UNESCO cancels Israel expo following Arab pressure
Complaints by Arab states led the United Nation’s cultural arm, UNESCO, to cancel the opening of an exhibition on the Jewish presence in the land of Israel.
The exhibition, organized by the Simon Wiesenthal Center along with the governments of Canada and Montenegro, was scheduled to open Jan. 20 at the Paris headquarters of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization.
UNESCO director-general Irina Bokova on Wednesday said in a letter to the Simon Wiesenthal Center that the exhibit, titled “The People, the Book, the Land — 3,500 years of ties between the Jewish people and the Land of Israel,” would be postponed indefinitely. She said the decision arose out of UNESCO’s support for peace talks between Israel and the Palestinian Authority.
“We have a responsibility in ensuring that current efforts in this regard are not endangered,” she wrote.
The cancellation followed a letter sent to Bokova on Jan. 14 by the Arab group at UNESCO, which admitted the Palestinian Authority as a member in 2011. “The Arab group is deeply disturbed by the exhibition, which it condemns,” said the letter by the Arab group’s president, Abdullah Elmealmi.
“This cause is championed by those who oppose peace efforts,” Elmealmi said. “The media campaign accompanying the exhibition will inevitably damage the peace talks, the incessant efforts of U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and UNESCO’s neutrality.”
In an email, the Simon Wiesenthal Center’s director of international affairs, Shimon Samuels, wrote that the center was outraged by Bokova’s decision. He called for an email campaign opposing cancellation.