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UNESCO’s “appalling betrayal”–and ours

We have proudly featured the work of Robert Wistrich in three Power Line posts (the three posts are accessible here). Wistrich is the Neuburger Professor of European and Jewish history at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and the director of the university’s Vidal Sassoon International Center for the Study of Anti-Semitism. He is also probably the leading academic authority on anti-Semitism. Witness his monumental histories A Lethal Obsession: Anti-Semitism From Antiquity to the Global Jihad and, most recently, From Ambivalence to Betrayal: The Left, The Jews and Israel, published by the University of Nebraska Press.

It turns out that Professor Wistrich is also the author of the spiked UNESCO exhibit that John wrote about here. The exhibit was cancelled in deference to the sensibility of Arab members of UNESCO who wrote a letter claiming that the exhibit would impair the “peace process.” To add our own shame to UNESCO’s disgrace, although the State Department protested UNESCO’s cancellation of the exhibit, when invited to co-sponsor the exhibit, the United States declined, asserting grounds indistinguishable from those advanced by the Arabs.

The Times of Israel sought out Professor Wistrich to get his reaction to the cancellation of the exhibit. Professor Wistrich’s academic expertise comes in handy in understanding what happened, which he describes as an “appalling betrayal.” Raphael Ahren reports:

Professor Robert Wistrich had bought a ticket to Paris to attend the opening of an exhibition he wrote about the Jewish people’s connection to the Land of Israel, which was supposed to take place Monday at the headquarters of UNESCO. But after the exhibition was indefinitely postponed, without prior warning, due to Arab pressure, he canceled and decided to stay in Jerusalem.

Speaking to The Times of Israel, Wistrich – the exhibition’s sole author – said it would be a “euphemism” to say he was unhappy about the sudden death of an exhibition that took him nearly two years of hard work to complete. It showed UNESCO’s “contempt for the Jewish people and its history,” he said.

“This is such a betrayal. To do it in this way is so disgraceful,” fumed Wistrich, who directs the Hebrew University’s Vidal Sassoon International Center for the Study of Antisemitism and is one of the world’s leading authorities in the field. An “appalling act,” the cancellation “completely destroyed any claim that UNESCO could possibly have to be representing the universal values of toleration, mutual understanding, respect for the other and narratives that are different, engaging with civil society organizations and the importance of education. Because there’s one standard for Jews, and there’s another standard for non-Jews, especially if they’re Arabs, but not only.”

UNESCO’s decision to cancel the exhibit allows just one conclusion, Wistrich added: “That at the end of the day, their mandate, which is to be the United Nations’ organization for the promotion of education, culture and science, is in fact subjected, entirely, to political considerations.”

Wistrich also claimed that UNESCO only agreed to host the exhibition to improve its image in the United States, hoping to get the administration to start funding the organization again, after it stopped paying when UNESCO admitted “Palestine” as a member. The historian also took aim at the Obama administration, suggesting the State Department was schizophrenic because it had refused to cosponsor the exhibition — invoking the same reasons that Arab member states used when working successfully to torpedo it — yet later condemned the fact that it was canceled.

Ahren has more here, all of it worth reading.

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