Give up the gun, go for EMBAs

By Sami Moubayed  (posted by Qifa Nabki)

Gulf News (May 27,2008) 

Three weeks ago, I went to Beirut where everybody was talking of a hot summer and expecting war between Israel and Hezbollah.

Apart from talk of this looming military confrontation between these two parties, residents of Beirut assured me that despite the incredible tensions that have plagued Lebanon for months now, a domestic clash – a prelude for a civil war – was on nobody's agenda.

One friend scoffed, "The Future Movement doesn't even hold arms; they hold EMBAs from American University of Beirut (AUB), not machine guns!"

A neutral analysis of the mid-May conflict puts blame on both Hezbollah and March 14 for resorting to arms, a tactic which, as per the agreement reached at the Doha Conference, they have now promised to refrain from adopting.

I have always argued that disarming Hezbollah is close to impossible, regardless of whether or not its members have a legitimate right to bare such arms.

Napoleon Bonaparte's famed assertion, "I can no longer obey; I have tasted command, and I cannot give it up!" applies to Hassan Nasrallah. Someone with his ambition and character cannot and will not resort to becoming head of a parliamentary bloc in the Lebanese Parliament.

Ideally, since he can neither assume the post of minister or deputy or president, if disarmed, he could best exercise his power by nominating ministers and public officers, a modern-day za'im.

Nasrallah is uninterested in the materialistic world where he can go into retirement and spend the rest of his years in Switzerland. The man, selfless in every sense, is committed to a lifetime combating Israel and promoting, protecting, and empowering the Shiites of Lebanon.

Nasrallah is here to stay in spite of the grumbling of some world powers and regional players. A majority of Lebanese people support him (and his weapons) while those who don't are completely incapable of disarming him.

The United States cannot send United Nations policemen to arrest Nasrallah. Even Israel could not militarily manage to topple him in 2006. The Lebanese government could not disarm or even provoke the Hezbollah leader.

Nasrallah does not and need not take orders from Damascus: the Syrian influence in Beirut has waned, and hence Syria's favour is no longer as necessary to help him pursue his interests.

Nasrallah might, however, step down if given orders from Ayatollah Ali Khamenei of Iran, which funds and provides the religious decree for Hezbollah to operate.

Nasrallah's ambition does not end with the liberation of the occupied Sheba'a Farms, just like it did not end with the Israeli withdrawal of 2000. Sources close to Nasrallah often say, "His ambition is Palestine: Anything short of that is unacceptable to him."

But what about the arms of 'the other?' More alarming than the appearance of armed men loyal to Hariri on the streets of Beirut was how easily they surrendered. There is nothing worse or more dangerous than an amateur militiaman who is neither steadfastly committed to his cause nor certain of his target.

Sa'ad Hariri, who is now recalculating the entire ordeal, must re-read the history of Beirut leaders to understand the nature of their relationships with weapons.

For example, in 1976, Tamam Salam created a militia – a common practice during the civil war – called Pioneers of Reform to fight Yasser Arafat's armed men, who had stormed the house of Tamam's father and ex-prime minister Saeb Salam.

When Saeb heard of his son's action he summoned the future parliamentarian and AUB graduate and angrily asked, "What is this you are doing? Use of arms, my son, is a double-edged sword. You will either kill or be killed! Are you willing to carry the burden of someone's blood?"

Tamam disarmed his short-lived militia and spent his days doing charity work for the residents of Beirut.

Whereas in Tripoli, Omar Karameh, another educated statesman from AUB, created his own militia called the Al Farouk Omar Bin Al Khattab Phalange during the war. His brother, prime minister Rashid, was enraged.

He summoned Omar and said, "We have always had faith in the state and its arms, not on the militias! Having blood on your hands is difficult Omar. Go and disband what you started!"

Omar Karameh, who became prime minister in 1992, complied.

Today, Sa'ad Hariri is a prime minister-in-waiting, likely to succeed Fouad Siniora. He must follow the advice of men such as Saeb Salam and Rashid Karameh and see to it that his followers hold EMBAs, rather than machine guns.

Time has yet to tell whether holding an EMBA and a machine gun are mutually exclusive phenomena in Lebanon. Indeed, Samir Geagea and Walid Junblatt, two veteran warlords, are graduates of AUB.

One reader, who studies in Lebanon, proved my point as she described to me of her journey out of Lebanon during the mid-May battle: "On Thursday, I was trying to escape, crossing the Masnaa borders by car, with the gun shots in the air and the chaos taking over.

"I looked over at a huge crowd whose members were gathered around burning wheels and cars. I recognised most of them: they were among my most brilliant young peers at the university with me.

"I couldn't help the tears running heavily down my face. I could not imagine those young men – Lebanon's future – were so foolish to think of killing their own brothers! And for what? It wasn't not for Lebanon!"

Sami Moubayed is a Syrian political analyst. This article appeared in Gulf News on May 27, 2008.

Comments (112)


Qifa Nabki said:

Alex,

You said on the last post:

After spending the past few years ridiculing the Syrians for being not as flexible as them (the “Arab Moderates”) … now they are saddened after learning that Syria actually listened to their advice.

Don’t forget that Syria and its allies did plenty of ridiculing of their own, calling the Sunni Arab regimes “collaborators”, “puppets”, “half-men”, “tools” of the Zionists and the neo-cons.

In fact, this is not just a media strategy for the resistance axis: it’s regarded as basic common sense.

So then why does it surprise you that the headlines would read “Syria negotiates with Israel”? I would venture to say that even a non-aligned person would find it newsworthy that a core member of the axis that regards Israel as anathema is now negotiating with the Zionist entity.

Not everything is the fault of Saudi/neo-con media, ya Alex. 😉

Nour,

I know that you place great importance on the necessity of building a functioning Lebanese state, in the fullest meaning of the term. Therefore, you must recognize that such a project chafes against the logic of the resistance, as currently formulated, does it not? I agree with you that Michael Young is dreaming if he believes that the majority camp unambiguously represents the “project of the state”. However, wouldn’t you also agree that the opposition cannot be said to represent that project either?

Furthermore, if what Sami Moubayed says above is true (i.e. that Nasrallah’s goal is nothing less than fighting Israel until Palestine is liberated), how do you envision the establishment of a functioning Lebanese state? Will it need to take place after Palestine is liberated? What are your thoughts?

May 29th, 2008, 2:17 am

 

Nidal said:

Amen! And again Amen! Excellent article.

May 29th, 2008, 3:30 am

 
 

Honest Patriot said:

Enlightened, you said “Ps I sent you a email a few months ago, no response did you get it?”
Hmm – did not get ur email; otherwise I’d have responded. I’ll try fishing in the spam folder. I’ll search for “Enlightened.” Not sure which email you used. If you’re communicating with QN he has my active email address and can send it to you. So does Alex. — Cheers

May 29th, 2008, 5:00 am

 

Enlightened said:

I like the heading “Give up the gun, go for EMBAs”

Maybe the culture of resistance can be fought this way? The cynics and those who believe in “The Resistance” are diamterically opposed “cultures”. Education or guns? Or as the article articulates those with an education did carry the gun!

I have never been a firm believer in The Resistance, I am sorry to be a party pooper, But I say this with one reservation however when my former homeland was occupied, I was one of those that “believed”

Maybe my MBA from the University of Technology in Sydney told me that holding and firing guns are not mutually exclusive, but alas I was not born into “Zaim Privilege” as Jumblatt was or Karami was.

So what is Moubayed exactly saying here?

Is he telling us, that Nasrallah has set himself some lofty goals? That liberating the Shebaa Farms is only a hoax, that he intends to Liberate Jerusalem along the resistance road,and do what Arab armies failed to do in the past, that somehow his organization can mobilize and accomplish this feat, that 22 Arab countries and all their resources could not accomplish!

“Today, Sa’ad Hariri is a prime minister-in-waiting, likely to succeed Fouad Siniora. He must follow the advice of men such as Saeb Salam and Rashid Karameh and see to it that his followers hold EMBAs, rather than machine guns.”

Why did not Moubayed offer the same advice to Nasrallah and his organization? Furthermore in what circumstances will Hezbollah be “allowed” to liberate Jerusalem if and when the Syrians get back the Golan and conclude a peace treaty with Israel?

I read this article and instantly thought of the blogger Karfan, here was his thoughts for those of you that might have forgotten:

“If we want the land back to Syria then the only way that would work is by making the Jolanis, and every Syrian, proud of being here, of belonging to Syria, standing high and loving their life on this land.
But instead of that, here is the way that King Lion the 2nd is suggesting: The way of his Guru in Lebanon and his Khomeini Party.
Is this is the way that you are going to liberate our Jolan my King? By dividing us, more than we are divided now, into gangs of Hizb Alaween and Hizb Sunna, and Hizb Druz? And let each one of them be a puppet to Iranians or Saudis or whoever-who sponsors? By letting Israelis killing every single child and every single mother and destroying every single house in return of few kilometers of burned land? By letting them bomb our soul and pride to smithereens and only stop after we had begged the whole world on our knees to convince them to stop? And what if they were as monstrous as they might be and never stop? By exchanging every one Israeli mercenary soldier life for thousands of lives of the people of Syria? By telling us that we won because the Israelis might leave you another 70m of the occupied land after they had bombed us a hundred year back and left us begging and ass-licking Saudis and Iranians and Europeans for few dollars to rebuild some roofs over our heads? Is that your great vision for the mother-land of all civilizations, Syria? Is that your great “Resistance Age”?

Once Fairouz, the great Lebanese singer was too naive to believe the sons of bitches Arab leaders who said that they wanted to liberate lands. She sang saying that the bright anger is coming to Palestine and the Al-Aqssa mosque bells will ring welcoming the Palestinians returning back to their land.
Another all-ages-great Syrian poet, Nizar Al-Kabbani, replied to her in a brilliant poem saying:
I beg your pardon Fairouz, the bright anger will never come
I beg your pardon Fairouz, Al-Aqssa returning bells will never ring
How do we return and returning needs a gun
And the gun needs a palm and the palm needs a finger
And the finger is busy, stuck up the anus of our fucked citizens

Karfan continues:
Did you listen to Nizar’s poem King Lion the 2nd?
I beg your pardon my King, the Resistance Age will never come
I beg your pardon my King, you will never liberate Jolan
For liberation needs an army, and army needs brave men
But we are cowards for we’ve been raised on fear
And we are disgusted for we’ve been brought up on mistrust
Too disgusted to lift a finger, not even in your face
Why don’t you take your fingers out of our anus for two days
Why don’t you go and fight, show us how men should be
And Take the rest of your gang and elite merchants with you
We, will be watching you from here
On a cup of matteh”

Your lawful servant
Karfan

———————————————-

I couldnt have put it more aptly Karfan, because even though I have my MBA Karfan (where ever you are) and you probably wont have one I share your sentiments about resistance. Moubayed could have given the same advice to Hezbollah give up your guns, and get educated instead. He would have appeared more credible.

May 29th, 2008, 5:08 am

 

Enlightened said:

HP:

Got it off alex back then, ended with edu.

At your educational insitution!

May 29th, 2008, 5:10 am

 

Honest Patriot said:

Enlightened – should have worked, that’s what I use. Searched the hidden folders but can’t find anything. Resend if you kept a copy.

May 29th, 2008, 5:23 am

 

Enlightened said:

HP OK!

Just sent you a quick email through my work email.

May 29th, 2008, 5:40 am

 

Shai said:

Enlightened,

Isn’t it the utmost proof of failure on behalf of humanity, that people should still be holding weapons, to force other humans into submission? I’ve been developing a personal theory for some time, which views the concept of nation-state (certainly when mixed with religion) as chiefly responsible for the continuation of bloodshed in the 20th and 21st centuries. It was used to unite people, and mostly to strengthen leaders, but has since been used to divide and to cause ruin. It is time we start looking at our world from high above, seeing it as one, not as many. Only when we realize that parts of our planet belong to none of us, but instead to all of us, can we begin to let go of our so-called nationalism. Only when we realize that God belongs to Budhists and Shinto and Muslims as much as to Jews and Christians, will we let go of religious intolerance. Only when we send our kids in kindergarten to visit with kids in Gaza, and Beirut, and Damascus, will we understand that we are all equal, and all deserving of the same future. Killing one another is as primitive today as it was 100,000 years ago. Same mindset, same weakness.

May 29th, 2008, 5:54 am

 

Shai said:

And the nuclear saga continues… http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-3549285,00.html

Why doesn’t Syria come out and say the following: “Yes, we have reactors and, in fact, already developed 149 nuclear warheads. But that’s still less than Israel! (based on Carter’s recent statement)”? I don’t even understand why the media thinks this stuff is newsworthy? It’s not like this would be the first reactor in the region, or the first time a regional power tried to hide its various programs. The only purpose it “serves”, is rallying more hotheads behind Axis-of-Evil theory followers. Time to get George Lucas on board – this could be the Star Wars VII Episode – “The Axis Menace” (subtitles in Arabic, Hebrew, and Pharisee).

May 29th, 2008, 6:05 am

 

why-discuss said:

Shai

You have a very optimistic view of the human race. What do you do with greed, jealousy, superiority feelings etc.. that have plagued people and especially religions and are responsible for violence and deaths?
You are preaching compassion, understanding that are not taught at school. Instead competition, power, economical success and pride are the ingredients that are taught today at school, university and in the media. Because of their historical excesses and abuses, religions in the west are more and more looked as suspicious and more harm than good. Humans tend to forget that ultimately we are all on the same boat with the same end.

May 29th, 2008, 6:06 am

 

Shai said:

Why-Discuss,

Very very true. I see how my youngest daughter (2 years old) is already learning to beat up on the boys in kindergarten. And the teachers there find it “so cute”… Kids in Japan are committing suicide because if they don’t get into the right kindergarten, they won’t be accepted to the right grade school, and then the right junior-high, high-school, college, and job. So much pressure, so much competition, so much misery. We need a new religion – one that addresses all these issues, and finds a way to bring us back to our basic roots of good. Yes, we are predisposed to do evil, but today have a developed enough cerebral cortex to at least begin to change. I think.

If we’re not optimistic, we’re leaving the burden to our children. That, to me, is irresponsible. If we always accepted reality for what it was, and thought we cannot change, how would we have ever been able to type to each other on cyberspace? We would still be carrying stones in our pockets, and not cellular phones, iPods, or GPS gadgets.

May 29th, 2008, 6:12 am

 

Enlightened said:

Shai:

The theory is sound, however a few things: (thinking on the fly)

1. When threatened a human (fight/flight) reaction exists
2. This has been going on since the dawn of man, The nation states are more adept at killing, since it is more organised and more resources can be “Focussed”
3. Conflicts are getting bloodier, the propensity to kill en masse is more readily available to the Nation states
4. The Will and motivation to use these weapons in conflict

I agree with Why Discuss that we are all on the same boat, but a very slow one.

If they find water on Mars in the next two weeks, lets look to emigrate? What say you?

Ps Avram Grant was hard done by! What was Roman Abramovich thinking?

But my Team got up so I cant complain!

May 29th, 2008, 6:20 am

 

Shai said:

Enlightened,

No doubt, humankind is anything but that… kind. But look at the United States, for instance. Or even Australia, though quite different. How is it that 300 million people live in “states”, yet are for the most part united, at least on the most basic issues regarding their rights and freedoms? Only 145 years ago, those same states hated and fought one another. Today, kids in Georgia wouldn’t know it if they hadn’t studied it in school. People can change, when the right environment is set up for them. This is why I’m still dreaming of a so-called UME (united middle east) in my lifetime. When we get rid of our national borders, when we don’t need land mines, and entire divisions along borders, and armies of hundreds of thousands, and military budgets that suck our economies dry, then we could consider the benefits of living and working together, for each other’s benefit. When an Arab waking up in Homs or Gaza has the same reason to smile as a Jew in Tel-Aviv, or a Christian in Beirut, then we’ll all be able to start changing some of our innate predispositions.

Stephen Hawking said exactly what you just did, about exploration of space. For humankind to survive, he claims, we need to start colonizing space. Sharing one planet seems highly problematic, it seems. I’m not sure though that we can’t become a very united earth, before actually beginning to leave it. As for Grant, yes, he did get quite a treatment from Abramovich, and I don’t quite understand why. People forget what Chelsea was like when Grant took over, less than a year ago! And he brought that team to number two, for Christ’s sake… Still, at least Grant goes home with a bit over 5 million GBP. And that’s more than enough to soothe his sour mood… 🙂 Rumors are, by the way, that Grant is leading the race to become manager of Manchester City…! Next stop, Man U?

