Damascus, capital of Arab culture for 2008

Posted by Alex 

Damascus celebrated yesterday the official opening of festivities for "Damascus, capital of Arab culture for 2008"

For the first time in Damascus fireworks were used in those celebrations. In the past, security concerns prevented organizers of similar events from using fireworks.

President Assad made a speech that included the expected expressions of pride in Damascus and its history, culture, and significance in the Arab world. But the speech also included hints to the strategic direction the Syrian President intends to take Syria in the future.

Here are some quotes:

"The routes on which Paul, the Messenger walked have been flowered with amity that he planted , and Khaled is opening his arms at the eastern gate of Damascus embracing you …the Umayyads are looking to the horizon on the minarets of the Umayyad Mosque guarding John the Baptist…and Sallahuddin is mocking those who have been harboring evil to Damascus,"

"Here are the tombs of renowned philosophers , poets and artists from all over the Arab homeland form the tomb of Farabi to the tomb of Ersouzi …and from the tomb of Iben Arabi to the tomb of Nabulsi..from the tomb of Hussein Marwa to the tomb of Abdul-Karim Karmi and from the tomb of Jawahiri to the tomb of Nizar Kabbani,"

"Damascus, the capital of Arab culture means to be the capital of the Arab dignity .. gives us the strong sense of human and national pride and inexhaustible sense of the national pride, so Damascus is the capital of the resistance culture as an inherent feature of our Arab culture features … it is the culture of freedom and defense of freedom … it is the culture of creativity because our freedom is a condition of our creativity and creativity and freedom can not be separated… Damascus, the capital of the Arab culture is a great and deep lesson and indicates the dialog of cultures and their co-existence and is a symbol of the richness of life and an eloquent proof on the futility of idea of civilizations clash,"

"The Arab culture establishes a love relationship and openness with culture of the other .. Damascus is an example in that… it opens her heart to those who come carrying their hearts and close its doors in the face of those who approach carrying their swords… we are sons of one culture .. Our Arab culture is our home as a whole… under it we live equal in belonging to it .. proud to defend it .. creators in its domain .. living in it our deepest identity because it is the pattern of our presence, values, ideas and beliefs and spiritual creativity,"

Here are some photos from those celebrations. 







Comments (105)

EHSANI2 said:

I would have skipped the following quote:

“it is the culture of freedom and defense of freedom”

January 20th, 2008, 12:17 am


Alex said:

I know : )

But if you remember, in Syria the word “freedom” (Horriya) is freedom from foreign occupation … as in

وحدة حرية إشتراكية

: )

January 20th, 2008, 12:23 am


jay said:

more like the capital of bankrupt Arab culture..

January 20th, 2008, 12:50 am


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

“it is the culture of creativity because our freedom is a condition of our creativity and creativity and freedom can not be separated”

A culture of creativity? But the reason there is not much creativity in Syira is exactly because “creativity and freedom can not be separated”. Some people have no shame.

January 20th, 2008, 12:56 am


trustquest said:

If he has the least dignity, he would have respected the people in their graves and would not mentioned the ones who do not like to be mentioned by dictators like Jawahiri and Nizar Kabbani who left their marks with poems attacking dictators. Nizar kabbani is trembling in his grave.
Some do not have the minimum shame; mentioning freedom in front of the people who are deprived from, is a laughable in your face. Dictators will use any popular slogan to ride the wave.

January 20th, 2008, 1:50 am


Ghassan said:

What freedom are they talking about? The jailing of people who are demanding the freedom of expression or the freedom of representation?
Now I know, it is the freedom to vote for Bashar to be the President!!! By the way, he run unopposed!!! Long live for the dictator!

January 20th, 2008, 2:10 am


norman said:

Clinton and Romney win in Nivada,
Mcain wins South Carolina.

January 20th, 2008, 2:32 am


majedkhaldoun said:

Norman; Mccain speach was great,and presidential,I am sure a speach writer wrote it for him, Giuliani must start to tremble( ratku an na3amati fi tariqen Hami).
those pictures Josua showed us today were very beautiful, I wish I was there,in Damascus.

January 20th, 2008, 3:35 am


offended said:

That girl clutching the robe and climbing on the wall (bottom right), she doesn’t look Arab, not even Syrian (eastern European me thinks)…

Well, they should have cut down on the outsourcing a little bit. : )

January 20th, 2008, 4:35 am


wizart said:

The historical gap between words and action is increasingly being filled with a DESIRE to initiate more constructive steps in the area of free expression and to establish a foundation for creative development. The right words and action steps are equaly welcome.

The reason a lot of people have been arrested is perhaps because a lot of people have been abusing their freedom of expression by being overly critical of whoever is trying to get lots of positive things done to a lot of needy, breedy and proud set of people.

Preaching democracy and copying superficial facades maybe self defeating to under-developed countries be it Syria, China or Russia (still work in progress at most in places like Brazil, Israel, India, Pakistan & USA.) Can’t just copy and paste systems and expect everything to work out fine worldwide. Need custom made beatiful systems to cater to each INDIVIDUAL imperatives in each country so everybody there is happyly fed and not just “expressing themselves” so a few others can run for election every freekin day!

January 20th, 2008, 5:08 am


Alex said:

AIG said:

“A culture of creativity? But the reason there is not much creativity in Syria is exactly because “creativity and freedom can not be separated”. Some people have no shame.”

What do you know about creativity in Syria? … some of the best poets, painters, singers, composers, and film makers are Syrians. This year in Ramadan the most popular Arab TV series was Syrian, the second most popular one was Egyptian with a Syrian director and a Syrian main actor …

I know you love to find a reason to say “Some people have no shame.” but, you can stick to the lack of political freedoms if you want to criticize. Creativity in Syria is fine. We now have interesting Jazz bands, Opera … and many other forms of creative expression. We don’t need your help in showing us how we can improve Syrian Culture and Creativity.

And Offended, I assume everyone was Syrian … the blonde girl was Syrian … we do have blondes in Syria, no?

: )

January 20th, 2008, 5:52 am


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Ok, let’s discuss creativity in Syria:
1) How many movies or television shows do Syrians produce a year?
2) How many books?
3) How many new plays?
4) How many patents?
5) How many new business innovations?
6) How many world class books or movies?
7) How much world class science?

I know the answer to 6 and 7. In 2007 the output there was 0. How is that creative?

Please help me with the statistics for 1-5 and then we can compare them to other countries.

Innovative and creative countries are rich countries even though rich countries are not always innovative and creative. There is no creativity without freedom, and because there is no freedom in Syria, there is very little world class creativity.

January 20th, 2008, 6:06 am


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

I found the numbers of books published:

This list is in absolute terms and not per capita. Even so Syria is in a very low place. If you do the per-capita computations, Syria will be among the last ten countries in the world in books published per capita. How is that creative? It is exactly the opposite of creative.

January 20th, 2008, 6:14 am


Alex said:


When you stop killing Palestinian children every week we will publish more books.

January 20th, 2008, 6:17 am


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

The irony:

Landis himself chronicles how the Syrian regime stifles creativity in Syria. Stop with the propoganda Alex.

I’ll let the one about the connection between books and Palestinian children pass. You really need to control the urge of blaming others for the failures of the Syrian regime.

January 20th, 2008, 6:29 am


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

To Syrians reading this blog, I want to make sure you understand that I am not saying Syrians do not have the potenital to be creative as any other people. All I am saying is that the regime does not let them achieve their potential.

January 20th, 2008, 6:49 am


Alex said:


The regime is doing a lot of bad things and a lot of good things.

In the mean time in Syria they are celebrating their uniquely rich history and their culture and their country which they are all proud of, no matter how much you try with your bad taste to turn this into a “despicable regime” argument and to squeeze anything negative out of a story of celebration in Damascus.

You still did not tell us why you are here on SYRIA comment … the weak and insignificant Syria… What motivates you that much? … you love us and care about us?

January 20th, 2008, 7:06 am


SimoHurtta said:

To Syrians reading this blog, I want to make sure you understand that I am not saying Syrians do not have the potenital to be creative as any other people. All I am saying is that the regime does not let them achieve their potential.

AIG you know well that the amount of books, films, internet access etc signs of creativeness are closely linked to the economical wealth. Though indeed the regimes have an effect to the populations creativeness. I suppose that in Iran are made more films and books than in the “friendly” Saudi Arabia. Even the Saudis are richer.

By the way AIG, are 20 percent of the Israeli books and films published by Israeli Arabs (= the only Israelis who freely can choose their religion)? Have Israeli Arabs equal possibilities in reality to access internet and express their creativity as Israeli Jews (= those who can’t choose their religion)? If not why AIG? Is the apartheid regime to be blamed?

An other question AIG? Why did Israel during the Lebanon operation target the printing facilities and paper storages besides the “dangerous” dairy farm? To limit Lebanese creativeness and avoid Lebanese children to get milk products?

January 20th, 2008, 7:22 am


Honest Patriot said:

1- On “counting” books as sign of creative productivity: Quality here matters much more than quantity, and quality, regrettably, is not measured. As far as I’m concerned, this metric is irrelevant.

2- AIG should be welcome in this forum as an interested cousin (and certainly is, since he’s here and is actively engaged). Only by being challenged to justify your positions can you be assured that you are achieving the best analysis (whether others agree with it or not). Ditto for Akbar Palace. Without them – except for the occasional brilliant analysis of Observer, and sometimes also Offended and Qifa Nabki (and yes, Alex, you too 😉 )- SC would just be another newsfeed with just a one-sided point-of-view. I do agree that the contributors on both sides could refrain from sometimes getting carried away and using irrelevant correlations (which we’re all guilty of sometimes).

January 20th, 2008, 8:03 am


wizart said:

Keep your friends close and your enemies closer.

Everybody is entitled to his or her opinion as long as they’re being respectful. If anybody’s misguided or has a secret propaganda/agenda then so be it and I don’t care what anybody says when everybody seems out to brainwash somebody else so as long as people are bringing up critical questions to discuss I don’t see much harm being done to national pride or public sentiment here.

Who cares how many books or movies are being created as long as people everywhere are able to translate the best ones and let others deal with the rest of the junk or harmful content. It’s not the numbers that count. Capitalism has a lot of inherent waste so Syrians and others like them can forego the expense and all the cognitive distortions that go with it, promote the best creative content the world produces and creatively add or subtract from it all while living in a museum of human culture and civilization.

