Al-Ahram Weekly   Al-Ahram Weekly
23 - 29 September 1999
Issue No. 448
Published in Cairo by AL-AHRAM established in 1875 Issues navigation Current Issue Previous Issue Back Issues

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A missing role

Sir- As an Arab American who served in the State Department in the mid 1980s, and with my brother a Lt. Col. in the USAF, we can certainly understand and appreciate the furor that was created some months ago by the Zionist Organisation of America (ZOA) against Joseph Zogby's appointment in the State Department Near East and Africa division (NEA) which resulted in his dismissal.

All Arab Americans should indeed be proud of Joseph Zogby. His commitment to peace and his moderate views are certainly apparent in his articles, while his father's credibility does nothing but underscore that he is far from an extremist as allegedly depicted by the ZOA.

On the other hand, Arab Americans, especially those of us who served in government, know very well that the American Jewish community has certain hot buttons that when pushed elicit an emotional reaction. The classic response is to be labelled anti-Semitic, extremist, anti-Israeli or in some cases all of the above. The comparison of any part of Israel to South Africa and the implied parallel that Zionism equals Racism is certainly one of these hot buttons. Joseph Zogby apparently pushed it in an article he wrote and the classic response was rolled out by the ZOA. That is not to say that I agree or disagree with the comparison, I simply know that such hot buttons are counter productive. I know that the region, having lived there as an adult for the last 15 years, has moved away from these classic rhetorical battle lines. I think it is time that the Arab American and Jewish communities do the same.

I was delighted to have Zogby at that level in the State Department. Arab Americans need to know clearly that the American system works and does indeed provide a career path for Arab Americans that, if they desire, can and will enable them to participate in the policy process regarding national security issues, in the Middle East or elsewhere. Arab Americans must be encouraged to integrate into the system from the bottom up. They must pay their dues and come through the grind of the military, state or any other relative agency. Only via this route can they establish their credibility and commitment and build the kind of presence in the government that is clearly lacking.

Thirty years ago my brother and I were the sons of a penniless political refugee from the Nasser regime. Today, because we embraced the system, we have had the honour to serve our country and influence its decisions, be it in small ways, through our government careers.

The system is there; all we have to do is join it.

Tarek M Ragheb

Turn up the heat

Sir- In reference to the article Too Hot to Handle by Amira Howeidy (Al-Ahram Weekly, 27 May-2 June), I would like to bring to everyone's attention, in case there are readers who still do not realise that we are centuries behind the developed countries, that freedom of speech and expression should not be viewed as luxuries. Rather they are necessities and rights that the Egyptian people must have. I strongly disagree with Mr Hisham Bahgat that "it is the regime's right not to approve of them [private television stations]." Not approving of private broadcasting stations (television or radio) is not only a sign of oppression, but it also directly contradicts the Islamic Shari'a, which supports the freedom of speech and expression.

Hisham Beshir
Lubbock, Texas


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