Asma al-Asad on Gaza: Obama’s Dream Team

Syria’s first lady on Gaza – watch it on Youtube
CNN’s Cal Perry speaks to Syria’s first lady about suffering in Gaza.
Sunday, January 11, 2009

NEW YORK: The Obama team is tight with information, but I’ve got the scoop on the senior advisers he’s gathered to push a new Middle East policy as the Gaza war rages: Shibley Telhami, Vali Nasr, Fawaz Gerges, Fouad Moughrabi and James Zogby.

This group of distinguished Arab-American and Iranian-American scholars, with wide regional experience, is intended to signal a U.S. willingness to think anew about the Middle East, with greater cultural sensitivity to both sides, and a keen eye on whether uncritical support for Israel has been helpful.

O.K., forget the above, I’ve let my imagination run away with me. Barack Obama has no plans for this line-up on the Israeli-Palestinian problem and Iran.

In fact, the people likely to play significant roles on the Middle East in the Obama administration read rather differently.

They include Dennis Ross (the veteran Clinton administration Mideast peace envoy who may now extend his brief to Iran); Jim Steinberg (as deputy secretary of state); Dan Kurtzer (the former U.S. ambassador to Israel); Dan Shapiro (a longtime aide to Obama); and Martin Indyk (another former ambassador to Israel who is close to the incoming secretary of state, Hillary Clinton.)

Now, I have nothing against smart, driven, liberal, Jewish (or half-Jewish) males; I’ve looked in the mirror. I know or have talked to all these guys, except Shapiro. They’re knowledgeable, broad-minded and determined. Still, on the diversity front they fall short. On the change-you-can-believe-in front, they also leave something to be desired….

Jim Lobe: “Ross Super-Envoy Post May Not be Done Deal”

Former Amb. Martin Indyk vs. Author Norman Finkelstein: A Debate on Israel’s Assault on Gaza and the US Role in the Conflict: Listen to or read the debate moderated by Amy Goodman on Democracy Now TV and Radio here.

Amal Saad-Ghorayeb in her article, “Will Hizballah intervene in the Gaza conflict?” argues that Hizbullah may well attack Israel if it believes Hamas is on the verge of destruction.

Ben Simphendorfer describes how the fighting in Gaza is viewed in China on his blog, “The Silkroad.”

The fighting in Gaza shines a spotlight on relations between China and the Arab world. No surprise, but the state of relations has changed rapidly over the past decade….. 

Ahmed Mussa speaks good Chinese. He should. He’s the Palestinian Authority’s envoy in Beijing. I watched his interview on Xinhua, China’s state news agency, earlier this week. For thirty minutes he argued the Palestinian case in front of his Chinese host. He criticized Israel. But also opposed the rocket attacks by Hamas. He talked of the links between Arab Jews and Arab Muslims. He also worried that the Arab states would fail to unite in opposition…. There are also many Chinese supporters of Israeli to judge by the attitude of bloggers. Take a comment by one blogger

Istanbul Calling is written by Yigal Schleifer, a freelance journalist based in Istanbul, Turkey, where he works as a correspondent for the Christian Science Monitor and the Eurasianet website, covering Turkey. He describes how:

Israel’s attack on Gaza continues to put Turkey and its leader, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, in a difficult spot. Turkey still very much wants to play the role of regional mediator (and the country would likely be a key part of a multinational force that may end up monitoring the Egypt-Gaza border as part of a cease-fire agreement), but Erdogan’s harsh criticism of Israel has some critics asking (see this New York Times article) whether Turkey has now lost its chance to play the role of honest broker between Jerusalem and its neighbors.

At the same time, Erdogan and his government are confronting an unprecedented level of public anger in Turkey over Israel’s actions in Gaza. Large protests have been held almost daily throughout Turkey. An Israeli basketball team recently playing in Ankara had to flee to the safety of the locker room after angry protesters rushed onto the court. With local elections coming up in March, Erdogan and his Justice and Development Party (AKP) certainly don’t want to be seen as too close to Israel right now. Some of the anti-Israel protests are already featuring signs and placards showing Erdogan shaking hands with Israeli PM Ehud Olmert, accusing the Turkish leader of “collaborating” with Israel. A recent poll taken in Istanbul found the liberal Islamic AKP losing ground, partially to the old school Islamists of the Felicity Party (SP), which has been a driving force behind several of the large anti-Israel protests. 

Robert Fisk
Who killed Mr Lebanon?: The hunt for Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri’s assassins
The Independent, January 11, 2009

In 2005, a 1,700kg bomb ripped through the heart of Beirut, taking with it Lebanon’s former premier, Rafiq Hariri. His alleged assassins are due in court in The Hague early this year. But will a trial with potentially explosive implications for the entire Middle East ever be allowed to go ahead?

Reinoud Leenders, “Iraqi Refugees in Syria: Causing a Spillover of the Iraqi Conflict?,” Third World Quarterly, Vol 29, No 8, December 2008.


The vast magnitude of the Iraqi refugee crisis is likely to be sustained for some time to come. … In this context, it is important to acknowledge that the Syrian authorities are not coping very well with the resulting crisis as it places intolerable burdens on its fiscal policies and the economy, while state surveillance and control of Iraqi refugees appear to be faltering. Meanwhile, Iraqi frustrations about being abandoned by the Syrian authorities, host communities and by the international community are mounting.

…the expectation that the Iraqi refugee crisis will cause a spillover of Iraq’s violence to Syria is unlikely to materialize in the future. Political violence, such as sectarian clashes or the mobilization of refugees by parties to the Iraqi conflicts, has been rare. The main explanation for this lies with the Iraqi refugees themselves. Given their specific demographic and social traits (including age composition, education levels and professions, and to a more limited extent religious affiliation), in addition to refugees’ sectarian segregation, an overwhelming majority of Iraqi refugees are and remain victims of the violence in Iraq; they are extremely unlikely to become its perpetrators. …. Iraqi refugees are not bringing their fights to the host countries primarily because they had not been fighting in the first place.

