“What is Behind the Syria Scud Scare?” By Joshua Landis on Foreign Policy

The US has been engaging Syria

The US has been engaging Syria

What is Behind the Syrian Scud Scare?
By Joshua Landis Thursday, April 15, 2010
ForeignPolicy.com

Reports in U.S. and Israeli papers on Wednesday, alleging that Syria delivered Scud missiles to Hezbollah, has set off a firestorm about the limits of engagement and the danger posed by Syria and nonstate actors in the region. Yet the ensuing debate has ignored the broader context of which this episode is but a symptom: namely, that the continued lack of resolution to the decades-long conflict between Syria and Israel has been allowed to fester.

This new development could not have been better timed to throw a monkey wrench into Washington’s engagement process with Syria and President Barack Obama’s efforts to reanimate the stalled peace process in the region. Robert S. Ford, the first ambassador named to Damascus in five years, is in the midst of his confirmation process. A key committee in the Senate has recommended his confirmation, but the ultimate vote among the full Senate has yet to take place. There are many who would like to stop it, not the least because Obama seems ready to push forward efforts to resolve the long-festering Arab -Israeli conflict. On Tuesday, he declared that solving the dispute was a “vital national security interest of the United States” because it is “costing us significantly in terms of both blood and treasure.”

In the short term, the White House’s desire to help broker a Middle East peace means getting an ambassador back to Damascus and engaging with Syria. In the long term, it means convincing Israel to return the Golan Heights, a large swath of land that Israel conquered from Syria in 1967 and annexed in 1981 (Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has vowed not to return it). Obama’s urgency to solve the Arab-Israeli dispute is causing some pro-Israeli groups to push back with the claim that the president is unfairly blaming Israel for the lack of movement on peace talks. Meanwhile, a Syrian Foreign Ministry source says that:

Israel is launching a campaign of statements alleging that Syria is supplying Hizbullah Party in Lebanon with SCUD missiles…Syria, while strongly denying these allegations, believes that Israel aims through them at adding more fuel to the tense atmosphere in the region and to create a climate that paves the way for a potential Israeli aggression in order to evade the requirements of just and comprehensive peace.

Has Syria supplied Hezbollah with Scud missiles? The short answer is that we don’t really know. The story was first announced by Israeli President Shimon Peres, who told journalists earlier this week, “Syria claims that it wants peace, while simultaneously delivering Scud missiles to Hezbollah, which is constantly threatening the security of the state of Israel.” The Wall Street Journal went further than the Israeli press by claiming that “U.S. officials” as well as Israelis have alleged that Scuds have been transferred from Syria into Lebanon.  The Washington Post, however, took a more cautious stand. It quoted a U.S. official briefed on the matter to say, “I don’t think we know whether they’ve gone over or not.” The New York Times followed suit by explaining that “American and French officials have both said that they were aware of the Israeli concerns but did not know whether the missiles had actually been delivered.”

A little history can help remind us how difficult it is to detect Scuds, which are easily concealed in a truck. During the 1990-1991 Gulf War, Israeli intelligence kept providing the U.S. Air Force (USAF) coordinates for emplacements of an even larger form of Scud (modified for extended range by the Iraqis). Thiry-nine of these wobbly rockets were fired at Israel while 41 were targeted at Saudi Arabia. All of the Israeli data, assessed by Mossad to have high validity, turned out to be worthless. When this proved to be so, every intelligence resource the USAF had was dedicated to finding the Scuds being fired at Israel and Saudi Arabia. With very few exceptions, the missiles were located only when their launching gave them away. Because satellite intelligence on Scuds is unreliable, this is undoubtedly why both French and U.S. intelligence officers are loath to confirm Israeli claims about the Scuds.

The larger question, however, is not whether Syria has delivered Scuds to Hezbollah. Syria has been rebuilding Hezbollah’s missile supplies ever since they were largely exhausted during Israel’s 2006 incursion into Lebanon. It will continue to do so as long as Israel refuses to trade land for peace. Syria says it will no longer have any reason to arm Hezbollah once it gets the Golan back and can sign a peace agreement with Israel.

Syria understands that the reason Israel will not return the Golan Heights is because of the terrible imbalance in power between the two countries. So long as there is no peace, Syria will feel compelled to arm itself and its allies. Only this week at the Nuclear Security Summit in Washington, we were reminded that Israel has hundreds of atomic warheads that can be delivered by missile, plane, and submarine. What’s more, Washington continues to supply Israel with large amounts of military aid and cutting-edge military technology. Israel accuses Syria of trying to change the balance of power by introducing Scuds to Lebanon, but from Syria’s point of view, it is Israel that has skewed the regional balance.

Israeli officials, when faced with the Golan question in private or at conferences, explain that the reason Israel refuses to strike a deal with Syria is that the country is too weak. It has nothing to give Israel in exchange for the Golan, which has been Israel’s quietest border for 35 years. In the face of this debilitating weakness, Syria will do what all weak states do: find powerful allies and try to arm itself. It must also rely on nonstate actors, such as Hezbollah and Hamas. In short, it will struggle to right the balance of power. Some commentators have argued that  Syria ought to simply renounce its current path, make a rapproachment with the West, and by doing so get back the Golan and normalized relations. But the notion that Israel would give Syria back the Golan if it renounces Hezbollah and Iran is naive. The Palestine Liberation Organization renounced violence some time ago and has little to show for it.

