The Revolutions – What do They Mean?

Asma al-Assad’s glowing write up in Vogue was met by outrage in all the usual places. Max Fisher and Jeffrey Goldberg, big supporters of Israel, castigated Vogue for its profile of Syria’s first lady.  They express horror at seeing a positive write up of Syria.  Doubtlessly, they would be gratified to see a positive report of Israel’s first lady even though Israel has killed, wounded, and imprisoned without trial many more of its subjects in the last 10 years than Syria has. The fact is that Asma al-Assad is doing good things in Syria. Reporting on them is correct. If Israel’s first lady is doing something constructive for her country, the homeless, orphans, or the undeserved, she should get credit for it, regardless of how badly the Israeli government treats its subjects in the Occupied Territories.

The battle over interpreting the Great Arab Revolt of 2011 is raging. I quote three interpretations below. Buthaina Shabaan argues that it is a revolt against the American  and Israeli imposed order in the Middle East. Fuad Ajami claims that the Arab people have finally shaken off their own psychological chains in order to embrace freedom.

Leon Hadar, who I admire, argues that this is the end of Pan-Arabism in his Burying Pan-Arabism | The National Interest.he writes:

Egypt and the Arab world may be entering a post-Pan-Arabist stage in which new national identities and sub-regional groupings (that includes non-Arab entities like the Kurds, the southern Sudanese, and the Berbers of North Africa) will project their growing power…..

Greg Gause takes issue with Hadar’s statement that Arabism is dead, which echos Ajami’s famous statement following the 1967 War. Greg writes:

Burying something that has been dead for decades is not very interesting. What is interesting is the contagion effect in the Arab world, which demonstrates that things still do travel across borders in the Arab world in a way that is different from other groupings. Did Arabs take to the streets during the protests in Iran in 2009? When AKP won the last two elections in Turkey? Intellectuals noticed those things, but when Tunisians went to the streets successfully, Egyptians followed, then Yemenis, Bahrainis, Jordanians, Algerians…That has to mean something, even if it does not mean that Abd al-Nasir is coming back.

Like Greg, I am skeptical of pronouncements of the death of Arabism. Arabs feel an affinity for each other, they share a history and language; it is hard to believe that their sense of commonness will die. Most Syrians cling to their Arab identity; many claim it is more important than their Syrian identity and argue that they are Arabs first and Syrians second.
All the same, in the last few decades the rise of local nationalism has been powerful and is reshaping the way people think. If I had a piaster for every time I have heard young Syrians disparage Arab nationalism and claim that Arabs don’t help each other, are selfish, divided, and ghaddaariin – deceitful, treacherous – I would be rich. But such anger at fellow Arabs and the selfish politics of the Arab leaders is symptomatic of the disillusionment felt by a spurned lover.  Political ideas still spread from one end of the Arab World to the other with tremendous speed and force.

In analyzing the forces behind the revolutions, American analysts take solace in the fact that al-Qaida and Islamism is largely absent from the front lines of protest. They argue that the call for democracy and individual rights is pro-Western, not pro-Islamist. All the same, few doubt that parties such as the Muslim Brotherhood will play a greater role in places such as Egypt and Tunisia.

The new Day of Rage being called for by the Facebook website “The Syria Revolution of 2011”  is generating interest from journalists who want to know who created it, who has signed it, and whether it will spark protests. In the past, Syrian youth have been largely apolitical and apathetic. The reasons for this are many:  they have been too preoccupied with material pursuits, fed up with Syria’s traditional opposition parties, too divided, or too frightened of Syria’s uncompromising security forces. The present agitation for revolution is waking many young Syrians out of their slumber and causing them to see that mass action can make a difference, even against the most determined state. Still, there is little history of group action or unity in Syria. Most organized opposition leaders live in exile. Over twenty of my facebook friends have signed on to the protest – all live outside Syria. Some have created moving YouTube testimonials to encourage revolt among Syrians. It will take time, however, for Syrians to change, but they will.

News Round Up

Syria: Why is there no Egypt-style revolution?
By Lina Sinjab BBC News, Damascus

As Syrians eagerly follow developments in the Middle East, they are – for the first time in almost four decades – also loudly discussing the politics at home.

Everyone in Syria seems to be watching and waiting; people from all sections of society and every political stripe.

“One thing everyone agrees on is that change should be fast and tangible, it cannot wait,” says Kais Zakaria, a 35-year-old dentist.

There are signs that the wave of change in the Middle East is having an effect here….

“There is a wide gap between the government and the people in Syria,” says Mr Zakaria, while sipping his coffee and surfing the news at a downtown internet cafe. “We need to regain trust in the government… To start with, we need better living conditions and fair distribution of the country’s wealth,” he adds.

At a nearby fruit and vegetable market, buyers and sellers are fighting over food prices. No one is satisfied. “I can barely get my bread,” one of the sellers shouts above his customers. “I fought the Israelis in 1973, and now I am humiliated by the police. “Why should I take it?”

Bashar al-Assad greets crowds in Damascus, 15 February (Sana handout via AFP) President Assad’s supporters were out in force during a recent religious celebration

Cosmetic changes?

The government has taken several measures in the wake of Tunisia and Egypt to reduce the cost of basic goods, especially food. There have been grants for the poor, and reports that civil servants have been instructed to treat citizens with respect. But Syria suffers from corruption that goes all the way up the system….

