“Syrian Economy in Downturn,” by Ehsani

Syrian Economy in Downturn
by Ehsani 2
April 1, 2008 for Syria Comment

According to a number of Syrian industrialists that I have spoken to lately, business conditions seem to have deteriorated markedly as of late. 

Set below are some of the explanations that were offered to explain the reasons why:

1-      Iraqi authorities have made it very difficult for Syrian trucks to transport goods from Syria and back.

2-      Trade with Lebanon and Jordan has suffered a setback as well

3-      Increased import and other duties on Syrian importers.

4-      General lack of liquidity in the economy.

5-      The recent slide in the dollar and its impact on trade.

The domestic purchasing power was never adequate to satisfy the industrial production capacity. Syrian industrialists have long relied on increasing demand from neighboring countries.  Clearly, the drop in demand from Iraq has had a noticeable negative impact on sales of various Syrian producers.  Due to the tightening fiscal situation, the finance ministry has recently increased the fees on the import of raw materials as well as finished imported goods. Such fees now make up almost 30% of the total value of such imports. Given that Syrian merchants look to turn their capital close to three times per annum, this would mean that after one year’s worth of business, fees will equal total capital committed.  Such fees would require a substantial profit margin to make up for the taxes levied.  The slide in the value of the US dollar and the recent gyrations in the value of the Euro have added to the risks involved with such imports.  Passing on the higher costs to the already stretched domestic consumers has become a real challenge. The response of the business community has been to wait and see in the hope that conditions would improve. Nevertheless, this morning, two large manufacturers reported that they have no choice but to lay off a number of their employees. Having seen production lower for a number of months now, they have finally decided to reduce their payroll count.

On another note, the launch of the Syria stock market is now officially postponed for another eight months.  Supposedly, it is due to the lack of finding a supplier of the software system that would operate the exchange. This of course was the same excuse offered a few months ago when another delay was made official. Moreover, the official in charge of the project (Mr. Imadi) has made it clear that when the market does officially start it will be for “investors” and not “speculators”. Those who buy shares on day one will not be able to sell on the same day they were purchased. Somehow, we are led to believe that if you sell 24 hours later, then you must be an “investor” and not just a “speculator”. This is total nonsense.  Today, people are only allowed to sell 24 hours after they purchase. What is to stop the authorities in charge from changing the allowed time to sell for an extra week or month if sellers seem to overwhelm the buyers at the time? This initiative has been a disaster from day one. One is hard pressed to find anything optimistic to write about on this subject matter.

The average Syrian citizen is feeling the strains of rising prices and the slow lifting of subsidies. The Prime Minister has hinted a new wave of wage increases that would add close to SYP 20 billion to the budget deficit. Fuel prices (Mazot) have raised the cost of a liter of that key commodity to SYP 50 per liter. The subsidy program dictates that it is sold to the public in the range of SYP 7. This will cost the Syrian treasury SYP 1.2 billion a day. The government seems to have decided to subsidize only 1000 liters a year to each family (supposedly 82% of the family’s consume this much per annum).  This will be impractical if not imposible to implement. The general rise in the cost of raw materials and inflation will supposedly be met with “an iron hand against anyone who dares play with the public’s economic well being”. 

Were the government to succeed in raising the salaries of the state employees, private sector employees will not be as lucky. The high national unemployment rate will continue place downward pressure on private wages as unemployed continue to underbid the wages of the employed.

In sum, the recent performance of the Syrian economy and the manufacturing sector in particular has suffered a clear deterioration. The Government is also under tremendous pressure to contain the recent hike in prices. The subsidy program will continue to put tremendous strain on the government’s ability to meet its obligations. While most observers are happy to see Emaar ‘s latest dazzling commercial real estate brochures, it is important to highlight the fact that underneath all this, the economy’s future outlook does not look so bright.

 This story in Syria-news (Arabic) is about Syrian trucks that have been held for weeks at the Iraqi border.  عشرات الشاحنات السورية محتجزة في العراق وسط ظروف إنسانية سيئة
For a contrasting interpretation of Syria's economic outlook, this story by Oxford Business Group is interesting. Notice that it does point to US port restrictions and a possible impediment to Syria becoming a major regional transport entrepot.
.
April 1, 2008
Having gone through a series of ups and downs over the past decade and a half, Syrian-Iraqi relations are experiencing a definite upturn of late.

In the past few years, the heaviest traffic along Syria's border with Iraq has been a human one, with more than 1.5m Iraqis seeking sanctuary over the border. However, that seems set to change, with ties between Damascus and Baghdad thawing and trade set to soar.

