The United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) has pulled a Jewish exhibit two years in the making, entitled “People, Book, Land – The 3,500 Year Relationship of the Jewish People and the Land of Israel” after a zero hour protest from the Arab League, The Algemeiner has learned.
The exhibit, which was created by Los Angeles based Jewish human rights group the Simon Wiesenthal Center (SWC) together with UNESCO, was scheduled to open on January 20th, 2014 at UNESCO’s Paris headquarters. The invitations had already gone out, and the fully prepared exhibition material was already in place. The display was co-sponsored by Israel, Canada and Montenegro.
Rabbi Marvin Hier, Dean of the SWC, told The Algemeiner that the move was an “absolute outrage.” “The Arabs,” he said, “don’t want the world to know that the Jews have a 3500 year relationship to the Land of Israel.”
Hier said that his organization, which is accredited by UNESCO as an NGO, worked in intimate co-operation with the international body on the project, which his center initiated after the Palestinian Authority was unilaterally accepted as a UNESCO member state in 2011.
“We made a clear attempt to work with them and the system, they can’t say they were blindsided, they commented on every sentence (in the exhibit’s materials) and still in the end the Arabs protested and they kicked us out,” he said.
“It is not supposed to be a place of censorship,” Hier said, “It is not supposed to deny one nation the right to their history.”
“The Arab world doesn’t know that Isaiah didn’t live in Portugal, Jeremiah didn’t roam France and Ezekiel wasn’t from Germany.”
UNESCO informed the SWC of the change on January 14th in a letter to the Center’s Shimon Samuels, asserting the Arab League’s claim that going ahead with the show “could create potential obstacles related to the peace process in the Middle East.”
In a letter to Irina Bokova, president of UNESCO, Abdulla al Neaimi of the United Arab Emirates, who is president of the Arab group within UNESCO, expressed “deep worry and great disapproval” over the program showing the age old connection between Israel and the Jewish people.
“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 Arab League wrote. “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.”