Sir-- Let me understand this. At all times, before and after the "roadmap", Hamas says it rejects peace or even a cease-fire with Israel; the Palestinians say they will not force Hamas to stop attacking Israel. Hamas then kills five Israeli soldiers. When Israel retaliates and attacks Hamas, Israel is denounced as endangering the "roadmap."
Is the "road" on the "roadmap" one way only? Hamas gets to attack Israel, but Israel cannot attack Hamas?
Los Angeles, CA
The bigger picture
Sir-- The roadmap will never work as long as George W Bush is leading on it. He will let Israel get away with murder over and over again, just as he has always done, and the US will probably continue to fund them to do this.
I can't condone the tactics of Hamas, but the media especially British and US media, are guilty of biased reporting on this issue portraying Hamas to be the only bad guys. I think some in- depth analysis as to why anybody would carry out such desperate acts is needed to balance these news reports with a more thorough history of Hamas.
Bush and Sharon are as bad as anybody else in this conflict.
Sir-- This is an open letter to President George W Bush:
Dear Mr President,
We salute the recent efforts of your administration to bring a ray of hope for peace into the lives of Palestinians and Israelis. The Palestinians have been traumatised for too long by the Israeli occupation, just as the Israelis have suffered the effects of violent acts committed by Palestinians intended to end the occupation.
Yet, many of us feel that you can do more to take an active role in resolving this conflict. You mobilised a lethal force, hundreds of thousands of our finest troops, to fight a war in Iraq; you spent billions of dollars and committed the might and wealth of this nation to remove a tyrant and change his regime. You did it to "liberate" Iraq. But your efforts to bring peace to the Middle East pale by comparison and many of us are convinced you can do more.
The meetings, summits, handshakes and photo opportunities look very familiar to Palestinians, Israelis and many Americans. In a different time and place, we have seen similar pictures, heard the same speeches and wondered about the same reservations expressed by either side. Many of us agree with the objectives of your vision and the new road map, but we remain apprehensive about the process by which these objectives will be pursued: Like Abel and Cain, the Palestinians and the Israelis can not be left alone to their own devices; the stark disparity in military power makes it impossible for the parties to negotiate on their own, and to reach a just, fair and realistic agreement. Such a process was tried before, with results that are well known to all.
Mr President, only one tenth of the force you mobilised in Iraq can bring the surest first step to peace in the Holy Land. Send that force on a noble mission of peace to separate and disengage the two sides, like we did in Sinai; let both peoples live without fear of the other while they contemplate peace. Let the two sides start by cleaning up their own societies and controlling the hatred in their midst; help both sides to free their internal resources to address their internal problems with incitement; let them establish their own internal peace before they can make peace with their decades-old adversary. Only one tenth of the force we sent to Iraq should suffice in the Holy Land. If any people in the world would greet US troops as liberators, it is the Palestinians of the West Bank and Gaza who have endured the yoke of occupation for 36 years.
Mr President, liberating the West Bank and Gaza Palestinians, not just the Iraqi people, would be the true liberation. The Holy Land has no oil for us to covet, but peace in the Holy Land is the key to our success in the Arab and Muslim worlds.
Michael S Ladah
Las Vegas, NV
Terrorists and victims
Sir-- In response to Mr Rick Harrell's letter 'By definition' (Al-Ahram Weekly 15-21 May), I give this humble opinion. Mr Harrell is surprised about the use of the phrase "so-called terrorist" groups when referring to Hizbullah, Hamas, etc. Yes, they are not real terrorists as you and the Western nations see them. These groups are simply trying to defend themselves and ask for their rights, while the rest of the Palestinians are unable to accomplish this mission because of Israeli pressure and aggression against them.
It's a normal reaction for a nation that finds no one listening to it or understanding its situation. If you ask someone from a Western nation about the Palestinian-Israeli conflict , they'll simply tell you that they don't know much except that Jews are being massacred. That's completely untrue.
If we are to define the word "terrorism", we should compare between the so-called terrorist groups and the Israeli troops which embody the word. Israeli troops destroy homes, kill babies and innocent civilians mostly with no reason, while Palestinian defend themselves with rocks. What would you say, Mr Harrell if I told you about a story in the newspapers, as told by an Israeli soldier, which ended with the following sentence: "After kidnapping the Palestinian guy and torturing him ,we took him in our military jeep to the highway (the car speed was about 100km/h) we pushed him out, after seconds I heard the explosion of his head on the ground."
I think, Mr Harrell, that the Palestinians have no other alternative to express their anger and defend themselves other than "armed chaos", using rocks and primitive weapons, while the other side chooses not to take one genuine step towards a peace plan and has isolated their elected president.
If you're still not satisfied with the term "so- called terrorists", I suggest we should call them "victims."
