Life on the edge

Khalid Khalifa: Its a grey area now. No one knows whether freedom is coming or on the retreat.

Khalid Khalifa: "It's a grey area now. No one knows whether freedom is coming or on the retreat."

Life on the edge for Syrian artists
By Martin Asser, BBC, Dec 9, 2008

“At the moment we’re in a transitional stage,” Khalid Khalifa said, considering the eight-and-a-half years since President Bashar al-Assad took power following the death of his father. The initial period after 2000 saw great improvements, he said, but then came a serious backlash, with the low point in 2006. That was when the authorities arrested writer Michel Kilo and other dissidents who were calling for changes in Syrian policies vis-a-vis Lebanon.

“It’s a grey area now. No one knows whether freedom is coming or on the retreat. The authorities are restricting the internet for example, but on the plus side they are not detaining people who speak out.”

Khalifa is one member of Syria’s artistic community who backs an on-going dialogue with the authorities in the hope of improving the state of freedom of expression in his country. “The authorities appreciate we are people who are good to negotiate with and we are accommodating – but you know, we get tired. We need hope so we can continue this dialogue and come up with something worthwhile from it.” …

Poetry night at a Damascus hotel, part of a thriving bohemian scene in Syria

But veteran Syrian documentary maker Omar Amiralai – who for decades has seen his films banned here and around the Arab world – says that is exactly what Syria’s political system is meant to achieve.

The authorities “know that the people don’t really believe their ideology,” he told me.

“The most important thing is that the individual when he stands in front of the regime, the system, the state, shows his obedience and resignation. The idea of revolt or protest disappears from his lexicon.”

Syria may be attempting to come in from the cold diplomatically and politically, but artistically it still has a long way go.

Faisal has spent most of her life in exile, working in New York and Paris, but she returned to Syria two-and-a-half years ago, hoping to make it her home again. We met up a couple of days later and full of emotion she tells me that it is time to leave again. She does not want to go into great detail about her decision, but in faltering English she says: Maybe because of the politics, they are pushing me to leave.
Faisal has spent most of her life in exile, working in New York and Paris, but she returned to Syria two-and-a-half years ago, hoping to make it her home again. We met up a couple of days later and full of emotion she tells me that it is time to leave again. She does not want to go into great detail about her decision, but in faltering English she says: “Maybe because of the politics, they are pushing me to leave.”

 

Hit the road, Damascus tells Americans
By Stephen Starr

DAMASCUS – Americans living in Syria are feeling the effects of a snarling international entanglement. Demonstrations denouncing the United States, and the expulsion of a number of Americans working in US-owned institutes and schools, have led expatriates to question the viability of their future here.

Those who have been affected by the slide in US-Syrian relations are not marines, politicians or diplomats. Many are American individuals and families who had built new lives in Syria and come to appreciate the Middle East as something altogether different to that portrayed by US media.

…. Nursing a badly bruised ego, the Damascus government returned a tigerish volley. But the strong rhetoric had more punitive effect on American expatriates in Syria, than it did on Washington . Speaking during a forum on Democracy Now! shortly after the attack, Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Mouallem said, “Killing civilians in international law means terrorist aggression. The Americans do it under daylight. This means it is not a mistake. It is by determination, by blunt determination. For that, we consider this a criminal and terrorist aggression.”…

Via e-mail from Amman, Jordan, Veronica Gonzalez from California said,

I was living in Damascus for 15 months and really fell in love with the city. I had planned on staying at least another three years, but so much for that. The teacher visas were based upon our positions at DCS and with the closing of the school our visas were revoked and we were asked to leave Syria. Initially, we were to leave within 24 hours, but then were given an extension until November 6. Some teachers returned to their homes in the States, other went to Southeast Asia to await the job fair and to regroup and a few went to Cairo or Amman.

 Waiting in Jordan, Gonzalez said, “All I will say is that I am very sad about the way the situation was handled. Damascus was home to all the teachers and everyone loved being there and really got into [its] life and people. Obviously, if we are living there, we know better than to support the way the US government handles foreign policies. I don’t think that there is a DCS teacher – American or Canadian – that supports the way my country perceives and interacts with Syria. I don’t know yet if I can go back to Syria. Word has it that we can’t go back any time soon. I hope they will let me go visit my friends at some point.”

Stephen Starr is a freelance journalist in Damascus where he serves as deputy editor of the Syria Times.

A proposal to establish a new international school in Syria is being discussed between members of the foreign community and the government, diplomatic sources said Thursday. …..

One of the proposals being considered would have Syrian businessmen fund the new school, along with other parties willing to contribute. Such proposals are due to fears among foreigners that no school will open in the coming months due to ‘frozen’ US-Syrian relations. The shuttering of the school has been disruptive to the families of many diplomats, who have had to send their children back home to study. Also affected have been the families of Syrians working for foreign or international companies.

Appeals Court Hears Case of Canadian Citizen Sent by U.S. to Syria New York Times

……Mr. Arar’s lawyer, David D. Cole, argued that American officials had not only sent Mr. Arar to Syria to be tortured in order to make him talk, but that before doing so, while he was detained here, they kept him from seeking help in the legal system. “Having successfully kept Mr. Arar out of court while they had him in their custody,” Mr. Cole said, “defendants now ask this court to deny any claim for relief because he did not pursue the very avenues of judicial redress that they blocked him from pursuing. That Catch-22 can not be, and is not, the law.” ….

