“American dream expelled from Syria” by Sami Moubayed

About 40 different nationalities from all around the world are represented in the school population. 80% of the high school students are bilingual. All faculty members are certified teachers and 74% have masters degrees. Nearly one hundred percent of DCS graduates are now attending, or have graduated from, colleges or universities around the world.

About 40 different nationalities from all around the world are represented in the school population. 80% of the high school students are bilingual. All faculty members are certified teachers and 74% have masters degrees. Nearly one hundred percent of DCS graduates are now attending, or have graduated from, colleges or universities around the world.

American dream expelled from Syria
By Sami Moubayed
Asia Times, Nov. 4 2008

DAMASCUS – A belated victim of the United States raid into Syria on October 27 was the American school in Damascus. The institution has been a controversial satellite of US interests in Syria since its founding more than a half-century ago, and it has often been featured as political football during the two nations’ turbulent, often bitter relationship.

The American school in Damascus, known as the Damascus Community School (DCS), was one among many US academic institutes that started appearing in the Middle East in the mid-20th century. Unlike the American University of Beirut (AUB), a missionary school, or the American College in Aleppo, northern Syria, DCS was part of American initiative fostered by then-US secretary of state John Foster Dulles during the Cold War in 1956.

There was no US ambassador in Syria at the time of its founding – as is the case today – and relations were tense. The White House, under president Dwight D Eisenhower, had accused the Syrian government of transforming Syria into a Soviet satellite. Yet a key architect of the school’s opening was Syria’s ex-foreign minister Salah al-Din al-Bitar, ironically also one of the two founders of the Baath Party.

The school’s unlicensed status, certainly illegal for a full-fledged school as far as the Syrian legal system was concerned, went unnoticed from the 1950s and it remained part of America’s policy of promoting American ideals in the Arab world to challenge the rising trend of communism.

An earlier American school did exist in Syria, founded by Howard Bliss in the 1920s, but DCS was different. It was founded by the American government, not under any agreement between the Syrian and American ministries of education, but directly by secretary of state Dulles.

As part of America’s foreign policy in the Arab world, DCS was for many years a success, helping to promote America as a land of opportunity, freedom, and dignity to hundreds of Syrians. It marketed the American dream and its graduates went on to American universities in the US, who returned home to promote America.

Everyone in Damascus is debating the decision of Syrian Prime Minister Mohammad Naji Otari to close down DCS, and the American Culture Center (ALC) in the wake of the US raid on the town of Abu Kamal, on the Syrian-Iraqi border, which left eight Syrian civilians dead. Some say it is a wise symbolic gesture to show just how angry the Syrians are with the US administration, but others claim that it has targeted the wrong people, with the 200 Syrian students enrolled at DCS set to suffer rather than the US government.

The school, which has been given a grace period until November 6 to shut down, has refused to comment on the ordeal, promising its students homeschooling for the remainder of the academic year, until a new president comes to power in the White House. If the victor is Democratic candidate Barack Obama, they feel symbolic steps will be taken to mend bridges with Syria which could lead to the re-opening of DCS.

The 200 Syrian students at DCS will need to find other schools to complete their schooling, and the US, which attaches a great importance to its cultural mission in the Arab world, will be badly affected by the closure. It has lost the chance to coach 200 potential ambassadors who could have defended America to the rest of the world and worked on mending Syrian-American relations.

Syrians who studied at DCS from the 1970s to the 1990s, when Syrian-American relations were experiencing turbulence, had the luxury to defend the America they learned about at school. They were brought up learning about the entrepreneurial spirit of men like Henry Ford and Walt Disney, the leadership of former president Abraham Lincoln and civil rights leader Martin Luther King, and the wisdom of former president Franklin D Roosevelt.

They learned US history, and memorized the preamble of the US constitution, along with the Bill of Rights and the 10th Amendment. The American school in Damascus not only promoted American history, it promoted the American way of life, much sought after during the 20th century by Arabs and Syrians.

Valentine’s Day, a novelty in Syria until the late 1980s, was brought to Damascus by DCS. On Valentine’s Day Syrian students at DCS would exchange flowers in the morning, and attend a chaperoned dance party at night. Their wearing of red roses for love, white for friendship, and pink for affection were blasphemy as far as many Syrians watching the scene were concerned.

But Valentine’s Day has now become not only the norm, but also a much-anticipated social and commercial event in the capital, where entire streets are colored in red, and roses sell like hotcakes every February 14. Not only did DCS teach Syrians about Valentine’s Day, but everything from prom nights, school trips to Greece and Italy, and movie nights on campus to Sloppy Joe sandwiches, made up part of its cultural curriculum.

The entire concept of electives during high school was also new to Syrians, who were used to compulsory, rigid Syrian education, modeled after the French curriculum. Student committees were formed at DCS, along with student elections, and a national honors’ society. The school invested in young people, bringing out talents through sports and sending them to athletic tournaments around the region, or in extra-curricular activities like drama and debate clubs.

DCS offered students a variety of courses in subjects like world religion, computer design, and politics, and did not force them to wear uniforms – a far cry from the khaki military uniform worn by students from state-run schools.

The school was not big, with only 385 students in its 2007-2008 year, and charged an astronomical tuition fee by Syrian standards, with annual fees of around $12,000 for students in grades 9-12. Even well-to-do Syrians have found the price exceptionally high, and often prefer to send their children to the local French or Pakistani schools in Damascus.

When US president Bill Clinton came to Damascus in 1994, he was scheduled to speak to Syrian and American students at DCS, and acknowledge how important such schools were for building bridges in the Middle East. DCS was directly affiliated to the US Embassy, with any sitting ambassador being chairman of its nine-man board.

When Syrian-American relations plummeted in 2005, the Syrians began to seriously toy with the idea of closing down DCS, and authorities threatened to not renew the residence permits of American teachers at DCS. A 12-year-old Syrian schoolgirl from the famous Samman family of Damascus then tragically died while on a DCS field trip to Palmyra, some 215 kilometers northeast of Damascus.

The accident was a result of human error – no doubt – but many Syrians blamed it, at the height of Syrian-US tension, on the American imperialists.

Minister of Education Ali Saad responded by passing strict laws which prevented any Syrian students from enrolling at DCS, and he stressed the words “no exceptions”. The school’s status was put into serious doubt, with authorities asking why it had been able to operate for nearly 50-years with no license from the Syrian Ministry of Education.

As a temporary measure to “authorize” the school, ministry authorities forced it to add four courses – all copied from the Syrian curriculum – in Arabic, for Syrian students. They included Arabic, and social studies, but not the Syrian course “patriotism”, which teaches Baathist ideology. Even Syrians with dual nationality at DCS had to take the courses.

School authorities objected to the plans, but were forced to either to accept them or close down. They eventually agreed, and additionally had to accept a new co-principal, representing the Ministry of Education, who was tasked with ensuring the Syrian requests were carried out.

For now, all of that has become history – as could American cultural influence in Syria. Last week, hundreds of thousands of protestors took to the streets of Damascus, chanting anti-American slogans. There was no Syrian in his right mind who could defend America, now that it been caught red-handed, killing ordinary Syrians.

The US has yet to come up with a logical explanation for its Syrian raid, apart from contradicting declarations from military personnel. One was that they had “no knowledge” of the attack. Another was that the Americans were “investigating” the raid, yet investigations are usually carried out when a mistakes occurs or after a minor skirmish.

It is clear that a high degree of preparation went into the raid, on different political and military levels. Adding insult to injury was the statement made by a military official in Washington DC claiming the raid targeted a logistic network for foreign fighters in Iraq, working with al-Qaeda.

The name floating in press reports is that of Abu Ghadiyah, a militant from Mosul who is part of the terrorist network of Abu Musaab al-Zarkawi, the former “prince” of al-Qaeda in Iraq.

The list of the dead from Abu Kamal proves that there was no Abu Ghadiyah among them, and not a single “foreign fighter”. All of them were Syrian: Dawoud Mohammad al-Abdullah and his four children, Ahmad Khalifeh, Ali Abbas Hasan and his wife. What kind of a “terrorist cell” is gunned down in broad daylight and does not fire back a single bullet in defense?

The US attack lasted for minutes, but its aftershocks will be felt in the region for a whole lot longer. And its intensity will depend on the Syrian response, which to date, has been restricted to closing down DCS, and reducing the number of troops patrolling the Iraqi border.

John Foster Dulles – who attached a great amount of importance to DCS – would probably been angered by this sad end to the school he helped build.

Sami Moubayed is a Syrian political analyst [who went to DCS]

[Addendum by Landis]As far as I can tell, Sami is the only Syrian journalist working in Syria who writes  English flawlessly and with great facility. As someone who has spent much of his life trying to develop proper language skills, I know how hard it is and admire Sami’s ability to write in English and his willingness to stay in Syria. There are, of course, many Syrians who are bilingual, but most of these are either not in Syria or they are not journalists.  The US State department seems not to have one employee who speaks Arabic well enough to represent the US effectively on al-Jazeera. 

Syrian authorities have asked the staff of the American school and cultural center in Damascus to leave Syria within 48 hours, Lebanese radio reported Monday.

A week ago, Damascus ordered the closure of the facilities, in what appeared to be a response to a U.S. commando raid inside Syria on October 26.

Maysaloun– A blog written by Wassim – Is in favor of the School closing.

The Damascus Community ‘School’

I have always resented the Damascus Community School, or the “American School” as it is called locally. There was something about it that annoyed me immensely, firstly in that the only people who could afford to put their children there were very rich people with more money than sense, secondly their children grew up to be little Americans. During my last few trips to Syria I had noticed that the wall surrounding the school has gotten higher and higher to the point where it now looks like a mini-fortress, much to my approval. I don’t believe it should be a target but I do believe that the students who go there must be made to recognise that there is something abnormal about their attending classes there, that they are not the same as other students elsewhere, and they are not. …. I hope its closure becomes permanent.

Next US president may have shot at Israel-Syria deal,  AFP Nov. 4, 2008

Egypt and other key Arab states look constantly for a US-brokered solution to the Palestinian problem, which they see at the core of the region’s troubles and central to restoring US credibility.

The problem, Miller and other analysts say, is that such a solution seems as distant as ever and it might make more sense to open doors with Syria.

Patrick Clawson, an analyst with the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, suspected that Obama would like to try to draw Syria away from its ties to Iran in order to work with the West in securing a peace deal with Israel.

A McCain team would share an Obama administration’s “real excitement and enthusiasm” about such a prospect but “may be much more skeptical” and spend less effort on it, Clawson said by telephone.

Aaron David Miller, a former adviser to both Republican and Democratic secretaries of state, said the deal he and other former US officials let slip from their grasp between 1993 and 2000 is back within reach.

“There is a very real possibility of an Israeli-Syrian agreement,” Miller, now a public policy scholar at the Woodrow Wilson Institute, told AFP in a telephone interview.

Miller, who said he is associated with neither campaign, insisted it is a “fantasy” to think such an agreement would drive a wedge between Damascus and Tehran….

Peter Beinart, an analyst with the Council on Foreign Relations, also suspected Obama would support the prospect of a deal with Syria while a McCain administration would balk with skeptics in its midst.

Comments (147)


trustquest said:

Alex, I would suggest to have a poll on this forum regarding the decision of the Syrian Authority to close the American School.
The question is: Was that decision a
A- legit
B- does not make sense
C- Smart
D- Stupid
E- Good
F- Bad
G- make sense
H- no comment

My answer is: B, D, F,

November 4th, 2008, 4:06 am

 

Enlightened said:

Trustquest:

The options open to the Government are fairly limited. The closing of the school at this stage is what seems a Symbolic gesture at best.

Your question while valid requires another input:

I- All of the above:

November 4th, 2008, 4:27 am

 

trustquest said:

Thanks Englighted,
and Mabrook the baby.

Sure, why not, since we love the diversity and free speech.

I- all of the above

November 4th, 2008, 5:16 am

 

SimoHurtta said:

My vote is G.

Syria has very limited possibilities give an diplomatic “answer” to USA for USA’s act of war. But Syria’s government has for the “pride” of country do something fast. So closing some directly to USA related institutions is understandable and actually a very mild diplomatic reaction to the US raid. Certainly it is a better way of sending a message to USA than donating to the numerous Iraqi militant groups some thousand modern Merkava killer RPGs for “hunting” US military vehicles.

November 4th, 2008, 5:55 am

 

Innocent Criminal said:

“He is the only Syrian journalist working in Syria who writes flawless English.” I thought that comment along with the reasoning behind the Maysaloun post to be simply dim-witted to say the least.

November 4th, 2008, 6:10 am

 

Alex said:

Trustquest,

Thank you for reminding me that I was planning to add a weekly poll to SC.

In a day or two I hope.

As for the above question … I am against closing the school but for closing the American cultural center… and re-opening it when an Obama administration sends an American ambassador to Damascus.

And I also agree with Simohurtta that Syria does not have many reasonable options to express its disapproval.

November 4th, 2008, 6:11 am

 
 

kooki said:

My children were at DCS and left in tears yesterday. The teachers have been ordered out of the country and many will not get another job now till next year. The government has given Syrian students a matter of days to register at other schools, and has made it clear that even if DCS re-opened at some point, Syrians would not be welcome.

Looking at it logically, the Syrian government had very few options, and closing the school is certainly a symbolic gesture. Otherwise, with the level of anger justifiably high, they could have had anti-American demonstrations and lost control.

On the other hand, as far as I know there were only about 23 American students out of a student body of over 400. There were more than 40 students with parents working for the UN, there were many children with families in the international business community, and there was a large number of Syrians and half Syrians there. It’s true that the fees were expensive, but it offered a quality of education not otherwise available to the English-speaking community. Moreover, they are comparable with fees at international schools the world over.

If Syria is serious about opening up its economy and ending isolation, this is the wrong way to go about it. I don’t think the government has realised how many members of the international community will now be forced to look for other jobs in other countries in the interests of keeping their families together. I will be sorry to leave Syria.

November 4th, 2008, 8:35 am

 

Kooki said:

By the way, IC, I liked Sami’s piece, and I think he was making a joke (about his flawless English).

November 4th, 2008, 8:40 am

 

Innocent Criminal said:

Kooki,

I am pretty sure Sami did not write that last comment about his english. It was the editors at the Asia Times

November 4th, 2008, 9:34 am

 

Qifa Nabki said:

Mabrouk ya Enlightened! May you have much happiness.

My vote is for D/F.

Syria’s leadership is far more astute than to close a school to express its disapproval. It just makes them look bad.

Instead of closing the school, I would have organized a field trip and taken students out to the location of the attack, and had them produce a photo essay, amateur documentary, of something of that nature…

Far more effective publicity.

November 4th, 2008, 9:47 am

 

Alia said:

Ron Jacobs at Counterpunch highlights 3 points in the Syrian raid besides what has been discussed elsewhere:

1. Direct attacks by soldiers are much more threatening in the psychology of today’s war enterprise than anonymous drone attacks, airstrikes and carpet bombings, which have become so commonplace to the point of not registering at all in the consciousness of the recipients of media information.

2. The silence of congress; [one wonders if it still exists in the U.S. anymore].

2. The lack of reaction on the popular level, linked to the general inertia about the war in Afghanistan and Iraq.

November 3, 2008

Bombing Syria
Borders are for Sissies
By RON JACOBS

The news reports were uncertain at first. Did a US military unit attack a village in Syria? Did they kill eight people? Decisive words from military spokespeople did not come. Western news media was given time to report the attack as a US attack and then pull back from the certainty of their words. As it turns out, the October 26th helicopter raid into Syria from Iraq by US Special Forces was an intentional attack on a village within the sovereign borders of Syria. Naturally, Pentagon spokespeople say that only militants were killed. News outlets, meanwhile, show the faces of grieving parents and siblings of the family Syrian officials insist were killed. Either way, the fact remains that Washington has proven itself to be an international outlaw once again.

