30 May - 5 June 2002
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Cartoon by Osama Qassim
Staring down inhumanity
Sir- I read with interest Nevine Khalil's 'A parallel divergence' (Al-Ahram Weekly, 23-29 May) regarding the differential interpretation by the West of the ongoing struggle between the Palestinians and the Israelis.
As a citizen who rejects the tribalism and 'the ends justifies the means' attitude prevalent in much of our world, I would like to comment briefly on the discussion between Ambassador John Sawers and Osama El-Baz regarding the proportionality of the violence and blame for this phase of the conflict.
I believe it is possible to define reasonably clearly the right of a people to defend themselves against violence and oppression. In the context of the present violence, the right to defence most assuredly does not include the wanton destruction of non-combatant men, women and children, whether they be Palestinian or Israeli.
I believe it is incumbent upon us to condemn the provocative and inhumane assault on Palestinian homes and families by the Israeli government, and at the same time insist that the degrading and inhumane use of suicide bombers against the Israeli populace gets us no closer to anything other than anarchy.
The fight for peace with justice must continue with any ally we can find -- Palestinian, Jew, American, Russian. The death of just one more child is enough to demand a stop to this terror.
There have been sufficient mis-steps, errors in judgment, and just plain bad faith to allow for each of us to accept a portion of the blame for the horror we see before us today. This statement does not excuse the more powerful of the antagonists, the Israelis. Our Israeli brothers and sisters will have to atone for the injustice they have perpetrated upon the Palestinian people. An injustice as grave as it is disheartening, given the history of the Jewish people. But the Palestinian people are not so weak that they were forced to respond in kind to Israeli inhumanity. Have the racist rants and brutality of the Israeli government so debased us that we can only respond in kind? I do not believe this is so. By only returning tit-for-tat, we allow our adversaries to set the music to which we dance.
I believe that every Israeli, every human being of good will must defend Palestinians against racist attack by their friends, colleagues, and countrymen, even while criticising the PA and Arafat. Every Palestinian too must support and defend our Israeli and Jewish brothers and sisters, even while criticising the intolerable racism and oppression to which Israel subjects the Palestinians.
We must be able to sit together, argue, shout, and disagree, not about each other's humanity, but about how we get to a distant place in which peace with dignity and justice may be had for both the Palestinians and Israelis. If we do this, perhaps there is some hope for our tired world. Perhaps we can then, once again, call the Middle East 'The Holy Land'. We must reinvent our own humanity by recognising humanity in the faces of those we fear.
Abraham Joseph Layon
Sir- I was amused to read Hozeifa Akbar's letter 'True colours'(Al-Ahram Weekly, 23-29 May). Based thousands of miles away from the homeland, the writer had obviously relied too much on propaganda emanating from unfriendly quarters obviously piqued by the astounding success of President Musharraf on so many fronts in such difficult times.
The clamouring of a section of disgruntled politicians notwithstanding, the presidential referendum was a big success. The people of Pakistan wholeheartedly endorsed his policies and programmes, and added to his armour and strength to fight against the forces of disruption and disunity.
President Musharraf has a vision of a progressive and prosperous Pakistan, for which he can now work with renewed vigour and popular support. The October elections would add yet another feather to his cap.
The people of Pakistan stand behind him, as reflected by the referendum, and that is why he is now dreaded so much by the enemies within and the enemies without.
Layers of incitement
Sir- I find Mr Frank Kuti's remarks ('Lynching the Weekly', Al-Ahram Weekly 16-22 May 2002) rather unfair. There exists a lot of suspicion between Arabs and Americans, but if Mr Kuti is genuinely so concerned about incitement, he is well advised to focus on the hate-mongers in certain leading American papers.
It would have been interesting to know what Mr Kuti would say about The Washington Times, Fox News Channel, and the likes of Charles Krauthammer (The Washington Post), William Safire (The New York Times), Norman Podhoretz (Commentary) and perhaps the most pathetic of them all, Jeff Jacoby (The Boston Globe).
