11 - 17 July 2002
Issue No. 594
|Published in Cairo by AL-AHRAM established in 1875||Recommend this page|
Sir- Make no mistake about it -- as our 'fine' President Mr Bush is fond of saying -- he has little concept of the situation in the Holy Land and has no right to demand that the people choose other than Yasser Arafat as their leader.
Click to view caption
Cartoon by Ossama Qassim
It is time that someone stands up to American leaders who think they have a right to tell the rest of the world how to act and how to be, only because they have the guns to back them up. Without those guns, the US would be nothing. How can you blame other nations for wanting to build up their military arsenals? They don't wish to be bullied by the US, and if the Saudis were smart, they would demand the removal of US airbases off their soil. The only thing the US is interested in, in that part of the world, is the oil or the pipelines which run there. That is why Russia wants Chechnya, and the US wants allies in the Middle East. That is why we bombed the heck out of Afghanistan and want to go after Iraq.
Every empire falls, and I am afraid that the US is headed in that direction. No one stays a bully forever because eventually someone comes along who is stronger or smarter or both, and puts that bully in his place.
Our fine president sends aid to injured Iranians because he states that humanitarian concerns supersede politics. If that were true, then he would lift the embargoes on Cuba and Iraq for the sake of the people and he would act quickly to ensure that the Palestinians got their homeland, the return of their refugees and any leader they choose.
Mr Bush has the opportunity to establish a lasting peace in the Middle East and assist the unfortunate and dispossessed around the globe, but if history is a lesson, you can be sure that he will pass up the opportunity.
Change of guard
Sir- President Bush spoke for most Americans when he insisted that the Palestinians produce new leadership that is not compromised by the taint of terrorism -- Arafat has done nothing to stop the targeting and murder of innocent civilians.
It is time for the silent majority of decent people in Arab countries to speak out against the corrupt and complicit Palestinian leadership that has achieved nothing except infamy.
Larry S Pollak
Sir- The Bush war on "terrorism" has nothing to do with terrorism, but is a pretext to gain dominance over key parts of the world. When George W Bush took office -- nine months before someone crashed a pla°ne into the twin towers -- he was already in favour of war. He was defiant of the Anti Ballistic Missile Treaty, but at the same time was yelling "law and order." This world class hypocrisy did not go unnoticed either domestically or abroad. The Bush Administration has trashed the US Constitution and now, like Alexander the great, seeks to extend its dominance over Asia.
It would appear that most of the world is on to him and intends to resist this naked grab for absolute power.
President Mubarak made an eloquent and detailed plea for peace at his news conference at camp David, following his meeting with Bush. During Mr Mubarak's presentation, Bush could be seen fidgeting and shifting from foot to foot, obviously uninterested in any initiatives leading to a peaceful solution.
Egypt is now in an awkward situation; while it desires to maintain friendly ties with the US, Egypt must also maintain its self--respect and its stature as a leader of the Arab states. The best move Egypt can make, after obtaining agreement from the rest of the Arab and Islamic states, is to enter a motion in the United Nations to expel Israel.
This would signal the world that neither Egypt, nor its allies are in the hip pockets of the corrupt American politicians.
Sir- The article on Palestinians signing a petition to condemn suicide bombings 'Debate over suicide operations' (Al-Ahram Weekly, 27 June-3 July), leaves one with the impression that the signatories believe the suicide attacks on Israelis over the past 22 months is in response to the "occupation" of Palestinian territories by Israel.
Let's be honest and forthright about these suicide attacks. They were orchestrated and financed by Arab terrorists who will not recognise the existence of Israel, ever. These groups resorted to these cowardly acts in order to provoke the expected Israeli retaliation, which of course further ensures Palestinian suffering and statelessness.
Twenty-two months ago, Arafat and his cronies could have walked away with a deal for Palestinian statehood. This would have meant both sides were negotiating on the basis of land-for- peace. The Israelis were willing; the Palestinians were not. Instead, they resorted to measures which have backfired politically, strategically and economically.
When the Palestinian cause decides to accept the reality of Israel, then I believe Palestinian statehood will be realised.