But many here believe that, without the rule of law, any change will be cosmetic…..

Still, there is the sense on the streets of Damascus that demonstrations will not be seen in the capital anytime soon. There were calls last month for a “day of rage” – mainly organised by exiled opposition groups – but no-one showed up. The absence of any real opposition inside the country and fear of the security services were blamed for their lack of success.

So far, there have been few calls for President Bashar al-Assad to step down. Although Syria faces similar problems as Egypt and Tunisia, the young president enjoys popularity here.

“We need political reforms, fair and free elections, and we need to be part of building our country,” says Mr Zakaria.

President Assad’s second term will end in 2014. And this year, Syria is due to hold municipal and parliamentary elections. Many people now believe there is a golden opportunity for change and for a peaceful transition to a democratic system…. Read the rest

Oxford Analytica: Excerpt:

Syria is the most stable of the republics, albeit for the ‘wrong’ reasons. The core of the regime is the Allawi community in alliance with other minorities and parts of the majority Sunni community. It is a secular regime and few Syrians want to challenge a system whose collapse could lead to Lebanese-style inter-communal strife. The army and security services, dominated by Allawi, are loyal and will fight to retain power and crack down on major unrest. The regime for years has postponed decisions about making essential economic and social reform but it will now have to change its approach as revolution sweeps through its neighbourhood.

The Syrian Style of Repression: Thugs and Lectures
By Rania Abouzeid / Damascus Sunday, Feb. 27, 2011

The plainclothes not-so-secret police, or moukhabarat, arrived early, more than 40 minutes before the protest was due to start at 5 p.m. opposite the three-story Libyan Embassy in Damascus last Wednesday. They milled about in clumps of four or five, their black leather jackets and hard stares giving them away as much as the walkie talkies…

Gary Gambill’s Syria problem
By Nicholas Noe

Gary Gambill has two pieces out on the Syria issue…. I have always admired Gary’s ability to synthesize information. The core problem is that he has never visited Syria or Lebanon and his analysis therefore suffers – especially when getting down to an almost anthropological level about Allawi-Sunni matters. To talk credibly at this level of detail, you need to have a feeling, a touch, with the subject matter ……

Program Announcement: The Beirut & Damascus Exchanges June-July 2011

The Exchange is an effort by Mideastwire.com and its partners to promote engagement and understanding through a variety of city-focused, student conferences in and around the Middle East. The first Exchange was launched in June 2008 in Beirut, Lebanon. Now, several years on, over 150 students from 40 different countries have participated, with many going on to work as diplomats in their home countries, for NGOs serving the region and as social entrepreneurs. This year, we are offering the Beirut Exchange June 12-26 and the Damascus Exchange July 2-16 (in partnership with The Syria Report).



Syria Must Simplify Tax to Lure Investors, Former Minister Says

By Lina Ibrahim, 2011-03-02

Syria should change its “complicated and confusing” tax policy to attract foreign investments and stop the outflow of local capital, a Syrian economist and former lawmaker said.

Hussein al-Qadhi, who served as the country’s industry minister in 1980, said the government should speed up the introduction of a sales tax, originally planned for 2008, and simplify the tax code. This would involve reducing current rates, phasing out customs fees and improving transparency, he said.

“Although the tax system is not the sole reason that hinders investment and development, it is the main one,” al- Qadhi said at a lecture in Damascus yesterday.

The Finance Ministry forecast in a report published on its website that tax revenue in the 2011 budget will reach 454.5 billion Syrian pounds ($9.7 billion), up from 400.5 billion in 2010.

How To Understand the Arab Revolutions

Buthaina Shaaban
BBC MidEast: Arab protests “against Western support for oppression” – Syrian official
2011-02-21

Text of report by Syrian government-owned newspaper Tishrin website on 21 February. [Article by Syrian Presidential Adviser Buthaynah Sha’ban: “The People Want To Overthrow [American Support for Settlement-Building”] the democratic revolution spreading in the Arab land is, deep down, a blatant response to the American usurpation of the Arabs’ freedom in Palestine and Iraq and to the unlimited support that the ugliest and racist occupation in the history of mankind received and continues to receive from them at the expense of the dignity and freedom of the people of Palestine, who are being ethnically cleansed out of their lands before their very eyes and with the support of the United States for more than 60 years and to this day….

The dawn of Arab democracy has broken and it is being made by the Arab masses with their own blood, hands, and visions. The Israeli crimes and its wars against the Arabs were the embers that lit up the revolution on the local fronts. The West must not be surprised when hundreds of millions of Arabs, from the [Pacific] ocean to the [Arabian] gulf, shout out in the future: “The people want to cleanse Palestine of the settlements.” What will Elliott Abrams, Condoleezza Rice, and Hillary Clinton say then? Would they also claim that the American support for the
occupation and the settlements is aimed at rendering the two-state solution a success?

How the Arabs Turned Shame Into Liberty Fouad Ajami – Wall Street Journal

The crowd hadn’t been blameless, it has to be conceded. Over the decades, Arabs took the dictators’ bait, chanted their names and believed their promises. They averted their gazes from the great crimes. Out of malice or bigotry, that old “Arab street” — farewell to it, once and for all — had nothing to say about the terror inflicted on Shiites and Kurds in Iraq, for Saddam Hussein was beloved by the crowds, a pan-Arab hero, an enforcer of Sunni interests….

