America’s Role in Israel-Syria Talks

Here are excerpts from a significant position paper written by a group of academics, diplomats, and politicos, among them Robert Malley, Ambassador Edward Walker, and Thomas Dine (former executive director of AIPAC).

For nearly 60 years the United States has tried to encourage peace and reconciliation between Israel and all of its neighbors. Only recently have there emerged new policy priorities—the “global war on terrorism,” the invasion and occupation of Iraq and support for Lebanese independence—that have complicated a commitment deeply rooted in American national interests. While the Bush administration hopes to bequeath to its successor serious progress on the Israeli-Palestinian track of the peace process, it has signaled no such ambition with respect to the Israeli-Syrian track.

Indeed, the announcement of Turkish-mediated Israeli-Syrian peace talks was greeted with less than enthusiasm by the Bush administration. “That Israel has been able to open somesort of indirect conversation about these matters with the Syrian government, with thegood offices of Turkey, is a good thing,” said Assistant Secretary of State David Welch. “I mean, I’m not saying it’s not. And we hope it prospers. But where we’re making the major investment right now is on the Palestinian track.”

The Israeli-Palestinian track is indeed the “main event” of the Arab-Israeli peace process. Moreover, Syria has presented problems for Washington with respect to Iraq (both before and after the 2003 invasion) and more recently in Lebanon. Indeed, Syria and its Lebanese allies (led by Hezbollah) have thoroughly frustrated the emergence of a pro-American Lebanon; something President Bush had hailed as a dividend of regime change in Iraq. The administration sees the Syrian regime as murderous and duplicitous; as a state sponsor of terrorism, an ally of Iran, a conduit for foreign fighters to Iraq, and an enemy of Lebanese democracy and independence.

The Israeli view of the Assad regime differs little in substance from Washington’s, and President Bush was applauded in the Knesset when he declared, “Some seem to believe that we should negotiate with the terrorists and radicals, as if some ingenious argument will persuade them they have been wrong all along.” Still, Israel cannot afford to operate in accordance with the view that diplomacy aims for conversion and repentance.

  • Peace treaties with Egypt and Jordan have produced little in the way of warmth and nothing in the way of apologies for past behavior, but they have gone far toenhance Israel’s national security.
  • Likewise, no serious Israeli expects Palestinians to insert the phrase, “We were wrong all along” into a treaty of peace setting the terms for a sustainable two-state solution.
  • Just as the United States seeks common ground with a regime in Pyongyang easily as noxious as any on earth, so Israel is exploring the possibility of peace with a country that has, at times, been the bitterest of its enemies.

From Israel’s perspective the potential benefits of peace with Syria are great:

Syria would no longer provide support for armed action by Hamas and other militant Palestinian groups against Israel;

  • A treaty with Syria would clear the way for formal peace with Lebanon;
  • A treaty with Syria would mean the end of arms shipments to Hezbollah;
  • Comprehensive peace on all tracks would trigger normalization with the entire Arab world in accordance with the Arab Peace Initiative; and
  • Iran’s posture in the Arab-Israeli arena would be weakened and Syria’s relationship with Iran would be stripped of its anti-Israeli content.


Iran’s overt hostility toward Israel and Syria’s close relationship with Tehran makes the
current round much more than a technical discussion of how to reconcile Syria’s desire for a specific boundary with Israel’s security, water, and normalization concerns.

  • Unless Iran itself enters into a détente with the United States, Israel, and the West in general, it will not be possible for Syria to be at peace with Israelunless the Damascus-Tehran relationship undergoes a fundamental change.
  • In the 1970s Egypt’s relationship with the Soviet Union changed fundamentally. Yet while Anwar Sadat had somewhere to go—the United States—President Bashar Al Assad faces the road to Washington blocked by harsh words and economic sanctions: obstacles largely of his own making.
  • Sadat—the unchallenged ruler of a legitimate government—was himself not inclined to dive blindfolded into a potentially empty pool when he dismissedthe Soviets. Assad—who rules a markedly weaker state than Egypt—will want someplace safe to land if he has to break from the embrace of an Iran still hostile toward Israel. That someplace would be the United States.


As a practical matter, therefore, the question of what to do about Israeli-Syrian peace talks may well fall squarely on whoever occupies the Oval Office on the afternoon of January20, 2009. We think the following factors are worth considering:

  • As Iraq shows signs of gradually stabilizing, American-Syrian talks might yield agreements producing substantial benefits for the government in Baghdad while helping to relieve Syria of the enormous Iraqi refugee burden it is carrying.
  • If there is a degree of genuineness in this Turkish-Syrian-Israeli initiative, the parties can conduct their respective “due diligence” processes and tackle some technical negotiating details without American assistance between now and early 2009…
  • Contrary to the apparent beliefs of the Assad regime, a new American president—Republican or Democrat—will not automatically sign up to the proposition that the United States should dive into Israeli-Syrian talks forthwith and approach the bilateral relationship with Damascus with a blank slate. Iraq and Lebanon will be inherited issues. If Syria wants a positive relationship with
    Washington, cooperation over Iraq and an accommodation over Lebanon are essential. The new administration would do well to define what it wants, when it wants it, and what it is prepared to give in return. In short, tough-minded and disciplined diplomacy should come back into vogue—it is a tool of American power that no American commander-in-chief should be reluctant to use.
  • If Damascus proves unwilling to be helpful with Iraq and determined to restore its suzerainty over Lebanon, it will be difficult for any American administration to obtain the requisite domestic political support to play an active role in helping Syria, through facilitation and mediation, recover the lands it lost to Israel in 1967.
  • The dilemma for which Damascus holds an important key is that notwithstanding its bad relationship with Washington, a comprehensive Arab-Israeli peace is essential to American national security interests. As the United States tries to rebuild its image, influence, and prestige in the Arab and Muslim worlds, the quality of its efforts to bring about a comprehensive peace between Israel and all of its neighbors will be of transcendent importance. While no American need ever apologize for the special relationship between the United States and Israel and while no one need ever doubt the depth and permanency of America’s commitment to Israel’s security, it is important that the United States be seen as striving for peace and justice in the Arab-Israeli context. Without sacrificing any legitimate national security interest, Syria—if it wants a good relationship with Washington and if it wants a vital American role in its discussions with Israel—can help make it possible for the next president (and even this one) to pursue a peace whose achievement would disappoint only Osama bin Laden, his disciples, like-minded extremists, and Iran.

Therefore, success of the Turkey mediated Israeli-Syrian talks would promote vital US interests in the region. If the current US administration is not prepared to facilitate and join them, we urge the next president to do so as soon as possible after he takes office.

– July 7, 2008

Marshall Breger, Nathan Brown, Thomas A. Dine, Frederic C. Hof, Scott Lasensky, Ambassador Samuel Lewis, Robert Malley, Ambassador Robert Pelletreau, Steven L. Spiegel, Ambassador Edward S. Walker.

Comments (97)

norman said:

Berlin Signs Repatriation Deal With Syria

Großansicht des Bildes mit der Bildunterschrift: Syria’s President Assad had discussions with Chancelor Merkel in Paris about arms smuggling
German Interior Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble signed a repatriation agreement with his Syrian counterpart Bassam Abdelmajid in Berlin Monday, July 14. The deal followed talks between Chancellor Merkel and President Assad.

The agreement provided a basis for sending back not only Syrian nationals required to leave Germany, but also nationals of other countries and stateless persons who had the right to be in Syria, Schaeuble said.

