18 - 24 July 2002
Issue No. 595
|Published in Cairo by AL-AHRAM established in 1875||Recommend this page|
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Sir- This is a letter addressed to President George W Bush.
On Tuesday, 9 July, Israeli police acting under orders of Israeli Interior Minister Uzi Landau raided the offices of Al-Quds University President Dr Sari Nusseibeh in Jerusalem. They sealed the administrative building for the school, the only institute of higher learning for Arabs in the Jerusalem area, and confiscated files and personal materials.
This unprovoked attack on an educational organisation, and indirectly on Sari Nusseibeh himself, is intolerable and goes against everything that you have said you desire for the people of Palestine, and everything that the United States claims to support throughout the world.
If the United States is truly interested in finding and cultivating a moderate Palestinian leadership, it is hard to discern what reason there would be for alienating Dr Nusseibeh. Although he has earned the enmity of many Palestinians for of his compromising stance on the right of return issue, he still commands respect and recognition. He is one of the leaders of the recent petition drive to build grass roots opposition to suicide bombings. It is extraordinarily difficult to find another Palestinian of his stature with such credentials.
While Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's motives in attacking such a person may be murky, the US response should be clear: demand the return of all property confiscated from Nusseibeh's office, the re-opening of this office and a pledge by Israel to respect the moderate Palestinian leadership it claims to seek.
Furthermore, as egregious as this provocation was, it should not obscure the daily situation that faces the Palestinian people in the West Bank and Gaza. Although no Israeli citizens have been killed in Palestinian attacks in several weeks, Palestinians are being killed on an almost daily rate. As you know, this includes children shot for violating a curfew whose legality is at best questionable, and on 10 July, a 19-year-old man was killed for throwing stones.
The background to this continuous violence is a bleak landscape of economic devastation and degrading captivity. Unemployment in the West Bank and Gaza reaches 70 per cent in some areas. Two thirds of all Palestinians live below the poverty line, earning less than two dollars a day. They are subject to constant violations of their freedom of movement, keeping children home from school and pregnant women away from hospitals, as punishment for crimes they did not commit. In other words, collective punishment.
The conditions under which the Israeli Defence Force has placed the Palestinian people represent 'grave breaches' of the Fourth Geneva Convention, which this country is pledged to uphold.
It is extremely unrealistic to expect a population living under these conditions of an oppressive and deadly military occupation, whose moderate and peace-loving leaders are subject to arbitrary humiliation, to develop transparent and democratic institutions. It is also extremely irresponsible or the United States to refrain from providing a moderating influence when Israel's leadership takes unilateral and inexplicably counter-productive actions.
We urge you to take action to prevent Israel from undermining the foundations of a moderate, democratic Palestinian civil society with provocative and unnecessary operations, and to alleviate the ongoing suffering of ordinary Palestinians.
Center for Policy Analysis on Palestine
Sir- Khaled Amayreh writes in 'Locking down the territories' (Al-Ahram Weekly, 4-10 July) that on 30 June, the Israeli army assassinated two Hamas activists in Nablus, including Muhannad Taher, whom Israel accuses of masterminding attacks on Israeli occupation soldiers.
Perhaps you should tell your readers that Mr Taher was responsible for attacks on civilians, including blowing up city buses, resulting in the deaths of young children and women. This type of violence against civilians would not be tolerated in Egypt, or any other civilised country. Until Palestinians end this violence, they will have no support for a state.
No deal with devil
Sir- The usually clear-headed Mr Sid-Ahmed seems to have lost his vision in 'How 'balanced' was Bush's speech?' (Al-Ahram Weekly, 4-10 July). He writes that what is "extraordinary" is that the US is giving itself the right to appoint the head of a national liberation movement. Either Mr Sid-Ahmed wasn't paying attention, or he -- along with most other Arab commentators -- has deliberately distorted Bush's comments. What Bush actually said was that as long as he is president, the US will not deal with Arafat. Palestinians can re-elect him if they want -- the US will not interfere -- but we don't have to deal with him if we don't want to.
Surely the US has the right to choose with whom it will negotiate and with whom it will not. Arab commentators are sadly ignorant of history, so I'll remind them that former President Clinton did the same thing when the people of Serbia re-elected Milosevic.
Here is the real message to Arabs and Palestinians: You can elect the devil if you want, but we don't have to negotiate with him.
Sir- I read Mohamed Sid-Ahmed's article 'How 'balanced' was Bush's speech?' (Al-Ahram Weekly, 4-10 July), where he addressed the prospect of a Palestinian state based on the removal of Arafat.
I agree with every word he said. It is an affront to humanity for Bush to decide who should be replaced in another country's leadership. It is the people of that state, the voters, who should decide who goes and who stays as their leader, not some foreign president dictating the terms.
Fact of life
Sir- The discomfort towards the existence of Israel by its neighbours is a hard problem for Americans. We Americans are essentially the product of a rebellion against the British Crown, won a War of Independence, and established a democracy to take the place of British rule. Now, substitute the word "Americans" with the word "Israelis" in the previous sentence. Yes, it is no error. Israeli and American origins are very similar. The two states are simply the result of British colonies, now liberated from British rule.
