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


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

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)

Jihad said:

Saad Hariri is damaged goods from the beginning and with no need to be more damaged. The account of the tape on the Qifa Nabki blog is misleading. As for why this might not damage Saad (formerly Eddine) Hariri is clear: Lebanon is a sectarian country. If it was not, Hariri and co (from Samir Geagea to Boutros Harb) would be by now rotting in a dark prison cell.

January 15th, 2011, 7:38 pm


Norman said:

Syria will not be like Tunisia for a simple reason , Syrians like even love Bashar Assad , they like his economic reform , political stand with the Palestinians and his support for the Iraqi people , Syria is against the Western influence while Tunisia under bin Ali was withe the West and Israel,

About the international criminal court , I wonder if the goal is to involve KHameieni and Iran to increase the pressure there and punish Iran more by making an out law when it does not surrender it’s leader,

January 15th, 2011, 11:31 pm


mariam said:


You are right! The army abandoned Ben Ali; it was reported on Jan 10th that he had fired his Chef d’etat Major Gen. ben Ammar for refusing to give further orders to fire on the protesters and replaced him with the Army intelligence chief. On the evening of his flight out, we had contact with insiders in the opposition who confirmed that the army had deserted ben Ali- and possibly gave him the choice to leave or be arrested ( the latter is only one report so far)-


What knowledge do you have to prove “the love” ? I just returned from Syria, the situation is so disheartening!!! Civil servants, merchants, young educated professionals with no futur in sight- the inflation, the food prices- people who have nothing to eat…I rode with Taxi drivers who were not afraid to complain openly : “He is worse than his father”, what economic recovery ? The corruption, the poverty, the hopelessness are rampant- Ben Ali was (is) a corrupt criminal but his country did rise in the fields of education and research which Bourgiba had initiated; in September 2010 The World Economic Forum ranked the economy of the Tunisian Republic the most competitive economy in Africa in 2009 and the 40th globally. in many field Tunisia came immediately after the European Union in accomplishments….The Tunisians are generally well-educated, informed people- Syria has become obsolete, a struggling poor, wounded and economically decimated country- Publishers cannot print books nobody reads except for the few volumes of rehashed religious texts. People are worn-out- There is no comparison between Syria and Tunisia in the level of political awareness and the energy to fight for their rights between Tunisians and Syrians and that is a very critical point in organizing such a revolution as the Jasmine Revolution.

and Yes, Joshua is right! unfortunately it is unlikely that we will see the same process of liberation in Syria for the reasons that he has cited and because of some others…. let’s hope that the Syrians can come up with their own brand of liberation. No dictator will last forever, that is for sure.

January 16th, 2011, 3:05 am


Alepporaconteur said:

What just happened in Tunisia was also thought unlikely to happen in Tunisia one month ago.

January 16th, 2011, 3:49 am


Rahaf said:

we used to like Bashar, we used to think that he is holding the change for us,that he is going make syria a better place but everything now is clear, he held the change for Rami Makhlouph and his family.
things are worse than they are in Tunise, but Tunisians are one hand and one heart, why is it unlikely in Syria? simply coz if Bashar gives order for the army to shoot the syrians, the army will be more than happy to do it,, but what made Tunisians Reach the People Palace and form a seig around it, is the Army’s refusal to shoot the people.


January 16th, 2011, 6:18 am


anonymous said:

Mr. Landis,

Your argument as to why this would not happen in Syria is very weak.

Simply put, if you would have read the Wikileak cable dated 2008-06-23 originating from Tunis, you would have found that Tunisia’s corruption mirrors Syria’s or any Arab country you want to examine.

I had loosely followed some of your posts in the past, just because you were a foreigner living in Syria, but this latest ‘comment’ is heavily faulted in so many ways, possibly, personally biased. I do not expect you to be objective, but as an associate professor (in what I personally think is respectable university), a bit of common sense, if not objectivity, is warranted.

If the cable does not meet your satisfaction, I will use your ‘two top reasons’ as to how this could happen in Syria.

Your point 1 regarding the elite; clearly as the Tunisians have demonstrated the elite were not involved in this uprising; as is evidenced in a lack of a clear leader at this critical juncture in Tunisian history. As it has been correctly branded, this has been a popular uprising. Judges, journalists, students and the layman are not considered elite in a third world Arab nation. The (objectively termed) leeches attached to the ruling family in Tunisia would have been considered elites and would not have tempted a backlash of Ben Ali’s clan if these demonstrations had failed. Which makes point 1 baseless.

As for your point 2; the generic argument regarding sectarian divisions in Lebanon and Iraq and the case for possible sectarian divisions in Syria along the same if Syria should be in the midst of a revolt couldn’t be further from the truth. Unfortunately for those that regurgitate this talking point, they fail to see the obvious argument to the contrary. Before I make the case against the possibility of sectarian divisions within Syrian society during a revolt, a disclaimer is needed. These statistics are from the CIA world factbook. Say what you will regarding this organisation’s past and purpose, the facts are the closest numbers short of reaching the Library of Congress, which I do not have access to.

The argument that a religious homogenous society will not produce sectarianism is wrong for the simple point that someone, somewhere will disagree with anything or anyone. This is what we are, individuals with different view points. Sectarian strife can be further defined into two categories, religious sectarian strife and ethnic sectarian strife.

In the case of Lebanon’s modern history, unfortunately for them, statistics indicated prior the outbreak of the Lebanese civil war in 1976 that Lebanon had the ‘perfect storm’ situation. 30% were Christian, 30% were Sunni Muslim and 30% were Shiite Muslim along with outside influnces such as the PLO and the Israelis, the West and the Soviet Union and Syria. The mere fact that all 3 religiously dominant actors in Lebanese politics were equally demographically balanced as far as population is concerned is very rare to find in the Middle East. Needless to say this religious sectarianism is the end result based on demographics and outside political influences such as the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, Capitalism vs Communism, West vs East.

