Sir-- The voice of the criminal Saddam is the best help for the Americans; they can now kill the Iraqi people under the pretence of searching for Saddam. Having the shadow of Saddam gives them an excuse to depict the Iraqi resistance as a movement led by the former dictator, and morally (especially for the American public opinion) this justifies the lost soldiers. By diffusing an audio tape of Saddam's speech, the Americans are trying to bring back the old threat, simply because under this threat all the criminal American actions seem justified and legitimate. Not only this, but also to be able to present the Iraqi popular resistance as a movement manipulated by the old regime.
We, in the Arab world, should give our support to the Iraqi popular resistance and present this resistance as it really is -- a natural reaction from an occupied people against the occupier. We have to save the Iraqi resistance from the shadow of Saddam and give it all the moral support it needs.
Sir-- Do you want freedom American style? Here is an example. Vice President Dick Cheney delivered the following statement in reference to the war in Iraq: "You did well -- you have my thanks."
This praise was not directed to our troops or members of the president's cabinet, it was lavished upon members of the American Radio and Television Correspondents Association at their annual dinner.
Sir-- 'Divide and destroy' (Al-Ahram Weekly, 3-9 July) is an unfair report. You're blaming Israel for being a state of law.
Israel can't take sides between Muslims and the Vatican. The mosque was built without permission, so stop blaming Israel.
And by the way, Nazareth isn't Israel's only Arab city, there are many more.
Sir-- I hope the continued pull-out of Israeli occupation forces in parts of Palestine is not as event- filled as the one in parts of the West Bank in 2002. Recently, I wrote a review of a book about spring wildflowers and embroidery by Tania Tamari Nasir. Her husband is the president of Bir Zeit University in Palestine and for 18 years they lived in exile. Israeli occupation forces arrived at their home at midnight in 1974, blind-folded her husband and forced them into exile in an effort to shut down the university. Through the years, students were killed and at times classes had to be held in secret.
A year ago, last April, the occupation forces withdrew from the city of Ramallah. On that day, Tania was to go by ambulance for a check up. According to a neighbour, "She arrived at Kalandia checkpoint, sitting in the ambulance. As the driver was getting his papers ready for the soldier, Tania decided to lie down on the stretcher. A few minutes later the soldiers shot at them, at the place where she was sitting. She would have been killed if she did not lay on the stretcher. As for the ambulance driver, he got some shattered glass in his eye and needed to go to the hospital to have them removed." Just another day in Israeli-controlled Palestine.
As a graduate of Brandeis University (MFA), I am not anti-Semitic; in fact the opposite is true. I believe that the Jewish population has made contributions that far outweigh their numbers. Some of the most gifted, sensitive, brilliant people in the world are Jewish. But we are not discussing Jews, rather a militarised state that practices apartheid and ethnic cleansing as a matter of governmental policy since 1948. And since its inception, US tax payer dollars have supported this. Why?
Genevieve Cora Fraser
Sir-- Disarming the various factions amongst the Palestinian polity is clearly in Israel's best interests. But doesn't the same ring true for the Palestinians?
A lot has been written about how the Israeli military undermines all the Palestinian gestures of peace. Perhaps, examining the effect that the various Palestinian "armies" have had on the strategic and the tactical negotiation position of the Palestinians is worthy of examination for the benefit of all in the Middle East.
Palo Alto, CA
Sir-- Arab writers are furious that the US and Israel won't listen to them.
Maybe we don't listen because we can't hear, and we can't hear because of the continual ringing in our ears caused by the constantly exploding suicide bombers.
Broken Arrow, OK
Sir-- Edward Said raises some fine points in 'Dignity and Solidarity' (Al-Ahram Weekly, 26 June - 2 July). One being that "rarely in history has such power been so concentrated in so tiny a group as the various kings, generals, sultans, and presidents who preside today over the Arabs. The worst thing about them as a group, almost without exception, is that they do not represent the best of their people."
My comment is that a lot of times, as an American citizen, I feel my government does not represent the best of our people.
Sir-- I am a Jewish professor of Middle East Studies in Bogota, Colombia. I have read most of Edward Said's books and many of his writings, including those published in Al-Ahram Weekly. Professor Said was a ruthless opponent of the Oslo Agreements and appears to be so also on the recent "roadmap". However, I never read what would be his vision of a solution to the conflict which is both realistic and fair to both sides. If it were up to him to devise a solution with all details, what would it be?