To understand the present, we consider the past. The tumult in Arab politics began in the 1950s and the 1960s, when rulers rose and fell with regularity. They were struck down by assassins or defied by political forces that had their own sources of strength and belief. ….. The new men were pitiless, they re-ordered the political world, they killed with abandon; a world of cruelty had settled upon the Arabs. Average men and women made their accommodation with things, retreating into the privacy of their homes. In the public space, there was now the cult of the rulers,…

Yet, as they aged, the coup-makers and political plotters of yesteryear sprouted rapacious dynasties; they became “country owners,” ….. the wives and the children of the rulers devouring all that could be had by way of riches and vanity.

Shame — a great, disciplining force in Arab life of old — quit Arab lands. In Tunisia, a hairdresser-turned-despot’s wife, Leila Ben Ali, now pronounced on all public matters; in Egypt the despot’s son, Gamal Mubarak, brazenly staked a claim to power over 80 million people; in Syria, Hafez al-Assad had pulled off a stunning feat, turning a once-rebellious republic into a monarchy in all but name and bequeathing it to one of his sons.

These rulers hadn’t descended from the sky. They had emerged out of the Arab world’s sins of omission and commission. Today’s rebellions are animated, above all, by a desire to be cleansed of the stain and the guilt of having given in to the despots for so long. …

As Regimes Fall in Arab World, Al Qaeda Sees History Fly By
By: Scott Shane | The New York Times

For nearly two decades, the leaders of Al Qaeda have denounced the Arab world’s dictators as heretics and puppets of the West and called for their downfall. Now, people in country after country have risen to topple their leaders — and Al Qaeda has played absolutely no role.

the past few weeks have the makings of an epochal disaster for Al Qaeda, making the jihadists look like ineffectual bystanders to history while offering young Muslims an appealing alternative to terrorism.

From the SSRC weekly news

Western news agencies have discussed the creation of a page on the Facebook website entitled, “The Syrian Revolution Against Bashar Assad, 2011”, which has around twenty-five thousand members so far. Several sites have published a statement in the name of Syrian intellectuals criticising the racism of a Syrian officer who threatened a number of young Syrians demonstrating in front of the Libyan embassy in Damascus. Syria has evacuated more than 2,500 Syrian citizens who were blockaded in Libya’s Benghazi airport. The Israeli media has reported the Israeli Prime Minister’s rejection of President Assad’s invitation to recommence negotiations.

Pro-Israel writers are going ape over the Vogue piece on Asma al-Assad. Of course they see nothing wrong with puffing Israeli leaders.

Vogue Defends Profile of Syrian First Lady
Max Fisher is an associate editor at The Atlantic

Jeffrey Goldberg: Best Line From That Nutty Vogue Piece
2011-02-28

“Syria is known as the safest country in the Middle East, possibly because, as the State Department’s Web site says, ‘the Syrian government conducts intense …

U.S. lawmaker, Syria’s Assad working to renew peace talks with Israel – Haaretz Daily Newspaper | Israel News

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who has been briefed on Kerry’s talks with Assad, opposes the plan, since he does not believe Assad is serious about making peace with Israel. …

The Saudi Tadawul All Share Index had the biggest drop in the world in overnight equity trading, dropping 6.8 percent. The Saudi stock market has lost 18 percent since the fall of President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali in Tunisia. Saudi stocks have fallen 12 days in a row, the longest losing streak since 1998 (Bloomberg). Just out from the blog ZeroHedge.com: Silver Hits Fresh Post Hunt Brother High Of $34.43 On News Saudi Has Sent Tanks To Bahrain
Submitted by Tyler Durden on 03/01/2011 07:12 -0500
Middle East Newspaper Saudi Arabia
“If RIA Novosti’s update on the Middle East escalation is correct, the Middle East’s worst kept secret, that Saudi Arabia would interfere militarily in Bahrain before the country fell, has just been confirmed. From RIA: “Saudi Arabia has sent dozens of tanks to Bahrain, where anti-government protests continue for about two weeks, Egypt’s Al-Masry Al-Youm newspaper said on Tuesday. Eyewitnesses reported seeing “15 tank carriers carrying two tanks each heading towards Bahrain” along the 25-km King Fahd causeway, which links the small island nation of Bahrain to Saudi Arabia.” And while nobody expects the DXY to do much if anything on this news, now that the dollar is irrelevant in the FX realm, the same can not be said about silver. Silver just hit $34.43 minutes ago, the highest print in the last 31 years.” Source-www.zerohedge.com.

The Arab world’s impending triple crisis
Friday, 25 February 2011 12:58 by nafeez mosaddeq ahmed

As early as 2015, the average Arab will be forced to survive on less than 500 cubic meters of water per year, a level defined as severe scarcity

….The converging effects of population growth, climate change, and energy depletion are setting the stage for a looming triple crisis.

The region accounts for 6.3% of the world’s population but only 1.4% of its renewable fresh water. Twelve of the world’s 15 most water-scarce countries – Algeria, Libya, Tunisia, Jordan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Oman, the UAE, Kuwait, Bahrain, Israel, and Palestine – are in the region, and in eight, available fresh water amounts annually to less than 250 cubic meters per person. Three-quarters of the region’s available fresh water is in just four countries: Iran, Iraq, Syria, and Turkey.

Water consumption in the region is linked overwhelmingly to industrial agriculture. From 1965 to 1997, Arab population growth drove demand for agricultural development, leading to a doubling of land under irrigation. Demographic expansion in these countries is set to dramatically worsen their predicament.

