You lose ability, when you lose credibility, S. Farah

S. Farah, for Syria Comment

In a recent interview with the BBC, President Bashar al Assad cautioned the European capitals that they stand to lose their ability to exert influence in the Middle East if they lose their credibility.

European credibility
and its commitment to the values it professes are being tested today in Gaza. The majority of the 1.5 million Gazans who are crammed into the roughly 140 square miles of the Gaza Strip are not there by choice. They came from towns and villages outside Gaza from places like Ashkelon and Beersheba. They were farmers and landowners who were driven off of their lands and out off their homes into refugee camps in Gaza by the Israeli Army in 1948.

Europe’s commitment to democratic reforms in the Middle East was questioned when it joined the boycott of the democratically elected Palestinian Government when Hamas won the Palestinian Legislative Council elections in January 2006.

Europe’s commitment to human rights was also questioned when it supported Israel’s blockade of Gaza which has grown increasingly stringent since Hamas won the Palestinian Legislative Council. Fuel, electricity, imports, exports as well as the movement of people in and out of the strip are choked off, leading to life-threatening problems of sanitation, health, water supply and transportation. The blockade has resulted in massive unemployment, and malnutrition. This amounts to the collective punishment of a civilian population.

Europe’s stand against extrajudicial punishment is being questioned now as Israel assassinates in broad daylight Palestinian activist without regard to human life such as in the recent assassination of the Hamas activist Nizar Rayan. According to the Associated Press The missile “hit on Nizar Rayan’s home obliterated the four-story apartment building and peeled off the walls of others around it, creating a field of rubble in the crowded town of Jebaliya in the northern Gaza Strip… Eighteen other people, including Rayan’s wives and nine of his 12 children, also were killed”.

While Israel should have full right to defend its citizens, it should also be held to account when its soldiers commit atrocities and possibly war crimes. No one would have expected or accepted England to target civilian in its efforts against the “terrorist” Irish Republican Army even if it had intelligence that the most militant and wanted elements of the IRA were barricaded in a civilian areas. Yet Israel was given a free hand to target homes, schools, and places of worship for over three weeks as the body counts of civilians, women and children, continued to mount day after day. Children like the three daughters of Dr. Izz el-Deen Aboul Aish’. Dr. Aboul Aish, an obstetrician works in a hospital in Israel and lives in Gaza. Since his wife’s death from cancer, his girls were all he lived for. He was a strong believer that Arabs and Jews should live side by side. His home was shelled just minutes before he was scheduled to speak to Israeli television about life is Gaza under blockade and bombardment. All three of his three daughters, Bisan, Mayar and Aya, were killed instantly. In all more than a thousand Palestinians were killed in this indiscriminate shelling and more that five thousands were injured by the end of Israel latest assault on Gaza.

It is not just the credibility of Europe that is at stake here. It is also the credibility of all of us in the Arab world, the reformers, who point to Europe as an example of prosperity, liberty and human rights.

Europe should shoulder its responsibility and keep the light shining bright on its shore as a beacon for us to guide the Middle East to a better tomorrow. To let that light out is to leave the Middle East sailing in the dark led by extremists and violence.

Comments (117)

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101. nafdik said:


Since we all agree that we live under dictatorship, we have a number of major discussion points:

– Should we get rid of the dictatorship or collaborate with it to improve the country?

– Should we support the dictatorship to avoid invasion by: Israel, US, Islamic fundamentalists?

– Should we remove the dictatorship with violent means or peaceful demonstrations?

– Can the dictatorship reform itself?

– Can we have a good economy under a dictatorship?

– Why is the Arab world particularly prone to dictatorships?

I believe these are the interesting policy topics about Syria.

My ranting and raving is probably driven by the lack of intelligent conversation about these issues and the incessant focus on distractions that are part of how the Apologencia contributes to the dictatorship.

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January 31st, 2009, 5:37 pm


102. trustquest said:

Jad, you said: “We all capable of finding out problems and make them bigger, the challenge is to fix them but those guys have no clue of how to do it, a useless argument is what they are after, no more.”

I wonder if you have in minds one guy who represent other than the Syrian regime who is arguing on this blog.

Sir, I really disagree with you premise, I don’t think you can find the problem if you do not have representation to the other side views. You wouldn’t be writing a single line on this forum if not for the other views and the opposite views. You render all arguments on this forum as useless because it does not match your views. Please do not insult other people views because you do not like it, and let us get the benefit of with and against.