King Abdullah of Jordan has recently warned that an Israel-Hezbollah-Lebanon war may be “imminent” if peace is not advanced. And Secretary of State Hillary Clinton made a similar point at the recent AIPAC meeting when she urged both sides to make peace:

Both sides must confront the reality that the status quo of the last decade has not produced long-term security.… We must recognize that the ever-evolving technology of war is making it harder to guarantee Israel’s security. For six decades, Israelis have guarded their borders vigilantly. But advances in rocket technology mean that Israeli families are now at risk far from those borders. Despite efforts at containment, rockets with better guidance systems, longer range, and more destructive power are spreading across the region. Hezbollah has amassed tens of thousands of rockets on Israel’s northern border. Hamas has a substantial number in Gaza. And even if some of these are still crude, they all pose a serious danger, as we saw last week.

It is thus clear that the only long-term solution to Scuds or the more serious problem of nuclear proliferation in the region is peace. A Syrian-Israeli peace is not impossible — President Bill Clinton got close in 2000. President Obama can still do it. If he cannot, we will be hearing much more about the spread of missile technology as well nuclear technology.

Joshua Landis is the director of the Center for Middle East Studies and associate professor at the University of Oklahoma. He is the author of the blog Syria Comment.

Here is the latest announcement from the Syrian Embassy in Washington

The government of Syria categorically denies the recent spurious allegations emanating from Israel regarding the supply of Scud missiles to Hezbollah.  This disinformation campaign aims at misleading the world’s public opinion.

The Embassy of Syria in Washington finds that these allegations are an attempt to:

1- Raise the level of tension in the region.
2- Justify a possible Israeli offensive and conflagration of violence.
3- Shatter any prospects for a future comprehensive peace proposal.
….

Comments (37)


1. almasri said:

I would simplify this SCUD story as follows:

1) Despite its military superiority Israel is incapable of making peace with its neighbors.
2) Despite its military superiority Israel cannot go to war where it would like – striking Iran. This decision is in the hands of the US, and the US will not relinquish this decision as can be surmised from Obama’s speech on Tuesday. It should be noted that Israel is not even allowed to make war on Gazza.
3) The Arabs are incapable of initiating war nor of making peace with Israel considering its obvious beligerence with the Palestinians.
4) Netenyahoo is left with only one window to pursue a new adventure – Lebanon and Hezbollah by fabricating allegations.
5) Therefore, the decision for making either war or peace is with the US.

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April 16th, 2010, 1:01 am

 

2. Akbar Palace said:

“What is Behind the Scud Scare?”

I think what is behind the “Scud Scare” is a mafia-led, totalitarian regime that is too bankrupt (both economically and morally) to fight their own war.

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April 16th, 2010, 1:31 am

 

3. s. farah said:

Excellent analysis! Finally the American administration has learned that it can no longer be liable for enforcing and protecting Israel’ s occupation of Arab land. American can and may continue to have a strategic relation with Israel. It can also continue to guarantee its security, but America cannot be liable to Israel’s violation of international law or finance its grandiose and extremist religious ideology.

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April 16th, 2010, 2:01 am

 

4. Majhool said:

Since the imbalance is so “terrible” why don’t the syrian goverment do something about it internally? how about some trasparency, accountablity, and rule of law? I mean unless we are waiting for some miracle to happen

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April 16th, 2010, 2:34 am

 

5. majedkhaldoun said:

A.P. said
I think what is behind the “Scud Scare
what he should say ;
I think what is behind the Scud Scare Lie,is Israel murderous intentions,A.P. is famous for twisting facts,he is deceiver.

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April 16th, 2010, 4:11 am

 

6. bach said:

Assad in Lebanon, and Arnab in Golan.

Fight your own god damn wars on your own grounds.

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April 16th, 2010, 8:13 am

 

7. Shai said:

Joshua

You said: ““But the notion that Israel would give Syria back the Golan if it renounces Hezbollah and Iran is naive. The Palestine Liberation Organization renounced violence some time ago and has little to show for it.”

I disagree. If Syria was to theoretically renounce Iran and HA tomorrow morning, 90% of Israelis would change their views of Syria in an instant. This is because Netanyahu would speak of Syria as never before. But we know this is purely theoretical. But my (perhaps naive) claim goes even further – I claim that Syria may be able to get back the Golan even WITHOUT renouncing HA and Iran, by reaching out to the Israeli people, and changing the minds of about 20-25% of the current 70% anti-peace.

I also disagree that the PLO has (actually, had) little to show for its renouncement of violence in the early 1990’s. It got something which Israel and the United States were never ready to do until then – recognition! Today, the PLO is considered almost an ally of Israel, something unthinkable in the 1970’s and 80’s. If the PLO had been a nation, the Oslo Accords would have meant Peace, like Camp David was for Egypt. But Oslo certainly was a significant event which changed the minds of enough Israelis, to begin forming a majority support for a two-state solution.

The Oslo failure should not be an indication that a Syrian-Israeli “Oslo” would likely fail as well. With Syria, the case is far easier than it is with the Palestinians. There are very few Jewish settlements on the Golan, Syria is united and represented by one voice, and its claim against Israel is mostly territorial. There are no major issues such as Jerusalem, hundreds of thousands of Jewish settlers, Right-of-Return, contiguous territory, viable state, etc.

