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Netanyahu: UNESCO's Decision Doesn't Promote Peace

09-07-2014

JERUSALEM, Israel -- Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu weighed in on UNESCO's decision to "postpone" the opening of an exhibit entitled "People, Book, Land -- The 3,500 Year Relationship of the Jewish People to the Holy Land."

"The one-sided and unfair attitude toward the State of Israel does not advance the diplomatic process," Netanyahu said.

The exhibit, two years in the making, was set to open at UNESCO's headquarters in Paris on Monday, Jan. 20. Though each of the exhibit's 30 components, depicting Jewish history from the days of the biblical patriarch Abraham to today, had been approved by UNESCO, a letter signed by 22 Arab nations prompted the cancellation. The letter contended the exhibit could hinder negotiations.

According to UNESCO's statement, the exhibit included "unresolved issues relating to potentially contestable textual and visual historical points," which could endanger the peace process.

U.S. United Nations Ambassador Samantha Power said "UNESCO'S decision is wrong and should be reversed." 

"UNESCO is supposed to be fostering discussion and interaction between civil society and member states, and organizations such as the Wiesenthal Center have a right to be heard and to contribute to UNESCO's mission," she said.

The Simon Wiesenthal Center combats global anti-Semitism and helps educate future generations on the lessons of the Holocaust.

The center's Rabbi Marvin Hier called the decision "absolutely preposterous."

"The educational and cultural headquarters of the United Nations [is saying] to the world, 'Every people's history is welcome to be told in these corridors except for one people: the Jewish people.'"

Hebrew University Prof. Robert Wistrich, who played a key role in creating the exhibition, said the exhibition shows the continuity of a Jewish presence in Israel from biblical through modern times.

"This is the accurate, true story, and it goes against the fashionable, but highly misleading, perception that the Jewish presence is the result of some kind of late 19th century colonial project or is the consequence of the Holocaust," he said.

Wistrich said UNESCO officials "scrutinized and vetted and examined and re-examined" every bit of the exhibit and it was "absolutely mind-boggling" that "an entirely predictable" complaint by Arab countries managed to block it.

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Israel Hayom contributed to this report.

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