A New Middle East Strategy for the Age of Obama

By Marc Gopin for Syria Comment

The key to the future of the Middle East is a revolution in the Syrian/American relationship that will help to re-balance the American historical bias in favor of reactionary forces in Israel. The shift of Syria towards an alliance with the United States will signal a significant shift away from a geographical and religious divide between the Northern and Southern Belt of the Middle East, between Sunni and Shi’ite, and between pro-Western and anti-Western divides, that have all plagued the region for decades. It will also usher in the possibility for Iran to follow, especially now that Khatami, smelling the tea leaves from the Obama Administration, has thrown his hat into the presidential race.

Syria’s friendship with Turkey and its alliance with Hezbollah and Hamas also have the potential to usher in an era of Islamist empowerment that will be based for the first time not on force, threats, violence and revolution but on power sharing. From Turkey to Lebanon to Palestine the potential exists for the tolerant forms of Islam that are indigenous to Syria and Turkey to form the basis for a new approach to politics in the Middle East.

This sounds odd, considering the track record of Hamas and Hezbollah, but that track record of violence is largely related to the Arab/Israeli wars. That is precisely where Syria’s alliance with America could lead us in an utterly new direction. If the United States embraces Syria, then it will set the stage for a greater place of leverage for Syria to play in surrounding the Israeli leadership with states and movements that are unambiguously offering Israel full peace for full return of the occupied territories and full engagement in the establishment of a viable Palestinian state.

Not only should the United States remove permanently the threat of regime change in Syria, it should promote a strategic and military alliance with Syria and Turkey. This will have the effect of encouraging moderate nonviolent Islamic ideologies in the region, pulling it back from radicalization and splits along Sunni/Shiite and secular/extremist lines. Syria, Turkey and even Lebanon can be helpful in this regard. Syria has a history of deliberate religious pluralism and moderate, Sufi Islam, and it is the same with Turkey. The key is an ideological shift toward an economic and military alliance with the West.

If Syria moves in this direction it will make it that much harder for the Israeli hardliners to make the case in Washington that ‘there is no one to talk to’. This myth needs to be put to rest once and for all, but it cannot happen without significant efforts on the part of the new generation of excellent Syrian policy makers and their supporters. Let me explain.

The extremists in the pro-Israel camp will see a Syrian/American rapprochement as a setback for Israel. Not so. With America in the middle, guaranteeing everyone’s security, there is a far better chance of reaching a deal that includes Syria, Israel and Palestine, with Saudi, Egypt, and Jordan acquiescing to a Palestinian democracy that will surely include Islamists.
In this regard, Turkey is paving the way for the de-militarization of Islamism. With coaxing this may be the necessary transition for Egypt as well. Ironically enough the secular Syrian regime is leading the way to a new Middle East with Islamist parties like Hamas as part of the ruling elite. Religious commitments to nonviolence, such as are embodied in the philosophy of the Grand Mufti of Syria, are the key to these peaceful transitions. Islamist politics will be eliminated as an existential threat to all regimes, and will instead become just another Arab experiment with politics and governance, in a similar way that it is being handled by Jordan. The key is that Islamist political empowerment does not come through subterfuge, force and revolution, the terrible mistake of the Brotherhood in Syria over thirty years ago. Turkey is the key model, and it must lead to serious discussions on the demilitarization of Hezbollah or its nationalization.

The problem of demilitarization of Hamas and Hezbollah is that they are the key focal point to resistance of Israel and the continuation of a military approach to the Palestinian/Israeli conflict of almost a century. This can only be addressed through aggressive U.S. mediation and satisfaction of all parties, especially the full gamut of Palestinians, as to their needs and interests in developing an independent Palestinian state. And certainly a very tough negotiation will be Iran’s nuclear weapons program, but this too can be managed with full normalization of American/Iranian relations.

Here is the most important point. If all tracks are pursued vigorously and simultaneously then the nonviolent wagons of diplomacy will start to circle around Israel with the Arab Peace Plan in hand, with the United States, and the Quartet, at the helm.

Here is the big caveat, however. The American people, their agents in Congress, need to be on board with this process, or at least confused by it. They cannot be a fifth column, a stealth weapon of radical Republicans, to demonize the White House as anti-Semitic, a nightmare which would set the stage for a bitter battle in America over anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism; this will only benefit Sarah Palin, Rush Limbaugh and Karl Rove as they seek some raw issues that could divide America from the White House. And Netanyahu is not beneath stimulating a Lobby-induced war on the White House as antisemitic.

The United States is a far more pro-Jewish, philo-semitic country than the Arab world wants to face, for a variety of historical and ethical reasons. But it is also a country that likes to see itself standing for justice and freedom for all peoples.

An emotional war over anti-Semitism and Israel’s fate could be spawned in the United States, a war that will take down this President from his ambitious and idealistic agenda. That is why Mitchell and Obama will not move aggressively unless there is a counter-strategy in place that comes from outside the White House, a lobbying strategy that has yet to receive serious backing from the progressive or the Arab worlds.

In this regard there has emerged in the last few years a significant progressive Jewish strategy in Washington, which is dovetailed by an important resurgence of realist thinking of the variety of Brzezinski and Scowcroft. The Jewish community voted by over 83% for Obama, in addition to over 70% of them expressing a clear commitment to a two-state solution. The Jewish establishment and the Lobby do not represent these people and they have not had a voice until now. The same problem pertains among evangelicals. 50% agree with a two-state solution according to Pew polls, but their lobbyists will vote for or against whatever the so-called pro-Israel Lobby tells them to do.

J Street and Brit Tsedek are beginning to change this. They are still woefully underfunded by comparison to the Lobby, but they are setting a precedent for a contest with the Lobby for money and votes. Money and votes are the two elements of a Washington strategy. They are expressed by contributions, by promise of votes. But mostly it is about attention to congressional offices which is targeted, specific, and constant. Brit Tsedek now has 40,000 Jewish members and a thousand rabbis ( a third of American rabbis!), the largest ever number for Jewish progressive voices in Washington, and J Street’s favorite candidates won overwhelmingly on November 4. J Street has a mailing list of over 100,000, and more importantly they understand the Obama strategy of empowerment of average people through the technical wizardry of social networking and ‘click-friendly’ contributions. The central and contagious message of these groups is that they are pro-Israel and pro-Peace.
If they truly care about the Palestinians then the Arab world and the Muslim world, and Syria in particular, need to enter the fray in Washington with a level of investment never seen before.

There must emerge a parallel strategy between the progressive Jewish world embodied in J Street and Brit Tsedek, and the Arab world. Syria must play an essential world in this capture of the imagination of Americans, including Jews and evangelicals. This will take a concerted campaign with serious money, media, extensive international visits and exchanges of all sectors of the populations, and the coaxing of many Arab states into an allied strategy for the heart and soul of Washington and the American people.

It is essential for this public relations campaign to be accompanied by public and citizen diplomacy that will help more and more of the American electorate, including Jews and evangelicals, to envision the possibility of new Middle East. It would be enormously helpful if this public relations blitz included very highly publicized alliances and exchanges between serious Israeli peacemakers who the Syrians know are substantive–of which there are hundreds–and their Arab counterparts. This will be the real emotional glue that cements a new Jewish and American attitude to the region. The key with public relations is creating a compelling and utterly new vision of future possibility, but in this case the product is not a vacuum cleaner or a car, it is coexistence, tolerance, a region at peace, a region worth investing in and engaging, in the deepest sense.

All of this is in the long-term interests of Israel and the future state of Palestine. All parties may not know this yet, but this is the only way for them to live securely in the Middle East. They just don’t know that yet, and the hard line of Israel will wring everything they can from fear and violence at the ballot box. They have to be outfoxed politically by the Arab world, but not militarily, and the answer is in America. The race must begin for the soul of America.

Everything in this struggle is about persuasion, the persuasion of millions of people in the Middle East to take a chance on peace, but the most important constituency is in the United States. Most Jews and Arabs want a viable two state solution but their way of dealing with each other is presently out of control, especially these days from Israel’s side. But the real spoilers here are unwittingly the people of the United States. They have been conned, sold a ‘bill of goods’ as to what will keep Israel safe–force and violence. Shifting their opinions even slightly is what Obama, Mitchell and Clinton, need in order to finally be the honest brokers in this conflict. The more of the American public that is calling and visiting congressmen the bolder they can be. This is power. The Arab Peace Initiative should be plastered on every bus, in every journal, just as the environmental movement is doing now to finally create the necessary paradigm shift. Boycott and anti-apartheid paradigms are not the answer, media and congressional blitz is the answer, votes, contributions. This is how Washington works.

This is not undignified. This is not the Syrians or the Arab world proving that they are nice people. This is the way Washington changes, for better and for worse. The Obama election has proved the positive potential of this. The Chinese understand it, the Saudis understand it, the Indians understand it. Now it is time for there to be a clear Arab message in America that is not anti-Israel but pro-Palestinian, and pro-comprehensive peace.

This is the surest path to a prosperous Syria flooded by Western tourists, a Syria at peace, a Syria in a productive relationship with all its neighbors, including the new State of Palestine, a Syria in possession of the Golan, and under no more threats. The path to a new Syria lies in a psychological evolution of the American electorate, and there is no better time for such a change than right now.

Marc Gopin is the James H. Laue Professor of Religion, Diplomacy and Conflict Resolution, and the Director of the Center on Religion, Diplomacy and Conflict Resolution at George Mason University’s Institute for Conflict Analysis and Resolution.

Comments (145)

majedkhaldoun said:

Israel does not want peace,they think of Obama as a 4 year president, or less,things will be back to Bush time.

February 10th, 2009, 9:22 pm


Alex said:

Thank you Dr. Gopin for this wonderful, very convincing, article. I couldn’t agree with you more.

My only other suggestions are the following

Don’t forget Qatar : ) … the Emir has done a number of wise moves. In fact, I will have to credit him with showing the rest of the Arab leaders that it is ok to have an Israeli trade office when Israel makes the right moves, as long as you have the freedom to close that office when Israel does not deserve it anymore. It is ok to be America’s friend as long as you can defy America when it is led by a destructive Neocon group.

Before Syria can approach the American people, Syria needs to become perceived as a “Good” country… otherwise, it would be near impossible to communicate with the American people in an effective manner… not many people in America will accept to listen to an “evil” country’s version of events if it is the opposite of what the New York Times says.

For that we need first, to target American journalists… they can give legitimacy to Syria’s role, policies, and behavior.

They are either

1) Too lazy to travel to the Middle East and see for themselves,
2) Unwilling to become targets to Israel’s many media watchdogs in the United States, or simply …
3) They work for an AIPAC friendly media organization and they understand the direction they must stick to.

Only the first two types can possibly be influenced. They can be influenced through

1) A more honest White House and State department. One that does not engage in spreading rumors about Evil Syria being responsible for any death or destruction in the Middle East… an image that AIPAC and the Bush administration worked hard to establish in recent years.

There has to be a (silent at first?) partnership, or coordination, between Syria and the Obama administration for this to work.

2) An active Syrian presence that can learn from the very productive Israeli watchdogs … it is not difficult and it is not expensive (for my dear Syrian friends who told me it is too expensive to do that). … all they need is to have Foreign ministry in Damascus being serious about supporting such a group with historic or other documents or video clips (posted on you tube) .. all translated to (proper) English.

If Syria does not want to show such seriousness, then we deserve to continue to be perceived as the ones who lost the Golan to Israel when Israel “captured it after Syria shelled Israeli civilians for years” .. or that “Syria is widely perceived to be behind the Hariri assassination” or that “Syria supports terror” …

One brainwashed journalist will surely help brainwash ten other journalists who feel that what they read must be true (especially if it was “in the New York times” or “on CNN”) … If Syria can’t put the necessary effort to deal with this brainwashing process that is circulates through American media, President Obama will find it difficult to take on Israel+AIPAC+the media

We need to help President Obama when he tries to sell us to his people as America’s best hope to regain the respect and admiration of people in the Middle East.

Oh .. and did I mention that it would not hurt to finally release the non criminals among our political prisoners?

February 10th, 2009, 9:22 pm


AIG said:

Prof. Gopin does not take into account that the strategy that he proposes explicitly endorses a Jewish state in the middle east. Syria, Hamas and Hizballah cannot stand behind that endorsement. All the charm campaign will fall apart immediately once this inherent contradiction will come to light in the first interview.

There is also the issue of Hizballah killing the marines in Lebanon. How will any charm campaign circumnavigate that?

February 10th, 2009, 9:39 pm


Love You Alex said:

Yet another call for Syria to act and invest in PR. Will they listen?

February 10th, 2009, 11:12 pm


EHSANI2 said:

This is a fine article that does a wonderful job of highlighting the task at hand. Love You Alex (I thought we all do), is absolutely correct that Damascus needs to invest in PR. To be sure, it is better than before but there is still a long way to go.

February 11th, 2009, 12:44 am


Ghat Albird said:

AIG wrote

“There is also the issue of Hizballah killing the marines in Lebanon. How will any charm campaign circumnavigate that?”

Most probably in the same way the issue of the USS Liberty was charmed by Israel years ago. Definitely though with much less chutzpah.

February 11th, 2009, 12:44 am


Ford Prefect said:

Marc, you remain a great inspiration to all of us, sons and daughters of Abraham.

“There is only one radical means of sanctifying human lives. Not armored plating, or tanks, or planes, or concrete fortifications. The one radical solution is peace.” – Yitzhak Rabin.

I couldn’t agree more, Marc! Thanks for having this quotation in your email’s signature block!

February 11th, 2009, 3:11 am


Akbar Palace said:

Tiny, insignificant differences not worth mentioning

Most probably in the same way the issue of the USS Liberty was charmed by Israel years ago. Definitely though with much less chutzpah.


Except for the following differences:

1.) The Beirut attack killed 241 American soldiers, the attack on the USS Liberty killed 34 US Navy personnel.

2.) The Beirut attack was premeditated, the Liberty attack was not.

3.) There is no virulently anti-Lebanese website of survivors claiming the Lebanese government was in any way complicit in the attack.

4.) There was no apology from the perpetrators of the Beirut attack claiming it was a mistake.

As far as Marc Gopin is concerned, he must be on drugs…..

February 11th, 2009, 3:21 am


Alex said:


Are you again confused if ratios of the dead are significant or not?

Do you remember the ratio of 1335/3 that Israel killed in Gaza compared the 3 Hamas rockets killed in Israel?

February 11th, 2009, 3:30 am


Enlightened said:

I take my tarboush off to Marc Gopin.

What a good, articulate realistic comment.

“Here is the most important point. If all tracks are pursued vigorously and simultaneously then the nonviolent wagons of diplomacy will start to circle around Israel with the Arab Peace Plan in hand, with the United States, and the Quartet, at the helm.”

I do see the irony here though however: “the nonviolent wagons” the mad Indians circling the grouping (settlers) together for a last showdown, who have come to settle on their land. Armed with not guns or rockets but a peace plan!

Did anyone get it? was it intentional, or is it my imagination or lack of coffee this morning?

However I am waiting to hear how Akbar will tell us how deluded Marc Gopin is! Time for a coffee.

Media is reporting here that exit polls are showing a slight Kadima victory, any news Shai?

February 11th, 2009, 4:37 am


majed said:

I have to reluctantly agree with Akbar. Gopin is on drugs.

February 11th, 2009, 4:47 am


Alex said:


I am still saving this one from last year : )


although I’m not a fan of hers, I did predict she will make it.

February 11th, 2009, 4:54 am


Shai said:

“They just don’t know that yet, and the hard line of Israel will wring everything they can from fear and violence at the ballot box.”

Yes, it does seem that Israel has chosen a different Parliament – a more Hawkish one – and in the coming weeks we’ll see either Livni or Netanyahu form a government that is far less Leftist. Although only time will tell, but in a way this is very good. It will not “confuse” Obama and his administration as some Barak-Livni combination might have, in thinking that Israel is truly interested in peace. Today, most Israelis showed that they’re not. That they’d rather have belligerence, violence, loyalty-tests, and an agenda that speaks of what we “won’t do”, rather than what “we will”. When this face is clear to all, it will also be easier to mobilize the American people and its media against this trend. It will be easier to be tough on Israel.

I fully agree with Marc Gopin that the battle is to provide support for Obama’s goals in Washington and in the Middle East. And the true way to force Israel to change is not through anti-Israeli action, but indeed through pro-Palestinian and pro-Arab Plan one. Let all the Arab states and people in our region unite in waging this non-violent war. Its results will far surpass any of our previous wars – I am convinced of it.

February 11th, 2009, 5:12 am


Shai said:


“… I did predict she (Livni) will make it”

It is highly unlikely she’ll succeed in forming the next government. The Right Block has 65 seats, vs. 55 of the Left. She was in far better situation a few months ago, when she could have become Prime Minister, and didn’t. Peres might let her try to form the govt, but without Bibi’s blessings, she won’t go much beyond 40 seats. I’m afraid it’s now Bibi-Lieberman’s show…

Plus, I never thought she was good looking… 🙂

February 11th, 2009, 5:17 am


Joe M. said:

I expect Likud and Kadima to join a coalition together with Shas. They will have a strong majority in parliament and also have the flexibility to replace Shas with any of the other parties if Shas asks for too much power. Likud and Kadima used to be one party anyway, and half of Kadima members are ideologically mirror images of Likud. Probably Netanyahu will be the next prime minister, and he will probably push a more explicit form of his “economic peace” plan with the help of Kadima.

Shas is the natural third party in government because it has traditionally been satisfied to look domestically and strengthen the religious sector of Israel, and allow the other parties to deal with committing war crimes and massacres and other staples of the Israelis government.

There is hardly a difference between Likud and Kadima, except that Kadima thinks they can negotiate surrender from the palestinians, while Likud thinks they can ignore the palestinians until they surrender.

what do you think of what i said above? (of course, they could form an even more broad coalition, but all they need is Shas.

February 11th, 2009, 5:19 am


Joe M. said:

also, the “left” does not have 55 seats, the Arab parties have 11. So the “left” have only 44 seats, as no jewish party would ever join with arab parties in a government (or vice versa).

Lastly, obviously, there is no such thing as a “left” in Israel. they is only right and fascist. unless you consider the three seats for meretz a “left”. (again, Arab parties are not included as they can never be in governemnt)

February 11th, 2009, 5:28 am


Shai said:

Joe M.,

I think you’re spot on. There is some likelihood that Bibi will ask Lieberman to join in (rumors are that they’ve gotten “very close” over the past few days… speaking daily, etc.) Actually, a Likud-Kadima-Lieberman-Shas coalition will be more stable against possible blackmailing in the future (Shas is of course notorious for that). That’ll give them an 82-seat government, which is extremely strong. Btw, I won’t say what party I voted for… but I will say I’m glad Hadash has more seats than Meretz!… 🙂

(p.s. you’re right about the 65-55 split – the news here portray it as such, merely to say that against the 65 block will also be the Arab parties… )

February 11th, 2009, 5:31 am


Joe M. said:

i think they may ask lieberman in the government later, but i would highly doubt him to join right away. Shas can be kept in check by the threat of adding lieberman or the other religious parties. Likud and kadima have 55 seats together, so they can have a government with any party they want. but netanyahu is not so stupid to bring lieberman in without it being necessary. You give shas some school funds and keep them out of the military and they are happy enough to support a government.

I see no reason to think labor will be in the government. not only are they discredited electorally, but they also are too keen on giving up land to the palestinians for them to make a credible partner with likud or kadima. There are enough rightist parties and fascist to easily keep them out for some time.

If you voted for hadash (or one of the arab parties) then i will admit that i have been giving you less credit then you deserve.

February 11th, 2009, 5:45 am


Shai said:

Dear Joe M.,

I’ve always claimed you give me less credit… 🙂

February 11th, 2009, 5:47 am


Rumyal said:

Dear Professor Marc Gopin,

As an Israeli living in the US, I have argued in the recent past in this forum that Israel is no longer capable (perhaps it was never capable) of reaching a peaceful solution on its own terms with the Arabs and thus its only chance of survival is through American Jewry diffusing the AIPAC lobby and thus enabling a more even-handed and just American policy in the Middle East, which will then enable just peace. In this respect I strongly agree with your piece. However, unlike you, I am not sure that Israel would budge without boycotts or at the very least the very credible threat of boycott. Look what it took to get Shamir to come to Madrid… At any rate, first the recruitment of American Jewry is necessary, then BDS may be considered, if everything else fails. The growth of organizations such as J Street is very encouraging (I would mention Jewish Voice for Peace in this context too—or are they too extreme to your liking?) however I am worried that while J Street is very appealing to middle-class liberal Jews AIPAC is still strong with the business “heavy-hitters” who can buy a lot of clout with their money. Do you have any ideas on how to democratize the representation of American Jewry in Washington?

Overall though there are two major weaknesses in this plan.

First, as AIG notes, most Palestinians will reject the two-state solution unless it allows for a significant number of refugees to return to Israel. That raises the question of whether the two-state solution is a dead horse and potentially will further poison the well of peace, especially given that it would take a while to affect the public opinion change we are hoping for and in the meanwhile the settlements will be further expand. Would J Street supporters support the right of return or a one-state solution? If not, then they are set-up for disillusionment from which they will wake up to declare that “there is no partner for peace”. Instead, the line of re-education for American Jewry should be that Israel/Palestine will become a democratic multi-ethnic country similarly to the US, such that they are ready to support the one-state solution if and when it becomes the only viable solution.

(Dr. Alex the next part is addressed to you too :-))

Second, I don’t think Syria or its allies are in a position to wage a successful PR campaign. There are many reasons for that. I’m currently reading Benny Morris’s 1948 and there is a very detailed description therein on how the Zionists won the vote on partition in 1947, which required a two thirds majority. I think a lot of the factors that caused Arab defeat back then are still at play today.

The dignity factor. Most of the Arab leaders thought it was beneath them to appeal to countries like Thailand and Costa Rica to reject a proposal to tear-off a piece of their land. They maintained that the UN had no authority to decide the future of the land and generally refused to participate in the game. This thinking is still prevalent today and you can see it expressed on this blog too.

The affinity factor. Members of the Anglo-American committee and other committees were deeply impressed with the societal and economic achievements of the Jews in Israel, with their immaculate Kibutzim and the beautiful “White City” Tel-Aviv. On the other hand in the Arab villages they were appalled to be invited to sit on earthen floors of shaky huts and share a meal served without silverware. In other words the cultural affinity to the Jews and the cultural detachment from the Arabs imprinted themselves as favoring giving the land to the Jews, because they would make much better use of it. While diplomats today are more susceptible to diagnosing bias in their own views, due to cultural background, the person on the American street will still be much happier to identify with the can-do mentality of the Israelis rather than with the Arabs who may be just but didn’t “get on with their lives”, who “were dealt lemons but weren’t creative enough to make lemonade” (an expression that I hear every day from Americans…)

The no-BS factor. Israel is never shying away from putting together musical bands of Jews and (somewhat opportunistic) Arabs to go and sing around the world about peace and love, even though at the same time the IDF drops 1 ton bombs on kids in Gaza or Lebanon. We have this amazing ability to BS ourselves and the world. From what I have seen with my Syrian friends here, they will avoid such sentimental displays as disingenuous. But this charade is Hollywood material and is essential for building a good image in the US.

The skeleton in the closet factor. Last but not least let’s not forget that Syria is a dictatorial country with quite a few unpleasant chapters in its past, that you’ll be forcing AIPAC to bring into the limelight. We are still waiting for the result of the Hariri investigation next month and while I hope for Alex and other Syrian friends that their country will be vindicated, I have a feeling that the truth is that the Assad regime is responsible. Alex and friends will also be happy to say that Hama was an episode in the past but people in the US would be curious to know whether the people responsible were brought to justice etc. And perhaps most importantly if I were AIPAC I could always look up fresh footage of a Syrian ally burning an American flag and chanting death to America. Go explain that.

So… I think the Syrian position is not very marketable to the American public and therefore the PR war will mostly be waged by liberal Jews with only a marginal supporting role from Syrian Officialdom. Not optimal but that’s what it looks like it’s going to be…

February 11th, 2009, 8:45 am


Shai said:

Dear Rumyal,

I disagree with a few hypotheses you’re making:

1) “… as AIG notes, most Palestinians will reject the two-state solution unless it allows for a significant number of refugees to return to Israel.”

Says who? From all the indications I’ve seen, including polls taken across the Territories (Gaza included), most Palestinians are still supportive of the two-state solution. When Obama will start pressuring all sides, he’ll do so with the two-state solution in mind, not the one-state one. Let’s see Hamas refuse full-recognition by an open-minded Washington administration, just to uphold their All-of-Palestine agenda. Let’s see a single Israeli give even a hint-of-support to the one-state as a practical solution in the next decade or two…

2) The dignity factor – I don’t find it beneath any Arab nation (or leader) today to demand an end to Israel’s Occupation of Palestine. Syria, Egypt, KSA, and all the other Arab nations in the Arab League, have already appealed to the entire world with the “Arab Plan”, which talks very clearly of a two-state solution. You can’t get more “beneath” that, can you?