Finally, while the notion that the factual imbalance of power in the region, largely favoring Israel, is the reason for Israel’s refusal to withdraw from the Golan, I do believe it also naive to underestimate the PERCEIVED Syrian threat, as it exists within Israel and amongst the Israeli people. While Netanyahu, Lieberman, and Ya’alon might “know” how strong Israel really is, in comparison to Syria and others in the region, the fear and paranoia they propagate amongst their people is anything but representative of this knowledge. Syria is still viewed as a dangerous enemy, especially because of its close ties to Iran, and its support of Hezbollah and Hamas.

In the minds of many Israelis, there certainly is a balance of power in the region. The easiest way to prove this, is to see how all the Israeli papers related to this “new revelation” about Syrian SCUDS to Hezbollah. They all referred to it as “balance-changing”.

What most Arabs still do not understand, is that Israelis will always unite more when attacked or threatened (even when both are perceived), than when offered a hand-in-peace. Gaza 2008/9 is a perfect example, with 94% support.

Indeed in 2000 we were close. And at that time, probably 70% of Israelis were in favor of withdrawing from the Golan in return for Peace. A majority of Israelis were for peace, not because Syria had threatened Israel via Hezbollah and Iran, but because Syria reached out to them. Every TV screen showed Barak with Farouk al-Sharaa, walking alongside Bill Clinton. The stock markets skyrocketed. The atmosphere was perfect. But Barak wasn’t courageous enough, and foolishly went to elections.

We need to go back to those days. Without an atmosphere of renewed hope and optimism, the only thing left is to sound the drums of war, and to await its inevitability. It is time for Obama to get Netanyhau and Assad to Washington. Otherwise they’ll meet on the battleground.

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April 16th, 2010, 10:55 am

 

8. Akbar Palace said:

Shai,

I agree with the gist of your post above. How ’bout that?

Professor Josh and his followers always minimize and ignore real improvements to the Palestinian cause. The Palestinians have made good headway since the years prior to 1993, and much of it was made with Israeli cooperation. Now it’s time to finish the job, assuming there is interest to do so.

Here’s an interesting article:

http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-3876517,00.html

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April 16th, 2010, 1:36 pm

 

9. Husam said:

Shai:

I disagree with you. Syrian-Israeli peace deal without a Palestinian solution is not acceptable to the majority of Syrians nor Arabs. Get that in your head. The Egyptian street is angry at the its government for the blockade of Gazans. The Egyptian government is disengaged with its citizen on Gaza at the cost of peace with Israel.

As for Syria, a comprehensive peace for the region is and always has been the legacy of the Assad’s and I doubt that it will change. So, an “oslo” Israel-Syria deal ahead of a solution to the palestinians is unacceptable and will be viewed as a sell out.

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April 16th, 2010, 1:54 pm

 

10. Husam said:

bach said:

“Assad in Lebanon, and Arnab in Golan. Fight your own god damn wars on your own grounds.”

The Syrians were invited to Lebanon to save them. It seems you forgot history. If it was not for Syria, Lebanon, or part of it, would have possibly been another Israeli “annexation”.

Why doesn’t Lebanon build its own army? It can easily get a handout from Saudi Arabia or France…but it chooses to rely on Syria. Why are all the clowns running to Damascus, again?

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April 16th, 2010, 2:02 pm

 

11. Husam said:

Husam,

There are some truth to what you said, i.e. “The Syrians were invited to Lebanon to save them”.

But this is an awfully simplistic view for someone like you who is interested in the big picture. The big picture is that Syria used that initial invitation to project power in the region. Plus you know very well that the Syrians overstayed their invitation by some 20 years.

I wonder why you had to go into the defense on this one ( from a big picture prospective)

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April 16th, 2010, 3:10 pm

 

12. Akbar Palace said:

El Al honors Druze community:

http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-3876761,00.html

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April 16th, 2010, 4:09 pm

 

13. Shai said:

Dear Husam,

While clearly “True Peace” between Israel and the Arab world is not possible without a Comprehensive Peace solution, in particular one that creates a Palestinian State and solves the Palestinian Refugee problem, I do believe that a formal, or “Cold Peace”, can exist as it does between Israel and Egypt and Jordan.

The Syrian President has already stated that Syria can make peace with Israel without the Palestinian issue concluded first. Mahmoud Abbas came to Damascus to give his people’s “blessings” to that effect. Like Israel, I believe, Syria too cannot wait for the Palestinians and Israelis to work out their differences. At the moment, the Palestinians themselves aren’t united or represented by a single body. Just as with Olmert, so too with a Netanyahu (if he ever changed his current stance), Syria will have to seize the opportunity, and attempt to reach a peace agreement, also before the Palestinians do.

Personally, I believe Syria is the perfect partner to help Israel and the Palestinians reach a final settlement. I truly hope that will be the order. Otherwise, we’re continuing to make the same mistakes of Clinton and Bush, by putting all the eggs in the Palestinian basket.

Again, remember I’m not speaking of what you and I would call “True Peace”.

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April 16th, 2010, 4:15 pm

 

14. almasri said:

Sanctions against Iran are expected to pass UN sometime in June. These sanctions will have some teeth such as total ban on weapons exports to Iran, allowance for member states to intercept ships suspected of carrying banned material or equipment to Iran and huge restrictions on investments in Iran particularly in the energy sector.

The US administration is luring sanction-opposing UN Security Council members (China and Brazil) by offering oil from Sudan as well as willingness to share the huge Iraqi oil reserves with States that are members of UN Security Council that have concerns about their oil supplies. Unlike George W. Bush, Obama is quite open towards sharing the spoils of war from Iraq with key player States in the UN Security Council.

