|Al-Ahram Weekly Online
9 - 15 May 2002
|Published in Cairo by AL-AHRAM established in 1875||Current issue | Previous issue | Site map|
Cartoon by Ossama Qassim
The shame of it
Sir- It is a shame that the Arabs, with all the resources they have, allow a terrorist like Sharon to define himself as a man of peace, and label the Arab victims and the Palestinian kids, women and men as terrorists.
Where is the outrage?
Knowing the facts
Sir- Much of the American public remains ignorant of the real situation in the Middle East. They receive a skewed view from the media, and the Arabs -- unlike the Israelis -- do not have an active lobbying effort in the USA. This is tragic, since no meaningful shift in American policy will happen until this changes.
The USA is vastly misunderstood in much of the Arab world, and when you add that to the American public's total noncomprehension of the Arab world, you have a catastrophe in the making. The American public feels armoured in virtue, while American policies are creating massive distrust and anger in much of the rest of the world as a result of its inconsistencies and errors.
Americans will do the right thing if given a chance -- but they have to know what that is. The Arab media has to inform the US public and make its case by relying on basic facts and history. If they do not do this, things will continue to disintegrate.
Unfortunately, Americans are distressingly ignorant of history and thus fall easy prey to versions of the past that are tailored to a specific end. The world's best hope for peace is to correct this problem.
Bruce R Neidlinger
'A good Arab'
Sir- America had an unwritten policy: "A good Indian is a dead Indian."
Now America (with its 51st state Israel) is implementing this policy again, this time as: "A good Arab is a dead Arab."
Sir- From my perspective Chairman Arafat's role in Israel's latest bloodletting has gone unstated. It is far too coincidental that the PLO chairman had been sequestered away from bodily harm as well as critics within Palestine for the duration of this incident.
The critical mind must ask the question: could Chairman Arafat have been in collusion with Bush and Sharon to surgically destroy the radical arm inside Palestine in order to come out in the end a much greater hero to the Palestinian people?
In fact, could it not be said that these enemies of Israel were also eroding the chairman's power and influence over the last five years and that their elimination could be perceived from both sides of the equation (Israeli and PLO) as a step toward political stability?
I believe we have witnessed yet another geopolitical shell game with more of the players in complicity than it appears on the surface.
Sir- Like Dr Salib ("Letters to the Editor", Al- Ahram Weekly, 2-8 May), I am ashamed to be an American. I am astonished at the level of public ignorance of the reality of the "Palestinian problem," and outraged at the wanton and selfish actions of our democratically-elected representatives, who this week insisted on publicly supporting Israel's barbaric behaviour.
I became afraid that democracy was dying when the US Supreme Court appointed the current president against the clear will of the people. Now I fear that democracy's last gasp may have been heard when those elected to represent this "great democracy" sold their souls for a vote. Perhaps I am a naïve idealist, but I was raised to believe in humanitarian values and "self-evident" truths concerning freedom and justice.
The blatant disregard for these values and truths has left me reeling -- how dare our elected representatives wrap their selfish greed and lack of decency in the cloak of official language? How dare they presume to speak for us? How dare they ignore the principles upon which this country was founded? How dare they turn their backs on the struggling Palestinian people? HOW DARE THEY?
While I struggle to find a literate voice for my immense sense of outrage and sadness, I pray that this sense of shame that unites so many Americans spreads. I simply cannot believe that Americans would support the ongoing horrors in Palestine if they knew the truth, which must continue to be told.
No, Dr Salib, you are not alone. I too wonder, will we ever be proud to be Americans again?
Who needs oil?
Sir- Concerning "Battlefield oil" (Al-Ahram Weekly, 2-8 May 2002) by Salah El-Amrousi: if this is the kind of advice your economists are giving, no wonder the Egyptian economy is in such deep trouble. Mr El-Amrousi gets his facts straight, but he leaves out some important ones. He should consider these facts:
1. Most of the oil exporting countries, including Saudi Arabia, but especially Iran, are running huge budget deficits. They desperately need the income from oil to keep their economies going. Without the income, Saudi Arabia will have to borrow more money from the US and Europe. In Iran, a boycott may actually cause many of its people to go without food.
