Saturday, April 05, 2003

My late husband's ex-English teacher, an American who was living in Cairo during the difficult years of the early 70's, passed this letter on to me in memory of my husband. She remembered his open heart that she knew in his mid-20's and that I knew much longer:

"The Halhoul Peace Plan - A Humanist's Plea"

I can end this war - but, I need your help.

If I manage to persuade the Arab League to convince Saddam Hussein to go into exile, will you tell Israel to end its occupation of the Palestinian territories and retreat to the 1967 border?

If I succeed in having all Arab states recognize Israel, will you succeed in dismantling all settlements in the West Bank and Gaza?

If I promise an eternally demilitarized Palestine, will you provide international peacekeepers to forever enforce and honor the historic peace between two formerly warring people?

Are these concepts so unachievable, so unattainable? Laughable, even? Are we so jaded, so defeated that we are incapable of a bold, imaginative vision - one that fosters brotherhood rather than one that sows destruction?

Can we turn back time?

In the weeks that led up to this Iraq War, a horrified world watched as the United Nations crumbled, alliances folded, and any hope for an agreement withered under the insurmountable weight of intransigence and belligerency.
Countries were made to choose between only two options - war or diplomacy. Before the debate ended, unilateral conflict triumphed over dialogue, pre-emptive strikes shattered Baghdad, and war dashed any lingering hopes for diplomacy.

To give up now, will only invite future conflicts - larger in scale, more destructive, more divisive. The line has been drawn in the sand - literally and figuratively. Only a monumental perspective shift will save the day for future generations. Unfortunately, at this moment, it seems a lost cause - for there is not a single, peaceful, dissenting voice loud enough to be heard over the "shock and awe" bombardments, the podium propaganda, and the daily reports of the dead and dying.

There does not appear to be one man alive, powerful enough to challenge the status quo, and, announce a humanistic philosophy guided by the principle that in order to gain, we must all lose. Not everyone will be allowed to see the promised land. Through loss will come healing and hope.

For now, we see only hardline proponents whose doctrine of ultimate victory over completely vanquished enemies will lead us to further calamity. More frightening and disappointing are those that sit idly as a few men make decisions that adversely affect the majority - they invite fatalism and despair.

The Middle East crisis was not created yesterday, last month, nor last year. It is not simply about one man and his ruthless regime; it is not about one country and their brutal occupation; and, it is not just one superpower's quest to democratize a region. The Middle East is too complex to be summed up by mini "embedded" sound bites somewhere in Western Iraq.

It's about decades, and decades, and decades of disgusting misguided policy, corrupt governments, greed, ethnocentrism, religious extremism, apartheid, discrimination, tribalism, oil, fear, democracy foes, tin pot dictators, illusion, freedom rights trampled, expression rights thwarted, armies, covert operations, birthday cakes, warfare, colonialism, anti-semitism, double standards, lost opportunities, murder, suicide bombers, settlers, hegemony, unilateralism, crises, hypocrisy, starvation, embargoes, revolutions, hostages, road maps to nowhere, and, always death over humanity.

Caught in this muck are millions of people, not only in the Middle East, but, worldwide, that want nothing more than peace - that want coexistence with their neighbors, that want to love their brothers, that want to express
their shared commitment to a shared humanity - that want life.

Opposing these majority millions are those that have usurped our right to these basic human desires - they have sent us spiraling downwards into an evil future. Whether it's a regime that is oppressing Iraqis or an Operation Iraqi Freedom coalition, both capably add fuel to the flames of hatred, strife and suffering.

These evil men, these dominating few, come in all forms - they are not just American and Iraqi - they are also false preachers of a twisted Judaism, an evil Christianity, a devious Islam; they can be any nationality, they profess all types of political superiority, and, eloquently champion death's cause.

Dwight D. Eisenhower once said, "I think that people want peace so much that one of these days government had better get out of their way and let them have it." Today, many leaders could learn from his wisdom - following the recent Camp David war summit, George Bush and Tony Blair defiantly expressed that the war would take as long as it takes to achieve "total victory." But, what if it takes nuclear weapons? What then?

Are they oblivious to the anti-war protesters, the servicemen killed and captured, the young Iraqi child whose intestines were spilling onto the stretcher in an ill-equipped hospital? Is this "total victory?" Are these the costs? Can I not have Eisenhower's promised peace? Must I always be caught between governments and fanatics?

What alarms me most is my own self-transformation. While I am and have always been an ardent supporter of non-violence and peaceful resistance, I begin to understand why terrorists and evil followers of distorted men are born. Given the choices that exist in the world today, weak, powerless, young kids feel worthless, they have no promising future, no promising environment - their government's deviant actions or listless inaction, their
corrupt leaders, and their beaten communities reinforce this view. All it takes is a manipulative whisper in their fragile, naive ear, "fight back, even if you must kill innocent civilians, you will find salvation, you are not meaningless in my eyes."

