Syria is Ready for Peace.

Posted by Alex on behalf of

Ford Prefect.

I just got back from Damascus. Syria and the Syrians are ready for peace, I am glad to report.

Damascus was hot as usual during the summer months. It was bursting with life, people, and moving objects (sometimes referred to as cars) wondering around its busy and narrow streets. At traffic lights, the honking starts the minute drivers, who are religiously monitoring the traffic signal of the cross traffic, sense a green light is finally coming. And, as usual, lanes of traffic are ad hoc; you create your own lane at will and other drivers innocently oblige. I love the freedom and liberty of traffic lanes in Syria.

So after months of indoctrination by my Syrian expats here in the US, I was expecting to witness a disgruntled populace in Syria due to recent surges in prices of almost everything. I braced myself for the worst and filled my pockets with 50 liras bills – just in case. I was pleasantly disappointed. Instead, I found people going about their daily lives as they did before, but this time with a strong sense of Syrian pride of standing together and surviving the storm that was hatched in the dark alleys of the White House.

I have never seen or observed this feeling before in Syria. My local friends and relatives, who are usually professional naggers with advanced degrees in whining, are all of the sudden bragging about how great Syria is and the Syrians are. The feeling was that the whole world conspired against them and the Syrians finally won; and the lines at the foreign embassies for Syrian visa seekers have, all of the sudden, disappeared.

Can you find poverty is Syria? Yes. Can you find disenfranchised people in Syria? Sure. Are there prisoners of conscious in Syrian jails? Indeed. But one would be blind not to observe how genuinely the people of Syria feel that sense of vindication after the collapse of the Cheney project in the Middle East. Syrians are now very happy to have their country still in one piece – prosperous (in relative terms), dignified, and the envy of their neighbors.

That is why Syria today is ready for peace with Israel where it wasn’t just a year ago. That sense of vindication comes from repelling the demonic “neoconic” project of dismantling Syria (in which Hariri paid dearly for it with his life), the stellar wins of Hezbollah (twice) in Lebanon, and the demonstrable steps of the Syrian government to enact societal transformation and economic liberalization have all combined to produce a heightened sense of Syrian national identity that is unshakable and self-assured.

And, it was clear to me that Bashar Assad is a popular man in Syria – more so today than his father ever was. Somehow, humbly enough, he showed Syrians that he’s got what it takes to be a strong leader.

Syrians today feel secure, mature, and needing one final step to complete their march towards a viable nation-state. That step is heavily engrained in every Syrian mind: The return of Golan Heights – every inch (or centimeters) of it in exchange for a genuine and lasting peace with Israel. Read on.

Riad is my 30-something driver in Damascus. Every year, for the past 4 years, I hire Riad with his sharp eyes and incredible wit in navigating Damascus traffic and streets. Riad is a very patient driver – never complained about the heat, how late we party, the traffic, or the high prices of food or fuel. Riad is also a devout Muslim. The Quran is neatly tucked away in the car’s glove box compartment. When Riad is waiting, he is usually reading the Quran. Riad is also a Hajji who’s been to Hajj three times. And Riad loves Bashar and hates Khaddam.

Riad got married last year. My wife did meet Riad’s wife once last March. She is a young Syrian woman with an incredible radiance and beauty – clearly visible through her conservative hijab, according to my wife (who rarely mentions anything about beautiful women!)

So, this summer Riad told me the good news. His wife is pregnant and they are expecting twin boys sometime in December. Excited about the news, I asked Riad about what is he going to name the twins. “Ishaq and Elias.” he promptly answered.

Shocked by his answer, I asked the question again, in case I happened to loose my hearing.

“Ishak and Elias,” he repeated. “Ishaq for the Jews and Elias for the Christians. We Muslims are part of that Jewish and Christian religions, and both names are mentioned in the Quran,” Riad promptly answered. “I want to make sure that my children grow up in Syria with names that keep reminding them of our diverse nation (watan), this is Syria and not Saudi Arabia,” Riad concluded.

Syria is ready for peace and Riad is one of its newest heroes.

Comments (139)


 

Ghimar said:

Alex:
I wish I knew you were in the Peace Land, Syria! Drop me an e.mail next time.

Syria is not ready for peace just now. We have been ready for peace since the war started and since our lands were occupied.

I salute and admire Riad for his thinking, which represents the whole country’s mentality. The mentality that has been subject to be destructed by the West, as happened in Iraq.

Viva peace…viva Syria!

July 31st, 2008, 7:31 am

 

Innocent_Criminal said:

its great to see the mood in syria on the up for a change. that said i’m starting to worry that a lot of it is shifting negatively toward nationalism. Its great to be patriotic but i get the sense that a lot of syrians are heading full speed toward blind nationalism where individual rights are overlooked for the “good” of the nation.

July 31st, 2008, 8:31 am

 

Shai said:

Ford Prefect,

Many thanks for this wonderful piece. Perhaps here too, in Israel, people are starting to think more clearly. Not enough about peace, but enough about their own country to be tired of corrupt politicians. Olmert, though clearly set on making peace with the Arab world, may well belong to that despised group of politicians and leaders that alongside doing for the country, did for themselves a little more than they should have. His career is soon over, not because he wanted it so, but because public pressure forced it.

I know for many Syrians and other Arabs perhaps this is a time of great uncertainty and concern. But I actually find optimism these days, when I see how the Israeli public is once again raising its head high, seeking that feeling of national pride we once had. Our next PM may well be from the Kadima party (Livni?) and if so would quite likely continue along the peace track from the place Olmert left off. If not, then Israelis will be going to elections sometime late this year or early 2009.

Netanyahu might indeed be elected, as it currently shows in every poll taken for quite some time. But as I’ve suggested in the past, it may well be the case that a Prime Minister from the Right can deliver peace much more easily than one from the Left. After all, it was Begin and Sharon that surprised the entire nation time and again. If Netanyahu comes to power, I am certain that he will not miss his second (and probably last) opportunity to make peace. He will be the Israeli leader to close the Arab-Israeli conflict once and for all.

Let our Syrian, Lebanese, and Palestinian neighbors know, that most Israelis are still dreaming of peace, and when the time comes, they will support the next Prime Minister in Israel who will very likely be the one to deliver it.

July 31st, 2008, 9:21 am

 

why-discuss said:

In Damascus, I got similar impression as FP. In addition Syrians I talked to seem very hopeful for a peace deal that will allow the State to channel the money and the energy for the wellfare
of the people, after long years of militarization. I think the danger may come from the extremist opponents to such a deal that may resort to terrorism.
Most hotels in the center of Damascus are booked for the year by iranian tours, but we see more germans, polish, french, and even british indian tourist groups. The city is bustling and there seem to be a serious improvements in bank services, restaurants and place of entertainement. The world music festival in Damascus Citadel drew a huge crowd of young syrians, screaming and dancing on african rythms. The facades in the center of the city have been cleaned to a certain degree, I noticed many restaurations of private houses in Souk at sarouj and in the old city. Of course a huge increase of cars with the usual slalom street crossing. IPO for newly created industrial companies are advertised on radio and billboards in the street and seem to catch on. The country seem to be poised for a leap forward with the stock exchange planned for 2009. Syrians are optimistic, they just hope nothing will derail this new path.

July 31st, 2008, 10:20 am

 

Honest Patriot said:

Ford Perfect, thank you for a heart-warming and positive report. And congratulations to all Syrians for the progress they are making. I do have one issue with one item in your piece. Perhaps I misunderstood.
You said:
That sense of vindication comes from repelling the demonic “neoconic” project of dismantling Syria (in which Hariri paid dearly for it with his life), the stellar wins of Hezbollah (twice) in Lebanon(…)
Is there an implicit justification here for the assassination of Rafiq Hariri (and by extension the more than dozen other victims of political assassinations) ???

July 31st, 2008, 10:50 am

 

youngsyria said:

so unusual of FOX News…

Dispatch from Syria #1

By Father Jonathan Morris
FOX News Religion Contributor

This jumbo jet is en route to Damascus, the world’s oldest, continuously inhabited city. As I review the history of Syria and its surrounding lands, and compare it to that of my own Western and American homeland, I must once again recalibrate my reference points for what is old, complicated, beautiful, tragic, and sacred. Syria, of course, is the cradle of civilizations. It boasts Aramaic, Greek, Roman, Byzantine, and Arab influence.

It is the birthplace of the first alphabet, the Biblical land of Cana, Abraham’s “land which I will show you,” and Paul of Tarsus’ “road to Damascus.”

But the impression Syria’s glorious past makes upon me, fades quickly as I reflect upon the present. In my estimation, today Syria plays a kingmaker’s role in a period of political history as critical for long-term global peace (including life in America as we know it) as ever before in the history of mankind.

One glance at a map is sufficient evidence to declare there will never be Middle East peace without Syria’s consent, and who needs convincing there can be global peace without peace in these Arab and Persian lands? Geography is only a part of Syria’s strength. Syria is capable of crowning our future—relative peace or perpetual conflict—primarily because of its long and venerable tradition of respectful co-existence of diverse religious and ethnic groups. For the moment, this tradition seems to continue. On the books, Christian churches in Syria enjoy more freedoms than in any other predominantly Muslim country.

Today I am on my way to Damascus and beyond with one question weighing heavily on my heart: will the secular state of Syria fall prey to the new forces of political and ethnic fundamentalism that shamelessly cloth themselves in Islam to carry out their selfish objectives? Or on the other hand, will Syria’s approach to minority groups, stand out as another workable model for social stability?

Over the next days I will have the opportunity to meet with leaders of many of the religious minority groups in Syria, including the Evangelical, Anglican, Orthodox and Catholic (Latin, Armenian, and Greek), as well as high-ranking government and Muslim authorities. I am also looking forward to talking with the people and listening to their stories. I don’t pretend in five days to develop a perfect picture of Syria. I won’t be able to make a sound judgment about its role in the support of terrorist factions outside of its borders, as current and past administrations have accused. I do, however, want to pass on to you the impressions I will take away from a privileged look into the heart of this land.

My eyes will be fixed, in a particular way, on the critical social test of religious liberty and the reciprocity of rights for minorities of all sorts.

God bless,

Father Jonathan

P.S. Over the next few days keep your eye on this column for analysis and photographs.
http://foxforum.blogs.foxnews.com/2008/07/30/dispatch-from-syria-1/

July 31st, 2008, 11:05 am

 

Akbar Palace said:

Ford Prefect,

Thanks for the article. Of course, I read it with a different perspective than most of the posters here, so I will offer my own thoughts and questions. Please do not take my questions as being rude:

…but this time with a strong sense of Syrian pride of standing together and surviving the storm that was hatched in the dark alleys of the White House.

What “storm” did the Syrians survive? Besides the “military facility” destroyed in a remote desert location, I’m not aware of any attack on Syrian soil.

I especially like your flowery description: “…the dark alleys of the White House”. It provides an image similar to the latest Bat Man movie. But in reality (can’t forget that), what “alleys” are in the White House? I thought the White House was pretty well lit.;)

But one would be blind not to observe how genuinely the people of Syria feel that sense of vindication after the collapse of the Cheney project in the Middle East. Syrians are now very happy to have their country still in one piece…

What “Cheney project” collapsed in the Middle East? That way I see it, there was (and still is) a 1.) War on Terrorism and 2.) Regime change in Iraq. IMHO, the Bush Administration succeeded in both endeavors. Also, when was Syria in danger of keeping their country “in one piece”? Is it remotely possible that the evil Cheney/Neocon/Bush/Zionist/Likud/AIPAC war had a larger influence on the peace process than Syria keeping her country “in one piece”? (I know, it’s a stretch;)

(I repeat, these questions are not intended to create sarcasm. What I’m getting at is what I perceive to be an “exaggeration” with Ford Prefect’s point-of-view)

That is why Syria today is ready for peace with Israel where it wasn’t just a year ago.

It still isn’t clear to me what occurred in Syria over the past year to make Syria “ready for peace”. (sorry, I’m slow;)

That sense of vindication comes from repelling the demonic “neoconic” project of dismantling Syria (in which Hariri paid dearly for it with his life)

What did Syria do to “repel the demonic neoconic project”?

Somehow, humbly enough, he showed Syrians that he’s got what it takes to be a strong leader.

I am glad Syria is happy with their leadership and that Bashar has “what it takes”. My question (and I alluded to it earlier) is what will make Bashar Assad different than the other leaders who signed a peace treaty with Israel?

Will Bashar really reform his country after a peace treaty is signed? Will the “military rule” we talked about be lifted? Will multi-party elections and democracy be instituted? Etc, etc.

Or will Bashar Assad remain in power for life like the Mubaraks and the Husseins? Or does anybody care about these questions, and life will continue on pretty much status quo?

Syrians today feel secure, mature, and needing one final step to complete their march towards a viable nation-state. That step is heavily engrained in every Syrian mind: The return of Golan Heights –every inch (or centimeters) of it in exchange for a genuine and lasting peace with Israel. Read on.

I am GLAD Syrians (all of a sudden and without warning) are ready for a “lasting peace” with the former Zionist Entity almost referred to as Israel. Personally, I am encouraged by this. How will Iran react? Hezbollah? Hamas? Will Syrian hotels offer Kosher meals??

As you can see, this future peace treaty could be a “can of worms”!;)

BTW – Enjoyed your anecdote with Riad.

Shai states:

Not enough about peace, but enough about their own country to be tired of corrupt politicians.

Shai, yes corrupt politicians suck, but whereas Olmert bit the dust due to the judicial branch of the Israeli government, I’m not convinced “corrupt politicians” are in any danger in the Syrian Republic. Not now, and not after a peace treaty is signed with the Ba’athist Syrian state.

July 31st, 2008, 11:53 am

 

norman said:

FP,

That was wonderful .

Thank you and good to see your notes again, Please keep in touch.

July 31st, 2008, 12:41 pm

 

Syria1 said:

That was a wonderful! so homesick and ready to get there.
The Fox News article is very interesting…it feels like the
thaw is on.

July 31st, 2008, 1:27 pm

 

Shai said:

AP,

I’m still trying to take you seriously, but you’re not making it easy for me (your label-factory also doesn’t help).

Look at how ridiculous you sound. You’re so concerned with corrupt politicians in Syria? Since when is that a precondition to peace, real or superficial? I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but more than half the nations of our good earth have governments you and I would consider corrupt. It is quite possible Israel could be included in that list. So should half the world not be at peace with the other half? Will that make the world a safer place, or not? Making peace, and having normal relations with a country, does not mean loving their system of government. It also doesn’t (like AIG loves to claim) “legitimize” any more the existing rulers of that nation. The morning after Tzipi Livni, or Benjamin Netanyahu, shake Bashar Assad’s hand on the White House lawn, Syrians are not going to wake up to a more “kosher” leader or regime. They’re not going to say “Gee, those Israelis spoiled everything for us. We were so close to becoming a true democracy, and now it looks like authoritarian rule is here to stay…”

You’ve been here long enough, to clearly see that while not all Syrians agree with each other (thank god, it means they’re normal), all of them do very much care about their nation and their people. If any of them thought Syrian freedoms and aspirations would be hurt by peace with Israel, wouldn’t we have heard about it by now? Are the expats in Canada and the US afraid to say what’s on their heart? I doubt it, and so should you. They believe peace is inevitable, and the sooner it is reached, the better. They’re willing to accept peace with a nation who’s prime minister accepted money envelopes, personal benefits, bought and sold apartments in funny ways, appointed tens if not hundreds of officials by “favors”, and in general typified much of the corruption in Israel, that goes on especially in our political world, but also in business as we have witnessed a number of times this past year or two. So the Syrian people are ready to make peace with us, but we’re not with them, because of their leadership?

Has that ever been a precondition to peace, declared or practiced by ANY Israeli leader, ever? The answer, of course, is no. We’ve always been ready to make peace with dictators, dictatorships, kings, queens, sultans, and supreme leaders. Peace for us is not an ethical issue, it is a strategic choice. It isn’t something we prefer to have, or not have, it is something that we require, almost as much as oxygen, so that the future of our state and our children will be guaranteed. Because we’ve survived the past 60 years in constant state of war, does not mean we can continue to do so in the next 60 years. Anyone who thinks we can is being irresponsible towards his own children, and theirs. Just as we do not choose our enemies, likewise we cannot choose their system of government, their human rights ranking on world listings, or their level of corruption. But if an enemy state is willing to make peace with us, what right do we have NOT to make peace with her?