Syria inches in from the cold, BBC, By Martin Asser, Dec. 8 2008 

….. Accusations about covert nuclear activity, human rights abuses and the assassination of anti-Syrian figures in Lebanon, though strongly denied by Syria, continue to tarnish outside relations.

But if the positive developments of the last few months have shown anything, it is that Syria is too important a regional player to be left out in the cold indefinitely.

That could mean glittering prizes ahead for the tenacious Assad regime, for example a negotiated return of the Golan Heights, occupied by Israel in 1967.

The biggest prize for Syria’s autocratic and unelected ruling elite, however, would be the kind of universal acceptance enjoyed by some of the Gulf sheikhs and certain military hard men in the region.

Lebanese Militant Group Says Leader May Be Dead 
AP, 9 December 2008

The leader of an al-Qaida-linked Lebanese group has probably been killed in Syria, according to a statement purportedly posted by the faction on an Islamic militant Web site Tuesday.

Shaker al-Absi went on the run last year after his group, Fatah Islam, battled the Lebanese army for weeks inside a Palestinian refugee camp in northern Lebanon. The statement attributed to Fatah Islam said al-Absi fled Lebanon in 2007 and went to Syria.

It claimed he was later ambushed by Syrian security forces in Jermana, a small town south of Damascus. Al-Absi might have been detained, but most likely was killed, the statement said, without providing further details.

“We don’t know his fate, but we believe he probably was martyred, but we don’t have solid evidence,” said the statement, which could not be independently verified…

Paul Salem of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace has just published a new policy brief on Syrian–Israeli PeaceSalem argues that Barack Obama should continue the Bush administration’s policy of pressuring Syria to keep out of Lebanon and Iraq, which has helped push Syria towards a peace agreement with Israel. But the new administration must pursue a more balanced approach with strong diplomacy to reach a land-for-peace deal over the occupied Golan Heights.

Other conclusion include:

  • Leading the push to secure a peace agreement would help restore America’s image in the Middle East.
  • Syria views complete Israeli withdrawal from the Golan Heights as the first step, while Israel does not want to withdraw from the Golan Heights until it is sure Syria has abandoned its support for Hizbollah and Hamas and fundamentally altered its relations with Iran.
  • The majority of Israeli political elites recognize the value of an accord with Syria, which would put pressure on Lebanon to negotiate a peace treaty, limit Hizbollah and Hamas’ strategic options, and weaken Iran’s influence.
  • The return of the Golan Heights would be a significant coup for Bashar Assad, the regime—like other Arab regimes that have signed peace deals with Israel—would acquire long term security, and Syria would benefit economically.
  • Syria will need to change its relations with Iran as part of an agreement.

Iran won’t exchange rights with ‘carrots’
PressTV, 8 December 2008

“Iran will never suspend its nuclear activities and expects the United States to change its carrot and stick approach with the aim of settling its dispute with Tehran,” Iran’s foreign ministry spokesman, Hassan Qashqavi told reporters on Monday.

“When they [the Americans] stick to their old opinion regarding the suspension of uranium enrichment, our answer will be: Iran will never suspend uranium enrichment,” he added.

US President-elect Barack Obama said on Sunday that he would exercise “direct but tough diplomacy” in a bid to dissuade Tehran from enriching uranium.

In an interview with NBC’s Meet the Press, Obama said he is prepared to offer ‘carrots’ in the form of generous economic incentives to persuade the Islamic Republic to wrap up its nuclear program.

However, the US President-elect warned that the Islamic Republic’s refusal to halt uranium enrichment would subject the country to tougher sanctions – or ‘sticks’.

Obama’s election as the next US president has opened the prospect of Tehran-Washington rapprochement, but recent statements suggest that the former Illinois senator is already backtracking away from his campaign promise of ‘a clean break from the Bush administration’s policies’.

Iranian officials have repeatedly called on the Obama administration to live up to world expectations, and forgo Washington’s well-worn and distrusted carrot and stick policy.

As a signatory to the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, Iran is entitled to enrich uranium for peaceful, civilian purposes. However, the US, Israel and their European allies continue to accuse Iran of trying to develop a military nuclear weapon, an accusation denied by Iran and one that has not been supported by the UN nuclear watchdog.

Salloukh denies reports that Beirut picked Syria envoy
The Daily Star, 11 December 2008

Controversy surrounded the nomination of a Lebanese ambassador to Syria on Wednesday, as Foreign Minister Fawzi Salloukh denied a report that Lebanon had chosen diplomat Michel Khoury as its first ever envoy to Syria. “The Cabinet is planning to submit the name of Khoury, the current Lebanese ambassador to Cyprus, to become ambassador in Damascus,” a Foreign Ministry official told AFP Wednesday, requesting anonymity…

Syrian Women’s Rights: “the fight does not stop here”
Open Democracy

In Syria, decree 121 specifically bans organisations working for women’s rights, but many women’s groups and associations have met informally in private places for years. In this podcast, women from four different organisations based in Damascus speak to Jane Gabriel about their efforts to improve the status of women through research, campaigning and education. Some are working with social surveys of public opinion; others are in dialogue with moderate religious leaders. All of them are trying to get the personal status and punishment codes reformed. As activist Mouna Ghanem says “it is very very discriminatory….for example the punishment of rape, whereby if the man rapes a woman and decides to marry her he will not be punished, they don’t really ask the women if she wants to marry this man or not, she just has to marry him because he raped her, so she is the victim twice”…

Obama wants to ‘reboot’ America’s image in the Muslim world
AP, 11 December 2008

President-elect Barack Obama says he will try to “reboot America’s image” among the world’s Muslims and will follow tradition by using his entire name – Barack Hussein Obama – in his swearing-in ceremony.