Although the conflicts in Iraq are currently not being replicated in Syria, socio-economic destitution and the failure to provide humanitarian assistance will cause tensions between Iraqi refugees and the host state and host communities. Accumulating frustrations, in combination with possible dramatic events such as large-scale deportations, may remove Iraqi refugees’ inhibitions to engage in violent protests, and may set off confrontations between refugees and Syrian state security forces. For Syria and Iraqi refugees alike, the consequences may be as serious, but the conflicts that would arise as a result are to be viewed separately from the violent imbroglio in Iraq and would therefore not constitute a “spillover” effect as such.

… third country resettlement of the most vulnerable among the Iraqi refugees… is a means to prevent further destabilization of the region. This conclusion stands in sharp contrast with the present preoccupation of US and European refugee policies and of many refugee studies alike to contain refugees in the regions of armed conflict, for patently self-interested reasons. … The probability of Iraqi refugees’ growing malaise negatively affecting stability in the host countries calls for prioritising humanitarian assistance over US foreign policy misgivings vis-à-vis Syria and the EU’s concerns over the recipient state’s institutional capabilities, which are now holding back a serious aid effort. The Iraqi refugee crisis, next to the daily ordeal it signifies for its victims, has produced yet another pressing reason for the US and its allies to engage Syria, thereby adding to an expanding list of rationales to do so.

Comments (86)

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51. Honest Patriot said:

Oh so true when it war written and, regrettably, the killing continues and the opinion piece below is till true:

Robert Fisk: The self delusion that plagues both sides in this bloody conflict

Israel has never won a war in a built-up city, that’s why threats of ‘war to the bitter end’ are nonsense

Wednesday, 31 December 2008

During the second Palestinian “intifada”, I was sitting in the offices of Hizbollah’s Al-Manar television station in Beirut, watching news footage of a militiaman’s funeral in Gaza. The television showed hordes of Hamas and PLO gunmen firing thousands of rounds of ammunition into the air to honour their latest “martyr”; and I noticed, just next to me, a Lebanese Hizbollah member – who had taken part in many attacks against the Israelis in what had been Israel’s occupation zone in southern Lebanon – shaking his head.

What was he thinking, I asked? “Hamas try to stand up to the Israelis,” he replied. “But…” And here he cast his eyes to the ceiling. “They waste bullets. They fire all these bullets into the sky. They should use them to shoot at Israelis.”

His point, of course, was that Hamas lacked discipline, the kind of iron, ruthless discipline and security that Hizbollah forged in Lebanon and which the Israeli army was at last forced to acknowledge in southern Lebanon in 2006. Guns are weapons, not playthings for funerals. And Gaza is not southern Lebanon. It would be as well for both sides in this latest bloodbath in Gaza to remember this. Hamas is not Hizbollah. Jerusalem is not Beirut. And Israeli soldiers cannot take revenge for their 2006 defeat in Lebanon by attacking Hamas in Gaza – not even to help Ms Livni in the Israeli elections.

Not that Hizbollah won the “divine victory” it claimed two years ago. Driving the roads of southern Lebanon as the Israelis smashed the country’s infrastructure, killed more than a thousand Lebanese – almost all of them civilians – and razed dozens of villages, it didn’t feel like a Hizbollah “victory” to me, theological or otherwise. But the Israelis didn’t win and the Hizbollah were able to deploy thousands of long-range rockets as well as a missile which set an Israeli warship on fire and almost sank it. Hamas have nothing to match that kind of armoury.

Nor do they have the self-discipline to fight like an army. Hizbollah in Lebanon has managed to purge its region of informers. Hamas – like all the other Palestinian outfits – is infected with spies, some working for the Palestinian Authority, others for the Israelis. Israel has successively murdered one Hamas leader after another – “targeted killing”, of course, is their polite phrase – and they couldn’t do that without, as the police would say, “inside help”. Hizbollah’s previous secretary general, Sayed Abbas Moussawi, was assassinated near Jibchit by a missile-firing Israeli helicopter more than a decade ago but the movement hasn’t suffered a leader’s murder in Lebanon since then. In the 34-day war of 2006, Hizbollah lost about 200 of its men. Hamas lost almost that many in the first day of Israel’s air attacks in Gaza – which doesn’t say much for Hamas’ military precautions.

Israel, however – always swift to announce its imminent destruction of “terrorism” – has never won a war in a built-up city, be it Beirut or Gaza, since its capture of Jerusalem in 1967. And it’s important to remember that the Israeli army, famous in song and legend for its supposed “purity of arms” and “elite” units, has proved itself to be a pretty third-rate army over recent years. Not since the 1973 Middle East conflict – 35 years ago – has it won a war. Its 1978 invasion of Lebanon was a failure, its 1982 invasion ended in disaster, propelling Arafat from Beirut but allowing its vicious Phalangist allies into the Sabra and Chatila camps where they committed mass murder. In neither the 1993 bombardment of Lebanon nor the 1996 bombardment of Lebanon – which fizzled out after the massacre of refugees at Qana – nor the 2006 war was its performance anything more than amateur. Indeed, if it wasn’t for the fact Arab armies are even more of a rabble than the Israelis, the Israeli state would be genuinely under threat from its neighbours.

One common feature of Middle East wars is the ability of all the antagonists to suffer from massive self-delusion. Israel’s promise to “root out terror” – be it of the PLO, Hizbollah, Hamas, Islamic Jihad, Iranian or any other kind – has always turned out to be false. “War to the bitter end,” the Israeli defence minister, Ehud Barak, has promised in Gaza. Nonsense. Just like the PLO’s boast – and Hamas’ boast and Hizbollah’s boast – to “liberate” Jerusalem. Eyewash. But the Israelis have usually shown a dangerous propensity to believe their own propaganda. Calling up more than 6,000 reservists and sitting them round the Gaza fence is one thing; sending them into the hovels of Gaza will be quite another. In 2006, Israel claimed it was sending 30,000 troops into Lebanon. In reality, it sent about 3,000 – and the moment they crossed the border, they were faced down by the Hizbollah. In some cases, Israeli soldiers actually ran back to their own frontier.

