“Merchant of Death” and “Flash Back” by Steven Barbar

This post included two short essays written by Steven Barbar. I have edited them slightly. Here is the email note Mr. Barbar included with his stories.

Dr. Jishwa Landis

It was a pleasure talking to you over the phone the other day. In reference to our conversation, Pls find attached few of my writing, feelings and impressions after 40 years of absence from my home town Damascus. I stayed all that period in USA. Now, I am half American, half Syrian and lost between these two halves. My dream is to bridge the gap between the ordinary people both in America and Syria.

Best Regards,
Steven Barbar

Merchant of Death
by Steven Barbar
Syria Comment, Saturday 29 August 2009

Abu Samer is a middle aged, well to do business man who trawls the lower depths of Damascus’ less fortunate neighborhoods. He looks for young men and women who are facing hard times. There is money to be made from misfortune.

Damascus, although it seems isolated from the neighboring turmoil, is not. Dark undercurrents connect it to the violence in Iraq and Lebanon. These undercurrents are veins of gold for Abu Samer, who mines them for a fast buck.

Everywhere you look, you see dark faces shrouded with pain. Often they conceal hearts that are aimless and confused. They belong to people in need, but who often do not know what they are looking for or that they may end up as chopped meat in a car bomb that explodes near a sidewalk café.

Two years ago I met one such unfortunate sole. His name was Mohammed, he made a fast five thousand USD, paid his family’s debt, and provided them airfare to Australia. He went to Iraq and blew himself up, killing several Americans along with himself. Now he is a martyr and lives in heaven with seventy virgins.

It all began in my neighborhood barber shop; Mohammed was the handyman and apprentice. He swept up the hair from under the chairs, carried tea, and did what he was told. Ahmed was cutting my hair. Abu Samer was in a very heavy conversation with Mohammed about job opportunities in Syria.
Mohammed was a newcomer to Damascus. He had come from southern Lebanon. It was only shortly following the showdown between Israel and Hezbollah, which had left his region in ruins. Everything he heard from Abu Samer sounded like sugar and spice to him.

At the end of their conversation, they shook hands. Abu Samer got up, pushed a bill into Mohammed’s hand after paying for his haircut, and left. Mohammed was on cloud nine. He told me that he would be working on the trucking line between Damascus and Baghdad; supplying humanitarian items to the many victims of the American invasion.

Abu Samer gave him the business card of a real estate office in the neighborhood; it was run by a man called Abu Shaker whom I knew very well. I asked him if I could come along, he said it was OK.
A few days later Abu Shaker came back from an out of town trip. We met at his office. It was a huge store front with big chairs lined up against the walls.

A young boy was serving tea. A couple of girls were talking to him and on the other side some young men were involved in a heavy conversation about how to run the aggressors out of Iraq.
Abu Shaker waved to us, “I will be a couple of minutes.” he said. Bidding goodbye to the girls, he gave them a small paper with an address and a word of recommendation. “Ask for Um Hassan. She will take good care of you,” He told them.

Later on, I found out she was the biggest madam in town.

I admit, sometimes I stick my nose where it doesn’t belong. For instance how do you explain the big foreign cars that park and double park in front of the office every day? Better yet his own car is an oversize, late model BMW, with a Saudi license plate. It is fit for a king.

Finally he joined us. Sipping tea, and smoking non-filter cigarettes, he flashed his brown teeth when he smiled.

“Abu Samer told me everything I need to know. I want you to meet a very good friend of mine. He owns a big trucking company. He will take good care of you. There is plenty of money so you won’t be poor again.” Abu Shaker told Mohammed, “You will be travelling to Beirut, Amman, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, you name it, so be ready for a life full of adventure.”

He turned to me asking if I needed to work. I made sure that he didn’t know about me being an American; it would have created a lot of problems for me, Mohammed and Ahmed the barber. I thanked Abu Shaker and told him that I would be back some time soon.

The following day Mohammed went to Amman, he became a porter and a handyman on a big rig. His family facing the hardship of the recent showdown with Israel decided to move away from it all, all the way to Australia.

A month later I went back home to the US. One day I received a letter from my nephew with a newspaper clipping in it that mourned the death of the martyr Mohammed who was blown up along with six American marines and their Humvee.

Seven distraught families will thank you Abu Samer and Abu Shaker.

It is common sense and supply and demand. When the decision was made that Saddam Hussein had to be removed to keep the world safe, Mr. Bush opened a can of worms.

While the Americans advanced on Baghdad, Saddam’s armies were running in the other direction with loads of arms and weapons. They all crossed the borders towards Syria, Jordan and Saudi Arabia.
They are now finding their way back to Iraq, igniting all kinds of ethnic strife. It provides a booming business for Abu Shaker and his ilk, who can fulfill the dreams of some and nightmares of others. There is money to be made from misfortune. The death of six marines paid for a new life for Mohammed’s family. Perhaps President Bush was correct when he insisted that the US military could drain the swamp of Middle Eastern misery?

Flash Back

A New York City morning is one of the darkest and coldest of all the world city mornings.

It was about seven. A lot of people were rushing to work; they were not completely awake.

I was scheduled to have an MRI test that morning to determine the advance of my lymphoma and to plan a treatment that could make it or break it.

The statue of Liberty stood on the other side of the Harbor greeting new comers. The state island is freely crossing the icy waters of the east river. A coffee vendor was brewing his potion to help people overcome the hardship of the day.

I was standing right there in the middle of it watching life all around me wondering what I will come of my own.

I was diagnosed with CNS Lymphoma (Central Nerves System) which could be quiet deadly. It looks like I got from my own mother. She died when I was only twelve with the same disease.

I was on the ninth floor in the Dazian building of New York Beth Israel Hospital. They call it “Death Pavilion” because it is assigned for the terminally ill cancer patients.

Nurse Jane showed up. She just started her shift.

“Good morning how was your night? I hope you feel better,” she said while tucking me in.

“Sorry, no coffee for you this morning because you have a big test and I have orders , no food or drink until all is over” .

I smiled at he but I was still disappointed. I really needed a good cup of coffee that morning.

She checked all my vital signs . She wrote some notes on my chart. She smiled “I will be back ” she said taping my cheeks gently .

A short while after, a team of doctors came in and asked me how I felt. They looked at my chart and wished me luck with the MRI.

One of them was a medical student from my home town , Damascus -Syria . He joked with me in Arabic in order to shock them. I laid back, frustrated, angry, and desperate. I really did not want to die

“Ready old man?” Nurse Jane proclaimed cheerfully as she walked in. “I have decided to wheel you in there myself” She said with a big assuring smile on her face.

The transport team plopped me into a wheelchair, and she pushed me down the hallway. She greeted everybody with her nice personality as we proceeded down the hallway, which I admired very much.

As a matter of a fact, I really had a crash on her. She was short and fat, but she was beautiful both on the inside and out. We Middle Eastern men are accustomed to look at American women as sex objects. But after being with them for a while, you come to realize that they just as human beings, as you are, trying to get by .

We went to the radiation section on the third floor. A team of doctors and technicians were waiting for me. I was undressed covered with sheets. I was put on a stretcher and pushed into the MIR room.

Everybody was very pleasant. They knew what to do which boosted my spirits in a way. One of the doctors was my Syrian Friend. He shook my hand and told me he was praying for me, I held his and thanked him for taking care of me and his concern.

Finally, it was time to fix me up for the test. They laid me outand took the necessary measurements to push in and out with light beams marking my body’s objects of interest. Then it was rock and roll.

Everybody left the room. lights were dimed. A big cylinder started to rotate on top of me. I was sliding in a tube that felt like being in a coffin. It was very noisy and loud. Suddenly there was a strong vibration and a termer that felt like explosions. Lights flashed from all directions accompanied with violent shakes. It was very hot and humid. I started to sweat , then , I was somewhere else back in time and place .

On a very early day of June some 40 years ago, I was stationed on top of a hill overlooking the Golan Heights and the occupied Palestine when we were caught with our pants down.

The Israeli forces surprised us. They went up in the air. They took over the skies and the rest was history. We lost that battle. It was part of a never ending story that goes on for millenniums.

As suddenly as it started, I came back to reality. Everything came to a sudden stop. I was wet, trembling, and terrified. They pulled me out and comforted me. “Are you Ok? They asked. “I am OK,” I reassured them. I just had a flash back of something from my past. I told them about how I had served in the Six Day War and that it sometimes had a psycho effect on me when I would have flashbacks. They listened in amazement.

They were all like clay statues. Then one of them stepped forward and said: “I am Dr. Bernstein, chief oncologist. Can you tell me exactly where you were during the war? I told him that I was on foot hills of Mount Harmon near a town called Banias.

He smiled and said:” Do you mean that you were on “Tal 63”. To my surprise, it was the secret military code name of my location. I asked what his unit was since he knew mine. I assumed that he was one of us.

“I was not there. But I was there.” He answered pointing his finger upward to the sky.

Suddenly it dawned on me that he was an Israeli.

I stood up hot, wet and naked in front of everyone and rammed my hand toward him,” you son of bitch. You were shooting at me,” I exclaimed.

“Obviously, I wasn’t aiming too well.” he answered.

In a state of shock, I opened my arms; we hugged for a long time.

Everybody around up clapped their hands with tears of relief in their eyes. Since then, we have become fast friends. What a strange world …

The End

Comments (100)

Michael Gazelle said:

What a story..!! You took me back 30 years. Thanks for sharing.

August 30th, 2009, 3:53 am


Alex said:

Wonderful story!

I know a Syrian friend who is a diamond trader … Few years ago he was telling one of his good friends (An Israeli) in NYC a secret … He fought Israel for the Golan Heights in the 1973 war.

His friend asked him where exactly did he fight on the Golan .. and you guessed it, the Israeli friend was also fighting on Israel’s side the same battle in the same location … they probably tried to kill each other.

Back to today,

The latest poll from Israel:


The poll asked Jewish Israelis whether they would support freezing settlement construction for a year as part of an American-brokered deal. Fifty percent said no, 41% said yes and 9% did not express an opinion.

51% are against something as simple as a one year freeze on settlement expansion … Doesn’t that mean that 51% of Israelis want to expand even more into the occupied Arab lands… and they do not want to give it back?

Here is what we need: We need a poll that asks the same sample: What can make you change your mind and accept to stop settling the occupied territories and then to give them back to the Arabs?

August 30th, 2009, 6:57 am


Amir in Tel Aviv said:

“…then to give them back to the Arabs”.

And then what, Alex?
Hamas and HZB will join the Zionist movement?

August 30th, 2009, 10:08 am


ausaama said:

… and on a little different note; this article from all4syria.info

نعم أدهشنا جميعاً .. هذا الأسد، فأين مفاجأته القادمة؟

د. نضال معروف – كلنا شركاء
28/ 08/ 2009
كشخص يعيش في الغرب لست في حال تضطرني لممالأة الرئيس الأسد ولا إلى تملقه، لكنني أجد أن الرجل يستحق الإعجاب والثناء لأنه أدهش الجميع.
فعندما تولى بشار الأسد السلطة في سوريا توقع كثيرون أن تنزلق قبضته عن السلطة خلال بضعة أشهر، وأعرف عدداً من دور الصحافة العربية التي تنبأ صحفيوها همساً برئيس سوري جديد بعد بشار الأسد خلال 18 شهراً فقط من توليه السلطة. لكن هذا الشاب الفارع الطول أطال بقاءه وكسر التوقعات.

ومع هذا فإن سقوط بغداد المروع أحيا أمل هؤلاء الصحفيين من جديد بعدم سقوط نظرياتهم وتعثر فقه “السقوط” الذي يتقنونه، وبدأ البعض يرسم خارطة سياسية لحياة السوريين القادمة بعد انهيار نظام الأسد المرتقب في دمشق. لكن الأسد ومن جديد وببراعة لافتة كان يهدهد الأمريكيين على الطاولة ولكنه تحت الطاولة كان يحرق أقدامهم في “المثلث السني” العراقي الجامح الذي التهب رغم تلميحات الأمريكيين لمعرفتهم بغضه النظر عن الحدود. الكثيرون يعتقدون أن الأسد أدرك أن المارينز لن يكتفوا ببغداد والنصر السهل سيغريهم بعبور الصحراء نحو شواطئ المتوسط فكان أن تحالف الأسد سريعاً مع نجاد لتقييد الثور الأمريكي الهائج في الحظيرة العراقية وإشغاله يومياً بلعق جراحه النازفة لأن أي استراحة تعني تحضيراً لمغامرة امبراطورية ليس لشهوتها حدود سوى أن ترهقها الضربات الصغيرة المتواصلة.

عاود الأمريكيون مفاجأة الأسد هذه المرة من الغرب حين كان الجميع يتوقع الهجوم من الشرق عبر بادية الشام لتهدر الدبابات الأمريكية باتجاه دمشق لإتمام إسقاط محور بغداد دمشق البعثي دونما إبطاء، وكانت صحف بعض العرب الذين توقعوا السقوط المدوي تلتقط صور الجنود الأمريكيين وهم يتطلعون نحو الحدود السورية وأمامهم صور الرئيس حافظ الأسد على نقطة التفتيش ولوحات الترحيب الحدودية تقول: “أهلاً بكم في سوريا”.

