“Kilo Set Free,” by Khaled Oweis

Syrian political writer set free after 3 years in jail
Tue May 19, 2009
By Khaled Yacoub Oweis

DAMASCUS (Reuters) – Syrian authorities released prominent writer Michel Kilo from prison Tuesday after he completed a three-year sentence for political crimes related to his calls to mend relations with neighboring Lebanon.

“Michel Kilo was set free tonight. I spoke to him. He is now at home,” Kilo’s lawyer Mohannad al-Hassani told Reuters.

Kilo’s jail term expired last Thursday. He was moved to a security compound and kept under arrest there for another five days before he was released, the Syrian observatory for Human Rights said.

“Congratulations on your return to freedom, Michel Kilo. All prisoners of conscious in Syria must be set free. Arbitrary arrests must cease,” a statement by the group said.

The 69-year political writer was a leading signatory of the Damascus-Beirut Declaration, a 2006 document signed by 500 intellectuals and political activists from Syria and Lebanon.

Shortly after the declaration was issued, Kilo was arrested and charged with weakening national morale.

The document urged the Damascus government to establish diplomatic relations with Lebanon, a move demanded by the international community and taken by Syria two years later.

The declaration also called for demarcating the Syrian-Lebanese border and an end to political killings in Lebanon following the assassination of Rafik al-Hariri, a parliamentarian and former prime minister, and other figures who were mostly opposed Syria’s role in Lebanon.

Human rights lawyer Anwar al-Bunni, another signatory, received a five year sentence on the same charge as Kilo. He is still in jail despite Western calls on Syria to release him.

Unlike other non-violent critics of the government, who sometimes are let free after completing three quarters of their sentence, Kilo, served his full term.

The United States and the European Union had called repeatedly on the Syrian government to free Kilo and French President Nicolas Sarkozy intervened in vain with President Bashar al-Assad during a visit to Damascus last year.

Kilo had tried to operate within the confines of Syria’s political system, which has been monopolized by the Baath Party since it took power in a 1963 coup, banned all opposition and imposed emergency law still in force today.

His captivity sent a signal that even milder forms of dissent were not allowed in Syria, human rights campaigners said.

“Kilo had concluded a while before his arrest that the regime was not interested in any meaningful political reform,” one opposition figure said.

The Syrian government has stepped up a campaign of arrests against opposition figures since its relations with the West improved sharply last year. Officials have dismissed Western criticism about lack of observance of human rights in Syria as interference in internal Syrian affairs.

Comments (94)

Shami said:

Mabrouk Michel Kilo !
Inshallah the other heroes will gain back their freedom,very soon.

These arrests must end.

May 20th, 2009, 3:50 am


MNA said:

Although most syrians were against the Damascus-Beirut Declaration, it is safe to say that most syrians are happy to see Mr. Kilo set free.

May 20th, 2009, 4:37 am


Sasa said:

Mna what makes you think most syrians were against the Beirut Damascus declaration. I don’t disagree, just wonder why you say that.

Also France 24 is running with an ‘exclusive’ (not quite sure how they’ve managed o get hold of this so quickly) that Kilo has vowed to start writing again. Is that really such an ‘exclusive’?

May 20th, 2009, 5:43 am


offended said:

Free at last.


May 20th, 2009, 6:34 am


أمنية said:

most syrians are happy?
i don’t think there would be any syrian happy to see another syrian in jail just coz he “spoke of what is going on his mind”
to be with or against the declaration is not the issue.
the isse is to be dragged to the court and got different jail sentences.
this reminds me of the children series حكايات عالمية when there would be stories of witches who would be burn in public coz they said something.


May 20th, 2009, 6:48 am


Amir in Tel Aviv said:

Kilo’s release is the clearest indication, that something is cooking
between Syria and Obama.

May 20th, 2009, 8:58 am


Syrian Diaspora said:

re 6 Amir in occupied Palestine,, not really since his sentence was 3 years and he has now served it.

May 20th, 2009, 11:02 am


Akbar Palace said:

Occupation Constipation

Amir in Occupied Tel-Aviv,

I like this comment:

i don’t think there would be any syrian happy to see another syrian in jail just coz he “spoke of what is going on his mind”

Living in un-occupied Syria must be like living in a glass house. You don’t want to be too happy, and you don’t want to be to sad, because you may be “arrested and charged with weakening national morale”. ;o)

Zionism is a bitch isn’t it?

May 20th, 2009, 11:35 am


Akbar Palace said:

An article Professor Josh and his sidekick may have overlooked while blaming Israel for everything that befalls Syria:

The behavior of Syria provides firm evidence that it remains subservient to Iran’s foreign policy machinations, even though they harm the long-term economic wellbeing of its people.


May 20th, 2009, 11:46 am


Honest Patriot said:

AP, who is Prof. Josh’s sidekick?

May 20th, 2009, 1:24 pm


Atassi said:

Mabrouk to Mr. Michel Kilo and his family, One day he will be honored with the “medal of Syria “ and be distinguishedm as a hero as for others !! will be disgraced and dishonored in history
Mna Yea Habibi,
You are dead wrong on this one, Many many Syrians DO Support the Damascus-Beirut Declaration….

May 20th, 2009, 2:19 pm


offended said:

While I’m happy to see Mr. Kilo Free (i.e. was sad when he was in prison), I wasn’t at all supportive of the declaration, especially the part about demarcating the borders prematurely.

May 20th, 2009, 2:29 pm


Off the WALL said:

Time passes fast for us here on the outside, but not for those detained for speaking their minds. I do not really care whether one Syrian or not a single one supported the declaration, the declaration was nothing more and nothing less than a petition by citizens of both countries to their governments. No one should spend even an hour in jail for practicing their right to petition their government, no matter how many people support or object to the petition.

Congratulation Mr. Kilo, not for your freedom only, but also for surviving an 1100 days ordeal with integrity intact.

May 20th, 2009, 2:52 pm


EHSANI2 said:

I believe that The main reason for Mr. Kilo’s arrest was the “Syrian Obituaries” article that appeared in Al-Quds Al Arabi in May 2006.

Mr. Kilo crossed what he knew to be a red line by delving into very sensitive sectarian issues.

The arrest came one day after the article appeared

May 20th, 2009, 2:59 pm


norman said:

can somebody put up the article that Ehsani is talking about?.

May 20th, 2009, 3:42 pm


Nour said:

Oh please. Michel Kilo was not anything even resembling a hero. He allied himself with a corrupt group in Lebanon calling for the overthrow of the Syrian regime and wrote a blatantly sectarian article that appeared intended purely to incite sectarian sensitivities. He is not a brilliant intellectual, and most people who feign reverence for him now only do so because they see his arrest as a useful tool in attacking the regime.

May 20th, 2009, 4:53 pm


Shami said:

Nour,he called a spad a spad ,it’s not possible to criticize the regime without exposing its reality as it is.
Our fear for Syria’s future are the acts of retaliation that could target the alawite community because of this unhealthy and exxagerated policy of this regime,those that Michel Kilo criticized those that depraved his beloved city Lattakia,are a minority within the alawite community he cited them :(corrupt soldiery,mukhabarat)and the great majority(alawites included) of the syrian people agree that they are a problem.
Now imagine the day after the “alawite” regime is gone ,do you agree with me that if the situation remains as it is now ,it would be a disaster.
Michel Kilo is one of the most important politically engaged arab intellectuals.Nour,Who is in your opinion better than him ?
May Allah preserve him.

May 20th, 2009, 5:42 pm


jad said:


This might work this time if not, Alex might help.

May 20th, 2009, 6:48 pm


Off the Wall said:

Jad and Norman
The article is probably easier to access from the archive. Kilo’s articles used to appear in the opinion page (page 19)on different days. The article in question apeared on Saturday May 13, 2006 on page 19, which can be seen at


Kilo was arrested on Sunday May 14 a day after the article appeared. but was reported by Al-quds on Monday May 15. Other articles by kilo can also be seen regularly (probably once a week) on the same page (page 19), but in different location on the page. Kilo’s May-2006 articles were very pointed and confrontational especially the one on May 1, 2006 (Syria, Yes, it is a critical moment)


as well as the one on May 13, in which as very well articulated by Ehsani, Kilo knowingly and intentionally crossed a red line.

Joshua’s article on Kilo as well as some responses from SC commentators are very interesting.

May 20th, 2009, 7:16 pm


ehsani2 said:


تلفت نظري في اللاذقية، مدينة آبائي وأجدادي، أوراق النعي، التي تنتشر بكثافة علي حيطان البلد ، كما يسميها أبناؤها. وفي حين تكون أوراق النعي المدينية مرتبة ومطبوعة وفق نموذج محدد، تتسم أوراق نعي الريفيين بعدم الترتيب، وبكثير من الفوضي في توزيع مكوناتها وفي نوع حروف الطباعة الخشنة المستعملة فيها، والورق الأقرب إلي الأصفر الذي تطبع عليه.
غير أن ظاهرة مهمة لطالما لفتت نظري وأنا اخترق شوارع مدينتي، هي أن أبناء الريف يكونون في أغلب الأحيان من العسكريين، بينما تربط أبناء المدينة علاقة بعيدة وواهية بالجيش، حتي ليندر أن تلمس وجود عسكري ما في أوراق النعي الخاصة بهم، بينما تكاد أوراق النعي الريفية تخلو، من جانبها، من وجود أي مدني، إلا في ما يتصل في الحالتين بالمسنين، الذين كان عمرهم يوم الثامن من آذار/مارس ثلاثين أو أربعين عاما، فلم ينخرطوا في سلك العسكر!
ومع أن كلتا ورقتي النعي تبدأ بالآية الكريمة، التي تتحدث عن النفس المطمئنة العائدة إلي ربها راضية مرضية، فأنهما تفترقان في كل شيء بعد المقدمة، ليعكس افتراقهما افتراق ظروف واقع وحياة أبناء الريف، الذين يعيش معظمهم علي ريع السلطة وخاصة العسكري منه، وواقع أبناء المدينة، الذين هم غالبا أصحاب حرف أو أعمال حرة أو موظفون متوسطون وصغار، ويظهر، كما لو أنه وثيقة رسمية، طبائع الأمور في بلد تستقطب سلطته أبناء الريف في الجيش والأمن خاصة، وتمنحهم وظائف ومراكز قيادية في دوائرها ومرافقها الرسمية، وتشجعهم علي الانخراط في الجندية وما يتفرع عنها من دوائر وأجهزة، في حين يعتمد أبناء المدينة علي أنفسهم ومواردهم الخاصة غالبا، حتي ليعتقد المرء أنهم يعيشون خارج أية علاقة مع أي شيء رسمي أو سلطوي، ويستغرب كيف تمكنوا من البقاء علي هامش وخارج سلطة تمسك بكل شيء وتقرر كل شيء في بلدهم، وكيف حققوا التقدم المادي الذي بلغوه، مع أنهم يعيشون خارج عالمها الرسمي: الذي هو موزع الأرزاق الرئيسي علي الريفيين.
لوعدنا إلي أوراق النعي، لوجدنا أنها تلقي الضوء علي حقائق التوزيع الطبقي والسياسي لمدينة طالما تعايش فيها بسلام وتفاعل أخوي أبناء الأديان والمذاهب والطوائف المختلفة، وكذلك المنتسبون إلي إثنيات متباينة، يقينا لو أنني وجدت قبل أربعين عاما في نفسي الجرأة للحديث عن طوائف، لرجمني أبناء المدينة والريف. أما اليوم، ومع أن الطوائف ضرب من بنية تحتية للوعي العام في سورية، فإن أحدا لا يجرؤ علي الحديث عنها، ليس لاعتقاد الناس أنها غير موجودة، بل خوفا من سلطة تدعي أنها أقامت وحدة وطنية صهرت الشعب في بوتقة ألغت جميع أنواع الفروق العقائدية والإثنية، وجعلت أي حديث عن طوائف خيانة وطنية مثبتة تستحق العقاب.
تقول ورقة النعي الريفية، بعد الآية الكريمة، إن الفقيد هو العقيد أو العميد أو المقدم فلان الفلاني، وأن أبناءه هم ـ بحسب رتبته ـ المقدم أو الرائد أو النقيب أو الملازم أول نضال أو ثائر أو كفاح أو رفيق أو خليل أو إبراهيم أو إسماعيل أو حسن أو علي… الخ، وأصهاره أزواج بناته ثورة أو ثائرة أو نضال أو رفيقة أو أمل أو شروق هم المقدم المهندس أو الرائد الطبيب أو الملازم الأول الإلكتروني أو المستشار الفني أو المزارع… الخ. بينما ستجد بين اخوته مدرسا أو معلما أو عضو قيادة شعبة في الحزب أو محاميا أو قاضيا أو مهاجرا، دون أن يبطل ذلك الطابع العسكري الغالب علي الأجيال الجديدة من أسرته أو علي من يمتون إليها بصلة. فاتني القول: إن ورقة النعي تخبرنا أن الصلاة علي روح الفقيد ستتم في جامع القرية، وان العزاء فيه سيقبل يوم كذا وكذا في بيته الريفي، مع أنه ربما يكون ولد في المدينة ومات فيها، ولم يمض أو يعمل غير أيام قليلة في الضيعة.
إذا انتقلنا إلي أوراق النعي المدينية، وجدنا كلمات تتكرر في كل منها هي الحاج أو الشيخ أو التاجر أو المهندس أو الطبيب أو الأستاذ… الخ، تعلمنا أن هؤلاء من رجال البر والتقوي والخير والإحسان، في حين تعكس أسماؤهم بدورها نزعة دينية سادت خلال السنوات الأربعين الماضية لدي معظم أبناء المدينة، فالمتوفي هو محمد جمعة أو محمد غالب أو محمد سالم ـ أو أي شيء من هذا القبيل ـ وأبناؤه هم بالتأكيد محمد مصطفي، ومحمد عبد الله، ومحمد نديم، ومحمد رجاء، ومحمد واصل، ومحمد حسيب، ومحمد طه، ومحمد خالد، ومحمد عمر… الخ، بينما يوجد دوما اسم فاطمة وخديجة وزهراء وعائشة ومؤمنة وتقية وسميه وآمنة وآية بين أسماء بناته وقريباته، وعبد الستار وعبد الله وعبد الغفور وعبد الرحمن بين أسماء أصهاره واخوته وأبناء أعمامه وأخواله، مشفوعة علي الغالب بصفة الحاج أو الشيخ أو البار أو التقي.
ما أن تقرأ أوراق النعي، حتي تكتشف أنك لست فقط حيال رجال فارقوا الحياة الدنيا، بل كذلك أمام وضع اجتماعي/ سياسي/ ثقافي وطني، بالأحري لا وطني، تفضح الأوراق حقائقه المؤسفة والخطيرة، التي تكونت خلال السنوات التي قالت السلطة فيها إنها تبني عالما من المساواة والإخاء والحرية والمواطنة، وتمحو الفوارق بين الريف والمدينة. عندئذ، ستهز رأسك بأسي، وستخشي ما تشي الأوراق به من مصير بائس ينتظر وطنك، وستترحم علي نفسك، خاصة حين تبحث عبثا في أوراق النعي عن شيء يشي بوجود زواج أو قرابة بين المدينة وريفها، وبين محمد علي وعلي محمد، فلا تعثر علي أثر لأي منهما، رغم أن صورا وملصقات ويافطات كثيرة تنتشر علي جدران المدينة وفي شوارعها تخبرك أنك تعيش في سورية الحديثة ، وأنك تجسد الوطن، لأن الفروق بينك وبين بقية مواطنيك لم تعد موجودة، تحت أي شكل أو مسمي!
هذا الحال، بدأ يتغير في السنوات الأخيرة، حيث تشكلت في المدينة لجان تعني بالعمل الوطني الديمقراطي، انتسب إليها طوعيا ولأغراض بعيدة كل البعد عن أي غنم شخصي، جامعيون ومحامون وعمال ومدرسون وتجار وفلاحون وطلبة… الخ من جميع الاتجاهات السياسية والأديان، جعلوا همهم وصل من انقطع من لحمة بين المواطنين، علي أرضية المواطنة، التي تكفل لهم المساواة والحرية. وذلك بصيص الضوء الوحيد في عتمة الواقع المقيت، الذي جعل مدينة عرفت 56 صحيفة ومجلة ومنتدي بين عامي 1925 و1958 لا تعرف اليوم غير جريدة فقيرة توزع 500 نسخة بشق الأنفس، وتخلو من أي منتدي للحوار أو أية ساحة للتنفس الفكري والروحي والوطني، صار من الضروري جدا أن يقبل رجالها ونساؤها العزاء بعلي محمد في جامع العجان وسط المدينة، ومحمد علي في جامع القرداحة!

May 20th, 2009, 7:39 pm


offended said:

yes, there’s a lot of sectarian baiting in that article.

May 20th, 2009, 9:04 pm


Nour said:


Michel Kilo was not merely criticizing the regime. He was allying with political forces who were actively collaborating with the west to bring chaos and destruction to our country, and in the process engaging in vulgar sectarian incitement. He gladly joined his efforts with March 14, which includes the most corrupt, criminal, sectarian elements in Lebanese politics, and which was employed by the US and “Israel” to serve their imperialistic interests.

Furthermore, you see this regime as a “alawi” regime because you yourself are sectarian. And it has been proven by all the previous comments you have made. You see Syria as a country made up of different sects, not one where all people are parts of a single nation equal in rights and duties. This is why you believe that in a democracy the “Sunnis” should rule the rest of the “sects” in Syria. You don’t believe that there should be a system whereby all Syrians are seen as equal citizens, and where no difference whatsoever is made between one sect and another, but rather where the “Sunnis” who are a majority group, different from other groups, are entitled to rule over the “minorities” while giving them some rights and some protection. It is a wholly backwards, destructive view of Syrian society. As such, you do not criticize the regime because it is a dictatorship, or because it has allowed corrupt elements to flourish, but merely because the president is “alawi.” If it had been a “sunni” who had led this regime, then things would be easier for you to swallow.

Do you hold the same position on Saddam Hussein as you do on Assad? Do you believe that in Iraq Saddam led a “sunni” regime? Do you hold the view that the “Shia” in Iraq, being the majority there, have a right to rule over the other “groups?” You should answer those questions to see whether you hold a consistent, principled view on these matters.

As for Michel Kilo, his writings are not all that impressive at all. And you probably view him as one of the foremost intellectuals in the Arab World only because he’s a good tool in advancing your agenda against the regime. But many within Syria and outside are much more able and sophisticated than he is, and are able to offer valid, legitimate criticisms of the Syrian regime, as well as other regimes, without turning themselves into tools of foreign agendas and without engaging in blatant sectarian rhetoric.

May 20th, 2009, 9:38 pm


majedkhaldoun said:

I am glad to see Mr. Kilo free, because I believe in freedom, but as far as Lebanon,I strongly believe it should be part of Syria, because of several reasons,one of which,it is full of spies to different countries,Israel,USA,Iran, France etc.as long as it is seperate country,it will harbor spies,there are other reasons why I think Lebanon is part of Syria.

May 20th, 2009, 10:31 pm


Off the Wall said:


I have to agree with you. There is a lot of sectarian baiting in the article.

May 20th, 2009, 10:46 pm


Sasa said:


I agree with you when you say that Kilo is elevated to hero status mainly because people want to use him to attack the government – my enemy’s enemy is my friend. I wonder how many of these people have read his work.

Also, when we say the majority of the Syrian people were for or against him – I’ll tell you the truth…MOST people haven’t even heard of him, and don’t care about him. They’ve got more important battles to fight than squabbles among the elites.

So there!


May 20th, 2009, 10:59 pm


MNA said:

Well Said Nour!!
The fact that some or most Syrians are happy to see Mr. Killo free is not necessarily because they agree with his writings, but rather, because they don’t believe that someone should be put in jail for speaking his own mind or believes, even though those believes appear to incite sectarian tension. The timing of the Damascus-Beirut Declaration was viewed by many as collaboration with the west to bring instability and destruction to Syria and a further implementation of the neocons vision of the new Middle East. Those who signed on it aligned themselves, intentionally or unintentionally, and collaborated with the west in their plan. Unfortunately to Syria and Mr. Kilo, he was one of them.

May 20th, 2009, 11:08 pm


Nour said:

Sasa and MNA,

I don’t have any personal problems with Michel Kilo, but I am merely relegating him to his real importance and not the illusory platform on which he was placed by those who saw his story as a good one to use against the regime. Furthermore, I abhor any and all sectarian incitement and therefore I have very little sympathy for people who engage in it.

You are both right, most Syrian people don’t know Michel Kilo and have not read his writings. Many merely sympathized with someone who was imprisoned for expressing his political beliefs, without having a more detailed or elaborate understanding of the surrounding circumstances.

And I am not writing this to defend the regime, but merely to make a point about the actual importance of people like Michel Kilo.

May 20th, 2009, 11:18 pm


Alex said:

I think Michel Kilo is a good man. He is reasonable, balanced and genuinely passionate about reforms.

However, I think his judgment in 2005-2006 was not very solid. He started to believe that Chirac and his M14 Lebanese allies are genuinely interested in helping Syria, while the Syrian regime is hopeless … on its way out.

I can imagine that kilo was warned to stop working with European NGOs which are close to M14 and to Jacques Chirac. But he refused to.

May 20th, 2009, 11:24 pm


Shami said:


This is Syria ,it has the posibility to be not a saddamians style country and not an asadian style country and of course not a bad copy of nazi germany.But anyway saddam was better than these hateful rafidi mollahs who arrived on the american tanks.
Those should be fight until their defeat,even the Iraqi shias hate them.Bush imposed them against the will of the iraqi people.
As for the 14 march in Lebanon,not all of them are bad ,i regret Samir Kassir ,a true levantine,i have a lot of common with them ,cultural,educational,family ties.
As for who attack Michel Kilo ,i ask them are you more patriot than him ?What this mukhabarati regime did for the palestinian cause ?what he did for the syrian cause ? who straightened this regime ,not henry kissinger ?Nour,do you really believe that AhmadNajad and Nasrallah really care about the palestinian rights ?
Nasrallah is an hypocrit rafidi ,he works as puppet for an hostile regime ,he is not less bad than the agents of Israel.In fact ,those who constitute Hezbollah today were once collaborators with Israel during a decade.
I dont think it’s the 14 march that sent letters to the Knesset.So for those whose houses are in glasses they must be careful and avoid to throw stones on the others.
There are many hypocrits that would attack Kilo’s article ,but when the mukhabarati era will finish ,they would be the first to spit on them.
It’s not Asad,not Nasrallah ,not AhmadNajad who love the palestinian ,it’s the arab people and Michel Kilo,Samir Kassir their honnest and authentic support.
Ya3ni why should we lie to yourselves ?

May 21st, 2009, 12:26 am


Shami said:

Alex ,why hafiz asad did not cut his relation with Iran when Khomaini got weapons from Israel and bombed with them the iraqi cities ?

May 21st, 2009, 12:34 am


Shami said:

Nour ,other thing ,by definition a sectarian is related to the word sect ,go look into a good dictionary what “sect”does mean.Am i from a sect to be a sectarian ?
We are 280 millions Arabs ,90% of that people are Sunni ,it’s normal that Sunnism is an unifying force in most of our countries.
If the Arab or Syria were a mosaic of minorities then what you said could make sense.The sectarian is for example a regime which fear 90% and more and places men of his own sect (10% )to keep a watch on the 90%.
So if we want to expose this sad reality we are called sectarian ?
You know the proverb :Al Saket 3an el Haq Shaytan Akhrass.
And i repeat i would fight any extremist or revanchist sunni going to attack our alawite compatriots,in our culture there should be no revenge.Was that the same stance of Hafiz Asad who killed 35 000 in Hama and razed the old center because of a deep and historic hatred towards the people of the city. ?Nour ,would you deny that the aim here was not purely sectarian ?and we speak about 35 000 civilians killed in the most barbarian manner ,not even comparable to the zionist savagery.
If the syrian people answer by the same ,so this people would not be better than Asad .

May 21st, 2009, 1:14 am


Shami said:

Nour:As such, you do not criticize the regime because it is a dictatorship, or because it has allowed corrupt elements to flourish, but merely because the president is “alawi.” If it had been a “sunni” who had led this regime, then things would be easier for you to swallow.
Nour ,my opinion would remain unchanged Sunni or whatever.
I ask you ,If a Sunni ,Christian or Alawite whose corrupt uncles have been historic members of the SSNP and killed 40 000 and jailed over 100 000 and 18 000 missing ,and humiliating millions,and probably sold al Golan ….
As for Syria ,it has a known past,before Asad ,a christian was elected twice PM of Syria by the democratically chosen representative of the syrian people.
This is a situation that i call healthy and i’m for its return.

