June l4.The Syrian Tragedy, and the United States.
The conflict,should resolve itself.For the United States to intervene militarily,is simply,another form of colonialism.True,civilinas are dying and the refugeees are in a tragic situation,but more armed conflict,more bloodshed,will only compound an already existing tragedy.
I was surprised that the demonstrations in Turkey for the past two weeks,were quickly quelched by the lack of condemnation from the Obama regime.In Turkey,also a Muslim,though not an Arab one,the economic problems have reached the street,so to speak.But as important is the fact that Turkey was,and hopefully,will continue to be a secular country.Once the outer appearances of secular life,are eroded,especially the right of women,not wear the veil,the freedom to consume alcohol,etc. then the seperation of state and mosque will also cease in that country,as it has all over the Arab world.
Life in Tucson,remains souless.This inspiteof the beauty weather,and the interesting cultural events,which include an excellent repetory theatre,The Rogue Theatre,a Symphony orchestra,a famous Casina.Casino del Sol,and countless hiking trails and numerous parks...
But the visitor who will visit Tucson,maybe this Memorial day,is unsuspecting.There are many places to be avoided...Apartment complexes,all look quaint from the outside,but one needs to check the Management company,before plunging in.
I personally would not recommed the Scottia Management Croup---for a number of reasons..but then there are other managers,who are courteous and dignifioed.
Added to which,I would not recommend the famous"Westward Look Resort" on Ina.It was,once a dsitinguished,laid back,well managed and polite old Tucson-resort.Not any more...Just stay away from it.
I would strongly recommend smaller places,like the Comfort Inn or the Quality Inn,the Ramada etc.For real luxury,and for a very well run hotel,there is nothing like the Westin La Paloma-with its spectacular foyer,and dining facilities,as well as its Spa and pools.
THE RAFAH CROSSING IS CLOSED.
Oddly enough, under the rule of the Brotherhood President Mohammed Mursi, the crossing is closed even at a time of celebration, the Eid.
Mursi has sacked the Field Marshall Hussein Tantawi of 40 years and appointed a new defense minister.
He is also preparing to form a committee to redraft the Egyptian constitution. In effect, he has taken both legislative and executive powers for himself. Welcome to the new Pharoah . . .
As Ramadan comes to a close, one watches the bloodshed in Syria with a sense of tragedy. Is Syria doomed to fall? Is this the last of the secular pan Arabist regimes? Are we all to succumb to religious regimes?
Is religion the order of the day? Even in the West? In Russia, three brave singers dared to protest within the orthodox church of Russia. Was not that their real crime - defying the orthodoxy?
And in Egypt, with all its urgent problems, Mr. President Mursi has ordered the removal from the airwaves of two programs perceived as critical of Islam?
And that is only the beginning.
"SCHERAZADE TELL ME A STORY". Director: Yussry Nasrallah
Actors Mona Zaki and Mahmoud Hamida. Year 2009.
Shown April 1, 2012 on Link TV.
Subject: Criticizes censorship in the media under the Mubarak regime.
A modern Egyptian Cairene couple have an exciting life in the media world. She hosts a feminist program, and he wants to be editor in-chief of a newspaper. Both are restricted in their work by censorship in the Egyptian media. Scene after scene in excellent direction shows how. Such a scene happens when the husband is ordered to the office of his boss, who tells him, his wife is too "critical" of the regime. She argues that they must resist and not make concessions. They have only been married seven months. It's her second marriage.
In another scene she meets a woman who sells perfume in a store, which is reminiscent of Bergdorf. They sell Chanel and Guerlain. A slick trolley shot follows her into the department store through the Chanel and Guerlain This is the Cairene consumer society. The vendeuse tells our heroine, "I am cut in half," she explains, later, on a train ride home where she invites the broadcaster. The train is full of women who are without makeup or perfume and veiled. They stare so hard that Heba finally ends up hiding her westernized face with her scarf! "Schizophrenia" here is that the shopkeeper lives in two worlds, the western one she works in and the Islamic one she lives in.
Heba decides to choose her own subjects and do her own research. She chooses a woman who is confined to a lunatic asylum. The portrayal of the asylum is that of a health resort, not a typical Cairo mental hospital! The woman comes on the program and speaks her mind. "We are all veiled in Egypt, not just the veil women wear but other hijabs-barriers-which prevent us from action." The interview reveals that the woman (played by the famous actress Sawsan Badr) was engaged to a man and then broke her engagement and had a nervous breakdown as a result. Before marrying her, he had certain prenuptial conditions to fulfill: she was to wear the veil to work. She had to give him her salary, cook and clean, and take care of his mother. She would not be allowed to drive her car because he was afraid for her from the perils of driving, a position held by conservative Egyptians and he would control her finances. She refuses and preferred to live as a "spinster".
The second subject is a woman who murdered her husband. He was an employee and had sex with all three sisters of the store he operated for them, when their father died. The eldest, who had a common law arrangement with him, murders him with an ax, then burns the store. She spends 15 years in jail and upon her release finds employment as warden in the same jail. She claims she has paid for her sin. In Muslim society, the murdered man did no wrong. Islamic sharia allows a man to have four wives and any number of concubines. But this film has a feminist slant and Wahid Hamdi is western oriented.
The third subject interviewed is a female doctor/dentist who is seduced by a prominent businessman whom she marries. But when she becomes pregnant, he claims that he is sterile and refuses to give her a divorce or accept the child. She has an abortion, portrayed with stark reality in this scene. Hebba weeps but the dentist tells her that she did not want his child. The dentist sues him in court and wins her divorce.
The final episode is the most political. The same doctor (who had the abortion) discovers that her former husband has been appointed to the new cabinet of ministers selected by Mubarak.
She takes out a banner and makes a one-person demonstration in the street holding this banner with the message, "How do you select your ministers? You politicians!" She is surrounded by military police and arrested.
This is significant. On January 23, 2011 the protesters gained an unprecedented right, the right to protest without being arrested!!
The film ends with a poignant and very feminist message.
Our heroine's husband, loses his chances of promotion and blames her, rightly for this. The authorities are unhappy with her political messages. They quarrel, he beats her up and disfigures her. Nonetheless, she appears on her show, telling the audience to whom she bares her battered face, "I have become like you!"
This film is unprecedented. It deals with taboo subjects never dealt with before in the Egyptian cinema. This is a film which will never be allowed to be made under the new Brotherhood President. Women cannot protest their lot if they are "real" Muslims. Only a month ago two secular programs were taken off the air for criticizing Islam.
Demonstrations against Israel.
On Sept.3,the Israe;i ambassador to Turkey wasrecalled This action,was prompted by the lack of an apology by Israel to Turkey,on the death of several Turks during the Gaza Flotilla incident,earlier this year.
It was to be a watershed event.On Friday,Sept. 9.20ll al Jazeera reported that the Israeli embassy in Cairo,had come under massive attack by the demonstrators.The Israeli flag was torn down,to be replaced by the Egyptian one,and a wall surrounding the confines of the Israeli embassy,was torn down,brick,by brick.When interviewed,a young man,who had participated in this activity,asserted to an Arab interviewer-"I No one asked me,if I wanted this"-pointing to the Israeli embassy.
Meanwhile,a military plane,arrived in Cairo,to remove the ambassador and fifteen of his staff.
The embassy,to this day,is closed.
On Sept. l2.protestors in Aman Jordan,demanded the closing of the Israeli embassy there,and the removal of their flag.This call has been heard in ther capitals in the Arab world,in support of Egypt and Jordan,who still have a peace treaty with Israel.
However,around Sept.20.al Alam television,which is an Iranian cable station,reported that Amr Moussa,the
presidential candidate for Egypt,and formely the head of the Arab League,was quoted as saying,that the peace treaty is no longer valid,or words to that effect.
The Fall of the Libyan Regime'
There was a time,when,if the UnitedStates, was unhappy with a mid-east leader,it simply sent out a squad to "put him down"For instance Mossadegh in Iran in the fifties,or Allende of Chile in the seventies and so on and so fourth.But,to send in an air assault,which strikes from above,while covert operations mobilise masses from below,as is the casw with the Libyan adventure,known also as "Operation Mermaid Dawn"-is a new phenomenon,which reminds one of the wars against Iraq.
The American media,especially CNN, does not show us the casualties-and there are hundreds and thousands,and one must ask-why is it so necesary to destroy entire cities-in order to achieve the noble goal of " regime change"
In Tripoli,one family was shown running out in the strets,with theirchildren and their few belongings.When asked,by a British journalist to describe their plight,they said simply that their home had been taken by the rebels.But,the head of the family said;it did not matter because they loved" freedom".
The Image of the Arabs,part 4.
The image of the Arabs has suffered greatly,especially in recent months,when we see them being beaten and humiliated by their own people.The revolution in Egypt,is still young...and I see no emerging image,of a positive kind emerging in the media.So,I will review a film,which was shown in January 20l0,and which is a depiction of modern Cairo,as seen by a western woman,before the revolution."Cairo Time" which I caught on DirectTV-was shown in the winter of 20l0.It is written and directed by Ruba Nadda and has some excellent performances by Patricia Clarkson and Alexander Seddiq.
Its a subtle plot,about an American woman,who is married,but who manages,to meet a businessman in Cairo,who seduces her(Alexander Seddiq)Her husband is away doing the business of the UN in Gaza..but we learn nothing in the film about that conflict,
One cannot fault such a poetic and romantic film from avoiding politics,The story shows us how these two people,from different worlds,fall helplessly in love.There is a little bit too much of the tea drinking and cafe sitting in Khan al Khalill,too much of the looking into the eyes,but,the actors carry it off with panache.
They are both midddle aged,and both know,this has to remain a platonic affair,or so it appears,,but that too is carried off by the delicate and deft performances of the actors.There are many glimmers of the secular Arab culture of Cairo,the radio which plays UM Kulthum and Abdel Halim Hafez,and of course,the visit to the pyramids,where Seddiq,throws his coat down on the stones of the monument to allow his beloved to sit in comfort,
The photography is exquisit and there is a truthfulness about the performance,which is quite remarkable.Clarkson plays the American housewife,who is not looking for an affair in Cairo,and Seddiq,plays the Egyptian who,in contrast to thecliche image--is not out to sleep with an easy American tourist.
The locations,are authentic too,such as the Gezira Sheraton,the green agricultural roads which lead out of Cairo,the weaving studio,where little girls smile up from their hardships,,the downtown streets of Cairo,a wedding and so on so fourth,
What we have in Seddiq's graceful and pristine performance of an Egyptian,a little bore but not too bored-is a portrait if an Arab male who is not only westernised,and educated but in whom,both east and west,meet.
That image,is uniques in the western media.where we see,only cliches.Indeed,his portrayal of the Egyptian man,who represses his sexual desires and treatsan American lady,with respect-makes the film and removes the cliche of the over-sexed Arab.
In Seddiq's performance,we see the confluence of east and west,not only in language,the Arabic and English spoken-but in e very gesture,he makes;every movment,or facial expression...
This is a poetic film,albeit a realistic one.Nonetheless,it is a must see.
The Rafah Crossing is Opened,
One of the positive results of the uprising in Egypt on January 25,is the fact that the Rafah crossing from al Arish in Egypt to the Palestinian territories,has been officially sanctioned and will always remain open.Nonetheless,the world continues to ignore the suffering of the people of Gaza.When one young person was tortured to death by the security forces of Bashar al Asaad,the whole wolrd,mourned.But,there are hundreds of Arab boys,the same age as Hamza.who have been mudered by the IDF,and no one seems to care.Violence against civilians must be condemned by the United States,not only in the Arab countries,but also in Israel,where it is a daily occurunce in the West Bank.
June8.20ll.Turmoil and Rage in the Arab world.
There is nothing spring like in Egypt,Tunis,Libya or Syria these days.As a matter of fact,the word"democracy"does not even exist in Arabic,but like Television,it has been transcribed into the journalistic Arabic of everyday language.
What we have now,thanks to the intervention of America,is a state of pure anarchy and chaos,not only in Yemen,which is now headless,but also in Egypt, and maybe in Tunis.Thousands upon thousands of refugees from Libya,are now dead or in limbo.Syria remains a state because of the violence of its internal security forces.But Libya,will soon descend into hell,thanks ti Nato and to the United States.
Is this a better state of affaires,than the so called corruption that existed before,say in Egypt.The economy of Egypt has all but collapsed.Tiurism is dead,and the jails are still full of political prisoners.More important,the population expolsion is going strong,and as that demography continues,so willthe economic issues that beseige the country?How can one be free,if one is poor and homeless,as are thousands of Egyptians?Not only will poverty continue,but,the prospect of increasing jobs,will be impossible,because the demography is such,that it swallows all in front of it?
In September,the religious factions in the soceity,will carry the day.Why?Because,Islam offers hope and people can take comfort,from their misery,in that solace.
American Foreign Policy in the Middle East: Method or Madness?
On May l9.20ll,Obama gave a speech on the complex issue of middle eastern policy.Overall,he made some excellent points.For instance,he supported the new uprisings in the Arab world,such as that in Egypt and Tunisia. He also,promised Egypt financial aid,and he promised to forgive one billion dollars of Egypt,s debt to the United States.
More important,he declaimed that the only way to peace in the Arab-Israeli conflict,was by the implementation of resolution 242,or in other words, by the withdrawal of Israel to the l967 borders.Needless to say,this drew severe criticism from CNN and other American media outlets.The Arabs,almost laughed.They know all too well,that this will never happen.But,it is the first time,in my recollection,that an American President has actually made this request.
I think Obama is on the right course,but his refusal to give credebility to the declaration of a Palestinian state by the United Nations,in the near future,is bizarre
The Assasination of Usama Bin Laden.
The Assasination of Bin Laden on May l.20ll,by Special forces who stormed his home in Pakistan and killed him in the midst of his family and in the presence of his children-sends a stron message.That message is:the United States will do anything to track down terrorists-even unlawful acts.This action will not prevent terrorism or bring about peace.Rather it will embolden muslim extremism both in Afghanistan and other countries,such as Egypt.We learn from CNN that the MusliBrotherhood is preparing to take over fifty percent of the seats in the National Asembly.In Gaza,a reconciliation,between Hamas and the PLO-will present a strong force against the Israelis,and will ensure a different direction for the peace talks-which have hitherto been frozen.
Mubarak is in custody and may even face execution. Let us not forget that Sadat was mudered,in cold blood by muslim extremists in Cairo in l98l.Is is strange that Mubarak may pay the same price for persecuting extremism in Egypt?
The fall of Mubarak.March 3.20ll.
...In the minds of the neocons,and those they influenced,in the White House:democracy was touted as a cure for the corruption and authoritarianism of ruling elites and as an insurance against terrorism,which the necons saw as merely a reaction to despotism and despair"
From:"The War For Muslim Minds:Islam and the West,"Gilles Kepel.The Belknap Press of the Harvard University Press,2oo4,p.293.
The Fall of Hosni Mubarak and its Repercussions.OnFebuary l0.20ll the protestors continued to rage on in Tahrir square,and other parts if the country.Mubarak appeared on Nile television,to announce that he was not stepping down,inspite of the pressure,and that he would remain in power,until the September elections.
But on Febuary eleven.Omar Suleiman,chief of Military Intelligence,appeared,on Nile Television,to announce briefly that the President had resigned.
The protestors cheered,and the festvities began.Long live Democracy and Freedom Next day,the first of a series of militarycommuniques,was delivered,by Field Marshall Tantaw,to announce that the army,was now in charge of the government.Furthur,the parliament,wasdissolved,as was the constitution,as it existed,and changes were set in motion,almost immediately,to ratify a new constitution.
This measure,was to take place under the auspices of the army,but,more important,it would include the participation of the Moslem Brotherhood,who had hitherto,remained,behind the scenes.At this point,one must ask,what exactly,was the role of the Brotherhood,which is known,always to be ready to seize an opportunity-in the fall of Mubarak?
The western media,especially CNN and company,are quick to remind the viewer,that this was a nationalist,youthful,uprising.No doubt,it was and,it is.For instance,the opposition party,Kefaya,formed a Youth Alliance,which claims to have had no ties to the Brotherhood.This should be believed,because,Kefaya-is a secular party,of westernised,educated,young men and women.
However.on Febuary 22.a few important figures from the Muslim Brotherhood,were interviewed by PBS.The calmly asserted,that they had organized the deomstrations and that they had provided the logistics of these rallies,which were,mostly,peaceful.More important,they claimed that there were two microphones in Tahrir square,or loudspeakers,and they controlled both.
What more does one need.Of course they were not going to run in the elections,because they were there to "help"the people.It will be recalled that they were defeated in the November elections,when they ran as Independants,and they boycotted them.
Now,they have returned-with a face lift.
So much has been said and written about the January 25.20ll revolution'...It is difficult to add to all that,especially from afar.There is no doubt,however,that the Obama regime,prodded this revolution.And it is no secret,that the army complied with the wishes of the United States.But,one must ask,what will be the outcome?will military rule,provide more freedom?Should the U.S. have been so proactive? Who will really control Egypt,with it problems of population explosion,rampant poverty, and disillusioned youth.Or will the revolution change all that in a day?
I see no solution in sight-especially with the army in control.One must recall,that the Egyptian economy,was forced into globalization in the past thirty years,and that many of the social ills,which surfaced(unemplyment,poverty,injustice)were a result of this free economy.
More important,is this :whathappened in Egypt-spread like wildfire to other countries in the region,including,Yemen,Bahrain,Algeria,Jordan,and Libya.The situation in Libya is dangerous....In order to overthrow Ghaddafi-the United States,is willing to come to the aid of the demonstrators there,with a military intervention...Another occupation in sight?
REVOLUTION IN EGYPT>
For six days, the world sat and watched,while various media outlets showed the roar of Egyptian masses,demonstrating against the Mubarak regime."Down with Mubarak"was the recitative,"We want change"was also chanted,and "Down with the Agent"( agent as an agent of a foreign government.A spy.)Meanwhile,three days ago,Mubarak himself,appeared Nile cable television and gave a spech,in whichasserted,that he,would not step down,but that his cabinet would be asked to resign.the speech did not placate.As soon,as it was over,the protests grew more agitated,and the masses,swelled.Shops in Cairo and Alexandria,according to Nic Robertson,of CNN,were being looted.
Even the Egyptian museam,was attacked,and in true,Islamic style,two mummies,decapitated.In extremism,AncientEgyptian art,is considered,idolatry.It is disturbing to watch.
I am reminded of the Iranian revolution,which I witnessed,first hand when I visited Teheran in march of l979,on a journalistic assignment.Like then,there were massive protestors in the street,chanting,and the neighborhoods,were protected,by vigilante groups,composed of bearded young men.The same is taking place, in Cairo's suburbs,especially Zamalek,which is across the bridge from Midan al-Tahrir,where the protestors have assembled.
I am dumbfounded by the images I watch.This is not,we are told by the American media,an Islamic revolutionReally?Meanwhile,the American embassy,has been closed and its citizens are waiting to be evacuated.
No one seems to have picked up on the fact that Mohammed Abdel Koudous,a leading Islamic thinker and journalist-has been arrested
He is the son of the noted novelist,Ihsan Abdel Koudous(see Middle East Journal.p.67)and is considered a leader of the Muslim Brotherhood,or at least,one of its advocats.
Will the resignation,so ardently demanded,solve this tragic situation?I doubt it.
Carnage in Tucson Arizona.
Around ten in the morning,A young man,around twenty two years old,approached a gathering of people,asembled at a Safeway supermarket to hear Congresswoman,Gabriel Giffords,speak.According to eyewitness eports,he took out a semi automatic weapon,and shot the forty year old politician in the head.Then he emptied his revolver in the crowd around her,killing six people and wounding around thirteen.Amongst those who were murdeed,was a nine year old girl, and a famous District judge,John Roll.
At a press conference given,later, that day,the Sheriff of Pima County,Clarence Dupnick,declared that Arizona has become the Mecca of bigotry and prejudice.This,he declared was a crime incited by the anger of the times,and he added,and here,I paraphrase,that anyone,could be pushed to the edge by the level of hatred in society and the media.