On March 16, Amer Hosni Lutfi, Syria's minister of economy, met with Fawzi Francois Hariri, the Iraqi minister of industry and minerals, to discuss the need to increase trade links between the two countries. Apart from agreeing to promote joint investments in the textile and agriculture sectors, the talks focused on the possibility for opening the Syrian ports of Latakia and Tartus for both Iraqi imports and as an export outlet.

Evidence of Syria's link to Iraq is the oil pipeline running from the Kirkuk fields in the north of Iraq to the Syrian port of Banias on the Mediterranean. The pipeline was put out of action in the early days of the 2003 US-led invasion and none of the bomb or corrosion damage it suffered has been repaired since.

However, on March 26, Russian energy firm Stroytransgaz announced it had signed a deal with Iraq to reactivate the pipeline, which has the capacity to carry 300,000 barrels per day (bpd).

The pipeline would do more than give Iraq another export option for its oil. If restored to full operational capacity, analysts predict transshipments would earn Syria between $1bn and $1.5bn in transit fees annually.

In mid December, Syrian Oil Minister Sufian Allaw said after a meeting with Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister Barham Ahmad Salih that the section of the pipeline running through his country had been upgraded and was ready to receive shipments, though he acknowledged that repairs to the Iraqi section could take up to two years.

The same month, Syria announced it had completed the first stage of a free trade zone covering 2.5m square metres at al-Ya'robya on its border with Iraq. According to Ahmed Abdulaziz, head of Syria's Free-Trade Zones Authority, the new facility was part of efforts to increase trade exchanges between the two neighbours.

Another development that will have a major impact on the Syrian economy in the future is Iraq's plan to open up a large natural gas field close to their joint border. In mid-March, the Iraqi oil ministry called for tenders to develop the Akkas gas field in the province of Anbar. Once operational, it is intended that some of the field's output be exported directly to Syria for domestic use, with the remainder possibly being shipped to Europe or Turkey, with Syria again a likely route for transshipment.

Another factor that may further improve Syria's trade relations with Iraq was the visit to Baghdad by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in early March. While in Baghdad, Ahmadinejad proposed to assist with the rehabilitation of the run-down Iraqi rail network, and in particular the establishing of a direct rail link connecting Iran, Iraq and Syria.

If undertaken, the project would allow the rapid movement of Syrian exports to Iran, as well as speed up the flow of imports by avoiding the circuitous route presently used through Turkey.

However, Syria's plans to become a major transit route for Iraqi exports could run into difficulties, not least of which are the ramping up of sanctions and restrictions from Washington.

In early March, the US included Syria on its Port Security Advisory List, meaning that any vessels that include a Syrian port among its last five points of docking could be subject to additional security measures by the US Coast Guard when traveling to or arriving in an American port.

"The latest move to put pressure on Syria was prompted by concerns over links between Syria and international terrorist organisations," US State Department deputy spokesman Tom Casey was reported as saying on March 7.

While not preventing shipping from using Syrian ports, the decision could serve to discourage some maritime lines from operating through Syria due to the delays the security measures could impose.

However, to date, US-imposed sanctions have proved to be more of a nuisance than a real impediment to the Syrian economy. With Syria's exports to Iraq having broken through the $1bn mark in 2006, and believed to have performed even better in 2007, Damascus sees its neighbour as a willing customer and, in time to come, a significant trade partner.

On the Israeli economy:

"The main basis for our buy stance on all of the four banks over here that we cover is because the domestic economy is still booming — fixed investment is growing, household investment is growing, and things actually on the ground here are not suffering. That said there's a big link between the Israel and U.S. economy so we have to be careful on a slowdown in the second half of the year. So far there are no real signs of a slowdown.''

Comments (221)


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201. Shai said:

Qunfuz,

Thank you for the articles. Indeed they are thought-provoking. But while I do agree with Joe M. that a one-state solution would be the most just one, and would almost at an instant begin a true process of forgiving and reconciliation between our two peoples, I just fear this is not a realistic solution right now. While many, as the articles suggest, are attempting to find a “winning formula” to market the one-state solution to leaders, and then to their people, I again agree with Joe M., such a formula is not sought by, nor will be deemed favorable, to almost any of the current leaders in the region. I don’t see any leader in Israel standing up and trying to explain to our people the advantages (let alone the justice) behind such a solution. It is deemed such a “taboo”, that despite our democratic political system, it would be sheer political suicide for any candidate/existing leader to bring it up.

