Syrian-Israeli Talks, More Iran

Turkey: Direct Israel-Syria Talks Imminent
by Ben-Yechiel

( Direct peace negotiations between Israel and Syria are imminent, according to a Wednesday report in the Arabic language newspaper Al-Hayat. In the report, Turkish officials announced that the direct talks will follow the upcoming round of indirect talks between the two countries.

Yoram Turbowitz and Shalom Turgeman, advisors to Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, arrived in Ankara on Tuesday to discuss the possibility of launching direct talks with the Syrians. The next round of indirect talks, the fourth, is slated to begin in two weeks' time.

Israeli and Syrian negotiators will decide on a start date for the direct negotiations, as well as the composition of the negotiating teams, in about a week and a half, after Syrian President Bashar Assad returns from a scheduled trip to Paris. Assad will be attending a conference in the French capital, alongside Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak.

The Turkish sources were quoted as saying that France also plans to mediate in the talks, primarily with regards to the Shebaa Farms land dispute.

Assad called the political climate in the Middle East Earlier this week "positive," and called on the EU to intensify its involvement in the peace talks with Israel.

"The political climate in Israel is generally positive. We must give the different political processes a new push in order for them to proceed in the right direction," remarked Assad in a Damascus meeting with Norwegian Foreign Minister Jonas Gahr Store, reported Sana, the Syrian government news agency.

Optimism is taking wing in the Middle East: The Israelis and Syrians have been negotiating and Israel and Hamas are two weeks into a cease-fire. But is the Arab-Israeli conflict moving toward a resolution? A closer look at the situation reveals myriad and contradictory interests at work, making it unlikely that there will be a comprehensive peace in the Middle East soon…..

But what is Syria's stake in all this? Why do the Syrians all of a sudden appear flexible and moderate? ……

For all his eagerness to rejoin the international community, however, Mr. Assad will not budge without first trying to extract a few concessions. Principal among these is an assurance that the UN tribunal charged with bringing to justice the killers of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri will not implicate the Syrian regime. ……. Assad does not believe he can elicit such a guarantee from the current US administration, and brazenly announced that there will be no Syrian-Israeli agreement in 2008.

Rayyan Al Sawaf is a freelance journalist in Beirut, Lebanon.

[Landis comment: Who would have guessed that Rayyan al-Shawaf was Lebanese?! Contrary to Sawaf's brazen assertion, Syria is not dealing on the Hariri trial. It has never asked for a deal on the Hariri trial nor has it brought it up in negotiations. To do so would indicate Syria's guilt. Syria insists it is innocent. Shawaf is making up his claim that Syria insists on bringing the trial into the negotiations with Israel or intends to do so with a new administration. Assad's supposition that a deal with Israel will not be signed while Bush is president is not proof — nor does it even suggest — that Syria is searching for protection from the trial. US guarantees for both countries will be at the center of negotiations, but they won't be about the Hariri trial. If we take Camp David as a model, both countries will be looking for bucket loads of money and security benefits from the US. That is why the US must be a participant to the negotiations and an eventual deal. Both countries are counting on the US paying a royal ransom to stop Syria's military support for Hizbullah and Hamas. This is not about Hariri.] 

Spy Games in Iran
By: David Ignatius | The Washington Post

The United States appears to be running some limited covert operations across the Iranian border. But according to knowledgeable sources, this effort shares the defect of broader U.S. policy toward Iran — it is tentative and ill-coordinated, and it undermines diplomacy without bringing serious pressure on the regime….

The covert program illustrates the larger dilemma facing the Bush administration and its successor — what to do about an aggressive and increasingly confident Iran? The Iranians make little effort to hide their own covert-action campaigns — including extensive financial and military support for Hezbollah in Lebanon and Hamas in Gaza. The Iranians have used Syria effectively as a platform for these intelligence operations, from political action to paramilitary operations to clandestine terrorism…

Saudi Arabia has taken a tougher stand to oppose what it sees as Iranian meddling in the region. There are reports out of Syria, for example, that the Saudi military attaché in Damascus was expelled a few months ago after the Syrians uncovered what they believed was a plot to pay $50 million in subsidies to members of a prominent Syrian tribe. One source said the money was simply intended to support the kingdom's longtime tribal friends rather than organize political opposition to President Bashar al-Assad. But the Saudis have made no secret of their desire for regime change in Syria…"

The Odds are Against an Attack on Iran By: Rami G. Khouri | The Daily Star
I expect the U.S. and Israel to finally accept the reality that a military strike, no matter how punitive, would only temporarily set back Iran's nuclear capability, because the technological knowledge is already in Iran's hands and cannot be destroyed with bombs.

Softer Tone From Iran Has Experts Guessing
By: Helene Cooper | The New York Times
Iranian officials on Tuesday continued their long history of befuddling Western diplomats, as two top officials sounded conciliatory notes about the prospects of eventually breaching the impasse between the West and Tehran over the country’s nuclear ambitions.

U.S. States Continue to Divest from Businesses Tied to Iran By: Brian Radzinsky | World Politics Review

Eleven U.S. states have adopted legislation to divest public pension funds from companies with financial ties to Iran's petroleum, defense, and nuclear sectors in an attempt to persuade Iran to give up its uranium enrichment program and alleged sponsorship of terrorism. Almost 20 more states are considering similar legislation to supplement existing federal and international sanctions.

This is the first time that state investments have been leveraged for nonproliferation goals. During the 1980s, anti-apartheid activists urged state and local authorities and some universities to divest holdings from companies invested in or doing business with South Africa. During the 1990s, humanitarian activists persuaded Massachusetts to divest from companies "doing business with" Myanmar. More recently, almost 30 states passed legislation to divest from companies with investments in or engaged in trade with Sudan. The Iran case is unique, however, because divestment legislation explicitly references Iran's alleged sponsorship of terrorists and its uranium enrichment program….. conducted an 18-nation public opinion poll on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict released yesterday. The poll finds that in 14 nations people mostly say their government should not take sides in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.  Just three countries favor taking the Palestinian side (Egypt, Iran, and Turkey). No country favors taking Israel’s side, including the United States, where 71 percent favor taking neither side.

Israel Still Paying for its Defeat By: Jeff Jacoby | The Boston Globe
Two years after its war with Hezbollah, Israel is still paying for its defeat.

From Triumph to Torture By: John Pilger | The Guardian
Israel's treatment of an award-winning young Palestinian journalist is part of a terrible pattern.

Comments (200)

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151. Shai said:


In’shalla. But I’m not sure what will happen once Olmert is forced out of office. People are forgetting that the investigation against him (6th one now) is very much going on, and rumors have it that the case against him is very strong. If there’s even the slightest indication that an indictment is likely, he’ll have no choice but to step down. This may well happen in the next few months. Plus, the Kadima primaries are set for September in any case, and it is doubtful that he’ll run.

The real question will then be – can another Kadima member take over the party, and continue to lead the government (Livni, Dichter, Mofaz, etc.), or will Barak force new elections by not playing along, and pulling Labor out of the coalition. If the first, then there’s a good chance that the talks will lead to an agreement sometime next year. If the latter, then we’re very likely to see Netanyahu win the next election, and probably suspend talks (certainly with Olmert’s representatives) at least long enough to “learn the topic”. Which basically means long enough for his voters to forget his strong anti-Syria rhetoric leading up to the election.

