Economics, NGOs and More

On Dardari/Raddawi again, all4syria has a couple of interesting articles: (thanks to Idaf for this)

Raddawi’s firing was a personal response from PM Otri for what he considered a direct personal attack by Raddawi.. it was Raddawi’s critical public lecture of the 10th 5-year plan, delivered 4 days after the PM presented a positive report on the outcome of the plan to the parliament that caused his dismissal.

PM Otri took it personally, it seems. It is not the first time Raddawi criticized the plan, but he is deliberately attacked the prime minister. The dispute did not reach the level of the president and he does not seem to have had a direct hand in the removal of Raddawi….. Ehsani should expect a less “painful” pace for reforms now. Dardari has one less excuse. Also read this English summary of Raddawi’s last lecture.

Milli Schmidt writes:

I wish to add a couple of points to the ‘economics’ discussion that have not been mentioned, but are important:

– as Ehsani points out, in the medium term, ‘liberalisation’ of the economy will lead to greater income disparity and poverty. It is likely that more people will seek to express their frustration publicly, this is of course one of the reasons the government is reluctant. More importantly however, in the Syrian context, the almost ‘default’ option for Syrians to express their frustration with the elite state and the way spoils are divided among elites (of all religions) is to fall back on their sectarian identity. This is incredibly dangerous. It is likely that growing popular frustration in Syria would lead to sectarian violence as this is the way people express discontent of all kinds (including economic discontent). Blame is nearly always placed on another group and confidence drawn from the fact that one belongs to the ‘right’ and good group. Ussama Makdisi in fact has provided a convincing analysis that class/economic discontent was a major reason for the militia politics of the Lebanese war (see his articles in MERIP) and I believe that a similar analysis can be made for Syria – ten, fifteen years down the line, when Jaramana has indeed become a slum, not a poor suburb. There is no national dialogue going in whatsoever about how to deal with the effects of economic ‘liberalisation’, there is no transparency, no explanation to the wider public about why the government is doing what, no calls even that everybody has to ‘tighten belts’ etc to improve the economy in the long term. In fact sectarian thinking is as strong as ever.

– The education sector remains a disaster with no real signs that the government is making it a priority to improve access to good, public, affordable education. The private unis have changed nothing about this. Positively, french and English are now being taught at primary level. The government faces a paradox here as it needs well educated, analytical minds – but people with minds like these can hardly thrive in the stifling, politicised working environment in Syria and even very patriotic people who possess such minds and education want to leave. The scramble for European/US visas also remains as strong as ever, perhaps more so than five years ago.

– the investment environment remains very unattractive for foreign investors, and there is no sign fo a concerted effort at all levels to change this. A friend of mine working at a JV between the Syrian gov and another Arab state confirmed that the non-Syria partners are getting very frustrated and are ready to pull the plug on the project, as, despite high level political support everything takes far too long. Foreigners cannot buy land in Syria, even long term leases are incredibly difficult to obtain. The government can intervene at any moment in surprising fashion: last month, all foreign banks, most of them are Lebanese, were informed that all employees, including the most senior management, have to be Syrian! all foreigners have to be replaced within nine months.there was no preview about it, no discussion, it was simply announced as a populist move. Disaster for the banks, and very bad sign for any other foreign bank wanting to invest in Syria.

– In conclusion, I believe that addressing the above are more important and should be tackled FIRST before lifting subsidies. Attract private investment first by strengthening judiciary, binding hands of ministries trying to interfere, gradually closing government factories, start cutting back interference of economic players close to the top. Then start cutting subsidies, or start, but very slowly. Otherwise the negative effects of liberalisation, unequal distribution of the increase in wealth, more corruption and displays of ostentatious wealth plus public discontent, will be much worse.

Signals of Change from Syria
Rami Khouri, Senior Fellow, The Dubai Initiative
Op-Ed, Agence Global
January 27, 2010

DAMASCUS — I have been traveling to Syria regularly for 40 years, and every time I visit Damascus I make time to go to the old city and the spectacular early 8th Century AD Umayyad Mosque. The timeless beauty and power of the place are always dazzling, no matter how many times you experience it.

Equally constant are the nature and direction of modern political rule in Syria, which has been under Baath Party guardianship since the early 1960s. Whether you like it or dislike it, Syrian policy under President Bashar Assad — as under his late father Hafez Assad — has been very consistent, changing only in response to intense internal or external pressures (such as its departure from Lebanon in 2005, or its gradual economic reforms in the past decade).

Today, we may be witnessing signs of a new strand of change in a society that does not change very often, this time in the civil society sector. At a conference here in Damascus I attended last weekend, organized by the Syria Trust for Development, Syria witnessed several simultaneous phenomena. It held an international conference on “the emerging role of civil society in development” that was based on an open call for papers, with participation by dozens of scholars from around the world. The few Syrians who presented papers were more analytical than propagandistic. Two keynote speakers were from the United States and the United Kingdom – hardly the sort of thing one expects from a country that defines itself as the throbbing heart of Arabism.

First Lady Asma Assad opened the conference by declaring that the state wanted to open more space for civil society to work, develop and partner with the government in designing and implementing development-oriented policies. We will learn from our mistakes, she said, and a law will be passed soon — after consultations with civil society — to provide non-governmental organizations the safeguards they need to operate effectively. She challenged them, for their part, to rise to the occasion and achieve higher levels of efficacy and professionalism. Her overall theme of partnership reflected a realization that the government alone could not provide all the expertise or services needed to develop the country at the pace that its citizens expect.

The same message was delivered more explicitly by the Deputy Prime Minister for Economic Affairs, Dr. Abdullah Dardari, who noted the weaknesses or limits of both the state and the market economy in achieving national developmental goals. Civil society and citizen participation through non-governmental organizations are critical for moving on Syria’s goals, ……

….The best hope now is that Syrians themselves will test the sincerity of their government’s call for a deeper, stronger civil society. If the state is sincere, this is a moment of some hope for Syria and its neighbors. If it is bluffing, this is the moment to call its bluff and find out.

Protected timeless treasures are great for tourism and a sense of historical identity; a prosperous modern state, on the other hand, needs dynamism, pluralism, citizen participation, a free flow of ideas, and the protective framework of the rule of law. We shall soon find out if Syria can master both sides of the national equation, as its new rhetoric suggests it seeks to do.

Syria to Introduce New NGOs Law, Establish a new Sector besides Public and Private Sectors
25 January 2010, Syria Report

A new framework law for Syrian NGOs is in the making and will alter significantly the way they work, Asma Al-Assad, Syria’s First Lady said.
Mrs Al-Assad was talking during the opening session of a two-day conference organized in Damascus by the Syria Trust for Development, a foundation chaired by the First Lady.

“The new law will represent a fundamental change in the way the sector is regulated and as such pave the way for a new and more enabling environment for these organisations. More significantly, it will be complemented by guidelines to ensure that its implementation is in line with the enabling spirit to help the sector achieve its objectives,” Mrs Al-Assad said.

The First Lady announced that a system of accreditation and governance will be introduced. “This [the system] will enable potential partners, donors and supporters to seek out organizations, which demonstrably meet clear standards of performance. In turn this will also encourage organizations towards greater transparency and better results,” she added.

Syria has among the lowest number of NGOs in the Middle East. Compared with some 3,500 and 2,000 NGOs in Lebanon and Jordan respectively, Syria has only some 1,500, the vast majority of them being charities. The number of NGOs has, however, increased by some 300 percent in the last 5 years, according to Mrs Al-Assad.