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April 16th, 2010, 11:17 pm

 

15. Husam said:

To be honest, I am not much read on the Lebanese-Syrian issue during the 25 years Syria was in Lebanon partly because I only became interested in M.E politics in the past 7 years or so. Yes, Syria did overstay and moreover, some politicians and army general were hostile to the Lebenese and some were exploited.

I did look at the big picture, and in doing so, I realized that despite such hostility, the absence of Syrian forces may have been worse off for Lebanon. No one can know for sure.

I was responding to Bach who said “fight your own god damn war”. I was reminding him/her that the Lebanese said then “please come and rescue”. And, as I believe in Arab unity and the power of many, the solution in the M.E lies in regional cooperation, not in exploring our differnces which Bach was advocating.

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April 17th, 2010, 12:45 am

 

16. Husam said:

Shai:

This state-by-state “cold peace” you are suggesting in my view is nothing more than a tactical maneuver to disengage and divide the Arabs. You then strategically isolate the Palestinian problem, where Palestinians will find themselves the only ones standing and be forced to except 10 cents on the dollar.

BTW, this will not bring security to Israel. I would not go for that.

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April 17th, 2010, 12:54 am

 

17. norman said:

Husam ,

You are absolutely right on , the only reason Israel will accept peace with Syria is to have the Palestinians fend for themselves which means annexation of the West bank and pushing the Palestinians to Gaza or Jordon ,

I do not think that Syria under Bashar Assad will ever abandon the Palestinians ,

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April 17th, 2010, 1:39 am

 

18. norman said:

The US is putting doubt on the transfer of Scuds to Hezbollah ,

U.S. official: Unclear if Syria sent scuds to Hezbollah

By News Agencies

Tags: Syria, Israel news, Hezbollah

The United States believes that Syria intended to transfer long-range missiles to Lebanese Hezbollah guerrillas but there are doubts about whether the Scuds were delivered in full and whether they were moved to Lebanon, U.S. officials said on Friday.

The alleged deal to transfer the Scud missiles to Hezbollah has fueled cross-border tensions with Israel and could cast doubt on U.S. President Barack Obama’s diplomatic outreach to Syria.

“We think the intent is there,” a senior U.S. official said of Syria transferring the missiles to Hezbollah, a Iranian- and Syrian-backed Islamist group that fought a war with Israel in 2006.
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But the senior official and two others briefed on the case said it was unclear whether the missiles, which could hit deep inside Israel, were actually handed over in full to the guerrilla group. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the matter.

“We believe a transfer of some kind occurred but it is unclear if the rockets themselves have changed hands,” the senior official said.

A partial transfer could involve weapons parts, documents or funding, other officials said.

Another official said doubts were growing that Syria had delivered the Scuds in full and allowed them to transit to Lebanese territory: “We don’t believe it happened.”

Earlier on Friday a Hezbollah government minister said that whether or not they have acquired scud missiles is none of Israel’s business.

Minister Hussein Haj Hassan says the group was always arming and preparing itself but he refused to confirm or deny Israeli allegations that the militant Lebanese group has acquired Scud missiles.

Israel’s president Shimon Peres earlier this week directly accused Damascus of providing the scud missiles, a charge Syria denied.

The U.S. State Department responded to the allegations on Wednesday by saying that if they were true, “it would put Lebanon at a significant risk.”

Haj Hassan, meanwhile, told Hezbollah’s Al-Manar TV on Friday that since Israel possessed all kinds of weapons, it’s only natural for Lebanon to have the means to defend itself against an Israeli attack.

There was no immediate comment from Israeli officials.

Hezbollah’s leader, Sheik Hassan Nasrallah, has said his militants have more than 30,000 rockets and are capable of hitting anywhere in Israel. Those claims match Israeli intelligence assessments.

On Tuesday, the Kuwaiti daily Al-Rai Al-Aam reported that Syria had shipped ballistic Scud missiles to Hezbollah fighters in Lebanon. The White House said it has raised concerns with Syria about the report.

Israeli officials say the introduction of Scuds could alter the strategic balance with Hezbollah, the Iranian-backed militia that battled Israel in a month-long war in 2006. Hezbollah pelted Israel with nearly 4,000 unguided Katyusha rockets during the war, causing widespread damage and dozens of casualties in Israel’s north. Scud missiles have several times the range and explosive firepower of Katyusha rockets and would pose a much more serious threat.

In Washington, the Syrian Embassy dismissed the allegations of shipping scud missiles and accused Israel of trying to divert attention from questions about Israel’s nuclear program. Israel is widely believed to possess nuclear arms, though it does not confirm nor deny this.

Israel charges that most of Hezbollah’s weapons, including rockets, come through neighboring Syria, which is a main sponsor of Hezbollah, along with Iran.

Hezbollah refuses to discuss arms at national dialogue session

At a Lebanese national dialogue session on Friday, the Hezbollah-led opposition insisted on stopping debate regarding their arms, arguing that “Lebanon has no alternative but the Resistance (Hezbollah) to defend the country.”

Hezbollah MP Mohammed Raad hinted at boycotting dialogue sessions if debate continued on Hezbollah arms rather than other political issues facing the country.

“Either we want a serious dialogue under the Defense Strategy topic that includes key aspects of military, security, political, media, cultural, social and economic, or we don’t want a serious dialogue, but rather exchange rhetoric,” Raad told the session.