And in defending AP, Syria when going to negotiate with Israel, is not going to find the human rights activists like Shai to sit down to talk to, they will meet a guy like AP, and may be you will be on the negotiation team and by then have enough experience in dealing with them.

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January 31st, 2009, 5:45 pm


103. EHSANI2 said:


This is a better and a more specific way to discuss the issue.

I have a suggestion for you:

Since you took the time to pose the questions, why don’t you offer your own answers first? That will elicit a very interesting discussion for sure.

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January 31st, 2009, 5:46 pm


104. nafdik said:

Thank you Ehsani for asking the question.

My answer is this:

Syrians must unite to get rid of the dictatorship now

I will give more thoughtful answers to the questions above later.

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January 31st, 2009, 5:53 pm


105. offended said:


I think we’ve covered these questions gazillion times before. Whether we’ve reached a conclusion on each or not, this is irrelevant.

The word ‘support’ is a bit heavy though don’t you think? I mean, let’s say you support the regime, or the toppling of the regime, what have you got to support that with?

I believe this forum’s objective is to exchange ideas and comments about current events AND about the long term outlook for Syria.

And don’t forget there’s a broad spectrum of opinions here in this forum, so don’t expect everyone to agree with you.

I resent your using of the word ‘apologencia’. There has been very critical opinion of the regime here in the past. Not everybody is an apologist. I for one got nothing to apologize for. If someone has done something bad they can apologize for it themselves. We are not all propagandists. We don’t recite the mandate of the Ba’th party everyday and cheer the life of the president every morning at the ta7iet al 3alam.

Besides, ‘apologencia’ gives the impression that some of us are hired, bought and paid for, to ‘support’ the regime. Something I can assure you is quite not true. In fact, if anyone does really sound like recruited in this forum, it’s the zionists’ apologists who flood this forum with Memri videos and selective photo albums from Little Green Football and other similar forums.

Hmmmm, am I distracting you again?

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January 31st, 2009, 6:00 pm


106. nafdik said:


I have no expectation that everybody will agree with me. Nor do I plan to pollute the discussion with irrelevant calls for revolution at every corner.

I apologize 😉 if the term apologencia offends you:

– I did not intend it to include all forum members nor anybody in particular

– I did not intend it as an insult, more as a condition that has inflicted a large portion of the Syrian Intelligencia

– It does not mean that those inflicted are guilty, dishonest or paid.

– I think that the apologencia have a legitimate but mistaken point of view. They believe that the best way to improve the situation is to collaborate with the regime to help it improve and to protect Syria from foreign intervention.

– I believe that this condition is a major hurdle for reform, since most revolutions have an intellectual components, by co-opting the Syrian intellectuals the regime has created another defence front against change

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January 31st, 2009, 6:32 pm


107. jad said:

(Please do not insult other people views because you do not like it, and let us get the benefit of with and against.)!!!!!?

DUDE, I was referring to AP and his way of tackling the Arab/Israeli dilemma and my point was that he is not looking for any solution.
Next time, don’t lecture me! and be very sure that when I want to insult yours or anyone’s views on here, I’m capable of doing it and it will be very obvious and directed to whom I’m writing to.

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January 31st, 2009, 6:34 pm


108. Alex said:

Dear Nafdik,

I understand that Jad’s comment might have been unfair to you, grouping you with AP for example. I think you sounded much more reasonable than many democracy advocates i debated on this blog … you are more pleasant, and you have a good sense of humor.

But it seems Jad pushed you to state what is really on your mind .. you seem to (tell me if I am wrong) have the opinion that “if you are not with us, you are against us”

“us” in this case, is those who love Syria and therefore must believe that “the dictator should be overthrown NOW”.

or “us” can be (also according to the way I read you) those are smart enough to not fall for the baathist slogans, versus the idiots who believed in those revolutionary hypocrisies.

“against us” are all the “regime apologencia” …

Please let me tell you one thing I am allergic to … democracy and freedom lovers who think it is surely greener on the other side.

And let me tell you about another thing that I am allergic to … fighters for “democracy now” in the middle east who do not listen, and if they listened, they do not understand, and if they understood, they will automatically refuse to accept any opinion that does not fit their existing opinion… then they will forget the whole thing and ask “why don’t we discuss democracy instead of discussing distractions?”

Again, you are not exactly the source of my allergies here … but you have a mild case of the Freedom fighters as your comment above indicated how you generalize the analysis of the motives, or intelligence level, of those you disagree with.

