1 - 7 August 2002
Issue No. 597
|Published in Cairo by AL-AHRAM established in 1875||Recommend this page|
Cartoon by Ossama Qassim
Spirit of revolution
Sir-- I very much appreciate your newspaper's supplement on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the Egyptian Revolution (Al- Ahram Weekly, 18 - 24 July). I was in Cairo between 1960-1965, as the representative of the Indonesian Afro-Asian People's Solidarity Organisation (AAPSO). During that time I was also inspired by the success of the Egyptian Revolution, which changed Egypt from a feudal, economically dependent and politically client- state of the Western bloc into a new-born Egypt that gives dignity and hope to the poor and the whole nation, making Egypt the bulwark of Pan Arabism and independence in Africa.
Without the Egyptian Revolution, under the leadership of Gamal Abdel-Nasser, it was unimaginable to have the permanent secretariat of the AAPSO based in Cairo, Egypt.
Nasser, together with Sukarno, Nehru, U Nu and other senior Asian statesmen, were co-founders of the Afro-Asian Movement, and the 1955 Bandung Conference further promoted the independence movements of Africa and Asia at that time. Together with Sukarno and Nehru, Nasser was also the initiator of the Non-Aligned Movement.
I totally disagree with those who opined that the Egyptian Revolution and Nasser as its leader have failed. On the contrary.
Sir-- I would like to know if the names of the members of the Free Officers movement are officially documented somewhere. My father, Major General Mohamed Ali El-Wardani, was a Free Officer and secured the situation in Alexandria the day the revolution took place.
It saddens me that his role was not mentioned, although I have documents to prove his role as a Free Officer. I even have a photograph of him with President Gamal Abdel-Nasser. He joined the Free Officers during the war in Palestine in 1948, when the first cells of the Free Officers were created.
My father was with Ahmed Abdel-Aziz, the chief of the Egyptian commandos in Falouga, who died in my father's arms.
Sir-- Regarding your report on Professor Saadeddin Ibrahim's cas célèbre 'Prosecuting Ibrahim -- again' (Al-Ahram Weekly, 25 - 31 July). By any and all standards, Dr Ibrahim is a scholar and a gentleman -- one of Egypt's best. For a respectable and respected regime to continue to torment him and his family in instalments is cruel and crude. I think it is no secret that his colleagues in the US and all over the world know that he is innocent of each and every accusation we have so far learned about -- thanks to Egypt's free and able press.
Frankly, to continue tormenting this great Egyptian and his family is unjust to the point of inhumanity. "Free Dr Saad now and regain the respect you deserve as a modern democratic state," is a petition I respectfully place in the hands of glorious Egypt, its great people and democratic government.
Saad is not a Hamas Palestinian and you are not a Sharon Israel.
Sir-- It is amazing that during these days of bloodshed, so many of your readers and writers continue to express completely one-sided opinions about Israel and the Palestinians. We are all aware that Israel has committed many mistakes, and we are all equally aware that the Palestinians have done the same. What point is there to continuing to criticise only the Israelis? The world will never fully support the Palestinian cause, until the Palestinians and their Arab supporters finally admit that Arabs do not and never did accept the concept of a non-Muslim state in Palestine. At least Hamas admits to this.
Arabs must turn to their hearts and ask themselves to what extent they are willing to accept a Jewish state as their neighbour -- even if that Jewish state is the most peaceful on earth. If they are not, then they are racist. I believe that it is partly this racism that has gotten in the way of peace in the region. No matter what Israel did or will do, there will never be peace until both Arabs and Jews wipe out prejudice from their hearts.
Half of the Israeli population already support the Peace Now movement, despite the bloodshed. If only half the Arab population would do the same, there would be peace in the region. Meanwhile, the other half of the Israelis must urge for peace and acceptance of their Muslim cousins; and the Arabs must overcome their anger and humiliation and follow true jihad (which is a battle within oneself to do the right thing). Killing can never be the right thing.
It is time for Arab and Israeli writers, politicians as well as the average man on the street, to call for an end to the killing rather than more bloody vengeance. Accusations and blaming the other side is a terrible waste of time. Both sides must forget the past and move to a better future. We must learn to love each other despite our mistakes. After all, is not Allah merciful?
