Daily Show Skewers US Over UNESCO Defunding

The Daily Show skipped a guest last week and instead devoted two satirical segments to a little reported story.

The United States has stopped funding UNESCO, the United Nations educational and cultural organization, because it has admitted Palestine as a member. Under a 1990 and 1994 law, the US is legally required to stop funding any UN agency which recognizes Palestine.

As Care2 reported in November:

The biggest loser isn’t the Palestinians or Israelis, or even the U.N. It’s the United States.

The defunding has bipartisan support and correspondent John Oliver first speaks to US Congressman Robert Wexler (D-Florida). He defends it saying that Israelis and Palestinians directly negotiate before it gets UN recognition. “If the Palestinians go directly to the UN or any of its agencies, we’re not going to fund those agencies,” Wexler says.

Oliver then gives Wexler a high-five, saying, “Send a message!”

“Well we did send a message,” a jovial Wexler replies.

“Boom! Suck it, UNESCO! Suck it!” Oliver says exuberantly, as Wexler begins to look uncomfortable.

Oliver then speaks to UNESCO, who point out how it harms American interests. Going back to Wexler, he again gets told it’s about ‘sending a message.’

“Right, and when you physically cut off your nose to spite your face, you’re sending a message,” Oliver replies. “And that message is don’t fuck with me. Because if I’m willing to do this to myself, what am I willing to do to you?”

The “epic” report then sees John Oliver travel to the West African nation Gabon, which has given UNESCO $2 million. Gabon is one of the richest African countries due to low population and high oil revenues, although it has enormous wealth disparities. Oliver flies there to “confront these tyrannical philanthropists face to face.”

Visiting a UNESCO-funded school he tells the kids:

“Once upon a time, twenty years ago, there was a US congressional law that outlawed funding to any UN organization that allowed Palestine as a member. And that is why you cannot have books anymore.”

“Israel and Palestine must negotiate directly, or else it just doesn’t count,” he tells them.

Back to Wexler, who claims: “We are the good guys here.”

Ending at the studio, Jon Stewart tells Oliver, “It seems like the real loser in this is the United States.”

“And obviously Palestine,” Oliver replies.


Related stories:

United States’ UN-Wise UNESCO Policy

Obama to UN: US Will Oppose Palestinian Bid For Statehood

Palestinians Seek UN Bid For Statehood

Image, screengrab of John Oliver explaining their relationship with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to Gabonese children


Carl Nielsen
Carl Nielsen5 years ago

Kimberly - Current US law prohibits giving aid to organizations recognizing the Palistaenian state, so the US has very clearly and openly told the UNESCO that they would loose the US funds if they recognized the Palisenian State by allowing it to join.
Not having the substantial funds the US previously provided for UNESCO is SEVERLY hurting all those programs that have to be cut as a result.

Solely blaming the US is wrong since the US and all those nations voting for allowing Palistine to join UNESCO are equally willing to promote their views on the Palistenian state at the cost of UNESCO.

Kimberlee W.
Kimberlee W5 years ago

Carl N. - Have to ask - How does it hurt anyone for UNESCO to allow the Palestinians to participate?

And A.N.M. - I don't know where you're from (your profile is unavail.), but you obviously don't know the history of how Israel came to be.

Ever hear of the Holocaust?
The point is that Israel has been c*ck-blocking the Palestinians for what now? 11 generations? From being a country.
I'm the first to admit that this is a COMBINATION of their policies so don't just think I'm handing the Palestinians a pass on this. They're complicit too.
The problem is one of balls, folks. Yes, the male kind. The kind that push out their chest like a bantam rooster and shrill, "My religion's better than yours!" "Oh Yeah?" Bang, bang.
Through what I've observed of both cultures for my lifetime is that if it were only women participating in these peace negotiations, there would have been peace betwixt the two decades ago.

Lauren B.

Love that Daily Show!

Ra Sc
Ra Sc5 years ago

This was a good report. Once again The Daily Show makes it easier to understand complex issues and brings them to people's attention.

Carl Nielsen
Carl Nielsen5 years ago

Don't forget that it takes two to fight
Of course the US policy hurts, but so does the policy of those countries voting the Palistenians into UNESCO - both parties are equally willing to cause harm to innocent third parties to make their political points.

Gabriella Bertelmann
G Bertelmann5 years ago

Sarcasm really does not translate well into another language. This report may be poignant and stimulating to us, but most likely is confusing to someone from another culture - or was this intended to the American audience only?

Christine Stewart

I am glad they are raising this issue.

Robert Hardy
Robert Hardy5 years ago

It was a good show... relevant, funny and true. Sad that the best news comes from comedians.

Vivianne Mosca-Clark

Jon Stewart does it again. Great job there :)

Vivianne Mosca-Clark

Jon Stewart does it again. Great job there :)