UNESCO launches Holocaust education website, as Israel mulls leaving
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UNESCO launches Holocaust education website, as Israel mulls leaving

UN body teams up with World Jewish Congress to inaugurate interactive project with aim of battling ‘increased hate’ against Jews

From left to right, Commissioner for Education and Academia of the World Jewish Congress Jean de Gunzburg, Governing Board Chair of the World Jewish Congress David de Rothschild, UNESCO'S Director-General Audrey Azoulay, World Jewish Congress President Ronald S. Lauder and CEO and Vice President of the World Jewish Congress Robert Singer sit under two giant screen during the presentation of the website to counter Holocaust denial and anti-Semitism at the UNESCO headquartered in Paris, France, November 19, 2018. (AP Photo/Michel Euler)
From left to right, Commissioner for Education and Academia of the World Jewish Congress Jean de Gunzburg, Governing Board Chair of the World Jewish Congress David de Rothschild, UNESCO'S Director-General Audrey Azoulay, World Jewish Congress President Ronald S. Lauder and CEO and Vice President of the World Jewish Congress Robert Singer sit under two giant screen during the presentation of the website to counter Holocaust denial and anti-Semitism at the UNESCO headquartered in Paris, France, November 19, 2018. (AP Photo/Michel Euler)

PARIS, France — The UN culture and education agency has teamed up with the World Jewish Congress to launch a website to counter Holocaust denial and anti-Semitism.

UNESCO Director-General Audrey Azoulay and WJC President Ronald Lauder unveiled the interactive “Facts about the Holocaust” site, at the cultural agency’s Paris headquarters on Monday.

It features a trove of historical information about the Holocaust, including testimonies, and it is linked to the US Holocaust Memorial Museum’s Online Holocaust Encyclopedia.

The new site has been conceived to combat what UNESCO calls “increased hate and disinformation online” on Jewish issues. It came five months after the organization launched the UN’s first educational guidelines on fighting anti-Semitism.

The pro-Jewish initiatives inside UNESCO came as Israel was preparing its withdrawal from the agency amid accusations that it fosters anti-Jewish bias.

UNESCO’S Director-General Audrey Azoulay, left, CRIF’s President (Representative Council of Jewish Institutions in France) Francis Kalifat, center, and World Jewish Congress President Ronald S. Lauder pose for a group photo during the presentation of the website to counter Holocaust denial and anti-Semitism at the UNESCO headquartered in Paris, France, November 19, 2018. (AP Photo/Michel Euler)

Last year, Israel followed the US in announcing its withdrawal from the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization. Jerusalem reportedly considered remaining in the organization on condition that several changes were made in the way it deals with politicized matters, such as the status of Jerusalem’s Old City or the Cave of the Patriarchs in Hebron.

UNESCO is best known for its World Heritage program to protect cultural sites and traditions, but it also works to fight violent extremism, improve education for girls, promote Holocaust understanding, defend media freedoms, and encourage science on climate change.

In recent years, Israel has been infuriated by resolutions that ignore and diminish its historical connection to the Holy Land and that have named ancient Jewish sites as Palestinian heritage sites.

UNESCO’s Executive Board votes for its new president, November 16, 2017 (courtesy)

In June, Israel’s Ambassador to UNESCO, Carmel Shama-Hacohen, suggested a rethinking of Israel’s planned exit from the world cultural body, citing a “new spirit” in the organization after two resolutions critical of the Jewish state, regarding the old cities of Jerusalem and Hebron, were delayed by one year at the agency’s World Heritage Committee.

In August, it was reported by Channel 10 news that Netanyahu had called Azoulay and thanked her for her efforts to stop what he called the discrimination against Israel in the UN agency.

A senior Israeli official was quoted as saying one of the ideas being examined in Jerusalem was not to cancel the withdrawal, but instead delay it by several months to check on the changes in the organization.

Raphael Ahren contributed to this report.

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