Crime and Punishment
by Fayza Hassan Pot Pourri, a regular columnist


The numerous episodes of the Clinton saga are telling proof that Americans have not really changed in their candid, puritanical morality since the days the Founding Fathers’ rule was established on a strict and literal observance of the Ten Commandments. It is becoming more apparent every day that the American public would be content with a ticking-off of their president by the Congress and a heart-felt public apology from the culprit, provided he shows befitting contrition, of course, till the end of his term at least. Condemnation followed by penitence are more than ever the order of the day. It is, however, regrettable that the same American people’s moral rectitude does not extend to the more serious transgressions of the Commandments committed by their otherwise philandering president and by their Congress. Could it be that their media is too busy to give a factual presentation of world events? Whatever happened to the global village? Is Monicagate effectively covering up what goes on outside the little study off the Oval Office? Or does the self-righteous American people honestly believe that wreaking havoc on faraway lands and murdering innocent, helpless populations on the other side of the globe are not sins covered by their Holy Book under the heading You shall not kill?

Listening to the Masses
by Nevine Khalil


The results of a recent public opinion poll on political participation in Egypt showed that although the average Egyptian is not politically active, he (or she) is very aware of public affairs and holds strong views on political issues. It also concluded that the most disenchanted groups in society are the young, educated city-dwellers.

The Al-Ahram Centre for Political and Strategic Studies (ACPSS) polled 1,366 Egyptians in Cairo, Menoufiya in the north, and Qena in the south last June and July, submitting 41 questions on political, economic and social issues. The most surprising finding for ACPSS director Abdel-Moneim Said was the high level of satisfaction with the economic situation. “It was much higher than we thought,” he noted, “and people had more hope for the future than we expected, especially in light of the economic reform policies”.

In evaluating economic conditions, 59.3 per cent of those polled said they felt secure regarding their economic future for the next three years, compared to 31 per cent who felt insecure.

[T]he most negative replies came from Cairenes, the better educated and the younger age groups, which indicates that political stability is heavily dependent on positive conditions in rural areas.

While representing a minority of the population, these groups have a high potential of influencing policy and setting the national agenda….

Before the outcome was made public, Said told Al-Ahram Weekly that he would publish the results, no matter how negative or sensitive they were. “The public is maturing and learning how to appreciate good scientific work,” he opined, “and we’re not doing this to flatter or criticise anyone.” The survey was intended to explore trends in Egyptian political life, and was partially funded by the Ford Foundation in Cairo, which put up LE70,000 of the estimated LE90,000 budget.

[O]nly 8.4 per cent of those polled said they were members of political parties, and only 6.3 per cent were members of Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs), which shows that the average Egyptian does not take much interest in political participation or public action, according to the pollsters’ analysis. Only 40.7 per cent of the participants voted in the last parliamentary elections of 1995.

At the same time, while Egyptians stay away from elections, they have a strong belief in democracy, reflected by the fact that 68.7 per cent prefer a democratic regime in comparison to 27.9 per cent opting for a “just dictatorship”.

41 per cent of the Muslims polled said they voted in the last elections, compared to 38.5 per cent of the Christians. Muslims polled amounted to an overwhelming 93.1 per cent of the sample, while Christians represented 6.7 per cent. The results showed that 77.8 per cent of those polled believed that there was equality between Muslims and Copts “to a large extent”. This sense of “extensive” equality was highest in Qena at 81.1 per cent, followed by 71.9 in Menoufiya and 67.8 in Cairo.

Regarding gender, the poll found that the rate of political participation by women, who constituted nearly half of the interviewees, was a low 21.1 per cent casting votes in the 1995 parliamentary elections, while 59.7 per cent of the men voted.

Political participation was markedly less in urban areas compared to rural areas. While 25.8 per cent of Cairenes voted in the elections, the figure was 44.6 per cent for those in the governorate of Qena, and for Menoufiya 43.7 per cent. The same trend could be found in membership of political parties. In Cairo and Menoufiya it was 6.7 per cent each, while in Qena it was 11.3 per cent.

