“Forces of Stability: Syria and Iran or the USA?” by Jihad Makdissi

Forces of Stability: Syria and Iran or the USA?
By Jihad Makdissi, Spokesman of the Syrian Embassy-London
(Partial and edited transcript of a talk delivered at University College of London on 2nd of December 2008)

President George W Bush changed the course of history — unfortunately, in the wrong direction. This dubious distinction may earn him a prominent position in America’s pantheon of famous presidents, somewhere above the cherished founding fathers. In the continuing debate over America’s military and moral role in the world, his legacy is bound to loom very large.

A quick review of President Bush’s fiascoes:

  • America’s image has been badly damaged in the hearts and minds of the millions of Arabs and non-Arabs who have been perplexed by the needless blood spilled in Iraq, Palestine, Lebanon, and more recently Syria when four US helicopters killed nine unarmed civilians. Scandals such as Abu Ghraib Prison, flying Prisons, renditions, Guantanamo, and the needless violence of security firms such as Blackwater in Iraq have tarnished the moral underpinnings of America’s once sterling reputation in the world.
  • Instead of guaranteeing peace and stability in the world, the USA has become a rogue nation, attacking friend and foe alike. Washington has recently expanded its regional wars to attack both Syria and Pakistan.
  • The US has prepared to attack Iran for no legitimate reason.
  • Iraq is destroyed but allegedly democratic, (the death toll among Iraqis is as high as one million by some estimates; among American soldiers it is 4,300). Rather than discuss how it can help Syria and neighboring countries cope with the millions of Iraqi guests it has caused to flee Iraq, America has targeted Syria and pushed Iraq to approve the SOFA agreement.
  • The US has helped to drive a wedge between Palestinian factions by supporting the PLO and isolating Hamas which was democratically elected. The result is the further impoverishment of the population, which has already tasted its share of despair and hopelessness. The life of Gazans has become too miserable to describe.
  • In Afghanistan, the US is discussing the need to talk to the Taliban. There is much anxiety that it is engaged in an unwinnable war. (The Death toll of American soldiers is 700).
  • Finally, one must point to the world financial crisis that has its origins in the mountain of bad and risky debt fobbed off on a trusting world by American financiers. The world has never seen such a pyramid scheme before.

What has Syria done to limit the damage of these foolish policies?:

  • Syria, although subject to both indirect and direct military intimidation, met US aggression with patience and resilience. It avoided confrontation and pursued proactive policies to counter false accusations, limit the chaos and divisions instigated by the US, and unify the Arabs around the common objective of negotiating peace and freeing themselves from foreign occupation.
  • Syria has fostered dialogue between Palestinian factions in order to build Palestinian national unity, which is a prerequisite to any lasting peace or long-term solution. When Israelis throw up their arms, pretending that there is no Palestinian partner to talk to about peace, Arabs become exasperated. Israel and the US rub salt into Palestinian wounds in order to weaken them, and then accuse Syria of being a spoiler. By pushing for Palestinian unity, Syria seeks to build the only condition that will allow for the creation of an independent and viable Palestinian state.  
  • In Lebanon, a neighbor so vital to Syria’s own stability and security, Damascus pushed for the unity exemplified by the Doha agreement. It helped promote a consensus president and cabinet that represented the interests of all. The US did what it could to generate division and rancor among Lebanon’s factions, hoping to promote the subjugation of one half of Lebanon by the other. The irresponsibility of this winner-take-all policy cannot be exaggerated when one considers how recently Lebanon emerged from its brutal fifteen-year civil war that caused the death of close to 200,000 and the displacement of so many more. Nothing captures the Orwellian spin of Washington’s disinformation machine more than Secretary Rice’s insistence that the sounds of Israel’s exploding bombs over southern Lebanon were in truth “the birth pangs of a new Middle East.”
  • America’s politics of division extended to the entire region in its promotion of sectarian distrust. By mobilizing Sunnis against Shiites, Washington undermines the difficult task of nation-building, Arab Unity, and the promotion of tolerance and coexistence so crucial to the region’s happiness and progress.
  • Syria exerted its good offices with its Iranian Friend following a request from president Sarkozy in order to clear up misunderstandings between Iran and the West regarding the peaceful nature of their legitimate nuclear program. The unique Syrian-Iranian relationship is crucial to the peace and stability of our region.
  • Syria has fully cooperated with the UN Commission investigating the al-Hariri assassination because Syria is interested in the truth. Every UN report has included a phrase attesting to Syria’s full cooperation with the commission.
  • Syria has completed four rounds of indirect talks with Israel using our Turkish friends as interlocutors. We seek common ground for direct negotiations and a just and comprehensive peace.
  • We fully support the political process in Iraq. We want to help Iraq keep its Arab identity. We recently appointed an ambassador to Baghdad and will soon receive an Iraqi Ambassador in Damascus
  • Syria has stretched its military capacity and spent money it can ill afford to secure the long border with Iraq in order to prevent the insurgency from disrupting good relations between us. We called upon the Americans to help us, or at the very least to form joint patrols along the border that could put an end to misunderstandings and allow for better coordination in apprehending infiltrators. We requested that the Americans provide us with much needed high technology equipment that would permit Syrian soldiers to patrol more effectively, but to little avail. The US preferred to use Syria as a scapegoat for its inability to bring stability, prosperity, or a modicum of protection to Iraq’s long suffering population. Washington persists in blaming its own senseless shortcomings on Syria. Although American officers belatedly praised themselves for the novel idea of treating Iraqi Sunnis as human beings during the “Awakening,” rather than as cardboard cut outs of terrorists, it was completely beyond their capacity to deal with Syria with similar common-sense. Americans clung to their ideological bombast and arrogance. How many lives could have been saved had the US been able to treat Syria non-ideologically? Always ready to accuse, pontificate, and posture, American political leaders allowed one Syrian demarche after another to go unanswered. What were we to conclude but that Washington was seeking to justify its failures at Syria’s expense and could not learn from its mistakes?
  • Syria is part of the answer to the global war against terrorism not part of its cause. After September 11th, America thanked Syria for its contribution in fighting terrorism and saving American lives. Syria has every interest in thwarting al-Qaida and its affiliates. When America is prepared to extend its hand to Syria in a gesture of understanding and cooperation, Syria is ready to resume its cooperation against a common enemy. Syrian interests, however, cannot be ignored.
  • Syria is working with countries, such as Turkey, Qatar, France and Iran, to maintain stability in the region. Syria held a summit in Damascus for these countries in order to discuss stability and way to attenuate the growing radicalism and extremist groups in our region. President Assad made it clear that this is an open club for all countries to join.
  • It is not Syria that has brought suffering and turmoil to Iraq anymore than it is Syria that has increased radicalism, anger, and a growing sense of injustice among Middle Easterners whether in Mesopotamia, Palestine or Afghanistan. On the contrary, Syria has been the most generous refuge for the unfortunate victims of Washington’s hapless diplomacy in the region. Syrians have opened their homes to over a million Iraqis and half a million Palestinian refugees. One out of every ten people in Syria is a refugee or child of a refugee. No country has done more to alleviate the suffering of its neighbors. We took in the Armenians, Syriacs, and Kurds when they fled Turkey’s nation-building wars at the start of the last century. We took in Iraq’s Assyrians when they fled persecution in the 1930s. Now Syria is welcoming the ancient Christian and Sabian communities of Iraq which face extinction in their own country thanks to Washington’s merciful “freedom agenda.”  
  • For America to brand Syria a rogue nation and troublemaker is perverse and cynical. Syria has done more than any other country to preserve the pluralism of the Levant and make the region safe for all regardless of religious and ethnic origins. 
  • Syria can be tough; it will not shrink from using force when it is pushed against the wall; it will defend its land and its friends, but Syria does not look for a fight. To the contrary, Syria wants a just and comprehensive peace agreement with Israel. I do not suggest that Syria is the only or primary source of wisdom in the region, but it understands the needs of its people and ideological currents of the Middle East. It is a central regional player and an important Arab opinion maker. If the United States hopes to make a positive contribution to settling the region’s ills and working toward just and lasting solutions to the many outstanding issues in the Middle East, it will do well to coordinate its efforts with Damascus.

Jihad Makdissi
Spokesman of the Syrian Embassy-London

Comments (197)


MSK* said:

Dear Josh,

Instead of just publishing a statement by the Syrian embassy in the UK … how about commenting on it?

Ya’nii, do you agree or don’t you?

Cheers,

–MSK*

December 8th, 2008, 5:03 pm

 

Akbar Palace said:

MSK,

I agree. I wouldn’t mind hearing Professor Josh’s opinion of it, yet, just by virtue of its appearance here on this blog, to me, it is already tacit approval.

As far as I’m concerned, Mr. Jihad Makdissi’s article is just another pro-Syrian government advert which we’ve all been so accustomed to over the years.

I would much rather have the Syrians do what this Tunisan intellectual, Lafif Lakhdar recommends:

http://www.memri.org/bin/articles.cgi?Page=countries&Area=syria&ID=SP200908

December 8th, 2008, 5:19 pm

 

AIG said:

Just unbelievable. How stupid does the Syrian regime think other people are? Why do they publish stuff that is so easily refuted and so far from the truth?

When will Syria stop blaming its situation on the US and start taking responsibility for its actions? Until that happens, there is no hope for Syria.

December 8th, 2008, 5:33 pm

 

Sasa said:

Akbar Palace, please spare us the MEMRI quotes. The “Tunisian intellectual” is just MEMRI’s latest ‘useful nigger’. Why should Bashar go to Olmert and greet him with Shalom when his country refuses to end its occupation of Syria and imprisonment of Syrians living under occupation?

I am the first one to say there should be a peace deal. But it should be one based on justice and mutual respect. Not the occupied crawling on his knees to the occupier.

Sasa, the Syria News Wire.

December 8th, 2008, 5:52 pm

 

Sasa said:

Sorry to be greedy and offer two comments!

But on the Makdassi speech itself – it’s a shame that we have got to such a point when any word spoken by a Syrian official is dismissed out of hand.

Yes, it is true that we have heard these words many many times before. The record never changes, and Syria really needs to sort out its media strategy.

But that doesn’t change the fact that what he has said is hard to dispute. Unless you work for Memri.

Sasa again! The Syria News Wire.

December 8th, 2008, 5:58 pm

 

Joshua said:

Dear MSK,

The floor is open. Give us your criticism of Damascus’ point of view. Let’s get a debate started. I invited Makdissi to publish his article on SC. I am not about to turn around and try to take him apart. I think it is bold of a government official to publish his views on a site where anyone can comment. Best, Joshua

December 8th, 2008, 6:19 pm

 

norman said:

Sasa,

One time a politician was giving his usual talk about his plans , Chris Mathew complained to his father that he heard that before, His father said , ( I did not , this is the first time i hear this,) so people like us follow everything and we hear the same thing many time but we have to remember that there are many others who are hearing it for the first time .

December 8th, 2008, 6:26 pm

 

Alex said:

AIG,

I am not sure if it is the Syrian regime that is stupid.

When Offended posted pictures of Israeli settlers attacking an old Palestinian woman, You quickly suggested yesterday that each one should clean his own house … Offended should not criticize Israel and should criticize and fix what’s wrong in his country, Syria instead.

I suggest you act on our own advice. Go find yourself some Israeli blog and criticize your own country instead of living here full time … steering all our discussions through your endless aggressive tone.

MSK, AP

Please note that SC’s weight is mostly in the comments section. What we post is just an invitation for you to take part.

We posted many articles in the past that were not very flattering of the Syrians.

Remember this one for example?

http://joshualandis.com/blog/?p=601

Can you take a look at the number of comments it generated?

December 8th, 2008, 6:49 pm

 

Shai said:

Dear Joshua,

Thank you for continuing to bring us articles/interviews by Syrian diplomats. Whether in full agreement with, or not, one cannot but be very impressed by officials such as Jihad Makdissi and Imad Moustapha. At last Syria seems to be doing a superior job of marketing itself abroad, something that was missing these past 8 years. From my angle, I wish these well-respected representatives could also speak directly to Israeli journalists. We can learn a lot from them, and the direct contact is crucial for Israelis that have always received information from second- or third-hand sources. A Ha’aretz interpretation of a Kuwaiti newspaper interview with some Syrian official is not sufficient. We need to see, hear, and “feel” Syrians up close. We’ve waited for sixty years to learn about Syria. It’s time we finally do so. But we need Syria’s help.

December 8th, 2008, 6:59 pm

 

AKbar Palace said:

Akbar Palace, please spare us the MEMRI quotes.

Sasa,

It wasn’t a MEMRI quote, it was a quote by a Lafif Lakhdar in the liberal Arab e-journal Elaph.

In fact, MEMRI offered no opinion of the piece at all. Sort of like Professor Josh’s linking of this thread.

IMHO, isn’t it refreshing to see a quote that isn’t from a government-controlled media source? I’m not sure who the real “niggers” really are: independent thinkers or government employees of an authoritarian regime?;)

December 8th, 2008, 7:29 pm

 

Alia said:

Joshua and Alex,

I will start by saying that this is useful to the extent that it gives us concrete points to discuss.

I object to Mr. Makdissi’s premise that GWB and Co. single-handedly “changed the course of history”. U.S. foreign policy has shown an increasingly interventionist tendency since WWII, whether covertly supporting multiple coups and agitating in various countries, or in major and bloody interventions in south-east Asia in the 60’s and early 70’s followed by extensive interventions in multiple countries in South America in the 70s and 80s…the 90s saw the first Gulf War and and the new century is as described above. This has to be seen as a continuum in recent American history. The ME is not the focus of history, despite our wishful thinking…

Over all, my own problem with the Syrian regime is its lack of legitimacy. IN the same sense that it is the lack of legitimacy of Israel that is killing us Arabs. I am willing to challenge the majority of the Arabs on this point : it is not the treatment of the Palestinians that is our primary point of contention, it is the legitimacy of Israel itself. I think that a lot of Arabs including Palestinins who live in the diaspora have become unable to bear the day to day pain of the Palestinians and have tuned them out but they will get enflammed whenever the topic of Israel comes up over the INJUSTICE.

I see SC practicing realpolitik in the positive sense. Accept and support “positive” facets of the regime, in the hope that when you criticize there will be an established space to receive the criticism and build on it. Whether this is an astute move or a naive underestimation of the evil of absolute power, time will tell.

December 8th, 2008, 7:32 pm

 

Shai said:

Alia,

To those who understand diplomacy (or even corporate marketing, for that matter), it is all about a certain “dance” that needs to be danced first between parties. It’s like wearing suits – everyone knows they’re not particularly comfortable, but we all partake in this “dance” in order to show one another a certain type of respect. And then, when we get close enough, we lower our shields, and get into more comfortable clothing… And then, we can criticize effectively.

December 8th, 2008, 7:40 pm

 

Alex said:

AP

I have no problem with Memri … I have no problem with its obviously biased selection process. As long as they do not spin, and they don’t.

What I don’t respect is Fox news … daring to claim they are “Fair and Balanced”

This applies to almost everything Murdoch owns.

December 8th, 2008, 7:42 pm

 

Alia said:

Shai,

This is something to think about. We are encouraged to “mature”, to deal with “reality” the way it is and not the way we wish it to be, on a personal as well as an organizational level. I am not sure to what extent certain issues can be dealt with completely and successfully or whether is it a matter of time till problems resurface again.

I am very dishearteaned by the Sunni/Shia divide for example and I see it as an example of profound non-healing across centuries. I found Mr. Makdissi’s terminology ” Iranian Friend” interesting, I happen to support completely a Syrian-Iranian friendship- not belonging to the Shia myself- but the terminology….Ah!

December 8th, 2008, 7:52 pm

 

MSK* said:

Ya Alex,

There is a difference between posting a newspaper article, like that of the WashPost’s Robing Wright you’d linked or a statement by the spokesperson of the Syrian embassy in London, maheek?

Ya Josh,

Fair enough. Here are some immediate comments.

Instead of guaranteeing peace and stability in the world, the USA has become a rogue nation, attacking friend and foe alike. Washington has recently expanded its regional wars to attack both Syria and Pakistan.

— Which friend of the US was attacked? The operations inside Pakistan were not an attack on that country but on armed groups that used Pakistan as a base from which to conduct cross-border raids into Afghanistan. No Pakistani troops or gov’t installations were attacked. And, as far as the current level of information suggests, it was done with the OK of the Pakistani authorities.

The US has prepared to attack Iran for no legitimate reason.

— When did those preparations happen? As for contingency plans – those are always drawn up & updated. I’m sure there are contingency plans for the US to attack Canada, should a hostile gov’t take power in Ottawa. And vice versa …

The US has helped to drive a wedge between Palestinian factions by supporting the PLO and isolating Hamas which was democratically elected.

— That was/is a Western policy, where the US is going together with Europe, so one cannot blame it on Dubya alone.

Finally, one must point to the world financial crisis that has its origins in the mountain of bad and risky debt fobbed off on a trusting world by American financiers.

— If someone offers you a “sure investment” with 20% interest and you take it & don’t have him explain it & don’t read the fine print then it’s your own fault if you loose all your money. On that note, I also have a bridge on the moon to sell …

Overall, we’re all here in agreement that the Bush Jr. administration was the worst in US history, that they were driven by ideology over anything, etc.pp. In short – they were very close to be a mirror of their enemies, the Iranian regime, the Taliban, Ussama bin Ladin etc.

Now to what Syria’s done:

Syria, although subject to both indirect and direct military intimidation, met US aggression with patience and resilience. It avoided confrontation and pursued proactive policies to counter false accusations, limit the chaos and divisions instigated by the US, and unify the Arabs around the common objective

— Syria is too weak to oppose the US, so it had no choice but to wait out and hope the storm’ll blow over; it also supported non-state actors (Iraq, Lebanon, Palestine) who oppose (politically & militarily) the US and its allies in the region.

Syria has fostered dialogue between Palestinian factions in order to build Palestinian national unity, which is a prerequisite to any lasting peace or long-term solution.

— In order to remain relevant in the Israel/Palestine conflict, Syria hosts Hamas & the others of the Rejection Front thus forcing Fatah & the PLO to have to go via Damascus. This, btw, also keeps the inter-Palestinian strife going. Damascus’ approach towards Palestine today is not much different from that towards Lebanon 1976-1991 (afterwards it was the hegemon in Lebanon).

In Lebanon, a neighbor so vital to Syria’s own stability and security, Damascus pushed for the unity exemplified by the Doha agreement. It helped promote a consensus president and cabinet that represented the interests of all.

— Syria helped obstruct the election of a Lebanese president until the May 2008 events, when its allies managed to force an agreement that would give them veto power in the government.

America’s politics of division extended to the entire region in its promotion of sectarian distrust.

— Syria never had problems allying itself with sectarian parties (for ex. in Lebanon) or supporting sectarian forces (for ex. in Iraq) or having sectarianist regimes as close allies (for ex. Iran).

Syria exerted its good offices with its Iranian Friend following a request from president Sarkozy in order to clear up misunderstandings between Iran and the West regarding the peaceful nature of their legitimate nuclear program.

— Care to provide details? As of this point, nothing has been “cleared up” between Iran and the West.

Syria has fully cooperated with the UN Commission investigating the al-Hariri assassination because Syria is interested in the truth. Every UN report has included a phrase attesting to Syria’s full cooperation with the commission.

— That’s simply not correct. The cooperation has, in recent reports, been described as “generally satisfactory”, which is not quite the same as “full”.

Syria is part of the answer to the global war against terrorism not part of its cause.

— Yes, it tortured suspects delivered to Syria by Western countries and may still hold some of them, without any indictment, access to lawyer etc.

It is not Syria that has brought suffering and turmoil to Iraq anymore than it is Syria that has increased radicalism, anger, and a growing sense of injustice among Middle Easterners whether in Mesopotamia, Palestine or Afghanistan. On the contrary, Syria has been the most generous refuge for the unfortunate victims of Washington’s hapless diplomacy in the region. Syrians have opened their homes to over a million Iraqis and half a million Palestinian refugees. One out of every ten people in Syria is a refugee or child of a refugee. No country has done more to alleviate the suffering of its neighbors. We took in the Armenians, Syriacs, and Kurds when they fled Turkey’s nation-building wars at the start of the last century. We took in Iraq’s Assyrians when they fled persecution in the 1930s. Now Syria is welcoming the ancient Christian and Sabian communities of Iraq which face extinction in their own country thanks to Washington’s merciful “freedom agenda.”

— On many levels, that is absolutely true & the Syrian gov’t & people are to be commended. However, there are some aspects that are simply incorrect.

It is not Syria that has brought suffering and turmoil to Iraq anymore than it is Syria that has increased radicalism, anger, and a growing sense of injustice among Middle Easterners whether in Mesopotamia, Palestine or Afghanistan.

— Syria had, for a long period right after the 2003 invasion of Iraq, provided help to fighters from Syria and other countries who wanted to cross into Iraq to fight the invasion forces and, later, the new Iraqi governments and also other sects (particularly Sunni Islamists who wanted to kill Shi’ites have been transiting Syria).

One out of every ten people in Syria is a refugee or child of a refugee.

— This is, legally speaking, not true. Syria has never signed the UN Refugee Convention and thus none of the Iraqis in Syria can be classified as “refugees”, and thus are unable to legally claim benefits, get work permits, etc. As far as the (Syrian) law is concerned, they are just visitors. And all the services they receive they do so at the mercy of the regime, which can grant or withhold those services as it pleases.

Now Syria is welcoming the ancient Christian and Sabian communities of Iraq which face extinction in their own country

— True, but Syria still refuses entry to a few hundred Palestinians who have been holed up at the Iraqi-Syrian border for years now. Again, Palestinians are discriminated against – this time by the Syrian regime.

Syria has done more than any other country to preserve the pluralism of the Levant and make the region safe for all regardless of religious and ethnic origins.

