Igraa and Male Hypocrisy; Censorship; Divorce; Two New Ministers

Syrian Actress Tests Boundaries Again
By ROBERT F. WORTH, October 1, 2010, NYTimes

Igraa: Julien Goldstein for The New York Times

“My films criticized the double standard of the Eastern man. He studies in Europe, but he comes back East and returns to his old attitudes,” said Nihad Alaeddin.

NIHAD ALAEDDIN was once one of the great sirens of Syrian cinema. Working under the stage name Igraa, or Seduction, she embodied the openness and liberalism that reigned in the Arab world during the 1960s and ’70s, performing the region’s first cinematic nude scene and flippantly telling journalists that “we have to bring sex to the cinema because our audience is frustrated.”

Now, after 15 years of self-imposed seclusion, she has returned as a ferocious critic of the Islamist wave sweeping the Middle East, and her courage has drawn the admiration of a younger and more constrained generation of actors and filmmakers. A multipart documentary about her appeared on Syrian television last year, and a prominent Syrian director is now working on a film about her life.

Unlike many other actresses of her era, she refuses to apologize for any of her numerous risqué roles, and even defends her sexual freedom in a way that is almost unheard of in this increasingly conservative country.

“Men have this hypocrisy nowadays. If the girl wears a hijab she must be honest,” Igraa said in a voice ragged from chain-smoking, during a late-night interview at her Damascus apartment. Today’s Islamic conservatives, she said, are mostly “liars” who “criticize others but don’t truly believe themselves.”

“The whole issue of the hijab has become an excuse for hunting down other people,” she said.

She laughed and added, “This kind of talk could get me hanged.”

Igraa’s own family has been split by the Islamist trend. As a teenager in the late 1950s, she traveled with her older sister to Cairo, where an Egyptian impresario renamed them Seduction and Charm and made them a successful belly-dancing duo who toured Europe and Asia in daringly scanty outfits.

Then in the late 1970s the Islamic revival began, taking with it Igraa’s sister. She took the veil and became a conservative Muslim, discarded the name Charm, and now refuses to talk about her belly-dancing past, though the sisters remain on speaking terms.

As for Igraa, who still uses that name, she now lives mostly nocturnally, rising in midafternoon. Her apartment is a decaying museum of her own career, with dozens of pictures of her alongside bizarre collections of cheap trinkets and stuffed animals. In her late 60s, she still dresses like the precocious teenager she once was, with tight jeans, pancake makeup and a spectacularly bouffant wig hiding her gray hair. She married only eight years ago, to a man decades her junior, and has never had children.

Some critics say her new iconoclasm is just an effort to dignify what was little more than a career in soft-core porn. Igraa bristles at the notion. “I took off my clothes for a principle,” she said. “If I wanted to do it for money I could have done it in the dark and made a lot more.”

BORN in Damascus to a lower-middle-class family, she dropped out of school in the fifth grade and moved to Cairo at the age of 13. After training with the legendary Egyptian belly dancer Tahia Carioca, she danced with her sister for several years, and then began acting in television dramas. She went on to become a leading actress, screenwriter and director.

“There was a kind of bloom of freedom in those days,” said Nabil Maleh, a Syrian director who helped to make Igraa’s career.

Igraa’s breakthrough came in 1970 with the film “The Leopard,” widely considered to have established modern Syrian cinema at a time when Egypt dominated the business. During filming, the producers and director worried that the story — about a Robin Hood figure in the mountains of northern Syria — might not get the attention it deserved without some kind of lure. They asked Igraa, who played the protagonist’s wife, to do a nude scene. She surprised them by agreeing almost at once. By modern standards, the film is scarcely racy at all: a few glimpses of flesh during a muted love scene. But at the time, it was profoundly shocking.

“I felt like a suicide bomber when I was making this scene,” she recalled. “To do such a scene in Syria — I knew there would be criticism.”

There was criticism, but the film was a hit. People traveled in packed buses from remote towns to the movie theaters in Damascus and Aleppo. Igraa was defiant about her role, and when she was asked to blame the director and producer, she refused, saying they had done the scene with her full consent.

She went on to make dozens of other films, many of them tawdry affairs with a lot of bikini scenes and not much plot. But she also wrote 25 screenplays, and she casts her work as an effort to break down patriarchal attitudes toward women.

“My films criticized the double standard of the Eastern man,” she said. “He studies in Europe, but he comes back East and returns to his old attitudes. If he could lock his wife and sister up, he would.”

To some younger filmmakers, her standing as an artist is less important than her defiance. In a country where artists are often forced to make compromises — with censors, or with religious orthodoxy — her honesty and steadfastness alone seem a virtue. Despite her controversial views, however, she has not suffered harassment or threats.

“She is very important because she is not a liar,” said Khaled Khalifa, a prominent novelist and television screenwriter. “She never regretted, she never apologized.” He added that in contemporary Syrian television and film “you can barely even show a kiss.”