May 29th, 2008, 6:33 am

 

Sara said:

Having arms and EMBA’s is in no way paradoxical all over the world, regardless of opinions and ”shoulds and should nots”, i find it extremely ironic that while the whole world is pointing its guns at us here in the middle east,we are expected to sit and watch and learn the naivite of pacifism. Owning a gun and an AMBA go hand in hand, in the middle east and other parts of the world. IN fact, armed conflict in general is not an irrational process. one of the most successful campaigns launched my Hizbullah is the fact that he aims at higher education, for both men and women, regardless of opinions about Nasrallah. A good majority of party members in AUB are top students and on full scholarship, those who in 2006 went and fought against Israeli bombs.

After all, George Habash and Leila Ahmed both graduated from AUB

May 29th, 2008, 7:22 am

 

Nour said:

QN,

The problem is that the people have the issue flipped upside down. The Resistance is not what is keeping a true Lebanese state from arising; it is rather the lack of a Lebanese state that gave rise to the Resistance. And while ideally it is the state that should be solely responsible for protecting the homeland, when the state, or rather those leaders who have prevented the formation of a real state, refuses to commit to defending the homeland against external aggression, then it is natural that someone within the community might fill that role.

States have armies not for pure aesthetic purposes, or just to organize parades of soldiers in an entertaining show. Rather armies are merely means to achieve an end, which is the defense of the homeland. Therefore, the actual goal is the country’s defense. In the case of Lebanon currently, the Resistance has proven to be the most effective means of defending Lebanon against Israeli threats and aggression. Disbanding the Resistance at this point without having a true state that is clearly committed to defending Lebanon against external threats is patently absurd. Thus, it is not that I support the existence of an armed group outside the state, but rather I believe that we must have an effective means of defending ourselves, and if those chieftains controlling the country refuse to allow for the rise of a true state committed to protecting and defending its citizens, then I cannot support their aim at disarming the Resistance because I know that the alternative in the current situation is not good.

As for those in the Opposition camp, I agree that not all of them are supporters of a true state project, nor do they all really even hold a concept of how to build a state. However, with things being as they are, I believe the Opposition offers a better solution for Lebanon than do the loyalists.

May 29th, 2008, 10:13 am

 

trustquest said:

QN
President Assad said recently, that the development in the Syrian Israeli talk will facilitate and encourage the road to Lebanese Israeli talk.
Aoun said on TV after the Doha agreement: that after this agreement, Lebanon can not be the only state facing Israel?
This signaling urge the question: is HA in collision with these statements. If this is the case, doesn’t look like a crack in the relation start to build up.
Is this change from previous Syrian foreign policy started the day they announce the peace talk.
Do you expect the Lebanese talk will start soon. Your views are appreciated

May 29th, 2008, 11:51 am

 

AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Nour,
Your arguments do not hold water.
1) Can Syria protect itself from Israel? If your answer is yes than once it is the Lebanese army that control the rockets of Hizballah, Lebanon could still protect itself. If your answer is no, then why can Syria get along without a “resistance” while Lebanon needs one?
2) Israel can beat the all the Arab armies fighting it at the same time. Wanting Lebanon to be able to stand alone against Israel is not realistic and is merely an excuse to stay armed.
3) The July 2006 war proved that the Hizballah weapons are useless as a defense. The Shia population in the Jnoub has not yet recovered from the war and the more weapons Hizballah has, the greater the devastation to Lebanon during a war. The weapons do not defend Lebanon, they escalate any war because it justifies a more aggressive response by Israel.
4) The only thing that can really protect the people of Lebanon is a peace agreement with Israel, something that ironically Hizballah will use their weapons to make sure never happens.

May 29th, 2008, 12:10 pm

 

wizart said:

Conference to set norms for inter-faith dialogue
By Mariam Al Hakeem, Correspondent
Published: May 29, 2008, 00:10

Riyadh: The international Islamic conference, which will begin in Makkah on Wednesday, will set guidelines for dialogue between Muslims and followers of other religions and cultures.

“The conference would discuss the basis for dialogue with other faiths in the light of the Quran and Sunnah. It will also review past experiences in the field to make use of them,” said Dr Abdullah Al Turki, secretary-general of the Makkah-based Muslim World League.

Dr Al Turki told reporters Islamic leaders, scholars, intellectuals as well as officials of Islamic centres and associations and university professors from around the world will participate in the June 4 conference.

“Invitations have already been sent to the dignitaries to attend the conference,” he said. “The conference will be a serious attempt to counter effectively the smear campaign being unleashed against Islam, Prophet Mohammad [Peace Be Upon Him] and the Quran worldwide. It will highlight the true image of Islam, which is a religion of peace and tolerance.”

The conference will focus on four pivotal topics, such as the basis of dialogue in Islam, the methodology and principles of dialogue, parties involved, and areas of dialogue.

“The first session of the three-day event will discuss a number of research papers on the concept of dialogue and its objectives in the Quran and Sunnah and experiences of cultural dialogue throughout history.

“Working papers on a number of topics such as mechanisms of dialogue and the importance of coordination among Islamic organisations in holding dialogue with other faiths will be presented in the following sessions.”

Dr Al Turki said the conference underscores the significance of the recent initiative of King Abdullah Bin Abdul Aziz for holding a reinforced dialogue between Islam, Christianity and Judaism.

Respect for others

The Joint Council for Cooperation between the Gulf Cooperation Council and European Union on Tuesday hailed the initiative of King Abdullah to have an interfaith dialogue.

The council underscored the importance of respecting other religions and cultures and rejecting all forms of intolerance and hatred. It also seeks to promote political dialogue based on mutual respect.

May 29th, 2008, 12:15 pm

 

Nour said:

AIG,

Your only interest is Israel and the ensurance of its hegemony over the region, so spare us your lectures.

We all know that not all armies around the world are on equal footing, but the idea is that each country is supposed to commit itself to defense of its homeland and builds a military power on that basis. Israel can definitely cause a lot of damage to most Arab countries, but damage does not necessarily translate to victory. Israel was not able to achieve its objectives in 2006 and it learned that by entering into these war adventures it is going to have to pay a price. This is the role and the effectiveness of the Resistance, and it proved worthy of its title.

May 29th, 2008, 12:38 pm

 

wizart said:

Matthew Simmons On Softening Oil Peak Impact

Foreign Policy interviews Houston energy investment banker Matthew Simmons (author of the book Twilight in the Desert: The Coming Saudi Oil Shock and the World Economy) about the coming world peak in oil production and what could be done to soften the economic blow of declining oil production.

FP: If you were the secretary of energy right now, what policies would you recommend to President Bush?

MS: If we restructure the way we use fuels, we might be able to get along very well with oil in decline. The single-most energy inefficient way we use oil is large trucks delivering goods over large distances. If you take all the goods that are trucked more than, say, 50 miles, onto railroad tracks, depending on the length of travel, you’d use between 3 to 10 times less energy. If you put them on a marine vessel, it’s even more efficient. So forget about just-in-time inventory. Once you get the large trucks off the road, you make a tremendous dent in traffic congestion, which is public enemy one through five on passenger car fuel efficiency.

But won’t this happen anyhow if fuel costs for vehicles double or triple? To make that shift happen now would require either high energy taxes (not going to happen) or government edict forcing less truck use and more train use (again not going to happen). If what he’s saying is true then that is great news. We can gradually migrate businesses nearer to rail lines and adjust distribution patterns to reduce energy usage. But to do that now doesn’t seem in the realm of the politically possible.

How much of transportation fuel is for trucks and how much for cars? Of the portion used by trucks how much of that is for home delivery? Also, what portion of total truck fuel use is for trips longer than, say, 50 miles or 100 miles?

My suspicion is that mail order deliveries by UPS and FedEx save fuel. People who would have driven to a store to buy something instead get the product delivered by truck to their door. Since that same truck passes through a neighborhood delivering to many other doorsteps the net effect must be a reduction in energy consumed as compared to having each purchaser drive to a store to pick up the same product. Furthermore, growth in home delivery increases fuel efficiency by allowing each delivery truck to empty its contents over a shorter delivery route.

Simmons argues for more work performed from home.

We also need to embrace the concept of distributed work. In most of our non-manufacturing commercial jobs, we assume that it’s better to have a lot of people working at the same site, even though it’s not necessary. By allowing people to work at home and keep their jobs, all they have to do is invest in communications such as video conferencing, the Internet, and cell phones.

I’ve heard claims that most work must get done in offices. But I can think of some big categories of work where that is not the case. For example, a lot of phone service work such as order taking could get done by home workers. This raises some security issues. But those issues seem like solvable problems in many cases.

Simmons wants more energy efficient agriculture.

We also have to change the way we distribute food. An amazing amount of the global food supply is transcontinental and produced by energy-intensive large-scale agriculture. Whole Foods, a successful grocery retailer, has basically created organic farming near each store it builds. The produce is less energy-intensive to grow and ship.

If fuel becomes a lot more expensive then I expect the market to provide sufficient incentive for shifts toward less energy-intensive production methods and transportation patterns. From a policy perspective the most important question is whether governments currently behave in ways that create obstacles for approaches with greater energy efficiency. Well, what government-erected obstacles can any readers see for greater energy efficiency?

The biggest obstacle I can see for greater energy efficiency in transportation is the unfriendliness of roads for bicyclists. I’d use a bicycle with perhaps a pull cart to go to a grocery store if I didn’t have to fear getting hit by a car. The bicycling would be good exercise. But peddling down narrow shoulders around parked cars strikes me as risky business.

I find credible Simmons’ arguments for why oil production is going to peak sooner than government projections. See the interview for some of his observations about various oil fields. But I’m less convinced by his argument on what we should do about falling oil production.

I think governments should lead more by example. Governments should set an example in the category of energy usage where the biggest improvements in efficiency can be achieved with the least impact on living standards. Think of energy usage as dividing up into three main categories: transportation, building heating/cooling/lighting, and industrial processes (e.g. aluminum smelting or fertilizer manufacture from natural gas). Of the three buildings seem most ripe for greatly improved efficiency using the best of today’s technology. Specifically, I’d like to see all levels of government impose building codes on themselves for their own buildings that have much higher requirements for insulation and building efficiency.

Building efficiency increases are best designed in before the buildings get constructed. Buildings last decades or even centuries. Every year that goes by without the usage of best energy efficiency practices for building construction leaves us with another year’s worth of unoptimized housing stock that we’ll be stuck with for decades to come. Governments should steer societies down the road of greater energy efficiency by imposing tough efficiency requirements on themselves. By designing government buildings to meet high energy efficiency objectives governments can save money, demonstrate what is possible using existing technology, and provide incentives to develop more energy efficient building technologies.

As for houses and commercial buildings: For starters, how about local building codes that have a standardized set of several levels of energy efficiency where each building gets built and certified as meeting some level. Each house could get built to whichever level the builder or owner chooses. Then that level gets included in the title. When the house or apartment building or commercial building goes on the market it can have an energy efficiency rating revealed in ads and during inspections. Building efficiency information would serve a purpose similar to that of car fuel efficiency ratings.

Suppose the oil peak comes sooner as Simmons expects. Oil can rise above substitute replacement costs but only temporarily. Also, economies will contract before driving oil to $200 per barrel. I expect oil shale, oil tar sands, wind, coal, and nuclear to substitute on different time scales. Suppose the oil peak pessimists are right. What’s the worst we are in for?
—————————

Simmons think oil is still too cheap at current levels of $130 PBR.

May 29th, 2008, 12:41 pm

 

ausamaa said:

Qifa Nabki siad:

“Don’t forget that Syria and its allies did plenty of ridiculing of their own, calling the Sunni Arab regimes “collaborators”, “puppets”, “half-men”, “tools” of the Zionists and the neo-cons.”

Dear Qifa, and what would YOU have called those guys?

The Wise leaders of the Arab world? Liberators of Palestine? Fighters of Israeli Occupation? Honest Partiots in search of Arab Rights, Freedom and Democracy? Charitable sloes who go out of their way to help the hungry and the needy?

What Assad has called them did not do them full justice. Gaza is dying and they can not even attempt to send Food and Midicine. Egypt is dying and they sell Egyptian Gas at lower prices to Israel than to their own starved people, Iraqies are slaughtered and they are coulld not care less.

They are slaves, not only half men. They are the Ghulman of Bush and the neocons. They are the Judas of our time pure and simple.

THey are cowards, opportunists, conspirators against the Arabs and their own people, and the knives that BUsh uses when he he can not get what he wants done through his own forces in Iraq and elsewhere. But, thanks God they are loosing, and they will lose, because they are even more cowardly than to declare what they are: The Tools of the US and Israel in the area. And forget the Sunni-Shieat stuff, we will not hava Fitna over paid Sunni mercanaries in Zawareeb Beirut and Triploi, and we have more pro-Nassrallah Sunnies in Damascuse and Cairo alone than the total Wahabi population of Saudi and mini Hariri Sunnies in Lebanon combined. No Sunnies in Syria, Egypt, Jordan, Palestine, and up to Morroco is scared of Shieats, they are more botherd by the stanic raven eyes of Saud al Faisal and more suspicious of what he is cocucting in the dark tunnels of his mind than over what Ahmadi Najad is doing.

AS to Siniora, and Feb 14 including the Saudi mini Harriri. I am afraid they understand only one language which needs to be used by the Opposition once again soon in Lebanon. Call it what you want, but you can not. Public opinion can be taken care of later on. Hisorical Change comes out of the barrel of a gun and out of the the will of the majority of the people in Lebanon.

After the Feb 14 recent act in nominating Siniora as PM, those guys are hell bent on deception and evasion, not reconcilliation and building a state. Maybe they acted under US/Saudi pressure, but that is not enough excecuse. If you are happy with them, then I as a Syrian and as an Arab is not. And the dammage they can do extends far beyound Lebanon’s boarder, so they can not be left to act as they wish. The answer to their actions should be tough and Decicive. If it comes from General Sulieman, Aoun, Nassrallah, Arslan, from Iraq, from Gaza, or from anywhere, the response must be sweeping and tough. THey are too shameless, evasive and dangerous to be left to act on their own. They have proved that they are looking for a ceasefire not for recouncilliatioin. And they should be answered in kind. Let us await a new stalemate over the compostion of the new governmnt, or a stalemate over its Policy Speach. Then we shall see whether they will decide to bow down or wether round two will start.

Go listen to what Haikal said today in Egypt, and he is not a pro-Syrian Baathi, nor is he is Hizbullah fighter. Maybe you will get a different sample of you read in Al Nahar, Alk Sharq Al Awsat and Elaph.

Thirty Pieces of Silver, that is what the Feb 14 stooges of your halfmen remind us of.. in Egyptian slang once more: هيدول ناس بيخافو بس ما بيختيشوش

!!!!!…..مبروك العرس اللبناني الجديد ما دامت أم العروس

May 29th, 2008, 1:31 pm

 

ghat Albird said:

QN and others.
Belated congratulations to all concerned in Lebanon and those who assisted in taking the first steps in assisting each other in becoming the best that they can be.

Now should be the time when the Lebanese Government on behalf of all its citizens requests from the UN that immediate steps be taken to relocate the Palestenian refugees in Lebanon back to their original homes and communities.

Such an event cannot be but a just, fair and a humane progress for all concerned. To continue to force the Lebanese people and their representatives to act as wardens of some several hundred thousand displaced human beings can only add to the noxious and injurious conditions to most all Lebanese who have borne the onus of deeds and misdeeds by others.

It would add vox populi to the overdue resolution of a condition that has in some form victimized the people of Lebanon for close to 60 years. While probably not a 100% guarantee of a panacea, the sooner the relocations begin the better a less friction environment can only result for all concerned.

May 29th, 2008, 2:02 pm

 

David said:

As I read the discussion of nation states in this thread, I am reminded of the story in the great Japanese film “The Seven Samurai” in which a group of unemployed samurai wariors agree to protect a village of farmers from the predations of a group of cut-throat marauders who raid the village every year, kill any men who fight them, then carry off most of the harvest. The villagers are mostly peaceful folk and not disposed to fighting or even possession of weapons -ie they are powerless against armed criminals.

Kurosawa, many critics say, may have intended this story to show that warfare is to protect the common people from criminal predators, with the samurai saying at the end that the peasants have won, as always, and the samurai are left with nothing to show for their magnificent effort to wipe out the bandits and save the village, other than the satisfaction of having done a noble deed.
There is, however, another sub-rosa story in this tale that has to do with the establishment of the nation state – whoever holds a monopoly on violence is in a position to extract ‘tribute’ from the citizens, who can either be robbed and killed by ignoble bandit warriors, or submit to a more honorable class of warriors who accept less of the produce of their labor in exchange for protection. This suggests the usefulness of a hierarchy of social organization to control disorder within and violence or threat of violence from outside the polity.