In a similar raid last month, US Special Forces landed in a village in Pakistan and killed several Pakistanis. When protests over this raid reached to Islamabad, the Pentagon decided it would only use predator drones to do their killing in Pakistan for the time being. Although the reason given is that the Pentagon wants to recognize Pakistani sensitivities to foreign troops killing people uninvited on their territory, one can assume that another, perhaps greater, reason is the Pentagon knows it could very well lose a few men if they land in that area again. As everyone knows, dead GIs never play well on the US television news no matter how they are spun.

The crassness of this calculation is as old as airpower if not older. Airborne missiles and bombs are somehow considered by those who launch them to be less immoral than raids involving soldiers on the ground–raids that often incorporate the killing of civilians. This is despite the fact that ground raids rarely kill as many civilians as air strikes, be they predator drones, carpet bombing or something in between.

Despite the clear disregard for civilian life inherent in these raids whether airborne or otherwise, the aspect of these raids that is potentially the most dangerous is the blatant disregard for national borders shown by the Pentagon. This isn’t a band of terrorists that is crossing national borders to kill and destroy. It is the largest military in the world–the military of a nation that considers its borders inviolable. Yet, it seems to have little regard for those of other nations, allies or foes. Indeed, an anonymous US official was quoted in a Washington Post article on October 28, 2008 “You have to clean up the global threat that is in your back yard, and if you won’t do that, we are left with no choice but to take these matters into our hands.” By global threat, the official obviously meant a threat to the designs of Washington for the globe, not a threat against the planet itself. As most readers are well aware, Washington often confuses its security with that of the world and, by doing so, places the entire planet at even greater risk every time it acts to preserve that security.

Another aspect of this raid is the use of Iraq as a launching pad for the operation. This flies in the face of the post-Saddam Iraq “constitution” and is one of the reasons so many Iraqis oppose the Status of Forces Agreement currently being negotiated in Baghdad’s Green Zone. Raids on neighboring countries that use Iraq as a base put Iraq in an untenable position with its neighbors and ties the government of Iraq irrevocably tot he United States, even if it does not know about the raids in advance. This is one more reason all US forces must leave Iraq. As long as US troops remain in the country, they will use Iraq as a base to plan and conduct operations outside of Iraq’s borders, no matter what the Green Zone government says.

This time around, the Green Zone government initially supported the attack, although later statements seem to have reversed that support. One can be reasonably certain, however, that if the US launched a raid on Iran, the Iraqis might not be so agreeable. Given their supine position to Washington, however, their words of protest would be without any power. Washington knows this and the Green Zone government accepts it, however begrudgingly. After all, what are they going to do? Bite the hand that put them in their fancy kennel?

Speaking of supine creatures, why does Congress let the Pentagon continue these raids into countries Washington is theoretically not at war with? Why is there no protest from the Democrats who were elected on the understanding that they would begin removing US troops from Iraq almost two years ago? To be succinct, let me put it this way. One reason is because the Bush administration has successfully linked the occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan to their so-called “war on terror.” By doing so, they can do whatever they want. If one recalls, the wording of the resolution that began this deadly imperial episode states very clearly:

“That the President is authorized to use all necessary and appropriate force against those nations, organizations, or persons he determines planned, authorized, committed, or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001, or harbored such organizations or persons, in order to prevent any future acts of international terrorism against the United States by such nations, organizations or persons.”

The other reason is the failure of the American people to maintain a popular movement against the two occupations. Because of this failure, the occupations/wars continue and, as the aforementioned raids into Pakistani and Syrian territory make clear, there are still very few limits to their scope.

November 4th, 2008, 10:22 am

 

Alia said:

A Reality Check on Obama’s record so far for those of us who are sooo hopeful that things will get better- special interest for SC is Ralph Nader’s detailing of Obama’s position on the Palestinian- Israeli issue and his interaction with the American Muslim community.

An Open Letter to Barack Obama
Between Hope and Reality
By RALPH NADER

Dear Senator Obama:

In your nearly two-year presidential campaign, the words “hope and change,” “change and hope” have been your trademark declarations. Yet there is an asymmetry between those objectives and your political character that succumbs to contrary centers of power that want not “hope and change” but the continuation of the power-entrenched status quo.

Far more than Senator McCain, you have received enormous, unprecedented contributions from corporate interests, Wall Street interests and, most interestingly, big corporate law firm attorneys. Never before has a Democratic nominee for President achieved this supremacy over his Republican counterpart. Why, apart from your unconditional vote for the $700 billion Wall Street bailout, are these large corporate interests investing so much in Senator Obama? Could it be that in your state Senate record, your U.S. Senate record and your presidential campaign record (favoring nuclear power, coal plants, offshore oil drilling, corporate subsidies including the 1872 Mining Act and avoiding any comprehensive program to crack down on the corporate crime wave and the bloated, wasteful military budget, for example) you have shown that you are their man?

To advance change and hope, the presidential persona requires character, courage, integrity– not expediency, accommodation and short-range opportunism. Take, for example, your transformation from an articulate defender of Palestinian rights in Chicago before your run for the U.S. Senate to an acolyte, a dittoman for the hard-line AIPAC lobby, which bolsters the militaristic oppression, occupation, blockage, colonization and land-water seizures over the years of the Palestinian peoples and their shrunken territories in the West Bank and Gaza. Eric Alterman summarized numerous polls in a December 2007 issue of The Nation magazine showing that AIPAC policies are opposed by a majority of Jewish-Americans.

You know quite well that only when the U.S. Government supports the Israeli and Palestinian peace movements, that years ago worked out a detailed two-state solution (which is supported by a majority of Israelis and Palestinians), will there be a chance for a peaceful resolution of this 60-year plus conflict. Yet you align yourself with the hard-liners, so much so that in your infamous, demeaning speech to the AIPAC convention right after you gained the nomination of the Democratic Party, you supported an “undivided Jerusalem,” and opposed negotiations with Hamas– the elected government in Gaza. Once again, you ignored the will of the Israeli people who, in a March 1, 2008 poll by the respected newspaper Haaretz, showed that 64% of Israelis favored “direct negotiations with Hamas.” Siding with the AIPAC hard-liners is what one of the many leading Palestinians advocating dialogue and peace with the Israeli people was describing when he wrote “Anti-semitism today is the persecution of Palestinian society by the Israeli state.”

During your visit to Israel this summer, you scheduled a mere 45 minutes of your time for Palestinians with no news conference, and no visit to Palestinian refugee camps that would have focused the media on the brutalization of the Palestinians. Your trip supported the illegal, cruel blockade of Gaza in defiance of international law and the United Nations charter. You focused on southern Israeli casualties which during the past year have totaled one civilian casualty to every 400 Palestinian casualties on the Gaza side. Instead of a statesmanship that decried all violence and its replacement with acceptance of the Arab League’s 2002 proposal to permit a viable Palestinian state within the 1967 borders in return for full economic and diplomatic relations between Arab countries and Israel, you played the role of a cheap politician, leaving the area and Palestinians with the feeling of much shock and little awe.

David Levy, a former Israeli peace negotiator, described your trip succinctly: “There was almost a willful display of indifference to the fact that there are two narratives here. This could serve him well as a candidate, but not as a President.”

Palestinian American commentator, Ali Abunimah, noted that Obama did not utter a single criticism of Israel, “of its relentless settlement and wall construction, of the closures that make life unlivable for millions of Palestinians. …Even the Bush administration recently criticized Israeli’s use of cluster bombs against Lebanese civilians [see http://www.atfl.org for elaboration]. But Obama defended Israeli’s assault on Lebanon as an exercise of its ‘legitimate right to defend itself.'”

In numerous columns Gideon Levy, writing in Haaretz, strongly criticized the Israeli government’s assault on civilians in Gaza, including attacks on “the heart of a crowded refugee camp… with horrible bloodshed” in early 2008.

Israeli writer and peace advocate– Uri Avnery– described Obama’s appearance before AIPAC as one that “broke all records for obsequiousness and fawning, adding that Obama “is prepared to sacrifice the most basic American interests. After all, the US has a vital interest in achieving an Israeli-Palestinian peace that will allow it to find ways to the hearts of the Arab masses from Iraq to Morocco. Obama has harmed his image in the Muslim world and mortgaged his future– if and when he is elected president.,” he said, adding, “Of one thing I am certain: Obama’s declarations at the AIPAC conference are very, very bad for peace. And what is bad for peace is bad for Israel, bad for the world and bad for the Palestinian people.”

A further illustration of your deficiency of character is the way you turned your back on the Muslim-Americans in this country. You refused to send surrogates to speak to voters at their events. Having visited numerous churches and synagogues, you refused to visit a single Mosque in America. Even George W. Bush visited the Grand Mosque in Washington D.C. after 9/11 to express proper sentiments of tolerance before a frightened major religious group of innocents.

Although the New York Times published a major article on June 24, 2008 titled “Muslim Voters Detect a Snub from Obama” (by Andrea Elliott), citing examples of your aversion to these Americans who come from all walks of life, who serve in the armed forces and who work to live the American dream. Three days earlier the International Herald Tribune published an article by Roger Cohen titled “Why Obama Should Visit a Mosque.” None of these comments and reports change your political bigotry against Muslim-Americans– even though your father was a Muslim from Kenya.

Perhaps nothing illustrated your utter lack of political courage or even the mildest version of this trait than your surrendering to demands of the hard-liners to prohibit former president Jimmy Carter from speaking at the Democratic National Convention. This is a tradition for former presidents and one accorded in prime time to Bill Clinton this year.

Here was a President who negotiated peace between Israel and Egypt, but his recent book pressing the dominant Israeli superpower to avoid Apartheid of the Palestinians and make peace was all that it took to sideline him. Instead of an important address to the nation by Jimmy Carter on this critical international problem, he was relegated to a stroll across the stage to “tumultuous applause,” following a showing of a film about the Carter Center’s post-Katrina work. Shame on you, Barack Obama!

But then your shameful behavior has extended to many other areas of American life. (See the factual analysis by my running mate, Matt Gonzalez, on http://www.votenader.org). You have turned your back on the 100-million poor Americans composed of poor whites, African-Americans, and Latinos. You always mention helping the “middle class” but you omit, repeatedly, mention of the “poor” in America.

Should you be elected President, it must be more than an unprecedented upward career move following a brilliantly unprincipled campaign that spoke “change” yet demonstrated actual obeisance to the concentration power of the “corporate supremacists.” It must be about shifting the power from the few to the many. It must be a White House presided over by a black man who does not turn his back on the downtrodden here and abroad but challenges the forces of greed, dictatorial control of labor, consumers and taxpayers, and the militarization of foreign policy. It must be a White House that is transforming of American politics– opening it up to the public funding of elections (through voluntary approaches)– and allowing smaller candidates to have a chance to be heard on debates and in the fullness of their now restricted civil liberties. Call it a competitive democracy.

Your presidential campaign again and again has demonstrated cowardly stands. “Hope” some say springs eternal.” But not when “reality” consumes it daily.

Sincerely,
Ralph Nader

November 4th, 2008, 10:56 am

 

Wassim said:

“John Foster Dulles – who attached a great amount of importance to DCS – would probably been angered by this sad end to the school he helped build.”

It is remarkable that Sami ends his article with such a twist and I felt compelled to at least say something about this. John Foster Dulles is the man who was behind the overthrow of the democratically elected Prime Minister of Iran, Mossadegh, and strengthening the power of the Shah. He was also behind the overthrow of the democratically elected government of Guatemala, for daring to stand up to the American United Fruit Company (his brother was on the board). It is astonishing that Sami expects us to have sympathy for what this man might have felt about the closure of this school, perhaps the overthrow of democratically elected governments by the CIA does not rile him very much? It is not 200 potential “ambassadors” that the United States has lost to the region, but ‘apologists’. That is the reason why I pray that the school does not re-open.

November 4th, 2008, 11:01 am

 

Innocent Criminal said:

as usual, i find myself agreeing with QN. the closure of the school was an idiotic move, better “gestures” could have been made.

November 4th, 2008, 11:27 am

 

Alia said:

Wassim,

I was not planning to read Moubayed’s contribution until I saw your post- That is hilarious !

Although I do not share your general view that the school should be closed; learning about America from schoolbooks is not such a bad thing…it is far better than watching the subtitled re-runs of American soaps on Satellite TV in the ME.

November 4th, 2008, 11:29 am

 

qunfuz said:

Sami talks about the students at the American school becoming ambassadors for the US. I feel this is an oversimplification, and talks about ‘the US’ as if it is one thing. I was educated in Britain. As a result English is my first language, I know quite a bit of British history, and I love English literature. Indeed, I am British, with a British mother and a British childhood in my memory. I understand (usually) how British people feel about an issue and I often sympathise with them. None of this makes me support Britain’s imperially-appointed role in the world. In fact, British patriotism as much as Arab belonging makes me oppose Blair, Brown, the wars in AFGHANISTAN AND Iraq.

A British friend once sent me a poll from Egypt, in which a large proportion of respondents said they’d like to live in the US , and almost all respondents also said they hate America. My friend thought this was a comic illogicality, but it isn’t really. The Egyptians were distinguishing between the economic opportunity and personal freedoms in the US on the one hand, and the empire on the other.

I too think those of us excited about an Obama victory are deceiving themselves. I’ve posted about it on my blog.

November 4th, 2008, 11:44 am

 

yaser said:

Hi to all SC readers,
is it only me or it is just that i think the “wise” so-called leaders of our country instead of doing this spiteful childish measure ,the president could simply withdraw the Syrian Ambassoder in Washington (or recall him for consultation) sending a powerful message (a deplomatic one this time).
please tell me what you think.

November 4th, 2008, 11:47 am

 

Qifa Nabki said:

I’ve lost count of the number of Arabs who — upon learning that I usually live in the United States — immediately bring up Obama and the likely results of the election.

The excitement surrounding his candidacy is remarkable, at least in my little corner of the Arab world.

November 4th, 2008, 12:16 pm

 

SimoHurtta said:

It is rather rare for a country to establish and finance schools in other countries. For example the German and English schools in Helsinki were founded by individuals and were/are run by private Finnish foundations. The students are besides diplomat’s and other foreigners children mostly Finns.

The fee student’s parents have to pay for one year is in German school € 670 and in the English school in the lower grades € 500 and €680 in higher grades. The Finnish educating system pays most of the costs. Foreign countries I suppose give some minor help in form of books to the library etc.

I personally went to German school and it was certainly not “remote controlled” academy to teach West-German (or DDR’s) values. Basically the only difference to Finnish schools was that the teaching language was German. Well maybe the discipline was a little more German style because most teachers were Germans.

It would be interesting to know would USA have tolerated (and for how long) a Chinese school established and financed by the Peoples Republic of China in New York in the 60’s teaching good communist values with Red Book waving + scholarships in Peking. Or a Soviet school.

Maybe Syrians should set up a new English school to replace that American school. Name it English school and run it using a locally based foundation with no unnecessary political “couplings” and ambitions.

November 4th, 2008, 12:24 pm

 

norman said:

Lebanon’s Christian leader visits Damascus for acquaintance

http://www.chinaview.cn 2008-11-04 17:16:06 Print

BEIRUT, Nov. 4 (Xinhua) — Lebanon’s Christian majority leader MP Michel Aoun has described his upcoming Damascus tour as one of “acquaintance,” local As-Safier daily reported Tuesday.

Aoun made the remarks in a speech to reporters Monday afternoon after the weekly meeting of his parliamentary bloc, according to the report.

“I will visit Damascus for acquaintance with Syrian officials, since I think I am the only Lebanese leader who has not met with Syrian officials,” Aoun was quoted as saying.

He was hinting at many pro-government Leaders who were close Syrian allies when the Syrian army was present in Lebanon but have become anti-Syrians when Syria was pushed out of Lebanon following the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafic Hariri in 2005.

Earlier in October upon his return from a visit to Iran, Aoun announced that he will visit the Syrian capital before the end of 2009.

Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Mouallem told Lebanese ANB TV at the weekend that he invited Aoun to visit Syria in May when MichelSuleiman was elected Lebanese president.

Aoun’s upcoming visit to Syria is a significant event given the history of animosity between the two neighbors.

Syrian air force raided the Lebanese presidential palace in 1990 and ousted Aoun who was then the head of Lebanese transition government and had declared a liberation war against the Syrian army.

