Louvre Denies Discrimination of Israeli Students, Says Reservation System Is Automated

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French gendarmes patrol near the Louvre museum on January 12, 2015 in Paris. Credit: AFP

The Louvre Museum in Paris officially denied on Wednesday allegations of illegal discrimination against a group of Tel Aviv University students, whose requests for a tour of the institution were turned down

Last month, the Israeli group's requests to visit the Louvre and Sainte-Chapelle, the medieval Gothic chapel, were declined, with both institutions saying there was no space available on the date requested, even though three dates were suggested.

After being turned down, Sefy Hendler, who teaches in TAU’s art history department and also writes for Haaretz, attempted to make arrangements for a visit on the same dates and times, using names of fictitious educational institutions from Italy and Abu Dhabi in the Persian Gulf – and was told that space was available.

In a statement released on Wednesday, the museum said that an internal investigation has ruled out the possibility of discrimination in the incident, as its reservation system is automated.

"The first time slots requested by the University of Tel Aviv were not available at the time of the original demand. When an email request corresponds to a time slot already booked in the Louvre reservation software, an automatic reply is sent to inform of the non-availability," the statement said.

Regarding the claim that the same slot was allotted to a fake institution in a subsequent "test" by the Tel Aviv group's organizer, the museum said the slot was made available due to a cancelation, saying the Louvre's cancelation rate for group tours is about 20 percent.

The Louvre said the Israeli student group will visit the museum in June, and concluded its statement by saying that "it maintains excellent cultural and scientific relations with our museums partners and the Israel Antiquities Authority."

In contrast to the Louvre, reservations for visits to Sainte-Chapelle are handed manually by staff. Philippe Belaval, the president of the National Monuments Center, which administers Sainte-Chapelle, said his organization conducted an internal investigation that revealed recurring irregularities, but at this stage it was not clear that the incident involving the TAU students constituted a case of discrimination due to their origins.

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