New Books by Evelyn Shakir, Keith Watenpaugh, and Sabrina Marvin

The tales in Evelyn Shakir’s Remember Me to Lebanon: Stories of Lebanese Women in America are set in various eras, from the 1960s to the present and occasionally hark back even to the turn of the twentieth century.  Protagonists range in age from a teenager who resists her father’s understanding of honor, to an elderly woman who returns from the grave for one last try at whipping her family into shape.  Most of the stories dramatize personal issues involving negotiation between generations and cultures.  But others have a political dimension—one is set against the backdrop of the Lebanese civil war; another is a response to 9/11, narrated by a woman who keeps watch all day on the Arab family next door.  (Remember Me is published by Syracuse University Press.)

Here are some review excerpts:

“Evelyn Shakir’s first collection of short stories is a delight. . . .  The stories in Remember Me to Lebanon are beautifully told, with an ear for language and a sympathetic heart.  The people are real, and their problems, for all their ethnic color, are universal.”

Also see Evelyn Shakir’s non-fiction Bint Arab:  Arab and Arab American Women in the United States (1997), which is based largely on interviews (and is still, as far as I know, the only full-length study of this population).  Drawing on primary sources such as club minutes, census records, and dozens of interviews, she explores the experience of late 19th- and early 20th-century immigrants, mostly Christian peasants from Lebanon and Syria, and their American-born daughters. Later, she moves on to the well-assimilated granddaughters. The work concludes with Muslims who have emigrated over the last quarter century from many Arab countries, particularly Palestinians. While attempting to correct stereotypes of Arab women as passive and downtrodden, Shakir gives voice to women caught in a tug of war, usually within the family, between traditional values and the social and sexual liberties permitted women in the West. Leavened with personal reminiscences by the author, this work introduces a gallery of spirited women. Essential for all scholars and students of America's social and religious diversity.?

Here are some excerpts from reviews of that book.

“A landmark contribution to the field of Arab American studies”—Middle East Women’s Studies Review

“Essential for all scholars and students of America’s social and religious diversity”—Library Journal

“A gem of a book”—Journal of Palestine Studies

“A sweeping mosaic, rich and colorful in human experience”—Al Jadid


Keith David Watenpaugh. Being Modern in the Middle East: Revolution, Nationalism, Colonialism, and the Arab Middle Class. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2006. xi + 325 pp. Illustrations, maps, bibliography, index. $37.95 (cloth), ISBN 0-6911-2169-9.

Reviewed for H-Levant by Eyal Zisser, Department of Middle Eastern and African History, Tel Aviv University
H-NET BOOK REVIEW: Published by (January 2008)

The Rise and Fall of the Arab Middle Class in the Middle East: Between Modernization, Nationalism, and Revolution

One of the great modern landmarks of the city of Aleppo is the Baron Hotel. The Mazloumians, a wealthy Armenian family of hoteliers, established this fixture on the city's main street at the beginning of the twentieth century. The story of the hotel from the time of its founding is, to a large extent, the story of the city of Aleppo in the twentieth century, as many of the period's most significant events occurred in or were otherwise connected to the hotel and its guests. It can, in fact, be viewed as a silent witness to Syria's transition from Ottoman rule to the French Mandate, to Syrian independence, and finally, to the long rule of Hafiz al-Asad. Among the dignitaries who stayed at the Baron Hotel were Mustafa Kemal (Atatürk), who housed his staff in the hotel during the Ottoman Army's retreat from Syria, and General Edmund Allenby, who took rooms in the hotel immediately after the British Army entered Aleppo in October 1918. Both Faysal I (during his brief reign as king of Syria) and T. E. "Lawrence of Arabia" resided in the Baron Hotel. Many other famous figures were its guests as well. Some years later, the presidents of Syria adopted the custom of staying at the hotel whenever they visited the north of the country. Al-Asad followed this custom during his first official visit to Aleppo as president of Syria.

Thus, it is quite appropriate that Keith David Watenpaugh's _Being Modern in the Middle East_ mentions the Baron Hotel in connection with several major junctures in the modernization of Aleppo and the emergence of that city's middle class, topics that stand at the book's thematic center. For example, Watenpaugh relates the story of a meeting between Gertrude Lowthian Bell and the Christian banker Nicola Homsi in 1905, shortly after the hotel's opening. According to Bell's own testimony, the Greek Catholic archbishop of Aleppo also joined the meeting. When Bell asked the two men what lay in store for their country, the archbishop replied, "I do not know. I have thought deeply on the subject and I can see no future for Syria, whichever way I turn."[1] Watenpaugh also relates the story of Lutfi Fikri Bey, a deputy in the Ottoman parliament of Dersim and a supporter of those forces (the liberal entente) opposing the Young Turks' Committee of Union and Progress (CUP). During the parliamentary election campaign of 1912, Bey came to Aleppo, where he was greeted by a stormy demonstration organized by local CUP supporters. As a result, he took refuge in none other than the Baron Hotel.

In 1988, Patrick Seale published his _Asad of Syria_, a political biography of the Syrian ruler with whom Seale had close personal ties.

