Water and Economics in Syria

If you are feeling depressed about the Middle East read Juan Cole’s Top 10 Good News Stories about the Muslim World in 2008. If Syria opens its Stock Market on February 23, as announced, there may be another bit of good news in the region. It is a symbolic part of the opening of Syria’s economy. A friend and advisor to Turk al-Feisal said to me a few days ago, “It is hard to believe that Syria will actually open a stock market. It will be a daily referendum on President Asad, his government, and economic policies.”

Here are news stories about Gaza, Egypt and future prospects for Syria’s water and demographic future.

If you make peace with Israel, you are a loser,” said Hubeichi. “If you make war, you are a loser.” But whether they support Fatah’s diplomatic approach or Hamas’ militaristic stance, Palestinians say they feel despondent….

“We are sad and full of sympathy,” said Ahmad Najjar, a 23-year-old Palestinian carpenter born and raised in the Shatila camp. “I feel fire and anger. I would be ready to fight against Israel. But we can’t do much. We just trust in God.”…

“The people in Gaza are our blood,” said Abdul Latif Abed, a beefy 40-year-old proprietor of a sandwich shop in Shatila who said he lost relatives in the 1982 violence. “When they suffer, we suffer.” 

“We can burn tires. We can demonstrate,” he continued. “But concretely, there is nothing we can do.” [.daragahi@latimes.com]

How Not to Make Peace in the Middle East
By Hussein Agha, Robert Malley
New York Review of Books, Volume 56, Number 1 · January 15, 2009

… With so much having gone so wrong for so long, basic issues should first be addressed. Among them are the reasons for recurring failures, the effectiveness of US mediation, the wisdom and realism of seeking a comprehensive, across-the-board settlement of the Israeli–Palestinian conflict, or even the centrality of that conflict to US interests and the benefits that would accrue to America from its resolution. One also might ponder reasons behind America’s chronic ineffectiveness in persuading lesser powers (Arafat, Hamas, Syria, or Hezbollah) to acquiesce in its demands, a pattern that suggests incapacity to identify local political forces, understand their interests, or comprehend their appeal….

Moubayed: Ex-President Carter to Syria’s Forward Magazine: I’m carrying Assad’s good greetings to Obama

Former American President Jimmy Carter said that Syria and the United States can expect there are “better times ahead” for their bilateral relations. In the first-ever interview for an American president with a Syrian media outlet, Carter told Forward Magazine, Syria’s first English monthly, Carter hinted that the near future will see the return of the US ambassador to Damascus, filling a post that has been vacant since relations plumeted in 2005. Such a move will coincide with re-opening of the American school in Damascus, Carter added, in addition to reopening the American Language Center, both of which were closed by the Syrian government after US warplanes raided the Syrian town of Abu Kamal last October killing 8 civilians. Speaking to Sami Moubayed, Forward’s editor in chief, Carter confirmed that he “will be carrying some good greetings to the leaders of the new administration, through my meeting with President Assad.”

During his visit to Syria, the fifth since 1983, Carter met with President Bashar al-Assad, who he described as “popular among his people.” They discussed Syrian-American relations, in addition to regional developments in the Middle East, including the peace talks between Syria and Israel. Speaking of the involvement of the upcoming administration in Washington, Carter asserted that Obama cannot “put enough pressure on either Syria or Israel to yield on their basic principles.” He added, “My hope and my belief are that there are enough compatabilities between the two parties to reach a final agreement.”

Ehsani writes in the last comment section

The recent events in Gaza must serve as a reality check on the state of affairs in the region. While the discussion of possible peace has taken center stage recently, I have personally been far more skeptical.

Israel is too powerful to concede an inch.

Hamas is too weak to concede an

 inch. They have nothing to lose. They are already too poor and too hopeless to worry about further losses and concessions. When you are already pushed so far over the edge, you stop worrying about even death.

Syria’s leadership has little room for error. One mistake and it is all over. It is fully aware that it is surrounded by enemies that are waiting for a slip up that would ensure its quick and bloody demise. Conceding an inch is simply out of question. The status quo has worked for nearly forty years. Why change?

Egypt, Jordan and Saudi Arabia are too dependent on the U.S. for economic and political survival. In return, they are rewarded the title of “moderates and allies”.