Political participation is also lower among the younger generations, with only 26.5 per cent of those in the 18-25 age bracket casting votes in the last elections [IMRA: How many in the sample were below voting age in the last election?], and 4.1 per cent being members of political parties. In the 46-55 age bracket, 49.2 per cent voted and 11.3 per cent are members of political parties. According to the pollsters’ analysis, this indicates that the political sphere is relatively confined to the older generations who politically alienate the youths, and this possibly contributes to the rising rate of violence among the younger generation.

The poll indicates that the better educated sample has a greater interest in political participation, in comparison to those with little or no education. While 32.7 per cent of the illiterate or those with basic writing and reading abilities voted in the last elections, the figure was 51.4 per cent for university graduates. The disparity is even greater when it comes to membership of political parties, with 17.7 per cent of university graduates joining political parties, nearly seven times the figure of 2.6 per cent for the illiterate or those with basic writing and reading abilities. According to the researchers, this runs contrary to the general assumption that political apathy is rampant among the better educated.

Moving on to the people’s conceptions of political institutions and their performance, the poll found that while 55.9 per cent felt that press freedom was “extensive”, only 29.2 per cent felt that political parties enjoy the same amount of freedom, a figure close to the 30.3 per cent recorded for trades union freedoms.

Although there was majority agreement on equality between Muslims and Copts, the same sentiment was not reflected regarding equality between the rich and poor. Half of those polled believed that there was little or no equality between the two groups. This sense of inequality was strongly felt among Cairenes with 49.2 per cent agreeing that there was no equality, which is almost double Qena’s 27.8 and Menoufiya’s 22.5 per cent.

Results also indicate that the overwhelming majority of Egyptians have great faith in their country’s ability to deal with foreign economic or military threats. Only 6.1 per cent felt that Egypt would not be able to deal with foreign economic threats, such as the suspension of US aid. At the same time, 81.4 per cent believe that Egypt is “very capable” of confronting a foreign military threat, a figure which climbs to 86.5 per cent in the case of an Israeli military aggression.

Said hopes that ACPSS will initiate a tradition of opinion polling in order to gauge “the pulse” of average Egyptians on various issues. Said added that it was necessary to conduct polls on political opinions, “because people will make the most outrageous statements and claim that’s what the masses want”. He believes that “it’s about time to know what the people really think, not what we imagine they think”.

Letter to the Editor
Why Palestine?

Full Text:

Why Palestine?

Sir-I often receive your weekly newspaper from a friend, thereby providing me with information from home. However, in the past few months, to my amazement, I have noticed the enormous space you devote to news and views of Palestine. To an outsider, it appears as if your paper is controlled by Palestinians.

As a Canadian of Egyptian extraction, I know that we have our own myriad concerns and problems, whether they are in the sphere of health, economics, terrorism, education (or the lack of it), under-employment, democratic freedoms, or the population explosion — these are just some of the burning problems consistently facing our nation. Shouldn’t we concentrate on our own brothers and sisters, rather than devoting our efforts to the Palestinians? Let us not forget our thousands of compatriots who gave their lives away in past wars supporting the Palestinian cause, and the many millions wasted that caused our economic setback. As an Egyptian who lost three close relatives in those battles, I ask you not to let the Palestinians dominate your fine paper.

Mustafa Amin
Ontario, Canada

Soapbox: Why the Process Has Not Died
by Salah Bassiouni

Full Text:

Five years after the signing of the Oslo Accords, there is a very serious stalemate in the negotiations between the Palestinian National Authority and the Israeli government. The reasons for this unfortunate situation are known: the PNA has accepted the US suggestion of Israeli withdrawal from 13 per cent of the Occupied Territories, while the Israelis have tried to empty this initiative of its substance in the hope that the Palestinians will ultimately accept a compromise void of any tangible gains. [IMRA: Not so. There is agreement re land but the hold-up is PNA’s resistance to meeting its OSLO obligations.]

But it would be wrong to see this as the end of the peace process. This is a tough political struggle, in which each party tries to obtain the maximum, and neither will benefit from resorting to violence. The PNA is well rooted on Palestinian land, and can continue its struggle by all available means. Netanyahu cannot risk the failure of the peace process, if only for domestic reasons: he knows that 50 per cent of the electorate backs it. Given Clinton’s difficult situation, the US would not want to endanger its strategy for a new order in the Middle East, based primarily on achieving peace. Europe, though it concedes the upper hand to the US, will not accept to sit on the fence while the threat of failure looms; finally, Egypt remains steadfast despite the present difficulties. This is a political game, where consistency and time play a substantial role. The PNA has proved it can manage and sustain its struggle to achieve its legitimate national rights.

