Patrick Seale on the Damascus Summit

Rescuing Peace in the Middle East

By Patrick Seale

(posted by Alex) 

The four leaders who met in Damascus this past week have this in common: they recognize the extreme danger of the present situation in the region, and the unwelcome fact that U.S. President George W Bush, far from acting to resolve conflicts, is largely responsible for the prevailing tensions.The mini-summit in the Syrian capital brought together President Nicolas Sarkozy of France, Turkey’s Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the Emir Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani of Qatar, and their host, Syrian President Bashar al-Asad.

These four leaders are not seeking to expel the U .S. from Middle East peace-making. On the contrary, they concede that a U.S. role will ultimately be indispensable.  But they feel the urgent need to step into the vacuum created by American failure and wrong-headedness — a vacuum likely to last well into 2009, until the next U.S. President gets into his stride and Israel resolves its current political turmoil.

summit-in-damascus.jpg

Among the many potential flashpoints in the region, which might explode into violent conflict at any moment, are Israel’s unresolved conflicts with Hamas in Gaza and with Hizballah in Lebanon, and the unsettled state of Iraq. Overhanging the entire region is the threat of a clash between Iran on the one hand and Israel and/or the U.S. on the other. It is obvious that any such clash would be immensely damaging to the security and prosperity of the entire Gulf region.

Fear about the regional fall-out from these many conflicts continues to inspire Qatar’s highly-active diplomacy. This small but rich Gulf emirate has won a brilliant reputation as a peace-maker. It has successfully mediated between Lebanon’s warring factions; it aspires to play a similar role in Yemen; and it has sought to ease tensions between Iran and the Arab Gulf. Behind the scenes, it has also tried to encourage a dialogue between Israel and the Arabs.

The four leaders meeting in Damascus are determined to keep current talks going between conflicting parties and, more ambitiously, to formulate a credible regional ‘peace agenda’, which the next U.S. President and the next Israeli Prime Minister will not be able to ignore.

Sarkozy — a self-declared ‘friend of Israel’– is concerned that time for a regional settlement is running out, in part at least because of Israel’s relentless expansion into Palestinian territory and Iran’s nuclear programme.

According to sources close to him, he is convinced that the creation of a Palestinian state, a Syrian-Israeli peace treaty and a deal with Tehran over its nuclear ambitions are the only guarantees of Israel’s long-term security. Without progress on all three fronts, Israel would, he believes, be condemned to live in a hostile environment for the foreseeable future and have to fight endless wars. Its very existence would then be in danger.

Turkey’s Prime Minister Erdogan, on good terms with both Israel and Syria, is well-placed to host the Syrian-Israeli talks which have been taking place in Ankara – so far only indirect talks, but likely to progress to direct negotiations once agreement is reached on the basic principles of a peace settlement, and once a new American president, committed to peace, takes office.

Erdogan is also deeply concerned about the situation in the Caucasus and the Black Sea. He fears that the U.S. may overplay its hand in Georgia and the Ukraine and draw Turkey, a NATO member of long-standing, into an unwanted confrontation with Russia — which happens to be Turkey’s main trading partner, supplying three-quarters of the gas it consumes and nearly a third of its oil.

Erdogan has secured Sarkozy’s backing for his so-called Caucasus Stability and Cooperation Pact – an ambitious project which would include Turkey and Russia as well as Georgia, Armenia and Azarbaijan. If such a pact could be formed, it would be a triumph for Turkish diplomacy.

Syria is an unavoidable player in Middle East peace-making, as France, Turkey and Qatar have recognized. It has a central role to play in Lebanon, in the Arab-Israeli conflict, in its strategic relations with Iran and in its influence in Iraq. But, trapped in outdated policies, largely dictated by pro-Israeli neo-conservatives, the U.S. continues to cold-shoulder and sanction Syria.

It is no accident that, instead of being in Damascus last week – where the real action was taking place — Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice was far away in Libya, making it up with the erratic Colonel Muammar al-Qadafi.

President Bashar al-Asad is acutely aware of the dangers Syria will face if the chance of peace is missed. Peace, he knows, is an essential precondition for the creation of the modern and prosperous Syria he dreams of. But, in seeking peace – and the return of the Golan Heights seized by Israel in 1967 — he is not ready to sacrifice his relations with Iran or his backing for the resistance movements in Lebanon and Palestine — until, as he puts it, ‘the facts of [Israeli] occupation themselves change.’

Syria remains committed to the search for a comprehensive peace which must include the Palestinians as well as Syria and Lebanon. Iran is another player which cannot be excluded from any regional settlement, such is the major role it is playing in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and the Palestinian territories.  

There is clearly a great deal of work for would-be peace brokers to do until the United States, under a new President, takes up the task, criminally neglected for so long by George W Bush. 

_______________________________________

Patrick Seale is a leading British writer on the Middle East, and the author of The Struggle for Syria; also, Asad of Syria: The Struggle for the Middle East; and Abu Nidal: A Gun for Hire. 

 

Comments (99)


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51. Shai said:

AIG,

I have no problem whatsoever with your views. You are not the only Israeli who is doing nothing to end the Arab-Israeli conflict. Although you ARE the first Israeli I ever heard, who required “Democracy-First” before peace. That doesn’t bother me, it entertains me. It is a shame, actually, that you are plainly incapable of feeling any empathy whatsoever towards “your enemy”, even when he resides in Montreal.

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September 11th, 2008, 3:18 pm

 

52. Shai said:

AIG,

You make me laugh. Slavery in America was supposed to connote Occupation in Palestine! And to end it, Israelis should not be telling everyone how wonderful Israel is, and how the Arabs are suffering elsewhere much worse than the Palestinians. They should be fighting to end the Occupation. Now do you get it? Since we are nearing the equivalent of 1861, where the Occupation truly is dividing Israel in two, I certainly hope the Settlers and their supporters (like yourself and AP) aren’t preparing their Jefferson Davis…

Yalla, I now have to go, and your 4 comments/day are about to run out… Keep up the non-angel image.

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September 11th, 2008, 3:25 pm

 

53. AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Shai,
Your problem is that you do not understand who your enemy is. I have the utmost empathy towards my “enemies”. I would rather die than not live in a democracy. Just to make things clear, my enemies are only the Syrian regime.

And the analogy Shai is between slavery and democracy. In fact the South claimed that the North was de facto occupying it because the North could force laws on the South and that is why they wanted to leave the union. I would have said slavery is worth fighting a war over, just as I am saying today that insisting on democracy is a reason not to make peace. But you on the other hand, are not willing to sacrifice for any ideals and would have been arguing against Lincoln and against the war and for recognizing the South and making them change their minds in “soft” ways. Lincoln was the father of all “neo-cons”.

And thank you for reminding me of my daily limit. After all, shutting someone up is easier than answering their arguments.

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September 11th, 2008, 3:38 pm

 

54. Alex said:

AIG,

Your daily limit is not intended to shut you up so far you used three out of your six daily comments, you still have three more …

It is intended to save this blog from your persistent attacks on anyone you are on a crusade against. If you had no limit, then you would go on and on replying to Shai until there are 20 comments that most readers do not want to read anymore.

Stopping your discussion with Shai at this point is optimal. I read it, and I found it interesting. But ten more comments would have been boring.

The kind of exchange that should be done by email between you and Shai … imagine you are at a dinner with many people and you would not stop talking

I’m sure you understand… or at least i hope you do.

Your enemy is not only the Syrian regime, but it is all the Syrians who are OK with the Syrian regime … that includes a majority of Syrians who decided to tolerate or even like the Syrian regime for its success in preserving Syria’s stability and Syria’s strength and dignity (perception, or reality)

This is how a majority of Syrians perceive things, and this is the compromise that THEY decided to make about their government. They know it is certainly not perfect … they hate the corruption and lack of freedom of political activism. But it is a compromise they went for.

Revolutions against dictatorships happened in many parts of the world … in 2005 the Lebanese people revolted against the Syrian army presence in their country forcing the regime to withdraw quickly. The Syrian people are capable of producing a revolution … when they want to, not when some AIG yells louder and louder at them.

Why don’t you go into people’s homes and tell women to divorce their Arab husbands who are monopolizing decision making in their homes at the expense of those women’s democratic rights? … this happens in many, if not in most, Middle Eastern homes.

It is not your business WHEN Syrians will move their attention from their current priorities to “democracy” … it is not America’s business, and it is not Saudi Arabia’s business.

Just like it is not my business to tell Israelis who to vote for, even though I have my favorite candidate (Livni).

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September 11th, 2008, 4:44 pm

 

55. Alex said:

Fairouz in Palmyra

فيروز تحيي صح النوم في تدمر
– 10/09/2008

خاص (كلنا شركاء) – دمشق: 10/9/2008

علمت كلنا شركاء أن الأمانة العامة لاحتفالية دمشق عاصمة للثقافة العربية وصلت إلى اتفاق مع السيدة فيروز لإعادة عرض مسرحية صح النوم في مدينة تدمر وذلك في ثلاث عروض أيام 16-17-18 /تشرين أول القادم، وسيتم تحديد أسعار البطاقات في وقت لاحق.
يذكر أن السيدة فيروز قدمت مسرحية صح النوم في دار الأوبرا في دمشق في 28 /1/2008 وكانت محدودية أماكن الحضور (1200 مشاهد ) إحدى المشكلات التي عانى منها جمهور فيروز الكبير نسبياً في سورية إضافةً لارتفاع ثمن التذاكر .

And a Syrian movie about Mandeans!

مخرج سوري يستعد لبدء تصوير فيلم عن الصابئة
– 10/09/2008

قال المخرج السوري نبيل المالح إنه يستعد للبدء في تصوير فيلم سينمائي عن طائفة الصابئة.
وأضاف المالح، في تصريح خاص لوكالة الأنباء الالمانية (د.ب.ا)، أنه وضع فكرة وسيناريو الفيلم وسيقوم بإخراجه عن هذه الطائفة التي تشكل أقلية في العراق وإيران وسوريا.
وأشار إلى أن المفكر والباحث السوري المعروف فراس السواح أعد المادة التاريخية عن طائفة الصابئة، موضحاً أن الفكرة بدأ العمل بها منذ أكثر من ستة أشهر حيث قابل عدداً من الشخصيات المعروفة في هذه الطائفة.
وأكدً أن آلافاً من أبناء تلك الطائفة تمّ تهجيرهم من العراق منذ الغزو عام 2003 وحتى الآن، مشيراً إلى أن نحو خمسة آلاف منهم يوجدون في سوريا ولديهم عاداتهم وطقوسهم الدينية الخاصة كما أن لديهم ملابسهم الخاصة يرتدونها في المناسبات الاجتماعية مثل الأعراس.
وأضاف المالح أن حوالي 17 ألفا من الصابئة يعيشون في السويد حالياً ومثل هذا العدد أيضاً في أستراليا.
وقال إنه بعد أن قابل العشرات منهم وجد أن هناك تشابهاً كبيرا بينهم وبين السوريين في بعض العادات الاجتماعية والتفكير تجاه بعض القضايا أيضاً، حسب وصفه.
ونقل المالح عن شخصيات بارزة من الصابئة قابلهم قولهم إن عددهم حول العالم يبلغ حوالي مئة ألف شخص وأنهم “في السنوات الأخيرة وبعد الحرب على العراق تعرضوا إلى ما يشبه الإبادة الجماعية على أيادي مختلف التنظيمات الإرهابية “.
وقال المخرج السوري إن بين الصابئة المقيمين في سوريا نسبة عالية من الحاصلين على شهادات جامعية ومن المثقفين.

جوني عبو : وكالة الأنباء الألمانية ( د ب أ )

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September 11th, 2008, 4:52 pm

 

56. Zenobia said:

AIG, boy, I am so glad to hear you make an AS* of yourself… it makes my morning.
“Lincoln is the father of all Neo-cons” I love the irony.

Actually, Lincoln clearly said in his quoted writings that he would have allowed slavery to continue if it would have kept the union together.
Lincoln was a complete compromiser in the sense that he was elected through a coalition of interests, Northern business and abolitionists among them. He was most interested in keeping the union TOGETHER, and asserting federalism over states’ rights, which is essentially what the civil war was about, not slavery per se.

That’s why i love it when Republicans throw out this ignorant statement about how they, are the “party of Lincoln” … it is the biggest ironic joke, when they also reveal their complete ineptitude regarding American history.

anyhow, Lincoln’s insistence on keeping the union together reminds me most of… ? hmmm… let me see… I think it is how certain other leaders and people put stability and keeping their country together… above all other concerns.

You are so full of it, AIG. Your analogies require great distortions of reality and history. You don’t actually know your American history even, never mind a damn thing about the countries surrounding Israel.

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September 11th, 2008, 5:01 pm

 

57. Qifa Nabki said:

Ammo Norman,

I’m writing you from jail. Thanks for tipping off the police.

