Letters to the editor
Passage to Palestine
Sir- My thanks to Professor Dabashi for sharing his heart warming column, 'A fistfull of dust: A passage to Palestine', ( Al- Ahram Weekly, 23-29 September). Indeed, it was a lovely tribute to Edward Said. How kind of the professor to endure the cumbersome journey back to Jerusalem to bring back a fistfull of Palestinian soil for his "fallen friend" Edward Said's grave. But as the professor noted it was ever so fitting, "This soil belongs to him; and he belongs to this soil." Edward Said's love for his home and his people touched the world. What a refreshing perspective he gave us of Arab people and the Arab world. He changed my Western views around.
I still find his words of caution to his readers last year so revealing: "Speaking both as an American and as an Arab, I must ask my reader not to underestimate the kind of simplified view of the world that a handful of Pentagon civilian elites have formulated for US policy in the entire Arab and Islamic worlds, a view in which terror, preemptive war, and unilateral regime change -- backed up by the most bloated military budget in history -- are the main ideas debated endlessly and impoverishingly by a media that assigns itself the role of producing so called "experts" who validate the government's line." How right he was! God bless his life and wisdom and the legacy he left behind -- his writings!
Sir- Thank you for your reference to Kofi Annan's bold comment regarding the illegality of the US war against Iraq ( Al-Ahram Weekly, 23-29 September). Boutros Boutros Ghali made similarly bold comments as UN secretary, which ended up costing him loss of re-election for a second term.
The UN has become totally subservient to Israel backed by the US. The calls by UN secretaries like Ghali and Annan are seldom followed up or discussed in the US media. Annan will leave the UN increasingly weakened by the illegal war on Iraq. Of course, the majority of my countrymen here are not told the truth about the UN and its role by a media totally slanted towards Israel. There is no way Senator Kerry can win with a stilted format which does not allow direct questions. Senator Kerry is a better leader and far more competent than Mr Bush, but the media presents him otherwise. The first debate is studded with 32 pages of restrictions designed to make Bush look great, and reinforce the negative ads made about Kerry by a very vicious Republican Party. The only redeeming hope is that if Bush is re-elected after this illegal war the American people will begin to see the truth. In fact as the Manchester Guardian says: "Whoever wins this election will lose" because there is no possible peaceful solution for the quagmire inflicted on Iraq, and the world is not a safer place now that Saddam Hussein has been deposed. This war with its sad aftermath will show the American people that it was not wise to follow "a man of peace" like Ariel Sharon.
Circles of time
Sir- Kindly consider publication of this open letter from assistant to the Palestinian national security adviser on foreign affairs, Jabril Rajoub:
"A Cordial Reminder to Ariel Sharon: History Always Revolves"
Not long ago, during WWII, the Jews were victims of the frightening Nazis. Adolf Hitler and Adolf Eichmann were about to rule the world, and the Jews were on the verge of vanishing. Eventually the Nazis lost the war, Adolf Hitler was the one who vanished, and the Jews were emancipated. Nonetheless, a few years later, the very same helpless Jews of WWII were able to establish a strong country of their own that came to be known as Israel; they were not as helpless as they used to be. The very same helpless Jews of WWII were also able to abduct the once deemed invincible Adolf Eichmann, and bring him ignominiously to justice before an Israeli tribunal for his atrocities. Those Jews were not helpless anymore.
Although that phase of history is well known, it seems that it is not well understood. We study history in order to learn the lessons it implies, and one important lesson that can be carved out is that neither weakness, nor despotism is eternal. The weak will reach a point where revolting against tyranny becomes inevitably the only resort, and the mighty will stand helpless against the rebellion of the oppressed. This was the case of the Jews after WWII, and will be the case in every other situation where the projection of authority is premised on the right of might. Seemingly paradoxically, the strength of the weak will always rest in the tyrannical supremacy of the tormentor. Sharon's tyranny is giving Israel the role of that tormentor who possesses absolute control over the conflict, and simultaneously imposing the role of the weak and oppressed on the Palestinians. For that, Sharon should worry about the future of Israel and his own. Those whose innocence was abducted and whose hopes for peaceful coexistence demised will never forget such agony, nor will they ever forget Sharon. When they decide to change that reality, Sharon might have to share the same fate that his predecessors faced. The Israeli children will hold him accountable for turning Israel to a tormentor, and the Palestinian children will not spare him for the suffering inflicted by that tormentor. I know this scenario may seem preposterous, but again, no one had even fantasised about seeing Eichmann standing before a tribunal by those whom were, only 20 years earlier, deemed helpless. For that, it is not inimical at all to consider the admonition of Eichmann's trial to avoid the ineludible round of history.
