News Round Up (15 April 2008)

The potential deal between Turkcell and Syriatel, Rami Makhlouf's company, is the one to watch to judge whether Washington's latest Syria sanctions have international teeth. If the Turks push through with the deal, Washington will just be gumming on the perimeters of Syria's economy.

Turkcell continues talks on Syriatel stake
By Ercan Ersoy, 14 April 2008

ISTANBUL, April 14 (Reuters) – Turkish mobile operator Turkcell is still in talks for a majority stake in Syriatel, despite fresh U.S. sanctions against the Syrian operator's owner, the Turkish company said on Monday.

A source familiar with the deal told Reuters that the talks were taking longer than expected because some Turkcell executives had U.S. passports. But Turkcell said that "any possible U.S. citizenship held by management" would not affect the process. Turkcell, Turkey's largest mobile operator, is listed in Istanbul and New York.

In February, the United States froze the assets of Syriatel owner Rami Makhlouf under economic sanctions aimed at stepping up pressure on Damascus. Washington said Makhlouf benefited from corruption in the Syrian government, and the measures against him forbid U.S. citizens or entities from doing business with him.

"The talks on the Syrian matter continue," Turkcell told Reuters in a statement on Monday. "We are aware of the situation between the United States and Syria. But since Turkcell is a Turkey-based company and there is no legal restriction on the purchase of Syriatel, the situation does not have any impact on the talks," it said.

Turkcell CEO Sureyya Ciliv told Reuters in late February that he had expected to complete talks with Syriatel in a month and Makhlouf said around the same time that talks with the Turkish operator were continuing. Kuwait's Mobile Telecommunications Co (Zain) said last month it was also interested in Syriatel, saying then that it was still an open competition.

Makhlouf, the cousin of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, owns 69 percent of Syriatel. Gulf investors and Syrian shareholders own the rest of the company, which controls HITS-Unitel, a Yemeni cellphone operator. Turkcell CEO Ciliv said in February that Syriatel had 3.4 million subscribers and a 54 percent market share.

On Monday Turkcell stock fell 4.5 percent in Istanbul, bringing its losses since April 9 to 12 percent, compared with a 3 percent fall on the main index <.XU100>. Analysts attributed the fall to an initial public offering for fixed-line operator Turk Telekom due in May, which they expect will draw funds out of Turkcell in favour of the newly listed company. (Editing by Quentin Bryar; Editing by Erica Billingham)

Arab world sees U.S. in poor light, poll shows
By Sue Pleming, Reuters (Thanks to FLC)

….83 percent had an unfavorable view of the United States and 70 percent had no confidence in the superpower……

Over 80 percent of respondents identified the Arab-Israeli conflict as a key issue but just over half — 55 percent — did not believe there would ever be a lasting peace between the Israelis and the Palestinians despite U.S. efforts…….

In the Lebanese conflict, only 9 percent expressed sympathy with the majority governing coalition supported by Washington while 30 percent backed the opposition led by the militant group Hezbollah, which the United States opposes……

In the conflict between Hamas and Fatah, only 8 percent said they sympathized most with Fatah and 18 percent were more partial to Hamas, while 37 percent said they backed both."

New “Pro Israel, Pro Peace” Political Group Launches: JStreet Hopes to Prod Washington MidEast Policy Towards Center
Laura Rosen in MoJo, here (Thanks to FLC) or Some Jewish Liberals Seek New Lobbying Group: Wash. Post

"…One of JStreet’s Israeli organizers in Washington, former Israeli peace negotiator Daniel Levy, says Israeli leaders need pressure from Washington to have domestic cover to make concessions that could contribute to the peace process. “I think there comes a point when, if the Israeli leadership actually wants to see this thing resolved, it’s clearly easier to say yes to the president of the United States, rather than to the [Palestinian Liberation Organization],” Levy told me. “You need to have to have the president of the United States to help carry you there.”

Lee Smith, writing in The New Republic, makes the argument that Barack Obama’s policy of engaging with dictators is particularly ill-suited for Syria. While not reflexively rejecting a policy of engagement, Smith argues that Syria presents a unique case in which non-engagement is actually working to our advantage right now. (Thanks to PMED)

President Carter:

"I think there's no doubt in anyone's mind that, if Israel is ever going to find peace with justice concerning the relationship with their next-door neighbors, the Palestinians, that Hamas will have to be included in the process," said Carter, who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2002.