Mr. Khalifa said he had tried to persuade Igraa to return to the screen, without success.

ODDLY, Igraa said she was a great admirer of Hassan Nasrallah, the leader of the Shiite militant group Hezbollah. She does not share his Islamist principles, but admires his honesty. “If he asked me to sacrifice my blood, I would,” she said.

Igraa said she would make another film if the role were right. For now, the Syrian director Omar Amiralai is making a film about her life, and she seems comfortable to play the provocateur.

Pointing to a huge movie still on her living-room wall that shows her younger self, head thrown back and eyes closed in what appears to be a moment of sensual abandon, she asked, “Guess what I’m doing in that picture?” The answer? Being stabbed to death by her husband. In the film, she played a woman who cheats on her husband and then returns to him, only to have him kill her.

Men usually think the still shows a moment of sexual climax, she said, with a bawdy smile. “Only women ever guess it right.”

Nawara Mahfoud contributed reporting.

Divorced! Divorced! Divorced! by Jida Malas
Forward Syria.com

With three words, men in Muslim societies can permanently divorce their wives. Divorce in itself used to be taboo in Damascus but is becoming increasingly acceptable. Women emancipation is one reason for the increasing divorce rate in Damascus, so are emotional and sexual incompatibility.

One of the most striking features of modern societies has been the rapid growth of divorce. Damascene society is no exception. In Damascus, according to the Central Bureau of Statistics, out of a total of 17,821 cases in Syria, there were 5036 cases of divorce in 2005. This is compared to 22,823 marriages in Damascus in the same year….

The ‘unspoken’ reason for divorce

All the previous reasons were what people talk about; what one hears on the streets of Damascus. What about what they don’t talk about? What about what remains taboo? This naturally is in reference to sexual reasons for divorce. According to sex specialists in the Arab world, the majority of Arabs are sexually ignorant, and considering that a marriage is almost totally based on the intimate relationship between man and women, it means that sex-related disorders might as well contribute in breaking marriages.

Sawsan notes, “My ex-husband couldn’t perform sexually. ….

ثلث نساء سوريا يتعرضن للعنف
…!

Syria’s Assad replaces two ministers

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad slightly reshuffled the cabinet on Sunday, replacing the ministers of culture and irrigation, the official SANA news agency reported.

It said Assad issued “a decree naming Riad Ismat minister of culture. Ismat previously headed Syrian state radio and television.

Georges Soumi is minister of irrigation. He is a Christian and not a Baathist. Like the Christian minister of expatriates who is from the Syrian Social Nationalist Party, Soumi is from the official opposition, only he is a communist.

SANA did not specify the reasons for the reshuffle, the seventh since Mohammed Naji Otri became prime minister in 2003.

Web Tastes Freedom Inside Syria, and It’s Bitter
By ROBERT F. WORTH, September 29, 2010, The New York Times

DAMASCUS, Syria — Earlier this month, a graphic video of teachers beating their young students appeared on Facebook. Although Facebook is officially banned here, the video quickly went viral, with Syrian bloggers stoking public anger until the story was picked up by the pan-Arab media.

Finally, the Education Ministry issued a statement saying the teachers had been reassigned to desk jobs. The episode was a rare example of the way Syrians using Facebook and blogs can win a tenuous measure of freedom within the country’s tightly controlled media scene, where any criticism of the government, however oblique, can lead to years in prison.

“We have a little bit of freedom,” said Khaled al-Ekhetyar, a 29-year-old journalist for a Web site whose business card shows a face with hands covering up the eyes and mouth. “We can say things that can’t be said in print.”

But that slim margin is threatened by an ever present fog of fear and intimidation, and some journalists fear that it could soon be snuffed out. A draft law regulating online media would clamp down on Syrian bloggers and other journalists, forcing them to register as syndicate members and submit their writing for review. Other Arab countries regularly jail journalists who express dissident views, but Syria may be the most restrictive of all.

Most of the Syrian media is still owned by the state. Privately owned media outlets became legal in 2001, as the socialist economy slowly began to liberalize following the accession of President Bashar al-Assad. But much of the sector is owned by members of the Syrian “oligarchy” — relatives of Mr. Assad and other top government officials. All of it is subject to intimidation and heavy-handed control.

“The first level is censorship,” said Ayman Abdel Nour, the founder of All4Syria.info, the independent Web site where Mr. Ekhetyar works. “The second level is when they send you statements and force you to publish them.” Like many other journalists and dissidents, Mr. Abdel Nour has left the country and now lives abroad.

The basic “red lines” are well known: no criticism of the president and his family or the security services, no touching delicate issues like Syria’s Kurdish minority or the Alawites, a religious minority to which Mr. Assad belongs. Foreign journalists who violate these rules are regularly banned from the country (a fact that constrains coverage of Syria in this and other newspapers).

