27 June - 3 July 2002
Issue No. 592
|Published in Cairo by AL-AHRAM established in 1875||Recommend this page|
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Wall of hate
Sir- On Sunday, 16 June the Israeli government began the construction of a security fence for the purpose of separating Israel from the West Bank. The Israelis believe that such an initiative will bring them the needed security by preventing Palestinian militants from carrying out attacks inside Israel.
This new policy further demonstrates the failure of the concurrent policies pursued by the Israeli government to quell the Intifada which started in September of 2000 with Sharon's visit to the Muslim holy sanctuary in Jerusalem. The policies of assassinations and imprisonment of Palestinian fighters in conjunction with the collective punishment of Palestinian civilians through travel restrictions, curfews and an economic embargo has not yielded any success at preventing Palestinian militants from carrying out attacks inside Israel. As a matter of fact, this week alone, Palestinians have stepped up their attacks against Israel to demonstrate the inherent failure of Israeli policies and actions within the occupied territories.
Ariel Sharon should reconsider the effectiveness of this new policy of separation and address the real issue at hand: A return to pre-1967 borders, the dismantling of the settlements, a solution to the Palestinian refugee crisis and the issuing of a statement that atones for Israel's treatment of Palestinians for the past 52 years. I believe that these suggestions would be more constructive in achieving peace than the current policies that are causing more death, destruction, suffering and hate among all, whether being Palestinian or Israeli.
Bombs and fences
Sir- If Graham Usher is correct in 'Bombs and fences' (Al-Ahram Weekly, 20-26 June), and a fence between Israel and "Palestine" does not stop the bombings, there will be only one option left for Israel. That option is the expulsion of all Arabs from the region, into Jordan, Egypt, Lebanon, and Syria. In that event, three of these four Arab states will collapse immediately. Egypt will take a bit longer to disintegrate, but not a great deal longer.
Israel is not going to accept the murder of schoolchildren, no matter how many times Al- Ahram Weekly says that Jewish children deserve death.
Do not count on the US to save you this time. If it takes a complete collapse of the Muslim Arab world to get rid of Saddam and the Ayatollahs, then we can face that. Pretending that Arabs were ready for the responsibilities of self- governance and statesmanship, is looking more like a mistake every day.
St Paul, MN
Reasons for hostility
Sir- In responding to the letter 'Love-hate relationship' (Al-Ahram Weekly, 13-19 June), I would like to explain to Roger D M Linney that Mr Mattar, in his article 'Matters of principle' (Al-Ahram Weekly, 30 May-5 June), did no wrong by stating that everyone hates America. This superpower's policies have made the people hate it.
People hate America because it is only interested in serving its interests without any consideration for humane aspects. The US admits to killing innocent people in Japan during World War II, and in Afghanistan.
Here lies the answer.
Sir- Please publish a list of Israeli/American goods and firms that should be boycotted.
Although not buying their goods would not accomplish much, I am sure they would find it humiliating to know that their goods are deemed offensive by many people around the world, as long as the terrorism against the Palestinians continues.
Arafat must go
Sir- This week's article by Edward Said 'Palestinian elections now' (Al-Ahram Weekly, 13- 19 June) was encouraging because the sooner the Palestinian people rid themselves of their corrupt leaders, the better for everyone in the region.
However, Said did not quite go far enough. He should have called on the Palestinians to arrest and try Arafat for corruption, and in this way demythologise the man before he dies and becomes immortalised as an idol.
Don't blame Arafat
Sir- Your views of Arafat seem very shortsighted. Arafat has been the leader of the Palestinian people since the Israeli invasion. He has put his life on the line on many occasions just as he is doing now. He never had any formal training to carry out such a daunting task, yet he has held his people together for decades.
The failure of the Palestinian Authority (PA) to carry out its mandate is not a result of Arafat's ineptness, but rather a relentless assault by the Israeli government to fracture, splinter and destroy the PA completely. Not to forge a better union but to destroy any union that existed. Israel wants the land, not the people.