Although birth rates are falling, one-third of the overall population is below 15 years old, and large numbers of young women are reaching reproductive age, or soon will be. The United Kingdom’s Ministry of Defence has projected that by 2030 the population of the Middle East will increase by 132%, and that of sub-Saharan Africa by 81%, generating an unprecedented “youth bulge.”

The World Bank’s Water Sector Assessment Report on the Gulf countries, published in 2005, predicts that these demographic pressures will likely cause the availability of fresh water to halve, exacerbating the danger of inter-state conflict. Competition to control water has already played a key role in regional geopolitical tensions, for instance, between Turkey and Syria; Jordan, Israel, and the Palestinian Authority; Egypt, Sudan, and Ethiopia; and between Saudi Arabia and its neighbours, Qatar, Bahrain, and Jordan.

A halving of available water supplies could turn these tensions into open hostilities. Indeed, while economic growth, accompanied by greater urbanisation and higher per capita incomes, has translated into greater demand for fresh water, the population movements that have resulted are now exacerbating local ethnic tensions.

As early as 2015, the average Arab will be forced to survive on less than 500 cubic meters of water per year, a level defined as severe scarcity. Shifts in rainfall patterns will certainly affect crops, particularly rice. A “business-as-usual” model for climate change suggests that global average temperatures could rise by 4° Celsius by mid-century. This would devastate agriculture in the Middle East and North Africa, with crop yields falling by 15-35%, depending on the strength of carbon fertilisation……

Education failures fan the flames in the Arab world
23 February 2011 by EFA Editor

By Kevin Watkins, director, Education for All Global Monitoring Report

This is the region with the world’s highest youth unemployment rate. One in four young people are out of work. In Tunisia the youth unemployment rate is 31%; in Egypt it is 34%.

Not only is joblessness rife, but young people also have to wait an exceptionally long time before finding their first job. Economists have even coined a term for the lengthy transition from education to work – ‘the waithood’. The average delay amounts to three years in Morocco and Iran, and over two years in Egypt.

These delays are a source of deep frustration. Unable to secure economic independence and the social status that comes with employment, young people are forced to delay marrying, forming their own families and buying homes.

Looking beyond the social consequences of youth unemployment, there is an immense economic cost. One estimate for the Middle East and North Africa puts the cost at 6% of GDP – more than governments spend on education. You can question the methodology behind the figure. But the high levels of economic waste associated with mass youth unemployment are beyond dispute.

The plague of jobless growth

Behind the headline unemployment data there are some worrying patterns. Many Arab states have combined high economic growth with low levels of youth employment creation. For example, Jordan has been growing at over 6% a year without registering a significant cut in youth unemployment.

The same pattern of jobless growth for young people is evident in other countries – and it could be about to get worse. Young people in the Middle East have been “missed by the boom, and hurt by the bust.” Youth are often last in line for new jobs, because the jobs are being filled by migrant workers, and because the growth sectors are often capital-intensive rather than labor-intensive. Gender inequality in labor markets is another barrier to opportunity: unemployment rates for female youth are 50% higher on average than for males.

The corollary of failed job-creation in the formal sector is the growth of the informal sector. In Egypt, more than 70% of first time labor-market entrants were forced into informal employment, where they face low pay, instability and limited job security. This has far-reaching consequences. Once young people enter the poor quality job market they seldom escape its gravitational pull, partly because they are unable to generate new skills.

Education failures feed the youth unemployment crisis….

Posted on 23 February 2011 by EFA Editor

Comments (81)


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51. Jihad said:

It is disturbing to keep bringing up the Zionist Fouad Ajami into debates about the Arab world. Who cares the s… about what he thinks and writes?

As for Mona Al-Tahawy (aside from her friends nobody knows her in the Arab world or cares about her musings in the Western press. The Wahhabi Asharq Al-Awsat used to reproduce some of them), is she no longer a Likudnik (she seemed proud that her father was once Mubarak’s ambassador to the Zionist entity and that she lived among the rabid colonizers of Palestine), and did she stop being a female version of Fouad Ajami with her racist-orientalist renditions on Islam and Arabs?

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March 7th, 2011, 7:17 am

 

52. Jihad said:

The so-called judgement made by Ehsani2 and co about the revolts in different parts of the Arab world is both condescending and pathetic. We are living such revolts since the one that began in Tunisia last December.

99% of the banners speak about dignity, liberty and participation. This does not mean that there are no social and economic concerns. But the issue is primarily political. It is now known that when Mohamad Bouazizi put himelf on fire, he did it to protest his repeated humiliation in public at the hands of the lousy Tunisian police.

If it was only about economic and monetary issues, Barack Bushama’s goon in Egypt, Hosni Muabarak, would have succeeded in bribing the army of public sectory employees when he promised them a 15% salary increase. It used to work in the past. Not anymore.

Even if people are poor and less educated, this does not mean that they don’t have good insight into things along with a more than a healthy dose of common sense. One can catch a sample of such people by reading Galal Amin’s, Description of Egypt at the End of the 20th Century (Wasf Misr fi Nihayat al-Qarn, Al-‘Ishrin), Cairo, Dar Al-Shourouq, 2nd Edition, 2005, pp. 209-215.

