SWC: 'Book Burner' Can Never Head UNESCO

Wiesenthal Centre to UNESCO Director-General: "An Aspirant Book-Burner Cannot Head the Intellectual Arm of the United Nations"

Paris, 21 May 2008

In a letter to United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) Director-General, Koïchiro Matsuura, the Simon Wiesenthal Centre's Director for International Relations, Dr Shimon Samuels, warned of a "major threat to the very values of UNESCO". He drew attention to the "outrageous statement of Egyptian Culture Minister, Farouk Hosni, at a conference in the National Parliament on 10 May, to the effect that:


'I would burn Israeli books myself if found in Egyptian libraries.'"

Samuels noted, "According to Egyptian sources, Hosni has himself admitted to this statement, couched in the language and actions of Nazi 'Minister of Culture', Josef Goebbels a scandal irregardless the cultural origins of the authors targeted," and stressing that "the sting in this tail is that literary pyromaniac, Farouk Hosni, is considered a serious candidate to replace [Koïchiro Matsuura] as Director-General of UNESCO."

The letter continued, "In that context, it should be noted that this Minister hardly reflects Egypt's cultural glory. A few examples of his documented antisemitism will suffice:

- He had personally invited convicted French Holocaust denier, Roger Garaudy, to speak in Cairo and to present his apology for genocide in a one-hour interview on national television (reported in the British anti-Nazi monthly SEARCHLIGHT of June 2001).

- In an interview given to the Egyptian publication Al-Arabi in May 2004, Hosni had stated that 'we consider culture as a powerful weapon which we will invoke' a threat that he had reportedly addressed to former Israeli leaders: the late President Ezer Weitzman and Culture Minister Shulamit Aloni.

- His blockage of an initiative to establish a Museum of Egyptian Jewish History in Cairo (ynetnews.com, 14 May 2008)."

Samuels referred to one Egyptian columnist who had hinted at an "epiphany on Hosni's road to Paris, dissimulating moderation in order not to alienate votes in the UNESCO election. Yet, in the official daily organ, Al Gomhurrya, there was an apparent but oblique insinuation that a certain country would attempt to sabotage his campaign: 'If I lose in the fight for UNESCO, it would be to my honour... If I win, I will serve world culture without discrimination between states.'"

The Centre urged the Director-General of UNESCO to view "these protestations as empty in view of Hosni's known positions and latest excess an aspirant book-burner, who threatens to wield culture as a weapon, cannot head the intellectual arm of the United Nations. His prejudices, intolerance and disrespect preclude any ability to administer UNESCO's dialogue among civilizations and its mandate for multiculturalism."

"The Simon Wiesenthal Centre will join together with the true champions of all cultures to engage voting states on the impossible scenario of Mr Farouk Hosni as Director-General of UNESCO," concluded Samuels.

For further information, please contact Shimon Samuels at +33.609.77.01.58.