Netanyahu will then do a complete 180, restart talks with his own people, and eventually reach an agreement. I doubt he’ll let this opportunity, with all the potential it has for ending the Arab-Israeli conflict once and for all, to slip through his fingers once more. He, unlike his AIG-like supporters, does not require democracy first in Syria… 🙂

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July 4th, 2008, 6:52 pm


152. norman said:


It looks to me that whenever an Israeli leader try to make peace with Israel neighbors an investigation starts and ends with reshuffle of the decks, do yo think that Israel uses it’s democracy to buy time and avoid a long lasting peace?.

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July 4th, 2008, 7:14 pm


153. Shai said:


No, I don’t think so. The investigations against Olmert started long ago, when he was Mayor of Jerusalem, government minister, and member of the Likud party. At that time, Olmert had basically zero influence over the peace process. What you could suspect, perhaps, is that this latest investigation which clearly had a major breakthrough with the Talansky exposure and cooperation, may have been encouraged or even premeditated by Talansky’s close friends… at the Likud party, and its various “representatives”. Viewing Olmert as another ex-Likudnick turned-“liberal” (another was Sharon, lest we forget), quite a few back in the Likud would certainly be happy to see him forced out of office. Who knows, maybe some of them were able to make Talansky come-back-to-life…

You know, our politicians are so power-hungry nowadays, that so many of them, through the entire political spectrum, are corrupt. Long gone are the days when a PM resigns because his wife was found to have a foreign-currency account with $1000 in the U.S., at a time when the law did not permit it… Rabin did the honorable thing, back then in 1977, and resigned. Today, they can steal, cheat, rob, rape, you name it, and still stick around to “lead” our nation. Sad thing is, that most Israelis are just too exhausted to even tackle this issue. We desperately need peace in this region, so that Israel too could begin focusing on internal matters, far more than external ones…

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July 4th, 2008, 7:29 pm


154. norman said:

Thank you.

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July 4th, 2008, 7:37 pm


155. Qifa Nabki said:

Norman & Shai

Model citizens you are 🙂

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July 4th, 2008, 8:12 pm


156. Off The Wall said:


In principle, I agree with you on the universality of “the Right of Citizenship”. But abandoning the right of return on one side will not help. If refugees are to relinquish their R.O.T. by virtue of becoming citizens of whatever nation they are in, Israel must also re-visit the foundation of its immigration laws and accept the country first as home to its current citizens both Jewish and Gentiles. Granted, refugees from other countries, where antisemitism, or for that matter, racism, is rampant and can endanger the lives of these countries’ Jewish citizens is a humanitarian issue that can be handled by non-racist immigration laws including asylum laws.

One of the main psychological issues in the Israeli-Arab conflict has to do with the Right of Return. One must not forget that constant infusion, with automatic citizenship of Jewish immigrants from all over the world is a key source of strength for the settlers movement in Israel. As the state attempts to accommodate them, it is forced to continue the immoral occupation, to hold on to and grab more lands from Palestinians and other Arabs, and to maintain discriminatory policies against its own Arab citizens. With no limits on the Jewish-only immigration, citizens and governments of neighboring countries will always view Israel as a potentially expansionist state, and from past practices, it would be hard to dissuade them from thinking this way. As you see, if the demography is a legitimate concern of Israel’s Jewish citizens, it can also be an important concern of its neighbors, especially as Israel claims the power to disseminate the entire region, and has constantly demonstrated capacity to harm and inflict pain on its neighbors. The fact that there are 150+ million Arabs is of no concern to a farmer is southern Lebanon who can easily lose his farm to future generation of Israeli settlers.

Israel being a parliamentary democracy does not help much. First of all, the US is a democracy, but that has not prevented our governments from launching quite few illegal and immoral wars. Furthermore, any observer of the electoral politics in Israel realizes that right wing parties do have choking hold on government policies. Given that, who is to prevent a right-wing dominated Israeli government from re-occupying the west bank, expanding into southern Lebanon, Syria, Egypt, or even Jordan and the northern parts of the Arab peninsula, would it be the toothless Israeli left?, peace now? or enlightened academics. After all, the central premise of western powers’ middle eastern policies has been the complete elimination of any possible deterrence, and I emphasize, deterrence, to Israel’s power. We all know that the west can, with ease, guarantee the safety of Israel, but they are going for far more, they are ensuring its hegemony and working very hard to eliminate any counterbalancing power with the blessing of pro-likud lobbies in their own countries. It is rather unfortunate that the Israeli left continues to jump on the band wagon of war and hegemony as seen in recent years regarding Iran. This leaves Arab intellectuals and moderates with no true partners, at least at strategic level.

From your posts, you seem to be a reasonable and rational person with genuine interest and longing for peace and justice. With you, i would dare to say that Israel must change more dramatically than its citizens are willing to before a true and long lasting peace can be achieved. We are changing, much more than the anti-Arab propaganda gives us credit for. Are Israelis willing to? I am afraid to say that this does not seem to be the case.

I want to be an optimist, but as some claim that the autocratic nature of Arab regimes eliminate the chance for true peace, i would argue that racism in Israel and the unwillingness of the majority of its citizens to accept the requirements for true peace does the same

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July 4th, 2008, 9:51 pm


157. why-discuss said:


Syria cannot make a deal with Israel without Hizbullah.

In Syria, I know that Palestinians have the obligation to serve in the army: The syrian army for university graduated students and the palestinian army ( yes there is one in Syria) for the others.
It would be interesting to know in details what are the rights of the palestinians in Syria, is anyone knows?

In my opinion, Syria can very well make a deal with Israel for the return of the Golan and the paiement by Israel of compensation to Palestinians in Syria, but it is not sure they will have any clause to deal with the palestinians in Lebanon. Why would Bashar give a gift to Lebanon while the “majority” has been calling for his head in the last 3 years..
Syria does not need to get involved more than that. They may rein the weapons transfer to Hezbollah who would gradually become a political force rather than military. Hezbollah has achieved its primary goal of freeing all lebanese prisonners, including their own fighters. The liberation of Chebaa is being discussed in the UN. As Hezbollah has never committed to fight for the return of the palestinians, this is a lebanese goverment issue.
Even if Hezbollah has fulfilled its commitment with the prisoners exchange, bringing Israel to the negotiating table on the issue of the Palestinians refugees is a much larger task and it is beyond its power. This would call for an active involvement of the international community, as it will require the UN to pressure Israel and seek money and countries for the refugees.
The danger is that when Syria has a deal with Israel and Iran’s nuclear issue is hopefully solved, the international community will loose interest in the palestinians refugees in Lebanon and would concentrate in priority to deal with Gaza and the occupied land.

The chance for starting to solve this issue is NOW. If Lebanon courts Syria before the deal is finalized, Syria may include some kind of clause to open a negotiations between Lebanon and Israel on a peace plan tackling the issue of Lebanon’s refugees.
Otherwise the palestinians in Lebanon will have to wait until peace negotiation is initiated with Lebanon to get some kind of solution.
Here again Syria’s help would be invaluable, but would the lebanese accept to ask Bashar for help?
In any case Palestinians in Lebanon will not be offered citizenship in Lebanon. After the painful experiences of the civil war, Nahr el bared etc..I doubt any Lebanese would be willing to accept that. Unfortunately the palestinians from the refugees camps, after decades of neglect, do not represent an asset to the country economy, religious and social developement.