From Tony Karon

The inevitability of talking with Hamas is already widely recognized in U.S. policy circles, and especially in Israel. Already, the Israelis negotiate secretly over issues such as the fate of Corporal Gilad Shalit, prisoner exchanges and a cease-fire with Hamas through intermediaries such as Egypt. And a poll published by the Israeli daily Haaretz in February showed that two out of three Israelis support direct talks between their government and Hamas — an option publicly advocated by such high-profile Israeli leaders as former Mossad chief Ephraim Halevy and former foreign minister Shlomo Ben Ami. And just as some Israelis are recognizing that Hamas cannot be eliminated, so too do some Hamas leaders appear to realizing that Israel isn't going to be militarily defeated, either.

Into the Lion's Den
By Hussein Agha, Robert Malley
New York Review of Books
Volume 55, Number 7 · May 1, 2008

There are choices. Regional and international actors can acknowledge that without a Palestinian consensus, the quest for peace is an illusion. They can face the fact that without Syria, the hunt for a stable endgame will remain elusive. Or they can compound wishful thinking with wishful thinking and hope that Olmert and Abbas somehow will find strength amid their frailty; that a peace agreement somehow will be reached; that violent opposition somehow will not torpedo it; that the regional polarization somehow will not interfere; that popular support somehow will be mustered; and that the deal somehow will be implemented. In that case, they would not be following a strategy. They would be pursuing a perilous chimera.

"Syria will not break ties with its allies but might act in more subtle ways. Neither Hamas, Hezbollah, or Islamic Jihad is a Syrian proxy. But they depend on vital support from Damascus and can read the regional map. Today, they feel winds in their sails. They sense a rejectionist popular mood and believe that with Syrian and Iranian help they can steer it toward their goals. A resumption of Israeli–Syrian talks and an eventual agreement would send unmistakable signals that those winds are shifting, the map changing, and their strategic depth narrowing. In the event of a peace agreement, Damascus knows it will have to rein in its militant allies and stop supporting their military activities. Inevitably, Hamas, Hezbollah, and Islamic Jihad will reconsider their options. They are unlikely to modify their ideology. But they could be forced to alter their behavior, a result more practical and, one would think, of greater import."

The second Iraq Security Conference Just Ended in Syria

Officials from countries neighboring Iraq have ended two days of security talks in Syria during which they agreed that protecting the Iraqi border is a joint task.

The meeting came ahead of wider discussions on Iraqi security due in Kuwait on April 22.

A Monday statement says the participants underlined their "respect of Iraq's unity, sovereignty and independence" as well as their commitment to preserving Iraq's "Arab and Islamic identity."

The statement also says the officials praised "positive cooperation" between Iraq and its neighbors in "fighting terrorism" and efforts to "improve the security situation" in Iraq.

Who was present: An Iranian delegation comprising senior managers of Iran's interior and foreign ministries attended. Turkey, Syria, Jordan and Kuwait will be present, but Saudi Arabia did not attend. Representatives from Egypt, Bahrain and the permanent members of the United Nations Security Council, the Organization of the Islamic Conference, the Arab League, the European Union and G8 also were present.

In the first Iraq security conference, held in the Egyptian resort city of Sharm el-Sheikh on May 3-4, 2007, neighboring countries agreed on joint responsibility for the security of Iraq borders.

Two Indonesian terror suspects on caught entering Malaysia on false passports had been en route to Syria where they planned to link up with militant groups, police said Tuesday. (AP)

History brings tourists to Syria BBC

SYRIA: Lebanon Intransigence Increases Isolation 
Thursday, April 10 2008 Oxford Analytica 2008

EVENT: Saudi and Egyptian leaders met yesterday to discuss the Lebanon crisis.

SIGNIFICANCE: The recent Arab summit in Damascus highlighted the gap between Syria and fellow Arab states, especially Saudi Arabia, on Lebanon. Syria refused to buckle to pressure to facilitate an agreement between its Lebanese supporters and the anti-Syrian opposition, despite the widespread boycott of the summit. Relations with Riyadh have reached a new low.

