Forward Thinking

Bibi Netanyahu: Islamic Scholar?

By Gal Beckerman

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Like Vladimir Putin, who can just don a wetsuit and emerge from a deep sea dive holding two sixth-century artifacts, there is apparently nothing Benjamin Netanyahu can’t do. Just read the seventh paragraph of this New York Times story, about the opening of the Metropolitan Museum’s new Islamic art galleries. It mentions a visit that the Israeli prime minister took to the museum last month while he was in town for the United Nations General Assembly.

Kudos to Netanyahu for being curious enough to go check out the collection, but he should probably withhold his opinions on, say, the dating of the objects. Please read, but don’t weep:

Last month, Haidar got a taste of public reaction when dignitaries in town for the U.N. General Assembly asked to see the new galleries. One of them was Netanyahu, the Israeli prime minister, who was a model guest, admiring the art and chuckling at a wooden panel from Tikrit, the birthplace of Saddam Hussein. But he stopped short when Haidar showed him a 10th-century Muslim prayer mat that was found on the shores of Lake Tiberias. The date suggested a very early Muslim presence in what is now Israel. Netanyahu asked if it was really that old, Haidar recalled, and she assured him that the carpet had been scientifically dated. But he kept staring at it quizzically. “ ‘I don’t know,’ he finally said, ‘it just doesn’t look that old to me.’ ”


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