2. Higher oil prices in 1973 severely damaged the American economy. But Americans, unlike Arabs, are far more wealthy today than in 1973, while the price of oil is less than it was then. The price of oil hasn't even kept up with US inflation. A boycott will be irritating to Americans, but not damaging to the economy.
3. The boycott in 1973 encouraged oil production around the world and caused the US to wean itself from Arab oil. The US gets roughly 10 per cent of its oil from Arabs. A boycott would be an economic boon for our trading partners such as Venezuela and Mexico. Russia has the potential to replace most of the oil lost to an Arab boycott and it would certainly boost the Russian economy.
4. The Arab image in the US is already bad. A boycott would only make it worse.
Personally, I would love to see an Arab oil boycott. The rise in gasoline prices would force Americans to switch to smaller cars, encourage more production of gasoline from natural gas, spur the purchase of electric cars, reduce pollution, and help the economies of the friendly nations that we import oil from.
So for a different reason, I hope Mr Salah El- Amrousi persuades Arabs to follow through with the threat.
Roger D McKinney
Time for McEgypt
Sir- I was reading your article on boycotting US and Israeli products, and when I read that a McDonald's franchise holder was losing money because of the boycott, I though, "You guys just don't realise the business opportunity you have here."
McDonald's? What does the McDonald's Corp provide other than a name? Why doesn't the owner stop paying McDonald's, buy his own beef, and start a new restaurant chain (McEgypt?). Why don't you guys buy cigarette rolling equipment and replace "Marlboro," or start your own bank to replace Citibank! Better yet, set up your own credit unions! Your entrepreneurs have a great opportunity to take advantage of Arab nationalism. Certainly these products can be improved to better suit Arab tastes and cultural attitudes. Copying the essential elements of these businesses makes things much easier. We call it "reverse engineering."
Growing up during the Vietnam era I've become used to opposing the US government's policy, especially under Republicans, and especially under a Bush. Republicans think that now that we are the sole "super-power," they can do anything.
Of course the Palestinians have the right to resist. I am of Scottish ancestry and identify with their resistance against the British, as would the Irish. As a melting pot of peoples, many of our ancestors fought oppressors
The alternative is being crushed like the American Indians. The key components of resistance is to continue to consider yourselves separate (Arab/ Muslim), and to resist effectively.
Developing your own products and industry is effective along both lines. Bush really doesn't care how many Arabs die, but he does care about the stock market and money.
Sir- I read with interest the letter to the editor entitled "Diplomatic outrage" sent by my friend Dr Abdel-Latif (Al-Ahram Weekly, 2-8 May 2002) regarding Egypt's ambassador to Canada, Dr Sallama Shaker. I would like to start by emphasising the fact that no one has the right to speak for any one group or the other unless he/she has that privilege through an elected office or formal appointment. Subsequently, I will assume that my good friend Dr Abdel-Latif represents himself only when he writes his letter to your attention.
Many people in Ottawa, while they may or may not differ with Her Excellency the ambassador on several issues, respect her, value her hard work and appreciate the conditions under which she is working.
I am not quite sure that the information published under the heading of "Diplomatic outrage" is reliable, accurate or even actual. It is important for a respectable newspaper such as Al-Ahram Weekly to check and confirm the accuracy of its information, especially such information as concerns people's honour, credibility and patriotism.
I am sure that her excellency the Ambassador is more than capable and able to explain and clarify any confusion or misunderstanding that may have been the result of complex political and diplomatic situations, both at home and in Canada. However, it is my duty as an Egyptian who loves Egypt to correct wrong impressions and false accusations. It is important to realise that most of Dr Abdel-Latif's accusations cannot be substantiated and were based on second hand witnesses.
Dr Abdel-Latif is definitely not a diplomat, yet he wondered about "lack of understanding of her official obligations as the accredited representative of the Egyptian government." I found this very alarming and disturbing. Who gave Dr Abdel-Latif the right and qualifications to question the ambassador's official obligations? Only the governments of Canada and Egypt can have that right.
