What we understand
Sir-- Since this war started, I have been haunted by the book, The Wretched of the Earth by Frantz Fanon. Somehow there seemed to be a connection that I couldn't put my finger on. When I read this article, it came to me. As Fanon says, "we accumulated all our wealth in the West with violence, and the only way we will be defeated is by violence, because that is what we understand." The problem as I see it is that our violence always wears a uniform. This seems to give legality to any mass murder. Soldiers go into the army to learn how to kill. Why are people surprised when they die?
Different from that
Sir-- I'm aware and ashamed of the many injustices that Zionists and Israelis have perpetrated against the innocents of the region since the beginning of the century. However, I find the critique of "Jewish morality/values" to be unnecessary and provocative ('Sad reflections on Jewish morality' Al-Ahram Weekly 10-16 August). There is absolutely no reason to "evaluate" in a brief opinion piece the mores and worth of Jewish civilisation as a way of explaining or condemning the actions of Israel or the beliefs of its citizens. People are people, and the masses can be manipulated into a blood-thirsty mob no matter what religion, colour or nationality they are, as any look to history or current events will show. For those truly interested in learning something about Judaism and Jewish history for its own sake there are numerous excellent books available. For those looking to understand Zionists/Israelis who perpetuate injustice, I suggest focussing on the mechanisms of nationalist politics, mass psychology, propaganda, and the particularities of Israeli society. Any attempt to reduce just or unjust actions of a government, an army or a population to a varied and rich human culture like Judaism is merely simple-minded scapegoating, and is wrong whether it is applied to Judaism and Jews, or Islam, Muslims or Arabs. While I am not defending the awful human rights violations currently occurring in Lebanon, Palestine and Israel, one must acknowledge that people never commit such acts because they are "mean" or inhuman; rather, they believe that what they do is necessary to protect themselves, their loved ones and their country. If it is obvious to outsiders that such measures are excessive and wrong-headed, it is necessary for observers to approach Israelis and criticise their actions from this perspective. Anything else is merely creating a straw man to demonise and condemn.
As a counterweight
Sir-- Believe it or not, some of us are fed up with the spoon feeding of Israeli ambitions and misadventures in the Middle East ('Sad reflections on Jewish morality' Al-Ahram Weekly 10-16 August). The issue is made hopelessly complex by such tragedies as 9/11 and the recently averted airline disaster. On the one hand many of us are desperate to stench the flow of proxy money to Israeli Jews and on the other there is a universal and deep revulsion against terrorism. Clearly, someone has to take a leadership role and turn the other cheek, since the Israeli-Palestinian conflict long ago degenerated into a no-win Hatfield-McCoy conundrum. George Bush and his administration are the least qualified in a long string of paid-for politicians going back to FDR. Israel is clearly only going to kill and maim many more innocent civilians in the name of protecting their own people from being killed and maimed in the same way. Arabs are in disarray and intent on bombing airliners. So, where is reason to be found? We must end the 50-year dalliance with unrestricted Zionism, political opportunism by Israel and the US [and oil scanning by both the West and the Middle East]. Europe has been the castrated old man since WWII so, it is absolutely necessary for China and Russia to form a coalition of willing states to either support or nullify the US and Israel, whichever way they want it played.
Sir-- Have you seen the latest TV pictures and the state of desolation of Lebanon and it is peoples? Who won the war? Definitely not Lebanon and its people. As for Hizbullah, what has it achieved apart from the destruction of Lebanon?
Sir-- If you think Israel is winning you are wrong ('Shia Arabist affiliations' Al-Ahram Weekly 10-16 August). If you think Hizbullah is winning, you are wrong. If you think Americans are winning, you are wrong. Nobody wins in a conflict and innocent people pay a heavy price.
Sir-- When Iraq was at war with Iran the nation fought as Iraqis ('Pre-empting aggression' Al-Ahram Weekly 10-16 August). Not so in Lebanon. How can the Christian-led Lebanese government have moral sway over the Shia population who fought when their nation was invaded? Is this not a recipe for breaking up Lebanon according to sectarian regions?
LeRoy Woodson Jr
Sir-- It would be to your journal's benefit if reporters like Erica Silverman ('Plain genocide' Al-Ahram Weekly 10-16 August) would report relevant facts. What happened in Lebanon was not an Israeli "offensive" but a defensive manoeuvre taken by that country that any (Muslim or Arab) state would have done had it been attacked by an armed militia in a neighbouring state that also had already captured some of its uniformed military personnel.
The real issue
Sir-- If the humanitarian situation in Lebanon is so dire, why didn't Hizbullah simply return the two Israeli soldiers and stop firing missiles into Israel, thus depriving Israel of any pretext to attack Lebanon ('Will never surrender' Al-Ahram Weekly 10-16 August)? For that matter, why didn't the Arab world pressure them to do so, instead of rallying behind them? Certainly, Israel has never offered adequate compensation to the Palestinians who lost their land in 1948 and after. However, attacks against Israeli civilians have done nothing for the past years except distract the world's attention from the real issue: land theft. And this war has only done the same. So why do most Arabs, watching Al-Jazeera from the comfort of their homes, support Hizbullah? Does it make them feel proud that finally Arabs were not unconditionally defeated when confronting the Israel military?