The Bibliotheca Alexandrina
Not long ago I was in Alexandria, Egypt, where I visited the new Bibliotheca Alexandrina, the modern successor to the ancient world’s Great Library. It is a remarkable structure, a huge discus slanted at an angle, facing the Mediterranean. The Rough Guide to Egypt informed me that “the library was controversial even before its inauguration in 2002 (when an exhibition of books from every nation featured the Protocols of the Elders of Zion as Israel’s entry).”
This struck me as plausible; some Mubarak regime functionary a decade ago taking a meaningless cheap shot to cover up for its actual collaboration with Israel to suppress Palestinians and its massive economic and social failures in Egypt itself.
But what about the Alexandria Library today? Are its collections biased? I entered, passing hundreds of Egyptian university students doing their homework, and climbed up the slanted stairways toward the shelves that housed the History of the Middle East.
I found books in Arabic, English, French and other languages. I found pro-Israel books, by people like Barry Rubin and Walter Laqueur. And I found Six Days of War, the tendentious history of the 1967 conflict, by none other than Michael Oren, Israel’s present ambassador to the United States.