Los Angeles, CA
Sir-- The F-16 bomber strike on Gaza City which targeted Hamas military commander Salah Shehada and regrettably killed "innocent" women and children, was a message to Hamas and Hizbullah that Israel will not allow the West Bank or Gaza to turn into another Lebanon. Shehada was directly in charge of importing and giving safe haven to Lebanese Hizbullah operatives, and Iraqi agents who were ratcheting up the military capability of the Hamas gangs.
Under Shehada's own terms of engagement, he (and Hamas) considered all Israeli civilians as legitimate targets because of their mandatory military reserve status, and was personally responsible for hundreds of dead Israeli grandmothers, children, teenagers, and toddlers in strollers. He was responsible for sending dozens of ignorant, impressionable Palestinian teenagers to their death as homicide bombers.
When put in the context of the deliberate deaths of innocent Israeli civilians attributable to him, the accidental deaths of the innocents around him just don't seem unacceptable -- if they get the message.
Do I grieve for the young Palestinian children killed in the Israeli strike? Of course, but if their deaths get the message across that Israeli children's blood is no less sacred, and that they have no alternative but to either give themselves up to the Israeli Defence Force, or risk assassination -- as well as endangering their families -- then it was worth it.
This strike sent a message to Shehada's handlers in Lebanon, as well as his supporters in the West Bank and Gaza: Israel will not tolerate outside influences from the likes of the Syrians, Iranians, and Iraqis through their proxy forces -- Hizbullah. One of the truths of war is that the combatants cannot predict the consequences of their actions, or the reactions of their adversaries. While crying foul after waging acts of war against Israel may buy them some sympathetic PR from the usual suspects (France, etc), it doesn't change the fact that Hamas, Hizbullah, Syria, Iran and Iraq will eventually be utterly defeated in trying to determine the fate of Israel, and the outcome of a solution to the Palestinian situation.
Moment of opportunity
Sir-- My condolences and sorrow to the families, relatives and countrymen of those killed in the Israeli Defence Force (IDF) attack on the Hamas leader at his home on 22 June. The IDF attack was inhumane and completely unjustified. It has already provoked actions by responsible American groups such as Amnesty International to ban the shipment of US arms to Israel, under provisions of US law which require banning weapons sales or shipments to governments engaged in terrorism. No fair minded person can call the IDF attack on an apartment building anything but state- sponsored terrorism.
Nevertheless, I must call on Hamas, its supporters and allies to move beyond the cycle of retaliation and reprisal. I call upon Hamas, and other Palestinian factions, to use this unambiguous example of Israeli state terrorism as the opening to US domestic opinion to understand the Palestinian side of the Intifada.
I call upon Hamas, its allies and supporters to consider and follow a different course of action than usual. Instead of killing Israelis physically in the streets of their cities or in their homes, use this incident to kill the image Israel has projected into the American conscience of the Palestinians as vengeful killers. I call upon Hamas, its allies and supporters to use this tragic incident to demonstrate the humanity, restraint and the great dignity of the Palestinian people, and their desire to work toward the achievement of a Palestinian state.
By not responding to Sharon's provocation with violence, Hamas has a chance to demonstrate to the average people outside the region that there are two sides to the conflict. Through peaceful but forceful advocacy of the justice and worthiness of the Palestinian people's struggle, Hamas will demonstrate that the Israelis are often guilty of provocative and terrorist actions.
This moment of great opportunity should not be squandered by more bloodletting.
Sir-- I am shocked at the way Sharon is dealing with the Palestinians. Killings, assassinations, bombings, carnage -- the latest of which was the air strike on Gaza using US-made fighter jets on 22 June.
If he thinks he has achieved victory, he is dillusional. He frequently claims that his goal is to protect the Israeli citizen, but I assure him that the latest heavy-handed strikes only means that the Israelis will live in fear and in anticipation of a Palestinian counter-attack.
My advice to the Israeli people is next time choose your leader more wisely. If more Israelis die, Sharon is responsible.
