Central role for UN
Sir-- 'Waiting for the UN' by Omayma Abdel-Latif (Al-Ahram Weekly, 12- 18 February) skirts the Hiroshima effect of the US war on Iraq, which preempted the UN from performing its peaceful role. The US thought that its policy of "shock and awe" would bring democracy to Iraq. To send 500 cruise missiles a day is not considered "weapons of mass destruction" because only the axis of evil has such weapons. How can the UN work under such imperialistic hypocrisy?
I am ashamed of the anti-UN policy of the current US administration. Calling this a war of liberation is hypocrisy, but more than that it creates a quagmire that even the UN cannot solve at this time. I belong to this "silent majority" who favour a central, not just a vital UN role, in Iraq.
Sir-- This regards the report by Ramsey Al-Rikabi titled 'Too true to be good?' (Al-Ahram Weekly, 12-18 February) about the Coalition's claim that a newly discovered memo confirms (in my words) the Bush administration's long held suspicion of an Al-Qa'eda connection with Saddam Hussein's regime.
Unless the memo in question can be dated back before the Coalition's attack on Iraq, then it actually confirms one of the early criticisms of the attack. That is the prediction that the attack would make Iraq a magnet for terrorists around the world.
It would be natural for an enemy of the US such as Al-Qa'eda to find a point of exposure, such as the current Iraq situation, to attack and thus embarrass the US.
Orange County, CA
Sir-- Azmi Bishara's commentary 'Unilaterally racist' (Al-Ahram Weekly, 12-18 February) was well appreciated as always. I do not dispute any of his formulations, but I will point out that his use of the Mexico analogy is even more accurate than he thinks it is.
For many Mexican-Americans, the US did indeed immigrate to them; the majority of Mexico was annexed to the United States. What's more, the US so dominates Mexico's economy that even citizens of Mexico's territory are basically economic citizens of the United States.
Indeed, when Israel's apologists defend the wall based on the United States' horrific militarised border that kills would-be immigrants every day is also a correct analogy, though not for the reasons they realise.
Sir-- Having the pleasure to read Mr Azmi Bishara's articles regularly, I assume that by demanding the right of return to Israel for all refugees of Palestinian descent and by vehemently opposing any transfer of land inhabited by Israeli Arabs to a Palestinian state, Bishara would like to see an Arab majority as large as possible dominating a bi-national state.
This would explain his vehement opposition to any separation wall. I wonder if he calls this state in his mind already Palestine and what he thinks to do with the Jews still living there. Apparently he hates the separation wall because it symbolises a two-state-solution and thus hurts his dream of returning to pre-1948 conditions.
Perhaps Mr Bishara should stop dreaming. Mr Bishara was a member of the Israeli Parliament and should have understood by now that an Israeli people exists as well. Personally, I think the separation wall should have been built on Israeli territory and its routing should urgently be corrected.
Still, I do not call it an Apartheid wall, but rather a necessary border between two peoples.
Sir-- Anyone who has followed the Israeli Defence Force's incursions over the last six months is well aware that the incidents of civilian deaths has become alarmingly high. Two weeks ago, the IDF's brutal incursions into Gaza left 10 people dead. These included an 11-year-old boy, three innocent workers and an ambulance driver. This is shocking.
The army's siege on Nablus earlier last month was brutal too. One eye-witness described Israeli soldiers as shooting randomly at people. A 16- year-old boy was shot outside his front door; an unarmed man was shot in the back; another man as a pallbearer; and a woman was shot just hanging out her washing. The death toll from the siege came to 17 dead and 200 injured. This is shocking.
The Christmas raids into Rafah were brutal too. There were many civilian deaths and countless people were left homeless by cruel demolitions. Yet the Geneva Convention is very clear that the protection of civilians must be of the utmost concern at all times. Amnesty International and many other human rights groups have deplored such acts. These must stop. How can Israel which prides itself on being a democracy engage in such barbaric measures?
Two wrongs don't make a right. They never have. Proverbs 3:31 warns about taking on the ways of the enemy. This must go out to both the Palestinians and Israelis. Revenge attacks should be unacceptable -- at all levels. The suicide bombings must stop and the glorification of them must end. The Israeli army must be held more publicly accountable for its actions in the territories. Otherwise, they will become a lawless and merciless army.
Sir-- Thomas Hurndall (UK), Bryan Avery and Rachel Corrie (USA) are not the only Westerners killed by Israel for opposing organised Zionist terror or relaying the truth to their people. In fact, Israel has a long history of terrorising the West, including the US.
In 1954, the Israeli government launched a secret operation of terror against the United States called Operation Suzannah. It plotted to murder Americans and blow up American installations in Egypt. Their plan was to leave false evidence that the Egyptians did it, so as to make America go to war against Egypt, on the side of Israel. Thankfully, for both Egypt and the US, the plot was exposed and stopped in its early stages.
Now, I have to talk about American double standards in our region. The US just invaded Iraq because "perhaps" it had some relations with Al- Qa'eda and because "perhaps" it had some biological weapons. While the Israeli government is involved in direct terrorist attacks against the US, ethnic cleansing against the Palestinian people and has nuclear, biological and chemical weapons. The US supports the Zionist state as if it were an American state.