These are realities. The chances of war, however, may be less easier to calculate. If Israel indefinitely continues its billion dollar blitz on Gaza – and we all know who is paying for that – there will, at some stage, be an individual massacre; a school will be hit, a hospital or a pre-natal clinic or just an apartment packed with civilians. In other words, another Qana. At which point, a familiar story will be told; that Hamas destroyed the school/hospital/pre-natal clinic, that the journalists who report on the slaughter are anti-Semitic, that Israel is under threat, etc. We may even get the same disingenuous parallel with a disastrous RAF raid in the Second World War which both Menachem Begin and Benjamin Netanayahu have used over the past quarter century to justify the killing of civilians.

And Hamas – which never had the courage to admit it killed two Palestinian girls with one of its own rockets last week – will cynically make profit from the grief with announcements of war crimes and “genocide”.

At which point, the deeply despised and lame old UN donkey will be clip-clopped onto the scene to rescue the Israeli army and Hamas from this disgusting little war. Of course, saner minds may call all this off before the inevitable disaster. But I doubt it.

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January 13th, 2009, 8:09 pm


52. Nour said:


But what you saw in “Israel” justifies killing 950 civilians in Gaza so far? Does it justify killing 1200 Lebanese civilians? Does it justify turning an entire region into an open air prison? Does it justify bombing a UN shelter in Lebanon and killing over 100 people with one strike? Does it justify attacking UN aid workers to prevent them from delivering aid to Palestinian civilians? Why do you justify every “Israeli” massacre but condemn Palestinians for every reaction to “Israeli” brutality?

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January 13th, 2009, 8:48 pm


53. Akbar Palace said:

But what you saw in “Israel” justifies killing 950 civilians in Gaza so far?


How do you know that Israel killed 950 civilians? Also, you didn’t state how many combatants Israel killed. Do you have that information too?

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January 13th, 2009, 9:02 pm


54. Chris said:


First off, when have I ever justified an Israeli “massacre”?

As to the rest of your questions, those are much more difficult questions to answer. It’s very simple to come to the conclusion that blowing up buses, hotels, cafes, nightclubs, and aiming indiscrimnately at civilian populations centers is and is always the wrong way to address grievances. The answers to your other questions though entail getting at when is war permissible. So in my view, answering this question would depend on things that I am not privy to. Such as what is the aim of the operation? What are the potential benefits of this aim? What is the likelihood of success of this operation and/or what is the likelihood that the
success of this operation will achieve the potential benefits?

We have certain ground rules in conflicts, among which include the prohibition of intentionally harming civilians (i.e. Hamas suicide (martyrdom). That’s easy to identify. What is much more complicated and “foggy” (as in the fog of war) is when military action or war is okay to begin with. I think that your questions, largely, have to do with that issue.

You wrote:
“Why do you justify every “Israeli” massacre but condemn Palestinians for every reaction to “Israeli” brutality?”

Again, I do not believe that I have justified any Israeli “massacres.” As far as “reactions” are concerned, we can go back to 1882 and declare every assault by one member of either party as a reaction to some action by the other party. Individuals within both communities and the leadership of both communities have made decisions over the past 100 years, that have resulted in what we see now. The notion that the Palestinians are simply bystanders reacting to Israeli actions is well, ridiculous, and patronizing towards Palestinians. They have made choices. We are now seeing the consequences of the choices that both parties have made.

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January 13th, 2009, 9:18 pm


55. Akbar Palace said:

Another bad link to John and Zachary, Enjoy


Why am I not surprised your anti-neocon link ends up being another 9-11 “Trufer”?

I wonder how many participants here are 9-11 Trufers?

Professor Josh, are you a Trufer?

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January 13th, 2009, 9:22 pm


56. majedkhaldoun said:

It is necessary that changes in the M.E.occur, the goverments do not follow their people wish,Turkey established its position,as a leader .

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January 13th, 2009, 9:29 pm


57. Chris said:


After the incessant glorification and defense of Hamas on this blog lately, I wouldn’t be surprised if nearly everyone commenting here subscribes to 9-11 conspiracy theories… Nearly everyone in Syria that I met subscribed to such theories. I heard, of course not for the first time, from one of my tutors, who lives near Bab Salam not too far from Sharia Al Keimarieh, that none of the Jews showed up to work that day. When he “informed” me and the two other students in the room of this, we all laughed. I couldn’t resist and asked him why Mohammed Atta would have informed the Jewish community of the attacks beforehand. He didn’t know who Mohammed Atta was.

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January 13th, 2009, 9:51 pm


58. offended said:

Question: on the humanitarian level, isn’t the Palestinian suffering 1000s folds more than the suffering on the other side?

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January 13th, 2009, 10:02 pm


59. offended said:

This video shows the level of intellect of the pro-israel protesters in New York:

“we are being persecuted! this is another Holocaust!”

“we have to kill their children so that they don’t kill our children”

“wipe them all out!”

“don’t mess with jews or we’ll kick your butt”

“there are great prophecies that there will be great wars before the coming of the Messaiah.”

Chris, were you among those people?

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January 13th, 2009, 10:14 pm


60. EHSANI2 said:


You should be glad to know that I am Syrian but I do believe that the Jews had nothing to do with 9-11. That should hopefully make you feel a bit better.

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January 13th, 2009, 10:17 pm


61. Alex said:


Arabs believe in conspiracy theories because they were the victims of many conspiracies … starting with the establishment of Israel over their stolen land… and ending with what is happening in Gaza now.

