Saad Hariri Talking to Saddiq, a False witness; Why Tunisia Is Unlikely in Syria

Al-Jadid TV [New TV] in Lebanon just aired this taped recording of a meeting that took place between Saad al-Hariri, Information Branch chief Colonel Wissam al-Hassan, the Special Tribunal of Lebanon deputy chief investigator Gerhard Lehmann, and Muhammad Zuhair al-Siddiq, one of the false witnesses whose testimony was used by Mehlis to accuse Syria of plotting the murder of Rafiq al-Hariri. It records the four men laying out a plan for how to convince the international community and other Arab leaders of Syria’s culpability. They all believe Syria to be the instigator of the killing. They agree that they must present the world with an air-tight case and lots of proof if it is to act against Syria. 

Saddiq explains to Hariri that he tried to warn him of May Shidiyaq’s attempted assassination two days ahead of the bombing that maimed her, but chastizes Hariri for refusing to answer his calls; otherwise, the bombing might have been averted, he argues. Hariri asks Saddiq why he didn’t text-message him, as was was his custom in the past. Hariri calls Saddiq a “diarrhea mouth” to Mehlis’s lieutenant, but goes on to explain that Saddiq should be believed and is trustworthy even though Hariri and his intelligence chief elsewhere appeare to be quizzing Saddiq on the details of his story. At one point the intelligence chief advises him not to forget any of the details and to write them down least he get it wrong. Hariri contromands this advice to argue that it would be best for Saddiq not to write it down but to memorize it. Evidently, the Gerhard Lehmann does not understand Arabic and isn’t aware that Saddiq is being coached in front of him. 

This is damaging to the Tribunal and Hariri because it shows how tainted Mehlis’ reports were and how eager the European investigators were to take at face value trumped up evidence. For Hariri, it is damaging because he swore that he had not met with Saddiq or any of the false witnesses. It also demonstrates that the Lebanese journalists who defended Mehlis’ reports and credibility and tried to impune the reputation of Brahmertz and the later investigators who were rightly forced to discard  evidence against Syria that was provided by the false witnesses and his false witnesses were being irresponsible. Mehlis, until very recetnly, has repeted his original claim that the witnesses that are now discredited should be believed and provided credible accounts.  See Qifa Nabki for an argument why this isn’t really damaging for Hariri. See Gary Gambill for a great review of the Mehlis evidence and the false witnesses.

The dramatic news of a popular uprising in Tunisia has stirred up excitement and anxiety in Syria. See the last part of the comment section of the last post, where Syrians debate whether it could happen in Syria. This is what I wrote to one journalist:

There are many reasons that Syria is not like Tunisia.

1. Most important to revolution and regime collapse is division within the elite. If the elite splits and begins fighting among itself, the state can collapse. We saw this in Russia, where the most important part of the elite got tired of communism and wanted perestroika.

In Iran, the elite was divided but disagreements were limited and opposition leaders wanted an Islamic Republic and were not willing to take down the state or get killed to force change. The military was willing to shoot at the people.

In Tunisia Ben Ali fled. He was unwilling to order a bloody crackdown. This is key. Perhaps the military was unwilling to take his orders? The elite abandoned the ruler.

2. Tunisia is a religiously homogeneous country unlike Syria. In Syria, because the military elite is dominated by the Alawite minority, it is unlikely to split. Members of the Syrian elite will look at what happened to the Sunnis of Iraq or the Christians of Iraq and close ranks. The sad history of sectarian violence in the Mashriq, or Eastern Arab World, acts to enforce elite solidarity. Members of Syria’s Sunni elite are also unlikely to abandon the Assad regime. They are chastened by the sectarian fighting that followed regime collapse in Lebanon, Iraq and Palestine. The wealthy Sunni elite does not want civil war. The fear of civil war based on religious affiliation is the greatest legitimizer or bulwark of authoritarianism in Syria.

These are the top two reasons.

Syria is unlikely to follow along the path of Tunisia toward popular revolution. The Syrian intelligence and military forces will shoot and stand by the president. The people have been chastened by watching the years of sectarian agony that the people of Lebanon and Iraq have suffered due to state collapse.

This said, if Tunisia can right itself politically and avoid prolonged chaos and repressive military rule, it will undoubtedly become a great exemplar and point of hope for all Arabs. Nothing undermines hope more than failure. So far, the Arab world has failed to produce a model of democratic success. If Tunisia turns into a successful model of Democracy, it will embolden the forces of change and opposition parties throughout the Middle East.

In this Photo the banner reads: “He who is traduces Shaykh Saad [Hariri], traduces Lebanon.” It is by an Islamic organizational of Tripoly.

“Druze leader Walid Jumblatt held talks in Syria Saturday with President Bashar al-Assad … The two men stressed the ‘importance of staying aware of the risks foreign interventions carry in the region’…Jumblatt, once a main Hariri ally, has changed his stance… Sources close to the Druze leader said he was trying to find a solution to the current crisis that would satisfy both camps, but stressed the difficulty of that task. Jumblatt met with Hezbollah leader Seyyed Hassan Nasrallah on Thursday and held talks with Hariri on Friday…..”

“[Tunisia] was so sterile — you just feel people’s fear, and the complete lack of dynamism in the society,” said Carpenter. “Within the State Department we used to refer to it as ‘Syria with a smile.'” Scott Carpenter, a former deputy assistant secretary of state in the Bush administration.