The larger question, which Kurosawa doesn’t address, is the actual historical record of human social organization, where the pattern is repeatedly one in which the ‘noble warriors’ don’t just drift off into the sunset, but replace the bandits – they become the militia. This model, the historically more accurate one, reflects the problem of evil in the human project, the sociopathic capability within the human specie, if you will, and the effort for at least 10,000 years that we know of, for humans to devise sociallly organized systems, from the village to the state, that reduce uncontrolled brigandry to something less costly – and deadly.

When enough ‘villages’ within a geographically defined area have achieved peace with each other through warfare and treaties, you have the essential rudiments of social organization to form a state. The practical problem in this paradigm is that the men who love war are always a threat to start a new war, and can always find sponsors and propagandists among the ‘takers’ (sociopaths) in their population who covet other peoples’ stuff.

When Sami questions: “Time has yet to tell whether holding an EMBA and a machine gun are mutually exclusive phenomena in Lebanon. Indeed, Samir Geagea and Walid Junblatt, two veteran warlords, are graduates of AUB.”, he is pointing directly at the dichotomy confronting Lebanon, but it is just as important a question in much of the rest of the world, and acutely so in the ME today.

So I join Shai in the camp of optimists (ok, dreamers) who see progress in the human project and hold out that more is possible as we stumble toward peace.

May 29th, 2008, 2:22 pm

 

norman said:

Syrian media says Sarkozy praises Assad in call

Reuters
Thursday, May 29, 2008
DAMASCUS: French President Nicolas Sarkozy praised Damascus’ efforts to help end the 18-month Lebanon crisis during a phone call with his Syrian counterpart Bashar al-Assad on Thursday, Syrian state media reported.

The call signalled a thaw in relations between Syria and France, which last year rebuked Damascus over what it said was its failure to help resolve the conflict. In December Sarkozy ordered his government to halt diplomatic contacts with Syria.

A deal mediated by Qatar this month ended the standoff between Lebanon’s ruling coalition and an opposition alliance led by Hezbollah — a group backed by both Damascus and Tehran.

Sarkozy, whose foreign minister failed last year to mediate an end to the crisis, “praised the intensive efforts made by (Assad) to make the Doha agreement succeed”, Syrian news agency SANA reported.

There was no immediate word from Paris on the phone call.

France, Lebanon’s former colonial power, backed the ruling coalition through the crisis, along with the United States and Arab countries including Saudi Arabia.

The Lebanon conflict turned violent this month, killing 81 people and triggering the Qatari-led mediation bid.

The Doha agreement secured the opposition’s demand for veto power in a new cabinet and paved the way to the election of army chief Michel Suleiman as president on Sunday. Lebanon had been without a president since November.

Syria dominated Lebanon until 2005 when the Beirut assassination of statesman Rafik al-Hariri triggered international pressure that forced Damascus to withdraw troops from its neighbour.

But Damascus still wields substantial influence over politics in Lebanon through allies including Hezbollah and the Amal movement.

(Editing by Mary Gabriel)

——————————————————————————–
Notes:

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Copyright © 2008 The International Herald Tribune | http://www.iht.com

May 29th, 2008, 2:27 pm

 

Shai said:

Wizart,

Though I am not a religious person myself, and I happen to believe that much pain and suffering in the history of mankind was caused by religion (or those who interpreted it as they did), I still find this conference in Mecca a blessed thing. May it pave the way for a new era of interfaith tolerance and discussion. Perhaps religious leaders can do a far better job at bringing us together, than our so-called “political leaders”. Amen.

May 29th, 2008, 2:28 pm

 

wizart said:

Ghat,

Thanks for supporting the role of the UN in helping solve outstanding problems. It can only do that if its stature increased and its budget was augmented. The US now doesn’t even pay its dues to the UN which is now used mostly as a rubber stamp for its foreign policy decisions in addition to a minor humanitarian role.

More Europeans, Gulf Nationals and others could support that if there was an organized effort to restructure and empower the UN.

Oil supplies are very tight and the Middle East sits on enormous wealth so these refugee problem has no reason to persist as it is.

May 29th, 2008, 2:33 pm

 

ausamaa said:

From Al Safir Newspaper

على الطريق

حـق الأغلبيـة وحـق الرئيـس ..

طلال سلمان

لا أحد يناقش في حق الأغلبية النيابية أن تسمي من تختاره مرشحاً لرئاسة الحكومة الأولى في العهد الجديد… لكن المؤكد أن الرئيس ميشال سليمان كان يفضل أن يتم تجنيبه الدخول، منذ اليوم الأول، في الاشتباك السياسي الذي عطّل الحكم لمدة تقارب سنتين، وتسبّب بإلحاق الأذى بصورة الدولة وصدّع الوحدة الوطنية بما أنذر بفتنة عمياء، ما يزال شبحها الأسود ماثلاً في الأفق.
بصيغة أخرى: من المؤكد أن الرئيس ميشال سليمان كان يتمنى أن ينجح في أن يكون وصوله إلى الرئاسة «فرصة» للتلاقي بين المتخاصمين، فيتم تشكيل حكومة وحدة وطنية، يحظى المرشح لرئاستها بما يشبه الإجماع، مثله، ـ وقد كان هذا متيسراً ـ … مما يؤكد تلاقي الموالاة والمعارضة، بعد دهر من الجفاء، واستعدادهما لتثبيت صورة التوافق الوطني العام، الذي تجلى في اتفاق الدوحة، عبر الحكومة الأولى كما عبر الرئيس الأول. ولا جدال في أن مرشحاً بما يشبه الإجماع للرئاسة الثالثة أفضل للبلاد، عموماً، وللرئيس سليمان خصوصاً من مرشح سماه ثمانية وستون نائباً وامتنع عن تسميته تسعة وخمسون نائباً..
نقول هذا بمعزل عن «الأحكام» التي أصدرها «الرأي العام» حول حدود مسؤولية كل طرف من الأطراف السياسيين، في الموالاة والمعارضة، عن الأزمة الخانقة التي كادت تزهق أنفاس اللبنانيين وتخرجهم من بلادهم يأساً من مستقبلهم فيها…
… وبمعزل عن الانشطار الحاد الذي عطّل الحياة السياسية، والدولة كمرجعية، باستقطابات هددت وحدة الشعب وارتدت به إلى حيث تبدى مجموعة من الطوائف والمذاهب والقبائل والعشائر تفصل بينها خنادق من الخصومة السياسية التي سرعان ما تحولت إلى جفاء فمقاطعة متبادلة فعدائية مدمرة.
بمعزل عن هذا كله، كان المواطن البسيط يأمل أن يكون التوافق على شخص الرئيس الجديد مدخلاً إلى حقبة سياسية مختلفة يمكن اعتبارها «هدنة» أو «فرصة لمراجعة المواقف»، مع التخفف من عبء الشعور بالانكسار، والتلاقي عبر الرئيس سليمان على حكومة محددة الوظيفة، ومحدودة العمر زمنياً، ولكنها مؤهلة لأن تحدث انفراجاً نفسياً، وتيسر أمام الرئيس الأول فرصة الظهور بالصورة التي طلبها اللبنانيون (والعرب ومعظم دول العالم) فيه: المجسِّد للتلاقي حول ما يحفظ الوحدة الوطنية… خصوصاً أن هذه الصورة بالذات هي التي جعلته، عبر تجربته المميزة في قيادة الجيش، مرشح الإجماع ثم الرئيس بما يشبه الإجماع.
لقد كان أمام الأغلبية الفرصة لكي تمد يدها إلى المعارضة التي يعرف اللبنانيون جميعاً أنها لا تقل في قوتها التمثيلية الشعبية عنها، إذا ما استبعدنا التفاضل بأحجام المؤيدين والمناصرين، فتمهد بذلك لطي صفحة من المخاصمة التي تجاوزت بنتائجها المدمرة على المجتمع حدود «اللعبة السياسية» وفتحت أبواب جهنم أمام هذا الوطن الصغير.
وكان الأمل أن يعود الجميع إلى أرض اللعبة السياسية ذاتها، حفظاً لما بذله الأشقاء العرب من جهد حتى كان اتفاق الدوحة الذي رأى فيه اللبنانيون مخرجاً لائقاً يحفظ «كرامة» الأطراف جميعاً، ويساعدهم على الولوج إلى مرحلة التوافق بعد قطيعة استطالت زمناً وحدة فكان لا بد أن تتحول إلى خصومة فمواجهة.
وكان الأمل أن تتحول فرصة التلاقي من حول «الرئيس بالإجماع» إلى توافق تجسده حكومة للوحدة الوطنية، بما يمكِّن «العهد الجديد» من أن يحمل البشارة بطي الصفحة السوداء للمحنة التي عصفت بلبنان فكادت تذهب بوحدته ودولته.
وعسى ألا تكون «الكيدية»، بلدية أو مستوردة، هي ما أملى هذه الخطوة غير الموفقة، والتي تنذر بأن تفرض على رئيس الجمهورية أن يتحول إلى طرف في صراع مرير اجتهد طوال ثلاث سنوات على تجنب الانجرار إلى التورط فيه، ونجح في أن يستنقذ موقعه ووحدة الجيش ففاز بالثقة الشاملة التي أوصلته إلى سدة الرئاسة… ومؤسف أن تكون قد سبقته إليها خلافات من وما قبله فشوشت عليه دوره.

May 29th, 2008, 2:39 pm

 

wizart said:

Shai we all hope so and above all we hope it’s not just a public relation effort to help the image makers of life long politicians.

I am more excited about oil skyrocketing and the world increasingly looking to do business in the Gulf. The biggest gas station in the world can do wonders to bring peace to the region.

May 29th, 2008, 2:44 pm

 

Shai said:

In’shalla. Btw Wizart, today I had a “nostalgic” trip down memory lane, seeing where I started here on SC. And I saw some of our earliest comments to one another: http://joshualandis.com/blog/?p=575#comment-107489. Let us continue our intellectual engagements in that spirit, as long as we can. I know I can learn a lot from you.

May 29th, 2008, 2:57 pm

 

AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Nour,
You are evading the question. If Syria can defend itself without a “resistance” why does Lebanon need a resistance? If Hizballah would give its rockets to the Lebanese government to be used only against Israel in case of Israeli aggression, why would that be a different case than the current situation in Syria?

May 29th, 2008, 3:04 pm

 

Qifa Nabki said:

Ausamaa,

Remember what the doctor ordered: gardening. (You’ll need as much of this kind of therapy as you can get, because Bashar seems to be inching ever closer to a peace agreement with the Zionist entity.)

Nour,

The problem is that the people have the issue flipped upside down. The Resistance is not what is keeping a true Lebanese state from arising; it is rather the lack of a Lebanese state that gave rise to the Resistance.

True. But that is history. If we look at the current situation, the fact of the resistance is playing just as significant a role in thwarting the emergence of the state, because it is stronger than the government itself, it is the sole authority in large parts of the country, etc. As you say:

And while ideally it is the state that should be solely responsible for protecting the homeland, when the state, or rather those leaders who have prevented the formation of a real state, refuses to commit to defending the homeland against external aggression, then it is natural that someone within the community might fill that role.

Again, I agree. But you are now speaking about the resistance as a national defense, rather than an armed force that is playing a role in an extra-Lebanese struggle. I want my country to have a strong defense, just as you do. I’m not interested in an army that sits on the borders and is reduced to “recording violations”, like U.N. observers every time Israel sends jets into our airspace. We need a proper defense strategy, and Hizbullah’s weapons and its tactical experience should be at its core.

However, the resistance as it is currently articulated in Lebanon has not shown signs of acting solely as a defense force. As Moubayed says above, there are regular glimpses of the fact that Nasrallah has his sights on Palestine. If the issues of Shebaa and Kfar Shuba are anything more than pretexts, then why doesn’t Syria definitively demarcate its borders so that there is official recognition that they are Lebanese? Once that is done, then Israel could theoretically pull out of those small areas so that Hizbullah will have achieved every one of its goals, and can change its strategy to that of defense, pure and simple?

Disbanding the Resistance at this point without having a true state that is clearly committed to defending Lebanon against external threats is patently absurd. Thus, it is not that I support the existence of an armed group outside the state, but rather I believe that we must have an effective means of defending ourselves…

How is what you are saying (which is valid) inconsistent with incorporating Hizbullah into a national defense strategy?

May 29th, 2008, 3:06 pm

 

AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Ausamma,
Let’s see. Which Arab country has the most occupied territory? Syria. In fact it is the only Arab country that still has occupied territory since Syria still has not acknowledge that Sheba is not theirs.

Which country has recently been attacked and did not respond at all? Syria.

Which country even though it has a border with Lebanon did not fire ONE missile at Israeli planes in July 2006? Syria.

Is there anyone stopping Syria from sending medicine and aid to Gaza? No, Syria can easily act on its own.

So given the above, who are the half men? Who betrayed the Lebanese and did not come to their help? Who is not willing to risk a war to free the Golan but is willing to risk Lebanon for its own self interest? The answer is simple and clear.

As for recommending use of force to solve internal problems, be careful what you wish for and what you support. If force should be used to solve issues in Lebanon, why not also issues in Syria?

May 29th, 2008, 3:12 pm

 

Qifa Nabki said:

Trustquest,

I could not agree more with you (and President Assad) that the development in the Syrian-Israeli talks will facilitate and encourage the road to Lebanese-Israeli talks. This is why a peace deal between Syria and Israel would be the best thing that ever happened to Lebanon.

As for Hizbullah’s “collision” with this strategy… I don’t think that Hizbullah will necessarily collide with it. I think that its leaders are smart enough to know that the resistance cannot continue forever, and that the future of the party will be about empowering and protecting Lebanese Shiites rather than fighting Israel…

The only question is: how will Hizbullah manage this transition? One could make the argument that they are in transition at this very moment, and that the next parliamentary elections (in 2009) will be a crucial turning point for the party, especially if they win big (which I believe they will). At that point, and depending on how far along the peace talks with Israel are going, Nasrallah will face an opportunity to accelerate the Hizb’s integration process. If anyone can do it, he can… but it will be a significant challenge, and I believe that Lebanon will be stronger for it.

May 29th, 2008, 3:16 pm

 

Qifa Nabki said:

Nour,

Here’s Naim Qassem speaking today. This is what I had in mind, above. What are your thoughts?

Hizbullah’s second in command, Sheikh Naim Qassem, said Thursday that the party is ready to discuss a national defense strategy, but would not give up “our resistance and our weapons.”
“If we give up our weapons, then who would protect us and protect Lebanon from Israeli aggression?” Qassem asked in a televised interview.

“We agree to a defense strategy that enables our army to protect Lebanon and prevent Israeli aggression. Then, the weapons issue would be settled within this defense strategy,” Qassem added.

May 29th, 2008, 3:24 pm

 

AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

QN,
I hope you are right, but there is one point that does not gel. That is the issue of Iran and its billions of dollars investment in Hizballah. The Iranians view Hizballah as a strategic asset because they think it threatens Israel. If Hizballah transition away from being a resistance, they will get into a fight with Iran the result of which will be that the Iranians will cut funding and that will hurt Hizballah’s social help network and weaken Hizballah significantly. So Hizballah are in a bind that makes any peaceful solution problematic for them.

May 29th, 2008, 3:25 pm

 

Qifa Nabki said:

AIG

I am trying to take Nasrallah’s word for the fact that Hizbullah is a Lebanese national resistance, and that they only have Lebanon’s interests at heart. If I accept your premise that Hizbullah is nothing more than an Iranian strategic asset, then I have to commit myself to a view of the political situation in Lebanon as a cynical clash of civilizations, in which every party is basically just an extension of a foreign power.

