Yoav Stern discusses his coverage of Syrian affairs

Posted by Alex – a note sent by Yoav Stern
Haaretz reporter, Yoav Stern.

Haaretz reporter, Yoav Stern.

Let me begin with technicalities, in which I’m sure you won’t be interested.

When I write a news item, I write it in Hebrew. The item you see in English is translated, and the translation process can sometimes cause inaccuracies.

A good example is the story about Jihad Makdissi and his letter to Alex.

Reading the content carefully, you’ll see that such an inaccuracy did take place here. Those things happen, unfortunately, but I don’t think that in this case the damage is that big.

As for the selective quotes in Haaretz from Ambassador Mustapha’s interview on Syria Comment, I think that he was extremely cautious in choosing his words in the interview. It is understandable when you’re a diplomat, especially in such a sensitive position, but this means that you’re taking the risk of not saying anything that stands out.

I was trying to get the most interesting and new statements from the interview, and not quote again the known Syrian positions on peace which everyone now knows by heart. But in any case, the item you’ve read in English is done by the news editor (and this is why I’m not signed on it) and is different from what I’ve written in Hebrew.

A more interesting question is the one about how to describe Alex and Sami Moubayed.

Covering Syrian (and other Arab states) affairs for an Israeli journalist is a very challenging task, not to say impossible, if you don’t want to quote SANA and Tishreen every day.

But imagine what would happen to a Syrian or even a foreign visitor in Damascus if I pick up the phone and call him from here in Israel to chat, just like a diligent journalist should do.

If one wants to keep the Syria – Israel story alive, and it is alive, very alive, behind closed doors, one goes for other possibilities.

A very important channel that has developed gradually over the past years is Syria Comment. Where else can you see Israelis and Syrians, officials, semi officials, academics and just civilians, exchange views like they do here?

I think that the interview Ambassdor Mustafa gave Alex is a good example for the level of interest on the Syrian official side in the possibilities of forwarding messages through this channel. The letter of Mr. Makdissi is even a better example. And for this reason, Alex, I would describe you as someone “close” in his views and analysis to the Syrian regime.

The same goes for Sami Moubayad. Yes, I know he is “an independent writer, historian, professor, and political analyst”, like he himself has written to you. But following Syria for the last 5 and half years or so, through the media, I realized that senior analysts from Damascus represent the regime views, informally, better than any one else.

It can be Sami Moubayed in Asia Times, Imad Fawzi Shoueibi with Arabic BBC, Samir At-taki in Al-Jazeera int’l or others. And it is probably for this reason that all media call them again and again and ask them to comment on the events.

I can only respect what Sami Moubayed says in his letter to you. Still, when he writes his article next week in Asia times, I would still describe him as an analyst who’s views (on foreign policy / Israel / peace process) represent the Syrian regime views.

Comments (182)

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151. Alia said:


You said:

[I view AIG’s argument (for he only has a single one) in its various forms as merely a variant of orientalism. The us “democracies” against them “undemocratic” Arabs.]

I appreciate the quotation marks…
I rather think that, this is AIG’s wish, but not the truth and I would not dignify his argument by responding to it as if it were self-evident. In what way does Israel belong to the Occident? What kind of democracy is being promoted and practiced there? And by the way who is the Occident nowadays and what is its claim to a civilizing role? .

AIG pretense to a “mission civilisatrice” does not stand a chance because ultimately it can be argued that Israel directly and indirectly justified the continuation of undemocratic regimes in the area 1) c.f. the recent discussion of the necessity/wisdom of suspending activism for human rights in Syria,in favor of presenting a united front against external forces- an argument used by several dictatorships in the area very successfully to their advantage.. 2) The Mossad which directly reports to the Office of the Prime minister has been involved in every shady activity in the middle East, from supporting the Shah’s undemocratic rule by training and supporting the SAVAK, to agitating with the CIA in Iraq starting in the 1960, in Egypt and everywhere it could reach regardless of what type of regime is in operation.
Inside Israel, we see a military presence that gives the lie to a democratic society’s rule by the power of the law, we see 2nd class citizens, torture in prisons, illegal settlements and settlers who are used by various groupings in their quest for power, and who in turn manipulate the inner political scene and against which the law is practically helpless.
Israel is continuously cited for its abuse of human rights by humanitarian organizations. Does that count for anything?

