Monday, September 7, 2009

A suitable head for UNESCO

The Wall Street Journal refers to Figaro bemoaning the fact that there might be the odd problem or two about the Egyptian Culture Minister of 22 years becoming the next chief of UNESCO:
To Farouk Hosni’s fans, it seems the only conceivable objection to crowning him global protector of culture is his public habit of making anti-Israel slurs, notably last year’s offer to burn Hebrew books. “If he had held his tongue, perhaps a red carpet would await Farouk Hosni in France,” an article in Le Figaro lamented last week, as the Egyptian Culture Minister landed in Paris ahead of this week’s meeting to decide the next chief of the U.N. Education, Scientific and Cultural Organization (more commonly known as Unesco).
Mr Hosni, too, tells everyone that he has changed his mind on the subject, does not want to burn Hebrew books and thinks people should judge him on the whole of his career.
Cairo is now scrambling to quash any stray quibbles with his candidacy ahead of a vote this week on his appointment. To this end, since the Unseco job campaign began, Egypt has announced plans to allow the translation of Israeli books while feverishly "contextualizing" Mr. Hosni's past tirades against the Jewish state. And last month Egypt ostentatiously unveiled the ongoing restoration of an important synagogue in Cairo.

That scramble, sincere or not, cannot erase Mr. Hosni's sorry record as a culture czar in general. Human-rights activists are not the only ones reeling at the thought of one of Egypt's pre-eminent censors being named standard-bearer in Unesco's self-described goal to "build peace in the minds of men." One can only imagine the peace in the minds of thousands of Egyptian writers, bloggers, artists, musicians, filmmakers, lecturers, broadcasters and other culture-purveyors who have been tortured, harassed, imprisoned or banned in Egypt since Mr. Hosni took office in 1987. Or the 100-plus heavy-metal fans arrested there over the last decade for their supposed Satanism. Or any of the remaining 80 million Egyptians regularly denied access to any new ideas their government deems harmful.
Well, let us hope they do judge him on his entire career. Then again, it appears to be entirely appropriate for UNESCO.


  1. You must be kidding.

    He's at one time
    - heanous (for his antisemitic words)
    - a master in censorship (arresting bloggers, forbidding Kundera at Cairo Book Fair, closing the Cairo Independent Film Festival
    - corrupt (see his close deputy Aymane Abdel-Moneim 10 years sentence)

    If you want him as a DG, it is that you don't get what the UNESCO is.

  2. No one has done more to help demonise Israel than the French.



  3. Barry Trotter, that is completely irrelevant.

    As for SaveUnesco's comment, all I can say is that you are fighting a completely ridiculous battle. You clealry have no idea what UNESCO or any other UN tranzi is like. The Egyptian Culture Minister is entirely appropriate as you might work it out if you actually have a look at what that organization has done. Of course, the only answer to all tranzis is their abolition.