News Round UP (Sunday 20 July 2009)

Asma al-Asad Glam Shots in the Huffington Post

and don’t miss the obligatory debate over whether Asma or Rania is the fairest princess of them all at Kabobfest.

Syria softens stance on hosting Hariri
Phil Sands, July 19. 2009, National

DAMASCUS // Syria is ready to host Saad Hariri, the Lebanese prime minister-designate, a man not long ago considered persona non grata in Damascus and viewed as one of Syria’s central opponents in the Middle East.

“The doors to Damascus are open to all Lebanese and if Saad al Hariri becomes prime minister he is welcome here,” said Umran al Zaubie, a Syrian lawyer and political analyst with close ties to the government. “Syria will never close the door, despite all of the lies that were told and all of the allegations that were made against her…….

…..Damascus has always denied any role in the death of Rafik Hariri, insisting it was the victim of a political vendetta, and in recent months the case against Syria has weakened significantly.

A UN special prosecutor investigating the assassination once claimed that the inner circle of the Syrian regime appeared to be involved in the killing, an assertion that was undermined after a UN court ordered the release of four main suspects in April for lack of evidence. Other suspects have had their testimony discredited.

As Syria has grown increasingly confident that the Hariri tribunal will not find against it, Saad Hariri has also begun to tone down criticism of Damascus, and has said that he will stand by the outcome of the investigation into his father’s death, whatever the findings. It is a far cry from 2005.

“Traditionally the first visit by a new Lebanese prime minister or president is to Syria,” said Mazen Bilal, a Syrian journalist and political commentator. “There is no longer any political problem preventing Saad Hariri coming to Damascus, now that he says the assassination of his father is in the hands of the UN tribunal and it has found nothing against Syria.

“If Saad Hariri does come to Syria, it will show there has been a real political settlement in Lebanon. If he doesn’t come then it will show there has not been a real settlement.”

JERUSALEM — Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu rejected Sunday an American call to hold off on a planned Jewish housing development in East Jerusalem, saying Israel’s sovereignty over the disputed city could not be challenged. (NYTimes)

David Harris of American Jewish Council declines to debate Walt and Mearsheimer after all
Philip Weiss….

Laura Rosen in the Cable

Former U.S. ambassador to Saudi Arabia Chas Freeman …told Foreign Policy, “From the American side, Washington has repeatedly misunderstood or been deluded about the Saudis on issues connected with Iran and Israel. The notion that somehow or other the Saudis will turn a blind eye to an Israeli strike on Iran — it does not compute.” Freeman also said Riyadh would reject the idea that an Israeli halt in settlement building “would bring forward some gesture from the Arabs.”….

Gause said….Their line on this is, ‘We have done that already and gotten nothing. We did that in 2002 with the Abdullah peace plan and renewed it in 2007, and got the entire Arab league to sign on. Now why do more? We did that and got nothing.'”……

Aluf Benn in Haaretz,: All the reports emanating from Washington indicate that Obama will not issue a detailed peace plan any time soon.

Obama meets the Lobby
By Stephan Walt, Foreign Policy, July 16, 2009

The failed Lebanon war of 2006 and the brutal onslaught against Gaza earlier this year have also raised concerns that Israel has lost its moral and strategic compass. You know a country is in trouble when it routinely attacks respected human rights organizations like Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, or when a group of its own soldiers releases damning personal testimony about their own misconduct in Gaza. (The courage and candor of these Israeli dissidents remains a redeeming feature of Israel’s otherwise troubled democracy). And you know the hardliners in the lobby are getting desperate when they have to hire a professional spinmeister to come up with Orwellian talking points defending the occupation, such as the bizarre claim that removing illegal settlers from the West Bank would be a form of “ethnic cleansing.” (For more on the latter shenanigans, see Richard Silverstein’s valuable commentary here, here, and here.)

Third, it is also clear that the hard-line leadership remains trapped in old-think on a lot of these issues. For example, ADL head Abraham Foxman complained before the meeting that “What troubles me most is a lack of consultation and the need [for the administration] to do things publicly. There’s a [U.S.-Israel] relationship of 60 years and all of a sudden they’re treating Israel like everyone else. I find that disturbing.”

Israel: UN learned of Hezbollah arms cache months ago

UNIFIL learned a few months ago about the cache of Katyusha rockets that exploded in the southern Lebanese village of Hirbet Salim last Tuesday, a government source in Jerusalem said. The source said UNIFIL had precise information about the cache and a number of other installations where Hezbollah is storing rockets, but that UNIFIL had done nothing.

A discussion is scheduled in the UN Security Council for late August on renewing UNIFIL’s mandate in southern Lebanon; Israel hopes last week’s explosion will show the need to strengthen UNIFIL. Israel believes that UNIFIL could sharpen its rules of engagement and act more forcefully with the Lebanese army in southern Lebanese villages. (…) Haaretz

Inquiry on 1994 Blast at Argentina Jewish Center Gets New Life
By ALEXEI BARRIONUEVO, July 17, 2009, NYTimes

BUENOS AIRES — In the 15 years since the bombing of the Argentine Jewish Mutual Aid Association here, the deadliest terrorist attack in this country’s history, the case has become a symbol of the failings of Argentina’s judicial system.
Skip to next paragraph

Despite all the international attention, despite investigative help from Israel and the United States, no one has been convicted for the July 18, 1994, bombing of the community center, in which 85 people died and more than 300 were injured.

Obama, Foxman and Israel’s purpose
By Tony Karon, Rootless Cosmopolitan, July 16, 2009

The summit that never was
The Syrians are hoping for an end to their four years of estrangement from the Saudis.
ByBassel Oudat in Al-Ahram

Unconfirmed reports published in Syria and Lebanon spoke of a possible visit to Syria by Saudi King Abdullah, perhaps for a mini-summit with Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad and Lebanese President Michel Suleiman, one that Saad Al-Hariri, the Lebanese prime minister-designate, may attend. As it turned out, neither Syria nor Saudi Arabia confirmed the reports, and the Saudi monarch has yet to show up in Damascus.