Arafat can still lead if he can find anyone still alive who can help administer. If anybody can help the failing PA, it must come from the outside. The UN, US and Europe can offer talented individuals to forge a new government. And make no mistake about it, Arafat is loved by his people and they will endure the hardships required to rebuild their towns and villages. All they need is to get the Israelis out.
Nation of the people
Sir- Palestinians have leaders with the moral fortitude to show them the way to their own land and a viable peace, there are wise Palestinians, there are intelligent Palestinians. The Americans, as much as they may want peace in the Middle East to serve their own interests, cannot make a Palestinian nation. Only the Palestinian people can create their own nation in a hostile land.
When the Palestinians do so, Sharon will have to listen to their legitimate grievances. The community of nations will not allow him to continue his war of aggression without restraint.
Sir- I very much agree with Mr Said's article 'Palestinian elections now' (A-Ahram Weekly, 13-19 June). As an average US citizen, I find it frustrating to watch good people on both sides die. My sense is that the fighting comes from the rhetoric of ambitious individuals on both sides, using actual and perceived injuries of their people to fire up the young to act against the other side. It is the individual in power on each side who benefits, and the innocent of both populations who suffer and die.
Perhaps Mr Sharon and Mr Arafat should be put into a ring and encouraged to "duke it out" together, to get it out of their systems while wiser men on both sides make peace. Certainly the manpower, property and economic output presently being used for destruction or to preventing destruction could be put to far better use than they are.
Furthermore, I feel it is inappropriate for my government to set the course of any nation. We certainly have no crystal balls with which we can predict the future. As Mr Said points out, these decisions should come from the people themselves. As for the support of the US to either side, it should be limited to ensuring elections are peaceful and fair, not to select nominees, making laws, supporting an unpopular government with military personnel, or any other intervention.
Atheen Wilson Hills
Tired of the bully
Sir- I am an American who agrees wholeheartedly with everything Edward Said stated in 'Palestinian elections now' (Al-Ahram Weekly, 13-19 June), except one. He writes: "Perhaps [Arabs] are simply unaware of how contemptuous most Americans are of them, and how little understood or regarded is their cultural and political status in the US."
This statement is wrong. There are many Americans who understand the injustice done to the Palestinians. The whole idea that they should give up their land in 1948, to somehow atone for the Holocaust that they have nothing to do with, is absurd.
Said's statement shows that he really doesn't understand the essence of America. If we weren't primarily a tolerant society with respect for each others religions and cultures we would have warlords and civil wars continuously. There is no nation on the planet that has more cultures represented than America, so please don't perpetuate this erroneous idea that Americans don't understand or respect other cultures. Unfortunately, there are a lot of American Jews who have a lot of money and can lobby Congress for support. If there were rich Palestinians in America, the situation would be reversed. Palestine would have the Apaches and F-16's.
Personally, I'm sick and tired of supporting Israel with my hard earned money. I'm sick of their superior attitude, and I am prejudiced towards anyone who thinks they are better than me by virtue of their race or religion -- that goes for Jews, Muslims and Christians. I think you would find that most people in America realise that Israel is a bully being propped up by the US. As an individual citizen, all I can do is vote for a politician whom I think will be fair. I can't do much about the powerful Jewish lobby in Congress. It's not currently politically correct to support Palestinians vocally, but that doesn't mean we don't support them, desperately want their lives to improve and their hope and dignity restored. I want that more than anything and many Americans agree.
Choosing a leader
Sir- Mr Said's comments on Palestinian elections (Al-Ahram Weekly, 13-19 June) show true leadership and understanding of the conditions necessary to free the Palestinian people from the yoke of Jewish domination. His eloquence rings as the words of Thomas Jefferson's must have sounded over 200 years ago in America.
With such knowledge and wisdom which Mr Said has displayed in this article, he is the leader Palestine needs now to step up and replace the failed policies of Yasser Arafat.
Mr Said, please go to Palestine and lead your people to the freedom and democracy they deserve. You are their only hope.