3) AIPAC’s power, and Syria’s Rogue-State status –

a. I think we may be overestimating AIPAC’s eternal omnipotence here. It also needs to survive, and if it recognizes a major shift in Washington’s perception of the Arab-Israeli conflict, I think it is quite likely it will begin to change its own “tactics”. While of course it will always defend Israeli action against Arabs, wherever they are, it will also have to be “seen” as pro-peace, when Peace is brought up at the table once more, but this time, by a more-honest broker such as Obama. Maintaining the neocon stance forever is also quite risky for AIPAC. As an organization that depends on Jewish donations, it cannot place itself too far across the field from an Obama administration that was supported by some 80% of the Jewish community in America.

b. Obama is interested in talking to both Iran and Syria, who are still deemed rogue states. They both have plenty of “skeletons” in their closets. Both still have people chanting “death to America”. And both are still supportive of violent resistance against Israel. And yet, Obama wants to talk to them. He’s not going to be foolish enough to bring up “skeletons” (at least not as preconditions to anything), because that’ll end the diplomatic efforts as fast as they’ll begin. There’s certainly a way to “capitalize” on these skeletons, and I’m confident Obama will know how to do so.

General Note: One of the nice differences between the U.S. and Israel, is that once a President is elected, and once he chooses an administration, very little can be done to oust him/her from power. In essence, it is very possible that his vision will be carried out over the next 4 years. That’s not to suggest it’ll be easy. But it is possible. In Israel, where coalition governments rise and fall almost as fast the moon and the sun do, forming and carrying out policy is near impossible, as we’ve seen in recent decades.

Though much under-reported by the media in recent days, one of the major lessons already learned by all the major parties in this election campaign, and that has already led to promises for immediate action, is the desperate need to change our system of elections. Everyone understands, finally, that we cannot have a party with barely 25% of the seats in parliament form our government, time after time. So there may be some positive change in our future political system as well. Time will tell.

Maybe it’s wishful thinking, but I’m cautiously optimistic about Obama’s ability to make some serious changes in policy towards the Middle East in the near future. I’m not sure AIPAC is “up to the battle”, or if they’ll even view it as such.

February 11th, 2009, 9:42 am


Qifa Nabki said:

I could not agree more with Dr. Gopin that this is what is needed.

I could not agree more with Rumyal that this is the reality.

The level of coordination, political sophistication, know-how, strategy, and influence that is needed to tackle the problem in the way that Dr. Gopin lays out, requires the use of a high-powered microscope, when all the Arabs have is a broken magnifying glass.

My dear friend Alex (I love you too, habibi!) exemplifies the problem when he suggests that Syria cannot approach the American people until it is perceived as a “good country”. Relying on the goodwill of the White House while wooing some American journalists and releasing a few prisoners is not going to do the trick ya Alex. Anything short of a full-fledged PR campaign and a deep investment in the American political process along with substantive reforms will mean that we are always playing catch-up while Israel keeps changing the rules.

February 11th, 2009, 10:02 am


Shai said:

Ya Qifa,

Give Obama a chance. While Israeli governments have certainly been able to “fool” American Presidents, there have been some that weren’t taken in like others. From what I understand, JFK was the first president to essentially “force” Israel to admit to its nuclear aspirations and capability (in private, of course). Jimmy Carter managed to change Begin, Bush Sr. managed to get Shamir to Madrid, and Bill Clinton did make headway towards peace, at least it seemed so at the time. From what I can tell, I doubt Obama falls in IQ, or abilities, from any of the above mentioned. He will not be “fooled” like GWB… I promise you that. “Yes We Can!”… 😉

February 11th, 2009, 10:19 am


Qifa Nabki said:


Don’t get me wrong.

I have faith in Obama. I’m a believer. I also have faith in Syria. As you know, I support the negotiations in a big way and I think Obama has a very good shot at pulling them off.

But the reason they would succeed, if they succeed, is rooted in a realist assessment of the strategic situation and the balance of power. They would succeed because all parties have something to gain, not because Americans regard Syria as a “good country” or not. There doesn’t need to be widespread popular goodwill for such a deal to work, in the same way that there was no such goodwill before the Egypt deal.

Where I am less optimistic is in the comprehensive peace that would seem to require a strategy like the one that Dr. Gopin is talking about, and toward which I see very little movement.

February 11th, 2009, 10:39 am


Shai said:


I agree with you. But I also think Syria can “surprise” many in Washington (and Jerusalem) by being far more influential in the region (HA, Iran, Iraq, and Fatah/Hamas) than we’ve ever given her credit for. So we don’t need to label her a “good country”, but if they sense that Washington is changing its views of Syria, and indeed begins to include instead of isolate her, I do think Syria will reciprocate. The so-called “good will” will exist at the leadership level, not necessarily at the popular street-level. This is why we call them “leaders”, right?

One final note (and then I have to go), perhaps this situation that has been created here in our region, where there is great complexity as a result of Syria’s interconnectedness to Hezbollah, Hamas, Iran, and even Iraq, is also the reason for the potential for major development in the “comprehensive” arena. Perhaps we were never able to move far along that path, precisely because everything was separated enough, that Israel could manipulate each one separately. Now, at least, Syria could offer so much more in the region (not only to Israel), and that makes her more attractive and important in Washington’s eyes… I believe.

February 11th, 2009, 10:44 am


Akbar Palace said:


Are you again confused if ratios of the dead are significant or not?

Do you remember the ratio of 1335/3 that Israel killed in Gaza compared the 3 Hamas rockets killed in Israel?

Alex –

I was responding to Ghat Albird’s answer to AIG about the “charm campaign”. It was a good question and it was a weak answer.

Now, if you want to talk about casualty ratios, we can. But you won’t be pleased with my answer. Again, there is no law saying casualty ratios have to be even. The casualty ratios for many of the Middle East conflicts have been rather one-sided.

The mere thought of proportionality is preposterous except when it comes to Israel in the MSM.

And this is how Hamas and Hezbollah operate. They hide among civilians in order to get as many casualties as possible for international sympathy. That, along with their predisposition to suicide martyrdom is the only “defence” they have. Israel isn’t going to stoop to their level just to make you and other anti-Israelis happy.

Marc Gopin:

This guy is obviously a dreamer. With a wave of his pen, Hamas and Hezbollah will stop firing missiles into Israel. Of course, they would never give up the “option” of resistance, because that is their “raison d’etre”. So no peace traty will ever be signed between these 2 spoilers and Israel.

The West Bank/PA and Israel holds much better promise as they could continue to negotiate where Camp David left off, but what about Hamas? Will they bow down to the feet of Fatah and Abbas? I don’t think so…

As far as a Syrian-Israeli peace, Marc Gopin’s message, like so many here on this forum, is how to change the American-Israeli dynamic (AIPAC, Jewish and Conservative Christian attitudes) in order to get peace. As if Syria had to do nothing.

This is my impression, all Dr. Assad has to do is sit on his pretty throne, the Israelis will come for a visit, drop the Golan on his lap (under heavy American pressure of course), and the Good King will wave his hand and allow an Israeli embassy be erected in Damascus. End of story.

That makes for a nice movie script in the Arab world, but it will not be that easy nor will that scenario play out in reality. As I’ve said many times before, the peace has to much more tangible. So much so that you can cut it with a knife. Expecting anything less is delusional.

<> Meretz 3 seats!

I guess something happened to their message

February 11th, 2009, 12:43 pm


Enlightened said:

Akbar said:

“That makes for a nice movie script in the Arab world, but it will not be that easy nor will that scenario play out in reality. As I’ve said many times before, the peace has to much more tangible. So much so that you can cut it with a knife. Expecting anything less is delusional.”

Akbar Il lend you my butter knife so you have something tangible to cut with, perhaps you can then articulate your “Tangible peace”

Let me lead you off:

1. No return of Land
2. No right of return
3. Expand settlements
4. Jerusalem is the eternal capital
5. Ah what the heck, lets get rid of the Israeli Arabs while were at it (no loyalty no citizenship right?)

Marc Gopin might be a dreamer, but lets not curry anyones favour here, but you are the SC joker!

February 11th, 2009, 2:26 pm


Observer said:

This is an interesting theoretical article. In reality, we have a significant move in the Israeli society towards acceptance of overt racist and fascist political thought. The next goverment is a far right one with a few fig leafs here and there.

The “moderate” Arab press of Egypt KSA and Jordan are all mum on the results of the elections especially when it comes to Lieberman’s better showing than Labor.

We are in for a war, not peace.

February 11th, 2009, 2:44 pm


AIG said:

What war? Let’s all get real. Who is going to fight who and for what?

Let’s realistically assume:
1) No land return
2) More settlements
3) Obvioulsy no right of return

and so on.

Who is going to start a war?

1) Syria? They have consistently shown that they have no appetite. And with the Syrian economy in such a dire strait, any Syrian adventure would be suicide.

2) Hizballah? If they didn’t attack during the Gaza war, when will they attack? Any Hizballah attack would be suicidal for Lebanon and therefore very unlikely.

3) Hamas? They just got trounced in Gaza. It will take years before they are half ready for another round.

4) Israel? It will only attack Iran if the world does not stop the Iranians from developing nuclear weapons. Syria did not attack Israel after it was bombed. Why would it do anything different if Iran is attacked? Maybe Hizballah will attack but for the reasons above, that is very unlikely.

There will be no war, because a war is too expensive and does not advance the interests of any party. We are not going to have peace, but just no war. Good enough for me.

February 11th, 2009, 4:06 pm


qunfuz said:

I’m afraid I agree with Observer’s comment. But we should all be lobbying and improving our PR in the meantime.

If there is no agreement in the Obama presidency, I would say the two state solution really is dead. In fact, I think it probably is already. The rise of the ‘loyalty’ issue in Israel as much as the reality of integrated infrastructure throughout Palestine-Israel underlines the need for new thinking. This doesn’t have to mean we abandon support for diplomatic moves towards a two state settlement, but that we accept that such a settlement probably won’t happen, and to think a step ahead.

I am reading Ali Abunimeh’s One Country: A Bold Proposal to End the Israeli-Palestinian Impasse. I find it very convincing, but I am already converted. I recommend it to everybody, whatever their opinion, as a fresh and thought-provoking read.

February 11th, 2009, 4:49 pm


idaf said:

Dear Dr. Gopin,

The timing of the strategy you lay out is perfect. If implemented, it has a high probability of success as it relies on the rare existence of a transformational (revolutionary?) can-do attitude in the White House. If the Obama presidential campaign is to be taken as a benchmark, the new president seems to have the courage and the capabilities to pursue what most of us -Americans and other global citizens- find impossible.

At critical points of time, it seemed that a speech by Obama is all what was needed to change perceptions of the public. If he decides to adopt your strategy, he has enough credibility in the US (and more so abroad) to be able to change perceptions towards peace in societies. One would fear however, that even if he is sold on this strategy, the old dogs in his administration (Biden, Clinton, etc.) will not be able to tolerate or adapt to such a shift in orientation towards a radical solution-driven strategy vis a vis AIPAC, Syria, Israel and most importantly with regards to old tricks they grew up learning regarding political survival in Washington.

Let’s “hope” it can work.


YOU’RE HIRED. As a the Chief PR Officer for Syria you started taking the first right steps by identifying the core problems 🙂

February 11th, 2009, 4:51 pm


Alex said:


So is Syria serious? The talk on the streets of Damascus certainly points in that direction, as does the obsession of the tightly controlled media with Barack Obama. Syria may be a dictatorship but it is one in which the regime chimes closely with its people with its views on defining subjects like Palestine, Lebanon and Iraq.


You might be right, I share your sense of alarm at what is happening in Israel … I do believe we will have war (scope?) if this year’s efforts will not meet expectations for those who had enough with the conflict.

But we will try our best for a while first.

February 11th, 2009, 5:03 pm


AKbar Palace said:

The Hard-Line Left-of-Center Kadima gives way to the Hard-Line Right-of-Cener Likud

1. No return of Land
2. No right of return
3. Expand settlements
4. Jerusalem is the eternal capital
5. Ah what the heck, lets get rid of the Israeli Arabs while were at it (no loyalty no citizenship right?)


Thanks for the strange list, but I’m not sure what it means.

Israel has already concluded 2 peace treaties under the “land for peace” equation and proposed another one.

I haven’t seen proposals from Hamas, Hezbollah, Syria, or Iran, so feel free to post a link with that information, and I’ll be happy to comment on it.

There will be no war, because a war is too expensive and does not advance the interests of any party. We are not going to have peace, but just no war. Good enough for me.


Don’t be so sure. May not be a war, but I bet we’re going to see a lot of terrorism.

February 11th, 2009, 5:09 pm


norman said:

What About Six Million Palestinian Refugees?
Almost 6 million Palestinians are now scattered all over the world as refugees, and hundreds of thousands were massacred by Israel and housed under soil for resisting to abandon their homeland, notes Iqbal Tamimi.

Since the first minute the Zionists arrived in Palestine during the first half of the 1900s their policy was clear, it was to empty the land of its indigenous people and house immigrant Jews in their place. Almost 6 million Palestinians are now scattered all over the world as refugees since then, and hundreds of thousands were massacred and housed under the soil for resisting to abandon their home land.
The Telegraph published an article 5 Feb 2009 by Damien McElroy titled Britain offers to accept Palestinians who fled Iraq (30 widows with children!).

The article is about efforts to resettle Palestinians who have been forced into squalid desert refugee camps on the Iraqi border in the hardest conditions including facing hazards of fires and floods that have claimed many lives such as the story of Ahmed Mohammad who lost his pregnant wife when a fire engulfed his tent last month. “The fire took seconds to burn and I could only rescue my son.” said Ahmad. There are more than 800,000 Palestinian refugees still living in Syria and 224,000 are registered with the UN as refugees.

Many Palestinians were never granted citizenship in the countries they fled to, they and their offspring are scattered now all over the world from Europe to Chile. Governments like that of the UK have a moral obligation towards those Palestinian refugees for two reasons: the first is due to the British government’s role and policies since the Balfour Declaration which was a direct contributor to the Palestinians’ misery, and the second is its role in the Iraqi war that ended up with forcing the refugee Palestinians of Iraq to become refugees again. But still a solution like accepting 30 widows is not going to be the perfect solution. These Palestinian widows from the Tanf refugee camp in the desert must be grateful for this kind gesture, but this action solves the problem of 30 widows only, thus discriminating against male refugees who are as much victims as women. Men like 81-year-old Mahmoud Abdul who fled Haifa in 1948 from Palestine to Baghdad, then Amman, Damascus and now again he is with many other Palestinian refugees are in the no-man’s land holding tight to one dream only, they want to be citizens where they can set up homes and feel no one can take that home away from them. Saving the lives of 30 widows is a drop in the ocean regarding solving the problem of 6 million refugees. And we should not brag about accepting to rescue 30 widows after causing 6 million people become exiled and refugees.

Solving the problem of 30 widows or ‘spearheading’ this attempt as the Telegraph has called it, is not good enough, year after year Israel has been forcing more Palestinians to become refugees by enforcing different methods of pressure and expulsion. Even though Palestinians are grateful for such generous gestures they would rather be home in their own properties, taking care of their lands and feeling dignified instead of feeling like a heavy guest.

The new effort to resettle Palestinian refugees outside Palestine is another attempt to patch another hole Israel punctured while being sure that other countries should find a way to mend. Since 1948 Israel has been expelling Palestinians from their country, thus entering the circle of displacement over and over again. The only suggestion Israel keeps coming with is why don’t other Arab countries accommodate them? This is the most ridiculous statement made to escape the blame and dumb problems created by its policies of expanding occupation on other people’s steps. Israel’s continuous suggestion that the Palestinians should be absorbed by other Arab speaking countries is the most ridiculous statement ever, sharing a language does not in any way give a valid reason to accept such responsibility.

The Telegraph was fishing in muddy waters when it said in its report “After turning a blind eye for years, Syria feels it has done enough. There has to be a resettlement solution that allows these people to resettle in a third country.” Why should Syria or any other Arab country solve a problem created by Israel with the blessing of USA and UK? Syria itself is suffering the Israeli aggression and occupation of its Golan Heights and the stealing of its water resources by Israel.

Israel is still refusing to declare its borders, and was and still is expanding illegally on Palestinian land, Israel is still turning a blind eye to the international community and a long list of UN resolutions demanding its withdrawal from the occupied Palestinian territories and to stop building more settlements on Palestinian land, Israel is still stealing the resources and lands and properties in the Occupied Territories and still gets away with it. The media shows every day Israel being defended by the USA and UK governments, and shows the friendly visits of top politicians visiting Israel on the Palestinian occupied land, yet emphasising Israel’s RIGHTS to live in peace, what a load of ridiculous heap of pathetic policies, they are visiting an occupied territory and yet demanding safety of the occupier not the victims. But one knows well that such visits are not returned because most Israeli politicians are wanted for war crimes, and the people in the USA and UK have a different stand from that of their governments and sympathise with the oppressed Palestinians. Should any Israeli official visit the UK, I am sure he will be met with hales of shoes by the citizens who have great support and sympathy towards people of Gaza living in misery.

Iqbal Tamimi is a Palestinian journalist and poet from Hebron. She is the creator of the vibrant activists’ network Palestinian Mothers.

February 11th, 2009, 5:56 pm


norman said:

They keep trying , I do not know why they do not understand that Syria will not accept a separate peace, It is all or nothing,

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From Times OnlineFebruary 11, 2009

World Agenda: Will Western wooing entice Syria to come in from cold?
Whether Iran’s main region ally is prepared to ditch its hardline friends and ally with the US is far from certain

(Khaled al-Hariri/Reuters)
Is it worth Bashar al-Assad’s while to abandon his country’s alliance with Iran?

Catherine Philp, Diplomatic Correspondent, in Damascus
Friday morning and the sunlit patio outside Costa Coffee in Damascus brims with laptop-toting hipsters chatting eagerly in Arabic, English and French. Outside, the street buzzes with shiny new Toyotas and Hyundais, a far cry from the Soviet bangers of old.

It does not look or feel like much like a capital of the Axis of Evil, not even the B-list that Syria made it on to a year after its close ally, Iran. The astonishing economic transformation it has been through in the past few years has left it looking more like Beirut than Tehran, with vibrant trade and cultural links to the rest of the world.

Whether Syria is ready to come in from the cold politically, however, ditching its hardline allies and tendencies in favour of full relations with the West is a question still to be played out over the coming year. Much could be gained by Western engagement with Syria, which is why the West, led by France and Britain, are attempting to do just that.

Restarting the Syria-Israel peace talks, mediated by Turkey, could pave the way to a solution over the Golan Heights that could reinvigorate the peace process with the Palestinians. Prising Damascus away from Tehran would leave Iran isolated, upping the pressure over its nuclear programme, soon to reach a red line at which it may become impossible to rein in Israeli intervention.

For Syria these are big asks. As one businessman in Damascus told me: “From Tehran we get free oil, weapons, money, support. What has the West to offer that can beat that?”

Not free oil, that’s for sure. But economic development, yes, with the lifting of US sanctions; a situation in which military strength is no longer paramount, perhaps; the psychological victory of regaining the Golan Heights, quite possibly.

The West has had its fingers burnt on rapprochement before, notably when Tony Blair visited Damascus in 2002 to be subjected to an embarrassing lecture by President Assad on freedom fighters. Developments since then have been more fruitful. Encouraged by the French, Syria established diplomatic ties with Lebanon, stabilising their long-fraught relationship. Damascus was rewarded with a visit from President Sarkozy, opening doors to the lucrative European Union market. David Miliband followed in January when he re-established intelligence links with Syria — an arrangement more likely to benefit London than Damascus, given the quality of Syria’s intelligence gathering.

So is Syria serious? The talk on the streets of Damascus certainly points in that direction, as does the obsession of the tightly controlled media with Barack Obama. Syria may be a dictatorship but it is one in which the regime chimes closely with its people with its views on defining subjects like Palestine, Lebanon and Iraq. And Syria has made a few encouraging signs, such as its clampdown on Islamic militants crossing the border into Iraq after several years of support.

But Syria also sees itself as the capital of Arab resistance and a key regional player. It plays host to Hamas as much to remind the world of its importance as to oppose Israel. Its interference in its neighbour’s affairs is born of the same attitude.

Other Arab countries scoff at this posture. Iran’s nuclear ambitions have only heightened fears of Persian Shia hegemony, and the alliance of Arab Syria with Tehran remains deeply unpopular. Furthermore, Syria has a long way to come from its position of trying to harass Israel into submission towards the more moderate Arab solution represented by the Saudi peace initiative.

Gaza has not helped. British officials admit it has set back their efforts at engagement. Saudi Arabia is encouraging rapprochement while privately warning its Western allies not to jump too soon. A key indicator, it is widely agreed, is whether Syria can resist the urge to meddle in the upcoming elections in Lebanon. If so, it will be a positive sign.

Britain and France have begun to help Syria down the right road. President Obama could continue this, dispatching an ambassador to Damascus, establishing intelligence sharing, relaxing some of the more Draconian sanctions and getting Israeli-Syrian peace talks back on track. In short, to treat Syria like the major player it sees itself as — just with more palatable, and richer, playmates.

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February 11th, 2009, 6:28 pm


norman said:

Engaging Syria? U.S. Constraints and Opportunities
Middle East Report N°83
11 February 2009


Candidate Obama pledged that his Middle East policy would include re-engagement with Syria; President Obama will find that the past is not easily overcome. The reasons behind his vow remain pertinent. Syria holds important cards in Lebanon, Iraq and Palestine, is Iran’s most important Arab ally and has substantial influence over Hamas and Hizbollah. There are indications of potential common ground on which to build, from resuming Israeli-Syrian negotiations, to consolidating progress in Iraq to blunting the rise of jihadi militancy and sectarianism. But significant obstacles to healthy, mutually beneficial relations remain, along with a legacy of estrangement and distrust. They dictate the need for a prudent approach that seeks first to rebuild ties and restore confidence. It will be critical to reassure Damascus that the U.S. is interested in improving relations and resolving the Israeli-Arab conflict, not in regime change. It is also equally critical not to compromise on core principles such as Lebanon’s sovereignty or the integrity of the international tribunal investigating the assassination of former Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri.

President Bush’s policy was premised on the belief that isolation and pressure would lead to substantial changes in Syrian behaviour. It failed on both counts. The policy crumbled, and the sought-after behavioural changes never truly materialised. Awareness of this outcome, coupled with Senator Obama’s own conviction that engagement – far from being a sign of weakness – was the mark of diplomatic strength, formed the backdrop to his campaign pledge and is likely to inform his presidential policy. The question no longer is whether to engage Syria but how.

That is where the hard part begins, for engagement is easier said than done. Although the open hostility witnessed under the Bush administration was an anomaly in U.S.-Syrian relations, the ordinary state of affairs hardly has been the reverse. Even prior to the Bush presidency, whether under President Clinton or his predecessors, the relationship had been problematic, marked by disagreement as much as dialogue. From Washington’s perspective, Syria continued to support militant Palestinian and Lebanese groups; from Damascus’s, the U.S. continued to harbour a regional agenda inconsistent with its own aspirations and interests. In short, while breaking with the Bush legacy is part of the solution, simply reverting to what preceded it is not.

Nor, even if it were advisable, would it be possible to rewind the tape. The last eight years have left their imprint in several, at times indelible ways. The legacy is threefold. First is the web of legal or administrative measures aimed at Syria. These include an array of binding UN Security Council resolutions related to Damascus’s role in Lebanon, the establishment of the international tribunal regarding the Hariri assassination and an assortment of U.S. economic sanctions. They undoubtedly will continue to shape U.S.-Syrian relations; for the most part, their relaxation will occur, if at all, as a by-product of improved relations rather than as a means of achieving them.

Secondly, U.S. policy has deepened estrangement between the two countries. As Washington recalled its ambassador, downgraded its representation in Damascus and shunned routine encounters with Syrian representatives, Damascus responded by boycotting what remained of the U.S. embassy. Syria has undergone significant change since the U.S. last had sustained interaction. It will take time for policy-makers to come to terms with transformations in the regime’s governance style, power structure, threat perceptions, regional positioning and socio-economic constraints. A policy shift will be all the more difficult to undertake as these years coincided with a hardening of public and congressional attitudes toward Syria that inevitably will influence the new team. Most of the president’s advisers, although in favour of a policy of engagement, bore witness to Syrian action in Iraq and Lebanon, are sceptical about the nature of the regime, question prospects for a genuine shift in its regional posture and sense that Damascus is more likely to move when ignored than when courted.

