|Al-Ahram Weekly Online
18 - 24 April 2002
|Published in Cairo by AL-AHRAM established in 1875||Current issue | Previous issue | Site map|
Drawing by Ossama Qassim
A step backSir- I hope you will permit me to use the pages of your excellent newspaper to publish an open letter to the people of Israel. It's a bit of a rant, I'm afraid, but heartfelt nonetheless. I have the honour to remain, sir, your obedient servant
Take a step back from today's unpleasantness. For a moment view your situation from the perspective of one who hasn't had to suffer suicidal attacks on your children, the continued threat of violence. For a moment pretend you are a disinterested observer.
What do you see?
What the unbiased world sees is this: a country -- a people -- brutally oppressed by another, much stronger. We watch poorly equipped youngsters armed with Kalashnikovs (or even just stones) defend their homes against a highly-trained army with the latest American weaponry.
We watch as your settlers expand your territory into land which even the United Nations recognises as not yours. We hear of your theft of water supplies, the bulldozing of ancient olive-groves to make way for access roads. We also observe the daily humiliation of the land's inhabitants. If they're lucky enough to have a job, half the time they can't travel to it.
Ah, you say, but it's actually OUR land. Our God promised it to us.
Even if that were the case, and even if you can actually trace your descent from the Biblical tribes of Israel (as opposed to the Yiddish people of Eastern Europe) does it justify the murder of Mohammed Al-Durra, for example, the boy who died in his father's arms at the beginning of the Intifada?
Civilised people just don't understand how your God-given racial right leads you to take people's homes and then kill them.
Like the holocaust you say? Yes, precisely like the holocaust. You (or your grandparents) suffered one of the biggest tragedies the world has ever seen. You need -- deserve -- your own state. But having experienced such pain it defies belief that you can then inflict it on another people.
People who were abused as children often end up abusing their own children. Is there a parallel? It seems symbolic that you built your holocaust memorial -- Yad Vashem -- on land taken without compensation from the Palestinians.
Continue looking objectively. The Arabs have offered you peace. They dispute your claim to their land -- which you left, voluntarily, with Joseph 3,000 years ago -- but are prepared to accept your sovereignty over part of it.
Why can't you grant the Palestinians a viable state, with East Jerusalem as its capital?
Please understand that many people simply don't get it. You are increasingly perceived in the West not as worthy underdogs (as we thought in '67) but as tyrannical overlords who shoot children and destroy homes.
Take the step back, both mentally and physically. Your present actions guarantee that the cycle of violence is perpetuated. Your attempts to destroy a people's dignity have done immeasurable damage to you own.
These are the sincere opinions of
Sir Simon Boas
Context is allSir- Several weeks ago, when Israeli soldiers tied, numbered and photographed Palestinians, I was reminded of how Jews were treated during World War II. Israelis were reminded as well, as many holocaust survivors expressed their disgust at the Israeli army's actions. Actions like these need not be the only reminder to Israelis that history is repeating itself, this time with the Jews on the wrong side.
To the Palestinians, I propose that you start wearing white armbands on which are sewn Palestinian flags on your upper right arms. This will vividly illustrate to Israelis the nature of their behaviour towards you and put it into the proper historical context for them.
Jews for PalestineSir- Thank you for publishing my letter -- my sense of outrage and anger at what the Israelis are doing to the Palestinians cannot be expressed adequately. Suffice to say that I, a Jew, would fight for Palestine. Go figure, eh? I guess that just makes me one more traitor... or am I?
When I sit down and take my time (cool down), I am an effective writer. Tell how I can use this keyboard to help fight for Palestine and the Palestinians. I know it would easy for you to ignore this e-mail -- you must get literally hundreds a day. But please -- answer this one and tell me how I can use my pen as a sword for Palestine. Point me in the right direction.
St John's, Newfoundland
Help the pacifistsSir- I ask all Middle Eastern media and all Muslim/Arab governments to officially and loudly condemn the terrorist attacks of extremist Palestinians on Israeli civilians. I do not agree with the current Israeli action nor do I think that the last 50 years treated Palestinians fairly in any way.
Still, please always keep in mind that there is a strong peace movement in Israel and of Jews outside Israel, which wants a Palestinian state with East Jerusalem as its capital and wants to give back the Palestinians their territories. So every time a Palestinian kills Israeli civilians on a suicide attack, s/he could be killing a pacifist/ pro-Palestinian Israeli or at least making "work" much harder for the pacifists in Israel. I know in percentage they are a minority in Israel, but as a number they are many and show courage.
I would ask the media in Arab countries to comment to their populations abut these pacifists, as well as acknowledge the Israeli soldiers that are in prison because they refuse to attack Palestinians.
Original errorSir- For Palestinians, the contours have changed little in 83 years. Lord Balfour, then British foreign secretary, made plain that Palestinians were irrelevant: "In Palestine, we do not propose to even go through the form of consulting the wishes of the present inhabitants of the country." Fast forward to today: has Bush met with Arafat yet? Did Cheney meet Arafat during his recent Middle East tour? The pattern continues.
