By B. Cohen
The head of UNESCO, the United Nations cultural agency, has a rejected a collection of Palestinian propaganda posters submitted to the organization’s world heritage register on the grounds that the images and words they contain fuel antisemitism.
The decision marks the first time that UNESCO has vetoed a nomination for inclusion in its “Memory of the World” program. In a letter to World Jewish Congress CEO Robert Singer, Irina Bokova, the Director-General of UNESCO, declared: “It is my conviction that UNESCO should not associate itself with such documents whose inscription could fuel hatred and anti-Semitic perceptions.”
Rabbi Abraham Cooper of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, a Jewish NGO which holds consultative status with UNESCO and has forged close relationships with Bokova and her predecessors, hailed the move. “We’re grateful that Mrs. Bokova intervened under the rules of UNESCO,” Cooper told The Algemeiner. “This episode also reflects the fact that the cultural front remains one of the most important battlegrounds for the Palestinians and their supporters.”
Cooper pointed out that the Palestinians, who were admitted to UNESCO as a full member in 2011, have sought not only to achieve recognition of their independent statehood, but to delegitimize Israel in the process. “What UNESCO says and does absolutely has an impact on world politics as well as culture,” he observed.
Many of the Palestinian posters submitted to UNESCO endorse violence or echo antisemitic themes. One poster features an image of Dalal Mughrabi, the female Palestinian terrorist who in 1978 carried out the deadliest terror attack in Israel’s history, in which 38 Israelis were murdered on a hijacked bus near Tel Aviv. Another, from 1982, commemorates the massacre of Palestinian civilians by Christian militiamen in the Sabra and Shatila refugee camps in Lebanon by showing a bleeding body suspended on a yellow Star of David.
In January 2014, UNESCO courted controversy when it canceled an exhibition at its Paris headquarters on the 3,500 year relationship between the Jewish people and the Land of Israel. After an outcry, the exhibition opened in June last year with the title, “The 3,500 year relationship of the Jewish People to the Land of Israel.”
Rabbi Cooper singled out Bokova’s role in enabling the exhibition to go ahead. “She not only ensured that the exhibition was presented, she also spoke at the launch,” he pointed out.