Wiesenthal Center opposes Qatari candidate for UNESCO head

Watchdog says Hamad bin Abdulaziz Al-Kawari has repeatedly endorsed anti-Semitic works and denied Jewish connection to Jerusalem

Former Qatari culture minister Hamad bin Abdulaziz Al-Kawari. (Wikimedia/Creative Commons)
Former Qatari culture minister Hamad bin Abdulaziz Al-Kawari. (Wikimedia/Creative Commons)

The Simon Wiesenthal Center has protested to UNESCO over the candidature of Qatar’s former culture minister to lead the world cultural body, charging he has repeatedly endorsed anti-Semitic works and denied a Jewish connection to Jerusalem.

Hamad bin Abdulaziz Al-Kawari was announced as one of nine short-listed candidates for the post of UNESCO director-general this week, prompting the protest from the Jewish NGO.

In recent months UNESCO has frequently drawn protest from Israel and Jewish groups for a series of resolutions that sought to deny Jewish or Christian links to Jerusalem and the Temple Mount.

A letter sent Friday to Ambassador Michael Worbs, Chair of the UNESCO Executive Board, by Shimon Samuels, the director of international relations at the center, expressed surprise to see Al-Kawari’s name on the list of candidates, noting that “only yesterday, Qatar supported a draft resolution contesting all Israeli/Jewish ties to Jerusalem, both East and West.”

Hamad bin Abdulaziz Al-Kawari (Wikimedia/Creative Commons)
Hamad bin Abdulaziz Al-Kawari (Wikimedia/Creative Commons)

The center noted that as Qatari culture minister, Al-Kawari had overseen cultural displays that foment “conspiracy theories and Jew-hatred.”

He has also written a forward for a book of poetry on Jerusalem that includes anti-Semitic conspiracy theories, the center said.

“Mr. Chairperson, he who apparently endorses the language of Goebbels must not head the intellectual arm of the United Nations. We expect you to advise the Executive Board accordingly,” the letter said.

The vote is expected to take place later this month.

Worbs has in the past expressed his regret over the UNESCO Jerusalem resolutions.

The UNESCO resolutions, sponsored by several Arab countries referred to the Temple Mount and Western Wall only by their Muslim names and condemned Israel as “the occupying power” for various actions taken in both places.


Israelis and many Jews around the world view the move as a prime example of an ingrained anti-Israel bias at the United Nations, where Israel and its allies are far outnumbered by Arab countries and their supporters.

Israel and the United States suspended their funding to UNESCO in 2011 after the Palestinians were admitted as members. Both countries have lost their voting rights as a result.

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