The Law Is the Law! That was the headline of the following news item, published in late December 1989 in the Egyptian opposition newspaper al-Ahali: “The [Egyptian] Passports and Travel Documents Administration refused to issue a travel document and residency permit to Libyan citizen Mus‘ab Muhammad Hasan Sulayman until after it had checked his personal file and searched for his name in the lists of persons banned from traveling, in order to confirm that his name did not appear in these lists and that he had not been previously sentenced for any dishonorable crimes.
“Mus‘ab’s father, Muhammad Hasan Sulayman, had presented his son’s birth certificate to prove that he had been born three days earlier in the Mit ‘Uqba district of al-Muhandisin, but the authorities insisted that the law had to be carried out.
“After examining all the files and blacklists, it was proven that Libyan citizen Mus‘ab, born in Egypt on December 23, 1989, was not on the black lists and was not fleeing from any legal proceedings, and therefore was entitled to a residency permit and a travel document.”
Zionism 1990 Israeli Jews whose families originally came from Asian and African countries have expressed anger about the impact that the growing wave of Soviet Jewish immigration may have on their communities. Yamin Swisa, a community activist in poor “Oriental Jewish” neighborhoods and a member of the Labor Party’s leadership, told a conference called to protest the influx of Soviet Jews that “immigration from Russia is a punishment for the state of Israel…. Why should we fake it and say that we will receive the immigrants with applause? It would be a lie. They are going to invest billions in apartments for immigrants, apartments which a young [Oriental Jewish] couple cannot get, and they expect this couple to receive the immigrants with joy? It is impossible that the state of Israel now has money for a million [Soviet Jewish] immigrants, but for 40 years didn’t have enough money to solve the problems of the poor neighborhoods.” Another speaker recalled the 1959 riots in the Haifa slum neighborhood of Wadi Salib, “where they taught us that it is only by burning tires, by force, that you can achieve something.” Many of the activists talked about the need for Oriental Jews to launch a “second intifada” against an establishment dominated by Israel’s European Jewish minority.
Subversive Literature Question: What do Shakespeare’s Hamlet, The Constitutional Law of the State of Israel (by Israeli jurist and Knesset member Amnon Rubinstein), Solzhenitsyn’s The Cancer Ward, J. R. R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings, and a tourist guide to West Germany have in common? Answer: They are among the books recently sent to Palestinian prisoners at the huge “Ansar III” detention camp in the Negev desert, only to be confiscated as unsuitable by Israel’s military censor. A detainee was, however, allowed to receive a book of Picasso’s paintings.
Magnanimity For months now, Israel, Egypt, the US and the PLO have been bogged down in negotiations over the composition of a Palestinian delegation which will participate in still further talks about elections in the occupied West Bank and Gaza. Many observers believe that the negotiations have been inconclusive because the Israeli government has demanded the right to veto Palestinians it doesn’t like, including PLO members, residents of East Jerusalem and Palestinians deported from the Occupied Territories. At the end of January, however, an Israeli newspaper reported that members of Israel’s “inner cabinet” had agreed to a major concession: One or two deportees would be allowed to join the Palestinian delegation. The ministers even agreed on the identity of at least one of these deportees, former Hebron mayor Fahd al-Qawasma. The significance of this apparent concession may be somewhat diminished by the fact that al-Qawasma was assassinated six years ago in Amman.
Let Them Eat Pita? You know that things are really rough in the (former?) communist countries when, according to the Middle East Economic Digest, Saudi Arabia is exporting 400,000 tons of wheat to the Soviet Union and half a million tons to China.
Things Go Better with Qaddafi Has Mu‘amar Qaddafi taken the famous taste test and decided that Coca-Cola is better than that other brand? In a lengthy speech to the General People’s Congress last October, Qaddafi attacked economic liberalization and the consumer society as the Devil “who deceived Adam and his wife and forced them out of paradise,” and went on to chastise his audience for their taste in soft drinks: “You are Muslims and yet you drink Pepsi Cola, which is prohibited because it is made of pig liver — I have never had Pepsi Cola, the pig’s liver. Nor did I drink Bitter Soda, because it contains intoxicating substances. You do not expect anyone among you to not have had Pepsi Cola. But I swear by God, I never drank Pepsi Cola. I once tasted it by mistake, but then I threw it away.”
Tectonic Terrorism In an interview published in the London Sunday Correspondent last November, Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command leader Ahmad Jibril denied charges by US and British officials that his organization masterminded the bombing of Pan Am 103 in December 1988. But he expressed no remorse about the loss of so many lives, especially Americans, and told the interviewer that he had been “happy to hear about the San Francisco earthquake. I don’t know how I would have managed to take revenge on the United States, but it seems God did it for me.”
On the Human Rights Front The minister for guidance and orientation in Sudan’s military government recently responded to criticism that some 300 Sudanese were being detained without charges. “Every state,” he insisted, “is entitled to protect itself from its enemies. Therefore, anyone carrying out political activities banned by law — like spreading lies or writing against the state with a view to stirring up hatred or confusion — will be arrested to enable to government to carry out its work. We care about human rights, but within the framework of sound views and constructive criticism.” And from Jordan, some important victories: In December the government rescinded its August 1988 decree seizing control of one of the country’s major newspaper groups and purging dissident journalists. Within an hour of the decision, several of the dismissed managers, editors and reporters had made a triumphant return to their old newsrooms and reclaimed their desks. Meanwhile, the Jordanian government passport office has announced that it would begin processing applications for new passports from the thousands of citizens whose passports had been seized or denied renewal on political grounds.
Population Explosion Question from the streets of Baghdad: What’s the population of Iraq? Answer: 32 million — 16 million people and 16 million portraits of President Saddam Hussein.