It was a scene of carnage,although,the images on television,were long shots and did not portray the butchery that had taken place.Was it strange,that this should happen in Tucson,Arizona?Not in my opinion.I have written,at length in the preceding pages,of the racism,the bigotry,and the misogny,that pervade this southwestern town,which the wise Sheriff,has called the modern"Tombstone".
I have had experiences,hee,which are so horrendous,that everything in my life,up to now,pales,by comparison.The sight of Americans,killing Americans,is new.We are used to seeing Muslims,killing muslims,or killing Americans.Needless to say,this carnage,has captured national attention.And,rightly so.
Gabriel Giffords,was an innocent in every sense of the word.She meant well.Yet,she was gunned down,as if she was a common crimminal.
After the incident took place,I walked round and also entered some stores.They were playing elevator music.I asked a store clerk,if,in view of the shooting of a Congresswoman,it would be better not to play music."Who was shot"came the response."Gabriel Giffords"i replied."Never heard of her",said the clerk.
The Transformation of the Arab Media and the Upcoming Parliamentary Elections in Egypt.
I have always maintained that the internet,has made Muslim extremism,flourish and grow.Moreover,in my judgement,the Internet has also made freedom of the press,possible.Freedom,that is,from state conrolled censorship.In effect,the internet,has not only transformed Arabic media,but it has also,but it has also transformed Arab politics..
In order to illustrate this,I wish to refer to the upcoming National Assembly elections,in Egypt.These elections will be held next Sunday.
The Muslim Brotherhood Partty is competing for seats in the 286 Assembly.Last round,they won,88 seats.The Brotherhood,which now call themselves,Independants,were and are complaining,that there is a lack of transparency in these upcoming elections.Similar complaints have emanated from the other opposition parties,such al Wafd.
The Brotherhood has advertised on al-Jazeera,that,they are planning to take their campaigns to Twitter and to Facebook.They were also upset that they did not get sufficient air time on Egyptian telelvision.
This is a astonishing if not remarkable turn of events.The Muslim Brotherhood,always a strong force in Egyptian society,but an underground one,has been active since l926,when it was founded.When its memebers were not in jail,they were in hiding,their books banned.In the 80.s they surfaced under the blessing of Mubaak,who had just come to power.In the 90.s they went underground again.Even their official publication,al-Da'awa was banned.Then came the September ll,200l attacks in New York and the internet became a political,if not military tool in the hands of Usama Bin Laden and other extremeist groups.
From being a clan destine operation,the Brotherhood,now had its own website-uncensored.They were now,as other mulim groups,above ground.Electronic media,not only gave them a kind of legitimacy,but it made them powereful enough to organize politically,and to compete as a political party in the Egyptian parliament.
Religious programing,has always played an important part in the Arabic media,especially Egypt.On the radio,one station broadcast the Koran,all day long.Religious sermons,were common,on Egyptian television,not only on Fridays,but weekdays as well.At this time,there are several religious satellite programs on the air.There are at least forty,which teach Islam throughout the Arab mid-east.No ogovernment can censor these programs or their affiliates on the internet.
In my opinion,therefore,the transformation of the Arab media,from a state sponsored vehicle to a multi-media, with varied electronic outlets on the air and in the internet,has come only recently.This has had an effect on freedoms in the political system,as well,as in the media.
Hence,the new found freedom of the Muslim Brotherhood.It remains to be seen,how much of a challenge these changes to the polkitical status quo are.
The Fallout from the Nov.28.Elections.
The Muslim Brotherhood lost its 88 seats,winning only two.Al-Wafd,did not do better.All opposition parties withdraw from the elections ,in protest.
It is noteworthy ,that only 20 per cent of the Egyptian people,went out to vote.
The First Day ofEid al Adha.November l6.20l0.
The events marking that holy day,in Jerusalem and in the cities if the west bank,such as,Jenin,and Ramallah,were sad days.Ths israeli forces,came out and harassed young people,and older people,trying to get them off the streets.Several Arab stations reported this,commenting that this-day-was a sad one for muslims
Another sad day,occurred on September 28.20l0.A fisherman,who was trying to catch fich off the coast of Gaza,was shot by the Israeli coast guards because he had swayed into an area considered off limits.
In other words he had sailed beyonf the half mile radius.allotted to Gaza fishermen.Obviously,as was often cited,on al Jazeera,these fishing expeditions,are supposed to provide food for the beseiged town people of Gaza.
But ti the Israelis,he was just a target.He was shot in the chest.No furthur explanations were given.
The Peace Talks
The peace talks are in limbo.On Sept.27.20l0, the Israelis resumed their settlement building on the west bank.The Arab League convened in Cairo,and supported the decision,not to resume peace talks.
The State Dept.has expressed disapointment at the settlement,rebuilding.Will the United States,be in a position to stop these activities?
On September 9,20l0,an incident ocurred which would or should have had an impact in pressuring the Israelis from settlement construction.But no such thing happened.An Israeli bulldozer, ran over a herd of sheep in Hebron,crushing the animals to death.Prior to that it,destroyed the home of an alleged Hamas terrorist,killing two civilians....
And,in addition to all that,a Palestinian boy,about nine,was run over by a car,which was identified,as an Israeli vehicle belonging to the head of gthe construction profect on the west bank.
That person was later interviews by "Sixty Minutes"..but he was not apologetic.
Did the boy survive?What does it matter? There are six hundred units being built in that area.
The American Right.
The victory won by the Republicans,who took over the house of Reprentatives from the Democrats, is a total disaster,in my opinion.As for the Arab-Israeli conflict--that policy,I hear,is made in the White House.
But is it?
Strife Between Christians nd Moslems.November 9,20l0.
A church in Baghdad was bombed,a few days ago,and fifty people were killed.This news was broadcast by al-Jazeera,which reported that suicide bombers detonated a bomb,in the church,then the church was occupied by the Muslims,and later,a helicopter fight involving the U>S> cleared thechurch and ended the strife.
According to Arab sources,this latest incident,came as a result of,or in retaliation to,an incident in Egypt.
Two women,who converted to Islam,were being held prisoner in a monastery, somewhere in the south of Egypt.The hope was,that they would come to their senses.
Many people,do not believe this to be true.Let me just add,tha in the Coptic Christian church,a woman who converts ,even to the Protestant church,is a heretic.
I speak from experience.
The Gladstone Report,Revisited.
In Geneva,the Human Rights Council,met on November 2 and 3 ,to discuss the human rights,status of countries around the world.However,the Gladstone Report,remains at a stalemate.No action,has taken place,on that level.Indeed,the human rights situation in Gaza,is unchanged.
In addition to this,it appears that the United States,is now in the hot chair,when it comes to human rights.Critical to this,is the fact that the prison camp in Cuba,known as Gitmo,is still,open.
Moreover,a scandal has erupted,on October 22.20l0. because of WikkiLeaks,whichthratens to expose the real torture issue involving the United States.
Needless to say,the leak of October 22,by WikkiLeaks,was not a subject at the United Nations,but it must have been on many minds.
It would be relevant to mention the WikkiLeaks scandal,at this point...Secret documents have been revealed about the Iraq war,which reflect human rights violations,i.e.torture.There are four hundred thousad documents,according to al-Jazeera, that indicate the persistent existence of torture in 500 Iraqi run prisons in Baghdad.Torture here includes the usual methods of electrocution and sodomizing,etc.etc.
What is of interest,however,is the tacit indifference that the U>S> armed forces,has allegedly shown,towards these practices,known to the U>S>and,even reported by the U>S> armed forces in Iraq-to those concerned in Washington
The policy of the U>S> is: not to interfere.
This is ironic,because the U>S> intervened in Iraq,to put an end to human rights abuses,amongst otheres,by the brutal Saddam.
That the practice of torture is continuing,and has even become an international scandal-in Iraq,is unbelievable.But,that the U>S> should stand by and watch ( according to WikkiLeaks)is-reprehensible..
Islamophobia Revisited. Sept.9,20l0.
Like many other Christians,in Egypt,I too,have broken the fast,at iftar,with Muslim friends.It was the Ministry of Culture and Information,which gave me a job,at the Academy of the Arts,in Giza,a theatrical group,and,a theatre to work in.I did all my directing during the month of Ramadan.My theatre was located a few yards from the Ashar mosque,which has a Madrassah.Across the street,from al Azhar,was the mosque of the martyr,Hussein.The area is known as al Husayn>I went about in jeans and unveiled.I was never in harm's way,and never,never,trated with disrespect.Yes,there were problems.
These problems were beaurocratic,problems with the censors,problems with a play that went too far,or crticized the regime of Sadat,too ardently.
But,I was always welcomed,even,popular in the Islamic neighborhood.
I am,therefore,troubled and puzzled by the anger towards Muslims in the West and in America.As,in for instance,the burning of the Koran..True,this event has been denounced by Hilary Clinton,and even by Secretary of Defense,Gates,but the very fact,that such sentiment exists,proves the level of anger against the Muslim world.
Demonstrations have been taking place in Pakistan,Afghanistan,and even in Cairo,where the opposition,has requested that all Arab countries,sever relations with America,and expel its diplomats.
Why all the fuss?Could it be because of the building of a mosque at Ground Zero?
The Middle East Peace Talks.
On Sept.2.20l0.Mahmoud Abbas,of the PLO,King Abdallah of Jordan,Hosni Mubarak of Egyot,and Netanyahu of Israel,met in Washington,to discuss the final status agreements.Absent,of course,from these meetings was Hamas..
On Sept.26.20l0.the settlement freeze on the wesr bank will expire.Will Israel resume its construction of homes there?If they do,Abass,vows to withdraw from the talks.
Meanwhile,the west bank,is in lockdown.There are 6l0 checkpoints in the west bank,where Palestinians must cross,before going from one place to another,in that one territory.
Turmoil in Tucson, Az, July 29th, 2010
There is turmoil in Tucson and Phoenix.Arrests and peaceful demonstrations are taking place in these two cities." Stop the Racial Laws" or "We will not comply" are banners held up by the activists.CNN and other major cable news are staying with the story all day long.
What are the protestors being arrested for?That is not clear.But the police are everywhere,especially in the downtown area of Tucson.
In Phoenix,Azkia Khabir,a black activist,told CNN that this new immigration law,must be wiped off the books entirely.It has not been wiped off the books.
In effect,the law has passed.But there is an injunction, banning the most severe aspects,of the document.The judge,who issued the injunction,banned the most controversial aspects of the law,such as the sections which allow the police to detain anyone,they suspect,of being an illegal immigrant.The judge wrote in her argument,that the law prempts federal law and could contribute to racial profiling.But,as a Mexican demonstrator said: racial profiling has always been an integral aspect of Arizona society.
I could not agree more.If I were to describe my experiences here,in Arisona,for my reader,they would be so outlandish,as to seem science fiction.....
"Burn the Korans"
A Christian preacher,Terry Jones,advocates in the media,that every American should burn one Koran daily.Moreover,there is a growing sentiment against the project of a mosque being constructed in the vicinity of Ground Zero,in New York,"WHy here"? read some posters.Why not here?
The Beginning of Ramadan.August l0.
Gaza remains under seige.Naturally the Israelis claim,that it is only a naval blockade.One of the ships confiscated in the Flotilla raid,has been returned to Turkey.However,this is not enough.The Turks wanted an apology...The Israelis are also refusing an independant inquiry into the Gaza Flotilla raid of May 3l.20l0.Nonetheless,an inquiry by the United Nations has begun to-day in New York,and will last for six months
The Rafah Crossing is still Open.
a Libyan ship bearing humanitarian aid,was not allowed to enter Gaza,a few days ago.
Instead,it was circumvented to the western port of al-Arish-in Egypt.
How the Egyptians are going to handle the logistics of unloading this and other ships and transferring the goods to Gaza,is a logistical problem-as far as I can tell....
The Rafah Crossing is still OPen.
a Libyan ship bearing humanitarian aid,was not allowed to enter Gaza,a few days ago.
Instead,it was circumvented to the western port of al-Arish-in Egypt.
How the Egyptians are going to handle the logistics of unloading this and other ships and transferring the goods to Gaza,is a logistical problem-as far as I can tell....
Roman Polanski is freed.
Ghost Writer.A Film Review.
This is Polanski's latest film.I was able to see it on the wide screen during the Memorial Day weekend on May 28.20l0.
This film deals with the issue of torture,amongst other themes.It is a Polanski film,and it is complicated.Here,American life epitomizes modern life.Ostensibly,it takes place,in a sea resort in Massachusettes.But the filmaker has not been to the United States since the seventies-when he ran to escape a criminal verdict for rape.
The American audience that I saw this film with, was perplexed.I think you have to be an outsider,or non-American to understand this picture.It is made by an outsider,someone who is examining the role of the United States and Great Britain in perpetuating war crimes during the Iraq war.The film exposes how the use of torture was not only legalized by the west,but it was given academic repectability by Harvard professors( here the academic is played by Tom Wilkenson),who worked for the ClA and who recruited for it.
The plot traces the demise of a writer,Ewan Macgregor,who has been hired to ghost write the memoir of a high ranking official in the British governmen t.It turns out that this politician has been handled all the time by the ClA who operated through his wife,an agent of the American intelligence services.She was recruited,while studying at Harvard in the seventies.....This is the outline of the film.Its what he does with this material,that makes this a cinmatic masterpiece.
Every frame is shot like a scene from Greek tragedy.The locations are bare,sparse,minimal,but symbolic and evokative.In other words,the film speaksin imagistic symbols: for instance the camera dwells again and again on a gloomy night lit by an ominous looking lighthouse-what is the symbol of this lighthouse,if lighthouses are supposed to give guidance?
It is symbolic of the inevitable doom which confronts the ghost writer and the fate which awaits him
Every frame in this film has a subtext,a hidden meaning symbolizing the horror of torture,mendacity,covert operations and all the sordid aspects of the conduct of this British politician(Tony Blair?),who acts as a puppet of the United States,and it policies in post 9/ll.
I imagine that for Polanski,a survivor of the concentration camps of World War ll,torture,and the military and political establishments which encourage it-is a reprehensible,if not immoral action.But to him,the concealment of the war crimes,as he sees,perpetuated by the United States and its British ally,is worse.And so the Ghost writer,comes upon the scene,like Hamlets ghost,as a motal tool,not to just rewrite the biography of the British politician,or improve it,but,to discover the truth,the real truth about the beginnings of this man's life.
The politician is murdered at the end,by ,ostensibly,the very same people who made him.The book,however is published.It does not tell the truth.It camouglages it.The truth,which the character played by Ewan Macgregor,the ghost writer,is unveiled at the end-through deductive reasoning.
When the ghost writer confronts,the British MP's wife,that he knows that she is an agent of the ClA,she has him killed.He is run over by a car,and the manuscript which he helped write,is thrown from his hands.
We do not see the ghost writer lying in the road,in a pool of blood,while someone searches his pockets for a disc-as in most Hollywood films-we do not see him at all,even though it is clear that he has been run over,by a car-deliberately-What we do see,are the pages of the manuscript,flying in all directions as it is blown b y the wind.
Kala Israel Kala Kala America.
Kala Kala Israel,Kala America.
These words were chanted over and over,before the American embassy in Baghdad,in protest at the storming of the Gaza Peace Flotilla heading towards the strip on May 30.20l0.
No ,No Israel, No ,No,America they cried--mostly followers of the Shiite cleric,muqtada Sadr.He and his followers are still a force to be reckoned with when it comes to Islamic extremism.....
Who else throughout the Muslim world felt that way?Apparantly everyone-in Rabat,Cairo,Istanbul,Jakarta,Jordan,and even in Rome,London and Washington.
According to eye witnesses,or people on board these ships,such as Edward Peck,the American ambassador,or Huwaida Arraf,the organizer of the Free Gaza Movement,( see Democracy Now.org June 2.)Israeli commandos,as they call themselves,came on board from helicopters and proceeded to stop the ships from continuing on their course.They met with resistance on a Turkish ship,and the result was nine dead,apparantly shot,in cold blood by the Israeli navy members.Nine Israelis were wounded,and the twenty commandos managed to take all six ships to an Israeli port of call,and detain some five hundred people,who were taken to a prison ,somewhere in Israel.Their belongings,everything they owned in their suitcases,their cameras,their computers,were all confiscated-and as we subsequently learnt-never returned to them.
On June 2.most of these prisoners,who were abroad the Gaza ships,and it is worth noting,represent 32 countries,were released.They arrived to a
hero's welcome in Turkish planes which landed in Ankara.Some were on stretchers,others,could barely walk.
The President of Turkey,gave a powerful speech in condemnation of Israel"Things would never be the same"he said.
The images of the nine coffins being unloaded from the Turkish planes,were incidiary. Rows and rows of muslim sheikhs,with their black turbans,bowed before the wooden coffins.
This was a slap in the face,not only of Ankara,but of Islam.
Meanwhile,Netan yahu,explained all this away,by claiming that Israel had a right to defend itself.He furthur asserted that the ships had not been searched for weapons.That was a lie.The ships had passed customs in Gereece,and Mossad agents swarmed them before they embarked.
Mohammed Abbas,the President of the PA,described it as a massacre
All are in agreement,including the United Nations,that the siege of Gaza must come to an end.
Even MSNBC,who took their crews thee..weresurprised by the crisis,that they witnessed in Gaza.
Egypt has opened the Rafah Crossing.
Hilary clinton asserted on CNN,that Israel has insulted the U>S. during a visit by Biden to Israel.
The insult revolved around the issue of settlements in east Jerisalem,wheresixteen hundred housing units were being built.On March l6,violence broke out in Ramallah and east Jerusalem as Palestinians began what appears to be a third intifadah.
They are protesting the lockdown of the west bank of the Jordan river,to Palestinians living there-at certain times.In other words,a curfew.
Curfews were also imposed by the Nazis in Warsaw.Budapest,Hungary and so on and so fourth.
Meanwhile,the world has decided to do something about this third year of the Gaza siege,whicch is,as I have docummented,in its third year.
The peace Flotilla.
A group of activists,diplomats,parlimentary representatives,and even on American ambassador,Edward Peck,have boarded nine ships at the port of Pirrius in Greece,heading to Gaza through Tureky.
They bear food,building materials,medical supplies and aslmost everything that the imagination can fathom,needed to restore Gaza after the air strikes by Israel,destroyed it in January 2009.
The last I heard,from al Jazeera,was that the peace flotilla had,indeed departed and was now in Albania.However,the IBA,Israeli Broad-casting Services--declared that the flotilla of nine ships would be stopped by the Israel navy,before it got to Gaza.
And,sure enough,to-day,May 3l.20l0,we learn from C NN,that the flotilla has been stormed by Israeli commandoes,and that several activists,and who knows who else,have been either killed-murdered.or taken to southern Israeli jails.
Could anything be worse for the poor people of Gaza,human beingsd after all-who are in such dire need of supplies-that they have resorted to buiding underground tunnels,to smuggle food and water..
And these tunnels,are also under attack from the Israelis-who fear that the people of Gaza,may be smuggling weapons,as well....
So.Are they not allowed to defend themselves?
To-day,we know little about,the extent of the damage done to the nine ships,bearing food and support for the starving
people of Gaza.
What is baffling-is the position of the Obama regime-who,seems
unconcern ed.However,Netanyahu,has cancelled a visit to Washington which was to take place to-morrow.
April 12, 2010 Senate Bill 1070 Arizona.
Rual Grijalva- is a representative from Arizona. He is Dennouncing a new law which has passed the Arizona Legislature, permitting police to stop anyone, who looks suspicious, or illegal and ask for their identity. Ed Shulz (of MSNBC) thinks it is racist and promotes and embodies racial profiling. Other believe it is racist and the governor, is being asked not to sign it into law. We will see. There have been demonstrations both in Tucson and Pheonix against this law and eighty thousand petions have been presented to the governor, a Ms. Brewer--urging her to veto the bill.