But the exact extent of what is forbidden is left deliberately unclear, and that vagueness encourages fear and self-censorship, many journalists here say. A 19-year-old female high school student and blogger, Tal al-Mallohi, was arrested late last year and remains in prison. Her blog had encouraged the Syrian government to do more for the Palestinians, but it scarcely amounted to real criticism, and the authorities have not given any reason for her detention. A number of bloggers have been arrested for expressing views deemed critical of the Syrian government or even other Arab governments, under longstanding laws that criminalize “weakening national sentiment” and other broadly defined offenses.

Others have been jailed for jokes. One blogger, Osama Kario, wrote a parody in 2007 of the famous “three Arab No’s” refusing any concession to Israel (no peace with Israel, no negotiations with Israel, no recognition of Israel). His version: “No electricity, no water, no Internet.” He was jailed for 28 days, and when he emerged he stopped blogging and would not speak to fellow journalists about his experience.

Television and radio journalists have made some tentative efforts to push the limits in the past few years, with mixed success. D.J.’s like Honey Sayed, who hosts a popular show called “Good Morning Syria” on Madina FM, often explore sensitive social issues like homosexuality and child abuse. Last year Orient TV, a new station owned by an independent Syrian businessman, began broadcasting from Dubai and quickly gained a large audience with its imaginative documentaries. But a few months later the station’s Damascus office was abruptly shut down, with no explanation given.

One Web site, All4Syria.info, has managed to survive since 2004 with a revolving staff of about half a dozen writers based in Syria. Earlier this year it published an interview with three political dissidents on their release from prison, something no other Syrian outlet dared to do.

“The Internet in Syria is a bit like the samizdat publications were under the Soviet Union,” said Mohammad Ali Abdallah, whose brother Omar Ali Abdallah was sentenced to five years in prison in 2006 for contributing to an Internet forum that was deemed seditious by the authorities.

Last year, some of Syria’s new, privately owned radio stations joined bloggers in criticizing a proposed revision of Syria’s personal status law that would have made it legal for men to marry girls as young as 13 years old. Under pressure, lawmakers abandoned the proposal.

But individual successes do not always make for broader progress, because of fear.

“Even when someone successfully crosses a line, everyone is still afraid, they don’t build on it,” Mr. Ekhetyar said. “They think maybe it was a coincidence.”

Many online journalists use pseudonyms, he added, a practice that may be safer but erodes their credibility and leaves them in a fearful solitude where they cannot develop professional standards. Facebook has been an important outlet for political and social frustrations, but it, too, is often used with furtive anonymity.

And it is impossible to tell how many Syrians are paying attention. Asked who his audience was, Mr. Ekhetyar paused and said with a weary smile, “My friends and the secret police.”

That may be why the Syrian authorities, despite the official ban on Facebook, YouTube, and many other Internet venues, do not seem too frightened of them. Most Syrian government officials, including the president, have their own Facebook pages. Walk into almost any of the many Internet cafes in Damascus, and the manager will show you how to log on to Facebook or other banned sites. Foreign proxy server numbers are traded among young people like baseball cards.

On a recent evening in the tumultuous Bab Touma section of Damascus’s Old City, 26-year-old Berj Agop was among a crowd of young people at the SpotNet Internet Cafe, many of them casually surfing sites that are officially banned.

“I saw the video of the teacher beating the student,” he said. “It’s a victory for sure; without Facebook no one would have known about that incident.”

But nearby, another young man who gave his name only as Taym offered a different view.

“The Internet is like a baby’s lollipop for the young,” he said. “It entertains him and makes him forget his problems, it’s like ‘Alice in Wonderland’ — I dream of such a world, a better world.”

Hwaida Saad contributed reporting from Damascus.

Comments (17)


1. Elie Elhadj said:

Re. Syria’s Assad replaces two ministers

Syria’s Ministry of Irrigation should be abolished and its functions transferred to the Ministry of Agriculture. As long as irrigation politics is accorded a ministerial voice, investment in irrigation schemes will continue to waste Syria’s modest scarce resources.

Spending on irrigation over the past five decades has been substantial but inefficient. Land reclamation cost was high, estimated at $25,700 per hectare. At such cost, it would be practically impossible to make a reasonable rate of return.

The Tabqa Dam has failed to achieve its targets. The plan was to increase by 2000 the irrigated surface in the Euphrates Basin by 640,000 hectares. By 2000, only 124,000 hectares, or 19 percent of the target had been achieved in this salt-affected and drainage-poor Basin—gypsum in the soil caused the irrigation networks to collapse. In the Euphrates Basin 43 percent of the land was identified by the World Bank as having drainage problems or potential to develop problems in the future.