A third constraint stems from changes in the regional landscape. The Iraq invasion fuelled sectarian tensions and boosted Iran’s influence; neglect and mismanagement of the Arab-Israeli conflict bolstered Palestinian and other rejectionists; Lebanon’s polarisation and the 2006 war enhanced Hizbollah’s influence; attempts to isolate Syria strengthened its ties to Iran; jihadi militancy is on the rise; and the Arab world is as divided as ever. The net result will be to complicate any putative Syrian strategic repositioning.

But there are promising signs, too. For several reasons – most having little or nothing to do with the U.S. – Damascus appears to be softening its posture on Iraq and Lebanon, undertaking at least some effort to control its border with the former while establishing diplomatic relations with the latter. Talks with Israel, although halted due to the war in Gaza and the elections in Israel, might well resume with U.S. participation. Relations with Turkey have become a central element of Syrian foreign policy, offsetting Iran’s exclusive influence and providing Ankara with real leverage. Signs of unease already can be detected in Syrian-Iranian relations; with patience and deft management, they might be substantially transformed.

How the two sides first engage one another will be critical; mistakes, miscalculations or mismatched expectations could do significant damage. In this, the second of three companion reports, Crisis Group examines in greater depth the last eight years’ legacy, drawing lessons for the new administration’s Syria policy. It concludes that, in order to pave the way for a more fruitful relationship, the U.S. early on should take the following steps:

Clearly articulate a set of guiding core principles, including:
­– support for and participation in renewed peace negotiations on all tracks;

– consistent with past Israeli-Syrian negotiations, any final agreement should entail full Israeli withdrawal from the Golan Heights, firm security arrangements and the establishment of normal, peaceful bilateral relations;

– no arrangement or compromise over the international tribunal or Lebanon’s sovereignty;

– respect for such international norms should not be read as a desire to destabilise or change Syria’s regime; and

– open acknowledgment of positive Syrian measures.

Set in place effective channels of communication, by:
– nominating an ambassador;

– requesting that Syria treat U.S. diplomats respectfully and doing likewise with Syrian diplomats posted in the U.S.;

– establishing a privileged, personal and direct channel between President Obama and President Assad, possible through Middle East Peace Envoy George Mitchell; and

– conducting a relatively early visit by a high-level U.S. military official in order to establish U.S.-Syrian-Iraqi security cooperation.

Carefully rethink sanctions in line with clear policy objectives, streamline licensing procedures and loosen restrictions on humanitarian or public safety grounds, such as for medical items or civil aviation-related goods to help replace an ageing and dangerous national fleet.
The initial briefing in this series described lessons from the French experience at re-engagement with Syria. The third and final report will consider evolutions on the Syrian side and propose broader policy recommendations for Washington and Damascus.

Damascus/Washington/Brussels, 11 February 2009

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February 11th, 2009, 7:03 pm


Akbar Palace said:

Links for Peace

For those of you who do not normally appreciate my opinions, I will spare you from reading or scrolling over my long-winded articles, and instead PROVIDE A LINK:


February 11th, 2009, 8:50 pm


jad said:

Enlightened! See what you did?! I hope you are happy now!!
You hurt AP feelings and now he is punishing all of us by not writing any lengthy and pleasant classics….what a lost!

February 11th, 2009, 10:45 pm


Alex said:

I just read all the comments

First, thank you habibi Qifa Nabki, and Ehsani and LYA 🙂

My friend Rumyal:

Syria’s skeletons … let’s list them here so that we can try to put things in perspective. I’ve gone through this exercise many times with different varieties of critics of Syria and I feel quite confident that there is nothing extraordinary by middle eastern standards.

But again, I believe it can only be done with the help of the US administration, and it will take few months to make a difference.

Besides, Syria can more than make up for those skeletons … Syria has done a lot of good … it can b demonstrated using logical, or philosophical arguments.

If “the system” can make the Saudis look ok (most of the time), I have no worries.


Try as hard as you want … the Arab world is feeling very confident these days.

The impression you have was valid in the Arab world in 2004-2005 when Baghdad fell in few days … when Iraqi information minister was the biggest joke in international politics, and when Prime minister Sharon managed to stop the intifada using extreme force while the United states and Europe praised him as a man of peace…

That as when the Arab world felt helpless.

Syria will not start the next war … Israel will. Because Israel is stuck heading in the wrong direction with no intelligent and courageous leadership able to correct a dangerous course… and unfortunately the population in Israel is becoming more and more hard line.


I agree with you that it is possible to negotiate a separate Syrian Israeli treaty or to have a two state solution if comprehensive peace negotiations take place … but there won’t be “peace” like we would like to see if there is no solution to Israel’s conflict with the Palestinians …

You should be very interested in comprehensive peace … with the two state solution.

February 11th, 2009, 11:52 pm


norman said:

The pilgrims keep coming to Damascus,

Sen. Kerry to travel to Syria to meet Assad
WASHINGTON (AP) — Sen. John Kerry, chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, is planning to travel to Syria next week, where he will meet with President Bashar Assad.

The trip, confirmed by a spokesman for the Massachusetts Democrat, comes as President Barack Obama looks for a way to repair the U.S. image abroad and engage regimes hostile to U.S. policies.

Syrian-U.S. relations deteriorated sharply during former President George W. Bush’s administration, which accused Syria of allowing foreign fighters to cross its border into Iraq. Syria denied doing so, while saying it was impossible to control its extensive desert border with Iraq.

Kerry spokesman Frederick Jones said Wednesday that the senator will be part of a congressional delegation headed to the Middle East, stopping in both Israel and Syria. Jones called the meeting planned between Kerry and Assad “part of a continuing dialogue he’s had with the Syrian government.”

Jones said the Obama administration is aware of Kerry’s plans, and the State Department is helping arrange the trip.

Kerry traveled to Syria in late 2006 where he said he told Assad he had serious concerns about the flow of “money, weapons and terrorists” through the country into Iraq and Lebanon. Other senators, including Republican Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania, made similar trips despite the Bush administration saying such visits were inappropriate.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., also met with Assad in a much publicized 2007 trip.

Then-Vice President Dick Cheney denounced her visit as unhelpful, saying “we don’t need 535 secretaries of state,” a reference to the number of lawmakers in Congress.

Assad said in remarks broadcast last month that he wants a dialogue with the United States but there should be no preconditions by the Obama administration.

AP-ES-02-11-09 1749EST

February 12th, 2009, 12:46 am


norman said:

The pilgrims keep coming to Damascus,

Sen. Kerry to travel to Syria to meet Assad
WASHINGTON (AP) — Sen. John Kerry, chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, is planning to travel to Syria next week, where he will meet with President Bashar Assad.

The trip, confirmed by a spokesman for the Massachusetts Democrat, comes as President Barack Obama looks for a way to repair the U.S. image abroad and engage regimes hostile to U.S. policies.

Syrian-U.S. relations deteriorated sharply during former President George W. Bush’s administration, which accused Syria of allowing foreign fighters to cross its border into Iraq. Syria denied doing so, while saying it was impossible to control its extensive desert border with Iraq.

Kerry spokesman Frederick Jones said Wednesday that the senator will be part of a congressional delegation headed to the Middle East, stopping in both Israel and Syria. Jones called the meeting planned between Kerry and Assad “part of a continuing dialogue he’s had with the Syrian government.”

Jones said the Obama administration is aware of Kerry’s plans, and the State Department is helping arrange the trip.

Kerry traveled to Syria in late 2006 where he said he told Assad he had serious concerns about the flow of “money, weapons and terrorists” through the country into Iraq and Lebanon. Other senators, including Republican Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania, made similar trips despite the Bush administration saying such visits were inappropriate.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., also met with Assad in a much publicized 2007 trip.

Then-Vice President Dick Cheney denounced her visit as unhelpful, saying “we don’t need 535 secretaries of state,” a reference to the number of lawmakers in Congress.

Assad said *Your comment is awaiting moderation.*

The pilgrims keep coming to Damascus,

Sen. Kerry to travel to Syria to meet Assad
WASHINGTON (AP) — Sen. John Kerry, chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, is planning to travel to Syria next week, where he will meet with President Bashar Assad.

The trip, confirmed by a spokesman for the Massachusetts Democrat, comes as President Barack Obama looks for a way to repair the U.S. image abroad and engage regimes hostile to U.S. policies.

Syrian-U.S. relations deteriorated sharply during former President George W. Bush’s administration, which accused Syria of allowing foreign fighters to cross its border into Iraq. Syria denied doing so, while saying it was impossible to control its extensive desert border with Iraq.

Kerry spokesman Frederick Jones said Wednesday that the senator will be part of a congressional delegation headed to the Middle East, stopping in both Israel and Syria. Jones called the meeting planned between Kerry and Assad “part of a continuing dialogue he’s had with the Syrian government.”

Jones said the Obama administration is aware of Kerry’s plans, and the State Department is helping arrange the trip.

Kerry traveled to Syria in late 2006 where he said he told Assad he had serious concerns about the flow of “money, weapons and terrorists” through the country into Iraq and Lebanon. Other senators, including Republican Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania, made similar trips despite the Bush administration saying such visits were inappropriate.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., also met with Assad in a much publicized 2007 trip.

Then-Vice President Dick Cheney denounced her visit as unhelpful, saying “we don’t need 535 secretaries of state,” a reference to the number of lawmakers in Congress.

Assad said in remarks broadcast last month that he wants a dialogue with the United States but there should be no preconditions by the Obama administration.

February 12th, 2009, 12:50 am


AIG said:


Arabs cannot be confident with oil at $38 and thousands leaving Dubai. The economic situation is really hurting the Arab world and especially the “resistance” that is so dependent on Iranian oil. I do not understand why you insist on this facade of “all is well” and “things are much better”. Wasn’t the fact that the Arabs were completely divided over Gaza and could do nothing to stop Israel a strong indication for you? But suit yourself. The reality of the situation will be apparent soon.

Why would Israel start a war? There will low intensity warfare here and there, but a full blown war? Israel is sitting well. The Palestinians are divided. Fatah helps Israel in the West Bank. Hamas was just trounced in Gaza. Hizballah is deterred and Syria has shown time and again that it will not risk a war with Israel. What more can we ask for? And why would it be in our interest to start a war from this dominant strategic position? What more can we gain??? We will let the Arabs “brew in their own juices” for a while. Who knows, something good may come out. And if not, tant pis.

February 12th, 2009, 1:33 am


Enlightened said:


Crikey I just sold out all of Palestine, Kicked out all of Israels Arab population, gave them Jerusalem, keep expanding the settlements.

And Akbar gets upset! LOL

I just don’t get it, Id be dancing for Joy if I were a zionist, I wouldn’t be upset. I don’t understand this Akbar- ah maybe he wants the Pyramids and the land between the Euphrates!

Staytuned more Looney tunes to come:!

February 12th, 2009, 1:39 am


Akbar Palace said:

Syria will not start the next war … Israel will.


Considering the daily rocket fire from Gaza, the build-up of Iranian armament along Israel’s northern border, the threats the Iranian theocracy is making against Israel, and the continued legal State of War that exists between these countries, I wouldn’t be surprised if Israel “started” the next war.

At least you won’t be surprised Alex.

However, the way things are shaping, it looks like the Obama Administration is going to take us back to “Go”, and create something like “Oslo II”.

Obama will take the gains that the Bush Administration made in the Middle East and throw it all in the garbage. The US will turn her back on Iraq and Afghanistan and throw them back under the jihadist bus along with Israel and Lebanon. All this because the idiots in the White House think Syria and Iran are going to do us favors (as international terrorism suddenly, without warning, goes back into action).

The Israelis, will go along for the ride kicking and screaming as usual.

Will it result in another large, meaningless Piece Document? I guess it depends how fast Obama and Hillary’s “Smart Power” can ruin the Middle East in the 4 years they’ve been awarded. In any case, the current cast of characters do not desire the sacrifices necessary for peace. Just my POV.

February 12th, 2009, 2:16 am


Enlightened said:

Akbar reaches some point of self actualization:

“In any case, the current cast of characters do not desire the sacrifices necessary for peace. Just my POV.”

February 12th, 2009, 2:59 am


jad said:

He’s back! it didn’t last long…ya far7a ma tamet! 🙁
I say It’s Alex’s fault.

February 12th, 2009, 3:34 am


Enlightened said:


I don’t want Akbar to leave or to silence him, thats not the point his contribution here is valid , albeit the only thing I disagree with his constant repetition ” we are terrorist, sympathisers, murder’s, jihadists etc etc etc. If he was a vinyl record he’d be worn out by now! Its like communicating to a deaf individual through speech, yet the person doesn’t lip read!

But lets not gloat at Akbar’s misfortune, he’s like a beaver trying to repair the impending flood from a dyke. Hes boyhood hero GWB, is no longer in office, but his adoring Likudniks could be in power in Israel. His glass is half empty at the moment.

Lets see we have given him everything except our souls and this has not made him happy! So I am just starting to think if he is one of those obstructionists! Obstruct everything at all costs, whew what a mundane existence!

February 12th, 2009, 4:09 am


jad said:

I don’t remember who introduce me to Dr. Norman Finkelstein, either Offended or Simohurtta. I’m thankful for both of them for that.
Today he had couple interesting links:

An inspiring message, Steadfast Before Goliath
“Gaza, Your tears of sorrow/ We shall avenge them.”


Also an unbelievable image
Into the Heart of Darkness

(A Palestinian schoolgirl inspects her classroom which was burnt during Israel’s offensive, at UNRWA’s (UN Relief and Works Agency) primary school in Beit Lahia in the northern Gaza Strip on January 24, 2009.)


February 12th, 2009, 5:06 am


Enlightened said:

“Key excerpts from Jads Links”

“The failure of both Harvard and Dershowitz to provide a straight answer to my question about whether Harvard investigated Finkelstein’s identical errors argument, despite my persistent inquiries spanning nearly one month, strongly suggests that Harvard did not investigate the argument and that Dershowitz has known it all along. There is no other plausible interpretation of their refusal to answer my question, or of Dershowitz’s continuing refusal to acknowledge that the argument has been central to Finkelstein’s charge of plagiarism ever since October 2003.

Moreover, putting aside my email correspondence with Harvard and Dershowitz, I believe the evidence concerning the Twain quote independently establishes that Harvard did not know about the identical errors argument before conducting its investigation, because I take for granted that the Harvard administration is neither hopelessly corrupt nor intellectually incompetent. If the administration had known about the argument, they would have investigated it, because they are not corrupt. If they had investigated it, they would have found the same massive evidence that I found, because they are not incompetent. And if they had found that massive evidence, they would not have cleared Dershowitz, because they are not corrupt.”

The articled essay is pretty damning against Dershowitz, and poses serious questions about plagiarism in an academic context, and whether Harvard were aware of Dershowitz conduct on plagiarism. The essay pieces together a few coherent and logical arguments of misconduct against Dershowitz, and would explain his disgusting below the belt attempt to deny Finkelstein his tenure at Depaul.


Its over to the distinguished University to sort it out.

One is reminded of the disgusting attempts at Columbia against Joe Massad and the concerted attempts by the crazy settler woman against Nadia El Hajje’s work.

Over to our resident Goons to comment!

The article link Titled “The case Against Dershowitz”


February 12th, 2009, 5:28 am


offended said:

It’s Up to Obama and the World Now
Few Peacemakers in the New Israeli Knesset

Israeli voters have elected a majority of lawmakers who are against the two-state solution. Now it’s up to the world–and the Obama administration–to respond.

Thirty-three parties ran for the Knesset (the Israeli parliament), ranging from the well-known Kadima, Likud and Labor to a variety of lesser known parties that ran on an array of platforms from the rights of the disabled to legalizing cannabis. However, only twelve parties managed to garner enough votes to secure seats in the Knesset.
The incoming Knesset will have a solid right-wing bloc, made up of Likud with twenty-seven seats, Yisrael Beiteinu with fifteen seats, two ultra-Orthodox parties with sixteen seats and two smaller nationalist parties with seven seats. This bloc has four more than the sixty-one-seat threshold needed to form a coalition.

The center bloc was able to muster forty-one seats. This bloc consists of Kadima with twenty-eight seats and Labor with thirteen seats. The remaining fourteen seats were won by liberal, leftist and Arab national parties.

The results clearly testify to the fact that a large majority of the elected politicians are against an Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement based on the two-state solution. Moreover, some parties have blatant neo-fascist tendencies. Yisrael Beiteinu, for example, ran under the banner of “no citizenship without loyalty,” and would like to strip any person who is critical of Israeli policies towards the Palestinians of their citizenship. People like me.

While the devastating effects of these elections on internal Israeli politics may not concern the international community, their repercussions for Israel’s relations with its neighbors–not least the Palestinians–should certainly concern world leaders and specifically President Barack Obama, who has already declared that Middle East stability and peace are vital to US interests.

Obama’s political vision has engendered hope not only in the United States, but around the world. My expectation is that he will make good on his promise for change and introduce a courageous initiative that will finally bring peace to Israelis and Palestinians. He has both an opportunity and a responsibility to do so.

The opportunity has arisen as a result of over eighteen years of political negotiations on the two-state solution (from the Madrid Conference in 1991, through Oslo, Camp David, Taba, and Annapolis) as well as the publication of promising initiatives (from the Geneva Initiative and the Arab Peace Initiative to the Nusseibeh and Ayalon Plan), which have clarified exactly what needs to be done in order to reach a peace settlement between the warring sides.

The two-state solution entails three central components:

1. Israel’s full withdrawal to the 1967 border with possible one per one land swaps so that ultimately the total amount of land that was occupied will be returned.

2. Jerusalem’s division according to the 1967 borders with certain land swaps to guarantee that each side has control over its own religious sites and large neighborhoods. These two components entail the dismantling of Israeli settlements and the return of the Jewish settlers to Israel.

3. The acknowledgment of the right of return of all Palestinians but with the following stipulation: While all Palestinians who so desire will be able to return to the fledgling Palestinian state, only a limited number agreed upon by the two sides will be allowed to return to Israel; those who cannot exercise this right or, alternatively, choose not to, will receive full compensation.

Obama’s responsibility arises from the fact that the only way to advance US regional interests and to provide real security for the two peoples is by having Israelis and Palestinians sign a comprehensive agreement of this kind. Taking into account the results of the current Israeli elections, Obama will have to neutralize the rejectionists in order to resolve this bloody conflict once and for all.

With determination and political boldness he can do just that. His administration will need to adopt the following strategy: First, the White House needs to draft a proposal using the above-mentioned guidelines. Second, the draft proposal should be submitted to the two sides so that each one can suggest minor alterations. Third, the Obama administration will have to hammer out a final proposal. Finally, this proposal should be publicized, with the US and international community applying pressure by declaring that the two parties will be rewarded if they support the initiative and penalized (economically and politically) if they do not.

The task might seem greater than it actually is, since ironically the majority of Jews (despite the elections) and Palestinians in the region support the two-state solution. The deadlock has occurred because the Israeli political configuration has allowed a sizable minority of settlers and their sympathizers to block all past governments from making the necessary compromises. This deadlock, however, can be overcome if the international community, and particularly the US, assumes a more interventionist role. And while intervention may be conceived by some as anti-Israeli, particularly if such intervention includes sanctions, it is the only way to secure Israel’s existence in the long run. Obama should not therefore hesitate to compel the incoming government to adopt the two-state solution. This would be the genuine pro-Israeli stance.

Neve Gordon is chair of the department of politics and government at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev and author of Israel’s Occupation (University of California Press, 2008).


February 12th, 2009, 5:32 am


Rumyal said:

Shai, Alex,

Good evening gentlemen…

On the two-state vs. one-state issue: let me be clear about something, I have no problem at all with the two-state solution, if both peoples find it just and satisfying. Heck I would accept a 7-state solution or resettlement on the moon and rededication of the land to the resurrection of the Emu if that’s what the peoples want 🙂

However, we cannot be in a situation where everybody believes that there is just one workable solution, especially when the viability of that solution if being constantly eroded. People need to have contingencies for failures on the path for peace, that would also lead to peace. I think it’s pretty clear to all that when the Palestinians say that they support a two-state solution they refer to something totally different from what Israel is proposing, with the crucial aspect being the right of return. However if the two-state solution works, that’s great. My point was that the peace camp should be prepared for the contingency that the two-state solution would not work and become less viable over time and have an answer to it other than Barak’s 2000 declaration that “we tried but there is no hope for peace”. The strategy should be: we are striving for a two-state solution but that requires certain steps to happen immediately, such as stopping the settlements. If that doesn’t happen, then there is another avenue for peace which is the one-state solution. Two solutions are better than a single solution…

Shai, with respect to what Israeli agrees with or don’t agree with, I think we can reach the conclusion that that doesn’t really matter anymore. Apartheid was very popular in South Africa too. That’s just tough for Israel, it will have to learn to live a normal life again. American Jews should be empowered to understand that they are no longer the passive riders on the bus being lead by their brave brothers in Israel at the wheel, but that the roles have changed, and that they should assume leadership.


On Syrian PR: fine… show me, and I’ll be convinced 🙂

February 12th, 2009, 7:15 am


Shai said:


“People need to have contingencies for failures on the path for peace, that would also lead to peace.”

Couldn’t agree with you more. But most in Israel believe there is no chance for peace, not anytime soon, and are ready to “wait things out” (whatever the hell that means). Fact remains that most Israelis are too apathetic, too numb, to even realize what is going on. We desperately need a “rude awakening”, either in the form of one very-tough Obama administration or, god-forbid, war.

As for the reversal of roles between Israelis and American Jews, I think in theory you’re correct (certainly when it comes to understanding and beginning to correct the damage AIPAC has caused us all). But once again, I’m afraid in practice it is still much tougher than you or I would like to believe. This “what right do I have to criticize Israel (when it is the one doing the fighting…)” mentality is still very prevalent amongst most Jews in America. The most they’re typically able to do, is to send their “guilt-money” (forgive me AIG, AP), and question nothing. If an Arab kills a Jew, he’s a terrorist. If a Jew kills an Arab, he’s fighting for his nation’s survival.

Maybe J-street, and some other movements, will start to reverse this horrific mentality, which hurts Israeli interests far more than helps them. But to reverse roles with Israel, as “leader of the Jewish world”, seems to me quite far-fetched right now. They can start by giving Obama the support he’ll need to change American policy in the region and vis-a-vis Israel.

February 12th, 2009, 8:27 am


Rumyal said:


Ironically, the only leadership they have to show is by convincing the president that it’s OK to pursue America’s best interests…

February 12th, 2009, 8:41 am


Shai said:


But first they have to agree that it is in America’s best interests. I’m not sure most in the Jewish community are there yet – especially when they’ll start hearing the Netanyahu-and-Gang “Help us in Washington, or we’re doomed” mantras.

February 12th, 2009, 9:18 am


Akbar Palace said:

As for the reversal of roles between Israelis and American Jews, I think in theory you’re correct (certainly when it comes to understanding and beginning to correct the damage AIPAC has caused us all).


With respect to your “reversal of roles” theory, and “the damage AIPAC has caused” you, I have another suggestion. Why don’t you start a letter writing campaign requesting that the US government supply Iran, Hezbollah, and/or Hamas with nuclear weapons?

I bet something like this could break Israel’s will and finally get Israel to the negotiating table.

February 12th, 2009, 11:58 am


Akbar Palace said:

Obama’s Challenge

Considering the following link showing cartoons in the Arab press, I’ll make the assumption that the Arab media doesn’t mention the thousands of rockets that Hezbollah and Hamas have launched across the border into Israel recently:


February 12th, 2009, 1:35 pm


offended said:


WASHINGTON (AFP) — US President Barack Obama on Thursday vowed to support UN moves to bring to justice the killers of slain Lebanese prime minister Rafiq Hariri ahead of the fourth anniversary of the assassination.

“As we share our grief with the Lebanese people over the loss of prime minister Hariri, we also share our conviction that his sacrifice will not be in vain,” Obama said in a statement ahead of Saturday’s anniversary.

“The United States fully supports the Special Tribunal for Lebanon, whose work will begin in a few weeks, to bring those responsible for this horrific crime and those that followed to justice.”

The UN tribunal to try Hariri’s alleged killers is due to open its doors on March 1, housed in the former headquarters of the Dutch intelligence service on the outskirts of The Hague.

The tribunal will try those presumed responsible for a series of attacks on Lebanese political and media personalities, notably the assassination of Hariri in a car bombing in February 2005 that also killed 22 others.