The writer is Secretary General of the Cairo Peace Society

A Real State Means Real Work
by Edward Said

“Palestinian citizens of Israel… would… be excluded [from a Palestinian State]”


[T]he Arabic press has been reporting that, during his numerous visits to both Arab and non-Arab countries, Arafat has been seeking foreign support for his project. By now, then, the notion that a Palestinian state will be declared on 4 May, 1999 by Arafat has acquired a momentum, if not exactly a life, of its own.

One likely Israel reaction might be to say that the Palestinian entity has to be in Gaza, which is already cut off from the West Bank, and more or less force Arafat to confine himself and, alas, Palestinian national aspirations, to Gaza. This would be a severe blow, no matter how much international support the declared state would have at the time.

Supporters of Arafat’s idea of declaring a state in spite of the concrete demographic and territorial problems say that the project itself would have the positive effect of stirring the Palestinian population into some sort of energy, thereby compensating for the dismal failure of the Oslo Accords on which Arafat and his increasingly small circle of supporters, advisers, and hangers-on have staked so much.

It is true that the Palestinian Authority [IMRA: The PA governs 98% of Palestinians in the Territories.] has many functions of a state government — post office, birth certificates, security, municipal affairs, education and health — but it still far too dependent on Israel to do as states should be able to do. Thus, for instance, water is still under Israeli control, as is the use of land, and entrances and exits to the Territories.

The disadvantages of declaring a state seem to me far to outweigh the advantages. Most important, a state declared on the autonomous territories would definitively divide the Palestinian population and its cause more or less forever. Residents of Jerusalem, now annexed by Israel, can play no part, nor be, in the state…. Palestinian citizens of Israel… would also be excluded, as would Palestinians in the Diaspora, whose theoretical right of return would practically be annulled.

… Arafat is using the declaration of a state as a way of covering himself with what looks like a gain even as he is about to accept the treacherous Israeli “offer” of nine per cent plus three per cent as a nature reserve under Israeli control. Arafat is a prisoner of both the Israelis and the US….

Another disadvantage… is that the Israeli idea of getting rid of Palestinians by separation will be achieved not by Israel but by the Palestinian leadership. This would be the final triumph of the desire for the Palestinian people’s disappearance by dispossession for which a century of Zionist planning and belligerence has always plotted: the elimination of the Palestinian presence as a national group on the territory of historical Palestine. The Zionists consider it to be the Land of Israel, reserved exclusively for Jews. On the other hand, we should remember that every idea of Palestinian self-determination since the ascendancy of the present PLO has envisaged and embodied an idea of non-discriminatory equality and sharing in Palestine. [IMRA: Not so. This is a genteel restatement of the Palestinian Covenant.] This was the notion of a secular democratic state and, later, the idea of two states living side by side in neighbourly harmony. These ideas were never accepted by the Israeli ruling majority, and Oslo, in my view, was a clever way for the Labour Party to create a series of Bantustans in which the Palestinians would be confined and dominated by Israel, at the same time hinting that a quasi-state for Palestinians would come into being.

[T]hose who would argue that, for Palestinians, such a declared state would be the first step towards a real state, with true self-determination, are actually deluding themselves by thinking illogically.

[T]his hullabaloo about 4 May, 1999 is part of Arafat’s tried and true method for distracting us from the true difficulties we face as a people. He used to do the same thing before every National Council meeting, floating rumours about an upcoming date, then postponing, then announcing a new date three or four times….

If the last few years have proved one thing, it is the bankruptcy of the vision proclaimed by Oslo, and of the leadership that engineered the whole wretched thing. It left huge numbers of Palestinians unrepresented, impoverished and forgotten; it allowed Israel to expropriate more land in addition to consolidating its hold on Jerusalem, the Golan Heights, and the West Bank and Gaza settlements; it validated the notion of what can only be called petty Palestinian nationalism….

The only political vision worth holding on to is a secular bi-national one that transcends the ludicrous limitations of a little Palestinian state… without much land or credibility, as well as the limitations that have been so essential to the Zionist form of apartheid imposed on us everywhere.

