Al-Ahram Weekly Online   25 Sept. - 1 Oct. 2003
Issue No. 657
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No contest

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Sir-- I believe the EU is flinching under US pressure, and thus is digging its own hole from which it won't be able to climb out: that of subjugation to the US. One wonders how far US dominance and manipulation can go. When one forgets about how the EU came about and what its role in this pseudo new world order ought to be, one can only assume it's all about survival instead of a "principled stance". When human rights and international conventions are traded for some immediate gains, then the whole premise of integration and forward/progressive looking associations are moot. I believe there are dynamics at work here that no one is in control of nor, for that matter, aware of its culminating end point.

We, as Americans, need some entity out there to challenge us, and provide alternatives to our global vision. When people and nations abdicate their rights to us without any reasonable challenges, we might misinterpret those abdications as signs of weakness, and further dominate such entities [EU]. When economic and social blocs are integrated, care has to be taken to birth a vision that is both cohesive and progressive. To survive, such blocs ought to be philosophically sound and based on principles that can withstand the assault of the shifting sands of time. Rights and responsibilities of individuals as well as groups or nations ought to be balanced and applicable to all. Unfortunately, the rights of the weak are denied with actions to deny them any redress. International conventions are bypassed in deference to the bully of the day.

Humanity may have taken leaps in technological advances but, alas, still lags in social evolution and is still shamefully mired in primitive battles reminiscent of our bloody ascent to the top of the food chain. Oppressed people of the world are many and varied and will eventually survive their plight, and take the reigns from their oppressors no matter how strong [the oppressors] may be. The meek shall inherit the earth.

Hadj Maaradji
Los Angeles, CA

Moral responsibility

Sir-- I agree with the recent EU decision to place Hamas on the EU terror list. Apart from the legitimate attacks -- according to International Law -- on the Israeli army, this organisation commits suicide attacks on Israeli civilians.

These are very condemnable for being serious violations of human rights. However, the making of an EU terrorist list will render any serious measures against the real causes of terrorism in the world ineffective. In this case, the main cause lies in the 36th year during Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territories in spite of the 1967 unanimously accepted UN-Council Resolution 242, which calls on Israel to withdraw its troops from the conquered areas. To every occupation is inherent oppression, humiliations and violations of human rights, which of course lead to resistance. In this case it resulted in the two legitimate Intifadas (as long as they are directed against the Israeli army) and the condemnable suicide attacks.

The EU, as an important political organisation, has the moral duty and the political responsibility to use political pressure on Israel to withdraw from the occupied territories with economical sanctions as the alternative.

The drawing up of a terrorist list without any political action by the EU is not only ineffective, but it makes the EU also co-responsible for the consequences of Israeli occupation such as Israeli violations of human rights and suicide attacks undertaken in reaction.

Astrid Essed
The Netherlands

Bush Sinks Blair

Sir-- Regarding 'Blaine and Blair' (Al-Ahram Weekly, 18-24 September). Prime Minister Blair has lost the honour of being the premier of the United Kingdom. Blair lost all credit and credibility by supporting the war on Iraq.

Bush caused Blair to sink.

Ismail Jiwa

Half an apple

Sir-- For over 50 years the world has had to endure the costly results of Arab rejectionism of Israel. Even though Arafat brought a sense of legitimacy to the cause, his leadership over the past 10 years has destroyed all of the "goodwill" that ever existed. The Arab assumption that they can keep this pot boiling forever may very well be the biggest of numerous Arab miscalculations, and end up with the Benny Elon Plan, which is gaining traction in circles outside of Israel: Jordan is already the Palestine state.

Of course, the Arabs will reject this explosive declaration, but with the entire non-Arab world wanting to see it end, they will throw so much financial, political and military weight into the idea that the Arab world will either have to accept it, or endure the next 50+ years trying to defeat it.

Better half an apple than none at all.

Shep Fargotstein
Memphis, TN

New lining

Sir-- I take issue with the letter 'American brakes' (Al-Ahram Weekly, 18-24 September). The author of the letter states that "without the United States, Arafat would now be dead, the West Bank in flames, and Israel would crush the Palestinians and deport them to Jordan".