Aoun was in exile in France from 1990 to 2005 and returned home after the Syrian army pulled out of Lebanon following nearly three decades of military presence.

Editor: Zheng E

Related Stories

Home World

November 4th, 2008, 12:35 pm

 

Qifa Nabki said:

Is this the grown-up version of “the dog ate my homework”?

TEHRAN, Iran (CNN) — Iran’s parliament voted Tuesday to impeach Interior Minister Ali Kordan for listing a fake doctorate degree on his resume.

… In a lengthy speech during the impeachment debate Tuesday morning, Kordan suggested the Israeli news media had organized the campaign to discredit him.

He claimed he did not realize that his purported Ph. D. from England’s Oxford University was not real. He also said someone duped him by saying he could earn the degree by writing an article.

One wonders if it worse to be sacked for duplicity or stupidity.

November 4th, 2008, 1:09 pm

 

norman said:

Shai, Look at this,

Likud to US: We won’t honor Syria deal

Nov. 4, 2008
Tovah Lazaroff , THE JERUSALEM POST
The Likud has issued a clear policy directive against Israeli talks with Syria to advisers of both presidential candidates, Barack Obama and John McCain, as well as to representatives of the US State Department.

“If we form the next government we won’t be committed to any agreement, or partial agreement, that was achieved by Kadima during this election period between Israel and Syria,” MK Yuval Steinitz told The Jerusalem Post on Monday.

Attorney-General Menahem Mazuz said Sunday he would not order the government to stop negotiating with Syria. On Monday MK Limor Livnat (Likud) filed a petition to the High Court of Justice against the decision.

Steinitz said the Likud did not believe it was in the best interest of democracy to bind itself to an agreement with Syria reached by a caretaker government, such as the one now lead by Kadima.

Steinitz said he delivered this message about Syria last week during a conversation he had with an Obama adviser.

He said the same thing in talks with officials from the US State Department who were in Israel, and earlier in October in a conversation with a member of McCain’s staff.

Overall, the Likud’s position on Syria has differed from that of Kadima in that it does not believe that Israel should be conducting negotiations with Syria until Syria’s stance on a number of key issues – such as support for Hamas and Hizbullah – changes, Steinitz said.

Throughout the US presidential campaign, he said, members of both Obama’s and McCain’s staffs have shown interest in the Likud’s position on a variety of issues and have been in contact with him.

Steinitz, who chairs the joint dialogue on defense between the Knesset and Congress, said he often had an opportunity to speak with politicians in Washington.

He refused to publicly state support for one candidate or another, saying rather that it had been important for him to maintain relations with both candidates

But the Likud is not the only political party that has interested Obama and McCain as they prepared for the presidency. Both men have visited Israel this year and met with its top leaders. McCain and Defense Minister Ehud Barak even appeared at a joint press conference together in Sderot in March.

A spokesman for Barak and for the Foreign Ministry said that maintaining a relationship with the candidates was important for them; but like Steinitz would not hint at a preference.

A Foreign Ministry spokesman said that position papers existed in preparation for either outcome, but that the ministry had not pre-determined the outcome. “We’re waiting for the victory and concession speeches,” he said.

This article can also be read at http://www.jpost.com /servlet/Satellite?cid=1225715331526&pagename=JPost%2FJPArticle%2FShowFull
[ Back to the Article ]
Copyright 1995- 2008 The Jerusalem Post – http://www.jpost.com/

November 4th, 2008, 1:32 pm

 

offended said:

QN,
There are rough looking guys sitting behind second-hand desks in the expansive lobbies of Moscow metro stations. They will get you ANY certificate you want for the right price; as good as authentic.

No, I don’t work for the Russian mobs, there was a report about the whole forgery network on the BBC about it a while ago.

November 4th, 2008, 1:34 pm

 

Joshua said:

Dear all,

My mistake – I wrote the sentence about Sami’s flawless English. I will change it to make it clear that it is mine.

But still – you might call it bad taste, but can anyone else name me a Syrian journalist working in Syria who writes English flawlessly? My point is that Sami is a wonderful advertisement for the importance of the school to Syria and not to the US.

As Kooki articulated so clearly, Syria does make a statement by closing the school, but ultimately it is shooting itself in the foot. It is the only school to which most foreign businessmen will want to send their kids. It is close to their homes. It has been built up with care and offers an educated competitive with any other international school. In choosing to move to Syria, international businessmen do not have to factor in the problems of schooling their children. Now they do. It will drive up the price of doing business in Syria much more than the 11,000 dollars of tuition.

Best, Joshua

November 4th, 2008, 2:56 pm

 

norman said:

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Article Comments (1) MARK MACKINNON

From Tuesday’s Globe and Mail

November 4, 2008 at 3:09 AM EST

DAMASCUS — Bassem Suweida drops his voice out of habit when discussing politics, even though it was today’s election in the faraway United States that the 45-year-old waiter was about to weigh in on, not the closer-to-home intrigues of Bashar Assad’s regime.

“Of course we are with Obama. Everybody in the Middle East is with Obama, because everybody hates Bush,” Mr. Suweida explained, almost whispering, during a break in serving mezze at an upscale restaurant hidden deep in the stone warrens of the walled old city of Damascus. “Will Obama be any different? That’s the question everybody is asking. We don’t know, but we hope so.”

Hope. It’s the word that Barrack Obama has built his campaign for the U.S. presidency around, and it’s the word that defines him, even here in the capital city of a country that many Americans likely consider to be an enemy.

There’s yearning across the Middle East – at least outside of Israel and Iraqi Kurdistan – for a new face in the White House, and John McCain doesn’t fit the bill. He’s seen both by the governments of this region, as well as the legendary “Arab street,” as too close to the policies of George W. Bush. And the eight years the latter spent as the most powerful person in the world are viewed here as an unmitigated disaster.

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And so the Arab world is ready to embrace the fresh-faced senator from Illinois, should he win today as the opinion polls suggest he will. They hope a President Obama will be less unblinkingly pro-Israel, more willing than Mr. Bush to talk to those who disagree with him, and less likely to use military force to assert America’s broad but declining influence in this region.

Few countries will be as happy to see the back of the Bush administration as Syria. Over the past eight years this country has faced heightened international isolation and economic sanctions, along with being swamped by more than 150,000 Iraqi refugees fleeing the war that Mr. Bush began next door. Relations between Washington and Damascus hit a new low last week when U.S. troops and helicopters staged a raid inside Syrian territory – allegedly targeting a network that helped funnel anti-U.S. fighters into Iraq – that left eight people dead.

“I think that all Arabs, not just Syrians, would prefer Obama to McCain,” said Sami Moubayed, a journalist and historian based in Damascus. “Obama would not have a neo-con agenda for the region and is promising to right all the wrongs of the Bush administration, in Palestine, Iraq and Syria. That is not to say that he is going to be a champion of Arab causes – far from it – but at best he would be similar to another Carter, or Clinton.”

Mr. Assad’s regime has a lot riding on the outcome of today’s vote. In recent months, Damascus has made an effort to end its years of confrontation with the West, building ties with Europe, establishing links with the Western-friendly government in Lebanon and even entering into back-channel peace talks with Israel. It has seen its efforts go unrewarded in Washington, and Syrian officials have openly spoken of waiting now for the next U.S. administration to take office before pushing ahead with its efforts.

A more damning judgment of Mr. Bush’s time in office comes from those Syrians who believed his rhetoric about spreading democracy in a “New Middle East.” Instead of advancing their cause, Syrian democrats say they lost ground over the past eight years, as “democracy” became a dirty word in the region after the catastrophe of the Iraq war.

“The New Middle East talk had a negative effect on democracy in the Arab world. [The Bush administration] supported democracy with words, but they didn’t take any concrete actions to help us,” said Mohammed Abdullah, a 25-year-old Syrian dissident living in exile in Beirut. “Before, I think the Syrian people wanted democracy, but after Iraq they don’t. They looked at Iraq and said, ‘We’re next if we don’t support our leader.’ ”

Amid the uproar over the U.S. attack in Syria last week, Mr. Abdullah’s father, Ali, was among 12 writers and human-rights activists who were sentenced by a Syrian court to 2½-year prison sentences for daring to put their signatures on a 2005 document called the Damascus Declaration that called for greater political openness in Syria. Ali Abdullah told the court that he had been beaten by police and forced to sign the confession that led to his conviction on charges that included “weakening national morale.”

An ardent opponent of Mr. Assad’s regime and himself a veteran of Syria’s jails, Mohammed Abdullah is also pulling for Mr. Obama to win today, believing – hoping – that engagement between Damascus and Washington, rather than conflict, is what will get his father out of jail.

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November 4th, 2008, 3:03 pm

 

Atassi said:

I totally DISAGREE that the closing was a wise move.. It’s absolutely WEAK and predictable response by the Syrian regime to the American aggression .. Jailing patriots and closing schools will not be seen as SMART responses.. it’s mostly will be seen as a stupid, weak and coward reaction by the regime
Bullying individuals and harming students will not restore the shamed dignity, the inability and unwillingness to protect the country from external aggressions on the expenses of harming the status of the ruling elite

November 4th, 2008, 6:07 pm

 

stuart said:

Syria was more than entitled to retaliate. We should be thankful it was a non-violent response. Other options were available to them, but they chose to make a pointed but symbolic gesture in closing the school. That, in a way, shows a degree of maturity and restraint which is more than can be said about the US incursion into their sovereign territory. http://www.mydailyclarity.com

November 4th, 2008, 6:10 pm

 

Innocent_Criminal said:

Has others been hearing reports that Chuck Hagel (republican) might be getting the Secretary of Defense or even the Secretary of State position if Obama wins????

I find that to be highly unlikely, especially for the later position. the man has been marganilized by the Israeli lobby for his fair point of view on the israeli/palestinian conflict.

November 4th, 2008, 6:24 pm

 

Shai said:

Norman,

MK Yuval Steinitz, unlike many in the Likud, is an honest to goodness buffoon. I’ve heard him speak on a few occasions, and despite his doctorate in philosophy, he’s just a plain idiot. He’s far too extreme to belong to the Likud, and none of his party members ever voice this kind of nonsense. He can say whatever he likes about honoring, or not honoring, any agreement with anyone. But if Olmert reaches a draft agreement in the next few months, he’ll have to present it to the government, and then to Knesset, in any case. I imagine what Olmert might be trying to do, is to make the next elections about peace, with a very concrete option, namely Syria. This, perhaps, is the only way Livni could win. But the Likud needn’t honor a draft agreement – they’ll form a complete one with Syria themselves! I’m willing to bet on it… 🙂

November 4th, 2008, 6:26 pm

 

atassi said:

How this move going to hurt the Bush Administration? It’s hurting the Syrian student now..! and maybe generating more $$$$ to the MKHLOUF, RAMI “ HE OWNS The International School of Choueifat”.. WATCH FOR MORE NEWS ABOUT DISCOUNT FOR TRANSFER INTO THE Choueifat!!!

November 4th, 2008, 6:49 pm

 

norman said:

Shai,

so you think that both want a peace treaty with Syria but each trying to get the credit for himself, That will be nice.

Syria closed the school in the heat of the moment , I am sure they are regretting it , They are probably trying to reverse the decision , the order came from the cabinet , the school should appeal to the president or to the court, that will be a way to back off and save face.

November 4th, 2008, 7:03 pm

 

Shai said:

Norman,

It makes sense that Syria had to do something, even if only symbolic, against the U.S. Rather than recall Imad Moustapha, it chose to close the school. I agree with Alex, though, it would be great to see it reopened none other than President Barack Obama, on his first trip to the region. Speaking of Obama – have you voted already? Good luck to you, good luck to America, and good luck to us all!

November 4th, 2008, 7:10 pm

 

norman said:

Shai,

the school should open very soon and not wait for Obama for the sake of the students , the school should appeal the ruling

Today will be the first time in my life that i vote for a Democrat for president.

November 4th, 2008, 7:20 pm

 

Alex said:

Norman I’m happy you are voting.

And did Akbar vote already? (Obama for sure)

IC,

I am hearing that John Kerry could be heading to state department (or related position).

Denis Ross has been promoting his name rather aggressively lately. He can be assigned under secretary of state for Middle East. Israel should feel comfortable enough with that choice. After all, the Bush administration started with Colin Powell as secretary of state and he did not have any effect on the totally biased American policy in the Middle East.

Shai,

I wish I can have your enthusiasm for chances of concluding an agreement under Mr. Netanyahu and Likud.

I can see them negotiating, I can see Netanyahu eventually giving Syria 90% of what it is asking for … but that won’t be enough for reaching an agreement.

November 4th, 2008, 7:51 pm

 

norman said:

Alex, Shai,

The only way for Israel to give the Golan Is if it starts paying a price for keeping it , that is the only way to convince the Israelis of the benefit of peace.

November 4th, 2008, 7:58 pm

 

Shai said:

Alex, Norman,

I want to correct the feeling of “enthusiasm” I seem to be projecting here with regards to the Likud. I don’t know if Netanyahu will be wise enough to do what’s required, not only on the Syrian side, but also on the Palestinian one. I have a hunch that he might. Thankfully, I can say to any pessimist, that he’s already proven his ability to offer Syria complete withdrawal from the Golan, as he did via Lauder to Hafez Assad 10 years and 2 months ago. Will he do it again? I don’t know. But I do know that Livni has no chance to deliver such a withdrawal. She couldn’t even form a coalition government, and become PM without any elections – how is she going to convince her people of something much tougher?

Our options in Israel, unfortunately, are far worse than for you in the U.S. at this very moment. I wish to God we had our own “Obama”. Back in 1998, during the Barak-Netanyahu elections, there was a feeling in the air that Barak is our “Obama”. And when he won, all of us were on cloud nine. And then, he disappointed us all. And the rest is history… I am truly jealous of Americans today, and will be even more so, tomorrow morning (in’shalla).

World markets tomorrow will tell which candidate offers more hope to our world. They’ve started to show it already today. If Obama wins, expect tremendous surge in every market… If McCain wins, a week from now will be excellent time to buy… 🙂

November 4th, 2008, 8:20 pm

 

jad said:

Alex, Shai, Norman,
Sorry my friends, I’m not that optimistic about the election, I have a very low expectation (none) for whoever wins the election to have any serious impact on the ME peace process.
J.

November 4th, 2008, 9:48 pm

 

AIG said:

Norman,
Israel has always been paying a price for being the Jewish state in an unwelcoming neighborhood. You will need to figure out a way for Israel to pay a price for holding the Golan without Syria and Lebanon paying a price for Israel paying a price. Now that is not going to be easy.

But there is another way forward. Why don’t you look at the glass half full and be like Shai? Why can’t Syria convince Israel that it can give it so much that Israel will give it the Golan? Why does it always have to hurt Israel? Why can’t Syria think of ways to make it worthwhile for Israel to leave? Wouldn’t that show you are serious about negotiations and peace?

November 4th, 2008, 10:37 pm

 

Trustquest said:

The coming numbers indicate that VA is taken by Obama, Indiana more likely to go Obama,
Obama ahead in Florida over 56%
Our red State of NC, is now in Obama hands
This two States is enough to give Obama a WIN.
So far Obama stand 41% and McCain 27%
The urban votes is the late votes so Obama win is a must

November 5th, 2008, 12:56 am

 

Ford Prefect said:

The forces of darkness are being defeated and defeated BIG! Even the seat that was held by Jesse Helms in North Carolina (now by Dole) had been lost to Hagan, a great Democrat.

The sun is shining all over America now.

November 5th, 2008, 2:08 am

 

norman said:

The election is not over yet.

November 5th, 2008, 2:20 am

 

Ford Prefect said:

It is over Norman – hate is leaving Washington soon. McCain can now book a room in Alaska.

November 5th, 2008, 2:29 am

 

norman said:

Ford Prefect,

I hope you are right , The country needs a new direction and new blood to restore America’s standing in the world.so we can lead by example and spread our values which have been ignored for 8 years.

November 5th, 2008, 2:47 am

 

Ford Prefect said:

Norman,
Amen. We needed to restore law and order and put an end to arrogance and ignorance.

