“We will not allow another [IAEA] visit”

Syrian Girl by atsjebosma

Syrian Girl by atsjebosma

Syria Defends Destroyed Site As Non-Nuclear Military Base
AFP, 21 November 2008

Syria said Friday a building bombed by Israeli planes last year wasn’t a covert nuclear reactor, as Washington stuck to its allegations that it says are supported in a findings by the U.N. nuclear watchdog.

“We are talking about military bases, we are talking about military activities,” Ibrahim Othman, the head of Syria’s Atomic Energy Commission, told reporters after International Atomic Energy Agency inspectors briefed members about their first visit to the site in June.

Earlier on Friday, the U.S. envoy to the IAEA Gregory Schulte, had said the initial findings of the inspectors’ visit had served to harden the suspicions against Syria.

A four-page report circulated to IAEA board members on Wednesday “reinforces the assessment of my government that Syria was secretly building a nuclear reactor in its eastern desert and thereby violating its IAEA safeguards obligations,” Schulte said. “The report sharply contradicts a number of Syria’s claims and catalogs Syria’s repeated refusal to answer IAEA questions.”

The restricted report, a copy of which was obtained by AFP, said that “while it cannot be excluded that the building in question was intended for non-nuclear use, the features of the building…along with the connectivity of the site to adequate pumping capacity of cooling water are similar to what may be found in connection with a reactor site.”

Furthermore, traces of uranium had been found at the site which was razed to the ground by Israeli planes on Sept. 6, 2007.

“No such nuclear material had so far been declared in Syria’s inventory…. In principle, that sort of nuclear material should not exist there. It’s not usual to find man-made uranium in sand,” a senior U.N. official said.

Othman insisted that since the site was a military one, the IAEA had no right to inspect it.

No other country would allow any person to visit a restricted military site, ” just because he would like to see it,” Othman said.

….Syria “will continue cooperation with the agency, there’s no doubt,” he said, adding: “We will continue cooperation, we are member of the international community and we are a member of the IAEA.”

But it won’t sign the so-called Additional Protocol, which gives the IAEA greater inspection rights, Othman said…..

Syria all but rules out more U.N. nuclear inspection
AP, 21 November 2008

A senior Syrian official on Friday all but ruled out new visits by U.N inspectors probing allegations that his country had a covert program that could be used to make nuclear weapons.
Syrian refusal to allow inspections could doom the International Atomic Energy Agency’s efforts to follow up U.S. assertions that a site bombed by Israel last year was a nearly finished reactor that could have produced plutonium.

Syria allowed the IAEA to visit the site near the desert town of Al Kibar in June but has since turned down requests for more inspections.

“We will not allow another visit,” said Ibrahim Othman, the head of Syria’s atomic agency.

He said the IAEA had agreed with Syria that there would be only be one visit. The IAEA has said it agreed to make one initial visit, but has requested others.

The IAEA has said it suspects three other sites may have been nuclear-related and linked to the bombed location…

Ehud Olmert, ‘The Time Has Come to Say These Things’
New York Review of Books, Volume 55, Number 19 · December 4, 2008

On the eve of the Jewish New Year, Israel’s most popular daily newspaper, Yedioth Ahronoth, published an extended interview of lame-duck prime minister Ehud Olmert by journalists Nahum Barnea and Shimon Shiffer…. The following are excerpts from the Yedioth interview…

we have a window of opportunity—a short amount of time before we enter an extremely dangerous situation—in which to take a historic step in our relations with the Palestinians and a historic step in our relations with the Syrians. In both instances, the decision we have to make is the decision we’ve spent forty years refusing to look at with our eyes open.

We must make these decisions, and yet we are not prepared to say to ourselves, “Yes, this is what we must do.” We must reach an agreement with the Palestinians, meaning a withdrawal from nearly all, if not all, of the [occupied] territories. Some percentage of these territories would remain in our hands, but we must give the Palestinians the same percentage [of territory elsewhere]—without this, there will be no peace….

Yedioth Ahronoth: It seems that political leaders in Israel always reach this conclusion only when they themselves are no longer in a position to make this decision.

Ehud Olmert: Not in my case. I reached this conclusion when I was still able to do something about it. I established contacts with the Syrians in February 2007, long before the police opened investigations on me. And I engaged in them quietly. Throughout that period I made many efforts, sent envoys all over the place, and had various people working secretly on my behalf to convince the Syrians that I wanted serious talks with them. Today we’ve arrived at the point at which we must ask ourselves whether we really want to make peace or not.

I’m not saying that this is a simple question. One might argue, ostensibly with good reason, that, look, for thirty-five years, since the Yom Kippur War, we’ve lived on the Golan Heights without any violation of the cease-fire; and there’s none of the day-to-day friction with a civilian population, as in the territories—so why not carry on?….

Yedioth Ahronoth: Based on what you have said, you seem to think that the guilt falls entirely on [Israel].

Ehud Olmert: No. Our burden is ours; their burden belongs to them. I’m not suggesting we make peace with Syria simply by surrendering the Golan Heights. The Syrians know well what they must surrender to get the Golan. They must give up their connections with Iran, such as they are, and their connections with Hezbollah; they must cease funding terrorism, Hamas, al-Qaeda, the holy war in Iraq. They know. These things have been made clear to them.

Were a regional war to break out in the next year or two and were we to enter into a military confrontation with Syria, I have no doubt that we’d defeat them soundly. We are stronger than they. Israel is the strongest country in the Middle East. We could contend with any of our enemies or against all of our enemies combined and win. The question that I ask myself is, what happens when we win? First of all, we’d have to pay a painful price.

And after we paid the price, what would we say to them? “Let’s talk.” And what would the Syrians say to us? “Let’s talk about the Golan Heights.”

So, I ask: Why enter a war with the Syrians, full of losses and destruction, in order to achieve what might be achieved without paying such a heavy price?

…In the absence of peace, the probability of war is always much greater. A prime minister must ask himself where to best direct his efforts. Are his efforts directed toward making peace or are they directed constantly toward making the country stronger and stronger and stronger in order to win a war?

…What I’m saying here has never been said by a leader of Israel. But the time has come to say these things. The time has come to put them on the table.

I read the reports of our generals and I say, “how have they not learned a single thing?” Once, a very senior official told me, “They’re still living in the War of Independence and the Sinai Campaign.” With them it’s all about tanks, about controlling territories or controlled territories, holding this or that hill. But these things are worthless.

…The true threat we are facing today in the north, south, and east is from missiles and rockets. We will need to answer these threats but we will not find such answers within a range of two hundred meters.

…Our goal should be, for the first time, to designate a final and exact borderline between us and the Palestinians so that the entire world, the United States, the UN, and Europe can say, “These are the borders of the State of Israel, we recognize them, and we will anchor them with formal resolutions in the major international bodies. These are the recognized borders of Israel and these are the recognized borders of the State of Palestine.”

…Who seriously thinks that if we sit on another hilltop, on another hundred meters, this will make a difference for Israel’s basic security?………

Buthaina Shaaban: Syria-Israel deal is close. (Thanks to SASA for sending this.)
By Sasa, the Syria News Wire
20 November 2008

Buthaina Shaaban – adviser to the Syrian president and Nobel Peace Prize nominee – has revealed that her country is closer to a peace-deal with Israel than it has ever been during a public talk in Britain.

This year, Syria has had a series of indirect talks with Israel, on the return of the Golan Heights. It is the first time the two countries have talked since Shepherdstown in 2000.

“At Shepherdstown the problem was just the demarcation of the 1967 line (the future border),” she told a packed audience at the Diplomatic Academy of London. “Now, we started by trying to describe the 67 line, so the feeling is better than after Madrid.”… More at the Syria News Wire.

Syria has clear and comprehensive vision of Peace, Sha’aban Says
SANA, 21 November 2008

Presidential Political and Media Advisor Buthaina Sha’aban on Friday …. at a symposium titled “Syria is the key to solving Middle East problems”, …at the building of the Diplomatic Academy in Vienna.

“The problem in the region is a political one, it is an outcome of the Israeli continued occupation of the Arab lands and its non abiding by international resolutions… the problem is not religious as some western media depict,” Sha’aban added.

She said that the suffering of the Palestinian and Iraqi refugees is a result of the Israeli and US occupation.

For his part, Austrian State Secretary for Foreign Affairs Hans Winkler underlined in an interposition at the Symposium the important role of Syria in the Middle East and the peace process, saying “it is not possible to achieve peace in the region without Syria.”

A number of Austrian political and media figures, Arab Ambassadors, intellectuals and members of the Syrian Community in Austria attended the Symposium.

Iraqi Refugees in Syria Watch U.S. Security Negotiations
NAM, 21 November 2008

While the Iraqi parliament deliberates over the controversial security pact with U.S. forces that was approved by the country’s cabinet this week, Iraqis in Damascus are divided over the possibility of U.S. forces remaining in their country for another two years.

