The Louvre in Paris has been reported to French police after a group booking by Israeli art students was refused.
Tel Aviv University art professor Sefy Hendler, told The Times of London he had emailed the historic museum to make a group booking for 12 of his students visiting Paris last month. After a brief exchange his request was turned down and he was told that no tickets were available.
Mr Hendler contacted the Sainte-Chapelle, the 13th-century church that contains what is said to be Christ’s crown of thorns and received the same rejection.
Surprised by the “bizarre” replies, he immediately sent fictitious queries to the two institutions. These were on behalf of the Abu Dhabi Art History College and the Florence Art Institute. These bookings from non-Jewish groups were processed without difficulty.
“I was upset and profoundly shocked,” Mr Hendler said.
Paris prosecutors have opened a criminal inquiry to determine whether the Israeli students were victims of discrimination — an offence which carries a maximum sentence of five years in prison and a fine of €75,000.
According to the Jerusuleum Post, Mr Hendler’s own personal opinion of the rejection was that it stemmed from “bad will” toward Israel.
“I think it’s a typical [case] of people in positions of power [discriminating] behind their anonymity as status as public officers. I hope I’m wrong. If not it’s terrible for France.”
France has a longstanding tradition of “universal access to culture” that Mr Hendler said he cherishes, which is a “principle that the French have defended for centuries.”
And while he believes the Louvre was not trying to “whitewash” its rejection of his group, he said the chapel’s answers were “totally insufficient.”
“For their sake we would appreciate better answers,” he said.
Since the anti-Jewish terror attacks in France and Denmark earlier this year, several governments in Europe, including France and the U.K., have pledged resources to combating the rise of continent-wide antisemitism.
Security was stepped up across France for Jewish community centers and synagogues, though recent reports indicated a scaling back of such efforts.
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