Letters to the Editor
Sir -- I want to thank Al-Ahram weekly for their fine tribute: 'Farewell Arafat'. I thought the photographs showed a confident Arafat in the midst of the Palestinian struggle to which he committed his life. The scholarly commentaries reflected the difficulties of that struggle and where it will go from there. (I am still reading them) I want to just point out a few comments made by Naseer Aruri in his tribute, 'Resistance and Diplomacy' ( Al-Ahram Weekly, 18-24 November) I couldn't agree more with Mr Aruri that Arafat epitomised the Palestinian tragedy that unfolded with the creation of Israel in 1948. He said Arafat's legacy was a symbol of Palestinian nationalism and the Palestinian struggle for self- determination since 1967. He noted Arafat's legacy was two-fold:
"He (Arafat) took the lead in transforming Palestine from a community of refugees and a stateless people languishing under occupation, dispossessed, dismembered, and disenfranchised, to a nation-state-in-waiting supported by a global consensus... He placed the Palestine question on the international agenda and secured the affirmation of Palestinian fundamental rights."
"The second component of his legacy is the mapping of the PLO peace policy based on the pursuit of a two-state solution. By the end of the 1970s, a global consensus had effectively prevailed on the right of the Palestinians to establish their independent state alongside Israel. The right of Palestinian self-determination and sovereign political existence became the PLO's and Arafat's principal contribution to the Palestinian cause."
It was most unfortunate that the Oslo Peace Accord collapsed and Arafat didn't get to see his vision realised. Still, what impressed me most about Arafat on the American stage was his handshake with Rabin on the White House lawn. This gesture also involved Arafat renouncing terror and recognise Israel's right to exist -- and forgoing 77 per cent of his homeland to the creation of an independent Israeli state in 1948 and accepting the remaining 23 per cent occupied in 1967 (encompassing the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem). That was no small gesture.
Still, I felt terrible when Sharon called him "an obstacle to peace" when in fact it was Sharon's illegal settlements on Palestinian land that were the real "obstacle to peace". I felt President Bush was wrong to have joined Sharon in saying Arafat was "irrelevant". But the great irony here was the more Sharon and President Bush tried to make Arafat "irrelevant" the more people felt sorry for him and the more relevant he became. Today, I feel Arafat has given new meaning to that classic title: The importance of being Arafat. May he rest in peace.
Legacy of Abu Ammar
Sir -- No Arab leader -- and very few world leaders -- evoke such profound love and admiration among their people as this man, whom Israelis consider a veritable monster in human form, 'Farewell Arafat' ( Al-Ahram Weekly, 18-24 November). The Palestinians trusted him, relied on him, let him make all the big decisions that demanded courage, derived from him the strength to defy the intolerable conditions under a brutal occupation. Now, suddenly, incredibly, they found themselves alone, like orphaned waifs, in a world changed by the death of a man who left a huge gap behind him.
What will happen now? Arafat has brought his people from the edge of oblivion to the threshold of independence. But the battle for liberation is still far from over.
Power of denial
Sir -- It has become commonplace in the Middle East to blame the outside world for anything and everything bad that happens. It is hardly surprising, therefore, that the death of Yasser Arafat at the good old age of 75 after over 40 years of leadership of his people, is the subject of so much rumour. I am referring to Ghada Karmi's article 'Who killed Yasser Arafat?' ( Al-Ahram Weekly, 11-17 November).
I have long held the opinion that Palestine needed new leadership. It was disheartening to see one after the other of the younger generations of able and brilliant Palestinian politicians go to waste, because their services were not being called upon by the stagnant political system; a familiar theme in this part of the world. Change is necessary for growth and progress. It is a tragedy, though, when we have to wait so long for it to happen.
Sir -- I enjoyed reading the article by Joseph Massad, 'Intimidating Columbia University', ( Al-Ahram Weekly, 4-10 November) . I am a Christian, although I am not pro-Israel. I am very rare among people of my faith. I believe that God was not involved in creating the "nation" of Israel. I do not believe it was prophetic fulfilment. I believe it was an "anti-Semitic" act against the people of the region who had lived there for centuries. It was immoral and cruel to foist upon those peoples a confiscation of their land, immediately after fighting a war against Germany who committed the same crime.
I am ashamed of my fellow confessing Christians who want to use weaponry to promote the Gospel of Jesus. After all, every one of the apostles died at the hands of a government for merely speaking the truth. None of them picked up a weapon to promote their belief.
I assume we do not believe in the same God. But, that does not give me the right to "evangelize" you while you stare into the end of a gun. I hope and pray that God would enlighten American Christians that this behaviour of subsidising an immorally created state is wrong. And who can blame a people who merely want their pre-1948 freedoms to be left alone restored along with their personal land rights.