Within the ethnic domain, Lebanon is obviously overwhelmingly Arab, so it is clear that ethnic sectarianism is not the case.

As for Iraq, ethnic divisions and religious divisions are coupled to create the strife that exists in Iraq today. Religiously speaking, despite Iraq being overwhelmingly 97% Muslim, of those, 60-65% are Shia, 32-37% are Sunni. The 3% are Christian. Shiite animosity of being ruled by the minority religion in the guise of Saddam Hussein and the fact that he was brutal in suppressing Shiite rights in the country and were looked upon as Iranian agents during their war with Iran had not helped the Iraqi intra-relations between Sunni and Shiite.

Ethnically speaking, Iraq is 75-80% Arab with 15-20% Kurd and 5% representing Assyrians, Turkomans etc. Iraq while being three-quarters Arab is also plagued by ethnic sectarianism in the form of Kurdish separation in the north. Unfortunately for the current American situation in Iraq, during the 90s and its embargo of Iraq, it held up the Kurdish resistance as a counter to Saddam’s power base in Baghdad in such as UN sanctioned No-Fly Zones. These zones, albeit meaningless due to a destroyed Iraqi Air Force after Gulf War 1, gave the Americans and her Kurdish allies the ability to manoeuvre, organize and supply themselves into an organized militia. With an organized militia comes with that the ability to form a political hierarchy; as a result, a relatively stable north Iraq.

What this does is it gives the Kurds a head start in infrastructure and political cohesion in comparison to the central authority in Bagdad. With the Kurds emboldened by this higher form of organisation, 15-20% Kurdish population is realistically speaking, 30-40% in real power due to the relative calm, their demands of an autonomous north, which is roughly a third of current Iraq and possible GCC investments. This means that the Arabs in Iraq are somewhere around the 65-70% in real power.

This is where Iraq’s religious divisions are coupled with Iraq’s ethnic divisions to create the existing situation. Of course it doesn’t help any Iraqi when American and Iranian influences are prevalent in Iraqi politics.

Finally, to Syria and your second argument that Syria is not a homogenous country like Tunisia. Your argument would indicate a possible religious sectarian conflict. This is the same argument that minorities in Syria cling to in fear that they would be attacked by religious radicals. Granted there would be attacks on minorities, but those would be few and far between. Here is why: first off ethnically speaking Syria is 90% Arab, so we can remove the ethnic strife that has consumed Iraq. Religiously speaking, Syria is 90% Muslim. Of that 90%, 74% are Sunni, 16% are Alawite, Druze, Ismailli etc. 10% of the Syrian population is Christian. These figures represent a reasonable and approximate figure that we can all agree on.

Because Syrian ethnic demographics resembles nothing like that of Iraq and because Syrian religious demographics resembles nothing like Lebanon, your argument that a Tunisian-esque uprising would lead to a sectarian conflict, is wrong. You are correct in your judgement that the Syrian military would fire on its own population in defence of the current regime, but there is one of many things that they (the soldiers) have in common with any future protester in Syria and that is a lack of money to feed themselves and marry their fiancés let alone find an apartment to live in.

This above argument, coupled with the eerily similar amounts of corruption in Tunisia and Syria on so many levels and the divide between the haves and have nots in a third world country, and any Arab country for that matter would make the argument that the 2010-2020 decade is that of the Arab awakening.

As someone who is clearly interested in Syria, it would be nice to read progressive arguments as to why Syria is nothing like Iraq and Lebanon and more how Syria and Syrians are like anyone else on this planet in which the yolk of despotism is removed in a country that deserves more than what it is given back to its people.

January 16th, 2011, 8:15 am


Mariam said:


It is only on the surface that the Tunisian revolution is “spontaneous” and without leaders. Political Opposition inside and outside Tunisia has been active and engaged ( there are “nominal opposition parties who have collaborated with the regime and others who have fought have been banished and persecuted)…. other organizations like the UGTT (Tunisian General Union of Labor- with greater than 300 thousand members with deep roots in Marxism-Leninism) became immediately activated once the struggle started that is how you see the popular local attempts organizing quickly to smooth the transition at this time.

January 16th, 2011, 8:51 am


hans said:

Maybe what happened in Tunisia will also happen in the USA. The American’s will finally wake up and realise that they are being robbed blindly. Their politicians are even more corrupt then the despots in the ME. Tat congress and senate are not representative of them rather are subservient to Israel. Any finally why not?

January 16th, 2011, 10:52 am


Syrian Nationalist Party said:

“…….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……..”

Cheney will blame Disney for the Hariri attack if he founds out there are five buckets of crude oil discovered under Mickey house. One call to Bellmarre is all it takes for the new version and supporting evidence to pop up. If you privy to top secret information about Peak Oil and how fast we are sliding down the available proven supply curve, oil/Dollar worthiness, you will understand everything transpired on earth from 1996 and on. But most importantly, you will understand what will be transpiring this decade.

January 16th, 2011, 11:11 am


Ghat Albird said:

Washington – Tel Aviv coup against Beirut.

January 16th, 2011, 12:20 pm


Alex said:

During the 2003 to 2006 period Syria was considered the “low hanging fruit” among the countries that the Bush administration (and its Israeli and Arab allies) disliked. They said that it will take nothing to topple the “regime of Bashar Assad” … that his army will topple him, that his people will revolt, that a Syrian withdrawal from Lebanon will surely lead to the same ….

I don’t know how low-hanging Syria was at the time, but today it is anything but low-hanging. Over the past five years, Syria’s position steadily improved.

On December 25th 1989, Romania’s Nicolae Ceauşescu was executed by his army’s firing squad consisting of elite paratroop regiment soldiers. Soon after, many predicted that Syria’s strongman Hafez Assad will be next. They argued that Syrians suffered the worst decade of economic hard times, the eighties, and that Assad’s Soviet allies and backers are gone, and just like the rest of the leaders of the Soviet client states, Syria surely will be ready for a popular uprising.