“If this is the case, then we are not willing to continue to participate in the dialogue,” Raad warned.

Christian Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea, also a member of the majority, hit back, saying “we have the right to discuss the issue of weapons here at the dialogue table.”

“I tell you I am going to criticize the Resistance (Hezbollah) arms in every statement. This is our political right,” Geagea said.

The Shiite militant group is the only faction that refused to surrender its weapons after Lebanon’s 1975-1990 civil war. It argues they are necessary to defend the country against Israel.

United Nations Resolution 1701, which ended 33-day war between Israel and Hezbollah in July 2006, called for disarming all militant groups, including Hezbollah, leaving only the Lebanese army in possession of any weapons.

In 2009 elections, Hezbollah won 13 seats in parliament. The Lebanese Shiite movement also has two ministers in Premier Saad Hariri’s national unity cabinet.

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April 17th, 2010, 1:49 am

 

19. jad said:

Happy 64th Independence Day to all Syrians!
April 17 1946 – April 17 2010
May God & the Syrians protect Syria.

Enjoy the history
http://www.syria-news.com/dayin/aljalaa/

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April 17th, 2010, 5:14 am

 

20. offended said:

Happy Eid Al Jala’ (Syria Independence Day) everyone!

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April 17th, 2010, 9:14 am

 

21. norman said:

This belongs here , from Netanyahu ‘s nephew ,

Peace for Israelis and Palestinians? Not without America’s tough love.

An Israeli student explains why the US should act on moral outrage over Israel’s discriminatory policies before it’s too late.

——————————————————————————–

By Jonathan Ben-Artzi
posted April 1, 2010 at 11:48 am EDT

Providence, R.I. —
More than 20 years ago, many Americans decided they could no longer watch as racial segregation divided South Africa. Compelled by an injustice thousands of miles away, they demanded that their communities, their colleges, their municipalities, and their government take a stand.

As Martin Luther King Jr. said, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”

Today, a similar discussion is taking place on campuses across the United States. Increasingly, students are questioning the morality of the ties US institutions have with the unjust practices being carried out in Israel and in the occupied Palestinian territories. Students are seeing that these practices are often more than merely “unjust.” They are racist. Humiliating. Inhumane. Savage.

Sometimes it takes a good friend to tell you when enough is enough. As they did with South Africa two decades ago, concerned citizens across the US can make a difference by encouraging Washington to get the message to Israel that this cannot continue.

A legitimate question is, Why should I care? Americans are heavily involved in the conflict: from funding (the US provides Israel with roughly $3 billion annually in military aid) to corporate investments (Microsoft has one of its major facilities in Israel) to diplomatic support (the US has vetoed 32 United Nations Security Council resolutions unsavory to Israel between 1982 and 2006).

Why do I care? I am an Israeli. Both my parents were born in Israel. Both my grandmothers were born in Palestine (when there was no “Israel” yet). In fact, I am a ninth-generation native of Palestine. My ancestors were among the founders of today’s modern Jerusalem.

Both my grandfathers fled the Nazis and came to Palestine. Both were subsequently injured in the 1948 Arab-Israli War. My mother’s only brother was a paratrooper killed in combat in 1968. All of my relatives served in the Israeli military for extensive periods of time, some of them in units most people don’t even know exist.

In Israel, military service for both men and women is compulsory. When my time to serve came, I refused, because I realized I was obliged to do something about these acts of segregation. I was denied conscientious objector status, like the majority of 18-year-old males who seek this status. Because I refused to serve, I spent a year and a half in military prison.

Some of the acts of segregation that I saw while growing up in Israel include towns for Jews only, immigration laws that allow Jews from around the world to immigrate but deny displaced indigenous Palestinians that same right, and national healthcare and school systems that receive significantly more funding in Jewish towns than in Arab towns.

As former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said in 2008: “We have not yet overcome the barrier of discrimination, which is a deliberate discrimination and the gap is insufferable…. Governments have denied [Arab Israelis] their rights to improve their quality of life.”

The situation in the occupied territories is even worse. Nearly 4 million Palestinians have been living under Israeli occupation for over 40 years without the most basic human and civil rights.

One example is segregation on roads in the West Bank, where settlers travel on roads that are for Jews only, while Palestinians are stopped at checkpoints, and a 10-mile commute might take seven hours.

Another example is discrimination in water supply: Israel pumps drinking water from occupied territory (in violation of international law). Israelis use as much as four times more water than Palestinians, while Palestinians are not allowed to dig their own wells and must rely on Israeli supply.

Civil freedom is no better: In an effort to break the spirit of Palestinians, Israel conducts sporadic arrests and detentions with no judicial supervision. According to one prisoner support and human rights association, roughly 4 in 10 Palestinian males have spent some time in Israeli prisons. That’s 40 percent of all Palestinian males!

And finally, perhaps one of the greatest injustices takes place in the Gaza Strip, where Israel is collectively punishing more than 1.5 million Palestinians by sealing them off in the largest open-air prison on earth.

Because of the US’s relationship with Israel, it is important for all Americans to educate themselves about the realities of the conflict. When they do, they will realize that just as much as support for South Africa decades ago was mostly damaging for South Africa itself, contemporary blind support for Israel hurts us Israelis.

We must lift the ruthless siege of Gaza, which only breeds more anger and frustration among Gazans, who respond by hurling primitive, homemade rockets at Israeli towns.