Syrian presidential adviser Bothayna Suleiman said that no date has been decided for such a visit, adding that the Saudi king is welcome in Syria at any time. She noted that Syrian-Saudi relations are “relations between two brotherly countries, related to all Arab concerns, and cannot be confined to the Lebanese dossier alone.” She further stated that there is no “Lebanese complex” impeding relations between the two countries.

According to Syrian sources, Saudi Arabia has named a new ambassador to Damascus, following 16 months in which the post remained vacant. The new ambassador is Abdullah bin Abdel-Aziz Al-Ayfan, a man known to be close to King Abdullah.

Saudi Arabia withdrew its last ambassador to Damascus, Ahmed Al-Qahtani, in March 2008. It named him envoy to Qatar in a move many saw as the start of a possible long- term diplomatic estrangement.

….Syrian-Saudi differences cast a shadow over the region. At one point, the Saudis were said to have asked some Arab countries to stay away from the Damascus summit of March 2007.

Syrian semi-official media became particularly critical of Saudi Arabia, breaking with the reconciliatory tone they maintained for four decades under late President Hafez Al-Assad. Despite his numerous differences with the Saudis, the late president never involved the media in the dispute.

Syrian-Saudi reconciliation efforts began in earnest last January, with Qatar, Egypt, Syria and Saudi Arabia meeting on the sidelines of the economic summit in Kuwait. That was followed by a meeting in Riyadh in March between Saudi King Abdullah, Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad, Kuwaiti Emir Jabir Al-Sabbah, and Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak.

In February, Saudi Chief of Intelligence Prince Moqren bin Abdel-Aziz visited Syria, bringing a verbal message from the Saudi King. The visit was a surprise to observers who failed to see the strategic and long-term implications of the four-way reconciliation session in Kuwait. A week later, the Syrian foreign minister took a message back from Al-Assad to King Abdullah.

Nothing has been disclosed about the content of the exchanges apart from the usual statement that the two leaders were exchanging views over “developments in the region and the need for Arab solidarity in the face of challenges.” It is a stock phrase that the Syrian media uses whenever President Al-Assad receives Arab officials. News about the Syrian president is usually written by his press officers and appears in the media without change.

Early this month, Prince Abdel-Aziz bin Abdullah, a personal envoy of the Saudi king, and Saudi Culture Minister Abdel-Aziz Khoja visited Damascus. Prince Abdel-Aziz was the highest level official from the Saudi royal family to visit Syria in years. Syria didn’t disclose the aim of the visit, but there has been speculation that the prince was preparing for a summit between the Saudi and Syrian leaders in Damascus.

Although the summit never came to pass, an official Syrian source told me that “apart from the conflict between the two countries in recent years, which has taken on a personal dimension involving the two leaders, the relations between Saudi Arabia and Syria need to be urgently improved for the sake of the region and its future.”

Fayez Ezzeddin, a leading figure in Syria’s ruling Baath Party, said that “Syria is maintaining an open door policy towards Saudi Arabia and other Arab countries, and the Saudis can use this to build strong ties with the Syrians.” He added that the Syrians are acting out of the belief that the two countries share similar concerns and a common future, and that the regional situation now calls for the cooperation of all Arabs. Recently, he said, Saudi Arabia has reviewed its policy towards Syria and realised that “quarrelling was useless and that it was wrong to turn its back on Syria.”….

Many, however, suspect that the Syrian-Saudi rapprochement is little more than lip service. ….

For now, however, it seems that Syrian-Saudi tensions are being defused. The two countries acknowledge their differences, but go on talking. And few would be surprised if President Al-Assad and King Abdullah were to meet face to face before the summer is over.

Norman writes:

This is a joke,

“We are reminding [the Syrians] of the natural links that we share,” said a Saudi royal adviser. “We have presented a way for them to get out of the hole that they have dug for themselves” with their alliance with Iran, the adviser said. It Is Syria that is bringing KSA back to the Arab fold and away from the Israeli-Western connection.”

Opening to Tourism, Syria Flaunts Hidden Treasures
2009-07-17 00:25: By Khaled Yacoub Oweis

DAMASCUS (Reuters) – Iranian pilgrims pray beside Arabs at the 8th-century Umayyad Mosque, one of Islam’s grandest sites. Down a nearby alley, European tourists watch restoration work at an Ottoman-era palace being converted into a hotel. ‘I’ve not …

But Syria’s modern history has been dominated by its struggle with Israel and Soviet-style policies since the Baath Party’s 1963 coup that reduced it to an economic backwater.

The United States imposed sanctions on Syria in 2004 and the government faces two United Nations investigations, although tensions have eased in recent months and Washington said in June it would appoint an ambassador to Damascus after a four-year hiatus.

“The business environment in Syria is still poorer than its neighbors, but this is a virgin market and the fact that so many investors are coming shows that the risk is worth taking,” said Jihad Yazigi, editor of the Syria Report online newsletter.

Only in the past decade has Syria eased restrictions on foreign exchange and banking and allowed companies to transfer profits abroad. But it remains among the world’s hardest places to do business, according to World Economic Forum study.

Courts lack safeguards against political interference and the workforce lacks language skills and training. Yet the risks have not put off investors from the oil-exporting Gulf.

Qatari Diyar, a real estate company owned by the Qatar Investment Authority, is building a $350 million resort on the Mediterranean coast. Kuwait’s Kharafi group is building a 361-room hotel in Damascus. Global hotel brands including Movenpick, Kempinski and Holiday Inn also plan developments…..

“Syria needs to do more preservation. I was in Lebanon and the level of indiscriminate construction made me never want to go back,” said Swiss tourist Roland Diethelm, who was having a drink on a hotel terrace overlooking the ruins at Palmyra.

Repeated wars have left scars on Syria’s neighbor Lebanon but those tourists who do make the journey often combine it with a short drive to Damascus.