Don’t keep planting these “Right-vs-Wrong” mines, and don’t try to embarrass your fellow bloggers here. They read through it, and they’ll start to categorize you right along with AIG, for attempting to piss people off. A lot of questions are legitimate, but not all should be asked in this arena, if the intention is still to conduct a respectful dialog. I’m not the moderator here, so I cannot tell you what to do. This is just a suggestion, for what it’s worth.

July 31st, 2008, 1:27 pm

 

Qifa Nabki said:

FP

Ishta3naalak ya shaykh.

🙂

Al-7amdillah 3a salameh.

July 31st, 2008, 1:40 pm

 

Akbar Palace said:

Shai said:

I’m still trying to take you seriously, but you’re not making it easy for me…

With all due respect Shai, can’t I get FP’s answers?

Look at how ridiculous you sound. You’re so concerned with corrupt politicians in Syria?

If you read my posts, you would realize that a.) I AM FOR making peace with Syria with or without Bashar Assad as president and b.) I am interested in the differences between Assad and the “traitors” who lead Jordan and Egypt.

Don’t keep planting these “Right-vs-Wrong” mines, and don’t try to embarrass your fellow bloggers here.

Which question did I ask embarrass you or the fellow bloggers? And why would they be embarrassed? I’m asking good questions and I would hope I would be asked good questions too.

They read through it, and they’ll start to categorize you right along with AIG, for attempting to piss people off.

Shai, if you and the owners of this forum don’t want a respectful, conservative point-of-view presented here and instead, prefer to post a litany of “feel-good” anti-Israel and anti-American posts, I will not take it personally and find another hobby;)

OTOH, I enjoy this website very much, because up until now, the owners have allowed freedom of thought and freedom of opinion.

A lot of questions are legitimate, but not all should be asked in this arena…

OMG (Oh my God) Shai, how shall I know what questions are legitimate? Let me guess…any post referring to “Dickless Cheney”?;)

July 31st, 2008, 1:45 pm

 

Alex said:

Akbar,

The Cheney plan that Syrians feel their country played the major role in defeating, is what you see in this document “a clean break”:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/A_Clean_Break:_A_New_Strategy_for_Securing_the_Realm

Instead of the failed strategy of “securing the realm” by those who call themselves “Israel’s friends”, a wiser “clean Break” strategy that I wish Israel’s (true and wiser) friends will work for in the future, is contained in the original “clean Break” speech by Mahatma Gandhi:

“I am convinced that the time has come for the British and the Indians to be reconciled to complete separation from each other. Complete and immediate orderly withdrawal of the British from India […] will at once put the Allied cause on a completely moral basis. […] I ask every Briton to support me in my appeal to the British at this hour to retire from every Asiatic and African possession. … I ask for a bloodless end of an unnatural domination and for a new era.”

Gandhi’s clean break

Neocon’s reinvented “clean Break”

July 31st, 2008, 2:03 pm

 

Shai said:

AP,

I bet with myself a dollar that you wouldn’t understand. I’m a buck richer… Never mind.

July 31st, 2008, 2:16 pm

 

Wassim said:

Alex,
No Syrian has the right to be “ready for peace” with Israel and I certainly don’t agree with your observations in this post. What is happening to Syria is that it is slowly being tarted up and made pretty not for a wedding but to be prostituted. We should all be disgusted with what is happening.

July 31st, 2008, 2:57 pm

 

Alex said:

لمفاوضات السورية – الإسرائيلية: الجولة الرابعة «بناءة»… الأسد في طهران خلال أيام للتنسيق
اسطنبول، دمشق – ابراهيم حميدي الحياة – 31/07/08//

كشفت مصادر متطابقة لـ «الحياة» ان الرئيس السوري بشار الأسد سيقوم في غضون أيام بزيارة رسمية الى طهران تتناول العلاقات الثنائية وتنسيق المواقف بين البلدين، وذلك قبل زيارة الرئيس الفرنسي نيكولا ساركوزي الى دمشق المقررة في ايلول (سبتمبر) المقبل، في وقت أنهت اسرائيل وسورية، امس في اسطنبول، جولة رابعة من المحادثات غير المباشرة برعاية تركيا، في «جو بناء»، على حد قول ديبلوماسي تركي كشف ان الطرفين اتفقا على جولة خامسة في آب (أغسطس) المقبل ستكون غير مباشرة ايضا.

وكان وزير الخارجية السوري وليد المعلم اجرى في اليومين الماضيين، على هامش الاجتماع الوزاري لدول عدم الانحياز في طهران، سلسلة لقاءات مع الرئيس الايراني محمود احمدي نجاد ووزير الخارجية منوشهر متقي ورئيس البرلمان علي لاريجاني، تمهيدا لزيارة الاسد التي يتوقع ان تتناول العلاقات الثنائية والأوضاع في لبنان والعراق وعملية السلام، اضافة الى اطلاع الجانب الايراني على نتائج زيارة الرئيس السوري الى باريس حيث طلب منه ساركوزي لعب دور لدى طهران للتأكيد انها لا تسعى الى برنامج نووي عسكري.

ونقلت مصادر رسمية عن نجاد تأكيده «الحرص على تطوير العلاقات مع سورية وتطلعه للقاء الرئيس الأسد في طهران». وقالت مصادر اخرى إن العلاقات بين دمشق وطهران «قوية كما كانت على عكس كل ما يشاع ويقال» عن توتر فيها على خلفية بدء المفاوضات غير المباشرة بين سورية واسرائيل.

July 31st, 2008, 3:01 pm

 

Atassi said:

FP,
Welcome back Cousin, I am glad you came back with an optimistic views form the motherland.. I would like to hear more from others possibly engaged more deeply with the daily life of the average Syrian society.. Sorry one more. Please don’t assume Dr. Bashar is out of the wood yet, it’s tooooo early to start awarding credits and trophies

Alex,
I LOVE THE SYRIAN FLAG MAN.. SO HAPPY YOU DID NOT POST Dr. Bashar portrait this time….:-)

July 31st, 2008, 3:07 pm

 

Alex said:

Wassim and Ghimar,

I only posted this report on behalf of our friend Ford Prefect who wrote it based on HIS trip to Syria.

Joshua wants me to specify my name when I post things so that reders do not assume he wrote them. that’s why I added “posted by Alex”.

Wassim,

I know you oppose peace with Israel and I know you are assuming Syria “will be prostituted” in the process.

I just want to remind you that so far every indication (in addition to what I am hearing) is that Hamas, Iran and Hizbollah are all aware of Syria’s position and THEY do not think Syria will be prostituted.

I am not going to be more hard line or more suspicious that Hamas and Iran.

But please write (as I always invited you) to express your opinion and to explain your reasons for believing Syria will be humiliated in the process. You always do a good job defending your position and I would love to hear your views.

July 31st, 2008, 3:08 pm

 

Akbar Palace said:

The Cheney plan that Syrians feel their country played the major role in defeating, is what you see in this document “a clean break”:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/A_Clean_Break:_A_New_Strategy_for_Securing_the_Realm

Alex –

Thanks for reminding me about “A Clean Break”. I am fairly familiar with the letter because I knew one of the authors. I wouldn’t call is “The Cheney plan”, because Cheney knew nothing about it. As you recall, this letter was written in 1996 to Benjamin Netanyahu to provide advice (most of which the Israeli government ignored). Two years later (1998), a similar letter was written (by approximately the same group of conservatives) to Bill Clinton recommending a pro-active stance on Iraq. This was ignored as well.

With this in mind, I’m still not sure how these letters correspond to the questions I asked FP.

Instead of the failed strategy of “securing the realm” by those who call themselves “Israel’s friends”, a wiser “clean Break” strategy that I wish Israel’s (true and wiser) friends will work for in the future, is contained in the original “clean Break” speech by Mahatma Gandhi

Frankly Alex, I don’t see how India’s quest for independence relates to the Arab-Israeli conflict or the War on Terrorism.

Further, whatever you perceive as a “…failed strategy of ‘securing the realm'”…”, I perceive as a success (viva la difference!).

Wassim,

Just so the forum is aware, your point-of-view (POV) is what I was referring to in my response to FP. Thank you for making your POV available to us.

July 31st, 2008, 3:58 pm

 

Shai said:

AP, Wassim,

I agree with Alex, it is indeed important (also for us Israelis) to hear opposition to peace with Syria. But it is certainly necessary to expand on a general opposition comment, and explain further so, at least I, can bettebr understand you.

AP, I imagine you will not be so “thankful” once you hear Wassim’s reasoning. I have a feeling it has nothing to do with Syria’s authoritative rule… 🙂

July 31st, 2008, 4:03 pm

 

Wassim said:

Alex I’ve just finished venting out in a post as a matter of fact. I could not care in the slightest what the position of Hezbullah and Iran are to this detente and in fact my support for them goes only so far as they follow a resistance path against the United States and Israel. Should they deviate from this I would lose no sleep in denouncing them either. Having said that, I strongly suspect we have not got the full picture yet and as was the case when Syria was sabotaging this “cheney” plan for the Middle East, something which many people simply would not acknowledge, let alone believe Syria and Iran were capable of, I think that we will see more later. Still, if my worst fears are realised and Syria does sign a peace deal with Israel, then this is something to oppose, and fiercely, not celebrate. Economically, socially and politically we will lose much more by selling out on our principle of resisting occupation.

July 31st, 2008, 4:03 pm

 

Nour said:

I believe Wassim provides a valid warning. To be honest, this whole talk of “peace” this and “peace” that is a little too nauseating for my taste. The reason is that the term is used to turn our valid cause into a farce. That is, while the root cause of the entire conflict was, is, and will always be the establishment of a racist, exclusive, foreign entity on our land, which continuously oppresses our people, we are making it out to be a mere “misunderstanding” between two equal sides in a “senseless” conflict. We should not so easily sell out our people and our valid, just demands.

Peace is something all peoples in the world would prefer. No one will tell you that they would love nothing more than to remain in a perpetual state of war. However, real peace is one where we live in pride and dignity, and not merely a state of non-war. What is the purpose of the absence of direct conflict when the result is humiliation of an entire people? And this is the kind of “peace” that “Israel” has always attempted to impose. Every “peace” agreement that Arab countries have entered into with “Israel” have been in reality submission agreements that have resulted in the utter humiliation of the Arab signatories to those agreements.

Therefore, what Wassim is saying, is that “Israel” will not accept a peace that will lead to our living in honor and dignity. Rather, they will demand that the payment for such a peace is your integrity and self-respect. Now, I’m not saying that Syria is ready to do this, and I can understand why Syria, as a state, would need to at least enter into such a process due to various international realities and circumstances. However, when I hear Syrian “intellectuals” and certain diplomats appear as if they are begging “Israel” to make “peace” with them, I find it a bit distasteful.

Our positions should always be that our goal is the return of our full rights over every inch of our territory. If the enemy is willing to do this without war, we will then not engage in war. But if the enemy wants to continue to violate our rights, then we have no problem with continued armed struggle until our full rights are returned to us.

“Peace” is meaningless if it is not based on honor and dignity. While the 2006 war in Lebanon resulted in a lot of material destruction and human loss, we can all take pride in the fact that Lebanon in that period took an honorable stand. It stood up to the “Israeli” onslaught and repulsed the attempt by “Israel” to invade and occupy Lebanese land. One of the biggest battles of that war took place in wadi 7ujeir, where a group of 30 brave and honorable Resistance fighters destroyed 36 Mirkava tanks in what would normally seem like impossible conditions. Yet, these men took a stand and refused to allow the “Israeli” tanks to cross a line in the ground. They did not submit. They did not surrender for the sake of “peace.” Rather they fought hard and long and ended up shaking the very foundation of the “Israeli” entity. We all can stand in awe of these men. However, not a shred of respect will ever be directed to people like King Abdallah of Jordan, Mahmoud Abbas, or Hosni Mubarak. And I would rather Syria take the path of the Resistance in Lebanon than that of the latter three stooges.

July 31st, 2008, 4:05 pm

 

Shai said:

Wassim,

We both know that no matter what agreement is signed, on what sheet of paper, and using which type of pen and, for that matter, who actually signs it (Tzipi Livni, or Bibi Netanyahu), there will be no real peace between Syrians and Israelis as long as our Occupation remains. The question is, should both nations wait first for this to happen, before they create even a superficial peace?

July 31st, 2008, 4:06 pm

 

Alex said:

AP

7abibi … everything is simple why do you ask for explanations?

Fine:

Those who wrote “A clean break” are Cheney’s friends. This is Cheney’s administration (not president Bush’s), and those names are all in it. Their plan was adopted by Cheney.

I don’t believe that they had Democracy in Lebanon as their real objective … it was mostly about “securing the realm” for Israel.

They did not succeed.

Gandhi’s “clean break” original speech to the British who were occupying his country applies to Israel today … Israel occupies lands (1967 lands) that it can do without … the same way the British finally realized that it is in their best interest to give up India … I am simply saying that I am hoping Israelis will reach the conclusion that they also need “A clean break” with the occupied territories.

July 31st, 2008, 4:09 pm

 

Wassim said:

Shai,
The real question is when will Israelis realise that the occupation includes all Palestinian lands usurped prior to 1948 and not just the West Bank and Gaza. When the Israeli army is no longer capable of defending the Israeli state from an attack will be when real progress can be made, by negotiations or other means.

July 31st, 2008, 4:13 pm

 

Majhool said:

Love the style. Thank you

July 31st, 2008, 4:16 pm

 

Shai said:

Wassim,

We both know that no Israeli is ready to have 2-3 million Palestinians returning to their homeland towns of Haifa, Jaffa, Ramleh, or Lod. 1967 borders is the best they can hope for, that is, the two-state solution. If a one-state solution cannot be had, are you still against peace, no matter how superficial or real?

July 31st, 2008, 4:24 pm

 

Qifa Nabki said:

Nour

Have you been watching Rambo lately? What is with all of this honor and nobility mumbo jumbo? At some point we need to start educating our children, ya habibi, instead of pouring money into armies that don’t fight and resistance fighters who go nobly into battle while their families sleep in temporary refugee camps.

There is nothing dishonorable about making peace and building a better future for our children. There is nothing dishonorable about recognizing when you’ve hit a brick wall and it is time to cut your losses and call a new play. There is nothing dishonorable about fighting internal cancerns rather than external “aliens”.

The party is over. It’s time to stop fighting and start building. Sixty years later, we are still slipping further and further behind.

July 31st, 2008, 4:26 pm

 

Alex said:

Wassim,

I prefer a one-state solution like you do. But it will not happen today.

I prefer uniting Syria and Lebanon, but it will not happen today.

Some of us believe that there will be a bigger one state a couple of decades from now … the whole Middle East will be practically open. People from Turkey to Egypt will be able to travel, trade, or invest in any part of the area.

You believe that Israel will dominate the region after peace. I believe that Syria and Lebanon and Palestine are going to provide you with a pleasant surprise. There is so much talent everywhere Wasssim … you are too pessimistic.

July 31st, 2008, 4:27 pm

 

Akbar Palace said:

The real question is when will Israelis realise that the occupation includes all Palestinian lands usurped prior to 1948…

Shai,

cc: Wassim

Shai, Wassim is sort of indicating that you may need to relocate your home. I suppose it all depends on the definition of where the “Palestinian lands usurped” is demarcated on Wassim’s map.

They did not succeed.

Alex,

Suffice to say that we will have to “agree to disagree”, but I will ramble on just a bit more.

I see the current peace discussions between Israel and Syria (via Turkey) as a “success”. I see this success as a result of what the US accomplished in Iraq, the subsequent withdraw of Syrian forces from Lebanon, the harsh response Israel inflicted on Lebanon, the little “military facility” Israeli planes destroyed, and the “war-of-words” between the US and Iran.

But yes, in terms of the very public “Clean Break” recommendation, little was implimented except in the case of Iraq. The 1998 letter that Clinton ignored (on Iraq) was implimented quickly due to the 9-11 crisis.

Nour states:

To be honest, this whole talk of “peace” this and “peace” that is a little too nauseating for my taste.

The Israelis created a pill that takes care of that problem. I’ve been using it ever since I joined this forum (LOL). If you want, I can send you a bottle…;)

July 31st, 2008, 4:31 pm

 

ausamaa said:

Ford Prefect,

Nice piece, more optimistic than me! I experienced most of your observations. There is hope in Syria coming out of a sense of Strength and Pride.

