The United States presents Cinerama in Damascus, 1954

Posted by Alex 

This is a story from 1954. I wanted to share it with you because it is an example of a great public relations success for the United States in Syria, and the Arab world in General… a very different kind of initiative from the one behind the American warship(s) near Syria and Lebanon today.

Maybe there are simpler ways to flip Syria … they will not cost three trillion dollars, and no one will die.

 

CINERAMA SECRET WEAPON OF THE COLD WAR

BY TOM LECOMPTE

1954: The Soviets had just exploded their first H-bomb; the McCarthy hearings had come to an ignominious end in Washington; Stalin had died and Khrushchev had risen to power in Moscow. And in Damascus, Syria, Harris Peel had a problem.

Peel, the information director for the U.S. Embassy in the Syrian capital, needed something quickly. The Soviets were inaugurating a new front in the Cold War. The first Damascus International Trade Fair, slated to be the biggest in the Middle East, was due to open in just a few weeks, and the Soviets were pouring men, material, and money into it in an all-out effort to gain friends and influence in a region of growing strategic importance. They had hired 1,200 laborers and spent a half-million dollars to build a 40,000-square-foot pavilion that would be the largest in the fair, and would dominate the fairgrounds with a 100-foot steeple topped by an illuminated Red Star.
The United States, meanwhile, had nothing. With little time and zero budget, Peel cast about for some way to rescue his country’s prestige. Then he had an idea: Cinerama.

The year before, in Washington, Peel had attended a showing of This Is Cinerama. Since its unveiling in 1952 at New York’s Broadway Theater, This Is Cinerama had been a runaway success, thrilling audiences with its stomach-convulsing views taken from the front of a roller coaster and its breathtaking low-level aerial shots of such landmarks as the Grand Canyon and Niagara Falls. The movie’s revolutionary three-panel ultra-wide-screen projection technique immersed audiences in a panoramic view of the action. You didn’t watch This Is Cinerama, you experienced it. It had become the most-talked-about film since —well, since the introduction of talkies in 1927. How better to showcase the best America had to offer?

A few phone calls later and it was arranged. Cinerama, Inc., agreed to donate everything needed to build a temporary theater. The Air Force agreed to fly over 12 tons of equipment, including a 75-foot-long, 25foot-high curved movie screen. A Cinerama crew and a handful of local laborers built a 2,000-seat open-air theater just in time for the opening of the month-long fair. “We busted our butts for five weeks to make this thing work,” Frank Richmond, the supervisor, told a reporter. “It worked, but God knows we had no right to think it would.”

On opening night, September 2, 1954, throngs swarmed the fairgrounds. Tickets were distributed free by the U.S. Information Agency (USIA), and demand far outstripped supply. Thousands showed up without tickets. Richmond looked on in horror as the metal fence around the complex started to yield to the crowd. “It scared me to see those iron fences bending under the weight of hundreds of people pushing,” he said, “and inside, without protection, $100,000 worth of equipment.”

The fences, however, held. Extra police were dispatched to maintain crowd control, and the U.S. Information Center in Damascus barred its doors and posted special guards to keep crowds from storming the building in quest of nonexistent tickets. Black marketers scalped passes, and a counterfeiting ring faked them. Each night people who couldn’t get tickets climbed nearby eucalyptus trees, stood on barrels, or balanced on bicycles to get a glimpse of the spectacle. A nearby restaurant with a partial view of the screen was packed every night. The USIA distributed 150,000 tickets during the show’s month-long run, and informal estimates had a total of nearly a quarter-million people seeing the show. The population of Damascus was 360,000.

Peel’s idea was such an overwhelming success that the State Department investigated the possibility of installing Cinerama on a retired aircraft carrier and taking it to ports all over the world. The plan was abandoned only after the expense of taking a carrier out of mothballs was found to be prohibitive. At a subsequent fair in Bangkok, the demand for tickets was so great that the film was held over for two weeks after the fair ended.

The Soviets, embarrassed and angry at being upstaged at the trade fair, resolved to acquire Cinerama’s secrets. Said Thomas: “Not long after Cinerama opened in London, they sent a planeload of scientists to the British capital, and while Washington slept and did nothing more about using this magic medium and failed to continue the success of Damascus and Bangkok, the Russians copied Cinerama.” He added that nothing less than our national security was at stake. No one knows exactly how the Russians learned the inner workings of Cinerama, but it may not have been too hard. Popular Science had run a cover story detailing the mechanics of Waller’s invention in August 1950, two years before the premiere of This Is Cinerama.

 

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Syrian newspaper headline: "Cinerama plays in Syria before any other country"

[from the collection of www.mideastimage.com]

 

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American Globe Master air cargo, the largest plane to land at Damascus Maze Airport in 1954

[from the collection of www.mideastimage.com]

 

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Syrian President Hashem Atassi and other guests at the Damascus International Fair in 1954

[from the collection of www.mideastimage.com]

 

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Egyptian movie stars Madiha Yosri and her husband Mohammad Faouzi watch Cinerama in Damascus

[from the collection of www.mideastimage.com]

 

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Sign in Arabic says: "The Unites States of America presents Cinerama"

[from the collection of www.mideastimage.com]

 

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Nineteen year old Saudi Prince Talal Ben Abdel Aziz AL-Saud dressed in trendy black talks to Frank Richmond from Cinerama, in the projection room in Damascus.

[from the collection of www.mideastimage.com]

lowellthomasjrrichmond.jpg

Lowell Thomas Jr. (active promoter of Cinerama, and official photographer of the event) and Frank Richmond (Damascus project manager) in the projection room

Lowell Thomas Sr. (father of Lowell Thomas Jr., above) was a nearly ubiquitous journalist, showman, radio commentator, and adventurer, a sort of one-man media empire. He had a daily radio show heard by millions and was the voice of Fox Movietone newsreels. His sonorous voice and distinctive “So long until tomorrow…” sign-off were brands to themselves. He was also a tireless promoter, a man who counted among his friends Presidents, Hollywood stars, and business titans.He was a correspondent during World War I in the Middle East with Gen. Edmund Allenby and T. E. Lawrence.

[from the collection of www.mideastimage.com]

 

invitation.jpg

US embassy in Damascus invite to a reception at the Damascus Orient Club.

[from the collection of www.mideastimage.com]

 

Comments (145)


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101. offended said:

Naji, it was me. I think I should copy-right it. ;)

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March 10th, 2008, 8:52 am

 

102. Alex said:

No, you “never said that” … but you said many things which are exactly “that”

Look … on the phone we speak for two hours each time .. to type the same here will take 20 hours.

Majhool habibi… after talking to you for 50 hours the past year … I think I do understand what you like and what you don’t like.

