“Interview with King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia” by Alix Van Buren

Alix Van Buren of Italy's leading paper, La Repubblica, writes:

Just came back from Morocco, where I interviewed Saudi King Abdullah.


I was requested to join him in Casablanca where he stays for part of the Summer in one of his several Moroccan palaces. I'm enclosing a rough transcript of the interview in English, much as the Saudi Info Minister sent it. There are other questions I asked him verbally in Casà but those are in Italian in the published interview (out today). The verbal answers don't add much, except when he says:

"Listen to me carefully, I am speaking for myself and for the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. We were already very disappointed when the price of oil reached $100. Imagine now, that it is expected to climb up to $200".
Naturally, that is the sentence I used as the lead of the published interview… If you read the transcript between the lines, he has very harsh words for America. He's tough on Israel, but that we could expect. What is absolutely surprising is his opening to the other religions. In person, he said to me:
"I am deeply convinced that every Heavenly religion has good things for the benefit of humanity". Coming from the Custodian of the two Holy Mosques and from the Guardian of the Islamic orthodoxy, that is quite historic. Wouldn't you say?

Interview of the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques
with La Repubblica Newspaper (by Alix Van Buren) 

QUESTION 1: Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz: What prompted you to call for the convening the Madrid conference on dialogue of religions, and to invite believers of different religions and cultures from all over the world? What are the results you hope for? What makes you so concerned about the fate of humanity in this world? 

ANSWER 1: The need for dialogue; between believers of different religions and cultures is called for by the current World conditions and the many crises faced by human communities. Also, the growing challenges that threaten to worsen existing economic, political and social problems and to deepen human suffering. Such condition prevails at a time characterized by wide spread of injustices, corruption and immorality, and the breakup of the family – the basic unit of all societies. Humanity is moving away from noble values and principles that form the essence of all religions and beliefs .  We are part of this world. We influence and are influenced by it. We are a nation of a sublime mission and deeply rooted cultural heritage. Our religion urges us to embrace the principle of dialogue and call upon us to cooperate and coexist in peace with others, and promote understanding, peace, accord and good values among all humans. My optimism stems from the broad positive response to the call for dialogue on the part of many circles, both inside the Muslim world and at all level of various religious and cultural levels around the world. 

QUESTION 2: You have organized an International Islamic Conference in Makkah. Do you see that Conference as one that provided an opportunity to improve relations between Muslim countries, as well as those between Sunnis and Shiites? You entered the Conference Hall holding the hands of the Grand Mufti of Saudi Arabia, and the former Iranian President Hashemi Rafsanjan. Does this picture symbolize better understanding between the two countries and the two sects?

ANSWER 2: We always look forward to establish accord and peace not only among Muslims with their various sects, but also between the peoples of the world with all their beliefs. Muslim scholars have not encountered difficulties in their Islamic Conference in Makkah in terms of stressing the principle of dialogue, since dialogue is an integral part of our Islamic teachings. God   ordered   us   to   have dialogue in the Quran, and Our Prophet (Peace Be Upon Him) also urged us to do the same. The policy of Saudi Arabia is also based on these principles. 

QUESTION 3: What is the current status of dialogue with the Vatican after your  historic visit to Pope Benedict XVI? Do you expect the coming dialogue to help heal up the deep wounds suffered by both sides, and ally Muslims' fear of new crusades, and Christians' fear of extremists who threaten values and cultures of the West? What is your response to al-Qaeda's denunciation of the dialogue among religions?

ANSWER 3: We can remove mistrust and suspicions from our minds through the principle of dialogue. A dialogue that underscores human commonalities which find their expression in all religions, beliefs and cultures. The all call for good in all its forms, and reject evil in all its manifestations. We will then realize that values and principles that unite us are more than those dividing us.  The differences that exist between cultures and societies in general are a matter of course and an eternal fact of the universe.

But it is forces of extremism, injustice and darkness that often seek to exaggerate and exploit these differences for the purpose of instigating conflicts and wars, thus bringing about a chaotic situation around the world. That is why we find them always in panic when they feel that there is an effort to engage in dialogue and promote understanding instead of confrontation and rivalry. These same forces know that dialogue is the effective way to abort their evil plans that are contrary to all religions and human beliefs, and inherent human nature. 

QUESTION 4: The G8 met after the Jeddah Energy Meeting, in an attempt to resolve the crisis of hiking prices of crude oil. But expectations are not optimistic and prices are continuing to rise. What bothers you most about the consequences of this international crisis? And what are, in your opinion, the main reasons for the continuous rise in oil prices? 

ANSWER 4:  Stability of the world oil market is the common goal of both the producers and the consumers, and we are striving hard to reach it. In spite of the fact that the Kingdom and a number of oil producing countries have raised their production capacity, we have not detected a positive response at the international oil market. This demonstrates the extent of the effect of other causes and factors on the market prices outside the framework of supply and demand.

Most importantly, speculations in the international oil market, and the imposition in many oil consuming nations of additional taxes on imported oil. Saudi Arabia called for a meeting of oil consuming and producing countries in Jeddah to discuss the current situation of the oil market. We believe that strengthening cooperation between the parties in tackling the global oil situation with all the variable that influence and impact the price of oil to the consumer is the guarantor to stabilize international oil market. 

We followed-up closely the meeting of the G8, and the resulting resolutions, including a call for dialogue between producers and consumers. It may be important to note here that a World Energy Forum has already been established, with Riyadh hosting its secretariat-general to achieve the goals of dialogue and to coordinate between producers and consumers.  In the context of our endeavor to protect the environment and address global climate change, Saudi Arabia has established the King Abdullah Center for Oil Research and Studies, in order to seek technology that would preserve the environment on one hand, and contribute to global economic growth on the other.

These efforts include a fund for energy, environment and climate change, as initialed by the Kingdom and announced during the third OPEC summit in Riyadh. Saudi Arabia contributed three hundred million dollars to this effort. I might add that this program will fund research in many areas including carbon emissions. We urge the G8 to support these existing programs and projects rather than make duplicate efforts in similar programs. 

QUESTION 5: Food shortage is the second crisis affecting the world after the oil crisis. What is the scenario, which you see, that would occur in the future regarding the scarcity of food and causes of food shortage? Will Saudi Arabia follow the example of China and invest in the fertile lands in other countries to ensure food security in the future?

ANSWER 5: The world has to put this crisis on the top of its list of priorities. It must double the effort internationally to address the food crisis because it has a direct bearing on the life of every human being. Saudi Arabia has dealt with this crisis at three main levels: 

First: It has supported the World Food Program (WFP) with 500 million US dollars in response to the world appeal to cope up with the increase in global fuel prices and food commodities. 

Second: It is pursuing a medium-and-long-term strategy to launch agricultural investment initiatives aiming at development and enhancement of agricultural products in countries that have the prerequisites for agriculture. The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has agricultural experience, technology, and capital to invest in this area. The initiative is not only limited to buying land or even leasing them, but it also includes technology transfer and exchange of expertise, and development of agricultural companies, and other steps that would contribute to increasing agricultural crops and providing food to the world in order to alleviate the crisis. 

