President Assad’s Speech to the Arab Summit

President Assad’s Speech to the Arab Summit Assembled in Damascus
Saturday, March 29, 2008
From SANA (But I cannot open the site to link)

Your Excellencies and Highnesses

Dear brothers and sisters,

On my behalf and on behalf of the Syrian Arab people, I extend to you a very warm welcome in your country, Syria, which receives you today with love, respect and sincere hope that this meeting among brothers is going to be a beneficial meeting for the Arab nation whose sons and daughters are looking forward to the achievement of solidarity, dignity and prosperity for this nation at a critical juncture of its modern history.

The convening of this Arab summit in Syria at this critical stage is a great honor and responsibility which we appreciate due to our strong belief in the importance of joint Arab work and its significance to our Arab nation that aspires to take its esteemed place in today’s world.

We tried our utmost to prepare the right conditions to make this summit a success, and we tried to overcome many of the obstacles which stood in its way. Especially as we all recognize the difficult stage and the sensitive developments evinced by our nation, to the extent that it is not an exaggeration to say that we are no longer on the brink of danger but in its midst and we could feel its direct effects on our countries and people. Every day passing without making a decisive decision that serves our Arab national interests makes the possibility of evading catastrophic results more remote and far reaching.

However different our opinions may be about the nature of these dangers, their causes and the best ways to face them (and it is only normal that members of the same family may entertain different opinions about the same issue), what is beyond doubt is that we are all in the same boat, facing turbulent currents, and there is no doubt that we have no alternative to consulting, coordinating and working with each other to unify our stands, regain our rights and achieve growth and development for our countries.

We live in a world that is passing through extremely important changes which are basically initiated and mapped by great international powers. This has incited many countries in the world to formulate their own regional blocs which consolidate their powers and enhance their interests, sometimes without initially having any thing in common among them. How natural and logical it is, then, for us, the Arabs, who constitute a natural national gathering that possesses all factors of success, that by far exceeds the factors enjoyed by any other regional bloc, to group and coordinate our efforts together? This becomes even more pressing in view of the challenges which are threatening our inner strength, making some of our Arab countries open fields for conflicts among others, though assuming the shape of a conflict among our people, or making us a target for aggression, killing and violence exercised by our enemies.

There is no doubt that there are many obstacles which stand in the face of our desires and aspirations to achieve what we want. Although we often agree on the objectives, there are differing views of the vision and the process. This needs not be a problem once we conduct an honest dialogue. Our dialogue and our deep conviction in the necessity of making an initiative to make active and serious stands will enhance our ability to overcome the difficulties through addressing them realistically, frankly, and with sincere regard for the highest interest of the Arab nation.

My dear brothers,

Many summits were convened during the past decades, some of which were convened at critical junctures. We succeeded at certain places and stages, and did not quite succeed at others. If the Arab situation is not quite satisfactory to us, this is not due to the summits, themselves, as much as it is due to the nature of the Arab-Arab relations and the circumstances surrounding them, both in the past and the present, and the way the results of these circumstances reflected on Arab summits. Yet, at many stages, and when the will was there, we were able to adopt stands expressing the real interests of the Arab nation. If wars and occupations were the most dangerous issues with which we were confronted during the past decades, the peace battle was no less significant. For many years past, we all recognized the importance of peace, and we expressed that at all times, and in different ways, beginning with our announcement over three decades ago that we believe in a just and comprehensive peace, and that we are prepared to realize it, through the Madrid Peace Conference in 1991, until we reached the Arab initiative for peace in 2002. That initiative expressed, without a shadow of doubt, our common intent, as Arab states, that we collectively want to make peace, provided that Israel showed its real readiness for peace.

Despite our best efforts, what was the Israeli response to this Arab initiative? Immediately after the Arab initiative, Israel led a huge aggression on the West bank and imposed a siege on the Palestinian people, killing their women and children. We all remember the Massacre of Jenin and the hundreds of martyrs who were killed by Israelis. Israel continued to build more settlements and it built a racist wall, and followed it with an aggression against Lebanon and Syria, and carried out political assassinations. Through doing all this, Israel was pushing the Israeli public opinion towards more extremism and more racism against the Arabs, rejecting, in the meantime, as it always did, to respond positively to the requirements of a just peace in accordance with its policies which are against peace. All this has taken place under the sight of the entire world and its absolute failure to take any firm and active measure to deter Israel from such acts, and under the pretext of ensuring Israel’s security, a pretext that has always been marketed by Israel, and those who support it.

Apart from discussing the security concept only from the Israeli perspective, as if the security of the Arabs should not be taken into account, we like to stress that security can only be achieved through peace and not through aggressions and wars which will only bring more pain and suffering. As for peace, it can only be achieved through the full withdrawal from Arab occupied territories and the full return of Arab rights. This means that security cannot be achieved before peace because occupation is the antithesis of both security and peace and because if security is not mutual and embracing the Arab side it will be only a mirage. Unless those who promote “security first” happen to assume, or to wait from the indigenous owners of the land to surrender to occupation, and from free people to accept to become slaves. Anyone who knows history surely knows that this logic has been defeated. Even if this logic were to be found at some moments, it is temporary, misleading, and it is always followed with more wars, destruction and regret.

