Dead end roadmaps
Sir-- The current US- brokered "roadmap" like the previous "peace- seeking" illusions will amount to nothing. As history has shown time and again, these "roadmaps" are distracting tactics that aim to delay the efforts of those who seek real avenues for a just peace. History has also shown that after ensuring their failure, the oppressors have used them as propaganda tools, to strengthen their support with their own masses. They should not be given the same opportunity once again. Stating that the Palestinians get rid of "terrorism" is a demand that deliberately ensures the maintenance of the status quo by Israel and its "peace-broker". This demand requires in essence that the effect of a social problem be taken care of without any concern for its cause.
When suicide becomes a part of the daily life of a community, it is an abnormality that must have a social context and cause. This "opposition culture" can only be neutralised if what nourishes it is eradicated. Israel's oppression and humiliation of the Palestinian people is legitimate reason for the would-be suicide bombers, in their mind, to indulge in what they do -- this is how an "opposition culture" operates. Similar conditions in the inner cities in the US lead to an oppositional "code of the street" and perpetuates street crime. No brutal police crackdown will ever fix the effect without addressing the cause.
No one has to command or inform the would- be suicide bombers, who are willing to give up their lives, about what is going on or what to do. They see oppression, humiliation and hopelessness all around them on the streets of the occupied territories every day. Tanks rolling into civilian areas and firing at will is not a "normal" situation to live in. This is the anatomy of the problem, yet it is deliberately ignored.
If it weren't for Israel and its political clout in the US and the (oil) resource richness of the surrounding Arab countries, the suffering of the Palestinians and their desire to regain their homeland from illegal occupiers, would not even receive token media coverage in the US. The so-called "peace-brokers" would ignore it just as they ignore other simmering areas in Asia and Africa.
The timing of the current "roadmap", where it was proposed at the time to take the heat off the illegal US invasion of Iraq, also reveals the "sincerity" of the "peace-brokers". In the face of this inhumanity, let us seek alternative peaceful paths to justice and not get distracted by these insincere "roadmaps". The US- brokered "roadmaps" got "old" decades back. In my opinion, we should ignore them and move on.
Sir-- The "stalemate" in advancing the US- backed roadmap because of the Arafat-driven Palestinian demands that Israel release anywhere from 6-8,000 Palestinian prisoners, is specifically designed to scuttle the entire process with the hope that Israel, having been burnt in past prisoner releases, will refuse and be blamed for the roadmap's failure. Arafat, as an adversary, has proven that he has more lives than a black cat. This time, this cat may end up as road kill.
First and foremost, there is nothing in the roadmap that calls for the release of prisoners, so right from the start such a demand is not valid. Secondly, a prisoner release/exchange, according to the Geneva conventions, is a result of having concluded a peace treaty. Thirdly, Arafat has done whatever he could to prevent the disarming of the various terrorist entities in the West Bank and Gaza -- a "truce" or "hudna" between the PA and these factions is not a substitute for dismantling these groups. If there is a truce, it isn't between Israel and a vague grouping of terrorist organisations -- it is between the PA and the terrorists.
After initially indicating that he wouldn't wage a "civil war" within the Palestinian movement, Palestinian PM Abbas was given a limited amount of time by the Quartet to start confronting these groups, with the understanding that not going forward would jeopardise the entire process. That is why the demand for prisoner release came up: Arafat wanted a false pretence to blame Israel, before the Quartet -- led by the USA -- blamed him.
The consequences of Arafat's failed strategy is that he is burning all four members of the Quartet -- the end result being a further reduction in support for the Palestinian cause from the non-Arab international community. This is the second time that the international community has been burned, the first time being Arafat's refusal of Barak's offer during the Oslo process. In one fell swoop, that decision placed a question mark in the mind of many non-Arab Palestinian supporters as to the perceived moral high ground -- and intentions of the Palestinian cause.
Arafat's strategy to insert the prisoner release will be seen by a conflict-tired world as confirmation that when it comes to Arafat's leadership, he never misses a chance to miss a chance.
Bridge to peace
Sir-- One of the greatest needs today is to create a bridge between the Arab and non-Arab worlds so that the universal brother/sisterhood of mankind can be celebrated. One way to do this is to assist non-Arabs to better understand, come to respect, and grow to love the Arabic culture.
Millions of people across the planet stood united against the Iraq War. Somehow we must mobilize those same people and others to put an end to the violence in Palestine.
The Jews as the Chosen People were/are to deliver a message which is: There is only One God, all others are graven images (secular materialism). But if there is only One God, does it not follow that we are all His children, including the Palestinians, many of whom are direct descendants of the ancient Hebrew, Christian and Muslim populations?