The U.S. image globally has taken a deep hit during President George W. Bush’s two terms in office, primarily because of opposition to the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq, harsh interrogation of prisoners, the indefinite detention of terrorist suspects at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and mistreatment of inmates at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq.

Obama promised during his campaign that one of his top priorities would be to work to repair America’s reputation worldwide, and that one element of that effort would be a speech delivered in a Muslim capital.

He pledged anew to give such a speech, though he declined to say whether it would happen during his first year in office.

“It’s something I intend to follow through on,” Obama said in an interview published Wednesday in the Chicago Tribune and the Los Angeles Times. “We’ve got a unique opportunity to reboot America’s image around the world and also in the Muslim world in particular. So we need to take advantage of that…”

Comments (28)


1. norman said:

Levni wants the Christians and Muslim Israelis to move to the newly established Palestinian state , when that happens ,
If Israel does that , the world should tell the Jews , now there is Israel , Go there , That where you belong,

بانتظار الدولة الفلسطينية
ليفني لعرب إسرائيل: حلكم الوطني موجود في مكان آخر
خلف خلف من رام الله: فتحت وزيرة الخارجية وزعيمة حزب كاديما الحاكم في إسرائيل، النار على العرب القاطنين داخل الدولة العبرية، إذ قالت إن عليهم أن يذهبوا للعيش في الدولة الفلسطينية المستقبلية حين إقامتها، وأضافت خلال حديث مع مجموعة من طلبة المدارس الثانوية في تل أبيب: “بعد إقامة الدولة الفلسطينية سيكون بالإمكان القول لمواطني إسرائيل الفلسطينيين أو عرب إسرائيل: “إن حلكم الوطني موجود في مكان آخر”.

i wonder if the world will have the courage to treat the Jews the way they treat others , Christians and Muslims.

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December 12th, 2008, 3:04 am

 

2. offended said:

Yes Norman, the statement by Livni is very … inexplicable and ominous.

http://news.bbc.co.uk/hi/arabic/middle_east_news/newsid_7777000/7777846.stm
“The solution which I am calling for, which will sustain the Jewish and Democratic aspects of Israel, is to establish two separate national entities”

“We can tell the Palestinian in Israel, whom we call Arab Israelis, that the solution for your national aspirations are somewhere else”

What does she really mean by ‘national aspirations’? will she evict people from their lands and homes and force them to go aspire somewhere else? or is she insinuating that Arab Israelis will be stripped of their rights once the Palestinian state is established?

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December 12th, 2008, 7:06 am

 

3. offended said:

here’s a link in English…

http://www.google.com/hostednews/afp/article/ALeqM5hlcC1bkUCB_G_bS7f5_TRFpxonFQ

//JERUSALEM (AFP) — Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, a frontrunner in the race to become premier, said on Thursday that Arab Israelis should move to a Palestinian state when it is eventually created.

“My solution for maintaining a Jewish and democratic state of Israel is to have two distinct national entities,” she told a group of secondary school students in Tel Aviv in remarks broadcast by army radio.

“And among other things I will also be able to approach the Palestinian residents of Israel, those whom we call Arab Israelis, and tell them: ‘your national aspirations lie elsewhere.'”

The remarks drew an angry rebuttal from Arab Israeli MP Ahmed Tibi and from the Palestinian Authority of president Mahmud Abbas.

“She must decide whether she means to leave a million Arabs without political rights or a national identity, or whether she really intends to transfer a million Arab citizens to the Palestinian state that will be established,” he said.

“Livni must be straightforward and open as is appropriate for someone running for prime minister,” Tibi told army radio.

Palestinian presidency spokesman Nabil Abu Rudeina told AFP Livni’s remarks “put obstacles on the way of the peace process and will not lead to a peace agreement and a just and comprehensive solution.”

“These statements don’t serve the cause of peace or efforts being made to reach a comprehensive peace in the region. They show that Israel is not serious about a solution or the negotiations with the Palestinians,” he said.

“The way to peace is by respecting international legislation. The Israeli election campaign should not be exploited to create tensions,” Abu Rudeina added by telephone from Amman.

The 1.4-million-strong Arab-Israeli community makes up about 20 percent of the Jewish state’s population, and consists of the descendants of the 160,000 Palestinians who remained on their land after the creation of Israel in 1948.//

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December 12th, 2008, 7:32 am

 

4. Shai said:

Norman, Offended,

Tzipi Livni is an amateur politician. She is no diplomat and, in truth, she is no leader. She was speaking in front of a high school crowd in Tel-Aviv (I heard her speech on radio), and was trying to speak in a way that they can understand. I believe she meant something a little different than the two interpretations given here. I’m assuming, that she meant that once a Palestine is created, the Arab-Israelis (if you will, “our Palestinians”) will have to decide whether they are Israelis or Palestinians – that for the first time, the won’t be able to be both.