The Tabqa Dam wastes a huge volume of water to evaporation, estimated at 1.6 billion m3 annually. To put this figure in perspective, it is theoretically adequate to meet the drinking and household water needs of Syria’s 22 million inhabitants. Put differently, 1.6 billion m3 of water is equivalent to almost 25% of Syria’s share of the waters from Euphrates River.

There are other unimpressive results from Syria’s obsession with irrigation projects. The migration from rural communities to urban centers did not slow down. The ratio of rural to total population has even declined since 1961, from 63 percent to 48 percent in 2000, where it probably stands today. Reliance on capricious rainfall was not reduced either. In 1989, wheat production was 1 million tons; in 1995, it jumped to 4.2 million tons; in 1999, it dropped to 2.7 million tons; in 2007, it increased to 4.5 million tons, and in 2008 it was around 2.5 million tons.

Food independence is impossible for a country like Syria to achieve. With 22-million population Syria requires about 22 billion m3 of water annually to grow its food needs. Syria can provide only 15 billion m3 from irrigation and rain combined. The difference is being imported in the form of foodstuffs quietly without fanfare. The gap will get bigger as Syria’s population grows. Coupled with Syria’s narrow GDP diversification and dearth in foreign currency sources from exports, food imports will grow increasingly difficult to afford.

Over-extraction of groundwater has deteriorated Syria’s environment seriously. Irrigation extractions beyond the volume of renewable water have led to negative balances in five out the country’s seven basins, thus reducing the quantity and degrading the quality of the remaining water reserves. Eventually, with continued water over-extraction, irrigated lands will be abandoned, investments written off, and food production halted. Whenever this happens, the negative impact on rural communities and societal order could be shattering.

The World Bank concluded that Syria’s government “will need to recognize that achieving food security with respect to wheat and other cereals in the short-term as well as the encouragement of water-intensive cotton appear to be undermining Syria’s security over the long-term by depleting available groundwater resources.” Insufficient water resources and a rapidly growing population create insurmountable challenges for sustained food self-sufficiency with cotton growing. There simply is not enough water for both.

You can bring water and money and make the desert bloom, until either the water or the money runs out.

Under Syria’s arid and semi-arid conditions an economist would argue that it would be beneficial to import foodstuffs instead of investing in financially and environmentally non-viable local irrigation schemes. An economist would also argue that agriculture in Syria should be left to rain fed lands with investment to improve crop yield.

Syria would be better off beginning to focus its efforts on investment in export industries in order to generate sufficient foreign currencies to buy food in the future instead of continuing to invest in white elephant irrigation schemes.

For these reasons, Syria’s Ministry of Irrigation should be abolished.

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October 4th, 2010, 5:54 am

 

2. mark said:

Thanks to Elie ElHadje for the insightful comments on the Syrian irrigation situation, but I would go further.

Transferring the Irrigation Ministry functions to the Ministry of Agriculture would still mean that Syria’s water resources were being managed from a narrow production point of view. Under such circumstances, it is very unlikely that water would be realistically priced, and agricultural activity would continue to be subsidised- not to mention the cozy relationship between irrigation constructors and larger farmers would be maintained, to the ongoing cost to the rest of Syrian society and economy. Ok, the rest of the Syrian economy is an inefficient mish-mash of state and private activity, but the Government should be trying to minimise pricing distortions rather than reinforcing them.

Ill-considered irrigation construction, coupled with uncontrolled aquifer pumping has created a time-bomb for Syrian agriculture. I have heard of water levels dropping from 10m to 40m in a matter of a few years. Without aquifer water, the production that relies on the myriad small diesel pumps will soon be in jeopardy- as will the livelihoods of the farmers.

It would be next to impossible to expect an agricultural department, with its strong client relationship to the farming industry at all levels (from village to national), to undertake the harsh measures that will be required, such as reducing bore numbers and closing down unlicensed bores, and increasing water prices. A separate Ministry, with strong regulatory powers would be required to return Syria’s water resources to something approaching sustainability. Ah well, I can dream, can’t I?

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October 4th, 2010, 8:04 pm

 

3. Why said:

May I please ask the Dr. Landis, Alex, and other admins/moderators to find a solution for this dancing shlomo guy? I think his continuous racist irrelevant comments are despicable and go far beyond what is accepted in this respectable forum.

He has been warned several times before but that doesn’t seem to deter him.

Thank you

**EDITED AFTER POST: I noticed that dancing shlomo’s comments were removed, thank you and I hope his further racist comments will be similarly removed.

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October 4th, 2010, 11:51 pm

 

4. Elie Elhadj said:

MARK,

Thanks.

You are correct in saying: “It is very unlikely that water would be realistically priced, and agricultural activity would continue to be subsidised…”.

The aim behind calling for the abolishment of the Irrigation Ministry is to give irrigation politics less than a strong ministerial voice, in the hope that agricultural investment will become limited to improving the yield of rain-fed lands.

