Monday, February 11, 2008

Followup on Egyptian freak-out over Hebrew

It turns out that last week's story on Egyptians freaking out over the idea of teaching Hebrew in school was based on ...nothing.
The Egyptian political world is once again up in arms against Israel. The reason this time: A declaration that was attributed to Israeli ambassador to Egypt, Shalom Cohen, in which he purportedly called for the inclusion of Hebrew classes in the official Egyptian school curriculum.

The alleged comments appear to have been published in Egyptian newspapers and from there they were taken by the al-Jazeera news network. According to the report, "Ambassador Cohen claimed that the Camp David Accords include a clause that mandates the inclusion of Hebrew in the Egyptian educational program." That seems to have been enough to reignite the fire of fury against Israel.

Egyptian academics have not remained on the sidelines on this matter. "Cohen's request is a new humiliation for Egypt, its government and nation," Dr. Abdul Wahab al-Masri, an English literature lecturer, said on al-Jazeera.

"The Hebrew language is an artificial language taken from the past and even Israeli writers suffer from a lack of interest in writing it and (Hebrew articles) are usually translated into foreign languages," al-Masri said.

He added that the study of Hebrew must be completely prevented in junior colleges and other institutions and that it should only be taught to students in at the highest levels of education.

"We don't want to give this language the power that it doesn't deserve. It is enough for us that people will learn it in master's degrees and doctorates in the social sciences and this is only in order to become acquainted with Israeli society in order to know the enemy."

Israeli political officials denied the report in conversations with Ynet and claimed that Ambassador Cohen had never made the alleged remarks. "This is the continuation of a report by an Egyptian newspaper that we have already refuted in the past," the head of Arabic communications in the Foreign Ministry, Amira Oron said.