UNESCO designation of a heritage site.

Just how gullible does UNESCO think Members of Congress are?

I think we will soon see. They want us to ignore U.S. law so that we can restore funding to UNESCO so that UNESCO can give us some of our own U.S. taxpayer dollars back.

I implore my colleagues, please don't do this. Stand up for American principle. Stand up for U.S. law. Don't waste the hard-earned dollars of your constituents on an anti-American institution.

UNESCO knew what fate awaited it when it admitted Palestine, and now it must reap what it sowed, or it must reverse its decision. It is easy. The choice is, as it has always been, UNESCO's to make.

This is not just about principles. This is about convenience. UNESCO's betting that we only stand with Israel when it is convenient.

UNESCO turned its back on Israel and the peace process. All UNESCO wants is our cash, our constituents' cash, and then it will continue to pursue its anti-U.S., anti-Israel agenda.

Do you seriously think that your constituents want millions of their money to go to an agency at the corrupt U.N. that works against everything we try to do, to hurt our closest friend and ally, the democratic Jewish State of Israel?

I don't think so. We are better than that, Mr. Speaker. So I urge my colleagues to stand firm and do the right thing. No waiver, no flexibility, no change to U.S. law, no funding for UNESCO.


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