Assad to Austria, 5 New Ministers, Oil, and Lebanon Elections

Assad plans to go to Austria after 4 year delay due to US pressure

A delegation of 65 people business personalities are accompanying the Presidential trip to Austria. It will be led by Kuzbari, one of Syria’s richest businessmen.

In 2005 I wrote for the Council on Foreign Relations:

Syria is totally isolated. Bashar Assad had visits lined up to go to Austria and Brazil, but both were stopped due to U.S. pressure. The Turkish Prime Minister [Recep Tayyip Erdogan] was supposed to come here a few months ago and he ultimately had to apologize and not come, but all the papers were saying it was because of U.S. pressure. The Europeans are not opening their doors to the Syrians….

Jerry Seinfeld’s mother is from Aleppo!! Who knew?

Money From Abroad Floods Into Lebanon to Buy Votes: NYT, 2009-04-23 By Robert Worth

Election posters in Tripoli, Lebanon. Spending limits are imposed for the June elections, but only during the last two months.

Election posters in Tripoli, Lebanon. Spending limits are imposed for the June elections, but only during the last two months.

BEIRUT, Lebanon — It is election season in Lebanon, and Hussein H., a jobless 24-year-old from south Beirut, is looking forward to selling his vote to the highest bidder.

“Whoever pays the most will get my vote,” he said. “I won’t accept less than $800.”

He may get more. The parliamentary elections here in June are shaping up to be among the most expensive ever held anywhere, with hundreds of millions of dollars streaming into this small country from around the globe….

…“We are putting a lot into this,” said one adviser to the Saudi government, who added that the Saudi contribution was likely to reach hundreds of millions of dollars in a country of only four million people. “We’re supporting candidates running against Hezbollah, and we’re going to make Iran feel the pressure.”….

Here is a note I received by email from an American Lebanese who is 40 and will be flown to Lebanon to vote:

My Mom called me this morning…. she was in Tripoli to get me an ikhraj qaid [birth certificate] that I need to submit at the naqabeh [court]. She told me the moukhtar was flooded with ID requests for the elections. he told her, let’s make one for your son so he can come and vote. She did not have extra pictures so they took an old one, copied it and generated 5 extra one on a color copier with photo paper, Incredible. He told her it will be ready in time for the elections and for me to make sure to see him when I am there. Wink wink, lord knows who he wants me to vote for! 🙂

Hezbollah win in Lebanon poll would be big upset By Sam Ghattas © AP, 2009-04-23

BEIRUT (AP) – With quiet campaigning and moderate talk, Hezbollah is building its strength for Lebanon’s June 7 parliamentary elections _ and the militant Shiite Muslim group and its allies stand a good chance of winning.

That could mean a stunning shake-up for one of the Middle East’s most volatile countries, replacing a pro-U.S. government with a coalition dominated from behind the scenes by Hezbollah, the political movement and guerrilla group widely seen as the proxy of Iran and Syria in Lebanon.

The U.S. and Israel consider Hezbollah a terrorist organization, and their biggest fear is that a win by the group and its allies would increase the sway of Iran and Syria. The U.S. ambassador in Beirut has already expressed concern, and Hezbollah’s opponents warn the consequence may be the West isolating Lebanon and Washington reducing its millions in aid…. U.S. Ambassador Michele Sison warned that American relations with Lebanon _ and future U.S. aid _ «will be evaluated in the context of the new government’s policies and statements.» Since 2006, the United States has committed over a billion dollars to Lebanon, including $410 million to the country’s security forces.

But Hezbollah, whose name means «Party of God,» has taken the strategy of a low-key election campaign with a moderate message, aiming to show that a victory by its coalition should not scare anyone….

The Obama-Netanyahu Divide
By Sadie Goldman, Senior Policy Associate, Israel Policy Forum
Wednesday, April 22, 2009 – 5:57pm

After his meeting with Jordan’s King Abdullah yesterday, President Barack Obama said of the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, “We can’t talk forever. . . . At some point steps have to be taken so that people can see progress on the ground.”….

Netanyahu Government Tells Obama What He Can Do With His Peace Plan
MJ Rosenberg, Washington Director of Policy Analysis, Israel Policy Forum, April 22, 2009

“…Netanyahu .. thinks Obama is a lightweight and that he can just roll him. Today’s Washington Post quotes Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon as saying that “the new Israeli government will not move ahead on the core issues of peace talks with the Palestinians until it sees progress in U.S. efforts to stop Iran’s suspected pursuit of a nuclear weapon and limit Tehran’s rising influence in the region.”

US Pushing for Two States Within Four Years [Thanks to IPF]

Reserve General Danny Rothschild was deputy head of military intelligence and former coordinator of government activities in the territories. He is President of the Council for Peace and Security, an association of former senior Israeli officers who advocate for a negotiated solution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Pulse: How do you view the developing US position on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict?

Rothschild: I see real persistence on the American side.  I met with Special Envoy Mitchell and others in the administration and what I heard from them coincides with the recent comments by Rahm Emanuel – – the message coming out of Washington is very persistent: they are pushing for a two-state solution within four years.

Michael Young in the Daily Star, via Qifa Nabki and FLC.

“….. more worryingly for Jumblatt, his statements have marginalized him within March 14. The Druze leader has always been a good triangulator – someone who gains from positioning himself between contending forces. He’s lost that capacity now. Saad Hariri is emerging as the most forceful guardian of the March 14 political line; he has stuck to his Christian allies, despite the improvement in relations between Saudi Arabia and Syria;……….Jumblatt’s analysis of Christian, particularly Maronite, electoral mistakes is sound. The excessive representation of the Phalange and the Lebanese Forces in candidate lists, at the expense of non-party independents, will doubtless lose March 14 votes……. his statements only reinforce that likelihood. If the Druze leader is preparing to alter his approach with respect to Syria and Hizbullah, isn’t it better for him and his partners to win the elections first and negotiate that change from a position of strength? The leaked video backfired, and now we may have to prepare for the grim fact, as King Abdullah of Jordan predicted this week, that the Hizbullah-led opposition will come out of the elections a winner.”

Syria Says Iran’s Ahmadinejad’s Speech Reflected Arab Views

Syrian FM says large proportion of public opinion in Arab world supports Iranian president words.