Third: We have been working to strengthen international cooperation to solve the crisis through our call at the Jeddah Conference to launch the "energy for the poor" initiative to enable developing countries to meet the increasing energy costs. We called on the World Bank to hold a meeting as soon as possible for donors' countries, as well as regional and international financial institutions, to discuss this initiative and put it into effect. We proposed to the Council of Ministers of the OPEC Fund for International Development to meet and consider the adoption of a parallel program and allocate one billion U.S. dollars to it. Saudi Arabia announced its readiness to financially contribute to these programs within the framework to be agreed upon.

Also, we have allocated $500 million U.S. dollars of low-interest loans through the Saudi Development Fund to finance projects that help developing countries obtain energy and initiate other development projects.  Undoubtedly these objectives require efforts from all countries of the world. 

QUESTION 6: The continuation of the Arab- Israeli conflict poses a third challenge. In case failure of the Annapolis conference, the only remaining peace plans on the table remaining is the Arab peace initiative presented by you in 2002. What made you put forward this peace initiative? Is this peace plan still in place and implementable? After 60 years of establishing the state of Israel, is it closer to live in peace with its Arab neighbors?

ANSWER 6: The Arab comprehensive Peace Initiative reflects the overall Arab sincere and serious will towards achieving a just, lasting and comprehensive peace in the Middle East on the basis of international legitimacy and laws. The Arab initiative is regarded as one of the main points of reference in the peace process, which the Riyadh Arab Summit re-emphasized. In addition to the Arab initiative, there are several international initiatives aiming at advancing the peace process in the region.

But all these efforts and initiatives are still colliding with an Israeli policy of rejection and of continuous seizure of more Palestinian land, building new settlements, expanding existing ones, and imposing all kinds of unjust restrictions and the imposition of a siege on the Palestinian people in clear defiance of all international laws and ethical principles. Whenever the Arabs and the world make a step forward towards peace, Israel embarks on polices of injustice, aggression against the Palestinian people. Therefore, the international community is urged, more than ever, to deal seriously with the Israeli intransigence, so that the longest crisis in modern history would find its way to solution.  

QUESTION 7: Are you concerned about Iran's strengthening its power in Iraq and presenting its new strength in the region?

ANSWER 7: Iraq is in a dire need of being free from external interference in its internal affairs by any party, so that it can move forward in its efforts to achieve security, stability and prosperity and maintain its national unity and sovereignty, and territorial integrity. The Iraqi people are capable of achieving these objectives with a sincere and serious national will, and full sense of one country among all Iraqis, regardless of ethnic backgrounds and political and religious affiliations.                                                             

QUESTION 8; Has Iran the right to continue its nuclear program? What is the extent of the damage caused by President Ahmadinejad's statements concerning the elimination of Israel? Israel has recently conducted military exercises simulating an attack on Iran. What are the results of such an attack? 

ANSWER 8: Nuclear proliferation in the region does not serve its security and stability. We hope that all countries of the region follow the policy of the GCC and the Arab League to make the Middle East and the Gulf region free from all weapons of mass destruction and nuclear weapons. As regards to the Iranian nuclear issue, we call for abandoning the language of tension and escalation, and the adopting of diplomatic solutions to this issue. As long as diplomatic efforts are still active and ongoing, I do not think there is room for discussing other options. The responsibility about statements made by certain countries lies in the countries making these statements.

QUESTION 9: Some people believe that the United States has lost its traditional influence in the region, because of its policies and because of the emergence of other competitive looking for a role. What do you think of this? Has it become difficult for America's friends to continue defending it? 

ANSWER 9: We think that the situation in the region requires every possible international effort in light of the difficult crisis it faces. Whether this effort is American, Russian, European, Islamic or Arab, we will not hesitate to support it as long as it is sincere and serious in dealing with these crises, and as long as it aims at achieving regional security and stability and prosperity, including the legitimate rights of the people of the region. Our international friendships are based on the defense of those rights and interests of the region and its peoples and nothing else. 

QUESTION 10: What has been achieved so far in Saudi Arabia in combating terrorism? Do you think that you have defeated AI-Qaeda end rid the country of its supporters? Or is there a need for more efforts to be exerted in this context? Is the world making enough efforts to fight terrorism? 

ANSWER 10: Observers of the Saudi efforts in fighting terrorism must feel the significant achievements we have made in fighting this scourge sedition over the past years. These achievements would not have been possible without the blessing of God, and the courage and sacrifices of the security forces, and the Saudi people standing united in confronting this phenomenon extraneous to their religion, society and culture. Since the beginning of recent terrorist attacks in the Kingdom, we adopted a comprehensive strategy to fight it. This strategy does not depend on its security side only, but also it includes fighting the financing of terrorism, and dealing with its intellectual roots through the adoption of an integrated program for defying the deviant thought and rehabilitating its followers and giving counseling and advice to them.

In this regard we called for an international conference to combat terrorism, which was convened in Riyadh. The conference called for the establishment of a counter-terrorism center for the purpose of prompt exchange of information, and adopt preemptive measure to prevent terrorist action. However the proposed center is yet to be established in spite of the support of many members of the world community. In addition we are working assiduously towards closer regional and international cooperation to confront the phenomenon. We are continuing with our efforts in this strategy till completely eliminating this phenomenon and drying up its sources, and the deviant thought leading to it. We still believe that the international community can exert better efforts in close cooperation and coordination to tighten the noose on terrorist networks wherever they exist, and deprive them of any safe havens that could be used to threaten the international community.  // END //

Comments (70)

majedkhaldoun said:

The Arab masses hate ,or have no respect,to their presidents and kings,but the stock of Hasan Nasrallah is too high , the Arabs,no doubt , by more than 90 %, like Nasrallah.

July 16th, 2008, 8:02 pm


Alligator said:

I would like to believe all those wonderfully humanist claims and acceptance toward “others”. Unfortunately, a close look at the facts will tell any observant that it’s all just a load of hot air.

The kingdom does not allow any open practice of any other religion on its soil. It will continue the ban even through the “dialog” and after it’s over. It prosecutes not just non-Muslims, but also Muslims of sects other than the Wahabi, such as the Shia and Ismailites in the Eastern Province and Aseer. The Saudis openly preach hatred against Shiites everywhere. They do not even allow women to drive a car. Just yesterday, new laws were passed to tighten the dress code worn by female doctors and nurses (http://www.alarabiya.net/articles/2008/07/15/53146.html). The country chops a handful of heads every single Friday of every week.

This is such a fiasco, that they cannot even call for those purely PR stunts (dialog w/ Christians and Jews) within their own borders, but have to go to Spain to do that. The internal facts would just not allow it and it’s PURELY an act for the consumption of charmed and gullible Western journalists.

The Saudi claims are made from lavishly decorated, silk laden, air conditioned palaces, but on the street, it’s a totally different world than the one they’re trying to portray.

July 16th, 2008, 8:15 pm


Alex said:

Obama picked the wrong mideast adviser apparently:

The new ‘Obama advisor’ problem: Senator Chuck Hagel

The Republican Jewish Coalition was able to cleverly attack Senator Barack Obama by using the positions of its arch-rival, the National Jewish Democratic Council. Obama is taking Senator Chuck Hagel, a Republican, to his Middle East tour.

Here is what the Jewish Democrats said about Hagel in March 2007:

As Senator Hagel sits around for six more months and tries to decide whether to launch a futile bid for the White House, he has a lot of questions to answer about his commitment to Israel. Consider this:

# In August 2006, Hagel was one of only 12 Senators who refused to write the EU asking them to declare Hezbollah a terrorist organization.