That may well be true. But if it is, there is no point in imagining a better future for my country. So I choose to believe otherwise…

May 29th, 2008, 3:28 pm

 

why-discuss said:

Nour AIG

Because of its military weakness and complex society, Lebanon has always wanted to play on the two scenes: The Monte Carlo scene and The Resistance scene. While south Lebanon was occupied, the fate of the southern cities and population was totally ignored by the lebanese goverment in the frenzy of the the Mont Carlo syndrome in the 60-75. It is because the south resisted and kicked out the IDF and because of the disturbing presence of the palestinian refugees that the lebanese government started to recognize reluctantly and discreetly the Resistance identity. Recognizing it openly and aligning officially with it would expose Lebanon to become a target for Israel and a pariah in the international business and financial world. Therefore the choice was to “support” the resistance minimally and insure there are enough voices opposing it to make it appear as rejected by part of the population. Rafic Hariri was the master of ceremony then
This delicate game could not be played long. The Resistance grew into a more vocal and social organization and started to ask for official recognition and more political representation in association with opposition leaders.
This is what happened in Doha after the forcing by the Resistance.
Now Lebanon will have a government where the Resistance would have a veto power. This is anathema for the US: “A terrorist” group with a political weight and a veto power!
This may explain why the majority, for fear of loosing the US and international support have opted for Siniora, loved and praised by Rice and the E.U instead of an unknown.
While I disapprove this choice, it was the only one that would preserve an appearance of continuity, so as not to frighten the economical donors.
On a short term, it can create that illusion. But if there is no coherent defense stategy for Lebanon that would include joined forced of the army and Hezbollah military wings as well as a political strategy to deal with Israel, the problems won’t be solved.
Let us remember that Israel’s only goal in Lebanon is to ensure Lebanon will keep the 500,000 palestinians. A Lebanese governement opposing this view with military and political actions is a bad omen for Israel. This is why Israel is rushing into a peace deal with Syria (who would will keep its Palestinians) to isolate Lebanon as they know that Lebanon, because of its resentment toward Syria, will not join in and would end up by being forced to accomodate the palestinians on its territory.
If that Syria-Israel peace deal works its way up, Lebanon has to quickly court Syria to join the train. Seeing Siniora going to Damascus to plead Bashar not to exclude Lebanon from that deal would be a real humiliation.
Yet, playing fully the resistance game could be the ruin of the country. Rafic Hariri was able to play that delicate and dangerous political and economical game, would Sleiman be his successor by adding the military dimension?

May 29th, 2008, 3:48 pm

 

AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

QN,
Hizballah is an Iranian asset but it is not “nothing more than an Iranian asset”. It is also a Lebanese party that thinks that Lebanese and Iranaian interests align so they can have both at heart.

And the issue of money from Iran is not an issue of beleif or an issue of the heart. If Hizballah is not useful for Iran, it will not get money from Iran. In that case its social services network may fall apart and Hizballah will lose much of its popularity. Irregardless of what Hizballah believe, they are in a bind.

May 29th, 2008, 3:50 pm

 

Observer said:

Although I do not agree fully with the conclusions of the following article, I do believe that the recent peace overtures fit into this thinking of a post US-Israel exclusive alliance.

This article comes right after a speech during the graduation ceremony at Princeton that argued against the hostage taking of the US foreign policy by the Israeli lobby.

So I see a combined trend: one Israeli which is seeing a waning of US influence and the other American where there is weariness with the Likud policies in the ME and the failure of the Project for the New American Century and the ideas of Richard Perle & Co.

The strategy now is the wedge strategy of creating wedges between the various protagonists with other elements within each’s enviroment: wedge between HA and the Coalition, wedge between Syria and Iran, wedge between India and China, wedge between Russia and the EU. The problem with such a strategy whether it is on the part of the US or Israel or both lies in the inherent destabilization that it entails, whcih can spin out of control, and the weakening of those trying to create wedges as they will be perceived as desperate just as the latest overtures appear desperate to save Olmert in the short term and some control over the Golan and the water over the long term.
Here is Dominique Moisi’s article in the daily star today:
Is a post-America Israel beginning to take shape?
By Dominique Moisi
Commentary by
Thursday, May 29, 2008

Israel is one of the only places in the world where US President Georges W. Bush can be greeted with real enthusiasm and even affection. The most unpopular American president in recent history thus relished his recent triumphal welcome in Jerusalem, where he was the guest of honor of the International Conference planned and devised by Israeli President Shimon Peres on the occasion of the 60th anniversary of the creation of the Jewish state.

Historical revisionism was near the top of the agenda, with the United States portrayed as Israel’s most faithful supporter and ally since 1948. But in fact, George C. Marshall, the US secretary of state in 1948, sought to prevent President Harry Truman from recognizing Israel. Likewise, the Suez crisis of 1956, when the US thwarted a joint French, British, and Israeli plan to seize the Suez Canal, was presented in a politically correct light, as were Henry Kissinger’s complex diplomacy during the October war of 1973.

The hugging and kissing between Bush, Peres and Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert were undeniably moving, but they were also troubling – and not only because serious references to the Palestinians were, for the most part, not on the agenda. One had the feeling that this was something akin to dancing on the Titanic – the culmination of a privileged partnership at its tipping point, a grand gala for something that was about to disappear.

This is not only a matter of leaders – Bush and Olmert – on their way out. Beyond the celebration of eight exceptional years of “unique friendship” under Bush, it also seemed clear that the 41-year-old special relationship inaugurated by the 1967 war, when the US became Israel’s main backer, might be coming to an end.

The next US president, whether he is Barack Obama or John McCain, will certainly maintain the close bilateral alliance. But it will not be the same: Even if America remains an indispensable nation, it will no longer be the only one. While Bush was in Jerusalem, so too was India’s Lakmar Mittal, the king of the world’s steel industry. If Bush was the departing present, Mittal represents the incipient future, in which America will have to share influence with emerging powers such as China, India, Russia, Brazil, and eventually, if its members get their act together, the European Union.

In fact, Israelis are already debating the meaning of the emerging post-American “multipolar world” for their country’s security. Will it really be such a bad thing, or might it hold some redeeming value?

The close bond between Israel and Bush’s America can in retrospect be seen as a mixed blessing: a special relationship that contributed to the declining attractiveness of both countries. Israel, rightly, may not be ready to exchange US support for that of any other power, but Israeli leaders, having kept all their eggs in one basket for so long, will now have to factor not only American concerns and interests into their decision-making, but those of the other powers as well.

Thus, the problem for Israel is not to replace the backing provided by “300 million Americans,” as Bush put it in Jerusalem, but to add to it the sympathetic interest of more than 3 billion Chinese, Indians, Russians and others in Israel’s future in a pacified Middle East. The question is not so much one of substituting alliances, but of creating a complementary system of security.

In their effort to achieve international respect and legitimacy as stakeholders in today’s evolving international system, countries such as China, India, and even Russia have a greater interest in stability than in global confusion. For them, a nuclear Iran led by President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is seen more as a threat than as a card they can play, even if their actions thus far in regard to Iran do not always match their long-term strategic interests.

In fact, when it comes to deterring Iran from developing nuclear weapons – or, for that matter, exerting pressure on Israel and the Palestinians (including Hamas) to reach a compromise – a group of powers such as the US, China, India, and Russia might produce better results than a sole superpower imprisoned by its own contradictions and limitations.

Israel’s nimble society and economy seem perfectly designed for the post-American era of political and economic globalization. Equally important, Israel will be forced to confront the reality of Palestinian despair, which the unique relationship with America has allowed it to obfuscate and evade for too long.

Dominique Moisi, a founder and senior adviser the French Institute for International Relations,

is currently a professor at the College of Europe in Natolin, Warsaw. THE DAILY STAR publishes this commentary in collaboration with Project Syndicate (c) (www.project-syndicate.org).

May 29th, 2008, 4:34 pm

 

Abdel Halim Hafez said:

Good article overall, but with regard to Sunni leaders and weapons, I am afraid Sami Moubayed is embellishing reality. The Karame militia was not a real one, just fifty or sixty bodyguards. They did not dismantle it on a matter of principle but because they were overpowered by Fatah.

As for Salam the elder, Saeb Salam, he was very corrupt and not opposed to militias. He had his own ruthless militia in 1958 and it took part in the civil war.

In 1975, he attempted to get Lybian, Egyptian or Saudi money to fund his own militia, but to no avail. They preferred to fund the Murabitun who were more ideological and less concerned with monetary concerns than Salam.
When he couldn’t create a real militia, he dismantled his little one (they ended up joining one of Fatah’s thuggish offshoots) and he left Lebanon. He came back in 1993 after a trip to Damascus where he thanked Hafez el Assad for all his “good deeds in Lebanon.”

May 29th, 2008, 4:54 pm

 

Shai said:

AIG,

Although I agree with you that Hezbollah has a problem supporting peace with Israel (while maintaining its dependency on Iran), I do not believe that by morphing into a purely political and/or incorporating into the Lebanese Army, Iran will stop its funding. While Iran is certainly happy to see and support anti-Israeli resistance movements all around us, that is not the main reason it is funding HA, or even Hamas. It needs these two first and foremost for their religious adherence, and for their participation in eventually turning the region into a union of Islamic nations, and if possible, under Iranian leadership. Iran is investing well in such movements, that have since yielded great results. Both have become (through democratic processes!) very powerful political parties, both are leading their perspective nations by resisting the enemy, both are proving their commitments and capabilities, and both remain loyal to Iran.

Just because one day Hezbollah may have to be part of negotiations between Israel and Lebanon, and Hamas may have to sign a peace treaty with Israel, doesn’t mean Iran is out of the picture. I give Iran enough credit to assume they’ve thought this chess game twenty moves ahead, at least, and already know that as long as HA and Hamas are alive, the Islamic Republic is beating in the hearts of many a citizens in this region. I imagine most secular nations around us fear Iran not for its military or nuclear intentions, but rather for its religious ones. And that is why only peace can have a chance at reversing this tendency. We may fail, but we must at least try, collectively, Arabs and Israelis.

May 29th, 2008, 6:10 pm

 

Shai said:

Wizart,

Bahrain has just nominated a Jewish woman as its ambassador to Washington! That’s amazing. http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-3549662,00.html

May 29th, 2008, 6:18 pm

 

Shai said:

And here’s the invitation at last: http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/988467.html

Any bets? 🙂

May 29th, 2008, 6:29 pm

 

offended said:

oh, syriacomment’s readers are in for a treat tonight with 3abd al 7aleem hafez aboard.

May 29th, 2008, 6:34 pm

 

offended said:

Shai,
I still don’t understand the fuss behind Assad visiting Jerusalem or not. Really, what is it so significant? there must be some deep symbolic menaing but I still fail to grasp it.

P.s.: i read your meticulous article on creative syria and gave you the 5 stars! CBM suggests you do the same for me as well:P

May 29th, 2008, 6:41 pm

 

Qifa Nabki said:

Shai

Will betting “yes” make it so? If it will, then “yes”! 😉

Let’s see what happens. Things might be moving just a little too quickly for Bashar if he wants to time the “peak” with the arrival of a new American president. He needs to be careful not to let things run away with him… especially if Olmert is dead meat.

Bashar should bide his time for a few more months, keep the situation calm in Lebanon, work out those last few details on the Golan deal, and begin typing up his “Dear John” letter to Ahmadinejad.

If he has all of his ducks in a row when Obama is elected (inshallah), then he’ll also have the political muscle of the world’s only superpower behind him…

So I’d say to Bashar: take a raincheck on that invitation to Jerusalem.

May 29th, 2008, 6:43 pm

 

Nour said:

QN,

I am not disputing YOUR intentions in building a national defense strategy that incorporates the experience and know-how of HA into the national army. I have no doubt that your intentions in this area are genuine, for all concerned citizens would like to have a strong national army capable of defending Lebanon. What I am disputing are the intentions of the Lebanese sectarian leaders. I don’t believe for one minute that they have any intention of building a real state, and therefore I don’t believe we are in a position to simply disband the Resistance without having achieved certain steps in advance. We need to work on overhauling the Lebanese system and bringing a truly effective governing system to Lebanon before we engage in dismantling our best and most effective means of defending ourselves.

May 29th, 2008, 7:11 pm

 

Shai said:

Offended,

You’re the best. If Alex would allow me, I would give you 7 stars! I’ll make comments on CS either later tonight, or tomorrow. Your piece was very interesting and can teach us a lot. I immediately linked it to a few people here in Israel. It’s absolutely essential that Israelis hear Syrians out, their concerns, their fears, their hopes and prayers. As for Bashar coming to Jerusalem (or inviting an Israeli PM to Damascus), you must understand that for Israelis, so much of it is about emotion. I kid you not, I will never forget it. I was 8 years old when Sadat stepped off that plane in Ben Gurion Airport. Adult men, women, and children, were crying all around me as we watched the black-and-white TV screens showing the historic moment before our very eyes. People couldn’t contain their deepest feelings, and hopes, for peace. We need that again, Offended. We need to shake the numbness out of many Israelis, who were once in Rabin’s days pro-peace with Syria, and were willing to do away with the Golan. The ongoing distrust, fear, and suspicion Israelis have towards their Arab neighbors are based more on emotion than on solid rationale. The bad side to this, is that it is indeed irrational. The good side, is that it can hopefully be reversed without much effort. A visit by Bashar, or an invitation to Damascus, will once again bring tears to our eyes, but this time tears of hope. Having said all that, I know it is unlikely. But perhaps that’s precisely why it should happen… 🙂

QN,

You’re very right. Now is not the time. Bashar needs to continue playing it right until we see who’s next in DC. I’m willing to pay top dollars (or Euro) for a copy of that “Dear John” letter to Ahmadinejad! But I have a feeling he’ll first write a “Dear John” letter to… John Sidney McCain… or Barack Obama.

May 29th, 2008, 7:11 pm

 

Alex said:

Offended,

3eib 3aleik ya zalemeh! … you are bribing other authors with stars?

Baseeta.

Shai,

One of the photos I added to the top of the page on CF was this one

It shows you how Bashar’s father felt the day Sadat paid him a visit in Damascus to deliver the “dear John” letter in person, on his way to Jerusalem.

What followed was a decade of Pan Arab boycott of Egypt, … Hafez Assad’s led the boycott.

Syria does not want to make the same mistake. You know … Syria does not want to divorce wife #1 to marry wife #2 … I guess Syria wants to marry two at the same time.

: )

May 29th, 2008, 7:30 pm

 

Shai said:

Alex, yes, I understand that. But you know how I feel about the emotional part that’s missing in Israel. And that, I’m afraid, is one of the fastest ways to change public opinion. Talking “rationally” about Syria in front of Israelis may achieve something. But having a Syrian come to talk about Syria can achieve tenfold. But I recognize and understand Syria’s (and in particular Bashar’s) position.

I won’t say that I wish Israel could marry two wives… I may get in trouble with my (1) wife… 😉

May 29th, 2008, 7:39 pm

 

Wizart said:

Sara,

Thanks for your contribution to this important discussion.

I think Sami was arguing for Saad Hariry’s future faction not to resort to arms, not for Hizbulla to give up its arms. As both factions are encouraged to be armed with higher education I think the resistance will be considered part of the Lebanese military.

Sometimes pacifisim is more potently effective. Do we have to play the same dirty game as our enemy? Why not force them to play other games where we have more strategic advantages? I think this is where EMBAs and other forms of higher education can help the most.

Shai,

Thanks for refering to the recent thread on peace negotiations from earlier in the year. I just noticed there was also very nice contributions from Ayman Hakki, Zenobia and others over CS as well.

As for the Qatari Ambassador being a jewish woman, I will not hold that against you especially since the Emir is well connected in Syria these days and she might be a case of one of the 50 remaining Syrian jews finding a job in Qatar and climbing the gas wealth ladder!

May 30th, 2008, 9:55 am

 

wizart said:

Even the Poorest Can Be a Thriving Market

by Jean-Louis Warnholz

The idea that global companies can do good and do well at the “bottom of the pyramid”—that is, among the poor populations of developing countries—has generated excitement among corporations, governments, and NGOs in recent years. But most of the resulting initiatives by multinationals have missed the very poor, the 2 billion people in places like Haiti and Bangladesh who live on less than two dollars a day and have been virtually ignored by the corporate world and cut off from the global marketplace. The multinationals seem not to have noticed the examples of Telenor and Digicel, innovative mobile phone companies that have found opportunities to earn profits and simultaneously improve local economic landscapes by serving the very poor.

Telenor was drawn to Bangladesh and Pakistan, and Digicel to Haiti, by low-wage workforces and the potential for creating local consumer markets, despite endemic poverty. Both companies refused to accept the low-purchasing-power status quo and have been systematically building up local consumer markets. They are now boosting economic growth by generating jobs, tax revenue, and investment.

Their success should come as no surprise. Indeed, the argument that companies can improve poor economies while making profits by selling consumer goods was put forth by C.K. Prahalad and Allen Hammond in their article “Serving the World’s Poor, Profitably” (HBR September 2002) and by Prahalad in The Fortune at the Bottom of the Pyramid (Wharton School Publishing, 2004). Since the publication of the article and the book, multinationals have begun “creating the capacity to consume” among the poor. In India, for example, Procter & Gamble sells single-use sachets of detergent and shampoo that are affordable for the poor. But the vast majority of such efforts have been aimed at urban consumers in India, China, and South America who are just below the middle class. Multinationals can learn a great deal from Telenor’s and Digicel’s creative ways of generating purchasing power among consumers with much lower income.