نعم، الهجوم أتى من الغرب، ففي لبنان نسف الحريري وانهار الجدار اللبناني العازل والمعطف الحديدي للنظام، وأخرج الساحر الأمريكي من قبعته مفاجآت انقلاب الحلفاء مثل جنبلاط والمستقبل والكثيرين. ومن جديد تصرف الأسد بهدوء عندما حاول الدومينو اللبناني اجتياز الحدود السورية عبر عدوى المظاهرات. فغادر الأسد لبنان، وكان خروجه محرجاً في سرعته فيما كان فقهاء السقوط يتابعون بتفاؤل تحقق نظريتهم حول السقوط المحتوم الذي تأخر وصوله.

وتراجعت معنوياتنا ونحن نشاهد “الثعلب الأحمر” ميليس يرسم بخبث ومكر بداية النهاية لنظام الأسد وموت دمشق كعاصمة أخيرة للرفض. وتواصل الهجوم هذه المرة من داخل قلعة الأسد وقرب قصره عندما فتحت ثغرة خطرة في جدار تماسك النظام عبر انتحار غازي كنعان وزير الداخلية السوري وحجر الشطرنج الرئيسي في اللعبة اللبنانية ، وهو موت استثنائي في ظروف استثنائية لنظام معروف بدقة حساباته. ثم خرج عبد الحليم خدام معلناً تآكل مسامير النظام.
في هذه الفترة القليلون توقعوا أن يفلت الأسد ودمشق من الفخ المحكم ومن تشقق البناء الذي بدا وكآنه برج التجارة العالمي يحترق قبل السقوط.

لكن الأسد لم يهتز وأمسك قلوب الناس بعبارة “سوريا الله حاميها” وكأنه يطمئن الناس على دمشق بثقة هاشم بن عبد المطلب عندما قال: “وأما البيت فإن له رباً يحميه”. هذا الاعتماد على الموروث التاريخي والديني أثر إيجاباً في معنويات الناس فيما بقي الأسد على رهانه بإرهاق الجبهة الشرقية للأمريكيين في العراق سراً فيما كان حليفه نجاد يشاغلهم بمناورات الداخل الشيعي. فاستمر عداد موت الأمريكيين بالارتفاع ولم يتمكن الأمريكيون من تسويق حرب سهلة جديدة قبل إنهاء حرب العراق وكانت توصية هاميلتون-بيكر شديدة الوضوح بأن اللاعبين الرئيسيين في العراق هما الأسد ونجاد.

وعلى الجبهة اللبنانية كان الأسد على مايبدو يدرك أن “طبخة الحرية والمظاهرات” ومسرحيات الديمقراطية و”الحئيئة” قد امتصت وفقدت زخمها بعد أسابيع لكنها مجرد بداية ناعمة لهديرحرب قادمة من لبنان، والخطة بسيطة عبر قصم ظهر حزب الله وقتله ليندفع الجيش الاسرائيلي وحلفاؤه باتجاه الحدود السورية لإطلاق فوضى هائلة بحجة إطلاق الديمقراطية والحرية ومحاسبة نظام مثير للقلاقل ومجرم بحق المنطقة لعقود، وكان عبد الحليم خدام يقول مالم يفهم في حينه وهو أنه سيعود إلى دمشق قبل انتهاء مدة صلاحية جواز سفره السوري والمقررة في أكتوبر، أي أن النظام في دمشق يعزف لحن النهاية وتصدر عنه حشرجة الموت في الظمأ الأخير.

لكن لاحقاً تبين لنا أن الأسد كان يتصرف بمهارة فعندما قرر الخروج من لبنان فإنه أبقى سراً السلاح الروسي الفعال بيد حزب الله وجلس يترقب الحرب المتوقعة بهدوء إلى أن اندلعت.
فقهاء السقوط ومنجمو الصحافة العربية هيؤوا مقالات مابعد السقوط ليذكروا قراءهم بأنهم لايخطئون وإذا كان السقوط قد تأخر فلأن كوكب زحل قد انحرف مؤقتاً و قليلاً عن مسار نجم الأسد. وهنا كمنت المفاجأة للجميع عبر صمود ملحمي أتقنه حزب الله بسلاح فعال وإمداد سوري لايتعب، فوجئت المؤسسة العسكرية الاسرائيلية ، وفوجئ المحافظون الجدد وفوجئت المنطقة الخضراء في بغداد “الجديدة” وفوجئت بيروت “الجديدة” والرياض “الجديدة” كيف أن دمشق كسبت الجولة من ثانية ولم تسقط لا من الشرق ولا من الغرب.

اليوم أنظر إلى الخارطة السياسية للمنطقة فأجد المارينز قد انكفؤوا إلى داخل مواقعهم العراقية ولم يعودوا يلتقطون الصور الاستفزازية قرب الحدود السورية وجاؤوا برئيس يعدهم بالخروج والإبحار بنفس اتجاه رحلة “كولومبس” لكن ليس لاكتشاف أمريكا هذه المرة بل للعق جراحها.

أنظر شمالاً فأرى تركيا التي أراد رئيس وزرائها الأسبق مسعود يلماظ أن يشرب فنجان قهوته في مقاهي دمشق على وقع أناشيد الحرب وهدير الدبابات التركية قرب مقهى الحجاز، لأرى أن سياسة الأسد استفادت من التحول الإسلامي التركي وجذبتها وصار أردوغان حليفاً وصديقاً يؤازر.
فيما الجدار اللبناني المنهار يتماسك من جديد والرياض تحوم حول حظيرة دمشق لتعود إليها، وجنبلاط الذي أخرجته الساحرة السوداء رايس من قبعتها كمفاجأة مثيرة، هاهو الأسد يخرجه من قبعته ساخراً من الجميع.

وفوق كل هذا تتفكك جبهة الخلاص السورية المعارضة بل وتصاب بتحلل كيميائي غريب يميعها كقطعة آيس كريم في وجه اللهب. وهناك همس كثير أن الأسد المناور الذكي والوطني الموهوب قد استخلص من جبهة الخلاص الاتجاهات التي يمكن تصحيحها والتي لايجب أن يخاض معها صراع آخر بل حوار آخر، فيما طرحت بقية الاتجاهات المشبوهة بعيداً، فاقترب الإخوان المسلمون من النظام في حركة تعترف أن ليس كل ما في النظام شرور بل إنه يقدر له رعايته لحركات المقاومة والإسلامية منها تحديداً.

الكثيرون من المعجبين بالأسد يترقبون بتوق نبوءاتهم وكيف أن تكشف الأيام القادمة كيف حول بشار الأسد الإخوان المسلمين أعداء النظام التقليديين المزمنين إلى حلفاء قادمين وشركاء في الوطن، وربما يكون صدر الدين البيانوني هو المفاجأة القادمة إذا مارأيناه في جلسة ودية مع الأسد، وذلك ليس خيالاً رومانسياً لأن من يستقبل العماد ميشيل عون ويكرمه كزعيم لمسيحيي الشرق عرفاناً لموقف وطني لديه من المرونة والحذق السياسي أن يملك مفاتيح الخصوم، فكلنا يذكر ضجيج عون وصخبه وعناده وعداءه الشهير للسوريين وهو الذي قال” لم يبق شئء في لبنان لم يتكسر سوى رأس حافظ الأسد”.

وكلنا يذكر دهشتنا من حقد جنبلاط ورغم شراسته واستماتته لإيذاء الأسد فإنه الآن ينتظر دعوة لزيارة دمشق. وصدام حسين الذي ناصب حافظ الأسد العداء على عقدين وفجر شوارع دمشق وتراشق معه بكل أصناف الكلام والتخوين لم يجد في أيام نظامه الأخيرة من يرسل الدعم سراً إلا ابن حافظ الأسد. نعم أدهشنا هذا الأسد وسيدهشنا أكثر.. أنا على يقين.

August 30th, 2009, 10:10 am


Shai said:


Those 51% don’t consider it “Occupied Arab Territories”, they consider it “Israeli Territories”. That’s the problem.

August 30th, 2009, 10:15 am


norman said:


And that is exactly why they need something or somebody to make it clear to them that these are not Israeli territories,Don’t you think ?.

August 30th, 2009, 1:21 pm


norman said:


This is for you and supports my views of pressure to achieve peace ,

update – 14:18 29/08/2009

Tutu to Haaretz: Arabs paying the price of the Holocaust

By Akiva Eldar, Haaretz Correspondent

Tags: Palestinians, Desmond Tutu

“The lesson that Israel must learn from the Holocaust is that it can never get security through fences, walls and guns,” Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu of South Africa told Haaretz Thursday.

Commenting on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s statement in Germany Thursday that the lesson of the Holocaust is that Israel should always defend itself, Tutu noted that “in South Africa, they tried to get security from the barrel of a gun. They never got it. They got security when the human rights of all were recognized and respected.”

The Nobel Prize laureate spoke to Haaretz in Jerusalem as the organization The Elders concluded its tour of Israel and the West Bank. He said the West was consumed with guilt and regret toward Israel because of the Holocaust, “as it should be.”

“But who pays the penance? The penance is being paid by the Arabs, by the Palestinians. I once met a German ambassador who said Germany is guilty of two wrongs. One was what they did to the Jews. And now the suffering of the Palestinians.”

He also slammed Jewish organizations in the United States, saying they intimidate anyone who criticizes the occupation and rush to accuse these critics of anti-Semitism. Tutu recalled how such organizations pressured U.S. universities to cancel his appearances on their campuses.

“That is unfortunate, because my own positions are actually derived from the Torah. You know God created you in God’s image. And we have a God who is always biased in favor of the oppressed.”

Tutu also commented on the call by Ben-Gurion University professor Neve Gordon to apply selective sanctions on Israel.

“I always say to people that sanctions were important in the South African case for several reasons. We had a sports boycott, and since we are a sports-mad country, it hit ordinary people. It was one of the most psychologically powerful instruments.

“Secondly, it actually did hit the pocket of the South African government. I mean, when we had the arms embargo and the economic boycott.”

He said that when F.W. de Klerk became president he telephoned congratulations. “The very first thing he said to me was ‘well now will you call off sanctions?’ Although they kept saying, oh well, these things don’t affect us at all. That was not true.

“And another important reason was that it gave hope to our people that the world cared. You know. That this was a form of identification.”

Earlier in the day, Tutu and the rest of the delegation visited the village of Bil’in, where protests against the separation fence, built in part on the village’s land, take place every week.

“We used to take our children in Swaziland and had to go through border checkpoints in South Africa and face almost the same conduct, where you’re at the mercy of a police officer. They can decide when they’re going to process you and they can turn you back for something inconsequential. But on the other hand, we didn’t have collective punishment. We didn’t have the demolition of homes because of the suspicion that one of the members of the household might or might not be a terrorist.”

He said the activists in Bil’in reminded him of Ghandi, who managed to overthrow British rule in India by nonviolent means, and Martin Luther King, Jr., who took up the struggle of a black woman who was too tired to go to the back of a segregated bus.

He stressed his belief that no situation was hopeless, praising the success of the Northern Irish peace process. The process was mediated by Senator George Mitchell, who now serves as the special U.S. envoy to the Middle East.

Asked about the controversy in Petah Tikva, where several elementary schools have refused to receive Ethiopian school children, Tutu said that “I hope that your society will evolve.”

Related articles:

August 30th, 2009, 2:20 pm


Umniya said:

and by that he bridged the gap between the ordinary ppl of america and syria?

August 30th, 2009, 9:10 pm


Majhool said:

I would like to ask those ” in the know”: where is the Mukhabarat from all this?

August 30th, 2009, 10:47 pm


netsp said:


I think it is actually incorrect to read that survey in this way. I think the more correct way is assuming that most Israelis don’t beleive that a stable negotiated settlement with the Palestinians will ever materialise, regardless of what they want.

Sure, there are plenty that don’t see Palestinians as having any moral right to the land, but not 50%. The marginal number are those that are convinced (rightly or wrongly) that a peaceful border where Plestinians control the Palestinian side, is impossibel. Instead it will be a front with 1m Israelis & the entire economy within mortar range. They associate a settlement freeze with a withdrawal & a withdrawal with an unbearable tactical loss in an immediate war.

This is I beleive, the belief that has brought the most left wing voters over to the right in recent years.

In any case, I don’t see what it has to do with 1967 or doctor pilots.

August 31st, 2009, 6:29 am


Akbar Palace said:

Alex said:

… Doesn’t that mean that 51% of Israelis want to expand even more into the occupied Arab lands… and they do not want to give it back?

Shai said:

Those 51% don’t consider it “Occupied Arab Territories”, they consider it “Israeli Territories”. That’s the problem.

Alex, Shai,

Just FYI, both of your statements are misleading. Here’s why:

The settlement “expansion” freeze the GOI is negotiating with the US (and reflective of the poll you quoted) has nothing to do with expropriating more land and only refer to adding additional housing WITHIN settlements already established.

All polls show that a majority of Israelis would vote for returning approximately 95% of the West Bank, East Jerusalem/Old City, and parts of Israel today as already proposed by Ehud Barak and the US government at the end of the Camp David meetings in 2000 if the PA recognized Israel, made peace, and put an end to future claims.