Construction across Syria has been chaotic but investors are taking increasing care to preserve the character of Old Damascus and Aleppo, realizing that this is what many Europeans crave…..

Comments (36)


1. Elie Elhadj said:

Mrs. Asma Al-Asad is certainly an attractive, sophisticated, and modern lady. In gracing the pages of the media at home and abroad, she portrays a wonderful image of Syria.

However, Shari’a laws and courts in Syria continue to regulate personal status, family, and inheritance affairs (non-Muslims follow their own spiritual courts). Shari’a laws deny women many legal rights compared with Muslim men. Shari’a laws reduce women to chattel; with all the infringements that such laws impinge on women’s human rights in the modern age.

Despite its imposition of Shari’a personal status laws, Syria, nonetheless, propagates in the national discourse and abroad an image of modernity and equality between men and women.

For Syria be truthful, Shari’a laws and courts should be abolished. These should be replaced by modern laws and court systems.

Elie Elhadj

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July 20th, 2009, 11:07 am

 

2. Yaser said:

Hi Joshua,
thanks for putting the links to the story about first lady, I think she represents women struggle to have a role in the Syrian society, her contributions are undeniable ,however I must point out to the previous comment, it is true that the imposing of Shria law is threstening to take us decades backward, I have a remark as well about the new personal status law that is in the making, no metion about the momvement to oppose it here or on any other foriegn media, it seems foriegn media cares only on looks and doesn’t want to focus on the real issues facing a country like Syria.

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July 20th, 2009, 12:55 pm

 

3. t_desco said:

While it is nice that our Orwellian press is now allowed to discover that Syria is indeed inhabited by human beings, this begs the question: was Mrs. al-Asad any less likeable before the current attempt to isolate Iran?

Another interesting question: Why create tensions between UNIFIL and Hizbullah/the local population? What were the French troops trying to achieve?

Lebanese Army Holds UNIFIL Responsible
Naharnet, 20 Jul 09
(…)

As Safir and al-Akhbar newspapers said UNIFIL troops entered Khirbet Selm without coordinating with the Lebanese army, leading to a clash between residents and U.N. soldiers that left 14 peacekeepers lightly wounded.

As Safir said the Lebanese army command has informed UNIFIL commander Maj. Gen. Claudio Graziano that the U.N. peacekeepers were responsible for the mishap in Khirbet Selm “because of the mistake they committed when they tried to raid an inhabited house, surpassing the Lebanese army role and its jurisdiction.”

Military sources told As Safir that UNIFIL had no right, under Resolution 1701, to raid houses or set up checkpoints without prior coordination with the Lebanese army. (…)

Israel Trying to Exploit Khirbet Selm Incident to Amend UNIFIL Powers
Naharnet, 20 Jul 09

Renewal of UNIFIL mandate to be considered end of August by the Security Council could have been routine had it not been for the incident which took place in Khirbet Selm last week between U.N. peacekeepers and local residents, prompting Israel to hurry up and exploit the mishap in an effort to amend UNIFIL’s mandate in south Lebanon and change the Rules of Engagement with regards to Resolution 1701.

A well-informed diplomatic source told the daily al-Liwaa in remarks published Monday that urgent consultations were taking place at the United Nations that may lead to a call to discuss the clash between Khirbet Selm residents and French peacekeepers who tried to inspect a house where weapons were believed to be hidden near the area where an explosion went off in a Hizbullah arms depot on Tuesday.

Al-Akhbar newspaper, for its part, quoted an Arab diplomatic source in New York as saying that Israel does not wish to keep the Rules of Engagement untouched, which limit UNIFIL’s mandate to coordinated patrols with the Lebanese army.

Instead, the source said, Israel is seeking to turn UNIFIL into an “international deterrent force in southern Lebanon working for it.”

He added that Israel also wants to “introduce undercover international intelligence elements to UNIFIL.” (…)

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July 20th, 2009, 1:40 pm

 

4. Amir in Tel Aviv said:

The syndrome of the abused child abusive parent.

Today, I will comment about the Medium, and not about the content:

This is a blog about Syria. It’s a shame that this blog uses Syrian
methods and maladies, instead of presenting something fresh, something
different or better for Syria or for “Syrianness”.

For example. In the previous post I understood that there is “moderation”,
censorship, or better call it **hushing of criticism**.
Don’t be fooled by the laundered term “moderation”. Moderation is censorship.
‘Moderation’ is something that Tishrin does. It disappoints me that
it’s also a method used by SC.

For example (2), the promotion of Mrs. Asma’s wardrobe.
I have really nothing against her.
She looks like a lovely upper-middle class British girl.
Promoting the dictator’s wife wardrobe, is something I would expect from
Philippine press during the reign of Imelda and husband, or from
Argentinian press during Evita and husband dictator reign.
Not from SC.

Don’t forget, SC, that neither Asma nor her dictatorial husband, were ever elected.

Theories in psychology suggest that an abused child will become an
abusive parent.
I propose to the managers of this blog to hurry, and to seek a metaphoric psychological treatment; to try and to break those behavioral
pattern, that led their (metaphoric) parents, nowhere.
.

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July 20th, 2009, 8:20 pm

 

5. norman said:

MR Elhadj,

Do you have any ideas about how to push for a secular law like in the US that treat men and women equally , do you think that the outrage of the women is needed to push such an Agenda,

It is hard to have a law coming from the top when the most affected are not fighting for it.

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July 21st, 2009, 2:22 am

 

6. jad said:

“Theories in psychology suggest that an abused child will become an
abusive parent.”
Ah! That explain why the holocaust survivors are treating Palestinians in the same abusive way they’ve been treated by the Nazis. Right ya Prince?

http://www.normanfinkelstein.com/deutschland-uber-alles/

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July 21st, 2009, 5:21 am

 

7. Elie Elhadj said:

Norman,
You are correct in saying: “It is hard to have a law coming from the top when the most affected are not fighting for it.”

However, such a development will almost certainly not take place in Arab countries. Arab rulers, including Syria’s, will ensure that it’ll not evolve.

