Posted by Joshua on Friday, February 18th, 2011
According to the blog Syria News Wire, a demonstration in Damascus, the Syrian capital, on Thursday, caught on video posted on YouTube, was not part of a wave of antigovernment unrest sweeping the Arab world.
The blog, which is written from Damascus and London, explains the video this way:
An unprecedented scene in Syria this morning as an estimated 1500 people took to the streets in a spontaneous protest.
They were angry that the son of a shop owner had been allegedly beaten by a traffic police officer. So they went on to the streets at Hariqa, just south of Souq Al-Hamidiyah in Damascus. From the video, it seems as if the protest spread down to the western end of Medhat Pasha.
They chant “the Syrian people will not be humiliated”, interspersed with, “shame, shame” and “with our soul, with our blood, we sacrifice for you Bashar”. That’s a very Syrian way of saying they were furious at the police, not the president. Also, note there was no chanting of “the people want the fall of the regime” (the words used in Tunisia and Egypt, and now in Yemen and Bahrain).
At the start of the video, almost every person in is holding up a mobile phone. With mobile phone video cameras plus Twitter and blogs to distribute the footage, public servants face a degree of accountability that they have never faced before.
In a surreal moment, the Minister of the Interior arrives and asks the crowd why they are demonstrating. He has now promised an investigation.
Another Syrian blogger, a student in Aleppo who writes on Twitter as Seleucid, called the video of the protest “proof that the Syrians can do it as much as anybody, they just don’t want to.”
This video and commentary from the Syrian blogosphere comes just three days after a teenage blogger, brought into court chained and blindfolded, was sentenced to five years in jail by a court in Syria. As Reuters reported, the blogger, “Tal al-Molouhi, a high school student who has been under arrest since 2009 and is now 19, had written articles saying she yearned for a role in shaping the future of Syria and supporting the Palestinian cause. Lawyers said the judge gave no evidence or details as to why she had been charged.”
Letter From Herzliya, Neocon Woodstock
February 14, 2011
…As a result of the revolution in Egypt, a key theme that emerged at the conference was hostility to Arab democracy and the assumption that it would bring only chaos and danger for Israel—a mantra that also exposed a division between Israeli neoconservatives and some of their American comrades. “In the Arab world, there is no room for democracy,” Israeli Major General Amos Gilead told a nodding audience. “This is the truth. We prefer stability.” Former Israeli Ambassador to the US Zalman Shoval scoffed that George W. Bush’s freedom agenda’s “principle accomplishment seems to be the victory of Hamas in Gaza.” Boaz Ganor, the executive director of the IDC’s International Institute for Counter-Terrorism, warned, “When these people [Arabs] vote, they are voting for what Coca-Cola calls the real thing and that is fundamentalism.” Shmuel Bar, Director of Studies at the IDC’s Institute of Policy and Strategy, declared that the US had “become an agent of revolutionary change in the Middle East, at the expense of stability.”
In opening remarks to a late-addition panel on “Stability vs. Democracy,” progressive analyst Brian Katulis—one of a handful of non-conservatives invited to participate in the conference—declared the panel’s title false choice. Calling America’s “continuing addiction to dictators” part of “a cold war hangover,” Katulis stressed the regional trends driving events in Egypt—massive unemployment, millions of disillusioned youth—and suggested that Israel and the United States would be wise to anticipate them. “There’s a delusion that we can prevent these trends,” said Katulis. “And we’ll probably hear some of these delusions on this panel.”
As if to immediately make Katulis’s point for him, Martin Kramer of Israel’s conservative Shalem Center began by mocking the Obama administration’s repeated assertions that the regional “status quo is unsustainable,” suggesting that it should be taken as the administration’s motto. “In Israel, we are for the status quo,” Kramer said. “Not only do we believe the status quo is sustainable, we think it’s the job of the US to sustain it.”
Responding to Kramer’s remark afterward, Israeli analyst Meir Javedanfar said, “The first stage after a divorce or death is denial. This is followed by anger, then bargaining, depression and acceptance.” Kramer “is still in the denial stage. His statement shows that he still has not realized that the relationship with Egypt is over.”
But however much in denial, Kramer’s and Bar’s comments get at something real among conservative Israeli foreign policy elite: a sense that America, under both Bush and Obama, has failed to apply its power correctly in the region. This inability to achieve certain goals has consequently led to a perception of American decline (never mind that the refusal of allies like Netanyahu to honor American requests contributes to that perception). Many also voiced concerns that Obama’s treatment of Mubarak would cause other US client states to question America’s commitments.
“Obama is perceived, in a moment of truth, to have abandoned an ally,” said Brig. Gen. Michael Herzog, now a senior fellow at the Jewish People Policy Institute. “It’s unfair, but that’s the perception.” Herzog also doesn’t characterize Israeli views on democracy as harshly as some others. “Many, if not most, Israelis would lean at this point towards stability” rather than democracy, Herzog said, “not because they don’t want to see democracy around them—they do—but because they are highly skeptical whether the upheaval in Egypt will lead to real democracy in the foreseeable future.” And many Israelis are deeply concerned over potential negative developments in the meantime….