|Al-Ahram Weekly Online
21 - 27 February 2002
|Published in Cairo by AL-AHRAM established in 1875||Current issue | Previous issue | Site map|
Illustration by Osama Qassim
Carte blanche to kill
Sir- My grandmother died in a cattle truck on the way to a German concentration camp. My uncles died in concentration camps and my father just managed to escape to the UK. In 1967 I went to Israel as a volunteer after the Six-Day War, believing in their cause.
However, for the last 20 years I have been ashamed to call myself a Jew. The behaviour of the Israelis disgusts me. The massacre at the Sabra and Shatila refugee camps was genocidal and was similar to much of what the Gestapo achieved in the Second World War. The present bestial behaviour by the Israelis is as bad as any Rwanda or Yugoslavia -- so where are the international protests?
With the US cosying up to Sharon, with Arab opinion fragmented and with no one apparently willing to challenge US hegemony the plight of the Palestinians can only become worse.
The Jewish lobby in the US has ensured Bush gives carte blanche to Sharon in the name of the "War on Terrorism." So it seems the Palestinians are to be sacrificed on the world altar of expediency. Alas no one in power gives a damn about them.
Who is the terrorist?
Sir- Mr Sharon stated that he regrets not killing Mr Arafat in 1982. President George W Bush categorised the institutions of Hamas and Hizbullah as terrorist. Americans and Israelis believe that a child who carries a stone in his hands is a terrorist because he may shoot it towards the Israeli soldiers .
Mohamed Al-Dorra (assassinated as he hid behind his father), the six-month-old child (assassinated in her mother's arms), Palestine's everyday martyrs, the tears of mothers and the prayers of fathers ask one question to human beings all over the world: who is the terrorist?
Mohamed Ismail Omar
Kafr Al-Dawwar, Beheira
Sir- I was very pleased to read Azmi Bishara's article, "Surviving the odds" (Al-Ahram Weekly, 7-13 February). I wonder why he doesn't take the argument all the way and propose a new non-violent strategy of national liberation.
Twenty-five thousand women and children marching non-violently through Haifa or Tel Aviv would win the hearts and minds of Israelis, Europeans and Americans. Just think: you could win a great battle and absolutely nobody needs to be killed!
Sir- Is John Walker Lindh a traitor? Well, let us consult the dictionary and see what it has to say on the subject. According to the Merriam Webster Dictionary the definition of the word traitor is: one who betrays another's trust or is false to an obligation or duty. Given that definition, it appears that the answer to that question is no. How can Lindh be called a traitor when he was rightfully following the dictates of his own religious conscience? No one has an obligation greater than that, not even constitutionally.
Lindh's only crime was that he was foolish and naive enough to be involved with the Taliban. I don't believe that potentially seeking the death penalty is an appropriate course of action against someone who is so horribly misguided. Intended or not, the subtext of this trial that is being sent to the Islamic nations of the world, is "see, this is what happens when an American converts to Islam."
Patrick A Downes
Sir- The Arabs can solve the Palestinian problem quite simply by uniting. The Americans and their proxy Israel are playing the Arab states like marionettes, using the strings of economic blackmail.
The Palestinian people will continue to bleed unless the Arab states in the Middle East show a united front. Israel has no pressure to change its course. If the Arab states do not act soon, the political reality on the ground will have changed to the extent that it will become irreversible. This is what Sharon wants.
I feel very sorry for the Palestinians because they seemed to have been abandoned by their so-called Arab brothers.
Manfred H Brunswig
No end to evil
Sir- I am an ordinary European citizen who is dismayed by the ongoing violence in Palestine and increasingly worried by what may happen to countries in the region. I feel compelled to address you. I am writing in good faith and I have no intention other than to let you know what many of us experience and think about the ordeals of the Middle East.
The daily "orgies" of brutality and humiliation in Palestine are simply insupportable. Bombs, dead, wounded, battered, harassment, persecutions, malicious and offensive words, destruction of houses, and so on and so forth. There seem to be no boundaries, no limits to the evil that evildoers can cause.
As if the open and bleeding wound of Palestine is not sufficient, more suffering may be inflicted upon the region. Whatever one may think of Iraq and whom one may choose to blame, I cannot turn my face away from the torments of the Iraqis. Malnutrition, starvation, sickness, destruction of infrastructure, consequences of depleted uranium... Here also, there seem to be no restrictions on the evil that evildoers can accomplish.
