Sir-- On reading Azmi Bishara's recent article 'Notes on violence' ( Al-Ahram Weekly, 10-16 February), I felt a deep urge to thank both the newspaper and the author.
Mr Bishara's insight and skillful articulation on this important subject should be seen as a moment of clarity to all those who have struggled with the question of the limits, uses and responses to acts of violence. Often times, our judgement is clouded by anger, emotional ties or self-doubt. This article and the ideas it raises are in an invaluable tool to all those wishing to seriously contemplate the issue.
However, there is one question I would like to pose regarding the notion of apathy towards the use of violence. If a government is involved in the systematic use of violence, be it within its society or not, and its population is largely apathetic to its actions or even worse supportive of them, how much responsibility do they carry for the violence conducted?
Sir -- In January I visited Palestine and witnessed a family held at gunpoint by Israeli soldiers who had gathered at the checkpoint leading from Jerusalem to Nablus. Their dying father/ grandfather was in an ambulance about a hundred yards away. The family's tears and pleas to see him, kiss him goodbye were considered too great a security risk to Israel.
In Nablus, I visited the family of Professor Salah and his son, peace activists who had appeared on Israeli TV. Last summer, the family endured hours of assault on their home by 1,000 troops, following the killing of two militants, according to media reports. The Israeli military identified the location of the family a week earlier, neighbours say. They attacked with helicopter gunships, missiles fired from tanks, submachine gunfire and snipers. Professor Salah pleaded for his family's life. They shot him and his 16-year-old son and held his wife and surviving children hostage until the father and son died.
In Jerusalem, I attended a Palestinian-Israeli peace conference where two students from Gaza, in attendance with valid permits and IDs, were arrested while visiting Jerusalem's Old City tourist sites. If a group of foreigners (including two professors, an Israeli and Israeli American) had not intervened, the students' fate would have been like so many others -- to be sentenced to five-20 years in Israeli jails where they would have been tortured and used as political pawns.
US tax dollars support Israel's illegal occupation and continued land and water theft. Is this the way to pave the way for peace?
Genevieve Cora Fraser
Not at any cost
Sir-- I often look to The New York Times for information about what is happening internationally. Tonight, I thought it might be educational to learn what a Mid-Eastern country like Egypt has to say. I found the three or four articles I read to be as, or more, literate than in my local papers. What I did not find is some representation of the other side's position, just the general inference that Israel's actions are self- serving and wrong. American papers usually look at the positions and rationale for actions by both sides.
I am Jewish, and certainly have my prejudices; I also have a strong feeling for the sufferings of the Palestinian people. More so, based on over 50 years of inaction and apathy evinced my most Arabs towards the needs of the Palestinians.
Your writers talk about the Israeli occupation of Palestinian land. Yes, this certainly exists at this point. But who attacked who? What would have been done to Israelis if Israel had lost any of the wars since their independence? I recognise the genuine desire of Palestinians to return to their former homes, but many are more interested in overthrowing Israel as a Jewish country. Indeed, Arafat till his dying day only wanted to drive his "cousins" into the sea.
The Israelis I speak to truly, genuinely desire some workable peace agreement whereby Palestine, as a recognised state, can take its place in the world of nations. The desire is not so great that we consider the destruction of Israel as worth the price.
I look forward to continuing to read your articles. Thank you for making them available here in America.
Sir-- I cannot understand why everyone (the US and its allies) are concentrating on Iran and North Korea and nobody ever mentions Israel, Pakistan and India. Is it because those are run by dictatorships? But Pakistan is also a dictatorship, so is Israel (the so-called only democracy in the Middle East, but isn't if you are Palestinian).
Why don't we ask the United States to check on Israel? Iran has never attacked anyone, neither has North Korea. Israel, on the other hand, has attacked more than one of its neighbours, and has occupied Syrian, Lebanese, Egyptian and Palestinian territories, and yet nobody questions its actions.
