Sir-- I wish to thank Osama El- Baz for his well-reasoned article 'Contaminated goods' (Al-Ahram Weekly, 2-8 January). While I sincerely wish those in positions of leadership in Israel, America and Europe would act on his advice, I doubt this will happen. It is difficult for me to believe that justice for the Palestinian people is an objective of world or Israeli leadership.
My doubt is fed by America's great hypocrisy in mouthing platitudes in support of a Palestinian state while supporting Israel's state terrorist campaign against the Palestinian people. Even the UN turns a blind eye to their suffering.
I indulge in the futile exercise of urging members of the Canadian Parliament to speak out and stand up for Palestinian rights and against Israel's oppressive actions to squash the exercise of those rights -- namely the right of the occupied to resist, with whatever means are at hand; like the way which Polish Jews of the Warsaw Ghetto defied the Nazis.
I greatly appreciate receiving Al-Ahram Weekly online, and particularly articles such as Osama El-Baz's. I do not feel so isolated. My faith that ultimately justice must prevail often wanes, but this article gives me hope.
The way forward
Sir-- I would like to thank Dr Osama El-Baz for his excellent article 'Contaminated goods' (Al-Ahram Weekly, 2-8 January). It was very well written, organised and straightforward with no adorning words to appease anyone.
Not only was it rich with historic facts, but with a conscientious analysis of the conflict's roots, steps to contain and end this bloody dispute which is simply destroying life in the Middle East for everyone.
Sir-- I would like to congratulate Mr Osama El-Baz for his excellent article 'Contaminated goods' (Al-Ahram Weekly, 2-8 January). I am a Canadian citizen of Tunisian origin and have lived in Canada since 1967. My emigration to my adopted land was precipitated by the 1967 war in the Middle East, but I am now glad to be back to my roots so to speak.
I am a teacher at the new Canadian International School of Egypt in Cairo (CISE) and strongly believe that Mr El-Baz is absolutely correct in what he is saying. His article reminded me of what the late Tunisian Habib Bourguiba said in the early 1960s. I wish to God more people (Europeans, Arabs, Israelis, Americans and others) would read and comprehend Mr El-Baz's article. Come to think of it, this should be compulsory reading material in all political science courses in all universities.
In my opinion, Al-Ahram Weekly is one of the best newspapers in the world today. Thank you and keep up the good work.
Sir-- In 'After Mombassa' (Al-Ahram Weekly, 2-8 January) the article states: "The attacks fulfilled a wish Israel has harboured since 11 September, namely, to be considered in the same boat with the United States in terms of fighting so-called terror."
So-called terror? What a tendentious weasel phrase. Terror is the specific targeting of civilians to achieve political purposes. Al- Qa'eda's attempt to down a civilian airliner falls into this category. Is the author so jaded, so barren of human compassion, that he can't acknowledge the humanity of the "other".
New York, NY
The blame game
Sir-- After reading some of the letters and articles in your newspaper, I'd like to give the Arabs some unsolicited advice from an American. You have let your entire existence be defined by the Arab-Israeli conflict. And because of it, you are incapable of focusing on the incredible problems which confront you. The Arab-Israeli dispute is one of 50 big problems which face you, but it consumes 90 per cent of your thought and energy. Each year you limp a little further to the end of the line of world powers and instead of confronting the true reasons, all you can do is complain about conspiracies against you and blame the Jews. How pathetic. How little and petty of you.
There is no democracy anywhere in the Arab world; you have no freedom of speech; you have no freedom of religion; any kind of genuine political opposition lands you in jail; you treat women like little more then private property and have denied them any role of consequence anywhere in the Arab Muslim world. Unbelievable! Fifty per cent of your population plays almost no role in determining the direction of your society and government. In desperation, you turn to religious leaders who are crude, unworldly fools who insist the answer to your problems is hate for the infidel and violence against them. How pathetic, and what a little nothing of a people you have become because of it.
These things are your fault, not America's. You (with some justification) condemn the Israelis for their policies in the West Bank but then cheer on the suicide bombers rather then condemning these acts as atrocities and war crimes. The violence continues and you wonder why? Here's my advice: change the way you look at the world; recognise that your misery comes from within and nobody but you is preventing the Arab world from becoming the light onto the world you dream it would be someday.
Sir-- The article by Robin Hirsch 'Aping the masters' (Al-Ahram Weekly, 26 December 2002 - 1 January 2003), and the references to "imperialism" hearken back to the dark old days of Communism. Israel an imperialist country? The same country that returned captured Sinai to Egypt in return for a peace treaty with the very country that published Hirsch's misleading article? Hardly sounds imperialistic to me. Israel, the country that moved into Lebanon to quell the shelling and infiltrations on her northern border, only to pull out later doesn't seem to follow an imperialistic paradigm.
As for Palestine, why is Israel there? Obviously, to stop the terrorist bombings on her soil. What country wouldn't do the same? Other countries have taken more drastic action (such as Jordan, Syria, China). If the Palestinians could stop the terror originating from their soil, Israel would surely pull out from the territories, as it has demonstrated in the past.