If we, at the Arab level, have not missed any opportunity to express our desire for peace, the latest of which was our participation in Annapolis Conference, we find out that Israel has, also, used every opportunity but to prove the exact opposite, to prove its haughtiness and its outright rejection to implement international resolutions, and to prove its disregard for our rights and for all our peace initiatives.

The question that pauses itself here is do we have the peace process and our initiatives as a pawn to the moods of successive Israeli governments, or do we search for choices and alternatives which may well achieve a just and comprehensive peace and guarantee the return of our full and complete rights ? In other words, do we continue to submit unconditional offers to them, to pick up whatever they choose whenever they choose to respond to; and should these initiatives be influenced by the aggressive policies and the Israeli massacres, or are they abstract initiatives unrelated to either time or circumstance?

If the above mentioned initiatives include no call to escape to the front through wars on the Israeli style, they certainly include no acceptance of escaping backwards through submission and subservience to Israeli dictations. Rather, they are a call to review the substance of our strategic choices and to search for a balanced stand that accommodates the requirements of a just and comprehensive peace, and what the return of occupied territories and the guaranteeing of legitimate rights means, on the one hand, with the provision of the minimal level of steadfastness and resistance, as long as Israel continues to reject peace and launch aggression against us, on the other hand. Here we are meeting today while the blood of the martyrs of Israeli massacres, has not dried up yet, enveloped with an utter silence of the world and the anger of the Arab people and the condemnation of every one who has a free conscience in the world.

As we express our pain and condemnation of the suffering inflicted on our Palestinian people in Gaza and the West Bank of killing, blockade and destruction at the hands of the Israeli death machine and death squads, and our regret for what the Palestinian affairs have reached in terms of differences and division, we believe that priority should be given to the Palestinian dialogue. We would like to say to our Palestinian brothers your enemy will certainly use any division among you in order to perpetrate more massacres against you and your children without differentiating between one Arab and another, be this Arab Palestinian or from any other Arab country. Do not be under the illusion that your enemy differentiates between one Palestinian and another, or between the West Bank and Gaza, or between one Palestinian organization and another. All this should prompt you to rise above all differences, however big they may seem to you.

The unity and support of the Arab stand to the Palestinian issue is necessarily influenced by the unity of your own stand. The unity of stand is your guarantee, and the guarantee of your people, and of your cause, and it is the only way for you to regain your rights, in the forefront of which is regaining your land and the return of refugees. Here, we would like to express our appreciation of the efforts exerted by our brothers in the republic of Yemen and our support to the Yemeni initiative to resume dialogue, and we see in this initiative an appropriate framework for an agreement between Palestinian sides. We call upon all Arab countries to put an immediate end to the blockade imposed on Gaza, as an introduction to ask countries of the world to do the same.

In the context of speaking about rights, we, in Syria, emphasize that peace can only be achieved after the return of the entire Golan to the line of June 04, 1967. The Israeli continuous evasion will never bring them better conditions and will never make us accept to give up an inch of our land or any of our rights. The concessions they were not able to get from Syria in the past, will never be obtained by them in the present. As for betting on time so that rights may be dropped or forgotten, it is certainly to no avail, because time has produced generations who cling more tenaciously to their land, and who are more committed to resistance.

As for Lebanon, we feel very much concerned about the state and the inner division in Lebanon which is blocking an agreement on national common denominators. Despite all the propaganda about conditions in Lebanon, we affirm, once again, our concern for the independence of Lebanon, its sovereignty and stability. I owe it to the transparency between me and my brothers, the Arab leaders, to clarify what has been circulating about the so-called Syrian interference in Lebanon and the calls, statements and pressures to put an end to this influence. I would like to say to you, honestly, that what is happening on the ground is the exact opposite. The pressures which had been exerted on Syria for over a year now, and more frequently and extensively during the last few months, all aim to force Syria to interfere in the internal affairs of Lebanon. Our answer was clear to everyone who asked us to do something to that effect, and I shall reiterate our answer in front of this esteemed summit, which is as follows: The key to a solution in Lebanon is in the hands of the Lebanese themselves. They have their own country, their own institutions and their own constitution and they are capable of doing that by themselves. Any other role should be supportive to them, and not an alternative to their role. We, in Syria, are absolutely ready to cooperate with any Arab, or non-Arab efforts, in this domain, provided that the initiative, or any initiative, is based on the ground of national reconciliation, because it is the only foundation for stability in Lebanon which is our ultimate goal and objective.

As for our brotherly Iraq, which is suffering from very cruel circumstances, it needs the collaboration of all our efforts to support and help Iraq to achieve its sovereignty, stability and security, on the basis of national unity that embraces all the composites of the Iraqi people. The starting point for national unity is the achievement of national reconciliation among its citizens till they achieve complete independence and the exit of the last occupying soldier.