It is this that united us all as a people, whether in Lebanon, Jerusalem, Nazareth, Amman, Damascus, or Chicago. The present Palestinian leadership has neither comprehended our dilemma nor, obviously enough, furnished an answer to it. This is why we shouldn’t be too excited by Arafat’s rather juvenile enthusiasm for the prospects of what might or might not take place on 4 May, 1999.

The real task, I think, is to be planning a real alternative to the nonsense at present being put about, that by declaring a state — somehow — we will actually get one — somehow. Typically, this silly slogan conceals the real difficulties in actually establishing a state, difficulties that can only be overcome by real work, real thought, the real unity and, above all, real representation of all (as opposed to a part) of the Palestinian people. Not unilateral, empty, repetitious slogans. It is an insult to the integrity of our people to keep on making up such make-believe “realities” and trying to pass them off as political substance. Arafat and his advisers should be ashamed of themselves for such banal tricks. They should stand aside so that a more serious and credible political process can replace their disastrous fumbling once and for all.

A Breakthrough, If Not Historic
by Mahgoub Omar

[Heading:] Since Oslo… the Palestinians have fought tooth and nail to consolidate every gain. A state is the next step.

“The Palestinians… have developed a military power… capable of inflicting losses on the Israeli army that the Israeli leadership would be unwilling to sustain.”


To say that the Oslo Accords entailed “mutual recognition”… is technically incorrect. The recognition entailed in the accords was strictly one-sided. It involved Israel’s recognition of the PLO as the legitimate representative of the Palestinian people, a recognition it had withheld for so long. Israel’s refusal to recognise the PLO had obstructed all progress in Madrid for nearly two years, while the PLO, in contrast, had recognised Israel through its compliance with UN Security Council Resolutions 242 and 338, as well as all pertinent UN resolutions, since 1974. [IMRA: Simply not so.]

… Palestinians were the winners in the Oslo Accords as far as recognition was concerned. Israel, on the other hand, obtained the deferral of fundamental issues, foremost among them the fate of the refugees of 1948, the status of Jerusalem and the Israeli settlements in the West Bank and Gaza, not to mention acceptance as a partner in economic regional and international frameworks.

The difference between the view of the Labour Party (Rabin and Peres) and that of Likud (Shamir and Netanyahu) with regard to the future of the Occupied Territories has been one of the major operative factors in the peace process. Whereas Labour allowed Israel to participate in negotiations in Madrid and then in Oslo, Netanyahu mainly attempted to empty Oslo of substance. Netanyahu has not succeeded in these attempts, yet he has managed to postpone implementing the bulk of the commitments Peres had made.

Perhaps this factor has driven the Palestinian leadership to advocate a more “comprehensive view”. They realise that Netanyahu may be prepared to offer partial concessions, but nothing that could lead to the formation of a Palestinian state. They hope to arrive, through negotiations, at a partial autonomy that could later develop into independent Palestinian statehood.

The transitional period will come to an end next May. Netanyahu has few options, the most dangerous of which would be to attempt to regain the territories from which the Israeli army has withdrawn. This would be suicidal. The Palestinians now residing in these territories have been able to develop their organisational capabilities. They have developed a military power that would make the next Intifada more formidable than its predecessor, and capable of inflicting losses on the Israeli army that the Israeli leadership would be unwilling to sustain. Any confrontation inside occupied Palestine in the near future will not pass unnoticed, particularly now that the Palestinian position has generated so much Arab and international support.

The Palestinian people have waited a long time for their nation’s reappearance on the map. Although a Palestinian state has not yet officially been declared, major steps have been taken toward that end. This is Netanyahu’s greatest fear. If, next May, Yasser Arafat declares an independent Palestinian state, the land which the Palestinian leadership demands will no longer be considered “under dispute” but, rather, the occupied territory of a sovereign state. Hence the importance at this stage of acquiring recognition for the declaration of a Palestinian state from Arab, Islamic and European countries.

Translations by
Dr. Joseph Lerner,
Co-Director IMRA (Independent Media Review & Analysis)
P.O.BOX 982 Kfar Sava
Tel: (+972-9) 760-4719
Fax: (+972-9) 741-1645