Al-Ahram Weekly Online
20 - 26 December 2001
Issue No.565
Published in Cairo by AL-AHRAM established in 1875 Current issue | Previous issue | Site map

Cartoon by Ossama Qasim

Basic rights

Sir- As an American who has witnessed first hand the struggle of groups for basic rights on our soil, I sympathise with the Palestinian cause. But their struggle needs to be one of civil disobedience, not of terror. Terrorist acts only repel and strengthen the will of others. This struggle should also not be cloaked in religion. It is a struggle for human rights.

The Palestinian leaders need to renounce acts of violence. It was their acts of peaceful civil disobedience in the 1980s and early '90s that won the support of ordinary Americans. This can happen again. I also am repelled by acts of assassination by the Israelis.

Terrorism is a losing proposition.

I have written to my leaders urging a more balanced approach to the Palestinian and Israeli conflict. But terrorist acts makes my voice meaningless.

Please urge more peaceful ways to struggle against oppression.

It is my hope that the Middle East will enter a golden age of peace and prosperity in the new century. This can only occur if all groups and their voices are respected. The destruction of the state of Israel can only bring further hate and poverty to the region.

Robert Frigo
Ft Wayne, Indiana
US


Tell the world

Sir- I've been watching the Palestine and Israel conflict with deep regret. What looked like a resolution a few years ago was killed when Rabin was murdered.

I feel that Middle Eastern governments and others should build a campaign to tell the world about Ariel Sharon's crimes in Lebanon when he had blocks of apartments destroyed full of innocent women and children. I feel he is a war criminal and should be tried as such in the International Court of Justice. I don't believe that most Israelis would support him if they really understood his past.

Donn Hall
Santa Clara, California
US


Wrong again

Sir- In "Getting rid of Arafat" (Al-Ahram Weekly, 13-19 December), Mohamed Hakki does not have "a better idea." A lot that he said is untrue. For example, he wrote, "American audiences do not see Israeli sharpshooters blowing off the heads of Palestinian children on their way to school. They do not see mothers giving birth at Israeli checkpoints, then watch their babies die before they can get to a hospital in the next town." It's more than likely that Americans don't see it because it ain't happening!

But the most dangerous falsehood for Arabs is his statement that "The pro-Israeli, right- wing cavemen in his defence department enjoy no prestige, no following, and no general respect in the country." These "cavemen" have a very large and active following: The same people who elected Bush.

It's one thing to twist the truth in order to advance your cause, but it's self-defeating for Arabs believe their own falsehoods.

Roger D McKinney
Tulsa, Oklahoma
US


Shared passions

Sir- Hani Shukrallah's essay commentary "Passion, torn to tatters" (Al-Ahram Weekly, 13-19 December) is brazenly truthful. I appreciate his great satirical truth. As a very strong anti-Taliban, anti-Jihadist from Oklahoma, US, I was stung by some of the words he used referring to "the West" and Dubya and such. It's OK to be stung a bit! But I really respect his insight and share the deeper humanity which drives his words and insights like a well-honed knife. What he says and why he is saying it makes me think more carefully and less nativistically about the overwhelming events that overtake us all.

Mr Shukrallah, thank you for your strong courage. I will pay more attention to your thoughts. Isn't it rather amazing, too, that in our world today, your essays could be well received as far away as Oklahoma! I hope you are encouraged to hear from a progressive, "American red neck."

Greetings and I wish for you great strength and joy.

Chris Barrett
Kellyville, Oklahoma
US


Ethnic cleansing?

Sir- There is a disturbing trend here in the US which seems to have gone unnoticed by the Arab press. Here, no one questions such trends.

An Israeli figure has clearly stated that the Palestinian state would be for all Palestinians, implying that those who remained on their lands in 1948 would have to go. Any reaction from the Arab press -- after verification?

Hamid Missoumi
North Hollywood
US


The other Palestinians

Sir- Al-Ahram Weekly seems reasonable in its approach to reporting and editorialising about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. I admit, as an American, I'm very upset over Sharon's belligerent attitude toward the Palestinian people -- total disregard for families and children in order to "get to" Hamas. I'm also concerned for the many Christians that live in the area. They're squeezed between Israeli and Palestinian although many try to get along with both. (That's getting very difficult, I'm sure.)

I'm also not happy with the way our media portrayals of events there always seem weighted in favour of the Israelis. When are we going to report what's happening to the Palestinian Muslim and Christian peoples living in this mess? I hope that Al-Ahram Weekly will consider doing a feature on the Christians (albeit a minority) caught in this death-spiral war. Thank you.

