Sir-- I was very annoyed to notice a hideous and frustrating phenomenon in some publications denouncing the Geneva Initiative and labelling every Arab and Palestinian who took part in it as a traitor and an agent who has sold the blood of Palestinian martyrs at a cheap price.
I was not surprised because that has been the normal reaction to any attempt to broker a deal with Israel; and it has been prevalent on both sides -- Israelis are more vehement in attacking the Israeli representatives as agents and conspirators. What we should conclude is that this battle is an inevitable one for both sides. Both sides were promised in their holy books that the land of Palestine is theirs, so they see no need for concessions when they can have it all. There is no problem about the bloodshed, as long as it will lead to victory.
Unity comes first
Sir-- I admire Dr Hassan Nafaa's fine article 'Geneva cannot be Oslo' (Al- Ahram Weekly, 4-10 December) because his views are so practical and logical about the concepts of peace and negotiations. Yet let's agree on some basic ideas. First, what we lack here in the Middle East is not an accord or a plan or a formula for peace, what we lack is the will by Israel to live in peace. Second, we all agree that the US always supports Israel -- even if it's against Arab interests -- and that Israel never wanted peace for the sake of peace. They only talk about peace in time of crisis or failure to control resistance groups. Third, negotiating is similar to playing cards; it is silly to show all your cards at once. The case here is worse, the Palestinian Authority shows all its cards even before the game starts.
Fourth, the people in Geneva were not authorised or elected by their people, so their views and suggestions should remain as their personal opinion. Someone like Yasser Abed Rabo does not have the right to annul the Palestinians' right of return. If Israel undermines Palestinians in power, how can it respect unofficial representatives?
Finally, there seems to be a world consensus that both Bush and Sharon are at a loss and in a tight spot. They are desperately looking for a way out, so why should we give them a hand to rejoice now and humiliate us later. If the Palestinian Authority agrees to dismantle the resistance groups, what pressure card will they have over Israel to give them their rights back?
To sum up, unity is the last hope for the Palestinians since Israel's history with regards to peace accords and international law is quite shameful. Where is Madrid, Oslo, and the rest of the long list which ended with the so-called roadmap? To the Zionists, negotiating is just consuming time to pull the carpet from under our feet.
Ali El-Sharkawy Omar
Sir-- I don't think I read a better piece than 'Let's play prime ministers' (Al-Ahram Weekly, 11-17 December) in ages. I thoroughly enjoyed Mr Shukrallah's article, yet at the same time am saddened as I agree with the unspoken or unwritten words, that after so much erosion of the principal peace accords and talks that started over a decade ago, and at the cost of many lives, Palestinians are beginning to forget what all the fuss is about.
Maybe because most of their (adult) family members have long since died in the attacks or counter-attacks (Israeli terrorism) -- and those who remain are just too 'eroded' or tired themselves to want anything more than a piece of their rightful land, peace of mind, and simply: Peace. They've had enough and will grab at any reasonable peace offer, if Israel will be serious enough to want peace and offer peace. In exchange for what? What is left? Nothing. Just some eroded Palestinians.
Sir-- It is in the interest of Israel to blame any failure of any peace agreement on the Palestinians; we all know that Sharon wants peace like he wants a hole in his head.
It must always be the Palestinians who destroy the possibility of peace. "Fault lines betrayed" by Graham Usher (Al-Ahram Weekly, 4-10 December) only reinforces this stereotype that plays so nicely into the hands of the Israeli government.
Falls Church, VA
Sir-- Mr Bishara's assessment 'Unilateral unity' (Al-Ahram Weekly, 11-17 December) of the current situation in Palestine is that "Those who think that the peace option exists are deluded..." and therefore the Palestinians should focus on consolidating national unity and creating a "unified national command" in order to do what it deems useful to the Palestinian struggle, without having to deal with deadlines.
It may opt for a discontinuation of all or some forms of armed action for some time, or not. He concludes that these "are in essence unilateral steps...".
Yet, he condemns Mr Olmert for his analysis that "a negotiated agreement is out of reach, and therefore Israel must take unilateral measures." In effect, they both share the same assessment and call for unilateral measures -- each for his side. That's a sure recipe for the continued bloodshed.
Sir-- I enjoyed Azmi Bishara's article 'The minutiae of racism' (Al-Ahram Weekly, 4-10 December) since I enjoy well-written and objective articles concerning the Arab-Israeli conflict. This gives the reader the opportunity to form a different opinion.
I think however, that Al-Ahram Weekly should go further and publish an article that shows that Israel and its people are not all bad. I am sure that there are many positive things going on in Israel that are worth writing about. Publishing such articles would broaden the reader's horizon even further and may be a little contribution towards peace.
A positive attitude towards each other among the Arabs and the Israelis is one of the most important preconditions for a lasting peace.