You suggested that “we must all unite” … and I will ask you back: “unite on what”? … throw away the dictator now?

Then what?

– Khaddam’s followers will unite with me, but they want to be in power after, and they will continue to be as corrupt as what we have now, and probably worse.

– the Brotherhood supporters will unite with us now, but they really (forget the PR talk they learned) want a Sunni Syria, everything else is “a distraction”, and they really want to punish those responsible for Hama … and many other people in “the regime”.

No thank you.

“unite” is a big word Nafdik … look at the West Bank and Gaza … people in Gaza did not even manage to count on their fellow Palestinians in the West Bank to “unite” with them by at least demonstrating in the streets in large numbers …

The current political system in Syria is not like Gaza under Israeli attacks … so, there will be no uniting.

Most Syrians are united against Israel’s behavior … against what the Bush administration was doing in Iraq … for helping refugees from Iraq or Lebanon when their countries are under attacks …

But on “democracy now” .. please be realistic. Most Syrians today do not want the “now” part.

But i will be happy to discuss democracy in about ten years from now.

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January 31st, 2009, 6:40 pm


109. nafdik said:


There is no ‘us’ and ‘them’ classification in what I am saying.

We are all ‘us’, but we disagree on what is best for us to do.

But I repeat that those of us who appease the regime, are helping it stay alive.

Again I think your logic is legitimate but wrong. In the same way that Chamberlain was wrong when he made peace with Hitler. Chamberlain was an honest, experience, peace loving and patriotic man, his motives and intelligence were not in doubt, his judgment was.

I agree with you that if we can do this thing peacefully in 10 years it is better than doing it otherwise now.

But what is going to change in 10 years?
What is the benefit of another 10 years of serfdom?

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January 31st, 2009, 7:21 pm


110. jad said:

I think I mistaken you for an Israeli who comes here and brag about his democratic achievement without acknowledging what his democracy did and still doing to our region and our people.

My points are simple and short:

Democracy alone doesn’t do much and it doesn’t happen in one day, but with economic, education and social development it does miracles

Write facts about the problems you see in your own speciality field and give some ideas of how to fix them, don’t just point out the problems.

Personalizing, Blaming and Revenge is not a start nor an answer

The whole society is a partner in a dictatorship

Panning and education is the only way out of our misery

BTW, You can add this choice to your list;

Should we analyze our dictatorship and have a dialogue with it?
By analyzing I mean:
Is that dictatorship open to discussion? Is that dictatorship capable of delivering what we ask for by itself?

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January 31st, 2009, 7:23 pm


111. offended said:

I wrote this note on my facebook wall, and I thought I’d share it with you. It’s good to remember Iraq every now and then:

“On Iraqi Elections:

The election committee has done good by deciding to not allow Mullahs and Imams to peddle candidates during Friday sermons or religious preachings. But the reality is different: the Turbans continue to enjoy public support (albeit a declining one) because:
1- No one could control what’s said in all the speeches of hundreds of Imams all over Iraq.
2-Word will get around whether publicly or through the grapevines about who’s the favorite candidate of a certain Mullah, and even if he doesn’t speak up himself, some will come to ask him for ‘guidance’.
3- Iraqi people are still very much polarized after the sectarian strife that has been going on for years now.
4-Poverty and unemployment are still rife in Iraq, and people under such conditions are known to make un-educated choices.

I have an Iraqi colleague at work who is a Sunni, I asked him about the previous elections and he smiled sarcastically, he said that his province where 300,000 sunnis live either didn’t vote or didn’t get their votes counted because ballots didn’t reach there on time. I asked him how did that make him feel, he said that like Christian Amanpoor who was crying on CNN while watching hundreds of Iraqis queue up at the elections centers, his eyes were also watery but not for the same reason: “it was because they’re robbing me of my vote under the blanket of democracy, at least at Saddam’s time we knew we had a dictator and we got on with our lives, but now we don’t know what to make of this new system the Americans have brought us”

My colleague fled the violence in Iraq in 2006 and came to Dubai, united arab emirates. More than 2 millions, mainly Sunnis, fled the sectarian violence too. My friend, like all other displaced Iraqis, will not get a chance to vote. I asked him whether he’s sad that he won’t be able to vote, he told me he doesn’t really care anymore. He went on a ‘vacation’ to see his parents few months ago, only to find out his brother was arrested under the charge of belonging to an armed group, a charge his parents had assured him wasn’t true. They couldn’t get any information about the brother through the interior ministry. “It’s like Saddam’s time” he told me. “People will get arrested and then they disappear”. Eventually, the brother was released but not until the entire family went through an agony searching and appealing for every figure they know of in the country. My friend himself was not sure he will be allowed to exit the airport in his way back to Dubai. “I was afraid they will arrest me too, since there are precedents in which they arrest all siblings of a suspect as a precautionary measure”.

