Nasrallah’s Rhetoric Directed East or West?

by By Qifa Nabki
for Syria Comment March 14, 2009

In a speech Friday evening commemorating the Prophet Muhammad’s birthday, Hizbullah secretary-general Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah rejected the recent American offer of dialogue along with its pre-conditions (recognition of Israel and renunciation of violence).

This, in and of itself, was unsurprising. More noteworthy, however, was Nasrallah’s language concerning the Syrian-Saudi reconciliation and the strategic choices that face a more united Middle East, particularly vis-à-vis Israel. In the context of Syria’s peace negotiations, and coming on the heels of President Bashar al-Assad’s recent statement concerning his allies in Lebanon and Palestine (“I will work to involve Hizbullah and Hamas in the negotiations to achieve peace in the region”), one wonders whether Nasrallah’s words were not at least partially intended for Syria. Indeed, as he directed his comments “to those who delight in American delegations coming to Lebanon,” one could hardly help wondering what he made of the American delegations coming to Syria.

Here is the relevant paragraph, with translation below:

اليوم وغدأ وبعد سنة وبعد مئة وبعد ألف سنة، إلى قيام الساعة ، نحن وأولادنا وأحفادنا وأجيالنا ، طالما نحن حزب الله لا يمكن أن نعترف بإسرائيل. ماذا يعني إسرائيل، إسرائيل كيان غاصب ودولة غير قانونية وغير شرعية، دولة عنصرية ودولة معتدية ودولة إرهابية، بأي معيار يمكن لإنسان مسلم أو عربي أنّ يعترف بكيان من هذا النوع وأن يأتي ببساطة ويقول نعم هذه هي إسرائيل وثلاثة أرباعها أو أكثر أعطوه لشذاذ آفاق جيء بهم من كل أنحاء الدنيا، أمّا أصحاب الحق الشرعيون وأهل الأرض وأهل الديار وأهل المقدسات من الشعب الفلسطيني مسلمين ومسيحيين هؤلاء يجب أن يتركوا وأن يخرجوا وأن يستسلموا وأن يخضعوا! دلوني ما المعيار، في الدين ما المعيار، في الأخلاق ما المعيار، في الإنسانية ما المعيار، في الوطنية ما المعيار، في القومية ما المعيار، على أي معيار، نعم هناك معيار واحد هو معيار القبائل والعشائر العربية التي انهزمت أمام جيش أبرهة، أي ماذا نقدر أن نعمل فهذه إسرائيل وفي ظهرها أمريكا، كما قال أولئك هذا جيش الحبشة ولا نستطيع مواجهة الفيل، فلنهرب ونحيد ونترك أقدس مقدساتنا لأبرهة، يوجد فقط هذا المنطق منطق عام الفيل الذي يقول نحن لا نقدر على إسرائيل وإسرائيل بظهرها أمريكا وليس لدينا خيار فالواقعية والواقع والمنطق والتعايش والكذا والكذا ويفتشون عن تعابير ما أنزل الله بها من سلطان ليفرضوا  علينا القبول بهذا الأمر

“Today, and tomorrow, and after one year, and one hundred years, and one thousand years, until the Hour of Judgment, we and our children and our grandchildren and our people… as long as we are Hizbullah, we will not recognize Israel. What is Israel? Israel is a plundering entity, an illegal and illegitimate state, a racist, belligerent, terrorist state. By what standard can a human being, Muslim or Arab, recognize an entity of this kind, and come and say, simply: “Yes, this is Israel,” while three quarters of it or more has been given to foreigners brought from all corners of the world, and while the people who are in the right, who are the legitimate ones, the people of the land and the holy places, the Palestinians – Muslims and Christians – have to let go, and leave, and surrender, and submit! Show me that standard! What is the religious standard? What is the moral standard? What is the humanitarian standard? What is the nationalist standard? What standard is it?!

“Yes, there is one standard, which is the standard of the Arab tribes and clans that were defeated before the army of Abraha, [the standard which says]: “What can we do? This is Israel, supported by America,” just like those who said: “This is the army of the Ethiopians, and we are unable to confront the elephant, so let’s flee and give up and abandon the holiest of our holy places to Abraha…” There is only this logic, the logic of the Year of the Elephant, which says: “We cannot overcome Israel, for Israel has America behind it, and we have no other choice, and we must be realistic, and common sense, and coexistence, blah blah blah… They search for baseless explanations so as to force us to accept this issue…”

Who was Nasrallah’s audience here? Was it merely the usual suspects (the ‘moderate Arabs’ and March 14th), or was he also firing a shot across Syria’s bow, sending the signal that this was all a little too much, too soon?  After a week in which Britian announced a dialogue with Hizbullah’s political wing, the Americans made a similar offer with strings attached, and the Syrians stated publicly for the first time that they would work to bring Hizbullah to the negotiating table, it is not so hard to imagine that Nasrallah sought to lower expectations.

Hizbullah and its allies are in a good position to become the majority after the June 7 elections. While a victory for either side is unlikely to be a resounding one and will almost certainly result in a consensual government (i.e. one in which the opposition has a cabinet veto), the elections nevertheless promise to be hard fought. The last thing that Hizbullah needs right now is the public impression (created by offers of dialogue from Britain and the U.S., the American engagement of Iran and Syria, and Bashar al-Assad’s suggestion that Hizbullah will agree to negotiations) that the resistance movement is softening its stance vis-à-vis Israel.