Seeds of hate
Sir- Regarding Frank Kuti's letter (Al-Ahram Weekly, 16-22 May). In America the only freedom of speech is pro-Israel/Zionist and anti-Arab/ Muslim.
Day and night the media in America are planting seeds of hate against Arabs, Muslims, and the freedom fighters in Palestine.
Puppet on a string?
Sir- One has been trying to fit all the pieces of recent events together to get a comprehensible picture of what has been going on, but the biggest riddle in my mind comes from Osama Bin Laden, who is supposedly responsible for the 11 September attacks.
By analysing his well-publicised views, one is faced with some interesting facts. Thanks to his doings, the Palestinian people are suffering more than ever before. Muslims in general are facing hardships worldwide, more so than ever because of 11 September. Islam was the fastest growing religion with a lot of people converting everywhere, especially in the US. Now I suspect it isn't any more.
And after all that, we see him on television rejoicing over his victory, and this makes me wonder: Is he really that stupid? Or which side is he really on?
Sir- I would like to thank your writers for the campaign for Palestine, and the clarity they present to your readers, especially Graham Usher, Salama A Salama and Azmi Bishara.
I would like to request more attention on news concerning the boycott of American and Israeli products, and its effectiveness.
I'm not only asking for 'pro-boycott' articles, but also anti-boycott ones. That would help mobilise public opinion in the right direction and would be a channel of dialogue between opposing views.
Remember the Holocaust
Sir- The Israelis have forgotten the suffering of Jews at the hands of the Germans, or else how can they do the same thing to the Palestinians? The Israelis will bring hate upon themselves and the US and they will suffer lot more in coming years.
Sir- I have been spending a very large portion of my time on the Internet, reading opinions and visiting sites on all sides of the spectrum of the current Middle East impasse. Time and again I have been concerned by the criticism of all out Arab anti- Semitism, and utterly shamed by articles appearing in the Arab press doing just that, such as the widely-publicised one claiming Jews use the blood of Gentile children in preparing pastries. I have been doing my share of writing to US and European media, trying to present a rational view saying we are not anti-Semites (actually we are Semites ourselves), rather we question the destruction of civil infrastructure and object to the brutality of Operation Defensive Shield.
We do not know what we really want. On the one hand we discuss peace, and on the other we question the right of Israel to exist. How dare we then criticise Israeli extremists (and the Likud Central Committee) when they deny the right of Palestine to exist? Isn't it absurd that we engage in the same type of rhetoric as those we criticise?
Instead of this useless rhetoric, can't we move forward? There are many Israeli thinkers and peace activists who managed to overcome their own hurdles, and are looking into how to improve the future. They are campaigning for the end of the occupation in the West Bank and Gaza, and the establishment of a fully-fledged Palestinian state. Instead of making ridiculous accusations, can't we join arms? Can't we denounce the words and actions of specific persons, Effi Eitam for transfer, Ariel Sharon and Shaul Mofaz for Defensive Shield, yet embrace and encourage those who seek peace? And while we are it, let us take a hard look at ourselves. We are vacillating between two opposite paths and are consequently getting nowhere.
Forget Sharon and his painful, non-existent concessions for peace. Let us think of the reserve soldiers who are refusing to serve in the occupied territories. Let us think of Gush Shalom, Peace Now and B'Tselem. Let us admire their courage in presenting ideas that are against the current mainstream. Let us applaud their commitment and the price they are paying to defend these ideas. And let us choose wholeheartedly the road to peace. We will strengthen the position of the Israeli peace camp, and that will change or force their leaders to go for peace.
Oppressed peoples, unite!
Sir- In the United States there is a growing struggle inside the peace movement. This struggle revolves around the critical question of whether the peace movement will be about simply an end to war, or whether it will be committed to peace through justice and solidarity for the right of all peoples who are struggling for freedom against any form of colonialism.
The marches on 20 April in Washington DC and San Francisco mark one of the first occasions when the white left in the US has shown support for the Palestinian people struggling against Israeli colonial occupation. However, this struggle must run deeper to address the oppressed peoples inside the US, in addition to those around the world, especially the African community and the indigenous peoples.
