Babylon & Beyond

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EGYPT: Normalization with Israel challenged

June 2, 2008 | 11:55 am


Egyptian culture minister Farouq Hosni has thrown himself into a fierce confrontation with Israel when he allegedly vowed to burn Israeli books if found in Egyptian libraries.

The minister made the comment last month in parliament after an MP accused him of normalizing relations with Israel by allowing Israeli books in Egyptian libraries. Hosni's rebuttal was as follows: "[I] would burn Israeli books himself if found in Egyptian libraries."

Egypt was the first Arab country to sign a peace agreement with Israel in the late 1970's.

Hosni is known for his opposition of cultural normalization with the Jewish State. His comment came to add more fuel to fire.

The statement had reportedly culminated in diplomatic strain between Egypt and Israel. The statement made its way to the Israeli ambassador in Cairo who had reportedly referred the matter to the Israeli foreign minister. According to the Israeli media, the foreign ministry forwarded a severe protest to the Egyptian ambassador in Israel.

The comment may have serious repercussions on the future of Hosni who is running for the post of UNESCO Secretary-General. Apart from diplomatic strains, the statement also elicited too much criticism from some Jewish organizations in the West. Shimon Samuels, director of the L.A.-based Jewish human rights organization Simon Wiesenthal Center, had reportedly sent a letter to the UNESCO director general dismissing Hosni's comments as "a major threat to the very values of UNESCO."

Later, Hosni tried to explain himself insisting that his statement was a hyperbole that he used to prove to the MP that no Israeli book was on the Egyptian market. In the meantime, he reaffirmed his position on the normalization of relations with Israel. "I am not against Israel or normalization if Israel abides by its international commitments towards Palestine," Hosni told the local media.

—Noha El-Hennawy in Cairo

Photo: Culture Minister Farouq Hosni (Al-Ahram Weekly)

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