But of course there are differences. Israel was a dream, a marvelous, romantic, compassionate and completely impossible dream. No man or woman with even a modicum of common sense, much less sanity, could imagined that such a thing could be accomplished, without hopelessly disrupting the people who have lived on the same land for the last 1800 years.
And yet, it was done. And war with the indigenous peoples was inevitable, just as we Americans fought wars with the indigenous Native American Indians and Mexicans. We warred with them, killed them, murdered them, and pushed them back, until our lust for land was slaked.
That is a simple fact. Although not a very nice one, it is not unlike many other simple facts of war, conquest and mass murder which anyone will find out if they leaf through any history book. Such is the history of mankind.
Sir- On 30 June, the world tuned in to the greatest sports match of the year -- the World Cup final between Germany and Brazil. The skills of the players were sublime, both by foot and increasingly by chest and head. It is the manoeuvre of using the head to bounce a football towards or away from other players and the goals, which may not be a clever skill at all. In fact it may cause the players to become less clever and suffer from brain damage.
My concern arises from the fact that "headers" have become a prominent technique in modern football to the extent that the game could be renamed "headball". In the World Cup final, the back four for Germany and Brazil put their skulls in the way of sizzling fast strikes from Ronaldo, Rivaldo, Klose and co. How many noticed Ramelow, the great defender for Germany, stunned for a couple of minutes, holding his head after deflecting a powerful free-kick, or Lucio for Brazil who was taken off on a stretcher with concussion for heading away a German shot on goal?
FIFA is well aware of the issue, and yet it remains very quiet about it. I suggest that FIFA ban heading from the game, and reintroduce some of the original rules of the 1860s -- namely make the game a combination of volleyball and football. This would retain the current foot skills and kicking game, while tapping or punching the ball would replace heading. Hand, rather than head control, would lead to a faster probably more exciting game, and players could rest assured they were not giving themselves early dementia.
These suggestions may sound radical but they are not really if one takes a broad historical perspective, keep in mind the health considerations and stops thinking just in terms of the current hype surrounding football as a professional global sport. After all evolution -- or God if you like -- gave us hands to catch and deflect fast moving objects, and heads to see them coming.
And have pity for the likes of Ramelow and Lucio putting their brains on the line week in week out, getting a concussion in more than just the World Cup final.
Sir- It is extremely upsetting and outrageous to learn about the mistreatment of the four university students by the British Embassy and their "visa" employees in 'A race against time' (Al-Ahram Weekly, 4-10 July). But it is more upsetting that anyone is still trying to send the boys to the UK for medical treatment. This is adding insult to injury. I think the French officials in Cairo have the right idea in mind.
This tragic incident exposes a bigger issue that has been kept under the rug for too long -- the systematic mistreatment of Egyptian nationals at the hands of many Western embassies in Cairo. This recent story involving the four students is not an isolated incident. The Egyptian Foreign Ministry must be fully aware of what takes place at the "visa" lines in many Western embassies in Cairo. It is not an exaggeration to say that it amounts to treating Egyptians as second class citizens in their own country.
I think it is time for his excellency the British ambassador to Egypt to realise that the days of Lord Cromer are long gone. The UK has every right to deny the students visas for medical treatment on any "fabricated" grounds they may see fit, but then the bastion of "democracy" and Western "moral superiority" should delete the "Great" out of Great Britain.
Sir- Everywhere that American citizens of European descent go today they are targets. Bin Laden, the bearded idiot who heads Al-Qa'eda, has declared war on all Americans. The Philippines, Saudi Arabia and all Arab countries are all unsafe for Americans. Why is there no parity?
Sir- Regarding Ed Jazairi's letter 'Abou-Rizk for president' (Al-Ahram Weekly, 4-10 July). Mr Jazairi must be a fool to think anyone other than a person of Arabic background would vote for James Abou-Rizk. The silent majority of Americans who you speak of are the same conservative majority in Texas. You must be an "open-minded" academic to make such a broad statement.
It is typical of Arab citizens of this country to think that the whole world is on their side -- if only the Israeli lobby didn't have such a grip on the media.
Sir- It is clear to me that all Muslim states and peoples support the Palestinian people because they are Muslims too, no matter what happens and what transpires. The eternal hatred of Muslims against Jews will always formulate the Muslim world's opinion. It makes no difference that all these Muslim states are hypocrites which persecute, slaughter and oppress their own people as well as the Jews who had lived there for hundreds of years. They are Muslims and therefore are immune to criticism.
Maybe if the Arab Muslim countries spent more time fixing their own corruption and less on anti-Jewish hatred, they would find themselves in a better situation. But instead of crying out for internal reform, they scream "slaughter the Jews"; instead of pursuing peace and an end to xenophobia, they use the same propaganda the Nazis used against the Jews. So their children's inheritance is hate, hate and more hate.
