“Kilo Set Free,” by Khaled Oweis

Syrian political writer set free after 3 years in jail
Tue May 19, 2009
By Khaled Yacoub Oweis

DAMASCUS (Reuters) – Syrian authorities released prominent writer Michel Kilo from prison Tuesday after he completed a three-year sentence for political crimes related to his calls to mend relations with neighboring Lebanon.

“Michel Kilo was set free tonight. I spoke to him. He is now at home,” Kilo’s lawyer Mohannad al-Hassani told Reuters.

Kilo’s jail term expired last Thursday. He was moved to a security compound and kept under arrest there for another five days before he was released, the Syrian observatory for Human Rights said.

“Congratulations on your return to freedom, Michel Kilo. All prisoners of conscious in Syria must be set free. Arbitrary arrests must cease,” a statement by the group said.

The 69-year political writer was a leading signatory of the Damascus-Beirut Declaration, a 2006 document signed by 500 intellectuals and political activists from Syria and Lebanon.

Shortly after the declaration was issued, Kilo was arrested and charged with weakening national morale.

The document urged the Damascus government to establish diplomatic relations with Lebanon, a move demanded by the international community and taken by Syria two years later.

The declaration also called for demarcating the Syrian-Lebanese border and an end to political killings in Lebanon following the assassination of Rafik al-Hariri, a parliamentarian and former prime minister, and other figures who were mostly opposed Syria’s role in Lebanon.

Human rights lawyer Anwar al-Bunni, another signatory, received a five year sentence on the same charge as Kilo. He is still in jail despite Western calls on Syria to release him.

Unlike other non-violent critics of the government, who sometimes are let free after completing three quarters of their sentence, Kilo, served his full term.

The United States and the European Union had called repeatedly on the Syrian government to free Kilo and French President Nicolas Sarkozy intervened in vain with President Bashar al-Assad during a visit to Damascus last year.

Kilo had tried to operate within the confines of Syria’s political system, which has been monopolized by the Baath Party since it took power in a 1963 coup, banned all opposition and imposed emergency law still in force today.

His captivity sent a signal that even milder forms of dissent were not allowed in Syria, human rights campaigners said.

“Kilo had concluded a while before his arrest that the regime was not interested in any meaningful political reform,” one opposition figure said.

The Syrian government has stepped up a campaign of arrests against opposition figures since its relations with the West improved sharply last year. Officials have dismissed Western criticism about lack of observance of human rights in Syria as interference in internal Syrian affairs.

Comments (94)


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51. offended said:

Thanks T_Desco, you’re the best!

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May 21st, 2009, 2:27 pm

 

52. Shami said:

Majid ,
I didnt notice a farsi accent here,it’s a syrian accent.
In fact the farsi accent ,you can listen it in the latmiyat of the of those of lebanon who copy the iranian style.
And btw i have nothing against the Farsi as people,i listen to persian music .Other thing,The alawites refuse the idea of mot3a marriages and dont practice blood latmiyat as the other 12imam shias.

Nour,we can not love those who practice taqiye in front of you ,say bad things on your most beloved people in their husayniyat ,this is a natural reaction no ?is that sectarianism ?anyway your opinion is that of the SSNP ideology and is it compatible with pluralistic democracy ?
Your ideology is an utopy ,the trend here is the one party system.And btw ,Nour,nowadays ,look at the SSNP members are they no corrupt spies working for the syrian regime?
You have to accept that there are other views in our society and that SSNP will remain marginal because of the reason i cited above.And how can you accept that the syrian regime betrays the Ahwazi refugies in Syria and send them to death in the prisons of the iranian regime ?Are the Ahwazis not part of the Syrian nation according to Antun Saadeh?
Nour ,nowadays,in Syria ,SSNP has become sectarian ,and here it means what the dictionary tell us about this word.

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May 21st, 2009, 5:03 pm

 

53. Alex said:

Amir

Here is a link for the presentation.. try listening to the audio link on this page

http://www.brookings.edu/events/2009/0519_arab_opinion.aspx#

Or download the presentation of the report here:

http://www.brookings.edu/~/media/Files/events/2009/0519_arab_opinion/2009_arab_public_opinion_poll.pdf

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May 21st, 2009, 5:11 pm

 

54. Alex said:

http://ngm.nationalgeographic.com/2009/06/arab-christians/belt-text/1

The Christian Exodus from the Holy Land
Cover Story: National Geographic (June 2009)

A few hours east of the battle lines between Muslim and Christian in Beirut, communities in Syria offer a reminder, beneath the hostilities of today, of how closely related the two religions really are. There are oases of tolerance—once widespread, now less so—where Christians and Muslims attend one another’s weddings and funerals and worship at one another’s shrines. In some monasteries Christians still prostrate themselves in prayer—a Byzantine-era practice that early Muslims may have admired and adopted. Some churches still conduct services in Aramaic or Syriac, languages that predate Islam.

One afternoon I climb to Our Lady of Saydnaya, a cliff-top Greek Orthodox convent in Syria that has weathered the storms of empire since 547. Once inside I find myself not among Christians but in a crowd of Muslim families who’ve come seeking the blessings of the Virgin Mary, whose powers of healing and fertility have drawn people in need for nearly 1,500 years.

As my eyes adjust to the gloom of the candlelit inner sanctum, I watch as a woman in a head scarf offers her baby, wrapped in a blanket, to the centerpiece of the shrine. There, surrounded by soot-blackened icons, a brass template covers the image of Mary, said to be painted by St. Luke, which inspires even though hidden from view. With her eyes closed and lips moving in silent prayer, the baby’s mother presses his face gently against the metal plate for a long moment. Later, outside, I meet the woman and her family, who’d driven up from Damascus after Friday prayers at their mosque.

Wary of strangers, they would offer only the name of their sick child, Mahmoud. Just seven months old, swaddled in a green blanket, he lay still as death with his eyes closed, barely breathing. His face was a dark grayish brown. “The doctor said he can’t do anything for Mahmoud and that we should send him to America for an operation,” his mother says. “That’s impossible, so we need a miracle instead. I’m a Muslim, but a long time ago my family used to be Christian. I believe in the prophets—Muslim, Jewish, and Christian—and I believe in Mary. I’ve come here so that my boy will be healed.”

Such scenes reflect the Levant’s history of coexistence between Muslims and people of other faiths, which dates from the earliest days of Islam. When the Muslim Caliph Omar conquered Syria from the Byzantine Empire around 636, he protected the Christians under his rule, allowing them to keep their churches and worship as they pleased. But many Christians converted to Islam anyway, preferring its emphasis on a personal connection with God to the oppressive hierarchies of the Byzantine Church. The grandson of the last Christian governor of Damascus, who grew up to be the theologian St. John Damascene, listened to the newcomers talk about Islam—its acceptance of the Old and New Testaments, its esteem for Jewish prophets, its veneration of Jesus and Mary—and concluded that it was another of the many Christian heresies making the rounds of the Byzantine Empire, beyond the reach of church authorities in Constantinople. It never occurred to him, even writing many years later, that Islam might be a separate religion. When later caliphs imposed heavy taxes on Christians, conversions soared among poor villagers. For those early Arab Christians, whose word for God was (as it still is today) Allah, accepting the tenets of Islam was more like stepping over a stream than vaulting a chasm.