Dubai Helps Iran Evade Sanctions as Smugglers Ignore U.S. Laws
By Kambiz Foroohar

Jan. 26 (Bloomberg) — On a sweltering mid-October evening, horns blare as pickup trucks at Dubai Creek wharf jockey to deliver cargo bound for Iran. Televisions, cartons of toothpaste, car parts, refrigerators and DVD players stretch for about a mile on the dock along the murky waterway that snakes to the Persian Gulf.

“We’ll take anything as long as you pay us,” says Ali, a 24-year-old Iranian deck hand in an oil-stained T-shirt, as he pulls down a blue tarpaulin covering air conditioners, tires and tea bags headed for the port of Bandar Abbas, 100 miles (160 kilometers) across the Gulf. “We’ve taken American stuff — printers, computers, everything.”

Years before the world turned its attention to Dubai’s financial crisis, the second largest of the seven states in the United Arab Emirates was amassing clout — and money — as Iran’s back door to the West, Bloomberg Markets magazine reported in its March issue.

Iran’s biggest non-oil trading partner provides a stream of household items — from diapers and mobile phones to laptops and washing machines — as well as illicit items such as aircraft parts and computer chips that the U.S. says have nuclear and military uses.

The U.S. forbids American companies from sending anything to Iran, with limited exceptions, such as medical supplies, and has pressed other nations to stop doing business with the country. The Justice Department has prosecuted foreign companies that sell American goods with military uses to Iran.

‘Offshore Business Center’

The U.A.E. was the biggest importer of U.S. products in the Middle East and North Africa, the Government Accountability Office said in December 2007. It ships out as much as 80 percent of the material — and as much as a quarter of that heads to Iran, says Jean-Francois Seznec, a professor at Georgetown University’s Center for Contemporary Arab Studies in Washington. From 2005 to 2009, trade between Dubai and Iran tripled to $12 billion, according to the Dubai Chamber of Commerce. Iran’s main exports to Dubai are nuts, carpets and petrochemicals.

“Dubai is Iran’s offshore business center,” says Afshin Molavi, a fellow at the Washington-based New America Foundation, which analyzes public policy. “Dubai plays a huge role in Iran’s economy.”

Dubai’s porous borders enable Iran to snub the West. The Islamic Republic has disregarded United Nations Security Council demands that it cease work on its nuclear program, which the U.S. and its allies suspect is geared to giving Iran nuclear weapons. The U.S. State Department charges that Iran’s regime backs terrorist groups, including the Taliban in Afghanistan and Hamas in the Palestinian territories.

Sorry, those Facebook friends aren’t really friends

Oxford researcher revisits landmark social research and finds 150 remains the limit for real relationships…

Syria: Gear change
1 February 2010
Economist Intelligence Unit – Business Middle East

Will Syria’s new economy minister apply lessons from her stint as ambassador to Malaysia, or does her appointment mark a shift back to conservatism?
The appointment of Lamiya Meri Assi as economy and trade minister marks a further advancement for the role of women in the Syrian government—she will bring the number of female cabinet ministers to three—and her experience in one of the most dynamic Asian economies seems to suggest that she could bring some innovative ideas to Syria’s economic policy discussions. However, her promotion has come amid ructions among policymakers about the direction and the implementation of economic reforms that have been described as involving a shift to a “social market” model from a predominantly state socialist system. Her antecedents indicate that her economic approach lies on the more statist and conservative end of the spectrum—she worked as a deputy to the finance minister, Mohammed al-Hussein, a Baath party stalwart, prior to her diplomatic appointment in 2004.

Off message

The Syrian president, Bashar al-Assad, announced the appointment of Ms Assi on January 18th, a week after he had terminated the contract of Tayseer al-Reddawi as head of the State Planning Commission (SPC), a body that has been the driving force behind the reorientation of the Syrian economy towards a market-based system and which is currently drafting a new five-year plan to run from 2011. The decision was thought to reflect the growing animosity between Mr Reddawi and the deputy prime minister for economic affairs, Abdullah al-Dardari, who headed the SPC until 2007 and was the architect of the current plan. Mr Dardari has been a forthright advocate of economic liberalisation, which has frequently put him at odds with more economically conservative figures, including Mr Hussein, the powerful finance minister. Mr Reddawi has made a number of sharp criticisms of the state of the Syrian economy, most recently stating at a seminar in Damascus that consumption, rather than investment, had become the main engine of growth, and that the benefits of that growth had accrued disproportionately to a small minority whose consumption patterns tended to drive up imports and whose savings preferences accentuated capital flight. These remarks were taken by some as an attack on Mr Dardari’s record, although they could also be interpreted as being directed at the privileges enjoyed by Syria’s business elite by virtue of their close ties to the president. It has also been suggested that Mr Assad and Mr Dardari had developed misgivings about how effective Mr Reddawi was in persuading foreign investors, financiers and aid donors of the potential of the Syrian economy.

Following Mr Reddawi’s dismissal the prime minister, Naji al-Otari, put Mr Dardari in charge of the SPC on an acting basis. This arrangement did not last long, as Mr Assad has now appointed Amer Lotfi, the outgoing minister of economy and trade, to head the SPC. Mr Lotfi had been in his post since 2004, and previously taught economics at Aleppo university as well as being in charge of Baath party activities there. He did not make a great impact as a minister, as most of the key policy initiatives over the past five years were taken by Mr Hussein, Mr Dardari or by Adib Mayaleh, the governor of the Central Bank of Syria—these have included cuts to tax rates, the introduction of a new investment law, the launch of a stockmarket, cuts in energy subsidies, and pegging the exchange rate to the SDR.

Unfinished business

The government has enacted reforms to the financial structure of public-sector enterprises—aimed at giving their management more autonomy—but has so far eschewed privatisation. Other aspects of policy that have been marking time include plans to introduce value-added tax (VAT) and the award of a licence to a third mobile-phone operator. Mr Dardari had identified VAT as a critical element in the current five-year plan, in light of the chronic decline in Syria’s oil production, and had set 2008 as the year in which it was to be introduced. However, implementation is in the hands of the finance minister, who has not shown any great sense of urgency on the VAT question. Further development of the telecoms and technology sector has been awaiting the passage of a new sector law that would allow for the current system of build-operate-transfer (BOT) contracts to be superseded by a licence-based system, with an independent regulator. This would require a restructuring of the existing BOT contracts—one of which is held by a business controlled by the president’s cousin—which have proved to be highly advantageous to their holders, while delivering important revenue into the finance ministry’s coffers.

On balance, the changes that have been made since the removal of Mr Reddawi indicate that Mr Assad is content to continue with a cautious approach to economic reform, with public debate about policy options kept to a minimum.

Raad: The guilty conscious almost surrendered itself – As-Safir, 22/01/2010

Riad Raad made the following statement: Jeffrey Feltman says that in 2004, there was an Agreement between the U.S. and France for the Syrian withdrawal from Lebanon, and therefore the Security Council issued resolution 1559. Feltman also said that the two countries benefited from the assassination of Rafik Hariri in their implementation of the Agreement…..

The homes of former Syrian presidents – What has happened to them? See this wonderful site, which explores the homes of Syria’s presidents. Abid’s home became a shoe storehouse in Old Damascus, while Atasi’s has been transformed into a hospital! (Thanks Sami M.)

