13 - 19 June 2002
|Published in Cairo by AL-AHRAM established in 1875||Recommend this page|
Cartoon by Osama Qassim
Dignity for the victims
Sir- On 1 June, I submitted several in memoriams and obituary notices that I wanted placed in the San Francisco Chronicle of innocent Palestinian civilians killed by Israeli forces. The Chronicle told me that they would not be able to place these ads because they did not want to offend their readers. The Chronicle immediately implemented a new policy stating that in memoriams would only commemorate the anniversaries of deaths.
I then submitted an in memoriam for the anniversary of the death of Iman Hijo, a 4-month- old Palestinian girl killed last year. Joe Brown from the Chronicle just contacted me and told me that the Chronicle has decided not to place any in memoriams at all for any Palestinians killed.
The Chronicle provides this service to anyone who wants to take out in memoriams for any death. That they want to exclude dead Palestinians is discriminatory and should not be tolerated. The Chronicle has stated that they do not want to make these in memoriams political and that perhaps taking an ad out in a different part of the paper is something I should consider.
I believe that an in memoriam for a Palestinian belongs with the rest of the in memoriams -- in the obituary section and not in any other part of the Chronicle. I would in fact be politicising these deaths by placing them in other parts of the paper, rather than confining them to where they belong.
I would like to publicise this and need the help of all people interested in justice for the Palestinians. I would like everyone who reads this to contact the Chronicle and express their disdain for these discriminatory practices. Write to Joe Brown at email@example.com or call (415) 777-7153
Sir- I can see that President Bush refuses to back a Palestinian state until he is ready. To me that is an insult. How on earth can he presume to be God? In arrogance, Bush certainly takes the cake.
Why bother with the USA? We might think we rule the world but believe me we do not. Arafat doesn't have to stay in Palestine to run the Palestinian Authority, so let him move. There are plenty of countries that don't care much for Israel, or the US for that matter. Some of my friends from Britain and other European countries are sick of Bush's arrogance, and from what I gather, he has no chance of cooperation from many European countries and I believe Mr Blair would lose his job post haste if he did back us.
I always believed that my country stood for fair play -- but no longer. If Israelis continue committing genocide against their Arab neighbours and we carry on backing them, how can we say we stand for fair play?
In plain daylight
Sir- I bring this item to your attention because it continues to disturb me, after all the horror and bloodshed have gone from the television screen, and more pleasant evening fare has provided some refreshment in my safe and uncomplicated life, far from the Middle East.
The Website www.moquawama.org reported the theft of fertile soil from Lebanon by Israelis. Such comparatively petty theft -- as reported -- is a lens which magnifies and makes plain for all to see the profound carelessness of some who call themselves Israelis, but are of the same contemptible criminal trash which may unfortunately be found in any country.
Image is everything
Sir- Would it not be better if the Palestinians took the South African option and demand citizenship rights like Israelis? After all, they have lost the battle to the Jewish colonists who have the backing of the West. To grab the attention of the ordinary people in the West, the Palestinians must portray their struggle as that of a displaced, unarmed, defenceless, rightless and marginalised people who are fighting for -- and this is very important -- democratic rights.
I live in the West and just before the 11 September attacks, people who were aware of the situation in Palestine were organising roving seminars to inform others of the situation. These were ordinary people, so the Palestinians must appeal to the ordinary man on the street to see the justice of their cause. They cannot gain by portraying themselves, (and Israel always plays the card that Muslims are the enemies of the West) as enemies of the West.
M N Z Adams
Rocking the oil boat
Sir- We, the American public, are all ears these days but only for that which we want to hear. The media, driven by the instincts of a mother to whom a tormented child has turned to in a time of crisis, are readily providing the reassuring word, the warm embrace and vindication, no questions asked. After all, there are times for unconditional love and others for critical judgement. Before 11 September, we vaguely seem to remember, professional reporting was a function of a journalist's ability to explore the "root causes" of the event at hand.
Such diligence, the media decided, is not warranted in the treatment of the 11 September events; especially now that the commander in chief himself brought to bear his incisive analytical skills to capture the quintessence of the disease underlying the tragedy and hand it to us in an elegant three word sentence utterly brimming with enduring insight: "They hate us". Bingo.
Obviously Dubya overestimated our intelligence. For despite its organic clarity, many of us couldn't figure out, right away, who "they" refers to, why they "hate" us or what is it about "us" that they hate. Thanks to the media's efforts however, aptly spearheaded by the irrepressibly objective FoxNetwork, the code is now broken: "The Arabs and Muslims have a strong irrational aversion to America, the West in general and the values of freedom and democracy they embody." Hallelujah.
Let's look a little closer. Opinion, when it comes to the Arab and Muslim world is a misnomer. There are no reliable, scientific and above all independent polling practices in Arab and Muslim countries that can accurately nail it down for us. But assuming it exists, such an opinion has been made to be so worthless for so long that seeking it under the current circumstances with the false pretence that it matters, is a patently laughable and pathetically unconvincing endeavour. For over a century, but more so since the discovery of oil in the Arabian peninsula 80 years ago, we have seen to it that the entire populations of that part of the world remain muzzled and in total subjugation to corrupt, autocratic and repressive regimes.