“You can’t live alongside people for a thousand years and see them as the children of Satan,” observes Paolo Dall’Oglio, an earthy, bear-size monk who hosts Muslims in interfaith dialogue at Deir Mar Musa, the sixth-century desert monastery he and his Arab followers restored between Damascus and Homs. “On the contrary, Muslims are us. This is the lesson the West has yet to learn and that Arab Christians are uniquely qualified to teach. They are the last, vital link between the Christian West and the Arab Muslim world. If Arab Christians were to disappear, the two sides would drift even further apart than they already are. They are the go-betweens.”

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May 21st, 2009, 5:23 pm

 

55. Shami said:

Nour:This is why the Muslim Brotherhood was more than happy to collaborate with the US to overthrow the Syrian regime.

Nour,i’m not a supporter of them but the muslim brotherhood is one of the oldest parties in the middle east and which enjoy the greatest popularity not only in Syria and Egypt but From Morroco to Iraq ,if what you like to claim is true they would have dominated the arab world very easily and since long time ago.So Nour ,plz avoid us such non senses.Those in power like Ghadafi ,Hafiz Asad are those wanted by the west.
And btw Nour,do you ignore that Bush did send syrian and arab people to be tortured in Syria after CIA request?
This is the truth ,the zionist CIA asked Asad to torture Syrian citizens(and other nationalities) and he obeyed.
This is authentic Nour and this is the duty of the arab regimes,that’s the secret behind their illogical survival.

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May 21st, 2009, 5:23 pm

 

56. Shami said:

This is the truth ,the zionist CIA asked Asad to torture Syrian citizens(and other nationalities) and he obeyed.

Let us say the regime ant not Asad junior.

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May 21st, 2009, 5:38 pm

 

57. Alex said:

Netanyahu Says Israel Ready for Talks With Syria
By Jeffrey Heller
May 20, 2009

http://abcnews.go.com/International/wireStory?id=7633822

BEN-GURION AIRPORT, Israel (Reuters) – Israel is ready to open peace talks with Syria immediately and without preconditions, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Wednesday after talks with U.S. President Barack Obama.

The offer followed Obama’s first White House meeting with the Israeli leader, who said he agreed on the need to widen the peace process across the Arab world but stopped short of embracing the declared U.S. goal of Israel accepting there should be a Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

“There was agreement that we must immediately launch peace talks,” Netanyahu told reporters at Tel Aviv’s Ben-Gurion Airport after returning from talks in Washington.

“I said I was ready to immediately open peace talks with the Palestinians, by the way, with the Syrians as well, of course, without preconditions,” Netanyahu added.

“But I made it clear that any peace settlement must find a solution to Israel’s security needs.”

Netanyahu, whose right-leaning coalition took office nearly two months ago, had appeared cool to the idea of restarting peace talks with Syria, launched a year ago by his centrist predecessor Ehud Olmert under Turkish mediation.

Despite his pledge not to set preconditions, Netanyahu has in the past expressed opposition to Israel’s withdrawal from the Golan Heights, which it captured in 1967 and which Syria wants returned as part of a peace deal.

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May 21st, 2009, 5:43 pm

 

58. Nour said:

Shami,

First, it is not true that the MB has widespread support from the population. In fact, most Syrians are not supporters of the MB and did not even side with the MB during its battle with the regime. This is because they are seen by most Syrians as extremist elements that went way beyond acceptable means of opposition, as they engaged in pure criminal and terrorist activity.

Second, it is a proven fact that the MB enjoyed support from the US and CIA during their terror campaign in Syria in the late 70’s and early 80’s, because they were seen as a tool to be used to create instability.

Third, there is one case where a Canadian-Syrian citizen was deported to Syria and accused of having terrorist links, and where Syria interrogated him and investigated the allegation, only to find that there is no evidence supporting the US’s claims, after which they returned him to Canada. To assert out of this that the Syrian regime is being employed by the US to torture people is ridiculous.

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May 21st, 2009, 6:17 pm

 

59. Amir in Tel Aviv said:

Alex,

Thank you !! very interesting poll indeed.
.

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May 21st, 2009, 7:54 pm

 

60. jad said:

Alex,
That was an ugly, meaningless, pointless and extremely superficial case study of Christians in our backward and intelligent-wasteland region. (Usual of what we read in the American media)
Christians in the Middle East are endangered and the whole article is how the west and the Muslim world can USE them in their unhealthy relations, without mentioning what those people really want, what are their dreams and fears, what is their future or how to make them stay and help developing their native lands, Instead of being crashed between radicals and west aggression.
Arab Christians are already declining allover the crazy Arab world thanks to its political failures and its backward religious thinking (you have disgusting examples of those here) yet what the UN-Civilized west world cares about is how to use those HUMAN, I will call it’s “Ultra-Imperialism” where people’s religion and soles became a bargain for material gains.
I HATE it.

(Thank you though)

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May 21st, 2009, 8:11 pm

 

61. jad said:

المسيحيون العرب: مصائر مجهولة في بلاد مضطربة

http://all4syria.info/content/view/2802/81/

“يحلو للباحثين ان يتحدثوا عن مسألة الأقليات في العالم العربي، وهي مسألة حقيقية في أي حال، ويُدرجون فيها »مشكلة الأقلية المسيحية«. لكن المسيحيين ليسوا أقلية في العالم العربي، إنما هم أهل هذه البلاد الممتدة من مصر حتى كيليكيا في بلاد الشام، وهم سكان هذه الأرض منذ نحو الفي عام. والمسيحية إحدى الديانات العربية بلا شك، حتى المسيح نفسه آرامي من الناصرة في الجليل الفلسطيني، وكان يتكلم السريانية، فهو بالمعنى التاريخي والحضاري، سرياني من فلسطين.
ان عروبة المسيحيين أمر لا جدال فيه، الا لمن يرغب في إثارة مجادلات لغايات أخرى. ففي القدس اليبوسية (العربية) بدأت المسيحية، ومن القدس انتشر الرسل يبشرون بهذا الفكر الجديد، وفي الطريق المستقيم في دمشق (شارع مدحت باشا اليوم) تلقى بولس الانذار الإلهي بحسب العقيدة المسيحية، وراح يُبشر في الصحراء العربية (حوران). وأولى الكنائس شُيّدت في حلب وحوران. وفي أنطاكيا السورية عُرف أتباع يسوع الناصري بـ »المسيحيين« أول مرة.
ان تاريخ المسيحية في المشرق العربي هو تاريخ العرب نفسه قبل الاسلام. ومنذ الفتح الاسلامي لبلاد الشام والعراق ومصر، سار تاريخ المسيحية وتاريخ الاسلام معا بلا انفصال، الا في حقب محدودة. ومن المحال، الى حد كبير، ان يتصدى مؤرخ او باحث في التاريخ لدراسة التاريخ العربي من دون ان يكتشف ان تاريخ المسيحية، السرياني بالتحديد، مندمج ومندغم ومتطابق مع تاريخ المسلمين. ولم تخل مدينة او حاضرة او بادية من الوجود المسيحي في جميع حُقب التاريخ العربي ولا سيما في بغداد وحلب ودمشق والقدس والقاهرة… الخ. ”

