Arab anti-Zionists attack prominent French institute for cooperation with Israel in widely hailed exhibition on “Eastern Jews”


A Torah scroll from North Africa on display at the Institut du monde arabe in Paris. Photo credit: Reuters / Jérôme Leblois / Hans Lucas

Paris-based institute founded by Arab countries to disseminate information about the Arab world has been attacked by supporters of the anti-Zionist “Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions” (BDS) campaign over an exhibition it is currently hosting dedicated to the Jewish communities of the Middle East.

Earlier this month, 52 Arab intellectuals signed a letter of protest to the Institut du monde arabe (“Institut du monde arabe” or IMA) regarding the “Jews of the Orient” exhibition opened at the end of November by the French. President Emmanuel Macron.

The center of the letter’s wrath was the participation of Israeli institutions, including the Israel Museum in Jerusalem, in providing the content for the exhibition at the imposing IMA headquarters on the left bank of the French capital. In addition to Israel, museums and research centers in France, the United Kingdom, Morocco, Spain and the United States have provided manuscripts, photographs, paintings and other documents illustrating the religious and cultural life of the Jewish communities in the Arab world.

The letter attacked Israeli academic Denis Charbit, a member of the exhibition’s organizing committee, for hailing the participation of Israeli institutions as the result of the historic peace accords signed in 2020 between Israel and several Arab countries. These nations were among the eighteen Arab countries that established the IMA in 1987, which houses a museum, library, restaurant and other attractions.

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Claiming that the IMA would “betray its intellectual mission” by “normalizing” and “standardizing” cooperation with Israel, the letter denounces attempts “to present Israel and its regime of settler colonialism and apartheid as a normal state” .

The signatories also accused the exhibition of having “appropriated the Jewish component of Arab culture, presenting it as Zionist, then Israeli, before tearing it from its true roots to use it in the service of its colonial project. In the region”.

Among the signatories of the letters were Joseph Massad, a professor at Columbia University in New York who has been accused of anti-Semitism on several occasions, veteran PLO politician Hanan Ashrawi, and musicians Marcel Khalife and Natasha Atlas.

The Israeli embassy in Paris sharply criticized the letter, which accused its authors of trying “to rewrite and obscure the history of Jews in Arab and Muslim countries.”

“It is unfortunate that people who claim to be intellectuals are participating in an attempt to cover up an entire part of the history of the Middle East,” an embassy spokesperson told AFP news agency.

In its response to the letter, the IMA stressed that the institution and its president, former socialist education minister Jack Lang, continued to support the Palestinians “steadfastly”. However, an anonymous IMA official told the media outlet. The Parisian Wednesday that the institute was disturbed by “the virulence of the tone of BDS in front of an exposure whose scientific quality has been recognized”.

The main founder of the BDS movement – whose main goal is to eliminate Israel as a democratic Jewish state and replace it with a state of Palestine – stressed in a separate interview that the IMA would remain a target of the campaign as long as she cooperated with Israel.

“Exactly the same way apartheid South Africa was boycotted, apartheid Israel must be isolated in the name of freedom, justice and equality for Palestinians,” told AFP Omar Barghouti.

Barghouti further warned the IMA that it “would end up losing its credibility with [Arab] public as well as figures of Arab culture.


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