Introducing the Creative Forum: Commemorating the Golan Heights

Posted by Camille Alexandre Otrakji


Some of you already know about Creative Syria’s new opinion forum. For the Forum’s first monthly discussion topic, I invited some of the best Syrian bloggers and analysts to tackle the following question concerning the Golan Heights:


"If you could write a one page letter to an Israeli citizen who does not believe his country should give back the Golan Heights to Syria, what would you tell him/her?"


I also invited two talented Americans who happen to know and love Syria, to moderate the Forum:  George Ajjan, a Republican political activist, and Bridget Palmer, a highly perceptive Syria blogger.


Creative Syria's new Forum


So far, seventeen different letters were submitted and posted. Every one tackled the Syrian Israeli conflict from a different perspective.


  1. Political analyst and historian Sami Moubayed shed light on the political atmosphere that led to the 1967 war and the occupation of the Golan.
  2. Hind Kabawat imagined what it would be like for Syrians and Israelis to be good friends.
  3. Zenobia Baalbaki (doctoral candidate, psychology) analyzed the mentality of Israelis who want their country to retain the Golan.
  4. George Ajjan compared Syrian and Israeli perspectives of the Golan.
  5. Writer/Film maker Farrah Hassen wrote a passionate piece about the Golan’s Syrian inhabitants.
  6. I took a more practical approach and listed a number of relevant arguments, as I have done on Syria Comment regularly.


And many more.  I urge you all to participate in the debate; read the articles, vote for your favorites, and leave comments and questions.


Haaretz’s Yoav Stern, wrote a review of Creative Syria’s new forum in an article titled “Shalom 2.0” (thus far it is only available in Hebrew). This provided our forum with over a thousand Israeli visitors so far. Many of them engaged with us in an intelligent and positive debate. Yoav’s article also named Syria Comment “the most prominent” among Syria-related blogs.


And finally, and both received a major update that included 500 new photographs of Syria hand picked from the online collections of some of my favorite Syrian photo bloggers. Mideastimage now has a more flexible search engine, and six mini-sites dedicated to Aleppo, Damascus, Cairo, Istanbul, Baghdad and Jerusalem. Now you can watch a slide show with larger views of our historic photo collection, accessible in the top right corner of each city mini-site.
Aleppo Jewish wedding in 1914
Aleppo Jewish wedding in 1914.
Aleppo mini site part of the new
Aleppo's mini site on  

Comments (13)

George Ajjan said:

Camille, your labors of love are a benefit to us all. Thanks for spearheading this important project and especially for offering solutions to help move Syria and the region forward.

June 4th, 2007, 5:14 pm


EHSANI2 said:

By Zainab Fattah and Matthew Brown
June 4 (Bloomberg) — Syria became the second Middle
Eastern nation in two weeks to say it will dump its currency’s
peg to the dollar to curb rising import costs and inflation.
The country will link the Syrian pound to International
Monetary Fund special drawing rights instead from mid-July,
central bank Governor Adib Mayaleh said. The value of the
drawing rights is determined against a basket of currencies
including the dollar, euro, yen and U.K. pound.
“The decision is final,” said Mayaleh in a phone
interview from Abu Dhabi. “This will help stabilize the Syrian
pound and bring down inflation.”
Syria is broadening its peg after the country’s currency
was dragged lower against the euro by a 10 percent slide in the
dollar last year, pushing up the cost of imports from Europe.
Kuwait shifted its peg to a basket of currencies on May 20
because of rising consumer prices, which are also accelerating
in the United Arab Emirates and Qatar.
“The weaker dollar is fueling inflation,” said Dorothee
Gasser, an analyst at ING Bank in London. “We see the U.A.E. as
the next possible shifter.”
The U.A.E. dirham slid 0.01 percent to 3.6727 against the
dollar today, the Qatari riyal gained 0.01 percent to 3.6392,
and the Saudi riyal was little changed at 3.7504. The Syrian
pound was unchanged, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

