Al-Ahram Weekly Online   22 - 28 April 2004
Issue No. 687
Reader's corner
Published in Cairo by AL-AHRAM established in 1875

Letters to the editor

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Cartoon by Ossama Qassim

Sound insight

Ibrahim Nafie provides texture and perspective on talks between the leaders of a super power and a regional power in 'Bush Mubarak meet' ( Al- Ahram Weekly, 15-21 April). I found his explanations easy to digest and consistent with much briefer news reports elsewhere. Palestine, in my view, is not a niggling issue except in the sense that Egypt and other Arab nations need to give exacting attention to events. I do not quarrel with that viewpoint; none of us, in my mind, have the convenience of treating Palestine any differently.

Terror that exists in the lives of people is not an invention of Palestine. The US, Russia, France and Germany are among many others who have fostered disruptive practices throughout the Middle East during most of the 20th Century. In that summation, Israel is a creation of the West; Palestinians are an afterthought. The West, especially, must sit down to work things out. The complexity of such an undertaking needs to be transparent to ordinary people. Israel's intelligence network and some aspects of its insurgency and counter-insurgency capabilities, arguably, surpass that of any of its mentors. Is this not true? Possibly. The case can be made for such putative strength.

I like the tone of responsibility found in facts and analysis found in this article. Arab nations need especially to pull together to meet the fury of portending events and restore the bigger vision of people throughout the Middle East getting their needs met. Mutual assured destruction is insane and cannot work to anyone's benefit. No one any longer endorses that as international policy, except to hope that it could never work anywhere for anyone. It is an empty big stick, a fraudulent imposition of supposed overwhelming power. The chief danger is that the slurry of leftover military dominance theory will smother resolve to negotiate. Even here, we cannot muddle. Such theory is best ignored, would you not agree? While the details insist on resolution, such resolution flows more readily from willing hearts and focussed minds.

Again, thank you for a presentation of needed reflection on the hard circumstances we are in. Keep writing; I will keep reading.

Hank Maiden
Sequim, WA

Defining Zionism

Sir-- Although I am a relatively new reader to Al-Ahram Weekly, I have noticed a tendency of condemning anti-Semitism while maintaining hostility towards this elusive concept "Zionism", such as in the article 'Jews Against Sharon' ( Al-Ahram Weekly, 15-21 April).

While a far cry from the editorial positions ridden with gory matzo that the North American media holds to be commonplace among Arab newspapers, I feel that your stance is still wanting in generosity. Consider the organisation Shalom Achshav (Peace Now) which proudly proclaims that the establishment of a Palestinian state is a necessity for the preservation of a Jewish state, and thus entirely consistent with Zionist ideals.

"Zionism" is a word that seems to possess almost mystical connotations among its invokers. If understood simply as "Jewish/Israeli nationalism", it is nothing more malevolent than a desire on the part of Jews not to be governed by non-Jews -- quite comparable to similar sentiments that exist among the Palestinians and the French.

Perhaps, then, we should reserve our condemnations for those extreme Zionists who seek to control lands where Jews are not in the majority.

Matthew Scribner

Mixed bags

Sir-- "America has no ambitions to take over the Iraqi oil or land, we are on a precise mission after which we will leave Iraq," the American ambassador to Egypt claimed in a meeting with the committee for foreign relations at the People's Assembly.

Unfortunately, the American officials explore every avenue to skew the facts as Zionist lobbies do. In fact, America backed by Britain -- its faithful follower -- is trying by all means to control the large oil arch stretching from the Caucasian Sea to the Arabian Gulf.

The only thing I respect in Western countries is the presidential election system. It is an outstanding thing when the president comes to power after an electoral battle and appoints new ministers, new cadres with new ideas, new economic programmes, new social and political reforms, as well as new foreign policy.

This is unlike permanent ministers, repeated economic failure, one-party and one-man rule for decades as in our region.

Alaa Gamal Abd-Alhakim

Leadership failure

Sir-- The recent support by the Bush administration of Sharon's disengagement plan, which includes Israel keeping six blocks of settlements in the West Bank and denying the right of return, shows the absolute failure of the Palestinian leadership which for years has not been able to formulate a coherent policy for ending the conflict.

The leaders of the Palestinian people are divided, have an ambiguous policy towards terrorism, are not prepared to meet the challenges of the post-11 September world, and are mired in internal squabbles.

The biggest loser of course are the Palestinian people who will continue to suffer while their leadership is looking for culprits, instead of working to improve their lot.

Marcos Peckel

Dream of peace

Sir-- 'Balfour renewed' ( Al-Ahram Weekly, 15-21 April) is an excellent, relatively objective article. The last sentence starkly points out the essence of the problems the article describes -- which will not be solved until the Palestinian people are not only united, but united in advocating equal human rights for all.