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July 4th, 2008, 10:04 pm


158. why-discuss said:


You are comparing Lebanon to the US.
Receiving 800,000 uneducated refugees on a population of 4 millions is like having the US accepting around 40 millions refugees. The US has accepted less than 2,000 Iraqis!

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July 4th, 2008, 10:20 pm


159. Qifa Nabki said:


You make some good points.

We’ll have to wait and see what happens.

In my opinion, the Lebanese-Syrian rapprochement is already underway. Hariri will be meeting soon with Nasrallah, and Jumblatt is as meek as a little lamb. There is a reason that these people have been around for a long time… they know how to read the writing on the wall.

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July 4th, 2008, 11:21 pm


160. Off The Wall said:

Could you please ellaborate are you talking about 800,000 “un-educated” Iraqi or Palestinian refugees in Lebanon. If you are talking about Palestinians, I must say that the chauvinist attitude of some lebanese politicians is what maintained them un-educated after nearly 50 years of dispossession. As for Iraqis, i have no information, whatsoever to argue for or against.

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July 4th, 2008, 11:35 pm


161. JustOneAmerican said:


The UN estimates there are a bit over 400k Palestinian refugees registered in Lebanon of which about 225k are actually residing in Lebanon or about 10% of the population. Of those, a much smaller number were actually born outside of Lebanon. By contrast the number of foreign born persons in the US has been between 10 and 15 percent every year for more than 100 years. All those “uneducated” refugees are one of the secrets to America’s success. Maybe the Lebanese should give it a try.

And really, if 2nd and 3rd generation Palestinians are still uneducated, you’re just reinforcing my point. I’m simply suggesting that preserving the right of return does not necessitate keeping Palestinians in a perpetual second-class status – in fact one might argue the right of return is more achievable if Palestinians are given the opportunity to lead productive lives, become educated, ect.

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July 5th, 2008, 1:08 am


162. norman said:

Why- Discuss,QN

No matter what Lebanon or any other Arab country did to Syria , You can always count on Syria to look after the Arabs anywhere , I think Syria is looking to broker a deal between Israel on one side and Syria , Lebanon, the Palestinians and Iran on the other side ,all at the same time , That will give Syria it’s legitimate place as the leader and the heart and the brain of the Arab nation.

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July 5th, 2008, 1:20 am


163. why-discuss said:

Just on American

You are right about the ‘uneducation issue’. Don’t misundestand me, I blame vigorously previous Lebanese government short-sight in treating the palestinians like subhumans, denying them the right to work that encouraged many of them to turn to violence and resentments towards their host. The fact today is that most of the Palestinians residing in Lebanon are uneducated and do not have much respect or trust for the Government of Lebanon. Unfortunately because of the attitude of the Palestinians during the destructive Lebanese civil war, the reprehensible reactions of the ones who worked and resided in Kuwait toward Kuwaitis after the invasion by Saddam and their coup attempt in Jordan, all this makes most Arabs fairly suspicious about the motivation and the loyalty of the Palestinians to any other host country.
If one consider giving them citizenship or full lebanese nationality, besides the potential upheaval of the religious balance in Lebanon, no one can deny that there are negative psychological and economical factors that have to be taken into accounts and that could create another layer of internal conflicts in Lebanon..
Syria has had a much more positive attitude toward the palestinians refugee, giving them most rights enjoyed by the Syrians, while keeping them under strict control. I believe, but no one can be sure, the Palestinians in Syria have some respect for the Syrian government. This is why I think that their integration in Syria may be smoother. Yet this is to be seen…
By the way,
“The number of Palestine refugees registered with UNRWA in Lebanon is currently 409,714, or an estimated 10 per cent of the population of Lebanon, a small country which is now quite densely populated.”
According to the UN:
And this does not taken into account the ones who are not registered with UNRWA. Imagine the US having 30 millions uneducated refugees in camps that they are suppose to give citizenship to. US cannot do that for their estimated 8 millions illegal residents, how do you expect Lebanon to deal with that issue?
This issue is extremely important and has been avoided by Israel and the international community, who by the creation of Israel have created the problem. If the Jews were compensated with billions by European countries for their ordeal and were given a land to live in safety, why would the Palestinians settle for less, after having lived not few years like the jews but 60 years without a home.

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July 5th, 2008, 2:42 am


164. norman said:

The new government is today to be announced and Aoun got the deputy prime ministry and four cabinet posts , I think that is a Winn for Aoun.

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July 5th, 2008, 3:50 am


165. SimoHurtta said:

QN Palestinians in Lebanon are not so “downtrodden” that they can’t say their opinion about the citizen issue. I QN doubt that most Lebanese are not willing to take all these Palestinian refugees as fellow citizens if the Palestine problem is not first solved. And that can be solved only if Israel is ready for it.

We must also separate between the issue of the work possibilities etc living conditions of the refugees and the full citizenship. QN Lebanon could have long time ago made the Palestinians’ in Lebanon living and working conditions better and more equal compared to citizens. But it has not done it. Why QN? As a Lebanese you must know the answer.

The Palestinians like exile Tibetans living next door their homeland do not want the citizenship of those countries where they now locate, because it would take away their strongest “political weapon” – clear national identity and justified demands. I can imagine what Israeli politicians would say if Palestinians would get the citizenship. “What are you Lebanese and Syrians speaking about the right of return.” Already they are saying indirectly that using the excuse that most of the refugees have never lived in Palestine. Well knowing the history of Israel the moral of that way of thinking is mildly said “interesting”.

We can also compare the Palestinian refugee situation with the situation of the “Israeli” Syrians living in Golan. They do not want Israeli citizenship even many of them have never lived in Syria (Syria after 1968). Why QN?

By the way, Happy 4th of July to everyone! Although celebrated in the U.S., it should be a day for all free citizens of the world to celebrate.

Even I like Gina Lollobrigida have been born on July the 4th (honestly) I do not agree with you Shai. Why on earth should the world’s free citizens celebrate the US independence day? US was the last western country to have slavery, one of the latest to give women voting rights. It used apartheid until the 60’s. USA has pushed hundreds of millions of the world citizens in to circumstances where they were not free in Latin America, Asia and even in Europe. Not to mention the numerous wars USA has started.

Should Shai the world’s religious extrimists have a party on May 14 / 5th of Iyar?

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July 5th, 2008, 4:39 am


166. wizart said:


For sure America’s still young and has a lot to do to mature. Good old Paris is also still dealing with racial issues although I think your larger point means America could have led the way better.

Related article..

….Since then America has grown up, both culturally and politically, expanding its civil-rights legislation to closer reflect its founding principles of equality, while at the same time shedding some of the cultural conservatism that in the late 1950s led to the prosecution of the poet Lawrence Ferlinghetti for the publication of Ginsberg’s drug- and sex-laden “Howl and Other Poems.” As it’s done so, inevitably the egalitarian appeal of Paris has declined with it. It’s not just the Americans that the French miss, as much for economic as sentimental reasons to be sure, but the idea that France, and Paris in particular, was somehow markedly distinct and different from the United States and the rest of the world. If there’s a nostalgia for the American presence that was once here, it’s a nostalgia directly tied to the idea that Paris was once more open, more politically and culturally liberal and therefore easier to live and create in than most other cities. As Odile pointed out to me, following the birth of the euro and the subsequent rise in the cost of living, “France became more like the others,” the others being the rest of the Western world, and America in particular, where commerce and not culture is the dominant social factor.

