“Giving Back the Golan Will Not Be Easy,” by Shai

Golan by Shai

Golan by Shai (Click to enlarge photo)

 

Giving Back the Golan Will Not Be Easy
By Shai, Nov. 30, 2008;

*Shai is an Israeli Advocate of Peace who frequently writes on Syria Comment

This weekend my wife and I, and some friends, decided to head up north for a short holiday.  This is a beautiful time of year, when everything is green outside, but not too much rain.  After spending a day in Tzfat (Safed), a spiritual center for Jewish Kabblah, and a serene town with a thriving artist colony, we decided to go visit the Golan.  We drove up through the northern part of the Heights, passing by Kal’at Namrud (Nimrod Fortress), Majdal Shams, Mas’ade, very nice Druze villages, at the foothills of the awe-inspiring Hermon mountain.  For Israelis, this is the tallest mountain in the country, and the only place we can go skiing.  We then headed south along the Heights, and ascended Mt. Bental, which overlooks Quneitra.

There is a cafe up there, on Mt. Bental, which is run by Kibbutz Merom Golan, just underneath.  The cafe is called, oddly enough, “Coffee Anan”.  Probably as some tribute to the previous UN secretary general, but more specifically because of its Hebrew meaning, “Cafe in the Cloud”.  The view is tremendous.  All of Syria, it seems, lies beneath the mountain and stretches endlessly to the east and to the north.   One can see the UN station in the neutral-zone, separating the Israeli-controlled Golan from the Syrian plateau.  Also in view are old and new Quneitra.  One cannot, of course, visit the old one, but its ruins are clearly visible to all – a historic reminder to the terrible battles that ensued here in 1967 and 1973.  When we were there it was quite misty, and as the cafe name suggested, we befittingly often found ourselves above the clouds.  It was almost an enchanted feeling, and very beautiful and relaxing.

It was also quite surreal.  Here we were, sipping nice warm coffee, while contemplating what has, is, and will be happening on these very hills.  The cafe, funny enough, has on its walls framed pictures of different tourist sites in Syria, with articles and information written below it in Hebrew, English, and Arabic.  It wasn’t clear to me whether the owners were hopeful about peace with Syria with, or without, returning the Golan. There are people up there, after all, who believe in “peace-for-peace”.

I took the opportunity to ask some of the young men and women who were running the place what they thought will happen with the Golan, whether they believed it will be returned to Syria.  One or two shied away from a direct answer, but one girl, probably 22 or 23 years old, said quite confidently “It’ll never happen”.  Hoping to better understand her, I reminded her of the ongoing indirect talks over the past 5 years, as well as very clear suggestions made by previous Prime Ministers in Israel as to that effect.  But she remained resolute, and repeated “It’ll never happen”.  At the risk of pushing the limit, I tried another approach – my pseduo-psychologist one…  “But surely,” I said, “even if you are absolutely certain that the Golan will remain Israeli forever, isn’t there any part of you, on the conscious or subconscious level, that questions it?”  “No,” the nice girl responded, “I believe that what I think is what will happen, so I don’t allow myself to think anything else…”  That summarized it for me quite well.  And in a way, it made sense.

This young girl was born and raised on the Golan.  This is the only home she knows.  Israel annexed the Heights in 1981, so she was born in a place her country considered its own (unlike the West Bank or Gaza, which were never annexed).  This girl knows the Golan better than she does Tel-Aviv or Jerusalem.  To her, the “courageous” pro-peace and anti-peace activists matter less than the land she and her parents have been working over the past forty years.  Talks of peace, when accompanied by land giveaways, her-land giveaways, are a bigger threat than the enemy himself.  To this girl, giving back the Golan is as foreign a notion as, say, giving Florida back to the Indians would be for the average Floridian.  History is irrelevant, when facts-on-the-ground are not only well established, but indeed well personal.  Could I blame her for feeling this way?  Would I feel any different, were I in her shoes?  Probably not.

We do know that there are also Golan residents that have voiced different opinions.  Some are ready to move “back” into Israel, should peace ever become a real-possibility.  They are ready to pay the personal price, in return for a safer future for their children, and for those of all of Israel.  While still a minority, it seems they are a growing one.  What will make it easier for Israel to give back the Golan one day are two facts about its Jewish residents:  First, there are only some 16,500 of them, unlike the 260,000 living in the West Bank.  Second, most have not moved to the Golan for the same religiously-motivated reasons as have the settlers in the Palestinian territories.  Ending the physical occupation of the Golan will not entail, quite likely, overwhelming religious interference by leaders and Rabbis across the country.  In fact, the religious party Shas has herself suggested in the past a readiness to give back land territories, in return for peace.  It never exhibited this “flexibility” when it came to matters of Jerusalem.  But the Golan has been, and will be, different.

Personally, I must admit giving back the Golan will not be easy for me either.  Though I do not feel nearly the same kind of attachment to this land as its residents do, I too have managed to fall in love with it, as anyone who has ever been up there would.  On this visit, I told my wife and our friends that although I will be saddened the day we return the Heights back its owners, I will be happy to return here again and again, even if I first have to obtain a Syrian visa…  On the emotional level, and we must come to understand this (whether we agree with it, or not), giving back the Golan will be, to most if not all of its residents, like the severing of an important limb in their body.  The fact that some politician may one day suggest that this limb was actually “transplanted” into their body, and was never theirs in the first place, will not help their personal trauma nor their pain.

But before this is possible, before Syria can peacefully attain control of the Golan, most Israelis will have to believe it is worth it.  History lessons, and UN resolutions, will not convince the people who are still fearful of Syrian tanks rolling off the Heights, on their way to Tel-Aviv.  That it was always Syrian territory, also before 1967, will not encourage Israelis to vote for a peace agreement, if they remain suspicious of Syria’s alliances with Iran, Hezbollah, and Hamas.  It is this emotional realm, that Syrians and Israelis will have to traverse, and it is here that the “battle for peace” will have to take place.  The sooner we understand this, the sooner the nice young girl we met up at “Coffee Anan” will begin to question her innate and understandable reluctance to leave her home, for the sake of peace.

Comments (100)


Akbar Palace said:

Complete the sentence for Shai:

Giving Back the Golan Will Not Be Easy…

… when Israelis have no indication what kind of peace Syria is willing to provide in return.

I suppose the “magician” (Barack Obama) and his sidekick (Hillary Clinton) will create the illusion that peace is right around the corner.

It isn’t emotional Shai, it is a very tangible contract.

December 1st, 2008, 11:47 am

 

idaf said:

Shai,

Thanks. Interesting insight to the view of the few thousands residents of the Golan and the emotional attachment to the place by other Israelis (though some Syrians would find it hard to distinguish the vague fine line here between ‘greed’ and ’emotional attachment’!). Now you know exactly how the half a million Golani Syrians feel about their limb that was severed (vis avis the view of a transplant on the other side).

As you imply, it would be much easier to get visas (maybe even resident visas) to the 10 thousand Israelis who might opt to stay in the Golan after its return, than to give visas to the 500,000 native Golanis, who have been internal refugees in Syria for 40 years.

I can see your point, but I doubt more than a handful of them would be able to.

December 1st, 2008, 12:32 pm

 
 

Alia said:

Dear Shai,

[The sooner we understand this, the sooner the nice young girl we met up at “Coffee Anan” will begin to question her innate and understandable reluctance to leave her home, for the sake of peace.]

What I miss in the dilemna as you frame it here, and also in the way issues are raised by Syrians themselves is the overarching ethical imperative which transcends emotional needs and psychological states. When was the last time any of us thought that doing something because it is the “right, virtuous” thing to do is the way to approach issues? Has this nice young girl been even taught this way of looking at the world?

We talk of politics, economy, alliances, securities, allegiances, but we no longer talk of right and wrong as absolute truths that override any other considerations. Clearly I am affirming here that the knowledge of absolute right and wrong does exist and is accessible to us.

I am offering this not as a gesture of animosity rather out of deep belief that we humans are distinguished by our morality; our so-called emotional states are of inferior origin and have frequently led us astray, individually and in groups.

December 1st, 2008, 1:26 pm

 

Shai said:

IDAF,

You’re right, I cannot expect Syrians to view our emotional “attachment” to the Golan as anything other than greed. Seeing as I normally do not expand on the obstacles to peace with Syria, but rather focus on the positive potential, I thought it was time I tried telling a part of the story, also from the angle of those who will be paying the ultimate price. Nothing in what I wrote was intended to hint at what was or wasn’t just. My views about returning the Golan to its rightful owner, the Syrian people, is clear. But the emotional realm, rational or not, proportional or not, will have to be addressed, as least here in Israel.

Alia,

There is no doubt whatsoever that our world suffers terribly from ethical deficits, on personal levels, and also on national ones. Indeed too few address the question “what is right?”.

But I do believe, that a prerequisite to such questions, is self-confidence and a sense of security. When people as individuals, and as nations, live in fear (rational or not), they are willing to put aside ethics. When genuine suspicions and distrust are the modus vivendi for an entire nation, for over 60 years, the ethical realms all of us wish to see are subdued even further than we are sometimes aware of, or are willing to acknowledge.

Hence, my continued insistence on first addressing the emotional obstacles. This may not seem so trivial to people who have lived abroad, and have acquired distance and perspective. To them (us), many questions can and should indeed be considered through the ethical dilemmas they pose. But for those still deep inside the conflict, this requires more than we might appreciate.

December 1st, 2008, 2:14 pm

 

Alia said:

Shai,

Yes, I think that this is the current wisdom when such issues are discussed i.e., ethical thinking is a luxury or a higher order approach.

Since we have the non-binding privilege of discussion here, let me suggest to you that this view/way of thinking and approaching problems is in fact an artifact of our present international culture-what you referred to as a “pseudo-psychology”.

In my understanding, the 3 Abrahamic religions and the ethical cultures derived from them are based on categorical dichotomies between right and wrong; other views are superimposed on those notions, acquired and not basic.

This brings up the question: Is Israel a Jewish country, in the sense that Judaism as a religion and ethic is its foundation; or is it Jewish in the sense that it is culturally Jewish (in whatever way one may define Jewish culture in this case)? A related issue came up a few weeks ago on the matter of Israel being a “non-Oriental country” .

Can Judaism as a religion and ethical mode of seeing the world still be a help to the Jews of Israel in recognizing moral dilemma or has it become overshadowed by cultural baggage?. Your reference to “having spent a day in Tzfat (Safed), a spiritual center for Jewish Kabbalah” was of great interest to me.

December 1st, 2008, 2:50 pm

 

Rumyal said:

Shai, good piece!

December 1st, 2008, 3:07 pm

 

Shai said:

Dear Alia,

As usual, you address the deepest roots of our inadequacies, and I tend to agree with your thesis. However, look at how Israel, indeed the self-proclaimed Jewish State, is itself exercising a very different form of “Judaism” than the religious have in mind. In fact, Israel is a mostly secular state, that views Judaism in a cultural sense much more than a deep religious one. Most Israelis are not taught the right-and-wrong lessons our religion has to offer. They get their ethics from home, and from whatever is taught in their (secular) schools. Israel is, in that sense, like most other nations on earth.

I hinted earlier that the religious party Shas, was in the past willing to give up on territory, if it will save lives. To them, despite the religious attachment to “Biblical Israel”, the value of life is higher than that of land. But most secular people would never say such a thing. To them (us), it is a question of price – just how much do we lose versus how much we would gain. There’s very little ethics here – it’s almost purely “economics”. And that is why it is almost inconceivable that an average Israeli could, today, contemplate a “just solution” for the Palestinian people.

The way I see it, the problem in addressing an important issue, such as ethics, you must first be able to speak the right language, to communicate your thoughts to their listeners, and not only to yourself. And here, I believe, we are currently facing a dead-end. You are trying to address a problem using rational tools, when the parties are in a state of trauma. Even if they were genuinely interested in considering the ethical dilemmas at hand, they simply cannot understand them at the moment, not before certain “therapy” takes place. I don’t mean to sound like the pseudo-psychologist I’m pretending to be. But I do believe in this concept of “Psychology of Nations”, and in a psychological state an entire people could be living in, which must be treated for them to think and act in a way most objective parties would consider “rational”.

For them to understand you, they must first want and be able to do so. Even our religious leaders are living through this trauma (see Shas spiritual leader’s parallel comments about Arabs), and even they cannot communicate the ethical issues pertaining to our conflict. Let us hope Obama also studied some psychology in school… 🙂 I’m afraid that for now, we’ll have to operate on the pseudo-psychological realm.

December 1st, 2008, 3:24 pm

 

Alia said:

Dear Shai,

I hear you…: ) and I know that you hear me- that is quite an achievement already.

December 1st, 2008, 3:42 pm

 

norman said:

Shai,

When Israel returns the Golan to Syria , Your Israeli friend should be able to stay there , The people who own the Cafeteria and manage the sky resort should stay there too ,all will be under Syrian laws paying taxes to Syria which are probably less than Israeli tax , they should be encouraged to employ Syrians like an affirmative action until Syrians develop skills and be able to be employed on merits , your twenty year old and others there should be able to stay in their homes with Syrian residency.
The alternative to the return of the Golan peacefully is war and I do not want people to believe that Israel responds only to war.
That is a peaceful to return the Golan,

And that my take Shai,

December 1st, 2008, 5:19 pm

 

Akbar Palace said:

Alia asks Shai:

Has this nice young girl been even taught this way of looking at the world?

Alia,

cc: Shai

Although I find it interesting that some here on this website believe Shai speaks for thousands of Israelis who live in the Golan,
(IDAF states to Shai: “Interesting insight to the view of the few thousands residents of the Golan and the emotional attachment to the place by other Israelis”) I would like to be considered a “semi-equal” to Shai and speak just for the “nice young girl”:

The nice young girl was probably taught that before Israel occupied and annexed the Golan, Syria was at war with Israel. So much at war that Syrian forces often fired into Israel from Syria and tried to divert the Banias river.