رئيس كتلة اللقاء الديمقراطي النائب وليد جنبلاط موقفه بشأن التصويت إلى جانب المعارضة في الاستشارات المقبلة عقب لقائه اليوم الرئيس بشار الأسد، بعدما وصل مساء أمس إلى العاصمة السورية وتناول العشاء إلى مائدة معاون نائب الرئيس السوري اللواء الركن محمد

ناصيف

UN tribunal to link Iran’s Supreme Leader with Hariri assassination
2011-01-15 08
Haaretz: Report:

A United Nations tribunal is to indict Iran’s spiritual leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei with ordering the 2005 assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, U.S. news website Newsmax reported on Saturday, adding that the hit itself was …

Lebanon’s Jumblatt in Syria for crisis talks(AFP)

DAMASCUS — Lebanese Druze leader Walid Jumblatt was in Damascus on Saturday for talks with President Bashar al-Assad on the political crisis sparked by the collapse of Saad Hariri’s government in Lebanon, state news agency SANA reported.

I imagine the first order of business for Amb Ford will be simply to open channels of communication to the Syrian Foreign Ministry. Fro the last five years, the embassy has been isolated in Damascus. The Syrian government has prevented people of consequence and high government officials from communicating with the Chargee. Syria has not allowed it to carry on business as usual without an Ambassador in residence. This means that the Chargee d’affairs has not been able to meet regularly with the foreign minister or deputy foreign minister.

Embassy receptions are sad affairs to which most Syrians have been warned not to attend.

The Ambassador will have to dismantle this isolation and rebuild crucial relations between his staff and their Syrian counterparts.

Second will be intelligence sharing. Intelligence sharing is the most promising overlap in US – Syrian relations. Both government are against al-Qaida and takfiri Islamists. Both governments want to stabilize Iraq.

Lebanon has been a consistent point of friction between the two governments. The challenge for Ford will be to keep the differences over Lebanon and the Arab-Israeli conflict from shutting down cooperation on other crucial interests that the US and Syria share.

By Zvi Bar’el, Haaretz,  13.01.11

Hezbollah’s collective resignation yesterday was intended to show Syria the limitations of its influence on the group and to tell Damascus that if it wanted to show Washington it can preserve stability in Lebanon, Hezbollah and Iran will have the last word.

In itself, the resignation does not insure that the indictment – which likely implicates senior Hezbollah officials – would not be released. But it prevents the Lebanese cabinet from functioning or making any cardinal decisions, as these require a majority of two-thirds of the 30 ministers.

Nasrallah, who is not pleased with the strengthening ties between Syria and Hariri and fears they will gnaw at his power, now wants to reshuffle the cabinet, have a new prime minister appointed and split up the coalition. This will increase Hezbollah’s strength and could thwart Syria’s ability to form a political bloc that would counterbalance the group.

France calls for ‘contact group’ on Lebanon
iloubnan.info

Clinton Rips Arabs on Lack of Reform

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, adopting a tone reminiscent of the Bush administration, blasted Arab governments for stalled political change, warning that extremists were exploiting a lack of democracy to promote radical agendas across the Middle East.

Mrs. Clinton, addressing a conference on democracy as she wrapped up a four-nation tour of the Persian Gulf region Thursday, said the situation is exacerbated by dwindling natural resources and the difficulty of the region’s large population of young people in finding jobs or channels through which to express their aspirations.

Lebanon’s government crisis and the regional tides
by Helena Cobban

January 12, 2011″… Let’s look at the position of the pro-U.S. forces in the Middle East today:
* Tunisia is in the throes of a serious socio-economic upheaval that threatens to spread to many other M.E. countries that, like it, are important to US power projection in the region.
* Think Egypt, in particular.
* The Israeli government continues not only to keep Gaza’s 1.5 million people locked in an impermeable and quite inhumane cage but also to viciously knock the guts out of Palestinian East Jerusalem and thus out of any hope that a viable “two-state” solution can be salvaged from the current mess of repression in Palestine… And Washington is doing nothing– nothing!– about any of that. Even its long-lasting fig-leaf of pretense that there is something called a peace “process” has now been shredded to nothingness. For far too long, there has been no progress towards any form of a just and sustainable peace. Now, there is not even the pretense of any “process.”
* The U.S. has now definitively lost the campaign to have any lasting influence over the government in Baghdad; and it is in serious trouble further east in Afghanistan and Pakistan.
*Egypt is not the only country, central to U.S. interests in the region, where an aged long-time ruler is now well into his 9th decade on earth and starting to falter, physically. Think Saudi Arabia.
Saudi Arabia is particularly germane to the situation in Lebanon, since it was the Saudi-Syrian entente of early 2008 that allowed Lebanon to recover from the prolonged political crisis that preceded that date.
Interesting that the resigning opposition MP’s in Lebanon made a point of saying that the pro-Hariri bloc ad foiled the wishes of both the Syrians and the Saudis, and that the Hizbullah media reported it that way too.
Where is Saudi King Abdullah? He has had several serious medical procedures recently. Who has (?former) PM Saad Hariri been listening to as he has made his decisions of recent weeks?
… If Nasrallah and his friends in Tehran (especially Supreme Leader Khamenei) indeed think the time has come to give the western house of cards in the Middle East a little nudge in Beirut to see what happens, the fallout from this could well end up extending far beyond Lebanon’s tiny confines.
Well, I have been planning a short visit to Beirut next month, anyway. It should be an interesting time to be there….”