Gulfsands Jumps After Winning Rights for Syrian Yousefieh Field
2010-01-26, By Morwenna Coniam

Jan. 26 (Bloomberg) — Gulfsands Petroleum Plc, a U.K explorer operating in the Middle East and the U.S., rose to a four-year high in London trading after winning approval from Syrian authorities to develop the Yousefieh oilfield. Gulfsands advanced as much as 9.5 pence, or 3.4 percent, to 289.75 pence, the highest price since at least April 2005. The stock traded at 284.5 pence as of 9:40 a.m. local time, valuing the London-based company at 342.1 million pounds ($552  million). The explorer was granted a 25-year production license, with the possibility to extend it for a further 10 years, Gulfsands said today in a statement. The company expects to pump an initial 1,000 barrels of oil a day from the Yousefieh-1 and Yousefieh-3 wells combined, starting in early April, and targets about 6,000 barrels a day from the field by 2012. Gulfsands reported a first-half profit for the first time in five years in September after a jump in output at its Khurbet East field, which is in the same Syrian block as Yousefieh. Khurbet East is now pumping an average of 17,300 barrels a day gross, Gulfsands said in today’s statement, adding that Yousefieh probably has “lower reservoir energy.”

The Yousefieh field has gross proven and probable reserves of 11 million barrels of oil, according to a 2008 assessment, Gulfsands said. The company will provide an update on reserves at the start of the second quarter. It plans to install so-called down-hole artificial lift equipment in both Yousefieh wells, and will drill an additional development well this year. Gulfsands will start production at Yousefieh “as soon as practicable,” Chief Executive Officer Ric Malcolm said in the statement. “The early production data obtained will provide valuable information that will assist us in optimizing the development of the field.”

Rights group slams treatment of Mideast minorities
The Associated Press
Tuesday, January 26, 2010; 10:05 AM

CAIRO — A New York-based human rights organization criticized the governments of five Middle Eastern countries Tuesday, including close U.S.-allies Jordan and Saudi Arabia, for their treatment of women and minorities.

Human Rights Watch released the chapters of its 2010 World Report that deal with Jordan, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Syria and Yemen, accusing them of poor treatment of women, minorities and refugees.

“Middle Eastern governments need to recognize that the rights of minorities, refugees, and stateless persons need greater protections,” the group’s Middle East director, Sarah Leah Whitson, said in a statement.

The release of these latest chapters of the annual report follows Sunday’s description of the post-election crackdown in Iran and the mistreatment of migrant workers in the United Arab Emirates.

The chapters described a pattern of discrimination against minorities in the region, including Saudi Arabia’s treatment of its 2 million-strong Shiite population and Syria’s repression of its Kurds.

Comments (29)

Amir in Tel Aviv said:

The NGO thing is OK concept, but it’s success depends upon the political and legal frameworks, in which it operates in.

I suspect that this Syrian leadership tries to reinvent the political wheel. Just like they did with the Syrian (newly born) stock exchange. BTW, how’s the Syrian stock exchange doing? Not very well ?? Hmmm.. thought so.

This present leadership is a champion of shortcuts. They believe that they can bake the cake using sugar and eggs.. Hey, But what about the flour ??
They think that we’re blind: they want us to believe that it’s a cake. But it’s a cookie covered with lots of sweet cream and a cherry on top. it’s not a cake. It’s dry-cookie covered with cream. It’s a pretense.

So why they will not go the full way (real political reform, open the political arena to REAL actors, etc. ) ?? Milli Schmidt has the answer:
“…It is likely that more people will seek to express their frustration publicly, this is of course one of the reasons the government is reluctant … It is likely that growing popular frustration in Syria would lead to sectarian violence as this is the way people express discontent of all kinds (including economic discontent) …”

Half baked measures won’t bring any good. In fact, it might make things worse; NGOs in an unfriendly and corrupt NGO-environment, is a door to more corruption, more exploitation and more injustice.

Do not expect real changes in Syria as long as this present leadership fears it’s own people.
All those half baked measures are fear-driven. If they want to solve problems, courage is what they need.

January 27th, 2010, 9:06 am


Shai said:

Amir said: “This present leadership is a champion of shortcuts. They believe that they can bake the cake using sugar and eggs.. Hey, But what about the flour ?? They think that we’re blind: they want us to believe that it’s a cake. But it’s a cookie covered with lots of sweet cream and a cherry on top. it’s not a cake. It’s dry-cookie covered with cream. It’s a pretense.”

Amir, are you talking about the Israeli government and its promise to bring peace and security to Israel? Your “flour”, in our case, is the return of all territories occupied since 1967. And your successive governments (not only this one) don’t “think we’re blind”, they KNOW we are. Because instead of accepting that the Golan isn’t really ours (here’s a funny fact: no nation on the face of this planet accepts our annexation), you think it’s “already a peace park and should stay that way…”

I wonder how many more Israeli soldiers’ lives, and ordinary citizens’, you’re willing to mortgage in this unending quest of yours for Arab capitulation. Have you ever asked yourself what YOU would do, if you had been Syria, or Lebanon, or the Palestinian people? Would YOU put down your weapons, and surrender?

January 27th, 2010, 12:43 pm


Amir in Tel Aviv said:

Come on Shai, aren’t you bored with this continuous self-hate?
How can you compare our ‘villa in the jungle’ to the state of condition of our neighbors?
The Israeli government has it’s flaws, but from completely different kind and scope.

About the Golan, I really don’t care who owns the Golan. Believe it or not, I have no problem to travel to the Golan with a passport. For a real and genuine and from the heart – kind of peace, I’m prepared to pay. But not the kind of peace they offer us currently, and not with this present regime. I’m prepared to do business with the Syrian people.
The only peace that will last, is a peace between the Israelis (represented in the Kenneset, or directly via referendum), and the Syrians (represented in a democratic house of representatives, or via referendum). A peace with the dictator will last, as long as the dictator lasts.

You want peace for land, Shai. In a paraphrase from Churchill’s famous saying, you will find yourself with no land and with no peace.

January 27th, 2010, 2:04 pm


EHSANI2 said:

Milli Schmidt makes a number of valid points. I still believe that most of the problems are a function of budgetary problems. The issue of corruption will not be fixed when a government employee with an average of four children is paid $300 a month. Those salaries need to be tripled. Assuming there are 2 million in this category, this will cost the government an extra $14.4 billion (28.8 % of GDP). The education system needs new government investment. In order to really make a difference, the numbers involved need to be significant. The government will find it very hard to balance its books if it continues on this path. Offering such generous subsidies while keeping the public sector as large can only happen if other areas suffer. Education and corruption are examples of this.

January 27th, 2010, 2:35 pm


Averroes said:


The most damaging type of corruption taking place in Syria is not originated out of need. It’s not the little guy who has four children and opens his desk drawer for a 500 or 1000 Liras ‘ikramiyeh’.

For this class of people, the needy, I agree with you that their problem cannot be solved unless income is increased significantly, may be three fold as you estimate.

The most damaging type of corruption, however, is corruption that originates out of bottomless greed. It is from government officials that want their next million dollars, or their next billion Liras. It is these powerful people that are scaring away investors because no investor is able to calculate risk with any reliability.