Like you, I expect that: “the cozy relationship between irrigation constructors and larger farmers would be maintained…”. That I advocate that investment decisions should be based on a purely economic rate of return basis, not political convenience and special interest group pressure is too fanciful an ideal to expect.

You mention the difficulty in “reducing bore numbers and closing down unlicensed bores”. In order to illustrate the seriousness of this situation I would like to mention some numbers. The source of the data is a 2001 World Bank report. Although, a bit dated the report provides, nonetheless, a fairly good approximate picture of where things might be.

The Greater Damascus Region has 18.2% of wells in Syria. 87% of the wells in the Greater Damascus Region were non-licensed. In comparison, excluding the Greater Damascus Region, non-licensed wells in the rest of the country were estimated at 38%. The volume of illegal water extraction in the Greater Damascus Region was around two thirds of the Region’s irrigation water.

Why has the Damascus Area had such a high ratio of illegal wells? An explanation might be that law enforcement in the capital’s region is less effective than in the rest of the country. The concentration of senior military officers, ruling party functionaries and other members of the ruling elite, many of whom are beyond the reach of the law, could be the culprit. As wealth increased it has become fashionable to own weekend homes on farms, let alone a form of investment .

Although drilling new water wells requires government licensing and that the license should be renewed periodically, powerful men violate such rules with impunity. According to Ministry of Agriculture data, while 16,425 illegal wells throughout Syria, or 25% of the 1998 illegal wells, were regularized, only 2,367 illegal wells, or 11% of the 1998 illegal wells in the Damascus Region were regularized during the same period.

Elie

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October 5th, 2010, 4:30 am

 

5. 5 dancing shlomos said:

and

what was racist? your dislike of comment?

one squealing pig and the censors come out.

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October 5th, 2010, 11:30 am

 

6. 5 dancing shlomos said:

“Web Tastes Freedom Inside Syria, and It’s Bitter”

come to america and taste the sweet ness of american freedom

just a very few:

gary webb (suicided)
helen thomas (fired. too uppity)
rick sanchez (fired. too much truth re the real power). keep your eyes closed and your mouth shut except about inanities.
professor steven jones (fired)
ward churchill (fired)
norman finklestein (let go. denied tenure)
juan cole. (something prevented his hiring at harvard. forgot what.

and

there are bills in senate and house to regulate/control the internet.

in amer media persons self censor 99.5% of the time. sometimes they just let go.

of course our thousands of univ profs dance around issues. or get gone

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October 5th, 2010, 12:16 pm

 

7. 5 dancing shlomos said:

another country where it is difficult to speak truth, to question:

October 5, 2010

Untenurable
The Firing of Ariella Azoulay
By NEVE GORDON

“Everything is political,” cultural theorists often claim. Recently, Bar Ilan University in Israel, decided to prove them right.

Located on the outskirts of Tel-Aviv, Bar Ilan likes to boast that it is the largest university in Israel. Its official goal is to cultivate and combine “Jewish identity and tradition with modern technologies and research.”

Fifteen years ago, however, the university became infamous after one of its students assassinated former Prime Minister Yitzchak Rabin in what turned out to be a successful attempt to arrest the Oslo peace process. The administration was appalled by the criminal act and consequently appears to have adopted a strategic decision to temper its conservative and right-wing proclivities. On the one hand, Bar Ilan continued to provide accreditation for two colleges located in illegal West Bank settlements, yet, on the other, it also developed an excellent gender program and hired a number of faculty members with well known left-wing credentials. It aspired to become a liberal institution guided by ostensibly neutral professional processes and regulations, like all major universities around the world.

It was during this period that philosophy professor Avi Sagi of Bar Ilan hired Ariella Azoulay. From an academic standpoint, he made a wise decision, since over the past decade Azoulay has become one of Israel’s foremost cultural theorists, specializing in visual culture. In addition to publishing scores of journal articles and book chapters, editing journals, translating classic texts, and serving as the curator of numerous art shows, during her ten-year career she has managed to write nine academic books, four of which came out with prestigious presses like MIT, Zone Books, Verso and Stanford University Press (forthcoming). On top of all of this, she is also the supervisor of more than ten PhD students.

Azoulay is one of those rare academics who can produce exceptionally high quality research, and do so as if she is working on a conveyor belt. She is precisely the kind of scholar top rate universities recruit and attempt to retain.

Last month, Bar Ilan decided to deny Azoulay’s bid for tenure, effectively firing her. While the protocols of the university committees that reached this pitiful decision have not been made public, Azoulay’s curriculum vitae and academic accomplishments are on the web, and anyone who is familiar with academic promotion procedures can readily see that the university’s verdict is illogical. But, then again, maybe matters are more complicated; maybe there is a method to the madness.