The West started speaking of Modernity[ and I suspect that is what Edward Said was referring to when he spoke of the Occident although this was left up to us to debate] in the 18th century when Enlightenment values became functional. When 1) separation of religion from state became a possibility and an ideal. 2) When equality of human beings became self-evident. 3) When Justice became a necessity. Those are clearly goals that have not been always met by even the most “democratic” societies, but at least no one would argue that they are the ultimate goal of those societies.
How does Israel qualify on all this?

AIG has been using the argument of economic superiority when his claim to a status of democracy wears thin. Beside its irrelevance to what the definition of democracy is, this economic superiority is largely built on the work of the previous generation of European immigrants who brought with them the values and the achievements of the countries they abandoned; it is not locally produced de novo. Israel did not have to develop from a primitive stage to modern ways of production… in addition to the continuous flow of money and privileged support of every educational and scientific institution from the U.S. primarily and the reparations exacted from Germany on multiple levels.

A dear friend, Holocaust survivor, accomplished scientist, was placed on the board of a very significant charitable trust for the benefit of Israel; he told me a few years ago that he was shocked on his 2 visits to Israel to discover that the European Jewish immigrants had actually ended-up living their life in a primitive Oriental country. He was very disappointed despite his undying support for the existence and continuation of Israel.
If he happens to be reading this, I can see him chuckling…

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November 11th, 2008, 2:38 pm


152. Alia said:


So you have relatives in Damascus…:)

It does not sound cute at all now, but when I was a child I did think that Lebanon was in Syria. Since our little summerhouse was in Lebanon and everytime my older sisters got ready to be married they chose Tripoli because: “it was so much more convenient for everyone”…No one seemed afraid we were going to move in then, it was rather the Saudis presence that was looked at askance. I am glad that I did not see for myself the rest of that movie.

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November 11th, 2008, 3:02 pm


153. Shai said:


Your friend was right. Another shameful treatment by Israel of its citizens, this time as 10th-class (not 2nd-class Arab-Israelis), many if not most of the remaining Holocaust survivors are living in miserable poverty, despite the huge sums of money that have been coming as reparations from Germany for decades. These people, most of whom participated in building this nation from scratch, are now being forgotten, when they need us most.

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November 11th, 2008, 3:17 pm


154. Alia said:

Dear Shai,

I wanted to take time later on to answer your earlier thoughtful post.

I have been thinking of the cognitive and emotional barriers on both sides..what keeps them in place and how do we move on?

Your story suggests that your awakening to a different reality was due to both a natural instinct and favorable circumstances. I have read Rumayl’s statement of his view that one could see a positive side for the Palestinians in viewing Israel as a bridge to modernity or something like that. I have read Alex’s constructive input on the matter.

Well, I am miles backwards in this whole thing. What do I say to myself when I am still perceiving injustice as a gaping wound? when I can have Israeli friends as individuals but the thought of Israel as a country continues to bring clouds to my vision esp. (and that is supremely important to me at least) that this country has done nothing to endear itself to me to and to my people?

Help me here please.

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November 11th, 2008, 3:38 pm


155. AIG said:

Yes Shai,
Please help Alia who is against the Jewish state and believes that European Jews brought with them in the 1930 and 1940 the myriad of technologies that Israel developed in the eighties, nineties and this decade. Which country did Checkpoint bring its technology from? And your startup Shai, which Eurpean country did you steal your ideas from? How is it that Europe buys so much Israeli technology if our technology is really European???
I think many people on this blog need to visit Israel in order to get a reality check.

All the rest,
Economy, technology and government are all important factors in determining the outcome of conflicts between countries. Mentioning and analyzing those is critical to understanding the conflict. It is not orientalism or colonialism or whatever. Putting your head in the sand will get you nowhere. So what if the data is uncomfortable for you? It still needs to be analyzed. Also, if you do not know the price of pursuing a certain strategy, how will you make correct choices? Who are you guys fooling by trying to make things rosier than they are?

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November 11th, 2008, 4:23 pm


156. Shai said:


You know that I am proud of being an Israeli. If I wasn’t, I’d be living as an American, raising my children and running a business, in America. I certainly want others to be proud of Israel as well, and to recognize, as Alex does (for instance) also our achievements, not only our faults.