The new agreement was in line with modern European practice and would make a significant contribution to combating illegal migration from the Middle East, he said.

A spokeswoman for the German Interior Ministry said that some 7,000 of the 28,350 Syrian nationals currently in Germany were obliged to leave the country.

Abdelmajid’s visit to Berlin was unexpectedly announced last week. The Syrian minister did not speak to the press and had no public engagements.

In another unexpected development marking a thaw in relations between the two countries that have long been strained, German Chancellor Angela Merkel met Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in Paris at the launch of the Union for the Mediterranean on Sunday.

Assad comes out of the cold

Bildunterschrift: Großansicht des Bildes mit der Bildunterschrift: Assad’s attendance at the Club Med talks was historic
At the meeting of 43 heads of state and government from the European Union and countries of the Mediterranean littoral, Assad agreed to establish formal diplomatic links with Lebanon for the first time.

Assad ended his international isolation by attending the summit, which included indirect talks through Turkey between him and Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert.

Germany has long demanded that Syria should recognize Lebanon’s sovereignty and integrity and should cease interfering in domestic Lebanese politics.

Merkel’s spokesman, Thomas Steg, said Monday the chancellor hoped that “deeds would soon follow words” and that formal ties between the two Middle Eastern neighbors would soon be established.

“We want to see actions now because enough words have been exchanged,” Merkel reportedly told the press after her talks with Assad in Paris.

Merkel calls for more action on arms smuggling

Bildunterschrift: Großansicht des Bildes mit der Bildunterschrift: Merkel spoke to Assad about the Hizbollah situation
Steg said Merkel had also called for an end to weapons smuggling across the border to the Syrian-backed Hezbollah movement.

Steg said Berlin and the international community were now waiting for Syria to follow through on its pledge and to address other problems that had led to its pariah status.

“If Syria aims to show its good will with this announcement then it could also follow up with good deeds and that would include, for example, a readiness to ensure that the alleged — at least never ruled-out — weapons smuggling over the land route to the Hezbollah militias is stopped,” Steg said. “That would also contribute to the security of Lebanon.”

Arms smuggling between Lebanon and Syria’s 170-kilometer (105-mile) long border is believed to be rampant.

Israel accuses Syria outright of supplying weapons to the militant Shiite group Hezbollah.

Diplomatic relations re-established

Syria and Lebanon announced Saturday their decision to establish diplomatic relations, a first since their independence from colonial rule.

Steg said Syria’s declarations were grounds for hope that it was ready to end its “in part self-imposed isolation”.

“Now the Syrians must prove that they truly intend to play a responsible role to bring about peace and security in the Middle East and that they want to work together constructively,” he said.

DW staff (nda)

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July 14th, 2008, 4:05 pm


Alex said:

Andrew Lee Butters (TIME) reached the right conclusion when he wrote today:

“Assad only wants a package deal, a grand bargain between Syria and Iran on the one hand, and American and Israel on the other, that would settle the cold war for the Middle East.”

Syria does not want peace treaties at the expense of others … not at the expense of the Palestinians, not at the expense of Iran … it will only create new conflicts and more bloodshed in the Middle East.

July 14th, 2008, 4:30 pm


EHSANI2 said:


Did he also make some tres chic remark?

July 14th, 2008, 4:36 pm


Alex said:



“Over the past weekend, Syrian state television has been beaming round-the-clock images of the Syrian President and his tres chic First Lady making the scene in the City of Light”

July 14th, 2008, 4:51 pm


qunfuz said:

what a grotesquely biased article. they want Egyptian apologies for past behaviour?! the US has been working for reconciliation between Israel and its neighbours for 60 years?! what?

July 14th, 2008, 5:18 pm


Akbar Palace said:


Assuming Dr. Bashar makes the peace deal with Israel, would Dr. Bashar be “villified” like President-for-Life Hosni Mubarak and King-for-Life King Abdullah of Jordan?

Why or why not?

Monsieur Alex,

Did you say you were living in France (I noticed you posting some French articles)? Merci.

July 14th, 2008, 6:37 pm


Qifa Nabki said:

I thought some of you guys might be interested in reading these three excerpts that I came across on the FPM blog.

They demonstrate very vividly that the levels of anti-Syrian sentiment in Lebanon are hardly limited to the March 14 people. They also suggest that the political terrain may change dramatically in the coming months, if there is any kind of reconciliation between HA and Future.

For non-Arabic readers, the first exchange is between two bloggers, one named “Syrian Regime” (who is, obviously, Syrian) who expresses a point of view quite commonly found on Syria Comment, namely that the Lebanese should be grateful to Syria, the two countries have deep ties, Lebanese studied for free in Syria, they bought food and all kinds of things, and this had a negative impact on the Syrian economy, and all this will end once embassies are exchanged etc.

The response is from a chap named “Watani” who is one of the most active members on the FPM blog, a solid Aounist, etc. He basically trashes Syria, and reveals his (and others’) deep distrust of the regime, which he believes is interested in re-imposing its hegemony over Lebanon.

The last excerpt is from another hard-core Aounist who, in a commonly found tactic, “reveals” March 14 to be the real pro-Syrians, for having repeatedly kept General Aoun (the true anti-Syrian) from becoming president.

I post these excerpts only to demonstrate how complex and seemingly self-contradictory my little country is.

Syrian Regime:
هلأ بصراحة انا كمواطن سوري بتمنى نخلص بئى من شغلة التبادل الدبلوماسي ونفتح سفارات بعد زيارة المعلم لبيروت بس يا حسرة ما حدا رح ياكلها غير هالشعب اللبناني المعتر يللي كان يفوت ع المشافي عنا ببلاش و يتعلم بمدارسنا وجامعاتنا ببلاش يعني بيجوز ما حدا منكن شاف كم لبناني بيفوت كل يوم ع سوريا مشان يشتري اكل الو ولعيلتو….وشغلات كتير غير هيك
بس من ناحية تانية ممكن تكون شغلة ايجابية من ناحية انو بيجوز تساهم بايقاف التهريب لانو اللبنانيين المهربين ما خلو شي بسوريا ما سرقوه لك حتى الطحين وهاد عم ياثر ع اقتصادنا سلبيا


بصراحة، بصراحة تامة، أنا كمواطن لبنانيّ بعتبر إنو سوريا ركبت عاظهرنا 30 سنة، حلكن بقى تفرقونا بريحة طيبة
ما قدّمه الشعب السوريّ للشعب اللبنانيّ قليل جداً أمام الذي أخذوه السوريون عنوة ً من لبنان، ومازالوا حدّ الآن! أتعرف كم من عامل سوريّ داخل الأراضي اللبنانيّة دخل خلسة إلى لبنان ، هارب من التجنيد العسكريّ ومن قساوة نظامكم، آت ٍ إلى لبنان من دون أوراق رسميّة ليعمل ويبعث لعائلته بالمال؟ وهذا من دون أن يقوم كباقي العمّال الأجانب في لبنان بدفع رسوم الأمن العام وبدلات الإقامة؟؟؟
هذا يضرّ كثيرا ً باقتصادنا أيضاً، ناهيك عن أن ما شهدناه من النظام السوريّ في لبنان لا يستهان أمام ما قلته! إستحي على نفسك ولا تدخل سياسة الدولتين بين علاقات تربط الشعبين! فإن الشعب اللبناني والسوري كانوا منذ تواجدهم شعب واحد منحدر من العائلات ذاتها! فلا يمكن تجاهل ذلك، فكل العائلات الموجودة في سوريا موجودة في لبنان، لأن قسم منهم هرب من سوريا آبّان الإحتلالات وقساوة الأنظمة وأقاموا لأنفسهم وطناً. لذا ومنذ تلك الآونة تريد سوريا إعادة السيطرة على هذا الشعب الحرّ الذي خرج عن سيطرتها وتحاول بشتىّ الطرق تقسيمه وخلق الخلافات فيما بينهم.
على أمل أن تعرفوا يوما ً كيف يكون الإنسان سيدّ حرّ مستقل، مع كل احترامي