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September 11th, 2008, 5:45 pm

 

58. Qifa Nabki said:

I don’t know if anyone else has read this, but it is smart and often hilarious reading from (gasp!) The Economist.

Sorry for the long cut and paste, but I fear that it won’t be on the website for long.

Enjoy…

Long division
Sep 11th 2008
From Economist.com

Monday

THE bus from Damascus crawls through traffic down Mount Lebanon. The passengers—guest-workers returning from Syria after the weekend, mothers smiling through their veils at children happy to be returning—gather their belongings. The eight year-old sitting next to me begins to shout “Beirut!”

Through the window I see the city spread out against the sea (pictured below). This view suddenly brings Lebanon’s recent history into focus. From my perspective (which is also that of an invading army), I can make out dense urban life, towers and wealthy suburbs. This is not the battle-scarred wasteland I imagined; this is a prize worth fighting for.

The drive to the centre provides me with my first lesson in Lebanese politics. The apartment blocks rise one over the other. Some are brand-new and shining; others remain scarred by damage from the civil war. Vegetation is as ubiquitous as political posters.

There is no obvious racial divide between the Lebanese sects, but the faces on the walls show who owns what. Faded images of Bashir Gemayel, a former president of Lebanon who led Christian militias during the long civil war, adorn buildings in Christian areas. Graphed “ticks” mark out areas dominated by Michel Aoun, a Christian ally of Hizbullah, and his Free Patriotic Movement. As you move into Shia areas, large murals of Hizbullah fighters festoon buildings from which Iranian flags fly, and Hassan Nasrallah, Hizbullah’s leader, glares down from countless posters.

I follow the moustache of the assassinated former Lebanese prime minister Rafik Hariri, the pin-up of choice of the Sunni community and icon of the Future Movement, which is today led by his son Saad. There are no obvious front-lines; posters and flags just fade out into different neighbourhoods. They lead me to Hamra, the heart of Sunni West Beirut and the scene of street fighting this May when Hizbullah seized most the city.

On Sadat Street I sit down for a late-afternoon shisha with Tarik. His eyes never stop moving. He is permanently alert. In his early twenties, the recent violence has taken him from his former concerns. He speaks with the urgency of one still shocked.

“When they came, the Hizbullah and their allies, the Syrian Socialist Nationalist Party, we took out our private weapons. My father passed me one of the guns he’s used in the civil war and we defended ourselves. I shot. I do not know if I killed. I just fired.”

I ask him if he knew anybody who got killed. “Yes. My cousin. Ziad Ghalayini.” He points to a massive poster of a teenage boy standing in front of Beirut’s famous Pigeon Rocks wearing a T-shirt that reads “Still Virgin” and a nice smile. He continues. “He died in my arms. They shot him when he was on his moped trying to come home. I’ll introduce you to his father.”

Over the road is the Ghalayini family bakery. The boy’s father is listening to the Koran on tape when I come in. A veiled women in mourning brushes past me clutching flowers. “That’s my wife. Those are for the cemetery,” Ramadan Ghalayini announces. When I ask him who killed his son he has a one word answer for me: “Shia.”

Over the road, the pharmacist tries to explain her neighbourhood to me. “You know, there is peace now in Lebanon. Just politics. But people died. And people remember.”

Tuesday

IN THE evening, I drive south into Dahiya. Beirut’s main division these days is less between Christian east and Muslim west than between the poor and mainly Shia south and the wealthier northern districts.

There are no obvious frontiers. The buildings just get closer together, dirtier and more dilapidated, and the electric wiring starts to become visible. Piles of rubble from the 2006 Israeli attacks are left seemingly untouched. Large posters announce “We will build it better than before.” Placards bearing the faces of stern Hizbullah martyrs adorn the lamp-posts.

I stop for a kebab outside the Assaha Traditional Village. Anas, my taxi driver, wants to show me around a bit. He points at the large and modern Rasoul al Aazam hospital across the road and then to the Iranian flags hanging from buildings.

“Thank you, Iran,” he announces. “Hassan Nasrallah is my protector. My brother died fighting Israel when we defeated them for the first time in 2006. I am proud of Hizbullah,” he says. Then he turns and points to the kebab shop. “This is Hassan’s favourite restaurant. We organise secret deliveries.” I’m not sure whether he’s joking.

The Assaha Traditional Village is a complex built to look like a medieval Arab castle. It contains a museum, bookshops, a pricey restaurant and a number of expensive shops selling jewellery and trinkets, including Hizbullah clocks, flags and refrigerator magnets.

The centre is associated with the charitable foundation of the Muhammed Hussein Fadlallah and financed by his supporters. Mr Fadlallah is one of the spiritual guides of Lebanese Shia. He played a key role in giving the community the necessary drive and convictions to overcome its traditional place at the bottom of Lebanon’s sectarian hierarchy, and was a key force behind Hizbullah.

For dinner I meet Nadim Shehadi, a Lebanese political analyst who represents his country at Chatham House, a prestigious British think-tank. I am shocked to discover that in the middle of poor south Beirut, a stylish restaurant complete with a courtyard and fountains, is filled.

Mr Shehadi points out the extreme variety of clothing. “As you can see, the families eating here do not all dress in the same manner. Some men have full beards and their wives are wearing a chador; this means they will be following a more conservative spiritual guide. Others may simply be veiled and their husbands clean shaven. There may even be a secular member of the family or a nationalist.” My impression of Lebanese Shia as uniformly poor and religious are overturned; Beirut, it appears, is a city of facades.

“It’s such a pity we can’t have a glass of arak with such a good meal,” Mr Shehadi jokes before the conversation turns to politics. I ask if the coalition that comprised the previous government was defeated when the Hizbullah-led opposition forced its way into government after May’s fighting. “No, that’s the wrong way to see it. Imagine you and your opponent are 18th century English gentlemen, and he challenges you to a duel. Now imagine he challenges you at a moment you are certain to lose, in a place that will defeat you and with a weapon you cannot match. If you manage to change the time, place and weapon with which the duel is fought and live with your honour intact, then you have won the duel.”

Mr Shehadi believes that because the previous coalition managed, through clever manoeuvring and intelligent politics, to transfer Hizbullah’s challenge from street fights to negotiations in Doha, it transformed the situation from an unwinnable military confrontation into a potentially advantageous political one. He gestures to the happily dining families at the tables that surround us. “What I need to stress,” he says, “is the banality of Lebanon right now.”

Wednesday

TODAY I am having lunch with the Lebanese Forces (LF). During the civil war, Lebanon divided into sectarian mini-states. Then it split up along militia lines. Today most of the political parties are the children of these armed factions, and the LF are no exception.

They were once a feared Christian militia. Then they were banned during the Syrian occupation that followed the conflict, and their leader, Samir Geagea, was imprisoned for 11 years in a windowless cell under the ministry of defence. Now they stand for the right-wing and frightened among Lebanon’s Christians.

Nady Ghosn, the party’s spokesman, has come to pick me up in his car. He has a thick moustache, an addiction to Marlboro Reds, gold-rimmed Aviator glasses and a neatly ironed pink shirt. He appears straight out of the early 1970s, when Lebanon’s Christians were still on top.

On the road to his neighbourhood, I notice something about the sprawl. In Beirut people live on top of each other. The mountains above the city are covered in smart villas that slope down into tenement towers and a slumland of concrete blocks, cramped flats and problems. You can tell a poor area because children play in the streets, and the buildings are still peppered by bullet holes.

We draw into Ayn ar-Rummanah. Mr Ghosn points out the local sites. He speaks slowly, precisely. “Here is where the civil war began with the shooting up of a Palestinian bus.” Tacky plastic Madonnas are stuck onto buildings, and blood-red crosses painted on every wall. The cross is staked at the bottom, to show that it is driven into Lebanese soil. This is the symbol of Mr Geagea’s movement.

We park outside the local LF headquarters. On top of the buildings are two immense crosses. There is an urgency to Christianity here; I feel as if Christ died a few weeks ago and the word is spreading.

“This is the border.” A tattooed man guarding the door points to the end of the street. A giant wall painting of Nabih Berry, the Shia speaker of Parliament and an ally of Hizbullah, stares back at me. We can hear the call to prayer. “There are the Shia.”

Inside the headquarters I am led to a small tiled room. Turkish coffee is poured and a group of young men sit nervously around me. Mr Ghosn begins to speak. “People are becoming more religious. This is our 43rd year of troubles, destabilisation and war. Faith is what they are turning to.” Is the increased religiosity of the Lebanese Christians a marker of their decline from being a dominant group to an insecure one?

The walls are covered in stickers depicting Bashir Gemayel, posters of Mr Geagea and in the corner what looks like a little nativity crib made up of stones with stickers of yesterday’s warlords on them. “Are you a nostalgic movement?” I asked, a bit presumptuously.

“No. We’re proud. We are focusing on the elections. On mobilisation.”

It seems the chief spokesman is busy, so Jean Tawanil, a regular LF supporter, takes me for lunch in the local restaurant. The classic Lebanese spread is laid on: hummus, kebabs, fatoush salad, kibbe balls and spicy beef sausages. Jean smokes a water pipe.

Lebanese food is almost never bad, but the conversation makes for a strange meal. At one moment my companion is laughing about how he doesn’t like the dirty, stupid, smelly Shia Muslims who live over the road. Ten minutes later he is earnestly telling me how he has many good friends among them and it’s only the leadership he doesn’t like.

He begins what seems like a rant against Israel, which ends up with him announcing his respect for the Israeli army and how he expects Israeli troops to be operating in Beirut very shortly. His frequent toilet breaks allow me to gather my thoughts. It seems the long-standing identity conflict of the Lebanese Christians continue in the minds of even the most committed LF supporters. Then he turns the conversation turns to that traveller’s classic: “Don’t you think my country has the best girls?”

Jean gives me a lift back to the town centre. “You see,” he is trying to sum up his political position, “I like France, America and Israel. They like Iran, Syria.” He points over the road to the neighbouring Shia district of Ash Shiyah. “I don’t want that…it’s not any good.” Iranian flags are fluttering.

Many posters stuck to lamp-posts celebrate the recent release from an Israeli prison after nearly three decades years of Samir Kuntar, a Lebanese Druze who joined a Palestinian guerrilla group and was caught and convicted of killing five Israelis, including a baby girl. But Jean isn’t pointing at them. Instead, he points out the dilapidated state of the buildings, the cheap electric wires and the dirtiness of the streets.

Thursday

I AM waiting in downtown Beirut for Nayla Tueni (pictured below), the deputy general-manager of An-Nahar, a newspaper. Her publication is one of the freest in the Arab world and played a big part in the “Cedar Revolution” of 2005, when political manoeuvres and mass protests forced an end to Syria’s occupation of Lebanon.

She arrives at the restaurant (itself called Downtown) slightly late. This expensive, oddly-lit and highly fashionable spot could be in a trendier part of London or Paris. Yet, like the rest of downtown, it is eerily empty at the height of the tourist season.

The restaurant is on the edge of the rebuilt old-town known as Solidaire, made up of orange stone Parisian-style buildings with slightly Arabised façades. The district was the front-line during the civil war and was almost completely destroyed. Its reconstruction was supposed to symbolise the new Lebanon. But the late-afternoon half-silence shows that, for the moment, Lebanon’s political reconstruction is far from complete.

I suggest to Ms Tueni that we have a drink, but she orders a Diet Coke. Some little cakes arrive and we begin to chat about politics. She begins by describing the symbolism of our view onto St Martyr’s Square. She tells me that outside her newspaper’s building hangs a huge poster of her father, Gebran Tueni, a secular-minded Greek Orthodox politician and journalist who was assassinated (presumably by the Syrians) in 2005.

She points out other memorials. Over the road there is a massive mural of a murdered leader of the Maronite Christians’ Phalangist movement, Pierre Gemayel. Up to the left is the Rafik Hariri mosque, where the assassinated five-time prime minister is laid to rest. All were prominent in 2005. “So everybody is here,” says Nayla.

She is only 25, and often tipped for a bright political career in Lebanon. But she says she is not interested in becoming a politician immediately. “We need a new kind of politics in Lebanon, one that is actually concerned with proposals, social development and policies. We need new parties and new faces. Right now we just have corruption and blind followers. I believe that in this situation I can best serve Lebanon as a journalist by creating a civil society.”

The way she talks about the March 14th Movement betrays a certain disappointment. “There is still Syrian influence in Lebanon. Those who work for Syria, I think they don’t work for their country and should go to Damascus. But our country has always been a regional playing field. We don’t have good neighbours. I’m as frightened of Iran as I am of Israel. But for the moment there is peace. People are coming to Beirut again and I’m slightly hopeful.”

After the interview ends she suggests I wander over to Gemmayze Street to experience Beirut’s famous nightlife. Just after dark, this long old street, lined with 1960s concrete blocks and older houses with a somewhat Italianate appearance, becomes a stretch of dazzlingly cool bars and clubs.

