Gjesteskribent

Under den kalde krigen var FN en slagmark mellom Vesten og Sovjet med satelitter og støttespillere. Idag støter Vesten mot Konferansen av islamske stater, og deres forsøk på å tilpasse FN en islamistisk agenda. Ytringsfriheten er blitt en av de mest omstridte temaer.

UNE$CO skal ha ny leder, og Egypts kulturminister Farouk Hosny er en sterk kandidat. Hosny er kultivert, sofistikert slik kulturministere gjerne vil fremstå. Han har arbeidet for bevaring av kulturarven, nye utgravinger og biblioteket i Alexandria. Han fremstår som moderat i egyptisk sammenheng.

Men alle ser det ikke slik. Den som er moderat i egyptisk sammenheng, kan ha holdninger som andre vil betegne som ekstreme.

Tilfellet Hosny sier noe om manglende kommunikasjon og doble standarder i forholdet mellom Vesten og den islamske verden. I den islamske verden blir ikke antisemittiske uttalelser ansett for ekstreme. Det er hverdagskost, noe helt normalt.

Hvis en person kritiseres, slik Hosny nå blir, går den islamske verden i forsvar og føler seg urettferdig behandlet. Den ser ikke dobbeltmoralen, en anklage den ofte retter mot Vesten.

Kommentatoren Salama A Salama skriver bittert i haloffisielle Al Ahram hvordan Hosny ble sviktet, også av sine venner.

Salama nevner at Hosny er mot normalisering med Israel, også kulturelt, men dette er noe alle i Egypt mener, så det er urettferdig å henge Hosny for det, skriver han.

Men Hosny ville foreta seg noe for å vise en utstrakt hånd til Israel. Han inviterte Daniel Barenboim til å holde en konsert med sitt orkester.

To exonerate himself from any accusations of cultural discrimination or intellectual bigotry, and also banish any charges of anti-Semitism, Hosni thought of something. Years ago, the late Palestinian thinker Edward Said formed an orchestra from Arab and Israeli musicians, including the world-renowned conductor Daniel Barenboim. So Hosni decided to host Barenboim in Egypt to give some concerts. As soon as the word went out, all hell broke loose. Hosni was lynched in the independent press and maligned by friend and foe, government and opposition.

At the end of the day, Hosni managed to pull off a concert or two for the great composer. But he failed in deflecting the assault on his person by enemies as well as friends. It wasn’t the first time the culture minister was let down by those who should have stood by him. Not long ago, an Egyptian court ordered a magazine, Ibdaa, closed down because it republished an old poem that some consider sacrilegious. The poem, called «Layla Murad’s Balcony», has the kind of symbolism that we used to see in Sufi poetry. It is a spiritual song that mixes the human and the divine in a way that puritans found objectionable.

We have let Hosni down so many times, we have no one but ourselves to blame should he lose the UNESCO bid.

Salama er bitter over mangelen på politisk mot i Egypt. De som skulle forsvart Hosny, deserterer. Denne mangel på politisk kultur er også forklaringen på at ingen reagerer på kulturministerens antisemittiske uttalelser. De er grove.

Bernard-Henri Lévi, Claude Lanzmann og Elie Wiesel har samlet et knippe og lister dem opp i et brev. En slik mann kan ikke bekle stillingen som leder av FNs organisasjon for utdanning og kultur.

Men kritikken og motstanden i Vesten får folk i Midtøsten til å reise pigger. igjen er det jødene og deres venner som viser sin makt og sin fiendtlighet. De går i forsvar og blir blokkert mentalt.

Det er ingen bagatell. Egypts kulturminister er en mann med prestisje og kompetanse. Men han har altså sagt ting som diskvalifiserer. Men i Midtøsten er dette selvfølgeligheter. Dermed forflyttes oppmerksomheten til konflikten mellom Vesten og den muslimske verden: de føler seg diskriminert, og at Vesten fører en krig mot dem.

UNESCO: The Shame of a Disaster foretold

Who declared in April 2001: «Israel has never contributed to Civilization in any era, for it has only ever appropriated the contributions of others» — and added almost two months later: «the Israeli culture is an inhumane culture; it is an aggressive, racist, pretentious culture based on one simple principle: steal what does not belong to in order to then claim its appropriation»?

Who explained in 1997, and has repeated it since in every way possible, that he was the «archenemy» of all attempts to normalize his country’s relations with Israel?

Or who, as recently as 2008, responded to a deputy of the Egyptian parliament who was alarmed that Israeli books could be introduced into the Alexandria Library: «Burn these books; if there are any there, I will myself burn them in front of you»?

Who said in 2001 in the newspaper Ruz-al-Yusuf that Israel was «aided» in its dark intrigues by «the infiltration of Jews into the international media» and by their diabolical ability to «spread lies»?

To whom do we owe these insane declarations, this anthology of hate and error, and this frenzy of conspiracy theories?

To Farouk Hosny, the Egyptian Minister of Culture for the past fifteen years and undoubtedly the next Director General of UNESCO if nothing is done before the May 30 deadline for nominating candidates to stop his apparently unstoppable march to one of the most important posts of cultural responsibility on the planet.

Even worse: the words that we just cited are only a few — and not even the most nauseating — of the innumerable declarations of the same tenor that punctuate the career of Mr. Farouk Hosny over the past fifteen years and that, consequently, precede him as he aspires, even today, to a role on a worldwide scale.

The evidence is there: Mr. Farouk Hosny is not worthy of this role; Mr. Farouk Hosny is the opposite of a man of peace, dialogue, and culture; Mr. Farouk Hosny is 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 Hosny above others to this eminent post.

We thus call on the international community to spare itself the shame that would be the designation, already all but claimed by the candidate himself, of Mr. Farouk Hosny to the post of Director General of UNESCO.

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.

We invite the Egyptian President himself, in remembrance of his compatriot Naguib Mahfouz, winner of the Nobel Prize in literature who must be spinning in his grave right now — we invite him, for the honor of his country and as an heir of his great civilization, to become aware of the situation, and, with all urgency, to disown his minister and withdraw his candidacy.

UNESCO has certainly made other mistakes in the past — but this particular abuse of authority would be so great, so abominable, so incomprehensible. It would be an obvious provocation so transparently contrary to the proclaimed ideals of the UN that UNESCO would not recover.

There is not a minute to lose in order to prevent the irreparable.

We must, without delay, appeal to everyone’s conscience to keep UNESCO from falling into the hands of a man who, when he hears the word «culture,» responds with a book burning.

Claude Lanzmann
Bernard-Henri Lévy
Elie Wiesel

Translated from the French by Sara Phenix.

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