— I would like to see this argument buttressed with practical examples. Also, Syria has not shied away from supporting and/or allying itself with sectarian groups in the Levant when that suited its interests.

It is a central regional player and an important Arab opinion maker. If the United States hopes to make a positive contribution to settling the region’s ills and working toward just and lasting solutions to the many outstanding issues in the Middle East, it will do well to coordinate its efforts with Damascus.

— I think this is the main point of the whole piece. Syria wants to retain the position it had for so long and is doing everything it can to make it necessary to include it in the settlement of the main political issues – Iraq, Lebanon, Palestine. Now, that’s fair enough, the Syrian regime’s job is to do what’s best for Syria. But this is not an altruistic policy. Syria, as a country, doesn’t care what’s going on in the neighboring states or the region, as long as Syria’s interests are taken care of.

This is, on the level of international affairs, neither good nor bad. It’s realpolitik.

Above I have picked the parts that I think do not hold firm against some background checking. Much of what Jihad Makdissi wrote is correct, especially his critique of the Bush Jr administration’s failures. But then, he’s not the only one saying that & we’re all mostly in agreement about that specific topic.

As the spokesman of the Syrian embassy in the UK, obviously Mr Makdissi’s job is to make the Syrian regime look good. I do not expect him to be any more critical of Damascus’ policies than FOX News of Dick Cheney.

Dear Josh, now I’m looking forward to read your take. You usually critique (criticize?) those who are “anti-Syria” – I’m very curious to see your comments on the text of a “regime spokesman”.

Regards (as always),

–MSK*

December 8th, 2008, 8:01 pm

 

Shai said:

Alia,

I understand what you’re saying, and I wish more people thought like you. I’ve seen much of this “immaturity” also in the business world. Rather than taking a direct (and courageous) approach, we very often start off with a very gentle “dance” (approach), gauging every step of the way how we are perceived, whether our message (or product) is marketed well (or accepted), whether we truly understand the needs of our client, whether we are indeed speaking the same “language”, etc. And only then, when we have formed a certain bond, and trust has been established, do we “mature” up to straight-talk, direct and informal communication, that achieves our true goals. I suppose at the core of it all, stems human tendency to distrust, rather than trust. It is perhaps a primitive instinct for survival, that still has its hold on so many of us…

December 8th, 2008, 8:05 pm

 

Akbar Palace said:

Alex –

Fox News and Bill O’Reilly make me laugh. Their claim of being “unbiased” (IMO) is a joke as well as a slap at the MSM who never “claim” to be unbiased but invariably are.

BTW – Here’s another one of “Bush’s fiascoes” that Jihad forgot to mention:

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/12/04/AR2008120402858.html

I am willing to challenge the majority of the Arabs on this point : it is not the treatment of the Palestinians that is our primary point of contention, it is the legitimacy of Israel itself.

Alia,

As I’ve mentioned before (to Sim and others): “build a bridge and get over it”. The legitimacy of Israel is a fact and it grows larger every day.

December 8th, 2008, 8:17 pm

 

Alia said:

MSK,

Is Iran’s sectarianism the sole reason for its undesirability as an ally for Syria ? or are there other factors?

December 8th, 2008, 8:22 pm

 

MSK* said:

Dear Alia,

I did not say that Iran is undesirable as an ally for Syria. I said that while the US may have been at least accepting the usage of sectarian distrust (although an analysis of that will have to be quite nuanced), Syria has also either been playing or at least using the sectarian game and not shied away from having sectarian forces as allies.

–MSK*

December 8th, 2008, 8:40 pm

 

Alia said:

MSK,

Thanks very much for the clarification.. Actually my question is coming from a broader perception that I have of a lack of enthusiasm for this alliance among many Syrians, the basis of which I do not understand completely.

December 8th, 2008, 8:50 pm

 

offended said:

aig,

I feel your pain man, Jihad has spoken very eloquently about Bush’s blunders (I dare you to challenge that??). And he also mentioned how Syria in return has maintained a policy of peace and stability, he cited examples. Instead of being a jerk why don’t you put forward an argument?

But let me tell you little fellow, there are far more important, smarter and powerful people than you, in the west and elsewhere, who are taking the lesson explained above very seriously. Your dismissing of it means absolutely nada. ; )

December 8th, 2008, 8:59 pm

 

Joshua Landis said:

Dear MSK,

Thanks for the long and interesting commentary. I am running off to a job talk about Korean-Japanese relations, but I cannot resist a few comments.

You are quite right to try to shame Syria for not accepting the Palestinians driven out of Iraq due to the US occupation of that country. All the same, it is a tad ironic to suggest that it is Syria’s obligation to take them in more than — let’s say — Germany (your country) or even the USA (mine), countries that have more responsibility for their statelessness and sad economic plight than Syria. Why beat on Syria, which has already taken in more Palestinian refugees than other countries but one, when Germany could absorb them and get them back on their feet in a second. It should be more responsible for the Palestinians than Syria, wouldn’t you agree? Why doesn’t Germany send a few buses to pick them up?

As for your hair splitting about the legal definition of refugees in Syria, you are absolutely correct. All the same, I don’t know why you would want to deny credit from Syria for what it has done for the region’s minorities and unwanted peoples. Clearly, the percentage of Syria’s inhabitants who are descended from refugees far exceeds 10%. What legal status each has is important but hardly

Realpolitik – yes, I have no fight with you that Syria’s foreign policy is motivated by national interests. It is like saying that the US didn’t invade Iraq for national interests rather than to promote democracy and liberate Iraqis.

When countries are at their best, their interests coincide with the interests of others.

December 8th, 2008, 9:13 pm

 

MSK* said:

Dear Josh,

I’m afraid you are interpreting more into my post than I actually said.

I did not say anything about Syria’s obligations towards Palestinians or that Syria did less than Western countries in taking in refugees from Iraq, or from Palestine. I just pointed out that Syria is not the perfect benefactor Jihad Makdissi makes it out to be. And quite frankly, I don’t understand why those few hundred Palestinians are made to languish at the Iraqi-Syrian border while 1.5 million Iraqis were let into Syria.

The legal status of Iraqis in Syria is not a question of hair splitting. Feel free to read this report: http://www.boell-meo.org/en/web/542.htm Do you have any idea why Syria has never signed the U.N. Refugee Convention? (Btw, Jordan has neither.)

As for Syria’s help to refugees I explicitly said, “On many levels, that is absolutely true & the Syrian gov’t & people are to be commended.” But if you want to hear it again, here it is: The Syrian regime and people have been very generous in taking in refugees from Palestine, Lebanon, and Iraq, on a popular level often giving from the little they had. I never denied that and I don’t see any reason why you would accuse me of having done so.

I hope that clears things up.

I am, however, surprised that you took out time before the job talk to nitpick on my post, instead of saying something about J. Makdissi’s statement.

I do hope you’ll get around to write a commentary on that one as well.

Cheers,

–MSK*

December 8th, 2008, 9:42 pm

 

offended said:

MSK, quick points on the quick points you’ve cited.

As for the US attacking friends and foes alike, I think if I was in Jihad’s place I’d cite the new movie ‘body of lies’ as an example of US military and intelligence policy; where the regional players who are ready to help are portrayed akin to a paid WHORE. You go the whore house, get humint, cooperation and wide grins, and you promise the shabbab that they are staying in their respective places, and that they’ve got the support of the US. But when push comes to shove, you leave them out in the cold. That was true of the 14 march crowd and of Musharraf to an extent.

In other words, there has been no bonus to be cooperative with the Bush’s US policy in the middle east. War on terror or not.

Preparations to bomb Iran has never stopped. Remember couple of years ago when there was a traffic jam of US carriers at Hermez strait? Do we not hear of strong rumors that the currently ruinously low prices of oil are the result of tacit agreement between the Gulf States and the US (and the UK) to buoy the market and, as a result, suffocate Iran economically?

And yes, the US drove the wedge between Fatah and Hamas. Forgot the Vanity Fair article?

And then you say that Syria is weaker than opposing the US. exactly what do you think Syria has been doing in the past 5 years since the Iraq invasion? Was it not OPPOSING the US?

And Syria is weak compared to what? The American formidable army or the militia of sa’d hariri? If Syria was THAT weak, and it is THAT bad, then why oh why did the US not storm into Syria and rid the world of its ‘vicious regime’?

Now when Syria sponsor talks between Fatah and Hamas you say she wants to keep herself relevant. Syria has a choice of NOT sponsoring any talks at all. so what’s going to happen then? Is she going to be weaker and less relevant?

And when Syria does that (does nothing) we’re blamed for being negative and inactive in ‘bridling the viciousness’ of our allies. You expect to have it both ways ya3ni!?

See, right when it comes to Lebanon we see that you’ve accused Syria of hindering the process of electing a president (it was actually SELECTION and not election). Although it was the pathetic defeat sa’d hariri militia was dealt, that propelled the Doha agreement, wasn’t it?

In other words, sa’d and his little buddies (and allies) were hindering the process, and not Syria.

And yes indeed, Syria has non-sectarian policies and agendas in the region. Unlike the whole of Lebanon and Saudi Arabia, Syria forms its alliances not on sectarian basis.

And there is difference between allying yourself with sectarian parties and forming all your alliances on sectarian guidelines. Don’t you think?

And please, do you really feel morally comfortable classifying Iraqis in Syria as non-refugees just because Syria has not signed (I-don’t-give-a-shit-what-its-name-is) treaty? Seriously MSK? Bedna netmanyak 3ala ba3d ya3ni? Iraqis could get help as they please in Syria, and they do open business and get employed. And send their children to school. Get your fact straight. Nothing to brag about, it’s Syria’s moral duty. But hell, in a day and age where arab royalties spend hundreds of millions to bail out a football club in England, even for Syria to fulfill its moral obligation with limited resources is something spectacular!!

December 8th, 2008, 9:47 pm

 

Friend in America said:

The following summary of a longer news release was published a few hours ago on Global Security Newswire. I see this as foretelling what the world will be talking about over the next 5 years. I urge all again to consider the wisdom of declaring the mid east a nuclear free zone. Syria would be a big winner. This effort needs support in the mid east.

Statesmen to Promote Global Nuclear Disarmament
Monday, Dec. 8, 2008

A new organization plans to conduct its first meeting in Paris tomorrow to kick off an initiative to free the world of nuclear weapons within 25 years, the Associated Press reported

Global Zero aims to see the international community establish safeguards and audits for disarmament, reduce the U.S. and Russian nuclear stockpiles to about one-fifth their current size in the near term and gradually draw down all atomic arsenals.

“The aim is to get to zero,” said Richard Burt, President George H.W. Bush’s top strategic weapons negotiator, adding that even Iran could back efforts to eliminate all nuclear weapons (see related GSN story, today). “If there is growing support by nuclear powers and public opinion worldwide, I think it becomes harder for any government, including Iran, to cross that barrier,” he said.

“You got to think of this in terms of faith,” Burt added.

An estimated 20,000 nuclear weapons are in the hands of the world’s nuclear weapons powers: China, France, India, North Korea, Pakistan, Russia, the United Kingdom, the United States and, most likely, Israel.

An organization release states: “In recent months, the threat of proliferation and nuclear terrorism has led to a growing chorus of world leaders calling for the elimination of all nuclear weapons.”

Global Zero representatives are expected to meet this week with U.S. and Russian officials, possibly including U.S. President-elect Barack Obama’s transition team. The group plans to organize a global meeting in January 2010.

Arms Control Association head Daryl Kimball said that Global Zero’s strategy of encouraging talks between world leaders is different from past approaches.

“Most past strategies … have focused on a step-by-step approach toward zero, a process that has gone far too slowly,” he said.

The group’s U.S. supporters include former President Jimmy Carter, former Defense Secretary Frank Carlucci and former Secretary of State Lawrence Eagleburger, AP reported. The organization also has the backing of former Soviet Union head Mikhail Gorbachev, former Pakistani Foreign Minister Shaharyar Khan, retired Indian air force chief Marshal Shashindra Pal Tyagi and former British Foreign Secretary Malcolm Rifkind

December 8th, 2008, 9:59 pm

 

why-discuss said:

Thanks Josh
I think it is a very comprehensive summary of the disastrous foreign policy of the Bush administration and its attempts to scapegoat just any of the so-called rogue state for the failure of Iraq’s political and military campaign in the middle east.
I don’t think any administration can compete with the such accumulation of strategic mistakes thats costs life to arabs and american citizens. I always wonder why a democracy like the one in the USA does not make the president accountable for his mistakes. When Chavez said there was a smell of sulfur after the passage of Bussh all americans were outraged. It is as the US president is intouchable and protected by an aura of sanctity. I wish some of the families of the killed US soldiers will sue Bush and Rumsfeld and George Tenet for having caused such a disaster. Where is a democracy without respect for truth, justice and humanity ? How different is it from a dictatorship?
In retrospective, would the Americans understand the immorality and inhumanity of the Bush regime?

December 8th, 2008, 10:13 pm

 

Friend in America said:

Thanks Josh for printing the summary of Makdissi’s speech at the University College in London. Is his position Public Affairs Officer?

This speech is like a debater’s opening argument. It sets an agenda for further discussion. But, it also has many statements for those in the U.S. to reflect upon. We in the U.S. sometimes forget how important it is to hear (and read) how others see us. It is not self confidence as much as a consequence of having oceans that separate us from so many other countries (it makes us a huge island). That is very important. Makdissi’s speech is an invitation for dialogue and understanding.

December 8th, 2008, 10:16 pm

 

Alex said:

Dear FIM,

Jihad’s short opening statement was indeed followed by a lively debate in London.

Maybe I should also mention that we did not publish the last part of Jihad’s opening statement in which he expressed his cautious optimism that the Obama administration will be able to correct many of the wrongs of the Bush administration.

He ended it on a very positive note.

December 8th, 2008, 11:26 pm

 

Alex said:

President Sarkozy today said he trusts Syria and he did not regret his decision to work with Syria and he recognized its constructive role in Lebanon and in peace negotiations with Israel.

قال الرئيس الفرنسي نيكولا ساركوزي الاثنين انه يثق بسورية وليس نادما على الحوار معها، منوها بدورها الايجابي في لبنان، وبمحادثات السلام غير المباشرة بينها وبين إسرائيل.

وأشاد ساركوزي خلال كلمة له بمناسبة الاحتفال بالذكرى الستين لإعلان حقوق الإنسان بدور سورية الايجابي تجاه لبنان الذي أدى إلى انتخاب الرئيس اللبناني وقيام حكومة الوحدة الوطنية والتحضير للانتخابات النيابية.

وكان الرئيس بشار الأسد أعرب في وقت سابق من هذا الشهر عن “استعداد سورية لمساعدة الشعب اللبناني وقواه وأحزابه الوطنية بما يمكنها من مواصلة دورها في الحفاظ على وحدة لبنان الداخلية التي تضمن منعته وقوته”.

وكان البلدان أعلنا قيام علاقات دبلوماسية بينهما وسيتم تبادل السفارات قبل نهاية العام الحالي, وذلك ضمن إجراءات لتحسين العلاقات السورية اللبنانية التي شهدت توترا في السنوات الأخيرة.

كما تناول الرئيس الفرنسي في كلمته محادثات السلام غير المباشرة بين سورية وإسرائيل بوساطة تركية في سبيل تحقيق السلام الشامل في المنطقة.

يأتي كلام ساركوزي بعد أيام من إرساله رسالة شفهية إلى الرئيس بشار الأسد تناولت العلاقات الثنائية بين البلدين وآخر التطورات في منطقة الشرق الأوسط نقلها الأمين العام لرئاسة الجمهورية الفرنسية كلود غيان.

وعبر الرئيس الأسد وقتها عن “ارتياحه للدور الذي تلعبه فرنسا من خلال العمل مع دول المنطقة لإيجاد الحلول المناسبة للمشكلات التي تواجهها”.

December 9th, 2008, 12:12 am

 

Alex said:

Zbigniew Brzezinski: Israel’s push for Iran strike may hurt U.S. ties
By Natasha Mozgovaya, Haaretz U.S. Correspondent

Zbigniew Brzezinski, the former national security adviser to Jimmy Carter, said in an interview with Haaretz over the weekend that Israel will do harm to its relations with the United States if it insists on lobbying Washington for an American military strike on Iran.

Brzezinski was at the center of a controversy during much of the United States presidential campaign when Jewish opponents of president-elect Barack Obama sent out mass emails calling the former U.S. president’s aide anti-Israel, and saying he was one of the Illinois senator’s key advisors on foreign policy.

The Obama campaign denied that Brzezinski and other figures like Bill Clinton’s former advisor Robert Malley with dovish positions on the Israel-Palestinian question were among his Middle East advisors.
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Brzezinski told Haaretz: “One [piece of] advice that I would give the Israeli government is not to engage in this campaign for an American attack on Iran, because I don’t think America is going to attack Iran, and if it did, and the consequences would be disastrous.”

“It wouldn’t be particularly good for American-Israeli relations, and there will be a lot of resentment against [Israel],” he said. “There already has been some after the war in Iraq.”

On Sunday, Obama told NBC’s “Meet the Press” that the West must engage in “tough but direct diplomacy” with Iran, but emphasized that Tehran’s vocalized threats against Israel stand “contrary to everything” the United States believes in.

Brezinski added that even if Israel did attack Iran, it would be incapable of striking all of its nuclear facilities. The best it could hope to do is to slow down or delay the Islamic Republic’s drive to build a nuclear bomb while emboldening extremist sentiment in the country.

“I don’t know if Iran believes the military option is real, but I think it’s not a real option for the U.S., and it is not a real option for Israel, because Israel doesn’t have a capability to destroy Iranian nuclear facilities,” Brzezinski said.

“It can damage them, so it can only delay the process, while intensifying Iranian extremism and wielding together Iranian nationalism and Iranian fundamentalism, which I don’t think is in anyone’s interest. Last, but not least, Israel really cannot execute effective strike without our permission. Because if you look at the map, you can see the reason why it is so.”

The former Carter aide was among those who listened intently to President George W. Bush’s farewell speech on the Middle East over the weekend.

Brzezinski, one of the architects of the Camp David peace accords between Israel and Egypt who spared no criticism of the outgoing president during his two terms in office, is still not buying Bush’s vision for a new Middle East.

“You might remember that when Iraq war started in March, already in May President Bush proclaimed: ‘Mission accomplished,'” Brzezinski told Haaretz. “That happens to be more than seven years ago. In the course of this year, he several times declared that there’s going to be Israeli-Palestinian peace by the end of this year before he leaves office, because of his policies in the region. That hasn’t materialized yet and it is unlikely to happen before he leaves office. Iran is now more influential in region than seven years ago. So I think there is some legitimate skepticism justified regarding his analysis of what has happened.”

The octogenarian former diplomat continues to be one of the most active figures in Washington. Aside from his ability to prompt leaders to seek his advice, one of his trademarks continues to be a special talent to draw fire from critics. Many Israelis think he loathes their country, yet a similar sentiment can be heard from the Palestinians and the Russians. His supporters say he is simply focusing on advancing U.S. interests, and that he has no intention of toadying to anyone. Brezinski’s endorsement of Barack Obama moved many in the Jewish community to warn: “With advisors like Brzezinski, Obama’s policies will not be pro-Israel.”

Brezinski thinks the president-elect has a rare opportunity to translate the euphoria which followed his election victory into a concrete policy that will yield results in the international arena. “I think Barack Obama has to actively help to resolve Israeli-Palestinian stalemate, and it requires a comprehensive and explicit American peace initiative, because the parties are stalemated,” Brzezinski said. “I think that the first priority for the US president is to articulate that stand, especially when he has very high international prestige, he was elected with unprecedented global enthusiasm.”

“He has a lot of prestige,” he said. “If he would articulate that position, I think the whole international community would endorse it. And I think that would have some significant impact on a peace process, and after he has made that statement, he should than appoint the usual peace plenipotentiary to deal with the problem, because obviously president can’t spend his time involved in negotiating process.”

Brzezinki said public opinion in Israel and the Palestinian territories is more accommodating to an agreement, but it is the political leadership’s hesitance to make fateful concessions that necessitates active U.S. mediation.

“The public is actually ahead of the political leaders in some aspects, but the political leaders are hesitant to make necessary concessions that are fundamental to the settlement,” he said. “Out of the perhaps understandable fear that if one makes the concession first, the other side will pocket it without return. So I think it’s necessary that the U.S. takes initiative and breaks the lock jam, and that initiative requires particularly clear American view but also the international community’s view that this initiative has to be based on four fundamental principles.”

They include a Palestinian renunciation of the right of return; an Israeli commitment to genuinely share Jerusalem; a final border based on the ’67 lines with minor alterations to allow for annexation of settlement blocs; and a demilitarized Palestinian state.

Brezinski also says the two sides should consider an international peacekeeping force led by NATO to assuage security concerns.

“The possible involvement of NATO is not a question of war on terror, but ensuring that the Palestinian state is not a military threat, but at the same time stable and secure, and NATO presence could bring this double benefit,” he said. “Perhaps a NATO presence [could] ensure a peace agreement, or maybe even an American presence along the Jordan River, to give the Israelis sense of geographical security.”

Brzezinski was also in attendance at the annual Saban Forum over the weekend, a Middle East policy meeting sponsored by Washington think tank the Brookings Institution.

December 9th, 2008, 1:23 am

 

Nafdik said:

I want to congratulate Jihad Makdissi on his couragous and innovative move.

It might seem like a routine thing to non-Syrians, but in Planet Syria this is a giant step.

December 9th, 2008, 2:11 am

 

Nafdik said:

Here are some comments on the article:

“renditions”

How dare you mention this word!

The rendition factory is your government prison cells. Mr Bush was exporting the jobs that he was unable to get any American to perform to you.

