Sir-- Regarding 'Morrison for Morris' (Al-Ahram Weekly, 5-11 February), I'm glad Emad Gad published parts from the piece I wrote as a response to Benny Morris's racist interview to Ha'aretz, since there is no chance the mainstream Israeli media would publish such a reaction.
Of course, they had no problem publishing the racist views of Morris in the first place. Thank you for bringing the alternative critical media in Israel-Palestine to the attention of world publics.
One last thing, the "interview" with Berni Morrison was first published in Hebrew online, in the Mizrahi Web portal KEDMA (Middle Eastern Gate to Israel).
Dr Sami Shalom Chetrit
Los Angeles, CA
Sir-- So you claim a moral victory of some sort because Israel has agreed to release over 400 terrorists in return for only one of their own and the remains of their three brave but fallen soldiers.
Au contraire, it seems to me that Israel has reminded their people and the whole world of how much more they value the life and the welfare of its citizens.
Hizbullah is a known terrorist organisation committed to the destruction of Israel. It is an impediment to the peace process and makes short thrift of the concept of Lebanese sovereignty. As long as you continue to divert your already meagre resources to support such lunatics, you will remain one of the poorest, least educated, least advanced, least democratic, least free, most chauvinist societies in the world.
The money trail
Sir-- It may shock your readers to know that the US financial aid to Israel since its creation in 1948, is now a staggering $90 billion, and few more hundreds of millions in change. Adding a conservative interest costs borne by the US tax payer, the figure is close to $150 billion. The total US aid to Israel is approximately 33 per cent of the American foreign aid budget, even though Israel compromises 0.001 per cent of the world population. Unlike other countries, which receive aid in quarterly installments, aid to Israel is given in a lump sum at the beginning of the fiscal year, leaving the US government to borrow from future revenues. Israel even lends some of the money back through US treasury bills and collects additional interest.
A sceptic may assume that America, a very wealthy country, can well afford those many billions, but nothing is further from the truth. When comparing America to the rest of the industrialised word, it is the only nation without a comprehensive healthcare plan -- a catastrophic illness in the twilight of life may very well wipe out the savings of a life time. We have one of the highest infant mortality rates of the industrialised world; our education budget is one of the lowest; unemployment is rampant and so is underemployment. Our inner cities are an affront to human dignity; the rich-poor gap has doubled in 21 years and is now at its widest since just before the great depression in 1929. The number of those in poverty rose by 1.7 million between 2001 and 2002, and I assume it to be significantly higher between 2003 and 2004.
The ultimate tragedy is that there is not a shortage of voices in our Congress who are asking for more aid to Israel, not less. The American tax payer has been betrayed by his elected representatives, and little does he know. He or she has been shielded by the Zionist-controlled media, and a call for an open dialogue on the matter will surely be dismissed as anti-Semitic -- very much the same as this letter will be.
Fikry B Salib
Sir-- In 'Anti-Egypt bill 'hopeless'' (Al-Ahram Weekly, 5-11 February) you wrote that "Weiner, according to Congress insiders, has tried before to introduce bills targeting the Egyptian government and accusing it of failing to take proper measures in the fight against terrorism and in the pursuit of reform." Personally, I think Weiner has every right.
In 'Time to negotiate' (Al-Ahram Weekly, 5-11 February), you wrote that Cairo says the Palestinians and the Israelis must sit at the same table and hammer out their differences. I believe you cannot negotiate with terrorists like Arafat.
Sir-- Israel is building a monument to racism. It is not simply "a wall" -- a wall you can find in a cozy family home. And it is not just "a barrier" either -- the term now preferred by dominant Israel-friendly media in the US and UK, presumably to highlight the security benefits, and to avoid "wall" for its negative associations with memories of communist Berlin.
Israel's fence of ethnic discrimination is a suffocating structure that rests its unbearable weight on Palestinian freedom and livelihood. It is a criminal construct that robs Palestinians of their land and rights. This wall is a physical manifestation of vulgar convictions of Jewish exclusivity that rule in the mind and conscience of the Zionist state.
I wish that everyone who understands the extent of Israel's injustice would be careful enough to use appropriately harsh language against it. We have a moral responsibility to filter public language in support of the Palestinian plight. For example, by casually referring to this latest project in neutral unqualified terms like "wall" or "barrier", we inadvertently grant support to something horrible. When our words tolerate the idea of such a fence, they also nurture it. It remains viable, thrives and is then well on its way to painful realisation. But if conscious individuals and concerned media properly condemn this cruel construct every time it is mentioned, public awareness of its damages will grow, and will eventually develop into active opposition -- opposition that helpless Palestinians desperately need.
