News Round Up (12 March 2008)

Measuring Success of the Surge: Nir Rosen Debates Fred Kagan at PBS

Nir Rosen: I think it's absolutely a failure, the surge. I think that less violence is actually a sign of the failure of the surge.

The violence during a civil war was very logical. It was an attempt to remove Sunnis from Shia areas and Shia from Sunnis areas, and it's been incredibly successful. There are virtually no mixed areas left in Iraq.

You have what Americans call gated communities, effectively a Somalia-alike situation, where you have different neighborhoods surrounded by walls, controlled by a militia or a warlord. And they're sectarianally pure, all Shia, all Sunni. There's no reconciliation between the two communities.

FREDERICK KAGAN: Well, there's a magnificent myth out there that Mr. Rosen just reiterated for us that there are no mixed areas in Iraq anymore and that the cleansing is completed.

And it's astonishing to me that someone who's been in Baghdad for as long and as much as Mr. Rosen has been could say something like that. There are still Shia areas in western Baghdad, not only in Kadamiyah, around the Kadamiyah shrine, in which there will always be Shia, but also in west Rashid…..

You have to remember that, when the surge went in, the purpose actually was just to get Baghdad under control. It was initially called the Baghdad security plan.

A variety of developments, including the turning of the Sunni Arabs against al-Qaida and the insurgency, have allowed us to be playing for much more than that. And so we've actually managed to stabilize a large swath of central Iraq.

And there has also been remarkable political progress. There's been progress on almost every one of the major pieces of benchmark legislation.

And so — and the Iraqis are — there's a new fluidity. When you look at the Iraqi political dynamic in Baghdad now, at the senior levels and throughout, there's a new fluidity in the equation, which comes from the fact that the Iraqis certainly feel that violence has dropped to levels where what they are starting to care about is less security and more moving forward with their country.

No-Man's Land: Palestinian Refugees Trapped on the Syrian Border by James Denselow

Also, See this short video: excellent

… For these vulnerable refugees, it was a case of leaving the frying pan of Baghdad only to find the fire of the barren desert camps. The refugees in the Al-Waleed camp in particular are subject to fluctuating politics of local and regional sheikhs in the lawless Anbar province. These local authorities try to secure a share of the aid business and intervene according to their own interests. This makes the work of the international aid organisations extremely difficult as they are regularly hindered in carrying out their jobs effectively. Security is so poor that overnight visits are not possible. Other players interfering in the running of the camp include the border police, local police and the Iraqi army.

Both camps are characterised by tented accommodation due to the fear that more solid structures would encourage permanent settlement in what constitutes the most peripheral and unforgiving of locations. Given the harsh weather conditions — the freezing cold in winter, the unbearable desert heat in summer — and the regular threats from fires, snakes and scorpions, long-term dwelling in a tented settlement is simply not a viable solution…

Syria will not invite Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan to attend the Arab league summit, which is probably why the Saudi Kingdom is Ready to Attend Arab Summit in Syria: Prince Sultan

Memri has an interesting article on Iran's initiative to improve relations with Egypt: "Iran's Aim in Rapprochement with Egypt: Undermining U.S. Power, Gaining Regional Dominance."

According to a BBC World Service poll, global support for economic sanctions or military strikes against Iran is dropping. In thirteen of twenty-one countries polled, stern measures were increasingly unpopular. Only in three countries – Turkey, Israel and South Korea – was a tough stance towards Iran more popular. 

Geagea gets pledge of support from officials in Washington

BEIRUT: Lebanese Forces (LF) boss Samir Geagea, who left for the United States on Saturday, met on Tuesday with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice as part of a tour of America.

US National Security Advisor Steven Hadley has told the LF chief that America was strongly committed to helping the Lebanese build an independent state, the An-Nahar daily quoted a White House source as saying on Tuesday.

"The US is still strongly committed to help the Lebanese people fulfill their dream of building a free, independent and prosperous state," Hadley told Geagea in Washington on Monday, according to the source.

Bush Moves to Bolster Support for U.S. War Effort
He Says Politics Won't Sway Him
(By Michael Abramowitz, The Washington Post)

Here is how Ray Close (ex-CIA) explains the Fallon dismissal.