The first article correctly suggests that so many arrangements are already being discussed, in a two-state solution (intelligence and security, economy and trade, environment, extraction of water, regional urban planning, tourism, immigration, single economic zone, a customs union, a unified citizen database, etc.) And that “In essence, what is being discussed… on further analysis looks remarkably close to some variants of the one state solution.” What I believe may happen, if a peaceful two-state solution is found and implemented, is that one day, just as it happened in Europe, Israel and Palestine will say to each other “Wait a second, what are we doing? This is ridiculous!… Let’s open the ‘fricken borders, let’s allow each other to reside/work wherever we want, and let’s convince the rest of our neighbors/region to do the same. Let’s create the UME.”

The French and the Germans hate each other no less than we do. Their history is FAR more bitter than ours, spanning hundreds of years, endless wars, millions of dead. Yet today, open borders, single economic union, and free movement, employment, and residence, are shared by the two, like never before in history. As Abu Amir stated, a Martian having visited during WWII, would not believe his (multiple) eyes, seeing France and Germany today. But although Germany was defeated in WWII, it still needed to have its own borders, and to be separated from the French, for quite a few decades later. The French and the Germans needed to live separately in peace for a while, before considering living together. Of course there are major differences between our case, and the EU, but there are also great similarities which we can learn from I believe. I will not be dissuaded easily from my UME dream…

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April 5th, 2008, 9:21 pm

 

202. Naji said:

Shai,
Do you realize that the only disagreement between us is over that silly name you keep insisting on…?! For God’s sake, the middle of what and east of what…??!! I cringe every time you say UME… Let’s compromise and call it United Syria and be done with the thing already…!

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April 5th, 2008, 9:31 pm

 

203. Shai said:

Naji,

Getting to SA will be too long, too expensive, and too difficult to get to especially for the ME residents here. Cyprus might work, maybe Greece (I don’t know about Syrian visas, etc.) I’m not sure it needs to be as “serious” as HP might have intended originally, but also not a mere friendly “BBQ” get-together. It needs to be something in between. I agree with Qunfuz, and others, that it must be informal, not attract the media, and not focus on Israel.

Other than that, let’s wait to hear Alex’s/Joshua’s thoughts. If we don’t have their blessing, it can’t be an SC meeting. It would have to be a “Joe M.’s Our Man!” Conference… 🙂

Naji, I’m willing to call it “United Syria” (U.S.), UME (United Middle East), or UNS (United Naji’s and Shai’s). As long as it brings us peace, and gives our children hope and a better future, I’ll go along with anything!

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April 5th, 2008, 9:32 pm

 

204. Joe M. said:

Seeking the Truth,

The “demographic threat” is a term used by Israeli academics and politicians to describe the situation where Jewish citizens are eventually outnumbered by Palestinian citizens of Israel. Currently 20% of the recognized(citizens) Israeli population are Palestinian, while 80% are Jewish. But the rate of growth in Palestinian communities is much higher than the growth rate in Jewish communities. This is differences is projected to make Jews the minority even among citizens in approximately 2040-2050. Seeing this potential future, Jewish politicians and academics are obsessed with figuring out ways to maintain their majority. The propose things like the “transfer” of the Palestinian Israeli citizens to any future Palestinian state (and stripping them of their Israeli citizenship. Other proposals include increasing Jewish immigration to Israel, or to increasing Jewish birth rates. All of the proposed “solutions” that I am aware of are very problematic, even in the eyes of most Israelis.

There is a further aspect of the “demographic threat” and that is that currently Jews are an absolute minority in Israel. As the Palestinians in the occupied territories + the Palestinians with Israeli citizenship currently outnumber the Jews in Israel. This is the major reason Jews are opposed to a one-state solution, because they would not longer have majority control of Israel.

In my view there is no problem with this, and accepting the reality of this “treat” is actually the most viable means for them to make peace with the region. But, of course, I don’t think this would be easy for them. But it simply is reality.

Here is a wikipedia post about it (i didn’t read it to see whether it is accurate or not):
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Demographic_threat

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April 5th, 2008, 9:38 pm

 

205. SimoHurtta said:

The Egyptian army is based on American weapons and within three years of not receiving replacement parts will be useless.

An interesting piece of history AIG.

http://www.thehindubusinessline.com/businessline/2000/07/05/stories/040555su.htm

Gandhi threw up both hands as if warding off some evil and said, “Please don’t involve me!” He told me, too, how a panicky Jawaharlal Nehru had appealed to Israel for ammunition during the China war. David Ben-Gurion at once despatched 120-millimetre Tampella mortars plus ammunition and spares for two regiments. But when, in answer to questions, Nehru pretended that the consignment was a commercial purchase from some other country, Ben-Gurion put an end to the dissimulation and said he would give nothing more unless publicly asked for and acknowledged.