DAMASCUS – Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s speech at a UN conference on racism had widespread Arab support even if it stirred a walkout over his anti-Israeli stand, Syria said on Wednesday.

“A large proportion of public opinion in the Arab world supports the words of the Iranian president,” Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Muallem said at a joint press conference with his Luxembourg counterpart Jean Asselborn.

The president used his podium in Geneva on Monday to criticise the creation of a “totally racist government in occupied Palestine” in 1948, branding the Israeli administration “the most cruel and repressive racist regime.”

Ahmadinejad said the West “sent migrants from Europe, the United States … in order to establish a racist government in the occupied Palestine.”

“The Palestinians should not be turned into victims of a Holocaust which they did not commit. It should not serve as a pretext for the Israelis to commit a Holocaust in Palestine, Gaza, the West Bank or Lebanon,” Muallem said….

Jerusalem Post

“… Rahm Emanuel said, “In the next four years, there will be a peace agreement with the Palestinians on the basis of two states for two peoples, and it does not matter to us who is the prime minister.” Katz wrote: “For many Israelis, this report is a cause for worry because it reveals a condescending attitude toward our prime minister and Israeli public opinion. This is an attitude that Israel does not expect from a real friend such as the US, and all the more so from an Israeli Jew who has succeeded in being appointed White House chief-of-staff.”

Refugee Chess
by Frederick Deknatel | 19 Apr 2009

They lived well in Baghdad; their eldest daughter had two cars. Six years later, the Iraqi couple moves their mattresses out of the bedroom each night to sleep on the living room floor. The only bedroom is left for their daughters while they live in this concrete refugee suburb of Damascus.

Can the al-Asad Regime Make Peace with Israel?
By J. Scott Carpenter
April 21, 2009
Washington Inst. for Near East Policy

U.S. and European observers believe that Israel’s new government will seek peace with Damascus in an attempt to pry the Syrian regime away from Tehran. Pursuing the Syrian track would also give the Obama administration an outlet for its peacemaking energies, given the ongoing dysfunction of Palestinian politics. Syrian president Bashar al-Asad, however, poured cold water on such prospects at the Arab League Summit in Doha, calling efforts toward peace with Israel “useless.” Rhetoric notwithstanding, advocates of the Syrian track hope an isolated and economically desperate Damascus will grasp the olive branch, ushering in a strategic regional realignment and a period of relative stability. Although these are laudable objectives, such a peace with Syria remains highly unlikely for a fundamental reason: without Israel as an enemy, Syria’s minority regime loses its sole rationale for retaining power……

Syrian president reshuffles cabinet with five new Ministers. 2009-04-23

DAMASCUS, Apr 23, 2009 (Xinhua via COMTEX) — Syrian President Bashar al-Assad on Thursday reshuffled the Syrian cabinet with the appointment of five new ministers and the establishment of a new ministry, the official SANA news agency reported.

The president issued a decree in which he named Saeed Sammour as the new interior minister, Ahmad Younes as the new minister of Justice, Rida Said as the new minister of health, Tamer Fouad al- Hejjeh as the new minister of local administration, and Mansour Azzam as the new minister of presidential affairs.

The Ministry of Environment, headed by Kawkab al-Sabah Dayeh, was established according to the decree, the report said.

The decree also included the appointment of Mohammed Nabil al- Khatib as chairman of the Central Commission of Inspection.

It’s Assad’s second major reshuffle of his government since February 2006, when Assad changed 14 posts in the Syrian cabinet, including key foreign and interior ministers.

Last year, the president replaced five ministers, including housing and electricity ministers, in another reshuffle.

Iraq and Syria move closer to opening Oil Pipeline

BAGHDAD, April 23 (UPI) — Syria and Iraq moved a step closer to normalizing relations during meetings in Baghdad by moving on plans to repair an oil pipeline between the two countries.

U.S. forces bombed the pipeline to Syria shortly after the 2003 invasion. Plans to repair the route have moved along in various stages since then. Iraqi oil officials opened invitations for bids to examine the pipeline and necessary repairs, The National newspaper in the United Arab Emirates reports.

The Kirkuk-Banias oil pipeline extends 500 miles from oil fields in northern Iraq to the Syrian port of Banias. At its peak, the line carried around 300,000 barrels per day. Repairs to the line would give Iraq a vital avenue for oil exports to Europe while providing much-needed economic incentives to Syria…..

Comments (43)

qunfuz said:

On Ahmadinejad, whose speech obviously reflects the majority view in the region (and here in the UK I keep meeting Brits who agreed with it), and the hypocrisy of those who left the hall, here is my rant:

April 24th, 2009, 10:36 am


norman said:

As long as there is no international law that applies to every country , there will be terrorism and despair ,

This is the Israeli respond to Syria’s peace initiatives.

Israel FM hits out at Iran, Syria(AFP)

24 April 2009 Print E-mail
JERUSALEM – Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman said in an interview published Friday Iran is a key obstacle to resolving the Middle East conflict and spoke out against resuming indirect talks with Syria.

It would be impossible, Lieberman told the English-language Jerusalem Post, ‘to resolve any problem in our region without resolving the Iranian problem.’

The biggest obstacle to any comprehensive solution, the right-wing minister said, ‘is not Israel, it is not the Palestinians. It’s the Iranians.’

The daily, which did not publish the full interview, also said Lieberman cited Syria’s deepening ties with Iran-Israel’s archfoe-and added that he saw no point in resuming the indirect talks with Damascus conducted by the last government.

‘We don’t see any good will come the Syrian side. Only the threats like: ‘If you’re not ready to talk, we’ll retake the Golan by military action’,’ Lieberman said.

Israel occupied the Golan in the 1967 Six-Day War and annexed it in 1981 in a move never recognised by the international community. In May last year, Syria and Israel began indirect talks after negotiations halted eight years earlier over the fate of the strategic plateau.

An immigrant from the former Soviet Union who lives in a West Bank settlement, Lieberman said the real reason for the deadlock with the Palestinians ‘is not occupation, not settlements and not settlers.’

‘It started like other national conflicts … today it’s a more religious conflict. Today you have the influence of some non-rational players, like Al Qaeda,’ said Lieberman.