A recent walk along Boulevard St. Germain with a French book editor and friend quickly became an exercise in nostalgia as he tried to recall the names of some of the smaller family-owned stores that had dominated the street before the explosion of French and foreign chain stores took over; “None of this was here,” being the phrase he used most often to describe what’s happened since. Perhaps even more emblematic is the decidedly pro-American business model of the current president, Nicolas Sarkozy (aka “Sarko L’Americain” as he’s sometimes mocked in the French media), whose attempts to adjust the retirement age of civil servants and squeeze more efficiency out of the government have been met with massive nationwide strikes that seem aimed more at holding on to the remnants of a vanishing culture than challenging the logic of the policy.

Today it’s impossible for me to imagine the sense of refuge and sanctuary that other Americans once found here. Paris has its own complicated racial issues to settle; as the violent riots in the suburbs of Seine-Saint-Denis recently demonstrated, there is little fraternité or égalité when it comes to France’s large and growing African and North African immigrant communities. As a writer of African origin, I’m aware that it’s precisely my American identity that protects me not only from the casual discrimination that other Africans experience here, but from the harassment of the police, who are prone to stopping Paris’s African immigrants, particularly those living in the northern sections of the city. The food market near my former apartment in the 18th arrondissement, which in almost every detail, from the languages spoken to the fabrics of the women’s dresses and the haggling at the vegetable stalls, was a perfect replica of some of the markets I’ve known in Africa, could sometimes feel like a market under siege with a constant and heavily armed large police presence marking the entrance off the Boulevard Barbès. The policeman’s common cry for papiers, papiers — documents proving legal residence — is one that I know I can all but ignore thanks to my American accent first, and my passport second.

James Baldwin noted shortly after he first arrived in France, “I didn’t go to Paris. I left New York.” Inherent in that statement is the idea that it wasn’t the destination but the departure that mattered most. I can’t help but think that to some degree that sentiment still holds true, although for drastically different reasons than before. Paris has lost some of what once made it so special and unique, enough so that it’s hard to imagine another outburst of American cultural creativity taking place in Paris again anytime soon. Why Paris when there’s the rest of the world, much of which is cheaper and more unknown? It’s a question I hear constantly, less so from Americans than Parisians who seem baffled by my decision to be here.

At the same time, perhaps that is the real, private joy and freedom of being in Paris these days — the freedom not from politics or culture, but from an expatriate community in which to define yourself as part of or against. Shortly before I left America for Paris I had spoken with a friend about the possibility of moving to Buenos Aires. “Buenos Aires could become the Paris for our generation,” she noted, and I could see why she said that. I had heard rumors of other people that we knew moving there, or if not there then to other cities around the world that were supposed to be indicative of a certain cultural vibrancy and easy, carefree life.

I can’t say that there’s much of either to be found in Paris these days, which is why I suppose there’s a search for its newest incarnation, whether it’s in Buenos Aires or Berlin or another destination that is supposedly rumored to be the next great spot, the place where we all really should be. The pressure of being fashionable has lifted from the city, and if possible by extension to the writers who live in it, leaving us free to wander and sit in complete anonymity with only our own thoughts for comfort in a way that would have been impossible 20 or 40 years earlier.

Unlike many of the writers and Americans who came here before, my reasons for being here are purely selfish and self-absorbed, with nothing and no one to run from. I used to say that I came to Paris because it was so quiet, in large part because at the time I could hardly speak the language. While today that may no longer be as completely true, the city still strikes me as quiet. There’s no romantic ideal to be lived out here anymore — no cafés, readings or events that can’t be missed. What remain today are largely ghosts that are easy if not even comforting to live amongst. They had their Paris — garrulous and crowded with the politics and culture of America — and now finally, with no one else around, I can have mine.

Dinaw Mengestu is the author of “The Beautiful Things That Heaven Bears.”

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July 5th, 2008, 8:48 am


167. kamali said:

i wish and only wish to konw how josh got to know that Hariri T is not on the table in any talks. what is said in the media over the table is never like what is said under the table espcially with a state like syria. just wish to know!!

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July 5th, 2008, 9:42 am


168. Shai said:


I didn’t mean for the world’s free citizens to celebrate AMERICA’s independence day, I meant to celebrate their own freedom in general. It was just the “concept” of the 4th of July. In the U.S., it is viewed as far more than celebrating Independence, but indeed freedom. I agree with you, I find no reason for non-Americans to celebrate any American day, and vice versa.

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July 5th, 2008, 10:36 am


169. Shai said:

Off the Wall,

Thank you for the thoughtful response.

By receiving other citizenships, I actually don’t think the Palestinian refugees should relinquish their R.O.T. I suppose if in the end there will be some sort of agreement regarding compensation options, then certain Palestinians living abroad (perhaps most) will have to choose between the R.O.T. or probably some financial award of some sort. Our Gaza settlers received around $450,000 per family, so something similar might be extremely useful to Palestinians living in nations where the p.c. GNP is 1/15th or 1/20th of that of Israel’s. But this is just an idea – I haven’t really thought about it much, nor do I have the background to really come up with a figure. But in theory, certain families might choose to actually not give up on their R.O.T., yet still become citizens of Lebanon or Syria. They should be able to maintain this right for as long as they wish, just as Jews worldwide have had a R.O.T. to Israel all these years.

In general, I also agree with you that Israel at some point will have to “revisit” its own R.O.T. laws with regards to Jewish-only citizens of other nations. Obviously, this policy has existed (and still is) for the main purpose of building a strong, and more populated, nation. For the sake of comparison, and jumping back to the somewhat irritating discussions about the likelihood of Iran dropping an atomic bomb on Israel one day, there is clearly a huge difference between an Israel with 2 million citizens, or one with 7 million. But, I very much agree that there will have to be an end one day to this automatic-citizenship law, which clearly discriminates against others. If Israel is to be a nation, amongst all others, it must behave as others do. I think when Israelis live in peace with their neighbors for a few decades, they will stop feeling their innate paranoia, and will at last (for the first time in 2 millennia), feel safe at home. Racism and antisemitism will indeed have to be dealt with as a special case, as you mentioned.

I disagree with you about the connection between R.O.T. Jews over the years, the Settlers and the Occupation. The two are not related. Most immigrants were not “sent” to the Palestinian territories, though clearly many Settlers are indeed originally from other nations. Israel is a small nation, true, but there is still plenty of land to settle, which does not necessitate “lebensraum” into the Territories. The main reason Israeli governments over the years (all of them) settled and occupied these territories, has been, as they believed it, in Israel’s best strategic interests. It may be true, however, that many of the religious settlers in the West Bank are immigrants (mostly from the U.S.), and they may tend to be the more extreme ones. I don’t know why, but I find the “Israeli” settlers to be slightly more pragmatic than the religious Americans… But it’s a subjective feeling, nothing empirical. It may or may not be true in general. Plus, I haven’t exactly come into regular contact with Settlers. I’m nowhere near them, and they’re usually nowhere near me…

As for Southern Lebanon, I don’t think the Lebanese should worry about Israeli settlers occupying their land. Although the Israeli army did indeed occupy S. Lebanon for 18 years, not a single Israeli civilian was allowed to “move in”. The real exceptions are Gaza, the West Bank, and the Golan. The first was already vacated, and the last two need to be handed back as well. As two Arab summits in Beirut and Riyadh have declared, if this takes place, and hence Israel will have withdrawn to the 1967 borders, and an accepted and just solution is found to Palestinian issue, the Arab-Israeli conflict will be over, and the “3 Yes’s” will come into being.

