News Round Up (March 18 2008)

Alon Liel: Syria talks could resume within months of US elections
Ha'aretz, Israel – Mar 17, 2008
Liel, chairman of the Israel-Syria Peace Society lobby group and former director of Israel's Foreign Ministry, said that in meetings with Republicans close to presumptive presidential nominee Sen. John McCain and with strategists for Democratic hopefuls Barack Obama and Hillary Rodham Clinton, he saw new openness toward Syria.

"I was just in Washington for a week and I had about 12 meetings in Congress, with Democrats and with Republicans, and I think that there is a majority in the American decision-making machine, certainly in the new teams, for talks with Syria," Liel told The Associated Press.

Israel, Syria and the failure of Annapolis: by Gideon Lichfield, Jerusalem correspondent of The Economist.
Randa Takieddine      Al-Hayat     – 16/03/08//
April Glaspie served as number two in the US embassy with Ambassadors Paganelliin and Bill Eagleton. She left Damascus in 1985. From 85 to 88 she was in Washington, responsible for Syria, Lebanon and Jordan. She served in Bagdad as of 1988.

Al Hayat:  Did President Hafez Assad talk to you about Lebanon?

A.G:  President Assad did not talk to me; I was number two in the embassy.  I met him so many times I was with my ambassador or with a Senator or Secretary of State.

Al Hayat: How was his thinking about Lebanon was it that Lebanon is a province of Syria?

A.G:  Hafez Assad was so smart in many ways I remember him once saying: "Do no think I am foolish enough to believe that I can create an air force (I think he chose air force because it would be the part of military he knew most since he came from it) that can compete with the Israelis within a generation.  Why?  Because it is not sophisticated fast planes that made good air forces, it is pilots who had the advantage of having a splendid education from the time they were children.  Not just brief technical education, he was right wasn't he?  But I wish I could have asked him a question I never understood by doing  the Iranians the favor of allowing them to export their revolution to Lebanon from the Iranian embassy in Damascus, it seemed to me and to anybody who was watching that what was going on in the Bekaa and in the South the weaponry that must have been going in, the independence of a  group of people that in the end would be very difficult to control and which you could not control by cutting off their grenade because they had already so many buried that they could fight for years, seemed to me a very dangerous thing for Syria , it was an Islamic revolution and remember what happened to Syria when the "Ikhwan" tried to take over in the North . I could never understand why he could be so certain that this could not turn around and bite Syria on the heel because he cannot control Hezbollah.

Al Hayat: Was he convinced that Lebanon is part of Syria or he needed Lebanon for his agenda in the region?

A.G:  He was much too clever to give us such an insight. He would never say this.  It would be the kind of thing Saddam and Iraqis would say about Kuwait that it was part of Iraq historically.  Assad was much too subtle to say or imply anything like that.

AL Hayat; But he refused embassies between both countries?

A.G:  Absolutely, but I just don't know what he thought.  If you were very old fashioned you could argue about whether or not he believed in Baas ideology, if he did there should not be any Syrian embassy anywhere.

Al Hayat: How would you compare Saddam and his people and aides to Hafez Assad and his aides?

A.G:  Completely different, everybody around President Assad respected his power.  Assad was much too subtle and smart to want people to say yes to him all the time.

Al Hayat:  What about the "Moukhabarat" system in both countries? How do you compare?

A.G:  A little more subtle in Damascus.  For example my life as a diplomat in Syria was as free as it would have been in Beirut, no doubt people were watching us and knew where we were but no Syrian would think twice about inviting me to their house; I was surrounded by people who had been to AUB.In  Bagdad, no Iraqi was allowed to invite a foreign diplomat to his house.  And if a foreign including Arab diplomat wanted to invite any Iraqi, any, to their house you had to make a formal request to the Foreign Ministry including the invitation card and the Foreign Ministry would decide any invitation card  would be sent.  I never entered an Iraqi house except once and that was for a cultural event.

Al Hayat: You attended meetings as number two with Assad and with Saddam two Baas leaders who hated each other  what would you say of both?

A.G:  Assad was the Eastern Mediterranean, a Levantine; he could be extremely charming which is interesting coming from a very disadvantaged background as he was in every way.  He had a great deal of self confidence, he was charming, he could have been a Beirut hostess, he could be genuinely amusing, he always spoke Arabic although I knew from his pilot training he must know some English.  We once had Senator Tower visiting him in his office. There was President Assad and Senator Tower and me only in his office; Senator Tower smoked, there was a big bowl of cigarettes and the Senator ran out of cigarettes.  Assad pushed the bowl towards him and they were all Syrian cigarettes and of course the Senator did not know, so Assad said suddenly in English a very complex sentence with lots of subordinate clauses:  "I am sorry I do not have any American or English cigarettes which I know you would have preferred".  Had I known you smoke I certainly would have, and my jaw dropped so surprised I was although I was supposed to keep a straight face, he looked at me and laughed out loud and said in Arabic: "Senator she dropped her pencil so I shocked her".  He really laughed and we did as well.  Saddam when you were with him there was this huge tension in the air because everybody in the room from his own staff was afraid of him and I never heard him make a joke but if he would have, everybody would have laughed.  It was a completely different aura.  In Iraq, it was much more frightening for example:  It never occurred to me for example if I were in the North of Syria that I should avoid getting out of my car to buy some plums.  The Syrians could not care less.  I did that in Kurdistan once, it was very foolish of me because we all knew that you could not talk to any Iraqi, they got taken away and interrogated but I was in a little Kurdish village.

I put my head out of the window of my car and asked if there was any honey because Kurds are very famous for their white honey.  He said no there isn't, I drove away and I looked back.  They were following me with a car.

Elections in Iran Meet the winner 
Ayatollah Ali Khamenei is bolstered
Mar 17th 2008
THE parliament returned by Iranians in nationwide voting on Friday March 14th appears at first glance to be a replica of the outgoing one. Conservatives who claim stricter adherence to the 1979 Islamic revolution’s ideals, and adopt a more combative tone with the outside world, retained a majority almost as crushing as the one they gained in the last parliamentary election, in 2004. A claimed 60% of the electorate turned out for the vote, allowing Iran’s unelected supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, to declare that his people had foiled an enemy plot to foment voter apathy. But as with many aspects of life in the Islamic Republic, the election result is more nuanced than it may seem.

Commentary: Demonocracy, not democracy
Date: Monday, March 17, 2008

 WASHINGTON, March 17 (UPI) — Washington's Pakistan kibitzers will soon rue the day they squeezed President Pervez Musharraf to restore democracy. "Demonocracy" is what has now emerged, or an unholy alliance of longtime America-haters, including the Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal coalition of six politico-religious extremist parties that lost the Feb. 18 elections, plus a gaggle of former generals and admirals against Musharraf, and friends and admirers of A.Q. Khan, the man who ran a nuclear Wal-Mart for the benefit of America's enemies (North Korea and Iran).

More ominous still is the acquiescence of Pakistan's two principal "moderate" leaders.

 Acting as behind-the-scenes catalysts are two prominent America-haters, Gen. Aslam Beg, former army chief of staff (1988-91), and Gen. Hamid Gul, former Inter-Services Intelligence chief (1989-91). In his regular "geopolitical" column, Beg recently advised Iran "to attempt to degrade the defense systems of Israel, harass it through the Hamas government of Gaza and the Hezbollah movement in Lebanon," or the same policy Pakistan once adopted toward India in Kashmir through terrorist groups and extremist factions.

Geagea to Rai Aam: Syrian wager on new US administration is wrong” (Thanks

On March 17, the independent Al-Rai al-Aam daily carried the following interview with the leader of the Lebanese Forces and one of the poles of the March 14 movement, Samir Geagea:

“…Q: “American sources said that you have focused on the Palestinian issue during your meetings with American officials. Why was that?