ANALYSIS: A small country with a weak state, Lebanon has long been accustomed to having its politics shaped by struggles between much stronger external actors. The most recent example of this is the political deadlock between the anti-Syrian camp currently in government (the March 14 movement), and pro-Syrian opposition, over the presidency

Proxy battleground. Washington, as well as Arab states that boycotted the summit at the end of March, hold Syria responsible for the intransigence of opposition politicians. Washington has many problems with Syria: Damascus hosts a number of Palestinian militant groups, allegedly does too little to prevent jihadis crossing its border to fight in Iraq, and — most significantly — refuses to abandon its military and political alliance with Iran:

* United States. Washington reads the Lebanese political scene as a microcosm of wider regional politics: it strongly supports the pro-Western, liberal March 14 movement, which it sees as a democratic trend-setter blocked by the pro-Syrian, pro-Iranian opposition bloc. As a result, it sees efforts to put pressure on Syrian influence in Lebanon as part of a much wider regional struggle to contain Syria and Iran.

* Syria. For Damascus, 'resistance' to neo-colonial conspiracies to remake the Middle East has become a key component of political discourse. Syria has long claimed to retain a commitment to the greater Arab cause that other states in the region have forgotten. Additionally, Damascus has no intention of allowing Washington to influence events in neighboring Lebanon, which, from a Syrian perspective, is little more than a tiny Taiwan to their powerful China. Consequently, Damascus has little concern for the best interests of the Lebanese polity Even if there is no open fighting in Lebanon, the country remains as much a battlefield for external powers as it was during the civil war.

Saudi relations. Only half the 22 Arab League heads of state of the attended the conference. Lebanon boycotted the event entirely; Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and Jordan sent only low-level delegations. As part of its efforts to isolate Syria and loosen its grip on Lebanon, Washington had exerted pressure on many Arab leaders to boycott the gathering.

Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Mouallem declared that the summit was a success — despite its manifest inability to discuss anything of substance — and that Washington had failed to divide the Arabs.

However, Syria's differences with Saudi Arabia go beyond US influence on bilateral relations, originating in the February 2005 murder of Rafik al-Hariri, former Lebanese prime minister and Saudi favourite. Since then, events and fundamental differences of approach have exacerbated tensions even further:

* Lebanon. Saudi Arabia has been critical of both Syria and Hizbollah, including making negative comments about the latter during the July 2006 war. Syrian President Bashar al-Assad retaliated by calling those who criticized Hizbollah — essentially Saudi Arabia and Egypt — "half-men".

* Palestine. Saudi Arabia has thrown its weight behind the Palestinian National Authority of President Mahmoud Abbas; Syria continues to support Hamas and other militant factions.

* Media war. Last August, Syrian Vice-President Farouk al-Shara commented that Saudi foreign policy was "ineffective" and "semi-paralyzed". Riyadh countered with harsh accusations in the Saudi media that that Syria had betrayed the Arab cause, while Okaz newspaper said that Syria had pursued a policy of systematic murder in Lebanon for the last 30 years.

* Diplomatic war. Shortly after the Okaz comments, the Saudi ambassador to Lebanon was obliged to leave the country after receiving a string of anonymous death threats. Riyadh later recalled its ambassador to Syria, ostensibly for bureaucratic reasons, but it has yet to nominate a replacement in what represents a calculated snub to Damascus.

At a press conference timed to coincide with the opening of the Damascus summit, Saudi Foreign Minister Saud al-Faisal publicly blamed Syria and its supporters in Lebanon for blocking a solution to the political crisis.

Syria and Iran. One reason for Syria's lack of haste to rejoin the ranks of the other Arab states is its alliance with Iran. While Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states are increasingly haunted by the specter of a resurgent Iran, Syria's long-standing ties with Tehran put it in an entirely different position). Syria's alliance with Iran is built on three main factors:

* Political convenience. The 'axis of resistance' formed by Syria, Iran, Hizbollah and Hamas is essentially a bloc of all the groups which have been demonized by Washington since September 11, 2001. The axis has its historical origins in Syria and Iran's common interest in opposing Iraq during the 1980s.

* Military cooperation. A mutual defense pact was signed between Damascus and Tehran in June 2006, though this was primarily a symbolic affair.

* Economics. Iran accounted for 400 million dollars of the 800 million of investment from non-Arab sources in 2006. Vast numbers of Iranian pilgrims visit Syria, bringing valuable custom. A joint Iranian-Syrian company now manufactures Iranian car models in Syria.

The United States and Israel demand that Syria sever its ties with Iran as part of a future peace deal, to prove its sincerity. Damascus counters that its relations with Tehran did not hinder peace talks with Israel in the 1990s. It also believes Iran to be more ideologically flexible — and more rational — than Washington gives it credit for.

