Letters to the editor
Sir-- In Amira Howeidy's article 'The law or the wall' ( Al-Ahram Weekly, 26 February - 3 March), she acts as if the persecution of Israel at The Hague is some type of "watershed event" that is going to change the course of the Arab/ Israeli conflict. In reality, the world views this as nothing more than the same old Arab block monopolising the world agenda at the expense of more pressing humanitarian crises -- and the world's impatience is showing by the significant fact that Europe didn't side with the Arabs this time around.
The results of The Hague will predictably end up condemning Israel, and will just as predictably end up on top of the heap of other failed Arab block attempts to delegitimise Israel. The only change I see happening in the Middle East is that Israel is getting stronger, the world is recognising the threat of Muslim extremism, and more importantly, Iraq and Libya have thumbed their nose at the Arab block.
Sir-- Amira Howeidy's article 'The law or the wall' ( Al-Ahram Weekly, 26 February - 3 March) shows Israel's flagrant violations of the US and the UN resolutions for a two-state solution. As the Arab League Counsel Michael Bothe states: "The wall does not stand between terrorists and potential victims but between the farmer and his land. It is an affront to international law." Israel says that the International Court of Justice has no jurisdiction over the wall. Israel is breaking the law "de facto" only with the support of a superpower, the United States, even though this support is not made public.
This violation of international law is not just an intellectual paradox, it is worse than the impact of the Berlin Wall or Apartheid. It gives additional fuel to perpetuate the loss of hope for peace in the world, and promotes international terrorism.
Seeing both sides
Sir-- I've just finished reading the article 'Apartheid cannot stand' ( Al-Ahram Weekly, 19-25 February) and I have to say that I find the characterisation of Israeli activities as tantamount to apartheid to be entirely accurate. As an American and a Jew, I've always found myself conflicted by Israel's and America's attitude towards the Palestinians. After all, we overthrew another country by violent means just to become Americans, and we did it for reasons that probably seem very familiar to folks in Gaza. Further, if there is any group of people in the world who should understand why "ghettoisation", as you express it, is morally wrong, it should be a nation of Jews.
At the same time, however, it seems evident that Israel has good reason to fear the Palestinians, and the foreign fighters there who continue to attack civilians indiscriminately. Frankly, the presence of those foreign fighters, and the Palestinian Authority's inability or unwillingness to remove or control them, is the best justification Israel has for continuing their apartheid policies.
A further question relates to whether it is possible to impose the International Court's authority over a sovereign nation. I can see that Israel is not willing to accept such authority, but perhaps that is understandable. After all, imagine the reaction of the Palestinian Authority to a court ruling in The Hague that determined that suicide bombings and other forms of liberation warfare were illegal. (For that matter, imagine the reaction of American colonial citizens to such a ruling in 1776.)
How do we really resolve this mess? If there was some way ordinary Israeli citizens could throw off the extremist elements that control their politics, and the Palestinian Authority could become a real force for positive change, rather than Yasser Arafat's personal money distribution system, then maybe there could be a way out.
I hope we can find a solution; both peoples deserve better from their leaders than what they have now. And I thank you for the excellent Web site. It's great to have access to viewpoints not usually seen in the American media.
North Bend, WA
Plain and simple
Sir-- I have read your many letters to the editor, and I frankly find them very inspiring. I am a firm believer that wrongs will be righted, and those with legitimate grievances will get their due redress. To get to the bottom of any event, one has to get to the root causes of that specific event, and the process which enabled a crisis to ensue. To fairly resolve such a crisis, however, our moral compass has to be steady. For example, Harvard's Mr Alan Dershowitz, a self-described humanist, confronted by the establishment media to address torture, said that torture is acceptable under certain circumstances. You see my point? Then, under such corrupt thinking, those who fight occupation of theirs lands, the genocide and ethnic cleansing committed against their families and communities, are called terrorists for resisting wrongs; and peace, like olive trees in the occupied territories, is uprooted before fruition.
The Palestinians have no armies, no tanks, no attack helicopters, no fighter jets, nor do they have, unfortunately, our Congress in their back pocket. Our mainstream media comes to life only when suicide bombings occur, not when Palestinian civilians are routinely massacred by the IDF. Isn't a Palestinian "mother's grief" real grief when her child, shot by the IDF, lies lifeless in her arms? How about Tom Hurndall, a British ISM activist shot in the head by the IDF, and died after nine months in a coma for helping Palestinian school children cross away from an IDF post. How about his mother's grief? And how about the American citizen Rachel Corrie, also an ISM activist who, in trying to prevent a house demolition, was run over by an IDF bulldozer. How about her mother's grief?