The senate bill concerning the prosecution of illegal immigrants, has passed. It was signed by the govenor of Arizona. The media, including al-Jazeera, which devoted at least six minutes to this Arizona Law, is filled with criticism. In addtion to this, death threats were aimed at the brave congressman, Raul Grijelva, and he had to leave his office in Tucson, for fear. Bill Buckmaster, brought on a columnist, for the Arizona Republic, who said that her paper called the governor twice and asked her not to sign the bill. The name of this brave lady is Linda Valdez.
There was some very eloquent criticism of Arizona, by equally brave hispanics, who cautioned that this was an anti-immigration and anti-immigrants bill. It gives the police to stop anyone who "looks" illegal or "behaves" or dresses suspiciously.
It is difficult to come to terms with all of this...After all there are a half million "undocumented" mexican right here, in Arizona. Will they all be presecuted? Even the sheriff of this county, a Mr. Dupnik said on local TV that this was an absurd piece of legislations...And he is white.
However, severnty per cent of those polled in this town, think it's a good bill!!!
Not so, President Obama, who has asked the Justice Department to investigate the bill. After all, all matters of imigration, rest with the government, not with the state government.
Although so much is happening here, I am shocked at these events, and wish I had never lived to see the day...
It might be interesting to note, that all of Europe, has let down its borders, and one can travel fron Kosovo* to Protugal, without being asked for papers.
*The Southern province of Albania
THE ARIZONA IMMIGRATION BILL AND THE OPINION OF THE OUTSIDE WORLD.
According to certain guests on the Sunday show, "This Week" the bill is an invitation to descrimination.
It "harkens to apartheid" and is an : open inviation to harassment"
Paul Krugman, the nobel prize winning economist, asserted that, in addition to racial profiling, it evoked nazism... Chris Dodd, the Senator from Connecticut, said the bill was outrageous.
Another program, "Meet the Press: evoked even more drastic response: "Luis Gutierrez, a hispanic politician, asked all Mexicans not to vote in the upcoming congressional primaries. Evan Thomas, of Newsweek, said it was an invitation to racial profiling and Mayor Phil Gordon of Pheonix, declared that this bill must be challenged in the courts because it is unconstitutional.
May 29, 2010
Martin Escobar, a police officer from Tucson, has filed a law suit against the city of Tucson/
February 8,201 0 -Gaza
The Goldstone Report
Israel has refused to have independent investigations, (outside the army) of possible war crimes in Gaza in Jan.. 2009. Two officers have been reprimanded, but that is all that has taken place. Now, it all depends on Goldstone himself.
Will he make recommendations to the ICC in the Hague? The remains to be seen.
The Rafah Crossing
Remains closed, but according to al-Jazeer, the anti-government parties in Egypt, are protesting this closure. Thirteen hgh ranking members of the Muslim Brotherhood have been thrown into jail, because of their publications on this subject.
I think Gaza will become a platform for the oppositian in.Egypt, against the Mubarak regime, but I also think he will survive it.
Shortages in Egypt.
There is insufficient cooking or bottled gas in Cairo. According to a journalist, who spoke to
the Lebanese cable station, Future T.V., there are approximately fifteen million people living in
Cairo, but only one million butane gas bottles were distributed in the city this winter.
Moreover, the price of a bottle, (few people have electric stoves) has risen almost five hundred percent.
The Mosaad, the CLA and the killing of a Hamas commander -February 25,2010
Monsieur Grenier is a CLAcounter-terrorist. On February 25, he was interviewed by al-Jazeera on the matter of Mahmoud Mabhouh. Grenier is a thin man, sporting a crew cut and a patron- izing expression. He was dressed in grey and his tie seemed to be as colorless as his ashen face. But, his eyes had the sharpness of a hawk ...
As he sat from across the interviewer, his expression gradually transformed into one of amuse-
ment. The amused smile increased especially when asked about the fallout from the assassina-
tion of the Hamas commander in a Dubai hotel (Jan.. 25). "It does bear all the finger prints of
a Mosaad operation" he said with a twinkle in his amused eyes. When asked if the assassina-
tion could be traced to Netanyahu, Israel's prime minister, he said blandly, this time without the
smile, that the Mosaad did not need orders from "anyone". "Did the Mosaad notify the British
Intelligence Services, M15?' came the next question. The expression on Monsieur Grenier's
face seemed to be affirmative, but he said quickly "the Mosaad are self-reliant" and that they don't need "help" from "anyone". Then he added, with the confidence of a CLA counter-terrorist agent, "this whole thing will blow away, after making a bit of noise (not his exact word) and then everything will go back to normal, as it usually does, with this kind of thing".
There are now twenty seven suspects, caught on film, from thousands of surveillance cameras in Dubai--now hiding in the state of Israel. It will be recalled that these individuals used forged passports, based on real identities of real people, not only in Israel, but also in Australia, Ireland and Germany. Further, the "hit" was caught on twenty seven minutes of hotel closed-circuit tapes. Meanwhile, Israeli T.V. is calling the affair, or their resistance in admitting to it, as: "con- structively ambiguous". The Israeli public knows better. According to Israeli T.V. (IBA) there are spoofs being done dramatizing the secret mission which was caught on camera. Israelis are laughing. The Arabs, are not.
Dubai police asked the FBI to cooperate in its investigation. According to al-Jazeera, the FBI has given its consent.
The twenty seven suspects used prepaid Mastercards issued in the United States.
The Stalemate in the Peace Talks.
March 9,20 1 0
The U.S. condemned Israel's decision to build sixteen hundred housing units in East Jerusalem.
Even the American media, considers Israel's latest expansion move an affront. Certainly, it dem- onstrates that Israel has no intention in entering into peace talks with the Palestinians, and in the opinion of this writer, it reflects not only the stalemate in those talks, but the death of those talks.
Joe Biden also condemned the action.
There is a new lexicon in the Arab-Israeli conflict -it is not land for peace, as the U.S. was led to believe, until today. It is, now, apartheid.
The Goldstone Report -Revisited
According to al-Jazeera, the European parliament has voted unanimously to go forth with the recommendations of the report. In other words, the possible prosecution of Israel for war crimes.
A Racial Incident in a Health Resort: Loews Ventana Canyon
I was standing next to the steam room of a famous spa in the Tucson area,when something happened.But first let me tell the reader,that there are many beuatiful resorts in Tucson,but this particular one was myu favorite.I had been going there for many years.
An African American attendant was in the spa area,picking up towels and cleaning.We started to talk.The conversation turned to racial issues,how the Blacks felt about Obama,and Gaza.I mentioned that I was not happy with his silence about Gaza...He never denounced the atocities that were committed there.And,I added,even a famous Black writer,Alice Walker,had criticized Obama for the same thing.At this point,the African American girl began to speak about her own esexperiences.Meanwhile,unknown to me,someone had entered the spa area
and had eavsdropped on our talk.But this fact was relayed to me much later.While we were talking,the door of the room flew open and the supervisor came in and stood before me,her nose almost touching mine.
I was so taken aback,I was almost speechless.Hoever,she did look rather funny.Imagine Barbie Doll at fifty,only without the eyelashes,the beautiful hair and the stylish clothes.
"You must stop talking like that.I won,t have it.You must stop it,or else,if you go on,I will ask you to leave,There are people upstairs in my office,who are complaining about how you are insulting white people.You are insulting the whites.."she blabbered. I was speechless again.I managed to stammer something or other...But she had me cornered.There I was,almost naked,being accused of insulting the white race.
i apologised profusely,hating my hypocrisy.This did not appease her.More threats followed.While all this was going on,the African girl was nowhere to be found.The situation had been diffused,or so I thought.Barbie Doll marched upstairs,followed by a white attendant.
Then,just as suddenly,the Black girl returned." Its alright,its alright,"she cried. You can stay.I had had no intention of leaving,but I had been quite shocked by all this..." You know,"I said"I am a writer,and I believe in the first amendment,which gives people the freedom of speech,in public.Our conversation was in private.'She pointed to her pursed lips,as if to say,close your mouth.
In the United States,Arabs are labelled Caucasian.I was. It was fascinating to be perceived as non white.
The Fort Hood Tragedy. November 11, 2009
I disagree with Senator Liebrman's assertion recently,that Nidal Hasan the physician from Fort Hood,is a terrorist linked to al Qaeda.Such assertions are too simplistic,as we have learnt,from the Iraq war.The situation is unclear,and all the facts not known. However,there is no doubt,that his Palestinian heritage and his devotion to his faith,Islam,are factors which explain the violence he committed.
The fact remains that he did petition the army to release him from deplyment in Iraq, unsuccessfully.
At this stage,it seems to me,we need to review the relationship that governs the daily life between Arabs living in America,and the United States.
Otherwise,this act,will not be a reandom one,In l969 Robert Kennedy was murdered by a Palestinian,as Chris Mathews reminds us.
But Sirhan Bishara Sirhan was politically motivated as well,Only he was not a Muslim.He was a Christian.
“When is a man free? I wish someone would tell me.”
I think that there is a racial bias against President Obama and his policy for health care.
Discrimination is alive and well in the U.S.
What is discrimination?
It is to treat differently, someone who is different.
The Rafah Crossing. Gaza Revisited.
September 29, 2009
The Rafah crossing remains closed. Today, the head of Hamas, Khalid Mishaal, is visiting Cairo
to pursue a national reconciliation on the disputes between the various Palestinian factions.
During the past month, Ramadan was celebrated in Gaza by the work of its inhabitants in building
tunnels, underground, between Gaza and Egypt. On August 17, 2009, Mubarak visited
Washington but there was no mention in the media of the Rafah crossing, which is really a symbol
of the Gaza ghetto.
If any food or supplies are available, to Palestinina, it is because of these underground tunnels, in
which even livestock is smuggled.
Palestinian workers who shuttle back and forth are often elocrocuted or suffocated in the tunnels.
One wonders... how is it that one point six billion Muslims, all friendly to the Palestinian people,
cannot do something about the Gaza ghetto?
One has to ponder the question.
Meanwhile, a south African judge, Richard Gladstone, has written a report for the UN Commission
of Human Rights, in which he asserts that was crimes were committed by Israel and that
even though some blame can be shared by the Palestinians, the bulk of the blame is on Israel. He
has even suggested, today in Geneva, (September 29) that the question of accountability must be
addressed and that those who committed war crimes, should be handed over toprosecitors.
This is indeed refreshing, especially as it comes from someone, who is himself, Jewish...
Judge Blackstone has come under such heavy attack, that on September 17, 2009, he defended
himself in an op-ed in the New York Times. This long piece which I quote in its entirety, raises
the question, which has outraged many, even Jewish people in the world, and that is: Who will
be held accountable for the civilian deaths, (1,400) in the so called war in Gaza, last winter?
[See the New York Times, Justice in Gaza, an editorial written, on September 17, 2009 by Richard Goldstone.]
It is clear, after reading the piece, which I quoted above, that international world, is changing course, when it
comes to the Palestinians. But sympathy is not enough. Israel has all but taken the entire city if Jerusalem, and
there is construction, even around the Aqsa mosque. Arabs living in East Jerusalem are being evicted. Annexation
of Arab land has increased because of the wall dividing the west bank, from the rest of Israel...
The situation has never been more hopeless... even the Palestinians, themselves, are not helping by their insider
conflicts, and seem to be bogged down by them...
All this, while the world, is slowly turning away, from this tragedy, and looking at Iran and its missiles...
All of this, a festering situation... is fodder not oly for Hamas, of Hizbollah in Lebanon, but for the growing
conflict in Afghanistan, for al-Qaeda, for Osama Bin Laden but for Muslim extremism as a movement and as an
October 1, 2009
According to al-Jazeera T.V. the PLO, under pressure from, of all people, Hillary Clinton, will “defer” a UN
resolution, based on the report. In other words, the Palestinians, are not backing this report, outwardly, “because
it will jeopardize the peace talks” with Israel.
And so, the game continues....
October 2, 2009
Hamas condemns the PLO decision not to issue a UN resolution in Geneva, based on the Blackstone report. One
has to ask, who is in charge of Palestinian decision making. For Hamas to be excluded, from even attending the
UN Human Rights Council in Geneva, is shameful. Gilad Shalit, the kidnapped Israeli soldier, is alive and well.
This, according to a video which shows him reading a message to his parents. The video tape was released by
Hamas. Of the nineteen women prisoners released (in exchange for the video) only one was from the Gaza strip.
The rest were from the west bank.
There are eleven thousand prisoners in Israeli jails...
At any rate, its seems, now, that the U.S. and Israel are calling the shots.
Turmoil in the Palestinian Territories
October 6, 2009
Al-Aqsa Mosque, the holiest place of worship in Islam is located in East Jerusalem. East Jerusalem is considered
occupied Jerusalem by the Palenstinians. Today, many of them have occupied the mosque and refuse to
leave. The reason being that Israel forbids worshippers under the age of fifty to pray in that mosque. If Israel
decided to remove worshippers by force, then there will be probably be an incident.
Meanwhile, there is a lot of anger, by all factions, for the deferment of the vote in the UN on the Blackstone
Report. If that vote is taken, it will probably mean that certain Israelis will be handed over to the international
court at the Hague, for prosecution for war crimes. There is talk of a meeting at the UN on October 14, to settle
the decision on the vote once and for all...
If that does not happen, then the opportunites offered by the report will fizzle out....
October 14, 2009
The UN has met to discuss the Blackstone Report.
September 18, 2009
See review of Bab el-Hadid.
CHRISTIAN SCIENCE MONITOR
Wednesday, November 13, 1985
Humanizing an Israeli hero
By “Laila Said”
Tiny, in jeans and plain white shirt, Yaël Dayan sat guardedly in hr chair in an immaculately tidy New York hotel room. I searched her face for resemblances to her famous father, Moshe Dayan – the military conqueror and occupier of Egypt’s Sinai and Gaza Strip, Syria’s Golan Heights, Jordan’s West Bank, and Arab Jerusalem. … Moshe Dayan, the Israeli general whose wars with the Arabs cost them over 100,000 lives. … Her unswerving gaze, with its hawklike eyes, showed an iron-willed toughness. She spoke dryly: “There are a lot of people who like to keep their heroes as a marble statue and not to give them a human dimension, not to show weaknesses. I believe if you really want to relate to someone you have to show him in flesh and blood.”
This she certainly has done in her memoir, “My Father, His Daughter” (Farrar, Straus & Giroux), in which she chronicles her relationship with Moshe Dayan from childhood to his death in 1981 in a highly fascinating and complex account. This relationship is interwoven with a history of Israel, its wars, a biography of Moshe Dayan, and her own life.
Dayan’s death, with which the narrative begins and ends, is as important to this book as his life. In the last 10 years of his life, he withdrew from his family, which included Yaël and her two brothers, and married for a second time: “He made himself comfortable egotistically by saying ‘if you need me, I’m there and hopefully you won’t need me. ‘ We were happy not to find out how much of this support was really there.”
The rituals of “shiva” and “kaddish,” of weeping and lamenting, describes in the book also reflect the shock and sadness that were felt when the family realized Dayan had willed his entire multimillion-dollar fortune to his second wife, Rahel. “It was a momentary weakness,” Ms. Dayan says; “he was definitely influenced by people around him. The whole thing was very sad. It was a very undignified way to end.”
Nonetheless, her book adoringly reveals the enigmatic mosaic of the Dayan personality – the general the father, the husband, the lover, the archaeologist, and the politician. But most interesting of all is her own interaction with him. It is a couple relationship which upstages all other relationships in her life, including, it seems, that with her own husband, who is barely alluded to in the book. It was much more than a father-daughter relationship. And it is this complexity that enriches the account.
Ms. Dayan’s father was omnipresent in her childhood, and as she grew up she accompanied him everywhere: “We knew we were excited and moved by the same things,” she writes. She volunteered for the Army service in 1956 “to be a soldier in his winning army,” and also served under him in the 1967 “six-day war.” She became a confidante, a friend, a fellow student, a co-author, and an active political lobbyist for him. Even though she succeeded in asserting her own individuality and establishing herself as a writer, her life was obviously intertwined and determined by his. She writes of quarrels, rebellions, of her need to break away and become something other than Moshe Dayan’s daughter. But that symbiotic relationship was never severed – not even by her father’s death.
Seen through his daughter’s eyes, Dayan’s war “of survival” – the fact that he was in the business of killing – is never reflected upon or questioned.
“In order to reach peace you have to go through a lot of destruction,” she says, and adds, “He would never have engineered the war in Lebanon.” Dayan, the statesman and politician “a complex and extraordinary man who reflects the country” – Ben-Gurion’s spiritual heir – was “ahead” of his country in his vision for a political system, she says. “If he had been No. 1 today, Israel would have taken a different turn in the past four or five years. There would have been no Lebanon – and he expressed the desire to talk to [Yassar] Arafat” – provided the Palestinian Liberation Organization [PLO] recognized Israel as a separate Jewish entity – “or to whoever the Palestinians see as their representative.”
In her detailed tactical accounts of Dayan’s military campaigns and of the development is Israel as a nation, she omits the Palestinian question, dismissing it by saying that she was writing a memoir, not history. She is quick to remind one that both she and Dayan are at home in Arab culture, that Dayan did not “hate” Arabs, that he “could identify with the discomfort of the other side having to send their people to be killed or destroyed.”
The total absence from her book of any recognition or feeling toward the Palestinians reflects the attitude many Israelis have: that a country called Palestine – with an indigenous Arab population far exceeding the Jewish one – did not, in fact, exist.
Ms. Dayan conceded that the Palestinian problem is “No.,” and that the Palestinian movement is a “legitimate movement of a people which just woke up to its own identity.”
Characterizing herself as slightly left of center in the Labor Party, she said that the West Bank should be demilitarized and federated with Jordan to form Palestine – a Jordan incorporating all the West Bank Palestinians. She finds the idea of a homeland for the Palestinians totally acceptable, but not a state “with an army.” [The idea of a Palestinian state is still being debated. The current Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, claimed in a speech around June 14, 2009 that a demilitarized Palestinian state is acceptable at this point in time. It’s 24 years since I interviewed Ms. Dayan, and we are still no closer to a Palestinian state. What irony!]
“What we need is a Sadat amongst the Palestinians, someone who is realistic enough to sy there is no military option and that some border agreement [on the West Bank] could be arranged during negotiations to be concluded with the signing of a peace treaty.”
Ms. Dayan asserts that Israel should negotiate with the PLO, provided they accept that they are entering a new era in which they will, first of all, recognize the legitimate existence of Israel. If the PLO does that, then she doesn’t mind if “its Arafat, or Abu Musa, Ahmed Jibril, or whoever. I would sit personally with them.”
Her book, Ms. Dayan says, parallels the life and career of Moshe Dayan with Israel. The strength of the book lies, however, not in this parallel history but in the humanization and demystification of her father, whom she has the courage to examine, at least on a personal level, with objectivity. “What I attempted to do was to be really a hundred percent honest – not to cater to an image that I feel history should have of Dayan.”
At the end of our meeting, neatly autographed in my copy of her book, she wrote in Arabic, “Salam.” Peace.
Between 1985 and 1987, the author contributed several book reviews and articles to the Christian Science Monitor. Amongst them, a review of The House of the Prophets by Nicholas Saudray [January 5, 1986] which is about the relationships between the Christians and Muslims in Lebanon.
CHRISTIAN SCIENCE MONITOR
Relationship chilled by tradition"
By Laila Abou-Saif
Friday, January 3, 1986
Review of My Father and I, by Camelia Sadat. New York: Macmillian, 320 pgs pp. $18.95
Married men in Egypt often have more than one wife. Frequently these wives are kept apart and know nothing of one another's existance. At the man's death the second or third wide, whatever the case may be, will often turn up at the funeral services, with her children, to establish her existance and to claim a share in the inheritance of the deceased. Or the "secret" wife and her children may simply wish to claim the recognition that they never had while the man was alive.
In her autobiographical account of her relationship with her father, "My Father and I," Camelia Sadat, Anwar Sadat's third daughter by his first marriage, appears on the threshold of world media to reclaim her father, the late President of Egypt, not only for her mother, Ekbal, who gave birth to Camelia five months after she had been served divorce papers ending a nine year marriage to Sadat.