Expensive cars pull up to be parked by valet service. You overhear the conversations of the Lebanese diaspora in mixtures of English, French and even Portuguese mixed into Arabic. Young men and women dressed in cutting-edge fashion drift along like a cosmopolitan wealth-parade, completely at odds with the sectarian slums around them. These groups of glamorous young people, with wildly differing political opinions, remind me that Lebanon is not segregated, just fractured. Sympathisers of different factions can be found drinking together. Many families are politically divided.

I am enthralled that you can hear club techno-beats pounding late into the night in a city partly controlled by the fundamentalists of Hizbullah. It seems to me that, because the civil war went on for so long and was so horrible for all sides, those that can afford it try to lose themselves in this New York lifestyle of bars, clubs, fashion and girls. It’s only late at night, because of the heat or the drink, that the Lebanese begin to tell you their real stories.

On a rooftop just off Gemmayze, overlooking the motorway and the port, I find myself drinking a bottle of whisky with a Druze youth-hostel employee and a Syrian guest-worker.

This is the other side of the story. These men struggle to make ends meet and sleep on dirty mattresses under the stars. Most of their friends are unemployed. They are growing old and are too poor to start a family. Maybe this is why they drink. By the time I am starting to feel slightly drunk, my Druze companion is telling me about the fighting in May.

“I have pictures of them crying. We have videos of them crying ‘don’t kill us’. The Hizbullah cried when they attacked my town, Aley. They’d be mad to do it again.”

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September 11th, 2008, 5:50 pm

 

59. Naji said:

Great aticle, QN…, but they had to go make this silly “correction”…! Why couldn’t they just let us dream on…?!

http://www.economist.com/daily/diary/displaystory.cfm?source=hptextfeature&story_id=12079102#footnote1
Correction: Due to an editing error, Michel Aoun was mistakenly identified as Lebanon’s prime minister in an earlier version of this article. That position is held by Fouad Siniora. We regret the error. This article was corrected on September 8th 2008.

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September 11th, 2008, 6:00 pm

 

60. norman said:

To All,

Looking at the exchange between AIG and Shai makes it clear that what divide us and unite us is not our nationality , ethnic back ground or religion , It is our deep belief in what is wrong or right .

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September 12th, 2008, 12:40 am

 

61. AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Zenobia,
Ask any American what the civil war was about and he will say slavery. Why, because Americans understand fighting a war for ideals. They less understand fighting a war for worldly interests not grounded by their core values.

Lincoln was the father of all neo-cons because he started as a realist and ended up fighting for an ideology he firmly believed in. It was a process that Lincoln went through, but by the end of the war, Lincoln was the first President to articulate that the constitution was more a MORAL document and not only a LEGAL document.

This excerpt from wikipedia may help you learn something:
Redefining Republicanism

In recent years, historians have stressed Lincoln’s use of and redefinition of republican values. As early as the 1850s, a time when most political rhetoric focused on the sanctity of the Constitution, Lincoln shifted emphasis to the Declaration of Independence as the foundation of American political values — what he called the “sheet anchor” of republicanism.[43] The Declaration’s emphasis on freedom and equality for all, rather than the Constitution’s tolerance of slavers, shifted the debate. As Diggins concludes regarding the highly influential Cooper Union speech, “Lincoln presented Americans a theory of history that offers a profound contribution to the theory and destiny of republicanism itself.”[44] His position gained strength because he highlighted the moral basis of republicanism, rather than its legalisms.[45][46] Nevertheless, in 1861 Lincoln justified the war in terms of legalisms (the Constitution was a contract, and for one party to get out of a contract all the other parties had to agree), and then in terms of the national duty to guarantee a “republican form of government” in every state.[47] That duty was also the principle underlying federal intervention in Reconstruction.

In his Gettysburg Address Lincoln redefined the American nation, arguing that it was born not in 1789 but in 1776, “conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.” He declared that the sacrifices of battle had rededicated the nation to the propositions of democracy and equality, “that this nation shall have a new birth of freedom — and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.” By emphasizing the centrality of the nation, he rebuffed the claims of state sovereignty. While some critics say Lincoln moved too far and too fast, they agree that he dedicated the nation to values that marked “a new founding of the nation.”[48]

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September 12th, 2008, 4:01 am

 

62. Zenobia said:

The reason most americans say that is because they actually don’t study american history very well or remember anything about their studies,and that’s all they know about it, despite the fact that is was much more complicated than that.
And the second reason is because american’s (like many people in this world) love to write history and study history in some whitewashed way that makes them feel good about their country. It has nothing to do with accuracy. Well educated people, unlike yourself, and younger people have usually been able to part-take of the more accurate study of history that has been more prevalent in the last few decades. But there are still a lot of ignoramuses.

And by the way, the only thing relevant about the Wikipedia entry you just submitted , is that it supports my point that he was interested in “republicanism” as a philosophy of the union and of federal power superior to state sovereignty.

Exactly what I said. And the irony being that this republicanism has no resemblance to the attitude of today’s “Republican Party” and its values, for example, that of privileging state’s rights and sovereignty over the “moral” law of the land and the constitution as interpreted by the federal government making the laws (and thus having more power).

otherwise, your clip has little to do with the civil war or neo-con philosophy.
so, maybe you should “learn something” why don’t you.

Equating the Neo-Con so called idealism with that of the wisdom or idealism of Abraham Lincoln is about like spitting on Abraham Lincoln.

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September 12th, 2008, 4:07 am

 

63. AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Zenobia,
Your reading skills need to be better developed. At the beginning of the civil war Lincoln viewed the constitution as a legal document that is binding and therefore one side alone could not invalidate it. By the end of the war, he viewed the constitution as setting down MORAL guidelines and NORMS to guide America. The constitution is not anymore for Lincoln a contract, but an ideological manifesto to guide the US. And when it says that all men should have equal rights, that is an imperative that the US should be willing to sacrifice for and stand behind.

It is LINCOLN that figured out that democracy was much more than a social contract. It is an inalienable right that the US must pursue at home and aboard. Or as Bush said it: The liberty we prize is not America’s gift to the world, it is God’s gift to humanity.

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September 12th, 2008, 4:24 am

 

64. AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Norman,

That is true, our view of right and wrong is quite different. You believe that one family should rule a whole nation and keep it in poverty and without freedom through intimidation for 40 years. I don’t.

I believe there should be a Jewish state in the middle east. You and Shai and Alex think this is only a temporary thing until Jews “grow up and get it” that they don’t need a state.

You believe that Asad is smart for supporting Hamas suicide bombing and for manipulating Lebanon. I don’t.

You believe that Israel should withdraw to its 67 borders and everything will be ok. I believe that will only bring more war.

But the main difference between us is the following. I believe democracy and freedom are the right of every Syrian. You believe that it is only the right of those Syrians that immigrated to the West. You and Alex are the worst kind of hypocrites. Living in democracy in the West, criticizing the US when it is not democratic enough while claiming that most Syrians in Syria do not want democracy. If you are so sure of that, let them vote Asad into power freely. Let them discuss and criticize the Asad regime freely. But of course, that won’t happen. Why? Because all Syrians love Asad. Yeah, right.

You cannot bring yourself to demand from Syria what you demand from the US. Why is that? Is it fear? Are you ashamed? Or do you really believe that Syrians in Syria do not deserve to have the rights YOU have?

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September 12th, 2008, 4:26 am

 

65. Alex said:

AIG,

Following Zenobia’s argument, I will add that one of the most fundamental traits of Neocons that we realized after experiencing their rule for the past few years is that they are willing to lie to justify subjecting our planet to their chaos in order to reach their true “moral” objectives.

They would state a more universally acceptable moral objective like your favorite “democracy and freedom” while their real objectives have been

1) Oil Business
2) To secure the realm for Israel … destroy Israel’s “strong” neighbors .. Iraq, then Syria, then Iran … and Hzbollah of course.

If the neocons were really about promoting democracy .. I think they would have succeeded to some extent. It is possible that I would have been among their supporters for example.

All the hypocrisy surrounding those fighters for moral causes is becoming more difficult to hide … Sarah Palin’s “pro life” moral values do not go well with her photos shooting large animals for fun… or her “conservative” positions on sex before marriage, and her 17 year old daughter pregnant.

Gandhi was a fighter for moral causes …. but the neocons … were simply power hungry liars.

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September 12th, 2008, 4:33 am

 

66. Shai said:

Even-dearer AIG,

I’m the last person to shut you up. The more you talk, the more “your enemy” feels your empathy. To make it easier for you, since I think analogies are a little confusing for you, I’ll tell you that if I was living under a dictatorship, chances are, I’d be one of the people fighting to change it. But I would do so smartly, not in a way that would get me thrown in jail the second day. But I would fight for my freedom. But (and this is a big BUT), it is neither my position, NOR YOURS AIG, to suggest, remind, or demand of the Syrian people to do the same. It is THEIR country, not yours or mine. It is THEIR people that are living there, not you. Instead of pontificating endlessly about Democracy in Syria, why don’t you first clean up your own “home”? Why don’t you first end the Occupation of lands that do NOT belong to Israelis? Why don’t you first end the mistreatment of Arab-Israelis?

Instead of focusing on what our enemies should do, why not at least show your enemy what you plan to do on your side? Use the opportunity that your enemy is sitting around the table with you (as your host, remember), and begin to demonstrate an understanding and willingness to do your part. And to do your part unconditionally.

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September 12th, 2008, 1:33 pm

 

67. AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Alex,
The neo-cons are not associated with oil at all. How are Feith or Wolfowitz or Sheransky related to oil interests? The US before Iraq had already bases in several Arab countries and as can be seen from what the government of Iraq is doing with the oil deals, they are not going to US companies only or predominantly.

As for securing the realm, it is a beneficial side effect of democracy in the middle east. I like Israel’s chances in a democratic middle east. Eventually of course because of their population size the Arab economies will be bigger and stronger than the Israeli one, but this will happen after decades of democracy so I am not worried.

There is just no way around it. Israel is well suited for the knowledge economy and globalization and in a democratic middle east it will flourish even more. It is a fact that if Syria becomes a democracy, Israel will get stronger. But is that a reason not to pursue democracy in Syria? For some it is.

This is the connundrum I have been talking about. If Syria does not democratize, that means it will grow weaker and fall behind other countries. If it does, it means accepting US “hegemony”. Ideologically something has got to give in the Syrian elites if they want Syria to propser long term.

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September 12th, 2008, 1:35 pm

 

68. AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Shai Ha’malach Ha’zach,

First I am glad to hear that you would be one of the persons fighting to change a dictatorship. We would be fighting shoulder to shoulder.

But how would you feel, if in the middle of your struggle against your dictator, your neigboring country together with the world’s leading power decided to find the dictator legitimate, reward him with land, trade agreements, money, techonology, international legitimacy, thus making your quest for freedom even more difficult than it is, in fact almost impossible?

This is where your lack of empathy shows. You would fight a dictator, BUT you would make it extra difficult for Syrians to fight one. In fact you would give aid to the dictator and his regime.

I believe that liberal democracy is a global value that is applicable to everybody. And if someone in the world lacks it, it IS my business. Most of the time, there is not much I can do. But in the case of Syria, Israel is clearly in a position to determine whether Asad and his regime will be locked in forever with no chance of change. That is what happened with Mubarak in Egypt because of the peace agreement with Israel and believe it or not, it saddens me immensely. Peace with Asad will postpone democracy in Syria for decades and it is not the right thing for Israel to do.

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September 12th, 2008, 1:47 pm

 

69. SimoHurtta said:

It is LINCOLN that figured out that democracy was much more than a social contract. It is an inalienable right that the US must pursue at home and aboard. Or as Bush said it: The liberty we prize is not America’s gift to the world, it is God’s gift to humanity.

AIG you are the worst propagandist in “Mossad’s team”. To whom has USA brought liberty, freedom, democracy and prosperity? USA has 730 military bases around the world on which Americans spend 42 cents of every tax dollar. Do you AIG seriously claim that these bases are there for “liberty and democracy”. I would say they are there to secure providing USA cheap bananas and oil, besides of world domination.

AIG who had the right to vote in Lincoln’s USA? Wealthy white men. Some example democracy indeed. If you AIG refer to “all men are equal”, what about Israel where people with a small black hat are more equal than those without that hat? Is Israel really a democracy and all its citizens equal? Come-on AIG. By definition a Jewish state can’t ever be a real democracy, because the citizens are not equal so long one religious group has superior rights.

If God or better said Bush promised liberty to Iraqis, why must Iraqis tolerate in future permanent US bases, immunity to US citizens and insane (for Iraqis, extremely profitable for Americans) oil contracts.

