|Al-Ahram Weekly On-line
1 - 7 March 2001
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Another citySir- I would like to share an interesting experience with the readers of Al-Ahram Weekly . I attended an "Alexandria week" organised by the Jesuit Cultural Centre in Alexandria from 12-19 February under the title "Alexandria in my thoughts." This very interesting and well organised festival included many seminars, exhibitions and documentary films that shed light on many facts about Alexandria.
It presented Alexandria as a cosmopolitan city, successful in its transition from "localism" to "cosmopolitanism" from the Graeco-Roman era to the present-day revival of the Bibliotheca Alexandrina. The festival also touched upon the theme of Alexandria as inspiration, which fired up the imagination of writers and artists as diverse as Durrell, Cavafy, Sayed Darwish, Edward El-Kharrat, Ibrahim Abdel-Meguid, Mohamed Gibril, Naguib Mahfouz and Youssef Chahine.
Then we were treated to a view of Alexandria as multi-cultural city, in which Ancient Egyptian, Greek, Roman, Coptic and Islamic cultural influences have combined throughout its long history .
The city has also witnessed turning points in Egypt's modern history as journalism, cinema and theatre saw the light there.
These were some aspects of the unique city that is Alexandria -- a city I am proud to call my own.
Symmetry restoredSir- I find it typical that Gregg Stevens, in his letter to the editor (Al-Ahram Weekly, 15-21 February), should accuse Hani Shukrallah of bias in his comments regarding the Palestinian Intifada. Mr Stevens notes, with the complacency I have come to understand is typical of people like him: "What is always missing from Hani Shukrallah's writings is symmetry... [W]hen Shukrallah says that Israelis killed '129 Palestinians, 23 of them children' since the last Intifada, he omits how many Israeli civilians -- including children -- were killed by Palestinians... This selective reporting in the Arab world breeds hatred, and will lead to war."
First, let me just remind Mr Stevens that if "selective reporting" led to war, the rest of the world would be busy carpet-bombing his own country. What breeds hatred, furthermore, is injustice -- the kind of injustice Mr Stevens, safe in peaceful Boston, can not even begin to imagine. If Mr Stevens had grown up watching his parents being beaten, his home being destroyed, his relatives living in fear and destitution while gun-toting settlers frolicked on his family's land, perhaps he would understand injustice. As things stand, perhaps he should stick to simpler concepts.
All this is not the point, however. Like all those who see bias in statements of fact when these statements are made by Arabs -- in other words, like all other racists -- Mr Stevens is incapable of seeing what is in front of him. Most unfortunate, but he is hoist by his own petard, because the figures cited by Shukrallah were taken, as he mentioned in his column, from an article in Ha'aretz by Gideon Levy. Levy, in turn, was citing a report issued by human rights group B'teselem. Now, unless I am much mistaken, although Ha'aretz is a newspaper, B'teselem is an organisation and Gideon Levy is an individual, they all have one thing in common: they are Israeli. Sorry, Mr Stevens, but you look like a fool -- unless, of course, B'teselem and Ha'aretz (and anyone or anything else that emits information you would rather not allow into your brain) are biased too. The facts are clear: there is one occupying force -- Israel's. There is one aggressor -- Israel. Its victims are Palestinian. That seems fairly easy to understand. For Israel's sake, I hope all its supporters are not quite as thorough as Mr Stevens.
Sir- "isms," "isms," and more "isms." In the past 30 years we have had more "isms" at the end of any word that describes a movement, political party, religion, culture, or belief. What are these funny letters at the end of our words? What are they and where do they come from? We have fundamentalisms, feminisms, culturalisms, Zionisms, totalitarianisms, terrorisms...
After reading Hani Shukrallah's "An all-American dream" (Al-Ahram Weekly, 21-28 February), I was struck by his reading of Zionism (alluding to Edward Said) and the "imperial self- image" of America. I believe that he was precise in pointing out that America is living in a self-image under the veil of Zionism -- a Zionism that does not refer to being Jewish, Israeli, or even pro-Israeli but that has become an Americanism in terms of power and the freedom to attack any "other" small "ism." The "ism" of Zionism or Islamism is the preferred way to speak about any "outsider" or "other" within the "global community."
Today, as we become less educated about truth, facts, and histories of countries outside the United States, we are more and more educated about the images of "isms." For example, in the US one is acquainted with Saddam Hussein as an evil dictator, but we do not know who preceded Hussein. We cannot point out the capital of Iraq or Kuwait (nor Israel/Palestine) on a map but we know where to bomb. Why? It's simple: here in America, we live within a mass of literate yet uneducated Americans. Even though this is paradoxical, it is a fact of America's ideal self-image. Sometimes one may wonder why Clinton opposed cloning. What is the difference between a clone and American politics?
We in the US know lots of stories about the "isms" of the world and we can live in our blind visions of ourselves -- Americanism? I will tell you something about stories, they aren't just entertainment. Don't be fooled by those "isms"!
Mehnaz M Afridi
Los Angeles, California
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