Netanyahu Talks Peace for the Press; Syrian Subsidies

Jerusalem Post: Analysis: When in doubt, turn to Syria

The last time Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu found himself differing with a US president amid faltering talks with Palestinians, he tacked towards Syria. Opening up discreet talks with Damascus, he positioned himself as a would-be peacemaker …

Peres to Assad: Engage Israel in immediate, direct peace talks
By Shuki Sadeh, Haaretz Correspondent and The Associated Press, 10/11/2009

President Shimon Peres on Tuesday urged Syrian President Assad to engage in direct peace talks with Israel without delay.

Netanyahu to Sarkozy: Israel ready for Syria talks without preconditions
By Barak Ravid, Haaretz

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Wednesday that Israel would be prepared to hold immediate peace negotiations with Syria, as long as the talks were held without preconditions.

Netanyahu made the remarks in response to a question from French President Nicolas Sarkozy, with whom he met for more than an hour and a half in Paris on Wednesday. Their talks focused on reviving Middle East peace efforts and Iran’s contenious nuclear program.

After the meeting, the two shook hands but did not speak to reporters……

Two days after Netanyahu’s visit, Assad will also be in Paris for talks with Sarkozy. French officials have said the two meetings are not linked, seeking to kill off any speculation that France might try to act as middleman between the two nations.

French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner said on Tuesday ahead of Netanyahu’s visit that France fears that Israel no longer desires a Middle East peace deal. He also said that Paris remained deeply opposed to settlement building in the West Bank.

Speaking on France Inter radio, Kouchner made clear he was not expecting any swift break through in Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations.

“What really hurts me, and this shocks us, is that before there used to be a great peace movement in Israel. There was a left that made itself heard and a real desire for peace,” Kouchner said.

“It seems to me, and I hope that I am completely wrong, that this desire has completely vanished, as though people no longer believe in it,” he added.

Hezbollah Leader Lashes Out At Obama
2009-11-11, By ZEINA KARAM

Beirut, Lebanon (AP) — Hezbollah’s leader on Wednesday accused President Barack Obama of absolute bias in favor of Israel and disregard for the dignity of Arabs and Muslims.

Sheik Hassan Nasrallah said Obama has gone even farther in his military support for the Jewish state than his predecessor, George W. Bush — who was reviled in much of the Arab world for his support of Israel and war on Iraq.

The remarks were Nasrallah’s strongest criticism yet of the American president since Obama took office almost a year ago.

Nasrallah said Obama’s earlier statements calling on Israel to freeze settlement building and then going back on that demand was a “tactic” agreed on by both Israel and the U.S……

Beneath Lebanon’s New Political Deal, a Fear of Violence
By Andrew Lee Butters / Beirut Wednesday, Nov. 11, 2009, Time Lebanon's Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri pays father, assassinated former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik al-Hariri, in Beirut new unity government on Monday that iministers Hezbollah.

Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri visits the grave of his father, assassinated former PM Rafiq Hariri, in Beirut on Nov. 9, 2009

It’s been an almost endless summer in Lebanon, with beach weather and relative political harmony continuing well into November. The only thing marring what could have been a perfect year for a country more accustomed to serving as a battleground in regional power struggles was the fact that Lebanon has had no government since parliamentary elections in June. That was until Monday, when the majority U.S.-backed political bloc and its rivals in the Syria- and Iran-backed minority coalition finally agreed on a new power-sharing Cabinet. But while the deal ends the three-year political crisis that brought the country to the brink of civil war, it doesn’t address the question underlying the dispute: Should Lebanon be a Westward-looking business-oriented tourist playground, or a frontline bastion of resistance to Israel?

Although the Western path edged out the militant posture of Hizballah at the polls in June, Lebanon’s weak political system, structured according to sect, and Hizballah’s status as one of the world’s most dangerous nonstate armies, guarantees that the Shi’ite militia will remain a force to be reckoned with in Lebanese politics. (See pictures of the youth of Hizballah.)

Ever since it survived a 33-day onslaught by Israel in the summer of 2006, Hizballah has accused the American- and Saudi-backed ruling coalition of doing Israel’s work by seeking to disarm the organization’s armed wing. (The argument by its rivals is that no state can tolerate the existence of private armies independent of the sovereign government.) After the issue provoked more than a year of massive demonstrations and sit-ins in central Beirut, Hizballah tried to settle matters the old-fashioned way in May 2008 by storming pro-government positions in West Beirut. But while its highly trained fighters easily overran the government supporters, the move alienated many Lebanese, and a democratic victory — which would have given Hizballah’s military wing all the political cover it desired — proved to be elusive. While Hizballah and its allies easily carried the Shi’ite vote, the Christian ally it would have needed to form a government was soundly defeated in that community’s polls.

Although it accepted defeat in its effort to win control of the government at the ballot box, Hizballah has since maneuvered behind the scenes to rig the composition of the Cabinet in its favor. First it demanded veto power over all decisions, but eventually it accepted a compromise formula that left the ruling coalition without a large enough majority to make big decisions on its own. Still not content with that, the opposition pushed for control of Lebanon’s telecommunications system, which would give Hizballah added operational security from Israeli intelligence — but could also help it hamper the activities of the U.N. tribunal investigating the 2005 assassination of former Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri. That tribunal has implicated Syrian officials in the killing, and much of its evidence comes from telephone records. Though Hizballah has denied wanting to derail the investigation, such pressure on its patron could disrupt the flow of weapons over the Syrian border to the Shi’ite group’s arsenal. (Read a brief history of Hizballah.)

Saad Hariri, son of the murdered former Prime Minister and leader of the ruling coalition, initially balked at Hizballah’s terms, but eventually had no choice but to give in. Lebanon’s longstanding deadly rivalries and the ever present threat of violence have made Lebanese politicians wary of acting unilaterally, which is why Hariri invited Hizballah and its allies into the Cabinet in the first place. And Hariri is increasingly isolated, with none of his allies being prepared to confront Hizballah head-on given the experience of the May 2008 mini–civil war.