There is no doubt that the stability of Iraq is important to all of us, because it is not possible for our Arab region, in particular, and for the Middle East, and perhaps further, in general, to witness stability while Iraq is as turbulent as it is today. The stability of Iraq is intricately connected to its unity, which in its turn, is linked to Iraq’s Arab identity and dimension. In this regard, we all have the responsibility to consolidate the Arab presence in Iraq in cooperation and coordination with its government. Despite the importance of regional and international support, none of them is an alternative to our role in preserving the stability and Arab identity of Iraq.

We stress the unity of Sudan, its sovereignty and stability and call for the support of the efforts exerted by the government of Sudan to address the humanitarian situation in Darfour and achieve peace, security and stability for that part of our brotherly country, Sudan, away from foreign interference in Sudanese internal affairs. We reject any attempt to impose solutions or formulas under the pretext of the humanitarian situation.

All what has preceded calls upon us to establish the best relations with neighboring countries with which we share historic ties and common interests that serve our countries and people with the aim of achieving stability to our region and finding solutions to existing problems. We stress the necessity to solve any problem that may arise with these neighboring countries through direct dialogue and continuous contacts, which are able to erase causes of difference and dispel concerns about intentions.

Amidst the many issues which occupy us, the phenomenon of terrorism constitutes one of the current challenges with which we are faced. At the same time that we condemn all terrorist practices which target innocent civilians, and stipulate our stand against terrorism, we, in the mean time, emphasize that we consider fighting occupation a legitimate right for people guaranteed by all international legislation and human codes. We also stress that we consider the Israeli state terrorism against our Arab people the most dreadful form of terrorism in current times.

Brothers, Excellencies and Highnesses

Arab-Arab relations have witnessed a progressive growth during the last few years, particularly at the economic level with the introduction of the Greater Arab Free Trade Area agreement. The trend of Arab investments going to Arab countries is promising more growth. As for the cultural and educational side we have a lot of work to do in the face of a dangerous foreign cultural campaign that negatively influences young generations and their relations to their national mother culture. The starting point for any endeavor in this domain is to work for the consolidation of Arabic language at the national level, because our Arabic language is the vehicle that carries our culture, our roots and our historic memory. Its loss, therefore, means the loss of our history and of our future. On the agenda of the summit is a project to link the Arabic language to knowledge society so that our language remains the language of culture and life that preserves our cultural existence and protects our civilized identity.

We have to press on with our domestic reform that responds to our national and developmental requirements and is in accordance with our cultural constituents. We should not hesitate to reject any form of interference in our internal affairs, regardless of the headings it may assume, and of the styles or means it begs. The experiences of yesterday and today have all proven how expensive it is to impose changes from the outside, and how costly it has been to impose predestined political and economic prototypes on developing countries.

Your Excellencies and Highnesses

It is true that the time of the summit is calculated in days and hours, but it is an important juncture during which we add few blocs to the building we aspire to construct. It is true that what is important is not what we say at the summits, but rather, what we do in between the summits, but the summit remains essential to decide the right direction and the necessary speed of what we intend to do later.

It is true that, in both words and deeds, we are open to cooperation with the others in the world, but what is truer is that this cooperation will bear fruit, only, when we rely on ourselves. The common denominators that combine us as Arabs are many and fundamental; as for points of difference, if they fall under the framework of concern for our nation, there is no doubt, then, that the solid building, that we aspire to achieve for our Arab project, will be completed.

I welcome you once again, my gracious brothers wishing you the best of times in your country and among your people.

Wassalamu Alaikum Wa Rahmatu Allahi Wa Barakatuhu

Other headlines:

Syria and Saudi Arabia conciliatory on Lebanon

Arab summit failures have many asking, Why hold them? AP

The two-day summit in Damascus closed Sunday with a last-minute spat as Iraq refused to endorse the leaders' final statement because it didn't include a condemnation of terrorism in the war-torn country.

But the gathering had been controversial from the start. The leaders of regional powerhouses and U.S. allies Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Jordan boycotted — out of anger at Syria — and Lebanon didn't send a single official.

In all, 10 of the Arab League's 22 heads of state stayed away, most for various personal disputes, troubles at home or because they just couldn't be bothered.

Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi — who's flamboyant style and off-the-cuff remarks routinely provide the summits' only entertainment — both shocked and amused the delegations Saturday when he mocked his fellow Arab leaders for their disunity and inaction.

Addressing the summit, he warned that Arab countries will be "marginalized and turn into garbage dumps" if they do not reorganize themselves.

He ridiculed the idea Arabs could cooperate on a joint nuclear program, a proposal repeatedly approved by the summit since 2006. "How can we do that? We hate each other," Gadhafi said. "Our intelligence services conspire against each other."

Syrian officials insisted the summit was a success. President Bashar Assad said Sunday that disputes he acknowledged broke out during closed-door meetings the night before were a cause for optimism.

"There was frankness, and the most important thing was that the frankness was accepted despite the differences at many times," he said….

Arab leaders decided in 2000 to make their summits an annual event after meeting only twice in the 1990s, hoping that a gathering every year would encourage unity and bring serious efforts to deal with the region's many troubles.

But since then, almost every summit has been marred by low attendance, chaos and walkouts. In 2002, the Palestinian delegation stormed out in protest after host Lebanon prevented late Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat from addressing the summit by satellite link from Ramallah, where he was besieged by Israeli troops.