As an American taxpayer for the past 34 years, it shames me that a good portion of my hard earned money, and that of many millions like me, were spent on financing the state of Israel militarily, economically and otherwise. The amount of US aid to Israel is not clearly known because much of it is hidden in budgets of different agencies, but according to the American-Israeli Cooperative Enterprise (AIC), the United States has given Israel close to $95 billion from 1949 to 2001. It is safe to say that the amount in 2003 has exceeded $100 billion.

The disgraceful use by the United States of the "veto" right in the UN Security Council to shield Israel's atrocities from justice, is well known to your readers and hardly needs a comment.

It is only because of the staggering amount of money, freely flowing from this country and the solid political support, that Israel can, at will, commit every conceivable crime under the sun. I am not a car mechanic, but as a seasoned driver, I submit that "American brakes" are in dire need of a new lining, better yet, a complete overhaul.

Fikry B Salib
Stamford, CT

Biblical dimensions

Sir-- I hope your readers are aware of the following.

First, that most Americans believe that God promised all of Palestine, including the West Bank, the Gaza Strip, parts of Syria and Lebanon to present day Jews. In America, Christian Zionism cuts across the ethnic, income and cultural divides; it is more vibrant than Christianity or Judaism ( and ( Mr Daniel Pipes, the president's adviser on Islam and the Middle East, reckons that Christian Zionism is Israel's greatest weapon (http://

Second, that Mr Tom Delay in his speech to the Israeli parliament on 31 July affirmed the staunch commitment of the ruling administration to an undivided greater Israel of "biblical" dimensions, including parts of Syria, Lebanon and Jordan. He vowed to his hosts that there will never be a Palestinian state. This speech was published in American and European papers.

Third, that in 1996 a study group led by Richard Perle (American Enterprise Institute) and including James Colbert (Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs), Charles Fairbanks Jr (Johns Hopkins University/SAIS), Douglas Feith (Feith and Zell Associates), Robert Loewenberg (president of the Institute for Advanced Strategic and Political Studies), Jonathan Torop (The Washington Institute for Near East Policy), David Wurmser (The Institute for Advanced Strategic and Political Studies), Meyrav Wurmser (Johns Hopkins University) prepared a report to Premier Netanyahu recommending the occupation of Iraq to secure the future of Israel (

Fourth, that an open letter dated 26 January 1998 and signed by Elliott Abrams, Richard L Armitage, William J Bennett, Jeffrey Bergner, John Bolton, Paula Dobriansky, Francis Fukuyama, Robert Kagan, Zalmay Khalilzad, William Kristol, Richard Perle, Peter W Rodman, Donald Rumsfeld, William Schneider Jr, Vin Weber, Paul Wolfowitz, R James Woolsey and Robert B Zoellick was presented to President Clinton demanding the occupation for the safe future of Israel (

Fifth, signatories of the 1996 and 1998 documents became members of the Bush administration and realised the occupation of Iraq.

Six, that President Bush gave himself the authority to dispose, lease, sell or pass ownership of the Iraqi oil -- presidential executive order 13303 (

Seven, that Israel was offered as a "bonus for help in the Iraqi war" oil to be pumped from Kirkuk to Haifa (

Eight, that sanctions on Iraq between the two gulf wars led to the death of at least a million child (

Nine, that the infrastructure of Iraq (water, sewage and electricity) was specifically targeted for bombing in 1991, and the repeated bombing in the North and South (no-fly zones) up to March 2003 (

Yousef Abdulla

Peace how?

Sir-- The Israeli wall to divide East Palestine (aka West Bank) from West Palestine (aka Israel) is funded by American tax payers.

Does that mean Bush really wants peace?

David Anzari
New York, NY

Israel out

Sir-- While President Bush seeks help from the rest of the world to extricate him from his misadventure in Iraq, all other countries should link their efforts to get Israel out of the West Bank and Gaza.

Otherwise, innocent troops from several other countries might also fall victims to sniper attacks.

Saleem Ahmed

Aid to peace

Sir-- It is time that Arab discourse moved past such absolute demonisations of the US, Israel, "the West", and other bogeymen characteristic of pieces such as Ahdaf Soueif's 'The Israelisation of America' (Al-Ahram Weekly, 11-17 September).