The British Mandate fostered the creation of Israel and the current occupation, tyranny, massacres, mayhem, village destructions, ethnic cleansing, apartheid. Eighty-three years of the West prancing around that fateful error -- the creation of the Jewish state -- is, in effect, the continuing masquerade of denying that monstrous error. Where has ignoring and denying the consequences brought us? To a point where we can no longer ignore the consequences of having ignored the consequences of irresponsible world "statesmanship."
The US-sanctioned King-Crane Commission Report, contemporaneous with Balfour, warned against "the extreme Zionist programme for Palestine of unlimited immigration of Jews, looking finally to making Palestine a Jewish State." Should the signal goal of US policy in the region consist of propping up an Israeli regime that never should have been there in the first place?
No amount of equivocation by the West or Israel will assuage the rage of Palestinians and the Arab masses. Justice or genocide for the Palestinians is the choice the West and Israel must grapple with. However, an honest reexamination of the failed policies of the West with respect to Palestine is nowhere on the horizon. The utter inability for needed reflection that would result in long overdue policy corrections indicates the epoch of Western hegemony now wanes.
A camel, not a bulldogSir- "Sidelining Arafat" (Al-Ahram Weekly, 11- 17 April) is another excellent article by Mohamed Sid-Ahmed. Just a few comments: 1. Don't search for consistency in comments from President Bush. The purpose of political speech is obfuscation, not clarity. Americans are as frustrated with political talk as Arabs are. George Orwell warned us that "political language is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind." Bush is proving himself to be a typical politician. 2. Where is the Arab cohesion that Mr Sid-Ahmed writes about? I didn't see it at the Beirut summit, which half the Arab leaders refused to attend. 3. This isn't related to Mr Sid-Ahmed's article, but to Arab frustration with the US in general: A main complaint by Arabs is US meddling in the area. So why do you complain when the US doesn't meddle in the Israeli/Palestinian conflict? The reason is that, like everyone else in the world, Arabs want the US to be their bulldog on a leash. They want the US to attack only when they say attack and heel when they say heel. They want the US to attack this group and not that one.
Arabs should realise that the US is more like a camel, and when you let a camel's nose into the tent, you're inviting the camel in to dinner! A large number of Americans have been opposed to US involvement in the Middle East. We didn't want to rescue Kuwait or Saudi Arabia from Iraq, but neither do we want to intervene between Israel and Palestinians. Arabs need to realise that if they invite the US to enter the tent and do something about Palestine, they will have to endure all the other things the camel wants to do in the tent, such as sit on Iraq.
Money and powerSir- Despite the pro-Israel bias of the US press, many Americans are aware of and disgusted by the dynamics that form policy in this country. It is not morality or a instinctive sense of fairness that determines what course of action the US pursues.
The only factors that count are money and power. In this sense the Palestinians are doomed to failure. It is money from organisations and individuals within the US whose loyalty is wedded to Israel. It is this same faction that can deliver sufficient votes to swing just about any congressional or professional election in the US.
Sharon has said that Israel owns the US. Events this week have clearly demonstrated Sharon's total disregard for President Bush's demand for immediate withdrawal.
Although I am old, and no longer work, my heart is with the Palestinian people when it comes to the return of the occupied territories. The people of the Middle East have the a greater capability to mould and influence US policy. The Middle East has oil, which Israel hasn't, and oil is the most powerful tool for making or changing policy. If all of the Middle East's oil- producing nations implemented a 90-day boycott on shipping all oil, I believe a solution would be found for the ongoing tragedy. I know that such a boycott would make life difficult for me but we, the masses of "little people," must look out for each other no matter where on this earth we reside.
Fresh understandingSir- As an American, with the most obsequious lap-dog media in the world to contend with, I just wanted to let you know what a breath of fresh air the coverage of Palestine in Al-Ahram Weekly online is. There are very few English- language sources of information from the Middle East -- or other parts of the "Third World" in general -- available anywhere, so as an unfortunately monolingual person I really appreciate every such source I can get.
I started reading the Weekly because of Edward Said's columns, but so many of your other articles are remarkably useful. I especially appreciated your recent interview with Ronnie Kasrils (Al-Ahram Weekly, 28 March - 3 April), who has always been one of my heroes.
Victory to the Intifada,
Diary of conscienceSir- Amr Shalakany's piece (Al-Ahram Weekly, 4-10 April) is a masterpiece. It is absolute grand work, shedding light on the horror of today's truth by an admirable and very honourable fighter of conscience.
Bravo Amr. May God bless you and give you strength to lead this fight.
Spread revolutionSir- Re Edward Said's article "What price Oslo?" (Al-Ahram Weekly, 14-20 March):
In the mountains of Colombia, South America, I have just read this stirring and passionate article and I send my applause and that of our Anglo-Irish community, one of whose members, a woman, has just left for Palestine to join a group of direct action foreigners to "accompany" the Palestinians in this present horror.
I know nothing of Al-Ahram, nor why it should be written in English, but I do hope your article gets published all over the world.
