“American dream expelled from Syria” by Sami Moubayed

About 40 different nationalities from all around the world are represented in the school population. 80% of the high school students are bilingual. All faculty members are certified teachers and 74% have masters degrees. Nearly one hundred percent of DCS graduates are now attending, or have graduated from, colleges or universities around the world.

About 40 different nationalities from all around the world are represented in the school population. 80% of the high school students are bilingual. All faculty members are certified teachers and 74% have masters degrees. Nearly one hundred percent of DCS graduates are now attending, or have graduated from, colleges or universities around the world.

American dream expelled from Syria
By Sami Moubayed
Asia Times, Nov. 4 2008

DAMASCUS – A belated victim of the United States raid into Syria on October 27 was the American school in Damascus. The institution has been a controversial satellite of US interests in Syria since its founding more than a half-century ago, and it has often been featured as political football during the two nations’ turbulent, often bitter relationship.

The American school in Damascus, known as the Damascus Community School (DCS), was one among many US academic institutes that started appearing in the Middle East in the mid-20th century. Unlike the American University of Beirut (AUB), a missionary school, or the American College in Aleppo, northern Syria, DCS was part of American initiative fostered by then-US secretary of state John Foster Dulles during the Cold War in 1956.

There was no US ambassador in Syria at the time of its founding – as is the case today – and relations were tense. The White House, under president Dwight D Eisenhower, had accused the Syrian government of transforming Syria into a Soviet satellite. Yet a key architect of the school’s opening was Syria’s ex-foreign minister Salah al-Din al-Bitar, ironically also one of the two founders of the Baath Party.

The school’s unlicensed status, certainly illegal for a full-fledged school as far as the Syrian legal system was concerned, went unnoticed from the 1950s and it remained part of America’s policy of promoting American ideals in the Arab world to challenge the rising trend of communism.

An earlier American school did exist in Syria, founded by Howard Bliss in the 1920s, but DCS was different. It was founded by the American government, not under any agreement between the Syrian and American ministries of education, but directly by secretary of state Dulles.

As part of America’s foreign policy in the Arab world, DCS was for many years a success, helping to promote America as a land of opportunity, freedom, and dignity to hundreds of Syrians. It marketed the American dream and its graduates went on to American universities in the US, who returned home to promote America.

Everyone in Damascus is debating the decision of Syrian Prime Minister Mohammad Naji Otari to close down DCS, and the American Culture Center (ALC) in the wake of the US raid on the town of Abu Kamal, on the Syrian-Iraqi border, which left eight Syrian civilians dead. Some say it is a wise symbolic gesture to show just how angry the Syrians are with the US administration, but others claim that it has targeted the wrong people, with the 200 Syrian students enrolled at DCS set to suffer rather than the US government.

The school, which has been given a grace period until November 6 to shut down, has refused to comment on the ordeal, promising its students homeschooling for the remainder of the academic year, until a new president comes to power in the White House. If the victor is Democratic candidate Barack Obama, they feel symbolic steps will be taken to mend bridges with Syria which could lead to the re-opening of DCS.

The 200 Syrian students at DCS will need to find other schools to complete their schooling, and the US, which attaches a great importance to its cultural mission in the Arab world, will be badly affected by the closure. It has lost the chance to coach 200 potential ambassadors who could have defended America to the rest of the world and worked on mending Syrian-American relations.

Syrians who studied at DCS from the 1970s to the 1990s, when Syrian-American relations were experiencing turbulence, had the luxury to defend the America they learned about at school. They were brought up learning about the entrepreneurial spirit of men like Henry Ford and Walt Disney, the leadership of former president Abraham Lincoln and civil rights leader Martin Luther King, and the wisdom of former president Franklin D Roosevelt.

They learned US history, and memorized the preamble of the US constitution, along with the Bill of Rights and the 10th Amendment. The American school in Damascus not only promoted American history, it promoted the American way of life, much sought after during the 20th century by Arabs and Syrians.

Valentine’s Day, a novelty in Syria until the late 1980s, was brought to Damascus by DCS. On Valentine’s Day Syrian students at DCS would exchange flowers in the morning, and attend a chaperoned dance party at night. Their wearing of red roses for love, white for friendship, and pink for affection were blasphemy as far as many Syrians watching the scene were concerned.

But Valentine’s Day has now become not only the norm, but also a much-anticipated social and commercial event in the capital, where entire streets are colored in red, and roses sell like hotcakes every February 14. Not only did DCS teach Syrians about Valentine’s Day, but everything from prom nights, school trips to Greece and Italy, and movie nights on campus to Sloppy Joe sandwiches, made up part of its cultural curriculum.

The entire concept of electives during high school was also new to Syrians, who were used to compulsory, rigid Syrian education, modeled after the French curriculum. Student committees were formed at DCS, along with student elections, and a national honors’ society. The school invested in young people, bringing out talents through sports and sending them to athletic tournaments around the region, or in extra-curricular activities like drama and debate clubs.

DCS offered students a variety of courses in subjects like world religion, computer design, and politics, and did not force them to wear uniforms – a far cry from the khaki military uniform worn by students from state-run schools.

The school was not big, with only 385 students in its 2007-2008 year, and charged an astronomical tuition fee by Syrian standards, with annual fees of around $12,000 for students in grades 9-12. Even well-to-do Syrians have found the price exceptionally high, and often prefer to send their children to the local French or Pakistani schools in Damascus.

When US president Bill Clinton came to Damascus in 1994, he was scheduled to speak to Syrian and American students at DCS, and acknowledge how important such schools were for building bridges in the Middle East. DCS was directly affiliated to the US Embassy, with any sitting ambassador being chairman of its nine-man board.

When Syrian-American relations plummeted in 2005, the Syrians began to seriously toy with the idea of closing down DCS, and authorities threatened to not renew the residence permits of American teachers at DCS. A 12-year-old Syrian schoolgirl from the famous Samman family of Damascus then tragically died while on a DCS field trip to Palmyra, some 215 kilometers northeast of Damascus.

The accident was a result of human error – no doubt – but many Syrians blamed it, at the height of Syrian-US tension, on the American imperialists.

Minister of Education Ali Saad responded by passing strict laws which prevented any Syrian students from enrolling at DCS, and he stressed the words “no exceptions”. The school’s status was put into serious doubt, with authorities asking why it had been able to operate for nearly 50-years with no license from the Syrian Ministry of Education.

As a temporary measure to “authorize” the school, ministry authorities forced it to add four courses – all copied from the Syrian curriculum – in Arabic, for Syrian students. They included Arabic, and social studies, but not the Syrian course “patriotism”, which teaches Baathist ideology. Even Syrians with dual nationality at DCS had to take the courses.

School authorities objected to the plans, but were forced to either to accept them or close down. They eventually agreed, and additionally had to accept a new co-principal, representing the Ministry of Education, who was tasked with ensuring the Syrian requests were carried out.

For now, all of that has become history – as could American cultural influence in Syria. Last week, hundreds of thousands of protestors took to the streets of Damascus, chanting anti-American slogans. There was no Syrian in his right mind who could defend America, now that it been caught red-handed, killing ordinary Syrians.

