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US: ‘UNESCO’s Decision Is Wrong and Should Be Reversed’


General Irina Bokova, director of UNESCO, with Rabbi Marvin Hier of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, on either side of a poster for the exhibit that was later cancelled under Arab pressure.

General Irina Bokova, director of UNESCO, with Rabbi Marvin Hier of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, on either side of a poster for the exhibit that was later cancelled under Arab pressure.
Photo Credit: Courtesy Simon Wiesenthal Center

The Obama administration is “deeply disappointed” with a decision by UNESCO, the United Nation’s cultural arm, to cancel the opening of an exhibition on the Jewish presence in the land of Israel and is seeking its placement “as soon as possible.”

Complaints by Arab states led UNESCO to cancel the exhibition, organized by the Simon Wiesenthal Center along with the governments of Canada and Montenegro. It was scheduled to open Jan. 20 at the Paris headquarters of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization.

U.S. ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power urged UNESCO to rethink the decision on the exhibition.

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

“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,” Power said.

“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,” a State Department official told JTA on Friday. “We trust that UNESCO will approach this issue fairly and in a manner consistent with the organization’s guidelines and past precedent.”

UNESCO director-general Irina Bokova said Wednesday in a letter to the Simon Wiesenthal Center that the exhibit, titled “The People, the Book, the Land — 3,500 years of ties between the Jewish people and the Land of Israel,” would be postponed indefinitely. She said the decision arose out of UNESCO’s support for peace talks between Israel and the Palestinian Authority.

“We have a responsibility in ensuring that current efforts in this regard are not endangered,” she wrote.

The cancellation followed a letter sent to Bokova on Jan. 14 by the Arab group at UNESCO. “The Arab group is deeply disturbed by the exhibition, which it condemns,” said the letter from the group’s president, Abdullah Elmealmi.

“This cause is championed by those who oppose peace efforts,” Elmealmi said. “The media campaign accompanying the exhibition will inevitably damage the peace talks, the incessant efforts of U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and UNESCO’s neutrality.”

The State Department official said the exhibition comported with UNESCO’s mission of cultural preservation and education. “UNESCO was designed to foster just this kind of discussion and interaction between civil society and member states and the United States firmly supports the right of civil society in member states such as the Wiesenthal Center to be heard and to contribute to UNESCO’s mission,” the official said.

In an email, the Simon Wiesenthal Center’s director of international affairs, Shimon Samuels, wrote that the center was outraged by Bokova’s decision. He called for an email campaign opposing cancellation.

The U.S. and Israel’s position within UNESCO has been weakened last November, when the U.N. organization suspended their voting rights, two years after both countries stopped paying dues, because UNESCO had granted full membership to the Palestinians.

The White House has since been urging the U.S. Congress to resume paying dues in order to regain its vote.

JTA content was used in this report

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19 Responses to “US: ‘UNESCO’s Decision Is Wrong and Should Be Reversed’”

  1. Anonymous says:

    The UN once again shows it's true colors. It was born after the Holocaust but now spends a lot of it's time, money and energy on helping to annihilate the Jewish state and to exterminate the Jewish people. The UN is no longer a problem solver. It has become the tool of terrorists and tyrants. The UN needs to be disbanded.

  2. Mr Kerry ''Do you still want to force Israel to make peace with Palestinian …This is another prove ….

  3. Alan Kardon says:

    This is probably done as a retaliation for cutting off funding to this terrorist supporting organization.

  4. Maybe Kerry had a hand in this decision after talking to his Palestinian friends. He's sure not been acting in Israel's interest and doesn't seem to care about Israel's feelings.

  5. Lets get out of the UN which is really a ridiculous organization used by muslims as a tool.against the civilized world. The US pays for most of it anyway and it is a powerless organization.

  6. Carlos Font says:

    Let's hear it for political correctness! It is always used as an excuse not to offend the other side. Incessant efforts by Swiftboat Kerry? On whose side?

  7. It is time for UNESCO to be less bias against Israel….and also check on the hate propaganda of the Palestinians to their children…..do they really want peace?…
    I think that UNESCO needs to make a good reflexion and not allow to smile to theArabs. UNESCO must be more 'open mind" and not just to take the side of the Arabs if tey really want to make a positive contribution to the peace process. Otherwise , they are just playing the game to destroy the Jewish state of Israel. Why UNESCO says nothing about the Palestinian incitement and propaganda to their childrn to continue teaching hate and the concept of destroying Israel/…It is UNESCO antisemite?…..UNESCO must recognise that it is funded by democratic countries as well.

  8. UNESCO…another dysfunctional agency of a dysfunctional UN?…..What US is saying about this?…nothing?….wow!

  9. It's BIBLICAL TRUTH that is an affront to the world….business as usual…LOL. Everyone over there wants Israel and Jerusalem. I find that interesting. Nations have tried to get and keep it for centuries. And the GOD of CREATION laughs.

  10. Please somebody kick UN to the curb!

  11. Robin Birdfish says:

    I wonder what the response would be by the rest of the world if the exhibition had been a Palestinian one that had been canceled by pressure by Israel..hmmm

  12. Yes so right on! UN should be disbanded, dismantled, and buried in Siberia!

  13. Hon Peter Lewis says:

    Behind this decision is not the fear that the culture of any other civil society on this planet, but the deytermination of other power hungry fanatical factions in the Arab world who will kill anyone, even other Arabs, who do not support their faction's goal's of domination of the Islamic faith & their own questionable claim to represent the "true teachings of Mahommed & Islam. Hon Peter LEWIS.

  14. JoAnn Morris says:

    Being "deeply disappointed" is NOT strong enough, Mr. Obama.

  15. must be reversed. there must be truth so there can be peace

  16. Larry Singleton says:

    The OIC is probably doing backflips.

  17. Certainly the US withdrawal of its sponsorship of this exhibition did not aid in its future. Where is Secretary of State John Kerry in this brouha?

Comments are closed.

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