I would add one comment: it seems to me really obvious why the rich rulers of the Arab countries don't support the Palestinians by word or deed: they do not want the example of a revolutionised people "infecting" their own downtrodden population. Thus they must in some uncomfortable trick of contortion actually identify more with the Israeli rulers than the Palestinians in spite of all religious concerns!
Thus it seems from this perspective -- what do you think?
I am an atheist, but I "pray" that the passion of Mr Said's words and the clarity of the facts that he presents may reach a very wide audience of caring thinking people.
Atlantis Ecological Community
No spin pleaseSir- I am just one of 280 million Americans but I am one who reads widely and watches more than CNN. My fervent hope is that there are many millions who like me look for their news in more than just one place. I lived in Saudi Arabia for five years and have a deep love for the region and learned that you cannot always trust reports on face value.
I just wanted you to know there are people out here who are not buying into the Israeli spin or the American political response. I actively respond, as I'm doing here, to the positive and the negative of issues. I am one who does know that what are reported as terrorist bombings are in truth the desperate and frustrated acts of individuals who see no other way than to sacrifice their lives to try and reach a world that seems so far not to be listening to their plight.
My own frustration is in not reaching enough of the right people to have my government realise that they are foolishly backing the wrong horse and may lose more than the race. Ultimately we have more friends in the Arab world than in Israel and we are endangering this friendship while Israel spits in our face by sending agents to spy on us and uses our own money to subvert our Congress and our media.
Thank you and please take heart that what you say does reach some American eyes.
Fernandina Beach, Florida
Boycott the evil axisSir- Please can I give you an idea for a front page for all Arab newspapers? I am an Australian living in Cairo, and words cannot express my total outrage at the massacre happening in Palestine. You are doing a great job but I have a few ideas for you.
Headline 1: Boycott all US and Israeli products now and help save Palestinian lives.
Then list the main products, for example all American-brand cigarettes. It is not enough to express outrage and sorrow -- please try this because it could make a difference! Please. I cannot cope with what I am seeing and feeling -- I am so ashamed of belonging to the Western race. The only thing that gave me hope was hearing from my Palestinian friend in Sydney about the pro- Palestinian march, 50,000 strong. He told me the banner that they carried had this written on it and so I am suggesting this as a headline as well:
Headline 2: True axis of evil: Sharon, Bush and Cheney.
If they are carrying that banner in Sydney and it is making Australians think, please be brave and try it here.
We have to do something very serious now. The Zionist media in the West are using all means to further their brainwashing of Western minds. We here must hit hard and headlines really hit hard. I feel so strongly that occupation is terrorism -- how dare they use all their arsenal against sticks and stones?
I have cancelled my trip twice to Australia to see my sick father because I have felt so outraged by the West. My Dad is pro-Palestinian -- he was in Palestine during the Second World War and over 50 years later, and he still remembers the kindness of the Palestinian people.
Can you imagine the effect if there was a united Arab boycott of American products?
Would you consider these headlines please?
Myth-bustingSir- I am writing in response to the article, "Fussing over a red herring" (Al-Ahram Weekly, 22-28 February 2001). I just saw it on-line. It was the most helpful article I have ever read in explaining the reason the Palestinians rejected the "offer" two years ago.
I am American (non-Arab), and support the Palestinians. I have frequent conversations with American friends, who sympathise with Israel and "blame" the Palestinians for not accepting the offers made, especially the most recent one, as, in the eyes of Americans, it was a very generous offer. This article gave clarity to the reality of the situation with specifics on the "offer."
Unfortunately, I couldn't figure out how to e- mail the article. I printed it out, but I would like to e-mail it to friends. I also believe that this information needs to be made more widely available to the American public (and even those in the Congress). Could it not be reprinted in the New York Times, Time or Newsweek magazine, or some other widely read journal? It clarifies a lot of things. I would appreciate it if you could forward the article in a format I can e-mail. Thank you.
Translating siegeSir- I have read with greatest pleasure your report on the International Writers' visit to Ramallah and the excerpts from Mahmoud Darwish's last poem, beautifully translated (Al-Ahram Weekly, Books, 11-17 April). I would like to ask you whether you can help me in locating the Arabic text of the poem "State of siege." Was it published in any Arab newspaper, or is it part of an edited collection of poems?
Thank you very much for your help, and congratulations on your excellent work.
Yo, ya shababSir- I first want to say that I read Al-Ahram Weekly as often as I possibly can here in the States. It is a well-respected newspaper and I feel that it truly brings justice into journalism during these troubling times. I don't know if sending this e-mail to you accomplishes any good but the following is a form of our press release.
In short, my partner, a Palestinian refugee studying here in the States, and I, an Egyptian living in the States, have decided to speak to youth through music and so we have combined a popular form of music here (rap) and our tradition and love of Arabic music. Our message generally focuses on the issues of the Palestinian struggle. As well, we have fun songs included on our album.
We are doing well here but we want to expand into the Middle East and we feel that by using music as a medium we can educate people in the US as well as giving Arab youth a type of music they have never heard. Keep up your excellent journalism. Salaam.
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