But regardless of what she meant, there are problems all across. Firstly, why must they be one OR the other? Why can’t they, for instance, have dual-citizenship, like many earthlings do? Second, practically speaking, how can you possibly suggest to a citizen of your country that he now has to leave? That is illegal, by any standard of the law. There are some 1.4 million Arabs in Israel. Do we pack them on trains, or trucks, or minibuses? Do we give them moving companies to help pack their houses, or do we give them 2 hours to it themselves? Do we ask them nicely, or do we wave guns over their heads? Is Tzipi Livni ready to enact a second Nakba? Even Netanyahu can’t fathom this thought, so Tzipi can?

The only logical explanation I have, at the moment, for this miserable statement, is a) Trying to gain a few extra votes from those who might go Likud-wise in the upcoming elections, thinking Kadima is too dovish and, b) Foolish statement, not thought through, that is indicative of an amateur politician.

Regardless of our innate “fantasy” to see a new face, certainly a female one, leading the state of Israel forward, I am becoming more and more convinced that Tzipi Livni is just not the person to do so. At least not yet.

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December 12th, 2008, 8:21 am

 

5. AIG said:

There will only be peace once the Palestinians accept a Jewish state in the middle east. That does not mean one Palestinian state and another Palestinian-Israeli state. That is not the two state solution. That is just the one state solution. So as part of the peace deal, Israeli Arabs should become citizens of the Palestinian state and relinquish their citizenship in the Jewish state. They of course will keep all their property and not be evicted or deported, only their legal status will change. That is what an historical compromise means, like it or not. That is what a two state solution means. The Palestinians cannot eat their cake and have it too.

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December 12th, 2008, 12:59 pm

 

6. Qifa Nabki said:

Mona Eltahawy has a good piece about racism in the Arab world.

Yes, we Arabs are racist, and don’t let your parents tell you otherwise.

http://www.iht.com/articles/2008/12/10/opinion/edeltahawy.php

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December 12th, 2008, 1:40 pm

 

7. Observer said:

This is a confirmation report of what Livni said from Al Jazeera
http://www.aljazeera.net/NR/exeres/BC526D3F-C91C-46C1-A64E-11D4F7597F34.htm

Once again it is in plain terms a continuation of the ethnic cleansing of Palestine.
How ironic that it is one day after the celebration of the 60th anniversary of the declaration of Human Rights and one day after Sarko le premier went on lecturing the world about human rights. This is the same 19th century racist colonialist mentality that the Europeans used to subjugate and annihilate whole populations: from the Opium wars to the crushing of the Sepoy revolt to the concentration camps of Lybia under Mussolini to the Holocaust and now to Palestine and Iraq.

Tzipi Livni and the majority of the political establishment in Israel have as we say in French ” ont ete a bonne ecole ” with the Nazi Fascist experience during WWII. Now it is time to apply it to the Palestinians in small doses rather than in the haste and superb organization fo the SS.

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December 12th, 2008, 2:48 pm

 

8. norman said:

QN,

there are racist people every where , and that does not generalize the problem , you can see that not all were attacking her.

(( Thirteen customers defended her by yelling at the clerk, asking for the manager or walking out in disgust. Six customers supported the bigoted clerk and 22 looked away and did absolutely nothing.))

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December 12th, 2008, 2:50 pm

 

9. offended said:

Shai, it sounds like Livni is going down!

http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/1043388.html

Likud is preparing to launch a negative campaign against Kadima leader Tzipi Livni to try to crack her squeaky-clean image and paint her as an inept politician. Among other things, the anti-Livni campaign will feature excerpts from her interview on Army Radio earlier this week which was interrupted by a Shin Bet intrusion alert on the home phone line she was using.

Livni continued the interview while a man’s voice repeatedly summoned police to her house in Tel Aviv.

Likud’s campaign will say that Livni cannot even understand what is going on in her own house and question her ability to run the country.

“Livni is a new product, so the greater her exposure the easier it will be to hurt her. As for Bibi, everything has already been said about him so he’s more immune,” a Likud source said.

I am note sure if this is bad or good news, as far as peace talks are concern.

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December 12th, 2008, 4:02 pm

 

10. Alex said:

Norman

The part you quotes took place in the United States. Those were Americans.

But I agree that not all Arabs are racist, like not all Israelis are racist.

There are racists everywhere, the difference is that some societies make it easier for you t publicly express your opinions in this regard. For example, in the Arab world it is easier to express in public racist opinions against the blacks than it is in the United States. But in Israel and the United States it is easier to show your racism against Arabs …

Offended,

With Livni, being a blonde woman, unfortunately it will be easier for Likud to portray her as a clueless person.

As for who is good and who is not for the peace process … I think what counts is the readiness of the country in general for peace. And the readiness of the “international community” to seriously work for peace.

We’ll know better in few months.

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December 12th, 2008, 4:15 pm

 

11. Alex said:

AIG,

http://joshualandis.com/blog/?p=1760&cp=all#comment-222437

ok, sounds reasonable. But

1) What is “An Arab”? are the Druze also going to be asked to drop their Israeli citizenship, or only Muslims? .. or Muslims and Christians but not the Druze?