The United States will never be an impartial participant in this conflict. The Presidency of Mr. Obama is unlikely to bring any fundamental changes to the way the country deals in the region. Israel will continue to receive all the support it needs to ensure that it offers as little concessions as possible.

In the meantime, the demographics in the region are frightening. Syria’s population doubles every 30 years. When 200,000 jobs need to be created a year today to absorb the growing labor force, think of what is come by 2030. This scenario is likely to play out in country after country in the region. Yemen, for example, will be home close to 100 million people over the next forty years based on current demographic trends.

Such demographic trends need an urgent response. Regrettably, there is none coming. Standards of living are most likely going to fall sharply with time. Economic growth needs to be at least double in every country in the region. In reality, We will be lucky if we can maintain the current trends. There is just too much corruption, nepotism, state control, absence of property rights and a lack of a functioning judicial system to allow for faster economic growth.

While feels the need to paint a more optimistic picture at the start of this new year, the reality is that the region faces enormous challenges going forward. Rather than peace and prosperity, I predict further ethnic and religious tensions coupled with falling standards of living and economic stagnation in a sea of dictatorships.

Participants of this forum will of course be spared. We can at least opine, argue, dream and participate in cyberspace from the comforts of our computer desks.

Trustquest writes:

The water resources of the Barada basin which sustain the people and agriculture of Damascus have decreased some 25% from their level 5 years ago. Over the past 30 years, the population of Syria has doubled. They are pumping from the deep aquifer which needs thousands of years to replenish itself.

DRY AQUIFERS IN ARAB COUNTRIES AND THE LOOMING FOOD CRISIS
Elie Elhadj, in MERIA, Volume 12, No. 3 – September 2008.

In this article, the inefficient investment that Saudi Arabia and Syria undertook in irrigation and agricultural development in the recent decades and Egypt’s perilous course in hydropolitics will be discussed. …

Saudi Arabia, Syria, and Egypt represent useful case studies to ponder. The three countries demonstrate that in spite of the profound differences among Arab monarchies and republics in types of governance, ideologies, political agendas, natural resources, and climate conditions, they nonetheless share in common national decisionmaking processes that produced financially wasteful and environmentally damaging strategies. These case studies approximate sociopolitical models found in other Arab monarchies and republics…..

The Syrian Government: A Bad Farmer

Unlike Saudi Arabia, agriculture in Syria has for millennia supported large population centers and produced thriving civilizations along rivers and coastal areas. Of Syria’s landmass (185,000 sq. km), 25 percent is arable.[25]

Spending by the Syrian government on irrigation and agricultural development has been substantial but inefficient. Beginning in 1960, the eight five-year plans that followed invested about $20 billion on the agricultural sector (at the official foreign exchange rates of that period).[26] Three-quarters of the investment was made between 1988 and 2000.[27] However, the results have not been brilliant; 550,000 hectares, or 45 percent of the country’s total irrigated surface, were added during this period, of which the government contributed 138,000 hectares[28] and the private sector developed the rest. Ninety percent of the 138,000 hectares (124,000 hectares) was in the salt-affected and drainage-poor Euphrates Basin–gypsum in the soil caused the irrigation networks to collapse. In the Euphrates Basin 43 percent of the land was identified by the World Bank as having drainage problems or potential to develop problems in the future.[29]

The government started in 1968 building the Tabqa Dam on the Euphrates River. Made in the Syrian national discourse as one of the government’s proudest achievements, the Tabqa Dam failed to achieve its targets. The plan was for the dam to increase by 2000 the irrigated surface in the Euphrates Basin by 640,000 hectares.[30] By 2000, only 124,000 hectares, or 19 percent of the target had been achieved.[31]

Land reclamation cost was high, estimated at $25,700 per hectare.[32] At such costs, it would be practically impossible to make a reasonable rate of return on the investment. A 10 percent return translates to $2,570 per hectare, over and above the cost of production.

The Tabqa Dam wastes a huge volume of water to evaporation, estimated at 1.6 billion m3 annually.[33] While this volume could theoretically satisfy the drinking and household water needs of Syria’s 19 million inhabitants, most cities have been suffering severe water shortages for years, including the capital Damascus, which suffers daily water shut-offs during the blazing summer months lasting over fifteen hours.