“بين مصر والعراق والشام والسودان يعيش المسيحيون العرب في قلق واضطراب وبلبلة. ولعل سورية هي الدولة الوحيدة في المشرق العربي التي ما زالت شبه ملاذ للمسيحيين، خصوصا العراقيين منهم. فسورية هي جزء من أرض الآراميين، وهي التي استقبلت السريان الارثوذكس والأرمن الفارين من تركيا سنة ،1915 ثم استقبلت النساطرة المطرودين من العراق في سنة ،1933 وهي تستقبل مسيحيي العراق ابتداء من سنة 2004 فصاعدا. والمعروف أن أنطاكيا كانت المقر الأساسي لبطاركة السريان والكاثوليك والارثوذكس قبل ان تُسلخ عن أصلها في سنة .1939 ومع ذلك فإن السريان باتوا فيها أقلية بعد مذبحة عامودا في سنة .1937 غير ان المسيحيين في سورية ليسوا أقلية (مليونان)، بل هم جزء أصيل من الشعب السوري، ولا ريب في أن الجميع يتطلع الى تجنيب مسيحيي سورية الاضطراب العنيف الذي يعصف بالمشرق العربي كله، والذي تفاقم بعد احتلال العراق في سنة .2003
حيال احتدام مشكلة الأقليات القومية والاثنية والطائفية في العالم العربي، وفي مواجهة نزيف العرب المسيحيين من ديارهم، يبدو أننا أمام واحد من خيارين: إما الانفصال، أي تفتيت هذه المنطقة الى كيانات متناحرة، او تدشين رحلة الخروج من هذه المصيدة نحو تأسيس عقد اجتماعي جديد يقوم على الحكم الدستوري والمساواة والحريات والديموقراطية، وفي رأس هذه الحريات حرية المعتقد وحرية الرأي وحرية التفكير، وحق كل جماعة او مجموعة في تطوير ثقافتها بالطريقة التي تراها ملائمة لها، بشرط عدم الاخلال بالعقد الاجتماعي المشمول بالقبول الحر لجميع المواطنين الأحرار. “

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May 21st, 2009, 8:35 pm

 

62. Shami said:

Nour,you are totally wrong.When there were elections in the Syrian universities and liberal orders elections ,the brotherhood in Syria won almost all of the faculties and the orders ,like the phyicians,dentists,engineers,lawyers ..so was the trend in the would be elite in the end of the 70’s.And who told you that brotherhood did not get the support of the masses ,all the syrian cities took part to the demonstrations ,Aleppo ,Latakkia ,Raqqa ,Deir eZor,Damascus even before Hama.
Anyway let us have democratic elections and if the SSNP win ,i would say to you Alf Mabrouk ,but you fear democracy not me,you prefer to live in a world of lies and slogans instead of facing the reality.
It’s true that during the liberal era ,the democracy of the gentlemen ,the religious parties were weak ,but the trend changed after that Nasser took the power.And without doubt ,that the syrian society today look more close to the brotherhood ideal than it was 20 or 30 years ago…
That’s why the renaissance of the civil society is very important in my eyes ,in order to have an alternative than the brotherhood.Btw,the brotherhood sheikhs are among the most moderate in the islamic world.I dont think that Ali Tantawi and Isam al Attar of Damascus,AbuGhodda of Aleppo,Mohamad al Hamed and Said Hawwa of Hama can be called extremists.
Nour,i know from where you get this version of the syrian history ,i invite you to read academic books instead of SSNP or Baath mouthpiece.

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May 21st, 2009, 9:01 pm

 

63. Shami said:

Jad ,this is obvious in history after that the secular nationalist dictatorships took the power by force,the christians have seen their importance and influence eroded.Anyone here can deny this fact ?
It’s not the fault of the people,the same people who accepted a christian as prime minister,president of the parliement in Muslim majority Syria.
Nour ,i challenge you that your SSNP can produce such cosmopolitan society that we inherited from the previous islamic rules.
If today the liberal democratic system return to Syria ,you will see hundred of thousands of middle easter christians of the diaspora returning to Syria.

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May 21st, 2009, 9:40 pm

 

64. jad said:

Nour, I challenge you to make him STOP NAGGING by talking about the same subject over and over and over and over and over since he came in here it’s getting TOO FREAKING ANNOYING.
Nour, I also challenge you to make him write about his own specialty (if there is any) that can develop his community.
Nour, Thank you
Nour, Very much
Nour, Bye
Nour, are you there?
Nour!
Nour?
Nour?!

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May 21st, 2009, 9:59 pm

 

65. Shami said:

Jad it’s that your answer ?

Anyway ,40 years of Baath and Teshrine did not annoy you … it changes from :no voice above the voice of the battle,bashar menhabak…The castle of soumoud and i dont know what.
So you have to endure an other kind of people a while.

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May 21st, 2009, 10:37 pm

 

66. Majid said:

A proof has surfaced today, see ,here of the Syrian Government’s involvement in financing and facilitating the terrorist acts of al-Qaida cells in Iraq. The report mentions that the Iraqi security forces of the interior ministry have arrested three al-Qaida men who admitted receiving financing from Syria. This group was responsible for a suicide operation that killed 55 people last April 24.

The link in the comment does not work. You can find the report here:

http://www.psp.org.lb/Default.aspx?tabid=107&articleType=ArticleView&articleId=29331

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May 21st, 2009, 11:14 pm

 

67. Majid said:

Deleted by author.

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May 21st, 2009, 11:15 pm

 

68. Shami said:

i forget this passage

Nour:To assert out of this that the Syrian regime is being employed by the US to torture people is ridiculous.

Nour,there are many many other cases ,not only Maher Arar.
And you did not answer about the ahwazi refugies(syrians according to Antun Saadeh) ,kidnapped by the mukhabarat and sent to iran to be hanged by the mollahs.

I would like to see some intellectual honesty and that you condemn this betrayal of your(our) Ahwazi brothers.

Btw ,the cultural relation between Syria and Al Ahwaz is old.

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May 21st, 2009, 11:55 pm

 

69. norman said:

This is long but could summarize the relation between the US and Israel,,

bitterlemons-international.org
Middle East Roundtable

Download our book, The Best of bitterlemons: Five years of writings from Israel and Palestine.

Edition 19 Volume 7 – May 21, 2009

US-Israel: the months ahead
. Obama offers little new – Ali Abunimah

Netanyahu has little to lose by embarking on another “peace process” after making a show of resisting American pressure.
. Obama’s Scandinavian impatience – Hanne Foighel

In certain EU circles there is a feeling that the Obama administration is prepared to put pressure behind its demands on Israel.
. After the summit – Ellen Laipson

Obama is thinking strategically about how to reset the agenda for the region.
. An alliance revisited? – Alon Pinkas

There is a reasonable chance that Israel and the US are headed toward another showdown.

