Louvre Museum Accused of Discrimination After Barring Israeli Students

Is the famous Parisian museum antisemitic?

The Louvre's pyramid entrance Photo via: aneworld
The Louvre has been accused of illegal discrimination Photo via: aneworld

The district governor of Île-de-France, Jean-François Carenco, has alerted prosecutors in Paris after it emerged that the Louvre Museum and the Sainte-Chapelle church refused Israeli students who wished to attend tours, Liberation reports.

Prosecutors are now investigating the institutions on suspicion of discrimination (see The Cultural Boycott of Israel Isn’t Solidarity, It’s Condescension).

The incident took place in May, when Professor Sefy Hendler, from the University of Tel Aviv, organized an art trip to Paris with a group of 12 students. Hendler wrote to the Louvre and the Sainte-Chapelle to make reservations for guided tours, which were quickly turned down.

Sainte-Chapelle informed him that there “was no chance for that day.” Meanwhile, the Louvre told him: “We don’t have any availability for the requested slots,” despite the fact that the professor proposed three different times.

The Sainte-Chapelle Church has also been implicated in the investigation Photo: europeantrips.org

The Sainte-Chapelle church has also been implicated in the investigation
Photo: europeantrips.org

“It seemed odd,” Hendler commented. He decided to test the institutions by making reservation requests for the same dates and times from two fictitious universities. The invented institute of art from Florence and “Abu Dhabi Art History College” received quick positive responses.

“I was shocked,” he told Liberation. “I was ready to cancel the trip,” Hendler added. He decided to get in touch with Francois Heilbronn, president of the French Friends of the University of Tel Aviv.

Heilbronn forwarded Hendler’s reservation forms and email exchanges to the director of the Louvre, Jean-Luc Martinez; to Philippe Bélaval, the director of the Center for National Monuments, which manages the Sainte-Chapelle; and to Fleur Pellerin, the French Culture Minister.

Louvre Director Jean-Luc Martinez has denied the accusations Photo: Miguel Medina via AFP Photo

Louvre Director Jean-Luc Martinez 
Photo: Miguel Medina via AFP Photo

In a statement, the Louvre admitted that it was “troubled” by the accusations and announced an internal investigation. However, the museum claimed to be “a victim of its own success,” explaining it receives “an average of 400 reservation requests a day, and demand nearly doubles the availability.”

Meanwhile, Bélaval said that, although the internal investigation had evidenced “repeated failures,” there was no proof of discrimination, declaring that the booking service “never showed hostility to Israel.”

Students from the University of Tel Aviv were denied guided tours of the Louvre Photo: Times of Israel

Students from the University of Tel Aviv were denied guided tours of the Louvre
Photo: Times of Israel

Heilbronn has complained that the response from the accused institutions seems too casual “given the gravity of the facts.” Meanwhile, Hendler stressed that museums should “respect access to culture for all.”

According to Israel National Newsantisemitism in France is on the rise, with 164 violent antisemitic incidents recorded in 2014 (see Frenchman Confesses to Brussels Jewish Museum Shooting).


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