As a fellow professor I am very interested in learning from the foremost Palestinian intellectual the blueprint for a solution to the seemingly intractable Palestinian-Israeli conflict.
Sir-- With regards to article 'Our cultured elite' by Azmi Bishara (Al-Ahram Weekly, 3-9 July), I'd say let's not kid ourselves any longer. There is an ongoing and expanding racist war against Arabs and their infrastructure, be it intellectual or otherwise. How do we stop that onslaught and push it back? Let me first not pretend to have specific solutions to lay down, however, I can visualise what needs to happen in order to stop and remove the threat that exists from within our region.
The region is battling on two fronts -- domestic and foreign. The most important front, I believe, is the domestic front. Only when individuals and groups thereof participate fully in the social, economic and political discourse, can we present a unified front to the exterior. This front, therefore, has to be woven from all fabrics of society. Ethnic, religious or intellectual qualifiers, ought not to be used against any group(s) or individual(s) in the denial of their human rights and equal access to government.
As Arabs, we ought to be at the forefront of the battle against racism in all its ugly faces. When we create that quilt, the region will become impervious to external interference, while its citizens reap the fruits of peace and justice.
It may be a tall order, but in view of the situation facing us, we can't remain frozen in inaction while we are surrounded by the dangers of subjugation. These times should not be equated with the "intellectual holocaust" of the Arabs, but maybe as the rise of the "intellectual phoenix" of the Arabs.
I would also like to thank you for the most opportune article by Edward Said 'Dignity and solidarity' (Al-Ahram Weekly, 26 June - 2 July). We are at a crossroads and we must realise that our glorious past will propel us into the future.
Los Angeles, CA
Sir-- I must admire the optimism of John Esposito, as reported in 'Unholy Alliances' by Omayma Abdel-Latif (Al-Ahram Weekly, 3-9 July). The last time 3,000 Americans were killed, it heralded the destruction of most of Europe before it was rounded out with two nuclear bombs. Yet anti- Muslim conditioning runs very deep in the USA.
In my youth, I remember experiencing a visceral hatred of Middle Eastern and North African music that I only overcame thanks to a case of dysentery in Abadan, Iran. Living on a shoestring budget, I had checked into a hotel with paper-thin walls that let all the restaurant music resonate into my room. Bed-ridden and trickling sick, I expended lots of hatred trying to keep the music out of my ears -- why I didn't just buy antibiotics over the counter immediately, I shall never know. Then, I went into a near-comatose daze and simply had to "let in" the music. As I did so, I could feel a silvery ball in my stomach suddenly allowing itself to float on the waves of music.
Three days later, I bought the antibiotics and was up and off, eager to forget just another episode of misery. Six months later, I had to go to Tunisia and remember dreading the music on the boat over from Italy. And the first thing I remember as I got off the boat was the music -- except that it touched me as a warm, low-key welcome home.
To return to the point: deep is the divide, but I know it can be bridged.
Sir-- Regarding 'Beyond the mirage' (Al-Ahram Weekly, 3-9 July). Where is the diversity in the Arab world? If you're a non-Muslim, or even a non-Sunni Muslim in Saudi Arabia you have zero rights. Isn't that religious apartheid? Did you notice the Muslims in Bosnia having their own country so as not to be discriminated against by Christians? Are these Muslim brothers of yours guilty of apartheid, or like the Israelis, are they looking for a place where they can be free of discrimination by other groups?
For a country that tries to make itself out to be a peacemaker, you, like the Saudis, print a lot of nonsense against the Israelis and the West. Stop crying about the Arab street -- you don't fear it, you create it.
Grow up and accept responsibility for your own actions instead of always looking for a scapegoat.
Economic justice first
Sir-- In his article 'Arab pride, US prejudice' (Al- Ahram Weekly, 29 May - 4 June), Abdel-Moneim Said suggests that (American-style) democracy is more successful than the current regimes of the Middle East. I beg to differ, on the grounds that the consequences of unfettered capitalism and globalisation have not been particularly beneficial for the vast majority of our planet's inhabitants. The transference of wealth via military domination should give one pause -- America has siphoned off the wealth of underdeveloped countries and in turn the wealthy 'elites' have exploited the majority of American citizens.