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March 10th, 2008, 8:55 am

 

103. Naji said:

Offended,

…an elegant concept summed up in one word…! You could copy-right it, but how about offering it for free to the world…?! We sure could use some creative concepts of co-existence around here… ;)

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March 10th, 2008, 8:57 am

 

104. offended said:

“We sure could use some creative concepts of co-existence around here…”

Exactly Naji, regardless of where we stand on political matters, sectarian ‘fault lines’ shouldn’t stand between us…

I argued about this with Ehsani2 when I met him (he has a slightly different view), but I am not going to start off the argument online until he’s back behind his computer : ).

P.S. I am copy-writing ‘fault lines’ as well…although as a negative word as it may be, I think nobody is interested in burglarizing it…
Maybe Al Seyassa?

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March 10th, 2008, 9:06 am

 

105. Majhool said:

On the Minority/Majority complex, here are some quotes from Norman:

“most the traitors in the Arab world as I see it are not of the minorities”

“About being paranoid (by sunnis) , you must be kidding , I was in Syria in the late seventies where only the Christian and Shai professors were killed by the MB , sometime in the classrooms, they did not fined any corrupt Sunni Baathist to kill”

“the way , for your information , people are not paranoid if they build their stand on facts like what the MB did in Syria , that is called learning from history , Something you do not seem to understand ”

On the other hand I said

“I view nationalism as defending the rights of all citizens especially those whom we disagree with. To be nationalist yet paranoid of half of the population does not add up”

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March 10th, 2008, 9:07 am

 

106. offended said:

Majhool,
Does the MB accord represent all Sunnis?

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March 10th, 2008, 9:14 am

 

107. Shai said:

Naji,

I really don’t want to put you and Simohurtta in the same boat. For crying out loud, do you REALLY believe the crap he’s talking about and insinuating? Wizart’s “softening” of the message doesn’t do it much better, unfortunately, because maybe he means something else but sounds the same. Where do you guys get that Nuke-stuff from? You think the Europeans, or the Arabs, for that matter are afraid of our nukes? If so, how come Hezbollah isn’t afraid to shell our nation with thousands of stupid-rockets, sending a million-plus Israelis to underground shelters? Why isn’t Hamas afraid to send Qassams for 7 years straight, on a daily basis almost? If Israel does have nukes, then I can’t but see how our policy vis-a-vis use of such weapons is EXTREMELY responsible. For Christ’s sake, can you imagine the other around? Suppose Hezbollah had nukes, and suppose we rained down upon Lebanon thousands of shells throughout the country. Would Hezbollah use its nukes, or not??? If Hamas had nukes, would it use them, or not??? Before you go suggesting your typical anti-Israel rhetoric (what I called “crap” in Simohurtta’s case), try to first be honest with yourself, and then maybe check with a friend of two, to make sure your rationale stands more than just the comment section on SC.

Trust me, Naji, I could sit here and come up with a bunch of really good stuff about the regimes in this region, and why we should NOT trust them, make peace with them, relinquish territory gained in war to, etc. If we look for reasons NOT to make peace, they’re all around us, not just on Israel’s side, you know. So unless that is your goal (it certainly seems to be Simohurtta’s), please consider, and reconsider, your words and insinuations carefully. Sophisticated wording doesn’t make one smart, it makes one sound smart. Alienating those who are ready to do away with all the hatred, and distrust, and suspicion, and bloodshed, between Jews and Arabs is, I believe, not smart.

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March 10th, 2008, 9:17 am

 

108. Majhool said:

Offended,

good question. of course not. and that is exactly the point. the minute i mention the “opressed” majority Norman jumps and talks about MB?!! the minute i talk about the right of the mojority to share power Norman jumps and talks about how I want the sharia law.

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March 10th, 2008, 9:24 am

 

109. Naji said:

Shai,
Believe it or not, despite all the loud noise in your comment, you managed to make a couple of valid points that would have been much easier to discern had they been made less offensively… That might have been smarter, no…?!

To tell you the truth, until reading Simo’s comment above, I, probably like most people around here, had not been ALL that worried by Israel’s nuclear weapons… out-of-sight-out-of-mind, I guess, …they did not cause anxiety at the level of one’s “guts”…, but now that I think about it…??!! I mean, you know as well as I do that Israel has at least as many “religious nuts” as the other “communities” in this region, and that the path to power for those is much clearer in Israel than in the neighboring communities (democracy and all that…). What would happen if one those was in power when Hamas/Iran/HA, or whoever, came close vanquishing an IDF that the world had suddenly, or finally, forsaken…??!! You say, “ah, but they will not foresake us, precicesly because we have nuclear weapons”, but you would be wrong my friend. The rest of the world has grown weary of the whole lot of us, and has decided to erect missile defences, and whatever else it takes, at whatever cost, to shield itself from the risks of our eternal bickering and …move on …! I think you must agree that the presence of nuclear weapons, no matter in who’s hands, in the middle of the most explosive and contested region of the world, is… scarey…!? Whether one happens to be very clever or not, one cannot but gain by some intellectual honesty…!

I don’t know how smart it was of you to try to alienate one Syrian who is trying to find “some creative concepts of co-existence around here…”, but obviously you were not clever enough to succeed…! ;)

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March 10th, 2008, 10:05 am

 

110. wizart said:

Shai,

If Hamas had Nukes Israel would have made peace in the region unstead of blockading Gaza and depriving its 2 million people from basic human rights such as gainful employment, food and medicine.
There’s no need for branding anybody’s questions crap or stupid. There’s no such thing as dumb questions. Only questions that have not been answered. Progress is rooted in exercising free inquiry.

Regime change seems like a smokescreen to divert attention from the real challenge and responsibility of bringing real security to all.

Thanks to Simo, Naji and all peace lovers looking for real answers.

Simo said..

“Israel has not a couple of nukes. It has several hundreds of them including a strategical long range capacity to deliver them (to all directions). For what reason hundreds of them, can you answer?

Certainly lets say 10 nukes would be enough as a detterent. So Israel could nuke most Arab capitals out of the map. The reality is that the Iranians and Arabs are far from nuclear bombs, Israel has them.

What comes to Europe and Israeli nukes. Why on earth do you Shai believe Germany etc have spy ships on Lebanon’s coast and why Israeli air force is threatening them? What do you think the Chinese in Lebanon and Russians in Syria are listening and observing? Certainly Hizbollah is not their main interest, neither it is for German, French and Italian military. So stop you desperate propaganda that Israel uses its nukes with “responsibility”. There can’t be any “responsibility” with nukes. They are made for a purpose. To get political power and if needed to use them.

Let’s imagine a political situation where EU takes a harder line with Israel and begins a trade blockade. Israel’s economy would collapse in weeks. What would the mad dog do? Certainly at present the Israeli nukes are no direct clear acute danger for EU, but the threat exists. In a shorter term the greater danger for EU is that Israel will use nukes against its neighbours especially Iran as it continuously leaked in different news. Sorry Shai but Europeans see Israel as danger to world peace. And the borders of EU are near Israel.