# In October 2000, Hagel was one of only 4 Senators who refused to sign a Senate letter in support of Israel.

# In November 2001, Hagel was one of only 11 Senators who refused to sign a letter urging President Bush not to meet with the late Yassir Arafat until his forces ended the violence against Israel.

# In December 2005, Hagel was one of only 27 who refused to sign a letter to President Bush to pressure the Palestinian Authority to ban terrorist groups from participating in Palestinian legislative elections.

# In June 2004, Hagel refused to sign a letter urging President Bush to highlight Iran’s nuclear program at the G-8 summit.

Here’s what the National Review wrote about Hagel’s stance on Israel in 2002:

“There’s nothing Hagel likes less than talking about right and wrong in the context of foreign policy. Pro-Israeli groups view him almost uniformly as a problem. ‘He doesn’t always cast bad votes, but he always says the wrong thing,’ comments an Israel supporter who watches Congress. An April speech is a case in point. ‘We will need a wider lens to grasp the complex nature and consequences of terrorism,’ said Hagel. He went on to cite a few examples of terrorism: FARC in Colombia, Abu Sayyaf in the Philippines, and the Palestinian suicide bombers. Then he continued, ‘Arabs and Palestinians view the civilian casualties resulting from Israeli military occupation as terrorism.’ He didn’t exactly say he shares this view – but he also failed to reject it.”

And here’s what the anti-Israel group, CAIR, wrote in praise of Hagel:

“Potential presidential candidates for 2008, like Hillary Clinton, John McCain, Joe Biden and Newt Gingrich, were falling all over themselves to express their support for Israel. The only exception to that rule was Senator Chuck Hagel ?” [Council on American-Islamic Relations, 8/28/06]

July 16th, 2008, 8:17 pm


Alex said:


i am not known for my favorable views of the Saudis. But what would you suggest as a plan for their religious and women’s rights reforms? .. considering how strong the wahabis are, is there any way they can quietly and safely start reforming? … wouldn’t that be against the will of a large segment of their population?

If they asked for my advised, I would not give an answer … I really think the Kingdom is not reformable without risking serious conflicts.

25 years at least.

July 16th, 2008, 8:23 pm


Enid Houston said:

The Kingdom does not have even 10 yrs. left if it does not put the religious police behind nice gated communities with their national guard prince defender and his crew. Have an appointive council outlaw the above, and the royal family would be technically not abrogating the treaty with Wahab of 1752. Listen guys, you only became custodians by belatedly capturing Media and Mecca in 1933, so don’t go around stamping out the diversity of Islam or the shia’s power will only increase because they have a larger belief tent into which diversity fits easier.

July 16th, 2008, 9:01 pm


norman said:


The Arabs do not care if their leaders are Muslims , Shea, Allawi even Christian they want any leader who can restore their integrity and that what Nassrallah and Assad did.

July 16th, 2008, 10:59 pm


Enlightened said:

Wahhabism is a cancer.

The sooner we find a cure, the better off we will be.

Yalla Doctor Norman get to work.

Alex I think your 25 years is a little conservative. The Sauds and the Wahabbi relationship is symbiotic, one cannot survive with out the other. If we look back at Islamic history, the best periods were the rule in Spain and the Levant, all predate Wahabbism.

July 16th, 2008, 11:20 pm


Hans said:


Unfortunately, the way the restoration of “integrity” for Arabs is normally defined, by both Arab leaders and the Arab masses, is in populist terms that later prove both vapid and fleeting (Nasserism, Baathism etc.). I don’t dispute that the Syrian and Shia Lebanese state and community respectively are relatively better off than before Hafiz al-Assad and Nasrallah. However the average Shia Lebanese and Syrian still fair pretty poorly compared to countries with democratic and accountable leaders… If there was a vote Shia Lebanese would throw their lot in with Nasrallah – for now – but Assad would not fair nearly as well with Sunni Syrians.

July 16th, 2008, 11:39 pm


Karim said:

There was in Syria a strong anti wahhabi feeling because of the struggle between the pro sufis ottomans and the anti sufis wahhabis….but so was the past ..today it’s not rare to see wahhabi scholars admitting mistakes and many teachers in their religious schools are not wahhabis.This is clear when we see their TV religious channels like Iqra and Rissalah the trend is not wahhabi at all ,in fact many of the affiliated sheikhs are syrian sufis.
So enlightened your extremist opinion toward wahhabism should be re-evaluated.
My problem with Abdullah is his special relation with the criminal Rifaat.But as people ,the saudis are our brothers.

July 16th, 2008, 11:55 pm


norman said:

President Bush went to the wrong country , instead of Iraq he should have invaded KSA where 17 of the 19 hijackers came from ,

Enlighted one ,

I ma sorry to tell you that the KSA has end stage cancer and nothing can help.

Keep praying !.

July 16th, 2008, 11:57 pm


yaman said:

I believe, saudi arabia has purchased enough websites and newspapers to have maximum propaganda. i really do not care to read about the saudi monarch at “syrian comment”.

July 17th, 2008, 12:58 am


Karim said:

Les rares dissidents syriens restent soumis à une répression impitoyable de la part des autorités
LE MONDE | 15.07.08 | 14h18 • Mis à jour le 15.07.08 | 19h43

a question des droits de l’homme en Syrie a bien été évoquée par le président Nicolas Sarkozy lors de son entretien à Paris, samedi 12 juillet, avec son homologue Bachar Al-Assad. Dans les entretiens qu’il a accordés aux médias français avant sa visite en France, la première depuis décembre 2002, le président syrien avait répondu par avance aux critiques en estimant notamment que les dernières condamnations prononcées à l’encontre des principales figures de la dissidence syrienne avaient sanctionné des comportements portant atteinte à l’Etat.

Lorsqu’il est interrogé sur la situation des libertés depuis qu’il a accédé à la présidence de la Syrie en juillet 2000, M. Al-Assad avance souvent l’argument du relativisme culturel et la lenteur des réformes engagées. Avec ses visiteurs occidentaux, il arrive aussi qu’il joue de l’épouvantail islamiste, comme d’autres sur le pourtour méditerranéen, ou qu’il mette en cause les relations entretenues, selon lui, par ses opposants à ses adversaires étrangers les plus déterminés, à commencer par Walid Joumblatt, le dirigeant du Parti socialiste progressiste libanais.

A la différence de son père, Hafez Al-Assad, confronté dans les années 1970 et 1980 à un véritable mouvement insurrectionnel armé alimenté par une frange radicale du mouvement des Frères musulmans, le président syrien est défié depuis son accession au pouvoir par un embryon de dissidence privilégiant le débat politique. Cette dissidence a été étouffée une première fois, en 2001, lorsqu’un coup d’arrêt a été porté aux “salons politiques” qui avaient vu le jour à la faveur d’un bref “printemps de Damas”.


Une deuxième vague de répression a été déclenchée, en 2006, après la signature par des intellectuels, dont le journaliste et écrivain Michel Kilo, d’une pétition syro-libanaise faisant suite au retrait des troupes syriennes stationnées au Liban. Des arrestations ont enfin suivi la réunion à Damas, en décembre 2007, de membres de cette opposition. Selon l’organisation de défense des droits de l’homme Human Rights Watch, treize responsables sont actuellement poursuivis pour “affaiblissement du sentiment national” (une accusation portée contre un blogueur arrêté en 2007) mais aussi pour “diffusion de nouvelles fausses ou exagérées qui pourraient affecter le moral du pays” et “appartenance à une organisation formée dans le but de changer la structure de l’Etat”. A ce harcèlement s’ajoute la répression de la contestation kurde, localisée dans le nord-est du pays, et qui s’est manifestée à plusieurs reprises depuis les émeutes de Qamichli, en 2004.