John J Burke
Indianapolis, Indiana
US


Seven out of ten

Sir- Re Mohamed Khaled Al-Azaar's "Principles of resistance" (Al-Ahram Weekly, 6-12 December): If Americans lived on an imaginary planet where we could, indeed, save the world with our idealism, we would. Unfortunately, there are people, countries, etc who thrive on power more than the tenets of a fair society. Yes, we look out for ourselves. Who else will do it if we don't? Yes, we side with Israel, but most wars end with the losing side admitting that it lost.

The Native Americans don't run around America blowing themselves up in shopping malls. Would they be justified if they did? By Al-Azaar's estimation, they would be. Every nation is hypocritical, and every human being imperfect. Personally, though, I will stand by my nation that probably scores a 7 out of 10 in regards to following its own ideals. Show me a better country and I will move.

Kathy Reynolds
Richmond, Virginia
US


Incontrovertible proof

Sir- The Bin Laden video tape finally released by the Pentagon turned out to prove only four things:

1- That the audio quality of Bin Laden's voice was the worst of those talking on the video;

2- The sound was so bad that the Arabic verbs could be heard either way (i.e. we did, we said, could also be heard as they did, they said, etc) -- which means the difference between a person being a spectator or a mastermind.

3- Bin Laden must be exceedingly stupid to admit in an open dinner party (this while the US air force and special forces are carpet- bombing the entire country) and with kids and guests all over the place that he planned and carried out the WTC attacks, having previously declared to the world that he had nothing to do with it.

4- If he is that stupid, then there is no way a person of that level of intelligence could have pulled off the sophisticated operation Washington claims he did from the caves of Afghanistan!

What happened to the "concrete" proof they said they had before?

John Marshall
Oldbrook, Milton Keynes
UK


Bully for us

Sir- Nobody comes in our front yard and does what happened on 11 September. You do not do that. Not to anyone, especially to America. The bad guys tried to kill the bull. Now the bad guys will get the horns.

Make no mistake: America is the bull. Instead of feeding the Afghans, we should be nuking them. Feed them so they can grow up and fight against my children? They are rats and should be treated as such.

You people should praise Allah that I am not the president. And all the nuts who did this who praise Allah will be seeing him real soon, with some help from the United States combined armed forces. So enjoy today. Please send that to Bin Laden and his fruit cakes and supporters.

Donald Piche Jr
Massachusetts
US


Connected

Sir- It is wonderful to be able to receive Al- Ahram Weekly by Internet in California. Thank you for making this possible.

Robert Shapazian
Los Angeles, California
US


Dangerously wrong

Sir- Re Amira Howeidy's article in the current issue ("Dangerous by definition," Al-Ahram Weekly, 13-19 December). It is bad enough to be completely biased but let us not be inaccurate! There are not "thousands" of Arabs detained in the US. Rubbish. You do yourselves an editorial disservice and wreak havoc on your credibility.

Larry D Martin
Chesapeake, Virginia
US


Truth, please

Sir- Fatemah Farag's article "Do we hate them?" (Al-Ahram Weekly, 18-24 October) was disturbing in many respects. When a female shopkeeper questioned her whether Americans are "beating and killing" Arabs in America, the response was "yes."

While no one can doubt that there have been a few isolated incidents of attacks on Arab-Americans in recent months, the number and frequency of such attacks are greatly exaggerated. There are millions of Arabs in America who are not being beaten and killed.

As long as citizens of Arab and Islamic nations are fed misinformation about America and its people, fundamentalist hate toward our country will continue. Ultimately, the radical Islamists will deceive enough people into believing that war with America is just and necessary, resulting in a real war with devastating results.

America does not want a war with anyone, but if pushed far enough, we will respond to protect ourselves. Truth is needed on both sides.

Jeff Palmer
Florida
US


Words of God

Sir- I oppose attacks by Israelis on Palestinian leaders. I also find hypocritical the rationalisation on the part of Arab journalists that killing in the name of Islam, killing civilians, follows the teaching of the Qur'an. Muslim leaders in the US tell us that this violates the teachings of Mohamed. The only excuse for killing is self defence.

To say "my body as a missile is the only weapon I have so I will go and kill a bunch of children and be welcomed by God for my sacrifice" is delusional. It not self-sacrifice, it is self-indulgence of the lowest kind. It isn't war, it is just selfish, bloody murder.

In my view there is a significant segment in the Middle East that fails to recognise the common heritage shared by all Middle Easterners. You are all brothers of a common tribe who are bent on killing each other just to feel more important than your neighbour. Those who kill simply want the killing to continue. It isn't an issue of religion, it is an issue of money and property and greed.

This is not what Mohamed taught. This is not what David taught. This is what self- righteous killers tell others to excuse their self-indulgence. We are witnessing a time of unreasoned hatred and madness. Instead of following the word of God, the evil ones are telling lies in the name of God. God does not tell us to kill each other. Those who lie and distort the word of God tell us that.

It is therefore easy to recognise the enemies of God: they tell us God said to kill, hate and terrorise.