But on this forum, we must expect that most will not be able to see the former, and will naturally focus on the latter. I used to think that anyone that questioned the existence of the Jewish state was antisemitic. That as it is clear to me that after 2000 years in the diaspora, being persecuted in almost every country, every culture, and under every ruler, the Jews had found at last the only opportunity, and seized it as anyone in our shoes would have done. And I know (as OTW has himself stated) the values that Zionism was originally about. They were not about ethnic cleansing, nor about occupying another people and robbing them of their freedom. They were about coexistence, even on the same piece of land.

Olmert yesterday, in a speech in Knesset on the 13th anniversary of Rabin’s assassination, said that the original founders, as endless generations before them, never dreamed of a binational state. That to them, the Jewish state was to be mostly Jewish. He used this argument, to make it clear that we must give up on “Greater Israel”, by returning land in Judea and Samaria, and the Golan. So far, makes sense. But in reality, our founding fathers actually did not specify that Israel cannot have its Palestinians remain in place, and that it would have to be created with a Jewish majority. The 1947 resolution that called for the creation of two separate states attempted to solve that problem. But it did not ask the 600,000-800,000 Palestinians that would be leaving their homes within 1-2 years if they accepted this resolution or not. No one anticipated what was about to happen, and only one party benefited in the end – Israel.

I’m not suggesting that Israel must now accept a one-state solution, and bring back all the Palestinians, wherever they may be, into their homes in Jaffa, Haifa, Ramleh, Lod, and another couple hundred villages that were erased since then. Now this solution, for the Jewish majority in Israel, is impossible. Perhaps it would have been, a few years after the war in 47-49. But 60 years of hatred, suspicion and fear have taken such a heavy emotional toll (and of course physical), that the two sides cannot yet live together. They must now live apart, side-by-side. Perhaps in a few decades, after there is peace in this region, and mutual cooperation in fields such as economy, culture, academia, and of course politics, we can consider the “next step”. My dream, is that this step will be the so-called UME (United Middle East). It is, for now, merely a dream.

But AIG, we must also recognize those who find it difficult to accept the existence of the state of Israel. Because it did come at the expense of their people, their past, present, and future. How can we not understand a Palestinian whose grandparents were run out of their homes (give a few minutes to pack up all their belongings) by some Israeli soldiers 60 years ago? And now, in that same beautiful home in Jaffa, lives some rich Jew, who spends 90% of his year sunbathing on the shores of the French Riviera, while the rightful owners of his house are living in a shack with barely running water, in some refugee camp in Lebanon or Syria, for the past 60 years?

And the worst part, is that these same Palestinians are told they are about to get their own state finally, but not be able to return to their homes. No, that’s for the Jews. Their new homes, if they choose to go build them, will be in Rafah, Gaza, Ramallah, Jenin, or Tulkarem. It is as if a solution is forced upon them again, erasing their history, eternalizing the crimes committed against them, by not providing them with the most basic justice – a right of return.

If you and I were in their shoes, or even in the shoes of their Arab brethren in the nations around our region, there is a very good chance we would also not recognize the state of Israel. But, reality is often stronger than us, and Israel exists, and will continue to exist, despite what some out there may wish for, or not wish for. And slowly, with time and hopefully peace, all will come to accept and recognize that the Jews have returned to their historical home, and are here to stay. If we succeed in also transforming our fears and hatred into trust and hope, we may well find ourselves redefining our own state one day, into something more closely resembling a nation-state, than a religious-state. In such an Israel, it will not matter whether there are 60% Jews and 40% Muslims, or the other way around.

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November 11th, 2008, 7:03 pm


157. Shai said:


While I’m no psychologist, I can tell you that I am sure what you and I are now doing, sharing our deepest feelings with one another, is an important part of the process of healing our wounds. I think one of the biggest obstacles to peace is recognition of responsibility. If you never hear Israel recognize its part in your suffering, how can you be expected to ever forgive, or accept Israel? I can’t even imagine what it is like to be in your shoes.

By the time I was born, it had been 24 years since Nazism fell. And since then, Germany had changed, and had normal relations with Israel, and was even paying huge sums of money as reparations. I grew up looking at Nazism as something of the past. Although the stories told, and my seeing the actual tattooed numbers on my grandmother’s only sister that survived Auschwitz, did create a sense of hatred towards Germany, I couldn’t apply it emotionally towards Germans of my time.

But for Palestinians today, their history, and their present fate, are still controlled by Israel. Their freedom is still being robbed from them, day and night, year by year, decade after decade. The memories are fresh, because they are in the present, not only the past. So your trauma is ongoing, and healing its wounds cannot begin until the trauma is over.