La dissidence syrienne a été littéralement décimée par ces arrestations. Ancien homme d’affaires et ancien député, Riyad Seif a été arrêté, en décembre 2007, après avoir déjà purgé des peines de prison. Son état de santé alimente l’inquiétude de ses proches. Autres responsables déjà passés par la prison, pour des peines allant de deux à dix-sept ans, les journalistes Fayez Sara, Ali Abdallah et Akram Bounni sont à nouveau derrière les barreaux.

A près de 80 ans, le plus célèbre opposant syrien, Riyad Turk, ancien secrétaire général du Parti communiste-bureau politique qui a déjà passé plus de dix-sept ans en prison serait, selon certaines sources, entré en clandestinité.

Gilles Paris
Article paru dans l’édition du 16.07.08

July 17th, 2008, 1:01 am


majedkhaldoun said:

my dear friend Norman;
First Syria will never have a christian as president, even that I strongly support a christian if,and only if he is elected democratically,the christian community in Syria are very patriotic,and it is a shame that the constituion says the president has to be moslem.
second you are equating Nasrallah with Assad, Nasrallah is a leader rose to power by participating in resistance,he fought with Israel several time,he got there inspite of several obstacles , and proved to be successful, Assad got the presidency, over a silver or golden plate, inheriting the position from his ruthless dictator father, supported by intelligence forces, and loyals,who benefitted financially, and by gaining political power,even that this ,sometime,proved to be temporary. Syrian love Nasrallah,they like Assad because they see Iraq,and they support the resistance path that Bashar and Hafez adopted.

July 17th, 2008, 1:10 am


Enlightened said:


Some of my friends are Saudi Nationals doing PHD’s here in Sydney Australia. I wont recount to you all what these “intelligent” people relayed to me about the education system in Saudi, but here is a snippet:

1. ” If you have enough “Iman” you could stop a bullet ( my favourite)
2. Shedding the blood of a Shiite is halal
3. Lebanese/Syrians are not true Arabs/Muslims
4. Women are your property to do as you please

But please in the future don’t call me extremist in my views, just because a few Sufi Sheik’s get airtime on TV, your argument is quite fallacious, and you arrive at a irrelevant conclusion by calling my position extremist. (Sheesh enlightened has never been on Jihad)

July 17th, 2008, 1:20 am


norman said:


You are right , the requirement that the president of Syria be Muslim should be deleted ,I am hoping that you will start the push to change that .

Assad and Nasrallah had two paths of resistance , Nasrallah used the military path with the help of Syria and Iran while Assad chose the politecal path , They both stood up to the domination of the US and Israel , They both saved their countries from the destruction that Iraq faced , they did that by defeating Israel in Lebanon and entangling the US in Iraq that it could not attack Syria ,

For the above reasons they deserve an A .

July 17th, 2008, 1:27 am


norman said:

WOW Enlighted one , I can see the fumes coming out of your nose , It is good i am in your side. cool down ya zalami.

July 17th, 2008, 1:31 am


Karim said:

Enlightened and i hope that you was not so naive to drink what they said to u then to generalize it to the entire saudi education system.
This is not true or exaggerated of course ,almost all the syrians have relatives studying in Saudi Arabia and we know that there are some weakness but plz dont add too much.

2. Shedding the blood of a Shiite is halal
This is classical..so easy Enlightened ,i’m sure it was not from them…but from your own imagination.

and why we never heard of mass killing of shia in saudi arabia and other “wahhabi”countries ? For sure the shias of Saudia Arabia,Kuwait,Qatar have better quality of life and more religious freedom than the sunnis of Iran whose number is probably 10 millions.

July 17th, 2008, 1:40 am


norman said:

Where is Ausamaa?.

July 17th, 2008, 1:52 am


Enlightened said:


Would you believe me if I told you I was from a Sunni Muslim family?

And these were the exact words I heard? Hard to believe in this day and age but these were the words VERBATIM!

I don’t need you to question my Extremism or integrity, and I see no need why I should discount what these people told me, especially since I got to know them well during the course of their studies. Point given, that these people were a small fraction of the Saudi population, but generalizations aside this is not acceptable and a deviant strain on the more tolerant Islam that was preached in the Levant.

I dont see your point about the Shiite stautus in Saud, you better check your history about the Saud campaign in Destroying shrines and the Shiite massacres at the turn of the century. So much tolerance, so much love. Iranians are no better at treating their Sunni majorities for sure , but your bias is shown here, what about the Bahais? Zoroastrians?


My nose is fine, ps the Pope stayed 8km away in his retreat from my house. World Youth Day has caused chaos in Traffic here.

July 17th, 2008, 1:55 am


Karim said:

Enlightened i knew that you are a lebanese sunni and not pro Hezbollah ,here is not the problem.

July 17th, 2008, 1:56 am


norman said:

Enlighted one ,

I meant you were angry like i never seen before and you were justified.

July 17th, 2008, 2:09 am


Karim said:

Saud campaign in Destroying shrines at the turn of the century ……Enlightened ,they destrotyed all the shrines of Medina and this is very sad for us,and they were build by the ,ayyoubis ,mameluks and ottomans …and i have photography of them.

And Enlightened ,about the massacres of shias by the wahhabis …it occurred but it was rare and not systematic ,and during wars or battles …
But we should not exaggerate it …in our history ,it was most of the time the shia minorities who massacred the sunnis when they had the opportunity …and it was repeated recently in Iran, Asad massacre in Hama and other syrian cities or in today Iraq …but tell me about one massacre against the shias in the Wahhabi countries like Saudi Arabia and Kuwait during the past few decades.

July 17th, 2008, 2:12 am


Enlightened said:


“There is nothing more that I would like to see than tolerance and accepting of the “Other”

I just don’t believe (and I say this respectfully) that the Wahabbi strain of Islam is a tolerant path, but a new and invented strain that espouses radicalism and excludes the “other”

PHEW: now that i have got that off my chest no more talk on religion! (causes too many problems)

Can we talk about Hymens? I missed that talk! (wheres Zen?)

July 17th, 2008, 2:22 am


norman said:

Enlighted one ,

Does your wife approve of you blogging about Hymens, I do not think so .

July 17th, 2008, 2:27 am


Enlightened said:


I read the previous posts, I fell out of my chair laughing! Just a quick tool to kill the conversation!

No Mrs Enlightened would chase me around the house with a rolling pin!

July 17th, 2008, 2:36 am


norman said:

Enlighted one ,

Keep enlightening the people.

July 17th, 2008, 2:42 am


Enlightened said:


I am not pro anyone or anti anyone, but we are being a bit semantic here, most regimes in the ME are sectarian to their core, with only a veneer of tolerance.

The sooner we set free the constraints of religion with the governing of the State the better we will be.

No systematic massacres have been evidenced in either Kuwait or Saudi, that I am aware of, I don’t think that in the internet age that any regime can get away with blatant massacres. You will not see a repeat of Hama, no dictator or dictatorial government will get away with it.

But what you will see is blatant discrimination! Whether religious,economic or educational opportunities.

