Posted by Joshua on Thursday, June 4th, 2009
Obama’s Speech: a Syrian Reaction
Syria Comment, Thursday June 4, 2009
It is tempting to get intoxicated by what some are already calling Obama’s “new beginning with the Muslim world” and on the changed tone from Washington.
On a closer look, however, the speech does nothing to change the facts on the ground.
The 1.5 Billion Moslems and Arabs did not need the reminder that in the Middle East, America’s concern for Israel’s security “is paramount,” as Obama said in his al-Arabiya broadcast of a few months ago:
““America’s strong bonds with Israel are well known. This bond is unbreakable. It is based upon cultural and historical ties, and the recognition that the aspiration for a Jewish homeland is rooted in a tragic history that cannot be denied.
Around the world, the Jewish people were persecuted for centuries, and Antisemitism in Europe culminated in an unprecedented Holocaust. Tomorrow, I will visit Buchenwald, which was part of a network of camps where Jews were enslaved, tortured, shot and gassed to death by the Third Reich. Six million Jews were killed – more than the entire Jewish population of Israel today. Denying that fact is baseless, ignorant, and hateful. Threatening Israel with destruction – or repeating vile stereotypes about Jews – is deeply wrong, and only serves to evoke in the minds of Israelis this most painful of memories while preventing the peace that the people of this region deserve.”
The above does not justify Israel’s conduct and occupation.
OK, necessary words within an American context, Arabs may concede. Arabs would even be able to embrace these words if Arabs were for once treated equally with Israelis, with justice, and according to international law. But that is not what Obama told Arabs.
What does Mr. Obama demand from Israel?
“At the same time, Israelis must acknowledge that just as Israel’s right to exist cannot be denied, neither can Palestine’s. The United States does not accept the legitimacy of continued Israeli settlements”.
This is an admission that the U.S. cannot guarantee that the settlements will be dismantled. Only “continued” settlement is condemned. Their is no reference to the Arab peace plan. He also avoided any specificity about how he will deliver on a Palestinian state and how viable that entity will be.
The Palestinian side “must put an end to violence, recognize past agreements, and recognize Israel’s right to exist. “
What does Israel have to do?
Israel “must also live up to its obligations to ensure that Palestinians can live, and work, and develop their society.’’ There was no call for them to give up violence or to obey international law.
As for Iran, “It is about preventing a nuclear arms race in the Middle East that could lead this region and the world down a hugely dangerous path.”
What does he say about Syria or other Arab occupied land?
This subject was not even worth a mention. The Arab-Israeli conflict was essentially reduced to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.
The U.S. renews the sanction on Syria. It then asks to send a delegation from Centcom to discuss Iraqi security. Yet, the President refuses to even mention Syria in his speech or offer a commitment to renewed peace talks on that front. Washington seems committed to cherry picking in Syria. Choosing to address the issues that benefit it while rejecting discussion of the issues of occupation that drive Syrian policy in the region.
Ford Prefect said:
One can argue the merits or the shortcomings of the Obama’s speech in Cairo endlessly. However, we need to also underscore the gesture of this speech in parallel to its content. The fact that an American president chose an Islamic capital to address the Muslim world is, in and of itself, a significant fact – one that underscores this administration’s boldness and innovative thinking.
Having said that, however, I wish he has used his speech to signify the importance of the Arab Israeli conflict and how this conflict is pitting two great civilizations against one another.
Abstracting the conflict into fun-sized components of “settlements” vs. “violence” is naïve at best. As most in the West believe, if Hamas and HA would just stop their armed resistance, and if Israel would just stop its ever-expanding settlements, peace in the Middle East will suddenly happen by default. I wish it was that simple. And conveniently forgetting to mention Syria, god, bad, or indifferent shows that Foggy Bottom still doesn’t get it.
And one final observation: The hand-picked, by-invitation-only Mubarak cronies applauded heavily when Obama justly renounced torture and the closing of Guantanamo prison. How funny!
Sami Moubayed on the speech
When asked to mention their favorite US presidents, three names usually come to the mind of ordinary Syrians: John F. Kennedy, Jimmy Carter, and Bill Clinton. As far as the Syrians are concerned, these three presidents were the ones to have pursued relative justice, in the Arab-Israeli Conflict.
Syria to Relax Share Price Trading Band on Damascus Exchange
009-06-01, By Nadim Issa
June 1 (Bloomberg) — The Syrian Commission on Financial Markets & Securities will relax the limit imposed on share price movements on the Damascus Stock Exchange this month, said Elias Haddad, deputy chairman of the Commission. “We are speeding up on this issue because we want to increase the demand on trading in the Damascus bourse and the Commission will meet in a few days to sort this out,” Haddad said today by phone from Damascus. At the same time, the Commission will give international investors access to the exchange, said Haddad.
“We are also working on amending the corporate law to lower the nominal value of listed companies shares from 500 Syrian pounds to 100 or 50 Syrian pounds,” Haddad said, adding that the change in corporate law will have to be ratified by government. Under current rules share prices are allowed to fluctuate by two percentage points before trading is halted.
by Gary Gambill
The Jewish Chronicle (London)
21 May 2009
Two weeks ahead of its elections, Lebanon is conducting a wide-ranging crackdown on alleged Israeli spies. In sharp contrast to previous, smaller-scale operations, the current wave of arrests is being spearheaded not by Hizbollah or the army, but by the Internal Security Forces (ISF), an American-trained agency commanded by partisans of parliamentary majority leader Saad Hariri.
The commander of the ISF, Gen Ashraf Rifi, claims that the crackdown is the culmination of high-tech surveillance dating back nearly two years. But many suspect that the timing is intended to bolster the ruling coalition’s bleak electoral prospects — both by re-affirming its anti-Zionist bona fides and by demonstrating that the state can contend with Israel without Hizbollah’s militia.
Indeed, some supporters of the current government report that the alleged spy network has penetrated the ranks of Hizbollah itself. In contrast, pro-opposition media portray the crackdown as a vindication of Hizbollah’s warnings about the Israeli threat and play up the fact that one of the men arrested is nominally a member of Hariri’s Future Movement.
So how the campaign will affect the elections is difficult to say with any degree of certainty. Whatever the outcome of the election, however, the counterespionage campaign will likely raise serious questions in the US Congress about continued American security assistance to Lebanon.
Nothwithstanding the array of captured spy gadgets put on display by the ISF, it is not clear how much substance there is to the charges. Security crimes continue to be prosecuted under a system of military tribunals similar to Syria’s. Mr Rifi has proudly proclaimed that most of the accused have given full confessions, but this is nothing to be proud of. Torture is virtually routine in security cases and the tribunals almost never recognise the retraction of confessions extracted under duress. Since uncooperative detainees can be held arbitrarily for years before they even see a military judge, everyone confesses eventually. At this point, the only people that one can safely assume were spying for Israel are the three men who have quietly slipped across the border since the crackdown began.
Gary Gambill is editor of Mideast Monitor