U.S. chides UNESCO for putting Jewish exhibit on hold

Fri Jan 17, 2014 6:30pm EST
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By Louis Charbonneau

UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - The United States on Friday criticized UNESCO, the U.N.'s cultural arm, for postponing an exhibition about Jews and the Holy Land due to complaints from Arab member states.

The U.N. Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization, based in Paris, issued a statement saying it would hold off on the exhibition, which was to be called "People, Book, Land -- The 3,500 Year Relationship of the Jewish People to the Holy Land," because of concerns that some aspects "might be perceived by member states as endangering the peace process."

The U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, Samantha Power, urged UNESCO to rethink the decision on the exhibition, which UNESCO was organizing in cooperation with the Simon Wiesenthal Center.

"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.

UNESCO said its secretariat received a letter from 22 states -- the Arab Group -- expressing their concern that "the planned exhibition could impact negatively on the peace process and current negotiations underway in the Middle East."

"In this context, regrettably, UNESCO had to postpone the inauguration of the exhibition," UNESCO said.

Negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians on a "two-state solution" in which Jewish and Palestinian states would exist peacefully side-by-side broke down in 2010 in a dispute over Israeli settlement construction. Peace talks have shown little sign of progress since their revival last year.   Continued...

U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power speaks in Washington, September 6, 2013. REUTERS/Larry Downing (UNITED STATES - Tags: POLITICS CIVIL UNREST CONFLICT) - RTX13A23