The nice young girl probably was aware that:

In May 1967, Hafez al-Assad, then Syria’s Defense Minister declared: “Our forces are now entirely ready not only to repulse the aggression, but to initiate the act of liberation itself, and to explode the Zionist presence in the Arab homeland. The Syrian Army, with its finger on the trigger, is united… I, as a military man, believe that the time has come to enter into a battle of annihilation.”

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Six-Day_War

http://www.washingtoninstitute.org/print.php?template=C04&CID=56

Anyway, I hope the nice young girl will accept my apology for speaking for her.

AP

December 1st, 2008, 5:23 pm

 

Alex said:

Akbar,

Today they asked President-elect Obama about the sharp differences between him and secretary of state Clinton … one journalist quoted something that Hillary said. Obama smiled and said: if you want to have fun quoting things from the heated campaign, you can do that if you want to.

You obviously prefer to go much more deeper into the past … quoting Hafez Assad’s 1967 words, when Egypt’s Nasser was setting the tone for the war, and not Assad’s 73 war when he and Sadat were leading the Arab world and when he clearly stated that the war’s target was to recover the occupied Golan Heights just like Sadat said that his target was to recover his occupied Sinai.

And you prefer to quote 67 and not 1991 to 2008 when Hafez Assad and Bashar Assad both confirmed that peace is Syria’s choice.

Shai,

Very interesting piece : )

I want to tell you that I now remember the million french people who had to leave Algeria back to France after France finally decided to give Algeria back to its people.

How did a million people get convinced to leave? … did the Algerians show newly acquired sensitivity to the feelings of the French occupiers? .. no.

It was a general conclusion that France, Great Britain, and the rest of the super/imperialist powers of that time reached … that you can not sustain an occupation no matter how strong your army is and no matter how rich or technologically advanced you are.

The United States learned that lesson in Iraq .. after a quick “mission accomplished”, it seemed that it is impossible to achieve that mission if staying in Iraq forever was part of the mission like some in the Bush administration preferred.

But Israel, despite the failure in 2006 against few thousand Hizbollah fighters, is still largely a country that is over confident in its military force.

If the United States decides to help Israel reach the right conclusion .. that occupation is wrong, instead of blindly supporting anything Israel does (right or wrong), then the occupation will probably end and the nice girl in the Golan will understand that she will gain the whole Arab world in exchange for the Golan.

But I agree with you that when the United States seems ready to help Israel make that decision, it will be Syria’s responsibility to make it absolutely clear (so that even Akbar can understand it) that Syria will forget the past and will open up its doors to its Jewish neighbors and friends.

December 1st, 2008, 6:20 pm

 

Alloush said:

Enjoy it as much as you can, cause we will have it back, in peace, in war, in whatever it takes, We will have our Golan back.

By the way, It\’s Syrian Villages you passed by, don\’t convince your self it\’s a druz villages, here we don\’t classify people into religion categories, we are all Syrians.

I don\’t think Israelis will ever have problem to leave, you left your home and every thing related to you in many parts of the world to live in Palestine, so it wont be a problem to leave what is not yours.

December 1st, 2008, 6:45 pm

 

Shai said:

Alex,

I fully agree with you. I don’t mean that Syrians will need to understand the pain that Golan residents will feel when leaving their homes one day. I mean that if Syria wants to help our citizens see the advantages of peace, it can target their fear, suspicion, and distrust.

Unlike the cases with “real” colonialist nations such as France and Britain, Israelis do not feel they’ve acquired the Golan as part of a stated or unstated policy of expansion. We truly believe that we’re there only in response to provocations by Syria in the 50’s and 60’s. Later, after annexing the Golan, we added the “defensive strategic” reasoning for remaining there. So for Israelis as a whole, leaving the Golan will not be as “simple” as it may have been for citizens of traditional colonialist powers. Plus, leaving will not be a unilateral decision (we’ve already seen the consequences of doing so), but rather one that is reached together with Syria, at the negotiation table.

Akbar Palace,

It is not forbidden to occasionally let a subjective reflection go undenounced… It makes one seem, perhaps, less inclined to listening, than he is to talking. (If you had read the last paragraph carefully, you’d have seen the clear indication I made about genuine Israeli fears and suspicion, which will have to be addressed.)

December 1st, 2008, 6:56 pm

 

norman said:

Syria News Briefing

Palestinians Fear Losing out in Israel-Syria Deal
(01-Dec-08)

Palestinian refugees living in Syria fear their interests might be sacrificed if Damascus concludes a peace deal with Israel.

The indirect talks between the two states have left refugees worried that under the terms of a comprehensive agreement, their demand to return to their old homes would be quietly shelved and they would instead be settled permanently in Syria,

The talks, mediated by Turkey, began in May but were suspended in September pending the formation of a new Israeli government.

An international conference in Damascus on November 23 and 24 brought together 4,500 representatives from 45 countries to highlight what the Palestinian diaspora regards as its inalienable right to return to its ancestral lands.

“If peace is established between Syria and Israel, there will be no return to Palestine for the Palestinians,” said Munir Shafiq, a Jordan-based Palestinian analyst, who attended the conference.

“Permanent settlement of Palestinians in the host countries to which they have moved is one of the conditions that Israel has set out in the negotiations.”

The right of return of the Palestinians has been a major bone of contention whenever Israeli-Arab peace negotiations have taken place.

Israeli officials have repeatedly stated that they will not accept the reintegration of Palestinians or restoration of the lands they fled in 1948.

Ahmad Ibrahim, a 40-year-old Palestinian teacher at a school in Damascus, predicts that his people will be “the first losers” in a peace agreement.

“The refugees will not return to their land, and the suffering of the Palestinians will continue because there will be no Arab voice to stop it,” he said.

Palestinians in Syria worry that if Damascus concludes a peace pact, it will end support for groups like Hamas and the Islamic Jihad, regarded as resistance movements by many Arabs but branded terrorists by Israel and the west.

Syria has cultivated strong ties with these groups, and it hosts a number of exiled Palestinian figures and allows them to maintain offices there. Syria’s support for groups like Hamas is one of the reasons why the US State Department includes it on its list of states that sponsor terrorism.

Observers believe that in return for the Golan Heights, a water-rich area occupied by Israel since 1967, Damascus would be willing to shut down the offices of these groups and end political support for their leaders – one of Israel’s conditions for peace.

“Syria understands that it cannot regain land through direct wars. Therefore, by supporting Hamas, Syria wages a convenient proxy war against Israel as a way to force it to withdraw from the Golan,” said Paul Salem, director of the Carnegie Middle East Centre in Beirut.

“It is conceivable to see the Syrians divorcing with Hamas to achieve an agreement with Israel.”

Analysts say Syria is serious about recovering the Golan Heights through a peace deal.

“Regaining the Golan Heights will help reduce the problem of scarce water resources in Syria, and improve the agricultural sector which constitutes the basis of its food security,” said a Palestinian researcher based in Damascus, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

The Syrian authorities also have an incentive to make peace because that would help improve economic and political relationships with the United States and other western states. Damascus expects a “flow of western investments” in return for peace, the researcher said.

Both Hamas and officials in Syria insist that their relationship remains rock solid, irrespective of any political change in the region, and have denied media reports that Damascus has imposed restrictions on the group.

Earlier this year, the head of Hamas’s political bureau, Khaled Mishal, who lives in Damascus, expressed concern at the progress of Syrian-Israeli contacts.

The pan-Arab newspaper Asharq Alawsat said that during a trip to Iran, Mishal said Hamas had received assurances that a Syrian-Israeli peace deal would “not be at the expense of Damascus’s relations with its revolutionary allies”.

Nevertheless, Mishal was clearly concerned about the implications of a deal, saying, “Peace has its own obligations and Syria cannot sign a peace treaty with Israel, exchange ambassadors with Tel Aviv, end the state of war, and turn the Golan into a demilitarised zone and an island of stability and joint security with Israel, and at the same time allow… training of Hamas and Islamic Jihad fighters, and transfer funds to Hamas and other groups through its banks.”

Not all Palestinians believe the Syrian-Israeli negotiations will harm their cause.

According to Salem, from the Carnegie Centre, many members of Fatah, the more moderate opponents of Hamas, realise that they cannot negotiate with Israel until the Syrians have made peace.

“Syria is powerful enough to obstruct a peace process between Israel and the Palestinians. Damascus can make life difficult for both the Palestinians and Israel if it doesn’t get what it wants,” said Salem.

Syria is home to just over 450,000 Palestinian refugees, according to recent data from the United Nations Relief and Works Agency, UNRWA. The country has ten officially-designated refugee camps, mostly scattered around the capital..

Many Palestinians have, however, integrated successfully into Syrian society. Since the 1950s, they have had access to education and healthcare, as well as the right to own property.

There are many examples of eminent Palestinian businessmen, like Othman al-Aidi, owner of the prestigious Sham Palace hotel in Damascus, and Ziad al-Assadi, who owns the major private hospital in the capital.

Most of the refugees are now second- or third-generation, and many of them are pessimistic that they will ever see the land of their parents or grandparents.

Muhammed Rano, 50, a Palestinian doctor working in Damascus, said he wanted to stay in Syria.

“I’m fed up with dreams. Israel is a reality and returning a fiction,” he said.

(Syria News Briefing, a weekly news analysis service, draws on information and opinion from a network of IWPR-trained Syrian journalists based in the country.)

December 1st, 2008, 7:27 pm

 

Alia said:

A.P.,

Out of context, this comment seems to condemn the nice girl and/or those who raised her. If you read the post without pre-conceived notions you may notice that I was speaking about a much greater problem.

Alex,

I heard Obama today mention the word “wisdom” and I heard Biden speak of “ideals”…
Perhaps, it will be acceptable again in the future to speak of virtue and morality that transcend the sexual sphere and “family values” ( disclaimer: I have nothing against either)

December 1st, 2008, 8:32 pm

 

anonymous said:

Hilarious…could this be THE Rami Makhlouf?..anyone recognize any of his friends? Note his piccie ; ))

http://www.facebook.com/people/Rami-Makhlouf/539202427

December 1st, 2008, 8:41 pm

 

Akbar Palace said:

And you prefer to quote 67 and not 1991 to 2008 when Hafez Assad and Bashar Assad both confirmed that peace is Syria’s choice.

Alex –

Can you post as many english translations of both Hafez and Bashar Assad’s “vision” of peace with Israel?

You may post ANYTHING from any year you wish: 1947, 1957, 1967, 1977, 1987, 1997 or 2007 – it doesn’t matter.

Thanks.

Then, we can compare it with this one!:

http://www.ibiblio.org/sullivan/docs/Knesset-speech.html

December 1st, 2008, 9:08 pm

 

Alex said:

Alia,

I heard “wisdom” too : )

I hate to sound naive but I am relatively optimistic. I like Obama’s choices today. Picking James L. Johns for NSA made the team more balanced in many ways.

They also repeated more than once the part about “more allies and less enemies”

But I can’t forget that I was also impressed in 2000 when Mr. George Bush gave us Colin Powell, Dr. Rice, and … even Dick Cheney (at the time)

Akbar … Assad will not repeat what Sadat did for many reasons. None of those reasons is indicative of lack of interest in peace with Israel.

December 1st, 2008, 11:02 pm

 

why-discuss said:

Shai

Looking at the photos of the Golan Israeli version, including the Spa, it confirms to me even more of the Club Med vision many arabs have of Israel, with the California-like villages surrounded by security barbed wires and the army protecting the ski slopes.
Of course, someone who was born or lived in a such a paradise place does not want to consider leaving. Anyone can become attached to a stolen dog or a stolen watch. Yet emotional attachments have no weight when justice must be done, when a stolen object must be returned to his owner. Of course this is true if the sense of justice still exists in the common Israeli’s psyche, sometimes it looks lost under fear and greed.

December 1st, 2008, 11:13 pm

 

why-discuss said:

Norman

I am sure that in the peace accord with Israel, the Syrians would have included a clause requiring the Israeli and the UN to pay financial compensation to the palestinians settled in Syria. In exchange Syria may give them full syrian citizenship after a certain number of years. Palestinians who will get the compensation and becoming Syrian citizens will have no claims anymore to their properties in Israel. I doubt many palestinians in Syria will refuse such generous offer. Syria would have no more problems with Palestinians and Hamas may move its offices to … Lebanon where a solution is much harder to reach.
If this happens, it will trigger a violent debate in Lebanon about the destiny of the palestinians in refugee camps that Lebanon has no intention to integrate in their society the same way the syrians have and will. As I mentionned it before Lebanon may find itself alone to deal with that crucial issue.

December 1st, 2008, 11:30 pm

 

norman said:

WD,

If the US , EU , Australia and Canada opens up immigration for the Palestinians , The Palestinian problem will be solved in less than 5 years , I am sure these Palestinians will be helped by many Jews in these countries and they would be better off.

December 2nd, 2008, 3:17 am

 

Alex said:

Rime Allaf / Syria today:

This past November 4, as the longest day turned into the longest night, the world lived on Washington time and anxiously awaited the results of an election in which most people probably felt eligible to vote, so direct would its influence be on them. While the popular slogan “Anything But Bush” seems to indicate indifference about his successor, there would have been fewer global celebrations had the Republicans won the race, in spite of John McCain’s efforts to detach himself from George W. Bush.

The collective sigh of relief let out with Barack Obama’s victory was significant, and Syrians were amongst the first to celebrate the advent of an Obama administration which most feel will be more civil, more intelligent, more normal. But memories are short and political amnesia is dangerous, and there have often been too many dashed expectations from little-known elected officials. Given the history, it is difficult to believe that many Syrians had deemed the Bush-Cheney ticket preferable to that of Gore-Lieberman in 2000, simply because Lieberman happened to be Jewish and was expected to sway the president even more towards Israel. George W. Bush, on the other hand, came from proven stock, and perceptions of his father’s engagement with most of the Arab world (with the exception of Iraq, of course), not to mention his audacious – albeit brief – stand vis-à-vis Israel, augured excellent prospects for the region. Unfortunately, this analysis never developed into reality, and Bush junior turned out to be much worse than expected, to put it mildly.