According to Scripture, because the ancient Hebrews obeyed God's will, they found Freedom in the Promised Land. A Land of Freedom is a liberated land, not an "ethnically cleansed" one that practices apartheid and is half-slave, half free. God's creation, His Promised Land is there for all to share in harmony with nature (environmentally sustainable) as God intended.
The Palestinian people are the ancient care- takers of this land, the Holy Land. Their beloved task was ruthlessly taken from them in 1948. And now the People and the Place are ravaged.
Isn't it time to restore the Promised Land to a Land of Freedom? Let there be a universal call throughout the world: Free Palestine, let God's people go.
Genevieve Cora Fraser
Sir-- In 'Flawed vision' (Al-Ahram Weekly, 3- 9 July), Mr Diaa Rashwan is assuming that the insistence of USA and Israel on bilateral negotiation is a result of not understanding the Arab-Israeli conflict. I really don't think so.
The bilateral negotiation principal is introduced by design. The Camp David agreement between Israel and Egypt effectively took Egypt out of the conflict, although Egypt may be asked to provide some facilitating services every now and then. Almost all of Egypt's weight was taken out of the conflict.
This is pure and simple logic at its best -- divide and conquer.
Los Angeles, CA
Sir-- Regarding the article 'Prisoners as hostages' (Al-Ahram Weekly, 10-16 July). Is the writer claiming that not one single Palestinian currently held by Israel has committed any type of crime? If so, then it is hard to take any aspect of the article seriously. If not, then there is an obligation to define some set of criteria as to how a reasonable person would differentiate between a prisoner who the writer is claiming to be a political prisoner and a prisoner who is merely a criminal.
Otherwise, these discussions will continue to be shouting matches testing who can shout the loudest, as opposed to steps towards a legally- based set of agreements.
N Bethesda, MD
Rights of Arab Jews
Sir-- After reading 'Torching the right of return' (Al-Ahram Weekly, 10-16 July), I am wondering if the Arab world will also be thinking of giving back all the property, money, businesses, etc. which the various Arab countries stole or confiscated when they ethnically cleansed the Arab world of Jews?
When will the Arab world start taking care of all the Arab Jews who were chased out of all the Arab countries?
A rose is a rose
Sir-- There is ongoing debate in the Western press about the ancient history of Palestine and the Palestinians; about whether they constituted a "people"; about when and whether their home deserved the name "Palestine"; and whether they deserved the name "Palestinians". But it seems to me that the often intended consequence of these opinions on any side of the question about the ancient Palestinian identity tend to involve unsolvable historical disagreements and obscurities and complexities that can serve only to obfuscate the modern injustice done to them.
Ismail Zayid of the Canada Palestine Association notes that "in the Muslim conquest of Palestine, in 638 AD, there was no replacement of the existing population. Most of the indigenous population chose to adopt the Islamic faith, while others remained as Jews or Christians." But we don't even need to know that or anything else about the existing population. All we need to know is that the indigenous inhabitants of Palestine are a mixed people descended from successive populations of many unknown peoples, Canaanites, Jebusites, Philistines, etc., supplemented by (at least minimal and perhaps larger) Arab ancestral infusions in the 8-900s, a continuous intermingling of people who, by whatever name, have had their roots there since the predawn of civilisation and have been accreting further infusions into the mix ever since.
This is the same way that anywhere, and especially in geographical crossroads such as Italy or Greece or Palestine, the existing populations consist of mixtures of many transient and roots-laying peoples intermingled inextricably with their more ancient populations -- which were themselves mixtures of transient and even more long-term peoples from even more ancient periods. The people who currently live almost anywhere today are the respective intermingled results, and in Palestine they are usually called Palestinians, as Herodotus did long before the Romans came, but they could just as well be called Canaanites or Philistines or for that matter Rumpelstiltskins or (from Mary Poppins) Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious.
It doesn't matter because unless we hold a quasi-Nazi view that mixed populations are inferior to putatively pure ones, then, no more than with modern populations living anywhere, may these indigenous Palestinians be legitimately expelled from their homes and farms and communities, or refused their basic human right simply to go back to their homes and towns. A rose is a rose, and an uprooted rose is an uprooted rose, and an uprooted people is an uprooted people, by whatever name, and all these arcane quagmires of historical-semantical debate appear to constitute only a suspicious irrelevance designed to divert our attention away from this fundamental fact of their expulsion.