Laith A Arafeh
Destroying the stereotype
Sir- Though I agree entirely with the ideals expressed by Osama El-Ghazali Harb in 'Destroying the Stereotype', ( Al-Ahram Weekly, 23-29 September). I find myself, against my will, adopting the beliefs he urges against -- that Islam condones the attacks on innocents and "infidels" that we see in the Middle East and elsewhere, and values their lives only as currency to be expended to further the aims of a morally bankrupt religion and culture. I find myself asking, "If Islam is a monotheistic religion, how can Muslims believe that we are all anything but children of the same God?"
The world outside of Arab Islam needs to hear voices of reason such as that of Harb. We need to hear thousands of these voices in unison, crying in outrage against what he refers to as the hijacking of Islam. We need to hear them in the international press. This outcry is what is needed to drown out the voices of barbarism that pretend to speak for Allah, and, in doing so, create the world's impression of Islam in the 21st century. We need to hear reasonable and compassionate Muslim voices to counter our own tendencies to racially and religiously motivated reactions such as I work to overcome within myself. Yes, there is moral bankruptcy in every corner of the world, and not just in the unlit ones where vermin scurry in the shadows. Even world leaders, some of them freely elected and acting at the highest ethical levels of which they are capable, are horribly misguided. But none of this justifies the unspeakable tragedies happening on either side of the war in Iraq and the war of Islamists against the rest of humanity. No Christian, Buddhist, Hindu or Jew pretends that slaughter of women and children can be justified -- period. Only where Islam has been perverted do we find this happening and being celebrated, and the rest of the world needs to know that even Muslims find it an atrocity.
Sir- Gamil Matar stated precisely the essence of "terrorism" as political capital in 'Embracing the enemy', ( Al-Ahram Weekly, 23-29 September). The 11 September attacks are the gift that keeps on giving and giving and giving to George Bush. Once Bush sold this line to the American public all bets -- and the rule of law -- were off the table. Ad hoc legal process has replaced the constitution and the federal rules of criminal procedure; lies, fantasies and half-truths masquerade as truth; John Ashcroft continues to run amok, placing his henchmen over trials that are remarkable for prosecutorial misconduct and lack of discretion; courts continue to defer to the president almost all the time; and, worst of all, the American media deserves a lifetime achievement award for insuring that this most important of elections is reduced to bumper-sticker slogans and calls for the resignation of Dan Rather.
But at the centre of all the madness is the so-called "war" on so- called "terror", which means, in short, American aggression towards anyone or anything that is contrary to its own interests. Matar rightly states that this enemy is one that every candidate can wrap him- or herself around. Worse still, it is not just political gain that is at stake for either candidate. Terrorism is huge, huge money. Every time a terror alert is raised a level, cash registers sing in corporations and lobbyists who make their killing on the killing threats. Former New York Major Rudolph Guiliani, who achieved the status of sainthood after 9/11, is one of the bright starts in the business of terrorism. And Matar said it best -- the war on terrorism cannot be won. There is too much money -- not to mention power -- at stake.
Sir- Kudos on your excellent coverage of the NDP congress. Readers sensitive to Al-Ahram Weekly 's position in the Egyptian political system will appreciate the delicate balance you must maintain between showing deference for the political powers that ultimately sign your paychecks and taking the challenging, adversarial stance that your profession demands of you.
I am a regular reader, and frankly "balanced criticism" is not a phrase I would often use to describe your newspaper, but I think you've done an excellent job here. Salama A Salama's column, 'Three no's', ( Ahram Weekly, 23-29 September) was cutting but restrained. Gamal Essam El-Din, 'Change at hand', and Omayma Abdel-Latif, 'Question time', asked all the right questions and, just as importantly, were fair enough to accurately report official answers to those questions. In fact, I would go so far as to say that the coverage was both dignified and human -- dignified in presenting your political system as perhaps imperfect but nevertheless functioning, human in exploring the imperfections and sounding the call for change and growth.
Now, if only you would employ the same dispassionate balance, professionalism and thoughtful criticism in reporting on the United States, international terrorism, and related issues, then I'd really be a happy reader.
Fated for doom?
Sir- The truth is out, despite what the president says in his assertion that Iraq is not heading towards civil war. The "experts" who wrote the recent National Intelligence Estimate opine that Iraq could soon be torn asunder amidst the cataclysmic effect of civil war.
Napoleon, and the Ottoman Turks occupied Iraq; both failed. The British, by placing Faisal to lead Iraq in its administrative mandate of 1921, met the same fate. The problem was that each installed leadership elements from exogenous political factions which attempted to control indigenous hostile majority populations.
Iraq's territorial integrity was defined by British mandate; it must be changed to fit the reality of 2004. America must understand these Iraqi factions and regional elements want to control themselves. Throw-out the terms of the old British mandate which forced these distinctly different peoples to live under a "One Iraq". In this context, Iraq must be partitioned into three nations based upon Kurd, Shia, and Sunni populations. Let each entity protect its borders, manifest its sovereignty, national aspiration, and destiny. Charter and admit each of these new nations into the United Nations under the guiding oversight and direction of that world body. And let the people of Iraq get along with their own lives minus the imperialistic intrusiveness of Mr George W Bush and his arrogant buddies.