Even the Palestinians' right to choose their own leader is limited; the free world (which might not currently include France) should not accept it if a Palestinian oligarchy chose Saddam Hussein to oppress the remaining majority, any more than they should support any other leader who would advocate denying human or civil rights to women or Christians or Hindus or Buddhists or Shias or Sunnis or Sufis or Baha'is or Jews, etc.

This is in the interest of the Palestinians, as well as in the interests of the progressive civilisation in general.

When will we hear the PA, or other Palestinian voices, calling for the few Jews of Gaza to stay put and live in peace with their Abrahamic cousins (whom the PA would then actually try, in good faith, to protect)? Even if it is unlikely to happen, where are the visionaries and dreamers at least advocating the better option?

In any event, thank you for your forthrightness; may it speedily help lead to peace between Muslims and Jews -- no matter what they call the place they live -- in our lifetimes.

Yigal Kahana
Miami, FL

Movie enlightentment

Sir-- 'Explaining The Passion' ( Al-Ahram Weekly, 15-21 April) is a beautiful review of The Passion of the Christ. I would note that after the resurrection, Christ told Thomas: "Behold my hands," not "my wrists".

I can't remember exactly the chapter and verse for that one, but I looked it up when the wrist versus hand objection came up a year ago. Since Caviezel actually hung on a cross for a period during the filming, it would have been possible with the ropes and support at the feet for a body to hang there without the nails going through the wrist.

I never understood before why the Romans broke the legs of the two thieves and watching the movie I understood; because they no longer "enjoyed" the support after their legs were broken, they both suffocated when they couldn't support the weight of their body any longer.

Again, great review of the movie and I am pleased to see that the film is doing well in every part of the world.

Madonna Hood
Columbus, OH

Rational perspective

Sir-- Regarding 'Crime and effect' by the Syrian poet Adonis ( Al-Ahram Weekly, 18-24 March). I'm a fairly average American woman, albeit probably a bit better educated than most and rather a bit more impoverished than most, attempting to understand this mess that the spoiled sons of rich men, George W Bush and Osama Bin Laden, seem intent on dragging all the world into.

I've studied a number of foreign languages, but, alas not the ones that I probably ought to have. In my somewhat limited effort to understand what Islamic radicals intend to do with the pieces of a destroyed America, if and when their quest is achieved, I've not found much that's enlightened my understanding of the Arab world's anger against America, or what sort of vision of a redemptive future drives these angry people.

It all seems to add up to an amorphous hysteria as far as I can comprehend it (and I have had the honour of being ignominiously dismissed from the Public Relations Division of Bechtel Corporation for not towing the party line, which was Reaganism).

Do the Islamic revolutionaries wish to do to America what ancient Rome did to Carthage? Kill us all and drive us all out and salt the ground of the entire North American continent so that nothing will ever grow here again? Do they want the continent for themselves and their heirs in perpetuity? (Do the Native American peoples deserve such a fate as to experience yet another genocide at the hands of yet another group of people who refuse to solve their problems at home?)

I simply can't see how genocide ever solves any problems, but I do want to congratulate Adonis for helping me to perceive better, if not fully understand, some things. It's the most rational essay on the topic of Iraq I've been able to find. I hope that's not a damning remark against Adonis. I also wish to thank you for publishing it and translating and making it available in English on the Internet.

Lisbeth Jardine
Port Angeles, WA

Crackpot realism

Sir-- Osama Bin Laden, in his grab for attention and authority which Bush has gladly handed to him by his "war on terror" methodology, is playing a Captain Kirk (of Star Trek fame) of sorts, issuing threats and truce offers much beyond his realistic scope or authority.

And Bush, in command of the most massive military machine in the world, is scaring the masses at home with threats from people who live in caves, train in playgrounds and command box cutters, AK-47s (and a few RPGs).

Bin Laden is made the commander-in-chief of over a billion Muslims by such confrontation and legitimacy, and Bush gets to feed the permanent war economy in America (and handing out hundreds of billions of dollars in war contracts -- Lockheed Martin is just one case in point -- not to mention the massive tax cuts to the rich).

The elites (Bin Laden, Bush and Co.) have enacted a theatre for the fulfilment of their subtle motives, the only difference is that in this theatre the ones getting killed are real people, the common folk on all sides, who had no part in directing the play.

The European nations, by "rejecting" the truce offer and not ignoring the nonsense, are giving legitimacy to the "crackpot realism" of Bin Laden and Bush.

M Asadi
Springfield, IL

Loony tunes

Sir-- The anti-war movement one year after the disaster of the Iraq war is stronger than ever. The daily revelations of the lies and spin used by the British government to justify their illegal war and the dreadful mess that Blair and Bush have created strengthen the anti-war movement. This movement is made up of all classes, ethnic groups, (Muslims, Christians, Hindus, Sikhs, Jews, heathens and other religions), and ages and will ultimately help to defeat the present motley crew of brigands and footpads that comprise the Blair government.