However, in the meantime, the Syria-Iran alliance continues to poison Syria's relations with Saudi Arabia. While it provides Syria with reassurance, it only serves to entrench its present isolation and is structurally unconstructive for its foreign policy. The alliance constrains Syria's room for maneuver in the diplomatic arena and — apart from enhancing Syria's ability to act as a potential 'spoiler' in the region — does not give Syria any viable exit routes from its current predicament, leaving it with little option other than to maintain the status quo indefinitely.

Outlook. Syria values its influence in Lebanon more than its good standing with other Arab states. It also believes that its alliance with Iran compensates for poor relations with Saudi Arabia and Egypt.

However, ties with Tehran only serve to dig Syria deeper into an already well-entrenched position. While Lebanese politicians await some dramatic international intervention to break through the impasse, Syria seems to be hunkering down for the long haul.

CONCLUSION: Syria has no intention of being rushed into a settlement in Lebanon. Damascus has sufficient material and political resources to withstand external pressures to reach a solution. Given the minute level of bilateral trade, US sanctions on Syria and individual regime members can be effectively ignored. Short of the military option, in the short term Washington has few other means to coerce Syria. The regime believes that US policy will change dramatically after the presidential election and that all it needs to do is wait until then — at which point its free hand in Lebanon will be restore

Ehud Olmert on the Damascus road
By Spengler, Asia Times, May 15, 2008

The only practical way to defeat irregular forces embedded in a civilian population is to destroy the states that back them. That is why America overthrew Saddam Hussein, and also why Israel is considering a pre-emptive war on Syria on the model of 1967….

The Arabs are a failing people. It is not only the triumph of globalized Western culture over traditional society that threatens them, but the ascendancy of Asia. Last week's food riots in Egypt and elsewhere in the Middle East bring the point home. Arabs are hungry because Chinese are rich enough to eat meat, and buy vast quantities of grain to feed to pigs and chickens. If the rise in Asian protein consumption portends a permanently higher plateau of food prices, the consequences are dire for populations living on state subsidies, from Morocco to Algeria to Cairo to Gaza. A people that have no hope also have nothing to lose.

This week's edition of Bitter Lemons is on: Ramifications of Syrian-Israeli tensions

Two Palestinian views

Palestine is being affected by the ongoing regional rivalry between Iran and the United States that started with the Iraq invasion.

The Syrians will not sell out the Palestinian cause.

Two Israeli views

  • Through an Iranian prism by Yossi Alpher

    A successful Israeli-Syrian negotiating process could improve the prospects for an Israel-PLO agreement.

  • Syria's role  by Moshe Ma'oz

    Ostensibly, Israel can continue its conflict with Syria for a long time provided it can settle its dispute with the Palestinians soon.

Comments (180)

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151. wizart said:

The operative word is to sell and to promote the Torah. I don’t know how well he succeeds as you pointed out although given his track record succeeding to become prime minister I wonder why he wouldn’t succeed! I mean religion sells like hot cakes in the land of the holy scriptures. “secular religious” classrooms sound like a contradiction to me since that sounds like an evolving intersection where dangerous politics and incomprehensible stone age scripture readily interact.

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April 17th, 2008, 9:04 am


152. Akbar Palace said:

When i used the word “settler” I was really referring to the contemporary ones of the territories, not the ancient ones or ones like your ex-father in law.


I understand, and I accept your clarification. Yes, I thought “hijack” was a bit too strong a word.

I think it was the later settlers with expansion that the religiosity came in. I think that Israel was always from day one about ’settlement’ but based on a different ideology than religious historicity.

I think many people assume the “settlement” issue is a “hardline, right-wing, orthodox Jew-created phenomenon”. And though most settlers today could be put in that category, I think it is misleading. MANY “settlers” who have been living in the West Bank for years have been “secular” (not very religious). I would venture to say about 50%. Some of these settlers relocated after the PA took control of many areas. We’re talking about 200,000 to maybe 250,000 Israelis, total.

Let’s look at it this way: which political party was in charge after the ’67 war? When did the Likud come into power? During those 10 years from 1967 to the mid-seventies, numerous “settlements” in the West Bank were created.

My point is, after the “3 Nos”, Israel took it upon herself to expand her borders and improve her security. And it was the LABOR PARTY which started it. Personally, I think that was the correct choice. And, BTW, if Israel didn’t do that, there wouldn’t be a Palestine today. Think about that for a minute.