By the way AIG Americans often call their president as “the leader of the free world. Why can’t we non Americans not elect our Leader? Well if we could vote in the elections the “leader of the free world” Bush had never been elected and Iraq would probably not have liberated of its oil. 🙂

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September 12th, 2008, 2:04 pm

 

70. AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Sim,
The US has brought freedom and liberty to France, Germany, Italy, Belgium, The Netherlands in fact all of Western Eurpe including Finland.
The US has also brought freedom to Poland, Hungary and in fact much of Eastern Europe.
The US brought freedom to: Japan, South Korea, China (by defeating imperial Japan), the Philipines etc. etc.
The US brought freedom to North Africa by defeating the Nazis there.
If it weren’t for the US, Finland would be by now part of Russia.

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September 12th, 2008, 2:12 pm

 

71. norman said:

AIG ,

You are missing the point, Then , you always do.

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September 12th, 2008, 2:39 pm

 

72. AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Norman,
Then why don’t you explain yourself clearly?
I usually understand very well what people explain to me.

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September 12th, 2008, 3:15 pm

 

73. Alex said:

No, you really do not understand very well.

How many times did I ask you to stop going after other people here? .. I asked you to stick to the issues. Didn’t I?

Instead, here is a part from one of your comments above:

You and Alex are the worst kind of hypocrites. Living in democracy in the West, criticizing the US when it is not democratic enough while claiming that most Syrians in Syria do not want democracy.

For your information, I edited Zenobia’s message last night and removed two parts where she ridiculed you. But I just noticed your comment now… and I don’t know what to do with you. I really do not wish to answer that same point you raised and I answered at least ten times so far… And I do not want to allow it to remain there unanswered.

And we had enough of your old democracy argument … and your negativity and always aggressive comments

Let’s see if you really understand very well what people explain to you:

1) No talk about “democracy” in Syria except when we are discussing that topic. NOT everyday, every discussion topic like you now do.

2) No more than six comment per day. That will be enough to make you still one of the top five commentators on Syria Comment (and you are not Syrian)

3) No attacking others and no analyzing (and almost always) distorting their opinions. Stick to the issues.

Can you tell me that you understand these rules and will respect them?

You have two more comments for today.

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September 12th, 2008, 3:41 pm

 

74. Nour said:

AIG is really good at distorting history and twisting facts to suit his particular agenda. What Lincoln did in the US is no different than what Saddam Hussein was doing to keep Iraq intact or what Milosovic did to keep Yugoslavia from breaking apart. In fact, if “neo-cons” existed back then, say in Europe, they would have claimed that Lincoln was a regional bully who is threatening his neighbors and violating the freedom, independence, and sovereignty of the confederate states who merely wanted to protect and defend their independence. They would then have attacked the US, destroyed its infrastructure, overthrown Abraham Lincoln and arrested him on war crimes charges, dismantled the entire American security, military, and police system, installed a puppet government, and established permanent military bases in the US. That would have been a neocon course of action and I’m sure the US would have been in a much better situation today (sarcasm intended).

As for the US bringing freedom to others, please don’t make me laugh. The US is a nation with interests. It fights wars and engages in certain actions to protect those interests. The interest of the US is not to bring freedom and democracy to others, although sometimes that maybe a side consequence. In truth, the US did not bring democracy and freedom to any place that hadn’t already experienced an advanced form of governance. To claim that the US created today’s UK, France, and Germany is an insult to those people. Nowhere did the US bring advancement where it didn’t already exist. Moreover, the US was more than happy to overthrow democratically elected leaders and install brutal dictators in their place to protect certain interests. Therefore, to claim that the US has brought “freedom and democracy” to others is quite hillarious to say the least.

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September 12th, 2008, 3:58 pm

 

75. EHSANI2 said:

The World Bank’s 2009 study on “Doing Business” has been released.

http://www.doingbusiness.org/documents/DB09_Overview.pdf

Syria’s 2009 rank is 137 out of 181 countries surveyed. Its 2008 rank was 140. The slight improvement came because of reforms associated within the ease of trading across borders category.

In total there are 10 categories that the World Bank covers before it ranks its list of countries. The 10 categories are:

1- Ease of starting a business
2- Ease of dealing with contraction permits
3- Ease of employing workers
4- Ease of registering property
5- Ease of getting credit
6- Ease of protecting investors
7- Ease of paying taxes
8- Ease of trading across borders
9- Ease of enforcing contracts
10-Ease of closing a business

While jumping from 140 to 137 is a positive step, it is worth noting that only 3 regional countries have fared worse (Iran, Sudan and Iraq).

Egypt was the 10th top performer in the study as it moved its ranking from 125 to 114. The improvements came from 6 out of 10 of the above categories. Saudi Arabia made a substantial jump moving from 24 to 16 ahead of Bahrain in the region.

Singapore held its rank as number one while the U.S also held its number 3 with New Zealand holding the second spot.

The study makes it clear that rankings do not tell the whole story about an economy’s business environment. The indicator does not, for example, account for macroeconomic conditions, infrastructure, workforce skills or security. Instead, the rankings help indicate if a government is creating regulatory environment that is conducive to operating a business.

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September 12th, 2008, 4:33 pm

 

76. Shai said:

AIG,

According to your rationale, you also wouldn’t have made peace with Egypt or Jordan. If that is so, then YOU my friend, are in a minority in Israel. I doubt you’ll find more than a handful of Israelis who think we should have only made peace with a democratic Egypt or Jordan. It “saddens you immensely”? So be sad. But don’t pretend to care more about Syria and Syrians, than the Syrians here on SC. You’ve been told before that because most Syrians here disagree with you suggestions, does not mean they want democracy any less than you do. I still find it absurd that you, the “Israeli Guy”, keep arguing Syrians about their freedoms and about their regime. That does require a certain level of “chutzpah”, can’t you see that?

I think you’re making an assumption which is not yours to make. You assume that by making peace with Assad, we’re delaying freedom in Syria for Syrians. First, how do you know? How do you know what Egypt would be like today, if it hadn’t signed a peace treaty with Israel? Or Jordan, for that matter? What example in history do you have where isolating a dictatorship has sped up democracy in that nation? Plus, if the rest of the world has embassies in Damascus, you think that by not having an Israeli one, you’re helping the Syrians any? That’s a joke. If you want to act responsibly, worry first about your own nation (Israel?), and the peace it needs no less than Syrians need their freedom.

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September 12th, 2008, 4:43 pm

 

77. Alex said:

Ehsani,

Are you saying that the highly corrupt and non-democratic Egypt and Saudi Arabia are doing good things sometimes?

Bizarre : )

This is from champress. As usual, they are not always reliable. But they do have to get approval before they post such an article.

The article has been on their site (top story) for two days now. Also unusual.

It is worth reading for those reasons.

نيو – قندهار في طرابلس .. كمان وكمان !!.. بقلم : خضر عواركة

يروي ديبلوماسي غربي مقيم في لبنان قصة تحول سعد الحريري من مشروع ” أبو مصعب اللبناني ” إلى حمامة سلام فيقول و(نترجمه بتصرف) :
وزير خارجية عربي عاد إلى بلده بعد زيارة قصيرة إلى لبنان وقبل أن ينال قسطا من الراحة نقل إلى رئيسه تأكيدا لتقارير مخابراتية كان قد شغلت بال الرئيس على الأمن في بلده.
ما شاهده وسمعه الرئيس ومساعديه الأمنيين عن الوضع في قندهار آل الحريري في شمال لبنان أفقده صوابه، لأنه إعتبر الموضوع خطرا على الأمن القومي لنظامه وليس حدثا عابرا، مستعيدا أحداث الإرهاب في بلده مع أن الإرهابيين وقتها لم يكونوا يحظون بحائط إسناد إعلامي وتدريبي أمني في بلد مجاور أو قريب،فكيف سيكون الوضع إن تحول شمال لبنان إلى مربع أمني وإستراحة تدريب وإعداد للإرهابيين الذين يحظون بجناح سياسي مشروع يقوده داعية الإرهاب الشهال ؟
( بعض الظرفاء يقول بأن لبنان هوأهم ساحة للإعلام الفني في العالم العربي فكيف إن صار ساحة للإعلام الإرهابي التكفيري؟ وقد بدأت تباشير ذلك عبر قيام الفضائيات بإستضافة نجوم الفن السلفي لعدة مرات وبينهم وريث عرش الدعوة ” داعي الشهال ” وغريمه المطالب مثله بالعرش الإرهابي حسن الشهال)
الرئيس العربي إتصل بملك السعودية وبالرئيس الفرنسي وبكوندليسا رايس ونقل لهم كلاما مفاده :
إدو موعد لمدير المخابرات بتاعي علشان يشرحلكم خطورة الوضع في لبنان. الواد سعد ده عاملي قندهار ومش ناقص إلا يعلنوا الإمارة ويأسسوا تلفزيون!
أنا ما قدرش أتحمل لعب العيال ده لسه ناقص يجيبو الواد بن لادن يستلم قيادة المعارك في طرابلس .
سفير تركيا في البلد العربي بعث ببرقية عاجلة نقل خلالها مضمون هذه المكالمة إلى الرئيس أردوغان وكان يحزم ملفاته تمهيدا لسفره إلى دمشق للمشاركة في القمة الرباعية .
صحافي فرنسي كبير رافق الرئيس الفرنسي في طائرته أفاد بأن الرئيس ساركوزي تابع هذا الملف شخصيا منذ الظهورالأول للسلفيين بشكل علني سياسي وقد لفت نظره أحد قادة أجهزة الأمن المقربين منه إلى أن زعيم السلفيين المزعوم أصبح
ضيفا شرعيا على الفضائيات اللبنانية والسعودية في الوقت الذي فقد فيه تيار المستقبل بزعامة سعد الحريري والسنيورة وأجهزتهم كل سيطرة على الاف المسلحين المتطرفين الذين مولتهم وسلحتهم ثمانية جهات (ثلاثة أجهزة أمنية سعودية متنافسة وخمسة من كبار الأمراء الناشطين في مد نفوذهم إلى خارج السعودية عبر الإرهاب ) طمعا في تحويل السلفيين إلى جيش سعودي في لبنان !
التقارير التي يملكها الأمن التابع للنظام العربي المعتدل حول الهيكلية الفوضوية للتعامل السعودي مع الوضع في لبنان حتمت عليه دق ناقوس الخطر، فجهاز بندر له مجموعات يمولها ويسلحها مباشرة ( النائب الأحدب هو ممثل بندر في الشمال ) ومجموعات مسلحة أخرى تكفيرية يمولها جهاز مقرن (يمثله السفير الخوجة وسعد الحريري وأشهر قادة هذه المجموعات هو ابو حسن الأصهب وكنعان ناجي ( ويدير حركتهما الأمنية والعسكرية على الأرض الضابط غسان – ب )
ومجموعات أمنية محترفة مختلطة بين القاعدة وزعران الشوارع المطلوبين أمنيا للقضاء اللبناني يمولهم خالد بن سلطان بن عبد العزيز ( يمثله خالد الضاهر بطل مذبحة القوميين في حلبا).
ونظرا إلى حساسية النظام العربي المعتدل من أي بؤرة يمتلكها الإرهابيين ( هل يظن السعوديين بأن الأتراك سيقفون متفرجين أمام سيطرة الإرهاب على ميناء لا يبعد عن شواطئهم إلا أربع ساعات بحرا؟) فقد عمم الرئيس العربي على كافة أجهزته السياسية والديبلوماسية والأمنية لتنتشر في الدول المعنية بالوضع في لبنان طارحا حلا وحيدا للموضوع :
القضاء على السلفيين في قندهار طرابلس قبل تحولها إلى دولة الخلافة الإسلامية ومبايعة أهل الشمال لبن لادن.
ساركوزي وعدة عواصم غربية بما فيها واشنطن كانوا يراقبون عن كثب التحركات السعودية في الشمال بكثير من القلق عززته تقارير أمنية إختراقية للقاعدة الإرهابية عن قيام قواعد وأسس صلبة في قرى عكار وفي بعض أحياء طرابلس المكتظة للقاعدة بتنظيمها الأساسي الذي ارسل بعض أفضل رجاله خبرة للتمركز في الشمال اللبناني وهي مجموعات أقامت لنفسها قاعدة عمليات وإخترقت بالمال والعقيدة والتطرف جهاز المعلومات اللبناني ( وصفت بعض المصادر صلاة التراويح في مراكز جهاز المعلومات فقالت بأن المرء ليظن بأن مجموعات من طالبان تعمل في هذا الجهاز فغالبية منهم متطرفون يحملون الفكر السلفي التكفيري وليسوا مسلمين عاديين يمارسون طقوسهم الدينية المحببة)
معلومات جهاز عربي وعملاء أمنيين فرنسيين أضافوا إلى معلومات تركية موثوقة معلومات أشد خطورة حذرت من أن الأمور في لبنان اصبحت خارج سيطرة السفارة السعودية وخارج سيطرة آل الحريري وأن كل مجموعة عنقودية للقاعدة علنية تقاتل ( لعيون أبو بهاء) أصبحت تشكل غطاء وساترا لتجنيد مجموعات أخرى لا يعلم عنها أحد ويمكن في المستقبل أن يشكل لهم التواجد على شواطيء المتوسط (طرابلس فيها مرفأ وجزيرة مهجورة ) منفذا يحتاجونه للتسلل إلى أوروبا
( مجموعة إرهابية كانت تقيم في جزيرة الارانب المهجورة مقابل طرابلس إشتبكت قبل أسبوع مع الجيش خلال إنتقالها من الجزيرة إلى سفينة شحن مسـتأجرة من الإرهابيين الدوليين بواسطة الزوارق المطاطية فأفشل الجيش مخططهم بعد معلومات فرنسية سلمت لمخابرات الجيش وليس لجهاز المعلومات لأنه صنف مؤخرا من الطرف الفرنسي بوصفه جهازا مخترقا من الإرهاب وليس مخترقا له. )
بمعنى آخر فإن السفن الحربية الغربية تقوم بدوريات في المياه الدولية المجاورة للصومال خوفا من أن يستخدم الإرهابيون ذلك البلد المنكوب كنقطة إنطلاق بحرية إلى أوروبا بينما شواطي شمال لبنان غير مراقبة ولا محروسة ( لأن الدوليين وفقا للقرار 1701 يركزون على السواحل التي قد تشكل منفذا لتسلح حزب الله وليس الشمال منها) .
هذه المعطيات الأمنية جعلت من اللعب السعودي بالنار الطرابلسية أمرا مستنكرا ومرفوضا من حلفاء السعوديين الأوروبيين والعرب.
الديبلوماسي قال بأن بعض من في الغرب يتسائل عن الطريقة التي يمكن لهم أن يقنعوا سوريا بها لتساعد في إيقاف تحويل الشمال وطرابلس وعكار إلى نيو- قندهار .
السعوديون أشاروا على دميتهم سعد الحريري تحت الضغط الأوروبي والمصري والتركي لكي يوقف هذه المهزلة، وقد بدأ ببعض التحركات من طرابلس إلى البقاع حيث هناك تواجد قوي للسلفيين .
السعوديون كانوا قد سمعوا قبل إتخاذهم القرار بالتهدئة والمصالحة في طرابلس والشمال كلاما صريحا من الفرنسيين عن وجوب إنهاء لعبة إستخدام سيف القاعدة ذو الحدين وإلا فهناك من هو جاهز ليضع حدا بنفسه للموضوع .
في دمشق يجيب العارفون ببسمة مرتاحة عن معنى (وإلا )..الفرنسية، ثم يضيفون :
ولكن من قال بأن سوريا تريد العودة إلى لبنان ؟