A posture of filial respect
The book, which is dedicated to her mother as well as to Sadat, is an attempt to reconstruct that aborted, elusive relationship between the President and his first family.
Within Egypt, little was known of this family. jihan Sadat and her four children were the only family, adn a second one would surely have been an emnarrassment even to the traditional Sadat. That this wa a painful fact for this first family to live with is amply evidenced in the books by Camelia Sadat, who, in spite of the posture of filial love and respect she assumes in this book, was quite disnechanted by the humiliating private and public snubs that were often the lot of her and her sisters, Rekaya and Rawia.
Even though she tells us that she began to love him when he became President, she never really had a close relationship of any kind with Sadat, and her resentment of this may have caused her to leave Egypt in 1981 abd to enroll at Boston University in order "to seek her own identity."
No awareness of woman's right
The events of her life up to the assassination of Sadat in 1981 are told without the slightest awareness of women's rights in Egypt and without any indignation or visable anger at her own victimization. She relegates everything to custom and tradition, even the account of her arranged marriage in 1961 at the age of 12 to an officer who was 22 years older than she was. Arranged marriages are the fate of millions of Arab women, but very few women have the chance to protest the marriages, let alone write about them.
She describes hers with an unimpassioned resignation and acceptance of the event. For instance, in her cut-and-dried account of the dual ceremony in which she and her sister were given away in absentia by their frandfather, who witnesses had to testify that they were of legal age. Here is Ms. Sadat's account:
Custom goes unchallenged
"The two persons in this case were my father's longtime colleague and friend. President Gamal Abdel Hakim Amer, the military commander in chief in the Nasser government. As required, they certified to the sheikh that I was "of age." Se does not comment on the fact that Sadat and Nasser broke a law which feminists in Egypt battled to get passed in the '20s - the law that requires that a female be at least 16 before her marriage is arranged.
All the other events of her lige are recalled with the same unquestioning spirit and respect for Egyptian customs. She tells us, for instance, that at the age of 10, her father took her and her suster ot live with him. The girls were allowed to see their mother only for two hours every two weeks. According to Egyptian law, legal custody of girls is given to the father once the girl is 12.
This must have been a hard experience for the girls, but Camelia glosses over it, as she does a few passages later in her descriptionof her arranged marriage. "In Egypt it is not uncommon," she tells us, "for a girl to be married early, depending upon the custom of her family."
The marriage was a disaster. But she suffers through it claiming that itwas teh "obligation of obedience" that enslaved her to her new husband. Finally, when she can no longer endure the abuse and battering and complains to her father, she is reprimanded for doing so, a fact she dismisses in her narrative by satubg tgar Sadat's response reflected a "basic rule of traditional society" - "the moral code endorsing a man's mastery over his wife."
Lack of personal involvement
She rebels, and finally her nervous breakdown motivates Sadat to help liberate her from her unhappy marriage. She gets a job with a German firm. She marries again, but divorces because her husband is an embarrassment to Sadat. Finally she decides to leave Egypt.
These personal events are interwoven with sketchy and superficial historical accounts that add nothing to our understanding of Sadat the man or the public figure. Ms. Sadat reveals little of her account of her horrendous first marriage, there is a lack of involvement throughout, as if this were an official autobiography. To the end, she remains loyal to the patriarchal system which victimized her by saying that according to Egyptian traditions, "individuals are good only to their parents, especially their father."
There us ibe refreshing miment in the book. She recalls an incident when she told Sadat that it was rumored that he had yet another wife. Sadat was highly amused and asked ehat would happen if such a lady did in fact appear at his funeral and claim to be his wife? Jihan Sadat, who was present at this conversation, replied in no uncertain terms: "I swear to God, Anwar, I would take your body out of the grave and throw it into the Nile."
Anwar Sadat never took a third wife.
Sadat's peace initiative is a thing of the past. Now as we can see from the ferocious struggle of the Taliban in Pakistan, sharia law, or religeous law, is the norm and the law. And the settlements will continue in Israel, because they also have a potent right wing religeous majority.
In the past eight years the United States has also moved to the right. And I've attempted in the ensuing pages to chronicle my discontent and radicalization as an Arab, living in the United States.
Obama in Egypt
June 4, 2009
Another watershed event was Obama's speech in Cairo, to a selected group at Cairo University, although it appeared to me as the auditorium of the Peoples Assembly. He greeted his audience with the Arabic; as Salam Alaykum and then he spoke of the cultural heritage of Islam to the west and how it was possible to integrate Islam and come to an understanding with other countries in the christian world.
What was truly amazing was teh frequent quotes from the Koran, the obvious respect he bears this faith, and then his emphasis on religeous freedoms for all. When it came to Israel, he insisted on the phrase two state solution, and cessation of settlement activity. He tried to concince teh audience that the Jews had suffered greatly during the holocaust, but htis did not go down well, there was a silence. There were many silences when he spoke of Israle. Hence the challenge. But he has ventured into a sphere where no American leader has gone before. He has broken new ground.
A Tribute to a Slain Physician
June 16, 2009
Dr. Tiller, a Kansas practicioner, was shot in cold blood in a Lutheran church. He had been working since 1973 to provide abortiions to women who needed them. He also believed in a woman's right to choose. This right is a right which women don't have in most of the world. I have dealt extensively with this topic in A Bridge Through Time, a memoir (Summit Books 1984).
I never thought I would live to see the day when a medical doctor is shot inside a church for performing abortions? Is this country going crazy? How about the all the Iraqi babies who were killed in the six year war in Iraq by American bombs?
One of the world's greatest catastrophes is the population explosion. Most poverty is the root cause of uncontrolled birth rates in developing countries, which are in no position to absorb more people. Therefore in many instances, abortion is a form of birth control or as we call it, family planning.
That does not work too well in Muslim countries because like Christian extremists in Kansas and Arizona, and so forth, "ethics" and "religion" come first.
Michael Jackson Dies
June 25, 2009
The first time I heard Michael Jackson's name was in Teheran, Iran in 1979. I was there, with a western feminist delegation to protest the veil which Iranian women were being forced to wear.
I sat in a cab and listened as the driver spat out anti-western rhetoric. But the music on the radio was American. "Why are you listening to American music?" I asked. He turned around and looked at me and said "That's Michael Jackson."
During the past week the green "revolution" in Teheran makes one wonder if real reform can take place in Iran. If Mussavi had won the so-called rigged election, would he have given women more rights? Would he have secularized Iranian Iranian society?
July 15, 2009
Before his death, John Updike Sinclair said that he had written a poem, where he expressed his joy at seeing a bird, trapped in his room, somehow, find ist way out and fly to freedom.
But today, what I saw, was not joyful. I saw a bird, die a very slow death, right here in Arizona. I do not know how it found its way to my feet, literally. There it lay, it was a pigeon, its wings spread wide as it tried to lift itself from the ground. in vain, a second later, the head rolled back and sideways, as blood poured from its mouth.
In Arizona, dead wildlife belong to the trash or so I am told. But since I am an Egyptian, I have to bury. So the little bird was laid to rest underneath a large Palo Verde.
Meanwhile in January 2009, the Isrealis had invaded Gaza, and the Rafah crossing is still closed. 118 non-aligned countries are being hosted by Mubarak at Sharm al Sheikh this July.
These third world countries declared their independance from the two super powers. But since Russia no longer exists, their agenda, at least this year, s human rights and the Arab-Israeli conflict.
But my mind flickers back to another event which has been reported on Arab T.V. three days...It is the murder of a thirty three year old, Egyptian woman in Dresden, Germany. The news is sketchy. It seems she had appeared in a Dresden court to complain about cultural insult aimed at her veil.
In the courtroom, right inside the judicial walls, she was stabbed 18 times, until she died. Her husband, trying to protect her, was accidentaly shot...
The girl Marwa al-Sherbini had attended the English Girl's College in Alexandria Egypt... considered to be one of the finest English highschools for wealthy girls, in the country. So this was no terrorist. She had been brought up by the English school system, which still thrives, albeit with scarcity, in Egypt.
And yet, she too, like that bird, fell to the ground, bleeding from the mouth.
Marwa's body, when it was transported to Alexandria, caused street demonstrations. The German government apologised for the incident. Ad the perpetuator? Who is he, what savage anger, against a different culture, a different look, a different set of values, motivated this carnage?
I am reminded of another incident, reported and dramatized, in the now famous play, The Sea Gull. The theme is the wanton destruction of beauty. In this instance someone had shot a sea gull and it fell at one of the chartacters feet...
A beautiful white bird, lying in its own blood... In the play, the bird symbolises a young woman.
December 31, 2008
One of my most favorite broadcasters, is totally unknown. He is Jens Korte. Who is Jens Korte? He is the Deutshe Welle correspondent in Wall Street. His reportage of the events these past six months in English, is something to behold. Not only is he a past master at visual communication, especially body movement, but he reports the figures on Wall Street with steel like precision, and he is a joy to watch, because, without knowing it, his speech and presence, physically, reveals everything that one needs to know about the convulsions of the financial market. On a bad day, for instance, his face is not only gloomy, but his body twisted. The opposite on a good day, he straightens up and smiles.
There is very little to smile at, in Arizona. It is a gorgeous state. There is nothing quite as beautiful as the canyons, the tall, impervious cacti, the lush desert, green with wild shrubs and flowers, and the sunsets. But the humanity here, is ugly. You will always find an ugly American, man or woman, in the so called newcomers or visitors, snowbirds*. Xenophobia is not the only flaw. Rudeness, and rough language prevail. People run around in beat up old trucks or new SUV’s, cursing and “cussing” at anyone who crosses their path. But worst of all is this sense of superiority they exhibit. I think Americans, at least in this part of the country have internalized the Bush message and doctrine. They truly believe that hey are the good guys and the Iraqi’s are the “bad” guys. The same goes for the Arabs, as a whole. This is not patriotism, but fanaticism.
*Birds, especially pigeons, are hated. As I write this, a dead pigeon is placed at my door! Why? Vintage Arizona!
Gaza Journal 2009, January
The 14th day of the Gaza Massacre.
A man lying in the street in Gaza, looked up and pointed his hand at the sky. He could be hard saying: “There is no God but Allah, and Mohammed is his prophet”. Around him, also on the ground, were corpses, in dark galabiyas, and shabby jackets. The street was a rubble of stones, and cadaverous building. As the camera zoomed out he lowered his hands. He had completed his death prayer - al shehada.
This is one of the many images that one watches, this 14th day of the Gaza ground invasion by the IDF. In the hospitals, there are also corpses, lying on the floor, waiting to be picked up. There are no burial sites. They too, have been bombed.
And then, there are the continuous flow of children and babies, bloodied by the bombs blotched with blood, being brought in someone’s arms on a stretcher. The hospitals are also running out of floor space...the sound of an Apache helicopter, in the sky is almost like background sound effect to all this.
A week later, after this scene, a spokesman for the Vatican described Gaza as, “one big concentration camp”.
But Obama remains silent.
Gaza Journal 2009
The 20th day of the Gaza massacre. Barrack Obama is still silent. One thousand Palestinians have been killed. But, the resistance fights on. According to Israeli television sources (IBA) Israel has “achieved” more in the war against “terror” than anyone could in sixteen days. Meanwhile, Venezuela and Bolivia have expelled the Israeli ambassadors in their countries for crimes against humanity. The Rafah crossing remains closed.
Day 21, Gaza Journal
Five thousand Palestinians have been wounded and one thousand killed. According to a correspondent for Deutche Welle, Boutros Ghalli, the former Secretary of the United Nations, and a former Secretary of the United Nations, and a former foreign minister of Egypt said: “this is a gift to the Muslim extremists”. In other words, this will fuel Muslim extremists, more than ever.
Obama remains silent, but the whole world protests.
The Rafah crossing remains closed, as Egyptians, demonstrate in the streets of Cairo, asking Gaza to “forgive Egypt”.
January 19, 2009
Gaza. A cease fire was declared by Israel on January 18, 2009. Twelve hours after this declaration, Hamas accepted the cease fire.
On January 19, a summit in Kuwait takes place. King Abdu, llah Abdullah Ibn Abdel Aziz, laments the Palestinian catastrophe and vows to give one billion dollars for the reconstruction of Gaza.
A week ago, the western press, all but dropped this story. Access to Gaza is still subject to censorship by the Israeli military. According to Deutche Welle and Arab T.V. the tanks have started to roll out of Gaza. The main hospital in Gaza City, Jerusalem Hospital is in ashes.
Everywhere there are fires.
January 20, 2009 Barrack Obama is inaugurated.
February 15, 2009
For me, Solitude is a victory.
Lagerfeld. Fashion designer.
Hamas leaders are in Egypt, negotiating a truce with Israel. Personally, I think there may be a respite in the conflict, but I do not see peace anywhere in sight.
Hamas wants the release of fifteen thousand of its prisoners in Israeli jails, in exchange for the Gilad Shalit, he was the soldier captured by Hamas almost a year and a half ago. This gave the Israelis the excuse to shut down the crossings which have been strangling the people of Gaza since December 2007.
Two days ago, a Lebanese ship bearing supplies, as well as reporters from al Jazeera, was captured in Egyptian waters and taken to Israel. The supplies never made it to Israel. But, at this point, the story is dead in the western media.
March 3, 2009
Mrs. Clinton, speaking in Sharm al Sheikh, Egypt, declared the following: The US and the European community will award two point six billion dollars to the PLO, headed by Abbass. Hamas was not even present at the meeting. Al-Jazeera stressed that Mrs. Clinton did not want the money to fall into the “wrong” hands. What justice is there in handing over the money for the destitute Gaza people to an entity, they will not even speak to?
This is truly absurd. Meanwhile, the Rafah crossing remains closed...
*Sharm al Sheikh is the most luxurious resort in Egypt.
December 27, 28, and 29, 2008
At last the American media takes note of the Gaza situation. The reason, a tank invasion, supported by air, from Israel, in which three hundred of the “terrorist” Gaza inhabitants, are
killed. The Univ. of Gaza has been flattened. There are one thousand people injured. And, yet, CNN and the spokesman for the White House, claims that the Israelis are defending their right
to exist because of the rocket attacks coming from the Gaza strip.
There is no mention of the long siege which has been going on since last January. What we have here, is the media taking up the story at the very end, only because Israeli incursions of the Gaza strip, are newsworthy. A viewer, asks on C-Span, asks “why do we support an occupation?”
meaning the United States...
Needless to say, the fact that the rockets killed less than ten people over the last twelve months, is totally irrelevant.
Ban Ki Moon, U.N. Secretary General, asks today, Dec. 29, that a cease fire take effect mmediately and the all parties involved, should sit down and talk.
Sixty trucks, sponsored by the U.N. have been allowed to enter Gaza, after the bombings.
It is interesting to note, that, according to an U.N. spokesman on C-Span, half the population of Gaza are children. Yet their homes are being targeted.
The US maintains that the air strikes by the Israelies are necessary to stop the rocket attacks. This is also the Israeli point of view.
DeutchWells, a German cable station, showed photo footage of a donkey cart with two little girls, sisters, who had been killed by an air missile. The headquarters of the Hamas Prime Minister has been destroyed, as well.
This is the fourth day of the Israeli air strikes. This is the first day that a Palestinian, Hanan Ashrawi, was interviewed. I cannot excel or add to what she said. But. She did put it eloquently: This is a massacre, in which hundreds of Palestinians are dying “quietly and invisibly.”
In Egypt, Mubarak, refuses to open the Rafah crossing, until “Hamas and Fatah” reconcile.
Gaza is being bombed by F16’s. Now that Israel has run out of air targets, it is preparing for a land invasion.
Jan. 4, 2009
According to Karl Penhaul of CNN (they are finally reporting the story) tells us that there are thousands of tons of medical supplies trying to get into Gaza, but the crossing has been closed by the Egyptians. The old story of the siege, but now, that ground troops have gone in and have
massacred, Palestinians, by ground, air, sea and helicopter fire, the need for medical supplies, is urgent. Urgent. 500 people killed and over three thousand wounded. And they are just lying there, in so called hospitals, devoid of windows, equipment, medical goods and even staff and
ambulances to carry them to the Rafah border. It sounds like “take no wounded”, does it not? What is also astounding, is that the American press has been forbidden, on this tenth day of this genocidal military campaign by Israel against the Palestinians, to enter and report from
within Gaza. They including Nic Roberston. All located in Israel, or on the Israeli border with Gaza. Whatever happened to the bravura of the war correspondent? Why are they so passive? Therefore, essentially, we are just getting the Israeli Defense Forces account of the conflict.
We hear one or another Israeli consul, such as Reda Mansour repeat the refrain that Israel is defending itself. And of course the American viewer, swallows it up. Yes there is an occasional Arab voice, mostly the PLO. but have we heard the Hamas point of view, or should their voice
in a free media, be stifled?
Don Lemon, of CNN is trying to show both sided. He is the exception to all this. Don Lemon asked on CNN, on Jan. 4. can the Arab media be neutral of the objective? Obviously if one’s fellow Arab or Muslim is dying slowly in the Gaza ghetto, it would be an almost unethical, to by the neutral, if you are an Arab reported, such as myself. But, its a good question. It must be remembered, that before cable television, that is about 1990, Arab T.V. was not only state run
but state owned. Al-Jazeera is not owned by Qafar, but more important, these newscasters are like prisoners who have their freedom they can show anything, instantly, and even sneak in footage by their executives. This is a far cry from the 1967 and 73 wars, when no camera held
by Arabs, were allowed on the front.
Having said that, I would like to point out that Don Lemon, by using the internet, succeeded in getting Palestinians in Gaza to appear on CNN. Hamas did not make enough use of its Gaza T.V. Ramattan, but it did dramatize just by being on CNN, the bombings which one could see
throughout the airings. And, Dr. Mansour, the U.N. Palestinian Ambassador, never lost his cool, during three appearances. This in itself, is a coup. Formerly Palestinian spokespeople, usually
foamed at the mouth in anger, when they were confronted by Israelis or the American media. Arafat, was no exception.
Monday, Jan. 5, 2009
Tenth day of the Israeli assault on the Gaza ghetto. The Rafah crossing, according to CNN, remains closed, in spite of the fact that there is a convoy of trucks with supplies, waiting in a long line at the entrance of the crossing. Shameful.
Meanwhile the death toll mounts...
The Background of the Gaza Conflict
January 23, 2008
The Gaza crossing at Rafah, the southern tip of the strip, is a barrier. A security gate divides Egypt from the Palestinians. On January 23, hungry Palestinians broke the gate, with the help of the Hamas strongmen and were able to buy provisions in Rafah. The Egyptians welcomed them. this barrier has
existed since 1967. There are one and a half million people in Gaza, of which it is reported by Nile T.V.-
seven hundred thousand crossed Rafah. The entire Gaza strip belonged to Egypt but was lost in the 1967 War. The Palestinians who live there now, live in ghetto conditions. Since January 23, the State Department, at the insistence of Secretary Rice, pressured Egypt to secure the crossing and by January 26, the wall, which had come down, was rebuilt.
Opening of the Berlin Film Festival
February 7, 2008,
Amongst the films competing, is a documentary on Abou Ghraib. "Standard Operating Procedure" will be, I think, the likely winner. On the jury, that superb film director, Constantine Costa Gavras.
February 11, 2008
The assasination of Emad Mughniyeh
To wear or not to wear the veil: Turkey. Turkish parliment has caved in and issued a decree allowing women to wear the hijab in the universities. Is this a triumph for the extremists? Probably. The Islamization of Turkey, can be measured by the role of it's women. It was once the most secular in the Muslim world. However, Turkey has an interest in joining the European union. Will that interest prevail? On June 5th, 2008, the Turkish Constitutional Court reversed the Parlimenlary decision of February 11, 2008 thus banning women from wearing the veii in universities. Emad Mughniyeh, perceived as a well known terrorist with a bounty on his head, was a Palestinian. In the eighties, he was active in the P.L.O. In countries other than the U.S. he is described and thought of as a commander of the Hizbollah army.
February 14, 2008 Today he was given a state funeral in Beirut, Lebanon.