I urge Al-Ahram Weekly and its enlightened readers to start a vigilant semantic campaign against Israel's barrier to peace, and the unhealthy moral foundations that it symbolises. Only through justice will we end the Arab- Israeli conflict, and serve current and future generations on both sides.
Sir-- I wonder if your readers are aware that Saudi Arabia is currently building a border wall between itself and Yemen?
I was very surprised to run across this information and instantly thought of the wall being built in Israel.
Sir-- I enjoyed Ahmed Negm's letter 'Martyr of peace' (Al-Ahram Weekly, 5-11 February) pontificating on the irony that Ms Corrie was killed while standing in front of a US-made bulldozer in the occupied territories.
As a Native American, I could only wish that some Arab immigrants here in the US were that dedicated and respectful of my people to stand up against what we go through. For that matter, why do you not pontificate about the many Arabs who happily immigrate to the US -- which is itself an occupied territory.
Apparently Arabs are willing to benefit from injustices just as much as the Israeli settlers. In fact, many from the Arab world take the benefits of living in the West and repay their host countries with intolerance and violence.
Ginger Bear Cub
Sir-- Khaled Dawoud wrote a excellent analysis 'Back in the game' (Al-Ahram Weekly, 5-11 February) of the Democratic candidates electioneering in the race for their party's nomination for president of the United States. The most interesting concern for voters in the upcoming election is a candidate's military record. Throughout US history, there have been national convulsions which propel people with military records to leadership; the same can be said of all other nations, as well. This is usually typical of a nation which believes that it is being threatened. The president, either Democrat or Republican, will be a person who knows that military prowess is the personal quality the citizens want.
John Kerry will be under pressure to act as George Bush has in response to world events which aim to harm American people and interests. The precedent has been set, there will be no change in the character of American policy, in fact it could become more aggressive if a candidate, perceived to be more moderate than President Bush, is challenged again by international terrorism. Beware of the backlash of a moderate, they have more to lose, and need to react in proportion to their moderation to restore confidence. The choice of the American people, Democrat or Republican, will be someone who will not restrain the use of military options.
New York, NY
State of origin
Sir-- In Khaled Dawoud's article 'Back in the game' (Al-Ahram Weekly, 5-11 February) he states that Oklahoma is Wesley Clark's home state and that Joseph Lieberman hails from Delaware. Please correct: Clark is from Arkansas and Lieberman from Connecticut.
While I'm sure that there are those in Arkansas who would be happy if Clark were from Oklahoma and likewise Lieberman's Connecticut constitutes, I think your readers need an accurate picture. I know that it is confusing to keep all these candidates straight and with 50 states to sort out, getting them from the right place must be difficult for those who are mystified by the way our country is chopped up.
Of course, by next week it won't make two cents worth of difference as both Clark and Lieberman will probably have dropped out of the race. As of this writing, Lieberman has done so.
Otherwise, I always enjoy reading your paper, errors or not.
Sir-- May I simply comment about how well- reasoned and intelligent I found 'Heavenly pursuits' by Abdel-Moneim Said (Al-Ahram Weekly, 29 January - 4 February).
If Al-Ahram Weekly generally deals in articles of this value I will become a very regular reader.
Sir-- All of your writers oppose the US forcing democracy on Arab states, which should raise a few questions in the minds of thinking Arabs. For example, why would the US have to force democracy on Arabs. Arabs should have adopted democracy a century ago but are farther from it today than ever -- except Iraq.
Second, the US forced democracy on Japan and Germany after WWII; were the results so awful? Third, how many countries have adopted democracy without the use of force? Not many. The Dutch fought the Spanish for 80 years; earning democracy in England required numerous wars against the king; France experienced one of the bloodiest revolutions in history; the US fought a civil war; India would never have accepted democracy without British force.
Spain went from dictatorship to democracy without force because King Juan Carlos is a man of incredible integrity. But look at the Arab nations that have experienced a similar change in leadership: Syria, Jordan and Morocco. None of the Arab sons who assumed power after the deaths of their fathers have any interest in sharing that power with their people, as Juan Carlos did. If we can predict the future from past experience, the US invasion of Iraq gives us the only model of how to bring democracy to Arab countries.
Broken Arrow, OK
Look at the facts
Sir-- Alistair Alexander in 'Hutton's travesty' (Al-Ahram Weekly, 5-11 February), confirms that it is now all too clear that the government has tasted an entirely deluded victory -- the barely-hidden triumph misplaced.
Whilst the literal judgement fully exonerated the government, placed blame squarely on the BBC (an institution that has seen its chairman and chief executive resign in marked contradistinction to the government), the public is already bridling against its one-sidedness.