Who wants this space to be filled with one sided arguements? Who’s going to be the devil’s advocate if you drive out all the enemies?
Do you think America became successful because it never had enemies? We can argue that America became successful because it has always had very good enemies from the French to the British to the Germans the Japanese and the Russians!!.

What doesn’t hurt you can always make you stronger. American sanctions on Syria have effectively revived the economy by making the regime more creative in searching for alternatives so it’s good to have diverse dialogues with friends and enemies because we are all human and yesterday’s enemy can always become tomorrow’s friend. Syria knowns that from its unrivaled history and Syrians are better for it so with this I like to wish everybody happy 08!

January 20th, 2008, 8:28 am


Thomas said:

The blonds must be from the University of Oklahoma cheerleading squad!

January 20th, 2008, 8:47 am


offended said:

Alex, I am sure we’ve got some blondes in Syria…

But given the quality of arguement and critical thinking which AIG is delivering , I am sure they’ve got more blondes in Israel…
; )

January 20th, 2008, 8:51 am


T said:

Dear Alex,

Just a quick logistical question- the time code on this blog corresponds to which time zone? It shows 9:10am and I typed this at 4:10am EST, 5 hours before. I notice it is usually 5 hours ahead- Is it clocked out of GMT? Not a big deal, just curious.

Thanks alot!

January 20th, 2008, 9:10 am


adiamondinsunlight said:

Here in Lebanon a debate has been raging over whether Fairouz should cancel her scheduled performance as part of the opening festival. (She performed in Damascus long before the invasion – live, on the radio, and on television when the channel opened in 1960.)

As for AIG’s multi-part question, parts of it are poorly thought out (AIG, you need to spend a bit more time researching Syrian film before you question its value – the output is small, but the quality is unbeatable) and parts are very thought-provoking. Obviously patents & business innovation require a functional patenting/copyright infringement office, and a government supportive of private enterprise. Even in Lebanon, the red tape and corruption do much to stifle science, technology and corporate innovation.

As for the fireworks … Josh, do you mean that this is the first time that fireworks were set off for a festival, or that this was the first time that fireworks were set off in the city proper? I remember being jolted out of the shower one summer evening thanks to the massive eruption of what I initially thought was heavy artillery. But no – it was the sounds (and echoes) of fireworks being set off on Qassiyoun for yom aljeish.

January 20th, 2008, 9:35 am


Gullgamish said:

I’ll make it brief, as time is never abundant! Rhetoric of politicians, including regimes of abolished republics is the norm. The Syrians, especially college students, should focus on freedom of thoughts, freedom of learning and freedom of debate!
Syrians should ignore and take away the focus from the Regime, as the more they talk about it, the more it feels threatened and becomes overly authoritarian and forceful; It becomes more relevant!

January 20th, 2008, 11:30 am


wizart said:

I have a few questions for those interested in being constructive.

Speaking of books, what good books has anyone read recently that you think the president of Syria or any of his advisors may find constructive or would add most value to the national happiness index as measured by the U.N or.. as you can imagine it would?

Could that book be available thru the internet at http://www.Amazon.com?

Could you tell us anything to suggest your advise should be taken based on evidence that someone in similar positions has benefited?
What about any decent recent movie Syrians are not able to see in Damascus, in Beirut or for a few dollars on some imported CD?

Could those who write/talk about Syria please contribute the creative ideas that 20 million people in Syria could benefit from without disturbing internal peace or gross national happiness?

What’s the value of critical thinking if not for bringing up better solutions? who here wants negative thouthts from faceless people unless they solve the problems they’re so eager to express?

Anything easier than forever being stuck circulating negative thoughts leading to others? what makes complex problems more complicated? Discussing objective solutions, building on the positive the way real leaders do or focusing on negatives?

January 20th, 2008, 11:56 am


majedkhaldoun said:

Amr Mousa failed, he reached a closed door,it is not opened yet, may never get opened, more and more they are talking about confederalism,dividing Lebanon, when I said it before(6 months) some were surprised,unbelieving it,Lebanon is small,hard to divide,and some communities are mixed, but I am sure France and USA will insist that the christians , who lost their symbol,The President,will insist on their right, there is only one solution to Lebanon, and that is _in Syria.

January 20th, 2008, 1:26 pm


wizart said:

The “United Villages of Lebanon” is a craddle of artistic civilization. Each one is uniquely positioned to take advantage of global opportunities and build its own bridges into the future.

Anything can happen. We live in the most amazing of times. The internet makes outsourcing much easier. The global demand for oil along with the soft skills of Lebanese make the area potentially the most promising for upside surprises given proper mindsets.

Which brings us back to earlier questions because they’re ultimately about the how to of “peace” starting with individuals.

January 20th, 2008, 2:50 pm


norman said:


The book is ( Giving ) by Bill Clinton , The president. it will stimulate giving to their county men which is very low in Syria. The Syrian government should make that tax deductible. as long as not for house of worship building .

Majed , The Christians in Lebanon are more protected by Syria than the US or France ,because they are as Arabs as the rest of Lebanon and Syria.

Lebanon will do better by having districts and having , like in the US , two congressmen from each district and one senator from each county and have two houses of legislation , the System should be similar to the US ,

For that to succeed antidiscrimination laws in housing and jobs should be implemented , that will mix the population of the districts and make people vote for the individual instead of the party or the religion ,

the same plan could work in Syria and other Arab Countries with multi ethnic groups.

Any thoughts.?

January 20th, 2008, 3:01 pm


majedkhaldoun said:

My dear friend Norman;
this ,as you suggest, will require change in constitution, and it is not possible,till Berri agrees.

January 20th, 2008, 3:26 pm


norman said:

many changes has to be done to have a government which is more representative of the people.

January 20th, 2008, 3:32 pm


majedkhaldoun said:

إسرائيل ترفض التفاوض مع حزب الله حول أشلاء جنودها
first they denied it, now admited that 10 Israeli soldiers parts are in the hands of HA.
the people of Israel will force dialogue, these news were hidden from the public.

January 20th, 2008, 3:39 pm


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Just to make it clear, Nasrallah’s recent speech is not going to help him at all with the Israeli public. The reactions are 100% in the other direction and reduce the chances of dialouge with him. To me it made even more clear that a second round with Hizballah is required.

January 20th, 2008, 4:10 pm


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Some posters here made an implicit claim that while Syria publishes a small number of books they are of high quality. Could you substantiate this claim? A high quality book would probably be widely read in the Arab world and translated to other languages. Were there many books like that published in Syria last year?

January 20th, 2008, 4:15 pm


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

The Israeli Arabs are very creative. They make quite a few movies per year and some get into international festivals. Many work together with Jews on projects. There is thriving Arabic theater. There are several Arabic presses in Israel that publish quite a few books.

Take for example Makram Khoury:

He was spectacular in the “Syrian Bride”. You should rent the movie.

Israel bombed the dairy because Hizballah was storing weapons there. As for the printing facility near it, that is your invention.

January 20th, 2008, 4:20 pm


ausamaa said:


I dont know why I everytime I read a line typed by you, the first thing that comes to my mind are the words of Hitler’s propaganda associate, Gobles, I think, whose motto and practice was: Lie, lie and lie again; omeone is boound to believe you in the end!

However, I admire your staying power and that why I think you are a Comittee, not just one person. The consolation I have in sying your posts here is that Syriacomment has become an important blog, so that you guys do your best to maintaine a steady presence here.

I hope you manage to convert some people here. Because the end of the Arab Israeli conflict depends on how is more effective in converting the population of the other. Numerically speaking, an easy task for the Arabs, and a very challenging task for Israel; converting those three hundred million Arabs who consider Israel -in its current form- an existential threat!

Keep it up pal…

January 20th, 2008, 4:39 pm


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

I am one person whatever you may think.

Please point to one of my lies if you can.

All I see from your side is intellectual laziness or inability to confront the arguments head on.

January 20th, 2008, 4:45 pm


Qifa Nabki said:


Regarding printing facilities and the July War, I can confirm Simohurrta’s statement.

The last three times I visited Beirut since the summer of 2006, I was struck by the complete unavailability of books from certain important publishers. Entire sections of classical “turath” catalogues were gone: works on medieval grammar, literature, exegesis, law, biography, etc.

And this because the Israelis inexplicably leveled large portions of al-Dahiya, an industrial area in which are located many commercial warehouses, including huge book depots. Some of the most important and venerable publishing houses lost their entire backlist, and have gone out of business.

So, this is not an invention.

January 20th, 2008, 4:48 pm


Innocent_Criminal said:

can we stop with this silly pissing contest already? Anyways the book publishing link is irrelevant. THe numbers for syria are from 92 while israel’s for example is from 98 and 2005

January 20th, 2008, 4:54 pm


T said:

T said:
(The power of publication can be exercised via the blackout, where corporate power acts in lieu/tandem w/ the State. In dictatorships the State is understood to have econtrol, in democracies censorship is privatized. Maybe Radical Syndicalism would be the model- and that fellow bloggers, is Fascism.) The following incredible info will get the “Norm Finkelstein Treatment”- which proves the point:

you said:

“People in the US reject your ideas not because they are not listening but because they do not have merit.”

Here is an update on nuclear intelligence issues w/ responses from We, The Sheeple-

From The Sunday London Times
January 20, 2008

FBI denies file exposing nuclear secrets theft
The FBI has been accused of covering up a file detailing government dealings with a network stealing nuclear secrets.
THE FBI has been accused of covering up a key case file detailing evidence against corrupt government officials and their dealings with a network stealing nuclear secrets.

The assertion follows allegations made in The Sunday Times two weeks ago by Sibel Edmonds, an FBI whistleblower, who worked on the agency’s investigation of the network.

Edmonds, a 37-year-old former Turkish language translator, listened into hundreds of sensitive intercepted conversations while based at the agency’s Washington field office.

She says the FBI was investigating a Turkish and Israeli-run network that paid high-ranking American officials to steal nuclear weapons secrets. These were then sold on the international black market to countries such as Pakistan and Saudi Arabia.

One of the documents relating to the case was marked 203A-WF-210023. Last week, however, the FBI responded to a freedom of information request for a file of exactly the same number by claiming that it did not exist. But The Sunday Times has obtained a document signed by an FBI official showing the existence of the file.

