UNESCO Exhibition on Jewish History in Middle East

In addition to the meeting with Hollande, the UNESCO exhibit on Jewish history and presence in the Holy Land finally sees the light of day (Canada led campaign to save exhibition on Jewish history in Middle East after Arab coalition quashed it):

Meanwhile, Cotler was effusive in his description of the Wistrich exhibit, which he called “historic.”

“It is a remarkable dramatization of history and heritage, of people, book, land, memory and state,” he said.

In 24 panels, it traces Jewish history back to the patriarch Abraham, through Moses, King David and all the way through to the struggle for Soviet Jewry, the birth of Zionism and the reconstitution of the State of Israel.

The exhibit, which will run for nine days, had been scheduled to open last January. Pressure from 22 Arab countries, who argued it would prejudice the peace process, prompted UNESCO to cancel it.

Responding to that decision Rabbi Hier stated, “It is ironic, that while the Arab League was trying to kill this exhibition and all the attention was focused on Paris, the UN headquarters in New York is hosting an exhibit entitled, Palestine, based entirely on the Arab narrative, which was not criticized as an interference with Secretary [John] Kerry’s mission.”

Following public criticism from Canadian Foreign Minister John Baird and U.S envoy Samantha Power, the exhibit was rescheduled to open last week, but with the name “Israel” removed from the title and replaced with “Holy Land.” UNESCO also required the removal of an image of the Dead Sea Scrolls, which had been part of the initial exhibit prepared by Wistrich, a professor of European and Jewish history at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem.

Hollande’s stand on anti-Semitism impresses delegation | The Canadian Jewish News.

Canada led campaign to save exhibition on Jewish history in Middle East after Arab coalition quashed it | National Post

Interesting story about the UNESCO exhibit on Jewish history in the Mid-East, caught up in the politics of the Israeli-Palestinian dispute. Historical narratives are powerful, and both sides want to ensure that the historical narratives reinforces their political position. Denial of the Jewish presence and history in the Mid-East has antisemitic overtones, just as denial of the Palestinian narrative has anti-Arab overtones. And while Canada played a role in reversing the UNESCO decision:

Ultimately, however, it was likely the United States who had the better clout in having the exhibition reinstated. On Jan. 17, U.S. ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power disavowed any assertion that the Paris show would compromise John Kerry’s peacemaking efforts.

“UNESCO’s decision is wrong and should be reversed,” she said in a statement cited by Reuters. “The United States has engaged at senior levels to urge UNESCO to allow this exhibit to proceed as soon as possible.”

Four days later, the cultural agency reversed its decision, writing in a statement that “the exhibition has not been cancelled but postponed.”

“People, Book, Land” is now set for a June 11 opening.

Canada led campaign to save exhibition on Jewish history in Middle East after Arab coalition quashed it | National Post.