We must remove travel restrictions from West Bank Palestinians. How can we live in peace with a population where most children cannot visit their grandparents living in the neighboring village, without being stopped and harassed at military checkpoints for hours?

Finally, we must give equal rights to all. Regardless of what the final resolution will be – the so-called “one state solution,” the “two state solution,” or any other form of governance.

Israel governs the lives of 5.5 million Israeli Jews, 1.5 million Israeli Palestinians, and 4 million Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza. As long as Israel is responsible for all of these people, it must ensure that all have equal rights, the same access to resources, and the same opportunities in education and healthcare. Only through such a platform of basic human rights for all humans can a resolution come to the region.

If Americans truly are our friends, they should shake us up and take away the keys, because right now we are driving drunk, and without this wake-up call, we will soon find ourselves in the ditch of an undemocratic, doomed state.

Jonathan Ben-Artzi was one of the spokespeople for the Hadash party in the Israeli general elections in 2006. His parents are professors in Israel, and his extended family includes uncle Benjamin Netanyahu. Mr. Ben-Artzi is a PhD student at Brown University in Providence, R.I.

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April 17th, 2010, 11:24 am

 

22. trustquest said:

Although today is Syria independence day, a lot think that it is not independent, as independent should mean independent judicial, political and social system which many thinks as long as they are under emergency law and the suspension of full consititution they are really not independent.
Today, oppositions groups outside Syria will try to raise this point by protesting around the world in front of their embassies.
Here is a link to a blogger who also think that Syria is not independent, even I do not agree with all his reasonings.
http://maysaloon.blogspot.com/2010/04/syrian-independance-day-some-thoughts.html

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April 17th, 2010, 1:45 pm

 

23. Amir in Tel Aviv said:

Husam,

Fewer and fewer Israelis today, delude themselves that Israel will one day be “secured” the way Denmark is secured.

France, after WW1 felt “secure”. Germany’s army was reduced to symbolic 100,000 personnel, and there were agreements that “secured” the French. This lasted some 30 years.

Only after the German people deeply and with self-conviction realized, that the proper way for them would be to “live and let live”, real peace and security could be possible for Europe.

The ME has still a long way to go, and so a false sense of “security” is dangerous. Most Israelis now realize that they’ll have to live many years ahead, with a sharp sword, close to their right hand.
.

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April 17th, 2010, 3:49 pm

 

24. jad said:

I noticed that the opposition group who are asking for the meaningless protest in front of the Syrian embassies around the world are almost all Ikhwan-Oriented and their calls stink with sectarianism that wont get Syria and Syrians any good and has nothing to do with what they are ‘Publicly’ calling for.

Maysaloon (the link of TQ) wrote in his comment to Nour:
“No, I much prefer a simple line from a man who was much wiser than Antun Saadeh and left a much bigger impact:
نحن قوم اعزنا الله بالاسلام فاذا ابتغينا العزة بغيره اذلنا الله”

What does that means??? Should we start building the Islamic Republic of Syria instead of today’s Syria for some people to celebrate independence day? or should we get rid of all those who are not Wahabis and throw them in the sea??

Another observation about the Anti-non-Muslims articles and blogs trend these days?
What’s wrong with those radical people, can’t they live with anybody other than their own specific group?

أحمد موفق زيدان على خطى أحمد منصور: زيدان يدعو لإبادة طائفة سورية من الوجود
http://www.ahewar.org/debat/show.art.asp?aid=211719

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April 17th, 2010, 4:03 pm

 

25. Husam said:

Amir in Tel Aviv Said: “Most Israelis now realize that they’ll have to live many years ahead, with a sharp sword, close to their right hand.”

Thank you for this revelation. Your sharp sword is dripping blood. Take your ego and Made in USA sword and shove it up your *RSE.

You want to be as secure as Denmark then you should behave like humans in Denmark not like an Israeli savage that you advocate yourself to be on SC.

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April 17th, 2010, 6:45 pm

 

26. Ghat Albird said:

Interesting revelation. The so-called “covenant with God” that the Jews always refer to is a word for word text by the Assyrian Ruler Essarhadon dated in 670 BC. Detailing his office’s relations to subdivisions within his empire.

http://www.examiner.com/examiner/x-17009-Freethought-Examiner~y2010m4d13-Source-of-Bible-Covenant-with-God-discovered

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April 17th, 2010, 10:44 pm

 

27. almasri said:

GHAT,

You should also check Gilgamesh which is an earlier epic. You will also find the flood story and much of Genesis:

http://www.aina.org/books/eog/eog.pdf

But even nowadays, have you been to some cultural shows, somethimes held in NY and other major cities, where Israelis present Palestinian cultural artifacts as Israeli productions? Stealing the land seems to be not enough with these guys.

Well, they are certified professional thieves, of course, with no originality whatsoever. They always steal other peoples cultures, lands, money, economies…. and they want to call themseves a nation!

Worse than that they appear on forums such as SC and others and try to lecture others about their so-called ‘superiority’, ‘morality’ and other fake virtues.

A thief remains a thief even if after a millenia of incarceration.

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April 18th, 2010, 12:09 am

 

28. almasri said:

GHAT,

You should also check Gilgamesh which is an earlier epic. You will also find the flood story and much of Genesis:

http://www.aina.org/books/eog/eog.pdf

But even nowadays, have you been to some cultural shows, somethimes held in NY and other major cities, where Israelis present Palestinian cultural artifacts as Israeli productions? Stealing the land seems to be not enough with these guys.