Will religion be specified in a peace treaty?

2) What will happen to the Israeli settlers in the Palestinian territories that will become the state of Palestine? assuming hey also would stay in Palestine (but as Israeli citizens) … would they change their habit and start becoming friendly to the Palestinians?

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December 12th, 2008, 6:11 pm

 

12. AIG said:

Alex,
Let’s not split hairs. Of course the Druze and several other minorities and bedouin tribes will remain Israeli citizens. After 60 years of living together we know which Arab towns and cities accept a Jewish state and have tied their destiny to it and which don’t. Geography will be specified in the treaty, not religion. This is not perfect, but nothing is perfect.

It is highly unlikely that Jews will remain in the Palestinian state as they need the protection of the IDF to thrive. The Palestinian state will not be able to protect them. And those that are foolish enough to remain, will eventually be massacered. That is the history of Jews in Arab countries.

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December 12th, 2008, 6:45 pm

 

13. Shai said:

Alex,

Sorry, but AIG’s proposal doesn’t sound reasonable whatsoever. You cannot have a large part of the population relinquish their citizenship and remain in your country. Can you imagine telling Blacks in America that since there is now a nation for them called Liberia, at peace with the U.S., then they should please give back their U.S. passports, get themselves Liberian ones and, if they like, stay, work, and pay taxes, but have no guaranteed rights like ordinary citizens do?

Where is human history has this been done before? What law could possibly permit the removal of citizenship of ordinary citizens (not criminals, not traitors)? How do you carry this out – by force, or voluntarily? Never in anyone’s wildest dream will this happen.

Even Yvette Liebermann understands that you can’t force anyone to give up their citizenship. The most he’s willing to do is redefine the borders of the State of Israel, and actually trade areas with Arab-Israelis for areas with Jewish settlers (slight racism? nah…), so that in essence some Arab-Israelis will be living on a territory that will become part of Palestine. But even that is so far-fetched as, again, you cannot force Israelis to stop being Israeli, whether their parents were Palestinian, Ethiopian, Yemini, Iraqi, or Innuit.

And, quite naturally, the 1.4 million Israeli-Arabs, will not give up their citizenship and move to Palestine. They’ll remain Israeli, living in Israel just like I do.

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December 12th, 2008, 7:34 pm

 

14. AIG said:

Shai,
The Arab-Israelis are part of the Palestinian people, just like the Palesitinian diaspora are. The peace deal will be with the Palestinian people, if there is a peace deal at all. The diaspora Palestinians will have to give up the right of return and the Arab Israelis will give up their Israeli citizenship in exchange for a citizenship in the nearby Palestinian state, not in some state continents away. They can of course live in Israel and just be residents and not citizens. Why not? It all makes perfect sense.

This is not about a law, but about a historical compromise between two peoples. The peace agreement will make the solution legal. If the Israeli Arabs are not willing to compromise on this, then there will not be a peace agreement. Without this compromise, it will just be the one state solution in another guise.

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December 12th, 2008, 7:56 pm

 

15. Shai said:

AIG,

Israeli-Arabs are part of the Palestinian people, like you are part of the Jewish people. There has never been a State of Palestine, and when it is formed, it will include Gaza and the West Bank. Those who live within this territory will, naturally, have Palestinian citizenship. But just as there are Jewish people living in the U.S. with only American citizenship (though they have a right to move to Israel and become Israeli), the same way there will be Palestinian people living in Israel, Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, and even Chile and New Zealand, that will have no Palestinian citizenship, but only their local one.

With all due respect to Abu Mazen and Ismail Hanniyeh, they still cannot make decisions for Israeli-Arabs. And no court of law in Israel could carry out such “an agreement”, that would make them give up their citizenship. Ain’t gonna happen, whether there’s peace, war, or Scotch Whiskey.

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December 12th, 2008, 8:18 pm

 

16. Innocent Criminal said:

Norman (and to some extent Alex)

I humbly but strongly disagree with your arguments that tries to make Arabs share similar shortcomings with others such Americans or Europeans when it comes to racism. But they do not, Arabs are MUCH worse. Arab culture has been entrenched with prejudice for a very long time. From the Arab slave trade that started in the 9th century to the way people in the gulf treat Indians, filipino’s, other arabs or even their own countrymen today (in Saudi “khederies” who are Saudis without a tribal background are looked down upon and tribal Saudis would never allow their kids to be marry a “Khdery”)

Even in the Levant you still hear the word Abed (slave) describing black people, or in Syria you call someone Kurdish as an insult. Many Libyans consider morroccans and tunisians nothing more than a source of maids, prostitutes and hashish. And I think Mona Eltahawy excellent article already covered Egypt. I just wish an editor in a major arab newspaper would have the balls to publish articles like this.

In the US and most of Europe these types of things are much rarer. Obviously there are major social factors for this. Americans and Europeans have been forced to deal with these problems head on because they have many minorities living in their developed society while a black man in the levant or gulf region is still a rare site. That said, it has not really improved much for Indians living in the gulf and they have been present for decades while blacks in north Africa are still treated as second class citizens.