Anyhow, i am not sure why i am belaboring this point. I guess it is because I actually don’t think all of this is primarily about religion and I try to argue against that viewpoint. I grew up surrounded by Jewish Americans, many with families that cared or have some strong sentiment about Israel, and I hardly remember very many of them being particularly religious at all except for the normal holiday stuff. It wasn’t about that. It was about cultural heritage and connection with each other.

Glad someone around here has actually met Jewish Americans. We’re not all bad;)

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April 17th, 2008, 11:26 am


153. wizart said:

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April 17th, 2008, 12:07 pm


154. T said:


Maybe a sister site, Israeli Comment? I am afraid though that AIG would ban me?! Or Palestinian Comment- with Palestinians’ joint sponsorship and input there?


Thank you for your emoticon help/concern. I will ask my computer cleaner if he can show me in person when I take in my machine for a new transmission. (Someone here said I must download a special program).

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April 17th, 2008, 12:09 pm


155. Qifa Nabki said:


Maybe you just need to get in touch with your emotions.

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April 17th, 2008, 12:30 pm


157. Qifa Nabki said:


You are a born facilitator.

T (and Shai)

If you replace the colon with a semi-colon, you get a wink. (Although for some reason it doesn’t always work).

😉 (see?)

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April 17th, 2008, 12:57 pm


158. Qifa Nabki said:


With respect to that story about the 100 Hizbullah men surrounding the security forces and freeing the two bearded dudes on mopeds without ID’s, I’m sure those two guys were just regular Lebanese citizens. I know that whenever I forget my ID at home, and get stopped at a checkpoint without it, a group of 100 Hizbullah guys always shows up within ten minutes carrying my ID.

You should see how many show up when I lose my wallet.


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April 17th, 2008, 1:05 pm


159. Qifa Nabki said:

Bondo said:

compared to the evolving or devolving usa civilian/corp/zionist govt, you aint even seen anything coming close to absolute totalitarian control.

Tell me, Bondo, why is it that so many Arabs are desperate to flee their paradisiacal regimes and immigrate to the West where totalitarian control is so hegemonic?

I guess you didn’t do a good enough job during your 6 months in Syria, explaining to people why the “regime” in America is so much more totalitarian than their own.

Please, visit Lebanon next! We have a brain drain! Our young men and women are desparate to get out and move to the West. For God’s sake, get over there and tell them the truth!!!

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April 17th, 2008, 1:40 pm


160. wizart said:

America is a great place to immigrate for anybody experiencing instability and lack of economic opportunities. That doesn’t validate or invalidate the global judgment often made about the U.S.A

Everybody knows America’s popularity is in decline and yet America was built from the start by migrant workers and still attracts millions of immigrants from around the world not just from Arab countries.

On the other hand it’s foreign policy is clearly biased towards its own self interest just like most other countries. The reason this bias has dramatic effect is because it’s won the cold war and now maybe at a risk of severely abusing its global reach and economic superpower status. That’s why a United Nation restructuring is perhaps needed to keep its military in check.

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April 17th, 2008, 2:05 pm


161. Qifa Nabki said:

if you have further questions, ask. i will try to give my view a bit later.

No, I think it’s quite clear, thanks.

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April 17th, 2008, 3:13 pm


162. Akbar Palace said:

the nonjewish neocons are what i call ‘neopets’. they are probably strong believers in israel and are imperialists but they are not the power nor are they equals. they take marching orders, eg, woolsey, gaffney. maybe in their hearts, they are jews?


Thank you for your extraordinary insight into American politics.

Tell us, who is more powerful than Condi Rice, George W. Bush, Donald Rumsfeld, and Dick Cheney?

But I DO think you touched on it toward the end of your statement:

“They are Jews”.

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April 17th, 2008, 3:39 pm


163. wizart said:

No they all just have minor symptoms of Narcissism in the morning and slightly over elevated super duper ego on weekends. Nothing major.

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April 17th, 2008, 3:45 pm


164. Alex said:

Akbar, Bondo,

This argument is not going to lead to anything useful. I removed two comments (one each),

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April 17th, 2008, 4:30 pm


165. offended said:

I am just dropping by to salute my fellow syrians on the national day. Heopfully, we’ll celebrate the next year’s national day on the soil of Jolan inshallah.