Here’s something for Dr. Tutu:


August 31st, 2009, 10:37 am


Alex said:


I understand that some of those who did not support a one year settlement freeze are doing it because they fear it will lead to withdrawal from the territories and that withdrawal might lead to a militarized Palestinian entity that can potentially threaten the Jewish state …

However … They feel their country should and CAN oppose, because they don’t feel like taking any hypothetical chance, the wishes of the rest of the world and can continue to force millions of the Palestinians living like animals in their homes in those territories, under Israeli occupation, can force them to live and die a miserable life .. only to not force those Israelis, who are worried about future intentions of the Palestinians, to take any small chance (a 1 year settlement freeze). That also implies over confidence … even though they might genuinely THINK they fear a small Palestinian state’s small weapons (it won’t be allowed any serious weapons), they don’t fear Syria’s much larger army (500,000 equipped with tens of thousands of long range missiles) or world opinion or anything that might try to pressure them into signing that peace agreement.

There is no real difference between an Israeli who refuses to give Obama a chance because that Israeli is worried about the remote possibility that a Palestinian state might bombard Israel, or an Israeli who does not want to give back anything since Israel can rely on its military power to ensure its continued ownership of the Arab territories … both are over confident enough to make them support their country’s resistance to pressure to take a more moderate approach to peace negotiations.


The question asked was referring to a ONE YEAR settlement freeze. If this is too hard to support, then I don’t know what to conclude.

And my suggestion for a more detailed poll stands … instead of Akbar, Shai and Alex analyzing the different motivations of those who are against a 1 year freeze, the poll should have asked more questions.

All the polls I have read so far from Israel had no follow up questions “If you answered no to the first question, why? not” … Instead they were all limited to a flat “do you support or not?” type.

August 31st, 2009, 6:29 pm


Shai said:


Your statement regarding “all poles show…” is also misleading. It seems to suggest that all the Palestinians have to do is choose Door Nr. 3, and suddenly Israel will hand over 95% of the West Bank. But in reality, and this connects to what Netsp was saying, most Israelis now don’t believe they’ll ever be in a situation where they’ll have to give up those so-called 95%, because they don’t believe an agreement could be reached. They distrust the Palestinians, they distrust their leaders, and so what may have been possible, in theory, only gets farther away from any realm of possibility.

I’m sure most Israelis would also favor returning the Golan, if only Assad learned Hebrew and sang Hatikva upon landing at Ben-Gurion Airport.

It is a natural process, where Israelis who no longer see a possibility of a Palestinian state, begin to “adopt” the Palestinian Territories into their own Greater Israel. Suddenly ex-believers in Peace are turning pro-settlement supporters. And you’re incorrect if you think the only thing standing between Israel and the U.S. today is the internal settlement building freeze. The U.S. is, and has always been, against ANY settlement activity in the West Bank. It never accepted Israeli sovereignty over this territory. Plus, let us not pretend like Israel has frozen all OTHER settlement activity. While government officials are trying to soften demands made by Washington, other “good Jews” in the form of religious settlers are continuing to create new settlements.

Last week a group was forced out of one illegal one, and simply moved to another hilltop and started a new one. This is not some extraordinary thing – it is happening nonstop. There are tens of illegal settlements (illegal even in Israel’s lexicon), that have a court order to dismantle them, and yet… nothing happens. The person in charge, by the way, of dismantling illegal settlements is, unfortunately, precisely the same person who (as Prime Minister) created more settlements in the West Bank than any other PM before him, or since. This person is our current Defense Minister, Ehud Barak. He has contributed more for your “Project” (The Occupation), than any non-liberal Israeli has. He should be one of your heroes… 🙂

August 31st, 2009, 6:36 pm


Alex said:

The committee of the Future of the Middle East Agenda assigned our friend Hind Kabawat (www.hindkabawat.com) last week to be the Ambassador of Conflict Resolution in the World Economic Forum.

The Committee includes Amr Moussa, Marwan Mouacher and Tony Blair.

August 31st, 2009, 6:39 pm


Shai said:


I think too much weight is being given to this poll. In reality (at least as I see it here on the ground), no Israeli public is being brought into the discussion about settlement freeze yes or no. The leadership, under Netanyahu and joined by Liebermann (who is quite busy answering Police questions nowadays), Danny Ayalon (the resident clown deputy FM), Bugy Ya’alon (Ultra-Hawkish ex-COGS), and Uzi Arad (Not enough space for me to write everything I think about him…), are the ones who are running the show vis-a-vis the U.S. They’re trying to negotiate over this freeze. With one eye they’re looking serious at Mitchell and giving a fully-understanding nod, and with the other, they’re winking at their Settler constituency. What’s a year to wait, out of 42 thus far?

When the leadership goes out of its way, almost daily, to project zero-chances for a Palestinian state (Liebermann today threatened that Israel would not allow a de facto Palestinian state to be formed within 2 years), then these polls are meaningless. And, again, no one’s really asking the public anything. There is no referendum here. The government will do what it wants to do. Probably with Washington’s “blessing”… That’s the real problem!

August 31st, 2009, 6:45 pm


jad said:

Dear Alex,
With all due respect to Ms. Hind Kabawat and understating of her hard work, I was disappointed by her being on the negative side when the proposed law hit all of us so for someone as passive to be in a committee dealing with the endless conflict of the middle east is something I find a bit difficult to comprehend not to mention that she will be side by side with Tony Blair who is a bold example of the passive politician who is directly responsible for the mess we see in Iraq and who should be trialed for genocide.
I personally think that she is not the right person for this job nor she will be appreciated for getting involved with a tainted committee like this one, but either way, I wish her all the best.

August 31st, 2009, 7:05 pm


Alex said:


I agree that Hind’s work on that committee will not lead to a Palestinian state .. but if Blair finds it worth his time to be there, it must be worth Hind’s time to be there.

We need to stop avoiding all these international gatherings … we know they are full of hypocrites (like Blair) but we need to be there and to participate in the dialog

August 31st, 2009, 7:15 pm


Shai said:


How are you? I agree with Alex – it is important for Syria to have representatives such as Hind, and especially in such forums as the World Economic Forum. Syria is suffering greatly from under-representation, not enough (good) marketing, and not enough dialogue with the West. Hind will be a wonderful ambassador for Syria, I am sure of that.

Congratulations Hind!

August 31st, 2009, 7:37 pm


Jad said:

Alex, Shai
I’m not saying not to have Syrians in the committee, I’m asking to have a stronger figure than the polite, diplomatic and sweet talker like Ms. Kawabawat.
Espesially when you have a double faced hypocrite murderer in the same committee.

August 31st, 2009, 8:18 pm


Yossi said:


What referendum do you want? We had general elections this year and the Israeli voter said loud and clear what they support. It was very much an election over “two-state solution yes or no”. The people said no.

I agree with *both* Alex and Netsp. The people in Israel feel that they are in a situation of “damn if you do and damn if you don’t”. They feel they don’t have a way out, so they know they have to make some sort of an irrational choice. They choose to stand up to the Palestinians and collide with them, rather than “reward” them. It’s a little bit like the biblical story of Samson and the Philistines (in their mind). To Alex’s point, I think the Israelis are confident enough to assume that they can juggle the current situation a little longer. If you read the comments in NRG you’d be amazed to see where people place their hopes. e.g., many believe that due to a clash in Iran and Islamic immigration problems in Europe there will be a clash of civilizations—under the cover of which the game-plan will change—i.e., the Israelis will be able to expel the rest of the Arabs. People are banking on all sorts of Armageddons that will change the picture completely. So they believe they just need to wait it out and not do anything hasty. Some of them have confidence in the long term, and some don’t, many just don’t know, but they are loath to “rewarding” the Palestinians anyway.

Currently the Israelis are thinking in terms of “West Bank for peace”: possible? Good deal? And they are answering “no possible, and obviously not worth it”.

In a few years, when no Armageddon will help them out, and with sanctions imposed, they will be thinking in terms of “West bank in return for not having to control the population of the West bank”. Which is basically what Hamas is proposing today.

August 31st, 2009, 8:26 pm


Alex said:

Thanks Yossi,

One of the reasons I think the Bush-Cheney administration was the ultimate “evil” power on the planet (even more than the lunatics in al-Qaeda) is that they were very, very effective … Because they were the “leaders of the free world” their “tactics” (such as the savage Iraq war) became legitimate .. so, for example a normal (not “evil”) Israeli person can now aspire to a world war with Iran to help him/her solve the conflict with the Palestinians to his advantage.

President Obama needs to be more vocal in undoing the legacy of his predecessor .. in many many ways.

I have posted this clip many times in the past, but I will do that again .. look at these people, most are nice people, but still, they became very comfortable answering (with a smile) the question “what country should the United States invade next”


That’s why the Iraq war MUST end up in a tie … the US should not win that war .. if it ends up being a “victory” then the violent hypocrites in Washington will say next time “let’s do another Iraq, it eventually worked” … and the US should not lose the war because then the fundamentalist forces will be empowered in the area after defeating the world’s superpower.

August 31st, 2009, 9:27 pm


Alex said:


We will never have anyone invited to take part who will tell Blair that he is “a murderer”

They will not risk another Erdogan disrupting their beautiful, civilized show.


Hind knows how to make the best out of their democratic dialog limitations .. they can tell others that they are criminals, others can not tell them they are criminals.

August 31st, 2009, 10:00 pm


norman said:


I agree with Alex, people have to see us and deal with us to like us , that will make them find out how nice the Syrians are and that we want for others what we want for ourselves .

September 1st, 2009, 1:59 am


Shami said:

Alf Mabrouk Madame Kabawat ,i like her very much and i feel confortable when people with such noble character represent us.

As for Blair ,he left his human nature when he followed the criminal Bush in Iraq.It’s sad because before this lethal mistake the man had respectable past ,especially on the internal arena.
Anyway ,we should not forget the brave stance of his wife Cherie Blair when she acknowledged the tragic condition of the palestinian youth ,and whose sister went to Gaza under blockade for humanitarian purpose.

September 1st, 2009, 3:00 am


netsp said:


I think you have to watch for trap doors when you give meaning to these things. You might think that an Israeli responding to a survey in a certain way implies xyz, because this is the rationalisation that you can see. In reality though, very few of those actually share you rationalisation. In reality many people’s rationalisation is extremely silly or simplistic. ‘They don’t deserve..,’ ‘Let them give us Shalit, then…,’ ‘Statements by populist politicians are a good guide. Others might have sophisticated but wacky reasons. Others tactical (many Israelis believe that) Palestinians are better negotiators then them).

The thought that rejecting any steps toward Palestinian statehood leaves millions of people in this state of limbo indefinitely simply isn’t thought.

In response to your question about why they think that they can do this: Basically you are right. I think that the fear of the consequences of Palestinian sovereignity in the WB is greater then the fear of international action and/or the Syrian army. These two things are fairly low on the Israeli public’s list of perceived threats. It is slightly higher in there leaders’ lists, but I suspect still lower then what you think is the right place.

Personally, I am not sure that this is incorrect.

This has several explanations all of which can be challenged:
– Past experience with military conflicts including the experiences of other countries
– The natural human difficulty in accounting for risks in the distant future. Syria could become a different place in 20 years, the UN could become a different body etc.
– Complete distrust of either/both (depending on the person) the Palestinian establishment ability to gain a monopoly over power or/and their willingness to do so. A Palestinian State is expected to be similar to Lebanon in this regard.

Hostile anarchy is proving to be the insurmountable barrier this decade. Many Israelis believed Arafat used such anarchy as a tactic & that this was ingrained in the Palestinian power structures. The threat of this in the WB is no. 1.

I can go on for a while on this, but I don’t think it gets us very far. There are two things to note about those PEOPLE that oppose a settlement freeze:
– They don’t think that a negotiated deal with any value will be reached with Palestinians. They don’t think it is feasible & the don’t think that palestinians are actually looking for a long term agreement. Not in this generation. Almost all western and/or leftist Israelis and many Arab commentators believe the opposite. Reversing this perspective has an enormous impact on one’s perception of this whole complex. Enormous. I didn’t realise this myself until hearing from multiple people who went through this change and moved from Meretz or HADASH (traditionally far left Israeli parties) to Likud or Lieberman (Right & secular far right Israeli parties). Shai has also brought up the importance of these paradigms above. I’m not sure how to fully convey the importance of this.
– They see Gaza in the WB as the ultimate and most imminent threat. It outshines fear of the Syrian army, a MB revolution in Egypt, European sanctions, even nuclear armed Iran. They expect that it could come next week.

I have so far failed to convince anyone that these two things matter much.

September 1st, 2009, 3:37 am


Yossi said:

Bouthaina Shaaban tries really hard to pick up a fight with the Jerusalem Post with this piece:

Story Puts Israeli Government in Frenzied Denial Mode
Israeli Bodysnatchers

September 1st, 2009, 5:07 am


jad said:

I don’t see any try from Mm. Shaaban to pick up a fight as you wrote, where did you get that impression from?
She is writing out of her personal experience as well as her interpretation of the Swedish article crises that Israel is making it bigger.

Mm. Shaaban is a highly respected Syrian figure politically and socially, her articles always talk about Palestinians, Arabs and women and she always asks for our rights not for revenge, which is something very few can master.
I actually appreciate what she write just because she is one of the very few writers who still have the passion in their writing toward the Arab-Israeli endless conflict, some might argue that she repeats in her writing about the same issue but when you have a core problem that your enemy keep changing his story the observers will get lost and forget the beginning and what’s right and wrong, while if you stick to your goal as Mm. Shaaban does and keep writing about the core problem and ask for our rights, well, it makes balance and it makes observers aware about the origin of the problem, from where I see things I think she deserve to be highly respected.

