CAIRO: In a statement welcoming Israeli conductor Daniel Barenboim to perform in Cairo, Egypt’s Culture Minister Farouk Hosni is making strides in his campaign to head UNESCO, analysts say.
In a press statement sent to Daily News Egypt, Hosni said that Barenboim is known for advocating peace in the Arab world, and opposes Israel’s policies towards Palestine.
Nabil Abdel Fattah, political analyst at Al-Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies, said Barenboim’s concert marks “a change in Hosni’s policy – which opposed normalization with Israel.
While admitting that “Barenboim is a man of peace, and that the concert is key to creating a dialogue between Israeli and Palestinian intellectuals, Abdel Fattah said that the change in policy will help Hosni’s campaign to become UNESCO’s secretary general.
Hosni said that while he still opposes normalization with Israel, he promises to be objective should he become UNESCO’s director.
While he is currently “dealing with Israel as an Egyptian, Arab minister and intellectual, the statement said his approach will change with the new position.
He added that normalization cannot be reached unless peace is achieved between Israel and the Arab world.
Hosni further explained that the chairperson is not the only decision maker in UNESCO and that executive board members are involved as well.
Abdel Fattah said that as UNESCO head, Hosni is obliged to be objective and that it is not his personal choice.
Barenboim was invited by the Austrian Embassy in Egypt to perform in the Cairo Opera House on April 16. The 66-year-old Argentinean-born conductor’s concert was originally scheduled for last January, but was canceled after the 23-day Israeli assault on Gaza.
Barenboim was criticized by Israeli politicians when he attacked their policies during a special event that the Knesset held to award Barenboim the prestigious Wolf Prize in 2004.
“Barenboim’s anti-Israel statements led the Israeli Minister of Culture to revoke his Israeli citizenship, and he is currently living in Germany, Hosni said.
In January 2008, Barenboim was given an honorary Palestinian citizenship.
Barenboim’s concert is not the first to stir controversy because of its affiliation with Israel.
In 2008, “The Band’s Visit, an Israeli movie about an Egyptian police band’s visit to Israel, was rejected by the Cairo International Film Festival, and some Egyptian actors boycotted the Abu Dhabi Film Festival after it allowed the screening of the movie.
In 2007 “Salata Baladi (Oriental Salad) the directorial debut of Nadia Kamel, stirred controversy when it was shown at the Goethe Institute in Downtown Cairo.
In the movie Kamel tackles her Palestinian family’s roots that are torn between Israel and Palestine.