Telenor’s joint venture with Grameen Telecom in Bangladesh has several programs aimed at doing this, including one that allows people without bank accounts to pay utility and other bills via mobile phone. In Pakistan, Telenor offers would-be entrepreneurs in impoverished remote areas its “business in a box” solution: a subsidized phone plus training. And Digicel allows phone cards to be recharged from abroad, enabling people in the Haitian diaspora to help relatives pay for their phones, many of which are used in local businesses.

Both Norway-based Telenor and Jamaica-based Digicel have fared well: Telenor’s Grameenphone joint venture, which has been doing business in Bangladesh since 1997, became profitable in 2000 and is now the country’s largest telecom firm. Telenor Pakistan, a more recent initiative, increased its revenues 265% in 2007 and saw a nearly 200% jump in its customer base, to 15 million. Digicel doesn’t break down its profits by country, but Haiti represents the company’s largest market, and the corporation’s profits doubled to roughly $450 million for the year ending March 2008. The phenomenal growth in all three markets suggests significant improvements in local purchasing power. In Bangladesh, another indicator of increased purchasing power is a recent decline in the profits of the 280,000 “phone ladies,” who offer access to Telenor’s services, as more and more people in remote villages can now afford their own phones.

Perceived high risk and a difficult business environment have prevented capital from flowing into the world’s poorest countries, which also include many of the nations of sub-Saharan Africa. But several studies and my own experience with officials of poor countries indicate that once investment comes in, the business environment can improve quickly. Haiti, for example, has established a new Investment Facilitation Center, a one-stop window for traders and investors. And there are factors that offset the risks, such as low labor costs, abundant resources, and highly preferential trade agreements with developed countries. Opportunities are waiting for companies that—like Telenor and Digicel—strive to do good and do well in every country, no matter how poor.

May 30th, 2008, 12:09 pm

 

wizart said:

RUSSIA’S DUBIOUS DUO
Can Medvedev Escape from Putin’s Shadow?
By Uwe Klussmann in Moscow

Russian President Vladimir Putin and his successor, Dmitry Medvedev, have promised a harmonious dual leadership. But as Medvedev prepares to be inaugurated as Russia’s new president, the two leaders’ supporters are already gearing up for a power struggle.

In the final days of the autarchic rule of President Vladimir Putin, trucks carrying weapons are underway in Russian once again. Those on Moscow’s Red Square are merely preparing for a gigantic military parade, the first in 18 years, to demonstrate Russian military might on Friday — two days after the inauguration of Putin’s successor, Dmitry Medvedev.

Meanwhile, 1,400 kilometers (870 miles) to the south, trucks painted in camouflage colors are carrying armed troops across the border into Georgia, the former Soviet republic that has become a bone of contention between Russia and the United States since it announced its intention to join NATO.

The troops are merely being sent as reinforcements for Russian peacekeepers in the breakaway province of Abkhazia, or so Moscow claims. Officially, and with the blessing of the United Nations, the Russian peacekeepers have been upholding a ceasefire in the region for the last 14 years. But, under international law, Abkhazia is part of Georgia. Georgia, for its part, is controlled by its hotheaded president, Mikhail Saakashvili, a pro-Western leader who receives support from US military advisors in return for his loyalty to the US. The situation has resulted in a tense face-off between Russian and American soldiers for the first time since the end of the Cold War.

In Moscow, the growing threat of war has become a noticeably common topic of conversation. And when Medvedev walks across the red carpet on Wednesday, past guardsmen in historic uniforms, and enters the Andreyevsky Hall in the Kremlin for his inauguration, he will begin a presidency that will be marked by conflict from day one. There have been repeated aerial attacks and skirmishes along the line separating Georgia and Abkhazia. On April 20, Abkhazians, or their Russian protectors, shot down an unmanned Georgian reconnaissance plane. Then on Sunday, separatist forces in Abkhazia claimed to have downed another two Georgian drones.

Because Medvedev’s image among hardliners has been that of a liberal weakling, Putin is pushing him to take a tough stance on Abkhazia. Now that the West has recognized Kosovo, against Russia’s wishes, Moscow could be preparing to exact its revenge: the Kremlin’s de facto recognition of Abkhazia.

The new president’s first challenge could also be a test case for the supposedly unshakable harmony between Putin and Medvedev, which both men have sworn to but which is regarded with skepticism within the political elite.

Never in the period since the demise of the Soviet Union has it been less clear who will have the say in the world’s largest country by land mass. Will it be President Medvedev, as the Russian constitution requires, or Vladimir Putin, the prime minister-designate? Kremlin expert and journalist Alexander Budberg predicts a tough power struggle between the two camps. “One can’t do anything against those people who want to pick fights,” he says. “They are powerful, cunning and have enormous resources.”

At issue is Russia’s future course. Will its relationship to the West be characterized by confrontation or closer cooperation? Will the country be run more in accordance with the rule of law and its key industries privately operated, or will cronyism and government control win out?

Many Russians are better off than ever before. But in the Putin era, the country not only accumulated enormous revenues from its sales of petroleum and natural gas — it also managed to amass considerable material for social conflict.

Inflation, at 12 percent and rising, has made life difficult for Russia’s poorer classes. Even Medvedev concedes that “this is a serious problem,” but hardly one that merits the attention of an inflated government bureaucracy, one in which hundreds of thousands of civil servants have become more and more audacious when it comes to filling their own pockets. Under Putin, only a handful of corrupt civil servants in senior positions were convicted of crimes.

Medvedev’s portrayal of the country he is inheriting, after eight years of Putin’s rule, is not flattering. In several appearances before and after his election, Medvedev has portrayed Russia as a country on the verge of stagnation. He has been sharply critical of the corruption “that replaces part of the political institutions today.” He also admits that “a huge number of problems have accumulated” in Russia. For instance, Medvedev complains about officials who are “strangling small business.” His motto is that “freedom is better than no freedom.” And although he takes pains to avoid showing any disagreement with Putin in public, his supporters are pushing for a stronger market and less government intervention.

The new president hopes to be more than just a figurehead while Putin retains the reins of power, he will have to take on his predecessor’s cronies in the intelligence community. There are already signs that this is beginning to happen. At a meeting of the Social Chamber, an advisory board appointed by the Kremlin, Medvedev agreed with sharp criticism of the courts’ lack of independence. For insiders, it was an affront against Putin confidant Viktor Ivanov, a member of the Kremlin administration who has intimidated many in his position as a kind of judicial overseer. Medvedev’s comment that Russia ought to avoid becoming “intoxicated” by its size was also a veiled critique of the excessive national pride Putin and his friends have repeatedly promoted.

If Medvedev’s friends had their way, a shift would occur in Russian foreign and security policy. Medvedev’s advisors want to see the country return to an arrangement with the West, as in Yeltsin’s day. They disapprove of Putin’s tactless squabbles with the United States and his closeness to anti-American regimes like the ones in Iran, Syria and Venezuela.

As if he were already distancing himself from his successor, Putin has said it is “not necessary” to hang up Medvedev’s portrait in his office, explaining coolly that there are “other ways of establishing working relationships.” According to associates of the current president, his choice of Medvedev was not an easy one.

Moscow’s scheming political elite, at any rate, continues to argue over Medvedev’s future policies. One of the battlegrounds on which Putin’s and Medvedev’s supporters are gearing up for a showdown involves the dominant pro-Kremlin party United Russia, which is now headed by Putin. With its roughly 2 million members, United Russia brings together government officials and their allies in the business community, as well as the majority of the country’s governors and mayors. It also dominates the Duma, Russia’s main lawmaking body, with 314 of 450 seats.

“Veterans of the Yeltsin era,” says political scientist Alexei Mukhin of the Moscow-based Center for Political Information, are flocking to Medvedev to bring about a “return to the Yeltsin model.” But this attempt, says Mukhin, will encounter bitter resistance from Putin’s supporters. “There will be war,” he comments.

Unlike many countries of the West, Russia gives its new president almost no grace period. Immediately after his inauguration, Medvedev will have to set the tone of the policies he plans to follow in the combustible Caucasus region. But the odds are against him. When it comes to a test of strength — be it in the Caucasus or in Moscow’s domestic intrigues — many Russians consider Putin, toughened by his practice of physical and political martial arts, to be the more experienced fighter.

Translated from the German by Christopher Sultan

May 30th, 2008, 4:00 pm

 

wizart said:

Norway flourishes as secular nation

Rev. Rick Mason notes that atheism is on the rise. He blames Christian fundamentalism. Certainly the ineptness, dishonesty and lack of ethics of the overtly God-fearing Bush administration may be turning people off on God.

A case study shows what this could mean for America. Norway has embraced secularism at the expense of its Christian roots. A 2005 survey conducted by Gallup International rated Norway the least religious country in Western Europe.

In Norway, 82.9 percent of the population are members of the Evangelical Lutheran Church (they are automatically registered at birth and few bother to be unregistered). However, only approximately 10 percent regularly attend church services and identify themselves as being personally Christian.

A 2006 survey found: 29 percent believe in a god or deity; 23 percent believe in a higher power without being certain of what; 26 percent don’t believe in God or higher powers; 22 percent have doubts.

Depending on the definition of atheism, Norway thus has between 26 percent and 71 percent atheists. The Norwegian Humanist Association is the world’s largest humanist association per capita.

And what has secularism done to Norway? The Global Peace Index rates Norway the most peaceful country in the world. The Human Development Index, a comparative measure of life expectancy, literacy, education and standard of living, has ranked Norway No. 1 every year for the last five years.

Norway has the second highest GDP per capita in the world, an unemployment rate below 2 percent, and average hourly wages among the world’s highest.

By David N. Miles
Orange Beach

May 30th, 2008, 4:08 pm

 

wizart said:

The End of Faith – New York Times Best Seller
Winner of the 2005 PEN Award for Nonfiction

The End of Faith provides a harrowing glimpse of mankind’s willingness to suspend reason in favor of religious beliefs, even when these beliefs inspire the worst of human atrocities. Harris argues that in the presence of weapons of mass destruction, we can no longer expect to survive our religious differences indefinitely. Most controversially, he maintains that “moderation” in religion poses considerable dangers of its own: as the accommodation we have made to religious faith in our society now blinds us to the role that faith plays in perpetuating human conflict. While warning against the encroachment of organized religion into world politics, Harris draws on insights from neuroscience, philosophy, and Eastern mysticism in an attempt to provide a truly modern foundation for our ethics and our search for spiritual experience.

”The End of Faith articulates the dangers and absurdities of organized religion so fiercely and so fearlessly that I felt relieved as I read it, vindicated, almost personally understood… Harris writes what a sizable number of us think, but few are willing to say in contemporary America… This is an important book, on a topic that, for all its inherent difficulty and divisiveness, should not be shielded from the crucible of human reason.”
— Natalie Angier, The New York Times Book Review

Some of the arguments presented in The End of Faith have inspired controversy. Harris offers further comments here:

Letter to A Christian Nation – New York Times Best Seller

In response to The End of Faith, Sam Harris received thousands of letters from Christians excoriating him for not believing in God. Letter to A Christian Nation is his reply. Using rational argument, Harris offers a measured refutation of the beliefs that form the core of fundamentalist Christianity. In the course of his argument, he addresses current topics ranging from intelligent design and stem-cell research to the connections between religion and violence. In Letter to a Christian Nation, Sam Harris boldly challenges the influence that faith has on public life in the United States.

“I dare you to read this book…it will not leave you unchanged. Read it if it is the last thing you do.”
— Richard Dawkins, author of The Selfish Gene and The God Delusion, from his Foreword to the UK Edition.

May 30th, 2008, 7:37 pm

 

wizart said:

Blair launches faith foundation

Former prime minister Tony Blair has launched a faith foundation to tackle global poverty, challenge conflict and unite the world’s religions.

Mr Blair, who is a Roman Catholic, unveiled the foundation in New York.

The Tony Blair Faith Foundation has three aims: to promote faith as a force for good, improve awareness between religions and tackle poverty and war.

Mr Blair said there was “nothing more important” than creating understanding between different faiths and cultures.

‘Peaceful co-existence’

At the launch in New York, he said: “The characteristic of today’s world is change. The consequence is a world opening up and becoming inter-dependent.

“The conclusion is that we make sense of this inter-dependence through peaceful co-existence and working together to resolve common challenges.

“We must be global citizens as well as citizens of our country,” he told the audience of academics, media and business and religious leaders.

Though there is much focus, understandably, on extremism associated with the perversion of the proper faith of Islam, there are elements of extremism in every major faith

“Idealism becomes the new realism.”

He went on to cite a poll which showed the percentage of people in most Muslim countries who said religion was an important part of their lives is in the high 80s and 90s, while in the United States it is about 70% and in Europe under 40%.

One of the goals of the foundation was to counter extremism in all six leading religions, he said.

“Though there is much focus, understandably, on extremism associated with the perversion of the proper faith of Islam, there are elements of extremism in every major faith,” he said.

Tony Blair on his foundation’s aims
Former US president Bill Clinton took time out of his wife’s campaign to become the Democrat presidential candidate to attend the launch, at the headquarters of media group Time Warner.

He described Mr Blair as “a good man as well as a great leader”, saying “his own religious faith is genuine, deep and shapes his life”.

In an earlier interview with Time magazine, Mr Blair, who is now a peace envoy to the Middle East, said the foundation was “how I want to spend the rest of my life”.

The vocation is something the former prime minister has been considering for some time.

But Mr Blair said while in office he feared being branded a “nutter” if he talked about his religious views.

May 30th, 2008, 8:16 pm

 

Shai said:

Wizart,

I believe it’s the Bahraini ambassador that is a Jewish woman, though I don’t know her origin. Perhaps you’re right, and she may well be Syrian. If that’s the case, then it’s a double “winner”, so-to-speak. But is it truly possible for Syrian workers in the Gulf to climb that high up? I always had the notion (perhaps mistakenly) that a very tiny minority, usually within the particular monarchy/family/etc., has a chance to reach this high.

Very interesting news about Tony Blair. Will he be the next modern-day Carter?

May 30th, 2008, 8:26 pm

 

ausamaa said:

Shai,

The Bahrini lady is a nobody (politically) in Bahrain. The king wanted to play Modern and Enlightened in his Council so he appointed her and appointed another Christian lady to the Appointed Shoura Council and not the elected Parliment four years ago so that he gets a WOW from the US Ambassador there or something. And for your information, Bahrain’s population is one of the most anti-Israeli in the Arab World. This is First Hand Stuff. And if I remember correctly she is from Basra and not Damascus. She had a small Chocolate shop that exchanged hands many times. She is a nice person, but do not count much on such things, there is nothing to be read between the lines..

About Syrians “workers” in the Gulf, what did you think their main occupation was?! The majority are small busniess men, and few are big business men, big in a sense that exceeds your imagination. They are not sesonal migrant workers, or daily laborors, abused and unrecognized’ as their brethern in Lebanon unfortunatly are. BTW, do you know how influential the Syrian business men are in Jordan for example? But Syrians do not boost about such things.

As to Blair, I doubt that he is a Great Leader or even a Good Man. The bugger led his country into the Iraqi ditch just to please Bush. That is why he was kicked out from office by his own people. However, US and British statesmen have long developed a habit of “seeing the light” and some become “born-again peace seekers” in the Middle East once they leave office. I do not know if this because they are eager to find a role to play, feeling guilty, or because they want to go down in history books as peace makers as opposed to the death makers they were while in office. Maybe they try to get back at the humilation and nightmares they suffered at the hands of AIPAC and its surrogates when they were in power!!!! They dont need the votes anymore, do they?

And what do you think any Arab, moderate or “axis-of-evil supporter” would think once he meets Blair when Balair is attempting to play the evangalist peace maker? I will you give you a hint: the wheels in any Arab mind will go something like this when they see Blair: Are you guys not the ones who got us all in this mess with your infamouse Belfour Decleration to begin with? And now you say you want to play the peace maker?! Would you mind telling the Israelies who this place belonged to when you made that promise? You have detailed copies of the Palestinian Land Deeds in your Archives which you took along when you departed Palestine leaving all your arms and ammos to the Haganah, Shtern and Irgun. Remember, Mr. Peace Maker?

Come on Shai, you are a real optimist. More optimistic than Mahmoud Abbas who keeps waiting for.. not the Palestinian State that Bush promissed him three years ago, but for the lifting of a mere dozen of the hundreds of Israeli Army roadblocks in the West Bank that Rice promissed him three months ago!

May 30th, 2008, 9:53 pm

 

Shai said:

Ausamaa,

Are you suggesting I give up then?