Sir- Regarding 'Restricting humanitarian aid' (Al-Ahram Weekly, 18 - 24 July). Sorry, but all too often there seems to be those who under the guise of "aid" workers are in fact supporting and assisting the Palestinians against the Israelis. Now Israel may or may not be fair in what is taking place, but it is clear to most people that the incursions were undertaken to stop or slow down the constant suicide bombings. It is, alas, war, and the State of Israel has every right to decide who can and cannot go into areas which they are now controlling.
The article seems to be yet another attempt to show big bad Israel, rather than explain objectively why such things take place.
Sir-- The Palestinians' gallant defence of Hebron and their refusal to surrender in the face of arrogant Israeli demands makes them heroes in the eyes of the world. Their bravery will go down in history.
The siege of Hebron is quite similar to what happened to the American 101 Airborne division in the Belgian town of Bastogne in December of 1944, when they were surrounded and the Germans demanded their surrender. General McAuliffe gave the Nazi commander a one word answer that has gone down in history.
How do you say "nuts" in Arabic?
Sir-- It is obvious that Israel is no longer willing to tolerate Muslim Arabs within its borders, and as of 11 September neither is the United States -- despite official denials by the American government. This is not fair to Muslim Arabs, but it is unfortunately a reality.
Time heals all wounds, and 11 September is no exception. But we are looking at a minimum of two generations for the healing process, which is too long for the Palestinians to continue their suffering.
With US carriers permanently based in the Eastern Mediterranean, coupled with Israel's own nuclear capabilities, the Arab world is in a lose-lose strategic military situation. The most realistic view is to give up any idea of a "Palestine". It doesn't exist, and it probably won't have any opportunity to exist as an independent state within the confines of Israel.
Here is a practical solution: Arab nations could absorb the Islamic Arab population from the West Bank and Gaza, in exchange for monetary compensation provided by the rest of the world, including the US and Israel. These monies would help build the Arab Islamic economies within the region, and put an end to the suffering of the Palestinian people who are already facing exile.
Presently, the Palestinians are living on less than $2 per day per person. They have no hope of a future, no place under the sun for their babies, and only destitution leading them to desperate measures of acts of futile violence.
The united Arab world is extremely unlikely to win any kind of a military conflict against a determined Israel. Think about it. Israel has staked this territory out as its own place under the sun, and is backed by the world's only superpower to make it so.
Sir-- The US is pressing many Arab countries, in particular the small Gulf states and Jordan, to allow their territories to be used in launching massive attacks against Iraq, in breaching international law. One of these countries, which has been heavily pressured, is Qatar. Indeed, the US has pressured Qatar into allowing "military assets" to be moved from Saudi Arabia to its territory. The rulers of Qatar have succumbed to the pressure, and a formidable expansion of American presence in Qatar is likely to be expected, and is indeed ongoing. The consequences for Qatar are most likely to be negative.
I am one of the many who believe that the rulers of Qatar could have resisted -- indeed it was their duty to resist -- American pressure by using different strategies. For example, they could have made such coercion public, and gained the support of their citizens. They could have addressed the issue in the Arab League, and gained support from other countries in the region.
But instead, they gave in, as if they think that their fate is to do what the US wants.
Sir-- I cannot express sufficiently how enjoyable and stimulating your columnists are, particularly Edward Said and Hani Shukrallah.
I always look forward to Al-Ahram Weekly because of these two gentlemen. Please pass on my admiration, and I hope that soon we will once again read Mr Shukrallah's sorely missed column.
Sir-- Congratulations on your coverage of the UN Arab Development Report (Al-Ahram Weekly, 11 - 17 July), but two points are neglected. First, few people in the Arab world will ever have the opportunity to read this important report; and second you incorrectly editorialise that the report states that the Israeli-Arab dispute "is one of the most pervasive" obstacles to Arab development.
The authors of the UN report said no such thing. They said the dispute was a factor (ie an excuse) for Arab governments to ignore other, more important development deficits. The main obstacle to development is authoritarianism by Arab governments.
The report could provide a launching point for serious reform, but the fact that it is not freely circulated in the Arab world speaks volumes.
Sir-- The last sentence in Salah El-Amrousi's article, 'Sliding into the fourth world' (Al-Ahram Weekly, 25 - 31 July), would get him arrested in many Arab countries for sedition.
What a groundbreaking idea: justice, democracy and freedom.