Many of the estimated one million Iraqi refugees here say they are eager to return, but they still feel the wounds of the sectarianism that has ripped their country apart in recent years. For refugees here, security in Iraq is a top priority, but many continue to be deeply critical of the ongoing occupation, leaving the community divided on whether security is a legitimate cause for U.S. forces to remain for another two years.

In Seyida Zaynab, the suburb of Damascus often dubbed “little Baghdad” for its largely Iraqi population, … I duck into the Sadrist office, the Syrian branch of the movement of mostly poor, anti-occupation Iraqi Shia. …“We refuse the agreement completely,” says the black robed Al-Qadimi. “The security pact is an agreement between two sides—the Iraqi government and the Americans. Neither side represents the Iraqi people, and no one else has any stake in it. We are an occupied country and the occupying forces must leave…”

Killing of al-Qaida Smuggler in Syria was Joint Syrian, U.S. Effort
By RICHARD SALE
Middle East Times, 21 November 2008

In spite of much angry public protest in Damascus, last month’s killing of top al-Qaida operative Abu Ghadiya, was in fact a joint operation between U.S. Special Forces in Iraq and Syrian intelligence, according to former and serving U.S. intelligence officials.

Abu Ghadiya, a smuggler who for years had moved money, weapons and insurgents into Iraq from Syria, was killed by a U.S. helicopter raid on Oct. 26. Seven civilians were killed with him, and the resulting furor was immediate: Russia and the Arab League strongly protested the raid, and Syria accused the United States of “criminal and terrorist aggression” and lodged an official protest, according to U.S. State Department spokesman Sean McCormack. Syria ordered the American School in Damascus closed.

But Syria’s alleged anger was calculated to conceal Syrian complicity in the operation. Although the attack is still officially “classified,” serving and former U.S. intelligence officials told the Middle East Times that Syria gave U.S. forces permission to fly into its airspace and even provided extensive targeting intelligence on Abu Ghadiya. “Syrian intelligence couldn’t have been more cooperative,” said a former senior CIA official…. 

Last May Abu Ghadiya and a dozen gunmen attacked an Iraqi police station in Qaim, killing 12, some of whom were beheaded.

 

Then, in early October, U.S. intelligence learned that Abu Ghadiya was planning another cross-border attack, and back-channel discussions with Syrian officials began.

 

Washington has long run a back channel to Damascus through Syria’s air force intelligence, the Idarat al-Murkabarat al-Jawiyya, U.S. sources said.

 

On Oct. 26, Syrian intelligence alerted U.S. forces in Iraq to Abu Ghadiyah’s whereabouts, at which time, U.S. Signals Intelligence (SIGINT) operatives began to track him, probably through his satellite telephone.

Four Blackhawk helicopters took off for the northeastern Syrian village of al-Sukkiraya, about five miles from the Euphrates river, an area where a compound of new homes was being built, according to U.S. intelligence officials.

 

At this point, the raid went wrong. As the U.S. Special Forces poured out of the aircraft, shots were fired and a gunfight broke out that lasted for 10 to 15 minutes. Abu Ghadiya was to have been captured and flown to Iraq for interrogation. Instead he was killed in the fighting, along with seven Syrian civilians, including four children, most of them members of the same family.

 

“There weren’t to have been any civilian casualties, no collateral damage,” a U.S. intelligence official said. “We wanted the [expletive] alive.” The U.S. raiding team carried off two captives for interrogation.

 

“The problem with these kinds of tactics lies with the fact that so many things can go wrong, and they usually do,” said Middle East expert Tony Cordesman. “You don’t want to solve one problem only to create a dozen others.”

 

But the praise of U.S. officials for Syria’s part was deeply appreciative. “The Syrians were perfect; they gave us the works,” said one U.S. official familiar with the incident…..

Your Attention, Please
By Brent Scowcroft and Zbigniew Brzezinski
Friday, November 21, 2008; Page A23, Wash Post

The election of Barack Obama to be the 44th president is profoundly historic. We have at long last been able to come together in a way that has eluded us in the long history of our great country. We should celebrate this triumph of the true spirit of America.

Election Day celebrations were replicated in time zones around the world, something we have not seen in a long time. While euphoria is ephemeral, we must endeavor to use its energy to bring us all together as Americans to cope with the urgent problems that beset us.

When Obama takes office in two months, he will find a number of difficult foreign policy issues competing for his attention, each with strong advocates among his advisers. We believe that the Arab-Israeli peace process is one issue that requires priority attention.

In perhaps no other region was the election of Obama more favorably received than the Middle East. Immediate attention to the Israeli-Palestinian dispute would help cement the goodwill that Obama’s election engendered. Not everyone in the Middle East views the Palestinian issue as the greatest regional challenge, but the deep sense of injustice it stimulates is genuine and pervasive.

Unfortunately, the current administration’s intense efforts over the past year will not resolve the issue by Jan. 20. But to let attention lapse would reinforce the feelings of injustice and neglect in the region. That could spur another eruption of violence between the warring parties or in places such as Lebanon or Gaza, reversing what progress has been made and sending the parties back to square one. Lurking in the background is the possibility that the quest for a two-state solution may be abandoned by the Palestinians, the Israelis, or both — with unfortunate consequences for all.

Resolution of the Palestinian issue would have a positive impact on the region. It would liberate Arab governments to support U.S. leadership in dealing with regional problems, as they did before the Iraq invasion. It would dissipate much of the appeal of Hezbollah and Hamas, dependent as it is on the Palestinians’ plight. It would change the region’s psychological climate, putting Iran back on the defensive and putting a stop to its swagger.

The major elements of an agreement are well known. A key element in any new initiative would be for the U.S. president to declare publicly what, in the view of this country, the basic parameters of a fair and enduring peace ought to be. These should contain four principal elements: 1967 borders, with minor, reciprocal and agreed-upon modifications; compensation in lieu of the right of return for Palestinian refugees; Jerusalem as real home to two capitals; and a nonmilitarized Palestinian state.

Something more might be needed to deal with Israeli security concerns about turning over territory to a Palestinian government incapable of securing Israel against terrorist activity. That could be dealt with by deploying an international peacekeeping force, such as one from NATO, which could not only replace Israeli security but train Palestinian troops to become effective.

To date, the weakness of the negotiating parties has limited their ability to come to an agreement by themselves. The elections in Israel scheduled for February are certainly a complicating factor, as is the deep split among Palestinians between Fatah and Hamas. But if the peace process begins to gain momentum, it is difficult to imagine that Hamas will want to be left out, and that same momentum would provide the Israeli people a unique chance to register their views on the future of their country.

This weakness can be overcome by the president speaking out clearly and forcefully about the fundamental principles of the peace process; he also must press the case with steady determination. That initiative should then be followed — not preceded — by the appointment of a high-level dignitary to pursue the process on the president’s behalf, a process based on the enunciated presidential guidelines. Such a presidential initiative should instantly galvanize support, both domestic and international, and provide great encouragement to the Israeli and Palestinian peoples.

To say that achieving a successful resolution of this critical issue is a simple task would be to scoff at history. But in many ways the current situation is such that the opportunity for success has never been greater, or the costs of failure more severe.

Brent Scowcroft was national security adviser to Presidents Gerald Ford and George H.W. Bush. He is president of the Forum for International Policy and the Scowcroft Group. Zbigniew Brzezinski was national security adviser to President Jimmy Carter. He is trustee and counselor at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. The two are authors of “America and The World: Conversations on the Future of American Foreign Policy.”

Syria hit by double blow on oil prices and falling supplies
By Anna Fifield
Financial Times, 20 November 2008

The decline in crude prices has taken oil-producing nations by surprise, but few will be hurt as much as Syria, which is grappling with rapidly falling supply. The double blow has huge implications for the economy.

“Energy is a problem,” says Nabil Sukkar, an economist who heads the Syrian Consulting Bureau. “Our energy-generating capacity is below demand and our oil reserves are falling, while our gas reserves have not been developed rapidly enough.” Dwindling Syrian resources are often cited by analysts as one of the main reasons the country needs to end its international isolation, a process that has now started with improved ties with Europe. David Miliband, UK foreign secretary, was in Damascus this week in the latest sign of a thaw in ties between the west and Syria.

While fighting off pressure from the US and other western states over alleged interference in Iraq, Lebanon and the Palestinian territories, Syria has struggled for economic survival.

The energy sector comprises a large chunk of its economy and oil revenues have funded a quarter of the expenditure in the nation’s huge public sector. Five years ago oil comprised more than half of Syria’s $29bn in income, but last year it contributed only $3.8bn to revenues totalling $22bn (€17.5bn, £14.6bn).