High expectations

While it would be far-fetched to imagine a repeat of the Bush administration’s senseless exploits, it is nonetheless imprudent for Syrians to put all their eggs into one basket again, after seven and one long years of bad luck. More than ever, a thorough reading of the situation is necessary, and an appropriate action plan must be prepared to cover all eventualities and to ensure that proper communication is restored.

Causes for optimism are certainly plentiful. With his promises of hope and change, Barack Obama has practically sold himself as the anti-Bush, and his pledges to restore America’s moral standing in the world (with the closing of Guantanamo’s Camp Delta, amongst other measures) are reassuring. While his initial priority will undoubtedly be that of the economy, he has campaigned with an exit plan for Iraq as well, and with the entire region in his sights for a comprehensive peace settlement – an ambitious goal which other presidents have attempted.

For Syria, in particular, the expectations are that Obama will restore full diplomatic relations with the appointment of a new envoy to Damascus, and that the attempted isolation will disappear from the agenda as engagement and dialogue become the basis of a new modus operandi. But are these basic actions, if indeed they do happen, sufficient to warrant optimism? Should he wish to, how much can Obama change course, and how much can he undo?

Pessimists – or realists – will find a lot of telling signs dictating caution. First, Obama’s team already includes strong advisors or officials who are not exactly eager to court Syria. Second, Obama is bound by American legislation in his relations with Syria. Third, the new president himself may embark on different priorities and not be agreeable to impediments along the way. Finally, regional developments (and Syria’s potential involvement in them) will influence the degree, and the timing, of Obama’s propensity to change.

Back to the future

Team Obama is no maverick when it comes to foreign relations. The new vice-president is a long-time senator whose opinions on foreign affairs are easily describable as hawkish, especially as far as the Arab world is concerned. A self-proclaimed Zionist, Joe Biden’s position on the Senate’s Foreign Affairs Committee has given more weight to a voice advertising not only staunch support of Israel (a given for powerful politicians), but also grandiose plans to partition Iraq into three separate states. Such positions affect Syria by default, and there is every reason to believe that Biden will not be a shy vice-president biting his tongue.

Syrian antennas should also register people like Rahm Emanuel, the new Chief of Staff, whose support for Israel translated into volunteering there during the Gulf War of 1991, or Dan Shapiro, advisor to the campaign and instrumental in the drafting of the Syria Accountability Act, or others like Dennis Ross, to name but a few. Last but certainly not least, there is the presence of Hillary Clinton (set to become Secretary of State as of this writing), who brings formidable clout to the Democrat circles and beyond, and who will be taking no prisoners in her quest to achieve a “legacy” – probably in the form of a Middle East settlement, very loosely based on the Arab Peace Initiative of 2002.

Obama is heralding change in many avenues, but his Middle East team so far is a reincarnation of the Clinton era; it’s definitely better than Bush, but it’s not as good as the Obama Administration many had come to believe would be a political “Dream Team” all fired up and ready to go fix the region’ problems. Can Barack Obama really fix it? Yes he can, will confirm his lieutenants, but on his (and on their) terms.

A realistic means to an end

While many in Syria (and throughout the Arab world) have chosen to believe that Obama means change for them, a reality check is actually needed at this point. President Obama may well send an ambassador to Damascus, but this is far from being a “victory” of sorts over the Bush administration’s pathetic diplomacy. For Syrian-American relations to get better, a mere return to the status quo in 2005 should not be considered progress. An ambassador and actual dialogue are the most preliminary of steps needed from Washington, and they should be considered as means to an end, rather than just an end in themselves.

Obama will also be bound by other restrictions: the Syria Accountability Act will not disappear with the last of the Bush remains, nor will the sanctions imposed on Syria through other legislation. In fact, sanctions have been part of US-Syrian relations since 1979, with Syria remaining on a list of states “sponsoring terror” regardless of the relative warmth or coolness of its ties with Washington. Before any real change occurs between Washington and Damascus, a long list of prerequisites will again be read and the usual demands will be made of Syria, which will have little new to offer itself. While everyone professes wanting to talk, there is little evidence that the conversations will differ much from previous ones, and the US will continue to stipulate conditions for upgrading the relation, under any administration.

President Obama will probably take his time before deciding on a new course of action with Syria. With domestic issues (especially the economy) and Iraq taking priority, with elections taking place in Israel, Lebanon and Iran in February, May and June 2009 respectively, it is unlikely that the Obama administration will be in a great rush to act with Syria — save for the replacement of an ambassador. Unforeseen events which trigger actions, and counter-actions, do not bode well and may dampen the enthusiasm with which Obama was first greeted, especially if he decides to act tougher than would have been expected, just to prove he can do it.

The Bush administration’s “October surprise” was perhaps meant as a campaign boost for its favoured presidential candidate, or it may have been meant as a parting gift for a country it has sidelined needlessly. Regardless of the reason, the October 26 strike on Syrian soil, killing Syrian citizens, has created a new precedent and taken relations to a new low. It will take true diplomacy and a realistic understanding of each country’s interests, from both sides, to undo the harm done by eight years of erratic and mostly futile provocations.

Rime Allaf is an Associate Fellow at Chatham House.

December 2nd, 2008, 4:39 am

 

Shai said:

Why-Discuss,

That “Spa” you referred to is Kibbutz Merom Golan, located at the foothills of Mt. Bental. Kibbutzim are, by definition, closed communities and as such often seem like a “club”. But most do not look like Club Med. Nowadays, most are undergoing a transformation from their original socialist-purpose, to a more modern, capitalist-managed system. If you ask most Kibbutz members, few would refer to their failed socialist project as a “paradise”. Most of the Kibbutzim have come close to bankruptcy, and have been taken over by management companies from the outside.

The purpose for writing about the conceptual and emotional barriers that exist amongst Golan residents and most in Israel was not to seek your appreciation for its legitimacy (justice), but rather your understanding that these will have to be overcome before the Golan can be returned. If you take yourself out of the “Syrian side” of the equation for a moment, you might contemplate helping Israelis overcome their fear and suspicion of Syria and Syrians by, for instance, engaging them. If most Israelis visited Syria Comment daily, they would quickly come to realize who their enemy really is – a people seeking peace and quiet (and yes, also justice), and not war. Most Israelis would certainly disagree with a comparison of the Golan and a stolen dog. To us, the Golan was not “stolen”, it was captured in war as a result of ongoing Syrian aggression towards Israel, not to the other way around. Israeli fears are not an imaginary thing, they are very real, and will have to be addressed.

December 2nd, 2008, 4:47 am

 

why-discuss said:

Shai

That the Israelis fear Hezbollah or Hamas or Iran is understandable, I can’t understand why they fear Syria. There has not been a single incident on the Syrian line of cease fire since 1967. If the Israelis are brainwashed by the US media that Syria is ‘sponsoring terrorims’ by having an office of Hamas in Damascus or by being friend with Iran, or by arming the Hezbollah, there is little the Syrians can do to fight that and dispel the fears in the mind of the Israelis. Do they expect Bashar to burn all his cards before he gets anything in exchange. If Israel is serious about starting a dynamic of peace, it is time to show it by facts. Maybe most israeli prefer the statu quo until it becomes unmanageable and dangerous and it has not reached that stage yet?

December 2nd, 2008, 5:28 am

 

Alex said:

Shai,

If that girl was more talkative …. would she have told you that she does not want to return the Golan because she fears Syria, from its new position on the Golan, will threaten Israel? … or would she have told you that her army can make Syria disappear in less than a week so the Syrians who want her to give up her Golan can go to hell?

Or .. perhaps she would have given you both (contradictory) answers?

This is Syria’s dilemma … Israelis want Syria to be

1) Too weak to hurt them
2) Too strong to be ignored

Syria, which is somewhere between these two extremes, does not know how to convince, reassure, scare, or impress

Not to mention the third type .. those who practically want Syria to apologize for its sins and accept international supervision to ensure that the, not to be trusted, Syrians will be forced in the future to learn from Israel how to behave in a civilized way.

I know I am repeating myself, and that I sound too negative.

But despite the difficulties, I am strongly for inviting Israeli journalists to visit Syria. Despite the difficult to convince groups I mentioned above, there are many reasonable Israelis who will change their minds about Syria when they understand Syria.

However, another (more effective) path to changing Israeli perceptions about Syria would be for the United states’ new administration to set the record straight. Israeli people will trust Hillary Clinton and Rahm Emanuel much more than they will trust their baathist enemies Buthaina Shabaan and Farouk Sharaa.

Afterall, it was the current American administration who led the massive campaign to demonize Syria that had a lot to do with reducing support for withdrawal from the Golan down to 30%

THEY need to show some badly needed “change” first.

December 2nd, 2008, 6:05 am

 

Rumyal said:

Some thoughts on Shai’s post…

It is kind of futile to speculate what the “nice young girl” meant when she insisted that withdrawal from the Golan would never happen, but I would wager that no matter what her reasons are, she doesn’t believe that she is on shaky moral grounds. People always like to believe that they are just and will find all sorts of rationalizations.

To put things in perspective, the Golan is not qualitatively different from any other part of “Greater Syria”. From the perspective of the “principled” Syrian, like Nour, it’s just a territory that was wrestled out of Syria at a later time than let’s say, Haifa. The fact that Haifa was part of the designated Jewish homeland based on several European-backed plans doesn’t carry much weight in the eyes of the principled Syrian because the Europeans themselves were illegitimate colonizers that didn’t bother consulting the people in Greater Syria whether they agree with this plan on not.

On the other hand, from a principled Israeli-Zionist perspective, there also is no qualitative difference between Haifa and the Golan. They were both part of the historic settlement of the country by the Israelites (let’s take this at face value as part of this narrative) and were subsequently the site of Jewish presence over the centuries. They were both wrestled from the hostile current-residents of the land who were not willing to accept a return of the Jews to their homeland. The fact that Haifa was designated as part of a Jewish homeland in some European partition plans isn’t the source of a moral stance. It’s just fortunate coincidence. The Zionists would have fought to gain control over those areas anyway, whether they received official backing from Europe or not. So maybe, just maybe, the girl was tapping into this ideology and basically saying “as long as you Shai live near Tel Aviv, I should be able to live here, there is no difference”. In fact the West bank settlers ran a campaign throughout Israel with the slogan “Judea and Samaria is Right Here” tapping into exactly this “principled” approach, both on our side and on the enemy’s side.

[Side note: Shai notes that the settlement in the Golan is not as religious as the one in the West bank. This is true, but it is not because there are no “Jewish roots” in the Golan. There are many (e.g. Gamla http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gamla). The reason the Golan (and also the Jordan river valley, BTW) has secular settlers is because these are hard-working men and women who sought arable land they could cultivate using modern agricultural techniques that require flatlands or plateaus. The “work” of the religious settlers in the West Bank on the other hand is literally to sit on top of rocky non-arable hills, pray, agitate, and live from welfare and other forms of government support.]

These two opposing but somewhat symmetric stances are quite self-consistent and you can see how their followers will feel justified in sticking with their respective ideologies without feeling that they are on shaky moral grounds. (I personally do believe that the “principled Syrian” stance is much stronger objectively than the “principled Zionist”, but that’s beside the point.) Furthermore, the existence of the “principled stance” on each side will make the other side more suspicious and entrenched.

The striking majority of the people on SC agree on the rough lines of what a Utopia might look like at the end of the day: a totally secular space with extensive personal and communal liberties and the ability to move and work freely in the “zone”, such that borders become less of a concern and maybe they are eliminated altogether, bringing us back from a detour of more than a 100 years during which both Zionism and the reaction to it dueled violently. How do we get there? The conventional wisdom is that the journey starts with returning the Golan to Syria, since the Palestinians are not able to negotiate peace at this time. But this is fraught with risks, the main one being a repeat of the peace with Egypt, under the cover of which Israel was able to continue much more forcefully with the occupation of the Palestinians. This accentuated the de-legitimization of the regime that accepted the conditions of such a peace treaty and didn’t bring true acceptance between the people. Up until recently I consistently heard that the Syrians will require some sort of linkage between their peace and that of the Palestinians, but recently I’m getting the impression that other than taking care of the Palestinian refugees in Syria, the Syrians will leave the Palestinians to fend for themselves. In other words this peace deal has the chance of providing security to the residents of Israel, Syria and Lebanon at the expense of the Palestinians, which ultimately will postpone the realization of true peace in our region.

As Shai and others have pointed out, it’s probably a risk worth taking, compared with status quo, but I beseech the Syrians to not let down the Palestinians for the sake of all of our peoples. Israel doesn’t have the political and moral latitude to do the right thing with the Palestinians. It must be pressured from the outside and Syria should devise its own system of sticks-and-carrots and build it into the peace treaty with Israel.

And finally I’d just like to say that the Golan will always be part of me, I have a lot of memories from this beautiful region, but my grandfather had great memories from Lebanon in the 30’s and my mother still has memories from Iraq. Until I’ll be able to visit and feel welcome in all of these places, I’ll always feel incomplete, as if part of my ancestral identity was robbed away from me.

Dear Why-Discuss,

We’re back to ClubMed again… Ok, I concede, the average income in Syria is $200/month so yes I guess the material differences will be apparent. But I’m almost 100% sure that those little houses with the spas are cabins for vacationers. (In other words my lame line of defense here tries to establish that houses in Israel usually do not normally come complete with a spa—really, they don’t). If it will make you feel better I’ll send you pictures of Israeli slums where a large chunk of the population lives http://www.israelnewsagency.com/israelpovertychildrenyomkippur4831210.html

December 2nd, 2008, 7:25 am

 

Rumyal said:

Alex,

I think I have a message stuck in the spam filter…

Thanks in advance 🙂

December 2nd, 2008, 7:43 am

 

Shai said:

Why-Discuss,

You are speaking rationally, but you’re dismissing the emotional side, for being an irrational one. Doing so won’t make us reach peace faster, I’m afraid.