Dark Angel said:

yet another proof that the perception of syrians has nothing to do with the bitter fight Feb14ers launched against FPM to veto GMA out from the presidency. instead, they seem to have favored a very good friend of syria and bashar.

so the Feb14 counter goes up;

1- 1990 alliance with the syrians to remove GMA.
2- 2005 alliance with HA and Amal against GMA.
3- 2005 alliance with Lahhoud to keep GMA out of the government.
4- Allowing Lahhoud to serve a full term to keep GMA from being elected.
5- Electing GMS, a good friend of syria, and favoring him over GMA.

it is rather obvious that Feb14ers will fight FPM and GMA under many empty slogans and banners, but the true reasons for why they fear us so much remain very well hidden in the background.

July 14th, 2008, 7:08 pm


Innocent_Criminal said:

Just saw a hilarious video of the Syrian president dodging Olmert at the Bastille show today. once he saw olmert coming toward him, he walked quickly toward the Qatari prince and “acted” like they are talking until olmert passed then the qatari prince ditched Assad and walked quickly to his seat. It’s not on youtube yet but it should be soon. It was quite a show.

July 14th, 2008, 7:32 pm


Alex said:


I live in Montreal.

Bashar will probably not be vilified as much as Hosny or Sadat. Hamas already knows what Syria is willing to sign on at the end, and they accept it.

But there will be some resistance and criticism I’m sure.

The Egyptians who are old enough to remember how much Syria opposed Sadat’s deal with Israel will try to claim that Syria did the same thing 30 years later.

For this deal to have a chance at being widely accepted, it has to be perceived as being fair and comprehensive. If it reached the stage of being accepted by the Syrians, it will be comprehensive enough 😉

I think the on-and-off agreement for a Palestinian state can be finalized at the same time, and an agreement with Hizbollah that allows for a simultaneous peace treaty with Lebanon.

July 14th, 2008, 8:08 pm


Qifa Nabki said:

Is it just me, or does Pres. Bashar al-Asad have a decidedly UN-sleazy way about him?

So many of the region’s leaders just look … potentate-ish. Personal qualities aside, there’s definitely a vogue for smug, fat-cat, patriarchal chic.

But Bashar just looks like a normal guy.

Might he be the face of the Middle East’s next generation of leaders?

July 14th, 2008, 9:41 pm


Off the Wall said:

On first reading, a rather one-sided paper, with un-neccessary anti-syrian language. A second reading may change this oppinion.

July 14th, 2008, 10:04 pm


Roxie said:

I enjoyed the paper and did not find it overly-one-sided. I believe Syria is in a difficult place but peace is possible.

July 14th, 2008, 10:15 pm


Qifa Nabki said:


He looks like a taxi driver.

July 14th, 2008, 10:41 pm


Off the Wall said:

Too bad, wasted my precious break giving this “Position Paper” a second reading. It is arrogant, and it “sucks” A third reading wan’t help.

July 14th, 2008, 11:14 pm


Enlightened said:


Why would Bashar run from Olmert? I really don’t get it. Given the way he moved quickly it would suggest that Bashar is a nifty dancer.

Dammit it would have been better to hold his ground, shake the boldy’s hand and tell him “Its been too long” lets sit down and make peace, give us back our land, and we’l be long lost brothers.

July 15th, 2008, 1:20 am


norman said:

Enlighte one,

I do not thing that doing that with Olmert will get Syria the two/third majority in the Knesset , to approve giving back the Golan Heights , Bashar avoided Olmert to deny him politecal capital in his politecal trouble in Israel.

July 15th, 2008, 1:44 am


trustquest said:

To get the full picture about the Syrian president visit to Paris, we have to remember what is the occasion was about, and how the French public perceive the festival and then you have to scramble the following:
France, Syria, Dictator, Freedom, oppression, Bastille, Sydnaia, despotism, Wine, Falafel, Jean Paul Sartre, , Algazali, Louver, Tadmor, Statue of Liberty, Hafez Assad Statue, Atlantic Treaty, Iran Syria Treaty, West, East, civilization, empire, backwardness, smiles, smugness, genuine, fake, game, politics, new star, lights, price.

July 15th, 2008, 2:38 am


youngsyria said:

guys..what would happen if this round of negotiations failed? do you think people will loose hope in peaceful settlement? or would it take another 10 years to start a new round?

July 15th, 2008, 3:38 am


Enlightened said:

Robert Fisk: ‘Europe has a duty to educate the US about Middle East’

Tuesday, 15 July 2008
Foreign Minister Walid Moallem says Syria is ready to co-operate with the West


Foreign Minister Walid Moallem says Syria is ready to co-operate with the West

Walid Moallem leans forward in the armchair of the Paris Intercontinental Opera. “It’s all on the record,” he snaps. It usually is. The Syrians can be up- front when you least expect it. Syria’s Foreign Minister is one of their top negotiators, a man who knows Israel’s diplomats almost as well as they know themselves, who understands all the traps of the Middle East.

Tell me who murdered Rafiq Hariri, I ask him. And Mr Moallem grins bleakly and reaches into his jacket pocket. His beefy hand emerges clutching a wad of pale green Syrian hundred-pound notes. “Tell me the answer and you can take all my money,” he says.

He may see evil among Syria’s enemies but he will speak no evil, certainly not of the French. “We are building trust with the French,” he says. Syria is ready to co-operate on the prevention of illegal immigration, against “what you in the West call ‘terrorism'” and opening a developed economic partnership. And Mr Moallem can be a bit preachy into the bargain.

“You in the West have a moral duty in Europe to educate the United States more about the Middle East. If they don’t listen to you, they will not listen to us. They will continue with their mistakes.” I don’t think they’re going to listen, I mutter. But Mr Moallem is in full flow.

“When we announced our position in the Security Council against the invasion of Iraq, the Americans adopted a policy of isolating Syria. We know that the United States is a superpower and many countries prefer to follow its policies without question. We say: ‘We differ … we belong to a region where we are in the middle of the eye of the storm. The United States is 10,000km far away from us. We are directly involved and influenced by regional issues. We consider dialogue, despite differences, is the most important in diplomacy. The message of President Assad to France is that the old policies are wrong, that only dialogue can solve difficult issues.”

So, what about the opening of a Syrian embassy in Beirut and a Lebanese embassy in Damascus? “We reached agreement in principle to establish diplomatic relations. Unfortunately, after that, relations between the Syrian and Lebanese government were negative. A lot of Lebanese leaders tried publicly to accuse Syria of many issues [sic] of which Syria is innocent.” Were these issues, I ask Mr Moallem, perhaps – well – were they assassinations? “Innocent!” he thunders. “At least, they provide no proof of their accusation. In a negative atmosphere, you cannot establish diplomatic relations. But after the Doha agreement [which called for a unity government in Lebanon and a veto over cabinet decisions by the pro-Syrian opposition] we hope that a positive atmosphere will be created. So now we are talking about two states, two independent sovereign states on an equal footing. The will of each side is to be respected.”

