Al-Ahram Weekly Online   22 - 28 January 2004
Issue No. 674
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Sir-- George Soros was on Charlie Rose Thursday night. During the Soros section, Charlie played a short clip from 7 January, when Richard Perle was on. Although neither Rose nor Soros latched onto it, this is a verbatim transcription from my tape:

Perle: "Democracies don't make wars. Wars are started by dictators who need wars to keep themselves in power, who need enemies, to keep themselves in power, internal enemies, external enemies."

Note the stumbled repetition. I believe when he realised what he was saying, he kept a straight face.

I didn't.

If democracies don't make war, and the US just waged a war... then maybe they're going to make it official in November.

Irv Shrago
Oskaloosa, IA

Willful vandalism

Sir-- The demolition of an art installation by the Israeli ambassador to Sweden, Zvi Mazel, and especially the reaction of the Israeli prime minister and the Israeli Foreign Ministry was a unique example of arrogance and reality loss. Instead of apologising for the bad behaviour of Mr Mazel, the Israeli government backed his vandalism.

Every human being is entitled to have his own opinion and it is understandable that the exhibition of such a piece of art could be interpreted wrongly, but still it can be expected from civilised people, especially from an ambassador, that he is capable of controlling his emotions. The ambassador's destructive act, which was planned, as he himself told the public, is a provocation of the Swedish public and embarrassing for every well-bred human being.

The goal of removing the controversial art installation might have been reached by formulating a critique in a civilised manner, but now it is clear that this goal won't be reached, because for the exhibiting museum it would mean a face loss and a giving in to violence if it were to remove the installation now.

The background of this embarrassing episode is clearly that the Israeli government wants to prevent the Israeli-Palestinian conflict from being an issue on the upcoming conference on genocide.

Whether this kind of behaviour is to bring Israel closer to its goal is questionable.

Stefan Csordas

Is it possible?

Sir-- Regarding "Controversial move" (Al- Ahram Weekly, 15-21 January 2004). You wrote: "Qurei's recent comments have retrieved from the annals of history the controversial one- state solution. But is his intervention serious? ... a state in which Jews and Arabs live together as equals..."

The question is: when and where was this possible in a Islamic country?

Jan Vlaming

Shameless inhumanity

Sir-- Regarding "Controversial move" (Al- Ahram Weekly, 15-21 January 2004). Some time ago I had the good fortune to visit the ancient city of Acre, near Haifa. A Jewish boy welcomed me into a courtyard of the old fortress of the Knights Templar while a Palestinian child merrily tossed firecrackers down into the area in which we were standing. Although I didn't appreciate it, given the history I could understand the child's behavior.

The Jewish boy pointed to the old city of Acre and told me that Jews lived in the hills and valleys surrounding the old city. "The Arabs," he insisted with a derisive grin, "all lived within the city's old walls."

When I first heard about a wall being constructed to separate Palestinians from Jews, I was reminded of Acre. And the thought occurred to me at that time that the difference between defensive walls which are built to protect a population and prison walls meant to contain a population is a matter of who controls the guard towers, either people from within the confines or those who come from outside. When I shared this observation with someone for the first time I explained to him that he was likely to think this notion bizarre. And he admitted that it did sound bizarre to him.

Now it sadly seems that many throughout the world have recognised the fact of Israel's treachery. Israel does not want to see the Palestinians achieve statehood and Israel does not want an Arab majority in a Jewish state. The far-right wants one state, Greater Israel, and that seems to be the direction they are moving in. Their solution seems to have been decided: contain and detain an entire people within the ever narrower confines of their villages, which Israel can then lay siege to at will.

Through a war of attrition they hope to break the will of the Palestinian people in order to usurp their land. At the same time, holding the Palestinians as stateless individuals, the Israeli hope to prevent any foreign intervention on their behalf with the exception of international food aid, the distribution of which the Israelis will hope to control.

The Israeli leadership needs to have its collective head examined. It is a well-known fact that people who have been abused become abusers. That people who have been greatly shamed and humiliated will vigorously attempt to cast their shame and humiliation on another. The Nazis had a policy in Germany of usurping the citizenship rights of Jews and then going after their homes, land, and enterprises. At the same time, they were busy passing laws to restrict the movement of Jews and to confine them to small and concentrated places.

To see it all being acted out before a new generation, where the victim has become the perpetrator, deepens the Nazis' crime and in the end is as tragic for the Jews as for the Arabs, because the former, while losing their shame, is also losing his humanity.

Ken Richard
San Francisco

A smooth blend

Sir-- Regarding "Futures for the West's Muslims" in the Books Supplement (Al-Ahram Weekly, 15-21 January, 2004). Perhaps the most interesting element of the recommendations or prescriptions of Mr Ramadan for Islamic believers living in West European countries is his suggestion that Islam is uniquely capable of adapting to any society.