Although, I call for a repeal of Shari’a laws, I know full well that genuine religious and political reforms in Arab lands, will not happen for a very very long time, if ever. Why? Because Islam is the best friend of Arab kings and presidents. Islam helps prolong their dictatorships. Kings and presidents alike exploit the Islamic creed, albeit in varying degrees, to prolong their non-representative rule.

With the help of the palace ulama, Arab rulers invoke Islam to indoctrinate the Arab masses that blind obedience to Muslim rulers is a form of piety. In 4:59, the Quran orders: “Obey God and obey God’s messenger and obey those of authority among you.” According to Sahih Muslim, the Prophet reportedly said: “He who obeys me obeys God; he who disobeys me, disobeys God. He who obeys the ruler, obeys me; he who disobeys the ruler, disobeys me.” Further, In their embrace of Islam, the Arab masses, Syrians included, are obsessed with the belief in predestination. Rulers, even bad ones, are accepted as if they were ordained by God’s will.

Accordingly, it would not be surprising if Arab kings and presidents would want to keep their subjects intoxicated with religious dogma, predestination, angels, and djinn. In the hands of Arab rulers, Islam is a psychological defense instrument against political dissent, supplementing their famous brutal security forces.

One of the expressions of Arab rulers’ good Islamic credentials is maintaining Shari’a laws. Another is that the constitution of every Arab country (except Lebanon) specifies that Islam is the religion of the state. Syria’s constitution specifies that Islam is the religion of the president.

Whether in Amman, Cairo, Damascus, Riyadh, or Sana’a pandering palace ulama energetically threaten the masses with God’s wrath if they fail to uphold their Islamic duty to obey their king or president (waliy al-amr) blindly. Such preaching, combined with the abject poverty of the Arab masses, their illiteracy, ill health, obsession with religious dogma, and fear of the security forces render the majority of the Arab masses politically quietist.

To Arab kings or presidents Islam is a red line. Excluding Lebanon and to some extent Tunisia (which abolished Shari’a courts and polygamy about fifty years ago), there are no Arab country today that might be labelled as secular. The republics, Syria included, ought to be labelled either quasi-secular or quasi-Islamic. The monarchies are either Islamist (Saudi Arabia) or Islamic (the rest of the monarchies).

Elie

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July 21st, 2009, 8:01 am

 

8. jad said:

Dr. Elhadj,
What you wrote is the core true of our system defect in the arab world and I you were absolutely right when you said that genuine reform “will not happen for a very very long time, if ever.” I would agree with the later as it will NEVER happen in any of the Arab world as long as the rulers and the system itself with the help of the clergy use religion as their supporter and manipulate it to rule over the majority of Arabs.
One question, why and how in Tunisia the managed to become a dictatorship and another Arab failure example even after 50 years of abolishing the religious rules?

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July 21st, 2009, 2:26 pm

 

9. Elie Elhadj said:

Jad,
Al-Habib Bourgeiba had overstayed his welcome, until Zein Al-Abedin Bin Ali forced him out of power.

Bougeiba\’s religious reforms were not matched by democratic reforms.

Bin Ali is a military ruler in the mold of the other Arab military dictators and kings. These men refuse to give up power voluntarily. They find it expedient to exploit Islam as a supplement to an elaborate military security apparatus.

Elie

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July 21st, 2009, 3:48 pm

 

10. Akbar Palace said:

That explain why the holocaust survivors are treating Palestinians in the same abusive way they’ve been treated by the Nazis. Right ya Prince?

JAD,

Please ask the esteemed polemic, Dr. Norman Finkelstein, to add the following photos in order to “fulfill” his comparison of Israel to Nazi Germany:

– a slideshow showing how Jewish infants and children were brainwashed to martyr themselves along with Nazis they found.

http://littlegreenfootballs.com/weblog/pictures/PalestinianChildAbuse/

– billions of aid money flowing into Nazi-controlled Jewish areas

– Israeli crematoria and gas chambers

– Israeli firing squads showing civilians lined up, shot and thrown into burial pits

– Hundreds of Nazi trucks sending in food and medicine into Jewish areas on a daily basis

– Jews under Nazi rule successfully digging hundreds of tunnels to smuggle in anything from refrigerators to missiles

– Jews firing thousands of missiles, katyushas and mortars into neighboring German population centers over a span of seven years

– Jews only suffering 1500 dead due to Nazi retaliation from Jewish “resistance”

Unfortunately, Good ‘ol Norm isn’t telling the whole story.

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July 21st, 2009, 3:49 pm

 

11. jad said:

Dr. Elhadj,
Thank you for the explanation.
That means we are DOOMED with this situation regardless how advance or secular or open minded or peaceful our society will become and there are no solutions or exit because the whole society is part of this cycle of undemocratic systems we’ve got.
In short it is useless to even dream of a better future in any of the Arab world.

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July 21st, 2009, 4:02 pm

 

12. jad said:

– billions of aid money flowing into Nazi-controlled Jewish areas

True and still happening because the tribe of Israel under it’s occupation letting people to live like slave so all help are needed it called HUMANITARIAN aid but I guess robots don’t believe in that do they?

– Israeli crematoria and gas chambers

We don’t need to look too much to see how Gaza 2008 and Lebanon 2006 the tribe of Israel dealt with do we?

– Israeli firing squads showing civilians lined up, shot and thrown into burial pits

Well the tribe of Israel crimes didn’t only start with Deir Yaseen killing all men in the field in front of their families and wont end with Gaza would it?

– Hundreds of Nazi trucks sending in food and medicine into Jewish areas on a daily basis

TRUE!!!
http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2009/jul/05/gaza-israel-palestine-war

– Jews under Nazi rule successfully digging hundreds of tunnels to smuggle in anything from refrigerators to missiles

When the tribe of Israel doesn’t allowed food to come in then everything is allowed people are not like robots they need food water and medicine to live like a normal human being.