The US has yet to come up with a logical explanation for its Syrian raid, apart from contradicting declarations from military personnel. One was that they had “no knowledge” of the attack. Another was that the Americans were “investigating” the raid, yet investigations are usually carried out when a mistakes occurs or after a minor skirmish.

It is clear that a high degree of preparation went into the raid, on different political and military levels. Adding insult to injury was the statement made by a military official in Washington DC claiming the raid targeted a logistic network for foreign fighters in Iraq, working with al-Qaeda.

The name floating in press reports is that of Abu Ghadiyah, a militant from Mosul who is part of the terrorist network of Abu Musaab al-Zarkawi, the former “prince” of al-Qaeda in Iraq.

The list of the dead from Abu Kamal proves that there was no Abu Ghadiyah among them, and not a single “foreign fighter”. All of them were Syrian: Dawoud Mohammad al-Abdullah and his four children, Ahmad Khalifeh, Ali Abbas Hasan and his wife. What kind of a “terrorist cell” is gunned down in broad daylight and does not fire back a single bullet in defense?

The US attack lasted for minutes, but its aftershocks will be felt in the region for a whole lot longer. And its intensity will depend on the Syrian response, which to date, has been restricted to closing down DCS, and reducing the number of troops patrolling the Iraqi border.

John Foster Dulles – who attached a great amount of importance to DCS – would probably been angered by this sad end to the school he helped build.

Sami Moubayed is a Syrian political analyst [who went to DCS]

[Addendum by Landis]As far as I can tell, Sami is the only Syrian journalist working in Syria who writes  English flawlessly and with great facility. As someone who has spent much of his life trying to develop proper language skills, I know how hard it is and admire Sami’s ability to write in English and his willingness to stay in Syria. There are, of course, many Syrians who are bilingual, but most of these are either not in Syria or they are not journalists.  The US State department seems not to have one employee who speaks Arabic well enough to represent the US effectively on al-Jazeera. 

Syrian authorities have asked the staff of the American school and cultural center in Damascus to leave Syria within 48 hours, Lebanese radio reported Monday.

A week ago, Damascus ordered the closure of the facilities, in what appeared to be a response to a U.S. commando raid inside Syria on October 26.

Maysaloun– A blog written by Wassim – Is in favor of the School closing.

The Damascus Community ‘School’

I have always resented the Damascus Community School, or the “American School” as it is called locally. There was something about it that annoyed me immensely, firstly in that the only people who could afford to put their children there were very rich people with more money than sense, secondly their children grew up to be little Americans. During my last few trips to Syria I had noticed that the wall surrounding the school has gotten higher and higher to the point where it now looks like a mini-fortress, much to my approval. I don’t believe it should be a target but I do believe that the students who go there must be made to recognise that there is something abnormal about their attending classes there, that they are not the same as other students elsewhere, and they are not. …. I hope its closure becomes permanent.

Next US president may have shot at Israel-Syria deal,  AFP Nov. 4, 2008

Egypt and other key Arab states look constantly for a US-brokered solution to the Palestinian problem, which they see at the core of the region’s troubles and central to restoring US credibility.

The problem, Miller and other analysts say, is that such a solution seems as distant as ever and it might make more sense to open doors with Syria.

Patrick Clawson, an analyst with the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, suspected that Obama would like to try to draw Syria away from its ties to Iran in order to work with the West in securing a peace deal with Israel.

A McCain team would share an Obama administration’s “real excitement and enthusiasm” about such a prospect but “may be much more skeptical” and spend less effort on it, Clawson said by telephone.

Aaron David Miller, a former adviser to both Republican and Democratic secretaries of state, said the deal he and other former US officials let slip from their grasp between 1993 and 2000 is back within reach.

“There is a very real possibility of an Israeli-Syrian agreement,” Miller, now a public policy scholar at the Woodrow Wilson Institute, told AFP in a telephone interview.

Miller, who said he is associated with neither campaign, insisted it is a “fantasy” to think such an agreement would drive a wedge between Damascus and Tehran….

Peter Beinart, an analyst with the Council on Foreign Relations, also suspected Obama would support the prospect of a deal with Syria while a McCain administration would balk with skeptics in its midst.

Comments (147)

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101. AIG said:

Saudi Arabia has to be part of a comprehensive solution because like it or not, it has become the leader of the Sunni world and it is the largest and richest Gulf country by far. If it does not fully endorse or lead the peace process, there will be no peace. All that will happen is that instead of Syria funding the extremists like Hamas we will have Saudi Arabia supporting and funding them or turning a blind eye to forces inside Saudi Arabia funding them. Without Saudi Arabia fully comitted and in fact leading the process, no sane Israeli politician will take the risks required (if any is found to take the risks at all).

As for Syria, of course it can be held to the same standards. It had the backing of the Soviet Union, just as Israel had the backing of the US and that was only from 1967. You conveniently forget the years between 48 and 67 which there was not the issue of the Golan yet Syria wasted these years. The US is just a convenient excuse that does not amount to much. How can that compare to all the Arabs that Israel faced that wanted to throw it in the sea and funded terrorism against it? Syria faced much less hardships. The problems of Syria are INTERNAL, not external.

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November 5th, 2008, 5:29 pm


102. norman said:

w w w . h a a r e t z . c o m


Last update – 16:31 05/11/2008
Golan settlers launch PR offensive as Syria talks loom
By Eli Ashkenazi, Haaretz Correspondent

The board of Golan communities is launching a public relations campaign in the wake of media reports of Prime Minister Ehud Olmert’s intention to resume peace talks with Syria.

A prospective peace deal with Syria is likely to include the evacuation of Golan settlements, to which Golan residents overwhelmingly oppose.

The board has recruited some 50 local residents and started training them as spokespersons, expecting a blitz of media interest in the region ahead of a potential evacuation.

“A person should learn how to put a message across concisely, in one or two sentences,” Eli Malka, head of Golan Regional Council, said. “We must not miss this opportunity. The communities living here are the Golan’s biggest asset, and we intend to capitalize on this asset.”

The media training workshops resumed a few weeks ago after being suspended some seven years earlier when the Israel-Syria peace process was discontinued.

A board spokesperson said that “we don’t expect them to regurgitate press releases they learned by heart. We want them to tell their own personal story, like one family who settled in the Golan after moving out of the Tel Aviv area. When the moment comes, we want them to be well prepared.”

“Every mention of looming talks brings up masses of media,” Malka said. “We want to utilize this phenomenon to bring our message across to the public, with fewer slogans, and a genuine effort to engage in dialogue.”

Related articles:

Mazuz: Syria talks can go on even as government prepares for elections

Livni: Syria must cut Iran, terror ties before we give it what it wants

Report: Bush offered to press Israel to quit Golan if Syria cuts Iran ties



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November 5th, 2008, 5:56 pm


103. Innocent_Criminal said:

Ostraiff the Wall,

I agree with you 100% BUT… there is NO way Israel will allow Hagel to be Sec. of state. He was voted the least Israel-friendly presidential candidate by Haaretz http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/pages/rosnerPage.jhtml

SecState is a position that has been reserved for staunch Israeli supporters for decades and its not going to be changed during the Obama administration

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November 5th, 2008, 6:19 pm


104. Aatssi said:

Ford Prefect
I agree with your list of items that muste be retained by the nation to move forward. But without a truly patriot and elected strong leadership at the helm to facilitate and allow this kind of evolution to progress ..Nothing will be achieved….
Sorry man.. with the current leadership in Bellad El-Shaam..I don’t see any of your lists as priority in the hand the leaders…..

