Protocols of Zion in Alexandria Library

This AP story is making the rounds:

The United Nations' culture agency plans to issue a public denunciation of the "Protocols of the Elders of Zion," dismissed by historians as a forgery to discredit Jews, amid criticism that the book had gone on display in Egypt and that an official there had made anti-Semitic remarks about it, The Associated Press has learned.

UNESCO has inquired with Egypt's Alexandria Library about allegations of possible anti-Semitism in its display of the book and has asked the library to assure UNESCO that it hasn't left itself open to possible racism charges.

"Protocols" tells of a Jewish plot to take over the world. Historians have long dismissed the work as a forgery concocted by Czar Nicholas II's secret police to blame Russia's troubles on Jews.

UNESCO's director-general, Koichiro Matsuura planned to issue a public denunciation of the book this weekend at a seminar in Venice pegged to "Protocols"' 100th anniversary. The seminar was organized in part by the Simon Wiesenthal Center, which combats anti-Semitism around the world.

This would be surprising considering that the museum's director, Ismail Serageldin, is a very worldly for Vice-President of the World Bank and the entire project is under the aegis of Egypt's First Lady, Suzanne Mubarak, but considering the high-profile of the Protocols in Egypt after last year's Ramadan TV serial scandal, anything is possible. It would be a great shame if it's true, as the Alexandria Library is a worthy project that doesn't need the bad publicity. It's rather odd however that the story does not interview anyone in Egypt or confirm that the book is indeed on display at the Library.

Update: The Alexandria Library today said the book has been displayed "as a curiosity" and that it was removing it from the display. Al Jazeera has the complete story.

Issandr El Amrani

Issandr El Amrani is a Cairo-based writer and consultant. His reporting and commentary on the Middle East and North Africa has appeared in The Economist, London Review of Books, Financial Times, The National, The Guardian, Time and other publications. He also publishes one of the longest-running blog in the region,