Our obsessive outspokenness about the need to change the political landscape in countries of insignificant economic importance to us such as Cuba and North Korea, contrasts maddeningly with our active determination not to rock the boat when it comes to the oil-rich Arab countries regardless of the appalling consequences of the status quo on their average citizen. The generations-old burning desire of the Arab populations to recapture their lost dignity through political self-determination and control of their natural resources has been met on our part, every time it manifested itself, with a cold calculated decision to demonise it, ridicule it and remote-contain it through our local proxies.
The anger in the Arab and Muslim world is not as irrational as our tired clichés and defensive stereotypes have made it to be. It is grounded in legitimate grievances that cannot be ignored any longer. We cannot continue to walk with our hands in our pockets while our helicopters, machine-guns and batons are used by a handful of our pawns to hijack the dreams of millions of people. That we should continue to stand between those populations and the destiny they wish to shape for themselves on grounds of our interest in their oil, is a strategy that rests on disastrously shortsighted risk-benefit computations the revising of which is more imperious today than ever before. Our wilful sanctioning of illegitimate and dictatorial governments can no longer square with our grandiloquent rhetoric about the values of freedom and democracy for which thousands in the Arab world strive daily -- often at a personal cost that many of us could not begin to fathom.
We can beat around the bush all we want, we can pretend the problem is elsewhere, we can use the carrot and the stick and the threats and the aid and the F-16s and every other trick up our sleeve, but until we come to our senses and make a solemn proclamation in which we withdraw unequivocally our support from behind all illegitimate governments, both now and in the future, the extreme behaviour that we fear, resulting from years of cumulative frustrations will persist and thrive.
We also have to recognise that other peoples have the right to entertain societal projects that do not conform to our understanding of the global village, and may not be inclined to share our excitement about belonging to a community of archetypal transnational consumers of McDonald's and rap music.
Sir- Concerning 'Matters of principle' by Gamil Mattar (Al-Ahram Weekly, 30 May-5 June), Mr Mattar claims that the whole world hates the US. Let's do some simple math. How many people from Arab countries apply for visas to live in the US each year? How many Americans apply for visas to live in Arab countries? Compare the two numbers and you'll find that more people want to live in the US than those who want to live in Arab or Muslim countries.
When the US announced restrictions on visas for Iranians and Syrians, the outcry was deafening. Iranians, especially, acted as though they have a God-given right to an American visa.
The US absorbs hundreds of thousands of Muslims every year, and millions from other countries who hate us so desperately. In addition, we take in millions of illegal immigrants.
I'm glad the world hates us, because if they loved us, immigration to the US would be overwhelming.
Roger D McKinney
The history of nations
Sir- I do not think it is precise to characterise today's USA as "the superpower". A superpower should not be threatened on its own soil by alien missile offensives, nor have its economy shaken by a terrorist attack as that which took place on 11 September.
The USA was the real and only superpower in the wake of the World War II. It was the sole possessor of the atomic bomb and having been the indisputable main world liberator, it could have become the world ruler, if it so wished. And yet, it not only did not do that, but on the contrary it profusely shared in the reconstruction of the post-war world and vastly helped in the world's de-colonisation and independence movements.
The road downhill started with the demise of the leaders of that era.
We wonder today why the Americans only call Yasser Arafat a terrorist but not George Washington as well, although both men want the same goal: liberation of their own country.
Treating the malaise
Sir- The issue of terrorism is probably best dealt with by a UN-led international law enforcement unit with UN peacekeeping troops and local Arab forces, as a back-up. Sending an unwelcome foreign military force into any country encourages resistance amongst people who are not terrorists. The inevitable result is unnecessary death, destruction and suffering amongst the people. The innocent must be protected at all costs.
The enormous amount of damage caused throughout the region over a long period of time by outside forces is going to take a lot of time and money to repair, therefore cooperation between the West and the Arab world is essential. Due to the possibility that there will be resistance to the provision of necessary funds by the Americans and the Israelis, I feel that the approach which will have most success involves increasing the price of oil by a certain percentage and put this extra money into a fund for distribution to any place in the region where it is needed.
As most people in the West do not approve of what is happening to the Palestinian people or what may happen in the future elsewhere, it is obvious that we all need to work together to tackle the problem. The threat of an oil embargo could be the most effective means to focus minds. After all, that is preferable to war or terrorism.
Clara, Co. Offaly
Sir- After reading your on-line editorial from (Al-Ahram Weekly, 22-28 November), I have come to the conclusion that your publication is full of lies and half-truths. You say that the "right wing members of the administration profit from the sale and manufacture of arms"; would you please cite some examples of members of the current administration who profit from the sale and manufacture of arms?
You also say that alleged terrorists have been abused and tortured and that authorities are contemplating sending them to France for more torture; again, can you site one example of inmates being tortured (possibly tortured along the same lines that Daniel Pearl was tortured) or site an example of an American authority actually saying that alleged terrorists should be sent to France for any reason. I think you would be hard pressed to find these examples.