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November 5th, 2008, 6:21 pm


105. norman said:


11/05/2008 07:00 PMCONCERN IN ISRAEL
Jerusalem Skeptical of Obama’s Middle East Policy
By Pierre Heumann in Jerusalem

Not everyone is ecstatic about Barack Obama’s victory in the US presidential elections. Many in Israel are concerned that, should Obama make good on his promise to talk to all comers, Israel could be left out in the cold.

Getty Images
Not everyone in Israel is quite sure what to think about the new American president-elect.
Barack Obama was the candidate that the world wanted the US to elect. But in Jerusalem, his victory is not universally welcome. There are those, particularly within the Israeli Foreign Ministry, who worry that Obama will deviate from Bush’s path of leaving well enough alone. While few would argue that American attention in the region is unneeded, some are concerned that Obama may go overboard and make good on his promise to negotiate with all comers. The Foreign Ministry is particularly concerned that Obama may look to smooth relations with Iran.

The concern is not that farfetched. During the campaign, Obama repeatedly said he would welcome a dialogue with Tehran. Many in Tel Aviv see it as a foregone conclusion that the US under Obama will begin seeking out such negotiations.

“That is the biggest danger for us, because we wouldn’t be at the negotiating table ourselves,” former Mossad leader Efraim Halevy said recently.

The danger, he said, comes from the fact that such talks would necessarily touch on Iran’s relations with other countries in the region, like Syria and Lebanon, and with the Palestinians. “When our regional interests are up for discussion, we can’t be represented by a proxy,” Halevy said. Jerusalem is also worried that Obama may begin talks with Iran without preconditions.

If Obama opens a dialogue with Syria and radical Islamists, says Barry Rubin from the Interdisciplinary Center in Herzliya, a university. “That would undermine the solidity of modernizing forces in the Middle East, Rubin says.

Still, few in Israel are anticipating a complete revolution in America’s Middle East policy. On the day before Americans went to the polls, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert went out of his way to calm the fears of his fellow citizens. “Whoever gets elected,” he said, “will be a friend of Israel’s.”

Zalman Shoval, Israel’s former ambassador in Washington D.C., for his part is not anticipating that solving the Israeli-Palestinian problem is going to be tops on Obama’s long and daunting priority list. Every US president who has addressed the issue thus far, he points out, has failed. “Why would Obama want to begin with a flop?” he wonders.

Pierre Heumann is the Middle East correspondent for the Swiss paper Weltwoche

All Rights Reserved
Reproduction only allowed with the permission of SPIEGELnet GmbH

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November 5th, 2008, 6:51 pm


106. Qifa Nabki said:

Monsieur AIG,

May I ask you a simple question: what’s the point?

What’s the point of your persistent and earnest activity on this forum? I’m not trying to needle you; I’m being serious.

It would be one thing if you were someone interested in the short term, in the day to day, but you scoff at those who gesture at such horizons. For you, nothing short of massive societal change over the course of generations will move the region towards peace and stability.

If this is what is called for, who cares about the mundane little news items that we trouble ourselves with here on SC? What’s a cross-border raid here, an assassination there, in the grand scheme of things?

Just wondering.

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November 5th, 2008, 7:10 pm


107. AIG said:

Not true. No need for huge societal changes. Let me see truly free inernal dialog in Syria between the government and opposition. That is a small first step that would make me optimistic. Because once you can discuss issues, you are on your way to solving them. Is this too much to ask for in Syria? (Seriously, not a rhetorical question) Will that require also huge societal changes?

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November 5th, 2008, 7:23 pm


108. norman said:


The change that AIG wants will bring destruction to Syria and the region , and that is what AIG wants .he like to package it in nice cover but the goal is the same , destroy the borders as they are now to establish small kingdoms like in the old ages with Israel the most advanced and influential.

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November 5th, 2008, 7:24 pm


109. Qifa Nabki said:


There is “free internal dialogue between the government and the opposition” in Lebanon, yet you regard that Arab country as uncivilized, just like the rest of the barbarians.

There is also an increasingly free press in Egypt, but that’s not a cause for optimism in your book.

Come on, admit it, you want the whole enchilada. Half measures are not enough. So, again, why bother?

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November 5th, 2008, 7:42 pm


110. trustquest said:

This morning on DR show there were discussions about future Obama policy. The idea presented by analysts was that Obama administration is like any previous one it will react with the other sides and not always can make the first move, (it is a two ways street).
We know that Obama might go for sponsoring the peace negotiations between Syria-Israel. The question for SC commentators, what should Syria do as first step to show good faith with the new administration (foreign and domestic moves) to give a signal that it is capable of change.
So, what is the Syrian fist move is it the restoring of DA School and American center (two funny cards!) or is the release some of the prisoners of conscious?
What Syria has to offer?

AIG, your admired championing of humans rights issues and free speech in Syria, makes me ask you this question: do you think that these ideas you advocate can be incorporated in the peace negotiations as to guarantee lasting peace with your next door neighbor.

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November 5th, 2008, 7:57 pm


111. Ford Prefect said:

Norman said it best. Many hawks within the defunct Cheney administration want nothing short of a complete destruction of Syria as a country. Why? They argue that you only negotiate and deal with someone you cannot physically crush (e.g., USSR). For the rest of the weaker world who is NOT in tune with “prescribed” policies, a defeat and complete capitalization is what is needed.

So now Syria supports terrorism and must surrender before they deal with it. But if Saudi Arabia supports Hamas and sends money to Hamas families, they are just “not really doing it” and it is a friendly state.

AIG wants us to take the rhetorical path of “make peace with your Arab world first” line – so that the ball is thrown over the fence for the time being. He will talk to us only if we become the next Switzerland(s) in the region.

The problem with gun-boat diplomacy is that it empirically failed and miserably so. It not only caused a vast sweeping of anything associated with the Republicans or the neocons into the dumpster, it has actually undermined the entire Republican Brand itself.

So yes, they are dreaming of a complete remake of Syria a la Iraq model. It does not matter who is on top, what liberties and security the Syrian people have, just capitulate and take orders – because Israel and the US both have military might.

I am reminded by the excellent history from Thucydides describing the dialogue between the Athenians (a superpower) and the Melians (a weak nation in which the Athenians are determined to crush, just because they can):

Athenians: “…….since you know as well as we do that right, as the world goes, is only in question between equals in power, while the strong do what they can and the weak suffer what they must.”

Melians: “So that you would not consent to our being neutral, friends instead of enemies, but allies of neither side.”

Athenians: “No; for your hostility cannot so much hurt us as your friendship will be an argument to our subjects of our weakness, and your enmity of our power.”

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November 5th, 2008, 8:46 pm


112. SimoHurtta said:


Thank you for your thougthtful analysis. The one thing that I would like to add is that I do not believe that a status-quo is ever achievable. By their nature political/social systems- like all other living systems built on interaction- evolve, deteriorate, change but they never remain the same. Most of the time, we are able only in retrospect to see the timeline of change, rarely we are experienced enough to see change as it is happening.