I cannot yet, unfortunately, tell you that your nightmare is over. I cannot promise that tomorrow will be a better day for Palestinians. I cannot even suggest that we are headed towards a brighter future. Though I am an optimist, and strongly believe in our ability to shape our future and influence our fate, I am also a realist. And under the current state of affairs, with Israelis still undecided about what kind of nation they seek for themselves, a predominantly Jewish one, an Apartheid, or a “normal” nation, with whatever natural demographic development brings, and with no Palestinian leadership to represent the Palestinian people, there is little chance to move forward.

Personally, I don’t see this as a doomed future of another 60 years of suffering. I do see other possibilities, and other hopes. As I’ve stated on endless occasions, and one of the main reasons for my continued efforts on this forum, I do believe strongly in the potential (not promise) peace with Syria can bring to our entire region, and specifically also to the seemingly insurmountable Israeli-Palestinian conflict. I don’t need to imagine something 50 years from now, I can envision it happening 2-3 down the line, not more! We can find ourselves in a completely different reality, I believe, very soon, if only we are ready to take the chances peace requires.

Alia, don’t give up, that’s all I can ask of you. Please know that there are many many Israelis that ask the same of you. And many more wish for a peaceful future, for all people in our region, but do not yet know how to voice it. We are not innately racist, nor are inherently hateful. We do know how to live amongst other peoples (we’ve done it throughout our entire history), and once we are rid of those cognitive and emotional barriers, we will change to our old selves. Keep an open communication with Israelis, and with Jews, and help us (as you do) help ourselves.

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November 11th, 2008, 7:37 pm


158. Off the Wall said:

Dear Alia
I was merely attempting to describe the way that ideology work without assessing whether its claims are viable or even remotely true. I never intended it as self evident truth, but rather to the contrary as self evident lie and untruth, because as i mentioned in an earlier post, it is merely an argument used to delay the inevitable and to continue land grab. Perhaps my problem is that I see my posts, scattered here and there as a continuum, and that why some ideas i post look out of place when taken individually. Since I am no AIG, it is hard for me to keep repeating the same idea again and again (Israel being undemocratic towards 25% of her own citizen, militaristic, an occupier thug towards Palestinians, and as you have clearly highlighted enjoys a highly subsidized economy) because I hold these to be self evident. In the same post, i tried to expose the hypocrisy of AIG’s position by a metaphoric comparison of AIG and his ilk with a wife beating westerner who talks loudly about women freedom in Muslim and Arab countries. And this is also the thread I was following in arguing that AIG’s Israel, which he described as having succeeded by leaving the “screwed arab” world and orienting itself towards the west, will never truly be viewed as a country with “modern, post post-colonialist (yes there are two posts here) Occidental values. And that was the essence in my challenge to him regarding joining the EU. In his reply to Jad regarding these comments, AIG completely forgot the meaning of his own post. But that is common from him.

I fully agree with you that his “mission civilisatrice” does not stand a chance for the reason you have articulated. But neocons have appointed themselves arbiters of values they constantly violate, which is what orientalists did then, and their illegitimate neo-con offspring do now. I was merely trying to point that out.

That said, and while I do not believe that the fundamentals of the Israeli economy are invincible as AIG would like us to believe, I respectfully disagree with you regarding Israel’s ability to advance technologically. Where a country gets talents is less important than what it does with these talents. On the one hand, and office politics aside, as a country, Israel celebrates its “Jewish” talents and the government works very hard to acquire capital investment so that these talents enrich the country instead of driving them out. Yet, we must also recognize that a sizable portion of Israel’s technological advances are heavily subsidized by the Israeli army, which has become, like all modern armies, an incubator of technologies (please see document below), and by the now unbreakable ties between the US and Israeli military industrial complex, not to mention the strong alliance between Israel’s security industry apparatus and the expanding inhumane prison industry here in the US.


Israel has adopted a business friendly growth oriented model, and with help from AIPAC and similar lobbying groups in Europe, and from wealthy venture capitalists worldwide managed to cerate a thriving high-tech and information technology industry. Contrast that with Syria’s push for heavy investment in tourism, which is the most volatile, least paying (in terms of employee income) economical sector and with Dubai’s investment in artificial palm islands and towers of salt. Is there something in the Israeli experiment for us to learn from. I respectfully argue that there is. What is so sad about Israel experiment is that it was born with the reality of occupation, subjugation, and war crimes.