——————————————————————————–

Obama offers little new
Ali Abunimah

Seldom has an encounter between American and Israeli leaders been as hyped as this week’s meeting between President Barack Obama and Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu. As expected, Obama committed himself to diplomacy with Iran and pledged an enormous effort to achieve a two-state solution. Netanyahu continued to incite confrontation with Iran and refused to commit himself to a Palestinian state.

On the surface it may seem there are real differences and that the forces arrayed on each side–including the formidable Israel lobby–are gearing up for an epic battle to determine the fate of US-Israeli relations.

But Obama offered little new, reaffirming well-worn US positions that view Palestinians, particularly Hamas, as the aggressors, and Israel as the innocent victim. While calling for Israel to halt settlement construction (as US presidents have done for decades), Obama offered no hint that he would back those words with action. Quite the contrary, the president said he would urge Arab leaders to normalize relations with Israel, rewarding it in advance of any renewed peace talks.

Let us assume for the sake of argument that Obama applies unprecedented pressure to force Israel to make a deal with the Palestinians. What would such a deal look like? The outlines were suggested in the recent report sent to Obama by a group of US elder statesmen headed by former National Security Advisor Brent Scowcroft. The document, warning that there was only a “six to twelve month window” before all chances for peace evaporated, called on the US to forcefully advocate the creation of a Palestinian state. But this would be a demilitarized truncated state “based on” the 1967 borders. Israel would annex large West Bank settlements and there would be no right of return for Palestinian refugees. This “state” would be occupied indefinitely by a NATO-led “multinational force,” which the Scowcroft group suggests could also include Israeli soldiers.

Of course the Scowcroft proposal does not necessarily represent Obama administration thinking, but it expresses the pervasive peace process industry consensus that views such an outcome as “reasonable,” “pragmatic” and all but inevitable, and it accords with Obama’s own statements opposing the right of return and supporting Israel’s demand to be recognized as a “Jewish state”.

In other words, what the vast majority of Palestinians would view as a horrifying plan to legitimize their dispossession, grant Israel a perpetual license to be racist and turn the apartheid regime set up by the Oslo accords into a permanent prison, is now viewed as bold and far-reaching thinking that threatens to rupture American-Israeli bonds.

Netanyahu has little to lose by embarking on another “peace process” after making a show of resisting American pressure (or extracting more American concessions or money). He knows the chances of ever getting to the stated destination are nil. Obama will not apply significant pressure, and even if he did, it is unclear on whom he would apply it, since on the Palestinian side there are no leaders ready, willing and able to carry off a second Oslo-style fraud against their people.

Obama reportedly believes peace in Palestine is the key to transforming US relations with the “Muslim world”. If he were serious about this, the United States would have to break with all its past policies and support peace based on democratic and universal human rights principles and equality–something incompatible with a commitment to Israel as a “Jewish state” practicing legalized discrimination. All the signs are, however, that the Obama administration will push to try to force Palestinians and Arabs to accept and normalize with Israel as it is and that the US will continue to underwrite a morally and politically bankrupt Zionist settler-colonial project with a permanent American military, economic and diplomatic bailout.

The real problem for US-Israel relations is not to be found in whether Netanyahu utters the magic words “two-state solution”. Rather it is that after Gaza it is impossible to keep peddling the fiction that Israel is a brave, self-reliant liberal democracy deserving of unconditional support. No matter what this administration does, this will eventually result in pressure on Israel, such as growing American public support for the global boycott, divestment and sanctions movement.- Published 21/5/2009 © bitterlemons-international.org

Ali Abunimah is co-founder of The Electronic Intifada and author of “One Country: A Bold Proposal to End the Israeli-Palestinian Impasse”.

——————————————————————————–

Obama’s Scandinavian impatience
Hanne Foighel

The other day a young Dane called me. An eighth grade student, he was writing on the solution to the Middle East conflict, he told me, and could I please help him clear a few murky points.

I am a great believer in students doing their own homework and not only parroting “experts”, so I asked the young gentleman to present me with his analysis and only then pose his questions.

The boy had both studied and understood that there were problems to be solved over the West Bank, ownership of water, settlements, Jerusalem and the refugee situation. I complimented him.

We then spoke about the current problems of the new US president, the new Israeli government, the uncertainties about the future Palestinian government and the fears each side has of the moves of the other.

When I cited to him the Israeli claim that each centimeter of occupied land given up would be used for rocket attacks just as had happened in Gaza, the young student interrupted and asked rhetorically: but if Israel withdrew from the occupied territories there would be peace, wouldn’t there?

The simple assumption that if there were no more occupation, a peace agreement would be imminent and peace would break out is very typical of the Scandinavian understanding of the conflict. A Danish politician a few years ago wrote a comment under the title “How difficult can it be?” wondering aloud how come the parties “just don’t sit down and solve the problems”.

Indeed, how is it going now with the sitting down and agreeing on the small print, be it Binyamin Netanyahu with his coalition partners, Fateh with Hamas, Fateh’s old guard with Fateh’s young guard and the members of the Arab League among themselves, not to mention the Israeli and the Palestinian side?

No matter what one otherwise might think of the Israeli foreign minister, Avigdor Lieberman, one cannot but compare him to the little boy in the Hans Christian Andersen fairytale “The Emperor’s New Clothes”. When Lieberman says, “For 16 years the so-called peace process has not brought any solution to the conflict”, he is like that small boy shouting, “the emperor is naked”.

Lieberman has offered his suggestions for alternative solutions but rumors have it that Netanyahu has told him to shut up until the official policy of the Israeli government has been presented–and possibly amended–after Netanyahu’s recent visit to Washington.

The big question hovering over the situation is what path US President Barack Obama will choose to walk. No one should doubt that Obama has some of the Scandinavian impatience in his approach to the conflict. He wants things to move forward toward a two-state-solution. Now.

In the last weeks, several members of his administration including Vice President Joseph Biden have outlined details of the president’s vision. At an AIPAC meeting, Biden demanded a complete end to Israeli settlement building, immediate dismantling of the so-called illegal settlement outposts that even Ariel Sharon promised George W. Bush to dismantle but never did, and freedom of movement and economic opportunity for the Palestinians in the West Bank.

Just a few days before the Netanyahu visit, an Israeli newspaper ran a story about Obama having sent envoys to Jerusalem to explain clearly to the Israeli government that Washington expects Israel not to attack any target in Iran whatsoever and not to disrupt the American effort to hold a serious dialogue with the Islamic Republic.

In certain EU circles there is a feeling that the Obama administration is prepared to put pressure behind its demands on Israel. Some believe that Washington is thinking of using economic pressure to make the Netanyahu government understand just how urgent Obama views these matters.

It will take some time until the bits and pieces leaked from the private meeting between Obama and Netanyahu make it to the public. And even then it might take a while before a clear picture of just what Obama demanded and what Netanyahu answered will emerge.

In the longer term, the question is whether President Obama will be able to keep up the pressure he seems to want to apply both to Israel and the Palestinians, or whether he will end up feeling, as did a number of his predecessors, that he should have stayed far away from the Middle East beehive.- Published 21/5/2009 © bitterlemons-international.org

Hanne Foighel is a correspondent for the Danish newspaper Politiken.