Politico on the Peace Process Thanks to our friend at FLC

With U.S. Middle East peace efforts at an impasse, the Obama administration has sought new ideas from outside experts on how to advance the peace process. One task force has been convened by Sandy Berger and Stephen Hadley, former national security advisers to Presidents Clinton and George W. Bush, respectively, to offer recommendations on the Middle East peace process to the National Security Council. A second effort, led by Martin Indyk, vice president of foreign policy studies at the Brookings Institution, held meetings this week with senior NSC Middle East/Iran adviser Dennis Ross, Palestinian negotiator Maen Erekat and Israel’s ambassador to the U.S., Michael Oren, among others.

The solicitation of ideas comes as the administration’s peace efforts are “utterly stuck,” as one outside adviser who consults the administration on the issue told POLITICO Wednesday on condition of anonymity. “There’s no pretense of progress. With the State of the Union coming up and the new GOP Congress, they are taking a few weeks [to regroup and solicit] ideas to push forward and … to give a real jump-start to what would be meaningful negotiations,” the adviser said. Ross traveled quietly to Israel last week to seek more clarity from Israeli leaders on their security requirements and ideas for advancing the peace process….“There are three options that this administration can adopt,” former U.S. Ambassador to Israel Daniel Kurtzer told POLITICO Thursday. “It can elicit an Israeli initiative. It can elicit a Palestinian initiative. Or it can develop its own initiative.” “It’s had no success with the first two, and it hasn’t tried the third,” Kurtzer said. “So if it wants to try to develop an initiative, it’s got to come up with a substantive program that says to the parties, ‘When you get to negotiations, here are your terms of reference.’ … And they have to be relatively narrow terms of reference, so we don’t start from where we were 15 years ago.” Though the Israeli government has resisted suggestions that the U.S. administration present “an American plan,” Kurtzer argued that the U.S. experience to date has proved “there is no other option.” Without a process that will achieve Palestinian statehood, Fayyad and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas “are vulnerable to being seen as policemen of the Israeli occupation,” he said. Support for Palestinian institution building, he said, “is like apple pie and motherhood — everybody is all for it. It can’t be the only thing out there.” ……..

“There’s no such thing as a vacuum in the Middle East. You’re either moving forward or retreating,” Kurtzer said. “And when you have the Middle East in bad shape anyway — the Lebanon stuff is an indication it is getting worse — once there’s an admitted vacuum in the peace process, the Middle East gets worse. And the bad guys will take advantage.”

A reporter’s question:

So any thoughts on the ambassador to Syria landing tomorrow? What’s his first order of business, you think? With everything going on in Lebanon, you think the US is regretting this?

My answer:

I imagine the first order of business for Amb Ford will be simply to open channels of communication to the Syrian Foreign Ministry. Fro the last five years, the embassy has been isolated in Damascus. The Syrian government has prevented people of consequence and high government officials from communicating with the Chargee. Syria has not allowed it to carry on business as usual without an Ambassador in residence. This means that the Chargee d’affairs has not been able to meet regularly with the foreign minister or deputy foreign minister.

Embassy receptions are sad affairs to which most Syrians have been warned not to attend.

The Ambassador will have to dismantle this isolation and rebuild crucial relations between his staff and their Syrian counterparts.

Second will be intelligence sharing. Intelligence sharing is the most promising overlap in US – Syrian relations. Both government are against al-Qaida and takfiri Islamists. Both governments want to stabilize Iraq.

Lebanon has been a consistent point of friction between the two governments. The challenge for Ford will be to keep the differences over Lebanon and the Arab-Israeli conflict from shutting down cooperation on other crucial interests that the US and Syria share.

I do not think the Obama administration is regretting Ford’s appointment. On the contrary, the US needs a representative in Damascus now more than ever.

Comments (78)


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51. Shami said:

I’m sorry Jad, it was an accident again.

Jad,i never went to the quranic school ,i can not say what is the level provided in the quranic schools nowadays ,but,in the begining of the last century,the level should have been good ,these schools gave great historians like Ragheb Al Tabbakh ,Kamil al Ghazzi ,Khayreldin al Assadi,who wrote encyclopedia books on Aleppo history ,add to them Abderahman al Kawakibi.In Damascus ,these quranic schools gave great minds like Abu Khalil Al Kabbani and before him Abdulghani al Nabulsi.
Zaytouna in Tunis ,al Azhar in Cairo ,also gave great reformist thinkers ,in the 19th and begining of the 20th centuries.This reformist islamic movement has been halted by the totalitarian dictatorships that followed Nasser.
As for the other case ,it should not be impossible,Dr Jamil Asad and Dr Rifaat Asad were even barely illiterate doctors.

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January 20th, 2011, 5:59 pm

 

52. jad said:

Dear Shami,
Al kawakbi and Al kabani were the results of the way they raised, their families and their surrounding, not because of their religious studies or the Quranic schools they went to.
As you already know, Al Kawakbi paid his life for his liberal ideas and his writing, see Shami, our Arab liberals and reformers pay their lives for this nation, and unfortunately we all don’t deserve their sacrifices.
Today’s religious schools are noting but radicals’ producer and the religious of Islam is hijacked by filled with hatred and ignorant ulmaa allover the world.
I’m sorry to inform you that the reform you are asking for wont happen to this nation, not today, not tomorrow and not in a 100 or maybe 1000 years.

