NEW YORK – The World Jewish Congress (WJC) today denounced the cancelation by the UN cultural body UNESCO of an exhibit on Jewish ties to the Land of Israel that was scheduled to open next week in Paris. UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova cancelled the exhibit, 'The People, The Book, the Land: The 3,500-year relationship between the Jewish people and the land of Israel' after Arab states protested. “This cancelation of a long-planned exhibit is an outrageous political manipulation of a cultural event,” said WJC President Ronald S. Lauder. “It is sad that Arabs deny the 3,500 connection of the Jewish people to the Land of Israel, especially when that connection is part of their own tradition. With this decision, UNESCO has done a disservice to the peace process and implicitly endorsed Arab rejectionism. ”
The exhibit, which was scheduled to run from 21 January through 30 January at UNESCO’s Paris headquarters, was created by the Simon Wiesenthal Center and co-sponsored by Israel, Canada, and Montenegro. The exhibition was assembled by renowned historian Robert Wistrich and was previously approved by UNESCO, according to the 'Jerusalem Post'.
World Jewish Congress Vice-President Roger Cukierman, the head of the French Jewish umbrella body CRIF, wrote a letter to Bokova strongly protesting the cancelation. “I deduct from that decision that UNESCO is no longer the common house of all nations on matters of education, culture and science, but has come under the influence of clans whose aim it is to propagate hatred towards the other,” Cukierman stated, challenging Bokova to name the real reasons behind the cancelation.
According to the 'Times of Israel', Abdulla al Neaimi, president of UNESCO’s Arab group, wrote in a letter to Bokova that the ”subject of this exhibition is highly political though the appearance of the title seems to be trivial. Most serious is the defense of this theme which is one of the reasons used by the opponents of peace within Israel. The publicity that will accompany… the exhibit can only cause damage to the peace negotiations presently occurring, and the constant effort of Secretary of State John Kerry, and the neutrality and objectivity of UNESCO.”
UNESCO accepted the unilateral declaration of Palestine as a member state of the UN in 2011, in contravention of UN resolutions. It was the first UN body to do so.