Letters to the Editor
To Hosny Guindy
Sir-- On the occasion of the first anniversary of the departure of Al-Ahram Weekly's founding chief-editor, Hosny Guindy, a beloved friend and relation, I have these words to address to him:
Hosny, It's been one year since your departure. They say "time heals". I say 'time dampens'. One grows calmer in the acceptance of the pain, but it is there.
Hosny, though you have left us, the halo of your principles and love still crowns our lives.
Your dear family? God is looking after them, encircling them and guiding them with His loving arms. They are coping, but it has not been easy.
Your baby, "the Weekly " is growing and prospering just as you would want it to, thanks to those caring for it. But you now what? It misses you terribly!
Sir-- In Khaled Amayreh's piece 'Coming apart at the seams' ( Al-Ahram Weekly, 5-11 August) it states that Palestinian collaborators helped the Israeli army to murder hundreds of Palestinian resistance fighters and politicians. Hence, the liquidation of the collaborators enjoys widespread support among the Palestinian community.
Well first, it's not at all clear they were the source. As is well known, Palestinian "justice" is often based as much upon tribal rivalry and settling of old scores. Second, even if it were true, how does that square with the cold-blooded murder of prisoners? Where's the humanity? Where's the minimum respect for human dignity? If this is what we can expect from a Palestinian state, what a pitiful future is in store.
Sir-- With regards to 'Coming apart at the seams' ( Al-Ahram Weekly, 5-11 August), it would be most illuminating to dig deeper into the corruption allegations. Why stop with merely mentioning them? Please talk specifically about the moneys destined for children and the elderly that is lining the pockets of Arafat, his wife in Paris and his friends, while real people continue to struggle.
As a respected view in the Arab world, your duty is to report and expose not allegations but facts and details; this is what will hold people to account. Investigate and report, do not waste ink with mere speculation.
Sir-- I was terribly upset to hear about all human suffering the Israeli army created by closing the border crossing at Rafah. This unprecedented closing of the border for "security reasons" stranded over 2,000 innocent people for two weeks. How dreadful.
I understand many people were jammed into an overcrowded transit terminal with little provisions for food and water and sanitation; one report I read noted that over 1,000 people developed diarrhea symptoms at the same time. Good Lord! That's a public health hazard and a public emergency. Plus, there were the sick and the old; a group of handicapped children; those who ran out of medicines; those who gave birth and those who had miscarriages. How tragic. This human misery should never have happened. I hope the army will be held accountable.
I can assure you, in the court of public opinion (on this side of the Atlantic), the Israeli army has driven more nails into its own coffin. That's too bad. I believe at one time this army was called "the most moral army" -- not anymore.
Sir-- Mr Bishara writes an eloquent but one-sided piece in 'Golden oldies' ( Al-Ahram Weekly, 5-11 August).
Both Israelis and Palestinians have their national myths, and to take only Israel's to task without addressing the racism and hatred of the Palestinian ranks does not contribute to moving the peace process forward.
Over 50 years after partition, it doesn't matter who started it; what matters is ending it.
San Francisco, CA
Sir-- When I read MP Azmi Bishara's criticism of Naomi Shemer's songs in 'Golden oldies' ( Al-Ahram Weekly, 5-11 August), I was thinking how people who live with us do not appreciate our culture and feeling.
Naomi Shemer's song "Jerusalem of Gold" was written before the 1967 War, when the old city of Jerusalem was "empty" of Jews who were expelled by the Jordanians in 1948. Her song was an expression of deep feelings and memories of a place that had been lost forever. (No one could imagine the near future events).
I would compare her songs to the songs and stories of Palestinians like Mahmoud Darwish and Ghassan Kanafani. If Naomi Shemer is a racist, how do you define Darwish's song calling the Jewish people in Israel to leave the country with... the bones of their ancestors?
Improving their lot
Sir-- There is also no room for Arafat to manoeuvre unless there are trade-offs with the other party; each blames the other for intransigence, neither acknowledges the mutual problem. It is unlikely that there can be any progress or peace until Arafat and the Arab states recognise Israel and renounce the intent of "pushing the Zionist entity into the sea". There can be no peace with a knife at the throat of any party.
Now, what does the "road map" require with regard to disarming the terrorist/resistance groups? And how would you deal with the situation if the territory the Palestinians occupied was Israel with pre-1967 borders? Any thoughts as to why the Saudis, the Syrians, Saddam Hussein's Iraq, the Iranians have been willing to support Hamas, Hezbullah, Islamic Jihad, etc, but not support secular education in "Palestine" or Saudi Arabia, or Saddam Hussein's Iraq, or Syria, or even Iran.
Meaningful secular education would enable Arab countries and peoples to compete with, and perhaps get ahead of the West, Russia, China, India and even Pakistan.