Tampella was a Finnish company operating on many fields. Also the Soltam M-68/-71 155mm has direct links to Tampella. Egypt has bought the Patria 155 GH 52 APU. Patria is the Finnish weapon producer, owned by Finnish state and EADS.

Isn’t the world of international arms trade mysterious. Iran was during Shah the biggest customer of Israel’s weapon industry. And the business links continued even after Gulf war one.

——–

I am little confused reading the critics made by the “democracy supporters” of the regular blog comment writers against Joe M’s opinions (which I find very realistic). Isn’t it clear that if 98 percent of Arabs (and Muslims) are not very happy with Israel and its present policy it would reflect to democratically elected governments. Now suddenly these comment writers are somewhat irritated when pro-American dictators are called as puppets.

AIG mentioned Israel being a strategical asset to USA. Well that might have been true during cold war when Soviet block had influence in Middle East. But nowadays it is impossible to see Israel as a strategic asset for USA unless USA’s interest is to destabilize Middle-East (which it seems to bee). Israel has no considerable natural resources. Israel has without doubt much technological know-how, but nothing that could not be shipped “abroad” during a couple of months (well maybe dismantling Dimona would take longer).

The tight relations with Israel certainly do not make it for USA easier to keep good relations with the Arab countries. Especially now when the financial power of the world is dramatically changing.

For Arab countries Israel is basically completely irrelevant in economical terms. It has nothing to offer what EU, Japan, China, India and Russia could not provide. And these powers are eager to make trade to pay for the gas and oil. The recent French nuclear power station deals to Libya, Algeria and UEA are a sign of that. Germans are not so happy when their old business ties with Iran are blocked.

The only thing which makes Israel important for Arab countries is the Palestine problem and Israel’s military domination.

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April 5th, 2008, 9:46 pm

 

206. AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Seeking,
The so called demographic threat is nonsense. Forecasts show that in 2030 1 in every 4 Israeli citizens will be an Arab.
http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-3523625,00.html

It would take a 100 years or more for the Arabs to become a majority in Israel at the current growth rates, but extrapolating that far into the future is a fool’s game especially since the Israeli Arabs are getting richer all the time and their fertility rates are going down as is usually the case.

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April 5th, 2008, 9:47 pm

 

207. AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Sim,
That is an interesting historical fact. Thanks.
The point I was making was that if according to Joe M.’s plan most countries in the region become anti-US, this will be the same situation as in the cold war and the value of Israel to the US will go up.

Of course democratically elected governments in Arab countries would be against peace with Israel. No one disputes that. But, they will also be against war with Israel and any government accountable to its people will not wage war on Israel. Israel does not need more than that.

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April 5th, 2008, 9:53 pm

 

208. Qifa Nabki said:

Joe said:

And I do think the majority of Arabs would accept something like the Arab peace initiative (for the time being) if Israel would accept it. But my position is a reflection of two major factors: 1) I do not believe that Israel wants peace, and will not accept even the major concessions offered in that peace initiative, 2) that the effects of the dominance of Israel and the control of the USA has been very great on Arab society.

I agree with you. Although I don’t think that all Israelis do not want peace. Probably many do want peace, but under terms not acceptable to the Arabs. Of course there are people like Shai (who are the exceptions), but even among those who would accept what Arabs deem to be an unjust solution, I believe that they can be won over to the Arab peace initiative under the right conditions, which I’ll get to below.

[Why did Lebanese Shi`a change from] pragmatism to self-empowerment? I think it is largely because of the viability of Hizbullah as it increased its organization and effectiveness.

Agreed. But, to me, there is still a highly pragmatic dimension to Shi`a politics in general and Hizbullah’s strategy specifically. The support for Palestine and the conflict with Israel – while being sincere causes for Hizbullah – function more importantly as a lightning rod and as a pretext for the maintenance of the party’s weapons. The weapons, in turn, function as a source of political leverage in Lebanon. The justified Shia paranoia about being trampled upon plays a large role in the community’s support for an armed protector in the form of Hizbullah. I think that the
Shia would be amenable to the ‘normalization’ of Hizbullah (i.e. giving up its weapons and thereby abandoning the larger struggle against Israel), if the party’s primacy could be fully channeled into the political sphere. So, while I recognize that Hizbullah is an example of what organization and effectiveness can do to self-empowerment, I also believe that this self-empowerment is really the empowerment of the Lebanese Shiite community (not Arabism in general), and the commitment to the Palestinian cause is just one piece of this. When given a choice between a two-state peace (at the cost of Hizbullah’s de-militarization but with the guarantee
of political equality in Lebanon) and continued conflict, I think the Shia will choose the former. This is what Michel Aoun is counting on, at least. And it is also what my friend Alex is counting on, incidentally. I am willing to give them the benefit of the doubt, for the time being.