AIG: You said above ” Why can’t Syria convince Israel that it can give it so much that Israel will give it the Golan?” Indeed. I rarely agree with you, but this time you hit the nail on the head. You are rational and made an excellent point.

That is precisely what many of us Syrians are working hard on achieving. Join us and help us to win this battle of changing the minds of hate and war.

November 5th, 2008, 2:57 am

 

why-discuss said:

Shai

“If Obama wins, expect tremendous surge in every market…”

Not sure, many analysts ( including Rupert Murdock) fear the opposite as the Big companies are worried about Obama’s strategy of protectionism and high taxes for them..
There may be a short surge but it may not sustain, who knows?

November 5th, 2008, 3:14 am

 

Enlightened said:

Last night watching the last campaigning done by Macain hovering in the backround was Joe Liebermann!!!

What gives a democrat supporting the republican candidate? What gives? If this happened in Australia The relevant party would revoke his party affiliation and endorsement. Damn weird, but thats politics.

QN thanks for the kind words! Might have to get some tips from you and Shai (for parenting of girls,) all a very new experience!

November 5th, 2008, 3:29 am

 

why-discuss said:

The Mossad spy ring in Lebanon involved with the 9/11 terrorists and with Fateh al islam?
As usual Israel no comment … anyway can they admit?

BEIRUT: Two men arrested for running an Israeli spy ring in the Bekaa Valley are relatives of a suicide hijacker who piloted a plane in the September 11, 2001, attacks, a security source told The Daily Star on Sunday. The Lebanese Army announced on Saturday that it had arrested two people suspected of involvement with a spy network that gathered information for Israel’s intelligence services….
…One of the two men arrested, identified only by his initials “A.D.J.,” is believed to have been the head of the spy ring. Security sources told The Daily Star that the man was a member of the Palestinian militant group Fatah al-Intifadah, which is known to be active along the Syrian border.

….Officials are also investigating a theory that the group provided intelligence to the Israelis that may have helped them plan the killing of the senior Hizbullah military commander Imad Mughniyeh in Damascus in February.

Hizbullah’s leader, Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah, has accused Israel of being behind the car bomb that killed Mughniyeh and has pledged that the Shiite group will take revenge for his death.

An Israeli government spokesman refused to comment on the arrests.

“Every couple of weeks there is someone, somewhere accusing the Mossad of something. As a rule, we don’t comment on all these accusations,” the spokesman said on Sunday.

http://www.dailystar.com.lb/article.asp?edition_id=1&categ_id=2&article_id=97339

November 5th, 2008, 3:51 am

 

norman said:

Ford Prefect,

good to see you gain here , Keep writing

I am sorry to say that AIG is not looking for love from Syrians , he is looking for Syria to abandon the Palestinians and break relation with Hezbollah, Iran and Hamas , t is simple , He is looking for Syria’s surrender and that i do not see happenng.

Unfortunately Israelis like Shai and Rumyal are not majority in Israel.

November 5th, 2008, 3:56 am

 

norman said:

Obama is projected to be the next president of the United States and the world by MSNBC .

The markets in Asia are moving higher

November 5th, 2008, 4:02 am

 

Ford Prefect said:

OBAMA IS ELECTED PRESIDENT! The conscious of America has finally prevailed after 8 years of darkness.

This is an historic moment.

November 5th, 2008, 4:05 am

 
 

Ford Prefect said:

Norman, Thanks Buddy. Not sure what AIG’s intentions are, but he is an intelligent man. He knows that unless Iran, HA, and Hamas are part of the overall peace deal, Syria ain’t flipping. Syria, as error-prone as it is, is not going to cutoff its nose in spite of its face.

But I fully agree with AIG’s notion that Syrians need to show Israelis that they are serious about peace. This is a people-to-people gesture. Syrians can be leaders in that regards, and why not.

November 5th, 2008, 4:18 am

 

offended said:

MABROOK ABU HUSSEIN!

November 5th, 2008, 4:43 am

 

Shai said:

Ford Prefect, Norman, Why Discuss, Everyone…

CONGRATULATIONS!!! America, and Americans, and indeed all other people in this world, today have a new hope. A new leader of the free world has emerged, and indeed “change is coming” to us all.

November 5th, 2008, 5:11 am

 

norman said:

Obama speech is sending shivers in my bones.

November 5th, 2008, 5:12 am

 

offended said:

Regardless of whether Obama’s election is going to be helpful to the middle east or not; seeing that the majority of American people didn’t allow color to cloud their judgement, this in itself is a wonderful thing. : )

November 5th, 2008, 5:33 am

 

Innocent Criminal said:

Even though we need to remember that Obama is a politician (i.e. he sold himself to the corporate devil, he lies, etc. etc.) this guy is still different, he needs to be different. Otherwise americans and pretty much the rest of the world will have been betreyad by the notion that good people can actually achieve great things.

And critics can say what they like, but that man is a great orator who (sounds like he) believes in what he is saying. IMHO no american president has been so convincing in living memory.

November 5th, 2008, 5:41 am

 

Enlightened said:

Ok ITS OFFICIAL:

Lets see what the future brings? I for one am a little bit hopeful! Its good see that Americans can now reclaim what is needed most – “Good Governance and Leadership”

It is too early to write GBW’s obituary yet! But a new dawn is among us, seeing the excitement on the tv, this might be another “Berlin Wall” moment in History.

November 5th, 2008, 5:42 am

 

Ford Prefect said:

Good morning Shai and good morning world. We are going to be bed now but America has given the world a new gift of hope and changing course. It is America’s way of telling the world “we are sorry, but not humiliated.”

Gone are the dark days of Bush and Cheney – where America acted recklessly and arrogantly. Obama’s Administration will succeed in some areas and it will fail in others. But his administration will have a soul, a conscious, and the intellects to act like a leading and responsible superpower. And it will not have a wicked witch advising a mindless president.

As Offended mentioned above, regardless what Middle East policies will emerge, the fact that we have a smart, popular, and a rational president is a step in the right direction. And indeed this is a wonderful thing.

November 5th, 2008, 5:52 am

 

Alex said:

🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂

🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂

🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂

🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂

🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂

🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂

November 5th, 2008, 6:20 am

 

offended said:

“The true strength of our nation comes not from the might of our arms or the scale of our wealth but from our ideals.”

Does this guy really improvise his speeches?

Khalas Syrians, you can fend for yourselves. I am not with you anymore. I am pledging allegiance to Barack Obama…:)

November 5th, 2008, 6:32 am

 

Alex said:

In Canada there is joy … everyone is happy that the American people elected the right candidate despite the color of his skin and despite his middle name.

Congratulations and best wishes to my American friends.

Jad,

I am sufficiently optimistic… I heard from Obama tonight an emphasis on supporting those who seek peace and no mention of enforcing “democracy” on the “evil” set.

And .. did you notice that the President elect is really smart?

So far so good.

November 5th, 2008, 6:39 am

 

jad said:

Hi ALex,
Yes, I noticed that he emphasize on peace and he sounded firm about the issue and in totally different tone than before.
And yes, finally a smart president, did you know that his name is Baraka ( arabic for A BLESS ) I didn’t know that.
J.

November 5th, 2008, 7:11 am

 

Alex said:

And … make sure you take a look at the top part of the left column of Syria comment.

November 5th, 2008, 7:12 am

 

Shai said:

Alex,

It’s been a long time since we had this feeling of hope flood our hearts and minds. It is truly a historical day, and I am proud of Americans for knowing how to change their system, when it fails. I have all the faith in Obama, and I know his contribution to ending the misery experienced by so many in our region will be substantial, it will be effective, and it will be successful. The “Axis-of-Evil” is on its deathbed this morning, as a first step to bringing nations in our region closer, rather than apart.

November 5th, 2008, 7:15 am

 

jad said:

Thanx for telling me about the voting, you got yourself a one “not optimistic” voice..I’m so sorry 😉

November 5th, 2008, 7:18 am

 

Qifa Nabki said:

After spending all night glued to the TV in my living room, I stumbled out of the apartment this morning to walk to work.

The Syrian concierge who works in my building was standing on the street with a bunch of his friends and when he saw me, he walked briskly over with a huge smile on his face and pumped my hand.

“Mabrouk! Mabrouk la-ilak, w la Obama, w la America!”

Let’s hope the next four (or eight!) years bring some sanity to our region.

November 5th, 2008, 7:19 am

 

Alex said:

Jad,

I knew it is you : ) … voting late night makes it easy to guess who voted and how he/she voted.

Shai,

Inshallah … I guess you also voted “somewhat optimistic” like I did : )

November 5th, 2008, 7:21 am

 

Shai said:

Enlightened,

Mark this day, save video clips of the excitement, for Dahlia. And one day, tell her she was born just a few days before new hope was born. She’ll be proud of that, in her own special way.

Alex,

I’m sorry, but I voted “very optimistic”. And I am.

November 5th, 2008, 7:23 am

 

jad said:

I’m really sorry guys for being so pessimistic about what I think Obama can attribute to the peace deal..on the other hand I’m optimistic that he will do some good changes regarding all the mess this terrible administration was doing for the last 8 years….Will wait and see…
OMG, I SOUND LIKE AIG BY KILLING THE HOPE….I do apologize…

November 5th, 2008, 7:26 am

 

Rumyal said:

About 70% of American Jewry voted for Obama, not because they stopped caring for Israel but because they understand that the path of demonization and isolation of the axis-of-evil countries will not bring peace and prosperity to anybody, least of all to Israel. I wonder how the results of the elections in America are going to influence those in Israel. Since we copy-cat everything from America, the American elections can give a boost to pro-peace/liberal candidates because peace and diversity are now “in”. I hope they would (I don’t buy the Netanyahu gambit).

November 5th, 2008, 7:27 am

 

Alex said:

Exactly Rumyal!

That’s my hope … Livni will gain a few points because she is more “in” than old Netanyahu who still talks “axis of evil” about those he is supposed to make peace with.

But on the other hand … I wonder how many points she will get and if they will be enough to put her ahead of Likud.

November 5th, 2008, 7:32 am

 

Shai said:

Ya JAD,

So you didn’t do so well in the chopsticks-in-space seminar, so what? That’s reason enough to be pessimistic? 🙂 Not to worry my dear friend, Americans have just overcome some tremendous hurdles to elect a minority leader, of African-American origin, accused of supporting terrorists, etc. And the new American leader is about to overcome many challenges in our region. He is one smart and capable cookie, who surprised everyone. Remember that! Be optimistic my friend (I’m starting to sound like McCain), Life is worth nothing less.

November 5th, 2008, 7:38 am

 

Alex said:

Advice for the winner

(Aluf Benn / Haaretz)

… Start with Syria. The Arabs and Europeans will flood you with pleas to solve the Palestinian problem. They will argue that this is the source of all the problems in the Middle East. But the chances of obtaining an agreement are slim. Good intentions and “100 percent effort” will not be enough to solve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The gaps are too wide; the Palestinian side is split between a hostile Hamas and a fading Fatah; and Israel is afraid of a settler intifada. You need an achievement, and quickly. Therefore, forget the Palestinians for now and move forward on the Syrian track.

The Syrian track is less complicated than the Palestinian mess. There is no argument over whether Bashar Assad can supply the goods – facilitating your exit from Iraq and your dialogue with Iran, and moderating the Hamas and Hezbollah threats. Israel’s leader will also have more freedom of action with regard to Syria than he or she will have on talks with the Palestinians about dividing Jerusalem and allowing refugees to return. No Israeli government has fallen over the Golan Heights.

The problem with the Syrian track is that the status quo is convenient for both sides: Israel wants to stay in the Golan, and Syria fears domestic change. Only active American leadership, to move the process forward and support it through security arrangements and economic aid, can break this stalemate. Even then, there is no guarantee of success, but at the moment, your best shot at a Nobel Peace Prize lies between Jerusalem and Damascus.

Beware of surprises. “All our wars began in circumstances that afterward should have required very thorough investigations to explain and understand why they began at all,” Moshe Dayan once said. That statement is always true in the Middle East, where war is liable to break out at any moment, and it is especially true today, against the background of the Iranian bomb, an expected changing of the guard in Egypt and wild fluctuations in oil prices.

Your predecessors were judged by their handling of crises, and two of them – Richard Nixon and George Bush senior – succeeded in leveraging the Yom Kippur War and the Gulf War to advance peace between Israel and the Arabs. You would do well to learn from their experience, because the next crisis will land on you.

November 5th, 2008, 7:40 am

 

Rumyal said:

Alex,

I think it’s possible, as we have seen there is seasonal migration betwee Kadima, Labor and Likud, so it’s possible Livni will be able to eek a few seats based on pro-peace winds coming from America. But like all other elections in the US and Israel in the last 10-20 years, it will be a toss-up. (Close elections are usually an indication that people are voting in a random manner, when they have no clue what the politians will do with their votes…)

November 5th, 2008, 7:54 am

 

Shai said:

Alex,

I’m so glad you found the article in English. I saw it early this morning in Hebrew, and very much wanted to share it on SC. Btw, I posted the previous comment with “SHA” by mistake… (please approve). Rumyal, congratulations!!!

November 5th, 2008, 7:56 am

 

Rumyal said:

Hi Shai 🙂

be-shaa tova…

November 5th, 2008, 8:09 am

 

Alex said:

Rumyal, Shai

1) Do you think that close elections in Israel are indicative of random voting (as Rumyal suggested), or is it because Israel is made up of many groups of people who have very different expectations of what Israel should be… from teh ultra religious, to the ultra liberal … from those who are satisfied with pre-67 borders to those who want to nuke evil neighbors …

2) Why didn’t we see any non-corrupt + smart + charismatic leader in power for a long, long time?

I guess Netanyahu is that kind of leader for many Israeli s… but “many” in this case will also be about 30% … another coalition government that can’t lead the country anywhere far.

To me, Livni is not bad … but Shai is convinced she lacks experience.

But Obama lacks experience too … and his country is at war twice (Iraq and Afghanistan) the day he was elected to lead… Are the Israelis more risk averse than their American friends?

November 5th, 2008, 8:12 am

 

Shai said:

Alex, Rumyal,

I hate to ruin the mood, but since we are trying to also analyze the possibilities, we should be ready for less-than-positive effects. In the short term, I believe the Obama victory will have the opposite effect in Israel. It will harden many, not soften. The overwhelming majority of Israelis still believe Obama is a Muslim (!!!) This morning, most of the people I talk to, are suspicious of him, fearful, and actually believe he has some innate antisemitism in him, that’s just waiting to “explode”. As I’ve said before, most Israelis are living with this inferiority-complex, with this constant fear that things are happening around them, that will negatively shape their present and future. They are inherently pessimistic, innately fearful, and tend never to give the benefit of the doubt. They prefer not to trust, and to be proven wrong, than the opposite.

America voting Obama will, for many in Israel, signal a dangerous warning, as if Israel is about to be “sold” downriver. Bibi may find it easier to rally Israelis to his side, than he would otherwise. Don’t underestimate Israelis, and their closed-mindedness. Even the news channels that covered the election all night long, and seemed genuinely happy to see “change coming”, could to stop stressing the “Hussein” in Barack Obama. And this morning, people are talking about a Muslim president in America! Getting rid of preconceptions is near impossible. But I’m still very optimistic, because Israel leaders cannot do anything they want, if an American administration decides to put us in our place, much as the Bush Sr.-Baker administration did.

Whoever will win in Israel in 3 months time (Bibi or Livni) will have to listen to Obama. Of that, thank god, I am quite certain.

November 5th, 2008, 8:12 am

 

Shai said:

Ya Alex,

Please, let us remain somewhat humble, and not try to compare Livni to Barack Obama! My god, he is eons ahead of her in every way possible. I’ve heard from some people who know her closely that “there’s not much” there. She’s never led anything, remember. Perhaps leading Kadima now, for 4 or 8 years, would give her some experience. But in her abilities, and her character, and talents, she is not even close to Obama. He is truly an impressive and extraordinary person.

November 5th, 2008, 8:17 am

 

Alex said:

LOL

OK Shai … i give up.