February 25, 2008
Mughniyeh who was considered the top military commander of Hizbollah, continues to be mourned as a
martyr. His death may trigger another war in Southern Lebanon. Hizbollah's Hassan Nasrallah has vowed
to avenge the murder of Emad Mughniyeh. Meanwhile, a new wall has been blocking Northern Gaza. Today, a human chain consisting of women and children formed a fifly kilometer barrier leading to the northern barrier, as a protest. People are starting to die on a daily basis for lack of basic amenities. This is indeed a ghetto.
Dubai T.V. The image of the crushed and bloody skull of a six month baby whose home was destroyed by an air attack on Gaza City. This is what millions of Arab viewers see, nightly, or at various intervals in the day.
February 29, 2008
An Egyptian Parliamentary group visited congress on March to consolidate the US-Egyptian relationship.
However, the speaker, Dr. Fathi Serour, denounced the Israeli massacre in Gaza and noted that it threatened Egyptian security as well. A similar group of high level foreign ministers in Cairo, denounced the situation in Gaza.
Eighth month siege of Gaza
The negotiations at Annapolis have broken down because Abbas has been quoted to say to Fox News, that the Palestinian people are being annihilated. It has been eight months since the siege of Gaza.
May 1, 2008
According to the BBC, the situation in Gaza is intolerable. Sanitation and gas are in total state of collapse. Seventy one percent of the children are suffering from malnutrition. People have run out of shoes.
To the Arabs, this is the anniversary of the nakba, or catastrophe; the day they remember as that in which
they were expelled from their homes in Palestine. Some fled to other Arab countries, others, remain, till today in refugee camps in Lebanon, Iraq, Jordan. They are still waiting for the right to return to their lands which they lost in 1948. As long as they remain in this state, they will back Harnas, and continue to resist Israel. There are four thousand Christian Palestinians living in Gaza. Today, Desmond Tutu, the South Africian Bishop, has denounced the treatment by Israel of the Gaza strip.
Note: The writer visited Rafah and the Palestinian side of Gaza in 1999. It was then densely populated
but had no shortages of any kind.
July 30, 2008
The Wearing of the veil, at the heart of Turkish politics
Recently, the Turkish Constitutional Courts ruled against a parlimentary decision to ban the wearing of veil in Turkish universities. The western reader may be suprised to learn that Turkey has had a secular constitution since 1923, and considers its system of government democratic, along western lines. In other words Turkey is still a western style democracy. But, the prime minister heads an Islamic party called Justice and development (or AK) and this party put him in power. Over the past months the decision to wear the veil in the universities, put the country in a constitutional crisis. Today, July 30, 2008, Arab news carried the verdict of the court on the matter; the party of Islamists would not be banned but it would be fined for its undemocratic misconduct. Isn't that wonderful! The court, which is comprised of eleven members which includes one woman, had a split decision, sevon to one.
What is of great interest is what happens next. Will women be allowed to wear the veil in the universites or will the ban stick?
It should be apparent that according to Sharia law, women must be veiled. But in a "democratic country," Sharia law does not apply.
The wearing of the veil is at the heart of women's right in Arab society.
November 11, 2008,
The Fourth Annivesary of the death of the Palestinian leader Yasir Arafat
A Hamas spokesman said today that Arafat had been murdered. This is general wisdom.
It must not be forgotten that, he too, died in a state of siege. Like the present day inhabitants of Gaza, he was not allowed to leave his compound in Ramallah until he was dying and flown to Paris.
Having known him, albeit briefly (a three hour interview,) I do not believe that the current divisions between Fatah and Hamas, would have taken place if he were alive.
His photograph is everywhere in the Palestinian territories.
He was vilified by the American pundits for not making peace at Camp David. The one issue he could not sign off on, was the issue of Jerusalem.
Today, Jerusalem is still a divided city. East Jerusalem is considered by the Palestinians to be their capital, the capital of a future Palestinian state. It remains to be seen whether president elect Barack Obama will honor the sovereignty o fEast Jerusalem or allow the eastern part to be annexed by the Israelis, a fact which is taking place as I write. Much also depends on the elections of a mayor in Jerusalem. If the orthodox right wing candidate wins, then the role of the United States becomes more difficult. George Bush outsourced the Israeli-Palestinian dispute to Sharon, whom he knew personally. One wonders what Barack Obama will do. I have not the slightest notion.
Meanwhile in Gaza, last night, Nov. 10, the Israelis let the power plant shut down for lack of fuel, they supply. The breakdown of an infrastructure in Gaza and the inability of Egypt to open the Rafah crossing means that Gaza may soon be flooded in its own sewage.
On Nov. 3, 2008, Arab leaders sat at the UN in New York, listening silently and respectfully, about peace with the Palestinians, spoken by Shimon Perez.
The UN has shut down all its activities in Gaza, because it cannot use the crossings to and from Israel, which allow it to provide food.
Dec. 1, 2008
According to al-Jazeera, a Libyan vessel, the first Arab vessel of its kind, was intercepted while trying to reach the port of Gaza. It was loaded with three tons of food and medical supplies. This was the fourth time that ships, trying to reach Gaza, failed because of the Israeli siege. The sea was being used as an alternative to the crossings.
The American media, understandably does not report this story. I think any American journalist runs the risk of harm if he were to remain in Gaza. However, it is possible to report a story via a different network. This is not happening. Unless I am wrong, you never hear what is happening to the people of Gaza, from ABC, NBC, or CBS. Even CNN has avoided it.
The Terror in Mumbay
Dec. 2, 2008
The massacre in India is sad. But to blame Pakistanis is a bit far fetched. After all, there are Hindus who feel that foreign occupation and western interests are undesirable. That is why the Indians kicked out the British.
Asif al Zardari, who is the husband of the murdered Pakistani leader, agrees that the perpetrators of the Mumbay attacks are stateless actors. In other words, Islamic extremists.
Islamic extremism will continue to exercise violence in any country in the world. Islam is their state.
Image of the Muslims–Pakistan
A Critique of Albert Brooks’ “Looking for Comedy in the Muslim World.”
Oct. 31, 2008
This film (2007) is a product of the American perception of the Islamic world and its culture. The movie is being aired on HBO at certain intervals. Not recommended. First, it is an insult to comedy.
It is not funny. Moreover, the plot is so moronic, that I am at a loss for words to describe it. Briefly, Brooks plays an actor who is commissioned by a congressman or such some person, to go to Pakistan and do a five hundred page research into “what makes these people laugh.” The assumption being that this is a mystery, which deserves a congressional investigation. Needless to say, Brooks gets nowhere when he gets to Pakistan. However, he finds a hall, sets up a stage and proceeds to put on a stand-up, one man show.
Stand up comedy is vaudeville, and of course the Pakistani audience which has been hastily gathered for him, is not impressed. He transports his comedy to a terrorist camp and even they laugh out of politeness. Aside from all this, the premise of the film is totally unresearched. The Pakistanis have a long tradition of tragedy and comedy. There is something, almost nauseous about the theory that Muslims laugh at different things than Westerners.
Arab, Hindu, and Urdu speaking peoples have been laughing at Charlie Chaplin(in the twenties,) Laurel and Hardy in the fifties and everyone else in American movies ever since. As a matter of fact, even before Pakistan emerged as an independent nation in 1947, there existed a long standing Hindu tradition of theatrical performance. In the 1830’s, Nandakumar Ray wrote social drama, and in 1852 Taracharan Shikdar wrote a comedy dealing with Hindu folkloric themes, drawn from the Mahabharata. It is true that there is no theatrical companies(last time I checked) in present day Pakistan. But comedy and social satires are produced for the radio and cinema, both of which continue to flourish in Pakistan.
Since the writer of this piece does not speak Urdu or Bengali (the two major languages in Pakistan,) I cannot comment on the television or live performances from afar. This is what Richard Brooks should have done. Another obvious place to look for Muslim or Pakistani comedy(in this instance,) lies in the work of its playwrights. In Pakistan, some of the most notable, modern names are Naral Momen (social satire,) A.N.M. Bazlur, Rachid Bagchi, Shawkat and Syed Waliullah(b. 1922–) and K. Mitra (b. 1938)
Let us hope that western style comedy will continue to exist and flourish in spite of this dreadful film by Alfred Brook.
The Egyptian Cinema
Sept 1, 2008
“The Yacoubian Building” with Adel Iman and Nour el Cherif, screenplay by Wahid Hamdi, was produced in 2006. It shows the political issues confronting Egyptian society, mainly the pull between the extremists and the secular elements represented in this film by two very, very corrupt parliamentarians. Some of the customary themes in socially critical films are present here. The torture of a young man, who is not a zealot but becomes one when he is arrested after taking part in a demonstration opposing the government. (Needless to say, Mubarak is never mentioned by name.) During the graphic torture sequence, he is raped and this leads him to a Qaeda style training camp where he becomes a terrorist. His mission is to assassinate a senior member of the
interior ministry, which he does. During that violent sequence (Egyptian movies have always banned extreme violence), he realizes as he dies during the assassination, that the man, his target, was also the man who tortured him. Of interest here is that the screenplay obviously favors the so-called terrorist, anti-establishment, young assassin and not the nterrogator, who also happens to be a high ranking political figure of enormous wealth.
But there are many strands to this firm, interwoven around the leitmotif of a beautiful building, the Yacoubian Building, which was once a majestic and luxurious piece of real estate in spite of its present decadence and sluminess. The symbolism is too obvious, but let me underline it: the once beautiful building is a symbol of Egypt, which, now has like this turn of the century baroque, Parisian like apartment house, become a slum tenement. Egyptian audiences would not fail to see this parallelism, but what is fascinating is the fact that the censors allowed the film to be shown with this savage critiques of the political life of the Egypt of 2006.
The political dissent, the corruption of the two Parliamentarians, one of whom is a tenant of the building who deals in drugs a with an auto agency as a front, while the other shakes him down
for fifty percent of the profits is not the only aspect of the Yacoubian Building which makes it a
The abortion subject was and will continue to be a theme in Egyptian cinema (it was first introduced by Yussef Idris, the novelist in his novel, al-Haram) and later made into a movie with the famous Faten Hamama, as the peasant woman who tries to self-abort. But in this film the abortion theme is treated quite differently, albeit realistically. One of the Parliamentarians has two wives and two households. This is accepted, in the films treatment of polygamy. But, when the second wife gets pregnant, he advises her to have an abortion. She refuses. As the plot unravels, the woman is abducted in the middle of the night by three maids dressed in black, reminiscent of village midwives in Egypt, and taken away where she is forcibly aborted of her baby. She wakes up in a hospital room, where her brother accepts the terms imposed by her husband. She has been divorced but she can keep her furniture and she must exit from his life. The woman to whom all of this is done has no choice, because her brother has decided to accept the terms. Religious practice and tradition do not allow her to protest, only to weep. The parliamentarian gives her brother the tidy sum of twenty thousand pounds, a severance pay of sorts; Islamic sharia allocates custody, but alimony is given only when there are children.
A strong theme, hitherto, unexplored, to the best of my recollection, in this film is that of homosexuality. One of the tenants of the Yacoubian Building, the son of the original owner, is gay and he has sex with the hired help. The film goes to a certain amount of length in explaining why and how he became a “perverse”. He was neglected by his father and seduced by a male servant while his mother was out at cocktail parties. The character in the film is sympathetic. Normally, this would never happen even in real life. homosexuality is not tolerated, though practiced in Arab society. Needless to say, the gay character is murdered in his bed by a young lover in a scene taken right out of “Sea of Love”, the Al Pacino movie. There is no sympathy in or out of Egyptian films for homosexuality. This is a first!
Yet another colorful character who is associated with this building is a businessman who is a Christian. He is forever making shady deals and is corrupt to the core. He is tall, lean and hungry looking. His interests are only mercenary and he is alienated or outside the political struggles of the other characters. He is portrayed with a great deal of distaste and one cannot help but be reminded that in the new globalized Egypt, it is the Copts who have made the most money in real estate and telecommunications. The actor playing Malak (which means angel) does a superb job and gives a well rounded performance of what would and could have been a caricaturized character.
The main character is played by Adel Iman, Egypt’s number one comic actor and by far the most famous comedian in the Arab world today. He plays the part of Zaki Pacha, also a tenant in the Yacoubian Building, who belongs to the old order of Egyptian society. In other words, he derives his income from his land. Normally this would be a bad character in the sociology of Egyptian cinema, since for years and years the heroes and heroines were down trodden or poor. But here is a very sympathetic Pacha (a term which referring to the landed gentry) who is the main vehicle of social and political criticism in the movie. He hates what Egypt has become so much that he wants to leave it, with his young, secretary mistress. He listens to Edith Piath and frequents the five star hotels and night clubs of Cairo and drinks scotch. This is not your ordinary Egyptian but because Adel Iman has such stature in the Egyptian cinema the character gains credibility.
At the end of the movie there is a twilight shot of an empty street. This street is one of the most well known for its luxurious stores, an Egyptian Fifth Avenue of sorts, where he goes off to leave Egypt for Paris. Never to return. The only hope this film seems to offer is that the decadence of Egyptian society will end only if the state is dismantled and the idealistic Islamic youth take over, even at the cost of bloodshed.
The Yacoubian Building is an extraordinary Egyptian film because of its outspoken, uncensored critique of Mubarak’s Egypt in the current period. Well worth seeing. Catch it on IFC, where it has been aired for the past couple of months.
Remembering Yussef Chahine
July 29, 2008
Filmmaker Yussef Chahine died yesterday, July 28, and was given a state funeral. His work spans sixty years and although he was never given credit in the U.S., his work was well known in Europe. Chahine was a radical, maybe even a leftist. Bab al Hadid, which depicts the Cairo railroad station which brings provincials to Cairo put him on the map because of its Italian style social realism. He was the Roberto Rossellini of the Egyptian cinema. His films Salah al Din and Napolean in Egypt should interest American audiences. His forty films were all critical of the political and social status quo in Egypt. He was virulently anti-American, even though he studied
here for a while.
He was 82.
September 18, 2009
The Egyptian Cinema Bab al-Hadid. 1958. A Retrospective Look.
Recently, Link T.V. showed Bab al-Hadid,or Cairo station. It stars the famous filmmaker, Yussef Chahine and depicts the life and demise of small employees of Cairo station. There is also a cameo role, played by Assad Kelada1 (my very own first cousin) and Hind Rostum… a crafty, skilled actress who usually was cast as femme fatales in Egyptian movies. The film, a landmark in Egyptian film history, also shows the kind of people who come and go through Cairo railroad station – thereby making a social statement.
Chahine, plays the role of a neurotic, sexually repressed newspaper vendor. He is in love with a prostitute (Hind Rostum) who already has a man (Farid Shawki…). In one scene he looks on while she dances to, of all things, a rock band playing in a waiting train car. She is also drinking a Coke. This was the mid-fifties, and Egypt and the Coca Cola culture were at peace. She is in love with a tough guy (Abou-Serih).
As the plot develops, it turns out that the rough going Abou-Serih (Farid Shawki), is a union organizer, trying to form a union for the porters and other workers of the station. He is being met with resistance.
As he organizes the station workers into a union, Serih’s girlfriend gives her wares, a bucket of soft drinks which she sells on the sidewalk to Kennawai (Chahine) for safe keeping. The new laws of Nasser2 prohibit street vendors. Kennawi tells her he will keep her goods for her in his hut. He is hoping she will visit him there, which she agrees to do.
Instead, she sends a girlfriend who Kennawi tries to murder with a knife; he thinks she is Hanouma. His motive in the attempted murder, is unrequited love. Unlike the hero of Hitchcock’s hero in “Psycho,” this character is motivated by old fashioned traditional values. His, is a crime of passion.
Meanwhile, Hanouma, comes back for her bucket and is lured once more by Kennawi, who attempts to butcher her. But by now word is out that Kennawi has gone mad because the girl he had hoped to kill, did not die after all.
Kennawi now grabs Hanouma, attempting to push a knife into her. She fights back and in a suspenseful scene, where we see them roll onto the train tracks, in a life and death struggle, the train approaches, and is stopped at the last minute by the huge crowd which has gathered to watch.
In all this the luckless Kennawi, appears not just psychotic, but pathetic, a quality which is given to the entire performance by Yussef Chahine’s brilliant, Fellinesque depiction of the newspaper vendor.
You could say there is a Fellini like quality, in the vein of La Strada, in this film. The ending however, is purely Egyptian. The police arrive promptly with a van from the lunatic asylum and poor Kennawi is put in a straight jacket. All he wanted, he had told Hanouma, was to marry her and go back home and build a small house in the south of Egypt, where he comes from.
Hanouma is rescued by the tough guy, who works for the unions, and relinquishes her bucket of soft drinks, which she had taken such pleasure in selling from the sidewalk of Bab el-Hadid.
One has to put this film in the context of the Egyptian cinema in order to understand the cinematic innovations It presents us with. Hitherto, the Egyptian cinema had concerned itself with middle class themes dealing with the corruption of the landed aristocracy and their exploitation of the Egyptian poor.
Here, is a film, where the hero is not Abou-Serih, but the demented, former peasant who has come to Cairo to make a living and ends up in dire poverty living, literally in a shack between the train rails.
Urban poverty, the masses of little people who have nowhere to go and no hopes. Strangely symbolic is the sounds and visualization, of those trains at Cairo station, where arrivals and departure, seems as absurd as the dashed dreams of the newspaper vendor, who’s mind cannot accept this brutal environment.
At the end of this life, Chahine was awarded a Lifetime Achievement award, by the jury at the Cannes Film Festival. His films, thanks to the press he received from the newspaper Le Monde, and in particular its resident correspondent in Cairo, Jean Pierre Peroncel Hugoz – were well known and often seen in Parisian film theaters.
But he was never invited to Hollywood, nor were his films ever shown, to this day in the American professional film circuit.
The reason? There are many. Oddly enough he had received his training in acting at the Pasadena Playhouse in California. But they had not won his heart and mind. He was the most anti-American person I ever in Egypt in the sixties, seventies and eighties. And he remained so, until his death.
As a film director, his contribution to Hollywood is invaluable in that he discovered two leading figures. One: my cousin Assad Kelada who produced hundreds of soaps, Including “Who’s the Boss?” and who owes everything to Joe Chahine and the other is Omar al-Sherif.
Today, people have forgotten Omar al-Sherif. He is the actor who played the Arab, or Bedouin prince of al Harith in Lawrence of Arabia, directed by David Lean.
But these are small contributions. It remains, now, for Hollywood to discover the films of this Arab film director.
Maybe if these films are shown, albeit on cable television, they will help to bridge the chasm between Arab and American culture.
1 Kelada later became a T.V. director in the United States and is better known as one of the creators of “Who’s the Boss?”
2 Gamal Abdel Nasser became president in Egypt 1952
A Tribute to Hillary Clinton
Is Feminism Dead?
June 6, 2008
I hope not. However, the demise of the Hillary Clinton campaign for the democratic nomination, has left me pessimistic. She won almost eighteen million votes, against the overwhelming support for Barack Obama. Yet, the media would not let her be. MSNBC, did hate her, especially Chuck Todd, who kept deflating her wins in Pennsylvania, Texas etc., with his “accounting.” Just look a the math he kept saying… I believe that the media is the messenger. People who might have voted for her, particularly the delegates sensed that she did not have the support of the pundits… and why not? Because they just did not like her! That translates to sexism and even misogyny… But these words have been banned from the lexicon of the campaign… and she stuck to the “issues.” But for many women the real issue, is and was; can we accept a strong woman as the leader of the free world?
We all know that answer. I was also struck by the lack of loyalty amongst women who had served under the Clinton administration, and who would not stand up for her, such as Didi Myers. I rarely heard a good word spoken on her behalf, while she pressed on, winning the popular vote. I got the impression, (I am an outsider) that her party really did not want her. Ted Kennedy, for instance and even Nancy Pelosi.