Money from the outside is also pouring in, hundreds of investment projects in the pipeline and things carry a promise of change everywhere. And surpirise, surprise, as Alex once has noted, it does not look like Oil is running out as advertised by many including semi-official sources(three refinaries are in the inestment pipleline and no major pipeline projects is planned, so the Oil will come from “right there”, and shipped or brought in from outside!

Honest Patriot,

During 10 days in Syria, the matter of the whole Lebanese fiasco -when discussions led there- was waved off as silly joke, except when talking about Hizbullah and its victory, or victories which everyone I met respected and admired and even considered as a Lebanese-Syrian victory. Neither Lebanon, nor Saudi Arabia, or the “moderates” are given a serious thought by the people I met. About Harriri, forget it, I did not meet a single person who thought Syria was behind it, or was worried about the Harriri invistigation if that what you mean. And they dont hate Lebanese also, they are just puzzeled how many Lebanese were suckered in by Ja’ja and Siniora and the nut (Junblat) to take such an anti-Syria stand. But they just do not care about Lebanese in a negative sense (have you heared of any Lebanese bashed to death in Syria as happened to Syrian workers in Lebanon?)!

Wassim,

Maybe I understand what you mean, but Dont worry. Nothing will be given up for free. And contrary to many posts and “observations”, Syria is not negotiating a “Golan” peace, Syria is negotiating a comprehensive peace which has been Syria’s line for many decades. So have hope, no one is selling out anything.

July 31st, 2008, 4:32 pm

 

EHSANI2 said:

My falafel formula on the previous post concluded that a family of 5 eating falafel for breakfast, lunch and dinner will end up departing with 65% of their median income of $300 a month.

0.435 cents per sandwich * 5 people * 3 times a day * 30 days a month = $195.7

$195.7 monthly falafel expenditure / $300 median income = 65%

This morning, Syria-news cites a study that concludes that the Syrian Citizen spends 42% of his/her total spending on food.

http://www.syria-news.com/readnews.php?sy_seq=80379

July 31st, 2008, 4:49 pm

 

Nour said:

QN,

Building your country is not something you can use as a cliche. You build your country on solid foundations; on foundations of real independence and sovereignty. You don’t build your country by surrendering to your enemy and accepting their hegemony over you.

Resistance is the rejection of foreigner control of your land their violations of your rights. I can’t imagine that you would have a problem with that. And I believe that building your country is part of resistance, while you are implying that resistance is by nature the opposite of building and educating. I never said I don’t want to build my country and educate my people. But when your enemy wants to place conditions on what you can and cannot do, then how will you be free to build your country and educate your people in a proper manner?

Why do you make the choice between resisting or building? As if you can’t have a principled stand with respect to your integrity and yet continue to build and educate. Are you suggesting that either you are honorable and resist, or you surrender and build? How does that make any sense?

And to make it clear, those who oppose resistance are the very same people who have prevented our people from building their country. When I gave the example of the battle in Wadi el-7ujair, I was showing you what principled people do when their land is invaded and their people attacked. What did you expect these people to do? Welcome the “Israeli” tanks with flowers and then hop and skip home while flailing their arms for the sake of “peace?”

I will repeat that you cannot have peace unless you are able to control your own destiny. When the enemy is imposing conditions on you that make it impossible for you to advance, then you have to reject and resist their actions. It doesn’t mean that you stop building; rather it means that you defy their attempted hegemony and build your country on solid foundations. Building is not opposite to resistance; it is one and the same. So if you truly want to build your country, then you should stand up for the rights of your people to freely act to advance their nation.

July 31st, 2008, 4:56 pm

 

ausamaa said:

In Lebanon, are M14 or the “liberals” really talking about Nation Building or about Wealth Maximaization?? There is a difference you know!

July 31st, 2008, 5:08 pm

 

EHSANI2 said:

NOUR,

I was under the impression that because of resistence, the so-called building step had been put on hold or relegated on the priority list.

July 31st, 2008, 5:19 pm

 

Cédric said:

“I want to make sure that my children grow up in Syria with names that keep reminding them of our diverse nation (watan), this is Syria and not Saudi Arabia,” Riad concluded.”

At least! Beautiful!

July 31st, 2008, 5:25 pm

 

Nour said:

Ehsani2,

I know this is the claim, but it’s nonsense. Previously we were neither resisting nor building. We practically surrendered in 1948 and then again in 1967. We never took anything seriously; either building or resisting. In addition we succumbed to internal divisions and engaged in internal strife rather than unifying our positions and directing all our energy toward resisting and repulsing the enemy.

The problem was that our politicians and rulers were more interested in maintaining their power than anything else. Therefore they put everything on the backburner; from building, to resisting, to educating. I believe true resistance goes hand in hand with building your country. But I don’t believe you can build your country with empty cliches and superficial facelifts. You need to strengthen yourselves economically and militarily so that you possess the adequate capability to confront dangers and threats to your country. Well, the enemy is not interested in allowing us to possess such capacities. They want us to accept our fate and surrender to their wishes and desires. If we do that, then we are surrendering our right to advance. I believe Antoun Saadeh said it best when he stated: “The right to struggle is the right to advance; and we are unwilling to surrender this right to those who preach to us about peace and prepare for war.”

July 31st, 2008, 5:29 pm

 

EHSANI2 said:

“You need to strengthen yourselves economically and militarily so that you possess the adequate capability to confront dangers and threats to your country”.

In other words, you need to build to be able to resist, no?

July 31st, 2008, 5:36 pm

 

Akbar Palace said:

I believe true resistance goes hand in hand with building your country.

Nour,

Don’t listen to Ehsani2, you can build and resist simultaneously.

Just ask AIG.

BTW – Where is AIG anyway?

BTW2 – I really love this term “resistance”. I feel like an electrical engineer everytime I read this blog…

Eshani2 said a few posts ahead:

With that in mind, please explain what you mean by the “spirit” of rejecting the enemy’s control over you.

Didn’t you know, Jews (through the Talmud and the Protocols) practice mind control. You can’t even tell when you’re afflicted. Just ask Dickless Cheney!

July 31st, 2008, 5:40 pm

 

Nour said:

Ehsani2,

It goes hand in hand. Yes you need to build in order to have the adequate strength to confront enemies; but you need to resist in order to properly build. When I talk of resistance I don’t mean only armed resistance, which is nevertheless an important part, but I also mean the spirit of rejecting the enemy’s control over you and defying their attempted hegemony.

July 31st, 2008, 5:40 pm

 

Qifa Nabki said:

Nour

Instead of talking about “nations” and “peoples” and “honor” and “nobility”, let’s talk about concrete things. Your definition of nation is not my definition, and we obviously have different visions for achieving an “honorable” solution. Why don’t you express what you think an honorable solution would be? The explusion of the Ashkenazy Jews from Israel and the restoration of historic Greater Syria? A one-state solution in Palestine/Israel? A two-state solution? What is your vision?

I think you’re right about the track record of our leadership over the past half century. But I disagree with you about what we need to be doing now. Why would you be opposed to a peace deal between Syria and Israel that returned the Golan to Syria and helped pave the way to an agreement along the lines of the Arab Peace Initiative?

Surely I’m not the only one who thinks this way?! 🙂

Alex, Ammo Norman, etc. please talk some sense into my friend Nour. Ehsani is the only one who has volunteered his support.

July 31st, 2008, 5:42 pm

 

EHSANI2 said:

NOUR,

Forgive me but I am not very spiritual in nature.

With that in mind, please explain what you mean by the “spirit” of rejecting the enemy’s control over you.

What does this mean?

July 31st, 2008, 5:50 pm

 

Qifa Nabki said:

ausamaa said:

In Lebanon, are M14 or the “liberals” really talking about Nation Building or about Wealth Maximaization?? There is a difference you know!

Exactly right, and I think Mr. Makhlouf would agree.

July 31st, 2008, 5:50 pm

 

Nour said:

Ehsani2,

The term “spirit” does not necessarily have a metaphysical connotation. Rather, it means “psyche” or “attitude.” When I talk of the spirit of resistance I’m talking of the general attitude of standing up to the enemy and their attempt at subjugating you.

July 31st, 2008, 6:02 pm

 

Qifa Nabki said:

When I talk of resistance I don’t mean only armed resistance, which is nevertheless an important part, but I also mean the spirit of rejecting the enemy’s control over you and defying their attempted hegemony.

Nour,

Look around the region. Is there a single country whose citizens don’t live under a vivid, pervasive, concretely hegemonic power, namely the power of their own government? With the exception of Lebanon (which suffers from the polar opposite of this condition), a humiliating subjugation already characterizes the lives of 90% of Middle Easterners. In this case, there is nothing “attempted” about this hegemony; it is real, actual, a fact of life.

Yet, somehow, the hegemony that Israel exercises is somehow more real and more humiliating to you than the hegemony of the Mubaraks Sauds, and yes, the Asads. This is what I find incomprehensible.

We are not going to win back our honor and nobility by fighting an endless string of bloody wars. We are going to waste more generations doing that. The best way to achieve true sovereignty and independence, in my opinion, is to make sure — above all — that our children now how to speak a couple languages, read a shelf-full of books, use a computer, and vote. This would be a good start.

July 31st, 2008, 6:13 pm

 

Nour said:

QN,

First, I do believe that we cannot truly advance and build while we are fragmented. What I mean, is that there has to be a unified effort by all our Syrian entities, represented by a genuine cooperation. This does not mean that we have to create a single political across all of Natural Syria, but rather we need to solidify our true national unity by removing all impediments and obstacles to the natural interaction of our people. This can be done through uniform economic agreements, open borders, etc. I’m sure you would not have any problem with that.

Second, as to the solution to what many term the “Middle East conflict,” I am completely against the concept of an exclusive entity on our land. I believe that our people have every right to be on every inch of their rightful land. Otherwise, if we compromise and abandon this principle, then we are in essence saying that we accept the idea of any foreign group to come and take portions of our land for themselves, so long as a requisite time period passes. I believe that the only way to have a real solution is to have a secular state where all citizens are treated equal. If Jews living on that land cannot accept such a scenario, then they can either find somewhere else to set up an exclusive state or return to their countries of origin. If they do accept it, then there is no problem; it is in the end their choice and I am not advocating for the forced expulsion of anyone.

Finally, as I said earlier, if the enemy recognizes our full right to our land and agrees to return full sovereignty of every inch of our territory to our people peacefully, then this is the only peace I can accept. But to talk of “peace” while the occupier of your land and persecutor of your people is placing conditions on you, the indigenous inhabitant of this land, is in my opinion unacceptable.

July 31st, 2008, 6:14 pm

 

norman said:

Ehsani,

The question is how much an American family will spend if they eat out at MC Donald , ( Big Mac Value meal which is probably about 5 Dollars , So 5 people , Breakfast , Lunch and dinner , so it is 450 Dollars , so on minimum Wage in the US , I believe it is 7 Dollars or less , that means the monthly salary is 1120 Dollar , so in the US the worker would spend 45 % of his income , I do not think that is a great difference , As we are in the US have more other expenses , But I see your point and more income is needed in Syria.

I think people should stop eating out. ( Smile )

July 31st, 2008, 6:19 pm

 

EHSANI2 said:

Norman,

“Median Family Income” in the U.S. is $60,404 per year as of June 2008. This is $5,034 a month. You are picking those on minimum wage.

July 31st, 2008, 6:26 pm

 

Nour said:

QN,

I am not denying our necessity and duty to rid ourselves of corrupt, oppressive, dictatorial regimes. However, this is a separate issue from foreign occupation of your land and a continuous threat to your very existence. I believe the reason we have not been able to effectively defend our rights previously is due in large part to the nature of our regimes.

However, the nature of our governments and regimes is a direct result of various social and political circumstances, which cannot be solved except with the achievement of true national consciousness. This will definitely require education, and I fully support such a call. I am not claiming that I want to be in perpetual war; or that I desire to have bombs falling on us. I am saying that we have to maintain a position of principle regarding our sovereignty, independence, freedom, and yes, honor and integrity. This means that you do not accept any situation that has the word “peace” associated with it. Remember that it is an American hero, Patrick Henry who said “Is life so dear or peace so sweet as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbit it almighty God! I know not what course others may take, but as for me, give me liberty or give me death.”

Learning to read and using a computer are important individual necessities, but they cannot form the basis of building a truly advanced nation. To do that, you need to invest in industry, research, academics, etc. Of course you cannot have an illiterate population and expect to venture on such a course, but reading and using a computer on their own are not nearly enough.

QN,

I believe everything is tied together. When you take a principled stand in the interest of your nation, then you can go about developing an efficient and effective program of building and advancing your country. When you begin to advance, this advancement will not be limited to one field, but will reach all aspects of social life. We will feel such advancement economically, industrially, technologically, militarily, culturally, artistically, etc. This is what I am advocating for, but you cannot make such achievements purely wishfully or rhetorically. You will need to struggle, face obstacles, resist foreign powers, etc. It is a long and hard road, and if we do not start now, the future will look even more bleak. But starting on such an endeavor does not require that we surrender to our enemies; rather, it merely requires that we unify our will and maintain a principled, defiant stand while we proceed forward on our journey.

July 31st, 2008, 6:29 pm

 

Zenobia said:

I appreciate FP’s sentiments, but I think they are a bit saccarine sweet for my taste, and naively optimistic.
As we can see from the debate that follows here, there is no consensus at all about whether peace is possible, desirable, on what terms it is desirable, or what it means to compromise.

What does it mean to say that Syrian’s are ready for peace? Ready to compromise? some are some aren’t on all different issues and with in many different parameters. Just cause a taxi driver gives his children non Muslim names- this is heralded as an amazing omen or symbol of readiness for peace??
I am not with you on this.

AP, why are your pretending such ignorance lately. It is weird. I think you are taking up slack for AIG’s absence.
Great accomplishment by the USA in Iraq????

and : “Frankly Alex, I don’t see how India’s quest for independence relates to the Arab-Israeli conflict or the War on Terrorism.”

oh dear dear dear me. Akbar, if you don’t see the connection here, then you really really really haven’t a clue about how the middle east thinks and feels.
do you really not know? or you just don’t accept that to this part of the world you are a colonialist? That Israel has arisen as a colonialist entity. That the plans of the Clean Break or the invasion of Iraq, or the occupation of Southern Lebanon, is all viewed as colonialist activity. And therefore, “resistance” and the efforts to thwart the objectives of Israel or the United States or anyone else is viewed as fight for Independence.

do you really not understand this basic, i should say very very basic, premise?
If so, you really remind me of the Americans orchestrating war in Vietnam. They had no recognition that the Vietnamese were fighting for Independence! not to be communists per se.
Try to see the similarity if you can.

Wassim,
you are going to be holding your breath for a long time. Your desires are not tenable.

i think to one of QN;s point to Nour, it is apparent that Nour sees subjugation from within one’s tribe as tolerable, but subjugation from another tribe as intolerable.
there is of course an irony here, but I also see the logic of it, if your values dictate that resisting the dominance of another tribe over you is a most basic struggle that can never be relinquished in favor of compromise.

I just happen to think that all this tribalism has to go, period. It leads to more problems than good, and we are now in the post tribal world.

July 31st, 2008, 6:42 pm

 

norman said:

Ehsani,

Is that with two members income , Husband and wife , and is that really accurate , with very high income people in the US.

July 31st, 2008, 6:42 pm

 

EHSANI2 said:

It is the official Government data straight from my database. It is the median income per US family.

July 31st, 2008, 6:45 pm

 

Qifa Nabki said:

I believe that our people have every right to be on every inch of their rightful land. Otherwise, if we compromise and abandon this principle, then we are in essence saying that we accept the idea of any foreign group to come and take portions of our land for themselves, so long as a requisite time period passes.

Nour,

The problem with this argument is that it is based on how you exclusively define “our people”. A young Hasan Nasrallah made exactly the same argument that you are making, back in 1982. Only, for him, “our people” referred to Muslims, and the “foreign entity” referred to the Christians of Lebanon. Listen, if you don’t believe me:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xZ1K2wo9JxE

Thankfully, Sayyid Hasan has since changed his views on what “foreignness” means, and he has come to regard the presence of the Christians as not only acceptable but necessary. Furthermore, he and his party have not voiced any objection to President Assad’s plans. To the contrary, Nawar al-Sahili (a Hizbullah MP) recently said:

“Israel is a fact now. And we are acting with this fact. Our border is the Lebanese border”.