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January 20th, 2011, 6:58 pm

 

53. WHY said:

NORMAN,

You boast about getting high grades, going to medical school, then moving to the US, passing the US medical exams from the first time, living for god knows how many years while practicing medicine in the US and yet your writing is full of spelling errors and grammar mistakes? After living in the US and posting in this forum for 5+ years, you haven’t learned not to leave any space before a comma?

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January 20th, 2011, 11:35 pm

 

54. Norman said:

Why,

I was and still never good in writing, Arabic or English, especially punctuation most of the points i lost in high school were in Arabic literature, and the English test was multiple choice,

Is this better and if it is, Thank you, nobody told me about this before, i still can learn, keep them coming,

Thank you any way, I would have liked more if i felt that you were helping instead of being sarcastic, anyway you get what you give.

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January 21st, 2011, 7:54 am

 

55. Off the Wall said:

Dear Norman
Masterful response , Loved it. 🙂

Although I do not agree fully with some of your recent comments. But that is another issue. Somehow i get the feeling that your patients and your colleagues think very highly of your bedside manners.

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January 21st, 2011, 8:38 am

 

56. norman said:

OTW,

Thank you, you have to come more often so we can reach an agreement.
They do, you are right.

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January 21st, 2011, 8:55 am

 

57. WHY said:

Norman is a respectful person but is still a sympathizer of dictatorship and Arab fascism. Norman, why are you indifferent to the tyranny and the mass oppression that is taking place in Syria ever since Arab fascism took over? Alex is also a sympathizer but is clever enough that his words hide it. I have a feeling that minorities are indifferent to the tyranny and the curtailing of liberties because they buy the regimes propaganda that by curtailing liberties they are protecting minorities. They make you buy the argument that there is a big monster that wants to get rid of you, one time this monster is the west, another time it’s the communists, another time it’s the Islamists, and now it’s human rights activists. Before the fascists took over we didn’t bring our religious or ethnic differences in politics. People didnt care if such citizen was Arab, Kurd, Turkmen, Assyrian, Muslim, Christian or even Jew or Atheist! Christians and minorities were represented in most political parties. Faris al Khuri was one of the leaders of the National Bloc/Party and was a prime minister at one point. SSNP was operating until the mid 50s and had many Christians and Muslims from all sects who identified themselves as Syrians before anything else. If you were truly patriotic, you would fight with your fellow Syrians in getting rid of the injustices, the illegal detaining of political and human rights activists. Tell me, what kind of regime jails an 80+ year old human rights activist and lawyer? How can you as respectful Syrians agree that your country is run by 1 party and, legally speaking, this is the only party that is allowed to run? How can you agree to almost 50 years of emergency laws that can detain any citizen without charge for an infinite amount of time? Do you really think that Syria can defeat Israel when it is in such miserable state? Israel had a bigger existential threat than the Arabs and yet they never passed emergency laws and degraded their citizens in the same way we do, do you ever ask your self why? do you think people will be patriotic to the country when the people who claim to be representatives of the country are oppressing the masses? you spend hours everyday, away from Syria, speaking about Israel and the US, and yet neglect to look at the people and their rights in your own country and to what is happening to them. If our country was fine, most of you here and their families would not have been stranded in other countries.

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January 21st, 2011, 12:07 pm

 

58. EHSANI2 said:

WHY,

You are correct. The human rights situation in Syria is lacking, if not outright miserable. You are also correct in pointing out that most of the minorities do not view the lack of human rights as seriously as you seem to do. There are two explanations:

1- The minorities are genetically unsupportive of human rights
2- The minorities feel that whatever the shortcomings of this government are, the likely successors are going to be worse.

I think that the second point above is the more logical explanation.

But why do the minorities feel that way? Could it be that they are all wrong? Or are they on to something and that their collective forecasts are correct?

The note that you wrote could have easily been written about Saddam’s era in Iraq. In the example of that country, none of us need to resort to unpredictable forecasting of the future. The fact of the matter is that the Christian minority for one has been largely obliterated. By most accounts, their numbers are down by 50% since the fall of Saddam.

Talk is cheap. What is needed is action and constitutional amendments instigated and called for by the Sunni “religious” majority that must help and codify the “cheap talk” into hard facts.

Let me be more specific:

The minorities feel that once the majority Sunnis claims power, they will succumb to their religious establishment. This establishment will use the Quran and Sharia law to govern. The Christians still remember how when the late Mr. Assad tried to change the constitution by dropping the word Moslem from the qualification of the President, he had to soon give up and relent.

Why not start with that? Why can’t the Sunni religious establishment form a committee that would travel to the palace and demand an amendment to the constitution? Why can’t they simply say that a Christian is as qualified to be a President as a Moslem is and we are going to change the law to codify that? It is not enough to remind this minority that they had a PM some 60 years ago. Can you imagine what goodwill such an initiative would generate between the two religions?

While the Sunni religious establishment is at the palace, why not go a step further and inform the President that they support a modern civil family law and that they are willing to codify that by also making it part of the constitution?

I believe that this is what the minorities need to see. They need to be assured that the Sunni majority will not bring religion into governing. They need to be assured that the laws of Sharia will not one day apply to them too. They need to feel that they are not third class citizens who are excluded from the highest office in the land because they happened to be born in a different religion that than of the majority.

Dear Why,

The above is why minorities seem to sympathize with the current shortcoming of this leadership. In sum, they have long concluded that such abuses are only likely to get worse because the likely winners of a Sunni takeover is the religious establishment that will quickly fill in the void and make the current human right abuses feel like a walk in the park.