Clinton was and is a woman who had the qualities of a statesman. She was always in control, and always rational and convincing. Her presence in the White House would have made a difference, not only in the U.S. but in the world. Women might suddenly have become “hot” or “in.” Women’s issues would have come to the forefront. Other world leaders, would have worked on their “women problems” if only to appease the U.S. Just her presence, as a president, would have encouraged other countries to treat their women differently. But it is too late for all that. Still, we need to remember that feminism gained many rights for women, because of the leadership of the outstanding women who lead it such as Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Susan B. Anthony, Carrie Chapman, and the great Emma Goldman who advocated birth control and was imprisoned several times for “inciting riots.”
In the ‘40’s, there were great feminists such as Eleanor Roosevelt. In the ‘50’s Indira Ghandi, and in the ‘60’s Betty Friedan, and of course, the great Gloria Steinem. Even Mrs. Jihane al-Sadat, in Egypt in the ‘70’s, was hunted down in the media by a sneering press, (a la Chuck Todd) and by zealous preachers, who didn’t think she should be doing whatever it was she was doing. And what was that? Fighting for women’s rights, in the framework of Islamic Sharia.
Finally, one must not forget Simone de Beauvoire. I often wonder, would the movement have taken off after World War II if she had not written “The Second Sex.”
In brief, a woman president like Hillary Clinton would have been the flowering of a movement and, indeed a revolution, which started in the mid 1800’s, in England. “The Vindication Of The Rights Of Women” by John Suart Mills is the little book which gave us equality in Western Society.
The real change in American society, the real difference, would have come about eventually, as a woman of the caliber of Hillary Clinton would have started to reach out to the world, as a woman.
Not as a man.
Nov. 9, 2007
Turmoil in the Egyptian Press
Ten journalists and editors from the "free newspapers" of Egypt, have been arrested. They are now in jail. This so called press, is composed of the non-governmental, or owned press. One week ago, a fatwa was issued by the Sheikh of al Azhar, the chief cleric of Egypt condemning them to be flogged. Their crime? Criticizing Mubarak. However, the fatwa was withdrawn because of the uproar it created in all the press. It may be worth mentioning that, in Egypt, today, emergency laws still are in place. Unlike Musharraf of Pakistan, who has promised to lift martial law, no such promises have been made by Mubarak, who is also grooming his own son for the presidency.
In addition to all this, there is a new battle ensuing over the elections of President and board members, of the Egyptian Press Syndicate or union. The government sponsored President of the Syndicate, Makram Mohammed Ahmed, has held the position for over seven years. He is not only the editor of al-Musawar, Egypt's most important weekly, but he is the administrator of a journalistic empire, Dar al Hilal, from which many publications appear, not just newspapers and magazines, but books.
I interviewed him in the late eighties (see Middle East Journal, pl115) and I found him to be extremely knowledgeable and professional. One could compare him to the publisher of say, the New York Times or the managing director of the Washington Post. He is a corporation.
The reason I sought him out was to learn if I could get his assistance on my work for my forthcoming book, and also to find out, why an assassination attempt by Muslim extremists in Cairo had been made against him.
The interview speaks for itself. He was forthcoming and eloquent. A professional's professional.
"I criticize the government when it is necessary, and I applaud them when they do something good," he said in a recent interview in Cairo.
On the other side of the spectrum, and running against him are two journalists, one of whom I happen to know quite well. He is Mohammed Abdel Kuddous, who I believe worked in a government newspaper. That paper is the famous "Al-Akhbar." But Mohammed, is now opposing Makram Mohammed Ahmed, on the platform of the Muslim Brotherhood, of which he has been a member for many years.
The reader not familiar with the Egyptian press, might be interested to know that Mohammed is the son of a very reputably and highly respected secular novelist and journalist, Ihasn Abdel Huddous (for more information on this fascinating literary figure (see my interview in Middle East Journal p67, amongst others.) I find it difficult to write objectively about the father of Mohammed Abdel Kaddous, because he was a very close, personal friend. Al Kaddous, has written three hundred short stories (dealing with social issues, especially women's issues in Arab society,) thirty novels and as a journalist, he has been jailed four times for criticizing Nasser.
(This material is available in an unpublished interview.) At the end of a three hour interview*, Ihsan took me to my car, while holding the hand of his grandson. When I asked him about his famous son Mohammed, he said "My sons bear no resemblance to me. They have grown apart from me."
Mohammed Abdel Kuddous, therefore, has an illustrious journalistic background. Why did he turn to Muslim extremism? That is a question that needs his answer. In addition to having this gigantic figure that is Ihsan Abdel Kuddous, Mohammed is the grandchild of Rose-al-Yussef. A Lebenese lady (they say of Christian origin) who was an actress at the beginning of the 20th century, working mostly in roaming Lebanese companies, and then on the Egyptian stage. When she married, her husband, Mohammed, she converted to Islam. But the moist important thing about this marriage was the establishment of a weekly political magazine, named after her: "Rose al-Yussef." It still exists today. It is a liberal, even leftist weekly, akin maybe to the American magazine "The Nation."
The changes in this illustrious, intellectual family from secular to ultra religious, mirror the fluctuations and the moves of Egyptian society in the last sixty years or so.
Whatever the outcome of the elections, one should pay close attention to them, as an indicator of what is really happening on the countries which are friendly to the U.S.
Nov. 19, 2007
Makram Mohammed Ahmed, was elected as President of the Egyptian Press Syndicate
Dec. 27, 2007
The Assassination of Benazir Bhutto.
This woman was the most important figure of the 21st century. I followed her career since the seventies, and, like many Arab and Muslim woman- I admired her tremendously. I mourn her loss. It as if I had lost a very dear, personal friend. Benazir Bhutto will never come again. She was a tragic figure without tragic flaws.
The tragic error which she commited was to return to Pakistan in the aftermath in the world of Islam after 9-11. It was hopelessly naïve, even infantile, of her U.S. backers to believe that Musharraf would accept to share power with a woman. She had to be disposed of. The United States had to have a message sent to it. The message was received.
More to come.
Nov. 11, 2007
Remembering Yassir Arafat.
In the sixties, seventies and eighties, the U.S. considered Arafat's organization Fatah, a terrorist group. No more. The only thing that has changed is the substitution of the name Hamas for Fatah.
*Middle East Journal, Vantage Press: New York, 2002
Image of the Arabs
I am no Edward Said. However, he did leave a gap, which has not been filled by Arab writers in the U.S. That chasm, concerns his passion for changing the image of Arabs and Muslims in the media.
"The Entertainer" -A Political Play.
Very few people will remember this play by John Osborne, the British playwright of the 50's and 60's.
John Osborne, (not to be confused with Robert Osborne, the T.V. commentator), revolutionized the British theatre by introducing working class themes and anti-heros, into his plays. He also gave a platform to such actors, as Alan Bates, Albert Finney, Joan Plowright and David Jacobi. The film version of the "Entertainer", which deals with the decline of the music hall business, (a revered type of theatre until the advent of T.V.) in Britain. The main character of the play is Archie Rice, who is not only declining, but who also is devastated by the loss of his son in the Arab-Israeli war of 1956, which the British love to call, the Suez Campaign. In that war, Israel, together wit England and France, invaded Egypt to dethrone the unpopular dictator, Gamal Abdel Nasser. But let me not stray too far from the play.
The background of this drama is the Suez war and there are several political commentaries throughout the play denouncing Britain's involvement in the war, and the death of the young men of Britain who got entangled there. The death of Archie Rice's son does not prevent him from going on stage. However, it is clear, at the end, that Britain is as washed out as the music hall hero of the play.
But what is mind boggling is that AT NO TIME, IS THERE ANY REFERENCE TO Egypt or the Arabs who are responsible for the death of Archie's son.
Not one single, anti-Egyptian or Arab comment is made in the play or the movie version, with Lawrence Olivier.
The blame is laid entirely at the feet of Anthony Eden, the British Prime Minister who believed,like Tony Blair, that he was doing the "right thing". It is amazing and so refreshing to watch the West blame itself for a debacle in the middle east. Nasser remained in power. The Suez canal was returned to Egypt, or "nationalized" and with pressure from Eisenhower himself, the Suez canal "campaign" ended in a few months with a total withdrawal of all western troops. That was in 1956 and the play is still relevant.
June 5 -The Forty Year Catastrophe
I still remember June 5. The memory is vivid with pain. It was the day that the Israeli army, in a surprise attack, destroyed the Egyptian air force, before the pilots even had a chance to get into their planes. Without air cover, the army was destroyed as it moved into the Sinai, unable to stop the advancing Israeli tanks. The "NAKSA", left and still leaves an indelible mark on Egyptians of my generation. I wrote extensively about that experience in my book, "A Bridge Through Time". There is a very, detailed and emotional account in that memoir.
And now, looking back, did this spectacular victory for the Israelis bring peace? They delude themselves, if they think it did. The so-called "terrorism" is fueled by the Palestinian problem, which continues to fester, as can be seen in the fighting in Lebanon, in the Nahr a1 Bared and Ein Helw refugee camps and in Gaza. What is the solution? Imposing sanctions on Israel? But, maybe it is too late even for that. It is noteworthy that Islamic extremism is one of the results of this naksa or catastrophe.
Democracy in Egypt. June 13,2007
Parliamentary Elections in Egypt. The elections in Cairo for the upper House of the parliament, are being boycotted by all the opposition parties, according to al-Jazeera. Moreover the Muslim Brotherhood, which was the most active opposition thus far, has been paralyzed by "security measures". The winners it would seem are the government controlled al-Hizb al-Watani.
Blood in Gaza
On June 14, 2007, the Government's Nationalist party won the Shura elections. "Al' Islam intasser bil dam", cried a Hamas fighter. He was on his knees, flaunting his machine gun. The image appeared on ITN T.V., a British channel. The victory of Hamas in Gaza, and it's takeover of Rafah (which is almost a part of Egypt) signals not the triumph of terrorists, but the malaise in the Islamic world with the political status quo. Fatah was the established governing party of the Palestinians, and they are clearly unhappy with it, as they indicated in their vote in January 2006.
Only Arafat could have prevented this violence. But now, in my opinion, the U.S. and Israel will be obliged to deal with the Islamicists in the Palestinian territories.
Article appearing in New Haven Register, on May 17, 2004 about the abuses at Abu Ghraib, in Iraq.
The New Klu Klux Klan
June 18, 2004
A few weeks ago, my letter on the prison abuse scandal was published by the Registrer, as "Jailors knew exactly how to degrade Arabs". I was astonished to receive an anonymous letter with theses words scrawled on a photocopy of the article...
"Any hatred was earned by the ignorant hateful murderers of 3000 innocent people 9/11. As an American who has a family member in service of MY country, I don't worry about their so called culture if it saves just ONE American Soldiers life. It was NOT a criminal act to a SUB-culture, a culture not needed in America".
The writer chose to remain anonymous like the Klu Klux Klan, so this viturperative hatred is shouted in anonymity, just like the racial hatred directed towards the blacks in the 50's was. There were 60 nations that suffered loses in the 9/11 attacks, including Muslims. Amerincan lives are precious but so are German lives, French lives, Congolese lives, and Arab lives. There is no qualitive difference. Sadly, instead of trying to learn more and understand the culture of Islam that has become so integral to life in the U.S., some bigots will behave irrationally and allow hatred to dominate their perceptions.
I like to think that in Guilford and the greater New Haven area, they are few and far between.
Dr. Laila Abou-Saif
The Barbie Doll Syndrom in Arab Society
The Republicans are wrong: “the dark clouds of oppression have not been lifted from over 50 million people in Afghanistan and Iraq.” Americans should know that occupation is the worst form of oppression and these countries as well as Palestine, are occupied. And they don’t want that, as the recent violence in Iraq has shown. I remember occupation well. My own country was occupied by both the French and the British in the past century. But there is something else missing from all of this rhetoric about America introducing freedom in the Arab world.
Freedom in the western sense can never be acceptable in Muslim religious societies because of the prevalence of family status law, or personal status law, which governs all matters relating to the family, such as divorce, child custody, women’s rights and inheritance.
Islamic law is the basis of the personal status law, which allows polygamy, arbitrary divorce by the male and automatic custody to the male of children over the age of seven. Furthermore, in Iraq, Iraqi women were denied passports. Why? Because the family status law prohibits a woman from traveling without the consent of a male guardian. This fact was reported as late as August 9th on one of the Iraqi satellite TV.
Can this situation change? Obviously not, especially now with the ascendancy of Muslim clerics in Iraqi government. Recently they ordered the removal of Barbie dolls from the store shelves. Why? Because Barbie is "unveiled."
January 24, 2007
FILM REVIEW: "Babel"-The Best Film on Terrorism, thus far.
"Babel" is perhaps the only film coming out of Hollywood which attempts to portray the multi ethnic perspectives to terrorism.
A tour guide, Brad Pitt, takes a group to Morocco (usually regarded as a safe country) and whilst there a child, with a Winchester rifle given to him by Japanese, accidentally shoots the guide’s wife, Kate Blanchette. The Moroccan Arabs do everything to help the American couple, even providing a vet to sew up a spinal injury without anesthesia. Food and opiates are also provided by the villages who are not hostile to the Americans. The bus tourists desert the beleaguered couple, but they are finally rescued by a helicopter.
More interesting are the subplots to this incredible film. The scene take place also in Japan where we learn that the rifle which almost killed the American tourist was a gift from a Japanese doctor businessman who gave it to Moroccan, Hassan (played superbly by an Arab actor) in gratitude for his help in hunting jackals and other animals in Morocco.
The decadent life of the Japanese is exemplified in the daughter of the Japanese hunter, who watched her mother, or arrived at the scene of her mother’s suicide. This girl, as the film begins is dumb and suffers from post traumatic stress: she offers her young body to any male she comes across, and she is also high on discos and ecstasy.
This film wants to show the ultimate decadence of the Japanese consumer society patterned after the U.S.
Meanwhile there is a third sub-plot: the Arab family to whom the Winchester had been bequeathed. The Moroccan police who suspect them of being terrorists, torture the father, who runs into the hills to hide his family. The Moroccan police shoot one of his sons, the innocent one, until the guilty son who fired accidentally at the tour bus, gives himself up to the Moroccan police, crying out loud in peasants dialect, “I am the guilty one, my brother did not shoot the tourist” Then he destroys the Winchester.
In a previous scene déjà vu on American TV of Arabs being tortured into confession, the whole family, including a grand father, is beaten by the Moroccan police in order to extract a confession of terrorism. In these shots we sympathize with the Arab family, which is obviously innocent, and whose children have to pay the price of death for a mere shooting accident.
This film is full of symbolism and political parallels. Finally when Brad Pitt and his wife are rescued by helicopter Pitt offers his friend, the Arab tourist guide a handful of dollars. The guide rejects the money; the Arabs were only abiding by their customs of hospitality to strangers.
Now comes the final tour de force of this powerful work of art.
The American couple had left their two young kids in Mexican with their nanny, who had been with them for sixteen years. She decides to drive back with a relative to San Diego. The Border Police stop them, harass them, deprive them of a lawyer, because she is an illegal and force her to return ‘voluntarily’ to Mexico, with nothing to show for her sixteen years, except a handkerchief, containing some of her personal belongings.
This is a great film, thematically and artistically. It deserves more than one viewing, because it contains so many layers about the condition of Western values in these troubled, and prejudiced days against the third world.
The film is directed by Mexican director, Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, and written by Guillermo Arriaga.
On January 15th, 2007 it was awarded the Golden Globe which is the highest award that the foreign press association honors a film with. One last observation, the tower of Bable which was built in Assyria in 550 B.C which is now modern Iraq, is the looming metaphor of this film. But I will let my readers decide for themselves, what the metaphor represents.
The Pet Cemetery of Tucson: For White Dogs Only.
September 1, 2006
In December 2005 my Egyptian Pekingese died suddenly of a heart attack, at the age of 8. I do not believe in creamtion and since the Pekingese was born in Cairo, I am of the opinion it was an Arab.
I was met at the Pet Cemetery by an imposing figure, a portly woman, who proceeded to show me catalogs and prices fora casket. Initially, I was impressed and I chose a casket. She gave me an appointment a few days later.
The cemetery is pleasan and well kept, the tombstone endearing. I was taken to a hole in the ground and made to sit in front of the hole. I never saw a casket because none was brought over. I wondered where my dog was.
What ensued next was loud gibberish and incantations by someone badly in need of acting lessons. St. Francis (in statute form) stood by watching from a distance. I had been advised before the ceremony began that this was a Christian service and only Christian services were performed at that cemetory. I agreed to this.
In the aftermath of the Pope's comments on Islam, this whole, this whole episode came back to me. I asked myself, "Why did I agree to having my dog's burial in a Christian service? Was this absurdity or was this a quintessential fanaticism, a dogmatic interpretation of Christianity carried to its ultimate illogicality?"
Middle East Expert, Journalist
(Laila Abou-Saif has taught acting at the Egyptian Institute for the Theatre from 1971-1982)
January 4th, 2007
"The Death and Execution of Saddam Hussein"
One is at a loss for words to describe the gruesome lynching of an Arab leader on worldwide television. Ironically, Saddam Hussein's abusive death made his point; that sectarian conflict must be eliminated at all cost even with the use of violence. What we saw at the gallows where he was executed, were Shiia followers of the Cleric Sadr who hurled insults at the President of Iraq, as the noose hung around his neck. This a scene which has been condemned by leaders all over the world.
The article entitled "Muslim Extremism and Iraq" which was written in October 2003 seems pertinent at this stage.
October 6, 2006
"The Road to 9/11": The Image of Arabs in Network Media.
There are many artistic and cultural faux pax in this series aired on Sept. 11, 2006 by ABC. So many, in fact, that the series is a muddle of wrong dialects, wrong accents and miscast actors, as well as bad research.
For instance, in Part 1, Mohammad Ata presents a passport to U.S. immigration, with his name printed in English as Mohammad Ata. That's fine, but all Egyptian passports have three names on them, the person, his father and his grandfather. So, was this a valid passport or did U.S. immigration think it was?
Another problem is the locations--they all look alike. There are no establishing shots (establishing the location) so that Pakistan and Afghanistan look identical. A lot of the Arabs or Afghanis or Pakistanis have no distinctive characteristics to identify them. In other words, we cannot distinguish between one nationality and another. They all seem to be screaming holy war all the time.
This stereotyping reflects the filmmaker's naivete. One Muslim is like another.
This hodgepodge of locations and people is exacerbated by the fact that most of the actors speak Arabic. For instance, the actor playing Khaled Sheikh Mohammad is an American actor speaking Arabic with a pathetic Arabic accent. How can this artistic dishonesty be allowed by ABC and its artistic director? Ramzi Yussef, who is, I believe Pakastani, speaks Arabic in a Pakistani village. Very few Pakistanis speak Arabic--they should be speaking Urdu.
Ahmed Shah Massoud of the Northern Alliance would be speaking Afghani not Arabic, as he does in the film. Only the actor playing Al-Zawhri is bonafide Egyptian actor, who speaks the correct language but his characterization is so flat, it does not convince one of the sophistication and zealotry of the Egyptian extremist.
These are but a few of the artisitic mistakes which abound in this series, and which reflect the cultural and political chasm between America and its lack of understanding of the Arab world.
Anger and Revolt in the Muslim World the Victory of Hamas in the Gaza Strip
The victory of Hamas in the Palestinian elections a week ago and the defamation of the Propher Mohammed in cartoons printed in a Danish newspaper, are two events which have caused an upheaval in the Arab world. To the Arabs, Hamas is not a terrorist movement but an Islamic Resistance movement. It poses no threat to Isreal. However, I am sure they will never recognize Isreal.
Hamas, which represents Palastine, an area in the mid-east where there are no state lines, no army, no air force, no boundaries, cannot destroy Isreal. The Isrealis know that. Then why the rhetoric? Isreal could not continue to get aid from the West, if it was not at least linguistically...threatened. The World Bank and Mr. Woldenson know that and he is of the opinion that financial aid to the territories should not be cut off. Palestinians in the Diaspora (three hundred and fifty thousand in Lebenese refugee camps, alone, not counting the millions of Pallestinian espatriates scattered all over the world) were not allowed to vote. Had they voted the outcome would have been the same. The Palestinian people have gone back to square one; pre the acceptance by the PLO of UN resolution 242 abd 338 becausethey involved the acceptance of the state of Isreal in its present, post '67 boundaries.
