What the hell?
That was my most used phrase last week as I read one editorial after the other detailing the big Zionist, Jewish and Western conspiracy that Farouk Hosni fell victim to.
Words like Judas and Trojan Horse were thrown with abundance (wink wink Gomhuria) and the proponents of the conspiracy theory have never been so visible and outspoken. I don’t think many of these loud voices were that generous with use of “the Zionist Conspiracy” argument during the Israeli offensive on Gaza in December 08/January 09.
I don’t believe Hosni represented the Arab and Muslim world by his candidacy for the UNESCO director-general, but his reaction to the loss is unfortunately embarrassing us all. And by “all” I specifically mean Egyptians. He is merely showing the world that we are sore losers.
Diplomatically speaking, his reaction is inappropriate. Scandalous, even if his argument is true or has some element of validity to it.
In sports, where the usually-young athletes are physically and psychologically stressed and their reactions are often involuntary reflexes, such tantrums are not tolerated. Serena Williams lost dearly for breaking her racket in anger and frustration. I just saw the coach of Egypt’s volleyball team warned for silently pointing that the ball was outside the line. A silent, polite and reflexive gesture was considered a violation of sportsmanship.
Diplomacy on the other hand calls for something more refined than sportsmanship. Politics in itself isn’t refined, but its practitioners on the international scene are called diplomats. The word diplomatic is defined as tactful: “showing tact and skill in dealing with people”. Its synonyms include subtle, suave, discreet and cautious. Hosni only demonstrated such traits right after the results were announced by warmly congratulating his opponent Irina Bokova. But that was the end of it and his statements afterwards were anything but diplomatic. My friend’s description of him as a “loose canon” sounds more viable every day.
Deconstructing the conspiracy
I started by saying “even if his argument is true” his reaction wouldn’t haven been justifiable. The thing is, it’s not true. The many arguments that were used to validate the conspiracy theory or the Judas-like betrayal are, for the most part, baseless.
First of all, the accusation that the US was working secretly against Hosni. There was nothing secret about it. The US never supported the Egyptian candidate. So it’s perfectly normal for the US to campaign for another candidate.
Second, Hosni and the press condemned the lobbying that marked the elections. Hmmm… Isn’t this what elections are all about? Campaigning and lobbying for your preferred candidate?? And wasn’t this what Egypt did to get Hosni the 22 votes of the first round? Over the past year, all we were hearing about was Hosni securing the African votes, promised the Arab vote, President Mubarak convincing the Israeli Prime Minister not to officially object to Hosni’s candidacy, etc. Even during last week’s voting, Mubarak was directly involved in lobbying, calling heads of states to secure the culture minister the handful of votes that would guarantee his success.
Third, the politicization accusation. Who ever said that UNESCO wasn’t politicized? It’s a cultural organization, yes. But it’s run by politicians. It’s this politicization that led Egypt to initially support the Saudi candidate in the UNESCO elections in 1999 instead of the Egyptian. It’s the same politicization that allowed for the pro-Hosni camp to use the argument that Hosni would have been the first Arab head of UNESCO in order to rally more support.
Maybe we need to play a better political game, and like some analysts have noted, make it more dependent on substance rather than posturing.
Fourth, the great conspiracy of candidates withdrawing for the sole reason of giving the votes they got to the Bulgarian Irina Bokova. Well, Algeria had a candidate and he too withdrew. Can we safely say that he did that for Bokova? How would Hosni react to statements accusing him of “conspiring” with the Algerian candidate Mohamed Bedjaoui to get the majority vote?
Fifth, the “betrayal”. Since Hosni and Bokovo got 29 votes each in the fourth round, a fifth was imminent. One of them was bound to lose one or two votes to the other. It was a crucial time and a suave game: each was trying to get the swing votes and to further guarantee the secure ones. And in this game Bokova won by taking two of Hosni’s votes. He couldn’t get any of hers. Fair game.
It wasn’t the Judas betrayal he portrayed it to be. It was a simple game of politics that we played, but lost, with great results. Who would ever thought that the Egyptian candidate, with almost a single entry on his CV (he was doing the same job for the past 22 years, wasn’t he), would be the fierce competitor for the Bulgarian, who, like the rest of the candidates, had an elaborate resume.
But instead of losing honorably and priding himself in the impressive and surprising results he achieved, Hosni threw a media tantrum. He took all lobbying for his opponents personally and tried to give it a universal context of a clash of civilization. The North against the South. The West against Islam. The West against Arabs.
This brings us to the sixth and final point. The media is rallying the masses behind Hosni by selling them the false “he lost because he was an Arab” argument. Here, both Hosni and his supporters are misusing the Arab (or Islam) vs. the West debate to exude a larger-than-life struggle to his loss. Anyone who dares to challenge this is automatically labeled unpatriotic. Where was this patriotism when Ismail Serageldin was running for the same post 10 years ago? According to his website, his “candidacy was ultimately put forward by the Governments of Burkina Faso and the Netherlands [a Western, European Country], and supported by the Governments of Sweden and Egypt, and the OAU.” Egypt had initially opted for a unified Arab stance behind the Saudi candidate at the time. Or is patriotism exclusive to loyal ministers?
Hosni’s statements and those who are echoing and validating his views are making us all look like whiny sore losers.
Enough embarrassments already.