Despite objections, Knesset photo exhibit opens at UN headquarters

This is the first time that a Knesset exhibit is on display at UN headquarters.


An exhibit of photos capturing historical events that took place in the Knesset over the years opened at the United Nations Headquarters in New York, despite objections of various elements to Jerusalem’s depiction as Israel’s capital.

The exhibit, titled “The Knesset Celebrates 70 – Parliament Shaping Israeli Society,” was previously displayed at Ben-Gurion International Airport in 2019 to mark the Israeli parliament’s 70th anniversary.

It includes photos of historic events at the Knesset, such as Egyptian President Anwar Sadat’s visit, Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin’s coffin lying in state at the Knesset Plaza, as well as photos related to laws enacted by the Knesset.

MKs Gilad Kariv, Ofir Akunis, and Inbar Bezek, as well as Knesset Director-General Gil Segal, represented the Knesset at the launch of the exhibit, which was attended by ambassadors from around the world, heads of Jewish organizations and other dignitaries.

This is the first time that a Knesset exhibit is on display at the UN Headquarters.

Speaker of the Knesset MK Mickey Levy welcomed those who attended the opening ceremony via videoconferencing and said that “the exhibit before you presents the most important milestones in the life of the Knesset, which serve as the foundations on which Israeli democracy stands, as well as the passing of historic and pioneering basic laws that have shaped the character of the State of Israel as the state of the Jewish People, enshrined the rights of all the citizens, irrespective of religion, race or gender, and provided a platform for rich and diverse pluralistic discourse.”

Kariv, Chairman of the Knesset’s Constitution, Law and Justice Committee said that “The fact that this exhibit is being displayed here, in the house of the UN General Assembly, is of huge importance.”

“The photos that are on display here, and the history of Israeli legislation, remind us that mutual respect and the search for a common denominator, despite all the differences between us, are necessary for ensuring independence, justice and prosperity for Israel,” he added.

‘Not one word or photo was removed’

Speaking at the opening of the exhibit, the Israeli Ambassador to the UN Gilad Erdan stated that “we are celebrating a historic victory, a victory of the truth. To my amazement, not only did the UN [initially] refuse to display the exhibit, it demanded that the exhibit conform to the organization’s agenda. It turns out that the history of the Israeli nation is offensive to the UN. What a disgrace.”

“We did not capitulate, and, indeed, not one word or photo was removed. We will not let anyone damage our history or our truth,” he declared.

Erdan noted that “the launch of the exhibit was preceded by serious drama, during which the United Nations Secretariat announced that it would not permit the display of photos and captions that present Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, or about the annexation of the Golan Heights.

This is about four controversial posters: One that pertains to Basic Law: Jerusalem, Capital of Israel, and states that its purpose is, among other things, to ensure that [Jerusalem] remains complete and united; a photo that pertains to the law for bringing Herzl’s remain to Israel for reburial in Jerusalem, ‘the eternal capital of the Jewish people and their holy city’; a photo depicting the Knesset’s relocation to Beit Froumine (Froumine House) in Jerusalem after the War of Independence, accompanied by a caption reading ‘the then-small and divided Jerusalem’; and a photo showing the tallying of votes following Knesset Members’ vote on the Golan Heights Law in 1981.”

Knesset Speaker Levy and Erdan announced that they have no intention of removing or censoring the photos or the accompanying written explanations.

It was eventually decided that the “controversial” photos would be displayed with a disclaimer stating that “The designations employed and the presentation of material on this display do not imply the expression of any opinion on the part of the Secretariat of the United Nations.”