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January 21st, 2011, 12:55 pm

 

59. Nour said:

WHY,

It is the classification of society into “minority” and “majority”, as well as other fragmentary and divisive trends, that leads to this situation in our nation. This regime in Syria, as well as all other regimes in our nation, did not fall from outer space. It is a regime made of Syrians and a result of a particular social problem in Syria. When you frame the issue in a way that implies that the only problem with this regime is the fact that its heads are of the Alawi sect (and I’m not saying that you do this, but a lot of people in our society hold this opinion), you in fact lose a lot of credibility, because it indicates that your concern is not the well-being of Syria, but the status of your sect vis-a-vis other sects.

Our problem is that we are divided, and your claim that there were no divisive thoughts in Syria prior to what you termed the “Arab fascists” is utterly inaccurate. Sectarian tensions have been prevalent for hundreds of years, and these divisive mentalities are what culminated in the inception of regressive, authoritarian regimes. Many of the people here that you accuse of blindly supporting dictatorship are not deserving of such an accusation. And it is insulting to indicate that they do not care for their country as much as you do. However, many people understand that the problem in Syria goes beyond merely the regime in power. And we do not want to change the regime just for the sake of changing it, only to replace it with something just as bad, if not worse.

The only thing that can save us from all this is our awareness of our national identity and our view of the nation as a single society with a unity of life, rather than a conglomeration of different sects and ethnicities. Every Syrian should be viewed as a SYRIAN first and foremost, with equal rights and duties to all other Syrians. There are no “majorities” and “minorities” in society, but equal citizens, regardless of what their personal beliefs or their particular ethnic backgrounds are. That’s the only way to build a healthy society which can bring about system more representative of the nation’s interests.

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January 21st, 2011, 1:50 pm

 

60. EHSANI2 said:

“The only thing that can save us from all this is our awareness of our national identity and our view of the nation as a single society with a unity of life, rather than a conglomeration of different sects and ethnicities.”

Nour,

But then we would not be the Mideast. We will instead be discussing scandinavian politics

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January 21st, 2011, 2:07 pm

 

61. Nour said:

EHSANI2,

And that’s why Scandinavian nations are so advanced, while our nation is so backwards.

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January 21st, 2011, 5:44 pm

 

62. Ghat Albird said:

The bar bouncer from Moldavia is insulted !

Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman released a new statement today condemning the Palestinian Authority’s UN resolution criticizing the massive expansion of Israeli settlements into occupied Palestinian territory, terming it a grave insult.

“Israel will not just sit and suffer criticism and insults forever,” insisted Lieberman, who has repeatedly expressed his opposition to the stalled peace talks with the Palestinians on general principle.

Lieberman did not mention the massive, illegal settlement expansions but instead cited a proposal to allow work permits for some Palestinians, saying it proved Israel had “given much but received very little back.”

The current UN resolution is deliberately worded to use direct quotes from US officials, making it difficult for the US to veto it. French officials have suggested that they will approve the resolution.

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January 21st, 2011, 6:37 pm

 

63. WHY said:

Ehsani,
You make very valid points. My only concern is about giving the “religious establishment” more power and authority than they already have. The religious establishment should not be involved in politics and should not be the one deciding change in the constitution. They are part of the reason why the country has been so divisive. Politicians and social leaders from a Sunni background are better representative than the Sunni clergy to go and and demand equality in the law and no discrimination based on religion. Even individuals like you can be representatives and voice their opinion for a secular constitution.

My point is , the secular and liberal politicians and human rights activists who keep being harassed, roughed up, and jailed never talked from a sectarian point of view. Instead, they called for the same things most of us would ask for, more democracy, more freedoms, more justice. They are naturally secular and would never accept or promote reactionary ideals or sectarianism or that Sunnis should only rule or apply sharia. The lack of sympathy to those people by some in this forum is appalling, and when it is done over a long period in time, I start to doubt if those people who keep discussing the crimes of Israel yet neglect to say a word about the injustices that is happening within their country are doing so intentionally or maybe benefiting from the current status quo.

Noor,
The existence of religious minorities is a fact. I am not saying that these differences shall be inserted into the legal framework. But from an academic standpoint, they are exist. In the US for example, the people and books talk about minorities such as African American, Hispanic, Natives, Protestants, Catholics, and so forth. They don’t try to discriminate between those groups but they instead aim for treating all citizens equally based on the equality clause of the constitution. I understand you stem from SSNP point of view and I have followed your blog closely in the past, I am afraid when you are talking about this SINGLE SOCIETY/UNITY idea, you might be referring to the fascist ideas of curtailing the liberties of individuals to practice and associate with their sub-national groups. Arab fascists also did the same when they came in power and tried to quash sub identities by forcing Arabism on everyone. It did not work. Secularism shall not mean to dissolve all religious people’s identity in favor of the state. It just means that the state shall be neutral when it comes to all religions, and shall not favor one religion over the other, especially when it comes to laws. We have to distinguish between not discriminating based on sect/ethnicity, and between DISSOLVING personal identities. We shall not try and dissolve people’s sub identities because it reflects who they are, but we shall strive not to discriminate or favor one over the other, and when this happens, citizens will naturally start to identify themselves based on their national identity.

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January 22nd, 2011, 1:28 am

 

64. Majhool said:

I have to thank WHY for speaking “my mind”.