(Qifa Nabki is a Beirut-based analyst. He is a contributor to Syria Comment and also blogs regularly at

Comments (32)

Amir in Tel Aviv said:

To Nasralla and to his kind, we have to say:
Who gives a shit whether you recognize or not.
The ultimate recognition is the day of tomorrow, in which Israel
is here to stay. The recognition is in every child who is born Israeli
Holy-land was-is-and always will be a Jewish property.
Even if one day they succeed in “erase” Israel off the map,
I guaranty that future Zionists will re-reclaim holy-land.
It will never be a Muslim property. It will always be potentially Jewish.
Always. To the end of time.

March 15th, 2009, 2:37 pm


sam said:

To Amir

Your words only help convince people that are on the fence with the whole arab-israeli conflict, to hate you people. On all corners of the earth, and for over 5000 years the Jewish peoples are looked at as being greedy. Instead of saying that the holy land belongs to all, Christians, Jews, and Moslems, your comments are looked at as if you are a typical jew. No wander anti-semitism is on the rise, for the average gentile, your people are viewed as greedy, and wanting everything to yourselves. We live in a modern world, you can’t use the God promised this land to me crap anymore. If I stood in my neigbors front yard, and said God promised this to me, they would send me to the nut house!

March 15th, 2009, 3:24 pm


majedkhaldoun said:

This is what I like about Hasan Nasrallah,He is honest,consistant,convincing,speak as the people feel and think, and he is right.
Israel is here to stay, but only for a while,Jerusalem is a moslem property,and not a jewish property.
Israel can count on american support, which will change in the future,as the moslem population in USA will increase,it is expected to be 50 million by the year 2050.

March 15th, 2009, 4:22 pm


Yossi (AKA Rumyal) said:


First, he didn’t *really* say “blah blah blah…” 🙂

So your thesis is that this is an electioneering motivated declaration, meant to persuade the voters that Hizballah won’t cave in, even if Syria did. Kind of like mirror image of Netanyahu vowing to his potential voters that he will never cede the Golan. This makes sense, but the question to ask is whether regardless of the elections you could see Nasrallah joining into trilateral talks with Israel, just because Syria will order him to do so?

His ideology, like Hamas’s, will never allow him to “recognize” Israel unless there is wide consensus that the Palestinian problem has been addressed fairly. Even if that happened, he could still reject Israel based on the religious arguments he presents here. However, this should not prevent him from entering an “indefinite truce” deal, in the meanwhile.

March 15th, 2009, 4:51 pm


Qifa Nabki said:

Ok, Yossi, what he really said was “yada yada yada”. 😉

Of course, you’ve asked the 64,000 lira ($42.66) question. I have no answer. AIG left a comment over at my blog saying that Nasrallah misstepped and is risking alienating the Christian swing vote. I’m not even sure about that, given the response to the speech on the FPM blog.

March 15th, 2009, 4:58 pm


norman said:


It is simple , Good Cop , Bad cop, if it looked that they are salivating at just talking to the West , they know that they would get nothing , Hezbollah does not have to recognize Israel , the Lebanese government has to do that with the help of Syria , Hezbollah has to abide by the deal the Lebanese government reaches ,

What Hezbollah said makes it clear that for Israel to survive and have peace with It’s neighbours it has to return the Land occupied in 1967 and reach a fair solution to the Palestinians that were pushed out of their land in 1948 and 1967.

It is all or nothing ,

I ask you Yossi, and Shai , ((( What is it going to be )))

Separate deals will never bring safety and security to Israel.

And that is my take.

March 15th, 2009, 5:57 pm


Qifa Nabki said:

Ya Ammo Norman,

You make it sound so simple! 🙂 All Hizbullah has to do is abide by the agreement the Lebanese government reaches, as if the Lebanese government was allowed to reach any agreement before the outside powers are satisfied. Also, Nasrallah did not say anything about reaching a fair solution for the Palestinians. He said that HA will never recognize Israel, plain and simple. And he also said (in the following paragraph, which I did not translate) that the Arabs should all band together against Israel, in which case they could easily eliminate it.

I think you are reading him differently than he is reading himself.

March 15th, 2009, 6:03 pm


Off the Wall said:

At risk of changing the subject. This is a bit long.
Moderator: Please feel free to remove or place somewhere else.

They came, they enchanted, they concurred
A review of Syrian Musicians Performance with the Pacific Symphony Orchestra in Orange County, CA.

Written by SC’s Off the Wall.

For Additional Information:

Pacific Symphony Program Notes on the Arabian Nights March:12-14, 2009 :

OC Register Concert Review (for the March 12 concert)

OC Register Photos of the March 12 Concert

OTW Take on Things

Friday the 13th was the second of the three Arabian Nights at the Orange County Center for Performing Art. Orange county’s Pacific Symphony, led by one of our most beloved residents, Master Conductor Carl St. Clair hosted a group of young Syrian Musicians in the Orchestras new elegant home at the Rene and Henry Segerstorm Concert Hall. The audience were treated both to the virtuoso’s skills of the Syrian musicians as well as to the unimaginable range of sounds inherent in serious artistic attempts to interpret, fuse, and assimilate each others’ music and sounds and to integrate evermore new range of instrument in our universal language. The concert featured 6 members of the Syrian National Symphony Orchestra, one of the youngest on the classical art scene, and one of the finest in the Middle East, along with the Orchestra’s conductor Missak Baghboudarian, the second in its history after its founder and principal conductor Maestro Sulhi Al-Wadi.