My friend breathing has become noticeably easier when he checked out of the passport control at Baghdad airport, he told me he won’t go back unless he’s forced to. He grimaced at the one occasion I mentioned the elections for him. He said it was all a joke, one big, fat, ugly and deceiving joke which is not funny to say the least.

We don’t discuss the elections anymore.”

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January 31st, 2009, 7:47 pm


112. nafdik said:

A whole more interesting facet of you is revealed Jad.

Again, I am not interested in blaming, personalization, takfir or revenge. I am interested in debating ideas.

“The whole society is a partner in a dictatorship”

This is one of the wisest comments I heard on this blog. I agree 100%. My modest goal is that as intellectuals we stop lazy thinking that makes us a partner.

“Democracy alone doesn’t do much and it doesn’t happen in one day, but with economic, education and social development it does miracles”

I think that democracy is such a good catalyst for development, justice and improvement of human condition, that I see it as the both the end and the beginning.

The end as it should be our primary objective now and the beginning because once we reach we will be still left with all the problems we have and even more since a lot of hidden problems will emerge.

“Planning and education is the only way out of our misery”

I am not so sure. Cuba has a very highly educated society and has a fair amount of planning going on. I think we get hold of our destiny first and then plan what to do with it.

“Is that dictatorship open to discussion? Is that dictatorship capable of delivering what we ask for by itself?”

I think the question is very fair, and it would be a great way to end the problem.

I believe that the answer is no, but I am open to other ideas.

The reasons I think this road is not open is:

1- There such a reservoir of hate against the regime that if the regime allows a minimum amount of dissent all hell will break loose

2- I can not think of any example in history where this was done. Except perhaps British monarchy that turned constitutional, but then again I am sure the story is very complex and the end was a lot of concessions to the monarch that Syria might not want to give to the Assads.

3- The regime is supported by a whole infrastructure financed by theft from the Syrian people this where the power base of the regime lies. Assuming Assad decides to transfer power to the people his actual power base will revolt.

Note that the last point has a glimmer of hope where if we find areas where the interests of Syrians and the Assad power base are not in conflict he has proven quite ready to provide freedoms.

We have seen this in the liberalization of the economy which is an amazingly positive step for all involved.

The same can not be applied to reform the judiciary, stopping torture, etc.

I suspect that Assad himself might be a good man (whatever that means). The realities of power however will force to act like any other dictator good or bad.

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January 31st, 2009, 7:48 pm


113. jad said:

عدد السوريين في العالم

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January 31st, 2009, 8:05 pm


114. trustquest said:

Jad, Dude, you were referring to Nafdik since your comments came after his mentioning of Baath, and I gave you the extreme example of opposite view of AP.

You said “I came to a valuable conclusion from SC: commentators like AP and Nafdik who lecture us about freedom whenever they have nothing to talk about are actually have nothing to add….”

I’m glad you change your mind about debating dissent views by engaging again and I hope there will be always place to views other than “Yes” for all Syrian policies. I noticed you waved the flag of insults, and I know you are capable of doing that. But I hope you will give chance to “others views” so we can treasure marinate our brains in diverse ideas to build better thoughts.

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January 31st, 2009, 8:22 pm


115. Shami said:

Jad ,these datas are vastly exagerated and not accurate at all.

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January 31st, 2009, 8:29 pm


116. jad said:

Those numbers are not mine. It was an interesting numbers to share.
Do you have the right ones to dismiss the exagerations.

Trustquest, Dude, you have a problem in understanding my points.
I didn’t change my mind and I didn’t wave to insult anybody. Even if the ba’ath party is paying me to write on this site, is that any of your buisness?
So, and before you address me on any issue or comment I write. Read it well, understand it, then intervene and give me your lecture, otherwise I’m not interested the least of arguing with you.

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January 31st, 2009, 11:24 pm


117. norman said:

There are many shapes of governments , Dictatorship and Democracy are examples .

All shapes of government are to improve the lives of the citizens ,, so dictators like the rulers of Dubai or Qatar are probably much better than the rulers of today’s Israel who are leading their people to self destruction.

And that is my take.

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February 1st, 2009, 12:05 am


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