Jad,

If you are reading, this is exactly what I was talking about. I apologize for being so brief, but that’s what happens when you are disgusted with the current state of affairs.

Lessa fi amal

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January 22nd, 2011, 3:00 am

 

65. EHSANI2 said:

Dear WHY,

Your point is well taken.

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January 22nd, 2011, 8:45 am

 

66. AKbar Palace said:

The human rights situation in Syria is lacking, if not outright miserable.

Eshani2,

Well, there’s always the Tunisia example if anyone really cares.

However, I think whinning about the better Israeli human rights record is more fun. It certainly looks better on your resume.

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January 22nd, 2011, 1:49 pm

 

67. EHSANI2 said:

AKbar Palace,

No doubt Israel is the master at that game.

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January 22nd, 2011, 6:02 pm

 

68. Ghat Albird said:

AP add this to YOUR resume.

Israel: The ugly truth
By Mya Guarnieri
As it slides further into open and violent racism, Israel offers the Western world a reflection of itself.

There was that jarring week in December – a protest against Arab-Jewish couples, a south Tel Aviv march and demonstration against migrant workers and African asylum seekers, the arrest of Jewish teenagers accused of beating Palestinians and the expulsion of five Arab men from their home in south Tel Aviv. It left me with the question: What is next?

It is impossible to predict the future. But there are signs that violence, perpetrated by citizens, could be spreading.

In mid-January, dozens of young Jews attacked Muslims at a mosque in Yafo or Jaffa, the historically Arab city just south of Tel Aviv. An Israeli media outlet reports that the youth, who were armed with stones and Israeli flags, shouted “Mohammed is a pig” and “Death to Arabs” just as the Muslims were preparing to pray.

When the police arrived, they did not arrest any of the assailants.

And just a few days before that march in south Tel Aviv, seven Sudanese men were attacked in Ashdod, a coastal city in the south of Israel.

According to Israeli media reports, someone threw a flaming tyre into the apartment the men shared. Five suffered from smoke inhalation, two were hospitalised.

Another alarming act of violence took place in south Tel Aviv that same night. The Hotline for Migrant Workers, an Israeli NGO, reports that three teenage girls – Israeli-born, Hebrew-speaking daughters of African migrant workers – were beaten by a group of Jewish teenagers. The attackers, one of whom was armed with a knife, allegedly called them “dirty niggers”. One of the girls needed medical treatment for her injuries.

“It’s worth noting that the girls had already experienced such violence in the neighbourhood,” Poriya Gal, the spokeswoman for the Hotline for Migrant Workers, says. “But they chose not to report it to the police out of the fear that they would be attacked again.”

Another frightening indicator of the mood here: In south Tel Aviv, on the day of the protest, a number of afterschool programmes closed early so that children could get home safely before the demonstration began. Administrators were worried that the children might otherwise get caught up in the march and attacked by protestors.

Because asylum seekers are often reluctant to ask for help – and they are unlikely to turn to the police – it is hard to determine the precise number of racially motivated attacks.

But the African Refugee Development Committee (ARDC) reports that asylum seekers are increasingly being evicted from their homes, despite the fact that they have paid rent. And the committee has been alerted to another alarming trend. Dara Levy-Bernstein of the ARDC says: “There have been a lot of [asylum seekers] complaining about being stopped by police or soldiers – we’re not entirely sure which – but they’re people in uniform who have been taking their visas and tearing them up.”

Some argue that asylum seekers and Palestinians represent distinct issues that are distinctly complicated. In some ways, they do. But the police or soldiers who tear asylum seekers’ visas are the same people who fail to arrest Jewish citizens for throwing stones at Muslim worshippers. And it boils down to something very simple: How Israel, and some of its citizens, views those it considers ‘others’.

Turning away the other

When I ask Orit Rubin, a psycho-social coordinator at ASSAF Aid Organisation for Refugees and Asylum Seekers in Israel, if she has noticed a rise in violence, she asks me to define violence.

While she has not seen an increase in physical attacks, she has recently received reports from Sudanese café and pub owners who say that police have entered their places of business and sprayed tear gas into the air, without any provocation.

The most common problem Rubin sees is African children that are being refused the public education that they are legally entitled to. Right here in Tel Aviv – the supposed bastion of Israeli liberalism – five children from two Eritrean families were recently refused registration.

And for four months, four Eritrean children have been turned away from a school in Bnei Brak, a religious suburb of Tel Aviv, because they are not Jewish. Rubin says she has written to the minister of education about the matter. She is still waiting for a response.

And then there are those who are illegally denied medical care. Rubin remarks: “This morning I got news from [our field worker] in Eilat that a pregnant woman was sitting at a medical clinic and the doctor came out and said ‘I’m not taking care of Sudanese’ and they asked her to leave.”

Rubin adds that the doctor’s refusal of treatment was even more shocking because the woman had insurance, something many asylum seekers lack.

The same day I interview Rubin, I meet an Ethiopian asylum seeker in Ashkelon who tells me that he recently sought medical help after he was attacked on the street by a Jewish Israeli. He was bleeding when he arrived at the hospital. And he was turned away.

Testing the water

It might seem sensationalist to draw conclusions about violence and discrimination from such examples. But it is important to recognise these trends early on and act on them, before they have a chance to lay root.

Yohannes Bayu, the founder and director of the ARDC, points out that the Israeli rabbis’ edict against renting and selling property to Arabs came months after a similar letter was posted in south Tel Aviv.