A: “I believe that the region will not rest before a solution is reached to the Palestinian issue. It is the real passageway toward solving the issues of the Middle East. On the other hand, there is no solution on the horizon until now. The only solution ever reached was the one between former Israeli PM Ehud Barak and the late PA head Yasser Arafat in 2000. This solution should be taken and a few missing details should be added to it so that we see the emergence of a Palestinian state. This way, we would have seen the end of a major problem which is currently complicating all other problems in the Middle East.

Q: “Do you believe that what happened and what is currently happening in the Gaza Strip is affecting the Lebanese issue?

A: “Certainly. Each event entails negative repercussions in the Middle East as a whole, and therefore in Lebanon. Had it not been for the events in Gaza, maybe the Arab summit would not be held in Damascus. The Syrians today are using the Gaza issue as a pretext and are hiding behind it to get all the Arab states to partake in the summit. And this is just an example.

Q: “It was said you presented action papers to the American officials. What was in them?

A: “I presented papers in which I put forward our opinion regarding all the issues on the table, such as the Lebanese identity of the Shab’a Farms and the rejection of Palestinian nationalization in Lebanon. This opinion represents our viewpoint in the Lebanese Forces, one which is similar to that of the March 14 alliance.

Q: “You have met with the advisors of the American candidates and a number of them suggested engaging in dialogue with Damascus in case their candidates were to be elected. What have you heard from them?

A: “Any dialogue with Syria, Iran, Turkey or Israel will not affect Lebanon. Engaging in dialogue with Syria – if it were to happen – and the attempt to reach something with Syria is one thing, and the protection of Lebanon’s sovereignty, independence and the freedom of its people is a completely different thing…

Q: “Do you mean that the March 14 alliance is not afraid of an American-Syrian dialogue?

A: “I have an opinion and I related it to the American officials. Any dialogue with the current Syrian regime will be useless. Look at the history of dialogue with them. However, in the future, the Americans might want to engage in a new dialogue and we would have no problem with that, since Lebanon is an issue in itself and is not affected by anything.

Q: “It is said that the Syrian regime is using this time and is betting on the arrival of a new administration that would show more openness toward it.

A: “The Syrians’ wager on a new administration is wrong and out of place. A new administration might come and open dialogue channels with Syria. However, it will reach the same result. Do you remember the Baker-Hamilton report following which US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi went to Damascus? How long did the American openness last afterwards? One visit and it was over because nothing can be reached with the Syrians… Moreover, French President Nicholas Sarkozy also wanted to try. A few weeks later, his aides told him that nothing could be reached with the Syrian regime. Why? Because the international stance towards Lebanon has become clear and this is very important to us. This is a grain for Lebanon whether within the American administration or the international community…

"IRAQI REFUGEES: Improve UN Outreach in Syria" by Refugees International Download a .pdf of this information here.
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Iraqis Make Up Largest Group of Asylum-Seekers to EU
Deutsche Welle, Germany:

In 2007, 338,000 total asylum applications were filed in 43 industrialized countries — 10 percent more than in 2006, when a 20-year low was registered. The rise was largely attributed to the ongoing crisis in Iraq.

Iraqis topped the list of applicants for the second year in a row, accounting for over 10 percent of the total with 45,200 applications in 2007. Among the top five countries of origin were Russia (18,800 applications), China (17,100), Serbia (15,400) and Pakistan (14,300). Half of all asylum applications came from Asia. "It is important to bear in mind that Iraqi asylum-seekers in industrialized countries represent only 1 percent of the estimated 4.5 million Iraqis uprooted by the conflict," the UNHCR report said.

(XIN) Syria says 2 billions U.S. dollars sent back by expatriates in 2007
2008-03-17 14:00 (New York)

DAMASCUS, Mar 17, 2008 (Xinhua via COMTEX) — Syrian Minister of Expatriates Butheina Sha'aban said on Monday that the Syrian expatriates transferred almost 2 billion U.S. dollars back to the homeland in 2007, the official SANA news agency reported.

Sha'aban made the remarks at a seminar at the National Institute for Public Administration titled "the role and relations of Syrian expatriates with their motherland". The expatriates serve as a tributary to all economic, trade and development sectors in Syria, the minister noted.

Sha'aban added that the legislation issued over the past few years have helped attract the expatriates and their sons and build economic, trade and scientific
ties with them.

Comments (98)

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1. Alex said:

You think April Glaspie was allowed to say any nice word about President Hafez Assad when she was at the Damascus embassy? … no.

American officials can not say anything positive about the Syrians .. they have to always demonize them… as if anything positive ever came out of this brilliant tactic.

And… I was sure Hafez spoke English. But it was easier for him to pretend he didn’t so that he can have time to think while the translator was translating.

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March 19th, 2008, 12:19 am


2. Naji said:

Merkel, embarassing herself… and everybody else…!!

“Merkel condemns Qassams but ignores Israel’s wrongdoing
By Tom Segev, Haaretz Correspondent
Last update – 01:38 19/03/2008

German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier left Israel only hours before Chancellor Angela Merkel took to the Knesset podium Tuesday afternoon. The Germans meticulously calculated that the entourage of ministers accompanying Merkel might make her seem imperious, as though she were a ruler surrounded by subjects.

Indeed, there was something imperious about the inclusion of so many ministers in Merkel’s delegation. The Germans already have held joint government sessions with other governments, such as France and Poland. No foreign government has held a session in Jerusalem since the British mandate.

Prior to her arrival, Merkel made an effort to call Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad. But her joint session with Olmert’s government was a show of complete and unequivocal support for its policies. Threatening Israel’s existence is akin to threatening Germany’s, Merkel said during her visit. Even U.S. politicians never have made such a statement.

During her Knesset speech, Merkel spoke extensively about the Holocaust and her country’s friendship with Israel; these were heart-warming, yet predictable, remarks. It is often said the two countries have a special relationship. Beforehand, such a remark always related to the Holocaust, which loomed large; nowadays, it refers to the two countries’ affinity in almost every field, including security, cultural and economic ties.
One cannot imagine Israel’s cultural scene without the millions invested by Germany.

MK Avishay Braverman (Labor), formerly the president of Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, said Tuesday that at times, Germany aided his institution more than the Israeli government did.

With that in mind, it seems curious that the two countries failed to sign a cultural ties agreement during Merkel’s trip, but the deal was not thwarted because of emotional residues. Rather, what prevented it were perfectly prosaic issues: The Germans asked that the Goethe Institute receive tax breaks, which Israel rejected.

Anyone unaware of where Merkel was speaking (Jerusalem) would never have known it is a city where a third of its citizens have been living under occupation for more than 40 years, a city divided by a wall reminiscent of the Berlin Wall. Merkel spoke of the need for “painful concessions” from both sides in the name of peace. Olmert has used this term as well.

She rightfully described the Qassam rocket fire on Sderot as a crime, but did not say a word about repeated human rights abuses in the West Bank, the bombing of residential areas in Gaza or the settlements. Olmert was caught on camera telling Merkel that all the construction workers building a house in front of his residence are Arabs, and the chancellor gave a concerned nod in return.

Had she been more balanced, Merkel might have made life in Israel and the occupied territories less intolerable. Perhaps she made an error. Either way, her unrestrained support for Israeli policy is a result of her biography. As she said Tuesday, she came from East Germany, which used to ignore its part in Nazi crimes and act as though it were West Germany’s fault alone.

After German unification, Merkel discovered that the moral and political responsibility for the genocide of the Jews rested equally on all Germans. Most West Germans already had grown accustomed to that knowledge. One of her insiders equated her stance on Israel to that of a convert embracing a new set of beliefs. But either way, Merkel’s stance does not represent Germany’s or Israel’s public discourse.”

