UNESCO found itself in a collision course with both Israel and Japan on Friday.
Japan is holding back more than $40 million in funding, following a protest against listing documents related to the Nanjing massacre. Israel suspended cooperation with the UN cultural agency after it adopted a draft resolution that Israel says denies the deep, historic Jewish connection to holy sites in Jerusalem.
Foreign minister Fumio Kishida said Japan has suspended this year’s contribution totalling 4.4 billion yen ($42 million), but denied any direct link to the Nanjing incident that still hangs over frosty diplomatic relations between Tokyo and Beijing.
Last year, Japan – one of UNESCO’s biggest funders – warned it may pull funding after it agreed to Bejing’s request to mark documents recording the mass murder and rape committed by Japanese troops after the fall of the Chinese city of Nanjing in 1937.
The documents were inscribed in the UN body’s Memory of the World register.
The massacre, often referred to as the “Rape of Nanjing”, is an exceptionally sensitive issue in the often tense relations between Japan and China, with Beijing charging that Tokyo has failed to atone for the atrocity.
Tokyo had called for the Nanjing documents not to be included and accused the body of being politicised.
Israel is angry that UNESCO’s draft resolution, sponsored by several Arab countries, uses only the Islamic name for a hilltop compound sacred to both Jews and Muslims, which includes the Western Wall, a remnant of the biblical temple and the holiest site where Jews can pray.
The validated resolution is expected early next week, but the wording is unlikely to change. Israelis and many Jews around the world viewed it as the latest example of anti-Israel bias at the UN.