This week, we witnessed Bush being given his instructions by the real president of the United States Ariel Sharon. In turn, Bush will give his poodle Blair -- or as he is now better known Bliar -- his instructions in turn. A British science magazine has the headline "Bush wants to go to the moon"; what a splendid idea. After all it is a suitable place for lunatics.

Albert Prince

Occupier's freedom

Sir-- Sinan Antoon in 'Shards' ( Al-Ahram Weekly, 8-14 April) needs to listen more closely to that palm tree: "I know why you left and why you are back."

He left because a brutal dictator had made life as a poet and novelist untenable. He returned because those terrible occupiers, the Americans, removed the murderous Saddam Hussein and made it possible for the whining poet to come back.

Mr Antoon sneers at the American motives, sneers at the multinationals conducting business, sneers at the uncollected garbage, etc. and in the same breath writes about the Writers Union meetings and the Al-Jawahiri festival, failing to note that neither would be in existence, free and uncensored, had it not been for the occupation.

How brave he is to sneer when he knows there will be no price to pay for his sneering. Perhaps if Mr Antoon is so offended by the stench of garbage, he should recruit his fellow complainers and start picking some of it up instead of waiting for the occupiers to do it.

Victoria Zaper
Chicago, IL

Crimes of occupation

Sir-- Two weeks ago, the US murdered over 600 civilians in Fallujah, many of them women and children, supposedly in retaliation for the grisly deaths of four American highly paid mercenaries (known in American doublespeak as "security contractors").

During that week, the US meted out collective punishment against a population (of which possibly a handful may have been involved in those killings), bombed a mosque, fired on ambulances and denied access to medical care to hundreds, possibly thousands of wounded or dying victims. All are gross and blatant violations of international law.

In committing war crimes, the US has descended into a morass of moral bankruptcy reminiscent of Sharon's tactics in Occupied Palestine. In not only waging an unjustifiable war based on outright fabrication and lies, but now by blatantly committing war crimes, the US has again turned its back on international laws and conventions, thus declaring itself unfit and unwilling to be a member of the international community. We may therefore apparently assume that the current US administration is terminally infected with a virulent form of imperialism, and is, therefore, in its current form a danger to humanity.

Whilst waiting for our respective governments to act (which may take a long time), the people of the international community may be well advised to take necessary safety measures by isolating the patient, by refusing to trade in its currency, do business, purchase its consumer goods or services, use its media sources, or have any further interaction until such time as it chooses to or is forced to recognise and abide by internationally agreed and binding laws.

Yes that means sacrifice and difficulty. But it is a small price to pay compared to the Iraqis (and Palestinians) who are paying with their own and their children's blood. Sitting idly by means that international law becomes an utter farce. Then we may as well prepare for a hellish descent into bloody barbarism and savage anarchy while the world's big bully rapes, pillages and plunders its way across the planet and into space in it's quest for "full spectrum dominance" or total planetary control. The choice is still ours to make.

Lesley Whiting

American myths

Sir-- I really enjoyed Omayma Abdel-Latif's article 'Damascus Spring' ( Al-Ahram Weekly, 15-21) which was very interesting.

You talk about a free press in the West, but we haven't got free press; you must know that we haven't. We might have had a free press "once upon a time" -- just like we had democracy "once upon a time". Do you call the slaughter in Iraq democracy? I write letter after letter to the so-called free press, but the only letters I have had printed are in the Arab newspapers. I am 75-years-old and grew up in the Great British Empire. What we are seeing now is a repeat of that Empire with a new Emperor.

For the life of me, I cannot understand the Arab nations. I have been studying the history and culture every day now for three years. I am very worried that your young people are going to be corrupted like ours by American culture and propaganda. I saw it in my own country, Australia, after WWII and now in my new country Sweden.

I open the television guide here in Sweden and you would think you were in America. I never watch television, but I buy the guide to check on the rubbish that is being forced on my nine grandchildren, and I am horrified. Why don't you show what it is like to be poor in America? Show the crime, the daily killings with the gun laws they have, the fact that this Bush was elected illegally.

I find your countries very difficult to understand. You let the myth of America live on; the land of opportunity for whom? The rich? My heart bleeds for your young people.

Johanna Moren

Egypt in 2010

Sir-- Now that the countdown to who will host the World Cup 2010 has started, the three African countries (Egypt, Morocco and South Africa) wait patiently for the cut-throat decision that will be made by the FIFA's executive committee within a month.

The three African countries have equal chances to host this international event, however, the balance of power tilts a little bit in favour of Egypt and Morocco in view of their rich sports history, particularly Egypt whose sports history is full of achievements.

Moreover, history bears witness to the fact of Egypt's success in hosting international events. In addition, it has strong infrastructure and a rich heritage.

All these factors distinguish Egypt from the two African countries.

I hope that the FIFA executive committee takes the aforementioned factors into consideration and gives the honour of hosting the World Cup 2010 to one of the two Arab countries.

Hakim Rharbaoui

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