Kerry Creates Good Will in Damascus

Kerry’s visit to Damascus has inspired Syria to put its best foot forward. Ahmed Salkini’s OpEd (copied below) expresses Syria’s eagerness to meet the US half way. “When peace is achieved,” he writes, “the cause for resistance vanishes.”

Bashar al-Assad is also working on a rapprochement with Egypt in order to forge greater agreement on the Palestinian issue. He will travel to Cairo soon, according to the Egyptian paper Al-Masriyun.

John Kerry is playing a key role in keeping engagement with Syria on track. He reiterated in Damascus that “engagement with Syria is a priority at the highest levels of our government.” Syria’s importance has been underscored by its improving relations with Iraq and Lebanon. Junblatt’s visit to Damascus is only one manifestation of the growing consensus in Beirut that good relations with Damascus will be crucial factor in to Lebanon’s future.

Iraqi politicians have also been canvasing Damascus for support and improved relations as we saw with the visit of senior Sadrists to Syria.  President Assad is keen on cultivating good relations with the next government in Baghdad with an eye to pushing forward with economic planning between the two countries, particularly in breaking ground for the new oil pipeline. If Maliki is able to keep his seat at the helm of the Daawa Party and form the next Iraqi government, Damascus will have been dealt a blow. Maliki does not like Syria and relations with Iraq have only deteriorated over the last year of his government. The Syrian government has long supported Iyad Allawi who is pro-Baathist, secular and stands for strong central government in Iraq. The chances of Allawi being able to form a government seem slim indeed. Finding partners to form a solid coalition will be very difficult for Allawi, whose support for Sunni Baathists annoys many Shiites. He was also a close collaborator with the CIA during his years in exile.

As always, the key story in Syria is the economy. Syria is undergoing an intense period of reform. Never has it been more open to new ideas. Dardari is pushing briskly ahead with economic legal reform. He plans $130 billion in investment over the next five years, most coming from the private sector. The aim is to promote %8 growth. The government will have to lower interest rates and allow the currency to drop in value before it reaches growth figures close to %8.  The Ministry of Finance will also have to create a bond market, which it is resisting.

Salkini

Salkini

“Facts are stubborn things
By Ahmed Salkini, March 31, 2010
OPED News

As the confirmation of Robert Ford for the post of Ambassador to Syria goes through its due process, it is a propitious moment to examine the premises of the Syrian-US dialogue. While we have certain undeniable differences, we share common visions and common opinions – the simplest of which that neither side is under any unrealistic illusions. The road ahead will inevitably prove challenging. Yet, it is through a continuous and honest dialogue that we can overcome these challenges, because no matter our preference, we have inescapably common interests.

Certain skeptics have raised their voices in dissension regarding the emerging Syrian-US rapprochement. They typically ground their argument on a claim of the futility of cooperation, while evoking recent memory of tumultuous times. Yet historical and current facts stand in opposition to these skeptics’ claim. And as John Adams once said, “facts are stubborn things; and whatever may be our wishes, they cannot alter the state of facts and evidence.”

History has proven that through cooperation, much can be achieved to further both countries’ national interests. With our troops fighting and spilling blood side-by-side, we managed to liberate Kuwait in 1990. The following year, and through close coordination, we contrived the Madrid Peace Conference; although it did not bring about the much-anticipated just peace, its accords set the framework and contours for any future comprehensive peace agreement. In both occasions, it took intensive American diplomacy by an illustrious Secretary of State, James Baker, and in both cases cooperation yielded positive results. In the 1980’s through close coordination between the American, Syrian, and other Arab sides, we managed to bring an end to the bloody Lebanese civil war after years of ostensible endless fighting. Most importantly, after the heinous events of 9/11, Syria reached out to the US in its warring efforts against Al-Qaeda with “actionable information” that “helped save American lives,” according to then-Secretary of State, Colin Powell.

On the other hand, what did non-engagement of recent years achieve? Its proponents in Washington have, for the most part, left their offices as they watched their goal of isolating Syria dissipate. At the time, two esteemed American statesmen who opposed that policy, Senators John Kerry (Democrat) and Chuck Hagel (Republican), put it best: “our policy of non-engagement has isolated us more than the Syrians.” This was recently echoed by a former Bush-official and current Obama-appointee, Assistant Secretary of State Jeffery Feltman: “consequently, the United States, not Syria, seems to be isolated.” On the Syrian side, we have made it abundantly clear that although we emerged unscathed from attempts to isolate us and proved that we can withstand the most prodigious pressure, unfavorable relations with the world’s superpower are not conductive to peace.

Admittedly, there are inexorable and philosophical differences; namely, disagreement over what constitutes a terrorist and a freedom fighter in regards to occupied Arab territories. What we see as an Arab (Christian and Muslim) fighting to liberate his occupied land, US administrations labels as a terrorist. What we see as Israeli crimes against humanity, the US sees as not. However, drowning in a vicious cycle of dogmatic arguments over definitions diverts our attention to the root cause of the problem: illegal Israeli occupation and a lack of peace. When peace is achieved, and Israeli occupation of Arab land ends, the cause for resistance vanishes. This goal of just and comprehensive peace in the Middle East is a cardinal national interest for Syria and the US -and one that is inconceivable without our cooperation.

We also share prime national interests in Iraq. We agree on the end goal: a unified, stable, and secure Iraq; we agree on the process: foreign troop withdrawal and a firm buttressing of Iraq’s unity and sovereignty. The ground, and frame, work are laid for trilateral cooperation on different matters, including borders. Such cooperation can facilitate US troop withdrawal and expedite Iraq’s progress.

Prudence and realism dictate the imperative of setting-aside our specific differences and setting our eyes on the larger picture. No one party can address the myriad issues facing our region, from achieving peace to bringing full security and stability to Iraq. It is only through a concerted and inclusive effort that we can further our mutual goals. This process should be grounded in mutual respect and understanding, as has been stressed by Presidents Assad and Obama. Syria’s position is unequivocal in rejecting a language of dictation. Those who came to Damascus with a list of demands and no reciprocity, returned empty-handed. Those who come with a vision for peace, stability, and cooperation will find a warm, embracing, welcome.

Our road ahead will not be paved solely by success. Doubters and parasites will persist in their efforts to undermine ours. But we must always remember, pursuing our respective interest dictates that we persevere. We have no choice -facts are simply “stubborn things.”

Author’s Bio: Ahmed Salkini is the Spokesperson of the Syrian Embassy in Washington and a political adviser to the Ambassador.

Kerry: Syria is committed to Mideast peace
By Middle East Online
01/04/2010 17:15

Kerry: Obama wants to engage Syria as key peace player
US senator says Syria is essential player in bringing peace, stability to Mideast region.