I believe that the Bush people have long since given up (privately) on the thought of actually launching a preemptive attack on Iran (with or without Israeli collaboration), for many very obvious military and political reasons of which the whole world is well aware.  However,  I believe they (especially the Cheney crew) are too stubborn and arrogant to acknowledge that the so-called military option is a practical impossibility, despite their constant sinister reminders that it is still "on the table".  

The Bush administration is, unfortunately, at a complete loss to devise any workable alternative strategy, and that is making them more sensitive and prickly than ever. 

The White House therefore recognized (as did we all) that Fallon's openly contrarian views on the subject were undermining the credibility of their hollow bluff.  It was acutely embarrassing when this controversy was exposed to friends and foes alike all over the world (especially in a barbershop journal like Esquire), and controversial and divisive within the inner offices of the Washington policy  establishment —  hence unacceptably insubordinate.  This is not an Administration that tolerates   criticism on any level, and especially when its own insiders expose once again their most precious but worst kept secret — that the Iraq quagmire has left the world's greatest superpower, the United States of America, effectively incapable of employing its awesome military might to back up its publicly proclaimed strategic objectives.  Someone once neatly reversed Teddy Roosevelt's famous dictum in describing this as "Walking stickly but carrying a big soft."


Dissenting Views Made Fallon's Fall Inevitable
By Gareth Porter*

WASHINGTON, Mar 11 (IPS) – Admiral William Fallon's request to quit his position as head of the U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) and to retire from the military was apparently the result of a George W. Bush administration decision to pressure him to resign.

Announcing the resignation, Defence Secretary Robert M. Gates said he believed it was "the right thing to do", thus indicating the administration wanted it.

On Monday, Pentagon Press Secretary Geoff Morrell, asked whether Gates still had full confidence in Fallon, would only say that Fallon "still enjoys a working — a good working relationship with the secretary of defence", and then added, "Admiral Fallon serves at the pleasure of the president."

The resignation came a few days after the publication of an Esquire magazine article profiling Fallon in which he was described as being "in hot water" with the White House and justified public comments departing from the Bush administration's policy toward Iran. The publicity that followed the article accelerated the pressure on Fallon to resign.

But Fallon almost certainly knew that he would be fired when he agreed to cooperate with the Esquire magazine profile in late 2006.

On Tuesday, Fallon issued a statement saying, "Recent press reports suggesting a disconnect between my views and the president's policy objectives have become a distraction at a critical time and hamper efforts in the Centcom region."

The resignation brings to an end a year, during which time Fallon clashed with the White House over policy toward Iran and with Gen. David Petraeus and the White House over whether Iraq should continue to be given priority over Afghanistan and Pakistan in U.S. policy.

Fallon's greatest concern appears to have been preventing war with Iran. He was one a group of senior military officers, apparently including most of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who were alarmed in late 2006 and early 2007 by indications that Bush and Vice-President Dick Cheney were contemplating a possible attack on Iran.

Gates chose Fallon to replace Gen. John P. Abizaid as CENTCOM chief shortly after a Dec. 13, 2006 meeting between Bush and the Joint Chiefs at which Bush reportedly asked their views on a possible strike against Iran.

Col. W. Patrick Lang, a former intelligence officer on the Middle East for the Defence Intelligence Agency, told the Washington Post last week that Fallon had said privately at the time of his confirmation that an attack on Iran "isn't going to happen on my watch", When asked how he could avoid such a conflict, Fallon reportedly responded, "I have options, you know." Lang said he interpreted that comment as implying Fallon would step down rather than follow orders to carry out such an attack.

As IPS reported last May, Fallon was also quoted as saying privately at that time, "There are several of us trying to put the crazies back in the box". That was an apparent reference to the opposition by the Joint Chiefs of Staff to an aggressive war against Iran.

Even before assuming his new post at CENTCOM, Fallon expressed strong opposition in mid-February to a proposal for sending a third U.S. aircraft carrier to the Persian Gulf, to overlap with two other carriers, according to knowledgeable sources. The addition of a third carrier was to part of a broader strategy then being discussed at the Pentagon to intimidate Iran by making a series of military moves suggesting preparations for a military strike.

The plan for a third carrier task force in the Gulf was dropped after Fallon made his views known.

Fallon reportedly made his opposition to a strike against Iran known to the White House early on in his tenure, and his role as CENTCOM commander would have made it very difficult for the Bush administration to carry out a strike against Iran, because he controlled all ground, air and naval military access to the region.