That was not the case. Instead the Syrian President became increasingly more powerful in the region after his opposition to Saddam Hussein’s invasion of Kuwait earned him the admiration of his fellow Arabs who did not understand in the past why Assad did not join them in supporting Saddam Hussein. Relations with the United States and Europe improved and a decade of peace negotiations with Israel followed. Syria’s economy during the nineties performed considerably better than it did during the difficult eighties.

Syria is not going to follow Tunisia just because the two countries have corruption and because young people today can login to Facebook and organize demonstratiosn.

If you want the Syrian people to focus on the economy and to demand a leadership change when their government fails to perform … end the Arab Israeli conflict and end westen interference in the affairs of the region.

Until then, don’t dream of getting rid of the Syrian leaders who are always geuinely at the center of “resistance” to Israel’s plans for the region.

Sorry if this sounds like a Baathist argument … but this is the truth.

Opinion polls in the Arab world consistently show that Syria’s policies are popular with the vast majority of Arabs.

Ben Ali’s look alike is not Bashar Assad, it is any of the other American backed mediocre Presidents and rulers in their seventies and eighties who always make sure they have perfectly black hair just like Ben Ali.

Economic pressure on Fidel Castro never removed him from power in Cuba…

And despite all the hype from the west, Ahmadinejad was not overthrown through demonstrations … He also has genuine opponents but he has widespread support that organized twittering campaigns from Washington DC were not able to undo.

The bottom line is … “it is the economy stupid” … but not when your country is in a “struggle”. When Clinton campaign strategist James Carville coined that phrase and helped his boss defeat President George Bush Sr., the Unites States was done with “the struggle” … they just defeated communism and Saddam Hussein … that is why the economy was the main thing on people’s minds.

Opinion polls show that Arabs support Syria’s leadership of the “resistance camp”… they see agressive Israeli policies and they are not ready to submit to those.

The Syrian leadership is firmly in control in Syria. Mariam, that Taxi driver was a moukhabarat man… they like to know what people think so they encourage them to speak through courageous sounding taxi drivers.

Finally … I do think there is a lesson to be learned in Tunisia

1) The West should understand that popular revolutions and change take place best naturally, without foreign intervention through force or through cheap propaganda … Tunisia and Romania did not need your foreign help. Your foreign help in Iraq “succeeded” in bringing democracy to Iraq … after destroying thw whole country

2) Syria must deal more firmly with corruption … this is indeed one of the strong similarities with Tunisia. The rich class in Syria is increasingly displaying its decadence and the income gap is widening. I wish Syria’s leadership would continue its recent focus on corruption in Aleppo and elsewhere, but to also take that to where people want to see real change … corruption of the elite.

I wrote many times over the past years that Syria’s billionaires must wake up and follow the leadership of American billionaires and start giving back significant portions of their wealth to the poor. It is not enough what they are doing now … establishing Mickey Mouse charities for their wives to run pretending they really care.

Incidentally, the income gap is not a Syrian exclusive … The United States has a wider gap.

January 16th, 2011, 6:08 pm


Norman said:

Thanks Alex,
I agree , the rich of Syria should understand that they need to support the minimum that the poor need to prevent a revolution , for their own sake , that can be done through taxation to redistribute wealth , in addition to an Estate tax , and deductions for charitable work , this combination can go a long way ,

i want to add that probably Mariam does not know all the things that the Syrian government does for the people ,
1 ) Free education to university level
2 ) Free health care
3 ) safe streets to the point that people are not afraid of being mugged in the streets ,
4 ) women are not afraid of being raped

one major difference between Tunisia and Syria beside what Alex said about the external threat that faces Syria is that Syria’s government is a bottom up government while Tunisia is a top down government , the Syrian government is supported by labor and farmers , while the Tunisian government is not ,

January 16th, 2011, 7:44 pm


BigB said:


I believe Dr. Landis has it right on the analysis of why the events of Tunisia will not spread into Syria. Despite her analysis that revolutions cannot be made (which was proved inaccurate after the publication of her book when Iran went into revolution), Theda Skocpol provides a detailed understanding of how social revolutions come about. There are specific reason for why these revolutions come about and Dr. Landis provides some explanation as to why revolution will not occur in Syria because certain mechanisms do not exist that did exist in other social revolutions. It is too early to tell what exactly happened in Tunisia, but I would guess that the reasons confirm Skocpols findings. I do not believe that you have adequately explained what mechanisms exist inSyria that would cause revolution to transfer from Tunisia to Syria.

January 17th, 2011, 8:49 am


Alex said:

Thanks Norman.

Paying more taxes and deductions for charitable donations are fine, but I am suggesting a need for a more direct, more visible giving and sharing of the wealth of the ultra rich with the poor majority surrounding them.

But I do not have such high expectations … I’m afraid that the only way they will change behavior after their initial shock at what happened in Tunisia is that they will decide to lower their extravagant spending in Syria and to travel to outside destinations where they can spend more freely without offending poorer Syrians.

January 17th, 2011, 11:10 am


Shami said:

Dr Landis,Alex,Norman,BIGB you all think that the dictatorial regime removal in Syria can not happen through a popular uprising .
But we all agree that there will be an end day for the asad familly adventure in Syria.
So i ask you ,could you tell us ,what is for you the most likely scenario for asad regime ending ?

January 17th, 2011, 11:31 am


Alex said:


God knows : )

But I think it depends to a large extent on two variables

1) Signing a peace agreement with Israel:
This will lead to excellent relations with the United States and therefore to similarly good and hopefully stable relations with Saudi Arabia and Egypt. In such a scenario, the current Syrian leadership should be more comfortable moving forward at a higher speed towards political reforms … always in a gradual manner.