November 5th, 2008, 8:19 am

 

Shai said:

Like Ali G says “Respect”! 🙂

November 5th, 2008, 8:24 am

 

Rumyal said:

Shai, Alex,

This is highly disturbing. I’m not picking this up from the online papers though, even at ynet the talkbacks (in Hebrew) seem quite positive, many saying they are hoping for such a change in Israel, too.

It’s too bad that the elections in Israel happen before Obama gets a chance to prove himself as an Israel ally.

November 5th, 2008, 8:44 am

 

Qifa Nabki said:

2009 has the potential to be a massively transformative year. It is the year of potentially momentous elections.

Israel will hold legislative elections on Feb 10, 2009.

Iran will hold presidential elections on June 12, 2009.

Lebanon will hold parliamentary elections in May or June 2009.

Depending on the results (Likud vs Kadima, Iranian conservatives vs. reformists, March 14 vs. March 8), we may see the region lurch decisively in one direction or another.

(I actually don’t think the Lebanese elections will make that much of a difference, given that all parties are more or less back to business as usual. Israel and Iran’s elections will have a much greater influence on Lebanese [and Syrian] politics than the Lebanese elections themselves.)

November 5th, 2008, 8:52 am

 

Rumyal said:

Alex,

On your questions:

>>> 1) Do you think that close elections in Israel are indicative of random voting

Livni has recently differentiated herself from Netanyahu and Barak but if you consider the last elections, the three big parties were pretty much identical in their platforms. When it comes to implementing policies, each party has been known to zigzag, be subject to blackmail from the religious parties and to moves that are motivated by the personal benefits and survival of the politicians involved. But most importantly, America decides Israeli policy more than the differences between the different parties.

If you look at recent polls, it basically goes like this:

Stable votes:

Religious and extreme right = ~30

Arabs and left = ~20

So about 50 seats are non-random.

Volatile votes:

Likud ~= Kadima ~= 30 each.

Labor ~= 10.

These 70 seats are pretty random/seasonal in my opinion (at least let’s say 50% of them are).

The problem with the 10 Arab MK’s is that it’s very difficult to use them for peace initiatives, they’re good only for blocking the right. (That’s conventional wisdom is Israeli politics…)

>>> 2) Why didn’t we see any non-corrupt + smart + charismatic leader in power for a long, long time?

Because:

a) The Zionist enterprise contains too many contradictions that nobody is brave enough to address head-on.

b) The population has been trained to accept a pre-processed political agenda set forth by the politicians, doesn’t set it’s own agenda and doesn’t ask for accountability from the politicians.

c) The security situation demands ex-generals at the helm which naturally exacerbates all of the above.

d) It takes a particular type of person to be able to rise through the party ranks…

But what I’m noticing (from afar) is that things are radically changing. My generation (20 to 40 yo) are getting involved in their droves in all sorts of grass-root activism, most notably protection of the environment and Jewish-Arab co-existence. They are starting to shape the agenda in Israel and in few years this will translate into a new political power.

On Livni, I’m not excited either. She seems a good technocrat at best. There is a great vacuum right now. Nobody mentioned it here but Yossi Beilin just retired from politics.

November 5th, 2008, 9:00 am

 

Shai said:

Alex, Rumyal,

I agree with Rumyal’s analysis. Yossi Beilin was a very different kind of politician, and it is a national tragedy that he quit now (and so did another important and highly capable Meretz member, Ran Cohen). And yet, aside from a few parting words by some politicians at the Knesset podium for 30 minutes, his memory is gone as quickly as it came. Most Israelis hate Yossi Beilin. Most hate his tell-it-like-it-is style. They hate his openness, his courage, his ability to talk to the enemy at eye-level, his optimism, and his “naive” belief that peace is possible. Most talkback comments were of the type “good riddance” than “what a shame”.

Rumyal, the people I spoke with this morning are, believe it or not, college educated, “enlightened” people. They are not even avid Likudnicks, who clearly fear Obama. They are the type that once voted Labor, then started with Kadima, and might, if really desperate, vote Likud. And yet, they fear Obama is a Muslim, and that deep down inside, he’s an antisemite, and will soon “sell” us down the river. Can you believe it? I couldn’t. Thank god there are some sane Israelis talking back on ynet, but you know how “the rest” will read those comments – Ah, you silly blind and naive liberals. How irresponsible of you NOT to fear this Hussein Prez. How typical… of the Left… etc., etc.

Yeah, I’m not hopeful about Livni, though I’m willing to give her the benefit of the doubt in these next 3 months. Let’s see what she’s made of. I didn’t think Obama could defeat Hillary, and yet he did. I had doubts whether America was ready for an African-American president, and yet it is. Unfortunately, I really cannot even imagine an Israeli Obama right now. I don’t know of any character, in politics or not, that may have his apparent abilities (even oratorical ones). The only thing even remotely close to an image of a leader is, unfortunately, Bibi… But let’s not get into this again… Let the damned campaign here begin, and then we’ll see what happens. It is indeed a shame that Obama won’t be able to exhibit action on the ground, before our next election. But he will be coming this way, I’m quite sure, to support whoever he believes should win (probably Livni). So expect to see him smiling next to her. Will it help much? I doubt it. In Israel, what often seems the logical way, does quite the opposite, doesn’t it? 🙂 But like the old saying goes, “Ze Ma Yesh” (that’s what there is).

November 5th, 2008, 9:18 am

 

SimoHurtta said:

Are the leading persons and their parties in USA and especially in Israel in the end important? The fact is that no rational Israeli Jewish politician will do in present circumstances nothing real, besides those endless nowhere leading (by purpose) negotiation processes, towards a peace with the Palestinians and the region.

Every rational Israeli politician knows that peace would mean in the end 1967 borders (with very minor adjustments) and the planed Swiss cheese bantustan Palestine is no option. Peace would mean besides a total collapse in the present rather big role of Israel is now playing in world politics, very severe internal problems, division of Jerusalem, etc. It would mean an end for Erzats Israel and even would endanger Israel’s future as a Jewish nation. The present situation has been good for Israel, a big player and lucrative defence business opportunities. “Opening borders” with the neighbours would not make Israel richer or safer. Let’s remember that the import between to Israel from Egypt was in 2007 94.3 mil.USD and export 154 mil USD. Egypt was little more important for Israeli economy as Malta is. The reality is that Palestine, Syria and Lebanon can offer very little in that cost-benefit thinking AIG presented before.

Israel will make real efforts towards peace only when there are no other options left. And that will happen only when USA commands it to do that. And USA will command only when USA’s trade etc relations with Arab/Muslim become extremely vital. So vital that their value to the nation beat the “importance” of special relations with Israel. Of course this “need” demands that Arab countries have enough unity and wisdom to use their increased geopolitical muscles to force USA to act.

The economical reality is that capital will accumulate to oil and gas providing countries and the economical competition of those money piles and markets will be fierce. If USA can’t provide something “concrete” to the Arab/Muslim side Europe, Russia and China will clean the table with nuclear power stations, weapons trades etc and USA is left only with the costs of that “land aircraft carrier”.

The only difference with Israeli politicians and parties is that some speak about peace and arrange negotiation shows more than others. So it doesn’t matter is the who is the PM, when the time to concrete actions towards peace come. The PM has to “deliver”.

November 5th, 2008, 1:52 pm

 

AIG said:

As expected Obama won and as expected people’s hopes are mostly too high. It is unlikely Obama will bring much change to the dynamics in the mideast because of several problems.

Let’s begin with the first one. Peace in the middle east requires participation by the Saudis and Obama is on a (good) mission to beggar them by reducing the reliance of the US on oil. That is a huge contradiction in his policies that he will overcome by not emphasizing the peace process and sticking to internal US issues. Without the Saudis and their money there is no chance for the comprehensive solution that includes the Palestinians and therefore very little chance for a Israeli-Syrian solution.

It is interesting to note that non of the discussion here even remotely contemplates change in Syria. The US and Israel may change, but Syria remains the same with no chance of change. Do you really think we can solve problems if only one side changes?

This is the exact Obama quote about ideals:
“Tonight we proved once more that the true strength of our nation comes not from the might of our arms or the scale of our wealth, but from the enduring power of our ideals: democracy, liberty, opportunity and unyielding hope.”

This just reenforces what I have been saying. If the ideals of America are democracy and liberty, if Americans strongly believe in those, how can the US accept a non-democratic middle east? How can it pursue peace without pursuing democracy? How can it accept Mubarak and Asad and the Saudi royal family?

And as usual would like to ask, how can the people who support Obama and the ideals of “democracy, liberty, opportunity and unyielding hope” support Asad who is the absolute opposite?

November 5th, 2008, 2:41 pm

 

Alia said:

Simonhurtta,

Thank you for your thougthtful analysis. The one thing that I would like to add is that I do not believe that a status-quo is ever achievable. By their nature political/social systems- like all other living systems built on interaction- evolve, deteriorate, change but they never remain the same. Most of the time, we are able only in retrospect to see the timeline of change, rarely we are experienced enough to see change as it is happening.

Israel is a land where a tremendous amount of contradictions are constantly interacting, the system is under extreme pressure, internally as well as externally and will have to constantly change in order to survive otherwise it will not; at least not in the shape it is now.

Recently AIG has been pushing the idea that Israel is a normal democracy; therefore one would expect that things would function in there as they would in such a system, with ebb and flow.

This is a falshood. Israel is not “normal” as a system.

1. From its beginning to its present time, it has been an imperial experiment- in the sense of taking over someone else’s land- that sought to contain multiple varied and sometimes contradictory narratives [I have good friends who are European Jews who had the worst experience of their life visiting Israel, they felt strange “depayse ” is the French word that describes it-out of their country” and would not return there at any price].

2. Israel is completely dependent for its financial survival on the U.S. directly and indirectly to the tune of 6 Billion dollars a year.
But the returns for the U.S. are getting lower and lower..and more importantly, the generations that pledged this kind of support whether directly or indirectly are no longer there; the U.S. is changing too and this state of things will change eventually. The cause of Zionism is not going to remain burning in the official U.S. despite many attempts at rekindling it and keeping it alive. That is also a law. [Look at the erosion of the case for racism for example..it is not the changing legal milieu alone that changed people in the U.S., it is the feedback of people that has have changed the situation]. Read today’s edition of Haaretz. the word that keeps getting repeated is “abandon” will Barack Obama abandon us? The fear is palpable.

3. On the opposite side, Syria’s regime is a fairly “normal”, run of the mill dictatorship-the life and death (s) of those regimes are there for us to study- Some have been able to change themselves gradually into semi-democracies some have been toppled over. None existed for ever.

Must go get some work done….:)

November 5th, 2008, 2:51 pm

 

AIG said:

Alia,

For every 1 French Jew that does not feel comfortable in Israel there are ten that have bought apartments in Israel. You are just repeating the same wishful thinking that Arabs have employed in the last 60 years.

Ok, Syria dictatorship is normal but Israel democracy is not. Very deep thinking. As for the US aid, I have explained many times why it is a small part of Israel’s GDP. In any case go back to Obama’s ideals. Which country in the middle east is by far closest to them? That is why Israel is a natural ally of the USA. It is such because you and other Syrians find the regime in Syria “normal”.

If you think Israel has problems, let’s wait and talk again in 50 years. Why be in any hurry?

November 5th, 2008, 3:23 pm

 

Atassi said:

Will the Arab regimes,dictators and Tyrants learn something from the US election and Barack Obama’s sweeping victory !!! ..
…”The challenges for a CHANGE IN BELLAD EL-SHAAM “..

November 5th, 2008, 3:34 pm

 

Alia said:

AIG,

“Israel as a natural ally of the U.S.” is an Israeli slogan that has lulled some segment of the American and Israeli people to sleep for a couple of decades. You think that the framers whom Obama referred to once yesterday or Abraham Lincoln whom he referred to twice would relate to the Apartheid state of Israel because of natural affinity!
you need to get back to your history books..

Israel is an old product of the age of direct physical Imperialism- look at England its first facilitator shrunken to insignificance- as old Rumsfeld referred to it- “that small island up in the North sea” – when Blair was running around trying to get a piece of the action-

AIG, Israel as you know it and claim to love it is over.

November 5th, 2008, 3:42 pm

 

Ford Prefect said:

Atassi,
It is not elections that we just need.
We need our civil liberties and freedom first.
We need liberal economies and independent judiciaries.
We need women rights.
We need a progressive educational system.
We need a viable and professional middle class.
We need civil institutions that respect and protect minorities.
We need strong interpersonal trust, learn to respect others – even foes, and respect of the law.
We need courageous leaders to steer us towards liberal values and ideals.
We need to eradicate illiteracy, ignorance, racism, extremism, and belligerency.

And we need peace.

Then we can go vote.

November 5th, 2008, 4:22 pm

 

AIG said:

Alia,

You fix Arab society and we will take care of Israeli society.
Your wishful thinking will get you nowhere. As usual I will say, let’s meet in 50 years and see who was right. For 60 years Arabs like you have been telling us that Israel is “over”. Will you ever learn? Not likely. Because for you the Syrian regime is “normal” and Israel’s democracy is not.

Mr. Perfect,
Yes, you need peace. But not that much. Israel achieved what it has achieved without peace. What you really need is peace between Arabs. The Israeli issue is a minor one.

November 5th, 2008, 4:37 pm

 

Off the Wall said:

As usual, the discussion of a Syrian topic found its way to Syria-Israel peace talks. But being late in responding, i would like to weigh in my two cents. I do not think that the school closure is as simple as it apears. I am totally against it. I spent all of my education in public schools in Syria, However, in 7th grade, which is the year Syrian students start foriegn language, my parents were concerned about my english grades. Being from the middle class, they could not afford full year tuition in the American school in Aleppo, but decided to send me to the english summer school in the American School to improve my english. It was the most enjoyable summer I had. We had ausom, reasonably well paid teachers, with charisma, devotion, and high caliber teaching skills. I will always remember the elderly Mr. Yateem, who left quite an impressioin on me.

It is possible that closure meant to
1. Embarras the US within the diplomatic corps in Syria as many diplomats, business, and UN employees now face the delimma of their children education. The government is probably hoping that these parents will blame the US for the closure.

2. Send a strong signal that while Syria does not have military means to respond, it can do something

3. For internal consumption, families of diplomats along with the Syrian kids studying in that school are pobably viewed as children of privelage, with American connections. Many syrians will view such decisioin positively and will have no great sympathy for 400 privelaged children who have to find a new school now.

4. Attempt to send a message that you can not have parts of normal relationship (e.g. clutural, commercial) while threatening and at the same and taking actions that amount to outright declaration of war. The US will have to chose one way or the other, and Syria is tired of having to appease an administration that does not seem to be willing to reciprocate. I personally think that this is the strongest motive behind the closure of the school and the cultural center. And the message is probably sent to the new administration (we now know it will be an Obama adiministration). It is the decision that will have the least negative impact on Syria itself. It is like syria saying, you embargo us, well here we are carrying your embargo to one of its logical conclusions.

Needless to say, I am not ready to call the decision wise. Far from it. Re-establishing a school is not an easy task. And one of the most important aspects of education is continuity. In the highly mobile society in the US, many parents try hard to negotiate job relocation so that it does not disrupt their childrn schooling and attempt to start the new job with the new academic year. Furthermore, the decision alienates the diplomatic corps in Syria. I am not the first one to say that to a large extent, the degree a diplomat enjoys her/his tour of duties in a country will have an impact on the way the diplomat approaches matters of relationship with such country.

November 5th, 2008, 4:40 pm

 

Ostraiff the Wall said:

IC
I hope that Chuck Hagel will be given a high profile position in the Obama administration. I think he is an outstanding fellow (never mind his social conservatism), but as a secretary of state, he is an accomplished straight talk person. I like him and cosider him to be my favorate republican, and in fact i like him more than i like many democrats. If he is running in my state, he would have gotten my vote with no hestitation. We will have to waite and see. We know that Rahm Emanuel has been offerred and he has accpeted the Cheif of staff position. Rahm is an outstanding administrator, and he is also a solid Zionist, which will go far to assauge the fears of American Jews of a palestinian tilt in Obama adminstration. Add to that Biden being one Israel’s strongest supporters in the Senate, so a Hagel appointment will be very well ballanced. Yet, we will have to waite and see. My preference will be for the Sceretary of State not the defense.