He told [the interviewer] Hezbollah has no desire to conquer Israel, just to recover Lebanese prisoners and land they say is still occupied by the Israelis.

Your thoughts?

July 31st, 2008, 6:45 pm

 

Nour said:

QN,

I don’t really care what others have said in the past or present regarding the identity of their people. None of them has ever relied on scientific understandings and concepts. Rather, they were relying either on emotion or on relgious dogma. I have a clear understanding of what a nation is based on Saadeh’s scientific definition, which in turn has allowed me to be conscious of my true national identity. My intention is to spread awareness of this identity across my nation.

As for who you define as foreigners, I don’t think anyone would really dispute that the Jews who came to Palestine from Europe were foreign to this land while the Palestinians were indigenous. In addition, the problem is not merely with foreigners coming to our land, as that would not constitute a threat, but rather with a group of foreigners clearly intending to establish an entity on our land that is exclusively theirs. I think such a concept should be unacceptable under any humanitarian standards.

Zenobia,

My thoughts are anything but tribal, as you have confused between two different issues; namely rejection of foreign occupation of your land, on the one hand, and loyalty to particular groups within a single nation, on the other. My loyalty is to my nation in its entirety and not to a particular group within this nation. Moreover, I never said that internal subjugation was acceptable, and I in fact clarified that it was necessary for us to rid ourselves of oppressive regimes. However, I separated between this matter and the one involving a foreign existential threat. But I would like to ask you a question: do you accept the establishment of a foreign entity on your land that is to be exclusively for a particular group of people emigrating from some other place on the planet?

July 31st, 2008, 6:57 pm

 

norman said:

OK Ehsani ,

YOU WIN

July 31st, 2008, 7:05 pm

 

Zenobia said:

no i don’t Nour.

mm. i understand your clarification.

Most of what you are saying makes sense to me. But I don’t know about this idea of “scientific” “definitions” of identity or nation. That seems like nonsense to me. There is no such thing as a scientific definition of identity. There are only interpretations of identity. We define ourselves as we choose. And as QN pointed out with the example of Nasrallah, this is fluid and changing. Not only does the actual scientifically defined genetic ethnic make up of the world change over time, but our cultures change, our heritage recedes into the past as new aspects are added, and our definitions of ourselves changes.

hence, for better and worse, what was our nation yesterday or today will not be the same as our nation tomorrow.

that may be transformed to mostly good depending how we use this new reality to promote the idea of not killing each other.

You claim to be against the exclusivism of the Israeli Jews, but if you really believe in its wrongness, then you have to also question the exclusiveness of any similar definition of “nation”.

July 31st, 2008, 7:05 pm

 

Akbar Palace said:

Zenobia responds:

I appreciate FP’s sentiments, but I think they are a bit saccarine sweet for my taste, and naively optimistic.

I’ll take “sweet” (even saccarine sweet) over rejectionism, any day! I sure don’t want Shai to put up his house for sale. The market isn’t so good;)

As we can see from the debate that follows here, there is no consensus at all about whether peace is possible, desirable, on what terms it is desirable, or what it means to compromise.

Exactly my poinst Zenobia, et al.

What does it mean to say that Syrian’s are ready for peace?

Exactly my point again. You’re stealing my thunder (except that Shai doesn’t criticize you)! The Syrians and the Palestinians, until this very day, have no say in the matter.

AP, why are your pretending such ignorance lately. It is weird.

I’m not pretending ignorance. It may come naturally;) Or it could be I’m posting more (I suddenly have more time, plus I will be on vacation soon; 2 weeks w/o AP q:o( Actually, I’m find myself more pleased with my posts now that I have the time to edit them.

I think you are taking up slack for AIG’s absence.

I know you don’t care for AIG, but you’ve always known that we agree on most of these issues. I do desire to provide a different approach than AIG in terms of my delivery and tact. But I think AIG made some very good points in the past.

Great accomplishment by the USA in Iraq????

“Great” accomplishment? Maybe not. Time will tell. I would call it a success for the reasons I listed at beginning.

and : “Frankly Alex, I don’t see how India’s quest for independence relates to the Arab-Israeli conflict or the War on Terrorism.”

oh dear dear dear me. Akbar, if you don’t see the connection here, then you really really really haven’t a clue about how the middle east thinks and feels.

q:o(

do you really not know?

I would be happy if you could take a minute to pick up where Alex left off.

or you just don’t accept that to this part of the world you are a colonialist? That Israel has arisen as a colonialist entity.

I understand there is an “issue” with the english word “colonialist”. I do not consider Israel to be a “colony”. But we can discuss this further if you want to.

That the plans of the Clean Break or the invasion of Iraq, or the occupation of Southern Lebanon, is all viewed as colonialist activity.

I hear what you are saying. If Arabs or others want to say that Israel is a colony of the United States, you can say that, and I would understand. In the same breath, I could say Hezbollah is a colony of Iran. Or Syria is a colony of Iran. I, myself, only use the term “colony” when discussing American and European history or old wooden furniture;)

And therefore, “resistance” and the efforts to thwart the objectives of Israel or the United States or anyone else is viewed as fight for Independence.

Certainly Palestine is not fully independent. In that case, I would understand the linkage. When Alex and I were chatting, the discussion was solely on Syria, which has been an independent nation since 1946.

do you really not understand this basic, i should say very very basic, premise?

With respect to Palestine, yes, very much so. Although, I wonder if Ghandi would have handled the Arab-Israeli conflict in the same manner as, say, Yassir Arafat.

If so, you really remind me of the Americans orchestrating war in Vietnam. They had no recognition that the Vietnamese were fighting for Independence! not to be communists per se.
Try to see the similarity if you can.

You may know more about the Vietnam War than I do, however, from my vantage point, we (under Kennedy, Johnson and Nixon) fought a war against a people who didn’t threaten the US in any way, shape or form. Over 54,000 Americans died for nothing.

BTW – I thought the South Vietnamese wanted democracy and asked us to fight the North Vietnamese.

Whereas the Vietnamese were NOT a threat to the US, unfortunately, radical Islam IS a threat to the US. That’s the difference as far as I’m concerned.

July 31st, 2008, 7:21 pm

 

Nour said:

Zenobia,

I think you are addressing possible eventualities and hypotheticals, while I am dealing with current scientific realities. Many things may change in the future, including the very nature of our planet. Different species may die off; new species may be created; geological upheavals may change land formations; etc. But there are certain scientific concepts that remain constant.

Saadeh defined a nation as a group of people, on a specific, well-defined geographic territory, who after a long period of interaction with each other and with the land they live on, and through a process of evolution, develop characteristics that differentiate it from other groups. Based on this definition, the Syrians of natural Syria form a single nation. Now, is it possible that various changes may transform this reality? Sure, but this remains in the realm of the unknown. Currently, under present natural conditions, the Syrians form a complete nation.

While I respect Nasrallah’s and others’ opinions of their identities, I have never seen any scientific basis for their claims. Nasrallah has never provided an academic definition of a nation; he merely uses religious and vague Arabist slogans that are in reality empty of any substance. I don’t subscribe to it because I cannot be convinced of something without seeing a valid argument supporting it. Saadeh, on the other hand, in my opinion, differs from the many leaders and intellectuals in our nation in that he provided a solid definition of a nation, after much research, before he clarified our national identity. I would invite you to read his “Genesis of Nations”, if you have not done so already, and give me your feedback on it.

July 31st, 2008, 7:23 pm

 

Nour said:

“You claim to be against the exclusivism of the Israeli Jews, but if you really believe in its wrongness, then you have to also question the exclusiveness of any similar definition of “nation”.”

My definition of nation does not limit members of such nation to a particular ethnic or religious group. It is a concept of SOCIAL nationalism, meaning that it incorporates all elements of society into the nation. Under such a concept, any individual who comes to Syria and melts into Syrian society becomes a Syrian. “Israel,” on the other hand, defines itself in ethno-religious terms. In other words, only Jews can be “Israeli” according to such a definition.

July 31st, 2008, 7:34 pm

 

Seeking the Truth said:

If security inside Syria is so great, why do they need military rule?…

AP,

Don’t play dumb, as if you don’t know that security is the consequence of an authoritarian regime. And I’m not suggesting that personal safety is an excuse for despotism, in case you’re pretending I’m.

July 31st, 2008, 7:46 pm

 

Zenobia said:

AP,
i see we need some further defining of terms in order to have this conversation, but I haven’t the time at the moment, gotta go.

but one point is that – i mean by colonialist – not colony- so much as the activity of controlling. Today, the Americans do not colonize in the sense of settling and running governments. They colonize by controlling resources, economics, and installing governments. It is however, equivalent in the eyes of those who are being colonized.

there are also many other new definitions for how colonization has taken place in new forms.

second, the arabs see the colonialist threat as Europeans not first as Americans. When Jews came to old Palestine it was first as Europeans – hence an extension of prior colonialist, the British and the French, not as an American extension. Thus, this representation goes way back, not built on recent events.

therefore, you can not base the excuse for such colonialism on the Islamist threat because it started way before there was any islamist threat to the west (assuming that i would agree that there is one now, which i don’t). Jews didn’t come to Palestine because of Islamist threat, they came to take land and to make it there own. This is pure colonialism in the eyes of the arab world and the persian world.

When you make points like that Syria has been a nation since 1946, you illustrate my point again that you simply don’t get it.
Nour’s dialogue should make all this very clear. Syria/syrians are not viewing themselves as simply the nation established in 1946, they are part parcel of the larger arab nation, either to total arab world, or at least as the Syrian nation as it was no so long ago when it included Lebanon and Palestine. So the offense by Israel to Palestine or Americans in Iraq is seen overall as a colonialist move against this larger “nation” … the arab world, if you will. Of course loyalties shift at times to being not one of unity.
I think Nour’s idea, if I agreed with it, still finds a problem because unity is so far our of reach.

You must see it as the old adage goes: me and my brother against my cousin, me and my cousin against the neighbors, me and my neighbors against the next village, me and the next village against the next region, me and my regional brothers against the next country, and me and my fellow arab countries against the other continent.

you get it? thats how the loyalty equation works.
(If aliens came down to battle the earth, then the arabs would join with the Jews to fight them : ) )
therefore, there is unity and times, and then no unity at times.

As for vietnam, the same model could well be applied. At first, the south vietnamese may have been fighting the north vietanmese over different ideology, but once the French become the enemy and then Americans, they had to force a south vietnamese government in place. The outsiders became the enemy, and the struggle moves to one of independence from outside interference in civil war.

Same thing in the middle east, they (we) would like the west stop trying to control, move , shape, instruct, and rule over, or influence especially without invitation (but maybe even when there is an invitation (eg M14).

July 31st, 2008, 8:13 pm

 

Alex said:

Here is a long article:

http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/1007460.html

The Syrian bride
By Yotam Feldman
Tags: Asma Akhras, Syria

Asma Akhras was preparing to study at Harvard University and enjoying a promising career as an economist when Bashar Assad asked her to marry him. At age 25, having spent most of her life in London, she moved to Damascus and married the then newly instated Syrian president. The modest wedding ceremony at the end of 2000, which was held before the year of mourning for Bashar’s father Hafez Assad had ended, and during the first months of the Palestinian intifada, was conducted in secret. The exact date is still not known to the public. “We were secretly married in December 2000, and nobody knows our anniversary – everyone knows it’s December, but the actual date is hidden – it’s our anniversary and nobody else’s. [We’re] just trying to maintain some form of privacy,” she says.

Earlier this month, after years of international isolation and being shunned by Europe, Asma and Bashar Assad made a rare appearance at the Union for the Mediterranean summit in Paris – upstaging even France’s First Couple, Sarkozy-Bruni, in terms of glamour. Photos of Asma at official events and during visits to the city’s museums prompted speculation about the degree of influence the former banking executive has on the economy of a traditionally socialist state, as well as much talk about her outfits by Valentino and Chanel.

The Assads, “the two best conversationalists in Syria,” as the Syrian president’s biographer David W. Lesch describes them (excerpts from his conversations with Asma are being published here for the first time), totally enchanted the statesmen and journalists who met with them.
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“Atop her 12-cm stiletto heels, she moves with the grace of a ballerina,” wrote the French weekly Paris Match. “Asma Assad inevitably evokes an oriental [Princess] Diana.”

Among other things, Asma Assad used her visit in Paris to meet with the president of the Louvre, which is slated to open a branch in Damascus, and with a representative of the Pompidou Center, with whom she discussed plans to build a contemporary art museum in Syria. When asked if she took advantage of her time in the French capital to do some shopping, she replied: “Paris is worthy of more than just shopping. There is so much to see and to do, so many places to visit. Fashion is not of supreme importance to me. Like all Syrian women, I like to be elegant, but I always prefer attire that is quiet, refined and relaxed. At home, in Damascus, I also wear locally made clothes and jewelry. I feel very comfortable in them.”

To a great extent, Asma Assad, 33, embodies the new cosmopolitan face of Syria. She was born and raised in London in a nontraditional and well-to-do Sunni family, attended prestigious schools, worked as an economist at banks in London and New York, and traveled all over the world.

“I tell them: ‘The two of you are very cosmopolitan, you have excellent English,'” says Lesch about his encounters with the Assads. He believes that Asma could be “a big hit” in the Western press, and that there’s no reason she shouldn’t become “the next Queen Noor or Queen Rania” – a reference to Assad’s Jordanian counterparts.

Prof. Joshua Landis, editor of the daily news roundup SyriaComment.com, which is read by many Syrian expatriates in the United States, says that Asma Assad is the first Syrian public figure to inspire a sense of solidarity among members of the Sunni elite and other Syrian exiles.

“She represents everything that a good Sunni family can be,” says Landis. “Many Syrians tell me they’re tired of Syria’s current image. They’re tired of seeing the Jordanians and the Moroccans, and feeling like they’ve been left behind. They want style, they have a passion for the good life, for pleasure – and she symbolizes openness and fun. People admired Hafez Assad, but he wasn’t a fun person. He hardly ever smiled, and when he did, it was a sly fox kind of smile. His son Bashar is young, he has a sense of humor, he likes to water ski, to drive cars. You have no idea how many Syrians ask me when Asma’s going to come [to the U.S.] already, when we’re going to get to see her on the morning programs.”

The couple live quite modestly. “The official residence of the president next to the People’s Palace has never been lived in,” Asma Assad told Lesch. “It is huge with many salons, and you would never have any idea who was in the house with you. From day one, my parents-in-law have lived in central Damascus. We live in this street and we have neighbors with kids playing [there] … And the president plays there sometimes with the kids in the street. The only difference between this street and any other street is the barriers. It’s an everyday Syrian street and Syrian building. When I wake up in the morning I hear the birds singing, the kids playing and the traffic. [In] the other place you hear nothing. It’s not normal – no birds, no children, no cars.”

Bashar, devoted father

Asma, a dedicated career woman before her marriage and the move to Syria, spends a good part of her time promoting various economic projects within the framework of NGOs she has established in her country. She also likes to cycle, play tennis and scuba dive. “The deep-sea diving there is second to none,” she says, referring to Saudi Arabia. “I wouldn’t mind going back [there] for certain things, but it would not be a priority. For diving yes, but not for a lot of other things.”

These days, Assad emphasizes, she and her husband spend most of their free time with their two sons and daughter. The eldest is seven-year-old Hafez. She describes Bashar as a very involved father, who would change diapers and never missed giving a bath to their daughter in the first year of her life. “I do not have a nanny for my children. We were not brought up like that and we don’t want our children brought up like that. When I have meetings, their grandmother lives next door and they go with her. It is important for the family to play a role. When I have office work, I bring my children with me.”

Asma Assad’s father, Fawaz Akhras, was a successful cardiologist and her mother was a senior employee at the Syrian embassy in London; they married after Akhras finished his medical studies in Cairo, and began his residency in London. Her mother was recruited as a diplomat in the foreign service and also dispatched to the British capital. Akhras opened a clinic at a chic address and his practice became popular with wealthy Arabs. His success was palpable: He drove a silver Mercedes, while Asma and her two brothers shared a green VW Golf. The family lived in the Acton neighborhood in West London.

At every opportunity, Assad stresses the centrality of her Syrian identity. “We were all brought up with a sense that ‘one day you will come home.’ I have three younger brothers and we all speak Arabic, we all understand the culture, the religion, the tradition – it is not new or alien to us because we were brought up with a sense that one day we will come home.”