The attack on the Beirut seafront was one of the worst acts of political violence to rock Lebanon since the 1975-1990 civil war, and led to the withdrawal of Syrian troops after a 29-year presence.

The tribunal will have 11 judges, including four from Lebanon.

Obama added in his statement that as Lebanon prepared for parliamentary elections in June, “the United States will continue to support Lebanon’s sovereignty and independence, the legitimate institutions of the Lebanese state, and the Lebanese people.

“We also will continue to support the voices of peace and moderation in Lebanon, and hope that Lebanon continues down the path of national reconciliation, peace, and prosperity that its citizens so strongly deserve,” the US president added.

The statement added that the United States supported UN resolutions 1701 and 1559, ending the 2006 Israel-Lebanese conflict and calling on all foreign forces to withdraw from the Middle East country.

February 12th, 2009, 5:14 pm


Observer said:

I apologize for posting this article in its entirety but I do believe that it is much more important that the current article about a theoretical change of policy in the ME. This one goes to the very core of the legitimacy of Zionist ideology and I believe shoudl be posted in and of itself after the recent elections

French Echoes of the Israeli-Palestine Conflict

At each new war waged by the West, certain leftist or pacifist movements fall back on a “neither-nor” position. “Neither Milosevic nor NATO”, “Neither Bush nor Saddam”, and, now, rejecting both Israel and Hamas in the same breath.
In all these cases, there is a triple problem.

We ignore the difference in the relationship of forces.
The aggressor and the aggressed are treated in the same way.
And, worst of all, we act as though we were outsiders, above it all, whereas our governments are obviously not.
In the case of the Gaza conflict, the main version of neither-nor is to condemn in the same breath the Hamas rockets and Israel’s response, sometimes described as disproportionate. The very word “disproportionate” is in this case absurdly disproportionate compared to the disparity of forces involved. On the one hand, there is an ultra-sophisticated national army, navy and air force. When that force attacks, it does so to destroy infrastructures and terrorize an entire region by demonstrating its military superiority. On the other side, there are a few home-made missiles lobbed toward Israel, not in the hope of winning a battle, but rather to give a desperate sign that a dispossessed, enclosed and forgotten people are still alive. The rocket launchings being nothing but a means of rattling the bars of a prison, the aggressor is basically the power that has unjustly imprisoned an entire people, depriving them for decades of other means to make their existence known. The people who fire rockets at Israel are sometimes the descendants of people who were driven from their homeland in 1948. The rockets are an echo of that sixty-year-old dispossession. So long as this fact is not fully recognized, and it almost never is in the West, it is impossible to have a realistic vision of the depth of the problem.

In reality, the basic problem stems from the principles on which Israel was founded, that is, that it is legitimate for certain persons, by virtue of a property acquired at birth (to be “Jewish”) to occupy the land of other persons on whom the accident of birth failed to confer that property. Invoking the Bible or the holocaust as justification for that occupation changes nothing as to its intrinsically racist character, that is, the fact that it is based on a crucial distinction between individuals solely related to their birth.

This racist aspect is clear to the victims and to all those who identify with them, especially the populations of the Arab-Muslim world and parts of the Third World, to whom the Zionist project recalls previous painful experiences of European colonialism. But it is almost never acknowledged in the debate in the West. It must be stressed that this is not a matter of “ordinary” racism, of the attitudes that are unfortunately held by many individuals – a subjective and largely passive racism, regrettable but with limited consequences. Here it is a matter of an institutionalized racism, enforced by the structures of the State. Now, it is usually such State racism that is considered in our Western democracies to be an attribute of the “extreme right”, and that is denounced as “incompatible with our values”, “contrary to modernity and the Enlightenment”, and so on. This is the racism that led to a general condemnation of Apartheid in the Republic of South Africa and its ruling ideology. The only exception is Zionism, even though it is an ideology that legitimatizes an institutionalized racism. Oddly enough, it is often the Western left that, while being most ready to condemn state racism in general, is most apt to make an exception for the “Jewish state”.

The whole Western discussion of the conflict is indirectly contaminated by this underlying racist vision.

All parties and all “respectable” intellectuals or commentators, in order to gain access to the debate, must start by affirming “Israel’s right to exist”. But “Palestine’s right to exist” is scarcely ever mentioned. A Palestinian state, if ever it exists, will result not from a “right”, but from a negotiation, and only from a negotiation for which the Palestinians can provide the Israelis with “a responsible partner”, that is, one that recognizes as a precondition its adversary’s right to exist, without reciprocity.
Any individual of Jewish origin has the right to settle in Israel, receiving immediately full citizen’s right and financial support, but the non-Jews who were chased away in 1948 or afterwards, or their descendants, cannot return. Even within Palestine, their movements from one place to another are severely limited.
Hamas and Hezbollah must be prevented from rearming, while Israel can receive from the United States, even as a gift, all the arms it wants.
Israel is constantly celebrated as “the only democracy in the Middle East”, but the free elections of the Palestinians are considered invalid.
The Palestinians must “renounce violence”. Not Israel.
Iran must not possess nuclear weapons. Israel’s nuclear arsenal is not challenged.
All these double standards rest finally on the idea that the initial colonization enterprise was legitimate, or else that it happened long ago and is not worth talking about. But both those attitudes deny the full humanity of the victims, which brings us back to the issue of racism. Just imagine the European reaction if the State of Israel had been establish in part of the Netherlands or the French Riviera, while driving out the people already living there.

The dominant discourse employs double standards at every level, for instance when all the French political leaders repeat that we must not “import the Middle East conflict” into France. And yet, what is it when virtually the entire French political class is willing to listen humbly to lectures as to what to think about Israel at the annual dinner of the Conseil Représentatif des Institutions Juives de France (CRIF)? Isn’t the president of CRIF, who claims that “95 percent of French Jews” support the Israeli assault on Gaza, unilaterally importing the Middle East conflict to France?

There is a double standard in the way the far right is stigmatized. Usually, the target is the traditional French far right, or, more recently, Islamist fundamentalists. But never Zionism. Indeed, a large part of the political and intellectual left adopts an implicitly racist position regarding Palestine which would be considered “far right” if it concerned South Africa under Apartheid.

The left is ever ready to mount on its high horse against a French far right which is, no doubt, unlikeable, but weak and marginal (which makes attacking it easy). But it remains, at best, passive in the face of another far right (Zionism) which enjoys the military and diplomatic support of the world’s most powerful democracy.

One way of trying to silence protests against Israeli policy is to denounce expressions of anti-Semitism in demonstrations, as well as the comparison of Israel with Nazism. Of course that comparison is excessive, but almost everyone commits that sort of excess, all the time. In May ’68, the students called the CRS police “SS”, although no one was killed by them. What about comparisons of Milosevic or Nasser in his day with Hitler? Why can Israel’s supporters constantly identify Hamas or Iran with Hitler, but it is not allowed to turn the tables? One may answer that this is because of what the Jews suffered from the Nazis. But such considerations of sensibility have never prevented the “Nazi” comparison from being hurled at the Soviets or the Serbs, who also suffered from the Nazis during World War II. Less than the Jews no doubt, but at which level of suffering do such excesses become unacceptable? More fundamentally, once the Nazification of the adversary has become the main ideological weapon wielded by the West and Israel, it is inevitable that it will be turned against them when the occasion arises.

As for anti-Semitism, it must not be forgotten that Israeli policy is carried out by a State that calls itself Jewish, and is strongly supported by organizations that claim to represent Jews (correctly or incorrectly). It is unavoidable, in such a context, that some people who have nothing to do with historic anti-Semitism will identify Jews with Israel and express hostility to Jews. This is regrettable but no more surprising than the fact that partisans of Israel speak in derogatory terms of “Arabs”. During World War II, most people in occupied countries were anti-German, and not merely anti-Nazi. Probably only the most politically conscious made the distinction. During the Vietnam war, protesters often were anti-American and not merely opposed to US government policy (and it is the same today regarding US policy in the Middle East). Hatred is a product of war, and affects people who in peacetime can condemn racism and respect human rights. Since the Middle East conflict has already long since been imported in the media and in politics, in France an ideological war is underway. This creates foreseeable effects, which are deplored as though they were somehow unrelated.

It is not reasonable to expect those who are against Israel to constantly make a scrupulous distinction between Jews and Zionists when the dominant discourse maintains the identification (especially when it makes it possible to present Israel as the eternal “victim”).

Besides, what does one expect of a population which is constantly demonized, ridiculed, insulted, because, being Muslim, it supposedly understands nothing about democracy, human right, women’s right, and is guilty of “communitarianism” when it displays its religious convictions? Is it not natural that it reacts with virulence (verbally at least) in the face of the Gaza massacres?
What precedes is not a “justification of anti-Semitism” but a banal observation about an unpleasant but universal aspect of human psychology. One may add that all the denunciations and condemnations of anti-Semitism which do not take into account the context in which it develops are useless or counter-productive, like most moralizing speeches.

The situation here in France and Belgium is almost as inextricable as in Palestine itself. It is unfortunately true that anti-Semitism is growing, as is the ethnic community identification on all sides. We are unable to solve the situation in the Middle East, but we could at least start by recognizing the real nature of the problem (institutional racism) and change radically the way we talk about it. There should also be an end to intimidations and trials (for thought crimes) so that everyone can say what they really think about Israel and its supporters, and put both sides on an equal footing in debates concerning Zionism. It is also high time that French and European policy be decided independently of the influence of pressure groups. Only then can one hope to carry on the debate free of ethnic community passions and reduce anti-Semitism.

Jean Bricmont teaches physics in Belgium and is a member of the Brussels Tribunal. His book, Humanitarian Imperialism, is published by Monthly Review Press. He can be reached at Jean.Bricmont@uclouvain.be.

February 12th, 2009, 7:01 pm


Akbar Palace said:


In reality, the basic problem stems from the principles on which Israel was founded, that is, that it is legitimate for certain persons, by virtue of a property acquired at birth (to be “Jewish”) to occupy the land of other persons on whom the accident of birth failed to confer that property.

My two cents:

Another university professor (this time Physics?) offering us an opinion based on Israel’s “origin sin”.

How original?

Just imagine the European reaction if the State of Israel had been establish in part of the Netherlands or the French Riviera, while driving out the people already living there.

Just imagine the European reaction if the State of Israel (aka Jewish people) had been established in Europe ending in a Holocaust of 6 million dead.

February 12th, 2009, 7:32 pm


jad said:

“Just imagine the European reaction if the State of Israel (aka Jewish people) had been established in Europe ending in a Holocaust of 6 million dead.”
My two cents:
You acknowledge that creating the so called (the state of Israel (aka Jewish people)) was to help Europe get rid of it’s Jewish communities by transferring them to a far and less developed location like Palestine instead of killing them all later.
Stating that is also acknowledge that Palestinians and Arabs have nothing to do with the Holocaust yet, you think they deserve to be killed, massacred, called ‘terrorist’ and be occupied without having the right of self defense!
Very classical racist comments from a racist fake American.

February 12th, 2009, 9:59 pm


jad said:

عيون وآذان (عصابة إسرائيل بيتينو (بيتنا))
جهاد الخازن الحياة – 12/02/09//

لا نحتاج الى انتخابات نيابية في إسرائيل لنعرف أن إسرائيل لا تريد السلام، فسواء رأس الحكومة بنيامين نتانياهو أو تسيبي ليفني تبقى النتيجة واحدة، وهي أن إسرائيل لا تريد السلام، ولم تطلبه قبل 60 سنة أو 40 سنة أو في التسعينات من القرن الماضي أو اليوم.
أكتب وكديما متقدم على ليكود بمقعد واحد، غير أن اليمين متقدم على الوسط، فله 64 مقعداً في الكنيست الذي يتألف من 120 مقعداً. واستعمل كلمات اليمين والوسط مجازاً، فالكل يمين إرهابي، والفارق أن بعضه أكثر إرهاباً من بعض، فنتانياهو أسوأ من ليفني، وهذه أسوأ من إيهود باراك، وأفيغدور ليبرمان أسوأ من الجميع.
وأسجل قبل أن أكمل أن إسرائيل مسؤولة عن تخريب نصف عملية السلام، والفلسطينيون والعرب مسؤولون عن تخريب النصف الثاني، فالانقسام الفلسطيني والضعف العربي يشجعان الإسرائيليين على التطرف، طالما أن لا سبب ضاغطاً عليهم للسير على طريق السلام.
كل انتخابات إسرائيلية انتهت بحكومة ائتلافية أو حكومة وحدة وطنية، إلا أن العادة كانت دائماً أن يكلف الحزب الفائز تشكيل الحكومة، وهي عادة قد تخرق هذه المرة، لأن اليمين المتطرف انتزع عدداً أكبر من مجموع المقاعد.
شمعون بيريز سيستشير الأحزاب السياسية قبل تكليف أحد الفائزين تشكيل حكومة، وإذا كان المكلف نتانياهو فمشكلة إدارة أوباما معه ستكون في حجم المشكلة العربية أو أكبر لأن هذا الإرهابي لا يريد السلام وهو يرفض التخلي عن القدس الشرقية، أو الجولان، أو عودة اللاجئين، بل إنه يرفض مبدأ دولة فلسطينية مستقلة، ويريد «إراحة» الفلسطينيين اقتصادياً في كانتونات غير متواصلة تحت رحمة إسرائيل دائماً.
ثم هناك ليبرمان، رئيس حزب، أو عصابة إسرائيل بيتينو (بيتنا)، الذي أدلى بتصريحات عنصرية، وهدد بطرد الفلسطينيين أو قتل نوابهم في الكنيست.
ليبرمان القادم من مولدوفا كان يعمل حارساً على أبواب المواخير من أوروبا الوسطى الى إسرائيل، وهو حمل يوماً على الرئيس حسني مبارك لدفاعه عن حقوق الفلسطينيين، وقال: «ليذهب الى الجحيم». وأنا أسجل هذه العبارة اليوم لأذكّر المصريين بها، فهذا المتطرف يريد وزارة الدفاع، ونتانياهو قد يوافق، وهو قد يطلب زيارة مصر بصفته الرسمية المقبلة، لذلك أرجو أن تعلنه السلطات المصرية شخصاً غير مرغوب فيه، وتمنع دخوله أراضي مصر.
وأتوقف لأحكي للقراء قصة من التراث تخفف عنهم وطأة الإرهاب الإسرائيلي والفشل العربي قبل أن أكمل، فأنقل عن الأبهيشي قصة رجل ادعى النبوة في أيام أحد الملوك فلما حضر بين يدي الملك قال له: أنت نبي؟ قال: نعم. قال الملك: وإلى من بعثك؟ قال: إليك. قال الملك: أشهد أنك سفيه أحمق. قال: إنما يبعث لكل قوم مثلهم. فضحك الملك وأمر له بشيء.
ليبرمان بُعِث الى الذين انتخبوه وكلهم متطرف مثله، يعني «زعران» مواخير غرباء عن الشرق الأوسط، وهم عار على إسرائيل قبل غيرها.
ولكن ليبرمان لا يزال ينتظر دوره ليمارس الإرهاب ضد النساء والأطفال، في غزة أو أي مكان آخر، أما نتانياهو فإرهابي قديم شارك وهو يودع سنوات المراهقة في تدمير طائرات مدنية في مطار بيروت سنة 1968، وأحمّله شخصياً المسؤولية عن موت ألوف الفلسطينيين والإسرائيليين منذ التسعينات، فهو فاز سنة 1996 بفارق نصف واحد في المئة على شمعون بيريز والعمل، وبقي في الحكم ثلاث سنوات عطل فيها العملية السلمية فانتهت إدارة كلينتون، والسلام يكاد يكون في متناول الجميع، لولا ذلك النجس الذي هاجمه اليهود من أركان الإدارة في كتبهم اللاحقة.
لولا تلك السنوات الثلاث الضائعة لما جاء اتفاق الأطر في آخر شهرين لبيل كلينتون في الحكم، ولكان أبو عمار استطاع انتزاع موافقة فلسطينية عليه، بعد أن أقنعه كلينتون به في واشنطن، ولكان ألوف الناس الأبرياء أحياء، وهذا من دون أن أفترض أن حل القضية الفلسطينية كان سيمنع إرهاب 11/9/2001، ويحجب دماء مليون عراقي وأكثر من أربعة آلاف أميركي ومئات غيرهم من مختلف الجنسيات، من أفغانستان وباكستان وكل مكان.
إذا كلف نتانياهو تشكيل حكومة إسرائيل فليس له عندي تعليق سوى بيت شعر قديم:
وما زدتَ إن وُلِّيت إلا خِسَّةً
كالكلبِ أنجس ما يكونُ إذا اغتسل.

February 12th, 2009, 11:44 pm


Enlightened said:


Hamas says truce agreed with Israel

* February 13, 2009 – 9:12AM

Hamas has accepted an Egyptian-brokered 18-month truce with Israel in the Gaza Strip which Egypt will announce in 48 hours, state news agency MENA quoted a senior Hamas official as saying on Thursday.

Mussa Abu Marzuk, the Islamist movement’s deputy leader, said after meeting with Egyptian intelligence chief Omar Suleiman that Hamas had accepted the truce in return for the lifting of the Israeli blockade of Gaza.

“We have agreed to the truce with the Israeli side for one year and a half (in return) for the opening of all six passages between the Gaza Strip and Israel,” MENA quoted him as saying.

Egypt will announce the agreement after contacting Israel and Palestinian factions, he said.

Israeli government spokesman Mark Regev told Agence France-Presse in Jerusalem that he did not wish to comment.

Abu Marzuk, who headed a senior Hamas delegation in Cairo, said difficulties that had prevented an agreement have been resolved, especially the issue of captured Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit.

Israel had insisted that Hamas release Shalit, whom Palestinian militants captured more than two years ago, as a condition for ending its blockade of Gaza, which it imposed after Hamas violently seized the enclave in June 2007.

Marzuk said Shalit has been removed from the Gaza truce deal and that he would be released in exchange for Palestinian prisoners.

Osama Hamdan, Hamas’s representative in Lebanon, told AFP “we have surpassed the Shalit issue,” adding that Hamas did not want to hold Shalit indefinitely but wanted to exchange him for Palestinian prisoners.

Hamas officials have said that Israel offered to open its crossings into Gaza to allow between 70 and 80 per cent of goods into the coastal enclave, barring those it says could be used to make weapons.

Preventing Hamas from obtaining more weapons was a key objective of Isreal’s 22-day war in December and January on the Islamists.

Mohammed Nasr, a senior Hamas official based in Damascus and a member of the delegation, said on the eve of Thursday’s meeting that the delegation would seek guarantees that Israel would not reimpose the blockade after a truce.

Hamdan said after the meeting with Suleiman, who has been mediating between Israel and Hamas as the two sides refuse to talk to each other, that Egypt had offered “reasonable guarantees”.

“The truce will open the crossings with guarantees of the passage of needed goods into Gaza,” he said.

Ending the blockade has been a key Hamas demand and the reason it says it launched rockets and mortar rounds into Israel after a six-month truce expired in December, 2008.

The rocket and mortar fire led to the war with Israel which killed more than 1,330 Palestinians and 13 Israelis.

Israel and Hamas declared ceasefires to the fighting on January 18, but the fragile calm has been tested by Palestinian rocket attacks and Israeli air strikes.


February 12th, 2009, 11:50 pm


Akbar Palace said:

Very classical racist comments from a racist fake American.


How is MY response to this French academic about some hypothetical “European reaction” racist?

I am no more a “fake American” than Barack Obama or Jimmah Carter.

February 13th, 2009, 12:31 am


Enlightened said:


Is there any news regarding a visit by John Kerry and a senate delegation that is visiting Syria next week?

February 13th, 2009, 12:38 am


norman said:

Enlighted one , This is for you my friend ,

Skip to main content, accesskey ‘s’
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Financial Times FT.comUS
Politics & Foreign policyCloseWhite House warms to thaw in ties with Syria
By Daniel Dombey in Washington

Published: February 13 2009 00:42 | Last updated: February 13 2009 00:42

US diplomats and officials are stepping up efforts to improve relations with Syria, in moves that mark a break with George W. Bush’s policy of isolating Damascus.

To date, Washington has declined to confirm Syrian reports that the US had permitted two Syrian Boeing 747s to be repaired, even though the country is on the US’s list of state sponsors of terrorism. But on Thursday, the state department set out reasons why Boeing should be allowed to do such work.

“There are ways that we can try to provide, for example, in the case of Syria … spare parts that may be needed to ensure that there is continued safety in the aviation industry,” a state department spokesman said.

Further emphasis on US-Syrian ties is set to come next week, when John Kerry, chairman of the Senate foreign relations ­committee, visits Damascus. Although Mr Kerry’s office stresses he is not an emissary of the new US administration, he discussed his plans on Thursday at a breakfast meeting with Hillary Clinton, secretary of state.

Mr Kerry has visited Syria twice before and has repeatedly called for the US to send an ambassador to Damascus.

The Bush administration recalled its ambassador after the 2005 assassination of Rafiq Hariri, the former Lebanese prime minister. Washington and other countries suspect Syria of being involved in the killing, despite Damascus’ protestations to the contrary.

Howard Berman, chairman of the House of Representatives foreign affairs committee, is also likely to visit Syria this month.

Although many countries in the Middle East argue the administration of Barack Obama should focus on helping achieve Israeli-Palestinian peace, some US officials and analysts argue diplomatic engagement with Syria offers better immediate prospects.

They add that greater contacts with Damascus could also help stabilise Iraq and better position the US for negotiations with Iran, which Mr Obama indicated this week are likely to begin in coming months. US officials are wary of a big public move towards Tehran until after Iran’s June elections.

For some time Israeli diplomats have argued that the Bush administration’s refusal to engage with Syria pushed Iran and Syria closer together, so strengthening Tehran.

In testimony at her confirmation hearing in January, Mrs Clinton said that the US should “engage directly” to help Syria-Israel peace talks as well as talking to “all of Iraq’s neighbours”. But in a delicate balancing act, both Mrs Clinton and Mr Obama have issued statements this week marking the fourth anniversary of Mr Hariri’s assassination.

In his comments, Mr Obama called for “those responsible for this horrific crime and those that followed to [be brought to] justice.” Mrs Clinton promised $6m for the United Nations tribunal investigating the crime.

However, the administration’s emerging position on Syria has already been criticised by legislators who emphasise Damascus’ closeness to Iran and its role in harbouring leaders of groups such as Hamas as well as the Hariri investigation.

“The administration is aiding an unrepentant regime and is sending a signal that the US will make concessions and seek dialogue regardless of what the facts dictate,” said Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, the ranking Republican on the House foreign affairs committee.

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February 13th, 2009, 2:02 am


norman said:

Enlighted one ,

This one about Kerry,

Print | Close this window

Senator Kerry to see Assad during Mideast trip
Thu Feb 12, 2009 4:45pm EST
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – John Kerry, chairman of the U.S. Senate’s foreign relations committee, will meet Syrian President Bashar al-Assad next week during a Middle East trip as Washington works to keep a dialogue between the two countries despite years of tension.

Assad said recently Syria wanted to have a constructive dialogue with the United States, and President Barack Obama, who took over from President George W. Bush last month, said during his campaign he wanted to reach out to Syria.

Kerry’s spokesman Frederick Jones said the senator would be traveling to Syria, Egypt, Jordan and Israel as chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and not as an emissary of the Obama administration.

Kerry, who ran an unsuccessful campaign for president against Bush in 2004, was due to meet President Hosni Mubarak in Egypt, but his other appointments were not yet clear.

Jones said Kerry had met Assad before and had conducted a “continuing dialogue” with Syrian officials, including a recent meeting with Damascus’ ambassador to Washington.

Kerry met with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Thursday, Jones said.

Syria and the United States are on poor terms because of Damascus’ support for the Palestinian group Hamas and the Lebanese movement Hezbollah.

Under Bush, Washington withdrew its ambassador in Damascus following the 2005 assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik al-Hariri and accused Syria of allowing Islamist fighters to infiltrate Iraq. Cooperation between Syria and Iran has also angered Washington.

The Wall Street Journal said on Thursday that Representative Howard Berman, chairman of the House (of Representatives) Foreign Affairs Committee, also would meet Assad this month. A Berman aide said that for security reasons the committee would not confirm or deny reports about travel plans.

(Editing by David Storey)

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Thomson Reuters journalists are subject to an Editorial Handbook which requires fair presentation and disclosure of relevant interests.