September 1st, 2009, 6:46 am


Shai said:

Ya Yossi,

We are in agreement – I don’t expect any referendum today – it has already taken place when a huge block from the Right was created, and “The Left” shrank to the miniscule insignificant size that it is today.

You said: “They feel they don’t have a way out, so they know they have to make some sort of an irrational choice.”

I tend to disagree. Most Israelis do not feel they’re making an irrational choice. How can 94% support ANYTHING, without viewing it as a very-rational thing to do? (I’m referring, of course, to the support for Operation Cast Lead).

You also said: “I think the Israelis are confident enough to assume that they can juggle the current situation a little longer.”

What do you mean by “a little longer”? What do most Israelis feel comes at the end of that period? Palestinian capitulation of some sort? One that will enable the creation of a Palestine? We both agree the answer to the latter is no. But I think most today do not think about the future whatsoever. They exist for today, they are mostly apathetic, and spend more time indulging in self-pity, in bolstering their paranoia, and in distancing themselves from any meaningful process of introspection, be it about the past, or the future.

I WISH most Israelis thought of various Armageddons as our possible future. Then at least they’d be concerned enough about the present. Then they’d have to engage in debate about what should be done (and agree that something must be done, to avert catastrophe). But most Israelis aren’t NRG talkbackers. Most are too apathetic to engage anyone in dialogue. I know this not from some statistic I’ve read, but from my own friends and colleagues, and from people you meet on the street. Olmert’s Mont Blanc pen collection bothers them more than any possible US-Israel rift in relations (not to mention potential sanctions).

I agree though, that if and when sanctions do occur, and if and when important allies do begin to hammer down on us, Israelis will have no choice but to start a serious dialogue, that will likely culminate in new elections. If Bibi won’t be brave enough to do what he should’ve back in 1998, he’ll find himself once again going to elections, to “let the Israeli people speak…”

September 1st, 2009, 9:58 am


Shai said:


From the moment the U.S. joined WWII, a process began of changing American perception of itself for the worse. Rather quickly (within a few years), it literally became the strongest nation on earth. The effective fear-campaign that ensued, throughout the Cold War, helped unite Americans behind a set of beliefs that would be translated into offensive action time and again throughout the previous century, and already in this current one. Invading Korea, or Vietnam, or Panama, or Iraq/Afghanistan seemed almost as justifiable and necessary as the landing at Omaha Beach. Invasion, war, and the aftermath (Occupation) became commonly accepted. Amazingly enough, even after the miserable failure of Vietnam.

America’s participation in “liberation wars” throughout the world is still as “obvious” to most Americans, as settlement activity is for most Israelis. Try altering your own perception of something, when you’ve done it for 40 or 60 years…

September 1st, 2009, 10:18 am


Kazehu said:

If I was asked if I support the freezing of the settlements for a year I would answer NO.
I Just don’t understand why should Israel suddenly do it, what is it good for? Will Israel get anything in return? Israel already removed (not only freezed) settlements in Gaza and unfortunately I didn’t see any progress towards peace…
I would be ready to remove settlements and give up on some land for the Palestinians only in a case of a final peace agreement that will end the conflict. Unfortunately, I don’t see it happening in the near future.

BTW I’m Israeli

September 1st, 2009, 11:21 am


Akbar Palace said:

One of the reasons I think the Bush-Cheney administration was the ultimate “evil” power on the planet (even more than the lunatics in al-Qaeda) is that they were very, very effective … Because they were the “leaders of the free world” their “tactics” (such as the savage Iraq war) became legitimate .. so, for example a normal (not “evil”) Israeli person can now aspire to a world war with Iran to help him/her solve the conflict with the Palestinians to his advantage.


Please remind your readers that the “evil power” of Bush and Cheney was only made possible by UNSCOM’s inability to conduct inspections in Iraq, and UNSC Resolution 1441 that the Syrian government approved. As you recall, 1441 warned Iraq that “it will face serious consequences as a result of its continued violations of its obligations”.

So you can do what most of the world perfers to do and blame Bush and Cheney for something they voted for. It’s easier to point fingers at the executioner you employed rather than admit complicity.



President Obama needs to be more vocal in undoing the legacy of his predecessor .. in many many ways.

President Obama, with the help of the adoring media has his own war: Afghanistan. And, as I predicted, he is undoing the success the US achieved in Iraq to prove the war was a waste. Nevertheless, his fight against Islamic fundamentalists in Afghanistan is not much different that GWB’s fight in Iraq. The only difference is, the Left can’t find the energy to speak out or demonstrate.

Sort of like Arabs speaking out against Arabs. It doesn’t happen.

That’s why the Iraq war MUST end up in a tie … the US should not win that war .. if it ends up being a “victory” then the violent hypocrites in Washington will say next time “let’s do another Iraq, it eventually worked” … and the US should not lose the war because then the fundamentalist forces will be empowered in the area after defeating the world’s superpower.

Before Obama became president, violence in Iraq was very low, the economy was on the upswing, and Iraqi public opinion was very positive. Iraqis preferred the present situation to Saddam’s regime and in no way wanted to go back to a dictatorship.

Alex, this is the information you and your boss like to leave out of the discussion. People prefer freedom even if they have to fight for it. IMO, the US prefers helping people fight for freedom rather than helping a dictator who suppresses his people. Granted, if the dictator doesn’t export violence and only suppresses his people (like Egypt), the US is more apt to turn a blind eye. I suppose in this regard, Syria lies somewhere in between the utopia of Saddam’s Iraq and Mubarak’s Egypt.

Anyway, let’s see how many American soldiers Obama is willing to sacrifice in Afghanistan before we claim he’s the next best thing to sliced bread.

September 1st, 2009, 12:52 pm


Shami said:

Russia, Saudi Arabia Set to Finalize $2 Billion Giant Arms Deal
Saudi Arabia is close to signing a two-billion-dollar (1.4-billion-euro) deal to buy Russian arms, a Russian defense industry source was quoted as saying on Saturday.
“Work is nearly complete on a set of contracts on the delivery of Russian arms and military technology to Saudi Arabia, with a total value of around two billion dollars,” the source told Interfax news agency.

Riyadh may purchase up to 150 helicopters — 30 Mi-35 attack helicopters and up to 120 Mi-17 transport helicopters — more than 150 T-90S tanks, around 250 BMP-3 infantry fighting vehicles and “several dozen” air defense systems, the source said.

Spokespersons for Rosoboronexport, Russia’s state-owned arms export monopoly, and for the Federal Service for Military-Technical Cooperation, which oversees the arms trade, could not be reached for comment on Saturday.

Saudi Arabia — a close US ally — has long bought most of its arms from the United States and Western Europe, but in recent years has been in talks on buying military equipment from Russia.

Meanwhile Russia is keen to find new markets for its weapons exports, one of the few sectors of Russian manufacturing that has enjoyed international success.

In 2008 Moscow and Riyadh signed a military cooperaton treaty, and this year Saudi King Abdullah received a delegation that included a top Kremlin adviser and an official from Rosoboronexport.

Beirut, 29 Aug 09, 20:42

September 1st, 2009, 2:05 pm


why-discuss said:


Is Saudi Arabia’s kingdom going the same the way as Iran’s kingdom collapse?
When the Shah thought he was smart in making deals with Russia, thus distancing him for the US, this is when the US turned a blind eyes on the revolution that had started and rejoiced when, after the revolution, the iran communists were crushed. It is only when some zealous iranians revolutionaries held US citizen as hostages that the US saw it was going the wrong way and they shifted again to support Iraq’s war on Iran. Are we going to see a shift in the ‘blind’ support of the US and a new game with the Saudi regime?

September 1st, 2009, 3:02 pm


Shami said:

Why Discuss ,only Allah knows but i noticed that your knowledge on middle eastern near past has been straightened lately.

C’est bien why ,notre cher ami du Liban frère ,j’espère que ces slogans issus de ce genre de régimes hypocrites n’auront plus d’influence sur vous dans le futur.

September 1st, 2009, 3:31 pm


Alex said:

Thanks for explaining the other, simpler, rationalizations. You are right, I now remember reading similar ones in comments online from Israeli readers.

But again, the problem is that rationalizations are not the real story .. it is that Israelis by now feel that no one can rush them and that as long as THEY can live with the continued occupation, they can decide to prolong it for as long as they have even the lightest doubt that peace might not bring the benefits it is supposed to bring.

Which brings me to an example that we can study here in SC … Mr. Akbar Palace. I concluded that he probably supports peace and even the return of (95%) of the occupied territories, yet he is in no rush .. he would like to pick a president of Syria to his liking first, he would like to see Syria begging Israel with a very polite voice, and he would like to see the end of Hamas and Hizbollah and Iran before he can take chances on peace.

Basically he wants to satisfy his ego (his country won … his country is indeed the moral champion …etc) if he is to make a deal with the Arabs.

Israelis want the Arabs to lose .. to understand they lost, before they grant them peace and perhaps (for some Israelis) even tell them how to run their countries and societies after peace.

Some Palestinians (in Fatah) are willing to live with that, but Syria is highly allergic to this mentality.


One last time, Syria’s vote for 1441 was to avoid giving the Bush administration an excuse to invade Syria next … all other 14 countries at the UNSC at the time were about to vote FOR that Iraq resolution, if Syria was the only country to vote against it, it would have made Syria an easy target for the Bush administration that was trying to look for example to portray Syria as an outlaw state that must be next after Iraq.

I love how 1441 is your only UNSC you like to recognize … remember the others?

September 1st, 2009, 3:49 pm


Yossi said:

Jad(man) @27,

Shaaban wrote:

“The Jerusalem Post published an article against me on August 17, 2009 which is full of incitement and accusations which aim at creating negative preconceived ideas about the author. The question here is why the Jerusalem Post article ignored mentioning the Swedish foreign minister Anna Maria Lindh who I mentioned along with Mary Robinson in my article, and who also took honourable stances in support of justice in Palestine, was arrested several times by Israeli occupation forces in the West Bank and was then assassinated in ambiguous circumstances.

This means that official circles in Israel divert attention from an atrocious crime committed against unarmed civilian Palestinians for over sixty years to a mere article which causes a diplomatic standoff. The same circles instruct the Jerusalem Post to attack my article which calls for honoring honest leaders of the world, like Mary Robinson, for defending justice….”

Let’s analyze these two paragraphs…

“The Jerusalem Post published an article against me on August 17, 2009 which is full of incitement and accusations which aim at creating negative preconceived ideas about the author.”

Now I ask you to actually read the jpost piece Shaaban talks about, here: http://www.jpost.com/servlet/Satellite?cid=1249418630063&pagename=JPost%2FJPArticle%2FShowFull “Syria slams campaign against Mary Robinson”. I read it three times end-to-end looking how this article can be thought of as an “attack” on Shaaban and I couldn’t find any clues. It dryly reports on what she wrote in her Al-Awsat editorial and in the past. What incitement and accusations is she talking about? She of course doesn’t say.

“The question here is why the Jerusalem Post article ignored mentioning the Swedish foreign minister Anna Maria Lindh who I mentioned along with Mary Robinson in my article, and who also took honourable stances in support of justice in Palestine, was arrested several times by Israeli occupation forces in the West Bank and was then assassinated in ambiguous circumstances.”

Why is that “the question here”?! In the Al Awsat article Shaaban defends Marry Robinson and Anna Maria Lindh. The JPost piece reports that she has come to the defense of Robinson, but doesn’t mention that she also defended Lindh. So what? What’s the big deal? I would imagine that the reader has more interest in Robinson who is still active vs. Lindh who hasn’t been with us for some time now…. But the truth is that Shaaban brings Lindh to stage two manipulations. First, she wants to capitalize on the fact that she was Swedish, while it’s fresh in the readers’ minds that Sweden and Israel are antagonistic, so reinforcing that Lindh was with the “good guys” and therefore “…was arrested several times by Israeli occupation forces in the West Bank and was then assassinated in ambiguous circumstances”. OK, so I didn’t really know who Lindh was and looking at this sentence I immediately realized what I was to think, that Lindh was assassinated in the West bank by Israel or abroad by the Mossad… With most readers this insinuation would be enough to make sure that they register “Israel killed Lindh the Swede, supporter of Palestinians”. But I actually checked it out and turns out she was assassinated in Stockholm by the son of Serb immigrants. He serves life sentence in jail. No mystery and no connection to Israel.

OK, so what do we have so far? An attack in the JPost that never happened, a small “conspiracy” by the JPost to drop any mention of Lindh in order to cover up over her assassination or something like that. Moving on.

“This means that official circles in Israel divert attention from an atrocious crime committed against unarmed civilian Palestinians for over sixty years to a mere article which causes a diplomatic standoff.”

This is actually the only sentence in her piece which is true, is important, and is something that you’d expect a professional diplomat to say (rather than come from a tabloid).

“The same circles instruct the Jerusalem Post to attack my article which calls for honoring honest leaders of the world, like Mary Robinson, for defending justice….”

Another conspiracy theory! And note, the victim of this conspiracy is not the Palestinian people but Shaaban herself, the poor thing. She wishes to put herself together with Robinson as the target of Israel but the truth is that nobody attacked Shaaban. She’s like to have the same “honor” of being attacked, but nobody gave it to her. There was no jpost attack on her and necessarily nobody instructed jpost to attack her. They were just doing their job of reporting on what a high ranking official from a neighboring country had to say in her editorial.

