The U.N.’s cultural agency says it’s delaying for six months an exhibit on Jewish connections to the Land of Israel after last-minute objections from Arab countries. The decision provoked furious reactions from the sponsors of the exhibit and the U.S. and Israel.
The exhibition, which is called “People, Book, Land — The 3,500 Year Relationship of the Jewish People to the Holy Land,” was scheduled to open Monday at UNESCO’s headquarters in Paris.
Just days before the opening, UNESCO abruptly announced it was delaying the exhibit after 22 Arab member states claimed in a letter that it could disrupt the Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations. UNESCO said it needed time to revise “unresolved issues relating to potentially contestable textual and visual historical points.”
Jewish leaders and scholars rejected the Arab letter as a cynical ploy to keep the world from knowing the authentic history of the region, and urged UNESCO to go ahead with the exhibit.
Rabbi Marvin Hier, dean and founder of the Simon Wiesenthal Center which co-organized the project, said he held “a constructive, blunt” 45-minute discussion with UNESCO’s director general earlier in the week and confirmed that negotiations were underway to hold the exhibit.
As of late Tuesday, he said no deal had been reached.
He said the center opposed any changes in the text on the more than two dozen panels in the exhibit, but there were still discussions going on about some of the photos.
American, Israeli and Canadian officials had all been active in efforts to save the exhibit, he added.
“It simply cannot be that in a place of culture like UNESCO that one people’s history shall be banned, the Jewish people’s. That is unacceptable,” he said.