Egypt’s Cultural Minister, Faruq Hosni, who is a candidate to head UNESCO, came under fire from the Israel government for some comments he recently made. In response to a question in Parliament on May 10 he said, “I’d burn Israeli books myself if I found any in libraries in Egypt.” Hosni now claims he was simply using a “popular expression to prove something does not exist”– Israel books in Egypt. He somewhat reversed himself yesterday when he said it was a “big mistake that Israeli books have not yet been translated into Arabic. I have officially asked for it to be done. If people protest, I don’t give a damn.” However, he made clear he oppooses normalization of cultural ties with Israel before it made peace with the Palestinians. However, he added: “It is a dream. We must wait for the right moment to come when Israel will have signed peace with the Palestinians. If it happens tomorrow, I will be in the front row the next day for this normalisation.”
There is something amiss when a cultural leader of a nation seeks to ban all cultural ties with an enemy until “normalisation” occurs. Wouldn’t this goal be furthered if intellectuals and artists immediately created excellent relations? Wouldn’t it help if Israeli films and books were available to students so they could learn more about that country? Mr. Hosni appears to have the proverbial cart before the horse in working for peace and reconciliation with Israel.