Why Israel is hostile to an Arab secretary at the Unesco?
By Salim Nazzal*
How to explain the Israeli hostility towards Farouk Hosni candidacy to the secretariat of the Unesco? How to explain that when this deals with an Arab intellectual known for his anti fundamental stance and call for coexistence and tolerance among cultures? Farouk Hosni represents Egypt a leading country of the so called Arab moderate countries and enjoys good contacts with the Us and Europe and critical to say the least to the resistance movements in the region.
How to understand the Israeli antagonistic position to obstruct him from being the general secretary of an organization cares primarily about education and culture? This happens at the time we hear Israel praises Egypt for being the first Arab country made diplomatic ties and achieved peace with Israel and Netanyahu referred to this in his latest speech as an example he urged Arab countries to follow!
If the Israeli disapproval to the leadership of the Unesco is aimed at Iran, or Syria or aimed at a candidate his country in state of hostility with Israel it might make some sense.(Despite the fact that Israel has no right to decide who would or would not be at the Unesco leadership)
But the Israeli objection is directed against Egypt which naturally raises a question about the motives and the goals of Israel, and indeed generates another question, if this is the policy of Israel towards Egypt, is Israel willing to be an ordinary state in the region without attacking, occupying and expanding? Is there any connection between this stance towards Hosni and the Israeli political worldview towards Arabs?
These questions are asked with the aim to understand the real goal of the Israeli campaign against Hosni. The campaign was followed by a wider Zionist campaign which published in the Le mond (21 May) a letter to that effect signed by a number of Jewish intellectuals such as the noble prize winner the American Jewish Eli fezel, and the French Jewish philosopher Bernard levy .The rationale of the Israel campaign is that Hosni hinders the cultural normalization between Israel and Egypt and he is considered to run an anti Israeli politics in his position as a minister for culture.
Hosni responded in the same paper that he stands against the Zionist occupation and not Judaism as a faith. Indeed, apart from Zionist Jews usually uncritical to Israel and few other one sided intellectuals his critique to the Israeli occupation is shared by thousands of intellectuals worldwide who oppose the occupation from moral and human reasons, and view occupation as a major reason for conflicts in the Middle East. Israelis writers like Gideon Levy critical to the occupation understands the fact that times are changing and that change does not seem to be helping the logic of occupation side .Indeed, it is the first time in the history of the conflict that there is an unprecedented census in the official politics of the Us and Europe that the end of occupation including dismantling the settlements and the establishment of a viable Palestinian state is the condition for peace in the Middle East.
It is the first time Israel is in a position of defiance to the whole world including the United States of America. This begs the question how long Israel continues this policy especially it cannot accuse the whole world of being anti Semite, if it does, it would sound a joke than anything else? The immediate answer that it is doubtful that Israel could resist a serious international pressure because Israel knows very well the world is showing increasingly impatience towards its racist politics.
The change towards the Israeli occupation is not only happening on the official level. Clear signs of change in the American public opinion demonstrate that Israel is facing more resistance in convincing the world of its occupational policy. American voters support for Israel has dropped 20 percent in the past 9 months, a new survey found. Some 49 percent of American voters call themselves supporters of Israel, down from 69 percent last September, according to a poll conducted for “The Israel Project’. But Israel and its supporters are still viewing Israel as the only nation that do no wrong to use the expression of Jim Taylor who wrote an article about the reluctant of Israel to pay attention to the international critics .
It is obvious that the Israeli rejection of an Arab secretary to the Unesco is greatly associated with its concern about its efforts to transform the demographical structure in the occupied Jerusalem to fit the Zionist illusion of their eternal capital. The Israeli continuous war against the Jerusalemites in demolishing their homes and in producing “laws” to push Palestinians out of Jerusalem has become evident in the news. The latest was when Israel prevents by force celebrating Jerusalem as the capital of the Arab culture for the 2009. It was perhaps the first time in modern history armed forces are sent to prevent people from dancing and singing and to express their joy and love to their city.
The conflict between Israel and the Unesco goes back to the seventies when Israel was annoyed about the Unesco decision to grant the Palestine liberation organization observer statues. Israel labeled the PLO as a “terrorist organization”. The US which has no interest at all in the hostility towards Palestinians, Arabs and Muslims, has blindly supported Israel politics aiming at changing the demography of Jerusalem ignoring that this question is extremely sensitive to more than one milliard and 300 million Muslims. It was not unexpectedly that its support to Israel in this issue has undoubtedly damaged the relationship of the Us with one third of humanity which wise Americans has repeatedly warned of its negative consequences on the image of the Us worldwide. Obama has given good signs of hope towards reviewing past policy but Palestinians needs to see the Us translate its words into deeds on the ground.