However, Seale's narrative recounts more than the life of Asad, as it also tells the story of the Syrian state from its beginnings to the mid-1980s. Seale mentions the Baron Hotel as well, placing it squarely in the context of Aleppo's transformation in the twentieth century:

"Once a great trading city at the crossroads of caravan routes, larger and richer than Damascus, Aleppo had been in relative decline since the First World War when it was severed from its sea outlet at Alexandretta and from its hinterland in present-day Iraq and Turkey…. It suffered from poor sewerage, poor municipal services, and its main street where the historic Baron's Hotel stands became a shabby ghost of the elegant thoroughfare it had once been."[2]

Indeed, the accounts of Seale and others depict two Aleppos: one is a dynamic metropolis facing the future and inviting progress, the other a sleepy town finding it difficult to recapture its past glory. Arguably, Aleppo's declining state throughout the twentieth century is matched by a comparable decline in the status and condition of Syria's middle class during the same period. Watenpaugh's study focuses on this social group, which he depicts as the most energetic and leading force in early twentieth-century Syrian society, however battered and weakened it would subsequently become. Nevertheless, the issues of modernization and Westernization continue to represent a major challenge to Syrian state and society today as they did nearly a century ago.

These issues, which are critical to understanding the history of the Middle East in general and Syria in particular, are central to Watenpaugh's book. First, there are the questions of modernity and the modernization of Aleppo's population. Second, of course, there is the relationship between modernity and Westernization, and between these phenomena and the adoption of Western values and outlooks. Third, in the shadow of these issues, there is the question of the emergence of the middle class in Arab society, or more specifically, in Syrian society during the first half of the twentieth century. Finally, there is the question of the extent to which the middle class was in fact the backbone of Syrian society in this era.

Watenpaugh's major contention in this regard is summarized in the following statement: "in the crucible of the Young Turk Revolution of 1908, World War I, and the imposition of colonial rule, a discrete middle class emerged in the cities of the Eastern Mediterranean that was defined not just by the wealth, professions, possessions, or levels of education of its members, but also by the way they asserted their modernity. To claim modernity, they incorporated into their daily lives and politics a collection of manners, mores, and tastes, and corpus of ideas about the individual, gender, rationality, and authority actively derived from what they believed to be the cultural, social and ideological praxis of the contemporary metropolitan Western middle classes" (p. 8).

Watenpaugh has chosen to make his case against the background of Aleppo's experience during the years 1908-46, that is, from the Young Turk Revolution of 1908 until Syrian independence. During this transitional period, the region experienced a number of major changes:

the destruction of the Ottoman Empire, the imposition of European mandates, and the emergence of independent states. Naturally, these transformations were accompanied by ideological shifts from "Ottomanism"

to "Syrianism" and "Arabism," from liberalism to radicalism, and the persistent role of Islam, albeit in various forms.

Watenpaugh's study vividly describes the aforementioned phenomena.

Despite the fact that each chapter stands alone as an independent research topic, all are woven together into a single, though multifaceted, story. Another of the book's virtues is its placement of fundamental, yet comprehensive, theoretical propositions at the core of its discussion. In addition, Watenpaugh supplies the human face of historical events and processes, using a variety of sources to vividly illustrate the story of the social stratum and the city that serve as his book's focus.

Arguably, Watenpaugh could have expanded his theoretical discussion of the definition of modernity. Perhaps his analysis of the character and essence of the region's middle classes during the first half of the twentieth century could have benefited from even greater expansion.

After all, previous scholars have dealt at length with many aspects of the question of the appearance of the middle class (effendia) in various regions of the Middle East. For example, it would be instructive to compare the case of Aleppo with those of Cairo or Alexandria, since events in Egypt have so often inspired developments elsewhere in the region.

Nevertheless, Watenpaugh's book makes important scholarly contributions to an understanding of a number of issues. First, he presents the story of the Syrian urban middle class. It should be remembered that Syria's history during the first half of the twentieth century has been written and told mostly through the eyes of the notable families constituting the urban elite. Syria's post-World War II history has been written and told mostly through the eyes of those social forces, mainly members of the `Alawi community and the Sunni rural population, that came from the periphery to the center, eventually taking control of the state. Thus, Watenpaugh's study brings to the fore Syria's urban middle class, whose voice and presence have so far been missing from that country's historical narrative. Second, Watenpaugh reconstructs important debates within Syrian society about liberal and Western values, as well as identifies some of the main protagonists in these debates. This is an important service, for much of the scholarship to date has focused on the words and deeds of the proponents of various forms of Syrian, Arab, and pan-Arab nationalism, chief among them the founders and leaders of the Ba`th Party and Syrian Social Nationalist Party (SSNP, also known as the PPS). Perhaps, it was natural for scholars to concentrate on the views espoused by these (subsequently dominant) political forces, and be inclined to see the course of Syrian history as almost inevitably leading to the seizure of power by advocates of these more radical visions of Syria's future. Thus, Watenpaugh's book makes an important contribution to our understanding of Syrian history by giving appropriate expression to these–until now largely ignored–voices advocating liberalism and Westernization.