A year later, Gadhafi had a televised spat with Saudi King Abdullah, leading the Libyan to boycott last year's summit in Riyadh. In 2004, the Tunisian president angered other Arabs by calling off a summit over disputes on how to respond to a U.S. plan for democratic reform in Arab states. The summit was held two months later.

And at the 2006 summit in Sudan, Assad and Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak bickered during the meeting's televised final session.

With the exception of the Beirut 2002 summit when leaders launched an Arab peace initiative offering pan-Arab recognition of Israel in exchange for the return of Arab lands, none of the other summits came up with any memorable decisions.

Arab summit says peace offer is under review

Syria Ready in case of US military action:

Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Muallem said on Sunday that Damascus was prepared for all scenarios in its worsening relationship with Washington, including the use of US military force.

“A prudent person must make all his calculations, especially when we have to deal with an administration which knows how to strike but does not know how to withdraw,” Muallem told reporters at the end of an Arab summit in Damascus.

UN officials: Syria still suspect in Hariri murder: One wishes the reporter would tell us if this official is America.

Addendum:

Cause for Concern

Ma’ariv (p. 4) by Jacky Hugi (news analysis) — Without a doubt, this was the summit of worry. Arab leaders stood up yesterday in front of millions of their people and told them of the terrible fear gnawing at their hearts. All-powerful men, who are capable of making opponents of the regime disappear as easily as they drink their morning coffee, stood on the speakers’ platform and admitted to the existence of the evil spirits hovering over their heads.

Gaddafi warned that Saddam’s fate could repeat itself in other countries because of the intolerable ease with which the Americans succeeded in removing him. Assad spoke about the “challenges,” a restrained code word for serious problems, that threaten internal security. Arab League Secretary-General Amr Moussa said in general that a question mark loomed over the future of the Arabs. Every one of them knows very well how fragile his regime is, whether it is possible for a foreign power can overthrow it without even asking leave of the international community. It is obvious to them all that their brothers will not come to their aid if the invasion of Iraq should repeat itself on their own soil.

Yet when at least some of them talk about America, they are referring to Iran. After all, who can guarantee them that once Iran becomes a nuclear power, it will not want to annex, on the ground or from a distance, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates or Kuwait, and fill its coffers with billions of dollars? Who is willing to bet that soon Iran will not have actual control of Iraq or the sole word in Lebanon?

For many years, Israel has been guided by the aspiration of splitting the Arab world. Any alliance that came into being was considered a dangerous measure here. Today the Arab world is split, and lo and behold, this is not in the Zionist interest. The countries that met in Damascus have an interest in a weak Iran and a stable Middle East. Not coincidentally, this is an Israeli requirement as well.

These shared desires, which were well emphasized at the summit yesterday, mark an increasing trend. It is no longer everyone against Israel, but Iran and its friends against everyone else. In this division, Israel is an honorary member of the moderate camp. The Arab world is growing closer to it, seeking its advice and experience, despite the Palestinian problem or perhaps because of it.

The gloomy atmosphere in the hall in Damascus, together with Abu Mazen’s pessimistic “bulldozer speech,” succeeded in turning the absence of several important leaders into a marginal event. The host, Assad, won on points from his perspective: he succeeded in showing that it is possible to make the conference significant even without Hosni Mubarak and the Saudi Arabian king.

Comments (220)


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201. AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Nour,
Let’s compare. Here are the requirements to become a French citizen:

According to the Civil Code, you may acquire French nationality in the following circumstances:
> one of your parents is French
> you have been married to a French person for more than one year and are still living together
> you have not lived in France for over a year, but you are married to a French person and have had a child together before or after the marriage, and you are still living together

The Israeli law makes you a citizen if one of the conditions of the French applies OR being a Jew as defined by the law of return and being married to one. So in fact, the Israeli law is more lenient than the French law. The facts speak for themselves.

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April 2nd, 2008, 2:01 am

 

202. Shai said:

Joe M.,

I understand this is how you feel and, in the end, you may be right. But then look at how ridiculous the situation is – Assad wants peace now because he has a barrel of gun pointed at his head. I want peace now because I believe we ALL have a barrel of gun (or rather TNT) pointed at our heads. So, do we avoid peace, even a superficial one, because “cool headed” individuals want to make peace when everything is “hamdila”, and not a clear and present danger? Maybe. But I think it is doubtful that Bashar is being forced into this peace. Remember, it is HE, and the rest of his leadership, that are asking for peace, for a number of years now. No Israelis are pressuring him, and now, since the Bush Administration, also no Americans. So where is the pressure coming from? I’d much rather believe it is out of “cool headed” thinking and historic strategic making. Is it wishful thinking? Maybe. But then, do I have a better alternative?