While the Bush Administration regarded the withdrawal of Syria from Lebanon in 2005 — as a result of international pressure and Lebanese street protests — as one of its biggest successes in the Middle East, the new Obama Administration has been less aggressive in its backing for the pro-U.S. Lebanese government. Lebanese media also suggest that Saudi Arabia was dismayed that Hariri’s Future movement, which had been building a militia with Saudi money, was so easily routed by Hizballah in the May 2008 street fights. Last month, Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah traveled to Damascus for a state visit with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, in part to bury the hatchet over Lebanon. Even Hariri’s coalition is breaking apart. Walid Jumblatt, the leader of Lebanon’s Druze community and one of the architects of the anti-Syrian movement (he once told a Washington audience that America should send car bombs to Damascus), has seen which way the wind is blowing and transformed himself into an ardent Syria-phile.

But the government’s caving in to Hizballah and Syria will have its consequences: most importantly it’s a message to those in Lebanon — and the wider Middle East — who put their trust in the U.S. and political reform that guns are still more powerful than votes. Watching the Syrian-backed opposition hamstring the investigation into his father’s murder will have been a bitter pill for Hariri and his followers to swallow. When the time comes to settle scores, they may be more likely to choose bullets rather than ballots to do the job.

وختم عطري حديثه بالقول: إن الدولة تحملت دعماً مقداره 720 مليار ل يرة سورية خلال ست سنوات، كان يمكن أن نستفيد منها لصالح التنمية..

؟ كم محطة كهرباء وكم مشروع ري وكم طريقاً كان يمكن أن نقيم بهذه ا لمبالغ التي ذهبت على الدعم لغير مستحقيه وللدول المجاورة تهريباً

The previous Arabic quote: Syria’s Prime Minister Utri, ended a talk by saying that the government has spent syp 720 billion over 6 years in subsidies for various goods and industries. This equals USD 2.6 billion a year in subsidies, which is over 5% of the country’s GDP. [Thanks Ehsani]


According to findings by the World Bank, developing countries such as Syria should be dedicating around 10% of GDP towards infrastructure spending should they wish to fully capitalise on, and keep pace with, their growth potential. Abdullah Dardari, the deputy prime minister for economic affairs, recently told OBG, “We estimate the need to spend a massive $50bn on infrastructure from now until 2015…. On the financing side, while Syria has seen the arrival of 11 private banks since the sector was liberalised in 2001, they lack the balance sheets and capital to fund mega projects….

West Bank rabbi: Jews can kill Gentiles who threaten Israel

Gulf Al-Qaida chief: Shi’ites, like Iran, more dangerous than Jews

Iranian government’s upcoming visit to Brazil. Gaining Brazilian support would lend credibility to Iran’s government, something that Israel wants to avoid, analysts say. Israel views Iran as a major strategic threat, fearing it is developing a nuclear weapon and noting its development of long-range ballistic missiles.

[Landis Comment:] Brazil has developed enrichment capacity exeeding Iran’s, with less UN oversite. It is worried that the US will set new precidents restricting the enrichment abilities of countries which have nuclear programs. Any new precidents established for Iran would hinder Brazil’s enrichment efforts. Hilary Clinton said this about Iran following the rigged elections this summer:

….you have rights and responsibilities. You have a right to pursue the peaceful use of civil nuclear power. You do not have a right to obtain a nuclear weapon. You do not have the right to have the full enrichment and reprocessing cycle under your control.

Japan and South Korea are countries that have developed enrichment capacity just short of weaponization. They can be hurt by Washington’s Iran policy if it establishes new precidents. Clinton’s language quoted above must have had them scratching their heads.

“Syrian experts criticize the partnership agreement with the EU …” Translation by

On November 9, the London-based Saudi-owned Al-Hayat daily carried in its paper edition the following article by a correspondent in Damascus Nourreddin Al-Athar: “Syrian economic experts are studying the partnership agreement with the European Union and its compatibility with Syrian national interests after Damascus declared it preferred cooperation with the European Union over partnership for the time being.

“Damascus had signed the first draft of the agreement in 2004, before the European Union decided to freeze the accord in 2005. Negotiations were then resumed in December 2008 and resulted in an agreement to sign the accord on the 26 of October 2009, but Syria requested a delay in order to review all its sections. It is important to note that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad recently announced that his country was giving priority to cooperation rather than partnership with the EU… The Syrian change of heart came after the important transformations seen at the level of Syrian economy during the last five years, since many of the partnership requirements were already functioning in Syria and many other reforms and legislation had been formulated by the government…

“Syrian economic experts considered that the requested tax exemptions for European products will lead to an unfair competition with local, national products, will make it impossible for new industries to develop and grow and will lead to the loss by the Syrian treasury of important sources of revenue which will in turn increase the state deficit. The experts told Al-Hayat that they had warned the government against catastrophic results affecting Syrian economy if the partnership agreement were to be signed. Mounir Al-Hamash, a Syrian [non-governmental] economic analyst, thus stated to Al-Hayat: “It is in Syria’s best interest not to sign the partnership agreement because if it does, the relationship will be an unequal one. We have a giant that includes twenty seven nations capable of imposing all its demands and conditions on another small country, so how is that fair? The result will be the destruction of the Syrian economy and the failure of our national industries and prod ucts. This will drive many industrial plants to simply declare bankruptcy and close their doors. Honestly, I do not see any positive outcome for us from this entire partnership process.”

“Al-Hamash added saying: “In case we do sign the agreement, our products will face fierce competition not only from European products but also from Chinese and Malaysian products, since this partnership will force us to open up the importation of foreign products… Moreover, it will not only impose on us the exportation figures, but also very harsh conditions in regard to the quality of the products we can export to the EU. And I do not think that these conditions are even present in our agricultural products. In order for us to meet European standards, we will need a lot of time and many years…” In the meantime, while the European Commission considered that it was in Syria’s best interest as well as in the interest of Europe to sign the partnership agreement, Syrian economist Samir Saifan considered that the agreement will make it impossible for the Syrian economy to develop and grow and will render the Syrian market dependent on European exports.” – Al-Hayat, United K ingdom

Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt adopting baby #7 from Syria

November 11, 2009 10:29 AM EST
views: 37 | comments: 2

According to various reports, Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt will be adopting another baby. The Immigration and Naturalization Service has confirmed that the celebrity couple is in the process of filing papers for a girl from Syria. This makes number seven for Brangelina; the baby will join their three biological and three adopted kids.