Edmonds believes the crucial file is being deliberately covered up by the FBI because its contents are explosive. She accuses the agency of an “outright lie”.

“I can tell you that that file and the operations it refers to did exist from 1996 to February 2002. The file refers to the counterintelligence programme that the Department of Justice has declared to be a state secret to protect sensitive diplomatic relations,” she said.

The freedom of information request had not been initiated by Edmonds. It was made quite separately by an American human rights group called the Liberty Coalition, acting on a tip-off it received from an anonymous correspondent.

The letter says: “You may wish to request pertinent audio tapes and documents under FOIA from the Department of Justice, FBI-HQ and the FBI Washington field office.”

It then makes a series of allegations about the contents of the file – many of which corroborate the information that Edmonds later made public.

Edmonds had told this newspaper that members of the Turkish political and diplomatic community in the US had been actively acquiring nuclear secrets. They often acted as a conduit, she said, for Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), Pakistan’s spy agency, because they attracted less suspicion.

She claimed corrupt government officials helped the network, and venues such as the American-Turkish Council (ATC) in Washington were used as drop-off points.

The anonymous letter names a high-level government official who was allegedly secretly recorded speaking to an official at the Turkish embassy between August and December 2001.

It claims the government official warned a Turkish member of the network that they should not deal with a company called Brewster Jennings because it was a CIA front company investigating the nuclear black market. The official’s warning came two years before Brewster Jennings was publicly outed when one of its staff, Valerie Plame, was revealed to be a CIA agent in a case that became a cause célèbre in the US.

The letter also makes reference to wiretaps of Turkish “targets” talking to ISI intelligence agents at the Pakistani embassy in Washington and recordings of “operatives” at the ATC.

Edmonds is the subject of a number of state secret gags preventing her from talking further about the investigation she witnessed.

“I cannot discuss the details considering the gag orders,” she said, “but I reported all these activities to the US Congress, the inspector general of the justice department and the 9/11 commission. I told them all about what was contained in this case file number, which the FBI is now denying exists.

“This gag was invoked not to protect sensitive diplomatic relations but criminal activities involving US officials who were endangering US national security.”

Have your say

I spent a week with Sibel Edmonds in Washington DC in May, 2007. She is gorgeous, very smart, and a person who I would be proud to have in my employ.

As an American dedicated to honesty and integrity, I can shout, “congratulations, Sibel; shame on the US Government”.

Please, Hollywood, give this woman $10 million to appear as herself in the movie.

Betsy Combier
Editor, Parentadvocates.org

Betsy Combier, New York City, New York

Thanks so much for this story. Hopefully it will get the attention it deserves. It’s way too quiet on this story in the states. Evidently, the press in the US’s claim they are the fourth estate is greatly exaggerated.

Michael Monk, Raleigh, N.C., USA

Thanks for covering this story. The corporate media in the US won’t touch this story. We don’t really have a free press here. It’s a shame I have to read international newspapers to find out what’s going on in the world. Help!

Erin, Overland Park, Kansas, USA

Thank you very much for reporting this important story. It is vital that all of the information regarding this case is made public. I applaud your paper for doing what’s right.

K Sturm, Merrillville, IN, USA

Thank you for this story! Our media here in the US sucks. They are just about all owned by Republican corporate interests and are not picking this up at all. I am so glad you are following this story, AND Sybil Edmonds story.

Judy Chambers, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania / USA

Thank you very much for printing this story. I have been following the Sibe Edmonds case for a while now . I’m an American , and , I cannot believe our media has decided to stay mum on this . We activists on the internet are doing all we can to wake the American public up to what our corrupt government has been up to . Thanks Again ……………………………Barbara Nergstrom

Barbara Bergstrom, Astoria, Oregon, USA

(T posted this at 12noon EST, though the SC time stamp says 5 hours ahead).

January 20th, 2008, 4:57 pm


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Inexplicably leveled large portions of al-Dahiya?

Don’t tell me you don’t understand why Dahiya was attacked. It was the headquarters of Hizballah. Large booksellers are usually insured, so it is strange they went out of business. Can you give me a name of a large book distributor that went out of business?

If there is demand for such books in Lebanon, very soon someone else will import them. It is strange nobody has done so yet. In any case, they should ask Nasrallah for money.

And read Sim’s post again, he is talking about a printing facility near the dairy. That is a fabrication.

January 20th, 2008, 4:57 pm


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:


Who mentioned Israel at all here? We are trying to evaluate the claim that Alex made that Syria is creative. I think that all the statistics show that the Syrian regime is hampering the creativity of Syrians. Alex thinks otherwise.

January 20th, 2008, 5:01 pm


Qifa Nabki said:

AIG said:

Don’t tell me you don’t understand why Dahiya was attacked. It was the headquarters of Hizballah.

Yes. Funny, though, how not a single senior figure was killed, despite the destruction of the “headquarters”. This is what was inexplicable about the IAF’s strategy.

Large booksellers are usually insured, so it is strange they went out of business.

Insured from fire, flood, etc. Rarely, in Lebanon, do insurers offer coverage from Israel.

Can you give me a name of a large book distributor that went out of business?

The most significant publisher to lose its warehouse was Mu’assasat al-Risala. Others include Dar al-Fikr and Dar al-`Ilm lil-Malayin. There are others.

You can offer a judicious condemnation whenever you’re ready.

January 20th, 2008, 5:09 pm


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Not a single senior figure was killed because they knew Israel would bomb and got out of there. After all, Israel warned the people of Dahiya and that is why there were so few civillain casualties there.

It is a pity that the books were destroyed. Really, Nasrallah should give them a loan so that they can get back into business. Didn’t he promise this anyway? In Israel the government pays money to businesses hurt in war. Lebanon and Nasrallah should get their act together and help the book distributors.

January 20th, 2008, 5:17 pm


Qifa Nabki said:


Instead of clanging the regime change bell every chance you get, why don’t you be more constructive with your remarks about Syria’s condition?

The observation that the regime is hampering Syrian creativity is hardly one worth fighting over. The regime is no doubt hampering many things in Syria. I’m sure that the schools could be better, the waste management could be more efficient, the roads could be smoother, the press could be freer, etc etc etc.

This is all true. But it does no good to repeat it ad nauseum.

Why don’t you channel your righteous indignance into a positive direction and try to come up with real workable suggestions for improving the deplorable conditions that you see in Syria?

As we’ve seen in Iraq, quick and easy “regime change” is a fantasy concocted by short-sighted bureaucrats with no understanding of Middle Eastern societies.

Surely you can do better…?

January 20th, 2008, 5:20 pm


Alex said:


You are not a committee, no.

But I am very impressed with your knowledge about Syria that you keep demonstrating here … So you told me so far that you are an expert on noise reduction in digital filter design (a Ph.D. level Electrical engineer?), you also spoke very confidently, and technically, when you were analyzing Syria’s building in the euphrates and how it must have been a nuclear weapons plant. You once discussed Syrian opposition activists in the 60’s and gave us names (so you are old enough to remember, or you are a historian too), you discuss arts, books, electricity problems n Syria … you are a very talented man who loves and cares about Syria so much that he is willing to spend hours per day away from his job as a manger in an engineering firm (unless your Ph.D. was just for fun) in order to help Syrians be more successful, happy, democratic, and free.

January 20th, 2008, 5:35 pm


wizart said:

Thanks Norman,

Here’s a reader’s review of what sounds like an inspiring book.

“Besides being the husband of the current frontrunner for the 2008 Democratic nomination, Clinton has maintained a high profile since leaving office in 2000, by staying focused on his charitable causes. Beginning in 2005, his Clinton Global Initiative – a conference that draws the best minds from around the world – has raised more than $10 billion for globe-spanning issues such as HIV/AIDS treatment (especially in Africa), climate change and how to combat poverty. He partnered with his former adversary George H.W. Bush on leading rebuilding efforts in the aftermath of Katrina and the Indian Ocean earthquake. His unavoidable charisma and media savvy have a lot to do with his success in this area, but with this book, he conveys how anyone is capable of giving back on his or her own terms.

Clinton smartly organizes the book into six ways that he sees philanthropy can be realized – giving time, giving things, giving skills, giving good ideas, giving gifts that keep on giving, and most interestingly, giving gifts of reconciliation and new beginnings. Diane Stevens’ case illustrates this last category, a passing of knowledge and skills also illustrated by PeacePlayers International, a group that sets up basketball leagues in the Middle East. It is truly powerful to see the Internet as the key tool to encourage the globalization of compassion. Several of Clinton’s examples highlight the use of Web sites to allow Americans to help non-Americans. On the downside, the years of government inaction have taken their toll on such humanitarian efforts. Clinton treads this lapse lightly given that he has to take some accountability for the current malaise in the public sector as does every U.S. President since Nixon. Regardless, the book serves its purpose to inspire those who may feel powerless to help change the world otherwise.”

There are so many ways to give like he said. (time, ideas, books!)

Actually there are excellent books at Virgin Megastores in Beirut.

Also teaching people English so they can read quality books is necessary and when people feel more at peace they can give more.

“Peace” is a high value added product that easily translates into money in the pocket of children of poverty. What’s the opportunity cost of another 50 years worth of war? How much is the land worth? Everything has a price and everything is negotiable. There are books on negotiations as well as on every little subject on earth.

Nobody has to reinvent the wheel anymore. The resources are there.

Adapting others’ constitutions can work and people can still be proud because that would build and leverage the national wealth.

January 20th, 2008, 5:38 pm


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

As I said many times, I would like to see Syrians initiate changes. I have many ideas, but I am an Israeli, so my ideas do not really matter. More important is what ideas do Syrians have.

So far, all I see on this blog is Alex disparaging anyone from action or arguing that all the world must change except the Syrian regime. Or worse, saying that change depends on the US and Israel. I don’t see Syrians taking responsibility for their own problems (except Bashmann), most are apathetic like Ehsani saying:”What can we do?”

All in all it is quite sad.

January 20th, 2008, 5:40 pm


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

You would be surprised how much information there is on the internet. I am an expert in very few things, mostly related to technology, but I do know how to formulate questions and do internet searches.