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March 19th, 2008, 4:22 am


3. Naji said:

Meanwhile, …

Report: Israeli Jews increasingly racist towards Arabs
By Avirama Golan, Haaretz Correspondent
Last update – 05:19 19/03/2008

Israel’s Jewish community increasingly supports the delegitimization, discrimination and even deportation of Arabs, found a report on racism in Israel, set to be released Wednesday.

The report, to be presented at a press conference in Nazareth by Mossawa, the Advocacy Center for Arab Citizens of Israel, states that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has clearly impacted public opinion, and warns that ideas such as population exchange and racial segregation are gaining ground. It also warns that several Jewish politicians are gaining influence based on a platform of racial hatred.

Mossawa is supported by the Human Rights Program of the European Commission and the United Nations Democracy Foundation.

The report, written by Mossawa director Jafar Farah and others, mainly examines racism against Arabs in Israel, using criteria taken from the anti-Semitism reports in Europe.

The report covers Arabs killed by the security forces and by Jewish citizens, anti-Arab incitement by leading Jewish public figures, workforce discrimination by private Jewish organizations, the barring of Arabs from public places, and the destruction of Arab property. The report particularly highlights what it calls the government’s helplessness in the face of the problem.

The report lists Arab citizens killed by police, soldiers, security guards and Jewish civilians over the past seven years. It notes that only one Jewish citizen, of Ethiopian origin, was killed under similar circumstances during this period. Indictments were issued in only seven cases, the report states. In two cases, the assailants were found not guilty, and the State Prosecutor appealed the verdict in one of these cases. In another case, the indictment was dropped because the shooter was deemed mentally unfit to stand trial.

Most cases of Arab citizens injured by Jews were not fully investigated, and the attackers were not indicted in most cases, according to the report.

However, the report says Arab violence against Jews led to immediate police action, including collective punishment in villages like Jisr al-Zarqa this month.

The report also highlights employment discrimination against Arabs, and accuses the Industry, Trade and Labor Ministry of foot-dragging in enforcing the workplace anti-discrimination law.

Citing lawsuits and verdicts of recent years, the report states Arabs are subject to racial profiling at Israel’s airports. “Problematic passenger” forms, filled out by security guards and bearing the names of Arab passengers, were found in Israel Airports Authority files. Similar cases occured at train stations and on trains, the report stated.

The report also addresses discriminatory legislation, mentioning no less than 10 bills contravening the Basic Law on the Knesset that were passed by the Knesset presidium over the period the report covers.

A new element of the 2008 report is that it also addresses refugees from Africa, foreign workers, Jews of Ethiopian, Russian and Mizrachi origin, and the ultra-Orthodox.

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March 19th, 2008, 4:28 am


4. why-discuss said:

Remember who is April Glaspie! For many she is partly responsible for the invasion of Kuwait by Saddam that started the mess in the region.
“It was argued that Glaspie’s statements that “We have no opinion on your Arab — Arab conflicts” and that “the Kuwait issue is not associated with America” were interpreted by Saddam as giving free rein to handle his disputes with Kuwait as he saw fit. It was also argued that Saddam would not have invaded Kuwait had he been given an explicit warning that such an invasion would be met with force by the United States” (wikipedia)

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March 19th, 2008, 7:13 am


5. Saroukh said:

Hi All,

Am a new poster but not new to the site. It is very nice to view counterbalance blogs emanating out of Lebanon that discuss Syria. I am not an impartial observer as I have lived under occupation in Beirut, and beaten quite a few times for absolutely no reason. That said I hold no hostilities against my Syrian brethren, or its army now that it is no longer in my country.

Now to the point at hand. April Glaspie interview. What a sorry interview. Who is better Saddam or Hafez? That is just about the silliest question I have ever heard. That’s like asking what’s better Irani or Saudi islamists?

That said I do agree with her that Hafez was much more subtle than Saddam, and likely much more intelligent. Don’t get me wrong, both cruel dictators. One outsmarted the other and got what he wanted by backstabbing a fellow baathist. I don’t know the history of the split in baathism between Syria and Iraq, but I am sure you would all agree that it was uncool of Hafez to side with the great Satan against a fellow Arab.

Your thoughts?

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March 19th, 2008, 8:45 am


6. TheOtherPointOfVieW said:

Great! now blame the US for Saddam’s invasion of Kuwait! Typical lack “by many” of accepting responsibility and self-criticism.
And as far as “American officials can not say anything positive about the Syrians.. they have to always demonize them” notice that no American official is demonizing Kaddafi any more. Evil actions and positions beget demonization. “as if anything positive ever came out of this brilliant tactic” It’s not a tactic, it’s a strategy; it’s long term. It works: Nazis, Communism, Taliban, Saddam, Kaddafi. Reform or be defeated.

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March 19th, 2008, 8:47 am


7. why-discuss said:


Yes, Saudi arabia is an angel and Saddam became demonized not when he was gazing the kurds or killing the Shias or invading Iran ( with almost a millions killed) but ONLY when he threatened the oil needed by the US. The US demonizes only countries that do not serve their interests, that’s all…
While the US did not push Saddam to invade Kuwait, April Glaspie did (foolishly) give to Saddam the impression that the US would not intervene in ‘arab’ matters, whether you want it or not , it was a crucial parameter in Saddam’s decision to go ahead.

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March 19th, 2008, 9:32 am


8. TheOtherPointOfVieW said:

Why-discuss, ok, this was a foolish extrapolation by Saddam. There’s no telling what would have happened if the offensive was limited to territory sufficient to reclaim the access to the oil fields that Saddam felt the Kuwaitis were illegally robbing him of.

Instead, he orders his army to plow its way through the whole country committing horrors and massacres along the way. Then he annexes the country as an Iraqi province. Big difference.

He is rebuked by almost ALL the arab countries. They work with the US to reverse the occupation.

The US is clearly biased, in where it takes action and positions, by its interests, and yes, oil is high up on the priority echelon. This is not absolute however, and there are thresholds that do prompt the US into action. Don’t forget the US role in the former Yugoslavia conflict. There is no oil there. It’s a mixed bag. There is plenty of criticism to level at US policy. However it is not always one-sided. And it gets vetted through the American electorate, democratically, and continues to strive to make corrections. Most importantly, we do not seek to put blame elsewhere. We act. When we’re right we celebrate. When we screw up most of us admit it. On balance, those who don’t, get eventually voted out or voted down. Eventually.

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March 19th, 2008, 11:23 am


9. why-discuss said:

Yes, they are voted down after the death of millions of people in Iraq and Palestine and the creation of internal divisions and hatred that would last for decades.
Like Israel, the US considers it is absolved of all its crimes because it a ‘democracy’ . I am sorry , a democracy that cares only about its own geopolitical and economical interests is betraying the whole concept of a democracy, it becomes a colonizing power, like “democratic” Great Britain of the 19th century or ‘democratic” Germany of the 2oth century.
Because of its power, the US has a moral responsibility too but this seems to be lost in the greed and the obsession to provide for its electorate the best treatment to the detriment of the other less developped countries just to get re-elected.
The manipulation and misinformation of the regular american to make him believe what it is convenient he/she believes has reached peaks in the US. A good example is the fact that most americans thought Saddam Hossein and Al Qaeda were good friends… and I am sure many still believe that. Filtering the information, abusing the naivety of the regular american are evil methods. I just cannot accept that and this shows me that unless the US regain some moral ethics, it is a country that cannot be admired and that would decay.

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March 19th, 2008, 1:14 pm


10. Shai said:


You raise the issue of hypocrisy, and of course it is very much there. And here, I tend to agree with TOPOV, that the U.S., and when you think about it, really everyone else, is interest-driven. Our world, as is our region, is ruled not by righteous leaders, but rather interest-driven ones. There have always been, and will always be, double standards, hypocrisy, change of face, preferential treatment, etc.