This is, in effect, the same system now employed by totalitarian governments in the Middle East (and elsewhere). The apparent affluence of the average American citizen cannot be measured against the living standards of Arab citizens. Arab countries have a far smaller 'piece of the pie' to divide -- thus less is rationed to its citizens. The American economic model is still based on exploitation -- thus the only way 'democratic' reforms would benefit the average Arab is if their leaders were able to obtain an equal sphere of influence -- a bigger pie.
Civil rights are tied inextricably to general prosperity -- an egalitarian society will provide civil rights for all of its citizens, since no single group wields overwhelming economic power. The failure of 'democracy' in America is now evident by widespread political corruption and the growing disparity between working and ruling classes. Democratic reforms are being reversed with astounding speed, in spite of democracy, because of economic conditions.
Thus it should be evident that the route to equal rights, freedom and justice is dependent on economic parity among citizens and not a particular political theory. Adopting democratic reforms will not improve the lot of the average citizen, until at least the basic necessities and creature comforts such as food, shelter, health care, employment and education are guaranteed for all citizens. The growing blight of hunger and homelessness, paired with shrivelling educational and occupational opportunities, and the abrogation of freedom and civil rights with a concentration of power leaning to fascism (in the wealthiest country in the world) warrants grave reconsideration of the theory that democracy is an inherently superior form of government.
I suggest one consider the success of the Scandinavian example before committing to pursuing a path that may not lead to the desired goal. I suggest that economic justice leads to democracy, rather than the converse. And I maintain that no amount of 'democracy' can succeed if economic justice is ignored.
Sir-- Regarding Nevine El-Aref's article 'Nefertiti always and forever' (Al-Ahram Weekly, 26 June - 2 July). I can assure you that Dr Joann Fletcher of Britain was most definitely not the first person to make the connection between "The Younger Lady", the mummy from the tomb of Amenhotep II and Queen Nefertiti of legendary loveliness. I have had a copyrighted article on the World Wide Web since 1999 at http://www.geocities.com/scribelist/ do_we_have_.htm called "Do We Have the Mummy of Nefertiti?". On 8 June, 2003, the day the London Sunday Times broke the story about Fletcher, the statistics on my Web site indicated that 35,000 persons had already accessed my article. I also published a little book by limited edition in 1996 called Portraits of Pharaohs, which also proposed the theory.
Every single one of the points made by Dr Fletcher about the mummy was made by me in my online article, including the double-pierced ears and the shaved head as being necessary for Nefertiti's crown quoted by El-Aref in her report. The only thing I had no comment on was the type of wig found near the mummy, as I had never had access to it.
What is also evident is that Joann Fletcher is no more a "mummy expert" than I am. She has published nothing, to my knowledge, about mummies but seemed to concentrate on ancient hair and perfumes and oils. It is all too apparent that one of two things occurred. Either Dr Fletcher was motivated by my article to gain permission to examine the mummy further, or she did not do a thorough check to see who had published something previously on her own theory. In either event, Dr Fletcher had no business to take all the credit for her "discovery".
I have been receiving e-mails from people all over the world who know about my article and are outraged at Fletcher's pre-emptory actions. I plan to attempt to obtain a restraining order against the Discovery Channel showing the documentary about Fletcher and the mummy unless they are willing to set the record straight.
Desecrating the dead
Sir-- Regarding 'Nefertiti always and forever' (Al- Ahram Weekly, 26 June - 2 July). I believe people who died, whatever scientists may call their robbery, must stay where they were buried.
It is a shame to be displayed after death. Imagine if it were you being "discovered" after a few thousand years and (after dissection) being displayed for everybody to see.
Arie de Reus
Not so fixated
Sir-- In response to Mayada Akrawi's letter 'Preaching fixation' (Al-Ahram Weekly, 3-9 July). I am absolutely sure that you have seen no more than one or two episodes of Mr Amr Khaled's show, or else you would not have come up with your brilliant conclusion that Mr Khaled has an obsession with sex.
Accusing such a decent man and successful preacher as Mr Khaled in such a way is totally unfounded. I advise you to watch his show regularly and to buy his tapes and CDs; if you do, you will discover that he tackles a wide variety of subjects. The relationship between men and women is only one of the many issues he addresses in his sermons and I do not think that the number of times he discussed this issue is enough to make you say that he has a "total fixation women and women's bodies".