May 30th, 2008, 10:25 pm

 

ausamaa said:

Shai,

Of course not. But all I can tell you now is that the sentimental thoughts that prevailed during the Begin-Sadat Treaty, or the Jordan Treaty are totaly irrelevant now. Those were marginal issues. NOw you are talking about the core issues. THe cold and hard stuff. Fancifull expectations of a “dramatic speaches before the Kenesset and images of historical moments that brings people together” by President Assad, by Nassrallah or Misha’al are not applicable here as they were somewhere else.

The issues here are the real core issues, tackeled by politicians who deeply care and beleive in their mission. It is not like Sadat or Hussain who could not really care less and who were already in the Israeli/American pocket. Now I feel its Lebanon, the Palestinian State and the Golan hights, all in one indivisible package, once and for all or else forget about it for a while.

That is why it is difficult. That is why we have to await either an awakening by the Israeli Public, and I do not see many serious political drum beaters around, or for something big militarily that will change the facts on the ground. Which I expect, not now, but within a couple of years.

That is apart from the bigger problematic question being: Has the US finally decided that it does not need (or can not afford the reprecusions of) Israel’s military role in the area any longer? And the other smaller isuue about the refugees and wether Jordan is necessary any longer?

Big game Shai, too many lose ends, too many cold hearted old hands eyeing each other.

But no, do not give up beleiving,only remember that GOD has too much on his plate. Always Has.

May 30th, 2008, 11:11 pm

 

Qifa Nabki said:

Ausamaa

Do you think that Bashar has the same idea that you have, with respect to these peace talks?

In other words, do you think that his plan is to do a deal with Israel that involves “one indivisible package” including Lebanon, Palestine, and the Golan?

I agree with you that this would be ideal.

And I also agree with you that it is highly unlikely that this will come to pass anytime soon.

But I’m not sure I agree with you that Bashar is not serious about doing a Syria-only (or Syria + Lebanon) deal with Israel, and leaving the Palestine one for later.

May 30th, 2008, 11:35 pm

 

ausamaa said:

Qifa,

That is what Bashar says, and that is what his father said before him. I happen to beleive them.

Do you really think it is about the Golan only?? For both Syria and Israel that is. Do you beleive our problem with Israel is over a few hundred occupied kilometers only?

Isnt that perhaps why a “regime change” was always the Crown Jewel of all the “restructuring” schems they keep designing for us? They know what Syria really wants. More than some of us realise. Ask Bolton, he seems to read Syria more correctly than many others.

May 31st, 2008, 12:06 am

 

Qifa Nabki said:

Ausamaa

I don’t pay attention to Bolton, so you’ll have to fill me in.

What’s it about, then? Greater Syria? Greater Israel? The Arab Nation? U.S. hegemony?

What is that “Syria really wants”? (Besides the welfare of its own citizens, that comes first right? Right?)

May 31st, 2008, 12:32 am

 

ausamaa said:

Well, You can say its about UNSC resolutions 242 and 338 and also 194 (since UNSC resolutions have been popular recently)!

Don”t you agree?!

Anyway, why should we waste time discussing the current talks? I hear Olmert is busy packing up, so, it will take a couple of years to revisit this issue again. So, all in all, we all could have gussed: This is a Test, Repeat, This is Only a Test!!!!!

Ahhh, as to your comment which explains your true un-understanding of Syria’s policies: (Besides the welfare of its own citizens, that comes first right? Right?). Fortunately it is not Right. Many times Syria had placed the interests of other suffering Arab “brothers” ahead of its own citizens’ interests. As in giving Water,wheat and meat to Jordan, electricity and gazoline to others, and as in welcoming a million and a half Iraqi refugess
running out of “liberated” Iraq!

May 31st, 2008, 12:55 am

 

Qifa Nabki said:

Yes, of course. I forgot. Syrians are the salt of the earth, and everyone else is manure.

Remind me every now and then, would you?

May 31st, 2008, 1:44 am

 

wizart said:

Shai,

Blair has great potential if he can overcome the trust issue.

Here’s a few jokes for the weekend for our cousins next door;)

* A car hit an elderly Jewish man. The paramedic says, “Are you comfortable?” The man says, “I make a good living.”

* We always hold hands. If I let go, she shops.

* She was at the beauty shop for two hours. That was only for the estimate. She got a mudpack and looked great for two days. Then the mud fell off.

* The doctor gave a man six months to live. The man couldn’t pay his bill, so the doctor gave him another six months .

* The Doctor called Mrs. Cohen saying, “Mrs. Cohen, your check came back.”
Mrs. Cohen answered, “So did my arthritis!”

* Doctor: “You’ll live to be 60!” Patient: “I AM 60!” Doctor: “See! What did I tell you?”

* A doctor held a stethoscope up to a man’s chest. The man asks, “Doc, how do I stand?” The doctor says, “That’s what puzzles me!”

* Patient: “I have a ringing in my ears.” Doctor: “Don’t answer!”

* A drunk was in front of a judge. The judge says, “You’ve been brought here for drinking.” The drunk says “Okay, let’s get started.”

* Why do Jewish divorces cost so much? They’re worth it.

*Why do Jewish men die before their wives? They want to.

1. The Harvard School of Medicine did a study of why Jewish women like Chinese food so much. The study revealed that this is due to the fact that
Won Ton spelled backward is Not Now.

2. There is a big controversy on the Jewish view of when life begins. In Jewish tradition, the fetus is not considered viable until it graduates from medical school!

3. Q: Why don’t Jewish mothers drink?
A: Alcohol interferes with their suffering.

The written law of jews is the Torah. What’s the oral law named?

Simo,

Tore is male for Tora in Arabic, a nice female name in Europe and North America and also a stubborn character in the animal kingdom. Just an example of how much can be lost in translation and interpretation over thousands of years. Anyway, nice to meet you.

May 31st, 2008, 9:18 am

 

ausamaa said:

Qifa

I did not say that about non-Syrians, nor do I believe as such.

You asked a question about Syria’s aims and I gave you my most “diplomatic” reply keeping in mind your zeal and dedication to the implementation of UNSC resoultions.

I know what Syria wants, and You must know what Syria want: A settlement refelcting the status qou that produced such a settlement when and if it happens, and a leading role commensurate with both its historic role and with its current power and its ability to shape and influence events in the region, and reflecting the price it has paid to acheive such a position.

Such a role will definitly relect positively on the well being of the Syrian people who believe in, and have worked for, a better tomorrow for themselves and for their brothers.

Does this sound any better!!!

May 31st, 2008, 12:40 pm

 

wizart said:

Thanks Ausama, I appreciate your diplomatic responce about Syria and Syrians. The fact of the matter is we all have lots of different cousins with all kinds of different orientations in life.

There’s still no cure for narcissists except to recognize and avoid them. They could be found anytime in all kinds of places although most relevant on blogs is Narcissistic Blog Disorder!!

This disorder is characterized by the individual who consistently denigrates not only the opinions of others, but the very fact that others have opinions, saying things like “nobody cares what some overpaid starlet has to say about global warming” and “nobody cares what some crusty career politician thinks is wrong with society today or whatever the issue is. Simultaneously, the individual assumes that people do care about what he or she has to say, in spite of the individual’s only experience being watching the movie “Dave” or another feature movie he/she was moved by.

May 31st, 2008, 1:19 pm

 

Qifa Nabki said:

Ausamaa:

“keeping in mind your zeal and dedication to the implementation of UNSC resoultions.”

I don’t know what this means.

As for your assessment of what Syria wants, sounds good to me. I don’t see how a peace agreement with Israel will prevent this.

May 31st, 2008, 3:45 pm

 

wizart said:

Reform Judaism

Reform communities vary, but tend to question the authority of the Talmud (Jewish laws). Reform Jews deny that the Jews are a chosen people, and some reject belief in the Messiah, and heaven and hell. There is less adherence to avoiding the melachot (work forbidden on the Sabbath), and kosher (dietary) rules are often relaxed, but may be observed on synagogue premises. Women and men sit together in the service, which may not be conducted completely in Hebrew; and women take a full part in the services, including becoming rabbis. Synagogues may be called temples.

Reform Judaism began in 18th-century Germany to promote assimilation into Germany society. It was influenced by the legal emancipation of the Jews in some Western European countries, and their acceptance by the Christian church. The 18th-century German philosopher Moses Mendelssohn translated the Hebrew Bible into German and encouraged secular education for Jews. In the 19th century this led to the opening up of Judaism to European culture, subsequently known as the Haskalah (enlightenment). The belief developed that Jews could follow the mainstream ways of German society and be absorbed into it, and that Judaism could evolve and change.

By the early 19th century some synagogues were being called temples, and services were no longer being said entirely in Hebrew. The Hamburg Temple began conducting services along the lines of the Lutheran Church, and in the USA the Pittsburg platform of 1885 stated that kosher laws, a belief in the future Messiah, belief in heaven and hell, and support for the return to Zion were no longer necessary.

May 31st, 2008, 5:10 pm

 

Shai said:

Wizart,

Thank you for the jokes. We in Israel also tend to make fun of one another, as there are a huge variety of Jews here (German, Polish, Moroccan, Iraqi, etc.), each with their very own cultural ways. When my dad was young and studying in the university, he worked at nights at the telephone operator. So for kicks, they would occasionally ring up two different customers, one a German Jew, the other a Yemeni Jew, connect them at once, and listen in on the conversation. Each side would blame the other for having been the one to phone. The German Jew of course would be extremely polite, trying to maintain himself, but uncompromising in insisting that he’s not the one that called the other. The Yemeni Jew would be far less patient, and would pretty much “lose it” with this German Jew. It was apparently a great source of comedy relief for my father and his buddies…

Ausamaa,

I completely agree with you about the crucial substance that must be addressed here, by the leaders themselves, which of course includes mainly the Palestinian issue, the refugees, right-of-return, land, settlements, Jerusalem, etc. I’m not suggesting we can have peace without these – the opposite, I’ve claimed that we cannot. But when I speak of the emotional dimension that is missing, and its 1977 Sadat-like effect, I’m talking purely about the Israeli public side. I’m suggesting that it is precisely the awakening that you’re talking about, which may happen if this emotional effect is achieved. I cannot imagine how direct or indirect talks between low level officials in Turkey, can achieve any kind of rude awakening within Israel and Israelis. And, as you correctly pointed out, there does not seem to be any Israeli leader at the moment, capable of causing our public to change their minds. Alex can attest to our ad-nauseam discussions about Bashar addressing Israelis directly (in Jerusalem, Tel-Aviv, or Damascus). I’m not suggesting he should ever give up on any of the crucial issues. In fact, in his so-called speech to Israelis (not to the international community, not to Syrians, nor to the Arab world), Bashar would state exactly that – the only way to end the Arab-Israeli conflict through a comprehensive peace that would address all the major issues. But again, I’m suggesting to you the emotional void I see within Israelis, and what I’m gauging to be the thing that may shake them out of this numbness, and cause them to think differently.

Unfortunately, you’re also right, in that the other way to achieve this “awakening” might be through war. I’m still hoping we’ll all choose the less painful solutions. One way is almost a sure win-win for everyone. The other IS a sure lose-lose for everyone.

May 31st, 2008, 6:54 pm

 

Qifa Nabki said:

Shai

Along those lines, here’s a good piece by Fisk, published today:

Horrors we have no choice but to forget

by Robert Fisk
Saturday, 31 May 2008

I have a clear memory of a terrible crime that was committed in southern Lebanon in 1978. Israeli soldiers, landing at night on the beach near Sarafand – the city of Sarepta in antiquity – were looking for “terrorists” and opened fire on a car load of female Palestinian refugees.

It took the Israelis a day before they admitted shooting at the car with an anti-tank weapons, by which time I had watched civil defence workers pulling the dead women from the vehicle, their faces slopping off on to the road, an AP correspondent holding his hands to his face in shock, leaning against an ambulance, crying “Jesus Christ! Jesus Christ. I suppose all this is because of what Hitler did to the Jews.” Save for his remark, however, all I remember is silence. As if the whole scene was muted, sound smothered by the dead.

Yet I was running a tape recorder for part of the time, and when I listened to the old tape again a few days ago, I could hear many women, weeping, cars passing, honking horns above the shrieks of grief. My own original notes state, in my handwriting, that “a throng of women stood crying and wailing”. Yet all I remember now is silence. A child was on a stretcher, cut in half, a girl in the back seat of the car, curled in death into the arms of an older woman. But silence.

I was reminded of all this by an especially powerful interview conducted at Cannes with the Israeli director Ari Folman, who has made a remarkable film – Waltz with Bashir – about Israel’s later, 1982 invasion of Lebanon and about the “collective amnesia” of the soldiers who participated in this hopeless adventure.

Bashir Gemayel was the name of Israel’s favourite Christian Maronite militia leader who was elected president but almost immediately assassinated. It’s an animated film – a film of cartoons, if you like – because Folman is trying to fill in the empty space which the war occupies in his mind. Because he can’t remember it.

“I never talked about my army service,” Folman said. “I got on with my life without talking about it, without thinking about it. It was like something I didn’t want to be connected with whatsoever.” In one astonishing scene, Israeli soldiers come ashore in Lebanon – only to find that there is no one there. They are entering an empty country, washed clean of memory.

Alas, Lebanon was not empty; more than 17,000 Lebanese and Palestinians, almost all civilians, died in that terrible war, and at the end of Folman’s movie, the animation turns to reality with photographs of some of the 1,700 Palestinian dead of the Sabra and Chatila massacre, murdered by Israel’s Phalangist allies while the Israelis watched from high-rise buildings. It is Folman’s dream that this film should be shown in an Arab country – given the dotage and stupidity of most Arab ministers, that is surely a hope that will not be realised – but it did almost win the Palme d’Or at Cannes.

Amnesia is real. And it afflicts us all. But it is also a block to memory. Take my old letter-writing friend, poet Don Newton. He dropped me a note the other day, asking why humans have to create wars and mentioning, at the start, that he remembered the Second World War and, in 1944, Germany’s V2 missiles. What grabbed me by the throat, however, was the penultimate paragraph of his letter, written with an eloquence I cannot match – and whose power and suddenness will shock you, as readers, just as it shocked me. This is what Don wrote:

“I saw some of my friends killed around me when I was 12, when a V2 punched into the road near where we were playing … I was lucky and survived but ran over the road to find my father lying dead by our front gate. He looked for all the world like a grey, dusty broken puppet with his left arm laying next to him. It had been sliced off just above the elbow by a piece of shrapnel that had also cut through the oak gatepost behind him.

“Strangely enough, that sight seems to have wiped from my conscious mind all but a handful of memories of him and those are mostly unpleasant in their associations, like the time I burst into the toilet when I was only six, to find him sitting reading a newspaper, and blurted out that my younger brother by a year had been run over. Peter died in hospital the next day without ever recovering consciousness. This ‘amnesia’ is, I suppose, a defence mechanism but I find it weird and unable to break. I am struggling to put this problem into a poem and, hopefully, when it is out on paper maybe the fog will clear?”

I find this letter – horror and the mundane inextricably, unbelievably mixed together – unanswerable. The V2 explosion turns into a father’s death, the interruption in the lavatory into a child’s death. And a poem to clear the amnesia? Only a poet could suggest that. I didn’t see my father die but I was sitting beside my own mother when she died from the results of Parkinson’s. My memory is clear – she choked on her own saliva because she could no longer clear her throat – and I do remember sitting by her body and thinking (and here I quote another Israeli, a fine and brilliant novelist), “I’m next!”

So I turned, of course, to a haiku in Don’s latest collection of poetry, The Soup Stone, called “Mum’s Death, 1982” – the same date as Folman’s Israeli invasion when he (and I) were trying to stay alive in Lebanon:

“Just sitting, waiting,

For your last slow breath.

Suddenly – it’s here.”

Which is about as close to death as you can get in verse. And there really is a silence at the end.

May 31st, 2008, 7:18 pm

 

wizart said:

Shai,

You welcome. I was hopping for some jokes about Syrians although since you’re an expert story teller I can understand that as well. The old men most likely missed out on today’s fancier technologies and saved themselves a lot of unwanted stress and distractions.

Today people live in the attention economy and tend to have shorter attention spans. I think phone usage has dropped a lot too.