Lesch adds that this upbringing was evident when Assad returned to Syria: “Despite her classic British accent when she speaks English, I didn’t see heads turn when she spoke Arabic in public,” he comments. “Syrians view her cosmopolitanism as an advantage and not a disadvantage.”

At age 11, she was enrolled in the local Church of England school. She completed her secondary education at Queen’s College, and subsequently graduated from the University of London, King’s College with honors in computer science; 140 years ago, this was the first British institution of higher education to admit women to its degree programs. Asma Assad says that right from the start she knew she wanted to be a banker, but still she chose to concentrate on computer science. “It is something that joins my husband and me: We are both technology oriented,” she explains.

In 1984, her father helped to found the Syrian-British Society in an effort to draw together members of the 10,000-strong Syrian community in London. She became active in the organization in the mid-’90s following her college graduation.

As a young teenager, Asma tried going by the name Emma. In retrospect, she’s embarrassed by this attempt at Westernization: “I can’t say that I was ever really an Emma,” she admits. When she was 16, she reverted to her original name.

“I was born in London and lived there for 25 years,” she says. “But I always knew I was Syrian. I speak fluent Arabic and can read and write in the language. I’m British and Arab at the same time and no part of me is diametrically opposed to any other part. I am in both worlds simultaneously.”

While Asma was studying computer science and launching her career as a banker, Bashar, 10 years her senior, was just starting out as an ophthalmologist. In 1991, four years before she finished her studies, Assad sent a letter to Asma’s father, asking for help in finding a place to do his ophthalmology residency. Akhras introduced him to Dr. Edmund Schulenberg, and the Syrian president’s son trained under him at London’s Western Eye Hospital.

Assad kept in touch with Akhras, although Asma recalls meeting her future husband even before her father did, through friends of the family she met on her visits to Syria: “I didn’t know him as a young boy because there is a 10-year difference, but he was always somebody who was there. There was very little interaction. Maybe hello, good-bye. I was 10 and he was 20, and I was playing with my Barbies and he was out doing something – it was scary,” she laughs, adding that they did not meet in the traditional Syrian way. “It was very gradual – it was not traditional because he is not from that, nor am I and his family isn’t either. Each one of them actually is against the norm. It was a very gradual, natural process.”

‘A great honor’

In 1994, Basel Assad, Bashar’s older brother, who was widely viewed as the heir to the presidency, was killed in a road accident. Hafez Assad summoned Bashar to return to Syria. He enlisted in the army, completed an officers’ course and moved steadily up the ranks. In 1996, Asma began working in New York, at Deutsche Bank, and later moved to the mergers and acquisitions department of the JP Morgan investment firm. She says she loved New York, and though she lived in a company apartment uptown, she preferred to wander around downtown. She also worked in Paris and was planning to enter Harvard Business School to obtain an MBA.

She never made it to Harvard. On June 10, 2000, Hafez Assad died and his son Bashar was appointed president of Syria. A few months later, Bashar asked Asma to marry him and, as mentioned, the two were wed in a modest, secret ceremony (she says she only knew a day in advance that the wedding was going to take place). A brief news item about the event only appeared a month later in the Syrian daily Tishreen on January 3, 2001.

Asma Assad says that one of the qualities that attracted her to her husband is his optimism: “He always tries to see the best in any situation. To him, everything can be solved, you can find solutions to everything. And that to me is somebody who is completely open and completely willing to see everything. To me this is one of his strongest points.”

She goes on to praise her husband’s open-mindedness: “He has a very keen sense of research, in the sense of wanting to explore all the possibilities … and this is something that guides him throughout his political decisions. An example is the camera. I am not sure you know, but he is a keen photographer, very very keen, so anytime a new camera comes on the market, he will explore the differences between this camera and the one he had – not in the sense of perfectionism, but in the sense of liking to know what is happening and keeping track of things. This is a small example, but if you are that keen on photography, it shows up in a lot of things.”

He’s also quite open to hearing her ideas, she notes: “It’s not a question of asking or giving, it is a question of having an open dialogue, always between us, from the small things to the larger things, and because he is a conversationalist and because he likes to know different opinions and he likes to benefit from everything around him.”

Lesch, who has met with the Assads a number of times, says they seem to have a warm and intimate relationship and are very relaxed together. This is evident in the couple’s behavior, he notes – “in the way she finishes a story that Bashar starts and it pleases him, in the way they care for their children. I think they’re a very good team.”

Others, however, say that as significant as her input may be, it is dwarfed in comparison to the power of the government types who surround her husband.

Lesch says that, without a doubt, there was a degree of self-sacrifice in Asma Assad’s decision to cut short her banking career to marry the president. “She was a workaholic career woman,” he explains. On the one hand, her father was proud that she became the wife of the president, but he apparently was also disappointed because she was in a certain environment and had a career path marked out. Both her parents had independent, successful careers, Lesch notes, and they worried that she’d become a First Lady who hides behind the scenes, “but, I think that if I were to speak with her father today, he’d be proud of her and of her activity.”

“I never regretted giving up my studies at Harvard,” Asma Assad told Paris Match two weeks ago. “It was the correct decision and it came at the right time. Together my husband and I make a solid team, as a couple, of course, but also on the ‘professional’ level. We’re involved together in the profound change that is occurring in our country. It’s a wonderful privilege and a great honor to invest yourself in the development and growth of Syria alongside your husband.”

In jeans, incognito

During the first months of their marriage, Asma Assad was rarely seen in the media. “There were a lot of questions about why. Some people thought that she will no longer be seen, she has disappeared, she lives in a big house and we will never see her again. Some people thought that traditionally here First Ladies have not played an active role and maybe she does not want to play one – nobody knew. The reason was that we both, my husband and I, thought that I needed to meet the people and understand them [first],” she explains. She spent several months visiting rural areas in Syria incognito, in jeans and a T-shirt.

“I was able to spend the first couple of months wandering around, meeting other Syrian people. It was my crash course,” she said in a 2002 interview with The Observer. “Because people had no idea who I was, I was able to see people completely honestly, I was able to see what their problems were on the ground, what people are complaining about, what the issues are. What people’s hopes and aspirations are. And seeing it firsthand means you are not seeing it through someone else’s eyes. It wasn’t to spy on them. It was really just to see who they are, what they are doing.”

The couple shuns many of the perks normally enjoyed by Syrian rulers. “Why do I drive my own car? I like to drive it,” says Asma Assad, “because you see the people’s faces and you interact with them directly. Why do I go to the supermarket to buy groceries? Yes, there is someone to do it for me, but why do I do it? One, because I enjoy it, and two, because I’m seeing other women, other children, other people, and I’m getting a sense of prices, and a sense of what people are buying, and that is something that reports or advisers cannot give you because everybody has their own perception.”

Many Syrian men and women who have met her say they were immediately taken with her charms. A Syrian-American woman who was active in a joint project of the UN and Assad’s organization said: “I admire how fashionable she is and I also think that the face she presents internationally is important to many Syrians. To show that there is a class of women in Syria who are not covered with the hijab or the veil.”

In the woman’s view, Assad’s chic and bold attire, which would not look out of place in certain upscale parts of Damascus, is helping to break the traditional image of Syria.

Asma Assad comes under criticism mostly from the many opponents of the Syrian regime who reside outside the country. They object to the Western spirit she is bringing to Syria and go so far as to allege, without having much proof, that she is the one running the country. Lesch says that Asma hardly discusses political issues and that she certainly does not deviate from her husband’s political line. However, he did get the impression that her attitude toward Israel is different.

“It’s good for Bashar and good for the regime,” he says, “that there is someone there who is not a product of the Israeli-Arab conflict and who proposes different positions. Asma brings to the government the need to integrate in the world economy, and in order to do this, she cannot remain isolated.”

Business ventures

Aside from Valentino and Chanel, Assad also likes the young British designer Stewart Parvin, who makes clothes for the queen of England. Parvin also designs clothes for the queen of Norway and for numerous wealthy women around the world. On the Internet, one can find pictures of Asma Assad in a skirt with a hemline above the knee, and on YouTube there’s a “bloopers” clip (censored from other sites) in which she is seen with the wind blowing her skirt up to reveal her underwear as she was being filmed together with the Syrian president at an official event.

FIRDOS, the NGO Assad founded in 2001, is the outgrowth of the research she did during her first months living in Syria. The acronym stands for Fund for the Integrated Rural Development of Syria, and it means “paradise” in Arabic. The organization works to assist rural communities by means of sustainable development projects and interest-free loans. Assad is opposed to Syrian investment exclusively in cities: “The more we invest in the cities, the more migration there is to them. [Investment] such as a new tunnel in Damascus that cost 300 million Syrian pounds – how much of that could have been used in rural development? If I put 100,000 pounds in a village, it will have a much bigger impact.”

The contrast between her liberal views and the socialism of the ruling party in Syria is unmistakable. “The fact that I understand the language is meaningless,” Assad said in an interview, “because I didn’t understand the mechanism of society.” She said she had to learn to work in an atmosphere where “the system does not allow you to stray from the target or to lose focus. Here in Syria, if someone takes a day off, people ask: Where is he? What’s his phone number? Hold on, let’s ask in administration. And they have a number that was last updated 20 years ago.” Every government ministry is pretty much a one-man show, she added.

Assad emphasizes that when she offers aid to companies, she still seeks to preserve the free-market system. “We’re helping a weaving company get into the market, but after that, they’re on their own. There’s competition and that will be the judge of whether they’re good enough.” In the past, she has also expressed dismay over the opposition of some Syrians to liberal economics: “The salaried worker speaks as a salaried government worker,” she explains. “He wants modernization, but he doesn’t want a situation in which the government can fire him. The businessman wants development, but for the market to continue being closed because he reaps a benefit from this.” Therefore, Assad continues, “everyone looks at development from his own angle, instead of looking at the development of the state.” And the media “give a national, not a communal, perspective.”

Assad says she began thinking about Syria’s problems purely from a businesswoman’s perspective, but adds that Bashar has focused on the human side. As vital as it may be to trim the number of civil service jobs, it means that families would inevitably be hurt. “And we must ensure that there are other opportunities. We need to find the correct balance between creating opportunities and risk management. This is the key to what Syria is becoming today – it’s a process of change that we’re undergoing.”

Lesch says that Asma Assad is well aware of the international criticism of Syria’s human rights record and of her husband’s policies. Though she may not see eye to eye with him here, she is careful not to say so publicly. “She feels that the regime is under attack,” he explained. Different groups wish to isolate it and it has to take repressive measures, and “she goes along with this whether she wants to or not. I asked her some very tough questions, but she stood behind her husband and behind the administration’s policies.” The biographer-interviewer notes that she strongly disagrees with some of the things that are happening in Syria and sees numerous problems, but these are things she says her husband is not pleased with, either.

When Asma was asked in an interview with The New York Times for her response to Washington’s accusations that her husband is a tyrant who has been responsible for terrible deeds, she replied: “I think that people need to see the man behind the presidency. They need to see what his values are, his ethics, his personal traits. Then they’ll be able to better understand who he his and what he’s trying to do.”

Asma Assad was interviewed by Dr. David Lesch of Trinity University in Texas, author of the book “The New Lion of Damascus: Bashar Assad and Modern Syria” (Yale University Press, 2005).

July 31st, 2008, 10:05 pm

 

ausamaa said:

Qifa Nabki

Dont forget, the country Mr. Makhlouf lives in does not have a Nation Building issue and a National Identity debate..They know who they are and what their true identity is.

The tens of Mr. Makhlof’s of Lebanon -if the comparison is relevant- are resisting the coming loss of the Corporations and Banks and the Hotels which “they” Call the “Lebanese Republic”. And also, Makhlouf reports to Makhlouf not to an embassy in Damascus or to “friends” thousands of miles away from his country.

July 31st, 2008, 10:28 pm

 

ausamaa said:

Qifa Nabki

This is from the http://www.tayyar.org

There is your Nation Building..!!! Ready to deal with it?

كسرت تهديد الحزب الإشتراكي وعادت الى بلدتها المهجّرة في الجبل. المسيحية الوحيدة في مجدليا خرقت قاعدة “العودة بحاجة إلى المصالحة”

مارون ناصيف – قوّة، تحدٍّ، صمود، وإرادة صلبة… هي صفات ليزات
عبده زياده المواطنة اللبنانية التي تحدّت تداعيات الحرب اللبنانية وتغلّبت على لا مبالاة المسؤولين، فخرقت الممنوع وسبقت الجميع.

منذ ثماني سنوات أي لحظة إستلامها منزلها وأرضها في بلدة مجدليا في قضاء عاليه، وبعد أن حصّلت من وزارة المهجرين الدفعة الأولى والأخيرة حتى اليوم من التعويضات، أخذت القرار الصعب بعد وفاة زوجها وقررت العودة الى بلدتها على رغم أن أحداً من مسيحيي مجدليا لم يعد بعد الى قريته التي يسكنها الدروز فقط، منذ التهجير المسيحي في حرب الجبل عام 1983.

الجولة الأولى من المعركة كانت داخلية أي داخل المنزل وتحديداً مع أولادها الخمسة الذين وصفوا قرارها بـ “ضرب الجنون”، إلا أن صلابة إرادتها لم تردعها عن الإقدام على التنفيذ.

أما الجولة الثانية فكان العامل الأساس فيها الجرأة في التنفيذ، وبعد أن حزمت أمتعتها توجهت في سيارة التاكسي التي أقلتها، الى منزلها في مجدليا وهي تدرك أن فترة ال 24 عاماً لن تنسيها حبّ الأرض وتعلقها بها.

تهديد إشتراكي

المسيحية الوحيدة التي عادت الى الجبل بعد التهجير من دون أن تشهد بلدتها ما يسمى بـ”المصالحة بين البيك وال…” تقول إن الكثيرين من أهلها راهنوا على عودتها السريعة الى منزلها القائم في ضاحية بيروت الشرقية نظراً الى الظروف السياسية الصعبة التي كانت سائدة في الجبل آنذاك هذا فضلاً عن الأوضاع المعيشية والإقتصادية الصعبة وعدم توافر فرص العمل والمؤسسات الإستشفائية والصحية.

فور وصولها الى منزلها المهدّم حاول مسؤول الحزب التقدمي الإشتراكي إعتراضها وهددوها فواجهتهم بنبرة مرتفعة: ” إبتعدوا من أمام السيارة هذا بيتي وليس بيتكم وأريد إسترجاعه، وأنا لست خائفة منكم”. وتعتبر ليزات أن هذه الكلمات كانت كافية لتنقل عامل الخوف الذي كان من المفترض أن يلعب دوره السلبي ضدها الى أخصامها.

مقومات الصمود

كيف إستطاعت هذه المرأة المتقدمة في السنّ أن تصمد؟ وما هي المراحل التي مرت بها؟ كيف بنت منزلها؟ وما هي علاقتها اليوم بالأهالي؟

بعد أن كشفت ليزات على بقايا منزلها المدمّر، وعلمت أن حجارة المنزل التابع لأحد أولادها سُرقت، قررت العيش بالقرب من الأرض التي تستطيع بعد إستصلاحها أن تعيش من مواردها ومواسمها ولو كانت هذه المساحة المتروكة منذ زمن بعيدة كثيراً من موقع منزلها القديم أي عند مدخل القرية. بنت ليزات كوخاً خشبياً وبدأت تعمل على إستصلاح أرضها المتروكة منذ سنوات ثم قامت بزرعها لتستطيع أن تؤمن أدنى مقومات الصمود في نمط حياتها الجديد. وتروي ليزات عن ليالي الشتاء العاصفة التي قضتها في كوخها المنفرد البعيد من المنازل الأخرى على فحيح الأفاعي التي كانت تتخذ من سقف الكوخ ملجأً لها، كذلك على أصوات الثعالب والحيوانات المفترسة.

وبعد إنقضاء سنوات عدة من التعب والمثابرة إن عن طريق المتاجرة بالمنتجات الزراعية أو من خلال الحياكة التي كانت وسيلة تسليتها في الأيام الصعبة والتي تجني منها أيضا بعض الأموال وتفسح أمامها الكثير من المجالات لبناء علاقات وطيدة مع أهالي مجدليا، بنت ليزات منزلها المتواضع من عرق جبينها بعدما أصبحت بالنسبة الى سكان المنطقة واقعاً لا بدّ من التعامل معه وفرضت نفسها عليهم كمواطنة من حقها أن تعود الى أرضها بعد سكوت المدفع.