February 13th, 2009, 2:06 am


Hans said:

April 20th is the target date for the beginning of the end of our enslavement to the New York banks. This is 90 days of Obama administration. Come back after 21 April and review what you American “experts” keep churning out. America is broke, bankrupt and the people will soon wake up from their sleepish slumber. Let me ask this question:-

Robert Rubin, Timothy Geithner, Larry Summers, Peter Orszag, Ben Bernanke and the previous four Chairmen of the Federal Reserve Bank (dating back to 1970) were Jewish. What are the odds that the next 9 Americans you meet would be Jewish? If we assume that 10% of all white men in America are Jewish, then the odds would be 10 to the ninth power which is a one followed by 9 zeros (1,000,000,000) or one in a billion. If we add Rahm Emanuel as Chief of Staff, then the odds are one in ten billion.

This statics is becoming clear to the Joe/Jane six packs and it will be very uncomfortable!

February 13th, 2009, 10:13 am


majid said:

Hariri looking down at an obviously worried Assad: murderer your time is up.


February 13th, 2009, 10:17 am


offended said:

You got me there. For a moment I thought you were referring to a new statement made by Sa’d Al Hariri in which he addressed president Assad saying: “murderer, your time is up”.

February 13th, 2009, 11:27 am


offended said:

In another world, Ahmadinajad would be now launching air strikes against Israel, killing hunderds of thousands of Jews, just to improve his elections’ potential for Iranian presidency versus Khatemi.

February 13th, 2009, 12:02 pm


Akbar Palace said:

Ali Zahalka slams Israeli-Arab leadership for radicalism that boosted Avigdor Lieberman

Ali Zahalka

The Arab-Israeli leadership is increasing pushing us into anti-Israel radicalism. This extremism climaxed with the “Death to the Jews” chants during Operation Cast Lead. Here is what I have to say to those leaders: Look at what you’ve done.

We did not cry out in the face of rocket attacks on southern residents that went on for years. We did not cry out in the face of the suffering of our brethren, Gaza residents, who have been brutally repressed by Hamas. Yet we cried out, of all things, in the face of an onslaught against the most radical element in the Arab world.

The Arab-Israeli leadership won’t connect, heaven forbid, to the moderate Arab elements such as Egypt, Mahmoud Abbas’ Palestinian Authority, or Jordan. These are of no interest to it. We saw Azmi Bishara, who left, and we saw where he went to.

I don’t need to explain what Hamas is all about. The Egyptians and Palestinian Authority officials are doing it better than me. They ask Hamas how it can talk about victory when the war against Israel – which it sought and advanced – was managed on the backs and blood of thousands of Palestinians that were killed, wounded, or lost their property, while Hamas’ leadership stayed at fortified bunkers or in Damascus.

So now we can accurately measure the result of this conduct: 18. Why 18? Because this is the number of Knesset seats that the polls predict for Avigdor Lieberman’s party, Yisrael Beiteinu.

Apparently, we got what we deserve. If we, citizens of the State of Israel, which has a Jewish majority, connect to the worst enemies of the State, why are we surprised that this is what we get?

Lieberman and his party are not a marginal political element such as Meir Kahane’s party, Kach. We are dealing with immense political power that constitutes tangible danger to Israeli Arabs. He hates us and incites against us, and we can see that it’s going very well for him: The more he incites against us, the stronger he gets.

Moment of truth

That is, we managed to make the Jewish public hate us so much that many are willing to support a racist party. If a party was similarly inciting against Jews overseas, those same Lieberman supporters would probably cry out “anti-Semitism.”

Our leadership, which for years had been leading us in a way that portrays us as the enemies of the State of Israel, while failing to take care of any of the real needs of Israel’s Arab residents, is now asking for our votes again. Yet we interest our leadership just about as much as the Gaza population interests Hamas. For this leadership, we are merely a political means that allows it to make its damaging voice heard again and again.

I turn to Arab residents of Israel: This is a moment of truth for us. We are facing grave danger, and don’t say that you weren’t warned. Eighteen Knesset seats for Lieberman is no longer a political game. For us, it’s genuine trouble. We cannot stand by and watch on, as if this does not pertain to us. We must enlist and massively support the moderate parties that will weaken Lieberman.

We constitute 20% of the population in Israel and we have the ability to exert significant influence. We do not have the privilege to stay at home at this time and avoid the political game. If we fail to play it, others shall play it on our backs.

Therefore, do not abstain from voting, and do not vote for the radical Arab parties. Rather, vote in a way that reduces the great danger we are facing today – Lieberman and his colleagues. In other words: Support parties that are still willing to give us the opportunity to integrate as citizens with equal rights.

The writer is the principal of an elementary school at Kfar Kara


February 13th, 2009, 12:14 pm


Enlightened said:

” 70. offended said:

In another world, Ahmadinajad would be now launching air strikes against Israel, killing hunderds of thousands of Jews, just to improve his elections’ potential for Iranian presidency versus Khatemi”

Ya offended what world is that?

Bizzaro world?

I bet you my life savings that the west would respond quite differently to the way it did to the events in Gaza early in the year!

Here is my explanation using Akbar’s logic 1500 deaths = 3 Jewish deaths! You see that’s a very even score. So even if we apply the bizarro world, figures hundreds of thousands Jewish lives, would infact wipe out the Iranian population!

i WONDER why ahmedinajed has been very quiet since the gaza operation. No outlandish statements, no threats, oh yes my it might have to do with that new satellite that was put into space, watch out for Netanyahu if he takes the PM’s chair to make a quick trip to America highlight the Iranian problem and get his buddies in AIPAC to start badgering for a new war.

Just when I thought we might have peace this year!

February 13th, 2009, 2:17 pm


norman said:

شرخ بجبهة الخلاص الوطني المعارضة في سوريا

GMT 14:00:00 2009 الجمعة 13 فبراير

بهية مارديني


مراقب الإخوان المسلمين يزور دمشق قريبا
شرخ بجبهة الخلاص الوطني المعارضة في سوريا

بهية مارديني من دمشق: أكدت تقارير أن المفاوضات بين النظام السوري وجماعة الإخوان المسلمين بدأت في الشهور الأخيرة من العام الماضي وان زيارة قريبة سيقوم بها علي صدر الدين البيانوني المراقب العام لجماعة الاخوان المسلمين في سوريا الى دمشق برفقة الدكتور الأمين العام للاتحاد العالمي لعلماء المسلمين الشيخ يوسف القرضاوي ، في حين قال بيان للجماعة ، تلقت ايلاف نسخة منه ، ان العلاقة مع جبهة الخلاص الوطني المعارضة التي احد ابرز اقطابها عبد الحليم خدام نائب الرئيس السوري السابق المنشق ستكون محل دراسة للجماعة ، وتوقع محلل سياسي سوري في تصريح خاص لايلاف ان تعلن جماعة الاخوان قريبا انسحابها من جبهة الخلاص التي شكلتها وخدام في وقت سابق بعد ان اصبح الشرخ بين الطرفين لا يمكن اخفاؤه.

واكد تقرير لموقع ساتفورد الذي يتردد عن مدى قربه من السي أي ايه “أن المفاوضات بين سوريا والاخوان قد بوشرت على ايدي السفير الإيراني في لندن وبإلحاح من الجانب الإيراني الذي قلق مما يقوم به النظام السوري على صعيد محاولته العودة إلى الساحة العربية “، وقال التقرير ان الشيخ القرضاوي دخل على خط الإتصالات وبطريقة مباشرة وان النتائج الايجابية أفضت بالجماعة إيقاف جميع النشاطات المعارضة ضد النظام السوري.

انشقاق في جبهة الخلاص الوطني

من جانبه رجح المحلل السياسي السوري ادهم الخطيب في تصريح خاص لايلاف انشقاقا في جبهة الخلاص بين خدام والبيانوني ، وقال انه من المتوقع في ظل المعطيات الاخيرة هذا الانشقاق معتبرا ان جبهة الخلاص سارعت وهاجمت البيانوني مؤخرا وكان من الواضح حجم الهوة بين الطرفين ، ورأى ان خدام لم يقدم شيئا للبيانوني ولتنظيم الاخوان لدى انشقاقه عن النظام السوري وللمعارضة بشكل عام ، وحول ماقدم الاخوان لخدام اعتبر الخطيب ان تحالف شخص مع تيار معارض كان امرا جيدا لخدام في فترة انتقاله الى مرحلة المعارضة ليطرح نفسه كقوة على الارض وليس كظاهرة فردية ، كما اعتبر ان انشقاقا حاليا كهذا في جبهة الخلاص اليوم يقوض من هذه الجبهة ان لم نقل انه ينهيها ، وقال على مايبدو حسم الاخوان خياراتهم مؤخرا لدى تعليق انشطتهم المعارضة تجاه النظام مع سوريا وربما في فترة قبلها ، وراوا بعد فترات من المعارضة والاغتراب ان السباحة عكس التيار على هذا الشكل هو امر متعب ودون ثمن سياسي خاصة في ظل ان المجتمع الدولي طور علاقاته على نحو ايجابي مع سوريا .

اخوان سوريا تدرس علاقتها بجبهة الخلاص

وكانت جماعة الاخوان المسلمين في سوريا بررت امس الخميس قرارها بتعليق أنشطتها المعارضة ضد النظام في سوريا، في سياق البيان الصادر عن الحرب الهمجية على غزة. وقالت انه كان واضحاً أن البيان لم يكن موجّهاً للنظام في سوريا وحده، بل كان موجّهاً إلى دوائر أخرى دولية، وإسلامية، وعربية، وسورية، رسمية وشعبية، وقد حقّق هذا الموقف كثيراً من أهدافه .

وقال البيان أن التحالفات السياسية، لا تعني التطابقَ التام بين المتحالفين، أو التوافقَ على كلّ جزئيات الموقف وتفصيلاته، إلا أننا ومنذ مرحلة مبكرة، فوجئنا بأصواتٍ بدأت تندّ من بعض الأطراف في جبهة الخلاص، تهاجمُ الحركة الإسلامية، وما تصفه بالإسلام السياسي، وتتبنّى المشروعَ الأمريكي بأبعاده، وتهاجمُ المشروعَ المقاومَ الذي يمثله إخواننا في حركة المقاومة الإسلامية (حماس)، الذين يمثلون في الوقت نفسه جوهرَ الخيار الديمقراطي للشعب الفلسطيني، في الدورة الانتخابية القائمة على الأقل.. وكنا نتجاوزُ هذه المواقفَ ونعتبرها بعضَ الخصوصيات، ما دامت تمثل أصحابها، ولا تتحدّثُ باسم الجبهة، ولا تلزمُ أطرافها في شيء.

واوضح البيان ان الاخوان حين اتخذوا موقفهم المعلن “في بياننا الأخير، بمناسبة العدوان الصهيونيّ على غزة، هذا الموقف الذي قام في جوهره على دعم الجهد على محور المقاومة، اعتبرنا ذلك من خصوصياتنا. ودعونا الأمانة العامة لجبهة الخلاص، أن تتخذَ موقفاً مقارباً في هذا السياق، حرصاً على مكانتها في نفوس أبناء الأمة، وأبناء الوطن في الداخل والخارج، وحتى لا تحشرَ نفسها في موقف شبهة، يسيء إلى مشروعنا الوطنيّ، ..وتركنا للأمانة العامة مجتمعة، وللأطراف المكونة لها، أن يعيدوا تقديرَ الموقف في ضوء المعطيات والمستجدات”.

واوضح البيان “انه في لقاء الأمانة العامة الأخير للجبهة بتاريخ 6/2/2009، تقدمنا بمذكرة توضيحية، شرحنا فيها وجهةَ نظرنا، حول موقف الجماعة وأبعاده، مؤكّدين حرصَنا على جبهة الخلاص الوطنيّ، وتمسّكنا بها، في إطار الثوابت العامة للأمة، والإقرار بأهمية القضية الفلسطينية ومركزيتها، ودعم جهود المقاومين الفلسطينيين، والخيار الديمقراطيّ للشعب الفلسطيني، وأكدنا في مذكرتنا تلك، أن موقفنا الوطنيّ هذا، لا يتعارضُ مع ميثاق الجبهة، وأننا ننطلقُ من مرجعيتنا الإسلامية، وثوابتنا الوطنية، وخصوصيتنا التنظيمية، مع احترامنا لوجهات النظر المخالفة، مادامت في إطار الاختلاف الموضوعي، وبروحٍ موضوعيةٍ ديمقراطية، تركنا لبقية أطراف الجبهة في الأمانة العامة، أن يتخذوا القرارَ الذي يريدون، وأن يصدروا البيان الذي يختارونه دون موافقتنا على بينةٍ ووضوحٍ من مآلات أيّ موقف. وأنّ على الذين يتخذون أيّ موقف، أن يتحملوا مسئوليته”.

وقال البيان انه مع إدراكنا للتباينات بين أعضاء الأمانة العامة، في الموقف من القضية الفلسطينية، ومن مشروع المقاومة على الأرض الفلسطينية والأرض العربية.. وأن هناك أطرافاً تحمل موقفاً مسبقاً تريد فرض أجندتها على الجبهة.. فقد كنا نتوقع من التيار القوميّ في الجبهة، أن يتخذ موقفاً منسجماً مع تاريخه، ومع جماهيره في الشارعين العربي والوطنيّ، لكن يبدو أن الأمور سارت في اتجاه آخر.

واضاف البيان لقد طفت في وسائل الإعلام خلال الأسابيع الأخيرة، بياناتٌ وتصريحاتٌ ومقالات.. تندّدُ بموقف الجماعة، وتشنّ حملةً من الاتهامات عليها. وافاد انه إذا كنا نحترمُ الآراءَ الموضوعيةَ المخالفة، التي عبّرَ عنها أصحابها بأدبٍ واحترام، فإننا لن نلقيَ بالاً للإسفاف الذي انحدرَ إليه بعض من يُحسَبون على المعارضة،.

وحدد البيان مرحلة ما بعد غزة، وقال ان حديثه عن هذه المرحلة هو حديثُ جدّ وليس بالهزل. وإن منطقتنا ستدخلُ مرحلةً استراتيجيةً جديدة، علينا أن نحسنَ تقديرها، وأن نحسنَ التعامل معها. ومايزالُ إخوانكم في القيادة يجرون المشاورات لاتخاذ المواقف التي تخدم أولويات القضايا إسلامياً وعربياً ووطنياً..

واكد البيان انه ستكونُ العلاقةُ مع جبهة الخلاص الوطنيّ، موضعَ دراسةٍ ونظرٍ وتقويم، في مؤسّسات الجماعة، في ضوء هذه التطوّرات، بهدف إحكام المسيرة، وتجنّب العثرات.

February 13th, 2009, 3:14 pm


offended said:

Dear enlightened,
In another world, Israel would be too weak to respond. : )

Of course, the ethics of the world I am suggesting are ridiculous, but you might agree with me that we have are the same kind of ethics in the world we live in right now, but with a reverse order and with a lopsided scale of powers.

February 13th, 2009, 3:59 pm


Akbar Palace said:

The Myth of Proportionality

Enlightened still doesn’t get:

Here is my explanation using Akbar’s logic 1500 deaths = 3 Jewish deaths! You see that’s a very even score. So even if we apply the bizarro world, figures hundreds of thousands Jewish lives, would infact wipe out the Iranian population!

The issue isn’t the number of dead. The issue is dealing with 8 years of missile and mortar firings. See the comments from Ali Zahalka in Post 71 above.

No country would put up with this for one year, let alone eight. No country would allow 3 missiles to land wihout a response, let alone thousands.

i WONDER why ahmedinajed has been very quiet since the gaza operation. No outlandish statements, no threats, oh yes my it might have to do with that new satellite that was put into space, watch out for Netanyahu if he takes the PM’s chair to make a quick trip to America highlight the Iranian problem and get his buddies in AIPAC to start badgering for a new war.

Of course Hamas, Hezbollah, and their Iranian nuclear-powered masters can start a war whenever they want, and no one in the Arab world could care less.

Funny how the pro-jihadists on this website have 2 standards.

Just when I thought we might have peace this year!

Sarcasm equally noted.

February 13th, 2009, 4:09 pm


nafdik said:


It is clear that from a pure Israeli perspective the calculus ignores how many Palestinians are killed and simply wants to resolve the problem for the Israeli population.

But this precisely where proportionality is designed to apply. If fixing your problem will cost others 100 fold what you have saved then you are asked to live with your problem.

I hope you agree that if the Palestinians killed 1 Israeli every 10 years you would not be justified in killing 100000 of them to stop these murders.

If you do then you agree that there is some proportionality principle that applies to the conflict. Where you might disagree is the level of proportionality that is legitimate.

What would be your recommended ratio?

How many Palestinians are you ready to kill to save the lives of 1 Israeli?

February 13th, 2009, 4:45 pm


Observer said:

I have come to realize that after the Gaza offensive, the Zionists’ arguments have become completely apologetic and reverted back to equating any critique of Israel to anti-semitism.

It is clear that more people around the world and certainly in the Muslim world were shocked by the wanton destruction and killing of innocent civilians and that the puny attacks by home made rockets do not come close to the idea of reciprocity or proportionality.

More than ever, the EU has lost credibility around the world in the political arena that is going to match its economic debacle as we see the bubbles of fake economies and paper money bursting.

It is a fact that Palestine was stolen from its people, after subjecting them to endless ethnic cleansing and confining them to open air prisons.

In Israel proper their cars have different plates to insure that their movements are controlled and their representation in the elections have been curtailed.

In 1979 on the day the USSR invaded Afghanistan, Israel annexed the Golan heights, and since then they have not renounced that dubious claim to the land.

More people are coming forward questioning the legitimacy of the continued support of the West to the policies of a the most rogue of regimes on earth. How long will people tolerate the intolerable treatment of the Palestinians in paritcular and the world commnuity in general by the Zionist policies.

It is clear from the latest election results in Israel that they lost both the 06 and the 08 wars. Only a defeated foe votes for revenge and vengeance. Remember how the humiliated Arab world reacted after the 67 defeat by issuing the “NO” resolutions. This is clearly a vote for more war and vengeance as the thirst for pre eminent dominance in the region has been competely thwarted.

Seme le vent et recolte la tempete. This is what Zionism is breeding

Here is some more reading for those Zionists on this blog

The Israeli Smashing of Gaza and International Silence
by Ann Wright

I travelled to Gaza last week with Medea Benjamin and Tighe Berry of Codepink: Women for Peace. We were allowed by the Egyptian government to enter Gaza for only 48 hours.
I knew that 1026 of the 1330 who were killed in the Israeli attacks on Gaza were civilians. Of the 1026 civilians, 282 were children, 111 women, 168 civilian policemen and 501 civilian men died in Israeli bombings. 274 have been classified as combatant deaths.

I knew that the estimates for the cost of reconstruction to the destruction done by Israeli bombing is over $2 billion. After seeing the destruction in Gaza City, I thought I would be prepared for North Gaza. I had heard the damage done by F-16s and tanks was substantial, but I was stunned by the large number of apartment buildings and industries that had been blown up and destroyed by the Israeli military in the northern Gaza border region with Israel.

The Israeli military destroyed virtually everything in a corridor along the border in Jabalia and forced the evacuation of Gazans back into the center part of Gaza, a tiny area 45 kilometers long and 8 kilometers wide. Homes and factories were leveled and tens of thousands of citizens were left homeless. We saw five tent camps that had been set up by relief organizations. Living conditions are spartan.

Nahed, a project manager for Palestine Medical Relief Society, guided us through the wreckage of North Gaza. We visited one of the four primary health care facilities PMRS operates, with an overworked staff trying to cope with the medical and emotional challenges of those who have returned to their bombed out homes with family members dead or injured.

37 Members of One Family Killed as Israeli Military Orders 150 into a Building then Bombs it

In the Al Zaiton area in northern Gaza, we met with the remaining members of the al Samouni family. The large extended family lived in many houses and some family members operated a poultry farm in the area. After the Israeli army invaded, Army personnel ordered 150 members of the family into one large home and then bombed the home as well as all the numerous homes and buildings of the family. 37 members of the family were killed and many were injured. The Israeli government said the military had made a mistake.
The al Samouni family set up several large tents for the numerous visitors who come by the area to pay respects. One tent had eight women inside. All had family members killed and wounded in the attacks. We spoke with Ibtessana al Samouni who had two children killed and her husband and daughter seriously injured and are being treated in Saudi Arabia. One of her sons was also injured and is in a military hospital in Cairo. She and her remaining 5 children are living with other relatives in Gaza City. Ibtessana had a glazed stare and kept repeating that no one in her family had done anything to the Israelis. We saw in her eyes the disbelief that some of her children were dead and that she would not see her husband and other children for months. The emotional health of the al Samouni extended family considering the large number of deaths and injuries in the family seemed precarious.

The family area, a section of land about ½ mile by ½ mile was completely bombed. It looked like a huge tornado or hurricane had wiped out the area. The poultry farm was totally destroyed and bulldozers were pushing the rotting chicken carcasses into a pit while we were there.

Life Without Your Home

Dressed in her black abaya, Izbet Abed Rabu told us she and her family of five children and her husband now live in a tent provided by the United Nations after her home was destroyed in Jabalia, northern Gaza. She showed us her two story concrete block home that was flattened into rubble. Her eyes teared over as she said she was lucky. No one in her family had been killed in the Israeli naval shelling and rocket attacks, but her neighbors had been hit hard. Two neighboring families each had three family members killed.

Izbet pointed to the white tent provided by the United Nations and said that after two weeks they still have only blankets, but no cots or any “furniture” inside the tents. With the night desert temperatures falling into the low 40 degrees, she said her four children are cold. The children are not yet in school.

Industries Systematically Destroyed

There are few industries left in northern Gaza and the Israeli military destroyed 10-15 of those remaining industries including two cement companies, a dairy, gas station, an aluminum recycling company and a health products company. The production capacity of Gaza has been severely impacted by the Israeli warplanes.

Agricultural Lands Purposefully Destroyed

We walked in the agricultural lands mangled by Israeli tanks that had been positioned in the fields near the medical clinic. The fruit trees in one field had been completed knocked down and bulldozed over. Olive orchards throughout Gaza were systematically destroyed by Israeli tanks.

Schools Destroyed

Close by was Khalil al Noubany High School that had been used by Israeli soldiers. To secure the building they blew holes in it setting part of it on fire. The remaining part was occupied and used to fire on any one remaining in the area. The Israeli soldiers trashed the school. They left h military trash everywhere. School books and supplies had been thrown on the floor and walked on in virtually all the classrooms. It was quite obvious that they soldier had intentionally damaged the insides of the classrooms and purposefully destroyed books and educational materials. The headmaster of the school, who arrived as we were looking at the school, said that the school had served 550 girl students in the morning and 530 male students in the afternoon. She told us that the school is so severely damaged that it cannot reopen this year and students are having to travel to the few remaining schools that are open in Gaza.

Later in the day while he was serving double duty as a Gaza government official at the Rafah, Gaza border crossing, Mr. Ahmed Ayes Alnajjar of the Ministry of Education told us that 7 schools in Gaza were totally destroyed and 135 schools were substantially damaged.

The Prison Called Gaza

We left northern Gaza and headed for the Rafah border crossing with Egypt. We had to be across the border into Egypt by 5pm as the Egyptian government was closing the border. If we did not exit Gaza by 5pm we too would be imprisoned in Gaza until the border crossing reopened-which might be months. So after only 48 hours in Gaza, we were forced to depart.

On the way to the Gaza border, we stopped to see a few of the 1500 tunnels that Palestinians have dug since the borders of Gaza were closed and the siege began. Palestinians have been locked into the prison called Gaza for the past sixteen months.

Bombing Tunnels With a Blind Eye

The tunnel area is in plain sight next to the Egyptian border. It is a surreal scene. Buildings behind the tunnel area have been bombed and are destroyed. Trucks and cars are parked under the remaining roofs of a large bombed out fresh air market– ready to move goods from the tunnel area.

Mounds of fresh sand are everywhere indicating that tunnels are still being dug. Generators hum providing air into the tunnels and powering the cables that pull loads of every imaginable type of goods from vegetables, canned goods, bags of rice and sugar, merchandise for hardware stores, etc. through the tunnels to the surface on the Gaza side.

Every tunnel is surrounded by barriers made of light fencing covered with large plastic bags. Young men are busy hauling up goods that have been brought through the tunnel from Egypt.

The tunnel “managers” we spoke with were surprisingly open in allowing us to come into the areas and talk with them. They said that about 900 tunnels have been destroyed or partially damaged by Israeli bombs. Most are being rebuilt, despite the almost daily bombing by Israeli war planes. The tunnels we saw had openings about 4 feet across. The entry holes were from 50 to 65 feet deep and the tunnels were 500 to 1,000 feet long. One tunnel opening was built with concrete blocks and another opening was built with wood.

The tunnel manager said that to rebuild a tunnel that has been blown up takes about half the time to reopen and digging a new tunnel. The tunnel areas are little cities with electricity, water, food and coffee at each tunnel entrance.