RPT-Zain cuts sales forecast; talked to Syriatel
Mon Nov 9, 2009 8:45am EST

BEIRUT, Nov 9 (Reuters) – International mobile operator Zain (ZAIN.KW) expects the global financial crisis and currency market turmoil to cut $1 billion from its forecast revenues of $9 billion this year, the company’s chief executive told Reuters on Monday.

Saad al-Barrak also disclosed that Zain had held talks to buy Syriatel, the top mobile company in Syria, which is under U.S. sanctions, but the talks have been “postponed” for reasons he did not reveal.

Barrak, who is attending an International Telecommunication Union conference in the Lebanese capital, said Zain’s revenues would reach $8 billion this year, compared with a $9 billion forecast and actual 2008 revenues of $7 billion.

“The financial crisis has changed the consumption patterns… exchange rate differences have also been a main factor,” Barrak said.

He said Zain, which is listed on the Kuwaiti bourse, would make a statement with profit figures in several days. (Reporting by Khaled Yacoub Oweis; Editing by Hans Peters)

Al-Assad’s Surprising Advice
10/11/2009,  By Tariq Alhomayed

The Syrian President surprised both Turkish and Arab public opinion when he advised Turkey on the importance of cultivating good relations with Israel, as this would allow Turkey to perform the role of mediator between Damascus and Tel Aviv. [Syrian] President Bashar al-Assad made this comment whilst answering a question put to him by the Turkish “Hurriyet” newspaper on whether he approved of Islamic countries having bad relations with Europe and Israel, or whether [Islamic] countries should cultivate good relations with Europe and coexist with Israel.

Assad’s answer was that “if Turkey wishes to help us on the subject of Israel then it must have good relations with this country” adding “otherwise how else can it [Turkey] play a role in the peace process?”

What the Syrian President said is completely true, and the popularity that Turkey has gained as a result of the straining of its relations with Israel is not useful, especially if Ankara wishes to have a role in the peace process and the region’s issues. Of course such issues also include Iran, and this is particularly important as the most recent statements from Turkey made by Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan on the Iranian nuclear file revealed a flexibility contrary to that of the Western or Arab position. This surprised many people, and raised concerns over Turkey’s position [towards Iran]. Turkey no longer appears to be holding the middle ground, but exists on one extreme after it came out appearing to defend Iran. It is true that while Arab countries have not publicly objected to the Turkish statements [defending Iran] they remain doubtful about Ankara’s sincerity and the helpfulness of Turkey becoming involved in regional issues.

Therefore Turkey’s position towards Israel, whether its protest on what took place in Gaza or Israel’s intransigence on the peace process, does not mean that the Turks should join the ranks of the frustrated. There is no frustration in politics, only hard work and interests which can be influenced; this is not something that is made more feasible by boycott or chasing after popularity.

CBC: Canadian border guards nab Syrian with $800K in gold
2009-11-11 20

A Syrian man is awaiting a detention hearing in Vancouver after he was caught crossing the U.S.-Canada border with nearly $1 million in gold and several items that could link him to a listed terrorist organization. When Khaled Nawaya, 35, pulled up …

Influence of Egypt and Saudi Arabia Fades
By MICHAEL SLACKMAN, November 10, 2009, New York Times

RIYADH, Saudi Arabia — Even before Mahmoud Abbas announced that he would not seek re-election as the Palestinian president, throwing the Palestinian Authority into chaos, America’s closest Arab allies, Saudi Arabia and Egypt, had begun to despair over Washington’s Middle East missteps, government officials and political experts said.

Many Arab leaders were unhappy with remarks by Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton in Israel.

With Israel having rebuffed American calls to freeze settlement-building, and with the prospects for substantive peace talks fading, Saudi Arabia and Egypt are increasingly viewed in the region as diminished actors whose influence is on the wane, political experts say.

They have been challenged by Iran, opposed by much smaller Arab neighbors, mocked by Syria and defied by influential nonstate groups like Hamas and Hezbollah…..

Comments (90)

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51. why-discuss said:


Are you forgetting the 500,000 palestinians in Lebanon? What about compensations that Israel( and/or UN) should pay to the palestinians who will not get their stolen property back?

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November 17th, 2009, 5:05 am


52. Yossi said:


Good question, that’s why I thought that a tri-lateral agreement is unlikely, which in turn makes the bi-lateral agreement less attractive for Israel.

But, if we try to be creative, perhaps the Palestinian issue can be deferred and addressed in the context of the Israel-Palestine discussions. Alternatively, the Palestinian issue could be tackled by naturalizing them in Lebanon in return for (a) lots of money and (b) abolition of the confessional system. Both the Suni and Shia will benefit from this move and the rest will have to live with it. Does this sound at all plausible?

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November 17th, 2009, 6:56 am


53. Shai said:


In’shalla… I’m not sure from Israel’s point of view that Lebanon must be part of the negotiations. Syria’s relationship with Hezbollah, however, must be.


I believe compensation must come from Israel. This money that will be paid to tens and hundreds of thousands of Palestinians living in Lebanon, Syria, and elsewhere in the Diaspora, is symbolic in itself (not a “just solution”). To have it come from a third-party will render the symbolism meaningless, in the sense of an Israel that accepts responsibility for the forced fate of those Palestinians.

Personally, I envision a peace treaty with Syria, followed by Lebanon joining in, then serious talks between Israel and Hamas/Fatah brokered by Syria and/or another 3rd party (probably not Egypt), and during this, peace treaties with the rest of the Arab world. The very last and final treaty will not be with Lebanon (as Siniora likes to say), but with the Palestinian people. That will end the historic Arab-Israeli conflict.

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November 17th, 2009, 11:16 am


54. norman said:

WD ,

I see opening the immigration for the Palestinians to the US , Australia, and Canada , and South America , Lebanon will be compensated by forgiving all the debt , 40 billion , and compensation through the Lebanese government like another 2 bill /y for 10 years to settle the Palestinian and integrate them ,
i do not see a chance that Israel will accept their total return , including my mother .