September 1st, 2009, 4:39 pm


Yossi said:


I very much agree with you that it would be preferable to everybody if we were living in a world where there is no side with unchecked power. And yes, the Bushist years have reinforced the use of violence as a means that can be used freely, rather than only in self defense. This is really lamentable, and I agree with you it is deeply affecting the way people think in Israel, too. However, I don’t know how to translate that to Iraq. What does a “tie” in Iraq mean? Isn’t the question of “Iraq” vs. “America” secondary to the internal mess within Iraq?

September 1st, 2009, 4:58 pm


Alex said:


A tie in Iraq means a smooth and honorable exit for American forces in few years, but no taking direct credit for any success.

More or less, allow enough time to smoothly fade out the Iraq war and occupation … after 10 years no one will be able to be proud of an easy American victory (“mission accomplished”), and no Islamist will be able to easily claim that they decisively drove the panicking Americans overnight out of the country by force.

That’s what Syria wants to see by the way. But it is too complex for Akbar and his friends to understand.

September 1st, 2009, 5:44 pm


Alex said:

Bridging the Damascus-Baghdad Gap

Sep 01, 2009

Sami Moubayed / Gulf News

In August 2007, Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Al Maliki visited Syria to boost economic and political cooperation and discuss security matters. At the same time, he famously asked that several Iraqi Baathists based in Syria since 2003 be extradited to Iraq. The Syrians refused, reminding him that they had received similar requests from Saddam Hussain to extradite Al Maliki himself – known then as Jawad – when he was a fugitive in Damascus and had refused to hand him over unless valid reasons were provided.

Last week, the Iraqi government recalled its ambassador from Damascus. It claimed that two Syria-based Iraqi Baathists, Mohammad Yunis Ahmad and Satam Falah, were responsible for the August 19 attacks in Iraq that ripped through government buildings in the Green Zone and led to the deaths of more than 100 Iraqis. No evidence was presented to the Syrians apart from a recorded confession from a former Iraqi policeman, aired on state-run Iraqi TV. The man claimed responsibility for the attacks, saying that he had been following instructions from Yunis and Falah.

In cases like this, the Syrians said, it was expected that Iraqi officials would call up their counterparts, provide evidence and request extradition. The fact that this process was not followed cast serious doubt on the authenticity of the allegations, they added. Syria was “shocked” by the attitude of the Iraqi government, said Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Faisal Meqdad. Shortly thereafter Syria reciprocated by recalling its own ambassador, Nawaf Al Fares, from Baghdad.

Many believe that Al Maliki is not to blame for this political spat, arguing that he was backed into a corner just a week after wrapping up a very successful visit to Syria. It is possible that certain heavyweights in Iraq were not pleased with their government’s increasingly cordial relations with Damascus and seized the opportunity to link the bombings to Syria.

Al Maliki, after all, received a very warm welcome in Syria, where he agreed to form a committee to jumpstart political, security, and economic agreements. Al Maliki had previously welcomed Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Al Mouallem to Baghdad in 2006, followed by Prime Minister Mohammad Naji Al Otari earlier this summer. Since coming to power in 2006, the Iraqi prime minister has worked hard to enhance his country’s relationship with neighbouring Arab states and has encouraged them to send ambassadors to Baghdad. Syria was a top priority for him because he believed it could ‘legitimise’ him in the eyes of ordinary Iraqis, who originally saw him as nothing but an American stooge, or an Iranian creation.

Syria, after all, had been opposed to the war since day one, and still preaches a strong brand of Arab nationalism that millions of ordinary Iraqis can identify with. Additionally, the country enjoys an excellent relationship with Iraqi Kurds and Sunnis. Al Maliki was therefore very pleased when Damascus decided to open an embassy and send an ambassador, and equally distressed when the diplomat was withdrawn.

Given all this, why did the Iraqi government act so rashly? One reason is that the August 19 attacks struck a raw nerve with Iraqis, coming as they did after 18 months of relative calm. Citizens thus sought to hold their leaders accountable, demanding the resignation of Al Maliki’s ministers of defence and interior, and calling for the prime minister to be questioned by parliament. If that had happened, it would have further exposed how divided Iraqi officials are, since there was clearly no coordination between the ministries during the attacks. Lawmakers have called for the families of those affected by the attacks to be compensated – something that has not happened since 2003 – as well as resignations. But Iraqi officials are not willing to take the blame for what has since been called ‘Black Wednesday’, especially since parliamentary elections are just around the corner.

For that reason, they needed to find a scapegoat. Apart from Defence Minister Abdul Qader Mohammad Jasem Obaidi Al Mifarji, who said that the weapons used in the attacks were made in Iran, nobody in Iraq dared to point a finger at the Islamic Republic due to the influence it wields. Syria was a much easier target, because it has been blamed for all of Iraq’s woes since 2003.

One thing the Iraqis have failed to understand is that unlike George W. Bush, Barack Obama is not interested in supporting any feud between Damascus and Baghdad. Instead of getting involved, the Obama administration called on the two countries to solve their problems through dialogue. Had Bush still been in the White House, it is possible that a political crisis could have ensued. Obama, however, is keen on maintaining Syrian cooperation on a variety of issues related to Hamas, Hezbollah and Iran, and has little sympathy for Al Maliki, whom he regards as a product of his predecessor’s ill-fated adventures in Iraq.

Obama’s indifference, Al Maliki’s need for Arab allies and Syria’s desire to downplay the situation indicate that this will all blow over – unless the Iraqis come up with clear evidence of Syria’s involvement in the Aug-ust 19 attacks.

Sami Moubayed is editor-in-chief of Forward Magazine in Syria. This article appeared in Gulf News on September 1, 2009 entitled, “Iraq-Syria spat likely to blow over.”

September 1st, 2009, 5:56 pm


trustquest said:

Shami, the photos are beautiful, I would like you and SC friends to see the original in the large format in addition to some more.

September 1st, 2009, 6:16 pm


jad said:

I think you didn’t get what I post you yesterday. What do you think of Ramadan being used by those Mashayekh/Douat/Oulamaa the article writing about and from what we see and hear on TV in attacking other believers/Religions in such a bold and public way on the ‘respected’ channels not the usual ‘hate everybody else’ channels? Enjoy:


عتب على مشايخ آل كابوني …. مشايخ الفضائيات

محمد الوشيحي : الجريدة
31/ 08/ 2009
أولاً مبارك عليكم الشهر….

ثانياً، يرحم الله والديكم يا ‘شيخ’ نبيل العوضي ويا دكتور طارق سويدان ويا بقية رجال الدين، أو رجال الأعمال، الذين تتزاحمون كتفاً بكتف على أبواب الفضائيات في الشهر الفضيل هذا، أرجوكم وأتوسل إليكم ألّا تدعوا هذا العام على النصارى بأن يبيدهم الله. معلش، سامحوهم هالمرة، على الأقل إلى أن يكملوا اكتشاف الخريطة الجينية التي ستساهم في علاج الأمراض بشتى أنواعها. فهم لايزالون في منتصف الطريق، وقد توصلوا إلى علاج أمراض كثيرة، منها السمنة.


September 1st, 2009, 6:34 pm


jad said:

Should we all be prepared to get busted when we get back to Syria?
I just hope that they wont put me in the history cell of Shami, it will end up pretty bad, I’d rather stay in the technical cell of OTW/Trustquest (just kidding, Shami you are fine too), Norman and Alex, you will end up with us too but you will have a suite with TV and stuff, just remember to say hi to us and send us some cigarettes and Halawe, PLEASE?

There are two-three known Syrian bloggers are in jail and very few people mention them, they should let them free soon, enough already.

استئناف محاكمة المدون السوري كريم عربجي بعد توقفها أكثر من عام

بيان صحفي
01/ 09/ 2009
عقدت محكمة أمن الدولة جلسة جديدة في محاكمة المدون السوري كريم انطوان عربجي و ذلك يوم الأحد 29/8/2009 و قد كانت الجلسة مخصصة لتقديم الدفاع عن المدون كريم عربجي الذي وجهت له تهمة نشر أخبار كاذبة توهن نفسية الأمة وفقا للمادة 286 من قانون العقوبات السوري و التي تنص على : 1 ــ يستحق العقوبة نفسها – ( الاعتقال المؤقت عطفا على المادة 285 من قانون العقوبات العام )- من نقل في سورية في الأحوال عينها أنباء يعرف أنها كاذبة أو مبالغ فيها من شانها أن توهن نفسية الأمة.

2 ــ إذا كان الفاعل يحسب هذه الأنباء صحيحة فعقوبته الحبس ثلاثة أشهر على الأقل.

هذا و تقدم الأستاذ المحامي خليل معتوق ممثل المدون كريم عربجي بمذكرة دفاع خطية مكونة من أربع صفحات بمثابة دفاع شفهي جاء فيها أن: ( قرار الاتهام مستهجنا و مثيرا للدهشة و الاستغراب , فكل ما وجه للموكل لا يقوم على أساس من الواقع و القانون ضاربا بعرض الحائط القواعد القانونية الثابتة و فقه القانون الجزائي و الاجتهاد القضائي ) حيث أن ( الفعل المنسوب للموكل نشر بعض المقالات على صفحات الانترنت تعبر عن وجهة نظره للمساهمة بالإصلاح و التغيير في سوريا ليس إلا ) و بعد تفيد قرار الاتهام و شروط تطبيق المواد 285 و 286 أكد المحامي خليل معتوق على أن ( الموكل بريء مما نسب إليه و الأدلة التي استند إليها الاتهام , – المقالات التي نشرها الموكل على الانترنت – لا تصلح دليلا للإدانة بل على العكس من ذلك يستطيع أي قاضي منصف يتوخى العدالة أن يستنتج منها حرص المتهم على تعزيز الوحدة الوطنية )

و طالب تحقيقا للعدالة وسيادة القانون : ( إعلان براءة الموكل المتهم كريم انطوان العربجي مما نسب إليه لعدم قيام الدليل و استطرادا عدم مسؤوليته لعدم توفر العناصر القانونية لجرم المادة 286) . و تم تأجيل المحاكمة إلى جلسة 11/10/2009 للنطق بالحكم .

و من الجدير بالذكر أن المدون كريم عربجي معتقل منذ تاريخ 7/6/2007 و توقفت إجراءات محاكمته بعد أن عقدت المحكمة جلستها بتاريخ 8/6/2008 حيث توقفت الإجراءات على خلفية أحداث سجن صيدنايا حيث يتم احتجازه , كريم عربجي (31 سنة) تولد دمشق – باب توما 12/8/1978 ، خريج كلية الاقتصاد بجامعة دمشق / شعبة المحاسبة، ويدير مكتباً يقدم من خلاله الاستشارات والخدمات للشركات التجارية.

إننا في المركز السوري للإعلام و حرية التعبير إذ نؤكد على كون المدون كريم عربجي هو معتقل رأي وضمير، محتجز بسبب تعبيره السلمي عن أرائه السياسية, نطالب المحكمة إعلان براءته من التهم الموجهة إليه و إطلاق سراحه دون قيد أو شرط مع التذكير بحقيقة أنه أيا يكن رأي المحكمة فان كريم يقبع في السجن منذ أكثر من سنتين . . . فماذا بعد .

المركز السوري للإعلام و حرية التعبير
دمشق : 1/9/2009


September 1st, 2009, 6:52 pm


Akbar Palace said:

BDS (Bush Derangement Syndrome) continues

Bushist years have reinforced the use of violence as a means that can be used freely, rather than only in self defense.


Did you forget our current president, “The Annointed One”?

BTW – You didn’t mention that “Bushist” was warrented under UNSC 1441 and aided by a coalition of several countries:

The size and capabilities of the Coalition forces involved in operations in Iraq has been a subject of much debate, confusion, and at times exageration. As of August 23, 2006, there were 21 non-U.S. military forces contributing armed forces to the Coalition in Iraq. These 21 countries were: Albania, Armenia, Australia, Azerbaijan, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Denmark, El Salvador, Estonia, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Latvia, Lithuania, Macedonia, Moldova, Mongolia, Poland, Romania, South Korea, and the United Kingdom.


September 1st, 2009, 8:24 pm


Yossi said:


Aren’t Belize and Andora part of the coalition, too? No? That would have given it the ultimate legitimacy to kill hundreds of thousands.

September 1st, 2009, 9:59 pm


Akbar Palace said:


It’s all George Bush’s fault;) It has nothing to do with Sadam’s actions, the UN, the Security Council, UNSCOM, those that voted unanimously in favor of 1441, and the countries that supported the war effort.

September 1st, 2009, 10:32 pm


norman said:

Ehsani,Alex ,

I do not know if you saw this , What do you think?.

DAMASCUS — Syria is accelerating its economic opening — boosting U.S. hopes that its tight relationship with Iran might be weakened.

For decades, Syria has been defined by its rigid socialist economy and its military ties to Iran against Israel and the West. Trade sanctions have taken a heavy toll: More than half the 16 jets in Syria’s state airline can’t fly for lack of spare parts.

But President Bashar Assad — heir to his family’s political dynasty — has started unshackling the economy by permitting private banks and insurers to open shop and by letting Syrians hold foreign currency without risk of being tossed in jail. In March, he opened Syria’s first stock exchange. Nearby are a Ford showroom and a KFC restaurant.

Syria’s President Bashar Assad.
His four-year-old overhaul is now getting an unexpected lift from Washington. This fall the U.S. plans to name an ambassador to Damascus, its first in years. And in late July the State Department eased some sanctions set by President George W. Bush to punish Syria’s support for militant groups Hezbollah and Hamas.

