Skip to main content

icjw protests unesco exhibition cancellation

The President of the International Council of Jewish Women, Sharon Gustafson, has written to protest to Mme. Irina Bokova, Director General of UNESCO, about the cancellation of the exhibition: “The People, The Book, The Land: The 3,500 Year Relationship of The Jewish People with the Holy Land”.

This exhibition, due to open at UNESCO headquarters in Paris on January 21, 2014, is presented jointly by UNESCO and the Simon Wiesenthal Center, co-sponsored by Israel, Canada, and Montenegro. Its cancellation has been protested by the World Jewish Congress and other international Jewish organizations. The International Council of Jewish Women (ICJW) is one of the NGOs involved in UNESCO’s Joint Programmatic Commissions (JPCs) and its representatives play an active role on the UNESCO/NGO Human Rights Commission, the JPC on Human Rights, and the JPC on Interfaith. ICJW representatives at UNESCO have long enjoyed a positive relationship with the office.  

In expressing ICJW’s disappointment with Mme Bokova’s decision to cancel the exhibition, Sharon Gustafson writes:  “Just as you have in the past objected to efforts which would block participation in UNESCO activities by the Palestinians, we would have expected you to resist any and all efforts, whether by Arab representatives or representatives of other countries, to block this most important exhibition.  The action your office has taken with respect to this exhibition is, in our opinion, truly reprehensible.  It stands as an unacceptable response to overt pressure from the Arab group as put forth in M. Alneaimi’s letter to you of 14 January 2014.”


This letter from Abdulla Alneimi, UNESCO delegate from the United Arab Emirates and President of the Arab Group at UNESCO, describes the exhibition about the history and cultural heritage of the Jewish people in Israel as ‘political’ and threatening the ongoing peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians.

Among the objectives with which UNESCO was founded after World War II was to combat activities which reinforce the inequality of different peoples around the world.  The cancellation of this exhibition, which was curated by renowned historian Robert Wistrich and previously approved by UNESCO, clearly contradicts the founding principles of the organization, and evidences UNESCO’s ongoing bias against Israel and Jewish history.

The International Council of Jewish Women ( ) is an umbrella organization which has members and affiliated Jewish women’s organizations in 43 countries around the world. It is not religiously aligned with any Jewish sector but represents all Jewish women worldwide at the United Nations, Council of Europe and other important international forums . I CJW is proud to have consultative status as a non-governmental organization (NGO) with the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) of the United Nations, and maintains permanent delegations in New York, Geneva, Vienna and Paris. This status enables ICJW to sit at the international table and to be heard in discussions on important issues.