Al-Ahram Weekly   Al-Ahram Weekly
11 - 17 May 2000
Issue No. 481
Published in Cairo by AL-AHRAM established in 1875 Issues navigation Current Issue Previous Issue Back Issues

 
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Tests of time

Sir- I read about the students of Al-Azhar demonstrating in protest against a book (A Banquet for Seaweed) by the Syrian author Haydar Haydar. While the students have the right to speak their mind in the form of a protest, they should not deny others to speak their mind through a book or any other form of expression.

There was a time when Egypt stood out among its neighbours as the capital for vast cultural trends, whether in the form of books, movies or theatre. We took pride in that, as a civilised people descended from the Ancient Egyptians.

In an open society like Egypt, ruled by the power of law, people's right to expression through any legal media should be protected. The history of democracy worldwide teaches us that communication and open dialogue is the best way for testing an idea against time. It is irrelevant what idea -- or what book, for that matter.

Ahmed Heikal
Cornell University, New York

Closer to home

Sir- Jonathan Sacks' touching account, in The Times (6 May), of Israeli teenagers setting up field hospitals for the wounded "during the Kosovo conflict" was an excellent example of what observers such as Israel Shahak and Norton Mezvinsky have termed "distortion by omission." What the good rabbi does not mention is that these "young people from Israel's youth groups" were targeting their efforts exclusively at the Serbian population, with whom Israel has long had an affinity -- sharing as it does a penchant for ethnic cleansing and outrageous claims to a supposedly sacred homeland.

If these young paragons really wished to hold out the hand of friendship to "people they would not otherwise have encountered," like Muslims, they need look no further than the teeming Palestinian refugee camps or the hospitals of Lebanon, which are plunged into darkness whenever Israel encounters resistance.

Joseph Baker
London NW7 4JN

Right of restitution

Sir- In Boston, recently, at a meeting at-ended by Americans as well as many an Arab-American, Christian, Jewish and Muslim intellectual, the question of Palestinian refugees' return to their homes was discussed and positively concluded. The participants reminded each other and the world that the Palestinian victims of Zionism are entitled at least to compensation in terms similar to those Jewish victims of Nazism are entitled to -- and have been receiving from Germany and other governments among those who had benefited from the Nazi crimes against humanity.

You, too, would be rendering a service to humanity if, in your capacity as the voice of Arab patrimony and culture, would remind Mr Arafat and his team of this already established international precedent, and also of the Pope's advocacy: If you want peace, work for justice.

As for Mr Barak and his team, it is only fair if they are reminded that the peace they seek is not only with their present Palestinian counterparts -- who are known not to have legitimacy as far as the Palestinian people as a whole is concerned -- but also with all the Arabic-speaking peoples and Muslims everywhere. They must also remember that the only way to obtain the peace we all seek is by resolving the Palestinian refugees' and residents' problem justly, at least by compensating the surviving members of the families of those massacred, maimed, injured and/or incarcerated, and all those whose lives have been ruined and whose homes, churches, mosques, schools, museums, olive groves and other property have been appropriated and exploited by the Euro-American and other settlers imported into Palestine.

Khalil I Semaan
Professor emeritus
Binghamton University / SUNY

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