But Fallon's role in regional diplomacy proved to be an even greater source of friction with the White House than his position on military policy toward Iran. Personal relations with military and political leaders in the Middle East had already become nearly as important as military planning under Fallon's predecessors at CENTCOM.

Fallon clearly relished his diplomatic role and did not hesitate to express views on diplomacy that were at odds with those of the administration. Last summer, as Dick Cheney was maneuvering within the administration to shift U.S. policy toward an attack on bases in Iran allegedly connected to anti-U.S. Shiite forces in Iraq, Fallon declared in an interview, "We have to figure out a way to come to an arrangement" with Iran.

When Sunni Arab regimes in the Middle East became alarmed about the possibility of a U.S. war with Iran, Fallon made statements on three occasions in September and November ruling out a U.S. attack on Iran. Those statements contradicted the Bush administration's policy of keeping the military option "on the table" and soured relations with the White House.

Fallon also antagonised administration officials by pushing for a faster exit from Iraq than the White House and Gen. Petraeus wanted. Fallon had a highly-publicised personal and policy clash with Petraeus, for whom he reportedly expressed a visceral dislike. Sources familiar with reports of his meetings with Petraeus in Baghdad last March told IPS last spring that he called him an "ass-kissing little chickens**t" in their first meeting.

Fallon later denied that he had used such language, suggesting to Esquire that the sources of the report were probably army officers who were indulging in inter-service rivalry with the navy. In fact, however, the sources of the report were supporters of Fallon.

Fallon's quarrel with Petraeus was also related to the latter's insistence on keeping U.S. troops in Iraq, even while the NATO position in Afghanistan was growing more tenuous. Fallon was strongly committed to a strategy that gave priority to Afghanistan and Pakistan as the central security challenges to the United States in the Middle East and Asia.

Fallon made his distaste for a long war in Iraq very clear from the beginning. He ordered subordinates to stop using the term "long war", which had been favoured by the Bush administration. He was reported to be concerned that the concept would alienate people across the Middle East by suggesting a U.S. intention to maintain troops indefinitely in Muslim countries.

Fallon's policy positions made him unpopular among neoconservative supporters of the administration. One neoconservative pundit, military specialist Max Boot, criticised Fallon last November for his public comment ruling out a strike against Iran and then suggested in January that Petraeus should replace the "unimpressive" Fallon at CENTCOM.

Fallon was playing a complex political game at CENTCOM by crossing the White House on the two most politically sensitive issues in Middle East policy. As a veteran bureaucratic infighter, he knew that he was politically vulnerable. Nevertheless, he chose late last year not to lower his profile but to raise it by cooperating fully with the Esquire article.

IPS has learned that Fallon agreed to sit for celebrity photographer Peter Yang at CENTCOM headquarters in Tampa Dec. 26 for the Esquire spread, despite the near-certainty that it exacerbate his relations with White House. That may have been a signal that he already knew that he would not be able to continue to play the game much longer and was ready to bring his stormy tenure at CENTCOM to an end.

*Gareth Porter is an historian and national security policy analyst. The paperback edition of his latest book, "Perils of Dominance: Imbalance of Power and the Road to War in Vietnam", was published in 2006.

Comments (107)

Akbar Palace said:

Someone once neatly reversed Teddy Roosevelt’s famous dictum in describing this as “Walking stickly but carrying a big soft.”

I think that someone was Saddam Hussein. Or maybe it was Osama bin-Laden and his Taliban friends. Or was it Muamar Gadfly?

I don’t recall.

March 12th, 2008, 5:35 pm


offended said:

Why the Palestinian refugees are not allowed in Syria?

And why they don’t allow them to go back since mashallah now Baghdad is so secured according to Frederick Kagan?

March 12th, 2008, 5:36 pm


annie said:

“Syria will not invite Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan to attend the Arab league summit”

Excuse my ignorance but are Iran and Turkey Arab countries ? And are they members of the Arab league ? I don’t think so.

As for the Palestinians, I watched both reports and they are heartbreaking. Why can’t Syria take in an extra one thousand or so refugees ? And if not Syria, just any country in the world ?