The International Monetary Fund says Damascus will face unsustainable budget deficits by 2015 unless it can find new sources of income.

The decline in oil production – it fell by 6.5 per cent to 394,000 barrels a day last year and is set to shrink further – will also weigh on growth, which has averaged 4.5 per cent in the past three years, due mainly to oil.

The IMF estimates that the non-oil parts of the economy contracted 7.3 per cent last year, worse than the 6.4 per cent shrinkage in the previous year. In particular, Syria’s agricultural sector has been suffering from the worst drought in 40 years, which has put 1m people at risk of malnutrition and caused more than 100,000 to lose half their livestock.

But encouraging the non-oil sector and developing new sources of growth will be difficult unless the energy shortages are solved, as Syria lacks energy supplies to power new industries.

Sectors essential for industrialisation – such as cement and steel – are among the worst hit by energy shortages. The government now requires anyone wanting to build an energy intensive factory to set up a power-generating plant, a sizeable investment that is hindering some from expanding just when Syria needs such products for construction.

Electricity power stations, fuelled primarily by oil and natural gas, are unable to meet demand. New plants are being built, including some solar power stations funded with Gulf investment. However, Syria’s plans to add 3,000MW of power-generating capacity by 2010 have been hindered by delays.

Some analysts see the energy crisis as a chance to shake up the economy and accelerate restructuring.

“They are well aware of the need to increase non-oil revenues and have taken a series of measures in this direction,” says Nassib Ghobril, head of research at Lebanon’s Byblos Bank. “So the sudden drop in global oil prices might accelerate the implementation of reforms.”

Already, reform-minded politicians are using the need for change in the energy sector to introduce sensitive ideas to Syria’s “social market economy”.

Abdullah Dardari, deputy prime minister for economic affairs, suggests the private sector should play a greater role in electricity supply. “We are developing a private partnership policy to bring in investments in the energy sector,” he says. “The essential prerequisite for a sustainable energy policy is to have the correct prices.”

Electricity and oil have been heavily subsidised for decades. The government expects to spend $7bn on energy subsidies this year.

Syria’s Economy May Expand 7% Next Year, Deputy PM Dardari Says
By Natalie Weeks
Bloomberg, 19 November 2008

Syria’s economic growth may reach 7 percent next year as it continues to attract investment from the Middle East and exports diversify away from oil, Deputy PrimeMinister Abdallah Dardari said.

The global credit crisis doesn’t “represent any serious risks” to banks in Syria, which have remained isolated from the worldwide system because of U.S. sanctions, Dardari said in an interview in Athens today.

“Demand for Syrian products could be affected, but if we find the right niche exports, and we do have them, and present ourselves as the place for real economy investments we can actually take advantage of the crisis,” Dardari said.

Economic growth in the nation of 20 million will accelerate from about 6.6 percent this year, Dardari aid. Inflation is expected to decelerate to 9.8 percent within the year, he added.

The Economist Intelligence Unit has forecast price growth will reach 16.8 percent this year from 12.2 percent in 2007 because of reductions in fuel subsidies and a 25 percent increase in
government salaries and pensions.

Syria is diversifying away from a dependence on oil. The country’s non-oil exports exceeded $12.5 billion last year, compared with less than $1 billion in 2000, spurred by regional demand for items such as textiles, pharmaceuticals, cotton and agricultural produce.

The U.S. imposed sanctions on Syria in May 2004, including a ban on trade transactions with the Commercial Bank of Syria, in an effort to halt exports to the country that is accused by President George W. Bush’s administration of aiding militants in Iraq and pursuing weapons of mass destruction.

Syria “doesn’t want to pin high hopes on dramatic change” as Barack Obama’s administration takes office in January, Dardari said. “We believe, we hope, that the approach of the new U.S. administration will be different toward the issues of the Middle East and Syria specifically.”

Report says Britain hammers out Damascus intelligence agreement
By Raed Rafei
Los Angeles Times, 19 November 2008

It’s another effort by a Western power to draw Syria out of its international isolation in hopes Damascus would loosen its strong ties with Tehran and groups such as Hezbollah and some Palestinian factions.

The U.K.’s Foreign Minister, David Miliband, made a landmark visit to Damascus on Tuesday. He’s the first British top diplomat to visit Damascus since 2001.

Before heading to Beirut, Miliband said that Syria had an “essential role” to play in the stability of the Middle East. This move might be seen as a sign that the U.K., after France, is warming up to the Syrians.

Milliband said that Syria had responsibilities in the region “in respect of counter-terrorism, in respect of Iraq, in respect of the Middle East peace process.” He urged Syria to resume talks with Israel…Apparently, the main focus of the visit was the reestablishment of high-level intelligence cooperation between the Brits and the Syrians…

Syria may invite Russian mobile carrier – minister
Reuters, 20 November 2008

Syria is considering inviting a Russian cellular operator into its market, Russia’s Communications Minister Igor Shchyogolev said on Thursday.

‘They have an idea to add one more mobile operator there. The participation of Russian companies in the Syrian mobile market is possible,’ Shchyogolev told reporters after a session of the Russian-Syrian Intergovernmental Commission.

Russia’s mobile phone market penetration currently stands at around 125.4 percent, according to market research group AC&M, suggesting the impressive growth rates in telecoms sales of the past years are now set to slow down. According to media reports, Syria’s cellphone penetration does not exceed 40 percent, and the market is split between Syriatel, owned by a Syrian businessman, and MTN Syria, part of Sub-Saharan Africa’s top mobile phone operator MTN.

Syrian officials have repeatedly said the country is going to auction off a third license…..

Russia: Syria won’t get Iskander for now
The Jerusalem Post, 20 November 2008

Months after offering Russia to deploy long-range ballistic missiles in his country, Syrian President Bashar Assad was informed this week that Moscow will not sell Iskander missiles to foreign clients due to production delays.

According to a report in the Russian news agency Novosti, the state arms exporter Rosoboronexport has decided that despite interest from a number of countries – including Syria, the United Arab Emirates and India – Moscow will not export the Iskander missile until the Russian Armed Forces are fully equipped with the system.

The Iskander missile – also known as the SS-26 Stone – is a short range, solid fuel propelled, theater quasi-ballistic missile system. According to reports, the Iskander missile has only been subject to test firing and will likely only become operational in four years.

The system was developed to carry conventional warheads for the engagement of small targets, fixed missile silos and anti-aircraft systems as well as command posts and critical civilian infrastructure facilities. The missiles are reportedly difficult to intercept.

In August, Assad visited Moscow where he spoke with President Dmitry Medvedev and reportedly discussed the possibility of allowing Russia to set up Iskander missile launchers in Syria.

Israel was concerned with the reports and feared that the missiles could be used in a future conflict in the region. In October, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert made a lightning trip to Moscow to urge Medvedev not to sell Syria advanced missile systems.

In May, a Syrian military delegation, led by Air Force Commander Gen. Ahmad Al Ratyb, visited Russia for talks about the possible procurement of the Iskander as well as the advanced S-300 anti-aircraft missile defense system.

Earlier this month, Medvedev threatened to deploy Iskander missiles in the Baltic enclave of Kaliningrad sandwiched between NATO members Lithuania and Poland in order to “neutralize if necessary” a proposed US missile defense system in Europe. Chief of the General Staff Gen. Nikolai Kakarov said that the military was prepared to deploy the missiles per Medvedev’s final order.

Syria: Al-Moallem, Stefani Discuss Syrian-Italian Bilateral Relations
SANA, 20 November 2008

Foreign Minister Walid al-Moallem discussed on Wednesday with President of the Foreign Affairs Committee at the Italian Parliament Stefano Stefani bilateral relations between the two countries and means of developing them….

Barack Obama’s election has raised hopes but the problems are still gigantic
By Richard Beeston
Times Online, 21 November 2008

….. American and Middle Eastern officials, along with regional analysts, believe that Mr Obama could restore full relations with Syria, begin to normalise US ties with Iran – suspended nearly 30 years ago – and breathe new life into the moribund peace process between Israel and the Palestinians….

Comments (86)


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51. Joshua said:

Dear Nour,
You write: “The only truly secular parties in Lebanon are and have always been the Syrian Social Nationalist Party and the Communist Party. However, their ability to attract members has been historically hampered by the deep sectarian nature of Lebanese society which has only been strengthened and reinforced by the political system insisted upon by the sectarian, tribal chieftains of the country.”

What about the Baath Party? Like both the SSNP and Communists, the Baath is secular and even anti-sectarian in ideology. Of course, it has not been so in reality.

I raise this question of the Baath, which is much more familiar to us, in order to challenge you on the other two – the SSNP and Communists.