The concert started with a daring new interpretation of Vivaldi’s Winter concerto from the well known and popular Four Season (a suite of four violin concertos) re-arranged for qanoun and orchestra. The characteristic staccato notes spread throughout this piece make it both suitable and challenging for such a rearrangement where qanoun becomes the solo instrument. However, it is also a challenging arrangement as the qanoun, without sound amplification common in modern Arabic pop music, is perhaps more suitable for chamber music than it is for concert hall since it can be easily drowned by the bright sounds of the orchestra. Baghboudarian and his hosts at the Pacific Orchestra succeeded beyond success. The orchestra played elegantly and softly, and yet brightly enough to remain true to Vivaldi’s composition without drowning the wonderful melodies made by Feras Charestan playing the quanoun. Feras performed superbly, his skillful fast playing and thoughtful enunciation of the melodies originally written for the violin with seamless ease made one think that Vivaldi could have written this piece for the qanoun as much as he did for the violin. The introductory piece was brilliantly and daringly chosen for this specific audience. It established the Syrian National Orchestra credentials using music familiar to the knowledgeable listeners of the Pacific Symphony. It demonstrated the virtuoso skills of the young Syrian Artists, the conducting talents of the guest conductor, and above all, the versatility and skills of the Pacific symphony musicians individually and collectively. Orange County Registrar renowned and tough music critic Timothy Managan had this to say: “Feras Charestan strummed rapidly to sustain the lyrical violin lines and made it all sound easy. The orchestra, led by Baghboudarian, supported delicately so as not to overwhelm Charestan, and didn’t” . Audience Response: Standing Ovation.

The sounds of qanoun are somehow familiar to western ears, especially those familiar with Baroque and the early romantic periods. As an instrument, qanoun bears similarity to mandolin and occasionally to harp. The sound of Nai however, is not as familiar and although it can resemble the flute, I had thought of it as a more limited instrument until I heard the second piece of the program. Led by Carl St. Clair, the Orchestra accompanied Moslem Rahal (Nai) and Omar Al Mousfi (precussion) in playing Shafi Bedreddin’s one movement concerto for Nai / Percussion and string Orchestra. The composition draws heavily on Syrian folk music, but makes thoughtful use of the string Orhcestra without giving a hint of the common chaos of the traditional pop-musician accompanying ensemble. Part romantic and part baroque, with a classical interpretation of Arabic musical sentences, the Nai concerto was moderately paced but peppered with occasional allegro and allegretto melodies. The strings were angelic in capturing the flirtatious dance segments of the composition, with the Nai solidly providing a strong backbone of the composition, and the percussion re-focusing our attention to the hidden and shy dance gestures. The highlight of the composition was the free virtuoso segments, during which, Rahal, in my opinion was at par with great jazz saxophonists. Accompanied by Omar’s magical fingers on percussion, Rahal captured my imagination, and oddly enough, brought to my memory the movie cross-roads, in which a young blues player competes with an accomplished elder guitarist. Only in the modern Rene and Henry Segerstorm Concert Hall, Rahal was on both sides of the competition. Needless to say, St Clair delicate treatment of this concerto brought out the best in every one. Again, OC registrar critic had this to say about Rahal: “The piece evoked dance music, and it sauntered along amiably, with Moslem Rahal providing plenty of fast decoration on the nai. His florid cadenza, improvised, demonstrated the virtuoso range of the instrument, whose tone can be pure, or airy, or bent, the latter with a slight turn of the player’s head”. Audience response: Thunderous applause and a standing ovation.

After the Nai concerto, Carl St Clair brought out Omar Al Mousfi, Moslem Rahal, and Missak Baghboudarian for a small chat and a demonstration. Omar had the best English of the three (now living, studying and teaching music in Chicago). He informed the audience that Moslem Rahal is not only a Nai virtuoso, but a maker of some of the finest Nais which can compete in sound range with the incredible organ occupying three or four floors along the stage-side concert hall wall. He asked both Syrian musicians to demonstrate the range of their instruments and the ability of the two to follow each others during virtuoso segments. Rahal demonstrated two Nais at the opposite ends of size and sound spectrum, from majestic, Basoon like sound he made with a 5 ft long nai, to the familiar sad, yet joyfully dancing sound of small shepherd-flute like Nai. All these wonderful sounds, stressed St Clair, are made with instruments that are not equipped with reed s and valves common in other wind instruments such as clarinet. One interesting observation I had was St Clair following with eyes full of joyous discovery Omar’s hands and fingers as he was demonstrating the capabilities of the traditional Riqq (Arabic Tambourine), and with that Omar’s own excellence.