Sir -- I am responding to your article 'Looking ahead' by Ibrahim Nafie ( Al-Ahram Weekly, 4-10 November). In this article he wrote; "We need to formulate a new proactive Arab vision for interacting with the US. This vision must be carefully attuned to the character of American society and to the perceptions of the next administration. It must be comprehensive, coherent and translatable into a concrete and realisable agenda. It must also be consistent with a collective Arab perception of how best to promote higher Arab interests and rectify the image of our culture and civilisation, while simultaneously taking into account the considerations of individual Arab nations with regard to their bilateral relations with the US. This seems like quite a worthwhile project to me and I would like to volunteer my assistance. In particular, as an American who supported the re-election of President Bush, I think I could help with the details of such a vision that would influence American reaction. Would you please pass this e-mail along to Mr Nafie.
Bush's millennium dementia
Sir -- With the beginning of the new millennium and the ongoing globalisation, many people the world over tended to think that the new era would usher in a new and more civilised way of looking at the problems of poverty, disease and underdevelopment, that have so far caused untold suffering to the peoples of the so-called third world. They wrongly thought these problems would be solved through collaboration between the rich and the poor nations. Following this line of thinking the world welcomed with relief the capture of Saddam Hussein and the end of his odious dictatorship, despite the fact that, in this process, Bush ignored and defied UN authority whose green light was absolutely necessary to launch the war against Saddam. Now having overthrown and imprisoned Saddam to the relief of the Iraqi people, the next logical step should have been to hand over power to the Iraqi people, and withdraw all the occupying troops. However, instead of doing so, the Bush administration exposed its real intention. It is now clear that having liberated the Iraqis from Saddam's tyranny, the American forces are now proceeding to "liberate": the wealth of Iraq by killing all the Iraqis. They will stop at nothing to plunder the spoils. They even kill unarmed and wounded civilians inside the mosques. Falluja is a disgrace to the conscience of the civilised world. What a liberation!
A Carim Vazirna
Sir -- This article on the park is excellent, 'Monument to Fancy' ( Al-Ahram Weekly, 11-17 November). It is well written, informative, and the type of communication that can -- and will -- break down barriers between the "West" and Islam. For some reason not known to me, most of the great journalism coming out of the "Fertile Crescent" of antiquity is by women. Finding work of this calibre makes fighting with my computer worthwhile. (An activity I started in 1957 -- and which I never win). This is the quality of writing I receive from my friend Dr Arwa Amiry of Amman, Jordan. Having been interested in Egypt since before WW II and having studied this area of the world in my undergraduate activities (Archaeology/Mathematics) in university; I find this park with its combination of antiquity and current needs very gratifying. (A number of years ago I was awarded the world's first PhD in Natural Resource Sociology). Please, provide more of this type of true, non-political reporting.
James L Gillings
Editor's note: In the above mentioned article, three pictures (of the restaurant and lakeside café) by photographer Monda Rafla were mistakenly published without credit or prior consent. Al-Ahram Weekly apologises for the mistake.
Jacket and tie
Sir -- Having sung at the Cairo Opera since its very opening night, I have been vehemently opposed to the "jacket and tie only" policy imposed by Rateeba El-Hefny (then the chairman of the house), and upheld by her successors. Attached to that policy was absolute punctuality and a strict code of conduct inside the house. Now, there has been ample dysfunction in the administrative system of the house from day one, but at least this aspect actually worked. It wasn't until three years ago when it started to buckle under the pressure of idiots like myself who kept opposing it openly and demanding a change. But after reading Ms Catta's article 'A night at the festival' ( Al-Ahram Weekly, 18-24 November), I realised that El-Hefny knew something about our culture none of us realised: and that is most of our people are incapable of separating appearance from attitudes and conduct, since we have been steeped in the tradition of idolatry, from worshipping Pharaonic gods in the ancient times to worshipping military leaders in the 20th century.
I have attended shows at the Covent Garden and the Globe in London and the Metropolitan in New York among many international venues, and saw the range of attire varying from satin to slacks and diamonds to tattoos. But everybody carried themselves with the utmost dignity and respect for the places and the events. It was all in the brain, not in the jacket and the tie. However, in Egypt, it seems that only when you force people to dress up and deny them admittance when they don't that they would feel the value and holiness of a place like the Opera House and conduct themselves in a manner befitting the occasion. Most are incapable of doing that without being terrorised into submitting to a dressing code and forced to check their cell phones in before entering the auditorium. Now I know that the "suit and tie only" policy was not a statement of cultural elitism, it was simply an effective herding technique. I apologise to El- Hefny, she was right.
New York City, NY
Sir -- It is impossible to find the truth in the news on TV or newspapers here in the USA. Reading you paper is a breath of fresh air.
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