“America’s image has been badly damaged in the hearts and minds of the millions of Arabs”

The hearts and minds of millions of Arabs are of no consequence as long as they have no influence over their governments policies.

“Syria, although subject to both indirect and direct military intimidation, met US aggression with patience and resilience.”

You mean that our military is so weakened and we have been so isolated from regional allies that we had to sit and watch in silent humiliation while Israeli and American planes bomb any target they wish.

” Nothing captures the Orwellian spin of Washington’s disinformation machine more than Secretary Rice’s insistence that the sounds of Israel’s exploding bombs over southern Lebanon were in truth “the birth pangs of a new Middle East.””

Good point.

” No country has done more to alleviate the suffering of its neighbors. We took in the Armenians, Syriacs, and Kurds when they fled Turkey’s nation-building wars at the start of the last century. We took in Iraq’s Assyrians when they fled persecution in the 1930s.”

Agreed, and I have to say that one thing Mr Assad has done well in maintaining this tradition by welcoming of Iraqi and Lebanese refugees recently.

December 9th, 2008, 2:38 am

 

norman said:

Syria is a country with a heart , That is rare,

And that is my take.

December 9th, 2008, 3:54 am

 

Joshua said:

Dear MSK,

Here is a comment I just received from a Syrian friend:

“Jihad did not have to go on a tirade against Bush to explain his point. Describing the USA as a rogue state will not sit well even with the new administration. Bush bashing is passé and unnecessary.

When it comes to the Syria piece, it is not credible to describe Syria as a peace-loving land of 20 million Gandis. Instead, I would use the point made at the end of the article right at the beginning and explain the importance of Syria’s regional power credentials. This is at odds with a lovable and peaceful Syria. You don’t become a regional power that way. You do it by playing hard and dirty in the trenches.

It would be more credible to simply say that Syria will do everything it can to stay a powerful regional broker and that only when the USA realizes her seriousness and survival instincts will the region’s problems be addressed.

Out with “we love peace, stability and Christians.” No one cares.”
___

This line of reasoning has a certain credibility. I agree that many Americans and Westerners in general will not respond well to being called a rogue state any more than Syrians have. I also take Nafdik’s good point about prisons.

All the same, Syria has played its hand reasonably well. Of course, having an opponent like Bush didn’t hurt, but Assad was correct about many of his assumptions. He read Middle Eastern realities better than the Americans, who have done great damage in Iraq.

Neither has the US behaved responsibly toward the Palestinians. Unquestioning loyalty to Israel has put too much swagger into Israel’s proponents of expansion.

I would have cut out the first paragraphs. But Jihad’s essay, as Shai and FIA state, is a breath of fresh air. I sets forward an argument and point of view that cannot be dismissed. It is persuasive on many points. When one compares it to Bush’s legacy speech at Brookings the other day, it seems a model of realism and humility. 🙂

Best, Joshua

December 9th, 2008, 6:18 am

 

MSK* said:

Dear Josh,

Comparing anything/-one to Bush Jr & his administration is like shooting ducks in a barrel …

As for Jihad Makdissi’s piece, I don’t see it as “a breath of fresh air”. A number of Syrian officials – from Bashar al-Assad (for ex. in his iPod interview [Barbara Walters?]) to the Syrian ambassador in DC to others – have pushed the same line for a while now.

And while it is certainly “new” in terms of Syrian PR, it is still within the overall, regional “we’re good & misunderstood & oh-so-important, everyone else is evil and against us” paradigm. Just the framing is slicker.

This may work with an audience at University College in London, but it doesn’t work on the level of international politics.

Best,

–MSK*

December 9th, 2008, 8:20 am

 

Alex said:

MSK,

From my perspective, “international politics” is run by two types of people

1) Those who do not get offended when Syria proves it was right all along

2) The Cowboys who are about to go back to Texas, the half-men in the Arab world, and the sophisticated looking warlords in Lebanon.

The first group is already sufficiently convinced.

The second group … I’ll leave it to you to find a good communication strategy that you think Syria can adopt in order to gain their recognition or admiration.

December 9th, 2008, 8:34 am

 

Alex said:

For those of you who forgot, please go through these words from President Bush and Prime minister Blair that were picked by an Open Mic during the Lebanon war:

http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/world/middle_east/article688879.ece

Bush: You see, the … thing is what they need to do is to get Syria, to get Hezbollah to stop doing this shit and it’s over.

Blair: Syria.

Bush: I felt like telling Kofi to call, to get on the phone to Assad and make something happen.

—-

Let the Lebanese people continue to die under Israeli bombs … The President of the United states is too proud to call Assad and ask him for help.

December 9th, 2008, 8:45 am

 

Alex said:

And finally,

MSK .. it was not as easy as the incompetent Bush against Syria.

It was:

1) The United States and its army and marines next door
2) Jacques Chirac’s France
3) Tony Blair’s England
4) Saudi Arabia and its massive Media Empire
5) Egypt
6) Jordan
7) Fatah
8 ) Half of Lebanon (dedicated to fighting Syria daily)
9) Iraqis (Kurds and some Shia etc)
10) Many Other supporting characters in the “international community” .. like Terje Rød-Larsen and Mehlis the clown.

It was massive my friend … similar only to Hafez Assad’s re-emergence as the strongest man in the Middle East after the Muslim brotherhood challenge (backed by most of our Arab brothers), the initially successful Israeli invasion of Lebanon, the Camp David accords (losing Egypt) … losing the Soviet Union, an Arab world united behind his enemy Saddam Hussein, … and all the difficult 1977 to 1988 years.

This was not an accident … we have two full cycles.

December 9th, 2008, 9:00 am

 

Ambika said:

I have enjoyed reading a lot of perspectives you bring to the table at SC, and I agree that it is indeed brave of the official in question to have agreed to write on such an open forum. As he is a spokes person for the embassy one can understand that he has to follow the policies of the government and show Syria in the best possible light.
I do have a few points of contention though – If as he says SYria is serious about peace, why are they still harbouring terrorist organizations. Why not clean their country first of militants, turn them over the their respective countries or to the UN and then proceede to make serious decisions on bringing about peace. Assad seems to have enjoyed the new spot light Sarkozy has placed on him, now its time he moves beyond the diplomatic good feel speech and act on his promises. Granted a lot of the problems facing the middle east have been caused by other powers, but Syria isnt really helping to solve the crisis.
Mr Makdisi would do well to carefully read what several people here have written and realize that there is a whole generation of people who are connected and concerned about the state of the region and that Syria’s actions will create affects beyond the borders of his country.

December 9th, 2008, 9:30 am

 

offended said:

Ambika,

Just who are those terrorists and militants syria is supposed to ‘turn over’?

December 9th, 2008, 1:24 pm

 

majid said:

I will not attempt to criticize the article of Mr. Makdissi, because many readers (MSK, NAFDIK, Akabar, etc…) have done an excellent job already. In addition, continued discussion of irrelevancies will bestow unwarranted value upon them. The article, however, is another example which exposes a fundamental weakness in the Western system which believes in and practices the principle of freedom of expression. This belief forces these democracies to allow even the enemies of democracy and freedom to air their views using western institutions and media outlet.
Somehow, the West must come up with rules that will regulate such abuse of its values. I believe that despots and their derivatives (such as Makdissi, Dr. Landis, Imad Moustapha, etc…) should be allowed to air their views in the west. However, there should be legislations forcing these derivatives to disclose their associations with despotic governments in order to properly inform the public about the fact that the views they are about to listen to are those of a government which is diametrically opposed and further prohibits the practice of freedom of expression. Syriacomment for example, would be forced to display prominently a clause saying something like: This blog advocates views that are in agreement with the policies of the Syrian government which prohibits freedom of expression within its territories.

Dr. Landis you do qualify as a derivative of a despot by publishing this article. Your response to MSK is inadequate clearly proves your association with the Syrian government. And yes you should have gone back and removed the article in order for you to maintain the least semblance of neutrality and objectivity. President Bush, whether you like him or not, is the elected President of the USA. He is the Commander in Chief. And he will go down in history as a two-term US President. He should be criticized, of course, by those who believe and practice Western values but not by a derivative of a despot.

December 9th, 2008, 1:33 pm

 

offended said:

you guys remember the interview with this author from couple of months ago? it’s interesting that his own book is banned while he himself is quite available to speak to international media.

Life on the edge for Syrian artists

In the second of his articles from the Syrian capital Damascus, the BBC’s Martin Asser looks at the role of the cultural life in a police state which for years has oppressively controlled freedom of expression.

I was trying to buy a banned book in Damascus by one of Syria’s top literary figures, and to my surprise it seemed to be going rather well.

The bookseller phoned another supplier located nearby. A boy was dispatched and soon returned with my request, discretely folded in a plastic bag.

Actually, I confess to being somewhat disappointed – as I had been trying to test one of Syria’s famous “red lines”.

These are the taboos imposed by Syria’s repressive government on public discussion of things like politics, the ruling Assad regime, or the security forces.

So how was I standing in a bookshop in the centre of the Syrian capital having just bought a book that crossed a whole tangle of red lines, In Praise of Hatred by Khalid Khalifa?

Happily, or perhaps unhappily, my faith in Syrian totalitarianism was restored as soon as I asked for a receipt for my purchase.

“I can’t give you one, sir,” the bookseller hissed conspiratorially. “It’s banned, it’s a banned book. Let me make it out in a different title for the same price.”

Which he did, officially “selling” me a fictional work (in more than one sense) called In Praise of Women.

State of flux

Khalifa’s book may be banned, or at least a tad illusive, in Syria but the author himself is easily accessible, happy to meet for a chat and a bottle of local Barada beer in his favourite cafe in the historic heart of Old Damascus.

“It’s become like a game between us and the authorities,” he told me. “We write what we want and they say what they want. True, my latest novel is ‘not allowed’ here, but you know what they say, books have wings and can fly over any frontier.”

In Praise of Hatred, which deals with the rise of religious extremism in Syria, has certainly been hard to suppress. Amid a blaze of publicity earlier this year it was shortlisted for the first International Prize for Arabic Fiction, a competition backed by the Book Prize Foundation.
“At the moment we’re in a transitional stage,” Khalifa said, considering the eight-and-a-half years since President Bashar al-Assad took power following the death of his father.

The initial period after 2000 saw great improvements, he said, but then came a serious backlash, with the low point in 2006.

That was when the authorities arrested writer Michel Kilo and other dissidents who were calling for changes in Syrian policies vis-a-vis Lebanon.

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

Khalifa is one member of Syria’s artistic community who backs an on-going dialogue with the authorities in the hope of improving the state of freedom of expression in his country.

“The authorities appreciate we are people who are good to negotiate with and we are accommodating – but you know, we get tired. We need hope so we can continue this dialogue and come up with something worthwhile from it.”

Resignation

Monday night at the Firdous Hotel has become a bit of an institution for Damascus’s bohemian community: it’s poetry night and local poets and artists gather in the smoky downstairs bar for sometimes raucous, sometimes poignant performances of new and classical Arabic verse.

Late in the session Hala Faisal, a painter and singer, takes the microphone and sings a popular ballad which is greeted with riotous applause.

Faisal has spent most of her life in exile, working in New York and Paris, but she returned to Syria two-and-a-half years ago, hoping to make it her home again.

We met up a couple of days later and full of emotion she tells me that it is time to leave again. She does not want to go into great detail about her decision, but in faltering English she says:

“Maybe because of the politics, they are pushing me to leave. I have to accept some laws that I disagree with, you be within their rules. I have to be honest with myself I cannot just be blind and go on. At least when I go to my bed in the evening I am happy with myself.”

It seems a tragedy for Syria, in the year that Damascus is Arab Capital of Culture, that someone like Faisal feels she has to make that choice: either to close her eyes to the political repression in Syria or pack her bags.

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

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

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

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

http://newsvote.bbc.co.uk/mpapps/pagetools/print/news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/middle_east/7773311.stm?ad=1

December 9th, 2008, 3:47 pm

 

jad said:

Cassandra fan, I agree on your genius suggestion if you agree on writing something like this after every comment of yours:

Majed views are against secularism and are in agreement with posing Shariaa law on every Syrian regardless of their religions which prohibits freedom of personal choice.

How about that for regulating the ‘freedom of speech’ you are asking for?
Where do you get your ideas to regulate everything? KSA??????

Someone like you who doesn’t fully support freedom on every level doesn’t have the credibility to manipulate the regulation of anything.

BTW, you are very rude to many people on here, cool it down princess..

December 9th, 2008, 5:33 pm

 

Akbar Palace said:

He should be criticized, of course, by those who believe and practice Western values but not by a derivative of a despot.

Majid,

I could not have said it better myself.

Shukran.

Professor Josh,

Do you think that having a father-in-law who is retired from the Syrian Navy perhaps clouds your objectivity??

http://faculty-staff.ou.edu/L/Joshua.M.Landis-1/wedding/announcement.htm

December 9th, 2008, 5:55 pm

 

majid said:

JAD,
Where in the hell you came up with all these accusations against me? Please identify me first and furnish your proofs and I will be very happy to comply with your suggestion.

By the way the persons I mentioned in my post and who should be forced to disclose their associations, have already proven such associations by their pronouncements and action. So, unlike you, I’m not being presumptuous.

December 9th, 2008, 5:55 pm

 

Observer said:

This is from atimes.com today. I think that the Saudi regime is moving full speed ahead with its long tradition of serving their interests without regard to any other principle. It is short sighted but that is all that they know what to do.
Enjoy
http://atimes.com/atimes/Middle_East/JL10Ak02.html

December 9th, 2008, 6:04 pm

 

EHSANI2 said:

AP,

You seem to revel in playing the game of “gotcha” with your link.

Clearly, Dr. Landis has gone out of his way to publicize the ex-profession of his father-in-law by listing the document on his own site.

Since you seem to be a frequesnt visitor of this forum, it is clear that you don’t seem fazed by his “clouded objectivity”.

December 9th, 2008, 6:19 pm

 

Akbar Palace said:

EHSANI2,

I may have mentioned before, but not so long ago, I worked with a very nice Syrian-American fellow. He used to tell me how his father was quite high in the Syrian govenment. His family was fairly well-to-do in Syria and well off financially.

He didn’t give me the details, but he said one day it was all taken away. His father’s business, the income and the influence.

I found that to be an extraordinary story. It made me feel that not only is life in Syria as precarious as a “Fiddler on the Roof”, but that the government has a lot of power and too much of it.

Anyway, I couldn’t have met a nicer person. I enjoyed it every time he brought us Syrian baklava…

December 9th, 2008, 6:51 pm

 

EHSANI2 said:

Dear Majid,

I would like to address your comment number 41:

Let me first state at the outset that I consider myself a friend of Dr. Landis. This means that I have my own biases that you need to be aware of. With that caveat, let me first challenge your statement that Josh is “associated with the Syrian Government”.

Like the rest of us, there is no doubt that Dr. Landis has his own version of biases and subjectivities. As Akbar Palace is so proud to announce, Josh’s father-in-law is an ex Admiral in the Syrian navy. He has visited the country on numerous occasions. He speaks the country’s language. He personally knows and visited Ambassador Moustapha in Washington. All this is public information and transparent for all to see.

Does this make Dr. Landis “associated with the Syrian government”?

I am not at liberty to divulge private information that the Professor shared with me but I can assure you that there are many elements within Syria that consider Dr. Landis as a spy/risk/problem/not totally supportive of Syria.

Dr. Landis has made Syria Comment what it is because he has allowed this forum to be a free wheeling forum where articles, opinions and comments get published at lightening speed. I think that I speak for Alex as well as Dr. Landis, your own comment and that of MSK, Akbar and Nafdik (welcome back sir) are not only welcome but encouraged.

Now, back to Mr. Makdissi’s post:

First, by agreeing to publish his article on SC, Mr. Makdissi seems to have been prepared and open to reading the kind of comments that you and others have made with regards to the theme of his article. I, for one, applaud him for participating in such a forum and opening himself to the inevitable criticism. Rather than asking Dr. Landis to remove the post, you ought to encourage more of it and then move on to criticize the post through smart and articulate counter argument as many have done above.

As for me, I was also not too happy to read an extended critique of Bush’s policies. This subject matter has been beaten to death. Been there, read that. I would not have called the USA a rogue nation. This is unlikely to even please the President-elect and his new team.

This is why I also disagreed with those who refer to Syria a rogue nation. Both Damascus and the USA are acting in defense of their self-interest. In the case of Bush, he bet big and lost the plot badly. Syria’s bet has worked. There is no point spinning this fact or denying it.

I wish that Mr. Makdissi concentrated and expanded on Syria’s objective to play the role of a regional power house. While he had touched on this point, I thought that the subject matter deserved more time and analysis.

December 9th, 2008, 7:09 pm

 

Observer said:

I think Germany should given one of its provinces so that those wronged by the Nazi regime can live there in peace instaed of exporting the problem and putting it on the backs of the Palestinians.

Instability has primarily come from the significant backwardness of the people of the ME but the perpetuating force is without a doubt in my mind the presence of Israel as an exclusivist expansionist occupying entity. Today, the Egyptians cannot sell the gaz and oil except to Israel at preferential prices, Lebanon cannot extract water to irrigate the land, 1.2 million cluster bombs are littering the fields for a population of about 400 000, and the bargaining position is : recognize my theft of your land as legitimate and I will give you back part of the land with exorbitant conditions and without ever allowing a single refugee to return home.

How ironic that they are beating the drums of more war. No wonder the last anonymous survey of Europeans found that Israel is the greatest threat to world peace right above Iran.

Now brace yourselves for the democracy brown beating that will come after this comment. How ironic that in the USA, my country, we can elect a black President and he chooses his Chief of Staff as the son of an Israeli, and yet, a Palestinian born in Jaffa cannot even go back to visit, for he was not “chosen” and we can hear endless lectures about human rights and democracy.

December 9th, 2008, 7:13 pm

 

Ghat Albird said:

This link provides an interesting window what is on the mind of Israel’s security experts for the coming year.

As the saying goes in east Texas “worm has begun to turn” all over the world and regardless of the pros and cons of Syria’s domestic governance its foreign policy posture is serving it well.

http://www.jewishtimes.com/index.php/jewishtimes/news/jt/israel_news/israel_facing_grim_threat_assessment_for_09/9211

December 9th, 2008, 7:40 pm

 

Majid said:

Dear EHSANI2,
Thanks for the lengthy reply. However, your arguments are not convincing. Dr. Landis said replying to MSK: “I invited Makdissi to publish his article on SC. I am not about to turn around and try to take him apart. I think it is bold of a government official to publish his views on a site where anyone can comment.” As Akbar has noted publishing the article on SC is a tacit approval of its content.

I disagree with you on several points as well. I’m not convinced the Syrian regime deserves the credit you accord it. I also do not believe the US under Bush has failed as you claim. Removing Saddam from power is an achievement that Bush can be proud of for years to come. I also do not believe that Syria under such regime deserves or should become a regional power house – may God forbid despots gaining upper hand over freedom and liberty.

Finally, you failed to address the real issue I’ve raised. There is a fundamental flaw in the Western system of Democracy which allows despots and their derivatives to air their views unchecked to a public that believes in freedom of expression. That’s why forcing such derivatives of despots to disclose their associations would serve the interests of the free world while maintaining the practice of freedom of expression to all including despots and their derivatives. If Dr. Landis were to be forced to show a disclosure statement, then MSK and Akbar will have no point and Landis is free to do what he wants. Of course, the regulation should have strict controls on enforcing such legislations only on those proven to fall into such category. However, it is not impossible to come up with the proper mechanisms to do so.

December 9th, 2008, 8:14 pm

 

Shai said:

Observer,

You won’t be hearing “endless lectures about human rights and democracy” from me. But Israelis are here to stay. Though some do take advantage of their parents’ European citizenship, most are not about to go back to Germany, Poland, or any other European country. All we have left there are terrible memories, and our family members’ ashes. Unfortunately, that should have never been an excuse for creating and exercising an Apartheid over the Palestinian people. We need to end that, but it won’t happen with Jews leaving the Middle East.

December 9th, 2008, 8:20 pm

 

Akbar Palace said:

…and yet, a Palestinian born in Jaffa cannot even go back to visit, for he was not “chosen” and we can hear endless lectures about human rights and democracy.

Observer,

I hope this doesn’t sound like a “lecture”, but a “Palestinian born in Jaffa” can visit Israel whenever he/she pleases. In many cases, a visa isn’t even required.

http://www.israelemb.org/consular_Visa.html

But ususally, the problem isn’t the Israeli government. If an arab returns to his/her country with an Israeli stamp, they may not be allowed back to the mother country!

See “The Syrian Bride”, a fictional black comedy movie about this sort of circumstance.

http://movies.nytimes.com/2005/11/16/movies/16brid.html

Majid (or anyone else), feel free to email me at palace.akbar@gmail.com

December 9th, 2008, 8:22 pm

 

EHSANI2 said:

Dear Majid,

I don’t believe that I said that Syria “deserves” or “should become” a regional power house.

This is what I said:

“I wish that Mr. Makdissi concentrated and expanded on Syria’s objective to play the role of a regional power house”.

As to your issue reagrding the flaw in the western system of democracy, I think that you very comment and those of MSK, Akbar and Nafdki prove that Mr. Makdissi’s views are not going unchecked here.

I am an avid reader of the Wall Street Journal. I think that their editorial section has its own biases just as Dr. Landis, you and I have our own.

Should we all make our disclosure statements before we start writing or opining to the public?

December 9th, 2008, 8:27 pm

 

Shai said:

Akbar Palace,

Thank you for taking over the role of Israeli Embassy Visa Section representative, but there is a slight misleading problem with your statement: “… but a “Palestinian born in Jaffa” can visit Israel whenever he/she pleases. In many cases, a visa isn’t even required.”