Moreover, as a sociologist and a psychiatrist, you should know that this topic (man- woman relationship) is essential to human existence. Unlike many -- if not most -- preachers, Mr Khaled lives in the real world. He is aware of the problems facing young men and women, whose lack of experience would get them into lots of trouble. This is why he spoke about this subject several times, and his style proved to be successful with young people.
I myself know many young men and women whose lives have changed for the better after listening to Amr Khaled. Besides, when he broaches this subject, he does it in the most decent and polite way, and he does not talk about "men and women meeting alone, romance, flirting and seductions" as you say. I really do not know why you chose the topic of man-woman relationships out of all the subjects tackled by Amr Khaled on which to base your analysis of his character. I think that a real psychiatrist would adopt a more objective and comprehensive attitude.
Sir-- 'Archeology of the roadmap' by Dr Edward Said (Al-Ahram Weekly, 12-18 June) is indeed both sobering and saddening.
If terrorism is the major global concern of the 21st Century, then the world needs to realise that it is only a product of helplessness and oppression, and to fight it is to fight the unspeakable injustices inflicted on the Palestinians for the past 55 years.
I believe the map has no chance of success if the United States is seen as biased in favour of one party in the dispute, and we all know which party that is.
Fikry Boulos Salib
The complete picture
Sir-- In 'Archeology of the roadmap' (Al-Ahram Weekly, 12-18 June), Edward Said tells us that Colin Powell, during his early May visit to the occupied territories and in a meeting with Palestinian civil society activists (Hanan Ashrawi and Mustafa Barghouti), "expressed surprise and mild consternation at the computerised maps of the settlements, the eight metre-high fence and the dozens of Israeli army checkpoints that have made life so difficult and the future so bleak for Palestinians".
If Powell's view of Palestinian reality is "to say the least, defective", imagine the impression the general public in America have of the Palestinian situation. Through the American media, Israel has very effectively projected an image which is known to be favourable to (if not controlled by) Zionists, that Israel is the victim rather than the perpetrator. Unfortunately, the Palestinians do not have an effective mouthpiece in America to portray a true picture.
Al-Ahram Weekly could make a major contribution to the Palestinian cause by publishing on a regular basis a detailed map of the Israeli settlements in the West Bank and Gaza, including the path of the eight metre-high electrified fence with moats and watch towers, which is cutting off the Palestinians from their land. A Web site where this information can be located should also be included so people can educate themselves on the crimes being committed against the Palestinians.
W F Wassmann
Sir-- When Mr Sharon announced that he would accept only a disarmed Palestinian state with temporary boundaries, I wondered who would ever accept such a state? How can the Palestinian citizens live in a country which has no armed forces or even fixed borders? It seems that Sharon never learns from past lessons. He did not learn from the defeat of the French imperialism in Algeria, the defeat of US forces in Vietnam or the all-White apartheid state of South Africa. He didn't even learn from his own defeat in southern Lebanon.
Mr Sharon, as your advisers, they will tell you that national resistance is certain to win at the end of the day and that occupation will not last forever. Trust me, unless you pay for the price of your crimes, your nation will.
As for Mr Bush, I have a few questions. Did the US forces achieve their objective of bringing freedom and democracy to Iraq? Did the standard of living of the Iraqi people improve, as promised by the US president? Is there any sign of a national government in Iraq? Doubtless, the suffering of the Iraqi people has reached its peak, and the Iraqi people do not feel any improvement under imperialist rule which replaced the dictatorship.
Sir-- I want to seize this opportunity to congratulate you on Al-Ahram Weekly's excellent coverage and professionalism.
It has simply become indispensable for anyone seriously interested in Egypt and the Middle East.
Sir-- In 'A Diwan of contemporary life' (Al- Ahram Weekly, 26 June - 2 July), the Swedish army drew the author's attention as something of an anomaly among the armies of the colonial powers.
Sure enough -- Sweden was never in possession of any colony.
Al-Ahram Weekly reserves the right to edit letters submitted to Readers' Corner for brevity and clarity. Readers are advised to limit their letters to a maximum of 300 words.