– Jews firing thousands of missiles, katyushas and mortars into neighboring German population centers over a span of seven years

When the tribe of Israel stop killing everything from trees to human and firing on Palestinians days and nights for the last 70 years then a Katuscha r the almighty Quassam is considered a self defense

– Jews only suffering 1500 dead due to Nazi retaliation from Jewish “resistance”

ONLY 1500? I know that you lie but only 1500 is a HUGE one that you deserve to be called [deleted by admin]

I’ll let you search and link all articles that answer all the lies you wrote because you will find plenty.

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July 21st, 2009, 4:28 pm

 

13. Elie Elhadj said:

Jad,
Regrettably, what you concluded is true.

Religious and Democratic reforms in Arab countries are sheer fantasy. Democratic ideology cannot defeat Islamic theology. It is naive to think otherwise, sadly.

An international survey conducted by Gallup International for the BBC World Service program in September 2005, Who Runs Your World, found that in Egypt 87% of Muslims considered that their religion was their most important defining characteristic, giving Egypt the most robust religious identity of any of the sixty-eight countries surveyed.

When the presidents of Egypt and Yemen allowed contested presidential elections on September 7, 2005 and September 20, 2006, respectively, the former gained a fifth term with 88.6% of the votes cast, hardly different from his four previous sham referendums, and the latter won 77.2% majority, after 28 years of absolute rule. Even if the regime had falsified a big proportion of the election ballots, there would still be left impressive support to the incumbents.

Elie

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July 21st, 2009, 4:51 pm

 

14. Nour said:

I accidentally posted previously in Jad’s name while I intended to respond to Jad. Sorry.

Jad,

Nothing is doomed. We are currently in a stagnant state due to many factors, but our nation has proved throughout its history that it can overcome all obstacles it encounters and advance and develop itself to take its rightful place among the nations. Antoun Saadeh said “we have a strength which, if put into effect, can change the face of history.” We indeed have this strength and this ability to advance and transform our society from its current stagnant state to a dynamic nation contributing to the advancement of human civilization.

It is up to us to make this change. The main reason for our woes is our lack of national consciousness, and as long as we refuse to be aware of our national identity, we will continue down the current path. However, if people like us are able to see our reality for what it is and are able to offer the cure to our ailments, then it is our responsibility to bring this cure to the people, no matter how much hard work and perseverence it requires.

Antoun Saadeh told the Syrian people “I do not come believing in miracles and the paranormal, but in the reality which is YOU.”

We have to have faith in our nation and in our people’s abilities, and from this faith we can do and accomplish anything. Let us not forget that society always tends to march towards what is better. To give up and surrender to the current situation is a sure way to meet defeat. However, life is a struggle, and as long as we are active participants in this struggle, we are sure to eventually prevail.

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July 21st, 2009, 5:02 pm

 

15. Akbar Palace said:

JAD,

We don’t need to look too much to see how Gaza 2008 and Lebanon 2006 the tribe of Israel dealt with do we?

No matter how hard you look, you will not find a gas chamber or crematoria.

When the tribe of Israel doesn’t allowed food to come in then everything is allowed people are not like robots they need food water and medicine to live like a normal human being.

http://www.mfa.gov.il/MFA/Government/Communiques/2009/Humanitarian_aid_to_Gaza_following_6_month_calm.htm

When the tribe of Israel stop killing everything from trees to human and firing on Palestinians days and nights for the last 70 years then a Katuscha r the almighty Quassam is considered a self defense

I didn’t see Norman say anything about “almighty Quassam”.

ONLY 1500?

This was the conservative/high number of those killed during the IDF invasion of Gaza, of course, NOT distinguishing between combantant and non-combatant.

Just FYI, my preceding post to you wasn’t to say Palestinians aren’t suffering. They are, but they have a choice. Jews under Nazi rule had no choice, no safe haven NOT claimed by the Nazis, no state, no option to sign a peace treaty with Germany, and no charter stating that Jews will never recognize Germany or advising Jews to kill all German citizens.

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July 21st, 2009, 5:06 pm

 

16. Nour said:

Elie,

The same was true of Christians in Medieval Europe. I imagine if you viewed European society at that time you would have had the same position of hopelessness. But again, society always moves toward what is better, and just as Europeans were able to rid themselves of the control of their religious mentalities, so will we be able to do the same given sufficient time.

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July 21st, 2009, 5:06 pm

 

17. jad said:

Dr. Elhadj,
I totally agree with you.
What I believe in, is this:
Religious and Democracy doesn’t work together and if we want to build a State/Watan, religion and stat MUST be separated for our Watan to flourish and any other solution is nothing but mirage.
We are living in the middle ages of Europe and we are shamelessly proud of it!

I read an article for Mr. Haj Saleh, he actually support the theory that we need to let the religious party to lead for couple terms before we get used to the freedom and choose other more secular party to rule us, I personally disagree because I think that letting religious political party to lead is a recipe for giving more power to the religious group which their ultimate goal is to rule over our life using God’s indubitable rules.

نعيش بين خرافتين: الاولى تطلقها السلطة والثانية المخابرات ؟ http://all4syria.info/content/view/11628/104/

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July 21st, 2009, 5:13 pm

 

18. Nour said:

Germany is a legitimate state as the Germans are the rightful inhabitants of their land, and as such it cannot be compared with the unnatural, illegitimate, cancerous state of “Israel”. The problem with Germany is that it saw the rise of a highly racist, overly aggressive regime in part of its history, which caused the suffering of many people. But this has no bearing on the legitimacy of the state itself.

“Israel” was created on the blood and bones of another people. Its very creation is based on the ethnic cleansing and massacring of another people who are the indigenous inhabitants of land coveted by the Jews. “Israel” is by nature a cancerous, racist entity that aims to create a state for Jews only on land inhabited by others. It is thus inherently oppressive and repressive, and because of its very nature can only exist through brute force and the subjugation of an entire people.

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July 21st, 2009, 5:21 pm

 

19. Elie Elhadj said:

Nour,
Your faith is laudable.