Israel has also gone into conflict with the Unesco on the background of the Israeli excavating in Jerusalem which contradicts with the international law which prohibits the occupying power from doing archeological activities in the occupied area. But Israel with its longest record in defying the international resolutions has not respected any of these resolutions. Mokhtar M, the Senegalian general secretary of the Unesco in the seventies told Al Jazeera (A private visit) program, that he was exposed to American pressures especially by Kissinger due to his stance against the Israel excavating in the occupied Jersusalem. Kissinger is remembered by Arabs as the man who engineered the American foreign policy to be more in the interest of Israel than the interest of the US which contributed in widening the gap between Arabs, Muslims and the US.
Israel says that Hosni stands against Israel its evidence that he hinders the so called cultural normalization between Israel and Egypt. In this question Hosni has clarified his position in the le mond stating that the cultural normalization is not a state decision. States can make diplomatic ties with each other but the socio cultural normalization is largely decided by the civil society. And it is unlikely that the Egyptian civil society is willing to normalize the relation with Israel before ending the occupation and reaching a just peace in the region.
Israel does not want to know that normalization can never be achieved by force. In fact the contrary which usually happens, the more force, the more resistance, the less acceptance to Israel by ordinary people in the Middle East even if it operates diplomatic ties with all Arab states. When Israel opposes an Arab candidate belongs to the so called the moderate countries it is sending a message to Arabs that moderation does not work with Israel. The Israeli rejection of the Arab peace plan is evidence which consolidate that view.
Israel is also annoyed that Hosni said once that there is no Israeli civilization. This is surely not to deny the Jewish contribution in world civilization. But as far as Israel is concerned there is no doubt that the Arab collective mind links between wars and the establishment of the Zionist state. For that reason Israel image is extremely negative in the Arab world .Before the establishment of the state of Israel the image of Jews was positive among Arabs, it was not even a question to debate about. This has greatly changed after 1948 because Arab masses saw and heard the horror stories which hundreds of thousands Palestinians experienced before they were deported by force .The Israeli massacres of Deir Yasin, Kufr Qasim, AlSamou, the massacre of Egyptian prisoners, Sabra and Shatila, the Qana massacres, the Gaza genocide are facts that has become part of the Arab collective memory which might take according to a sociologist two Arab generations to become remote history provided that just peace is reached. According to this sociologist it took more than 40 years in European countries occupied by Nazi Germany in WW2 to accept seeing Germans visiting their countries without associating them with occupation and terror.
Therefore it is not a matter of Arab text books which teach hating Israel as Israel usually claim. When ordinary people see Israel military plane bombing civilians and claim that Israel is targeting “terrorists” they do not need a book to learn about Israel brutality. The pictures of the frightened children of Gaza under the war of Gaza have been intensively watched on the TV screens which have no doubt consolidated the negative picture of Israel and associated it with brutality and mercilessness. For three generations or more, Arabs hear the same story, Israel kill to defend its security, Israel bomb to defend its security , Israel occupy for security , Israel arrest for security, Israel steal Palestinian land for security, the question is which all Arabs ask, are all those murdered and stolen by Israel are not entitled to be secure ? Therefore it is not difficult to conclude that the Israeli hostility towards Hosni reflects the Zionist thinking which believes that oppressive force change the facts on the ground and Israel is active in changing the demography and consequently the culture of Jerusalem .
The Israeli goal to prevent Hosni is to be free handed in its policy towards changing the culture in Jerusalem by deporting the Jerusalemites from their town to bring over sees settlers instead. This policy won’t work because times are changing. It won’t help Israel in the short term and in the long run. What only helps is to end the occupation and Israel needs to be told that there is no way it could escape it. In fact the future of Jews in the Middle East depends primarily on the politics of the state of Israel towards Palestinians and Arabs. It does not seem until now that Israel is willing to face the truth.
Whether Hosni become the next general secretary or the French Jack Lang which Israel proposed, there is no way that Palestinians, Arabs, Muslims and large sectors in the world would accept the logic of occupation .The world need to understand that question of Jerusalem alone can be the source of conflict for the next 100 years.
After 61 years of its establishment Israel does not show willingness to integrate in the Middle East, and still playing the duality of the big military power which its planes is capable to attack anywhere, and at the same the “poor Jews” who live a timeless holocaust. The term normalization means a normal situation where Palestinians can live freely without 600 Israeli check points, without land grab, and without daily arrests and raids; this is the meaning of normalization as the occupied Palestinians understands it, and I believe as understood by all humans. But the Zionist understanding of normalization is to continue the occupation and to have good contact with Arab folk. So the fact which Israel does not understand it yet, that it is an illusion to think that it can be accepted by Arab masses in the region by force. The road sign is more than obvious: There is no normalization without integration. And there is no integration without ending occupation.
* Dr. Salim Nazzal is a Palestinian-Norwegian historian in the Middle East, who has written extensively on social and political issues in the region. - firstname.lastname@example.org