St Petersburg, Florida
Sir- Edward Said is magnificent. Palestine should honour this great intellectual.
Zionism is not the enemy
Sir- In Edward Said's 'Crisis for American Jews', Zionism comes off as being a despicable philosophy. The truth is quite different.
What right-wing and religious fanatics in Israel and abroad have done to the concept of Zionism is masochistic and sadistic. True Zionism is not a racist idealism or way of life, or even an anti-Arab school of thought. True Zionism is nothing more than the desire for the Jewish people to have a homeland. The tragedies that have occurred because of this mutation of this simple idea have led the world to believe that Zionism is racist, which is incorrect.
True Zionists following the original platform do not believe in 'the God-given land of Israel', or any other such claims. With much grief, I must state that they are becoming the minority among so- called Zionists. The recent rally in Tel Aviv (which enjoyed an audience of more than 60,000 people according to the police, and 100,000 according to the peace coalition) was in fact a Zionist rally -- old- fashioned Zionism, which believes wholly in the way of coexistence and an independent Palestinian state.
Zionism is not the enemy, the enemy are the people who took this idea and deformed it into what Edward Said refers to. Hopefully, the true Zionist, in Israel and abroad, will win this war against the people who are destroying the concept.
Sir- Bravo to Al-Ahram Weekly. It is always like a cool, refreshing breeze. I wish to address Edward Said's article. As I've come to expect, Professor Said will land a critically important point, and in this case it is the historical identity of the Palestinian people.
"The Palestinians want their own country. There's just one thing about that: There are no Palestinians. It's a made-up word."
In my guts I thought Miller was a scoundrel for this sort of language, but I confess that I knew little about the history of the people of Palestine. I took it upon myself to study this question, and I was both delighted and amazed to realise they had such a rich, vital history. And indeed, the historical interchanges between Mediterranean cultures is always a call for great wonder.
Just for perspective, I have spent a great part of my adult life engaged in a struggle for land and the survival of a culture of my own Native American people. To a certain degree at least, I can understand the Palestinian struggle from that basis. Total cultural disenfranchisement is a horror. The consequences of a shattered identity are brutal.
Ironically, I can also see why so many Americans fully endorse the Israeli occupation project. In form, at least, it is a recapitulation of the 'American Experience'. Here in California, for example, 95 per cent of the indigenous population was exterminated in a short period of 35 years, and 'settlers' have now built shopping centers on the graves of the ancestors. The surviving population has the lowest income in the nation, and the highest rate of alcoholism and suicide. And, as you would expect, there are plenty of Dennis Millers around this part of the world, telling California natives that somehow they never existed.
I therefore think that Mr Said's point is critically important. The identity of the Palestinians must be spoken, re-spoken and re-re-spoken.
Erik A Mattila
Indignation at inaction
Sir- I am appalled that the Israeli barbarity being inflicted on Marwan Barghouti is not being reported in the West. I am even more appalled at the Muslim world for not responding with indignation at every offence, so the world at large can learn that we too respect ourselves, and our lives are as significant as those of the Jews.
Surely, as an editor of a significant newspaper, you can raise our community from the dead and stop them turning a blind eye in such a sinful way to the suffering of a brave people.
We need solidarity, a visible, united front which stands by the Palestinian people, or any in our nation who are subjugated.
Sir- It is very true that the Jews and the Arabs are brothers. Abraham is your father. My prayers are that, as brothers, the two can learn to love each other. God loves both of you very much and has remembered his promise to Abraham. The bible has a special promise for both the Egyptians and the Jews in the end times through which we are now living. Christ will return and heal your hearts so that there will truly be peace on earth.
Worse than apartheid
Sir- My thanks for providing a site for sanity in an insanely partisan Western World. Edward Said is one of the great minds of modern times -- his writing is as electrifying as the content is compelling. Today I read his article 'Thinking ahead' (Al-Ahram Weekly, 4-10 April), and wanted to add some brief observations and comments regarding the analogies to the apartheid regime in South Africa.
- The apartheid regime consisted of a semi- educated (for the most part) gang of thugs who had no idea how to promote their twisted cause and purchase support in the powerful Western nations.
