20 - 26 June 2002
Issue No. 591
|Published in Cairo by AL-AHRAM established in 1875||Recommend this page|
Sir- The so-called US sponsored "peace process" in the Middle East is over 30 years old. From the Rogers plan of 1970 to Bush's "vision" of a Palestinian state, the area has had its share of American involvement. The consequence of such an involvement has been the consistent undermining of any possibility of a viable peace in the Middle East. US/ Israeli peace is synonymous with massacres, famine, destruction, degradation, humiliation, genocide... Have I missed something? Anyway, it should be obvious by now even to a blind, deaf, and dumb person that the US can never play a constructive part towards peace anywhere in the world, let alone in the Middle East.
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Furthermore, the silly refrain of some columnists who seem to have adopted the Sharon/Bush view that Palestinian "terrorism" or "violence" is at the root of the stalled peace process, and that there is much to be gained if the Palestinians submit like "good" Arabs to the demands of their occupiers, stinks to high heaven. If this is all they have to offer the Palestinians, they had better keep quiet.
All those who supported Madrid and Oslo and tried to sell it to the Palestinians and the Arabs as a major triumph should go dig a hole and jump in it. They bear a large measure of responsibility for the events of the last 18 months. They have been selling us damaged goods, and made it possible for the Israelis to address the Palestinian issue from the same perspective that the United States addressed the issue of America's native population in the 19th century. They have stabbed the first Intifada in the back and now they are trying to bury the second Intifada.
All you wonderful theoreticians and experts in world affairs, all you brilliant Occidendalists should stop giving the Palestinians lessons in political morality. Instead of exposing yourself to public ridicule, go to Sinai and enjoy Sharm El- Sheikh... while you still think you have it.
Freedom of speechSir- Your newspaper does not seem to have an objective view. You are slanderous in tone and nationally biased. You probably don't really care about the Palestinian people enough to at least offer them refuge from the 'apartheid' system that you display little knowledge of.
In any free country, articles like yours would not even get published. This shows the low level of what is accepted by the uneducated masses in your censored media.
You should worry about rights in your own country which is backwards and undemocratic. Write about the true oppression in Egypt which does not practice human rights (they would probably fire you). Your people are brainwashed by a relentlessly repressive religion/culture and autocracy.
You sound like someone who missed out on life, and spends time criticising countries that you could only wish to live in. Your mentality will inhibit your personal growth and that of other Egyptians who may crave unbiased reporting. Too bad you are passing this on to your children and the oppressed masses. A fine example.
Squaring a circleSir- In 'The enemy within' (Al-Ahram Weekly, 13-19 June), Azmi Bishara sounds surprised that the Israeli left and right are coming down on the Arab Israelis. Let's not play games here. Everyone knows that "some" of the Israeli Arabs have been assisting the terrorists, so it's not like this happened in a vacuum.
The demographics also threaten the Jewish nature of the Jewish State, so let's not pretend that isn't a factor. Do you think that Iran would allow Jews to take over Iran -- or any other Muslim state for that matter?
Another thing I don't understand is why Palestinians want all Jewish settlers out of the "disputed" territories, but the Jewish state has to keep the Arabs they already have? Is this a one-way street or what?
What really gets my goat when I read the Arab press is the fact that they, as a rule, show zero objectivity, and misconstrue the facts so that it can fit their argument.
Doomed pathSir- This letter is to let you know that not all Americans are deeply in love with Israel or feel that Israel can do no wrong. I am a Catholic, not an Arab or an anti-Semite. I wrote to our president and the Californian senators asking them this simple questions: "How do we Americans benefit from all the assistance we are giving Israel? What is Israel doing for us?" I got no reply to the questions. Israel has tremendous political power, seems to control our politicians.
A joke currently making the rounds says: "We can eliminate suicide bombers by giving the Palestinians tanks, helicopter gunships, cruise missiles and F-16s. Then they would kill in a civilised manner -- like the Israelis do."
Sharon has wiped out all hope for a dialogue. He can send tanks and aeroplanes, but he cannot solve the issue nor give the Israeli people peace and security. The Roman Empire existed by the imposition of military power, and Israel is following the same path: conquer, colonise, subjugate.