As for the cartoons in the Danish newspapers - they represent the kind of injury to Muslims, which give rise to Hamas in the first place, i.e. in addition to the occupation by the Isreali state. Fox News claims that representing the Prophet in a cartoon is criticized only by the Muslim extremists, such as the Wahabis. What ignorance! Islam prohibits the representation of the human form for the simple reason that it is a monotheistic religeon which in the 6th C.A.D. was trying to combat idolatry. To depiuct the human form is therefore a kin to idolatry; hence the anger which the cartoons place. Pigs are also prohibited for reasons of hygiene.
To show the prophet Mohammed, with the face of a pig, hands raised in prayer, is not journalism - it is blasphemy.
The Israeli-Lebanese Conflict
July 26, 2006
Over three hundreds artists, film people, intellectuals, journalists, actors, and authors have denounced the condemnation of Hisbollah by the Egyptian government. Lebanon is the latest victim of Israeli atrocity and fury. Whoever Hisbollah is or is not, they are Arabs fighting Israeli injustice and occupation. What has transpired in Gaza and Lebanon, this summer, is almost genocide.
As an Arab, I too must protest Egyptian government’s position, and, I add my voice to my fellow Arab thinkers.
"The Role of Women in the Middle East Conflict"
Islamic fundamentalism and Arab nationalism or baath'ism are two sides of the same coin. Arab nationalism arose in the ‘20's as a movement protesting the British occupation of Egypt, Jordan, Palestine, and the French occupation of Tunisia, Algeria, Morocco and Syria. In other words, the Sykes-Picot Agreement.
In 1919 Egyptian women, albeit veiled, demonstrated against the British occupation in the streets. This marks the first time that women participated in political life. Islamic fundamentalism became militant after World War II when the establishment of the State of Israel was sanctioned by the U.N. and the U.S. Briefly, the history of the area in the 20th century is a series of nationalist rebellions against Western occupation but not Western lifestyle. Women played a vital role in this struggle. First, by demanding the right to vote, which by the mid ‘50's was granted, and secondly, by attempting to reform Sharia law which governs the status of the women all over the Islamic and Arab world. For instance, Hoda Chaarawi, the noted Egyptian feminist, struggled to forbid polygamy.
But the political struggle against foreign occupation took first place. For instance in Algeria in the 50’s, women participated in resistance against the French by hiding arms and even using them. This also occurred in Egypt in 1956 when Egyptian women were part of the resistance against the occupation by France, England and Israel. Subsequently, the political role of women in the resistance against foreign occupation increased and women became more visible, as for instance, Leila Khaled, the Palestinian girl who hijacked a plane. Therefore, in spite of their underprivileged position, women in the Arab world, whether veiled or unveiled, became active in resisting foreign occupation.
Undoubtedly, in Iraq, as on the West Bank today, women will emerge as resistance fighters, if they are not already there. What is clearly emerging now in the Middle East conflict and the Iraqi conflict is a new phenomena: the intertwining of Arab nationalism and Islamic fundamentalism as a unified force which opposes any kind of Western occupation. This new situation while it enhances the political role of women but it retards the much needed reforms which would improve the status of women in Arab society, thus making these societies more democratic.
August 24, 2004
Abou-Ghraib: A Theatrical Play
Soheir Fahd is a well known Jordanian actress. She is now touring in Dubai with a play about the prison abuse at Abou Ghraib in Iraq. Recently interviewed on Arab television, she confessed that she could not understand the character she was playing. It is seldom in the theatre that an actress will make such a revelation. A good actress should be able to play any role, however complicated. But the character of Linny England, the female who held an Arab on a dog leash, is dumbfounding, even to an accomplished actress. The director of the play asserted in an interview on the same program that what his play aims to show is that America society, which has so far been so admired in the Arab world, has now, in this prison abuse, shown its real face. The essence of American society is crystallized in that episode. He went on to say, "You can bombard me with a missile, and destroy my home, but you cannot destroy an idea." The idea, meant here, is the evil exhibited in prison under American administration.
The tradition of the touring play is very much a part of the theatrical history of the Arab world. Western culture was introduced to Arab masses in the repertory of 19th C. companies at the turn of the century, when actor managers such as Osman Galal translated and produced plays by Molieres in colloquial Arabic. Shakespeare was also part of the repertory. In a society where illiteracy is very prevalent, the touring company remains a vehicle for the propagation of ideas. In this particular play about Ghraib, unlike in real life, the prisoners are fully clothed because nudity is not allowed on stage in Arab and Muslim cultures. The anti-Americanism is, however, stark.
Public opinion in the Arab world has reached a point of no return.
BECOMING AN ARAB UNDER THE BUSH ADMINISTRATION
I have always thought of myself, and been perceived as a westernized, if not sophisticated, Egyptian. I was educated in British schools and American universities. I spoke English, long before I uttered an Arabic word. I flunked Arabic grammar in junior and high school. Grammar is so complicated that special schools are created to teach it. They are the madrassas.
As a writer and as a feminist, I was critical of Arab society and its treatment of women. I still am. So--has this changed in a flash, suddenly? No, far from it. I, like many Arab Americans, share a pride in being westernized. For a long time, being westernized in the Arab world was analogous to being civilized. Many privileged and non-privileged Arabs prided themselves in having a degree from "abroad". In other words, a western country. Our perception of the West was based . . . on what? Mainly, on the movies. Yes, Hollywood and also on whatever was filtered through in the 50's and 60's, via newspapers, pop music, and again, movies. As Mohammed Galal, a well known Egyptian novelist, told me: "The Arab world has been invaded by Hollywood." (Interview, Middle East Journal, Scribner 1991)
While Gamal Abdel Nasser was preaching Arab socialism, we--rich and poor--were watching Doris Day and John Wayne. The image of America was that it was tough and invincible, but also a place of beauty and luxury. Everything we saw and heard made us dream of going there. One could write volumes about the image that the U.S. projected in those years of the ‘50's and ‘60's. In spite of the cold war that existed between us and the U.S. (the U.S. did not have an embassy in Cairo from 1967 until 1971), that image remained unspoilt. The Americans whom one came into contact with were generous with their dollars. So, everyone loved them. They were not ugly like the Russian "advisors" who flooded the country after 1956 to help us build the Aswan Dam. No one wanted to learn Russian, and a grant from the Soviet Union was always considered inferior to a grant from the U.S. or a European country. Furthermore, and most importantly, the Russian or Soviet experts were considered and perceived to be atheists. And of course, they were. Most Egyptians and Arabs are devout Muslims.
True, they helped us win the 1973 war against Israel, but that was not because of their hardware, that was the will of God.
Personally, in spite of my westernized moulding, I also thought along these lines. Never for a minute did I doubt the political protocol, which made it an unwritten law to resent the creation of the state of Israel, in the midst of so many Arab countries, and to displace the Palestinian people, in so doing.
I still feel that way. Only I was not aware of it, until the attacks on the twin towers on September 11, 2001.
I thought I had transcended all that. In 1987, I became an American citizen and swore allegiance to the American flag, and more importantly, I swore to bear arms to defend the United States against its "enemies." "There's the rub," as Hamlet would say. I never thought that one day the United States would become the bona fide enemy of any Arab country. Yes, we all knew that Israel was supported by the U.S., but there were also theories that the Arab world was just as important to the United States . . . the oil, the Suez canal, and a host of other geopolitical factors. How could we, in the Arab world, anywhere in the Arab world, become enemies with the United States? In fact, we were going closer to it.
In the ‘70's the infitah, or opening up the economy--in other words, globalization, pleased many. In Islam, private property is God given and extolled. So the encouragement of private property was totally acceptable to Arab culture. In the ‘70's, the U.S. could do no wrong. Even after Camp David, or the signing of a peace treaty with Israel, Nixon and after him Carter, paraded in the streets of Cairo in an open motorcade. Could the reader envision Bush parading in open limo in an Arab capital today? I think not. So what happened?
When Sadat was assassinated in 1981 by Jihad, a Muslim Brotherhood organization based in Cairo, people were amazed. Not that he was assassinated for making peace with Israel, but that his American bodyguards had failed to provide him with the necessary protection. Sounds familiar?
There were two corpses that were buried with Sadat in his grave a few days later. Anwar al Sadat was one, the other was the presence of the U.S. in the Arab world. Hizbollah won the war against Israel in Lebanon. Iran became an Islamic state. And the rest is history. Mubarak released the Islamists from jail shortly after jailing them. Free parliamentary elections are held, they gain seats and organize. Hence, the beginning of Islamization of Egyptian society. In 1982 the Sinai was returned to Egypt, but the suffering of the Palestinian people was still omnipresent. After all, Gaza, once an Egyptian province before 1967, was a two-hour drive from Cairo. And there is a fence in Gaza separating Egyptians who live on either side of the Israeli drawn border of 1967 at Rafah.
Meanwhile, in the 80's and 90's, American tourists flood Egypt, bring in dollars. Tourism becomes a staple of Egyptian economy, but what else does the tourist bring? An image of the U.S. which is evidenced by fat, bloated tourists, half-clothed, openly drinking alcohol and kissing in public. The sight of tourists at the pool in a pyramid side hotel run by Movenpick incited a major riot by the conscripts who looked on as they guarded the hotel in 1980. They were earning about five dollars a day. Sounds familiar? But it wasn't the tourist who was really at fault. It was inflation. The privatization of the Egyptian economy strengthened one sector, the private sector, and left the public sector out in the cold. Even university professors (public schools) earned salaries which stemmed from the socialist laws imposed by the days when we had socialism, or to use a familiar analogy, a kind of "Baathism" in Egypt. There was also a construction boom. Overnight millionaires, overnight entrepreneurs. The majority of the people, still dependent on state-controlled prices and stipends, remained poor. Egyptian economy is still an agricultural one and the agricultural workers remain at the mercy of the old agrarian laws. But the government did good things. Roads were built, as well as a new underground system of transportation in Cairo and Alexandria. Hospitals, schools and even shopping malls sprung up. But nothing could catch up with the population boom. A baby is born every 9 seconds in Egypt.
Abortion is illegal, and birth control is not allowed in Islam. Thus, globalization somehow does not seem to keep up with this population explosion. The more the infrastructure improves, the more babies are born, the latter negating the former.
But there was help in sight. The mushrooming mosques that have spread all over the cities and countryside provide health services, i.e., medical services and other social services. They also indoctrinate. Wear the veil, they tell the women. Lead a Muslim life, they tell the men. We will find a solution, in Islam. And so, gradually and almost imperceptibly, the nineties see the transformation of the society I grew in from the easygoing, movie loving, pro-American, secular populace to an Islamicly indoctrinated mass, believing in an Islamic mass culture. And what is that? A pervasive belief that all western manifestations in social life are negative and that the only true life is one in which the principles of Sharia, or Islamic law, are implemented and practiced. Moreover, corruption, rampant in all society, would be vanquished by Islam.
So, you can't wear jeans, head uncovered, smoke a cigarette and walk your dog anymore. It would be almost impossible to describe the transformation. But it had its roots in people's economic predicament. They looked to Islam for solutions. The six or so million Coptic Christians of Egypt also turned inward. They too became fundamentalist. Large crosses dangled from their front mirrors in their cars or donkey carts or on the bosoms of their women. But there was no sectarian strife, as it is called.
I learned how to live in Islamic society and to respect it. I understood why we hated the west and the Americans. It did not bother me, when a conversation was interrupted because someone had to pray. When you live in a Muslim society, and you are not Muslim, at least in my experience, no one bothers you. They feel sorry for you because they believe you have strayed, but there is no violence. The only violence permitted, in the unwritten protocol, is violence against Israel. The Friday sermon, which I could hear either on the radio or TV, or by just sitting on my balcony in Maadi, invariably attacked Israel. In the Arab world that's normal and even I don't question it. To Arabs, and Egyptians are Arabs, Israel is the enemy because it occupies Arab land and murders Palestinian Arabs. It's as simple as that. We too were told, as Bush tells us now, that we need to make "sacrifices," that we have to make economic sacrifices in order to fight the Israeli enemy.
When the attacks of September 11 occurred, I was not taken aback or even surprised. For 20 years, since 1973, Arabs have been building a deep hatred of Israel and of American support for it. To make matters worse, the reaction in the U.S. was such that Arabs were even more shocked. There were stories of arbitrary arrests and even murder of Christians and Muslims. The war in Afghanistan was largely perceived as a war against Muslims, albeit the Taliban were not a favorite in the Arab world. The war by the U.S. government against Iraq has compounded Arab resentment and particularly Muslim resentment, as has been evidenced during the violence in Iraq during Ramadan, as well as the violence most recently in Turkey. And there is more to come.
My reaction to 9-11 was that this was bound to happen. If Arabs celebrated elsewhere, it was not out of hatred of the U.S. as much as the feeling that anger had finally achieved a victory. It was a release of pent up anger. During the enormous coverage in the media, I found myself getting irritated at the mispronunciation of words, and the lack of a proper definition of such basic concepts as Sharia. There was not a single news broadcaster (with the exception of Peter Jennings) who could pronounce an Arabic name with even the slightest resemblance to the original language. Then came the generalizations made by leading media and political figures, which is the equation of "terrorism" with "resistance" to Israeli violence and bombings. All violent actions in the occupied territories were swept away as a "resistance" to terrorism. Particularly irritating was usage of words such as militants, Wahabi, suicide bombers, Muslim extremism, Al Qaeda." These are complicated, historical trends with various layers of meaning. For instance, it was as if the word "freedom" was interpreted as only having one connotation, pornography, and all other meanings were simply obliterated from existence.
The coverage of the Iraqi war, with its embedded reporters, was a travesty, especially to Arabs. Correspondents were simply reporting what the army or the Pentagon was permitting. True, the Iraqis were and remain the enemy, but what about the other side of the coin? Why did al-Jazeera become so popular and flourish? The answer is simple; it showed the events from the Arab viewpoint, mostly. So, what is wrong with that? A lot. Because it is not what the Pentagon wants the American people to see. Imagine if the American viewing public sympathized with the Arabs. When we were fighting Israel in 1967, the Egyptian populace was not allowed to hear any news except that broadcast on a government controlled station, Sawt al Arab, the Voice of the Arabs. Nonetheless, we did manage to turn our radio dials to the Voice of America and the BBC. In America we have a choice.
If I sound frustrated, it's because I am. My Americanism has been compromised. I am not about to wear the veil and return to the Arab world, but I will remain here, hoping that somehow the system, the Constitution, the freedoms that come with the Bill of Rights, and the sagacity and sanity of the legal system will somehow prevail. Maybe, then, the image of the United States will change.
Meanwhile, the American public should not be duped. The "fixing" of Iraq will never take place because the Iraqis will resist to the end, as did the Algerians. They do not want the U.S. on their land or Haliburton drilling their oil
Who will prevail? The Islamists, in my opinion at least. And those include the Sunis, as well as the Shi'ia. The handing over of the sovreignity on June 30 is another cherade.
"Unrest in the Coptic Quarter"
The incident in Jersey City of the slain Coptic family is worthy of comment. It appears that this zealous family of Christian orthodox faith was murdered by equally zealous muslims in Jersey City. The facts, however, have not been established. More than a quarter of a million Christian Coptic families live in Jersey City. They, for the most part, claim to have suffered persecution in Egypt. There is, of course, discrimination against the Copts but is subtle. Copts are not allowed to rise in the bureaucratic heirarchy, or government.
The fact remains, that they are not the only tolerated, but respected in Egypt. The Copts, are the best doctors, lawyers, businessmen, artists, goldsmiths and even diplomats. Kofi Anan's predecessors was a Copt. though Butrus Ghalli did not gain his successors fame.
The last incident within Egypt, where the two faiths clashed in bloodbath was in the late seventies. State Security forces cordoned off the neighborhood and almost all were taken to be "interrogated". The incident was reported in the western press, and under-reported in the Egyptian press. Provoking "sectarian strife" is a felony in Egypt, which carries a lengthy jail snetance.
Although Egypt is an Islamic country, unlike Iran, sharia is not fully implosed. According to Pope Shenoudah, the Patriarch and leader of the 15 million Copts, "if sharia (islamic law) were imposed in Egypt, there would be no secular government. "An imam would rule, " he said to me in an interview. "A muslim cannot be ruled by a anon-muslim, according to sharia, therefore, there would be no Coptic judges, no minister, no teachers. The entire community would have to break off, or become servants." This has not happened in Egypt, yet.
*Middle East Journal, Vantage Press, New York, 2002 p. 151*
"9/11...Six Years After..."
Islam is an idea whose time has come. It is also a faith, with a built in code of law, Sharia. The
invasion of Iraq, Abou Ghraib, the oppression of Palestinians, all have only served to radicalize the
Arab and Muslim world. Most important, is the role of the Arab media, which has been transformed,
during these last six years. Now the Arabs have a voice. And a message, which is loud and clear.
Radical and militant Islam, via satellite T.V. can reach the remotest villages in the rural areas of the
Arab and Islamic world. And the internet? It is the network, which makes jihad possible.
On a personal level, these years have been hard. I include myself, amongst the Arabs, who for
some reason or other, were not able to express their views on this ongoing conflict.
"Sept. 28, 2007"
Four editors in chief of opposition newspapers in Cairo, have been charged with crimes against
the state. What was their crime? They wrote about the failing g health of Hosni Mubarak. That, at
least, is the story, as reported by Al-Arabiya T.V. from Dubai. The White House has criticized this
measure. One of the newspapers is Al-Dustur–The Constitution.
Defense of Egyptian Judges
There exists these days a dispute between the Mubarak regime and certain judges, who have been disbarred for criticizing the elections (NY Time, April 28, 2006.) It is difficult to assess this situation. As an Egyptian, I can safely say there is something pristine about Egyptian judges: they are incorruptible and they ride solely on their reputations. There has never been a scandal concerning a judge’s honesty in my recollection. That is why their dissent is so threatening and fascinating.
In family matters, they apply in their courts, Islamic sharia, and since they are appointed by the state, they are faithful to the party line, that is they will deal harshly with political enemies of the state -- such as Islamic militants. Otherwise, in my experience of the Egyptian courts, as a divorced woman, I can attest to their compassion when applying Islamic shria to the millions of cases which come before them yearly.
This current crisis now, is provocative and puzzling, and may lead to unknown venues. Two judges will face charges in a week. They have not been allowed lawyers, so the case was postponed and the matter now is being hailed by the Egyptian opposition party “Kefaya”, as an indication of the lack of democracy in Egypt.
Here is a translation by a legal translator in Cairo of a court verdict rendered in favor of a woman who was a victim of fraud:
IN THE NAMEO FO THE PEOPLE
CAIRO CRIMINAL COURT
Held in open court, and being set up:
- Under presidency of:
The Hon Justice Mr./Ismail Hamdy
The Court President,
- And in presence of each of:
Mr. Justice/Ramzi Amer
A Court President at Cairo Court of Appeal,
Mr. Justice/Seif El-Nasr Soliman
A Court President at Cairo Court of Appeal,
- Issued the Judgment hereunder:
- In connection with Lawsuit sub no. 3533/1998 (and sub no. 1265/ 1998, Plenary/Mid-Cairo/Kasr El-Nil); filed by Public Prosecution;
1- ADEL NESSEEM ABOU-SEIF (Who appeared before the Court)
2- AWINI GIGIS MATTA (Who appeared before the Court)
3- ADIB YOUSSEF ESKANDER (Who failed to appear before the Court)
4- And Mr./Farid El-Dib, attorney at law; who appeared before the court’ being duly empowered as counsel in defense of the above named FIRST INDICTEE;
Mr./Raga’I Attiya, attorney at law; who appeared before the court’ being duly empowered as counsel in defense of the above named SECOND INDICTEE; and
Mr./Raga’I Attiya, attorney at law; who appeared before the court’ being duly empowered as counsel in defense of the above named THIRD INDICTEE; who failed to attend (by virtue of power of attorney).