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April 17th, 2008, 4:53 pm


166. offended said:

Alex said:
“sa o3teeka al majal, sa o3teek al majal… ya jama3a …ya jama3ah….ya jama3ah…!”

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April 17th, 2008, 4:55 pm


167. SimoHurtta said:

In the context from which Peres is speaking, he is trying to promote the idea at that moment that you must be religious to be Israeli, and he is trying to sell the idea that Israeli youth ’should’ read the Torah.
He is doing this as part of his day of reconciliation, not because it is actually true. and that is the point.

Zenobia in what world are you living? Peres is the president of the country. In his position a person has no luxury of saying something that he doesn’t “mean” and must stand behind what is once said. Does Peres actually personally believe at the topic and words he said, is completely irrelevant. What if Peres would say after two months – “I was joking to the rabbis. I didn’t mean what i said.” Well that would be a “show”. Do you seriously believe that rabbis forget what Peres recommended and promised? They will quote in future Peres’ word and use them. So it works in real world.

Zenobia can say what ever she wants, that has no or little effect. But when the president of Israel (or basically any country’s formal leader minus those lunatic presidents, or is Peres one of them) that has an effect in the nation / country.

“you must be religious to be an Israeli” – so only Jews can be religious. Peres spoke only about Jews. So do you. Why should your Buddhists friends’ children be forced to read Torah. Or Israeli Christian and Muslim children. Oh yes, Peres was cheating the rabbis, no need to do that.

Zenobia you obviously believe / know that Jews have a big variety of different religions and almost all are secular or atheists. Why then not support a totally religiously free Israel and separate religions in the way it is done in modern countries? That would be ideal and simple, wouldn’t it? No more “real” Jews, Buddhist Jews, Hindu Jews, Christian Arabs or Muslims Arabs – only Israeli citizens. Maybe Peres could “joke” about that idea.

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April 17th, 2008, 5:17 pm


168. Akbar Palace said:

This argument is not going to lead to anything useful.

Alex –

With all due respect, what will lead to anything “useful” here except:

1.) Keeping up the pro-Assad propaganda and articles

2.) Keeping AIG out of all discussions

3.) Demonizing Zionism

4.) Shai’s understanding of the Arab narrative.

Did I miss anything?

Sim asks:

Why then not support a totally religiously free Israel and separate religions in the way it is done in modern countries?

As we say state-side, “Been there, done that”.

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April 17th, 2008, 5:26 pm


169. Zenobia said:

Actually, this was said at an event of reconciliation DAy!… and he was promoting a view….
At that particular moment he is busy pandering to the religious right or to the Rabbi so and so… that is clear.

Like in America – so far- presidential candidates, certainly, often pander to the religious right because that segment of the population is extremely powerful and political and revengeful at times. I believe the same is true in Israel, even if they don’t make up the numerical majority or correctly represent the core ethos of the country/ state itself.

and since when don’t presidents say different things in different contexts????
Actually, I have heard numerous times that Peres is notorious for flip flopping on his views and policies and that over the years -he has contradicted himself over and over.

but really, this is irrelevant to my original points which dont’ have to do with this specific situation but with the argument about the Jewish State being motivated and organized around religion – which i disagreed with.
I NEVER said that I thought that Israel had “varied” religions or that the population is “almost all” are secular or “atheists”.
Please stop putting words in my mouth and then attacking them.

Really, “What world are YOU living in??? ” Simohurtta??

obviously, it is one in which you think you can keep condescending to me and acting like I am irrational because I don’t happen to agree with you.

I meant to say last night that I rest my case. Let the article and anything else evident to others or that you have said … speak for itself.
I don’t need your interpretation of my view anymore- since you pick on details out of context of anything presented and seem to lose sight of the whole. We just disagree.
And it wasn’t even a really amazingly critical issue to disagree on, surprisingly, as I would still count secular Israelis as being very racist against arabs in many many instances. So, whether injustice is based on religion or based ethno-cultural egocentricity, we get the same result which neither of us approves of.

Lets give it a rest now, why don’t we.

we can move on to the new wonderful heartwarming articles and editorial from the egregious Washington Post.

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April 17th, 2008, 5:45 pm


170. Alex said:

Akbar Palace said:

Alex –

With all due respect, what will lead to anything “useful” here except:

1.) Keeping up the pro-Assad propaganda and articles

2.) Keeping AIG out of all discussions

Well, Akbar … let me explain to you something that I don’t have more tolerance for: having to waste more of my time to respond to lies and cheap old AIPAC and tactics.