As for your points about the Israeli rejectionism of the Arab peace plan, I share your frustration and some of your cynicism. But I still believe that our strategy should be based on implementing this plan, at least for the short term. If, according to you, enough pressure can be put upon Israel to accept a one-state solution, then surely enough pressure can be leveraged for them to accept the peace initiative. In fact, we are much closer to an acceptance of the peace initative than to the solution you are describing.

You said: “In order to get something like the Arab peace initiative to hold, the Arabs have to get stronger anyway.” I think that the Arabs are strong enough now, if you take into account the right Arabs! (Namely, the groups that Israel is worried about, Hamas and Hizbullah.) That is why I asked you about the sincerity of their rhetoric. If Hamas and Hizbullah came on board (unofficially, of course, signalling their assent via their silence), then Israel might just bite.

By the way, I’m not entirely sure I believe this. If you believe it isn’t true (like I do, at times), then you will find yourself at odds with all of those Syrians on this blog who are imagining that Hizbullah and Hamas will play nice, if/when Bashar gets his peace deal.

Strangely, they are happy to argue with me on this issue, but not with you!

Ahem ahem… : )

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April 6th, 2008, 12:37 am

 

209. norman said:

QN ,

I do not think that Israel wants peace , I think Israel wants to keep the land of Palestine , and make the lives of the Palestinians so bad that they will immigrate , they are even doing that to the Israeli Christians and Muslims , they are playing for time , they started doing that with Oslo accord which only increased the settlers and the settlements , and opened China and other countries including Arab countries to Israel , and they are still doing that ,if we look at history we can see that Israel respond only to war and pressure , they left Lebanon not because of the US pressure or the United Nation’s resolutions , they did because of Hezbollah and the Lebanese resistance , Lebanon should be proud of what it did , Syria is still waiting for a return of the Golan , Even Hams pushed Israel out of Gaza while Israel is still in the West Bank .

Although I like the one state solution and in a country like the US we see that people of many religions and ethnic background can live together , I do not think that is possible now as there is a lot of hatred , Two states first then work on making one state when people learn to trust each other and think of better things to do with their lives than conflict and fighting .

I am very pessimistic that If Israel does not move fast to solve the Palestinian problem , more wars will be coming and as long as Israel can not occupy the Arab land and rule all of them It will not survive , we can tell that from the cost that the US is taking from being in Iraq , so can Israel suffer 8 Billion $ / Month , or do they expect the US to pay for that too.

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April 6th, 2008, 2:37 am

 

210. T said:

A suggestion as per Syria and ME economies in general. If Muslims used a similar technique to Jewish community by mandating the certification of all products sold worldwide or in the West as Halal, their economies would always be protected:

The “Kosher Nostra Scam” on the American Consumer
by Ernesto Cienfuegos
La Voz de Aztlan
Los Angeles, Alta California – 4/27/2002 – (ACN) La Voz de Aztlan receives quite a few “news tips” per week from our many subscribers and readers. Some we dismiss immediately but a very few catch our attention. Last week we received an e-mail asking us if we knew the significance of the small encircled letter “U” or letter “K” that can be found printed on many food cans, food packages and on other kitchen products. The message gave us some clues and suggested that we do some research into the subject. What we found certainly was “news” to us and it both shocked and angered us.

On arriving at my residence, I immediately went to the pantry to verify that what I had just learned was actually true. Sure enough, most of the packaged and canned foods from major companies, like Proctor & Gamble and others, did have the (U), the (K) or other similar markings. The Arrowhead water bottle, the instant Folgers Coffee, the Kelloggs box, the Jiff Peanut Butter, the Pepper container, the Trader Joe’s tea box and even the Glads plastic sandwich bags carton had the (U) or (K) mark on them.

We needed a little more verification so we called two major companies to asked some questions. We chose Proctor & Gamble that markets the Folgers Coffee and the Clorox Company that manufactures the Glads plastic zip lock sandwich bags. Each of the two companies, as well as most others, have 1-800 telephone numbers printed on their packages for consumers to call in case they have any questions about their products. When we asked the Proctor & Gamble representative what the (U) meant on their Folgers Coffee container, she asked us to wait until she consulted with her supervisor. She came back and informed us that the mark meant that the coffee was ” certified kosher”. We than asked her how and who certified the coffee to be “kosher” and whether it cost any money to do so. She refused to answer these and other questions. She suggested that we write to their Corporate Public Affairs Department. We than called the Clorox Corporation to ask what the (U) meant on the package of their Glads plastic sandwich bags and she also said that the (U) meant that the plastic bags were “kosher” but refused to answer questions concerning payments the Clorox Corporation has to make in order to be able to print the (U) on their products.