Zionists are still working towards their target but have changed their strategy. They worked for decades to control the American media, and that's why the American media has a hostile perspective towards the Arabs and the Muslims. It intends to make the American people hate us and hence gain a political advantage for the Zionists.
Above the din
Sir-- Regarding 'Unilaterally racist' (Al-Ahram Weekly, 12-18 February) it is sad, but correct, to note that the actions of a single man -- in this case, Sharon -- are seen as the sole and driving force of developments in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.
Regretfully, this situation has been made possible by the lack of any cohesive Arab plan or unified front. Until the bickering between regional Arab nations can be put aside and a coherent plan put forward, the world will continue to listen to Sharon as the voice of authority.
Until the Palestinians themselves can agree on a solution -- or even a proposal -- the world will see the Palestinians' plight as hopelessly mired in fractional fighting, internally confused and rife with corruption. For these reasons, the mixed messages of the Arab world are lost in the din while a single, clear voice from Israel seems authoritative, which the rest of the world finds comforting.
Sir-- In response to 'Time to negotiate' (Al- Ahram Weekly, 5-11 February), President Bush calls Mr Sharon "a Man of Peace". Sharon calls Mr Mubarak in a gesture of peace to congratulate him on Eid Al-Fitr. Then Mr Mubarak calls on Yasser Arafat to speak with the peace-loving Sharon. Meanwhile, Mr Sharon -- the man of peace -- is wiping out what is left outside the walls built by Home Depot, USA. What is the world coming to?
Israel is calling all the shots not only for the Arabs, but for the whole world. I salute the few honourable Jews in Israel who are the only ones who can stand up to Sharon. Even President Bush cannot stand up to Sharon, according to Pat Buchanan.
Disregard the motives
Sir-- Your editorial 'A third catastrophe?' (Al- Ahram Weekly, 12-18 February) states that Palestinians need to deal "objectively" with Israel's withdrawal from Gaza.
However, your editorial confines such "objectivity" to Sharon's assumedly bad motives, and labels the evacuation a "catastrophe".
If you truly want Palestinians to handle the evacuation "objectively", and if you want Palestinians to avoid the catastrophic "infighting" of which you warn, it would be better to disregard Sharon's speculatively bad motives, not foreshadow a "catastrophe", and instead, welcome the opportunity with peacefulness and productive ambition.
The real catastrophe
Sir-- In your editorial 'A third catastrophe?' (Al-Ahram Weekly, 12-18 February) you warn that: "the Arabs may be in for another catastrophe, on the scale of those of 1948 and 1967."
Are you implying that the militaries of several Arab countries are preparing to attack Israel, as was the case in 1948, and especially in 1967? If so, I'll infer that you construe the utter defeat those militaries suffered to be a "catastrophe". One more time, as if you don't already know: Had Egypt, Syria, Jordan, and the former-Iraq (and Iran and Saudi Arabia indirectly), not behaved so recklessly, with such a thirst for Jewish blood, the "Palestinians" would have never been "occupied", and there would be no "security" zones or "early warning" stations.
When will the true sources of the "catastrophes" of the Arab world finally be addressed honestly? I presume this English language, online edition of Al-Ahram Weekly is based in a country with some semblance of freedom of the press and free speech. Why not be honest with yourselves, and your readers, and focus your scrutiny of pending "catastrophes" where it is due: Arab governments.
Peter K Booth
Sir-- Regarding your recent editorial 'A third catastrophe?' (Al-Ahram Weekly, 12-18 February), while I appreciate that editorial pages are supposed to contain opinion content, I was surprised to see that your publication still refers to the founding of the State of Israel as a "catastrophe".
I was under the impression that Egypt and Israel had reached a peace accord and that such references were not in keeping with the "new" thinking in your country.
Sir-- Having read Khaled Dawoud's 'Cowboy without a horse' (Al-Ahram Weekly, 12-18 February) which unveils to me many important issues, I wonder where the so-called weapons of mass destruction that President Bush declared Iraq could deploy in just 45 minutes are?
And where is the enriched uranium in Iraq? And the Al-Qa'eda connection in Iraq?
It seems that President Bush lied not only to the American people but also to all the people of the world. I ask the American people to make their president accountable for this war. Just as Saddam Hussein must be tried for his crimes, President Bush must also be faced with his crimes of killing many Iraqis and Americans in this war.
Sir-- While the Kerry-Bush battle will not start until after Labour Day weekend, it will be interesting to see whether Mr Kerry can continue to hold the momentum and dislodge Bush from the White House.
It is too early too determine if Bush is beatable. I am no fan of Bush, but Kerry has his work cut out for him to unseat the man in the White House. I just hope the November 2004 election does not repeat the Bush/Gore fiasco of November 2000.
