07 December 2003

There is a manuscript museum in Egypt that tries to recreate something of that important center of learning of ancient times, the Alexandria Library. This new museum was renovated by the Egyptian and Italian governments with the help of UNESCO:
Sixteen centuries after it disappeared, the biggest library of ancient times is coming back to life in the Egyptian city of Alexandria. The library where the Bible's Old Testament was first translated from Hebrew into Greek and where Euclid invented geometry.
"It's wonderful that amid so many wars around the world, and when people are talking about the 'clash of civilisations,' that a few metres from where the old library was, a new and wonderful institution is rising that’s also dedicated to universal knowledge, understanding and tolerance," says its director, Ismail Serageldin.
The November 17, 2003 issue of the Egyptian weekly Al-Usbu' reported that the museum had added "The Protocols of the Elders of Zion" to the display case of the holy books of the monotheistic religions, next to a Torah. According to MEMRI's translation, the museum's director, Dr. Yousef Ziedan, (note: Yousef Ziedan is Head of the Manuscripts Department, not director of the museum) explains in the article why he decided to add the "Protocols" to the exhibit:
"When my eyes fell upon the rare copy of this dangerous book, I decided immediately to place it next to the Torah. Although it is not a monotheistic holy book, it has become one of the sacred [tenets] of the Jews, next to their first constitution, their religious law, [and] their way of life. In other words, it is not merely an ideological or theoretical book.
"Perhaps this book of the 'Protocols of the Elders of Zion' is more important to the Zionist Jews of the world than the Torah, because they conduct Zionist life according to it… It is only natural to place the book in the framework of an exhibit of Torah [scrolls]."
An AP story dated December 5 said that UNESCO planned to denounce The Protocols and had asked the Alexandria Library about allegations that the Protocols was displayed inappropriately. It also said "No one could be reached for comment at the library Friday because it was closed."
However Ismail Serageldin himself already had an answer ready the day before. A December 4 statement on his website says "The book was never displayed alongside the Jewish Torah, nor has it ever been stated that it is a holy book or the basis for a Jewish constitution. The book is well-known as a 19th century fabrication to foment anti-Jewish feelings.
The book was promptly withdrawn from public display, but its very inclusion showed bad judgment and insensitivity, and an internal administrative hearing is underway to determine whether further actions are to be taken."
Dr. Ziedan's site also has a disclaimer: As civilized people, we totally renounce racism and call for tolerance and constructive interaction between people. We believe that fundamentalism would lead to the eclipse of civilization, while tolerance ushers the way to enlightenment."
Ziedan says, "A month before, a journalist from the aforementioned newspaper interviewed me concerning the recent refurbishment of the manuscript and rare book museum. I handed her a written statement, as was the case with other journalists who covered the same news. Although, she concluded her article with my exact words, she started it with fabricated, groundless lies."
On a related note, Khaled Abu Al-Fadl also says that the story in which he warns against reelecting George Bush was fabricated.
The Egyptian publication 'October' quotes Commissioner Khaled Abou El Fadl predicting that America may invade Syria and Iran if Bush is re-elected and describing American soldiers in Iraq as mentally-ill nervous wrecks who wet their beds out of shock that the Iraqi people did not greet their invasion with flowers.
"'I didn't say any of this crap,' Mr. El Fadl told The New York Sun in a telephone interview from Yale Law School, where he is a visiting professor teaching national security law and immigration law. . . .
"'I can't vouch for the translation, but the stuff that they have me saying is pure fabrication. It is not a case of tweaking what I said in a different way, or emphasizing or de-emphasizing what I said,' he said.

This raises the question of how much the Egyptian press fabricates, doesn't it? And why?