One important fact that does not appear on Azoulay’s written CV is her political activism and public visibility. She was, for instance, the curator of a photography exhibition “Act of State – 1967-2007,” which included hundreds of pictures that for the first time visually exposed four decades of occupation. The show was held in a gallery at the heart of Tel-Aviv. To be sure, a significant part of her work offers a critique of Israeli rights abusive policy and of Zionism. This is the real reason – no other plausible one exists – that most of the people on the university committees decided to vote against her bid for tenure. Bar Ilan, it seems, could not stomach tenuring a vocal Zionist apostate. It therefore abandoned the liberal maxim of a neutral professional process, and demonstrated that cultural theorists are right: everything is indeed political.

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October 5th, 2010, 12:40 pm

 

8. norman said:

can anybody answer this ,

Shai,
So it looks like there are two court systems and you can chose one what will happen if the opponent disagree on what court to seek ,
and what about the non Jews . Christians and Muslims , Druz too , what court system they are facing and how do they get married and what about inheritance for Jews and for non Jews , are the women equal in Jewish religious courts and what happen to the other group,

in Syria i think there is anew law that allows Christians to have wells so parents can decide distributions,

WD ,
In the US paying to charity is not mandated but tax deductible and you pay as you go the services ,

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October 5th, 2010, 1:27 pm

 

9. Ghat Al Bird said:

The commentary below may be a tad long its still relevant to most SC forum.

By Maidhc Ó Cathail

If Israel’s stranglehold over U.S. foreign policy is to be broken, Americans will need to be informed about the harm that Washington’s unconditional support for the Jewish state is doing to American interests, say leading analysts of U.S.-Israeli relations.

According to John J. Mearsheimer, co-author of The Israel Lobby and US Foreign Policy, “The only plausible way to weaken the lobby’s influence on U.S. foreign policy is for prominent policymakers and opinion-makers to speak openly about the damage the special relationship is doing to the American national interest.”
“Plenty of people in the United States, especially inside the Beltway, know that Israel is an albatross around America’s neck,” says Mearsheimer, the R. Wendell Harrison Distinguished Service Professor of Political Science at the University of Chicago. “But they are afraid to stand up and say that for fear that the lobby will attack them and damage their careers.”

“Hopefully, some of them will develop a backbone,” he adds.
Philip Giraldi, executive director of the Council for the National Interest, believes that Tel Aviv’s stranglehold over Washington can be broken “only by directly challenging the power of the Israel lobby and the false narrative about how it is of value to the United States.”

Giraldi, a contributing editor to The American Conservative, says that “it must be done from the bottom up as Israel cannot be challenged in the mainstream media, Congress, and in the White House.”

“The American people must learn that Israel is and always has been a strategic liability that has done immense damage to the United States and its worldwide interests,” concludes the former CIA officer.

If there is to be an end to Israel’s decades-long “sway over Congress and intimidating presidents,” says Jeffrey Blankfort, a prominent Jewish American critic of Israel and its American lobby, “it will require appeals and actions beginning on a local level that inform the American people not so much about what Israel has done to the Palestinians but what its unregistered agents in the U.S., euphemistically described as ‘lobbyists,’ have done to destroy what little is left of American democracy and the attendant costs in flesh and blood, as well as its tax dollars.”

A long-time pro-Palestinian activist noted for his trenchant critique of Noam Chomsky, Blankfort attributes the failure of such efforts to get off the ground to “the continued unwillingness of the leading figures of the Palestinian solidarity movement in the U.S. to acknowledge the invidious power of the Zionist Lobby,” who, following Chomsky’s anti-imperialist analysis, prefer to “place the primary responsibility for Israel’s crimes and U.S. Middle East policies at Washington’s doorstep.”

“So the first steps,” Blankfort suggests, “may be to publicly challenge these figures while at the same time moving past them and addressing the American people directly.”

No American President will ever have enough latitude to resolve the conflict in Palestine “unless and until enough Americans are informed enough to make their democracy work,” according to Alan Hart, former Middle East Chief Correspondent for Britain’s Independent Television News.

“In other words,” explains Hart, who was also a BBC Panorama presenter specializing in the Middle East, “if President Obama or any of his successors is ever going to be free to confront and defeat the Zionist lobby’s stooges in Congress and the mainstream media, there has got to be created a constituency of understanding about why it is not in America’s own best interests to go on supporting Zionism’s monster child right or wrong.”

The essence of the problem, Hart argues in the three-volume American edition of his book Zionism: The Real Enemy of the Jews, is that “Americans have been conditioned, brainwashed, to believe a version of history, Zionism’s version, which is a pack of propaganda lies.”

Jeff Gates, former counsel to the U.S. Senate Committee on Finance, believes that “transparency, accountability and better design” are required to break Israel’s hold on American foreign policy.

“At present, the American public is ignorant of Israel’s all-pervasive influence. Its control includes the media-enabled deployment of fixed intelligence to induce this nation to war for Greater Israel,” says Gates, author of Guilt By Association: How Deception and Self-Deceit Took America to War.