Do you Shai sleep good if Lieberman (or an equal religious nut) would be the PM of Israel? Such a PM is thousands of times more dangerous than any Iranian president or leader of a guerilla group. And such a PM can be a reality in the near future.

Shai you certainly know the shady co-operation with Iran (during Ayatollah time and the Shah era) and Israel about nuclear matters and poison gases. You also know the other customers of your weapon industry. Not pretty reading. But indeed useful “behaviour” to keep up the mad dog image.

Shai in your admirable peace building efforts you should also concentrate on the real matters. And one of them is the military situation. Security means that all feel secure. The sad truth Shai is that you as a civilized peace builder represent a small minority in your country. There are several “bearded men packed with religious testosterone” against one of you in Israel. And those are not only Palestinians. That makes me worried.”
——————————————————————-

I would love to see the views of more Europeans in these regards.

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March 10th, 2008, 10:21 am

 

111. offended said:

Majhool,
If you re-read your suggestion to Norman with a critical eye, you’d find that it was you who brought up the majority/minority thing. Is that what you are ultimately looking for? A majority Sunni ruling Syria? Do you realize how sectarian you sound by this? Do you not care if the president is competent or not?
Of course Norman is going to take your suggestion with a pinch of salt; because you do not seem to advocate the rights of the whole Syrian population, only the part that you are concerned about. If your call for democracy is genuine; then the kind of democracy you’re looking for should encapsulate all Syrians. Not only you my friend…

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March 10th, 2008, 10:33 am

 

112. offended said:

Shai, a quick suggestion:
Make a flask of green shai and head to the closest park and please try to chill!

Seriously, what’s with the angry tone today?

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March 10th, 2008, 10:35 am

 

113. Shai said:

Offended,

Please read Simohurtta’s comments to me in the previous thread (p=613), put yourself in Shai’s shoes, and tell me if you’d be nice and relaxed… It’s the kind of tone and insinuations that I hadn’t seen up until now on SC (with the exception of the “previous AIG”, not the nicer one of today…) That kind of thought, is exactly what could cause all the potential moderates and doves out there to remain numb, or give up hope, and just let the die roll however it does.

Naji,

I’m sorry if I offended you in any way. I’m not here to offend anyone, not even avid anti-Israelis like Simohurtta. But I really did “lose my top” when, for the first time on SC, I saw the kind of almost demonization that could do so much harm to any positive image some Israelis are working so hard to achieve. It’s not enough that we have to correct everything with the Palestinians, to prove we’re serious about withdrawing to the 1967 lines in the West Bank and the Golan, to open up our ears, minds, and hearts, to hearing the concerns of those who were oppressed by us for decades. No, now, there’s also the Nukes issue, and Israel’s “mad dog” potential. The religious are nowhere near taking over this country, some 3/4 of the population are 100% secular, and of the remaining 25%, most would NOT want a nation run by the religious. Those “bearded men”, as you call them, would achieve control of our “nukes” (if indeed we have them) only if Israel had a civil war, the secular side would lose, and the IDF took a long vacation in Florida. We’re nowhere near that happening – it is almost science fiction, no matter how much the media you read is hinting at its likelihood.

I can attest to many terrible things that ARE happening in my country, such as unbelievable corruption, huge budgets going to defense spending rather than education and social welfare, etc. A lot of things in Israel are bad (not only our occupation of the Palestinian territories). But to conjure up some theory of some trigger-happy “bearded men” controlling the nukes, and then going crazy like a “mad dog”, and threatening Europe (of all places), and the entire Middle East… that’s just either sheer boredom, or complete surrender to cognitive manipulation by some interested parties. I know a lot of the Arabic media, and especially talks on “the street”, include a whole variety of conspiracy theories, most of which are intentional and ridiculous. But to see you guys buying into this, is almost shocking, I must say.

But you know what, even if it was 100% correct. At least consider your choices, before making blatant insinuations like these. Suppose I’m not the peaceful Shai I pretend to be. Suppose I’m the conspiring Shai that attends the Elders of Zion weekly meetings (in charge of the Nuclear Department). Will your accusations make me more likely to think and act differently? Are you pretending to seek a peaceful future with my people, or are you essentially pointing to all the reasons to continue Arab hatred, distrust, and suspicion towards Israel? What worries me, is that I believe it’s the latter. It may not be intentional, you may be innocently trying to depict reality as you see it, but from my angle, you’re doing terrible damage to any attempt we’re having at bridging our gaps. Let’s talk first about your concerns regarding the Palestinians’ rights, about returning the Golan to Syria, and about making peace happen in our region. The nukes can wait just a bit, I believe, especially as Israel has never acknowledged having them (and for a reason).

By the way, as a super-last point, have you ever considered this: Suppose Israel indeed has nuclear weapons. Is it at all possible that this actually deters some parties from attempting a violent religious takeover of secular countries in the region? The current regime in Iran would probably love nothing better than to see a Shia-controlled Middle East. They are certainly investing a lot of efforts into doing so in Iraq, and in Lebanon. If the Iranian regime ever considered attempting in the future to also take over Saudi Arabia, or Egypt, or theoretically even Syria, don’t you think the fact that Israel has nuclear weapons may well deter them from doing so? Isn’t this nuclear-umbrella, in a way, also protecting secular states, that are either already Israel’s partners, or will likely be ones soon? Think about it. I’m not sure you or I can easily dismiss it.

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March 10th, 2008, 12:37 pm

 

114. Qifa Nabki said:

Bravo Shai.

I like to see you get a little menacing. :)

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March 10th, 2008, 1:16 pm

 

115. Qifa Nabki said:

March 14 to Launch its 1st Conference on Friday

The March 14 coalition announced on Monday it was launching its first conference at the Beirut International Exhibition and Leisure Center (BIEL) on March 14.
The conference under the title “The Spring of Lebanon 2008,” aims at reaffirming March 14’s “existence and spirit,” MP Ghazi Youssef said at a press conference held at Beirut’s Bristol Hotel.

“It is high time for us to meet on the 14th of march and put forth our vision for building a solid, peaceful democracy in Lebanon,” he said.

Youssef said that “we want the world to know, both inside and outside Lebanon” that the gathering to be held on March 14 “is to understand that this is a coalition of political parties that has achieved a very important goal – free Lebanon from Syrian domination.”

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March 10th, 2008, 1:18 pm

 

116. Shai said:

QN,

That’s really the last thing I want to do in this forum. I respect the participants, readers, and commentators too much for that. I just really lost my top with some of these comments… Maybe I’ll go for that green shai after all… :-)

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March 10th, 2008, 1:24 pm

 

117. offended said:

Shai,
I don’t know Simo very much, but I think he’s leftist.
He does come up with good points every now and then. Unfortunately (or maybe fortunately? : ) ) I haven’t been following the discussion form the beginning. (I will go back and read it later…)

But I am somehow convinced that Israel possesses some nukes, (I am taking Va’nono’s word for it), whether Israel will use them or not. I really do not know.
You know in the late eighties, when the disarmament (or the nuclear arms reduction) treaty was being negotiated between the Sovs and the Americans; they’ve covered everything down to the ‘notice time’ (the time that should be given from one side to the other in case of real on-site inspection is needed ). That was a part of the ‘verification’ process that took almost one week to negotiate. The Sovs insisted on 24 hours notice time (they still couldn’t digest having American spooks inspecting their nuclear reactor “the pride of the Rodina”). The Americans demanded 1 hour! They finally agreed on 5 hours. The logic for both sides was simple; they both had the capability of destroying he earth 4 times over. Why not reduce to one time and divert all that saved money from maintenance, energy and development costs to other more urgent and more pressing matters?