You said: ” If Israel is serious about starting a dynamic of peace, it is time to show it by facts.”

But this is precisely what 70% of Israelis are saying about YOU. So where do we go from here? Do we give up, and say okay, either we’re nuts, or they are, so let’s wait for the other to wake up and “see the light”? I think we don’t have to. We can try to change public opinion, in Israel at least, by engaging our citizens on the most basic level. When you and I talk, neither one of us gives anything to the other, besides basic respect and an open mind (and hopefully heart). How can you expect Israelis, rational or not, to consider their Syrian enemy in any way other than how you’ve been depicted here all these years? Why should Israelis change their mind about Syria’s age-old “intention” of throwing us to the sea? Because to YOU it doesn’t make sense? Because it’s utterly unrealistic, in your mind? Because Alex thinks (as I do) that Syria’s regular army is little match to the IDF?

You must understand (not necessarily agree) that those 70% of Israelis are suspicious and fearful of Syria’s intentions. When they see military alliances between Syria and Iran – the same Iranian regime that calls for the annihilation of Israel – how can you seriously expect Israelis NOT to be worried? It’s perfectly reasonable. When Syria calls out for peace, but at the same time allows Hezbollah to receive thousands of rockets from Iran, via its own territory, the same rockets that have been lobbed at Israel for 34 days two summers ago, why shouldn’t Israelis find a certain contradiction there?

We must be careful not to assume that the way we rationalize certain behavior is the way the other side must also rationalize it. Empathy is the ability to put yourself in your rival’s skin, and see how HE thinks and rationalizes his action through HIS eyes, not yours. And, sadly enough, very few people have the ability to truly empathize with their enemy (to those who tend to “jump” each time I say something, I remind them in advance that I say “empathize” and not “sympathize”).

The good news is, that we don’t need to change the minds of most Israelis. In fact, we only need to change 20% or so, back to supporting the peace camp. And that, I believe, is quite possible.

Alex,

I of course agree with your call for allowing Israeli journalists into Syria (and also Syrian journalists into Israel). This is the quickest way to begin a process of chipping away the ignorance that exists between our two peoples. And that is essential, I believe, for there to ever be peace between our two countries.

But I disagree with you about Buthaina Shabaan and Farouk Sharaa’s effect on Israelis. If/when either one would be interviewed on Israeli television, and speak straight to the camera (to every Israeli father, mother, and child), this will have a tremendous emotional effect on us all. Deep down inside, we ALL long for peace. We ALL want to stop fearing one another. And when your “enemy” looks at you straight in the eyes, and says “Let us make peace”, you cannot but question any innate resistance or reluctance you may have to trusting the same regime, and to rejecting the potential for peace. The U.S. administration is trusted in Israel more when it calls Syria a “terrorist state” than when it will call it a “peace-seeking one”. Neither Hillary, nor Barack, will cause Israelis to change their emotions, at least not for the better. Only the Syrians can do that, or the Israeli leadership. Since I’ve nearly lost hope in the latter (at least in the immediate future), I still pray the former will find creative ways to address our citizens directly.

I often wish I was a psychologist, so that I could better explain what I believe is blocking most Israelis from overcoming their fears and distrust of Syria on their own. I wish I could agree with the rationalization that many on SC are doing, when responding to my calls with, essentially, “You expect US to convince YOU?…” But I’m willing to say this until I’m blue in the face – this isn’t about rational thinking, it’s about emotions, and trauma, and a need for “therapy” of some sort. And this, by the way, is true about all of us, not only Israelis.

December 2nd, 2008, 10:18 am

 

Akbar Palace said:

Sim –

Where are you? How is your investigation into Western Jewish reporters going? Have you found them to be “disproportionate”? Show us the numbers as you as you’re able.

BTW, I was thinking of you when I read this article. Your favorite word came up. How about that?:

Jewish victims made up a disproportionate number of the foreigners killed after 10 Muslim fanatics stormed a series of sites in the Indian financial capital.

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/asia/india/3539171/Mumbai-attacks-Jews-tortured-before-executed-during-hostage-crisis.html

In any case, these brainwashed jihadists killed far more non-Jews than Jews. I wonder who trained them? I also wonder who brainwashed them? Aren’t you curious as well Sim, or perhaps the Jewish reporter thing is your top priority right now?

December 2nd, 2008, 12:09 pm

 

Chris said:

Ultimately, this will be a treaty between two states determining what is in their interests. From the Syrian side, part of that calculus will be rooted in what is best for the regime itself. While the Israeli attachment to the region certainly poses a challenge at the Iraeli site of the negotiating table it’s important to remember that the willingness of the both negotiating partners, that is Israel and Syria, to make concessions will make or breal a deal. How much is Syria, or the regime, willing to change or concede in the interest of peace?

December 2nd, 2008, 12:48 pm

 

Akbar Palace said:

How much is Syria, or the regime, willing to change or concede in the interest of peace?

Chris,

And because the Syrian government’s “raison d’etre” is based on confrontation with Israel, you can expect it is only willing to change or concede next to nothing.

Remember Yassir?

Same thing. Don’t hold your breath!

December 2nd, 2008, 1:54 pm

 

Alia said:

A.P.,

What happened in India is awful. It does not help anyone, the community of Muslims has paid the price of the terrorism and murderous actions of the few…Israel and the Jews did not have to pay for 9/11 and this will be the case now again.

But tell me, why is it that you are not worked up about the situation in Gaza where patients on respirators and dialysis machines are dying for lack of electricity? Are you worked up that no foreign journalist is allowed to enter Gaza so that no one can document the outrages that the Israelis are perpetualting on a whole population where >50% are under the age of 18 ? Or does your psychological state prevent you from perceiving evil unless it is directed at a certain population ?

December 2nd, 2008, 2:13 pm

 

Shai said:

Alia,

One of the main reasons I won’t be voting Labor in the upcoming elections, is Ehud Barak’s own driven policy of collective punishment of Gaza’s population. I cannot, for the life of me, see ANY reasonable justification for this suffocation of so many people. Attempting to force the Palestinians to change their leadership in Gaza is an unacceptable excuse that has NEVER worked, though it was tried time and again. The only reason I can see for this, is Barak’s own reputation at hand. For another 2-3 seats, he’s willing to sell his own soul, and that of his party’s.

December 2nd, 2008, 2:37 pm

 

majib said:

Long time ago when we were kids, we used to hear that the Syrians actually won the 1967 war!! It was widely believed that the Syrian government sold the Israelis Syrian land all the way to Aleppo and the war was just a cover to fulfill the deal. But the Syrians handed only the Golan to the Israelis, thus the logic of winning the war becomes comprehensible. Now, this may be only rumors and hearsay, but the way things developed since then may prove that there is more to the rumor. The Syrian government from 67 till today was never serious about reclaiming the Golan. Have you ever heard of any shots fired into the Golan from Syria for the last 35 years? You may say the 73 war was meant to liberate the Golan. But that is false. In fact, the 73 war was orchestrated by Sadat specifically to screw up the Syrians who screwed up Nasser in 67 by sucking Egypt into a Syrian instigated war who were eager for a war with Israel – thus lending credence to the land buy/sell theory by providing the war cover. Sadat realized the Syrian 67 ploy and tricked the Syrians into the war. Once Sadat achieved his aim he struck a deal with Israel via Kissinger leaving the Syrians in the cold. Furthermore, the talks that took place in the 90’s between Syria and Israel were aiming to resolve the issue by the leasing the Golan to Israel, further lending credence to the fact that a buy and sell agreement took place long ago. The Golan was the only captured territory annexed by the Israelis. All the other lands captured by the Israelis (except the West Bank) have been returned to the Arabs. I believe that the Golan will not be returned to Syria. Perhaps a very long term lease would be the only solution to this issue. It seems that the whole issue of the Golan is tied to the Syrian economy. The Syrians may have sold it long ago to help their ailing economy. Now, they are again in dire economic state. They are playing the Golan card once again. I believe a Golan deal must be made between Israel and Syria that may involve some economic compensation. However, this time it should be made public and binding on all parties so there will be no repeat of sales transactions. This whole thing is making it look like the cow of some famous mythical comic character that every Syrian knows about.

December 2nd, 2008, 2:56 pm

 

Alia said:

Shai,

That is good, that is a constructive action that should make you feel less helpless I imagine.

On the other hand, you can understand that the situation is getting “psychologically worse” for the Palestinians in Gaza, outside of Gaza and for us Arabs whose identity has included solidarity with the Palestinian people. It is bad I tell you. I saw the picture of that 2 year old baby who lost his parents the Rabbi and his wife in India and my heart broke for him but I immediately thought of all the other kids running in dark Gaza, hungry, locked up, born in loss, living in loss and most likely destined to loss. I was supposed to go see the movie “The boy in the striped pyjamas” yesterday and I could not, I have no more sympathy to give to fictive characters of the Holocaust. This is part of the psychological state of an Arab nowadays.

December 2nd, 2008, 3:13 pm

 

Rumyal said:

(Sorry if this is a being posted twice…)

Some thoughts on Shai’s great post…

It is kind of futile to speculate what the “nice young girl” meant when she insisted that withdrawal from the Golan would never happen, but I would wager that no matter what her reasons are, she doesn’t believe that she is on shaky moral grounds. People always like to believe that they are just and will find all sorts of rationalizations.

To put things in perspective, the Golan is not qualitatively different from any other part of “Greater Syria”. From the perspective of the “principled” Syrian, like Nour, it’s just a territory that was wrestled out of Syria at a later time than let’s say, Haifa. The fact that Haifa was part of the designated Jewish homeland based on several European-backed plans doesn’t carry much weight in the eyes of the principled Syrian because the Europeans themselves were illegitimate colonizers that didn’t bother consulting the people in Greater Syria whether they agree with this plan on not.

On the other hand, from a principled Israeli-Zionist perspective, there also is no qualitative difference between Haifa and the Golan. They were both part of the historic settlement of the country by the Israelites (let’s take this at face value as part of this narrative) and were subsequently the site of Jewish presence over the centuries. They were both wrestled from the hostile current-residents of the land who were not willing to accept a return of the Jews to their homeland. The fact that Haifa was designated as part of a Jewish homeland in some European partition plans isn’t the source of a moral stance. It’s just fortunate coincidence. The Zionists would have fought to gain control over those areas anyway, whether they received official backing from Europe or not. So maybe, just maybe, the girl was tapping into this ideology and basically saying “as long as you Shai live near Tel Aviv, I should be able to live here, there is no difference”. In fact the West bank settlers ran a campaign throughout Israel with the slogan “Judea and Samaria is Right Here” tapping into exactly this “principled” approach, both on our side and on the enemy’s side.

[Side note: Shai notes that the settlement in the Golan is not as religious as the one in the West bank. This is true, but it is not because there are no “Jewish roots” in the Golan. There are many (e.g. Gamla http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gamla). The reason the Golan (and also the Jordan river valley, BTW) has secular settlers is because these are hard-working men and women who sought arable land they could cultivate using modern agricultural techniques that require flatlands or plateaus. The “work” of the religious settlers in the West Bank on the other hand is literally to sit on top of rocky non-arable hills, pray, agitate, and live from welfare and other forms of government support.]

These two opposing but somewhat symmetric stances are quite self-consistent and you can see how their followers will feel justified in sticking with their respective ideologies without feeling that they are on shaky moral grounds. (I personally do believe that the “principled Syrian” stance is much stronger objectively than the “principled Zionist”, but that’s beside the point.) Furthermore, the existence of the “principled stance” on each side will make the other side more suspicious and entrenched.

The striking majority of the people on SC agree on the rough lines of what a Utopia might look like at the end of the day: a totally secular space with extensive personal and communal liberties and the ability to move and work freely in the “zone”, such that borders become less of a concern and maybe they are eliminated altogether, bringing us back from a detour of more than a 100 years during which both Zionism and the reaction to it dueled violently. How do we get there? The conventional wisdom is that the journey starts with returning the Golan to Syria, since the Palestinians are not able to negotiate peace at this time. But this is fraught with risks, the main one being a repeat of the peace with Egypt, under the cover of which Israel was able to continue much more forcefully with the occupation of the Palestinians. This accentuated the de-legitimization of the regime that accepted the conditions of such a peace treaty and didn’t bring true acceptance between the people. Up until recently I consistently heard that the Syrians will require some sort of linkage between their peace and that of the Palestinians, but recently I’m getting the impression that other than taking care of the Palestinian refugees in Syria, the Syrians will leave the Palestinians to fend for themselves. In other words this peace deal has the chance of providing security to the residents of Israel, Syria and Lebanon at the expense of the Palestinians, which ultimately will postpone the realization of true peace in our region.

As Shai and others have pointed out, it’s probably a risk worth taking, compared with status quo, but I beseech the Syrians to not let down the Palestinians for the sake of all of our peoples. Israel doesn’t have the political and moral latitude to do the right thing with the Palestinians. It must be pressured from the outside and Syria should devise its own system of sticks-and-carrots and build it into the peace treaty with Israel.

And finally I’d just like to say that the Golan will always be part of me, I have a lot of memories from this beautiful region, but my grandfather had great memories from Lebanon in the 30’s and my mother still has memories from Iraq. Until I’ll be able to visit and feel welcome in all of these places, I’ll always feel incomplete, as if part of my ancestral identity was robbed away from me.