Your correctly point to the fact that Saddam was good enough for the U.S. while gassing the Kurds, but not when threatening their oil supply. That Saudi Arabia is hailed by America, despite its ongoing human rights abuse, while Syria is deemed a corrupt devil that belongs to the mighty Axis of Evil. But in a way, all of us are like that. Look at Israel – should we make peace with the Syrian regime of today? I say “absolutely”. But many would argue that in a sense, we’re strengthening a suppressive regime by so doing. And my answer would be that we cannot choose our partners, and if we wait for them to behave the way we want them to, we may miss the boat. Like Alon Liel said, windows of opportunity in our region not only rarely open up, but they also close. If we don’t seize them when they appear, we may have to endure many more years of such a regime supporting other, more dangerous, enemies. And until Syria becomes a democracy, and wishes to make peace with Israel, we may see much more pain and suffering than is necessary. So are we being hypocritical, and immoral, and unprincipled? Absolutely. But we ARE serving our interests, and that’s the way the world runs. Maybe one day, when there really is peace throughout the world, then we can all become righteous. Right now, we can’t.

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March 19th, 2008, 1:15 pm


11. why-discuss said:


Why do you accept hypocrisy and crimes under the veil of democracy and you reject dictatorships like the one in Syria? Censorship in Syria or Iran is similar to the US media manipulation. Yet because the US is a ‘democracy’ and hypocrite enough to hide its dirty games, no one, except some decried journalists is able to criticize it and force it to change its games.
Syria has not caused the death of millions of Iraqis, in the contrary they have hosted them when western countries have rejected them. Syria has emprisonned famous personnalities that were calling for the destruction of the regime. Guantanamo is full of these. Yet shy criticism has had no effect on the US to close this prison that shames the country.
Syria is a haven of security for normal citizen while the whole area is dangerous. Ultimately the syrian regime will evolve but not at the pace that the US wants the wole area to change and not in the direction that the US wants it to evolve.
Saudi Arabia is a much worse dictatorship, does the US and the western countries inmpose sanction on it? In the contrary they crawl in front of the saudi king, begging for more oil and more weapons to buy.The western countries have no credibility anymore in the region. Let them become consistent in their principles then they can talk about Syria Human Rights abuse and all these absurd statements, otherwise they better shut up.

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March 19th, 2008, 1:34 pm


12. SimoHurtta said:

Evil actions and positions beget demonization. “as if anything positive ever came out of this brilliant tactic” It’s not a tactic, it’s a strategy; it’s long term. It works: Nazis, Communism, Taliban, Saddam, Kaddafi. Reform or be defeated.

Obey or be defeated is actually a better describing term TheOtherPointOfVieW. Lets not forget the tens of dictators USA has installed to get free or low cost access to numerous countries natural resources.

Saddam was certainly not a nice “character” (egual to Ariel Sharon in many ways), but he was also the modernizer of Iraq. He gave women rights and possibilities, created a good education system, build universities and towns etc. Most importantly he could deliver electricity to Iraqis. Something the mighty USA has completely failed to do. 🙂

Saddam made one BIG mistake. He let USA and its Arab allies (= dictators) to speak himself to war against Iran. The gases (technology) Saddam is said to have used against Kurds were TheOtherPointOfVieW do you know from where? Though some rather credible sources (CIA) say that the gases were spread by Iranians. And their gases, do you TheOtherPointOfVieW know came from where?

Instead, he orders his army to plow its way through the whole country committing horrors and massacres along the way. Then he annexes the country as an Iraqi province. Big difference.

Hilarious. What did Bush and USA? Invaded a whole big country committing unseen horrors and massacres along the way. Then he annexes the country as an production platform for his buddies. What is the difference?

TheOtherPointOfVieW where are the promised WMD’s, where are the links between Saddam and Al Qaida? Amusingly the report of the links between Saddam and Al Qaida (= NO LINKS) was just “censured” (= not delivered to the public). Actually Saddam had “better” excuses to “liberate” as Bush did.

Do you remember the story how Saddam’s men did throw early born babies out of hospitals’ windows in Kuwait? Check that story, it is hilarious. A masterpiece of US propaganda. Sadly they got caught with lying. Well not the first time…

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March 19th, 2008, 1:42 pm


13. TheOtherPointOfVieW said:

Simohurtta: many valid points; many mistakes made by the U.S. No one can deny them. What I argue for is a holistic look across the years, decades. On balance, the principles and the system work more often than not. There are also important differences: while there were blunders due to 9/11-generated blindness in pushing for the invasion of Iraq, the US has no ambition to be a permanent occupier nor to annex it.

Why-discuss: “Filtering the information, abusing the naivety of the regular american are evil methods.” You are, of course, right! (surprised?). However, what I have argued for from the beginning of posting here is that there is the opportunity in the US to make the counter-case. What I advocated — perhaps in too direct a way for which some took offense — is that the “other party,” and here I used the term “the Arabs,” not perojatively but to genuinely indicate that Arab countries are to a large extent those who have the most at stake as well as the most resources, what I advocated is the necessity to make the case within the US, using US media, in a persuasive manner that talks to the logic of American people. I have similarly faulted the American administration for failing to communicate effectively with the Arab population. Objections to my call usually end up using the excuse of AIPAC and such, but here is where I don’t agree. The field is open. There is freedom of expression in the US. It should be used to make the case. Not with anger, not with emotion, both of which end up clouding the effectiveness of the message, but with the most impactful facts and persuasion that change minds in the US.

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March 19th, 2008, 2:50 pm


14. Shai said:


Why do you assume I accept hypocrisy in democratic nations and reject the regime in Syria? I never said I reject the regime, in fact, the opposite. I said I accept negotiating, and making peace, with this exact regime. I am not the one to determine the fate of your nation. I cannot, and should not, influence the course of democracy and/or individual freedoms in Syria. Just as I wouldn’t expect you to do the same for my people in Israel. I respect the Syrian people too much to think that they need my help. You can decide your future far better than I can. Although I agree that in Western societies the media is very often manipulated and manipulates, I certainly cannot fathom any similarities to state-controlled media in regimes such as Iran, Saudi Arabia, or even Syria. I can’t imagine the media in your country “crucifying” your leader, like ours has been doing to Olmert in Israel for quite some time now. But again, I am not trying to pass judgement. Your people are smart enough to know how and what to do for a better future. At the very least, I commend your leader for courageously leading the “peace camp” in this region, by offering to end the Syrian-Israeli conflict, by making peace with us. I cannot ask any more of Syria for now, than that. When our two nations begin to seriously talk about peace, other issues will arise, and will be dealt with. Now is not the time to finger-point at each other’s faulty political systems, now is the time to take advantage of the opportunity.

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March 19th, 2008, 4:10 pm


15. Alex said:

TheOtherPointOfVieW said:

“Evil actions and positions beget demonization. “as if anything positive ever came out of this brilliant tactic” It’s not a tactic, it’s a strategy; it’s long term. It works: Nazis, Communism, Taliban, Saddam, Kaddafi. Reform or be defeated.”

OK … so we agree that “reform or be defeated” is not really the reason for the United States’ P.R. theatrics with the Syrians… otherwise, Egypt and Saudi Arabia and Jordan would have gone through the same pressure to reform. Besides, America, is sadly not exactly the “good” side in the Middle East the past few years.

What is it then? … obey or be defeated?

For how long will the Middle East have to suffer in order for the occasional ignorant group of American leaders to understand that this “strategy” does not work with Syria?

Let me explain why it is not a long-term strategy, as yo suggested.

Carter, Bush Sr., Nixon, Clinton … all traveled to meet with Hafez Assad.

It was only these two presidents that decided to torture the Middle East for 8 years each while they listened to their wonderful advisers (Eliot Abrams, Rumsfeld, Cheney …) who convinced them that they should not talk to Syria.

First President

Second President.

You understand now why only a couple of presidents decided that it is a great “strategy” to not talk to Syria for 8 years?