And the Hariri tribunal to find his murderers? What did Assad and Sarkozy say about this? “Never mentioned – not once,” Mr Moallem replies.

“The French President asked President Assad to help, through his relations with Iran, in inviting international public opinion to understand that the Iranian nuclear programme is a peaceful one … We stand firmly against the race of nuclear, biological or chemical weapons in our region.”

So what was the mysterious target of Israel’s bombing raid on Syria? “It was a military location,” Mr Moallem said slowly. “I can assure you that if it was a nuclear site, it would – after bombing – leave radiation. Do you really think, if our intention was to do this [develop nuclear weapons], we would allow the IAEA inspector to come from Vienna to examine the site?”

Mr Moallem’s pound notes remain on the table. But for how long?

July 15th, 2008, 3:39 am


Majhool said:


French pastries, baraze2

July 15th, 2008, 4:12 am


Enlightened said:

Ya Ammo Norman:

I think this was the wrong thing to do, OK Olmert is weak at home politically. But consider this point.

Sadat had to go over to Israel to convince a skeptical Israel and its population of his intentions. Bashar would not have needed to do this if he simply stood his ground, the onus would have been on Olmert to stick his hand out and shake Bashars hand. This would have been a positive sign to any of us on all sides of the divide as a positive step. ( The old saying you don’t make peace with your friends, but only your enemies.)

From My perspective: ” A truly wasted opportunity”

Alex: Fix the last insert, or re submit it cant see anything!

July 15th, 2008, 6:04 am


youngsyria said:

I think its audio only.

July 15th, 2008, 6:10 am


Alex said:


It is audio only! .. Radio interview.

It’s my friend Mona Eltahawy.

July 15th, 2008, 6:39 am


Innocent Criminal said:

I think the plan was for Assad to ignore Olmert smoothly. Unfortunately for the Syrian president he didn’t see Olmert coming early enough, was caught off guard and in the process panicked. So instead of improvising (i.e. shaking hands) he decided to stick with the plan and ignore him with less than perfect yet entertaining results.

The funniest part was when Sheikh Hamad ditched Assad so quickly. The Qatari Emir is not smooth at all. I’d like to think that Assad called Sheikh Hamad later and said “why did u leave me hangin’ like dat fool???” but something tells me he wouldn’t have worded it like that 😉

In away I agree with Enlightened that it was a missed opportunity. But I think Assad has a lot of close allies that wouldn’t have been happy with such a scenario (namely Iran & HA). This way he showed that while he is willing pursue the peace process he is not willing to abandon his principles for a photo-op

July 15th, 2008, 7:48 am


Zenobia said:

Screw virginity. Virginity sucks. Virginity is for wimps. Virginity is important to men who are worried that otherwise the woman will realize he is a crappy lover.

We should all send it down with the medieval depths.

July 15th, 2008, 7:50 am


Karim said:

Zenobia why this radical stance ?
You are free but virginity is important for others and they should not be called backward people.
Thanks for the link,bashar was funny yesterday.Btw the man who was in discussion with him before his escape is the romanian president,Basescu.

July 15th, 2008, 8:06 am


Zenobia said:

why the radical stance?????

because Mona Eltahawy is totally correct. this BS is causing so much grief and pain and suffering to women.
I agree with her that cultural relativism has a place but it also has limits, and this is one of them. The worship of virginity is archaic and completely unrealistic in this era of life on earth for anyone not living in a forest or on top of a mountain or way out in the desert far from civilization.

This is a serious human rights issue concerning women. And the archaic practices of socially punishing (physically or psychologically) people for having sex outside of marriage, violates basic human rights at some point.

And I met a lot of people on my little trip to the Middle East- wherein I would ask them about this subject, and practically nobody, thought this obsession with virginity actually made any sense. They took it super seriously because they felt the crush of culture bearing down on them.
And I am talking about men too who felt they had to value this because thats what they are taught, but they realized it was a bunch of crap. And they started to get a clue that this is not the way of the future, and that it is totally hypocritical considering how desperate they are to find women to sleep with… and wouldn’t miss a chance… any chance! to defile one… to then turn around and talk about purity and sanctity of virginity!

And in Syria today, for all the supposed piety and purity, this kind of surgery is not such a rare occurrence. But even if most women are scared to death of going from being a madonna to whore in one split second, they are still not shying away from engaging in sexual activity of a varied sort.
I mean the unmarried men and women will do all kinds of things that in any sane person’s book is considered sex….but there is some warped belief that if you just steer clear of penetration, then you are maintaining virginity! It is the biggest joke. Just as it is a joke to think that if you sew up some skin – you are now a virgin again.
Is this not totally psychotic? yes , it is ….

I think most people see the total hypocrisy at this point.

July 15th, 2008, 8:23 am


youngsyria said:

I totally agree with Zenobia.

July 15th, 2008, 10:51 am


Akbar Palace said:

…it is totally hypocritical considering how desperate they are to find women to sleep with… and wouldn’t miss a chance… any chance! to defile one… to then turn around and talk about purity and sanctity of virginity!


In ME culture, men set the rules. And you’re right, the rules aren’t fair. Judaism has also had to face modernization, the point being, freedom allows people the ability to practice what they want.

I believe (tell me if I’m wrong) that in some ME countries, honor killing may not be a serious crime.

Mona Eltahawy seems like an interesting person. I noticed in her bio she says she lived in Israel.

Enlightened said:

Dammit it would have been better to hold his ground, shake the boldy’s hand and tell him “Its been too long” lets sit down and make peace, give us back our land, and we’l be long lost brothers.

Before I give back any land as strategic as the Golan Heights, I’d sure like to know what “peace” means.

Nour said (below):

Assad said it clearly that they are still in “indirect negotiations” for the purpose of testing “Israel’s” intention in recognizing and returning to us our very basic rights.


If you want your “very basic rights”, you may have more to discuss with Dr. Bashar than with Ehud Olmert. And since when is recovering land lost in a war a “right”? Freedom of speech is a “basic right”.

July 15th, 2008, 10:52 am


Nour said:


Assad did the absolute right thing. Nothing has happened yet on the “peace” front, and “Israel” continues to occupy our land and kill our people. There’s absolutely no reason why we should shake hands, in a show of friendship and solidarity, with the prime minister of an entity that continues to violate our basic national rights. Assad said it clearly that they are still in “indirect negotiations” for the purpose of testing “Israel’s” intention in recognizing and returning to us our very basic rights. To shake hands now would imply that all’s well on the southern front, when all is nowhere close to being well.


I agree with verything you said. Said Takieddine once said “as long as we place our honor between the legs of a woman, we will always be backwards.” This entire idea of women having to be “virgins” is so blatantly hypocritical and disingenuous that it’s utterly ludicrous. The main reason for it is the oppression of women. Any other justification is complete and utter nonsense.

July 15th, 2008, 11:06 am


ugarit said:



July 15th, 2008, 11:36 am


idaf said:

For those history buffs, here’s an interesting lesson to be learned from the first ever survey of Arab public opinion. According to the survey of 1,800 Arabs in the Levant back in 1918 (the King-Crane report), the top 3 things that the population agreed on were in this order:

1- “A united Syria” (Syria, Lebanon, Palestine, Jordan).
2- “Independence”.
3- rejection of the “the entire Zionist program”.