These past few weeks in Cairo have been frightfully enlightening. Egypt, a country with a peace treaty with Israel and a government closely aligned with the United States, seems a place that could lose control. Not only in
the arab streets, where the largest protests in the nation's history erupted - but, also, and more importantly, on the arab couch, where civilians of all walks of life scream at their television sets - retired army personnel, senior bank executives, students, newlyweds, doctors, lawyers - no supportive cries for America's version of freedom and justice, no pride in their Arab government's strength, no condemnation of Saddam Hussein - only defeatism and a sense that this war is wrong, that Palestinians are occupied, that Israel is the real enemy, and that Arab unity is lacking during these trying times.

How many terrorists will be born?

Earlier this week, British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw admitted that the West's Middle East policies contained "double standards" - one policy directed towards the Arabs, another towards the Israelis. No similar statement was forthcoming from the world's only superpower. In fact, Straw's statement went largely unnoticed, except for strong condemnations from the Israeli government. They declared that no double standard exists - only Security Council resolutions must be enforced - not general UN resolutions. Even more troubling was the Israeli assertion that such statements would not forward the peace process, and could harm it. Apparently, the continued Israeli occupation is the only way to further peace and understanding.

So, the people in this region continue to cry out against a perception of injustice - painfully unsure of their future. Meanwhile, Tony Blair emphatically states that, "our primary focus now is and must be the military victory, which we will prosecute with the utmost vigor." Did he not hear Jack Straw?

Again I ask - how many terrorists will be born? How many more children will be lost?

My plan is not super-sophisticated, it is a humanistic plea. It is not 1441 or 242 - it's not meant to be. It's designed to expose those that would create war rather than wage peace, worship land over man, hate over love.

The Iraqi people deserve freedom, the Israeli people deserve security, the Palestinian people deserve a state, the Arab people deserve governments more focused on their needs than on empty rhetoric, and, the American people deserve the days before colored alerts.

So, I challenge the men on my television set - George Bush, Tony Blair, Colin Powell, Jack Straw, Kofi Annan, Saddam Hussein, Hosni Mubarak, Amr Moussa, King Abdullah, Yasir Arafat, Abu Mazen, Ariel Sharon, Tommy Franks - who among you is brave enough to carry this plan out, who will save us, and who will expose our true enemies?

Who am I? I am an American citizen, born to Egyptian parents, a father who lived in Canada for over twenty years, a mother living in America's heartland (my name, surely and hopefully unbeknownst to them, means "eternal
grief"). I was on my way to Jerusalem and the Palestinian territories to work towards peace when this war broke out - for now, I am temporarily sidelined. Halhoul, apparently a small Palestinian town close to Hebron - is a place I can not go without risking my life, my best friend is Jewish, I
am a former federal employee, a former civil rights advocate, I am a business owner, a writer, a photographer, a world citizen - 36 years old, discouraged, and sad.

I can end this war - but, I need your help.

Friday, April 04, 2003

The news that the web consultants who work on CNN and MSNBC, Akamai Technologies, cancelled a contract with Al Jazeera for its website is hardly surprising, but rather sad. Around here it's felt that you get the opposing propaganda from CNN and Jazeera, with each at the opposite pole. If you want balanced reporting, you go to Reuters or BBC even, which despite the British involvement in the war, is maintaining a reasonable level of sense. Both CNN and Jazeera, on the other hand, are so busy grinding their axes that you can hardly see from the sparks.

Wednesday, April 02, 2003

Ha'aretz - Article Ok, so maybe a Canadian living in Egypt and reading Israeli papers (among other things) is a bit odd. But this is one of the advantages of living in a country with terrible read a lot.

Ha'aretz is, as far as I can tell, one of the more unbiassed of the Israeli papers. Or maybe I should say balanced in the sense that whenever I have read it, I have found a wide variety of opinion and coverage in it. Today while talking to a friend about, I used it to look up news coverage as an example and I came up with a review of three films on Iraq. I would have expected a viewpoint less critical of the US from an Israeli paper....since their state is essentially supported by the US...but found an interesting attitude. Worth reading.

Tuesday, April 01, 2003

Matt's Mindless Musings - just because I could There's something really schizophrenic about my life these days. I spend Sunday or Monday working on the business things and weekends doing things I love. I guess that's what a lot of people's lives are like, but I think that until recently I've been lucky to be doing something that I loved. The best it gets if I can't sneak out to the horses during the day is to think about what photographs I'd like to be shooting if I weren't late for some meeting.

The news reminds me more and more of Vietnam. This is a disaster, no matter how it's sliced. The worst possible outcome for the US would be some kind of victory because eventually all the dissatisfied Iraqi's will grind them into dust. You can't run another country from the other side of the world.