The loss of water to evaporation is all the more significant in light of Turkey’s 50 percent cut in the flow of the Euphrates River into Syria and Iraq, which resulted from the construction of the huge GAP project in eastern Turkey. Turkey reduced the flow to Syria and Iraq to 500 m3 per second in accordance with a protocol for the distribution of the river’s waters signed on July 17, 1987. Turkey started construction of the Keban Dam in 1966, two years before Tabqa’s start of construction.[34]

The non-financial returns from the government’s emphasis on investment in agriculture were poor as well. Under Syria’s vulnerable economic circumstances and despite the government’s commitment to the welfare of the agricultural sector, the migration from rural communities to urban centers continued. The ratio of rural to total population has declined since 1961, from 63 percent to 48 percent in 2000.[35] Reliance on capricious rainfall was not reduced either. In 1989, wheat production was 1 million tons; in 1995, it jumped to 4.2 million tons; in 1999, it dropped to 2.7 million tons; and in 2007, it increased to 4.5 million tons.[36] Estimates for 2008 are for a harvest of around 2.5 million tons.

Over-extraction of groundwater has deteriorated Syria’s environment seriously. Irrigation extractions beyond the volume of renewable water have led to negative balances in five out the country’s seven basins,[37] thus reducing the quantity and degrading the quality of the remaining water reserves.[38]

Like Saudi Arabia, food independence is impossible for a country like Syria to achieve. Syria’s population of about 19 million requires about 19 billion m3 of water annually to grow its food needs. Yet as the above table shows, Syria can provide only 15 billion m3 from irrigation and rain combined. The gap will get bigger as Syria’s population grows.

The World Bank concluded that Syria’s government “will need to recognize that achieving food security with respect to wheat and other cereals in the short-term as well as the encouragement of water-intensive cotton appear to be undermining Syria’s security over the long-term by depleting available groundwater resources.”[39] Of Syria’s 13 billion m3 in irrigation water use, almost a third (4 billion m3) is used in cotton irrigation.[40] In spite of these difficulties, a Ministry of Irrigation Strategy report revealed Syria’s commitment to increasing the irrigated surface between 2000 and 2020 by 493,000 hectares in five of the country’s seven basins; 181,000 hectares of which in the Euphrates Basin.[41]

Eventually, with continued water over-extraction, irrigated lands will be abandoned, investments written off, and food production halted. Coupled with Syria’s narrow GDP diversification and dearth in foreign currency sources from exports, food imports would become increasingly difficult to afford. Whenever this happens, the negative impact on rural communities and societal order could be shattering.

A country like Syria would be better off beginning to focus its efforts on investment in export industries in order to generate sufficient foreign currencies to buy food in the future instead of continuing to invest in white elephant irrigation schemes.

Lessons from Saudi Arabia and Syria’s Experience

From the above, it may be concluded that money and water can make a desert bloom until either the money or the water runs out. Food self-sufficiency in arid and semi-arid countries like Saudi Arabia and Syria is more of a romantic dream than a reasoned strategy. The above table shows that slogans and political economics aside, food self-sufficiency in Arab countries is impossible to attain or sustain. Growing populations and insufficient water resources make such a strategy unrealistic…..

Robert Fisk: The rotten state of Egypt is too powerless and corrupt to act
Thursday, 1 January 2009

President Hosni Mubarak of Egypt a country where ‘the idea of service has simply ceased to exist’

There was a day when we worried about the “Arab masses” – the millions of “ordinary” Arabs on the streets of Cairo, Kuwait, Amman, Beirut – and their reaction to the constant bloodbaths in the Middle East. Could Anwar Sadat restrain the anger of his people? And now – after three decades of Hosni Mubarak – can Mubarak (or “La Vache Qui Rit”, as he is still called in Cairo) restrain the anger of his people? The answer, of course, is that Egyptians and Kuwaitis and Jordanians will be allowed to shout in the streets of their capitals – but then they will be shut down, with the help of the tens of thousands of secret policemen and government militiamen who serve the princes and kings and elderly rulers of the Arab world.

Egyptians demand that Mubarak open the Rafah crossing-point into Gaza, break off diplomatic relations with Israel, even send weapons to Hamas. And there is a kind of perverse beauty in listening to the response of the Egyptian government: why not complain about the three gates which the Israelis refuse to open? And anyway, the Rafah crossing-point is politically controlled by the four powers that produced the “road map” for peace, including Britain and the US. Why blame Mubarak?

To admit that Egypt can’t even open its sovereign border without permission from Washington tells you all you need to know about the powerlessness of the satraps that run the Middle East for us.