I don’t agree with your thinking, that anyone making peace with Israel before the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is resolved, is “selling out” the Palestinians. Egypt and Jordan didn’t sell you out, because in almost every way possible, we don’t have peace with them. Can an Israeli walk freely in the souqs of Cairo or Amman? No. And that’s because signing a peace treaty doesn’t mean reconciliation, or forgiveness, as I suggested earlier. Undoubtedly, until the Palestinian issue is resolved, no true peace can exist between Jews and Arabs. But if we can’t start with the Palestinians now (given the current Fatah-Hamas rift), should we not do the other part of the equation, withdrawal from the Golan Heights? We must complete these two withdrawals before we have peace. Personally, I think the Palestinians will only benefit from such a peace treaty with Syria, because it will bring about the exact kind of optimism that is so desperately lacking in the region now, and will pressure Israelis and Palestinians to at last put an end to our differences. If there is a likelihood that Hamas and Israelis will sit at the same table to talk, it is certainly more so after a peace agreement is signed with Damascus, than before. We’d all like to believe otherwise, but I believe this is the reality on the ground.

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April 2nd, 2008, 3:51 am

 

203. SimoHurtta said:

Sim,
You know where Maccabi plays? In the NOKIA Arena in Tel-Aviv. Really, how can this be happening? Don’t you write to your politicians?

So what AIG. Business is business. Nokia makes even business in Uzbekistan, where by the way USA has military bases. Israel makes business with Burma and all possible little dictators who have gemstones. Do they have in Burma a Ariel Sharon stadium? :)

By the way it is going good with Israel also on the other fields than football fields. Now it is only the second most negative looked county in the world. Before it was the worst.

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/americas/7324337.stm

Seem that the world is still not admiring your religious nations “democracy”. :)

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April 2nd, 2008, 6:52 am

 

204. AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Sim,
There is difference between doing business and sponsoring a major arena, don’t you think? The Nokia name is associated with Israel in a big way and each time Maccabi plays at home the sports sections of the European paper speak of Nokia arena. It seems Nokia is proud to be associated with Israel, otherwise why would they make this sponsorship move? If most Finns as you say despised Israel, Nokia would not have done this. At least Nokia is admiring the Israeli democracy.

Did you notice that only 14 countries in the world were graded in the poll, and one of them was Israel with its 7 million people? These polls are meaningless by the way. There are 1.4 billion muslims in the world and many muslim countries in which Israel is not portrayed fairly. We saw this effect in the UN in which for decades resolutions against Israel were passed in the General Assembly.

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April 2nd, 2008, 12:00 pm

 

205. Naji said:

Majhool,
Of course you are correct, and that is why most would be very hesitant to take on this task. Dardari was also very hesitant, but he did take it on and, once he did, he did his best… with mixed results, but nevertheless, results…!!

The fact that the only praise many can give him is about not being corrupt (and he certainly is not), tells you something about how rare a quality this has become in our Syria…!!

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April 2nd, 2008, 12:10 pm

 

206. why-discuss said:

Shai

I would be curious to know how you perceive the loyalty of the arab-Israelis? Are they ready to side on Israel if it is threatened or in the contrary go against it like the palestinians did in Kuwait?
Are they a time-bomb or most of them are integrated sufficiently to feel part of the Israeli society and want it no harm?
Do they realize they are, as AIG would put it, priviledged to live in a “rich and successful democracy”?
An additional question: How do you explain that the Syrians in the occupied Golan have refused the israeli citizenship?

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April 2nd, 2008, 3:07 pm

 

207. Shai said:

Why-Discuss,

Excellent questions. Let me start by saying that Arab Israelis are as loyal to Israel as non-Arab Israelis are. Of course now we ask what is “loyal”, and why is it that so many Israelis view them as being disloyal. Arab Israelis are happy and proud that they’re living in Israel, a democracy rather than a dictatorship. They enjoy far more freedoms here than they would anywhere else in the Middle East. This is not propaganda, it’s fact, and you don’t need to ask me, or Jewish Israelis, you can ask Arab Israelis directly. But (and this is a big “but”), they are certainly discriminated against, though not by law (see my previous comments regarding this issue). They are unfortunately treated as 2nd-class citizens, much like blacks are in America, and immigrants are in Europe (and I don’t buy that crap about French immigrants being French, therefore getting equal treatment. If they were getting equal treatment, you wouldn’t see so violent riots erupting every other Tuesday, like you do with North African immigrants, that “enjoy” equal French rights… )

However, there is a special circumstance with Arab Israelis, which perhaps no other minority group has elsewhere the same way, which is that Israel’s enemy also happens to be their direct and close relative. This puts them always in a very difficult position. Who should they support? Who should they be loyal to? When considering these questions, I always thought of what Jewish Americans would do if their direct relatives were the enemy of the United States, and not thousands of miles away, but on their border, and under their occupation. To me, it is clear that Arab Israelis must support the oppressed side, and not the oppressor. They cannot, however, raise arms against their own nation, and join the violent struggle. If they want to do so, they must leave Israel, and fight on behalf of another place. They can, and should, do absolutely everything else. Strike, campaign, rally, and oppose the oppressive policy in any democratic way. I too am against our policy, but I cannot raise arms and fight the soldiers that dehumanize Palestinians. I have to do so democratically. In a dictatorship, things could be much “easier”, but there is a price to pay for that as well. One of the reasons they are treated differently in Israel, is because the law does not force them to serve in the army, like it does all Jewish Israelis. The fear was, of course, that they would constantly be put in an impossible position, whereby they have to “fight” or face their brethren in battle. How could we possibly put them in this situation? But then, since almost all Israelis serve in the army, and those who don’t, even Jewish Israelis, have a harder time getting certain jobs, etc., the Arab Israelis certainly suffer from this innate inequality. This too needs to be worked out.

