WASHINGTON (JTA) — A Egyptian who had been accused of anti-Semitism and censorshp was defeated in his bid to head UNESCO.
Bulgarian diplomat Irina Bokova defeated Egyptian Culture Minister Farouk Hosni by the 31-27 margin in the fifth round of voting for the director-general at the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization.
Hosni said last year that he would personally burn any Israeli book found in the Alexandria library, has expressed opposition to cultural exchanges with Israel and attacked Israeli culture. He also was accused of censoring some movies and books and restricting press freedoms in Egypt.
Hosni’s supporters said his attacks on the Jewish state were a way to ingratiate himself in an Egyptian political culture that discourages relations with the Jewish state, and noted that he had organized a concert tour by an Israeli-Palestinian orchestra led by Israeli conductor Daniel Barenboim.
Jewish organizations praised the UNESCO vote.
"The election of Irina Bokova is a victory for the values of cultural diversity and free exchange between peoples,” said Anti-Defamation League national director Abraham Foxman. “In rejecting Mr. Hosni’s candidacy, the 58 member-states of the UNESCO executive committee have cast their vote in favor of using culture and science as a means to unite the international community.
"It’s important for the valuable educational and cultural mission of UNESCO to have someone in the top job who is open to cross-cultural understanding, and is interested in fostering and nurturing cross-cultural ties," said B’nai B’rith International president Moishe Smith. "Ambassador Bokova is a solid choice.”
UNESCO is seen by Israel as one of the few United Nations bodies that deals fairly with the Middle East, and set aside money in the 1990s to preserve Tel Aviv’s Bauhaus architecture.