“We will know that accountability is underway when we see federal grand juries convened to consider charges against Israel’s agents, assets and sayanim (volunteers). When a jury brings in the first verdict for treason, Americans will know that the rule of law is being restored. We will know that a solution is within sight when the many appendages of its lobby are required to register as foreign agents.”

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October 5th, 2010, 2:14 pm

 

10. Averroes said:

On the main subject and the awful (sorry) photo of Ighraa ..

الله يرحمك يا أبو عنتر

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October 5th, 2010, 4:53 pm

 

11. Shai said:

Norman,

A court in the religious system is not considered a Court of Justice by the State of Israel. It can still serve as a court, only if both sides who come before it agree to do so. Hence, it is enough that one side does not, and the case has to go before a “regular” court. If I’m sued by someone, I can’t say “I want the case to go before the Religious Court”, if the other person disagrees.

All courts of justice are open before all Israelis, be they Jewish or non-Jewish. I don’t know enough about the religious “courts”, as far as inheritance, marriage, or women’s status is concerned (but I can only guess). I do know, however, that within the Haredi (Ultra-Orthodox) Community, the religious courts do not recognize the authority of the State of Israel, and therefore their rulings have no judicial validity, but only a Halachic one (Halacha is the Jewish religious law).

For the most part, I believe Muslims and Christians have the same legal rights as Jews do. One of the major exceptions is, unfortunately, issues having to do with land ownership and/or purchase. The “Jewish State” clearly gives preference to Jews when it comes to land. This must end.

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October 5th, 2010, 5:02 pm

 

12. Ghat Al Bird said:

Obama Administration Warns Lebanon! this morning.

“The Obama Administration revealed today that they had issued official “warnings” to the Lebanese government over their decision to allow Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to visit the country next week.”

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October 6th, 2010, 7:58 am

 

13. Mark said:

shai- thanks for the explanation regarding the Israeli court system. How does it work in practice? Parallel justice systems may be ok where they are equally accessible, but considerations like waiting times and fees can alter the situation. eg if faced with a situation where pursuing a matter through one system would involve a delay of a year or more and significant costs for legal representation, whereas the other offers rapid turnaround at lower cost.

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October 6th, 2010, 8:20 pm

 

14. Norman said:

Previous | Babylon & Beyond Home | Next »

SYRIA: Damascus tightens screws on Lebanon with arrest warrants in Hariri inquiry
October 5, 2010 | 8:21 am

Syria is on the move and throwing its weight around in the Middle East and beyond.

On Sunday, a Damascus court issued more than 30 arrest warrants against high-ranking Lebanese and international political and judicial officials in connection with alleged false testimony given in the United Nations-backed inquiry into the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, killed in a 2005 car bomb attack at the Beirut seaside, along with 21 others.

Among those named were German prosecutor Detrev Melis, who led the initial stages of the investigation, and his aide, Gerhard Lehmann; Lebanese police chief Ashraf Rifi; top Lebanese prosecutor Saeed Mirza and Syria’s exiled former vice president, Abdel Halim Khaddam.

The Syrian arrest warrants triggered new tensions in Lebanon’s volatile political arena and upped the rhetoric between rival political factions. Politicians from the pro-Syria, Hezbollah-led March 8 bloc came out hailing the move, while the current Lebanese prime minister, Saad Hariri, the son of the slain premier, and his supporters are chafing as they feel Syria and its local allies breathing down their necks.

Hariri’s Sunni Arab allies, Saudi Arabia and Egypt, came out stressing their support for the U.N.-backed tribunal on Monday, but Arab analysts suggest that they are losing the battle to Iran, Syria and their ally, the Lebanese Shiite militia Hezbollah.

“Lebanon is once again going through a highly tense period of uncertainty as a result of what appears to be a well-coordinated Syrian-Iranian offensive to torpedo the international tribunal,” wrote Riad Kahwaji, head of the Dubai-based Institute for Near East and Gulf Military Analysis, in a paper.

“Senior members of the U.S.-backed Lebanese political bloc known as March 14 Forces feel strong frustration and vulnerability as they see their regional allies, Saudi Arabia and Egypt, stand helpless in front of a multi-front onslaught by Syria and Iran and their allies in Lebanon.”

Syria’s latest move follows a string of diplomatic and political initiatives, including a meeting between Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Moallem and U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton in New York last week and Syrian President Bashar Assad’s high-level visit to Tehran over the weekend for meetings with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and a number of other high-ranking officials in a bid to strengthen ties and economic cooperation with the Islamic Republic, its closest ally.

As for Sunday’s arrest warrants, they may be widely perceived as an attempt by Syria to up the pressure on the Hariri government to officially dismiss the U.N.-tribunal, which was set up to investigate Rafik Hariri’s killing and is expected to indict members of Hezbollah in the case.