Let’s make it clear. Only Syrians can help themselves. I cannot help Syrians in any way. I can at most explain to them how Israelis see things. I am curious by nature and I am very curious to learn how different Syrians think and I am learning quite a lot.

After all, how can you say, as an Israeli, that you have an informed view about the Syria-Israel problem unless you understand the subtelties of the Syrian point of view?

January 20th, 2008, 5:49 pm


Alex said:

“Alex disparaging anyone from action”

Only your type of harmful “Action”…. it is not going to happen no matter how much you preach it here.

“After all, how can you say, as an Israeli, that you have an informed view about the Syria-Israel problem unless you understand the subtelties of the Syrian point of view?”

This would have been wonderful … if you were sensitive enough to the different shades of gray .. you are not. You can only see black and white. (Syria = Black, Israel = white, Democracy in Syria tomorrow = White)

So you are constantly attempting to distort most discussions by reducing them to fit your one and only package “Nothing good can happen in Syria as long as the regime is there”

Since you are a technical person, i will try to speak to your practical side: The regime will probably not go away for at least the next 10 years… in the mean time, there are great opportunities to improve just about everything in Syria except its political system. We will not sit and complain forever about lack of political rights… if by complaining we could fix what is wrong, i will be the first to complain the whole day.

Not everything is regime related. From Assad’s speech you could (if you wanted) note that more Arab thinkers, writers, and artists ask to be buried in Damascus than any other Arab city … your wikipedia online search will not help you understand the significance of that.

Did you notice that you rarely (never?) encountered anything positive about Syria the whole time you were doing your skilled online search? .. for a year now you brought us negativity, and more negativity.

January 20th, 2008, 6:06 pm


Alex said:

Turkish president in Syria for talks

22 hours ago

DAMASCUS (AFP) — Turkish President Abdullah Gul arrived in Damascus on Saturday for talks with Syrian counterpart Bashar al-Assad on the Middle East and boosting bilateral relations, official news agency SANA said.

Gul will join Arab League chief Amr Mussa, who is in the Syrian capital to help broker a deal over Lebanon’s presidential crisis, to launch celebrations marking Damascus being named the 2008 cultural capital of the Arab world.

The Turkish president, who is on his first visit to Syria since his election in August, said he wished to further ties between Damascus and Ankara, reported SANA.

After decades of animosity, Turkish-Syrian relations improved significantly from 1998, when Damascus forced Turkish Kurd rebel Abdullah Ocalan out of Syria, where he had enjoyed safe haven.

The countries signed an economic, political and security agreement during a visit by Assad to Ankara in October 2007.

January 20th, 2008, 6:16 pm


wizart said:

The Power of Collaborative Innovation

Looking to the future, it becomes readily apparent that complexity, competing interests and scarce resources remain the greatest obstacles to progress on the global agenda in the absence of greater leadership and global stewardship. It is in this challenging context that the World Economic Forum will highlight The Power of Collaborative Innovation as the principal theme for the Annual Meeting 2008 in Davos.

A “shifting power equation” was the framework in which the global agenda was discussed in Davos at the beginning of 2007. As we look towards 2008, this shift will continue to influence the strategies of business, government and other stakeholders in the world economy. But closer examination of the international environment also reveals that leadership vacuums are beginning to emerge on a wide range of critical issues looming on the horizon. Moreover, a paradox has emerged in our networked world where knowledge is ubiquitous and change is rapid, but the absence of a common vision and agenda ensures that the status quo will be maintained with respect to major global challenges.

The focus on collaboration and innovation underscores the opportunity to leverage the Forum’s multistakeholder model so that platforms can be built for like-minded communities to initiate necessary changes together. The Annual Meeting 2008 programme will be based on the following five conceptual pillars:

Competing While Collaborating

Economics and Finance
Addressing Economic Insecurity

Aligning Interests across Divides

Science and Technology
Exploring Nature’s New Frontiers

Values and Society
Understanding Future Shifts

Tony Blair, Prime Minister of the United Kingdom (1997-2007); Member of the Foundation Board of the World Economic Forum
James Dimon, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, JPMorgan Chase & Co., USA
K.V. Kamath, Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer, ICICI Bank, India
Henry Kissinger, Chairman, Kissinger Associates, USA
Indra K. Nooyi, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, PepsiCo, USA
David J. O’Reilly, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, Chevron Corporation, USA
Wang Jianzhou, Chief Executive, China Mobile Communications Corporation, People’s Republic of China

Yasuo Fukuda, Prime Minister of Japan

“Collaboration, the main theme of this year’s Davos meeting, is the keyword to make progress on the issues of climate change, Africa’s development and the global economy. As this year’s G8 Chair, Japan will take a lead in addressing these challenges.”

The founder of this forum has tried in the past to bridge all the gaps in the Arab/Israel conflict and he considers his failure in that regard to be his biggest disappointment in his career so having a conflict and disagreement is pretty normal here on SC.

That annual forum starts tomorrow and they appear pretty open about their discussions thanks to their website http://www.weforum.org

January 20th, 2008, 6:22 pm


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

The only things you can improve in Syria without changing the regime are superficial ones. The fish stinks from the head. the only way to really improve Syria is change the regime, and I think in opposing this you are a minority even on this blog. But it is up to the Syrians to do it. If they choose (or surrender to) another 10 ro 20 years of Asad, who am I to stand in their way?

And again, the only idea you can put forward is that “the regime will stay in place for at least 10 years”. Very constructive. Fatalism at its best, but not a way for real improvement.

By the way I find what Adonis says quite interesting and a positive thing about Syria, but not about the regime. Take a look at these three clips:

As long as there are brave and talented Syrians like Adonis who are not afraid to speak the truth, there is hope for Syria.

January 20th, 2008, 6:29 pm


offended said:

AIG, since you’ve so triumphantly announced your recent understanding of the subtleties that engulf the enigmatic Syrian people; now will you please give us Syrians some space on this forum to discuss our own issues?


January 20th, 2008, 6:34 pm


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Where did I say I have reached understanding? It is a work in progress. I thought by the way that we are discussing Syrian issues.

January 20th, 2008, 6:38 pm


Honest Patriot said:

AIG said:

“To me it made even more clear that a second round with Hizballah is required.”

Here’s where I have to disagree vehemently with you. Hizbollah is NOT the crux of this problem, nor does leveling Lebanon solve the problem (which is pretty much what the second round will entail if it is to lead to the elimination of the military part of Hizbillah [note how I am respecting arabic grammatical concordance ;-)]).

I would venture to say that such an adventure will pretty much be a somewhat cowardly act of bullying the easy target, and in so doing, destroying Lebanon, and then perpetuating other radicalization centers that are sure to crop up elsewhere. No, your challenge is to confront Syria head-on, Iran head-on, and Hamas head-on. And confronting them does not necessarily mean militarily. Just as Sadat had the courage and the vision to break the deadlock almost 30 years ago, it is time for a visionary Israeli leader to do the same today. You even heard President Bush reflect his impatience and exasperation with Israeli intransigence when he indicated that a Palestinian state is long overdue and that Israel must simply stop building more settlements – period! Israel’s military superiority, superb effectiveness in defending its rights and making the case for its cause, and proven record for the past 50 years are surely assets that should make the true Israeli creative leader confident of a good negotiating position and secure in offering the necessary concessions to – at last – close this bloody chapter of the region that has lasted all too long. It is time. Let the Israeli Sadat come forward.

January 20th, 2008, 6:44 pm


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Unlikely to happen. There is zero trust after the second intifada. More time is needed for people to forget.

The way the world works is that you are only justified in fighting people who attack you. If Asad is smart enough to make sure that the Golan border is quiet and only Hizballah (the military side) attacks Israel, then it is Lebanon that will suffer. If Lebanese are gullible and fools, they will pay a price.

January 20th, 2008, 6:52 pm


Alex said:


Before you want to give us the freedom to vote for our MPs, we need peace and calm. You are all about violence and war and revenge and teaching lessons, and setting things right through wars and strikes and revolutions … and that makes you nothing but … our enemy.

You are another Netanyahu, Daniel Pipes, Eliot Abrams … you can repeat “democracy” a hundred times per day, at the end of the day, you are working for large scale death and destruction in Syria and Lebanon.

Your understanding of the subtleties of Syrian thinking did not help you when you saluted the greatest Syrian patriotic courageous thinker Farid Ghadry … remember?

January 20th, 2008, 7:10 pm


Alex said:

And here is the perfect article for AIG,

Marek is Jewish by the way.

La paix passe par Damas !
Marek Halter écrivain.
lundi 14 janvier 2008

Dire que la paix au Proche-Orient passe par la Syrie étonnera plus d’un et en révoltera d’autres. C’est pourtant ma conviction depuis mon premier voyage dans la Syrie de Bachar al-Assad. A l’époque, on m’avait critiqué pour mon acte. La Syrie ne fait-elle pas partie de «l’axe du mal» selon la définition du président Bush ? Il devrait pourtant aller de soi que la paix se négocie avec l’ennemi, la seule question est de savoir à quel moment il faut entamer le dialogue, question qui ne relève pas de la morale mais de la politique.

La Syrie est mûre pour la paix. La présence d’un vice-ministre syrien à la conférence d’Annapolis au côté d’Israël et de l’Arabie Saoudite, ennemi juré de son allié iranien le manifeste. Ce serait une faute que de continuer à isoler la Syrie, pays qui a de si longues frontières avec Israël, la Turquie, le Liban et la Jordanie. L’Occident doit s’en convaincre, au moment où l’Amérique patauge en Irak et piétine dans la recherche d’une paix israélo-palestinienne acceptable par les deux partis.

Une politique d’ostracisme accentue la dépendance de la Syrie vis-à-vis de l’Iran d’Ahmadinejad, elle condamne le Liban à la domination du Hezbollah, voir même, à la longue, à sa disparition. Enfin, elle conduit inévitablement à la guerre entre la Syrie et Israël. «La politique et la théologie sont les deux seules grandes questions», disait, il y a plus d’un siècle, le Britannique William Ewart Gladstone. Or, avec la Syrie, seul pays laïc dans le monde arabe, on peut encore faire de la politique en s’affranchissant de la théologie. Les Syriens tiennent à leur laïcité.