“Now we can begin to pursue new projects and improve our commercial ties to the U.S.,” Syria’s central-bank governor, Adib Mayaleh, said in his office, just hours after the sanctions rollback. His first step: Order some Oracle Corp. software to help run the central bank.

The Obama administration’s policy shift on Syria is contentious. Just last year, U.S. special forces raided Syrian territory to disrupt alleged cross-border terrorist activities there. Iraq accuses Syria of helping orchestrate last month’s massive suicide bombing in Baghdad that killed more than 100 people.

U.S. officials say their policy is aimed at weakening Syria’s ties to Iran as part of a broader push for Arab-Israeli peace and a stable Iraq. In recent weeks, Pentagon officials reached agreement with Syria to more tightly police the Syria-Iraq border as U.S. troops withdraw.

President Assad’s changes face pushback at home. Top members of Syria’s ruling Baath Party say he is betraying the socialist agenda of his father, Hafez Assad, who served as president for three decades before his death in 2000. Liberal economists, meanwhile, say he isn’t going far enough.

Travelers inspect the goods in a handicraft shop in Syria, which is trying to reverse decades of underinvestment in the tourism business as part of its economic makeover.
Critics of the Assad regime claim the changes could simply be a tool for transferring state assets to members of the president’s inner circle. Rami Makhlouf, an Assad cousin, has come to dominate the Syrian telecom and tourism trades amid the economy’s opening. Last year, the U.S. Treasury barred American firms from doing business with his companies due to charges of corruption.

In an interview last year, Mr. Makhlouf denied the charges.

Mr. Assad’s overhauls lifted economic growth to above 5%, on average, since 2004, according to the International Monetary Fund. But money is tight. In recent years, Syria swung to an oil importer from exporter. Twice in the past year, Damascus cut state subsidies on diesel and fertilizer, triggering inflation.

More recently, Syria’s growth has been slowing again amid the global downturn. The economy will expand only 3% this year, according to IMF projections.

Perhaps the biggest challenge Mr. Assad faces is dismantling Syria’s bureaucracy. The government is the largest single employer, involved in everything from energy to tourism.

At the same time, democracy activists are agitating for political reforms. Nearly 50 years ago, amid a flurry of coups, Syria declared a “state of emergency” — which has never been lifted. To this day, Syrians can be detained and imprisoned without trial.

“How can our economy thrive, when we don’t have functioning courts?” says Ammar Qurabi, a democracy activist who heads the National Organization for Human Rights in Syria.

Syrian leaders cite China as a role model: Economic opening married to strong social control. Without a tight social rein, they say, the risk is political destabilization. “We need to invest in political stability to promote economic stability,” said Mr. Mayaleh, Syria’s central-bank governor.

Mr. Assad, a 44-year-old ophthalmologist, assumed power in 2000, following his father’s death, and immediately stirred hopes in the West that Syria would embrace serious change. His inaugural speech outlined a softening of his father’s one-party state. He spoke of bringing Syria into the information age.

Julien Barnes-Dacey

A billboard advertising Western wares outside a Damascus mall.
Washington’s hopes faded. Mr. Assad’s speech spawned cries for political freedom, a moment known as the “Damascus Spring,” but then a government crackdown. The U.S.’s 2003 invasion of Iraq led to years of direct confrontation between Washington and Damascus.

U.S. officials charged Syria with helping usher al-Qaeda fighters into Iraq and with supporting anti-Israeli Hezbollah and Hamas militants. Israeli jets bombed a Syrian installation in late 2007 that the U.S. believes was a nascent nuclear reactor, a charge Damascus denies.

U.S. officials also believed Damascus ordered the 2005 assassination of Lebanon’s former prime minister, Rafik Hariri.

“We always made it clear to the Syrians that we were open to changes in the relationship. But they were knocking people off in Lebanon and providing the main highway for jihadists going into Iraq,” says Elliott Abrams, President George W. Bush’s top Middle East adviser during both his terms.

Syria denies any hand in the murder. It acknowledges some senior Iraqi figures from the Saddam Hussein era live in Syria, but it denies supporting actual insurgents.

Damascus’s conflict with the West aided Syria’s economic opening in some ways, Syrian officials and businessmen say. Mr. Hariri’s murder fueled mass protests in Beirut that sent thousands of Syrian entrepreneurs back home — bringing with them financial expertise and money.

Entrepreneurs are returning from America, too. Among them is Louay Habbal. A former Citibank and Merrill Lynch executive, the financier returned to Damascus in 2006 after 28 years in the U.S. The 49-year-old has established a private bank and brokerage firm, Pioneers Securities, which managed one of Syria’s first public stock offerings, a cement company.

Operating out of a one-floor office on Damascus’s main thoroughfare, Mr. Habbal’s 14-person staff includes just five stock brokers, a computer specialist, and financial comptroller. If trading is light, there is a good reason: The Damascus Securities Exchange lists just 13 companies. Most of the listed companies are banks.

The Boston University-educated Mr. Habbal believes Syria’s nascent financial opening is already breeding a consumer mindset that will provide fresh opportunities for foreign investors.

“The train’s already left the station,” Mr. Habbal says. “It’s going to be next to impossible to turn back this economy.”

That nascent consumer culture in Damascus runs counter to the Baath Party’s socialist mores. High-end boutiques and coffee houses dot the upscale Malki district. A new Four Seasons Hotel has opened across the street from Ottoman-era tombs. Teenagers cruise the Cham City Center mall chatting on cellphones and driving European and Asian cars made affordable by big reductions in import tariffs.

President Assad’s moves to loosen Syria’s system are apparent on the campus of the Arab International University, 45 minutes outside Damascus. The AIU is one of 15 private universities accredited since 2004. Students and faculty hail from across the Middle East and Europe. Courses are virtually all taught in English, a symbolic move away from Hafez Assad’s fixation on forging Arab unity.

On a recent afternoon, construction crews labored to build new dormitories, classrooms and basketball courts in the Syrian desert. The school is preparing to enroll nearly 5,000 students, up from just a handful when it opened in 2004.

Traditionally, Syrian universities required students to memorize the works of Hafez Assad and the dictums of the Baath Party. At other Syrian schools, classrooms often hold 400 students, rather than the average of 40 at AIU.

“We’re now the best university in Syria,” says president Abdul Ghani Maa Bared. “Our methodology is different.”

Syrian businessmen say new schools like AIU are crucial to providing human resources often not available inside their country. “People are no longer happy with their standard of living. They realize they need higher education,” said Rateb Al Shallah, a former president of the Syrian Chamber of Commerce.

The stirrings of life in Syria’s economy aren’t benefiting everyone. In places like the Mohey al-Din souq, a traditional Arab market at the foot of Damascus’s Mount Kassioun, vegetable vendors, bakers and butchers line narrow alleyways that feel far removed from the Benetton boutiques of up-market Damascus. An influx of more than one million Iraqi refugees into Syria since 2003 has helped drive up housing prices in the city by fourfold..

“Everything, from food to rent, has increased in price over the last five years,” says Faruk Azzat, a 40-something vendor who runs a shop selling pirated DVDs. “Life is getting so much harder.”

Nearby, taxi driver Jamal al-Hariri says the cost for meat has jumped in recent months to 700 Syrian pounds per kilo from 300 pounds, in part due to the slashing of government subsidies. “I can’t afford it any longer,” he says.

Any semblance of unrest is quickly tamped down. Dozens of Syrians campaigning for an end to the government’s nearly 50-year-old “emergency law” — which allows for detentions without trials — have been arrested during Mr. Assad’s tenure. And while most have been released, a sense of despondency has crept into Damascus’s human-rights community.

On a recent afternoon, Mr. Qurabi, the democracy campaigner, nervously monitored his cellphone in a Damascus cafe as he drank coffee with fellow activists. The government had just launched a crackdown on his organization for operating without licenses. One member had been arrested. Mr. Qurabi worked the phones to see if others had been detained, or if he might be next.

“Now I’m nearly hopeless about political change here,” the 40-year-old said, between drags on a cigarette. He said the Obama administration, by easing sanctions on Syria, seemed to signal that “other things than democracy are more important for the U.S.”

Senior Obama administration officials acknowledge that human rights remain a major problem in Syria. But they argue that the Bush administration’s attempts to isolate President Assad only made the regime more repressive. The White House, in returning a U.S. ambassador to Damascus, will be able to more directly press democracy issues, the officials said.

Underpinning U.S. policy toward Syria is a desire to isolate Iran. Syria’s economic overhaul, and its appetite for Western technology and money, could push President Assad to shift his foreign policy, U.S. officials say.

Syria has a strong military alliance with Iran since that nation’s 1979 Islamic revolution and the overthrow of the Shah, who had military ties to Israel and the U.S. Syria also backed Tehran during the 1980-88 Iran-Iraq war, breaking with other Arab states. And Damascus and Tehran have teamed up to arm and train Hezbollah, Hamas and other militants fighting Israel. Late last month, President Assad traveled to Tehran to endorse the scandal-plagued re-election of Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

Despite these ties, Iran is a relatively small player in Syria’s economy compared to Arab and Turkish investors. One of Tehran’s biggest investments: In 2007, Iran’s state-owned auto maker opened factories outside Damascus and Homs to build a sedan, the Sham (the Arabic word for Damascus).

Members of Mr. Assad’s government say that while they are determined to improve their relationship with the U.S., they are also keeping their options open when it comes to Iran.

“Syria’s a friendly country toward Iran. That’s not a secret,” said Fayssal Mekdad, Syria’s deputy foreign minister, in an interview last month. “We believe we can play a role in solving misunderstandings” between the U.S. and Iran.

—Julien Barnes-Dacey contributed to this report.
Write to Jay Solomon at jay.solomon@wsj.com

Printed in The Wall Street Journal, page A16
Copyright 2009 Dow Jones & Company, Inc. All Rights Reserved

September 2nd, 2009, 2:37 am


Yossi said:


Why do you ask all these hard questions, is that a way to treat a friend?!

>>> I tend to disagree. Most Israelis do not feel they’re making an irrational choice. How can 94% support ANYTHING, without viewing it as a very-rational thing to do? (I’m referring, of course, to the support for Operation Cast Lead).

I think that Israelis felt that the Hamas “deserved” it. I think they were less sure about whether this actually served the interests of Israel, but the option of continuing to receive the rockets was conceived as unbearable. Of course, Israelis like to forget all sort of things, such as the siege on Gaza, the possibility of dialog with Hamas, the Syrian negotiations that were in advanced phase that were cut short to go on this war. So with all the brainwashing, the choice was down to this: continue receiving rocket hits, or strike back. Striking back provided a catharsis that many dared decline.

>>> You also said: “I think the Israelis are confident enough to assume that they can juggle the current situation a little longer.” What do you mean by “a little longer”? What do most Israelis feel comes at the end of that period? Palestinian capitulation of some sort? One that will enable the creation of a Palestine? We both agree the answer to the latter is no. But I think most today do not think about the future whatsoever. They exist for today, they are mostly apathetic, and spend more time indulging in self-pity, in bolstering their paranoia, and in distancing themselves from any meaningful process of introspection, be it about the past, or the future.

So the bottom line is yes, many, perhaps most, don’t really think about the future in very realistic terms. Many are just struggling to get by and what they know if what they feel and what they feel is what they are told. Many are either apathetic or Messianic, anything but realistic. But amongst those that do try to rationalize, there are many who are waiting for (a) Obama’s term to end or (b) a war with Iran and/or Lebanon and/or Syrian or (c) a nationalistic tidal wave in Europe or (d) an Islamic tidal wave in the neighboring Arab states or (e) the collapse of the PA and Hamas take over in the West bank. All of these developments hold either promises or threats that either way make negotiations and plans based on the current conditions, a very volatile proposition that should be avoided. What would come after… each with his own scenario but I think that the recurring theme is that they aim for a future in which Palestinian nationalism will either be dissolved or that Israel will be able to deal with the Palestinians through a more ruthless value system, which will not be criticized in the West whose support Israel needs.

>>> I WISH most Israelis thought of various Armageddons as our possible future…

If you are talking about Syrian or Iranian threats, I hear more and more people saying, bring it on, they are paper tigers. If you are talking about Hizballah, this is what a Haifa guy told me last week: yeah, we saw what they had in 2006, it’s no big deal, a month of inconvenience and then life moved on. Apartment prices in Haifa were not affected in any significant way! I don’t know of anybody who left Haifa because of the 2006 war.

September 2nd, 2009, 2:39 am


Shai said:


Offer Shelach may well be right, when he wrote in Ma’ariv that we Israelis are once again in those “glorious years” of 1967-1973. There’s a saying in Hebrew (as you know) that goes: “The urine has gone to our head”. I just hope this is not true for our current PM, because if it is, then we know what happens when 1973 comes around.

I’m not worried about the Messianic or Apathetic Israeli, as much as I’m worried about Bibi. Can he stand up to the Ya’alons, the Steinitzes, the Liebermans, all of whom believe in the inevitable clash of civilizations. And, like the majority of Kennedy’s EXCOM in October 1962, believe that the sooner the better, while Israel still has military superiority. Indeed the Bush Era did not help make Israeli politicians more moderate, but rather quite the opposite. It’s hard not becoming belligerent, when your best friend is the neighborhood thug…

September 2nd, 2009, 5:35 am


Alex said:

Norman, I read the WSJ piece and spent hours today writing comments there.

