A Blog by the Editor of The Middle East Journal

Putting Middle Eastern Events in Cultural and Historical Context

Monday, November 18, 2013

Trivia Question Involving the JFK Funeral and the Middle East

Back in August I posted a nostalgia photo quiz  as a contest, and posted the answer later that day. I guess that was too soon, since there was only one guess and they got it wrong. But as I assume you are all aware (since if you're illiterate or in North Korea you're probably not reading my blog), this Friday, November 22, marks the 50th anniversary of the assassination of John F. Kennedy.

Thankfully, the assassination had no obvious Middle Eastern links. Even the crazier conspiracy theories blamed the CIA, FBI, Soviet Union, Cuba, the Mafia, Fidel Castro, Lyndon Johnson, J. Edgar Hoover, or some combination of the above. (How many people were on that Grassy Knoll, anyway?) Jim Garrison charged an unknown New Orleans businessman named Clay Shaw, and pretty much ruined his life, though a jury acquitted him easily. Oh, yes, and Lee Harvey Oswald. (On reflection, I suspect somebody, somewhere, has blamed "Zionists," but not among mainstream conspiracy theorists.)

So for a Middle Eastern connection, I'm turning to JFK's funeral on November 24. A stunned world (these were more innocent times, though not for long) sent delegations: 90 countries were represented, almost all the independent countries with which the US had diplomatic relations at the time (thus mainly excluding Communist China, North Korea, North Vietnam Mongolia, Cuba, and perhaps a few others).

De Gaulle & Haile Selassie at funeral
Many were heads of state or government, monarchs or foreign ministers. Others sent their Ambassadors to Washington. Those arriving in time for the November 24 funeral marched in the procession; those arriving late attended a reception held by President Johnson the next day. One of my own vivid memories of the day was that France's Charles de Gaulle and Ethiopian Emperor Haile Selassie marched side by side  and stood side by side at the funeral; they may have been the tallest and shortest adult persons there, and the contrast was striking. The long and the short of it. Photo at left.

The Middle East, being farther away, mostly was represented by their Washington Ambassadors, but some sent Prime Ministers, Foreign Ministers, etc. I think the only Middle Eastern head of state was Israeli President Zalman Shazar, a figurehead, but Foreign Minister Golda Meir was also there, and I suspect the most senior female not a member of royalty.

Now here's my trivia question: of those 90 delegations half a century ago, most of the members are deceased or at least retired. So far as I can tell (please correct if there are others) [Two additions below], only two of these held senior public office then and still hold senior public office now, 50 years later.

One of these is HRH Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh and husband of Queen Elizabeth II, now 92. He is still in the same job and has held it continuously.

The other is an Arab, senior then and now but in a higher-ranking job today. He is not a member of a royal family. Who is he?

You can cheat and figure it out by using Google, with little effort. I at least urge you to think about it without searching, to check your knowledge of the modern Middle East. (Don't read the comments first, either.)  [Update: Add current King Harald V of Norway, then Crown Prince, and Princess Beatrix of the  Netherlands, who reigned as Queen from 1980 until April 30 of this year. I'm not sure if "Ex-Queen" is a senior public office, but I missed these. I add them now so you won't check the comments, which give away the answer already.] I'll post the answer in a couple of days or on Friday in the highly unlikely event no one responds.


Doug Jones said...

Norway's current king, Harald V, was also in attendance as Crown Prince.

Michal said...

Princess Beatrix of the Netherlands, former Queen (until April 2013), attended too.

But to answer your question - Bouteflika. It's shocking how much of a maverick he is...

Michael Collins Dunn said...

Both commenters so far:

Thanks for the royal corrections. I thought I was probably missing some in that category (though arguably Beatrix is no longer "in public office") anc my knowledge of Dutch and Norwegian royals is, thankfully, not part of my job description.

Michal, of course you nailed it in only a couple of hours, as I assumed somebody would. I'll credit you in a day or two (sorry, mention is the only prize) but want to give it time for those who for time zone or other reasons haven't seen it yet, and who heed my warning not to read the comments.

I know of course that your "such a maverick" line is meant as irony, but he did spend six years in foreign exile and over a decade out of office, though for quite un-mavericky reasons.

M. ElBaradei said...

I'm sure it was Generalissimo Sissy who President Nasser had sent to represent Egypt.

A giant even then.

Adled Mansour said...

According to unbiased reports from AlAhram he towered over both DeGaulle and Bouteflika even though he was a mere lad.

Such is the greatness of Egypts' current great man and dearly cherished leader.

David Mack said...

I'll guess Algerian President Bouteflika, who could have been Foreign Minister at the time.

Michael Collins Dunn said...

David: You got it but Michal above got there first.