Même le grand mufti de Syrie, Ahmad Badr al-Din Hassoun, se dit laïc. Ce qui impose, selon lui, le respect des autres religions. Il m’invite, moi juif polonais et écrivain français, à m’adresser aux fidèles lors de la prière du vendredi dans l’une des plus fameuses mosquées du monde musulman, la mosquée des Omeyyades à Damas. Parce que, dit-il, «vous êtes un khakham», ce qui en arabe, comme en hébreu, signifie «érudit». Quelques centaines de juifs vivent encore en Syrie. A Damas, ils sont près de quatre-vingts et possèdent vingt synagogues dans la capitale, mais, par manque de fidèles, il n’y en a plus qu’une seule d’ouverte. Une restriction pourtant : toute relation avec Israël est interdite. La Syrie et Israël sont en état de guerre. Au centre communautaire où je me rends en compagnie de l’ambassadeur de France, Michel Duclos, tous les juifs de Damas sont là. Les applaudissements fusent. Albert Caméo, le président, est ému : rares sont les visiteurs qui viennent à leur rencontre.

A la tête d’un pays dont quatre-vingts pour cent des habitants adhèrent, sur le plan religieux, à la mouvance sunnite, Bachar al-Assad n’a aucun avenir avec l’Iran chiite. La population syrienne, elle, observe avec angoisse ces milliers de pèlerins iraniens, parmi lesquels des femmes toutes vêtues de noir, enfermées dans leur prison ambulante, qui viennent se recueillir sur le reliquaire où repose, selon la tradition, la tête de Hossein, le fils d’Ali, le premier imam chiite, assassiné à Kerbala en 680. L’islamisation de la société syrienne signifierait la mort du clan Assad et la fin de la suprématie du parti socialiste Baas. Pour Bachar al-Assad, c’est la course contre la montre. Il est urgent pour lui d’entamer des négociations avec Israël et de s’ouvrir ainsi à l’Occident. Ce n’est pas un hasard si, devant les dirigeants du parti Baas, le président syrien a consacré, presque exclusivement son discours à la paix avec Israël. A ma connaissance, ni la presse occidentale ni la presse israélienne n’en ont rendu compte et c’est bien dommage. «Nous sommes pour la reprise des négociations», a dit Bachar al-Assad. Que les Israéliens gardent bien en tête qu’une vraie paix, qu’une paix permanente est préférable à toute autre situation temporaire…» Le président syrien a ajouté que s’il n’était pas possible «de prononcer devant les Israéliens le mot terre ou le retour de la terre syrienne en échange de la paix, alors au moins, comme l’a fait Itzhak Rabin, qu’on écrive une phrase en ce sens dans une lettre d’engagement». C’était une allusion à la promesse écrite de l’ancien Premier ministre israélien de se retirer du Golan en échange d’une paix complète avec la Syrie. Cette lettre, dont nous ne connaissons pas le contenu exact, prévoyait selon nos informations plusieurs étapes afin d’éprouver la bonne volonté des belligérants. Les Syriens devaient récupérer le plateau du Golan au bout de dix ans. Mais Itzhak Rabin a été assassiné et le père de Bachar al-Assad, qui a négocié ce document, est mort lui aussi.

Certes le président syrien n’est pas un démocrate. Mais connaissons-nous beaucoup de démocrates à la tête de pays moyen-orientaux ou africains ? Devons-nous imposer notre système politique en Syrie à coup de canons comme le président Bush le fait en Irak ? Raymond Aron disait que «le choix en politique n’est pas entre le bien et le mal mais entre le préférable et le détestable». La paix au Proche-Orient n’est pas concevable sans la Syrie parce que son orgueil national est fort et sa marge de nuisance immense. Les médias internationaux accusent agressivement la Syrie, à tort ou à raison, mais pour l’instant sans preuve, d’avoir trempé dans l’assassinat de Rafic Hariri comme dans celui des autres députés libanais. Ce qui a pour premier effet de rapprocher l’opposition syrienne du pouvoir. Ouvrir aux Syriens le marché européen, c’est les aider à se libérer de l’emprise économique de l’Iran.

Accepter, de la part d’Israël, les négociations avec la Syrie, c’est affaiblir tous les groupes terroristes, y compris le Hamas, qui ont leur siège à Damas. Seul un régime fort, comme l’est celui de Bachar al-Assad, peut faire un pas vers la paix avec Israël sans craindre les réactions de la rue.

January 20th, 2008, 7:24 pm


why-discuss said:

Israel’s inhumane behavior in Gaza is revulsive. It would make any boby become a suicide bomber. This collective punishment does not remind the jews of the ghetto they themselves suffered in?
How more coward and desperate can this israeli governement be to resort to such repugnant actions. Are they too afraid of another disastrous military action?
The silence of the international community is as repugnant as the silence during the bombing of Lebanon. How low can they go, they who invoke human rights only when it is convenient politically to them?

January 20th, 2008, 7:36 pm


T said:


My earlier post here on Israeli treason illustrates soft-power, velvet-glove dictatorship and commerically disguised censorship. This is the US version vs the blunt-force version used in Syria. Is ‘free speech’ a ‘pick you poison’ option? When does the space on the continuum overlap?

In a dictatorship, what is most ruthlessly censored, usually indicates where the real power lies. In Syria, we know where that is. In USA it is anything that exposes Israel. And- on the theme of Syrian vs Israeli creativity- it could be the neocons’ advocacy of “creative destruction.” Yes AIG, you Israelis beat Syria on that one every time.

Feel the Power then Abuse the Power.

(posted 2:57pm EST)

January 20th, 2008, 7:38 pm


Qifa Nabki said:

Unease in the Netherlands over MP’s planned anti-Islam film

THE HAGUE (AFP) — The plans by far-right MP Geert Wilders to make a film that he says will show the Koran is “an inspiration for murder” has caused unease in the Netherlands which fears violent repercussions.

Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende has said that Wilders’ plans and the international attention they are getting is causing the government headaches.

“We have seen other crises but this is a substantial one,” he told Dutch public television.

Wilders, the head of the far-right Freedom Party, announced in November that he planned to release a 10-minute film this month that will show his view that Islam’s holy book, the Koran, “is an inspiration for intolerance, murder and terror”.

Nobody knows for sure if the film project will ever see the light of day but the government here is bracing for the worst.

Some observers fear Wilders will burn or tear up Islam’s holy book in the movie, likely to prompt protests in Muslim countries.

The Hague fears a repeat of the 2005 riots when thousands took to the streets in Muslim countries to protest cartoons of the prophet Mohammed that appeared in a Danish newspaper.

“We are ready to react quickly, it is our role to be prepared for calamities,” Balkenende told journalists.

The government is trying to get the message across abroad that while the famed Dutch tolerance guarantees Wilders the freedom of expression, The Hague does not support his opinions.

Wilders, whose party has nine of the parliament’s 150 seats, is a remarkable presence in Dutch politics with his bleached blonde bouffant hairdo and his increasingly harsh comments about Islam and established political parties.

He won’t comment on what his movie will actually show and refuses to be swayed by the government’s concern about the possible effects of his film.

“Now that everybody is already in a state (over the film) I see it as a confirmation that I should go ahead. I would not be worth a button if I were to capitulate now,” he told the HP/De Tijd magazine.

It is not sure how the film will be shown: on television, posted on the Internet or in another way.

In November Foreign Minister Maxime Verhagen met with Wilders personally “to point out the risks in making such a movie for himself and his entourage, and for the Netherlands and the Dutch interests abroad,” Verhagen’s spokesman Bart Rijs said

The government is also working to minimise the possible fallout of Wilders’ film in the Netherlands itself.

The MP has already received many death threats and he has been under round-the-clock protection since the November 2004 murder of outspoken columnist and filmmaker Theo van Gogh by a radical Muslim.

Van Gogh was killed in Amsterdam after he directed a controversial film written by Ayaan Hirsi Ali — a former political ally of Wilders — which examined the subordination of women in Islamic society.

Inter-ethnic tensions flared in the Netherlands after the murder but calm returned after a few months. Several mosques and some churches were set ablaze but nobody was severely wounded or died in the protests.

To try to defuse tensions here the Dutch police diversity watchdog LECD advised the police force this week to be “flexible” with possible legal complaints about the movie.

Police officers should write up complaints from citizens even if “no obvious criminal offence” is committed in the film. According to the diversity watchdog this will help people “vent their anger”.

On Wednesday the Netherlands got a taste of a possible reaction of the Muslim world when the Grand Mufti of Syria Ahmad Badr Al-Din Hassoun told the European Parliament in Strasbourg that if Wilders burns or tears up the Koran in his film “this will mean he wants war and bloodshed”.

January 20th, 2008, 7:44 pm


Qifa Nabki said:


What exactly is your argument?

You’ve made various interspersed points about media censorship in the U.S. and the West, equating it in an arch and sweeping way to censorship in the Arab world.

Care to elaborate?

January 20th, 2008, 7:48 pm


T said:


Who is the US-Israeli combine to be lecturing other nations- in this case Syria- on free speech, free press, democracy etc when they dont practice it themselves? Or human rights when they’ve got a string of (censored) black torture prisons around the world, Khiams, Gitmos, etc- not to mention a CIA history going back 50 years of the most horrific torture, drug dealing, training terrorists etc. America now has a ‘War on Terror’ spy system that makes Syrian Mukhabarat look primitive.

If all this hadnt been so censored in our “free press” over the years, maybe we’d realize we have alot more in common w/ dictatorships than we admit. US-Israel axis should stifle the hypocrisy and mind their own business until they clean up their own regimes. -posted 3:13pm

January 20th, 2008, 8:03 pm


Qifa Nabki said:

It’s shocking to me that you dare to raise your brave voice in protest of this evil, corrupt, all-pervasive mukhabarocracy that we are living in, here in the West.

Fight on, courageous soldier! Wage your campaign of speaking-truth-to-power.

And for God’s sake, be careful out there.

January 20th, 2008, 8:22 pm


T said:

This blog is a waste of time, rather QN you are a waste of time.

I passed on about the 203a before even the London Times broke it, to get the info out, to help. Under Exhibit 203a for those not too dimwitted. Unfortunately, you are denser than I thought.

But The Committee got it and thats what matters.

January 20th, 2008, 8:47 pm


Alex said:


Don’t worry about QN, he is a high school student.