Reading _Being Modern in the Middle East_ prompts questions about other social groups in the vicinity of Aleppo during the period under discussion, like members of several minority communities and the Sunni rural population of the outlying region. These populations and social forces are absent from almost all studies of Syrian history prior to the mid-1950s, even though they were destined to occupy the center of Syrian politics in subsequent decades. It would be quite instructive, of course, to seek evidence in the earlier period that this significant historical development was in the offing. Some movement in this direction can be found in Michael Provence's _The Great Syrian Revolt and the Rise of Arab Nationalism_ (2005). Provence mentions the social origins of Michel `Aflaq and Salah al-Din al-Bitar, who were destined to found the Ba`th Party. These two figures were sons of grain merchants who had strong connections with the Hawran province. Awareness of the economic connection between the Hawran and the Maydan quarter of the city of Damascus might cast light on the path by which the 1920s revolt spread along the Hawran-Maydan route from the Druze Mountain to Damascus, and it might also help to explain and clarify the connection of the Atrash family, or at least several of its sons, to the Ba`th Party. All this raises the issue of the links and relationships between the Syrian center and periphery, which were always much deeper and more complex than previously thought. Thus, the Syrian center should not be viewed only from the angle of the notable families that dominated it, nor should the center and the periphery be conceptualized as mutually exclusive spheres.

Watenpaugh discusses the events of the stormy 1930s in another interesting chapter, "Middle-Class Fascism and the Transformation of Civil Violence." The issues discussed therein merit particular mention precisely because they have received so little scholarly attention in the past. Watenpaugh quite appropriately revisits old questions, investigating the degree to which Fascism and Nazism found adherents in Syrian society, as well as exploring the political and social significance of the turn to violence and radicalism. Syrian intellectual life during this period requires fresh, more thorough historical investigation. Watenpaugh's study represents a first important step in that direction.

I began this review by noting that the second half of the twentieth century was marked by the decline of Aleppo, and indeed the whole northern region of Syria. In addition, previously significant social and political groupings were marginalized or even disappeared from view. The interesting question is: What does today's Aleppo with its millions of residents have in common with the small-town (one hundred thousand

residents) Aleppo of the early twentieth century that is the focus of Watenpaugh's _Being Modern in the Middle East_? In this regard, we must note again the large-scale migration to Syria's cities and its political center that occurred in the second half of the twentieth century.

Against this background, we can better understand Syria's more recent historical development, in other words, the collapse of the old social order, appearance of military regimes, and establishment of the Asad dynasty that survives to this day. The new groups moving to the cities brought with them the message of the Ba`th. However, large numbers of the Sunnis living in the slums of Aleppo adopted the views of radical Islam. Indeed, Aleppo became a focus of Islamist rebellion, against which the regime took repressive measures in 1976-82. However, those Islamist sentiments still survive, hidden beneath the surface.

We were given a reminder of the surviving vigor and importance of the question of liberal thought in Syria, as well as the rise and fall of the Syrian middle class during Bashar al-Asad's first years in power. At that time, the young ruler lent his support to the so-called Damascus spring, a very brief period of political openness during which cultural and political forums and salons were allowed to operate. One such forum, which arose in Aleppo, was named after `Abd al-Rahman al-Kawakibi, whose earlier participation in several of Aleppo's well-known salons is mentioned in Watenpaugh's book. The Syrian authorities quickly shut down the later "al-Kawakibi" salon, which was led by `Abd al-Rahman's relative Salam al-Kawakibi. Ultimately, Salam was forced to leave Syria and become a political refugee, just like his famous relative, who was pursued by the Ottoman authorities of his day.

Watenpaugh's book makes an important addition to our knowledge of Aleppo's history, joining Abraham Marcus's study The Middle East on the Eve of Modernity: Aleppo in the Eighteenth Century (1988), in illuminating several issues critical to Middle East history. In effect, Watenpaugh's fascinating book can be viewed as a kind of introduction to the trajectory of Middle East during the past century, oscillating between extremes, from Western liberalism to extreme nationalism to Islamic radicalism, as well as alternating between conservative and progressive impulses. Watenpaugh examines these matters in a specifically Syrian context, but it has value beyond the parochial. It also relates the story of the rise and fall of a middle class whose presence could have heralded the emergence of civil society.

In sum, Being Modern in the Middle East is an important, interesting, and instructive contribution to the history of ideas, while also being social and cultural history at its best. It is the laudable result of years of research. Overall, it reflects the author's empathy with his subject, a quality that definitely contributes to the depth of his insights and conclusions.


[1]. Gertrude Lowthian Bell, _The Desert and the Sown_ (London: W. Heinemann, 1907), 267.

[2]. Patrick Seale, _Asad of Syria: The Struggle for the Middle East_(London: I. B. Tauris, 1988), 450.


Les Mondes Chiites et L’Iran [The Shi‘ite World and Iran],
edited by Sabrina Mervin. Paris: Karthala-IFPO, 2007

Mervin, who is chargée de recherches at CNRS and a member since September 2004 of the l'Institut français du Proche-Orient (Beyrouth), has gathered together first class academics and experts in the field to write on the major debates and Shiite communities of the Middle East. The authors include Oliver Roy on the impact of the Iranian revolution on the Middle East; Laurence Louer on Shiism in the Gulf states; Joseph Al-Agha has a wonderful article, “Hizbullah’s Conception of the Islamic State, 87-112; Peter Harling on class and millenarianism in the Sadrist movement in Iraq; Mohsen Mottaghi on "Soroush, un itinéraire intellectuel;" Sabrina Mervin on "Transnational Intellectual Debates;" and many more.