Opinions Matter: A Lesson from History
By James Zogby
July 14, 2008

It was 90 years ago, this past week, that then-President Woodrow Wilson delivered a speech elaborating his commitment to the principle of self-determination.

Speaking on the Fourth of July, 1918, Wilson addressed what he called the four great “ends for which the people of the world are fighting.” One of these, he said, required that “the settlement of every question, whether of territory or sovereignty, of economic arrangement, or of political relationship, [should be determined] upon the basis of the free acceptance of that settlement by the people immediately concerned, and not upon the basis of material interest or advantage of any other nation or people which may desire a different settlement for the sake of its own exterior influence or mastery.” Though, Wilson, himself, was not always consistent in the pursuit of this goal, his anti-colonial instinct put him at odds with U.S. allies, the British and the French.

In the aftermath of World War I, those two U.S. allies had declared their ambitions to carve out “spheres of influence” in the Arab East. Having already concluded a pact between themselves to divide up the vast regions of East, Britain and France sought international support for their goals.

Wilson challenged the allies with a proposal to ascertain the desires of the Arab peoples, commissioning two prominent Americans, Henry Churchill King and Charles R. Crane, to go to the region and survey Arab attitudes. King and Crane set out to determine: what Arabs wanted as their political future, whether to be independent or subordinated to a foreign power; and how Arabs viewed both British and French plans to divide their region, and the intention of Britain to support the Zionist movement’s goal of establishing a “Jewish Homeland” in Palestine.

Since my brother John and I have long been involved in polling in the Arab world, the work of the King-Crane Commission is of special interest, as it was the first-ever survey of Arab public opinion.

First and foremost, King and Crane recognized that opinions mattered. As per Wilson’s principle, they recognized that imposing policy, without the agreement of the affected people, would not work, since it would only generate resistance.

Traveling throughout the Arab East for six weeks, the King-Crane Commision interviewed over 1,800 Arabs in the region that was to become Lebanon, Syria, Palestine and Jordan. What they found was that, among the residents of what was to be Palestine, “if… the wishes of Palestine’s population are to be decisive as to what is to be done with Palestine, then it is to be remembered that the non-Jewish population of Palestine – nearly nine-tenths of the whole – are emphatically against the entire Zionist program. …There is no one thing upon which the population of Palestine were more agreed upon than this.” That same feeling was shared by the broader population of the entire Arab East covered by their survey. The King-Crane report continued, “only two requests – that for a united Syria and independence – had larger support.”

The British and French were unimpressed. Countered Lord Balfour, the British Foreign Minister, “[I]n Palestine, we do not propose even to go through the form of consulting the wishes of the permanent inhabitants of the country, though the American commission has been going through the form of asking…. Zionism, be it right or wrong, good or bad, is rooted in age-long traditions, in present needs, in future hopes, of far profounder import than the decisions and prejudices of the 700,000 Arabs who now inhabit that ancient land.”

Facing strong dissent from isolationists in the Republican-led Senate, pressure from his European allies and, plagued by his own inconsistency, Wilson waffled. The British and French had their way.

In the end, the Arab East was, in fact, carved into “spheres of influence” for Britain (Jordan and Palestine) and France (Lebanon and Syria). And many of the problems that plague the Middle East, until today, have their origin in that act.

This could have turned out differently. If the King-Crane findings had been heeded, the Zionist program could have been modified (not disbanded), and ways would have been found to seek early reconciliation between those who sought a Jewish refuge and the aspirations of the indigenous people of the Arab East. This was not done and, instead, force was used to dismember the East and impose policies on an unwilling population.

Wilson’s initial instinct was right. Opinions do matter. They did then, and still do today. Ignoring them, and implementing policies that do not have broad public support, only invites disastrous consequences. That was true then, and it is still true now.


July 15th, 2008, 1:09 pm


Akbar Palace said:

3- rejection of the “the entire Zionist program”…

This could have turned out differently. If the King-Crane findings had been heeded, the Zionist program could have been modified (not disbanded)…

To this I say, “Woulda, shoulda, coulda…”.

Anyway, if it only takes 60 years to accept the “Zionist Program”, that’s not so bad really.

July 15th, 2008, 1:47 pm


Off the Wall said:


You have my support on this issue.

July 15th, 2008, 2:53 pm


Qifa Nabki said:


What are your feelings about the veil and other women’s issues?

July 15th, 2008, 3:11 pm


Alex said:

I agree that many Syrian men are starting to change their attitude about the value of virginity. I know a few who, ten years ago insisted they were going to only consider marrying a virgin. They all married non-virgins.

What I find most disturbing is the competition among many youngmen arriving to Europe or North America … Trying to score the largest possible number of victims … The more girls they sleep with the prouder they are. And as Zenobia said, it does not matterwith who … They will score with almost any woman who accepts.

July 15th, 2008, 3:57 pm


Karim said:

Love is a noble thing and our muslim society should not oppress this natural feeling but also in the other societies sexuality is banalised because of the libertinism and this is also wrong.And yes in our muslim societies,hypocrisy is not rare ;how can we accept this non logic that men who had several sexual partners when it comes to the marriage they want a virgin.But as i said ,love is noble and can not be mixed with promiscuity,so it’s healthy for our muslim societies to refuse libertinism but the unhealthy occur when we refuse the idea of pre marital love ,which should not be confused with pre marital sex ,which is forbidden by Islam.
The great islamic thinker Ibn Hazm the Andalusian founder of the controversial Zahirism, wrote a masterpiece of love literature.

Here is the book in arabic:
The university of Leiden has also digitalised his precious manuscript.

July 15th, 2008, 4:38 pm


Zenobia said:

I saw that Zogby essay and was going to post it, but you beat me to it. Thanks, it is quite interesting, isn’t it? (at least now I know what the King Crane reference is too : ) )

I am so very pleased to see a lot of men here agreeing with my general outrage on this virginity issue.


What are your feelings about the veil and other women’s issues?

I am not so clear on all the issues that there are. I think each one has to be considered separately. For example, the veil for me is relatively unimportant. I think it is a pretty personal choice of women and girls now- that isn’t particularly harmful. It is all the rage in Syria now. But when i asked some teenage girls why they decided to wear it, they really didn’t have answers with any depth. It is more like a social trend. Also kind of hypocritical when worn with tight jeans and what westerners would consider hooker make-up.
but … other than that, I am not sure.

Lack of legal rights and protections – for instance in divorce or violence against women – of course is much more serious and clearly needs reform. Again this veers into basic human rights issues of equal protection and safety.

Akbar, I can’t speak about Honor killing in countries like Yemen or Algeria or most. I can barely speak about Syria. But the impression I get is that this occurs (and thus is acceptable) in very rural,traditional, closed communities wherein there is little intervention from outside. But I never heard of honor killing in the middle of Damascus or Aleppo or coastal Syria. And anybody who I spoke to regarding this subject was expectedly disturbed by such realities still existing and critical. I think in any modern area people do not think this kind of behavior is acceptable.
I think the problem is that there are just no laws or will to crack down on it.

Honor killing (as well as obsession with virginity) is not a muslim thing, you know. Traditional cultures all over the world have engaged in these practices and belief systems regarding the control of women’s sexuality. I was glad that Mona Eltahawy did mention this fact.