The next piece was the Oriento Grosso for Clarinet/Cello and Orchestra, a complex composition by another young Syrian musician (Zaid Jabri). Jabri’s composition is one of those brilliant compositions were a predominant melodic sentence is less important than the whole of the composition. Starting quietly, the piece escalates, in a rather sudden manner to a complex mixture of forceful sounds with no sound being very dominant except for the technically demanding Clarinet and Cello solo segments. The piece highlighted the astounding technical abilities of Kinan Azmeh (Clarinet), who was accompanied on Cello by another and no less capable Syrian Musician Athil Hamdan (the dean of the prestigious High Music Institute). Both players were excellent and seemed well in place with the increasingly eminent Pacific Symphony. Initially, I had mixed feelings about Jabri’s composition. While it had a faint sub-conscious oriental moody ambiance, this demanding composition was in no way your average attempt to fuse a lyrical sound from oriental music (theme song) into a western classical framework. Perhaps, a more elegant description of Zaid’s approach to composition can be gleaned by reading the words of Ambassador Imad Mustapha , who wrote describing his friend’s and fellow intellectual originality “Naturally, Zaid who is quite original and creative did not fall into the trap of rewriting popular musical tunes from Syria and the Middle East in a more sophisticated western musical language” . The Ambassador was right on point. The more I contrast this piece with another master piece (Shahrazad), which was superbly played in the second segment of yesterday’s program, I am forced to deeply admire the musical talents of Jabri. When I hear Shahrazad, I imagine exactly what I am supposed to imagine, a sleepy bazaar with camels and caravans, a group of Sultan’s soldiers marching, and a Harem. All would probably be wearing cloths you see in movies but that were never worn in reality. Shahrazad is aesthetically pleasing and remains one of classical music most cherished treasures. But on the other hand, when I heard Zaid’s Oriento Grosso yesterday, which I admit was for the first time, I could easily imagine Syria as I know it, not as portrayed by an orientalist or by a visiting musical prodigy sailor who became mesmerized by a dancer. I could hear the noises at major intersections and market places of Aleppo or Damascus. I could imagine these market places where the residential and the commercial intermingle with no discernable boundaries, and where sounds of modern life and those of the traditional are stressed to a point where the origin of each of them becomes subdued in the whole and their counteracting themes, both strong and voluminous, are acting not in turns, or even in parallel, but in a non-linear fashion with neither achieving victory over the other. This work is no less skillful or original than the work of some of the modern masters. To me Zaid Jabri is not an oriental musician, he is a Syrian composer of good modern classical music with potentials for a place among the masters. Kinan, Athil, as well as St Clair and his outstanding orchestra clearly understood this dramatic piece and made it, as the OC Registrar critic wrote “the biggest surprise of the evening”. As we all stood in yet one more standing ovation, from my vintage point, I could see the look of confusion and surprise on the faces of many who were enthusiastically clapping. Had I been looking at a mirror, I would have seen the same look in my own eyes.

The fourth segment was a the tango for Bouzuq by Mohammad Abdulrahim, orchestrated by Juan Karajoli. Again, St Clair led the Orchestra in accompanying yet another young Syrian musician. Muhammad Osman. This Bouzuq sound was a little too soft to hear in the large concert hall, but variation on the tango theme were very clear and the talents of Osman as an outstanding player were evident. Fast, yet soft and enchanting, the thematic variations were beautiful in Osman’s hand. The audience, including this writer needed to hear a tango, especially one as well orchestrated and played. Osman seemd very accustomed to being in orchestra. As a soloist his attention switched from the conductor to the lead violinist from whom he would discern and by that managed to bring the rhythm ay perfection. Again, the Orchestra was outstanding as they accompanied Osman with the tango background providing some of the softest, cleanest music I ever heard. The more this orchestra helped the Syrian musicians shine, the more it shined along. Audience Response: Heartfelt happiness and standing ovation.

The last piece of the Arabian part of the evening was Meditation on the Theme (My Life) from Mohammad Abdul Wahab, composed by the late Sulhi Al Wadi. Conductor Baghboudarian, himself a student and protégée of the great late musician, gave a short explanation of the piece and played a short part of 80 years old record and explained that the he wanted to play this particular piece in memorium of the Orchetsra’s founder. He then led the Pacific Symphony Orchestra in playing Al-Wadi’s composition. Gone were the simple melodies characterizing Arabic music use of orchestras were the whole orchestra plays the same note. That was replaced by a rich, deep harmonic composition and perfect synergy of the full range of instrumental sounds. The piece was modeled on the romantic era style, and as described by Mangan was “lush, glitzy, and romantic” . Baghboudarian’s interpretation of his teacher’s work was well presented and the pacific symphony orchestra continued to shine.

After intermission, St Clair led the orchestra in playing Shahrazad. I can write a page or two on that, for the Orchestra was fantastic and brilliant. The lead violinist (concert master) Raymond Kobler, who occupy’s the very prestigious Eleanor and Michael Gordon Chair at the Symphony proved himself to be a world class master violinist. His performance of the very soft, yet rapid solo themes of this wonderful work was one of the best I ever heard. The unison and the clean crisp instruments sound from the entire orchestra brought this work to perfection. It was as if the orchestra and the concert hall were one and a single instrument working to enchant, delight, and enrich our souls. The standing ovation lasted few minutes and the audience left the concert hall rightfully very proud of our own Pacific Symphony Orchestra.


There comes a point in a nation’s history when it must account for the giants who dedicated their lives for the betterment of their country. I can see no one more deserving of the highest accolades as a national hero of Syria than the late Sulhi Al-Wadi. He is responsible for bringing together the fragmented Syrian classical music scene from relying solely on two afterschool musical institutes one in Damascus led by himself and another in Aleppo led by the late Hashem Fansa (an outsanding Nai palyer) to a viable and vibrant scene. He cajoled, begged, and worked tirelessly to convince the higher powers of the need to establish a university level higher musical institute. And when he finally received patronage from the late Syrian president, and support from her Excellency Dr. Najah Attar, it seems that he created an outstanding academic institute as evident by the quality of its graduates. I propose that we, as Syrian expats, especially those endowed with wealth, to establish the Sulhi Al-wadi musical fellowship. I propose it as an exchange program whereby an American young musician gets to spend a year studying Arabic instruments in Syria with the capable musicians and a Syrian musician gets to spend a year here in the US. The cost of such scholarship would be in the range of $150K/year. I do not think that it is beyond the ability of the Syrian Expat community. Let us keep the Syrian music scene even more vibrant. These young musicians were our best cultural ambassadors. What they did on that night in the concert hall by far exceeds in its impacts countless political speeches. Hat raised, respect earned, I can easily say, they came, they enchanted, and concurred.