The longest war
Sir- I have sent this to many American newspapers, but apparently none will print even a brief version of it. It is addressed to my fellow Americans in the land of the allegedly free press, and now I try your distinguished newspaper.
It seems many Americans don't realise that our American war on terrorism did not begin on 11 September, 2001, but rather, it started in 1948. The name of the longest war in American history is not Vietnam, but should be called America's 1948-present War for the Permanent Expulsion of the Palestinians. 11 September, was just one single individual battle which we lost.
This is a war which has turned much more serious than Vietnam ever was, because in this new phase of our longest war, overseas interests can inflict heavy damage right here in the very heart of the United States. If we truly wish to prevent attacks on American soil, it would be vital to recognise the indisputable fact that it is Israel's un- American seizure of the Arab heart of Palestine and its avowed permanent expulsion of its Palestinian inhabitants, which has now turned Israel and the US into an arch-enemy to be retaliated against.
We are now threatened with radiological and biological weapons because, for nearly 50 years we have sent up to $10 million a day, and up to $5 billion a year in public foreign and private aid to Israel. The question is: Has this War for the Permanent Expulsion of the Palestinians, now or ever, served our national interests? What makes it worth even the life of a single one of our citizens, soldier or civilian? And if anything related is worth the life of a single American soldier, why isn't it a fight for the Soon Safe Return of the Palestinians to their homes, farms, businesses, neighbourhoods, schools, communities, and livelihoods? This would at least involve the sacrifice of American lives for something ethical and just.
Isn't it time for someone to define the precise nature of our vital national interest at stake here, or even better, we should just extricate ourselves. As it now stands, our burden and worry is so heavy that, relinquished of this chronic millstone around our necks, it would be almost impossible to imagine how much more easily we all would be breathing once again.
State of mind
Sir- "I don't know a single Arab or Muslim American who does not now feel that he or she belongs to the enemy camp, and that being in the United States at this moment provides us with an especially unpleasant experience of alienation and widespread, quite specifically, targeted hostility." This statement by Edward Said last winter should be addressed by all Arab and Muslim Americans, and others throughout the world. Mr Said is an important and brilliant commentator, but this statement has all the marks of self-pity.
Should any of us ever allow prejudice to define us? Everyone should answer Said, "No, I will not 'feel' myself an enemy because Americans are worried about Arabs and Muslims. I will make my own destiny and decide myself whose camp I belong to. I will tell all Americans that I understand their fears and suspicions in the aftermath of 11 September; that I stand against terrorism and for democratic values, and will work with Americans and everyone else who stands for liberal, humane values."
Sir- Edward Said's recent article 'Palestinian elections now' (Al-Ahram Weekly, 13-19 June) on the state of affairs in Israel, is the most intelligent piece I've read about recent events.
If all of the Middle East adopted his opinion, we'd be well on the way to peace. I think this article should be mandatory reading here in the US; it would lead to much better understanding.
Congratulations for publishing such an account.
Salt Lake City
A helping hand
Sir- Edward Said's brilliant article 'Palestinian elections now' (Al-Ahram Weekly, 13-19 June) is another example from both sides of the Israeli/ Palestinian conflict of eminent good sense. Looking on from so far away, it is incredibly hard to comprehend how this conflict has been allowed to continue for so long (as with Kashmir), when at least a number of the root causes could be dealt with, such as the dismantling of illegal settlements.
Mr Said's argument that change must come from the people is patently the only way forward, given the politics of the three main players involved. But the questions that arise most starkly are how can this process begin, be nurtured, and reach a successful conclusion for both the Palestinians and Israelis? Powerful forces, entrenched, cynical, and probably corrupt in one way or another, will inevitably array themselves against anyone within Palestine who advocates or promotes such an idea.
Furthermore, are there people in Palestine with the experience and knowledge necessary to lead such a process? Considerable wisdom and courage are needed -- qualities no doubt present in many Palestinians and Israelis.
We who are not exposed to the despair and destruction must be ready to help, if asked.
Doing the right thing
Sir- 'Reform, so they tell us' (Al-Ahram Weekly, 27 June-3 July) by Osama El-Ghazali Harb made some interesting points, many of which are true. US foreign policy had focused on defeating communism and supporting dictators for too long. But I would encourage Arabs to look very critically upon calls for reform from the West.