دعوة عنفوانية

90 ألف ليرة لبنانية قيمة المبلغ الذي كانت تدفعه ليزات شهرياً عند زيارة عائلتها في بيروت وفي كل مرة كانت تلتقي جيرانها البيروتيين يوّجه اليها السؤال: “ألا تخافين من الدروز؟ ليأتي الردّ الثابت “لا أخاف إلا من أعمالي”. وعلى رغم الصعوبات الكثيرة، والضغوطات التي تعرضت لها، توجّه ليزات اليوم دعوة جريئة ومصبوغة بالعنفوان الى جميع المهجرين المسيحيين للعودة الى منازلهم وأراضيهم في الجبل من دون إنتطار أي تسوية يمكن أن يوقعها السياسيون على حسابهم.

أخيراً وليس آخراً لا بدّ من طرح السؤال الآتي: إذا توافر في كل قرية من قرى الجبل مواطنة مثل ليزات، هل على الشعب اللبناني أن ينتظر بعد من أمراء الحرب ورجال الدين مصالحات وهمية بعيدة كل البعد من مفاهيم العودة الحقيقية؟

July 31st, 2008, 10:37 pm

 

Qifa Nabki said:

Ausamaa said:

Dont forget, the country Mr. Makhlouf lives in does not have a Nation Building issue and a National Identity debate..They know who they are and what their true identity is.

Do you mean to say that that Syria doesn’t pretend to be interested in nation building because … Syrians have no choice in the matter? That we can agree on.

And also, Makhlouf reports to Makhlouf not to an embassy in Damascus or to “friends” thousands of miles away from his country.

That’s only because he hasn’t cared to venture into politics yet, ya habibi. There are plenty of Lebanese billionaires who don’t know where the American embassy is, let alone take orders from it. One day, when Makhlouf decides that he is qualified to be Supreme Minister of Money, then I think he’ll be visiting his fair share of ambassadors too.

July 31st, 2008, 11:02 pm

 

ausamaa said:

Qifa..

You sure know what I mean to say which is that Syrians do not have a National Identity, or a Nation Building issue in the political and social sense. Lebanon, thanks to the practices of its traditional Zua’ma does.

BTW, any idea how much the Harriri family alone own of both the Solidair project and of the Lebanese National debt of $ Billion 42 (now 50 perhaps?) in Treasury notes and loans through their banks? And that is just one example. Compare that to anyone single family in the Arab World and tell me before lecturing us about Makhlouf.

P.S. I dont see any comments from you on the Tayyar.org story above. Criticizing Syria is an easier task it seems than addressing Lebanese basic social structural issues.

July 31st, 2008, 11:15 pm

 

Qifa Nabki said:

Ausamaa

The reason that Syria does not have a “nation building” or “national identity” issue in the political and social sense is because your society is in political deep freeze. There are no issues because there are no choices. Do you imagine that things would be hunky dory if there was a power vacuum, like we routinely have in Lebanon? No, there would be a struggle, and I wager it would not be entirely non-violent. Otherwise, what is Bashar al-Asad worried about?

Basically, you have traded political stagnation and authoritarianism for stability. We have “nation building issues”, at the price of instability. That’s the way it is, and I guarantee you not a single Lebanese I know would prefer the system in Syria. We’ll take our chances with nation building.

I don’t get your point about the Tayyar article. There are hundreds or maybe thousands of people who were displaced during the war. At least people are talking about it, it has become a political issue, Aoun is fighting for it, etc. How is this relevant to your point? And please spare us one of your Lebanon-hating diatribes.

July 31st, 2008, 11:57 pm

 

Off The Wall said:

FP

Thank you very much for the optimistic and refreshing view. It is nice to hear that Syrians are taking pride in the country’s ability to avoid being “Bushed”. It is not a little accomplishment, and it took a good deal of sacrifice on their side and a decent amount of political Savy on the Bashar’s side. (now i am risking the Ire of some commentators here). The sense of national identity is good, and hopefully it will grow into a sense of ownership and responsibility. From what I read in your comment, this seems to be happening, probably slow, but it is hapenning. While both the syrian poeple and the current government should capitalize on this to accelerate political reform, i am in full agreement with my new friend Shai that Israel should also grab this opportunity as well before it is too late. Let us hope that whoever assumes Kadima’s leadership would conitue and if Bibi is to take over, let us hope that he would not want to go to point zero. This is why I think tha direct talks at lower level should start while Olmert is in power, even if he is a lame duck.

August 1st, 2008, 12:39 am

 

Karim said:

Dear Ford Perfect,the syrian people are not dignified in your report and this is known behavior when the people are humiliated for long time,Bashar is loved because he is a dictator when he will be back to normality without his security apparatuses and totalitarianism,and only afterward ,the people will say what is now hidden in their minds.Btw the regime is perfectly aware of this reality.And i challenge bashar if he is able to endure the poor level of political freedom that exist in Egypt,Algeria,Morroco,Jordan and even Sudan.For such paranoid ultra minoriy regime it’s 99% or bye bye.Am i wrong?

August 1st, 2008, 3:00 am

 

Majhool said:

Alex,

here is my two cents on corruption ( sorry for the format)

Cause 1; inadequate wages for civil servants:

Solutions:

1) Improve Tax System to avoid Tax Evasion
2) Crack down on customs corruption at sea Ports
3) Use improved Tax revenue to increase wages
4) Create an adequate Social Security system and pay unemployment benefit equal to salaries today.
5) Get rid of public companies that don’t make money
6) Downsize, and let go of all unnecessary head count. Pay them unemployment benefit equal salaries using the well-funded Social Security system.
7) Adopt economical policies that promote growth to increase revenue. legislate against monopolies.

Cause 2: Transparent Media is non-existent

Solutions:

1) Change the Publication Law
2) Political reform to change how the parliament is elected (or appointed ) so it would not legislate under the influence of the Palace, Mukhabarat, and Baath
3) Lift Emergency law, and re-activate rule of law

Cause 3: nepotism, favoritism, “loyalism” and sectarianism in public servants appointment process

Solutions:

1) Keep the intelligence services and Baath party out of the decision process when appointing non-political positions
2) Apply the principles of modern managements in the selection and retention of public servants.
3) Stop the Practice of black-listing in the appointment process based on political and secular affilation.

Cause 4: Interference of Baath party and intelligence service in public administration:

3) Free the cabinet and ministers from the daily influence of intelligence and Baath
4) Political reform such that the parliament can challenge laws coming from the cabinet and apply the principles of checks and balances.

Cause 4: faint sense of Citizenship

Solutions:

1) Political reform: Issue a new political parties and election law
2) Lift the emergency laws and reinstitute the rule of law
3) Allow the civil society to operate freely

To be honest, I don’t believe Bashar is wiling to do more than 1% of the above.

August 1st, 2008, 3:30 am

 

Ford Prefect said:

Thanks for all the above comments and all the emails that filled my mailbox today. I would love to take up the issue with each one of you individually, but let me add few more general points that address the overarching theme presented by some:

Zenobia is right. One cannot take the example of the taxi driver naming his children to conclude that peace is possible. But, nevertheless, the story is worth mentioning for allwaht is worth. I am sure that are many stories like this occurring everyday in Syria that underscores the demonstrable coexistence desires of the Syrian people.

Innocent_Criminal picked up on a subtle theme I have also observed in Syria during this visit: An emerging theme of Syrian nationalism that was always obscured by the more powerful Arab nationalism current in Syria. For Syria to progress as a nation-state in a community of Arab nation-states, such a sense of Syrian nationalism might not be all that bad. (P.S. I have never observed so many Syrian flags in Syria as I did this time. I did not see a single Ba’ath Pan Arabism) flag.

Honest Patriot also picked up on the Hariri assassination debacle and his question is a great one. Am I implying here that there is a justification for the Hariri murder? Of course not. What I was referring to is my observation of a Syrian belief that Hariri was assassinated in order to break Syria down en route for a new Middle East. The aftermath of his assassination did actually cause Syria to come very close to a complete disintegration into an Iraqi model. Syria’s isolation, the Khaddam episode, and the sever humiliation of Syrian officials had put Syria at the lowest point in its history since 2005. Farid Ghadry and Walid Jumblatt were both ready to roll into Damascus at any moment during that time.

Atassi is observing that Syria is not out of the wood yet and warning about any premature celebration. I agree with him. There is a chance (but it is becoming increasingly remote) that the Hariri assassination could shake Syria down to the point of destabilization.

Our dear ultra-conservative AP is, of course, never satisfied with any positive gesture short of a complete tear down and replacement of the Syrian government and its institutions. Instead of helping us and many other Israelis to find common grounds for peace, he views anything short of the adopting the “Clean Break” doctrine (thanks Alex!) is a waste of time. Answering him here would also be just that.

And Shai is as fresh as always – presenting the view of a generation of Israelis that are liberal, free thinkers, and confidant that their history, culture, and nationalism is compatible with peace and justice. Shai: it will be during our lifetime that you and I will be having breakfast in Damascus, lunch in Jerusalem, and dinner in Beirut – all in the same day (we will then just have to worry about our weight!).

And to highlight Off the Wall comment about the Syrian solidarity and Bashar’s position of standing tall, I am reminded by the same position of Youssef al-Azmeh when he stood tall in front of the invading French army in the Battle of Maysaloun. No Syrian would have ever acted differently in the face of the great and imminent danger that was facing Syria whether it was 1920 or 2005. Bashar, after all, is a product of that same brand of DNA called Brand Syria.

Finally, many thanks to all of you who have commented above. I believe in Syria and the Syrian people. Peace is in their future because they deserve it.

August 1st, 2008, 3:32 am

 

Majhool said:

FORD PERFECT

Comparing Yousif Al-Azmeh with a Dictator is nothing short of ….

I enjoyed your composition but def not the content. All said, thanks for sharing your thoughts..the style is great.

August 1st, 2008, 3:48 am

 

Karim said:

Ford Perfect ,i’m sure that you dont ignore or at least have a doubt that Hafez would not have seen presidency without a deal with the west before or during the war of 1967 when he was minister of defence and he had other one with Kissinger in 1974 that i interpret as the american approval of the limitation of the rule of the game.And how can you compare a bloody dictator with an hero like Yousef al Azmeh…btw where is Averroes????? …Yousef Bey al Azmeh family is not of Arab origin ,and belong to one of these great aristocratic Ottoman Families slandered by the regime official propaganda.
Ford Perfect;i know the regime will not allow this to happen ,but in a hypothetical case ,Bashar and his gang will be the first to leave Syria ,if a total invasion of Syria happens and guess who are those who will give their blood and resist the invaders ? the same kind of people who were jailed and tortured by his mukhabarat.I doubt that he would have the courage of Sadam Hussein.Go understand why they oblige their wives to give birth in the west !!!!

August 1st, 2008, 3:55 am

 

Majhool said:

Karim,

You never know..soon they will equate Hafez Assad with Nelson Mandella, Na3essa Makhlouf with Mother Teresa, and Ali-Eldeek with Sabah Fakhri. Every thing is possible these days.

August 1st, 2008, 4:00 am

 

Ford Prefect said:

Karim,
The last time I checked, “Bashar and his gang” were as Syrians as as Yousf Azmeh ever was. Is there now a new citizenship test of who is a Syrian and who is not – just like the Spanish Inquisition tested true Christians?

Let’s get beyond the us vs. them mentality, please. We are all of the same gene pool and we all enjoy a good falafel when we see one.

August 1st, 2008, 4:11 am

 

Majhool said:

FORD PERFECT,

Did Karim deny Bashar’s Syrian gene? please explain

August 1st, 2008, 4:16 am

 

Karim said:

Dear Ford Perfect ,we should call a spade a spade,a totalitarian dictator a totalitarian dictator ,it doesnt matter if he is syrian or not.

August 1st, 2008, 4:21 am

 

Alex said:

KARIM,

Should we call a totalitarian dictator a totalitarian dictator every minute and every second we are awake or sleeping?

Protesting has its its time and place … things lose their value when they are overdone… even calls for democracy and rule of law …

I am accused (often jokingly) of being THE Bashar propagandist on this and other forums.

But even this alleged propagandist does not go to your extreme (in reverse). Imagine if when Majhool wrote his excellent analysis of corruption in Syria (Above) I replied with something like: “Why are you criticizing corruption? …you should not forget that Bashar is a great leader who defeated Bush”

This is what you, and few others like you sound like .. in the right place, and then often in the wrong place.

It would really serve your cause to reserve your fighting dictatorship to when it is within the discussion topic, not when it is nothing more than a chant of “down with the dictator”

But you are free to say what you want.

August 1st, 2008, 4:35 am

 

Majhool said:

Alex,

What you said is very reasonable as a general rule especially when the discussion is reasonable as well . But I believe Karim said what he said in response to the comparison with Azmeh. I too find it to be outrageous.

August 1st, 2008, 4:43 am

 

Alex said:

Majhool,

Karim always repeats the same thing. It does not take a comparison between Bashar and Azmeh to trigger Karim’s “dictator” protest … all it takes is some praise to Bashar… Because Bashar is not democratically elected, Karim wants us to refrain from admiring Bashar’s skills in confronting George Bush the past 5 years.

If you want a recent example … here is one:

http://joshualandis.com/blog/?p=821#comment-200677

The D-word appeared before FP mentioned Azmeh.

August 1st, 2008, 4:58 am

 

Ghimar said:

I agree with ALEX. The whole universe was over talking on rule of law, corruption and human rights violations in Syria every minute and second, in a time American Blackwater was spreading its DEMOCRACY at Abu Ghraib prison and elsewhere.

The time now is to have look at what can lead the “country” to a peacefull settlement with ALL. This is for the sake of the poor and needy who are usually the vicitims of dirty politics.

Corruption is everywhere, but it is more visible in our countries because we do not know how to hide it like other folks in the West do!! So let’s keep the spirit high and not to contaminate the discussion atmosphere with irrelevant topics!

August 1st, 2008, 5:59 am

 

Majhool said:

Karim,

Although I totally understand how difficult it is to

1) call Assad a president ( instead of a dictator) when he is not democratically elected and
2) call the regime a government when it does not have the legitimacy to govern,

I still advice you to use the words: dictator & regime only in the proper context (something I learned my self). This will help to stimulate balanced and substantiated discussions among all of us. You bring many good points to the discussion.

Offended,

Forgive me, but making comparisons similar to your last one does not help either.

August 1st, 2008, 6:07 am

 

Zenobia said:

the thing that I don’t get about the comparison is that didn’t Yousef al Azmeh lose the battle of Maysaloun to the French?

what’s the point of standing tall if you lose?

let me guess. Honor? Dignity? … the old martyr thing again?

but I don’t think the regime detests him. They left his statue, standing tall right there in the middle of the square. This is a symbol of resistance.

I feel a great deal of ambivalence about celebrating such nationalistic feeling, even if FP is saying that it is a good thing because it is at least Syrian nationalism rather than pan-arab nationalism.

But how does this join with a readiness for peace? I think when people start congratulating themselves on successful resistance (even though I too enjoy seeing the ‘colonialist’ ‘enemy’ fall on its face) – I get a bit concerned with the idea of perpetual resistance without the wisdom of knowing when to concede unattainable ends and make compromises.
Sometimes the arab world has been so busy celebrating its successful episodes of resistance that leaders have missed opportunities for resolution of conflicts and for peace. In this regard, the outcome is no better than the American military when it keeps reporting all the battles won, without acknowledging that the war remains un-winnable.
This has taken place on all sides, american, Israeli, Palestinians, with decades of arab leaders with few exceptions. All we get are protracted endless conflicts then.

August 1st, 2008, 6:08 am

 

Zenobia said:

Ghimar,

I don’t think that is what Alex exactly said. Although he was suggesting that it is rather unproductive to hurl the word dictator constantly as a means of dismissing any possible good thing that might have happened while in the vicinity or under the leadership of said dictator.

Corruption on the other hand is a fine topic, and I think Alex thinks so too, since he suggested we might have a whole post on the subject at some point which I think is a grand idea.

and btw, I think the issue is a bit bigger than that in the East corruption is out in the open and in the West it is hidden. I don’t think Canada is known for vast corruption.
And, the reason corruption is hidden in the USA is because it is against the law and you can be prosecuted for it, and people are prosecuted for it. Think how many embezzlement cases there are which would probably pass for corruption (ie skimming off the top) in the middle east.
Whereas, it need not be hidden in the East because it is part of the system and a fully expected way of assuming life to operate.
Such is the big difference. And I think it is one, actually, without being too hypocritical.