July 15th, 2008, 4:39 pm


Zenobia said:

Karim said:

in the other societies sexuality is banalised because of the libertinism and this is also wrong…
so it’s healthy for our muslim societies to refuse libertinism

I agree. But there is a middle ground. Or at least there should be. And I think the problem is not ‘liberty’ in the west, it is the commodification of sexuality, and commercializing it (which lebanon is also emulating) that is most offensive.

pre marital love ,which should not be confused with pre marital sex ,which is forbidden by Islam.

but nor are love and sex separate a great amount of the time.
Don’t you think Islam could adapt to modern times as Eltahawy suggests?
when people get married in their late twenties and thirties, don’t you think that it is a huge problem to require chastity and virginity for that long time?
It is not healthy at all.

and in regards to the double standard, wherein because of this long wait until marriage, men are excused for looking for sex and taking their opportunities, this is rationalized by a complete fallacy that the women have no sexual desire ( or one that needs respecting) so she can go without while he can transgress.

as an addition to my response to QN about the veil. I guess I don’t want to seem contradictory. The meaning behind the veil – ie men other than those in your family shouldn’t see your hair or they will want to have sex with you… is also problematic. But it just seem to me more an overlying symptom of the bigger deeper problem of worship of purity. Therefore, I don’t spend a lot of time on it. I guess if the little girls I asked about why they wear it, told me that they didn’t want men to see there hair and want to have sex with them ! and thereby potentially destroy their worth : ) I would have engaged more conversation about that. but usually they didn’t make that connection. They just said they wore it to show they respect god. Who can argue with that.

July 15th, 2008, 4:52 pm


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Zogby is such an idiot. And that is worth repeating several times. What King-Crane basically did was interview 1,800 “intellectuals”. Hardly representative of the typical Falach who could not read or write or feed his children. By and large the Arabs in Palestine wanted ONE thing. Economic development. All the rest was a fantasy of the “intellectuals” that countinues to this day. But if you cannot provide economic development, why not peddle dreams? It is so much easier. Why do Syrians need a better education system if Asad gets invited to France? That should certainly be enough for them.

July 15th, 2008, 5:29 pm


Zenobia said:


July 15th, 2008, 5:34 pm


Off The Wall said:

I am eager to participate in Zenobia’s discussion. But i am at work. I will try to steal an hour or two later. For now, I agree with everything ZENOBIA said.

Talk to you later

for now, i am “OWT” of here 🙂

July 15th, 2008, 5:51 pm


offended said:

well, the term ‘loose vagina’ isn’t exactly the invetion of retarded arab men.

July 15th, 2008, 6:14 pm


Zenobia said:

looking forward to it : )

come again?

July 15th, 2008, 6:16 pm


Karim said:

Zenobia:Don’t you think Islam could adapt to modern times as Eltahawy suggests?when people get married in their late twenties and thirties, don’t you think that it is a huge problem to require chastity and virginity for that long time?

Zenobia ,this matter is one of the most difficult ,and there is no absolute remedy for it …But if we want to preserve our muslim character we have to make sacrifices and love can replace pre marital sexuality ,it take a lot of energy from us ,or in a freudian language we can say,it’s a way of sexual instincts or libido sublimation,there are also other non sexual ways of libido sublimation like culture ,sport,spirituality,art ….. ,if not, …let us say ,that long time chastity is very difficult and of course it is ,and that we should accept pre marital sex ,do u think that it will solve the problem ?? having some fun like going to disco and other hot areas and in the same time resisting sexual promiscuity is it realistic ?

July 15th, 2008, 6:17 pm


offended said:

And I wonder, since we as folks of science all believe in the theory of evolution; and since hymen is so bad to human beings; wasn’t gotten rid of through the endless chains of sophisticated gene alterations of human beings?

July 15th, 2008, 6:18 pm


offended said:

I meant to say: why wasn’t gotten rid of through…….

July 15th, 2008, 6:28 pm


Qifa Nabki said:


Just to play devil’s advocate… what’s the difference between the veil and virginity?

In both cases, there is social pressure on women to behave in a certain way.

In both cases, there are punishments for transgression.

Do you see any salient differences?

July 15th, 2008, 6:31 pm


Zenobia said:

If you have some knowledge of the anatomical evolutionary history of the hymen, I would love to hear about it.

But i doubt is has to do with purity.

July 15th, 2008, 6:33 pm


Zenobia said:

no I don’t think it is realistic to postpone sexuality or sexual functioning.

Also, who said anything about ‘sexual promiscuity”. I think there is a big gap between promiscuity and chastity.

but most importantly, in the famous words of Tina Turner:

I am lost with your repeated comments about love.
People are not out there scouring the landscape for love. The libido is looking for sex. Sorry but LOVE does not replace sex. It complements it and visa versa.

July 15th, 2008, 6:37 pm


Karim said:

Zenobia ,are you married ,do you have children ?
What is the average number of sexual partners for a girl at not more than 20 years old in the west ?Do u find it compatible with our muslim and family values ?

July 15th, 2008, 6:43 pm


offended said:

Not really Zenobia, I read loads of articles about evolution but nothing about the hymen in particular.

But in principle, and this is a very odd (if not foolish) question to ask; what is the purpose of the hymen? as far as I know there is no organic function for it. So there must be an otherwise purpose, don’t you agree? in the religious man’s language: why God equipped females with hymen? even the evolutionists agree that there is a dynamic drive within the process itself that eliminate the superfluous and enhance the useful. So the question could be entertained to a certain extent.

July 15th, 2008, 6:44 pm


Zenobia said:

no you are right. In this respect I find both at fault.
There are only a couple of differences that make me pay less attention to such a practice like veiling.

One is simply a matter of degree, in the sense that the level of harm is less to me compared with say – the virginity thing or honor killing, or any number of things.
But it is still part of the same system of control , yes, i would agree.

Second, is the reason that I gave above as an addendum, that I see the veiling thing as a more superficial manifestation of the deeper problem. And I think if the oppression of worship of purity and virginity were addressed as larger issues, then things like pressure to wear a veil would just fade away because there original purpose would have been abandoned.

I also commented above, that I feel like a lot of people don’t even make the connection consciously of the veil to purity… maybe they do, but the little girls certainly didn’t. I did query very hard, but it seemed like it had become associated with simply a generic symbol of piety for them.

I have less of a problem with symbols of piety. What I care more about are the things that perpetuate control of women and control over sexuality for both sexes. So, in so far as the use of the veil is understood as part of that system I would hope it would disappear as well. I just think that people need to get to the heart of the matter rather than simply arguing over the veil in isolation.

July 15th, 2008, 6:44 pm


Zenobia said:

and what does it mean to you if I am married or not or have children or not? : )

July 15th, 2008, 6:45 pm


Karim said:

because it’s important to know ,when we discuss about such matter and how you have dealt with it , you didnt give us your solution …i tried to give one according to my philosophical beliefs .

Zenobia;Sorry but LOVE does not replace sex. It complements it and visa versa.

this is true ,but sexuality is the completion and it must happen after the marriage according to Islam.

July 15th, 2008, 6:55 pm


Zenobia said:

I have not ever investigated this question. I have a guess though. Not speaking of religion.
Just as a initial thought though, there are parts of the body that serve no purpose at this time in our evolutionary development (vestigial organs: what about an appendix?
and what about the fact that men have nipples? what the heck are these for??????

so maybe we needed it, and now we don’t.

but my guess is this:

the hymen protects the vagina during developing years of the female. It is needed as a baby and pre-adolescent for protection of the interior. However, during adolescences, hormones start providing a climate that does the same job.

most people can’t show what the purpose is though, it seems to have very little – except as something formed during development of the female fetus’s sex organ.