May 31st, 2008, 7:24 pm

 

Shai said:

Wizart,

I’ve got jokes about Iraqi Jews, Moroccan Jews, Romanian Jews, Polish Jews (of course), German Jews, but… no jokes about Syrian Jews! But, as we often say of David Levi (remember this infamous and ancient dinosaur-politician in Israel?), about whom more jokes have been created than any human alive, that “None of them are jokes. They are all real…” 🙂

Ok, one about David Levi:

“David Levi, as Foreign Minister, is one day sitting in his office working on putting together a puzzle. His secretary comes in, asking if he needs any help. He says no, and to please not interrupt again, until he’s done. She checks on him later, but he’s still not done. The next day passes, and another day, and another, and he’s still not done. Two weeks pass and, one morning, his secretary hears David screaming “success!”. She rushes in, sees him standing by the finished puzzle, with a look of victory on his face. She says to him, ‘But Mr. Minister, why did it take you so long?’, to which he responds ‘So long? What are you talking about? Look what it says here… “3-4 years”!…”

Ok, and one more:

David Levi is sent to New York on a diplomatic mission. Wishing to see some of the city’s biggest malls, he visits one, and his security men try to keep up with him. Suddenly, the lose him. They run everywhere, and finally find him standing erect, saluting. Quite baffled, they come nearer, only to realize he is standing in front of a refrigerator with a label “General Electric” on it… 🙂

May 31st, 2008, 8:21 pm

 

Shai said:

QN,

Breaking from my “humor” above, isn’t it sad that most of us cannot understand the horrific effects of war, unless we experience them first-hand? We’re capable of designing machines that can land on Mars, and send photo imagery 50 million miles away, but we cannot understand our most basic character? Must we be poets, and have lost a boy or a girl to war, before we can realize our evils? It is indeed sad.

May 31st, 2008, 8:28 pm

 

AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Shai,
What are you and QN talking about? Have you not heard how Hizballah and Hamas rejoice in their martyrs? Have you not heard mothers wishing they could have more sons martyred? Why are you blind just to see what fits your own theories? Nasrallah has lost a son in war, has this convinced him of the futility of war?

May 31st, 2008, 8:38 pm

 

Shai said:

AIG,

It is natural to seek reinforcements to our own hypotheses, and not refutations. But I wasn’t stating a hypothesis. I was merely suggesting how sad a certain situation might be, where human beings often cannot understand the price of war, until they pay it themselves. That’s not to say that all those who pay it, understand it the same way, or conclude that war is wrong “no matter what”. In fact, the world would not look the way it does today, without war. If the U.S. had no civil war, perhaps slavery would still be going on. If Jews and Arabs didn’t fight in 1948, almost with a certainty there would today be an overwhelming Arab majority in Israel, and a 3rd or 4th Arab Prime Minister would have already been elected… But despite the martyrdom-rhetoric of those poor mothers that have lost their sons, and much of which you and I should be able to understand (we all seek an explanation for our children’s death, if god-forbid it happens), they very clearly do feel the pain, no less than any other mother on this planet would.

May 31st, 2008, 8:54 pm

 

ausamaa said:

Qifa Nabki

1) I was refereing to the certain Zeal and Interest (of some people) in formulating, quickly adopting and unrealistically striving to implement “immediately” UNSC 1559, 1701. Please, don’t try to insult our intelligence by saying that you did not undertand my “innocent” PUN about the above. I am sure you did understand me. But I guess you have been reading too much of AIG comments and have chosen to adopt his “selective” manner in throwing interesting questions around and then evading, or rather picking and choosing what to “understand” and “answer” and what not to.

2- You then, in the same breath followed up with another remark: “As for your assessment of what Syria wants, sounds good to me. I don’t see how a peace agreement with Israel will prevent this”

I did not say that a Peace Agreement will prevent this, I said this is what we should expect from any real Peace Agreement.

Amazing how both Wizarat and Shai seem to understand (although they wouldnt agree with a lot of it) what I mean more than certain others here.

To me, it is a demonstration of intentions, not an ability to decipher what I said and what I did not.

May 31st, 2008, 10:19 pm

 

Qifa Nabki said:

Ausamaa

I could care less about 1559 and 1701. What I care about is the emergence of a strong and stable Lebanese state that extends its authority over every square inch of its territory, provides services to all of its citizens in an equitable fashion, and is elected on a fair, non-sectarian national basis.

As for the peace agreement, I really think you are debating the wrong person (me). Why don’t you go debate Alex or any of the other Syrian commentators on this blog who ARE happy to see that Bashar is negotiating with the Israelis?

Cheers!

June 1st, 2008, 1:49 pm

 

AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Shai,
The difference between us is that I believe what people say, you tend to believe what you want. If a mother says she is happy to have martyred her children then we should believe her until she tells us otherwise. Considering her a liar is just patronizing.

We cannot wish away the aspects of the enemy we don’t like to believe in. They are what they are.

June 1st, 2008, 3:09 pm

 

Shai said:

AIG,

Ok, I’ll play along. And what would you have us do with these “aspects of the enemy”? Should we not make peace with a nation that has mothers “… happy to have martyred her children”? Is this a nation of born-terrorists? Of hypocrites, of liars, of criminals, of sworn enemies that will never give up their destructive goals, even after peace is reached? Or is it a more subtle thing at play here – a sort of (and I stress “sort of”) racist attitude, where when a certain people actually “celebrate” their children’s death, they are almost by definition a “lower form”, not sophisticated, or modern, like us. They belong to some primitive culture, driven purely by emotion, not by logic. A culture that insists on staying back in history, by finding endless excuses (Israel) for not embarking on the difficult routes towards freedom and democracy.

Is that what this is all about? It’s this innate fear of considering a mother crying “Allahu Akbar” and celebrating her son’s martyrdom, as an ordinary human being, in horrific pain, that has lost her son in extraordinary out-of-this-world circumstances? Can we really NOT put ourselves in the shoes of those parents, and see how we might have done the same, after reaching such levels of despair? For Christ’s sake, if a 26 year-old female lawyer out of a refugee camp in the West Bank, is willing to go and blow herself up, taking but a few Israelis with her, can we not understand why her people would “celebrate” this last desperate act of honor, the only thing she found she could do to help free her people out of subjugation? Can we not feel her horror, or her people’s, that could lead an otherwise peace-loving human being to this level of despair? Can we really feel no empathy for these mothers, and instead only judge their irrationality using our own “Western” standards? And then proudly exclaim that “with SUCH a people, Israel cannot and should not have peace!…”

AIG, I know you have no less an ability to consider and feel things like that, than I do. But without having empathy towards our enemy, how could we ever understand him? And if we can’t understand him, through his eyes, not ours, then how could we ever have peace with him? I know you’re going to say (or AP) that it’s all nice and dandy that I ask all this of US. But how come I’m not asking this of THEM? Well, you’re right. I’d like to ask this of them as well. But I, for one, do realize the infinite differences between us, and where both sides are. I’m sitting in my living room, running a 1,500 NIS/month electricity bill due to 6 airconditioner units going on at the same time, typing calmly on my laptop using my WIFI home network, while those “happy mothers” are sitting in stench, with almost no running water or electricity, barely getting 500 calories of food per day, trying to feed an entire family with but a few tens of dollars per month, in the most densely populated patch of land on earth.

No, I don’t think I’m the one “wishing away” the aspects of my enemy. I’m the one CREATING them!

June 1st, 2008, 6:06 pm

 

AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Shai,
Maybe you can put your feet in the shoes of a mother or father happy for losing their child, but I can’t. Even if you starved me to death I would not be happy about my child dying. Maybe the problem is with me, not with that mother, but there is a fundamental difference between us and it very well could be a barrier to peace. I am not using anything here but my personal standards.

June 1st, 2008, 8:09 pm

 

Shai said:

AIG,

I have two daughters, sleeping a mere 10 meters from me now. I cannot fathom ever being happy for god-forbid losing one of them. And that is why you too should understand that those mothers are NOT happy. Their so-called “celebration” is an expression of the utmost despair. It is the only way they can rationalize their child’s death. Think of a slave mother, watching her slave son try to kill his white owner, and of course getting killed in the process. Is she happy? Of course not. But she finds painful comfort by at least knowing that he fought for his (and her) freedom.

June 1st, 2008, 8:21 pm

 

AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Shai,
I thought you are playing along…
But you come back to the same point: No, it couldn’t REALLY be what they mean because it doesn’t fit my theory.

If you want to use the slave example then it would have been very easy to say: I am very sad that my child has died but at least it was for a good cause.

Listen, this is not what the Palestinians are saying. They are saying: I am happy my child died.

I, unlike you, am not trying to force my values on her and I actually believe the mother, she is happy.

June 1st, 2008, 8:26 pm

 

Shai said:

AIG, I find that absurd. Not under my values, your values, or the little green Martians’ values. NO parent feels happy to see his son/daughter dead. But some parents find some temporary comfort by saying “at least he died fighting for our freedom”, while others do not. We see both cases amongst the Palestinians. But I can’t accept that these mothers you speak of are “different” from you and I – that their minds function differently. That’s the “sort of” racism I mentioned above. We better be careful from believing in that. That dehumanizes them, and in some people’s mind, would make it almost legitimate to continue to mistreat them (since they are a “different” kind of humans). This is where red-lights should be going off in your head, I think. Don’t go there.

June 1st, 2008, 8:36 pm

 

AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Shai,
There are mothers who kill their children, there are all sorts of sociopaths in this world. Why couldn’t it be the case that a mother is actually happy that her child has died? Why are you accusing me for being a racist when I am simply believing what someone says? You are just proving again that you are just going to dismiss any evidence that does not fit your theories.

June 1st, 2008, 8:44 pm

 

Shai said:

AIG,

I have no theories, though you keep insisting I do. Is it a “theory” to think Palestinian mothers are like Israeli mothers? No, it’s reality. They both mourn their child’s death. Neither is happy. But if you’re suggesting that Palestinian mothers yelling “Allahu Akbar” are sociopaths, then I think you’re walking a very fine line between trying to understand them, and categorizing them racially.

Yalla, time for me to call it a night. Lyla tov.

June 1st, 2008, 8:53 pm

 

AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Shai,
When you dismiss the simple meaning of what people say and claim you know what they really mean, it is a theory. A culture that supports suicide missions is not normal and neither are mothers that say they are happy that their children died. Your theory is that we should dismiss what they say because you understand them best. Most Palestinian mothers are not happy when their children die, but there are some that are because they actually tell us that. What to do? These are the facts.

June 1st, 2008, 9:08 pm

 

SimoHurtta said:

A culture that supports suicide missions is not normal and neither are mothers that say they are happy that their children died.

AIG in your culture, what ever it is, are numerous stories about people who gave their live for no “rational” reason. What was the rationality of Masada mass suicide?

What about the rationality of killing all male babies under one year old in the “old Israel”? Do you remember that?

Also your history has numerous tales of men who went to missions with zero probability to get out alive. Your bunch has yearly celebrations of Buruch Goldstein, that famous “hero” of yours.

Suicide bombings started after Golstein’s “cultural” act.

Hmmm do you AIG want more examples?

What about
1946 July 22: Bombing of King David Hotel, the British Military HQ in Jerusalem, by the Zionist group Irgun, with 91 deaths – a mix of military and civilian. This was the first terrorist attack of the modern era in the Middle East
1948 September 17: Assassination of Count Folke Bernadotte, United Nations mediator in Palestine, and his aide by Lehi.

Hmmm again AIG.

PS
Have your crowd lately been burning more New Testaments?

June 1st, 2008, 9:56 pm

 

AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Sim,
My culture has recently been playing basketball in the Nokia Arena.

The people who celebrate Goldstein as a hero are just as crazy as those that support suicide missions. Trying to take historical examples and pin them on modern day Israelis is just another manifestation of your anti-semitism.

June 1st, 2008, 10:43 pm

 

Shai said:

AIG,

Alright, I’ll again play your game. You correctly stated, “A culture that supports suicide missions is not normal and neither are mothers that say they are happy that their children died.” I agree with that. It is not normal. So what do we do about that? Do we treat such a culture as a disease, staying away from it as much as possible, hoping it would heal itself? Or do we consider helping that culture heal itself? Or even go so far as to search for the reasons why it might be so abnormal? And, outdoing any normal expectation, EVEN find some of those reasons within OURSELVES, in the way WE have been treating this culture for the past 40 years. What is it that scares you from looking at these “happy mothers” as normal human beings in extremely abnormal circumstances (and not as abnormal human beings, in normal circumstances)? Does the legitimacy of everything we Israelis stand for disappear the minute we consider them normal? Considering them normal is a THEORY? Don’t you see what you’re doing? Take your own words, substitute “Jewish mothers” for “Palestinian mothers”, and stick Simo as the person talking, and you’ve got yourself one dangerous racial statement, by your own admission!

I’m not suggesting that every human being in this world is normal, and that we should just try to love and understand him or her. OBL is not a normal human being. He is a cruel and abnormally extreme person. So was Saddam Hussein, his two children, and his gang of thugs. So was Baruch Goldstein, as you correctly suggested. But just as slaves who are willing to do anything to be free are not abnormal, so are those Palestinian mothers who so-called “celebrate” their child’s death. I don’t think I understand them better than you. I think you’ve created some mental block within yourself to consider them normal, because it indeed would suggest some very harsh conclusions about us Israelis. If we indeed have been acting as an Apartheid the past 40 years, it would be wise not to dismiss it so quickly, or to treat it in too nonchalantly a fashion. We’re really talking about human beings here, not animals.

June 2nd, 2008, 4:44 am

 

wizart said:

Shai,

Very intelligent perspective you just stated in your AIG reply above. I think you’re on to something good there thanks to your broad well rounded enough education to allow you to pursue peace.

Some in Israel might be imagining themselves being surrounded by Pakistani like Jihadists once there’s peace in the Middle East.
————————-

Bomb explodes outside Danish embassy in Pakistan By ASIF SHAHZAD, Associated Press Writer
26 minutes ago

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan – A huge car bomb exploded outside the Danish Embassy in the Pakistani capital on Monday, killing at least six people and wounding dozens more, officials and witnesses said.

The blast echoed through Islamabad and left a crater more than three feet deep in the road in front of the main gate to the embassy. Glass, fallen masonry and dozens of wrecked vehicles littered the area. People, some bloodied, ran away in a state of panic.

A perimeter wall of the embassy collapsed and its metal gate was blown inward, but the embassy building itself remained standing, though its windows were shattered.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility, but al-Qaida No. 2 Ayman al-Zawahri recently called for attacks on Danish targets in response to the publication of caricatures in Danish newspapers depicting the Prophet Muhammad.

Pakistan’s new government is trying to strike peace deals with militants in its regions bordering Afghanistan, a pursuit eyed warily by the U.S.

Pakistani officials condemned the blast but indicated they did not want to stop the talks. The government has insisted it is not talking to “terrorists” but rather militants willing to lay down their weapons.

“There is no question of any impact of this incident on the peace process, but of course it badly harmed our image in the world,” said Rehman Malik, the Interior Ministry chief.

Officials said at least six people — including two policemen — were killed and 35 people were wounded in the blast, none of them foreigners. It was the second targeting of foreigners in the usually tranquil Pakistani capital in less than three months.

Danish Foreign Minister Per Stig Moeller said the explosion killed a Pakistani cleaner at the embassy, seriously wounded a handyman there and hurt two office workers. No Danes were reported among the victims.

Moeller called the attack “totally unacceptable.”

“It is terrible that terrorists do this. The embassy is there to have a cooperation between the Pakistani population and Denmark, and that means they are destroying that,” Moeller said.

The Norwegian and Swedish governments immediately closed their embassies in Islamabad. The residences of the Dutch ambassador and the Australian defense attache, located near the Danish embassy, were damaged in the blast, but none of their staff were reported injured. The U.S. Embassy, meanwhile, urged Americans to use extra caution when traveling through Islamabad and to avoid the blast site.

Policeman Muhammad Ashraf said it appeared to be a car bomb. Someone had parked a car in front of the embassy and it exploded at around 1 p.m, he said.

Kamal Shah, a senior Interior Ministry official, said the Danish Embassy had promised to supply investigators footage from its close circuit cameras. He said it was not yet clear if it was a suicide bombing, a timed bomb or detonated by remote control.

The engine of the vehicle was catapulted 100 feet. It landed in a private villa in a neighboring street.

“I was with a friend passing through a nearby street then we heard a big bang,” said bystander Muhammad Akhtar. “Then we saw smoke and people running in a frenzy. We shifted at least eight or nine injured to hospitals. They all have got serious injuries. They were soaked in blood.”

The office of a Pakistani development organization opposite the embassy was badly damaged. Its roof had partly collapsed.

Anjum Masood, a field operations manager for the U.N.-funded group, Devolution Trust for Community Empowerment, said dozens of its 100 employees were wounded, mostly by flying glass. His own left hand was bandaged.

He said the group had been worried about its location across from the embassy. “We tried to voice our concern that it should be moved … We were under a lot of threat.”