Here is the French blurb: 

Ce livre réunit des spécialistes des aires géographiques concernées. Il offre un parcours au cœur de ces contextes multiples, où être chiite ne correspond jamais exactement à une même réalité sociale et culturelle, malgré des références communes, doctrinales et politiques. L'exportation de la révolution, qui fut longtemps le paradigme de l'influence iranienne sur les mondes chiites, a fait son temps, même si dans certains cas, tel celui du Hezbollah libanais, son héritage est évident. Quel rôle joue réellement l'Iran dans les chiismes en construction, à Istanbul, Bakou, Boukhara et Tachkent, ou encore chez les chiites de Dakar ?. Le " modèle iranien " n'est plus seulement, et, parfois plus du tout, celui d'un islam politique révolutionnaire. Du clerc rebelle Muqtadâ al-Sadr en Irak aux écoles religieuses où étudient de jeunes Pakistanaises, l'influence iranienne se décline sous de multiples formes. Pour les mondes chiites, l'Iran reste un formidable laboratoire d'idées

Comments (127)

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101. Karim said:

Dear why discuss,if the power of Iran and the shias mean the destruction and occupation of an arab country like Iraq so what we have won as arabs and muslims who are more than 90 % Sunnis ?
And Why discuss and what is the long term interest of the shia minorities in the arab world to compete with us ?the result is thqt we will hate them more and they will suffer from this behavior sooner or later,no ?or can they erase us ?
No Saudi Arabia is doing much better ,you say this because you are a supporter of the minority regime dictatorship and that you can not free yourself of it ,even if your heart say otherwise …anyway this is a well known patology with people who live in our mukhabaratland .What is strange is that you have completly integrated the complex of what we can call the dhimmi complex but here in a way that you ask protection from a minority and not from the majority which is more secure at least.This is sad when i compare the quality of life and the importance of the christian community in Syria before and after Asad.Again you forget to compare Iran today what was Iran before and Saudi Arabia what it was before and what it is today ….and in that only the people suffering from a Stalinist or as said AIG Mugabist mentality like Aussama will always prefer the regimes based on slogans and in this yes the syrian regime is the best.
Alex ,i think that even Saudi Arabia has positive effect for the Syrian christians,100 000’s of leb and syrian christians work in Saudi Arabia ,most of those can return to Syria and live in Syria …contrary to those who left for the americas ,Europe or Australia.
There is no doubt that Saudi Arabia has changed to better compared to 40 years ago in all fields …can we say the same thing in the other theocratic ,nasserist,baathist countries which had discovered modernity 100 years ago ?

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July 2nd, 2008, 7:03 am


102. Akbar Palace said:

Shai opines:

No one has been asked (in polls), because that kind-of says something about a nation, doesn’t it?


I found a poll conducted less than a year ago. Did you check?

IMHO, your comment of says more about YOU. It’s apparent to me that you’re always ready to criticise your own country first without much concern for the facts.

We have similar people here in the US: Senator Barrack Obama, his wife, Michael Moore, Keith Olberman, Jeremiah Wright, Al Gore, John Kerry, etc…

What is it with liberals?;)

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July 2nd, 2008, 11:03 am


103. AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

If of utmost importance to you is the worst case scenario, then you would have also been against the founding of the state of Israel on May 14, 1948. Yadin told Ben-Gurion that this would result in the Arab states attacking Israel with a 50-50 chance of Israel winning. Those were the accepted odds. Nevertheless, Ben-Gurion did the right thing.

And really if the worst case scenario is what is bothering you then you should be very worried about the Iranians having a bomb. Because in the worst case scenario they will use it based on plausible deniability.

If the Iranians start hitting Jews in European countries that would be entail Europe sanctioning Iran and would be devastating to the Iranian economy. Iran cannot afford to fight the world if the Ayatollahs are as rational as you think. And if they are not rational, then it is clear that an attack on their nuclear program is imperative.

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July 2nd, 2008, 1:56 pm


104. Karim said:

It’s not the Sahel but one of the natural richest part in the world,al Ahwaz This is how the arabs of Iran live(is it unbiased? or fringe of the reality?) most of them are shias and 90% of the iranian oil fields are located in their lands and likely the same percentage live below poverty line.
I’m sure that the arabs who live in the “zionist entity” have a better quality of life .worse is it possible ?

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July 2nd, 2008, 2:29 pm


105. norman said:

Turkey: Direct Israel-Syria Talks Imminent

by Ze’ev Ben-Yechiel

( Direct peace negotiations between Israel and Syria are imminent, according to a Wednesday report in the Arabic language newspaper Al-Hayat. In the report, Turkish officials announced that the direct talks will follow the upcoming round of indirect talks between the two countries.

Yoram Turbowitz and Shalom Turgeman, advisors to Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, arrived in Ankara on Tuesday to discuss the possibility of launching direct talks with the Syrians. The next round of indirect talks, the fourth, is slated to begin in two weeks’ time.

Israeli and Syrian negotiators will decide on a start date for the direct negotiations, as well as the composition of the negotiating teams, in about a week and a half, after Syrian President Bashar Assad returns from a scheduled trip to Paris. Assad will be attending a conference in the French capital, alongside Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak.

The Turkish sources were quoted as saying that France also plans to mediate in the talks, primarily with regards to the Shebaa Farms land dispute.

