Sir-- This is a fax I sent to the Russian ambassador to London.
Dear Ambassador Grigory Karasin,
I agree with your government's comments that Washington is applying personal pressure on the United Nations' weapons inspectors. Time is very short and we now need to take radical measures to stop war.
I am considering going to Iraq if necessary as part of the human shield, if I can overcome certain practical difficulties. However, I fear it might not be enough to stop those with murder in their hearts. May I make the suggestion instead that Russia, and Arab countries such as Egypt, Syria and Saudi Arabia and also Turkey immediately offer to send in large numbers of personnel to monitor the situation, assist the weapons inspectors and effectively act as a human shield against possible bombing.
You will then need to use your contacts with the regime in Iraq to persuade them to accept this offer. With enough people in Iraq from the international community, America will never attack. Peaceful means can then be used to meet the objectives of the United Nations.
Sir-- Regarding Edward Said's piece 'An unacceptable helplessness' (Al-Ahram Weekly, 16-22 January). Except for some rather outdated Marxist rhetoric at the beginning (about the capitalist machine grinding etc.) this was quite a moving cri de coeur. I hope it gets more circulation in the West. I don't entirely agree with him, of course -- I think Bush is right on Iraq -- but Said is right about the Palestine question and I have never seen it better or more passionately stated.
S G Briggs
New Orleans, La
Show of might
Sir-- The article 'An unacceptable helplessness' (Al- Ahram Weekly, 16-22 January) by Mr Edward Said is extremely riveting. I believe that the Arabs have a tremendous potential to put up a great fight. Look at what the Palestinians are achieving today; they are holding the mighty Israeli army hostage on the West Bank, the economy of Israel is in its worst shape in years, and what is most important is that they are providing an example to those who believe that a bunch of rag tag fighters cannot inflict huge losses on a mighty power.
Los Angeles, CA
Admiring the brave
Sir-- I thank Edward Said for his brilliant article 'An unacceptable helplessness' (Al-Ahram Weekly, 16-22 January). It is much needed, much wanted -- maybe too late -- to reflect and organise a strategy. Why is there no unity, integrity and common civil courage?
Solidarity with the brave and admirable Palestinian people who take the hardship and give the lives of their sons away in despair and with much courage is needed, while the rest of the Arab world is watching in apathy.
New York, NY
Sir-- Edward Said is most eloquent in his commentary 'An unacceptable helplessness' (Al-Ahram Weekly, 16-22 January) as are most of your writers. However, as with most of your writers, he expends too much time, energy and thought upon cataloging the alleged faults and evil designs of the United States, rather than addressing the overwhelming poverty that engulfs the Arab world. It is your economic poverty and poverty of spirit that pulls you into the abyss of helplessness.
The Arab world is blessed with intellectuals such as Mr Said who are educated far better than I, who are better read than I, yet the masses do not read his column because they cannot read or do not have the money to buy your paper. That sir, is not the fault of the West.
My remarks are not aimed at Egypt but the Arab world generally. I love Egypt and its people, having visited your country twice and have plans to return again and again. I love the Arab culture and the Middle East generally, having lived in the Arabian Desert in a tent for most of a year, finding your culture intriguing and your practice of Islam inspiring. I am your friend but I grow tired of Arab whining and proselytising without the first whit of self-examination.
Finally, thank you for Al-Ahram Weekly on-line. Without your Internet edition I would be unable to read your paper which is most interesting, enlightening and educational.
Jack Wallace Jr
Sir-- Just a brief note to thank Al-Ahram Weekly and its courageous columnists -- Edward Said being first among them -- for making available cogent, well- reasoned and well-written overviews of the best of Arab public opinion and sentiment in English. As an American, I can find no such material in my own country, and hence eagerly anticipate the Internet update of Al-Ahram Weekly editorials and opinion.
Keep up the good work, and may all of our efforts lead to a saner, better world; first and foremost by blocking the march to war against the Arab world by our megalomaniac President Bush and an equally power-drunk Sharon.
Socorro, New Mexico
Sir-- Thank you for Edward Said's 'An unacceptable helplessness' (Al-Ahram Weekly, 16-22 January). The Arabs may seem helpless and weak, but the world must not be fooled by their silence; the world must know that the Arabs are humble with dignity, and they will not withstand the oppression of an alien coloniser. History shows a record of Arab unity against any foreign conquest even before Islam came to Arabia. It is at hard times when you see the Arab people gaining their strength, reconciling their differences and mobilising their efforts to defy their oppressor.
The United States of America must think twice before attempting to lead a new coalition of crusaders to Arabia. As weak as the Arabs may seem, they could never live with the tyranny of a foreign invader. Don't mind the Arab governments or the so- called "Arab street", the real strength of the Arabs is their moral case in protecting their land and families from the forces of colonial autocracy. A live example of that strength is the interaction with the Palestinian cause throughout the Arab region, at all levels and at any price.
