O Wad Some Power The Giftie gie Us, to see Ousels as others See Us - Robbie Burns The other day, I had coffee (Turkish, which I love) with Ali Gazah, a Muslim originally from Palestine, but now a student in Egypt. Here is the interview I did. Rafe Mair: Ali, Why can't Hamas accept the right of Israel to exist? Ali Gazah: Easy. Until Israel recognizes our borders - pre 1967 - they have not recognized us. When a settlement is reached, if it ever happens, we will, of course, as a nation, recognize Israel. RM: Why would Israel recognize Palestine when they suffer so many losses from, amongst other things, suicide bombers? AG: We made a serious mistake in targeting civilians and that will stop with Arafat gone. But you must recognize, as Israeli governments have not, that official control over these matters is impossible. Moreover, we say that Israel has used these incidents to block the peace process. RM: How is that? AG: Making negotiations subject to the absence of bombings makes the peace process hostage to any Palestinian with a bomb who doesn't want peace. RM: How can you expect Israel or the United States to accept Hamas, a terrorist organization, as the negotiating power? AG: The West is very selective in its morality. The United States, for example, recognized the Petain/Vichy government which sent Jews by the thousands into death camps. The US recognized the Soviet Union run by a madman who slaughtered literally millions of its citizens. It recognizes China which has committed similar atrocities and on it goes. Most obviously, the United States and the UK have dealt with the IRA. Besides, the right wing element in Israel won't recognize our right to a national existence and say we should all move to Jordan. It's also important to know that we, who were in possession of Palestine, didn't ask Jews to make it their national homeland. RM: But the UN and the US recognized the new state of Israel in 1948. AG: Lord Balfour, with his famous pronouncement, had no business doing so. Britain didn't own Palestine, but held it as a trust, a mandate, from the League of Nations. As more Jews came, we protested but who were we to stand up to the UK? Let me ask you a question. What right do these European countries have to meddle in other peoples business? What right does the UK, France, the Russians and the Americans have to tell us what we should do? Moreover, can't you understand our anger knowing that every Jew in the world can "return" to Israel and obtain citizenship while we who have been driven from our lands have no such rights? RM: Are you saying that European motives have not been to bring peace and democracy to Muslim countries? AG: (Ali was sputtering at this point). Democracy has nothing to do with it. The motive is oil - ever since Winston Churchill converted the Royal Navy to oil, before the First World War, the west, under the guise of bringing peace and democracy, have really been protecting their oil supply. RM: But, like it or not, the world is dependent on oil. AG: That doesn't give anyone the right to march into places that don't belong to them, preach crap about democracy and take our countries over. When Saddam Hussein took over Kuwait, to the US and Britain that was a no-no, yet it's quite OK for the US and the UK to take over Iraq! RM: But you have some terrible governments in the Muslim world… AG: We do - but what gives the United States the right to change these governments? And, while we're on the subject, why doesn't the US invade Egypt, Syria and Saudi Arabia if they want to impose their way of life on others. The answer is simple - Egypt and Saudi Arabia are ruthless dictatorships who are friendly to the US and there is no oil in Syria. RM: What about Al Qaeda and 9/11? AG: I sympathize with all those people who were killed, wounded or bereaved. But we're at war. Many of us view America as an enemy just as America regarded Germany and Italy as enemies. In wartime, innocent people get killed. But don't talk to me about terror - what was Hiroshima, if not terror? Hiroshima was not a military centre and the bomb was dropped during the week in rush hour as to kill the most civilians. RM: But surely that was different. Then the enemies were wicked and challenged the entire world. AG: Why do I have so much trouble convincing you that we see the United States as wicked? RM: But isn't terror simply wrong when used by civilized people? AG: I agree. But what were Hiroshima and Nagasaki; Dresden and Hamburg; London and Coventry; Tokyo and Berlin if not terrorism? Terrorism is scaring people to demand that their governments change policy. When the West does it, it's OK, but when we do it, it's evil. In fact, it's all terrorism with different explanations, depending on who's doing it. RM: But what about Iran making nuclear weapons? AG: While any increase in nuclear weapons is bad and, for good reason, scary, how come Britain, the United States, Russia, China, Israel, India and Pakistan can have bombs and Iran can't? Besides, people tend to forget that the UN did its job by keeping Iraq free of weapons of mass destruction - the problem was that the US and Britain didn't accept UN findings. Let the UN Security Council deal with this. RM: Finally, Ali, surely civilized countries must deal with the likes of Saddam Hussein, come to the rescue of downtrodden people, especially women and mustn't the US, as the only super power, be that rescuer? AG: No! It must be the United Nations and America's job is to start paying its dues to the UN, supporting it in every way when that support is sought. The United States and Britain had no right to tell any country how to govern itself and, moreover, these paragons of democratic virtue are highly selective of which dictatorships they will overthrow. The examples of repressive countries being avoided by the United States are many indeed but let me leave you with this thought - what about Saudi Arabia, a personal fiefdom of the royal family which suppresses all dissent, keeps women in near slavery, stones adulterers, cuts off thieves' hands and acts as the banker for Al Qaeda? Instead of seeing the US bringing pressure for democracy in Saudi Arabia, we see pictures of the Crown Prince and George W. Bush holding hands! In fact, we see the US and UK as hypocritical meddlers who use high blown rhetoric as an excuse to protect economic interests at the expense of the Middle East… Ali Gazeh doesn't exist, of course. But if he did, perhaps these questions and answers would help us "see ourselves as others see us." Rafe Mair writes a Monday column for The Tyee. His website is www.rafeonline.com.