But do you seriously think that Abdullahs call for tolerance is a PR stunt or he can actually see a fundamental problem within his country?

There is an old Arab Nomad saying “Its hard to see the tree from the Forrest in the Desert”

July 17th, 2008, 3:21 am


Karim said:

Enlightened ,i’m for the union of the arab and muslim countries and i’m a nostalgic of the Khilafe ,do u call this sectarianism ?

Enlightened:But what you will see is blatant discrimination! Whether religious,economic or educational opportunities.

This is true ,and not only against the shias …but as said our future PM Alex give them some years ,and i’m sure that in the end we will see churches in Arabia.You should take into account that Saudi Arabia,is not the same society of Syria or Egypt and other old urbanized nations ….but a society based on a beduin mentality …and it need time to evolve.this is natural…that’s why i’m less critic toward the gulf countries than toward Egypt and Syria who had discovered modernity before Japan.And believe me that the Khalijis read more books than the syrians and egyptians.If you look well what happened to Syria and Egypt since Nasser and Baath…We are in Nawarization process and they evolve in the opposite direction of us.The Kuwaiti society for example is the most democratic and modern society in the arab world.

July 17th, 2008, 3:50 am


Enid Houston said:

Karim, that’s why they are called “sand Arabs and not marsh Arabs”–pick your Provencal chauvinism.

July 17th, 2008, 4:24 am


Enlightened said:


” With all due respect” I am stopping right here. I am for the Union of Potatoes and Coriander!

We are in Nawarization Process? should read ( We need the age of enlightenment)

I am a nostalgic for the Khilafe? should read ( I am nostalgic for the Aleppo Khenefeh!)

The Kuwaiti society is the most democratic and modern society in the Arab world? ( enlightened rolled over in laughter)

July 17th, 2008, 4:27 am


Karim said:

Enlightened,laugh like a joker ,this is your problem..union of the islamic or at least the arab world is natural …we share the same language and same religion.Europe is already united and despite their lack of this natural cohesion ….and look at the other big blocs the USA ,China,Russia and India ….we will remain an easy prey until we are united,if we want to exist in the 21th century this unity is a necessity….but dont ask these regime to renonce to their privileges so democratization is required step if we want to materialize this union.This is also the trend in South America ,after the democratization of all South American countries,they are close to the dream of Simon Bolivar …some years ago ,their situation was not very different from ours.
As for Kuwait ,it’s never late for u to be informed.

July 17th, 2008, 5:03 am


Karim said:

Enid Houston ,well ,it seem that you are fan of Ibn Khaldun.

July 17th, 2008, 5:16 am


Off the Wall said:

There is an old Arab Nomad saying “Its hard to see the tree from the Forrest in the Desert”

That is one of the best quotes i’v heard in long time.


I would love to give KSA more time, but let us look at what have they done with the time they already had. They had tribal-based oppression of women, they made it into a law, and it does not seem that they are willing to let go of that anytime soon. They had resources to develop the eastern part of their country, but they chose to ignore it until after the Iranian revolution, when they started thinking of some development in that region. Finally, Syrians, Lebanese, Palestinians, and Egyptians all have been working in KSA for decades now, and they seem to have been unable to bring their more tolerant version of Islam into KSA, not at social or at political levels. In fact, the opposite has happened, KSA spent so much money exporting, and rather successfully, their intolerant version. If recent past is a prologue to the future, i can’t be as hopeful as you are.

As for the Khalijis, I was in the UAE a couple of years back, and what struck me was that although a conservative country, and probably as tribal as KSA, people had a wider margin of personal freedom than i thought they would. That pleased me, and I am a little more hopeful for the UAE than for KSA, which erected every possible barrier in the face of modernity.

I try to be very open minded. Some of my friends even argue that i am too relativistic and accepting of everyone. I have learned that from statistical point of view, personal freedoms are better guarantee of progress than imposed rigid morality. To me, a society that willingly and systematically oppresses its women will have no opportunity for real progress unless it accepts that women have rights and they are not properties, nor are they inferior. They have as much brain as men do, and they are not responsible for us “men” being here on earth instead of in Eden. When the morality police prevents fire fighters and paramedics from getting into the burning school to protect the chastity of burning, shrieking, and dying young girls, the only thing they demonstrate is the murderous nature of rigid morality whether some call it Wahabi or other names. Was there a trial? Was any of these thugs charged and convicted with premeditated murder?

As for Kuwaiti democracy, please remember that one of the results of their democracy was two or three time rejection of the Emir’s decree allowing women to vote. The Islamist’s attacks on one female minister were mostly unjustified, viscous, and un-ethical.

The late comedian George Carlin used to say, hunting is not a sport, not if you are a deer.

July 17th, 2008, 5:16 am


Enlightened said:

LOL Karim:


Ah the lofty ideals, so near yet so far. I dont want to be pessimistic but unless you can Elect Alex President, QN, Minister for Foreign and Indigenous Affairs, Norman Health Minister, Zenobia -Women and Family affairs, Offended Minister for Education and the Arts, Ehsani-Economy,Wizart Minister for Justice, Ausamma -Information and propoganda, IC -Speaker ( did I miss anybody?) or yes me, Minister for the degradation of Society and the promotion of vice! ( Sorry Shai didnt put you in but you can nominate yourself for a ministry)

I understand your passion Karim and respect it, and respect your point of view, and accept your ability to hold those views. However, we can never go backwards we can only look at the past and try to avoid what ails us, but us Arabs have a long long way to go!

July 17th, 2008, 5:26 am


Karim said:

OFF THE WALL ,you cited part of the reality but not all the reality ,you ignored the fact that some of the best surgeons in the arab world are saudis and they work in Saudi and Western hospitals and more than half of the saudi university students are girls and women ,it will have good repercussion on the future Saudi generations…so don’t be selective ..we can say that we are in front of a society of contrasts in transformation ,there is the good and the evil in it ..this cultural dualism was the reality of the American society during and after the civil war in the 19th century…as seen in the movie Gangs of New York but in the same time the American universities reached the level of the British ,German and French universities…and not more than 50 years ago,there was an horrid racist apartheid between whites and black people in the USA.So don’t ask the impossible from them.
As for Dubai dear OFF THE WALL ,ask yourself because you know the answer,had they electricity 40 years ago ?

July 17th, 2008, 5:44 am


Off the Wall said:

You bring valid points. But even if half of the students in Suadi universities are women, the reactionary forces in the kingdom continues to have hold on their future and fate and it doesn’t seem to want to let go of that. In fact draconian rules, with no real objectives but maintaining their inferior status keep springing up.

The socialist and communist regimes did everything they could to indoctrinate their citizens. The rulers of KSA are no less indoctrinators, and their job is probably easier as they hide behind arcane interpretation and mixing tribalism with religion. When KSA completely abandons the morality police, and its rulers stop their appeasement of the extremists, then KSA would be on its way to solve the duality problem. Until then, I am sorry, i can not be as hopeful as you are. If a woman becomes the best surgeon in the kingdom and can only perform surgery on women, that limits everyones opportunity. This same doctor can also be abused by her husband, her brother, or father, she can be beaten and jailed for talking to a male colleague doctor without the presence of a mu7ram or something like that, and she may even be killed under the repulsive honor killing. This puts her body, her mind, and her career fully in some man’s hand, and that is, to me, is oppression. Do not expect me to call for democratic reform in Syria and at the same time abandon Saudis, Egyptians, or anyone else.No one can deny that in the Kingdom, women are opressed. It is that simple. It is inexcusable, Their status could significantly improve with simple royal decree, but their successive majesties have so far failed miserably, if not collaborated with the Zealots. I believe that if life in KSA is better than in Syria, only because they are richer.