For what reason should you love him ?

May 21st, 2009, 2:42 am


Alex said:

31. Shami said:

Alex ,why Hafiz Asad did not cut his relation with Iran when Khomaini got weapons from Israel and bombed with them the iraqi cities ?



Turkey always gets weapons from Israel .. they do joint military exercises with them … they sometimes bomb and even invade northern Iraq.

Do you suggest that Syria should also cut relations with Turkey?

And Qatar and Dubai both have Israeli trade missions … do we cut relations with them too?

If Hafez Assad cut relations with Iran in the 80’s and if Bashar Assad cut relations with Turkey and Qatar and Dubai the past few years … where do you think Syria would be today?

May 21st, 2009, 3:11 am


Nour said:


Sunnis are a sect, regardless of what percentage they make up of the Arab World. Similarly, Catholics are a sect, regardless of the fact that they make up 90% of the French population. When you view your nation as one made up of sects, and believe that the majority sect should rule the other, then you are by definition sectarian. You identify yourself as a Sunni before you do so as a Syrian and believe that the Sunni sect defines the Syrian identity because they are the majority.

Moreover, you view members of the Shia sect as “Rafidis” and use sectarian incitement and justification to attack a Resistance and its leader despite the fact that this Resistance has proven its effectiveness against the enemy. You further equate between Nasrallah, the leader of the Resistance that evicted “Israeli” troops from Lebanon and repelled their attempted invasion in 2006, with corrupt collaborators who actively work against their countrymen for their own selfish interests. And you do that only because Nasrallah is “Shia” and you are “Sunni”. This is blatant, vulgar sectarianism and is the type of destructive thinking that will continue to bring woes upon our people.

May 21st, 2009, 3:35 am


Alex said:

Last year, a Zogby opinion poll conducted in six Arab moderate countries (Egypt, Jordan, Morocco, Saudi Arabia, UAE, and Lebanon) indicated that Hassan Nasrallah was the most popular Arab leader, followed by Syrian President Bashar Assad.

This year the same poll, which was presented yesterday at Brookings institute showed President Assad taking over the top spot … he was the most popular Arab leader in the six leading “Moderate Arab” countries

Other findings:

– 88% said Israel is the number one threat the region faces, 77% said the United States is the top threat.

– 73% supported a two-state solution based on Israel’s withdrawal to the 1967 borders. 50% said they are not optimistic peace is possible with Israel.

– 44% felt Israel is weaker after its destruction of Gaza, 11% believed Israel is stronger after Gaza.

Here is the announcement for yesterday’s event:


Tuesday at Brookings Institute, the Saban Center Policy Forum unveils “The View from the Middle East: The 2009 University of Maryland/Zogby International public opinion poll.” As President Obama prepares to address the greater Muslim world from Egypt, an in-depth understanding of the mood and opinions of the Arab public is critical to framing the challenges faced by the administration in the region. Join Shibley Telhami, Principal Investigator of the poll, Saban Center Nonresident Senior Fellow and Anwar Sadat Professor for Peace and Development at the University of Maryland and Dr. James Zogby, founder and president of AAI, along with Marc Lynch, Associate Professor at the Elliott School of International Affairs and moderator Martin Indyk, Director, Saban Center.

استطلاع رأي أمريكي في ست دول عربية : الرئيس الأسد الأكثر شعبية بين القادة العرب في الشارع العربي
استطلاع رأي أمريكي في ست دول عربية : الرئيس الأسد الأكثر شعبية بين القادة العرب في الشارع العربي

واشنطن ..
أظهر استطلاع للرأي في الولايات المتحدة الأمريكية أن الرئيس بشار الأسد تربع على رأس قائمة القادة العرب الأكثر شعبية في الشارع العربي.

وأشار الاستطلاع الذي أجرته جامعة ميريلاند بالتعاون مع مؤسسة الزغبي الدولية لاستطلاعات الرأي على عينة شملت ست دول عربية هى مصر والأردن ولبنان والمغرب العربي والسعودية والإمارات العربية المتحدة إلى أن الرئيس الأسد حصل على أكبر نسبة من الأصوات بين القادة العرب تلاه الشيخ محمد بن زايد آل نهيان ولي عهد أبو ظبي ثم السيد حسن نصر الله الأمين العام لحزب الله بينما جاء الرئيس الفنزويلى أوغو تشافيز في المرتبة الأولى بين الشخصيات العالمية تلاه الرئيس الأسد على المستوى العالمي.

وفي سؤال عن أكبر خطرين يواجهان المنطقة كان لإسرائيل النصيب الأكبر من الأصوات 88 في المئة تلتها الولايات المتحدة الامريكية ب 77 في المئة.

وحول الصراع العربي الإسرائيلي رأى 44 في المئة أن إسرائيل باتت أضعف بعد عدوانها على غزة فى حين اعتبر 11 في المئة أنها أقوى.

وأيد 77 في المئة من المصوتين قيام حكومة وحدة وطنية فلسطينية.

كما أكدت الأغلبية الساحقة 73 بالمئة تأييدها حل الدولتين المبني على حدود 1967 بينما أظهر 50 بالمئة تشاؤمهم من أن السلام ممكن أن يتحقق بين الفلسطينيين والإسرائيليين.

وبشأن العراق صوت 72 بالمئة من الذين سئلوا أن العراق بات في حال اسوأ منذ الاحتلال الأمريكي. كما صوت 66 بالمئة أن انسحاب القوات الامريكية سيساعد العراقيين على تجاوز الخلافات.

وقد تم الاعلان عن هذا الاستطلاع في محاضرة قدمها الدكتور شبلي تلحمي وجيمس زغبي والسفير الأمريكي السابق مارتن اندك والدكتور مارك ليتل من جامعة جورج واشنطن أقيم في معهد البروكنغز للدراسات حضره عدد كبير من أعضاء الحكومة الأمريكية ومراكز
الأبحاث والبعثات الدبلوماسية.

الجدير بالذكر أن أستاذ العلوم السياسية في جامعة ميريلاند الدكتور شبلي تلحمي يقوم سنويا بهذا الاستطلاع منذ عام 2002 بالتعاون مع مؤسسة الزغبي الدولية لاستطلاعات الرأي.
ويعتبر الاستطلاع من أهم المؤشرات التي تعبر عن رأي الشارع العربي ويلاقي اهتماما واسعا بين الأوساط السياسية والأكاديمية في الولايات المتحدة.

May 21st, 2009, 4:18 am


Shami said:

Nour ,my problem with Nasrallah is not because of his shi’ism ,the zaydi of yemen ,the agha khan ,the imami shias like fadlallah ,baghdadi,al khalesi ,ali al amine,who refute rafidism i have no problem with them despite their shi’aism.
My problem with Nasrallah is that he is a puppet of the rafidi theocratic regime of Iran.

Nour ,i’m proud of my islamic heritage but in the same time i believe that Alex(a christian) is closer to me than is Bin Laden.Try to understand this stance.
We are not obliged to be religiously neutral ,or SSNP in order to call ourselves non sectarians.
Israel left Lebanon by itself ,it was an electoral promise of Barak.In 2006,Lebanon was not in need of this war.It’s a shame that it’s used as propaganda tool.
If this moqawama is used for the sake of the iranian regime propaganda then we are not in need of it , Iraq is 100 times more important than Lebanon and we see the dirty game played by the iranian regime ,the iranian puppets in Iraq are from the same school of Nasrallah ,when they are ordered to be collaborators ,they are collabos in Lebanon ,which is not so close ,the aims are others.
Anyway Nour,the future will tell us how Hezbollah adventure would end.

Alex ,Turkey and Syria have 1000 years of common history.
What the rafidi theocratic regime of Iran has in common with me and you ?It’s a totalitarian regime that fight for its survival at any price and such regimes are dangerous.
Remember how they tried to spread their rafidism in the Syrian badya among the poor shawaya and around raqqa in which they built a big propaganda center.This is what Syria needs ?Rafidis who insult the wives of the prophet and his friends and these poor syrians who become crazy extremists in response and would be easy prey for qaida ideology ?

May 21st, 2009, 4:18 am


majid said:

I read Daniel Pipes article again, just out of curiosity. I found that he makes a subtle distinction between those who call themselves Alawites and those who call themselves Nusayris. Those who call themselves Alawites, according to Pipes, are the ones who identify with the Assad clan and with the regime, and therefore they are corrupt. Those who call themselves Nusayris, on the other hand, are the ones who may be the good ones you mentioned in a previous comment. So, I believe it makes sense to make this distinction and you should start using the term Alawite when you are referring to the corrupt among them, and use the term Nusayri to refer to the good guys.


May 21st, 2009, 5:13 am


offended said:

Majid said:

So, I believe it makes sense to make this distinction and you should start using the term Alawite when you are referring to the corrupt among them, and use the term Nusayri to refer to the good guys.

Yes Shami, please. You’re not doing it right. You should learn bigotry and sectarianism the way it ought to be.

May 21st, 2009, 5:42 am


Shami said:

Majid ,
It’s said that they got this appelation alawi lately in the time of the french mandate of Syria,they are the same.
The nusayris because the original community was founded by Ibn Nusayr.
In Turkey they still call themselves as nusayris.

nice ,no ?

Offended i hate bigotery and bigots.

May 21st, 2009, 6:07 am


majid said:

OFFENDED said, “Yes Shami, please. You’re not doing it right. You should learn bigotry and sectarianism the way it ought to be.”

Bigotry, who said bigotry?

Good video, SHAMI.

May 21st, 2009, 6:17 am


Shami said:

Majid ,it’s very close if not the same of the Syrian Sunni style.

May 21st, 2009, 6:36 am


Amir in Tel Aviv said:


First, do you have a link to this Zogby poll ?

Secondly, when I read about opinion polls being conducted among Arabs,
in ARAB COUNTRIES, I take it not as is, but with some degree of incredulity.
Not that I don’t believe that this is what they told to the pollers.
I do believe this is what they said. But I believe that among Arabs
it’s sort of ‘protestation via poll’.

Look, there’s internal contradiction in those results.
88% see Israel as THE threat, but 73% want peace with Israel.

If you would have polled Israelis, apparently 88% would see Hamas as
THE biggest threat, but you wouldn’t find 73% wanting peace with
a Hamas state (or Emirate).

Because of the fact that no one asks the Arabs to express their minds
in real democratic elections, they do express themselves protestingly
in opinion polls.

May 21st, 2009, 6:49 am


offended said:

Oh please, prejudice toward Alawites, (and every one who identify him/herself as Alwaite) by calling them ‘corrupt’ reeks of bigotry and sectarianism.

May 21st, 2009, 7:12 am


Nour said:


That you list some token Shiites here and there to prove that you are non-sectarian is laughable. The main problem you have with Nasrallah is that he is shiite, without examining or analyzing any of his positions. The Resistance led by Nasrallah has done nothing but defend Lebanon and serve its interests; yet you want to dismiss it because it bothers you greatly to have to concede the success and effectiveness of a “shi3i” resistance. You claim that “Israel” withdrew because of an election promise as if nothing had happened before that, and had there been no resistance inflicting painful casualties on the enemy, that “Israel” would still have withdrawn on its own. The fact is that, based on its history, “Israel” would have built settlements and established a permanent presence in south Lebanon were it not for the Resistance.

That you conflate all positions of those who are “shi3i” and lump them all together, thereby making Nasrallah responsible for the positions of some “shi3i” groups in Iraq is a further indicator of your deep-seeded sectarian hatred. We all know, and Nasrallah himself has stated repeatedly, that collaboration and treason knows no sectarian bounds, and unfortunately is a symptom of our people’s social illness. This is why the Muslim Brotherhood was more than happy to collaborate with the US to overthrow the Syrian regime.

The difference between a sectarian and a non-sectarian person is in the way they view their society. You view Syrian society as one made up of different sects, distinct and different from one another. You may find Alex closer to you than Ben Laden, but the fact that you would say that demonstrates your inherent sectarian view of Syrian society. This would be like me saying that I feel Shami is closer to me than George Bush even thoug Bush is Christian. It is nonsense. I don’t view you as closer to me than a foreign co-religionist, rather I view you as an equal member of a single nation with no difference between me and you.