Well, they are certified professional thieves, of course, with no originality whatsoever. They always steal other peoples cultures, lands, money, economies…. and they want to call themseves a nation!

Worse than that they appear on forums such as SC and others and try to lecture others about their so-called ’superiority’, ‘morality’ and other fake virtues.

A thief remains a thief even if after a millenia of incarceration.

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April 18th, 2010, 12:10 am

 

29. sam said:

It’s amazing..with all of their military arsenal, they keep crying about the balance of power. It will never tip against them. There like a crying old lady, that has a virginia ham in her hand, and shes crying because she has no bread to make a sandwich. I really think, that they want all of their adversaries armed with slingshots from walmart.

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April 18th, 2010, 4:10 am

 

30. Elie Elhadj said:

Dear Jonathan Ben-Artzi,
You remind me of Avraham Berg.
Since conditions on the ground have not changed much since 2003, it is worthwhile to repeat Mr. Burg’s article of September 2003.

“The end of Zionism
Israel must shed its illusions and choose between racist oppression and democracy

Avraham Burg
The Guardian,
Monday 15 September 2003

The Zionist revolution has always rested on two pillars: a just path and an ethical leadership. Neither of these is operative any longer. The Israeli nation today rests on a scaffolding of corruption, and on foundations of oppression and injustice. As such, the end of the Zionist enterprise is already on our doorstep. There is a real chance that ours will be the last Zionist generation. There may yet be a Jewish state here, but it will be a different sort, strange and ugly.

There is time to change course, but not much. What is needed is a new vision of a just society and the political will to implement it. Diaspora Jews for whom Israel is a central pillar of their identity must pay heed and speak out.

The opposition does not exist, and the coalition, with Ariel Sharon at its head, claims the right to remain silent. In a nation of chatterboxes, everyone has suddenly fallen dumb, because there’s nothing left to say. We live in a thunderously failed reality. Yes, we have revived the Hebrew language, created a marvellous theatre and a strong national currency. Our Jewish minds are as sharp as ever. We are traded on the Nasdaq. But is this why we created a state? The Jewish people did not survive for two millennia in order to pioneer new weaponry, computer security programs or anti-missile missiles. We were supposed to be a light unto the nations. In this we have failed.

It turns out that the 2,000-year struggle for Jewish survival comes down to a state of settlements, run by an amoral clique of corrupt lawbreakers who are deaf both to their citizens and to their enemies. A state lacking justice cannot survive. More and more Israelis are coming to understand this as they ask their children where they expect to live in 25 years. Children who are honest admit, to their parents’ shock, that they do not know. The countdown to the end of Israeli society has begun.

It is very comfortable to be a Zionist in West Bank settlements such as Beit El and Ofra. The biblical landscape is charming. You can gaze through the geraniums and bougainvilleas and not see the occupation. Travelling on the fast highway that skirts barely a half-mile west of the Palestinian roadblocks, it’s hard to comprehend the humiliating experience of the despised Arab who must creep for hours along the pocked, blockaded roads assigned to him. One road for the occupier, one road for the occupied.

This cannot work. Even if the Arabs lower their heads and swallow their shame and anger for ever, it won’t work. A structure built on human callousness will inevitably collapse in on itself. Note this moment well: Zionism’s superstructure is already collapsing like a cheap Jerusalem wedding hall. Only madmen continue dancing on the top floor while the pillars below are collapsing.

We have grown accustomed to ignoring the suffering of the women at the roadblocks. No wonder we don’t hear the cries of the abused woman living next door or the single mother struggling to support her children in dignity. We don’t even bother to count the women murdered by their husbands.

Israel, having ceased to care about the children of the Palestinians, should not be surprised when they come washed in hatred and blow themselves up in the centres of Israeli escapism. They consign themselves to Allah in our places of recreation, because their own lives are torture. They spill their own blood in our restaurants in order to ruin our appetites, because they have children and parents at home who are hungry and humiliated. We could kill a thousand ringleaders a day and nothing will be solved, because the leaders come up from below – from the wells of hatred and anger, from the “infrastructures” of injustice and moral corruption.

If all this were inevitable, divinely ordained and immutable, I would be silent. But things could be different, and so crying out is a moral imperative.

Here is what the prime minister should say to the people: the time for illusions is over. The time for decisions has arrived. We love the entire land of our forefathers and in some other time we would have wanted to live here alone. But that will not happen. The Arabs, too, have dreams and needs.

Between the Jordan and the Mediterranean there is no longer a clear Jewish majority. And so, fellow citizens, it is not possible to keep the whole thing without paying a price. We cannot keep a Palestinian majority under an Israeli boot and at the same time think ourselves the only democracy in the Middle East. There cannot be democracy without equal rights for all who live here, Arab as well as Jew. We cannot keep the territories and preserve a Jewish majority in the world’s only Jewish state – not by means that are humane and moral and Jewish.

Do you want the greater land of Israel? No problem. Abandon democracy. Let’s institute an efficient system of racial separation here, with prison camps and detention villages.

Do you want a Jewish majority? No problem. Either put the Arabs on railway cars, buses, camels and donkeys and expel them en masse – or separate ourselves from them absolutely, without tricks and gimmicks. There is no middle path. We must remove all the settlements – all of them – and draw an internationally recognised border between the Jewish national home and the Palestinian national home. The Jewish law of return will apply only within our national home, and their right of return will apply only within the borders of the Palestinian state.