I completely understand your frustration with Israel’s democracy, and in this case its historic choke-hold on peace. True, the Right can easily take over and attempt to reoccupy Gaza, or to continue settling the W. Bank and the Golan, etc. But although I do believe that if we now had elections, the Likud will almost undoubtedly return to power, getting back its “fatter” parliamentary dimensions (it now has only 13 seats in Knesset), I don’t believe Netanyahu will allow the extremists run the show. Israelis are getting tired of watching their soldiers die in idiotic and cruel military adventures, or certainly war. So if the Right attempts to move away from peace, I imagine the Arab side (Hamas, Islamic Jihad, even Fatah, Hezbollah, Syria, etc.) will certainly go back to the Intifada-style resistance, and the level of violence will increase ever more. This will again have its effect a few years down the line, and once again the sides will be forced to negotiate an end.

You don’t know how much I agree with you about the foolishness of the ongoing attempts by Israel and the U.S. to offset the balance of power in the region. Both are attempting to force their terms of peace upon their counterparts, and I find that to be an utterly useless exercise, and quite frankly, idiotic. We simply don’t seem to understand that the BEST thing that can happen to us, and the most STABLE peace, will occur only between two powerful sides (even if we have to actually make the other side seem more powerful that it is). If Israel insists that Syria disconnect its alliances with Iran, HA, and Hamas, first Syria will never agree (and hence that will become a peace-stopper), and second, that would weaken Syria’s ability to deliver this peace (and turn it into an Egypt of 1978). It should be in our interests to maintain much of the current balance of power in the region, and to make peace with exactly those rivals who are our bitter enemies at the moment. The more “bitter” the enemy, the “sweeter” the peace. This is my belief.

Lastly, I’m afraid you’re also right about most Israelis not being ready yet for the dramatic changes you talked about. The next steps, therefore, will not yield the much sought-after long lasting peace. Hopefully, they will yield at least “superficial” peace long enough to begin changing Israelis and others around us. The levels of fear, suspicion and distrust prevalent amongst most Israelis towards Arabs are just too great to dissolve quickly. It’ll take quite a few years. But I also believe that people of this region are far more capable than many in the “West” give us credit for, we’re much more capable of adapting to new situations quickly, and we will therefore also be able to change more rapidly. Give us one or two decades of peace and quiet in the region, and suddenly Shai will not be the only Israeli on SC to bring up the idea of a UME (united middle east). Unlike the Europeans and the Americans, who adopt to change quite slowly (they are much more conservative, and less open-minded, I believe), we “Semites” (Arabs and Jews) can create an EC, and EU, and open borders US-style much more quickly. We don’t need to wait 200 years for that to happen. Perhaps we may only need 20. If I’m right, I’ll live to see that day. If not, my children will. I’m certain of it.

As for choosing between being optimistic or pessimistic, in general I suggest adopting the first, as the second renders us essentially useless, doesn’t it? 🙂 In’shalla, enough young men and women in our region will lead us into a better future, for the sake of our children and theirs.

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July 5th, 2008, 11:24 am


170. Qifa Nabki said:


There is a difference between expressing an opinion and calling for citizenship in any kind of organized political fashion. The Palestinians cannot do the latter, and you are right that many of them may not want it anyway. But I insist on the fact that even if they did, there is no viable method of political organization in these camps that does not serve “the regional solution”, which was itself historically dictated by Syria.

A friend of mine (who comments sometimes on SC, actually) worked in the camps in Lebanon, and I asked him once about Palestinian attitudes towards the Lebanese. I assumed there would be a huge degree of resentment and bitterness. My friend – who is European, not Lebanese – shrugged and said, “Actually they’re not all that negative about the Lebanese. It’s the Syrians they can’t stand.” Why? Because it was the Syrian mukhabarat that ran the camps, kept everyone in their place, and were the general power brokers.

QN Lebanon could have long time ago made the Palestinians’ in Lebanon living and working conditions better and more equal compared to citizens. But it has not done it. Why QN? As a Lebanese you must know the answer.

Why? Because there is a lot of animosity towards the Palestinians in Lebanon, mostly among the Christians.

Ultimately my priority is that their conditions are dramatically improved. If granting them citizenship irrevocably alters their refugee status, then a different solution should be worked out.

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July 5th, 2008, 12:28 pm


171. AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Off the Wall,
Let me be to the point and honest with you. Israel is the Jewish state and will remain so for ever. It is the state for the whole Jewish nation, even those Jews that live in other places. The Law of Return granting the immediate right of citizenship for any Jew will never be changed as long as Israel exists. Once you accept this, there is room for peace in the middle east. What Yusuf (aka Shai) is selling you is pure BS.

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July 5th, 2008, 12:31 pm


172. Qifa Nabki said:

Simo’s right… we should all celebrate itsenäisyyspäivä instead: December 6!

Is no one — not a single one of you westernized Syrians out there — going to offer a squeak of a defense of America? 🙂

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July 5th, 2008, 12:39 pm


173. norman said:


Only in the US immigrants become Americans with the same rights and obligations and that is better than the EU ,where minorities are concentrated in areas.

American policies can improve but the American people are of the most decent and generous in the world.

That is what we celebrate in the US .

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July 5th, 2008, 1:18 pm


174. why-discuss said:


The lebanese goverment gave a blind eye for decades to the dramatic economical and security situation of the shia lebanese in the south. A attitude that triggered the emergence of Hezbollah, so imagine how little attention they gave to the palestinians in refugee camps!
Palestinians as well as Shias integration in the lebanese political and religious balance of power represented a real danger, so typical of lebanese mentality, the problem was ignored, hoping it will disappear by magic. Instead, they got the destructive lebanese civil war with active palestinians participation, and the Hezbollah they dont know how to rein.
Would they learn that problems need to be dealt with, and not thrown under the bed to rot?

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July 5th, 2008, 1:22 pm


175. ugarit said:

AIG: If all the Palestinians converted to Judaism will Israel recognize their right of return?

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July 5th, 2008, 2:08 pm


176. Qifa Nabki said:


I think you’re right. So what should the Lebanese do — about the Palestinians, and, about Hizbullah?

Even though I think you would have trouble getting elected in Lebanon by calling the Palestinians and Hizbullah “problems…left under the bed to rot”, I want you to tell me what you would do if you were elected President of the Republic.

Yalla ya fakhamet al-ra2iis, the floor is yours. 😉

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July 5th, 2008, 4:13 pm


177. Akbar Palace said:

AIG: If all the Palestinians converted to Judaism will Israel recognize their right of return?


cc: AIG

To answer your question: Yes, because the Jewish state recognizes Israel as a Jewish homeland.

So this could be an option for those Palestinians who want to return to Israel.,7340,L-3243838,00.html

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July 5th, 2008, 4:59 pm


178. Off The Wall said:

Thank you for the wonderful and excellent response. You have answered every one of my points thoughtfully, and with a great deal of intellectual integrity. I admire that and as a life-long learner, I must say that reading your response. I have learned a couple of things. I stand corrected on few issues and affirmed on few others. Wow, personally, it feels like I am on Charlie Rose or on Bill Moyer, where rational people understand the difference between argument and assertion.

