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Let’s party like it’s 1999: former Egyptian antiquity supremo Zahi Hawass has rekindled a decade-old antagonism with ‘alternative history’ author Robert Bauval. On the front page of the top Arabic daily newspaper Al Ahram for Thursday April 12, Hawass, ex-Minister of Antiquities in Egypt, and Farouk Hosni, ex-Minister of Culture, claimed* that Bauval’s next book, co-written with Ahmed Osman (Breaking the Mirror of Heaven, to be released August 15), attributes Egyptian civilisation to the Jewish people. Bauval notes on his blog that…

Hawass further claimed that my parents were ‘Belgians Jews’ from Alexandria — a claim clearly intended to be derogatory, implying that being a ‘Jew’ explains the reason for me writing this book (as an act of ‘vengeance’) and that, in any case, being a ‘Jew’ I cannot be believed.

In response to this, I have shown proof on my blog that such claims are untrue. My parents were Catholic Christians, and they were baptised (as I was) in the churches in Alexandria.

It is not the first time that Zahi Hawass has used the ‘Jews’ to try and discredit his opponents. Since 1991 Hawass has played this ‘Jews’ card against his opponents. In 2009 Hawass went as far as accusing the Jews of ruling the world and controlling the USA.

…But the amazing irony is that Hawass’s recent outburst evoking ‘Jews’ and his obvious desire to show that he ‘protecting Egyptian civilization’ against ‘Jews’ may, in fact, be a smoke screen to his own very involved relationship with American Jews – something that today in Egypt would definitely not go down well in the present political climate. It is well known in academic circles that Hawass obtained his PhD in America (at the University of Pennsylvania) with his tutor and assessor of his thesis being Dr. David Silverman, who is Jewish. Dr. Silverman, and his university, have been granted long-tern concessions in Egypt by Hawass, and the latter and Dr. Silverman have collaborated on many projects and even wrote a book together. It is also well-known that Hawass has ‘facilitated’ the Edgar Cayce Foundation of America to work at the Giza Pyramids many times, and that the principal funders were Joseph Jahoda and Joseph Schor, two promiment Jewish American businessmen.

Let it be very clear to everyone that I do not hold any anti-Semitic sentiments whatsoever. And I do not consider it either a detriment or an advantage to collaborate on projects with Jews – or Christians or Muslims for that matter. Indeed religion, as far as I am concerned, does not and should not be a factor at all in Egyptology or any other endeavour. But we may wonder what Zahi Hawass is playing at by constantly attacking his opponents by claiming that they are ‘Jews’. There is, excuse the pun, something not quite Kosher in his behaviour.

I’ve written previously about the tangled web surrounding Zahi Hawass’s involvement with this controversial topic. In this case, one wonders how much of this attack is political positioning by Hawass, given the former’s close ties to former Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak, and rumours of Zahi’s involvement with Zionist businessmen, versus the recent rise of Islamist power-brokers in the Egyptian political system. In any case, it’s not exactly the type of publicity that Robert Bauval would want in his home country.

* I haven’t seen the English version of the article, so am going by Robert Bauval’s translation here