Letters to the editor
Counting Qiz eggs
Sir -- With regards to the article 'Pop QIZ time'( Al- Ahram Weekly, 18-24 November), about Egypt adopting a Qualifying Industrial Zone (QIZ) scheme, emulating Jordan. There are some differences that would affect how Egypt's QIZs may fare.
In 1994, in the aftermath of the peace treaty between Israel and Jordan, the US, Israel, and Jordan began to explore economic ways to support the peace treaty. These efforts culminated by the establishment of QIZs. On the other hand, for Israel and Egypt, the new QIZs will be the first formal economic engagement since the 1978 Camp David accords. By 2004 the number of QIZs in Jordan were 12. The trade agreement between Israel and Egypt calls for the establishment of three so-called qualified industrial zones in Egypt. Any product manufactured in these zones, whether Egypt's or Jordan's zones, after meeting certain conditions, can enter the US duty-free, quota- free. In order for a product to qualify for duty free access, the product must be wholly the growth, product, or manufacture of QIZs. If not, it must be processed in QIZ and has a value added of no less than 35 per cent of the total value of the product. Of the 35 per cent, they must have a set percentage of Israeli content.
These rules, almost, are the same for QIZs in Egypt and Jordan. Garments would account for a large percentage of Jordan's and Egypt's sales to the US. There would be little or no sales of other products such as electrical machinery and pharmaceuticals.
Both QIZs in Jordan and Egypt are just assembly plants which would not contribute to a nation's industrialisation. Even if these zones seem attractive because of duty-free, quota-free access to the US market, they will not make up for the loss of Egypt's and Jordan's quota share in the US apparels market after the WTO Agreement on Textiles and Clothing expires in 1 January, 2005. Duty-free sales from these zones would not be able to compete with Chinese apparels some worth 47 cent a shirt.
Finally, it makes good business sense for large US retailers such as Wal Mart and J C Penny to source their apparels from few destinations such as China due to lower prices, higher quality, quality control, and easy compliance with trade- security measures implemented by the US.
Bashar H Malkawi
Sir -- I agree wholeheartedly with your view that the citizens in Western countries should demand greater accountability from their leaders over atrocities committed by US, British and Israeli soldiers, 'Breaking the silence' ( Al-Ahram Weekly, 9-15 December).
But the same can also be said of Arab countries. Where is the outrage over the targeted murders of innocent civilians in Israel, Baghdad, and even in your own country? Your words are particularly apt here as well: "It is silence that allows horrors to continue... The silence has to end." Exactly.
Means of distraction
Sir -- Your paper, 'Breaking the silence' ( Al-Ahram Weekly, 9-15 December) like the rest of the media, ignored one important reason for US policy of invading Panama, Haiti, Grenada (no oil) and bombing Sudan and invading Iraq (for oil and water for Israel).
An important reason for all the military action by the US is to keep most of the American people (middle and low income Americans), busy with the bombing and war news and unrealistic threat from foreign countries, instead of focussing on healthcare, the prison problem, abuse and exploitation of the native Americans, blacks, Hispanics and immigrants.
This, in addition, of course, to education, social justice, corruption and corporate abuse and other important social issues facing the American people. I guess the Muslims need to stop the war by focussing on the human rights of the American people.
Is it enough?
Sir -- Regarding your editorial, 'Breaking the silence', ( Al- Ahram Weekly, 9-15 December), any thinking person, which certainly includes your readers, understands the pain felt in the US on 9/11.
Not only were thousands killed, they were killed in the most horrific circumstances. The pictures of the doomed jumping to their deaths rather than facing the fire were engraved into the consciousness of the US.
These images control our thinking still. The actions of the US subsequent to 9/11 are well known. Two nations conquered, thousands killed on both sides, all the horror and brutality of war unleashed. And the end still not clearly in sight.
My question for your readers is simple: Is it enough? If you were an American would you feel your honour had been avenged? Would you feel you have done enough to convince your enemies to never attack you again? What more should be done?
Eye on Iraq
Sir -- Hassan Nafaa, thank you for a well written piece, 'Iraq as microcosm' ( Al- Ahram Weekly, 2-8 December). I hope that in time more Americans realise that we are causing problems in Iraq, although the propaganda machine here in the US can be overwhelming. I find that I can no longer view TV at all due to its corruption.
I have a couple of minor complaints about the article. First, the US election was fraudulent (both through electronic means as well as old fashioned means such as not allowing many people to vote), and Bush does not have the support of the majority, although he has the support of a large minority.
Second, our election was conducted in a climate of fear that was intentionally created by our administration and media, and so was no more fair than the upcoming elections in Iraq will be. Third, much of the intent of the war in Iraq has nothing to do with Iraq, it is being used as a means to distract the public from the actions of the robber barons at home in the US.
Thank you for writing so clearly, I hope that more Americans will read your work rather than the propaganda we have here.
All creatures equal
Sir -- In his letter 'Divide Iraq into three' ( Al-Ahram Weekly, 2-8 December) Earl Beal tells us "Sunnis will never accept Shia political hegemony over their affairs. Should such an attempt be made, that's when the trouble will begin."
Is he suggesting that it was acceptable and fair that the Shia majority of Iraq had to put up with Sunni (minority) hegemony over their affairs for so very many years? Do I need to remind an American that democracy means that what the majority want is what goes? And, further, does Mr Beal not consider 20 years of brutal dictatorship by a murderous regime, that of Saddam Hussein, was not "trouble" enough for that poor country?
The escalation of insurgency attacks in Iraq as the date of elections approach speak of one thing to me: that freedom of choice, freedom of thought, freedom of election, and having a representative government must be the most terrifying thing to part of the Iraqi population. Friends of mine in the Middle East dismiss Iraq and the whole Middle East simply by saying that this region is not ready for democracy, and, they add, cruelly, that the governments of this region are exactly what the people deserve.
I believe that no people can "deserve" dictatorial and unrepresentative governments, and I am grateful that Iraq is hastening towards a more open and democratic system of government. I believe that Palestine will also benefit greatly if it can move towards genuine democratic reform now that Arafat is out of the picture.
Al-Ahram Weekly reserves the right to edit letters submitted to Readers' Corner for brevity and clarity. Readers are advised to limit their letters to a maximum of 300 words.