If you are laughing, why don’t you take a look at any typical Israeli online forum or comments section or’s site? … if they read that anyone, anywhere, criticized Israel, they all start explaining his motivations for criticizing Israel! .. you heard of course their accusation that “President Carter must have been drunk”, right? … and of course they assume that many of Israel’s critics must be anti-semites.

By the way .. I believe in the possible validity of a few of the “conspiracy theories” too. Because I do not allow myself to be fooled by one of the best and most consistent tactics of Likud’s friends who are trying to make us feel that anyone who even imagines the possibility of a conspiracy (always to Israel’s advantage) he must be some weirdo!

So, Chris, just like the large numbers of paranoid Israeli hawks are sometimes right (thinking that some Arabs and critics of Israel are indeed Anti semitic), sometimes Arabs are right when they suspect an American Israeli conspiracy against them.

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January 13th, 2009, 10:36 pm


62. chris said:

“Question: on the humanitarian level, isn’t the Palestinian suffering 1000s folds more than the suffering on the other side?”

At the moment perhaps, but that would require disregarding the history of Hamas violence against Israeli civilians and only beginning with Israel’s response. I’m not so sure how can add up the suffering of both sides and then compare the two. Really though, if there were a thousand Israelis killed and a thousand Palestinians killed, that would make this war less justifiable rather than more. Having an equal body count really doesn’t justify anything.

Please people don’t let your sympathy for the plight of the Palestinians delude you into thinking that there is anything okay with Hamas. After all, Hamas bears an enormous amount of culpability here. It chose to end the cease-fire and then fire a barrage of rockets at an enemy which has tremendous military strength. Israel responded to this attack with the knowledge that Hamas has no desire for compromise, it wishes to fight until the end, martyrdom or victory, and seeing as how victory is not possible here. The predictable result has played out, the conflict has resulted in many deaths, as Israel is trying to militarily neutralize an enemy which will never be satisfied with coexistence and will alway try to harm it. In my view, Hamas’ continuing firing of Qassam rockets into Israel in the face of so much death, is criminal. Astonishingly so, they are not only suicidal, but they are willing to bring down their own population with them. This is truly sick.

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January 13th, 2009, 10:37 pm


63. offended said:


I am still not sure if you’re just plain stupid or if it is the side-effect of being hell-bent on spewing propaganda:

Is demonizing hamas your only mission statement?

Will the conflict end and everybody be happy once hamas is eradicated?

Will justice be brought back to palestinian people once hamas is eradicated?

Will suffering on BOTH SIDES end when Hamas is eradicated?

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January 13th, 2009, 10:47 pm


64. Chris said:


The reason why I am so intent on villifying Hamas is because I strongly believe that a peaceful Israeli-Palestinian situation would be profoundly beneficial for the region. I also believe that no progress can be made towards peace as long as Hamas is in power. Israel and the PA will not be able to come to an agreement while Hamas is in power. Hopefully with some strong engagement by the Obama Administration, some money for both sides, some pressure on Israel to leave the territories, and a whole lote more a peace deal can be concluded. But from what I’ve seen in the past few years there is no way a settlement between the PA and Israel can be concluded while Hamas rules Gaza. It is my interest in a two-state solution (and Hamas’ fanaticism) that pushes me to demonize Hamas.

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January 13th, 2009, 10:55 pm


65. offended said:

So Chris, you agree that occupation is the root of the problem? that Hamas (whatever we think of them) are only a by-product?

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January 13th, 2009, 11:03 pm


66. Chris said:

No, offended, I do not agree.

The Israeli-Arab conflict has preceded Israel\’s occupation, in fact Zionists and Arabs have been fighting in the area since the the beginning of the 20th century. Remember the Hebron Massacre ( )

Hamas is also part of a larger trend of a revival or resurgence of Islam in the region since the 1970s.

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January 13th, 2009, 11:26 pm


67. Alex said:


Why do you think there was “a resurgence of Islam in the region since the 1970’s?” and how would you deal with this problem after it already took place?

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January 13th, 2009, 11:32 pm


68. Chris said:


Well as for the cause I would say, that much of it has to do with the failure of nationalism after 1967. People became disiullusioned after the crushing defeat. It makes sense when ideas such as nationalism, a foreign import, are failing you to turn to your roots. I Also, in the face of political repression the mosque is the only place to turn for discussion about social/political issues. It’s easier to repress the leftists and liberals than the imam. But of course there’s more to it than that, and religiosity is growing in many parts of the world today.

Generally speaking, the increasing religiosity, or Islamic Resurgence, in the Middle East doesn’t have to be a problem.

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January 13th, 2009, 11:53 pm


69. Alex said:

True to some extent.

But you failed to mention the other type of causes of fanaticism … the type where Israel and the west are to blame.

1) In Egypt there was a reaction to Sadat’s peace deal with Israel which was designed to be at the expense of Egypt’s relations with the Arab world. This go worse when Sadat did not deliver on his promises for quick economic benefits for his people as a result of becoming the friend of Israel and the United States instead of the dirty Arabs (Sadat’s words).

2) All over the Middle East, those who fought and won in Afghanistan against one of the world’s two superpowers, were left to live on their own after the west had no more use for them … what did the Americans and their local allies do to undo the fanatic training of those tens of thousands of young men? … after they intentionally trained them until they became fearless extremists.

3) Israel’s actions and the neocon’s actions and America’s total bias towards Israel …

All were/are unbelievably shortsighted… either that or it is true that Israel wants the whole region to be segmented based on people’s religions so that the Zionists can justify their Jewish state.

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January 14th, 2009, 12:12 am


70. offended said:

When the Zionist entity has been systematically undermining the foundations of Palestinian liberation movement and anchoring its occupation through draconian measures (the least of which is assassinating Palesinian community leader, poets, intellectuals..etc..), then they (and you by the virtue of your argument) are the last to complain about the emergence of extreme organization within that liberation movement that calls for the destruction of the same party that has been persecuting them.