Alia I share your “worry” that a state like Israel is now can’t coexists with the neighbours. Surely Jews can live in the region as they have done all the time. But a country like Israel as it is now has done nothing to accommodate itself in the region. Instead it has created a extremely nationalistic, religious, arrogant fortified and isolated society and changing that to a normal country can be extremely difficult if not impossible. Being able to keeping up that closed fortified society with occupied areas is hardly possible for the next 60 years. The fasted way out of that problem would be one state solution, but I am afraid it is “to much” for the Zionists.

The truth is that Arab countries do not need Israel economically or culturally, neither Israel does need Arab countries. Well the only thing Arab countries need Israel for is to stop Israel creating chaos and destruction. When peace is achieved with Palestinians, Lebanon and Syria Israel has economically as much meaning to the region as let’s say Sweden has. If we forget the military aspect.

Israelis are right in speculating will Obama be good for Israel. As clever people Israelis know that the future of Israel is decided in USA, not in Jerusalem. That speculating means that will Obama allow Israel to continue business as usual = running the Palestinian slave camps and messing around as a regional self declared “sheriff”. Well I think it is not a question of what Obama thinks or allows. The essential question now is that can US economy afford any more that “business as usual in Israel”. When the big US corporations finally say that we need the petro counties markets and US policy in Middle East is hurting us too badly no matter who is the US president he must deliver. And when US president commands Israel PM jumps even the most religious right-wing nut. Millions of US industrial jobs mean much in this new era especially when USA is is almost bankrupt.

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November 6th, 2008, 12:30 am


113. AIG said:


What I want is a path and commitment for the “whole enchilada”. I don’t want democracy tomorrow, or in a year but I want to see a concrete path that in 5-10 years will lead to democracy. The current position according to Landis is that the Syrian elites do not want democracy. Let’s see this attitude change.

Lebanon is a good example of a country not willing to face reality. The Lebanese will not conduct a census because they are afraid of the results. How will Lebanon ever become a normal country if it is not willing to face the issues it has? The Lebanese are not barbarians. They seem to me like very refined ostriches. Ok, so you are afraid to learn there are so many Shia. Fine. But how can you know where more schools or classes are needed without a census? How can you plan electricity and water and sewage long term without a census? How can you even have a discussion about population planning without a census?

Israel was at fault for something very similar with Oslo. We chose to ignore reality. We did not look at the facts and we let our emotions take us over. We could easily have known that Oslo would be a disaster because it could not better the average Palestinian. So we convinced ourselves that Arafat has changed to Jack Welch and that the Palestinians will ignore their diaspora and become like the Chinese, atheists that are only interested in economic growth. How stupid (I include myself here) could we have been?

And now Shai and his ilk want us to repeat the same mistake with Syria. Syria is not Egypt, there is no Sinai peninsula to make things simpler. If Syria does not reform it will implode and then it is likely that Israel will have to take the Golan back. So why bother and lose many lives in the process and disrupt the lives of tens of thousands of Israelis? Especially since we are not getting anything concrete in return???

I think the Saudi regime is just as despicable as the Syrian one. I don’t want surrender or regime change by force in Syria. Though I hope Syria becomes a democracy, I would not waste the life of one Israeli soldier on such an adventure. I want a peace agreement worth the paper it is written on. There is a lot of ground between Syria and Switzerland.

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November 6th, 2008, 2:29 am


114. Qifa Nabki said:


What I want is a path and commitment for the “whole enchilada”. I don’t want democracy tomorrow, or in a year but I want to see a concrete path that in 5-10 years will lead to democracy.

Me too. Except I think we need at least 20-25 years. The horizon of 5-10 (or 7-14, Alex!) is unrealistic in my opinion.

Lebanon is a good example of a country not willing to face reality.


The Lebanese will not conduct a census because they are afraid of the results. How will Lebanon ever become a normal country if it is not willing to face the issues it has?

I think Lebanon has to become a country before it becomes a normal country. Everything you say about the census is true, but it is frankly the least of our problems. Even if we knew exactly how many Sunnis, Shi`a, Maronites, Druze, Christians, etc. there are in Lebanon, this would not compel anyone to have the serious discussions that need to be had about issues like electricity, sewage, education, population planning, etc. With the exception of a few figures, the political class here is rotten to the bone.

Israel was at fault for something very similar with Oslo. We chose to ignore reality…We could easily have known that Oslo would be a disaster because it could not better the average Palestinian.

I’m not sure I understand you; could you explain what you mean? What would you have preferred to happen, looking back? And what do you think is the ideal solution for the future, if bettering the average Palestinian is the operative desideratum?

The problem I have with your arguments is that you vacillate between hard-nosed realism and dewy-eyed idealism. On the one hand you say things like: Why do we need to make peace with Syria and Lebanon? There is no security incentive because Syria is not a military threat and Hizbullah is north of the Litani. There is no economic incentive because we can trade with both countries via the Gulf states. Low-intensity warfare is a perfectly acceptable trade-off for not having to give up any more land.

On the other hand you talk about the necessity of bringing democracy to the Arab world and not signing on to any deals that do not better the average Palestinian. What kind of a deal would that be, exactly?

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November 6th, 2008, 1:48 pm


115. AIG said:

A 20-25 year plan is no plan at all. Humans cannot work with such timelines. Even the Soviet Union had 5 year plans :). In any case in 20-25 years the population of Syria will double and the problems will be twice as hard to solve. By 2015 Syria will add 5-6 million people! That is almost the whole population of Israel!
Saying that 20-25 years is needed is like saying that something is impossible.

If the billions given by the international community to Arafat would have been well spent, the Palestinians would be living a much better life now. In that sense the Oslo agreement got it right. What it got wrong was the fact that Arafat well, was Arafat and not Jack Welch. There was no accountability and no transparency. Another example is Lebanon. Lebanon was loaned $40 billion! Yet the average Lebanese does not seem to have benefited as he should or could have. That is why any plan must ensure that the ruling classes do not siphon the money to themselves. There must be demand for reform, real accountability and real transparency. And if that is too much to ask, then the alternative of doing NOTHING is the best. If there cannot be a deal, there cannot be a deal.

Since the Arab countries are very religious and tribal, they cannot implement the Chinese model which has at its core harsh population control and a meritocracy, two things currently anthema in the Arab world. That leaves only democracy as an option. If that is not possible, then there is no possible solution because all peace agreements will end up sooner or later like Oslo, with both sides worse off than they were before.

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November 6th, 2008, 3:13 pm


116. Qifa Nabki said:


I’m not suggesting that someone actually propose a 25 year plan. I’m just saying that 5-10 years will not produce true democracy in any Arab country. The Soviet Union had 5-year plans, but there were several of them and they followed each other successively.

Lebanon, I believe, is on the right track at least, but there is so much work to be done. At least there is a large civil society infrastructure, a free press, and a healthy disdain for politicians. What is needed now is a formidable judiciary that has the mandate to punish corrupt politicians, like you have in Israel. Without such a bastion of authority, Lebanon will continue to be ruled by glorified mafiosos.