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November 17th, 2009, 1:31 pm


55. why-discuss said:


“Lebanon will be compensated by forgiving all the debt , 40 billion , and compensation through the Lebanese government like another 2 bill /y for 10 years to settle the Palestinian and integrate them”

Forget about that! Lebanese will NEVER accept to settle the Palestinians on their land. It would create an unprecedented crisis , one of the main reason is that all palestinians are moslem sunnis. Both Christians and Shias will violently react, you can be sure of that as it will disrupt the already fragile balance. Also the presence of the Palestinians in Lebanon is deeply associated with the civil war and its devastating economical and social consequences as well as the death of thousands of lebanese. This cannot be erased with billions of dollars.
Lebanon has even more reasons than Israel to refuse to resettle the palestinians on their land.

The international community will have to pay them compensations and relocate them somewhere else. Nevertheless when you see the “enthusiasm” the international community showed to absorb a few thousand iraqi refugees, you wonder how they will accept more than 1 million refugees, some of them militants??? The Palestinians resettlement will certainly be the most difficult contention point and if the international community does not collaborate, it will be a show stopper to any peace deal.

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November 17th, 2009, 3:18 pm


56. norman said:

WD ,
I understand what you think , i guess , there is something to talk about between Israel and Lebanon , after all , I still think that Lebanon will be forced to accept the deal or declare bankruptcy .

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November 17th, 2009, 4:03 pm


57. why-discuss said:


Lebanon to declare bankrupty? Where did you get that? If it was so, Lebanon would have declared bankrupcy a long time ago.
I repeat, Lebanon will NEVER accept to resettle the Palestinians on its lands, and it won’t go bankrupt, this is just wishful thinking.

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November 17th, 2009, 9:27 pm


58. norman said:

i do not want Lebanon to declare Bankruptcy and i do not want Lebanon to settle the Palestinians , i am just trying get your attention to what might be planned for Lebanon

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November 17th, 2009, 9:43 pm


59. why-discuss said:


The settlement of the palestinians in Lebanon has been a plan Israel and the US have had for a long time. Thanks to Syria and Hezbollah, it did not happen and it won’t.
Recently I think Israelis have gone totally crazy. Either they are flexing their muscles in front of a paralyzed Obama or they are seriously worried by the shift in public opinion.
Peres is advising publicly the argentinians that Israel is a better long term partner than Iran or Venezuela and Israel just slapped the face of Obama and the EU by approving more houses on illegal lands. Where do they think they are going? Illusion of power or growing fear?

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November 18th, 2009, 12:24 am


60. norman said:

we agree , only when we Arabs are ready to fight and fight for our rights ,Israel will accept international law , until then we should continue to prepare, i always felt that a long term war is the only way to defeat Israel. the will to fight is what we lack.

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November 18th, 2009, 2:44 am


61. Akbar Palace said:

Join me in honesty for a moment. If it isn’t an AIPAC or CAMERA salary that’s bringing you here regularly, is it possible it might be… a sense of “self-importance”?


Honestly, and IMO, “self-importance” is distguished by a participant here who feels they can not only speak for themself, but also speak for a whole country. And you’re the only one here who fits that bill.

Btw, what say you about our Barak (Ehud, not Obama)? Who does he serve more – the Left or the Right? Is he still a Leftist?

There is very little difference between Netanyahu and Barak. As you recall, Labor sort of split in two during the election (besides decreasing the number of seats). Kadima has become more Leftist than Barak’s part of the Labor party. In all, the differences are minute, and the arguments are more who is in control than anything substantial in policy.

Certainly Meretz and the Arab parties are way out in Left field and are waiting to dismantle Israel at their earliest convenience.

Do you support him?


And what about Bibi’s declaration that Israel is ready to immediately return to the negotiation table with Syria.


What do you think he plans to talk about at the table?

It probably has to do with the following:

“How much land you get depends on what you are offering for peace.”

Exchanging Israeli Hummus in return for Peace?

No, probably what is demilitarized, what peace means, tangibly, and what exactly will Syria do to stop pussy-footing with terror organizations. Stuff like that.

Why does Bibi offer to talk to Syria, well before Syria has met any of your preconditions?

Shai, don’t get too excited, but both Netanyahu and Assad have called for peace talks now about 12 times.

Is Bibi still living up to your expectations? (I know, lots of questions… Answer just the easy ones if you like.)

Yes, he isn’t going to stop settlements before negotiations start, and the Palestinians aren’t going to stop “resistance” before negotiations start. So, it seems, everyone is happy, except you.;)

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November 18th, 2009, 2:44 am


62. Shai said:


Thank you for the honest and mature answers. I feel your purpose shining through each response.

On the contrary, I couldn’t be happier at the moment. As usual, the Right will do what it always says it won’t (talk to terrorists, talk to terrorist-supporting countries, give back land, etc.) and the Left (Barak) will try to ruin it along the way with blind continuous approval of settlement building and expansion, and occasionally a Gaza or Lebanon-style operations.

Btw, of the 12 times “Netanyahu and Assad have called for peace”, in how many of them were either one serious?

Another btw, “I’m for whatever the GOI is for…” does two things: Absolves you from doing any thinking on your own (convenient enough), and makes you a blind-supporter of Israel (foolish enough).

With this blind-support you give my country, why on earth aren’t you here living and serving amongst us Akbar? 😉

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November 18th, 2009, 4:41 am


63. Yossi said:


>>> i do not see a chance that Israel will accept their total return , including my mother.

I’m afraid this is true, but maybe there is a chance they’ll let the people who were born in the country come back, without conferring any rights to their decedents. I’m sorry about that Norman, I’m sure your family would be a great addition to whatever country you chose to make your home, and that could have included Israel, in a world better than ours..



>>> Recently I think Israelis have gone totally crazy.

I think so too, but maybe they know better? Maybe we CAN trick the entire world forever? Maybe it’s true that nobody cares about the Palestinians because they are Arabs, “brown people”?

>>>> Peres is advising publicly the argentinians that Israel is a better long term partner than Iran or Venezuela

That’s right, because we can buy more steaks than Iran and Venezuela combined. We just love red meat. And we will also sell Argentina Israeli patents, because we have “the most patents per capita”, and they probably want to buy some, in bulk.