A Jew who speaks against Israel and Zionism should possess more critical facts than Hirsch has presented. Perhaps that is why his position has been soundly, and rightly, criticised.
Sir-- 'Israel's eid gift' (Al-Ahram Weekly, 12- 18 December) is a very good article that authentically portrays the situation of the Palestinians in the face of Israeli aggression.
Taghreed El-Khodary has been doing and has done a good job with this article. Keep it up Taghreed.
Sir-- Within little more than the time-span of a single generation, the Great Pyramid at Giza rose from the sands of ancient Egypt. There it has remained for well over four millennia, a monument to those who built it and a memorial to its one intended -- and very dead -- occupant. By contrast, some of mankind's efforts to construct some lasting benefit for the living would appear too ephemeral, too fragile to survive even the passage of a few weeks or months. The on/off peace negotiations between the Palestinians and the Israelis could be said to be a case in point.
Perhaps the vital element missing in such a structure is that long-term frame of reference. Like the Pharaohs, we might be better served there by an enterprise capable of more efficient use of time and circumstance.
Sir-- The Palestinian Authority agreed with the Israelis to help stop the conflict and bombings. For weeks, no suicide bombers took place, but what did the Israelis do? Did they pull back like they agreed they would? No. What did they do to help bring peace? Nothing. They still illegally occupied Palestine; the curfew remained in place, making work impossible; still continued with road blocks every where, making it impossible to move if and when the curfews are lifted; still arrested people by the dozens; still shot people in the streets on a daily basis; still blew up or bulldozed houses; still sent in helicopters, tanks and shelled homes and still built Israeli settlements on Palestinian land. All this is done with the backing of the US and against the rest of the United Nations. Without outside pressure on the Israelis this is not going to stop.
I understand this is not my war, but it is my fight for peace, because they are my people, Palestinians, Israelis, Christians, Muslims, Jews, black or white. The quicker we see that, the better this world will be. To me the answer is "peace".
Thieves of Baghdad
Sir-- I wonder if the USA and the United Kingdom would be remotely interested in invading Iraq if this country did not possess 10 per cent of the world's oil resources? President Bush has already announced that Iraq will be responsible for the cost of the invasion, which puts in place the excuse to grab Iraq's oil supplies.
In August 1964, when President Johnson wanted the consent of Congress to commit combat troops in Vietnam, he informed Congress that the US destroyer Maddox had been attacked by North Vietnamese patrol boats in the Gulf of Tonkin. Congress then gave him the necessary approval and US combat troops attacked Vietnam. It was later established that no such attack took place. As the United Nations weapons inspectors find no evidence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, we wait to learn what excuse will be manufactured to justify an invasion. Let us hope that it will have more validity than the excuse used for the invasion of Vietnam.
Have the leaders of the so-called "free world" lost all vestiges of common sense? Or should we call them the thieves of Baghdad?
Another sad chapter
Sir-- It is the time of the year when best wishes and greetings are exchanged and "peace towards all men" is often extended. Mr Mohamed Sid-Ahmed's commentary 'Why defend Iraq' (Al-Ahram Weekly, 19-25 December) is either written with subtle sarcasm, or is what passes for a "cop-out" -- basically not taking a position either for or against. Lester Pearson, a former prime minister of Canada was quoted as saying: "man prepares for war like a wild giant and prepares for peace as a timid midget."
No where in the world's media does one read about the impact of war on children. In the case of Iraq, will they be gassed by the British army as was done back in the 1950s? Or will they be "agent oranged" as in Vietnam? Or worse, will they suffer like the survivors of Nagasaki and Hiroshima?
It is a sad commentary on humanity when issues/problems between individuals are either ignored by elected representatives, or can only be resolved with nuclear arms in this the 21st Century. It is doubly sad when the people in the region do not even care one way or the other. If the present hysterical/hypocritical tragic comedy -- referred to as the war on Iraq -- takes place, it will only add a sorry chapter to mankind's history.
The reality is not "why defend Iraq", but why kill men, women and children. In due time, whether we care to admit it or not, almost every nation will have at its disposal nuclear weapons. So we better learn how to get along.
Armand De Laurell
Sir-- The Arabs must take to the streets today and warn China and Russia not to stick a knife in their backs, and veto any war plans by the UN against Iraq. They shouldn't make the same mistake of 1990. The key to stop the war is in the hands of Russia, China, and France.
Sir-- Please tell Ms Nyier Abdou, the author of 'The new America' (Al-Ahram Weekly, 26 December 2002 - 1 January 2003) that we have heeded her warning and we will now disregard it. Indeed, we have changed. We have moved into the future, while the Arab world remains mired in the failed past, with all of its failed arguments and failed prescriptions for improvement in what are primarily your problems, not ours.
Nobody here asks (or cares) "why do they hate us?" We might ask "why do they lecture us?" however.