But even with all of this, Lebanon still needs a generation – in my opinion – to become a true democracy, assuming it is able to overcome its obstacles. If this is the case, how can Syria, whose social and economic development has been stunted for decades, possibly turn into a democracy in 5-10 years?

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November 6th, 2008, 3:37 pm


117. AIG said:


The Eastern European state’s development was also stunted for decades yet they adopted democracy pretty quickly once the dictators were out of the way. India is another example of a very poor country with a working democracy. And there are several other examples in Africa. The problem is not stunted development. The problem is lack of trust and lack of peace between Syrians.

History waits for no-one. Every 5 years it wastes, the chances of Syria finding a niche that it can be competitively advantageous in slims significantly. Syria cannot compete in services with Israel or Lebanon. It cannot compete in manufacturing with China or Vietnam. Its wheat agriculture cannot compete with the US, Canada and Russia. Syria is just digging itself into a huge hole it cannot get out of. And peace with Israel will be the least of its problems. Bashar is like Louis XV, apres moi, la deluge. Well it ain’t going to spill into Israel.

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November 6th, 2008, 3:54 pm


118. Shai said:


Let’s put up a hypothetical situation, and then I’ll ask a few questions.

Aspiring to still gain back their lost Golan, Syria conducts an active WMD-program, including chemical biological and, yes, nuclear. Let’s even assume that the building bombed recently by Israel was intended for the processing of Plutonium (which was supplied by North Korea). We managed to destroy part of the program, but of course not all of it. Just to remind ourselves, after the U.S. defeated Saddam in 1991, experts claimed Iraq was 6 months away from an atomic bomb. This, merely 10 years after Israel destroyed the Osirak reactor. So if Syria really wants an atomic bomb, it could probably attain it given enough time (as will Iran).

Now the Questions:

1. If Syria gets back the Golan peacefully, what are the chances it will continue developing its WMD-program – less likely, more likely, or the same?

2. Same question as above, but with Syria NOT getting back the Golan through a peace agreement with Israel.

3. One of your scary-scenarios has been that a terrorist group could receive some horrific WMD (let’s say atomic bomb) from one of our enemies (let’s say Syria or Iran), and set it off in Tel-Aviv. Our enemies would benefit from what you called “plausible deniability”, and would be safe from Israeli retribution. If Syria receives the Golan back as part of a peace agreement, how likely are they to partake in such an adventure? If do not receive the Golan peacefully, how likely?

4. Is it in fact true, that a nation should prefer ongoing low-intensity warfare, lasting years and decades, to giving up a stretch of land not ours in the first place?

5. Is it true that Israel is winning the battle in this continuous low-intensity warfare? By winning, I mean that as time passes, Israel becomes safer, not less safe. As time passes, are our enemies’ aspirations becoming more, or less, dangerous to Israel?

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November 6th, 2008, 4:06 pm


119. AIG said:


1. The regime in Syria will continue developing WMDs even if it gets the Golan because the WMD is not useful for getting the Golan back. It is useful for keeping the regime in power. That is why North Korea and Iran are developing them and that is why Asad wants a bomb also.

2. How does a nuclear bomb help Asad get the Golan back???

3. In the near future it will reduce the chances of Asad giving the bomb to terrorists but it much more increases the chances of this happening in the future because Asad is taking all hope away from the Syrians. When he falls hard, as he must if there are no reforms, who do you think will hold the bomb?

4. First, the Golan is ours by law just as Jaffa is ours. I see no difference whatsoever between Jaffa and the Golan. I am asking you for the hundreth time, what is the difference? One was taken in 48 and one in 67, that is all. Second you assume that returning the Golan will stop the low intensity warfare. Third, is the fact that so many people die in car accidents in Israel a good enough reason to forgo the benefit of driving?

5. As time passes, history has shown that our enemies’ aspirations have become less dangerous. In 48 everybody wanted us in the sea. Now about 50% or so want us on the 67 lines. I would call this a huge improvement. We have consistenly shown that we can grow the economical and technological advantage over the Arabs, first and foremost because we are a democracy. Since the Arab world is not democratizing, I am very confident that we will continue maintaining and expanding our lead.

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November 6th, 2008, 4:28 pm


120. Refined Ostrich said:


You said it yourself: our societies are deeply tribalistic. Democracy will take a while to take hold. I’m not saying that strong measures should not be taken and 5 year plans should not be drawn up. But it is going to take a long time. You say the problem is not stunted development but rather “lack of trust and peace between Syrians,” as if that is an easy thing to overcome.

Are you sure you are not a Syrian opposition figure in exile? You care more about Syria finding itself a niche and becoming an economic force than most Syrians I know.

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November 6th, 2008, 4:38 pm


121. Qifa Nabki said:

Innocent Criminal,

Could you release my last response to AIG under my new alter ego?

Gracias amigo

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November 6th, 2008, 4:40 pm


122. Shai said:


No, the Golan is not the same as Jaffa. The former was occupied as a result of war, long after Israel became a state, and could have been returned easily to Syria over the past 40 years. Jaffa was occupied as a result of our War of Independence, and after 1948, there was no one to give it back to… (remember, some 800,000 Palestinians were driven out of their homes, including most Jaffa residents).

You evaded the question about Israel’s safety. Yes, less Arabs today think they can throw us into the sea. But the ongoing hatred and desperation are undoubtedly translated into more and more dangerous capabilities and aspirations. And this in itself, is reason enough to consider peace. Forget the “peacefulness” of average Israelis (are we?), simply the security interests of Israel should dictate certain considerations.

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November 6th, 2008, 4:42 pm


123. AIG said:

Both Jaffa and the Golan were taken by war. What do you mean there was no one to give Jaffa back to in 1948? We could have let the refuggess return and given them Jaffa. As for the Golan the same logic applies. There was nobody to give it back to in 67 because of the 3 NOs in Kahrtoum and because Asad did not join Sadat in 78. There is just no difference whatsoever between Jaffa and the Golan.

What I said is that less Arabs want to throw Israel in the sea today than in 48. In fact we have trade with many Arab states. The bulk of hatred and desparation lives inside the Palestinian refugees whose problems are not going to be solved by the two state solution or by Syria getting the Golan. The hatred and desparation are not going to go away until the Palestinian give up their dream of returning to Israel. Since we are never going to let them return, we just have to accept that the hatred and desparation will continue for decades more and that we just have to live with it.

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November 6th, 2008, 5:33 pm


124. AIG said:

Refined Ostrich,
I care mostly about Israel’s interests. My point about Syria is that it is digging a deeper hole for itself all the time and that most Syrians are not willing to face this fact. Israel will be fine after the implosion of Syria and Egypt, but as the implosion of Lebanon has shown us, we will be confronted with our fair share of headaches to deal with and maybe even an occasional war. Hey, who said having a Jewish state was going to be easy.

The first step in solving the trust issues in Arab societies is to do what you have done. Acknowledge the problem and have a discussion about it. Of course, it needs to be an internal Syrian discussion in the case of Syria. Why can’t this baby step happen now instead of in 10 years?

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November 6th, 2008, 5:48 pm


125. trustquest said:

I agree with you on 113, 115 you are on the right track even I disagree with you on timing of Golan hand back.