Keeping AIG out of ALL discussions??!!

AIG will be back on Sunday (after one week ban) … as you realize above, I quickly started to limit BONDO’s participation here when I realize it could lead to the same chaos that AIG’s participation often leads to. Because I don’t want to hear your cheap AIPAC arguments, In AIG’s case I tolerated him for few months before I started to ban him one week at a time, not completely ban him like many participants asked me too.

So I have been much more tolerant of your friend and you still want to waste my time again to reply to your type of nonsense.

Don’t bother me again. Next time you make a statement watch carefully the meaning of a word like “ALL”. The same way I did not accept BONDO’s use of “all jews” arguments, you also need to work a bit on your “all”-class of accusations before you post them. For example … go to the “categories” above and click on “opposition” … those are not exactly regime propaganda news.

If you have any more remarks send me an email.

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April 17th, 2008, 6:07 pm


171. Minister of Culture & Information said:

Hear ye, hear ye,

O denizens of Syria Comment, please refrain from any further discussion of banning and censorship. That is the job of the Ministry of Culture & Information.

Please refrain from pestering Alex, as he is but a humble employee of the ministry.

As of this moment, you are now banned from discussing banning and any future comments about censorship will be censored.

Yours informationally,

Jacob Tafnis
The Minister of Culture & Information
Syria Comment

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April 17th, 2008, 6:41 pm


172. Akbar Palace said:

Because I don’t want to hear your cheap AIPAC arguments…

Alex –

I know. I’m sorry. I promise to keep my “cheap AIPAC arguments” to a minimum. I will let Shai’s more politically correct “AIPAC arguments” rule the day here, and I surely do not want to see Syria Comment waste its time with more “useless” posts (what ever that means;).

BTW: How do you determine a “cheap” argument, from a good one? Is there some sort of objective criteria?

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April 17th, 2008, 6:59 pm


173. Alex said:

Yes Akbar,

It is quite simple.

When there is a consistent attempt to insinuate that I am censoring views I don’t like .. especially ALL the time, like you suggested above. It is very cheap.

AIPAC does that … anyone they want to silence and they can’t, they start assembling arguments against him in order to totally discredit him or at least to raise some doubts about his credibility … You are attempting that with me.

Minister Qifa Nabki,

If you don’t go study I will tell your dad

: )

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April 17th, 2008, 7:15 pm


174. wizart said:

“Negotiation is the settlement of conflicting interests without resorting to force.”

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April 17th, 2008, 8:15 pm


175. wizart said:


It sounds to me from your trademark attitude and my observations that your way of thinking has to always be right despite all evidence to the contrary which you seem to ridicule wholesale quite often. I find that quite abusive and a nuisance really for those of us who wish to understand Syrian’s perspectives not just yours.

One of the most crucial skills of critical thinking is that of deciding what is essential and Alex has proved his metal in remaining as objective as can be while still safeguarding the blog against those who wish to destroy it by their attempted witch hunts for anything that may discredit the gravity of the occupation and blame the other side for it. You must acknowledge the gaps in your knowledge about our conflict with your beloved second country Israel, rather than feel compelled to let pride and fear of the truth lure you into assuming the role of knowing it all. I trust in the judgment of the administration and I appreciate their time.

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April 17th, 2008, 8:23 pm


176. Akbar Palace said:

Wizart opines:


It sounds to me from your trademark attitude and my observations that your way of thinking has to always be right despite all evidence to the contrary which you seem to ridicule wholesale quite often. I find that quite abusive and a nuisance really for those of us who wish to understand Syrian’s perspectives not just yours.


I am not always right. I always try to present fact; not prejudicial opinion like so many here present. If, for example, AIPAC “silences” people, like Alex posted above, I would like proof showing how they do it. How did AIPAC “silence” Jimmy Carter? How did AIPAC silence James Baker? How does AIPAC silence Senator Obama?

So you see, my questions are annoying, “cheap”, “useless” and a “nuisance”, especilly if one can’t seem to face the facts in spite of their anti-Israel and anti-Jewish prejudices.

OTOH, respectful posters who are quite pro-Arab, pro-Palestinian, and quite anti-Zionist (I’m thinking of Zenobia), can have the intellectual honesty to be open, accept that a comment may have been “over-the-top”, and open to learn something new or different.