Los Angeles, CA
Sir- I congratulate your courage in writing a positive article about the Muslim Brotherhood 'Nasser and the Brotherhood' (Al-Ahram Weekly, 27 June-3 July). I hope your efforts will lead to the legalisation of the group.
Good job and keep up the good work.
Sir- Islam and democracy won't mix. Sorry.
Fearing the other
Sir- It wasn't necessary to read any farther than the second paragraph of Abdel-Raouf El-Reedy's 'The way backwards' (Al-Ahram Weekly, 27 June-3 July). Everyone knows that the causus belli in 1967 was the Egyptian naval blockade of the Israeli port of Eilat. Everyone knows that this blockade was accompanied by the movement of Egyptian, Jordanian, and Syrian troops to the Israeli border. Everyone knows that the Arab allies ordered the UN to remove its peacekeeping troops so as to facilitate an Arab attack. Everyone knows that the attack was meant to undo the Arab defeat of 1948. Everyone knows that Israel pulled off one of the great military victories of modern history.
I don't read the Egyptian press for its commitment to factual reporting, that would be silly. I read it for a sense of where Egypt stands.
Here's where Egypt stands. Desperately afraid of competition with Israel on any terms because normal relations with Israel would spell the end of Cairo as a regional centre. Tel Aviv is far more comfortable, functional, and responsive to the needs of international business, and has an unfettered media which supports a lively cultural establishment. Cairo has censorship, religious and nationalist orthodoxies, and belly-dancers. Tel Aviv has the rule of law, Cairo has the cousin of the sheikh, who is also a judge.
Egypt ungraciously accepts $2 billion every year from US foreign aid, and part of the deal requires Egypt to keep the peace. Egypt upholds the letter of the deal, and seeks to undermine peace at every turn. The Egyptian press is a sewer of incitement against Israelis, Americans, and Jews. The Egyptian understanding of "peace" boils down to inciting as many Israeli, Palestinian, Jewish, and American deaths as possible; evading the kind of contacts that institutionalise "peace"; and having a propaganda ministry that pumps out historical falsification. The domestic audience is too dumb to deserve anything better, and Europeans seem receptive to this stuff.
Americans, however, are not willing to die to please Third World tyrants, or left-behind European used-to-bes. It is increasingly clear that the war against terrorism will require regime changes throughout the Arab world, perhaps Arabs just weren't responsible enough for self-government.
St Paul, MN
Sir- The US president arrogantly refused to apologise to the families of those who were killed, when US forces accidentally bombed a village wedding in Afghanistan. I would like to direct the following questions to the American people: Now do you finally realise why the world hates America? And is an Afghan's life cheaper than an American's?
The US claims that it complies with human rights, but I am calling on the world community to shut down their human rights offices, instead of spending money and effort on nonsense work.
We are the world
Sir- Diversity and overall acceptance of diversity is the one remaining characteristic which America can be proud of. At the same time, there is a new form of unity within this country. Right now, many of us are angered and embarrassed by America's foreign policy and President George W Bush; many are disgusted and tired of the US alliance with Israel; believe that every single human on this planet deserves to have enough food, shelter, clothing, a good education, and a peaceful life.
There are many of us who have sought to learn about Islam and its foundation in non-violence and submission to God, have befriended Muslims and found out that they are some of the gentlest people in the world. Many of us do not condone or even understand ethnic or religious prejudice, and find war abhorrent and cannot stomach reading or watching US media.
Instead, we turn to papers like Al-Ahram Weekly to get a cleaner perspective on Middle Eastern and world affairs. But right now, your paper is only hearing from a few of us although right now as Americans we don't have a lot to brag about. Thankfully, however, there is a silent majority which is starting to speak up.
The American people are the world. Every single American in this young country has roots in other cultures throughout this world; we are Italian, Greek, German, Lithuanian and Polish; we are Egyptian, Israeli, Palestinian, Afghani and Pakistani; we are Indian, Chinese, Japanese, Korean and Vietnamese.
We are the world, and the world will be hearing from us. That's a promise.
Mary Deborah East
Save the museum
Sir- On my last visit to Cairo, I visited the Islamic Museum in Bab Al-Khalq and was very frustrated from the bad condition this museum had declined to. From the first instant, you feel you have entered a warehouse for monuments, not a museum of civilisation showcasing a flourishing and glorious era in our long history. There are many pieces without labels -- and strangely, some labels without pieces -- and the lighting is not sufficient in most exhibition galleries.
For many years, the Ministry of Culture said it intends to relocate the museum to the Cairo Citadel and utilise modern exhibition techniques. I don't know why this project was halted, and why we aren't thinking of building the museum near Al-Fustat area which witnessed the emergence of the first capital of Islamic Egypt, and still has many relics and remains from this vanished city.
I hope for swift intervention by the Ministry of Culture, either to develop the Islamic Museum or to relocate it to another appropriate area since it has become clear that it suffers from crippling deterioration.
Letter from the Editor
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