July 15th, 2008, 6:56 pm


Alex said:

Hmm … this is a very different Syria comment.

: )

July 15th, 2008, 6:59 pm


Qifa Nabki said:


I was gonna say…

Can someone tell Nasrallah to launch a few missiles over the border, already?

It’s getting a little weird around here with no politics to discuss. Lebanon is chilled out, Syria is making peace with Israel, Hamas is negotiating a truce.


July 15th, 2008, 7:01 pm


Zenobia said:

Karim, I don’t think it is important to know what my personal life is, to judge my ideas. I have many ideas that have nothing to do with my own decisions, although my experiences inform my beliefs like anybody else.
All I will say … is that I am one of those girls who rode a lot of horses between the age of ten and sixteen.. and I would have failed the test later. I shudder to think that there are places where I might be stoned to death as a result. : ) pleasant thought.

Mostly, I got a lot of ideas because I spend a lot of time asking people about their sex lives and sexual beliefs. I think it is terrifically interesting.

I don’t have the “solution” of how to integrate islamic beliefs with modern constraints and demands. You are right that todays world presents Islam with some difficult problems.
I am not qualified to say much about it, but I am glad there are people out there like Eltahawy who are saying that this adaptation of religion can in fact be made… that Islam and modernity can live together.
God help us otherwise.

July 15th, 2008, 7:03 pm


offended said:


Thanks for the link re: vestigial organs. I thought about the appendix the moment I hit the ‘post’ bottom. You are right, other than being a pain in the …bowels and providing some business for mediocre surgeons, it’s not thought to have any function at all.

So the earlier folks thought of a better use for the hymen. It’s quite sexist on the part of God/Evolution to equip females with an organ which reveals quite an important bit about her/their history!

July 15th, 2008, 7:05 pm


offended said:

Alex, with all due respect, the subject matter is much more hotter than your Levantine politics!

July 15th, 2008, 7:07 pm


Zenobia said:

: )
sorry. But actually….. SYRIANS in Syria need to talk about SEX and these issues in an open honest way – a lot more….

just my personal opinion.

I have to leave anyhow for a the afternoon, but I would add a surprising view …of mine.
I actually don’t have so much criticism of the practice of polygamy. The man with two wives etc.

If this seems contradictory, well…I will have to explain later. But I will just say, somethings do or did have a very practical purpose in the religion. In this respect, having a few more wives around to divide their ‘responsibility’ may be revealed to have increased the freedom of the women involved.

July 15th, 2008, 7:09 pm


Zenobia said:

Yes, Alex, you should be thanking me… : )
AIG probably doesn’t want to talk about hymens.

July 15th, 2008, 7:10 pm


offended said:

He hasn’t seen any.

July 15th, 2008, 7:12 pm


Zenobia said:


but on second thought….hmmm. maybe ‘democracy’ will bring …liberation for the hymen… etc and so forth…

July 15th, 2008, 7:14 pm


offended said:

This is why I am vehemntly against it!

July 15th, 2008, 7:18 pm


Alex said:

Z and O

No making fun of AIG please. It is not fair. He is being “moderated” these two weeks.

But by all means .. go ahead with your interesting discussion : )

I hope that by next year (or two) we won’t have to discuss Hizbollah missiles and we’ll discuss instead Zenobia’s proposals for dealing with the Garbage problem in Syria.

July 15th, 2008, 7:21 pm


Qifa Nabki said:

I hope that by next year (or two) we won’t have to discuss Hizbollah missiles and we’ll discuss instead Zenobia’s proposals for dealing with the Garbage problem in Syria.

Alex, haven’t you heard? The resistance will continue even if Shebaa is returned. Don’t try to strip the resistance of its weapons, ya Alex!

If Hizbullah wants us to talk about missiles, goddamit that’s what we’re going to talk about.


July 15th, 2008, 7:34 pm


Zenobia said:

Ok, alex, i will lay off AIG.

I got to take off for a number of hours anyway. but TBC… with OTW..later

July 15th, 2008, 7:34 pm


Seeking the Truth said:

AnotherIsraeliGuy said:
By and large the Arabs in Palestine wanted ONE thing. Economic development.

Then why can’t you now solve your problem with the Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza by simply improving their standard of living to a high enough level?

July 15th, 2008, 7:41 pm


wizart said:

“Piety comes from within, and a respectable woman needs no visual proof. It’s time that women step up to their role in ALL societies and be considered true equals.”

From Facebook’s ban the veil group with special thanks to its Egyptian creator for his shoking photo of a veiled little kid!

Kids often jump on the veil bandwagon due to peer and family pressure regardless of what littlereligious understanding they may have acquired. It’s now a child abuse issue not only a gender one.

July 15th, 2008, 7:59 pm


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Because then Fatah and Hamas would be out of business. And they would not like that would they? But your suggestion has worked quite well inside Israel, and that is why most Israeli Arabs are “Zionists”, they vote for Zionist parties, because they care more about economic development that they care about other issues.

July 15th, 2008, 8:11 pm


norman said:

The policy between men and women should be ( Don’t ask don’t tell)

Look for other things to worry about , having a virgin wife does make her a faithful one and having a non virgin wife does not make a slut ,look for the future not the past of your partners .

July 15th, 2008, 8:14 pm


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:


Hymen discussions are quite 19th century.

But as usual, you miss the big picture by focusing on some symptom. The elephant in the room is that about 30% of women in Syria are illiterate. Not one or two, 30%. In the modern world, this means that these women can do very little that is useful. It means that they can’t even help their kids with homework or ever connect to the internet. This is a huge source of Syria’s problems. Once women are eductated and thus respected, once woman can stand on their own feet economically because they are educated, all the hymen and virginity nonsense will become very marginalized, just like it happened in the US and Europe. But at the basis of all these and similar changes is women education.

But hey, one or two more visits by Bashar to Paris, and women illiteracy in Syria will go away. Look how beautiful Asma is (and very chic)! That is enough, Syria does not need to teach 30% of women to read.

July 15th, 2008, 8:27 pm


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Let me put it bluntly for those with reading comprehension issues:
Should Mrs. Bashar be judged on how she dresses or does her hair or, by what she did for women education in Syria in the last 8 years?

From reading this blog, the consensus seems to be the former. Go figure.

July 15th, 2008, 8:33 pm


Karim said:

Zenobia ,Islam is not an hamburger ,we can not change the essence of the quranic message ,the prohibition of pre marital sex will remain the benchmark,now humans are weak ,and nobody is perfect and when a muslim person commits such sin like pre marital sex,be it a man or a girl,it’s not the end of the world ,because Allah is the most merciful but the danger is when pre marital sex is banalised and this trivialization must not happen in the Islamic world.

July 15th, 2008, 8:42 pm


Akbar Palace said:


Well, at least she doesn’t wear a burka! Isn’t that progress?;)

Le’at, le’at …

Anyway, time for a cold shower…

July 15th, 2008, 8:50 pm


Karim said:

AIG,I disagree with you on this nexus between education ,modernity and promiscuity but we can not deny the pitiful condition of the Islamic world in the fields of human rights,education,women conditions,radicalism,extremism,sectarianism……It’s clear that the culprit are these dictatorial regimes that have exhausted their people.

