Jewish intellectuals oppose UNESCO nominee

WASHINGTON (JTA) — Three leading Jewish cultural figures urged the international community to prevent the Egyptian minister of culture from assuming the leadership of UNESCO.

Bernard-Henri Levi, the French philosopher, joined Elie Wiesel, the Holocaust memoirist and Nobel Peace laureate, and Claude Lanzmann, the director of the seminal Holocaust documentary, Shoah, in an open letter urging nations to keep Farouk Hosni from leading the United Nations Education, Scientific and Cultural Organization.

Hosni, nominated by Egypt, is considered a shoo-in in the May 30 vote of member nations. The Paris-based body is one of the few U.N. institutions trusted by Israel as relatively impartial. In the early 1990s, it set aside funds to preserve Tel Aviv’s Bauhaus architecture. It has also resisted claims that archaeological digs around Jerusalem’s Old City harm Palestinian interests.

The letter, appearing this week in publications around the world, quotes Hosni as calling for the burning of Israeli books and accusing Jews of “infiltrating” the international media to “spread lies.”

“Mr. Farouk Hosni is the opposite of a man of peace, dialogue, and culture; Mr. Farouk Hosni is a dangerous man, an inciter of hearts and minds,” said a version of the letter appearing on HuffingtonPost.com. “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.”

Hosni’s defenders say he is a product of an Egyptian political culture that adamantly discourages any cultural relations with Israel while encouraging commerce. According to Salama a Salama, a columnist for Al Ahram, an English-language Egyptian newspaper, Egypt’s intelligentsia scourged Hosni years ago when he organized concerts by an orchestra of Israelis and Palestinians led by Daniel Barenboim, an Israeli conductor.

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