“It started there, with the refugees,” Bayu says. “And nobody responded. And then it was, ‘Let’s expand that’ and [the rabbis] came up with [the edict against] the Arabs.”

So if there is not a strong response to what is happening in south Tel Aviv now, Bayu says: “It’s obvious that [things] can go to another level. This is what happened in Germany and many other places.”

When asked if he hopes that the government will step in and help prevent an escalation, Bayu answers: “They’re the ones who started it.”

He points towards the remarks of Eli Yishai, the interior minister, that migrants bring “a profusion” of diseases and drugs to Israel – claims that fly in the face of ministry of health data proving that migrants have low rates of illness.

Other government employees, including a Tel Aviv city council member, have blamed foreigners for increasing crime even though a recent Knesset report proves that asylum seekers are actually much less likely to be involved in criminal activities than Israelis.

And both migrant workers and asylum seekers were targeted by a government campaign of advertisements depicting “real Israelis” (read: paid actors) who did not have work because of “foreigners”.

“First, they [the government] try to create this fear among the public, to create this discrimination, and then the result is always violence,” Bayu says. “That’s my biggest fear.”

Fear of the unknown

Rubin agrees that the problem is rooted in the government. But she also adds that it says something about society.

“I think that some of it is not just Israel. It’s human nature to fear what you don’t know, to fear what is different.”

Rubin pauses.

“Me, personally,” she continues, “I was brought up in a home of Holocaust survivors and I was always taught that Israelis are different … that they have learned from experience and will be weary before they slide into racism. But, you know, it’s not like that.

“Part of it is that we forgot what happened in the Second World War was human. Humans were doing it – not beasts, not monsters, but humans.”

Reflection of the West

It is too easy to demonise Israel, in part because the government, the army and some of the people do things that make it so easy.

But one of the ugliest truths about Israel – a truth that must be faced in both the US and Europe, where xenophobic and anti-Islamic sentiments are also on the rise – is that Israel offers the Western world a reflection of itself.

Of course, it is an exaggerated, hyperbolic image. But it is a picture of nationalism gone wrong. It is a picture of what can happen when a state believes that its very survival depends on maintaining a certain demographic balance. It is a picture of what happens when any country believes that those who change these numbers are an existential threat.

And it is getting more and more frightening here by the day.

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January 22nd, 2011, 6:10 pm

 

69. Akbar Palace said:

Eshani2,

What “game” are you referring to? If you mean creating a stable democracy, freedom, and human rights all while under the threat of Islamofascism, I would agree.

What’s Syria’s excuse? Are they going to be taken over by “Zionist Hoodlums” or Crusaders?

Ghat,

Look, I can cut and paste too…

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east-12261668

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January 23rd, 2011, 2:11 pm

 

70. EHSANI2 said:

Oh here you go with “Islamofascism” and those labels thrown around by the likes of Hannity/Savage and the other experts on the Middle East region.

Cut it out. I thought that you are smarter than that.

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January 23rd, 2011, 2:19 pm

 

71. Ghat Albird said:

So can I AP.

Published 12:06 23.01.11Latest update 12:06 23.01.11
L.A. Times on Israel: Rising racism, homophobia and discrimination
Major U.S. newspaper follows what it calls is a recent ‘wave of intolerance’ that is washing the country.

By Haaretz Service
Tags: Israel news Avigdor Lieberman

Racist, homophobic, and discriminatory, that’s the way Israel is portrayed in a new feature published by the Los Angeles Times on Sunday, following what the paper calls as a “wave of intolerance toward people of different races, religions, orientations and viewpoints” that is washing the country.

The protest against foreign workers and refugees in Tel Aviv’s Hatikva neighborhood, Dec. 21, 2010.

Photo by: Ofer Vaknin
The L.A. Times piece comes in the wake of several social issues that have plagued Israel in recent weeks and months – including a rabbinical letter forbidding renting apartments to Arabs, an attack on a Tel Aviv gay and lesbian youth club, Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman’s controversial loyalty oath bill, as well as an on-going debate on Israel’s official policy toward migrant workers.

Writing of what it called “a wave of intolerance,” the piece describes Israelis as “grappling with their nation’s identity and character,” adding that to some “the timing of the rising intolerance is surprising.

“The number of terrorist attacks in Israel dropped last year to its lowest level in more than a decade, and Israel’s economy is growing faster than those of most other countries,” the L.A. times wrote.

One Israeli politician, the Labor Party’s Daniel Ben Simon, saw a connection between the relative lull in regional violence and Israel’s social woes, telling the L.A. Times that “the stronger the external tension, the more repressed the internal tension.”

“Any lull in outside pressure causes the internal ones to rise…. This led people to feel that if they’re squared off with the outside and feel secure enough, ‘Let’s fight a bit,'” Ben-Simon was quoted as saying.

The U.S. newspaper also quotes Bambi Sheleg, founder of social affairs magazine A Different Country [Eretz Acheret], who said “extremist viewpoints are receiving more attention.”

“Israeli society consists of a gigantic center,” she told the L.A. Times, adding that, however, “there is no one to lead it and its voice isn’t heard.”

“We are on the threshold of the understanding that we all have to live here together and compromise,” she said. “These are growing pains.”

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January 23rd, 2011, 4:44 pm

 

72. Akbar Palace said:

Oh here you go with “Islamofascism” and those labels thrown around by the likes of Hannity/Savage and the other experts on the Middle East region.

