New Internationalist

Letters

Issue 201

new internationalist
issue 201 - November 1989

Letters

The New Internationalist welcomes your letters. But please keep them short.
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Include a home telephone number if possible and send your letters
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Sturdy soul
Cover of the NI Issue 200 Add my congratulations to all the others on reaching 200 issues. If you're right that development is going into reverse in Africa and Latin America (and I have no reason to think you are not) then it's the most depressing news I have heard in years.

One thing confuses me though. You say the process of development was going full-steam-ahead throughout the 1970s and early 1980s - that people were getting healthier and better educated in that time But I don't remember hearing too much about that via my monthly dose of new internationalism. Instead I remember dark tales of desperation and poverty stretching over the years.

Of course we need to hear the bad news. But you have to make sure you give us the good news too - as with the Indian village you revisited this time after 15 years and reported that there had been progress. If not some of us less sturdy souls are going to lose hope.

Bruce Wakeham
Edinburgh, Scotland

Cynical friendship
I would like to remind readers that in 1976 Israel welcomed BJ Vorster, Prime Minister of South Africa, as an honored guest (Palestine / Israel conflict NI 199). This was despite widespread knowledge that Vorster was an unrepentant pro-Nazi, and that during the war he had led South Africa's anti-semitic, pro-Hitler terrorist Storm Troops division.

Israeli leaders allowed Vorster to hypocritically lay a wreath at the Holocaust memorial, and then sat down and signed trade and military agreements with South Africa whose apartheid laws then were probably based on anti-semitic Nazi Nuremberg laws of 1935.

L. Clarke
Middlesex, UK

Confused identities
There was definite bias in the NI reporting of the Palestine Israeli conflict (NI 199). The issue depicted only two groups of people; Palestinian victims and Jewish Israeli aggressors. Sarah Faith ('The Holocaust lives on') suggests that the term 'Holocaust' is too emotive to refer to the extermination of six million Jews; she prefers 'Nazi genocide'. The magazine is full of such attempts to shift Jews out of the 'victim' category.

Another appears in 'The six-day war' section of the 'Simply' spread which states that after the six-day war against Egypt, Israel occupied the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. It fails to point out that in 1967 after President Nasser of Egypt had repeatedly declared he would throw the Jews into the sea, Egypt opened hostilities against Israel from the South as Syria attacked from the North and Jordan from the East. The above information was omitted because it was not in keeping with the 'Arabs as victims' image.

The NI's proposed solution to the conflict is to create two states out of the present Israel, with Israel giving up the West Bank, Gaza Strip and extra territory to the Palestinians. This would leave Israel with a narrow strip of land no larger than the size of Wales. Its borders would meander over low. exposed ground vulnerable to attack. Defensible borders are Israel's first priority. By ignoring the role of the Arab aggressor, the magazine sidesteps this entire question.

Gillian Dawson
Dorset, UK

War weary
Strange that you believe Arab control of the West Bank and Gaza will bring peace (Palestine / Israel conflict NI 199). The Arabs were in possession until 1967. There was no intifada against Jordan; the Palestine Liberation Organization was not formed in 1964 to expel Hussein's forces, but solely to destroy Israel and kill Jews.

On June 6, 1967, history professor Friedrich Heer wrote: 'Today the whole world has had its eyes on Israel. Day after day, night after night, for more than 10 years now, the Arab radio has been proclaiming the extermination of Israel, holding out to its conquerors the promise of murder and rape of all Jews including the children.'

What has changed? After 70 years the Israelis are war-weary. Most would welcome peace more or less on the line you propose. There are large peace organizations and mass demonstrations. But did you ever find any such organizations or peace demonstrations in the Arab world? You and much of the Western media are unconsciously encouraging the Arabs to make their preparations for another attack on Israel, secure in the knowledge that you would understand why they did it. Of course, in the event you would be unhappy. But did not Hitler tell the Bishop who expressed unease about the Final Solution that it was fundamentally in line with Christian teaching about the Jews?

Do something useful. Encourage your Arab associates to try and stop the murders - about 100 so far of West Bank Arabs suspected of wanting good relations with the Israelis.

Jacob Jackson
London, UK

Cartoon by VIV QUILLIN

Fiery reply
As a non-smoker, I am increasingly angered that smokers blandly assume they have an absolute right' to impose their habit on me (Breaking the grip of cancer NI 198). There are far too many places where they are still allowed to smoke in the UK at any rate. The Thatcher Government is still committed to people having the freedom of choice to smoke. But the freedom for non-smokers who choose to breathe smoke-free air and protect themselves from smoking-related diseases, is ignored. What moral difference is there between attempted murder and imposing smoke on all and sundry? Readers who feel the same way as I do might like to contact the Association for Non Smoker's Rights, 82 St Stephen Street, Edinburgh, EH3 5AQ.

Margaret King
London, UK

Cancer claim
Its a shame that your issue on Cancer (NI 198) did not say more about the link between psyche, mind and body. Since discovering my wife has cancer, I have been searching for alternative cures and have come into contact with the Association stop au cancer (29, bd Gambetta, 73000 Chambery Cedex, France) which was set up to promote the theory and findings of Dr Ryke Geerd Hamer.