No… the old statesman has finally got deranged and senile and the next person in stature that’s left is, gasp, Bibi.



What’s so special in the GOI that you support it blindly? Why not support me blindly instead? Mind you, I have to put three boys through college…

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November 18th, 2009, 6:44 am


64. Yossi said:

Norman, Why-Discuss, Shai,

I want to explain what I wrote about Palestinians in Lebanon, see what you think about it.

If they were naturalized tomorrow, that would give the Sunnis a boost, and the Shia and Christians will object. However, what if in tandem with giving them citizenship, the confessional system was abolished and Lebanon became a straight democracy. This will boost the Shia, who are currently under-represented. In addition, this also jives well with Qifa’s thoughts about the new “all Lebanese” confession that the younger people who are fed up with the confessional system would like to see implemented. So this combined move could have the support of Sunnis, Shia and the liberal young generation (including liberal Christians). The only ones that might object would be the die-hard Christians and the Druze (maybe, I never figured out what these guys really want 🙂 ), but they are outnumbered anyway, and may appreciate the benefits of peace and the promise of prosperity.

What do you think about this combo deal for Lebanon?

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November 18th, 2009, 7:02 am


65. Akbar Palace said:

With this blind-support you give my country, why on earth aren’t you here living and serving amongst us Akbar?


As strange as it may seem, as a Jew, I support the State of Israel.

I have lived in Israel for 2.5 years and visited a dozen times or so. So I would think that would be fairly easy to comprehend why I support Israel. We have many Syrians and Arabs here who “blindly support” Palestine. Have you asked them why? We also have a participant from Finland who has been bashing Israel as well as supporting Palestine for the past few years. Have you discussed his interest and participation here?

Have any of our current pro-Palestinian Arab and European participants lived in Palestine?

What’s so special in the GOI that you support it blindly? Why not support me blindly instead?


If you and Shai are indicative of Israelis, I must say your questions are a bit simple and self-evident. I support the GOI because, as a Jew, I believe Israel is necessary for the continuation of our people, in light of the difficulty we experienced this past century and the current dangers we face from Islamofacism.

You could ask the same question to millions of Jews, Christians, and pro-Zionist organzations around the world. I hope you don’t think I’m the sole pro-Israeli out there.

Lastly, because you are an individual who lives in Israel, my support for your country indirectly supports you.;) Sorry.

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November 18th, 2009, 12:34 pm


66. Shai said:


Akbar either doesn’t really understand what you mean by “support Israel blindly”, or he pretends not to understand. “As strange as it may seem, as a Jew, I support the State of Israel.”

Maybe we should remind him that, for instance, none of America’s major allies supported her in Vietnam. Not Britain, not France, not Germany, or Japan. Akbar may find that odd. After all, “as strange as it may seem, as a (Brit), I support the United States of America…”, right? Wrong. Sometimes yes, other times no.

That’s what’s so beautiful about having free-will, and about being a good and honest ally. If you’re always supporting me, also when I do wrong, what kind of a “good friend” are you? Akbar, have you ever thought Israel was wrong? If you did, did you ever voice this “disagreement” with Israel at the time?

Blindly supporting Israel, with the excuse “I support the GOI because, as a Jew, I believe Israel is necessary for the continuation of our people”, you are not supporting us at all. It is like claiming Israel can do no wrong. Who’s supposed to help us see when we do things wrong? Our enemies? Why not also our allies, including our Jewish-allies in the U.S.?

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November 18th, 2009, 1:34 pm


67. Akbar Palace said:

Akbar, have you ever thought Israel was wrong?


Yes, of course, but not on the issues you write about.

– Israel was WRONG for supporting the Oslo agreements.

– Israel is WRONG for not requiring all citizens between the ages of 18 and 24 to do military or national service.

– Israel was WRONG for not getting Dudu Topaz the psychiatric help he needed.

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November 18th, 2009, 1:52 pm


68. Shai said:


“the issues (I) write about”? You mean withdrawal from the Golan? Didn’t Bibi already offer that in 1998? Was he wrong then? He’s ready to talk to Syria now. Is he wrong now? He supported Oslo, and talked (and embraced) Arafat. Was he wrong? He now says he’s for a 2-state solution. But by continuing to build in the West Bank (receiving no support from our allies), he’s alienating the so-called “moderate” Palestinian camp. Do you think he’s wrong? Lieberman is against a 2-state solution, recently claiming it’ll bring the Palestinian conflict into the 1967 borders, within Israel. Do you support him?

When you say “I support the GOI, because… I’m a Jew…” (paraphrased), who do you support? Bibi? Lieberman? Bibi some of the time? Please clarify, because for some of us here, it seems you support ANYTHING coming out of Israel in the Present… (hence the term “blindly”). Saying “Israel was wrong to support Oslo” is easy, because you’re talking about something that already happened. Everyone knows mistakes are… wrong. What about what’s happening now, Akbar?

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November 18th, 2009, 2:36 pm


69. norman said:

Yossi ,

when i want people to do something for me , i ask them to do something i know they can do and asking Israel to let all the Palestinian back is an unreasonable request , My mother does not want to return or to get compensation , she just wants equal rights for all the citizens of Israel .
By the way , we still have family in Nazareth .

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November 18th, 2009, 2:40 pm


70. why-discuss said:


“the confessional system was abolished and Lebanon became a straight democracy.”

This is total utopia, unfortunately. It is as jewish religion was abolished in Israel. Middle easterners are very attached to religion, remember this area is the craddle of the three religions, it is well imprinted in their DNA. I may take few generations to decrease the negative influences of religions on politics but religions are here to stay, in a form or another and may or may not antagonize each other..

In addition you must remember that for most lebanese, the responsible of the 15 years civil war are the Palestinians. The perception that they are trouble makers guests and want to take over the country is still engrained in the psyche of the lebanese, the same way as it is in israeli’s mind. Since the civil war, the palestinians have been tolerated in Lebanon, never welcomed.
It is only in Syria where the religious balance is not as hot an issue and where they were tightly controlled that the Palestinians were given a decent life. I think Syria will absorb the palestinians, provided they get compensations within a global deal. The same way as Israel will not accept they return, Lebanon, if it wants to survive, will not accept they stay.