While Ms Soueif is correct in noting the billions in US Foreign aid directed towards Israel, it's worth reminding her that the majority of that aid resulted from the Camp David Peace accords. Considering the accusations of the "full identification" with Israel on the part of the US, it's surprising Ms Soueif doesn't bother to mention that the other country involved in the Peace Accords -- Egypt -- receives over $2 billion in aid itself. There is also nary a mention of the aggregate billions of dollars in US Foreign aid to many other Arab states.

For all the faults of the US, I think it is worth noting that the states receiving this aid have not been in armed conflict with each other since 1973, and that if there were a conflict between those states the situation in the Middle East would be far, far deadlier.

Certainly, Americans are aware that the absence of war does not in itself amount to peace, but it is a huge start in the right direction. Please, Arab world, tell me what you have done to finish the path to peace. Is it the "charity" given to Palestinians to supply them with basic food, basic shelter, and just enough bombs to provoke Israeli retaliation? Or is it the economic progress that has helped provide meaningful employment to Palestinians in your societies? Or is it the education, widely praised in the UN Human Development report, that gives you such righteous cause to make fun of all the infidels?

If you are going to oppose the policies of the West, you better propose some realistic alternatives.

Chris Brady
Madison, WI

Litmus test

Sir-- Ahdaf Soueif's 'The Israelisation of America' (Al-Ahram Weekly, 11-17 September) is a brilliant analysis of a trend few of my compatriots see.

The Christian Right has taken the same line propagated by Israel: "Israel's enemies are America's enemies". The Christian Right would not have been able to sell this Israelisation of America without 9/11. The Palestine/Israel issue is indeed a litmus test of whether the alliance between the Christian Right and Israel will safeguard the Christian ideals of the founding fathers, or go with a narrow and zealous interpretation of the Old Testament, which would mean the flouting of these ideals by Israel.

This would be 'the Israelisation of America'.

My Christianity is that of President Carter rather than President Bush, and I regret that the Christian Right has mislead the country into anti- Arab and anti-Muslim sentiments. I am an admirer of Soueif's writing, and she said it in a more objectively analytical style.

Christine Peanut
Los Angeles, CA

Virtues too

Sir-- Ahdaf Soueif writes in 'The Israelisation of America' (Al-Ahram Weekly, 11-17 September): "Ha'aretz [a mainstream centrist/left Israeli newspaper]... has for some time been providing a platform for dissident Israeli journalists like Gideon Levy, Uri Avnery and Amira Hass."

Indeed, she is right and this is to the credit of the Israeli people's tendency to self-reflect and self-critique. The opposite, sadly, is not true. I am a regular reader of Al-Ahram Weekly and I have rarely read any column or article by anyone pointing out Arab actions, rhetoric and policies that adversely affect legitimate Israeli concerns, fears and sense of vulnerability. Nor have I ever read in Al-Ahram Weekly someone giving credit where credit is due regarding Israeli hopes and aspirations for peace as held by the vast majority of its society.

Israel, like any society in the world, does commit wrongdoing, prejudice, stupidity and crimes -- and they should be reported -- but Al-Ahram Weekly seems to prohibit even one writer from reporting neutrally (forget about sympathetically) on Israel's virtues, concerns and achievements.

Secondly, Ms Soueif, like many other Al- Ahram Weekly contributors, operates on the assumption that bad things happen to Arabs mainly because of some version of "undue Jewish influence" (my term), and that Israeli wrongdoing or misjudgments are only internally generated by the Israelis themselves. Arab intellectuals like Ms Soueif would do well to address their audiences with a greater respect for nuance and complexity, instead of delivering comfortable and misleading simplicities.

In short, it would be a pleasure to read soon in Al-Ahram Weekly the Arab equivalent of Israel's Gideon Levy, Uri Avnery and Amira Hass -- writers who really do respect their readers' minds and hearts, and tell the truth, as well. I look forward to that day.

David Wohl

Leftist media

Sir-- You get a lot of letters from the US praising Al-Ahram Weekly for its courage in revealing the truth on subjects such as Israel/ Palestine (the Israelisation of America), Iraq/ Afghanistan and international economics. These writers want you to believe that Al-Ahram Weekly stands alone in defense of the truth.

In reality, Al-Ahram Weekly's positions on these issues are the same as the political left in the US, especially the Democratic Party.