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January 14th, 2009, 12:19 am


71. Off the Wall said:

Offended, Alex, Alia, and Others

It seems to me that Chris is another obedient participant in the IDF and in the Israeli foreign ministry coordinated Hasbara (explanation) campaign. I do not think anyone of us should give him or AP the benefit of discussion anymore.
Let him post his rants but do not answer him. He has been trying to antagonize you. Better to be silent now as our anger simmers and our energies devoted to actions. Let us use our words and direct them to where they should be directed. I am writing to the senior senator (i.e. AIPAC lackey) from NY to protest his presence in a racist rally and to remind him that he does not represent Israeli Jews, but Americans. 10,000 rabid racists in a rally are hardly representative of US citizenry or even of NYC Jewish population. But they now seem to represent of the mentality of a majority of Israelis. He should be shamed and we have to shame him and any other AIPAC lackey who willingly participates in these racist rallies without even protesting some of the racist signs that are right in front of their eyes. Our time is better spent writing such letters, and posting on sites read by a wider audience.

I also plan to write letters to the editor of few papers to inquire on why they continue to allow the Israeli government to restrict their access to Gaza and to ask them to boycott all Israeli officials and diplomats until they are granted access to Gaza.

I love this forum, and I want it to become widely read more than it already is, but for now, other forums are in need of our attention and contributions. It is there where we have to voice our opinions as well. I have a feeling that the more time we spend responding to AP and Chris here, the more we are distracted from writing letters, initiating petitions, and confronting ignorance perpetrated by AP and Chris and their likes on forums read by a larger portion of our compatriots.

Chris has earned AP approval, let him rejoice in it and ignore them both for now. At this point in time I am much less inclined to hone my argument skills, for they have nothing but a broken record that keeps repeating itself. Nothing new, it is the old tactic.

Visit Israeli propaganda sites, you will clearly find the tired old talking points that have been repeated endlessly as a part of the propaganda tactics. You could easily pinpoint what AP, AIG, and nowadays Chris get their pre-packaged bytes, on the site go to the presentations slides, you will be angry when you read the lies, but thanks to the trio, we have been trained and have had ample experience with these lies and occasional half-truths

Now, here is a recent James Zogby article, which was buried deep in the Huffington post while the torture lawyer’s article (Dershowitz) is given a front page spot. BTW, huffingtonpost readers are voicing their disapproval of such idiotic biased editorial policies

James Zogby
Founder and president of the Arab American Institute
Posted January 9, 2009 | 08:25 PM (EST)
How Israel’s Propaganda Machine Works

As in past Mideast conflicts, both the media story line and political commentary here in the U.S. has closely followed Israel’s talking points on the war. This has been an essential component in Israel’s early success and in its ability to prolong fighting without U.S. pushback. Because it recognizes the importance of the propaganda war, Israel fights on this front as vigorously and disproportionately as it engages on the battlefield.
Here’s how they have done it:
1) Define the terms of debate, and you win the debate. Early on, the Israelis work to define the context, the starting point, and the story line that will shape understanding of the war. In this instance, for example, they succeeded by constant repetition, in establishing the notion that the starting point of the conflict was December 19th, the end of the six-month ceasefire (which Israel described as “unilaterally ended by Hamas”). In doing so, they ignored, of course, their own early November violations, and their failure to honor their commitment in the ceasefire to open Gaza’s borders. They also ignored their having reduced Gaza into a dependency, a process which began long before and continued after their withdrawal in 2005. Because they know that most Americans do not closely follow the conflict and are inclined to believe, as the line goes, “what they hear over and over again,” this tactic of preemptive definition and repetition succeeds.
2) Recognize that stereotypes work. Because, for generations, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has been defined with positive cultural images of Israel and negative stereotypes of Palestinians, Israel’s propagandists have an advantage here that is easy to exploit. Because the story has long been seen as “Israeli humanity confronting the Palestinian problem,” media coverage of any conflict begins with how “the problem” is affecting the Israeli people. As Golda Meir once put it, “We can forgive the Arabs for killing our children, but we can never forgive them for making us kill their children.” And so, it was not surprising that, despite the disproportionate suffering of the Palestinians, media coverage attempted to “balance” the story, giving an extensive treatment, with photos, of anguished and fearful Israelis and the impact the war was having on them. Early on, when media treatment mattered most, Palestinians were reduced, as always, to mere numbers or objectified as “collateral damage.”
3) Anticipate and count on your opponent’s blunders. Hamas’ stupidity played into Israel’s strategy. From the outset, Israel could count on the fact that Hamas would launch rockets and issue the kind of threats that Israel could then parley into sympathy in the West. Knowing that these would most certainly come, and could be exploited, was an advantage in their propaganda war.
4) Be everywhere, and say the same thing — and make sure your opponents remain as invisible as possible. Israel begins each war with a host of English-speaking spokespersons (many born in the West) available at any time for every media outlet (it’s no accident, for example, that Israel has an “Arab” Consul General in Atlanta – that’s where CNN is). The work of their propaganda operation, which spreads multiple spokespersons in venues across the United States with consistent talking points, guarantees success. At the same time, they are able to deny media access to Gaza, only allowing the Western reporters to operate near the war zone under IDF supervision, guaranteeing Israel the opportunity to shape every aspect of the story while removing the possibility of independent verification of the horror unfolding in Gaza.
5) Give no ground. Since half of the story will be determined by what political leaders say and do, the political apparatus in Washington is also pressed into service, ensuring that White House and Congressional leadership will “toe the line.” Statements issued by Congress, therefore, reflect the talking points and, together, the Israeli spokespersons, the political commentators, and the Congressional statements serve as echoes of one another.