Terre Haute, Indiana
A lawless world
Sir- Your assessment rings hollow, 'A lawless world', ( Al-Ahram Weekly, 16-22 September). Please read the article "Another Triumph for the UN" by David Brooks in the 25 September issue of the New York Times and you will see why your article while well meaning isn't at all connected with the reality of our world today. I agree it is a dangerous world but the problem is largely due to the Islamic terrorists who receive very little criticism in the Arab press for the unthinkable atrocities they do in the name of their holy war. The UN has become powerless to do anything meaningful and many people are becoming aware of that fact. Don't blame the US because we are willing to stand up and face these terrorists and treat them as the bloody murderers they are. Neither the UN nor the Arab press will do so. Simply look at Iraq. Why do you not condemn these people who will murder innocent men, women and children, many who are simply trying to make Iraq a better place for all?
Fuelled by terror
Sir- Before reading your article, 'Embracing the enemy', ( Al- Ahram Weekly, September 23-29), I indulged the last-ditch hope that it was mostly stupidity that caused Bush to make so many horrendous, evil mistakes in governing the US. Naturally I saw that Bush's actions fostered terrorism, but I couldn't believe that anyone, even Bush and his gang of neoconservative thugs, would do that deliberately. But your arguments have led me to the sad conclusion that terrorism is indeed Bush's greatest ally in his drive for power, and that frightens me more than the terrorists themselves. Even more frightening is the fact that it might well be an effective ploy in the upcoming election.
Your unbiased analysis has enabled me to see the reality of the situation. Sometimes only those outside a system can see it for what it is. You have increased my fear and pessimism, but facing the truth is always preferable to cuddling a lie. Thank you.
Tactics for peace
Sir- With reference to your editorial 'A lawless world', ( Al- Ahram Weekly, 16-22 September), I and millions of Americans believe the Bush invasion of Iraq was a criminal act of monumental proportions. Whatever one's view of the war in Iraq, the issue now is to find a way out of the bloody morass; establishing some measure of peace and stability to the Middle East.
While the following suggestions do not represent a panacea for all the problems facing the Middle East vis-ˆ-vis the United States and Islamic Jihadism, I believe their implementation will at least start to move all concerned in the right direction:
1) Disband the puppet Iraqi government and return the Baathists to power, permitting the secular Baathists to rid Iraq of Islamic Jihadists.
2) Apologise for the bloody invasion and for giving the Baathists confused diplomatic signals that led them to invade Kuwait in the first place.
3) Encourage a return to Saddam's policy of paying the families of martyred Palestinian nationalists $25,000, thereby beginning to narrow the gross fairness gap in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
4) Bring the troops home from Iraq and start concentrating on destroying Al-Qaeda.
5) Start acting as an honest broker to get Israel out of Palestinian territory and force an honourable peace.
6) Quit beating up on secularist Yasser Arafat, chosen leader of the Palestinian people, before Islamic Jihadists step in to take his place.
7) Stop confusing nationalist movements in the Middle East and elsewhere with Islamic Jihadism.
To cure the ills of a world torn apart by religious fanaticism, ideological hubris, military aggression and megalomaniacal politicians, it will clearly require more than the few above policies on the part of the United States. But many millions in America realise that radical changes in US foreign policy are necessary in order to bring the world back to some reasonable level of peaceful stasis. And the course reflected in the above ideas is certainly better than the one presently being followed in Washington.
Spring Ranch, Texas
Sir- I have read your editorial, 'A lawless world', ( Al-Ahram Weekly, 16-22 September), which was linked to the New York Times website.
I am an American and I am a Jew. Still, I agree with much of what you have written regarding the Bush administration turning the world into a battlefield. Regrettably, I feel that the motivation of our president has little to do with improving security, especially in regard to the invasion of Iraq.
Nevertheless, the sad truth is that the United Nations reflects an anti-Jewish bias that will always cause the United States to view it as a puppet for Muslim and Europeans who hate Jews and hate the State of Israel. Increasingly, it is anti-American as well. Both Democrats as well as Republicans understand this reality about the United Nations with absolute clarity.
In America, both Democrats and Republicans also understand that the Arab and Muslim World continue to use Jews and Israel as the scapegoat for its own problems. Bush's solution is not the answer and is probably compounding the problem, like a person who tries to douse a fire by pouring gasoline on it.
Yet these problems all originate within the Arab and Muslim World. As does global terrorism, which is 100 per cent an Islamic export. Americans understand this. Consequently, support for Israel is stronger than ever among both Democrats and Republicans. Unfortunately, Americans will likely elect Bush which is a big mistake in my opinion. If this occurs, things will probably get worse for everyone during the next four years.