Assad called the political climate in the Middle East Earlier this week “positive,” and called on the EU to intensify its involvement in the peace talks with Israel.

“The political climate in Israel is generally positive. We must give the different political processes a new push in order for them to proceed in the right direction,” remarked Assad in a Damascus meeting with Norwegian Foreign Minister Jonas Gahr Store, reported Sana, the Syrian government news agency.

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July 2nd, 2008, 2:32 pm


106. Shai said:


When you’ve done a tenth for the security of Israel (served in the army, did army reserves for years), then you can call me “liberal”. We also have people like YOU in my country. They’re think they’re good at talking, but are usually very bad at doing. It’s easier to criticize those who criticize Israel, from the safe shores of the U.S. of A, isn’t it? But when the bombs drop, they don’t drop on YOUR head, do they? AIG, what about yours? I’m beginning to understand what the other commentators are talking about, when they claim you repeat things to no end (“… rational Ayatollahs…”) When was the last time either one of you looked in the mirror? Can you possibly be wrong? Can all the commentators here be wrong? And you understand THEIR side better?

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July 2nd, 2008, 4:28 pm


107. Shai said:


“… then you would have also been against the founding of the state of Israel…” – What kind of nonsense is that? Because I consider what the worst-case-scenario could be means I always choose passiveness? You know, the best lawyers simulate every kind of scenario they can think of that could occur in court, well in advance, in order to develop the best strategy. They consider the entire range, from best to worst case scenarios. They don’t say “no, that just can’t happen…”, or “it’ll happen this way, I’m sure…” They don’t know what will happen, but they prepare for the worst case. I don’t see you (or AP) ever talking about the worst case.

A good friend of mine had dinner with Netanyahu a few months ago. Netanyahu was going on and on about how we will have no choice but to attack Iran. So my friend went along with his argument and, at a certain point, she asked: “And what happens the day after?” And guess what? Our wisest of Bibis had no answer. He had no ‘fricken clue! Because it didn’t matter to him what happens next. He was so sure this had to happen, that the consequences were irrelevant. I have a funny suspicion that you see it the same way.

You know, since you don’t want to talk about the emotional side of the conflict, you have to decide whether the Iranians are rational or not. If they are rational, then they won’t drop an atomic bomb on Israel, because they know they’ll be destroyed fifty-fold shortly thereafter. If they’re not rational, then they certainly WILL retaliate with everything they’ve got, including repeated rounds of missiles, perhaps WMD’s, Hezbollah, Hamas, and even murdering Jews and Israelis around the world. You have to decide – according to your methodology, you can’t have it both ways – either they’re rational, or they’re not.

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July 2nd, 2008, 5:26 pm


108. AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

I am quite clear about what I believe. I believe that the Ayatollahs will use terrorist organizations to attack Israel with nuclear bombs if they have a chance. They believe that Israel will not retaliate against them in such a case, and they may have a point. If a palestinian organization fires a nuclear bomb at Haifa from Lebanon, are we going to retaliate and kill 20 million Iranians? What do you think? I think we will be in an impossible situation.

The Ayatollahs are not rational in the sense that they would certainly try what I describe above. They would probably not be stupid enough to fire a missile from Iran at Israel. But if they believe they could get away with it, then from their point of view they are acting rationally. I do not want to be in that situation.

What would the Iranians do if Israel attacks them now? If they retaliate strongly, Israel will take out their oil production and distribution sites. This will make them very weak and the regime may fall. Without the oil revenues Iran will not have enough money to feed itself let alone buy refined oil which it is currently importing. Without the oil revenues, there are no salaries for the Republican Guard. So, most probably the Ayatollahs would do very little, because they are not stupid. Because of their huge dependence on oil, Iran is very vulnerable.

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July 2nd, 2008, 5:46 pm


109. Shai said:


You’re not consistent. You say “… most probably the Ayatollahs would do very little”, because they’re rational. Yet you say “The Ayatollahs are not rational in the sense that they would certainly try what I describe above.” So which is it? They’re both rational and irrational now? You have mentioned yourself on numerous occasions that certain nations in our region have used “plausible deniability”, and that therefore Iran can (and will) do the same. Yet each time, you seem to know “who done it”. So decide – if a Palestinian group will detonate an atomic device in Ashkelon, will you NOT know who did it? Will Iran be able to deny it in a plausible way? Who will listen to Iran, after Israel has decided to judge Iran out of court, and to bomb the hell of her, with the clear assumption that it wasn’t Abu Mazen who developed nuclear technology behind our backs…

But there’s something else that puzzles me about your Iran-theory. If they so desperately want to hurt Israel, to kill many thousands, to cause terror and mayhem in our country, and to do so in a “plausibly deniable” fashion, why are they waiting to use a nuclear device? Why not provide 20 or 30 Arabs that can enter Israel (Palestinians from E. Jerusalem, etc.) with canisters of biological weapons, enough to kill tens of thousands each? Why not detonate a chemical weapons device in the heart of Haifa and Tel-Aviv? Talk about plausible deniability, that seems to work far better than a nuke, don’t you think? So why is that? They don’t have the WMD’s? Of course they do. They don’t want to risk it? But they will risk a nuclear device (like that atomic bomb in the vending machine in the football stadium in Tom Clancey’s “Sum of All Fears”, right?)