I have always thought of the SSNP or PPS as a Greek Orthodox party at its base. Yes, it builds on “Greater Syrian” nationalism, which is geographically based and not obviously sectarian, but hasn’t it appealed to Greek Orthodox first and foremost – as the anti “Arab” party? And what I mean by “Arab” was understood by Greek Orthodox to be a code word for Muslim? (Of course in the 1950s, after the death of Saade, the party was “Arabized,” but I am talking about its origins and heart.

At the time of the First World War, when the British were trying to appeal to the Arab Sunni majority by supporting the Hashemite version of Arab nationalism, which was infused with Sunni legitimacy, the Comite Central Syrien, a largely Greek Orthodox inspired organization grew up to challenge this conception of the M.E. It presented Greater Syria as the alternative to a Hashemite led Middle East and appealed to the French – particularly during the Paris Peace Conference after the War. People like Jacques Tabet, Chucri Ghanem and Semne, leading members of the movement – as well as the many chapters in the mahjar, Latin America, Europe and North America, did not want toe-picking backward Arabian Arabs to take over. They also depicted Arabism as a scary fanatical movement coming from the desert that wanted to re-impose a caliphate on the Middle East and had no conception of modern nationalism. They tried to scare Christian Middle Easterners and Europeans alike about the ultimate results of empowering a largely Muslim, neo-Umayyad, Arabism in the region.

When one scratched below the surface of the Greater Syria alternative, one found an imperial Byzantine sensibility and conception of history that had been built upon readings of the bible and sought to reunite regions of the Middle East where large populations of Greek Orthodox lived. Greater Syrianism didn’t just grow up as an anti-Arabist movement, it also emerged as an anti-Pheonicianist movement. It was an effort to present a nationalist conception of the region that suited the sensibilities and demographic of the Greek Orthodox in opposition to the largely Sunni and Maronite nationalist conceptions that were emerging.

Antoun Saade, whose father Khalil Sa’adah was a prominent Arabic-language journalist in Brazil, was well versed in this conception of the Middle East. I do not have proof that his father belonged to the Comite Central Syrien of the First World War era, but I would wager he did. He was a publisher and intellectual. Antoun grew up in a politicized and literate milieu.

He brought these ideas back to Lebanon in the 1930s and gave them an overlay of national socialism (fascism) which was the fashion of the time, replacing the liberalism of the original members of the Comite Central Syrien.

In short, what I am arguing is that all the “secular” parties of the Middle East, such as the SSNP, Baath, and Communists, appealed to various ethnic or sectarian groups and became “sectarianized” because the nationalist struggle in the Middle East could not be isolated from the religious and communal struggles that were such a fundamental part of identity politics in the region.

Best, Joshua

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November 23rd, 2008, 3:12 pm

 

52. Alia said:

Shai, #6

[You realize, of course, that I cannot fully accept the definition of Israel as a “terrorist state”]

My friend who has earned my admiration for your astute analysis of political language, who has used most often the term brainwashing by leaders, why do you “think” (not feel) that Israel is not a terrorist state?

Haaretz 21/11/2008

Born in sin
By Gideon Levy,

The Israeli peace camp was born in sin and died because of a lie: It was born as the legitimate son of the sin of occupation, and died the illegitimate son of the lie that “there is no partner” with whom to negotiate on the other side. Between September 1967 and October 2000, it spent 33 years waging the brave and determined struggle of a minority against a majority, “traitors” against “patriots,” “defilers of Israel” against “lovers of Israel,” David against Goliath. Today, we must painfully admit that it was struggle that did not produce much.

The peace camp was born of a small ad – a statement bearing only a dozen mostly unknown signatures – addressed to the general public, and then began to die a pathetic death, which is lamented by no one. Since then, its body has laid in public squares that are void of protesters, in streets empty of struggle and in public discourse free of ideas. On occasion, it lets out a desperate and dying gasp from the direction of a group of determined but marginalized groups, near the separation fence in Na’alin or in Gush Shalom’s advertisements in the Friday paper.

On occasion, it wraps itself in the guise of a mass demonstration, mostly at deceptive memorial rallies for Yitzhak Rabin – also featuring pop stars Aviv Geffen and Ninet – and in public opinion polls in which the majority claims to adopt its positions. But the interim balance sheet of history is clear and razor sharp: The occupation, the settlements, the police thugs and the brutality have been victorious over everything else. Never have so many people said we need to put a stop to things, and never have so few done anything about it.
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The Israeli occupation enterprise has never been so prosperous, sweeping up in its whirlpool all of Israeli society and a vast army of settlers, secret agents, soldiers, prosecutors, journalists, politicians, judges, doctors, engineers, builders, architects, industrialists, artists, archaeologists and average apathetic citizens. Everyone, absolutely everyone, is implicated. They speak peace, but make war; oppose the settlements, but take part in their construction; say “two states,” but vote Likud; close their eyes, hide their faces and wrap themselves in the most dangerous of blankets: blankets of apathy.

I am flipping through the yellowing pages of Haaretz from September 1967. The announcement concerning the establishment of the peace camp is hidden between an advertisement for a car that costs 10,849 liras and a guaranteed “original key chain” for anyone who purchases a pack of Diplomat razor blades, just next to the death announcement paid for by a neuro-psychiatric society mourning one of its members. A dozen members of the Matzpen movement, who were outcast, excommunicated and persecuted, placed the ad three months after the end of the Six-Day War. At the peak of the nationalist orgy and the religious celebrations that dominated us then, came the first call: “Leave the occupied territories immediately!”

Everything the advertisement predicted about messianic occupation, and the terror and oppression that would be born of it, and the fact that we would become a “nation of murderers and murdered,” is a common truth shared by the masses, the mainstream, the warm and fuzzy consensus. Even Ehud Olmert and Ariel Sharon would concur. But surprisingly and catastrophically, here we are today, as the famous Chaim Nahman Bialik poem goes: The sun is shining, the acacia is blooming and the slaughterer is still slaughtering.

At the end of Camp David, when he told us “there’s no partner,” Ehud Barak propagated an even bigger lie: that we have a peace camp. How pleasant it is to delude ourselves that we have one, and how depressing it is to know that we don’t. There is no left – just empty words. When the only demonstration in town is over student tuition, when the only discourse in city and village alike concerns the “Big Brother” TV show, and the loudest cries are over “corruption” and Olmert’s frequent-flier miles instead of over the jailed Palestinian who is bleeding and beaten, who hasn’t had a normal day in his life – then we know for sure that there is no peace camp in Israel in 2008.

Maybe there never was? Maybe a camp that is defeated with such intolerable ease just needs to be told there is no partner in order to simply disappear. The moment this camp witnesses terrorism – that means of struggle for all those who seek liberation – it shuts itself down at home, planning the next package tour and watching a reality show, in fear, silence, betrayal and sick apathy, while half an hour away, the cruel occupation lives on. It’s much crueler today than it was back then, when a dozen Matzpen members printed that public appeal, a voice crying in the wilderness, the barren desert wilderness of the Israeli left and of Israeli society as a whole.

The term “left” and the expression “peace camp” need to be removed from the dictionary of Hebrew terms. We no longer have the right to make use of them. Any use whatsoever.

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November 23rd, 2008, 4:16 pm

 

53. abraham said:

It’s funny how over the past decade Israel always tries to reach a peace agreement with a hostile neighbor when the term of their current Head Terrorist…er, I mean Prime Minister is at an end. Then, not surprisingly, new elections are held, a new Head Terror…there I go again, a new Prime Minister comes into power, and they have to start back at zero again.

Nothing will come of this recent round of useless talks, and the same result will come after Tzipi or Bebe or whatever terrorist ends up as Israeli PM. The only solution is an eradication and demonization of zionism, much like what happened to nazism after the fall of the Third Reich.

There is no compromise with zionism. Either you embrace peace or you embrace evil. There is no in between.

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November 23rd, 2008, 4:18 pm

 

54. Shai said:

Dear Alia,

You know that I am capable of accepting a lot about my country and my people. I am the strongest believer that the 40 year-long Occupation has been an endless set of crimes, committed at the expense of the Palestinian people, who did not choose to be ruled and occupied either by the Jordanian Legion, nor by the IDF and Israeli settlers. My nation has acted as a criminal, and still does. We have occupied, subjugated, suffocated, and held in our hands the fate of millions of people, who did not and do not deserve it. But I still cannot accept the term “terrorist state”, as I cannot accept direct comparison between Zionism and Nazism.

It is, of course, an important matter of definition. You and I might fully agree on what Israel is doing, yet define “terrorist” differently. By the way, what does seem to be true, is that there is no internationally agreed definition of the term “terrorism”. But for me, it is what Wikipedia refers to as “… the systematic use of terror especially as a means of coercion.” And therefore, you can see where my disagreement lies – in the term “systematic”. I’ve lived in this country, in total, almost 30 years. I’ve served in the Army, and I’ve served in the territories (both W. Bank and Gaza). I’ve seen what orders are given by our politicians, defense ministers, chiefs of general staff, generals, division commanders, down to the company and platoon commanders. I’ve seen terrible things happen, by our own soldiers, and I’ve seen how they happened.

