Nobel laureate sends message to US President
Egypt-USA, Culture, 5/11/2002
Egypt's Nobel Prize-winning novelist Naguib Mahfouz has sent US President George Bush a message of solidarity with Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat.
Describing Arafat as a staunch leader, Mahfouz says: "We are behind you, Arafat. All those people from the East and the West who want peace and happiness for the world are behind you." Mahfouz, the first Arab novelist to win the Nobel Prize, explains that the Palestinian people have rekindled Arab hopes. "Their suicide bombers have done a very great thing," he argues.
Condemning the Israeli atrocities against the Palestinians in Jenin, Mahfouz says: "What happened in Jenin is unbelievable. It [the Israeli massacre in the town] reminds us of what Hitler did to the Jews in Europe. What Hitler did was also unbelievable." Mahfouz suggests that the fact that he is now almost blind is actually a blessing in disguise.
"Being unable to watch the TV anymore, I was informed about what happened in Jenin by my friends and family. They told me that I was lucky not to be able to see the appalling carnage on TV."
Mahfouz regrets that the Israelis do not respect the sacrosanct nature of the Church of the Nativity. "The siege on the Church of the Nativity is unethical.
Worse, the appeal made by Pope John-Paul II for the siege to end has been ignored. This is very strange," he says angrily.
The highly respected author ridicules the visit of US Secretary of State Colin Powell to the Middle East.
Mahfouz describes the visit as a "fiasco," especially as Powell had been spouting off beforehand about how he was going to tell Israel to pull out from the occupied Palestinian territories.
"Powell told everyone that he would draw up an agreement for the withdrawal of Israeli troops from Palestinian towns and villages," the great novelist says.
"He also received European support for his mission. But absolutely nothing came of it."
Mahfouz also dismisses US President George W. Bush's description of Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon as 'a man of peace' as an outrage.
"Bush's statement was bizarre." He candidly admits that Bush's words of praise for Sharon were so preposterous that he thought that he (Mahfouz) himself was going crazy!
"I was afraid that I'd lost my grip on reality," he says, adding that he deplores the fact that the US administration distorts facts and adopts double standards.
"Has the 'Butcher' become a man of peace, while resistance fighters are treated like terrorists?" Mahfouz asks rhetorically.
"Apparently the United States has still not recovered from the unprecedented events of September 11."
Last week Mahfouz told Sabah el-Kheir magazine that he hopes Israel will pull out its troops from the occupied Palestinian territories and that peace talks will resume as soon as possible.
He suggests that the talks should explore the right and duty of every party to work for the good of the whole region. "No-one knows what will happen if the forces of evil hijack the talks," he warns.
However, Mahfouz stresses that the Palestinian negotiators are in a strong position. "They've got nothing to lose by taking part in the peace negotiations," he says, adding that the suicide bombers had consolidated the position of the Palestinian negotiators.
The Nobel laureate thinks that the suicide attacks have been the best form of retaliation against the Israelis and their campaign of terror.
He singles out the young Palestinian girls, who have lost their lives as suicide bombers, for special praise. "Their contribution to their nation's cause is quite remarkable," he explains.
Referring to President Bush's warning about what he calls 'the world's axis of evil', the novelist says: "We should retaliate by calling him [Sharon] the axis of evil. Only he can fittingly be described as such and his supporters should be regarded as representatives of the axis of evil."
Mahfouz is adamant that the world's sole superpower needs to judge itself as it judges others. In his message to George W. Bush, the Egyptian writer says: "Justice should govern US relations with world countries.
We learnt a lot from certain US Presidents such as Woodrow Wilson [who himself won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1919 for advocating the establishment of a League of Nations].
He set us a good example when it came to the question of democracy and supporting countries' legitimate calls for independence after World War One.
We hope the United States will live up to its previous reputation and support such principles for the benefit of all mankind."
The novelist also hopes that Americans will eventually put the tragic events of September 11 behind them and seek what is just for the whole of humanity.
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