Ehsani2,

So you don’t believe there is a phenomenon called “Islamofascism”?

You believe Hannity/Savaqge made this term up? I guess 9-11 was an “inside job”. Right?

No such thing as Hamas, Hezbollah, Al-Queda, or the Islamic Republic of Iran?

BTW, who was Syria fighting and murdering in Hama back in the early eighties?

Zionists?

Ghat,

Glad you’re finding articles by liberal Jews. Notice how they’re always living comfortably in Israel, yet never censored. Yes, they search high and low scouring the streets for any sign of racism, but they very rarely pick up body parts like they do around the world at the hand of your Islamic “militant” heroes.

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January 23rd, 2011, 9:14 pm

 

73. Akbar Palace said:

Ghat, Ehsani2,

Last week a couple dozen Christians were killed in Egypt.

Today, 5 car bombs in Iraq killed at least 6 people. The article below said that 110 people were killed by bombs last week.

http://news.yahoo.com/s/nm/20110123/wl_nm/us_iraq_violence

Is this something Arabs and Muslims should be more concerned with, or is Israel’s negotiations with the Palestinians and/or Israeli racism more important?

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January 23rd, 2011, 10:58 pm

 

74. Ghat Albird said:

AP.
You should read more European and Russian authors especially like Solzenitsin

The below is a quote from one of his books….Jewish Fanaticism, first off, is the 30,000,000 deaths, Russians and Ukrainians liquidated in the Communist adventure of 1917 to 1947. One can never say enough about the appalling role of Jewish ideologues, Jewish bureaucrats, and Jewish torturers in this story.

All Europeans know these numbers. Maybe its time you and others like you get acquainted with them. Do some Googling.

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January 24th, 2011, 10:04 am

 

75. Shai said:

“One can never say enough about the appalling role of Jewish ideologues, Jewish bureaucrats, and Jewish torturers in this story.”

Ghat, can you honestly not see the problem with these statements?

I’ll help you, I’ll make one up:

“One can never say enough about the appalling role of Muslim ideologues, Muslim bureaucrats, and Muslim torturers in this story.”

How can anyone interpret this as anything other than a severe racial statement against an entire people?!? This is the stuff that pushes fanatics out there to murder a Muslim or a Jewish student in a university, or God forbid a child in school.

You’re playing with fire, Ghat.

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January 24th, 2011, 10:28 am

 

76. Shai said:

Akbar,

Your “Islamofascism Rhetoric” is also not helpful. It too contributes to the hatred of Muslims. Never mind that it’s a complete absurdity that was invented as a terminology to legitimize the post-9/11 attacks on Iraq and Afghanistan (what does Al Qaeda have anything to do with Fascism?), but its continued use today puts Islam itself under attack.

Is this what you want?

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January 24th, 2011, 10:36 am

 

77. Ghat Albird said:

SHAI….SAID 48. You’re playing with fire, Ghat.

Look who is telling who they are playing with fire

5 DANCING SHLOMOS said:

how jews have fun:

http://www.globalresearch.ca/index.php?context=va&aid=22879

Silence is Complicity: The methodical shooting of boys at work in Gaza by snipers of the Israeli Occupation Force

by Dr. David Halpin, Global Research, January 20, 2011

48. 5 DANCING SHLOMOS said:

how jews have fun:

http://www.globalresearch.ca/index.php?context=va&aid=22879

Silence is Complicity: The methodical shooting of boys at work in Gaza by snipers of the Israeli Occupation Force

by Dr. David Halpin, Global Research, January 20, 2011

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January 24th, 2011, 1:19 pm

 

78. Nour said:

WHY,

The social unity I am talking about refers to the unity of life that exists in all single societies. It is a natural occurrence where people of a single nation are part of a single socio-economic life-cycle, and not a political agenda imposed on anyone. What is unnatural is for people to begin identifying themselves with their particularistic groups such that they contribute to the increased division within the single nation. These particularistic groups have no bearing on the reality of the nation. If I am a Christian and convert to Sunni Islam does my identity all of a sudden change? Am I all of a sudden part of a different society?

My argument is that framing the issue in Syria as one of “majorities” and “minorities” leads to continuous tension and instability as each group then becomes suspicious of other groups and attempts to protect its perceived rights and interests against those other groups. This creates a permanent state of infighting that will naturally lead to either chaos or authoritarian rule. All Syrians should be viewed simply as Syrians, regardless of their religious or ethnic backgrounds. This of course does not infringe on people’s rights to practice their religions freely or to express their specific ethnic characteristics. Rather, it simply eliminates the idea of a balance of power between majorities and minorities in the single society.

Arab Nationalism failed because it actually did use the language of majorities and minorities. It viewed non-Arabs in “Arab” countries as minorities whose rights should be protected but who should succumb to the rule of the majority “Arabs”. Its doctrine was based on ethno-religious nationalism and linguistic nationalism, thereby excluding non-Arabic speakers and those of non-Arab origins from their concept of the Arab nation. Syrian Social Nationalism, on the other hand, views all members of society as citizens of a single nation, equal in rights and duties. So whether you are Kurd, Armenian, Circassian, Druze, Sunni, Shia, Maronite, Orthodox, etc. you are viewed as equal citizens.

Fascism is of course an ideology of political nationalism which considers the state an organic unit into which citizens are naturally born. This is a complete contradiction to the philosophy of the SSNP.

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January 24th, 2011, 6:53 pm

 

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