- The black tribes of South Africa were never driven out of their established homes and deprived of their possessions. The original settlers established themselves in largely unpopulated and remote areas some 200-300 years ago. The apartheid system was established in more recent times and was immediately branded by Europe and the US (less vociferously since they were still embroiled in their own civil rights problems) as unacceptable. Sanctions were applied and eventually forced change.
- Black South Africans never had to feel that their struggle was also against the most powerful nation in the world, which is probably why they did not have to resort to such desperate actions as suicide attacks.
- Lastly, although South Africa is rich in natural resources, it cannot hold the world to ransom on any vital resource. Its value to the ultimate resource consumer, the USA, is of little consequence, thus not worth the watchdog, friendly-nation status that Israel enjoys as it views its oil-rich neighbours.
There are parallels, but the Palestinians' struggle is more complicated by far.
Dumbing down the populace
Sir- Has anyone considered the possibility that an 'inside job' was done through CIA infiltration of Al-Qa'eda or another group to perpetrate 11 September? The US needed an excuse to invade Afghanistan, rally public support behind it, and so colour their backing of Sharon at the same time. It is blatantly clear that, as time goes by, there is more to the World Trade Center attacks than meets the uninformed public eye in the US.
Further, I cannot understand why the Arab world is satisfied with just tut-tutting about what's going on and doing absolutely nothing to aid Palestine.
Truly, it would seem that the US has an iron grip on the world -- what a disaster! US culture has ways of dumbing-down the populace, and what an excellent job they have done via idiotic television programmes and disgusting films full of violence.
Sir- What's going on in this crazy world of ours? What is our insane world coming to? I think the problem every one of us has now is how to remain sane in an insane world. And I bet it is impossible.
These conflicts, wars, crimes and all sorts of inhuman acts which have become part of everyday life no longer raise our eyebrows. How on earth have we become used to these appalling scenes on our television screens?
Is it any use trying to make our world a better place to live in? Do we really have the guts to stop for a moment and look back at this bloody history of the human race? Can we really do something about the daily massacres, torture and human rights violations everywhere in the world?
Why do politicians no longer have the courage to change things? Why do we no longer have the wisdom to tell the difference between what is right and what is wrong? Why do we so easily give up on what we think is right? Why has the world become such an awful place? Has it become so barren it can no longer give us people like Ghandi and Martin Luther King?
We really need people like these to change this awful status quo.
Essam Hanna Wahba
Time to resign
Sir- Mr President,
Not only did you fail to prevent attacks against the US, but your subsequent killing of civilians in Afghanistan and your support of Israeli aggression has raised the anger against US policies to even greater heights.
If you care about the future of this country and its citizens, it is time for you to resign.
The cry of Gujrat
Sir- For three months, the right wing -- led by the Vishwa Hindu Parishad -- has been orchestrating a systematic campaign of torture, gang rape, killing, flaying and burning Muslims alive, destroying Muslim homes and businesses. Two thousand people have already been killed since the pogrom started, and Muslims living in ghetto refugee camps now number more than 110,000, of whom more than 2,000 women are reported to be pregnant.
This is the planned eradication of a minority community in the largest democracy of the world, instigated by the government. I can foresee a bigger problem in the near future if the massacres and atrocities are not stopped in Gujrat. If any trace of humanitarian values is left in this world, at least we can protest and show the true picture. We are fighting terrorism at places all over the world, but by not stopping these atrocities against children and women, we are sowing the seeds of a worse terrorism.
The cry from Gujrat calls for an explanation from the government of India for its inaction against this horrendous crime against humanity; it condemns the genocide of helpless Indian Muslims and says all perpetrators of these crimes should be brought to justice. It declares the World Hindu Council (Vishwa Hindu Parishad) and Bajrang Dal, the main groups responsible for the planned massacres of Muslims, to be terrorist organisations and calls on a freeze of their assets. It wants complete rehabilitation and compensation from the Indian government for the victims and the internally displaced minority living in camps run by UNHCR.
Letter from the Editor
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