I can tell you, with absolute trust and knowledge, that there is NO systematic use of terror on any of those levels. There are ongoing acts of crime. Also collective punishment, which I suppose is the closest Israeli leaders come to acting as “terrorists”. But the fine line that separates them from terrorists is the intention, the goals. Israeli governments, from Left to Right over all these years, committed crimes, but not with the systematic intention of causing fear upon the Palestinian people, for the purpose of punishment. There certainly were, and are, cases where this does happen locally, in one instance and another. But not on the national level.

I know from the receiver’s side, what I say cannot be accepted. Everything Israel does can be explained only in one fashion – systematic use of punishment and fear. So I can accept that Israel does have terrorists within us, who do fit this definition. But the state as a whole, its leadership and its citizens, certainly are not terrorists.

Alia, to be honest with you, I think arguing over this definition is not moving us forward, only setting us farther back. I accept that I may have an innate resistance to certain labels (although I was willing to engage in a discussion about any comparison between Zionism and Nazism). I accept that I may not be capable of seeing everything about myself. But I also know that what’s important are not the terms. What’s important is the recognition in what is actually happening on the ground, and putting an end to it.

(p.s. one of the reasons I believe it is futile to engage in an argument about state terrorism, is because of the temptation to consider most parties in our region as such. According to certain definitions that apply to Israel, Syria, Iraq, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Yemen, Egypt, and even Hamas in Gaza, could all be considered terrorist-regimes. So it doesn’t lead us very far, when suddenly everyone is labeled a terrorist. Let’s focus on the crimes, not on the titles.)

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November 23rd, 2008, 5:50 pm

 

55. Shai said:

Abraham,

Long time no see! Good to have you back. As I have in the past, I understand the source for your anger and frustration with Zionism. But do know, that while I find terrible crimes to have been committed in the name of Zionism, I still view myself as a Zionist. But as part of the Zionism that once had different values, and very different goals.

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November 23rd, 2008, 5:57 pm

 

56. abraham said:

Hi Shai,

I’m not sure what you’re talking about. When did zionism ever stand for anything other than displacing the indigenous population of Palestine to make way for a Jewish State? Perhaps there’s some hidden chapter of zionism of which I’m not aware, but in any event it is irrelevant. The goals and mechanisms of zionism as it stands today is to eradicate the Palestinians. If you consider yourself a zionist then I consider you evil, despite your friendly disposition, because that is ultimately what zionism boils down to.

If you’d like to re-define zionism as a movement to create a state within historical Palestine that gives equal rights to all citizens within those boundaries, with reparations and reconciliation for the injured parties, then that would be welcome. But as it is, zionism is a vile, evil ideology that needs eradication. I’m sorry you would still want to associate yourself with such. It makes no sense to me.

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November 23rd, 2008, 6:13 pm

 

57. Shai said:

Abraham,

Well, I’m happy that at least you’re offering me a different definition of Zionism than the one you’re using. Clearly, I would not call myself anything that would support an evil ideology whose purpose it is to eradicate all the Palestinians. So obviously I am identifying with an ideology that does believe in living peacefully side-by-side, or together, with Jews, Christians, and Muslims.

By the way, I cannot agree with your definition regarding the goal of eradication. It’s like some have suggested an ongoing genocide is taking place. I don’t get my information from newspaper clippings, or blogs on the internet – I get it from people that live inside those territories, from Palestinians themselves, over the past two decades almost. And I’ve been there, and have seen firsthand what we do, and what we do not do. Genocide is something Israel does NOT do, Abraham. We are guilty of physical displacement of the Palestinians, of controlling their lives, of restricting and withholding basic freedoms, and of many other crimes. But Israel does not have a policy of eradicating the Palestinian people (though I admit some on the extreme Right might dream of it out loud).

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November 23rd, 2008, 6:26 pm

 

58. abraham said:

Shai,

All the collective actions you mention above (and more, of which the most glaring you missed being the weekly murders of Palestinian civilians) together constitute a slow-motion genocide that has been occuring since 1948. Res ipsa.

It might not be a stated policy, but it is the inevitable end to which zionist ideology–the ideology that proclaims Palestine to be a Jewish homeland–leads.

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November 23rd, 2008, 9:32 pm

 

59. Shai said:

Abraham,

I don’t know what a “slow genocide” is. Is it a kind of genocide that runs on less fuel? Is it the kind of sophisticated and patient genocide that hopes the world will not notice?

I refuse to accept genocide, as you claim, to be “… the inevitable end to which zionist ideology… leads.” Why can’t a Zionist hope to see Israel/pre-1948 Palestine as a homeland for the Jews, yet not at the expense of the Palestinians? Why can’t a modern-day Zionist not thank God that Jews finally have a home, yet not wish to continue to rule over the Palestinians? And farther still, why can’t such a Zionist hope to one day see a United Middle East, where all religions can live in peace together, not apart?

We had a lengthy discussion a week or two ago on SC, regarding the justification of comparing Zionism to Nazism, and I tried to make the point that to Jews, attempting to even raise the possibility will immediately shut down any form of communication, if that is indeed the goal. Same, I’m afraid, goes for claiming Zionism opts to achieve its goals (or will inevitably do so) via use of genocide. There is a reason why hundreds of thousands, or millions, of Palestinians haven’t been murdered in these past 60 years. And the reason is, that there is no genocide, planned or not, fast or slow, exercised by the State of Israel.

I’m sorry, but I’m even willing to contemplate defining some of our crimes as “terrorist crimes”, but certainly not the term genocide. There are far more effective ways of communicating with Israelis, I believe, than suggesting that their Zionism inevitably will eradicate the Palestinian people.

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November 23rd, 2008, 9:45 pm

 

60. SimoHurtta said:

Shai you are obviously not seeing the route Israel is fast going and transforming. Naturally what you do with the Palestinians is a slow genocide and has a great danger to accumulate to a faster genocide. It is not “nation waterboarding” as your funny Israeli fellow claimed here some time ago. Of course isolating Gaza to a de facto ghetto without no real ways out is totally equal to Warsaw ghetto. No doubt about that. Remember that also Nazis started slow and tried to get Jews to move out. What on earth is Shai “Zionist” plan with the Palestinians. Naturally to get as few as possible of them to remain in the Greater Israel.

You can claim that Moshe “Boogie” Ya’alon and Lieberman are not the main stream of Zionism. But it seems that they are, much more as your camp, and they are willing to continue to dominate the Middle East at any price and using all means available. With the settlers and other extremists ever growing political grip of Israel it has became a great and present danger to the whole world. What else can be said about this Report: Ya’alon said Israel must ‘consider killing Ahmadinejad’

“It is a misconception to think that the Arab-Israeli conflict is the most important in the Middle-East. The Shiite-Sunni schism is much bigger, the Persian-Arab divide is bigger, the struggle between national regimes and jihadism is much bigger,” he was quoted as saying. “And I can’t imagine the U.S. will want to share power in the Middle East with a nuclear-armed Iran.”

By USA sharing power in Middle East Ya’alon in reality means Israel.

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November 23rd, 2008, 11:04 pm

 

61. Friend in America said:

Why-D #18
Every signatory to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty agreed to abide by its terms and one of the terms is to permit international inspections. The purpose of inspections is for the comfort of the rest of the world. It is not a matter of sanctions, nor of Israeli spies or other explanations. I am certain Syria will not join the family of nations if it continues to engage in this secret nuclear adventure.
Consider the inspection issue another way: the more transparency in Syria the less the need for spying; the less you know, the greater the temptation to spy.’
I have made many supportive statements for a Syria-Israel peace treaty and have written supportively of the initiative Damascus took to get the tri lateral negotiations started. Turkey has done an admirable job as the “go-between.”

As to a possible peace treaty I interpret the hardening of position in Israel as a reaction to intelligence information on the nuclear program accross its border. Your program has the appearance of making Syria a nuclear outpost for Iran. It destroys any trust the peace negotiations are sincere and without that trust there will be no settlement. It is like saying,’ I am very sincere in negotaiating a peace treaty with you but after signing, we will continue to secretly build a nuclear weapons program for the purpose of erasing you and your citizens from the face of the earth. ‘

I wish there was support for a better way.

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November 24th, 2008, 12:02 am

 

62. Alia said:

Dear Shai,

My question was in the same spirit in which you have been pursuing labels, rethorical tricks, brainwashing attempts…I brought the label “terrorist” up again in order to push beyond it, so that I understand how you Shai can live with what looks from my own perspective like contradictions/thought compartmentalizations/
hiding behind definitions/using your own idiosyncratic ones- Zionism came up conveniently in the thread- which, it has been pointed out by others, do not seem to coincide with those of the majority in your country.