I realise that AIPAC (American Israel Political Action Committee) exerts tremendous pressure on US foreign policy, and also affects who gets elected to the US Congress and Senate, but this is getting ridiculous. What can the Arabs do? Well, they can start by stopping the royals in all countries from tapping wealth into their own coffers, and start their own political action committees.
If tiny Israel with no resources can do that, so can the Arabs with their inexhaustible resources.
This is not Islam
Sir-- I was troubled when I read in 'Setting the rules' ( Al-Ahram Weekly, 10-16 February) a statement by a leading Islamic figure in Iraq insisting that "the religious seminary will only accept a constitution that acknowledges Islam as the sole source of legislation and any item will be rejected if deemed in contradiction with the Islamic creed."
My question is, what of the non-Muslim Iraqi minority? Does this mean they will only care for the demands of the majority? Does this mean they're going to impose Islamic rule on them against their will? I believe this is one of the major causes of more than two decades of the recent war in Sudan, which claimed more than one million lives and displaced millions of others.
Can't we stop pretending that all is well with our system in the Middle East? Such thinking is not welcome at this time, when intolerance is being plastered on the face of Islam and it will prolong the foreign occupation of Iraq. Please, stop manipulating Islam for your own selfish interests.
At Blix's door
Sir-- In response to 'We told them we could not find evidence' ( Al-Ahram Weekly, 10-16 February), far from being considered to be right, in my opinion, the Iraq debacle and the attendant misery for so many millions of people can be laid fairly and squarely at Blix's door.
It was his ambiguity which gave encouragement for the US and UK to launch their internationally illegal attacks.
We have absolutely nothing to thank this weak man for. It is a pity that he was ever in such a position in the first place.
For better or worse
Sir-- The 19th century German leader, Otto von Bismark observed that the democratic process is like making sausages: both are messy and ugly, but in the end, quite satisfying. In 'Iraq's ticking time-bombs' ( Al-Ahram Weekly, 10-16 February) Nermeen Al-Mufti has taken a bleak look at the elections in Iraq, which is premature. Her contempt for the numerous political parties are not to be condemned. The fact is that the people are asserting their will, it is a triumph even if it is imperfect, this is the nature of mankind.
All democracies have corrupting influences and selfish proponents; the grace of the democratic process is its diffusion of state power throughout the masses. Democracy pre-empts the tendency of power to monopolise and concentrate authority in the smallest faction. It forces compromise. The corruption of the Baathists was best observed by the calm composure of its leaders. There was no compromise; they took what they wanted.
Tomorrow, should Iraq devolve into a divided republic, let it be so. The people would have chosen it. Saddam's "Anfal" against the Kurds and Shia are examples of the monopoly of power. The political future of Iraq will engender fewer fatalities when every person shares the power that was held by one executioner. I would rather see a parliament that is loud and antagonistic, albeit respectful of human rights and liberty.
We know the quiet restrained government of Saddam and the solitude of the ministers were due to the fact that they presided over a morgue.
Election to order
Sir-- 'Manufacturing consent' ( Al-Ahram Weekly, 3-9 February) touched on a truth, but not the real truth.
They wanted an election, but not a result they don't want.
A proud heritage
Sir-- 'Before the flood' ( Al-Ahram Weekly, 10- 16 February) by Abdallah Schleifer and Barbi Bursch Eysselinck was deeply evocative. I am a Halfan Nubian Sudanese who has been denied the land and heritage of my forefathers, due to the inundation of Wadi Halfa which was a requisite of the construction of the High Dam.
No commentary or photographic exhibition can ever heal the wounds brought about by the unjust devastation that was the inundation of Nubia for the most niggardly of prices.
However, the Nubians are a resilient people. In Sudan, where Nubian culture and Nubians in general are much more in the forefront than in Egypt, we are actively striving to publish books in the Nubian language and to bring to light the richness of our language and culture, as manifested in the 200-plus Pyramids of Sudanese Nubia and as portrayed in the recent Sudan Exhibition in the British Museum of London.