The world must read and learn about the true nature of the Arabs before attempting to make a big mistake and follow the unwise, oil-hungry Bush administration. This time things are going to be different, the tools of the new global system are accessible to the Arabs as well, and many have taken their places and distributed their responsibilities. The current US administration must re-examine its attitudes and plans to dominate the region and serve the Zionist demands.
Sir-- After reading Edward Said's 'An unacceptable helplessness' (Al-Ahram Weekly, 16-22 January), I wonder about the tireless activity engaged by supposedly 'helpless' academics and activists in Australia of putting our names at the end of a UN petition to 'stop the war'. I see the mountain of e-mails sent to me from friends and colleagues with the subject heading 'anti-war... something' and I wonder if anyone is listening, as Said says. I wonder if there is a difference made here in Australia by my own work of researching and arguing against racist anti-Muslim/anti- Arab laws created 10 years ago without consultation. I wonder about the mediocre efforts by groups identified with 'the left' in Australia to stop 'anti- terrorism' legislation because they are concerned about the local feminist group being harassed by the Australian 'intelligence' authorities.
I wonder what it means to try and make a country 'free' through the passive 'witnessing' of the destruction of another. Activists in Australia organise rallies weekly and the few committed are exhausted but still crying against the apathy of the others. This is where our outrage goes, perhaps because there is no 'others' to support; perhaps because there is, as Said says, little voice from the Arab countries and communities with which to align; and perhaps because it's easier to wait and snap at ourselves, rather than confront the enormous frustration that is 'being Australian' at this time. I have no solutions, only a tireless energy to worry away at the problems from my office where the light is still on, and/but it is late in the day.
The agony within
Sir-- Pain is what I got out of reading 'An unacceptable helplessness' (Al-Ahram Weekly, 16-22 January) by Edward Said. Is it an existential pain that will possibly lead to a positive change? Is it pain of feeling guilt and helplessness? Is it pain of foresight, of hopelessness? All I know now is that I have the feeling of serious pain. Where it will take me, I don't really know. Will someone give me a light and walk ahead of me to make necessary changes? I will surely follow.
Thanks Edward for raising the question, is anyone listening. Does anyone feel my pain?
Sir-- As American forces along with their military equipment are being massed in the Gulf region, girding themselves up for attacking Iraq, I really can't help imagining the amount of losses Iraqi people would sustain should this attack be launched. Innocent casualties, demolished houses, homeless children, and the like, while Arabs -- as usual -- are utterly sitting on their hands. I really can't help imagining the circumstances under which Iraqi people are living now in anticipation of their ill-omened destiny. I really can't help imagining myself as one of the Iraqi citizens living in such circumstances.
Now, I would like to direct the following questions to each Arab: Why don't you try to picture these images of grief? Why don't you try, for a moment, to imagine being in the shoes of an Iraqi citizen? Why don't you think of your country being the next target under the pretext of weapons of mass destruction, terrorism or whatever?
If each and every one of us thinks very deeply and answers these questions honestly, we would once more stand together against any actions aimed at splitting our unity.
Sir-- I enjoy reading articles on your Web site as it gives me an alternate point of view. One thing that has puzzled me over the years is the seeming lack of economic stimulus for the Palestinian people. Would not Palestine be better served if some of that oil money went to building schools, hotels, homes and factories? Instead, the very rich Bin Laden and others decide to spend their money on training terrorists. Can you imagine a prosperous Palestine, a true economic force in the region? I doubt Israel could stand up to that. I wonder if the Palestinian people feel somewhat let down by all of this. As wrong as it is, the Israelis are building "settlements" in the Palestinian territories. The Palestinians should stop bombing, and with Arab help, start building on a massive scale. I hope for peace.
Western Springs, IL
Sir-- I have read your paper for several years now. The article 'Blood for votes' (Al-Ahram Weekly, 16-22 January) is prototypical of the virulent propaganda half truths and vicious hatred you allow onto your pages. It saddens me, for I do not see how peace could ever be possible with such distortion of the truth. Israeli civilians and soldiers are portrayed continuously as evil murderers with no shred of evidence to back it up.
The prime example of Jenin more than proves this point. Arabs everywhere screamed massacre for days on end. The upper echelons of the PA assured the world that thousands of people had been murdered by the IDF. However, when the dust settled and the screaming stopped no massacre was to be found.
I truly pray that one day we will be able to get beyond the rhetoric, and articles such as 'Blood for votes' will not be allowed into print. Such writings only make the possibility of peace and harmony all the more difficult.