Were I interested in labeling you or using the label state terrorism, I would not have asked you to explain. The question was not a trap.

So now it seems to me that you are describing a state where you have resolved the contradictions of your life by standing in the center of your own personal history, and connecting yourself with the time before 1948- you are a Jewish man who wants to come and live in Palestine with other Jews ? in a homeland? that includes other religions- With this self-definition, you detach yourself from what has been going on in Israel/Palestine for the past 60 years. I know that you feel bad and terrible but you are not present in this reality, it is not moving you to be anything other than as pained observer. In the same way some witnesses to terrible events are numbed, distanced from their experience and do not relate completely to them. Your persuasive desire for peace completes the arc of your self-definition- You were there pre-1948 and you will touch ground when Peace arrives, now you are suspended in -no time-

I hope you know that nothing that I am saying is meant to insult you in any way. I see how each one of us deals with his own contradictions more or less successfully. Your burden is heavy.
I don’t know how any single one of us here would have reacted, had we been born in your circumstances. It is easy to be sure that we would be moral, we would act, we would protest. But I am not so sure. In this sense, approaching you has been useful to me because this is the first time in my life that I reach this human truth about you as an Israeli and about myself as an Arab.

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November 24th, 2008, 12:06 am

 

63. norman said:

FIA,

The IAEA is expected to inspect a suspected plants before they are are attacked , If Israel has such information , why didn’t it tell the IAEA so we will be sure of the facts , Is it possible that Israel planted the Uranium in that area when they destroyed it , I believe that they used commandos beside the air attack ,

I think Israel placed the evidence to weaken Syria’s position in the negotiation.
The question is weather it is possible to know the origin of the Uranium from the specimens that they have.

And that is my take.

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November 24th, 2008, 12:17 am

 

64. Shai said:

Dear Alia,

Yes, in many ways I am “suspended in time”. It is the only protection I give myself, in order to stay in an Israel that I still love. When I take a real and close look in the mirror, day after day, minute after minute, I am far more likely to give up on Israel, get up, and leave. And that, neither for me, nor for my people, nor for yours, is a good solution. Yes, I’ve also admitted that I can do more. I can be a real peace activist, upholding human rights in a much more active manner than I am doing today. I can devote my life to it, as a number of tens of thousands of Israelis are doing. But, selfishly, I choose not to. I choose to do for my close circle of family and friends more than for my country. Maybe it is out of weakness, or out of exhaustion. But I do other things as well.

I do try to help out the peace initiative with Syria, because I strongly believe it is perhaps the last hope to jumpstart the process that will eventually lead to a comprehensive peace in our region. I also protest vocally against the blockade of Gaza. I used to protest against the Occupation, but that’s irrelevant now, as the Palestinians have no one we can talk to about leaving the West Bank. Ariel Sharon, “butcher-of-Lebanon”, was going to do exactly that, until Hamas was elected and refused to talk to Israel. So now, for me, it’s about ending the suffocation of Gaza and its 1.5 million Palestinians. I do voice my anger, and I do call out, to the highest level I can, and using every contact I have. Strangely enough (or not), the blockade of Gaza has affected me even more than our 40 years of Occupation. I can accept it “even less” than I can Occupation. Of course, I can’t accept Occupation either, and hopefully one day I’ll be able to go back to voicing this too (when the Palestinians figure out if they can have a true representative body, or not).

Yes, Alia, you’re right when you say the burden is heavy. Not a day goes by when I don’t think about it. But I’m also not a mere observer. Btw, I do much more with and for Arab-Israelis than I do for other Arabs. But I haven’t given up on ending the Occupation. With all due honesty, I also believe the Palestinians bear much of the blame for not having a state by now, over the past two years. We cannot just “hand over the keys” to Mahmoud Abbas. He cannot rule, even if we think he can. Until Fatah and Hamas figure out their differences, the entire Palestinian future will still be held hostage. The ball is in their court now. As for the blockade of Gaza, there is no excuse. None.

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November 24th, 2008, 4:41 am

 

65. Shai said:

Alia,

Just to add something, I also want to say that it seems sometimes certain things have to happen, before sanity returns to people’s heads. It may well be the case, that Israelis have to go through another war, before they understand the price for what they are doing, and what they’re not doing. I hope not, but I don’t know.

Maybe the Palestinians have to go through a decade of infighting before they understand only cohesion will lead them forward. In a way, we’re right back in 1967. A mere days after the end of the Six Days war, Moshe Dayan and Levi Eshkol began searching for Palestinian leaders to hand control of the West Bank to. They went from one village and town to the next. The had tens of meetings with various “leaders”, of things that probably more closely resembled fiefdoms, but ultimately, they found no one that could bear the responsibility. They could never agree. They always fought amongst one another. So our leaders conveniently (or not) left the task to future generations of Israelis and Palestinians. By the time the PLO was ready to talk to Israel, the Occupation was well underway. And many still claim even the PLO couldn’t rule, because of its choice of corruption often over national interests.

It is easy to put all, or most, of the blame on Israel. I do that also. We kicked them out. We took over, we occupied, we ruled, we subjugated and suffocated, and still do. But reality is more complex than that, and what I do know, is that for nearly two decades, most Israelis ARE ready to give back the West Bank. They elected Ariel Sharon to do exactly that. And he, of all people, could have delivered. The Palestinians again missed an opportunity. They elected a “kosher” leadership, in the form of Hamas, that decided not to recognize Israel, or talk to its leaders. Hamas only nowadays is sending subliminal messages that it will accept a “realistic” solution of the 67 borders, and not 48. But it still refuses to talk at the table, and instead talks through $10 rockets. Why? Why isn’t it ready to talk to the same Zionists that are blockading Gaza? Look at the glass through the other side – why do you expect Israel to talk to its enemies, but you don’t expect Hamas to? You cannot say that Israel is not ready to talk, or even ready to LEAVE the West Bank! While 70% of Israelis at the moment are against leaving the Golan in return for peace with Syria, more than 50% are STILL for leaving the West Bank in return for peace with the Palestinians.

I think this is also part of my frustration, that leads to a certain “numbness” sometimes. I rationalize things, by saying to myself “We are ready for peace, finally, and this time, they’re not?” I know this isn’t completely true, but a good part of it is. Now’s the time to yell out to Hamas and Fatah “Work out your differences already, unite, and talk to Israel!”

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November 24th, 2008, 5:10 am

 

66. AIG said:

Shai,
In all fairness, if you view what Israel is doing in Gaza as a great crime, and this “crime” is supported by most Israelis, then I think you should really give up on Israel or leave.

But, actions speak louder than words, and by staying in Israel and supporting it with your taxes, you are helping the “atrocities” in Gaza. There are no contradictions, because actions break the tie. You accept what Israel is doing in Gaza and assuade your guilt by saying you are against it.

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November 24th, 2008, 5:31 am

 

67. Qifa Nabki said:

Dear Nour

If you want to change this scenario then you need to completely overhaul the Lebanese sectarian political system.

I am interested in nothing less than this. This is why I criticize activities that make it more difficult — not less — to “overhaul the Lebanese sectarian political system.” This is why I am so disappointed to read articles like the one I posted above, which are a bleak reminder that there isn’t a viable force for change in Lebanese politics. If Hizbullah — the single largest political party in Lebanon — is dead-set upon a deeply sectarian strategy in the long term, then there is little hope for everybody else. Sectarian activity breeds sectarian activity. When one community mobilizes to batten down its hatches and unite around a sectarian (not national) cause, the others follow suit.

Dear Why-Discuss,

You seem to live in a cloud of idealism and optimism. Don’t get angry, just open your eyes wider!

Thank you for that helpful advice.

My problem with your argument is that when you observe deeply sectarian activity on the part of Hizbullah, you dismiss it by saying that Lebanon is a sectarian country, and even applaud it because it is “effective”. Meanwhile, when you witness deeply sectarian activity on the part of other communities, you never fail to criticize it. I am merely asking for some consistency.

My point about Syria is a simple one: I doubt many people on this forum would be happy to see a Syrian version of Hizbullah arise. Please, correct me if I’m wrong. Would you be happy to see in Syria a large, supremely organized and foreign funded political-party-cum-military-resistance that recruits aggressively among members of a single sect and uses religious indoctrination in its youth programs?

Or would such a phenomenon be labeled by the regime as “a threat to Syria’s secular character and values, etc.”?

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November 24th, 2008, 7:51 am

 

68. Friend in America said:

Norman –
The answer to an “innocent ” Syria is to open for inspections, show Syia has a clean slate, and this chapter will close. There are so many important things that need to be done for the Syrian economy and the Syrian people that this adventure wastes financial resources needed elsewhere.
The IAEA is not an international nuclear detective force. It acts only after a report has come to it. Perhaps it should become a detective. You and I can join together on that. If Syria made that proposal to the U.N. and the IAEA Council, and supported it strongly, Syria would be seen as a world leader. Here is the opportunity for Syria to change its world image.