I believe Arab Israelis feel at home enough that they certainly do not wish for Israel to be wiped off the face of the planet, nor do they like the one-state solution. They don’t want harm to come to their country, though they want a very different country to evolve. They do not want Israel to be a “Jewish state”, which does insinuate that it is less for them as it is for Jews, despite the laws that supposedly state the opposite. They do not want an Israel that oppresses anyone, certainly not their Palestinian brethren. While many Arabs are certainly “rich and successful”, most aren’t, their chances of becoming so are far lower than mine or AIG’s, and for them it is much more an uphill battle. AIG and I both know that Israel has a lot do improve on regarding our treatment of the Arab Israelis, and I believe we both agree that this must be done.

As to your last question (Syrians in occupied Golan), the Druze on the Golan have, for the past 30 years, been in an impossible situation of another sort. On the one hand, Israel annexed the Golan, and as such, considered it Israeli territory, and anyone living there was to become Israeli, if they chose to. Many Druze certainly did take Israeli citizenship, and many even joined and are serving in the IDF (many more than sometimes is spoken about). But there are many, who indeed decided not to take Israeli citizenship, I believe out of either fear that should the Golan ever be returned to Syria, they may be deemed traitors, for having accepted this out of will, and not force. Or, that they simply did not feel like they had any loyalty towards Israel who, at the end of the day, conquer this territory from Syria, which was and is still their nation. So these are the two main reasons, I believe, and one will never know which is the case (or both). There was a joke once about the fact that in the mayor’s office in Majdal Shams, there is a picture of the current Israeli president, and that anytime there’s talk of returning the Golan, the mayor rotates it, to reveal a picture of Assad (father, then son)… Again, a sort of impossible situation. Thankfully, they were never forced to take Israeli citizenship.

Did I answer everything?… I sure wrote a lot… :-)

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April 2nd, 2008, 6:09 pm

 

208. why-discuss said:

Shai

Thanks for the thorough description. I accept the fact that the arab israelis enjoy a higher quality of life than their relatives in Gaza. Anywhere is better than Gaza or the west bank!
I also understand their ambiguous attitude towards a “jewish israel” that seems to exclude them and the dilemma they would have if they have to choose camp at a point or another.
Yes, their voice in the arab media is almost null. In Jazeera ( supposedly more open) I never saw interviews with any arab-israeli. Are they afraid to say they are happy for fear of looking like traitors? It must be a very incomfortable situation to have to play on 2 identities an nationalities. I guess Israel is a mosaic of emigrants, african, Russians, etc.. like Australia where people live in separate communities with only convenient interaction. Are there separate schools for arab-israelis? Do you happen to have close arab israeli friends? Do askenaze and sepharade mix socially? Do you have hassidic friends?
As for the syrians, they are in an even more ambiguous reality, what will the future of the Golan be?
Thanks for the clarifications

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April 2nd, 2008, 7:09 pm

 

209. Shai said:

Why-Discuss,

I’m more than happy to share with you my opinion on these important issues. Feel free to ask anything, just as I do with my fellow Arab friends here.

It’s an interesting point you made about Arab Israelis in the Arab media. I never noticed this before, but yes, if very few if any are interviewed it must point to a certain fear they have, of being deemed almost “traitors”. After all, they are Israelis, they vote for representatives in our Knesset, they pay taxes, etc. So to express “satisfaction” with any of our enemies might be very problematic, especially if you’re well known in Israel. Having said that, this never stopped Azmi Bshara from being interviewed and, supposedly, from siding a bit too much with our enemy… (allegedly, he provided intelligence to certain parties, though he ran away before being put on trial for this – I don’t know if he’s innocent, or not). There are some other Arab Israeli leaders, mostly from either the Arab political parties in Knesset, or religious leaders, that I believe are interviewed quite often on Arab media (mostly Palestinian, I believe), and on Israeli media of course. Why they’re not getting to al-Jazeera, I don’t know. They certainly don’t seem to be afraid to voice their opinions, nor their support of the Palestinians (even Hezbollah at times).

Arab Israelis typically live in their own towns and villages in Israel, so naturally they have their own schools and communities. They do interact with Jewish Israelis, mostly through commerce, government, etc. But “after work”, they normally would not be found going out into town with their Jewish friends. Especially nowadays, with the level of tension in the region. Yes, I have a number of very good Arab-Israeli friends, though most of my Arab friends live abroad (U.S., Europe) These are friends I made when living abroad, quite a few years ago. I’ve been fortunate enough to know and befriend many Arabs, from almost every Arab country you can imagine. Undoubtedly, this is the main reason I am so sure that Israelis and Arabs should be ready for peace with one another. I know both sides well, I believe.