Tunnel digging is about the only employment for young men in Gaza. They earn 100 shekels ($25) per day for digging in the tunnels. One manager said many tunnel diggers had died when the reinforced sand tunnels collapsed during construction. But young men continue to risk the dangers as tunnel construction is one of the few jobs available to them.

While we did not see the other end of the tunnel operation on the Rafah, Egypt side of the border, it is inconceivable that Egyptian authorities do not know where the tunnel openings are. All they have to do is to follow the parade of trucks loaded with merchandise that come into Rafah, Egypt.

After coming through the border we stopped in Rafah, Egypt to see what the smuggling town was like. The police presence was tremendous. We had barely gotten our bags out of the taxi when a policeman was at our side asking why we were in Rafah. We replied that we were hungry and wanted to get something to eat. We stopped at a small falafel stand and for the next hour were watched by police. As one of us would go to explore the main street, police would follow in the distance. They definitely did not want us straying off the main road and back into the houses and businesses where the tunnel entrances are.

It is remarkable that all the tunnels haven’t been bombed. With the sophisticated satellite views, cameras from drones, tethered radar and surveillance balloon and the $32 million tunnel detection equipment provided by the U.S. government, the Israeli, Egyptian and United States’ governments know exactly where the tunnels are.

But, closing the border provides Egyptian and Israeli businessmen a tremendous opportunity to sell goods to people in Gaza at very high prices. No doubt, Egyptian and Israeli government officials are paid to turn a blind eye to the tunneling and “smuggling.” Determining who profits economically from the occupations and sieges is fascinating. A new Israeli website http://www.whoprofits.org tracks who profits financially from the occupation and no doubt profits from the blockade and will profit from the rebuilding of destroyed Gaza.

Israeli bombing of tunnels is, of course, only on the Gaza side. No one is bombing the entrances to the tunnels on the Egyptian side of the border.

The tunnel economy means that for the ordinary citizens of Gaza, where there is a 70% unemployment rate and where over 900,000 of the 1.5 million in Gaza are on United Nations rations, closing the border and forcing commerce through the tunnels they pay exorbitant fees for every item brought through the tunnels.

SILENCE from the International Community

The sights we saw in Gaza were tragic-a goliath Israel pounding a small Gaza David with international silence and complicity in the 22 day military attack on Gaza and on the 16 month siege of Gaza. 1330 Palestinians have died, 5400 have been wounded and hundreds of thousands with memories of the bombings and invasion and occupation. Over $2 billion will be spent on rebuilding destroyed homes, businesses and factories. And there is SILENCE!!

Smashing of Gaza is a War Crime

I deplore the use of rockets against Israeli towns by Hamas and other groups in Gaza which have killed approximately 20 Israelis.

But, as a military officer who taught the Geneva Conventions and the Law of Land Warfare in US military schools, I fully believe the disproportionate response by the Israeli government and military in the smashing of Gaza is a violation of international law and a war crime.

Ann Wright is a 29 year US Army/Army Reserves veteran who retired as a Colonel and a former US diplomat who resigned in March, 2003 in opposition to the war on Iraq. She served in Nicaragua, Grenada, Somalia, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Sierra Leone, Micronesia and Mongolia. In December, 2001 she was on the small team that reopened the US Embassy in Kabul, Afghanistan. She is the co-author of the book “Dissent: Voices of Conscience.” (www.voicesofconscience.com)

February 13th, 2009, 6:47 pm


Akbar Palace said:

The Pali-Zionist Numbers Game, Revisited

But this precisely where proportionality is designed to apply. If fixing your problem will cost others 100 fold what you have saved then you are asked to live with your problem.


Countries who are more free than Israel is at fighting their enemies have killed far many more innocent people. Do you really think Israel is supposed to behave differently than any other country?

Do you really believe Israel has to slow down their military operations against Hamas until Israel casulties climb to match the casualties of Hamas? Which country do you know fights a war in this manner?

Do me a favor, ask the Syrian government this same question, then get back to me.

I hope you agree that if the Palestinians killed 1 Israeli every 10 years you would not be justified in killing 100000 of them to stop these murders.

Again, like clockwork, you failed to describe the THOUSANDS of
missiles that were fired for 8 years against Israel. No country would stand for it. Period.

If you do then you agree that there is some proportionality principle that applies to the conflict.

Like I said, proportionality is a Myth you made up in your mind because you despise Israel.

What would be your recommended ratio?

Ask the UN. Shirley, you must be joking.

How many Palestinians are you ready to kill to save the lives of 1 Israeli?

I don’t know. It depends if there are civilians situated near the location of the Palestinian soldiers who are firing missiles.

I would prefer not to kill anyone. It isn’t my choice to Free Palestine from Gaza or to fire rockets from a civilian population.


How many missiles should Israel absorb before conducting a military operation?

February 13th, 2009, 6:57 pm


Shai said:


It is impossible to argue with a racist individual, who finds justification in killing 1500 Lebanese or 1300 Palestinians, regardless of how many Israelis were killed before, during, or after such massacres. These people, who use arguments like “All nations have a right to “defend” themselves…” (all nations, EXCEPT for the Palestinians people), are clearly incapable of rational discussion when it comes to principles of proportionality, reciprocity, crimes against humanity, etc. To them, Arab blood never equalled Jewish blood, and it never will. Don’t waste your time on them.

February 13th, 2009, 7:02 pm


Akbar Palace said:

Anne Wright states:

SILENCE from the International Community

Dear Anne,

Maybe there wouldn’t be SILENCE if Hamas didn’t lob missiles and mortars over the border for 8 years straight.

Just my guess. BTW – I noticed your beautifully written article sort of missed that.

To them, Arab blood never equalled Jewish blood, and it never will. Don’t waste your time on them.


Just FYI, if Hamas was made up of fundamentalist Christians or Jews, I’d feel the same way. You want to fire thousands of missiles against me; prepare for the consequences.

February 13th, 2009, 7:04 pm


Alex said:


“How many missiles should Israel absorb before conducting a military operation?”

Akbar, seriously … it is quite possible to program a computer to generate comments that are as “effective” as the talking points you keep posting here. Someone should relief Israel’s human robots from these tiring, repetitive, tasks.

February 13th, 2009, 7:13 pm


Alex said:


There is another thing AP and his friends won’t get:


MOSCOW – Twenty years after Red Army troops pulled out of Afghanistan, the last general to command them says the Soviets’ devastating experience is a dismal omen for U.S. plans to build up troops there.

On Friday, the anniversary of the Soviet departure from the Afghan capital, the Russian parliament’s lower house adopted a resolution honoring the soldiers who “were faithful to the warrior’s duty, who displayed heroism, bravery and patriotism.”

In retired Gen. Boris Gromov’s view, the valor was shown in an unwinnable battle.

“Afghanistan taught us an invaluable lesson … It has been and always will be impossible to solve political problems using force,” said Gromov, the last soldier to leave Afghanistan two days after the Kabul pullout.

He told reporters that U.S. plans to send thousands of new troops to Afghanistan would make no difference against a resurgent Taliban, who came to power in 1996 in the chaos after the Soviet withdrawal.

“One can increase the forces or not — it won’t lead to anything but a negative result,” Gromov said.

The parliament resolution credited the Red Army with the “repulsion of international terrorism and narcotics trade” and “averting a breeding ground for a new war” on Russia’s border.

That appeared to blame Afghanistan’s current fighting and soaring opium trade on the U.S.-led military operation launched in 2001 against the Taliban. Russia’s envoy to NATO, Dmitry Rogozin, has made the same suggestion recently, saying the alliance has repeated the Soviet Union’s mistakes in Afghanistan and added its own.

The Soviet Union lost some 15,000 soldiers in the war, which began when Moscow sent in troops to battle guerrillas who were fighting a Soviet-supported government. The invasion brought international opprobrium on the Soviet Union — including a boycott of the 1980 Summer Olympics in Moscow by countries including the United States, China and Japan.

It also shocked millions of Soviets who had been taught their massive military was the world’s most potent, but saw their heavy equipment and powerful weaponry overwhelmed by ragged, Western-backed insurgents.

“I don’t see any sense in that war,” veteran Oleg Samoilov told Associated Press Television News. “What did we do, what did we achieve? Practically nothing. There were only dead people left, our dead comrades, their mothers and widows — and that’s it.”

Russia has given nominal support to the international anti-terrorism campaign in Afghanistan, but did not send troops, and there are mixed signals on how fully it backs the operation.

This month, Moscow authorized a $2.15 billion package of aid to Kyrgyzstan that is widely seen as the key factor in the Kyrgyz president’s announcement that a U.S. base will be closed. The base is an important transit point for coalition troops and cargo for Afghanistan and is the home to tanker planes that refuel warplanes over Afghanistan.

But Russia has granted some coalition countries permission to ship Afghanistan-bound military supplies through its territory; Germany even has permission to ship weaponry.

Washington and Moscow are negotiating a deal for the United States to use Russian territory to send supplies to Afghanistan through Russia; news reports this week cited Foreign Ministry officials as saying only some minor details remain to be worked out.

Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov this week suggested such cooperation could be expanded to allow weapons shipments if the United States shows good faith — presumably an indication that Russia would press Washington hard for concessions on sensitive issues such as NATO expansion and the controversial proposal to put U.S. missile defense elements in Eastern Europe.


Associated Press Television producer Olga Tregubova in Moscow contributed to this report.

February 13th, 2009, 7:22 pm


Shai said:

“… What makes it immoral if you lose, but not immoral if you win?”
(“Fog of War”, Robert S. McNamara).

February 13th, 2009, 7:55 pm


Alex said:

Shai this was the most powerful “lesson” from the movie. I’ll embed it here and urge you all to see it. Thanks to Shai who insisted I get the DVD earlier this year:

Two ways we can relate “proportionality” to our SC discussions:

1) Israel is not behaving like the Nazis (or the Americans of WWII even) when 1330 are killed in Gaza and 1500 Killed In Lebanon

2) Hamas and Hizbollah were not “a threat” that needed to be dealt with in that savage manner.

The good thing about the 1973 war is that Syria / Egypt / Israel did not try to destroy each other’s capital … they all could at the time do much more damage to civilian areas but didn’t.

But Israel in the 80’s, under Sharon started to explore the fun feeling of pounding enemy’s population centers…

February 13th, 2009, 8:42 pm


nafdik said:


Some comments on your comments:

“Countries who are more free than Israel is at fighting their enemies have killed far many more innocent people. Do you really think Israel is supposed to behave differently than any other country?”

I would love all countries to follow one standard. I agree that Israel is not the only country to use disproportionate force and all those countries should be equally condemned. I am sure that if you go to forum discussing Russia, Sudan, etc you will find similar complaints.

“Do you really believe Israel has to slow down their military operations against Hamas until Israel casulties climb to match the casualties of Hamas? Which country do you know fights a war in this manner?”

No, but I think there is a level of response that is considered reasonable.

Without going into the details of who did what it is clear that Isreal had other less deadly options to reduce the violence.

“Do me a favor, ask the Syrian government this same question, then get back to me.”

Syrian government is a criminal mafia, so I will not ask them anything. I suggest that you should join me in condemning both the Syrian and the Israeli government rather than try to make Israel behave like Syria.

“Again, like clockwork, you failed to describe the THOUSANDS of
missiles that were fired for 8 years against Israel. No country would stand for it. Period.”

I was just asking you a hypothetical question to clarify that some response might be considered disproportionate.

“Like I said, proportionality is a Myth you made up in your mind because you despise Israel.”

I can not argue with your probing of my uncounsious. But from a common sense point of view if you see that there is never a case of disproportionate response then I guess we can not discuss this point. If you see that there is a case but it does not apply here then I am eager to hear your analysis and change my mind if you show me a good point.

“What would be your recommended ratio?

Ask the UN. Shirley, you must be joking.”

Think about it? Do you have a number? It does not need to be 1/1.

“How many Palestinians are you ready to kill to save the lives of 1 Israeli?

I don’t know. It depends if there are civilians situated near the location of the Palestinian soldiers who are firing missiles.”

I am glad to see that you agree that there is a number and that this number depends on the civilian ratio.

What we are claiming is that the attack on Gaza exceeded what we consider an acceptable number. I think that if you really thought about it beyound the slogans you might come to the same conclusion.

“I would prefer not to kill anyone. It isn’t my choice to Free Palestine from Gaza or to fire rockets from a civilian population.”

Neither is it the choice of all those who were killed, some of them are too young to make a choice.

“How many missiles should Israel absorb before conducting a military operation?”

I think the way to look at it that removes our ingrained prejudices is to imagine that there is a poor neighborhood in your country where there is a lot of crime. The criminals in this neighborhood kill innocents from other neighborhoods. How many crimes does it take before you simply raid the neighborhoods and kill the criminals their parents and children?

If you ask Assadits the answer is 3.5

What is your answer?

But to answer your question seriously, I think Israel is creating more long term danger for itself by doing these actions.

Given that Gaza has just been de-occupied, I would invest in Gaza as the US did in Japan and create a place where people would want to live and protect and then I can tell them if you don’t stop doing XYZ I will bomb you.

As long as the Gazans have nothing to lose you can not have peace with them. The small rockets of today might grow in the next decade and then you will regret the new generation of martyrs that you have created.

February 13th, 2009, 8:43 pm


SimoHurtta said:

During that eight years Akbar Israel has
* killed over 5800 Palestinians – of which over 1200 children
* injured tens of thousands
* detained thousands with out trial
* fired millions of shots against Palestinians, used tens of thousands of tank and artillery shells and countless bombs
* made tens if not hundreds of targeted killings without any real consideration of the amount of civilians then killed
* increased roadblocks and hindered the movement and economy
* confiscated and stolen land
* destroyed thousands of homes and other buildings
* built walls, one race roads, settlements and industry on occupied land
* starved deliberately millions
* has sank tens of fishing boats and killed fishermen trying to feed their families

The issue Akbar is “what you do is what you get”. Do you in earnest believe that Palestinians and Arabs sit calmly and wait until Jews have stolen everything they have and had? Sorry Akbar but Israeli Jews have done everything possible to be fired with rockets and be thrown by stones. It is the price of national “bad behaviour”. “You” have had the opportunity to solve this farce for decades, but “you” have only made the situation worse.

Akbar Israel is not a normal country, so your whining about “no normal country would tolerate it” is “hilarious”. Israel belongs to those countries which have
* a theocratic system
* an apartheid system
* is occupying land and treating badly its population
* is using constantly harsh military force against civil population
* starting wars and conflicts

Israel belongs to the same group as Sri Lanka, China with Tibet, Britain before with North Ireland and Indonesia before with East Timor etc. With the treatment of “others” Israel belongs to the group where are Burma, Sri Lanka, Sudan, India (Kashmir) etc. Not necessary the most admired countries in the world. And definitely to a tiny minority among the world’s countries.

Akbar I would recommend that your tribe ends the occupation and slaughter, after that your “rocket fire” complains would have much more justification. You even could get some real sympathy if rockets are fired after that. Though I suppose the ones then firing rockets are the deported Jewish settler terrorist movements.

February 13th, 2009, 9:24 pm


AIG said:


If the Palestinians kill 1 Israeli every ten years, then it does not make sense to kill 100,000 of them. Perhaps not even a thousand of them.

But if by firing missiles into Israel, the Palestinians bring the Israeli economy to its knees, it is worth killing thousands of them to bring this to a stop. The problem with the missiles is that even though they do not kill, they make life very difficult and especially economic development. Can you imagine Microsoft or Intel putting a development facitily or fab in a city that is constantly bombarded by a few Qassams a day? Do you think foreign investors would come to visit this city and invest there? The Qassams are not good at killing people, but they are excellent at terrorizing a population and bringing the economy to a screaching halt. Think of another example. By allowing people to drive cars, we know that there will be tens of thousands of deaths related to car accidents per year. Yet we allow driving because it is essential for our economy. It is accepted worldwide that advancing an economy is worth sacrificing lives for.

The problem with Gaza is not that the people there have nothing to lose. The problem is that the people in control there cannot accept the idea of a Jewish state in the middle east. The problem is that the Palestinians have not accepted the fact that there will not be a right of return.

If you want to have a serious discussion about the proportionality issue, remove my moderation.

February 13th, 2009, 10:05 pm


SimoHurtta said:

Strange. Haaretz had a news about Iranian weapon ship with the aim of smuggling weapons to Gaza. The news mentioned that in the ship was found artillery shells + other weapons. I did write a comment to that article which questioned what does Hamas do with artillery shells if it has no artillery. I suppose that kind of question is completely logical and not “anti-Semitic”, “anti-Israeli” or hurting Israeli military censorship. Haaretz did not publish my comment.

Strange that reporters do not ask such basic questions when on them is poured this kind of “debka-quality” propaganda.

February 13th, 2009, 11:35 pm


Alex said:

Here is a very interesting new book for those of you who are into our region’s architectural history:

Empire, Architecture, and the City
French-Ottoman Encounters, 1830-1914

by Zeynep Celik


“In her remarkably researched study, Zeynep Celik not only constructs an innovative parallel between a dwindling empire and a developing one, but she also sheds light on the mutual observation policies of Turkey and France. Empire, Architecture, and the City sets new standards in the study of colonial city planning and building design, challenging accepted views on European domination, thanks to a precise comparison of the agents and ideologies at work.” – Jean-Louis Cohen, Sheldon H. Solow Professor in the History of Architecture, New York University

February 14th, 2009, 12:01 am


Enlightened said:


This is the world you live in, since you are very fond of pasting links ad nauseum :


Enjoy your new world! It suits your warped perspective on the value of human life.

February 14th, 2009, 12:53 am


offended said:

A very innovative way to fight extremism. Kudos to these indian women. : )

“Mutalik is the leader of Sri Ram Sena (Lord Ram’s Army) — an extreme right-wing organization in India that purports to be the “custodians of Indian Culture.”

Members of Mutalik’s group are suspected of being behind a widely publicized incident last month in which a group of men brutally attacked women in a bar in the southern city of Mangalore — beating them, and kicking them when they fell to the ground. Mutalik was arrested in the attack, but he was released on bail.

Just last week he was quoted as saying, “Valentine’s Day is definitely not Indian Culture and we will not allow celebration of that day in any form.”
They’ve founded a Facebook group called the ‘Consortium of Pub-going, Loose and Forward Women,’ and a blog called The Pink Chaddi Campaign, and they are asking women all over the world to send pink chaddi’s — panties — to Mutalik. The group has over 13,000 supporters so far.


February 14th, 2009, 12:57 am


Enlightened said:

Article In Sydney Morning Herald:

Israel ready to strike Iran: ex-envoy

* Jason Koutsoukis in Jerusalem
* February 14, 2009

A FORMER senior Israeli diplomat has warned that Israel is ready to launch a military offensive against Iran to prevent it from developing nuclear weapons.

In an exclusive interview, Dan Gillerman, Israel’s permanent United Nations representative from 2003 until last September, said the time for diplomatic efforts to stop Iran from acquiring a nuclear capability might already have expired.

“The world cannot afford to live with a nuclear Iran,” he said. “I hope diplomacy will work, but I’m not sure we have the time for [it] to work.

“Israel has made it very clear that it will not live with a nuclear Iran, and I believe that Israel has the ability and the capacity to make sure that it will not happen.”

Mr Gillerman, who is to visit Australia this month and is one of Israel’s most senior diplomatic voices, said two clocks were running with respect to Iran. “There is the technological clock of Iran, and there is the diplomatic clock, and I think the Iranian clock is running much faster.

“Israel has both the responsibility to defend itself and the capacity to defend itself, and I am sure that when the time comes and all other options have been exhausted, Israel will act in the only way it must to protect its people.”

Detailed military plans to bomb Iran’s nuclear enrichment facilities have long been on the table of Israel’s senior military commanders.

Israel’s Prime Minister, Ehud Barak, was believed to have requested support from the US for a military strike on Iran last May, but the plans were aborted after president George Bush declined to endorse them.

Last June Israel carried out a military exercise over the Mediterranean involving more than 100 F-16 and F-15 fighters in what was interpreted as a rehearsal for a bombing attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities.

On Tuesday the man most likely to lead Israel’s next government, the Likud party leader Benjamin Netanyahu, made a direct reference to Iran in his speech claiming victory in general elections.

“Israel is facing an Iranian threat, from afar and from near. The nuclear threat and the terror threat … it will be up to us to deal with this, and we will be able to deal with these two challenges successfully.”

Shaul Mofaz, the former Israel Defence Forces chief-of-staff, who is in line to become defence minister, also warned last June that Israel might have no choice but to attack Iran.

Israel has carried out two air strikes against suspected nuclear sites in the past 30 years.

In 1981 its jets conducted a raid against Iraq’s nuclear plant at Osirak, and in September 2007 it bombed a structure in Syria that was believed to have housed a nuclear reactor.

However, any attack against Iran would be a much more complicated military exercise, with Iran’s uranium enrichment facilities spread across numerous sites.

Iran’s comparatively sophisticated military, and its distance from Israel could present further complications for Israeli military planners, and risk setting off a full-scale war.

Mr Gillerman warned that the world could not afford to underestimate the seriousness of the Iranian threat.

“We have a very extreme, radical fundamentalist regime there with a President who denies the Holocaust while preparing the next one, and has vowed to wipe Israel off the face of the map,” he said.

“My advice to the rest of the world is to listen to him very carefully and take him at face value and take him seriously.

“We all paid a huge price for not taking seriously the ranting of another small, moustached leader who some people considered as crazy, and I don’t think we have the luxury to show the same indifference and apathy as we did before.”

February 14th, 2009, 1:02 am


Enlightened said:

Offended Said:

92. offended said:

“A very innovative way to fight extremism. Kudos to these indian women. : )”

I read that in the morning paper, I fell out of my chair laughing, I think that you are on to something here. Here is my proposal, lets try to convince Akbar and his cohorts to donate all their yellow underwear and send them as a sign of protest to the Hezbollah offices in Beirut. This will continue and we will send you worn ones next time.

This should also be done with all their green underwear to the Hamas offices in Gaza and Damascus.

But thats not fun is it when you can Kill thousands indiscriminately is it Offended?

February 14th, 2009, 1:24 am


norman said:

Aleppo is on the cutting edge,attempts at other trials are needed,

Syria Briefing

E-Government on Trial in Syria
Online systems should save time, but there is some resistance to change.


The Syrian authorities are conducting a pilot project to test out “e-government” in the northern city of Aleppo. The plan is to streamline public service delivery and reduce the scope for corruption.

By allowing people to access a number of basic services online, the authorities hopes to cut down on unnecessary paperwork and processing times. For example, Aleppo residents can now file tax returns or apply for marriage certificates electronically, processes that would normally take days or weeks.

Iyad Nayrouz Wali heads a committee in Aleppo that was set up to reduce red tape, and says that the e-government scheme has halved the amount of paperwork since it was launched in March 2008.

“The health, education and law-enforcement sectors, among others in Aleppo have made many improvements already,” he said.

Wali said the pilot was going smoothly, after a shaky start.

“At first, it was difficult to break with our old administrative routines, but luckily, we overcame many of the difficulties,” he said. “Simple mechanisms have been put in place so that requests can be processed in one day rather than in a month, as was the case in the past. The paperwork required to claim unpaid vacation has been reduced from 16 steps to nine.”

Khalid Zankalo, who heads the Aleppo bureau of the pro-government newspaper Al-Watan, praised the initiative.

“This is an important step that paves the way for making services even more widely available to the public,” he said.

But with few details released to the public, and no known plans for a wider rollout, some Syrians remain sceptical about the initiative.

One user, Hamid Ali, said it actually took him twice as long as usual to hand in his completed tax return using the more streamlined system.

“The finance directorate thinks it has improved administrative work, but nothing has changed,” said Ali. “If anything, things have got worse. Lining up to pay bills has become a more prolonged ordeal than before. No matter how early people arrive, there is a line leading out the door.”

Ali does not think that providing more web-based services is the answer.

“The problem isn’t about submitting applications online. It’s about getting rid of the disorder and administrative corruption, which are probably the main barriers to progress,” he said.

Financial expert Abdul Qadir Houri believes the new scheme is in fact designed to cut down on corruption.

“While streamlining e-government services will improve communication between government agencies and ordinary citizens, the larger goal is to end much of the bribery and other unofficial activity that takes place,” he said.

Although no end date has been set for the pilot, Wali said that he expects Aleppo governor Tamer al-Hojja, to sign off on it later this year. At that point, the national ministry in charge of local government affairs will decide whether to authorise follow-up projects or launch similar pilots in other provinces.

But with no definite date in place, Aleppo resident Faez Saqr remained doubtful that it would happen.

“They’ve been talking about the importance of introducing e-government for years, but where’s the actual progress?” he asked. “I work at the education department, and most of the staff there are of an old-fashioned mindset and don’t want to have anything to do with these e-government improvements.