Sir- I was really shocked by Mark Harris's letter 'Freedom of Speech', (Al-Ahram Weekly, 20 - 26 June). The letter was full of insults to your esteemed paper, your readers and all Egyptians. The writer was rude enough to describe Egypt as backward and undemocratic and describe Egyptians as uneducated and "brainwashed by a relentlessly repressive religion/culture and autocracy". These groundless allegations must have made thousands of your readers very furious.
The writer's fascination with Western culture is without much reason, I daresay. The imbedded reference to Western society as being the model that all other countries should follow is not quite convincing.
Western society has its own failings. In spite of its stupendous and prodigious technological advancement, it is spiritually lifeless and it is doomed to collapse. The warmth of human feelings and relationships is apparently lacking. It is a culture that is slowly eroding, just like the slow erosion of the Roman Empire, because it lacks the essential spiritual elements that sustain it and keep it alive and because it carries within itself the seeds of its own destruction and annihilation.
Moreover, the racist and discriminatory attitude of the West towards all Arabs, specially after the catastrophic events of 11 September is quite apparent. There is now great concern among Westerners that new immigrants and minority members cannot be assimilated. The West has always had an ambivalent attitude toward newcomers. Ambivalent at best, racist at worst.
I have a piece of advice for Mark Harrison. Go read the history of Egypt. Only then will you be able to discover the reality of your own culture.
Essam Hanna Wahba
Sir-- I would like to thank the editor for publishing Mr Lenihan's "provocative" letter 'Bombs and fences' (Al-Ahram Weekly, 27 June - 3 July), because a newspaper such as yours should not censor freedom of speech and opinions. Personally, I see Mr Lenihan's letter as biased, arrogant and narrow-minded. Since he has no problem with native Palestinians leaving their homes to accommodate foreign Jews in Israel, I would like to ask Mr Lenihan if he would accept the idea of leaving his comfortable home in USA, to the First Nation people of Minnesota?
Whether Mr Lenihan or I like it or not, Native Indians have more rights in the USA and Canada, simply because they lived here before us. First Nation rights are a very touchy issue in North America. I cannot imagine for a moment that they would be treated the same way as Palestinians are treated today by a crazy and out of control government in Israel.
At the same time, I would like to caution Cathal Rabbitte in her response 'Panorama of views' (Al-Ahram Weekly, 25 - 31 July) from describing Mr Lenihan as a Christian right-wing fundamentalist. Why not a Jewish right-wing fundamentalist?
Nancy Phillip Zakhary
Sir-- I beg to differ with Mr Sam Jarfani letter 'Screaming hate' (Al-Ahram Weekly, 18 - 24 July 2002). Muslims do not hate Jews because they believe that Judaism -- like Islam and Christianity -- is a religion sent down from Heaven. Muslims hate Zionists who are always thirsty for murder and bloodshed. Here I refer you to the famous interview with Rabbi Davis Weiss on Al-Jazeera Channel a couple of months ago. I am sure you and many others will gain much benefit by so doing.
Jews and Muslims, Mr Jarfani, are cousins. Both are the descendants of father Abraham. Islam, my dear Sam, is a message of love and justice for all people be they black, white or yellow, Muslims or non-Muslims, believers or non- believers.
Arab Muslim countries are not, as you state, screaming "slaughter the Jews". They are screaming for peace and justice in Palestine, Afghanistan, Africa, Chechnya and Northern Ireland as well. We are all brothers, sons and daughters of Adam and Eve. Who slaughtered the Jews? The Nazis did, whereas the Muslims always offered them peace and a safe haven.
In the last Arab summit, Arab states all agreed to swallow a bitter pill and recognise Israel, lick their wounds and bury an indelible past of hateful memories and massacres. In response, an atrocious war was declared against the Palestinians with the most sophisticated weapons. Civilians were killed, houses demolished, trees uprooted, farms destroyed, land expropriated and Arafat besieged and humiliated. The latest raid against Gaza which resulted in the murder of 15 people, including children, and the wounding of more than 200 is evidence enough that Israel does not want peace, but is in high gear to drag the whole region into a war inferno.
Let us have more dialogue for a better understanding.
Letter from the Editor
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