He rapped the world community for ‘speaking in slogans’ when addressing the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

‘And everybody, you know, speaks with you like you’re in a campaign: occupation, settlements, settlers,’ he said, adding that ‘slogans’ like ‘two-state solution’ are overly simplistic and ignore the root causes of the conflict.

The Jerusalem Post said Lieberman would not say whether he ruled out or accepted the concept of a Palestinian state.

He said the new government, which took office on March 31, would complete its foreign policy review over the next two weeks and announce it when Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu meets US President Barack Obama at the White House in May.

April 24th, 2009, 12:45 pm


Akbar Palace said:

Qunfuz said:

We hate them – from a deep and blackly bubbling well – because they are thieves and murderers and racists and liars. A Zionist is a Zionist, whether he’s a Jew like Olmert or a WASP like Bush.


Jews have every right to self-determination as Palestinians do.

You may “hate” the idea, but so what?

April 24th, 2009, 1:55 pm


Karim said:

Qunfuz:On Ahmadinejad, whose speech obviously reflects the majority view in the region
Qunfuz ,despite its important oil revenues as country,the Iranian people are as poor than the syrian one.
You can see their poor situation when they visit Syria,in Aleppo ,mollahs imported from Iran by the syrian regime ,at a special day in the year ,shed animal blood on as stone and by this they creat a miracle ,telling these poor pakistani and iranian piligrims that on this stone was placed the head of Imam al Hussain during a stop from Karbala to Damascus trip,you would answer ,these tourists are from the low class,i agree,but so are an important percentage of the iranians.One idea :The average salary in rich oil Iran is between 100-200 US dollars/month.
Saudi Arabia that we like to criticize,which had 90% of illiterates few decades ago is now ahead of Iran in all human devoloppment indicators.The Saudis,Kuwaitis ,Omanis are today the most important books readers in the Arab world.(in the 70’s it was the Lebanese and Iraqis).
Secondo ,the speech of Ahmadinejad for sure doesnt reflect the opinion of the Iranians ,who had enough of all this for export hypocrisy.
The problem with Iran ,is their political dualism,the theocratic regime of Iran still maintain ties with the Americans and also the Israelis,we know that they hate the Palestinians as they hate the other Arabs even the Shias like the Ahvazis and Iraqis,so all these exagerated slogans around the palestinian cause has as goal to gain the respect and support of far-distant Arabs(Egyptians and Maghrebians).
Qunfuz ,you should take into account what they have in their hearts and not the slogans they use.
The Iranian regime and their puppets ,are not less our enemies than the Zionists.

April 24th, 2009, 3:06 pm


Alex said:

More about the new Syrian ministers from ALL4Syria (in Arabic):

April 24th, 2009, 4:15 pm


Matassi said:

I think Mr. Saeed Sammour the new interior minister was the assistance to the intelligence chief\Boss Assif Shoukat !!.. This is an incredible indication of how some of the security files related to the M. Brothers and opposition groups will be moving !! very positive sign indeed

April 24th, 2009, 4:18 pm


Alex said:

دبلوماسي سوري: مشاركة السفارة الأمريكية بلندن في احتفالنا بعيد الجلاء أمر طبيعي و مرحب به

اعتبر دبلوماسي سوري أن مشاركة السفارة الأمريكية بلندن للمرة الأولى منذ نحو خمس سنوات في مناسبة عيد الجلاء التي نظمتها سفارة بلاده في بريطانيا أمراً طبيعياً و مرحباً به ومؤشراً على بداية عودة الدفء للعلاقات الثنائية، وأكد أن تطور العلاقات مع الولايات المتحدة يعتمد على نوعية دور الولايات المتحدة في المنطقة وقيام الأخيرة بممارسة دور الوسيط النزيه في عملية السلام في الشرق الأوسط.

وابلغ جهاد مقدسي المتحدث بإسم السفارة السورية بلندن يونايتدبرس انترناشنال أن حضور دبلوماسية أمريكية حفل الإستقبال الذي اجرته السفارة السورية بلندن بمناسبة عيد الجلاء لنقل تهانيها للحكومة السورية “أمر طبيعي و مرحب به، وإن كان يعبر عن شيء فإنما يعبّر عن أن العلاقات مع الولايات المتحدة بدأت تعود إلى طبيعتها، وكما هو معروف فقد شارك جيفري فيلتمان (مساعد وزيرة الخارجية الأمريكية لشؤون الشرق الأوسط) في الاحتفال الذي دعت إليه سفارتنا في واشنطن، كما يُعد أيضاً تجسيداً لما أعلنه الرئيس الأمريكي باراك أوباما بالإنخراط في الدبلوماسية عوضاً عن شن الحروب و خصوصاً مع دولة مهمة و أساسية في معادلة الشرق الأوسط مثل سورية”.

وأضاف مقدسي “يجب أن لا ننسى أن هناك سفارة أمريكية في دمشق لم تغلق أبوابها تحت أي ظرف و هي تعمل أصولاً وبتشاور دائم مع الخارجية السورية إذ أن جوهر و أساس العمل الدبلوماسي هو التشاور حتى في الأزمات لتتوضح مواقف كل طرف”.

وكانت الولايات المتحدة استدعت سفيرتها في دمشق مارغريت سكوبي في فبراير/شباط 2005 بعد اغتيال رئيس الوزراء اللبناني الأسبق رفيق الحريري ولم ترسل سفيراً جديداً إلى هناك منذ ذلك الوقت.

وسُئل ما إذا كانت هذه المشاركة بادرة نحو تحسن العلاقات بين دمشق وواشنطن، فأجاب “سورية تنادي بالحوار و السيد وزير الخارجية (وليد المعلم) معروف عنه أنه رجل الحوار والمفاوضات، كما أن سورية لم تُغلق أبوابها بوجه أحد في أية مرحلة ما وكانت المشكلة هي في ابتعاد أمريكا نفسها عن الدبلوماسية في ظل الإدارة السابقة”.