At the mercy of 'evil'
Sir- In reading Ayman El-Amir's 'A tale of two world orders' (Al-Ahram Weekly, 20-26 June), I would have to concur that the US is heading away from the UN Charter. Despite Bush and Putin's new agreement to reduce their nuclear stockpiles, they will have the right to keep large reserves, so I'm not exactly sure what the whole point was.
I did not vote for Bush, and I am adamantly opposed to his whole 'war on terrorism' stance, for how are we to know how the government defines a terrorist? How can he refer to whole nations as an 'axis of evil'?
The very rhetoric in referring to a nation or a city or a group of people as evil is the most dangerous thing to hear a leader say. In doing this, he has attempted to dehumanise a group, thus attempting to make himself appear as a saviour and giving himself carte blanche to do what he wants against these "lesser peoples" because they, after all, are "evil".
When I first read about his statement, it gave me chills down my spine. I am ashamed of our president and I am ashamed of many things our country has done.
Even more, I am afraid of what they will do in the name of their 'war on terrorism'. Is it really that or a war for American interests? Do any of us have any clue what goes through the minds of our own leaders and what their motives are? I fear for the future of the world.
God help us all.
Sir- The diatribe issued from Mr Mark Harris in Reader's Corner, ('Freedom of speech' -- Al- Ahram Weekly, 20-26 June), attacking the state of Egypt and Al-Ahram Weekly, should be tempered with the fact that the Canadian press is almost exclusively controlled by Can-West, which is owned by the Israel Asper family. They also control the third largest television network in Canada.
The Asper family is extremely pro-Zionist, so much so that they have issued edicts from their corporate headquarters in Winnepeg, that there will be no editorial criticism of the State of Israel, the Liberal government of Canada, and particularly Prime Minister Chretien. The former publisher of the Ottawa Citizen was fired for suggesting that Chretien should step down for allowing scandalous corruption to occur in his riding of Shawinigan.
So much for a free press in Canada, Mr Harris. If it wasn't for access to the web and being able to glean other sources of information that is available throughout the world, we'd still be thinking that the Native North American Aboriginals were the terrorists and the poor down- trodden US Cavalry where the terrorised settlers.
Sir- Obviously Mr Mark Harris (Al-Ahram Weekly, 20-26 June) has never been to Egypt to witness the genuine concern expressed by the Egyptian people, come on over Mr Harris and you will see.
Sir- Being half British, half Egyptian, I have noticed that no matter how well England plays football, they are always written off in your newspaper. I know they are not the best, but your constant prejudice and ancient nightmares of British colonialism still linger in the minds of your sport writers.
While England may not play the game to your fancy, you must not slander them in the indirect way you always do. English commentators applaud the performance of the referee Gamal El- Ghandour because they are totally unbiased and don't care where he is from.
Isn't it time you took a fresh modern look at football and detach it from history?
Sir- I would like to set the record straight on the case of the four students whose visa applications were turned down by this Embassy on 9 June, 'Out of sight' (Al-Ahram Weekly of 20-26 June).
It is absurd to imply, as does Al-Nadim Centre, that these four men were rejected "on the basis of their being potential or possible terrorists". The claim by your journalist, Mrs Tadros, that "a shadow appears to have been cast over Arab applicants in general" is equally ludicrous. The Embassy spokesman made this clear to you, but it seems you did not want the facts to get in the way of your story.
The facts are these. First, British visa officers world-wide apply exactly the same set of UK Immigration Rules, as laid down by the British Parliament. These rules have not changed since 11 September. The implication that somehow there are new discriminatory rules against Arabs is totally false, and the sort of nonsense that could only please Osama bin Laden.
Second, the British Embassy in Cairo refuses visas to only some 5 per cent of applicants. I believe that this is the lowest refusal rate of any Western embassy in Cairo. Ninety per cent of all applicants receive their visas on the day they apply, and a further 5 per cent after a more detailed interview. We are proud of these figures; it reflects the dedicated professionalism shown by our visa officers, and their sympathetic approach to Egyptian applicants.