May 21st, 2009, 11:26 am


t.desce said:

This is welcome news, but it comes 3 years and 5 days too late.

Other very interesting news:

Lebanon: Suspected Israeli spy involved in death of Hizbullah official

Published: 05.21.09, 09:04 / Israel News

Nasser Nader, one of the main suspects in the Israeli espionage affair in Lebanon, confessed in his investigation to his involvement in the assassination of senior Hizbullah member Ghaleb Awali on July 19, 2004, a Lebanese security source told the as-Safir newspaper.

According to the report, Nader, who was the source said was “one of the most important personas for the Israeli Mossad”, confessed to his involvement in “preparing the grounds for the assassination of Hizbullah officials”. (Roee Nahmias)

The context:

Lahoud blames Israel for assassination
Beirut Mp insinuates US embassy knew about blast that killed hizbullah man

By Leila Hatoum

BEIRUT: Israel was blamed on Monday for a car bomb that claimed the life of Hizbullah member Ghaleb Aawali, and which resulted in a new security breach in Beirut’s southern suburb after another Hizbullah member was killed in a similar blast back in August 2003.

Aawali, 41, was getting in his car when 500 grams of explosives went off at around 8.30am Monday, according to the military expert’s report. The explosives, which were hidden at the rear end of the car above the gasoline tank, were “tied to tens of small metal balls to produce a lot of shrapnel and cause the maximum damage around,” according to the report. Explosive experts, who were at the scene, unanimously agreed that the explosives were set off from a distance by remote control.

“The Zionist enemy is fully responsible for the assassination,” said Nasrallah in response to the “lies passed by respected international media blaming Sunni extremists for the assassination,” referring to a statement attributed to Jund as-Sham, a radical Sunni group, which had allegedly claimed responsibility for the Monday blast.

In the statement, the Sunni group had pledged to fight the “treacherous” Shiite sect, which was “created to undermine the roots of Islam.”

But Jund as-Sham, which is based in the Ain al-Hilweh Palestinian camp and which publicly emerged last month with statements that criticized Nasrallah and Hizbullah, denied any involvement in the blast.

Jund as-Sham’s leader, Abu Youssef Sharkiah, 64, accused the US Embassy of issuing the false declaration. (…)

Meanwhile, Beirut MP Hagop Kassardjian, insinuated that the US Embassy in Lebanon might have had information regarding the assassination.

“We are not surprised due to continuing US warnings for American citizens not to go Beirut’s southern suburbs,” he said. (…)
(The Daily Star, Tuesday, July 20, 2004)

Now, let me say this clearly to the “Wayne Madsen fan club” (because I have seen how my earlier article about this has been misused):

Yes, they used the name of Jund al-Sham, yes, the brother of Sheikh Jamal Khattab and the cousin of Fatah al-Islam leader Abdel-Rahman Awad (“Abu Mohammad”) were part of a spy ring, but in itself


(Sorry for shouting.)

I have not seen any evidence that these people were actually linked to Jund al-Sham (or any other of the extremist groups).

Far more interesting is the report that linked Abdel-Rahman Awad (Abu Mohammad) to ‘Ali Hatem (Abu Bakr Aqida) with whom he was allegedly hiding in Turkey and who, according to the AI report about the Dinniyeh trial, was listed by the court alongside Ahmad Miqati as part of the group described as “holding leading positions in the armed gang”.

May 21st, 2009, 11:36 am


offended said:

T.Desco, very interesting news. Can you please provide links?

May 21st, 2009, 12:22 pm


t.desce said:


Lahoud blames Israel for assassination
Daily Star (archive)

Awad Disappeared … Likely in Turkey!

Fatah al-Islam’s wanted leader Abdul Rahman Awad has again disappeared with press reports on Monday saying he is likely to be in Turkey.

The daily al-Liwaa on Monday said Awad may have headed to Turkey to live in an apartment with a Lebanese extremist man known as Abu Bakr Aqida.

Abu Aqida, who was also identified by his initials A. H., is wanted on charges of involvement in the incidents of Dinniyeh in northern Lebanon back in the year 2000. (…)

Beirut, 01 Dec 08

For the record:

Lebanonwire, March 1, 2004

Prosecution of Yemeni accused of terrorism begins

Suspect denies involvement in attacks on US companies

Awami said that he knew about the incidents from the media and heard about plans for other attacks from people at the restaurant where he worked

By Karine Raad
Daily Star staff

The Military Tribunal began on Saturday the prosecution of a Yemeni national accused of leading a terrorist group that planned to attack US food chains and commercial centers and to assassinate the US Ambassador in Lebanon.

Moammer Abdullah Awami, 23, also known as Ibn al-Shahid, is also accused of planning to destroy a Russian airplane with a Russian diplomat on board at the Beirut International Airport.
Awami was tried along with two Palestinians, Bassam Ibrahim Shreidi and Ali Musa Masri, before Brigadier General Maher Safieddine.

Six other Palestinians were tried in absentia these were: Ahmed Abdel-Karim Saadi known as Abu Mohjen, Osama Saleh known as Abu Ans al-Khalyawi, Ali Hatem known as Abu Baqr Aqida, Osama Shehabi, Ahmed Izba and Amin Deeb. The suspects were accused of terrorist acts, including murder attempts against two Lebanese and the possession of explosive ordnance, false passports and forged identity papers.

Under interrogation, Awami categorically denied any involvement with the explosions that targeted US restaurants and companies. He said that he had heard about the incidents through the media and that the leader of the group Khaled Ali, used to go to the restaurant he was working at in the Ain al-Hilweh refugee camp. Awami said that Ali told him that he had blown up the Spinneys Supermarket in Tripoli.

Awami added that Ali told him his plans to attack the US Embassy and kill the US Ambassador Vincent Battle, but that he advised him to hand himself to the authorities.

The Tribunal’s interrogation focused on Awami’s relations and acquaintances. When asked about Abu Mohjen, he said he did not know him but used to see him with Abu Ans al-Khalyawi.

Awami said that he was just a worker at a restaurant owned by Abu Mohammed al-Masri who died during an explosion at the camp. The suspect underlined that the members of the so-called “Tripoli Grouping” used to meet Masri and were paid $200 a month. Masri used to earn money from a Saudi by the name of Abu Ali al-Hadeth.
Asked about a Saudi national who had wanted to send him to Saudi Arabia, Awami said that the person in question was Amin Deeb, a Palestinian-Saudi and that he had wanted to send him to Iraq.
Shreidi was then interrogated by the tribunal. The suspect had given himself up to the authorities two weeks ago. He said that he had not met Awami before and denied any involvement in terrorist acts, stressing that he had no relations with Abdullah Shreidi, the Esbat al-Nour official at Ain al-Hilweh.

Ali Musa Masri also denied accusations of terrorist acts and forgery of identity papers for wanted suspects in the camp. However, he confessed to falsifying a passport for Awami so that he could travel to Iraq.

Masri said that Awami asked him to introduce him to people who would help him get to Iraq. He introduced him to Ahmed Asadi, but Masri said that he lost track of the issue and did not know whether Awami had gone to Iraq or not.

Following the session, the magistrate decided to postpone the prosecution to March 8 to listen to the defense and the public prosecution before a verdict is reached.

Daily Star via Lebanonwire

(my emphasis)

Totally unrelated, but also very interesting:

Book Excerpt
Syria and the ‘China Growth Model’
Ben Simpfendorfer, 05.21.09, 03:04 AM EDT
Chinese traders say Syria is no ‘Axis of Evil.’

HONG KONG — Below is the last of three excerpts from “The New Silk Road,” by Ben Simpfendorfer, reproduced with the permission of Palgrave Macmillan.

But many Chinese traders disagreed with the West’s assessment. Instead, they have labeled Syria a “cohesive force” (ning jiu li) for the Arab world.

It was their personal view, rather than official Chinese policy. But the expression recognizes the important historical role Syria has played as a terminal point for the Silk Road and as a trading hub for the region. These traders are willing to bet that Syria will continue to play this role despite the economic and political sanctions imposed by America and Europe. They assume that the underlying tides of history are too powerful for the sanctions imposed by a foreign government. Indeed, China itself is rising on much the same historical tide that has buoyed Syria. The number of Chinese traders walking the streets of Damascus continues to grow even as Washington tries to wall the country off from the rest of the world.

The Adara Free Zone is a poster child for the chance that Syria may choose to take the second, more optimistic, path before it. The industrial park enjoys duty-free status and is a major transshipment hub for the region. Zhou Dongyun has recognized the value of the Adara Free Zone as a commercial hub. Her newly constructed China City is especially popular among visiting Iraq officials. Its two-storey exhibition halls sell everything from office equipment to factory equipment.

Chinese traders are also using the Adara Free Zone to sell to the broader region, in particular Lebanon, as reconstruction efforts after the 2006 war have spurred demand for construction materials. The industrial park is playing a similar role to the open-air squares in the old city of Damascus that once hosted traders arriving along the Silk Road.

May 21st, 2009, 12:50 pm


majid said:

That looks like their usaul way of oscillating however the wind is blowing. Why do they have an accent similar to a Farsi accent? That shows they’re still dissimulating. They’re born with it it seems.

May 21st, 2009, 1:17 pm


offended said:

Thanks T_Desco, you’re the best!

May 21st, 2009, 2:27 pm


Shami said:

Majid ,
I didnt notice a farsi accent here,it’s a syrian accent.
In fact the farsi accent ,you can listen it in the latmiyat of the of those of lebanon who copy the iranian style.
And btw i have nothing against the Farsi as people,i listen to persian music .Other thing,The alawites refuse the idea of mot3a marriages and dont practice blood latmiyat as the other 12imam shias.

Nour,we can not love those who practice taqiye in front of you ,say bad things on your most beloved people in their husayniyat ,this is a natural reaction no ?is that sectarianism ?anyway your opinion is that of the SSNP ideology and is it compatible with pluralistic democracy ?
Your ideology is an utopy ,the trend here is the one party system.And btw ,Nour,nowadays ,look at the SSNP members are they no corrupt spies working for the syrian regime?
You have to accept that there are other views in our society and that SSNP will remain marginal because of the reason i cited above.And how can you accept that the syrian regime betrays the Ahwazi refugies in Syria and send them to death in the prisons of the iranian regime ?Are the Ahwazis not part of the Syrian nation according to Antun Saadeh?
Nour ,nowadays,in Syria ,SSNP has become sectarian ,and here it means what the dictionary tell us about this word.

May 21st, 2009, 5:03 pm


Alex said:


Here is a link for the presentation.. try listening to the audio link on this page


Or download the presentation of the report here:


May 21st, 2009, 5:11 pm


Alex said:


The Christian Exodus from the Holy Land
Cover Story: National Geographic (June 2009)

A few hours east of the battle lines between Muslim and Christian in Beirut, communities in Syria offer a reminder, beneath the hostilities of today, of how closely related the two religions really are. There are oases of tolerance—once widespread, now less so—where Christians and Muslims attend one another’s weddings and funerals and worship at one another’s shrines. In some monasteries Christians still prostrate themselves in prayer—a Byzantine-era practice that early Muslims may have admired and adopted. Some churches still conduct services in Aramaic or Syriac, languages that predate Islam.

One afternoon I climb to Our Lady of Saydnaya, a cliff-top Greek Orthodox convent in Syria that has weathered the storms of empire since 547. Once inside I find myself not among Christians but in a crowd of Muslim families who’ve come seeking the blessings of the Virgin Mary, whose powers of healing and fertility have drawn people in need for nearly 1,500 years.

As my eyes adjust to the gloom of the candlelit inner sanctum, I watch as a woman in a head scarf offers her baby, wrapped in a blanket, to the centerpiece of the shrine. There, surrounded by soot-blackened icons, a brass template covers the image of Mary, said to be painted by St. Luke, which inspires even though hidden from view. With her eyes closed and lips moving in silent prayer, the baby’s mother presses his face gently against the metal plate for a long moment. Later, outside, I meet the woman and her family, who’d driven up from Damascus after Friday prayers at their mosque.