November 5th, 2008, 5:00 pm

 

Alex said:

Rumyal and Shai,

Thanks for answering my questions.

AIG,

1) Peace in the Middle East does NOT “require” participation b the Saudis. But it is preferable if they participate. By now the Qataris, Kuwaitis, and Emiratis can handle the financial obligations expected as part of settling the issue of refugees etc.

Other wise the kingdom does not have borders with Israel and does not have occupied lands.

2) Saudi Arabia’s current system of government is made in the USA and sustained by the USA. They have no option to work with Obama or not. This is how the Al-Saud leadership is built.

3) Peace is not an absolute necessity, but it really helps … it helps you fix your society and it helps us fix ours even more.

I understand that Israel managed to achieve many things despite being constantly at war, and I admire the brilliant minds that helped your country get to where it is scientifically and economically.

But Syria can not be held to the same standard because … while the United States has been behind Israel throughout those decades … economically, politically, militarily, and culturally, the United States, on the other hand, was more often than not, confronting Syria .. boycotting Syria … attacking Syria … coordinating regional coalitions with American puppets in the Arab world in order to weaken Syria … because Syria (until its occupied lands are recovered) is always Israel’s enemy.

That is why in our case, efforts for fixing our system will greatly benefit from peace .. Syria needs to become Israel’s friend in order for the United States to be able to not make life difficult for all who want to make Syria stronger and better.

November 5th, 2008, 5:09 pm

 

Alia said:

AIG,

You are really funny! I keep having to leave my paper in order to answer you…

I had no plans for intervention in the Israeli society …But I understand where you are coming from : It is a whole lot more frightening to a patient when you tell them you have cancer, it will run its course than when you tell them you have cancer, I am sending you for an operation…

Now think about that before you give me another tangential answer.

November 5th, 2008, 5:17 pm

 

Alia said:

Alex,

I admire very much your constructive position. Alas, I still cannot appreciate any economic or scientific progress that is disconnected from moral ethical behavior, individually or for a whole group.

November 5th, 2008, 5:25 pm

 

AIG said:

Alex,
Saudi Arabia has to be part of a comprehensive solution because like it or not, it has become the leader of the Sunni world and it is the largest and richest Gulf country by far. If it does not fully endorse or lead the peace process, there will be no peace. All that will happen is that instead of Syria funding the extremists like Hamas we will have Saudi Arabia supporting and funding them or turning a blind eye to forces inside Saudi Arabia funding them. Without Saudi Arabia fully comitted and in fact leading the process, no sane Israeli politician will take the risks required (if any is found to take the risks at all).

As for Syria, of course it can be held to the same standards. It had the backing of the Soviet Union, just as Israel had the backing of the US and that was only from 1967. You conveniently forget the years between 48 and 67 which there was not the issue of the Golan yet Syria wasted these years. The US is just a convenient excuse that does not amount to much. How can that compare to all the Arabs that Israel faced that wanted to throw it in the sea and funded terrorism against it? Syria faced much less hardships. The problems of Syria are INTERNAL, not external.

November 5th, 2008, 5:29 pm

 

norman said:

w w w . h a a r e t z . c o m

——————————————————————————–

Last update – 16:31 05/11/2008
Golan settlers launch PR offensive as Syria talks loom
By Eli Ashkenazi, Haaretz Correspondent

The board of Golan communities is launching a public relations campaign in the wake of media reports of Prime Minister Ehud Olmert’s intention to resume peace talks with Syria.

A prospective peace deal with Syria is likely to include the evacuation of Golan settlements, to which Golan residents overwhelmingly oppose.

The board has recruited some 50 local residents and started training them as spokespersons, expecting a blitz of media interest in the region ahead of a potential evacuation.

“A person should learn how to put a message across concisely, in one or two sentences,” Eli Malka, head of Golan Regional Council, said. “We must not miss this opportunity. The communities living here are the Golan’s biggest asset, and we intend to capitalize on this asset.”

The media training workshops resumed a few weeks ago after being suspended some seven years earlier when the Israel-Syria peace process was discontinued.

A board spokesperson said that “we don’t expect them to regurgitate press releases they learned by heart. We want them to tell their own personal story, like one family who settled in the Golan after moving out of the Tel Aviv area. When the moment comes, we want them to be well prepared.”

“Every mention of looming talks brings up masses of media,” Malka said. “We want to utilize this phenomenon to bring our message across to the public, with fewer slogans, and a genuine effort to engage in dialogue.”

Related articles:

Mazuz: Syria talks can go on even as government prepares for elections

Livni: Syria must cut Iran, terror ties before we give it what it wants

Report: Bush offered to press Israel to quit Golan if Syria cuts Iran ties

——————————————————————————–

/hasen/objects/pages/PrintArticleEn.jhtml?itemNo=1034579

close window

November 5th, 2008, 5:56 pm

 

Innocent_Criminal said:

Ostraiff the Wall,

I agree with you 100% BUT… there is NO way Israel will allow Hagel to be Sec. of state. He was voted the least Israel-friendly presidential candidate by Haaretz http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/pages/rosnerPage.jhtml

SecState is a position that has been reserved for staunch Israeli supporters for decades and its not going to be changed during the Obama administration

November 5th, 2008, 6:19 pm

 

Aatssi said:

Ford Prefect
I agree with your list of items that muste be retained by the nation to move forward. But without a truly patriot and elected strong leadership at the helm to facilitate and allow this kind of evolution to progress ..Nothing will be achieved….
Sorry man.. with the current leadership in Bellad El-Shaam..I don’t see any of your lists as priority in the hand the leaders…..

November 5th, 2008, 6:21 pm

 

norman said:

SPIEGEL ONLINE

11/05/2008 07:00 PMCONCERN IN ISRAEL
Jerusalem Skeptical of Obama’s Middle East Policy
By Pierre Heumann in Jerusalem

Not everyone is ecstatic about Barack Obama’s victory in the US presidential elections. Many in Israel are concerned that, should Obama make good on his promise to talk to all comers, Israel could be left out in the cold.

Getty Images
Not everyone in Israel is quite sure what to think about the new American president-elect.
Barack Obama was the candidate that the world wanted the US to elect. But in Jerusalem, his victory is not universally welcome. There are those, particularly within the Israeli Foreign Ministry, who worry that Obama will deviate from Bush’s path of leaving well enough alone. While few would argue that American attention in the region is unneeded, some are concerned that Obama may go overboard and make good on his promise to negotiate with all comers. The Foreign Ministry is particularly concerned that Obama may look to smooth relations with Iran.

The concern is not that farfetched. During the campaign, Obama repeatedly said he would welcome a dialogue with Tehran. Many in Tel Aviv see it as a foregone conclusion that the US under Obama will begin seeking out such negotiations.

“That is the biggest danger for us, because we wouldn’t be at the negotiating table ourselves,” former Mossad leader Efraim Halevy said recently.

The danger, he said, comes from the fact that such talks would necessarily touch on Iran’s relations with other countries in the region, like Syria and Lebanon, and with the Palestinians. “When our regional interests are up for discussion, we can’t be represented by a proxy,” Halevy said. Jerusalem is also worried that Obama may begin talks with Iran without preconditions.

If Obama opens a dialogue with Syria and radical Islamists, says Barry Rubin from the Interdisciplinary Center in Herzliya, a university. “That would undermine the solidity of modernizing forces in the Middle East, Rubin says.

Still, few in Israel are anticipating a complete revolution in America’s Middle East policy. On the day before Americans went to the polls, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert went out of his way to calm the fears of his fellow citizens. “Whoever gets elected,” he said, “will be a friend of Israel’s.”

Zalman Shoval, Israel’s former ambassador in Washington D.C., for his part is not anticipating that solving the Israeli-Palestinian problem is going to be tops on Obama’s long and daunting priority list. Every US president who has addressed the issue thus far, he points out, has failed. “Why would Obama want to begin with a flop?” he wonders.

Pierre Heumann is the Middle East correspondent for the Swiss paper Weltwoche

URL:
http://www.spiegel.de/international/world/0,1518,588706,00.html
© SPIEGEL ONLINE 2008
All Rights Reserved
Reproduction only allowed with the permission of SPIEGELnet GmbH

November 5th, 2008, 6:51 pm

 

Qifa Nabki said:

Monsieur AIG,

May I ask you a simple question: what’s the point?

What’s the point of your persistent and earnest activity on this forum? I’m not trying to needle you; I’m being serious.

It would be one thing if you were someone interested in the short term, in the day to day, but you scoff at those who gesture at such horizons. For you, nothing short of massive societal change over the course of generations will move the region towards peace and stability.

If this is what is called for, who cares about the mundane little news items that we trouble ourselves with here on SC? What’s a cross-border raid here, an assassination there, in the grand scheme of things?

Just wondering.

November 5th, 2008, 7:10 pm

 

AIG said:

QN,
Not true. No need for huge societal changes. Let me see truly free inernal dialog in Syria between the government and opposition. That is a small first step that would make me optimistic. Because once you can discuss issues, you are on your way to solving them. Is this too much to ask for in Syria? (Seriously, not a rhetorical question) Will that require also huge societal changes?

November 5th, 2008, 7:23 pm

 

norman said:

QN,

The change that AIG wants will bring destruction to Syria and the region , and that is what AIG wants .he like to package it in nice cover but the goal is the same , destroy the borders as they are now to establish small kingdoms like in the old ages with Israel the most advanced and influential.

November 5th, 2008, 7:24 pm

 

Qifa Nabki said:

AIG

There is “free internal dialogue between the government and the opposition” in Lebanon, yet you regard that Arab country as uncivilized, just like the rest of the barbarians.

There is also an increasingly free press in Egypt, but that’s not a cause for optimism in your book.

Come on, admit it, you want the whole enchilada. Half measures are not enough. So, again, why bother?

November 5th, 2008, 7:42 pm

 

trustquest said:

This morning on DR show there were discussions about future Obama policy. The idea presented by analysts was that Obama administration is like any previous one it will react with the other sides and not always can make the first move, (it is a two ways street).
We know that Obama might go for sponsoring the peace negotiations between Syria-Israel. The question for SC commentators, what should Syria do as first step to show good faith with the new administration (foreign and domestic moves) to give a signal that it is capable of change.
So, what is the Syrian fist move is it the restoring of DA School and American center (two funny cards!) or is the release some of the prisoners of conscious?
What Syria has to offer?

AIG, your admired championing of humans rights issues and free speech in Syria, makes me ask you this question: do you think that these ideas you advocate can be incorporated in the peace negotiations as to guarantee lasting peace with your next door neighbor.

November 5th, 2008, 7:57 pm

 

Ford Prefect said:

Norman said it best. Many hawks within the defunct Cheney administration want nothing short of a complete destruction of Syria as a country. Why? They argue that you only negotiate and deal with someone you cannot physically crush (e.g., USSR). For the rest of the weaker world who is NOT in tune with “prescribed” policies, a defeat and complete capitalization is what is needed.

So now Syria supports terrorism and must surrender before they deal with it. But if Saudi Arabia supports Hamas and sends money to Hamas families, they are just “not really doing it” and it is a friendly state.

AIG wants us to take the rhetorical path of “make peace with your Arab world first” line – so that the ball is thrown over the fence for the time being. He will talk to us only if we become the next Switzerland(s) in the region.

The problem with gun-boat diplomacy is that it empirically failed and miserably so. It not only caused a vast sweeping of anything associated with the Republicans or the neocons into the dumpster, it has actually undermined the entire Republican Brand itself.

So yes, they are dreaming of a complete remake of Syria a la Iraq model. It does not matter who is on top, what liberties and security the Syrian people have, just capitulate and take orders – because Israel and the US both have military might.

I am reminded by the excellent history from Thucydides describing the dialogue between the Athenians (a superpower) and the Melians (a weak nation in which the Athenians are determined to crush, just because they can):

Athenians: “…….since you know as well as we do that right, as the world goes, is only in question between equals in power, while the strong do what they can and the weak suffer what they must.”

Melians: “So that you would not consent to our being neutral, friends instead of enemies, but allies of neither side.”

Athenians: “No; for your hostility cannot so much hurt us as your friendship will be an argument to our subjects of our weakness, and your enmity of our power.”

November 5th, 2008, 8:46 pm

 

SimoHurtta said:

Simonhurtta,

Thank you for your thougthtful analysis. The one thing that I would like to add is that I do not believe that a status-quo is ever achievable. By their nature political/social systems- like all other living systems built on interaction- evolve, deteriorate, change but they never remain the same. Most of the time, we are able only in retrospect to see the timeline of change, rarely we are experienced enough to see change as it is happening.

Alia I share your “worry” that a state like Israel is now can’t coexists with the neighbours. Surely Jews can live in the region as they have done all the time. But a country like Israel as it is now has done nothing to accommodate itself in the region. Instead it has created a extremely nationalistic, religious, arrogant fortified and isolated society and changing that to a normal country can be extremely difficult if not impossible. Being able to keeping up that closed fortified society with occupied areas is hardly possible for the next 60 years. The fasted way out of that problem would be one state solution, but I am afraid it is “to much” for the Zionists.

The truth is that Arab countries do not need Israel economically or culturally, neither Israel does need Arab countries. Well the only thing Arab countries need Israel for is to stop Israel creating chaos and destruction. When peace is achieved with Palestinians, Lebanon and Syria Israel has economically as much meaning to the region as let’s say Sweden has. If we forget the military aspect.

Israelis are right in speculating will Obama be good for Israel. As clever people Israelis know that the future of Israel is decided in USA, not in Jerusalem. That speculating means that will Obama allow Israel to continue business as usual = running the Palestinian slave camps and messing around as a regional self declared “sheriff”. Well I think it is not a question of what Obama thinks or allows. The essential question now is that can US economy afford any more that “business as usual in Israel”. When the big US corporations finally say that we need the petro counties markets and US policy in Middle East is hurting us too badly no matter who is the US president he must deliver. And when US president commands Israel PM jumps even the most religious right-wing nut. Millions of US industrial jobs mean much in this new era especially when USA is is almost bankrupt.

November 6th, 2008, 12:30 am

 

AIG said:

QN,

What I want is a path and commitment for the “whole enchilada”. I don’t want democracy tomorrow, or in a year but I want to see a concrete path that in 5-10 years will lead to democracy. The current position according to Landis is that the Syrian elites do not want democracy. Let’s see this attitude change.

Lebanon is a good example of a country not willing to face reality. The Lebanese will not conduct a census because they are afraid of the results. How will Lebanon ever become a normal country if it is not willing to face the issues it has? The Lebanese are not barbarians. They seem to me like very refined ostriches. Ok, so you are afraid to learn there are so many Shia. Fine. But how can you know where more schools or classes are needed without a census? How can you plan electricity and water and sewage long term without a census? How can you even have a discussion about population planning without a census?

Israel was at fault for something very similar with Oslo. We chose to ignore reality. We did not look at the facts and we let our emotions take us over. We could easily have known that Oslo would be a disaster because it could not better the average Palestinian. So we convinced ourselves that Arafat has changed to Jack Welch and that the Palestinians will ignore their diaspora and become like the Chinese, atheists that are only interested in economic growth. How stupid (I include myself here) could we have been?

And now Shai and his ilk want us to repeat the same mistake with Syria. Syria is not Egypt, there is no Sinai peninsula to make things simpler. If Syria does not reform it will implode and then it is likely that Israel will have to take the Golan back. So why bother and lose many lives in the process and disrupt the lives of tens of thousands of Israelis? Especially since we are not getting anything concrete in return???

FP,
I think the Saudi regime is just as despicable as the Syrian one. I don’t want surrender or regime change by force in Syria. Though I hope Syria becomes a democracy, I would not waste the life of one Israeli soldier on such an adventure. I want a peace agreement worth the paper it is written on. There is a lot of ground between Syria and Switzerland.