However, by publishing all available evidence in a thorough manner, Hutton has been revolutionary; he has enfranchised the public. All of us (should we have been so inclined) could study the evidence and make a uniquely informed judgement. The legal process has been sprung from its arcane world -- it is worth noting how swiftly the prime minister learnt his lesson; the next inquiry under Butler is going to conduct its hearings in secret. Lord Hutton allowed us to sit with him.
By opining in such a partial manner, Hutton's judgement is threadbare and negated when compared to the facts. I can imagine the public turning to him in unison and saying, "Oh come on, mate!" And herein lies the conundrum. Was the judgement deliberately made so egregiously one-sided so as to immediately undermine its own validity and allow the facts to speak for themselves?
Seeing Sri Lanka
Sir-- Why is the American media so silent whenever there is a suicide bombing in Sri Lanka? For every three suicide bombings in Palestine, there are four suicide bombings by the Tamil Tigers.
The silence is deafening.
Sir-- The custody age to the mother in most Muslim countries which follow Shari'a are nine years for boys and 11 years for girls, after which age custody automatically goes to the father.
The draft law of the family court which you wrote about in 'Rights of motherhood' (Al- Ahram Weekly, 15-21 May) proposed to change Egypt's current custody law from 10 years for boys and 12 for girls to make it 15 years for both sexes after which the children are asked which parent they want to live with.
Do you think the children will choose the right party, or just the one who spoils them more? Do we need to go against Islamic law on the custody issues while we respect it on other issues regarding marriage? Do men need to create their own National Council to protect their rights?
I hope you launch a debate on this issue in order to decide on the right course of action which gives priority to the welfare of the children and not the parents. It would be much fairer to do than just conveying one side of the story.
Sir-- The performance of the Egyptian national football team in the Africa Cup was very confusing; it was the only team in the tournament which did not have character. Our heroic coach did his best to make us fed up.
Surely exiting the Africa Cup so early will weaken our chances of holding the World Cup in 2010. The people used to praise Saleh as a talented national coach who understands our players, but the problems in Egypt's football, and sports in general, need to be discussed more frankly and objectively.
We always talk about the figures and large budget raised for clubs and the youth sector -- most of which seems to be deliberately fabricated. Most of our football experts and analysts are neglected, as are their views.
What happened to the national team is a reflection of the many defects in our ailing sporting policy, beginning with the abundant monetary contracts paid for less talented, but more careless players, and ending with favouritism that has begun to spread in most of our big clubs.
Ali El-Sharkawy Omar
Hit and run tragedy
Sir-- On my way back home on 5 February, I was by the airport bridge heading for Sheraton Heliopolis, when I saw a large crowd surrounding an almost dead body. The young man was hit by a car whose driver fled and in the process smashed two cars. When the ambulance arrived some 15 minutes later, the victim had already passed away. The driver fled because he knows well that he would be jailed and maltreated while he awaited trial, which could take as long as 45 days pending investigations. At the same time, no one would stop and help the victim because onlookers know the headache they would have to go through with the police and the legal procedures.
I think it would be better for the victim if the law guarantees freedom for the driver, as well as fast medical aid and fair compensation for the victim.
Love of the dance
Sir-- Thank you so much for the article 'Learning to burn' (Al-Ahram Weekly, 17-23 July) about the Oscars of belly-dance. I am a 22-year-old college student of Romanian descent but have lived in the US my whole life. I started belly dance when I was 15 and have been waiting to come to Egypt since then. Falling in love with this dance led me to start learning Arabic and to learn about the history and politics of the Middle East, and to become an advocate for Palestine. I really admire Souheir Zaki, Lucy and Fifi Abdo and hope to meet them one day. I did not learn by taking lessons but by watching their videos and trying to imitate them, so they are really my greatest inspiration -- my teachers.
I'd like to know more about what Egyptians think about all these foreign women taking up belly dancing. Are they proud or embarrassed? I know Egyptians have a sort of love-hate relationship with the dance. Do they feel that this is a cultural/colonial invasion of their culture, or a sincere effort to keep this aspect of Egyptian national heritage alive?
San Francisco, CA
Sir-- If I am ever asked to give an example of the ultimate degree of humiliation practiced against women today, I would immediately think of the video clips of American rap songs, especially those of black rappers. In almost every clip, you can see the rapper surrounded by a large number of almost naked woman who behave like animals. Those clips were never shown in Egypt, but with the launch of the new music channels like Melody and Mazzika, those clips are now accessed by every house in the Middle East and so easily threaten our values.
I am not blaming the rappers themselves, but rather the Arab and Muslim owners of these satellite channels which air such clips. If they realise that their own teenage sons and daughters watch such degenerate material which degrades the image of women, they would be very ashamed of themselves. I know that two of the new music channels are based in Egypt, and wonder whether the government could do anything to prevent them from airing any inappropriate material.