Wary of strangers, they would offer only the name of their sick child, Mahmoud. Just seven months old, swaddled in a green blanket, he lay still as death with his eyes closed, barely breathing. His face was a dark grayish brown. “The doctor said he can’t do anything for Mahmoud and that we should send him to America for an operation,” his mother says. “That’s impossible, so we need a miracle instead. I’m a Muslim, but a long time ago my family used to be Christian. I believe in the prophets—Muslim, Jewish, and Christian—and I believe in Mary. I’ve come here so that my boy will be healed.”

Such scenes reflect the Levant’s history of coexistence between Muslims and people of other faiths, which dates from the earliest days of Islam. When the Muslim Caliph Omar conquered Syria from the Byzantine Empire around 636, he protected the Christians under his rule, allowing them to keep their churches and worship as they pleased. But many Christians converted to Islam anyway, preferring its emphasis on a personal connection with God to the oppressive hierarchies of the Byzantine Church. The grandson of the last Christian governor of Damascus, who grew up to be the theologian St. John Damascene, listened to the newcomers talk about Islam—its acceptance of the Old and New Testaments, its esteem for Jewish prophets, its veneration of Jesus and Mary—and concluded that it was another of the many Christian heresies making the rounds of the Byzantine Empire, beyond the reach of church authorities in Constantinople. It never occurred to him, even writing many years later, that Islam might be a separate religion. When later caliphs imposed heavy taxes on Christians, conversions soared among poor villagers. For those early Arab Christians, whose word for God was (as it still is today) Allah, accepting the tenets of Islam was more like stepping over a stream than vaulting a chasm.

“You can’t live alongside people for a thousand years and see them as the children of Satan,” observes Paolo Dall’Oglio, an earthy, bear-size monk who hosts Muslims in interfaith dialogue at Deir Mar Musa, the sixth-century desert monastery he and his Arab followers restored between Damascus and Homs. “On the contrary, Muslims are us. This is the lesson the West has yet to learn and that Arab Christians are uniquely qualified to teach. They are the last, vital link between the Christian West and the Arab Muslim world. If Arab Christians were to disappear, the two sides would drift even further apart than they already are. They are the go-betweens.”

May 21st, 2009, 5:23 pm


Shami said:

Nour:This is why the Muslim Brotherhood was more than happy to collaborate with the US to overthrow the Syrian regime.

Nour,i’m not a supporter of them but the muslim brotherhood is one of the oldest parties in the middle east and which enjoy the greatest popularity not only in Syria and Egypt but From Morroco to Iraq ,if what you like to claim is true they would have dominated the arab world very easily and since long time ago.So Nour ,plz avoid us such non senses.Those in power like Ghadafi ,Hafiz Asad are those wanted by the west.
And btw Nour,do you ignore that Bush did send syrian and arab people to be tortured in Syria after CIA request?
This is the truth ,the zionist CIA asked Asad to torture Syrian citizens(and other nationalities) and he obeyed.
This is authentic Nour and this is the duty of the arab regimes,that’s the secret behind their illogical survival.

May 21st, 2009, 5:23 pm


Shami said:

This is the truth ,the zionist CIA asked Asad to torture Syrian citizens(and other nationalities) and he obeyed.

Let us say the regime ant not Asad junior.

May 21st, 2009, 5:38 pm


Alex said:

Netanyahu Says Israel Ready for Talks With Syria
By Jeffrey Heller
May 20, 2009


BEN-GURION AIRPORT, Israel (Reuters) – Israel is ready to open peace talks with Syria immediately and without preconditions, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Wednesday after talks with U.S. President Barack Obama.

The offer followed Obama’s first White House meeting with the Israeli leader, who said he agreed on the need to widen the peace process across the Arab world but stopped short of embracing the declared U.S. goal of Israel accepting there should be a Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

“There was agreement that we must immediately launch peace talks,” Netanyahu told reporters at Tel Aviv’s Ben-Gurion Airport after returning from talks in Washington.

“I said I was ready to immediately open peace talks with the Palestinians, by the way, with the Syrians as well, of course, without preconditions,” Netanyahu added.

“But I made it clear that any peace settlement must find a solution to Israel’s security needs.”

Netanyahu, whose right-leaning coalition took office nearly two months ago, had appeared cool to the idea of restarting peace talks with Syria, launched a year ago by his centrist predecessor Ehud Olmert under Turkish mediation.

Despite his pledge not to set preconditions, Netanyahu has in the past expressed opposition to Israel’s withdrawal from the Golan Heights, which it captured in 1967 and which Syria wants returned as part of a peace deal.

May 21st, 2009, 5:43 pm


Nour said:


First, it is not true that the MB has widespread support from the population. In fact, most Syrians are not supporters of the MB and did not even side with the MB during its battle with the regime. This is because they are seen by most Syrians as extremist elements that went way beyond acceptable means of opposition, as they engaged in pure criminal and terrorist activity.

Second, it is a proven fact that the MB enjoyed support from the US and CIA during their terror campaign in Syria in the late 70’s and early 80’s, because they were seen as a tool to be used to create instability.

Third, there is one case where a Canadian-Syrian citizen was deported to Syria and accused of having terrorist links, and where Syria interrogated him and investigated the allegation, only to find that there is no evidence supporting the US’s claims, after which they returned him to Canada. To assert out of this that the Syrian regime is being employed by the US to torture people is ridiculous.

May 21st, 2009, 6:17 pm


Amir in Tel Aviv said:


Thank you !! very interesting poll indeed.

May 21st, 2009, 7:54 pm


jad said:

That was an ugly, meaningless, pointless and extremely superficial case study of Christians in our backward and intelligent-wasteland region. (Usual of what we read in the American media)
Christians in the Middle East are endangered and the whole article is how the west and the Muslim world can USE them in their unhealthy relations, without mentioning what those people really want, what are their dreams and fears, what is their future or how to make them stay and help developing their native lands, Instead of being crashed between radicals and west aggression.
Arab Christians are already declining allover the crazy Arab world thanks to its political failures and its backward religious thinking (you have disgusting examples of those here) yet what the UN-Civilized west world cares about is how to use those HUMAN, I will call it’s “Ultra-Imperialism” where people’s religion and soles became a bargain for material gains.
I HATE it.

(Thank you though)

May 21st, 2009, 8:11 pm


jad said:

المسيحيون العرب: مصائر مجهولة في بلاد مضطربة


“يحلو للباحثين ان يتحدثوا عن مسألة الأقليات في العالم العربي، وهي مسألة حقيقية في أي حال، ويُدرجون فيها »مشكلة الأقلية المسيحية«. لكن المسيحيين ليسوا أقلية في العالم العربي، إنما هم أهل هذه البلاد الممتدة من مصر حتى كيليكيا في بلاد الشام، وهم سكان هذه الأرض منذ نحو الفي عام. والمسيحية إحدى الديانات العربية بلا شك، حتى المسيح نفسه آرامي من الناصرة في الجليل الفلسطيني، وكان يتكلم السريانية، فهو بالمعنى التاريخي والحضاري، سرياني من فلسطين.
ان عروبة المسيحيين أمر لا جدال فيه، الا لمن يرغب في إثارة مجادلات لغايات أخرى. ففي القدس اليبوسية (العربية) بدأت المسيحية، ومن القدس انتشر الرسل يبشرون بهذا الفكر الجديد، وفي الطريق المستقيم في دمشق (شارع مدحت باشا اليوم) تلقى بولس الانذار الإلهي بحسب العقيدة المسيحية، وراح يُبشر في الصحراء العربية (حوران). وأولى الكنائس شُيّدت في حلب وحوران. وفي أنطاكيا السورية عُرف أتباع يسوع الناصري بـ »المسيحيين« أول مرة.
ان تاريخ المسيحية في المشرق العربي هو تاريخ العرب نفسه قبل الاسلام. ومنذ الفتح الاسلامي لبلاد الشام والعراق ومصر، سار تاريخ المسيحية وتاريخ الاسلام معا بلا انفصال، الا في حقب محدودة. ومن المحال، الى حد كبير، ان يتصدى مؤرخ او باحث في التاريخ لدراسة التاريخ العربي من دون ان يكتشف ان تاريخ المسيحية، السرياني بالتحديد، مندمج ومندغم ومتطابق مع تاريخ المسلمين. ولم تخل مدينة او حاضرة او بادية من الوجود المسيحي في جميع حُقب التاريخ العربي ولا سيما في بغداد وحلب ودمشق والقدس والقاهرة… الخ. ”

“بين مصر والعراق والشام والسودان يعيش المسيحيون العرب في قلق واضطراب وبلبلة. ولعل سورية هي الدولة الوحيدة في المشرق العربي التي ما زالت شبه ملاذ للمسيحيين، خصوصا العراقيين منهم. فسورية هي جزء من أرض الآراميين، وهي التي استقبلت السريان الارثوذكس والأرمن الفارين من تركيا سنة ،1915 ثم استقبلت النساطرة المطرودين من العراق في سنة ،1933 وهي تستقبل مسيحيي العراق ابتداء من سنة 2004 فصاعدا. والمعروف أن أنطاكيا كانت المقر الأساسي لبطاركة السريان والكاثوليك والارثوذكس قبل ان تُسلخ عن أصلها في سنة .1939 ومع ذلك فإن السريان باتوا فيها أقلية بعد مذبحة عامودا في سنة .1937 غير ان المسيحيين في سورية ليسوا أقلية (مليونان)، بل هم جزء أصيل من الشعب السوري، ولا ريب في أن الجميع يتطلع الى تجنيب مسيحيي سورية الاضطراب العنيف الذي يعصف بالمشرق العربي كله، والذي تفاقم بعد احتلال العراق في سنة .2003
حيال احتدام مشكلة الأقليات القومية والاثنية والطائفية في العالم العربي، وفي مواجهة نزيف العرب المسيحيين من ديارهم، يبدو أننا أمام واحد من خيارين: إما الانفصال، أي تفتيت هذه المنطقة الى كيانات متناحرة، او تدشين رحلة الخروج من هذه المصيدة نحو تأسيس عقد اجتماعي جديد يقوم على الحكم الدستوري والمساواة والحريات والديموقراطية، وفي رأس هذه الحريات حرية المعتقد وحرية الرأي وحرية التفكير، وحق كل جماعة او مجموعة في تطوير ثقافتها بالطريقة التي تراها ملائمة لها، بشرط عدم الاخلال بالعقد الاجتماعي المشمول بالقبول الحر لجميع المواطنين الأحرار. “

May 21st, 2009, 8:35 pm


Shami said:

Nour,you are totally wrong.When there were elections in the Syrian universities and liberal orders elections ,the brotherhood in Syria won almost all of the faculties and the orders ,like the phyicians,dentists,engineers,lawyers ..so was the trend in the would be elite in the end of the 70’s.And who told you that brotherhood did not get the support of the masses ,all the syrian cities took part to the demonstrations ,Aleppo ,Latakkia ,Raqqa ,Deir eZor,Damascus even before Hama.
Anyway let us have democratic elections and if the SSNP win ,i would say to you Alf Mabrouk ,but you fear democracy not me,you prefer to live in a world of lies and slogans instead of facing the reality.
It’s true that during the liberal era ,the democracy of the gentlemen ,the religious parties were weak ,but the trend changed after that Nasser took the power.And without doubt ,that the syrian society today look more close to the brotherhood ideal than it was 20 or 30 years ago…
That’s why the renaissance of the civil society is very important in my eyes ,in order to have an alternative than the brotherhood.Btw,the brotherhood sheikhs are among the most moderate in the islamic world.I dont think that Ali Tantawi and Isam al Attar of Damascus,AbuGhodda of Aleppo,Mohamad al Hamed and Said Hawwa of Hama can be called extremists.
Nour,i know from where you get this version of the syrian history ,i invite you to read academic books instead of SSNP or Baath mouthpiece.

May 21st, 2009, 9:01 pm


Shami said:

Jad ,this is obvious in history after that the secular nationalist dictatorships took the power by force,the christians have seen their importance and influence eroded.Anyone here can deny this fact ?
It’s not the fault of the people,the same people who accepted a christian as prime minister,president of the parliement in Muslim majority Syria.
Nour ,i challenge you that your SSNP can produce such cosmopolitan society that we inherited from the previous islamic rules.
If today the liberal democratic system return to Syria ,you will see hundred of thousands of middle easter christians of the diaspora returning to Syria.

May 21st, 2009, 9:40 pm


jad said:

Nour, I challenge you to make him STOP NAGGING by talking about the same subject over and over and over and over and over since he came in here it’s getting TOO FREAKING ANNOYING.
Nour, I also challenge you to make him write about his own specialty (if there is any) that can develop his community.
Nour, Thank you
Nour, Very much
Nour, Bye
Nour, are you there?

