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December 22, 2000
Amos and Ahmed

NileMedia to Famous Amos:
Take the DNA challenge
By Ahmed Amr.


About Famous Amos: Amos, is a well known Israeli journalist. He has written NileMedia twice and we have responded twice. We have offered to publish his views and he has declined. Even though we have the full text in our hands, we will not publish without his consent. But we will publish our response.

Amos: I am encouraged by the tone of your writing that you are a man I can reason with. It might even be that I have made contact with an Israeli Zionist of the adult persuasion. Now, let me explode a couple of the assumptions on which you make your arguments. You state at the end of your letter that I should leave you to deal with your lousy leaders and we should be left to deal with ours. Well, Hafez Assad was never my leader and he was never elected to be the leader of Syria, either. Neither was his son. The only leader I ever voted for was Ralph Nader and he didn't win.

I am further willing to concede to you that the Palestinians living under military occupation are not the only Arabs living under the thumb of military rule. They are, however, the only Arabs living under foreign military rule. Moreover, they are the only Arabs living under a military regime that would dispossess them of their patrimony. I am referring to the IDF which has not only used brute force against those living under the Israeli gun but has seen fit to 'make facts on the ground' by squeezing the Palestinians off their native lands.

That the military dictators and absolute monarchs in some Arab countries have made victims of their own people can surely not be a license for anyone to further victimize them. And that goes for the Americans. Would it be acceptable for Thailand to take advantage of the thieving military regime in Burma to go in and further humiliate the people of that land? When you revisit your argument, you will find in it the old refrain that "everybody has harmed the Palestinians, even some Arab governments, so what can possibly be wrong with how Israel treats them." It is the wrong argument to be making for those Israelis who fancy themselves champions of peace and justice.

Out of sheer decency, as citizens of a common planet, Israelis should refrain from accepting the vulgar notion that the "Palestinians were placed on this good earth to be maligned and abused." Let me add that I would also find it morally repugnant if a Palestinian government were to be party to the repression of their own people. It is certainly not right for any foreign occupation army to openly flout virtually every chapter and verse of the Geneva Convention regarding the treatment of an occupied people. Never forget that the majority of Palestinians being killed by the IDF today were born under the guns of the IDF. Remind your fellow Israelis that these are a people that have been steadfast against every attempt to loosen their grip on what is left of their country. It is the one slice of their ancient home that will soon emerge as an Independent Palestinians state.

Amos, in good conscience you can not hold me responsible for what Assad's military dictatorship did in Tel El Zatter or in Hamma. Know this, a part of every Arab gets permanently bruised in every violent encounter with our 'domestic tormentors'. I had no power to do anything about either of those events.

You are not so fortunate, Amos. You and other Israelis have elected successive governments designed to do damage to the native Palestinian communities in Israel and in the occupied territories. Every elected Israeli government since 1948 has expropriated Palestinian lands, in and outside the green line. Every Israeli government since 1948 has recklessly added to the Palestinian body count and practiced some severe degree of collective punishment. Barak's government is lobbing 800mm tank shells at the Palestinians rebels who come armed with stones. Your army has yet to even injure one of the Jewish settlers who are attacking Palestinians at will.

Amos, You know the record as well as I do. Just the fact that Sharon is the candidate of a major political party in Israel is no small scandal. Indeed, it is an abomination that that he is allowed any kind of role in any Israeli government. Compare his record to Haider or Waldhiem or Pinochet or Somoza or Duvalier. And always remember that Hitler's party was voted into power. Being a democracy is a virtue that should not be confused with the right to torment those who have never had the right to vote.

Amos, you must know how Sharon became a candidate. My only explanation is that Israelis have a deep contempt for the value of Palestinian lives that have been squandered by this 'serial arsonist'. Israeli national chauvinism is no small impediment to peace.

Should Israel vote in Sharon as Prime Minister, it will confirm that the most vicious element of the Israeli right has gained an iron-fisted hold on the hearts and minds of a callous Israeli public. These are the same forces that are now propagating the outrageous bigotry that Palestinian mothers would sell their children for a handful of coins. That such blatantly outrageous charges are being circulated by this particular brand of Zionist zealot is not only demeaning to the memory of the hundreds who have fallen victim to the guns of the IDF; it also maligns their grieving mothers. The sting of this kind of overt bigotry reaches all the way to Seattle.