Jews have done pretty well at that task, as have Chinese in many lands. But Islam has demonstrated an ability of assimilation unmatched by many other cultures: when it dominated the Europeans and India, in the ninth and 10th centuries of the Common Era, Islam set itself the task of assimilating Greek and Indian mathematics and astronomy. Large-scale translation projects, research schools funded by the political leaders of the Empire, focussed on learning from the predecessors of Islam.

Michael Meo
Portland, Oregon

Do as they say

Sir-- Regarding "Welcome to America" (Al- Ahram Weekly, 15-21 January, 2004). I'm an American teacher and I know what it is like to be racially profiled, stopped by foreign immigration for questioning and being deported with escort for a technical visa problem.

Every time we walked down the streets in Moscow, my Russian husband would be stopped and checked for "registration", which must be renewed every month. Usually the militia would threaten jail term unless we bribed them.

In Korea the authorities were worried about North Korea, in Russia worried about the Chechen, in Taiwan worried about drug trafficking -- and, in the US worried about terrorists.

Although an inconvenience, I abided by my host countries' requests for security. "When in Rome, do as the Romans do." Every country has the right to keep its borders secure, including mine.

Janet Romanovna
New York

Brotherhood legitimacy

Sir-- After reading Omayma Abdel-Latif's "United they stand" (Al-Ahram Weekly, 15-21 January, 2004) I don't know why the government still insists on not recognising the Brotherhood; the government must be aware of all the violent and oppressive ways that are being used against this group -- despite of which it is increasingly spreading among the public.

In the funeral of their leader they underscored their ability to gather and plan and deal with the public, unlike other political parties. The bottom- line is this: if the government is really seeking a truly political reform, it must recognise this group and allow it legitimacy.

Ahmed Abdel-Tawwab

Dare to protest

Sir-- Regarding "Of sex and other demons" (Al- Ahram Weekly, 15-21 January 2004, 673). Thank God Lina Mahmoud finally mentioned something that we women and girls have been going through for ages. It's not even a matter of how attractive the harassed "victim" is, or what she is wearing; it's more a matter of the perverts' inner hostility against the opposite sex, real hate and fear, combined with their own personal sexual frustrations -- especially if the victim is above their class (in the man's own view about himself) or ignores him, or would really never have anything to do with the harasser. But, this is all "baby talk".

I wish someone -- anyone -- would be daring enough to stand up and speak about sexual harassment in the "workplace" and how grown men, pretending to be icons of respectability in the community, use their jobs to harass the female employees, who either have to compromise in one way or another -- such as succumbing to the indirect blackmail, (ie, giving him what he wants, in order to keep her livelihood) -- or, end up by resigning from the job.

Come on, women -- speak up! Let's get together -- really -- and make a REAL survey. I promise to tell you also what I have been going through. I swear you would not believe the horrible revenge the latest sicko has been trying to inflict on me, because he was "rejected" -- to the point that it reached an obsession with him; he was trying to destroy me, and maybe still is. (I have legal proof -- so, this is not my imagination.)

We should have a law against sexual harassment, and sexual discrimination at work. I opt to write down all the dirt, for you, if you contact me through Al-Ahram Weekly, and we can get together -- and at least protest!

Sexual discrimination is illegal in the USA. I wish we had real women's rights here. We are just too quick to criticise America, but, at least there the women are protected, and can send the bum to court if he harasses her! Look at what Monica dared to do -- to the president!

Hoda Nassef

Enough already!

Sir-- I would like to speak up for what is going on in Egypt, for it seems that everybody is turning a blind eye. It is really infuriating how prices have soared beyond our reach. And we are talking here about basic commodities like sugar, rice, oil and ghee. I know we are living through tough times and we should bare this chain of crises "dollar high exchange rates, high inflation rates, deteriorating growth rates...etc" , but it has gotten way too far.

There is not, by any means, any proportionality between incomes and prices. And this, in turn, is compounding the problem. Just take a tour around a city like Alexandria for instance, at any given day, and you will see that bread outlets and bakeries are swarming with people fighting to buy their daily bread. And that is because bread is, so far, the last option for the middle and lower classes for nutrition after all other carbohydrate-rich options got beyond their means.

I call on whoever is responsible for this chaos and turmoil to act as quick as possible before things get really out of hand.

Mahmoud Sharara

Control the girls

Sir-- It seems we are talking pretty much about the French government's ban towards Muslim women/girls wearing the veil. Of course, Muslim women should wear the veil and clothe themselves properly and obey their religion. And everyone of them who wants to obey her religion should be allowed to practice it. But don't you think we should also talk about those Muslim women/girls wearing inappropriate clothes in Islamic states like Egypt, where the majority don't even wear the veil, and nobody talks or writes about it.