So I guess what I am trying to say is that these things, can be negotiated and verified, if there was a joint well to do so. Israel will have to understand whether now or later that the guarantor for its future security is not the military superiority. It is the peaceful co-existence with its neighbors. But I know you already know that. : )

Yallah if this matter is making you sensitive and stressful then let’s drop it for now. One thing I’ve learned from this forum is that you have to discard lots of comments specially the personal insults. (for a sample, check out the ‘un’decent exchange between me and Majhool)…..

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March 10th, 2008, 1:27 pm

 

118. offended said:

Shai,
Please be wary that QN is a 14th march supporter who’s trying to spoil the chances of peace and CBMs between Syria and Israel.

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March 10th, 2008, 1:31 pm

 

119. Shai said:

Offended,

You often speak wisely, and have done so now as well. I agree 100% that for a truly peaceful Middle East, all parties will have to trust one another. And that may well include disarming ourselves of certain capabilities. But we are so far away from it now, and there’s so much to do, which is much more surmountable, and which is urgently needed, so that we do NOT reach a point of contemplating that other “sacred issue”. When Israel feels secure, living in peace amongst its neighbors, I’m sure a lot of issues could be dealt with. But this will literally happen at the earliest, a few generations from now. It’s like Israelis expecting the Arabs or the Palestinians to forgive us tomorrow morning. It’s not realistic, and should not be anticipated. We need to do everything else, so that one day we can indeed reconcile, and have no reasons to fear one another. A tone down of words, and thoughts, is indeed necessary. This is the time to begin chipping away with suspicion and hatred, and open up a new chapter in this region. But things will happen slowly, also on our side, not just yours.

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March 10th, 2008, 1:35 pm

 

120. Qifa Nabki said:

Offended,

Darn! The anti-M14 radar on this blog is too good.

Between you, Ausamaa, and Nour, all my attempts to foil the future peace between Syria and Israel have been uncovered.

Maybe I should consider changing my name and starting all over again, now that my cover has been blown.

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March 10th, 2008, 1:44 pm

 

121. offended said:

lol QN, I am glad you got the joke. :P
Have they invited you yet to speak at the conference? is it a kind of a parrallel summit that is designed to outshadow or undermine the one in Damascus?

We are suspicious to those March 14 shenanigans you know, today a conference, tomorrow god knows what… o’ssa taweele…

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March 10th, 2008, 1:53 pm

 

122. Qifa Nabki said:

Offended,

Walaw? I’m the KEYNOTE speaker at the conference. And it’s not going to be held at BIEL, as they say. Actually, the US warships are going to come close to the Lebanese shore, and we’re going to hold the conference on the deck of one of them. Just to send the right signal. ;)

Joking aside, I think that the ‘conference’ will be used to make some kind of offer to the opposition. There have been signs of a thaw, in my opinion. A couple of days ago, Franjieh said in an interview on al-Arabiyya “Give me the 1960 electoral law, and take whatever you want,” signalling that Hizbullah and the FPM were conceding their demand for a veto, again. There is already agreement on a president (at least in theory… I still don’t believe that Aoun has come to terms with this).

So, my guess is that M14 will produce a nice big conference, with loud proclamations about their achievements, and their commitment to Lebanon’s siyyedeh, hurriyeh wa istiqlal… and then they’ll make an offer.

They want to keep the attention focused on Lebanon, because there’s a danger that it will get brushed aside at the summit. Israel has played perfectly into Syria’s hands, in this respect, by ramping up the violence in Gaza. It’s given the Syrians a perfect excuse to pressure the Arabs into coming, and also a perfect excuse to NOT discuss Lebanon, because there are more important things happening in Palestine, etc. etc.

So, maybe things will be tied up in Beirut until 2009, as Iran is proposing.

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March 10th, 2008, 2:04 pm

 

123. Qifa Nabki said:

Here’s a very good discussion of the electoral law debate that is taking place in Lebanon at the moment.

In times in like these, it is so easy for the Lebanese to be incredibly depressed about the state of their country, with good reason. After all, Lebanon is once again being used as a battleground between foreign powers, and the Lebanese politicians are once again seeking to use tactics of division rather than unification, in order to hold on to their seats.

But let’s put it in perspective. The debates that are taking place right now are the result of Lebanon’s first real attempt to become a sovereign, democratic nation with equitable and just institutions. From independence to the Civil War, the Lebanese did not have an equal say in their government, and the state institutions were quite weak. From the end of the Civil War until 2005, Syria ran the country. From 2005 until now, the Syrians left but the system and the faces remained the same, albeit with a different tune.

I may be delusional, but I actually draw a great deal of inspiration from the debates that are taking place about the electoral law. People are finally taking this seriously! Only with a proper electoral law that cracks down on issues other than redistricting (such as campaign spending, voter intimidation, etc.) will we have a real sense of what the Lebanese want. Such reforms can only strengthen Lebanon, in the long run. But unfortunately, politics is term to term.

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March 10th, 2008, 2:20 pm

 

124. offended said:

Israel playing into Syria’s hands? that’s a bit far fetched don’t you think ya QN?

Or is this the usual Lebanese ‘ASS’? (Attention Seeking Syndrome)

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March 10th, 2008, 2:23 pm

 

125. Qifa Nabki said:

Offended,

Not at all. I didn’t say that Syria told Hamas to increase its rocket attacks on Israel in order to provoke the Israelis into invading Gaza. (Some people have claimed this.)

I simply mean that Israel’s action has benefited Syria. The fatalities in Gaza have made it very difficult for KSA and Egypt to boycott the summit, because it will make them look like they are abandoning the Palestinians. And if they DO go, the agenda might be dominated by the issue of Gaza, with further meaningless condemnations of Israeli aggression, etc. Lebanon will get swept under the rug, which is to Syria’s benefit. (Do you deny that?)

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March 10th, 2008, 2:32 pm

 

126. wizart said:

Shai,

If you’re not sure if Israel has Nukes then how come you’re so sure about who exactly controls them much less how religious they are?

The information below comes from the Arms Control Association:

Biological Weapons:

The Israeli government operates an extensive and sophisticated biodefense program. It has not made public pronouncements on its biological weapons policy nor signed the Biological Weapons Convention, which is widely interpreted as an indication that Israel has some offensive capabilities.