واضاف مقدسي “الأمور حالياً ما زالت في اطوارها الاستكشافية وكلما اقتربت أمريكا من لعب دورها الأساسي كدولة دائمة العضوية في مجلس الأمن مهمتها تحقيق السلام والإستقرار في العالم وتمارس دور الوسيط النزيه في عملية السلام في الشرق الأوسط، كلما ازداد الدفء في علاقاتنا معها وهذا هو معيار الدفء والبرودة في علاقاتنا، وبعبارة أخرى العنوان هو قضايانا المشروعة والاستقرار في المنطقة “.

وعن مدى ارتياح بلاده لسير العلاقات مع الولايات المتحدة في ظل الإدارة الجديدة، أكد المتحدث بإسم السفارة السورية في لندن “أن منبع الإرتياح السوري هو أننا ثابتون تجاه مواقفنا المبدئية والمشروعة ونرى أن الغرب قد بدأ يتفهم سورية أكثر وحقيقة مواقفها المبدئية”.

وسُئل ما إذا كان الدبلوماسيون السوريون في لندن وعواصم أخرى سيشاركون في المناسبات التي تقيمها سفارات الولايات المتحدة، فأجاب “أي نشاط دبلوماسي نُدعى إليه مع دولة نقيم معها علاقات طبيعية سنشارك فيه بالطبع وهذا ينسحب على الجميع كما أن مستوى التمثيل يُحدد في وقته من قبل ذوي الشأن”

April 24th, 2009, 7:23 pm


Atassi said:

Syrian Embassy in Washington reception !! with photos

April 24th, 2009, 7:58 pm


Amir in Tel Aviv said:


It’s a waste of time to argue with you, but.. anyway…

A’njad claim has an internal contradiction:
He says the Holocaust never happened, therefor there is no justification
to the Zionist entity.
SO: the opposite of this claim would be: if the Holocaust DID happened,
there is a justification to create Israel?
I’m ready to get this deal of yes/no Holocaust = yes/no Israel.

The reasons of MR. A’njad, spout from Islam and the Koran, and has nothing
to do with the Holocaust. He believes that Holy-land is Dar al Islam.
This has nothing to do with the Holocaust.

But talking about the Holocaust ( instead of talking about what is written
in the Koran ) would sound better to the ears of his audience.

About your hate to Zionism… it’s OK with me. Be my guest.
But why is Arab conquest of Holy-land, justified and right,
and Jewish “re=conquesta” of Holy-land, wrong..?

Not A’njad is the Hypocrite. It is you.

April 24th, 2009, 8:33 pm


Karim said:

Amir ,Palestine is for the Palestinians whatever their religious or ethnic belonging: Muslims,Christians,Jews,Armenians,Arabs,Syriacs all of those had their quarters .

In the past,it’s generally accepted that the jews tookrefuge in the Islamic world ,from Al Andalus to Samarkand.

What the Zionists did is an act of treachery and Amir do you believe that Israel is eternal ,if not ,better for you to think how to build ONE united state with your Palestinian neighbors ,pluralistic and democratic ,in which the jews can be a minority.

April 24th, 2009, 9:05 pm


Yossi (AKA Rumyal) said:

>>> It’s a waste of time to argue with you, but.. anyway…

Look who’s talking. You are yet to respond reasonably to one challenge leveled at you.

April 25th, 2009, 12:23 am


norman said:

This should make every Syrian proud,and should open the eyes of every Israeli to Human rights in Syria,

Deccan Herald » She » Detailed Story

Striding ahead without fear

Women Empowerment: Syria stands out as a leader in the Middle East when it comes to women power. Though a country that takes pride in its conservative religious traditions, women in Syria are confident, educated and work in varied professions, reports Shubha Singh

At a recent summit in the Gulf region, the wife of one of the Arab leaders referred to the women police officers who had recently been inducted in the prestigious presidential guards in her country. It was talked of with pride as a measure of how high women could aspire till the Syrians pointed out that they had a woman Vice President, Dr Najah al-Attar, since 2006. In her mid-70s, Dr al-Attar had been a minister in the government for over 25 years before becoming Vice President. The position of women in Syrian society is a matter of pride for them.

Syria has a young population; over 60 per cent of Syrians are under the age of 25 years. The young population is immediately discernable on the streets of Syrian towns — in the groups of school children on their way to and back from school, in the gangs of young men lounging at the street corners and girls in their own groups out for the day. The young people like to meet in the multitude of restaurants or just gather in the parks and street corners. The streets of Damascus display a full range of female fashion from an all-encompassing black abaya to blue jeans to long, flowing gold-streaked dresses.

Rabiya explains the intricacies of the dress code in Damascus; “women of the modernised, upper class do not cover their hair,” she says “while middle class women wear Western clothes and a headscarf. The totally Westernised looking women are Christian, Palestinians, Lebanese and Iraqi.” Damascus has a substantial population of Palestinian and Iraqi refugees. But there is a wide variation in the styles of dress. Conservative chic in Damascus is a cream coloured scarf tied tightly round the head to cover the ears and the neck region, worn with the tightest of jeans. Modern young girls have shed the headscarf and wear short t-shirts that provide an occasional glimpse of the midriff. Dress is a matter of personal choice, though it is sometimes dictated by the family milieu. Rabiya works as a translator, and belongs to a conservative family. She began wearing the hijab (headscarf) as a young girl, and leaves her hair uncovered only in the presence of her father, brother and uncles.
As she prepares to get married later this year, she plans to continue wearing the headscarf even though her husband’s family is more modern and does not want her to cover up. “I believe it is right to wear the headscarf. I plan to continue wearing it,” she explained. “It is part of my lifestyle. There is no discomfort, I feel good wearing it,” she added.

Night clubs, pubs, boutique hotels and restaurants have opened up in the aging mansions of the old city where young and older women can be seen enjoying the ‘sheesha’ (hookah). The fruit flavoured (apple, mint are the preferred flavours) sheesha smoke emanating from the painted glass hubble-bubble is said to have a soothing effect. Damascus is reputed to be a safe city with low crime rates where women can walk safely at any time. And clearly there is an innate courtesy and politeness among the people in Syria so that there is little of that intrusive staring at a group of Indian women walking down the streets.

Equal rights, equal wages

Women in Syria got the right to vote as early as 1953 and women now constitute about 12 per cent of the membership of its National Assembly, but many young women believe that it is not enough. The issues facing women in Syria are the same as in India. These are questions such as equal rights and equal wages for women and why there aren’t more women in the political parties.

