By Hillel Neuer
Days before the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization was to launch a landmark exhibit at its Paris headquarters this Monday on “The 3,500 Year Relationship of the Jewish People and the Land of Israel,” curated together with the Simon Wiesenthal Center, the world body reneged. (See invitation below.)
The surprise here isn’t that UNESCO chief Irina Bokova surrendered to the Arab League’s protest, rudely cancelling an event for which invitations were already sent out, and which involved painstaking work over two years by renowned Hebrew University scholar Robert Wistrich.
Rather, the only surprises here — for an organization that up until several weeks ago grotesquely featured Bashar al-Assad’s Syria on its human rights committee — are that Bokova ever gave her approval in the first place; and that it took this long for the Arab states to wake up, given that the Wiesenthal Center for over two years had been loud and clear that the exhibit was designed to counteract “malicious lies being spread, particularly in the Arab world,” and would be shown “not in a synagogue or Jewish community center, but rather at UNESCO headquarters in Paris and the United Nations where this historic truth [the Jewish connection to Israel] is too often buried under an avalanche of lies.”
Astonishingly, during this same time period, an examination of all UNESCO decisions and resolutions — just click on the links above — shows that not a single other country was censured even once.
Exceptionally, in 2012, UNESCO condemned Syria for its bloody crackdown, in one resolution. Yet this took place only after Western countries were pressured by UN Watch’s protest against UNESCO’s shameful election of Syria to its committee that judges human rights petitions, as well as to its committee that oversees non-governmental organizations.
This condemnation of Syria was a one-off; it failed to reappear in 2013. Instead, Israel returned once again to being the only country singled out by UNESCO.
Second, consider the audacity: Bokova justified her cancellation of Monday’s Jewish exhibit by invoking UNESCO’s alleged concern not to endanger the fragile Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations. Yet somehow this noble principle of caution for peace never stopped UNESCO from excoriating Israel incessantly.
Finally, consider the tragedy: founded after World War II with the express purpose of combating the doctrine of the inequality of men and races, UNESCO today has sadly become a serial perpetrator of inequality.
Hillel Neuer is the executive director of UN Watch.