July 15th, 2008, 9:21 pm


Alex said:


Enough for today. Four comments.

July 15th, 2008, 9:22 pm


offended said:

AIG, you ignoramus! Mrs. Assad not Mrs. Bashar.

July 15th, 2008, 9:30 pm


Karim said:

Alex i don’t understand the reason of this ostracism toward AIG in this blog.He often has pertinent comments …my only problem with him is his zionist background.

July 15th, 2008, 9:48 pm


Alex said:


We will not discuss it here. I had enough of this topic. Please read the rules of the blog and you’ll understand. Or write me an email.

July 15th, 2008, 9:51 pm


ugarit said:


What’s your opinion about the pre-Islamic practice of one woman marrying more than one man at the same time?

July 15th, 2008, 10:59 pm


Akbar Palace said:

…my only problem with him is his zionist background.

Karim –

Get used to it. Peace is in the air Habib!

July 15th, 2008, 10:59 pm


trustquest said:

Your search for an answer to hejab rising popularity is not going to find an answer if you do not look at it through the Syrian political history. First I should agree with you than even the hejabi girls in Syria, are moderate and kind of liberal comparing with other countries. I came from liberal Syrian middle class and did not see hejab in my circle back in the 60s. The increase started showing noticeably by the end of the 70s and with the Rafat Assad effort to force removing hejab (from the heads of young and old women in the street as a way forcing civilization in1975, Ataturk way) by his terrorist group the hejab took a boost and increased from marginal to a cultural identity in face of the regime oppression. The negative and silence rejection was seen by most of the Sunnis in the cities (even Sunni Baathis and their family) was a land mark everywhere. My wife, who was a liberal dressed modern during our engagement, came back after one visit to Damascus with the hejab. Which make me say that most hejabs are not family pressure and peer pressure since my daughter lives here in the State and has adopted hejab. If you go to creative Syria or Syrian history site and look at the 50s and 60s of the last century you will see a liberal, open society and all families who lived that era went through covering in the 80s as a reaction to totalitarian rule. If you pay attention to the Gobsi ladies and how they dress, and imagine that someone would dare to violate them in the street, and if you could imagine the type of reaction they will leave on the society in that case, you may understand the state of mind Syrian girls. This type of dress is a protection against the rude and barbaric power and they think that can protect purity and wake populace conscious in case of harassment.

July 16th, 2008, 1:05 am


Zenobia said:


very interesting. some of the historical trend and movement over the last fifty years, I am aware of. I think that the tendency toward more outward show of piety and wearing of the hajab is very much reactionary. I hadn’t thought about it in relation to reacting to totalitarianism or the gov’t. I had thought it a reaction to the increase of exposure to the west and the pressure of modernity even increasing.
I also feel people become more focused on religion when there suffering is not answered by the state. (clinging to religion as Obama suggested) However, those who are religious take offense to such suggestions. AIG was not all wrong at all when he contended that social elevation of women through education leading to economic independence has led to sexual independence – at least in the west. I presume this would be true anywhere. This is fairly obvious if we interpret control of sexuality as a function of general patriarchy and as that overall inequality between the sexes lessens with economic independence of women ( a result of education) – then women also assert control over their own bodies.

yes, sure I am all for equal rights to polygamy if that works. Why not. If a woman can keep many men, well, go for it. : )

July 16th, 2008, 1:27 am


Alex said:

وأوضح الرئيس الأسد إلى أنه دعا الرئيس ساركوزي وزوجته كارلا بروني إلى زيارة دمشق ، وقال:”حصلنا على ألبومها، وقلت لها هذا الكلام على العشاء ولكن لم أسمع الألبوم بعد وسأسمعه لدى عودتنا إلى سورية”.

President Assad got Carla’s new album.. she gate it to him over dinner in Paris.

July 16th, 2008, 1:37 am


trustquest said:

“I had thought it a reaction to the increase of exposure to the west and the pressure of modernity even increasing.”
I noticed that your conclusions are correlated to your observation of current trends in your last visit to Syria. But for me who lived the 60s and the 70s in Syria, the west pressure was not there and actually forbidden in all parts of life, Universities, TV ( no dish at that time), Clothing, Music, Plays and even Movie theater. Three government newspapers, one TV station and big pictures of the dictator larger than the buildings are all you can get. I think the current trends is brining openness even with the tradition of existing hejab since you noticed a lot of girls wearing Jeans with hejab which was not available back in the 70s.

July 16th, 2008, 2:27 pm


Alex said:


I fully agree that many women and girls decide to wear the hijab on their own, without pressure from their fathers/husbands. But … Please let me try to blame it (only partially) on the Saudis 😉

The Saudis, through their split-personality, are pushing the two extremes in the Middle East … their popular media assets (LBC, MBC …) always display semi-naked sexy female stars, while their many other ways of spreading Wahabi culture in the Middle East promote the other extreme.

One is repulsively liberal (by Middle Eastern standards) that it makes girls hate to be part of the “liberal” group… and the best way to declare one’s departure from that group is to wear the best recognized symbol of respectability .. the hijab.

The other (Wahabi) is there to tell them that they are doing the right thing by rejecting the lifestyle of the prostitutes (Haifa and others)

You want an example of how this works?

Read the comments please … like comment #20 for example

July 16th, 2008, 3:13 pm


trustquest said:

I disagree big time, I will never blame my problems on others. If it is my problem, I should look inward. Believe me I have a personal bad experience regarding this till I learnt this.

July 16th, 2008, 6:33 pm


Alex said:


That’s an excellent general rule.

Please note that I said “only partially” … and in this case “others” are our Arab Muslim neighbors … so they are in a way “us” … us Arabs and us Muslims

I did not blame it on Israel or on Japan, or on bad luck.

July 16th, 2008, 7:16 pm


trustquest said:

That is great Alex, you doing fine; you are not blaming the foreigners, the enemy, the USA, the Demons or bad luck. But you still can not get rid of the habit completely; you are still blaming your neighbors.
Alex, government are not like you or me individuals, they have responsibility to make the good things not to find excuses. People expect from them if there is a problem to find a way in solving it. They have the power to negotiate and sign treaty to prevent harm on their people. Last thing should be expected from them to attack neighbors or to find excuses in the neighbors bad behaviors. I said before, Syria has 3 millions persons working in the KSA, they should play it very nice since those people are providing good income to the regime to run the state affair. They should not slab the hand which feed them.

July 17th, 2008, 1:31 am


norman said:


I think the KSA should throw out the Syrians , so the Syrians will know once what kind of Arabs are the Saudis .

Just for you ,In KSA a friend of mine a Nephrologist( Kidney specialist) Syrian born Syrian and American educated board certified in his specialty who has a green card in the US was offered less income as a salary in comparison to an American citizen equally educated , He told them to go to hell .

July 17th, 2008, 1:42 am


trustquest said:

What you saying is provocative and not good. I would not work in KSA if they offer me billions of dollars. My dad worked there in the fifties, brought big some of money and worked in Syria where he was discriminated and robbed by the Social Baathist Regime, in the name of fighting bourgeois. On the other hand, even if do not like them, I would not dare to wish bad for 3 millions Syrians find their source of income from there, because Syria can not find work to its own citizens. Beside that, let them handle their problems and let us handles ours.

July 17th, 2008, 3:42 am


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