A renewal of destruction may occur soon, and I can see all the bombings, the daisy-cutters, the wounded, the dead, the cries, the desperation... And this vision is simply unbearable.
What's next? Who is next in the line of suffering? Lebanon, Syria, Iran? I am most frustrated, feel great inadequacy for not being able to stop the present and future suffering, the interference of all the strangers who want to decide, "make over" the destiny of the Middle East.
Sir- I read your site to get some insight into the Arab world. It is a good site. Please continue to provide your view.
However, I must say that your publication says nothing about the sheer horror of the Israeli people, too.
There are daily complaints of US-supplied weapons being used by the Israelis. History shows us that the Arabs attacked Israel many times using state of the art Soviet weapons. And the attacks occurred before the occupation of the West Bank and Gaza.
In all fairness, your publication does not show this side of the coin.
Some of your readers' adorations of Marwan Barghouti fly in the face of his true face: a killer and one of the Tanzim orchestrators. The Tanzim organisation is one step from being put on the US terrorist list.
Let's call a spade a spade and say that the Israelis and the Arabs are both at fault.
Sir- Britain has long supported the Zionist project. Empire builders like Churchill dreamed of "loyal Jewish Ulster" -- to keep the troublesome locals in order no doubt. Britain's continuing support for the Zionist occupation has been underlined by Tony Blair's appointment of Lord Levy, a former activist in the Jewish Agency and the Jewish Israel Appeal, as a special envoy to the Middle East. Her Majesty's government also allows British companies like Land Rover and Ford to supply the Zionist occupiers with vehicles. Some of the parts for the Apache helicopters and fighter planes used by the Zionists are made in Britain.
Many people in Britain -- Muslims, Christians, and anti-Zionist Jews ashamed of having their spiritual and cultural heritage hijacked by a bunch of gangsters -- are calling for a boycott of British- based companies which support Israel. Information about these companies can be found on the web site http://www.inminds.com/boycott-israel.html
Many of the shops in London's West End stock goods made in Israel, or, contrary to British law, goods from the occupied territories illegally labelled "made in Israel." A boycott of such products is an effective way of registering a protest about the policies of the Israeli government. It will also show British retailers that their support for the bloody Zionist regime has a price.
Some illegally labelled settlement goods are currently being sold at the celebrated department store Harrods. I am told the store's flamboyant Egyptian- born owner Mohamed Fayed is reconsidering these sales at the moment.
Another famous name, which is contributing to the Israeli economy, is Marks & Spencer. This company not only sells millions of dollars' worth of Israeli goods, it also promotes British-Israeli trade organisation.
I trust all people who believe in justice for the Palestinians will oppose their oppressors by boycotting goods and companies which support the Zionist state.
Sir- The article by Azmi Bishara ("Surviving the odds", Al-Ahram Weekly, 7-13 February) is most excellent. Thank you for the existence of the material on your Web site. I am most appreciative of the educational, ethical and spiritual enlightenment that is always available to myself and anyone who takes the time to read your wonderful writers.
This article in particular grabs at my heart and I understand more and more about colonialism and religion as they are intermingled for the advantage of the occupying armies -- who say they have the right ordained by heaven to rip apart people's homes and bomb kindergartens to teach the young a lesson. Israel's fate is sealed in the blood of the Palestinian people.
This is a horror story the people of Israel have written, by electing Sharon. More and more people will think about the 1930s and 1940s and wonder how a people who have experienced that holocaust could then turn around and visit this holocaust upon the Palestinian people. The Palestinian people were not involved in the concentration camps. They were subject to the British Empire, which had tried to colonise them for the British Crown -- like Native America, invaded by the British seeking to expand the British Empire.
I am descended from Irish refugees to America. It is all such a horrid look at the human condition, isn't it?
Sir- I am from the state of Texas (George Bush's home state). The Republican Party of Texas, George Bush's party, is largely controlled by fundamentalist Christians.
As they have formulated their strategies for the White House, it has become clear that they intend to try to break down the walls between church and state, quite high here in the US. Some of the more liberal laws, such as abortion, are already being challenged, despite a 70 per cent approval of them as they currently exist. However, this will not deter the Bush White House planners from pushing their fringe agenda on the rest of the population.