Chemical Weapons:

Israel has signed, but not ratified, the Chemical Weapons Convention. Although the status of its formerly extensive offensive weapons program and stockpile is unknown, there is no doubt that Israel is active in defensive research. Russian intelligence claimed in 1993 that “Israel has a store of chemical weapons of its own manufacture… [and] is capable of producing toxic substances of all types, including nerve-paralyzing, blister-producing and temporarily incapacitating substances and so forth.”[2]

Missiles:

* Ballistic Missiles: Israel fields an arsenal of nuclear-capable Jericho missiles, which are based on French technology and road- and rail-mobile. The Jericho-1 was first deployed in the early 1970s and the 1,500 kilometer-range Jericho-2 followed in 1990. Israel’s space-launch capability indicates it could develop a missile with intercontinental reach.

* Cruise Missiles: Israel has purchased U.S.-origin Harpoon cruise missiles with a range of 120 kilometers. Reports suggest that Israel has modified the Harpoon system to deliver nuclear payloads.[3] It also is believed to have indigenously developed a submarine-launched cruise missile system with a range of up to 900 kilometers.

Nuclear Weapons:

Israel is suspected of having a nuclear arsenal ranging from 75 to 200 nuclear warheads, although it has never officially acknowledged possessing such arms or demonstrated its capability through a nuclear test. Israel officially maintains that it “will not be the first country to introduce nuclear weapons in the Middle East.”

In addition to its Jericho missiles, Israel maintains a fleet of nuclear-capable fighter combat aircraft, including U.S.-origin F-16s and F-15s. Independent analysts also believe Israel’s Dolphin-class submarines have been outfitted to deliver nuclear weapons.

How much plutonium Israel has produced is unknown. One independent analyst calculates the amount as roughly 600 kilograms.[4] It is assumed by some analysts that Israel has a uranium-enrichment program, although there is not enough evidence to support a credible estimate of how much highly enriched uranium Israel might have produced.

Conventional Weapons Trade:

Israel has been an important and leading arms client of the United States, but Israel also is stepping up its arms sales abroad. In the process, Israel upset the United States by transferring certain weapons and technologies, including spare parts for unmanned aerial vehicles, to China. Israel and the United States signed a secret memorandum in August 2005 aimed at restricting certain Israeli exports to other countries.[5]

Israel is the one of a few Middle East states that has consistently volunteered its annual arms export and import data to the United Nations Register of Conventional Arms.

In January 2007, the United States made a preliminary finding that Israel might have violated the use terms of imported U.S. arms, specifically cluster munitions. In a summer 2006 conflict with Hezbollah guerillas located in southern Lebanon, Israel employed U.S.-origin cluster munitions, which are reportedly authorized exclusively for use against clear military targets. Allegations were made that Israel used the weapons more indiscriminately. The United States had suspended cluster munitions exports to Israel for several years during the 1980s because of a finding that Israel had misused the weapons.

Proliferation Record

Israel is not known to have deliberately or significantly contributed to the spread of biological, chemical, or nuclear weapons to other states, although the extent of Israel’s involvement in South Africa’s previously secret, now abandoned, nuclear weapons program is uncertain.

Other Arms Control and Nonproliferation Activities

On June 7, 1981, Israeli planes bombed an Iraqi nuclear reactor, which Israel charged would contribute to an Iraqi nuclear weapons program. That attack did not halt the secret Iraqi nuclear weapons program, which was not exposed and dismantled until the aftermath of the 1991 Persian Gulf War.

Israel has not threatened to block negotiation of a fissile material cutoff treaty at the 65-member Conference on Disarmament, but Israeli leaders have voiced reservations about the initiative.

-Researched and prepared by Alex Bollfrass.

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March 10th, 2008, 3:45 pm

 

127. Qifa Nabki said:

الخيار بين تحييد لبنان والانتحار الجماعي

… وماذا لو أدّت محاولة “الشقيقة” سوريا – ومن ورائها إيران – إلى “عورقة” لبنان؟
أوَتظن دمشق أنه سيكون في وسعها أن تستمر في مفاوضة اسرائيل “على عينك يا تاجر” كما صار الحال معروفاً باعترافات “العدو” إياه، وان العدو هذا، وحلفاءه، سيستمرون يوفّرون سوريا، أرضاً وشعباً وخيرات وعمراناً (وإرهاباً كذلك!)؟ بينما يدفع الآخرون ثمناً وباهظاً لهذه الحرب؟ وكرمى لمن؟
كرمى لسيطرة سوريا وايران على لبنان وخوضهما حربهما ضد أميركا على أمل الانتصار عليها في “ساحة” الوطن الصغير؟ ومن يقول ويضمن أن أميركا ستجلس صاغرة تنتظر هزيمتها من غير أن تضرم هي النار وتنشر – كما وحدها تقدر، حتى حين لا تتعمّد – الدمار والخراب في كل مكان؟… ومن العراق الشواهد!

• • •

أما آن للبنانيين، كل اللبنانيين ومعاً، أن يعوا ويعقلوا ويرددوا صرخة الرئيس أنور السادات إثر محاولة نقل الحرب على كمب ديفيد الى لبنان أن “ارفعوا أيديكم عن لبنان”؟
وقد أثبتت تلك الحرب أن لبنان وحده تهدّم، ولم يلغَ كمب ديفيد ولا اندحرت اسرائيل أمام الجحافل السورية، بل العكس… جرى احتلال الجولان، ولا يزال، واضطرت سوريا الى أن تلجأ الى كيسينجر (ما غيره) ليفاوض – بديبلوماسيته المكوكية – وقف إطلاق نار تلو آخر بين دمشق والقدس… والفلسطينيون ولبنان يدفعون وحدهم الثمن!!!
مرة أخرى إذاً: “ارفعوا أيديكم عن لبنان”!

• • •

لبنان لن يسالم إسرائيل، ولا حتى يهادنها وحده على حساب أحد لأنه حتى لو أراد فذلك ليس في متناوله!!! والجميع يعرف.