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September 12th, 2008, 5:03 pm

 

78. Zenobia said:

Here’s a revised version of comment which never made it on there eight hours ago.

Please AIG, don’t make me puke with your interpretations of Abe and or american historical philosophy.
My reading skills are fine, while your comprehension skills are that of a severely challenged person.

I don’t need a wikipedia lecture from you. I am not disagreeing with descriptions of Lincoln. READ MY LAST LINE OF THE LAST COMMENT, i am deeply offended by YOU OR ANY Other person… trying to equate Republican Party bullshit with the philosophies of the famous americans of history.
It is disgusting. all who do it are being irresponsible and manipulating language and history. You should keep your ideas as your own and so should the neo-cons. Their ideals are as deep as a bad wood veneer.

I see why you think the Neo-con agenda is so admirable, as you later reveal your warped belief that America is to thank for all freedom and development in the world. I have never heard such a grandiose claim even out of the mouth of the most hardcore neo-con.
But this is all a grand delusion of american narcissism.
The reality is few people on the rest of the planet thinks this way about america. IN fact often their sentiment is quite the opposite, that our record is at least as much harm to the globe as good.

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September 12th, 2008, 5:20 pm

 

79. AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Shai,
I would have made peace with Egypt. First, because it is advantageous to Israel and second because I thought it would lead to democracy in Egypt. Obviously I was wrong about that. Syria is not Egypt and the benefits of peace are such that it is not worth betraying the forces of democracy in Syria for.

Even Landis is clear that peace will delay democracy. He just wrote:”Peace with Israel will only strengthen the legitimacy of the regime because it will be good for the economy and help further stability — economic and political.” Furthermore, he does not believe that the Syrian elites want democracy and therefore it will not happen in Syria. He has been clear on this issue. So don’t believe me, believe Landis.

As for examples of how democracy came about by standing up and isolating dictatorial regimes, how do you think democracy came to Eastern Europe? Exactly by standing up and isolating the dictatorial regimes in Russia and in those countries. They had to change or face economic collapse. That is the only non-violent way that will work with Asad’s regime, if anything works at all.

The embassies in Damascus are not an indication of anything. The indication you should be looking at is that Syria cannot buy an Airbus plane. That means isolating the regime. And peace with Israel does not mean just one more embassy in Damascus. It means breaking the isolation of Syria and legitimizing the regime and letting it off the economic hook that is the only incentive the regime has to democratize.

You still have not answered my question:
But how would you feel, if in the middle of your struggle against your dictator, your neigboring country together with the world’s leading power decided to find the dictator legitimate, reward him with land, trade agreements, money, techonology, international legitimacy, thus making your quest for freedom even more difficult than it is, in fact almost impossible?

This is where your lack of empathy shows. You would fight a dictator, BUT you would make it extra difficult for Syrians to fight one. In fact you would give aid to the dictator and his regime.

Zenobia,
Where did I ever write that the US alone is responsible for democracy and liberty and development in the world?

Whoever ridcules the US, about its support of liberty and democracy has just not read history. The US did not colonize Japan. It help Japan become a world economic power. The US did not colonize Western Europe, with the Marshall plan it helped put these countries on their feet again. Compare that to what the Russians did in the areas they conquered. The US did not colonize Eastern Europe after the Cold War. It helped these countries in exonomic ways. Any reasonable person looking at the 20th century would agree that without the US there would have been much much less freedom and development in it.

Has the US made mistakes? Of course, when it fights for interests instead of ideals it usually makes mistakes. But wanting to bring freedom to another country is never a mistake. In 20 years time, all reasonable Iraqis will greatly appreciate the fact that the US ousted Saddam Hussein.

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September 12th, 2008, 5:23 pm

 

80. Alex said:

We do have opinion polls … Europeans think the neocon’s America is the most dangerous country on earth.

It does not get any worse than that.

Not to mention that 16-24 year old Americans also agree that their country, led by neocons, is the greatest threat to peace.

http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/70046760-27f0-11dc-80da-000b5df10621.html?nclick_check=1

Europeans see US as threat to peace

By Daniel Dombey and Stanley Pignal in London

Published: July 1 2007 18:09 | Last updated: July 1 2007 18:09

Europeans consistently regard the US as the biggest threat to world stability, a new poll reveals on Monday.

Perceived greatest threat to global securityA survey carried out in June by Harris Research for the Financial Times shows that 32 per cent of respondents in five European countries regard the US as a bigger threat than any other state.

In the US itself, North Korea and Iran are seen as the biggest risks. However, the youngest US respondents share the Europeans’ view that theirs is the biggest threat, with 35 per cent of American 16- to 24-year-olds identifying it as the chief danger to stability.

The level of European concern about the US has remained broadly consistent over the past year. In 11 previous polls dating back to July 2006 the proportion of respondents considering the US a threat to stability has ranged between 28 per cent and 38 per cent.

The latest poll comes in the wake of the “surge” that has increased US forces in Iraq to about 160,000 troops, but which has not been accompanied by political breakthroughs or a dramatic reduction of violence. During President George W. Bush’s second term the administration has also embarked on a more consensual international approach to issues such as Iran’s nuclear programme and North Korea’s nuclear bomb.

But the poll shows that the European public still considers Mr Bush a risk.

“It is evidence of the continued estrangement between the European public and the Bush administration, in spite of a real improvement in official ties,” said Ron Asmus, head of the Brussels office of the German Marshall Fund, which works to bolster transatlantic ties.

“It is proof that the next president will be confronted with the major challenge of improving America’s image abroad, starting with Europe and our main allies.”

Inhabitants of Spain are most concerned about the US, with 46 per cent of respondents naming America as the biggest threat.

European poll respondents – who also come from France, Germany, Italy and the UK – are increasingly concerned about China, which 19 per cent perceive as the biggest threat, up from 12 per cent last July.

Meanwhile, 17 per cent identify Iran as the biggest threat, 11 per cent Iraq and 9 per cent North Korea. Only 5 per cent single out Russia, despite increased tensions between Moscow and the west.

The poll’s data on the US indicate that 25 per cent of Americans see North Korea as the biggest threat, followed by Iran with 23 per cent, China with 20 per cent, and the US itself with 11 per cent.

The poll is consistent with findings last week by the Pew Global Attitudes Project, which found that favourable ratings of the US had declined in 26 of 33 countries over the past five years.

But the Pew poll also contrasted unfavourable ratings of the US with much more positive responses in Israel, Poland, Japan, India and parts of Africa and Latin America.

The survey for the Financial Times was carried out online by Harris Interactive between July 2006 and June 2007. More than 1,000 people were polled in each country each month.

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September 12th, 2008, 6:07 pm

 

81. Shai said:

AIG,

You’re talking nonsense. Explain to me why it is that 95% of the Syrians on SC have no problem with Israel talking to Bashar and to making peace with Syria, yet YOU, the Israeli, do!? Don’t you find the absurd here? Israelis want peace, Syrians want peace, yet you, the holier-than-thou, keeper of the Gate of Democracy, AIG, wants to wait it out, because you’re afraid of “betraying the forces of democracy”. What about betraying your own nation? The lives of your own people (let alone children, I don’t know if you have any in Israel). Their lives you’re not worried about. With a Syria that remains our enemy, that continues to support resistance groups from Hezbollah to Hamas, so as to pressure Israel to… make peace, with such a Syria, you’re not worried. You don’t see how Israelis are dying because an enemy like Syria is not “helping” Israeli soldiers’ lives.

I think you see this whole thing as some kind of game in a vacuum. You can just not interfere with a particular body (isolate it), and it’ll stay frozen in time, not effecting anything else around it. Well, Syria is our enemy. As such, it does what enemies do – it continues to search for ways to get back what we took from it. Either by force, or by more force, or by peace. You seem to accept that just fine. You seem to believe time is on our side. You’re ready to sacrifice the lives of Israelis, so as not to betray your Syrian freedom-fighters.

Don’t you think you have your priorities just a little mixed up here? Stop dealing in fortune-telling, and in guessing how much slower democracy in Syria will be, should the forbidden peace with Israel take place. Instead, try to imagine the lives you would save, in Israel to start with, by making peace with your Syrian enemy. Why is it that Begin, Shamir, Rabin, Peres, Netanyahu, Barak, Sharon, and Olmert, all saw the logic behind talking to Syria, and opting to make peace with the Arab world as is, not as some fantasy futuristic union of democratic states, yet you don’t? How do you explain that, AIG? What do you understand, that they didn’t? Or, perhaps, what don’t you understand, that they did?

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September 12th, 2008, 6:14 pm

 

82. why-discuss said:

I wonder why SC members keep wasting their time replying to a parroting member. Just ignore him and he may stop.

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September 12th, 2008, 6:36 pm

 

83. Alex said:

This is from our freind Offended. he is stuck in the SPAM filter today : )

Well in my comment, i just wanted to draw yours and others’ attention to this post by as’ad abkhalil, it corroborates what ChamPress article says:

Peace in Tripoli? I talked to a Lebanese politician in Tripoli (and he was one of the signatories of the peace treaty in the city). I was rather confused at the turn of events: that mini-Hariri would suddenly show up in the city and sponsor peace efforts and would meet with his rivals. This is very uncharacteristic of the Hariri family that never recognizes rivals within the Sunni community. Basically, I am under the impression that Hariri moved, not so much because of Saudi pressures, but becasue of U.S. and French (and even Egyptian) pressures on the Saudis to act. I am learning of some degree of factionalism within the Saudi government/royal family that is effecting Saudi foreign policy. The Saudi ambassador who visited the city sent a message of sectarian defiance to the city. The armed Sunni gangs fighting have many masters: Hariri, Miqati, and Karami, and some answer to princes in the Gulf who pay them money. Some Saudi officials wanted to use Tripoli to humiliated Syria and Hizbullah, and they even spoke of overrunning Ba`l Muhsin (the `Alawite stronghold). That was not easy to accomplish, and my source tells me that fighting in the city–no matter how prolonged–will stay in a stalemate–very much like clashes during the civil war. Clearly, Hariri rivals, espeically `Umar Karami, are beneficiaries and they received their rival’s ackowledgement of their stature in Tripoli. Some said that the French were willing to support a Syrian military entrance into Tripoli becuase the French and the Americans became alarmed at the rise of Bin Ladenite groups in the city. But what is not talked about much is that the Hariri-controlled Jihaz Al-Ma`lumat (Intelligene Apparatus within the Internal Security Forces–Al-Akhbar has been publishing series of articles about it) played a big role in arming and financing the Sunni armed gangs. Personally, I think that peace will not last in Tripoli: I am more of the view that there are those in Saudi Arabia (and perhaps elsewhere) who will not allow a parliamentary election to talke place in Lebanon becasue indications are that given the electoral law of qada’, Hariri will lose the majority within parliament.

