The United Nations partially reversed its decision to censor part of an exhibition at the U.N.’s public hall following a blistering protest from ambassador Danny Danon.
The display on Zionism, presented as “the liberation movement of the Jewish people,” was approved in the reversal. But the ban on two other displays — one depicting Yerushalayim as the capital of the Jewish People and another on Israeli Arabs — remains in force.
Israeli envoy Danon had called on Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon to reverse the decision and to “apologize to the Jewish people.”
“By disqualifying an exhibition about Zionism the U.N. is undermining the very existence of the state of Israel as the homeland of the Jewish people,” Danon charged.
Danon welcomed the decision to allow the Zionism panel, calling it “a clear win for Israeli diplomacy and a victory for the truth about Israel,” but insisted that the other two panels should also be allowed.
The offending panel on Yerushalayim proclaims that it “has been the center and focus of Jewish life and religion for more than three millennia and is holy to Christians and Muslims as well.”
The one on Israeli Arabs says they are “equal citizens under the law in Israel, the only proven democracy in the Middle East.” It says “they live, study and work side by side with Jews in communities all over the country” and “serve in the Israeli Parliament, vote in all elections, and enrich Israel’s diverse culture.”
However, the U.N. denied that the Zionism section had been banned in the first place.
A spokesman for the U.N. secretary-general, Stephane Dujarric, told The Jerusalem Post: “There was a misunderstanding because there was a question about a photo in that panel, and so it was initially communicated to the [Israeli] Mission that the panel could not be displayed,” he explained. “That was immediately revised and it was then clearly communicated to the [Israeli] Mission shortly after the first message that the panel could be displayed.”
He said that in trying “to keep these spaces free from polemics,” it was decided that the panel about Yerushalayim was unacceptable, since it conflicts with the view of member states who reject Israeli claims to the capital.
“One must also keep in mind that we’re dealing with 193 member States, who all have to feel that this is their house,” Dujarric pointed out. “We regularly look at this process to see how it can best serve all the member States.”
“This is not unprecedented,” he said, noting that there have been a number of cases where member states have been asked to change exhibits for various reasons.
The Israeli exhibition, produced by StandWithUs, opened in the U.N.’s public hall on Monday. It also included panels on Israeli Innovation, Green Technology, Humanitarian Aid, and Jewish Refugees from Arab Countries.