“I’m not sure how they’re going to get everyone to follow through with these changes.”

(Syria News Briefing, a weekly news analysis service, draws on information and opinion from a network of IWPR-trained Syrian journalists based in the country.)

Also in this Issue
Damascus Predicts Harder Line From Israel
Syria’s Economic Woes to Continue
Minister of What?
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February 14th, 2009, 2:16 am


Akbar Palace said:

The poor suicidal maniacs are finally starting to piss off even their old support network like the Guardian…

But Hamas can always depend on Syria Comment for a nice cozy place hang out and make excuses for them…


February 14th, 2009, 2:31 am


norman said:


Get a free year of FP! Two years for only $24.95.

The Israel of the Three Likudniks

By Daniel Levy

Posted February 2009

The elections were a clarifying moment for Israel and the Palestinians, but what about the Obama administration?

With the final results now in, the horse trading over forming a new government in Israel is very much underway after Tuesday’s elections seemed to produce the messiest of political outcomes – anything but clarity.

Two narratives regarding the voters choice are currently competing with each other; Livni and Kadima are claiming a mandate for a centrist government, being the largest party, while Netanyahu and Likud argue that a shift to the right has occurred, producing a mandate for the right to govern (the right-wing bloc has taken 65 seats in the 120 member Knesset). Some time next week, in accordance with the Israeli rules of the game, President Shimon Peres will call on either Netanyahu or Livni (and most money is on the former) to form a governing coalition within 28 days with a possible extension of 14 more days. The coalition bargaining in the weeks ahead will suggest that everything is up for grabs. Yet in more ways than may seem immediately apparent, Tuesday’s results have added a degree of clarity to Israel’s political situation.

Some ways in which this is true are obvious. The structure of the Israeli system has, for instance, been definitively exposed as broken. It endemically produces dysfunctional governments by way of fragile, fractured, and survival-obsessed coalitions. Again, the largest single faction in the Knesset will constitute less than a quarter of the members of parliament. The system seems designed to avoid making hard choices given the permanent preponderance of either hybrid governing coalitions or reliance on small niche parties, or both. That is exacerbated by the way in which Israel’s relationship with its principal sponsor and ally, the United States, plays out. America’s coddling and often irresponsible indulgence of specific Israeli policies that work against America’s own national interest and often contribute to undermining Israel itself further exacerbate this tendency toward decision avoidance. Not surprisingly then, Israel is abuzz right now with discussion of the need for electoral reform and reevaluating governance system.

Israel also witnessed during this election the stunning paucity of any meaningful public policy debate. One could search far and wide for a meaningful plan on the economy, on health care, or on education policy, let alone realistic or detailed proposals regarding the security and regional challenges Israel faces. There is a degree of illiteracy clouding the election debate in Israel and surrounding the Israeli media coverage of issues that would be difficult for Americans to comprehend. Indeed, Israel’s voters deserve better.

But the real clarifying moment in this election was a swing to the right that has at least made the Jewish part of the Israeli conversation into something resembling a family argument within the Likud household. What happened in this election is that the breakdown between the blocs went from being 70-50 in favor of the center-left to 65-55 for the right, ultra-right, and religious-right (although even these numbers are a little misleading, as the 10 or so members of non-Zionist and ostensibly Arab parties are not considered to be potential coalition allies by the Zionist center-left). In simplified terms, there was a 15-seat swing from center-left to right that can be largely explained as eight seats lost by Labor and Meretz along with all seven seats of the imploded Pensioners Party having mostly gone to Kadima, while about an equivalent number migrated from Kadima to Likud.

Always expect the unexpected in Israeli politics. At this stage, a Netanyahu-led government, with both Lieberman, religious parties, and Kadima, seems most likely. While a rotation of government between Netanyahu and Livni (as Israel experienced in the 1980’s) is possible, a Livni-led coalition is rather a stretch but not totally inconceivable.

Livni’s last minute message of hope for a non-Netanyahu-led government swallowed up much of the Zionist-left of Labor and Meretz. In one encouraging sign, Israeli voters, especially women, seemed to respond positively when Livni played up the change she represented as being a woman candidate, and they rejected some of the more chauvinist sloganeering of the Likud and Labor leaders.

So here we are in the Israel of the three Likudniks. Allow me to explain: Israel’s three largest parties (together accounting for about 75 of the 110 mandates decided by the Jewish vote) are now all led by Likudniks and by a Likud-derived outlook — albeit of slightly different emphases. Kadima was of course birthed by the Likud; its founding father is none other than Ariel Sharon; its current leader Tzipi Livni was a former stalwart Likudnik; and its No. 2, Shaul Mofaz, joined the Likud following a career in the military.

Let’s call this Likud-lite.

Then one has the brand-name version: Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party. Let’s call this traditional Likud. Finally, there is Yisrael Beiteinu (or Israel Our Homeland) led by longtime Likud party functionary and the party’s former director-general, Avigdor Lieberman. His No. 2, Uzi Landau, was a 22-year Likud Knesset member and led the so-called Likud rebel faction during Sharon’s Gaza disengagement. Lieberman rebranded the Likud for a Russian audience and gave it a nasty and overtly racist edge. Let’s call this Likud gone wild.

The power that has now been accrued by Lieberman’s party is one of Tuesday’s most stunning outcomes — he appears to be the king or queen-maker. What is more sinister and disturbing is how muted a political effort there has been to draw a red line in front of Lieberman’s racist rhetoric and policies and to place him beyond the coalition pale (for an excellent discussion of the Lieberman phenomenon, see Gershom Gorenberg’s piece at The American Prospect). Yisrael Beiteinu ran on a platform that would have Israeli Arabs needing to pass a loyalty test to Israel in order for their citizenship not to be rescinded. Lieberman is an almost bizarre Israeli twist on the European model of the populist, ethnonationalist, xenophobic, anti-immigrant parties that have done so well in France (Le Pen’s Front National), Austria (Heider’s Freedom Party), Belgium (Vlaams Blok), Switzerland (Blocher’s Swiss People’s Party), and elsewhere. Why the Israeli case is so special does not concern the level support for Lieberman or how hard-line he is but rather lies in the following two aspects: In Lieberman’s case, he himself is an immigrant (hailing from Moldova), and the targets of his invective are the Arab inhabitants whose presence here long preceded his. More importantly, in most other instances, a cordon sanitaire has effectively been erected around the racist right to exclude them from governing coalitions. In Israel, the opposite path is being pursued with Livni and Netanyahu both wooing Lieberman as a potential coalition ally. It’s still possible that Lieberman may be excluded from the coalition and he may even overplay his hand, though it is unlikely.

In a sense, something deeper might be at work here. Israel describes itself as a Jewish democratic state, and the Lieberman phenomenon in part may represent the extent to which Israel in practice has emphasized the Jewish part of that definition over the democratic part. The Israeli political establishment, notably including the Zionist left, has failed to create a more inclusive notion of Israeli-ness or even a political system that confers a real sense of democratic belonging on its non-Jewish, Arab minority. In very real and important ways, the challenge of marrying Jewish and democratic has not been addressed whether that be in terms of budgetary allocations, equality of opportunity, or in Israel’s national narrative. When the peace camp tried to win Jewish majority support for the idea of two states and an end of occupation, it focused on the demographic argument (Israel will only remain Jewish if it leaves the territories). It is not such a long journey from that line of logic to Liebermanism. In this moment of clarity, Israel will then have to decide whether Liebermanism is the Zionist end-game or whether a more inclusive and democratic Israel can flourish. I think Israelis can rise to the challenge and create a more open vision for Israeli society, and that will certainly be one of the issues to address for what is left of the left in Labor and Meretz. The Palestinian Arab minority in Israel and its leaders also need itself to think through how to best contribute to a more inclusivist vision of the future.

For the good of Israel’s democracy, Labor must now build a strong and alternative agenda to appeal to Israelis that is outside of the Likud family. That requires Labor to resist the temptation of government and instead lead the opposition by building a program around a social-democratic economic agenda, a civil rights agenda, a new narrative of national inclusivity agenda and an end to occupation agenda. Indeed the balance of power within Labor strongly suggests that it would not join a Netanyahu government and is headed for opposition.

All this does not mean that one should give up on a government of the national right-wing camp when it comes to the issues of territories, peace and security. In fact an opportunity has been created to test whether having the hardliners in government in Israel can produce a game-changing moment of realism. If he is to be prime minister again, it is unlikely that Netanyahu wants to have another abrupt and inglorious term. Greatness tends to ultimately only be achieved by those Israeli leaders who deliver on the peace agenda. So a Netanyahu government could spend its time attempting to destroy Hamas, expanding settlements, and demonstrating its fealty to greater Israel (while very likely, coming to realize the limitations of military power), while, the international community could spends its time containing the violence and the damage. Alternatively, one could try to tempt Netanyahu with a very different option. That possibility will be greatly influenced by the postures adopted by the various external actors, principally the Palestinians, Arab states, the Obama administration, and the Quartet.

For the Palestinians too, this should act as something of a clarifying moment. President Abbas’s response to the Israeli elections, namely that the international community should only work with the new Israeli government if it meets the same criteria applied to Hamas (i.e. accept a Palestinian state, continue the peace process, and the equivalent of nonviolence, which in this case would be no settlement expansion) seems on the face of it not unreasonable. But Abbas’s admonition might make more sense in reverse; in other words, the international community should work with whatever government Israel elects to advance a two-state solution just as they should have worked with whatever government the Palestinians elected. If there were ever a time for a more serious effort toward Palestinian internal reconciliation, this is surely it. Indeed, were Abbas able to deliver a unity government now and an arrangement with Hamas, then it would be difficult for the international community to continue to apply the existing and unreasonable conditions for working with such a government. This may not be the first choice for President Abbas but after last Tuesday, the other options make even less sense, especially with Hamas gaining in popularity.

The entire Fatah political platform has been predicated on Palestinian independence and de-occupation being achieved exclusively via the negotiations with Israel- an already discredited and now desperately implausible premise. The Palestinian false binary choice of only negotiations or only armed resistance needs to be refreshed as the attempt at rebuilding a national movement, including the reform of the PLO, goes forward. There are also more urgent reasons to advance the Palestinian unity agenda, notably the immediate challenges posed by the destruction in Gaza and the need for an address for the international community in pursuing reconstruction efforts there. The forthcoming Arab summit in Qatar at the end of March should be seen as a target date for a breakthrough on Palestinian reconciliation efforts. That will require a team of Arab mediators, including but not restricted to the Qatari host and encompassing supporters of both the so-called moderate and resistance camps (including Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan, Syria, and almost certainly Turkey as well). A quiet and discrete clarification by the US and Europe that they are encouraging such efforts might be crucial. If the Palestinians do take this as a clarifying moment then it could also create a more constructive backdrop against which the new Israeli government will have to make its decisions on whether to move forward toward confrontation or to pursue a somewhat unexpected but certainly more promising track. And that brings us to the key and perhaps defining role that the new Obama administration will have to think long and hard about.

The Obama administration has proposed an ambitious agenda for the Middle East and notably for resolving the Israeli/Palestinian conflict and has appointed Senator George Mitchell as special envoy to lead that effort. President Obama defined the attainment of a two-state solution in terms of America’s own national security interests. If that is the case – and there is a powerful and compelling argument to be made for it – then one should not be too deterred by internal domestic political developments on either the Palestinian or Israeli sides. Of course both the Israelis and the Palestinians have their own responsibilities and interests that cannot be ignored nor can they be left entirely to their own devices. The Obama administration can choose to spend its time in office preventing further deterioration, limiting damage, and improving aspects of Palestinian economic and security capacities, and it might find itself having to do some of those things anyway.

However, such an approach will not get to grips with the core of the conflict or its ramifications for America in the region. In fact, US power and prestige might again be deployed in an exercise best described as death not so much by a thousand cuts as by a thousand checkpoints. The question then becomes whether the new political realities in Israel will also act as a clarifying moment for American involvement. The peace process as it was already structured, in Oslo and then again in Annapolis, was not delivering. There are structural flaws – not least, that Israelis and Palestinians cannot negotiate the core issues alone and need an outside broker and that Palestinian statehood cannot be incubated under Israeli occupation. The very structure of the peace process has become a disincentive for peace itself. There now exists an opportunity to do away with the illusion, even if the danger also exists that events may take a more violent, confrontational and bloody turn.

A different approach would require the US conducting back-to-back talks with the Israeli side and with a Palestinian (or Palestinian plus Arab states) interlocutor, in which one attempts to address the key legitimate needs and concerns of each party. It will be the role of the US and international partners to produce a proposal and implementation plan. One should take a leaf from the pages of Don Corleone, and make them an offer they can’t refuse, and do not then get sidetracked by conversations about industrial parks in Nablus or Jenin.

Naturally, one does not only have to contend with the Israeli/Palestinian track, and there is some value to the adage that one way to get out of an intractable problem is to expand it. In other words, work on a comprehensive peace effort that involves Syria and the Arab states as well and that seeks to put into effect the Arab Peace Initiative that would give Israel peaceful and normal relations with the entire Arab world. A sincere good-will effort should be made with Israel’s next prime minister, particularly if it is Mr. Netanyahu, to propose an eminently reasonably plan for Israel’s future peace and security that is also predicated on ending the occupation. Iran too will have to feature, as Israel’s concerns on this front will need to be allayed without resorting to military action. A trade-off is imaginable in which the US is given space to pursue the engagement option with Iran while the US gives Israel cover as increased calls are heard for a WMD-free Middle East, also probably providing Israel with a broader set of security guarantees. If Mr. Netanyahu or any Israeli leader is finally put in the position of having to make real choices, then don’t be too surprised if they choose well.

Daniel Levy is a senior fellow and director of the Prospects for Peace Initiative at The Century Foundation and a senior fellow and director of the Middle East Initiative at the New America Foundation.

February 14th, 2009, 4:11 am


jad said:

Regarding ENLIGHTENED article;
I think Israel can’t live without wars, seriously that criminal tribe and it’s people needs help. They are loosing anything called rational thinking or human feeling other than fear and anger…including AP as their blind supporter.

AP message is now a HipHop song, I think he helped in the lyrics.

This song has a nice modern touch of, how to say, stupid propaganda! with a zest of primitive Zionist jihadi! It’s funny that everyone in the clip is wearing the star of David as a sign of their patriotic

February 14th, 2009, 6:21 am


nafdik said:


This song is hilarious. I think you miss the sarcasm.

Shai, AP? Sarcasm or earnest Baath-style propaganda?

February 14th, 2009, 7:51 am


jad said:

No Nafdik, I didn’t miss anything; The sad fact about the lovely song is that it aims to support the Israeli aggression on Gaza. They are very serious about this song, it’s not sarcasm at all! This is why I see it as a bad test propaganda. It reminds me of songs that praise our great Arab leaders and their outstanding achievements!
Honestly, those Israelis are loosing it, day after day they become a worst copy of us 20 years ago….not to mention ‘the classy modern western look’ they try too hard to show in the clip!!! shi 3oke tamam….
As if the west really care about all those semitic tribes of the middle east or their end-less, meaning-less and taste-less wars…it’s pathetic.

February 14th, 2009, 8:48 am


why-discuss said:

Wind is turning : Jumblatt writes a ‘nice’ letter to Ahmadimejad. when will he write a similar one to Bashar?

Joumblatt à Ahmadinejad : « J’espère que le peuple d’Iran retrouvera l’esprit de la révolution »
samedi, février 14, 2009

À l’occasion du trentième anniversaire de la révolution islamique en Iran, le député Walid Joumblatt, chef du Parti socialiste progressiste (PSP), a adressé un message au président iranien Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, dans lequel il revient sur l’histoire de cette révolution et son « esprit ». Il rappelle ainsi que « c’est au cours d’un soulèvement civilisé et pacifique que le peuple avait alors renversé une des pires dictatures du monde ».
« En cette occasion, nous nous souvenons, avec vous, de cet épisode qu’ont écrit de leur sang et de leurs sacrifices des citoyens démocrates et révolutionnaires, des individus et des partis qui sont tous considérés comme les pères de la révolution, malgré les divergences dans leurs projets et leurs appartenances différentes, souligne M. Joumblatt dans son message. Souvenons-nous des principes et des valeurs pour lesquelles ils avaient offert tous ces sacrifices : la justice, la dignité, le dialogue et la démocratie. (…) Souvenons-nous de tous ces personnages qui avaient alors incorporé l’alliance entre les religieux et la société civile, consacrant par là les principes de diversité, de démocratie et de droits de l’homme, ouvrant la voie au dialogue des civilisations, ce dialogue dont le président Mohammad Khatami avait fait le grand titre de la République islamique d’Iran qui, nous l’espérons, participera avec nous à cette lutte mondiale pour la liberté, le progrès et la paix. »
Et de conclure : « En cette occasion bénie, nous espérons que le peuple d’Iran réalisera ses vœux, et retrouvera l’âme de la révolution et ses principes, l’esprit de la solidarité et de l’unité, de la diversité, de la multiplicité et de la démocratie, l’esprit du dialogue des civilisations pour le bien de l’humanité entière.

February 14th, 2009, 9:08 am


jad said:

Please listen to all those people supporting Israel and the logic they use to justify what they are saying..Amazing!!! very smart too! ha.

February 14th, 2009, 9:25 am


majid said:

Why-Discuss asks: “Jumblatt writes a ‘nice’ letter to Ahmadimejad. when will he write a similar one to Bashar?”

I doubt Jumblat will ever write such a letter to Bashar. You should listen to his latest public speech (today) in Beirut in front of hundreds of thousands of Lebanese. He ridiculed Bashar and the Syrian government like never before.

February 14th, 2009, 12:47 pm


Alia said:

Thank you Dr. Gopin for a fine essay.


Such serendipity that you should embed this part of the “Fog of War”. LeMay of whom Sec. Mc Namara was speaking went on to become Air Force Chief of Staff General to President JFK and was known for his violent disagreement with JFK about the peaceful resolution to the Cuban Missile crisis. Le May wanted to attack the missiles although he knew that the Air Force had the capability to reach only 90% of them at the maximum thus leaving the U.S. at the mercy of nuclear war heads that could start a nuclear war, he considered JFK’s refusal to give that order an appeasement akin to the one done at Munich (1938).

I was reading this chapter precisely yesterday morning in James W. Douglas remarkable: “JFK and the Unspeakable, why he died and why it matters” of which Prof. Richard Falk said:” A remarkable book: devastating in its documented indictment of the dark forces that have long deformed the public life of this country…This book should be required reading for every American citizen”.

At the time, the cold war mentality and anti-communism were fueled by interest groups- like the Cuban exiles, and most importantly the industrialists who wanted to escalate the arm race between East and West- An anti-imperialist and peace-promoting USA would have ruined their interests.

We can see parallels now in the AIPAC and Oil Lobbyist and who knows who else who want to continue the status quo ante in the middle-east and do not want an opening towards Syria, Iran…listen to the Israelis berate and threaten.

Little is it known that JFK was exchanging a regular correspondence with Khrushchev at the time, while the two countries were on the brink of war and that he had made contact with Fidel Castro in the hope of establishing a relationship over the protests of the CIA and the Joint Chiefs of Staff. In fact it was JFK who stated ( in a statement that could apply to Syria) : We do not want to start by putting as a condition of talks and communication that they should sever their Sino-Soviet relationship… ( Hizbullah, Iran…?)

President Obama is going to need the courage and determination which JFK had for Peace and Justice against the dark forces that are surrounding him in order to change the present equation, much if not all that is meaningful will be done behind the scenes and will have nothing to do with the media and the prophets of violence and hatred. Hopefully with God’s protection he would not have to pay the price JFK ended up paying for it.

February 14th, 2009, 2:36 pm


Alex said:


Jumblatt sent a couple of letters already in private. Syria told him they are not interested.

February 14th, 2009, 4:49 pm


nafdik said:


You will enjoy this clip from Dr Strangelove.

General Buck Turgidson is LeMay.

February 14th, 2009, 4:53 pm


Alex said:


Lemay or Eliott Abrams … There will always be a foolish character near the president who will advise to go to war and to use American power before diplomacy.

I hope that “the dark forces” can always be stopped by an enlightened president. Because I am not sure the media can do much … it seems that when a President wants to go to war, most will support him.

The next challenge will be Iran .. Iran will probably go ahead with its nuclear (energy?) program. Israel supposedly will not allow this to happen. Israel alone can not do it … there will be pressure on President Obama to do it on Israel’s behalf … the inner cabinet will include Hillary, Rahm, James L. Johns, Robert Gates, and President Obama

Rahm was described as the type that prefers immediate and overwhelming strong action. Hillary promised to obliterate Iran if Iran attacks Israel (not if Iran develops nuclear weapons). the rest are the calmer, more prudent, types.

The American media will be useless .. if the President decides to go to war, the media in general will rally behind him and will prepare its lists of embedded journalists.

Congress can not say no to Israel in peaceful times, and it probably will not be able to resist helping Israel attack Iran.

So the decision will be up to President Obama.

February 14th, 2009, 5:51 pm


offended said:

Regarding the youtube video you’ve posted. This is gangsta rap. A form of expression and there’s nothing wrong about it. However, what we need to do is to come up with a rebuttal. Here goes mine:

Yo Eritz you’re a fake a*s G,
You’re far removed from reality.
You whinin’ ’bout hamas weaponry,
’bout a single solider in captivity,
’bout less than 5 casualties
How ’bout we speak honestly?
Put numbers under some scrutiny
You got thousands of Palis in your custody
No trial, no release, no legalities.
You killed hundreds of babies.
Women and elderly,
In Gaza Ghetto the rubbles stank
’cause bodies fell dead when your trigger clank
watcha say ’bout that phosphorous crap?
I guess dat won’t come into your rap
You x pect us to care ’bout you,
When you’ve imposed your brutal embargo,
Let’s not forget your racist wall
Where your watchtowers stand tall,
Where your morality fall
At the checkpoints civilians you’re gropin’
To that level I see you stoopin’?
Do you not understand that’d humiliate,
The innocent Ayrabs and it’d incite hate?
Get to your senses before it’s too late,
Lessons of history stay unlearned,
Chance after chance are gettin’ burned,
I see you electin’ that BB dude
The worst thuggish prude in the hood
Don’t come whinin’ when he throws you in the abyss
When he turns our hood into a mess,
All we want is justice; no more, no less.

February 14th, 2009, 6:20 pm


Alex said:


You’re good man!

February 14th, 2009, 6:28 pm


jad said:

I’m speechless Offended…you made my day..so funny, I can hear the rhythm in my head reading what you wrote…you are a very good rap writer…smile

This is Israel that AP and AIG defend and argue that it is a normal and moral one. long clip but lots of information.

February 14th, 2009, 6:40 pm


Shai said:


What’s more amazing about the Cuban Missile Crisis which, again, most people do not know, is that the entire EXCOMM that was assembled to help JFK during the crisis, all of them, recommended the offensive option – namely to attack Cuba. This committee included not only Gen. Curtis Lemay, but indeed also all the Chiefs of the General Staff, all the heads of Intelligence, National Security advisers, Sec. of State, Sec. of Defense, special advisers, and of course the President’s own brother, Bobby Kennedy. Lots of “wise” men, with combined hundreds of years of experience. And yet, all unanimously recommended war. All, except for one ex-diplomat called Llewellyn (Tommy) Thompson, who was former ambassador in Moscow, and had spend a good bit of time with Khurshchev and his wife. Against popular opinion, he suggested another path – the diplomatic one – which would enable to Soviet leader to come out looking like he saved Cuba.

There is every reason to believe that in those days of October 1962, World War Three did not occur, with the global nuclear holocaust that would have followed, because JFK was courageous and wise enough to listen to this “liberal” ex-diplomat, who rejected the path of violence. Could Obama do the same? Could he do so, when an entire staff and experts all around unanimously recommend particular action? I don’t know.

But the real question is why did everyone else recommend offensive action, knowing full well this could lead to nuclear war with the Soviet Union? McNamara tries to answer this question in his documentary, and I think it boils down to something that could also be found today amongst many, if not most. It is the belief in some fate, in some inevitability, of a clash of civilizations. All those intellectuals in JFK’s EXCOMM believed that sooner or later the U.S. and the U.S.S.R. would clash, and that therefore better when they still have the upper hand, than when they don’t. By mid-1961, first U.S. satellites had already shown evidence that refuted the famous Bomber and Missile Gaps, and the U.S. finally knew that they had the edge in nuclear capabilities, and not the U.S.S.R. So all those who believed a clash was but a matter of time, saw perhaps a perfect opportunity to do so over the placement of missiles in Cuba.