In case you didn’t know, most Palestinians born in Jaffa (or elsewhere in pre-1948 Palestine) do not live in the U.S., Canada, U.K., or most other nations on that list your link included. Most such Palestinians live in the countries that surround Israel. And most of these, cannot visit Jaffa, or anywhere else in Israel, period. Nowadays, even those that settled in the West Bank (as opposed to Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, Iraq, etc.) cannot enter Israel without special permission. Asking to see their home in Jaffa is, unfortunately, not yet considered good enough a reason for receiving such permission. They can see their home in Jaffa, at best, in an old photo album.

December 9th, 2008, 8:37 pm

 

nafdik said:

Majid,

You said:

“Finally, you failed to address the real issue I’ve raised. There is a fundamental flaw in the Western system of Democracy which allows despots and their derivatives to air their views unchecked to a public that believes in freedom of expression.”

This is the kind of logic that lead Syria and the Arab world to where it is today.

Democracy does not need protection from [traitors, collaborators, idiots, infidels, extremists, FillInTheBlanks] who will threaten the [nation, revolution, morality, FillInTheBlank]. In fact such arguments are the first things depots use to stop democracy.

I think you will find that readers of this blog are smart enough (like you) to understand that what is voiced here is opinions and if they can still enrich themselves with other opinions by going to Fox, MEMRI, SyriaComment 2.0, etc.

December 9th, 2008, 10:12 pm

 

nafdik said:

Alex,

You propose that those who do not espouse the views of Mr Makdissi are:

“The Cowboys who are about to go back to Texas, the half-men in the Arab world, and the sophisticated looking warlords in Lebanon.”

hummm, you forgot other important categories such as “khawane”, “al-raj3iin”, “3umala'”, “sahiounyiin”, “emperialiin” and the mentally challenged like myself.

December 9th, 2008, 10:17 pm

 

majid said:

Dear EHSANI2,
I don’t know if I haven’t made myself clear already. But I will try to elaborate even at the risk of being repetitive. WSJ is a known institution which believes and practices freedom of expression. You cannot prove that WSJ advocates the negation of such practice even if you can prove it is biased to certain views. Now, I assume that you, being a close friend of a very literate person, have a certain level of literacy and comprehension that will make you capable of distinguishing between being biased to certain views and being diametrically opposed to believing in and practicing freedom of expression as Western Democracies do. I don’t believe anyone can disprove that the Syrian Government falls into the category which fails to believe in and practice such Western principle.

As to your other point on who said what, I don’t think it really matters. So please forgive the lack of response to that point just for the sake of brevity.

As to your other question: “Should we all make our disclosure statements before we start writing or opining to the public?”, You should ask yourself:”Do we ALL who live in the West do not believe in practicing freedom of expression?” If you answer yourself yes then my answer to you is YES.

December 9th, 2008, 10:24 pm

 

Alex said:

Dear Nafdik,

Before you wrote any criticism of Mr. Makdissi’s article, I wrote him an email to hint to Syria’s political prisoners and to imply that I would not criticize the Bush administration until Michel Kilo and all the other political prisoners (the non criminal ones) are released.

I was talking about what my friend MSK referred to as “international politics” (or something similar), not about Syrians like you.

You have many legitimate concerns and you express them in a very balanced manner that no one can criticize.

The group I listed is another story … they are politicians .. not saints. In my humble opinion, their CONSTANT criticism of Syria (and not Saudi Arabia or Egypt or Jordan or …) can be due to a large extent to their character flaws.

They failed .. all of them combined failed in redrawing the Middle East to their liking.

You probably disagree with me to some extent, but I trust you will not suspect I am aBaathi, like I do not call you “khaen”

December 9th, 2008, 10:26 pm

 

nafdik said:

Alex,

There is nothing wrong in being a Baathi if you believe in Freedom, Unity, and Social justice. Obama could be one :>

December 9th, 2008, 10:34 pm

 

SimoHurtta said:

What I can not understand why some people (well I can understand why the Mossad men are 🙂 ) are so fiercely condemning publishing a Syrian officials views in this blog and demanding professor Landis to take “side”. Most articles referred in SC’s leading articles give the other sides view. Certainly the relative fewer Syrian views are important to show how the Syrian side is seeing the situation.

I find it rather improper to demand professor Landis to comment the view “invited” by the blog to be published here. Surely everybody understands that the “host” can not do that. If SC for example would invite an “democratic” Israeli diplomat to write his/hers view as a leading article also there the “inviter’s” comments attached to the article would be rude and improper.

Majid’s demand that the representatives of Syria and other more or less authoritatively ruled countries should not given a voice in “democratic media” is absurd. Then in western media not a single representative of Arab countries’ regimes could not say their view about different topics and the extremists of the “democratic west”, which we have plenty, could completely freely spread their own propaganda and agenda (we saw were that did lead with Iraq’s WMDs and rumoured Saddam’s mass graves – one million dead). Surely the “democratic” politicians and like the public in democracies need to read and listen to the views Syria, Iran and North Korea as they have to listen to Israelis and Palestinians. Understanding the opposite sides views is important if a peace is the goal.

Now when 72 percent of Afghanistan is back in Taleban hands and NATOs supply depots are burning Majid’s mighty democratic values practising (= propaganda WMD’s, Guantanamo Bay, Abu Grahib, torture, random shootings, privatized war, illegal kidnaps, no courts, spying of own population, dramatically reducing civil rights etc) Commander in Chief must negotiate or face a certain defeat like all the other numerous other armies in Afghanistan. The “Bush’s” idea “machine-guns negotiate, not we” simply is not working. Not in US or in Israeli colonies as it never before has had worked. Nixon realized that, Bush not.

——
I think Germany should given one of its provinces so that those wronged by the Nazi regime can live there in peace instaed of exporting the problem and putting it on the backs of the Palestinians.

Observer maybe Germany could buy from Russia the old Königsberg region (now Kalingrad Oblast) back and donate it for European based Jews with the demand that they move away from Israel/Palestine. Then Shai and AIG could return to their ancestors regions and the remaining Jews whose parents and grandparents came from Arab countries could more easily find a solution with Palestinians. Surely the Polish and Lithuanian people would welcome them and their nukes to replace Russians and their nukes. 😀

December 9th, 2008, 10:47 pm

 

ehsani2 said:

Habibi Majid,

I think that I said that I consider myself “a friend” of Dr. Landis.You inserted the word “close” friend. Hopefully, the Professor agrees with you.

I am at loss to explain who and what gave you the impression that the Syrian government is anywhere near practicing western democratic principles of free speech or elections.

They don’t and I doubt that they will anytime soon, if ever.

Has the Syrian leadership ever claimed that it was adhering or striving to practice such principals anytime soon? Has any other regional government made a similar proclamation?

Let us get real.

The Syrian leadership will not go down this path because it is fully aware that it is a slippery slope that it must not travel on regardless of how many of us cry foul.

I have no idea why you think that this issue is open to question or misinterpretation.

December 9th, 2008, 11:14 pm

 

majid said:

EHSANI2,
Are we playing on words here? close…not close? Does it really matter? The point was: you are competent enough to make a very simple distinction. Are you?
Nonetheless, we go back to square one. The Syrian government must not be allowed to manipulate a flaw in the west simply because, by your own admission, it does not believe in or practice freedom of expression. Hence a law requiring the derivatives of the Syrian government to disclose their association with such government is in the interest of Western Governments. At the same time such law will still show generosity to a poorly governed nation and maintain the West’s belief in its system.

December 9th, 2008, 11:28 pm

 

Alex said:

Nafdik,

No thanks.

I have nothing specific againt the Baath which has some attractive goals and values if you forget everything negative about its image today.

But in general, I would not be attracted to being a member in ANY political party … Baathi, Republican, Liberal, or democratic.

Maybe a modified, modern, SSNP … but I would be a supporter, not a member.

Majid,

We will be happy to interview Walid Jumblatt or the Saudi Ambassador to Beirut if you did not have enough of their interviews in every other media outlet that their friends own.

But I thought you would realize that Syrian officials and diplomats rarely publish two pages of materials that THEY wish to talk about (like Jihad’s here), as opposed to answering questions from western journalists who always ask the same thing (support for terror, Hariri investigation …)

You are right that we do give Syria’s point of view more coverage than we give to the “international coalition” views … but that’s because we heard enough from them …

As for your proposal for branding Joshua Landis a “derivative” of the Syrian government… let’s see

Michael Young: a derivative of elitist Lebanese Christian warlords

Assyassa: a derivative of the custodian of the two holy mosques

Hosni Mubarak: a derivative of the Saudis

Dick Cheney: a derivative of defense and Oil companies.

All the neocons: derivatives of Likud

AIPAC: derivative of Likud

Where do we go with this?

December 9th, 2008, 11:40 pm

 

nafdik said:

Majid,

What are calling a flaw in the west is the essence of democracy.

You suggest that before being allowed to public speech the speaker should provide certain information about himself.

Can an idea be judged by its own merit independent of its source?

If yes then your whole argument is void.

If not then we are back to ‘purity tests’ that are the hallmark of dictatorship.

December 9th, 2008, 11:43 pm

 

EHSANI2 said:

Majid,

Would you make the same requirement from derivatives of the Egyptian and Saudi Governments?

December 9th, 2008, 11:46 pm

 

majid said:

SimoHurta,
I never said “that the representatives of Syria and other more or less authoritatively ruled countries should not given a voice in “democratic media””. These are your own words.

Alex,
I have no problem branding anyone derivative of another. I have a problem with regimes and their derivatives stifling public freedom and expression in their countries and making use of this freedom in countries where it is a fundamental tenet.

NAFDIK,
You’re absolutely right. Free public speech is the essence of Democracy. I also said a proper mechanism is not impossible to come up with to safeguard this essence while preventing its abuse by those who oppose it. The public in a free society has the right to know the proper source of information it is consuming particularly in this age. As you may very well know not everyone has the ability to fathom certain views and comprehend the real message especially if the material is formulated in a very subtle way as is the case with Dr. Landis and few others.

EHSANI2,
I have no problem with that – the law should be applied on all that are determined to be against freedom of speech.

December 10th, 2008, 12:04 am

 

EHSANI2 said:

Great,

Keep us abreast of developments on this track and don’t forget to share with us examples of violations of free speech by Egyptian and Saudi derivatives as well. You seem very concerned about this subject and I am hopeful that you will find plenty of material from the above two countries in addition to Syria and the region at large.

December 10th, 2008, 12:10 am

 

nafdik said:

Majid,

I have 3 problems with proposed policy.

1- Practical

If you really think about the mechanisms to implement it you will see how complex they are.

Do I need a certificate before opening a blog that certifies that I have disclosed what I need to do?

2- Unintended consequences

Basically you want to have a limitation on speech and this limitation should be regulated and enforced by the government.

Coming from a country where my N1 enemy is my government I am very sensitive to any increase in government power. Russia is an example of country sliding from democracy to dictatorship using arguments such as yours.

3- Fundamental

“not everyone has the ability to fathom certain views and comprehend the real message”

I believe people can fathom very complex views when they have real impact on their lives. The American voter for example was not swayed by the “subtle messages” of Clinton, McCain and Palin when they voted Obama in.

On the long term trust the people to do what is right for them, and beware those who want to save the people from themselves.

December 10th, 2008, 12:18 am

 

EHSANI2 said:

NAFDIK,

Please make sure you don’t disappear on us soon. It is so good to see you back here for reasons that are easy to see.

December 10th, 2008, 12:25 am

 

Akbar Palace said:

Sim said:

Then Shai and AIG could return to their ancestors regions …

Sim,

cc: Shai, AIG

I think they already have. But just remember Sim, the Palestinians know where their ancestors came from, and the Jews know where their ancestors came from, and really, they don’t need anyone or some Finn to tell them differently.

In case you didn’t know, most Palestinians born in Jaffa (or elsewhere in pre-1948 Palestine) do not live in the U.S., Canada, U.K., or most other nations on that list your link included. Most such Palestinians live in the countries that surround Israel. And most of these, cannot visit Jaffa, or anywhere else in Israel, period. Nowadays, even those that settled in the West Bank (as opposed to Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, Iraq, etc.) cannot enter Israel without special permission. Asking to see their home in Jaffa is, unfortunately, not yet considered good enough a reason for receiving such permission. They can see their home in Jaffa, at best, in an old photo album.

The list I linked to is a list of nations that do NOT require a visa prior to entering Israel. All other countries require a VISA. I am sure THOUSANDS of Palestinians visit Israel every year to visit Jaffa, Umm al Fahem, etc. Israel cannot be held responsible for accepting visitors from a few remaining countries that are still at war with her or wont let their nationals return with a Zionist stamp in their passports.

December 10th, 2008, 12:51 am

 

Akbar Palace said:

Alex,

Here’s an article you may have missed that would fit in nicely with Mr. Jihad Makdissi’s article. At the same time, it may also bring a sense of joy and comfort to some of the participants here:

Iranian VP calls for Israel’s destruction

Esfandyar Rahim Mashaei, who caused a stir recently by saying Iran is friend to Israel, decides to reiterate President Ahmadinejad’s calls for obliteration of Zionism. ‘Corrupt Zionist regime harming Islamic world, all of humanity’.

Iranian Vice President Esfandyar Rahim Mashaei believes the destruction of Israel should become an international goal and a global demand, the state-owned IRNA reported Tuesday.

http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-3636063,00.html

December 10th, 2008, 1:05 am

 

Alex said:

Thanks Akbar,

but please also pay attention to the more positive statements from Iran:

Speaking at a tourism convention in Tehran, Esfandiar Rahim-Mashaei said: “No nation in the world is our enemy, Iran is a friend of the nation in the United States and in Israel, and this is an honor. We view the American nation as one with the greatest nations of the world.”

http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-3570266,00.html

This is a transition period … you will hear from every country one thing and its opposite. Everyone is sensing there will be a possibility to start negotiating all the differences and everyone is preparing his opening position.

By next summer, if the Obama administration shows serious interest in starting a new page with Iran, expect to see a much nicer new president in Iran.

Otherwise, there will be more of the same …

The real choice in Syria and Iran is one of conflict resolution. You will see hopefully within the next 12 months.

December 10th, 2008, 1:16 am

 

nafdik said:

Thx Ehsani,

Wait until I dig into your statements 😉

December 10th, 2008, 1:31 am

 

trustquest said:

Ehsani, in your comment on 63, you assumed that the current regime is staying for ever and he is not going to change its course and will never move towards less centric governing, I think you are making a grave mistake not to realize two things from history the effect of pressure and that accident happen and change is the norm of the nature. For the turkey who is fed daily for 1000 days before slaughtering, he always thanks god each morning and thank the hand who feed him, till the last day before get slaughtered. Prediction is hard thing to do Ehsani. Additionally, please give people who are pressuring the regime some credit; because in economy, you do not need to change the whole direction but you can expect return from apply the pressure.

December 10th, 2008, 1:38 am

 

EHSANI2 said:

Dear TRUSTQUEST,

I made a prediction that I stick to. However, my prediction in no way takes the credit away form people who are pressuring the regime as you put it. Indeed, I have the utmost admiration for people who stick their neck out and act on their beliefs in the face of heavy odds against them.

December 10th, 2008, 2:04 am

 

Enlightened said:

Poignant Question:

Would most feel here that the regime under Bashar is a lot less stifling than under the rule of his father?

Majid raises a very important point about Undemocratic regimes being able to voice their opinion unchecked in Western media, while stifling voices and opinions in their own country?

December 10th, 2008, 2:27 am

 

Akbar Palace said:

This is a transition period … you will hear from every country one thing and its opposite.

Alex,

OK, thanks for the clarification. I was beginning to worry. I hope Sim and Alia won’t be disappointed though!

The real choice in Syria and Iran is one of conflict resolution. You will see hopefully within the next 12 months.

Alex,

I could use a few extra bucks for my planned trip to the Zionist Project™. Did you want to propose a bet with regard to your “conflict resolution”?

December 10th, 2008, 2:34 am

 

why-discuss said:

Ehsani and Alex

I admire your patience in responding with calm and serenity to this new AIG .

December 10th, 2008, 2:43 am

 

norman said:

Alex, and others ,

You are going to like this ,

http://www.atimes.com

SPEAKING FREELY
History haunts Saudi strategy with Syria
By David B Roberts

Speaking Freely is an Asia Times Online feature that allows guest writers to have their say. Please click here if you are interested in contributing.

It is possible to look at the history of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia as a long struggle with religious forces. The very existence of the country is premised on a Faustian bargain of sorts between Muhammad Ibn Abd al-Wahhab (1703-1792) and Muhammad Ibn Saud (head of the House of Saud from 1744-1765), where each one was (and their descendants still are) utterly reliant on the other.

The al-Sauds provide the base for the Wahhabis to practice and

proselytize their religious doctrine, and the Wahhabis, in turn, provide the al-Sauds with the necessary religious sanctification as well as a proven ability to whip the masses into a religious fervor when needed.

As the powers of the al-Sauds and Wahhabis waxed and waned relative to each other, so did their relative influence over each other. For example, the Wahhabis found themselves in a strong position just before Operation Desert Shield when United States troops were moved into Saudi Arabia on August 7, 1990. At the time, the Saudi government desperately needed the religious blessing of the Wahhabi clergy to sanctify their decision to allow large numbers of US troops onto Saudi soil. The Wahhabis duly provided a declaration supporting the government but demanded a high price for their official approval: yet stricter controls over many aspects of Saudi society. Kepel, the noted French Arabist, characterizes this deal as completing the kingdom’s fall into “bottomless Islamization”.

Perhaps the clearest example of the al-Sauds’ dependency on Wahhabi legitimacy occurred in 1979, when the Grand Mosque at Mecca was overrun by fundamentalists seeking to usher in the next eschaton (end of time, or end of the world). This was a stark and brazen attack at the very core of the al-Sauds’ legitimacy: their safe custodianship of the holiest place in Islam.

After the debacle was finally ended (with the help of French special forces) the al-Sauds pumped massive amounts of money into the Wahhabi clergy to indoctrinate the faithful yet further and prove their religious credentials. This move came in place of any attempt to understand, question or resolve why this group took the fantastic step of attacking the Grand Mosque in Mecca.

The Saudis, however, were fortunate. At the time of the mosque debacle, the Soviets were invading Afghanistan. This, therefore, gave the Saudis another way to repair their image, bolster their legitimacy and get rid of the most dedicated and hard-line fundamentalists who could have threatened their regime. Along with America, they supplied men, arms, equipment and money to the Afghan resistance.

Eventually, of course, when the mujahideen returned home the Saudis were in an even worse situation. Not only were these proselytized, fervent and passionate men returning home, they were now combat veterans with a range of guerrilla warfare skills. To make things worse, not long after their return, Iraq invaded Kuwait and implicitly threatened Saudi’s biggest oil fields in the east of the country, next to Kuwait.

The al-Sauds, however, did not turn to their veteran mujahideen, but to the Americans and their grand coalition. This was an epic slap in the face for leaders such as Osama Bin Laden and the rest of the mujahideen. It is these remnants of the Afghan War (December 1979 to February 1989) that were overwhelmingly responsible for the wave of terrorism that spread across the world in the 1990s and early 21st century, from Dhahran to Bali and from to Madrid to New York.

Peculiarly enough, in the aftermath of the September 11, 2001, attacks on the United States, it was the al-Sauds who were in the ascendancy relative to the Wahhabis. They were under enormous pressure to act in some tangible way to reign in the extreme anti-American Wahhabi tendencies within their society.

Numerous reforms were enacted, none of which were that far-reaching, but the Wahhabi position was nevertheless weakened to some degree. It took the Saudis two years to begin to make any meaningful changes and only then because of the devastating attacks in the kingdom itself, which finally drove home the point to the al-Sauds. Yet this chastening experience – that of sponsoring religious fanatics only to receive severe blowback some time later – does not appear to have altered Saudi strategic thinking. In fact, there is growing evidence that they are doing precisely the same thing again, only in Lebanon and not Afghanistan.

Saudi Arabia, along with Jordan and other Sunni countries, has been concerned for some time about a so-called Shi’ite crescent descending on the Middle East. Stretching from Iran, through Iraq and Syria to Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, for one, has been taking steps to seek to mitigate the strengthening of Shi’ite power where possible.

According to US journalist Seymour Hersh, Saudi Arabia has joined up with their erstwhile Afghan partner, the US, in sponsoring the militant group Fatah al-Islam to act as a Sunni counterweight to Shi’ite Syrian forces in Lebanon. Saudi Arabia, for example, is believed to have provided not only funds but around 15-20% of the fighters at the Nahr al-Bared refugee camp conflict in 2007. One factor no doubt adding to Saudi anxiety in Lebanon was the rout of Lebanese parliamentary majority leader Saad Hariri’s offices in West Beirut by Shi’ite Hezbollah on May 7, 2008.

One corollary of all this is perceptibly worsening relations between Saudi Arabia and Syria. Following on from the banning of Saudi daily newspaper al-Sharq al-Awsat in mid-2006 over its coverage of the war in Lebanon, another pan-Arab Saudi paper has been banned. On September 29, al-Hayat was banned because of its coverage of the bombings in Damascus. Yet it is these attacks which are, potentially, the true harbinger of worse things to come.

The most recent of these attacks killed 17 Syrians and injured about 14 near a significant Shi’ite shrine in Damascus. This act of terrorism was condemned around the world, but significantly not in Riyadh, where the government refused to comment.

So, was this an example of Saudi-trained and funded jihadis from a Sunni camp in Lebanon coming across the border and seeking to attack Syria? That is certainly what Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s regime is telling the world; hence their deployment of special forces and troops along parts of the Lebanese border to ostensibly stop foreign jihadis entering the country.

There are, therefore, persuasive arguments suggesting that the Saudis have reverted to their failed policies of the past, and while it may sound ridiculous to repeat old mistakes, if it is true, they are not the first and certainly will not be the last to do so.

