Strong controversy between the IMA and the Arab intelligentsia over the exhibition “Jews of the East”

The proud building that has housed the Institute of the Arab World (IMA) since 1987, in the 5e arrondissement of Paris, famous for its moucharabieh facade, has suffered from many storms. But the crisis facing this Mecca of Arab culture in France today is of an unprecedented kind.

In an open letter to the IMA, which has been circulating on the Internet since December 6, more than two hundred members of the intelligentsia of the Maghreb and the Mashreq, some of whom are acclaimed worldwide, such as the Lebanese novelist Elias Khoury, the Palestinian filmmaker Elia Suleiman and the Tunisian musician Anouar Brahem, s alarm from “Explicit signs of normalization” with Israel.

Signatories accuse Institute of attempting to present the Hebrew state “Like a normal state”, recalling that two recent reports, signed by human rights organizations B’Tselem and Human Rights Watch, described as« apartheid » the regime in force in Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories. Terribly cruel paradox: the IMA finds itself called into question by the very people whose work it has been promoting for almost thirty-five years.

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The lawsuit against the Institute is based on a statement by its president, the former Minister of Culture Jack Lang, and on elements linked to the “Eastern Jews” exhibition, inaugurated on November 24 within its walls. This great premiere, designed by historian Benjamin Stora, traces the centuries-old history of Jewish communities in Arab-Muslim lands and celebrates their contribution to the culture of this region, while groping about the subjects that annoy: the departure Jews in the Arab world, following the creation of Israel in 1948, and the concomitant expulsion of the Palestinians, during the Nakba (their forced exile).

Six loans from Israel

The exhibit comes as, in 2020, four Arab states – the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Morocco and Sudan – normalized their relations with Israel, under the Abrahamic Accords, much to the chagrin of Palestinian leaders who cried treason. In January, in an interview with the Moroccan Press Agency (MAP), Jack Lang welcomed the agreement signed by Rabat, saying that of the four treaties, the one signed by the Moroccans was the only one not to sacrifice Palestinians. The declaration had stirred up a stir within the IMA.

Then at the end of November, the Boycott Divestment Sanctions (BDS) movement, the response of Palestinian civil society to the sinking of the peace process, the strangulation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip and the inaction of Western capitals, s he is moved by the participation of an Israeli singer of Moroccan origin, Neta Elkayam, in a music festival organized by the IMA, in parallel with the “Jews of the Orient” exhibition. In accordance with its rules, which prohibit contact with Israelis who have not taken a public stand against occupation, apartheid, and for the return of refugees, BDS has encouraged Arab artists participating in this festival to take a stand. remove it.

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Strong controversy between the IMA and the Arab intelligentsia over the exhibition “Jews of the East”

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