March 15th, 2009, 6:19 pm


norman said:


I love it when you call me Ammo,

Hezbollah will honor an agreement reached between Lebanon and Israel if Syria is the catalyst ,

He said Hezbollah will not recognize Israel not Lebanon will not recognize Israel , I think there is a difference.

About banding together to destroy Israel , He knows that is very hard but we have to understand that the only way for peace and getting what i said above and seems to me as reasonable is a fearful Israel from destruction , otherwise they will stay forever , they only understand force , That was proven In Lebanon and Gaza , whale they are staying in the Golan and the West Bank,

March 15th, 2009, 6:21 pm


Averroes said:


When we talk about not recognizing Israel, we’re not talking about not recognizing the right of Jews to live in the Holy Land. You have to understand that those are totally different issues.

In a way, it is like not recognizing Nazi Germany as an accepted regime, or like not recognizing the Apartheid South Africa. Whether you see it or not, this is how a large (and growing) part of world opinion sees your state.

For there to be true peace, the racist, “Jew Only” mentality must be defeated. The residents of “Israel” must wake up and start realizing that people cannot accept being kicked out of their homes and their land just because the Zionist movement says so.

In the long run, only a One State solution will solve this problem, where the state takes precedence over all ethnic and religious lines. If we recognize that, then we can start working towards it, and we can solve the security concerns of the Jewish population. If we don’t recognize it, then we’re just postponing the problem. You may succeed in postponing it for years, decades, ever longer, but it will never go away, ever.

We cannot accept a regime that has “Jew Only” roads, or that is systematically destroying the Arab presence in Al-Quds. It just will not happen, because the agitation will always be fresh, and will always, always provoke rejection.

And Qifa,

Don’t worry. Syria won’t flip, and Nasrallah knows that.

March 15th, 2009, 7:25 pm


Shai said:

Dear Norman,

As always, I very much respect your opinion and agree with it. Indeed it seems that my country will only respond to either force or the threat of force. For some odd reason, we don’t seem capable of accepting a hand extended in peace by the entire Arab world, if at the same time the Arabs are still resisting us. It seems we prefer a hand extended in peace, with the word “Uncle” attached (ya’ani, “I surrender”). But as for the comprehensiveness of any agreement in the future, I just don’t know how we can make real progress along the Palestinian track right now, when the Palestinians themselves haven’t joined under one leadership. From my point of view, let it be Hamas (they did win in fair and free elections, after all). But sooner or later, Hamas too will have to sit with us, even while we’re continuing to “resist” him. It goes both ways, I’m afraid.

So if the Palestinian track is dead at the moment, can anything be done with Syria and Lebanon? I think so. As I’ve always said, I believe Syria is the key to the region. It can help us with the Palestinians. It can help the Palestinians with the Palestinians. But the 2 questions are – will Netanyahu do a retake of August 1998 (and offer the entire Golan to Syria), and will Bashar give him any assurances that Syria will move away from military support of HA, and other defensive/offensive alliances with Iran?

If none of the above work, then I’m afraid the light at the end of our tunnel might soon look like the oncoming train… Let’s hope your Barack is a little smarter than ours.

March 15th, 2009, 7:43 pm


Shai said:


I very much agree with you and, as one of the Israelis here, I also understand your side. Personally, I’ve always said that the best solution is a so-called UME (United Middle East) which de facto solves the right-of-return issues. But I cannot see how a one-state solution is in the books anytime soon. 99.9% of Israelis would rather use “the bomb” than have a non-Jewish majority in Israel right now. The innate fear, perhaps even remnant derivatives of Holocaust syndromes, are so intense and deeply rooted, against all rationale, that there’s no realistic chance for that anytime soon. Somehow, I’m not sure how, two states will first have to be created.

If you can think of new ways to convince most of my people to change the way they look at Arabs, to not fear, or suspect, or distrust or hate them, please let me know how. But speaking rationally about it doesn’t seem to be enough. It’s a problem on the emotional realm, no less than on the rational one.

March 15th, 2009, 7:50 pm


Yossi (AKA Rumyal) said:

Averroes, Qifa, Norman,

It is interesting to see how these two themes: (1) rejection of the current regime and ideology of Israel and (2) rejection of the Jewish right to a national home in the holy land are conflated, and by whom. On the one hand, the likes of Hizballah and Iran sometimes like to conflate the two, because, alas, some good-‘ol anti-Semitism still scores points, and they’re also totting a popular line about the immutability of claim to “Muslim land”. On the other hand, I can’t remember how many times I have read in YNet that some Iranian dude said that “Israel will collapse” when in reality they said that “the Israeli regime will collapse”. On the Israeli side, making people believe that they as individuals are the target, is a great way to foment fear and rally the troops…

On the question of whether Nasrallah, given this speech, could ever recognize Israel without losing face, I think the answer is positive, because he talks about the standards that Israel, according to him, doesn’t meet. This also paves the way to say that once Israel meets those standards, then he could recognize it. As far as the “Muslim land” is concerned, once Israel meets some religious equality standards (which really isn’t that difficult), it could be tolerated as much as any secular Arab regime is tolerated, no? I think that by talking about “standards”, he has created a ladder to climb down from the rejectionist tree.

