Paris, 9 November 2015

In a letter to French Culture Minister, Fleur Pellerin, the Simon Wiesenthal Centre Director for International Relations, Dr. Shimon Samuels, expressed “deep concern at the partnership recently signed between the Institut du Monde Arabe (Arab World Institute – IMA) with the Palestinian delegate to UNESCO, Elias Sanbar, to create a 'National Art Museum of Palestine,' which, according to IMA President Jack Lang, 'will evoke the Resistance Museum of Salvador Allende'... By drawing this parallel, Lang designates Israeli democracy as a fascist Pinochet-style military dictatorship.”

The Centre quoted from Lang’s reported remarks that, “to put in place a national art museum is a sign of combat... The IMA is now linked to a Museum displaying all of Palestine, to open next May in Ramallah. We are planning an important event to show these cultural riches. Through culture, we will make the world understand that this people only demands to live and educate its children.”

The letter noted that, “the IMA has been presented as ‘a French Foundation of public utility in partnership with the 22 member states of the Arab League... since 1996, under the financial control of the French State’, which therefore falls within the purview of your Ministry.”

Samuels argued that, “since 2011, the Palestinian entry into UNESCO has been a ferocious campaign of ID theft of the Jewish heritage: such Biblical holy sites as the Cave of the Patriarchs and the Tomb of Rachel rebaptised as mosques, claims to the Dead Sea Scrolls and, only last month, to Judaism’s core heritage site, the ‘Kotel’ or Western Wall of the Temple.

“Indeed, already at the 2012 World Heritage Committee in St. Petersburg Russia, by a stratagem Christianity’s birthplace – the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem – became Palestinian heritage, to an anachronistic claim that ‘Jesus was a Palestinian’.”

The letter pointed out that, “instead of nation-building on its own merits, the concept of Palestine can, apparently, only be validated by replacing 3,500 years of Jewish culture, history and heritage, thereby intentionally deleting the Jewish State from the map – a substitution officially displayed in the logo of every Palestinian official document and, only last week, endorsed publicly by President Mahmoud Abbas who stated: ‘All of Israel is Palestine’.”

The Centre argued that, “as the French tax-payer furnishes the entire IMA budget, your government will certainly be responsible for the integrity of its ‘Palestine – ‘combat’ – Museum’.”

The letter highlighted how, “President François Mitterrand's speech at the IMA's inauguration on 30 November 1987, stressed that ‘through the Arab World Institute... we are charged – what a beautiful charge – to serve and to promote friendship, love and respect for all peoples!’,” continuing, “That clearly included both Israelis and Palestinians. Unfortunately, Mr. Lang's claim that 'the Palestinian people only demands to live and educate its children', already makes the IMA project suspect.”

“We call on you, Madam Minister, to convoke an independent public enquiry into the design and content of the IMA- Palestinian Museum project and suspend all government funding until it is patently clear that it is not another arm in the Middle East conflict,” concluded Samuels.