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Tuesday, 18 June 2019

Fake news on CIBF

Trump loves to complain about fake news, but it is his political allies who tout some of the worst examples of it

Mohamed Salmawy , Wednesday 13 Feb 2019
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Last week, an Israeli news site reported that the US Embassy in Cairo boycotted the Cairo International Book Fair (CIBF) after learning that anti-Semitic works, such as Hitler’s Mein Kampf, The Protocols of the Elders of Zion and Henry Ford’s International Jew, were on display at the fair.

In its article, the Jewish News Syndicate wrote that the embassy closed its booth at the fair on Wednesday last week after several written and verbal protests it allegedly sent to Egyptian government met with inaction, despite the fact that articles deemed critical of the Egyptian government have been withdrawn from the event in past rounds.

Donald Trump has caused endless stomachs to growl and teeth to grind around the world from his incessant gripe that the press and media in the US only broadcast “fake news”.

Yet here we have an Israeli news site, which boasts that its articles are republished each week by nearly 100 print newspapers and digital outlets across the globe, that fits the Trump charge to a T. The US media can be expected to relay the news from this site which describes itself as the fastest-growing news agency covering Israel and the Jewish world.

The JNS article contains not a single piece of correct information. The US Embassy in Cairo did not boycott the event. Its deputy chief of mission and cultural affairs officer were personally on hand to open the US embassy’s booth several days after the CIBF’s official inauguration.

The reason for the delay had to do with the unavailability of appropriations due to the government shutdown in Washington. During that interval, a sign was posted in front of the booth explaining that this was why it was closed.

As for the “written and verbal protests” the JNS claimed had been lodged with the Egyptian government, unquestionably reliable sources have confirmed that the Egyptian authorities received no such protests.

To top it all, the photo accompanying the article on the Israeli Website shows an Arabic translation of Mein Kampf surrounded by other Arabic books, such as the Blue Elephant by Ahmed Murad, The Woman from Tantoura by Radwa Ashour, Rain by Hanna Mina and Oxford Wordpower for English Language Learners.

In the tiny print below, we discover that the photo was taken on 2 August 2015 and that it was of books for sale by a street vendor in Ramallah in the West Bank.

As occurs with the interwoven websites associated with the international Zionist movement, the Simon Wiesenthal Centre hastened to praise the purported decision on the part of the US Embassy in Cairo and called on other countries participating at the fair to follow suit in protest.

What is particularly curious about that JNS fabrication is that it appeared on Thursday, 7 February, whereas the book fair ended 5 February.

What good does it do to call on others to join a boycott two days after an event is over? At least one advantage of publishing such fake news after the book fair closed is that it is no longer possible to ascertain the facts. In order to avert discovery of that ruse, the JNS concocted another lie, which is that the book fair would continue until 10 February.

How could the lack of professionalism have sunk so low as to make that Zionist Website supply “nearly 100 print newspapers and digital outlets across the globe” with lies? How could it bring itself to invent every detail in that story? Have they allowed their ideological passions to blind them to the truth to this extent? Should the disgraceful favouritism for the Jewish state serve as an excuse for omission, distortion and the creation of such a quantity of falsehoods packed into a news item that would be echoed across other news outlets?

If there was one piece of information about CIBF that might have been of use to readers it was that this most important annual literary event in the Arabic publishing world was attended by more than two million visitors (in 2018).

The actual purpose of this factoid was cast into relief the importance of the purported US boycott of the event in reaction to the scandal of displaying the abovementioned books in the largest Arab literary forum of its kind.

Perhaps we should draw the US president’s attention to the fact that the largest repository for the “fake news” he harps on about is to be found in the media of his Israeli ally to which he devotes shameful allegiance.

Unfortunately, it appears that his pro-Israel bias can only be served through blindness to the truth and invented fictions. Was not his recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel the result of a disregard for truth and falsification of facts? Does not the same apply to Washington’s recent move to block a UN Security Council statement that would have expressed regret at Israel’s decision to eject a foreign observer force from Hebron? Is not such blindness to truth and predilection for fakery behind all Trump’s decisions concerning Israel?

Fake news and fictions aside, this year’s Cairo International Book Fair was one of the most successful rounds of this event in its half a century long history. Attendance at its new venue in the Egyptian International Exhibition Centre in New Cairo exceeded expectations.

The large turnout, plus the vibrant dynamism of its activities and the positive feedback from its visitors, herald even more successful editions ahead.

As for the fake news from Israeli media that cares only to undermine every Egyptian or Arab success, it is best tossed into history’s rubbish bin.

*A version of this article appears in print in the 14 February, 2019 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly under the headline: Fake news on CIBF 

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