March 15th, 2009, 7:53 pm


Shai said:


If Nasrallah gives any of his speeches in Yiddish, let me know, I can try to help in the translation… 🙂

I agree with you about Nasrallah. The IRA used to say the same thing about the Queen of England. Once the Palestinian people will define an end to their struggle (having achieved their national aspirations, and a just solution to their right-of-return), I believe both Hezbollah as well as Iran, will change their stance and their rhetoric. In fact, both have already said things to that effect before.

But as usual, the problem in such statements is their perception-value. Here in Israel, at least, Nasrallah’s declaration isn’t exactly “helpful”. It plays well into the hands of the Hawks.

March 15th, 2009, 8:50 pm


majid said:

I find QN’s so-called analysis shallow and ridiculous.

March 15th, 2009, 9:42 pm


norman said:

Shai, Yossi,

The problem as i see it is not the fragmentation of the Palestinian leadership as you both know that Hamas said that if Abbas reaches an agreement with Israel and the Palestinian people approve it in a referendum , they will accept it ,

The problem is very simple , Israel does not want to leave the Arab lands occupied in 1967 and is using many excuses to do that , it is not even the Palestinian refugees as these people could stay where they live for a wide scale economic development in the Middle East.

Until Israel gets the reality that to be accepted and saved it should relinquish the land and end the occupation and give it’s non Jewish citizen equal rights .

March 15th, 2009, 11:25 pm


norman said:

Worldview: Decision time on Mideast for Obama
By Trudy Rubin

Inquirer Opinion Columnist

Hillary Rodham Clinton tiptoed oh-so-carefully around the Israel-Palestine issue on her recent trip to the Middle East.

But she and President Obama will have to make some tough decisions soon, as Israeli Prime Minister-designate Benjamin Netanyahu prepares to form a right-wing government. Otherwise, any prospects for a two-state solution, even in the long run, will be dead before the end of Obama’s first term.

Netanyahu is a smooth politician with perfect American English (he attended Cheltenham High School in the Philly suburbs). But his policies are likely to complicate nearly every aspect of Obama’s strategy for the Mideast – including the Palestinian issue, and new approaches toward Syria and Iran.

For starters, Netanyahu appears to have chosen Avigdor Lieberman as future foreign minister, a figure whose inflammatory views may undercut any new peace moves in the region. Lieberman has suggested that Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak “go to hell,” and proposed that Israel bomb the Aswan Dam in the event of war with Egypt. Recall that Egypt, with whom Israel has a peace treaty, is a crucial mediator in trying to find some solution for the ongoing crisis in Gaza.

Lieberman, a onetime member of the racist Kach Party (before it was banned in Israel), is also notorious for calling on Israel to rid itself of most of its Arab citizens and relocate them to a future Palestinian Arab “entity.” Netanyahu tapped Lieberman because he needed the latter’s party, Yisrael Beitenu (Israel Is Our Home), to form a ruling coalition. But the presence of such an outrageous figure will complicate uphill efforts to restart Israeli-Arab talks.

As for such talks, Netanyahu doesn’t believe in the concept of a sovereign Palestinian state living alongside Israel. But unless a viable formula is found for a two-state solution, Israel will remain in permanent occupation of more than three million bitter Palestinians. That is a prescription for endless, poisonous Israeli-Arab war.

The Israeli leader argues, moreover, that the only correct avenue toward peace is to first pursue Palestinian economic development, and consign any negotiations on sovereignty to the indefinite future. This approach is nothing but a Middle Eastern mirage. It has failed many times in the past.

Anyone who has driven around the West Bank would understand that economic development depends on political progress. West Bank land is divided into cantons by Israeli settlements and roads that are designed to prevent any coherent territorial entity or political opposition.

And then there is Gaza. Even before Hamas took power there, Israel’s fear of Palestinian infiltration had led to constant Israeli blockages of imports and exports from Gaza. Such uncertainty makes it impossible for Palestinian industries to develop, and ensures that foreign investors are unwilling to risk their money.

Even when the United States paid for pricey security equipment to scan containers exiting Gaza, easy movement of goods never materialized. And these days, only humanitarian supplies are permitted into this desolate strip of land. Bottom line: Without progress on Palestinian political issues (of which progress on security is a subset), forget economic progress.

This leads to the first decision for Obama: He must declare his administration believes “economic peace” cannot substitute for political progress. He should make clear that his administration will pursue the two-state solution.

However, given the hawkish leadership in Jerusalem, and the weak Palestinian leadership in Ramallah, it may not be possible to move directly to political talks. In that case, Obama must ensure that the situation on the West Bank and Gaza doesn’t worsen so badly that peace talks cannot be resumed later. And he must give Palestinians some real reason to hope.

That requires a second decision: The president should firmly confront the new Israeli government on the issue of settlement expansion, making clear that such expansion contradicts our security interests – and theirs.

According to the Israeli group Peace Now, which closely tracks settlements, the Israeli government is planning to build more than 73,000 housing units in the West Bank, doubling the settler population there. Without a freeze on all settlement construction, the prospect for a viable Palestinian state will soon disappear.

Netanyahu has said he supports “natural growth,” meaning the expansion of existing settlements. If Obama is unwilling to oppose this, he should admit the two-state solution is dead.