Open the Rafah gate – or break off relations with Israel – and Egypt’s economic foundations crumble. Any Arab leader who took that kind of step will find that the West’s economic and military support is withdrawn. Without subventions, Egypt is bankrupt. Of course, it works both ways. Individual Arab leaders are no longer going to make emotional gestures for anyone. When Sadat flew to Jerusalem – “I am tired of the dwarves,” he said of his fellow Arab leaders – he paid the price with his own blood at the Cairo reviewing-stand where one of his own soldiers called him a “Pharaoh” before shooting him dead.

The true disgrace of Egypt, however, is not in its response to the slaughter in Gaza. It is the corruption that has become embedded in an Egyptian society where the idea of service – health, education, genuine security for ordinary people – has simply ceased to exist. It’s a land where the first duty of the police is to protect the regime, where protesters are beaten up by the security police, where young women objecting to Mubarak’s endless regime – likely to be passed on caliph-like to his son Gamal, whatever we may be told – are sexually molested by plain-clothes agents, where prisoners in the Tora-Tora complex are forced to rape each other by their guards.

There has developed in Egypt a kind of religious facade in which the meaning of Islam has become effaced by its physical representation. Egyptian civil “servants” and government officials are often scrupulous in their religious observances – yet they tolerate and connive in rigged elections, violations of the law and prison torture. A young American doctor described to me recently how in a Cairo hospital busy doctors merely blocked doors with plastic chairs to prevent access to patients. In November, the Egyptian newspaper Al-Masry al-Youm reported how doctors abandoned their patients to attend prayers during Ramadan.

And amid all this, Egyptians have to live amid daily slaughter by their own shabby infrastructure. Alaa al-Aswani wrote eloquently in the Cairo paper Al-Dastour that the regime’s “martyrs” outnumber all the dead of Egypt’s wars against Israel – victims of railway accidents, ferry sinkings, the collapse of city buildings, sickness, cancers and pesticide poisonings – all victims, as Aswani says, “of the corruption and abuse of power”. Opening the Rafah border-crossing for wounded Palestinians – the Palestinian medical staff being pushed back into their Gaza prison once the bloodied survivors of air raids have been dumped on Egyptian territory – is not going to change the midden in which Egyptians themselves live.

Sayed Hassan Nasrallah, the Hizbollah secretary general in Lebanon, felt able to call on Egyptians to “rise in their millions” to open the border with Gaza, but they will not do so. Ahmed Aboul Gheit, the feeble Egyptian Foreign Minister, could only taunt the Hizbollah leaders by accusing them of trying to provoke “an anarchy similar to the one they created in their own country.”

But he is well-protected. So is President Mubarak.

Egypt’s malaise is in many ways as dark as that of the Palestinians. Its impotence in the face of Gaza’s suffering is a symbol of its own political sickness.

Syria sticks by Hamas but still seeks peace with Israel
By Khaled Yacoub Oweis, Dec 31, 2008

 DAMASCUS (Reuters) – Syria does not want to put pressure on Hamas in its conflict with Israel, diplomats said on Wednesday, although the Israeli assault on Gaza has harmed prospects for a Syrian-Israeli peace deal.

“Everyone wants this to end. The question is, how? Egypt and Saudi Arabia want Hamas to stop firing rockets, but given the ferocity of the Israeli response Syria will not be party to any solution that punishes Hamas,” one of the diplomats said in the Syrian capital.

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad set out his viewpoint at talks this week with U.S. Sen. Arlen Specter, a staunchly pro-Israeli republican law maker who regularly visits Damascus, where Hamas’s exiled leaders are based.

A source familiar with the meeting said Assad told Specter Israel’s offensive jeopardized the chances of peace in the long run. The way to deal with Hamas, Assad told Specter, was to stop asking Syria to pressure the group and push for a just peace between Israel and the Palestinians, the source said….

Another European diplomat said championing Arab resistance served Syria well. “The Syrians see Arab governments like Egypt as getting undermined as a result of this, not them,” the diplomat said. 

Syria has said the Israeli attacks have ruled out a resumption of indirect talks with Israel any time soon, although Specter said after meeting Assad that the Syrian president was still interested in pursuing peace with Israel….

Syrian officials have dismissed Israeli demands to cut support for Hamas and Lebanon’s Shi’ite movement Hezbollah and distance itself from Iran as a pre-requisite for peace.

