Al-Ahram Weekly Online   1 - 7 November 2007
Issue No. 869
Reader's corner
Published in Cairo by AL-AHRAM established in 1875

Readers' corner

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Nowhere without Israel

Sir-- Absolutely stunning ('Furl the flag', 25-31 October). Is there no segment in our world that is not influenced by Israel or its collaborators? I am truly disappointed that France, of all nations, can have its citizens cowed like that by such an unscrupulous and devious official.

Thank you for such a revelation.

Cecil Asfour

Dubious politics

Sir-- 'Furl the flag' is to me very credible. Any "democratic" political leader who puts Israel's racist demands before the rule of law has to be suspect, as does a French politician who seeks to please Bush and Cheney. Of course, the same went for Blair.

Chris Chambliss

Before laying down lives

Sir-- If lives have been lost and injuries suffered for the cause of restoration of democracy in Pakistan, then the people of Pakistan ought to keep the following in mind before offering further martyrdom for democracy. Monarchies and autocracies have been the mode of rule during the entire recorded history of mankind. Democracy can be ushered in only when people's civilian political power has the capacity to overwhelm the armed forces of any country.

Democracy cannot come as charity. In India, democracy came and survived precisely due to the independence struggle fought mainly under the leadership of Mahatma Gandhi where large numbers of Indians were mobilised to become a civilian political force to reckon with. Pakistan has been experiencing military rule now and since its independence because in Pakistan there has not been any such mass mobilisation of civilian political forces. On the contrary, leaders of its two major political parties, Nawaz Sharif and Benazir Bhutto, left and abandoned Pakistan in the face of pressure and threat from military rulers.

Merely laying down lives, without intelligently pursuing the mission in a focussed manner, does not lead anywhere. This should be evident from the case of Kashmiris, who have already lost, as per media reports, the lives of about 1,00,000 (even as the EU's report states 80,000) of their people for the cause of a unified Kashmir. But so far Kashmiris have reached nowhere near it (rather nowadays these so-called freedom fighters are engaged in fratricidal war as is evident from their scuffle last week in Eidgah at Shrinagar between two factions of Hurriyat.

This does not mean that the people of Pakistan cannot or should not struggle for the restoration of democracy in Pakistan. The only refrain is simply that if the people of Pakistan decide to take their struggle further and are prepared to further offer martyrdom for democracy, then they should single-mindedly focus on the Democratic Republic of Pakistan without expecting much help or real support from the outside.

Hem Raj Jain
New Delhi

US democracy

Sir-- Israel's definition of democracy appears to be the American one: those governments are democratic who agree with American policy.

We know America has overthrown many democratic governments in the post-war world, including those in Haiti, Chile, Iran and Guatemala. Today it threatens a cleanly- elected government in Venezuela and utterly ignores a cleanly-elected government in Palestine. Hamas won an honest and open election in Palestine, internationally scrutinised, but the result of that election was rejected by the West, inducing chaos into Palestinian affairs.

America shows itself always ready to work with anti- human rights blackguards when it feels important interests are at stake, Gen Musharraf of Pakistan and some of the dreadful Northern Alliance warlords in Afghanistan being current examples. There were dozens more during the Cold War, including the Romanian Dracula Ceaucescu and the shah of Iran, put into power by a coup that toppled a democratic government. The American definition of democracy is highly selective at best.

Democratic values are not just about holding elections now and then. Otherwise, apartheid South Africa would have deserved our support. So would Northern Ireland when it repressed Catholics for decades. So, in fact, would the former American Confederacy. These states all had elections but only some people could vote, and other people were treated horribly.

Democratic values must reflect respect for human rights, which apply to all, something about which Israel has been particularly blind. There are no rights for Palestinians. Indeed, Israel has no bill or charter of rights even for its own citizens because of the near impossibility of defining rights in a state characterised by so many restrictions and theocratic principles.

Israel is not so admirable a democracy nor is Hamas so terrible a group as some would have us believe.

John Chuckman
New York

Distorted logic

Sir-- Hamas has refused to declare any kind of peace with Israel so why should Israel give its enemy money to buy guns to aim at Israel? Where is the talk of innocent women and children being killed by the continued fighting among the Palestinians when Israel is not involved?

Bob Greenewether
Washington DC

Intelligence abroad

Sir-- That the media in Egypt often ignores brilliant people in different fields while in the West they do the opposite is not at all surprising in a country where ignorance becomes the sole competitor in the cultural arena, when a bunch of pedants are there to judge the value of work of arts and new ideas, and when people with little knowledge claim they are the only possessor of the truth in this world. Brilliant people are often faced with indifference, intolerance, prejudice and bigotry.

One of the most serious consequences of this status quo is what we call the brain drain, the movement of great numbers of highly skilled and talented individuals from Egypt. They are often denied the opportunity to realise themselves, so they flee the country, looking for opportunities elsewhere. When only fools and dogmatists make up the majority in any given country, there is certainly very little hope for the future.

Essam Wahba

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