State Dep’t had refused to sponsor UNESCO’s cancelled Israel exhibit

The State Department had refused to co-sponsor a UNESCO exhibit, detailing the Jewish people’s 3,000-year relationship to the land of Israel, which UNESCO cancelled this week under pressure from Arab countries.

The exhibit – created by the Simon Wiesenthal Center, co-organized with UNESCO, and co-sponsored by Israel, Canada, and Montenegro – was to have opened next Tuesday in Paris.

But UNESCO Director General Irina Bokova decided to cancel the exhibit, entitled “The People, the Book, the Land — 3,500 years of ties between the Jewish people and the Land of Israel,” after Arab states in UNESCO protested, arguing it would harm the peace process. “We have a responsibility in ensuring that current efforts in this regard are not endangered,” Bokova wrote in a letter to the Wiesenthal Center.
Rabbi Marvin Hier, the Wiesenthal Center’s dean and founder, responded to Bokova in a letter expressing shock and dismay that the exhibition was being pulled…

Hier sent copies of his letter to US President Barack Obama, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper and others.

The State Department said Friday it was outraged at the cancellation of the exhibit. “The United States is deeply disappointed and has engaged with senior levels at UNESCO to confirm that the action to postpone does not represent a cancellation and to underscore our interest in seeing the exhibit proceed as soon as possible,” it said in a statement reported by JTA…

Notwithstanding this professed outrage, however, the State Department had just last week itself declined to co-sponsor the exhibit — in part because of the very reason that Bokova cited for its cancellation: the peace process.