But they say Syria’s external posture could change if a deal with Israel was achieved.  …

Behind closed doors, U.S. seeks Israel exit strategy
By Paul Richter

Washington is worried that a prolonged campaign in the Gaza Strip could bolster the Palestinian Hamas movement. It wants Israel to set a timetable.

Regional impact of the war on Gaza, 01 Jan,

Gaza attack strengthens Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood By Joseph Mayton, The Media Line, January 1, 2008 Rarely do Egyptian demonstrations see thousands of people take to the streets. But, put together anti-Israeli and anti-government sentiments spearheaded by the powerful Muslim Brotherhood, and the result is the country’s largest street action since the first anniversary of the American invasion […]

Moderate Arab States Feel Popular Anger By ROBERT F. WORTH

….The polarization appears to have ended a thaw that had taken place in the past year, Mr. Masri said. Syria had been reaching out to the West and holding indirect peace talks with Israel. Lebanon’s political factions had reached a peace deal. Syria and Saudi Arabia had made gestures toward resolving their feud. ….

Revive la resistance
By Nathan Field, January 02. 2009

To its detractors, Egypt’s government appears to be working with the US and Israel against the Palestinians. Israel’s assault on Gaza may cripple Hamas, but it will embolden those in Arab politics who would rather fight than talk….. In Egypt, huge protests have erupted with an intensity not seen in recent years.

But Israel’s air strikes, taking Hamas as their putative target, have highlighted a rift in the Arab world that has been evident since Hamas defeated Fatah in the 2006 Palestinian legislative elections…..

What is Hamas?, by Sara Roy

 Israel’s siege has two fundamental goals. One is to ensure that the Palestinians there are seen merely as a humanitarian problem, beggars who have no political identity and therefore can have no political claims. The second is to foist Gaza onto Egypt. That is why the Israelis tolerate the hundreds of tunnels between Gaza and Egypt around which an informal but increasingly regulated commercial sector has begun to form. The overwhelming majority of Gazans are impoverished and officially 49.1 per cent are unemployed. In fact the prospect of steady employment is rapidly disappearing for the majority of the population.

Comments (113)


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101. idaf said:

Extremely valuable advise to the Obama administration from Jim Zogby. It is unfortunate for everyone that the Israeli “democracy” is the key cause for these periodic onslaughts on the Palestinians and the Lebanese..

Gaza: The Lessons We Should Have Learned
James Zogby

The horrors that are unfolding in Gaza are but a tragic replay of past confrontations: the same bluster and threats, the same miscalculations by all sides, the same massive and overwhelming use of Israeli force designed to “stop once and for all…,” and same absence of any constructive U.S. role – with no one learning lessons from the past.

This is tragedy in the classic sense: two pathologies playing out with predictable consequences, and with neither party appearing able or willing to restrain itself or recognize the futility of its actions. What’s so desperately needed, and yet missing, is what I’ve termed “adult supervision;” i.e., external restraint that can hold back or limit the damage these pathetic players continue to inflict upon themselves. That is a role that the U.S. could have played over the years, but has not. Not only the Bush Administration, but previous administrations as well, have failed to provide effective leadership – too often reducing themselves to coat-holders and, more often than not, justifying repeated Israeli onslaughts.

Because we’ve seen all this play out before, we can easily predict the outcome. There will be many Palestinians who die, leaving grieving and angry families behind. There will be widespread destruction of property and damage to infrastructure, and many more who will be burdened with the scars of war. There will be increased Palestinian and Arab anger spreading throughout the region, reinforcing extremist trends, threatening not only Israel and the United States, but the U.S.’ Arab allies as well.

And because this drama has played out before, there are lessons that ought to have been learned from the past – but, sadly, have not.

Let me share two instructive stories from an earlier instance of Israel’s “decisive use of force” – this one from 1996. In that year, Shimon Peres, who had become Prime Minister following the assassination of Yitzhak Rabin, was facing a stiff electoral challenge from Likud’s Benjamin Netanyahu. Peres was considered generally supportive of establishing peace with the Palestinians; while Netanyahu, on the other hand, ran on a platform that specifically called for ending the peace process.