Those who write in your paper who support that practice are unholy and deserving of damnation.

God's will be done.

Frederick F Page
Florida
US


A certain freedom

Sir- This is just to let you know how much I enjoyed reading Fatemah Farag's lengthy article on the state of American journalism during the current war on terrorism (Al-Ahram Weekly, 13-19 December).

I am an American journalist myself and was formerly a reporter with an overseas English- language newspaper in Germany.

But I would like to mention a point that was not mentioned by Ms Farag, which might help explain some of the apparent contradictions of American journalism that appear in her article.

Those apparent contradictions included 1) quotations to the effect that the American press is "in bed" with the government during wartime vs numerous American press reports criticising government officials during the war; 2) that we have a "free and democratic" press while at the same time it is being controlled and censored by itself, business, and by public opinion; and 3) how can the American press both mold public opinion and be influenced by public opinion?

An area of study that helps explain these contradictions is the constitutional history of the First Amendment. What many foreigners and even Americans don't understand is that the freedom of the press mentioned in the First Amendment is not freedom from being criticised for what you publish, or freedom from being economically boycotted, or freedom from your boss censoring or even firing you for what you wrote in a newspaper.

The freedom in the First Amendment is only a freedom from the government censoring what we've written. That is the freedom that is vigorously defended by the press in America and which, to my knowledge, remains intact. No government control, of course, means no government funding, which is just fine with us, since the one will inevitably bring on the other. But it also means that most large American media institutions depend for their funding on advertising. And if the quality of reporting irritates enough of the public that they reduce the economic benefit to the advertisers (through readership or purchasing boycotts), then the advertising dries up, and the newspaper/radio/tv outlet stops publishing.

This doesn't mean that these contrary opinions are completely silenced, however. There is no law (i.e. government control) that forbids anyone from publishing anti-government sentiments on their own, or with the funding of organisations that agree with those sentiments. It just means those opinions may not have the funding to finance their distribution to a much wider audience.

However, in reality, newspapers and TV networks here do a quite good job of putting contrary opinions before the American people. CNN may not show civilian bodies piling up in Afghanistan, but every night it's putting on spokespersons with opinions which run counter to those of the Bush administration. And while reporters like Fox Network's Geraldo Rivera are unabashedly pro-government, other networks have more objective coverage.

The only true contradiction in American journalism today is between the publisher's right to print what he wants, and the journalist's "duty" to tell both sides of a story. The publisher's "right" comes from the First Amendment, and has been around for 210 years. The journalist's "duty" is an invention of American journalism schools from the 20th century.

Still, if the journalist in America is censored by his publisher, he has the option of working for a more compatible publisher, an option not allowed in countries where the ultimate publisher is the national government.

As Ms Farag's article displayed, there remains a great diversity of opinion in the American media. But it's important to understand that America's "free press" means only that it is free from the government censoring what the press wants to publish.

Luther Ray
Chicago, Illinois
US


A nation of idiots

Sir- Re "The bottom line" (Al-Ahram Weekly, 13-19 December): the rationale behind this dereliction of serious reporting is that the American public does not wish to be informed; it would rather be entertained.

Light news and sit-coms are the right vehicles to capture a faithful audience and, consequently, the favours of the large advertisers -- yes, you see right through us. We are an entire nation of idiots. We know absolutely nothing about the "real" world. We are uneducated, every one of us. All 350 million Americans would rather watch Jerry Springer than CNN.

It's incredible that while wanting so desperately to be entertained, we are able to find time to work, raise our children, or do anything else, for that matter. I want to thank Al- Ahram Weekly for pointing out how incredibly stupid all Americans are. It's always nice to see intelligent unbiased journalism.

Kelley Lynch
Los Angeles
US


Radicals out

Sir- I have been reading your newspaper for a while. Oftentimes I have read many articles in your publication that should embarrass you. The Palestinians have already won their state if they just simply stop fighting. The eyes of the world are on the issue. Hamas and Islamic Jihad are the problem and they are corrupting the Palestinian National Authority. All they have to do is say for three months, no reprisals, no retribution, no violence, especially no stone throwing of any kind and it is over.

The Palestinian state is there. Any naked violence or road blocks by the Israelis will be bare, and the entire world will be backing the Palestinian state. Hamas and Islamic Jihad do not want this, however. They want the destruction of Israel as a common ground. The Islamic Jihad furthermore, as many readers may be aware, wants a worldwide war ending in a state pretty much like the Taliban ruled in Afghanistan. They have many bases and sources of funds in Egypt.

It would be a good idea for all those who consider themselves of Islam to now actively get rid of them. I am not saying in any way that the Israelis have been good neighbours. Practicality does make sense: let's get rid of the radicals and many things can be accomplished.

Zachary L Pesold
Ft Lauderdale, Florida
US

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