David B Roberts is a doctoral student at the University of Durham researching the Persian Gulf generally and Qatar specifically. His website can be found at http://www.thegulfblog.com.

(Copyright 2008 David B Roberts.)

Speaking Freely is an Asia Times Online feature that allows guest writers to have their say. Please click here if you are interested in contributing.

Syria plays hardball with the Saudis (Oct 8,’08)

Syria back on the terror map
(Oct 1,’08)

Bin Laden turns heat on Saudi Arabia (Jan 12,’08)

A Turkish theater for World War III
(Jul 25,’08)

December 10th, 2008, 2:45 am

 

majid said:

EHSANI2,
I am very happy you finally showed some satisfaction. Please forgive me if I don’t share any stories I may come across regarding Egypt and Saudi Arabia and the region at large. Based on your response # 63 you have not shown enough concern for the subject to make me concerned for your lack of concern. In addition, I still have to find an EgyptComment or SaudiComment site run by an Egyptian or a Saudi derivative American Professor. If I find such sites, I will make similar comments on their pages as I did here. I will also provide you a link so you can visit and contribute your comments – perhaps as in your 63 above.

Nafdik,
Some of your concerns are valid. Your number 1 concern is not a problem. The US already enacted home land security legislations eight years ago. Home land security office has a lot more power than just limiting freedom of speech and it can do that if it chooses to. I don’t believe the US is now less Democratic than it was eight years ago. Furthermore, I think these regulations will continue even under Obama because they have proven to be necessary. I don’ recall Obama making a promise to abolish them. Please correct me if I’m wrong.

Your number 2 concern is not valid. I am proposing a legislation that will allow EVERONE to speak including despots and their derivatives.. The only limitation is that if you’re proven to be associated with a government that opposes free speech, then you should disclose this information and say whatever you want. No one will have the authority to silence you. However, a watchdog will have the authority to impose the disclosure statement if he determines that you are associated. You can dispute the charge in court and have it reversed if you can. Besides this is already happening but it is in the domain of secret service throughout the West. And you know what? You have no power of dispute with such services.

Your number 3 concern: I did not claim I am trying to save the people from themselves. My whole argument is: despotic regimes and their derivatives must not be allowed to use western resources to air their views unchecked.

December 10th, 2008, 3:13 am

 

offended said:

Oh how pleasing it was to know that Majid would like the same measure of ”not allowing derivatives and despots of Syrian government to air their views in public unchecked” to Saudi Arabian and Egyptian despots and derivatives too. Do you, Majid not know there are security hot lines between the aforesaid countries and the US in the name of war on terrorism?

Ah, in case you don’t realize the gravity of the situation, Majid, let me explain it to you: the nationals of the two aforesaid countries are under the mercy of their brutal security arms. Whether in their respective countries or in the US. have you ever asked yourself why there are no Saudi opposition figures living in the US? Egyptian opposition? (apart from the few Copts conferences that are merely calling for civil rights equity).

Do you know that Sa’d Al Fakeeh was bullied by the CIA when they accused him, without evidence, of being involved with Al Qaeda?

Who do you think has inspired the US intelligence to include Al Fakeeh (who hardly has any money, compared to the big princely pockets that finance Fath Al Islam and co) in their accusation lists?

Riyadh denied the accusation and a few months later claimed that an al-Qa’ida cell captured in Riyadh had ties to Faqih.

http://encyclopedia.jrank.org/articles/pages/5678/Faqih-Sa-d-al–1957.html

You see Majid, what you’re saying sounds fine and it might have come from a noble intention. But you probably agree with me now that the ‘western democracy’ in question is not capable of playing fair. Lots of Syrian opposition figures are there, some of them on this forum, to respond to a statement made by a Syrian official. I wonder, when there’s a question of Saudi Arabia, who does the saudicomment.com invite to speak for the opposing point of view??

December 10th, 2008, 3:28 am

 

nafdik said:

According to Wikipedia a derivative is:

” a measurement of how a function changes when the values of its input change”

Does that describe the role of SyriaComment with respect to the Syrian regime?

December 10th, 2008, 3:39 am

 

jad said:

WD
(Ehsani and Alex, I admire your patience in responding with calm and serenity to this new AIG.)
I have the same impression…the irony is that AIG is an Israeli who’s born in a democratic atmosphere unlike others who comes from the worst repressing regime in the world like ‘KSA’ and now we have to read their great philosophical smart and lengthy speeches of saving Syrians from their evil regime and rudely attacking anybody who dare to write an article, It’s hilarious

December 10th, 2008, 3:52 am

 

norman said:

Syria comment is the best that happened to Syria, DR Landis and Syriacomment gave us all a platform to express our views supportive and critical of Syria and it’s government , we on this forum express our ideas of improving Syria , and yes we all wants Syria to be democratic with good education and health care , free speech and politecal reform , free market with a government that takes care of the poor and the disadvantage ,

We just have different ways to achieve these goals and the speed that we like them to be done .

December 10th, 2008, 4:10 am

 

jad said:

and that is my take!
norman 😉

December 10th, 2008, 4:16 am

 

Alex said:

Norman .. did you say “speed we like”?? … isn’t that the same speed that the Syrian regime likes????

That’s it … Majid, now we know who is “the derivative” here .. it is Norman. And he admitted it above.

The first couple of lines in this link will explain the scientific background to the evidence:

http://webpages.charter.net/mgroves9/speedvelocityacceleration.html

Joshua, you are innocent. You are not a derivative.

December 10th, 2008, 4:20 am

 

norman said:

Alex,

I do not want to sound stupid , but what is ((derivative )),

Jad ,

Yes and that is my take and hope to be the take of all.

December 10th, 2008, 4:31 am

 

norman said:

Alex ,

I looked at the math problem , or is it physics , either way it reminded me with high school , these were the days,no worry .

December 10th, 2008, 4:35 am

 

Alex said:

Norman,

speed, (plus direction) is the rate of change of position over time … or it is “the derivative” of position.

And don’t pretend you are not the derivative here.

December 10th, 2008, 4:52 am

 

offended said:

It’s not only Ehsani who likes to fall back upon his Oxford dictionary during critical times: ; )

derivative /dI”rIv@tIv/
3 Mathematics an expression representing the rate of change of a function with respect to an independent variable.

Alex, is it what we call in Arabic ‘mo3amil al tasaro3’?

December 10th, 2008, 5:08 am

 

Alex said:

yes Offended, .. in the case of velocity, its derivative is acceleration (tasaro3)

But in general, a derivative of a specific variable, depends (or takes a value that depends) on its original associated variable … ya3ni according to Majid, Joshua’s positions are derived from the Syrian regime’s.

By the way, I have some interesting (to me at least) philosophical meaning for rate of change (or derivatives) … but this is not the place for discussing them.

December 10th, 2008, 5:18 am

 

majid said:

Wow OFFENDED, I’m really overwhelmed by the depth of your insider information. Why didn’t you show up earlier and spilled the great wealth of information that you have?

Regardless of your concerns about Saudis, Egyptians and Syrians, I’ll make it simple to you. There is a very well known Arabic saying that may well describe the Syrian/Saudi/Egyptian relationships with the west. I remind you, first, that Akbar once made a very smart comment: the girl (Syria) thinks she is very beautiful. The Arabic saying is not much different but it doesn’t describe Syria as a girl. It says that the eye cannot see higher than its brow. The brow in this case is like a crown above the eye. As a Syrian you cannot look above your crown: Egypt and Saudi Arabia. And the West knows that very well when it comes to a choice as to who is more valuable. Come on OFFENDED if you really think Western Democracies cannot play fair then why should they please the eye and displease the crown (the brow). We are back full circle to Akbar’s term: the girl thinks she is very beautiful. Someone has to tell her… well, she is below average.

Now back to your huge store of information. If you know that much, then I suggest that you keep your eye from looking upward. Otherwise, you may end up suffering from an eye fixated to a void spot up in the heavens, and who knows you may even end up like this al-fakih (is he related to this so-called fakih khamenei of Iran by any chance?) and it is very possible you may join al-Qaida without knowing and with no wings to fly.

December 10th, 2008, 5:32 am

 

offended said:

Thanks for the clarification Alex. I don’t know about you, but if somebody called me ‘derivative’ in real life I might punch him in the face : )

Joking aside, you remember couple of weeks ago when the journalist from Ha’rtez complained about the lack of communications with Syrian diplomats and officials?

And everybody jumped on the wagon of accusing Syria of being obscure and uncommunicative….

It is indeed hard to please everybody…

December 10th, 2008, 5:33 am

 

offended said:

Come on Alex, share those meaning (for the rate of change) with us!

You remember when we once discussed hymen here? Rate of change ought to be more relevant at least.

December 10th, 2008, 5:37 am

 

offended said:

Majid said:

As a Syrian you cannot look above your crown: Egypt and Saudi Arabia.

I am very intrigued Majid, where do you come from? I initially thought you were Syrian. But the above condescending statement proves otherwise.

December 10th, 2008, 5:43 am

 

jad said:

Offended, buddy, what is the most used name in the Gulf? KSA??
And he is ashamed even to tell that…

December 10th, 2008, 5:49 am

 

Majid said:

Offended,
keep it as a lesson so you learn not to be too presumptuous in the future. Besides, you don’t need to know where I come from.

December 10th, 2008, 5:51 am

 

offended said:

Yes Jad, the magic kingdom with its supplies of religious police, moral legions and bathroom papers ; )

(not to include the Saudi people though, whose majority are nice and simple folks)

December 10th, 2008, 5:56 am

 

offended said:

And Jad my friend, I do smell oil around here. And it stinks. How about you?

Somali pirates kick ass!

December 10th, 2008, 5:59 am

 

jad said:

OH! OIIILLL! that was the bad smell then…I didn’t recognize it….he needs to shower.

December 10th, 2008, 6:03 am

 

Alex said:

Dear Majid,

I understand the case of the eye never possibly seeing above the eyebrow.

That was a god made physical constraint.

But when we look at Syria, Egypt and Saudi Arabia … countries defined by borders which were defined by western forces that used to occupy the Middle East, would you at least consider the possibility that such man made entities might possibly change in terms of their relevance to each other?

Forget what the oil-sensitive regime derivatives on this blog are saying … they are all biased dreamers.

Take a look at what Zvi Bar’el from haaretz (former editor and Ph.D. Islamic studies and senior correspondent) wrote:

“The two elderly leaders, Abdullah at 84 and Mubarak at 80, are seeing the region they used to lead slipping out of their grip and into that of new players – mavericks over whom they have no sway, bright new stars in the Middle Eastern skies. These include Syrian President Bashar Assad, who is half their age; Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who is repositioning the former Ottoman Empire into power; and Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who is blazing like a menacing meteor over the Arab Middle East. The cardinal Middle Eastern conflicts – between Israel and the Palestinians, within the Palestinian Authority, between Syria and Lebanon, between Syria and Israel, the Iraqi conflict, the Iranian threat – they have all changed hands and are now under new management.””…But the change in the Middle East goes deeper than a personnel turnover in the ranks of those running the strategic regional game. A new Middle Eastern regional order is in the making.”

http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/1012184.html

What would you reply to Zvi?

December 10th, 2008, 6:12 am

 

jad said:

(Forget what the oil-sensitive regime derivatives on this blog are saying … they are all biased dreamers.) Thank you 3amo Alex! 🙂

December 10th, 2008, 6:18 am

 

majid said:

“Forget what the oil-sensitive regime derivatives on this blog are saying … they are all biased dreamers”

What about you Alex? Are you too humble to describe yourself unbiased? Are you a derivative of something? Please disclose. Since you brought the subjects, I need to know before accepting the bait.

December 10th, 2008, 6:27 am

 

Alex said:

Offended,

Hymen was easy to understand and discuss… the other point is more complicated and boring … there is no punch line.

Fine, … let’s start with a simple question … Imagine you are in Northern Europe somewhere … think of two different days…. the first being in early November, the other in late March … which one would most people (except the ones who love melancholic settings) be more upbeat about?

What is the difference between the two days? … they might both be 20 degrees and sunny at a specific point in the day.

December 10th, 2008, 6:27 am

 

jad said:

Alex…Kharjak 🙂 🙂
I’m glad you get my it..

December 10th, 2008, 6:31 am

 

Alex said:

Majid,

If you insist that my opinion is relevant:

I am biased in the sense that I LOVE Syria.

I am VERY critical of Saudi Arabia (and Israel and Iran)

I love Egypt too … I lived there and fell in love with the country and the people.

I do not believe in borders … I want to see the whole region open for all to share and enjoy .. one day a couple of decades from now.

Jad,

: )

December 10th, 2008, 6:32 am

 

offended said:

Alex, the late march day promises of bloom, pollen and the imminent approach of summer.

The early November day promises of gloom, falling leaves and the oncoming of winter.

December 10th, 2008, 6:35 am

 

Alex said:

Offended,

that\’s right

And if you want to make it sound more complicated: The rate of change of many indicators (like number of hours of daylight, temperature …) in late March could be the highest of the year (with a plus sign) .. the rate of change of the other day in the fall could also be the highest but with a negative sign.

On both days we have fast changing indicators … if you use a normalized measure for acceleration (rate of change) for those indicators it is +1 on March 21st and -1 at that point in the fall.

So .. we perceive (and react to) rate of change more than we perceive absolute measures of the original variables that we normally get affected by (like temperature)

The same applies to many things in life … I believe our happiness/motivation/fears are functions of rates of change (including direction) of a number of variables … weighted according to individual sensitivities to those variables.

It gets much more interesting if you dig deep into sound waves and Music.

December 10th, 2008, 6:49 am

 

SimoHurtta said:

SimoHurta,
I never said “that the representatives of Syria and other more or less authoritatively ruled countries should not given a voice in “democratic media””. These are your own words

You Majid said: There is a fundamental flaw in the Western system of Democracy which allows despots and their derivatives to air their views unchecked to a public that believes in freedom of expression.” Later you said: “My whole argument is: despotic regimes and their derivatives must not be allowed to use western resources to air their views unchecked.”

What does that mean? In my understanding that means that regimes of authoritarian countries are not allowed to “air” their views in democratic countries unchecked. What means unchecked? Does it mean that the view is edited and changed to fit the editor’s (=editors employer’s) own aims or it is simply forgotten and not published if it doesn’t serve the propaganda aims of the publisher.

In the former Soviet Union and other less democratic countries there was a media that behaved as you wished. In the democratic west are and have been numerous different newspapers etc which have given the “unchecked” voice to countless extreme “derivatives” – own and foreign. People in democracies are used to form their own opinion using several and often “adverse” pieces of information. We do not need “present Fox News and ancient Pravda” filters. Democracies do not need voice filters, authoritarian countries do.

Let us take for example consider what would happen if a North Korean diplomat would write an article how he sees his country’s position in the world. Surely that article could help us to understand more why North Korea behaves as it does. So should the editor of the “democratic” media filter out all the parts of the article that do not fit in the propaganda picture portrayed from North Korea or publish the text as it was when delivered? In this case we people of the democratic west would be fully dependent on our own propaganda “factories” if there would not also be the North Korean view to make a comparison is the propaganda picture “right”.

Israeli “democratic” media for example allows the views of the domestic “clown” Moshe Feiglin, who advocates shutting the water and electricity to Palestinians to be shut, using live ammunition against Palestinians, demands Israel to quit from UN etc, to get air time. Isn’t important that the world knows the real views of that relative influential Likud member who could be a minister soon? Surely Likud hopes that it would have had better “filters”. 😀
http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/1045106.html

December 10th, 2008, 7:05 am

 

offended said:

Alex, interesting…. I thought of an example:

A low entrant in a law firm might work hard and feel happy and motivated (even if he’s not paid well), just because he is promised a lucrative bonus and a fat increment at the end of the year.

If the same said lawyer was paid more, but was not promised anything, he may not be as much enthused.

Well, the rate of change here (increment, bonus..etc..) is not a steady, continuous rise ( or fall) but the concept is applicable nonetheless, isn’t it?

December 10th, 2008, 7:10 am

 

jad said:

Offended,
I’m sorry my friend but Alex example is way more poetic and romantic than your lawyer example, please don’t do it again… 😉

December 10th, 2008, 7:21 am

 

offended said:

Jad,

I actually wanted to cite crude oil prices but thought it might hurt some people’s feelings, but since you’ve asked for it, here it is anyway: for instance, 150 bucks per barrel a year ago and people were still not very happy. They knew there’s going to be a downward spiral. Now with a steady 50 bucks per barrel they are kissing their hands palm and back (wesh we ‘afa) ….; )

December 10th, 2008, 7:50 am

 

jad said:

HILARIOUS…
I liked your translation…it reminds me of Ali Khan last article and the word by word translation in damascus bazzar…so the right translation of your last sentence should be (ayadi nakheel wa khalf) am I wrong?

December 10th, 2008, 7:58 am

 

Alex said:

Offended,

I think your example is different in two ways

1) These are expectations and not actual rates of change.
2) discrete (non continuous) variables … a bonus a year from now is a one time step increase compared to a continuously changing variable like temperature.

Expectations can also be motivational, and if one keeps thinking non stop about that bonus, then in his head he created a pseudo continuous variable … the continuous variability in this sense can come from the young layer’s estimate of the probability that he will get a bonus (or not) and how large will that bonus be … if that probability is changing in his head all the time, then he created a continuous variable out of the one-time bonus event int he future.

A much simpler example would be the following two cases:

1) You get in your car and start accelerating until you reach the speed of 150KM/h

2) You are on the race track driving at 300 KM/h and your speed starts dropping gradually until it reached 150Km/h

The first case (positive rate of change of your speed or velocity) is much more exciting than the second case (negative rate of change).

Good! … Now I managed to bore my self to sleep.

Have a nice day!

December 10th, 2008, 8:00 am

 

Shai said:

Simo,

There are a few places on earth Jews will not be returning to anytime soon. Eastern Europe is one of them. As for Feiglin, yes, Netanyahu is very sorry he’s a Likud member. He is now turning to the Supreme Court in hope of having Feiglin moved further down the list (after their primaries results yesterday), so that he has no chance of even becoming MK. Right now, he’s number 20 on Likud’s list, which makes it VERY realistic for him given recent polls (36 seats for Likud). But, he will most certainly NOT become a minister of any sort – that is still up to Bibi.

Akbar Palace,

I know those nations you linked do NOT require visas (I actually read the letters). But you are misleading readers here, and have no background or support in so doing, by clearly stating “… but a “Palestinian born in Jaffa” can visit Israel whenever he/she pleases.”

There are nearly 10 million Palestinians in the world today. Very few of them have seen Jaffa in the past 60 years. I don’t know where you get your “thousands visit each year” figure from. I’ve been to Jaffa many times (I actually got married in a very old Turkish hamam there), and I can tell you that those houses the Palestinians owned not so long ago, and might want to see again, are owned by very rich Israelis, who refurbish them and turn them into prime real-estate. Many of Israel’s designers and architects live in that part of Jaffa.

The majority of Jaffa is still Arab, and typically does not accept Jewish residents well. I have a few friends that rented in a very fancy neighborhood of Jaffa (ex-Palestinian houses), and they’ve had their cars dented, rocks thrown at them, curses, the whole lot. There are a few streets that are considered “safer” for rich Jews, mainly because their residents are so rich, that you wouldn’t want to mess with them, certainly not if you live in Jaffa.

In all my visits and nice walks through the streets of Jaffa, I’ve never seen what looked to me like Palestinian tourists doing the “nostalgia tour”. Putting the sick humor aside, try to picture the opposite – Israeli Jews traveling to villages in Eastern Poland to see their family’s houses that were taken over by Poles the minute their owners were loaded on trucks on their way to Auschwitz. In 1991, I actually went on such a “tour” with my wife. We rented a car in Belgium, crossed all of Europe, and ended up in Poland in my grandparents’ two villages. We found what seemed to have been their houses/farms, snapped a few pictures, and got the hell out of there. We left not because we were fearful for being there (in fact, we felt quite comfortable in Poland, even as Jews), but because of a sense of being in some “cursed place”. The memories were too difficult to deal with there. Knowing that my family was dragged out of those homes, and a minute later local non-Jews took over, and probably still reside there until today, was too much. A basic instinct is of course to knock on the door, and drag the old man or woman still alive outside, and unload much of the pain still residing within us. But we controlled ourselves.

Though ALL Israelis can visit their family’s houses in Poland, very few do, and it is understandable. The same goes for the Palestinians, but in their case, most of them, the overwhelming majority of them, cannot visit even if they wanted to. And by the way, it’s not that they can’t visit because their host nation won’t let them back in – that is another misleading claim. They can’t because Israel won’t issue them a visa, because of where they come from. There are plenty of Palestinians in Syria, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, who may want to visit Jaffa, and can ask upon entry into Israel to have their passports not stamped (we have a form for such requests). But these Palestinians cannot make it to Israel, because we won’t issue them visas anywhere in the world. Syria may question in depth an Arab entering her territory with an Israeli stamp in his passport, but Israel will not allow entry to ANY person with an Arab passport (all the Arab nations, except Egypt and Jordan).

And, as I suggested earlier, today even the 3.7 million Palestinians that live under Israeli rule cannot visit Jaffa. The only ones that can, in fact, are Israeli-Arabs.

This reminds me of something my grandfather once told me, when I asked him if he experienced antisemitism as a child in that village in Poland. He said “Not at all. Sometimes kids from a neighboring village would come to beat up on Jews, but the Christians in our village protected us, and told them ‘stay away – they’re OUR Jews…'” So I guess, in a way, the Israeli-Arabs are “our Palestinians”…

December 10th, 2008, 8:05 am

 

jad said:

(Now I managed to bore my self to sleep.) me too…after your last examples I’m banning you and Offended from giving us any examples from now on..Thank you and good night my friends.