In fact, the ambassador plays a very constructive role while facing very tough conditions, walking a fine line during hard times. On the one hand she has to face all the ugly and unfriendly consequences of 11 September. On the other hand, she must win the hearts and minds of the Canadians and the support of their government.
I strongly believe that it is time for Egyptians everywhere to support the policies of Egypt's' President Mr Mubarak. We must give our support and trust in order to achieve peace and justice in the Middle East. Peace will not be reached by shouting or by relying on wrong information to discredit Egypt's representatives. It is critical that we borrow a page from our foes: to Act as One!
Professor AO Abd El-Halim
... and more clarifications
Sir- The following is a summery of what has taken place last Wednesday during a meeting between the Egyptian ambassador in Canada and members of the community. (You can also visit our web site: http://eccao.monisys.ca/egyptambassadorfeedback.html).
You may have heard that some members of our community had expressed some concerns about the Egyptian ambassador's position and actions regarding the current crisis in Palestine.
Her Excellency Dr Sallama Shaker has agreed to hold a meeting with the ECCAO Board to explain her position and answer our concerns.
The meeting took place on 1 May and Her Excellency summarised her political role since she started her post here in Canada until the recent crisis in the Middle East. She briefed the Board on her brave struggle with her serious illness, as well as her disappointment with the attitude of the Ottawa Egyptian community toward our official representatives.
As for our concerns she replied as follow:
1) The ambassador had categorically denied that she instructed her secretary to tell a representative from CEPAL (who asked for an Egyptian crafts to be included in a CEPAL fund raising auction.) "Egypt does not take sides in the Middle East conflict." On the contrary, her excellency stated that the embassy had donated generously following that misunderstanding.
2) Her excellency had stated that she had not equated the suffering of Palestinian mothers with that of the Israeli mothers during a meeting of Canadian Palestinians Friendship Parliamentarian Committee. Nor had she spoken on behalf of the Palestinians. The statement was: "I speak on behalf of all the mothers in the world."
3) Her excellency also denied making the same statement in the meeting between the Arab ambassadors and the Canadian Alliances Party that took place in Ottawa 10 days ago.
4) Her excellency explained the flying of the Egyptian flag over our embassy at half-mast by the bad weather we experienced the last two weeks. Her Excellency stressed that there was no truth to the allegation that she ordered the flag to be flown at half-mast for three days, in mourning for the four Canadian soldiers who died in Kandahar.
5) Her excellency categorically denied that she attended a function at the Jewish Women Club in Ottawa on 22 April, as a speaker and a guest of honour. Her excellency declared that she has never shaken hands with any Israeli ambassador and never visited the Israeli Embassy. She confirmed her long- standing support to Palestinian rights.
Having addressed all of the ECCAO board's current concerns, the board agreed to close this subject and terminate all the communications in that regard, including immediate freezing of the Web site. The ECCAO Board has thanked Dr Sallama Shaker for her time and her patience in addressing our community's concerns.
Display of solidarity
Sir- I am a reader of your esteemed newspaper. I also correspond with a friend who is a Palestinian living in Jenin.
First, I want to express my deepest sorrow, anger and frustration at what goes on in Palestine. What has happened to the world? Are we slipping into a moral, irrational and political abyss? Many announcements have described the atrocious, bloody and sick crimes committed against the camp's residents. They are beyond human imagination.
How long do we have to wait for all this barbarism to stop? Will Sharon release the Palestinian president after all of Palestine is in ruins? Can we stop the tragedy before it happens? What has happened to the conscience of the world? What price has the president of the world's sole superpower received to remain indifferent and passive?
Second, I salute Mrs Suzanne Mubarak's move in heading the humanitarian aid caravan to the Palestinians -- supplies which were collected in only one week. Its success was also the fruit of a huge effort by the American University in Cairo and all the Egyptian people. This is one remarkable physical and visible attempt to stand by the conquered.
Palestine will remain the nation's pain.
Sir- I wonder why the Arab press does not strongly denounce the genocide committed against the Palestinian people?