About ten years ago, both Dr Hamer and his wife contracted cancer after the death of their son. Now the doctor claims to have found the real cause of the disease - mental conflict lived in isolation. As soon as this is resolved, he claims, the process of healing begins. So far over 10,000 cases of cancer have been treated on the basis of Dr Hamer's theory with a 97 per cent success rate. The three per cent failure (death of the patient) all showed the inability to solve the original conflict.

Franco Perna
London, UK

Christ's tomb
You used the term 'history' very loosely in your History of the World (NI 196). The transformation from slime to apes is not history but speculation. You have no records with which to bridge the gaps. And in 'the rise and rise of religion' you refer twice to the death of Jesus but nowhere to his resurrection. Yet it is precisely because of his resurrection that the Christian Church came into existence. If Jesus was not resurrected, where is his tomb?

Reverend Lloyd Smith
Ontario, Canada

Revolutionary mistake
It was a great disappointment to read the article 'China's great revolution' in History of the World (NI 196). It is so pro-Chinese Communist Party it was like reading something from the propaganda department.

A great many Chinese people nowadays regard the great revolution' as a mistake, if not a prelude to 40 years of blood and tears. You claim that 'The Maoist Revolution put an end to the thousands of years of inequality and brutal exploitation of ordinary people presided over by the emperors - Yes, the emperors were gone, but they were replaced by the Communists in 1949. In the past 40 years, Chinese people have suffered tremendously under the Communist Party - most recently from the Beijing massacre.

Kin-Ming Liu
Montana, US

NEW INTERNATIONALIST
ALTERNATIVE PRESS
AWARD WINNER 1989

New Internationalist has been judged Best Publication of 1989 in the international section of the US alternative press awards. These are made by Utne Reader, a US magazine which prints excerpts from the alternative press. The citation for the NI reads:

'Crisply written fiction, moving first-person accounts, and colorful slices of every day life combine to make this monthly's news coverage sparkle. Paying particular attention to feminist and cultural issues in the Third World, this publication is the next best thing to being there.'

 

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The views expressed in these letters are not necessarily those of the New Internationalist

Letter from La Paz

Bread for the living,
bread for the dead
As the feisty women of Potosi prepare for
All Saints Day the sniff of revolution is never
far away, finds Susanna Rance.

The smell of fresh-baked bread leads us down a cobbled alleyway, through a stone courtyard and into the suffocating warmth of the room by the oven wall. Eulogia. Fanny and Magdalena take a break from their work to tell us about the San Cristobal bakery.

In this old quarter of the mining town of Potosi, bread is more than a daily staple. The bakery is part of a project run by local women, many of them daughters, wives and mothers of unemployed miners. They altemate shifts working in the bakery, health centre, creche and vegetable garden, making time for meetings to discuss community problems and pressure local authorities. 'We never get much trade at the end of October,' says Fanny. 'Everyone's saving to come here and do their own baking for All Saints. That week, there were people in here day and night. Each family makes bread for their dead, and for the friends and relatives who come to visit their tombs.'

The 'tombs' prepared for 1 November, the day of the dead, are improvised shrines taking up half a family's living space, elaborately draped with clothes and sheets - black for the adult deceased, white for children. Symbols of Catholic and native religions jostle together on tables laden with crucifixes, candles, flower petals, coca leaves, faded photos, plates of food, tiny glasses of liquor and piles of bread in all shapes and sizes.

Gaudily-painted plaster masks of horses, llamas, clowns, babies, farmers and miners stare up from plump figures of twisted dough which will be dry and hard by the time they are eaten. All Saints is about feeding the spirits, who announce their return home with a cold gust of wind which blows through the room at midday, making candles flicker and bringing the living a breath closer to their lost relatives.

Going from house to house to visit the tombs is an obligation as much as a social occasion. 'People criticize you if you don't go' says Eulogia, 'and the spirits may punish you.' Families wisely start their visits with those furthest from home, so as to end up near base by dawn as they stagger back leaving a trail of lost hats, shoes and toddlers, the smallest babies slung haphazardly in shawls on their mother's backs.

All Saints begins in sorrow as the dead are grieved at home. Its mood of ceremony starts to mellow in flower-laden graveyards where earthenware jars of liquor have been smuggled in days before to outwit guards checking visitors for alcohol at the gate. But on the third day, the mourners climb to a sacred hilltop where they bid farewell to the spirits in the ritual Cacharpaya. The offerings of food are bumed, and drinking, dancing and forfeit games give way to euphoria as the deceased are allowed to depart until the following year.

San Cristobal had more than its share of dead last year. Freddy Oyala, 32, an active member of the community health centre, was killed by a tear-gas grenade in a march protesting against state health and education cuts. Potosi turned into a battlefield, with one hundred wounded, as students, housewives and workers burst into the streets. enraged by the brutality of local police in trying to repress the protest.

'Whole families joined in the demonstration', remembers Magdalena. We burned down the police headquarters and marched the cops out on the street in their underpants. They haven't dared to show their faces in any demonstrations since.'

The mood in the bakery gets more animated as each woman adds her anecdotes. 'If you stay quiet and ask for nothing, you get nowhere,' says Eulogia. 'When you get tough, at least something starts moving.' After a moment of sudden silence, we take stock of the conversation. 'Funny, isn't it,' I say, 'how we started talking about bread.'

'And ended up with the revolution!' exclaims Fanny, throwing her woolen shawl around her shoulders.

Susanna Rance is a writer researcher who has lived in Bolivia for several years.

Letter from La Paz

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