DAMASCUS – President Barack Obama’s administration considers Syria a key player in Washington’s efforts to revive the stalled Middle East peace process, US Senator John Kerry said in Damascus on Thursday.

“Syria is an essential player in bringing peace and stability to the region,” Kerry, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said in a speech after meeting President Bashar al-Assad. “Both the United States and Syria have a very deep interest… in having a very frank exchange on any differences (and) agreements that we have about the possibilities of peace in this region,” he said in the statement.

A summit of Arab leaders last weekend ruled out renewed Palestinian-Israeli peace talks unless the Jewish state halts all settlement building, particularly in annexed Arab east Jerusalem.

“There are things that the United States can do, there are things that Syria can do, there are things that Israel can do, Turkey can do, some are unilateral, some are multilateral,” Kerry said. “But all of us have to work together in order to seize real opportunities.” Obama’s administration has pursued a year-long campaign to engage Syria, a former US foe, and energise its thwarted push for a broad Arab-Israeli peace, particularly between Israel and the Palestinians.

Its decision in February to appoint the first US ambassador to Damascus in five years was “evidence that engagement with Syria is a priority at the highest levels of our government,” said the former US presidential candidate. Envoy Robert Ford is still awaiting US confirmation of his new post, but “he will be an excellent representative of the president’s policies and an outstanding envoy to the Syrian government,” Kerry said.

He also called on Syria to play a role to halt the supply of weapons to Lebanon’s Shiite militant group Hezbollah. “We also remain deeply concerned about the flow of weapons in this area, through this area, to Hezbollah. That is something that must stop in order to promote regional stability and security,” Kerry said.

Contacts between Cairo and Damascus to secure Assad visit to Egypt…”
Al-Mesryoon (Thanks to MidEastwire.com)
by Omar al-Qalyubi

Al-Mesryoon has learned there were contacts at a high level currently ongoing between Cairo and Damascus in preparation for the first visit in over four years of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to Egypt to wish President Hosni Mubarak well following his gallbladder surgery and to turn the page of tensions which affected the relations between the two commands due to the disputes over the Lebanese dossier. Diplomatic sources thus mentioned that President Al-Assad’s visit was expected next week in case the arrangements for it are completed and in case an agreement is reached over the dossiers which will be addressed during the anticipated meeting.

“They also added that there were preparations underway for a visit which will be conducted by President Mubarak to Damascus in the next few coming months, considering that this visit will constitute an announcement of the resumption of the relations between the two countries and the end of the stalemate which had so far affected them. The sources considered that the visit [of Al-Assad] will have a positive impact on several important dossiers, especially the ones related to the peace process and the Palestinian reconciliation, since Damascus’ influence over the Palestinian factions could be used to ensure the signing of the reconciliation which was massively obstructed after Fatah and Hamas had almost signed it at the end of last year.

Syria Plans $130 Billion in Investment by 2015, Syria News Says
By Nayla Razzouk (Bloomberg) 2010-04-01

Syria plans $130 billion in investment from 2011 to 2015 to raise the country’s annual economic growth rate to 8 percent from 5.5 percent last year, Syria News reported. The private sector will contribute $77 billion to the program and the government will provide the rest, the news service said on its Web site.

The plan is based on a budget deficit of less than 3 percent of gross domestic product, a balance of payment deficit of less than 3 percent, an inflation rate of less than 3 percent and a rising economic growth rate, the news service said, citing Deputy Prime Minister Abdallah al-Dardari.

Paper hails purchase of two French planes by Syria
2010-04-01 translation by BBC MidEast
Al-Thawrah website on 29 March
by Ali Mahmud Jadid

Despite Unjust Sanctions Commercial Bank Breaks Price of International Banks’ Deals in London Market, Renews High Skills by Financing Syrian Planes] The Syrian Commercial Bank’s financing of Syrian Airways purchase of two planes carries many meanings of defiance. It also points to the correct visions of the bank, and the courage that it is able to achieve the impossible, or something similar…..

Druze leader takes road to Damascus
By Meris Lutz (Los Angeles Times) 2010-04-01

It may have been fashionable in 2007 to call the president of Syria “a snake, a butcher, a liar … and a criminal,” but it could make things awkward when you’re sitting across from him three years later.

Then again, Druze leader Walid Jumblatt’s meeting with Bashar al Assad on Wednesday – the first in six years – was really more of a reunion. The notoriously mercurial Jumblatt was a staunch ally of Syria before he rode the wave of anti-Syrian sentiment to the forefront of Lebanese politics, and then switched sides again when he felt the wind shift.

“I wouldn’t be surprised if privately Bashar was like ‘well played’ to Jumblatt,” said Harvard researcher and Lebanon expert Elias Muhanna. Jumblatt “always gets out ahead of everyone else, and I think [Assad] understands that, so it could very well be a frank and candid conversation.”

The meeting was the culmination of a two-year campaign by Jumblatt to get back in Assad’s good graces with the help of Syria’s ally in Lebanon, the militant Shiite group Hezbollah.

Earlier this month, Jumblatt, a former darling of neoconservatives in Washington, publicly apologized for his incendiary comments about the Syrian president, claiming he got swept up in the passion of the so-called Cedar Revolution that followed the assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri in 2005.

The meeting produced the compulsory sound bites about Lebanon and Syria’s “historical” and “brotherly” relations, but analysts say it shows more about the cyclical nature of dynastic politics in this corner of the world.

After 2005, Jumblatt accused Syrian intelligence of being behind his father’s 1977 assassination. Now that he is preparing his son, Taymour, to take over, he may be returning to Damascus to smooth things over.

“Jumblatt wants to make sure that his son is received in Damascus and receives the benefits of that relationship,” Muhanna said.

From Syria’s perspective, Jumblatt’s visit is an affirmation of Assad’s power, as well as an opportunity to shore up support for Hezbollah in case members of the group are implicated in the investigation into Hariri’s killing, said Muhanna.

“Jumblatt knows that the image of him going back to Damascus is something Syria wants, for Bashar to show his own people that even his most virulent critics have come back and paid homage,” Muhanna said.

Jumblatt began realigning himself after the events of May 7, 2008, when Hezbollah fighters took over most of Beirut and the Druze stronghold of Aley. Soon after, he effectively withdrew from the anti-Syrian March 14 coalition. Since then, even Prime Minister Saad Hariri, the son of the slain prime minister and leader of the March 14 movement, have paid their respects in Damascus.