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November 24th, 2008, 1:06 pm

 

69. Alia said:

Dear Shai,

Thank you for your response. There is not a lot I can say immediately. The Gaza situation is weighing on me from thousands of miles away.
How helpless we all are to change the big picture, whether in a “democratic system” or outside it. Look at us all waiting for Obama to decide on a Secretary of State and getting once again prepared to be disappointed unless we quickly justify his choice to ourselves, by reaching towards “his nicely-crafted” narrative of hope and change.

The only thing we can control is what we are each doing, individually. Take care.

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November 24th, 2008, 1:16 pm

 

70. why-discuss said:

QN

“I doubt many people on this forum would be happy to see a Syrian version of Hizbullah arise.”

Of course not, but this cannot happen in Syria because there is nothing in the political system that would encourage or allow such path. The Lebanese political system not only allows it but encourages it as it proposes nothing else.
I wish all the “sectarian” groups would become coherent, non-violent, disciplined and equally powerful so they can deal with each other to reach the emergence of non sectarian Lebanon. When you mention the ‘other communities” , do you mean the salafists? Where is their program, who is their leader , what did they build? how many hospitals, schools ? What have they achieved in the North until now except violence and chaos. Unfortunately, these ‘other communities’ (including Geagea LF) function with extremist ideologies, closed on themselves and corrupted by Gulf money. So don’t wonder why I admire the Hezbollah and the Shia achievements, even if I see the danger of a polarization. Yet, I think the deal with Aoun would prevent the Shia from religious racism and that is why i believe that deal is one of the most important deal in Lebanese history. I am waiting to see ‘the other communities’ doing something similar. That is the necessary step to move to a non-sectarian Lebanon but these ‘other communities’ are stuck in their lack of vision and petty interests.

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November 24th, 2008, 2:23 pm

 

71. why-discuss said:

FOA

IAEA has showed it inefficiency in Iraq and North Korea. For me it has no credibility amymore. Please show me an IAEA success story.

“Calling ElBaradei’s report as ambiguous, Larijani said: “So, it seems we will hear double-standard statements from the agency forever.””

That is what the IAEA has been doing for years…

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November 24th, 2008, 2:30 pm

 

72. Qifa Nabki said:

Why Discuss said:
When you mention the ‘other communities” , do you mean the salafists?

No, I meant the Christian and Sunni parties, under the rubric of March 14.

Where is their program, who is their leader , what did they build? how many hospitals, schools?

Actually, al-Hariri built many hospitals and schools, but as I recall you and Nour dismissed these achievements as nothing more than attempts to buy people off. I don’t see the difference between Hizbullah building schools and Mustaqbal building schools… they are both attempts to curry favor with their own sect.

Unfortunately, these ‘other communities’ (including Geagea LF) function with extremist ideologies, closed on themselves and corrupted by Gulf money. So don’t wonder why I admire the Hezbollah and the Shia achievements, even if I see the danger of a polarization.

Again, explain to me how Hizbullah is any less “corrupted” by Iranian money, and how LF or Mustaqbal “ideology” is more “extremist”. As you read yourself, Hizbullah’s boy scouts are given five hours a day of religious instruction. 5 HOURS. Is that not a bit extreme?

Aoun’s move looks good on paper. I hope it makes a difference, but stories like this one don’t make me so optimistic.

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November 24th, 2008, 3:15 pm

 

73. why-discuss said:

QN

I think it is waste of time to reply to you, you always pick half the questions and come back with another. Is the AIG syndrome attacking you?
Keep you illusions and your frustration and continue to consider the Hezbollah and Aoun as Iranian agents (is Sleiman a new recruit?) and the Futur movement and the Geagea crowd as the frustrated saviours of the Lebanese identity. I wish there will build more Istanbul Aya Sofias and more Solidere Greenwich villages, that will surely bring more rich friends from the Gulf and more money to Lebanon. After all, maybe that is a better than 5 hours a day of religious instructions.

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November 25th, 2008, 4:03 am

 

74. Shai said:

Dear Alia,

Last night I was invited to an “open-house” for a new candidate to Labour. I sat there, and listened to rhetoric that truly came from the heart, but I knew, like most others there, that the Left and Center’s time in power is ticking down, and on Feb.10th it’ll end, for another 3-4 years. But somehow, the very fact that we met and talked about the hard issues, and concluded (unanimously) that Labour must try to play a leading role in the Opposition, we were preparing for a better future. It is my belief, that wide coalitions that stretch from Right to Left tend to turn themselves impotent, by their very definition of political compromise. This is why, I believe, Israel hasn’t moved forward in over 30 years. The Right never felt strong enough, and neither did the Left. So perhaps it is time for one to have an overwhelming majority over the other, and be able to create and push its policy.

The upcoming campaign in Israel will, very soon, become super-active. All the candidates will be using the internet a lot, will be forced to deal with major issues head-on, all the time. And the funny thing, with almost certainty, the Likud will aim to end the suffering of the Palestinians in Gaza, because Bibi’s “economic peace first” is supposed to replace the “land for peace” principle we’ve all come to accept. Hamas’s worst enemies, Bibi and Lieberman, will end up saving its skin better than anyone else (Barak or Livni). And when that happens, there is sometimes a tendency to reciprocate (and not only with $10 rockets). So I am actually a little hopeful.

Alia, in one respect I am VERY hopeful – in the fact that we cannot go through another 60 years like this. The world is changing at a fierce rate, and will not enable Israel to continue its Occupation forever. I don’t think we’ll get to economic sanctions. The financial crisis hitting our world is enough to send fears down every citizen’s spine, and the mere mention of possible sanctions will set any Prime Minister in the right direction, especially nowadays. Yes, Bibi (or Livni) WILL give back the Golan. And they WILL end the blockade of Gaza.

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November 25th, 2008, 4:42 am

 

75. Shai said:

AIG,

How did I know you’d try to destroy what I say yet again? It’s hard for you, I understand, to hear me say things, almost anything really. So I’m not surprised anymore.

But you know what, if I were you, I wouldn’t be talking about “really giving up on Israel or leaving.” Remind us all where you live now? It is truly heroic of you to be so “patriotic”, from the safe shores of the American East coast. Oh, I forgot, you live in Ramat Hasharon. But you don’t want to meet me for coffee. AP does, by the way. I guess he’s not so-tired of dime-a-dozen liberals like me. But you, the open-minded thoughtful AIG, are…

Well, sometimes, when you have a rare moment of thought, when you’re not searching for further ways of obstructing and destroying the ideas of others, you may contemplate, that many may also be tired of you AIG. I’ve never seen someone who has been turned down so often as you have on Syria Comment, whose ideas and motivation have been dismissed as much as yours, still relentlessly appear and reappear day after day, hour after hour, as you do. Even you have to agree, that such masochistic effort, does “smell” of agenda.

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November 25th, 2008, 4:51 am

 

76. Qifa Nabki said:

Why-Discuss

Actually, it is a waste of your time to reply to me because you can never think up any decent answers. You resort to name calling and stereotyping when the contradictions inherent in your positions are apparent. This is definitely a waste of time, you’re right.

I don’t think that Hizbullah and Aoun are Iranian agents, nor do I think that Hariri and Geagea are the frustrated saviors of Lebanese identity. I understand that it is much easier to debate someone who thinks in such stereotypes.

What I do think is that Hizbullah is not beyond criticism. Haven’t you heard me criticize Hariri, Geagea, etc.? (Actually, I don’t think I have ever said anything nice about Geagea or any of the Christian leaders besides Aoun, who I both praise and criticize depending on the day). I have also praised Hizbullah at various times, sometimes in main page posts on SC. So I think you need to stop pretending like I am some hard-core LFer who hates the Shi`a.

I just think that nobody is beyond criticism.