Also, they are trying to funnel moneys from the federal budget into Christian churches, ostensibly for "social services" such as meals for the poor. However, the churches are not forbidden from preaching their gospel to recipients of the services. They are equally out of touch with the rest of the world, and pose some dangers to the US, as many of us are expressing great concerns that they are looking at the terrorism picture in black and white, a kind of religious good and evil, and not in a constructive, realistic way.
Sir- Awatef Abdel-Rahman's "Democracy, American-style" (Al-Ahram Weekly, 14-20 February) makes several statements that cannot go unchallenged.
First, in her opening statement, she says the following:
"The uncomprehending hatred of Islam unleashed by the Western media in the wake of 11 September may prove to be the gravest of that day's repercussions."
Never mind that she brushes aside, like many of the writers on your site, the real repercussions of that day, namely the loss of 3,000 people from tens of nations around the world and the grief and loss that their families must live with for the rest of their lives. Not to mention the physical and psychological pain that the survivors must endure -- the repercussions for them are real and palpable indeed. Not to mention the loss to humanity and humans everywhere due to the unthinkable acts of that day.
She and I must really live in different worlds (that's pretty obvious I guess). I am a big consumer of "Western" media and her contention that an "uncomprehending hatred of Islam" has been "unleashed" by the "Western" media is quite simply a blatant lie. The amazing thing, never reported in the Arab or Muslim press, never seen on Al-Jazeera, which hides crucial information from its viewers and then lies about it and blames CNN, is the sympathy that many Americans have shown toward Muslims in the aftermath. Yes, there were acts of violence against "Middle Eastern"-looking people and yes, there was, and still is, suspicion directed toward Arabs and Muslims in this country.
These acts of violence are senseless and barbarous in the same way the 11 September attacks were. Let me assure you, the people who committed these acts are being punished, as they should be, and they should be treated as the low-life murderers they are. Keep in mind this country has its own terrorists and ignorants -- unfortunately some of them surfaced in the aftermath of 11 September. And I am neither afraid nor defensive, as you seem to be, to say that some Americans are ignorant and violent. I am not afraid to say, as you seem be, that there are bad eggs in my part of the world who indeed reflect poorly on the rest of us. And I will never defend their terrible actions, or make excuses for them, or blame their conscious, free decisions on the "American media" or "American culture" at large or say that they were reacting in the heat of the moment -- no, they made choices and they must bear the consequences of those decisions.
But, the real story is how Americans and the American media, with George Bush leading the way, have shown restraint toward Islam as a religion and American Muslims. It is in the tradition of the religious freedom that has existed since this country was born that I have read many articles and watched many shows that attempt to separate what happened on 11 September from what Islam teaches. I have listened to our president repeatedly call for restraint and repeatedly call Islam "a great and peaceful religion" -- as a matter of fact, he did this in his first full address to the nation, a mere eight or nine days after the most grievous attack this nation has ever suffered. I have seen him invite Muslim leaders to the White House and to the National Cathedral in Washington -- one of whom spoke at the Cathedral, giving him an audience of tens of millions in this country who were listening to what a Muslim had to say in the immediate aftermath of 11 September.
My wife and I are Muslim. I am a recent convert. I had many friends ask me how she was doing, as well as her sister who is currently studying here. Granted, she is not very Middle Eastern-looking, but she and her sister have reported no untoward behaviour directed at them. Yes, there are Muslim Americans and Arab Americans who have been denied entrance to flights and who have experienced discrimination -- again, this is extremely regrettable and not in keeping with our values. But I don't think you can expect zero negative reaction in the aftermath of such a monstrous attack: some negative reaction will surface. But it has been the exception rather than the rule. Muslims in this country are still freely going to mosque; they are freely practicing their religion; they are freely celebrating Ramadan and Eid and the Hajj.
Sir- While I agree with much of what Ahmed Abdel-Halim stated in his article this week ("A spin on the evil axis," Al-Ahram Weekly, 14-20 February), I have the following comments.
First, George W Bush's foreign policy-making is much more entrenched in serving domestic vested interests than Mr Abdel-Halim implies. Other than the obvious appeasement of the Israeli lobby, claiming a real, or imagined, external threat in the form of an "axis of evil" helps the current US administration, and the Republicans in general, to rally broad domestic support for their plans and bills, including tax reductions and a spending package to boost the economy.
