Disney World millennium exhibit on Israel sparks Arab complaints
September 30, 1999
From Correspondent John Zarrella
ORLANDO, Florida (CNN) -- Disney is not a company that enjoys controversy. But as it kicks off, with typical style, its celebration of the new millennium at Disney World, the company finds itself in the middle of the Middle East controversy.
"We're an entertainment company, and we have never tried to enter into a political debate or take sides," says Bill Warren, a Disney World spokesman. "We just want our guests to have a good time."
But the Israeli exhibit at Disney World's new Millennium Village incensed many people in the Arab world even before the pavilion opened Thursday. At issue is an exhibit that portrays Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.
Muslims charge Jerusalem was illegally seized during the 1967 Six-Day War, and Palestinians claim east Jerusalem as the capital of a future Palestinian state.
"My message to Israel is if you are serious about peace and if you want a lasting peace, a just peace, Jerusalem does not have to be exclusively Jewish," says Khalid Turanni, executive director of American Muslims for Jerusalem. "If it is, there will never be peace in the Middle East."
But Israel's ambassador to the United States, Zalman Shoval, who previewed the exhibit, says Jerusalem's status is not debatable.
"There are certain facts that cannot be change and will not be changed and the centrality of Jerusalem not just for Jewish history but for the Jewish people which is really recognized by everyone," he says. "This is something we are not going to dally with."
Muslim leaders in the United States are calling for a boycott of Disney. Shoval calls that political blackmail and is urging Arabs to see the exhibit before drawing conclusions.
Arab League challenges Disney exhibit
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