San Jose, California
Expanding horizonsSir- For Americans, the current options for publicly expressing a difference of opinion about the American-Israel-Palestine situation is limited to writing op-ed pieces, in desperate hope that somehow they will get published amidst the plethora of editorials that boringly and unnecessarily keep reassuring everyone of our allegiance to Israel. Also, someone intelligent with a difference of opinion is occasionally permitted to appear on a radio or talk show programme where they are promptly shouted down and insulted by a juggernaut of hired guns who question his or her allegiance not to America -- but to Israel. If you have a different point of view on the Israel-Palestinian issue, these so-called news anchors will never let you finish your point.
Like a team of high priced trial lawyers, the hosts of these shows shrewdly phrase questions so that there is really no accurate answer for their 'opponent' to give. If you don't have an expert command of the English language, don't even think of going on these shows to discuss the Palestinian viewpoint. "But I...," are probably the only two words that you'll be allowed to get in before a gang of two or three 'analysts' claiming to be experts on the Middle East gangs up on you (one of these experts is usually a representative from a group like the Jewish Anti-Defamation League). They will then proceed to verbally tear you apart as they accuse you of not only supporting terrorists, but also of probably being a terrorist yourself.
Another devious aspect of this tale is that when Americans attempt to use their first amendment rights to criticise Israel, some people calling themselves liberals demonstrate that freedom of speech is not so important when it comes to criticism of Israel. Otherwise, you run the danger of being labeled by that dreaded code word 'anti-Semite'. One has to wonder what it is that they are trying to hide.
What anti-Semitic means to the labelers most of the time is that you have publicly asked for fairness in American policy regarding Israelis and Palestinians, and that you don't really have an opinion based on facts or concerns for fair dealing -- you just hate Jews, and therefore you need to be shut-up by any means necessary.
In conclusion, I encourage my fellow Americans to explore beyond what is handy, and to include other news and points of view from around the globe. Only then can we have a thoughtful debate -- unlike the pundits and spin doctors who owe their careers to those who are of a particular opinion. If in the end we respectfully choose to disagree, then we will be engaging in another authentic institution of American idealism and not pretending to do so only when it is politically expedient.
Charles A Dundee
Wagging the dogSir- "Speaking to reporters at the White House today, Bush reiterated Israel's right to defend itself and once again cast aspersions on Arafat's leadership."
It never ceases to amaze me how the Israeli lobby manages to translate and have slavishly parroted in the press that Israeli aggression becomes transmutated into "defense". Their policy of reprisals in the occupied territories is an exact replica of the Nazi reprisal policy that was used in the Ukraine between 1941 and 1942. There is no way to avoid comparing Ariel Sharon with Adolf Hitler.
But last week, Sharon had the temerity, the chutzpah, to come to the United States uninvited and give Bush his marching orders. It is a classic case of the tail wagging the dog. Who is this arrogant jerk, who dares to give orders to the president of the United States of America?
Weekly in HebrewSir- Please consider publishing a Hebrew edition of your fine on-line newspaper.
One neighbourhoodSir- As an American citizen, I must admit that the Palestinian cause is somewhat justified. I know I would be very upset if my homeland was invaded, but surely you and the citizens of Palestine must see that these continued bombings of Israeli civilians can only lead to an Israeli response. And as things stand, Israelis are much more capable of inflicting damage to the Palestinians than the Palestinians could ever hope to hurt Israel.
I know that many Arabs consider what we define as terrorism, as a legitimate way of resistance. But speaking as a survivor of the terrorist attack on my city of New York, and the loss of my son's godfather in the attack on the WTC, to me this is a coward's way.
I wish you peace and goodwill, and sincerely hope that the parties involved will stop hurting and killing each other and try to live together as neighbours. In my building, I am a white Catholic living next to a Jewish family; across the hall we have a Dominican family; upstairs, we have an Indian family living side by side with an Iranian family and a Chinese family; above them, there is an American Black family living next to a Puerto Rican family and a Pakistani family; and my 10- year-old son's best friend's family came to America from Afghanistan.