These people are so “good” at abusing their governmental posts to stall any investor they eye, with impossible out-of-the blue requirements, that seem to magically disappear back to oblivion once you pull out your cheque book. (Actually they take only cash).

If you pay to get on with your work, you attract more hornets to your project, and if you don’t pay, they call stall you for weeks or maybe months, thus throwing all your business plan off course and causing you huge loss in revenue.

I think we can’t use the argument of need to justify the government tolerance toward that type of extremely damaging corruption. This is a totally different league.

These are powerful people we’re talking about, and no increase in per capita income is going to convince them to surrender their loot, Ehsani.

Why is the government not cracking down on this type of corruption? I’m curious to know what your take on it is. Are we missing anything here?

January 27th, 2010, 3:22 pm


Shai said:

Amir said: “But not the kind of peace they offer us currently, and not with this present regime. I’m prepared to do business with the Syrian people.”

First, I’m glad you at least recognize that Syria IS offering us Peace. Most in our country aren’t even aware of that, or simply deny it altogether. So now you’re rejecting “this kind” of peace… And what about “this kind” is it that you don’t like? What is Syria suggesting in “this kind” that would have you preferring the current state of war? Are you suggesting that Syria will continue to indirectly fight Israel, even after we withdraw from the Golan? Have you any evidence to suggest this? Do we have any experience with other dictatorships with whom we signed peace agreements, that suggest war is a better option?

There is, of course, the widespread belief that the current state is actually not so bad for Israel. The Syrian border is the most quiet one since 1974, Syria isn’t about to launch an all-out war against Israel, and its support of Hezbollah and Iran doesn’t seem to be killing too many Jews each year. The status-quo seems more than bearable. Or is it? Why is it, in fact, that on the one hand you claim Syria is untrustworthy, and dangerous, and on the other, you’re ready to accept the status-quo? It’s like Ofer Shelach once wrote on Ma’ariv (a non-leftist paper, as Akbar may or may not know) – “we’re the only nation on earth that refuses to talk to its enemies until they drop their weapons, and when they do, we don’t feel the need to talk to them…”

Kind of funny, our little nation is, wouldn’t you say? Oh, and please don’t confuse yourself – if I felt any self-hatred, I’d have left this Land of Milk and Honey long ago, together with my family and children. In fact, I chose to return here, despite having grown up in “The West”. Try not to join Akbar in suggesting I’m less of a patriot than any other proud Zionist party member.

Final note, do be advised that Peace is made with enemies, not with Friends. And enemies actually continue to be enemies (even active enemies) until that final moment, when the last i is dotted and t crossed, on a Peace Agreement.

January 27th, 2010, 5:36 pm


Amir in Tel Aviv said:


I never questioned your (and those who have same opinions as you have) patriotism.
Fools too love their countries. *Joking*.

I don’t want the kind of “peace” we have with Egypt and Jordan.
Though I’m happy we’re not in a state of war with them, and I understand and support the decisions that Begin and Rabin took in 1979 and 1994, today we have the privilege of able to be choosy and selective in determining our future.

What you should ask yourself is: when the MB (Syrian in Syria and Egyptian in Egypt) take control, will they honor peace agreements with “israel” ? I don’t think so. Then, you’ll find yourself with no land and no peace.

But if the agreement is approved by the people, then it’s a different story.

And so this is the peace I object, which they’re offering us: between the dictator and it’s clan, and the Israeli people.
I want a peace between the two peoples. Now kapish ?

January 27th, 2010, 6:29 pm


Shai said:


Do you think there’s a single person in Israel, in Syria, in Palestine, that doesn’t want Peace-between-People? Of course it’s what everyone wants. But just as the Syrians do not choose our leaders, or the particular-Israelis with whom to make peace, likewise we do not choose theirs. I don’t want to deal in hypotheticals, whether the MB will take over in Egypt, or in Syria, or in Malaysia. I’m sure plenty a soothsayers and naysayers predicted the “no land no peace” that you’re suggesting, also back in 1979. Heck, even Ehud Olmert himself, then a younger Likudnick, voted AGAINST the return of Sinai, even in return for Peace. In retrospect, had Israel known everything it knows today, about the “cold peace” we enjoy, should we NOT have returned the Sinai and taken a chance of continued war over all these decades? Of course not.

Just to remind you, and some other anti-Syrian-dictatorship “analysts” out there, there was no Arab in the Middle East that was responsible for as many deaths of Israelis as Anwar Sadat, not before him, or since. Not Arafat, not Nasrallah, and certainly not Bashar Assad. And yet those brave leaders that did have vision, and did recognize the limitation of our ability to determine who sits on the other side, went all the way. They returned every last inch of that Arab land, which was captured in war and henceforth occupied no less than was the Golan. No promises of “real peace, from the heart…” were made, or could have been made. That’s stuff for fantasy-books. Not reality. It has nothing to do with a dictatorship or not.

Btw, I don’t know if you ever had a chance to actually speak, face-to-face, with either Egyptians or Jordanians, about our Cold Peace. But if you had, you’d quickly realize that the main reason we do not enjoy real peace, is because of the continued Occupation of Palestine. It is impossible for the average Egyptian, or Jordanian, or Kuwaiti for that matter, to forgive Israel for what it is continuing to do to his brothers in Palestine. It has nothing to do with Qassams or Grads. It has to do with continued subjugation, suffocation, and withholding of basic human rights and freedom from a people that deserve it no less than we do.

That will lead you to quickly deduce that peace with Syria will also not be a warm-peace, from the heart as you called it. And you would be right. That is, as long as we continue the Occupation, and as long as the Palestinians do not achieve their deserved Freedom. So is it worth it? Of course it is, because the alternative is far worse. Plus, whether we like it or not, Syria has achieved a special status in the region over the past number of years, and it is quite likely the only party that can be trusted by all sides, should we decide to make peace with her. I believe that Syria can help resolve our differences with Hamas, Fatah, and even Hezbollah. I’m not even suggesting with Iran…!

I don’t want to become an expert at finding reasons NOT to give back the Golan, but rather quite the opposite. Few are the leaders that can look beyond the status-quo, and truly lead their people to a better future. You and I should seek those leaders, and support them. Not to reinforce stagnant ones, who deal more with corruption charges, and fancy suits for their wives, than with the misery we bring upon another people under our rule, or with a safer future for our children.

January 27th, 2010, 7:06 pm


Alex said:


When it comes to “corruption” there are three general perceived types:

1) The largest segment is made up of probably millions of employees who need to feed their family and their salaries are nowhere near adequate for that.

2) Greedy government employees and perhaps army officers who want to add yet another million dollars to their collection. These are engaged in direct theft of other people’s money.

3) The top ten (or top twenty) richest business people. Most of those are not “stealing” money directly from the people, but are relying on their connections to continue to make tens of millions of dollars each year. They get insider information that help them make a better investment decision, and they get help from government for their projects to overcome the typical bureaucratic hurdles that other businesses have to go through.

Some of these had old money, others STARTED by being part of the category (2) above or by partnering with a government or army character that belonged to category (2).

Fighting the big-fish corruption to many people means fighting the top ten biggest names that instantly come to mind … The Hariris of Syria (without getting into naming our Syrian Hariris for now)

I would not “fight” category 3 (the most “successful” businessmen and women) because they are also creating good jobs and providing good products and services … but I would tax them properly, and I would trade any favors they get (inside info, a government contract) for much more significant contributions from them back to society. They have to sponsor more cultural events, they have to donate more to universities, they have to give to hospitals.

