Farouk’s outburst against Israeli literature came in May 2008, in the Egyptian Parliament, where he has served as Culture Minister for over twenty years. When another politician asked if there were Israeli books in a new library in Alexandria, Farouk Hosni responded:
‘If there are any there, I will myself burn them in front of you.’
Hosni also banned the film, ‘The Band’s Visit’, an Israeli movie about a poor Egyptian band that is marooned in an Israeli backwater.
Now a number of Jewish authors, artists and film makers have expressed alarm over Farouk’s possible appointment to such an important UN position. Among them are Nobel Peace laureate and Holocaust Survivor Elie Wiesel, journalist Bernard-Henri Levy and filmmaker Claude Lanzmann, all of whom have expressed their concerns in French newspaper Le Monde, last week. They cite other comments by Farouk in 2001 when he described Israeli culture as ‘an inhuman culture…aggressive…pretentious…’
Their protest piece in Le Monde called on world governments to act, saying: ‘We invite all countries dedicated to liberty and culture to take the initiatives necessary to avert this threat and avoid the disaster that would be his nomination.’
However, the Israeli government is believed to have withdrawn its protest against Farouk’s candidacy last week, after a meeting between Benjamin Netanyahu and Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak.
The Simon Wiesenthal Centre has said that Farouks’ comments were reminiscent of ‘the language and actions of Nazi ‘minister of culture’ Josef Goebbels’.
The German Council of Culture has also joined the debate. Chief Executive Olaf Zimmermann told journalists that anyone who ‘failed to respect the diversity of the world’s cultures’ should not be permitted to head global policy.
The new director general of UNESCO will be announced in October.
Given the UN’s recent hypocrisy with regard to Israel, sounds like Farouk Hosni would be right at home there.