Ending the plague
Sir-- It is disturbing that Western business, corporate and political power will fail to address the real needs in the Arab/Muslim world. Greed, profit and selfishness, whether individually or collectively generated, are evils too that must be confronted and dealt with immediately. Failing this, the options generally become destructive and negative in outcome and benefits no one.
Terrorism is not a viable option nor is war if we are to enjoy growth, mutual respect and peace in our world. Democracy and an open market economy are also very important to the world if all citizens of the world are to enjoy stability and security. Certainly the oil-rich Arab nations should do all they can to help their poorer Muslim neighbours.
The United Nations should reassert its moral and rightful authority in this situation with Iraq. Certainly, the Security Council should grapple with the real needs of the people in Iraq and in the developing world. The notion of "might is right" and a return to the "law of the jungle" are not viable options.
The gap between rich and poor nations should be bridged before it is too late. Foreign aid and investment by developed nations must be increased in order to alleviate this growing problem. Cooperation, development, freedom, justice and peace should be the paramount thought that leads to action to solve the problems which plague our world at this time.
Sir-- I found 'Arab pride, US prejudice' by Dr Abdel-Moneim Said (Al-Ahram Weekly, 29 May - 4 June) thought provoking. I would like to respond as both an anthropologist by education and vocation, and as an American woman. A basic anthropological theory is that "cultures in contact are cultures in conflict".
Regardless of the conflict as a result of this culture "clash", both cultures learn from each other and find something useful from the contact -- items both tangible and intangible which may be integrated into the receiving cultures in innovative ways. A simple example would be architecture which I describe as post-Egyptian. In almost any large city in the US, one can observe an architect's adaptation of the pyramid.
From my vantage point (and I do not claim the intellect of any of the contributors to this admirable publication), whatever reforms, if they are found to be necessary, cannot be considered "American" as they must reflect the needs, customs, religion, and tradition of your populace. What we have in America works (more or less) because of the diversity of our population. Because of this and the changing landscape of the world, our constitution is flexible and is changed periodically through amendments.
Any reforms should reflect the individual needs of each nation/culture and thus be distinct from anything considered American.
Fact and fiction
Sir-- 'Arab pride, US prejudice' by Dr Abdel- Moneim Said (Al-Ahram Weekly, 29 May - 4 June) was brilliant. Is anyone listening? I urge Dr Said not to be discouraged; we face a similar problem in the US. If the members of the Democratic Party ever learn that Republicans brush their teeth, I'm afraid the Democrats will break their teeth with a hammer.
But your readers must be very confused if they read both 'Privatisation, liberalisation and all that -- revisited' (Al-Ahram Weekly, 12-18 June) by Adel Beshai and 'Globalisation and its discontents' (Al-Ahram Weekly, 12-18 June) by M Shahid Alam. The two articles couldn't be more different. Dr Beshai offers a clear, rational analysis of the process of economic liberalisation while Dr Alam dishes up foaming-at-the-mouth crazy Marxist propaganda.
I'm glad to see Dr Beshai focus on the role of government in creating institutions that make markets work. The West has taken such institutions for granted and has assumed that they exist in all other countries. The lack of such institutions were the reason for the spectacular failure of market reforms in post-communist Russia. However, I think Dr Beshai makes the issue seem more complex than it really is.
All I can say about Dr Alam's article is to warn readers that at least 80 per cent of his "facts" are simply not true. He is promoting an old ideology about the Center-Periphery that was invented in the 1940s to rescue Marxism from total embarrassment. The fact that the ideology has no evidence to support it has not prevented thousands of people from accepting it, but then, thousands also believe that Elvis still lives.
Broken Arrow, OK
Sir-- Regarding debating and encouraging talk between the religions as mentioned in 'Preachers of bigotry' (Al-Ahram Weekly, 5-11 June). Where in all these mosques is there any talk of tolerance and love for Christians and Jews? Just another Muslim talking with a forked tongue.
Sir-- In response to Muqtedar Khan's 'Preachers of bigotry' (Al-Ahram Weekly, 5-11 June), I would like to thank him for the balance of good among many Christians he addressed in his article. Not all of us are Muslim haters, and I'm glad he addressed those so-called Christians here in America who wrongfully bash Islam. It is such an obvious ignorant perception and a real sin in our scriptures for any Christian to hate anyone.
I'd like to thank Mr Khan for a bit of Islamic wisdom from the Qur'an 16:124 to the "Preacher of Bigotry". I understand Mr Khan's defense and frustration towards such preachers, and I feel much the same way when I read the 1988 Hamas Covenant bashing Christians, Jews and Americans. It seems the Islamic Resistance Movement and the Evangelicals should get together to see who can out-hate the other.
I still do not understand how and why people choose to kill each other over differences in religious beliefs, race, colour or culture. Apparently, there is still something fundamentally defective in our humanness. May God help us all.