Vice President Najah al-Attar said that nothing forbids women from taking part in different spheres of the country’s life. The doors were opened for development of women by the late President Assad, who wanted women to be able to reach their goals. There are now women writers, poets, journalists and businesswomen in Syria and women are able to enter new professions. Women now have a choice. Dr al Attar said that Islam lays great emphasis on the importance of learning. One of the Haadiths (sayings of The Prophet) said — “seek knowledge even if it be in China”, she said. “It is only the ignorant in religion who want to ban learning.”

Women have won several rights not available to women in other Arab countries. An important one is the custody of children till the age of 15 years in case of marital disputes. Another hard-won right on the cards is the right to children of marriages between Syrian women and non-Syrian fathers to take the nationality of their mother. It is in actual fact a right given to children to be able to retain Syrian nationality, but has been a matter of concern to women in Syria.

Syria has 86 per cent literacy, women’s literacy levels went up from 33 per cent in 1980 to 79 per cent in 1999. Primary education is free and compulsory in Syria, now over 51 per cent of university graduates in Syria are women. Though Syria is a Muslim majority country, which has a strong religious tradition, women have been entering the workforce in larger numbers. Women are well represented in the judicial system, the General Prosecutor is a woman and there are 170 women judges and 250 assistant judges.

Statistics are difficult to come by but the most favoured jobs for women are in teaching, medicine and healthcare. Roughly about 57 per cent of teachers in Syria are women though there are fewer numbers of women holding senior positions in higher education.

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April 25th, 2009, 1:03 am


alle said:

Come on, that article is hallucinatory. Sure womens’ rights are better in Syria than in some other Arab countries (much of N. Africa is ahead, most of the rest behind), but that article could almost be from SANA…

April 25th, 2009, 2:55 am


norman said:


I do not know why you have to be defensive and claim that north Africa is better , you should remember that Syrian teachers went to north Africa and taught Arabic after their independence and that was after they helped these countries like Algeria get theirs,

The increase in literacy in Syria between 1980 when i left and 1999 is worth a lot , I think by now probably the percentage is much better and Yes the Syrians should be proud of that and yes i do not think that North Africa is better than Syria.

April 25th, 2009, 3:18 am


Amir in Tel Aviv said:


I’m sorry if I did miss a question (or a challenge) from you.
This site updates so fast (and it’s something I appreciate about it),
that sometimes it’s hard to keep track.
So please, repeat, and do challenge me.. I become curious ..!!

April 25th, 2009, 12:56 pm


qunfuz said:

Jews do not have the right to self-determination in a country which belongs to a non-Jewish majority. I question whether Jews are a nation anyway, but all nations are artificial, and it isn’t really my business. The thing is, in personal and international relations, your rights end, or become problematised, at the point where they infringe on someone else’s rights. Hitler believed that his conquest of Poland, Czechoslovakia, etc, was self-determination because there were German communities in these countries. Louis Farrakhan types may believe that kicking non-blacks out of chicago is part of a legitimate programme of self-determination. I disagree.

In any case, there are five million Israeli Jews. I don’t mind them living in Palestine, or speaking Hebrew, or celebrating their new Israeli culture. I mind them expelling, occupying, concentrating the Palestinian natives. Let the refugees return, take down checkpoints and walls, disarm everybody, give everybody equal rights and opportunities, and I will have no problem with Israel-Palestine.

April 25th, 2009, 1:16 pm


alle said:

I don’t see how Syrian teachers in Algeria in the 1960s makes Syrian women’s rights better today. The article portrays Syria as if it was outstanding in the region, which it isn’t. It’s among the top five Arab countries or so, but by any global stanard, it’s still in a poor place. One should be realistic about that, but the article completely avoids all the downsides to these issues (eg. family law being run on sectarian grounds by religious courts).

More particularly, I don’t think it’s a winnable project to try to get Israelis to admire the human rights situation in Syria…

April 25th, 2009, 3:42 pm


Yossi (AKA Rumyal) said:

Amir the Conquistador,

You can start by answering whether you are serious about the religious re-conquest of the country “by the Jews and for the Jews” from “the Muslim” is a valid justification in the geopolitical arena, that Israel should invoke, for example in the UN?

Or is this something that Israelis should believe in but conceal it, since it will give them bad publicity if it became widespread knowledge that they are religious crackpots?

Let me answer for you: I think you have an array of arguments to explicate the current Israeli ideology and history. None of them is extremely strong or convincing by its own right, but you’re compensating by that with volume as in 10 weak arguments together may hold together, we can fudge some reasonable story out of that… no?

Another thing you should probably catch up on is logic inference. “not A” then “not B” doesn’t imply A then B.

For example “If I won’t by a lottery ticket, then I won’t win the lottery” doesn’t imply that “If I do by a lottery ticket, then I would win the lottery”. In other conditions, buying a lottery ticket is a necessary, but not a sufficient, condition for winning the lottery.

Similarly, in your argument with Iran over the holocaust, the holocaust is a necessary condition to justify Israel, but it doesn’t mean that it’s a sufficient condition for justifying Israel.

April 25th, 2009, 4:43 pm


Yossi (AKA Rumyal) said:

To put this a little bit more formally, if it is true that:

>>> “no holocaust” -> not true that “Israel justified”

Then out of this it *doesn’t* follow that

>>> holocaust -> Israel justified.

It does imply however that

>>> Israel justified -> holocaust (did happen)

Just goes to show how your existence is dependent on interpretation of history, which is not a great proposition for stability.

Compare that with:

>> All people are treated equally regardless of religion, ethnicity, sex and shoe size.

This definition of a (Utopian) country is totally agnostic to historic interpretation. Israel needs to move much closer to the equality pole in order to be stable.

April 25th, 2009, 4:54 pm


Off the Wall said:

Dear Norman
Alle, as we have been accustomed on these pages, uses true statements in order to deny any progress in Syria. Nothing new in that, we see it day in and day out.