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March 19th, 2008, 5:13 pm


16. Qifa Nabki said:

McCain pledges allegiance to Israel, vows to eliminate Hezbollah
Wednesday, 19 March, 2008 @ 5:08 PM

Visiting U.S. Republican presidential candidate John McCain on Wednesday signaled vigorous support for Israel during a fact-finding mission widely seen as a bid to polish his credentials as a statesman.

The Arizona senator warned that Israel’s armed foes threatened not only the Jewish state but also U.S. interests and everything the West holds dear.

[read the rest]

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March 19th, 2008, 5:29 pm


17. Alex said:


McCain’s positions are nothing new. Converting Hizbollah into a political organization (with a new name?) is compatible with McCain’s promise to “eliminate” HA.

And his recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital does not imply he will formally move the American embassy to Jerusalem BEFORE a settlement wit the PAlestinias is reached where part of east Jerusaem becomes the capital of Palestine as well.

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March 19th, 2008, 5:35 pm


18. Qifa Nabki said:


Sounds like you’ve been getting McCain’s talking points. 🙂

But I would ask AP if he’d prefer to see Hizbullah ‘eliminated’ via transformation into a political organization, or eliminated the old-fashioned way.

My guess is he’d prefer the latter, as would AIPAC, and McCain might not have much of a choice.

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March 19th, 2008, 5:43 pm


19. TheOtherPointOfVieW said:

Alex, I admire your sense of humor (videos #2 and #3). We can all laugh at these. As far as video #1, these actions are despicable and should be prosecuted if the soldiers can be identified – nothing less than court marshall. Shameful, studpid, cruel. The US citizens were also treated to the even worse revelations of the Abu-Ghraib abuse. No one is hiding from these crimes. As I said before, there are mistakes as well as crimes.

The 2 Presidents you refer to have a style of taking rigid positions. It worked for Reagan in setting the stage to the defeat of communism. Of course there were mistakes along the way, but I doubt many question the consequential outcome. Bush II was defined by 9/11 and then was guided by the kind of advisers he chose. Mistakes again. However, is there any question that if Syria were to show real flexibility, cooperation, and withdraw its proven support and facilitation of subversive actions by groups such as Hamas, HA, and Iraqi insurgents, that in this case, regardless of what biased advisors might want, the policy direction will irreversibly shift toward cooperation with Syria? It takes 2 to tango. The current US administration is not a good dancer; it will take extra effort on Syria’s part to make the dance work, not to mention gracefully.

In any case, my fundamental point always goes back to making the case to the US public. It can be done. It has not and is not being done. At least not effectively. There is plenty of room to tilt the balance in that arena. That has always been my message here, even if it was not always expressed in a way that resonated or was readily understood.

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March 19th, 2008, 5:47 pm


20. TheOtherPointOfVieW said:

Point of clarification:

When I say “Reform or be defeated” I’m not referring to how a country runs its internal affairs but to its negative actions or impacts. In the examples I gave:
Nazis expansionism, elitism, and racism
Communism’s expansionism
Taliban’s sheltering and defense of Bin Laden = declarer of war on the U.S. and responsible for 9/11, etc..
It’s NOT “obey or be defeated.” It’s “Change your ways in the parts that cause subversion and end up hurting us or our interests in an unfair way … or be defeated”
And yes, there is selfishness and cynicism in this. C’est la vie. Better tell it as its than hypocritically sugar-coating it to soothe our conscience.

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March 19th, 2008, 5:57 pm


21. why-discuss said:

“There is freedom of expression in the US. It should be used to make the case.”
As long as the mass media is manipulated by oligarche and lobbies with a specific agenda, a “free expression” which can only reach intellectuals and some politically oriented people is similar to censorship.

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March 19th, 2008, 6:35 pm


22. Naji said:

…but, as Hannah Arendt once famously remarked, ” All hopes to the contrary notwithstanding, it seems as though the one argument the Arabs are incapable of understanding is force.”

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March 19th, 2008, 6:37 pm


23. Alex said:


It is precicely Reagan’s good strategy with the Soviet Union that made his admirer (GWB) want to stick to the same strategy with Syria.

But Syria is not an enemy of the United States… and it is not a communist regime that is hated by all its people. You can tell from the interview of April Glaspie that she actually liked Hafez Assad a lot, and She enjoyed a free and fun few years living in Syria …

Same impression you get from reading clinton, Baker, and Kissinger. They all liked Hafez Assad .. they complained that he was a tough negotiator, but they did not feel they were negotiating with an enemy of the United States. he was closer to a difficult friend.

Syria is not Saddam’s Iraq and it is not the communist USSR… so, the strategy used to deal with Stalin’s USSR is not necessary and not effective with Syria.

Syria was the only Arab country to tell the Americans that Iraq will be a major disaster … all of America’s Arab “Allies” expected an American victory in few weeks or few months.

Syria told President Clinton and late prime minister Rabin that Oslo was not good enough … it will fail.

Syria told the Untied States and its Arab Allies that it is dangerous to build up Saddam Hussein in 1980 … that it is better to apologize for the mistakes in backing Iran’s Shah and try to becomes friends with Iran.

Syria helped the United States (Bush Sr. and Baker) to make the liberation of Kuwait a success.

Syria stopped the Lebanese civil war.

Syria tried hard to reach out to this administration. Colin Powell admitted last year (after he retired) that it was not true that when he met with Bashar Assad that Syria did not want to cooperate .. he said the Syrians suggested many areas where they can help the United States. It was back in Washington that they wanted to change the regime instead… the “advisers” wanted a regime change, not help and cooperation with Syria.

But … Syria is a proud country that can not accept insults and control from any superpower … the Russians who understood Syria well, never tried to dictate anything to Hafez Assad. It worked great for them for decades. And it worked well for Baker and Bush Sr. and Clinton.

We have enough data to show that when the Untied States is ready to commit to a constructive engagement with Syria for years (not for week, a la Sarkozy) … the United State benefits. Nixon, Bush Sr. and Clinton did much better in the Middle East than Reagan and GWB… so it is not about American selfish interests.

Not talking to Syria is bad for America’s interests in the Middle East.

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March 19th, 2008, 6:54 pm


24. why-discuss said:


“I can’t imagine the media in your country “crucifying” your leader, like ours has been doing to Olmert in Israel for quite some time now”

What counts are the positive and encouraging results. Crucifying Olmert does not seem to have changed much of the situation with the palestinians. Maybe the Israelis feel some kind of emotionnal relief at doing it, but ultimately it changes nothing. In Lebanon they claim there is freedom of expression and it is used widely by politicians to accuse and insult each others and it is leading nowhere. “Free expression” that brings no tangible positive results only fool us to to believe we are free. Unfortunately I have not seen impacts like Zola’s “I accuse’ about Dreyfus in the modern media because the modern media are mostly manipulated by money and special interests. In the contrary we have seem the infamous Judy Miller in the ‘free’ NY times pushing for the Iraq war, and the Danish who have no find better cartoons to draw that ones that make fun of the prophet and the arabs.
Sorry, thank you for that freedom of expression… It can be worse than censorship as it claims to carry a truth ‘free’ while it is filled with lies.

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March 19th, 2008, 7:00 pm


25. SimoHurtta said:

here are also important differences: while there were blunders due to 9/11-generated blindness in pushing for the invasion of Iraq, the US has no ambition to be a permanent occupier nor to annex it.

TheOtherPointOfVieW are you kidding. In a previous thread you said 1.OIL 2. OIL 3. OIL. USA wants to control Iraqis oil reserves and pay the absolute minimum for them for that oil. That is an indisputable fact. USA is pressuring Iraqi parliament to make an oil law which is extremely stupid for Iraqis, but extremely profitable for “companies”.

Of course USA wants permanent control of Iraq. With minimum amount of troops possible, but with strategical bases. And most importantly with a government which OBEYS. US government (present or future) does not care are the Iraqis democratically ruled or not. The “democracy excuse” is only for internal propaganda purposes.