I find endless examples today of the exact same mentality. Too many, in the U.S., in Israel, and also elsewhere around the world, believe it is only a matter of time before “The West” will clash with “The East” (Islam). And if that’s the case, better to clash soon, while we still have the advantage. Characters like Bush, Netanyahu, Lieberman, AP and AIG undoubtedly believe this. Some find it difficult to say it out loud. But others do not. We must watch out for all of them, and find and support those 21st-century “Tommy Thompsons”, who are still trying to convince us that there are other ways.

February 14th, 2009, 7:26 pm


Innocent Criminal said:

Yo Offended, you’d be spittin’ some ill lyrics yo. word up homie 😉


many in the middle east, especially the Gulf, already believe thet the US has secretly accepted the fact that Iran will become a nuclear power sooner or later and that it will not allow Israel to bomb Iran. and that scares the hell out of them more than Israel’s will ever do.

February 14th, 2009, 8:48 pm


Majid said:

Alex # 106
I doubt your claim. Jumblat is much shrewder than sending letters through back channels. Besides what does Jumblat need Bashar for? Actually Bashar would kiss Jumblat’s feet and soon he will.

February 14th, 2009, 9:22 pm


offended said:

Alex, Jad,
Since I haven’t had any special accolades during my career in SC, I’d love to become the in-house ballin’ rapper : )

I be spittin’ ma’ lyrics to suppot ma’ pali homies. Peace up playa ; )

February 14th, 2009, 9:52 pm


Alex said:


Why do i feel oldr after the way you replied to me and Jad, compared to the way you replied to IC : )

February 15th, 2009, 12:54 am


ugarit said:

Very few people talk about the reasons for the USSR placing missiles in Cuba. The USSR placed them there in retaliation for the US’ missile placements across the border in Turkey. The US promised to withdraw those missiles if the USSR withdrew their missiles from Cuba. The USSR got what it wanted. End of story.

February 15th, 2009, 2:02 am


jad said:

It’s ok Alex; don’t you know that 65 (your age) is the new 25! wink wink
You get lots of discounts wherever you go.

P.S. please don’t hate me 🙂

February 15th, 2009, 4:15 am


Shai said:


I’m afraid the Cuban Missile Crisis was about much more than just “get your missiles out of Turkey”. First, those missiles were supposed to be recalled shortly afterwards in any case (they were old), so this wasn’t such a “price” for the U.S. Second, their removal was neither announced publicly, nor carried out immediately following the removal of Soviet missiles from Cuba – it took some time, and on purpose, because the U.S. did not want to be seen as giving in to the U.S.S.R.

But the real issue here, as echoed by McNamara in his documentary, is just how close the world was to nuclear holocaust in those 13 days of October 1962. The gamble Khurshchev took did pay off, but few hail it as a “wise” one. McNamara refers to the outcome with “we LUCKED out!” Imagine, for instance, that there was no Tommy Thompson in that room with JFK. The U.S. would have hit Cuba, the USSR would have retaliated with tactical nuclear weapons, the US would have hit back with full force… Today’s world wouldn’t look quite the same, after such all-out nuclear war between the two superpowers. We all have a lot to learn from those days, and from the few sane people that managed to avert nuclear catastrophe.

February 15th, 2009, 5:16 am


offended said:

Why would Alex hate you? you both are the same age, wasn’t that why I replied to you together? ; )

February 15th, 2009, 5:47 am


jad said:

No, I’m 5 years older than him I’m in my 70 now and I demand more respect from you young people. Even from ‘young’ 65yo Alex 😉
(You are so funny Offended, I can’t stop laughing at your comment, Thank you.)

February 15th, 2009, 5:54 am


norman said:

Your age is showing from your wisdom.

February 15th, 2009, 6:01 am


Qifa Nabki said:


Is gangsta rap the new zajal?


February 15th, 2009, 6:02 am


jad said:

Thank you Norman,
Wisdom? Me? I wish! 🙁

February 15th, 2009, 6:08 am


Rumyal said:

Jad (#99),

This is a satire by the Eretz Nehederet (Wonderful Country) satire troupe deriding a right-wing rap band and their cheesy propaganda antics. Eretz Nehederet are generally left-wing. I’ve written about their satire before here but can’t find the link…

February 15th, 2009, 7:38 am


Rumyal said:

…also Jad…

The act that Eretz Nehederet were mimicking/deriding were Subliminal and the Shadow http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JPMKHtAsa9U&feature=related the inspiration for this song (Hope) was the mood of resolution to not give-in following the terror attacks of the second intifada.


You have some serious talent there, you have to do something about it.

February 15th, 2009, 8:08 am


why-discuss said:


“I doubt Jumblat will ever write such a letter to Bashar. You should listen to his latest public speech (today) in Beirut in front of hundreds of thousands of Lebanese. He ridiculed Bashar and the Syrian government like never before.”

He ridiculed Iran’s Velayat Vakih and attacked Iran directly and indirectly Iran through Hezballah. Now this! Aren’t you surprised?
Jumblat is known to change his rherotic depending on who is the strongest player. He came to realize that Iran will(is) become a major and powerful player in the region, so he is cajoling Ahmadinejad and the iranian regime. The question is Will Ahmadinjead respond to him after the insults? Contrary to arabs who have a short memory, Iranians are known not to forget and they will not forgive Jumblatt for his attacks on them and Hezbollah. Ahmadinejad WILL NOT reply, that you can be sure.
Yet, Jumblat may not see clearly if Syria will remain an ally to Iran in a US deal, so he is keeping ‘all options on the table’

February 15th, 2009, 8:19 am


why-discuss said:


Jumblatt Interview will alJazeera

Note the following declarations:

He says he also realises that Iran has become more powerful and influential in the region, especially with the US hinting that it is willing to talk to Iranian leaders and move away from a confrontation. …

But these Iranians when you speak of the Iranians, these are the Persians – they are dreadful, but very intelligent and patient.

They make carpets. It takes them years but at the end, they make the carpet. ..

-The Syrians are getting out of their isolation …

-Unfortunately, yes.

-Did you expect that?

-Yes – because when the Western governments told me we have to change the Syrian’s behaviour, well, this is a very diplomatic answer and very cynical at the same time, to ask for a dictator to change his behaviour.

I don’t like it.

Walid Jumblatt is the leader of the Progressive Socialist Party in Lebanon and one of the leaders of the Cedar Revolution, a movement triggered by the assassination of Rafiq al-Hariri, the former prime minister.

He has for several years spearheaded efforts to free Lebanon from Syrian influence.

Jumblatt is now calling for a realistic approach to dealing with regional developments, including Syria’s emergence from isolation.

He says he also realises that Iran has become more powerful and influential in the region, especially with the US hinting that it is willing to talk to Iranian leaders and move away from a confrontation.

Al Jazeera’s Rula Amin met with the veteran politician ahead of the fourth anniversary of al-Hariri’s assassination.

The following are excerpts from that interview.

Al Jazeera: al-Hariri’s assassination triggered the Cedar Revolution [a movement demanding Syria withdraws from Lebanon]. How much has been accomplished in the last four years?

Jumblatt: We had a dream that Lebanon could become independent, that we could have a proper state, control our own security, and our borders.

This dream nowadays is far from being reached because of regional circumstances, because also the other side – the Syrian-Iranian axis – is very powerful inside Lebanon.

The Syrian troops are out [of Lebanon] but their allies are very powerful inside Lebanon.

But you are in the government and you have the majority.

We control nothing. We have to control by compromise.

When you don’t control your own security services, when you are infiltrated, when you don’t control your own borders, and when you are not able as a state to decide war and peace; well, it’s not a very usual situation.

Do you feel al-Hariri died in vain?

I didn’t say that, but his blood paved the way for the departure, the official departure, of the Syrians.

But the dream that we are still striving to achieve is far away.

We want to have an independent Lebanon, not anchored in the Arab-Israeli conflict, and removed from the bargaining [with] the Syrians and Iranians on one side, the Israelis and Americans on the other side.

That dream seems far-fetched.

Are you that pessimistic?

I’m not pessimistic. I will continue my duty, my fight.

I have to do it, there’s no other way. I hope that the Lebanese population, the young people, are still believing our dream, I hope so.

How significant is the tribunal investigating the Hariri assassination which will start on March 1?

The tribunal investigating al-Hariri’s assassination will start on March 1 [EPA]
The tribunal will be set on March 1, but it’s a long way until the verdict will be announced.

Also, we will have to see what happens if and when the suspects are called upon.

We have to see if the Lebanese government can maintain security because they have to go outside Lebanon. It is a big issue.

We were expecting this tribunal in 2006, the summer before the war.

But it is a long process because it is a very unique tribunal.

In case there is a verdict, and in case the verdict is to our aspirations, indicting the Syrian regime – this will likely be a very complicated tribunal, both politically and legally.

I don’t know if the political side will win over the legal side. I have no idea.

How much faith do you have that the tribunal will deliver justice?

Justice cannot be reached with such regimes [Syria] as long as these regimes are still alive.

Look, the last effective tribunal was at Nuremberg. But Germany was defeated and the criminals, the big criminals at that time, were brought to justice and hanged.

This [Syrian] regime is still there.

Do you have concerns that the political atmosphere in the region will inhibit the court and tribunal?

I always have these fears in mind.

For example, maybe tomorrow [Benyamin] Netanyahu, the leader of the Israeli Likud party, will come to power, and he will revive the so-called Syrian track, regardless of Lebanon and Palestine

The Israelis – neither the Likud nor Labour parties – care about Lebanon.

They just care about destroying Lebanon and they just care about giving Lebanon to the Syrians to satisfy their purposes.

So I have to be concerned.

What exactly is your concern – what will happen?

Things will be delayed. Suspects might be killed. The tribunal will go on, but I mean it’s not so easy.

As I told you, as long as the Syrian regime is strong, there is a big handicap and I’m afraid again that the tribunal could be regarded as a bargaining chip with the Syrians.

The Syrians are getting out of their isolation …

Unfortunately, yes.

Did you expect that?

Yes – because when the Western governments told me we have to change the Syrian’s behaviour, well, this is a very diplomatic answer and very cynical at the same time, to ask for a dictator to change his behaviour.

I don’t like it.

Does Barack Obama’s election give you more hope or are you concerned?

Because of the failure of the past president, George Bush.

In Palestine – total failure – and now with the new realities on the ground – the Iranians here, the Persian Empire somewhere on the shores of the Mediterranean, in Gaza, in Lebanon, controlling Syria – well, Obama is going to have to engage them.

And also because of the total failure of Americans in the so-called nation building process in Afghanistan, the Iranians are going to be a key player everywhere and the Americans will have to abide by the new rules.

Do you think it is wise for Obama to engage them?

He has no other choice but to engage the Iranians.

How will that reflect on Lebanon?

Well, the Iranians will engage the Americans and the West from a strong position, asking for privileges or their interests to be respected in the Gulf, in Iraq of course, in Lebanon, in Palestine – Palestine meaning Hamas.

How do you think that the events – the war – in Gaza will affect Lebanon? Does it make the likelihood of another war more imminent?

No, it was just a test on the behalf of Hamas.

Of course, I can understand that being under the so-called siege is harassing, it’s suffocating.

But even listening to Recep Teyyip Erdogan, the Turkish prime minister and the friend of Hamas, he said that Hamas committed a mistake by breaking the so-called hudna (truce).

Ok, but now Hamas, I am not going to say they are victorious, it is a victory of a political nature. But at what price?

They should be dealt with.

Do you think that strengthened Hezbollah?

Yes, of course.


Because the Arabs are divided, it indicated to Hezbollah, that the Iranians are telling the Arab world ‘we are here. We can control Hamas, we can use Hamas and control Hezbollah’.

And Iran will just deal directly with the Americans.

But these Iranians when you speak of the Iranians, these are the Persians – they are dreadful, but very intelligent and patient.

They make carpets. It takes them years but at the end, they make the carpet.

Mohammad Khatami, the former Iranian president, just announced his candidacy for upcoming elections in Iran – is that a significant development for you?

Yes, but he controls nothing.

Do you think he will win? Does he have any chance of winning?

I don’t see Khatami being able to dismantle the whole apparatus – security, military, economic – which the revolutionary guards control.

How do you envision 2009 for Lebanon?

Whether we win or lose the elections, this is trivial.

I wish we could be able to fix the economy, basic issues of the economy, and not to engender confessional or sectarian hatred.

Enough of the sectarianism.

What do you miss about Rafiq al-Harriri, four years later?

I miss a lot of things, he was a great friend. I still have when I speak of him this great emotion. He had a big dream of building up Lebanon, a stable Lebanon, a viable and flourishing Lebanon.

But we have two countries surrounding us – the Israelis and the Syrian regime.

They just hate us, they just hate us. And they don’t care about our prosperity, or our independence; they hate us.

Including the Israelis?

Of course, of course, more than ever, of course.

We saw it in 2006, we saw it in 1996, and we saw it in 1982 when they invaded Beirut.

February 15th, 2009, 8:31 am


offended said:

Zajal is for fat people. : )

to be honest, Eretz’s clip is full of mockery towards the usual Israeli right wing mantras. Especially the part about reminding the europeans of the holocaust and the similarities, and the part about Leo De Caprio dating Om Kalthoom.

I don’t know, I think I am going to have to contact Sayed Hasan and see how we can cooperate.

February 15th, 2009, 10:53 am


Shai said:


I join Rumyal in acknowledging your obvious talent when it comes to “rapping” it up. Funny how much wisdom can be found in lyrics of a song, even rap, if only we listened. Quite often the rappers themselves are so much closer to reality than we could ever be. They deserve to be listened to.

Btw, if you want to work with/for the Sayyed, you may want to consult with Zenobia. She’s been doing his copyrighting for him… that’s pretty obvious I’d say… 🙂 (Zenobia, wink wink).

February 15th, 2009, 11:30 am


Alia said:


Why was all the EXCOMM pushing for an offensive on Cuba/USSR and where are the parallels in our present East/West conflict situation?

Your point is well taken. However, I would like to say here that the EXCOMM generation military or non-military at that point( almost all of them veterans of WWII as well along with the President) were all cold war warriors. Since 1948, they had been facing conflict after conflict with the Russians, the latest before the Cuban Missile Crisis being the intense and protracted fight over the status of Berlin and the obvious soviet imperialistic intentions in East Europe….Cuba was another chapter of a mounting conflict ( between former allies!!!)- one notes that virulent anti-communism did not start in the U.S. until the geopolitical fights pitted the countries against each other. By the time JFK came to seek congressional approval for a nuclear testing ban treaty in August of 1963, the estimation was that congress was 15 to 1 against the ratification of such a treaty. At that point he enlisted the Church, the Rabbis, the major editors of womens (!!) magazines in a massive education campaign on the subject so that 2 months later when congress did vote on the treaty he had a majority of 81/19.

My point is that the subject was hot but the population was still malleable enough to be able to see the benefits of a treaty.

The conflict between The West and Islam has been chronic and longstanding- Norman Daniel documented it well in the his book : “Islam and the West : the making of an image”. I would venture to say that had that conflict not been present and deeply-rooted, the British would not have found it that easy to facilitate the “giving away of Palestine to the Zionists” in the first place.
On the Arab and Muslim side, the conflict with the West is more recent, the ressentiment did not really build up until late in the 19th century and Palestine clinched it. However, in this case there are tangibles, there is a land that has been stolen, a people that have been dispossessed, religious symbols and history that are concrete and present…It is not the fight over colonies and power, it is the fight over tangibles. Extremist and politicized Islamic ideology arose as a response to the situation and did not start the situation.

I do not subscribe to Huntington’s thesis which the late Edward Said called the clash of ignorance…I am not suggesting that you personally do either.

P.S. Bobby Kennedy’s attitude towards the offensive is not as clear, I have read conflicting reports.


I agree with Shai. The deal that was struck between JFK and Khrushchev is instructive as to why the missiles were placed in Cuba in the first place: WE withdraw the missiles if you give us a guarantee of non-invasion of Cuba, the second clause which was the withdrawal of the missiles from Turkey was not part of the deal, although it was requested by the Russians…JFK did not address it directly, but it did come about as a second step.

Cuba was of immense importance to the Soviets for its potential links with middle and South America.

February 15th, 2009, 12:46 pm


Shai said:


Another “funny” thing about JFK, is that he was voted into office, quite significantly due to his outcry for tougher handling of the USSR (including the allocation of greater budgets, etc.), given its perceived nuclear capabilities and advantages over the U.S. In the summer of 1961, following information that quickly came down from the CORONA satellite program (which put to rest the Bomber and Missile Gaps), U.S. officials at last understood that their nation was still far ahead of the Soviet Union in nuclear capabilities. And, as a result, JFK began changing his policy in this regard. One senator (I forget whom) actually called for JFK to resign, and for re-election, claiming JFK had been falsely voted-in… 🙂

I believe all those on EXCOMM who votes for the invasion of Cuba, did so out of fear that if the Soviets are allowed to keep their missiles here, they would continue a belligerent drive all over the world, next in West Berlin, etc. If nuclear weapons were aimed at the U.S., a mere 90 miles away, the U.S. would be held hostage at every future development, and this was unacceptable. The only answer I find as to why they didn’t fear nuclear holocaust ENOUGH to continue to seek an alternative solution, is a mixture between the time pressure that was exerted (each minute brought further reporting of Soviet preparations, missiles on the way, etc.) and their own conscious or subconscious belief in the inevitability of a massive clash, sooner or later.

The similarities with today’s world, could perhaps be seen amongst so many leaders around the world (not to mention their constituents), who seem to be rejective of true dialogue (honest, respectful, at-eye-level) with Islamic nations. Even the most developed nations on earth, seem to be more concerned about the Iranian nuclear program, and almost permissive in their stances towards a potential Israeli-American strike against Iran, than they are about Israeli Occupation of Palestine. These things aren’t coincidental, and we may soon find ourselves (or rather, they’ll find themselves) defining this as looking into a loaded barrel, and needing to make a “tough choice”. I’m afraid, that most if not all, will again recommend the offensive option (hitting Iran), over the continued diplomatic one. There are many more Curtis Lemay’s out there, than Tommy Thompson’s…

February 15th, 2009, 1:39 pm


Alia said:


Thanks for your thoughts on the Iran situation.

A war between Iran and Israel is unthinkable, and it is not my impression that the Iranians would sit quietly if there is a covert operation by Israel to destroy one of their nuclear facilities, if such an operation were even practically feasible. The Turkish air space will not be available for Israel for such excursions.

February 15th, 2009, 1:40 pm


Alia said:

Yes, Shai, “the most developed nations on earth”…: ) funny thing about development is that it does not preclude tunnel vision, most system even the open democratic ones become inflexible over time and become hijacked by ideology.

I have been watching Angela Merkel over the past 2 months. The leader of a Christian Democratic Coalition, the daughter of a pastor, a woman ( there is such bad talk about testosterone lately as the cause of the financial crash and bad politics !!); a woman leader in a free democratic country who has taken it upon itself to represent humanitarian aid – they have those marvelous hospital planes that they send here and there, full of idealistic self-possessed young people- Merkel did not cry over the outrage of Gaza, but carried on with the Pope over the Holocaust-denying Bishop…I can see her and Germany sinking slowly into irrelevance.

Your writing seems always to reflect your interest in conscious and unconscious dynamics of nations.

February 15th, 2009, 1:59 pm


Shai said:


Yes, “developed nations” we call them… Does beg a few questions sometimes, doesn’t it?

I’ve mentioned before that if I had the time, I’d go study (or help create) a field called the “Psychology of Nations”… Is there anything like that anywhere? I haven’t been a part of academia in a very long time… unfortunately.

February 15th, 2009, 2:20 pm


Alia said:


The continental Philosophy programs are where this is taught- look at this list…I have a most learned friend who studied this at Duquesne in Pittsburgh.


and this may be of interest to you :


February 15th, 2009, 2:45 pm


Shai said:


Many thanks. The PPPI seems very interesting. I’ll read more about it later. I wonder if support for any of its programs could be achieved at the national level, and not just locally. Could a Ministry of Education, for instance, adopt some of these programs (even if the end result is not an actively supported part of the ruling administration’s agenda)?

I’m more interested in this, than in studying the history of Philosophy (even though I have a degree in Mathematics). What’s needed are simple, down-to-earth programs that will begin to reverse the psychological effects our collective national experiences (and the destructive “educational programs” that followed in parallel) have had on our societies for so long. Of course, for this to happen, enough people have to first accept and understand the problem. That, at the moment at least, seems quite far away unfortunately.

February 15th, 2009, 4:32 pm


Alex said:

Alia, Shai,

Israel and Iran … The way I see it, Obama’s only way out is to

1) Tell Israel … too bad we can not go to war against Iran, and we can not force Iran to halt their nuclear program.

2) Work a bit harder to reach an agreement and a settlement with Iran in time for the inauguration of President Khatami.

I hope the second option has good chances of success… but it will involve, in addition to bilateral relations, agreeing on a vision for the Middle East … something the Saudis and Egyptians and Israelis can live with.

Slow Obama stance on Iran nukes worries Israel
By Barak Ravid, Haaretz Correspondent

Israeli officials are putting together a position paper on talks between the United States and Iran for the new administration in Washington, Israeli officials say. The paper will include a list of reservations about the state of international efforts against Iran’s nuclear program. One worry is that negotiations will go on for too long.

The paper states that talks between the United States and Iran should be limited to a short period of time. It also recommends that harsh sanctions be imposed against the Islamic Republic if negotiations fail.

U.S. President Barack Obama, who appointed envoys to the Middle East and Afghanistan within days of his inauguration, has not done so with Iran. An Israeli official in Jerusalem told Haaretz that “this procrastination is very disconcerting.”

Israel and several leading countries in the European Union are concerned about the delay in formulating a U.S. policy on Iran’s nuclear program.

February 15th, 2009, 4:46 pm


Shai said:


The more the U.S. tries to satisfy Israel, Egypt, KSA, or Europe, over the Iranian nuclear program, the LESS it will be able to influence it.

February 15th, 2009, 4:51 pm


offended said:

Thanks Shai : )

I wonder where is Zenobia, haven’t seen here on the board for ages.

February 15th, 2009, 4:52 pm


Alia said:


I am sorry I misunderstood you. I confess that I am still not clear on what you have in mind.

If I were you I would contact Kathy Kelly from Voices for Creative Nonviolence, she was just in Gaza, she is extraordinary. Write to her Shai tell her what you are looking for.


Listen to what James Douglas has to say about the systematic denial of evil among us in a society, his writing, The Ground Zero for Nonviolent Action of which he is co-founder ( nothing to do with the one in New York city)…notwithstanding the different religious background.

I participate in medical missions, clinical and organizational responsibilities ( I am away for less extended periods now because of the children)-I get the political picture as a fringe benefit.

February 16th, 2009, 1:43 am


Shai said:


Thank you for the information. What I meant, was that I’m interested in searching for programs that could be implemented not only at the grassroots level, but in theory also at the national level. I’m not sure such a thing is possible. But, before any program can be adopted, education must first take place. The same supervisors to ministers that will support corrective educational programs have to first understand the problem. How to understand the problem, how to describe it in layman’s terms, and how to “market” it, are all components of an entire field in itself.

I guess I’m suggesting that the theory interests me less at this point in time, than the practical aspects which need to be found and implemented, if we are to ever see change in our society. Plus, to be perfectly honest, I recognize my own limitations in getting into the depths of the philosophical aspects, mainly because of a lack of training in the field, and a lack of time nowadays. I can and do, however, want to find time for further advocacy and for pushing my own goals upon those who have the professional experience and abilities.

You are obviously very well informed and in touch with this world that we’re discussing, and I’m grateful to any bits of knowledge you can provide me (us).

February 16th, 2009, 7:08 am


Alia said:


There are 2 ways to understand your statement:

1. Either you are in a position to influence the philosophy of social/political/history education in your country and are looking to put together programs for corrective action which you see as needed. In that case, you are looking for a few experts that could analyze the curriculum and propose corrective measures that can be implemented over time

2. Or you are wishing for something like that to happen on a national level because you believe anything short of a national enterprise will not be effective and you do not believe that work at the grassroots will be effective at this point. In this case, our talk will remain theoretical at this juncture.

February 16th, 2009, 11:47 am


Alia said:


It is interesting to note that James Douglas speaks of the victory over communism being of supreme value as the” dominant mythology of the time” of the cold war as you have pointed out.

So I guess you can speak of “the Arab, Muslim threat” in the Israeli psyche, and to a lesser extent in the European one, as the dominant mythology of the time.

Except that it ends up being a wish-fulfilling prophecy- 60 years later the Arabs and Muslims are more sick and tired of the Israelis than ever and a segment of the Muslims has become so extreme as to present a real threat to the West.

February 16th, 2009, 12:00 pm


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