August 1st, 2008, 6:19 am

 

Off the Wall said:

Dear Karim
I like to think that I am one to call the spade a spade. But even if I know that the Syrian people do not have political freedom and I do not want to be redundant, one must not begrudge them a moment of self satisfaction of being able to withstand being “Bushed”, and for walking a way from a bully fight, relatively unscathed. What you are asking them and us is to walk the streets with nothing on our minds but one person, one sect, and one family. But that is not fair. People have different priorities.And from my point of view, Syrians, in diaspora or in the homeland are entitled to like Bashar or dislike him, even if you feel that they are betraying you.I for one never met our Ambassador to the US but I have a tremendous respect for his skills, intellect, and for the good face he gave Syria abroad. He is probably the one Ambassador with the hardest job in the diplomatic core here in the US. Should I hate hime because he is Baathist. I do not feel this way.

I am reading articles where university faculty are beginning to talk such as the article on corruption. Anonymous government official are talking, and this is very common even here in the US. Would anyone have dared do that 10 years ago. I do not believe so.

I am not shy calling things. But I am a solution-oriented person. More importantly, i believe in win-win solution and I do not believe that politics has to be a zero sum game.

Dear Majhool
Thank you for your contribution to the discussion on corruption, I am glad that you ar also interested in “Doable Solutions”. However i do not see what you described as cause 3 (nepotism, favoritism, “loyalism” and sectarianism in public servants appointment process) as being a cause, i see it more as a symptom. May be it does not make a difference!

Riad is an indication of things to come as well as a manifestation of the goodness of the Syrian People, who are as capable of incredible feat of humanity as any others. People like him are not a majority, yet, but are people like Shai a majority in Israel?, I do not think so. Yet their presence give me a great deal of hope. And that how I would like to see it. It is not putting blinders and generalizing, but it is being capable of enjoying and glimmer of light, not matter how small it is. That is why I can relate to Shai a million times more than I can relate to this Kuwaiti editor (i think his name is Jarallah), the Sunni Muslim.

What disappoints me alittle is that in all of this discussion, we forgot to look whether the Syrians have any other reasons to feel proud, both as government and as People. Despite of their dire economic situation, and of the danger, perceived or actual they felt coming from lebanon, they opened their country and their homes to 600,000 lebanese refugees. And that is in addition to the nearly 2 million Iraqi refugees living amongst them. If for nothing else, they have the right to walk tall.

ZENOBIA

As usual, you are gifted at pealing layers of history and getting to see the relationship between misery and the grand sins of pride, vanity, and greed. I love reading your posts.

August 1st, 2008, 6:22 am

 

Majhool said:

Dear OTW,

When someone hire someone else for unqualified reason(s) to public office (nepotism, favoritism, “loyalism” and sectarianism in public servants appointment process” this will entails a certain “pay back” wouldn’t you agree?

You mentioned the word “doable” (another scary D-word), do you think they are really doable under the current political structure?

August 1st, 2008, 6:33 am

 

Off the Wall said:

Dear Majhool
Fully agree, but what I was trying to argue is that nepotism is a symptom of tribal mentality. And addressing it and its poisonous byproducts requires also working hard to change this tribal mentality of protectionism and understanding at heart the merit of humane meritorious society ( i use the term humane because a fully Darwinian society could also be meritorious, i believe in evolution but not in Darwinian economy and politics).

August 1st, 2008, 6:48 am

 

Majhool said:

Ghimar,

Love the old house. Would I get a discount if I agree with you?

August 1st, 2008, 6:48 am

 

Majhool said:

OTW,

I admit it was challenging to separate causes from solutions. I could have done better, but that’s why I added another cause “Faint sense of citizenship”. Addressing it will take care of tribalism.

People resort to tribalism only when it offers a better protection and incentive than the society at large (the government and civil society).

August 1st, 2008, 6:53 am

 

Off the Wall said:

FP

It is clear why this community holds you in high regard. I do appreciate your summary. What you did is true professionalism and it shows respect to all of us. Thanks

August 1st, 2008, 6:53 am

 

Zenobia said:

OTW,
gee thanks. I enjoy your comments very much too.

why are you awake. Even I on the WestC am ready to call it an SC day at midnight. if you are on the East Coast like most participants here, then you must be a non sleeper like Alex… : )

August 1st, 2008, 7:00 am

 

Zenobia said:

On the subject of tribalism, since i mentioned it above, I will say, they don’t “resort”…

this is the first mentality of mankind… it is primordial practically. It is there in the beginning. And it is through the social evolution of societies… to industrial and mechanized societies and economies that people shift to a different mentality. Don’t you think?

I mean, the American Mafia(s) were tribal. They were outside the legitimate economic system. They were not part of the social contract. Once the mafia had integrated its money into the mainstream economy and into legitimate businesses, they lose their tribalism. They are now part of larger society and economy.

Somebody in an above comment, maybe it was FP again , or maybe Ehsani, I apologize if I am not remembering correctly who it was… but they emphasized (to which I agree wholeheartedly) that the issue at bottom is not attacking corruption head on and doing a criminal sweep…. but rather mechanizing society and building efficient systems that will alter mentality.
It is only one route to take of the sort that Majhool proposed. I don’t disagree with trying to implement all those things if one could. But can we imagine this happening? realistically speaking?

I think it is possible that what will happen instead is that again, through economic pressures, and the need for industry and business that meet outside standards, external investment standards, there will be a transformation of systems. Once merit systems start to take over, then there will be a lot of pressure on individuals to conform to these new expectations.
To my mind this is a social learning process, an education. It doesn’t have to be imposed from the outside – as was sort of implied with the corruption piece by Andrew. No. But organically, the new enterprises will be modeled on western business practices and will demand that people start to understand what are the relationships based on in such businesses.
Obviously, business in the middle east still has a lot of sociability and etiquette and custom that harkens back to the tribal recognition and values. However, I think this is evolving away.
Even the Mafia cannot remain what it was forever.
Didn’t you all watch the Godfather?

there is a lesson to be learned there.

August 1st, 2008, 7:09 am

 

Majhool said:

Zen,

So do you agree with “Faint sense of citizenship” with tribalism being a symptom of it as being one of the causes for corruption in Syria?

August 1st, 2008, 7:17 am

 

Off the Wall said:

Majhool
but that’s why I added another cause “Faint sense of citizenship”. Addressing it will take care of tribalism.

You are absolutely right, I should have seen the connection, my bad 🙂

August 1st, 2008, 7:22 am

 

Zenobia said:

Majhool,
I think you are saying that Syrians do not have an adequate sense of their social contract with the rest of the citizenry, and that this is a contributor to corruption.

If that is what you are saying , I definitely agree. I think that tribal mentalities divide ones loyalties for certain. One thinks first again to my family , then my clan, then my group (religious, ethnic, whatever)… and there is not an identification with the whole of the citizenry of the nation.
As a result, I think this makes it much easier not to have a conscience about cheating others, or the state, or the system, or to engage in nepotism and patronage etc and so forth.
Sure, I agree with that analysis.

question is how does that change. I wasn’t sure how your solutions would apply there. but i gave my sort of vague thought about it in my last comment. I would have to think about it more i think to come up with a better formulation.
I think it is a great topic by the way.

August 1st, 2008, 7:24 am

 

Off the Wall said:

ZENOBIA

Like you I am in the West Coast, and like Alex, I do not sleep much :), so expect me to be on SC for a couple more of hours.

August 1st, 2008, 7:28 am

 

offended said:

Zenobia,
Yousuf Al Azem martyred himself defending Damascus. Sometimes it doesn’t matter if one wins or loses. He might have set the initial torch for Syrian resistance against the French which eventually led to independence. That means– even though he didn’t live to see it, his initial seeds of national Syrian resistance have grown and borne fruits.

August 1st, 2008, 7:33 am

 

Zenobia said:

Offended,

yes, I am not denigrating good ol’Yousuf. And it certainly was occurring at a time when one can argue that his efforts were perhaps well worth it, and perhaps it all led to independence. I have no idea.

but, I was just saying that OTOH, I think most people would agree, that there is a little bit too much adoration for martyrdom going on in the ME today.
Ideologically speaking it is a bit problematic, as it leads to quite a bit of self destruction and drive to death, that may NOT in fact be worth it. I am lamenting that there may be some deficit of wisdom in knowing when is the time to resist and when is the time to offer the olive branch or concede something. Hard to say for certain without knowing the end of the story, of course.
And as well, there is the problem of how each person imagines the final goal and how they evaluate and envision the desired future. Success is in the eye of the beholder, obviously.

August 1st, 2008, 7:38 am

 

Off the Wall said:

ZENOBIA

Excellent comment, but what some of us are trying to do here is to envision the possible outcome of some of these social pressures based on the experiences of other countries, which is also part of the social learning.

My understanding of tribalism is identical to what you presented. And thanks for explaining it so well.

One thing we also forget is that corruption is not a government monopoly. It is also rampant in private industries. After all, it is private businesses that facilitate its most egregious forms everywhere in the world. To think or nepotism that exist even at some of the highest institutions of learning here in the US in terms of “Alumni” children, for how would some one like our little george can get into any university without family-based admission. This in fact is as good example of tribalism and its child nepotism as any.

August 1st, 2008, 7:42 am

 

Zenobia said:

OTW,
yes, I agree. Interesting parallel. Whats the difference between ‘nepotism’ and ‘cronyism’? I am not sure.

What the university does in giving preference to Alumni children is of course not against the law, although it seems unfair.
I have to think about it. but it is certainly not based on merit, thats for sure.

August 1st, 2008, 7:47 am

 

Off the Wall said:

ZENOBIA

It is the ZERO SUM game vision that pushes many to aggrandize martyrdom. Every thing is “maseeri”, and every single event becomes “a most critical juncture in the history of the nations”. now take the word nation and replace it with the name of 80% of the countries on earth, one at a time, and you would be reading the opening sentence of almost every political speech.

You are fast, but as AP once said, thanks for the Edit button

I think Cronyism is the right word for the parallel I drew, but the result is the same, incompetent people getting to play with toys they are not suitable for. However, my arguments can also be countered by the fact that even if admission is not necessarily meritorious, the grading pays no attention to how the student got to the university. At least in the ones I have been to.

August 1st, 2008, 7:49 am

 

Zenobia said:

lol. aye, you’re right.

what’s ‘maseeri’?

August 1st, 2008, 7:51 am

 

Off the Wall said:

Could it be “Existential”?

August 1st, 2008, 7:56 am

 

Zenobia said:

ah. i don’t know. could be… a rather abstract idea.

yes, yes i am fast! ha ha

August 1st, 2008, 7:58 am

 

Zenobia said:

I think we need a dictionary or encyclopedia of corruption. I bet it would be very popular.

August 1st, 2008, 8:06 am

 

Majhool said:

Zen

“I think you are saying that Syrians do not have an adequate sense of their social contract with the rest of the citizenry, and that this is a contributor to corruption. If that is what you are saying ?”

Exactly so.

wasn’t sure how your solutions would apply there.

Let’s recall the solutions

1) Political reform: Issue a new political parties and election law:

I argue that When the Syrians start electing their own representatives; it will strengthen their sense of ownership of the political systems. It will help foster responsibility and Cynicism will take a back seat.

2) Lift the emergency laws and reinstitute the rule of law
People need to feel that the law matters. If they see it being abused by some they will be tempted to do that same thing.

2) Allow the civil society to operate freely

I believe participating in civil society groups and organizations would promote the collective sense of belonging to a community or a cause.

August 1st, 2008, 8:26 am

 

Karim said:

He is probably the one Ambassador with the hardest job in the diplomatic core here in the US. Should I hate hime because he is Baathist.

Dear OTW,i’m soft in my critics towards most of government members ,embassadors and other officials because i’ m aware that they are doing their possible and and we will see when this regime is gone ,how they will distance themselves from it,they have a good idea of the dirty practices of asads ,makhloufs and co.,and Imad Mustapha is not baathi,he gives the impression that he is a good person and why not him for Syria’s presidency?You would agree that he deserves it more than the asads and sons?
And btw ,i have nothing against the baathists,they are our cousins,brothers,sisters…
And plz ,the religion doesnt matter ,and i repeat: the shoes of Aref Dalila the son of the alawite mountain is worth the turbans of most of our sheikhs from Morroco to Indonesia.

August 1st, 2008, 8:28 am

 

Off the Wall said:

ZENOBIA

Check this out,
Corruptionary’ – a dictionary of corruption-related terms in the Philippines

It is available on

http://www.abs-cbnnews.com/storypage.aspx?StoryId=117773

August 1st, 2008, 8:36 am

 

Off the Wall said:

Dear Karim
As I said before, I appreciate your civility in argument. Thanks for your clarification.

August 1st, 2008, 8:44 am

 

Karim said:

Our minister of defence 90 years ago :

http://www.ajeal.net/4images/data/media/19/071.jpg

http://img525.imageshack.us/img525/986/olddamas06im3.jpg

And minister of def….”Sheraton Damascus” :

http://fr.youtube.com/watch?v=YzxdumcAqcQ

From Der Spiegel:(was he also drunk here?)
Tlass no longer knows exactly how many death sentences he has signed personally, and he speaks quietly as he explains why these horrific acts were unavoidable, even the many who died by hanging. At times in the 1980s, he says, 150 death sentences a week were carried out by hanging in Damascus alone. “We used weapons to assume power, and we wanted to hold onto it. Anyone who wants power will have to take it from us with weapons,” says the general, smiling.

August 1st, 2008, 9:05 am

 

Akbar Palace said:

Our dear ultra-conservative AP is, of course, never satisfied with any positive gesture short of a complete tear down and replacement of the Syrian government and its institutions. Instead of helping us and many other Israelis to find common grounds for peace, he views anything short of the adopting the “Clean Break” doctrine (thanks Alex!) is a waste of time. Answering him here would also be just that.

Welcome back FP of “Dickless Cheney” fame!;)

If you want to label me an “ultra-conservative” that is your perogative. I consider myself a “neocon”. Since, I believe, you are located somewhere here in the States, you should be aware that the neo-cons are more socially liberal than the “ultra-conservatives”.

But yes, the two points I was trying to clarify was:

1.) I think American action in the Middle East helped to isolate those countries still supporting terror, thus helping to persuade some regimes to act more peacefully. I’m thinking in terms of Libya and Syria. And let us not forget Iraq. Iraq will not be firing too many scuds or invading a neighboring country in the near future.

2.) Assuming a peace agreement is struck between Assad and Israel, what makes that peace different than the treaties with Egypt and Jordan, where the leaders are now considered “traitors” and “corrupt”?

Judging from some of the participants here, I’m not convinced that a peace treaty between Syria and Israel is going to bode well for Syrian Ba’athism and/or Assad. It certainly didn’t help Arafat and Fatah (and there’s no peace agreement yet!).

Anyway, those were my two points.

BTW, and just to make myself clear, I have no qualms with Syrian national identity, pride, or whatever you want to call it. I have no problem with any form of nationalism. And I recognize all states in the region including the State of Palestine, Lebanon, and Syria.

If that makes me an “ultra-conservative”, then so be it.;)

August 1st, 2008, 10:46 am

 

In Damascus said:

Thank you “Ford Prefect” for this brilliant insight on the situation in Syria….I think you’ve absolutely got it spot on!!

We all hope for a real and lasting peace in the near future and the people here are definitely ready for it.

Regards to the sheer brilliance of your friend Riad…he truly represents the forward-thinking Syrian mentality we’d all like to see more of.

Thanks again.

August 1st, 2008, 11:01 am

 

Akbar Palace said:

The document urged democratic reform and called for Syria to recognise Lebanon as an independent state by demarcating the border.

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/middle_east/7533428.stm

Alex,

I thought you said Syria recognized Lebanon as an independent state. Is this true or not?

What I find interesting is that we still have countries and organizations who STILL do not recongnize other states in the region, but only Israelis and Neocons are labelled “ultra-conservative”.

Go figure?

August 1st, 2008, 1:04 pm

 

Alex said:

Dear Akbar,

I asked you a year ago if you would support the peace process if it includes a solution based on land for peace according to UN resolutions and you said that you do. So I had no need to brand you … you can be a neo-con, an ultra-conservative or a ralph Nader support if you wish… as long as you seem to want a peaceful solution, sooner and not later.