What we learned next, pretty much floored me personally. I learned that major food companies throughout America actually pay a Jewish Tax amounting to hundreds of million of dollars per year in order to receive protection. This hidden tax gets passed, of course, to all non-Jewish consumers of the products. The scam is to coerce the companies to pay up or suffer the consequences of a Jewish boycott. Jewish consumers have learned not to buy any kitchen product that does not have the (U) the (K) and other similar markings.

Another shocker was learning who is actually behind these sophisticated “Kosher Nostra Scams.” It turns out that the perpetrators of these elaborate extortion schemes are actually Rabbinical Councils that are set up, not just in the U.S. but in other western countries as well. For example, the largest payola operation in the U.S. is run by those who license the (U) symbol. The (U) symbol provides protection for many products sold here in Aztlan and in the United States. This symbol is managed by the The Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations with headquarters at 333 Seventh Avenue in New York City.

The scam works like a well oiled machine and is now generating vast amounts of funds, some of which are being utilized by the Union of Orthodox Rabbis to support the Ariel Sharon Zionist government in Israel. The website of the Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations is full of pro-Israel and anti-Palestinian propaganda.

The “Kosher Nostra” protection racket starts when an Orthodox Rabbi approaches a company to warn the owners that unless their product is certified as kosher, or “fit for a Jew to eat”, they will face a boycott by every Jew in America. Most, if not all of the food companies, succumb to the blackmail because of fear of the Jewish dominated media and a boycott that may eventually culminate in bankruptcy. Also, the food companies know that the cost can be passed on to the consumer anyway. The food companies have kept secret from the general consumer the meaning of the (U) and the amount of money they have to pay the Jewish Rabbis.

It is estimated that the Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations, which manages the (U) symbol protection racket, controls about 85% of the “Kosher Nostra ” certification business. They now employ about 1200 Rabbi agents that are spread through out the U.S. Food companies must first pay an exorbitant application fee and than a large annual fee for the use of the (U) copyright symbol. Secondly, the companies must pay separate fees each time a team of Rabbis shows up to “inspect” the company’s operations. Certain food companies are required to hire Rabbis full time at very lucrative salaries.

The amount of money that the non-Jewish consumer has paid the food companies to make up for the hidden Jewish Tax is unknown, but it is estimated to be in the billions since the scam first started. The Orthodox Jewish Councils as well as the food companies keep the amount of the fees very secret. The Jewish owned Wall Street Journal wrote about the problem many years ago, but they have stopped writing about it now.

Only public awareness concerning the “Kosher Nostra Scam” will eventually help stop this swindle of the American consumer. Public education of the scam may lead to an eventual non-Jewish boycott of all products with the (U), (K) or other Jewish protection symbols. I certainly do not need to pay extra for “kosher water”, “kosher coffee” or “kosher plastic sandwich bags”. In fact, I demand my money back for all I had to pay over the years for the hidden and illegal Jewish Tax. Are there any bright attorneys out there that could bring a class action suit against the Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations on behalf of the citizens of Aztlan and other non-Jewish people?

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April 6th, 2008, 3:33 am

 

211. AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

QN, HP and Joe M.,
Azmi Bishara’s latest op-ed piece in Al-Ahram hits the mark squarely.
http://weekly.ahram.org.eg/2008/891/op1.htm

His position is very similar to Joe M.’s but his solution is the right one:
“Resistance can accomplish important partial gains while forestalling the normalisation of a colonialist condition. However, the major challenge to Israel is at the regional level and resides in the cumulative progress the Arabs can achieve towards building their capacities to withstand Israel, through the modernisation of their states and societies, through the performance of such essential tasks as building their deterrent powers, economic development and democratisation. The struggle is a long one, but it must be conducted, and at a proper pace. Time is not in favour of Israel; it is in favour of whoever uses it astutely. That is one of the most important lessons of the past 60 years.”

This is the last paragraph in the article (this is Bishara’s style, he preps his readers for the “bad” news in the end).

Joe M., the main problem with your point of view and plan is that you do not understand Israel well enough, neither its Jewish population nor its Arab population. Azmi Bishara understands Israel inside out. He is an Israeli Arab and a long time member of the Knesset. If you have a chance, read his articles, or talk to him. For example, the chances that the Israeli Arabs will revolt or rise up in any way is zero, but of course coming from me, you will not find it credible. Ask Bishara.