6) Deny, deny, deny. When events and reality break through, contradicting the Israeli-established narrative, creating stories that run counter to the imposed story line, the propaganda machine works overtime to deny, deny, deny (saying quite boldly, “Who do you believe, me or your lying eyes?”), and/or concoct a counter-narrative that shifts the blame (“We didn’t do it, they made us”). In this instance, that means asserting that the death of Palestinian civilians is always the fault of someone else, or that reporters or their opponents are staging the photos of grief (as if to say, “Arabs don’t really grieve like we do”).

7) The last refuge…. When all else fails, point to a few examples of outrageous anti-Semitism, generalize them, suggesting that that is what motivates critics. It stings, and may be over-used, but it can silence or put critics on the defensive.

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January 14th, 2009, 12:23 am


72. offended said:

And Chris,

While you sit there pontificating about the evil of Hamas, why don’t you also denounce the equally (if not more) nefarious elements in the israeli politics?

Scant attention paid to these parties…

National Union

“The party has a joint platform, and in particular it supports the settlement of all the Land of Israel, advocates the use of more military power in the War on terror and harsher measures against Palestinian terrorism. It rejects all current Oslo-based peace efforts — which it sees as dangerous to Israel — and the notion of what it calls a “22nd Arab state”. The party instead advocates voluntary transfer of the Arabs from the West Bank, though it has been vague as to how this could be implemented.”


“The Likud charter continues to emphasize the right of settlement in “Judea (and) Samaria” (more commonly known as the “West Bank”) and Gaza,”[2] and as such, brings it into direct conflict with Palestinian claims on the same territory, although the majority of Palestinians claim the entire territory of Israel as their own.[3] Similarly, their claims of the Jordan river as the permanent eastern border to Israel and Jerusalem as “the eternal, united capital of the State of Israel and only of Israel,” do the same.”

Jewish national front

“The Jewish National Front calls for a state that is more Jewish in practice than strictly in ceremony, including emplacement of Torah laws in place of the current civil ones after the Jewish majority is increased west of the Jordan River. This will be achieved through motivating mass Jewish immigration to Israel as well as encouraging emigration of Arabs through various incentives.”

all these parties or coalitions support the expansion of israel at the expense of palestine…

what have you got to say about them, Chris?

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January 14th, 2009, 12:23 am


73. Akbar Palace said:

Alex responds to Chris:

Arabs believe in conspiracy theories because they were the victims of many conspiracies … starting with the establishment of Israel over their stolen land… and ending with what is happening in Gaza now.

Alex –

My Random House Webster’s (paperback) english dictionary states:

conspiracy – n. a group plan to commit an unlawful oe evil act.

conspire – v. to agree together, esp. secretly, to do something wrong, evil, or illegal.

Therefore, the establishment of Israel was not a conspiracy. It was fought for and voted upon in public with the full knowledge of all the actors, including the Arabs. In fact, the UN Partition Plan was a public, last gasp effort for compromise (except that the Arabs publically rejected it).

Lastly, the UN voted publically to accept Israel as a sovereign state once Israel publically declared their independence.

In short, Israel’s desire for statehood was public knowledge, legal, and repeatedly fought against by the surrounding Arab states.

With respect to Gaza, I’m also not sure what conspiracy you are claiming. Israel warned Hamas several times to cease and desist or meet dire consequences. This was totally accomplished in full view of the public and within Israel’s legal right to defend herself.

After the incessant glorification and defense of Hamas on this blog lately, I wouldn’t be surprised if nearly everyone commenting here subscribes to 9-11 conspiracy theories… Nearly everyone in Syria that I met subscribed to such theories.

Chris –

Don’t be surprised. Before the Gaza war started I was told that I exaggerated the number of terror supporters on this website.


If you don’t mind, feel free to email me at

I wouldn’t mind learning a little more about your interest in the ME. Thanks,


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January 14th, 2009, 12:25 am


74. Off the Wall said:

Just posted on Rueter

Israel gains in media blitz, but for how long?
Tue Jan 13, 2009 11:45am EST
By Luke Baker

JERUSALEM, Jan 13 (Reuters) – The advertisements in the international press couldn’t be clearer: a map of London with an outline of the Gaza Strip alongside, missiles raining down onto Britain’s capital.

“Imagine if Hamas terrorists were targeting you and your family,” reads the text under the map, overlayed with concentric rings showing the range of the rockets Hamas militants fire from the Gaza Strip into Israel.

The ads, which ran in the International Herald Tribune on Monday and were sponsored by the Anti-Defamation League, a pro-Israel group, form part of Israel’s effort to explain itself and a war in which Gaza medical officials say over 900 Palestinians have been killed, including nearly 400 women and children.

Israel has focused its assault on daily Hamas rocket attacks that have severely disrupted life in its south.

“No country would allow such danger on its borders, and neither will Israel. That’s why Israel is fighting back,” the ad, which would have cost about $60,000 to run, concludes in bold capital letters. A website address underneath included the words “Israelstrikesback”.

Israel, which has fought a half-dozen wars since its creation in 1948, often worries it doesn’t do a good enough job of communicating its motives, either to the world or at home.

That was never truer than in 2006, when it fought a 34-day war in Lebanon against the Hezbollah guerrilla group that had seized two Israeli soldiers in a cross-border raid.

Hezbollah fired more than 4,000 rockets into Israel during the fighting and the Jewish state emerged with its pride dented and its enemy claiming victory.

A commission that looked into that conflict concluded that one major shortcoming was Israel’s “hasbara” — a Hebrew word that translates as “public diplomacy” or “explanation”.

As a result, Israel set up the National Information Directorate to coordinate its domestic and global message.

Formed eight months before the Gaza war, it kicked into high gear as soon as the conflict began and scored early success, although there are growing signs the campaign may be stalling.

Through traditional media and everything from YouTube to Twitter and Facebook, appointed diplomats and spokespeople have flooded the airwaves and the Internet with Israel’s position.

