LONDON, Sept. 26 (JTA) — The closure of a Palestinian university exhibit re-enacting a terrorist attack on Israel is being seen by observers as “too little, too late.”
Palestinian Authority President Yasser Arafat bowed to pressure Tuesday to order the closure of the Al Najah University exhibit, which celebrates the August suicide bombing at the Sbarro Pizzeria in Jerusalem, which claimed the lives of 15 people.
The exhibit was altered but was not shut down completely on Tuesday.
Arafat’s delayed response was condemned by Rabbi Marvin Hier, head of the Los-Angeles-based Simon Wiesenthal Center, as “outrageously too little, too late.”
Speaking from Jerusalem, where he is spending the High Holidays, Hier said: “This is the goading of the victims of the terror attack. It was saying,’You are crying, we are laughing.’ ”
Hier complained that Arafat had initially failed to respond to protests over the exhibition, which opened Sunday at the Nablus university in the West Bank.
In one room of the exhibition, students dressed as suicide bombers, clasping a Koran in one hand and a gun in the other, conduct what is intended to be their final interview before setting out on their suicide mission.
Another student, dressed in a military uniform and face mask, is featured setting a supposed bomb. This scene takes place at a replica of a restaurant with the word “kosher” written in Hebrew above the door. Sbarro was a popular kosher restaurant frequented by religious Jews.
According to Hier, the exhibit also includes a large rock with a figure behind it wearing a black hat, black trousers and jacket with a recording inside the rock calling out “O believer, there is a Jewish man behind me, come and kill him.” The exhibit also pays tribute to three leaders of the terrorist group Hamas, which claimed responsibility for the attack.
“President Bush says that people are either with us or against us, yet Arafat has allowed this outrageous exhibition under his own nose at a time when Arafat wants to be a part of an international coalition against terrorism,” Hier said. “It certainly feeds into the idea that the Palestinians don’t want peace.”
A veteran expert on Arab affairs also found it significant that Arafat had delayed for two days before banning the exhibition.
“It seems Arafat is trying to see how much intifada he can get away with in the framework of a cease-fire,” said the analyst, who asked not to be identified.