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April 6th, 2008, 5:24 am

 

212. Shai said:

AIG,

I agree with a lot of what Azmi Bishara says. I happen to think he is a very smart Arab Israeli, whether or not he passed intelligence onto the “wrong” parties, I don’t know. But I believe that one of the reasons why modernization and democratization of ME states and societies has not occurred in the past 60 years has been precisely because the leaderships have consistently used the “essential tasks (of) building their deterrent powers…” against the Zionist state, for the “resistance”, as the ultimate excuses. By shifting attention to Israel and its crimes, Arab leaders have tried fooling their populations as to their real threats. Instead of focusing on poor education, economy, corruption, standard of living, freedom of speech, basic rights, etc., they repeated the “Israel is killing our brethren, and YOU’RE next!” mantra. Not that most Arabs were fooled by this, but they simply could do little to enforce their will upon their leaderships.

As for Arab Israelis, while I agree that they’re unlikely to revolt anytime soon, I have yet to understand why they do not join hands, and embark on a “1 million Arabs march” (not 5-10,000) across Jerusalem’s power centers, government offices, etc. As you and I know, when certain minorities do not get their basic rights met in the U.S., they organize and march on the capital. Arabs in Israel should do the same. If they do it smartly, in a truly controlled and non-violent fashion, no policeman would dare shoot at them, and the TV screens will be airing it for days and weeks. Many more journalists will be flooding their towns and villages thereafter, covering their (justified) claims, frustrations, and injustices.

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April 6th, 2008, 6:00 am

 

213. Naji said:

Shai,
What are you and AIG doing around here this morning…?! Aren’t most Israelis supposed to be army reservists and are supposed to be on this mother of all military exercises today and for the next week…?! Are you AWOL, or did you just give yourself away as actually living in the US, not in Israel…??!! 😉

Well, good morning anyway… it should be an interesting day today…!

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April 6th, 2008, 7:20 am

 

214. Shai said:

Naji,

Good morning. At last I understand what you meant by April 6th… 🙂

No, most Israelis are not participating in the 4-day exercise, thank god. I have no particular desire to run around pretending to have been struck by some nanosized biological germ, nor to go plan the horrific retribution that could be expected. This drill has many purposes, as you can imagine. One is to indeed show Israelis that “someone” is thinking about “all the scenarios” (ya’ani). Another could be Barak’s nice little way of gaining a few more votes in an upcoming election. And yet another could be sending a message to Hezbollah, saying “we’re gettin’ warmed up for another round, so think carefully…” Personally, I’d like to think NONE of the scenarios will occur. I think you probably agree…

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April 6th, 2008, 7:54 am

 

215. Qifa Nabki said:

AIG,

Thanks for posting the piece by Azmi Bishara; it is excellent.

He doesn’t commit himself to a complete rejection of the two-state solution; he simply says that the current one manufactured by the US/Israel is not acceptable. I still believe that a two-state solution (even one that is much more far-reaching than the one on the table) would be much more amenable to Israelis than a one-state solution.

And, of course, I agree with him (and with you) about the urgent need for democratisation. What is funny to me is that we sometimes talk about it on this blog as though it were a choice… “should the Mideast democratise, or shouldn’t it? Hmmmm, good question. Well let’s say that it does, just hypothetically, how fast should it do it, etc.” And so on…

I think people haven’t sufficiently taken into account the effect that the Internet and cable news are having and will have on the region, within the next 10-20 years. I believe that it will be a bombshell.

Maybe we should all switch over to the new post… this one is getting long.

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April 6th, 2008, 1:24 pm

 

216. Honest Patriot said:

Dear Qunfuz, thank you for giving my posts a read.
You say: “I’m disappointed to see HP attacking Joe so fiercely. I mean, Shai is able to get on with him! Joe is articulate and logical, and his perspective is close to what seems to me to be a majority in the region. I also don’t like HP’s use of the word ‘radical’ as an insult. Too long in North America, HP! Say what you mean. And what’s this about ‘the Western civilisation’? There are plenty of Hizbullah supporters who admire the civilised bits of the West.

You may be right that I have been in North America too long, but while there may have been a downside to such residence by bein less in-touch with the opinion of the local “masses,” one benefit is understanding the Israeli and U.S. point of view. I agree with AIG when he says to Joe M:

Joe M., the main problem with your point of view and plan is that you do not understand Israel well enough, neither its Jewish population nor its Arab population.

I would add that Joe M has also a lack of understanding of the power, commitment, and the workings of the logic and outlook of most Americans. I count myself in this crowd.