Inflation to Slow

Syrian inflation accelerated to 10 percent in 2006, from
7.2 percent the previous year, according to the IMF. Qatar’s
consumer price index leapt 14.8 percent from a year earlier in
the first quarter, from 12.8 percent in the prior three months.
Inflation reached 10.1 percent last year in the U.A.E., from 7.8
percent in 2005.
Mayaleh said the pace of price gains in Syria may slow to 8
percent this year because of the shift away from the dollar peg.
“Inflation is a risk for all these countries and allowing
their currencies to appreciate versus the dollar is one way to
address that,” Jon Harrison, an analyst at Dresdner Kleinwort
Group Ltd., said in London.
Syria, under fire from the U.S. for alleged support for
terrorism, said in July last year it planned to dump the dollar
peg by the end of 2006 to reflect closer trade ties with Europe.
The Central Bank of Syria had converted half its currency
reserves to euros, Mayaleh said last July. The reserves,
including gold, totaled $4.1 billion at the end of 2005,
according to the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency.
Mayaleh said today the switch in the peg would contribute
to investment growth and “there’s no political reason” for
ending the dollar link. “We’re technocrats,” he said. Reuters
earlier today cited Mayaleh as saying that earlier plans to end
the dollar peg had been held up.
The IMF based the valuation of SDRs as of Jan. 1, 2006, on
a weighting of 44 percent for U.S. dollars, 34 percent for euros
and 11 percent each for the yen and U.K. pound.

June 4th, 2007, 5:19 pm


Atassi said:

As always you are a first class expatriate, first class moderator, and a gentleman !!. This was an excellent idea, I hope it will soon flourish to a solution.

June 4th, 2007, 7:07 pm


idaf said:


Your amazing efforts are invaluable.

Keep it up.

June 4th, 2007, 7:18 pm


K said:

Camille Alexandre Otrakji = Alex?

June 4th, 2007, 10:01 pm


George Ajjan said:

A nice companion to Camille (Alex)’s effort can be found at the Arab American Institute‘s website. They will be doing live webchats with prominent individuals like Hanan Ashrawi as well. It’s a more comprehensive look at the 1967 war and the aftermath. Worth a look.

June 4th, 2007, 10:09 pm


Alex said:

Thank you George, Idaf, and Atassi !

It is great to get this kind of recognition here. I have been neglecting my real work for the past few months to finish the CS update. My employees are asking me “Is there a way we can fire you?”

K, you did not know?

June 4th, 2007, 10:19 pm


Joshua said:

Alex, You are a one man cultural ministry. I cannot thank you enough for all your help with Syria Comment as well. For anyone who does not already know, Alex redid the layout of Syria Comment for me. It is tremendous. Thank you. Creative Syria is a beauty. I cannot imagine how many hours have gone into it. Worth every minute. Bravo.

June 4th, 2007, 10:42 pm


Enlightened said:

Nice work Alex:

I saw your site just before christmas last year; it was the major reason that stirred me into planning a trip to Lebanon and Syria next year, my wife has several cousins married to Syrians, we will visit them at the same time, it will be my first trip, plannng to go in May/June 08, cant wait.

In the mean time we will enjoy the photos and your site.

June 4th, 2007, 11:46 pm


Global Voices Online » Syria: Creative Forum Launched said:

[…] Writing at Syria Comment, Camille Alexandre Otrakji announces the launch of Syria’s Creative Forum. ‘For the Forum’s first monthly discussion topic, I invited some of the best Syrian bloggers and analysts to tackle the following question concerning the Golan Heights: “If you could write a one page letter to an Israeli citizen who does not believe his country should give back the Golan Heights to Syria, what would you tell him/her?”‘ she notes. Share This […]

June 5th, 2007, 2:35 am


K said:


It’s a great site, in form and content, clearly a lot of effort has gone into it. Mabrouk.

June 5th, 2007, 3:05 am


EHSANI2 said:

It is amazing how Alex is not the minister of Expatriates instead of Mrs. Shaaban. He has done more good for Syria than she could dream of

June 5th, 2007, 3:06 am


Alex said:


إنت عاوز توديني فداهية؟

Thanks 🙂


Enjoy your trip. But be prepared… The photos on creative syria do not show the pollution and traffic jams in Damascus. But you will still have a very special trip I’m sure.

K,thank you. The effort the past two years was about 3000 hours. Absolutely worth it for me. If I did not enjoy it, I would not have done it.

Joshua, I spend an hour everyday on Syria Comment. It was my pleasure to be able to help in anything related to Syria Comment … “the most prominent Syrian blog” 🙂

June 5th, 2007, 6:06 am


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