By Don Klein
It was one of the most depraved exploits in a century marked by appalling human evils. Leon Klinghoffer, a wheelchair-bound 69-year-old American Jew on a Mediterranean vacation, was murdered and thrown into the sea from the cruise ship Achille Lauro by Arab hijackers on October 7, 1985.
The world was horrified at first, then exhilarated when US Navy jets later intercepted the aircraft transporting the killers and forced it to land at a NATO base in Sicily. Then the balloon burst when inept Italians, who took control the perps, let them escape into friendly Arab confines.
That incident of 24 years ago was all but forgotten by most of us when Farouk Hosny, Egypt’s minister of culture, decided he would like to top off his public career by running for director general of Unesco, the world body’s educational, scientific and culture organization.
At least the Arabs were hoping everyone else forgot about the Klinghoffer murder and its aftermath because Hosny, 71, in the past had boasted of his role in helping to organize the escape from Italy of the Achille Lauro killers.
This was not an isolated xenophobic moment on Hosny’s part. On another occasion he demonstrated his anti-Semitism when he told the Egyptian parliament that he would personally burn every Israeli (Jewish) book in the library in Alexandria, his country’s most important depository of literature.
It is an interesting look into the Arab mind. Here was a man who admitted publicly to being complicit in helping hijack-murderers of a helpless old cripple to escape justice and later in his career declared he would gladly be a book burner if given the opportunity, was thought to have the proper credentials to become the director of an international cultural organization.
What a curriculum vitae! And yet until the last vote was taken this past week he was within a hair’s breath from getting the plum assignment. It was like someone who lived on a diet of beans and potato chips applying for the job of top chef at a leading gourmet restaurant.
Fortunately people did not forget. When the nations squared off in Paris to choose a new Unesco director the vote eventually came to a 29-29 tie between Hosny and Bulgarian diplomat, Irina Bokova, 57, a former Communist, now of the Socialist Party. Bokova picked up two votes from countries which switched from the Egyptian. The final ballot was 31 to 27 and Hosny was vanquished.
Hosny’s defeat was certainly not by any means justice for Klinghoffer or his family because in a moral world he would be behind bars for being an accomplice in the escape of cold-blooded murderers. His book burning propensity, further, would also be enough to bar him from such a UN role.
But we do not live in a moral world. Too often we willingly ignore criminal activities and nauseating behavior. Sometimes we even reward the criminals. That’s why you have to be of a certain discernment to work in the diplomatic corp if it means having to operate side-by-side with villains of this nature.
The Bokova victory came on the fifth ballot when the Bulgarian benefitted from the switched votes of the Italian and Spanish delegations, according to The New York Times. I’d like to know what took them so long to see the light since both nations have been victimized by Arabs for decades?
Ask yourself why the Italians would ever consider supporting an Egyptian after being so insulted and embarrassed over the scandalous escape of the hijackers a quarter of a century ago. Do they have short memories or are they just cowards seeking to avoid commercial counteracts from the oil rich Arabs. I buy the latter reason.
And what about Spain? Think of the 191 Spanish commuters killed in that Madrid train bombing on March 11, 2004. Muslims were out to kill in brutal calculation men, women and children innocently riding a train one day. How could they have ever considered voting for Hosny? But both countries apparently were in his corner in early voting as they were later identified as having changed their stand on the last ballot.
Is it no surprise that so many Americans have no respect for many West Europeans. They sit around allowing themselves to be targets of terrorists and Arab miscreants and never act forcefully when they have the opportunity to do so. They are slaves to oil.
Let us not forget one thing. The defeat of Hosny at Unesco will never make up for aiding Klinghoffer’s killers to escape justice. Nor will the millions in settlement dollars paid to his family by the Palestinian Liberation Organization years after the incident. Money can never make up for murder.
It is good to know that the ghost of Leon Klinghoffer hurled a shadow over the Egyptian’s effort to move up the UN ladder. That perhaps is the biggest flaw in the United Nations. People with dirty hands benefit in many ways when the UN should be more discerning about who they put into key positions.
Bokova doesn’t come without demerits, though. "Those who do not like Communism in (Bulgaria) are not happy about her promotion," a political critic told The Times. "For people in this region, her appointment sends the message that the West can swallow someone’s Communist past very easily but cannot abide an Arab who is anti-Israel." Wrong. One protected assassins, the other did not.
At least we can relish small victories. The relatives of Klinghoffer (an American not an Israeli) and those anonymous 191 Spaniards who died at the hands of Arab terrorists can take some solace in Hosny’s trouncing. It’s better than nothing, but not much.