December 2nd, 2008, 3:20 pm

 

Rumyal said:

Dear Why-Discuss,

We’re back to ClubMed again… Ok, I concede, the average income in Syria is $200/month so yes I guess the material differences will be apparent. But I’m almost 100% sure that those little houses with the spas are cabins for vacationers. (In other words my lame line of defense here tries to establish that houses in Israel usually do not normally come complete with a spa—really, they don’t). If it will make you feel better I’ll send you pictures of Israeli crumbling communist-style housing where a large chunk of the population lives http://www.israelnewsagency.com/israelpovertychildrenyomkippur4831210.html

December 2nd, 2008, 3:23 pm

 

Shai said:

Alia,

This is terrible. We are losing our very humanity, and the pain is numbing us. If we lose hope, who’ll be there to reclaim it?

December 2nd, 2008, 3:23 pm

 

Shai said:

Rumyal said: “Syria should devise its own system of sticks-and-carrots (reference the Palestinians) and build it into the peace treaty with Israel.”

As always, excellent commentary Rumyal. The question of course is how to do so, and will Syria risk pushing Israel too much, for the sake of their disunited brethren? What could be demanded, perhaps, is Syrian participation in negotiations with the Palestinian parties, a timetable, and the formation of a mechanism that is answerable to a joint Arab League – European – American board.

I can’t see Syria placing any conditions pertaining to the Palestinians on, for instance, formal recognition, normalization, or demilitarization following gradual return of the Golan by Israel. The two matters are linked, and yet they’re not. It’s a tough one for Syria and, perhaps, easier said than done. There are at least two other parties involved, besides Israel. And at the moment, they’re not even acknowledging one another. And my guess is that Syria won’t wait, even with Bibi at the helm.

December 2nd, 2008, 3:49 pm

 

Chris said:

Alia,

You wrote:
“What happened in India is awful. It does not help anyone, the community of Muslims has paid the price of the terrorism and murderous actions of the few…Israel and the Jews did not have to pay for 9/11 and this will be the case now again.”

I’m nonplussed. Why would Israel and the Jews have to pay for 9/11 anyway?

December 2nd, 2008, 4:27 pm

 

norman said:

Rumyal,

I agree with you about including the Palestinians,and the need to a final solution.

Shai , Rumyal ,

Give me a proposal for final peace .

December 2nd, 2008, 4:31 pm

 

Shai said:

Norman,

Israel-Syria peace agreement > Syria-lead Hamas-Fatah reconciliation > Hamas-Fatah-Israel negotiations > Israel-Palestine peace agreement > Israel-Arab League final and comprehensive peace agreement > Siniora-Israel peace agreement… 🙂

December 2nd, 2008, 4:39 pm

 

Alia said:

Chris ,

Sometimes I write between tasks…

my point is that the far greater numbers of victims of so-called “Muslim” terrorists end up being the Muslims themselves- look at Afghanistan, Iraq, Guantanamo and the Patriot act ( of course there were Arab Christians there too)..In the case of the Synagogue in Mumbai, this is probably where it is going to stop for the Jews, now it is the turn of Pakistan to pay for that.
Don’t worry, I am not committed to conspiracy theories.

December 2nd, 2008, 5:29 pm

 

Akbar Palace said:

my point is that the far greater numbers of victims of so-called “Muslim” terrorists end up being the Muslims themselves- look at Afghanistan, Iraq, Guantanamo and the Patriot act

Alia,

You’re right. By FAR muslims are the greatest target of islamic extremism. Yet, what are muslims doing to combat islamic extremism (except blame the USA and Israel).

For example Alia, how many muslims died due to the evil “Patriot Act”? Conversely, how many lives have been saved by Gauantanamo and the Patriot Act? I bet several. Why haven’t you pointed out the REAL causes for islamic extremism like the author below:

India Is Pointing in the Right Direction

By Claus Christian Malzahn

(Sim – is Claus Jewish?)

http://www.spiegel.de/international/world/0,1518,593415,00.html

December 2nd, 2008, 7:23 pm

 

Rumyal said:

Norman, Shai,

I agree with Shai, this order of resolutions seems most practical at this point. It will not lead us to true peace immediately but to a complete set of peace treaties and then it will be up to the peoples and their governments to decide how they want to proceed into the future.

Here is an example of a carrot and stick that could be effective: Assad summons a bunch of Israeli journalists and tells them that he is sincere about peace but that a precondition for further negotiations would be the immediate improvement of the situation in Gaza. In particular he can insist that the UN convoys and journalists are allowed in. This is not so much to demand from Israel, and should make a great difference. If he can’t secure that, then he situation might be too precarious to enter negotiations.

December 2nd, 2008, 7:37 pm

 

Chris said:

Rumyal,

Rather than placing demands on Israel, Assad could indicate his drive for peace and put great pressure on Israel by going to Jerusalem doing what Sadat did, speak before the Knesset and outline what he is willing to do towards reconciliation. That would indicate the kinds of risks he is willing to take, while at the same time placing pressure on Israel to take him seriously and respond in kind.

But I don’t see Assad as the kind of leader who is capable of such a bold move.

December 2nd, 2008, 8:35 pm

 

Akbar Palace said:

…Assad could indicate his drive for peace and put great pressure on Israel by going to Jerusalem doing what Sadat did, speak before the Knesset and outline what he is willing to do towards reconciliation…

Chris,

You mean you aren’t going to blame Israel first like Shai and his Ba’athist friends?

How dare you!;)

December 2nd, 2008, 8:47 pm

 

Ghat Albird said:

The overly sensitive Shai needs to be asked if the shoe was on the other foot and Syria controlled a large part of Israel will it be “not as easy to giving it back?”

All good things must come to an end the saying goes and one of these days America will get sick and tired of being tail wagged and Syria decides that the only way to get the Golan back is in the manner the way the Israelis took it over initially.

As the US southerners are wont of saying “what goes around comes around” and time flies when one is having fun.

December 2nd, 2008, 9:17 pm

 

Rumyal said:

Chris,

There is the issue of reciprocity. An Israeli journalist visit to Damascus could be easily reciprocated with letting the UN in Gaza (which is something that needs to happen anyway for crying out loud). A minister visit could be reciprocated with lifting of the sea blockade etc.

Begin made a sham out of Saadat after he stated that he never intended to pursue Israel’s obligations to the Palestinians pursuant to the peace treaty with Egypt. This demonstrated to the Arab world that Israel is not worthy of such unconditional gestures. Hence future gestures will be much more calculated.

In all honesty, do you really believe Assad can go on a plan and land in Tel Aviv when 50 km away from there Israel is crushing 1.5 million Arabs? Unconditionally? Would you do that?

December 2nd, 2008, 9:25 pm

 

SimoHurtta said:

Sim –

Where are you? How is your investigation into Western Jewish reporters going? Have you found them to be “disproportionate”? Show us the numbers as you as you’re able.

Well Akbar the only thing I can say to you is an old Finnish saying “Sinä saat mitä kylvät” (= you get what you seed in the field). Naturally what happens and has happened for a long time in Israel/Palestine reflects also to all Jews around the world when Israel is the self-proclaimed “representative” of all Jews. Israel, like you also, doesn’t waste a single opportunity to emphasis that the problem is Muslim extremism. Not the Jewish extremism which is becoming more and more visible, but which Israel has managed to hide so far rather good. Look at the Hebron settlers, if they are not religious extremists who are.

You Akbar could ask yourself that would Jews in Mumbai been targeted if there would not have been the wars you started in 1956 and 1967 (then there would also not been the war of 1973) and you had made an fair settlement along the UN division plans and created working ties with the local “system”. I suppose the answer is no.

What I see a bit disturbing is how “you” demand Germans to bear a collective quilt for generations of Nazi time but you are completely avoiding the reality what “you” do in Middle East has equal consequences to the Jewish “image”.

Surely this Mumbai was a tragic and unnecessary event but on the same time we should remember that these events get their “motive” from larger international imbalances and from a circle of revenge. In Kashmir have 80.000 been killed during the past decades and in Palestine / Israel thousands. And there will be never peace before the core problems are solved. Akbar you use religion in your extreme ideology, Zionism, and in your propaganda, so does the other side.

PS
Akbar not even all Israelis do not take the Syrian reactor so seriously as your “team” does .
http://shum.huji.ac.il/~agay/blog.cgi?boe

December 2nd, 2008, 11:49 pm

 

SimoHurtta said:

India Is Pointing in the Right Direction

By Claus Christian Malzahn

(Sim – is Claus Jewish?)

Can be Akbar. Though the middle name Christian doesn’t indicate that. Maybe his mother converted to Christianity and left your tribe and now Claus wants to join again your “nation” or simply he gets enough sheqels for the article. 🙂 Though I do not so easily believe in Claus’s Al Qaida and Holy War theories. Do extremely religious Muslims drink beer before they begin to shoot innocent people – as some of the terrorists were reported doing? What about the tragic “coincident” that all the numerous terrorist’s faces are beyond recognition as some sources report? There are also several other details which make the attack somewhat suspicious. One doesn’t have to be conspiracy theorist to think that the official “truth” is not necessary so simple as “they” want us to believe.

What I know Akbar is that Menachem Livni (a convicted terrorist for killing 4 Palestinians) is Jewish but what I have not managed to find out is he related to Tzipora Malka “Tzipi” Livni. Can be because the guy has good connections, considering how president Chaim Herzog gave him and his fellows a special treatment. Life sentence in prison became a couple years. And now the guy who was planing to destroy the Dome of Rock and Al Aqsa mosque was back in “business” in the West Bank.

Hmmmm Akbar it seems that your “club” wants more a “holy war” between religions more than average Muslims do. So eager you are in spreading that Holy Was – Islam terrorist propaganda. Well we all know why you want and need that war. Have you Akbar ever thought what happens if the Christians do not participate in your “Holy War”. Surely 12 – 15 million are no match against a billion, even if they have nukes.

December 3rd, 2008, 1:19 am

 

why-discuss said:

Rumyal

I was quite shocked by the article on poverty in Israel! When we listen to AIG and Akbar it seems that the country is not only democratic but also a economical success story. This article shows that the country is socially fragmented beyond what I thought and that the arab threat may just be the cement that hold this society together. Without it, fight against injustices and corruption will take a more proeminent importance in the mind of Israelis.
Thanks for showing us that Israel is a country like many others and that the claim of the higher standard of living maybe only a facade.

December 3rd, 2008, 2:11 am

 

Rumyal said:

Why-Discuss,

Hi again, hope you had a good day 🙂

Don’t be so gleeful just yet—AIG wasn’t misrepresenting the facts—Israel can be considered an economic success story by many parameters. It ranks at about #30 in the world in terms of GDP per capita, at $27,000 per capita per year (according to the all-knowing Wikipedia). That’s 10% lower than Spain and 20% lower than France. The economy is fairly diversified and robust. Since the 90’s Israel has been undergoing an accelerated shift to free market economy which has brought great wealth to some but has also deepened the gaps in the society and eroded the middle class. Today about 90% of the wealth of the country is in the hands of about a dozen families. You see, we have our own Makhlufs!

So yes, Israel is just like any other country with similar parameters and is no Club Med as much as Spain is no Club Med. You can go to a Club Med vacation in Spain but that doesn’t mean that there aren’t millions of poor and disenfranchised Spaniards.

You hit the nail right on the head: the Israeli society is a “recruited society” and the army and conflict experience consist of much of the glue that holds the society together. But, these things are changing fast and new generations are not willing to put on hold other considerations of their society, so there is a blossoming of activism for varied societal goals. Overall, I wouldn’t worry that the society would fracture, other than on the topic of the settlements in the West bank.

What you said reminded me of a hilarious sketch by a group of Israeli comedians that operated in the 90’s under the name “HaKhamishia HaKamerit” shortly after the signing of the Oslo accords. The sketch was about a former Shin-Bet agent whose services are no longer required now that peace broke so he tries to take up job as a barber. However every now and then he relapses and starts bullying his customers. This just caricatures a true fact that on the day after peace is obtained there will be lots of adjustment difficulties and soul-searching to do.

December 3rd, 2008, 7:17 am

 

Shai said:

Ghat Albird,

You said: “The overly sensitive Shai needs to be asked if the shoe was on the other foot and Syria controlled a large part of Israel will it be “not as easy to giving it back?””

Look, I apologize for sounding “overly sensitive” (though my wife would argue describing me as such). But would you rather I sounded “tougher”, say, like AIG does? Would you prefer I said to Syria “You lost the Golan in war, fair-and-square, and now it’s ours. So get used to it already.” Would this better fit your character of Israelis? Is this the language you want to hear, when negotiating peace? Or is “sensitivity” precisely what has been missing for over 60 years, and now needs to be reintroduced between what we sometimes forget we are, namely, human beings. Isn’t it time to start replacing the “toughness” with something more beneficial to a better future for our children?

Of course if the shoe was on the other foot and Syria controlled a large part of Israel, it would be the same, from your end. And again, please read my words carefully, I clearly stated that I’m in no way whatsoever even hinting at a justification for continued Israeli occupation of the Golan. Because it may be “hard” for Israelis to leave it, does not give us a right to stay.

Ghat, I spent a good part of my life in the South, and I happened to be quite fond of Southern sayings (but even more so sweetened ice-tea). I think the sayings you chose fit more the “neocon-lexicon” than the political reality on the ground here in the Middle East. Let’s try to find, together, a solution to our problems, and not a problem to our solutions.

December 3rd, 2008, 9:40 am

 

Alia said:

Nations sign cluster-bomb ban,US and Russia refuse

OSLO, Norway –

Nations began signing a treaty banning cluster bombs Wednesday in a move that supporters hope will shame the U.S., Russia and China and other non-signers into abandoning weapons blamed for maiming and killing civilians.

Norway, which began the drive to ban cluster bombs 18 months ago, was to be first to sign, followed by Laos and Lebanon, both hard-hit by the weapons.