I agree with your statement:”just as Europeans were able to rid themselves of the control of their religious mentalities, so will we be able to do the same given sufficient time.”

So, let us start today with steps towards genuine religious and democratic reforms. Let us work on manumitting the Arab mind from the obtrusive control of the ulama. Unless the ulama’s control is ended, the Arab and Muslim peoples will subsist in a trap of stagnating poverty, backwardness, and ignorance—the object of ridicule and exploitation by the developed world.

Let us free Arab women from being treated as inferior being with less human rights than Muslim men. Let us stop the duplicity of those so-called “secular” rulers who are obsessed with displaying petty expressions of modernity in order to trick their audiences into believing that they are modern, while those same rulers maintain seventh century Shari’a laws.

Let us teach science instead of the nonsense of predestination and the machinations of the evil eye, angels and djinn.

Europe developed the Industrial Revolution not because of Christianity but in spite of Christianity. Had it not been for Martin Luther’s revolution in the 1500s, which manumitted the Christian mind from the debilitating control of the church, Europe would not have probably ruled the world in the 1900s.

I agree with your quote of Antoine Saade: “we have a strength which, if put into effect, can change the face of history,” provided that the Arab individual rid himself (herself) of the religious baggage that manacle Muslims to seventh century laws and dogma of the Arabian Desert.

Without the pain of genuine religious and democratic reforms the thrill of hope and progress will never be realized.

Personally, I find that genuine religious and democratic reforms in Arab lands to be a naive mirage.

Elie

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July 21st, 2009, 6:08 pm

 

20. jad said:

Dear Nour,
I agree with Dr. Elhadj, your faith is “laudable”, I used to be more optimistic than now but lately, I almost lost any optimism of a better future in the land of Arabs, unfortunately it became the land of ghosts.

Dear Dr. Elie
“Let us free Arab women from being treated as inferior being with less human rights than Muslim men. Let us stop the duplicity of those so-called “secular” rulers who are obsessed with displaying petty expressions of modernity in order to trick their audiences into believing that they are modern, while those same rulers maintain seventh century Shari’a laws.
Let us teach science instead of the nonsense of predestination and the machinations of the evil eye, angels and djinn.”

MIRAGE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! It wont happen (smile)

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July 21st, 2009, 7:06 pm

 

21. Nour said:

Jad and Elie:

Social transformations of the type we are discussing do not happen overnight. They require generations and generations of struggle and arduous work. Elie, you are absolutely right in demanding that we free our minds of the control of the Ulama and other religious authorities. And you are even more right in calling out the duplicity of the so-called “Secular” rulers, who do not possess true national consciousness and have no knowledge of or interest in how to implement a true secular system, with modern civil laws and civic institutions treating all citizens as members of a single nation equal in rights and duties.

The secular movements and other groups and intellectuals who spearheaded the renaissance in Europe had to confront and remain steadfast against enormous obstacles, as the church, the ruling authorities, and other reactionary forces did not leave a single weapon unused in their vicious wars against them. We face similar conditions in our Syrian nation specifically, and the Arab World in general.

However, I have no doubt that in the end we will see similar results arise in our nation, where our people become conscious of there national identity and drop their religious and sectarian mentalities in exchange for a secular, nationalist view where they see that religion is better left to its metaphysical sphere away from the temporal matters reserved for the state. Antoun Saadeh also told all Social Nationalists that they are “to witness the greatest victory for the greatest patience in history.”

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July 21st, 2009, 8:05 pm

 

22. jad said:

Nour,
You are right that transformation require generations of struggle, the problem I see is not time because this struggle we as Syrians had been through is ancient, however, we didn’t manage to pass the point Dr. Elie is building his argument about and we won’t until we pass over this dilemma of State vs. Religion.
From history lessons we learned that no society get what they want without the honest ‘will’ to improve and that what we are missing, there is no true will right now in Syria by any party to progress on any front, we are great in words and promises to change but we don’t actually do anything to move, you know very well what I mean.
NO WILL + WORK mean NO PROGRESS as simple as that!

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July 21st, 2009, 11:28 pm

 

23. norman said:

You can take the horse to the water but you can not make him drink , so are the people in the Mideast , they have to be ready to declare and feel that they know what is good for themselves and that they do not need the guidance of the religious establishment untill then we have to make it easier for them to know how other people live and that everybody is responsible for his own deeds , so if anybody is doing something shameful , that shame should only affect the Pearson responsible not his family and that should be hammered again and again so families will stop killing their sisters and cousins in the name of protecting the family , and any achievements should be related to the person who is accomplishing these acheivments , It is time to treat people for what they do and achieve instead of what their family did ,

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July 22nd, 2009, 2:35 am

 

24. Elie Elhadj said:

Nour and Jad,

We seem to agree that separating the state from Islam is the key for future progress. I hope that we also agree that the place to start is the replacement of Shari’a’s personal status laws with modern family laws. To restore dignity and human rights to 50% of the population transcends all other benefits.

Nour,
A small comment on Your statement: “the duplicity of the so-called “Secular” rulers, who …. have no knowledge of or interest in how to implement a true secular system.” I find the words “have no knowledge” to be too charitable. The rulers, kings and presidents, do know the score pretty well. But, since they are non-representative dictators, they try to hang onto anything over and above brute military force to prolong their tyranny—-in this case they use Islam as the anaesthetic to numb the masses.

Surely, the sophisticated modern Mrs. Asad and Mr. Asad must appreciate how demeaning Shari’a laws are to Syria’s women. Likewise, the women in high government positions must know that as well. Yet, almost fifty years after ceasing power, the supposedly “secular” Baath Party continues to embrace seventh century rules from the Arabian Desert.

Most disappointing here is the government’s newly proposed personal status law of May 2009, which reaffirms Shari’a hold on Syria’s society. Such a proposal is a disgrace. For Syria’s president to allow such a proposal to be even considered is a sad retrograde step. Not only the substance of the proposed new law is backwards but also the use of words like “Nikah” interchangeably with “Zawaj” to mean marriage is vulgar. Was the new law drafted by Wahhabis, I wonder?