Jumblatt’s meeting with Assad coincided with another meeting in Lebanon between Saad Hariri and U.S. Sen. John Kerry. The former presidential candidate and chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee emphasized U.S. support for a “free and independent” Lebanon before heading to Damascus late Wednesday to hold talks with Assad in an effort to secure Syria’s cooperation in peace talks.

Syria after the Iraqi elections: Now comes Lebanon’s turn
On April 1, (thanks to mideastwire.com)
Al-Akhbar

Around one month ago, the Damascus visitors were coming back with stories and analyses that stirred the sarcasm of those waiting for them in the capital’s cafés or in the offices of its MPs. They were speaking about the primary features of Syrian ideas that would start with a sudden Lebanese development (the accusation of Lebanese officials of being Israeli agents is not far from that) and would end with a governmental change represented by replacing the two Lebanese Forces ministers with others from the previous opposition…

“The expectations that used to stir a laugh, quickly proved to be true. Indeed, clear Syrian messages started to arrive one after another to the two Presidents Michel Suleiman and Sa’ad al-Hariri along with Walid Junblatt. Damascus communicated with Al-Hariri via the regular channels, especially KSA. Al-Hariri started to understand. He understood how serious the Syrian-Saudi position is about taking one of their kind, practical steps – including governmental, political, media, and partisan steps – in order to improve his relation with the Syrian system.

“At the same time, Maj. Gen. Rustom Ghazali reconnected [the relation] that was severed between him and the General Director of the Internal Security Forces Maj. Gen. Ashraf Rifi on the one hand, and between himself and the Head of the information department Colonel Wissam al-Hassan on the other hand with all that these two men represent within the Sa’ad al-Hariri structure. Here, it can be stressed that the Syrian-Hariri relation has evolved in the last week of the Al-Hariri cabinet’s time in a way that is more extensive than the 90 days of this cabinet’s lifespan.

“As for president Michel Suleiman who did not want, ever since he became president, to open up a military line for his political relation with the Syrian command, he was hit by the clear messages carried by the former Minister Wiam Wahhab during his extensive media appearance. Suleiman quickly understood, especially after the visit of the Syrian ambassador in Lebanon Ali Abdel-Karim to Baabda palace, the seriousness of Wahhab’s talk…

“Thus, tells a Syrian source, Syria overcame the need for a governmental change by making a serious grab for keys that it was supposed to grab a while ago…And after empowering the official relations between the two States and blocking the road to the Suleiman-Hariri hesitations in regard to the relation with Syria, and regardless of the two presidents position ofn some internal matters, the turn of the Syrian-Junblatt relation came and a clear message was delivered to the Mukhtara leader [saying that] his relation with Damascus goes exclusively through Haret Hreik [Hezbollah’s strong hold]…

“The Syrian maestro did not stop there. Harmony prevailed again in the relation of Omar Karami and former Minister Abdel-Rahim Murad… At the same time, Al-Marada Movement’s leader MP Suleiman Franjieh started to fix the problems that affected his relationship with General Michel Aoun lately… But why did Syria wake up now to the re-arrangement of its relations with the Lebanese…? No matter what the reasons are, Syria seems to be today more relaxed then ever in regards to the Lebanese context.” – Al-Akhbar Lebanon, Lebanon

Comments (39)


1. jad said:

Dear Dr. Landis,
“The government will have to lower interest rates and allow the currency to drop in value before it reaches growth figures close to %8.”
I agree on the interest rate but I don’t see that dropping the currency value will help much in the case of Syria. It’s not Japan, China nor Korea where the mass production is at its highest point.
Syria is an ‘ex’* agriculture country with poor industrial base, highly populated with shameful illiteracy rate out of poverty and where almost every experience person I know leaving the country for economical and political reasons, and where the regime is trying its best to kill invention, creativity and freedom, so how dropping the value of something already low will help?
*I believe that this government policy is to kill agriculture all together and they are doing ‘great’ job in that sense, ALLAH YKASSER IDEYON!

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April 2nd, 2010, 4:14 am

 

2. Majhool said:

Professor Landis writes:

“He (Allawi) was also a close collaborator with the CIA during his years in exile”

I find the word collaborator to be a harsh, and “un-academic”.

As far as the Syrian economy is concerned, and for the sake of balanced reporting/analysis, I suggest that news of upcoming/projected investments be balanced of news of project completion or secured funding. Many earlier posts by Professor Landis echoed news of investments dollars been offered to Syria, I wonder if these dollars made it, after all. What I know for sure that poverty levels in Syria have hit unprecedented levels, let alone Islamic fundamentalism. The opening of night clubs in Damascus, should not be considered a worthy economic index.

I get the feeling that news analyzed here are utterly one sided. Hell!! Reading, one would conclude that Syria is never wrong, ever. I expect reality to be a little more imperfect.

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April 2nd, 2010, 5:28 am

 

3. Yossi said:

LET IT BE KNOWN: THE TROLL HAS BEEN DEFEATED

Akbar has been forced to renege on his assertion that Israel is similar to Western democracies. Mind you, dear reader, Akbar never acknowledges defeat on the basis of the content of a discussion. He aledges to have withdrawn since the debate became “too personal”.

Please review the case against Akbar, and an expose of his lies and diversions here:

http://joshualandis.com/blog/?p=5835#comment-235347

As I have noted in my concluding remarks:

“It is a tedious but satisfying task to corner a troll until it runs out of steam. I recommend doing it every once in a while, it’s a public duty, like army reserve or jury duty, something that is done for the common good.”

I suspect that after a few more rounds like this, he’ll run out of steam. It’s worth a try. The methodology is this: make him commit to a particular well-defined claim, then take him to task on that. Do not be afraid to talk about possible motives behind his refusal to answer point-blank questions. Keep all the discussion in a single thread for easy retrieval—you may need to invoke the record of the defeat in the future.

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April 2nd, 2010, 5:34 am

 

4. Akbar Palace said:

The Agony of Defeat;)

Please review the case against Akbar, and an expose of his lies…

Yossi,

Now that I’ve been defeated (like the Palestinians), can you list all the “lies” you claim I made?

Thanks,

AP

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April 2nd, 2010, 11:13 am

 

5. jad said:

AP, Go read the link that Yossi left you 3 times already and you will get all your answers, just accept your defeat already 😉
http://joshualandis.com/blog/?p=5987#comment-235336
http://joshualandis.com/blog/?p=5835#comment-235347
http://joshualandis.com/blog/?p=6013#comment-235406

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April 2nd, 2010, 12:33 pm

 

6. Joshua Landis said:

Dear Majhool. I am not sure why you object to the word “collaboration” for Allawi’s close working relationship with both the CIA and MI6. There is no secret about his relationship with Western intelligence agencies and the funding and military support he received from them. He would never be in Iraq today had he not worked closely with Western leaders to overthrow Saddam. Here is the quote from Wikipedia but there are a number of books explaining Allawi’s relationship with the CIA and MI6.