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December 12th, 2008, 8:32 pm

 

17. AIG said:

Shai,
A Peace with Fatah and Hamas is useless for Israel. We need peace with the Palestinian people. That means ALL parts of the Palestinian people will have to accept it especially the diaspora Palestinians and the Arab Israelis. Will you accept “peace” if the diaspora Palestinians do not renounce the right of return? (well maybe you will but 99% of Israelis won’t). The same goes for the Israeli Arabs. They will have to make a sacrfice for peace and voluntarily relinquish their Israeli citizenship for peace. If not, there will not be peace. That is what the two state solution means.

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December 12th, 2008, 8:40 pm

 

18. Alex said:

IC

Mona’s says me her article was published in two Arab papers before it was published in the Herald Tribune. An Egyptian and a Qatari paper.

And she is writing another one next week also about racism in the Arab world.

I disagree with the sharp contrast you see between racism int he Arab world and racism outside the Arab world.

Firs, I think the Mediterranean is more racist in general. Arabs and Israelis included.

I had friends from Greece who told me about ten years ago if a Black person walked in the streets of Athens, people would stare at him/her.

I have other friends from Italy … they are racists in the most politically incorrect way.

In Egypt, if you try to trick someone and he catches your trick he will reply “did you think I’m Indian?” … which means “did you think I’m stupid enough to believe you”?

In Paris … they hate Arab and American tourists. When I ordered a steak well done the waiter’s reaction was out of one of those comedy movies about vacationing in Europe. And did I tell you about how my French ex girlfriend’s parents were crying when they found out she was in love with “an Arab”?

The British are racist … but they are so sophisticated in hiding it. they will say it in a very subtle way.

But, I will totally agree with you that the Saudis and some others in the Gulf are the worst racists on our planet.

And … not everyone of course… for example, none of us here on SC is racist

: )

Finally, my favorite racism story (I think I told it here before) comes from Sudan … someone I know was negotiating with a Sudanese official who had an issue with Kenyan officials I think regarding civil aviation treaties. At some point he asked the Sudanese “would you like to simply pick up the phone and call your Kenyan counterpart?” … the Sudanese answered: “No way! … me? … you want ME to call that BLACK”? (“iswed”)

He was light Black, the Kenyan was darker I guess.

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December 12th, 2008, 9:23 pm

 

19. Innocent Criminal said:

Well if you want to talk about racist europeans then the Russians and Sweeds are the worst. And Japanese culture is extremely guilty as well. We all agree racism is rampant everwhere and that its worse in some places. But what is “said” or “thought” by people in italy or greece does not compare to what is done in arabic countries. just imagine what would happen to a filipino or indian guy who decides to marry a saudi or emarati local? obviously this is sciencefiction since legally its impossible. but u can rest assured that man would be arrested and/or deported and possible physically attacked and the autorties would be culprit. In italy or greece that man’s rights would be protected by the authorties.

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December 12th, 2008, 10:15 pm

 

20. norman said:

IC,

As Alex said , There are racists in every country and the Arabs are not an exception to that , I like to look at people as individuals and there are good and evil in every nation.
As you know , we called African American in the US first , Niggers, In the sixties then black in the seventies and eighties then African American in the nineties,

What do you think of the woman who did not trust Obama because she thought that he was an Arab and the response that Mccain gave her , and the lack of outrage in the Media,

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December 13th, 2008, 1:15 am

 

21. SimoHurtta said:

Well if you want to talk about racist europeans then the Russians and Sweeds are the worst.

Based on what Innocent Criminal?????? I live between the Swedes and Russians. Especially the Swedes are tolerant people and in Sweden the immigrants have had a very good treatment and excellent social security. That’s why it has been so popular for example among Iranians,Iraqis, Kurds and Syrians. There are for example in Sweden over halve a million Finns who immigrated there in the 60’s. The problem with Sweden has been that during a relative short period the society has changed from one rather solid ethnic group’s nation to multiracial society. Of course this kind of chance has some problems, but in Sweden they have been relative small.

Well the Russian are nationalistic people, but worst racist of Europe? Hardly.

I had friends from Greece who told me about ten years ago if a Black person walked in the streets of Athens, people would stare at him/her.

That happened in Finland, especially in rural areas, also when there were very few black people here. But it was not in it self racism, it was more human inbuilt interest to observe what is new and different. When the first Somalis emerged to Helsinki and women in full black burqa begin to walk on streets and shopping centres naturally Finnish people stared and wondered. Now when they are used that clothing style nobody bothers to stare.

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December 13th, 2008, 1:59 am

 

22. Alia said:

IC,

RACISM remains institutionalized in the U.S. to the point that we have become blind to it. Although Jim Crow laws have been largely abolished, a drop of black blood will lead to someone to belong to the Black race and his attemmpts at passing for white are not generally well-received. Witness the case of ANATOLE BROYARD and a similar scenario in Philip Roth’s novel “The human stain” and do tell me: Why is president elect- Obama black ? He is at least half white…

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December 13th, 2008, 3:35 am

 

23. Alex said:

Saudi newspaper Asharq Alawsat’s editor warning the Christians of the Middle East not to be Syria’s friends (following Michel Aoun)

الكنيسة في خدمة القمع

تعليق لافت لعميد حزب الكتلة الوطنية كارلوس اده على زيارة ميشال عون إلى سورية يقول فيه «يبدو أن الجنرال عون اكتسب من هذه الزيارة ومن التي سبقتها إلى إيران كيفية تسخير الكنيسة خدمة لمصلحة الأنظمة التوتاليتارية».