Whereas the three above named idictees, through concurrence and assistance – between themselves and a “bona fide” public employee, namely/ MAZHAR SEDKY TAWFIK, a Notary Public at El-Wayli Authentication Office- participated in perpetrating a forgery onto an official deed; i.e. a deed of sale, published under sub no. 627A/1996, El-Waily; by way of foisting a forged item, in such a way as to look as if it were genuine fact; not withstanding their cognizance of such forgery. And this act occurred when the FIRST INDICTEE accompanied two anonymous women, who assumed the identity of each of LAILA NESEEM ABOU-SEIF and BAHIA MICHAEL, respectively; contrary to the true state of affairs; putting their signatures in that capacity before the Notary Public, onto the publicized Deed aforementioned. And the SECOND and THIRD INDICTEES testified to the effect that what had been alleged by the two anonymous women was authentic. And thus the crime perpetrated occurred due to this concurrence and that assistance.
And the above named INDICTEES were transferred to this court, pursuant to the entry and the characterization incoming in the Committal Order thereof.
And in today’s hearing, the lawsuit was heard in accordance with what had been registered in an elaborate manner in the “minutes” of that hearing.
- Subsequent to reading out the Committal Order;
- And thereafter hearing the petition made by public Prosecution;
- And subsequent to perusal of papers and hearing pleadings and thereafter deliberations in law;
- And whereas the THIRD INDICTEE/ADIB YOUSSEF ESKANDER, was given notice by virtue of the Committal Order and via the paper enjoining him to attend; and yet he did not appear before the Court, in the hearings dedicated to examining the lawsuit without an excuse acceptable to the Court; hence, it would be duly entitled to resolve the case in his absence, in implementation of Article 384/1 in the Criminal Procedure Code.
And where as concerning FACTS of the lawsuit and their concomitant circumstances, pursuant to perusal of its papers and in the light of the investigations conducted thereon, and of what occurred in its connection in the hearing dedicated thereto, they could be stated briefly in the points stated here under:
- By virtue of preliminary deed of sale dealing with charitable wakf publication (i.e. religious endowment), heirs to the late/ NESSEEM ABOU SEIF, namely, the FIRST INDICTEE/ ADEL NESSEEM ABOU SEIF, and his sisters/ LAILA NESSEEM ABOU- SEIF and MAGDA NESSEEM ABOU- SEIF, and his mother/ BAHIA MICHAEL FALTAS, sold to his holiness/ Pope SHENOUDA III- in his capacity as a representative of St. Mary’s Church of Garden- City- a plot of land located with in the area of Kasr El- Nil Police Station, Cairo Governorate,
- And one of the Sellers, namely Mrs./ LAILA NESSEEM ABOU- SEIF refrained from proceeding in taking the measures required for the registration of this Deed unless subsequent to the realization of her desire to call the Building that was intended to be constructed on the plot of land, subject- matter of the Deed of Sale after the name of one those persons whom she holds dear to her heart. And due to adherence to and desire of thus, and due also to her presence, together with her mother/ BAHIAMICHAEL FALTAS, in the U.S.A., her brother, the FIRST INDICTEE/ ADEL NESSEEM ABOU- SEIF maintained that such Deed could possibly be publicized by him, and that it could be made use of- through his sister and mother had not been desirous of giving their consent thereto- by way of resorting to deception and swindling and perpetrating a crime;
- Hence, he reached an agreement with the SECOND INDICTEE/ AWNI GIRGIS MATTA and the THIRD INDICTEE/ ADIB YOUSSEF ESKANDER on perpetrating an incorporeal falsification, via foisting a forged fact, looking as it were a genuine one, in an official deed. And thus being indifferent to the trust and faith that these deeds should necessarily be regarded by each and everybody when dealing therewith- in the grounds of having to be regarded as instruments expressing a volition and as means to be employed for establishing rights;
- Further, they helped “bona fida” public notary, namely/ MAZHAR SEDIK TAWFIK SOLIMAN, Notary Public at El- Waily Authentication Office, the one duly empowered to authenticate official deeds and to register “minutes” to be drawn up for the legalization of signatures. However, they effected distortion and misrepresentation in particulars relating to a publicized deed, sub no. 621 A/ 96, dated 4.3.96 by wrong of summoning two anonymous women, who assumed the identity of the two sellers, namely/ LAILA NESSEEM ABOU- SEIF and BAHIA MICHAEL FALTAS, and put their signatures to the official deed, in this assumed capacity. And the above- named SECOND & THIRD INDICTEES testified that these two women were LAILA NESSEEM ABOU- SEIF and BAHIA MICHAEL FALTAS, and thus the crime was perpetrated by virtue of this concurrence and assistance. And thereby inflicting grievous harm on such trust and faith that should necessarily be associated with this type of official deeds, all particulars of which are required to be absolutely genuine. Likewise, they leveled harm and prejudice on the two above- named women by way of claiming that the forged signatures of the two anonymous women were authentic ones and thus bestowing thereon a status, by virtue of this deed, against there freewill. So, the former one thereof (i.e. LAILA NESSEEM) reported the matter to the authorities concerned upon having knowledge of the crime.
And whereas the FACT has thus been duly confirmed and well established in such a way that the court has become absolutely certain of its authenticity; so much so that the court has become duly assured concerning the varcity of the depositions given by LAILA NESSEEM YOUSSEF and MAZHAR SEDIK TAWFIK both of whom testified in investigations which were subsequently read out in the hearing dedicated to that lawsuit. And also pursuant to the conclusion reached in the report drawn up by the Forensic Medicine Adm./ Researches of Falsification & Forgery Dept.; as well as in the light of what aws duly confirmed by virtue of the two certificated issued from the Adm. of Passports, Immigration & Nationality.
On the grounds that LAILA NESSEEM ABOU- SEIF testified that there was a lot of disputes between her and her brother, the FIRST INDICTEE/ ADEL NESSEM ABOU- SEIF who intentionally dealt conclusively with her matters, without giving her consent thereto. This was due to the fact that on 4.3.96 the above- named INDICTEE, accompanied two women to the competent official, of the Real Estate Registration Adm.; one of whom assumed her (LAILA’S) identity; and the second one, assumed that of her mother/ BAHIA MICHAEL FALTAS- despite their presence in the U.S.A. on this date. And thereafter, those two women put their (forged_ signatures instead of genuine ones onto the Deed of Sale, publicized under sub no. 621A/96; and the SECOND and THIRD INDICTEES, contrary to reality, testified that such signatures were authentic, despite their full knowledge that the testimony given by them was wrong.
As to MAZHAR SEDKY TAWFIK, A Notary Public at El- Waily Authentication Office, he testified that on 4.3.96, he moved out to the premises of the Cathedral located at Abassia, Cairo, to authenticate an Official Deed of Sale and to Publicize a JUDGEMENT ordering validity and enforcement of a coupled with publicizing a charitable WAKF (I,e, religious endowment); drawn up between each of; ADEL NESSEEM ABOU- SEIF and LAILA NESSEEM ABOU- SEIF and MAGDA NESSEEM ABOU- SEIF and BAHIA MICHAEL FALTAS;
HIS Holiness/ POPE SHENOUDA III, in his capacity as the Pope of Alexandria, the Patriarch of the Holy See of Alexandria and the representative of St. Mary Church of Garden City;
As it came to his knowledge of presence of individuals of the FIRST PARTY, the sellers; and stated that the FIRST INDICTEE put his signature onto the Official Deed, on his behalf and in his capacity as an agent acting on behalf of his sister/ MAGDA on the assumption that the other two women had not been having identity cards, in confirmation of their identities. However, the SECOND INDICTEE and the FIRST INDICTEE testified that the two women, who had come up by then before the Notary Public, were LAILA NESSEEM ABOU- SEIF and BAHIA MICHAEL FALTAS; and the two other women, put their (forged) signatures as if they were the two sellers, and the two above- named INDICTEES put their signatures also onto the Deed, in confirmation of what had been testified by the FIRST INDICTEE.
And it was duly confirmed from the report issued from the Forensic Medicine Adm./ Falsification & Forgery Researches Dept., that LAILA NESSEEM ABOU- SEIF had not written the signatures unputed to have emanated therefrom and from the second one, under the wording: “Seller & Registered for a charitable wakf”, at the end of each of the six pages relating to the Deed of Registration under JUDGMENT ordering validity and enforcement of a charitable WAKF (i.e. religious endowment) sub no. 621a/ 96 El- Waily Authentication.
And it was established from the two certificates concerning the moves of each of/ LAILA NESSEM ABOU- SEIF and BAHIA MICHAEL FALTAS and issued from the passports, Immigration & Nationality Adm., that they had not been present in the A.R.E. on the date on which the Deed was authenticated.
And whereas the THREE INDICTEES were interrogated in the course of the investigations conducted; yet they denied the accusation unputed thereto;
And as to the defense on behalf of the FIRST INDICTEE and the SECOND INDICTEE, they petitioned adjournment to allow for perusal and for submittal of Exhibits thereof, and whereas counsel attended on behalf of the THIRD INDICTEE/ ADIB YOUSSEF ESKANDER and petitioned that a term be ordered so that his principal would attend personally.
Hence, the court responded to the petitions seeking such adjournment; and the parties concerned were cautioned to attend in the hearing of 25.7.99.
And whereas in the hearing set, the PLAINTIFF claiming damages failed to attend in person, or via a counsel on her behalf; And the THIRD INDICTEE failed to attend also and his counsel lodged & Docket of Exhibits that compressed Medical Certificates, which were disregarded by the court.
And whereas the court allowed the FIRST & SECOND INDICTEES and the counsel attending therewith to have access to the official copy of the Deed, subject- matter of the lawsuit filed for forgery;
And whereas the defense on behalf of the FIRST INDICTEE petitioned that a JUDGMENT be issued ordering his acquittal (claiming) non- existence of interest underlying such forgery and that the one whose signature is alleged to have been forged is a physician permanently on travel; so how could it be said that she was not having a passport or an identity card and the Notary Public would rely, in this connection, on the testimony given by witnesses in this regard- additionally to what had come in the depositions of that latter party.
And whereas the defense on behalf of the SECOND INDICTEE petitioned that a JUDGEMENT be issued ordering his acquittal, stating that the reality underlying the FACT was nothing but a family dispute. And the PLAINTIFF claiming damages was aiming at overthrowing the FIRST INDICTEE, particularly that it is registered in papers that she (i.e. the PLAINTIFF) had received all price of such sale and thus the interest underlying such forgery is being disproved; and in turn revealing thereunder the good faith of that INDICTEE. And the counsel raised a pleas seeking non- existence of the element of knowledge and also non existence of criminal intent from the part of the INDICTEE. And the counsel lodged a Docket of Exhibits, the first of which compressed:
- A Photocopy of a preliminary Deed of Sale, dated 14.4.90; and
- Photocopies of receipts in evidence of taking delivery of cash amounts; as well as quitclaims relation to the price.
And the second Docket comprised:
- Photocopies of Exhibits accounting for the social family status of the SECOND & THIRD INDECTESS
And whereas the THIRD INDECTEE failed to appear before the court, to express what might have been stated by him relating to aspects of his defense;
And whereas it is established from the forgoing review relating to the lawsuit FACTS that Mrs./ LAILA NESSEEM ABOU- SEIF and her mother/ BAHIA MICHAEL FALTAS has refrained from finalizing the measures required for the registration of the Deed of Sale, and had departed from putting their signature onto the final Deed of Sale, and had departed from Egypt to reside permanently in the U.S.A.; And whereas the FIRST INDICTEE had thus found himself, in his capacity as the party, before the purchaser church, being committed to complete the measures required for obtainment of the publicized Deed of Sale. As such Deed would be the ultimate aim being sought by the SECOND & THIRD INDICTEES also, in their capacity as members on the Church’s Board of Directors- pursuant to the Resolution of His Holiness/ POPE SHENOUDA III, issued in this regard; Hence, there was ascertained existence of a sure desire and interest from the part of the three INDICTEES, in falsifying the signatures of the two absentees and refraining sellers. Accordingly, those three INDENTEES reached agreement between themselves and their volition and intention became combined in perpetrating the act giving rise to the crime; and thus there existed there with the intent to interfere- together with the public employee/ MAZHAR SEDIK TAWFIK, a Notary Public of the Real Estate Registration, Authentication Adm., in such a way as to be an intentional interference by way of summoning two anonymous women who put their respective signatures onto the Final Deed of Sale, one of whom assuming the identity of the FIRST INDICTEE’S sister and the other one that of his mother; and the SECOND & THIRD INDICTEES testified that such (forged) signatures were authentic ones. The fact which exists thereunder, and against them, their participation via the two methods of concurrence and assistance in the falsifying of an official deed. Through one of the ways and means, provided for law- aiming at resorting to the forged deed and employing it in the object for which it had been falsified.
The foregoing conclusion is not affected by what was cited in the SECOND INDICTEE’S defense upon reliance on non- existence of the knowledge element therewith. On the grounds that it is established in papers that there was a certain relationship between him and the purchaser party in the contract; as he was a member on its Board of Directors and the lady whose signature was forged emphasized his having been acquainted with her and with her mother and that he, together with the THIRD INDICTEE had made frequent visits to her, with a view to finalizing the financial dealings relating to this Deed.
And whereas the court had been reassured in respect of the confirmatory evidences cited, in such a way that it set aside the objective considerations put forward by the defense;
And whereas the court had been reassured in respect of the confirmatory evidences cited, in such a way that it set aside the objective considerations put forward by the defense;
And whereas in view of the foregoing, the court has become absolutely certain that the INDICTEES:
1- ADEL NESSEEM ABOU- SEIF
2- AWNI GIRGIS MATTA; and
3- ADIB YOUSSEF ESKANDER;
And on the day of 4.3.96, within the area of Kasr El- Nil Police Station, in Caio Governorate, participated via the two methods of concurrence and assistance, between themselves and with a “bona fide” public employee; namely/ MAZHAR SEDIK TAWFIK, a Notary Public, at El- Wayli Authentication Office, in perpetrating a fraud onto an official deed; i.e. a Deed of Sale publicized under sub no. 627A/ 96, El- Wayli; by way of “foisting” a falsified fact, in such a way as to seem as if it were a genuine one despite their full knowledge of such falsification. On the grounds that they introduced to the above- named Notary Public two anonymous women, who assumed the identity of each of : LAILA NESSEEM ABOU- SEIF and BAHIA MICHAEL FALTAS respectively; and signed in such capacity before the Notary Public, onto the registered Deed, aforementioned. And the SECOND & THIRD INDICTEES testified in evidence of the authenticity of the signatures written by the two anonymous women and as a consequence of which the crime occurred- pursuant to this concurrence and that assistance.
Therefore and in implementation of Article 304/2 in the Criminal Procedure Code, it would be imperative to order punishment thereon, pursuant to Articles 40,par. second & third; up to par. first:211& 212, in the penal code.
And whereas the court finds, on the evidence of circumstances under which the crime was perpetrated- pursuant to what was uncovered from facts of the lawsuit and also from the other conditions and accompanying considerations surrounding the INDICTEES that would lead to be merciful therewith; in accordance with the provision of Article 17; in the Penal Code.
And whereas the court found that papers are void of what would uncover misconduct emanating from the INDICTEES and in view of their social status and their professional history, And as all the forgoing conduces the court to reach the conclusion that they would never breach the law once more, and hence the court order stay of execution of the punishment for a period running over three years, commencing as from to day.
And whereas the court hereby orders that the INDICTEES be condemned to effect payment of criminal costs, in accordance with Article 313, in the Criminal Procedure Code.
And whereas the PLAINTIFF claiming damages failed to attend either in person or through a counsel, acting on her behalf in the hearing of the lawsuit, on 25.7.99, despite her certain prior knowledge thereof- as she had been previously cautioned of such date in the preceding hearing; hence the court orders that she be considered to have renounced her civil lawsuit, in implementation of the provision of Article 261 in the Criminal Procedure Code- together with condemning her to effect payment of costs thereof, pursuant to the provision of Article 320/2 in the self- same law.
Subsequent to perusal of the Articles afore- mentioned;
The court issued its JEDGEMENT, “in presence”, in respect of the FIRST & SECOND INDICTEES and “in absentsia” in respect of the THIRD INDICTEE; ordering:
That each of:
- ADEL NESSEEM ABOU- SEIF;
- AWNI GIRGIS MATTA; and
- ADIB YOUSSEF ESKANDER;
- Be penalized by way of being kept in custody imprisoned, with labor, for one single year;
- Inconnection with what was imputed thereto;
- And enjoined stay of execution of the puntion for 3- years period, to be commenced from today; and
- That they be condemned to effect payment of Criminal costs.
- And in connection with the civil lawsuit the court ordered: “That the PLAINTIFF claiming damages be considered to have renounced her civil lawsuit; and
- That she be condemned to effect payment of costs
This JUDGEMENT was issued and read out in public, in the hearing held on Sunday of 25.7.99.
Secretary Court President
- Seal: Ministry of Justice, Mid- Cairo
This copy was released pursuant to the application lodged by the PLAINTIFF claiming damages; and delivered thereto under sub no. 3183/99,
Copies/ Mid- Cairo, subsequent to settling the dues prescribed by virtue of Voucher sub no. 239736 on 24.8.99
Director General of Criminal Affairs
Mid- Cairo Public Prosecution
Translated by F Nemah
Heliopolis Tel: 2567808
Cario Tel: 3922124
The above is a certificate of a criminal judgement obtained in the criminal court Kasr El-Nir at its public session on (7/30/2001) presided by Mr. Mohamed Alramley for the District Attorney, and Mr. Maher Shafik Secretary.
The following judgement was issued in the District Attorney's Case No. 6823/1999 Kasr El-Nil Misdemeanor. As civil claimant, I was awarded the amount of 2001 Pounds as a provisional restitution against ADEL NESSIM ABOU-SAIF.
As can be seen from the above certificate, the District Attorney, in addition, demanded the defendant be punished according to 341 Penal Law.
The court sentanced the defendant to 6 months in jail with labor and ordered him to pay 500 Pounds in warranty and 2001 Pounds provisional restitution. And ordered to dismiss the counter civil claim against me and pay all expenses.
This lawsuit involved valuable objects of furniture and antiques which were appropriated by the defendant from the estate of my mother, and which, with this verdict he was obliged to put in my possesion.
The Role of Women in Afghanistan
December 9, 2002
Even MacNeill-Leher has it wrong. The United States' intervention in Iraq, or even Afghanistan, cannot change the realities on the ground. Moreover, it can't change the statusof women. Margaret Fleming, a commentator for PBS, almost tearfully commented a few days ago about her affinity with her Afghan sisters who are in the process of being liberated. This is a misreading of realities. The United States cannot change religeous or Sharia Law in Arab countries for the very simple reason that it is based on Koranic regulations and no man or woman can alter a (religious) line in the holy Book of Islam.
The veil is simply a symbol of Islamic Law concerning dress. But nonetheless, women veil themselves because they are told that this is a religious dictum. It is only if a regime - with a secular leader or a secular system in place- orders women not to veil and gives women legal and secular perogatives, which makes them equal citizens in the eyes of the Law - only then does religious dogma fall by the wayside.
Ironically, that kind of system exists today in Iraq. Iraq is, at present, the only secular system of government which gives women all their rights. In Iraq women are allowed to become judges (which is banned by Islam); women are allowed to become soldiers (banned by Islam); women are given equal rights in matters of divorce and child custody (not so in Islam which favors men); women have the right to prosecute men who sexually harass them (a complaint filed with the police could have the man arrested and publicly humiliated by having his head shaven); and women in Iraq do have precedence over men (the Koran decrees that wimen are inferior) and are officers in the police and army. They even fly planes. If the Bush Administration is going to war in Iraq - to fight for human rights - it certainly won't be fighting for women's rights.
It is true that the ruling Ba'th party is oppressive, but it is the only secular system in which Islamic Law is not applied. In Egypt, "Sharia" is at the foundation of all matters relating to family and women. If the Ba'th falls, with it will fall the last non-Islamic government in the Arab world - and that is the ultimate irony.
Sharia Law is not applied in Syria, which is a Ba'thist country. Nor is it applied in Lebanon.