“In December 1990, Allawi announced the existence of the Iraqi National Accord (INA). One of Allawi’s allies in the INA was Salah Omar Al-Ali, a former member of the Iraqi Revolutionary Command Council and ambassador to the United Nations. The INA received open backing from the UK, Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the United States. The group consisted mainly of former military personnel who had defected from Saddam Hussein’s Iraq to instigate a military coup. Allawi established links and worked with the CIA in 1992 as a counterpoint to the better-known CIA asset Ahmed Chalabi, and because of the INA’s links in the Ba’athist establishment. It is alleged Allawi’s INA organised attacks in Iraq. This campaign never posed a threat to Saddam Hussein’s rule, but was designed to test INA’s capability to effect regime change. Though Saddam’s government claimed the attacks have caused up to 100 civilian deaths there are no true records of theses statistics to date.[9]

A military coup was planned for 1996, in which Iraqi generals were to lead their units against Baghdad and remove Saddam Hussein. The CIA supported the plot, code-named DBACHILLES, and added Iraqi officers that were not part of INA. The plan ended in disaster as it had been infiltrated by agents loyal to Saddam. US support was also questionable – requests by the CIA station chief in Amman for American air support were refused by the Clinton administration. Many participants were executed. Lands and factories belonging to the Allawi family were confiscated. Even their graveyard in Najaf was seized, although it was later returned. According to Allawi, his family lost $250 million worth of assets. [3] US support for INA continued, receiving $6 million in covert aid in 1996 and $5 million in 1995 (according to books by David Wurmser as well as Andrew and Patrick Cockburn).[10]

The INA channeled the report from an Iraqi officer claiming that Iraq could deploy its supposed weapons of mass destruction within “45 minutes” to British Intelligence.[11] This claim featured prominently in the September Dossier which the British government released in 2002 to gain public support for the Iraq invasion. In the aftermath of the war, the “45 minute claim” was also at the heart of the confrontation between the British government and the BBC, and the death of David Kelly later examined by Lord Hutton. Giving evidence to the Hutton Inquiry, the head of MI6 Richard Dearlove suggested that the claim related to battlefield weapons rather than weapons of mass destruction.[12]”

On the question of Syria’s growing numbers of poor, I have been writing for years about the growing “income gap” in Syria. Ever since the US backed away from destabilizing Syria in 2005, the economic story is “the story” in Syria. Reforming the economy to allow for greater capitalism and freedom is going to create much greater poverty in the short and medium term.

Send me stories on poverty — either links to news stories of your own, and I will publish and link on SC.

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April 2nd, 2010, 1:24 pm

 

7. Majhool said:

Dear Professor Landis, thank you for your response. There is no denying of Allawi’s close working relationship with the CIA and other western agencies. However, the word “collaboration” -in the context of Arab politics – carries the negative meaning of the word and maybe a death sentence. For example that’s why no one uses the word “collaborator” describing Nasrallah with regard to his cooperation with Iranian inelegance. I guess this is purely an issue of semantics.

In tackling the issue of economics, I appreciate your willingness to publish links to “not-so-great” economic news. That said, please consider the following challenges
• The issue of poverty is a taboo in Syria, Syrian media outlets touch on the issue superficially.
• Western media coverage is fixated on the “opening to the west” aspect of the economy. A more holistic approach is almost always abandoned.
• The worthy stories, and although not secrets, are usually not reported. All it takes to uncover the truth is a taxi trip to one of the poverty belts in Damascus or Aleppo.
• The news of future investment are the trickiest, this is fish in the sea. The reader must be alerted that similar investment announcements remained as such i.e. announcements.

Similarly, the issue of silent opposition is almost never addressed. Although that segment in society is probably the largest.

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April 2nd, 2010, 2:51 pm

 

8. norman said:

This is only appropriate on Good Friday or sad Friday as we call it in Syria,

CSMonitor.com

Easter Sunday: A Syrian bid to resurrect Aramaic, the language of Jesus Christ
Jesus Christ is remembered on Good Friday and Easter Sunday, but the language he spoke is all but forgotten. A controversial new language institute in Syria seeks to save Aramaic.

The ancient Syrian village of Malula (also spelled Maaloula) is one of only three hamlets where residents still speak the Aramaic of Jesus Christ’s day. As Easter Sunday approaches, pilgrims from around the world have been visiting its holy sites and rediscovering the language.
(Newscom)

By Alastair Beach, Contributor
posted April 2, 2010 at 5:31 pm EDT

Malula, Syria —
While millions will commemorate the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus Christ this Easter Sunday, only a handful of people could discuss his works in the language of his day: Aramaic.

Nearly all of them live in three Syrian villages, the last outposts in a region largely swept by the Arabic of Islam. In a bid to preserve its ancient heritage, Syria launched a series of language courses in 2007 to bolster the fading influence of a 3,000-year-old language that once reigned supreme in the Middle East.

And so it was that an Aramaic institute joined the cluster of buildings that cling to a rocky spine in the village of Malula, about 35 miles northwest of Damascus. But the program ran into trouble recently, when a Syrian newspaper suggested that the alphabet being used to teach written Aramaic bore an uncanny resemblance to the Hebrew characters found in modern-day Israel.

Worried that a flagship heritage scheme might in any way be associated with the country’s neighboring enemy, the government-run University of Damascus, which established the institute, acted quickly to freeze the Aramaic program.

“There were some people in the press trying to cause trouble,” says George Rezkallah, an elderly villager from Malula who runs the institute. He is hopeful that classes will be able to resume this summer.

The origins of Aramaic
Speaking from his flat overlooking the village’s higgledy-piggledy hillside houses, Mr. Rezkallah says that while the two alphabets do have similarities, it is Aramaic which first began using square lettering around the 12th century BC. The Hebrew now used in Israel, he said, was formulated 700 years later after the restoration of the ancient kingdom of the Jews in the 5th century BC.

“The Persians adopted Aramaic. The Babylonians adopted it and so did the Jews. It then prevailed as the language of the Middle East until 700 AD.”

David Taylor, author of “The Hidden Pearl: Aramaic Heritage of the Syrian Orthodox Church,” adds that the Jewish people adopted the square Aramaic alphabet – which had become the lingua franca of the entire Middle East from about 700 BC – after they were exiled to Babylon in 587 BC, before which they had used a Palaeo-Hebrew script.

The fact that it has survived in Malula today is nothing short of a “miracle,” says Gene Gragg, professor of Near Eastern Languages at the University of Chicago.