The third decision revolves around talks with Syria. Even if talks with the Palestinians cannot be revived quickly, there may be hopeful prospects for negotiations with Damascus.

Israel’s military intelligence is said to strongly favor such talks: If Syria could be wooed away from its alliance with Iran, this would undercut the strength of Hezbollah in Lebanon and Hamas in Gaza. And progress on Syria would give Obama more cards to play in diplomatic overtures to Tehran.

Turkey had mediated indirect talks between Syria and Israel before Israel’s elections. The Bush administration was cool to Turkey’s move; it wanted to isolate Syria. But Obama backs a thaw; Clinton has dispatched emissaries to Damascus.

In his election campaign, Netanyahu swore he would never return the Golan Heights to Syria. He says he’s willing to talk, but he hasn’t said he’s open to giving back territory.

Obama must try to convince Netanyahu that such an effort is in Israel’s interest, and decide how hard to push if the Israeli leader resists. This is a crucial moment: The new U.S. president needs to show that, besides being a close ally of Israel, he is committed to a stable Middle East.

With Netanyahu about to form a government, these decisions must be made now.


E-mail Trudy Rubin at

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March 15th, 2009, 11:47 pm


Off the Wall said:

HA does not need to recognize Israel. First, the party will never be in a HAMAS’s position with respect to being elected as an absolute majority in Lebanon. The lebanese composition does not permit that. As such, HA will always be a part of a larger coalition composed of several parties. No one would be able to claim that the Lebanese government is a terrorist government since it must be a national “Wefaq” government that will include friends, to put it politely, of the west.

This allows HA and some other oppositions a larger margin of freedom with respect to their position regarding recognition of Israel on religuous grounds. Even if a peace agreement is to be signed between Lebanon and Israel, there will remain parties in both countries who are vehemently opposed to any such agreement. With that, Nasrallah can rely on continuing support from those opposing, for one reason or another, an agreement. How different is that from many political parties worldwide?

March 16th, 2009, 1:31 am


Ras Beirut said:

I think Nasrallah’s answer is Iran’s reply to Bashar’s suggestion that he can bring HA & Hammas to the table. Iran at this stage cannot give up its HA card in light of its outstanding nuclear issue to help Syria’s potential desire to strike a deal, they have too much invested. Plus HA is more loyal to Iran than to Syria for a variety of reasons, chief among them funding and shared faith. Iran is the mothership so to speak in terms of decision making in these relationships.

March 16th, 2009, 2:05 am


Joshua said:

Dear Qifa – Excellent and provocative post.

I think we are seeing a lot of hot air being blown by all sides in the region. Anyone willing to listen to Syria knows it is not going to flip. Those who pretend that it is are simply going through an exercise so they can feign shock… shock… that Syria isn’t being forthcoming and flipping. Then they will be able to turn on Obama and declare him naive and a dupe for possibly believing the Syrians could change their nasty ways — but of course no one in the West is offering Syria any real incentive to change or think differently about the Wests motives or capabilities to do anything but whisper sweet nothings to the Palestinians as they are dispossessed of their land.

Syria knows that Netanyahu is not going to cooperate with any US sponsored peace thing to get the Golan back. The US knows that Israel is not giving up land. Netanyahu knows that the notion of economic development for Palestinians in the West Bank is a charade, as does everyone else who has any clue about the economic realities of the West Bank which has been chopped into economically nonviable mince meat.

So what does it cost Nasrallah to make some political hay by restating his “principled” rejectionist stand that Israel

We could read Nasrallah’s statement to be intended as a shot across Syria’s bow if for a minute we thought that anyone in Syria actually believed that peace was in the offing. But it is not and Syrians know this.

So what are they doing? They are seeing what is on offer by the US, which is very little. The US is seeing what Syria has on offer without the Golan being on the table, which will not be much but tinkering in Lebanon and Palestine. Iraq cooperation is a no brainer for Syria. It is the easy file to work with the Americans on because Syria is happy with the Iraqi government and wants trade from Baghdad and little else, save not to threaten Damascus, which is doesn’t so long as it resists US plans to allow Special Forces to operate against Syria from Iraq.

Without the Golan on the table, Syria cannot possibly be expected to even hint at flipping or pressuring Hizbullah or Hamas to disarm. Hizbullah knows this, Syria knows it. Hizbullah is reminding the Americans and all those in Israel or the West that nothing has changed in the regional calculus.

The Israelis lack a leader such as Sadat. They have no interest or imagination to change the dynamics of the region.

Hizbullah is underlining this.

I have no reason to believe that Nasrallah needs to send Syria a message or that Bashar al-Assad is contemplating making any important changes to his regional strategy.

There will be a modicum of US – Syrian cooperation on a number of issues because it is in the interests of both countries to cooperate where they can, but do not expect fundamental change in relations in the region.

March 16th, 2009, 5:18 am


Shai said:


You’re absolutely right. We in Israel certainly have our own version of Hezbollah, in the form of Shas, or other religious or nationalist parties that are opposed to giving back one square centimeter of “Biblical Israel”. If I had to compare rhetoric, I much prefer Nasrallah’s “political non-recognition” to Ovadia Yosef’s (Shas spiritual leader) reference to Arabs as “monkeys and pigs”. One might change one day, the other never will.

Like Joshua said, I think Nasrallah’s statement is only part of a periodic “Don’t forget we’re still here”… not much more.