Syrian women are better off then many in the neighborhood. On the one hand, literacy in Syria is rather high, and compared to a north African countries literacy among syrian women, especially in the country side is much higher. However, in 2004, Morocco made a giant step by enacting a new family code, which is to be applied without deference to religious affiliation (universal as opposed to sect based). In the new law, much of the offensive language against women was removed. It also established equal rights including the rights to initiate divorce, custody, and to share marriage assets were also established, along with significant improvement in inheritance, and a strict control on polygamy. Many of these are all demands and rights Syrian women, particularly muslim women are needing.

At the same time, a woman in Morocco still needs her husbands approval before she can get a job. And especially in rural areas, as I mentioned above, illiteracy continues to be a much bogger problem in Morocco than in Syria.

I am extremely proud of Syrian women and I do not have to look further than my own family to see reasons for such pride. Yet, I do believe that the road is still long and arduous, and with the recent increase in religiosity, it is becoming harder, especially regarding the enactment of modern universal personal status laws (including family laws), that are applicable to all Syrians independent of religion. Even Syrian penal code, continues to treat “honor crimes” with offensive leniency, opening the door for economically motivated murderers to hide behind it. This is not to mention the absurdity of the notion of “honor crime” in itself.

The personal status laws in Syria are remnant of the Ottoman law. It has been nearly a 100 years, isn’t it time to abolish them.

April 25th, 2009, 5:59 pm


norman said:


Thanks for you input , The way i look at it is that the government can do so much then the people have to do more , with Education free to university level and with the job market open to all , i see that the government of Syria did it’s job , the people have to take advantage of these services , and send their daughters to school and to work ,

Simply , you can take the horse to the water but you can not make him drink ,

About the other laws like polygamy and other inheritance laws , Syria can make polygamy more difficult and make it costly , but it would be difficult to lead the initiative in that because it is allowed in Islam ,

The inheritance and the personal laws apparently accepted by the people in Syria , and until there is a movement to change , I am not sure Syria should do anything , I actually like religious marriages that are registered instead of the other way around as might put same sex marriages in the religious organization and the Syrian government stays out of it.

April 25th, 2009, 6:21 pm


majedkhaldoun said:

The jews has the right of self determination,here, in USA, why not?give them part of new york,or florda.

April 25th, 2009, 7:06 pm


Shai said:


You should have noted to Amir that the correct inference in “If not-A then not-B” is “If B then A” (instead of “If A then B”) In other words, in his example, “If there was no Holocaust then Israel has no legitimacy” does not infer “If there WAS a Holocaust then Israel HAS legitimacy”, but rather “If Israel HAS legitimacy then there WAS a Holocaust” (which of course makes no sense…)

Lieberman must have been consulting with AP and AIG before making his latest statement (“Syria is no partner for peace”). Seems our Foreign Minister also doesn’t understand the basic rules of logic, believing that “If Syria doesn’t end its relationship with Iran, then Israel won’t consider making peace with her” means “If Syria does end its relationship with Iran, then Israel will consider making peace with her”… 🙂 Sometimes you wonder if any of these semi-literate “leaders” (I’ll now be accused of being an antisemi-literate) ever studied anything beyond “Bible Studies”…

April 25th, 2009, 7:09 pm


Shai said:


We already have NY and FL. Give us Marin County, CA, and Bar Harbor, Maine, and we’ll call it a day…

April 25th, 2009, 7:12 pm


Shai said:

“Lieberman: Syria is no partner for peace”

“… “Syria supports Hezbollah and its arms trafficking into southern Lebanon. Syria supports Iran’s nuclear program. That is why I cannot see in Syria a real partner for any type of agreement,” Lieberman told the Austrian publication.”

So in 1977, Lieberman would have rejected Sadat’s peaceful overtures, saying “Egypt supports Syria and Iraq’s nuclear program. That is why I cannot see in Egypt a real partner for any type of agreement…”

And Syria can say: “Israel supports illegal occupation, subjugation, and suffocation of 4 million people and their territory. Israel occupies our own land for over 40 years, explicitly expresses its plan not to return it to Syria, and is supporting anti-Syrian activities and legislation, while trying to undermine the current regime. That is why we cannot see in Israel a real partner for any type of agreement…”

Never can Israel and Syria be more in agreement, than now. So why is Syria still trying? What is it about this that they just don’t get?

April 25th, 2009, 8:03 pm


Amir in Tel Aviv said:


I didn’t pass the course in logic and applications.. 🙂

Anyway, I just tried to refute the childish narrative that A’njad
so much tries to fixate. that:

…there was a vicious parish in Europe (he calls are “a parish”), that
no one liked. This parish was hated and despised by all Europeans.
So the Europeans tried to get rid of them ( Holocaust ).
Later, this despicable parish plotted a plot: lets flee Europe, and take
the land of this well established state ( “palestine” ) in the (at odds)
Middle-East, expel the Innocent citizens of this state, and create
a colony for this parish.
And they lived unhappily ever after…

April 25th, 2009, 8:18 pm


norman said:

Shai, Yossi,

It is simple,

Lieberman Will not make peace with Syria as long as Syria gas relation with Iran , Then he will not have peace with Syria if it breaks relation with Iran , because Syria has nothing to offer and he does not have to.

Typical Israeli politics , ((( Disarm then will make peace with you on our terms, Do not disarm then we will not have peace with you ))).

Israel has to be forced.

April 25th, 2009, 8:39 pm


majid said:

MAJEDKHALDOUN said, “The jews has the right of self determination,here, in USA, why not?give them part of new york,or florda.”

Forgive me but I have to strongly disagree. The Jews have no right of self determination here in the USA. They would ruin the USA. The Jews have a right of self determination on a land that has no people according to their own manifesto. So, find them an empty spot on the planet and ship them over. Make sure to build a barrier all around it so they would feel at home and in harmony with their inner collective consciousness and at the same time they do not infringe on others.

April 25th, 2009, 8:42 pm


Shai said:


Careful, you’re starting to understand Israeli politics… 🙂 But on a serious note, you have no idea how happy I am nowadays, seeing how clarity once again returns to our region. No U.S. administration can claim now that Israel is a peaceful country, seeking nothing but peace with its neighbors. We “sold” that one to George Dubya, but it was easy to sell just about anything to the electric-chair pressing ex-governor of Texas. Obama, however, shouldn’t be so “misunderestimated” (a word George W. made up). He hears Lieberman, and he’s going to want an explanation from Bibi early next month. I have a funny feeling Bibi will tell him “Not to worry, Mr. President. I keep him around so that other dogs don’t bite me. But I’m the boss, not him…” Or not.