The issue of inequality is not completely resolved here in the US. Women on general earn 88 cents for each dollar earned by their counterpart males who perform the same job. In fact, recent statistics show also racial and ethnic disparities even within this number. This repulses me as well, and I have written a couple of times to my district representative and to my State senators to ask them to do something about that. Domestic violence is also a problem. But the society, in general, accepts the principles of equality, which gives it a better chance for continuing progress.

July 17th, 2008, 7:16 am


Off the Wall said:


You forgot me. Since I am new here, how about wazeer dawleh, with no duties what soever, I can use a long vacation 🙂

July 17th, 2008, 7:25 am


Zenobia said:

umm, errr, I am trying to think how to turn this conversation back to sex or female anatomy, just to please Enlightened. : )

ok, well, I have never been to Saudi, but I am very very curious. I met a lot of young Syrians on vacation from their work life in Saudi, and a few who used to work there but no longer or grew up there even.
It was a real eye opener.
Of course I wanted to hear the nitty gritty about this dramatic separation of the genders and how some people managed to have sex anyway.
Here is a sample:
One friend tells me he has lived there seven years and after every vacation back in Syria where he is just thrilled to have actual non-related female persons within five feet and having real live conversations with him, he must struggle to get back on the plane to Saudi. He describes his emotional feeling as the plane descends into KSA and all the women on the plane suddenly whip out their covering and go under the dark wraps, as a terrible depressing feeling of entrapment, as if he were being “sent back to prison.”

A female who once worked for Saudi Airlines for five years told me of a best girl friend who was whipped in an awful way by the authorities after she was caught drinking coffee in a public place with a man who was not in fact her brother.

Another proud fellow gave me great details of his elaborate schemes for hooking up with strange women. Some of it involved hiding in cars and crawling through windows in garages.

but the BEST account was from a Syrian guy who said he got regular solicitation from young men to have gay sex!
When I lit up with interest to hear about this- he gave a fascinating low down about how a great many Saudi men professed (or confessed, i guess) to “fooling around” with their male compatriots just to relieve themselves of the ‘pressure’- you know, … not cause they’re homosexuals or anything like that (god forbid you should think that). Of course not. : )… It was all understandable really, because what can you expect under the circumstances!

I guess the prison metaphor really does have quite a resonance.

I myself have limited experience with Saudis. All I know is that when I first discovered Skype, and innocently decided in the first enthralled days to put myself in SKYPE ME MODE! I got the most revolting overtures coming off the net – that I had heard in a long while. Invitations for all kinds of raunchy exchanges coming from where you might ask???
I didn’t know their name of course, although the skype nom usually was something like Stud man or sex-king. And the country of origin was mainly Turkey (those naughty turks) and Surprise Surprise, that homeland of morality! KSA!!!!

It’s one weird place, where the worship of the unbroken hymen leads men to engage in anal sex with other men instead of challenging the prohibition on violation of the apparently more sacred orifice of the female sex. (God help us, we’ll do anything not to break that hymen before its time!)
Go figure.

July 17th, 2008, 7:45 am


wizart said:

Well said Off The Wall and Zenobia..

A complete overhaul is needed in that country for the sake of human rights and real development unstead of focusing on pouring more concrete and building high rises. It’s a man made disaster out there where stability is purchased at the expense of freedom.

July 17th, 2008, 8:30 am


Nour said:

I’m disappointed that on a day of the great achievement of freeing Lebanese prisoners from “Israel”, SyriaComment decides to publish an interview with King Abdallah, one of the biggest buffoons of all world “leaders.” And the responses published are clearly not those uttered by Abdallah himself, who can’t even put a single sentence together, and struggles and stumbles when reading speeches prepared for him. This is the same man who told Moammar al-Qaddhafi “الكذب أمامك و القبر قدامك.” (Lying is before you and the grave is in front of you) These are the types of expressions of great wisdom given by this despot.

Syria Comment should have been covering the news surrounding the great achievement and accomplishment of the noble Resistance in Lebanon, rather than discussing the nature of one of the most backwards, totalitarian, and oppressive systems in the world.

July 17th, 2008, 11:38 am


Akbar Palace said:

Interesting discussion. I must say, some of the opinions aren’t that different than AIG’s. I suppose it’s a bit difficult getting advice from an “outisder”:

Karim said:

Europe is already united and despite their lack of this natural cohesion ….and look at the other big blocs the USA ,China,Russia and India ….we will remain an easy prey until we are united,if we want to exist in the 21th century this unity is a necessity….but dont ask these regime to renonce to their privileges so democratization is required step if we want to materialize this union.

The Middle East is already the prey of their own leadership. Democratization (except for Iraq and Afghanistan) will have to come from the people. The US can’t free everyone.

Meanwhile, Nour (IMHO) echoes a lot about what is still wrong in the Middle East: glorification of terrorists:

Nour states:

I’m disappointed that on a day of the great achievement of freeing Lebanese prisoners from “Israel”…

If this is what is considered a “great achievement” in the Arab world, I feel sorry for you. Making peace with “Israel”, would be a much better achievement…


July 17th, 2008, 12:23 pm


Sami D said:

I second Nour’s disappointment at the deafening silence on SyriaComment regarding the important recent achievements in South Lebanon. And in favor of what … the most backward Arab regime and assistant to US hegemony?

July 17th, 2008, 12:39 pm


Nour said:


I have never fallen for official “Israeli” propaganda, and I’m not about to do so now. The terrorists are those you elect as prime ministers who have been responsible for the bloody murder of thousands of civilians. You are in no position to lecture the world about morality.

July 17th, 2008, 12:58 pm


Qifa Nabki said:

There is an old Arab Nomad saying “Its hard to see the tree from the Forrest in the Desert”

Enlightened, I second OTW’s appreciation of this quote.

July 17th, 2008, 1:02 pm


Qifa Nabki said:

In my opinion, there may be some kind of deal on Shebaa in the near future.

There has been a lot of talk over the past two weeks about “liberating” Shebaa by any legal means, etc. and most of this talk has come from President Suleiman himself. To me, this suggests that the rhetoric is being deployed in advance, in airstrike fashion, so as to “soften” the ground for an eventual negotiated deal.

It will be important for Hizbullah to take the credit for liberating Shebaa and Kfar Shuba, even if there isn’t a single shot fired in the process.

No doubt Suleiman, as a career military man, understands that the resistance cannot exist independently of the army once the occuptiation has completely ended. An ongoing resistance (that is more powerful than the army) will inevitably undermine confidence in the last national institution that possesses it.

It looks to me like Pres. Suleiman is beginning the process of encouraging Hizbulah’s normalization/integration from Day One. And he’s doing it according to the Hizb’s own rules, which bodes well provided that everyone is on the same page.

July 17th, 2008, 1:12 pm


Akbar Palace said:

I have never fallen for official “Israeli” propaganda…


Relish your “great achievement”. Bashing in the brains of a 4 year old is quite a national legacy.