March 12th, 2008, 6:42 pm


ausamaa said:

Syria has close to 600,000 Palestinian refugees now, they are treated as well as anyone else and much better than in civilized Lebanon or democratic Egypt for example. Syria does not bitch and moan about its Palestinans as Egypt and Lebanon do, and of course does not want to give either to start thinking that they can “export” their Palestinans to Syria. However, besides the various security reasons concerning admitting new Palestinan refugees to Syria, it is not an easy thing for the goverment on two counts: Security, and the fear of setting a precedent for absorbing any more Palestinian refugees when sttlement time comes.

But why should any Arab country worry about Palestinan refugees? Sooner or later they should return to Palestine which they owned a mere sixty years ago, not 2000 years, like other Select people see fit to reclaim lands GOD has given to them according to history books.

I love this, Israel steal the Palestinian Land, all 27000 square kilometers, kicks out what it could of its inhabitants, and then someone else should have enough mercy to make space for those kicked out Palestinians. WoW. Is it not much easier to absorb European Jews in the much larger, peacefull and Democratic Europe?? Is it not enough that Arabs conceded to accept the presence of their “naturlized” Israelies in part of Arab Palestine???

What a logic??!!

March 12th, 2008, 6:50 pm


Norman said:

Syria took Palestinian refugees from Iraq before but Apparently ,taking more refugees will encourage the Iraqies to push them out , i think the US who is resposible for Iraq should take them or provide safty for them in Iraq.

March 12th, 2008, 6:57 pm


Observer said:

Fallon was asked to resign not because he expressed reservations about any orders that may have come down from the commander in chief. As a professional military officer of the highest caliber he will obey orders. His fault is that he talked and played a political role when he met with the Egyptian President Mubarak before giving the interview with Esquire. He is somewhat leaving with a bang to sound the alarm about the administration wanting more compliant commanders. Now this contradicts the commander in chief as he said that he will always listen to the commanders in the field and that the war should not be conducted from the DC.
One explanation is that the oustspokeness of Fallon has taken away the bluff potential of an attack on Iran, the other is that there is going to be an attack and that he was in the way.
I believe that things are on hold until after the Arab summit and I would expect renewed effort in Gaza and the West Bank to crush Hamas once and for all, a provocation to hit HA and perhaps Syria. There is a lot of tension at the moment. Lebanon has just been degraded further in its economic outlook and the price of real estate is rising simply because people are afraid of the banks collapsing especially since Western banks will not come to the rescue.
The number two man visiting the ME may be a gathering of the allies to put them in front of the fact that an attack is imminent. It also would make sense as these super wealthy countries will fear for their wealth and will transfer funds to emabttled western financial institutions.

March 12th, 2008, 7:04 pm


Innocent_Criminal said:


Its quite normal to invite non-arab organizations/countries to the summit. The UN sec. general, or the head of the organization of islamic conference etc. so the fact that they are declaring that Turkey and Iran are not invited is a message that Syria is willing to deal with arab issues alone, without the help of its non-arab allies.

March 12th, 2008, 7:29 pm


Shai said:


I hope you’re wrong, but I fear you may be right… Cheney doesn’t usually leave his exclusive office to go running around our sand dunes, unless he’s coming to make money, or war…

March 12th, 2008, 7:31 pm


Shai said:


Though I very much understand your feelings, I believe that a final settlement between Israel and the Palestinians (which is not expected anytime soon), will not include a full right-of-return to all refugees, but perhaps only a symbolic one. Perhaps in the future, after Jews and Arabs live in peace for a generation or two, borders would be opened up, and people of our region will be able to live and work wherever they choose. Only then will all the Palestinians, in any corner of the world, truly have the option of right-of-return.

By the way, I believe Alon Liel mentioned that the Syrians themselves are speaking of a figure close to 400,000 Palestinian refugees in Syria, and around 300,000-400,000 in Lebanon. He also suggested that Syria may well consider providing Syrian citizenship to most of those, under a peace agreement with Israel. I was quite surprised when I heard that. Of course, most Syrians probably were as well when they heard of the Park idea on the Golan, raised by Damascus as an option. From a pragmatic point of view (not “justice”), what do you think about these issues?

March 12th, 2008, 7:36 pm


ausamaa said:

Yahabibi, if Bush thought he could attack Iran, Syria, or whoever, he would have done it long ago. Cheney or not. This is a wandering administration that does not what the hell do. Pure and Simple. If Falon thought he can follow such an order successfully, he would have done it. Not that he would have disobeyed a direct order, but it is his saying that such an “order” is not executionable and is not safe. The Joint Chiefs would not disobey a direct order, but they can make it known hat such an order is Crazy. They can say: Not on my Watch, as someone did once before!

