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January 19, 2014 10:00 am

U.S. and Israel Slam UNESCO Decision to Withdraw Exhibit

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Rabbi Marvin Hier, head of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, and Irina Bokova, director-general of UNESCO, stand by a poster for the Wiesenthal Center exhibit that was pulled by UNESCO before its scheduled Jan. 20 opening. Photo: Simon Wiesenthal Center. American and Israeli officials blasted the decision by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) to pull a Simon Wiesenthal Center exhibit on the Jewish connection to the land of Israel after the Arab League objected to the display.

“People, Book, Land—The 3,500 Year Relationship of the Jewish People and the Land of Israel” was a project initiated by the Wiesenthal Center after the Palestinian Authority was unilaterally accepted as a UNESCO member state in 2011. The Arab League expressed “deep worry and great disapproval” about the exhibit, and UNESCO subsequently informed the Wiesenthal Center of its decision in a letter that said the display “could create potential obstacles related to the peace process in the Middle East.”

“[The exhibit] would not harm the negotiations,” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said at his cabinet meeting Sunday. “Negotiations are based on facts, on the truth, which is never harmful.”

“UNESCO’s decision is wrong and should be reversed,” U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power said in a statement.

“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 added.

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