: )

January 20th, 2008, 8:59 pm


T said:

Oh brother, well maybe I’ll check back in to SC in 15 yrs when QN & Co are out of britches. We can see how their democracy turned out- a bit like Iraq, Afghan & Leb most likely. Thanks though, Alex.

January 20th, 2008, 9:03 pm


Qifa Nabki said:


How dare you spill my secret!


January 20th, 2008, 9:14 pm


Qifa Nabki said:

Since you’ve outed me, I have no choice but to out you, Alex.

January 20th, 2008, 9:38 pm


Alex said:

I fixed my teeth since that photo. I’ll have to upload a new one.

Here is some encouraging words from one os my favorite Arab diplomats.

Saudi prince: If Israel quits Arab land, it could join Arab world
By Reuters
Tags: Arab world

A senior Saudi royal has offered Israel a vision of broad cooperation with the Arab world and people-to-people contacts if it signs a peace treaty and withdraws from all occupied Arab territories.

In an interview with Reuters, Prince Turki al-Faisal, a former ambassador to the United States and Britain and adviser to King Abdullah, said Israel and the Arabs could cooperate in many areas including water, agriculture, science and education.

Asked what message he wanted to send to the Israeli public, he said:

“The Arab world, by the Arab peace initiative, has crossed the Rubicon from hostility towards Israel to peace with Israel and has extended the hand of peace to Israel, and we await the Israelis picking up our hand and joining us in what inevitably will be beneficial for Israel and for the Arab world.”

The 22-nation Arab League revived at a Riyadh summit last year a Saudi peace plan first adopted in 2002 offering Israel full normalization of relations in return for full withdrawal from occupied Palestinian, Syrian and Lebanese land.

Israel shunned the offer then, at the height of a violent Palestinian uprising in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

But it has expressed more interest since the United States launched a new drive for Israeli-Palestinian peace at Annapolis, Maryland, last November, aiming for an agreement this year.

Prince Turki, who was previously head of Saudi intelligence, said that if Israel accepted the Arab League plan and signed a comprehensive peace, “one can imagine the integration of Israel into the Arab geographical entity.”

“One can imagine not just economic, political and diplomatic relations between Arabs and Israelis but also issues of education, scientific research, combating mutual threats to the inhabitants of this vast geographic area,” he said.

His comments, on the sidelines of a conference on the Middle East and Europe staged by Germany’s Bertelsmann Foundation think-tank, were some of the most far-reaching addressed to Israelis by a senior figure from Saudi Arabia.

The desert kingdom, home to Islam’s holiest shrines, has no official relations with Israel, although both are key allies of the United States in the region.

“Exchange visits by people of both Israel and the rest of the Arab countries would take place,” Prince Turki said.

“We will start thinking of Israelis as Arab Jews rather than
simply as Israelis,” he said, noting that many Arabs historically saw Israel as a European entity imposed on Arab land after World War Two.

Prince Turki, brother of Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal, holds no official position now but heads the King Faisal Center for Research and Islamic Studies in Riyadh.

He said Israel could expect some benefits on the way to signing a treaty and making a full withdrawal, noting that after the 1993 Oslo interim accords with the Palestine Liberation Organization, regional cooperation had begun and Israel had achieved representation in several Arab states.

Those Israeli advances were reversed after the outbreak of the second Palestinian Intifada in 2000.

Israel was wary of the Arab League plan partly because it would entail handing back the Golan Heights captured in the 1967 Six-Day War, as well as redivision.

But an Israeli participant at the conference, Yossi Alpher, co-editor of the Bitter Lemons Israeli-Palestinian Web site and a former senior intelligence official, welcomed the comments.

“I was delighted to hear Prince Turki’s description of the comprehensive nature of normalization as he envisages it within the framework of the Arab peace initiative,” Alpher said.

“His remarks should encourage us Israelis and Arabs to deepen and broaden the discussion of ways to reach a comprehensive peace, implement the Arab peace initiative and reach the kind of cooperation that his highness described.”

Alpher said he hoped that once there was a comprehensive peace, Israel’s Arab neighbours would accept Israelis “as Jewish people living a sovereign life in our historic homeland” and not as “Arab Jews” or “European Jews”

January 20th, 2008, 9:41 pm


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Anyone who speaks for democracy in your book is out for war or “large scale destruction”. The only way to keep peace is to surrender to dictators according to your philosophy. You are just a regime apologists trying to sell the usual dictator propoganda: We are bad but the alternative is really bad.

Only the Syrians can change their situation, and if they prefer living under Asad or decide to surrender to him, that is their problem. As for you, you live in a democracy and preach to the Syrians to live in a dictatorship. That is really large of you.

January 20th, 2008, 9:46 pm


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:


Thank you for keeping it real while some other posters are hallucinating conspiracy theories.

January 20th, 2008, 9:48 pm


Qifa Nabki said:


Can’t you see the blatant fingerprints of Western media censorship all over that pitiful gesture toward a political “solution”?

I’m surprised you are so naive.


January 20th, 2008, 9:49 pm


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

What is Turki smoking? The moment Israel or Israelis will do something substantial in an Arab economy the whole press will start chanting “the Jews are taking over” and will demand stopping it.

January 20th, 2008, 9:50 pm


Qifa Nabki said:


Unfortunately for Prince Turki, I think the Israeli press will be less interested in what he has to say this weekend, as it will be focusing on what Nasrallah is saying:

“They [Israeli army] were so weak on the field that they left behind remains not of one, two or three but a large number of your soldiers,” Nasrallah added.

“One body is almost complete,” Nasrallah said. “What did the [Israeli] army say to the family of these soldiers and what remains did they give them?”

The Hizbullah leader’s comments sparked outrage in Israel, which prides itself on doing everything to recover the remains of its soldiers from fields of battle and has in the past freed prisoners in exchange for remains of soldiers and civilians.

Israeli ministers on Sunday cursed Nasrallah as a “sewer rat” for boasting that his group had Israeli body parts.

“Nasrallah has crossed all possible boundaries of inhumanity,” Interior Minister Meir Sheetrit of Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert’s centrist Kadima party said ahead of a weekly Cabinet meeting.

“We should not panic from his words and we should not negotiate with him. We should take him out,” he told AFP.

Housing Minister Zeev Boim echoed the sentiment and also called for the assassination of the leader of Hizbullah.

“Nasrallah is a sewer rat who will continue digging his holes,” he said. “Israel should make sure that he doesn’t see the light of day.”

Yitzhak Cohen, a minister from Israel’s ultra-Orthodox Shas party, said that “Nasrallah is a madman and I don’t understand why he’s still breathing.”

“We should have taken him out a long, long time ago and it’s never too late to do so,” he told AFP. “I will advise the Security Cabinet to assassinate the man.”

[finish article]

January 20th, 2008, 10:19 pm


EHSANI2 said:


You would like us Syrians to cease to “surrender to dictators”.

Please elaborate specifically on what you mean by this and how you suggest we bring democracy to our country?

January 20th, 2008, 10:57 pm


Observer said:

In the meantime war criminals Olmert and Barak are getting a free hand with the collective punishment of the people of Gaza.

As for AIG IG and AP c’est le dialogue des sourds. No questions are answered and the slew of statistics are nothing more than another demonstration of racist superiority complex.

AIG for example says that you can have an Israeli citizenship and passport without being jewish but never answers my question of why not let the Palestinian refugees return and embrace this wonderful democracy and become Israeli citizens. If Jewishness and jewish nationalism is not a religious based exclusivist ideology demonstrated by Zionism, as he says that he is a Jewish atheist pointing out to the national non religious characteristic of the nation, he still does not explain why the Palestinians cannot return and become jewish members of the Israeli society without conversion. I am originally a Kurd but I consider myself now and for all of my life as an Arab as I grew in an Arab cutlture which is open inclusive and welcoming and now an Arab American.

Making more money, having this or that per capita statistic does not change the basic equality of humans. Each and every human being is equal in my eyes and all share the same characteristics. I have taken care of patients from every culture and have not seen any significant differene to how they hope, fear, celebrate, and grieve. For me, it is futile to have any conversation with a group that essentially consider a single characteristic as a demonstration of intrinsic superiority.

This is what Juan Cole says about the Geneva convention and collective punishment as it is happening right now.
Article 33. No protected person may be punished for an offence he or she has not personally committed. Collective penalties and likewise all measures of intimidation or of terrorism are prohibited.

Pillage is prohibited.

Reprisals against protected persons and their property are prohibited.

Under the 1949 Geneva Conventions collective punishments are a war crime. Article 33 states: “No protected person may be punished for an offense he or she has not personally committed,” and “collective penalties and likewise all measures of intimidation or of terrorism are prohibited.”

By collective punishment, the drafters of the Geneva Conventions had in mind the reprisal killings of World Wars I and II. In the First World War, Germans executed Belgian villagers in mass retribution for resistance activity. In World War II, Nazis carried out a form of collective punishment to suppress resistance. Entire villages or towns or districts were held responsible for any resistance activity that took place there. The conventions, to counter this, reiterated the principle of individual responsibility. The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) Commentary to the conventions states that parties to a conflict often would resort to “intimidatory measures to terrorize the population” in hopes of preventing hostile acts, but such practices “strike at guilty and innocent alike. They are opposed to all principles based on humanity and justice.”

Additional Protocol II of 1977 explicitly forbids collective punishment. . . ‘

January 20th, 2008, 11:04 pm


norman said:

I do not see any chance of a peaceful solution in the Mideast , Israel understands only force , and as long as the Arabs are not willing to engage in a long term war that will starve Israel and force it’s people to leave , Israel will continue to kill the Palestinians and push them to leave so it can keep the land ,

Time is running out for Israel, sooner or later the radicals that do not accept any solution will win and at that time Israel will have no other choice but to vanish .

January 20th, 2008, 11:25 pm


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

When you ask me this question you put me in a catch-22 because I am Israeli. I know what I would do as if I were a Syrian, but if I suggest those things, people like Alex will say I am the “enemy” (it is true I am an enemy of the Syrian regime) and proposing things to hurt Syria. He could always point to the risk that is part of any action and say what I really want is that the bad thing happen. I don’t want to play this game.

If you are also looking for a riskless option, none is really available. If you think that is a reason not do anything, that is surrender.