November 6th, 2008, 2:29 am

 

Qifa Nabki said:

AIG,

What I want is a path and commitment for the “whole enchilada”. I don’t want democracy tomorrow, or in a year but I want to see a concrete path that in 5-10 years will lead to democracy.

Me too. Except I think we need at least 20-25 years. The horizon of 5-10 (or 7-14, Alex!) is unrealistic in my opinion.

Lebanon is a good example of a country not willing to face reality.

True.

The Lebanese will not conduct a census because they are afraid of the results. How will Lebanon ever become a normal country if it is not willing to face the issues it has?

I think Lebanon has to become a country before it becomes a normal country. Everything you say about the census is true, but it is frankly the least of our problems. Even if we knew exactly how many Sunnis, Shi`a, Maronites, Druze, Christians, etc. there are in Lebanon, this would not compel anyone to have the serious discussions that need to be had about issues like electricity, sewage, education, population planning, etc. With the exception of a few figures, the political class here is rotten to the bone.

Israel was at fault for something very similar with Oslo. We chose to ignore reality…We could easily have known that Oslo would be a disaster because it could not better the average Palestinian.

I’m not sure I understand you; could you explain what you mean? What would you have preferred to happen, looking back? And what do you think is the ideal solution for the future, if bettering the average Palestinian is the operative desideratum?

The problem I have with your arguments is that you vacillate between hard-nosed realism and dewy-eyed idealism. On the one hand you say things like: Why do we need to make peace with Syria and Lebanon? There is no security incentive because Syria is not a military threat and Hizbullah is north of the Litani. There is no economic incentive because we can trade with both countries via the Gulf states. Low-intensity warfare is a perfectly acceptable trade-off for not having to give up any more land.

On the other hand you talk about the necessity of bringing democracy to the Arab world and not signing on to any deals that do not better the average Palestinian. What kind of a deal would that be, exactly?

November 6th, 2008, 1:48 pm

 

AIG said:

QN,
A 20-25 year plan is no plan at all. Humans cannot work with such timelines. Even the Soviet Union had 5 year plans :). In any case in 20-25 years the population of Syria will double and the problems will be twice as hard to solve. By 2015 Syria will add 5-6 million people! That is almost the whole population of Israel!
Saying that 20-25 years is needed is like saying that something is impossible.

If the billions given by the international community to Arafat would have been well spent, the Palestinians would be living a much better life now. In that sense the Oslo agreement got it right. What it got wrong was the fact that Arafat well, was Arafat and not Jack Welch. There was no accountability and no transparency. Another example is Lebanon. Lebanon was loaned $40 billion! Yet the average Lebanese does not seem to have benefited as he should or could have. That is why any plan must ensure that the ruling classes do not siphon the money to themselves. There must be demand for reform, real accountability and real transparency. And if that is too much to ask, then the alternative of doing NOTHING is the best. If there cannot be a deal, there cannot be a deal.

Since the Arab countries are very religious and tribal, they cannot implement the Chinese model which has at its core harsh population control and a meritocracy, two things currently anthema in the Arab world. That leaves only democracy as an option. If that is not possible, then there is no possible solution because all peace agreements will end up sooner or later like Oslo, with both sides worse off than they were before.

November 6th, 2008, 3:13 pm

 

Qifa Nabki said:

AIG

I’m not suggesting that someone actually propose a 25 year plan. I’m just saying that 5-10 years will not produce true democracy in any Arab country. The Soviet Union had 5-year plans, but there were several of them and they followed each other successively.

Lebanon, I believe, is on the right track at least, but there is so much work to be done. At least there is a large civil society infrastructure, a free press, and a healthy disdain for politicians. What is needed now is a formidable judiciary that has the mandate to punish corrupt politicians, like you have in Israel. Without such a bastion of authority, Lebanon will continue to be ruled by glorified mafiosos.

But even with all of this, Lebanon still needs a generation – in my opinion – to become a true democracy, assuming it is able to overcome its obstacles. If this is the case, how can Syria, whose social and economic development has been stunted for decades, possibly turn into a democracy in 5-10 years?

November 6th, 2008, 3:37 pm

 

AIG said:

QN,

The Eastern European state’s development was also stunted for decades yet they adopted democracy pretty quickly once the dictators were out of the way. India is another example of a very poor country with a working democracy. And there are several other examples in Africa. The problem is not stunted development. The problem is lack of trust and lack of peace between Syrians.

History waits for no-one. Every 5 years it wastes, the chances of Syria finding a niche that it can be competitively advantageous in slims significantly. Syria cannot compete in services with Israel or Lebanon. It cannot compete in manufacturing with China or Vietnam. Its wheat agriculture cannot compete with the US, Canada and Russia. Syria is just digging itself into a huge hole it cannot get out of. And peace with Israel will be the least of its problems. Bashar is like Louis XV, apres moi, la deluge. Well it ain’t going to spill into Israel.

November 6th, 2008, 3:54 pm

 

Shai said:

AIG,

Let’s put up a hypothetical situation, and then I’ll ask a few questions.

Aspiring to still gain back their lost Golan, Syria conducts an active WMD-program, including chemical biological and, yes, nuclear. Let’s even assume that the building bombed recently by Israel was intended for the processing of Plutonium (which was supplied by North Korea). We managed to destroy part of the program, but of course not all of it. Just to remind ourselves, after the U.S. defeated Saddam in 1991, experts claimed Iraq was 6 months away from an atomic bomb. This, merely 10 years after Israel destroyed the Osirak reactor. So if Syria really wants an atomic bomb, it could probably attain it given enough time (as will Iran).

Now the Questions:

1. If Syria gets back the Golan peacefully, what are the chances it will continue developing its WMD-program – less likely, more likely, or the same?

2. Same question as above, but with Syria NOT getting back the Golan through a peace agreement with Israel.

3. One of your scary-scenarios has been that a terrorist group could receive some horrific WMD (let’s say atomic bomb) from one of our enemies (let’s say Syria or Iran), and set it off in Tel-Aviv. Our enemies would benefit from what you called “plausible deniability”, and would be safe from Israeli retribution. If Syria receives the Golan back as part of a peace agreement, how likely are they to partake in such an adventure? If do not receive the Golan peacefully, how likely?

4. Is it in fact true, that a nation should prefer ongoing low-intensity warfare, lasting years and decades, to giving up a stretch of land not ours in the first place?

5. Is it true that Israel is winning the battle in this continuous low-intensity warfare? By winning, I mean that as time passes, Israel becomes safer, not less safe. As time passes, are our enemies’ aspirations becoming more, or less, dangerous to Israel?

November 6th, 2008, 4:06 pm

 

AIG said:

Shai,

1. The regime in Syria will continue developing WMDs even if it gets the Golan because the WMD is not useful for getting the Golan back. It is useful for keeping the regime in power. That is why North Korea and Iran are developing them and that is why Asad wants a bomb also.

2. How does a nuclear bomb help Asad get the Golan back???

3. In the near future it will reduce the chances of Asad giving the bomb to terrorists but it much more increases the chances of this happening in the future because Asad is taking all hope away from the Syrians. When he falls hard, as he must if there are no reforms, who do you think will hold the bomb?

4. First, the Golan is ours by law just as Jaffa is ours. I see no difference whatsoever between Jaffa and the Golan. I am asking you for the hundreth time, what is the difference? One was taken in 48 and one in 67, that is all. Second you assume that returning the Golan will stop the low intensity warfare. Third, is the fact that so many people die in car accidents in Israel a good enough reason to forgo the benefit of driving?

5. As time passes, history has shown that our enemies’ aspirations have become less dangerous. In 48 everybody wanted us in the sea. Now about 50% or so want us on the 67 lines. I would call this a huge improvement. We have consistenly shown that we can grow the economical and technological advantage over the Arabs, first and foremost because we are a democracy. Since the Arab world is not democratizing, I am very confident that we will continue maintaining and expanding our lead.

November 6th, 2008, 4:28 pm

 

Refined Ostrich said:

AIG,

You said it yourself: our societies are deeply tribalistic. Democracy will take a while to take hold. I’m not saying that strong measures should not be taken and 5 year plans should not be drawn up. But it is going to take a long time. You say the problem is not stunted development but rather “lack of trust and peace between Syrians,” as if that is an easy thing to overcome.

Are you sure you are not a Syrian opposition figure in exile? You care more about Syria finding itself a niche and becoming an economic force than most Syrians I know.

November 6th, 2008, 4:38 pm

 

Qifa Nabki said:

Innocent Criminal,

Could you release my last response to AIG under my new alter ego?

Gracias amigo

November 6th, 2008, 4:40 pm

 

Shai said:

AIG,

No, the Golan is not the same as Jaffa. The former was occupied as a result of war, long after Israel became a state, and could have been returned easily to Syria over the past 40 years. Jaffa was occupied as a result of our War of Independence, and after 1948, there was no one to give it back to… (remember, some 800,000 Palestinians were driven out of their homes, including most Jaffa residents).

You evaded the question about Israel’s safety. Yes, less Arabs today think they can throw us into the sea. But the ongoing hatred and desperation are undoubtedly translated into more and more dangerous capabilities and aspirations. And this in itself, is reason enough to consider peace. Forget the “peacefulness” of average Israelis (are we?), simply the security interests of Israel should dictate certain considerations.

November 6th, 2008, 4:42 pm

 

AIG said:

Shai,
Both Jaffa and the Golan were taken by war. What do you mean there was no one to give Jaffa back to in 1948? We could have let the refuggess return and given them Jaffa. As for the Golan the same logic applies. There was nobody to give it back to in 67 because of the 3 NOs in Kahrtoum and because Asad did not join Sadat in 78. There is just no difference whatsoever between Jaffa and the Golan.

What I said is that less Arabs want to throw Israel in the sea today than in 48. In fact we have trade with many Arab states. The bulk of hatred and desparation lives inside the Palestinian refugees whose problems are not going to be solved by the two state solution or by Syria getting the Golan. The hatred and desparation are not going to go away until the Palestinian give up their dream of returning to Israel. Since we are never going to let them return, we just have to accept that the hatred and desparation will continue for decades more and that we just have to live with it.

November 6th, 2008, 5:33 pm

 

AIG said:

Refined Ostrich,
I care mostly about Israel’s interests. My point about Syria is that it is digging a deeper hole for itself all the time and that most Syrians are not willing to face this fact. Israel will be fine after the implosion of Syria and Egypt, but as the implosion of Lebanon has shown us, we will be confronted with our fair share of headaches to deal with and maybe even an occasional war. Hey, who said having a Jewish state was going to be easy.

The first step in solving the trust issues in Arab societies is to do what you have done. Acknowledge the problem and have a discussion about it. Of course, it needs to be an internal Syrian discussion in the case of Syria. Why can’t this baby step happen now instead of in 10 years?

November 6th, 2008, 5:48 pm

 

trustquest said:

AIG,
I agree with you on 113, 115 you are on the right track even I disagree with you on timing of Golan hand back.

BTY, you did not answer my question 110.

November 6th, 2008, 6:02 pm

 

Alex said:

Qifa Nabki said

“Me too. Except I think we need at least 20-25 years. The horizon of 5-10 (or 7-14, Alex!) is unrealistic in my opinion.”

My 7-14 years refers to a sufficiently perceptible progress in political reforms.

We all know that “democracy” implies perfection. That takes forever to achieve in Syria or elsewhere.

The United States, by electing an African American finally took another necessary (symbolic) step towards “democracy”

November 6th, 2008, 6:13 pm

 

AIG said:

Trustquest,
You ask:
“do you think that these ideas you advocate can be incorporated in the peace negotiations as to guarantee lasting peace with your next door neighbor”

I think it is an excellent idea and would certainly make me look at such discussions much more favorably. However, I doubt very much that Asad would agree to this. Let’s say for example the agreement included that Israel withdraws from the Golan after really free elections in Syria or something along these lines. Asad would never agree to this. I think you and I agree that Asad is more concerned about staying in power than about the interests of the Syrian people.

November 6th, 2008, 6:16 pm

 

trustquest said:

Actually, Assad will not say no, he will consider this as interfering in the internal affairs of independent state; he will come back and put the question to Israel regarding Palestinians. What is Israel answer would be?
It the peace agreement is going to be on phases, what problems other than the above one you can see to incorporate free trades agreement and other cooperation agreements that way heavy on human’s interaction in addition to States interactions.

November 6th, 2008, 6:47 pm

 

Shai said:

AIG,

No, if you give Jaffa “back” by letting the refugees return to their homes, you would be making them Israeli citizens, offsetting the Jewish-majority in Israel (Complete Right of Return, not just Jaffa). So this is not a possibility anytime soon – we both agree. But giving the Golan back was always a possibility, because it is occupied territory. You don’t need peace to give it back. This was our precondition. We can annex it all we want, but it’s still not ours. We can also annex, by law, the state of Alaska, but it’s still not ours. No nation on earth recognizes our annexation, and that’s a pretty good hint that this status will change at some point in the future, either peacefully, or not.

As for your claim that “Since we are never going to let them return, we just have to accept that the hatred and desparation will continue for decades more and that we just have to live with it.”, I of course cannot accept it, nor do most people I believe. The comprehensive solution we all seek in the region will have to tackle also the issue of the Return. And I believe most in the Middle East, including by the way the Palestinian people themselves, know that a full Right of Return is not going to happen. One day, if and when my fantasy UME will come about, then de facto the region will be “one state” or one union, and then essentially any Palestinian will be able to live in Israel as an Israeli could live in Riyadh. But we both agree that’s not about to happen anytime soon. The continued desperation is NOT due to the Palestinians inability to return to Israel, but rather to the continued subjugation and suffocation by Israel in the West Bank and Gaza. Seeing their grandfather’s house in Jaffa is a Palestinian father’s dream. Being unable to put a warm meal on his family’s table once a day is his reality.

We certainly must NOT give in to this belief in fate that we are doomed to hate one another for decades more. And what will make this change, decades from now? Democracy in Syria? What about our part? What is our part?

November 6th, 2008, 7:14 pm

 

AIG said:

Shai,

Why would I need to make the people I give Jaffa back to Israeli citizens? They would be happy to return as residents also, just give them a chance.

Basically you say the difference is that the world views the Golan differently than it views Jaffa. In 50 years that will change.

Our part is to say clearly that we would give back the Golan to a democratic Syria as a gesture of goodwill thus for a change rewarding democracy and not dictators.

You do not have to accept anything but you should at listen to the Palestinians when they tell you that the right of return is critical for them. Without this issue, we would have had a two state solution by now.

November 6th, 2008, 7:35 pm

 

Shai said:

AIG,

I completely disagree with you. You claim Israelis have been ready all along for a two-state solution, and it was the Palestinians who refused, because they can only accept a one-state solution? That’s plainly wrong. Since we started talking to the Palestinians (PLO) in the early 90’s, until Hamas took over (in democratic and free elections!!!), we had over 10 years to withdraw from the West Bank and Gaza, and to enable the Palestinians to create a state of Palestine alongside us. But we didn’t do so. We found excuse after excuse why, again, we couldn’t do it.

In fact, the Palestinian people should be the best example for you, why waiting for a democracy could also be a bad idea. Hamas was elected, and refused to talk to Israel. They kept fighting us, and we were forced to withdraw unilaterally out of Gaza, just as we did out of Lebanon. Is this what we want with Syria? What if free elections produced an extreme-religious leadership in Syria, that refused to talk to Israel, but adopted a much more hostile stance against us? What if, in fact, that new leadership went to war with Israel, using thousands of missiles, perhaps even biological or chemical weapons (not to mention worse than that)? And then, after such a war, internal and external pressure would force us to withdraw from the Golan, but without peace! It would be Gaza, Lebanon, and now the Golan, all over again.

There are plenty of democratic nations at peace with non-democratic ones. As you know, most of the world is not free and democratic. But there are U.S. embassies in almost every corner of the earth, and peaceful relations with nations that are no closer to democracy than Syria or Iran are. Your idealism is a little too expensive for Israelis to bear. But it is also an excuse no one has ever used in Israel, and quite frankly I am surprised you have adopted it. It might sound nice to a few Syrian opposition supporters, indeed almost chivalrous of you, but most Israelis are far more pragmatic, and care more about their skin, than about their neighbors’. Be careful trusting in your ability to be omniscient. Most people aren’t. If your assumptions translate into a huge gamble for Israel, and for Israeli lives, you may wish to reconsider them every so often.