May 21st, 2009, 9:59 pm


Shami said:

Jad it’s that your answer ?

Anyway ,40 years of Baath and Teshrine did not annoy you … it changes from :no voice above the voice of the battle,bashar menhabak…The castle of soumoud and i dont know what.
So you have to endure an other kind of people a while.

May 21st, 2009, 10:37 pm


Majid said:

A proof has surfaced today, see ,here of the Syrian Government’s involvement in financing and facilitating the terrorist acts of al-Qaida cells in Iraq. The report mentions that the Iraqi security forces of the interior ministry have arrested three al-Qaida men who admitted receiving financing from Syria. This group was responsible for a suicide operation that killed 55 people last April 24.

The link in the comment does not work. You can find the report here:


May 21st, 2009, 11:14 pm


Majid said:

Deleted by author.

May 21st, 2009, 11:15 pm


Shami said:

i forget this passage

Nour:To assert out of this that the Syrian regime is being employed by the US to torture people is ridiculous.

Nour,there are many many other cases ,not only Maher Arar.
And you did not answer about the ahwazi refugies(syrians according to Antun Saadeh) ,kidnapped by the mukhabarat and sent to iran to be hanged by the mollahs.

I would like to see some intellectual honesty and that you condemn this betrayal of your(our) Ahwazi brothers.

Btw ,the cultural relation between Syria and Al Ahwaz is old.

May 21st, 2009, 11:55 pm


norman said:

This is long but could summarize the relation between the US and Israel,,

Middle East Roundtable

Download our book, The Best of bitterlemons: Five years of writings from Israel and Palestine.

Edition 19 Volume 7 – May 21, 2009

US-Israel: the months ahead
. Obama offers little new – Ali Abunimah

Netanyahu has little to lose by embarking on another “peace process” after making a show of resisting American pressure.
. Obama’s Scandinavian impatience – Hanne Foighel

In certain EU circles there is a feeling that the Obama administration is prepared to put pressure behind its demands on Israel.
. After the summit – Ellen Laipson

Obama is thinking strategically about how to reset the agenda for the region.
. An alliance revisited? – Alon Pinkas

There is a reasonable chance that Israel and the US are headed toward another showdown.


Obama offers little new
Ali Abunimah

Seldom has an encounter between American and Israeli leaders been as hyped as this week’s meeting between President Barack Obama and Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu. As expected, Obama committed himself to diplomacy with Iran and pledged an enormous effort to achieve a two-state solution. Netanyahu continued to incite confrontation with Iran and refused to commit himself to a Palestinian state.

On the surface it may seem there are real differences and that the forces arrayed on each side–including the formidable Israel lobby–are gearing up for an epic battle to determine the fate of US-Israeli relations.

But Obama offered little new, reaffirming well-worn US positions that view Palestinians, particularly Hamas, as the aggressors, and Israel as the innocent victim. While calling for Israel to halt settlement construction (as US presidents have done for decades), Obama offered no hint that he would back those words with action. Quite the contrary, the president said he would urge Arab leaders to normalize relations with Israel, rewarding it in advance of any renewed peace talks.

Let us assume for the sake of argument that Obama applies unprecedented pressure to force Israel to make a deal with the Palestinians. What would such a deal look like? The outlines were suggested in the recent report sent to Obama by a group of US elder statesmen headed by former National Security Advisor Brent Scowcroft. The document, warning that there was only a “six to twelve month window” before all chances for peace evaporated, called on the US to forcefully advocate the creation of a Palestinian state. But this would be a demilitarized truncated state “based on” the 1967 borders. Israel would annex large West Bank settlements and there would be no right of return for Palestinian refugees. This “state” would be occupied indefinitely by a NATO-led “multinational force,” which the Scowcroft group suggests could also include Israeli soldiers.

Of course the Scowcroft proposal does not necessarily represent Obama administration thinking, but it expresses the pervasive peace process industry consensus that views such an outcome as “reasonable,” “pragmatic” and all but inevitable, and it accords with Obama’s own statements opposing the right of return and supporting Israel’s demand to be recognized as a “Jewish state”.

In other words, what the vast majority of Palestinians would view as a horrifying plan to legitimize their dispossession, grant Israel a perpetual license to be racist and turn the apartheid regime set up by the Oslo accords into a permanent prison, is now viewed as bold and far-reaching thinking that threatens to rupture American-Israeli bonds.

Netanyahu has little to lose by embarking on another “peace process” after making a show of resisting American pressure (or extracting more American concessions or money). He knows the chances of ever getting to the stated destination are nil. Obama will not apply significant pressure, and even if he did, it is unclear on whom he would apply it, since on the Palestinian side there are no leaders ready, willing and able to carry off a second Oslo-style fraud against their people.

Obama reportedly believes peace in Palestine is the key to transforming US relations with the “Muslim world”. If he were serious about this, the United States would have to break with all its past policies and support peace based on democratic and universal human rights principles and equality–something incompatible with a commitment to Israel as a “Jewish state” practicing legalized discrimination. All the signs are, however, that the Obama administration will push to try to force Palestinians and Arabs to accept and normalize with Israel as it is and that the US will continue to underwrite a morally and politically bankrupt Zionist settler-colonial project with a permanent American military, economic and diplomatic bailout.

The real problem for US-Israel relations is not to be found in whether Netanyahu utters the magic words “two-state solution”. Rather it is that after Gaza it is impossible to keep peddling the fiction that Israel is a brave, self-reliant liberal democracy deserving of unconditional support. No matter what this administration does, this will eventually result in pressure on Israel, such as growing American public support for the global boycott, divestment and sanctions movement.- Published 21/5/2009 © bitterlemons-international.org

Ali Abunimah is co-founder of The Electronic Intifada and author of “One Country: A Bold Proposal to End the Israeli-Palestinian Impasse”.


Obama’s Scandinavian impatience
Hanne Foighel

The other day a young Dane called me. An eighth grade student, he was writing on the solution to the Middle East conflict, he told me, and could I please help him clear a few murky points.

I am a great believer in students doing their own homework and not only parroting “experts”, so I asked the young gentleman to present me with his analysis and only then pose his questions.

The boy had both studied and understood that there were problems to be solved over the West Bank, ownership of water, settlements, Jerusalem and the refugee situation. I complimented him.

We then spoke about the current problems of the new US president, the new Israeli government, the uncertainties about the future Palestinian government and the fears each side has of the moves of the other.

When I cited to him the Israeli claim that each centimeter of occupied land given up would be used for rocket attacks just as had happened in Gaza, the young student interrupted and asked rhetorically: but if Israel withdrew from the occupied territories there would be peace, wouldn’t there?

The simple assumption that if there were no more occupation, a peace agreement would be imminent and peace would break out is very typical of the Scandinavian understanding of the conflict. A Danish politician a few years ago wrote a comment under the title “How difficult can it be?” wondering aloud how come the parties “just don’t sit down and solve the problems”.

Indeed, how is it going now with the sitting down and agreeing on the small print, be it Binyamin Netanyahu with his coalition partners, Fateh with Hamas, Fateh’s old guard with Fateh’s young guard and the members of the Arab League among themselves, not to mention the Israeli and the Palestinian side?

No matter what one otherwise might think of the Israeli foreign minister, Avigdor Lieberman, one cannot but compare him to the little boy in the Hans Christian Andersen fairytale “The Emperor’s New Clothes”. When Lieberman says, “For 16 years the so-called peace process has not brought any solution to the conflict”, he is like that small boy shouting, “the emperor is naked”.

Lieberman has offered his suggestions for alternative solutions but rumors have it that Netanyahu has told him to shut up until the official policy of the Israeli government has been presented–and possibly amended–after Netanyahu’s recent visit to Washington.

The big question hovering over the situation is what path US President Barack Obama will choose to walk. No one should doubt that Obama has some of the Scandinavian impatience in his approach to the conflict. He wants things to move forward toward a two-state-solution. Now.

In the last weeks, several members of his administration including Vice President Joseph Biden have outlined details of the president’s vision. At an AIPAC meeting, Biden demanded a complete end to Israeli settlement building, immediate dismantling of the so-called illegal settlement outposts that even Ariel Sharon promised George W. Bush to dismantle but never did, and freedom of movement and economic opportunity for the Palestinians in the West Bank.

Just a few days before the Netanyahu visit, an Israeli newspaper ran a story about Obama having sent envoys to Jerusalem to explain clearly to the Israeli government that Washington expects Israel not to attack any target in Iran whatsoever and not to disrupt the American effort to hold a serious dialogue with the Islamic Republic.

In certain EU circles there is a feeling that the Obama administration is prepared to put pressure behind its demands on Israel. Some believe that Washington is thinking of using economic pressure to make the Netanyahu government understand just how urgent Obama views these matters.

It will take some time until the bits and pieces leaked from the private meeting between Obama and Netanyahu make it to the public. And even then it might take a while before a clear picture of just what Obama demanded and what Netanyahu answered will emerge.

In the longer term, the question is whether President Obama will be able to keep up the pressure he seems to want to apply both to Israel and the Palestinians, or whether he will end up feeling, as did a number of his predecessors, that he should have stayed far away from the Middle East beehive.- Published 21/5/2009 © bitterlemons-international.org

Hanne Foighel is a correspondent for the Danish newspaper Politiken.


After the summit
Ellen Laipson

There’s a sigh of relief that President Barack Obama and Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu made it through their first official meeting with no apparent harm done to US-Israel comity. But their careful language about shared threat perceptions and deep historic ties does little to disguise the obvious: there are interesting and difficult challenges ahead as Israel and America, separately and together, approach the enduring quest for peace and security in the Middle East.

First, the two leaders are in different places politically. Obama enjoys enormous popularity and legitimacy at home and abroad. He is at the beginning of his presidency and is buoyed by good will from many flanks despite the gravity of the world economic crisis for which he has special leadership responsibilities. Netanyahu is no novice to his job, and voters in Israel and observers outside Israel are far more cynical about his capacity to be a positive agent for change. He himself is likely to be more focused on keeping his unruly coalition together and will be more tactical in his thinking than Obama.

Second, there’s the well-trodden ground of whether they actually share a vision for a two-state solution. Obama, accepting the accumulated wisdom of American experts, thinks of an independent Palestine as a positive and desirable outcome; for Netanyahu it’s perhaps one of the less bad options, but around him are political partners who quite passionately oppose it. There are clearly divergent views about how much effort to put into improving Palestinian morale, building Palestinian capacity for governance and security and demonstrating respect for Palestinian identity. The Israeli leader seems to think that more flexibility on economic transactions, including trade and employment, is the right amount of attention. For the United States, that’s only a piece of a larger set of initiatives and activities.

Third is the dilemma of what to do about Iran. Obama has set some ambitious goals for his administration and is open to a very different way of doing business with Iran. He’s trying to change the tone and the underlying psychology of the long-standing antagonistic relationship. He wants Iran’s leadership to believe that a more productive interaction with Washington is possible–one that would have economic, social and security benefits for Iran and would defuse tensions in the region, to the benefit of all.

Israel is coming from a very different place: its leadership does not see Iran as a normal country but as an existential threat. The notion that Obama is willing to take risks and to attempt to build trust with Tehran is quite outside mainstream political thinking in Jerusalem (although a few independent intellectuals can still envision a return to normal state-to-state relations between Israel and Iran).

Washington and Jerusalem have had countless exchanges of information, intelligence and policy ideas on Iran’s nuclear program. But Netanyahu and Israel’s supporters are concerned that Obama is embarked on a divergent path that could include a deal on Iran’s enrichment activities, putting the two countries on different sides of the line of what is acceptable.

A last and more philosophical issue is Obama’s commitment to improve America’s engagement with the Muslim world. His upcoming speech in Cairo will surely lay out a positive vision of a multicultural world of tolerance and mutual respect. Obama embodies an openness of mind and spirit about coexistence. Americans have high hopes for his ability to help repair the damage done during the Bush era to America’s reputation and to reverse the perception that the war on terror is in fact a war against Islam.