Sir-- I am an American Jew who up until 2000 (when a deal for peace was rejected) was very sympathetic to the plight of the Palestinian people. I appreciate your perspective and thus read articles from multiple sources, and have no ill feelings towards Islam.
The article 'After Mombassa' (Al-Ahram Weekly, 2-8 January) was well written, but fails to mention that the targets were civilians although they were "Jews/Crusaders". Has your newspaper ever suggested a solution to the Israel/Palestine situation or has it ever been critical of its corrupt leadership? I am critical of Sharon, but wasn't he the only option for Israel after the suicide bombings began and the peace accord failed?
Sir-- Please allow me to express an observation about the Palestinian impasse; there are times when an outsider may see the dynamic at work more clearly than can the participants. We know by now the result of more Intifada; it may be satisfying to continue but it is certainly not effective.
One day, these young blowing up themselves in the face of their oppressors will tire of causing their own destruction and that of their people, and will stop goading their tormentors into beastly actions. At that date peace will have a chance. But will there be at that time one state, or two states?
If there are two states, we can be certain that there will be one very large Jewish state surrounded by a giant fence, and that beyond that fence there will be a handful of tiny bantustans full of poverty-stricken people without the means of establishing a nation. For that reason I'm not a big fan of the Mitzna solution.
I would suggest a complete and unconditional surrender by the Palestinians, at once. Have your leaders offer to Israel all the ostensibly Palestinian territories so that a unified state can be proclaimed. In time, if the peace endures, your request for simple human rights and citizenship will be undeniable in the court of world opinion, Israeli opinion and American opinion. Then you can vote and join in sharing what prosperity the newly joined nation can create.
I would see the time involved in gaining total equality within a new "Israel" as being no more than 10 years from the end of the Intifada.
As you have already squandered 55 years in other failed strategies, there will be nothing lost by trying the one thing you've never before tried -- giving the Israelis what they need for their own survival. This suggestion is humbly proffered.
Dealing with the militants
Sir-- Cairo's commendable efforts to seek a formula which would bring an end to attacks on Israeli civilians -- even for a year -- by Hamas, Jihad and Tanzim have so far failed. And if you would kindly permit an independent political and military observer to comment, there will be no change in these extremists' views in the foreseeable future. The reason, in my humble opinion, is that we Egyptians are resorting only to words and that can only bring about failure and more failure.
The time has come, I believe, to use a bit of strong- arm tactics and this is what I propose we should do. Suicide bombers, attacks on civilian targets etc, go against the teachings of the Holy Qur'an and the sayings of the Prophet. Anyone who disobeys these teachings and sayings is to be considered an apostate. And this includes Palestinian extremists like Hamas, Jihad and Tanzim who should be told that if they continue with suicide bomber attacks against Israeli civilian targets, then Egypt and other interested Arab countries will take action against them.
No, they will not attack them with their armies, but they could very well do the following. First, stop all Arab financial assistance to the Palestinian National Authority; second, Egypt and others withdraw all attempts at mediation/political help; third Hamas, Jihad and Tanzim be declared "rogue organisations" whose actions can only do irreparable harm to the Palestinian people, and their leaders (including, alas, Mr Arafat) to be declared persona non-grata by Egypt and other interested Arab countries.
I hope the above measures do not seem too extreme but I believe that these extremists, who are playing into Mr Sharon's hands magnificently, will only see reason if they are threatened with ostracisation by their Arab brethren.
Jara, Neruda and Chile
Sir-- Regarding Mursi Saadeddin's 'Plain talk' column (Al-Ahram Weekly, 16-22 January). I'd like to say how touched I was to see that, as far away as Egypt, someone still remembers Chile, Victor Jara and the presidency of Salvador Allende that was cut short in 1973. Not everyone liked him, but hope was in the air. We had a future where peasants would own their farms and Chile, her mines. I was 11 when my father had to spirit the family abroad and start a new life from scratch in Algeria; I only returned 15 months ago at the age of 38.
Saadeddin also remembered Pablo Neruda, who was our ambassador to Madrid during the 1936 Spanish Civil War. Under instructions from Santiago, he chartered an ocean liner to spirit Spanish refugees to the safety of Chile. My grandmother was on that ship and she remained grateful to him all her life.
Since the end of the dictatorship, various governments have been building a new dynamic, safe and stable country, but there's still that memory. Families who still don't know what became of their relatives, when and how they died -- if they died.
This year is the 30th anniversary of the "coup" that everybody wants to forget, and a healthy number of the shadiest people from that period are popular and widely respected public figures in high office today. To try and forget with a clear conscience, we hold concerts in Jara's honour or open a Salvador Allende Museum. But there is no statue, no picture, no representation of the slain president, or any reminder of what happened.