Oxford University’s current business school building was completed in 2001 with a £23 million benefaction from Syrian businessman Wafic Saïd. In 2005 Wafic Saïd donated a further £15 million to fund an additional building (on the Park End street).

It is great that he donated to Oxford, Wafic Said made his money outside Syria. He recently helped convince a number of top wall street money managers to visit the country and they helped promote Syria after they returned to the US.

But each one of those who made their billions or hundreds of millions of dollars inside Syria must donate to build a world class business school for the University of Damascus, an architecture school, a well equipped teaching hospital for the faculty of medicine …

Many of them are involved in promoting charitable organizations, but they spend almost nothing on those charities.

As for the category (2) corruption … I agree with Averroes … there is no reason why government is not moving faster of fighting it. This is my main disappointment with our leadership in Syria (now that an anti smoking law has been passed)

January 27th, 2010, 7:13 pm


Akbar Palace said:

Do you think there’s a single person in Israel, in Syria, in Palestine, that doesn’t want Peace-between-People?


Yes, Hamas comes to mind as far as Palestine is concerned. Furthermore, Syria has yet to outline their vision of “peace-between-people”. It seems like they prefer their relations with Iran.

January 27th, 2010, 8:11 pm


Yossi said:


I’m not sure about the relationship that you are making between democracy and no-land-no-peace (NLNP). What is it that you assume is the people’s will in Syria? If the people in Syria want (cold) peace with Israel, then the regime does represent the will of the people. If the people don’t want a cold peace treaty with Israel then what’s your plan for making them change their minds? I think you should assume that the people will support cold peace with Israel because the foreign policy that Assad conducts is very popular, including his pro-peace proclamations.

On the other angle, why do you think that the NLNP scenario is just possible with an authoritarian regime. What if the people now do support a peace treaty, but they change their minds about it in the future? This happens all the time, and actually more frequently with democracies, which are quite erratic, compared with authoritarian regimes which are less beholden to populist swings in public opinion.

My conclusion is that you believe that the MB rise to power is inevitable. I’d like to know what crystal ball you’re using to predict that… Also, what makes you believe that if they did get to power they would scrap the peace agreements with Israel? Do you believe that if Shas got to power in Israel they would do something like that? The MB and Shas are roughly equivalent in their goals and mentality.

I prefer to base my predictions on two other indicators:
1. The Syrians have been very good at keeping their (singed) obligations to the letter.
2. There is a consensus view in the Arab side that Israel will receive full recognition if it withdraw to 67 borders, and vice versa, it will not enjoy peace otherwise.

From this I conclude that:
1. The price for peace is known and not negotiable.
2. That now is as good time as ever.
3. That if you don’t negotiate for peace, you shall receive war.

But… you are the one living in Tel Aviv so if you’re happy with your bets (they are literally that) then all the power to you… as I said yesterday, good luck.

January 27th, 2010, 8:28 pm


Alex said:


Saying that you don’t mind giving the Golan back but only when there is “democracy” in the Arab world (Syria) is not much different in reality from a position of some settler who is opposed to giving the Arabs back their lands.

I agree with Yossi (en passant, I wish my vocabulary allowed me to write things like his “beholden to populist swings”) that you, and your neighbors in the middle east, will have war in both cases.

The situation is too dynamic to wait for democracy in the Arab world. It ain’t coming anytime soon, you know that.

There is a slow, but healthy reform process in Syria today

January 27th, 2010, 8:53 pm


Amir in Tel Aviv said:


I absolutely totally and utterly do not agree with you. Don’t forget that until 9 years ago, I was a ‘Meretz’ member. A paying party tax, and a voting in Meretz primaries kind of member. So I know exactly what you say, and feel.

Peace is a fluid concept. What we consider as peace is unacceptable to them, and the peace they want (a middle east free of Jewish independence), we will not accept.

There’s a beauty about being able to not-agree, and still be best friends, and belonging to the same collective entity.
Professor Yehoshafat Harkabi, who was way more radical than you are regarding the Arab-Israeli conflict, in his book ‘Fateful Decisions’, said “…if they want to commit suicide (they = Begin, Sharon) and they get a majority in a democratic vote to commit suicide, then I’ll join them”.

This should be our motto. If you succeed in convincing Israelis in a democratic vote, that your way is the right way, then I will agree to commit suicide with you.

January 27th, 2010, 9:30 pm


Amir in Tel Aviv said:


I don’t want to behave rudely, and occupy too much space on SC’s comments section, with my right wing – red neck inflammatory rhetoric.
I utterly do not agree with you. If you manage to convince the majority of us Israelis, that your way is right, then I’ll shut-up and join the majority.


Yes, I agree with you that democracy “ain’t coming anytime soon”, and I also agree with you that a war is near. But it’s an Arab civil war, or a war of independence (from Juntas), and not a war with Israel.
We have to prepare ourselves for the worst outcome of this war. (MB).

The irony, is that the creators of this civil war ( Bashar and co) will flee to London, to stay with Asma’s parents, while the rest of us will have to stay here, and bear the consequences.

January 27th, 2010, 10:14 pm


Shai said:


“… then I will agree to commit suicide with you.”

What I like so much about ex-Meretz or ex-Israel Beitenu (that’ll come soon, you’ll see), is that extremism isn’t practiced, it is taken with every breath. What “commit suicide”??? What are you talking about? Did Israel commit suicide by giving the Sinai back to a dictator called Sadat, who was later murdered and could have been replaced a thousand times by your MB? No. Did Israel commit suicide by leaving Gaza, or Lebanon? No. It did is foolishly, by doing so unilaterally, instead of under agreement. We pushed the Palestinians to conduct the region’s very first free and democratic elections, and when they did, well… WE didn’t accept the results… So much for your Democracy.

If your definition of “suicide” is “many deaths, over a long period of time”, then my dear friend, it is you who is committing suicide, by NOT making Peace, any Peace, which will end the state of WAR with the Arabs.

You, and all those who support waiting for the Syrians to become a democratic society, and for the Saudis, and for the Kuwaitis, and for… oops, I was going to say the Palestinians, but I just mentioned above that even when we got THAT, it wasn’t acceptable “to us” (as if anyone needs our approval for choosing their leadership), you all need to decide – is Syria an enemy we should make Peace with, or War. Because as you’ve seen, Israel doesn’t call ALL the shots. Syria will continue to fight us, via Hezbollah, via Hamas, via Iran, via the little green Martians if it could, as long as we continue to occupy her land. And so will every other Arab being, whose land we took by force, and kept by force. Listen to (super-moderate) Norman. For crying out loud, how much more of a wake up call do you need? The man’s almost begging you to make Peace, and when you retort with some wise-ass comment like “The Golan is already a Peace Park, it should stay like it is…”, he has no rational choice, but to call on his brothers and sisters in Syria, to liberate the Golan by force, and by force alone.

Do YOU want another Yom Kipur War? Is this the ONLY way you’ll be convinced to give back the Golan, like Begin was to give back the Sinai? How much more blood are YOU willing to spill, on our side and theirs, before you do the obvious? You want THEM to change? What about you?

January 27th, 2010, 10:15 pm


Off the Wall said:

Averroes and Alex
I am at work now, and I can not comment at length. But this is an interesting paper on corruption.