Sir-- When sampling the Middle East and North Africa regional media, one discerns the emergence of a collective consciousness permeating these societies. What comes through is a clear picture of the general mood, aspirations and aims of the populations. Such a consciousness was cocooned for some time now, and maturing under internal turmoil and external manipulations. It is now ready to burst into the world stage. Be it a result of internal dissension or external insertions, change is upon us. Change, like inertia, requires forces and pressures strong enough to coax it along. So, what we should be concerned with is the general direction of the changes taking place, and the impact of such changes on the region.
Based on ground realities in the region, we can glimpse what the most desirable roads to travel are, and thence deduce the general direction. Like tributaries, these roads may wind this way or that way, but eventually flow into the larger body politic. Some roads may not lead anywhere for that matter; instead, like dried out rivulets, become dead ends and desolate places. Losses and other unforeseen obstacles in the roads ahead therefore have to be expected, and tallied in the overall scheme of things. Knowing that losses are inevitable in this process, limiting their impact becomes a necessary exercise of careful social goading, while still maintaining forward momentum. Like shepherds, we must constantly keep the herd together, look out for predators, while searching for better grazing fields for our collective flock, without transgressions.
It's a task of progressive social engineering which we are called upon to perform, and it's a task that requires strong and viable public institutions. Hence, the regional states have their work cut out for them and each state has three major components to deal with. These are, first, domestic consensus building; two, regional cooperation and consolidation; three, limited time in which to act.
It is a daunting undertaking to say the least, but the region is left with no other palatable choice except to put its houses in order, or risk bulldozing. The impact of the present political upheavals on the region will be measured by how well organised and prepared the people are at dealing with the situation.
Los Angeles, CA
Sir-- I wish to respond to the letter 'Firmly behind Israel' by Robert Dominianni (Al-Ahram Weekly, 11-17 December). Mr Dominianni states in his letter "We stand firmly behind Israel and are firmly set against terror-sponsoring nations." This is nothing more than a half truth. In this New England region (which includes six states) people are very upset with Israel. Many people like myself continue to be outraged by Israel's aggression and brutality towards the Palestinian people. We feel the government of Israel has condemned an entire innocent Palestinian people to the level of Hamas and Islamic Jihad terrorists. This is cruel; the restrictions on Palestinian life, the destruction of property (public and residential), and the possession of Palestinian land and resources for "a security fence" outrage us.
People are upset that our tax dollars are being used by Israel to perpetuate these cruel actions. We have held public protests and forums to voice our dissent. I myself have been a long supporter of Israel, but feel the policies of the present hard line government does not represent the Israel I have supported much of my life. Israel is no longer containing terror she is breeding it.
All the polls and many officials have noted this; even my three children understand this paradox. They will never support Israel on the scale I have -- nor won't many Americans. We are want more for our money -- equal distribution of goods, land and rights. We want the terrorists to hand in their weapons and so should Israel. This is a two-way street now. Gone are the days that most Americans are firmly behind Israel; a balance is a much healthier way for all concerned.
Who's a terrorist?
Sir-- In response to Robert Dominianni's 'Firmly behind Israel' (Al-Ahram Weekly, 11-17 December), I would like to assure him that the reason why Americans writing in this section oppose the US administration is because they are closer to the truth by frequently reviewing the opinions of "the other" through reading Middle East papers -- Al-Ahram Weekly in this case. Meanwhile, the media in the "democratic" state of America seems to ignore the point of view of the other, particularly when it comes to Arabs and Muslims. In addition the American media changes the facts in the history of the Arab- Israeli conflict.
I am also confused regarding his definition of the term "terrorism". Does it refer to defending the homeland against occupation by all means? If yes, then I have bad news for Mr Dominianni -- we live in a planet of terrorists. Whether here or elsewhere in the world, you will find every citizen living where his home is occupied will defend and resist this occupation by all means, including what US media so-calls suicide attack.
I call on Mr Dominianni to read and learn more. Furthermore, I invite him to visit Egypt where he will be astonished to see 70+ million "terrorists" who are hospitable, generous, multi- cultured, welcoming and peace-loving. Check into anywhere else in the region or in what you like to call "terror-sponsoring" nations, and you will get the same treatment. Resort to rational thinking and you will see that policies of the US government in the region correspond to terrorism, yet it claims to be sponsoring democracy.
Rabie M Alsaeed
Sir-- 'The streets of Baghdad' by Ibrahim Nawwar (Al-Ahram Weekly, 11-17 December) makes me wonder why so many Egyptians want the US to fail in Iraq.
If the US occupation fails to establish peace and democracy, Saddam Hussein will return to rule with the aid of Al-Qa'eda. Do Egyptians hate the US so much that they would prefer this alternative?
Broken Arrow, OK
Sir-- I really enjoyed Mohamed Hakki's 'Democracy or hypocrisy?' (Al-Ahram Weekly, 4-10 December). A good many Americans living in the US would like answers to some of the questions he poses.
More of us should be asking these questions. Good piece.