TheOtherPointOfVieW what would happen if by same miracle there would be a popular uprising in Saudi Arabia and the new democratic government would be rather anti-American. And it would prefer trade relations with Russians and Chinese more than with USA. You can be sure that US would make a deal even with bin Laden (their old “business” partner) to get the back the control Saudi oil and abandon “democracy”.

Ann Lewis, Hillary’s senior adviser just said:
The role of the president of the United States is to support the decisions that are made by the people of Israel. It is not up to us to pick and choose from among the political parties.”

TheOtherPointOfVieW is USA still an independent country? Or even a democracy? Why should the US president risk his nations well-being because an agressive religiously extreme country packed with nukes? Funny that you blame Syria and Iran for remote controlling Hamas and Hizbollah, when Israel is controlling USA. And that is even openly said by senior adviser of a potential future president.

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March 19th, 2008, 7:22 pm


26. wizart said:


Great question.

God bless Finland!

Human rights in Finland

Finland endeavors to promote human rights everywhere in the world.

Human rights are high on the foreign and security policy agenda and Finland takes an active and consistent part in their promotion in each of the foreign and security policy sub-sections The European Union is a key channel of influence and action of Finland’s human rights policy. The EU has committed to promoting respect for human rights worldwide. During its Presidency of the EU in the latter half of 2006, Finland tried to advance the coherence of the Union’s human rights policy and the development of the Union’s fundamental rights sector.

In its human rights policy, Finland has undertaken to pursue openness in the dialogue and cooperation carried out bilaterally and in the EU. In the UN, Finland endeavors to find ways to bridge gaps between opposing parties and to improve human rights situations through dialogue. However, dialogue cannot be an absolute value as such, ruling out any criticism of drawbacks. Openness and related pubic discussion form an integral part of the international promotion of human rights.

Even if human rights are universal, they do not in practice materialize equally.

Finland tries to focus especially on the promotion of the rights of women, children, minorities, indigenous peoples and persons with disabilities, because they are more easily discriminated. It is of utmost importance that the different groups can take part in decision-making that concerns themselves at all levels from policy formulation to the pursuit of policies at international forums.

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March 19th, 2008, 7:29 pm


27. Shai said:


While seemingly addressing specific modern-day instances of “freedom of speech”, including those of the media in Israel, or other Western nations, you are actually pointing to an ancient philosophical realm which discussed the “ideal society”. As Plato saw it, some 2400 years ago, such a society would be headed by kings, who would be philosophers, and would know how to best rule their people. They would be elected by the people, but once achieving power, would have absolute power, including of course the dissemination of information within their society. For all practical purposes, that’s your case of state-controlled media.

Now one thing is for sure, I’m not going to debate you, in this forum, on philosophy. There are clearly problems with having a media that is easily manipulated, that manipulates, and that feeds us sensationalism more than fact. But there are also problems with a media that is controlled by one body, and that “feeds” you something one person had decided you should hear. Or, only his version, not anyone else’s. The lack of multiplicity of ideas is problematic, as it provides us with little possibility to make up our own mind. In essence, we are literally “fed” only one opinion. But I agree with you, what good is a media that crucifies an existing leader, and yet the people do little with this information, and enable that leader to continue leading. But that says no less about the people themselves than it does about their media. Don’t forget, it is Israelis who are deciding to let Olmert stay in power (for now), and not to kick him out, especially after the Vinograd Report was published a few months ago. At the same time, public opinion polls show Olmert and Barak at all time lows, as opposed to Netanyahu, who has been clearly on the rise. So time will tell…

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March 19th, 2008, 7:37 pm


28. Shai said:


How do you say “The Protocols of the Elders of Zion” in Finnish?

You know, this piece of work has been translated into hundreds of languages, literally, and is updated each year, adding relevant chapters based on events that took place recently. Which version are you reading? It must be the updated one, if it already includes the wise words of Hillary’s personal advisor. She is, after all, a serious person, like you, right?

I thank you for continuing to help bridge the gaps between Jews and Arabs on this forum, with your well-chosen words.

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March 19th, 2008, 7:51 pm


29. SimoHurtta said:


How do you say “The Protocols of the Elders of Zion” in Finnish?

Are you a jerk Shai? Ann Lewis is Clinton’s senior adviser. She is not a fictional character. You can easily find the source of what she said. Actually the original source is WP. Blame Ann not me. 🙂

I have never read the piece you mention. And it is extremely stupid to portray me as an anti-Semitist using the “intellectual” method you used. To make the situation equal. Are you a religious Zionist demanding Ersatz Israel from Nile to Euphrates? Do you have a long beard and funny little hat? As you see it is easy to answer to insults by insults. I have trained with many AIG’s. So lets stop this insulting here.

You Israelis are a funny “race”. Even the most civilized from you, to which I include you, are mostly completely unable to see the situation in proportions. Israel is not the victim or under any real threat. Israel is the dominate aggressor and occupier in the region. Israel is the one with nukes and treating people so that it makes Chinese in Tibet look civilized. Arabs do not have nukes or the military technology you have. And Palestinians have every reason to resist. Even Barak has admitted if he would have been born a Palestinian he would be a militant.

You (Israel) can build real bridges only by giving fast Palestinians their fair share of the “promised land” and demilitarize your extremely dangerous army. As you Shai can read from the polls the Israeli public is getting rather racist and less peace seeking. The only real fear for Israel is Israel it self.

Remember Shai the TV pictures when the young girls and orthodox Jews wrote “greeting” messages to artillery ammunitions less than two years ago. Sadly that is the way many Israelis want to build bridges. One man writing “soft” bridge building messages in this blog doesn’t change much the reality on the ground. There are much more AIG’s than Shais in Knesset. Sad but true.

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March 19th, 2008, 8:50 pm


30. Shai said:


“You Israelis are a funny ‘race’…” Nah, that’s not an Anti-semitic comment, that’s a Pro-semitic comment. My friend, you have yet to understand that when you mix your innate hatred of Israelis with racist-sounding words, you’ve got the kind of lethal combination, that of course will alienate 100% of Jews and Israelis from you, but will in fact also add so much fuel to the already existing fire, that no one around will want to even contemplate making peace with us nuke-packing Zionists. Then again, maybe that’s your hope. Because if it’s not, you’re doing one hell of a shitty job proving otherwise.

I never once pretended like Israel is the “good guy” here. I never once said I also believed we were the victim. I only stated that most Israelis do, whether it makes sense to you, or not. It is an emotional issue, not a rational one. And only time, and peace, will cause it to change, not your belligerent “lux et veritas”. I have encountered many a commentators/readers here in this forum, many who have disagreed with me on almost every issue. But none were as hateful and damaging as you. None had such innate disrespect for anything an Israeli (a Zionist) might dare say on this forum. Although Sadat, and Hussein, and Arafat, and Assad (father and son) probably understood the Arab-Israeli conflict at least as well as you do (maybe just a tiny bit better), you of all people are doing everything humanly possible to cause us not to make peace. They, for some bizarre reason, did the opposite. How do you explain that? Were they so immoral? And are YOU the torch-holder of morality in the Middle East now? Can you see yourself ever sitting in a negotiating room with anyone? Is there ANYTHING positive you can say, about Israelis or Zionists? Can you give even ONE reason to all the Arabs in this forum, why they should make peace with us?

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March 19th, 2008, 9:22 pm


31. Alex said:

SimoHurtta and Shai

You are both nice people, and you both want a fair peaceful settlement that benefits everyone in the Middle East.

Shai, I understand how you perceive Simo .. but he had to tolerate over a year of Akbar and AIG calling him an anti-semite for every small criticism of Israel… this constant abuse made him less interested in sounding diplomatic with any Israeli, even a very reasonable one like you.

I hope your presence here will continue to create a more pleasant atmosphere to help us have more meaningful discussions.

