The following are selections from articles which appeared in the Egyptian English weekly, “Al-Ahram” of Al-Ahram Weekly, 18th – 24th June, 1998

Truthful Lies, Respectable Murder
by Radwa Ashour

[Heading:] The Egyptian-Israeli peace offensive is a new form of biological warfare writes Radwa Ashour. The writer is a novelist and professor of English at Ain Shams University.

Lord Jeffrey Amherst, the commanding general of the British forces in north America from 1754 to 1763… approved the plan… to distribute blankets and handkerchiefs infected with smallpox to Native Americans besieging Fort Pitt (Pittsburgh). The blankets started an epidemic.

… Reading the joint statement of the Egyptian Peace Movement and the Israeli Peace Now movement, I could not help thinking of those blankets.

The manipulation of words is advanced technology, a post-modern device, but in essence similar to colonial germ warfare.

… the paragraph {of the joint statement} on Jerusalem is particularly illustrative: “Jerusalem will remain a united city permanently. The area of the city will be redefined and it will be accepted that both nations live in the city, and that both enjoy national and religious rights. Agreed and coordinated municipal frameworks will be established within the city borders in order to enable each community to manage its own internal affairs. Two capitals will exist within the municipal area: the capital of Israel in the Jewish areas, and the capital of Palestine in the Arab areas. The status of the holy sites will be determined through negotiations based on maintaining the religious rights and freedom of worship of all religions.” Jerusalem will remain a united city, says the first sentence of the paragraph and the last sentence of the same paragraph refers to two capitals in Jerusalem: the capital of Israel and the capital of Palestine.

“In our time,” says Orwell, “political speech and writing are largely the defense of the indefensible.”

… Fortunately, the large majority of Egyptian intellectuals see things differently. Individual writers, artists, university professors, journalists, researchers, scientists, and their unions and associations -the Egyptian Writers’ Union, the Artists’ Union, The Higher Council of Culture, the Journalists’ Syndicate, the Lawyers’ Syndicate, to name a few — have declared their position.

… The “gift” of the Cairo Peace Society and Peace Now is nothing but a contaminated blanket. We do not want it; we do not need smallpox; we have enough problems at hand.

Prisoners of Their Own War
by Amin Hewedy

[Heading:] Changes in technology and international relations have rendered Israel’s obsession with “security” both obsolete and absurd writes Amin Hewedy, a former minister of defence and chief of general intelligence.

Israel has successfully placed itself in an absurd position. Having imposed itself in an antagonistic environment, Israel, which enjoys relative security as a state, harbours a collection of individuals who are a scared and insecure lot. Their crimes haunt them night and day. Netanyahu is as scared and insecure as any other Israeli. He is primarily an Ashkenazi, terrified of the present and future alike.

… Israel’s strategy has failed. At 50, it has neither stability or security, A strategy that is effective at the time when a state is established is not necessarily effective in fostering its development and stability. It is unable to accommodate the internal changes which have taken place within Israel itself, let alone those which have occurred at the regional and global levels. Israel’s strategy is therefore an anachronism.

… Israel is no longer the fortress it once believed it was. During Operation Desert Storm, Iraqi missiles reached targets inside Israel, which prompted Israel to move its US-made Patriot missiles into defence positions. [IMRA NOTE: US successfully implored Israel not to use its airforce against Iraq]

… The outdated, extremist ideologies which hold sway politically and militarily seek to impose a fait accompli by force. Security, for Israelis, is a unilateral privilege, rather than a multilateral arrangement including all states in the region.

This understanding of security accounts for Israel’s soaring defence costs, which are correlated with political fluctuations. In 1960, Israel’s defence budget was 7.9% of its GNP, rising to 25.1 percent in 1970, 32.1 percent in 1975, and 22.4 percent in 1980. This rate dropped to 13.4 percent in 1990, and again to 9.9 percent in 1995. When Netanyahu came to power in 1996 he reduced defence costs by three percent, bringing the rate down to 10 percent of GNP.{IMRA NOTE: The author is confused}…. Can anyone save Israel from itself? Perhaps it is necessary to shake the pillars of this antediluvian temple of war — to bring it crumbling down.

Meeting Beyond Oslo
by Faiza Rady

[Heading:] The mood at last week’s Jerusalem Conference on “50 Years of Israeli Violations of Palestinian Human Rights” was vibrant and militant

Welcoming conference participants at the entrance of the Ambassador Hotel in Arab East Jerusalem, bright yellow banners floating in the light summer breeze bore slogans expressing the European Union’s support for the Palestinian people…. “This meeting is about international NGO commitment to the struggle of the Palestinian people,” Egyptian-born Maria Gazi, vice-chair of the European Committee for NGOs on the Question of Palestine (ECCP) told Al-Ahram Weekly. “It is significant that as many as 350 delegates from 30 different countries are attending the conference.”

The conference was organised by the Palestinian Society for the Protection of Human Rights and the Environment (LAW).

Hanna Amireh, a conference organiser, felt the gathering “… is especially important since it is taking place in Jerusalem, the most contested area in Palestine that the Israelis are attempting to ethnically cleanse and where they are disrupting the Palestinian cultural, social and political infrastructure.”

Amireh deplored the almost complete absence of Arab delegates, and called for greater regional solidarity with the Palestinians.

Baheieddin Hassan. director of the Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies, was the only Egyptian speaker at the conference.

… Amireh… criticised Egyptian intellectuals who refuse to attend solidarity meetings in Palestine. “They reject normalisation and so refuse to cross Israeli borders…,”she told the Weekly. “In Egypt there is a tendency to vacillate between two extremes. On one hand you have groups which adopt a joint platform with [the Israeli] Peace Now, and on the other there are those who are more royalist than the king and refuse to meet us on our ground for the sake of principles.”

… Referring to the Palestinian Authority’s agreement to postpone the issue of settlements until the final status negotiations, {prominent defender of Palestinian prisoners Israeli lawyer Felicia} Langer described the Oslo Accords as a “formula for disaster”. “It is clear that without any legal guarantee against further land confiscation and settlement activity, without abolition of the legal mechanism of dispossession, Israel [has been able] to create new facts on the ground and to cover them internationally with the cloak of the ‘peace process’,” she said.

… “What you see now I would describe as a cease-fire on the Palestinian side and a continuation of war by the Israelis,” {head of the Palestinian Relief Committee Dr. Mustafa} Baghouti told the Weekly. “This is why I believe that the old peace process is dead. We have now moved beyond Oslo.”

Where do the Palestinians go from here? According to Baghouti, it can only be to a new cycle of resistance, beyond the Oslo debacle, he said.