In the midst of the election, both Hamas and Hizbullah inserted themselves into the process, engaging in lethal provocations. Netanyahu accused Peres of being weak, and Peres – in an effort to demonstrate that he was not – launched a massive bombing campaign (40,000 bombs in all) against Lebanon, designed (as he claimed) to “send a message.” Despite 400,000 refugees, 10,000 homes destroyed and scores of lives lost, for days the Clinton Administration said nothing other than to affirm “Israel’s right to defend itself.” This continued until the now-infamous Qana massacre, in which 106 Lebanese civilians were killed and another 116 wounded when the UN compound in which they had sought refuge was shelled by Israeli artillery.

It was in the midst of this horror that I debated an Israeli Minister on CNN’s “Crossfire.” Because he had been a forceful champion for peace, at one point in the exchange I said that I was finding it difficult to debate him, watching him defend what I believed he knew was an immoral war. He said nothing on air, but afterwards noted that it was hard. Given the provocation, he said, and the tightness of the election, they [the Labor government in Israel] felt they had no choice but to act. They had hoped, however, that the U.S. would step in early to provide them with a cover for restraint. They could not have confronted their own right wing, he said, unless the U.S. had provided justification for doing so!

In the end, Peres lost the election because tens of thousands of Israeli Arab voters, so angered by the actions of his government, refused to cast their ballots for him. Israel stood embarrassed in the eyes of the world. Anger against Israel in Lebanon further intensified. And with Netanyahu as Prime Minister, Israel began to take a series of steps that inevitably led – as he had intended all along – to dealing fatal blows to the peace process.

Months later, at a meeting of Arab American leaders at the White House, I challenged President Clinton to explain his silence in the face of the Israeli air war on Lebanon. He went to great lengths to explain his position, concluding that he had merely been trying to help Peres win the election and thereby save the peace process. He had thought the best way to do that was to provide Peres with public support. He acknowledged that it had not worked, and said he would not make the same mistake again (although he did much the same in 2000-2001 when Ehud Barak was facing Ariel Sharon).

One could shudder at the tragic irony of these foolish miscalculations if it were not for the fact that the same lethal drama is playing out yet again, with the same justifications being offered and – one fears, with the same consequences.

At this point, given what has been a pathetic performance, the Bush Administration cannot make a difference. And, in any case, real damage is being done. The Palestinian dead will not come back, their families will not stop mourning, nor will their anger easily subside. Hamas will emerge stronger, building off the anger and the loss of hope in peace.

On January 20th, Barack Obama will inherit all this – with a choice to make. He can either repeat the failed patterns of the past, or learn its lessons and provide the needed leadership that can pull Israelis and Palestinians back from the precipice, and provide them a way forward.

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January 6th, 2009, 2:17 pm

 

102. offended said:

At least 40 people have been killed in an Israeli air strike on a United Nations-run school in the Gaza Strip, Palestinian medical sources have said.

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/middle_east/7814054.stm

p.s. the video is very graphic and distressing.

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January 6th, 2009, 4:58 pm

 

103. AKbar Palace said:

RAFAH, Gaza Strip, May 5 (Reuters) – By day, Awad al-Qiq was a respected science teacher and headmaster at a United Nations school in the Gaza Strip. By night, Palestinian militants say, he built rockets for Islamic Jihad.

http://www.reuters.com/article/middleeastCrisis/idUSL05686115

http://www.jpost.com/servlet/Satellite?cid=1231167272256&pagename=JPost%2FJPArticle%2FShowFull

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January 6th, 2009, 7:22 pm

 

104. Shai said:

Akbar,

Let’s refresh our memories just a bit, and look back at history for a moment. During the British mandate, while certain Jews in Palestine were determined enough to create underground movements, that used violence not only against Arabs, but indeed against the British Occupiers, did we not have the same? Wasn’t some Yoske, a “respected teacher” by day, and a “militant terrorist” by night? In what way was Yoske’s armed struggle different from Awad’s?

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January 6th, 2009, 7:59 pm

 

105. jad said:

I just came back from a visit to Syria and My comment are not about sects or religions it’s about an issue we need to look at and see what is the best way to deal with it. Sometimes a small conversation changes your personal view and it forces you to re-evaluate what you believe in.
The other day I had a heating debate with a Sunni Syrian and he shocked me with his views and the way he looks at other Syrians according to their religions and I assume that he reflect a high percentage of our Syrian community, it is sad to see this reality and the level of our educated population thinks.
At the end I asked him how I the Syrian Christian become more Arab than him and how is it possible that I can’t see the differences he sees in a Syrian Shiaa, Sunni, Druze, Alawite, Ismaelis, Christians even Jews. (He even comes with the lamest line I hear about Jesus when he said (your prophet is a Jew, how about that?) as if that means anything)
How could someone rationalize calling the Syrian Shia ‘IRANIANS?’