Shai and Yossi,

You must read the comments over there at the WSJ … your average right wing Israeli fanatic is nothing compared to those readers.

Mashallah! … what an inspiring collection:


September 2nd, 2009, 6:19 am


Shai said:

Dear Alex,

I hail your patience, and your tremendous drive to calmly, thoughtfully communicate also with people that are clearly extremist in their views. It is almost shocking to read some of those comments on the WSJ article.

Look at the absurd – as parents, we wouldn’t let our child utter 1/10th of the ignorant, hateful language some of those adult commentators used and yet, as leaders or as members of society, we let such things go by daily, without saying a word. We sin, as a society, when we remain silent not only to physical belligerency, but also to the verbal one. At times, the latter is far more powerful. It recruits quietly, more convincingly, especially when no counter-arguments are given.

More of us should be there alongside you, Alex.

September 2nd, 2009, 6:51 am


Shami said:

Dear Jad,

What can i do ? Hassoun the mufti of Bashar,used to attack the christians and jews in the most stupid manner in his mosque in Aleppo.

Trustquest,many thanks for the link.

September 2nd, 2009, 11:10 am


Akbar Palace said:

Congratulations to Rima Salha and Al Arabiya. This is the type of “change” much needed in the Middle East:

The show is called “Death Making” in Arabic, hardly the way Al Qaeda probably wants itself described.

But that is how the powerful pan-Arabic satellite channel Al Arabiya casts the terror organization and its foot soldiers in its popular television program.

Hosted by female correspondent Rima Salha, the Dubai-based show is heading into its third year on Al Arabiya and aims to influence how the Arab world views Al Qaeda.

Video: Click here for more on “Death Making.”

“As we know, there are lots of Muslims who are brainwashed so they believe in terrorism but there are also big sections of Muslims who sympathize with terrorists,” says Salha. “We are targeting those people and trying to explain to them that terrorism is not a good thing.”

It is a unique program that lets jihadists tell their stories, and then shows the results of their actions.

“It’s not enough to tell you that Al Qaeda is a terrorist organization. You have to understand why, what it means, how everything works, and what the end goal is for them,” Al Arabia’s general manager Abdul Rahman al-Rashed explains.

For her work, Salha, who is Lebanese, gets death threats, including when Osama bin Laden’s number two, Ayman al Zawahiri, singled the show and Al Arabiya out, by weaving video of both into one of his multi-media diatribes against mass media.

Al Rashed said that the video made “a lot of problems for Al Qaeda,” because “they have different factions within Al Qaeda.”

“There are a lot of programs debating the issue of terrorism, a lot of debating,” says al Rashed. “But this is the only program with field trips, with special footage, with a lot of revelations in it.”

Despite the threats, Salah is undeterred. She goes to the jihadists, where they are: in refugee camps off limits even to security forces and to Iraq. She and her team convince subjects to talk to them. It’s not easy, but some of these militants apparently think they stand to benefit from a bit of publicity.

She’s interviewed the family of the late leader of Al Qaeda in Iraq Abu Musab al Zarqawi and Kamal Habib who was one of the organizers of the assassination of Egyptian president Anwar Sadat. Habib has since renounced violence and went on Salha’s show critical of his old associate al Zawahiri’s continued use of violence.

The topic of terrorism is so hot that Salha gets attacked from all sides.

“They accuse me of fighting jihad, they accuse me of destroying the image of Islam. This is not true. We are not distorting the image of Islam,” says Salha. “The program is just trying to show some facts about terrorism and these so-called jihadists. Of course I receive threats on a regular basis, but that does not prevent me from doing my mission.”

Peter Neumann, Author of “Old and New Terrorism” and the director of the International Centre for the Study of Radicalisation and Political Violence at King’s College says the fact that “Death Making” airs on an Arab television station is significant.

“From that point of view this is a very positive development which is likely to have an impact and further undermine the credibility and legitimacy of organizations like Al Qaeda,” says Neuman.

“We also, n the show, highlighted victims of terrorism, and when I say victims, I also include the terrorists themselves and their family because they are also victims of brainwashing and radical views,” says Salha.

She says though the name of the program is “Death Making,” she hopes its effect is ultimately the opposite.

“We also target youngsters and the aim of the program, and I said, is to help try to get these poor people get over these radical views.”


September 2nd, 2009, 11:56 am


Shai said:


While it is certainly encouraging to see Arabs working within, trying to persuade youngsters not to blow themselves up, I can’t help but feel a slight sense of hypocrisy emanating from your comment above. The call for reform should come, but shouldn’t you first encourage the same amongst “your own”? For instance, don’t you think there are too many Settler youth who are growing violent (towards the Palestinians in the Territories), and someone should address them, as Rima Salha addresses potentially violent Arabs?

Clearly someone identified as a “liberal” or “Leftist” can’t do it. He/she would not be welcomed in any Settler forum. But someone like you, might. Can you see yourself participating in such a mission? When it comes to the same “Jihadists” and their feelings towards Israel, certainly one of the main things that fuels their anger and hatred is what they hear and see happening by Settlers against their brethren. Shouldn’t we do something about that?

September 2nd, 2009, 12:18 pm


Akbar Palace said:

…there are too many Settler youth who are growing violent (towards the Palestinians in the Territories), and someone should address them, as Rima Salha addresses potentially violent Arabs?


Do you have any statistics showing there are “too many Settler youth who are growing violent”? I’m certain there have been violent incidents againsts Arabs in Israel, and that is very unfortunate. I don’t know at this point how many Arabs have been injured or killed by Israelis. I also don’t know how many Israelis have been hurt by Arabs. But yes, reducing violence by addressing the phenomenon in the classroom, for example, is a great idea.

Clearly someone identified as a “liberal” or “Leftist” can’t do it. He/she would not be welcomed in any Settler forum. But someone like you, might.

I agree. A “liberal/Leftist” is know to turn a blind eye toward Arab violence. Therefore, they are usually mistrusted.

Can you see yourself participating in such a mission?

Yes. If I had the time and money, I would enjoy speaking to Arab and Jewish youth about the evils of violence.

When it comes to the same “Jihadists” and their feelings towards Israel, certainly one of the main things that fuels their anger and hatred is what they hear and see happening by Settlers against their brethren.

This is a myth Shai, but you can try to sell it for all its worth, especially here on Syria Comment.

Actually, the Palestinians in the West Bank have curbed violence against Israel over the past few years. I think part of that is the wall and part of that is Abbas. I wish there was a way to congratulate him and the PA. That is why I hope talks can continue soon between the PA and Israel. There are no settlers in Gaza, yet this is the source of most of the violence between Israel and the Palestinians.

Secondly, a few Arab-Israelis have been arrested by aiding terrorist organizations. Though this is not violent, it has the potential of placing Israelis in danger. I think educating Arabs against treason is also in short order.

Shouldn’t we do something about that?

We should do something about all these issues, not just the one you’re focused on.

September 2nd, 2009, 12:59 pm


trustquest said:

Akbar Palace

Another Merchant Death Story!
The pursuit of education: http://thestory.org/archive/
Hear the story above and look at Mike’s business: http://www.notawear.com/
Here is Mike photo work: http://www.muslimselfportrait.info/?p=349

What you think?, do you think there is a change in attitude in some Palestinians circles towards Israel, if yes when do you think will see Israelis realize that pain is a common dominator between both?

September 2nd, 2009, 1:57 pm


Akbar Palace said:

What you think?, do you think there is a change in attitude in some Palestinians circles towards Israel, if yes when do you think will see Israelis realize that pain is a common dominator between both?


I can appreciate a moderate Arab’s concern and frustration about being labelled a “terrorist” because of his accent, his appearance and perhaps his last name. Especially in Israel and the United States. These are difficult times, and people are suspicious. Arabs were so suspicious of (and violent against) Jews, Jews had to leave Arab countries permanantly after living hundreds of years with Arabs.

Similarly, Jews have been labelled as outsiders in other countries throughout the ages. We know how you feel.

I met a Syrian-American who (I think) over-compensated for this by wearing Tee-Shirts with American flags and bringing deserts to work for the employees. I suggest that if anyone is concerned about their heritage and the labels they may inflict, they do their best to interact with their peers and actually explain how they aren’t a threat to the country they are living in. A little patriotism wouldn’t hurt either. I think this is all we can do.

Supporting terrorists, like many do on this website, probably doesn’t help.

September 2nd, 2009, 3:05 pm


Shai said:


“We should do something about all these issues, not just the one you’re focused on.”

But that’s exactly the point. We CAN’T do something about all these issues, we can only do something (hopefully more than something) about issues that are closer to us. Just as Rima Salha can’t go talk to Settlers in Efrat, you also cannot go talk to potential suicide-bombers in refugee camps throughout our region.

So each side needs to do what it can, to eradicate violence, to denounce it as a legitimate means of communication or of struggle. Given that you accept that we “liberal Leftists” are mistrusted by your Settler friends (you said it, not me), are you willing to engage in changing the violent nature of our (your) side? Regardless of numbers of instances (though clearly we’re not talking about “isolated incidences”, and I think you know that), certainly most cases occur by “your side” (supporters of the Occupation) than by “my side”. What are you willing to do to help end it?

September 2nd, 2009, 3:12 pm


jad said:

From what you wrote (if that is true of Moufti Hassoun used to curse Christians and Jews)we should be very thankful and praise the president for changing this man to what he is right now and what he represent, since he is widely seen as a balance, open minded and well spoken Moufti for the Syrians’ unity and Syrians’ equality.
In that case you should be happy and support the president effort in changing the hate mindset of some clergy we have since you always write that you are with such movement (although I’m not convinced that you are, Sorry!).
See you in Sednaya resort 😉

September 2nd, 2009, 3:38 pm


Akbar Palace said:

Just as Rima Salha can’t go talk to Settlers in Efrat, you also cannot go talk to potential suicide-bombers in refugee camps throughout our region.


True. I was thinking about what Israelis can do about Israelis. There are many Jewish Israelis and there are many Arab Israelis, and both should attend some sort of “sensitivity training” while in school. Whether that’s in Tel Aviv, Efrat, Umm-al-Fahem, or Ashdod.

I also think all Israeli citizens should participate in required national service (including dosim and aravim).

At this point, I’m only prepared to voice my opinions;)


FYI I found this. Perhaps there is something similar in Syria or Lebanon:


September 2nd, 2009, 4:10 pm


Shami said:

Jad,it’s true and it was not long time ago,few months before he became mufti,he is a comedian and very hypocrit ,as you know ,in this system all people are comedians and at the level that they even lie to themselves.
Hassoun still insults the jews(not only the zionists) and then some days after go to Europe for meeting with the great Rabbi of bani sahyun.

I respect Patriach Hazim more than any of these Shyoukh.

September 2nd, 2009, 4:32 pm


jad said:

“A little patriotism wouldn’t hurt either. I think this is all we can do.”
I’m not a patriot if I don’t ware a T Shirt with the American flag on or an underwear with the face of Bush printed on the butt or eat ‘Freedom Fries”..
That is the funniest thing I read after Palin especially from someone who puts Israel’s interest before his own!? Hypocrite.

September 2nd, 2009, 4:33 pm


Shami said:

See you in Sednaya resort 😉

ok avec plaisir ,but how would i recognize you ?

September 2nd, 2009, 4:45 pm


jad said:

What you wrote lead us to the conclusion that in fact the President by appointing Moufti Hassoun, he actually changed the man from the hatred person you wrote he was to a good Muslim figure that all Syrians can appreciate his tolerance message (fake or not) needed to unit Syrians instead of having someone with the same language you use sometimes that divide us into sects and tribes of believers and infidels.
Our society needs those people, we have lots and lots of radicals and sectarians that even ‘hypocrites’ as you described them are very important to exist since they will make some balance in the society.

(ok avec plaisir ,but how would i recognize you ?) I’ll be the sfour one! 🙂

September 2nd, 2009, 4:58 pm


Shami said:

I disagree Jad ,the syrians used to live together in the same street for centuries and it’s only now after more than 40 years of baath regime that you fear the sectarians and radicals ,in fact your people ?.radicals and sectarians are a mini minority in Syria.

September 2nd, 2009, 5:16 pm


jad said:

Radicals were and are and will always be in the society with or without Baath and they didn’t come after 40 years they were in from the beginning of humanity so don’t write me your usual lecture about this issue its SO BORING and fruitless especially in your case, we have plenty of experience and proves allover SC, cut it out.
My point was about the religious teaching on public TV that spreads HATE and INTOLERANCE and you came back with ‘what to do?’ answer and start a personal attack on one of the very few balanced and tolerated Islamic figures in Syria, even in the Arab world as being hypocrite and comedian. Mr. Hassoun guilt is that the President choose him nothing more nothing less, so this whole charred is just out of personal issues against the president not the Moufti and it wasn’t out of principles was it?

September 2nd, 2009, 5:50 pm


Shami said:

Comedian,Hypocrit and also corrupt.i forgot it.

September 2nd, 2009, 6:18 pm


Shami said:

anyway jad ,mabrouk for this friendship at least in Saydnaya ,thank to this you will have a better fate than me,if you go in the same category than norman and alex,we risk to miss each other.

September 2nd, 2009, 6:27 pm


Jad said:

LOL, don’t worry, I won’t be better than you are, maybe worse, it all depends on the cell we will be thrown in.

September 2nd, 2009, 6:51 pm


Shami said:

i see ,it seems that you prefer palmyra resort.