Although Spharadi Jews are still looked upon by quite a few Ashkenazi Jews as “not exactly equal” (basically a racist way of looking at people), there is almost complete integration in the major towns and cities. In the poorer regions, there are clear communities of both, but even within these, there are integrated marriages taking place, etc. For people in their 40′s or younger, there’s basically no difference, like there once was 20, 30, 40 years ago. We certainly mix socially, everywhere, and in many cases, if not most, you wouldn’t even be able to tell us apart. Israel has plenty of sun, so many of us “white Ashkenazi’s” are quite tan… :-) I personally do not have any Hassidic friends. I have my own “issues” with Hassidic, or ultra-Orthodox Jews, but they’re an entire whole complex issue in itself. They’re a very closed society within our open society, they even have their own courts, their own internal laws, you name it. Their women enjoy far fewer rights than secular women do, but it is such a closed system, that it is rare to see men or women able to escape from it (if they do, it’s almost impossible for them to go back). A very sad situation, which does have to be worked out. Like anywhere, most of these people are very good, honest, deeply religious people. But they do not practice democracy like you and I do, and some of them pay that price. Apropos integration, they are undoubtedly the least integrated part of society, with the rest of us (with the exception, perhaps, of the Beduins).

As for the Syrians, or Druze, living on the Golan, I believe when we give it back to Syria, they’ll most likely remain there, and simply remain Syrian. Those who took Israeli citizenship (and perhaps even served in the army), may choose to give it up (though I don’t see a reason not to have duel-citizenship, just like anywhere in the world), or may even choose to move into Israel proper. I imagine most will stay where they are, which will become recognized by Israel as officially Syrian, and no longer Israeli-held territory. I don’t think their situation is as difficult as the Arab Israelis is. They know that Bashar is only too happy to receive them warmly. They may worry about their standard of living, or economic situation, once under Syrian rule, but that’s a whole other issue which I cannot pretend to know. I suppose, if some of them feel they can earn much more inside Israel, perhaps they’ll move to some of the Druze villages in the Western Gallilee, or elsewhere. I imagine no one will be able to stop them, especially those with Israeli citizenship.

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April 2nd, 2008, 7:52 pm

 

210. SimoHurtta said:

Sim,
There is difference between doing business and sponsoring a major arena, don’t you think? The Nokia name is associated with Israel in a big way and each time Maccabi plays at home the sports sections of the European paper speak of Nokia arena. It seems Nokia is proud to be associated with Israel, otherwise why would they make this sponsorship move? If most Finns as you say despised Israel, Nokia would not have done this. At least Nokia is admiring the Israeli democracy.

Pure BS AIG. Nokia advertises in most international sport events as multinational companies do. Maybe the name of the stadium was offered for a low price to Nokia, because others did not want it. And Nokia’s advertising guys were naive and did not think enough about the consequences. One thing you can be certain the markets of those 1.2 million Muslims are much more important than Israel ever. As they are to all non Israeli companies.

If Nokia get to much attention linked with Israel (=negative in business) the stadium will most certainly have a new name very soon.

Did you notice that only 14 countries in the world were graded in the poll, and one of them was Israel with its 7 million people? These polls are meaningless by the way. There are 1.4 billion muslims in the world and many muslim countries in which Israel is not portrayed fairly. We saw this effect in the UN in which for decades resolutions against Israel were passed in the General Assembly.

Hmmm you theory is naive. Would the “Muslim” poll participants have then voted Iran as the first. You know I suppose that Iran is a Muslim country. Well what has 7 million – 2 million Arabs to do with the results. Should Israel get a bigger portion in the results than those 1.2 billion Muslims. Hmmmm were is your logic AIG or didn’t you notice the title of the poll. How the WORLD views…

By the way in UN voting the results normally have been for decades Israel + USA + some Pacific island against the rest of the world. That is “unfair” isn’t it AIG.

You IGs have an astonishing ability to find unbelievable explanations in your “victim strategy”.

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April 2nd, 2008, 9:00 pm

 

211. AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

“If Nokia get to much attention linked with Israel (=negative in business) the stadium will most certainly have a new name very soon.”

But that is the whole point Sim. That hasn’t happened. The largest and most important Finnish high tech company, and one of the largest companies in Finland and for sure the most well known, chooses to have an arena in Tel-Aviv named after it. It seems also that this is the ONLY sport arena in the world that Nokia has named after it. (Could you check this for me?)

Now, this shows that all you are preaching about Finnish attitudes towards Israel is bogus. In fact, Nokia has an especially favorable relation with Israel even though Israel as you say is a small market.

And look, it is not only the arena, Nokia is investing a lot of money in Israeli startups:
http://www.inminds.co.uk/boycott-nokia.html

What is happening to Finland? Don’t the Finns know like you how terrible Israel is?

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April 2nd, 2008, 9:27 pm

 

212. AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Sim,
Oh no! Horror of Horrors! Nokia Siemens Networks (the infrastructure merger of Nokia and Siemens) has purchased a few Israeli companies over the years and has a development center in Israel. You really need to be active in Finalnd and let people know what is going on.

In the meantime, let me thank you for supporting Israel’s booming economy.