There must be an acceptance of this wonderful mixture of cultures in your part of the world, otherwise I see no peace for Arabs or Israelis in the Middle East.
Temple to toleranceSir- The reason why all initiatives for the Middle East are failing is simple: there is no real vision -- on either side. I am a Catholic theologian and psychotherapist who knows all the major religions quite well through personal experience of their practices. From working in psychiatry, I also know very well the possibilities of getting caught in any kind of mental trap -- as I see all of the Middle East parties being trapped in a confrontation with no vision nor any access to a higher perspective.
Therefore I want to introduce to you the Project of a New Temple in Jerusalem as a symbol of unity among the three religions of the area. At the moment the idea may sound completely utopian, but in the process of realising it, it will prove itself to be the main motor of developing world peace.
As everyone knows, the New Temple cannot be built on the location the old one was, because that space is already taken by Christian and Muslim sanctuaries. Therefore, in my picture, a platform of the size needed by the New Temple will have to be built high above the area, maybe 300 meters above the Dome of the Rock. The Dome of the Rock architecturally will have to be mirrored above, and exactly that space will have to be used as the new Inner Sanctum of the New Temple. This is for two reasons. First, because that was the exact location of the ascension of the prophet Mohamed to the heavens and therefore it is sacred to the Muslims. For that reason that part of the construction would have to be designed by an Islamic architect -- maybe according to the traditional image found on most Islamic praying carpets of "the lamp in the niche".
Since the lower part of that construction is a mirror image of the Dome of The Rock, the Christians will also be present in that inner sanctum. They will be the axis, just as they picture Christ to be the axis of the world. The rest of the conception of the New Temple on this "flying carpet" of course would be a purely Jewish concern. They might use the measurements of the Temple of Solomon -- with the exception of the position and the outer design of the inner sanctum. That will be the Jewish tribute towards the unity of all religions and toward fulfilling their new role as God's Own People, their tribute to the world and to the times.
The Christians will pay their tribute by recognising Islam and Judaism as equally valid, and also the Muslims will pay their tribute by recognising that the Christian or the Jewish way are in no respect less valid than the Islamic way. And all three of them will pay one further tribute by recognising the fact that the dialogue of God with his creation never has been perfected by any revelation of the past. It is still present and will continue through all times, and that dialogue always will be the essence of all religion.
Satisfied customerSir- I enjoyed reading 'Putting 'fast' into 'food'', by Yasmine El-Rashidi (Al-Ahram Weekly, 6-12 June ). Her analysis of Otlob was pretty spot-on. I've certainly had my share of mishaps when using the service. But Otlob has one feature that makes it infinitely preferable to calling delivery services over the phone: clear, clickable menus with posted prices, in English.
I recognise that, because I am a foreigner, the English aspect probably matters to me far more than it does to most Otlob customers. But then again, I suspect that foreigners represent no small percentage of fast-food consumption in Egypt. I have made an effort to learn Arabic, at least enough to order food, but my anglophile vocal chords stubbornly refuse to properly pronounce some Arabic letters. Otlob at least makes it possible, so I'm more than happy to accept the delays.
Courage to boycottSir- Backed by Uncle Sam, the war criminal Sharon, if allowed to continue on his present course, will soon complete the ethnic cleansing of the West Bank and Gaza. Next, will come some staged incidents which will initiate a series of pogroms against Palestinians living in Israel. The capitalist oil boys in the US will then further strengthen Israel and find some pretense for stomping through one country after another until a time when corporate America rules the Lands of Oil.
I know of one word only which can stop all of this. This word, however, is a forbidden in the Lands of Oil. It seems that until now only Iraq -- in spite of the great self-sacrifice -- has had the courage to utter this word: boycott.
Andrew G Lawson
Shooting ourselvesSir- At a time when multinational companies have spread across our country like wildfire, play a sizable part in our national economy and greatly assisted in creating many jobs, some people are calling for product boycotts to pressure the US and its allies into making Israel stop its vicious military attacks on Palestinians.
Instead, these voices ought to concentrate more on salvaging our economy and effectively supporting investors and companies with Egyptian or Arab capitals, in order to nationalise our economy.