The foreign policy approach not only benefits the US military-industrial complex but also oil companies that are keen to increase domestic oil production in the US West (Oregon) and in Alaska. Exaggerating the threat of Iran and Iraq and the risk it poses on foreign oil sources strengthens the position of these oil companies (many of them from Bush's Texas) against domestic opponents, including environmentalists.
Rumsfeld and Rice are not the only hawks. Paul Wolfowitz, deputy secretary of defence, is a key figure whose fingerprints are all over the State of the Union address.
Lastly, the regression of US foreign policy since 11 September testifies to the Arab failure in responding to this horrific disaster. While pro- Israeli forces exploited the catastrophe, Arabs failed to communicate to the US public and "uninformed" administration that nothing can be more effective in making Americans secure than a just solution to the Palestinian problem. The opportunity to disseminate this basic message has been lost. The illusion of an axis of evil has overtaken the reality that injustice in the Middle East is not worth a single American life, whether in New York, the Pentagon or in any foreign military adventure.
New York, New York
Do as they do
Sir- Ahmed Abdel-Halim's excellent article on Bush's embarrassing "Axis of Evil" speech (Al-Ahram Weekly, 14-20 February) made one small but crucial error:
"...Washington's coddled ally in the Middle East [Israel] will continue to serve its interests."
Actually, Israel has never served the interests of my country. Israel is a complete albatross around our neck. Our unfortunate support of her colonisation of Palestine has only brought us ill-will, violence, and complicity in human rights abuses -- just as President Woodrow Wilson's King-Crane Commission on Palestine warned it would back in 1919!
The tail wags the dog in America because the tail, the Israeli lobby, has complete control over the information and terms of debate in the American consciousness. This is the real enemy of the Arab people, more so than Israel's nuclear weapons and F- 16s.
The trick is to fight Israeli control over the consciousness of the world's biggest power without sounding anti-Semitic. The other trick is to convince Arab activists and others that concentrating on the "hearts and minds" of the American people is not a weak strategy or one that acknowledges American arrogance by accepting our "centrality" to the power struggle.
Rather, Arabs should learn from their successful foe Israel: do what they do! Everything AIPAC [American-Israeli Public Action Committee] does and spends should be matched by an Arab version of the same. AIPAC should be publicly challenged to debates. As for the media, there should be three Al-Jazeeras in English, not one in just Arabic!
What, after all, is the ultimate source of Israel's power and survival if not the brainwashing of America? Without America, Israel has nothing.
From Israel, America gets nothing. Nothing but trouble.
I'd apologise in advance for what my nation is about to do under the influence of Israeli mind- control, but I'm not sure an apology is even helpful. The failure of Arabs and pro-Arab Americans to intellectually resist Israel's colonialism is especially tragic since Israel has little or no intellectual and moral justification that can withstand genuine debate and scrutiny.
No honour in killing
Sir- Thank you for your most enlightening article on "honour killings" in Egypt and surrounding areas ("Like a match stick," Al-Ahram Weekly, 14- 20 February). As a South African Muslim, I am horrified and appalled that such things even exist in today's modern society. Furthermore, as Muslims, we have the Qur'an and the Sunna as our Perfect Guidance to lead our life and enhance the status of all members of society, especially the women and children. There is absolutely no honour in killing anyone on any suspicion of having an illicit relationship. Furthermore, there is no honour in a society which treats a women with disgust but treats the man with respect -- this is an abnormal society and these cultural taboos must be abolished through a programme of education, justice, respect and dignity for all life. We are Muslims. Hence we believe in the day of Accountability and the Day of Judgement when the Master of the Universe, our Creator Supreme, will judge our actions and our deeds. Who do these men think that they are fooling?
They may try and deceive the man-made laws and twisted logic of "Article 17," but Allah (SWT) will hold them accountable for all the murders that they commit in the false claim of "honour." The government has to change the laws to give equal status, rights and legal protection to women in our society. Men must change their attitudes: there are many men who disagree with these "honour" killings and they must be willing to stand up with the women and make their voices heard. Islam is the Universal Religion with the Perfect Guidance -- let us not bring shame and disrepute to this Glorious Religion by distorting the teachings through our own misguided interpretations and applications of the Shari'a. We should treat all our women with respect and any man that kills a woman because of so- called "honour" deserves a life sentence. The Prophet (SAW) taught us to treat our women with respect, dignity and honour. Let us not allow cultural prejudices and blind ignorance to affect our thinking and behaviour.
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