UNESCO Dismisses Reports

Analysis / Interpretation / Press

By TOVAH LAZAROFF \ 02/06/2015 05:47
UNESCO dismisses reports that Palestinian poster collection nixed due to anti-Semitism
The collection of 1,600 posters, many of which focus on Palestinian armed struggle against Israel, were submitted to UNESCO by American art curator Dan Walsh.
A collection of Palestinian posters remains under consideration for inscription in UNESCO’s Memory of the World Program, a representative for the organization said in dismissal of media reports that the nomination had been dropped for fear that it fueled anti-Semitism.

“The nomination has not been rejected. The nominator is requested to revise it,” a representative of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization said. 
“It is absolutely normal for the committee to ask for revisions and improvements of the nominations to make them meet the program’s selection criteria,” the representative added.

The collection of 1,600 posters, many of which focus on Palestinian armed struggle against Israel, were submitted to UNESCO by American art curator Dan Walsh, and is now part of over 80 nominations of cultural documentary collections under consideration for inscription in the Memory of the World Program in 2015.

Some of the images in Walsh’s submission titled, “Liberation Graphics Collection of Palestine Posters,” depict pastoral, peaceful scenes. But many others advocate armed resistance as the road to Palestinian independence. 

One PLO poster from 1984 states “Zionism = Racism.” It shows three blue Stars of David, one of which has blood dripping through it. On the bottom are the words, “Expansion, Oppression, Occupation.”

Another PLO poster from 1974 states in French, “Hitler burned the Jews in Europe. And Zionism burns the Palestinians in their homeland Palestine!!” According to media reports in The Algemeiner Journal and The Times Of Israel, UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova wrote a letter to World Jewish Congress CEO Robert Singer stating her objection to the inscription of the Palestine poster collection. 

“It is my conviction that UNESCO should not associate itself with such documents whose inscription could fuel hatred and anti-Semitic perceptions,” she said.

Singer told The Jerusalem Post, “I appreciate the personal courage and integrity of Director-General Bokova in her opposition to the inscription of this collection of defamatory, anti-Semitic and hateful posters into the Memory of the World international register.

“ I was reassured... that UNESCO is determined to uphold the values of human rights, to oppose all forms of discrimination and fight against all forms of anti-Semitism, hatred and denial in all their programs.

“These posters were not aimed at promoting the rights of the Palestinians; their purpose was to incite against Israel and the Jewish people, spreading hate and violence,” he said.

 “Recent events in Europe and elsewhere have shown us that anti-Semitism is still prevalent and we must work to condemn acts that disseminate any anti-Semitic or discriminatory messages,” Singer said.

In a video posted on the web site of the Palestine Poster Project Archives, which has a 9,976 piece archive, Walsh spoke of the significance of the UNESCO nomination and rejected charges that the collection was anti-Semitic.

 “It has been recognized by an international body, up until now the Palestine posters have existed in the shadows,” Walsh said. 
“The art of the Palestinian revolution or the Palestinian liberation struggle has not been legitimated in the West, it has been considered anti-Semitism or anti-Israeli, or patently unacceptable for mainstream consumption. This nomination has the potential to change that,” he said.

Walsh told the Post that UNESCO had sent him a list of questions in December to which he had responded by January 22. UNESCO confirmed receipt of his response on January 27th. At no point, he said, did UNESCO raise the possibly that his archive have been dropped from consideration.

The Palestine poster collection was assessed by a Memory of the World Register subcommittee in December 2014.

According to a UNESCO spokesman, Walsh has been asked to change the title of his submission to “Historical collection of Palestinian posters” and “to make it more balanced and representative to be in line with UNESCO’s constitution and peace building mission.”

In July, an international committee of experts will also examine the nominations. Revised proposals will be reassessed in September 2015 by the International Advisory Committee.
The committee will submit their list of recommendations to Bokova, who will then decide which of the nominations will be inscribed in the Memory of the World International Register.
 Should Walsh’s collection be inscribed, it would be listed under the title “Palestine,” which was accepted as a UNESCO member nation in 2011.