NEW YORK – After protests from the US Ambassador to UNESCO, the Simon Wiesenthal Center and the American Jewish Committee to UNESCO’s director-general over a UNESCO-assisted Palestinian children’s magazine that published an essay extolling Adolf Hitler, UNESCO agreed to withdraw its support from the publication Thursday.
UNESCO had provided funds to an NGO, Zayzafouna, which published a magazine of the same name. The magazine Zayzafouna, as reported by Palestinian Media Watch, published an article in February 2011 by a 10- year-old Palestinian girl who recounted a dream in which Hitler told her: “Yes. I killed them [the Jews] so you would all know that they are a nation who spreads destruction all over the world.”
“While UNESCO upholds freedom of expression as an integral part of its mandate, the inclusion in this publication of a statement that may be interpreted as an apology of the Holocaust is contrary to UNESCO’s constitutional mandate and values,” a letter from UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova read. “It is totally unacceptable.”
UNESCO’s support for the magazine, the letter continued, aimed to fight against perpetuating stereotypes that lent themselves to violence. Saying that UNESCO was “shocked and dismayed” by the content of the February issue, the letter stated that UNESCO has sought more detailed information from the magazine’s editors and the Palestinian Authority. “[We] strongly deplore and condemn the reproduction of such inflammatory statements in a magazine associated with [UNESCO’s] name and mission and will not provide any further support to the publication in question.
“The Organization, which is deeply committed to the development and promotion of education about the Holocaust, disassociates itself from any statement that is counter to its founding principles and goals of building tolerance in the full respect for human rights and human dignity,” the letter stated.
Many, including the Simon Wiesenthal Center and the AJC, welcomed the decision.
“The ongoing failure of the Palestinian Authority to reform its textbooks and other educational materials regarding Israel and Jews is a huge obstacle to achieving a culture of peace,” said AJC Executive Director David Harris. “Children taught to hate at an early age too often live lives filled with hate.”
Others demanded more reform in UNESCO’s infrastructure.
“UNESCO’s cancellation of funding for a Palestinian children’s magazine that extols Hitler and the mass murder of Jews is a belated step in the right direction, but it’s far from sufficient,” Hillel Neuer, executive director of Geneva-based NGO UN Watch, said. “How and why did UNESCO fund this hatred in the first place? Who was responsible?”
Neuer said UN Watch endorses the call to investigate the circumstances of the funding to make sure it doesn’t recur.
“UN officials cannot credibly demand accountability from others when they refuse to examine their own actions – especially those that incite to racial discrimination and genocide,” Neuer said.
“Regrettably, this latest incident only underscores that UNESCO is, too often, failing to live up its own values and mission. More than 60 MPs and human-rights groups, headed by UN Watch, are demanding that UNESCO also cancel its recent election of Syria’s murderous regime to two global human rights posts,” he said.