I am already living in a democracy. It is up to you to figure out what you are willing to do and what risks you are willing to take.

January 20th, 2008, 11:43 pm


Honest Patriot said:

Norman says: “I do not see any chance of a peaceful solution in the Mideast (…) Time is running out for Israel, sooner or later the radicals that do not accept any solution will win and at that time Israel will have no other choice but to vanish .”

AIG says (in response to my prompting for an Israeli “Sadat” coming forth with courage to offer a just peace to the Arabs): “Unlikely to happen. There is zero trust after the second intifada. More time is needed for people to forget. (…) If (…) Hizballah (the military side) attacks Israel, then it is Lebanon that will suffer. If Lebanese are gullible and fools, they will pay a price.”

Now…if folks on this forum are evidently lacking the courage to at leat call for peace and instead follow, like “des moutons de Panurge” the wave of events and positions leading the region to a disastrous war, whence is hope for peace supposed to come from? War, if it happens, is going to be a nuclear one fueled by religious fanaticism. All you have to do is read the news. The weapons are there. The emotions are there. Fanaticism is there. The sparks have so far not reached critical mass, but if the intellectual class gives up, it won’t be long till they do.

January 21st, 2008, 12:40 am


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

The fanatics will always be there. Do you think Hamas will stop firing rockets at Israel even after Abbas signs a peace deal? They will call him traitor and such. Peace with Israel will not stop the problem of radical political Islam. It is an internal problem the Arab countries need to solve.

Peace will take a long time to come, but it will only come when there is democracy in Arab countries especially Syria.

January 21st, 2008, 1:19 am


EHSANI2 said:


so, what would you do if you were Syrian?

January 21st, 2008, 1:47 am


Honest Patriot said:


Yes, but will be Oh so much of an easier problem to solve if peace based on just principles is seriously engaged and the Arab leaders use the tool of persuasive speeches — remember Nasser ? and Hafez Assad ? — to talk directly to their populations and seek their support. For this to be effective, concrete steps from Israel (such as halting settlements, and other security measures that they can take in support of Abbas) have to be demonstrated for the Arab leaders to cite them. Rapprochement with Syria through dialogue (probably against what the current US Administration favors) is likely to be a key step as well.

At that time, the problem of radical political islam will be dealt with – as Assad dealt with the Muslim brotherhood – a step that may carry with it horrors internal to the Arab nation. But at that time there will be no doubt about the outcome and the emergence of “Islam 2.0” along with a progressively assertive secular class.

I don’t doubt the extreme difficulty of what Israel and its leaders have to deal with. Yet, just pushing peace “a long time” into the future is a copout and puts a burden on the next generation. Given that the elements of a final settlement with the Palestinians, with the Syrians, and all Arabs are known – a fact acknowledged by all – there is really no reason to keep pushing things into the future, endlessly.

One thing is for sure, tit-for-tat and failing to have courageous leaders (like, for example Rabin) who seize the historical moments and transform the conflict into resolution – such failure will only perpetuate misery and, in that case, Norman’s scenario will happen (you can’t change demographic dynamics, at least not anymore [except with a nuclear Holocaust]). Time is NOT on Israel’s side. That’s what Norman was reflecting on. Maybe Sharon was going to be that leader, but now we’ll never know. The next Israeli “Sadat” needs to emerge and move forward. I truly believe that out-of-the-box thinking, maybe even prompted by discussions you see here on SC, is a sure way forward – and it has to come from the Israeli side. It’s your turn.

January 21st, 2008, 1:58 am


MNA said:

You people on this blog waste so much time engaging IG and AIG and paople like them. Don’t get me wrong, I m for engaging everybody, but if there is a benefit, any benefit. But, with them it is a complete waste of time and energy, which at the end renders this blog useless. Just ignore them!!

January 21st, 2008, 3:07 am


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:


You are Syrian, you tell me what you would do.
Why do you need advice from an Israeli?

January 21st, 2008, 3:45 am


MNA said:

Ok Alex Thank you!! I will give it a look, although I m skeptical about piece initiatives which focuse on one track. No ending to any conflict in the region without addressing the big elephant in the room; ending the occupation of Palestine.

January 21st, 2008, 3:52 am


Alex said:


I agree : )

Tell Alon what you think.

AIG, you too. It will be great to see you take part of that debate … even if it is too positive for your taste.

January 21st, 2008, 3:57 am


EHSANI2 said:


Since we don’t have experience with democracy, we don’t know how to go about getting it. Any suggestions? How do you explain the fact that the 20 million Syrians have chosen to “surrender” thus far?

January 21st, 2008, 4:08 am


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Alon is saying exactly what IG said, which you don’t agree with anyway. Good luck talking to him.
His plan includes:
1) Syria cuts ties to Hamas, Hizballah and Iran (you don’t agree)
2) Israelis can still own their property in the Golan and don’t need visas to get to it (you don’t agree)

Basically he has found another way to package the lease option. Have fun.

January 21st, 2008, 6:09 am


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Why are you weaseling out?
First, you have experience with democracy since you are living in a democratic country. And second, it is you that has to explain why 20 million Syrians are still living under dictatorship. I am not Syrian and won’t persume to know. So why is it?

January 21st, 2008, 6:12 am


Shual said:

Dear AIG from New Jersey,

“Peace with Israel will not stop the problem of radical political Islam. It is an internal problem the Arab countries need to solve.”

You are rigth! Sheikh Raid Salah is one of those internal problems of an Arab country. But this particular country has more internal problems.

January 21st, 2008, 6:34 am


wizart said:

“The Prince” 500 years ago explained the nature of political power.

Defense and military

Machiavelli turns to the ways a state can attack other territories or defend itself. The two most essential foundations for any state, whether old or new, are sound laws and strong military forces. A self-sufficient prince is one who can meet any enemy on the battlefield. However, a prince that relies solely on fortifications or on the help of others and stands on the defensive is not self-sufficient. If a prince cannot raise a formidable army and must rely on defense, he must fortify his city. A well-fortified city is not a likely target for attack and if it is, most armies cannot endure an extended siege. However, during a siege a virtuous prince will keep the morale of his subjects high, while removing all dissenters. Therefore, as long as the city is properly defended and has enough supplies, a wise prince can withstand any siege.

Machiavelli takes a strong stance against the use of mercenary forces, troops that are hired to fight for a wage. He believes mercenary forces are useless to a ruler because they are undisciplined, cowardly, and without any loyalty. Their only motivation to fight is for money. Machiavelli attributes Italy’s weakness to the reliance on mercenary armies.

Machiavelli also warns against using auxiliary forces, troops that are borrowed from an ally, because if they win, the employer is under their favor and if they lose, the employer is ruined. Auxiliary forces are more dangerous than mercenary forces because they are united and controlled by capable leaders who may turn against their employers.

The main concern for a prince should be war, or the preparation thereof. It is through war a hereditary prince maintains his power and a private citizen rises to power. Machiavelli advises that a prince must frequently hunt in order to keep the body fit and allow the prince to learn the immediate landscape surrounding his kingdom. Through this, he can best learn how to protect his territory and how to advance upon others similar. Likewise, for intellectual strength, it is advised that a prince be given to the study of great military men so that he may imitate their successes and avoid their mistakes. A prince that is diligent in times of peace will be ready in times of adversity. Machiavelli writes, “thus, when fortune turns against him he will be prepared to resist it.”

Reputation of a prince

Concerning the behavior of a prince toward his subjects, Machiavelli writes: “Many men have imagined republics and principalities that never really existed at all. Yet the way men live is so far removed from the way they ought to live that anyone who abandons what is for what should be pursues his downfall rather than his preservation; for a man who strives after goodness in all his acts is sure to come to ruin, since there are so many men who are not good.” Since there are many possible qualities that a prince can be said to possess, he must not be overly concerned about having all the good ones. Also, a prince may be perceived to be merciful, faithful, humane, frank, and religious, but he should only seem to have these qualities. A prince cannot truly have these qualities because at times it is necessary to act against them. Although a bad reputation should be avoided, this is not crucial in maintaining power. The only ethic that matters is one that is beneficial to the prince in dealing with the concerns of his state.

Generosity vs. parsimony

If a prince is overly generous to his subjects, Machiavelli asserts he will lose appreciation and will only cause greed for more. Additionally, being over-generous is not economical, because eventually all resources will be exhausted. This results in higher taxes and will bring grief upon the prince. Then, if he decides to discontinue or limit his generosity, he will be labeled as a miser. Thus, Machiavelli summarizes that guarding against the people’s hatred is more important than building up a reputation for generosity. A wise prince should be more willing to be reputed a miser than be hated for trying to be too generous.

Cruelty vs. mercy

In answering the question of whether it is better to be loved than feared, Machiavelli writes, “The answer is of course, that it would be best to be both loved and feared. But since the two rarely come together, anyone compelled to choose will find greater security in being feared than in being loved.” As Machiavelli asserts, commitments made in peace are not always kept in adversity, however commitments made in fear are kept out of fear. However, a prince must ensure that he is not feared to the point of hatred, which is very possible. Above all, Machiavelli argues, do not interfere with the property of the subjects, their women, or the life of somebody without proper justification. Regarding the troops of the prince, fear is absolutely necessary to keep a large garrison united and a prince should not mind the thought of cruelty in that regard. For a prince who leads his own army, it is imperative for him to observe cruelty because that is the only way he can command his soldiers’ absolute respect. Machiavelli compares two great military leaders: Hannibal and Scipio. Although Hannibal’s army consisted of men of various races, they were never rebellious because they feared their leader. Scipio’s men, on the other hand, were known for their mutiny and dissension.

Avoiding contempt and hatred

Machiavelli observes that most men are content as long as they are not deprived of their property and women. A prince should command respect through his conduct, because a prince that is highly respected by his people is unlikely to face internal struggles. Additionally, a prince who does not raise the contempt of the nobles and keeps the people satisfied, Machiavelli assures, should have no fear of conspirators.