Amos, before you present me with further argument, you will also need to understand that I am fortunate enough to be a free Arab who lives as a citizen of an American government that allows me the right to free speech. Including the right to criticize the architects of American Middle East policy, who have repeatedly caved in to the every whim of the pro-Israeli lobby. In fact, many of these same architects were prominent American Zionist leaders before joining the State Department.

You challenged me to look at things from a different angle. Amos, have no fear, my mind has always wondered outside the box. I have supported a two-state solution since 1975 when I was a college student. I have the term paper to prove it. I will grant you that Zionism is a popular political movement among the Jews. It is a political ideology that has expanded and 'succeeded' without ever maturing. It is certainly an ideology of another age, another century. Only the officials at the Arab League continue to pay lip service to the long abandoned dogma of Pan-Arab unity. Stubbornly, Israelis of almost every political shade still hold onto some variation of this absurd 'return to the homeland' mantra.

Amos, let us put some of these mystical Zionist mantras to a scientific test. This could well be another case for those who specialize in DNA testing. Think about it for a moment. Given that science can inquire into King Tut's precise lineage or prove the historical accuracy of Jefferson's love of an African woman; Then let us, now, as men of the modern world, put DNA to work in resolving the heart of the dispute between the Palestinians and the Israelis. Let us take large statistical samples of DNA from both groups and check them against the DNA of human fossils that have been uncovered in the ancient burial grounds of what was Mandate Palestine. Imagine if the most problematic of Israeli historical fantasies can be answered by some white-clad lab technician. What a great step for mankind that would be.

I will wager this, there is more authentic ancient Israeli blood in the veins of an average Palestinian than in the veins of an average Israeli Jew. Go on, Famous Amos, take the DNA challenge. Do it on yourself and the employees of your newspaper and compare it to an equal number of randomly chosen Palestinians from Nablus or Nazareth or the Galilee. If you have an aversion to giving blood, a sample of hair will do.

Now, recall that Darwin reached his broad conclusions on the evolution of man by mere power of observation. Tell, me, Amos, when you look in the mirror, do you see a European or a Middle Eastern face? Now, take a look at an Iraqi Jew whose people lived in Baghdad for 2500 years. Does he have an olive complexion like me or one like yours? We are all sons of the same African mother, or don't they teach evolution in Israeli schools? Europeans, Middle Easterners and Ethiopians are all brothers, with minor variations in DNA. But there is enough measurable variation to account for certain facial features, pigmentation, hair etc. Even these minor variations take longer than the 2000 years of exile to develop.

So, once and for all, lets do the DNA testing and clear up this 'ancient people returning' business? I will grant that those who 'returned' were people of the Jewish faith. But were they the descendants of the ancient Hebrews? You are a big newspaper man, do this intriguing bit of research on your own shekel. You will find that most of the Ashkenazi were converts to Judaism.

Once we get the lab results, you will need to answer some other challenging questions, Amos. Here is a sample. Did Europeans converts to Judaism have the right to displace descendants of the ancient Hebrews who had converted to other faiths? Is it not true that the 'practice of faith' was and remains a crucial Zionist test of who gets to live in the 'Jewish' state? Is it not true that even agnostic and atheist 'Jews' need to confirm which faith they have doubts about?

Now, take me. I know who I am. I am a son of the Nile Valley. My profile is close to the profiles you will find on the walls of Karnak at Luxor. My ancestors were the Ancient Egyptians who built an empire and were in turn ruled by Greeks, Persians, and Romans, Arabs, Turks and Englishmen. I know these people well and can recognize them at 100 yards by their unique features. They have, over the centuries, been Helenized and have come under the influence of ancient Rome.

Indeed, recall that Egyptians, Palestinians and Englishmen have twice been ruled under the flag of a great empire, one Roman and the other British. Egyptians have gone from being idol worshipers to being among the first nations to adopt Christianity. Although, we have since been ruled by Arabs, Turks and Englishmen, it was the Arab culture and Islamic imprint that left the deepest mark on the soul and spirit of our nation. Egypt was never empty of Egyptians and it is now overpopulated with the same group of people who have endured through the ages and bear every scar and every beauty mark of their storied history. You cannot by a glance of the eye tell an Egyptian Muslim from an Egyptian Christian. But, you can tell that they are Egyptian.