December 10th, 2008, 8:06 am

 

Jihad Makdissi said:

Dear Joshua ,
i was reading the comments on my “talk at the UCL” and it is really amazing how it is difficult for some to accept the other side of the story.
I just need to highlight that what was published was only part of my Talk and it misses the part where i talked about President Elect Obama, so i wasn’t trying only to score and set the record straight , and during the Q&A that followed the talk for more than an hour i did elaborate on most of the points raised in your comments on SC.
However, for the sake of balanced views, let me just share with you (below) the last short part of my Talk at UCL and in the same time let me adjust something that was written by mistake in my transcript ..i didn’t mean to say “Rogue Nation” , i meant “Rogue Administration”.

“…………..I can tell you that the Syrian official position towards President Elect Obama is that we are cautiously optimistic, and we will judge on deeds and not on rhetoric.
In the same time, we shall never deny the positive impact of the change on the whole world, so we don’t deny at all the momentum and the impact of the Obama victory.
At least as a law professor, Obama will tend to be rational by nature and won’t run after uncalculated adventures.
In another term, Syria is certain that President Elect Obama finds himself now definitely in a much stronger position to lead America than the position enjoyed by President Bush.
So President Elect Obama –if he has the political will- He could use his wide popularity and his considerable influence over public opinion in America and across the world to help achieve peace and stability in the Middle East and that would certainly realign the true role of the USA.

To conclude let me say:
Whether we are individuals or countries, We are all in real need for a role model in our life, And from this perspective I can tell you that America –during the last 8 years- has lost definitely its moral high ground and is no longer a Role model to be followed by any country till further notice.
Bush is no way comparable to Abraham Lincoln, or Woodrow Wilson or Roosevelt or even to his father George Bush senior.
Therefore Syria is simply trying to promote a third track Diplomacy to change the way of dealing with our regional problems; it is the comprehensive regional package.
I am not advocating that Syria is the only source of wisdom or righteousness, but it is certainly a main regional Arab player, and central to any comprehensive peace agreement with Israel and an Maker of the Arab opinion.
So the ball is definitely in Obama’s court…………..”

December 10th, 2008, 9:11 am

 

Milli Schmitt said:

Much more interesting were Makdissi’s comments on Obama, which I already posted as a comment last week (but in the post on the play, which no one read) after attending the talk, here they are again:

Some comments about Obama made by Jihad Makdissi, spokesperson for the Syrian embassy in the UK, at a university event in London today:

– Syria’s official position to Obama is ‘cautiously optimistic’ and he will be ‘judged by his deeds’.

– although Syria does not deny the positive momentum that Obama’s campaign and election has generated, past experiences have taught the government that campaign messages often go out of the window once the elected president is given a ‘dose of reality’ by the CIA and other advisors.

– In this regard, Makdissi raised a number of questions with regard to Obama:

How far was Obama elected on his agenda and how far only because population wanted Bush gone?

Will Obama focus his ‘change’ more on the domestic or on the international?Most big oil companies and other companies with interest in ME are dominated by republicans.

Syria notes the appointment of Rahm Emanuel but as yet has no opinion on it, it has to be seen whether he has been appointed to keep the Jewish right-wing lobby at bay or to support it.

Certainly, Obama is in a stronger position than Bush to get positively involved in the Middle East ad to realign the ‘true role of the US as relatively unbiased mediator’

Interesting: in the end he emphasised that Syria today does not believe in single-issue solutions in the Middle East, ‘it’s not only about the Palestinians or only about the Golan’, but Syria ‘pushes a comprehensive, regional solution’, as ‘all our problems are interlinked’.

He also mentioned that Syria had held four rounds of talks with Israel, ‘through our Turkish friends’ and that Syria had several times asked the UK and US for cooperation to monitor the borders but was rebuffed. This last point somehow sounded unconvincing.

December 10th, 2008, 9:12 am

 

Shai said:

Alex,

Looking at the vote results at the question regarding waiting for the Palestinian issue to be resolved, the overwhelming majority (almost 70%) say No, Syria should not wait. In other words, they support Syria’s current policy, namely talking to Israel in attempt to reach a peace agreement with her, irrespective of progress or agreement between Israel and the Palestinians. We’ve had here on SC many discussions pertaining to the nature of such a “peace”, while the Palestinian continue to struggle against Israeli Occupation. But I want to better understand Jihad’s comment regarding single-issue solutions.
I of course agree with him that all our major issues are interlinked. I also agree that we should all opt and push for a comprehensive regional solution which, in theory, should also encompass Iran (and of course Iraq). But practically speaking, is Syria bringing this (very true) point in order to make clear to the U.S. and others that it is in fact a major key player and quite possibly in the best position to help resolve our multi-faceted regional conflict? Or is it also suggesting, perhaps to Israel, that it does not plan to conclude any agreement that does not entail a solution to the Palestinian issues as well?

To some of us Israelis, those who truly wish we could reach an agreement with the Palestinians but recognize that right now it doesn’t seem possible, the word “comprehensive” has a very negative connotation, which translates into further delays and/or continued support for the “resistance”, even after an agreement might be reached. At some point, we Israelis and the Syrians must put aside our innate suspicion and distrust of each another, and declare that we are ready to trust one another. We, Israel, trust that Syria will not enable Hezbollah to receive arms from Iran through its territory, that it will not nurture military alliances vis-a-vis Iran that are potentially threatening to Israel, etc. And, Syria trusts Israel will return the entire Golan (over the specified period of time), the remaining occupied Lebanese territories, and that we will genuinely work as hard as we can to solve our conflict with the Palestinians (hopefully with Syria’s help), as quickly as possible.

But if in any way progress along the Palestinian track is formed into a precondition to peace, I’m afraid we’ll be continuing along the same path of violence for more years to come. Something has to trigger the “shockwaves of hope” in our region, much as Obama’s victory did throughout the U.S. and the world. Unless Hamas suddenly wakes up and decides to end its conflict with Fatah, and to immediately recognize Israel enough to meet us at the negotiating table, the only significant and influential event that I can see, which might have this “shockwave” potential, is peace with Syria. I truly hope this somewhat-ambiguous language, which keeps repeating the comprehensive terminology, is not indicative of preconditions or a continuation of armed support for Israel’s rivals. Because that, I’m afraid, will alienate even the 30% that are currently for the return of the Golan.

We must realize that it is not only the Arab street and the Palestinians that are hearing these words, but in fact also the Israeli public, that will have to vote in a national referendum for/against peace with Syria one day.

December 10th, 2008, 11:07 am

 

Shai said:

Likud’s biggest problem is not going to be our Arab neighbors, making peace or choosing not to, but rather Moshe Feiglin, the ultra-right politician, placed quite high on Likud’s list (Nr. 20) By almost any standard, Feiglin could easily be considered a fascist. He is more extreme than extreme and, as Netanyahu himself recognizes, is very dangerous for the Likud, and for Israel. If Feiglin continues to bolster his support-base within Likud’s ranks, there is some likelihood that the party will split in two. The question will be, then, how much is left of Likud to run the country, should it indeed win the next elections.

Here’s what Feiglin has in mind: http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/1045106.html

December 10th, 2008, 12:20 pm

 

nafdik said:

I am not sure what Mr Makdissi is referring to when he talks about “a comprehensive, regional solution”.

The only one I heard about is the Saudi offer.

Does Syria have anything similar on the table?

December 10th, 2008, 12:24 pm

 

Akbar Palace said:

I don’t know where you get your “thousands visit each year” figure from.

Considering there are over 1 million Israeli-Arabs (ya’ani “Palestinians”)living in Israel. I don’t think it is a stretch to imagine thousands of relatives coming to Israel to visit. I see plenty of Arabs at Ben-Gurion airport.

I’ve been to Jaffa many times (I actually got married in a very old Turkish hamam there), and I can tell you that those houses the Palestinians owned not so long ago, and might want to see again, are owned by very rich Israelis, who refurbish them and turn them into prime real-estate. Many of Israel’s designers and architects live in that part of Jaffa.

Me too. Az ma (so what)?

The majority of Jaffa is still Arab, and typically does not accept Jewish residents well.

I think Jaffa is fairly mixed. Another example of Jew and Arabs living together peacefully in our little “racist” Zionist Project™. Again, what is the big deal, and moreover, are you saying Arabs do not come to Israel to visit relatives/friends living in Jaffa?

I have a few friends that rented in a very fancy neighborhood of Jaffa (ex-Palestinian houses), and they’ve had their cars dented, rocks thrown at them, curses, the whole lot. There are a few streets that are considered “safer” for rich Jews, mainly because their residents are so rich, that you wouldn’t want to mess with them, certainly not if you live in Jaffa.

Sounds almost as bad as Paris.

In all my visits and nice walks through the streets of Jaffa, I’ve never seen what looked to me like Palestinian tourists doing the “nostalgia tour”.

Shai, maybe because they don’t wear white tube socks!

Putting the sick humor aside, try to picture the opposite – Israeli Jews traveling to villages in Eastern Poland to see their family’s houses that were taken over by Poles the minute their owners were loaded on trucks on their way to Auschwitz. In 1991, I actually went on such a “tour” with my wife. We rented a car in Belgium, crossed all of Europe, and ended up in Poland in my grandparents’ two villages. We found what seemed to have been their houses/farms, snapped a few pictures, and got the hell out of there. We left not because we were fearful for being there (in fact, we felt quite comfortable in Poland, even as Jews), but because of a sense of being in some “cursed place”. The memories were too difficult to deal with there. Knowing that my family was dragged out of those homes, and a minute later local non-Jews took over, and probably still reside there until today, was too much. A basic instinct is of course to knock on the door, and drag the old man or woman still alive outside, and unload much of the pain still residing within us. But we controlled ourselves.

I understand what you’re saying. Certainly Israel is not an attractive vacation spot for Arabs, however, I had to correct Observer when he stated that “a Palestinian born in Jaffa cannot even go back to visit, for he was not ‘chosen'”.

If the “Palestinian born is Jaffa” is not living in a country that is at war with Israel, he/she can visit any time they please.

Though ALL Israelis can visit their family’s houses in Poland, very few do, and it is understandable.

Yes.

The same goes for the Palestinians, but in their case, most of them, the overwhelming majority of them, cannot visit even if they wanted to.

For the 3 million or so Palestinians living under PA control, true. The PA is still at war with Israel. For the 3 million or so Palestinians living in Jordan they can. Jordan and Israel signed a peace treaty.

And by the way, it’s not that they can’t visit because their host nation won’t let them back in – that is another misleading claim. They can’t because Israel won’t issue them a visa, because of where they come from. There are plenty of Palestinians in Syria, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, who may want to visit Jaffa, and can ask upon entry into Israel to have their passports not stamped (we have a form for such requests). But these Palestinians cannot make it to Israel, because we won’t issue them visas anywhere in the world.

Shai, I think you’re wrong here. I think it is far more likely that “Palestinians in Syria, Lebanon, and Saudi Arabia” have no Israeli embassy to go to in order to get a visa.

Syria may question in depth an Arab entering her territory with an Israeli stamp in his passport, but Israel will not allow entry to ANY person with an Arab passport (all the Arab nations, except Egypt and Jordan).

I contend that this statement is false. Prove what you are saying is true. If an arab has passport with an Israeli visa, they are allowed entry into Israel.

Here’s an example for you Shai in case you don’t believe me:

http://www.mfa.gov.il/MFA/Government/Communiques/2003/Details+of+April+30-+2003+Tel+Aviv+suicide+bombing.htm

And, as I suggested earlier, today even the 3.7 million Palestinians that live under Israeli rule cannot visit Jaffa. The only ones that can, in fact, are Israeli-Arabs.

It is not Israel’s fault the PA is still at war with Israel. But millions of other Arabs and Palestinians CAN visit Jaffa.

This reminds me of something my grandfather once told me, when I asked him if he experienced antisemitism as a child in that village in Poland. He said “Not at all. Sometimes kids from a neighboring village would come to beat up on Jews, but the Christians in our village protected us, and told them ’stay away – they’re OUR Jews…’” So I guess, in a way, the Israeli-Arabs are “our Palestinians”…

Israelis, especially under the circumstances they live today (threats of annihilation and war) are fairly tolerant. Look at yourself Shai. Aren’t you tolerant? And Israel is FULL of people just like yourself. As I keep saying Shai, as nice as you are, you’re not so special!

I don’t recall the Jews of Europe threatening to “wipe out” the Europeans. It hard to kill someone with a salami and a jar of gefite fish.

December 10th, 2008, 12:57 pm

 

Akbar Palace said:

After the visit to Gaza, the Italian woman journalist returned to Jerusalem. After the attack, she understood that it was the terrorists who had perpetrated the April 30, 2003 attack who had traveled with her, but made no mention of this to any official body.

None of the persons involved – neither Palestinian nor foreign – bothered to contact any official body, despite their familiarity with the terrorists, even after they understood that they were involved in the attack, until they came under ISA investigation.

Shai,

After reading the link I posted for you a little more carefully, I was appalled to learn that the Italian journalist didn’t have the decency to contact the Israel authorities after the bombing. If I were the parents of one of the victims, I would like to ask her why.

December 10th, 2008, 1:07 pm

 

Shai said:

Akbar Palace,

I’m sorry to tell you, but calling Jaffa “Another example of Jew and Arabs living together peacefully in our little “racist” Zionist Project™” shows a complete lack of understanding of Arabs in Jaffa, and how they feel towards Jews living there. There were times when Arabs in Jaffa turned to violent demonstrations, against Jewish real-estate takeovers there. Jaffa residents, on the whole, are extremely angry and fearful that their neighborhoods are slowly but surely becoming “Jewified”. Personally, I’m for integration, even forced integration, when it comes to towns and cities inside Israel (including of course Jaffa). But perhaps certain neighborhoods in Haifa could be considered an example of such “peaceful coexistence”, but certainly not Jaffa.

You are grossly exaggerating when you state “But millions of other Arabs and Palestinians CAN visit Jaffa.” This is simply not the case. What millions? Where do they live, these millions? In the U.S.? In Canada? When have these millions applied for visas to come to Israel? And again you are wrong, when you suggest that Arabs can easily obtain a visa to Israel. Of course, Israel cannot advertise this fact, as it would be deemed racism. But facts on the ground are such (and I know this from seeing it with my own eyes) that even Arabs with an Israeli passport (!) are treated differently, often VERY differently, than Jews or other non-Arabs. The terrorist you mentioned earlier came into Israel using a British passport, not an Arab one. And, if I recall correctly, from pictures I’ve seen of him he tried his best to hide his “Middle Eastern look” (whatever that means). But of course, since these few cases where terrorists did manage to get into Israel (there was at least one more case), it is EXTREMELY difficult for an Arab, even of Western nationality, to get a visa in one of the various Western capitals. The questioning and interrogation that he/she goes through is far more difficult than anyone else.

As for Palestinians living in Syria, Lebanon, KSA, etc., if they had a chance to get an Israeli visa so easily as you pretend they do, they don’t need an Israeli embassy in Damascus, Beirut, or Riyadh. They can simply go into any other embassy in nations nearby (Jordan, Turkey, Egypt, etc.) The reason most if not all don’t, is because their chances of getting such visas, with an Arab passport are as close to nil as possible. I know for fact that even Palestinian businessmen from Amman have great difficulties getting a visa to come into Israel to do business, let alone to visit family members in the West Bank or Gaza. But don’t take my word for it (God forbid, I may have a Syrian navy admiral for a father-in-law… 🙂 ), ask any Palestinian you find online, or in real life, if he/she has ever tried entering Israel. The ONLY people that can easily go to see their family’s houses in Jaffa, are the 20% Arab-Israelis. Don’t fool yourself, or others, into thinking that millions of others can.

Akbar, I would like to end my discussion with you about Jaffa. Reading your response up above, and the “Sounds almost as bad as Paris”-style remarks, makes me feel like you have absolutely zero sensitivity towards either the Palestinians who are still around, and remember being kicked out of those very houses, or the Arab residents who fear a Jewish “takeover” of their city. These aren’t issues that deserve the “Az Ma (so what)” attitude. They are major components at the heart of the Arab-Israeli conflict, and will one day have to be dealt with head-on by each and every one of us in Israel. It doesn’t seem to help anyone, certainly not the Palestinians who are reading your comments, to see a Jewish-American belittling these issues, or dismissing real concerns some have about even such things as visiting their old homes.

December 10th, 2008, 2:00 pm

 

EHSANI2 said:

Majid,

For the record and since you introduced the subject, I have to disclose to you that I am a derivatives trader by profession. 🙂

Earlier on, you said:

“As a Syrian you cannot look above your crown: Egypt and Saudi Arabia. And the West knows that very well when it comes to a choice as to who is more valuable.”

You make a very important point here. Bob Woodward’s latest book makes several references to this observation. When the Iraq Study Group (ISG) recommended that the White House changes course and starts to engage Syria and Iran, Secretary Rice was quoted as saying that the Administration cannot do that because it may upset Saudi Arabia which is a “key U.S. ally” in the region. In other words, the ISG recommendations were not followed simply because the Kingdom (your brow/crown) would be upset that Syria (your below average looking girl) would receive a rapprochement invitation from the U.S.

The U.S. bet on the Kingdom as a key ally in the region does not seem to have yielded spectacular results thus far.

Let us see how the Obama Administration will react with respect to this bet going forward.

December 10th, 2008, 2:29 pm

 

norman said:

Shai,

I agree with integration , does not have to be forced , Israel should just have what the US has , An anti discrimination laws in housing and employment with freedom of movement ,
For you AP, Israel should treat it’s non Jewish subjects as the US treat the Jews in the US,

December 10th, 2008, 2:31 pm

 

Shai said:

Norman, I agree. Btw, I hope you’re not under the weather. Where’s the “And that’s my take…”? 🙂

December 10th, 2008, 2:39 pm

 

norman said:

Shai,
OK , I thought you brought up integration this time , so it is your take , I did not want to take your credit.

December 10th, 2008, 2:44 pm

 

Shai said:

Norman,

Careful, that innate Arab politeness may confuse some in this forum into thinking Syrians are genuinely interested in peace with Israelis… 🙂

December 10th, 2008, 2:46 pm

 

AKbar Palace said:

Shai,

Observers comment:

…a Palestinian born in Jaffa cannot even go back to visit, for he was not “chosen”…

is misleading and false. Admit it Shai. Palestinians born in Jaffa can go back to visit and DO go back to visit depending on several factors, which are mostly, not in Israel’s control. For example, 3 million Palestinian-Jordanians CAN visit Israel if they want to. All they have to do is apply at the Israel embassy in Amman. I did the same thing when I visited Abu Dhabi: I went to the embassy and I got a visa.

200,000 Palestinian-Americans CAN visit Israel if they want to.

300,000 Palestinian-Chileans CAN visit Israel if they want to.

44,000 Palestinian-Eygptians CAN visit Israel if they want to.

Everything else is narrative.

December 10th, 2008, 3:04 pm

 

Akbar Palace said:

For you AP, Israel should treat it’s non Jewish subjects as the US treat the Jews in the US

Norman,

I agree. Just keep in mind, during WW2, Americans moved several thousand Japanese-Americans to internment camps.

That is why I say, under the circumstances Israel is faced with today, she’s doing rather well. Fortunately, Israel has thousands of “Shais” apologizing to the Arab community for whatever Israel is guilty of;)

December 10th, 2008, 3:09 pm

 

Joshua said:

Hababaan, Norman and JAD.

Milli S. I did see your very interesting summary of the talk, when you posted it. You gave me the idea. Thanks. I steal ideas and articles shamelessly from all the smart people in the comment section without giving credit. I am sorry. This really is a group effort.

I laughed so hard reading the comment section this morning, that I know the day is bound to be a good one. I even began to feel badly for Majid, who objects to my being married to an Alawi daughter of Syria. It was the best thing I ever did. I am also very proud of my father-in-law, who served Syria honestly and loyally for 35 years. By the way, I am not a supporter of Somali pirates and have no connection to them by marriage or otherwise.

December 10th, 2008, 3:10 pm

 

nafdik said:

Joshua,

So you are not the blogmaster of piracy-a-balanced-view.com?

December 10th, 2008, 3:42 pm

 

Shai said:

Akbar Palace,

I’m sorry, you are so unrealistic, it isn’t even funny. Do yourself a favor, call up the Israeli embassy in Cairo, and say with the most perfect American accent “Hi, I’m an Egyptian Palestinian, and I’d like to visit my parents’ home in Jaffa. What do I need to get a visa please?” If they tell you “Oh, it’s easy. Just come on in.”, I’ll publicly apologize to you, for having called you unrealistic. If, however, they tell you that you need 50 different letters proving you’re not Osama Bin Laden himself, and that even if you can prove you’re the Akbar Palace-version of a Palestinian your chances are slim, but you can still try, then maybe you’ll finally believe me.

Try it, just for kicks… 🙂

December 10th, 2008, 3:48 pm

 

Observer said:

Shai
I do not advocate that anyone leaves.
My point is that Europeans have created the problem and they and exclusivist nationalists in Israel are perpetuating it.
I believe that if all the Jews in the world wanted to come and live in the land that they consider important to them, then this is perfectly fine with me.
Having seen that the experience of a secular democratic non sectarian society to be successful as it is in the US, I advocate fully the idea of a secular state where all citizens share equal status and representation without reference to their religious affiliation.
Here in my state Jews are 1% of the population and my two senators are both Jewish and one of our congressmen is Muslim, in a district with 96% Christian. They were elected based on their secular political ideas and not on their religious affiliation and that is exactly what needs to happen for both the Jewish and the Arab people.
There is a new knot in the conflict as it moves from being a national conflict to a religious one. I fear very much as we have seen in Hebron lately and the crime against humanity being done in Gaza today, that some will find religious justification for their zeal.

Remember Shai, every German soldier during WWII had a sign on the belt that said ” Got Mint Us ” God is with us.