AIG, you make no sense. I’m sorry, when you do, I put down my chapeau. But when you don’t, no chapeau…

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July 2nd, 2008, 6:04 pm


110. AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Being rational or not rational depends on your assumptions and what you deduce from them. Once we attack Iran, the Ayatollahs will be much more inclined to believe that we will take out their oil production factilites and will be much less inclined to retaliate. Their frame of mind will change once we attack. That is how deterrence works. Once you attack someone, he is much more inclined to believe you will do it again if required.

We know that Syria has murdered Hariri, but isn’t Syria denying it and some people believe them? Don’t you see how much trouble it is to “prove” such things?

We know Syria gives Hizballah rockets from Syria, yet Syria denies it and some people believe them. Again, plausible deniability in action.

Yes, Iran will deny that it porvided a bomb to terrorist just like it denies now that it is developing a bomb and demands that the world “prove” it. I will know who did it, but is this knowledge good enough in the eyes of the world to kill 20 million Iranians? You keep evading this question.

Chemical and biological weapons are very difficult to deploy in an effective way. First you need large amounts and they are quite bulky. Very difficult for one person to carry. You would need trucks. Second, they are difficult to disperse over a large area. You need to take the liquid in a truck and spread it over all Jerusalem. You need a huge explosive and it is quite tricky to do and very weather dependent. Nuclear weapons are ideal for terrorists.

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July 2nd, 2008, 6:46 pm


111. Shai said:


You’re wrong. Biological and chemical weapons require very little quantity, as you might remember from the March 1995 case, by the Aum Shinrikyo Cult in Japan. You don’t need trucks, you don’t need an explosive device, you just need a small canister. It could be done quite easily, if a nation that has access to such WMDs decides to do so. But fact is, that NO nation like that has decided to do so, precisely BECAUSE it assumes that no level of “plausible deniability” will be safe enough to ensure that no punishment would come sooner or later. Imagine the response of a United States that finds, 5 years after investigating a WMDs incident that killed thousands in downtown NY, that Iran was responsible. The punishment would be most severe. And the same would happen with Israel.

Though terrorists have been trying to get their hands on nuclear devices, none of succeeded yet, or have not used them. Iran, if they have any rational sense (which you seem to be bouncing back and forth from having, and not having), would never risk handing such a thing to irresponsible terrorists, where a lot could go wrong for Iran. Aiding in the destruction of a Jewish community building, and killing a few dozen Jews, is something Iran was willing to take a chance on. Being chiefly responsible for the murder of 10,000 Israelis, is another thing altogether. Tom Clancey might find this a real option, and indeed he may sweep most of us with his imagination, but for each novel/movie that has come out in the past 63 years, since the appearance of the first atomic bomb, ZERO cases have happened. The Soviet Union had every reason and every ability to use such “plausible deniability” in any of its numerous proxy wars with the U.S., and yet it hasn’t. It could have done so with atomic devices, with biological or chemical agents, and yet it hasn’t.

Your irrational-yet-rational Iran may indeed develop nuclear weapons, but it is doubtful it will use them against Israel, unless it is provoked first. No nation on earth develops a military program with nuclear capabilities, only to hand it over to someone else to do the “dirty job”. That’s ludicrous. That doesn’t serve its deterrence, that doesn’t free it from imminent danger of retribution, that doesn’t help it achieve any of its national goals. It only serves the opposite. I imagine even the most terribly religious Shia understand this well.

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July 2nd, 2008, 7:25 pm


112. AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

You are just plain wrong. The only reason the attack on the sub-way worked was because it was a CLOSED and small volume. Biological and chemical weapons are very hard to use for a mass attack unlike nuclear weapons.

You again don’t address the issue as to how much proof is required to attack another country and that it is usually impossible to get. The following scenario is quite possible. The republican guard send trusted men with a short range rocket with a bomb to a Palestinian faction in Lebanon. The Palestinians do not even know they are Iranians. They think they are Al-Qaida because they are excellent Arabic speakers. The Palestinians shoot the rocket from Lebanon and accept responsibility. How will Israel prove the Iranians were behind it? We will know it, but will this knowledge be enough to retaliate and kill 20 million people?

The Iranians would be very tempted to try this out, and Israel just cannot afford to wait.

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July 2nd, 2008, 7:44 pm


113. Shai said:


I also like Tom Clancey, but not THAT much… Come on, you keep jumping back and forth between an Iran that is rational enough not to attack us back, after we attack their nuclear installations, but not rational “… in the sense that they would certainly try what I describe above (the Tom Clancey bit).” If the scenario you described occurred, and you and I and most of the Israeli leadership would know it was Iran, who exactly will we need to go ask an approval for, before we severely punish them? If in 12 months time an atomic missile is launched from Southern Lebanon into Israel, where do you think Europeans and Americans will think it originated? The laboratories of Tora-Bora? The basements of Jenin? Or nuclear facilities in Iran? Israel would attack, and I would support it. Just like America didn’t ask anyone’s permission to nuke Japan in 1945, if 10 or 20,000 Israelis died one morning in Haifa due to a nuclear explosion, Israel will not be seeking anyone’s approval for immediately and severely punishing Iran.