I tell you this, so I might enlighten your mind about another thing every Egyptian knows. We the sons and daughters of that ancient valley know who are neighbors have been at every corner of written history. We know our neighbors to the south, the Nubian people, the Sudanese and the Ethiopians. We have known them for thousands of years. We have not always been kind to these neighbors, but with time we have made our peace. We know of the great Libyan people to the West and the Berbers beyond. We have well-delineated historic relationships with the people of Turkey and Greece and Italy and France. All our Mediterranean neighbors also know us and we have shared healthy and unhealthy relationships with one and all. And they, in turn know an Egyptian, if only by his distinct walk and sense of humor.

We also know the people who have lived to the north of Egypt. Amos, let me assure you of this, you are new in this neck of the woods and it shows in your alien European ways. It is also plainly evident in the contempt Israelis have shown for the old timers in the neighborhood. Ask the people in Beirut, South Lebanon, Quenitra, Ismaliya and Port Said. You have not left them with fond memories. Ask an Israeli Jew of Egyptian origin what a khaoaga is. It is a very revealing word. You, Amos, will for a long time to come be considered a 'Khoaga' in our neighborhood. The only neighbor north of Sinai that is familiar to an Egyptian is the Palestinian? We can also recognize a familiar face among those Jews of Arab descent who have had the courage not to bury their memories of a culture that thrived in Baghdad and Alexandria and Tunis and Tangiers.

Amos, the Zionists did not come to share the land. You know that. Even the earliest Zionist immigrants insisted on being separate from the native people, to the point of developing a shadow government during the British Mandate years. I suggest for you the following mental diet for a couple of weeks. A little demographics, a bit of DNA testing and a visit to the 'revisionist' historians at Hebrew University would do you and the prospects for peace a world of good.

You are right that there were always some communities who practiced the Jewish faith in Hebron and Jerusalem. There are still Samaritans in Nablus. Now, go take a look at Turkish and British census figures at the turn of the century up to the start of the Mandate. When the British entered Jerusalem in 1917, there was a Jewish population of 55,000, representing less than 10% of the population of Palestine. And many of those Jews were either recent immigrants or children of recent European Zionist immigrants.

Here is a challenge for you Amos. Name one Jewish town in Palestine at the turn of the century. Now go and read some accounts of 19th century pilgrims and travelers and read about their vivid accounts of the Palestinian towns and villages that dotted every corner of a land that has always been full of promise. Refer to the work of the Napoleon Expedition, Turkish and British Archives and the accounts of European pilgrims. Refer to early Zionist designs to spirit the 'natives' off of the land.

As for the war of 1948, it was merely a continuation of the war that broke out after the Partition plan of 1947. Read Ben Grunion's accounts of that war and of the Jewish "acceptance" of said Partition plan. I notice you didn't bring up 1956. I assume you have already compared Israeli notes with British and French accounts of that ambitious expedition into Egypt.

Now, a word about 1967. You won't have to go far on this one. Review the archives at your Newspaper and recall that the whole campaign was marketed as an "Israeli pre-emptive" strike. Revisit the Johnson Archives and find out that Nasser, in spite of his pride, was desperate enough to seek American assurances that Israel would not start a war. If it was a 'defensive war', then what exactly was the annexations of the Golan and East Jerusalem about? Why the 200,000 Jewish settlers? Was it not Ben Gurion who decided to side step having an Israeli constitution because it might stifle the growth of a state that was still in the process of expansion?

Amos, famous as you are, could you no use your considerable influence for peace? Than consider proposing to the Egyptian, Israeli and Palestinian governments that they form a historical committee of inquiry to discuss the origins of the Israeli/Palestinian conflict and another committee to verify that history by DNA testing. I will promise you that there is only one set of events that took place in Palestine over the course of the last century. A joint agreement on a history that can be accepted by both sides will lay a strong foundation for any future peace. You will first need to get the Israelis to talk amongst themselves and come up with a historic account that is not constructed to shore up their particular flavor of Zionism. As for the Palestinians and Egyptians, well you know our version of history and it will not vary with the passage of time. As one of the most notable ancients noted "Even God cannot change the past". Famous as you are, Amos, neither can you.

Note to our readers: I got the quote form Ahadaf Soueif's excellent novel, "The Map of Love". She attributes this bit of wisdom "Even God cannot change the past" to Agathon (447 - 401 BC). And, yes, this is a plug for one of our favorite young novelists.



Amos Schocken (aka Famous Amos)
Publisher of Ha'aretz Responds to NileMedia
DNA is irrelevant and ridiculous


Amos Schocken,Publisher of HA'ARETZ Refuses NileMedia's DNA challenge
NileMedia to Famous Amos
Take the DNA challenge

NileMedia and Israel's Famous Amos

January 6, 2001