• • •

حيّدوا لبنان أيها العرب (والإيرانيون طبعاً… ويا مجنّدي الشام في لبنان وفلسطين) حيّدوا لبنان كي تسلموا أنتم كما يسلم لبنان ويعود موئلاً لحرياتكم والديمقراطية، والحضارة والإنماء المتنامي وعاصمة الأخوّة الحقّة وحوار الأديان والثقافات. وثقوا أنه عندما يحين أوان “شن الحرب المفتوحة على اسرائيل” لن يكون لبنان الرادع لكم ولا هو يتخلّف، على افتراض أنه يمكن أن يريد…
ولا يلقيّن أحد على لبنان واللبنانيين دروساً في العروبة والوطنية والاستشهاد!
لبنان كان خط الدفاع الأول بل جبهة الحرب الاولى ضد اسرائيل، عقائدياً وسياسياً وديبلوماسياً وفدائياً بل عسكرياً منذ 1948 ايام تهافتكم كلكم على الهدنة، وكان لبنان آخر من وقّع، ساعة عزّ الفدائيون وعزّت الزعامات عند سواه. والأسماء والوقائع شواهد، فلا يُحرجننا أحد.
فليتفضل أهل “الحرب المفتوحة” ويعلنوها من أرضهم ويطلقوا الرصاصة الأولى فيجدونا الى جانبهم، بل متقدمين عليهم…
ولكن ما لا نرتضيه، وليس ثمة ما يجبرنا على القبول به هو أن نُدعى مهلّلين مكبّرين للسير (والفلسطينيين وحدنا) إلى أتون الكبريت، بينما سوانا ينال، ومن بعضنا، المكافأة تلو المكافأة على التزامه السلام ورغبته في المفاوضة.
واذا امعنّا في المصارحة قلنا ان “سوانا” هذا ينعم نظامه بغطاء اسرائيلي وكأنه متراس، يتحصن به ليطلق النار على نظامنا واستقرارنا وسيادتنا وسلامنا الداخلي؟ !! مفهوم؟
لا والله، وكلا… كلا…
فليطفئوا النار لأنها، هذه المرة، متى وإذا اندلعت… لن يكون في وسع أحد حماية أحد آخر من التهامها الأخضر قبل اليابس. ولن يزيدنا حصانة أن تلتهم النار اسرائيل كذلك، هذا اذا التهمتها!
فتبصّروا، وحذار… وقد أعذر من أنذر.
لبنان الحياد الايجابي وحده في وسعه أن يكون خشبة الخلاص العربية والاسلامية من جنون الانتحار المشترك!!!

غسان تويني

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March 10th, 2008, 4:30 pm

 

128. Shai said:

Wizart,

Do you honestly think we can engage in a conversation about Israel having or not having nukes? Let’s assume it does, and finished. Like I wrote up above, now is not the time to ask Israel to remove its arsenal of weapons, because no Israeli in his right mind would agree. That is, not until two-three generations have passed AFTER we all live in peace with each other. Just as I cannot ask the Palestinians to forgive me tomorrow morning for oppressing them for so long, likewise you cannot ask me to do away with the only abilities we have to still ensure our survival. When we feel safe enough, perhaps we’ll be open to discussing it. In the same way, Israel will not be able to ask Syria to do away with its chemical or biological weapons. There are far more important, and surmountable challenges to overcome.

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March 10th, 2008, 4:32 pm

 

129. offended said:

QN,
I consider myself a knowledgable guy when it comes to Arabic. ضليع

But the word “عورقة ” has never crossed my path before, what does it mean?

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March 10th, 2008, 5:02 pm

 

130. wizart said:

Shai,

You’re only partially right because we can both safely assume that Israel does have Nukes (and other WMDs)and will not agree to disarm anytime soon even when most countries have none. The discussion focus is the immediate issue of accountability and the need and lack of U.N inspections and open debate about the ramifications and potential disasters that could occur anytime with ever more increasing war events in the area and the lack of real security for anyone there.

This is a much more fundamental and existential concern than others especially when Israel was willing to use illegal cluster bombs in Lebanon recently in 2006 despite U.S and international objections.

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March 10th, 2008, 5:06 pm

 

131. Qifa Nabki said:

Offended,

You shouldn’t blame yourself.

Tueni invented a word: “Iraqizing” (like Balkanizing)

;)

Or rather… (using Bush’s favorite method of inventing words): Iraqification

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March 10th, 2008, 5:06 pm

 

132. Majhool said:

Offended,

You seem to ignore very important words in what I say. Let me quote my self one more time and let me CAP key words for you

“I view nationalism as defending the rights OF ALL CITIZENS especially those whom we disagree with. To be nationalist yet paranoid of half of the population does not add up”

“..the minute i talk about the right of the majority to SHARE POWER Norman jumps and talks about how I want the sharia law”

As for sounding sectarian that is typical “regime talk”, the regime goes about excluding the majority from power SHARING and banning a large segment from joining the army and intelligence (very sectarian acts) and when one criticizes it he/she becomes sectarian. A ready off-the-shelf guilty verdict to silence opposition.

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March 10th, 2008, 5:59 pm

 

133. Shai said:

Wizart,

I don’t know what “partially right” means. I didn’t mean to be right or wrong, I meant to say that the discussion around Israel having nukes and its policy of not allowing the IAEA inspectors access to its nuclear installations is pointless right now. If you fear reckless use of this capability by Israel, despite the fact that over the past 40 years, it hasn’t used it even once, then I’m sorry, I can’t help allay your fears. I believe there are a few other less-stable nations around Israel, which possess a good amount of WMD’s as well, which I personally would be more worried about, if I were you. Don’t forget, it’s not Israel that has had endless military coup d’etats, and whose leadership was violently taken out of power (put behind bars for decades), and whose people are subjugated by authoritarian regimes, with access and active programs of WMD’s. You’re worried about instability in Israel? I think you need to look a little closer to home, don’t you?

And yet, you haven’t heard me say even once, that Syria needs to destroy its WMD programs, or that Egypt, KSA, and others, need to forget about their own nuclear programs. That is because I accept that our region is extremely unstable at the moment (more so than ever before perhaps), and as such, many of our nations develop these programs, and acquire these weapons, out of fear. Until the peoples of this region live in peace, no one will give up on whatever means they have of ensuring their survival. A peace treaty between two nations is not enough. Not yet at least. Wishful thinking is something that’s always good to keep around. But we need to stay focused right now, about the pragmatic steps on the ground that need to take place. Right now we need to act, by creating the conditions that would lead Israel to withdraw from the Golan first, and then from the West Bank. This is not the time to pontificate about an irresponsible nuclear Israel.

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March 10th, 2008, 6:37 pm

 

134. Seeking the Truth said:

MAJHOOL,

Very good points you make in your last argument!

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March 10th, 2008, 6:42 pm

 

135. wizart said:

Shai,

Partially right also means partially wrong.

I just prefer to say the glass is half full not half empty.

How could you discount the issue of accountability despite the evidence that Israel used cluster bombs just last year? There are still unexploded bombs killing civilians in Lebanon as we speak?

You discount these issues and keep preaching Democracy despite the fact that your own leaders are not accountable to provide you answers to the questions which have been raised in this space too many times!

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March 10th, 2008, 6:49 pm

 

136. Shai said:

Wizart,

Are you sure you’re not confusing me with AIG? I’m not discounting any issue of the cluster bombs – the opposite – I’ve said time and again here that I cannot fathom why so many were used, and in the way that they were. I’m also not preaching Democracy, where did you hear me suggest that – the opposite – I discussed right here in this forum yesterday that fact that Israel cannot wait for democracy in Syria, or anywhere else in the region. We must make peace with whoever is in power, and the sooner the better. I do think, though, that we’re not going to get far, if I demand that “your leaders” be held accountable for certain things they’ve done, and you’ll demand the same from “my leaders”. Accountability reminds me of justice. And in the Middle East of today, if you have not noticed, there is no justice, anywhere. Now is not the time to be right, now is the time to be smart.