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November 18th, 2009, 2:56 pm


71. Shai said:


Most Palestinians in Lebanon today were probably born there, not in Palestine. Do you honestly see them packing up and leaving their nation of birth? This is what Lieberman is saying about the Israeli-Arabs – that they should also be “exchanged” in return for keeping Jews in the West Bank. But in his case (as cruel and outrageous as it is), at least he’s not talking about pulling people out of their homes. How can a nation force people born there, and having lived there for 40 years or more, to leave? (I know Israel did exactly that, but you know I don’t support it.)

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November 18th, 2009, 3:13 pm


72. why-discuss said:


Palestinians in Lebanon has almost no rights, they cant work, they cant travel, they can’t own property. They have no connection with the land they live in. Camps are like ghettos, prone to security problems. Lebanese have become very suspicious of them after the civil war and the constant threats in the camps. Palestinians would leave without hesitation from a country in which they are unwelcomed guests provided they are given the opportunity. If Jews left their countries, masses of lebanese emigrated for a better life, why the palestinians who have much more reasons to leave wouldn’t.
Of course Israel has wanted that they settle in lebanon for years as they settled in Jordan and Syria, but it did not happen and it won’t now.

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November 18th, 2009, 5:04 pm


73. Shai said:


I understand what you’re saying and perhaps you’re right, that most Palestinians would be more than glad to leave. But where to? I doubt Israel would agree, anytime in the near future, to receive all or most of those 500,000 refugees. So they will of course have a natural right-of-return to their newly-formed state of Palestine. But will they do it?

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November 18th, 2009, 5:44 pm


74. why-discuss said:


There are a already large numbers of ethnic palestinians in European countries, the US, Canada and far away places like Chili (who has received the Palestinians kicked out of Iraq, they have already 550,000 palestinians, Honduras has 250,000 etc..)
In all these countries they have become rightful citizens. In Arab countries, except for Jordan, the Palestinians have a status of refugees and do not have the citizenship: they are temporary guests.
If Israel refuse to take them back (which I can understand), it is the responsibility of Israel, the UN and the international community to solve a problem they have created by accepting the creation of the state of Israel without any plan for resettling and compensating the people who were kicked out or left out of fear. It is certainly not the responsibility of the Arab countries who have refused the creation of that state and who have hosted the refugees for sixty years. The burden is on Israel and the UN. They are the ones who must compensate the refugees and identify and convince potential host countries to receive them.

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November 18th, 2009, 10:11 pm


75. Shai said:


I agree with that. But I have to say that I do find it odd that exactly the Middle Eastern countries refuse to naturalize (or at least offer) all those millions of refugees who are their brethren. Sweden, and Chile, and the U.S. and Canada can do it, but the Arab countries can’t? I know the historical excuse – it would have been like burying the Palestinian state, because it would have recognized Israel’s rejection of the Right-of-Return. But even if I accept that reasoning (which I don’t), after the Israeli-Arab conflict is resolved, why on earth would hundreds of thousands of Palestinians be forced to leave an Arab nation they’ve lived in, worked in, paid taxes in, gave birth or were born themselves in, to a nation that has nothing to do with them across the sea somewhere?

What does that say about the Arab states that “hosted them”?

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November 19th, 2009, 5:17 am


76. Yossi said:

>>> What does that say about the Arab states that “hosted them”?

Good morning Shai. Is it International Rhetorical Question day today? 🙂

Michael Neuman has written recently in counter-punch about what he calls the fiction of Arab nationalism and how it creates excessive feelings of guilt and failure, when Arab nations or people fail to help each other. In his opinion both the “Arab people” and the “Jewish people” are myths. I’m sure many people here will disagree, and some will agree, with his thesis.

The Arabs, understood as the ensemble of Arabic speakers, are by no stretch of the imagination ‘a people’. They pay a heavy price for this dubious self-description. On the one hand, it associates every Arabic speaker with every crime of every other Arabic speaker – this holds even for some whose native tongue isn’t Arabic but who live in officially ‘Arab’ countries. It is as if the Sudanese ‘Arab’ militias were the armies of a ‘people’ encompassing the Syrians of Tyre and the Berbers of Marrakesh.

Perhaps this bad press is a mere annoyance. But there is worse. Not only the rest of the world but ‘the Arabs’ themselves have come think they are somehow a hopeless case: why on earth can’t they unite? Why don’t they do more for the Palestinians? Why the endless bickering and mistrust? ‘The Arabs’ in these respects seem like perennial losers incapable of self-government, markedly inferior to ‘the Jews’. This impression is only partly countered by savvy remarks about an ‘Arab street’, always on the verge of rising up against their rotten rulers, yet never, it seems, more genuinely committed to the Palestinians than a fan club to their favorite football team. To the extent that unsustainable attempts at constructing an Arab identity have contributed to the decline of Middle East secularism, they have also contributed to the rise of fanatical religious extremists. This too has hurt the Arabic-speaking world.

Not only does Arab nationalism make ‘the Arabs’ look bad; it also obscures what is good. When Arab states support and sustain the Palestinians, it is much more from genuine altruism than from bogus racial solidarity. But to the extent that Arabs do not do all that is expected of them – do not take in the Palestinians, do not invite them in as fellow-Arabs, the reason is simple. The Palestinians are not fellow-Arabs. They have no home, no ‘homeland’ if you like, but Palestine. Wondering why their ‘brother Arabs’ do not to take them in makes as much sense as wondering why Northern Irish Protestants would not welcome as brothers their ‘fellow Anglophones’ from Dublin or Watts or the slums of Kingston, Jamaica.


Israel, too, is a very tribal country, like Lebanon, and we have political parties which are supported along very clear secterian or religious lines, but still the system does not codify certain quotas or positions to the different sects. Why wouldn’t that work for Lebanon? It’s pretty clear that the current system, which is established based on a census from long-long-ago is running on fumes by now.

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November 19th, 2009, 6:31 am


77. why-discuss said:


First as Yossi mentions it, the arab nation is a ‘myth’. Algerians and Egyptians are as far away as a swedish and an italian, in mentality, language, traditions. The only commonality they have is the islamic religion and the fact they were colonized by Western countries and that colonization persists with the presence of Israel. While the written language is the same, the colloquial language is different, an egyptian or a lebanese cannot understand an algerian speaking. Solidarity is another myth. National interests takes precedence over any supposed friendship.