As for the quote from Clinton’s senior adviser … by itself it is not alarming. But the fact that all the American candidates feel obliged to say the right things or else AIPAC will punish them (to the best of their ability) is .. not good. Not good for Israel before being not good for the Palestinians… APAC is guaranteeing that America will rarely criticize Israel. NAd since Israel does not care for anyone else, but America, then … Israel does not get to be criticized from anyone that matters … and that kind of situation can not be good for any person or any nation.

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March 19th, 2008, 9:33 pm


32. AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

You say: Hannah Arendt once famously remarked, ” All hopes to the contrary notwithstanding, it seems as though the one argument the Arabs are incapable of understanding is force.”

Boy was she wrong. The Ottomans ruled the Arabs for 400 years by force. Then the French and English and now a few oligarchies are using force to oppress the Arab people in every Arab country. I would say that force works well in the Arab world. Take a specific example, wasn’t the Hamma massacre an extremely effective use of force?

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March 19th, 2008, 9:41 pm


33. AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

What you don’t understand is that the US and Israeli strategy regarding Syria has been working well. Why is Syria so weak economically and militarily? Why does Israel still hold the Golan? Why hasn’t any Asad fired a shot in the Golan since 73?

Syria has consistently pursued bad strategies and as a result, even though in 48 Israel and Syria were the same, now the average Israeli is 6-7 times richer than the average Syrian.

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March 19th, 2008, 9:48 pm


34. Shai said:


You know that I’m the last person to whip out the “Anti-semite” card. But there’s a limit also to my patience with hearing and reading this kind of rhetoric. I can hear almost anything, if it said respectfully, not using racial slur. Plus, I tend to react better when someone isn’t spraying me with a verbal accusation machine gun. I’d much rather discuss, than put on my bullet-proof vest and have to defend and attack. I thought Syria Comment was a discussion forum, not an armory.

As for Hillary’s advisor’s comments, and for that matter AIPAC. Of course it is worrying. In my mind, neither are good for Israel. When the Jewish lobbying groups consistently side with Israel, we have everything to lose. But even though I don’t like it, I can understand why the potential candidates are sounding as if they’re playing to AIPAC’s tunes. It is, after all, a very influential political action group (committee). So is the NRA, which means that when gun-control issues come up, you can bet most candidates will find that creative way of sounding either clearly pro, or not so much anti. That is, until after the elections. Then, it’s back to normal. I don’t recall George Bush the father, or James Baker, being particularly pro-Israel, or pro-AIPAC, when it came to halting settlements in the West Bank. The same should occur in every presidency, and it can. But to suggest that the Jews control America (not “contribute”, but “control”) does sound like taken directly out of the Protocols. To suggest that Israel controls America, is just plain hallucinatory. If anything, we see today just how much the American administration is controlling Israel, and unfortunately causing us to miss out on a Syrian opportunity as we speak.

Maybe some here believe that Olmert is actually forcing Bush to tell Olmert “Don’t make peace with Syria!”

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March 19th, 2008, 9:48 pm


35. AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Whenever I called Sim an antisemite I gave an exact explanation why. And it wasn’t because he was criticizing Israel on some small point. The fact of the matter is that Sim is a raving antisemite and you are not willing to acknowledge this.

Part of the problem in the middle east is that people like you do not recognize antisemitism when they see it. Maybe our explanations will help. This is just as an important step to peace as anything else.

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March 19th, 2008, 10:10 pm


36. Alex said:

AnotherIsraeliGuy said: Edit

What you don’t understand is that the US and Israeli strategy regarding Syria has been working well. Why is Syria so weak economically and militarily? Why does Israel still hold the Golan? Why hasn’t any Asad fired a shot in the Golan since 73?


America’s strategy has been working well??

I did not know that America’s national interests and America’s objectives are:

1) A Syria that is weak economically and militarily.
2) Israel keeping the lands it stole by force against all UN resolutions.
3) pushing Assad to start hostilities on the Golan Heights.

If this is the case then America is indeed an evil country.

But I happen to know what America wants … it is not to weaken a country called Syria economically … it is to have more friends in the Middle East.

The best road to friendship with the Syrian people starts by making a U-turn … everything Eliot and Friends advised is destructive and is foolish. They are working against America’s best interests.

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March 19th, 2008, 10:17 pm


37. Shai said:


At the risk of sounding an “expert” on America, I would bet historians 20-30 years from now would claim these were the worst 8 years for America’s national and international interests. I would also bet that Elliot Abrams knows this… By the way, you know what’s the best way of making someone do a U-turn? Put up a “Detour” sign… Which is what Israel and Syria should do – create a detour ourselves, and force America (the new administration) to come our way.

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March 19th, 2008, 10:24 pm


38. AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Look at the results of the last 60 years. Israel has worked with the US, Syria has not. The situation of the the average Israeli citizen has improved much more than that of the average Syrian citizen.

And yes, the US strategy is working well. The US is not evil for wanting its allies to be safe and its enemies (yes Syria is an enemy) to succeed less.

Let me turn the argument around to you: The best way for Syria to make friends with the US is to stop its destructive and foolish strategy of supporting terrorism and destabilizing its neigbors. Syria is working against its interests and is paying the price.

Unfortunately, for you, Syria and its regime are constant and all other things need to change. The world does not work that way. Syria has to change, not the US. And if Syria does not change, its citizens will suffer, but of course, Asad could care less.

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March 19th, 2008, 10:26 pm


39. Shai said:


Before I go to bed… I believe the Syrians know full well that Israel is not just going to give back the Golan, in return for an Israeli embassy in Damascus. But that unless major policy changes are made, especially the military support and/or alliances aspects, no withdrawal will ever take place. And yet, Syria wants to talk peace, now. Can we honestly wait for Syria to become a democracy, before we go talk to her? Can’t we accept that we may well have to sign peace treaties with regimes that are not “exactly” to our liking? Just as they may have to sign a treaty with us, while we are still occupying the West Bank, and choking Gaza, and maintaining a “fairly-powerful” arsenal at our disposal?

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March 19th, 2008, 10:33 pm


40. Alex said:


When you started here, you called many people antisemite … including me occasionally (“bordering on antisemitism”). If I did not have administrative privileges here you would have continued to be the rudest and most abusive person to ever visit this blog. It is YOU who does not get it … you managed to make everyone here ask me to ban you… and most of them are pleasant and tolerant people who rarely asked me to ban others.

I KNOW from emails with SimoHurtta that he is not an antisemite. He wants a solution that makes Israelis and Arabs live in peace next to each other.

He is the typical Northern European that hates Israel’s killing of civilians every week. If you want to silence him and others in CNN, it does not mean that he and the others like him will start to fall in love with Israel. Instead you will have rising hate towards Israel.

As long as Akbar keeps linking Memri videos that portray Arabs and Muslims as savage criminals, then you can not be too sensitive to SimoHurtta’s choise of words. I will not be selectively sensitive to one side’s wishes.

Having said that, I agree that SimoHurtta sometimes (like above) goes further than what I think is constructive criticism. I agreed with his argument about Clinton’s adviser, but I prefer not mentioning “the chosen people” or any other expression that can be interpreted as being anti-semitic when we discuss politics.


Alon’s interview in Asharq Alawsat is the most impressive demonstration of knowing what to say and what to do in order to get closer to peace with your enemy … Alon did not use his time to score PR points against Syria (and I’m sure he has things to criticize), instead he proved that he understand Syria’s position and in a symbolic way, he helped Syria in that interview.

Some of you have no idea how effective these gestures are. Every Syrian who read that interview reacted by saying something along “There are some really decent Israelis”. While almost every Syrian who reads YOU here reacts as “You know what Alex, you are wasting your time trying to have peace with “these people” .. they are arrogant and selfish”

If you want to fight antisemitism … imitate Alon and Shai instead of lecturing everyone here that he does not know how antisemitic he/she is.