April 25th, 2009, 9:01 pm


majid said:


As a follow up to my last comment (# 28), if you couldn’t find an empty spot on the planet for the Jews to self determine themselves on it, then you could always propose King Abd-Azeez proposal to President Roosevelt when they first met on the destroyer in the red sea after the Yalta conference. Roosevelt asked the King for his blessings to give Palestine to the Jews. The King replied:

I propose that you carve a piece of land out of Germany, the oppressor of the Jews, and give it to the Jews to self determine themselves on it.

Very wise, very simple and very insightful!

And they keep on saying that a Bedouin does not understand international politics!!! What a bunch of amateurish fools these 21st century politicians?!
The Arabs must revive this proposal and make it their next initiative.

April 25th, 2009, 9:25 pm


norman said:

About the right of the Jews to return to Palestine and live ,
I personally think that they have that right , assuming that we are sure of their origin , What I do not like and think is cruel is for the Jews who came back to deny the Jews and non Jews who stayed for centuries and probably changed religion many times their rights to stay and live as equals.

The question always comes to why was Israel established , was it established so the Jews will have a sanctuary from the rest of the world that at times abused them or was it a way for the rest of the world to tell their own Jewish population that there is a Jewish state and they can be exiled there,
The other question is , With anti discrimination laws that are in the West ,and the Jews living as equal in the West , Is there any good reason to have a sanctuary for the Jews IE Israel , some people think that there is no reason at this time.

And that is my take.

April 25th, 2009, 9:34 pm


alle said:

Off the WallAlle, as we have been accustomed on these pages, uses true statements in order to deny any progress in Syria. Nothing new in that, we see it day in and day out.

Oh, that’s news to me. I’ve made perhaps five or ten comments on SC over the course of what, three years? You think that’s too much?

About your points, I would agree with most of what you say, but the article cited raised none of the ambiguities and problems that exist. Instead, it glorified the situation and sounded like a SANA feature report. This has nothing to do with being proud of Syria’s women, of course you should be proud of every Syrian citizen. Pointing out that Syrian women still face very serious discrimination (as do women everywhere, to different degrees) is not an attack on them, it’s an attack on the discrimination itself. The more Syrians complain about that, the more there will be to be proud of.

Same as when Norman says:

About the other laws like polygamy and other inheritance laws , Syria can make polygamy more difficult and make it costly , but it would be difficult to lead the initiative in that because it is allowed in Islam […] The inheritance and the personal laws apparently accepted by the people in Syria , and until there is a movement to change , I am not sure Syria should do anything

This is also very reasonable, as opposed (I think) to the first post. I don’t think the state should run too far ahead of public opinion, even if I happen to disagree with the conservatism of public opinion on this issue, both because it would be undemocratic and because it would be politically unworkable. That is exactly the sort of complexities that should be mentioned in a serious article on gender issues in Syria, but which were not.

April 25th, 2009, 10:14 pm


norman said:


You are probably right , The article stressed the positive achievements and failed to mention the negative and the still to work on ones , Yes it was a feel good article , but still nice one to feel good , it is a halve full glass not halve empty one.

April 25th, 2009, 10:37 pm


Yossi (AKA Rumyal) said:


You wanted to know what questions I thought you were evading. I gave you one question, about re-conquest, and you haven’t answered it. Please do, if you’d like to prove that you are able to.

April 25th, 2009, 10:38 pm


Yossi (AKA Rumyal) said:

“Dear” Majid,

>>> So, find them [“The Jews”] an empty spot on the planet and ship them over. Make sure to build a barrier all around it so they would feel at home and in harmony with their inner collective consciousness and at the same time they do not infringe on others.

Your schizophrenia is severe, I only wonder whether its onsets coincide with the lunar cycles or something else, would be nice to know if there’s a way to prepare for it.

April 25th, 2009, 10:42 pm


norman said:


It is like an irregular PMS,

April 25th, 2009, 10:46 pm


Shai said:


I wish he had said some of those things earlier on. Would have saved me wasting my time responding…

April 25th, 2009, 11:17 pm


Majid said:

I believe it is better if you keep guessing. It is not worth answering your last non-comment.

To Everyone Else.

This may well turn out to be the next phase:

Nothing will stunt Palestinian rebirth
By Rami G. Khouri
Daily Star staff
Saturday, April 25, 2009
How quickly and easily the Middle East and the world seem to accept mass brutalization of Palestinians as a normal state of affairs. Yet an important lesson of our age is that the Palestinians themselves will not passively acquiesce in this fate forever. The third generation of Palestinians since the nakba – the shattering and exile of the Palestinians that was part of the birth of the Jewish Israeli state in 1947-1948 – has indicated through two intifadas and the current Hamas-led resistance that it will fight back and force a reshuffling of the political and diplomatic cards when the status quo becomes unbearable.
Israel’s siege of Gaza since the Hamas electoral victory of 2006 has been widely supported by major Western powers, and quietly supported by some Arab states. Hamas and other smaller resistance groups responded by confronting Israel and the Fatah leadership of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, leading to a small war between Hamas and Fatah in 2007 and a larger conflict between Hamas and Israel in 2008-2009.
Now, months later, the Gaza situation seems to have returned to its default state of siege, stagnation, de-development and oblivion. This includes continued mass reliance on international charity simply to feed most of the residents of Gaza – but at levels of nutrition well below what is required for normal growth and development. Last year, according to data from UNRWA, the United Nations agency responsible for providing Palestinian refugees with their basic needs, children in Gaza were showing signs of stunted growth that reflected malnourishment, which normally takes a few years to manifest itself.
So not only are the Palestinians of Gaza denied the fruits of their democratic elections, and the opportunity to travel normally and trade with the world; they are also losing their biological capacity to grow physically as normal human beings. Politically dehumanized Palestinians, though, will not accept also to be physically miniaturized.
So we can be sure of one thing now, when Gaza appears quiet on the surface: the Palestinians in Gaza are not passively watching their own dehumanization on television and wallowing in self-pity. What they are doing, and how their actions will translate into new political or military dynamics, is not evident on the surface. What is clear is that the status quo will not hold, and will be shattered in ways we cannot now predict.
This has been aptly stated in a new report by the prescient and honest analysts at the International Crisis Group (ICG), in a report titled “Gaza’s Unfinished Business.” It notes that three months after the December-January Gaza war, “urgency has given way to complacency and complacency to neglect … If the underlying factors that precipitated the Gaza war are not addressed, Hamas and Israel could soon find themselves on the edge of another explosion.”