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March 7th, 2011, 7:51 am

 

53. EHSANI2 said:

JIHAD,

I am sure that you are correct to argue that when Mohamad Bouazizi put himself on fire, he did it to protest his repeated humiliation in public at the hands of the lousy Tunisian police. I am also sure that dignity, liberty and participation are powerful ingredients of the uprisings. But, I still believe that economics is even more powerful. Mohamed Bouaazizi may not have set himself on fire had he been insulted by Tunisian police on his way to a respectable advertising position paying him $75,000 a year with medical and long term disabilities benefits. But when he is selling vegetables at a street corner after finishing university and struggling to make $3000 a year with zero benefits, his fuse gets shorter by the minute.

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March 7th, 2011, 8:27 am

 

54. norman said:

Revlon
Instead of blaming the tribe and it’s leader for the sins of the members , give me your suggestion on how to stop corruption.
I will tel you mine later today after work.

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March 7th, 2011, 8:50 am

 

55. Alex said:

Yossi,

Wonderful to read your educational comment. It reminds me how repetitive and boring I am in comparison (see below)

AIG,

Again, I did not blame Israel for all the problems in the Middle East. definitely not for corruption or education system or other internal problems in Syria. That would be delusional.

But I blame right wing Israel for many region-wide problems…. I think Israel and the Wahabis are both the top problem makers in the region.

Jihad,

When did Mona claim her father was ambassador to Israel??

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March 7th, 2011, 9:26 am

 

56. Ghat Al Bird said:

Israel Khadaffi Axis?

Israel flies to the rescue of ally Khadafi, reaping millions

Libyan militia members from the forces against Gadhafi escort a man who they suspect to be a mercenary (Photo: AP)

Netanyahu’s cabinet asked Israeli company Global CST to bail out Colonel Khadafi’s friendly regime.

Egyptian sources have revealed that the Israeli company has so far provided Gaddafi’s regime with 50,000 African mercenaries to attack the civilian anti-government protesters in Libya. Gaddafi regime pays $2000 per day for each mercenary. The mercenaries receive $100 per day and the remaining goes to Global CST, the report says.

A former Nasser disciple, Colonel Khadafi has over recent years perfected the art of running with the hare and hunting with the hounds, at the risk of antagonizing both sides at the same time. He adopted a radical discourse against U.S. imperialism and Zionism, while often serving their interests, notably by eliminating on command some of their chief opponents (for example, the Iranian-Lebanese national Moussa Sadr or the Sudanese Abdel Khaleq Mahjoub). He never took any action against Israel and he officially mended fences with Washington in 2003.

Global CST managed Georgian troops during their aggression against South Ossetia, organized Ingrid Betancourt’s release from FARC captivity and trained Peruvian special forces against “Shining Path” guerrillas.

Meanwhile, the United States has demanded the UN Security Council (UNSC) to remove the provisions of charging mercenaries with war crimes in the killing of Libyan civilians.

The request is for the UNSC to word the resolution in a way that no one from an outside country that is not a member of the International Criminal Court could be prosecuted by the Court for their actions in Libya, which in addition to Israel would also include the United States.

AFP

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March 7th, 2011, 10:06 am

 

57. Ziad said:

Yossi
Thank you for your interesting essay. Modern Hebrew seems like an engineered construct. Is there a normalizing authority, the equivalent to the Academie Francaise? Are there local dialects?

REVLON

Your parallel universe metaphor is very accurate. Two days ago I watched a feature on Al Jazeera called The Tent of Um Kamel Al Kurd. You can Google for the details of her story. Watching it brought my blood to the boiling point. She was ejected from the house that she indisputably owns. To protest her injustice, she lived in a tent on a private lot, yet the tent was forcibly removed nine times, the Israeli court judged against her with the flimsiest arguments. She lost and had to pay many fines. This story is in the RU. The story in the JPU is best reflected in the following quote:

“Since their anti-Zionism had always been founded upon the supposed mistreatment of Palestinians by Israelis and the alleged denial of Palestinian rights by the Jews….”
From the following web site given by AP few days ago:
http://www.jewishpressads.com/pageroute.do/47254

“Supposed” and “alleged” is how the mistreatment of the Palestinians looks in the JPU. AIG and Shai praised the Israeli courts as fair and uncorrupted. That may be true for Israeli Jew. When it comes to dealing with Palestinians, they are Kangaroo courts of the worst kind. The narrative in the JPU is that there are no bad Jews. The Jew is by definition good, so if you criticize what some Jews do, then you must be at fault, you are a Jew hater.

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March 7th, 2011, 10:26 am

 

58. Akbar Palace said:

Alex Continues to Spread Misinformation

Dear Likud propagandists: We now know that you hated seeing Egypt moving towards democracy (Israel’s puppet gone) but you are dying to FORCE a revolution in Syria.

Alex,

All the Likud supporters I know (you can also include me), are very much FOR “Egypt moving towards democracy”. I would inlcude Charles Krauthammer under that label as well.

Of course, “Democracy” is MUCH MORE than 1 vote whenever it is convenient.

This is why our paramount moral and strategic interest in Egypt is real democracy…

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2011/02/03/AR2011020305173.html

The Jew is by definition good, so if you criticize what some Jews do, then you must be at fault, you are a Jew hater.

Ziad,

Who said that? Jews do bad things every day. So do Arabs. It is when we can’t be objective that really prohibits us from making peace.