Exposing the truth
Sir-- I was surprised to find out about the crisis in Sohag only from Al-Ahram Weekly when I read the article 'Effluent ethics' (Al- Ahram Weekly, 2-8 January). Thank you for managing to get this discussed despite the ongoing efforts by the authorities to hide the truth from the public. When will we live in a civilised society which values human rights? Thank you again and please keep up the good work.
Sir-- Regarding 'Arabs and Muslims and the global order' (Al-Ahram Weekly, 26 December 2002 - 1 January 2003). I respect your opinions and may even agree with some of them, but if terrorism is not a problem then how do you explain 9/11 or Bali?
I understand the argument of Israeli terrorism, but this cannot justify blowing up buildings full of innocent people. Your article does not even mention, much less try to explain, the actions of these people who use extreme violence against those with whom they disagree.
The rest of the world trying to portray Arabs and Islam as evil is lost on those of us with enough education to have our own opinions. I would like nothing more than to live in harmony with all people including Arabs, Muslims, Jews, Christians and all others. I can only pray that I live long enough to see this happen.
S Russell, Ohio
Sir-- The phenomenon of washing the nation- state's hands of global ethical responsibilities such as human rights, economic justice and ecological ethics, as well as broad questions such as the relation of science and religion and what it means to be truly human, has created a global moral vacuum, or rather a moral-free zone. We are living in a period where the basic assumptions about how states work are shifting.
The idea that is being increasingly canvassed is that we are witnessing the end of the nation- state, and that the nation-state is being replaced in the economically-developed world by what some call the market-state. It means that government is free to encourage enterprise but not to protect against risk. So, a new form of political administration has risen in which the idea of being a citizen and a politician has changed. Where the job of those who ran the state was once seen as guaranteeing the general good of the community, the state no longer has the power to keep its side of the bargain.
One of the serious consequences is the withdrawal of the state from many of those areas where it used to bring some kind of moral pressure to bear. It is inevitable that governments can no longer deliver in terms of setting out a moral basis for ordinary citizens to live their lives by. Doubtlessly, religious belief could fill the vacuum, but the challenge for religious communities, mosques, churches, and synagogues, is how to put morality back at the heart of society and public life.
At the polls
Sir-- In his article 'A critical year' (Al-Ahram Weekly, 26 December 2002 - 1 January 2003), Gamal Nkrumah assumed that Uhuru Kenyatta -- son of Kenya's first president and hand-picked successor of outgoing leader Daniel Arap Moi -- would win the 27 December elections.
In fact, as was widely predicted, the opposition candidate Mwai Kibaki won a landslide victory, in polls generally regarded as free and fair.
Sir-- Thank you for an excellent article 'What went wrong?' (Al-Ahram Weekly, 12-18 December) by M Shahid Alam.
Sir-- In Mr Shahid Alam's article 'What went wrong?' (Al-Ahram Weekly, 12-18 December), the author points out that "Zionist" Orientalism began to appear after 1918, but then notes that "this Zionist camp has been led for more than 50 years by Bernard Lewis" and some other contemporary writers. There are a number of logical questions that this statement raises.
First, what constitutes a "Zionist" Orientalist? Several of the people he names are actually journalists, not historians. Thus, Mr Shahid Alam seems to be suggesting that anyone who supports Israel, and in any way criticises the politics of modern Arab countries towards Israel is a "predatory Zionist Orientalist". This sounds to me less like the attitude of someone who wants to dialogue with Israel, than to discredit that country's very right to exist.
Second, given that the most active period of "Zionist Orientalism" seems to date from the last 50 years, perhaps the reason why some people are taking a more critical look at the Islamic world has to do with the almost unremitting hostility to the Jewish state that is projected in the Arab world, including in many of the articles in Al-Ahram Weekly. Perhaps this critical stance comes in part as a response to the policies of Arab governments. How could that not have occurred to the author?
As I read the article, the first thing that struck me was why shouldn't scholars, Jewish or otherwise, look critically at Islam or the Arabs, given that the latter have not hesitated to be so relentless in their criticism of Israel, America and the West? Whence this childish presumption that the Islamic world is above censure? Middle Eastern civilisation is vastly complex, and cannot be generalised about in either a damning or a fawning manner. Personally, I love Arab architecture, and have a fondness for Arab food, but I would not want to live under a Shari'a-based, or Arab nationalist dictatorship for any money.
I am disappointed by the whiny "blame the Jewish cabal" tone of Mr Shahid Alam's article, for such rhetoric does nothing to increase the credibility of Arabs in the view of Americans.
Down memory lane
Sir-- I was just browsing through the web and thought of doing a search on my ballet teacher Laura Laurella and I was very touched when I found 'Shooting stars' by Khaireya Khairy (Al- Ahram Weekly, 4-10 May 2000). My mother was a student at her school and so was I. danced with her -- or rather she taught me for nine years.
Sir-- I enjoyed reading 'Pop goes the weasel' by Amina El-Bendary (Al-Ahram Weekly, 26 December 2002 - 1 January 2003).
Sir-- I think your newspaper is very open-minded and I pray to God that all will soon see that the Muslim people were not and are not terrorists, as my country and Israel are trying to project, but that they are of purer beliefs than most.