The IMA put to the test of the war between Hamas and Israel

Palestine, which is a member of the Arab League and therefore a financier of the Arab World Institute (IMA), occupies an important place in the institution which regularly organizes conferences and debates on the subject. The IMA website recalls that “the IMA is to date the only institution in the world to grant such importance to the Palestinian cultural and artistic scene”a trend which has become more pronounced since the arrival of Jack Lang as president of the IMA.

But the current programming takes on a delicate political dimension after the large-scale attack by Hamas around Gaza and the Israeli response. The IMA is indeed hosting a “Palestine season” which includes three exhibitions and numerous cultural events. As explained during the opening last June, this season marks the seventy-fifth anniversary of the Nakba (catastrophe in Arabic), expression used by the Palestinians to designate the creation of the State of Israel in 1948: it is therefore a political choice. The general curator of the season is Elias Sanbar, diplomat and Palestinian ambassador to UNESCO and director of the future Palestine Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art. Among the cultural events of October, a debate was planned for October 12 precisely on the “Nakba”, with the participation of Elias Sanbar.

With casualties numbering in the thousands in Israel and Gaza, it seemed impossible to maintain this schedule. According to an official IMA source, concerts and conferences as part of the Palestine season are canceled, but no particular security measures have been taken.

It is true that the IMA has never suffered physical attacks since its creation even if it has often found itself at the heart of violent political controversies, often linked to Israel. Thus the 2021 “Jews of the Orient” exhibition sparked protests from Arab and Muslim intellectuals and calls for a boycott, because several objects exhibited came from Israeli institutions. Supported from the outset by the Arab League, the IMA must therefore constantly seek a diplomatic balance, especially since its supervision is the Quai d’Orsay.

This position risks becoming even more difficult given the reactions in Europe. On Monday, October 9, European Commissioner Olivér Varhélyi announced the suspension of all European development aid to the Palestinian Territories, amounting to 691 million euros. He also called for “evaluate funded projects closely, and suspend any new budget proposals “. Europe is the largest contributor to development aid for the Palestinians, and it was planned to devote 1.17 billion euros between 2021 and 2024, a large part of which to pay the salaries of members of the Authority. Palestinian. In Germany and Austria the governments have announced that they are considering suspending their financial participation in development, the German Minister of Development has indicated that Germany will “review its entire commitment in the Palestinian Territories” or 72 million euros annually.

France, whose position is perceived as pro-Palestine by European countries, has not yet spoken out on the subject of humanitarian aid. A meeting of European foreign ministers is due to be held today, Tuesday October 10, to try to find a common position.

In addition to the violence of the attacks by Hamas and its allies, what pushes European countries to reduce development aid is the recurring doubt about the recipients. In 2014 a report from the European Court of Auditors suggested that humanitarian aid could be misused by ghost NGOs.

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