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September 12th, 2008, 6:46 pm

 

84. AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Shai,

You have very few Syrian opposition members posting on this blog, so your statistics are just biased.

I am willing to allow cars in Israel even though I know for a fact that thousands will be injured and die from their use. Yes, not talking to Syria may cost Israeli lives, including that of myself or my children. But when taken relative to the long term benefit of democracy in Syria, the risks are such that I am willing to take them.

First you criticize Israeli politicians for being short sighted and stupid, and now you bring them as examples I should learn from. Come on. To me it is clear as day that real peace will only come to the middle east when Arab countries democratize. Rabin did not understand this and we paid a heavy price for Oslo. Barak did not understand this and we paid a heavy price for leaving Lebanon. I did not understand it for many years, but let’s face it. As long as Arab countries cannot give hope to their young people, the middle east will be a mess.

You still have not answered my question:
But how would you feel, if in the middle of your struggle against your dictator, your neigboring country together with the world’s leading power decided to find the dictator legitimate, reward him with land, trade agreements, money, techonology, international legitimacy, thus making your quest for freedom even more difficult than it is, in fact almost impossible?

This is where your lack of empathy shows. You would fight a dictator, BUT you would make it extra difficult for Syrians to fight one. In fact you would give aid to the dictator and his regime.

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September 12th, 2008, 6:53 pm

 

85. Alex said:

Shai please do not answer him. His comments for the day are finished, and we .. heard his opinion too many times already. We can live without another eloquent repetition.

AIG,

I realize you still did not answer my questions above to show me that you do understand what people say to you as you claimed earlier.

You don’t have to answer. But I will be strict.

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September 12th, 2008, 6:59 pm

 

86. Shai said:

AIG,

You and I should not be arguing what’s best for Syria. That’s for Syrians to do, not outsiders. We should be discussing what’s best for Israel. You seem to believe that for Israel, despite the toll in human lives, it is better to wait for the Arab world to become full of democracies. You seem to think that the Golan is an award to Bashar Assad, and not a rightful return to the Syrian people. You seem to think that economic relations with Syria only means money in Bashar’s pocket, not better living for the Syrian people.

I think you’re wrong. Since 1977, every Prime Minister Israel had, from Labor to the Likud, thought you were wrong. That includes the guy you’re about to vote for, Benjamin Netanyahu. It includes Begin, Shamir, Sharon, and Olmert, all lifelong Likud members and leaders. They all think you’re wrong.

Heck, with your logic, why doesn’t Israel go ahead and cut off relations with Egypt and Jordan now (being ready to pay your sacrifice), take a chance on war, and await a speedier course towards democracy. After all, last thing I want to do, is to betray the “forces of democracy” throughout the region, right? Most Egyptians and Jordanians are probably cursing us for making peace with them, because NOW it is so much tougher for them to be free, right? In fact, maybe once they do become democracies, they’ll cut OFF relations with Israel, because we betrayed them all along, right? AIG, I think even the Pope wouldn’t buy your “empathy”… 😉

(Alex, I’m sorry, I did not see your comment on time. I also do not wish to continue this record with AIG. I’m beginning to notice my own record playing as well…)

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September 12th, 2008, 7:05 pm

 

87. Shai said:

This coming Wednesday is a very important day for Israeli politics – the primaries in Kadima. For those interested, here’s a brief contrast between the two Kadima candidates, one of whom can become Israel’s next Prime Minister (Livni or Mofaz): http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-3595760,00.html

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September 12th, 2008, 7:17 pm

 

88. AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Shai,
As usual your logic is flawed. First you argue that I have no empathy for Syrians and then you argue that we have to do what is best for Israel not what is best for BOTH Syria and Israel.

As for Egypt, don’t you admit that not being able to make any progress in democracy there shows that the peace deal was not structured correctly? No, I am not recommending renegging on the peace agreement because Israel has to stand behind what it signs. But that does not mean I cannot say that the peace deal with Egypt is EXTREMELY flawed and short changed the democratic aspirations of the Egyptian people. Perhaps even this lack of reform will bring down the regime and create chaos as the Economist report shows.

You still have not answered my very basic question:
But how would you feel, if in the middle of your struggle against your dictator, your neigboring country together with the world’s leading power decided to find the dictator legitimate, reward him with land, trade agreements, money, techonology, international legitimacy, thus making your quest for freedom even more difficult than it is, in fact almost impossible?

This is where your lack of empathy shows. You would fight a dictator, BUT you would make it extra difficult for Syrians to fight one. In fact you would give aid to the dictator and his regime.

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September 13th, 2008, 8:17 pm

 

89. Alex said:

Great… but sufficient.

I will have to remove any new comment on this topic.

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September 13th, 2008, 8:33 pm

 

90. Rumyal said:

Hello Dear Friends!

Glad to see the comments section is up again, the wp_comments table all healed and repaired 😉 It seems like the mobile version of the site is still unavailable, though.

Really interesting discussion between Nour, Wasim, Why-Discuss, AIG, Shai, Akbar Palace, Off The Wall and Karim about what Israel “is” and “needs” to be in order to integrate peacefully into the mid-east. There were a lot of opinions voiced about what it’s really like for Arabs in Israel. I’d like to contribute my point of view and also comment about what I believe is other factors that are in play here.

I’ve mentioned before I lived in Haifa for 30 years until the year 2000 and I visit roughly every year. My extended family lives in Haifa and the north and as you can imagine I have lots of friends in that area.

The economic ties between Jews and Arabs run deep, and thread through all levels of the work-force, from day-workers through business owners through district judges and professors. It is true that the Arabs are in general a less skilled work-force and therefore are more likely found in professions such as construction, but this highly depends on their background. There are many Arabs who come to work in Haifa and its vicinity from the rural area of the Galilee. Like most rural areas around the world people brought up there are not trained to excel in scholarly domains, or learn the tricks of upward mobility. They are traditional people who often just want to continue living in their traditional ways in their villages. On the other hand, you have the urban Arab population which is extremely successful in academics and business, in the Haifa area. These folks can work wherever they want and live wherever they want and I believe that most Jews would also befriend them if they have the choice.

However, from what I can tell, they—the Arabs, most of the time prefer not to make extensive friendships with Jewish people. My parents both have successful Arab colleagues and they are invited and sought after in social gatherings. My best buddy while in grad school in the Technion was an Arab, a Muslim from a small village in the Galilee who made it all the way to a successful academic career in the US, despite all adversities. While at high school I dated a girl from a mixed family. But as I said, these “accessible” folks are the exception, not the rule, and it’s hard for an Israeli to therefore make friends with an Arab, because there just aren’t that many that are interested. Some of them truly don’t want to be our friends and some are afraid of being chastised by their community. My father was practicing law and for a while he had an Arab intern. After working together for a while he felt he could ask her where she stood politically. Her position was very similar to that of Nour and Wasim. She said, “look you’re a great person, but that cannot take precedence over what’s right from a national point of view for my people”. This type of attitude proves to Israelis that no matter what they do, they will not be able to pacify the Arabs (they are wrong—they could do more—I’ll write about this below).

There are a few neighborhoods where Jews and Arabs live together in Haifa. For example in Hadar low-income families of all religions live in the same buildings, but I wouldn’t say that they actually live as a community. They live together because this is what they can afford. It’s an area of crime and poverty and people there are predominantly preoccupied with how to make ends meet, rather than how to bring about eternal peace to the Middle East…

The German Colony area of Haifa was renovated about 10 years ago and it now flourishes with restaurants, cafes, bars, galleries and a shopping center, most of which I believe are owned by Arab residents, they play Arab music (and also other music…), display Arab artwork and more. This area is extremely popular with both Arabs and Jews and I wouldn’t be surprised if interesting dialogues are starting to brew there. The Haifa Theatre traditionally has a lot of Arab actors and a liberal agenda, and that is also something that has bored its way into the Haifa psyche.

This level of (mostly economic but also cultural) cooperation between Jews and Arabs is common I believe in the entire north of Israel. Ironic as it may seem, the 2006 war actually underscored a natural (missing) tie between the Haifa metropolitan area and the Lebanese towns to the north—we were both subjected to missiles and bombardments while other cities, such as Damascus and Tel Aviv were on the sidelines. It was fairly alienating to see reports of people in Tel Aviv continuing their daily and nightly routines without much solidarity with the north.

Here is another piece from the NYTimes that talks about another Jewish/Arab cooperation project in the north:
http://www.nytimes.com/2008/09/12/world/middleeast/12jenin.html?_r=1&ref=world&oref=slogin

I have noticed that people that grew up in the center of Israel, around and in Tel Aviv, do not have the same level of daily interactions with Arab *residents* in their home-towns; they only saw poor and hateful day-workers coming to serve them from the occupied territories and thus they don’t even know how to start thinking about practical coexistence. The people of the north (Jews and Arabs) can potentially help in building bridges to coexistence but unfortunately the north is quite marginal in the Israeli society.

Why-discuss and OTW had some interesting comments about the cute California style settlements and “attachment to the land” of the Jewish population. A few observations:

The striking majority of Israelis live in high-density construction in urban areas, not in cute little settlements. The fact that you can get a little house for cheap was a major draw for many people who moved to the west bank for economical reasons, and not ideology. This trend is pretty much over.

Still many Israelis can afford a house of their own, cute and everything, within the 67 borders. The question is why should the Arabs masses have a problem with that? Is it the outlandish architecture, or the divide between the have and have-nots? I can see the same tensions potentially brewing up between the masses and the richer populations of the Gulf. Jealously is hard to fix—it can only be fixed by the promise of upward mobility to the masses (by the way, these problem are also endemic *inside* the Israeli society).

On the question of colonial architecture, I hear you loud and clear. We have to face it, our ancestors, the Zionist Pioneers (and you’ll have to reserve judgment of the word “Zionist” for a second, I’m just using it as a self-label) were indeed pretty clueless about how to architect a Mediterranean city or village and of course they didn’t want to integrate or emulate Arab architecture. We are still grappling with some of the decisions that they’ve made about urban design and architecture. You would be surprised to know though that this is changing and there are new developments that pay close attention to these considerations.

This year I visited friends in a new village in the Galilee that is a stone throw from an Arab village. The neighbors’ relationships are good. .e.g., they take their kids to a pediatrician in the Arab village. From an architectural perspective they try to emulate the Arab village with the houses built close to the ground, hugging the hills instead of concurring them… There’s still a lot to do and as in many other areas, good taste and sensibility do not often prevail. It’s important to understand though that the Jewish villages are built by large construction companies whereas the Arab homes are traditionally built by the family. Thus it’s just natural that the Jewish developments look more artificial but it also explains why it’s so difficult to maintain reasonable infrastructure in the Arab municipalities.

On the question of whether an Arab can buy a home in one of those cookie-cutter villages there was a heated debate when an Arab named Ka’adan applied to join the village Katzir:
http://www.jpost.com/servlet/Satellite?cid=1196847352257&pagename=JPost%2FJPArticle%2FShowFull

He was rejected by the acceptance committee on the grounds of “lack of compatibility”. This was brought before court and the court said that it doesn’t fly. I’m not sure what happened in the end, but the morale is very clear: these societies do not welcome Arabs. However, they do not welcome anybody who is a little bit too different for their taste—imagine what a horror it should be to live there…

Somebody also said that we are not attached to the land in a meaningful way. Personally as a youth I crisscrossed by foot across Israel. One thing that is really noticeable when you visit Israel is the absolute freedom of the youth to get up and do stuff. Travel. Hike. Go to a festival. Surf the sea. What you’re saying is probably true to new immigrants, but not to anybody else. Of course you have kids that sit all day long at the home playing a video game and they’re connected to nothing. But that isn’t really an Israeli phenomenon.

So where does this all go? In all honesty the person who said that Israel cannot be a normal country as long as it is “Jewish” is correct. There are basically two options: the first, the two state solution is based on the premise that Israel would shed almost all of its Arab population (including some that are currently citizens). Then it would be free to be the semi-religious state that it is now, but it would basically segregate itself from its neighbors, because it wouldn’t be in its ethos to integrate—the ethos would continue to be Jewish supremacy—we’re here and you are there, and it’s likely that many Palestinians will still be unhappy about their inability to return to their land (48).