I must admit that as an American, I cannot claim to be totally unbiased (but who in the world can claim to be totally unbiased), but I like to think that I have an open mind, and that even when I disagree with what someone says or believes, I can still learn something. I know that you must feel threatened by recent American military actions, and this no doubt affects the things you write and say, but I find it in very poor taste to make unsubstantiated, false claims.
Sir- Just wanted to let you know how important your newspaper is in keeping me truly informed on what is occurring in your region.
Your coverage is thought out and truly informative. Many thanks for your valuable service.
Paul H Davallou
Sir- I read with great interest your publication's coverage of the new FBI guidelines. My suspicion is that, among those most anxious to blunt new government investigative powers, will be the drug cartel.
The US has been losing the cold war against drugs within its borders for decades, in part because of the restraints placed upon FBI, DEA, and state agencies regarding spying, wiretapping, and interrogation methods. With billions of dollars on the line, I expect the drug lords to pull out the stops on these new police guidelines.
At the hands of my own
Sir- Regarding Mr Frank Kuti's letter 'Lynching the Weekly' in Readers' corner (Al-Ahram Weekly, 16-22 May). Mr Kuti: As a fellow American and New Mexican living in Cairo, I feel the need to respond to your ridiculous remarks. You just don't get it. May I recommend that you seriously consider hopping on a flight over here and see for yourself exactly what the US-based media giants are not telling the American people. To say that you would be shocked is an understatement.
You speak of Arabs inciting hate towards Americans, yet your letter reeks of hate towards the Arab people. Your knowledge of what is going on in the Middle East is fed -- no doubt -- by the American media such as the nightly national and local news broadcasts, not to mention the daily periodicals. American news coverage has adopted in recent years, a "family friendly" way of showing what is going on around the world. In other words Mr Kuti, it's sugar- coated.
Ariel Sharon "a man of peace?" Well, within the last couple of months I have witnessed (on local news and satellite channels), bounded men who have their arms raised above their heads and slammed with a baton until their arms snap like twigs. I have seen two Israeli soldiers posing with guns raised and huge smiles over the body of a dead elderly Palestinian man, while a third "buddy" crouches to get a perfect shot with his camera. All of this, mind you, while his wife is being held back by the fourth soldier off to the side. I have seen 12-month-old babies with their bodies ripped open and tanks running over bodies of dead Palestinians, as if they were nothing more than annoying obstacles in the road. This is not inciting hate, this is showing and speaking the truth Mr Kuti. This is what is really going on over here.
Palestinians are terrorists? Please tell me how when these people have been stripped of every last thread of human dignity and self-respect they have ever known. There are no guns, no tanks, no food, no water. What do they have left to fight with except their own bodies? Are they just supposed to lie down peacefully and surrender while their lives and futures are shattered at the hands of the "peaceful" Israelis?
Coming from New Mexico Mr Kuti, you are no doubt familiar with the many American Indian reservations scattered throughout our beautiful state. Are you not also familiar with the tortures that these people had to undergo when their lands were threatened to be snatched away by undeserving, greedy strangers? They fought like animals to keep their lands, and in the process were able to inflict brutalities and tortures of their own if only for a short while. How is it that this is acceptable to you? How is it that this has all been forgotten? Look into your past Mr Kuti, if your ancestors are a part of the New Mexican history, it is no doubt you have descendants who were in one way or another a part of this horrible American injustice.
In the end, the Indians were "allowed" to reside on their own tiny bits of land and "allowed" to govern themselves. And yes, the American government has taken a few positive steps in trying to mend the not-so-distant past of Native American Indians, but I can guarantee that there are still a few of these great people who are still with us and who still have to swallow the bitter pill of the sacrifices their people made in order to gain back a few shreds of the dignity they once held.
Do you honestly think the Palestinian people will ever be allowed even these meager attempts of a peaceful way of life?
In the end, I would just like to suggest that you open your mind a little Mr Kuti. Go out and search for the truth, don't rely only on one source of information, you are guaranteed to be caught in the hate-filled web of lies and deceit being circulated throughout our great nation. It is always easy to spot those educated few who have taken the steps to enlighten themselves and search out those sources of information that show both sides of the story.
Al-Ahram Weekly is one of many I have access to in the wonderful city of Cairo. To me, it speaks the truth, which you have interpreted as attempts at planting hate. As for your remarks on "hanging the Weekly staff...", yet another fine example of maturity at work. Congratulate yourself Mr Kuti on planting yet another seed of hate. I love America and I love the American people, but my heart will continue to ache for those suffering at the hands of my own.
K O Elabbassy
Sir- I found your report on the discovery of the ancient birthing chair very interesting. Birthing chairs were still in use in some areas of Egypt as recently as 1948, and possibly even later.
I remember overhearing a neighbour giving birth, and my mother telling me that due to the difficult delivery, the midwives were gently bouncing the poor woman on the chair to hurry along the process.
Moreen Le Fleming Ehly
Letter from the Editor
|WEEKLY ONLINE: www.ahram.org.eg/weekly
Updated every Saturday at 11.00 GMT, 2pm local time