BTY, you did not answer my question 110.

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November 6th, 2008, 6:02 pm


126. Alex said:

Qifa Nabki said

“Me too. Except I think we need at least 20-25 years. The horizon of 5-10 (or 7-14, Alex!) is unrealistic in my opinion.”

My 7-14 years refers to a sufficiently perceptible progress in political reforms.

We all know that “democracy” implies perfection. That takes forever to achieve in Syria or elsewhere.

The United States, by electing an African American finally took another necessary (symbolic) step towards “democracy”

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November 6th, 2008, 6:13 pm


127. AIG said:

You ask:
“do you think that these ideas you advocate can be incorporated in the peace negotiations as to guarantee lasting peace with your next door neighbor”

I think it is an excellent idea and would certainly make me look at such discussions much more favorably. However, I doubt very much that Asad would agree to this. Let’s say for example the agreement included that Israel withdraws from the Golan after really free elections in Syria or something along these lines. Asad would never agree to this. I think you and I agree that Asad is more concerned about staying in power than about the interests of the Syrian people.

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November 6th, 2008, 6:16 pm


128. trustquest said:

Actually, Assad will not say no, he will consider this as interfering in the internal affairs of independent state; he will come back and put the question to Israel regarding Palestinians. What is Israel answer would be?
It the peace agreement is going to be on phases, what problems other than the above one you can see to incorporate free trades agreement and other cooperation agreements that way heavy on human’s interaction in addition to States interactions.

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November 6th, 2008, 6:47 pm


129. Shai said:


No, if you give Jaffa “back” by letting the refugees return to their homes, you would be making them Israeli citizens, offsetting the Jewish-majority in Israel (Complete Right of Return, not just Jaffa). So this is not a possibility anytime soon – we both agree. But giving the Golan back was always a possibility, because it is occupied territory. You don’t need peace to give it back. This was our precondition. We can annex it all we want, but it’s still not ours. We can also annex, by law, the state of Alaska, but it’s still not ours. No nation on earth recognizes our annexation, and that’s a pretty good hint that this status will change at some point in the future, either peacefully, or not.

As for your claim that “Since we are never going to let them return, we just have to accept that the hatred and desparation will continue for decades more and that we just have to live with it.”, I of course cannot accept it, nor do most people I believe. The comprehensive solution we all seek in the region will have to tackle also the issue of the Return. And I believe most in the Middle East, including by the way the Palestinian people themselves, know that a full Right of Return is not going to happen. One day, if and when my fantasy UME will come about, then de facto the region will be “one state” or one union, and then essentially any Palestinian will be able to live in Israel as an Israeli could live in Riyadh. But we both agree that’s not about to happen anytime soon. The continued desperation is NOT due to the Palestinians inability to return to Israel, but rather to the continued subjugation and suffocation by Israel in the West Bank and Gaza. Seeing their grandfather’s house in Jaffa is a Palestinian father’s dream. Being unable to put a warm meal on his family’s table once a day is his reality.

We certainly must NOT give in to this belief in fate that we are doomed to hate one another for decades more. And what will make this change, decades from now? Democracy in Syria? What about our part? What is our part?

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November 6th, 2008, 7:14 pm


130. AIG said:


Why would I need to make the people I give Jaffa back to Israeli citizens? They would be happy to return as residents also, just give them a chance.

Basically you say the difference is that the world views the Golan differently than it views Jaffa. In 50 years that will change.

Our part is to say clearly that we would give back the Golan to a democratic Syria as a gesture of goodwill thus for a change rewarding democracy and not dictators.

You do not have to accept anything but you should at listen to the Palestinians when they tell you that the right of return is critical for them. Without this issue, we would have had a two state solution by now.

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November 6th, 2008, 7:35 pm


131. Shai said:


I completely disagree with you. You claim Israelis have been ready all along for a two-state solution, and it was the Palestinians who refused, because they can only accept a one-state solution? That’s plainly wrong. Since we started talking to the Palestinians (PLO) in the early 90’s, until Hamas took over (in democratic and free elections!!!), we had over 10 years to withdraw from the West Bank and Gaza, and to enable the Palestinians to create a state of Palestine alongside us. But we didn’t do so. We found excuse after excuse why, again, we couldn’t do it.

In fact, the Palestinian people should be the best example for you, why waiting for a democracy could also be a bad idea. Hamas was elected, and refused to talk to Israel. They kept fighting us, and we were forced to withdraw unilaterally out of Gaza, just as we did out of Lebanon. Is this what we want with Syria? What if free elections produced an extreme-religious leadership in Syria, that refused to talk to Israel, but adopted a much more hostile stance against us? What if, in fact, that new leadership went to war with Israel, using thousands of missiles, perhaps even biological or chemical weapons (not to mention worse than that)? And then, after such a war, internal and external pressure would force us to withdraw from the Golan, but without peace! It would be Gaza, Lebanon, and now the Golan, all over again.

There are plenty of democratic nations at peace with non-democratic ones. As you know, most of the world is not free and democratic. But there are U.S. embassies in almost every corner of the earth, and peaceful relations with nations that are no closer to democracy than Syria or Iran are. Your idealism is a little too expensive for Israelis to bear. But it is also an excuse no one has ever used in Israel, and quite frankly I am surprised you have adopted it. It might sound nice to a few Syrian opposition supporters, indeed almost chivalrous of you, but most Israelis are far more pragmatic, and care more about their skin, than about their neighbors’. Be careful trusting in your ability to be omniscient. Most people aren’t. If your assumptions translate into a huge gamble for Israel, and for Israeli lives, you may wish to reconsider them every so often.

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November 6th, 2008, 7:52 pm


132. jad said:

‘You can fool some of the people all of the time, and all of the people some of the time, but you cannot fool all of the people all of the time’ Abraham Lincoln
AIG, If you weren’t an Israeli who served in the army, I wouldn’t mid read your comments about human rights, while everybody in the world knows how humane you treat the Palestinian on the check points you served at, and how many of them died waiting to go to hospitals under your watch, and how many settlers beat, humiliate, burn, cut trees and vandalise Palestinian’s fields and houses for no reason while you’ve been there watching. Did you ever think of defending the real bad treated Palestinians before asking your enemy’s to become a full modern democratic state?
You’ve been preaching us for almost 3 years now about the same thing over and over with your long analyses, and do you spend serious amount of time trying to convince us that there will be no peace without a true democracy in Syria and when anybody gives you a timeframe about some progress you argue more (is it 5, 10, 20, 30…or never), even when any Israelis try to show you that Israel is full of problems and not really a full democracy yet, you disregard their points and go back again about the same issue.
As an Israeli who doesn’t even defence the Palestinian right inside Israel not to mention the millions you slave inside Palestine, you don’t have any credibility what so ever to talk about Syria,
You never been in Syria yet, you always mention the Alawite as if they are non Syrians and that if all of them lives in palaces which isn’t the truth, there are many Alawite villages are living in the worst condition you can imagine even worth than any Muslim or Christian village, the thieves in the government are from all religion and all sects and they are also Syrian, not occupiers, they are from the society, they are greedy people who exist everywhere in the world and they must be prosecuted and go to jail. But that is not of your business when it comes to ‘Peace’; it’s ours and ours only to deal with,
Your job is to have the will for peace and work for it regardless of what the future may hold, we do our future in our action not the opposite, if you really care of Israel more than Syria you should write and find ways of helping Israel to go out of it’s isolation and the living in fear status, that is the real enemy of your society not the democracy of Syria.
It took Europe 200 years to be fully democratic countries after many revolutions, and even after that, Germany with it’s full democratic system managed to do two worldwide wars and kills millions of people, so nothing is secure, do you seriously think that Israel have that much time to wait? Didn’t occur to you that in 200 hundred years from now your beloved country as it is now may not have population enough to support its existence? I’m seriously questioning your way of thinking, you make fun of the soviet 5 years plan and it seems that you don’t have a 1 year plan into the future.
Syria can wait with or without full true democracy, but Israel can not and that is the bottom line, you talk about the history as if you have it secure in your backyard forgetting that history doesn’t go in straight lines. Syria has been in the same location from the beginning, it has been occupied and freed for many times and its people are still here and they are not going anywhere, while Israel and it’s people has been moving around and till now they don’t feel secure enough, your job as Israeli is to secure that, not other countries’ systems.
May I ask you a big favour, could you please stop writing about the same issue over and over, it’s getting really annoying especially when it’s not even related to the subject and it’s going no where, you are smart enough to discuss other issues regarding Israel and it’s society and help us as your enemy to understand your people better.