“It would be something of a linguistic tragedy if this splendid survivor were allowed to disappear,” he added.

It would also be a travesty for Syria, says Dr. Taylor.

“Aramaic is a constant reminder of the international importance of Syria in the ancient world, when it was a beacon of learning and culture that had a profound impact worldwide,” he says. “It mirrors the cultural, linguistic and religious diversity that has always been of such great importance in Syria and is key to its long-term success.”

A last remnant of Jesus’s language
Modern branches of the language are still spoken across southeast Turkey, northern Iraq, and northwest Iran.

But the dialect spoken by its inhabitants – as well as the residents of two nearby, mostly Muslim, villages – is the only survivor of Western Aramaic, the closest modern descendant to the language spoken by Jesus and his disciples.

It would, in all probability, have been spoken by the Christian martyr St. Thecla, a disciple of St. Paul whose tomb in Malula draws pilgrims from around the world.

“It’s quite extraordinary,” says Annyck Wustyn, a 63-year-old visitor from France. “In our country, where we are mostly Catholic, Aramaic is like a myth. Now I know it is a reality.”

Pushing forward with the program
Undeterred by the move to shut down his Aramaic institute, Rezkallah plans to introduce a new course this summer which, for the first time, will include a textbook using Aramaic to English translations – effectively opening up the institute to non-Arabic speaking students for the first time since it was founded.

According to Rezkallah, the dispute over the Hebrew similarities is still “being discussed,” but the institute has trained an extra nine teachers this year in anticipation of an extension of the program. The new textbook will, however, use Syriac script from the second century BC in lieu of square Aramaic lettering.

For the likes of Atallah Shaib, a young man working in his father’s restaurant overlooking the rickety houses of Malula, the fight to secure his language’s future is as important as ever.

“Aramaic is not a normal language,” says Mr. Shaib, his rolled-up sleeves revealing a series of inky blue Aramaic tattoos on his forearms. “It’s Jesus Christ’s language, and that’s the most important reason why we should keep it alive.”

I wonder if there is a tax deductible way to help, ?

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April 2nd, 2010, 10:31 pm

 

9. Ghat Albird said:

NORMAN said:

This is only appropriate on Good Friday or sad Friday as we call it in Syria,

AND

I wonder if there is a tax deductible way to help, ?

Here”s my 3 cents worth.
Why not suggest to Dr. Joshua a once a year donation drive which SC bloggers contribute what ever sum they can afford and then send the total amount in US dollars to Riskallah’s school/institute.Since I am not a licensed lawyer I would suggest checking with appropriate authorities.

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April 3rd, 2010, 12:51 am

 

10. Joshua said:

Hang on, you guys. Alex is working on a donation site…. It will be something.

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April 3rd, 2010, 6:34 pm

 

11. norman said:

Joshua, Alex ,

Thanks ,

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April 3rd, 2010, 9:16 pm

 

12. Yossi said:

Norman,

In Israel, in Jish 7alab (ancient Hebrew village of Gush Khalav), the Christian community is also working to preserve their Aramaic language, and they got some government support for that. I sometimes watch Suroyo TV and the Aramaic language is indeed amazing in its closeness to Hebrew, especially the alphabet and the written language. Some books in the Jewish bible are written in Aramaic.

Jish is a beautiful village. Here’s more about it:

The Ben Yehudas of Aramaic

http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/1160487.html

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April 4th, 2010, 5:39 am

 

13. idaf said:

Yossi, Norman,

I’ve always wondered “what if Israel founders used the Arabic alphabets as official alphabets for Hebrew since the founding of Israel”.

I believe that this would have brought us closer to peace a long time ago.

Alex, Joshua,
Can’t wait for your next big project 🙂

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April 4th, 2010, 10:56 am

 

14. Shai said:

Dear IDAF,

As someone who knows both Jews and Arabs quite well, believe me we don’t need the same alphabet to see and feel our similarities. We are far closer to one another, than we are to Europeans or Americans.

Happy Easter to all our Christian friends!

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April 4th, 2010, 11:15 am

 

15. Shai said:

Joshua, Alex,

Here’s Zvi Barel’s answer to Israel’s battered image – a 3rd Intifada. This is why a renewal of armed resistance will only serve Israel’s best interests…

http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/1160895.html

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April 4th, 2010, 11:26 am

 

16. norman said:

Yossi, Idaf, Shai ,

The only reason why the Hebrews did not take Arabic and kept Hebrew for the Temple as did the Syriacs with the Syriac language , they kept it for the Church , is that the Hebrews were pushed out of the Mideast and spread all over the world and Hebrew was what unified them , If they stayed in the Mideast they would be speaking Arabic , and be accepted , the lack of the understanding of today’s Arabs to ancient presence of the Hebrew as Semitic people like all of us contributing to the hostility to them ,

An essential part of peace is to educate the inhabitants to the mutual history of the Semitic people ,

And that is my take, !!!

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April 4th, 2010, 12:34 pm

 

17. Yossi said:

Norman,

Correction: the Jews of the Middle East predominantly spoke Arabic (some still do), mixed with Hebrew words here and there, and used Aramaic and Hebrew as their prayer languages. Many also spoke Ladino, which is a sort of Spanish that was preserved since the exile from Spain, when Spanish Jews arrived in all sorts of places in the Middle East, such as Morocco, Turkey and Yemen.

The Jews from Europe brought the non-Semitic languages and the respective foreign attitudes (and they still do).

The history that many on each side are telling today is “you have never been here before… you’re an invader… it’s always been just mine…”

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April 4th, 2010, 4:31 pm

 

18. norman said:

And they are both wrong , my friend yossi , I hope that is OK with you ,

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April 4th, 2010, 5:56 pm

 

19. Yossi said:

Dear Norman,

Of course they are both wrong, but it’s like a natural phenomenon, a hurricane or an earthquake, it will have to run its course before they understand it.

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April 4th, 2010, 7:24 pm

 

20. almasri said:

Norman,

Actually, many analysts believe that most Jerwish people of old history never left the Middle East and they just convereted to Christianity or Islam and became very good Arabs.

They believe, the current so-called Jews coming from all over the world to the middle East do not have any linkage to the old Jews. They are actually invaders driven by Zionism, the neocons and the Christian Evangelists.

I’l try to get you some references.

And that’s also my take.

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April 4th, 2010, 7:25 pm

 

21. norman said:

yossi ,
I disagree , respectfully , with you , the status in the Mideast is not God made as hurricanes and Earthquake but man made and like a ship or a plane with Missguided captains that needs to be told that they are wrong so is the beleives of both sides , enough is enough , time is running out , I read today that Hams is being challenged from the more extreme group , I hope that Israel does not drag it’s feet long enough for the other group to have the upper hand ,

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April 4th, 2010, 8:43 pm

 

22. Akbar Palace said:

More SC Enlightenment

Al Masri,

What is a “so-called Jew”?