“We use all the possible ways of communication that the modern world is giving us in order to convey our message,” said Yigal Palmor, director of the Foreign Ministry press department, who works alongside the National Information Directorate.

“I don’t expect any news outlet to really give me a whole tribune, you know, a whole page in a paper, or half an hour on TV… But I can do that on the Web,” he told Reuters.


While much better funded, planned and coordinated than its opponent’s, Israel’s media campaign has not gone entirely uncontested. Hamas has fought back, posting videos of its own on YouTube despite difficulties of communicating from Gaza.

The virtual media battle has produced what Michael Dickson, the director of Stand With Us International, a pro-Israel public affairs group, has called “the first social media war”.

Israel feels that so far, 18 days into a conflict in which 10 of its soldiers and three civilians hit by rockets have been killed, it largely has been successful in its media blitz.

But while the message was clear in the early days of the war — with some governments reciting almost word-for-word Israel’s carefully crafted talking points — the battle for public opinion has steadily become more of a struggle.

The killing of more than 40 civilians in the shelling of a school compound in Gaza on Jan. 6, the decision to fight on despite a U.N. Security Council resolution calling for a ceasefire, and the overall number of Palestinian dead may have combined to stall Israel’s media effort.

Time magazine, read by more than three million people in the United States, Israel’s closest ally, had a cover last week showing the blue Israeli Star of David behind barbed wire, an image that conjured up the Holocaust to condemn the war.

Palmor acknowledged the Time cover was a hard blow and that the early success of the media blitz may be waning.

“The more the operation continues, the more the reports focused on the immediate news … the whole context was forgotten,” he said. “I think this accounts for the whole phenomenon you have indicated, that the support is eroding.” (Editing by Michael Roddy)

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January 14th, 2009, 12:29 am


75. Alia said:

A friend forwarded the position of the United Church of Christ on the situation in Gaza. UCC counts more than 1.2 million adherents and is very active at the grassroots. This call shall not go unheard.

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January 14th, 2009, 12:36 am


76. Off the Wall said:

Israel may face UN court ruling on legality of Gaza conflict

Afua Hirsch, legal affairs correspondent The Guardian,
Wednesday 14 January 2009


Israel faces the prospect of intervention by international courts amid growing calls that its actions in Gaza are a violation of world humanitarian and criminal law.

The UN general assembly, which is meeting this week to discuss the issue, will consider requesting an advisory opinion from the international court of justice, the Guardian has learned.

“There is a well-grounded view that both the initial attacks on Gaza and the tactics being used by Israel are serious violations of the UN charter, the Geneva conventions, international law and international humanitarian law,” said Richard Falk, the UN’s special rapporteur on the Palestinian territories and professor emeritus of international law at Princeton University.

“There is a consensus among independent legal experts that Israel is an occupying power and is therefore bound by the duties set out in the fourth Geneva convention,” Falk added. “The arguments that Israel’s blockade is a form of prohibited collective punishment, and that it is in breach of its duty to ensure the population has sufficient food and healthcare as the occupying power, are very strong.”

A Foreign Office source confirmed the UK would consider backing calls for a reference to the ICJ. “It’s definitely on the table,” the source said. “We have already called for an investigation and are looking at all evidence and allegations.”

An open letter to the prime minister signed by prominent international lawyers and published in today’s Guardian states: “The United Kingdom government … has a duty under international law to exert its influence to stop violations of international humanitarian law in the current conflict between Israel and Hamas.”

The letter argues that Israel has violated principles of humanitarian law, including launching attacks directly aimed at civilians and failing to discriminate between civilians and combatants.

The letter follows condemnation earlier this week from leading QCs of Israel’s action as a violation of international law, and a vote by the UN’s human rights council on Monday on a resolution condemning the ongoing Israeli military operation in the Gaza Strip.

“The blockade of humanitarian relief, the destruction of civilian infrastructure, and preventing access to basic necessities such as food and fuel are prima facie war crimes,” a group of leading QCs and academics, including Michael Mansfield QC and Sir Geoffrey Bindman, wrote in a letter to the Sunday Times.

Israel has already been found to have violated its obligations in international law by a previous advisory opinion of the ICJ, and is likely to vigorously contest arguments that it is an occupying power. It previously stated that occupation ceased after disengagement from Gaza in 2005.

Its stance raises questions as to the utility of an advisory opinion by the ICJ after Israel rejected its finding in a previous case, which found the wall being constructed in the Palestinian territories to be a violation of Israel’s obligations under international humanitarian law.

Questions are also being raised as to whether the international criminal court, which deals with war crimes and crimes against humanity, would have any jurisdiction to hear cases against perpetrators of the alleged crimes on both sides of the conflict. Neither Israel nor the Palestinian territories are signatories to the Rome statute, which brings states within the jurisdiction of the ICC.

More likely, experts say, is the establishment of ad-hoc tribunals of the kind created to deal with the war in the former Yugoslavia and the genocide in Rwanda.

“If there were the political will there could be an ad-hoc tribunal established to hear allegations of war crimes,” Falk said. “This could be done by the general assembly acting under article 22 of the UN charter which gives them the authority to establish subsidiary bodies.”

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January 14th, 2009, 12:43 am


77. Enlightened said:

Just got back from holidays. Happy New year to all. I in all sincerity wish that 2009 brings us that peace that some of us long for.

Akbar I see that you have been very very busy here during my absence. I read your link to Dr Pipes website about Josh on the “Hall of Shame”. There are many points in the article about Josh that are asserted, that are perhaps “factually incorrect”. Next time you are in contact with Dr Pipes, maybe you can ask him what is the criteria for making this “Hall of Shame”, because frankly it has me a little perplexed, if you would kindly let me know I for one would wear this “Hall of Shame” badge with pride, especially if it came from the Dark lord himself!

Anyway the article ended with this quote from the writer for those that are interested.

“Landis, otherwise a brilliant and entertaining observer of Syrian history, should stop wasting his considerable intellect excusing the thugs in Damascus. They are not worthy of his talents.”