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March 19th, 2008, 10:40 pm


41. SimoHurtta said:

“The Protocols of the Elders of Zion” in Finnish?

Why can’t you Shai answer orderly and always pretend to the one who is victim of insults. You brought up “The Protocols of the Elders of Zion” without no intellectual explanation how it links to my point in the previous comment. You began the “insulting”. That proves my point of how you IGs always begin to use the anti-Semitism card when you have no rational counter answers.

I used the term “race” so that AIGs do not accuse me using the word Jews. AIG and I have debated are Jews an nation or race. AIG claims they are, my opinion is that the “nation” is based on the religion more than a normal nation. By the way is Bob Dylan (Robert Zimmerman) a Jew when he is a Christian as I remember reading. Is it anti-Semitic to ask such a question?

As said numerous times before the Middle East problems simplified have two sides Israeli/Jewish side and the Arabs side. People see the situation differently. You see your self (=Israel)as a victim and under threat. I see your country as an dangerous unpredictable aggressor and its behaviour towards Palestinians shameful. Simple as that.

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March 19th, 2008, 10:41 pm


42. AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Can we really afford to legitimize all Arab dictatorships and leave the Arabs without any hope? Isn’t it bad enough that we are supporting Mubarak that has done nothing for the average Egyptian and only made things worse for him? Nothing can stop demography, and the middle east is going to blow up sooner than later UNLESS there are REAL reforms and hope. And that means democracy. Listen to Bashmann.

And yes we can wait. All the indications are that Syria is very scared of a war and will not be drawn into one. If bombing the nuclear facility in September did not lead to a response, what will?

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March 19th, 2008, 10:45 pm


43. Shai said:


Did you ever find an English translation of Alon’s interview? You can see another interview he had two days ago (in Hebrew, with English subtitles though), here in Israel, at:

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March 19th, 2008, 10:46 pm


44. AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

I am not here to do PR. I am here to have a real debate that does not obscure the issues. I really don’t care what your readers think about me or Israelis. If they really wanted to form a true opinion, they would visit Israel and find out.

[removed by admin]

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March 19th, 2008, 10:56 pm


45. AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

[comments removed by admin]


email me if you want to discuss it.

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March 19th, 2008, 11:02 pm


46. Shai said:


Like in one of the previous threads, you are again talking to the wrong guy. How many times do I need to spell it out to you “I do NOT think we’re the victim”!!! But when I hear you say something like “Israel is controlling USA”, I can’t help but think of the Protocols, which say exactly this. You have to understand, Simo, that the Protocols were and are spread in almost every bookstore in the Middle East. Many an Arabs have grown up hearing stuff from this work. It has brought upon Israel, and the Jews, terrible hatred, suspicion, and distrust. So when I hear this sentence coming out of you, of all people, it worries me because it contributes directly to that dangerous fire of hatred already in so many people’s hearts and minds in our region. That is why I brought up the Protocols.

I don’t know what arguments you and AIG had in the past, and I don’t particularly care about them. But when you say something like “You Israelis are a funny ‘race’…”, to me, that sounds VERY much like a racist statement. I don’t know you except through the few exchanges we had here on Syria Comment. On every single one, I found the way you treated me to be with the utmost disrespect, and quite honestly, hatred. You may not hate Israelis innately, but to me you sound like one. You may truly wish for a just peace for both peoples, but to me, you sound like you don’t. I haven’t been privy to your emails with Alex, I only see what you write here. If you’re not everything that I see, then either I need different glasses, or you need to carefully choose your wording, and tone down your rhetoric. I’m willing to engage anyone here, as long as they are respectful of me, and not spraying me with verbal accusations. Remember, I’m not here for the exercise, I’m here to bridge gaps, so that we can have peace one day, soon.

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March 19th, 2008, 11:02 pm


47. Alex said:

AnotherIsraeliGuy said:


Look at the results of the last 60 years. Israel has worked with the US, Syria has not.

yes Syria is an enemy [to the US]

Well …

1) Syria worked with the US every time the US wanted to work with Syria without asking for Syrian “concessions” that jeopardize Syria’s national interests in return for Syria’s help.

The First Iraq war .. the war that liberated Kuwait was not going to be a success if Hafez Assad did not give his blessing and if he did not advice the Americans NOT to go all the way to Baghdad. After today’s situation in Iraq we now know how valuable Syria’s help was.

Syria saved the Lebanese Christians in 1976 .. that was “working with the United States” as everyone knows.

Syria worked with Nixon, Clinton and bush Sr… those presidents who understood how the Middle East works.

2) Syria is NOT an enemy to the United States. You in AIPAC and can keep trying to convince the Americans that Israel’s enemies are enemies of America .. and I guess we will continue to undo your wonderful work… and hte most effective way to do so is to make Syria a friend of Israel, not an enemy.

Good luck.

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March 19th, 2008, 11:09 pm


48. AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

People look at facts and therefore anyone that claims that Syria is an enemy of the US does not need luck:
1) During the cold war Syria was an ally of the Soviet Union and an enemy of the US.
2) Currently, Syria is an enemy because it supports terrorism as most Democrats and Republicans agree. It supports terrorism in Iraq and it supports terrorism in Israel. It is a fact obvious to everyone that Mugniyeh was in Syria. A terrorist wanted in 42 countries was a guest of Syria.

As for the first Gulf war, Baker and Bush overestimated the requirement that Syria join the coalition and made the fatal mistake of giving Lebanon to Syria. That was a huge mistake for which the US is still paying the price. It makes it difficult for many Lebanese to trust the US and they have a point.

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March 19th, 2008, 11:27 pm


49. SimoHurtta said:

But when I hear you say something like “Israel is controlling USA”, I can’t help but think of the Protocols, which say exactly this.

Shai it was that Ann lady who said:
“The role of the president of the United States is to support the decisions that are made by the people of Israel.”

Getting the control comparison from this quote is hardly far fetched anti-Semitism. Anyone with some knowledge with US and Israeli politics knows how tightly the countries are bound together politically. Even in matters that certainly do not benefit USA or Americans interests and are against common moral sense.

If you approve how Palestinians are mistreated, you also have approve what is happening in Tibet. Tibetans in Tibet have at least the Chinese citizenship.That is more than the poor Palestinians do have.

The international agreement for peace in Middle East is simple. You go back to the 1967 borders and let the Palestinians have their state. That builds more bridges than hundred thousand Shais writing “soft” messages when the ethnic cleansing and murdering is continuing on daily basis. Sadly Israel has no intention to do that peace effort what the majority of the world is demanding. Instead the land grabbing and stealing is continuing. Is it anti-Semtic to say that Israeli (minus Israeli Arabs) are stealing the lands of Palestinians. Is it anti-Semitic to say that Israel has nukes and the majority of Europeans see Israel as the greatest danger to world peace.

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March 19th, 2008, 11:38 pm


50. Alex said:


1) When Syria was an ally of the Soviets, the American diplomat in Damascus quoted in the interview above was meeting with Hafez Assad and enjoying his sense of humor… Nixon, Kissinger, Bush Sr. Baker, Clnton, and others WORKED with Syria and had agreements with Syria.

What you are referring to is for public consumption.

2) It is YOUR opinion that Baker is an idiot and Abrams is smart … the American people should thatnk you and your similar types who tricked them into starting the second Iraq war … and into killing hundreds of thousands of Iraqis who will never forget and never fogive. The cost of that Iraq war is not only the 3 trillions that we are starting to hear about now, the cost s sadly more .. all the enemies you made America have will be a cost one way or another if there is no U-Turn in American foreign policy in the Middle EAst.

You can continue to advice America that Baker is an idiot, and Bush Sr. over estimated the value of Syria’s advice … sure .. push America to start another 3 trillion dollar war with Iran and Syria … why not! … it is not coming from your pocket.

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March 19th, 2008, 11:40 pm


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