Reversing course, German city says it will host exhibit critical of Israeli soldiers

Ben Sales

(JTA) — The German city of Cologne has reversed course and said it will host an exhibit by an Israeli organization that accuses Israeli soldiers of mistreating Palestinians.

The city had planned to show the Breaking the Silence exhibit this fall during a week of events marking 50 years of diplomatic relations between Israel and Germany. But the Israeli Embassy in Germany convinced Cologne last week to cancel the exhibit offering testimonies critical of Israeli actions in the West Bank and Gaza.

In a statement Tuesday, however, Cologne said it will show the exhibit after all as a standalone presentation in the spring. The statement said the exhibit will be presented “in an appropriate context.”

In reference to the cancellation, the statement said, “There were rising voices that warned the city of Cologne of adverse effects, especially in terms of propagating anti-Israel and anti-Semitic resentment, which looked misplaced in the anniversary year and during the celebrations.”

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Israel’s ambassador to Berlin, Yakov Hadas-Handelsman, told The Times of Israel on Thursday that his objections were not about the content of the exhibit but that it had “nothing to do with the 50-year anniversary of diplomatic relations.”

In an interview with a Cologne newspaper, the ambassador said he would have reacted similarly in any other country.

“Of course, especially in Germany, they could have been a bit more sensitive,” Hadas-Handelsman said.

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