The part you quoted from the BBC is not the reason those people are on trial. I will try to explain, but please keep in mind tha tI am explaining, not supporting the resons why these people are on trial.

They are on trial because the regime considered them dangerous (to the regime or to Syria). in 2005 and 2006 (pre-summer war which HA won) Syria was in a weak position. The “democracy” argument was used as a weapon against Bashar by everyone around him (especially by the non-democratic Saudi journalists) …. these people (at least some of them) were warned more than once to not join outsiders in this pressure on Syria. In the case of Michel Kilo for example, Bashar said that Michel was warned more than once to not work with the French because Chirac is not the innocent friend to Syria that he says he is …

So, the Syrian regime wanted no one to cooperate with outsiders like M14, Saudi Arabia, or France …even if that cooperation was through democracy and human rights NGOs.

Those who decided to ignore the regime’s requests were considered dangerous at that time.

I agree that they were naive or foolish … but whatever danger came out of their belief in Jacques Chirac or in M14 people (who said they wanted democracy in Syria), that still does not justify putting those activists in jail today … Syria is now very strong.

I think there is an easy way to predict when some democracy activist will receive a warning (followed by an arrest if he persists):

The Damascus Declaration called for “democratic and radical change” in Syria … Aref Dalileh, in his last speech, called for immediate and total overhaul of Syria’s political system.

The regime has no tolerance for passionate speeches or signed declarations that call for radical immediate change.

Those who promote immediate radical change should realize that this means one thing … overthrowing the regime.

It should be obvious that an authoritarian regime will feel threatened by those who want to overthrow it. For someone to write an article, or to sign a declaration asking for immediate change, he would be

1) Naive (thinking that somehow the regime will accept to dismantle itself tomorrow)

2) Calling for a violent confrontation with the regime … a revolution.

August 1st, 2008, 3:41 pm

 

Karim said:

Alex Bey,and those who never called for a radical change why are they in prison?And yes Syria is in need of radical change ,there are no other options if we want to prevent Syria from slipping into the unknown.That doesn’t mean a revolution,let the regime does it and if the regime shows good will towards freedom and justice and releases all these pacifistic people,a clear commitment from the regime that will open the way for a democratic transition…then we will be obliged to forgive all what happened in the past,even Hama.

August 1st, 2008, 5:19 pm

 

Alex said:

Karim bey,

We all agree that we need serious change in Syria. Nothing is wrong with that. Even Obama is committed (hopefully) to change.

I think the question is … when it comes to dramatic change, how far can one go in reality? … and how fast?

Many complained that even before being elected, Obama is already limiting many of his promises for change … now we expect him to, at best, make some mild-to-moderate level of changes.

“the regime” in Syria is strong, it is authoritarian … but the system is stronger … Alex bey believes that we can move faster than we did so far … but not as fast s you, and others, would like us to move.

But I am hoping for a boost in reform efforts next year … I hope “the regime” and “he system” will not disappoint us too much… Recent history shows us that Syria experiences a relaxation in her relations with the west (and with Arab moderate puppets) only for a period of few years .. followed by more pressure and attempts to isolate Syria.

We need to take advantage of the anticipated friendly environment next year to create positive momentum, for Syria, and for everyone in the Middle East

THAT would be something.

August 1st, 2008, 5:40 pm

 

Akbar Palace said:

Alex –

Thanks. Yes, I have always supported a land for peace formula.

We all know about internal dissent within Syria, and I’m not here to thrash that subject around for me to gloat over. I’m just mystified (if it’s true) why Syria doesn’t recognize Lebanon as an independent state.

Do you have an explanation for this?

August 1st, 2008, 5:44 pm

 

Alex said:

AP,
“recognize Lebanon” means many things

– Officially, Syria did recognize Lebanon through numerous statements and interviews.

– Although Hafez Assad never visited Lebanon, Bashar did (a symbolic recognition)

– Embassy … there is no problem opening one now that Lebanon is headed by a decent and friendly president. But honestly there is absolutely no practical need for an embassy … Damascus is half an hour from Lebanese border … and the Lebanese do not need a VISA to enter Syria … many enter to have lunch or to shop, then they go back home to Beirut.

The embassy thing was to a large extent a pressure tool on Syria … to show Syria as an evil neighbor that wants wants to take Lebanon back.

But by now (after the incredible publicity given to that issue), many Lebanese people are more convinced that the embassy carries a valuable symbolic weight … and Syria will probably go for it now that it is a popular wish.

By the way, the best way to accelerate the process is for the idiots in Saudi Press (and elsewhere) to stop criticizing Syria and daring Syria to open that embassy … the regime is always predictable in the way it responds to pressure … it will slow down or reverse whatever action the regime is pressured to take.

Sarkozy, and Lebanese president can and should still raise the issue in private meetings with the Syrians, but not as part of the counter productive typical media circus. No country likes to be pushed by its adversaries or their reps in the media.

– Finally, I can tell you a personal opinion … Syria expects that none of that matters in the long run … Lebanon and Syria will merge again in some way (economic, or more) … ten to twenty years form now… when both the Lebanese and Syrian people will realize that it is in their advantage to do so.

But in the short run, Syria will be very sensitive to the symbolic gestures needed to assure the Lebanese that they are not going to be controlled by Syria.

August 1st, 2008, 6:02 pm

 

norman said:

AP,

The relation between Syria and Lebanon is like the relation between parents and children ,

They are adults when they are 18 but that does not mean they are not our children and we have to care about them and offer advise , They can take it and make us happy or not and make us sad and sometime make us angry to the point that makes us not mention them in our well.

That is may Take .

August 1st, 2008, 6:08 pm

 

Akbar Palace said:

Alex, Norman,

I will not press the issue. Of course, observers like me wonder if Syria has some territorial “claim” to Lebanon.

If they don’t, I don’t see what the Saudis, parent/child, Sarkozy have do due with Syria “recognizing Lebanon as an independent state”. I think if Syria DID, it would help ease fears in the West and even in Lebanon. Moreover, it seems to me Syria has several allies in Lebanon. Of course, if Syria does have a territorial claim, then that’s another story.

Personally, if we’re really interested in peace and if we’re really interested in moving our countries ahead, the time for “recognition ” is now. Not tomorrow.

August 1st, 2008, 6:24 pm

 

Shai said:

AP,

The word “recognition” in our region has always meant “peace”. It doesn’t mean recognizing the other side as a legitimate party, because all parties have been talking to each other over the past 60 years, over many different issues (cease-fire agreements, POW exchanges, borders, UN forces, etc.) In that sense, Hamas, Hezbollah, Syria, Lebanon, all “recognize” Israel. The 3 Yes’s, as described in the two Arab Summits in Beirut and Riyadh, talk of recognition in context of making peace with Israel once and for all. But in order to receive this “recognition”, the Arab states’ conditions are withdrawal to the 1967 lines, and an acceptable solution to the Palestinian refugee problem.

Israelis and other Jews often throw around sentences like “They don’t even recognize us…”, to demonstrate how the most basic condition to a demonstration of peaceful intentions isn’t even met. But from the Arab’s point of view, recognition isn’t about accepting Israel as the Jewish state (they will never do that), nor about formally declaring that the Zionist Entity (aka Israel) has a right to exist. Only Ahmadinejad is still barking the opposite rhetoric. No Arab leader is suggesting Israel has no right to exist. By talking to us about Samir Kuntar, and about Gilad Shalit, Hezbollah and Hamas are both, de facto, recognizing Israel. To the Arabs, the much needed “recognition”, is peace itself.

August 1st, 2008, 6:50 pm

 

Off the Wall said:

ALEX

Sometimes I get the feeling that whenever the Syrians announce their agreement to do something (e.g., embassy), the “Idiots” in Saudi press hype up the pressure knowing their adversary’s reaction. It seems to me the when one’s reaction is predictable, ones actions and plans can easily be sabotaged by ones “enemies”

I know that no one wants to be bullied, and no one wants to look like caving to pressure, but since Syria is taking principled actions, the idiots can shout as much as they want, Bashar should just keep on going with what he adopted and agreed on. This is what the Syrians are doing with the peace process and with breaking the isolation now, completely ignoring both the Saudi press and and the paid for Egyptian penmans for hire.

As they say, the Saudis want Syria to get sucked into playing the “jakara” game.

August 1st, 2008, 7:25 pm

 

Shai said:

OTW,

Hello again! What’s your take on Hezbollah’s latest comments regarding Israeli incursion into Lebanese airspace? (See Qifa Nabki’s article in the next thread). Do you think a confrontation is likely again? Could such a thing strengthen HA in any way? The entire peace process, after all, does not exactly act as a “stabilizing effect” upon HA, nor does it help its raison d’etre or certainly its tens of thousands of rockets.

What’s your take on this?

August 1st, 2008, 7:30 pm

 

Off the Wall said:

SHAI,
Sorry but I have been out this news cycle. I will read relevant materials. It seems that dangerous things are occurring.

August 1st, 2008, 7:59 pm

 

Shai said:

OTW,

See my comments with QN’s in the next thread (News Roundup).

I’m heading in soon… Have a great weekend.

August 1st, 2008, 8:03 pm

 

Alex said:

I agree OTW,

This started in 2006 when Syria completely ignored all the daily M14 statements (from Jmblatt, atfat and others).

But when it comes to the embassy … Syria really would have preferred not to bother opening one. Afterall, Syria only has less than 50 embassies worldwide. A Syrian embassy is not a recognition or lack of recognition statement. An embassy is simply an extra cost that Syria would rather avoid, except where necessary … countries where Syria needs to have an envoy (Paris, Washington …), or countries where there are many Syrian expats…

So … if it is opened, it is really because of popular pressure in Lebanon. But Syria would like to make sure it is understood as the response to popular demand from Lebanon and not part of political and media pressure from the adversaries.

August 1st, 2008, 8:16 pm

 

Off the Wall said:

Alex

Ah, i see the point.

August 1st, 2008, 8:23 pm

 

Alon Liel said:

Dear Ford Prefect

I would really love to tour Damascus with you and your driver-friend last week. The story you tell us about the new atmosphere in Syria did not reach us in Israel so far. If every Israeli would be able to meet you face to face or to join you on your recent Damascus tour, things would look very different, but this is difficult to organize.

If your testimony is correct, and I am sure it is, we will finally sense it here in Israel. We need at this stage to let our media tell us the story about your changing counrty. The interviews of Ambassador Imad Mustafa and of Dr. Samir Al Taki last week, started to present to the Israelis a Syria we did not know. We just need another major interview now to make the big difference in our public opinion. We need an interview with your President, Bashar Assad, to an Israeli TV station. Such an interview will refuel our recently slowed down negotiations, and will positivly engage our public to back the Syrian-Israeli peace process.

If this will happens FP, my taxi driver will consider calling his soon-born twins, Bashar and Asma.

Alon Liel

August 1st, 2008, 9:12 pm

 

Qifa Nabki said:

Dear Alon,

Thanks for your comment.

What are your thoughts about the prospects for peace, now that Olmert is on his way out? Your colleague, and valued Syria Comment regular, Shai, believes that prospects remain good.

August 1st, 2008, 9:48 pm

 

Ghimar said:

MAJHOOL,

I would give you a discount or for-free treatment if you give me your non-MAJHOOL ID 🙂

August 1st, 2008, 10:21 pm

 

Majhool said:

Ghimar,

sho mukhabarat?

August 2nd, 2008, 3:05 am

 

norman said:

Dear Alon,

Nice to hear from you , Don’t you think that the Israeli house should be more stable before moving forward with an interview with the Syrian president.

August 2nd, 2008, 3:20 am

 

Ahmad Aoun said:

Dear All

It is with no Doubt that the Peace Issue has Attracted your Views & Opinions Like No Other Issue, However, If you take a few minutes Break to Read all your Comments as one, you would Realize How Far we are from Peace, For the Simple Reason that we are still “Pieces”.

He Who does not want Peace would be a Unique Phenomenon in this Life (Ubnormal), Yet He who wants Peace with Ignorance of the Fundamental Peace Requirements would fall beyond Ubnormality.

Despite your Several attempts to promote Peace on this Forum, None had a Clear view on the Definition of Peace, I mean National Peace,

Allow me to Raise this Query:

Had Any of you tried to Link Peace with Rights?

From what I’ve read so Far I could only see one Clear Vision on the above Question, and that is Nour’s,,, While all of you are still practicing Kids Anxiety to posses a toy.

National Issues can not be subjected to passing circumstances or individual Moods, and definately the Peace Issue you are addressing is no Toy,

Palestine:
When Palestinians were asked to Leave their Homeland in 1948, they were told that it was a temporary Measure for the Sake of Maintaining Peace,,,
Where are those Palestinians Now?
what Rights do they Enjoy?
What future do they Have?
and Most Important,, Where on earth is Peace to them without their Rights?

Has anyone Realized the Damage Caused by those “PEACE Pioneers” Then, to the many Palestinian Refugee Generations who were Born later to swallow the Cosequences of the 1948 Peace claim?

Iraq:

The U.S invaded Iraq to achieve “World Peace”, Resulting to Death Tolls Beyond Immagination, Not to mention the Fragmentation of the Iraqi People, Turning a Solid Country into a bunch of Secterian communities.
And don’t forget the Deterioration of Iraq’s Economy and many many More ” Peacefull” Conclusions.

Lebanon:
Have we Forgotten the IDF Invasion to South Lebanon “1982” for the Sake of Fighting Terrorism and Maintaing Peace in The Region?
No, We haven’t.
Why don’t you ask Yourselves how was Peace in that Region during that Peacefull Campaign?
Have you Visited The Khyam Concentration Camp? Have you ever wondered what was Peace Like at that Era?

Not to Mention the Israeli 2006 Peacefull Campaign that ended with over a Million Peacefull Gifts to the Lebanese People, “Cluster Bombs” and Depleted Uranium Residues..

Need I cite More Examples?

Peace can not be treated as a Dream or a Desire, Peace is not a Bonus for being a Good Boy, Peace is not a Grant by Super Powers,Peace is not a Political Issue, Rather a National Issue.

Peace is a will of Life, and Life with No Rights is No Life.

We all want Peace, But Never on account of our National Rights,

And when it comes to National Rights, Peace is not Given, Peace is Taken by the Will of the Nation. A Nation that Respects every Drop Of Sweat Poured on its Soil by its Ancestors to preserve it to the Present Generation, and a Nation That Respects the Rights of its Unborn Generations to their ancestors Soil “Homeland”.

With Due Respect My Brothers and Sisters, addressing the Issue of Peace can not be handled while you are enjoying the Peace of Other Nations and your Country Men, Women and Children are subjected to all sorts of suffering.
You Can not look at events taking Place Back Home as if you are watching a Movie,,

Wake Up, Look ahead, preserve your Children’s Rights to their Land, Pave the Way to a better Life for them.

Peace is Rights and Freedom, and Rights and Freedom are nothing but struggle for a better Life.

August 2nd, 2008, 4:32 am

 

Majd Al-Shihabi said:

This article just made my day, week, month, year, life!

I love it!

PS props for the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy reference 🙂

August 2nd, 2008, 5:33 am

 
 

Ghimar said:

Majhool;

I wish….I applied, but my candidacy was strongly rejected!

August 2nd, 2008, 1:53 pm

 

Alon Liel said:

Dear Qifa and Norman

Thanks for your comments. All of our Syrian friends must understand that the talks we have now in Turkey are a result of the Syrian determination to move forward. This determination convinced Olmert that Syria has changed. The rest of our leadership was hardly exposed to the recent information coming from Damascus throught the Turkish mediators ,and niegther was our public. We have to make a renewed effort to convince Olmert’s successor and the Israeli public as a whole, and it should start now.

We also have to further involve the Europeans in our dialogue. We see growing good will in Europe and should expect at this stage the appointment of a European envoy to the talks in Turkey. This will give the talks additional strength and depth and will make it impossible for our next government to unilaterally stop them.

President Assad is visiting Iran today. It will be an amazing development if after this visit he will grant an interview to an Israeli media organ. This will position Assad as an independent statsmen with courage and vision.

Alon

August 2nd, 2008, 5:29 pm

 

Majhool said:

Ghimar,

Rejected? Shame on them. I guess you are not a fierce mountaineer

August 2nd, 2008, 5:44 pm

 

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