Like you, I happen to believe that a strong, viable, and united middle east is in the strategic interest of all countries in the region including off course Israel. Furthermore, I do agree with you strongly on Israel’s need for peace, for I feel the same need first as a Syrian youth growing in Syria and hoping that one day we will replace the drums of war with songs of prosperity, and later as an American citizen, who sees his adopting country squandering precious lives and resources in countless wars. The notion of United Middle East is not only intriguing, but if realized, it will unleash talents and energy that unfortunately has been wasted over the past 60 years with needless and stupid wars. We both agree that Peace is not cheap, I happen to believe that its first payment is not land, or money. The first true payment for peace is pride. The second payment is suspension of mistrust and fear, and then come land, guarantees and so forth. In my previous post i used the term “One of the main psychological issues”, by that i meant that fears can be the strongest moving force for individuals as well as for societies. On that regard, i do whole heartedly understand the reason for AIG’s comment about Israel being a Jewish state and feel intellectually and emotionally repulsed by any counterargument that denigrates the memory of Holocaust victims. A dear friend and mentor of mine is a holocaust survivor, who wrote a book on his experience as a child in the concentration camp. All he asked me for was empathy, and believe me he got more, and I am the better for that. As i hope that citizens of Israel accept dramatic changes, I do hope that the citizens of neighboring countries make some true efforts in understanding what motivates their neighbors or for that matter cousins.

The middle east including Israel are young societies with the majority of population below 25 and in their formative years. As such the benefits of peace are greater now than ever, but the risks and the cost of failing are also very high. I hope that their leaders will not tie them to the legacies of failures and will be forward looking.

Please correct me if I am wrong, there are those in Israel, and perhaps also in Lebanon who want to be tied to the west, and believe themselves to be part of civilized Europe and not of the un-civilized middle east. Recent history teaches us differently. Take for example Australia, where in recent years, there seems to be an increasing recognition of their Asian connection and understanding that such connection should be strengthened for Australia to recognize its true potential.


I long for the day when Jews, Muslims, Christians, Atheists, Hindus, Zoroastrians, and all the rest can feel that the entire world is their state.Yet, I am not bothered by the notion of Israel being a Jewish state, nor am i bothered by Lebanon being a state with a Christian character. But my acceptance is limited by being repulsed by racism, chauvinism, theocracy, and so-on. The ignorant religious police in KSA or Iran offend my sensibilities in the same manner settlers with guns intimidating Palestinians do.

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July 5th, 2008, 5:14 pm


179. Qifa Nabki said:

OTW, very nice comment.

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July 5th, 2008, 5:51 pm


180. ugarit said:

Akbar Palace: Thank you for your response. Can Israel go on a project of mass conversions of Palestinians so we can put this issue of the right of return of Palestinians to bed? I’m being sincere yet naive I know 😉

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July 5th, 2008, 6:27 pm


181. Off The Wall said:


Is no one — not a single one of you westernized Syrians out there — going to offer a squeak of a defense of America? 🙂

Well, let me take the risk

First, as my friends from South and Central America say, let us distinguish between America, and the United States of America. I will speak of the latter for I have been here for nearly 22 years now.

Second, the current state of affairs in the U.S. politics is indefensible.

Now i can start, the 4’th of July is a very strange holiday. To some amongst us it means celebrating the might and superpower status of the US, to others it gets strangely mixed with the Christian Fundamentalist theology, with manifest destiny, and with the illusion of a god given mission. Yet, to many, especially immigrants, it is a celebration of arriving at the metaphorical shores, where we leave tribalism, internal strife, hopelessness, and embark on a journey of hope, belonging, and at the same time maintaining our heritage and connection to what we cherish in the places we left.

For me, if there is one thing to celebrate on the 4’th of July it would be that during my graduate school years, i studied under professors who came from Iran, Egypt, Lebanon, Israel, many European Countries, China, Japan, Korea, India, and so on. When I started teaching, my students represented similar diversity. I celebrate the fact that I had worked for years with some colleagues without having to, or even wanting to know if they are Jewish, Christians, Muslims, Atheist, or else. I celebrate the fact that I was a leader of a large research team where no two members hailed from the same roots, but where all members did their best, had fun, respected one another and argued with civility and dignity. Needless to say, my experience with the US is skewed by the cosmopolitan character of the US higher education system, (call it the Ivory tower) but I had similar experiences with my neighbors, and i have been living in middle class neighborhoods for years now.

Lastly, i celebrate the chance to indulge in a juicy stake grilled by my expert-griller next door neighbor, smoke a nice, moderately priced cigar, have a double scotch (i do not do well with beer), and talk about trivia such as tiles, best lemon trees, the difference between hummus and baba-ghannouge, grass (the legal one), and you name it. We also argue about whether Obama is a sellout, bitch about traffic tickets and about the little dictators on our home-owners association council. In essence we, same as others do, celebrate living.

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July 5th, 2008, 6:28 pm


182. ugarit said:

Palmyra, Obama and Pascal’s Bet

(For the record, Dr Shaaban does not think a war with Iran was likely.) She didn’t hesitate to answer me by saying she envisaged no change, if a candidate such as Barack Obama settles into the Oval Office next January.

The continuous policy of the United States is to divide and rule, she exclaimed, has been and will be for the foreseeable futuree, to fan schism and internecine bloodletting in the region, to set Arab against Arab, whether it be the communities of Lebanon or the Shia and Sunni in Iraq.

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July 5th, 2008, 6:38 pm


183. Shai said:


Thank you for your great response. It is clear that we share a very similar outlook on what should and could be done in our region, and it fills my heart with hope and optimism to hear people like you articulate so well what so many of us often forget, and that is that so much of our conflict is emotional rather than rational. We fear each other, suspect one another, and distrust because all the emotional triggers have been pushed over the years, and we can no longer separate feeling from reason. They are intertwined in a seemingly gordian-knot, and few are capable of looking beyond the past and the present. Stagnation seems to be our innate choice of action (or inaction), simply because to change means having to deal with rationale and emotions that we are unaccustomed to experiencing (trust, respect, empathy, to name just a few).

Yet, as you say, much of our region now consists of young persons, many of whom are already much more “worldly” than we were in our youth. They have satellite tv’s, some have access to the internet, and to them, the world is far greater than it ever was for us. They cannot be “fooled” by past legacies. They cannot grow and develop through such narrow vision. And, therefore, they will soon (next decade or two) demand change. The future, after all, belongs to them more so than to us, and much of what separates us today will become a thing-of-the-past to our children. It is there, in the younger generation, that my hope lies with regards to forgiveness and reconciliation becoming possible. Just as I hope our Arab cousins (as you so nicely called us all) one day are able to understand what lead a few hundred thousand Jews to escape the cruel and murderous Europe in the 1940’s to the only place on earth they felt they could go, I also hope we as Israelis will learn to accept the price hundreds of thousands of Palestinians had to pay as a result, and feel their pain as well.

Our two tragedies should not have been related, and neither should have ever occurred. Terrible things happened, and we must put an end to the suffering of any and all in the Middle East. No one should live in fear of Qassam rockets, no one should be imprisoned in his own territory, no one should be ruled by another, and no one should remain a refugee for 60 years. But it will take time, and we must find those few courageous leaders that will be capable of leading our people in the right direction. There are too many out there, and all around us, that are unfortunately better at spoiling our attempts to make peace, than at advancing them. I’m still hopeful, however, and especially when I encounter people like you!