Thanks,

AP

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April 5th, 2010, 12:51 am

 

23. Yossi said:

Norman, I don’t know. Since I have started visiting this Web site and also working on the Jewish side of the fence, about 3 years ago, I have only seen things go worse and worse. I haven’t been able to move anybody one iota in their opinions. People are not open to the type of logic that we are discussing here.

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April 5th, 2010, 4:35 am

 

24. norman said:

yossi ,

They have to be beaten into submission , imposed solution is the only way ,

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April 5th, 2010, 11:41 am

 

25. jad said:

لتعتذر الجزيرة أو ليغلق مكتبها

المحامي لؤي اسماعيل – كلنا شركاء
05/ 04/ 2010

للأسف ما تزال الكثير من وسائل الإعلام تتطاول على الشعب السوري بمناسبة وغير من مناسبة فما كادت الأمور تهدأ مع بعض وسائل الإعلام اللبنانية التي أصبح المواطن السوري فيها مجرد ملطشة وبابا للسخرية مثل برنامج ” لا يمل ” وغير ذلك من البرامج الأخرى – بضم الألف المهموزة أو فتحها – وصولا إلى بعض الصحف السعودية التي تهجمت على سوريا عدة مرات وصولا إلى بعض الصحف المصرية ورغم هذه الإساءات إلا أننا لم نجد كاتبا سوريا يرد على هذه الإساءات بإساءات أخرى حرصا منا ومن القيادة السورية التي تتمتع بأعلى درجات المسؤولية على عرى الروابط الوطنية والعلاقات الأخوية وعلينا أن تعترف هنا بتقصير وزارة الإعلام السورية في منع هذه الإساءات أو الحد منها فلم نسمع عن اتخاذها أي إجراء يذكر في حق العديد من وسائل الإعلام هذه رغم تماديها في الإساءة التي وصلت منحى خطيرا حتى ضاق صدرنا منها ولم نعد قادرين على التحمل أكثر من ذلك وإن كان علينا الاعتراف بأن جهود المصالحات العربية قد أوقفت الكثير من الحملات الظالمة التي تستهدف سوريا وهذا ما لمسناه ورحبنا به إلا انه ما زال البعض بين الحين والآخر يحاول أن ينفث في نار الفتنة القومية والتحريض على الشعب السوري ولقد آن الآوان لموقف رسمي حازم لوقف هذه الإساءات ومنعها وذلك باتخاذ جميع الإجراءات القانونية والسيادية التي تمنع بعض أقزام الصحافة وقراصنتها من التطاول على الشعب السوري ” العظيم ” وعندما اكتب ” العظيم ” فإنني لا اكتب ذلك من خلفية عاطفية وطنية فحسب بل هي الحقيقة التي لن تفلح جميع أقلام السوء بالنيل منها .

ما فعله ” احمد منصور ” على قناة الجزيرة يجب أن يكون خاتمة المطاف لهذه الإساءات ويجب أن يكون رد الفعل عليها متناسبا مع حجم هذه الإساءة البغيضة لتاريخ وعراقة وشعور المواطن السوري الذي أحب الوحدة العربية وتغنى بها وناضل من أجلها ولكننا لسنا من يقبل الأقدام ولسنا ممن يقبل الإهانة ولسنا من يسكت عليها بل سنرد على الاهانة بعشرة أضعافها ولن نسكت بعد الآن على أي إساءة وتحت أي ذريعة فكرامة وطننا ومواطننا فوق أي اعتبار .

لقد وصل السيل الزبى وبات لسان المواطن السوري يقول ” كفى ” لهذه الإساءات وعلى احمد منصور ومدير قناة الجزيرة تقديم اعتذار علني للشعب السوري وإلا فإنني أطالب السيد وزير الإعلام السوري بإغلاق مكتب قناة الجزيرة في سوريا ووقف التعاون معها ومنعها من تغطية أي خبر سوري مع الملاحقة القضائية لهذه القناة .

وإنني ومن خلال هذا المنبر أدعو المواطنين السوريين إلى مقاطعة قناة الجزيرة كما أدعو جميع المعنيين إلى عدم القبول بإجراء أي لقاء على ” الجزيرة ” ما لم تقدم اعتذارا واضحا وصريحا للشعب السوري عن هذه الاهانة الوقحة .

للرئيس جمال عبد الناصر ذكرى طيبة في نفس كل مواطن عربي وليس عندنا فقط واحتفاؤنا به تعبير عن تقدير السوريين لكفاح الرئيس عبد الناصر في سبيل ” الوحدة العربية ” وسواء اختلفنا مع سياساته زمن الوحدة أو اتفقنا معها فلا احد يستطيع أن ينكر الدور الريادي لعبد الناصر ومصر في ذلك الوقت أما ما قاله أحمد منصور: ” ” هو الشعب السوري ده إيه ؟ يوم يطلع لعبد الناصر يبوس ، لا مؤاخذة ، حذاءه ويشيل عربيته من عالأرض ، وبعد شوية يطلع يؤيد الناس اللي ضد عبد الناصر”؟! فهو كلام مرفوض وإهانة فاضحة لمشاعرنا الوطنية وعلى أحمد منصور أن يعلم أنه لا يوجد مواطن سوري مهما بلغ به التواضع يسمح له و لأمثاله من الناعقين أن يلمع له حذائه أو أن يقبلها فهو شرف لن نمنحه إياه أبدا .

المحامي لؤي اسماعيل – كلنا شركاء
http://all4syria.info/content/view/24089/161/

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April 5th, 2010, 4:44 pm

 

26. Akbar Palace said:

JAD –

Boycotting al-Jazeera sounds like a good idea. What about prosecuting them? Have they written anything false or libelous?

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April 5th, 2010, 4:56 pm

 

27. jad said:

AP
Could you please check some English translation on Google for the article to understand some outline of the writer’s point of view and why he is calling to boycott Aljazeera or at least for it to apologize for insulting all Syrians.
The issue in short is that one presenter at Aljazeera (a hardcore Muslim Brotherhood member) called all Syrians SHOES’ KISSERS, and he was wondering why all of us the Syrian are plain STUPID and that anybody can USE us.
It wasn’t’ about the channel, it was about an uncalled insults of all Syrians.
Thank you.

