Al-Ahram Weekly Online   31 July - 6 August 2008
Issue No. 908
Reader's corner
Published in Cairo by AL-AHRAM established in 1875

Readers' corner

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Arab thinking

Sir-- Thank you for Amira Howeidy's excellent analysis 'A warrior's rest' ( Al-Ahram Weekly 17-23 July) on the Al-Kantar-Goldwasser-Regev deal. I was puzzled, however, by the reported perception that Israel only understands force and would appreciate a reasoned exchange.

Twice in the article Howeidy quotes sources indicating this popular Arab belief -- once by Druze leader Walid Jumblatt and the second by Egyptian parliamentarian Mustafa El-Feki.

Yet, this would seem more political polemics than reality. The 1948 and 1973 wars were initiated by Arab countries. Later, Sadat's peace initiative, resoundingly condemned in the Arab world, was widely accepted and praised in Israel. Are those indications of a country who only understands force?

Furthermore, we've seen countless incidents of revulsion by Israeli populace over actual and presumed crimes against Arab civilians. That Israel has human rights organisations arguing the positions of Arabs would seem to indicate the preciousness that Israel places on all human life.

Indeed, Howeidy points out Israelis have a strong revulsion to release individuals with "blood on their hands". Not just Jewish blood, as Howeidy qualifies, but Christian, Druze and Muslim blood as well. Witness Israel's reluctance to release Marwan Barghouti, accused of killing five Druze policemen.

But the anger over Al-Kantar's release was the nature of the act. Al-Kantar was charged with crushing a four-year- old girl's skull, a charge he never denied.

It would be hard to imagine an Israeli soldier committing such an act and then receiving a hero's welcome from our prime minister.

This past week Israelis were incensed over a soldier shooting a Palestinian civilian in his toe. One can only imagine the outcry to an act such as Al-Kantar's.

Dave Greenfield
New York

Egypt's shame

Sir-- I cannot believe the news I have just read about Egypt denying a Scottish couple entry into Gaza to deliver desperately needed medical supplies -- and that after repeated inspections to determine that what they were carrying were indeed medical supplies and not contraband.

I cannot believe Egypt's refusal until now to deliver truckloads of food, water and humanitarian aid desperately needed by our starving brothers and sisters across the border which Egypt controls. Is this my Egypt? My Egypt presiding over the death of our Palestinian brethren for a few dollars from the US? My Egypt which raised me over the values of high morals, courage, strength of character, courtesy, hospitality and compassion? Could this be my Egypt? Or is my Egypt now bought and paid for by the US and Israel, morally bankrupt, dead to the world it previously represented with pride? It is extremely hard for me to express these feelings of disillusionment in my country -- or should I say my previous country?

Sherif Fam

Filthy streets

Sir-- Recently, I had to run some errands and do a bit of shopping downtown for my friend's newborn. As I walked through the main shopping centre, starting from Sherif Street, I was shocked. The streets were absolutely littered with garbage, garbage bags, paper and rubbish all along the sidewalks. Trying to cross Sherif Street to go to Qasr Al-Nil was impossible, for in the cross-section, huge mounds of garbage were piled up. I had to jay-walk and cross between parked cars.

What happened to all the street sweepers and garbage collectors? And why are we citizens paying a minimum of LE8 monthly for that service, in addition to paying our own zabbaleen or private garbage collectors and cleaners? Am I paying these taxes, which are put on my electricity bills -- a ridiculous concept in the first place -- for beautifying Egypt only to be conned officially?

Surprisingly, a couple of streets are actually clean from what I saw when I walked back home on another route. But guess which streets? Of course, where any minister or governor lives or works or passes through to get to his or her office. The remaining 76 million citizens don't count, even though they are the ones heavily taxed, and for what?

Hoda Nassef

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