Why is this relevant? .. because for now, any political freedom in Syria will see the American and Saudi ambassadors paying visits to parties they want to pressure, and to support parties they like, and will get billions in funding from Saudi Arabia to their favorite allies in Syria …

2) The shape in which other similar nations (Tunisia for now, But Iraq and Lebanon too) are in after political change took place in those nations. Lessons will be learned by the Syrian leadership. Again, depending on how stable and healthy the newly reformed fellow Arab systems are, reformers within the Syrian leadership might be empowered in the face of the more conservative security minded elements … or the opposite might be the case if reforms in Tunisia or elsewhere prove to be very costly in terms of exteneded lack of stability, bloodshed, economic failures …etc

I am, semi-seriously : ) … predicting a solution to the Arab Israeli conflict within 5 years, and democratization in Syria in 10 years … gradually… starting with municipal election and ending with a new constitution, a bicameral assembly with a freely elected prime minister with a very strong mandate and powers, and an appointed President and head of the armed forces.

January 17th, 2011, 11:56 am


BigB said:


I do not dispute the fact that a popular uprising could exist. The question is, will it be successful? In order for a social revolution to be successful, much like the Iran in 79, certain factors, mechanisms, have to be evident to spur a revolution and for that revolution to be successful. During the 2009 “Green Movement” its success depended on whether or not there was elite fragmentation, as Dr. Landis notes, a fracture in the military, or a shut down of the local economy by the working class, or bazaris. The people were up mobilized, but if the military still has the capacity to repress the people, then a social revolution is unlikely to happen. As Dr. Landis notes, I believe he is credible on the cultural and political dimensions of Syria, the elite support the Asad regime and the people trend in that direction, as well. Nevertheless, Bashar could make some serious mistakes, such as economic or military misadventures that bankrupt the state beyond repair, repress the elite to serve pure parochial interests (I understand this might be a confusing statement since Syrias government is a dictatorship), or make economic decisions that further destroy the working class and peasantry. I am not an expert on Syria, so I do not claim that this environment does not already exist in Syria under Bashars rule. Pople always have a breaking point, though. In my opinion, knowing what I do know about Syria – I wrote my graduate thesis over a certain aspect of Syrian regional politics – the only way for a social revolution to be successful is if the military/security state apparatus fragmented.

January 17th, 2011, 1:21 pm


BigB said:

You will have to excuse my sentence structure, grammar, and spelling. I’m still getting use to typing on an iPad.

January 17th, 2011, 1:24 pm


Shami said:

Thank you Alex,but you didnt answer my question ,i didnt ask you about your own wishes for Syria’s future but instead the likely scenario that will bring this regime down.
Change after Uprising seems more likely than your wishes.(Bashar giving up ).

January 17th, 2011, 1:32 pm


Shami said:

BIGB ,your opinion is closer to Dr Landis’s than that of Alex .

Let me summarize you :You dont dismiss the possibility of an uprising in Syria ,but You believe that because we have an united minority as security elite, it makes regime change success through uprising unlikely.

So it’s about the united minority determination to mass kill demonstrators that will determine how much bloodly the regime removal will be.

In your opinion ,would this united minority dare to face a GENERALIZED and SIMULTANEOUS uprising in Damascus ,Aleppo and the other large cities ?

January 17th, 2011, 2:22 pm


Alex said:

Dear Shami,

I get the feeling you are not interested in or eager to see my smooth and peaceful reform process (my “wishes”) but would rather see what I would describe as a punishment scenario … a GENERALIZED and SIMULTANEOUS uprising in all major Syrian “cities” against those who are governing now who you feel are mostly coming form and backed by Syria’s countryside.

Did you ask yourself why didn’t that kind of uprising take place in 2005 and 2006 when Khaddam and Co tried their best to bluff their ability to lead the country in that direction? … remember when Khaddam and Ghadry and others used to announce that something special will take place in 3 months max … then in six months max … then … they disappeared from the scene when the Syrian people did not act in the reckless manner the American and Saudi backed “Syrian opposition in exile” was trying to lead them into.

Please be patient and play along in supporting the safest and sanest option for reforming Syrian politics … let it take ten more years if this has better chances of success than your emotionally driven need for revenge through am uprising that God only knows where it will lead.

I understand your frustration that since the sixties Syria’s minorities have been playing a role that is larger than their numbers would normally permit (in a “democracy”) … but don’t forget that for the 450 years before that, Rich and prominent Damascenes (from the “majority”) governed Syria exclusively and did not allow ANY sharing of power or wealth with some of the minorities that you despise today.

Consider this a correction of past mistakes … the pendulum will go back and hopefully stay at the center next time.

January 17th, 2011, 2:41 pm


Shami said:

Alex,again you are trying to divert the discussion.
it’s not nice from you.
Btw ,which country side are you talking about ?eastern ?the arabs or the kurds ?

Plz tell us the unemployment rate in this part of Syria ?how much percent of the people there live in extreme poverty?
Young people in eastern Syria lack opportunities or they are lucky and go to Saudi Arabia ,or they live in misery .
Btw,the arabs there are always closer to Tikrit ,Faluja and Ramadi in Iraq and Khaliji countries than Damascus or Aleppo.(cultural perspective)

It’s not you Alex who is scared from Saudi influence over Syria ?

When i said Aleppo and Damascus ,i also meant Deir Zor,Raqqa,Qamishli and Hassaka and of course the coastal cities,during the 70’s-80’s ,these cities went on general strike unlike Damascus.For this reason i underlined Damascus and Aleppo influence.

January 17th, 2011, 3:22 pm


Shami said:

I dont despise them but it’s true that the years of asad regime is not streghtening unity in Syria,we all despise the bad and the wrong ,unfortunately,it’s the scared minority that believes that we will slaughter them , as if its fate is binded physically to a minority regime fate.(this paranoia seems yours too)

This is stupid and suicidal.
And btw,Alex ,Syria is not 450 years old,the problem of the minorities can be solved democratically ,as it’s happening in Turkey today with the alawites and nusayris through dialogue.