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November 11th, 2008, 7:53 pm


159. Off the Wall said:

Dear Alia

We can also learn similar, and perahps more relevant lessons from Soth Korea, Singapore, and several other experiments. But for heaven’s sake, let us start somewhere.

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November 11th, 2008, 8:00 pm


160. AIG said:

Just like your family, huge chunks of my family were killed by the Germans and a smaller number just lost all their property to the Poles and came to Israel as refugees with basically nothing. So unlike you, I do not understand how someone can carry a grudge for 60 years. I don’t hate Germans or Poles. I understand that history has no rewind button. 60 years is long enough time to stop being a refugee. The way I see it, the Palestinians just have no excuse. My famiy has walked in their shoes just that many more were killed. We did not then wallow in self pity for 60 years or harbor resentment for Germans and Poles. Life is short and self pity is useless and pathetic. I know exactly what property my wife’s family had in the suburbs of Warsaw. I have no illusions of ever getting it back. Let’s all wake up and smell the coffee and understand that history has no rewind bottom.

I understand what you are trying to do but read the following carefully. By trying to gloss over things and emphasizing very low probablilty pictures of the future you will hurt peace long term. It only builds expectations that later cannot be met and result in war. You need to be able to say to your Arab interlocutor’s that there is a very low chance of a UME or a one state solution and that they have to understand, no matter how much it is difficult for them to do so, that there most probably will not be a right of return.

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November 11th, 2008, 8:23 pm


161. Alex said:

AIG said:

“So unlike you, I do not understand how someone can carry a grudge for 60 years. I don’t hate Germans or Poles. I understand that history has no rewind button. 60 years is long enough time to stop being a refugee.”

60 years?

So … AIG, are you saying you will stop talking about and exaggerating the “1948 pogrom” in Aleppo?

2008 – 1948 = ??

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November 11th, 2008, 8:35 pm


162. jad said:

Dear Alia, OTW

It’s so true that Israel didn’t start from scratch as you wrote
“Beside its irrelevance to what the definition of democracy is, this economic superiority is largely built on the work of the previous generation of European immigrants who brought with them the values and the achievements of the countries they abandoned; it is not locally produced de novo. Israel did not have to develop from a primitive stage to modern ways of production… in addition to the continuous flow of money and privileged support of every educational and scientific institution from the U.S. primarily and the reparations exacted from Germany on multiple levels.”
I think that we can do something similar by encouraging Syrians who lived abroad to come back and build their country and bring with them their experiences to be learned from instead of loosing them one after the other, and by encouraging the creative and talented young Syrian to do their best instead of putting all kind of obstacles in their ways. The big puzzle is how can we achieve that.

I also agree with OTW that Israel is a success example in many ways that we need to learn from its experiments in industry, education, agriculture and many other fields.
“We can also learn similar, and perhaps more relevant lessons from South Korea, Singapore, and several other experiments. But for heaven’s sake, let us start somewhere.”
You are absolutely right OTW; we must start somewhere and soon.

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November 11th, 2008, 8:44 pm


163. AIG said:

I will give you a pass on the tons of falsehoods that you have written because of your ability to introspect. If in order to improve you need to lie about Israel to yourself, that is fine with me.

By the way, what statistics lead you to believe that Israel is a “highly subsidized economy”? All the statistics I know show that it is not, and certainly the OECD would not have accepted Israel if it were a highly subsidized economy. I would also like to point out that the Israeli economy is far from invincible but giver the fact that it relies on the talent of its people and not natural resources, it is quite reselient. Since Israel will always be a Jewish country it cannot ever be and does not aspire to be a post anything country. We will always have our peculiar identity that will never fit into any post-modernist future and if the gentiles don’t like it, that is sad, but we can live with it.

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November 11th, 2008, 8:45 pm


164. AIG said:

You were not born in 1948. Neither were 99% of Syrians living today. So carrying a grudge would be very stupid. I use the Aleppo pogrom as one historical fact to counter your continued allegations that Jews have been treated well in Syria and that there is no antisemitism in Syria. The Aleppo pogrom also shows that Arabs never made a real distinction between Zionism and Judaism. The non-Zionist Jews living in Aleppo were murdered and their stores were all burnt because of what Zionist Jews did in Israel. The Aleppo Jews were attacked because they were Jews, not because they were anything else.