Organizers said 88 countries were expected to sign on Wednesday and around 100 out of the world’s 192 U.N. member nations will have signed by Thursday.

Cluster bomblets are packed by the hundreds into artillery shells, bombs or missiles that scatter them over vast areas. Some fail to explode immediately. The unexploded bomblets can then lie dormant for years until they are disturbed, often by children attracted by their small size and bright colors.

“Banning cluster bombs took too long. Too many people lost arms and legs,” Norwegian Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg said as he opened the conference.

Washington, Moscow and other non-signers say cluster bombs have legitimate military uses such as repelling advancing troop columns. But according to the group Handicap International, 98 percent of cluster-bomb victims are civilians, and 27 percent are children.

The Bush administration has said that a comprehensive ban would hurt world security and endanger U.S. military cooperation on humanitarian work with countries that sign the accord.

Activists said ahead of the signing that they hope the treaty will nonetheless shame non-signers into shelving the weapons, as many did with land mines after a 1997 treaty banning them.

“Once you get half the world on board, its hard to ignore a ban,” said Australian anti-cluster bomb campaigner Daniel Barty. “One of the things that really worked well with the land-mine treaty was stigmatization. No one really uses land mines,” he said.

The anti-cluster bomb campaign gathered momentum after Israel’s monthlong war against Hezbollah in 2006, when it scattered up to 4 million bomblets across Lebanon, according to U.N. figures.

“In southern Lebanon, for more than two years, children and the elderly have been victimized (by cluster munitions),” Lebanese Foreign Minister Fawzi Saloukh said.

Norway called a conference to ban cluster bombs in February 2007. In May, more than 100 countries agreed to ban cluster bombs within eight years.

The treaty must be ratified by 30 countries before it takes effect.

“I think it’s awesome that 100 countries are coming to Oslo to sign (the new cluster bomb treaty),” said American Jody Williams, who won the 1997 Nobel Peace Prize for her efforts to ban land mines.

___

December 3rd, 2008, 11:43 am

 

Akbar palace said:

Have you Akbar ever thought what happens if the Christians do not participate in your “Holy War”. Surely 12 – 15 million are no match against a billion, even if they have nukes.

Sim –

What Christian participate in my “holy war”? Please provide a short list or a website.

Of course, my “holy war” doesn’t take me or my people to foreign captials to hijack commercial airliners and ram them into skyscrapers, nor does my holy war take me to Spain, London, or Mumbai to bomb rail stations. Nevertheless, I consider my holy war a war of self-defence, as unbelievable as that might seem to you.

As Alia, mentioned our “holy war” has killed far many more non-Jews like you. I guess we’re winning.

Sim – just as a suggestion (take it or leave it), I would spend more time accepting Israel as a legitimate state. In othe words, since there are more Jews in Israel than there are Finns in Finland, don’t you think it’s time to come to terms with your anti-Israel feelings?

BTW – You didn’t present your data regarding the “Jewish dominated western media”. When will this be available so we can comment on your hypothesis? Also did you find out Mr. Claus Christian Malzahn’s faith? Did you want me to find his email address or phone number?

Thanks.;)

Nations sign cluster-bomb ban

Alia,

What do you think about a “terrorism ban”? It seems to me more innocent people are dying of terrorism than they are of cluster bombs.

December 3rd, 2008, 12:32 pm

 

Akbar Palace said:

You Akbar could ask yourself that would Jews in Mumbai been targeted if there would not have been the wars you started in 1956 and 1967 (then there would also not been the war of 1973) and you had made an fair settlement along the UN division plans and created working ties with the local “system”. I suppose the answer is no.

Sim –

Fistly, Israel’s wars have all been in self-defence, which I know, Jews and Israel aren’t allowed to do in your warped mind.

Secondly, Jews have been targeted for centuries before there ever was an Israel. As long as there are people who blame Jews for all the world’s ills, Jews will be targeted – Israel or not.

Thank you for the opportunity to highlight a phenomenon called “anti-semitism”. I think it is important for people to learn about it.

December 3rd, 2008, 12:54 pm

 

Chris said:

Simohurrta:
You wrote: “Do extremely religious Muslims drink beer before they begin to shoot innocent people – as some of the terrorists were reported doing? What about the tragic “coincident” that all the numerous terrorist’s faces are beyond recognition as some sources report? There are also several other details which make the attack somewhat suspicious. One doesn’t have to be conspiracy theorist to think that the official “truth” is not necessary so simple as “they” want us to believe.”

This is interesting. I’d like to learn more about your ideas regarding the attack. What other details make the attack somewhat suspicious? In what way is the truth not so simple? Who are the “they” to which you are referring?

Oh yeah, I’m also curious: I’ve heard that the Jews did not show up for work on 9/11. Is this true?

December 3rd, 2008, 1:01 pm

 

Chris said:

This is amazing. People on this blog have found a way to blame Israel for the murders in the Chabad House in Mumbai. It’s not political Islam, it’s not Pakistan, it’s not a product of Indian-Pakistani relations, it’s not anti-semitism, but Israel.

“If Algeria introduced a resolution declaring that the earth was flat and that Israel had flattened it, it would pass by a vote of 164 to 13 with 26 abstentions.”
Abba Eban

December 3rd, 2008, 1:14 pm

 

Alia said:

A.P.

[Alia,

What do you think about a “terrorism ban”? It seems to me more innocent people are dying of terrorism than they are of cluster bombs.]

Several issues with this question:

1. We would have to agree on a definition of terrorism- individual versus state terrorism, both are recognized and in practice.

2. When the terrorists are non-state agents, who do not represent ” a democracy” like the U.S., Israel etc…you cannot really involve them in humanitarian conventions. Go ahead Akbar! Call up bin Laden for me so that I talk to him about my thoughts about his actions and invite him to sign a treaty.

3. In this post and in the one before it addressed to me, you seem to imply that only death is an outrage – the maiming of children and adults from cluster bombs, the starving of a population in the dark in Gaza do not appear to be “a big deal” for you but the psychology of the nice girl in the occupied Golan is of delicate importance for us to appreciate.

4. Give me the statistics that show that terrorist attacks have killed more people than cluster bombs worldwide. I am waiting.

December 3rd, 2008, 2:24 pm

 

Akbar Palace said:

This is amazing. People on this blog have found a way to blame Israel for the murders in the Chabad House in Mumbai.

Chris –

Not only that, but we have our token Israeli here, Shai, to make sense of it all!

Alia –

1. The definition is in the dictionary.

2. Why would you need to call bin Laden? This issue isn’t the terrorists. There will always be terrorists. The issue is the governments and organizations that SUPPORT and GIVE AID to terrorists or do not do enough to curtail their activities within their own country.

3. It’s all an outrage Alia: dead and wounded. I wish we could outlaw war. But it seems we can’t. A country that is attacked is allowed to defend itself, and believe it or not, there are “rules of war”.

4. Feel free to google the statistics. I’ll see what I can find during my lunch break.

December 3rd, 2008, 3:44 pm

 

jad said:

Dear Alia
May I suggest to you and any other Syrian not to waste your time on an Israel apologist, American and ‘Syrian hater’ ’ Chris’; and a Zionist Israeli who is pretending to be an American, ‘neocon’ and ‘war lover’ ‘AB’.
Those two do not worth to waste a minute writing back to them, especially from a respected person as yourself.
‘Darou sufahaakom’

December 3rd, 2008, 4:09 pm

 

Shai said:

Akbar,

Chris said: “People on this blog have found a way to blame Israel for the murders in the Chabad House in Mumbai.”

Your response: “… but we have our token Israeli here, Shai, to make sense of it all!”

Akbar, have you a personal agenda against me? Are you so desperate that you now have to make up things as you go?

December 3rd, 2008, 4:15 pm

 

AKbar Palace said:

Alia,

Here’s what I found. I’m pretty sure terrorism is a worse phenomenon than cluster bombs:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cluster_bomb

http://www.hrw.org/en/node/62428/section/7

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2005/04/27/AR2005042702096.html

I would like to see HRW to make the issue of terrorism at least as important as the issue of cluster bombs.

Shai said:

Akbar, have you a personal agenda against me? Are you so desperate that you now have to make up things as you go?

Shai,

No Shai, I have no personal agenda against you. I only disagree with much of your world-view. And what did I “make up”? All I said was that you were here to “make sense of it all”. Isn’t it true you feel you have explain the misdeeds of Israelis to many of the participants here? Haven’t I shown you enough examples of you putting yourself in that (strange) role?

Regards,

AP

December 3rd, 2008, 5:42 pm

 

Chris said:

JAD:

I don’t know where you got the idea that I am a “Syrian hater.” I may not be in love with Bashar and his entourage, in fact, I’m actually quite critical of the regime (as you may have noticed). I’m also quite critical of various aspects of the foreign policy of my own country, the US.

Being critical certainly doesn’t imply hatred, right? After all, aren’t discerning people able to be critical? Just as being critical of U.S. foreign policy isn’t an indication of hatred for American, being critical of Syrian policy also isn’t an indication of hatred for Syria. After all, I don’t think someone who criticizes Israeli policy is necessarily and “Israel hater
or anti-Israel or anti-Semitic. If that were the case, much of Israeli society could be branded as anti-Semitic of anti-Israel.

It’s a bit too easy to dismiss criticism by labelling the critics as those who hate Syria or whatever country/people/policy is in question.

December 3rd, 2008, 6:06 pm

 

norman said:

Shai,

I want your vision of end game peace in the Mideast.

can you do that ?.

December 3rd, 2008, 6:24 pm

 

Shai said:

Akbar,

I haven’t said a single word regarding the Mumbai attack, yet your response to Chris’s comment about Israel being blamed for the Chabad murders was: “… but we have our token Israeli here, Shai, to make sense of it all!”.

This accusation, which suggests I’m one to find justification (sense) in this murderous attack on innocent Jews and non-Jews, is a clear indication that you AP have no boundaries whatsoever. Perhaps next you’ll accuse me of “making sense” out of the Holocaust? Or out of the shuttle disaster that killed Ilan Ramon, Israel’s first astronaut in space? Or of Israel’s horrific car-accident rates, which kill far more than any of our wars have, put together?

Where will it stop, AP? And do me a favor, as I’ve told you before, when you’ve given a tenth of what I have, for the State of Israel, then you can criticize me, my love for Israel, my hatred for Israel, or my “making sense” of anything anti-Israel. But until then, try looking in the mirror every now and then, before mentioning my name.

December 3rd, 2008, 6:42 pm

 

Shai said:

Norman,

That’s a tough question to answer, without further clarification. What do you mean by “end game peace”? Do you mean “real” peace? Where reconciliation has taken place? Because that, I’m afraid, is at least 2-3 decades away. If you mean the cessation of war or hostilities, then I do have an idea in mind, and its chronology is something along the line of my comment #43 above.

December 3rd, 2008, 6:47 pm

 

SimoHurtta said:

Oh yeah, I’m also curious: I’ve heard that the Jews did not show up for work on 9/11. Is this true?

What you heard is true. The story about the text message warning was in Haaretz just after 911.
http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/pages/ShArt.jhtml?itemNo=77744

The big and unanswered question is who and how (surely it is not in Israel’s interest to find that out). Tell me Chris from where did that message came. Surely not from Muslim terrorists or from “bin Laden” in the the international Jihad command centre. Two hour before the attack means that “you” did know about the attack. Why not pass that message to all? Hmmmmm….

——
Sim – just as a suggestion (take it or leave it), I would spend more time accepting Israel as a legitimate state. In othe words, since there are more Jews in Israel than there are Finns in Finland, don’t you think it’s time to come to terms with your anti-Israel feelings?

Well Akbar that is the naivest comment I have read for a long time. There are more Muslims in the world than Jews. There are even more Syrians as Israelis. Shouldn’t you think it’s time to come to terms with your anti-Islamic feelings and stop the genocide in your country?

—-
Sim –

Fistly, Israel’s wars have all been in self-defence, which I know, Jews and Israel aren’t allowed to do in your warped mind.

Secondly, Jews have been targeted for centuries before there ever was an Israel. As long as there are people who blame Jews for all the world’s ills, Jews will be targeted – Israel or not

Firstly you did attack in 1956 and 1967. Attack is no self defence. Surely 1956 was a purely opportunist attack (nothing to do with self defence), for which you were rewarded with the nukes you now have and money. Your self defence wars are pure Israeli folklore. As the Gaza siege for “defence” is.

Secondly I do not straight believe in the theory of Jews targeted for centuries. Jews had managed to become extremely prosperous and well educated and successful in Europe. Jews have hardly been the Roma people of Europe, who have stayed in the bottom of the society for centuries. Look at the Nobel price winners or the names Europe’s leading banks in the past centuries, not to mention the recent Russian oligarchs. Surely there had occasional “explosions” with the relations between Jews and the main populations in several countries with tragic consequences. As there have been with many other religious and ethnic minorities. Minorities and different religions have been and are convenient tools for the leaders around the world. Your Zionist leaders use this “favourite tools” presently in the “democratic” Israel.

December 3rd, 2008, 10:38 pm

 

Enlightened said:

Been away a few weeks:

(1) Shai nice post. We know the hurdles, which are far more numerous than simply giving up The Sinai. Yet Israel has set a precedent. Time will tell how and when The Golan will be given back, my memory if it serves me correctly in the last negotiations was a few hundred meters. Slowly but surely a deal will be reached “whereby we can all dip our stinky feet in the reservoir” and everyone will be happy.

(2) Akbar why don’t you ask to submit a post arguing why Israel should keep the Golan? I would only ask that you don’t use Wikipedia as a reference point, it might give your writing some credibility.

December 4th, 2008, 3:05 am

 

Alex said:

ELLE magazine picked Asma Assad as most elegant first lady.