وهذا يعني أن تحالف ميشال عون مع إيران وسورية كتب على المسيحيين اللبنانيين التحالف مع أنظمة أصولية وقمعية، وهذا انقلاب ستكون له توابع أبرزها ما سيرتد على مسيحيي الشرق ككل.

فمنذ تأسيس الدول العربية بشكلها الحديث كان لمسيحيي المشرق، ككل، دور تجاوز المواطنة المسالمة، فالمسيحيون دائما ما كان لهم دور بناء، فهم رموز سياسية وثقافية واقتصادية في جلِّ العالم العربي. بل إن الدور المسيحي العروبي كان بارزا حتى في المقاومة المسلحة سواء في لبنان أو غيره. واليوم بتحالفه مع دمشق وإيران يكون عون قد قلب المعادلة، وجعل مسيحيي لبنان، والمشرق، في منطقة مواجهة، خصوصا أننا نرى الدول العربية تستنفر ضد متطرفيها، بالفكر والسلاح، وتخوض معهم المواجهة تلو الأخرى، فكيف يرتمي عون في أحضان التطرف السياسي السوري، والأصولية الدينية في إيران؟

فسورية البعثية نموذج للتطرف السياسي، وأهل لبنان أدرى بذلك. كما أن سورية هي الدولة العربية الوحيدة، بعد نظام صدام حسين، التي احتلت دولة عربية أخرى وهي لبنان، وما تزال تفعل المستحيل من أجل السيطرة على لبنان، ومن خلال اللبنانيين أنفسهم.

وعون ينقلب على خصومته العنيفة مع دمشق في توقيت تتغير فيه حتى سورية، ولكن في اتجاه مختلف، حيث تفاوض إسرائيل، وإن بطريقة غير مباشرة، ولم يبق من شعارات المقاومة إلا تحريض الآخرين، وتغازل في الوقت نفسه واشنطن أوباما.

كما أن عون يتحالف مع إيران، وحزبها اللبناني، حزب حسن نصر الله، بينما دور طهران في المنطقة اليوم يمس صميم أمن الدول العربية ووحدتها، حيث انتهى عون واقفا في صفٍّ لا يثير حتى عدسة كاميرا فضولية.

فقط تخيلوا مكونات تلك الصورة؛ عون يقف مع حسن نصر الله، وخالد مشعل، ومقتدى الصدر، وفيلق القدس. كما أن توقيت التحالف مع إيران لافت للنظر مثله مثل توقيت التحالف مع سورية، ويكفي النظر إلى ما حدث لمسيحيي العراق، ومن الذي لم يحمهم.

وللتدليل على خطورة ما يفعله عون بالمسيحيين لا بد من قراءة حدثين وقعا في يوم واحد في إيران قبل أيام، حيث طالعنا صورتين متناقضتين؛ واحدة لمظاهرات أمام السفارة السعودية احتجاجا على حوار أتباع الديانات، والصورة الأخرى لمظاهرات في جامعة إيرانية تطالب بالديموقراطية وتندد بنظام أحمدي نجاد.

عون تحالف مع الصورة الأولى وهي صورة الملالي المحتجين على حوار الديانات والتعايش مع الآخر، لا مع صورة المطالبين بالديموقراطية والحياة الكريمة! فإذا كان الإيرانيون أنفسهم يتظاهرون ضد نظام نجاد، فكيف يتحالف ميشال عون مع من أضرَّ بشعبه ووطنه؟

ومن هنا تأتي أهمية وخطورة تعليقات كارلوس اده الذي لمس موقع الخلل ونبّه إلى خطورة أن تصبح كنيسة المشرق في خدمة الأنظمة القمعية.

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December 13th, 2008, 7:46 am

 

24. Alex said:

More threats

American ambassador to the IAEA speaks to the Saudi Asharq Alawsat:

http://www.asharqalawsat.com/details.asp?section=1&issueno=10973&article=498734

Syria has three months to open any location for IAEA inspection or else!

واشنطن: أمام دمشق 3 أشهر للتعاون وإلا ستكون هناك عواقب

شولتي لـ«الشرق الأوسط»: السوريون لم يوفقوا في قصتهم عن موقع الكبر
غريغوري شولتي («الشرق الأوسط»)

لندن: راغدة بهنام

أعطى السفير الاميركي لدى الوكالة الدولية للطاقة الذرية غريغوري شولتي، مهلة لسورية حتى مارس (آذار)
المقبل، للتعاون مع التحقيق الذي فتحته الوكالة في نشاطاتها النووية. والمهلة التي حددها شولتي لدمشق هي مهلة غير رسمية، تمثل تاريخ اجتماع مجلس أمناء الوكالة المقبل في فيينا. وقال شولتي في حديث خاص لـ«الشرق الاوسط»، انه اذا استمرت سورية ترفض التعاون مع طلبات الوكالة بالسماح للمفتشين الدوليين بزيارة مواقع أخرى يعتقدون انها على علاقة بموقع كبر في الصحراء الشرقية، واستجواب اشخاص معينين، فان الوكالة «سيكون لها رد فعل سلبي وستبدأ بطرح أسئلة جدية»، في اجتماعها المقبل في فيينا.