I don’t know where you’re getting your 20 million people figure from, as that would require around 2,000 Hiroshima-size bombs, or 200 Hydrogen bombs, neither of which we seem to have. We will, however, destroy much of Iran’s main cities, making it nearly impossible for the Iranian regime to rule a very hurt (and angry) nation. The mullahs know that, and they’re not going to count on any “plausible deniability” Tom Clancey suggests is workable, and risk everything. If they do, they’ll pay the most severe price. Far greater than we’ll suffer.

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July 2nd, 2008, 7:56 pm


114. AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

We didn’t even attack Syria even though it is clear that Syria gave the rockets to Hizballah. We will not be able to attack Iran with nuclear weapons just because we know they supplied the weapons. In the eyes of most of the world we will not be justified to do it.

If we attack Iran with nuclear weapons it will collapse as a society leading to millions being displaced and starving and a civil war. Look what happened to Iraq, but think 100 times worse.

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July 2nd, 2008, 8:25 pm


115. Shai said:


Israel will nuke another nation in one of two scenarios:

1) If it feels a true existential threat which is imminent (like Egyptian and Syrian tanks about to roll into Tel-Aviv and Jerusalem).
2) If another nation nukes Israel first.

Israel doesn’t have to kill 20 million, or even 1 million civilians in order to severely punish Iran. It can choose the level of “punishment” based on the level of damage and destruction caused upon Israel. But whatever it’ll be, it is certain to be severe. The Iranian society doesn’t need to collapse thereafter, though indeed there may be an internal war at some point, with an attempt to overthrow the regime (for bringing upon Iran this fate).

Just as you and I won’t doubt where a nuclear explosion in Haifa originated from, neither will our leadership (whether it’s Netanyahu or Yossi Beilin). Israel will punish Iran in such a case. The mullah regime is therefore unlikely to test us. They fear us far more than we fear them, I believe, and it makes sense. Their bark is far greater than their bite, and that’s all it is, a bark.

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July 2nd, 2008, 8:34 pm


116. AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Your words were used exactly to describe Hitler in the thirties. And he did not have the strategy of plausible deniability to assist him.

The Iranians have shown already that they not only bark. They armed Hizballah and Hamas and attacked Jews all over the world.

How would we convince people that it was not the Pakistanis that gave a bomb to the Palestinians that shot it from Lebanon? Contrary to what you say, we will be stuck because the Iranians will deny it. As for retaliation, if the regime in Iran stays after we retaliate, that would not be deterrence enough against another attack. Our retaliation would have to be very comprehensive.

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July 2nd, 2008, 8:49 pm


117. Shai said:


Your attempts are useless. Your “plausible deniability” theory belongs more to bestseller books than to reality. A responsible nation does not hand over any such capabilities, for fear it will bring upon itself severe punishment. No Iranian leader is going to gamble everything on your Pakistani-theory, because there are traitors, and agents, and all sorts of ways of “discovering” things before they happen, and also after they happen. Just as Israel will not preemptively nuke Iran (or any other nation), Iran will not nuke Israel, for fear it will be severely punished or destroyed. Iran’s bark is only about its hopes to “erase” Israel off the map – a concept which apparently is bought quite nicely by you, and perhaps by most Israelis, yet none of you have yet defined what that means (10,000 or 20,000 dead Israelis in Haifa does not constitute the end of Israel, even if economically it will devastate her for a few years).

Fear is not enough of a reason to attack Iran. And if one is already dedicated to thinking about this fear, then he must not dismiss other fears, including those of a legitimate, severe, and long-lasting response by Iran and its allies.

This is certainly NOT the same case as with Hitler in the 1930’s, because the Jews then were not a hundred times stronger than Hitler, were they?

That’s it. I think we’ve chewed on this topic enough, don’t you? For me, at least, it’s time for bed…

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July 2nd, 2008, 9:06 pm


118. AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

What I and most Israelis understand, as well as most Israeli security experts, you fail to acknowledge. You are willing to chance 20,000 Israelis killed and a severe economic depression if not the end of Israel. Fine. Luckily you are a minority in Israel.

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July 2nd, 2008, 10:33 pm


119. why-discuss said:

It is so depressing to read AIG’s obsessive and bellicose opinions. If he is representative of most Israelis, I am not surprised peace is so elusive and I think it will take the Israeli more than one generation to get rid of their fear and hysteria and deal with their opponents with logic and humanity.

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July 3rd, 2008, 3:19 am


120. AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Why don’t the Arabs show us stupid and mean Israelis how to deal with their opponents with “logic and humanity”? Here are a couple of suggestions. Hizballah, your hero has not allowed the red cross to visit the Israeli prisoners nor are they willing to say if they are dead or alive. And in a speech yesterday, Nasrallah showed how proud he was. Yes, “logic and humanity”.

Also yesterday, an Arab killed 3 Israeli citizens, 2 women and an elderly man. He did it in a rather creative way I must admit, but regarding “logic and humanity” I am not so sure.

Peace is elusive for one simple reason, because you and most other Arabs have not accpeted the fact that there is and will be a Jewish state in the middle east.