My disagreement with Joe’s approach, and what tipped the scale for me in considering his approach “radical,” are his statements about those who genuinely tried for peaceful approaches, in particular Sadat and the organizers of Oslo. I read in Joe’s apparent rejoicing at the assassination of Sadat and dismisall of the intentions, characer, honesty, intellect, and strenght of those he calls “puppets,” I read in such characterizations as a radical rejectionist position. It reminded me of the kind of emotional nationalism that – without adequate preparation – led to the defeats of ’48, ’67, and even the forced acquiescence to the accommodation post ’73. The kind of understanding I currently have — as an observer — of the conflict, of the people, including, importantly, the power and position of Israel and the U.S., leads me to the conclusion that even if a one-state solution or a UME or other integrated systems may be the long-term ideal moral and practical solutions, there is no way they can be reached without an intermediate, lengthy period of peace (through a 2-state solution or something similar) coupled with reconciliation, trade exchange, and genuing economic improvement in all the Arab countries.

Naji, ya ibn-khaleh 😉 , while I see that Joe has provided a compelling description of a one-state solution and of the principles that argue to the necessity of such approach if true justice is to be achieved, I don’t see that he has won the argument, nor that he has even convinced Shai. I think you are misreading Shai – which sometimes may be easy to do by failing to see through the veil of supreme genteelness, politeness, and smoothness of his style. I would venture to say – although I’m ready to be proven wrong – that a few of the recently silent folks here (Alex, patriarch Josh,…) have the same opinion of the impracticality of Joe’s recommended approach.

As I said before, Joe is clearly of a superior intellect, and if indeed his real-time interface can be as eloquent, then his most important contribution would be to join the debate in the national media in the US to make the case he sees. Regrettably, there is a dire lack of such effective discourse with strong advocates of the Arab positions. Part of the “war” with Israel is this persuasion war. Let’s hear Joe in those forums.

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April 6th, 2008, 1:24 pm

 

217. annie said:

AIG “Why-Discuss,
The facts are simple. About the same number of refugees came from Arab countries to Israel as from Israel to Arab countries. Israel assimilated its refugees and solved the problem. The Arabs decided to dehumanize the Palestinians and use them as a weapon instead of integrating them into their societies as citizens with full rights.”

Standing logic on its head; what does a jew who leaves Morocco have in common with a Palestinian who is expelled from his land? How is the Palestinian responsible for the Moroccon et al. jews leaving their country ?

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April 6th, 2008, 1:59 pm

 

218. Qifa Nabki said:

Naji

Thanks for posting the articles from al-Akhbar. I find it interesting that Jean Aziz is writing for them. He’s an odd fellow, with seemingly contradictory politics (even though he’s very smart). But such is Lebanon.

Keep them coming.

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April 6th, 2008, 2:00 pm

 

219. AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Annie,
Thank you for proving my point. Let’s assume that the Palestinians are not responsible for anything. That only makes the fact that the Arab countries did not ofer them the option to become citizens even more reprehensible.

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April 6th, 2008, 2:29 pm

 

220. ugarit said:

Joe M.

With your eloquence I’m going to have to re-learn English 🙂 Be careful you’re about to reveal you professorial roots 😉

Thank you for providing such clarity to the issues.

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April 6th, 2008, 9:01 pm

 

221. wizart said:

Wall Street Access

IN A FEW WEEKS, THE MAJOR integrated energy companies will report March-quarter results. Buoyed by all-time high oil prices and strong gas prices, many companies will report record earnings — this, despite seasonal (perhaps cyclical) declines in downstream — oil refining and marketing — profits.

One can gauge the strength of March-quarter results by the price data. On a year-on-year basis, light sweet oil prices rose by $40 per barrel, and European spot gas prices — as gauged by the U.K. National Balancing Point index — doubled.

Domestic natural-gas prices rose about 20% year on year.

Like all energy analysts, we are dealing with the conundrum of high oil prices. We believe that $100-plus per-barrel oil prices cannot be sustained — not in a slowing global economy, though the pain has been cushioned by the weak dollar for most of the world (the oil trade is conducted in U.S. dollars). Some prominent market watchers have documented the flow of “hot money” spilling into commodities (see, for example, the March 28 cover story in Barron’s “Commodities: Who’s Behind the Boom?”).

Though this trend seems unsustainable to us, even unsupportable trends can sustain themselves longer than most observers realize.

The chickens may yet come home to roost, but they were massive and untamed in the first quarter — and appear equally fierce so far this quarter. Just to account for what has happened to date, we have raised our full-year 2008 oil price forecast (West Texas intermediate basis) to $80 per barrel from $75/barrel previously; this assumes a fairly sharp oil-price reversal later in the year from the first-quarter WTI average of nearly $98 per barrel.

Source: Barrons

P.S: By the way the cost to pull oil out is around $8 per barrel and Exon alone produces more oil than anyone in OPEC except for Saudi Arabia and Iran.

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April 9th, 2008, 4:06 pm

 

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