أسماء الأسد … الأكثر أناقة

باريس الحياة – 04/12/08//

اختارت المجلة الأسبوعية النسائية الفرنسية «ايل» Elle، السيدة السورية الأولى أسماء الأسد، الأكثر أناقة في فئة «السيدات الأُوَل».

واعتبرت لجنة التحكيم التي ترأستها مصممة الأزياء الفرنسية سونيا ريكييل وضمت المصممة ايزابيل ماران والمصوّرة سيلفي لانكرنون والكاتبة صوفي فونتانيل ورئيسة تحرير «ايل» فاليري تورانيان، ان الأسد جديرة بالمرتبة الأولى قبل السيدة الأولى الفرنسية كارلا بروني ساركوزي (المصنفة الثانية) وميشيل أوباما زوجة الرئيس الأميركي المنتخب باراك أوباما (الثالثة) ووزيرة العدل الفرنسية رشيدة داتي (الرابعة) والوزيرة الشابة راما ياد والزعيمة الاشتراكية الفرنسية سيغولين رويال.

وتعلن المجلة الأسبوعية الفرنسية فــي شهر كانـون الثــاني (يــناير) مـن كل عام، تصــنيفها للنساء الأكثر أناقة للعام المنصرم، وتقدمهن ضمن فئات مختلفة مثل «السـجادة الحمراء» و«العارضات» و«الفرنسيات» و«ضحايا الموضة» و«البريطانيات» و«السيدات الأوَل».

December 4th, 2008, 4:57 am

 

Rumyal said:

Alex,

It’s the first time I see Asma’s name written in Arabic and I now understand it is a “lofty” name. I wanted to check what it meant beforehand but was lazy… I somehow suspected it was related to Ausama, ya3ni another Assad 🙂 Condi and Tzipi still have a chance to make it into one of the lists, maybe “most elegantly dressed unfulfilled political promises” or something like that 🙂

December 4th, 2008, 6:27 am

 

Alex said:

Rumyal,

Condy looks very elegant playing classical music on a grand Piano.

Tzipi did not lose yet .. we’ll wait and see : )

December 4th, 2008, 6:34 am

 

MSK* said:

Dear Josh and the rest,

What is your take on Hillary Clinton as SecState, especially in regard to the Middle East?

Cheers,

–MSK*

December 4th, 2008, 11:35 am

 

Akbar Palace said:

Englightened said:

Akbar why don’t you ask to submit a post arguing why Israel should keep the Golan? I would only ask that you don’t use Wikipedia as a reference point, it might give your writing some credibility.

Enlightened,

As far as I’m concerned there is no “arguement” for “why Israel should keep the Golan”. Who am I supposed to argue with?

I someone wants my car, I ask them, “How much are you willing to pay?”. If someone wants part of my country, I tell them to take a hike or propose a generous offer.

As yet, I haven’t heard Syria’s offer. Maybe you can find that for us, and then we can “pick it apart” …

December 4th, 2008, 11:45 am

 

Akbar Palace said:

The big and unanswered question is who and how …

Sim,

Yes, this “big and unanswered question” still remains for people like you who still have “Your Holy War™” against Israel and the Jewish people.

For most of us, however, the questions have been answered:

http://www.9-11heroes.us/victims-world-trade-center.php

http://www.america.gov/st/pubs-english/2006/August/20060828133846esnamfuaK0.2676355.html

http://www.gpoaccess.gov/911/pdf/fullreport.pdf

“Your Holy War™” Sim was perpetrated by 19 fanatical, mostly upper middle class, Saudi-born jihadists who were members of al-Queda. They killed a “disproportionate” number of Jews, but most were gentiles like yourself, and many were muslim.

Attack is no self defence.

Sim,

That sounds like a one-sided argument fostered by “Your Holy War™” Sim. Of course an “attack is no self defence” if you ignore the attacks and terrorism of the neighboring country.

Take Gaza for example. If you ignore the missiles coming out of Gaza (almost daily), then, I suppose, any attack on Gaza is “no self defense”. Sorry Sim, Israel has a right to defend itself just like Finland or any other country.

December 4th, 2008, 12:43 pm

 

Akbar Palace said:

Looks like Saddam Hussein at least paid better than the Pakistani jihadists. I guess the economy was better back then:

http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,461566,00.html

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/middle_east/2846365.stm

December 4th, 2008, 1:04 pm

 

SimoHurtta said:

I someone wants my car, I ask them, “How much are you willing to pay?”. If someone wants part of my country, I tell them to take a hike or propose a generous offer.

Depends Akbar what is the “my” with the car. If your car is a stolen one, which you still call my car, you hardly can demand much money from the real owner. Akbar the problem is that only you Israelis and not even all of them see Golan as “yours”.

If “loosing” Golan “will hurt”, how Shai describes it, it will be only a fragment of the pain of loosing West Bank and part of Jerusalem. Will Israeli Jews be able to tolerate that bigger pain? Well they have eventually. Hebron is a good exercise for what is waiting in the future.

What can Israel demand from Syria besides normal relations between “normal” countries and some minor things with the water rights etc. If Israel demands security guaranties Syria has much more reasons to demand equal guaranties. If Israel demands ending support for Palestinian groups Syria can demand that Israel solves finally the Palestinian problem. If Israel demands money for the infrastructure build in Golan Syria can demand money for the destroyed infrastructure. If Israel demands Syria to end its relations with Iran Syria can demand Israel to end its special relations with USA.

December 4th, 2008, 2:00 pm

 

Shai said:

Simo,

But the absurd in Israel is, that currently while the majority of Israelis are FOR returning the West Bank to the Palestinians (and creating a state of Palestine), still 70% are AGAINST a return of the Golan to Syria. And this is why I claim that we have to traverse the “emotional realm” with our enemy Syria now. Those 70% of Israelis (of whom we only need 20% to come back to the peace camp), are suspicious of Syria and her alliances with our (even worse) enemies. And if our leaders cannot explain to those 70% that a nation can have alliances with whomever they want, and STILL make peace with us, then perhaps the Syrian leadership can…

I know Syria doesn’t want to become a 2nd Egypt (and certainly Bashar doesn’t want to be a Sadat), but Israeli hearts and minds ARE ready to be changed by such unexpected measures. If Assad can’t come to Jerusalem, let him at least allow 1-2 Israeli journalists interview him, at his palace in Damascus!

December 4th, 2008, 2:16 pm

 

Alia said:

A.P.

None of the references you provided shows that “terrorism” has caused more victims than cluster bombs- saying: “I bet, it seems to me” is just expressing your point of view…Handicap Intl. has published the number of 100.000 victims of cluster bombs so far since 1965 and it is not over.

As for banning the support of terrorism by states, my understanding is that the ban is already in effect. However, it really depends on who is calling the terrorists and which country is doing the support. When the U.S. under Reagan supported the Contras against the Sandinista government, they were supporting “terrorists” as defined by the Sandinistas.

The Apartheid regime of South Africa referred to the ANC as terrorists and President Mandela remained a terrorist on the U.S. list until recently.

When the U.S, ships its prisoners that “need torture” to governments that practice torture and who are part of the Axis of Evil, this is not called supporting terrorism.

It is not as black and white as you would like it all to be.

December 4th, 2008, 2:45 pm

 

Alia said:

Dear Alex,

Are we supposed to be thrilled that Ms Asad is the chiccest first lady? Sometimes I think you put those pictures and statements just out of provocation..Shame on our country. Whose money is that that Ms. Asad is spending on her clothes?

How pathetic for all of us. Next time I am in Damascus and I see the hordes of women who are begging on the streets with a child on their arm, I will try to remember to give them this comforting news.

December 4th, 2008, 2:51 pm

 

Alia said:

Dear Jad,

Sometimes we have to respond with facts and without anger. Otherwise, there will be only one narrative in the world and it will not be ours.

I am reading A.P. amateurish views on the matter and I am proud to know that my “little” 23 year old niece, a docotoral student in biomedical engineering is inventing a prosthetic limb that children who have lost their limbs to land mines or cluster bombs can use, with the advantage that the limb can be adjusted as they grow so that there is no need for several prostheses over the life cycle which would increase the cost for the countries who are receiving those prosthesis. She has been to Laos to work with the victims of cluster bombs and examine their needs. It is always best to talk about things you know.

December 4th, 2008, 3:05 pm

 

Shai said:

Dear Alia,

Regarding terrorism, I fully agree with you. It has ALWAYS depended on who defined them as terrorists, and who didn’t. According to the Webster dictionary, “terrorism” is: “violent or destructive acts (as bombing) committed by groups in order to intimidate a population or government into granting their demands…” Now if I’m Israel, and I want to justify using 1,000 pound bombs dropped on Hamas leadership in Gaza (and the corresponding “collateral damage” in the form of innocent men, women, and children) by defining this action as fighting a terrorist group, I have to consider that according to the same definition, my own violent action could itself be viewed as terrorism. All of a sudden, referring to Hamas as a national-resistance group (and a political party), may seem more “convenient”…

We can call them what we like, but in the end, we’ll be negotiating with them all – Hamas, Hezbollah, you name it. And the same vice-versa. They call us state-terrorists, and they’ll negotiate peace with us…

December 4th, 2008, 3:06 pm

 

Akbar Palace said:

None of the references you provided shows that “terrorism” has caused more victims than cluster bombs- saying: “I bet, it seems to me” is just expressing your point of view…Handicap Intl. has published the number of 100.000 victims of cluster bombs so far since 1965 and it is not over.

Alia,

Feel free to post a link showing the 100,000 victims since 1965.

Meanwhile here are some more links for you to ponder. The last link is from the US State Department website. Apparently over 58,000 terrorist deaths were reported for the 3 years: 2005, 2006 and 2007.

You may think my views are “amateurish”, but the fact of the matter is terrorism kills a helluva lot more people than cluster bombs. Unfortunately, there are a great many ways to kill people that doesn’t include a cluster bomb. Semtex, katyushas, Scuds, kalashnikovs, commercial airliners, knives and sarin gas come to mind.

And as far as your niece is concerned, “more power to her”. I am glad to know she is working to help people. You should be proud.

http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/5889435/

http://www.mfa.gov.il/MFA/MFAArchive/2000_2009/2000/1/Terrorism%20deaths%20in%20Israel%20-%201920-1999

http://www.state.gov/s/ct/rls/crt/2007/103716.htm

It is not as black and white as you would like it all to be.

Alia,

Smearing terrorism into war and war into terrorism is just what the murderers want. The next time you see a celebration of the most recent “martyr” (Samir Kuntar?) on Syrian TV, you may want to place a call to the TV station that aired it.

Good Luck…

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Samir_Kuntar

Thanks,

AP

December 4th, 2008, 5:24 pm

 

jad said:

Dear Alia

I’m glad to hear about your niece. That is something to be very proud about.

With due respect, I don’t think Alex story is provocative, I like to be fair, so I don’t hold Ms Asad accountable for the authorities mistakes or the poverty in Syria.
She is not part of the problem, she is doing her best to do something good and I give her lots of credits for that, she is trying to improve women and youth lives not only in cities but also in the country side.

Regarding your comments about responding; I would’ve agree with you if I’m debating with two open minded adults who have any point to talk about, but writing anything back to an ignorant teenager and a bad experienced foreign student is a big waste of my time. I don’t bother to read what they are writing anymore knowing in advance that there is nothing with a value is coming out of all the argument they are going through so the best way is to ignore them.

December 4th, 2008, 5:26 pm

 

Alex said:

Dear Alia,

If you would like to know how I felt after reading that ELLE selected Asma Al-Assad as the most elegantly dressed first lady in the world, I will tell you that I was … amused.

I am not proud, and I am not appalled.

I am amused because I was in Egypt when Sadat “did the right thing” … when he visited Israel.

Suddenly, he was selected as “the best”, “the most”, the highest” … everything.

For example, he was the most popular foreign leader in the United States, according to one poll …

So I am amused when I see ELLE voting for our first lady to top their list.

It simply gives me the impression that we might be getting close to a settlement.

As for the way I feel about Asma wearing expensive items … I agree with Jad, I think she is doing a wonderful job being Syria’s first lady. She is also acting as a senior adviser to the president (in Finance, technology, and public relations) … she made it fashionable in Syria to work in charities, including those caring for the mentally handicapped, and she impressed everyone who worked with her.

I don’t know who else (or waht else) we can invest in that can prove to be that successful.

It is some of the other, classic, mas’2ouleen (“responsible”) who are openly corrupt and who don’t contribute anything to Syria anymore (if they ever did) that I can not understand.

One last thing, Asma’s family is quite wealthy. It might be the case that she is paying for what she is wearing from her personal account (sometimes, at least).

December 4th, 2008, 6:13 pm

 

Alia said:

Dear Alex,

Thanks for sharing your thoughts, they do clarify your position a bit.

On the issue of ladies doing charitable work in Syria, I do not agree that it is Ms Asad’s influence. I have very close contacts with several women of the upper midlle-class who have been working for several decades in charitable organizations, in fact leading them entirely on their own. I will be happy to provide you with names and dates starting from the 1960s.

I don’t know why the President needs the advice of Ms. Asad who was after all a young employee in an investment company before she married him, when he could have at his disposition the best minds in economy and finances anywhere in the world!!

One has really to make an effort to see Ms Assad’s agenda as separate from that of her husband- in the sense of power and privilege that are not legitimately acquired.

December 4th, 2008, 6:44 pm

 

Shai said:

Dear Alex,

Your amusement with ELLE is exactly how I feel each time Israel won the Eurovision music contest. Never mind that last time I checked Israel wasn’t on the European continent, but we only win when some political development has either happened, or just about to. After Sadat came to Israel, and after we signed the peace agreement, we won the Eurovision twice (’78 and ’79), with the songs “A-Ba-Ni-Bi” and “Hallelulja”… 🙂

December 4th, 2008, 6:45 pm

 

Alia said:

For A.P.n

On numbers.