Here in Latin America we are ensnared by the information that CNN or the local radio and TV stations (using CNN as their primary source) spread about the massacre of Jenin.
At least Al-Ahram Weekly could help to let the world know the extent of the damage inflicted on the Palestinians in Jenin.
Douglas A Palma
Sir- The solution to the Palestinian conflict is simple. Since any Jew can move to Palestine "Israel" and be a citizen, I advise the Arabs (Muslims and Christians) to convert to Judaism. This way, the Palestinian refugees will return, with Arafat as a Jewish leader.
Sir- I find your articles poisonous on every front. Please put your energies into doing something constructive for your people. You think you are being clever and radical by all this anti-Western tosh, but in your heart of hearts you are participating in the continued backwardness of nations of the Middle East. The most radical vision in the world is the American Revolution. Study it, please. Study the American constitution, please. Help bring these values to the Middle East.
You probably think you are "democratic" but it is not so. Arafat's term of office ran out in 1999. He leads a one-party state. This is not democracy. Think about it. Why have you all this sorrow now for the Palestinians living in the West Bank -- why didn't you try to help them by doing something positive and constructive like developing economic self-confidence in the past? Why are you only so enwrapped with them now that 14-year-old boys and 16-year-old girls are playing the role of suicide killers.
You can do better than this.
Sir- This is the second time I read your newspaper. May I congratulate you on its style and presentation, although I disagree with most of the sentiments expressed by the inaccurate descriptions of Israel and its people. I think a number of basic facts need to be stated.
First, a Palestinian state could have been established any time between May 1948 and June 1967. Why was this not done? At that time Judea and Samaria/the West Bank was in the hands of Jordan. Second, it was Mr Arafat who broke off negotiations with Mr Barak and then sent in the homicide/suicide bombers that precipitated the present crisis. If Mr Arafat was not pleased with Mr Barak's initial proposal, then surely he should have responded with his own counter proposal. This is the way civilised people negotiate. Third, as a result of Mr Arafat's policy, Mr Sharon was elected prime minister of Israel. Fourth, with regard to your correspondent who claimed that the economic boycott of South Africa brought down the South African government, this is a myth. The only people who suffered from the boycott was British industry. The only people who benefited were the Japanese who filled in the vacuum left by British and other exporters.
It is my personal opinion that peace and normalisation can be brought to the Middle East when the Arab Palestinians produce a leader of the same great mould as your late President Sadat or indeed your current president Mr Mubarak.
Of generous offers
Sir- In a Letter to the Editor, Genevieve Katz of California, USA (Al-Ahram Weekly, 2-8 May) questions the "generosity" of the offer made by the then-prime minister of Israel, Ehud Barak to President Arafat in Camp David. Barak proposed to return 91 per cent of the West Bank to the Palestinians which indeed sounds generous. The West Bank would be divided into three Palestinian controlled areas separated by Israeli troops and settlers. Those three areas would have no access to international borders.
A land swap was also offered; the Palestinians would get stretches of desert adjacent to the Gaza strip in return for the loss of prime agricultural land in the West Bank.
In East Jerusalem, Palestinians would get few scattered enclaves surrounded again by Israeli controlled areas.
In return for this "generous" offer, Palestinians would give up any claims for their stolen land, right of return, water rights, aviation rights, etc.
Only an idiot or a traitor, would have accepted such a very "generous" offer.
Fikry B Salib, MD
Sir- I was disturbed to learn that the two sphinxes of Ramses II recently found in the mediaeval walls of Cairo are to be removed from the walls and displayed separately. What is the point in that? We trip over sphinxes of Ramses II everywhere we go. What is unusual about these two at their current location, since they reflect one of the fascinating aspects of the history of this great city: the constant recycling of materials from earlier periods.
May I appeal on the pages of Al-Ahram Weekly to the new Secretary-General of the Supreme Council of Antiquities Dr Zahi Hawass. Please, leave these sphinxes exactly where they were found. They are part of the fabric and legend of Cairo. Displayed on their own, they will mean nothing.
Otto G Pupikofer
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