January 17th, 2011, 3:41 pm


Akbar Palace said:

Bodyguards to Die For

Alex writes:

I wrote many times over the past years that Syria’s billionaires must wake up and follow the leadership of American billionaires and start giving back significant portions of their wealth to the poor.


Does that include the President-for-Life Bashar Assad?


My favorite Arab leader, Muamar Gaddfi doesn’t like what he sees in Tunisia.

I wonder why he’s so negative?–Libyan-leader-Gaddafi-arrives-Paris-entourage.html

January 17th, 2011, 3:51 pm


Alex said:


You are mistaken if you think I am afraid of “the majority” …

I simply stay away from a minority within the majority that is still hungry for revenge or that is arrogant and superficial. This active minority-within-a-majority is too hungry for power and I do not like their state of mind and I do not like the obvious way they are motivated by the wrong things.

I know “Syria” is not 450 years old, but wealth in “Syria” during the Ottoman rule was not fairly distributed. And the Alawites were mostly discriminated against or even persecuted … in comparison today wealth is shared … I hope you will not try to deny that there is no shortage of ultra rich Damascenes and Alepians today.

It is military power that is not shared too well, and that I don’t have a problem with for now.

Can you explain to me exactly where I was “trying to divert the discussion”?

Now I will:

Today there was a demonstration in Damascus organized by young Syrians in support of what happened in Tunisia. Although a large number of them indicated (on Facebook) they will show up … only 15 did.

Akbar Palace,

You won’t find many Syrians who are angry at him personally. There are others close to him who collected huge fortunes though and they should be the first to act less selfishly and to show more sensitivity to the feelings of the poor.

January 17th, 2011, 4:50 pm


BigB said:


I am not taking any kind of side in the debate about minority over majority rights, or vice a versa. I don’t think I know enough about the Syrian culture and people to take such a position. What I will take a position on, however, is that the majority can certainly gain the upper hand over minority rule (through revolution, as per this discussion) but it has to transpire throguh one of the mechanisms I mentioned earlier. If the minority controlled repression apparatus, the regimes security establishment, were to fragment from the inside in a similar fashion that occurred in Iran in 79, then the minority can have its demnds met or change the countrys governing structure.

January 17th, 2011, 5:50 pm


Shami said:

Alex,corrupt and murderer people must be punished as criminals ,according to the law ,it’s about accountability not revenge.
The bad people must pay for their crimes not as alawites but as criminals.

January 17th, 2011, 6:09 pm


Sisyphus said:

The situation in the east is certainly very bad, but that is due to the drought, not the government. I may be wrong, but I think the Baath regime actually helped people in the Jazeera vis a vis the old moneyed elite.

In general though, everyone knows that we are in a transitional period and the openings to Turkey, for example, may bear fruit. If it transpires that the changes to the economy are going to gut what\’s left of the middle class and small businesses for the sake of big business, then people will lose patience. House prices are already far beyond what most people can afford. Even basic necessities are now far more expensive than they were 10 years ago.

As for the issue of the chronic and pervasive corruption, then I hope the reformists in the leadership will have been strengthened by what happened in Tunisia – better to change gradually than have change thrust upon you. (I\’m sincerely hoping that the reformists aren\’t of the Chicago School, otherwise they will gut the people\’s economy anyway.)

As for politics, I don\’t think anybody expected the current president to turn the regime upside down. Tunisia does not border Palestine or Lebanon or Iraq. I don\’t think the average Syrian wishes to see the country destroyed by civil war or occupation.

And if it\’s a popularity contest, well our president is arguably the best looking of all Arab leaders 🙂

January 17th, 2011, 6:30 pm


jad said:

“The bad people must pay for their crimes not as alawites but as criminals”
WOW Shami, you never stop surprising me with your outrageous comments!
In the sentence you wrote, you are saying that all ‘bad people’ are specifically Alawites. They are the only Syrians out of the Sunnis, Shiis, Christians, Druzs, Ismailis, Jews and all other sects that make the Syrian society are the ‘bad people’/’criminals’ while all other Syrians are the ‘good people’/’innocent’…….WOW again..
Did you come to this outstanding conclusion by doing ‘Istikhara’ or it came to you by a vision like the famous religious Damascene ‘holy rain man’ or by the writing of Ibn Taymiya or the peaceful teaching of Saeed Hawwa?

From your exchange with Alex, it seems that YOU are the one with the Minority/Majority complex, not him. You are the one who need to understand and accept the fact that the failure of Syria to become what it should’ve been today is not the mistake of one sect of our society, it was a collective work by all of Syrians, Sunnis come first, and they all deserve the credit for such achievement…they couldn’t do a better job even if they plan it.
Good job to all of us!

January 17th, 2011, 8:20 pm


Norman said:

People who think that the Syrian regime will fall down are dreaming , The Alawat might control the security services but the country is not only security services , The alawat are in control of the security services and the presidency with the approval of the Merchants and the industrialists in Damascus and Aleppo who want safety and security to expand their businesses and would care less about who is the president ,until that changes and i do not see any changes soon The alawat will continue to control the security services making all the MB frustrated,

January 17th, 2011, 9:37 pm


Shami said:

Alex,i’m not looking for revenge but for peace and justice in Syria and elsewhere in the world ,the alawite community is in reality the number one victim from asad regime behavior ,for all the obvious reasons.

Jad ,what i tried to say is that i’m against the criminal because of his crimes not because his sect .
I have no disdain for the alawites ,i feel closer to an open minded and educated alawite than to a sunni bigot.