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November 11th, 2008, 9:01 pm


165. Shai said:


I’ve said on numerous occasions here that I don’t believe a one-state solution is possible anytime soon. From my point of view, I am not telling anyone here how bright and pretty our future will be, nor how likely it is that peace will indeed deliver such a future. In that sense, I don’t see myself as creating any high expectations, for anyone.

My message is the same – we must choose between alternatives, even if none are great. And to me, the continuation of non-peace, low-intensity war, or of course high-intensity war, are alternatives that are far worse than peace. With all its risks (and indeed there are certainly risks, I am not blind to that), peace seems to me to be the best gamble. It is the only alternative that begins to create a reality that makes its preservation more logical than its demise. This is why Egypt, despite the non-benefits it reaped over the past 30 years, has not reneged on its commitment. Had we chosen non-peace with Egypt, the reality since could have easily included a number of disastrous and painful wars.

I guarantee nothing, and I claim to have no omniscience. But I do try to convince our “enemies” that a future together seems to me significantly safer and more logical, than apart.

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November 11th, 2008, 9:06 pm


166. Off the Wall said:

Spare me your pass. I do not need your approval for anything

CIA Fact Book

Israel has a technologically advanced market economy with substantial, though diminishing, government participation. It depends on imports of crude oil, grains, raw materials, and military equipment. Despite limited natural resources, Israel has intensively developed its agricultural and industrial sectors over the past 20 years. Israel imports substantial quantities of grain but is largely self-sufficient in other agricultural products. Cut diamonds, high-technology equipment, and agricultural products (fruits and vegetables) are the leading exports.

Israel usually posts sizable trade deficits, which are covered by large transfer payments from abroad and by foreign loans. Roughly half of the government’s external debt is owed to the US, its major source of economic and military aid.

Israel’s GDP, after contracting slightly in 2001 and 2002 due to the Palestinian conflict and troubles in the high-technology sector, has grown by about 5% per year since 2003. The economy grew an estimated 5.4% in 2007, the fastest pace since 2000. The government’s prudent fiscal policy and structural reforms over the past few years have helped to induce strong foreign investment, tax revenues, and private consumption, setting the economy on a solid growth path.

The review is mixed. Excellent and sound growth potential on one side but sizable trade deficits, covered by large infusion of money from abroad.

However, good that you asked me to look for stats. Given the recent stats from the Israeli Central Bureau of statistics, such has not been the case since 2002. With a rather impressive growth of Trade/GDP ratio from 66.78% in 1995 to 89.32% in 2007 and normalized trade balance falling sharply from nearly -16% to -2% during the same period. The trend is clearly upward. We need Ehsani to translate the numbers. But the facts are undeniable. The Olmert must have done a good job. Why the heck are you kicking him out.

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November 11th, 2008, 9:28 pm


167. AIG said:

Maybe you do not intend to do this, but you are creating the impression that eventually, if it was up to you, then yes, the one state solution will finally happen and you are quite optimistic that it will. You always leave it as an open possibility and spend about 25% of your posts on the subject talking about that and the UME.

But in fact, the chances of the one state solution are 0. If the Belgians want to split Belgium, if the Scots want autonomy that chances of a one state solution are 0. Let’s say it out loud.

If you have only two options possible, a one state solution or what we have today, what do you prefer? Can you give a straight answer to this question?

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November 11th, 2008, 9:29 pm


168. AIG said:

Nobody is arguing against:
“The review is mixed. Excellent and sound growth potential on one side but sizable trade deficits, covered by large infusion of money from abroad.”

You are right about that. But the infusion of money from abroad is NOT subsidies. It is capital investments. It is Americans and europeans investing in Israeli VC funds. It is Warren Buffet buying and Israeli company. It is Israelis selling stock in their companies on the NASDAQ. So where you are wrong is when you say that Israel is “a highly susidized economy”. Do you still think the stats support that claim of yours?

The person who did a good job was Netanyahu the minister of the treasury under Sharon. He even more liberalized the Israeli economy and made important reforms.