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November 6th, 2008, 7:59 pm


133. trustquest said:

Shai, please be specific, I did not read to any Syrian opposition commentator on this forum an acceptance of AIG view to wait for Democratic Syria to make peace. I did not read any opposition leader advocating this view.
Most oppositions want steps towards democratic society, want right to express their views, independent judiciary system, removing of emergency status, freeing of prisoners of conscious, but they stand with the regime and the government in negotiations for the restoring of Syrian lands.

But, what I agree with AIG is the need for Syria to be democratic as a separate Issue parallel to peace talk and peace agreement. I was trying to find out from AIG if the phases of peace treaty can emphasize human rights and democratic flow of information and relation across the two countries and in their internal affairs in both countries. Peace treaty in my view should include open trade, scientific, educational cooperation and respect for human rights; this will draw in new dawn in the dark treatment of humans from both counties in past years.

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November 6th, 2008, 8:20 pm


134. jad said:

Shai can explain his points, but I think he is talking about Al Gahdri, and another Syrian opposition in the sate, I’m sorry I forgot his name, will look it up for you Trustquest

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November 6th, 2008, 8:31 pm


135. Alex said:

Ammar Abdelhamid too.

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November 6th, 2008, 8:35 pm


136. Shai said:


I apologize if I insinuated specific people on SC as siding with AIG’s democracy-first precondition to peace. In fact, you see how I too erred in this assumption, despite my frequent visits to this forum. AIG occasionally refers to the very few who agree with him on SC, and it seemed to me that his recent comments were also being accepted in their conditional aspects as well. Sorry Trustquest.

I completely agree with you about what needs to be done in Syria, as in other places in our region. On that, I doubt anyone on SC disagrees, though at times they may not openly voice this as loudly as you or others do. But where I differ quiet substantially from certain Syrian opposition groups (and this time I’m talking about Al Gahdri, for instance), is in their call for isolating the existing regime, and for Israel NOT to make peace until a democratic leadership is elected. I’m glad to hear your very clear message (also to Israelis) which is different from AIG’s. But from what I’ve seen in his arguments for democracy and freedom in Syria, the context, or the purpose, has always been the setting of preconditions for Israel to give up the Golan. The genuine care for the Syrian people is something that is of course honorable (especially by an enemy), but could be taken somewhat differently, when intended practically as delay in action long overdue.

As for a potential peace agreement with Syria, I strongly doubt it could have any mention of “democracy” or “freedom” in it, just as it won’t mention “subjugation” or “suffocation” by Israel. Just as Syria has decided to make peace also with an Occupying (democratic) regime, so will Israel make peace with a dictatorial regime in Syria. Hopefully, peace between the two will slowly aid in bettering conditions in both nations, and will thus contribute to the much sought freedom and rights of citizens in our region. Just as Assad will not ask Netanyahu or Livni to please treat our 20% Arab population equally and fairly (not to treat them as 2nd-class citizens), the latter will not ask Assad to please allow for free elections soon. The U.S., however, will likely do both.

JAD, shukran.

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November 6th, 2008, 8:58 pm


137. Shai said:


I just have to add a final note on the demand for free-elections in a possible peace agreement.

Can you imagine the following… “Chapter 4, Section VI: In accordance with the Syrian leadership’s expected formation of conditions enabling free elections amongst the Syrian people, the Israeli leadership is formally committed to the establishment of free elections amongst all people and territories under its control…” 🙂 That’s kind of like shooting yourself in the foot, isn’t it? 🙂 (if it wasn’t sad, it’d be funny).

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November 6th, 2008, 9:19 pm


138. trustquest said:

As far as I know, Ammar stand does not reflect a party or group opinion, Al Ghadri is a minority in the body of the opposition, and in my opinion the opposition source and thermometer always will be the ones inside which we can read their stand through (annidaa.org).
Shai, you said in peace treaty we can not stipulate a free election as a condition, true. But asking for referendum on both sides to give the treaty legitimacy is something doable.
The details of the treaty from opening borders, embassies, trade agreement, education agreement, free exchange of media, newspapers and what ever, can do great on the road of democracy. Syria is on the tip of changing direction; they can not afford to live with only Israeli and Baathist media alone in the country, at that moment they have to open to the whole world to legitimize their move. As long as the peace agreement is on stages, Syrian officials and Israelis will find themselves obliged to go that direction.
The other factor which I envision is the USA change of policy. Bush policy hurt his objectives but if the same objective applied using brain instead of power, you will see magic, and I can see the democrat in the white house capable of doing this part.

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November 7th, 2008, 12:10 am


139. SimoHurtta said:

This Syria has to democratic before peace is a completely “lunatic” topic especially when it is fuelled by racist Apartheid supporter.

First countries have same defence needs despite their ruling style. Syria would certainly have a same kind army and defence strategy even the government would be democratic elected. Also Israel would not be much more aggressive even corporal Lieberman would be a dictator of Israel.

Secondly it is highly probable that a democratic Syria would demand from Israel much more for peace than the present regime does. As we know in democratic countries the leaders listen to the demands of people (well at least in theory) and Syrians in general would most certainly not like to turn Golan as an park for Israelis nor seeing there Jewish settlers running their businesses.

It is much more likely that Syria will become faster democratic with a peace agreement and Palestine problem solved and no sanctions, than in present circumstances. If it is question for Israelis like AIG to make Syria fast democratic.

As we see in Gaza and West bank Israel is doing nothing to help Palestinians to become more “democratic”. On the contrary and slaved people hardly ever are very “democratic” and if they are their democracy is not good enough for the occupiers.