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November 25th, 2008, 5:21 am

 

77. Qifa Nabki said:

Why-Discuss

Just to prove my point, can I insist to you that I’m just as disturbed by the following image as I am by the article I posted?

http://remarkz.files.wordpress.com/2008/11/p02_20081124_pic1full.jpg

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November 25th, 2008, 1:54 pm

 

78. why-discuss said:

QN

You have definetly tried your best to show a face of neutrality but your choice of articles you pick, your remarks and your argumentation speak for themselves.
I just don’t believe you are neutral, you just pretend that because it can allow you to throw arrows at the Shia and Iran behind a mask of objectivity. Your suspicions and reject of Hezbollah and the Shia is more than obvious as well of your sympathy for 14 march crowd. I guess you pretend neutrality and objectivity so it may allow you when you will see the wind blowing in the other direction to just switch.
I prefer to exchange frank ideas with people who show their real face.
Thanks
p.s I find nothing disturbing in this photo. It is your interpretation that can be disturbing

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November 26th, 2008, 1:31 am

 

79. norman said:

WD, QN,

Decentralization and districts after full counting of everybody in the country is the only way for harmony , towns and cities are ruled by city councils and are responsible for their people safety with police made of people from the neighborhood and supported by real estate taxes , where there are districts made of certain amount of people , initially should of areas with dominant sects but with the chance to move any place people want to live and with anti discrimination laws in housing and employments and people voting where they live not where they come from people will be able to vote for people they know and trust and are accountable to them ,The population of these districts will change with time and migration of people for work, that is the only way to have a future in Syria , Lebanon and other Arab countries and for people who want Lebanon to be part of Syria they can do that by making Syria better and make it useful for Lebanon to join with Syria in a federation of two states until other states join,
Hezbollah is popular because of what it does , they help the people in their districts , as long as doing good for the people is open to anybody who wants to , they should be able to do that.

And that is my take .

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November 26th, 2008, 2:17 am

 

80. Qifa Nabki said:

Why-Discuss,

If I criticize the Iranians and Hizbullah more than others, it is because there is a shortage of criticism for those parties on this forum. On other forums (under a different moniker) I am more critical of other parties.

What can I say? You seem to prefer to have discussions with other people like yourself, i.e. people who can only hold one idea in their head at one time, people who only see good on one side and bad on the other, rather than good and bad everywhere.

To me, that amounts to auto-therapy and propaganda, not honest analysis.

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November 26th, 2008, 6:17 am

 

81. Alex said:

WD

I know Qifa Nabki well enough to assure you that he is not biased at all.

Qifa Nabki,

The reason most of us do not write often criticizing Iran and Hizbollah is that

1) HA is much more disciplined than most other Lebanese parties
2) There is no shortage of Iran criticism out there in the rest of the traditional media outlets … some of us feel uncomfortable repeating the Bush administration propaganda broken record.

I wrote many times that the trouble in the Middle East is that Iran, Israel and Saudi Arabia are built on protecting (or promoting) Judaism, Sunni Islam and Shia Islam… and this leads to all kinds of conflicts.

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November 26th, 2008, 7:07 am

 

82. Alex said:

لمركز التركي الآسيوي يمنح الرئيس الأسد جائزة “الرؤية الإستراتيجية”

منح المركز التركي الآسيوي للدراسات الإستراتيجية في اسطنبول “تاصام” الرئيس بشار الأسد جائزة “الرؤية الإستراتيجية لرجل الدولة” وذلك “تقديرا لدوره كرجل دولة تميز برؤية إستراتيجية جسدتها السياسة السورية على أكثر من صعيد”.

وقال رئيس المركز سليمان شنصوي في كلمة ألقاها بهذه المناسبة إن “الأسد رجل دولة استطاع أن يقدم رؤية إستراتيجية واضحة للتعامل مع القضايا الدولية وتقديم الحلول الناجعة للازمات التي مر بها العالم مكرسا مبادئ الشجاعة في اتخاذ القرار والوضوح في الرؤية”.
وأشار شنصوي إلى انه “رغم التعقيدات الدولية الإقليمية فان الأسد كرس سورية مركزا مهما لصناعة القرار ولاعبا إقليميا أساسيا”, مشيرا إلى أن “الرئيس السوري جعل من العلاقات السورية التركية ضمانة للأمن والاستقرار في المنطقة ونموذجا للتفاهم والتفاعل في خدمة شعبيهما”.
وكانت العلاقات السورية التركية شهدت في السنوات العشر الأخيرة تطورات كبيرة في كافة المجالات.
كما أشارت عدة تحليلات غربية إلى أن الرئيس الاسد نجح في إدارة الازمات والمخاطر التي تعرضت لها سورية في الاعوام الاخيرة والخروج منها رغم محاولات عزل سورية من الولايات المتحدة والدول الغربية.
ولفت رئيس المركز التركي إلى أن الرئيس الأسد استطاع نقل سورية إلى مرحلة أكثر تطورا ومواكبة للحياة العصرية والتكنولوجية محققا طموحات الشعب السوري الصديق في مجالات التنمية والحداثة”

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November 26th, 2008, 7:12 am

 

83. Qifa Nabki said:

Alex

Hizbullah is disciplined, organized, efficient, strategic, judicious, etc. … ma ikhtalafna. These are the qualities that I like about the party, and nobody embodies them more than Nasrallah, who is (as you know) one of my favorite political personalities.

But I don’t see why one can’t recognize all of these qualities while also pointing out the problems of the party. That’s all.

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November 26th, 2008, 9:18 am

 

84. qunfuz said:

Shai – Very briefly, it was impossible to build a Jewish state in a land with a large non-Jewish majority without a massive ethnic cleansing. At the time of Balfour Jews were less than 10% of the population and owned less than 2.5% of the land. This was after years of rapid Jewish immigration.

Here’s Ghandi from 1938: “Palestine belongs to the Arabs in the same sense that England belongs to the English or France to the French..What is going on in Palestine today cannot be justified by any moral code of conduct.. If they (the Zionists) must look to the Palestine of geography as their national home, it is wrong to enter it under the shadow of the British gun…As it is, they are co-sharers with the British in despoiling a people who have done no wrong to them.”

The continuation of Zionsim today requires some form or other of apartheid. Zionism is in essence a fascist idea (so is Ba’athism, I’m not just scoring a cheap point). It is highly debatable that an Ethiopian Jew is of the same ‘nationality’ as an Ashkenazi from Poland. Zionism is also highly understandable given what happened to the Jews in Europe, and how this happened simultaneously with the rise of artificial states in the Middle East and a consequent sectarian fracturing of these populations.

I would support a viable two state solution, not because I think it’s a real solution but because it could stop the killing, calm emotions, and help us all move to a more productive stage. And I wish our leaders, Arab and Israeli, were as thoughtful, imaginative and compassionate as you obviously are. It would be easy to make peace with you, Shai. But still, I hope with all my heart for a post-Zionist generation of Israeli Jews (and a post-Arab-fascist, post-Wahhabi-nihilist generation of Arabs).

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November 26th, 2008, 9:43 am

 

85. Shai said:

Qunfuz,

Thank you for your comment. No doubt, Zionism has certainly practiced (and still practices) Apartheid rule. I don’t wish to get into the various definitions of ethnic cleansing, though it should be made clear that when I reject this notion, I do so using the “systematic murder of millions” description, and not the “physical displacement of people” one. I understand that to cleanse a people, you don’t necessarily need gas chambers or machetes. But you also must agree that when we don’t clarify what we mean when we say “Zionism uses ethnic cleansing”, then while you may take it to mean “… physically displaces”, many others might hear “systematically murders”. To a Palestinian suffering in Gaza as I type these words, perhaps the two aren’t that different. But for me, if the Nazis had “merely” displaced Jews from Poland elsewhere, I would have had another 95% of my family alive while I grew up, instead of as ashes of memory (literally).

Yes, you are right, and I too hope that some post-Zionism will rise out of these miserable 60 years, and that indeed people of all faiths and cultures could live in peace in Israel and in Palestine. Long term, I also think there should be no border between the two. But as you said, we now need to separate, perhaps before we can one day be together again. As someone that still considers himself a Zionist, I can tell you that under my definition of Zionism, there is no reason why 30 or 40 years from now, there can’t be an Arab majority in the Israeli Knesset. Although our “Obama” (an Arab-Israeli) may not come for a while, I certainly see it a very real possibility in my lifetime. In fact, if all the Arab parties in our country joined hands, they could today form probably the 2nd or 3rd largest party. There are some voices trying to create this, but (as usual) infighting and silly squabbles are standing in the way.

I’ve said a long time ago, that the Palestinians in 1967 should have said to the Israeli leadership “Ok, you beat the Jordanians out of here, so now you’re in charge. We fully place ourselves under your wings. So we’d like our new Israeli identity cards… and our new Israeli voting rights…” Believe me, Qunfuz, Yasser Arafat could have been Prime Minister of Israel already 5 terms in a row! 🙂 (and Hamas would have been a joint Jewish-Arab religious opposition force).

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November 26th, 2008, 11:25 am

 

86. qunfuz said:

We’re in total agreement, Shai, I’m happy to say. I’ve thought for years that the Palestinians should be demanding Israeli pasports, not a state. And by ethnic cleansing, I do not mean genocide. I think ethnic cleansing is a fair term for what happened in 47/ 48 (and for what is happening in Iraq now) – massacres (on nothing like an industrial Hitlerian scale) used to scare a population into fleeing, and then not letting those refugees return, the razing of villages, the moving of one ethnic group into areas vacated by the other, etc.

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November 26th, 2008, 1:15 pm

 

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