Gaining honors

A prince earns honor by completing great feats. King Ferdinand of Spain is cited by Machiavelli as an example of a lowly monarch who gained esteem by showing his ability through great feats and in the name of religion, he conquered many territories and kept his subjects occupied so that they had no chance to rebel. Regarding two warring states, Machiavelli asserts it is always wiser to choose a side, rather than to be neutral. Machiavelli then provides the following reasons why:

If your allies win, you benefit whether or not you have more power than they have.
If you are more powerful, then your allies are under your command; if your allies are stronger, they will always feel a certain obligation to you for your help.
If your side loses, you still have an ally in the loser.
Machiavelli also notes that it is wise for a prince not to ally with a stronger force unless compelled to do so. In conclusion, the most important virtue is having the wisdom to discern what ventures will come with the most reward and then pursuing it courageously.

Nobles and staff

The selection of quality servants is reflected directly upon the prince’s intelligence, so if they are loyal the prince is considered wise; however, when they are otherwise, the prince is open to adverse criticism. Machiavelli asserts that there are three types of intelligence:

The kind that understands things for itself- which is great to have.
The kind that understands what others can understand- which is good to have.
The kind that does not understand for itself, nor through others- which is useless to have.
If the prince does not have the first type of intelligence, he should at least have the second type. For, as Machiavelli states, “A prince must have the discernment to recognize the good or bad in what another says or does even though he has no acumen himself”.

Avoiding flatterers

A prudent prince should have a select group of wise counselors to advise him truthfully on matters all the time. All their opinions should be taken into account. Ultimately, the decision should be made by the counselors and carried out absolutely. If a prince is given to changing his mind, his reputation will suffer. A prince must have the wisdom to recognize good advice from bad. Machiavelli gives an example of Emperor Maximilian I. Maximilian, who was secretive, never consulted others, but once he ordered his plans and met dissent, he immediately changed them.


Machiavelli himself argues that fortune is only the judge of half our actions and we have control over the other half. He compares fortune to a torrential river that cannot be easily controlled during flooding season. In periods of calm, however, people can erect dams and levees in order to minimize its impact. Fortune, Machiavelli argues, seems to strike at the places where no resistance is offered, as is the case in Italy. Additionally, a prince’s rule must be suited and adjusted for the times.


Does President Putin of Russia
think Democracy is overrated?

Is stability at the expense of freedom a legitimate trade off for Arab regimes to make in the case of the Israel Arab cold war?

January 21st, 2008, 6:45 am


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Mr. Fox,

Salah’s party participates freely in democratic elections and has a very small representation in Israel. That is exactly why it is not a problem. Let’s see how many votes the Muslim Brotherhood get in Syria and Egypt in free elections.

How strong do you think they will be? Does 30% sound right to you?

January 21st, 2008, 6:50 am


Alex said:


I had no serious problem with IG’s opinions … the differences were manageable.

What I support and what he supports are almost the same thing … it is how yo look at it.

January 21st, 2008, 7:20 am


Shual said:

“The problem of radical political Islam”

Dear AIG,
you surprise me.
“Salah’s party participates freely in democratic elections and has a very small representation in Israel. That is exactly why it is not a problem.” In Germany, we are talking about a representation of some 20 – 30 Tsd. organised sympathisants of radical poltical Islam. And thats a very small representation. This is “exactly why” they are no problem?
Well, I think, my secretary of the interior will cick me out of the room if I present him such arguments…

January 21st, 2008, 10:50 am


kingcrane jr said:

The fireworks are interesting.
One picture suggests that the Syrian premiere of “V for Vendetta” took place at that moment.

January 21st, 2008, 2:26 pm


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

I really do not understand your argument. Are you saying that 1% of population supporting radical Islam is that same as 30% to 50% supporting radical Islam? That is the difference between Israel and Germany on one hand and the Arab world on the other.

January 21st, 2008, 4:53 pm


Kooki said:

Did you notice that it’s actually “Damascus 2008: Arab Capital of Culture” and not “Capital of Arab Culture” at all? Perhaps that’s why there’s a blonde pictured. And perhaps that’s why there was barely a headscarf to be seen at the official launch (except for in the audience, where there were plenty).

January 22nd, 2008, 7:48 am


Alex said:

Damascus Wearing Make-Up

Sami Moubayed

A few months ago, I met with one of the organizers of Damascus-Capital of Arab Culture 2008. She wanted my advise on what can be done to promote Damascus. I made several suggestions, including honoring 365-Syrians in 2008. I advised against one thing, however, saying: “Don’t try to promote Damascus as a beautiful city. It is no longer beautiful. Say that it is magical. Say that it is historical. Say that it is great—but it is no longer beautiful!”

God proved me wrong today. Damascus under snow was AMAZING. I have been through winters in London, Paris, Berlin, Cairo, and Beirut. Each of these cities is magical in its own way, and I am no fool. I know that we are not as majestic or organized as London, nor are we clean and proper like Berlin, or charming and romantic like Paris. But from where I stand today, Damascus is more beautiful than “all of the above.”

The Damascenes have not seen so much snow in years. The snow exposed the beauty of Damascus; it covered all the distortions on the streets, the damage done to roads, buildings, and monuments. It almost erased the ugliness of bad planning, and the destruction left behind by mediocre architects.

What I saw today was Damascus 1950—my Damascus. We witnessed its remains in the 1980s both first hand, through bedtime stories from our elders, and via the magical poetry of Nizar Qabbani. We must not forget that there is a rising number of young Syrians around who simply, don’t know ‘that’ Damascus.

I just came back from a cold and enchanting walk in Salhiyah. It reminded me of London. I saw the statue of Yusuf al-Azma, the martyr of Damascus, covered with snow. I saw children in utter joy, with heavy clothing, building a snowman near the Central Bank. They were laughing like crazy. I heard the voice of Fayruz coming out of shops that managed to remain open, despite the blizzard. The Damascenes are rediscovering Fayruz, as she is about to perform at the Opera House on January 28—her first performance, in nearly 30-years. Other Syrians were listening to Um Kalthoum playing on Damascus Radio. She was singing Ruba’yat al-Khayyam, an eternal classic; another reminder of a bygone era.

Fayrouz, Damascus, Um Kalthoum, snow, and roasted chestnuts from one of the peddlers of Damascus.

Readers might claim: “What’s wrong with Sami? Hasn’t he seen snow in his life? Does a little bit of snow merit an entire article?”

The answer is: “Snow doesn’t, but Damascus does!” I suddenly remembered how beautiful this city was, after having lost much of my earlier admiration for it. I am not writing in my capacity as a historian or analyst; I am writing as a Syrian who feel in love with Damascus—again—for the millionth time in his life.

The reason probably is that I have been back to Damascus since 2004. I witnessed the Herculean task of building the Umayyad Square. I saw it get torn down and erected once again, in 2001-2005. I saw it flood and nearly collapse. I also recently saw it celebrating very colorful fireworks as the Syrian capital launched festivities for 2008. I witnessed the ugliness of a wind storm that tore the city apart three years ago. I witnessed the mushrooming of cars in Damascus—more in quality than the city can tolerate, with its current structure. They left Damascus in ruin. I witnessed the never ending drills, dust, confusion and chaos left behind by the Municipality of Damascus. I saw sidewalks cave in months after they were renovated. I witnessed crazy driving, passive policemen, topped with complete disregard for law and order.

But today, by early evening, the streets were empty. Cars were not driving by and honking away. Police officers were too cold to obstruct traffic. For the first time in many years, we had a lot of fresh air to inhale.

Satellite Television was not working in Damascus—because of the snow. I had nothing to watch but Syrian TV. I was actually impressed, because I have not tuned-in for ages, and found some young, well-spoken, well-dressed, and beautiful anchors on TV. I found them very elegant and presentable, and if it were not for snow, millions of Syrians who no longer watch Syrian TV would probably have never noticed them.

Older people were thrilled with the snow. It reminded them of “their Damascus.” Snow was common after all, up to the late 1970s. The image of a beautiful Damascus made them look younger again.

Since I am not writing politics, and by no means is this meant to be a ‘serious’ article, I will copy a statement I recently made in an earlier article called “The Eternal City.” My Damascus is the smell of jasmine one inhales while walking down Abu Rummaneh Street, or through the Afif and Rawda neighborhoods. It is the old stone buildings scattered throughout these elegant residential districts, with their spacious balconies, and high-ceiling apartments. These buildings still ‘smell’ like Damascus. It is the beautiful parliament building on Abid Street, the old municipality in Marjeh Square, the original faculties of Damascus University, the Ain al-Fijja Waterworks Building, and the Hijaz Railway Station. They are real, elegant, proud Damascus. All of them today, were covered with snow.

My Damascus is the smell of mother’s cooking, and the ordinary people one recounts every day who seemingly never change despite the passing of time. They are the grocer, the policeman, the next-door shop owner, and the building janitor. My Damascus is the noise that comes from the streets at 7:00 am, along with a cold Damascene breeze telling us that winter has arrived, and students are back to school. It’s the sound of mosques at prayer time, and churches on Sunday. Its an afternoon promenade in the Old City and the June chill of a summer evening in Damascus.

My Damascus is the smell of mother’s cooking, and the ordinary people one recounts every day who seemingly never change despite the passing of time. They are the grocer, the policeman, the next-door shop owner, and the building janitor. It’s the chivalry of young Damascene men and the dazzling eyes of Damascene ladies, which speak volumes about their lives, dreams, and upbringing. My Damascus is the noise that comes from the streets at 7:00 am, along with a cold Damascene breeze telling us that winter has arrived, and students are back to school. It’s the sound of mosques at prayer time, and churches on Sunday. Its an afternoon promenade in the Old City and the June chill of a summer evening in Damascus.

I was wrong when I told the lady that we can no longer market Damascus as a Beautiful City.

This city just doesn’t want to die. Its like an aged and ailing woman who loves life and insists on living it abundantly.

Ugliness prevails? Perhaps, but not tonight. Was it just make-up? Probably. But if snow could cover up for the damage—at least for tonight—then so can we!

January 22nd, 2008, 7:46 pm


Imad Elias said:

There are numerous blondes in Syria, and many are very fair skinned. My son has dirty/blonde hair and he looks like the prototype all American boy but is 100% Syrian. What a moronic racist thing to say by “Offended” that the girl in the picture is not “arab and not even Syrian” (but he/she can “guess” that that she’s “East European”). Wow!! Why don’t you bring back in fashion Hitlerean views on race, while you’re at it. “Offended” indeed…by your ignorance and prejudice.

January 31st, 2008, 7:10 pm


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