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After the summit
Ellen Laipson

There’s a sigh of relief that President Barack Obama and Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu made it through their first official meeting with no apparent harm done to US-Israel comity. But their careful language about shared threat perceptions and deep historic ties does little to disguise the obvious: there are interesting and difficult challenges ahead as Israel and America, separately and together, approach the enduring quest for peace and security in the Middle East.

First, the two leaders are in different places politically. Obama enjoys enormous popularity and legitimacy at home and abroad. He is at the beginning of his presidency and is buoyed by good will from many flanks despite the gravity of the world economic crisis for which he has special leadership responsibilities. Netanyahu is no novice to his job, and voters in Israel and observers outside Israel are far more cynical about his capacity to be a positive agent for change. He himself is likely to be more focused on keeping his unruly coalition together and will be more tactical in his thinking than Obama.

Second, there’s the well-trodden ground of whether they actually share a vision for a two-state solution. Obama, accepting the accumulated wisdom of American experts, thinks of an independent Palestine as a positive and desirable outcome; for Netanyahu it’s perhaps one of the less bad options, but around him are political partners who quite passionately oppose it. There are clearly divergent views about how much effort to put into improving Palestinian morale, building Palestinian capacity for governance and security and demonstrating respect for Palestinian identity. The Israeli leader seems to think that more flexibility on economic transactions, including trade and employment, is the right amount of attention. For the United States, that’s only a piece of a larger set of initiatives and activities.

Third is the dilemma of what to do about Iran. Obama has set some ambitious goals for his administration and is open to a very different way of doing business with Iran. He’s trying to change the tone and the underlying psychology of the long-standing antagonistic relationship. He wants Iran’s leadership to believe that a more productive interaction with Washington is possible–one that would have economic, social and security benefits for Iran and would defuse tensions in the region, to the benefit of all.

Israel is coming from a very different place: its leadership does not see Iran as a normal country but as an existential threat. The notion that Obama is willing to take risks and to attempt to build trust with Tehran is quite outside mainstream political thinking in Jerusalem (although a few independent intellectuals can still envision a return to normal state-to-state relations between Israel and Iran).

Washington and Jerusalem have had countless exchanges of information, intelligence and policy ideas on Iran’s nuclear program. But Netanyahu and Israel’s supporters are concerned that Obama is embarked on a divergent path that could include a deal on Iran’s enrichment activities, putting the two countries on different sides of the line of what is acceptable.

A last and more philosophical issue is Obama’s commitment to improve America’s engagement with the Muslim world. His upcoming speech in Cairo will surely lay out a positive vision of a multicultural world of tolerance and mutual respect. Obama embodies an openness of mind and spirit about coexistence. Americans have high hopes for his ability to help repair the damage done during the Bush era to America’s reputation and to reverse the perception that the war on terror is in fact a war against Islam.

One senses that the mood in Israel is quite different; Israelis are disheartened and despairing of ever achieving normal relations with their Arab and Muslim neighbors, and seek assurances from their American partner and patron that our security policies will take into account this deep sense of vulnerability. But some will see Israel’s predicament as one that only Israel can resolve. The fact that Israeli Arabs, long seen as the quiet beneficiaries of life in a vibrant democracy, tell pollsters of their deep alienation, is disturbing. It is part of a larger piece of Israel’s enduring failure to make coexistence possible and desirable for the Arabs. This is a very local process, less susceptible to outside influence or direction.

Most of the pundits think the first Obama-Netanyahu visit went just fine, with Obama doing what he needed to do on settlements and Netanyahu making clear his expectations that the overture to Iran be limited or bound in time. But it’s important to not be distracted by a fairly superficial reading of the situation: Obama is thinking strategically about how to reset the agenda for the region. He sees the connectedness of issues in a positive-sum way. Israel’s leaders should be listening carefully.- Published 21/5/2009 © bitterlemons-international.org

Ellen Laipson is president and CEO of The Henry L. Stimson Center in Washington. She was vice chair of the National Intelligence Council from 1997 to 2002.

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An alliance revisited?
Alon Pinkas

For over three decades, Israeli political, military, academic and media circles have tended to view US-Israel relations as some form of a strategic alliance. This self-image is based on a combination of shared values, a natural affinity between democracies, a by-and-large similar geo-political outlook, a commonality of interests and most importantly, what Yossi Alpher has termed a “strategic triangle” consisting of the US, Israel and the political power and clout of American Jews.

Conveniently forgetting or dismissing earlier American administrations’ coolness toward Israel and their political-realism-based approaches to the Middle East, these Israeli circles regard American friendship with Israel as a central pillar of Israel’s national security and a regional deterrent and force multiplier. They have even proudly defined Israel as nothing less than a political and military “strategic asset” to American foreign policy, both in the context of the Cold War and within the geo-political confines of the Middle East. The evolution and shaping of relations between the US and Israel in the last 40 years renders this general characterization viable and fairly accurate.

This was not the case in earlier years. After President Truman’s unenthusiastic recognition of Israel in 1948, Eisenhower exhibited disinterest while attempting to forge regional alliances with Turkey, Pakistan and Egypt, and was angry about Israel’s collusion with France and Britain in the Suez war in 1956. Kennedy tried unsuccessfully to lure Nasser’s Egypt into the US orbit in 1962-63.

But after the 1967 Six-Day War and Johnson’s decision to sell Israel offensive military platforms such as Patton tanks and Skyhawk and F-4 Phantom jets (all in the context of a patron-client relationship opposing Soviet mentorship of Egypt and Syria), the pro-Israel tide gelled irreversibly. Nixon’s policy–supported by generous grants–of rehabilitating the Israeli military after the 1973 Yom Kippur War, and further diplomatic and military-related commitments by successive administrations ever since, have shaped the contours and contents of the US-Israel relationship as it evolved into an informal, non-treaty alliance. America consciously sacrificed broader regional interests as it invested in forging that alliance.

If there ever was a serious debate within the American foreign-policy and decision-influencing establishment regarding America’s interests in the Middle East and the implications they have on US support for Israel, it ended resoundingly and unequivocally in Israel’s favor. Now the question is: are these relations deep, solid, strong and durable enough to sustain what appears to be a reexamination and possibly an overhaul of US foreign policy in the region? Do such changes in priorities and a redefinition of interests necessarily mean a weakening of the US-Israel alliance, a transformation of the tenets of the “special relationship” or, conversely, do they hold the promise and potential of improving relations in the long run?

A content analysis of President Barack Obama’s rhetoric after his recent meeting with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, and previous references he and senior members of his administration made about Israel and the Middle East peace process reveals that on the surface nothing significant has changed in tone or substance. The US and Israel are “allies”, whose friendship is “unshakable” thanks to “unwavering” US support that remains “committed” to ensuring Israel’s security. But while it is premature to describe Obama’s ideas on the Middle East as a coherent and detailed “plan” (his scheduled speech in Cairo on June 4 may provide a better understanding of American principles and ideas for the next few years), Israelis who follow Washington politics have discerned a point of inflection. It is unclear if this is merely a change of style, a reprioritization of American interests or really substantive policy revisions.

