Postponed UNESCO exhibit on Jews in Israel to open in June


(JTA) — UNESCO said it will delay for six months the opening of an exhibition on the Jewish presence in the land of Israel.

The cultural arm of the United Nations said the exhibit — titled “The People, the Book, the Land: 3,500 years of ties between the Jewish people and the Land of Israel” — is scheduled to open in June at its Paris headquarters pending final discussions with the Simon Wiesenthal Center, The Associated Press reported Wednesday.

In a Jan. 15 letter, UNESCO director-general Irina Bokova had told the  Wiesenthal Center that the exhibit, which the center organized along with the governments of Canada and Montenegro, would be postponed indefinitely. She said the decision arose out of UNESCO’s support for peace talks between Israel and the Palestinian Authority.

Rabbi Marvin Hier, the dean and founder of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, confirmed to AP that his group was negotiating with UNESCO over the exhibit.

He said the Wiesenthal Center opposed changes to the text on the some 30 illustrated panels in the exhibit, but there were still discussions regarding some of the photos, the AP reported.

Complaints by the 22 Arab member states led to the postponement of the exhibit, according to UNESCO. The U.N. agency also said it needed extra time to revise “unresolved issues relating to potentially contestable textual and visual historical points” that member states could perceive as “endangering the peace process.”

Earlier this week, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu blasted the postponement of the exhibit.

“It would not harm the negotiations,” he said. “Negotiations are based on facts, on the truth, which is never harmful.”

The Obama administration also had expressed “disappointment” with the cancellation.


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