He totally ignored my question so I asked myself the same question and how and why our way of thinking sunk to this low level and what is our future will become with sick rotten way of thinking community who refuse their countrymen brothers and sisters just because they don’t share them the same view.
He told me that for him and his friends a criminal and terrorist as Bin laden is his hero and they look at Hizbuallah and Hamas as terrorists.
To be honest I’m really sad to get such answers from an educated Syrian and I became certain that our future is way darker and sad than I earlier thought.

The other issue he talked about was the economy, and since I have no data, I’ll write what he told me:
We as a country are financially broke.
The first lady organization projects are financed by the government, they are very expensive and useless project according to him (I disagree yet I don’t know bout that)
Syria became a ‘Banana Republic’

Any comments or explanations and how can we improve our way of thinking.

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January 7th, 2009, 10:44 am

 

106. trustquest said:

Jad, thank you for sharing. Let me give you my prospective. I have never been a religious fanatic or regions period. In my visit to Syria in 2006, I was sitting with the dean of the family, he is an educator for 40 years in largest Damascus School, (he went through it all, was communist in his youth and now a Sunni observant from prominent Damascene family). I was there with my brother in law ( Ismaali with high degree) was there. We were asking him which place is better to buy and live in Damascus. I suggested that in “Demas area”, Assad village is the best place to live. He disagreed and said. You must live near your community ( he mean in Midan area) because when things ( means war between sects) happen, your community is your best protector.
Does that answer your question?
People feel the time and what are happenings around them, you can oppress people for some time but not all the time, you can steel many times but not for ever, 20 millions middle class and working class working outside the country is not a normal state the country is living in. When mismanagement reachs a peaking point, you start seeing people having such ideas to find reasoning to their existence and to defend their children future. Keeping people outside the social fabric is not going to bring good results. Not doing real education about tolerance and keeping the Baathist ideals of Arab Nationlism and wipping the Syrian identity is going to bring bad days ahead. Tighting on the only hope of civil society is going to bite the regime where it hurt.

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January 7th, 2009, 4:43 pm

 

107. jad said:

Trustquest,
Thank you for your reply and explaination.
It’s a very very sad fact…

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January 7th, 2009, 4:57 pm

 

108. Alex said:

http://www.cbsnews.com/blogs/2009/01/07/world/worldwatch/entry4703662.shtml

Diplomat: Hamas Willing To Seek “Solution”

George Baghdadi is CBS News’ reporter in Damascus.

Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal has for the first time indicated a willingness to work toward a cease-fire in the Gaza Strip, according to Russian diplomats in the Syrian capital.

Russian diplomats in Damascus tell CBS News that Mashaal indicated to a senior envoy from Moscow a “readiness to contribute in reaching a solution to stop the aggression in Gaza.”

French President Nicolas Sarkozy said Wednesday that Israel had accepted an Egyptian-French cease-fire plan for the Gaza Strip, but Hamas officials in Syria told CBS News that they could not agree to the plan because it does not guarantee open border crossings or an end to a crippling blockade.

It was the first time Hamas’ senior leader had implied a willingness to order a halt to the rocket attacks that Israel points to as the justification for their assault on Gaza.

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, whose country holds unique sway with the Islamic militant group, met Tuesday with Alexander Sultanov, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev’s special envoy for Middle Eastern Affairs.

Diplomatic sources said it was Sultanov who met Mashaal.

The diplomats, who spoke to CBS News on condition of anonymity due to the sensitivity of the talks, said, however, that Mashaal also warned he was not prepared to cooperate until Israel agreed to open the border-crossings into the besieged Gaza Strip and halt their own military operations.

Meanwhile, al-Assad said any truce between Israel and Hamas must stop what his country describes as “war crimes,” and lift the blockade on the tiny Palestinian territory.

Sultanov also held a meeting with Syria’s Foreign Minister Walid al-Muallem and to review international and regional endeavors, including the role that could be played by Russia to stop the Israeli aggression and withdraw the military forces from the Strip, according to state-run Syrian Arab News Agency.