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July 5th, 2008, 6:54 pm


184. Naji said:

Wow… we have an amazing new contibutor in OffTheWall…! That’s the cool thing about SC, and what makes it addictive, …it frequently draws some really remarkable commentators…!! I knew that if I kept silent long enough in response to QN’s provocation, someone would come along and say what I wanted to say, but much better than I could ever have… and nobody could have said it better than OTW…! Thank you OTW…!!

BTW, this also makes it easy to leave SC for a while, comfortable in the thought that anything that needs to be said is getting very well said by somebody or another (whoever happens to be at their most lucid at the time!)…!

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July 5th, 2008, 6:57 pm


185. Qifa Nabki said:

BTW, this also makes it easy to leave SC for a while, comfortable in the thought that anything that needs to be said is getting very well said by somebody or another (whoever happens to be at their most lucid at the time!)…!

Naji, what are you talking about?

We’ve been sitting here for months, repeating ad nauseum: “Where is Naji? How could he have left us? When will he come back? *boo hoo*”

AIG, in particular, was deeply saddened by your absence.

Don’t try to get off the hook so easily. 😉

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July 5th, 2008, 7:03 pm


186. Naji said:

… 😀
(Thank god for the modern invention of emoticons… that’s often about the limit of my lucidity these days… and hence, thank god for that other modern invention… Facebook… 🙂 )

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July 5th, 2008, 7:14 pm


187. norman said:


Alex gave you my Email some time ago , I did not hear from you.

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July 5th, 2008, 8:24 pm


188. Off The Wall said:

Dear Shai
Thank you again. I would like to propose your eloquent paragraph stating that

“No one should live in fear of Qassam rockets, no one should be imprisoned in his own territory, no one should be ruled by another, and no one should remain a refugee for 60 years”

as a draft for SC declaration of principles for peace. I loved it and agree with it with no reservation. Additional arguments will then serve to explain the mechanisms of reaching that point.

I found joy and hope reading your comments. I too believe that the next generation will demand change. If we, i mean our generation, do the right thing, we can initiate the transformation of our two interconnected tragedies from sources of conflict into a shared human story of survival, growth, and hope for all. I do not think it is naive to do so, for once the emotional taboos and chains are broken, telling the story of the tragedy becomes therapeutic. Granted we need long therapy, and both of us hope that we have enough time for such therapy.

Thank you very much for the nice comment, 🙂

BTW, Q.N and I do share a lot in common, as we both illustrated during the discussion of Ehsani’s economic forum few weeks back.

We all here on SC owe the dept of gratitude to Josh for initiating this wonderful Bazar of ideas, we also owe gratitude to all moderators.

Is there a place where I can learn how to do emoticons. All i know is this one 🙂

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July 5th, 2008, 8:32 pm


189. Shai said:


That’s the only emoticon one needs to know… 🙂

Thank you for the kind words. I agree with everything you said, we can, and we must influence our fate.

Good Night for now!

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July 5th, 2008, 9:18 pm


190. AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Okay, now that we got the lovey dovey stuff out of the way, let’s deal with the difficult questions:
1) I know you don’t like it, but will you accept as part of a peace deal a Jewish state in the middle east? To most Jews and to me as well, Judaism is both a nation and a religion. I am in fact an atheist Jew. The novelty of Zionism is that it started a process in which Jews self determined themselves as a nation. Do you accept that the Jews are a nation? When Israel was founded, it was founded for all Jews, not only those that lived there at that time. To me and most Israelis the Law of Return is an essential part of who and what we are. That means that any Jew is always welcome to Israel and will receive immediate citizenship. Can you come to live with that?
2) In addition, let me be clear that I do not accept the right of return of even one Palestinian to the 67 borders. They are of course free to return to the Palestinian state once it is formed. A Jewish state, means a state with a Jewish majority. Asking for the right of return for Palestinians means denying the Jewish state and therefore is a none starter.
3) Israelis have proved beyond any doubt that they can live in peace and prosperity with Arabs. It is a fact that the average Arab Israeli (citizens of Israel) is much much better off on average than the average Syrian and certianly has much more rights than the average Syrian. Why do you think the Israeli public’s frame of mind is not suitable for living in peace?
4) You say Arabs are making steps forward more than is visible to the eye. What do you mean? The Arab “thought leaders”, Egypt and Syria have only become less democratic. There is not ONE viable liberal democratic party in those countries.
5) If the UME is the vision, how can that happen when Israel is 6 to 7 times richer than it neigbors and the gap is all the time growing, not because Israelis are any better than their neigbors but because they have a democracy that allows Israel to exploit better its human potential. A union can only be made between countries that are similar in their economies and government systems. So the UME will have to wait until the Arab states become democracies and develop much more. No? And by the way it is not the support of the West that makes Israel strong relative to the Arabs. It is just lack of democracy. The Syrians bought and received billions dollars worth of Soviet weapons but it did them little good. The Egyptians have F-15s and F-16s as well as the Saudis. But that is not enough to be strong.
6) Can Syria become a democracy, and if so what is the process and how long will it take?

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July 6th, 2008, 4:12 am


191. why-discuss said:


What I would do as a president? Tricky question!
For the Palestinians, I would hammer at every occasion possible to the UN and the International community that it is their responsibility to come up with a solution that would not be at the expenses of Lebanon. The international community must live up to their responsibilities in a problem they have created and ignored for 60 years. The Lebanese should repeat this at every international opportunity and ask for a final position about the feasibility of their return. If the international community takes the position that these refugees cannot return to their homes, then it has to offer compensations and a choice for a substitute home country to the Palestinians. It is not because Lebanon accepted these refugees for humanitarian reasons that they are responsible of them, especially that Lebanon is not a signatory to either the Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees of 1951 or the 1967 Protocol Relating to the Status of Refugees.Legally, the Palestinians in Lebanon are considered foreigners.
Finding a home for the palestinians is an international responsibility, not solely a Lebanese responsibility.
As for Hezbollah, in my opinion, they have achieved their short term goal, liberate the Lebanese prisonners. Their long term goal is highly dependent on the internal developments as well as the peace between Israel and Syria. I believe than once there is a coherent lebanese defense strategy and if Israel makes peace with Syria, their military wing will probably be integrated in a special forces in the Lebanese army. I believe that if the Lebanese governement takes care seriously of looking for a solution to the Palestinians issue and protect the inhabitants of the south, Hezbollah will not find the need to intervene and would turn more into social and political activities. That is my humble opinion.

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July 6th, 2008, 4:46 am


192. ugarit said:


Why doesn’t Israel convert as may Palestinians to judaism as possible and get this right of return issue out of the way. I think that would solve it because all of the sudden these Palestinians will be permitted to return. Why not?

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July 6th, 2008, 2:05 pm


193. Shai said:


I’ve always said that the Palestinians should have “surrendered” in 1967, said “Alright, you win, you defeated us, now this is your land, and we’re your citizens”. And then, after getting our blue identification cards, and the right to vote, Arafat could have been Israel’s Prime Minister already 2 decades ago… 🙂 No need for conversion, just for accepting one’s fate… (i’m joking of course).