July 17th, 2008, 1:16 pm


Joshua said:

Dear QN

Some Lebanese commentators are reading the Suleiman presidency and Sarkozi embrace of Doha as a cave-in to Hizbullah and the resistance which signifies the end of 1701 and will lead to the return of Syrian troops. Michael Young argues this is the likely outcome of Sarkozi’s “narcissism” in his article, “Can Resolution 1701 last much longer?”

What is your reaction to this interpretation?

July 17th, 2008, 1:37 pm


Joshua said:

For those who criticise me for posting an interview with Saudi Arabia’s monarch, there is context.

The lovely and charming Alix Van Buren is an excellent reporter who usually gets her man. Twice she has interviewed Bashar al-Assad for La Repubblica in the last several years. Both times, she sent me the English translation to post exclusively on Syria Comment. This was a great favor to SC and we were lucky to have it.

When Ms. Van Buren sent me the English translation of her interview with King Abdullah, I did not hesitate to print it, even knowing that it would annoy some Syrians to see the Saudi King given favorable exposure on SC!

July 17th, 2008, 1:44 pm


norman said:


I think it is important not to know about Syria only but to see what other countries in the region are saying and doing , so it was great to have the interview.

July 17th, 2008, 1:56 pm


Qifa Nabki said:

Dear Joshua

I think Michael’s latest piece for The Daily Star is wrong.

His analysis, which for years was usually more or less on the mark, has really slipped over the past year or so (in my opinion) because it has become overly informed by his own frustration with March 14 and Syria’s re-emergence as a powerbroker.

I think that Suleiman and Sarko aren’t really “caving” as much as they are changing strategy vis-a-vis Hizbullah. Gary Gambill was right on the money two years ago when he pointed out that Hizbullah, after being prevented from engaging in any more military adventurism post-July War, instead decided to set its sights on internal matters, which proved to be a huge nightmare for March 14. By deciding to not play ball according to the received political conventions, Hizbullah and Aoun basically allowed the Lebanese system to collapse upon itself. And this was achieved without Hizbullah breathing a single word about the pink elephant in the room, namely the disastrously unfair quota system enshrined by Ta’if.

So I think that Suleiman is playing it smart. He recognizes that it will be much easier for Hizbullah to begin its transition by achieving all of its goals and remaining true to its “promise”. And France is shoring up its image as an honest broker, so that when the time comes for the Lebanese to really figure out how to overhaul the system — i.e. when the Shi`a begin addressing the political quid pro quo that will have to surface as a result of slowly dismantling the resistance — there will a European power that everybody trusts who can provide the framework.

The Qataris, as lovely as they are, are not going to be the ones who teach the Lebanese about democracy. It’s going to have to be someone else.

July 17th, 2008, 1:58 pm


Nour said:


I have no problem with publishing interviews with King Abdallah, although the transcript of the interview was clearly doctored. But I was disappointed in seeing such an interview take precedence over the events in Lebanon yesterday. I’m glad to see that you have devoted coverage to this event now, but I would urge you to give both sides of all stories.

The whole story of Quntar “bashing” the head of a 4-year-old girl is merely the “Israeli” version of the event. The full transcript of the trial was only released recently, whereby Quntar is quoted as saying that he never saw the girl and does not know what happened to her. “Israel” has a long history of lying and fabricating evidence to push its own agenda. It has been “Israeli” policy to demonize and dehumanize the Resistance as much as possible so as not to shed light on its own criminal nature and in order to prevent anyone from seeing the rise of the Resistance from a humanistic standpoint, where people who were stripped of their land and their rights are struggling and fighting to regain them.

July 17th, 2008, 2:28 pm


Qifa Nabki said:


I have heard about the two versions, but let me ask you: does it matter, in your opinion, that the historical record is ambiguous?

In other words, let’s say that Quntar admitted to killing the four-year old girl in exactly the manner described.

How would you feel about him and his release today?

July 17th, 2008, 2:45 pm


norman said:


Have districts for every 100000 people and divide the districts initially on religious lines but have antidiscrimination laws on housing and jobs, with that the districts will become like the US of different religious groups and income will become the factor of where people live , They need decentralization for Lebanon to have a good democracy.

July 17th, 2008, 3:06 pm


Qifa Nabki said:

Ammo Norman

Many people have been talking about the importance of decentralization (esp. Amin Gemayel recently), but I am always wary of it because I am paranoid that it will lead to cantons.

One day you have people electing an empowered municipal board for their own district… then several years later you have people not caring about what happens in other parts of Lebanon as long as their own districts remain the same… then several years later, you have districts developing their own militias to protect themselves against members of other sects, etc.

I prefer to see Lebanon point itself in the direction of one district, rather than multiple ones. But that’s just me.

July 17th, 2008, 3:15 pm


norman said:

That does not happen in the US and the same antidiscrimination laws can apply there and in Syria for that matter , The population will be diverse with these laws.

July 17th, 2008, 3:24 pm


Akbar Palace said:

In other words, let’s say that Quntar admitted to killing the four-year old girl in exactly the manner described.

How would you feel about him and his release today?


I can guess what the answer would be…


BTW – I just want to chime in (because we don’t communitcate very often), that I think you are one of the few voices of reason on this website. I also enjoy your sense of humor.

July 17th, 2008, 3:27 pm


Qifa Nabki said:

Gracias AP but I assure you that I’m just as unreasonable as everyone else. 🙂

Ammo Norman,

I think that what you are proposing is good for the short run. Anyway, we need decentralization because the government has no mandate these days. It would be much easier for a local district board to collect taxes and electricity bills etc. than the government, especially if their budget was determined by their efficiency.

July 17th, 2008, 3:40 pm


norman said:


Agree .Then they have only themselves and their own elected officials to blame.

July 17th, 2008, 3:45 pm


Nour said:


First, I don’t recognize the legitimacy of “Israel,” so I do not accept its imprisonment of any of our people. However, there are definitely certain acts that I would find morally unacceptable, regardless of who committed them against whom. For example, the entire operation of the Achille Loro I feel was a combination of utter stupidity and moral degeneracy. I don’t believe Abu Nidal was a hero in that respect. However, Samir Quntar’s operation was of an entirely different nature and was not for the mere purpose of killing or harming civilians. The story of him bashing the little girl’s skull is strictly intended at painting a horrific picture of the Resistance in an attempt to discredit any justified opposition to the occupation of our land. I’m sure Quntar will be on tv soon enough and we’ll hear his version of the event in question.

July 17th, 2008, 3:48 pm


Sami D said:

QN, If Quntar killed the 4-year-old then he would have committed an immoral crime. Attacking civilians is simply abhorrent; it is also what desperately oppressed and humiliated people sometimes do as other options of relieving legitimate grievances dry up. Having said that, the anti-civilian violence in a conqueror-conquered setting, is predominantly the domain of conquerors. Olmert-Bush demonstrated this clearly in their barbaric attack on Lebanon in 2006 — an act that makes Quntar look like a choir-boy by comparison.

The political context of the whole Quntar issue is central. The symbolism of resistance to Israel, both in Quntar’s crossing Israeli lines into Israel to “do something” about Israeli belligerence, and in Hezbollah successfully getting Israel to release him, is significant. For the mighty mafia don Israel to capitulate to the demands of few who wouldn’t bow their heads, sends an invaluable message to those whose rights have been trampled upon as well as to oppressors.