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March 7th, 2011, 11:45 am

 

59. Akbar Palace said:

Libyan Resistance Leader is a secret Zionist NewZ

Ghat,

There’s a report that 2 Syrian fighter planes were shot down over Libya. What do you think? Also, if you have link detailing the Libyan-Israel connection, I would like to see it. I never knew Libya had much (or any) contact with the Zionist Entity.

http://www.economicvoice.com/libyan-rebels-shoot-down-two-syrian-war-planes/50017136

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March 7th, 2011, 12:07 pm

 

60. Ghat Al Bird said:

To #59.

AP as a pseudo- hasbara you should do more digging on your own.

Your future personal requests will be ignored so consider this as final.

http://gold-silver.us/forum/general-discussion/israel-provides-henchmen-for-gaddafi-black-child-soldiers/

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March 7th, 2011, 12:55 pm

 

61. Shami said:

Majed,they are symbol of Syria of the future ,Bashar and his gang will pay for their crimes ,they are symbol of a dying past.

13 Jailed Syrian Human Rights Activists Hunger Strike

Monday, Mar 07, 2011

DAMASCUS (AFP)–Thirteen jailed Syrian human rights activists, including lawyers Haytham Maleh and Anwar Bunni, are staging a hunger strike at Adra prison, near Damascus, the Syrian Observatory of Human Rights said Monday.

“We have launched a hunger strike because we demand an end to political detention and injustice, as well as the recovery of stolen civil and political rights,” said the activists in a joint statement published by the rights monitor.

They denounced “Syria’s state of emergency decreed 48 years ago by an unelected military authority” and “the ubiquitous security services that embody political despotism and use the court to break freedom of opinion and expression punishing their opponents through arbitrary accusations and judgments. ”

The detained activists, among them lawyers and writers, said the “Syrian people suffer tremendously under a despotic and corrupt authority.”

“We have also paid dearly for the cause of law and freedom, but it is time to cancel this state of oppression and persecution at a time the winds of change are sweeping the Arab world. Rights cannot be legitimate in Egypt and Tunisia but illegitimate in Syria.”

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

07-03-11 1304GMT

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March 7th, 2011, 12:57 pm

 

62. MONTAGNARD said:

Can someone provide a summary of what did the pardon cover, what type of crimes, and what crimes were excluded, in order to understand the rational used in framing the presidential decree, and do we know what was the occasion?

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March 7th, 2011, 1:12 pm

 

63. Akbar Palace said:

Ghat’s Wonderful World of Blogosphere NewZ

Ghat,

Can you provide a link from a respected news source(s)? Blog posts aren’t reliable sources, just like the second-hand misquote of Begin you brought up a couple of months ago.

Also, you didn’t comment on the 2 Syrian fighters shot down. Why not? If it is bad that the GOI is helping “Gad-fly”, it stands to reason that it is just as bad if Syria is helpiing Gad-fly. No, or do you simply have 2 separate standards for Arabs and Israelis?

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March 7th, 2011, 1:16 pm

 

64. Shami said:

http://www.monstersandcritics.com/news/middleeast/news/article_1624021.php/Search-on-for-Syrian-opposition-activists-missing-in-Lebanon

Search on for Syrian opposition activists missing in Lebanon

Mar 6, 2011, 18:05 GMT

Beirut – Lebanese authorities began a search Sunday for four Syrian opposition activists who went missing shortly after passing out fliers in Beirut calling for a demonstration to oppose Syria’s government.

The four brothers were taken in by Lebanese security for questioning shortly after passing out the fliers in front of the Syrian embassy, reported a Lebanese security source Sunday. It was not immediately clear when they had been detained.

But they were released after that and had not been seen since. Lebanon’s internal security chief, General Ashraf Rifi, has instructed the proper authorities to immediately start an investigation.

Unconfirmed reports said that the four were taken, an hour after they were released by the Lebanese security officials, to the Syrian embassy in Beirut and then transferred to Damascus. The Syrian embassy denied those reports.

Syrian opposition groups have been calling on Syrians to protest what they call the ‘oppressive regime’ of Syrian President Bashar al Assad in the wake of pro-democracy uprisings that have swept the Arab world, starting in Tunisia and Egypt.

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March 7th, 2011, 1:18 pm

 

65. Atassi said:

Smart move and good timing indeed

Syrian prisoners launch hunger strike-rights group
7 March 2011
Reuters News
LBA
English
(c) 2011 Reuters Limited

* Hunger strikers say time to end “oppression”

* Strikers include 80-year-old former judge

BEIRUT, March 7 (Reuters) – Thirteen Syrian political prisoners have gone on hunger strike to protest against “political detentions and oppression” in their country, a rights group said on Monday.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights announced the hunger strike on the eve of the anniversary of a 1963 coup when Syria’s Baath Party seized power, banning any opposition and imposing emergency laws which are still in place.

The list of striking prisoners included 80-year-old Haitham al-Maleh, a former judge serving a three year jail term after criticising corruption in Syria, and lawyer Anwar al-Bunni, jailed for five years in 2007 for “weakening public morale”.

“The time has come to end this state of oppression, in line with the winds of democratic change sweeping through the Arab world,” the organisation quoted the prisoners saying.

They said that rights could not be “legitimate in Egypt and Tunisia and other countries, and not legitimate in Syria”.

“Therefore, we the political prisoners in Adra prison… have decided to go on hunger strike, demanding an end to political detentions, lifting oppression and restoring rights that were taken from civil and political life,” they said.

