Postponement of the exhibition “People, Book, Land – The 3,500 Year Relationship of the Jewish People to the Holy Land”- UNESCO statement – Press release

17.01.2014 – ODG

Information regarding the planned exhibition, “People, Book, Land – The 3,500 Year Relationship of the Jewish People to the Holy Land”

In response to requests for information regarding the postponement of the exhibition, “People, Book, Land – The 3,500 Year Relationship of the Jewish People to the Holy Land,” UNESCO wishes to express the following:

UNESCO has worked with the Simon Wiesenthal Center in planning this exhibition. A number of elements relating to it still remain to be agreed upon. This includes unresolved issues relating to potentially contestable textual and visual historical points, which might be perceived by Member States as endangering the peace process.

Moreover, the UNESCO Secretariat received a letter from 22 Member States, of 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.

The UNESCO Secretariat is obliged by the Organization’s rules and regulations to consider fully the concerns raised by its Member States or any Regional Group regarding planned exhibitions or manifestations.

Fully in line with the efforts of the UN system as a whole, UNESCO is deeply committed to the successful outcome of the peace process in order to achieve stability and peace in the region.

Within UNESCO itself, this commitment has taken the shape of relentless efforts to achieve consensus between Member States on all issues falling within UNESCO’s educational, scientific, and cultural mandate.

Consensus on UNESCO decisions and resolutions regarding the Middle East has been especially important, to avoid confrontation and politicization. The last session of the UNESCO General Conference in November showed it is possible to adopt resolutions on the Middle East by consensus, despite challenges.

The drive for consensus underpins all of UNESCO’s work — including, for instance, the successful International Symposium held under UNESCO patronage on 12-13 November, 2012, on the “Permanence of Yiddish,” an initiative of B’nai B’rith Representation, also an official partner of UNESCO in associate status, and with the participation of the Paris Yiddish Center – Medem Library.

This spirit also guides UNESCO’s action across the world today to promote education for human rights and peace, including Holocaust education, where UNESCO plays a unique and leading role in the United Nations system. UNESCO is working every day to advance respect for human rights and dignity and to fight against all forms of discrimination, racism and anti-Semitism.

It is the foundation also for the upcoming commemoration of International Holocaust Remembrance Day at UNESCO, on 27 January, when UNESCO is partnering with a wide range of partners, including the Memorial de la Shoah, the USC Shoah Foundation, founded by Steven Spielberg, and the Georg Eckert Institute.

UNESCO remains strongly committed to addressing the remaining outstanding issues with the Simon Wiesenthal Center, a longstanding official partner of UNESCO, in an associate status. UNESCO remains equally committed and actively engaged to working with Member States and partners to hold the exhibition in conditions that promote cooperation and dialogue.

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