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July 3rd, 2008, 3:44 am


121. Shai said:


AIG is very different from most Israelis in one very important way – he is stubborn and inflexible. He indeed does seem to be on AIPAC’s payroll, or the like. Just as 70% of Israelis were against the return of the Sinai before the peace agreement was presented in Knesset, and then 70% turned for it, here too the same will happen with Syria. Most Israelis, who are followers and not leaders, will eventually turn wherever their leaders send them. But you can bet one Israeli won’t – AIG. He doesn’t have a clue about why Arabs still hate Israel, about why there are still people willing to commit suicide by killing Israelis, about Israel’s own crimes, about the intertwined relationship between peace and the Palestinian issue, and how to go about solving any of these. As he cannot bring himself to recognize any of Israel’s own faults (until and not before the Arabs do their share), he is incapable of self-introspection. He is, therefore, incapable of change.

It indeed seems useless to argue with him, about anything, really. He, and “most Israelis”, understand the conflict with the Palestinians, Syria and Syrians, Iran, Egypt, Jordan, democracy in the region, far better than any of “you” could. So sit aside, listen, and learn. But don’t waste your time arguing. It may be “fun” (and financially rewarding) for AIG, but it’s useless for others.

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July 3rd, 2008, 4:11 am


122. AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Go ahead Shai, attack me personally with falsehoods. After all you will not be banned, because you I am quite sure are in the pay of Hizballah, and therefore a hero on this blog. Or perhaps you are being paid directly by the Syrians? Perhaps through Imad Moustapha?

You think most Israelis are mostly followers who don’t think for themselves and can easily be persuaded. Most of them according to you are stupid because they vote for right wing parties and do not know what they are doing.

I know what you are. You are really an Israeli Arab from Azmi Bishara’s party who has recieved money from Syria and Hizballah to make Israelis look like wimps and idiots that daily commit crimes against humanity. Right?

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July 3rd, 2008, 4:31 am


123. AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

How convenient Shai that after I start posting here, “suddenly” you begin posting also with Alex’s blessing. Tell us the truth Shai, how much is Imad Mustapha paying you?

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July 3rd, 2008, 4:45 am


124. why-discuss said:


Thank you for reassuring me that all Israelis are not like AIG as he seems to comment more hysterically and weirdly every day…

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July 3rd, 2008, 5:30 am


125. Shai said:


Wow. That AIPAC-suggestion really got you angry, didn’t it? Maybe there’s some truth to it after all?

I’ll fess up. I’m an Arab-Israeli (real name Yusuf), strong advocate of Azmi Bishara’s party, who was asked by Alex to come make Israelis look like wimps and idiots pretending to be “another Israeli guy”. I said ok, but only if Imad Moustapha pays me directly, out of his account. I don’t want payment to be made through an official body, like AIPAC for instance. There, I’ve come clean. What about you AIG?

But in one thing you’re wrong. I’m not here to make Israelis LOOK like they commit crimes against humanity. We do that just fine ourselves, without any help. Something you’re apparently incapable of understanding or acknowledging.

AIG, I know why I’m here. Most people here probably know as well. I’m here to learn, to understand, to try to bridge over gaps, and to engage “the other side” in a constructive and not destructive way.

What I still don’t understand, and I dare say most others here either, is why are YOU here? What is your REAL goal? To have fun? I somehow doubt that.

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July 3rd, 2008, 5:35 am


126. AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

I am not on AIPAC or anyone’s payroll. I am here because I am having fun, even though you have a hard time understanding that.

And really only an extreme leftist would claim that Israelis are committing crimes against humanity on a regular basis. I am glad your self hatered and extremism are out in the open for all to see.

But most of all, you have no principles. In Israel you rightly advocate strongly for human rights and freedoms, but when it comes to Syria, you are willing to grovel to a dictator, because if 7 Arabs on a blog say that democracy in Syria can wait, that is good enough for you, that is “listening”. What exactly do you stand for? You stand for nothing and that is why you are so marginalized in Israel.

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July 3rd, 2008, 1:48 pm


127. Shai said:


I stand for nothing? You’re the one that wants a nation (Israel, US) to “play a role” by doing nothing! By NOT making peace.

You are the LAST person on earth I need to prove anything to. You show ZERO ability or willingness to have an open mind, to listen, to learn, and to change. Your only real attributes are your extreme stubbornness and inflexibility which, as I mentioned earlier, is thankfully NOT characteristic of most Israelis. That is why the 70% against peace with Syria today will become 70% for peace, once an agreement is presented in Knesset, just as it happened with Egypt. You, AIG, would never have changed your mind about Egypt, even after getting a personal kiss on the cheek from Sadat himself. You cannot change. You must not change. You must stay the course…

Principles? YOU, the great champion of democracy in Syria, are talking to me about principles? What about making peace in order to end war? Is that somewhere on your principles list? Or are you merely concerned about the well-being of those 17 million Syrians?

You know what, I have a proposition. In reality, it is not me who is so much on the side of Syria, Syrians, the bloggers here, etc. It is in fact YOU. By caring so deeply about Syrians and their freedoms and democracy, you’re exhibiting much more empathy than I ever could. Hence, I suggest that when Bashar Assad either leaves on his own, or is forced to vacate his seat, that you AIG, take his place! If Syrians only knew how much time and effort you spend, day and night, fighting for their freedom, surely they’ll elect you as their first democratically-chosen leader! And then, you can change your name to ASL (AnotherSyrianLeader). 🙂

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July 3rd, 2008, 8:45 pm


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