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March 10th, 2008, 6:55 pm

 

137. wizart said:

Shai,

Smart is what smart does.

I think there’s a gap between action and words.

I’ll let you have the final word on this.

Good night and good luck :)

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March 10th, 2008, 7:13 pm

 

138. SimoHurtta said:

For crying out loud, do you REALLY believe the crap he’s talking about and insinuating?

Shai when you say that I speak crap you should atleast try to say what is crap. First Osrik was undoubtedly a small research reactor no weapon factory. Also it was fact that the Kurd gassing happened several years after Osirak.

Israel has threatened several times German spy ships on Lebanon / Israeli coastal waters. That news is easy to find. The Chinese were very eager to come to Lebanon, though they normally are concentrating more in “making business” than in UN peace keeping efforts. Ask yourself why. The Russians are listening to Israel in Golan and have done it for a long. Also that is a fact.

Israel has been actively spying its only ally, USA. That can be verified. It would be naive to think that Israel is not spying in EU area. Equally naive it would not be to think that EU armies and intelligence services are not interested in Israel.

Th fact of Europeans fears about Israel can be validated in the European commissions poll. In that poll 59 percent of Europeans see Israel as the greatest danger to world peace. Why? Indeed why? Israel was extremely angry about this poll. :)

Israel is more or less openly speaking about using nukes against Iranian nuclear program. That also can verified in several sources. Actually Israelis threaten Iran more in different interviews and news than Iranians do Israel. Also the slogan “whipping Israel out of the map” is a slogan invented by Israelis. Many reliable sources say that Ahmadinejad did not use those words.

The “sad” fact is that in Israel because its political system the extreme violent religious parties have (too) much political influence, which seems to overrun the rational peace seeking political “forces”. Is the problem really the bearded men with RPGs and kalashnikovs or the bearded men with small black hats with nukes and missiles? It is self-deception to “erase” the extreme religious from the Israeli side and accuse only Muslims for religious extremism.

Let us analyse history. In 1956 and 1967 Israel attacked its neighbours. The tales of pre-emptive attacks are more or less unfounded. Israel attacked an that is a fact. Naturally you can argue against that. The Palestinians are demanded to make insane commitments which they never can come up to. Everybody knows that. On the same time Israel is creating “new facts” on future Palestinian states “ground”. Who would trust such “a system” and counterpart?

Still Shai you haven’t answered my main question. Why has Israel so many nukes and a delivery systems which by any means can be described as normal for a country of Israel’s size. Finland or Sweden do not have such even the countries are about the size of Israel in population and we leave also in a geopolitically rather turbulent area.

Real peace “making” is not that individuals say in internet that lets hope the best and that one day we could enjoy dinner in the neighbours capital. Naturally it brings a couple of people closer. The real important issues must be discussed and solved. And I can’t see any signs that Israel is honestly seeking peace on the contrary the tones are getting more violent and aggressive day by day.

A news of the future possible Israeli PM (Lieberman, the soviet version of trans atlantic Liebermans). Lieberman to Arab MKs: One day we will ‘take care of you’ Hmmm…

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March 10th, 2008, 7:15 pm

 

139. SimoHurtta said:

Shai,
I don’t know Simo very much, but I think he’s leftist.

No Offended I am not a leftist. I have always voted for the center parties. As long there was a liberal party in Finland I was even a party member. :)

In Nordic countries we get rather much information about the Middle East problems. And not only pro-Isreali propaganda of the weak little Israel among the “bloodthirsty” Arabs. One thing for that is that our soldiers have since Suez served there and tried to keep up the peace.

The former Finnish Army commander once said about so:
“When I went to Lebanon as a young army officer I was admiring the small tiny “weak” nation called Israel. When I came back I had a different world view.”

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March 10th, 2008, 7:49 pm

 

140. Shai said:

Simohurtta,

I’m so fed up with your sheer nonsense, that this is truly my last comment to you. I can name 50,000 facts about the Middle East being the most dangerous place on earth, with the most corrupt, authoritarian regimes, which no one will argue, and which are all meaningless, because they move us nowhere except for backwards. Of course the whole world is trying to gather intelligence about Israel, just as the whole world is trying to gather the same about the U.S., Russia, China, Iran, N. Korea, France, U.K., Pakistan, India, and whole lot of other nations that are more-stable and less-stable. Everyone spies on everyone, in case you haven’t realized. The days of “gentlemen don’t open each other’s mail” are over, and have been, since WWI. The Europeans, as many others around the world, consider Israel as a major risk to world peace, not because we have nukes, but because we haven’t resolved those issues which make our region very unstable, and which could in potential lead to war. If there will be a major 21st century war here, there’s a good chance that when enough WMD’s will be used, also nuclear weapons will be introduced (perhaps by others, not only Israel), and then indeed the world is going down to hell, as WWIII begins.

I don’t understand why on earth you think I would discuss the reason for Israel having 9 thousand warheads instead of your suggested 10. What use would come out of this discussion? Let’s even say that I’d agree with you, that if Israel has nukes, it should only have 10. Then what? You realistically think negotiators on the Arab side can bring their Israeli counterparts to agree to a 99.9% reduction? Does that make sense to you? Now, when we barely trust each other enough to even meet to talk? Don’t you think you’re preaching about something that should be discussed 10-20 years from now? And where’s all this Liebermann fear coming from? He is extremely far from ever becoming PM of Israel, and Israel is far more stable than any of its neighbors are. Where have coup d’etats occured more, in Israel, or around her? Where have regimes changed hands violently, time and again? Is Lebanon more stable than Israel? Is Syria? Is Iran? And again, if we’ve had nuclear weapons for the past 40 years, and if we are so irresponsible about having them, why haven’t we used them yet? That’s a fair question, isn’t it? Wouldn’t it be so much easier for Israel to truly eliminate all of its rivals, using nuclear weapons, instead of thousands of ground troops, or even cluster bombs? So maybe we actually do have nuclear weapons, and maybe even tons of them, but are only leaving them for a truly doomsday scenario, which thus far hasn’t occurred?

We have extremists in Israel (that idiot, Liebermann, for one), and you have plenty of extremists in the Arab and Muslim world as well. So what? Is their elimination a precondition to peace? I certainly hope not, for otherwise there will be no peace. In fact, the only way to make them irrelevant, is to make peace. Here in Israel, at least, we can’t just silence Liebermann by arresting him late at night, dragging him away, and sticking him in some dungeon for 20-30 years. So what do you want to do – talk about irresponsible mad dogs (by the way, calling Israel a “mad dog” says something about what you think of us, I appreciated that.), or talk about peace? You seem to think one is a prerequisite to the other. I am clear about the fact that one is a spoiler for the other. Trust me, no Syria negotiator is going to demand a cessation, or even inspection, of Israel’s nuclear or other WMD program. And no Israeli negotiator will make similar demands of Syria’s.