I guess Josh that if you are ever interested and your “masters” are not paying you enough, there is a job waiting for you on the “dark side”. Ahh to have your options.

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January 14th, 2009, 12:47 am


78. Alex said:


Of course there are many terror supporters here … You and your friends.

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January 14th, 2009, 12:58 am


79. Alex said:

Watch Blair tell us that Shimon Peres is his hero, and Shimon Peres (one of the most dedicated, trustworthy peacemakers in history) tell us that they (Israelis) concluded long time ago that war can not solve any problems.

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January 14th, 2009, 1:17 am


80. Joachim Martillo said:

I am surprised that no one ever seems to think an expert on Jewish history and politics might have an important contribution to make to the dream team.

[An Israel studies expert would not count, for they are trained only to parrot hasbarah.]

I think information like that contained in my Backgrounder on Pale of Settlement is valuable. Or am I simply wrong?

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January 14th, 2009, 1:44 am


81. jad said:

Dear Alia,
Could you please delete the link you post, it might hurt the feeling of AS and Chris, because the United Church of Christ is defiantly taking the terrorist side, therefore, they are Hamas supporter and 9/11 Trufers..Instead and to make those duo happy they should support the killing of those “terrorist” called “PLESTINIANS” regardless of their age, they don’t deserve to live on the same land as the pure Zionist and their blind supporters…
From my side, those duos and their supporters can go to hell. I don’t give a damn about what they write or think since its all garbage.

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January 14th, 2009, 1:47 am


82. Joe M. said:

Well, after reading the recent posts of Chris, there is absolutely no doubt that it is his dream to work for either the CIA or the State department.

And Chris’ fanatic zionism goes to such extreme lengths that he has the audacity to say things like:
explaining why Palestinian suffering is secondary to him – [sympathizing with Palestinian suffering] “would require disregarding the history of Hamas violence against Israeli civilians and only beginning with Israel’s response.”

For a zionist fanatic like Chris, understanding Palestinian suffering always comes down to “much more difficult questions to answer.” While sympathy for Israel must be explicit and forceful, because they face fanaticism. It is never fanaticism to use a religious justification to occupy Palestine for 60 years, but it is fanaticism to fight occupation with religious motivations.

Well chris, my ignorant zionist friend, you express your blindness constantly, for example, by calling pre-Israeli jews “Israeli” in post #66. Yet, you mysteriously ignore the fact that the Palestinians have no historic antagonism with PRE-ZIONIST Jews. And you can check the tessler book, which is the accepted authority intelligence circles, on that.

Do you even realize how stupid you sound? How ingrained your bias is? When you claim that the violence of a 20 year old movement is the root cause of the 60+ year old conflict. when you are unable to justify meager Palestinian violence against a state that has occupied, uprooted, destroyed their fundamental society and colonized them for decades. But you easily justify zionist violence saying they would be “irrational” not to attack Gaza?

Do you realize how stupid you sound when you claim that you are “Never!” dismissive of what is happening in Gaza, and then in the next breathe you say:
“It would be absolutely irrational for any country to tolerate an organization like Hamas on its borders…” as if it is justified to put 1.5 million people in a concentration camp and then start massively bombing that concentration camp.

This cognitive dissonance is a perfect example of why zionism is racism and how we know you are a zionist. It is not that you are “simply a person who supports a two-state resolution to this conflict…” as you say. if it were simply a legal question of one or two states, both being equal, that might be a proper analysis. But the type of states involved matter. Giving the Palestinians a concentration camp and calling it a state is not just, and you can’t expect them to accept it just because it exists. Palestinians would be “irrational”, to use your word, to accept their own occupation. You can not expect an oppressed people to live in peace with their oppressors. You can not claim that violence started with Hamas, and Israel violence is a response. Although supporting a two-state solution is zionism, your particular analysis is especially vial and is why we are shouting you down for your zionism. You don’t seek peace, you seek a legitimization of Israel’s colonization of Palestine, and you blame the Palestinians for not well behaved house negros. What makes it even worse is that you try to speak the language of peace in your support for a racist theocracy. It’s pathetic.

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January 14th, 2009, 5:34 am


83. Joe M. said:

you want to talk about fanatics, consider this:

A former minister and leader of a major party (and not even one of the more extreme parties, likely to be in coalition with Likud in the next government). That is more than what Hamas says. Hamas never calls for the killing of the people, even if it calls for the destruction of the state of Israel.

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January 14th, 2009, 5:59 am


84. Alex said:


And the wonderful secretary of state is delighted to be next to that Nazi:

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January 14th, 2009, 6:34 am


85. jad said:

What do we expect from a young ignorant student who didn’t get anything from his experience of being in Syria and Palestine as he always ‘claims’.
What is funny is that he always write about getting his research materials from couple people in the street and ‘claim’ it as an absolute fact to discuss it here…he doesn’t know anything called ‘book’…baya3 Batata….
Some teenagers like those love to waste their time, other’s and even GOD’s time to feel good about themselves…they are losers on all levels…

Alex, those beautiful two
should get a room…I wonder how their kids will look like…

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January 14th, 2009, 6:53 am


86. Akbar Palace said:

Joe M. stated:

Well, after reading the recent posts of Chris, there is absolutely no doubt that it is his dream to work for either the CIA or the State department.

And Chris’ fanatic zionism goes to such extreme lengths that he has the audacity to say things like…

Chris said:

The reason why I am so intent on villifying Hamas is because I strongly believe that a peaceful Israeli-Palestinian situation would be profoundly beneficial for the region.

So the reasons Chris is a “fanatic” (on this forum) is because:

1.) He accepts the legitimacy of the State of Israel.

2.) He believes in peace.

3.) He villifies Hamas.

Sounds like a “fanatic” to me;)

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January 14th, 2009, 12:03 pm


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