The other option is the one state solution where Israel/Palestine becomes a single secular entity with special recognition for populations that are culturally or otherwise linked to the country and should be able to immigrate to Israel relatively easily. As an example consider Spain that has easy immigration procedures to all Spanish-speaking countries. This status would naturally include the Palestinian refugees but also the Jewish Diaspora. People like to say that this is suicide for Israel but I don’t think this is necessarily true. What do Jewish people think they need? We think we need a safe-haven where Jewish people will be always able to come and live and not be persecuted. We don’t need an apartheid state. We don’t need a religious state either—the success of Jews in the US proves that. We’ll need very good gate-keepers to make sure that the folks who are coming in are committed to a pluralistic liberal democracy, and market forces will take care of the rest.

Of course the danger is that the Arab population will make this state into another Arab country and I don’t mean to offend anybody here but this is not something we are looking forward to because, well, we do like democracy (including the transvestite parades) and we do like the economic prosperity and we don’t appreciate the concessions that the rule of law makes to Islamic traditions in Arab states (e.g., in Egypt).

Look, it’s obvious that educated liberal people can all live together *in the same country* we actually do! Most of us live in the West and have Arab/Jewish friends and it works just fine. Why is that? Well, if you don’t try to make Canada a Jewish or a Muslim or a Christian country, if it’s not part of your agenda, then, well, what is there to quarrel about?

In order to get to a point where we have our own Canada in the mid-east we have to recognize what’s in the way. I’ll be very blunt, unlike many that are skirting around the issue here. The most important thing is to educate the next generation to secularism and pluralism. I think this is exactly where the tolerance towards Asad from the Syrian folks here comes from. Since with Asad, Syrian kids are learning math and reading and science, in schools that pay no homage to sectarian division lines, rather than sit in Madrasas and listen to an 8th century curriculum and go to war over who was really nominated by Him to represent The One a thousand years ago.

I totally trust that they’re making the right judgment call.

Peace and love to all.

Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

September 13th, 2008, 9:52 pm

 

91. Rumyal said:

Hello Dear Friends!

Glad to see the comments section is up again, the wp_comments table all healed and repaired 😉 It seems like the mobile version of the site is still unavailable, though.

Really interesting discussion between Nour, Wasim, Why-Discuss, AIG, Shai, Akbar Palace, Off The Wall and Karim about what Israel “is” and “needs” to be in order to integrate peacefully into the

mid-east. There were a lot of opinions voiced about what it’s really like for Arabs in Israel. I’d like to contribute my point of view and also comment about what I believe is other factors that

are in play here.

I’ve mentioned before I lived in Haifa for 30 years until the year 2000 and I visit roughly every year. My extended family lives in Haifa and the north and as you can imagine I have lots of

friends in that area.

The economic ties between Jews and Arabs run deep, and thread through all levels of the work-force, from day-workers through business owners through district judges and professors. It is true that

the Arabs are in general a less skilled work-force and therefore are more likely found in professions such as construction, but this highly depends on their background. There are many Arabs who

come to work in Haifa and its vicinity from the rural area of the Galilee. Like most rural areas around the world people brought up there are not trained to excel in scholarly domains, or learn

the tricks of upward mobility. They are traditional people who often just want to continue living in their traditional ways in their villages. On the other hand, you have the urban Arab population

which is extremely successful in academics and business, in the Haifa area. These folks can work wherever they want and live wherever they want and I believe that most Jews would also befriend

them if they have the choice.

However, from what I can tell, they—the Arabs, most of the time prefer not to make extensive friendships with Jewish people. My parents both have successful Arab colleagues and they are invited

and sought after in social gatherings. My best buddy while in grad school in the Technion was an Arab, a Muslim from a small village in the Galilee who made it all the way to a successful academic

career in the US, despite all adversities. While at high school I dated a girl from a mixed family. But as I said, these “accessible” folks are the exception, not the rule, and it’s hard for an

Israeli to therefore make friends with an Arab, because there just aren’t that many that are interested. Some of them truly don’t want to be our friends and some are afraid of being chastised by

their community. My father was practicing law and for a while he had an Arab intern. After working together for a while he felt he could ask her where she stood politically. Her position was very

similar to that of Nour and Wasim. She said, “look you’re a great person, but that cannot take precedence over what’s right from a national point of view for my people”. This type of attitude

proves to Israelis that no matter what they do, they will not be able to pacify the Arabs (they are wrong—they could do more—I’ll write about this below).

There are a few neighborhoods where Jews and Arabs live together in Haifa. For example in Hadar low-income families of all religions live in the same buildings, but I wouldn’t say that they

actually live as a community. They live together because this is what they can afford. It’s an area of crime and poverty and people there are predominantly preoccupied with how to make ends meet,

rather than how to bring about eternal peace to the Middle East…

The German Colony area of Haifa was renovated about 10 years ago and it now flourishes with restaurants, cafes, bars, galleries and a shopping center, most of which I believe are owned by Arab

residents, they play Arab music (and also other music…), display Arab artwork and more. This area is extremely popular with both Arabs and Jews and I wouldn’t be surprised if interesting dialogues

are starting to brew there. The Haifa Theatre traditionally has a lot of Arab actors and a liberal agenda, and that is also something that has bored its way into the Haifa psyche.

This level of (mostly economic but also cultural) cooperation between Jews and Arabs is common I believe in the entire north of Israel. Ironic as it may seem, the 2006 war actually underscored a

natural (missing) tie between the Haifa metropolitan area and the Lebanese towns to the north—we were both subjected to missiles and bombardments while other cities, such as Damascus and Tel

Aviv were on the sidelines. It was fairly alienating to see reports of people in Tel Aviv continuing their daily and nightly routines without much solidarity with the north.

Here is another piece from the NYTimes that talks about another Jewish/Arab cooperation project in the north:
http://www.nytimes.com/2008/09/12/world/middleeast/12jenin.html?_r=1&ref=world&oref=slogin

I have noticed that people that grew up in the center of Israel, around and in Tel Aviv, do not have the same level of daily interactions with Arab *residents* in their home-towns; they only saw

poor and hateful day-workers coming to serve them from the occupied territories and thus they don’t even know how to start thinking about practical coexistence. The people of the north (Jews and

Arabs) can potentially help in building bridges to coexistence but unfortunately the north is quite marginal in the Israeli society.

Why-discuss and OTW had some interesting comments about the cute California style settlements and “attachment to the land” of the Jewish population. A few observations:

The striking majority of Israelis live in high-density construction in urban areas, not in cute little settlements. The fact that you can get a little house for cheap was a major draw for many

people who moved to the west bank for economical reasons, and not ideology. This trend is pretty much over.

Still many Israelis can afford a house of their own, cute and everything, within the 67 borders. The question is why should the Arabs masses have a problem with that? Is it the outlandish

architecture, or the divide between the have and have-nots? I can see the same tensions potentially brewing up between the masses and the richer populations of the Gulf. Jealously is hard to fix-

–it can only be fixed by the promise of upward mobility to the masses (by the way, these problem are also endemic *inside* the Israeli society).

On the question of colonial architecture, I hear you loud and clear. We have to face it, our ancestors, the Zionist Pioneers (and you’ll have to reserve judgment of the word “Zionist” for a

second, I’m just using it as a self-label) were indeed pretty clueless about how to architect a Mediterranean city or village and of course they didn’t want to integrate or emulate Arab

architecture. We are still grappling with some of the decisions that they’ve made about urban design and architecture. You would be surprised to know though that this is changing and there are new

developments that pay close attention to these considerations.

This year I visited friends in a new village in the Galilee that is a stone throw from an Arab village. The neighbors’ relationships are good. .e.g., they take their kids to a pediatrician in the

Arab village. From an architectural perspective they try to emulate the Arab village with the houses built close to the ground, hugging the hills instead of concurring them… There’s still a lot to

do and as in many other areas, good taste and sensibility do not often prevail. It’s important to understand though that the Jewish villages are built by large construction companies whereas the

Arab homes are traditionally built by the family. Thus it’s just natural that the Jewish developments look more artificial but it also explains why it’s so difficult to maintain reasonable

infrastructure in the Arab municipalities.

On the question of whether an Arab can buy a home in one of those cookie-cutter villages there was a heated debate when an Arab named Ka’adan applied to join the village Katzir:
http://www.jpost.com/servlet/Satellite?cid=1196847352257&pagename=JPost%2FJPArticle%2FShowFull

He was rejected by the acceptance committee on the grounds of “lack of compatibility”. This was brought before court and the court said that it doesn’t fly. I’m not sure what happened in the end,

but the morale is very clear: these societies do not welcome Arabs. However, they do not welcome anybody who is a little bit too different for their taste—imagine what a horror it should be to

live there…

Somebody also said that we are not attached to the land in a meaningful way. Personally as a youth I crisscrossed by foot across Israel. One thing that is really noticeable when you visit Israel

is the absolute freedom of the youth to get up and do stuff. Travel. Hike. Go to a festival. Surf the sea. What you’re saying is probably true to new immigrants, but not to anybody else. Of course

you have kids that sit all day long at the home playing a video game and they’re connected to nothing. But that isn’t really an Israeli phenomenon.

So where does this all go? In all honesty the person who said that Israel cannot be a normal country as long as it is “Jewish” is correct. There are basically two options: the first, the two state

solution is based on the premise that Israel would shed almost all of its Arab population (including some that are currently citizens). Then it would be free to be the semi-religious state that it

is now, but it would basically segregate itself from its neighbors, because it wouldn’t be in its ethos to integrate—the ethos would continue to be Jewish supremacy—we’re here and you are

there, and it’s likely that many Palestinians will still be unhappy about their inability to return to their land (48).

The other option is the one state solution where Israel/Palestine becomes a single secular entity with special recognition for populations that are culturally or otherwise linked to the country

and should be able to immigrate to Israel relatively easily. As an example consider Spain that has easy immigration procedures to all Spanish-speaking countries. This status would naturally

include the Palestinian refugees but also the Jewish Diaspora. People like to say that this is suicide for Israel but I don’t think this is necessarily true. What do Jewish people think they need?

We think we need a safe-haven where Jewish people will be always able to come and live and not be persecuted. We don’t need an apartheid state. We don’t need a religious state either—the success

of Jews in the US proves that. We’ll need very good gate-keepers to make sure that the folks who are coming in are committed to a pluralistic liberal democracy, and market forces will take care of

the rest.

Of course the danger is that the Arab population will make this state into another Arab country and I don’t mean to offend anybody here but this is not something we are looking forward to because,

well, we do like democracy (including the transvestite parades) and we do like the economic prosperity and we don’t appreciate the concessions that the rule of law makes to Islamic traditions in

Arab states (e.g., in Egypt).

Look, it’s obvious that educated liberal people can all live together *in the same country* we actually do! Most of us live in the West and have Arab/Jewish friends and it works just fine. Why is

that? Well, if you don’t try to make Canada a Jewish or a Muslim or a Christian country, if it’s not part of your agenda, then, well, what is there to quarrel about?

In order to get to a point where we have our own Canada in the mid-east we have to recognize what’s in the way. I’ll be very blunt, unlike many that are skirting around the issue here. The most

important thing is to educate the next generation to secularism and pluralism. I think this is exactly where the tolerance towards Asad from the Syrian folks here comes from. Since with Asad,

Syrian kids are learning math and reading and science, in schools that pay no homage to sectarian division lines, rather than sit in Madrasas and listen to an 8th century curriculum and go to war

over who was really nominated by Him to represent The One a thousand years ago.

I totally trust that they’re making the right judgment call.

Peace and love to all.

Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

September 13th, 2008, 10:00 pm

 

92. Karim said:

Dear Shai ,a true peace can not happen between a dictator and an ideological zionist state ,only peace between people can last for decades.And you and even AiG ,have changed the views of many on the reality of the israeli society ,you are not the devil as painted by the propaganda promotted by these regimes which surive on this music.
My idea is that the wise people from both camps should meet eachothers and form an alliance against the extremists from the arabs or the jews.For example ,Syrian and Lebanese intellectuals have signed the Damascus Beirut declaration ,we hope the same kind of declaration signed by Israeli and Syrian intellectuals.Because as i said above ,Bashar ,Sharon,Olmert are not eternals ,we as people we are.

Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

September 14th, 2008, 4:20 am

 

93. Karim said:

Dear Shai ,a true peace can not happen between a dictator and an ideological zionist state ,only peace between people can last for decades.And you and even AiG ,have changed the views of many on the reality of the israeli society ,you are not the devil as painted by the propaganda promotted by these regimes which surive on this music.
My idea is that the wise people from both camps should meet eachothers and form an alliance against extremists.For example ,Syrian and Lebanese intellectuals have signed the Damascus Beirut declaration ,we hope the same kind of declaration can be signed by Israeli and Syrian intellectuals.Because as i said above ,Bashar ,Sharon,Olmert are not eternals ,we as people we are.

Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

September 14th, 2008, 4:22 am

 

94. Shai said:

Karim,

I agree with you. It is a terrible shame that 60 years of bloodshed have taken place because of the wrong leaders, not the wrong people. If I thought an external alliance between peace-loving people like yourself and myself could persuade the corrupt, amateur politicians, to move faster along the right track, I’d be there to help form it, yesterday. But you see what is happening with all these opposition groups. They start out with good intentions, then they get funding from some Neocon administration, then they start repeating someone else’s mantras (Bush’s), and then they alienate themselves from most (even from peace-loving people). It’s a huge dilemma – how do you overcome stagnation, or moving backwards?

Look at Ami Ayalon in Israel. I can’t imagine a better persona to have lead such an “alliance”, and he did, for peace with the Palestinians. He was a navy commando, chief of the navy, general, head of Shin-Bet, and then, fighter for peace. He lead the Geneva Initiative. He got some 400,000 signatures in Israel, and a similar amount in Palestine. And where is he today? Barely influential in his party, Labor. Not even a minister. If he joined Likud, along with those other idiot-generals, he might have a chance. But ideologically, he can’t bring himself to do so. So a great man, great intentions, hardworking, clean of corruption, got almost nowhere. It’s the others, the screamers, the “true” politicians that shed their skin on a daily basis, that will kiss babies and, when they’re not looking, will steal their cookies, that will make it.

It’s a sad world, isn’t it? Believe me Karim, if I thought Israelis could go for such an “alliance”, I’d form it myself. But one thing I do believe very strongly in, and that is contact and exposure. We must find a way to bring our people together. Via journalists, via meetings, discussions, forums, whatever. Israelis do not know anything about Syrians, and likely vice-versa. Most Israelis are not West Bank settlers, and most Syrians are not Jew-haters. Yet how can empathy be created without contact?

So Norman, which comes first? Security, Peace, or Contact? If up to me, I’d reverse the order: Contact, Peace, Security. To me, that makes the most sense. That has the best chance. Maybe that’s what we should try to force upon our leaders.

Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

September 14th, 2008, 4:42 am

 

95. Alex said:

Shai

Contacts would be good, but I also like starting with mutual trust and respect.

Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

September 14th, 2008, 4:58 am

 

96. Rumyal said:

(Alex please forgive repetetive posting, I’m not sure if I’m being filtered or the system still has some glitches…)

Hello Dear Friends!

Glad to see the comments section is up again, the wp_comments table all healed and repaired 😉 It seems like the mobile version of the site is still unavailable, though.

Really interesting discussion between Nour, Wasim, Why-Discuss, AIG, Shai, Akbar Palace, Off The Wall and Karim about what Israel “is” and “needs” to be in order to integrate peacefully into the

mid-east. There were a lot of opinions voiced about what it’s really like for Arabs in Israel. I’d like to contribute my point of view and also comment about what I believe is other factors that

are in play here.

I’ve mentioned before I lived in Haifa for 30 years until the year 2000 and I visit roughly every year. My extended family lives in Haifa and the north and as you can imagine I have lots of

friends in that area.

The economic ties between Jews and Arabs run deep, and thread through all levels of the work-force, from day-workers through business owners through district judges and professors. It is true that

the Arabs are in general a less skilled work-force and therefore are more likely found in professions such as construction, but this highly depends on their background. There are many Arabs who

come to work in Haifa and its vicinity from the rural area of the Galilee. Like most rural areas around the world people brought up there are not trained to excel in scholarly domains, or learn

the tricks of upward mobility. They are traditional people who often just want to continue living in their traditional ways in their villages. On the other hand, you have the urban Arab population

which is extremely successful in academics and business, in the Haifa area. These folks can work wherever they want and live wherever they want and I believe that most Jews would also befriend

them if they have the choice.

However, from what I can tell, they—the Arabs, most of the time prefer not to make extensive friendships with Jewish people. My parents both have successful Arab colleagues and they are invited

and sought after in social gatherings. My best buddy while in grad school in the Technion was an Arab, a Muslim from a small village in the Galilee who made it all the way to a successful academic

career in the US, despite all adversities. While at high school I dated a girl from a mixed family. But as I said, these “accessible” folks are the exception, not the rule, and it’s hard for an

Israeli to therefore make friends with an Arab, because there just aren’t that many that are interested. Some of them truly don’t want to be our friends and some are afraid of being chastised by

their community. My father was practicing law and for a while he had an Arab intern. After working together for a while he felt he could ask her where she stood politically. Her position was very

similar to that of Nour and Wasim. She said, “look you’re a great person, but that cannot take precedence over what’s right from a national point of view for my people”. This type of attitude

proves to Israelis that no matter what they do, they will not be able to pacify the Arabs (they are wrong—they could do more—I’ll write about this below).

There are a few neighborhoods where Jews and Arabs live together in Haifa. For example in Hadar low-income families of all religions live in the same buildings, but I wouldn’t say that they

actually live as a community. They live together because this is what they can afford. It’s an area of crime and poverty and people there are predominantly preoccupied with how to make ends meet,

rather than how to bring about eternal peace to the Middle East…

The German Colony area of Haifa was renovated about 10 years ago and it now flourishes with restaurants, cafes, bars, galleries and a shopping center, most of which I believe are owned by Arab

residents, they play Arab music (and also other music…), display Arab artwork and more. This area is extremely popular with both Arabs and Jews and I wouldn’t be surprised if interesting dialogues

are starting to brew there. The Haifa Theatre traditionally has a lot of Arab actors and a liberal agenda, and that is also something that has bored its way into the Haifa psyche.

This level of (mostly economic but also cultural) cooperation between Jews and Arabs is common I believe in the entire north of Israel. Ironic as it may seem, the 2006 war actually underscored a

natural (missing) tie between the Haifa metropolitan area and the Lebanese towns to the north—we were both subjected to missiles and bombardments while other cities, such as Damascus and Tel

Aviv were on the sidelines. It was fairly alienating to see reports of people in Tel Aviv continuing their daily and nightly routines without much solidarity with the north.

Here is another piece from the NYTimes that talks about another Jewish/Arab cooperation project in the north:
http://www.nytimes.com/2008/09/12/world/middleeast/12jenin.html?_r=1&ref=world&oref=slogin

I have noticed that people that grew up in the center of Israel, around and in Tel Aviv, do not have the same level of daily interactions with Arab *residents* in their home-towns; they only saw

poor and hateful day-workers coming to serve them from the occupied territories and thus they don’t even know how to start thinking about practical coexistence. The people of the north (Jews and

Arabs) can potentially help in building bridges to coexistence but unfortunately the north is quite marginal in the Israeli society.

Why-discuss and OTW had some interesting comments about the cute California style settlements and “attachment to the land” of the Jewish population. A few observations:

The striking majority of Israelis live in high-density construction in urban areas, not in cute little settlements. The fact that you can get a little house for cheap was a major draw for many

people who moved to the west bank for economical reasons, and not ideology. This trend is pretty much over.

Still many Israelis can afford a house of their own, cute and everything, within the 67 borders. The question is why should the Arabs masses have a problem with that? Is it the outlandish

architecture, or the divide between the have and have-nots? I can see the same tensions potentially brewing up between the masses and the richer populations of the Gulf. Jealously is hard to fix-

–it can only be fixed by the promise of upward mobility to the masses (by the way, these problem are also endemic *inside* the Israeli society).

On the question of colonial architecture, I hear you loud and clear. We have to face it, our ancestors, the Zionist Pioneers (and you’ll have to reserve judgment of the word “Zionist” for a

second, I’m just using it as a self-label) were indeed pretty clueless about how to architect a Mediterranean city or village and of course they didn’t want to integrate or emulate Arab

architecture. We are still grappling with some of the decisions that they’ve made about urban design and architecture. You would be surprised to know though that this is changing and there are new

developments that pay close attention to these considerations.

This year I visited friends in a new village in the Galilee that is a stone throw from an Arab village. The neighbors’ relationships are good. .e.g., they take their kids to a pediatrician in the

Arab village. From an architectural perspective they try to emulate the Arab village with the houses built close to the ground, hugging the hills instead of concurring them… There’s still a lot to

do and as in many other areas, good taste and sensibility do not often prevail. It’s important to understand though that the Jewish villages are built by large construction companies whereas the

Arab homes are traditionally built by the family. Thus it’s just natural that the Jewish developments look more artificial but it also explains why it’s so difficult to maintain reasonable

infrastructure in the Arab municipalities.

On the question of whether an Arab can buy a home in one of those cookie-cutter villages there was a heated debate when an Arab named Ka’adan applied to join the village Katzir:
http://www.jpost.com/servlet/Satellite?cid=1196847352257&pagename=JPost%2FJPArticle%2FShowFull

He was rejected by the acceptance committee on the grounds of “lack of compatibility”. This was brought before court and the court said that it doesn’t fly. I’m not sure what happened in the end,

but the morale is very clear: these societies do not welcome Arabs. However, they do not welcome anybody who is a little bit too different for their taste—imagine what a horror it should be to

live there…

Somebody also said that we are not attached to the land in a meaningful way. Personally as a youth I crisscrossed by foot across Israel. One thing that is really noticeable when you visit Israel

is the absolute freedom of the youth to get up and do stuff. Travel. Hike. Go to a festival. Surf the sea. What you’re saying is probably true to new immigrants, but not to anybody else. Of course

you have kids that sit all day long at the home playing a video game and they’re connected to nothing. But that isn’t really an Israeli phenomenon.

So where does this all go? In all honesty the person who said that Israel cannot be a normal country as long as it is “Jewish” is correct. There are basically two options: the first, the two state

solution is based on the premise that Israel would shed almost all of its Arab population (including some that are currently citizens). Then it would be free to be the semi-religious state that it

is now, but it would basically segregate itself from its neighbors, because it wouldn’t be in its ethos to integrate—the ethos would continue to be Jewish supremacy—we’re here and you are

there, and it’s likely that many Palestinians will still be unhappy about their inability to return to their land (48).

The other option is the one state solution where Israel/Palestine becomes a single secular entity with special recognition for populations that are culturally or otherwise linked to the country

and should be able to immigrate to Israel relatively easily. As an example consider Spain that has easy immigration procedures to all Spanish-speaking countries. This status would naturally

include the Palestinian refugees but also the Jewish Diaspora. People like to say that this is suicide for Israel but I don’t think this is necessarily true. What do Jewish people think they need?

We think we need a safe-haven where Jewish people will be always able to come and live and not be persecuted. We don’t need an apartheid state. We don’t need a religious state either—the success

of Jews in the US proves that. We’ll need very good gate-keepers to make sure that the folks who are coming in are committed to a pluralistic liberal democracy, and market forces will take care of

the rest.

Of course the danger is that the Arab population will make this state into another Arab country and I don’t mean to offend anybody here but this is not something we are looking forward to because,

well, we do like democracy (including the transvestite parades) and we do like the economic prosperity and we don’t appreciate the concessions that the rule of law makes to Islamic traditions in

Arab states (e.g., in Egypt).

Look, it’s obvious that educated liberal people can all live together *in the same country* we actually do! Most of us live in the West and have Arab/Jewish friends and it works just fine. Why is

that? Well, if you don’t try to make Canada a Jewish or a Muslim or a Christian country, if it’s not part of your agenda, then, well, what is there to quarrel about?

In order to get to a point where we have our own Canada in the mid-east we have to recognize what’s in the way. I’ll be very blunt, unlike many that are skirting around the issue here. The most

important thing is to educate the next generation to secularism and pluralism. I think this is exactly where the tolerance towards Asad from the Syrian folks here comes from. Since with Asad,

Syrian kids are learning math and reading and science, in schools that pay no homage to sectarian division lines, rather than sit in Madrasas and listen to an 8th century curriculum and go to war

over who was really nominated by Him to represent The One a thousand years ago.

I totally trust that they’re making the right judgment call.

Peace and love to all.

Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

September 14th, 2008, 5:06 am

 

97. AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Shai,

How can there be any contact? The Syrian regime does not allow Syrians to speak freely to each other. You think they would let Syrians talk freely to Israelis?

If you really believe contacts are the solution, they you should support the democratization of Syria.

Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

September 14th, 2008, 5:06 am

 

98. Shai said:

Alex,

I agree, but how can mutual trust and respect occur, without first bringing Israelis and Syrians together, even if through the television set? Let 2 journalists from each side go on a week-long visit of the opposite nation, covering as much as they can. Interviewing people, politicians, etc. This would have tremendous effect in Israel, I can assure you of that. In my mind, this is the most efficient way to begin tearing down the walls of mutual fear, suspicion, and distrust.

Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

September 14th, 2008, 5:32 am

 

99. A syrian girl said:

When there is a disagreement every one is at fault and the conflicts will not go away until you (the smart ones of both sides) stop pointing fingers and understand that no one is innocent and everyone is looking out for their own profit. It is so childish to think that there is a victim and a terrorist it’s not a fairy tale where there is a good guy and the bad guy and it’s clear like the face of the sun. You are all too poetic to think clearly

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October 23rd, 2008, 11:31 pm

 

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