Outrage as Arab World Institute President Compares Pro-BDS Intellectuals to Sheep

Arab World Institute's president and former former French culture minister, Jack Lang. (Photo: MEDEF, via Wikipedia)

The President of the Arab World Institute in Paris compared Arab intellectuals who objected to the display of Israeli artworks as part of an exhibition to ‘sheep’, in an interview with Radio J, the New Arab reported on Thursday.

The institute is showing an exhibition called ‘Juifs d’Orient’ (Jews of the Orient) until March this year and the exhibition contains some pieces borrowed from the Israel Museum, the Ben-Zvi Institute, and other Israeli institutions, prompting a campaign to boycott the event among supporters of BDS.

The exhibition was condemned by the pro-Palestinian Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign for its display of Israeli-owned works. Over 250 intellectuals from the Arab world, including Lebanese writer Elias Khoury, Palestinian filmmaker Elia Suleiman, and Algerian diplomat Lakhdar Brahimi, signed an open letter against it in December.

In his interview, the Arab World Institute’s president, Jack Lang, denounced the letter, saying it was “completely disproportionate and beside the point”.

“It makes me sad to find that figures of quality, writers and philosophers, allow themselves to be dragged like sheep behind a text which truth they have not even checked,” Lang, who is also a former French culture minister, said.

Lang added that the BDS campaign “aims at turning attention away from the deep meaning of this exposition, which has nothing to do with any political debate”.

Denis Charbit, an Israeli scholar involved in organizing the ‘Jews of the Orient’ exhibition, described the exhibition as the “first fruit of the Abraham Accords”, in reference to a deal signed by Israel and a number of Arab states to normalize ties.

In a January 2021 interview with a Moroccan news outlet, the Arab World Institute’s president, Jack Lang, praised Rabat’s signing of the US-brokered agreement.

Lang’s comments have sparked outrage in Palestine.

Mahmoud Nawajaa, the coordinator of the BDS campaign in Ramallah, told the New Arab that Lang’s comments are “a racist and colonialist attack against Arab intellectuals who signed the petition”.

(The New Arab, PC, Social Media)

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