Sir-- Thank you for publishing Edward Said's brilliant article 'Living in Arabic' (Al-Ahram Weekly, 12-18 February). I wish it was published in the US as well because it gives a balanced view of the reformation already attained within the Arab world. Two prominent US writers, Thomas Friedman and Bernard Lewis, give us in the United States the impression that "Arabic is a language expressing blood-curdling and incomprehensive violence". Said blames this stereotype of Arabic which swells into Islam in general by contiguity and ignorance on Hollywood movies. Except for Lawrence of Arabia, most movies portray the pronunciation of Arabic as sonorous with heightened inflection, and clearly savage or uncouth.
Friedman and Lewis are good writers and scholars in English, but they know no Arabic, or superficial Arabic. Yet they give the impression of lack of reform in the Arabic language. Edward Said points out the reform in Arabic very vividly in the form of a journalistic Standard Arabic which is common throughout the Arabic world. The average high school student reads and speaks like the writers of Al-Ahram or Al- Jazeera. This standard Arabic has already influenced the public.
Said quotes a Palestinian friend of the family who "speaks Arabic like a book", and he also quotes how effective were writers like Taha Hussein and Naguib Mahfouz in promoting Standard Arabic which is still educated Arabic, but also much more popular than ever before. This is not to say that dialects are bound to disappear somehow by fiat, which is the impression given by some politicians in the US when they talk about "liberating Iraq", "introducing democracy", and freeing the Arab world.
Sir-- The wonderful article "Living in Arabic" by the late Edward Said in your current issue (Al- Ahram Weekly, 12-18 February) is another great example of the excellent journalism you provide your readers with, and for more of which they keep coming back.
I was fascinated with what Prof. Said writes about the Egyptian dialect "even the most hastily put together Egyptian mousalsal (or serial) is infinitely more fun to watch than the best of the best- regulated classical-language dramas."
Being myself an Egyptian, I have always loved the lively, expressive and vibrant language which we hear in the typical Egyptian street. Prof. Said's point about the Arabic language receiving a new freedom from the religious texts by the Egyptian Nahda, or renaissance, during the last decades of the 19th century, is well made.
I do not think, however, that the need for reformation, which he mentions was called for by Thomas Friedman, Bernard Lewis, and Leila Ahmad, is only restricted to the language and its use. Most of the intellects who use our language are far from "free" or "reformed", as many an Egyptian, both in Egypt and abroad, would attest. Language, as a vehicle of thought and communication, is only the starting point for the expression of ideas.
Sadly, modern Egypt is suffering from a lack of freedom of thought; this is continuously seen in the use of our language. I believe that Prof. Said's point is well taken when he says that the Arabic language used in the Al Jazeera Channel is admirable because it is used in the context of a wide range of political opinions and not only because it is classical standard Arabic.
Another interesting point Edward Said raises is that the best available Arabic teaching in the Arab world today is what is offered to the non-Arabs in our communities. I grew up studying Arabic at school and can attest to the limited, deplorable and stifling ways in which this great language is "taught" to the natives, especially at school. I wish that the Ministry of Education would revise the way our language is offered in schools, and perhaps take a leaf out of the modern methods of language education that is used in such institutions as the British Council and The American University.
Sir-- India was responsible for nurturing the nuclear threat posed by North Korea and Iran. However, the media love to blame Muslim Pakistan.
Back on track
Sir-- Nearly two years after the tragic disaster of the Aswan-bound train 832, and having seen the regrettable sight of the large number of badly charred bodies, I believed the reason behind the strict measures adopted by the government were to prevent a repetition of such a tragedy.
With measures such as fining passengers for smoking and preventing hawkers from boarding the train with butane cylinders which they usually possess, I felt absolutely safe while commuting between Assiut and Cairo for my studies. Now, however, I'm bitterly disappointed that those measures have proved to be short- term. Everything inside the train is back to the old routine, as if nothing had happened.
Cigarette smoke fills every carriage on the train, sometimes by the train conductors themselves who are supposed to oversee the implementation of these rules. Moreover, hawkers are once again going to and fro without any deterrent.
Was the incident of the deadliest train disaster in Egypt's rail history so simple that the government could totally forget it? Has the government forgotten the dreadful sight of the charred bodies and the carriages burned to their steel structures? What is the government waiting for in order to reactivate and strictly adhere to these rules? Another train catastrophe?
Sir-- It was delightful to be reminded by the picture on the front page of your February 12-18 edition that Valentine's Day is, of course, as popular in Egypt as elsewhere in the world.
However, I wonder if the day should not be re-named "Cleopatra's Day," in Egypt? After all, who better than Cleopatra VII to represent love and attraction?
The two greatest men of her day fell in love with her, and all over the world she symbolises beauty and charm. Besides -- who could be more synonymous with the elegance of the Egyptian jewelry described in your article "Get the ice or no dice"? published in the same issue.
Who better to market it to the world, particularly on her own day?
Sir-- I am really glad to be able to read your great newspaper online. I have found several articles about women in Islam, and very interesting pieces about Islamic feminism.
I have also heard a few things about Dr Aisha Abdurrahman (Bint Al-Shati') and was very impressed with the story of her life.
Bosnia and Herzegovina
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