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July 6th, 2008, 2:55 pm


194. ugarit said:


There are Rabbis roaming the planet to find “natives” to convert to Judaism while there are Palestinians ripe for the converting, yet I’m not aware of any attempt to converting Palestinians. Why is that? Would it not solve many problems if Israel started the Ministry of Conversions?

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July 6th, 2008, 3:04 pm


195. Shai said:

Ugarit, please don’t give AP or AIG any ideas!!! 😉

Speaking of religion, since Judaism is the first monotheistic religion in the world, I’ve often felt it was really too bad my religion wasn’t about conversion. If it had been, today we could have numbered perhaps a billion people, and not needed a Jewish state. But, I’m an atheist, so a Jew, a Muslim, a Christian, and a Shinto, all are the same to me (except one speaks Japanese).

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July 6th, 2008, 3:07 pm


196. ugarit said:


I wish that idea (mass conversions) would hold to get this nightmare over with.

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July 6th, 2008, 3:54 pm


197. Shai said:

Ugarit, have no fear. As long as the AIG’s of the world are around, democracy and freedom are on their way. And then, when you’ve democratically elected Al-Qaida to rule the Middle East, we’ll at last have peace. Or not…

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July 6th, 2008, 3:57 pm


198. Naji said:

Hi Norman,
I am not sure I recieved it… I’ll go back and check my email and get back to you…

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July 6th, 2008, 6:02 pm


199. Off The Wall said:

Your question:
“But will you accept as part of a peace deal a Jewish state in the middle east?”

My Answer:
Wasn’t that clear from my previous statements. Here is my answer, again: As long as the nation state continues to be the norm by which societies organize themselves, yes i do accept Israel as a Jewish state. I accept Lebanon as a state with definite Christian character, KSA as an Islamic state, why should Israel be any different. There are caveats, though, and among these caveats is that Israel can chose to be a state, or a modern state. If the latter is your choice, then any discriminatory practices against non-Jewish citizen including harassment at airports, housing, a language of national discord such as calling your own citizen terrorists merely because they are Arabs, attempts to squeeze them out of their own country, and favoring new immigrants to natives in jobs, education, or municipal funding is outright racism. In my dictionary, you can be a Jewish state if you wish, but you can not be a racist Jewish state. It is here where i draw the line, not because you are Jewish, but because I try to be intellectually honest.

Your question:
Do you accept that the Jews are a nation?

My Answer:
I am a humanist, and i believe we all are a single nation. However, I do recognize that Jewish people have shared heritage, culture, language, fears, hopes, history, and you name it, it is all there. If the Jewish people chose to call these as the foundation for a nation, then who am I to argue against that. After all, such arguments will only provide other definitions of nations as the counter argument, and I find that pointless. It is very much similar to an atheist arguing as to which god is the right god? I dislike the formation of nation states along purely religious and racial lines. but I guess, when Atheist Jews consider themselves part of the Jewish nation, then i must recognize that the ties that bind Jewish people are definitely beyond religion. This is not accepting reality only, but accepting the right of people to decide for themselves.

Your “very smart question”

That means that any Jew is always welcome to Israel and will receive immediate citizenship. Can you come to live with that?

My Answer:
Now we get to the logical trap :), don’t we? If I accept the two above premises, then i will have to accept this one and come to live with that, otherwise I am a hypocrite, not that easy

Thank to SHAI, who took the time to inform me on the lack of strong correlation between settler movements and immigration, i now have a little better understanding of this issue. Please recognize that I use the term settlers only in relation to Israeli citizens who chose to occupy Palestinian lands and properties or infringe on the properties of Israeli Arabs in the form of illegal settlements or through intimidation. The decision on your immigration policy is your own as a nation and a country. Although It has far reaching electoral implications, this would be a matter to solve through your evolution as a nation state. But again the only line I would permit myself to draw, which may infringe on your rights is the issue of discrimination. As long as the influx of new immigrants does not infringe on the rights, including equal opportunity, of other citizens, then do what you want. You see, my beef is never with who you are, it will always be with what you do. We live in an age where bullying the natives is not acceptable or permissible. And some of your citizens do act as thugs, especially when they are in uniform.

Your statement:

In addition, let me be clear that I do not accept the right of return of even one Palestinian to the 67 borders. They are of course free to return to the Palestinian state once it is formed. A Jewish state, means a state with a Jewish majority. Asking for the right of return for Palestinians means denying the Jewish state and therefore is a none starter.

My Response:

Now who is the hypocrite 🙂

This is a matter for you or for your parliament to vote on when the peace agreement is made, and for Palestinian negotiators, their legislative bodies, or through referendum, to decide whether to accept or not. As we say here in the US, Sorry dude this is not mine to decide. My opinion on that matter are irrelevant. The only thing I can say is that I am abhorred by their refugee status, and I want it resolved fairly

Your Statement+Question:

3) Israelis have proved beyond any doubt that they can live in peace and prosperity with Arabs. It is a fact that the average Arab Israeli (citizens of Israel) is much much better off on average than the average Syrian and certianly has much more rights than the average Syrian. Why do you think the Israeli public’s frame of mind is not suitable for living in peace?

My Response:
I know you will dismiss that, but this is only from few recent issues

In summary, a large portion of your citizenry display racist attitude when it comes to Arabs. As a nation, your actions during the shameful occupation speak volumes of the collective racism of Israeli society. Even a winner of Golda Meier prize, is not saved the racism of thugs in uniform Enough said here.

Your Question:
You say Arabs are making steps forward more than is visible to the eye. What do you mean? The Arab “thought leaders”, Egypt and Syria have only become less democratic. There is not ONE viable liberal democratic party in those countries.

My Response:

You continue playing this old song, thanks to Bush and co, no one can put so much stock in democracy any more. Democracy, honorable as it is, is no guarantee against follies. Here in the US, we have the stupidest, most criminal administration, that I would argue did more damage to US interests, economy, and quality of life, than any current Arab autocrat can dream of. It was elected twice. So spare me and others the talk about the virtues of liberal democracy.

In fact, i would even argue that this administration, with the blessing of the UK’s poodle and your own leaders and their representatives here in the US have played a major role over the past 7 years in hindering democratic progress in the ME. No one wants democracy Iraq style.

Arabs are recognizing, albeit gradually the value of human rights, economic progress, freedom of speech. Some are beginning to challenge the status quo through blogs, writing, and or action. Despite of many restrictions, many are forming civil society groups. Lawyers are suing the state in numbers unheard off before. On the negative side, secular Arabs are now squeezed, thanks to you, between the examples provided by the incompetent occupation of iraq and the familiar stability and continuity of autocratic regimes .

I have to go now, after all, i do try to have a life. I will answer the remaining points later

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July 6th, 2008, 6:22 pm


200. Shai said:

Off The Wall,

Wow, what a fantastic response. I apologize for my “fellow” countryman’s innate dislike of liberal (or dictator-loving) Israelis such as myself. His notion of the advantages to multiplicity of ideas, is being able to hear himself on 8 different speakers, but not to hear others who disagree with him.

You are wise, and patient, and thoughtful. Yet if you continue to pay such great attention to our invaluable AIG, you too will become more sarcastic and cynical… 🙂 Please be warned… So yes, please do continue with your life, and do not allow SC to distract you beyond 4-5 hours each day… 😉

Thank you for putting this much effort into your responses. For other Israelis that are reading your comments, this is terribly important.

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July 6th, 2008, 6:46 pm


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