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April 2nd, 2008, 9:39 pm

 

213. Shai said:

AIG,

You’re STILL talking about Nokia? :-) In the meantime, my N95 keeps turning itself off every few days, despite having a full battery… You think it’s sensing my Zionism? By the way, I responded to your question a bit earlier on the next thread (p=648).

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April 2nd, 2008, 9:50 pm

 

214. SimoHurtta said:

Well IG’s you lack of understanding multinational corporations is astonishing. Nokia and Nokia-Siemens have research centres all around the world. Also in other human rights problem countries, like in China. As I said the Israeli markets are minor for Nokia and if Nokia or any big company would have to choose between Israel or the “Muslim markets” there would be only one outcome. Certainly you IGs know what it is, but you do not dare to say it.

Also Nokia certainly doesn’t want to much media coverage as a “supporter” of Israel. Like no other big company doesn’t want.

IGs name one multinational Israeli company. Israeli companies do everything they can to loose the Israeli identity operating through USA. In Finnish shops I have only seen Israeli oranges (which sell every year less and less) and some crackers (with an extreme small font Made in Israel). Hightech products you know.

Maybe Shai’s problem handy was made in a Israeli “basement” factory and sold as an original to a naive, simple customer. Who knows. :)

The other explanation might be that Iranians remote control “the Bibi peace man’s” phone.
Israel: Iran listening in on IDF communications from Syria

PS
AIG why did you not answer to those your poll claims to which I answered? Do they all in UN vote against Israel because they are misinformed or because they are informed?

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April 2nd, 2008, 10:39 pm

 

215. Qifa Nabki said:

AIG,

You really know how to get under a Finn’s skin. Or maybe the better expression, given the current discussion, is “pushing his buttons.”

And SimoHurtta, you realize what you’ve done? You’ve effected a rapprochement between Shai and AIG, once unthinkable!

Finally, Syria Comment is achieving its goal of reinforcing nationalism … except it’s Israeli nationalism! ;)

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April 3rd, 2008, 12:02 am

 

216. Naji said:

QN,
You do come up with clever remarks and astute observations… :)

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April 3rd, 2008, 1:20 am

 

217. Enlightened said:

AIG, Shai

I buy these tinned cucumbers (pickled Kosher) from Israel sold in Aus, quite delicious, even though they made in that very Bad Zionist entity (lol), they were being sold by a lot of the Arab shop merchants here (a lot of them didn’t read english ) they were a good seller until someone pointed out to them were they were made. They dropped it like a hot Kebab.

The Turkish merchants then picked it up, and I buy it from there. cant beat Capitalism, oh and Profits!

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April 3rd, 2008, 1:28 am

 

218. Shai said:

Enlightened,

Good one! Funny how we “simple minds” reconsider once we’re faced with a bad experience. I, for instance, am looking at my Nokia N95 completely differently now, after the FG anomaly I’ve come across… :-) You know, he’s starting to get into personal stuff again. I mean, how would he feel if all I did on SC was go on and on about Finland’s world’s highest suicide rate, or its recent young citizen who destroyed one of the ancient statues on Easter Island, or their Foreign Minister who had to be kicked out because of 200 SMS messages to a stripper, etc.? If I wanted to, I could go verbal-bashing Finalnd and this FG into high-heaven, every day, every hour. But would that contribute to anything? Would that make me a better person? You know, I apologized to him personally in an earlier comment, in a way that really wasn’t easy or comfortable for me. He had been pushing my buttons since day one, from the very first comment he made to me. I was hoping he’d get the message. But he didn’t, and he still doesn’t. What shall I do? I have relatives in Australia, who could take me in, but there’s internet there as well… I can’t escape him! It’s becoming a haunting experience…

Aside from him, I actually happened to like Finland. I think it’s a nation we could all learn a lot from. Not only from its Nokia success story, but also from a lot of what that nation stands for. But you see, this guy could never say anything like that about Israel. If he was in a good enough, and sarcastic mood, he might slip a “I’m sure there are some good people there, like anywhere in the world…”, but aside from that, it’s all criminals, corrupt people, concentration-camp guards (his words), etc. So what do I do? I try not to engage him, and he continues Israel-bashing, but this time with AIG. So I throw in a comment to AIG about my N95 turning off every few days, perhaps “sensing my Zionism”, and he goes back to attacking me personally. What do you say, Enlightened, you’re objective enough from where you stand… what to do??? :-)

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April 3rd, 2008, 4:31 am

 

219. Enlightened said:

Shai!

I honestly think that sometimes we as human beings have one major fault, and that is we are intolerable of each other. Do what I do, just tune out and have “Me Space”, it does wonders for your sanity!

And secondly we all see things with different colour receptors in our eyes, it would be better if we saw things in black and white but that is the reality, that we dont.

Thirdly if that doesnt work apply Enlightened theory on “Never argue with a madman, people might not know the difference” ( I ripped that one off from someone, but dont tell )

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April 3rd, 2008, 5:00 am

 

220. Shai said:

Enlightened,

I don’t know which one would work best for me, but one thing’s for sure, you do have some good advice. And not only on handling such commentators on SC.

Cheers mate.

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April 3rd, 2008, 5:12 am

 

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