The point of my remarks is that we should keep our eyes on the prize, in this case, the inhumane treatment of Palestinians, and brutal occupation of their lands by the Israelis. Plain and simple.
Los Angeles, CA
Sir-- After I read Edward Said's 'Archaeology of the roadmap' ( Al-Ahram Weekly, 12-18 June, 2003), I could literally feel a wave of relief sweep over me. Here in Pakistan, we deeply empathise with the Palestinian cause. Mr Said's writings are a source of great pleasure for myself as I'm sure they are for other fans also. His succinct summing up of seemingly diverse issues and reasoning abilities are very impressive.
Not all mighty
Sir-- This alarmist article 'Winds of change' ( Al-Ahram Weekly, 19-25 February) seems to have been written by someone who has not been schooled in the vast field of the dynamics of change. If this article is read and believed by those who probably know less, Al-Ahram Weekly will have done a great disservice in demoralising readers. A simple example familiar to anyone in the region may illustrate the point. The US unquestionably possesses the most powerful brute military force, assumed to be capable of imposing its will anywhere, any time, on anybody. With a $500 billion budget deficit and a $5,000 trillion national debt, it does not have financial clout to back this brute force and is totally morally bankrupt in international eyes.
Not long ago, the US declared that it was going to hold a series of caucuses to select a Governing Council in Iraq to hand over sovereignty to it on 30 June. Ayatollah Sistani, a frail lone man with no clout except a moral one, rejected the idea, insisting on elections which would need more time than a deadline of 30 June. The most powerful nation on earth in military terms had to scrap its plans.
Ikram Youssef Sayed
Beware the plan
Sir-- I am an American citizen and I am commenting on the Greater Middle East Initiative to be formally proposed this summer. The Arab people should know that the current administration is motivated solely by self-serving nationalistic purposes. Its desire is to gain more and more control over the Middle East and will lie, make false promises, manipulate and threaten the use of force to do so. This regime cannot ever be trusted. If you truly want to make democratic reforms, which I view as a good choice when made in context with Arab culture, then America is not a good example to follow.
You also of course know that America will always side with Israel in the Palestinian-Israeli problem. America does not wish to see a true Palestinian state, even though occasionally they say they do. They do not wish to see a strong, united Arab world -- only one which is divided or under American influence. I know that it is tempting to think that cooperation with the United States will be helpful, but at this point that is an illusion that would be dangerous to buy into. Hopefully, a new president will be elected who will see the Middle East in a more compassionate way -- even though many of the Democrats think that America should rule the world. My good wishes go to all people in the Middle East for a free and prosperous future.
Sir-- I am interested in the views expressed in 'On the Greater Middle East' ( Al-Ahram Weekly, 19-25 February). It is puzzling to me that no one pays attention to Arafat's unretracted statement that "Liberation" means "push the Zionist entity into the sea". Further, that the Arab states -- except Jordan and Egypt -- have not followed the United Nations recognition of Israel, therefore have no reason to complain of Israel's selective attention to UN resolutions. Finally, how can the Arab League expect peace when they hold a knife to the throat of Israel, and maintain friction with Turkey -- a democracy of Muslim people that is not a Muslim theocracy or dictatorship.
I have followed the Arab/Muslim press for a very long time without mention of the above.
Not so thorough
Sir-- Regarding 'Rome and Jerusalem revisited' ( Al-Ahram Weekly, 19-25 February), apparently Joseph Massad is not quite as updated on his Israeli papers as he should be -- especially since he read the Ha'aretz interview of a month or so ago with Benny Morris. He evidently did not read, or completely ignored, Benny Morris's follow up column in Ha'aretz in the "Right of Reply" section and also quite a few letters from Israelis complaining about his statements in the interview. I am very disappointed.
Religious rights for all
Sir-- I do not agree with the French ban on hijab and I know people of all faiths have come forward to express their protests against the ban. What I would like to see, however, is a little introspection on the part of Muslims before the charge of hypocrisy is levelled against Western democracies. Perhaps it is fair that we in the West urge Muslims to take a long, hard look at the conditions under which people of other faiths are permitted to practice their religion in Muslim lands. It is an inescapable fact that there are mosques in Rome but not a single church in Saudi Arabia. It is a verifiable fact that Christians in Muslim lands face varying degrees of restrictions, discrimination and persecution.