Al-Assad and Medvedev spoke on the phone earlier in the week and the Russian leader decided to send his aide for more talks with the Syrians.

The Syrian President, after talks with Sarkozy in Damascus on Tuesday, said a cease-fire was only attainable after Israel stops the “war crimes” and opens the crossing points to allow the flow of medical and other aid to the Palestinians.

Sarkozy was in Damascus Tuesday pressing Syria to convince Hamas to halt rocket fire into Israel.

Syria, along with Iran, is a main backer of Hamas and hosts members of the group’s exiled leadership, including Mashaal.

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January 7th, 2009, 6:13 pm

 

109. Alex said:

Hamas Team Takes Egypt Truce Plan To Syria

CAIRO (AFP)–The Hamas leadership is examining an Egyptian truce plan for the Gaza Strip after a delegation from the Palestinian Islamists held talks with Egyptian officials in Cairo.

The two-man delegation of Emad al-Alami and Mohammed Nasr left Cairo for Damascus on Wednesday to report their discussions with Egyptain officials, including intelligence chief Omar Suleiman, to Hamas’s Syrian-based leadership.

“The movement is studying the initiative,” a Hamas official in Syria told AFP.

Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak put forward a truce plan for the ravaged territory late Tuesday aimed at ending Israel’s assault which has killed more than 680 Palestinians and ending militant rocket fire.

The plan hopes to install a temporary ceasefire followed by an official truce, the securing of Gaza’s border and the opening of crossing points to and from the isolated territory.

Egypt mediated a previous six-month truce between Israel and Hamas which expired on Dec. 19, heralding the latest violence.

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January 7th, 2009, 6:17 pm

 

110. Akbar Palace said:

Syria became a ‘Banana Republic’

Jad,

Whatever you do, please don’t tell the authors here.

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January 8th, 2009, 5:28 am

 

111. Shami said:

Turkish hackers attack Israeli Web sites
Two Turkish hackers have launched a massive cyber-attack against private and public Israeli Web sites as a reaction to the Israeli attacks on the Gaza Strip, which started on Dec. 27.

Two individuals, N.D., who was educated abroad in the field of information technology, and B.S., a university student in Bursa, have so far defaced 500 Israeli Web sites.

The hackers leave notes in Turkish, German and English on the Web sites they attack, saying: “We are making a small-scale protest just to show you your shameful acts. You are doing to the Palestinian public what Hitler did to you.” The Turkish hackers also post the photos of Palestinian children killed by Israeli soldiers on the Web sites.

B.S. and N.D. said they knew their acts were illegal; however, they chose this method because they did not want to remain silent in the wake of Israeli atrocities. “Our goal is to protest what is being done to the innocent people in Gaza and show our reaction. The reason we chose this method was our bid to make our voices louder. The messages we leave on the Web sites we defaced can stay there for five minutes or hours, depending on the Web site’s security regulations.”

B.S. and N.D. said their actions were not comparable to the brutal attacks carried out by Israel.

“They mercilessly kill infants, children. Ours is only a cyber-war; we do not kill anybody,” one of the hackers said. “We will continue attacking Israeli Web sites until Israel stops attacking Gaza.”

07 January 2009, Wednesday
ÖZDEMIR ÖZKAN İZMIR

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January 8th, 2009, 5:52 am

 

112. Shami said:

Jad ,what you saw was not the case prior the so called secular baath.
And the happy Syria as our fathers knew it ,is part of our nostalgia.
The christian community has lost its past prestige,the jews have almost completly left(no more jews in Aleppo and less than 100 in Damascus) ,religious radicalization is not only the case of the Muslim Syrians ,but also the Christians who are less educated and poorer…the Alawites are the true losers despite all of what is said about the Alawite supremacy over the regime ,they are seen as spies,profitors and mukhabarat agents.Bashar who enjoy some popularity must kick out all these corrupt mukhabarat ,remove the special laws and especially the tragic law 49 and make peace with the syrian people as whole,he should above all recognize the mistakes of his father and stop this hypocrite and very kitschy portrait mania.Also the old buildings from the Muslim caliphat and french eras must be preserved and restored because they are the only beautiful things in Syria.

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January 8th, 2009, 6:24 am

 

113. jad said:

AP
Mind your buisness and keep supporting Israel for the killing of innocent people

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January 8th, 2009, 7:50 am

 

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