The Arabs and the Jews are still suffering from this atrocity.

Finally, in broad historical terms, the chickens have come home to roost, as the huge mess created by the European Colonial Powers is now forcing them to intervene in zones of conflicts precisely brought about by the artificial division of the world in the 20th century.

These tribes/clans/families/ with flags ( and this includes Israel ) are pure fantasies that will wither away.

December 10th, 2008, 4:11 pm

 

Akbar Palace said:

If they tell you “Oh, it’s easy. Just come on in.”, I’ll publicly apologize to you, for having called you unrealistic.

Shai,

Forget the apology, because Observer’s comment was wrong. I prefer fact over opinion.

http://www.mfa.gov.il/MFA/Sherut/IsraeliAbroad/Continents/Africa/Egypt/

More Israeli racism news:

TEL AVIV, Israel — For Muslims who just can’t fit the five-times-a-day Salah prayer routine into their busy schedules, an Israeli mobile phone provider has a new solution: Mobile Koran.

Pelephone has begun offering a Koran text service that enables users to tap into verses of choice from the Muslim Holy Book at will.

For the modest sum of $1.50 per month, subscribers can download what appears onscreen as an actual book of Koran, and scroll through chapter and verse.

“We are providing something to subscribers who want to be connected to these texts any time and any place,” said Pelephone Product Content Director Moti Cohen. “So naturally we are targeting a population that would use this type of service. Our Arab sector customers are very enthusiastic.”

Professor Josh,

Mabruk to you and your Syrian family. Tell us, has any Syrian government official commented on your activities with Syria Comment in any threatening way? Could the Syrian government do anything (God forbid) against your in-laws if you spoke out frequently against the Syrian government just as, say, Shai speaks out against the Israeli government?

December 10th, 2008, 4:21 pm

 

Akbar Palace said:

Still asleep after Mumbai

http://www.danielpipes.org/article/6055

December 10th, 2008, 4:43 pm

 

Shai said:

Observer,

I agree with everything you said about the danger of having our conflict quickly turning into a religious one. And indeed time is not on our side (any of us).

I don’t understand you last sentence: “These tribes/clans/families/ with flags ( and this includes Israel ) are pure fantasies that will wither away.”

December 10th, 2008, 4:55 pm

 

Shai said:

Akbar,

Go ahead, email the embassy in Cairo, and say you’re an Egyptian-Palestinian wishing to visit your parents’ home in Jaffa. Ask what it would take. Your link gave the email address: info at cairo.mfa.gov.il.

December 10th, 2008, 4:59 pm

 

norman said:

Sarkozy to visit Syria in bid to push for direct Israeli-Syrian talks

Dec. 10, 2008
JPost.com Staff , THE JERUSALEM POST
French President Nicholas Sarkozy will visit Syria in January 2009, his second visit to the country in the space of four months, Israel Radio reported.

Topping Sarkozy’s agenda will be an attempt to coax Syrian President Bashar Assad into entering direct peace negotiations with Israel. Syrian-Israeli talks, which have been ongoing since April, have been mediated by Turkey and the Syrians have so far refused to sit directly with the Israelis.

In other Syrian news, an al-Qaida affiliated Syrian Website reported that a commander in the Fatah al-Islam terror group was killed in Syria. The commander, Shaker al-Absi, has been missing since the bitter fight between the Lebanese Armed Forces and Fatah al-Islam terrorists in the Palestinian refugee camp of Naher el Bared in Lebanon last year.

Damascus has not issued an official response to the report claiming that Absi was killed. Syria accuses Fatah al-Islam for a terror attack in Damascus in September, in which 17 people were killed.

This article can also be read at http://www.jpost.com /servlet/Satellite?cid=1228728131176&pagename=JPost%2FJPArticle%2FShowFull
[ Back to the Article ]
Copyright 1995- 2008 The Jerusalem Post – http://www.jpost.com/

December 10th, 2008, 5:24 pm

 

why-discuss said:

MAJId

“Regardless of your concerns about Saudis, Egyptians and Syrians, I’ll make it simple to you.”

Yes, please make it simple, we are all dummies here and we need an expert to clarify our fuzzy minds, we don’t need more fuzziness!
You are so smart and savvy and you seem to teach (or rather to impose) your ideas so well and with such a condescending tone , we just can listen, stunned.

December 10th, 2008, 6:14 pm

 

Observer said:

First I do not believe that any of the countries in the ME are true nation states as their identity is still very precarious. Lebanon is a clan country, Kuwait and SA are families, and I would argue that Israel is still a fragmented society that is gelled together by the feeling of insecurity that will not keep the people together, after all the majority of the Jews in the world live outside of Israel.
Here for readers the article about the fate of US Syria relations
http://atimes.com/atimes/Middle_East/JL11Ak02.html

December 10th, 2008, 7:46 pm

 

Shai said:

Observer,

While what you say about our region may be true, I doubt world powers would ever enable such disintegration to take place. At least, they would do a lot to make sure it doesn’t happen. No one needs further Yugoslavias, just as no one wants Iraq to fall apart. I cannot fathom a situation whereby a significant number of Jews leaves Israel. And for where? Who would accept a million Jews, or two million, or six? With the assumption that Israel has nuclear capabilities, I cannot see how any nation in our region can threaten our survival as a nation. True, there are dangers of disintegration from within – that’s actually, in my mind, our biggest enemy. But just as Americans got over the slavery division, so too will Israelis get over the Occupation of Palestine (hopefully without the need for civil war).

What holds Israelis together is not only the sense of insecurity (by the way, many Israelis, such as myself, feel VERY secure in Israel), but indeed a feeling of having come home, after 2,000 years of being away. That links me to all the Jews here, whether their origin is Eastern Poland (like mine), Western Sahara, Northern Syria, or Southern Yemen. All of our ancestors, for two millennia, dreamed and prayed of a return to Zion. That’s the true “glue” of our society, not the security stuff… Our national anthem, Hatikva (The Hope), is about that 2,000 year old dream.

December 10th, 2008, 8:20 pm

 

Friend in America said:

Is there any information to corroborate the information that was posted on a militant web site within the past 24 hours?

“CAIRO, Egypt — The leader of an Al Qaeda-linked Lebanese group has probably been killed in Syria, according to a statement purportedly posted by the faction on an Islamic militant Web site Tuesday.

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

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

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

There was no immediate comment from Syrian authorities about the statement posted on a Web site commonly used by Islamic militant groups, including Al Qaeda.

Syria’s government recently blamed Fatah Islam for a car bombing in the Syrian capital, Damascus, that killed 17 people in September….”

December 10th, 2008, 10:41 pm

 

Friend in America said:

Picking up on #144 and #145 and using the Wikipedia definition of a nation state:
“The nation-state (or by it’s common name a country) is a certain form of state that derives its legitimacy from serving as a sovereign entity for a nation as a sovereign territorial unit. The state is a political and geopolitical entity; the nation is a cultural and/or ethnic entity. The term “nation-state” implies that the two geographically coincide, and this distinguishes the nation state from the other types of state, which historically preceded it. If successfully implemented, this implies that the citizens share a common language, culture, and values — which was not the case in many historical states. A world of nation-states also implements the claim to self-determination and autonomy for every nation, a central theme of the ideology of nationalism.
Due to ambiguities in the word ‘state’ especially as in “United States of America”, the term “nation-state” is now frequently misused to mean any sovereign state, whether or not its political boundaries coincide with ethnic and cultural ones….”

I invite comments however academic on these statements. I particularly am interested in whether the participants here:

1. Find any ME country, other than Israel perhaps, presently fits the nation state definition?
2. Which countries in the ME are “historical states?”
2. Is the concept of nation state suitable for defining a sovereign country in the ME considering the present social, economic and political conditions?
3. If so, can there be any reorganization of boundaries that would make more countries “nation states?” Should this be encouraged?

These are not easy questions and I profess not to have answers, except one. Kurdistan is presently a part of 4 different countries. Could the boundaries be reset to make the new Kurdistan a “nation state?” Would this be desireable?
Are there other places in the ME?

December 10th, 2008, 11:15 pm

 

Alex said:

FIM

Shaker Al-Absi is much more useful to Syria alive, not dead.

If they found out his location, they would try their best to arrest him and question him… whats in his brain is more valuable than his dead body.

If he was armed and in the process of shooting at them from close range, maybe … but otherwise, they would do their best to arrest him.

December 10th, 2008, 11:58 pm

 

nafdik said:

FRIEND IN AMERICA,

Your question probably goes to the heart of the trouble in the ‘Arab’ world.

Nation states in the ME I can think of are Turkey and Iran.

Near-nation states are Egypt and Saudi Arabia.

I am not sure how to classify Israel.

The notion of nation state is a very modern conception that reflected the reality in Europe in the in 17-19 century.

The world copied this model blindly for lack of a better model.

The situation in the ME was much different, instead of having ethnic and religious blocks set in one area, we have a network of ethnicities and religions that are intermingled.

So an Armenian in Aleppo feels closer to an Armenian in Istanbul than to a kurd in Idleb.

This wonderful multi-cultural mosaic that allowed communities to live together while maintaining their identities was provided with protection from central power that remained remote apart from tax collection and the occasional massacre. This remained the case, in Roman, Arab, and Ottoman times.

Every inhabitant maintained a matrix of identities that linked him to geography, tribe, ethnicity and religion.

In Europe the situation was different, as every locale was dominated by one culture, language, race and religion.

The quiz in the middle east is: how do we create a nation state where there is no nation?

The attempts of the past have been to find the closest thing to a nation and cling to it:

– Arabism
– Greater Syria
– Islam

Other solutions are:

– Build a multi-national state (Lebanese experiment)
– Split it until we reach nations (Kurdish demands)
– Have a dictator force us to live together for a modest fee until this whole nationalism craze blows over (Alex philosophy 🙂
– Kill each other until only one ethnicity stays alive (Iraq today)
– Create a nation through singing, wearing uniforms, hating Israel and standing in line to get a ta’chiret khourouj or Ikhraj Kaid

December 11th, 2008, 1:16 am

 

Friend in America said:

Nafdik –
Sometime an answer that benefits everyone will be found, I do believe, and when it is, there will be an opportunity for a new age of peace and growth. It will not occur by conquoring – the historical state is over.
Ever since the fall of the Berlin Wall scholars have been asking if the world has outgrown the ‘nation-state’ political construct. The answer in the affirmative was a strong force in creating support for creating the European Union. While the nation-state construct might work for the Kurds (I think Syria and Turkey secretly would be glad to get rid of their Kurds), I do not see any other place in the ME for a ‘nation-state’ for the reasons you gave, although I accept your inclusion of Iran.
So what else? Is a confederation with a strong “Bill of Rights” that minorities can trust workable? Is the European Union a model (the E.U. is not a real confederation)? My prediction is the ethnic conclaves willl begin to break down in several generations as education, fredom to travel, open employment opportunities and impartial justice are established. As much as I am fascinated with these traditions and their history, and I am, they basically are defensive structures. They also provide an answer to the question ‘who am I?’
This is an excellent time for discussion. This topic has long term implications.

December 11th, 2008, 3:01 am

 

majid said:

Joshua says ” I even began to feel badly for Majid, who objects to my being married to an Alawi daughter of Syria”

Really? what for do you feel badly about me? You know I feel great and don’t feel I need sympathies from anyone.

Object? To what? You being married to an Alawite? You gave me a huge laugh Landis, badly needed after a real hard day. Thanks.

Well, there you go. I thought EHSANI2 was the only one who might be in need of additional care and perhaps even sympathies getting points across to him. The Professor himself is in dire need as well. Is this something that you both share and acts like the cement to your friendship? Never mind close or far, so please don’t trifle me with this line.

You guys are almost exact copies of each other. It is very clear that both of you have a remarkable resemblance by exhibiting the talent of taking words out of context and injecting your own words into someone else’s mouth. Not surprised. It is typical Baathists propaganda taught at the indoctrination school of the party. That’s why you, Makdus, Imad and others should be forced to disclose such links to enemies of free speech before you guys speak out. In case you are wondering. That’s why you qualify as a derivative of the Syrian government. NOT because you married a Syrian Alawite.

WD: You’re quite welcome.

December 11th, 2008, 3:47 am

 

jad said:

Dr. Landis, Ehsani2 and many on this blog were being extremely polite and very sincere considering replying to you Majid, I won’t, your ridiculous and rude comments regarding our Syrian diverse religions and political society, only reflect who you really are and still before any country of the west accepted you to live in it, you are nothing but a big filthy mouth that just left his tent to live in an urban society. Try to learn from your new surrounding (unless you are still living in a farm) before having any conversation with civilized people.
PS. you ignorant the name is Makdisi not Makdus

December 11th, 2008, 4:24 am

 

Shai said:

Ya JAD,

Want to join me in forming SC’s first Meditation-Group? 😉

December 11th, 2008, 4:34 am

 

Jad said:

Dear Shai
I was trying my best to meditate but it’s really hard, however, you have my trust and consider me IN.

December 11th, 2008, 4:42 am

 

norman said:

Shai, Jad,

What are we , Chopped liver ?.

December 11th, 2008, 4:49 am

 

Jad said:

Dear Norman,
I missed your point?
And that is my take.

December 11th, 2008, 4:57 am

 

Shai said:

JAD, Norman,

Believe me, I do understand how annoyed one can get sometimes. I’ll suggest to Alex to place a “Meditate” button on the right which, when clicked, will play nice serene music that’ll soothe anyone’s annoyance… For some, it can be the Republican party jingle… For others, sounds of nature.

December 11th, 2008, 5:15 am

 

Majid said:

Dear Dr. Landis,

I was very intrigued by your last statement distorting my comments and purporting that I object to you “being married to an Alawi daughter of Syria”

I thought there should be more behind such bold statement coming from a person like you. I told myself there should be some psychological factor behind such assertion. I went back to the comments that I made and tried to find a link that may cause you psychologically to say such a thing. I came across a link provided by Akbar which chronicles the happy event that took place in your life. I learnt many things about this marriage and the actors involved in it. It suddenly clicked in my head just like a switch turning on. I believe I discovered the vulnerability that you are suffering from and which reflects in your interactions with others. You are actually trying to protect your marriage because deep down inside your mind you think others disapprove of your marriage and you know the reason why. You just happen to be 14 years her senior!!! This is good enough reason here in America to feel such vulnerability. You also react in a way that is contrary to the fundamental beliefs of the society because you think that these beliefs may deprive you of the continuation of this happy event which took place of course in Syria. My advice to you and to your wife is to go back to Syria and build a home in that country. A difference of 14 years or even 20 years between husband and wife is very common in Syria and neighboring countries. I’m sure you both of you will find happiness and you would also be cured of this vulnerability. Finally, and that will sound a bit selfish on my part, you would also save free speech in America the task of having to legislate against itself.

December 11th, 2008, 5:29 am

 

Shai said:

Netanyahu WILL continue peace talks with Syria. Here’s what he had to say to Ha’aretz, and will be saying to the EU today:

Netanyahu to Haaretz: Likud is behind me; Feiglin will soon disappear
By Yossi Verter and Barak Ravid, Haaretz Correspondents
Tags: Israel News

Likud chairman Benjamin Netanyahu reassured his supporters on Wednesday after the primary that produced a particularly right-wing list. He has also launched a campaign to calm down the international community and ease concerns about the peace process should Netanyahu become prime minister after the February election.

Concerns increased this week after far-right-winger Moshe Feiglin and many of his supporters did well in the primary.

In a series of consultations, Netanyau said the “Feiglin effect” would fade and the party would soon regain what few Knesset seats it might lose from the recent negative publicity.
Advertisement
“The entire faction is with me,” he told confidants.

“They all called today and expressed their support. Feiglin will fade away very quickly. They can blow it up more and more, but even this lemon doesn’t have much juice left in it,” he said.

Netanyahu launched a campaign to allay fears in the United States, Europe and the Arab world for the fate of the peace process.

On Thursday, Netanyahu will meet 27 European Union ambassadors to Israel and tell them that he is committed to continuing the peace talks with Syria and the Palestinians.

Netanyahu has recently sent dovish messages to officials in the international community, his aides say. Netanyahu met Egyptian ambassador to Israel Yasser Reda last week and told him that if he won the elections he would not stop the peace process, only add components such as his “economic peace” plan.

He conveyed similar messages to the Czech foreign minister, whose country will take on the rotating EU presidency in January.

The meeting with the EU ambassadors had been scheduled for several weeks ago, but Netanyahu asked to postpone it until after the primary.

Though Netanyahu will assure the ambassadors that he will continue the talks with the Syrians and Palestinians, he will say he needs to study the talks that took place during Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni’s term, because these negotiations were covert.

Since he is keen to focus on achievements, he will continue negotiations he believes can lead to progress and suspend others, he is expected to say.

Netanyahu will outline his “economic peace” plan and say he wants to raise the Palestinians’ living standards, improve their economy, build government institutions and strengthen their defense capabilities.

He will not rule out security cooperation with the Palestinian Authority and passing on more West Bank cities to forces led by PA President Mahmoud Abbas.

He will say that this process, which can lead to faster achievements, will not be at the expense of the peace talks but in addition to them.

This approach is similar to the one favored by Barack Obama’s national security adviser James Jones and Quartet envoy Tony Blair, Netanyahu will say, according to his aides.

He will say that in view of Hamas’ control of the Gaza Strip, it is difficult to find a partner on the Palestinian side who can assert his authority there. He will urge the international community to join Israel in isolating Hamas.

In recent weeks officials abroad have voiced concerns about Netanyahu’s plans on the peace process.

A senior EU official told Haaretz that “Netanyahu’s victory [in the election] could strike a fatal blow to the peace process.”

U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice dismissed the “economic peace” plan at a meeting of foreign ministers in Brussels last week, saying that the goal is to reach a two-state solution.

Former U.S. president Bill Clinton, whose wife Hillary will be secretary of state under Obama, has also criticized Netanyahu’s position. Last week, at the Saban Forum debates in Washington, Clinton said there would be no chance for economic progress in the PA, except as part of talks leading to a comprehensive final settlement.

A source close to Netanyahu said on Wednesday that the fears in Europe and the United States about him stem in part from a campaign Livni’s people are conducting overseas.

“They’re inciting the whole world against us, spreading fears that we will bring disaster,” the source said.

A source close to Livni said that “the world remembers very well who Netanyahu is and needs no reminders of it from us.”

December 11th, 2008, 5:33 am

 

jad said:

Dear Alex,
The scumbag called “Majid” Last comments must be removed immediately; we don’t discuss any personal issues on here for any reason that is WAY too low.
J.

December 11th, 2008, 5:37 am

 

Shai said:

JAD,

We need you healthy here buddy. Not worth getting so upset over silly comments. Do like me – breathe in, breathe out… 🙂 (And you’re about to go sleep! What do you need this on your mind for?)

December 11th, 2008, 5:49 am

 

jad said:

Come on Shai don’t you think that this is the worst comment you ever read on here for the last 3 years…

December 11th, 2008, 5:53 am

 

Shai said:

JAD, I’ve only been here about a year, but it is a nasty one. Course, to be called “useful idiot” (by your buddy AIG) isn’t overly flattering either… Some people just run out of vocabulary faster than others, that’s all…

December 11th, 2008, 6:28 am

 

Alex said:

Jad,

I agree that the comment above was in bad taste. But I will leave it to Joshua to to decide if he will keep that comment or not.

He already got an automatic email with the content of that, and every, comment.

Majid,

You started making a reasonable suggestion that many people here debated … sufficiently.

I will ask you, and everyone else, to move on to other issues.

Make sure you take a look at the rules of this blog in case you did not see them:

http://joshualandis.com/blog/?page_id=698

If you have arguments against any opinions expressed here then write your counter opinion, but stay away from attacking those who are expressing those opinions you do not believe in.

December 11th, 2008, 6:41 am

 

Shai said:

Alex,

The pressure Kadima is placing upon Likud in Israel and abroad seems to be taking its toll. Bibi is now trying to calm everyone down about his intentions vis-a-vis peace. See the article above. This is good news.

December 11th, 2008, 6:46 am

 

jad said:

Shai,
AIG with all the attack he gets I never read any comments of him getting personal with anybody attacking his ideas including me and to be honest I respect that in him regardless of our huge differences in seeing things but at the end of the day I have no hard feeling toward him and I will be debating with him again the next morning, on the other hand and when someone gets personal and start including your family and your believes in his comments, that is just low and you loos any respect for anybody does that.

December 11th, 2008, 6:49 am

 

Alex said:

Shai

I would say this is borderline good news. Bibi could still be interested in peace negotiations while intending to offer Syria peace for peace and the Palestinians 70% of he west bank.

Jad,

AIG got much better with time, I agree.

But he started somewhat like Majid calling everyone a liar and a regime mouthpiece.

December 11th, 2008, 7:08 am

 

offended said:

An art scene of Damascus.

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/in_depth/7774177.stm

(Kind of crazy and not an overly accurate representation of damascene beauty : ) )

December 11th, 2008, 7:57 am

 

offended said:

“it’s the way the syrian society: women are handicapped with no hands. Men are hanged on trees.”

Huh?!

December 11th, 2008, 8:28 am

 

EHSANI2 said:

Dearest Majid,

I am very sorry that you found me too slow and that I was in “need of additional care and perhaps even sympathies getting points across to” me.

I will do my best to be quicker and at least sound smarter the next time you present a new idea/concept to us.

December 11th, 2008, 2:23 pm

 

Alex said:

Hala’s website:

http://www.halafaisal.com/gallery37.htm

She’s very creative.