Third, these four applicants were given full interviews. But their cases were very thin. There was no evidence that any of the four had suffered serious eye injuries requiring treatment in the UK (and does Al-Ahram Weekly really believe that all four received identical eye wounds by being hit in the face by rubber bullets, and that there should be no visible sign of any injury or treatment!). The stories the four presented as to how they received their alleged injuries changed, which cast further doubt on them. And finally, the visa officer was not convinced that the four applicants had sufficient economic or family reasons to return to Cairo.
In short, they were clear cut refusals, part of the 5 per cent, and the visa officer had no choice but to turn them down.
Sir-- Regarding 'Out of sight' (Al-Ahram Weekly, 20-26 June) If the university students who have eye injuries still haven't found a hospital to accept them, I am willing to help from New Zealand. I am a Greek/Egyptian who has a lot of love for Egypt, and I think these students have the right to go to any country for medical treatment.
Repression with a difference
Sir- It is beyond laughable that Salama A Salama should lament the repressive speech climate in the Western media in 'Forbidden to speak' (Al-Ahram Weekly, 20-26 June), while the Egyptian government openly persecutes human rights activists such as Saadeddin Ibrahim for expressing the view that Coptic Christians are discriminated against in Egypt.
By contrast, American talk-show host Bill Maher was censured by his network when he suggested that aerial bombing of Afghanistan by the US was cowardly; but it did not occur even to the patriotic executives at ABC that his treasonous person ought to be tossed in jail. That is the difference between the Middle East and the West.
There is actually one country in the Middle East with a semblance of free speech -- Israel. Its parliament includes someone who used the forum of your newspaper to express his support for armed "resistance" against his own country -- I am of course referring to Azmi Bishara. I wonder how your government would react if a member of his government wrote an opinion piece in Ha'aretz recommending that Israel invade the Sinai?
Over the rainbow
Sir- I would like to commend Rushdi Said for his opinion piece entitled 'A second age of reason' (Al- Ahram Weekly, 20-26 June). To be honest, most of what is written on your op-ed pages tends to be ridiculous propaganda, with no intent other than to spin truth and entice hatred towards the United States. However, Mr Said states global needs in a simple yet eloquent manner that the majority of your readers probably wouldn't agree with. He hits the nail on the head by stating that religious fundamentalists worldwide are shaping global politics.
One needs not look very far to find that 95 per cent of the conflicts in the world right now are being fought with religious backing, and an extremely lopsided number of those are Muslim. The only way to ever achieve some semblance of global peace is through secularism, whether forced or not. I don't believe that the US needs an equal opponent à la the USSR during the Cold War, instead we must lead the way in promoting separation of Church and State and do our best to squelch fanaticism.
A global economy is not intrinsically a bad thing. If executed correctly, the US can lead the entire world down a yellow brick road.
Crusading for a word
Sir- In your pages there have been several references to the word "Crusade" as it has been used in America. On 16 September, President Bush referred to "this Crusade, this war on terrorism." Offence was taken, and within a few days Mr Bush retracted the remark, expressed regret for having used the word "crusade", and has not used it since.
It is instructive to remember an earlier use of the word "crusade" by a prominent American. Dwight Eisenhower was president between 1953- 1961, he had been Supreme Commander of the Allied forces in World War II, and his account of that experience was published in 1948 under the title "Crusade in Europe". It seems that in 1948, the word "crusade" was a word that came naturally to an American who wanted to refer to a noble and difficult endeavour.
Eisenhower was not wilfully insulting anyone when he chose his title, and neither was George W Bush in his remark on 16 September.
Sir- Your editorial (Al-Ahram Weekly, 20-26 June) is 100 per cent correct. I urge you to keep up the pressure to help the suffering Palestinian people. Bush and his foreign policy advisers are either totally incompetent, or bought and run by Jewish power.
It is sad, but there will never be peace if this madness continues. There should be a Marshall Plan for Palestine, as there was for Germany after World War II, and terror would end without further bloodshed and billions of dollars in cost.
Sharon should be put in his place, shut up about war, and work for a fair and decent peace for all concerned.
Letter from the Editor
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