But Syria’s ambassador to Lebanon, Ali Abdel Karim Ali, insisted that the arrest warrants were “purely judicial” in nature and not intended to hamper ties between Syria and Lebanon, which had recently improved after Saad Hariri last month retracted his accusation against Syria in his father’s assassination.

After a late-night Cabinet meeting on Monday, Lebanese Information Minister Tareq Mitri said that Hariri “regretted that arrest warrants have been issued, and would have preferred that Lebanon-Syria ties continue without such developments,” reported Agence-France Presse.

Others weren’t so polite. Samir Geagea, leader of the Christian Lebanese Forces party, described the arrest warrants as a “Syrian attack” on Lebanese institutions.

The Syrian court issued the arrest warrants in the case of Gen. Jamil Sayyed, the former head of Lebanese General Security, according to his lawyer, Fasih al-Ashi. Sayyed was one of four pro-Syrian officers arrested in the aftermath of the Hariri killing on suspicion of involvement in the assassination.

Political leaders from the March 8 bloc, including Lebanese Druze leader Walid Jumblatt, expressed delight over the arrest warrants.

“Finally, the judiciary is handling the case of false witnesses,” Lebanese media reports quoted him as saying after meeting with the Syrian ambassador on Monday. “The guilty should be punished and the innocent should be declared so. What happened is very good.”

The U.N., for its part, called for calm and urged regional players to help create a more stable atmosphere in Lebanon.

“The United Nations has called on all sides in Lebanon to refrain from any rhetoric that could further inflame the situation and to resort to dialogue in order to resolve even the most difficult issues,” United Nations Special Coordinator for Lebanon Michael Williams said in a statement after meeting with the Lebanese parliament speaker, Nabih Berri, on Tuesday.

“What is important in the current circumstances is that people try to work together to address the difficult issues confronting the country, and that they do so in a calm and rational manner,” Williams’ statement said.

— Alexandra Sandels in Beirut

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October 6th, 2010, 11:32 pm

 

15. 5 dancing shlomos said:

re internet

http://www.prospect.org/cs/articles?article=wiretapping_the_internet

a selection from above link:

Wiretapping the Internet

New regulations would give law enforcement a “back door” to monitor online communications, threatening civil liberties and stifling innovation in the process.

Julian Sanchez | October 4, 2010

Taking a cue from the authoritarian regimes of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, American law-enforcement and intelligence agencies are seeking to re-engineer the Internet and other digital communications networks to make them easier to spy on.
In the week since the plan became public, it has been roundly condemned by civil liberties groups and security experts — and rightly so. While the proposal described in Monday’s New York Times probably won’t do much to hinder sophisticated criminals or terrorists, it does threaten to undermine the security of global communications and stifle technological innovation.

not sure why u.s. needs to take cue from any authoritrarian regime. u.s. regimes usually teach them.

and

virtually all in u.s.a is bugged by israel

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October 7th, 2010, 12:17 pm

 

16. 5 dancing shlomos said:

syria is so behind the times compared to the evolving west:

http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article26530.htm

selection from above link:

Birth of the National Security State By Philip Giraldi

October 06, 2010 “Campaign for Liberty” – -It is not far fetched to speculate that the United States has, over the past ten years, been sliding into a form of authoritarianism that retains only some aspects of the constitution and a limited rule of law. America’s president can, for example, commit soldiers to combat overseas without a constitutionally mandated declaration of war by congress while it is quite possible to be detained by the authorities and locked up without any prospect of trial or opportunity to defend oneself. The government even believes it can kill American citizens based only on suspicion.

The British government is currently introducing legislation proposing that all wage and salary earners have their paychecks sent directly to the tax agencies for processing. The government’s stated intention is to make sure that taxes are being collected, but Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs service computers would also be alert to possible money laundering and terrorist connections, raising the fear level to justify the action. After processing, the British government would then pass whatever money remains on to the person who actually earned it.

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October 7th, 2010, 12:57 pm

 

17. Ostoura said:

ما شاء الله ما شاء الله
لم يبق إلا إغراء لتدلي برأيها في الاسلام والمسلمين
لأ وكاتب الأسطر فوق، حتى لا نقول مقال، يعدها من رواد التحرر في العالم العربي
أنا أسأل هل إغراء حقا وفعلا مخولة للكلام في موضوع كهذا أم هو مجرد محاولة للعودة تحت الاضواء ويالله أحسن شيء نحكي عن الاسلام
أما بالنسبة للرجل الشرقي المكبوت يا لها من طريقة بذيئة اتبعتها هذه السيدة وسينماها للتخفيف عنه ثم الكيل له بأنه مكبوت متحجر شرقي متزمت مسلم متعصب
شوية منطق وعقل لو سمحتم

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October 14th, 2010, 5:45 am

 

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