Syrian authorities have intensified a long-running campaign of arrests of dissidents and opposition figures since mass protests overthrew rulers in Egypt and Tunisia.

A teenage blogger who wrote articles on the Internet saying she yearned for a role in shaping the future of Syria was sentenced three weeks ago to five years in jail, despite U.S. calls for her release.

Last month Syrian authorities released 75-year-old Islamist Ghassan al-Najjar, after he went on hunger strike to protest his arrest for calling for Egyptian-style mass demonstrations in Syria in early February.

Security was tightenend and no protests went ahead. Security forces have also broken up small crowds who have gathered to express solidarity with protesters in Egypt and Libya.

The list of hunger strikers also included writer Ali Abdallah, who faces a military trial for criticising Syria’s ally Iran, and Mahmoud Barish, who is also standing trial for criticising corruption in Syria.

Leading dissident Kamal al-Labwani, who was handed a three-year sentence in 2008 on top of an existing 12-year jail is among the strikers.

Labwani was arrested at Damascus airport in 2005 upon his return from a trip to Washington, where he met U.S. officials in the White House to raise the issue of human rights in Syria. He was convicted of “inciting a foreign country to invade Syria”.

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March 7th, 2011, 1:57 pm

 
 

67. Shai said:

Ghat,

It is well known that Gaddafi’s son, Seif Al-Islam, dated for a while the Israeli actress, singer, and model Orly Weinerman. Perhaps that’s the link to this CST… It would also mean that Gaddafi almost had a Jewish grandson! That could have made some good stories on some Arizona-based website.

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March 7th, 2011, 2:08 pm

 

68. Ghat Al Bird said:

SHAI this might interest you although it has nothing to do with Ghadaffi’s son sexual prowes.

A Special Relationship: Neocon Ties to Gaddafi
Jacob Heilbrunn | 03.04.11

One of the central tenets of neoconservatism, in its current incarnation, has been to espouse democratization and opposition to tyranny. Richard Perle, for example, co-authored a book called An End To Evil. In it, he laid out what the jacket flap calls a “bold program to defend America–and to win the war on terror.”

But as Laura Rozen, among others, has reported in Politico, it seems that none other than Perle has been functioning, in the past several years, as an adviser to Col. Gaddafi. By any measure, Gaddafi is at least as terrible a despot as Saddam Hussein, the man whom neocons said it was essential to depose from power–and the ruler whom Ronald Reagan called the “mad dog” of the Middle East. That was then.

According to Rozen, one of the more unlikely figures to have advised a firm which has worked to burnish Libya’s image and grow its economy is not registered with the Justice Department. Prominent neoconservative Richard Perle, the former Reagan-era Defense Department official and George W. Bush-era chairman of the Defense Policy Board, traveled to Libya twice in 2006 to meet with Qadhafi, and afterward briefed Vice President Dick Cheney on his visits, according to documents released by a Libyan opposition group in 2009.

The firm is based in Boston and called the Monitor Group. It is apparently linked to a number of professors at the Harvard Business School. The idea was to bring prominent academics to Libya to try and polish up the regime’s image. According to Rozen, the Monitor Group documents state that thinkers such as Francis Fukuyama and Bernard Lewis were recruited to meet with Gaddafi. The story was first released by members of the Libyan opposition, who have sought to highlight the extent to which the West has colluded with the Gaddafi regime. Gaddafi’s son Saif al-Islam also visited Harvard University under the auspices of the Monitor Group.

As I’ve previously written, the efforts of the Bush administration to reach out to Gaddafi made sense. Former Bush national security aide and neocon Elliot Abrams makes a persuasive case that it was necessary to cut a deal with the devil. In an act of realpolitik, the administration secured Gadaffi’s nuclear materials, a major success.

But seeking to improve Gaddafi’s image is another matter. Perle should explain what, precisely, he was trying to accomplish in Libya. What did he and Gaddafi talk about the two times that they met in Libya? What did Perle tell former vice-president Cheney when he briefed him about visiting Gaddafi?

As it stands, his actions appear dubious in the extreme. America did not need a special relationship with the man who presided over the Lockerbie bombing and numerous other heinous acts. Some reputations are irredeemable, and Gaddafi’s, as he tries to send his country up in flames, as an act of personal vanity, before he is finally deposed from power, is one of them.

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March 7th, 2011, 2:31 pm

 

69. Jihad said:

Quote from the Vogue’s piece:
“It’s a tough neighborhood,” admits Asma al-Assad.

This comes straight out of the racist Zionist handbook.

Sure, Mrs. Asma al-Assad is beautiful and educated and the glossy photos adds to her attractiveness. But as a whole, the article is riddled with Orientalist clichés and sends the message that hey in Syria there are people like us who know Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie (contrary to her last name, Angelina is not that “jolie”), who send their children to private Western school and who regard Islam like mayonnaise sauce.

Finally, why those in power in the Arab world don’t ever send their children to public schools and universities?!

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March 7th, 2011, 2:49 pm

 

70. ATassi said:

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March 7th, 2011, 2:57 pm

 

71. norman said:

OTW, Jad,
Do you approve?.

Print Back to story Syria Starts $2.1 Billion Irrigation Project on Tigris River
By Lina Ibrahim and Nayla Razzouk – Mar 7, 2011 Syrian President Bashar al-Assad laid the first stone of a $2.1 billion irrigation project on the Tigris River today, the Syrian Arab News Agency said.