Some 500 years ago, the Muslim empire was the centre of learning and tolerance -- at least for the standards of the time. Since Vienna, there has been little secular educational or scientific growth for the general umma [nation]. It is truly a tragedy and seems a travesty of the Prophet's intent.
Sir-- Thanks to Khaled Dawoud, I was able to see the results of Zogby's poll which surveyed six Arab nations and was commissioned by the Washington-based Arab American Institute (AAI). It may have been published by The Washington Post which we do not get here. Living in a small town, we do not get accurate world news -- or objective poll results such as Zogby's -- because they are not favourable to the Bush administration.
What struck me about the unfavourable rating of Bush in the Arab world (eg 98 per cent in Egypt are against Bush), is its similarity to the results of social psychology studies conducted by Prothro & Melekian of the American University of Beirut after the first Arab-Israeli conflict. Results showed that the majority of Arab students at the time saw the US as siding with Israel to dominate the Arab world.
The only difference is that the US then had Eisenhower as a WW II leader, who enjoyed world stature as a president and was bold enough to rescue Nasser from the Israeli role in the Suez crisis. George Bush, by contrast, lost the support of the UN and the world. He may have less than half the support of the local communities in the Mid-West who are deprived of the world picture.
By the book
Sir-- This is a comment on the article 'The man who knew too much' ( Al-Ahram Weekly, 5-11 August). Mr Mamdouh Hamza seems a very unhappy angry man. Though he is the head of one of the largest engineering consultancy in the Middle East, he was denied -- according to his claim -- work and received less appreciation for the work he has done, for no reason other than corruption.
As a highly educated and successful business person, his present predicament in Britain, which I only followed on various Middle East newspapers, can either be due to misunderstanding on the part of Scotland Yard, or there is an unpleasant entanglement he unwisely became involved in, namely, soliciting to assassinate.
There is no reason for Egyptian political analysts to scratch their head too hard, look puzzled or to over-react; it's best to keep a cool head and deal with the matter, if it is that important to them, diligently.
No politician here in Britain would dare to be seen demanding or asking for a police favour. The reason I say this is because there is another Egyptian known by the name of Abu Hamza El-Masry whose spoke loudly of threats and used abusive language against Westerners. Scotland Yard did not react to that until a politician did, but only when proof of unlawful behaviour was established. El-Masry was arrested.
The reason I advise reason is because this case, if it fully proceeds, would expose before the international media the state of many of Egypt's internal affairs, and that can be very embarrassing -- especially if many flying allegations were to be proved true.
Sir-- Thanks for the article 'Odd circumstances' by Fatemah Farag ( Al-Ahram Weekly, 29 July-4 August). It was annoying for me and all Egyptians to hear about the arrest of the Egyptian architect Mamdouh Hamza in London.
The man is a bright face in Egyptian society; why would a man like him go to London to plan for murders in Egypt? And is Scotland Yard responsible to defend Egyptian national security? And why can't this arrest be due to a confusion over names between Professor Mamdouh Hamza and Abu Hamza El-Masry, as was the case when they wrongly routed the money Mamdouh Hamza's wife sent to her husband to Abu Hamza El-Masry instead.
Al-Ahram Weekly, please keep us updated on the case of the Egyptian architect.
Feeding the world
Sir-- I want to comment on the excellent article 'Betraying the world's poor' by Faiza Rady ( Al-Ahram Weekly, 5-11 August). I'm from Ireland and work in the agricultural services area. I'm no expert, but it is clear from current EU policies that they do regard subsidies as a huge problem. As of this year, subsidies in certain (but not all) agricultural products are being eliminated. Instead, Irish farmers will receive money whether they farm or not. If they want to farm the land and produce agricultural product they can, but they will not receive any guaranteed price. I believe it is a step in the right direction to correct the imbalance in the global agricultural business.
As for imports, food safety is paramount in the EU -- far more so than the US. Similar food safety standards must be applied wherever the EU imports food. For example, any meat purchased in Ireland can be traced to the farm that produced it, even meat that Ireland exports can be similarly traced. This is standard practise in most European countries.
So in principle I agree with Ms Rady, but I disagree on the time frame involved before this is all sorted out. I'm expecting decades at least, but it's inevitable that "poorer countries" will at some stage become the food suppliers of the world; the cost of production in rich countries is too high.
Personally, I believe there should be far more international exchange of farm knowledge to bring every one's farm practice to the most efficient and effective level. Of course that goes hand-in-hand with world peace and the end of poverty -- but then we all have dreams.
Missing the finish line
Sir-- Now that the Olympic games have started, the vital question is can we expect distinguished performance by the Arab countries, or will their participation be as weak and shameful as in previous games?
It may be noted that Arab participation in the Olympics has been confined mostly to group sports such as football, handball and volleyball, while they are completely abscent in individual sports. I hope that this year's Olympic games will help awaken Arab sports from its deep slumber.