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November 11th, 2008, 9:37 pm


169. Shai said:


I believe you are depicting my quest here incorrectly. I do not spend 25% of my time marketing my belief in a UME. In fact, I keep reiterating each time that it is a fantasy of mine, not some easily or likely-conceived plan. While OTW, JAD, and myself might be able to envision ourselves smoking a cigar together one day, none of us see a United Middle East as a likely possibility in the near future. I hope it could happen while I’m still able to comprehend it, in my late 80’s or 90’s… I can’t see it happening in 10 years from now. But unlike you, I find no reason to attribute a 0% probability to it. What do I gain by so doing? Destroying any dream any of us might have? Is that a desirable goal? Why would it be?

As for your last question, it is unfair. It’s as if I said to you, AIG, if you only had two choices, nuke all the nations around us, or give up your nukes altogether, which would you choose? So my answer to your question is, of course, neither. Because at the moment, there does seem to be a third choice, if not more.

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November 11th, 2008, 9:43 pm


170. Alia said:


Some things are definitely lost through the medium. I apologize if there was any mirepresentation of your position in my post.
I like Singapore as a role model very much.

Israel insists on receiving its 3 billions of U.S. dollars in USAID at the beginning of the year and invests them immediately…3 more Billions are estimated to come in from donations.

AIG as usual deforms what people say in order to maintain his level of indignation. What I clearly said and what Jad seems to have understood perfectly is that Israel did not start from Zero, it received a lot of help from the talented immigrants that came in, so that the process of development was shortened drastically.

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November 11th, 2008, 9:54 pm


171. Off the Wall said:

My answer to your question was very clear in the last paragraph, NO i do not believe that the Israeli economy is subsidized now anymore, especially in the past few years. It is a very healthy economy, with solid foundation for future growth at least in the foreseeable future. I spent few minutes looking at the tables and stats from the ICBS and I have no reason to dispute their accuracy. The numbers clearly dispute the findings of the CIA fact book. I guess it should be corrected. Whoever is responsible for the fiscal policy must be congratulated. Also those implementing that policy and contributing their innovation are also to be congratulated. They have earned that.

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November 11th, 2008, 9:57 pm


172. Alia said:

Dear Shai,

This is the level of discussion that is needed. What is the use of peddling lies at this stage ? AIG cannot force me to believe anything quite the contrary.

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November 11th, 2008, 9:58 pm


173. AIG said:

The question I asked you is very fair. It is clear you prefer a third option but still you can say which of two other options you prefer, so I repeat:
If you have ONLY two options possible, a one state solution or what we have today, what do you prefer?

And I will answer your question. If my only two options today were to either nuke all the nations around us, or give up our nukes altogether, I would of course give up our nukes altogether. You kind of gave me an easy one, so you get another try.

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November 11th, 2008, 10:03 pm


174. jad said:

Dear Alex,
Did the US and Canada make any difference between their Japanese citizens when putting all of them in camps during WW2?
Did the Israeli army and settlers make any differences between kids and adults when they kill them?
I also learned that 6% of the syrians are over 60 not 1%.

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November 11th, 2008, 10:05 pm


175. Off the Wall said:

Dear Alia

I live in the US and I follow the news very closely. While true in the past, Israel is not the one asking for money anymore. It is the congress dolling that money out. This amount, continues as a symbolic gesture from politicians and as an indication of their solidarity with AIPAC causes. If someone gives you 3 Billion dollars, would you refuse it.

I fully agree that Israel did not start from scratch, and that is why i added the comment regarding other, more relevant examples to us and to our ground level or below ground condition. The task for us is way more difficult than that for Israel, which also make it much more urgent. We are starting from scratch, and we are also burdened by huge population growth, severe mismanagement of resources (including human capital), and a geopolitical situation, some of it is of our own making and some is external. But we fail, one time after another in finding our way. In retrospect, i believe that AIG was right in asking us why the issue of drought in Syria did not take as much attention from us as the continuous discussion of Israel and its faults. Of course, his comments are part of the reason, but our emotion and our rush to discuss Israel is also to blame. I may feel good about exposing AIG hypocricy, but on a site dedicated to Syria, I believe that my contributions can be much more than having discourse, intellectual or otherwise with Israeli friends and foes alike. We now have a solid vision of our preferred Israel, how about a vision of our preferred Syria, and Lebanon.

I believe that our conversations on the site are invaluable. But let us ask ourselves the question. Many of us here have advanced degrees in different fields, and continuing to discuss the Israeli Arab conflict is ingrained in our blood with anonymity being important to all of us for obvious reasons, but can we take on ourselves the task of thinking of ourselves as a seed for an informal “Syria-oriented” think tank. Can we really start looking at numbers, analyzing UN development reports. I would like to spend much less time arguing with AIG about Israel’s faults, and spend more time contemplating, loudly and constructively, how can each of us add her or his own contribution to getting us out of the rut we are in.