Oklahoma City, OK
God is love
Sir-- I read 'Preachers of bigotry' (Al-Ahram Weekly, 5-11 June) by Muqtedar Khan with extreme sadness but not one bit of surprise. I am a fundamentalist Evangelical Christian. Over the past 25 years, I have read the entire Bible numerous times, mostly from beginning to end, a little at a time. I believe this helps me internalise the whole point of it all. And the point is, in a word, love: love first God, then all people, friend and enemy alike, without partiality.
Many people, including Mr Khan, do not claim the name of Jesus Christ, yet you consistently speak and act in ways that remind me of his words and actions. You inspire me to speak and act with more love.
Dignity for all
Sir-- In response to 'Preachers of bigotry' (Al- Ahram Weekly, 5-11 June), I am sorry for the fearful atmosphere reflected in the bumper sticker seen by the author. I am one of those more quiet Americans who embraces my Muslim brothers and sisters, and considers your peace and safety to be crucial to the collective security, peace and safety of us all.
My first message to my college class -- including many Arab and other Muslim students, as well as Israelis and American Jews -- on 9/11 was that any expression of hatred from any person along national, ethnic or religious lines in my classroom would be regarded as a threat to the safety of all class participants, and would be responded to with the strongest discipline available to me. Though a staunch believer in free speech, in such a moment I felt this necessary, and lawful, to prevent immediate incitements to violence.
I have many friends, neighbours and colleagues who do not at all view the world, or the current issues, in the narrow "standard- issue" straight jacket promoted by the "powers that be." I will not stand for the mistreatment of any person in my presence. In dignity to all created beings, that is where I see the hand of God.
San Diego, CA
Sir-- About that bumper sticker mentioned in 'Preachers of bigotry' (Al-Ahram Weekly, 5-11 June). This is one of those cases where a deeper comprehension of cultural colloquialisms might have changed the author's reaction. That's not to say that Mr Khan's article in general is necessarily inaccurate.
"Kill 'em all, and let Allah sort 'em out" is a comic cliché based on a comic cliché. The original infamous quote ran "Kill 'em all, and let God sort 'em out." While the quote is actually attributed to a soldier in the Vietnam war, it was made famous in the movie Apocalypse Now. Having been requoted thousands of times over the past 20 years as the comic punch line to every issue, both serious and petty, this quote is now relegated to the realms of video games and bumper stickers.
Black hearted humour? Perhaps. But what is the actual underlying meaning? Something like this: "I can't possibly sort out who is right and who is wrong. I throw my hands in the air and trust Divinity to know what is in each combatant's heart."
B J Baldwin
Sir-- Muqtedar Khan's article 'Preachers of bigotry' (Al-Ahram Weekly, 5-11 June) was very well-balanced and appropriate at a time when religion is being used by bigots around the world to serve their own ends and power plays. No religion in the world teaches its followers to hate others, and as quoted from the Holy Qur'an by Mr Khan, Islam recognises followers of other religions. Muslims respect and honour Moses and Jesus as much as they honour Mohamed, peace be upon them all.
It is unfortunate that hate is being spread towards particular faiths like Islam with the help of lies and propaganda by a certain section of Christian brothers. It is about time that well- informed people of all faiths clearly disassociate their faith and beliefs from such bigots who give religion a bad name.
Horrendous crimes are being committed in the name of Islam, Christianity, Judaism, and I think the media should investigate the power- plays and political undercurrents in cases where hate is propagated using religion as an alibi, rather than blaming it on a particular faith and building stereotypes.
We need to see more investigative and balanced articles like this one by Mr Khan, not just in the Arab press but also in the Western media.
Eye on caricature
Sir-- Are Al-Ahram Weekly's cartoons only meant to target the US and Israel? Why can't we have cartoons showing Arabs and Muslim problems?
Do you really think that the Arabs and Muslim problems are only related to the US and Israel? You need to open your eyes, otherwise you are misleading not only Egyptians, but all those who may read your newspaper.
Bring her home
Sir-- Regarding 'Ancient beauty sabotaged' (Al-Ahram Weekly, 12-15 June), I have always thought that the beautiful bust of Nefertiti, created by the talented Amarna sculptor Dhutmose, belonged back in Egypt. She was, after all, an Egyptian queen.
This latest strange action on the part of the German Museum only strengthens that belief.
Moreen Le Fleming Ehly
Sir-- I want to thank you for your article 'Ancient beauty sabotaged' (Al-Ahram Weekly, 12- 15 June) that outlines the reckless disregard of the director of the German Museum for accuracy in history and authenticity of priceless art. If the German Museum had any self-respect it would return the Nefertiti bust to its original land. Is it not bad enough that they are in possession of this marvelous treasure of Egypt, they have to make their own rather inferior alterations to it.
It is a disgrace to the archeological community that works hard to restore this part of our history to which we owe so much and from which we can learn so much.
I fully support the SCA's Mr Mabrouk's opinion that Nefertiti should be returned to Egypt where it belongs