These calls for reform come from a specific segment of society, one that holds to a philosophy of human determinism. This philosophy gets much of its strength from Marxism, though many of its adherents are capitalists. Marx taught that economics determines human behaviour. Modern determinists claim that poverty and oppression force people to behave badly. They have extended their philosophy to the Muslim world by adding "radical" Islam to the mix.
Now, poverty, oppression and "radical" Islam cause good people to go bad. But these determinists are willingly blind to the fact that the 11 September terrorists came from affluent, non- oppressed and non-radical Muslim families. The challenge facing determinists is to explain, not why a handful of Arabs committed the atrocities, but why millions of Arabs who grew up under the same influences as the terrorists, refused to become terrorists themselves.
I would encourage Arabs to side with the minority of us in the West who still cling to the idea that people have a free will. Events may influence our decisions, but we are free to choose how we will respond.
As for reforms, Arabs should do the right thing, because it's right, not to placate the West.
Each to his own business
Sir- I agree with much of what Mr Harb says in 'Reform, so they tell us' (Al-Ahram Weekly, 27 June-3 July) regarding the fact that the Arab world shouldn't dismiss reform, just because the call came from outside the region. But I think he missed the point of Mr Bush's reasoning, and his underlying message.
Mr Bush is well aware that the odds of a true democracy taking hold in the Palestinian area is remote at best -- no one envisions a Swedish Palestinian state. What I think he was saying is that no one has been successful in bringing a solution to the conflict between the Palestinians and Israel -- or the West and the collective Arab/ Muslim world for that matter -- so a bolder proposal might shock the Palestinians and the Arab world to take an introspective inventory.
Does Mr Bush and America really care about the political aspirations of the Arab world? I doubt it seriously. Does Mr Bush care if the by- product of Arab politics affects America (the September attacks, Al-Qa'eda, terrorism) and its Israeli ally? I think so, without a doubt.
If the Arabs would just keep their squabbles to themselves and leave the West alone, there would be no demands for the Arab world to do anything --no matter how corrupt these governments may be. Dishing up a smorgasbord of state-sponsored terrorism, attempts to establish biological and nuclear weapons, and exporting chaos is a sure recipe for Uncle Sam to get more than a little involved.
Israel exists, and has for over 50 years. Every year Israel gains strength and the prospect of the Arab nations defeating it become more remote as time goes on. The sooner the Arab world acknowledges this fact, and gets on with the business of tending to their own sheep, the better off everyone will be.
Public relations battle
Sir- Professor Abdel-Sattar Qassem is quoted in the article 'Debate over suicide operations' (Al- Ahram Weekly, 27 June-3 July) as saying "it is both unfair and unrealistic to ask the victims to end their resistance without demanding that the aggressors stop murdering and repressing the victims."
As your article pointed out, the petitioners were urging a moratorium on certain tactics of resistance which they believed to be affirmatively harming the cause of Palestinian self- determination. This is clearly not the same as asking the victims to end their resistance, as I am sure Professor Qassem is well aware.
Creating straw men in an argument for the purpose of attributing them to one's opponent, then knocking them down, is a common technique, but one that surely is unworthy of a distinguished professor and has no business being in a serious discussion on this important issue.
A critical question left unasked is, would changing tactics actually make a difference in how the Palestinians are perceived on the world stage, or more specifically, in the minds of Middle America? This is an important question without an easy answer. The Palestinians have struggled and resisted Israeli occupation for many years, and only recently resorted to suicide bombings. But as we all know, since the beginning the dominant public relations spin has always been negative towards the Palestinians.
This struggle more than most, has been a war fought on the battlefield of public relations. The Palestinian cause has not only not been the winner of this battle, but the Palestinian side has in many instances not even shown up on the battlefield.
There are many reasons for this, but one reason, which should not be overlooked, is the way in which many Palestinians have for so long been satisfied with having truth and justice on their side. Perhaps they thought it was enough. I have spoken with Palestinians over the years who said that to engage in a public relations battle would be accepting the battle on the enemy's terms. They felt that to engage the enemy there, was a form of defeat.