If Syria had an industry that is important for other major industries in Europe or the USA, does anyone of us think that AIPAC or for that matter, any other lobby, would have been able to pass all the anti-Syria legislations in the US. How many binding legislations have been passed against KSA in the past 10 years, despite of their abysmal record on human rights. Please do not take my last words as support for human rights abuses anywhere, all I am arguing here is that time is running out.

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November 11th, 2008, 10:35 pm


176. Alia said:


We are in agreement-

I am not looking for another discussion about Israel,but I am not a business person, I work with humanitarian health organizations…. I am very replaceable and irreplaceable :). But nobody in Congress would be interested in sponsoring me for anything for sure.

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November 11th, 2008, 10:49 pm


177. Off the Wall said:

Dear Alia

But wealthy Syrians in LA, Detroit, or Dallas may be interested, or arm-twisted 🙂 into sponsoring your humanitarian work. I believe that you are one of the few really contributing, quite in tangible manner, and I raise my hat to you. In fact my last comment was more addressed to myself than to you.

How about EU programs, USAID or USDHHS. I know that despite of the ongoing problems between the US and Iran, academic cooperation never stopped in non-security areas including humanitarian health work.

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November 11th, 2008, 11:09 pm


178. Shai said:


The reason your question is not fair, is because no one in Israel is taking about a one-state solution, but only about a two-state one. The alternatives, as posed by a number of successive governments to the Israeli people, are between no-solution and two-state solution. In your question to me, you brought in the one-state and removed the two-state, because you think that if I choose one-state over the current situation, it will demonstrate my support for it, or insinuate that I think it is likely to happen. Well, to make it very clear to you, and others, I do NOT think a one-state solution is possible anytime soon.

But in an AIG-produced hypothetical situation, I would of course choose a one-state solution over a no-state solution. And I would also choose to remove all my nukes, rather than nuke everyone around me, risking perhaps my own destruction in so doing. But in a hypothetical world, I can also sprout wings and fly to Damascus this morning to serve Naji hot tea and biscuits.

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November 12th, 2008, 5:01 am


179. AIG said:

So Shai, let me get this clear, if it turned out that the large majority of the Palestinians refused a two state solution, and the only solution was either one state or continuing the current situation, you would agree to the one state solution?

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November 12th, 2008, 5:05 am


180. Shai said:


Now you’re adding back the third possibility, the two-state solution, and giving all three to me and to the Palestinians. That’s simply not realistic today. But even if it were, the Palestinians make their choices, and I make mine. The only decision we can make unilaterally, is the no-peace one.

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November 12th, 2008, 5:21 am


181. alia said:


The Syrian people in Syria itself are extremely generous to charitable organizations and this is across the board. The Islamic charities receive millions of the money of the Zakat (religious tithe)the Christian Churches have been supporting whole families including housing, work opportuniies…and have been able to do good work over all.
The WHO has had several ongoing major initiatives most notably the one for the eradication of tuberculosis that has been ongoing since the 1960’s. But we are plagued with internal problems, bureaucracy and lack of infrastructure to support charitable organizations that have to put everything in place before being able to do the work they set up to do. They need more freedom of action and at the same time more support; it is happening but on a much smaller scale than what is needed.

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November 12th, 2008, 9:15 am


182. Off the Wall said:

Dear Alia
I know you have much more experience in humanitarian work than I would ever have. I am also happy to hear of the generousity of the Syrian poeple whether at personal level or through their churches and islamic charity. But I was told by several of my friends who worked for various UN organization that their work in developing countries can be made a little easier by using the photo-op approach. Have a photo op, invite the local official, be it a party leader, a mayor, a cheif of police, or the director of health services (mudeer al sa77a) to cut some ribbon and deliver a short speach, and make sure that the local paper is there to take photos and a journalist is there to report on the government support for charitable work. You now have a political benefactor whose own carreer can benefit by helping your organization. The higher the level, the better it is. You will not get money, but your administrative and beurocratic hurdles will be less significant. This will not address the Infrastructure issue, but at least will smooth things a little. And for a small investment in time, you may gain the ability to do the work you want to do.

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November 12th, 2008, 3:57 pm


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