From this I conclude that:
1. The price for peace is known and not negotiable.
2. That now is as good time as ever.
3. That if you don’t negotiate for peace, you shall receive war.

I like this very much.

January 27th, 2010, 10:44 pm


sisyphus said:

The Arab peace offer is predicated on the ability of the Palestinians to speak for themselves and gain some sort of reasonable settlement with Israel. As the Arabs have failed to save the Palestinians from Israel, they must respect any peace the Palestinians make with their occupiers.
However, it is becoming increasingly apparent that the Palestinians can no longer be said to have any reasonable hope of mustering a coherent, effective response to Israeli depredations. As mentioned above, Hamas was punished for playing by the rules and winning. But Fatah is also punished because they cannot offer their people any protection from Israel, let alone any hope for the future. International law does not apply to Israel.

Surely the time will come when the Arab countries will have to take responsibility on the Palestinians’ behalf because it cannot reasonably be argued that they can fend for themselves. Once this happens,it follows that all peace offers will be withdrawn and peace agreements will be abrogated.

Israel seems intent on reducing the people of Palestine to niggers, while pretending to want peace. The bluff has been called. No Israeli government has had the will or the ability to get the Israeli people to understand that they have invaded another people’s country. Given the recent increase in deliberately planned settlements in the West Bank and the Israeli public’s support for the destruction of Gaza it is also increasingly apparent that Israel cannot or will not save itself from its own demons and is simply interested in stealing more land and life from a defenceless people. Is it not time for the United Nations Security Council to put Israel back in its place, for the good of the whole, developing region?

January 28th, 2010, 12:55 am


sisyphus said:

As for economic affairs, the small-to-medium businesses seem to have been overlooked. Surely cleaning up corruption and introducing an effective legislative/legal environment should be done before liberalisation in order to give local businesses time to grow. This will allow local people to invest in Syria’s future rather than wealthy foreigners. Consider the stock exchange. Could the local merchants have set up up their own stock or commodity exchanges without huge government red tape and obstruction? If they had been, then ‘organically grown’ markets would have flourished, along with the accounting, legal practices and trading norms that go with them. The point is to empower those Syrians with money stashed in their bedroom linen to invest their money profitably – not offer the country on a plate to economic predators.
I believe any local exchanges that are properly and freely run, with local people and local businesses as the primary players, may well grow to a size that will make them attractive to local and foreign large investors anyway. The question is how the government can support this evolution, particularly in law.

January 28th, 2010, 1:33 am


Akbar Palace said:

Is it not time for the United Nations Security Council to put Israel back in its place, for the good of the whole, developing region?


Maybe, but I think the “for the good of the whole, developing region” the UNSC has been more preoccupied with thugs like Saddam Hussein, Mahmood Ahmadinejad, and Hezbollah.

January 28th, 2010, 1:49 am


norman said:

Alex ,

The donation that you want the well to do Syrian to do for Syria are not donations if they are forced on them they are donations if done freely , in the US , that is done for recognition or tax deduction , Syria can do the same thing has a tax system that all income and deduction are to be certified by public accountants and paid every three months and certified by public accountant as a mandatory procedure to prevent cheating , donations to Universities , county hospitals and public schools are tax deductible , their names will be announced for their generosity and their businesses will get attention ,

NGO can play a major role , in the US people from all parts go to parties and Golf outings that collect money for projects like new MRI for the county hospital or a new Radiation machine or even computers for the public school , these donation are tax deductible which gives the donors of feeling good about giving and having the Government pay half of it by denying it the tax revenue ,

Lastly Syria needs to have faith in it’s people , they have money and are willing to invest in Syria , they just need to trust that the government will not out of nowhere confiscate they money and projects if they do not want to share their profits with a corrupt government employee , so Syria needs ,

Contract law
Property right
Tort law
Syria needs to encourage people to use the legal system to it’s fullest including appeal court ,

What attracted many of us to the West is not democracy but it’s equal rights and opportunity , it is the right not to be discriminated against because we are fat , dark or white or even with big noses or a religion that is not the usual,
Syria has that so the only thing it needs is for the government to simplify the rules to open businesses then get out of the way and accept 15% tax on profits after expenses ,
the least we have the government involved the least corruption Syria will have ,

January 28th, 2010, 2:35 am


Yossi said:


I’m not trying to shut you up, there is no question of majority or minority here, we are just individuals who comment on what we see. I was “touched” by your willingness to commit suicide for us lefties in the exceedingly hypothetical scenario that we will one day be a majority in Israel. I’m afraid however that I will not reciprocate. I will not commit suicide for you. My life is too precious to sacrifice on the altar of your short sightedness, and this is exactly why I’m not coming back to Israel. This, and the proto-fascist closing of the ranks in preparation for conflict. This joy-ride is going to be all yours…

OTW and Alex,

Thank you. My secret is Merriam-Webster’s Word-A-Day e-mail service 🙂

January 28th, 2010, 6:42 am


Akbar Palace said:

Lucy still Holding Charley Brown’s Football

The Palestinian Ma’an news agency is saying that George Mitchell basically asked President Abbas to return to the negotiating table if they want the US to help them create a state.

Don’t hold your breath. Like Assad of Syria, it’s more fun pretending to want peace than actually working on it.

January 28th, 2010, 12:14 pm


Shai said:


I’m throwing you a freebie this afternoon – a tip-of-the-week, straight from your favorite liberal, me. Write this down… “Respect Your Enemy.”

You see, even generals on the battlefield know that the minute they lose respect for their rival, they become irrelevant. They can neither influence the inevitable ceasefire terms, nor the hoped for peace. By belittling your rival, you take yourself out of the equation. It’s as true on the real battlefield, as it is on SC.

With all due respect, I know of no Arab leader, in all of Israel’s 62 year history, that has done as much to openly declare his nation’s readiness for Peace, as has Bashar Assad. The ones “pretending” are us, not them, dear Akbar. It is WE that are occupying THEIR land, not the other way around. It is WE that are ruling over another people, pretending to be a Democracy, while practicing none of it over these people. It is WE that have to accept the Arabs as equals, not as 5th column or as 2nd-rate citizens that are good for building our Jewish homes, but not for living alongside them.

Mirrors. This needs to be the Year-of-the-Mirror for us, Akbar. Maybe we’ll discover who’s truly pretending, and who’s not. Since 2002, on three separate occasions, in three separate Arab Summits, all Arab nations unanimously voted for the “3 Yes’s”. It wasn’t that long ago, in Khartoum, that they all voted for the “3 No’s”. And what do you call that? Pretending. Our ongoing Occupation is a signal of sincerity and readiness for Peace, but theirs isn’t.

Mirrors. Use the mirrors.

January 28th, 2010, 3:29 pm


idaf said:

An informative Q&A in Yale University with Judge Goldstone:
At Yale, Judge Goldstone faces down his accusers
by Philip Weiss on January 28, 2010 · 16 comments

Judge Richard Goldstone gave a speech at Yale last night and though he said he would not be talking about Gaza, his report came up again and again, and in fact the anti-Goldstoners tried to turn the event into a circus. They waved Israeli flags, and two of them held up a banner comparing the judge’s report to the Protocols of the Elders of Zion and the accusers of Dreyfus. A group followed the judge afterward into the wine-and-cheese on the second floor, and surrounded him and some barked at him, and though now and then the judge held up his hand and turned away at a loud voice, he seemed ready for anything, and more than held his own, and left the crowd with an education in what it means to try and advance the regime of international law.