Osama Mohamed Thabet
Better than their peersSir- Disney has been listed as one of the companies being boycotted, as part of the campaign against American products. Here, Disney owns several television channels, including A&E and the Discovery Channel. These channels often run documentaries covering the American Mafia and the rise and fall of Adolf Hitler among other shows.
In a time when our media must resort to parables in order to educate the population about what our country is going through, these channels and the Disney company are taking far greater risks than any other media network available to us. While the Disney company has many faults, it has provided us the only chance to hear even minor questioning of our current government.
I hate to say that I am ashamed of my country, but I can only hope that the good and honest men in our country can overcome this current situation. I wish your country and region the best of luck and hope for the future.
Reading the marketSir- It was astonishing to read Ms Abdel-Razek's stock market report (Al-Ahram Weekly, 30 May-5 June). She appears to blame Standard and Poor's (S&P), an international rating agency with American roots, for frustrating the local market by downgrading Egypt's credit. Sadly, her report is dotted with errors and her language inappropriate. She points an accusing finger at S&P with statements such as "an unkind cut", "a slap in the face of the market", and "adding injury to insult". If anywhere, her contentious views belong in your opinion pages and not in a stock market report.
S&P's downgrade had actually been expected for months and was hardly a surprise to the stock and bond markets, which had already been discounted accordingly. There was no evidence whatsoever of what Ms Abdel-Razek calls a "blow to the market". Egypt's new (long-term) credit rating is BB+, which is not the lowest investment grade rating, as she reports, but the highest speculative grade. S&P are not in the business of intentionally discrediting countries or companies. They are paid a fee by the rated entity, in this case the Egyptian government, for providing objective fundamental research and assigning a credit rating according to the entity's expected ability to honour its financial commitments in the future. Egypt pays for such ratings because it allows the country to borrow money internationally. Foreign investors demand independent credit ratings to assess their investment risk, and credit ratings reflect a country's economic and financial situation, and the suggestion that they influence its fortunes is false.
Perhaps your readers would have been spared Ms Abdel-Razek's paroxysm of indignation about S&P's subsequent downgrade of NBE and CIB, if she had realised that the credit rating agency actually considers both banks very solid credits in the context of the local economy. In fact, they share the same rating as the government and hence the same credit standing. Ratings of companies and banks are in principle capped by the sovereign rating, anywhere in the world. After Egypt's downgrade, the banks' ratings had to be adjusted too, which again was in line with market expectations.
It would be useful to see on the Weekly's pages more investigative reporting on the issues with which the Egyptian economy is struggling.
Salvation for the BerbersSir- I wish to draw readers' attention to the recent elections in Algeria, which were handily won by the Algerian military clique -- of course -- with a lot of support from the proverbial "Third Estate" (more than half of whom abstained from voting). This very fact shows the cancer which is spreading in Algerian society at the moment, and one of its worst symptoms is the Berber uprising in Kabylie.
It is now a well-known fact that the Berbers are the historically-dominated and the discriminated-against "other" in Algerian political life. Sadly, the Berbers who were the original inhabitants of Algeria and made great sacrifices in the Algerian war of independence, were constantly discriminated against through the suppression of their culture, language and lack of job opportunities. This has resulted in the Berber masses taking to revolt and protest.
Under the present circumstances, it is the duty of every conscientious person to fully support the right of the Berber masses to protest and stand for their rights, in the face of the cultural and linguistic genocide silently going on in Algeria. I fear that if the Algerian elites, who currently seem to be more intent on self- preservation than listening to their people, do not pause for some level-headed action addressing the grievances of the alienated Berbers, the consequences would be as disastrous as what happened in Pakistan in 1971, and led to the liberation of Bangladesh in 1971.
Algeria's uncaring generals would do well to heed the grievances of their Berber population. Otherwise, the consequences of prolonging the misery of the Berbers of Kabylie could lead to the disintegration of Algeria; and we know that in this age of globalisation and the resulting collapse of nation-states that possibility remains more than a nightmarish footnote of history.
Letter from the Editor
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