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April 5th, 2010, 5:16 pm

 

28. norman said:

Jad,
AP is a supporter , it must be a bad idea,

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April 5th, 2010, 5:23 pm

 

29. jad said:

Dear Norman,
How are you?
What do you mean that AP is a supporter? a supporter of someone to insult every citizen of some country just out of hate?
I disagree on almost every thing AP writes but I still believe that he is trying to understand us even if he doesn’t show it this way.
To be honest, I kind of appreciate the minimum effort he is trying even though I’m 99% sure that he already judge us as bad people but we can’t let that to happen, we are what we are, however, we are trying to become better and that what counts.
And that, is my take 🙂

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April 5th, 2010, 5:45 pm

 

30. jad said:

الإعلام السوري يطالب قناة الجزيرة بالاعتذار علناً ويطالب حكومته بالتدخل

كلنا شركاء
05/ 04/ 2010

تتالت المقالات والتعليقات الساخطة على مذيع قناة الجزيرة أحمد منصور، التي تستنكر ما أسمته “اهانة وجهها للشعب السوري بأكمله” عبر برنامج شاهد على العصر.
إذ أثارت تصريحات قالها منصور في سياق البرنامج الكثير من الاستهجان من وسائل الاعلام السورية، وعلى رأسها الالكترونية، وسط استغراب لصمت وزارة الاعلام السورية، ومطالبات علنية لقناة الجزيرة بالاعتذار.

وكان منصور قال في حلقة شاهد على العصر التي استضافت عبد الكريم النحلاوي (أحد رموز الانفصال في سورية): ( أنا فوجئت.. خالد العظم وأكرم الحوراني في مذكرات كل منهما يقولون: حركة 28 أيلول 1961 قوبلت بالتأييد من أكثرية الشعب والجيش ما عدا مجموعات صغيرة خلفتها أجهزة المخابرات المصرية في سورية، هو الشعب السوري ده إيه؟ يوم يطلع لعبد الناصر يبوس، لا مؤاخذة، حذاءه ويشيل عربيته من عالأرض، وبعد شوية يطلع يؤيد الناس اللي ضد عبد الناصر( ؟! ويرد النحلاوي: «الشعب السوري واقعي..» ، فيقاطعه أحمد منصور قائلاً: ( مش واقعي، ده شكله شعب عاطفي وينضحك عليه )

حديث منصور جوبه بهجوم إعلامي تناول شخصيه ومهنيته وحتى انتمائه السياسي لحركة الاخوان المسلمين، متهماً إياه بالعنصرية تارة وبالعداء لسورية تارة أخرى.

فموقع منبر سورية، الذي يرأس تحريره الدكتور سمير التقي، مدير مركز الشرق للدراسات الدولية، رأى أن اعتذاراً بّيناً من أحمد منصور سيكون من شأنه، وقبل كل شيء، أن يصحح خطأً مهنياً ومنهجياً وأخلاقياً وقع فيه منصور، وأوقع فيه قناة الجزيرة، التي اعتاد جمهورها على معايير مهنية عالية قلما وجدت في قنوات فضائية على الصعيدين العربي والدولي.

لكن موقع دي برس الالكتروني وتحت عنوان: (أحمد منصور يوجه إهانة للشعب السوري بأكمله.. فأين وزارة الإعلام؟!) قال: “نتوقف هنا لنطالب القائمين على قناة “الجزيرة” بأن يشرحوا للشعب السوري “المضحوك عليه” حالهم المتدهورة التي يتحدث عنها السيد منصور! وليقولوا أيضاً لهذا الشعب “العاطفي” ما الذي يتوجب عليه أن يفعله حتى يرضى عنه منصور ويخرجه من “دائرة البله” التي وضعه فيها!!”.
وأضاف الموقع: إن كانت قناة “الجزيرة” موضوعية حقاً كما تدعي فعليها وعلى الفور أن تتقدم باعتذار علني وواضح للشعب السوري لما لحق به من إساءة على يدي منصور نزولاً عند المادة السابعة من ميثاق شرفها المهني: “الاعتراف بالخطأ فور وقوعه والمبادرة إلى تصحيحه وتفادي تكراره”، وإن لم تفعل ذلك فهذا يعني دون شك تبنيها لما جاء من إساءات للشعب السوري في البرنامج على لسان منصور، وفي هذه الحال فإن الأمر يتجاوز حدود قناة “الجزيرة” نفسها ويصبح منوطاً بوزارة الإعلام السورية التي يجب عليها أن تتحرك رسمياً وعلى الفور لترد بما يتناسب وحجم هذه الإهانة، لا أن تبقى على الحياد وكأن الأمر لا يعنيها.

من جانبه رئيس تحرير موقع شام برس رأى أن أحمد منصور في الحلقة إياها سقط في امتحان التخفي عندما اظهر عقله الباطني ومكنونات نفسه التي كان يحاول تغليفها بخبث مفضوح عندما يتناول موضوعا يتعلق بسورية (…) ثم شتم كل سوري مهما كان موقعه وكيفما كانت توجهاته وقام بتصوير السوريين وكأنهم جماعات من المهابيل والسذج او كقطيع من الغنم.
واشار رئيس تحرير الموقع علي جمالو إلى لقاء سابق مع منصور في دمشق، أظهر له أنه يحمل ما أسماه جمالو “اوهام ومواقف مسبقة حول سورية تبعث على الضحك”. واصفاً إياه بأنه لم ير سورية يوما الا من زاوية انها العدو رقم واحد لكل اصولي متطرف فكيف اذا كان عضوا في التنظيم الدولي لحركة الاخوان المسلمين.
وختم جمالو بالقول: لاني اعرف قطر جيدا واعرف سياسة اميرها المجدد والشجاع واعرف محبته لسورية وشعب سورية انتظر وينتظر معي ملايين السوريين محاسبة هذا المأفون الكريه لان السلوك العنصري ليس وجهة نظر.

أما موقع عكس السير وعلى لسان رئيس تحريره عبد الله عبد الوهاب اعتبر على لسان أن ملايين السوريين في أصقاع الأرض تعرضوا للتهجم ومحاولة “إهانتهم ” . ووصف كلام منصور بالقول: ما سبق لم يكن كلاماً في شارع خلفي , ولا حديثاً في غرفة معتمه بين شخصين لديهما مشكلة مع شعب ما , ولا تهكم لمعارض وجد منبرا للتعبير عن رأيه .
وأضاف عبد الوهاب: إن من يقرأ الإعلام بشكل جيد , لا يخفى عليه حجم الحقد والكره الذين يحملهما هذا الرجل تجاه سوريا من خلال كل حلقات برنامجه المتعلقة بشخصيات سورية , لكن هذه ” السقطة ” كانت كفيلة لكشف ما في داخله أمام العامة.