I do not agree with Shai on his ideology and his approach, but I think Shai is tolerant of all people. He’s not a rejectionist (like Bondo), and he’s willing to hear the Arab narrative. Few people on this website can stomach the Jewish-Israeli narrative.

One of the most crucial skills of critical thinking is that of deciding what is essential and Alex has proved his metal in remaining as objective as can be…

Perhaps Alex is “as objective as can be…”, but I think there is a lot of room for improvement. Especially if Alex is selling the opinion that AIPAC “silences” anyone here in the largest democracy on Earth. I also have to stomach other anti-Zionists like Simohutta who claim Israel never made peace.

What is one to do Wizart?

You must acknowledge the gaps in your knowledge about our conflict with your beloved second country Israel, rather than feel compelled to let pride and fear of the truth lure you into assuming the role of knowing it all. I trust in the judgment of the administration and I appreciate their time.

Tell us Wizart, habib, what “truth” do I “fear”?

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April 17th, 2008, 9:20 pm


177. Alex said:


Read carefully please what I wrote:

AIPAC does that … anyone they want to silence and they can’t, they start assembling arguments against him in order to totally discredit him or at least to raise some doubts about his credibility … You are attempting that with me.

I said “they want to silence BUT THEY CAN’T”

Then check this link from who can not silence president Carter, but they sure try their best to discredit him:

“Kenneth Stein, Dennis Ross, Michael Oren, Alan Dershowitz, Melvin Konner and Rachel Ehrenfeld are among the contributors who offer important insight about the former president’s lamentable distortions.

The book is an opportunity to restate essential facts and to underscore the need for reform of publishing houses, such as Simon and Schuster, that violate basic standards of accuracy, while promoting and profiting from such non-fiction books.”

And here is Camera’s Mearsheimer “book review”

So .. the same story always … anyone that gets on their nerves will have to waste his time for the next few months answering allegations about his “distortions” or “bias” or “lack of professionalism”.

Akbar … these tactics are not gaining Israel many friends. Carter’s book is still popular and Carter is still determined to seek a just peace between Israel and the Palestinians even if camera and AIPAC don’t like it.

To send lawyers picking details of a Carter or Mearsheimer book trying to find anything that looks like “distortions” is really aggressive … tell your friends that they can do much better reinventing AIPAC into a kinder, gentler, smarter, and more subtle 21st century lobby for Israel.

Carter is the man who gave Israel peace … without him Egypt would have been your enemy for many more years and many Israeli young soldiers would have died from another war with Egypt and Syria … had Carter not helped Israel accept the Camp David accords.

It is really disappointing how you are treating him.

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April 17th, 2008, 9:53 pm


178. Roland said:

Historically, religious fundamentalists have often helped bring about democratic change.

The Calvinists in Switzerland come to mind.

And it was the strength of the Puritans–Christian fundamentalists–under Cromwell which resulted in the victory of Parliament over absolute monarchy in England.

Note that it was NOT the secular rationalists who played a main part in English parliamentarianism. They were mostly supportive of the absolute monarchy, which at the time was considered the world-class political benchmark.

Only the fundamentalists had the good sense to take the Divine Right of Kings and cut it short–quite literally!

Puritan refugee colonies in the Americas helped establish American democratic traditions. Yes, they also banned plays and burned witches. Democracy can be like that sometimes.

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April 18th, 2008, 12:44 am


179. Akbar Palace said:

… anyone they want to silence …

Alex –

Exactly. Who does AIPAC want to “silence”? The obvious answer is: no one.

AIPAC, along with many other Jewish organizations are ready, willing, and albe to respond to anyone concerning Israel.

This isn’t Syria. AIPAC doesn’t “want to silence”; this is either your prejudice at work or a bad choice of wording.

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April 18th, 2008, 1:06 am


180. Alex said:

You are right. it i a bad choice of words. Too dramatic.

They want to bother .. annoy … make life difficult for … waste their time … make them spend the next few months defendig themselves against AIPAC’s attacks on their character.

Simon and Schuster got this one for daring to publish Carter’s book:

“that violate basic standards of accuracy, while promoting and profiting” from the “distortions” of the ex-president

Boy! … makes you get the feeling these guys at Simon and Schuster are so greedy and evil.

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April 18th, 2008, 4:15 pm


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