Do you want democracy? No problem. Either abandon the greater land of Israel, to the last settlement and outpost, or give full citizenship and voting rights to everyone, including Arabs. The result, of course, will be that those who did not want a Palestinian state alongside us will have one in our midst, via the ballot box.

The prime minister should present the choices forthrightly: Jewish racism or democracy. Settlements, or hope for both peoples. False visions of barbed wire and suicide bombers, or a recognised international border between two states and a shared capital in Jerusalem.

Why, then, is the opposition so quiet? Perhaps because some would like to join the government at any price, even the price of participating in the sickness. But while they dither, the forces of good lose hope. Anyone who declines to present a clear-cut position – black or white – is collaborating in the decline. It is not a matter of Labour versus Likud or right versus left, but of right versus wrong, acceptable versus unacceptable. The law-abiding versus the lawbreakers. What’s needed is not a political replacement for the Sharon government but a vision of hope, an alternative to the destruction of Zionism and its values by the deaf, dumb and callous.

Israel’s friends abroad – Jewish and non-Jewish alike, presidents and prime ministers, rabbis and lay people – should choose as well. They must reach out and help Israel to navigate the road map toward our national destiny as a light unto the nations and a society of peace, justice and equality.

© Avraham Burg

· Avraham Burg was speaker of Israel’s Knesset in 1999-2003 and is a former chairman of the Jewish Agency for Israel. Reprinted with permission of The Forward, which translated and adapted this essay from an article that originally appeared in Yediot Aharonot”

Elie

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April 18th, 2010, 10:12 am

 

31. Akbar Palace said:

Elie Elhadj,

Please remind Avraham Berg that Israel already is a democracy. Certainly much more so than any Arab state in the region.

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April 18th, 2010, 3:34 pm

 

32. Elie Elhadj said:

Akbar Palace,

Thanks.

I am certain Mr. Berg knows his facts pretty well.

As for Arab rule, there is no disagreement that it is tyrannical and corrupt, an affront to human dignity. Please refer to my article:”Arab Democracy is Fantasy”, appeared in SC on February 23, 2010.

Mr. Ben-Artzi and Mr. Burg are honorable men, courageous with a deep sense of justice. They kindle the hope that Arab and Jew can live together in peace. They are inspirational.

Elie

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April 18th, 2010, 6:56 pm

 

33. Ghat Albird said:

The Times (GB): Israel warns Syria over Hezbollah attacks
2010-04-17

Israel has delivered a secret warning to Syrian President Bashar Assad that it will respond to missile attacks from Hezbollah, the militant Lebanese-based Islamist group, by launching immediate retaliation against Syria itself.

The Times of London is owned by Rupert Murdoch and will not report that Tehran is already on record that if Syria is attacked Iran will attack the attacker.

The days when Israel can attack Lebanon, and/or Syria with impunity are over.

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April 18th, 2010, 10:12 pm

 

34. norman said:

Ghat ,
This is for you ,

Ghat ,

I would not depend on others if i were president Assad , i would depend only on Syria , Egypt did not come to help Syria and Lebanon in the past and Iran might think rightly that Israel is trying to provoke Iran into an attack so they can retaliate against it’s nuclear installations with the support of the West and the international community as self defence ,

Syria should plan on a long term war that will keep the Israelis in their bunkers and keeps their army on full alert for months if not years , that is the only way that Syria can tire Israel into a peace treaty ,

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April 18th, 2010, 11:13 pm

 

35. Akbar Palace said:

Akbar Palace,

Thanks. I am certain Mr. Berg knows his facts pretty well.

Mr. Elie Elhadj,

Afwan. However, you may not know this, but even ex-Israeli MKs and French citizens like Mr. Burg OFTEN get their facts wrong;)

As for Arab rule, there is no disagreement that it is tyrannical and corrupt, an affront to human dignity. Please refer to my article:”Arab Democracy is Fantasy”, appeared in SC on February 23, 2010.

Yes, but let’s not dwell on this…it’s much preferable on Professor Josh’s website to point the finger outward from the Baathist dictator’s shoulder across the border to the Zionist Entity. Then we need to “explain” Dr. Bashar’s thuggish behavior to the West, minimize it, glorify it, and wrap it with scented cellophane. That what we do here.

Mr. Ben-Artzi and Mr. Burg are honorable men, courageous with a deep sense of justice. They kindle the hope that Arab and Jew can live together in peace. They are inspirational.

Israel is full of honorable men who are willing to make peace with the Arabs. But honor isn’t accepting a bad agreement like Oslo.

Anyway, here’s some pictures and videos for your entertainment pleasure…

http://www.visionsof.org/israel/index.html

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April 18th, 2010, 11:33 pm

 

36. Scud a Hezbollah: partono? non partono? : invisiblearabs said:

[…] un po’ ne capisce. E così sono andata ancora una volta a sbirciare il blog di Joshua Landis, Syriacomment. La fortuna premia non tanto gli audaci, quanto quelli che fanno un po’ di […]

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April 19th, 2010, 1:27 pm

 

37. Israel: Developing Pressure on the Bully in the Bloc « Streams of consciousness said:

[…] Comment: What is Behind the Syria Scud Scare?” By Joshua Landis on Foreign Policy “Reports in U.S. and Israeli papers on Wednesday, alleging that Syria delivered Scud missiles […]

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April 27th, 2010, 4:26 pm

 

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