- The Washington Times - Friday, September 25, 2009

Egyptians are blaming heavy-handed lobbying by Jewish organizations and intellectuals for the failure of Egyptian Culture Minister Farouk Hosny to win the position of UNESCO secretary general.

The tightly fought race for the head of the prestigious U.N. post was won by Bulgarian Irina Bokova, a former foreign minister.

Ms. Bokova beat out Mr. Hosny in an unprecedented fifth round of voting.

The first woman to be elected head of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), she won the ballot 31 to 27.

The United States, Germany and a number of northern European countries are thought to have backed Ms. Bokova, 57, while Mr. Hosny, 71, was the favorite of the Arab world.

State Department spokesman Ian C. Kelly declined to comment when asked about the election, and the U.S. refuses to say how it voted.

Mr. Hosny had strong support in the previous four rounds of voting, and Egyptians believed his election was a certainty. President Hosni Mubarak even reportedly telephoned Spain’s King Juan Carlos to express Egypt’s gratitude for supporting Mr. Hosny.

After the vote, Mr. Hosny blamed his defeat on a conspiracy by his Jewish detractors.

“It was clear by the end of the competition that there was a conspiracy against me,” Mr. Hosny told reporters at the Cairo airport upon his return from Paris, the Associated Press reported.

“There are a group of the world’s Jews who had a major influence in the elections who were a serious threat to Egypt taking this position,” he reportedly said.

According to the Egyptian newspaper Al-Ahram, shortly before the final round of voting, American and European officials worked to prevent Mr. Hosny’s election following a “malicious Jewish campaign.”

“There are those who despise people who are not like them and their culture, people who claim they are the chosen people of God, the sons of God and his loved ones and they only hide a greed to take over the world’s destinies,” said an editorial in the Egyptian daily Al-Masri Al-Yawm.

“We congratulate Irina Bokova on her victory and new appointment and we hope to further our cooperation with UNESCO in all fields in the future,” said Yigal Palmor, spokesman for Israel’s Foreign Ministry.

Former Israeli ambassador to Egypt Zvi Mazel told Elaph.com, a pan-Arab Web site, that Mr. Hosni lost not because of Israeli or Jewish opposition but because he represented a government that represses freedom, culture and art.

Mr. Hosny’s candidacy came under fire because of reports that he told the Egyptian parliament that he would burn Hebrew-language books if he found them in Egyptian libraries and he was also quoted as calling Israeli culture “inhuman.”

Mr. Hosny’s version of events is that he was approached by Muslim clerics who claimed some Hebrew books accepted in Egypt’s new Alexandria Library contained insults against Islam.

Mr. Hosny says he replied: “Show me the books that insult Islam and I will burn them.”

Mr. Hosny, who served as Egypt’s culture minister for more than two decades, later apologized for the remarks and Israel said it had withdrawn its opposition to the candidacy, according to the AP.

Jewish organizations and prominent intellectuals such as writer Elie Wiesel, French philosopher Bernard-Henri Levy and filmmaker Claude Lanzmann energetically fought to keep the Egyptian from being elected.

In an open letter, they called Mr. Hosny “a dangerous man, an inciter of hearts and minds. There is only little, very little time left to avoid committing the major mistake of elevating Mr. Farouk Hosni above others to this eminent post.”

Mr. Hosny had not only apologized for his statements, but he also invited an Israeli conductor to perform in Cairo and even expressed support for translating Israeli literature into Arabic. Mr. Hosny even said he would be willing to visit Israel, something few Egyptians have done.

“We have admitted the mistake that happened with Farouk Hosni and insist that he didn’t mean what he said and this is true. But these circles who oppose the Egyptian candidate persist with this accusation and repeat it and turn it into the headline of the battle,” Egyptian poet Ahmad Abd Al-Muti Hijazi wrote in Al-Ahram.

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