Don't you think it is quite ridiculous to see an Egyptian writing or commenting about the veil ban in France when that person should be talking and writing about the half naked Egyptian girls on the backstreets of Cairo?

There is no way you can talk and complain about what is happening in France, before you clean your own act up. Cairo is just like Paris in terms of the way women dress. The question remains: who is to blame -- in other words, who let these girls dress like that? Who is supposed to teach and control these girls? What kind of role can the government play, etc?

Mohamed Ishaakh
New York

Of heinous crimes

Sir-- Hani Shukrallah, Hala Mustafa and Amr Elchoubaki appear, on the surface, to give very different accounts of France's veil ban. Nevertheless, taken together, the three authors give a good all-round picture. I can well sympathise with many French people who see the issue as driven by fascist-like imams who impose the veil as a sign of identity (we have had enough in Europe of brownshirts and blackshirts) and who, as Hani Shukrallah points out, demand democratic treatment from others which they themselves would never give.

Even so, my first thoughts are that it is very wrong not to allow a Muslim girl to dress with decency, thereby to avoid exciting the lust of teachers and classmates. With Martin Luther, I regard violating a person's conscience as one of the most heinous of crimes.

And while I approve the benign secular principles put forward by Hala Mustafa, I agree with Amr Elchoubaki in seeing the hand of secular fundamentalism, of which we have plenty in Britain also.

Robert Olley

Well deserved honour

Sir-- After a long struggle of nearly 14 years, ex-corporal Percival Furquim Vaz finally received his Nobel Peace Prize Diploma and the Nobel Peace Prize Medal, on 25 October, 2002. This honour was awarded to all the Blue Beret troops who had served for the United Nations till 1988. The Nobel Prize was announced in Oslo on 10 December, 1988. Here is a list of the certificates, diplomas and medals which Percival received from 1963 to 2002 -- a long span of 39 years.

In 1963, he received an honourable mention certificate from the commanding officer of the 3rd Platoon of the 2nd Infantry Regiment for his service at Suez. In 1995 he received the United Nations' 50th Anniversary Medal from the Norwegian officials. This was awarded for his contribution as a member of United Nations Peace-keeping missions during the period 1945- 1995. On 1 January, 2000, he received the International Veteran Millennium Medal for his contribution as a member of an internationally recognised veteran organisation. This certificate was signed by the president of the board of the International Commemorative Awards and Decorations of Denmark. On 25 October, 2002, he finally received the diploma.

Although Percival had appealed to ex- presidents Sarney and Franco and the famous sportsman Pelé, he was not given any attention. One of Percival's friends had to travel from London to Oslo to defend his claim for the diploma and Nobel Peace Prize Medal. The Brazilian army blocked all access to the Norwegian authorities. The foreign minister and the ambassadors at the United Nations and Oslo didn't lift a finger to honour the recipient of Brazil's first Peace Prize Medal. If you want to read the text in Portuguese, please access this link:

Antonio Kildare M Cruz

Forum for readers

Sir-- Reading your paper is becoming one exciting weekly habit, especially the Readers' Corner. I sometimes wish to personally respond to specific letters with similar interests and concerns, or to discuss issues with writers with different views.

In this regard, I would strongly suggest that you publish the e-mail addresses of readers who wish to do so, with their approval.

Such an initiative would work in the same way as those discussion groups by the daily Arabic Al-Ahram, which take place on a regular basis. Due to the global nature of your readers, there is no better than the Internet as meeting room.

Rabie Alsaeed

Pedestrian nightmare

Sir-- Regarding "The big squeeze" (Al-Ahram Weekly, 21 - 27 November 2002). I read the report by Gamal Nkrumah and I absolutely agree -- not because he's the son of my former president, but because I can identify with the examples given. I was in Cairo last October and it was a nightmare visiting the Ataba market. Crossing the streets of Cairo was so dangerous for me that I had to hire a cab to take me across.

This inconvenience notwithstanding, I enjoyed every moment of my three-week stay and visited as many tourist interests both within and outside Cairo. I really look forward to coming back.

Matilda Asante

More than a coach

Sir-- Regarding "Two hot seats filled" (Al- Ahram Weekly, 13-19 June 2002). I read the article about Mohsen Saleh and I was very impressed. Not only with what he has achieved but what he stands for as a coach. Saleh coached me for one season during which Ismaili won their first championship in almost 10 years.

He is awesome -- a great coach -- and I doubt that any player has hard feelings against him. Though I did not participate in many games in the second run of the league (2001-2002), I was very happy, excited and always looking forward to the next practice, since I enjoyed working with this particular man.

As a coach and a person, he presents himself with a lot of respect and has a lot of respect for the game. Thanks to such qualities, he achieves results, because the players want to win for him. I am very grateful to have ever know coach Mohsen Saleh and I wish him and Egyptian soccer all the best in the future.

Simon Mulama

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