The hypocrisy of it all is breathtakingly depressing.

Elie

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July 22nd, 2009, 7:43 am

 

25. Shai said:

Akbar,

When Khaled Mashaal says:“Hamas won’t stand in the way of PA/Israel Deal”, what do you think he means? Should we ignore it? Is he still not recognizing Israel? (By the way, you never defined for us what you mean by “recognize Israel”. Were you planning to do that sometime?)

http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/1102016.html

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July 22nd, 2009, 8:47 am

 

26. Alex said:

This comment is by Nour, it was stuck in moderation because Nour entered Jad instead of his name:

Jad,

Nothing is doomed. We are currently in a stagnant state due to many factors, but our nation has proved throughout its history that it can overcome all obstacles it encounters and advance and develop itself to take its rightful place among the nations. Antoun Saadeh said “we have a strength which, if put into effect, can change the face of history.” We indeed have this strength and this ability to advance transform our society from its current stagnant state to a dynamic nation contributing to the advancement of human civilization.

It is up to us to make this change. The main reason for our woes is our lack of national consciousness, and as long as we refuse to be aware of our national identity, we will continue down the current path. However, if people like us are able to see our reality for what it is and are able to offer the cure to our ailments, then it is our responsibility to bring this cure to the people, no matter how much hard work and perseverence it requires.

Antoun Saadeh told the Syrian people “I do not come believing in miracles and the paranormal, but in the reality which is YOU.”

We have to have faith in our nation and in our people’s abilities, and from this faith we can do and accomplish anything. Let us not forget that society always tends to march towards what is better. To give up and surrender to the current situation is a sure way to meet defeat. However, life is a struggle, and as long as we are active participants in this struggle, we are sure to eventually prevail.

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July 22nd, 2009, 8:57 am

 

27. jad said:

Dr. Elie,
I do agree with your take.
Please don’t make me start on the shameful proposed status law, that was the most disgusting and depressing piece of legal document I ever read, and I think that it wasn’t dealt with properly by the government/the system at all, it was a huge step backward that reflect the miserable legal system situation Syria is right now without including the experienced layers and policy makers to drive Syria in the right direction on the domestic level. Frankly that was a major turn off for me.
As you wrote “The hypocrisy of it all is breathtakingly depressing” I think depressing is the best polite word you can use on here otherwise my comment will be as Offended said [deleted by admin]!

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July 22nd, 2009, 4:12 pm

 

28. Nour said:

Jad,

I think it’s a bit harsh, and inaccurate, to state that no party or movement is moving or progressing on any front. To give you a small example, when Antoun Saadeh founded the Syrian Social Nationalist Party, he began with five total members, three of which ended up leaving. However, within a few years, the SSNP had thousands of members fighting and struggling for the renaissance of their nation and it’s transformation into a free, strong, dynamic entity expressing the true will of the Syrian people. This means that within a few years he managed to convince thousands of Syrians, who had grown up in purely sectarian, tribal, religious environments to abandon those reactionary mentalities in exchange for a more progressive view of society. It is indeed quite an accomplishment.

Now let’s fast forward about 60 years later. At the time the SSNP was founded any talk of separation between religion and state was deemed to be blasphemy. It was considered completely unacceptable and was fought viciously by all reactionary forces in the nation. Today, we see that many people are beginning to address this issue openly and publicly, with the support of a large portion of Syrians. I have seen tv series, talk shows, political programs, and other such forums discuss freely the importance of separating between religious instititons and state institutions, and calling for the establishment of civil society, whereby all citizens in the nation are treated on the basis of their citizenship, rather than on the basis of their religious, tribal, or sectarian background.

Let us not forget that our nation was victim to numerous invasions and foreign plots and designs, and that we continue to confront these dangers. Therefore, it should be quite understandable that much more struggle is required to instill in our people true national consciousness that would free them from the enslaving mentalities of religious fundamentalism and narrow sectarianism. But do not lose faith in your people, as they were the pioneers of civilization and free thought, and shall once again occupy their rightful place among the nations. In this fact I have total and absolute faith, but I understand that it won’t happen without painful, frustrating struggle that is going to require every bit of energy we have.

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July 22nd, 2009, 4:14 pm

 

29. Nour said:

Dear Elie,

What I meant by my assertion that our rulers had no “knowledge” of how to implement a truly secular system was not that they were oblivious to the destructive effect of medieval religious laws on society, but rather that when these people came into power, they had no capability of building a true civic system that would be expressive of the will of the people and representative of their interest, because they lacked national consciousness and were not qualified to assume such a responsibility. I also stated, however, that they had no “interest” in doing so either because they were preoccupied with maintaining their hold on power and that involved having to appease religious groups, so that they do not give them a reason to want to fight them.

Also, I want to clarify that I believe there should a separation between RELIGION and state and not merely Islam and state. I understand that the majority of our people are Muslim and Islam is the main religious force driving our society but it is important to make clear that our issue is not with “Islam” specifically but rather with the involvement of any and all religious institutions, including the church, in temporal matter.

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July 22nd, 2009, 4:21 pm

 

30. Akbar Palace said:

Germany is a legitimate state as the Germans are the rightful inhabitants of their land, and as such it cannot be compared with the unnatural, illegitimate, cancerous state of “Israel”.

Nour,

Just because you say Germany “cannot be compared with the unnatural, illegitimate, cancerous state of ‘Israel'” doesn’t make it true.

The fact is Israel is just a legitimate as Germany.

When Syria is ready to make peace with your imaginary “illegitimate” State of Israel, Syria can legitimately get the Golan back. Likewise for Palestine.

Until the Mahdi comes, we can’t have our cake and eat it. According to some past participants here, that could be any day.

“Israel” was created on the blood and bones of another people.

Israel was created after the Arabs rejected a partition plan that they would be more than happy to accept today. The blood and bones of about 1% of the Jewish population was the approximate cost on our side as well as those that fell due to Arab terrorism.