America and Israel have had their differences and periodic confrontations before, most notably the Suez crisis of 1956, President Ford’s “reassessment” of US policy following Henry Kissinger’s failed mission in March 1975 while mediating an Israeli-Egyptian interim agreement in the Sinai and President H. W. Bush’s decision to withhold loan guarantees to Israel in response to Prime Minister Shamir’s intransigence over settlements in 1991. Moreover, the US has repeatedly described Israeli settlements in the West Bank (and Gaza) as an “obstacle to peace” (a point Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton repeatedly made in the last few days) and has had disagreements with Israel over its peace policies.

If Obama displays in the realm of foreign policy in general, and in the Middle East in particular, the same frenzy of activity that he has demonstrated in domestic policy–highlighted by “change” and a sharp departure from the policies of George W. Bush–then there is a reasonable chance that Israel and the US are headed toward another showdown. Right now it looks as if US-Israel relations may be remodeled as a throwback to the Reagan (and Secretary of State George Shultz) days of 1982-1988: Israel is an ally, but not the only one. The US supports Israel fundamentally and visibly but it has broader interests in improving its relations with the Muslim and Arab world. The US will present a comprehensive peace plan after years of impasse. The US perceives a nuclear Iran to be a regional danger and destabilizing agent, yet Pakistan is the more imminent challenge. The US is attentive and committed to Israel’s security concerns and needs, but Israel can no longer drag its feet and! must take tangible steps on the Palestinian issue, including a commitment to the idea of an ultimate two-state solution.

Relations may very well be strong enough to endure a major disagreement, but assuming Obama persists and pushes, Israel will be required to calibrate its own policies and make adjustments compatible with US interests–if not for the sake of peace, then at least for the sake of preserving the alliance.- Published 21/5/2009 © bitterlemons-international.org

Alon Pinkas is president of the US-Israel Institute at the Rabin Center and former consul-general of Israel in New York.

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Bitterlemons-international.org is an internet forum for an array of world perspectives on the Middle East and its specific concerns. It aspires to engender greater understanding about the Middle East region and open a new common space for world thinkers and political leaders to present their viewpoints and initiatives on the region. Editors Ghassan Khatib and Yossi Alpher can be reached at ghassan@bitterlemons-international.org and yossi@bitterlemons-international.org, respectively.

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May 22nd, 2009, 12:06 am

 

70. jad said:

Yes Nour, I also “would like to see some intellectual honesty “

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May 22nd, 2009, 12:10 am

 

71. alle said:

Fitting, somehow, that the anti-Alawi bigots above resort to Islam-basher Daniel Pipes for arguments. Prejudice goes full circle…

On Michel Kilo’s article, I wouldn’t really call that “sectarian baiting”. He clearly oversteps the “red line” (and must have known that he did), but I don’t think there’s anything negative in itself in talking about the sectarian issue — it exists, and it has to be addressed openly sooner or later. Of course one can criticize the timing or the methods, eg. he’s being too direct (confronting the issue head-on) or not direct enough (referring to the sects in “code” that everyone will understand). But in this case, I don’t see that the way he does it, even if there may be reasonable criticism, deserves to be called “baiting”. Note for example that he ends the article by saying that this is precisely the time to come together. On the other hand, maybe he could have been more explicit about this.

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May 22nd, 2009, 6:11 am

 

72. Nour said:

Shami,

Could you give me the names of people, other than Maher Arar, who wre sent by the US to Syria to be tortured? This is nonsense. You really think the US hands people over to Syria and says “here you go guys, torture this guy for us.” It’s easy to throw accusations; it’s much more difficult to support those accusations with actual evidence.

With respect to the Ahwazies, if you can bring me evidence that the Syrian regime handed some of them over to the Iranians, I would be the first to condemn it. I do not shy away from criticizing and condemning the Syrian regime for many of their actions and behavior, but I do not do so from a sectarian perspective and I do not exaggerate my claims in order to satisfy personal or sectarian vindictiveness. But again, I would ask that you provide me with evidence or links to articles about this issue, rather than merely making accusations.

As for the Muslim Brotherhood, I never denied that they had a presence, but to claim that they have the support of the majority of the population is simply not true. And the claim that they won most elections in universities and syndicates is also not true. I don’t know where you got that from. They were in constant competition with other parties, including the Baath and the SSNP. However, do not forget that the SSNP was heavily persecuted long before the MB was and had to operate underground for a long time.

Shami,

The thing is that you have never read any SSNP writings, and yet you’re inviting me to read “Academic” writings instead of “SSNP propaganda”. Many of the most prominent intellectuals in Lebanon and Syria were in fact members of or sympathizers with the SSNP. In addition, I have never confined my readings to SSNP, Baath, or any other specific literature.

I do not fear democracy, and I am a full proponent of healthy intellectual struggle. However, your version of democracy would bring the “sunnis” to power and have them rule over the others. You want a “Sunni” system that favors “Sunnis” over others, rather than a true civil system that treats all citizens as members of a single nation equal in rights and duties. Democracy on its own is not the answer. Lebanon can be said to have a democracy, but it is a sectarian democracy that continuously leads to utter chaos and instability, and therefore I completely oppose the Lebanese system, not because I fear democracy, but because I support a system that can give rise to a secular state where the rights of all citizens are equally guaranteed and where the interests of the nation and the people are loyally served.

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May 22nd, 2009, 12:07 pm

 

73. Akbar Palace said:

Majid,

Although I am disappointed by your inability to recognize Israel, I do applaud you for NOT making excuses for Arab government involvement in terrorism and NOT standing for it.

As they say in hebrew, “Yashar Koakh!” (Good for You!)

I wish there were more Middle Easterners who feel the same as you on this subject.

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May 22nd, 2009, 4:38 pm

 

74. majid said:

Thanks AP for your sentiment. I have learned from early on to call a spade a spade even if it meant I have to criticize my own people.

I hope zionists learn to do the same and find a place other than Palestine to fullfil their dream of having a land without people for a people without land. You can only live a lie for a short period of time.

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May 22nd, 2009, 6:04 pm

 

75. Nour said:

Nour,
It’s your fault if you lack the needed information,of course i can, as i said there are many and there are several others “maher arar”in canada,(key words:cia secret prisons Syria).
As for the Ahwazis ,i suppose that you knew about this affair,it’s not possible for a “nationalist syrian” to ignore it …(in google,simply as key words :Ahwazi Syria)
As for the brotherhood ,i gave you a cristal clear proof and you persist in your partisan stubbornness.
And who told you that if a christian or alawite win democratic elections in Syria i would not accept him as my legal ruler?
The Sunnis as i said are more than 90% of the Arab and Islamic world but that doesnt mean ,that as Syrian Sunni i dont have a istinctiveness stance.Arab and Islamic collaboration is only a geo strategical necessity ,that doesnt mean that i’m for a theocracy in Syria ,i’m for a moderate secular state in which the syrians whatever their religion is ,are equals in rights and duties.
As i said let us have democracy first ,not only in Syria but in All the arab world ,then we will see if the SSNP or alike would exist.As i said Nour ,the SSNP has become the party of the sectarians ;their fate is that of a dictatorial minority sectarian regime.May be you knew ,Asad and all the sectarian mukhabarati power in Syria are mostly SSNP.I ask you. Nour ,is that possible to be more sectarian regime that that we have in Syria?
Nour, it’s a shame for a nationalist syrian that you feign to ignore all the treachery done by this regime.