The project will pump 1.25 billion cubic meters (330 billion gallons) of Tigris water to irrigate some 200,000 hectares (770 square miles) of land in the northeastern governorate of Hassakeh, it said. It will provide 125 million cubic meters of potable water a year to the region, it said. The agency did not give a time for the completion of the project.

Syria’s eastern region is home to the country’s oil, gas, wheat and cotton industries. The region was hit by severe droughts over the last few years. Syria and Turkey set the first stone for a dam capable of storing 115 million cubic meters of water on the Orontes River on their borders on Feb. 6.

To contact the reporters on this story: Lina Ibrahim in Dubai at librahim4@bloomberg.net; Nayla Razzouk in Amman at nrazzouk2@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Stephen Voss at sev@bloomberg.net

®2011 BLOOMBERG L.P. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

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March 7th, 2011, 3:00 pm

 
 

73. Friend in America said:

GHAT
I agree with you about Gaddafi’s viciousness. Several decades ago his informants reported remarks uttered by several students at the university that were critical of the corruption allowed by the leadership. Gaddafi had the students tried and convicted. They were then hung in the square (or main crosswalk)of the university in public view so that the other students could see them on the way to and from classes.Thge bodies were left hanging for several days. Gaddafi also would postpone the executions of criminals and other convicts for Ramadan when he would hang some of them each day with state television broadcasting the hangings the entire day.

In 2006-2007 an effort was made by one of Gaddafi’s sons to bring about some modest democratic reforms. This effort occurred when Gaddafi was trying to improve relations with western European countries and the U.S. The Monitor Group was hired to advise on improving Gaddafi’s public image and to make concrete proposals for political reform. Monitor Groups proposals was prepared, approved by Gaddafi’s son and presented to the political leadership. It was promptly shot down by the conservatives, the report was filed away to be forgotten and the son was disfavored by his brothers for years thereafter. When the report was filed away, the academics who had written the proposals resigned. Monitor Group’s contract ended shortly thereafter. What you report in your comment is accurate from my information. I just thought it would be interesting to provide the rest of the Monitor Group-Gaddafi story.

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March 7th, 2011, 3:36 pm

 

74. Off the Wall said:

Dear Norman
I am never in a position to approve or disapprove. I do not have enough information to make any informed technical judgement. I will try to gather more information, which must be far more extensive than SANA’s piece and see then.

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March 7th, 2011, 3:42 pm

 

75. Akbar Palace said:

42 years of Silence NewZ

And here was the Arab world’s response after Gad-Fly had his hench-men blow up a commercial airliner, Pan Am 103:

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March 7th, 2011, 5:22 pm

 

76. Ghat Al Bird said:

FRIEND IN AMERICA . Appreciate your comments

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March 7th, 2011, 6:09 pm

 

77. Norman said:

OTW ,

I wanted to know if you think that a project like this will help the farmers and the eastern part of Syria.

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March 7th, 2011, 8:52 pm

 

78. Yossi said:

Ziad,

You asked: “Modern Hebrew seems like an engineered construct. Is there a normalizing authority, the equivalent to the Academie Francaise? Are there local dialects?”

It started out very engineered, but now it’s almost anarchic. There is an Academy for The Hebrew Language, but it’s not being taken seriously. When it comes to grammar and syntax, it’s pretty much a lost cause to try to go against the popular current. The academy is sometimes helpful in coining new words for foreign terms.

There are local dialects, but less than being local they are more correlated with country of origin, religious orientation, socio-economic background, age group, etc. The number of Arab speakers of excellent Hebrew is also rising, some of them are successful authors, such as Sayed Kashua. They tend to be a little more formal, I wouldn’t be surprised if the Hebrew-language equivalent of Joseph Conrad will turn out be an Arab…

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March 8th, 2011, 2:09 am

 

79. Friend in America said:

GHAT,
thank you and my best regards.

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March 8th, 2011, 8:32 am

 

80. Syrialover said:

Guess what, I’m old enough to remember admiration-soaked articles in the western media about the very elegant but down-to-earth and charming wife of an Arab leader who spent her time supporting fine causes and doing good deeds.

Her name was Suzanne Mubarek.

No doubt arranged by the same expensive western PR machine employed by the Assads and the Gaddafis.

It’s puzzling that Asma al-Assad is unembarrassed promoting and parading on behalf of her husband’s ruthless, corrupt and incompetent unelected regime.

Obviously she had a paper bag over her head and earplugs during all those years of higher education and upbringing in a modern western society with well-functioning government, economic prosperity, rule of law and human rights. But I gather her daddy was on board the Assad train and she happily took up the chance to serve it too.

It’s also puzzling that Syrians on this site proudly praise Mrs AA’s charm while a few lines down you can read reports of cruelty to political prisoners, manufactured economic disaster and reckless foreign policies, all directed from the same chambers where she is groomed and polished for the press.

Do they feel she compensates for everything by looking glamorous and sprinkling a bit of fairy dust on a grim mess?

Events in the future will have the world comparing Asma al-Assad not with Suzanne Mubark or the witch-like Mrs Ben Ali, more likely that cool dude Saif Gaddafi.

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March 9th, 2011, 2:35 am

 

81. Laura said:

Why is everyone tying to bring bashar down?
hes only making Syria a wondersul country..
I love bashar <3

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March 11th, 2011, 7:40 pm

 

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