December 11th, 2008, 2:32 pm

 

Shai said:

Alex,

I beg to differ. Like any good businessman, Bibi can no longer offer anything less than he already offered in August of 1998. We have a PDF-copy of the two pages Ronald Lauder (Bibi’s personal friend, and Head of Jewish Federations in the U.S.) presented in person to Hafez Assad precisely 10 years and 4 months ago. When contents of this document leaked out to the press in Israel, Bibi denied making any such offers to Syria, but then, when his own Defense Minister Itzik Mordechai challenged him to continue denying it, there was no reaction. Both Mordechai, as well as Uri Sagi (Head of Intelligence), knew exactly what was offered, and refused to play Bibi’s game. The most Lauder himself ever said about it, years later in 2004, is that Bibi never promised to withdraw to the 1967 lines, and didn’t even know about the contents of the document. I leave it up to you to decide how truthful his statement is, and whether it makes much sense, given that he was sent by Bibi to meet directly, in person, Hafez Assad himself.

I’m sure to some it would seem perfectly logical that given Syria’s relationship with Iran, Hezbollah, and Hamas, that Netanyahu would now offer less than he did in 1998. Realistically, if the nature of those relationships will not change, then Syria will not get any part of the Golan back (so there is nothing to be offered). But if Syria will offer a change (that is acceptable to Israel), then Bibi will have to offer the full price. And he will.

As for the Palestinians, I don’t think he’s about to offer them 70%, or 80%, or 90% of the West Bank. His party’s Order-of-the-Day very clearly states that certain initiatives will be suspended, and it is fair to assume that they mean Abu Mazen. If or when Hamas and Fatah work out their differences, and if or when Hamas decides to talk to Israel, then Bibi will be in a position to offer something. He already has the experience of talking to Arafat, so negotiations with the Palestinians, and the notion of a Palestinian state, aren’t foreign to him.

Whether he’ll decide to explore every possible way to achieve peace or, instead, to continue the political stagnation that has plagued us for over three decades, is yet to be seen. But one thing is almost for certain – if he does choose the path of peace, he’s the best political leader in Israel to deliver it, as his spiritual father Menachem Begin was at the time.

Here’s the PDF copy of the document Lauder presented to Hafez Assad: http://prospectsforpeace.com/Resources/Plans/Syria_Israel%20Peace%20Treaty.pdf

December 11th, 2008, 3:28 pm

 

why-discuss said:

MAJID

We dont need a Dr Phil on this website. Your scenarios are better that soap operas. If you have marital or psychological problems, please refrain from projecting them on this Blog. Anyway your writing circonvolutions to express simple ideas and to attack people personal lives also show that you need to consult urgently. At best just follow the KISS principle.

December 11th, 2008, 3:54 pm

 

nafdik said:

Why-discuss,

I think your name says it best as far as people like Majid are concerned.

December 11th, 2008, 4:14 pm

 

nafdik said:

Shai,

I am surprised that a lot of talk is centering around Israel return of Golan heights in exchange of change in Syria’s relationship with Iran, Hizbullah and/or Hamas.

No sane person will give away land in exchange for a transient, non-verifiable promise of change.

How would such a deal be constructed? Does Syria have to fire the Iranian ambassador? Does Assad have to deliver a speech? Do they have to refrain from activities they do not admit to today?

December 11th, 2008, 4:32 pm

 

Akbar Palace said:

No sane person will give away land in exchange for a transient, non-verifiable promise of change.

Nafdik,

cc: Shai

I agree, no sane person would. But “sane people” are currently not leading Israel. And don’t you remember Oslo? The whole process was build on Arafat’s promises and conscious effort to cover one’s eyes whenever Arafat ignored his commitments.

This is why BB and the Likud are gaining in popularity.

December 11th, 2008, 4:46 pm

 

Alex said:

Shai, Nafdik, AP

No sincere person who genuinely wants to see peace in the Middle east will demand that one country (syria) destroy its relations with other countries and people … the 70 million Iranians, the millions of Lebanese Shia and Palestinians who elected hamas to lead them.

If the majority of Israelis will elect Mr. Netanyahu because they are, like Akbar, not willing to see the Arab world beyond the video clips that Memri selects for them … then I am not optimistic.

I understand that I am saying “trust me, Hamas will change”, and Shai is saying “trust me, Netanyahu will change” …

But the difference is that I know that Syria will be committed to helping Hamas change and moderate its positions … but the Obama administration is not yet clear on its approach to “helping” Israel commit to peace. Will they pressure Mr. Netanyahu like President Carter pressured Prime minister Begin in Camp David?

If they don’t, I don’t think Mr. Netanyahu will go far enough … he will make an offer that he knows Syria will refuse… for example, and offer that formally states that Syria MUST cut its relations with Iran and Hamas and HA …

Then his friends in AIPAC can make sure that the press in the US will blame Syria for refusing this historic opportunity for peace …

December 11th, 2008, 5:07 pm

 

nafdik said:

Alex, if the proposal was “trust me X will change” in exchange for “trust me Y will change” then this would be a conceivable deal.

The proposal is “give me X piece of land” in exchange for “trust me I will talk to Y and I promise you he will change, or else I will not talk to him”

Please do not misunderstand my statement to say the Israel has the right to the Golan or that it should not withdraw.

I am just trying to figure out the what incentives Syria can give it to withdraw.

I would go further asking what incentive Assad&co have to actually close the deal, but that is another topic all together.

December 11th, 2008, 5:24 pm

 

Ghat Albird said:

A reading of the following link will attest to the realities enunciated and presently practiced by the Israel – Britain – US cabal as to the never ending unstability first articulated by Bernard Lewis;

Dr. Landis might want to post it in its entirety for all to read since its an ongoing process.

http://www.globalresearch.ca/index.php?context=va& aid=11313

December 11th, 2008, 5:26 pm

 

Alex said:

Nafdik,

1) Israel and Syria will make peace when Israel returns the Syrian lands it currently holds contrary to many UN resolutions. In return Syria will consider Israel a normal neighbor and consider reasonable Israeli security needs.

The above will be clearly stated in the peace agreement.

In addition:

2) Syria wants Israel to be convinced that there has to be a settlement with the Palestinians too … also based on UN resolutions 242 and 338.

3) Israel would like Syria to help in eliminating threats from Hizbollah and eliminating or minimizing “threats” from Hamas.

Parts 2 and 3 can not be guaranteed in advance … both countries will have to rely on “trust me I will because I am convinced it is the right thing” and “trust me, I can do it” …. and then “anyway, the international community is clearly committed to making sure we both try our best to deliver, even though we did not sign on this part in our peace agreement”

Otherwise, if Israel wants Syria to detroy its relations with Iran and Hizbollah and Hams, then Syria must expect Israel to also cut its relations with the United States which attacked Syria recently and killed many Syrian civilians.

If Israel is not ready to understand the above logic which is based on absolute equality, then Israel is still convinced it is sitting with a defeated Syrian side that should beg for the Golan under any conditions Israel wants to add to the “agreement”

I know it when I see it … and I know Syria is committed and ready for peace. Israel needs some help .. it is in a transition state now. Some wiser Israelis (like many ex army and intelligence generals) are convinced they should not fight more wars … other Israelis (likud+) are not ready … they are feeling quite superior.

But I might be wrong … I will wait until I hear and watch a debate between Mr. Netanyahu and his opponent to see if she pushes him on this question what more details we can find out about his position.

December 11th, 2008, 6:30 pm

 

nafdik said:

Can the Israelis reading the forum comment on this.

1) What kind of deal would you accept?
2) What kind of deal would would 60%+ of the Israeli electorate accept?

December 11th, 2008, 7:16 pm

 

EHSANI2 said:

NAFDIK,

Perhaps giving up the Golan for Aleppo?

December 11th, 2008, 7:18 pm

 

offended said:

Ehsani2 my friend. : )

I am glad your proposition is not logistically or geographically possible. Besides, the poor israelis will have to deploy half their army just to keep law and order during ittihad football matches!

December 11th, 2008, 7:49 pm

 

EHSANI2 said:

OFFENDED HABIBI,

That is the point. Give them Aleppo to manage. A couple of weeks/matches and I predict the occupation will be over.

December 11th, 2008, 8:08 pm

 

nafdik said:

Ehsani,

Very unsavory suggestion 🙂

http://www.gastrosyr.com/eng/gastronomy2.htm

December 11th, 2008, 8:20 pm

 

Akbar Palace said:

1) What kind of deal would you accept?
2) What kind of deal would would 60%+ of the Israeli electorate accept?

Nafdik,

IMHO, a deal where there are so many cultural exchanges, meetings, business deals, and religious interaction that something like this would never happen:

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/middle_east/7773047.stm

December 11th, 2008, 9:02 pm

 

Shai said:

Alex, Nafdik, AP,

I can “calm” all of you (especially you Nafdik) by reminding us all that the scenario is not “Israel gives Syria back the Golan” in return for “Israel trusts Syria will do x, y, and z”. The real scenario is closer to “Israel will begin withdrawing from the Golan, a process that will end 15 years later with the complete transfer of ownership to Syria…” in return, and conditionally based on “Israel trusts Syria will do x, y, and z…” In other words, no side is going to hand everything over to the other in one shot.

But the nice thing that will occur, finally after 60 years, is that from the minute a peace agreement is signed, each side will acquire something it will (hopefully) not wish to lose by not adhering to the contractual responsibilities. While Israel begins pulling its troops off the Golan, Syrian troops will begin pulling back as well. While Israeli citizens living on the Golan begin to leave, full normalization will begin to take shape. Exchanges of the type AP mentioned will also help to bring the two nations closer, and will give us yet further reasons not to fail in carrying out our mutual responsibilities.

Also, hopefully very soon after an agreement is signed, Syria will take a very active role in helping Israel and the Palestinians resolve their problems, and reach a final agreement as well. Slowly but surely, Israel, Syria, Lebanon, Palestine, perhaps Egypt, KSA, the EU, US, etc. will all start to work together in a way that would begin to form positive cross-dependencies, and would again discourage any foul play on the part of the relevant parties. Nothing will happen overnight – Arabs and Jews won’t be hugging the next day. But perhaps a real feeling of Hope, one that is so desperately needed in our region, will be created, and will have its “shockwave effect” on the people of the Middle East. And then, inertia will start to run its course.

Alex, Netanyahu is not Shaul Mofaz, or even Bugi Ya’alon. He’s far smarter, he’s a professional lifelong diplomat and politician, and he knows “peace-for-peace” is more relevant to what your grandmother wants you to do with her amazing cake, than what Syria and Israel need to agree on, before we can have peace. He’s also not so extreme or unrealistic, in thinking that he can demand or expect Syria to cut off all relationship with a nation like Iran, or even political support of Hezbollah or Hamas. He’ll ask Syria to end any and all military alliances, agreements, and support. And that, I believe, is something Syria can “swallow”. Give Obama a few weeks as President, and most of us will quickly forget what the “Axis-of-Evil” ever was. It’s like Reagan’s “Evil Empire”. Until today, I’m not sure who took the terms from whom, Reagan from George Lucas, or the other way around…

Ehsani,

Loved your idea of Golan-for-Aleppo! 🙂 (If only our mutual suspicion and fears could be replaced by humor, eh?)

December 11th, 2008, 9:31 pm

 

offended said:

I’ve probably talked about this before, but I will ask the gentlmen here to give it a thought one more time since it’s kind of relevant to the discussion:

If the nuclear disarmament treaty between the sovs and the americans could be negotiated and implemented, then it ought not to be an awfully difficult job to reach similar formula between Syria and Israel. For the concept is almost the same: both sides hold cards, and they won’t give it up unless they make sure the other side is doing exactly that.

and when you think of it, it was even tougher with the nukes since theirs where the only way possible to strike the ballance of ‘mutual destruction’; in other words you’re giving up the very same thing that ensures that your enemy won’t be missing with you. And yet they’ve done it. It’s not impossible my friends.

December 11th, 2008, 10:37 pm

 

Enlightened said:

HMMM:

Luckily a few days I decided not to escalate an interaction. But learned to laugh them off.

Today I logged in to read the SC Daily comments with my two trusted sidekicks- my coffee and my muffin.

Every now and then we get characters who over step the mark with Ad Hominem attacks. When these are directed against people who don’t have web links- we invariably brush them off.

How ever Josh is a easy target for some who come here, click the link and it is all there to see. His academic papers, his contributions in print and other media. I did the same 4 years ago when i stumbled across SC. I had a look, I saw Josh’s wedding photos, the birth of his first child, his back round.

What perplexed me for a week or two after doing this, and reading his academic articles and blogging, and reading his articles on this blog was a man who had a very genuine interest and perhaps love for Arabic culture, these I would hazard a guess was built up during the years he spent as a youngster during his fathers posting in the middle east.

Digging a little deeper, I was able to overcome a few little prejudices that I had. It is a sign of a weak state of mind and constitution to attack some one , especially his family, his affiliations- not so his work, as many of us have had different points of view. Family is sacrosanct in Arab culture.

So Josh having interacted with you these four years, let me tell you the best thing you ever did was embrace our Arab culture.

December 12th, 2008, 12:06 am

 

AIG said:

It is extremely unlikely that Asad would agree for withdrawal over 15 years. The main reason is that during these 15 years he will have to show real progress economically in Syria because he will not have any person to blame the situation on but his own rule. That was the main mistake of the Oslo process. It created expectations that the Palestinian leadership, even though they got billions from the West, could never deliver upon.

Asad knows that he cannot deliver a Syrian economic miracle especially with the huge population growth and awful droughts hitting the middle east. A peace agreement will not make Syria a less corrupt country and will not improve the Syrian education system. That will take many many years. And in the meantime, if you cannot blame Israel or the West, who will Asad blame?

And what about the “strength” of Syria? If after peace Syria will stop leading the “resistance” and will not be able to destabilize its neighbors for fun and profit, it will just be a very poor third world country on the verge of bankruptcy.

In every sense, peace does not make sense for Asad. He can gain nothing from it. Instead it will put his regime in danger. The only reason Asad could agree to a peace treaty is if he believes that otherwise there will be food riots in Syria and peace could buy his regime a few more years. What makes sense for Asad is to talk about peace so as to make sure that there is no military intervention in Syria to topple the regime. He has learned the lesson of Saddam Hussein well.

December 12th, 2008, 1:48 am

 

norman said:

US president-elect Barack Obama and his future administration must open dialogue with Iran and Syria to “solve” long-standing issues plaguing the Middle East, the Iraqi government said Thursday.

“I call on the new administration to open a dialogue with Iran to resolve the exceptional problems which are affecting stability in the region,” government spokesman Ali al-Dabbagh said in a statement released at the outset of an international conference in Washington.

“We do encourage the administration to have a dialogue with Syria,” Dabbagh added later Thursday in comments to reporters at the Pentagon.

“Whether the US would like Iraq to initiate that dialogue with Syria, we are ready.”

But the outgoing administration of President George W. Bush has cut nearly all diplomatic ties with Damascus, which it accuses of poorly policing a porous border with neighboring Iraq, helping to swell the ranks of the insurgency there.

“Without having that dialogue between Iraq and its neighbors, between the US and the region, I think we will not solve the problems between Iraq and its neighbors,” Dabbagh said.

In a televised interview Sunday, Obama confirmed he wants to hold talks with Iran, stating his readiness to end a 30-year stand-off between Washington and Tehran.

“We need to ratchet up tough but direct diplomacy with Iran,” Obama said, promising a “set of carrots and sticks.”

Despite security improvements in Iraq this year, some US officials continue to accuse Iran of financing, arming and training Iraqi Shiite militias — a claim Tehran denies.

But the number of Iranian-made explosively formed penetrators (EFPs) in Iraq has decreased appreciably in recent months, indicating Tehran’s support for Iraqi insurgents is waning, according to US Army Lieutenant General Thomas Metz.

EFP attacks, which can penetrate heavy armor, are down to “a dozen, 20 in Iraq in a month from maybe 60, 80,” Metz told reporters Thursday, adding that EFP caches and casualties had also decreased.

Asked if the reduction meant that the Iranian government or the elite Quds Force — a special unit of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard — is pulling back its support of the Iraqi insurgency, Metz answered: “I am not in the intel business but that’s the conclusion I would draw.”

While EFPs only account for five percent of all roadside bomb attacks, they represent up to 35 percent of US roadside fatalities, said Metz, who heads a Pentagon program to prevent such attacks in Iraq and Afghanistan.

December 12th, 2008, 2:17 am

 

Shai said:

AIG,

“It is extremely unlikely that Asad would agree for withdrawal over 15 years.”

He already has. Israel asked for 5-15 years. Syria’s response was “take 15”. Listen to the podcast up above.

December 12th, 2008, 5:02 am

 

offended said:

AIG,

You’re really exaggerating the thing about Syria ascribing the lack of economical development to the lack of peace with Israel. We almost never hear that excuse in public anymore. We used to 15 years ago when we had days and days of electricity outage. But not now, even last year when there were outages in the summer; the government gave a very transparent statement explaining the reasons. Look up all the interviews with Al Dardari (his official title skips me at the moment, but I think he’s a deputy PM for economical affairs), he has never even once attributed economical difficulties for the enmity with Israel.

December 12th, 2008, 8:51 am

 

Akbar Palace said:

In every sense, peace does not make sense for Asad. He can gain nothing from it. Instead it will put his regime in danger. The only reason Asad could agree to a peace treaty is if he believes that otherwise there will be food riots in Syria and peace could buy his regime a few more years. What makes sense for Asad is to talk about peace so as to make sure that there is no military intervention in Syria to topple the regime. He has learned the lesson of Saddam Hussein well.

AIG –

I both agree and disagree with you. I disagree somewhat because the West can pump the regime up with LOTS of money, and more importantly, LOTS of military equipment (to keep any opposition group far away from the “government-for-life”). But Syria would become another Egypt and Jordan: an autocracy that has turned its back on the poor Palestinians.

So the downside will be a renewed dissatisfaction with the Syrian government from the “arab street”.

Will this matter to Assad? YES! He doesn’t want to mess with his present support. He’s already a billionaire and doesn’t need any more money. And his military is strong enough to put down any uprising. His people love him, his stance on Israel, and he has plenty of friends on the Arab street (right Alex?). As they say, “If it’s not broken, don’t fix it”.

December 12th, 2008, 1:25 pm

 

Shai said:

Akbar,

I don’t understand your rationale. What do you think matters more to the average Syrian – whether Assad continues supporting Hamas (and the Palestinians), or whether he fixes up their economy? Does the average Syrian think more about the Palestinians’ freedom, or about his/her own? My guess is, the latter. So even Assad recognizes that sooner or later, either he’ll have to face another Hama-style uprising, and may have to resort to certain tactics he probably disagrees with, or he’ll have to show his people, year after year, how their lives are improving. He can’t do that with his own “billions” (as you called them), but rather with money that flows in from the outside. And that won’t happen, if he’s bluffing about peace.

True, the Arab street will not love him if they feel he’s “selling out” the Palestinians. But that may not necessarily be the image. What if Syria joins the effort in helping Israel and the Palestinians reach a solution? What if Syria helps Fatah and Hamas work out their differences? There is a lot Syria can do, to help out the Palestinians, even more than they’re already doing.

I very much doubt that Bashar is bluffing, because it is extremely easy to call his bluff. What is Syria asking for? What are her conditions? From everything I see, Syria is asking ONLY for the Golan, up to the June 4, 1967 lines. They are not requiring first the creation of Palestine. They’re not demanding a one-state solution. They’re not even talking about settlements in the West Bank. So if or when Netanyahu will negotiate with Syria, and will offer (in the end) the June 4 lines, if Syria is then not ready for peace (recognition, normalization, etc.), then the whole world will see Bashar was bluffing, and that certainly won’t “help” either Syria, or Bashar. So chances are, that’s not the case here. It makes far more sense to me, and apparently to Israel’s heads of Intelligence, head of the Army, heads of political parties, heads of Industry, that Syria IS serious about peace.

Even Netanyahu himself isn’t suggesting that Syria is not serious about it. The opposite – he’s now committing himself to continuing the talks with her, after “studying” the progress made so far.

December 12th, 2008, 2:01 pm

 

Akbar Palace said:

I don’t understand your rationale. What do you think matters more to the average Syrian – whether Assad continues supporting Hamas (and the Palestinians), or whether he fixes up their economy? Does the average Syrian think more about the Palestinians’ freedom, or about his/her own?

Shai,

Good question. Yes, basically what I’m saying is that Syrians and the Arab street prefer “resistance” to Israel over the return of the Golan (or the economy for that matter). Therefore, this is what Assad prefers as well.

Certainly, the same was true for Arafat for exactly the same reasons.

BTW – Israel has shown the she can “resist” and create a decent economy at the same time. Why can’t Syria?? Oh, right…the West.

December 12th, 2008, 4:18 pm

 

Shai said:

Akbar,

I don’t understand what you’re saying. You claim that “Syrians and the Arab street prefer “resistance” to Israel over the return of the Golan…” But what is the purpose of the resistance for Syrians, if not in order to make Israel withdraw from territories it occupies which, in their case, is the Golan? If Syrians had a choice right now – get the Golan back and end your resistance, or continue resisting until Israel withdraws also from the West Bank, but that might take another 10 years, you’re saying they’d choose the latter? That makes no sense for me and, according to the poll taken here, also not for nearly 70% of the voters.

I believe Bashar will be deemed much more of a hero if he is able to retrieve the Golan peacefully, than if he continues to “resist” Israeli Occupation of Palestine, at the cost of ordinary Syrians’ wellbeing, freedom, reform, etc. Your argument could hold, perhaps, with regards to Israel not opting for peace. We’ve got the Golan already, the border with Syria has been our most quiet one since 1974, we can probably afford the “cost” of a few soldiers a year to the “resistance” (Hezbollah and Hamas), and otherwise we get good wine, nice mineral water, beautiful zimmers, great fresh air, and amazing real-estate. So why should WE want to give it away? But the argument doesn’t work for Syria, or for Syrians.

December 12th, 2008, 6:17 pm

 

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