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May 22nd, 2009, 6:38 pm

 

76. Shami said:

Nour,
It’s your fault if you lack the needed information, there are several others “maher arar”in canada,(key words:cia secret prisons Syria and also canadians tortured Syria).
As for the Ahwazis ,i suppose that you knew about this affair,it’s a shame for a “syria nationalist ” to ignore it …(in google,simply as key words :Ahwazi Syria)
As for the brotherhood ,i gave you a cristal clear proof and you persist in your partisan stubbornness.
And who told you that if a christian or alawite is democratically elected i would not accept him as my legal ruler?
The Sunnis as i said are more than 90% of the Arab and Islamic world but that doesnt mean ,that as Syrian Sunni i dont have a istinctiveness stance.Arab and Islamic collaboration is only a geo strategical necessity ,that doesnt mean that i’m for a theocracy in Syria ,i’m for a moderate secular state in which the syrians whatever their religion is ,are equals in rights and duties.
As i said let us have democracy first ,not only in Syria but in All the arab world ,then we will see if the SSNP or alike would exist.As i said Nour ,the SSNP has become the party of the sectarians ;their fate is that of a dictatorial minority sectarian regime.May be you knew ,Asad and all the sectarian mukhabarati power in Syria are mostly SSNP.I ask you. Nour ,is that possible to be more sectarian regime that that we have in Syria?
Nour, it’s a shame for a nationalist syrian that you feign to ignore all the treachery done by this regime.

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May 22nd, 2009, 6:40 pm

 

77. Shai said:

AP,

I have just a second, but I had to respond to what you wrote.

Your sentence: “I do applaud you for NOT making excuses for Arab government involvement in terrorism and NOT standing for it.” is ok, if it talks about Arab governments, organizations, terrorists, etc.

But it’s not ok if it refers to Israel. I.e. if it said: “I do applaud you for NOT making excuses for Israeli governments’ involvement in the suffocation and subjugation of 4 million Palestinians and NOT standing for it.”

Never mind the obvious double-standard here, what about whom you’ve chosen to “applaud”! The guy probably emails ideas to that 12 year-old Iranian kid running for president, with a platform calling for Israelis to relocate to Hawaii.

I applaud YOUR support of Arabs who are unafraid of looking themselves in the mirror. But don’t you think you should ALSO support Jews/Israelis who are doing the same?

Have a nice weekend everyone.

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May 22nd, 2009, 7:23 pm

 

78. Majhool said:

I am very pleased to see the brave Kilo free again.

With regard to the discussion above, here is my take

The Syrian regime is simply a dictatorship driven almost solely by the desire to remain in power, and naturally resorts to extreme brutality to suppress dissent (Most other regimes across the Arab world are no different in that regard).

Dictatorship is the problem, plain and simple.

True, the Syrian president happens to be an alawite. But this should not be a problem on it self.

What caused a bad situation to become worse is the following:

1) The regime had chosen, for whatever reason(s), to rely on a very narrow support base to support its longevity and stay in power. This narrow base is made of: High concentration of Alawi, Druze, and Ismail officers in top army and mukhabarat positions, and smaller communities and interest groups that believe that their existence/interests are better served with this regime.

2) The regime adopted nation wide policies (based on the Baath Idiology) that aside from being ineffective in bring prosperity across the nation, have been punitive and retaliatory against the middle class living in major cities.

3) Due mostly to 1, and 2, the middle class did not want and/or was not able to participate in the decision making in this incompetent bureaucracy/ dictatorship. Administration lost much of the talent pool either to private enterprise or to other countries.

Credit must be given to President Bashar as he started to dismantle much of the Baath economic policies of the last 40 years.

That said, reform towards a more democratic society remains necessary. I will leave it to the more passionate Syrians to make it happen.

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May 22nd, 2009, 9:42 pm

 

79. Akbar Palace said:

Shai,

Already you made a distinction. The comment I wrote to Majid said “terrorism”, the comment you wrote to me said “suffocation and subjugation”.

Never mind the obvious double-standard here…

There is no “double-standard” Shai. We’re obviously talking about 2 different things. And, BTW, there wasn’t always “suffocation and subjugation”. Only after terrorism became the new Palestinian foreign policy is when the “suffocation, subjugation, oppression, humiliation, and all the other words that end with an -tion were instituted.

The guy probably emails ideas to that 12 year-old Iranian kid running for president, with a platform calling for Israelis to relocate to Hawaii.

Obviously Israelis aren’t going to relocate, but if someone wants to offer someone else’s land, I guess they’re free to do so.

I hope zionists learn to do the same and find a place other than Palestine to fullfil their dream of having a land without people for a people without land.

Majid,

On this issue we disagree quite strongly. BTW – Here’s wiki’s dope on the phrase you used:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/A_land_without_a_people_for_a_people_without_a_land

The long and short of it is, there was no established country called Palestine at the time Israel claimed independence. Furthermore, Israel agreed to share the land with the “Arabs” (Egypt, Jordan?), but the “Arabs” weren’t as generous then as they are today.;o)

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May 22nd, 2009, 9:53 pm

 

80. majid said:

Visual and audio debunking of the zionist myth
Palestine in the 19th century.
More visual and audio debunking of the myth
here and
here and
here

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May 22nd, 2009, 10:35 pm

 

81. Shami said:

Majid,i see a lot of similiraties between some of these sectarian minority minds that we criticized and the zionists,both hate their environment.
Both need to make ugly our long and often glorious history in order to justify their policy(Bat Ye’or) and these attemps to distort our past have been refuted by historians ;historian jews included.
The Golden Age of the Jewish intellectual and theological development happened under the Islamic khilafeh ,notably in Spain ,Egypt,Syria ….
If you are a zionist ,i would stop calling you “dear” but instead my enemy.
And i dont understand this stance ,i asked you ,if you were a jew ,you answered no i’m not.So what is the aim of such pro Zionist stance ?

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May 22nd, 2009, 11:13 pm

 

82. Shami said:

Majid ,this is the incredible lie of the zionists :Palestine before 1948 was nothing else than a group of under developped rural areas.
Anybody(no need to be historian here) can destroy this zionist disgraceful garbage.
All their archeological works have also failed.
Nazism and Zionism are sister ideologies,the same fate is awaiting Zionism.

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May 22nd, 2009, 11:26 pm

 

83. Shami said:

Majid,i hope that i misunderstood you ,were you attacking the zionist myth or the opposite ?
If it’s the first option and that’s what i hope from you ,then i’m sorry for this mistake.

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May 22nd, 2009, 11:43 pm

 

84. Shami said:

Ok Majid i saw the videos ,i’m sorry again and it was obvious in your comment in which you wrote”zionist myth”.

And thanks to the brave jewish historian Ilan Pappé,we need more people like him in Palestine.

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May 22nd, 2009, 11:53 pm

 

85. majid said:

Shami,
Inna’labiba’mina’l’isharati yafhamu.