There are also sincere gestures of reconciliation and yes, everyone wants to see Chileans working together to build a strong country, but there is also the legacy of dictatorship, the silence, secrecy and mental replays of the experience of fear.
I would like to say that it's all over now, but I can't. We remain a deeply scarred and divided society, and the worst of it is the taboo -- nobody talks about it. At best we gloss over anything touchy with the appropriate euphemism.
Sir-- Sharif Elmusa makes some interesting arguments in his piece 'In search of the epic' (Al-Ahram Weekly, 2-8 January). Towards the end of his article, there is one line I found very illuminating: "We know, though, that there are millions of people in the US opposed to the militarism of the Bush administration". What I find most compelling in this statement is how it so clearly illustrates the difference between the USA and Iraq. We Americans are allowed to voice our dissent; it is my understanding that open dissent in Iraq is violently discouraged.
Does this fundamental difference between Iraqi and American society justify a war? Most assuredly not. But I must admit that I grow weary of the demonisation of America that seems to be so prevalent in foreign media outlets. Americans are more than what is portrayed in the opinion pieces recently disseminated from Middle Eastern sources. Similarly, I assume that the many peoples in the Middle East have far more depth to their lives than I can ever hope to understand through the media sources available to me.
What is remarkable about American society is that introspection is continually taking place. It is the very voices of dissent, openly allowed in our country, that examine the consequences of our actions, both past and future, and ultimately moderate the direction of our culture. Will this dissent and introspection be enough to stop a war with Iraq? I fear, as do many in the world, the inevitability of that conflict. But perhaps if dissent and introspection were openly practiced in some of the places so vehemently against the Great Satan of America, there would be less reason for rulers to wage wars that leave sons dead and mothers grieving.
New York, NY
The US as benign
Sir-- 'In search of an epic' (Al-Ahram Weekly, 2-8 January) by Sharif Elmusa is nearly an unreadable piece. But I got the gist of it and he should be ashamed, and you should be ashamed for printing it. As imperfect as the United States is, it is still the most perfect of any great power that has come before it. Can one imagine how greatly for the worse the world would be if America had the territorial ambitions of the despotic regimes she has defeated? Would this author have preferred a world dominated by Hitler's Germany? Or Toto's Japan? Or a Stalin/Khruschev/et al Soviet Union? Be grateful, instead, for having a very benign United States of America to complain about. Or better yet, maybe he shouldn't be complaining after all.
D Jay Williams
Sir-- Please present my compliments and thanks to Professor Sharif Elmusa for his remarkable article 'In search of an epic' (Al-Ahram Weekly, 2-8 January). It is one of the most lucid pieces I have read for many months.
Sir-- This is the first time I surfed to Al-Ahram Weekly. I found your site really interesting and bookmarked it. I have been in Cairo several times and this way I feel a bit connected. You will find me a regular visitor.
House of glass
Sir-- I read with interest 'One year in limbo' (Al- Ahram Weekly, 16-22 January) which showed the true face of America in the category of human rights. I would like to thank you because I did not read about this subject in either the local or international press.
I am also wondering about the cases lodged by some of the relatives of the victims of 11 September against some Saudis and Muslim philanthropists, asking for compensation in trillions of dollars. I would like to remind Americans that first, you have no clear evidence against these people. Second, if you use this logic, then the Vietnamese people have the right to sue the USA for the massacres during the Vietnam war; the Palestinians can sue the Israelis for their actions; and the Egyptians can sue Britain for crimes perpetuated during British occupation of Egypt.
Support for Egypt
Sir-- Regarding 'Pursuing the peace option' (Al- Ahram Weekly, 16-22 January). President Mubarak's unstinting efforts to avert an Iraqi-American war are noted. President Mubarak's vision and courage in this endeavour are to be admired, and President Bush would be well advised to emulate them. As one of hundreds of thousands of Americans who braved frigid temperatures and high winds to participate in public anti-war rallies throughout America, I am heartened and encouraged by President Mubarak's efforts for peace. I will spread the message among my friends and associates that we are not alone in our efforts for peace, and that we have a potent and stalwart ally for our efforts in Cairo, Egypt.
Many thanks to the people and government of Egypt for your support of peace between America and Iraq.
Half Moon, NY
US carte blanche
Sir-- I would like to thank Sherine Bahaa for her well written article 'The war on the streets' (Al-Ahram Weekly, 16-22 January) about the persistent will of the Iraqi people. They have suffered for many years under sanctions imposed by the tyrannical USA. Bush is trying by all possible means to lead an unjustifiable war upon innocent Iraqis to take revenge for his father.
Americans impose their double standard policy everywhere, especially in the Middle East, and try to occupy the world by a war on Iraq. This way, they will leave the Israelis to do what they want.
Ahmed El-Sayed Sharaf