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November 7th, 2008, 1:27 am


140. Jad said:

I just went through the Syrian opposition site, to be honest I was very disappointed by it in many ways;
It needs lots of work to be taken seriously
They need to be honest and less vague and emotional
Most of the articles written by writers who are not even Syrian and they obviously hates syria and it’s people and they don’t have any credibility to me
Many articles doesn’t even have the author name and they are bad written, more of a tabloid than journalism.
There was nothing talking about how to build a better syria
That they have to do real thing to the civil society instead of a dead end politic chitchat, build a community centre for a change…
Write about how to improve the Education,
How to improve Kurds essential life,
I’m not sure who is behind that site or who finance it but whoever behind that is not thinking of the fututr of Syria at all.
What they are promoting is nothing but cheap words.
I just waist an hour over nothing.

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November 7th, 2008, 6:30 am


141. Shai said:


I agree with you. It is only a question of whether anything is made conditional with regards to freedoms or democracy. If our politicians think Bashar Assad will sign an agreement that requires a referendum in Syria, they are wrong. And I very much agree with Simo’s comment:

“It is much more likely that Syria will become faster democratic with a peace agreement and Palestine problem solved and no sanctions, than in present circumstances.”

If we really care about democracy in Syria, it is time to make peace, and not wait.

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November 7th, 2008, 8:46 am


142. trustquest said:

From your comment up, I don’t think there is common ground to discuss further. Your stand is almost like the Syrian authority towards the opposition they are not good enough and they should not be this way or that way. They need them to be as they want them to be and they want them to feel like the authority feel. For me it is simpler than that. For me the opposition what ever it is like is a necessity for the country to evolve. Syria will be standing still like the previous 60 years and will get worse by time as long as she can not remove the emergency state, does not have independent judiciary system and stop resisting and prosecuting people when talk or assemble. That is why the opposition simple demands are not going to next phase of the change. It seems to me it is going to take very long to achieve the first step. Opposition non-violent demands are the most essential humans’ rights, TO TALK.

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November 7th, 2008, 2:53 pm


143. jad said:

I do appreciate and understand your comments, thank you.
I wasn’t looking for any discussion or argument regarding my comments; I was writing what I believe in after I went thought the website and I still think that the site and the messages are not good enough or even as simple as you describe it and have very little credibility to believe in.
Don’t you think that we have no professional politicians in Syria to talk for us and about us?
Don’t you think that the oppositions can do better job than what they are doing now?
Don’t you think that they need to get involve in more issues than concentration only on one?
I do appreciate when they talk loud about human rights and asking for what is right and I know that they are working for all of us even for the sake of the regime itself and not for one group of people.
What I disagree with and push me miles away from their ideas is the way they presenting themselves as our voice of freedom, what about the voice of education, voice of women, voice of poor, voice of industry, voice of community, voice of agricultural, voice of development, voice of every issue we are facing, shouldn’t that be a priority as well, shouldn’t they work with people in every field and trying to improve that sector for the average Syrians? What good they do to me as a Syrian being in jail for years and not being able to build me a school, a hospital, a community centre, a recreation centre, even a religious education centre that build trust instead of hate and sectarian message.
How are they going to deliver a better future for us if they are being so blinded by one issue and forgetting everything else.
That what I want them to do not just TALK about it, this is the only way they can improve our country not by whining, nagging, cursing and publishing some meaningless articles without any results.

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November 7th, 2008, 5:52 pm


144. AIG said:

Don’t you understand that human nature is such that things improve when people are held ACCOUNTABLE? Things will improve when people in Syria are allowed to criticize failed efforts and replace those that have failed and reward those that are successful. For this you need freedom of speech. Yes, building one school will help. But if you want to move Syria forward you need to make the government accountable to the people and you need to unleash the potential of the Syrians. And that is what the opposition is fighting for.

Why has South Korea been so much more successful than North Korea? The Koreans on both sides of the border are the same. It is the government that matters and is stopping success in North Korea and the same goes for Syria. It is quite simple: Accountability leads to prosperity.

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November 7th, 2008, 6:16 pm


145. trustquest said:

Thanks AIG, you are great as usual.

I will try to respond to you.
-Voice of education: One example I lived it personally, in 1971 three best Academics returned to their country with PHDs, from Britain to teach in their respected college, they did not hold a gun but for their views Authority make disappear two of them into prison for 10 years. One of them is the one who put the fist Building code ever in the country. You have to count now how many guy like him. You have to know that the retainer of people leave for high education is less than 10% due to unrewarding, strict, partial and repression atmosphere for any professional.

-Voice of community: In Syrian no one allowed to make a community, they are already organized in all sectors, assembly is not allowed, and even till now, their own making NGO still falling.
-Voice of women: there is a strong voice for women outside the established who been attacked daily and has been revoked many licenses associated with organization from groups calling for women rights and see all the subjects on (nesasy.org). may be your need to follow up on the last campaign of women killing and government defending the old backward laws against those calling for protecting women from honor killing.
-Voice of agricultural, voice of industry, voice of development: These voices started in 1998 and they start monthly lecture, they been fought and ignored and they have to stop by pressure in 2005: http://www.mafhoum.com/syr/ar/prev.html. And do not forget the dean of the economic college in Damascus Aref Dalela recent came out of prison after seen years. What voices you are talking about, do think people stupid, they do not get signals from what is going on. Do you need me to go back and risk the same destiny?

Voice of poor: it seems you did not read about this subject in the opposition or semi-apposition groups. It is there and without the organized charity of the Syrian people, you would see hunger in the street. You might also follow up on tharwa reportage which has to be smuggled through emails to be seen by people in Syria, did you see that they could not show a face or interview anyone in the open. It seems you live in different world. what about the Damscus spring, isn’t that a voice been smashed and put in prison to give example of what could happen if you try to work between people.

-Voice of development: Do you think that your people who stole the big part of the pie ( one guy reported his theft of 1/3 of the GDP in 2005) are doing the development, you seems need to look carefully. Syria has 17 millions humans being working outside the country and making the living for their families and relatives inside the country to feed you big thieves and the big bureaucratic system there too. Is that enough development or it is not enough. But those as usual have no voice hey will no be allowed a voice. Do you follow SC, a week ago about the lady who has clinic, or the gentleman who wanted to send books to university? Syria after 50 years awaken to see that the real values are the Damascene accent, the humes, the ruins which left and not looted but deserted for ages, the human being who could survive in such environment and govern by illiterates.

Hope this is enough, and lets hope for change or you want to argue and deny me the hope?

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November 8th, 2008, 1:51 am


146. jad said:

Trustquest, GRAET ATTITUDE, No I wont let my “people” to deny you the hope, no need, you are denying that yourself.
AIG, irony enough, you sounded more serious and willing to talk than the human-right guru..

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November 8th, 2008, 2:48 am


147. McDoux said:

I have no direct experience with the “American School” of Damascus as a student nor as a parent.

However, I do have a 5 years experience as a student at another nearby American educational institution the AUB, or American University of Beirut.

The argument as to whether one becomes an “Ambassador” of the US to his own country -as a result of his education- or not begs the question.

The real two questions are:
1- What are the benefits and shortcomings to the individual as a result of such an education. And
2- what is the impact such a person will have on his society as he re-immerses himself in the society’s problems and hopes?

I’ll be glad to develop both themes should there be sufficient interest.

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November 8th, 2008, 12:02 pm


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