September 2nd, 2009, 7:24 pm


jad said:

I know that you LOVE Al Bouti, get this:
He thinks that Polygamy is part of the solution for the high numbers of women not getting married??
“وهي جزء من الحل لكثرة العنوسة في الزمن الحالي منتقدا بعض الاصوات التي تنادي بأن التعدد هو ظلم للزوجة وهو نوع من انواع هضم حق المرأة في الاسلام متساءلا ان كان هذا هضم لحق المرأة فلماذا ترضى به ولماذا تكون في اغلب الاحيان سعيدة به؟؟”
How good this advise is in a time where we already hit the wall and we will be 90millions in a decade or two?
For god sake tell your friends not to mix religion rules with everything it destroy it.

September 2nd, 2009, 10:38 pm


norman said:

Hi alex,

I read what you wrote in the WSJ , I admire you cool head and focused debate , you are one of the best that Syria has , (( did not want others to get upset if i said that you are the best ))

And I am not exaggerating.

September 3rd, 2009, 3:21 am


Off the Wall said:

Me too. I second Norman’s. In fact these scoundrels are basically hurting the cause of democracy not only in Syria, but everywhere where democratic reforms are much needed. There utter misunderstanding of what the word means and clueless parroting of jingoistic slogans is but a testimony to how far the right has sunk and how far it is sinking the intellectual rigor of my beloved US.

I was tempted to jump in and give them a piece of my mind but they were only saved by the bell as I had a meeting with a student.

Notwithstanding whether I agree, partially, fully, or not at all, with the Syrian posters on that exchange, the empty heads should have been told how privileged they were to have two outstanding Syrians even give them an iota of time. With your patience, I gather Syria now has its Ghandi, where is Shai? he would be happy 🙂

One thing though, I was happy to realize, after being absent from blogs other than SC for a while, that the majority of our interlocutors on SC, such as AP and Amir, have much more true intellectual depth than the empty cans you had to deal with on WSJ. This is good, SC is home where opinionated people come for clash of opinions and ideas, but with true commitment to debating. You have a lot to do with that. Thank you.

I also think all Israeli citizens should participate in required national service (including dosim and aravim).

This is huge, I have one question though, which one would be easier, the dosim or the aravim 😉

Also, I truly hope you do not subscribe to this idea of service:


For if such an idea was even mentioned here in the states, you would be the first one to fight against it. By the way, I do not doubt the sincerity of the author, for the article’s sincerity is clear. But as they say, the road to hell is paved with good intention.

He is the best

September 3rd, 2009, 5:19 am


Off the Wall said:

Dear room-mate Jad, and neighbor Shami
Monogamy or Polygamy, there are no conjugal visits in the resort.

September 3rd, 2009, 5:26 am


alex said:

Norman, off the wall, Shai

Thank you all, you are so kind. as OTW said, practically anyone from SC can outshine the whole group of commentators on the WSJ.

What is sad is that these highly opinionated, yet clearly uninformed people are representative of large numbers of American voters… voters who can potentially elect another George Bush who has no clue how to lead the world.

September 3rd, 2009, 6:18 am


Shai said:

Dear OTW,

If Alex is ready to be Gandhi, I’ll be his first follower!

Yeah, I also thought it was a bit “funny” to give a soldier’s voice greater representation in the Israel Knesset, based solely on the fact that he served in an army.

My eldest has just started 1st grade, and a few weeks beforehand a Psychologist came to see all the kids who were finishing kindergarten. Some parents asked about discipline in school, how it will be different from kindergarten. The Psychologist stressed that it will be very different, because “afterwards” (12 years from now), they’ll all be expected to receive orders in the army. Ya’ani, if we didn’t have the army (mandatory service), then like in a normal society our kids may be able to grow up with slightly “less obedience”. But since we’re a nation-at-war, for over 60 years now, we have to adjust accordingly.

I won’t share everything I told this Psychologist (who also had good intentions I’m sure), but my first statement was: “Are you suggesting we should look at our 6 year olds as soldiers already now?”… Yep.

September 3rd, 2009, 6:21 am


Shai said:


Not potentially, they DID elect GWB. Twice!…

September 3rd, 2009, 6:22 am


Off the Wall said:

Dear Alex
I beg to differ with you, I would have ridiculed each and every one on that site and told them that their ideas are not worth the band width and the disk space they consume. But then, you are the Gandhi, and Shai and I are ready to follow.

Dear Shai
It has been a while since I had the opportunity to direct any of my comments your way. The story you told is both sad and encouraging. Sad in the sense that no matter where you look, the first victims of any war are the children. If not robbed their lives, or their loved ones, they are robbed of their right to grow up without fear and hate. The story is encouraging for there was someone to confront the Psychologist. Thank you for standing for the rights of children and for childhood.

That said, Some of my friends and colleagues have served in various capacities in the Israeli army. A colleague of mine was a high ranking officer in the Israeli air force. Having talked to them, some at length and some briefly, I have come to a conclusion that Israel’s birth as a communal nation has had a tremendous impact on her relationship with her army. Like any communal community, the concept of citizen-soldier was rather strong and it may remain strong even after peace with all of your neighbors has been achieved. Much of the national pride hangs on the strength of the army, or on the image of invincibility, and much of the state’s own policies are based on the reliance on the perception of the asymmetric deterrence capacity of that army. These are addictive thoughts and feelings, and I doubt that citizens or politicians will be willing to forgo the sense of security such notions provide. An added complexity is that the army, structured more on the National Guard model than on the regular army model in the US is also an integral component of the country’s economy and has been the incubator of much of the recent techonological revolution the country has witnessed in term of military industry, and the subsequent proliferation into civilian domain. Is it possible that even after peace, and after the communal birth is long gone and the socialist flavor of the nation is replaced by a capitalist economy, child psychologists will continue to prepare children to become soldiers first, and whatever they wish, second for a while. I really think that being a nation at war for 60 years is not the only reason for that elementary school conversation.

Once more, my conclusion are based on a very small sample, and on reading about the early stages of immigration and of Israel’s establishment. Much of it was either overly demonized on one side, or overly romanticized on the other. In brief, there is a high probability of me being wrong.

September 3rd, 2009, 8:29 am


Shai said:

Dear OTW,

You are more right than you know. Indeed almost everything in Israel is interlinked with the Army experience. It is true that much of our national pride stems from having served our nation. We grow up learning about how difficult it was for Jews to establish a state of their own, but it is only when you finally put on uniform, and put aside 3 years of your life, that you begin to understand what some of those difficulties were. For many, myself included, the service and the subsequent (many years) of reserve duty have also taught us how our freedom has come at someone else’s expense.

I have no doubt that my army service helped make me more patriotic. But while I came intimately close with some of our struggles, and took part in them, I also became angry at the way in which my nation is using our military and its manpower to protect itself. I was fortunate enough never to participate in “Operations” such as Lebanon 2006 or Gaza 2008/9, but in my army service I did experience day-to-day life of Palestinians in their Territories, from Gaza to Tulkarm, to Nablus and Jenin. I’ve seen the faces of these poor people, and their living conditions. I’ve felt what it is like to be a soldier in a conquering army, and I also knew that I was stopping no hatred towards Israel by controlling the Palestinian peoples’ fate in my hands. Instead, I was creating it.

Can the Army serve conflicting roles in shaping an Israeli’s view of his nation? Of course. I am proud of my country, and very angry at the same time. I hail the military achievements of some of our leaders, that at various points in our history protected us from potential annihilation, and I condemn other “achievements” that have brought pain and suffering upon 4 million people that have never deserved it. Many conservative-minded Jews, especially in the U.S. but also in Israel, cannot understand how an Israeli can be patriotic and so critical of his nation at the same time. For me, I cannot understand how anyone can care about their nation, and remain so blind, or so silent, for so long.

But with everything that the Israeli Army has brought us, I still long for the day that my children will not understand what it is that we had to do. Only then will I know that their future is safe.

September 3rd, 2009, 10:45 am


Akbar Palace said:

What is sad is that these highly opinionated, yet clearly uninformed people are representative of large numbers of American voters… voters who can potentially elect another George Bush who has no clue how to lead the world.


I contend that Americans (in general) are more informed than Syrians.

Considering the availability of the internet and the free media, I don’t think there is any question about it.

Americans have elected the likes of GWB, Bill Clinton and Barack Obama. They are all quite different and they represent the what Americans thought was best at the time.

I consider myself extremely informed, and I voted for GWB twice;)


I didn’t quite understand the point of your last comment to me or the link you pointed to. I don’t see any problem with demographics as long as Israel maintains the rule of law. Both Arabs and Jews must be treated equally no matter who is in the majority. That most Israeli Arabs want to stay in Israel instead of being given to the PA already speaks volumes. Israel is the better government. Period.

September 3rd, 2009, 11:21 am


Shai said:


The fact that Israeli-Arabs prefer to stay in Israel than to be “given to the PA” does not necessarily say anything about their treatment within Israel. It says they want to stay in their homes, not to be transferred against their will elsewhere. The fact that someone has even brought up the horrific notion of transferring Arabs out of their homes is bad enough, but think of the legitimacy you’re giving this illegal and racist idea by even discussing it.

If you had asked black Americans in Alabama in the 1950’s if they would prefer “being given” to Liberia, I imagine most would have chosen to stay. But does that in any way whatsoever allude to their treatment by white Americans in those days?

We must be careful in the way we deduce things.

September 3rd, 2009, 11:48 am


SimoHurtta said:

The Psychologist stressed that it will be very different, because “afterwards” (12 years from now), they’ll all be expected to receive orders in the army. Ya’ani, if we didn’t have the army (mandatory service), then like in a normal society our kids may be able to grow up with slightly “less obedience”. But since we’re a nation-at-war, for over 60 years now, we have to adjust accordingly.

Shai if Israel develops in the way it has developed during the last years soon your children will have “Lieberman Youth” and “Schutzstaffel of Zion”.

‘Jews who sell to Arabs are enemies’

Statement from the Beit Din of the Sanhedrin to the People of Israel and to the Seventy Nations

The Land of Israel from the Euphrates to the Nile cannot contain nations or groups, nor even individuals, who openly oppose the exclusivity of the Land of Israel as promised to the people of Israel, and those who do not accept the Noachide laws, which means to set up proper courts of law, to abstain from murder and theft, to instill proper moral beliefs, and to observe the laws of sexual propriety.

We believe and know that very soon as a result of the struggle over Jerusalem, the land will contain tens of millions of Jews, if not more: “Who can count the dust of Jacob”, all of those Jews who had been dispersed throughout the world, all descendants of the Jewish people, remainders of the Kingdom of Judah and Benjamin and Levi.

The world anticipates the imminent return of the lost tribes of Israel, returning to the faith of their fathers and the everlasting peace between Efraim and Judea and the establishment of the House of David. The Jewish descendants will find their place within the promised borders.

Nations or states who demand or maintain a false sovereignty in the area designated for the Jewish people live there unlawfully, in a land that is not theirs, and will be ultimately forced to relinquish their hold, either voluntarily or under duress.

The “mental climate” in Israel is becomming more and more worrisam.


Akbar are you a “missing person” and a “strategic national threat” (= ‘abducted’ by intermarriage)?

September 3rd, 2009, 12:38 pm


Shai said:


I agree with you – the future of our children is indeed unclear. Our real battle isn’t with enemies outside, it is within. Aside from racism towards Arabs, and a society that was formed on feelings of paranoia (which later translated into fear, suspicion, and hatred), there exists a great rift between people who are pro-Occupation, and those against it.

I’ve used the example in the past, saying the Occupation is Israel’s Slavery, and it seems we’re headed straight for 1861. I hope I’m wrong.

September 3rd, 2009, 2:51 pm


Akbar Palace said:

We must be careful in the way we deduce things.


We must also be careful not to exaggerate and present misleading information.

Therefore, when you state:

It says they want to stay in their homes, not to be transferred against their will elsewhere. The fact that someone has even brought up the horrific notion of transferring Arabs out of their homes is bad enough, but think of the legitimacy you’re giving this illegal and racist idea by even discussing it.

You ought to pinch yourself. I have not heard ANYTHING abot “transfer” nor have I heard anything about being thrown out of “their homes”.

The only thing I’ve heard is that the Israeli border would be re-drawn to exclude Arab villages and that these villages would be incorporated into Palestine.

Isn’t that what the Palestinians want? More land?

The fact that you interpret this as the big bad racist Israeli government throwing poor Arabs out of their homes is contrafactual and offensive (though this is your standard MO as you compare this to Alabama and Liberia, as if there is a correlation).

The issue is 2 states. One Arab and One Jewish and what the borders will be.

September 3rd, 2009, 4:12 pm


Yossi said:

OTW, (Shai),

The army is intertwined with civilian life in Israel in many and diverse ways, but I want to talk about the point OTW was raising, that of a communal society. Israel indeed started as a very cohesive society of Ashkenazi Jews who shared the same vision and had to work together to achieve it, in the face of great perils. There was very little room for individualism, and many were ideologically socialist or communist. Over time, especially with the immigration of Mizrahi and then Russian Jews, and with privatization and globalization of the economy, and the removal of most existential threats, the society became much less cohesive but the notion of “serving” the country is still very much ingrained in the country’s DNA. Moreover, the state as an entity has a level of trust and adoration that is not common in other countries, and people are looking to the state to solve their problems (“why isn’t the government doing this? W