LETTERS TO THE EDITOR
The Tragedy That Has Engulfed America
In East Timor’s long history of struggle, never once did it use violence against Indonesian civilians. We East Timorese did not even allow derogatory racial statements about the Indonesian people in our literature or rallies. Not one single Indonesian civilian was ever harmed in our 24-year struggle. We knew this was never a war against the civilians. Palestinians, and Muslims in general, might have legitimate grievances. But certainly they have no more than Africans in Africa or in the Americas, where they were victims of slavery, prejudice and racism. Yet there has not been one terrorist attack in America or the West generated by a country in sub-Saharan Africa.
Why this difference? In a tiny country like East Timor or in many African and Asian nations with a similar history of suffering, why has there not been this blind hatred and culture of violence toward our “enemies”? Why is the Arab-Muslim region such a haven for hatred and terrorist groups? With few honorable exceptions, there are those in the Arab world, both within and outside governments, who foment hatred and violence. Others are too weak to speak out and to show real leadership. Few leaders have shown the necessary courage to engage Israel in dialogue.
Israeli leaders have not shown much greater courage. Nor have they taken the bold steps that are necessary to end the cycle of violence. Both sides of this divide must share the blame for the tragedy that has now engulfed Americans. The United States has done more to bring peace and dignity to the Palestinians than has any other nation. Starting in 1977 with Camp David, but particularly during the Clinton administration, much has been done to put the building blocks in place for a Palestinian state. Yet the United States is singled out for terror attacks.
America will now change forever. The age of innocence is over. The backlash against Arabs and Muslims is certain. The losers will be the Palestinians, the same ones who were dancing in the streets on Tuesday, the ones whose dream of an independent state is now even more illusory.
Those who purport to be their friends—the extremists in Lebanon, Iran, Syria, Iraq, Sudan and Afghanistan—have done irreparable damage to the Palestinian cause.
My heart goes out to the American people. Stay the course. Our small nation of East Timor is with you.
JOSE RAMOS-HORTA. Jakarta.
The writer is East Timor’s foreign minister and a Nobel Peace Prize laureate.
José Ramos-Horta Added June 12
* Mr Jose Ramos-Horta is an internationally-renowned spokesperson for the East Timorese cause. He received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1996 for “sustained efforts to hinder the oppression of small people”.
* Mr Ramos-Horta has been a dynamic and determined advocate for a free and independent East Timor. From 1976 until 1989, he was the permanent representative of the Frente Revolucionaria de Timor Leste Independente (FRETILIN) at the United Nations. He currently holds the position of Cabinet Member for Foreign Affairs, United Nations Transitional Administration in East Timor.
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Sep 22 ET Solidarity Activists in US: An Open Letter to Dr. Jose Ramos-Horta Letter added Sep 22
"We believe your statement [IHT 9/13/01] responding to the recent terrorist attacks in the United States reflects dangerous stereotypes about the Middle East and serious misconceptions about the role of the United States there. At a time of crisis such as this, when the United States government is preparing to launch a war somewhere in the Middle East, ignore international law, and further militarize the world in the name of fighting terrorism, your statement is most regrettable. Your depiction of Arabs and Muslims as hateful and violent feeds into the negative stereotypes that are now allowing an alarming number of Americans to support their government’s rush to war, regardless of the civilian casualties that will result. ... the kind of statement needed from a Nobel Peace Prize winner is one that emphasizes the need for the U.S. to respect international law, avoid war, and halt its militaristic and unilateral foreign policy. We hope that your future statements more accurately reflect your commitment to peace and justice." Matthew Jardine; John Roosa; Will Seaman; Ben Terrall; Mizue Aizeki; Amy Goodman; Roger Bowers; Tom Foley; Garrick Ruiz; Kristin Sundell; Joann Lo; Ravinder Bhatia; Cynthia Peters; Diane Farsetta; Max White; Peter Mao; Brad Simpson; Sara Smith
BD: The Current World Crisis - A collection of statements on the recent terrorist attacks in the US and the subsequent 'war on terrorism'