Ibn Taymiyya’s negative views on the alawites doesnt concern us ,they are obsolete,product of a special context(the mongol invasions) ,such views are intolerable in our days.
Anybody who use his fatwa in order to attack other people,is my own enemy.

January 17th, 2011, 9:59 pm


Shami said:

Norman ,you are right here about regime-merchant connection.
But it’s not dreaming to say that dictatorial regimes are not eternal,do you think that Bashar will die president and an other Asad will inherit presidency after him ?Is Baath, the absolute ruler of the people and the society for ever ?
Norman ,the MB are finished long time ago ,it’s a party of dying old men living abroad,no need to recall them.
Change will happen without them.

January 17th, 2011, 10:18 pm


Norman said:


You will get a Lott more credibility if yo call for one man one vote and for equality to all Syrians in opportunities and obligations , but you are not you are calling for what you call majority rule depending only on religious affiliation not economic directions or foreign policy and education , health care or any other problem that Syrians disagree on , The MB are threatening a call for an uprising if they are not involved in government , If the MB really want to shock the country , they can come up tomorrow and call for equality to all Syrians from all religious group , as you know Christians can be presidents in Syria because of the constitution that was adopted n 1973 , let us be real what is the chance of a christian to become president with only 10% of the population , yes it is 0% but with calling for the change they can change the landscape in Syria,

January 17th, 2011, 10:53 pm


Mariam said:


The myth that Assad junior and Syria are seen by the rest of the Arabs as a bulwark against Israel is propagated by the regime itself and perhaps inadvertently by well-meaning people on this forum. It has been a great while since anybody in the Maghreb thought that Syria is a bulwark against anything.


The mantra free education, free health care, safe streets is empty- what education? an outdated, overburdened, lacking all technical support, lacking resources, producing people who have no future in the economy and who cannot contribute to the building of their society.

free health care? like education in a disastrous shape.

safe streets ? which countries in the area have major problems with safety on the streets that this should be something to be praise the regime for?

Norman you clearly are not living in the middle-east because what you are talking about is a refrain from the values of a newspaper of an American mid to small size city or like a real estate agent for the same.

January 18th, 2011, 12:45 am


Alex said:


I did not intend to imply infinite love for Syria and its leadership. But there is something there and we can see it in the yearly University of Maryland polls in the largest Moderate Arab states where Bashar Assad always shows up in one of the top three spots among Arab leaders, and more importantly where the vast majority of respondents are clearly more sympathetic to the resistance camp policies. Google those reports for 2009 and 2010 for example.

Also, here are a few relevant links


Your conscious calls it “justice” … your subconscious knows it for what it is … revenge.

“justice” in this case is just a nicer label for revenge.

Are you following the STL? … they are trying to deliver justice for one case … the assassination of one man.

Do you think Syria will have the resources to have fair trials to tens or hundreds of different people accused for different things that took place in the 70’s and 80’s mostly?


It won’t be justice .. it would be revenge.

January 18th, 2011, 3:44 am


jad said:

Could you please support your conclusion about the education and health care being in disastrous shape by data and not by your own observation. I just came back from Syria and I went to hospitals around the country including the public ones, I disagree with your finding, it’s not disastrous as you claim, it defiantly lacks financial support and getting the latest expensive medication we have in the west but you still have many good doctors and almost all the equipments you see in any western hospital does exist in Syrian hospitals, they also don’t have a well equipped ambulance vehicles and well trained paramedics, so I’m not sure where the ‘disastrous’ conclusion came from?

(safe streets ? which countries in the area have major problems with safety on the streets that this should be something to be praise the regime for?)
Iraq, Lebanon and Palestine, not mentioning the endless terrorist groups that are waiting to hit if any security problem happened, don’t you see that as a threat at all? Where do you think we live in Norway and our neighboring countries are Sweden and Denmark?

I’m not giving any of those achievement to the regime/government at all, all these are the achievement of the average Syrians themselves and of the society as a whole, the regime couldn’t do anything without us, the Syrians.

January 18th, 2011, 11:04 am


Mr. President said:

Shami Said:
“Ibn Taymiyya’s negative views on the alawites doesnt concern us ,they are obsolete,product of a special context(the mongol invasions) ,such views are intolerable in our days.”

Shami, you are not telling the truth. Ibn Taymiyya racist views and killing recommendations of people of other Muslim’s sects are still offered in our Sunni mosques. When I was a child I heard it from my religious Sunni circle/Halaqa teachers. Most existing Sunni religious books are products of Ibn Tamiyya and his followers (Ibn Katheer,…). It is very common in our social gathering ( we Sunni) to refer to other sects as THEY and use very negative remarks against them. In the 80’s the Syrian Muslim Brothers went on a killing picnic of other sect’s civilians, children, and especially the highly educated (the ones that you respect a lot as you indicated in your note). The Muslim Brothers’ goal was to create a civil war where Sunni Majority would join the hatred and the killing done by the Sunni Minority. You talked about justice. Do you think we Sunni Majority would ever have the chance to bring to justice the members of all Syrian Muslim Brothers who recommended, in our Sunni name, of this killing? Do you think we are able to bring to justice Muslim Sunni Sheiks who tells us not to marry a Shia/an Alawite/,… the ones that tell us to hate them and not to befriend them, and …

Shami, you said “such views are intolerable in our days.” It is the opposite. I will explain. Did we not see in Lebanon’s Israeli war of 2006 the same thing? Minority Sunnis asked Israel to help finish the Shias in Lebanon? All know that Saudi Arabia and Egypt supported Israel in the war. Wikileaks showed Siniora’s government and co asking Israel to finish the job. Now we see Hariri representing Minority Sunnis in setting up STL, a flawed investigation that would not investigate possible Israeli connection/sets up and protects liar witnesses/… all for the purpose for Greater Syria Sunnis to get help in attacking our Shia brothers and sisters Muslim Brothers style.

Sorry for the draft format.