Goldstone’s references to the report in the actual speech were pointed. It is fine if Israel wishes to evade international investigation and prosecution by doing an investigation of its own. That is a core principle of international law– complementarity– the idea that it is preferable that localities apply international standards law themselves. But that investigation must not be behind closed doors, by the military, it must be open and credible. I will get the actual quotes in a day or two.

He said that equality meant dignity; and when we deny the dignity of other human beings, we dehumanize them, and pave the way to human rights violations. The persecution of Gaza was all through that statement.

If militants are attacking you from the roof of a hospital, it does not mean that you can bomb the hospital; it means that you must take care; and yes maybe some civilians will die when you are going after the militants there, but it violates the principle of proportionality to fire missiles at the hospital. The judge spoke of a hypothetical; but it was a clear reference to the missile attacks on Al Quds Hospital in Gaza City that the Goldstone Report details–though the report never states that there were militants on the roof.

The Q-and-A was all Gaza. A white-haired professor with an accent said, why should any country, Israel, Serbia, yield power to an international court, when we all know how political such courts can be. Goldstone said it was a great question, then pointed out that such courts can only establish confidence through the steady application of legal processes and the cooperation of the powerful nations. Why, he said, in ‘96 Bill Clinton had specifically asked Nelson Mandela to allow Goldstone to extend his tenure as prosecutor in the international tribunal of the former Yugoslavia, even as American troops were going in there, because Clinton regarded him as a fair judge. (So much for the US congressional resolutions condemning Goldstone, and Obama’s dismissal of the judge; no, it’s Palestine, Jake).

A frenetic man at the back got applause when he said that Goldstone’s standards were unequal. What Israel did in Gaza doesn’t come anywhere near what happened in Rwanda, or in other countries that routinely violate the rule of law. Look at Sri Lanka. 20,000 Tamils were killed last year during the sectarian violence. Where is the investigation of that?

A good question, and the judge was brilliant. “I recognize the distinction you seem to be making. Similar crimes should be treated similarly” without exception. But that’s in a perfect world. “It’s not going to happen.” If ten murders are committed in New Haven, and only one is prosecuted, the murderer who’s prosecuted can say, I’m treated unequally, nine peole are getting away with it. And “morally and philosophically no one can disagree.” But it’s an “unfair” world. Just because you can’t go after them all doesn’t mean you shouldn’t go after any. The thrust of his remarks was, We will never have a regime of international law until we begin to apply that law, to develop it, and if that means singling out the accessible, well we must do so. And the reference to New Haven reminded us that all law is applied unequally.

The question was framed again, sharper this time. A woman with an accent said– and I think there were a ton of Israelis in the hall– Why the double standard? A few million people are killed in Africa, and nothing happens.

The judge was wise and frank. “You know it’s a complex issue… It’s a matter of politics, not of morality. The United Nations has a dominant group of the non-aligned movement, and the issue of the Palestinians has assumed a tremendous importance to them, and they’re using it.”

It used to be the South Africans, he said with equanimity. There were many more UN resolutions passed against South Africa than against Israel.

“Humbly may I ask you, why you allow yourself to be used?” the woman said.

“I don’t see it that way at all. I accepted what I regarded to be an evenhanded mandate. I didn’t see myself as being used. I heard exactly the same from the Serb leaders. Why was I allowing myself to be used by an organization set up against Serbia by the United States. You know, beauty is in the eye of the beholder.” Applause from the silent majority.

Upstairs the circle of accusers formed around him near the door. They angrily quoted his own words to him from clippings, or said he was afraid to debate Dershowitz, or said he was publicizing “untruths.” Goldstone’s a man of medium height with a round face and narrow owlish eyes and a calm slightly dour expression. My friend said it’s a face out of a 19th century oil portrait; and the judge did not ever crack– a smile, a wince. The Orthodox man who had held the banner about Protocols said he would convey the judge’s words to the people of Auschwitz, and the judge turned away. A woman said he was holding Israel to a higher standard, and the judge said that he was, you do that to countries that say they are democracies. When someone said he should call it apartheid, he said that was an emotionally-laden term, so he avoided it–but in fact they did not have separate roadways in South Africa, as Israel does in the West Bank.

And when someone said that Israelis would not do such things, would not inflict wanton destruction–this was another Israeli, a woman, who had been in the army for Lebanon ‘06–the judge said that she should look at the satellite imagery accompanying his report. Israeli soldiers in their tanks had carved a 200-foot wide Star of David into Palestinian farmland in Gaza, to be seen from the sky.

It seemed to upset the judge, and you can see why..
In case you missed this, here’s the illustrated and disturbing UN report he referred to: “Satellite image analysis in support to the United Nations Fact Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict”:

January 28th, 2010, 4:04 pm


Akbar Palace said:

Since 2002, on three separate occasions, in three separate Arab Summits, all Arab nations unanimously voted for the “3 Yes’s”.


Of all those three separate Arab Summits, which one did Israel attend? Which Arab Summit outlined the portion of Jerusalem’s Old City would fall under Israeli sovereignty?

And you want me to respect Israel’s enemies?

I’ll pass.

After a year, “Human Rights Group: Hamas targeted civilians”:

It appears today’s modern technology hasn’t reached our “human rights” friends. Better late than never…

January 28th, 2010, 4:26 pm


Shai said:


You quickly forget history (I suggested Khartoum, which was monumental in its signal to Israel, the message of which was “We do NOT accept or recognize your existence, period.”) How much of the Peace Agreement do you want the Arabs to deliver in advance, while Israel still rules as a de facto Apartheid over the Palestinian people? Should the Arab Summits also draw out the tax incentives they’ll award Israeli corporations in joint free-trade zones? Should they spell out how many Palestinian residents they’ll naturalize in their respective nations? Come on, let’s get real. We couldn’t possibly dream of anything beyond the 3 Yes’s, which, if you ask any experienced diplomat in Israel (not that deputy-dawg buffoon Dani Ayalon), were already revolutionary and beyond anything expected during our 60 years of existence.

Besides respecting your rival, you should also know when to read through his message, and in fact, when to be appreciative of his historical declarations, even when they don’t go as far as your fantasies might prefer he went.

But more importantly, ask yourself, what has Israel GIVEN, to the Arab side, to deserve those 3 Yes’s, before, or since?

January 28th, 2010, 5:57 pm


Akbar Palace said:

Shai’s Respectful Double-Standard

You quickly forget history (I suggested Khartoum, which was monumental in its signal to Israel, the message of which was “We do NOT accept or recognize your existence, period.”)

Yes, I remember the “3 Nos”. It wasn’t Israel that was refusing to negotiate, it was the Arabs.

How much of the Peace Agreement do you want the Arabs to deliver in advance, while Israel still rules as a de facto Apartheid over the Palestinian people?


I don’t want the Palestinians to deliver anything in advance, I also do not want the Israelis to deliver anything in advance.

Should the Arab Summits also draw out the tax incentives they’ll award Israeli corporations in joint free-trade zones?

No, that is why Arab Summits don’t mean anything. Israel isn’t included. Arab Summit are shows of “solidarity”, they aren’t negotiations.

Funny, you get “huffy” when I suggest the Arabs give up something small, like a peace gesture, but at the same time, you want Israel to go back to this green line, before anyone talks. Typical Lefty nonsense.

