Israeli art history prof turned down trying to book Louvre tour for students
However, when he tried to book tours for students from Italy, Abu Dhabi, he was told space was available
Attempts by Tel Aviv university art students to book a trip to the major cultural landmark of Paris met with failure, prompting suspicion that illegal anti-Semitic discrimination has taken place, the French Liberation daily reported Monday.
When Sefy Hendler, a specialist on the Italian Renaissance from the university's art history department, contacted the administration of the world-famous Louvre museum, he was told there's no room on the day he proposed. Suggestions for alternative dates met with the same response.
His attempt to book a tour of the Sainte-Chapelle chapel was equally without success.
However, when Hendler subsequently tried to book tours on the same dates for student groups from fictitious higher education institutions from Italy and the Gulf state of Abu Dhabi he was told he could do so.
"I was shocked, dismayed," Hendler told the French newspaper. "I was ready to cancel the trip."
He eventually decided to alert Francois Heilbronn, the head of the French Friends of the Tel Aviv University group, who in turn alerted a number of senior officials, including Louvre Director Jean-Luc Martinez, the chief of the Centre for National Monuments (which manages the Sainte-Chapelle) Philippe Bélaval and the French Culture Minister Fleur Pellerin.
Apologizing for the "troubling" incident, the Louvre administration said it appeared to be a technical glitch, as the booking system is entirely automated. The in-demand museum "is the victim of its own success," they said, alluding to its extreme busyness.
Whereas the Sainte-Chapelle, where the booking is made by staffers, said the incident was one in a series of "recurrent malfunctions" rather than an act of racist discrimination.
Hendler told Haaretz he does not accept the explanation.
“It’s clear to me that when you say no to Israelis, it’s a discriminatory and racist act. They don’t care whether you’re left- or right-wing. They simple don’t want the Israeli in the narrow sense through which they view him. It’s an incident that I simply don’t understand.”
Louvre investigated for turning away Israeli students
After Tel Aviv U. prof. is told there is no room for his group, he pretends to represent European and Gulf schools — and is approved
BY TAMAR PILEGGI June 15, 2015, 8:35 pm
Tamar Pileggi is a breaking news editor at The Times of Israel.
The governor of greater Paris has asked state prosecutors to investigate claims of anti-Israel discrimination after French media reported that two prominent cultural institutions, including the Louvre art museum, recently turned away a group of visiting Tel Aviv University students.
Last month, art history professor Sefy Hendler contacted the reservations departments at the world-famous museum and at Sainte-Chapelle Cathedral to book guided tours for a group of 12 students who are scheduled to visit Paris in late June. According to a report in Haaretz Monday, he was quickly turned away by both for lack of room, despite trying to make a booking on three separate dates.
“I was surprised to hear that a site that hosts over nine million visitors a year could not find a place for us — even though we offered to come mid-week,” Hendler told the paper.
After being turned away, the professor contacted the Louvre and Sainte-Chapelle again, and attempted to make reservations using false names of educational institutions from Italy and Abu Dhabi, on the same dates he had requested originally.
Shortly after, both institutions responded to Hendler that space was available on his requested dates.
Hendler, who said he considered canceling the trip altogether, ultimately transferred the correspondence to Francois Heilbronn, the president of the French Friends of TAU, who pursued the matter with both institutions, together with French Culture Minister Fleur Pellerin.
The official statement released by the Louvre Monday called the incident “disturbing” and said that it would investigate the details — although its reservations system was entirely automated.
The communique wrote that an overflow of reservations on the system was responsible for initially turning down — and then ultimately approving — Hendler’s separate reservation requests.
“In a way, we are victims of our success. We receive on average 400 reservation requests per day and offer 15-minute-long visits. But demand is twice as large as supply,” the statement said.
The report explained that the computerized system didn’t create a “waiting line” for turned-down requests, and that Hendler’s test reservations were “lucky” to receive the free slots. “In any event, a second reservation — by the Hebrew University — was later accepted,” said the management of the Louvre.
At Sainte-Chapelle, where the reservation system is not automated, the president of National Monuments admitted to the French daily Liberation that an internal investigation found “repeated errors” in its reservations department and said that “disciplinary measures” would be taken.
Philippe Beleval emphasized that it wasn’t possible to ascertain if discrimination was a factor in the decision, but made assurances that the person responsible for turning down the reservation request “never expressed hostility towards Israel.”
Beleval expressed regret over “compromising the treatment of requests” and a lack of “rigor and professionalism.”
Heilbronn dismissed both responses as disingenuous.
Hendler also rejected the explanations, claiming that “it’s obvious that when they said no to the Israelis, it’s an act of discrimination and racism. They don’t care if you’re left-wing or right-wing — they just don’t want any Israelis, in the narrow meaning of the word.
“What’s the point? If we don’t see the Mona Lisa, is the occupation going to end? The minute you start deciding who you will let into your museums, the only visitors left will be Westerners who think exactly like you,” he added.
Jonathan Beck contributed to this report