March 16th, 2009, 5:32 am


Shai said:

Ras Beirut,

I think you’re right – there does seem to be some “balancing” game going on between Iran/Hezbollah, and Syria, when it comes to talking about peace. Perhaps Norman’s suggestion of Good Cop – Bad Cop roles here is correct. Funny enough, each side of this “triangle” is a safety of a sort to the other two. Hence, each side has to play its balancing part to keep the triangle together.

In the upcoming elections in Iran, we’re likely to see vehement anti-Zionist and anti-American propaganda. At the same time, we’ll probably hear Syria reiterating its peaceful objectives. Hezbollah will keep low, so as not to outweigh Syria’s message too much. It’s almost like a nicely-orchestrated dance.

March 16th, 2009, 5:44 am


why-discuss said:


Why Hezbollah or anyone should recognize a regime that disposesses, oppresses and kills so many people just to achieve its biblical aspiration at the expenses of others? Unless Israel gives back all the lands it stole, compensate the Palestinians and Lebanese for the harm they have done to them and transform itself into a real country that is not exclusive to Jews, this is a country that does not deserve to be recognized by anyone.
The only human achievements of Israel since it was created has been wars, death, oppression and collective hysteria with more to come. Not very encouraging to recognize!

March 16th, 2009, 6:27 am


Alia said:


I beg to differ. HA’s rethoric is absolutely not equivalent or even remotely similar to that of Shas. It is the equivalent of Eretz Israel. Both views are historical/mythical in their justification of the present. Nasrallah correctly identifies Israel as a foreign organism that has been introduced into the region while Shas’ belligerent rethoric has no basis in reality.

NOw if you and others want to focus on the way to peace by “forgetting the past” and making the best of the present you may do so but you cannot continue to disqualify Nasrallah’s position : It is the unbearable truth that we have to bear because we have no other choice.

March 16th, 2009, 2:49 pm


Shai said:


I agree. I didn’t mean to suggest that Hezbollah is the same as Shas in its claims. One talks about political realities, and the other uses racist rhetoric to incite hatred. But there are certain similarities as well. Both seem uncompromising and, therefore, are sending the wrong message to “the other side”. If there is no intention in sending messages to the other side, then that’s fine. But unfortunately, these messages are heard, and are used against us who still hope for a peaceful future.

I do not wish to forget the past. The opposite – I believe my people cannot move on and cannot live in true peace in this region, without first accepting their (our) part in the past, and in the present. But right now, I think the most we can realistically “handle” is 1967, not 1948.

By the way, I’ve learned from many interactions with people in our region that “reality” is unfortunately something very few see the same way, and is almost always a divider between us. When such deep emotions are at play, “reality”, or facts, are often interpreted in such ways as to further support hatred, suspicion, and distrust. There is no real motivation to reach the truth. Only to protect me against you. Few are open minded, and confident, enough to really listen.

March 16th, 2009, 3:49 pm


Off the Wall said:

I am sorry if my brief comment may have indicated that I am disqualifying Nasrallah’s position. What I was trying to say is that based on the current geopolitical arrangement, the incentive for HA is in the direction of maintaining its position as a resistance movement based on the movement’s theological, nationalist, and political principles. Another point I was trying to highlight is that in my belief, even with a strong and rigid stance, HA’s position will not affect Lebanon negatively. It may in fact, strengthen its bargaining position. My point was merely an attempt to understand the tactical situation.

March 16th, 2009, 6:56 pm


Alia said:


I was not referring to you at all.

My discomfort with the marginalization of HA anti-Israel discourse comes from other observations: mainly that people who do not support HA on other grounds ( Shiism, Lebanese politics) will tend to attack HA’s position against Israel- en passant-and make HA’s position sound unique, primitive, dated, irrelevant etc…while the truth of the matter is that this particular position is more in line with what the majority of Arabs think and want although over time they have realized with great sorrow and bitterness that they will not be able to fulfill their wish of seeing the Palestinian people return to their rightful land, and the Zionist/racist state erased from existence..

March 17th, 2009, 1:55 pm


Qifa Nabki said:

Hi everyone,

I promise to re-join the conversation tomorrow… I’m currently enjoying the sun and snow up in Faraya, with a spotty internet connection.

Joshua, in particular, thanks for the excellent response.

March 17th, 2009, 2:12 pm


Qifa Nabki said:


Your basic point is that Syria has no intention of changing its regional strategy because it knows that it will never get the Golan through negotiation. Therefore, Hizbullah has no reason to worry about its strategic relationship with Syria.

Why, then, do you believe that Bashar has made such a huge deal out of these negotiations? What’s in it for him to be so public about his desire to get the Golan back through negotiations? Why not just cooperate with the Americans on Iraq and not go through the motions with Israel?

March 18th, 2009, 12:42 pm


norman said:


Syria learned that talking tough and doing nothing will make everybody mad at Syria for not seeking peace while Syria is weak to fight back , so Syria is becoming smarter with talking nice and seeking peace without abandoning it’s principles and preparing for war all the time.

March 18th, 2009, 1:53 pm


norman said:


I want to add that in 1967 Egypt and Syria talked tough while Israel was playing the victim role , so when Israel attacked , many felt that it was defending itself from these nasty Arabs that wanted to throw the Jews in the sea , knowing well that Israel was stronger that Egypt and Syria together and that the Arabs were not planing any attack on Israel ,

Syria learned from that .

March 18th, 2009, 2:12 pm


jad said:

Very good point Norman.

March 18th, 2009, 4:21 pm


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