The Wiesenthal Center welcomed the election of Bulgaria’s former Foreign Minister, Irina Bokova, pictured center with UNESCO's Dr. Graciella Samuels and SWC Director for International Relations, as the new Director-General of UNESCO after it led the campaign charging that a leading candidate should be defeated because of his anti-Israel and anti-Semitic views.
The Center was the first to expose comments made to Egypt’s Parliament by Egyptian candidate for UNESCO Director-General Farouk Hosni that, "If I find one Israeli book on Egyptian soil, I will personally burn it."
The German news agency, Deutsche Presse-Agentur published a letter of protest to then UNESCO Director-General Maatsura quoting the Center’s Director for International Relations Shimon Samuels who warned that Hosny is an "aspirant book burner cannot head the intellectual arm of the United Nations."
Hosny’s viewpoints were well documented during his two decades as Egypt’s Minister of Culture where he:
• characterized Jews in stereotypes of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion,
• invited convicted French Holocaust denier, Roger Garaudy to Egypt
• insensitively described the Holocaust at a UNESCO ceremony, as "a transgression against Muslims, a transgression against Islam"
• appeared hostile to the newly-arrived United States Ambassador to UNESCO his candidacy because he is "a Jew"
• prevented Jews of Egyptian origin from gaining access to their archives in Cairo and Alexandria, allegedly suggesting that this could lead to spurious claims for abandoned property
• obstructed cultural cooperation and normalization of relations with Israel, in violation of the 1979 Egypt-Israel peace treaty
• did nothing to restrain or condemn the virulent anti-Semitism on Egypt’s Al-Rahma TV
“The choice for Director-General of UNESCO cannot be a candidate, who is charged with bigotry and who has allowed – under his watch – the violation of cultural and intellectual freedoms, said Samuels.
During the campaign, the Center also joined in solidarity with Arab human rights groups in revealing that, during his term as Minister of Culture, hundreds of Egyptian writers were imprisoned.
"The Wiesenthal Center has maintained a close working relationship with UNESCO, on tolerance education, throughout the administrations of Directors-General Federico Mayor Zaragoza and Koichiro Matsuura, (pictured second from left), we look forward to enhancing those ties under the leadership of Madame Irina Bokova," Samuels added.
Hosni: I was defeated by a "Jewish conspiracy"
Minister Hosni's reaction to his unexpected defeat confirms his anti-Semitic mindset. He told reporters, upon his return to Cairo from Paris, "It was clear by the end of the competition that there was a conspiracy against me ... there are a group of the world's Jews who had a major influence in the elections... ."
While editorial comment in Egypt's media lined up solidly behind Minister Hosni, some cultural and intellectual figures bemoaned the fact that Egypt selected him in the first place. "I have always said that there are at least 10,0000 other people in Egypt who would be better candidates for UNESCO than Farouk Hosni," said novelist Alaa al-Aswany.
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