وشدد على ان رفض سورية التعاون مع مفتشي الوكالة «لن يمر بدون عواقب». واعتبر ان قصة سورية عن موقع الكبر للتغطية قائلا «ان «السوريين لم يوفقوا جدا بهذه القصة».

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December 13th, 2008, 7:51 am

 

25. norman said:

US shows Syria yellow card
Sat, 13 Dec 2008 14:18:41 GMT

Gregory L. Schulte
The US ambassador to the International Atomic Energy Agency has warned that Syria might face punitive measures over its ‘nuclear program’.

Citing an al-Sharq al-Awsat interview with Gregory L. Schulte, the Israeli daily Yediot Ahronot quoted the US diplomat as saying that Damascus should decide whether it wants to cooperate on its alleged atomic program until March or it will face punishment.

“The international agency is giving the Syrians an opportunity to cooperate, and they have an extension until the next meeting to cooperate,” Schulte said on Saturday.

“I hope the Syrians reach the conclusion that they should cooperate for the sake of their own interests” he said, adding that if Damascus failed to cooperate “this would lead to a negative response, and serious questions would be raised”.

The US and its allies have accused Syria of having planned to construct a secret nuclear reactor whose site was bombed by Israeli warplanes in September 2007.

Syria, however, has dismissed the allegations and allowed IAEA inspectors to visit the site.

UN Chief Mohamed ElBaradei had earlier said that there had been no proof that the site had been a reactor.

He also warned the West against impeding Syria’s efforts to achieve nuclear technology over ‘political considerations’.

Last month, IAEA’s Technical Assistance and Cooperation Committee (TACC) approved a project to provide Damascus with technical aid to build a nuclear power plant.

SB/RA

Related News
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IAEA approves nuclear aid to Syria

IAEA: West can’t deprive Syria of N-tech

US warns Syria against nuclear pursuit

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December 13th, 2008, 2:50 pm

 

26. Akbar Palace said:

That is just the one state solution. So as part of the peace deal, Israeli Arabs should become citizens of the Palestinian state and relinquish their citizenship in the Jewish state.

AIG –

Which Israeli political platform states the above?

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December 13th, 2008, 3:48 pm

 

27. AIG said:

AP,
No one is going to say this explicitly as to not lose potential Arab votes but this has to be seriously discussed as any part of a peace agreement with the Palestinian people.

As we know, it only takes 3 people with a katyusha mounted on a donkey to create a crisis in the middle east. So imagine that half the Palestinian people (the diaspora) do not support the peace agreement. There would be thousands of people shooting rockets at Israel from the West Bank. That is why an only viable peace with the Palestinians is peace that ALL the Palestinian people buy into. You would need ALL factions of the PLO to support it.

The flip side of this is that Israel has to be sure that it has made peace with the Arab Israelis and that in the future they will not demand autonomy etc. Because otherwise, the peace agreement is not a peace agreement but just a method for the Palestinians to get something now and then get more later (the well known salami strategy). The best way to ensure that is to ask The Arab Israelis to relinquish their citizenship in exchange for citizenship in the new Palestinian state. I don’t think that is too much to ask. An historical compromise is an historical compromise. Most Arab-Israelis identify as Palestinians more than as Israelis, so what is the problem?

Not that I think any of the above is going to happen. There is no way the diaspora let alone the Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza are going to give up on the right of return. Any Palestinian leader trying to push for this will be swiftly assasinated.

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December 13th, 2008, 6:51 pm

 

28. Shai said:

Akbar,

I’ll answer your question – no one’s! There is no political party in Israel, from the extreme Left to the extreme Right, which proposes what AIG is suggesting – that Arab-Israelis should voluntarily relinquish their Israeli citizenship. It’s just like his democracy-first ideas – NO ONE in Israel even remotely suggests it, but AIG knows better.

AIG,

I’m sorry to tell you this, but you’re living in a dream. Let me spell it out for you, so that one day when you wake up, you’ll recall what I said:

a) Peace with Syria, and later with the Arab world, will come WELL BEFORE any of these states become democracies.

b) When Israel and the Palestinians (in Palestine) sign a final peace agreement, it will have many parts to it. It’ll talk about giving up on the physical Right of Return, it’ll talk about financial compensation, it’ll talk about the West Bank and Gaza, it’ll talk about a capital in E. Jerusalem, it’ll talk about 3 major Settlement pockets in the West Bank, it’ll talk about an end to the conflict. But it will NOT talk about Arab-Israelis relinquishing their Israeli citizenship. And, NO ARAB CITIZEN OF ISRAEL will EVER give up his or her citizenship, and remain living in Israel. Some, probably very very few, will move to the newly formed State of Palestine and, unless there’s a law in Israel that forbids holding both citizenships, will most likely keep their Israeli one AND acquire their new Palestinian one as well.

Real peace has nothing to do with Israeli citizenship – it has to do with the establishment of a Palestine, for any and all Palestinians that WANT to live in such a country. No one can be forced (just like Lebanese and Syrian Palestinians will NOT be forced out, and will in all likelihood receive local citizenships, finally). Arab-Israelis will remain Palestinians at heart, but will always remain Israeli citizens.

I challenge you to find ONE political leader in Israel (not two, three, or twenty, just ONE), who says what you say. Let us know when you find one. I can’t wait.

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December 13th, 2008, 6:59 pm

 

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