But more importantly, ask yourself, what has Israel GIVEN, to the Arab side, to deserve those 3 Yes’s, before, or since?

Gaza. The pundits and leftists said to give back Gaza as a “good will gesture”.

January 28th, 2010, 6:43 pm


Shai said:


If by “Leftists” you mean Yossi Beilin (for instance), then you’re wrong. He was against any unilateral withdrawal, including the one from Gaza. Check carefully next time. Only Sharon, Olmert, Livni, Mofaz, and other ex-Likudnicks were for the unilateral withdrawal.

Btw, for the record, I am not a Leftist. To be a Leftist in Israel, you may wish to recall, means to support the continuation of the Occupation. No one contributed more to Settlement building in the West Bank and Gaza, than the Left.

Why is it that your Sunday school in New Jersey (or wherever it was) taught you so much about the monumental value of Khartoum’s “3 No’s” Declaration, but you view the three Arab Summits’ “3 Yes’s” as meaningless? Nice case of pick-and-choose, no?

You don’t want the Palestinians to “deliver anything”? Sure you do. You want Hamas on a platter. You want clean-shaven pro-Israeli puppets. Not Shas-look-alike Muslims. Btw, why is it you conveniently ignore Khaled Mashal’s repetitive claims that Hamas understands that a solution will be based on the 1967 borders? Sounds like quite a contradiction from their infamous Charter… Seems to me we recognized and started talking to the (now titled “moderate”) PLO, well before they changed their charter. They too were once called “terrorists”, and Israel did not talk to terrorists, except through the barrel of a gun.

It’s kind of like Windows and Mac. Most people are just forcing themselves to stay with Windows… 🙂

January 28th, 2010, 7:18 pm


Ghat Albird said:

In support of what IDAF said:

Anti-Israelism: Why Zionism Doesn’t and Can’t Get It
by Alan Hart / January 28th, 2010

There is no doubt it. More and more people all over the world, and probably many of their governments behind closed doors, are beginning to see the Zionist state of Israel for what it really is – not only the obstacle to peace but a monster1 apparently beyond control; and they, more and more so-called ordinary folk everywhere, are beginning to turn against it.

That explains why Prime Minister Netanyahu is leading Zionism’s hysterical call for the world to stop demonizing Israel.

At the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial museum in Jerusalem on 25 January, he said: “There is evil in the world, and it doesn’t stop, it spreads. There is a new call to destroy the Jewish state. It’s our problem but not only our problem. This (the re-emergence and growth of anti-Semitism according to Netanyahu) is a crime against the Jews, and a crime against humanity, and it is a test of humanity.”

That was quite something from the man who has done more than most to assist Zionism in its transformation of the obscenity of the Nazi holocaust from a lesson against racism and fascism and all the evils associated with them into an ideology that seeks to justify anything and everything Israel does. War crimes and all.

Zionism can’t see, is too blinded by its own insufferable self-righteousness to see, that the behaviour of its monster child is the prime cause of the re-awakening of the sleeping giant of anti-Semitism – except that in most cases it’s not anti-Semitism. It’s anti-Israelism. (The danger is that it could easily become anti-Semitism in its Western sense – loathing and even hatred of Jews just because they are Jews – if the Western world is not assisted to understand the difference between Judaism and Zionism. The difference explains why it is perfectly possible to be passionately anti-Zionist without being in any way, shape or form anti-Jew and, also, why it is wrong to blame all Jews everywhere for the crimes of the relative few in Israel, and not all Israelis).

It is a fact that prior to the Nazi holocaust, almost all the Jews of the world were opposed to Zionism’s colonial enterprise. One of several reasons for the opposition of the most informed and thoughtful of them was the fear that if Zionism was allowed by the big powers to have its way, it would one day provoke classical anti-Semitism.

As I note in my book, Zionism: The Real Enemy of the Jews, this fear was given a fresh airing in 1986 by Yehoshafat Harkabi, Israel’s longest serving Director of Military Intelligence. In his remarkable book, Israel’s Fateful Hour, he gave this warning (my emphasis added):

Israel is the criterion according to which all Jews will tend to be judged. Israel as a Jewish state is an example of the Jewish character, which finds free and concentrated expression within it. Anti-Semitism has deep and historical roots. Nevertheless, any flaw in Israeli conduct, which initially is cited as anti-Israelism, is likely to be transformed into empirical proof of the validity of anti-Semitism. It would be a tragic irony if the Jewish state, which was intended to solve the problem of anti-Semitism, was to become a factor in the rise of anti-Semitism. Israelis must be aware that the price of their misconduct is paid not only by them but also Jews throughout the world.

Three particular events guaranteed that Israel’s “misconduct” became not only “a factor” but the prime factor in the re-emergence and the rise of what Zionism asserts is anti-Semitism but is actually anti-Israelism. They were:

1. Israel’s invasion of Lebanon all the way to Beirut in 1982, the initial purpose of this offensive being to destroy the PLO, its leadership and infrastructure.
2. Israel’s war on Lebanon 2006, the main purposes of this offensive being to cause enough destruction and death to force Lebanon’s political institutions and military to confront and defeat Hizbollah (which would not have come into existence if Israel had not invaded Lebanon and occupied the south of it in 1982); and to teach the Arabs, all Arabs, a lesson.
3. Israel’s most recent war on the Gaza Strip, the main purposes of it being to collectively punish all Palestinians there (for supporting Hamas) and destroying Hamas militarily and politically, in the belief that when it had done so, Israel would have more freedom to bully and bribe Abbas’s quisling Palestinian National Authority into accepting crumbs from Zionism’s table.

By any objective consideration those three offensives were demonstrations of Israeli state terrorism. (I have just finished updating the story for Volume Three of the American edition of my book and it has chapter titled “State Terrorism Becomes Israel’s Norm”).

Because the Western world had been conditioned to see the 1967 conflict as a war of Israeli self-defense – i.e., not what it actually was, a war of Israeli aggression, Israel’s 1982 invasion of Lebanon was the first real opportunity for the watching Western world to see what until then only the Arabs in general, and the Palestinians in particular, had seen in close-up – the ugly face of Zionism. A face so ugly that 400,000 Israelis assembled to express their outrage of what had been done in their name.

On the subject of the self-righteousness that is the cause of Zionism’s congenital blindness, Harkabi wrote this (again my emphasis added):

Self-criticism is imperative in order to counterbalance the tendencies to self-righteousness and self-pity that stem from basic Jewish attitudes, from the historical experience of persecution, and from the ethos fostered by Menachem Begin. No factor endangers Israel’s future more than self-righteousness, which blinds us to reality, prevents a complex understanding of the situation and legitimizes extreme behaviour.

There may be readers of this article who object a little or a lot to my description of the Zionist state as a monster. It’s not an original Alan Hart idea. In 1984, and as quoted by Harkabi, Israeli journalist Teddy Preuss published a book with the title Begin, His Regime. In it he wrote (my emphasis added): “I have no doubt that Begin’s rule will lead to the destruction of the state. In any case, his rule will turn Israel into a monster.” [↩]

Alan Hart has been engaged with events in the Middle East and globally as a researcher, author, and a correspondent for ITN and the BBC. Read other articles by Alan, or visit Alan’s website.

This article was posted on Thursday, January 28th, 2010 at 9:00am and is filed under Israel/Palestine, Zionism. ShareThis

January 28th, 2010, 7:50 pm


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