Does he deserve the prize?
“Dynamite and prizes - those are the two things that Alfred Nobel left behind one century ago”, wrote Abeer Saedi of Al-Akhbar semi-official newspaper, yesterday, commenting on President Barack Obama's reverberating award of the Nobel Peace Prize.“This time”, she said, “the Nobel Peace Prize was like dynamite in its effect, giving rise to a wide wave of criticism.
Obama interpreted his choice as being prompted by an affirmation of the US leadership,” the columnist reported. She asked whether Obama meant the US, the first country to use nuclear bombs, or the US that adopted the Security Council decision regarding a world free of nuclear weapons. To Saedi, the prize of the inventor of the dynamite went to the 'first nuclear nation' as a reward for the “good intentions” of its president.Meanwhile, in the opinion of Ali el-Sayyed, who writes for Al-Masry Al-Youm independent newspaper, Obama duly deserved the prize for his boldness that represented an overturn of traditional US orientations governed by the Jewish lobby.“Obama deserves it, even if his approach so far involves mere ideas calling for dialogue, coexistence and tolerance.” El-Sayyed argued that Obama needed the award to depend on it when the time comes for his ideas to become a reality. In the columnist's view, Obama's 'charming address in Cairo, in which he revealed his respect of Islam and Muslims, entitles him for the prize. El-Sayyed further believed that the prize was regarded as an incentive for Obama to go ahead with the proclaimed pullout of the US forces from Iraq and for closing the notorious Guantanamo [detention camp]. El-Sayyed was convinced of the justification of the awards committee for its choice of Obama as a peacemaker considering that he has given the world hope for a better future.“The Islamic world should not, in any way, be part of the critical campaign launched by those that applauded Bush for his “crusades” against Islamic countries; Obama has shown respect for Islam and its followers,” he concluded.Writing on the same issue, yesterday in Al-Ahram semi-official newspaper, Makram Mohamed Ahmed posed the question: Why does he deserve it?“Perhaps because he has adopted a new vision that summons a more just, peaceful and secure world,” he suggested. Obama has opted to consider the prize as an incentive rather than a recognition of accomplishments because, as Ahmed put it, “although being in office for nine months he has not been able to make his dream come true”.“Many believe that unless Obama manifests a strong political willpower, the cherished change will never be attained,” wrote Ahmed, adding that, in the absence of such will, the prize will be a restraint that exposes the discrepancy between words and deeds.He maintained that the freezing of Jewish settlement construction in the West Bank is the real test of the credibility and willpower of Obama. In this respect, Makram advised Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to refuse resumption of talks unless Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu suspends settlement construction.Afghanistan quagmireSalwa Habib, foreign affairs editor of Al-Ahram, meanwhile argued that the first step that Obama should take in the wake of the Nobel Prize is to pull out of Afghanistan rather than to despatch tens of thousands to escalate the war against the Taliban.Although Obama's plan focuses on training Afghani forces and supporting the government of Pakistan in its confrontation with the Taliban, Habib still believes that Obama has to take a more daring step. “It might take him some time to free himself of the pressure of the Congress and his advisors, but he should avoid a defeat such as that inflicted on Russia in l989. In order to be worthy of the prize, Obama has to retreat peacefully from Afghanistan.”Taking advantage of Goldstone reportIn Al-Wafd opposition newspaper yesterday, Wahid Abdel-Maguid found that there is no use crying over spilt milk. “The Palestinians should better think of ways to curb the harm done caused by the postponement in discussing the Goldstone report at the UN Human Rights Council,” said Abdel-Meguid.The Palestinians, he elaborated, have to be united in escalating a political and diplomatic campaign against Israeli settlements. They have to hold on to the commotion roused by the report, which has agitated Israeli leaders.So, despite the postponement in debating the report, the Palestinians have to take advantage of it as a link in a chain of international documents released by various organisations, which have exposed Israel's racist and imperialistic nature.“Moreover, the most important thing at the moment is to insist on freezing settlements to start negotiating.”No need to rushMoving to issues of a local nature, Sherif Riyad was of the opinion yesterday in Al-Akhbar semi-official daily, that there is no reason to risk using the A/H1N1 vaccine before making sure of its side effects.“Some 80,000 doses will be available very soon, where priority will be given to pilgrims and the categories most prone to infection,” he stated.Although Minister of Health Dr Hatem el-Gabali has reassured President Mubarak that the side effects are expected to be minimal, Riyad thinks that the minister seems to be unsure. “Why then has he made applicant pilgrims sign a document stating their personal responsibility when being vaccinated? Why the rush when some world experts and physicians are actually doubtful about the effectiveness of the vaccine?” asked Riyad on the newspaper's opinion page.Full face-veil issuesIn the meantime, Al-Ahrar opposition newspaper highlighted what it described as 'confidential directives' given to guards in governmental higher educational institutions to prevent students wearing the full face-veil from entering the campus.According to the paper, the Minister of Higher Education Hani Helal has given orders to this effect in the wake of a dispute with a student wearing the niqab (full face-veil) at Alexandria University.The niqab has lately been the subject of controversy after Grand Sheikh of Al-Azhar Mohamed Sayyed Tantawi rebuked a young student in a girls' school for wearing the full face-veil in class.Squandered money shrugged offYesterday, Mohamed Abdel-Hafez expressed discontent in Al-Akhbar at the double standards applied in the punishment of the poor and the corrupt rich.He highlighted the incident of a school principal referred to the administrative prosecution for dissipating public funds, because she charged her mobile phone using the school electricity 'at a time when businessmen were left to escape the country after taking enormous bank loans'.“The Government has not taken any punitive measures against those that squandered millions of pounds in building the Ramsis multi-storey garage, which so marred the view that prompted its demolition a few months later,” he related.The columnist then also pointed out: “Nobody intends to hold to account those responsible for spending LE20 million ($3.6 million), five million of which were bonuses for administrative and coaching staff, on Egypt's Under-20 soccer team, which did not eventually qualify to the Fifa Under-20 World Cup, Egypt 2009.”He concluded by saying that but for the limited space in his column, he would have listed numerous examples of public money squandering, and merely met with a shrug.Samar Ali Ezzat[cartoon caption]Farag Hassan of Al-Ahram