One senses that the mood in Israel is quite different; Israelis are disheartened and despairing of ever achieving normal relations with their Arab and Muslim neighbors, and seek assurances from their American partner and patron that our security policies will take into account this deep sense of vulnerability. But some will see Israel’s predicament as one that only Israel can resolve. The fact that Israeli Arabs, long seen as the quiet beneficiaries of life in a vibrant democracy, tell pollsters of their deep alienation, is disturbing. It is part of a larger piece of Israel’s enduring failure to make coexistence possible and desirable for the Arabs. This is a very local process, less susceptible to outside influence or direction.

Most of the pundits think the first Obama-Netanyahu visit went just fine, with Obama doing what he needed to do on settlements and Netanyahu making clear his expectations that the overture to Iran be limited or bound in time. But it’s important to not be distracted by a fairly superficial reading of the situation: Obama is thinking strategically about how to reset the agenda for the region. He sees the connectedness of issues in a positive-sum way. Israel’s leaders should be listening carefully.- Published 21/5/2009 © bitterlemons-international.org

Ellen Laipson is president and CEO of The Henry L. Stimson Center in Washington. She was vice chair of the National Intelligence Council from 1997 to 2002.


An alliance revisited?
Alon Pinkas

For over three decades, Israeli political, military, academic and media circles have tended to view US-Israel relations as some form of a strategic alliance. This self-image is based on a combination of shared values, a natural affinity between democracies, a by-and-large similar geo-political outlook, a commonality of interests and most importantly, what Yossi Alpher has termed a “strategic triangle” consisting of the US, Israel and the political power and clout of American Jews.

Conveniently forgetting or dismissing earlier American administrations’ coolness toward Israel and their political-realism-based approaches to the Middle East, these Israeli circles regard American friendship with Israel as a central pillar of Israel’s national security and a regional deterrent and force multiplier. They have even proudly defined Israel as nothing less than a political and military “strategic asset” to American foreign policy, both in the context of the Cold War and within the geo-political confines of the Middle East. The evolution and shaping of relations between the US and Israel in the last 40 years renders this general characterization viable and fairly accurate.

This was not the case in earlier years. After President Truman’s unenthusiastic recognition of Israel in 1948, Eisenhower exhibited disinterest while attempting to forge regional alliances with Turkey, Pakistan and Egypt, and was angry about Israel’s collusion with France and Britain in the Suez war in 1956. Kennedy tried unsuccessfully to lure Nasser’s Egypt into the US orbit in 1962-63.

But after the 1967 Six-Day War and Johnson’s decision to sell Israel offensive military platforms such as Patton tanks and Skyhawk and F-4 Phantom jets (all in the context of a patron-client relationship opposing Soviet mentorship of Egypt and Syria), the pro-Israel tide gelled irreversibly. Nixon’s policy–supported by generous grants–of rehabilitating the Israeli military after the 1973 Yom Kippur War, and further diplomatic and military-related commitments by successive administrations ever since, have shaped the contours and contents of the US-Israel relationship as it evolved into an informal, non-treaty alliance. America consciously sacrificed broader regional interests as it invested in forging that alliance.

If there ever was a serious debate within the American foreign-policy and decision-influencing establishment regarding America’s interests in the Middle East and the implications they have on US support for Israel, it ended resoundingly and unequivocally in Israel’s favor. Now the question is: are these relations deep, solid, strong and durable enough to sustain what appears to be a reexamination and possibly an overhaul of US foreign policy in the region? Do such changes in priorities and a redefinition of interests necessarily mean a weakening of the US-Israel alliance, a transformation of the tenets of the “special relationship” or, conversely, do they hold the promise and potential of improving relations in the long run?

A content analysis of President Barack Obama’s rhetoric after his recent meeting with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, and previous references he and senior members of his administration made about Israel and the Middle East peace process reveals that on the surface nothing significant has changed in tone or substance. The US and Israel are “allies”, whose friendship is “unshakable” thanks to “unwavering” US support that remains “committed” to ensuring Israel’s security. But while it is premature to describe Obama’s ideas on the Middle East as a coherent and detailed “plan” (his scheduled speech in Cairo on June 4 may provide a better understanding of American principles and ideas for the next few years), Israelis who follow Washington politics have discerned a point of inflection. It is unclear if this is merely a change of style, a reprioritization of American interests or really substantive policy revisions.

America and Israel have had their differences and periodic confrontations before, most notably the Suez crisis of 1956, President Ford’s “reassessment” of US policy following Henry Kissinger’s failed mission in March 1975 while mediating an Israeli-Egyptian interim agreement in the Sinai and President H. W. Bush’s decision to withhold loan guarantees to Israel in response to Prime Minister Shamir’s intransigence over settlements in 1991. Moreover, the US has repeatedly described Israeli settlements in the West Bank (and Gaza) as an “obstacle to peace” (a point Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton repeatedly made in the last few days) and has had disagreements with Israel over its peace policies.

If Obama displays in the realm of foreign policy in general, and in the Middle East in particular, the same frenzy of activity that he has demonstrated in domestic policy–highlighted by “change” and a sharp departure from the policies of George W. Bush–then there is a reasonable chance that Israel and the US are headed toward another showdown. Right now it looks as if US-Israel relations may be remodeled as a throwback to the Reagan (and Secretary of State George Shultz) days of 1982-1988: Israel is an ally, but not the only one. The US supports Israel fundamentally and visibly but it has broader interests in improving its relations with the Muslim and Arab world. The US will present a comprehensive peace plan after years of impasse. The US perceives a nuclear Iran to be a regional danger and destabilizing agent, yet Pakistan is the more imminent challenge. The US is attentive and committed to Israel’s security concerns and needs, but Israel can no longer drag its feet and! must take tangible steps on the Palestinian issue, including a commitment to the idea of an ultimate two-state solution.

Relations may very well be strong enough to endure a major disagreement, but assuming Obama persists and pushes, Israel will be required to calibrate its own policies and make adjustments compatible with US interests–if not for the sake of peace, then at least for the sake of preserving the alliance.- Published 21/5/2009 © bitterlemons-international.org

Alon Pinkas is president of the US-Israel Institute at the Rabin Center and former consul-general of Israel in New York.



Bitterlemons-international.org is an internet forum for an array of world perspectives on the Middle East and its specific concerns. It aspires to engender greater understanding about the Middle East region and open a new common space for world thinkers and political leaders to present their viewpoints and initiatives on the region. Editors Ghassan Khatib and Yossi Alpher can be reached at ghassan@bitterlemons-international.org and yossi@bitterlemons-international.org, respectively.

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May 22nd, 2009, 12:06 am


jad said:

Yes Nour, I also “would like to see some intellectual honesty “

May 22nd, 2009, 12:10 am


alle said:

Fitting, somehow, that the anti-Alawi bigots above resort to Islam-basher Daniel Pipes for arguments. Prejudice goes full circle…

On Michel Kilo’s article, I wouldn’t really call that “sectarian baiting”. He clearly oversteps the “red line” (and must have known that he did), but I don’t think there’s anything negative in itself in talking about the sectarian issue — it exists, and it has to be addressed openly sooner or later. Of course one can criticize the timing or the methods, eg. he’s being too direct (confronting the issue head-on) or not direct enough (referring to the sects in “code” that everyone will understand). But in this case, I don’t see that the way he does it, even if there may be reasonable criticism, deserves to be called “baiting”. Note for example that he ends the article by saying that this is precisely the time to come together. On the other hand, maybe he could have been more explicit about this.

May 22nd, 2009, 6:11 am


Nour said:


Could you give me the names of people, other than Maher Arar, who wre sent by the US to Syria to be tortured? This is nonsense. You really think the US hands people over to Syria and says “here you go guys, torture this guy for us.” It’s easy to throw accusations; it’s much more difficult to support those accusations with actual evidence.

With respect to the Ahwazies, if you can bring me evidence that the Syrian regime handed some of them over to the Iranians, I would be the first to condemn it. I do not shy away from criticizing and condemning the Syrian regime for many of their actions and behavior, but I do not do so from a sectarian perspective and I do not exaggerate my claims in order to satisfy personal or sectarian vindictiveness. But again, I would ask that you provide me with evidence or links to articles about this issue, rather than merely making accusations.

As for the Muslim Brotherhood, I never denied that they had a presence, but to claim that they have the support of the majority of the population is simply not true. And the claim that they won most elections in universities and syndicates is also not true. I don’t know where you got that from. They were in constant competition with other parties, including the Baath and the SSNP. However, do not forget that the SSNP was heavily persecuted long before the MB was and had to operate underground for a long time.


The thing is that you have never read any SSNP writings, and yet you’re inviting me to read “Academic” writings instead of “SSNP propaganda”. Many of the most prominent intellectuals in Lebanon and Syria were in fact members of or sympathizers with the SSNP. In addition, I have never confined my readings to SSNP, Baath, or any other specific literature.

I do not fear democracy, and I am a full proponent of healthy intellectual struggle. However, your version of democracy would bring the “sunnis” to power and have them rule over the others. You want a “Sunni” system that favors “Sunnis” over others, rather than a true civil system that treats all citizens as members of a single nation equal in rights and duties. Democracy on its own is not the answer. Lebanon can be said to have a democracy, but it is a sectarian democracy that continuously leads to utter chaos and instability, and therefore I completely oppose the Lebanese system, not because I fear democracy, but because I support a system that can give rise to a secular state where the rights of all citizens are equally guaranteed and where the interests of the nation and the people are loyally served.

May 22nd, 2009, 12:07 pm


Akbar Palace said:


Although I am disappointed by your inability to recognize Israel, I do applaud you for NOT making excuses for Arab government involvement in terrorism and NOT standing for it.

As they say in hebrew, “Yashar Koakh!” (Good for You!)

I wish there were more Middle Easterners who feel the same as you on this subject.

May 22nd, 2009, 4:38 pm


majid said:

Thanks AP for your sentiment. I have learned from early on to call a spade a spade even if it meant I have to criticize my own people.

I hope zionists learn to do the same and find a place other than Palestine to fullfil their dream of having a land without people for a people without land. You can only live a lie for a short period of time.

May 22nd, 2009, 6:04 pm


Nour said:

It’s your fault if you lack the needed information,of course i can, as i said there are many and there are several others “maher arar”in canada,(key words:cia secret prisons Syria).
As for the Ahwazis ,i suppose that you knew about this affair,it’s not possible for a “nationalist syrian” to ignore it …(in google,simply as key words :Ahwazi Syria)
As for the brotherhood ,i gave you a cristal clear proof and you persist in your partisan stubbornness.
And who told you that if a christian or alawite win democratic elections in Syria i would not accept him as my legal ruler?
The Sunnis as i said are more than 90% of the Arab and Islamic world but that doesnt mean ,that as Syrian Sunni i dont have a istinctiveness stance.Arab and Islamic collaboration is only a geo strategical necessity ,that doesnt mean that i’m for a theocracy in Syria ,i’m for a moderate secular state in which the syrians whatever their religion is ,are equals in rights and duties.
As i said let us have democracy first ,not only in Syria but in All the arab world ,then we will see if the SSNP or alike would exist.As i said Nour ,the SSNP has become the party of the sectarians ;their fate is that of a dictatorial minority sectarian regime.May be you knew ,Asad and all the sectarian mukhabarati power in Syria are mostly SSNP.I ask you. Nour ,is that possible to be more sectarian regime that that we have in Syria?
Nour, it’s a shame for a nationalist syrian that you feign to ignore all the treachery done by this regime.

May 22nd, 2009, 6:38 pm


Shami said:

It’s your fault if you lack the needed information, there are several others “maher arar”in canada,(key words:cia secret prisons Syria and also canadians tortured Syria).
As for the Ahwazis ,i suppose that you knew about this affair,it’s a shame for a “syria nationalist ” to ignore it …(in google,simply as key words :Ahwazi Syria)
As for the brotherhood ,i gave you a cristal clear proof and you persist in your partisan stubbornness.
And who told you that if a christian or alawite is democratically elected i would not accept him as my legal ruler?
The Sunnis as i said are more than 90% of the Arab and Islamic world but that doesnt mean ,that as Syrian Sunni i dont have a istinctiveness stance.Arab and Islamic collaboration is only a geo strategical necessity ,that doesnt mean that i’m for a theocracy in Syria ,i’m for a moderate secular state in which the syrians whatever their religion is ,are equals in rights and duties.
As i said let us have democracy first ,not only in Syria but in All the arab world ,then we will see if the SSNP or alike would exist.As i said Nour ,the SSNP has become the party of the sectarians ;their fate is that of a dictatorial minority sectarian regime.May be you knew ,Asad and all the sectarian mukhabarati power in Syria are mostly SSNP.I ask you. Nour ,is that possible to be more sectarian regime that that we have in Syria?
Nour, it’s a shame for a nationalist syrian that you feign to ignore all the treachery done by this regime.