Minds in chains
Sir-- Congratulations for having such a distinguished clear thinker as Samir Amin as a contributor in your newspaper. I live "in the belly of the beast" that Mr Amin speaks of in his article 'The American ideology' (Al-Ahram Weekly, 15-21 May).
Of course we do not suffer so much inside the beast's fat belly (there are a lot of crumbs for us to nimble on) as do others around the world who are bombed by this country or live under the threat of the destruction, pillage and ruin that has been visited on the people of Iraq, Panama, Grenada, Chile, East Timor, Palestine, etc. The list goes on and on, countries and peoples directly or indirectly attacked by the United States government or comprador elites in other countries in Uncle Sam's hip pocket. "You are either with us" -- or we'll kill you, Mr Bush is really saying.
Being outside this country you can see things more clearly than even the most well-meaning of us here can. The only thing I know about this system more than you perhaps, is the incredibly effective job that is done to enslave the minds of our people. No one on earth is more thoroughly propagandised than the people of this country. It is an uphill battle to show people here what is obvious to the rest of the world, that our politicians are venal liars who will not shrink from killing ever more millions of people to gain and maintain hegemony on the world.
In short, all what those who rule this country want is one thing: everything. And we must do one thing: resist -- while gaining and maintaining our humanity. And sometimes we have to look to others around the world for inspiration. Your writing, Mr Amin, is a fine example of just such inspiration. Perhaps even more eloquent is the normal life pursued by most people in the world, who work hard to feed their families and do their best to get along with others and harm no one.
If only our rulers had such common wisdom. Peace be unto you, brother.
San Francisco, CA
Sir-- What am I missing? You publish article after article about the evil US and its "occupation" of Iraq. Well, if you want the US out, what exactly is any Arab country doing to help expedite the establishment of a stable Iraq? Have you offered troops to stabilise the security situation? No. Have you offered aid in the form of food or professional support to rebuild the infrastructure? No. Have you offered any assistance -- not to the US -- but to the Iraqi people? No. So, there is the usual Arab emotional voice of support -- much like that offered to the Palestinians over the past 50 years -- with little substance behind it.
Just sit back, criticise the US and watch us clean up your neighbourhood of tyrants whom you tolerated and allowed to make people's lives miserable. The majority of Iraqis today, although suffering hardship, are aware of the better future ahead, the freedoms they now enjoy to demonstrate, criticise and participate in the creation of a better future for their children.
Sit back and watch. Before it's over, Iraq will lead you all.
Must be done
Sir-- Dr Hawass, thank you for your article 'Tampering with Nefertiti' (Al-Ahram Weekly, 10-16 July).
The last sentence: "Queen Nefertiti's bust should be returned to her home -- Egypt" should read instead "must" be returned.
Sir-- I have been fascinated by the history and culture of Egypt since I was a child and I have always felt that the bust of Nefertiti was one of your nation's greatest treasures.
Mr Zahi Hawass's article 'Tampering with Nefertiti' (Al-Ahram Weekly, 10-16 July) has highlighted the fact that this wonderful sculpture was effectively stolen from Egypt. I believe the German government should return it to its rightful home without further delay.
Sir-- Regarding Mr Saad El-Din's column 'Plain talk' (Al-Ahram Weekly, 10-16 July). Indeed, language is always in a state of flux. It serves the vagaries of its time but is it constructive to make value judgments of those changes?
Consider paragraph three of the article. The author asserts that "authority" is "built in the very fabric of society". I argue that the "fabric of society" is made up of all sorts of threads. Certainly, the denizens of intellectual power, pearls of wisdom flowing from their mouths are represented in that fabric.
So too, though, a thread in that multifariously composed fabric is the street. Right now in the US at least the street is winning (and I admit ignorance as to the English spoken in the rest of the world).
Wouldn't our time be better spent searching for those special artisans of language who successfully and energetically work in the medium of our language, the language of today?
I enjoy your publication.
Kansas City, Missouri
Swedes as colonialists
Sir-- In 'No conquerors' (Al-Ahram Weekly, 10- 16 July), Paolo Lombardini is incorrect when he says that Sweden never had any colonies.
Wilmington, Delaware in the United States began as the Swedish colony of New Christiania.
St Paul, MN
Sir-- When the government raised the ticket prices of the underground metro, I expected that this would improve the level of the service. However, I was shocked to discover that the service still suffers from many ailments such as delays in arrival, littering on platforms, and at times the absence of security personnel.
I urge the minister of transportation to go out of his air-conditioned office and try to take a ride on the metro, and he will realise that I am not exaggerating.