A plume of smoke rose above the scene of the blast and sirens wailed. The Danish flag and the EU flag were blown off their staffs and had snagged onto the first floor balcony of the main embassy building. The guard house outside the embassy was badly damaged.

Denmark has faced threats at its embassies following the reprinting in February by about a dozen newpapers of a cartoon that depicted Islam’s Prophet Muhammad wearing a bomb-shaped turban. That and other images in a Danish paper sparked riots in the Muslim world in 2006.

Ben Venzke, CEO of IntelCenter, a U.S. group that monitors al-Qaida messages, said the bombing was likely the work of the terror group or one of its affiliates.

He said al-Qaida laid out an extensive justification for attacks against Danish diplomatic facilities and personnel in a video last August, and repeated its threat earlier this year.

“I urge and incite every Muslim who can harm Denmark to do so in support of the Prophet, God’s peace and prayers be upon him, and in defense of his honorable stature,” IntelCenter quoted al-Zawahri as saying in an April 21 video.

Foreign Secretary Salman Bashir pledged Pakistan would do all it could to safeguard foreign diplomatic missions. “I think the Pakistani nation feels very ashamed today on incidents such as these,” he said.

The Pakistani capital is regarded as one of the most secure cities in the country but embassies and aid agencies are likely to consider an evacuation of all but nonessential staff after the bombing.

In April, embassy personnel from the Netherlands shifted to a luxury hotel in Islamabad due to concerns following the release of a film critical of the Quran, the Islamic holy book, by a Dutch parliament member.

Monday’s attack follows a bombing in March at a restaurant in Islamabad that killed a Turkish aid worker and wounded at least 12 others including at least four FBI personnel.

Taliban and al-Qaida-linked militants have launched a wave of bombings in Pakistan over the past year, mostly targeting security forces. But there has been a relative lull in violence since a new civilian government took power two months ago and began the peace talks.

The United States has expressed concerns that the peace deals will simply give the militants time to regroup and intensify attacks on U.S. and other foreign forces inside Afghanistan.

Pakistani Muslims have staged peaceful protests this year over the Muhammad cartoons, including about 300 people in the central city of Multan on Monday.

In April, Denmark briefly evacuated staff from its embassies in Algeria and Afghanistan because of terror threats related to the Muhammad drawings

June 2nd, 2008, 1:57 pm

 

AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Shai,
The Palestinian mothers who are happy about their children dieing are abnormal people in an abnormal situation. The are not normal people in abnormal situations.

Goldstein was a physician and all his life saved people. He was pushed over the edge by having to take care of too many terror victims. Goldstein was a normal person in an abnormal situation. Do you buy this argument also?

June 2nd, 2008, 2:45 pm

 

wizart said:

Goldstein was as abnormal as the Palestinian mothers. When people are pushed over the edge as you stated normal people become abnormal.

A doctor with more education than the average Palestinian mother in Gaza is normally better equipped to control his/her anger. I think.

June 2nd, 2008, 3:43 pm

 

AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Wizart,
Many people were pushed as much as Goldstein and did not committ the horrible crime he did. He did not become abnormal, he was abnormal initially. Same goes for the Palestinian mothers. Many cultures were opressed more than the Palestinians but did not come up with suicide bombers and delight in martyrdom.

June 2nd, 2008, 3:57 pm

 

SimoHurtta said:

Sim,
My culture has recently been playing basketball in the Nokia Arena.

Did your “culture” win or get a Hizbollah beating? 🙂

By the way you have not answered my question how much is Israel paying for Nokia for the right to use that name.

The people who celebrate Goldstein as a hero are just as crazy as those that support suicide missions. Trying to take historical examples and pin them on modern day Israelis is just another manifestation of your anti-semitism.

Is it anti-Semitic to tell historical facts? Well then mentioning Deir Yassin is anti-Semitic or is it? Goldstein was not Moses or Herod. On the hand culture is not the 20 last years. You claim that you culture is thousands of years old. Don’t you? If not what about the right to Return to your “culture”? 🙂

AIG you are a pure 100 percent idiot and a terrible third class propagandist. Sorry to say my opinion.

You can be sure that if your “culture” had established Israel in India and treated Indians as you treat “non Chosen” people in Israel, you would encounter suicide “terrorists”. It is not the question of religion and culture. It is what desperate, humiliated, tortured, robbed etc people do – everywhere around the world. Your “culture” used suicide attacks against Germans in Warsaw Ghetto.

Goldstein was a physician and all his life saved people. He was pushed over the edge by having to take care of too many terror victims. Goldstein was a normal person in an abnormal situation. Do you buy this argument also?

Israeli press-reports state that Goldstein refused to treat non-Jews, even those serving in the IDF. A real contribution of Jews to the Hippocratic Oath.

How many victims were there AIG before IDF Major, doctor Baruh Goldstein’s suicide massacre act? That happened in 1994. Suicide bombings started after that. Before Goldstein the Jewish victims amount was rather minimal (compared to Palestinians, who you have been killing in a “steady speed”).

AIG you should really begin to upgrade your education and knowledge level.

June 2nd, 2008, 4:18 pm

 

AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Sim,
The Israeli team came second in Europe. How about the Finnish team?

Nokia PAYS Tel-Aviv to have the stadium named after it. You are quite delirious.

It is not antisemitic to tell historical facts. But the following is bigotted and racist:
Luther, the founder of the Lutheran church was a raving antisemite, therefore all or many Lutherans are antisemites.

This is basically how all your arguments go. You submit an historical fact, and from it deduce a racist and bigotted conclusion in your own special and endearing way.

Let’s take one example: There was a massacre in Deir Yessin, therefore all Israelis are for massacre and massacre is at the basis of the Israeli state.

June 2nd, 2008, 4:29 pm

 

Shai said:

Wizart,

Thank you. I think we can all have the ability to feel compassion and to develop empathy even towards our so-called enemy. In fact, I believe that is an absolute necessary prerequisite for making peace. Without it, the most we can achieve is a dry, superficial peace, which serves merely the overfed politicians that show up for the signing ceremony, and not the people that desperately require it.

AIG,

I think the argument over the “happy mothers” is moot, because we both agree that their children were not born bloodthirsty killers, but were pushed to commit unthinkable acts. And when we try to understand what may have caused this, we should find it to be a level of despair unknown to you or I, nor to most people who do not live under occupation. Any which way we look, we must reach the conclusion that we have something very much to do with this despair, and hence we are a responsible party to these people, and to their action. We cannot absolve ourselves from this. It is high time we understand our own behavior, and change it. We cannot continue to seek shelter in counter-accusations or in who-started-what endless arguments. While we do so, other people are suffering.

June 2nd, 2008, 5:37 pm

 

ausamaa said:

Qifa Nabki,

You said: “As for the peace agreement, I really think you are debating the wrong person (me). Why don’t you go debate Alex or any of the other Syrian commentators on this blog who ARE happy to see that Bashar is negotiating with the Israelis?”

Qifa, Why dont you slow down a bit and read things a little more carefully. I am not against peace talks between Syria and Israel. I am just stating my beleife that at this time because the balance of forces on the ground is not polarized in such a way to allow a current settlement, and such talks will lead to nowhere, but they may just be an Israeli and a Syrian political necessity right now.

So why do I need to debate the peace talks with Alex and others on this blog who are happy to see such talks going on? I am also happy to see Olmert defying the US and re-asserting its readiness for a full withdrawl from Golan to the 4 June 1967 boarder.

And dont worry, I am happy to see the officials of President Bashar Al Assad negotiating with any one who knocks on Syria’s door without exception, even with the Feb 14 marionetts, if that serves Syria’s and the Arab good causes.

As to your recent lack of care regarding UNSC resolutions 1559 and 1701 and the rest of that batch, I am glad that you have finally discovered how unuseful and uninforcable they have become as we have predicted long ago.

Double Cheers…

June 2nd, 2008, 5:40 pm

 

SimoHurtta said:

Sim,
The Israeli team came second in Europe. How about the Finnish team?

AIG we play ice hockey and drive cars, not that only game where Israel has some merits (besides your national sport of target shooting occupied people which civilized people do not consider as a sport). How many medals has Israel got in Olympics? Six, I repeat six. Well Finland has got 295 medals in summer games and 151 in winter games. In the last Formula 1 race there were 2.5 Finns (Rosberg’s father is a Finn and he is one of the 3 Finnish world champions in Formula one) among the six best starters. Sad but in Monaco Finns had not much luck.

By the way AIG how many of the Maccabi team are Jews or even Israelis. Is Vonteego Marfeek Cummings a Jew or Murilo de Rosa, Nikola Vujčić, Terence Morris, Alex Garcia and Esteban Damián Batista Hernández. Well Saudis could any day buy a team which would give more Hizbollah treatment for Maccabi even on Nokia stadium. 🙂

AIG Israel is not in Europe try to understand it. It is shame that Israel is allowed to participate European games / leagues.

—-

Didn’t you AIG to begin to speak about culture and categorising people? You are a racist and a complete joke as a propagandist. Always when you loose an argument, which is ALWAYS, you take as your last escape card that anti-Semitism. You AIG are really not an asset for Israeli propaganda efforts. If your business as a businessman is to make propaganda then the payments for you could be seen as indirect public assistance by Israel, so bad (=naive) is your propaganda.

June 2nd, 2008, 5:55 pm

 

AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Sim,
Let’s review your latest racist and bigotted remark:
“besides your national sport of target shooting occupied people which civilized people do not consider as a sport”

A few Israelis shot unarmed Palestinians. Therefore this is the Israeli national sport which implies that most Israelis enjoy doing it. With raving antisemites like you, Israel’s position is very easy to defend. You are so delirious that you don’t even realize you are an antisemite, a bigot and a racist.

June 2nd, 2008, 6:05 pm

 

AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Shai,
Really, were the numerous Hamas suicide bombings during Rabin and Peres times out of despair? No they weren’t. The Palestinians were ruling themselves in larfe areas and receiving tons of money from the international community. Why are you ignoring basic facts. Suicide bombing was chosen as a method to win the war against Israel, but not out of despair, out of the understanding that it was effective.

June 2nd, 2008, 6:09 pm

 

Shai said:

AIG,

Let’s separate between these men and women who went on suicide missions, and the groups and leaders that sent them. The latter were indeed the strategists, the cool-headed and calculating militants, while the first were the sad and desperate children of those “happy mothers”. History will judge the leaders of all nations one day, for their chosen methods of war, and for their missed opportunities of peace. But you and I need to understand our responsibility for contributing to the conditions of despair that enabled the unthinkable volunteering or recruitment of these young individuals.

June 2nd, 2008, 6:23 pm

 

AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Shai,
You are not going to convince me that the fact that the Palestinians fought their battle for independence in a stupid way is my fault. There was absolutely no reason for them to become desparate. They could have sat down with Israel to discuss peace in 67 but they didn’t. It tool the PLO till 1989 I think to accept Israel. Is that my fault also?

The people sent during the Rabin and Peres period were not desparate by any means. Many of them were well off and even educated. You choose again to ignore facts.

June 2nd, 2008, 6:30 pm

 

Shai said:

AIG,

I think both sides missed endless opportunities. But we’re not equal parties. We have F-15i’s, F-16’s, UAV’s, spy-satellites, precision-guided bombs, Merkava tanks, submarines, etc., and they have some AK-47’s, Qassam rockets, TNT, nails and screws, and enough desperate men and women to carry these on their body to fill all of NOKIA stadium in Tel-Aviv. As I stated above, we should not engage in counter-accusations or in who-started-what endless arguments. Instead, we should figure out how we are contributing to this reality, and change it. I don’t care whose fault it is that the Palestinians rejected the 1947 UN resolution calling for the partition of Palestine. I care about what Israel has been doing in those territories since 1967. I don’t care who or what has caused me to be a de-facto Apartheid in the West Bank and Gaza. I care about what Israel has to do to end it. Let Historians deal with who did what. I want to ensure a better future for my children, and for those Palestinian “happy mothers” children. When we end the Occupation, and when the Palestinians can begin to sense freedom, there will be no more mothers “celebrating” the deaths of their children.

June 2nd, 2008, 6:47 pm

 

AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Shai,
Yeah sure, when we end the occupation there will not be more “happy mothers”. If there were suicide bombers when Rabin and Perese were PMs, there will always be suicide attempts to try free Tel-Aviv. You know that well, why are you trying to paint an imaginary picture?

June 2nd, 2008, 6:55 pm

 

Shai said:

AIG,
There will also always be extremists within Israel, who claim that my idea of returning the West Bank to the Palestinians makes me a traitor, and if I participate in the actual handing over of land to an enemy, I could be committing a crime punishable by death. And there will be Baruch Goldsteins, and Yigal Amirs, and others. So? Are we to base our decision making on any principle of absolutism? Of course there will always be crazy people, hateful people, criminals, sociopaths, you name it. They’ll exist in Palestine, in Israel, and even in Finland. So should we not end the Occupation until every last Palestinian signs a sworn declaration that he/she will no longer consider suicide bombing a legitimate way of achieving freedom?

I don’t know why some here on SC are fascinated by Tzipi Livni so much, but in one of her latest idiotic statements, she suggested that the Palestinians will achieve Independence (as if she has any right to determine when or how another people should achieve independence), only when they are ready to remove “Naqba” from their lexicon. A wise psychologist/advisor wrote in an OP-ED the following day, that Livni got it all wrong – that Israel will be able to at last celebrate ITS independence when it adopts “Naqba” into OUR own lexicon!

Let us stop using suicide-bombers as general indicators for anything to do with the Palestinian people, except for their obvious level of despair. I’m not a Psychiatrist, and neither are you, and even if we were, no one is asking us to psychoanalyze the Palestinian people. My eldest daughter, who isn’t even in 1st grade yet, can see the despair in the eyes of those poor Palestinian children in Gaza, as she watches them on TV. You and I have to deal with the fact that our continued Occupation might well cause some of them to blow themselves up on a Tel-Aviv bus one day. If your conscience is “clean” when you see such a thing, because you can detach yourself from these “abnormal” human beings, good for you. Mine isn’t.

June 2nd, 2008, 7:20 pm

 

AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Shai,
Your ability to rationalize and excuse everything the Palestinians do while always criticizing whatever Israel does is commendable. If it helps your conscience, who am I to stop you? I am sure that if Macabi would have won the European cup you would have been sorry for CSKA. I am not sure though that you would have justified Russian suicide bombings against Israelis but it is quite sad that I am not sure you wouldn’t. You are a strange man.

June 2nd, 2008, 7:48 pm

 

Shai said:

AIG,

If “normal” means finding it extremely difficult to condemn our occupation of the Palestinian territories for 40 years and, instead, coming up with every counter-accusation in the book to soothe our conscience, then yes, I guess I prefer to be “strange”.

You know that’s what our argument is all about (our occupation), not some innate ability of mine to always side against Israel. If I was so anti-Israel, would I still be raising my family here? No, I would be living in the U.S., enjoying a higher standard of living, less corruption, less tension, and better basketball… But one is no less-Zionist or less-Israeli by recognizing the crimes our nation has been and is continuing to commit, against another people, and demanding an end to it once and for all. Why you refuse to admit this, I cannot understand.

June 2nd, 2008, 8:04 pm

 

AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Shai,
You can certainly condemn the occupation but why do you find it difficult to admit that the situation is just as much the fault of the Palestinians as it is ours and that BOTH sides need to find a solution? And yes, this does matter to the future solution, because when you are not willing to face this fact, you are reducing significantly the chances of finding a slution.

June 2nd, 2008, 8:31 pm

 

Shai said:

AIG,

Our entire argument was over our part, not the Palestinians’. Of course I think there’s much to discuss at the table about their part, past, present, and future. Until your last comment, I at least, could not tell you had anything negative to say about our occupation. It seemed anytime I suggested we were occupying and subjugating the Palestinian people, you were bringing up their suicide-bomber “celebrating” culture who chose to fight rather than peace. It seemed you were willing to take no responsibility.

One of the biggest problems we as Israelis seem to have, is to accept criticism (even self-criticism from within) without immediately shifting the spotlight onto cruel Jihadists. It’s almost as if we’re saying the occupation is legitimate as long as there are suicide bombers. I claim it’s not, even if every single Palestinian is a suicide-bomber wannabe. Even if every single Palestinian wants to liberate Tel-Aviv. Even if every single Palestinian is currently building a Qassam rocket in his basement. Even if all Palestinians democratically elect a political party that has on its charter the destruction of Israel, and refuses to recognize us. We still have no right occupying them, subjugating them, suffocating them, or continuing to force our will upon them. It is time we left the Palestinian territories, period.

June 3rd, 2008, 4:05 am

 

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