November 6th, 2008, 7:52 pm

 

jad said:

‘You can fool some of the people all of the time, and all of the people some of the time, but you cannot fool all of the people all of the time’ Abraham Lincoln
AIG, If you weren’t an Israeli who served in the army, I wouldn’t mid read your comments about human rights, while everybody in the world knows how humane you treat the Palestinian on the check points you served at, and how many of them died waiting to go to hospitals under your watch, and how many settlers beat, humiliate, burn, cut trees and vandalise Palestinian’s fields and houses for no reason while you’ve been there watching. Did you ever think of defending the real bad treated Palestinians before asking your enemy’s to become a full modern democratic state?
You’ve been preaching us for almost 3 years now about the same thing over and over with your long analyses, and do you spend serious amount of time trying to convince us that there will be no peace without a true democracy in Syria and when anybody gives you a timeframe about some progress you argue more (is it 5, 10, 20, 30…or never), even when any Israelis try to show you that Israel is full of problems and not really a full democracy yet, you disregard their points and go back again about the same issue.
As an Israeli who doesn’t even defence the Palestinian right inside Israel not to mention the millions you slave inside Palestine, you don’t have any credibility what so ever to talk about Syria,
You never been in Syria yet, you always mention the Alawite as if they are non Syrians and that if all of them lives in palaces which isn’t the truth, there are many Alawite villages are living in the worst condition you can imagine even worth than any Muslim or Christian village, the thieves in the government are from all religion and all sects and they are also Syrian, not occupiers, they are from the society, they are greedy people who exist everywhere in the world and they must be prosecuted and go to jail. But that is not of your business when it comes to ‘Peace’; it’s ours and ours only to deal with,
Your job is to have the will for peace and work for it regardless of what the future may hold, we do our future in our action not the opposite, if you really care of Israel more than Syria you should write and find ways of helping Israel to go out of it’s isolation and the living in fear status, that is the real enemy of your society not the democracy of Syria.
It took Europe 200 years to be fully democratic countries after many revolutions, and even after that, Germany with it’s full democratic system managed to do two worldwide wars and kills millions of people, so nothing is secure, do you seriously think that Israel have that much time to wait? Didn’t occur to you that in 200 hundred years from now your beloved country as it is now may not have population enough to support its existence? I’m seriously questioning your way of thinking, you make fun of the soviet 5 years plan and it seems that you don’t have a 1 year plan into the future.
Syria can wait with or without full true democracy, but Israel can not and that is the bottom line, you talk about the history as if you have it secure in your backyard forgetting that history doesn’t go in straight lines. Syria has been in the same location from the beginning, it has been occupied and freed for many times and its people are still here and they are not going anywhere, while Israel and it’s people has been moving around and till now they don’t feel secure enough, your job as Israeli is to secure that, not other countries’ systems.
May I ask you a big favour, could you please stop writing about the same issue over and over, it’s getting really annoying especially when it’s not even related to the subject and it’s going no where, you are smart enough to discuss other issues regarding Israel and it’s society and help us as your enemy to understand your people better.

November 6th, 2008, 7:59 pm

 

trustquest said:

Shai, please be specific, I did not read to any Syrian opposition commentator on this forum an acceptance of AIG view to wait for Democratic Syria to make peace. I did not read any opposition leader advocating this view.
Most oppositions want steps towards democratic society, want right to express their views, independent judiciary system, removing of emergency status, freeing of prisoners of conscious, but they stand with the regime and the government in negotiations for the restoring of Syrian lands.

But, what I agree with AIG is the need for Syria to be democratic as a separate Issue parallel to peace talk and peace agreement. I was trying to find out from AIG if the phases of peace treaty can emphasize human rights and democratic flow of information and relation across the two countries and in their internal affairs in both countries. Peace treaty in my view should include open trade, scientific, educational cooperation and respect for human rights; this will draw in new dawn in the dark treatment of humans from both counties in past years.

November 6th, 2008, 8:20 pm

 

jad said:

Shai can explain his points, but I think he is talking about Al Gahdri, and another Syrian opposition in the sate, I’m sorry I forgot his name, will look it up for you Trustquest

November 6th, 2008, 8:31 pm

 

Alex said:

Ammar Abdelhamid too.

November 6th, 2008, 8:35 pm

 

Shai said:

Trustquest,

I apologize if I insinuated specific people on SC as siding with AIG’s democracy-first precondition to peace. In fact, you see how I too erred in this assumption, despite my frequent visits to this forum. AIG occasionally refers to the very few who agree with him on SC, and it seemed to me that his recent comments were also being accepted in their conditional aspects as well. Sorry Trustquest.

I completely agree with you about what needs to be done in Syria, as in other places in our region. On that, I doubt anyone on SC disagrees, though at times they may not openly voice this as loudly as you or others do. But where I differ quiet substantially from certain Syrian opposition groups (and this time I’m talking about Al Gahdri, for instance), is in their call for isolating the existing regime, and for Israel NOT to make peace until a democratic leadership is elected. I’m glad to hear your very clear message (also to Israelis) which is different from AIG’s. But from what I’ve seen in his arguments for democracy and freedom in Syria, the context, or the purpose, has always been the setting of preconditions for Israel to give up the Golan. The genuine care for the Syrian people is something that is of course honorable (especially by an enemy), but could be taken somewhat differently, when intended practically as delay in action long overdue.

As for a potential peace agreement with Syria, I strongly doubt it could have any mention of “democracy” or “freedom” in it, just as it won’t mention “subjugation” or “suffocation” by Israel. Just as Syria has decided to make peace also with an Occupying (democratic) regime, so will Israel make peace with a dictatorial regime in Syria. Hopefully, peace between the two will slowly aid in bettering conditions in both nations, and will thus contribute to the much sought freedom and rights of citizens in our region. Just as Assad will not ask Netanyahu or Livni to please treat our 20% Arab population equally and fairly (not to treat them as 2nd-class citizens), the latter will not ask Assad to please allow for free elections soon. The U.S., however, will likely do both.

JAD, shukran.

November 6th, 2008, 8:58 pm

 

Shai said:

Trustquest,

I just have to add a final note on the demand for free-elections in a possible peace agreement.

Can you imagine the following… “Chapter 4, Section VI: In accordance with the Syrian leadership’s expected formation of conditions enabling free elections amongst the Syrian people, the Israeli leadership is formally committed to the establishment of free elections amongst all people and territories under its control…” 🙂 That’s kind of like shooting yourself in the foot, isn’t it? 🙂 (if it wasn’t sad, it’d be funny).

November 6th, 2008, 9:19 pm

 

trustquest said:

As far as I know, Ammar stand does not reflect a party or group opinion, Al Ghadri is a minority in the body of the opposition, and in my opinion the opposition source and thermometer always will be the ones inside which we can read their stand through (annidaa.org).
Shai, you said in peace treaty we can not stipulate a free election as a condition, true. But asking for referendum on both sides to give the treaty legitimacy is something doable.
The details of the treaty from opening borders, embassies, trade agreement, education agreement, free exchange of media, newspapers and what ever, can do great on the road of democracy. Syria is on the tip of changing direction; they can not afford to live with only Israeli and Baathist media alone in the country, at that moment they have to open to the whole world to legitimize their move. As long as the peace agreement is on stages, Syrian officials and Israelis will find themselves obliged to go that direction.
The other factor which I envision is the USA change of policy. Bush policy hurt his objectives but if the same objective applied using brain instead of power, you will see magic, and I can see the democrat in the white house capable of doing this part.

November 7th, 2008, 12:10 am

 

SimoHurtta said:

This Syria has to democratic before peace is a completely “lunatic” topic especially when it is fuelled by racist Apartheid supporter.

First countries have same defence needs despite their ruling style. Syria would certainly have a same kind army and defence strategy even the government would be democratic elected. Also Israel would not be much more aggressive even corporal Lieberman would be a dictator of Israel.

Secondly it is highly probable that a democratic Syria would demand from Israel much more for peace than the present regime does. As we know in democratic countries the leaders listen to the demands of people (well at least in theory) and Syrians in general would most certainly not like to turn Golan as an park for Israelis nor seeing there Jewish settlers running their businesses.

It is much more likely that Syria will become faster democratic with a peace agreement and Palestine problem solved and no sanctions, than in present circumstances. If it is question for Israelis like AIG to make Syria fast democratic.

As we see in Gaza and West bank Israel is doing nothing to help Palestinians to become more “democratic”. On the contrary and slaved people hardly ever are very “democratic” and if they are their democracy is not good enough for the occupiers.

November 7th, 2008, 1:27 am

 

Jad said:

I just went through the Syrian opposition site, to be honest I was very disappointed by it in many ways;
It needs lots of work to be taken seriously
They need to be honest and less vague and emotional
Most of the articles written by writers who are not even Syrian and they obviously hates syria and it’s people and they don’t have any credibility to me
Many articles doesn’t even have the author name and they are bad written, more of a tabloid than journalism.
There was nothing talking about how to build a better syria
That they have to do real thing to the civil society instead of a dead end politic chitchat, build a community centre for a change…
Write about how to improve the Education,
How to improve Kurds essential life,
I’m not sure who is behind that site or who finance it but whoever behind that is not thinking of the fututr of Syria at all.
What they are promoting is nothing but cheap words.
I just waist an hour over nothing.

November 7th, 2008, 6:30 am

 

Shai said:

Trustquest,

I agree with you. It is only a question of whether anything is made conditional with regards to freedoms or democracy. If our politicians think Bashar Assad will sign an agreement that requires a referendum in Syria, they are wrong. And I very much agree with Simo’s comment:

“It is much more likely that Syria will become faster democratic with a peace agreement and Palestine problem solved and no sanctions, than in present circumstances.”

If we really care about democracy in Syria, it is time to make peace, and not wait.

November 7th, 2008, 8:46 am

 

trustquest said:

Jad,
From your comment up, I don’t think there is common ground to discuss further. Your stand is almost like the Syrian authority towards the opposition they are not good enough and they should not be this way or that way. They need them to be as they want them to be and they want them to feel like the authority feel. For me it is simpler than that. For me the opposition what ever it is like is a necessity for the country to evolve. Syria will be standing still like the previous 60 years and will get worse by time as long as she can not remove the emergency state, does not have independent judiciary system and stop resisting and prosecuting people when talk or assemble. That is why the opposition simple demands are not going to next phase of the change. It seems to me it is going to take very long to achieve the first step. Opposition non-violent demands are the most essential humans’ rights, TO TALK.

November 7th, 2008, 2:53 pm

 

jad said:

Trustquest,
I do appreciate and understand your comments, thank you.
I wasn’t looking for any discussion or argument regarding my comments; I was writing what I believe in after I went thought the website and I still think that the site and the messages are not good enough or even as simple as you describe it and have very little credibility to believe in.
Don’t you think that we have no professional politicians in Syria to talk for us and about us?
Don’t you think that the oppositions can do better job than what they are doing now?
Don’t you think that they need to get involve in more issues than concentration only on one?
I do appreciate when they talk loud about human rights and asking for what is right and I know that they are working for all of us even for the sake of the regime itself and not for one group of people.
What I disagree with and push me miles away from their ideas is the way they presenting themselves as our voice of freedom, what about the voice of education, voice of women, voice of poor, voice of industry, voice of community, voice of agricultural, voice of development, voice of every issue we are facing, shouldn’t that be a priority as well, shouldn’t they work with people in every field and trying to improve that sector for the average Syrians? What good they do to me as a Syrian being in jail for years and not being able to build me a school, a hospital, a community centre, a recreation centre, even a religious education centre that build trust instead of hate and sectarian message.
How are they going to deliver a better future for us if they are being so blinded by one issue and forgetting everything else.
That what I want them to do not just TALK about it, this is the only way they can improve our country not by whining, nagging, cursing and publishing some meaningless articles without any results.

November 7th, 2008, 5:52 pm

 

AIG said:

Jad,
Don’t you understand that human nature is such that things improve when people are held ACCOUNTABLE? Things will improve when people in Syria are allowed to criticize failed efforts and replace those that have failed and reward those that are successful. For this you need freedom of speech. Yes, building one school will help. But if you want to move Syria forward you need to make the government accountable to the people and you need to unleash the potential of the Syrians. And that is what the opposition is fighting for.

Why has South Korea been so much more successful than North Korea? The Koreans on both sides of the border are the same. It is the government that matters and is stopping success in North Korea and the same goes for Syria. It is quite simple: Accountability leads to prosperity.

November 7th, 2008, 6:16 pm

 

trustquest said:

Thanks AIG, you are great as usual.

Jad,
I will try to respond to you.
-Voice of education: One example I lived it personally, in 1971 three best Academics returned to their country with PHDs, from Britain to teach in their respected college, they did not hold a gun but for their views Authority make disappear two of them into prison for 10 years. One of them is the one who put the fist Building code ever in the country. You have to count now how many guy like him. You have to know that the retainer of people leave for high education is less than 10% due to unrewarding, strict, partial and repression atmosphere for any professional.

-Voice of community: In Syrian no one allowed to make a community, they are already organized in all sectors, assembly is not allowed, and even till now, their own making NGO still falling.
-Voice of women: there is a strong voice for women outside the established who been attacked daily and has been revoked many licenses associated with organization from groups calling for women rights and see all the subjects on (nesasy.org). may be your need to follow up on the last campaign of women killing and government defending the old backward laws against those calling for protecting women from honor killing.
-Voice of agricultural, voice of industry, voice of development: These voices started in 1998 and they start monthly lecture, they been fought and ignored and they have to stop by pressure in 2005: http://www.mafhoum.com/syr/ar/prev.html. And do not forget the dean of the economic college in Damascus Aref Dalela recent came out of prison after seen years. What voices you are talking about, do think people stupid, they do not get signals from what is going on. Do you need me to go back and risk the same destiny?

Voice of poor: it seems you did not read about this subject in the opposition or semi-apposition groups. It is there and without the organized charity of the Syrian people, you would see hunger in the street. You might also follow up on tharwa reportage which has to be smuggled through emails to be seen by people in Syria, did you see that they could not show a face or interview anyone in the open. It seems you live in different world. what about the Damscus spring, isn’t that a voice been smashed and put in prison to give example of what could happen if you try to work between people.

-Voice of development: Do you think that your people who stole the big part of the pie ( one guy reported his theft of 1/3 of the GDP in 2005) are doing the development, you seems need to look carefully. Syria has 17 millions humans being working outside the country and making the living for their families and relatives inside the country to feed you big thieves and the big bureaucratic system there too. Is that enough development or it is not enough. But those as usual have no voice hey will no be allowed a voice. Do you follow SC, a week ago about the lady who has clinic, or the gentleman who wanted to send books to university? Syria after 50 years awaken to see that the real values are the Damascene accent, the humes, the ruins which left and not looted but deserted for ages, the human being who could survive in such environment and govern by illiterates.

Hope this is enough, and lets hope for change or you want to argue and deny me the hope?

November 8th, 2008, 1:51 am

 

jad said:

Trustquest, GRAET ATTITUDE, No I wont let my “people” to deny you the hope, no need, you are denying that yourself.
AIG, irony enough, you sounded more serious and willing to talk than the human-right guru..

November 8th, 2008, 2:48 am

 

McDoux said:

I have no direct experience with the “American School” of Damascus as a student nor as a parent.

However, I do have a 5 years experience as a student at another nearby American educational institution the AUB, or American University of Beirut.

The argument as to whether one becomes an “Ambassador” of the US to his own country -as a result of his education- or not begs the question.

The real two questions are:
1- What are the benefits and shortcomings to the individual as a result of such an education. And
2- what is the impact such a person will have on his society as he re-immerses himself in the society’s problems and hopes?

I’ll be glad to develop both themes should there be sufficient interest.

November 8th, 2008, 12:02 pm

 

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