The leftist media include these newspapers: New York Times and Washington Post; these magazines: New Yorker, and the Nation; ABC, NBC, CBS, PBS and CNN. In the leftist media of America, the US is always the bad guy out to take over the world, kill people and destroy the environment. Everything evil that happens in the world is a CIA plot.

Al-Ahram Weekly's readers shouldn't believe these letter writers who claim that they can get the truth only from your newspaper. Similar views flood the leftist US media. However, they have little effect on the public because the real truth gets told by Fox news, many conservative radio talk shows such as Rush Limbaugh, the Washington Times, the New York Post and the Wall Street Journal (which has the largest daily circulation of any US newspaper).

Roger McKinney,
Broken Arrow, OK

Military spending

Sir-- "The Israelisation of America" (Al- Ahram Weekly, 11-17 September) is great. Harpers magazine (June 2003) stated that the Isreali military budget before the 1967 occupation of East Palestine (aka, West Bank) was 59 times the budget of the surrounding Arab countries.

The ratio is up to 169 times on the year 2000.

John Bovyich

Arab mindset

Sir-- Regarding 'Hi is not enough' (Al-Ahram Weekly, 18-24 September), is it the magazine or the mindset of young Arabs that makes Hi magazine unacceptable to them? Would any American magazine be acceptable?

It seems to me -- sitting here in Toronto (and I have visited Egypt, Jordan and Israel several times on business) -- that trying to change the minds of young Arabs about the US is impossible, especially as long as they are fed anti- American, anti-Israeli propaganda day in and day out.

It is like convincing us that the bombing of the World Trade Centre and the Pentagon were justified. They may think so, but they will never convince us.

Robert Harper

Better insight

Sir-- I have so much enjoyed reading Al- Ahram Weekly, as well as other regional newspapers, while trying to get a balanced view of the strife in the Middle East. Many Americans are eager to be better informed about the Palestinian people and their peaceful quest for a homeland.

Thank you for providing the online version of your weekly.

Susan Gordon
Nashville, TN

Long overdue

Sir-- I thoroughly enjoyed reading the piece written by Iason Ahanadiasis (Al-Ahram Weekly, 18-24 September) on the mosque about to be built on the outskirts of Athens.

The prospect of a Muslim centre in Athens is well-overdue, both for Greece's Muslims as well as for those of us who are not Greek Orthodox and welcome greater religious participation in the country's affairs.

I am glad to see that your remarkably open- minded newspaper extends so far as to cover wider Mediterranean basin issues such as this.

John Gilbert

P2p's the future

Sir-- I hope your country isn't as foolish as mine (the USA) in trying to prevent the future from happening. Presently, the entertainment industry is being transformed by a new distribution system: peer-to-peer (p2p) networking.

Currently demonised by American entertainment companies, p2p is entertainment's future. For example, it will eventually enable us to watch television programmes when we want to watch them and not when a middleman (ie TV network) says we can.

Foolishly, America's entertainment industry is fighting p2p. The Recording Industry Association of America has tried to get the courts to shut down companies that make p2p programmes. It succeeded with Napster but later couldn't with all the rest. Now it is suing everyone who freely shares music over the Internet -- from 71-year-old grandfathers to working single mothers of 12-year-old girls. And the Motion Picture Association of America and National Association of Broadcasters (of America) are also discussing how to fight p2p.

Instead, entertainment companies need to find a business model that will profit from p2p. I have proposed one in a recent white paper ( The first country to act on a workable business model could end up dominating the global entertainment industry. Could that country be yours?

Scott Jensen
Madison, WI

Out of mind

Sir-- I don't know if this letter will be of any effect; this is the extent of my faith in the written word getting through to anyone who cares. But still I'm writing in the hope that it just might.

Lately there is a sight that is troubling lots of people, and that is the sight of homeless children sleeping on street corners in downtown Cairo. I'm seeing more of them each day, and if we are just a bit concerned for the progress of this country shouldn't we take care of these children? And how about the government -- isn't there a ministry or some kind of programme to deal with such an epidemic?

Instead of dealing with reality and solving our problems in effective ways, we tend to treat the rest of the world as ignorant idiots who maybe are also blind.

Sherif El-Mankabady

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