The fundamental crisis today, the ICG reminds us, is not humanitarian but political. “If the siege remains, Hamas could launch large-scale attacks. If weapons smuggling and rocket fire persist, Israel could mount a new offensive. Without some Palestinian unity, Gaza’s rebuilding will not begin. In short, defusing this crisis requires a sustainable Israel-Hamas ceasefire, Gaza’s reconstruction and Palestinian reconciliation.”
A vital first step is a credible ceasefire agreement that includes re-opening Gaza’s borders and stopping attacks against Israel. ICG also argues wisely that the Quartet should soften its insistence on the need for a Palestinian unity government to accept Israeli demands on recognition and security as an entry ticket into negotiations. Instead the Quartet and the world should judge a new Palestinian unity government “on what really counts: willingness (or not) to enforce a mutual ceasefire with Israel, acceptance of the PLO Chairman’s authority to negotiate an agreement with Israel and respect for the results of a referendum on an eventual accord.”
Such unbiased facts-based analysis looks at Palestinian and Israeli rights as goals of equal magnitude that need to be implemented simultaneously. This is in sharp contrast with the American- and Israeli-led Quartet, which – persistently and unsuccessfully – demands commitment to Israel’s security as the starting point for any diplomacy. “The world is adjusting to the status quo, but the status quo is not sustainable”, warns Robert Malley, the ICG’s Middle East program director. “Getting out of the current deadlock will require courageous and forward-looking adjustment by all – Palestinians, Israel and the international community alike. Otherwise, a besieged Gaza once again will reach a boiling point.”
It’s very simple, really. When Jews were dehumanized and brutalized in Europe, they broke out of their siege and created their state of Israel. The Palestinians are now at a similar stage of national trauma, resistance and rebirth. Human beings do not take kindly to being miniaturized.

April 25th, 2009, 11:17 pm


majid said:

It is amazing. Shai thinks he can continue to deceive every Arab commentator on this blog by sweet-talking himself for ever. Of course, that’s what they told him when they recruited him to head to the land without people: those backward Airabs are very easy to deceive. So he’s faithfully acting on the advice.

Surprisingly, he still believes that!!! Incurable

April 25th, 2009, 11:51 pm


alle said:

Norman — We agree, then! And sorry if I my tone was a bit harsh at first.

April 25th, 2009, 11:53 pm


Shai said:

Hey Norman,

Are you one of them “Airabs” Majid is talking about? 😉

April 26th, 2009, 3:24 am


Akbar Palace said:

The Jews have no right of self determination here in the USA. They would ruin the USA.


Frankly, with statements like the one you made above, we now know you’re not a moderate. This is unfortunate. When you first started posting here you were much more balanced in your approach and in your language.

Moreover, I have been following your thread with Shai. It seems to me you are accusing Shai of being dishonest (you stated, among other things):

Shai thinks he can continue to deceive every Arab commentator on this blog…

As much as I disagree with Shai, I have never thought of Shai as a phoney or as a “deceiver”. He has strong opinions and he has been a CONSISTENT friend of the Palestinians in terms of his support of their narrative in this conflict. He doesn’t deserve the labels you are placing on him.

So, find them an empty spot on the planet and ship them over.

The Jews have found their “spot”. No, it wasn’t empty, but it doesn’t have to be. North, Central and South America wasn’t empty when people immigrated westward to these continents.

Jews bought land from other Arabs or settled areas where there were none. Also, the Jews didn’t “ruin” Palestine like the Palestinians ruined Gaza. Jews left refugee camps because they didn’t need them as monuments of the past. She built up the State of Israel which is a beautiful, rather successful state. That is why most Israeli-Arabs want to stay in Israel instead of being incorporated into the PA.

April 26th, 2009, 4:46 pm


Majid said:

AP said, “Frankly, with statements like the one you made above, we now know you’re not a moderate.”

Sorry AP, I’m who I’m and labels don’t matter to me. Of course Jews should not have self determination in the US. I’m certain they would ruin the US if they seek such rights.

AP said, “As much as I disagree with Shai, I have never thought of Shai as a phoney or as a “deceiver”.”

I have to disagree on this. I believe ADRIADNA was right about him. His support for the Palestinians is phony and is no different than any die-hard Zionist.

AP said, “The Jews have found their “spot”. No, it wasn’t empty, but it doesn’t have to be.”

We have to disagree on this as well. Zionists always proclaim Palestine a land without people for people without land. It turned out to be full of people. So Zionists need to look further to accomplish their dream. There is no equivalence between America and Palestine.

AP said, “Jews bought land from other Arabs or settled areas where there were none. Also, the Jews didn’t “ruin” Palestine like the Palestinians ruined Gaza”

That is also incorrect. Jews owned 3% of Palestine in 1947 and were given over 65% of Palestine by the UN. I don’t blame the Arabs or the Palestinians for rejecting the plan and they should continue to reject it.

Palestinians were prosperous before the Jews arrived and Palestine was thriving agriculturally and industrially before their coming. Palestinian currency was the strongest in the region before the Jews basically stole the land. The Gazans you blame for ‘ruining’ Gaza were once the landlords in Haifa, Hebron, Yafa etc… They are now dispossessed because of a crime committed against them by the Jews who illegally took over their properties.

AP said, “Jews left refugee camps because they didn’t need them as monuments of the past. She built up the State of Israel which is a beautiful, rather successful state”

That is also incorrect. Jews in Palestine are living on hand outs of tax-payers from almost all Western States, particularly the USA. They cannot continue to live like a leech for ever.

April 26th, 2009, 5:55 pm


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