January 18th, 2011, 1:06 pm


Shami said:

MR. President ,as an enlightened man,you have to help your environment to leave extremism,your environment is extremist so is not mine.
And nobody force you to remain a Sunni,If you like so much the party of Allah you are free to revert to shia’ism and becomes a basidji style moqawem,a good soldier of Nasrallah ,Bashar and Khamainei and help them to free Golan and occupied land once for all.

January 18th, 2011, 1:44 pm


jad said:

You felt into your own trap of Sunni vs Others, in your answer to Mr. President, are you saying that because other Arabs/Syrians are Shia/Others we should fight/kill them just because they are not Sunni? and if someone, somewhere, sometimes, refused this notion of aggression against your own citizenship brothers and sisters he/she should leave the Sunni sect altogether?
What you wrote doesn’t read well at all, you can be against Hizb Allah and against their fight and against their political goals but that doesn’t mean that you as, a Sunni, have to kill them and fight them. What happened to the consultation and discussion notion of solving problems between brothers?

January 18th, 2011, 2:29 pm


Shami said:

Jad ,go back to Dr Landis topic ,he told us that Tunisian scenario is unlikely in Syria for the reason that an united alawite elite has control over the syrian security apparatuses ,for Dr Landis and an BIGB ,this is enough to make difficult regime change through uprising in Syria.

I only gave my own opinion ,that i believe that uprising can bring down this kind of regimes,despite that the reason they cited does make sense.

Now unfortunately ,because of this reality ,it’s not possible to speak about such issues without mentioning the mini sectarian complex in Syria.
The phenomenon has been noticed since long time ago:(cnfr for example,S.J Henri Lammens,in La Syrie; précis historique written in the begining of the 20th century)
Sectarian minority complex does only exist among the heterodox communities,the lebanese shias in south lebanon and some middle eastern christian communities.

January 18th, 2011, 2:51 pm


Norman said:

Mariam ,

Jad touched on safety and health care , i want to tell about my experience with education and leave it to you to think about it ,

First , yes i live in the US but i am not a real state agent ,

I lived the first 25 years of my life in Syria , i went to public school in Syria from first grade to 12Th grade , i did not have a private education we could not afford it , then i went to Medical school at Damascus University , i had the grades , i did not pay anybody had a friend in high places ,needles to say that i paid 15 dollar /year , after Medical school i came to the US where i passed all my tests from the first time contrary to my classmates at residency from England , the philippine , India , My brother the civil Engineer did the same , there are many Syrians in the US and they are Doctors , Engineers , Bankers , and others and they are here so they can help Syria when the time comes and their expertise can be used , I see many Arabs in the US , Egyptians , Lebanese , Jordanians , they work in he Casinos have convenient stores , taxi drivers , nothing wrong with these jobs but Syrian always more educated , so the education in Syria is good enough but what lacking is practical expertise and that comes for lack of companies with these expertise , the sanctions of the West has a Lott to do with that ,

At the end of the day we have very good education in Syria and the lack in practical expertise is gained within few months in the US and other countries ,

January 18th, 2011, 10:55 pm


mariam said:


Thanks for the links. They certainly show Bashar Assad and Syria viewed as central players in the ME, but not necessarily as bulwark of resistance against Israel; moreover, being seen by people-even the media:)- as a central player and actually coming up with some concrete positive results for one’s country, region or community are frequently two different things. Since most of the political games are being played in the shadows in the ME and elsewhere, it is difficult to say who is doing something, who appears to be doing something and who is ALLOWED to appear to be doing something..


you are right I could not give you detailed analyses or statistics on health care in Syria. I also have visited several public and teaching hospitals in the 3 Syrian Universities….I have an informed assessment of what I saw there, I am able to compare it to what I saw in other ME countries like Lebanon, Lybia and of course Tunisia. I also noted that no one who could afford to, would go to have their health care in public facilities in Syria and if they could, they would borrow and sell all their belongings to go out of the country to get their medical care in Amman, Beyrouth or Europe…


There is nothing wrong I am sure in being a real estate agent, you are not but you were speaking like one, that was my point :)-

Yes, you studied medicine and your brother studied engineering and you made it outside the country- what about the thousands other graduates from high schools and from Universities each year ?- An appropriate system of education has the variety to cover all graduates and to give multiple and varied opportunities for training, learning and practice and that is sorely lacking in Syria – so free education for what ?… is also the question

I think that for many of us in the ME the issue has become of greatly reduced expectations for our countries- Mashi al Hal- good enough- right ?
and generally good enough if we personally have escaped the situation.
What about thinking, writing, producing intellectual knowledge that moves the society and its people further ..and contributes something to world knowledge. Unless, we demand something more from ourselves and from our leaders, the status-quo is not likely to change.

Finally all,
Rest assured that nothing that I am writing is presented in the the spirit of negative criticism of Syria or the Syrian people for whom, we in Tunisia are raised from young age to harbor great fondness.

January 20th, 2011, 4:53 am


jad said:

Hi Mariam,
Thank you for the explaining, my point was about using the word disastrous, which in my opinion wasn’t the right word to describe Syrian health care system, besides, the point you raise about Syrians like to go to Lebanon or Jordan for medical care is very specific for very few rich people, it’s like some Canadians going to the US because it’s better, which is not true, they may get faster service. pay lots of money but not that much better.
Just check this
life expectancy in:
Lebanon 72.0 year
Jordan 72.5 years
Tunisia 73.9 years
and Syria is 74.1 years…it is low but not disastrous yet 🙂

Regarding education, you wrote this:
“An appropriate system of education has the variety to cover all graduates and to give multiple and varied opportunities for training, learning and practice and that is sorely lacking in Syria”
I differe from your conclusion, what is lacking is not the education itself, it’s the lacking of corporations system that take those new graduates and give them the right training they need after school, what is lacking is the encouragement for those new graduates to explore their ideas, what is truly lacking is the opportunity for new graduate to work in the right system and give all their energy to build something for themselves first and for their community and society second. I wont blame that on the education itself, I blame it on the wrong system.

