Trade, Not Terror
U.S. Arab forum seeks stronger economic ties.
DIANA LIEBERMAN AND
he United States-Arab Economic Forum
held Sept. 28-30 in Detroit was a chance
to "imagine a Middle East rooted not in
violence but in economic prosperity," said
the forum's keynote speaker.
"Progress is not made by cynics and doubters,"
said Carly Fiorina, chairman and CEO of Hewlett-
Packard, in her address. "Progress is made by those
who focus on the possibilities."
Under the theme "One-World, Two Cultures,
Endless Possibilities," the forum brought together
about 1,000 representatives from all countries in the
Arab world. There were land developers and news-
paper executives, management consultants, bankers
Among the themes of the plenary sessions, work-
ing luncheons, special addresses and panel discus-
sions were "The Role of Cultural and Educational
Bridges in Advancing U.S.-Arab Trade and
Economic Ties"; "Turning the Camera on the
Media, Science, Innovation and Technology"; "The
Future of Palestine: Toward a Lasting Peace"; and
"The Future of the Iraq Economy: Preparing for
Although the three-day event focused on the very
real possibilities of improving the economic and
social climate in the Arab Middle East, the specter
of politics was never very far from the surface, with
an occasional jab at Israel and Jewish political influ-
Overall, the tenor of the forum was upbeat and
part of the world."
Panel member Thomas Krens, director of the
Solomon R Guggenheim Museum, remembered that
30 years ago a ping-pong match launched a dialogue
between the United States and China.
One of the stated purposes of the forum was to begin
dissolving misconceptions — stereotypes of the Arab
nations and Muslim people held by Americans as well
as the other way around.
"I can hardly think of anywhere else in the world
where culture is so much confounded with politics [as
the Middle East]," said Mohamed Salmawy, editor of
the French-language edition of the Egyptian-based
In a discussion of cultural and educational bridges
for U.S.-Arab trade, Salmawy said,. "We must cease to
see the United States as a supporter of Israel whatever it
While it is true that the U.S. government "believes in
the existence of Israel," he said, "that does not mean
the U.S. is unable to criticize Israel."
In return, the United States "must see what a great
heritage there is in the Arab world, and what a great
culture is ahead of it."
Salmawy called for a cultural exchange, separate from
"What a world there is in the Cole Porter songbook,
in a song by Ella Fitzgerald," he said. "The best
ambassadors are cultural, whether living or dead.
King Tut was one of the best ambassadors from my
Mum On Arafat
In a luncheon meeting on the future of a Palestinian
state, Zahi Khouri, chairman of the Palestinian
telecommunications company PalCell, warned that
"desperate acts are both sterile and misplaced" in efforts
to create a Palestinian state.
Peter Hansen, commissioner general of the United
Nations Relief and Works Agency in Jordan, stated that
one of the impediments to both local and international
businessmen wanting to do business within the
Palestinian Authority is that very few laws govern busi-
ness "and the Palestinian judiciary is seen as unable to
enforce the laws that do exist."
In answer to a question about Palestinian President
Yasser Arafat's relationship to the steps toward econom-
ic, educational and social reforms in the Palestinian
Authority, Khouri said, "The steps for reform have
been under way for some time because they are badly
needed for the Palestinian people.
"But we have to acknowledge the fact that we are
new to this. We are learning by doing. We are making
mistakes, perhaps, but we are taking it seriously. And
President Arafat is taking it seriously."
In a private discussion with the Jewish News, a mem-
FORUM on page 18
Above, left to right: Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick, Carly Fiorina, Egyptian newspaper editor Mohamed Salmawy Rosalind Cooperman of September Moon, Steve
Silverman, president of Detroit's Jewish. Community Council