July 17th, 2008, 3:59 pm


trustquest said:


I tend to agree with you full-hearted, but you and Karim are falling into the trap of comparing between bad and worse. In my humble opinion you are trying to say that this depot is better than the other one and each is bringing the worst in the other. And you guys made me go to my books and study to find that in the Shit industry, they do not favor one against the other. And my dad used to laugh when some one try to proof that he is better than his brother by saying in his back: look he is saying that this shit is better than his brother. And usually these brothers tries to play people when they are not friend, but when they go back to be friend again, we do not hear anything about their rotten smelling.

July 17th, 2008, 4:02 pm


Qifa Nabki said:

Sami, I agree.

I think it’s important to maintain a moral high ground, as slippery as the terrain may be and as difficult as it is to speak theoretically and speculatively about these kinds of issues in the context of so much violence and suffering.

So let’s make it a bit more real, then. Were the above scenario to hold true — where Quntar admits to the Israeli version of the story — would you regard his homecoming as something worth celebrating?

The reason I am asking is not to put you on the spot, but rather to make a point that gets to Nour’s original question about the lack of discussion on Syria Comment about the prisoner swap. I think that there is real ambivalence in Lebanon about Samir Quntar. Maybe this is because of Israeli propoganda, I have no idea. But he’s hardly a popular “national hero”, the way that the politicians (on both sides!) are making him out to be.

July 17th, 2008, 5:19 pm


Sami D said:

QN, In light of my second paragraph above (reproduced below), the answer is yes. In other words, what’s celebrated is not his killing of innocent civilians, if that were indeed the case, but the symbolism behind it all:

“The political context of the whole Quntar issue is central. The symbolism of resistance to Israel, both in Quntar’s crossing Israeli lines into Israel to “do something” about Israeli belligerence, and in Hezbollah successfully getting Israel to release him, is significant. For the mighty mafia don Israel to capitulate to the demands of few who wouldn’t bow their heads, sends an invaluable message to those whose rights have been trampled upon as well as to oppressors.”

P.S. This conversation belongs more to the next thread “The Prisoner Swap Controversy”

July 17th, 2008, 5:33 pm


Qifa Nabki said:


It seems to me that this logical move that you have put forward threatens our ability to speak meaningfully about right and wrong.

How is celebrating “symbolism”, in that hypothetical scenario, any different from sanctioning an abhorrent crime?

If the Israelis held themselves to this standard (which many do), then plenty of crimes against civilians would be justified in the name of the greater “symbolism”… i.e., the Jewish people surviving despite attempts to exterminate them, etc.

I’m just thinking aloud here… could be persuaded otherwise.

PS: Feel free to respond on the other thread.

PPS: Just to make it a little more real… There has been talk of Samir Quntar running for office in the next election, presumably in an alliance with Hizbullah against Jumblatt, although Jumblatt is trying to co-opt him. So, this makes the scenario a bit more difficult. It is one thing to celebrate the symbolism of not bowing one’s head to Israel, etc. It is another thing to vote for a convicted child-killer (in this scenario). Your thoughts?

July 17th, 2008, 5:53 pm


Akbar Palace said:

QN said:

I think that there is real ambivalence in Lebanon about Samir Quntar. Maybe this is because of Israeli propoganda, I have no idea. But he’s hardly a popular “national hero”, the way that the politicians (on both sides!) are making him out to be.


Where in this small, blurry picture can I find the “politicians”? And do the “politicians” really number “tens of thousands”? They don’t look “ambivalent” to me, but what do I know?


That sense of victory was particularly strong at the Hezbollah rally in the southern suburbs of Beirut.

Tens of thousands of people were packed into a square carrying the yellow and green flags of Hezbollah, as well as the Lebanese national flag.

For example, the entire operation of the Achille Loro I feel was a combination of utter stupidity and moral degeneracy. I don’t believe Abu Nidal was a hero in that respect.


Don’t be so hard on your terrorist heroes. You may have your Palestinian martyr confused with another. Leon Klinghoffer was killed by Mahmoud Abbas. And please, give Abu Abbas (PBUH) the same courtesy you are giving Samir Quntar – he’s always denied his guilt…


July 17th, 2008, 6:11 pm


Qifa Nabki said:


The rallies are more about Hizbullah than they are about Samir Quntar himself. They are about celebrating the ability of the resistance to achieve its goals vis-a-vis Israel, which — as the party reminds the press — is something unprecedented.

Outside of Hizbullah’s most loyal base and particularly among the other sects (even those parties who are allied to them politically), it’s not as rah-rah, in the same way that there was a lot of ambivalence about Mughniyeh.

July 17th, 2008, 6:21 pm


offended said:

Mashallah, King Abdullah is quite knowledgeable and articulate when it comes to written interviews. I wonder why he doesn’t possess the same eloquence when it comes to press conferences.

when was the last time he had a press conference anyway?

July 17th, 2008, 6:53 pm


Sami D said:


Good response.

QN wrote:

If the Israelis held themselves to this standard (which many do), then plenty of crimes against civilians would be justified in the name of the greater “symbolism”… i.e., the Jewish people surviving despite attempts to exterminate them, etc.

Central to symbolism should be the legitimacy of the mission. “Jewish people surviving despite attempts to exterminate them” is a cover for the mission of ethnically cleansing Palestine and cowing the region to submit to US-Israeli hegemony. Quntar’s mission is a response and part of resisting that campaign. Israel’s mission by definition targets civilians; and it continues to do so systematically. In scale, its killing and violations dwarf any acts of resistance by a long shot. Quntar’s killing may have been a one time probably unintended thing, assuming he did it. But indeed it is important to maintain the moral high ground as much as possible, especially when your mission is legitimate, although the dilemma sometimes is that doing so means you accept getting effaced from existence or living forever in squalid camps.

Quntar’s running for office is cashing on the symbolism too far – even if he’s not guilty. If he’s guilty it’s of course even worse, but not worse than all Arab despots or Israeli/US leaders who sport large amounts of blood on their hands. Again, in Quntar’s case, although what should be celebrated is not the killing of civilians, but the mission of resistance, the crossing of conquerors’ lines and the freeing of hostages from their hands, I’d agree that decoupling these from the crime that was involved is not an easy question to resolve.

Again, assuming he did what the Israelis say he did.

July 17th, 2008, 7:05 pm


Enlightened said:


“There is an old Arab Nomad saying “Its hard to see the tree from the Forrest in the Desert”

I want to clarify that my interaction with Karim yesterday, was in no way intended to demean or insult his views. Things are never black and white. In a few short words I was trying to imitate to him that his views on the KIngdom are no mirage if you look closely it is not that deceptive. Maybe I am too much of a cynic when it comes to the Arab world. Maybe I can see its faults to readily- but have no solutions.

QN: Thanks I take off the Tarboush

July 17th, 2008, 11:02 pm


ugarit said:


Saudi media are brimming with pride over the inter-faith dialogue festival in Spain. They are hailing the role of the Saudi king. But they Arab and Western media ignored the actual text of the speech (read haltingly and embarrassingly by the illiterate head of the House of Saud) in which King `Abdullah railed against atheism and atheists. He wanted the believers to unite against the atheists of the world. He apologized for the absence of Bin Laden who was invited but could not attend for security reasons. The conference was well-organized. Sessions were divided along different themes: Wahhabi clerics presided over workshops to train people on anti-Semitism, takfir, intolerance, misogyny, and homophoebia. A workshop on beheading was the highlight of the conference.

July 19th, 2008, 3:50 am


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