The United Nations cultural agency has disgraced itself again, deciding at the last minute to postpone an exhibition of the 3,500-year relationship of the Jewish people to the Holy Land. This exhibition, co-sponsored by the Simon Wiesenthal Center, was due to open this past Monday at the Paris headquarters of the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). But last week 22 Arab states sent a letter to UNESCO’s secretariat, protesting that this exhibition could endanger the “peace process.” (French text of the letter here, courtesy of UN Watch).
UNESCO’s secretariat — namely, its director-general, Irina Bokova — could have replied that any peace process that could be remotely endangered by a display of the long history of Jewish ties to the Holy Land is no peace process at all.
Bokova could have told the Arab states that UNESCO has no interest in trying to delegitimize the state of Israel at their behest, which is what this UNESCO delay is really all about. Bokova could have proclaimed that anti-Semitism has no place at the UN, and for any of UNESCO’s member states to insinuate it into the agenda is a jarring affront at a cultural agency dedicated, in the words of its motto (condensed from UNESCO’s charter and amended for political correctness), to “building peace in the minds of men and women.” She could have added that it is thug politics for many of UNESCO’s member states to employ the cultural agency as a vehicle for passing round after round of resolutions singling out Israel as a target of UNESCO condemnations. Bokova could have shown backbone and leadership by giving her blessing to the exhibition, “People, Book, Land — The 3,500 Year Relationship of the Jewish People to the Holy Land,” and insisting that it open on schedule. She could have turned up to celebrate it as an important element in the history of the Middle East, a genuine contribution to any real hope of peace.
Instead, UNESCO’s secretariat put out a press release last Friday, announcing that in the context of the Arab protest, “regrettably, UNESCO had to postpone the inauguration of the exhibition.” The press release went on to attribute this decision to UNESCO’s “relentless efforts to achieve consensus between Member States on all issues falling within UNESCO’s educational, scientific, and cultural mandate.”