Like I said to Wizart, now is not the time to be right (just), now is the time to be smart. Talking nuke-talk, and mad-dog, and whatever else you’ll think of about Israel, will not get us closer to peace, only farther.

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March 10th, 2008, 7:49 pm

 

141. Alex said:

I absolutely agree with SimoHurrta and Shai and Wizart and even Majhool and Bashmann …

Let’s go back to being friends.

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March 10th, 2008, 11:40 pm

 

142. Majhool said:

Alex,

I am touched. But yes let’s do that.

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March 11th, 2008, 12:03 am

 

143. SimoHurtta said:

and you have plenty of extremists in the Arab and Muslim world as well. So what?

Well Shai I am not an Arab or Muslim. I am a Christian Finn. Yes I know there are also Christian extrimists. :)

Lieberman is an influential figure in Israeli politics. No reason to undermine him. When constantly it is spoken about Muslim extrimists as problem in Middle East it is high time to discuss also the strong and growing religious extremism in Israel.

The Finnish National TV showed some times ago an interesting news about how women in Jerusalem have to sit in the back of buses or otherwise being abused or beaten by religious fanatics. I suppose the news of the “Taleban” side of Israel was true. :)

You Shai must understand that the problem in Middle East is not only the less democratic Arab countries + Iran. It is also the theocratic democracy named Israel. The problem is also not only the nuclear programs of Muslim countries and the “maybe nukes in 10 years”. The problem are very much the present Israeli nukes. As said many times before also the Arab countries need security against Israeli aggressions.

If Israelis can constantly speak and critizize Arab countries and Islam, why on earth can’t we not discuss about the problems in Israel and the problems Israel has created?

Here in Israel, at least, we can’t just silence Liebermann by arresting him late at night, dragging him away, and sticking him in some dungeon for 20-30 years.

Well you did it to Mordechai Vanunu when he begun to speak about the real issues. Not to mention the thousands of Palestinians.

Wasn’t Lieberman little time ago a minister of strategical affairs? :)

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March 11th, 2008, 6:40 am

 

144. Shai said:

Simohurtta,

I think you’re confusing me with the likes of AIG/AP. I’ve been on SC now a month or two, have had many many conversations with Arabs and non-Arabs about every issue imaginable (except for nuclear weapons), and have been open to hearing basically everything possible. I’ve heard, and accepted, more criticism of Israel than you could imagine. I have never, ever, criticized the extremists on the Arab side. I haven’t searched, or pointed to any Muslim “Lieberman”, despite of course the fact that many exist. I have never pointed out the lack of basic freedoms and human rights in the Muslim world, and the reason why I haven’t mentioned these, is precisely because it doesn’t help!!! My purpose for being here, believe it or not, is to try to bridge gaps between Arabs and Jews, so that one day we can live in peace with each other. I’m not here to discuss all the problems of the region, but rather to seek solutions to the biggest hurdles right now, which aren’t basic human rights, nor the WMD programs of the various nations, including Israel.

There are endless problems with Israel, as I’ve said on so many occasions. We have problems with corruption, with crime, with the religious sector (and the lack of basic freedoms within), with education, social welfare, as well as of course the oppression of the Palestinian people, and holding of their lands, and the Syrians’. I am the last Israeli here to run away from self-criticism, and I think most visitors have already gotten to see that. This is part of bridging the gaps, courage to accept responsibility, and courage to move forward. So when you suggest that it’s time Israelis also accept criticism about themselves, and not just criticize the Muslim world, you’re talking to the wrong guy, I’m not AIG or AP, last time I checked. However, you yourself sounded very much like an AIG (the old version) to me yesterday, by doing almost everything possible to NOT move forward. You insisted on linking Israel’s nuclear program, our irresponsible policies, and our “mad dog” behavior (that really got to me, I must say), to the potential for peace. When I heard that, to me it was just like AIG’s belief that peace cannot occur until the entire region is run by democracies. Those demands, or links, are 100% pure spoilers for any possibility of peace. If Israel demanded that Syria do away with its chemical or biological weapons programs, and if Syria demanded the same of Israel, we’d never sign a peace treaty. We are SO far away from trusting one another, from discarding the decades of hatred and fear (mutual, not just Israeli towards Arab), and there’s nothing rational right now about anything almost, it’s all emotional.

You can argue until you’re blue in the face that Israelis have no right to fear the Arabs, because we’re by far the strongest side, we’re the ones oppressing others, we’re the ones committing crimes against humanity, etc. But you’re still not changing the fact that many Israelis (perhaps most) at this very moment are against a withdrawal from the West Bank and the Golan, because they distrust the Arab side, and fear its intentions. This is a subjective feeling, and you of all people certainly won’t change it. But now is not the time to try to prove to the other side how wrong they are – that can’t and won’t ever work. Right now, the need is to bridge the gaps by suggesting to each side the advantages of peace. Now’s not the time to blame each side for its wrongs, but rather to strengthen each side’s rights. To reach out to one another, and try to create some level of empathy, which could lead to a better understanding, and willingness to take chances in the near future.

As I said, my goal here is to reach out, to embrace rather than isolate, and to remained focused on my goals. I can very easily get distracted, and “pour out” all the frustrations I have about our region, about our enemies, about injustices both at home, and around us. But it won’t help, it’ll make matters worse. Not only will I alienate those potential moderates that need the “rude awakening”, but indeed will further cultivate the innate hatred, suspicion, and distrust of so many Arabs towards Israel and vice-versa. When we’re working so hard to change that image, the last thing I want to do is engage in the most sensitive topic of all (the nuclear one), which triggers our deepest fears (on all sides, not just the Arabs’), and which in any case cannot be dealt with right now. You can assume, that in no peace agreement signed tomorrow morning, will any of the sides commit to a substantial change in its strategic capabilities. Good will of course will be shown, promises will be made to discuss these sensitive matters in the future, and so on. But no one’s arsenal is about to be opened up to discussion, or exposed to any side right now.

Let us go back to focusing on the more surmountable issues, like Israel’s withdrawal to the 1967 lines, from the West Bank and the Golan, and how we can achieve this goal. This is the first step on our way to reconciliation between Israel and the Arab world, and this should be our main focus now. Let’s not get bogged down in discussing step seven, which may happen 10-15 years from now, and which may well spoil the whole effort, if we begin discussing it now. There are too many ways to lose this battle for peace, and few ways of winning it. Let’s make sure we get those few, and secure our hold on them, so that we really can make progress, and make peace.

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March 11th, 2008, 9:43 am

 

145. Links February 27th to March 19th | The Arabist said:

[…] The United States presents Cinerama in Damascus, 1954 – An example of successful public diplomacy […]

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March 30th, 2008, 1:44 pm

 

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