Think man. Think and count to 10.

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May 23rd, 2009, 12:50 am

 

86. Akbar Palace said:

Majid ,this is the incredible lie of the zionists :Palestine before 1948 was nothing else than a group of under developped rural areas.

Shami,

cc: Majid

“Myths” and “lies” are indeed troubling. Many Arabs for example think the Holocaust was a myth and/or a lie.

But I am not aware of any Israeli who doesn’t admit that there were hundreds of thousands of Palestinians living in present day Israel before 1948. Therefore, I’m wondering how you came to the conclusion these are a “Zionist” myths and lies.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arab-Israeli_conflict

It is also true that the Palestinian de-facto government was started by the PLO just 3 years before the Six Day War. A Palestinian government was for all intents and purposes non-existent. It is also true that 5 Arab armies invaded Palestine after Israel claimed independence in 1948.

Israelis are fairly well educated. It is no myth to most Israelis that there were plenty of Palestinians and Jews living in Palestine, that there was much violence between the communities, and that once the war started in earnest, many Palestinians were evicted, many Palestinians feared for their well-being, and many Palestinians fled, some at the recommendation of the invading Arab armies.

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May 23rd, 2009, 1:17 am

 

87. majid said:

You guys are well educated? That is good. then, continue watching.
Another audiovisual debunking of zionist myth and the UN fiasco of so-called Partition Plan

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May 23rd, 2009, 1:21 am

 

88. Shami said:

Indeed Dear Majid what a rashness,not only an Arab you are but a proud one.It would be better if we had the possibility to edit our comments after more than a few minutes.Alex plz could you make it possible ?

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May 23rd, 2009, 1:46 am

 

89. offended said:

Majhool,

Why regime critiques keep repeating that regime is dependant on a narrow alawite base? even if that is true (which it isn’t, because sunnis are as much part of the regime as anybody else), it doesn’t serve your cause. You probably have valid grievances, but when you mention all the above sects conspiratorially you come across as sectarian and narrow-minded yourself.

Let me ask this question, and I don’t expect an answer here, just answer yourself truthfully: would you have been equally mad at Bashar had he been a sunni?

And no, I’m not really defending a sect against the other, I’m just giving a free advice on how to make the political dialouge in syria more civilized. It will even serve YOUR cause as well to do so. Take your above comment for example, it would have sounded much more objective and candid except for that sectarian reference.

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May 23rd, 2009, 6:46 am

 

90. Shami said:

Offended,no need for you to refute our sad reality ,all the books and paper that related to modern Syria ,from Seale to Landis ,recognize this “narrow sectarian selection”and exagerated high percentage of alawites in the Army and Security apparatuses and strategic posts.
The problem is that you knew this fact ,but feign to ignore it ,as others here.If you think that Tlass or corrupt people were something important ,it means that you betrayed your own reason.
Your should instead demand that your natural rights as syrian ,to be returned to you.
Anyway even subjugated non sectarian alawite ,the”familly” regime would not trust them.

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May 23rd, 2009, 7:43 am

 

91. Offended said:

Offended,

Read my comment again, I did not say it was an Alawite base, I pointed out high concentration of Alawite, Druze, and Ismaili officers. I did not invent this, this is what all reputed academic works around Syria point out. Van Dam I believe surveyed key positions in his book.

You mentioned something about my cause in a vague way, my cause, or rather what I like for my country to be like, is one that is strong, secular, and prosperous governed by an efficient and capable government.

Unfortunately, I find it impossible to share my observations regarding the situation in Syria, without you finding them “sectarian”.

How do you suggest that we start a more civilized dialogue in Syria? How do you characterize the regime your self? More democratic? Less brutal? More inclusive? Talent magnet? Pro business? Less corrupt? What the major political currents in the country? What is the state of affairs in the security apparatus? Who are the major players? which communities are in support of the regime and which are not? How are kurds doing? How is middle class doing? Rule of law? How big of a base does political islam has in Syria?

I am interested in knowing your thoughts.

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May 23rd, 2009, 8:47 am

 

92. Majhool said:

Offended,

Read my comment again, I did not say it was an Alawite base, I pointed out high concentration of Alawite, Druze, and Ismaili officers. I did not invent this, this is what all reputed academic works around Syria point out. Van Dam I believe surveyed key positions in his book.

You mentioned something about my cause in a vague way, my cause, or rather what I like for my country to be like, is one that is strong, secular, and prosperous governed by an efficient and capable government.

Unfortunately, I find it impossible to share my observations regarding the situation in Syria, without you finding them “sectarian”. Your interpretation of Kilo is no difference.

How do you suggest that we start a more civilized dialogue in Syria? How do you characterize the regime your self? More democratic? Less brutal? More inclusive? Talent magnet? Pro business? Less corrupt? What the major political currents in the country? What is the state of affairs in the security apparatus? Who are the major players? which communities are in support of the regime and which are not? How are kurds doing? How is middle class doing? Rule of law? How big of a base does political islam has in Syria?

I am interested in knowing your thoughts..

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May 23rd, 2009, 8:50 am

 

93. offended said:

Majhool,

Ok. I reckon you included Ismaelite and Druze in the support base. That still doesn’t stop me from asking; why do we have to identify the support base by the sect? Let’s assume it’s a fact that the regime depended on minority sects to control security forces and army republican guards; why does it have to be highlighted by regime critics in a negative way?

I may concede that the percentages of the said sects aren’t proportionate to the population. This might have been a tactic used at one point to ensure loyalty. But again, I repeat, focusing on this issue is a bad recipe for national dialogue. You’re making look like different sects and communities in Syria are pitted against each other in the struggle for power. Which I hope is not the case.

As for the second part of your comment, I recall we (me Jad and one girl whose name escapes me at the moment!) had a lengthy dialogue about this last year. I don’t think we disagree too much on the ultimate vision. I think the 1 million dollar question remains : how do we get there?

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May 24th, 2009, 2:19 pm

 

94. Majhool said:

Offended,

The day people don’t identify themselves or others by their sect will be a glorious day. Until then we have to deal with reality. You, your self, defined loyalty across sectarian lines. I am not sure what your rationale was when you asked: why should it highlighted as negative? It’s negative, it is sectarian.

Still, the problem is not that “they” control it all. The problem is that the system is repressive just like most other regimes in the area. The Sectarian problem is only a symptom/ and an additional annoyance that weakens effective governing. So I am not really focusing on it, but when the subject is brought up, I cannot lie to my self and others and negate it.

The starting point for a productive dialog may be defined by maybe answering some questions.

1) Is the regime willing to share power? Say by the presidency giving some of it powers to the cabinet or the parliament, and/or allowing for political parties to operate legally ?
2) If the answer is no? is the regime willing to neutralize public administration from calculations of loyalty?
3) If the answer is no? Is the regime willing to revamp rule of law to the extent the day-to-day living is neutralized and legal protection for businesses and individuals is highly guaranteed ( Take Dubai as an example)

The answers to these questions will help define the margins of freedom that allows well intentioned citizens to take a positive rapprochement with the regime.

Offer nothing you get nothing, seems to be the case in Syria.

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May 25th, 2009, 12:19 am

 

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