وختم الموقع افتتاحيته بالقول: “يجب على وزارة الإعلام السورية أن تتخذ موقفاً واضحاً تجاه ما جرى … وإلا لصدق ” منصور ” في كل ما قاله! .

أما في الاعلام المطبوع فقد عنونت صحيفة الوطن السورية الخاصة، خبرها بـ (برسم وزارة الاعلام وكل من يهمه الأمر..أحمد منصور «يسيء» إلى الشعب السوري!!) وقالت: نترك الأمر بيد وزارة الإعلام، وهيئات المجتمع المدني، والمواطنين ووسائل الإعلام المختلفة وكل من «ما بينضحك عليه»، ليقولوا لمنصور هذا: لقد تجاوزت حدودك كثيراً، وليقولوا أيضاً لقناة «الجزيرة»: مطلوب منكم توضيح لكلام منصور واعتذار للشعب السوري الذي من الصعب أن ينضحك عليه.

وتجدر الاشارة أخيراً إلى أن الحلقة المعنية بالهجوم، قد بثت قبل أكثر من 10 أيام على بداية الاستهجان الصحفي والاعلامي، وتحديداً بتاريخ 24 آذار الفائت ويعلق بعض الخبثاء بأنها طريقة تستخدمها الانظمة لتجييش الشارع وتحويل الانظار عن قضية سواء داخلية من مثل ( سجن ابن وزير الداخلية واعتقال ابن قيادي رفيع في حزب البعث العربي الاشتراكي ) او عن قضية خارجية كما حصل في مصر عند قضية الجدار المعدني مع غزة حيث تم الاستعانة بمباراة قدم مع الجزائر لاثارة العواطف الوطنية ونسيان تلك القصة.

http://all4syria.info/content/view/24097/70/

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April 5th, 2010, 6:13 pm

 

31. norman said:

Jad ,

Fariq tasod , that is what he wants , trouble between Syria and AL Jazeera ,and Qatar ,
Ahmad Mansour is From Egypt , and they are used to speak like that , shine the shoes and other things , The Syrian people do not need vindication from him or others , they have their deeds to speak loud and clear how generous they are , opening their schools to all the refugees from the Arab world , and others ,

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April 5th, 2010, 7:02 pm

 

32. Ford Prefect said:

Jad and Norman,
I don’t think the Syrians should get bent out of shape and start boycotting this or that just because someone stated an opinion on Al Jazeera – whether he was a guest or a reporter.

The history of the Syrian people cannot be judged, changed, or even insulted by a single person or persons. That history is there for everyone to see and appreciate.

It would be really irrational for the Syrians or their government to start overblowing such useless comments. It not worth it and such a contest is wasteful and fruitless. Just over the weekend, for example, Pope Benedict’s personal preacher compared attacks on the Church and the pope over a sexual abuse scandal to “collective violence” against Jews. No one called for a boycott of the Vatican and most said that they were “outraged” and “dumbfounded”.

It is much better to let this comment go and get into more important things. Everyone knows who Ahmed Mansour is. I am hoping that Syrians will not put themselves in the same league of people who will ban or boycott a news organization. That job is best left to the regressive religious nut cases.

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April 5th, 2010, 7:24 pm

 

33. Ford Prefect said:

Norman, well said. Syrians are above such stupid comments. Now, the Ministry of Information is involved. Oh please, spare us. Focus on something useful.

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April 5th, 2010, 7:27 pm

 

34. norman said:

F P,
Good to hear from you ,

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April 5th, 2010, 7:53 pm

 

35. Off the Wall said:

Folks
It seems to me that the real target is not Ahmad Mansour or Aljazeera, the real target is the Ministry of Information who has been harassing privately owned press outlet for quite a while now. This is a chance for these outlets to get back at the ministry and its controlled press for not even recognizing the words of Mansour.

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April 5th, 2010, 10:00 pm

 

36. Jad said:

Dearest OTW,
I agree with you.

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April 5th, 2010, 10:45 pm

 

37. Ford Prefect said:

Norman, thanks! I am always here reading and appreciating your comments.

OTW and Jad, I believe you guys hit the nail on the head – there is more to the story than meet the eye. It is a beauty contest where all contestants are really ugly.

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April 6th, 2010, 1:35 am

 

38. Averroes said:

Ahmad Mansour is associated with the Muslim Brotherhood movement (Ikwan Muslimeen). Before joining Al-Jazeerah, he used to write for the Kuwaiti Salafi magazine Al-Mujtama (المجتمع) which is a very conservative, Salafi publication. Mansour has always exhibited two loud themes: 1. An exaggerated and often rampant zealousness of Egypt (although he’s actually a Palestinian by origin, to the best of my knowledge) and 2. an unexplainable discontent with pretty much everything Syrian. He is usually pretty rude and ill mannered with many of his non-Egyptian guests, but most notably so with any Syrian guests that he hosts. The contrast of his mood and manners when hosting an Egyptian guest that he likes, compared to when he’s hosting a guest that he dislikes, is striking. One time he spent an entire hour giggling uncontrollably when he was hosting Mohammad Sobhi, the sharp Egyptian actor (the episode was fun to watch, actually). While with other guests and with callers, he can be excessively rude and repulsive.

Having said that, and as vulgar as his latest comments may be, I don’t think there should be any official response towards him. Individual journalists may choose to engage him or write back, but it should not go too much further. It’s not worth it.

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April 6th, 2010, 4:27 am

 

39. Shai said:

“We’ve weathered Pharaoh, we’ll overcome this period as well.” Avigdor Lieberman, after comparing Erdogan to Qaddafi.

http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-3871926,00.html

Here are my 4 questions for Passover:

Why is it we Israelis and pro-Israelis unite so absolutely only when we feel threatened?

Why is it some of us become real experts at “reading threats”, and some of us don’t?

Why is it that no Passover can pass, over the past 62 years but quite likely the past 3,000, without some Jewish “leader” invoking fear by comparing some modern-day figure to Pharaoh?

Is fear the true fiber that holds the Jewish people together, the organizing principle of our society?

Fear cannot lead a people, a group, or a nation forward. It debilitates, it weakens, it numbs a people. It also blinds us. We can no longer tell between friend or foe. Between real threat, or perceived threat.

Now we must “survive” Erdogan. And Ahmadinejad. And Nasrallah. And Assad. And Hanniyeh. And Abu Mazen. And Hussein Obama. And Britain, France, and Germany. And a few others I’ve irresponsibly left out. But others will surely remind us. Just give it some time.

Self-pity and Paranoia is something I do not wish to pass down to my children. Sorry, Lieberman! Go find yourself some other sheep.

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April 6th, 2010, 7:15 am

 

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