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July 22nd, 2009, 4:45 pm

 

31. jad said:

Dear Nour,
I didn’t mean a ‘political party’ or ‘ideology’ in my comment, what I meant is the government/system/regime/clergy and the opposition powers that are leading our society today, most of them don’t do ‘anything’ to change ‘anything’, they like it as it is and they are not doing any real work to move forward, not only on the secular front but on other important issues not related in anyway to religion such as Environment, Development, Economy, Agriculture, Education ets, all those are the main pillars to build a better society, a smart society, a society that you can depend on to progress and move forward even before you ask them to separate their religion from the state (whatever there beliefs are), you need to build stadium, libraries, theatres, cinemas, community centres, gyms, parks…You need to build a whole new world of facilities that support other needs physical/cultural/mental so you can push them away from the closed minded, uneducated, deeply religious and conservative society they live in and from what I see and read we didn’t do anything of that for the last 60 years so how are we asking the society to change and become open minded and believe in secularism while we didn’t give that society any alternatives? This is why I was saying that we failed and we are failing in the progress we want unless we build the alternatives and correct our legal society and give back the people the trust they need.

I agree that we’ve been under many attacks and pressures from multiple major powers through out our Syrian history and we still are, but at the same time our systems during all those times didn’t work toward developing any of their rules even when we were relatively under less pressure, and to say or even think that we wont be under any pressure would be a pure myth.
Look around the Arab word not only Syria, there are some Arab countries are not under any pressure yet they are still living the same way they did 100 years ago, nothing change, the presidents/kings/corrupted supporters are still the same, the backward mentality still the same, women rights still the same (in Kuwait they didn’t get the right to vote until recently) if we failed to treat society right with or without pressure and if we failed to improve our youth hobbies and encourage the sport/art/cultural persona in them with or without pressure how are we going to progress and develop as you are saying.
IT WON’T HAPPEN, not today, not tomorrow and not in one hundred years from now unless we WORK toward that but unfortunately we are not.

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July 22nd, 2009, 5:13 pm

 

32. Akbar Palace said:

When Khaled Mashaal says:“Hamas won’t stand in the way of PA/Israel Deal”, what do you think he means?

Shai,

I’ll take Nour’s que from Post 18 (which you always seem to gloss over) and explain to you that Hamas is an unnatural, illegitimate, cancerous terrorist organization.

Which is the Obama Administration’s excuse as well.

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July 22nd, 2009, 5:28 pm

 

33. Shai said:

Akbar,

I have a problem communicating with people who refer to others as “parasites”, “cancerous”, “jihadists”, etc.

You still haven’t answered the question “How does one recognize the State of Israel?” Since you and many others make this demand of Hamas, Syria, and the little green men from Mars, I want to know HOW one goes about it.

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July 22nd, 2009, 5:46 pm

 

34. Nour said:

Dear Jad,

No doubt that we have to work in order to achieve a renaissance in our nation. I would never claim otherwise. But I believe with this work we will reach what we are striving to reach. Again, we have indeed achieved many things in the last few decades that may not have yet translated into an all out transformation but that have nevertheless left their imprints on society. One of which, as I previously stated, is the open and public calls for secularism and separation between religion and state.

All that you listed as necessary measures for advancement and developments are true, but they cannot come about unless the people have a minimum amount of national consciousness. Upon becoming aware of our national identity and working to fulfill our potential as a society and as individuals within the one society, all that you have listed will spring up naturally. I will repeat that the main cause of our woes is or loss of national identity. This lack of a clear understanding of our social reality has led us to identifying ourselves with particularistic groups within the nation, whether religious, sectarian, or tribal, thereby fragmenting the nation and dissipating its energies. As such we have remained in a state of ignorance continuing to be slaves to our backwards religious, sectarian, tribal mentalities.

Our rulers do not have a real interest in changing the situation beacause they are more concerned with maintaining their hold on power. In addition, they are one of the groups within this society who lack national consciousness and who adhere to reactionary mentalities. Therefore, it is up to us to bring about the change at the grassroots level. Once our people become aware of their national identity and begin acting in furtherance of their national interest, you will see the change manifest itself on all levels of society.

Nevertheless, this change is happening now, albeit in a slow pace because of the surrounding circumstances which we cannot deny. I completely agree that pressure will continue to be applied on our nation and we have to work diligently in spite of this pressure. Just look at how the US and other western nations attempt to strangulate us and deny us basic necessities for the improvement of our national life for the sole reason that we refuse to surrender our right to our homeland. This is a deliberate, concerted effort to keep us in a backwards state so that we will forever lack the ability to defend our national interest and exercise real sovereignty over every inch of our land. Yet we continue to move forward even while confronting this pressure and this threat to our national interest. And I have no doubt that we are bound to succeed and prevail in the end given the history of our nation and all its previous achievements and accomplishments. Just keep your faith in your people and realize that you come from a great nation that has historically been at the forefront of scientific, artistic, and literary achievements as well as intellectual innovations.

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July 22nd, 2009, 6:28 pm

 

35. Nour said:

“Israel” is an unnatural, cancerous entity because its very existence is based on the annihilation of an indigenous people who is to be replaced with a foreign group. “Israel” was founded by collecting Jews from different countries around the world and artificially implanting them in a land inhabited by another people, after which those original inhabitants were ethnically cleansed from their land. But of course we are told that we cannot use accurate words to describe the usurping entity so as not to hurt the feelings of the occupiers and settlers of Palestine. Rather, we should all hold hands and sing “kumbaya” all the while recognizing the right of Jews to build a state exclusively for themselves on our land. What utter nonsense. If anyone claims to support the Syrian people in general, and Palestinians in particular, then they are required to recognize our legitimate national right over every single inch of our homeland. Otherwise spare us all the nonsensical, disingenuous “peace” discussions.

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July 22nd, 2009, 6:39 pm

 

36. asma lovly said:

asma lovly

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February 26th, 2010, 2:29 pm

 

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