Now to answer your question about Arab countries taking palestinians refugees.
Many countries like Saudi arabia and Libya are underpopulated and rich. They could very well accommodate the refugees, but they hardly accepted a few iraqis refugees. Arab countries are suspicious of the negative influences these humiliated and bitter people would do to their country. Remember that the king of Jordan killed thousands of Palestinians who were trying to take over the country. Arabs believe that Palestinians having lived in humiliation for 60 years, mostly due to the Arab inability to restore their rights, will take any opportunity they get to force any arab country they are in to take arms against Israel.
The palestinians in Chili and Honduras or any other non arab country are not militant anymore, the geographical remoteness allow them to change their state of mind and become normal citizens.
Again, Shai, the quality of life for palestinians in arab countries is a disaster. I am sure that if you ask any young guy in a palestinian refugee camp if you would go to the US now, he will say YES without hesitation. It is not a matter of being born here or traditions, these people are outcasts in the arab host countries they live in. They rather start a new life somewhere far from the area where they suffered.
Do you think that after the war was over, jews would have liked to be relocated near Germany? Geographic remoteness is part of the distanciation and healing, the same applies to palestinians.
Of course, many middle class palestinians who are already integrated in some arabic countries and not living in camps would find a way to stay but the majority of the camps dwellers would privately tell you they’ll go if offered the chance.

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November 19th, 2009, 2:28 pm


78. Shai said:

Yossi, WD,

Relax guys, I didn’t mean or say “The Arab Nation”, I only said “the Arab states”, instead of listing every single one that is hosting Palestinian refugees. Of course I don’t think Syria and KSA are the same, or even have much in common.

I understand the situation, and of course if I were a refugee living in a camp somewhere (no matter where), I too would jump at the opportunity to live somewhere normal. Do you think a newly-formed Palestine could receive most refugees? In a way, this is what should really happen, not because of any justice (in fact, by not going back to Jaffa, Ramla or Lod, there is terrible injustice), but because they can help build their new state. Israel too was built from scratch by refugees. Palestine could be the same, no? What do you think?

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November 19th, 2009, 3:54 pm


79. why-discuss said:


I really don’t know if Palestinians in Syria or in Lebanon would rush back to the ‘new’ palestine. What would they get there? If they get garanteed security, an interesting package, a decent home and financial support like the Jews coming to Israel, then the uneducated ones and the old generations would probably accept. I still think the educated ones would prefer to emigrate to a country where the opportunities are real and immediate and not hypothetical in the probably chaotic creation of the new Palestine.
Shai, many arabs and iranians are emigrating to Canada and the US, why do you think they do that? People look for security and a better life NOW not in 30 years.
In addition there is such a huge diaspora of palestinians that the ones who emigrate will have no problem to feel at home.
Have you seen “Amreeka”?

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November 19th, 2009, 5:41 pm


80. Shai said:


I know what it’s like to live in the West, and indeed it is very different than living here in the Middle East. But there is also a reason why some of us come back (and I imagine in the future more and more will do so). It is, if you will, out of Patriotism that we do. The “Akbarks” out there do a lot of talking-the-talk, but not so much walking-the-walk. To make the Middle East a better place, we also need good people here. Of course that’s easy to say, and when you don’t have much to offer, it’s difficult to expect people to come back. But those of us who can make a fairly decent living here (certainly businessmen, but also other professions), should try to stay or come back.

As advanced as Israel is, you know no less than I do that our society must fix so much that is wrong with it. I don’t pretend to contribute in a disproportionate way towards this goal, but at least I can and should contribute my fair share. But as Israel needs to change, so do other nations in our region as you know. Who will change them? It must be people ready to make sacrifices, also personal and economic ones. Easier said than done, I know. I hope many talented and abled individuals will choose to move to the newly created Palestine, and will do everything they can to make it a free, democratic, and developed society. Knowing quite a few Palestinians over the past 3 decades or so, I know they are as capable of reaching these goals as anyone out there, if not more.

It is up to Israel, the U.N., and other nations, to help make Palestine a place worth living in.

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November 19th, 2009, 7:32 pm


81. Qifa Nabki said:

Hi guys

A propos of this discussion, I thought you may be interested in reading this post… I’m sure Why-Discuss will have plenty to quibble with. 😉

Naturalizing the Palestinians


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November 19th, 2009, 8:59 pm


82. Shai said:


Great invoking article, as always. As the resident-Israeli, I’d better wait a bit not to be the first to comment on it on your blog… 🙂

But a few questions if I may:

1) Over all these years, how DID the Lebanese see the likely resolution to the growing refugee problem in Lebanon? Did anyone really think Israel would one day take back 400,000-500,000 Palestinians (from Lebanon alone)?

2) How do the Sunnis in Lebanon view the Palestinian refugees? If I understand correctly, the refugees represent approximately 10-12% of the population of Lebanon. Could such a huge number really not “be counted”? You mentioned the typical arguments by Christians and Shia. What about the Sunnis?

3) We’ve often heard the argument that “If Israel only withdraws from Lebanese land, Hezbollah will have to disarm…” But what is the organization’s view on the refugees’ role in Lebanon? Does it also not “count them”? Is it going to fight for their liberation only out of Lebanon, not inside it? Has anyone brought up this issue inside Lebanon?

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November 19th, 2009, 9:35 pm


83. Qifa Nabki said:


If you copy and paste your question on the comment board, you’re sure to get a million different responses. 🙂

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November 19th, 2009, 10:23 pm


84. why-discuss said:


Interesting discussion but you missed to mention very essential recent history events that have marked the Arabs in their attitude towards Palestinians.