Cluster bomb ban signed in Oslo, big powers absent
Wed Dec 3, 2008 10:46am EST
By John Acher

OSLO, Dec 3 (Reuters) – Nearly 100 nations began signing a treaty on Wednesday to ban cluster bombs responsible for killing and maiming thousands, but powerful arms producers including the United States, Russia and China remain outside the pact.

Despite those and other military powers not signing, 18 of 26 NATO members, including Britain, France and Germany, are expected to ink the pact, which was hailed by hosts Norway.

“Today we confirm that cluster munitions are banned forever,” said Norwegian Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg, the first to sign in a process that will extend over two days.

“This convention will make the world a safer and better place to live.”
It was unclear how many of the 125 states that registered for the conference would take part in the signing ceremony at the Oslo city hall, site of the annual Nobel Peace Prize award ceremony.

“If we say there will be plus or minus 100 (signatories), that will be a good start,” Norwegian Foreign Minister Jonas Gahr Stoere told a news conference. “We hope to see more signing in the weeks and months and years ahead.”

UP TO 100,000 KILLED OR WOUNDED

Cluster bombs contain scores or even hundreds of submunitions — or “bomblets” — that blanket wide areas.

Campaigners say this makes them indiscriminate killers. Since not all the bomblets explode upon impact, duds on the ground can pose lethal dangers to civilians, particularly children, for decades after they are used in combat.

The Convention on Cluster Munitions, adopted by 107 states in Dublin in May, bans the use, production, stockpiling and trade of such weapons.

The treaty requires nations to destroy stockpiles within eight years and to clear contaminated areas within 10 years of the date it comes into force, which will be six months after 30 states ratify the pact.

Signing states must also provide assistance to cluster bomb victims, their families and affected communities.

Norway, Ireland, the Holy See and Sierra Leone will deposit their ratifications immediately upon signing, an official said.

Handicap International, an advocacy group for the maimed and disabled that helps clear deadly ordnance, estimates some 100,000 have been killed or injured by cluster munitions over the decades, based on surveys of affected countries.

“This treaty is a restoration of the spirit and the letter of humanitarian rights,” Jean-Baptiste Richardier, co-founder and director-general of Handicap International, told Reuters.

Laos, which was heavily bombed with cluster bombs during the Vietnam War, causing what Handicap International says were 15,000 deaths and injuries, signed just after host Norway.

Laotian Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs Thongloun Sisoulith told the conference the treaty “deserves full global support”.
Following the Oslo ceremony, the treaty will go to the United Nations in New York where more states may sign.

©

December 4th, 2008, 6:50 pm

 

Jad said:

Dear Alia,

I agree that the first lady didn’t invent charity, actually my mother has been working with a charity group for the last 30 years and my grandmother before her and they tell us that there is always a way to make people’s life better so why don’t we be part of that, however, we can’t deny that Ms. Asma is trying to improve the lives of the forgotten Syrians of our society on many levels and I personally can see her agenda as an advanced and new to Syria and I wouldn’t think twice of supporting her work.
It also happened that I have 3 friends working in her organization, therefore I have huge problem to shrink all that hard work just because I don’t agree with some members of her family or the corrupted political system I have.

We have couple of organization in Syria deals with Handicapped but they do need lots of donation and a push forward to do better so they can try to integrate our handicapped or physically challenged Syrians to become productive parts of our social fabric and her organization is helping in that by making the whole society aware of the issue on a higher and more public level.
Her organization is supporting women in the country side to learn how to improve their family lives; they also have programs in education and supporting youth. I’m not sure if there is a website for her organization.

There is something good is going on there and if we don’t see it, we are unfair.

I’m personally very proud of having such young and intelligent woman to be the first lady of my country and when you listen to her you know how much she is humble and productive woman, why should I feel ashamed of such Syrian?

December 4th, 2008, 7:55 pm

 

Enlightened said:

Akbar Said:

Enlightened,

As far as I’m concerned there is no “arguement” for “why Israel should keep the Golan”. Who am I supposed to argue with?

I someone wants my car, I ask them, “How much are you willing to pay?”. If someone wants part of my country, I tell them to take a hike or propose a generous offer.

As yet, I haven’t heard Syria’s offer. Maybe you can find that for us, and then we can “pick it apart”

—————————————————————–

I think Simo responded to you fairly adequately. But allow me to retort.

There is one important fallacy in your argument. The Golan was never formally given to Israel as part of the partition, it was acquired by force, and annexed. IT is not even recognized as part of Israel’s original territory.

So when you equate your “ownership” of the heights it has no legal or moral standing.

I am not privy to what “Syria’s offer” for the Golan might be, but let me give the Israelis a tip. We will let you claim ownership of all the Hummus , Baba Ghanoouj , Falafel that you desire and even persuade the Lebanese to forfeit their rights to you about their taboulli, in exchange for the Golan.

Now thats “my offer”, I know, I know I am being generous, and lets face it, it is better than your beat up old car offer . Thats my ambit claim.

Now lets pick this “offer apart”

I hope you respond with the same “generosity of Spirit” I have.

December 4th, 2008, 11:09 pm

 

Akbar Palace said:

Enlightened,

Yes I know, Simo is still waging his jihad against Israel. Unfortuantely, he isn’t making very good progress. Of course, I keep trying to persuade him to stop his jihad and recognize Israel. Afterall, I told him there are more Jews in Israel than Finns in Finland. He’s very stiffnecked…

Enlightened,

Why do you suddenly envoke “The Partition”? The Arabs REJECTED that years ago and instead instigated war.

How convenient!

Anyway, there is nothing to pick apart.  Not from you, and not from the Syrian government. So in the meantime, I will plan my trip to Israel, and I look forward to visiting Katzrin, the Banias, Hamat Gader, skiing on the slopes of the Hermon, boating on the Dan river, and a nice swin in the Sea of Galilee.

You should try it sometime.

December 6th, 2008, 9:46 pm

 

Enlightened said:

Akbar:

The beaches in Sydney are much better, Care to join me?

December 7th, 2008, 12:42 am

 

Shai said:

Akbar Palace,

While you’re planning your upcoming visit to my country, to see “… Katzrin, the Banias, Hamat Gader, skiing on the slopes of the Hermon, boating on the Dan river, and a nice swin in the Sea of Galilee.”, I would suggest you also find the time to meet one or two Arab-Israelis, to learn a few things about them.

I don’t know if you can read Hebrew, but your buddy AIG and my buddy Rumyal can. This morning Ynet published a report about Discrimination in Israel in 2008. It is even more shocking than I imagined it previously. It talks about continued discrimination against Arabs inside Israel, against Palestinians in the Territories, against women, and against Spharadi Jews. It also reminds Israelis that since 1948, 600 Jewish towns were created. And, for the 20% population of Israel, the Arabs, the number is… zero!

I’m actually posting this link not for our viewers to have “more fuel” against Israel (I don’t think they need more, they have plenty), but to actually help build confidence that at least Israel is still an open society that allows self-criticism to be heard. What we do with this criticism is something else. But it is a precondition to a free and democratic society, that occasionally also corrects itself, or has the potential to. For you, AP, I hope this is a tiny “eye-opener” that may lead to some humility when talking about Israel’s greatness, and perhaps even a tiny feeling of shame. Those two are also preconditions to changing the terrible ills of society. Not that I expect you to do it. It is us Israelis that have to.

Here’s the Hebrew article in Ynet (hopefully the English version will come soon): http://www.ynet.co.il/articles/0,7340,L-3633317,00.html

December 7th, 2008, 5:47 am

 

AIG said:

Shai,
Yes, in fact as the article notes “Israeli women are 10% less represented in academia than their European counterparts”. What is the percentage in Arab countries?

I’d like to see the same kind of report freely written about Syria so we can compare. Saying that a country is not perfect means nothing. Of course Israel is far from perfect. But everything is relative. The only important question is given its circumstances, how well did Israel do relative to others in the same circumstances? Everybody should be judged by the same standards. Judging Jews by different standards is antisemitism at its finest, and it does not matter who does it. Given what Israel has achieved in 60 years compared to what the Arabs have achieved, what Israel has achieved is a real miracle. That does not mean we do not need to improve, but it puts things in prespective. But how can I convince someone who thinks Asad is better than Shimon Peres? Someone who finds tons of bad things to say about Peres but understands all the actions of Asad (including the meeting with Kuntar)?

Oh, and by the way, you forgot to mention that Israel gets good grades for how it treats its gay population.

December 7th, 2008, 7:28 am

 

Shai said:

AIG,

I didn’t expect you to highlight the parts in the article about anti-Arab discrimination, anti-Palestinian discrimination, or anti-Spharadic-discrimination. I knew you’d point to the “Israeli women are 10% less represented in academia than their European counterparts.” one.

You can pat yourself on the back all you want AIG, indeed almost feel “pride” in Israel’s achievements over the past 60 years, also in its levels of discrimination. Personally, I’m proud of our achievements in the fields of agriculture, medicine, high-tech, research and development, but I’m disgusted by our “achievements” that are reported on yearly, as in the Ynet article of this morning. You see, I don’t try to find soft-excuses, by looking to compare us to others. I don’t need a litmus test to my conscience, I can gauge it against my own beliefs of what’s right and wrong. If an Israeli soldier beats up a Palestinian kid, I don’t look sideways to see if an Jordanian soldier does the same to a Jordanian kid in Amman, or if a Finnish soldier does it in Finland. If Jewish-Israelis look down at Arab-Israelis, I don’t need to compare other 60 year-old nations to Israel, and see if they do the same, or not. I know it is wrong, and I am ashamed of it.

I don’t spend my time looking for ways to tell the world “It’s no worse in Israel than it is elsewhere.” – Instead I try to find ways to change my country. Your knee-jerk reaction to such horrific reporting is always of the type that would seek to minimize White discrimination against Blacks in the South, by suggesting Blacks in Africa have far worse lives than Blacks in Alabama.

I see you’re continuing along AP’s tactics of putting words in my mouth, when never uttered by me. This time, you bring Kuntar’s meeting with Assad, to suggest I “understood”, or “justified”, or perhaps even “enjoyed” it. Well, I never said a word about it. And I find it rather amusing that you, AIG, should now be defending Shimon Peres… don’t you? 🙂

December 7th, 2008, 11:20 am

 

SimoHurtta said:

Of course Israel is far from perfect. But everything is relative. The only important question is given its circumstances, how well did Israel do relative to others in the same circumstances? Everybody should be judged by the same standards. Judging Jews by different standards is antisemitism at its finest, and it does not matter who does it. Given what Israel has achieved in 60 years compared to what the Arabs have achieved, what Israel has achieved is a real miracle.

Well AIG the reality is that no other country in the world has been in the same “situation” as Israel. No other country has got such wast donations as Israel has got constantly. No other country has got so much of its active workforce fully trained and educated. If Israel should be compared with some countries it should be compared with that “group” Israel says to belong. European and North American countries. Israel is only a Middle Eastern country defined by the geography. Culturally and economically “you” have very little past and present contacts with the region.

In 1968 Finland’s GDP per person was 8093 and Israel’s 7033 (figures in 1990 International Geary-Khamis dollars). So Finland’s GDP per person in 1968 was 15 % higher as Israel’s. In 2006 the same figures were FI 23241 and IL 18374. “Astonishingly” in 2006 Finland’s GDP per person 1968 was 26 % higher as Israel’s. So much for the “miracle”. Finland did not get those wast capital “shipments” from USA. Nor did we have a million Palestinian slave workforce to be exploited.

Surely the Arab countries economical development during Israel’s “lifetime” has been disappointing considered what would the reality now be if the oil money had been invested in the region instead of investing the petrodollars to back the “west”. But the “west” is also politically responsible for that poor development by supporting and keeping up the present “order”. Let us hope that this time oil producing Arab countries have learned from their biggest mistake they have done and put in future the petro dollars in use in the region instead of buying useless weapons and investing in western estates. Surely the new guy in the White House would not like to see such a reality.

December 7th, 2008, 12:22 pm

 

SimoHurtta said:

, I don’t look sideways to see if an Jordanian soldier does the same to a Jordanian kid in Amman, or if a Finnish soldier does it in Finland.

Shai Finnish soldiers have during the last 60 years beaten only other Finnish soldiers. 😀

We have a compulsory military service (6 months to 1 year). No occupied areas, no check points, no settlements, no second grade citizens. When I was in the army two decades ago the only contact I had with the civil population as a soldier in service was helping (commanded) in some big international skiing tournaments and once when I was in the garrison’s fire brigade duty in a big farm fire (sadly the professional firemen did not allow us eager but untrained “firemen” to do anything). In army we did not have any training in controlling civil population. But we had several lectures how to behave when we are on the leaves and wear the uniform. Making “stupid” things “outside in civil world” in uniform caused certain conviction in military prison. Some guys during my service time had stolen from a bar, where was held their under officer course party, a quarter full bottle of whiskey got two weeks in military prison and drop in the rank.

By the way thousands of Finnish soldiers have served in Sinai, Lebanon and Golan for almost as long Israel has existed. How many Jews or Arabs have they beaten? I suppose the most serious could have been would have been a bar fight with the UN soldiers on leave and local population, though I could find with Google no stories of such events. I know that in Cyprus there were a few of bar fights with locals but the Finnish UN soldiers went fast back “home”.

December 7th, 2008, 2:11 pm

 

Shai said:

Simo,

I wish I could say the same about Israeli soldiers but, unfortunately, there has been mandatory service here for the past 60 years, and we are very much being trained for war, not for bar fights. I have some friends that moved to Israel from the U.S., only to watch their children serve as Apartheid policemen in the West Bank and Gaza during their 3 year service, and every year afterwards on Reserves duty. We are also not taught how to police a civilian population in the army – because Israel still hasn’t accepted that its sole role in the Territories has been that of a policeman – protecting the Settlers, at the expense of the Palestinians.

December 7th, 2008, 2:24 pm

 

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