Form of distraction
Sir-- Regarding 'Democracy or hypocrisy?' (Al- Ahram Weekly, 4-10 December), feeding these lies to your own people only complicates all the problems. Why are Arabs leaders afraid of their people learning the truth about the Israeli/ Palestinian issue?
Surely, no educated person believes any of this. The only reason you do this is to stir emotions to deflect your citizens' attention away from your domestic problems.
Behind barbed wires
Sir-- 'Democracy or hypocrisy?' (Al-Ahram Weekly, 4-10 December) is a very informative article by Mohamed Hakki, and I think it should be printed in North American newspapers.
Imagine if Mohamed Hakki could report an article as the one in Time magazine of 15 December about Guantanamo, detailing a report as seen by an Arab journalist. I have not read of any Arab reporter interviewing the officials at Guantanamo or the detainees. Given the fact that no Arab journalist would be allowed any interview, at least a repeated attempt would have been made to prove a point: we too care about those detainees, guilty or innocent, this is for the courts to decide. For the prisoner, the person going through hell and their families, to know that there are Arab reporters seeking to find the truth directly or through the Red Cross or by any legal means, would elevate their morale a hinge or two.
The Time article reported that the Australian and the British governments stepped forward to secure from officials better treatment for their citizens. Collectively, rather than individually, Arab reporters should make the attempt once, twice and 99 times and the outcome should be reported to the readers.
More on Ethiopia
Sir-- The article 'A leap of faith' (Al- Ahram Weekly, 27 November - 3 December) should have been titled 'Islam and Ethiopia', to allow more readers who visit to capture your site. I hope you will publish more articles and research about the plight of our forgotten Muslims in Ethiopia.
No more questions
Sir-- Alistair Alexander's 'Another Irish question' (Al-Ahram Weekly, 4-10 December) frames the conflict in the north of Ireland as an ethno-religious war between Catholics and Protestants. This is the classic colonial framework, designed explicitly to remove the British government even as a party to the conflict, let alone the primary cause of it. He refers to the 35-year war between the Irish Republican Army and the British Army as "terrorism" by the Irish, crediting war criminal Tony Blair of all people with the "political achievement" of the 1998 Good Friday Agreement.
Alexander parrots the dominant British discourse, asserting that "the slow progress on IRA disarmament" has been "the main sticking point" in the stalled implementation of the agreement. This charge is in direct conflict with reports from the IICD (Independent International Commission on Decommissioning) that was assigned to oversee and report on the IRA's progress. On 21 October, 2003, as part of a deal to move the peace process forward and restart the power-sharing assembly that the British government had unilaterally suspended in violation of the agreement, the IICD reported: "The commission has witnessed a third event in which IRA weapons have been put beyond use, in accordance with government schemes and regulations. The quantity of arms involved is much larger than the quantity put beyond use in the previous event." This included light, medium and heavy ordnance and associated munitions including automatic weapons, ammunition, explosives and explosives materiel. It was David Trimble of the Ulster Unionist Party who responded by reneging on the deal to restart the assembly after this act by the IRA, and the British government that supported him.
Let's remember that the agreement commits all parties to the "demilitarisation" of Ireland. That includes the dismantling of British occupation infrastructure in the six counties, which has seen extremely "slow progress".
Sir-- The article 'Walking a tightrope' (Al- Ahram Weekly, 4-10 December) is excellent, highly informative and educational.
This is my first experience reading your paper and I will return to your site regularly.
Sir-- I look forward to reading Al-Ahram Weekly online as I feel that it enables me to understand more about life in Egypt -- a country very close to my heart because my daughter and family live in Cairo.
Understandably, communication is so important to us, but it can also be so frustrating. Reading Rabie Alsaeed's letter "Postal punishment" (Al-Ahram Weekly, 4-10 December) has encouraged me to write and ask if there is a problem with the postal service in Cairo?
For several years I have been perplexed by the fact that most of the letters sent to me from Cairo never reach me; and letters and packages sent to Cairo fail to be delivered. On about two occasions a damaged birthday card has arrived in Cairo approximately two months after posting. Consequently, it seems pointless to send cards, letters and packages which fail to reach their destination.
I wonder if this is a common occurrence or have I just been unlucky?
Sir-- Last week, I was in Ramses Square waiting for my regular LE1 ride on the microbus to Nasr City but there were none to be found. A police officer told me that the taxi station has been moved to the new venue of Ahmed Helmi. I took another taxi to the new taxi station which cost me 50 piastres, and was surprised that when I finally got into my microbus bound for Nasr City the driver informed me that the fare has risen to LE1.50. So now, the fare for my trip to Nasr City has doubled to LE2.
I would like to present a few comments to the governor of Cairo. First, I understand that transforming the taxi station from Ramses Square will decrease crowds, but the cost shouldn't be so high on the average citizen. Second, the distance between the old and new taxi station is too long so a number of microbuses should be assigned to transport passengers to the new location, especially the elderly or the sick. Third, road signs must be placed to show passengers where to go for the new taxi station.
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