You missed to mention that contrary to Syria, Lebanon has been forced to accept the Cairo accord that prevented the Lebanese autorities to enter in the Palestinian refugee camps, allowing these places to become safe havens for all kinds of armed smugglers, murderers and terrorists. Lebanon contrary to Syria or Jordan (remember black September) had no serious intelligence or mokhabarat and it has been unable to control the Palestinian presence over the last 30 years. This has resulted in the armed Palestinians to interfere in the country internal problems and have precipitated the 15 years civil war that has destroyed Lebanon much more than Israelis tanks. No Lebanese can forget that. Over the 60 years of false hopes and deceptions the Palestinians in camps have become cynical and disrespectful of the countries that hosted them. Did you forget that when Saddam Hossein invaded Kuwait, the Palestinians who have been there for more than 30 years, making money and living a decent life, turned against the Kuwaitis. After the Gulf war, the Kuwaitis expelled most Palestinians. After such experiences with the Palestinians, how can you expect the Lebanese or the Kuwaitis or any Arab not to be suspicious and distrustful about them.
In Syria they are tightly controlled and are offered a decent life, but I would not be suprised that if an opportunity appears, as they did in Kuwait, they may turn against the Syrians. The Syrians know that and continue keeping a very tight control on them.
It is unfortunate but their history of frustrations and humiliations with the Arabs have had a toll on them in their ability to respect and become faithful to any country other than theirs.

I wonder if you make a poll or a referendum in Lebanon asking the Lebanese if they want the Palestinians to become Lebanese citizens or even to have a permanent residence, what answer you’ll get. What would syrians say?

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November 20th, 2009, 5:39 am


85. jad said:

Dear Alex, WD,
Reading Alex comment on QN, I was thinking that regardless of the Syrian hospitality and opening their homes, schools and hospitals to all kind of refugee came to their land, we always end up being blamed and attacked by the same people we helped, regardless how good we were with them.
The last example is the Iraqis, after the Lebanese and the Palestinians before them, the same gang who lived in Syria during Saddam are now attacking Syria.
I wonder, what is the point of being good while we as Syrian citizens always have to pay the price, by our food, our housing prices, our education system and our health care. We are acting as if we are more rich than the US when it comes to these issue while our people are suffering from such situation because at the end abu ahmad is the one who is paying the bill and at the same time nobody from the top or from the people he helped is looking after him or his family, or even asking him what he really want, but the opposite they all including his own government act against his own best interests.

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November 20th, 2009, 6:14 am


86. why-discuss said:


It is a question of mentality. Armenians, for example, are forever grateful to Syrians and Lebanese who hosted them and express it openly. Unfortunately Iraqis and Palestinians have never expressed their gratitude to their long term hosts. In the contrary they have developed envy, bitterness and express it openly when they can. It certainly has to do with having been humiliated of needing to take refuge in another country they often consider as “inferior” to theirs. It may also have to do with keeping Arabs responsible for their ordeal, which is partly true and they wouldn’t loose a opportunity to get back at them in a way or another. Gratitude comes from a sense of humility and few people that suffered can have such feelings. In the contrary it ends up by being a feeling of superiority, hatred and arrogance. You also find this attitude widely spread with North Africans living in France who take any opportunity to get back at the french, that they accuse, justly or not, of being responsible for their exile. The growth of Islamic extremists in the West and its appeal to emigrated young moslems may also be a symptom of the repressed resentment and the refusal to show gratitude they consider as demeaning.
They is a saying in french : They eat the hand that feed them.
This did not prevent countries like Syria to give an example of unconditional human solidarity and it should be praised for that.

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November 20th, 2009, 1:29 pm


87. jad said:

I agree that Syrians should be praised for their generosity and their openness when it comes to helping others.
I also agree with you about the mentality issue and you are right about the Armenians, I do have a very high respect to the Syrian Armenians because they built their community from scratch, they force everybody to respect them by their work and their attitude toward others.
I have a Swedish friend who was in Lebanon in 2006 when the Israelis start bombing Beirut airport, she didn’t know what to do, so her embassy asked her to go to Syria, she was planning to spend 2 weeks in Lebanon, but instead she spend a whole month in Syria, she was very thankful for the way the Syrians treated her, she told me that she never thought that Syrians have such humanitarian attitude in the crises with the fact that Syrians themselves are not financially as rich as other country, yet they helped everybody who came to their border regardless of their nationality or religions.
She was telling the story to everybody in the room and she made me feel so proud of what the Syrian did then.
She said that even Swedish with all the goodness they have are going to think twice before doing what the Syrians did.

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November 20th, 2009, 3:22 pm


88. why-discuss said:

yes Jad

Some countries like Syria and Iran (they have accepted 3 million refugees from Afghanistan and over the years millions of refugees from imperial Russia, Armenia etcc.) have shown an unusual selflessness in accepting refugees without been submitted to political pressures and allowed them a decent life. Few countries in the world can compare. Most of the western countries like Canada, Sweden, Australia etc.. do accept a small number of refugees as part of a humanistic attitude but often because they are countries with a small and almost sterile population and they badly need to populate their country to insure economical growth. It is their interest they seek not a true selfless generosity.

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November 20th, 2009, 5:34 pm


89. jad said:

I’m checking the debate at QN and I think it is a bit strange that you have everybody involved in the discussion about the Palestinians even some Irish guy without hearing one single voice of any Palestinian there to tell them what he really wants.

BTW, I’m going to watch Amreeka tomorrow, it sounds like a very heart touching movie. Have you seen ‘The Visitor’? it’s about an illegal immigrant, Palestinian-Syrian, in NY. The movie is ok, they show that going back to Syria is the worst thing can ever happen to the guy, as if he is going to die or something, but regardless of that, it’s fun to watch.

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November 20th, 2009, 5:50 pm


90. why-discuss said:


I agree, no Palestinian seems to express any opinions about the situation and the different analysis given, I wonder why.
I saw a very good documentary on Amos Oz and he specifically said that he thinks that Israel has the duty to help Palestinians to resettle by giving them a home and financial compensation as part of a peace deal. He sounded pessimistic and critical about the direction Israel has taken since its creation. He also believes that sooner or later Jerusalem will be the capital of the two states. The film is called ” Amos Oz, the nature of dreams”
I saw The Visitor as well as The Lemon tree: both good films with the amazing Hiam Abbas. I also saw a very funny and sad film about Jews in the US that probably most Jews would hate: A Serious Man.

Thank God, AIG moved to QN blog!

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November 21st, 2009, 2:32 am


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