The dialogue about suicide bombers, as a tactic of resistance, is one that is addressing the reality and importance of engaging in the public relations battle as part of the overall Palestinian struggle. This must not be the only issue addressed in the public relations battle.
As someone who managed to stumble across the truth of what was happening in Palestine way back in the early 1960s, I have been waiting for this engagement. I am thankful that this issue is being raised. Much time has been wasted, but there is so much potential for success.
Turning around perspectives
Sir- It was really interesting to read Kevin Larmee's letter "Potent image" (Al- Ahram Weekly, 23-29 May) in which he suggested that Queen Rania of Jordan be the Arab spokesperson, who will be able to correct the tarnished image of the Arabs in America.
I have great respect for Queen Rania, but do you think that one person, however "'attractive, modern and well-spoken" he or she is, can do this job? Absolutely not.
Changing the image of the Arabs in America requires the time and efforts of a large number of people who have got the necessary financial resources. Here, I mean Arab Americans. They have to look for effective ways to influence American public opinion. They are financially capable of setting up radio stations, TV channels, newspapers and information centres in major US cities.
We really need to change the US citizens' beliefs towards Arabs, especially after the catastrophic events of 11 September.
Essam Hanna Wahba
A matter of priorities
Sir- I admire the patience of Arab governments in tolerating the tactics and involvement of the US concerning Palestine. It is evident that whatever comes from Washington has been previously approved by Mr Sharon.
My ancestors resided here prior to the existence of the US, I am not affiliated with any ethnic or religious faction, and I believe in fairness and truth -- which are not present in US Middle East policy.
There are two elements worth considering in trying to understand the US policy regarding Palestine. First, that the political power of the pro-Israel lobby in the US is paramount, that the US approves and finances the building of settlements in the occupied territories, and that US intervention is not intended to bring peace but rather to delay resolution in order to allow Israel to increase its occupation of Palestine.
Second, is that access to Middle East oil is more important to the political survival of George Bush and congressional leaders than Israel. Oil producing nations in the Arab and Islamic world unite and confront Washington with an ultimatum of either promptly and fairly establishing a Palestinian state within the 1967 borders with free access for all to Jerusalem, or suffer the consequences of an oil boycott against the US.
Sir- When I was ending my undergraduate studies in the US, I discovered the beauty of the Islamic world and Arab countries. The purpose of this letter is to congratulate you for this weekly newspaper. It enables me to know what is happening around in the world through a different perspective, not an English or American perspective.
I hope the Al-Ahram Weekly team continues to do this wonderful job.
The voice for Arabs
Sir- James Abou-Rizk's eloquent article 'Tax, slaughter and lies' (Al-Ahram Weekly, 20-26 June) is the most compelling analysis of how Israel and its powerful deceitful lobby have been successful over the years in corrupting American values, politics and foreign policy. And hence, the Palestinians -- under a brutal Israeli occupation -- become the aggressors and Islam is transformed into the enemy of the West.
It is nauseating and depressing to see how US media constantly distort Middle East history and facts (Hollywood-style) in favour of Israel. Under the cover of 'security and self defense', Israel is implementing a criminal, illegal strategy of colonisation and domination. If it is not stopped, this policy could eventually extend beyond the West Bank and Gaza.
In spite of your excellent contribution to the truth and to more balanced news and opinions about the current conflict, the response of the Arab media and political establishment in general has been pathetic or non-existent. Whilst there is no shortage of Arab/ Muslim brains and intellect and a clear Arab case against Israel, Western public opinion is rarely allowed to hear the Arab point of view as long as Israel and its lobby control the majority of the Western media. A number of journalists in Europe and the US who dared to be balanced in their writings or programmes about the Palestinian-Israeli conflict have lost their jobs or assignments.
There is an urgent need for a credible balanced Arab television network in English, German, French and Italian, where at last Arab, pro-Arab, peace- and justice-loving opinion makers can be seen and heard -- including those brave and decent Israelis such as Amira Hass, Gideon Levy and Ran HaCohen.
The path to security, peace and cooperation between Israel and its neighbours is through justice and freedom for the Palestinians, in their own viable state, and an end to the cruel boycott against the Iraqi people.
Letter from the Editor
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