May 22nd, 2009, 6:40 pm


Shai said:


I have just a second, but I had to respond to what you wrote.

Your sentence: “I do applaud you for NOT making excuses for Arab government involvement in terrorism and NOT standing for it.” is ok, if it talks about Arab governments, organizations, terrorists, etc.

But it’s not ok if it refers to Israel. I.e. if it said: “I do applaud you for NOT making excuses for Israeli governments’ involvement in the suffocation and subjugation of 4 million Palestinians and NOT standing for it.”

Never mind the obvious double-standard here, what about whom you’ve chosen to “applaud”! The guy probably emails ideas to that 12 year-old Iranian kid running for president, with a platform calling for Israelis to relocate to Hawaii.

I applaud YOUR support of Arabs who are unafraid of looking themselves in the mirror. But don’t you think you should ALSO support Jews/Israelis who are doing the same?

Have a nice weekend everyone.

May 22nd, 2009, 7:23 pm


Majhool said:

I am very pleased to see the brave Kilo free again.

With regard to the discussion above, here is my take

The Syrian regime is simply a dictatorship driven almost solely by the desire to remain in power, and naturally resorts to extreme brutality to suppress dissent (Most other regimes across the Arab world are no different in that regard).

Dictatorship is the problem, plain and simple.

True, the Syrian president happens to be an alawite. But this should not be a problem on it self.

What caused a bad situation to become worse is the following:

1) The regime had chosen, for whatever reason(s), to rely on a very narrow support base to support its longevity and stay in power. This narrow base is made of: High concentration of Alawi, Druze, and Ismail officers in top army and mukhabarat positions, and smaller communities and interest groups that believe that their existence/interests are better served with this regime.

2) The regime adopted nation wide policies (based on the Baath Idiology) that aside from being ineffective in bring prosperity across the nation, have been punitive and retaliatory against the middle class living in major cities.

3) Due mostly to 1, and 2, the middle class did not want and/or was not able to participate in the decision making in this incompetent bureaucracy/ dictatorship. Administration lost much of the talent pool either to private enterprise or to other countries.

Credit must be given to President Bashar as he started to dismantle much of the Baath economic policies of the last 40 years.

That said, reform towards a more democratic society remains necessary. I will leave it to the more passionate Syrians to make it happen.

May 22nd, 2009, 9:42 pm


Akbar Palace said:


Already you made a distinction. The comment I wrote to Majid said “terrorism”, the comment you wrote to me said “suffocation and subjugation”.

Never mind the obvious double-standard here…

There is no “double-standard” Shai. We’re obviously talking about 2 different things. And, BTW, there wasn’t always “suffocation and subjugation”. Only after terrorism became the new Palestinian foreign policy is when the “suffocation, subjugation, oppression, humiliation, and all the other words that end with an -tion were instituted.

The guy probably emails ideas to that 12 year-old Iranian kid running for president, with a platform calling for Israelis to relocate to Hawaii.

Obviously Israelis aren’t going to relocate, but if someone wants to offer someone else’s land, I guess they’re free to do so.

I hope zionists learn to do the same and find a place other than Palestine to fullfil their dream of having a land without people for a people without land.


On this issue we disagree quite strongly. BTW – Here’s wiki’s dope on the phrase you used:


The long and short of it is, there was no established country called Palestine at the time Israel claimed independence. Furthermore, Israel agreed to share the land with the “Arabs” (Egypt, Jordan?), but the “Arabs” weren’t as generous then as they are today.;o)

May 22nd, 2009, 9:53 pm


majid said:

Visual and audio debunking of the zionist myth
Palestine in the 19th century.
More visual and audio debunking of the myth
here and
here and

May 22nd, 2009, 10:35 pm


Shami said:

Majid,i see a lot of similiraties between some of these sectarian minority minds that we criticized and the zionists,both hate their environment.
Both need to make ugly our long and often glorious history in order to justify their policy(Bat Ye’or) and these attemps to distort our past have been refuted by historians ;historian jews included.
The Golden Age of the Jewish intellectual and theological development happened under the Islamic khilafeh ,notably in Spain ,Egypt,Syria ….
If you are a zionist ,i would stop calling you “dear” but instead my enemy.
And i dont understand this stance ,i asked you ,if you were a jew ,you answered no i’m not.So what is the aim of such pro Zionist stance ?

May 22nd, 2009, 11:13 pm


Shami said:

Majid ,this is the incredible lie of the zionists :Palestine before 1948 was nothing else than a group of under developped rural areas.
Anybody(no need to be historian here) can destroy this zionist disgraceful garbage.
All their archeological works have also failed.
Nazism and Zionism are sister ideologies,the same fate is awaiting Zionism.

May 22nd, 2009, 11:26 pm


Shami said:

Majid,i hope that i misunderstood you ,were you attacking the zionist myth or the opposite ?
If it’s the first option and that’s what i hope from you ,then i’m sorry for this mistake.

May 22nd, 2009, 11:43 pm


Shami said:

Ok Majid i saw the videos ,i’m sorry again and it was obvious in your comment in which you wrote”zionist myth”.

And thanks to the brave jewish historian Ilan Pappé,we need more people like him in Palestine.

May 22nd, 2009, 11:53 pm


majid said:

Inna’labiba’mina’l’isharati yafhamu.

Think man. Think and count to 10.

May 23rd, 2009, 12:50 am


Akbar Palace said:

Majid ,this is the incredible lie of the zionists :Palestine before 1948 was nothing else than a group of under developped rural areas.


cc: Majid

“Myths” and “lies” are indeed troubling. Many Arabs for example think the Holocaust was a myth and/or a lie.

But I am not aware of any Israeli who doesn’t admit that there were hundreds of thousands of Palestinians living in present day Israel before 1948. Therefore, I’m wondering how you came to the conclusion these are a “Zionist” myths and lies.


It is also true that the Palestinian de-facto government was started by the PLO just 3 years before the Six Day War. A Palestinian government was for all intents and purposes non-existent. It is also true that 5 Arab armies invaded Palestine after Israel claimed independence in 1948.

Israelis are fairly well educated. It is no myth to most Israelis that there were plenty of Palestinians and Jews living in Palestine, that there was much violence between the communities, and that once the war started in earnest, many Palestinians were evicted, many Palestinians feared for their well-being, and many Palestinians fled, some at the recommendation of the invading Arab armies.

May 23rd, 2009, 1:17 am


majid said:

You guys are well educated? That is good. then, continue watching.
Another audiovisual debunking of zionist myth and the UN fiasco of so-called Partition Plan

May 23rd, 2009, 1:21 am


Shami said:

Indeed Dear Majid what a rashness,not only an Arab you are but a proud one.It would be better if we had the possibility to edit our comments after more than a few minutes.Alex plz could you make it possible ?

May 23rd, 2009, 1:46 am


offended said:


Why regime critiques keep repeating that regime is dependant on a narrow alawite base? even if that is true (which it isn’t, because sunnis are as much part of the regime as anybody else), it doesn’t serve your cause. You probably have valid grievances, but when you mention all the above sects conspiratorially you come across as sectarian and narrow-minded yourself.

Let me ask this question, and I don’t expect an answer here, just answer yourself truthfully: would you have been equally mad at Bashar had he been a sunni?

And no, I’m not really defending a sect against the other, I’m just giving a free advice on how to make the political dialouge in syria more civilized. It will even serve YOUR cause as well to do so. Take your above comment for example, it would have sounded much more objective and candid except for that sectarian reference.

May 23rd, 2009, 6:46 am


Shami said:

Offended,no need for you to refute our sad reality ,all the books and paper that related to modern Syria ,from Seale to Landis ,recognize this “narrow sectarian selection”and exagerated high percentage of alawites in the Army and Security apparatuses and strategic posts.
The problem is that you knew this fact ,but feign to ignore it ,as others here.If you think that Tlass or corrupt people were something important ,it means that you betrayed your own reason.
Your should instead demand that your natural rights as syrian ,to be returned to you.
Anyway even subjugated non sectarian alawite ,the”familly” regime would not trust them.

May 23rd, 2009, 7:43 am


Offended said:


Read my comment again, I did not say it was an Alawite base, I pointed out high concentration of Alawite, Druze, and Ismaili officers. I did not invent this, this is what all reputed academic works around Syria point out. Van Dam I believe surveyed key positions in his book.

You mentioned something about my cause in a vague way, my cause, or rather what I like for my country to be like, is one that is strong, secular, and prosperous governed by an efficient and capable government.

Unfortunately, I find it impossible to share my observations regarding the situation in Syria, without you finding them “sectarian”.

How do you suggest that we start a more civilized dialogue in Syria? How do you characterize the regime your self? More democratic? Less brutal? More inclusive? Talent magnet? Pro business? Less corrupt? What the major political currents in the country? What is the state of affairs in the security apparatus? Who are the major players? which communities are in support of the regime and which are not? How are kurds doing? How is middle class doing? Rule of law? How big of a base does political islam has in Syria?

I am interested in knowing your thoughts.

May 23rd, 2009, 8:47 am


Majhool said:


Read my comment again, I did not say it was an Alawite base, I pointed out high concentration of Alawite, Druze, and Ismaili officers. I did not invent this, this is what all reputed academic works around Syria point out. Van Dam I believe surveyed key positions in his book.

You mentioned something about my cause in a vague way, my cause, or rather what I like for my country to be like, is one that is strong, secular, and prosperous governed by an efficient and capable government.

Unfortunately, I find it impossible to share my observations regarding the situation in Syria, without you finding them “sectarian”. Your interpretation of Kilo is no difference.

How do you suggest that we start a more civilized dialogue in Syria? How do you characterize the regime your self? More democratic? Less brutal? More inclusive? Talent magnet? Pro business? Less corrupt? What the major political currents in the country? What is the state of affairs in the security apparatus? Who are the major players? which communities are in support of the regime and which are not? How are kurds doing? How is middle class doing? Rule of law? How big of a base does political islam has in Syria?

I am interested in knowing your thoughts..

May 23rd, 2009, 8:50 am


offended said:


Ok. I reckon you included Ismaelite and Druze in the support base. That still doesn’t stop me from asking; why do we have to identify the support base by the sect? Let’s assume it’s a fact that the regime depended on minority sects to control security forces and army republican guards; why does it have to be highlighted by regime critics in a negative way?

I may concede that the percentages of the said sects aren’t proportionate to the population. This might have been a tactic used at one point to ensure loyalty. But again, I repeat, focusing on this issue is a bad recipe for national dialogue. You’re making look like different sects and communities in Syria are pitted against each other in the struggle for power. Which I hope is not the case.

As for the second part of your comment, I recall we (me Jad and one girl whose name escapes me at the moment!) had a lengthy dialogue about this last year. I don’t think we disagree too much on the ultimate vision. I think the 1 million dollar question remains : how do we get there?

May 24th, 2009, 2:19 pm


Majhool said:


The day people don’t identify themselves or others by their sect will be a glorious day. Until then we have to deal with reality. You, your self, defined loyalty across sectarian lines. I am not sure what your rationale was when you asked: why should it highlighted as negative? It’s negative, it is sectarian.

Still, the problem is not that “they” control it all. The problem is that the system is repressive just like most other regimes in the area. The Sectarian problem is only a symptom/ and an additional annoyance that weakens effective governing. So I am not really focusing on it, but when the subject is brought up, I cannot lie to my self and others and negate it.

The starting point for a productive dialog may be defined by maybe answering some questions.

1) Is the regime willing to share power? Say by the presidency giving some of it powers to the cabinet or the parliament, and/or allowing for political parties to operate legally ?
2) If the answer is no? is the regime willing to neutralize public administration from calculations of loyalty?
3) If the answer is no? Is the regime willing to revamp rule of law to the extent the day-to-day living is neutralized and legal protection for businesses and individuals is highly guaranteed ( Take Dubai as an example)

The answers to these questions will help define the margins of freedom that allows well intentioned citizens to take a positive rapprochement with the regime.

Offer nothing you get nothing, seems to be the case in Syria.

May 25th, 2009, 12:19 am


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