BTW, I wouldn’t argue with you at all if you used the word disastrous on corruption, Syrians’ driving, how many cars we have in our cities, the environmental pollution and of course the freedom of speech other than those and some 10-15 items things are mashi alhal 🙂

Finally, be sure that all Syrians learn from young age to love Tunisia and its people and we have nothing but great respect to all Tunisians.

January 20th, 2011, 10:42 am


Ghat Albird said:

Eric Margolis on who is winning in the Arab World. Challenging ops.

January 20th, 2011, 11:01 am


Jad said:

I’m from Aleppo ,and the last large public hospitals in this city were built in the 50’s and 60’s.(those that belong to the University of Aleppo hospital).
Till the end of the 60’s ,the health sector in Aleppo was the best in the arab world if we take into account the quality of the doctors most of them studied in the western hospitals.
Health sector in Syria is disastrous outside Damascus,which is more lucky than other syrian cities for the reasons that anybody can guess.

Even Egypt spent more dollars per capita on health public sector than Syria.(WHO datas)
As for tunisia ,it spents according to the datas provided by the World health organization ,4 times more than Syria.
We should take into account ,that Syria is on the richer in natural ressources ,it should be at least at the same level of Saudi Arabia.

And they dare to use the word socialism !

For the education field ,i had the opportunity to met young people ,who finished the primary school and are nearly illiterate .(this was confirmed by myself)
I was often told that many syrian army officers are illiterates too ,if it’s true,from which military school did they get their graduation ?
how is that possible ?or the people are lying to me ?

January 20th, 2011, 11:37 am


Shami said:

I’m from Aleppo ,and the last large public hospitals in this city were built in the 50’s and 60’s.(those that belong to the University of Aleppo ).
Till the end of the 70’s ,the health sector in Aleppo was the best in the arab world if we take into account the quality of the doctors most of them did their studies in western Europe.
health sector in Syria is disastrous outside Damascus,which is more lucky than other syrian cities for the reasons that anybody can guess.

Even Egypt spent more dollars per capita on health public sector than Syria.(WHO datas)
As for tunisia ,it spents according to the datas provided by the World health organization ,4 times more than Syria.
We should take into account ,that Syria is one of the richest arab country in natural ressources ,it should be at least at the same level of Saudi Arabia.

And they dare to use the word socialism !

For the education field ,i had the opportunity to met young people ,who finished the primary school and are nearly illiterate .(this was confirmed by myself)
I was often told that many syrian army officers are illiterates too ,if it’s true,from which military school did they get their graduation ?
how is that possible ?or the people are lying to me ?

January 20th, 2011, 11:41 am


jad said:

“who finished the primary school and are nearly illiterate”
Are you taking your information from elementary school student nowadays? What did you ask the poor little innocent kid, to dictate the holy Quraan? Khaf Rabbak Ya Rajl 😉

“I was often told that many syrian army officers are illiterates too..”
Of course they are illiterates for you, aren’t they all bad Alawites/(Minorities), they must be illiterate otherwise they will be good educated Sunnis 😉

My friend Shami, Before you link any data, please go through it carefully to see that even with the fact you brought that Egypt, Tunisia and KSA put more money into their health system, they are still behind Syria in many of the fields.

The irony of our conversation is that Syria with its ‘disastrous’ education system, its ‘disastrous’ health care and its ‘disastrous’ less money out of corruption, came before those three countries regarding the % of illiteracy and the life expectancy, that is funny, isn’t it?

January 20th, 2011, 2:50 pm


Jad said:

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 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.

January 20th, 2011, 5:45 pm


jad said:

The elementary school kid question was a joke!!

P.S. Could you please stop using my name

January 20th, 2011, 5:55 pm


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.

January 20th, 2011, 5:59 pm


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.

January 20th, 2011, 6:58 pm


WHY said:


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?

January 20th, 2011, 11:35 pm


Norman said:


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.

January 21st, 2011, 7:54 am


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.

January 21st, 2011, 8:38 am


norman said:


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

January 21st, 2011, 8:55 am


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.

January 21st, 2011, 12:07 pm


EHSANI2 said:


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.

January 21st, 2011, 12:55 pm


Nour said:


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.

January 21st, 2011, 1:50 pm


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.”


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

January 21st, 2011, 2:07 pm


Nour said:


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

January 21st, 2011, 5:44 pm


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.

January 21st, 2011, 6:37 pm


WHY said:

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.

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.

January 22nd, 2011, 1:28 am


Majhool said:

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


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

January 22nd, 2011, 3:00 am


EHSANI2 said:

Dear WHY,

Your point is well taken.

January 22nd, 2011, 8:45 am


AKbar Palace said:

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


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.

January 22nd, 2011, 1:49 pm


EHSANI2 said:

AKbar Palace,

No doubt Israel is the master at that game.

January 22nd, 2011, 6:02 pm


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.

January 22nd, 2011, 6:10 pm


Akbar Palace said:


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?


Look, I can cut and paste too…

January 23rd, 2011, 2:11 pm


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.

January 23rd, 2011, 2:19 pm


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.”

January 23rd, 2011, 4:44 pm


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.


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?



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.

January 23rd, 2011, 9:14 pm


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.

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?

January 23rd, 2011, 10:58 pm


Ghat Albird said:

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.

January 24th, 2011, 10:04 am


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.

January 24th, 2011, 10:28 am


Shai said:


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?

January 24th, 2011, 10:36 am


Ghat Albird said:

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

Look who is telling who they are playing with fire


how jews have fun:

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


how jews have fun:

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

January 24th, 2011, 1:19 pm


Nour said:


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.

January 24th, 2011, 6:53 pm


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