Cheney or not, it is the military-industrial-banking complex that has the last say in the end. And they know such a War is not in the best interest of the US, Period.

March 12th, 2008, 7:45 pm


Shai said:


I don’t know if you’re right or not (about Bush doing it already if he could), but one thing is for sure – we’re ALL going to breathe a lot easier, once that trigger-happy frat-boy Texan is out of office, ordering BBQ’s on his ranch, rather than army troops in our region. Let’s pray his successor is a bit smarter, if not a lot.

March 12th, 2008, 7:49 pm


ausamaa said:

I agree, and I also believe that there are not actually enough US troops to be sent anywhere! The whole US armed forces thing is stretched so thin that the US military is shouting: Foul! That what the military sites are saying. I believe them! Cruise Missiles and Bombers can not achieve anything on their own. Sorrrrry, they can still achieve Shock, but definitly not Awe!

March 12th, 2008, 8:05 pm


why-discuss said:

If Syria is now on the US list of Human rights culprits, why would you want the palestinians to suffer more human rights. The US and the UK who provoke the whole disaster should at least save them from syrian human rights abusers!

March 12th, 2008, 9:56 pm


why-discuss said:


While palestinians in Syria enjoy the same social rights as the Syrians ( education, social security, work etc..) Syria will never give citizenship to refugees whether palestinians or iraqis. Why would they? Syria is not a rich country and successful as Israel (dixit AIG) and Syria being now a country who allegedly abuse human rights, the palestinians would better go back to a “democratic” country that respect humans rights like Israel. Syria has been open to palestinians, and 1.5 million iraqi refugees, maybe it should get at least that credit, but not be asked to wreck its weak economy to satisfy’s Israel illusion.
Israel’s propaganda to make its citizen believe that the palestinians wil renounce so easily to the right of return is tragi-comic. Israel has created the palestinian refugee problem, it is up to Israel to solve it in a way or another. It is certainly not the Arab hosting countries’s problem.

March 12th, 2008, 10:09 pm


norman said:

Hi Zenobia ,
I hope you read this,

I hear a lot about the American nation , but that might be because i watch Fox News ,

( Although your definition sounds very nice and respectful….it already contains deep meaning and historical reference in it that privileges Arabness within the entire area that you are referring to. However, all the people who don’t consider themselves arabs would probably object to being within an area called the ‘Arab Nation’. This is a problem )
I agree with you that many in the Arab nation might object but for God sake many in the US like the Mexican and other Hispanics and others object to be called American ,but they are still American because they live in the United states of America,

. ( Another problem is that the term Arab nation was suffused with Islam to the point where non-muslims feel hesitant to align themselves with a great Arab nation…
it is all ridiculous to my mind. We should just have the mind to be inclusive, as you are attempting to be. But language is significant. Can you imagine the Israelis saying… we are part of the ‘Arab nation’ !.. and those persians? Armenians? what about them?)

I disagree with you ,
Being an Arab does not mean being a muslim as not all Arabs are Muslims , I am one of these , and not all Muslims are Arabs like the Persians and Turks and the Pakistanis and all the others ,

I consider the ares that i mentioned previously as the Arab nation because It was inhabited by the semitic people that left Arabia during episodes of drought , They left Arabia and inhabited Syria , Iraq and north Africa , and yes I consider the Hebrews as Arabs as Abraham led them from Arabia through Orr to northern Syria then to Palestine , actually the only reason that they do not speak Arabic and are not a normal part of that of the world is because the Roman evicted them from Palestine into the Diaspora , otherwise they would have been the Same as the Ara-means who were the residents of Syria ,
I just want to remind you that Islam came to Syria in the Seventh century not the Arabs , The Arabs were there long time before.
I look at Syria and Lebanon as i look at Pennsylvania and New Jersey.

Just look at the US and try to have the same in the Arab Nation,

My preferred name for the new country is

Syria would be New England , Iraq ( Wadi al Rafedane ) is the Delaware valley , KSA is the Bible belt , Al Magreb al Arabi is California and the western cost , and Egypt is the Heartland .

( No, i think there should be a better term. How about the Union of Middle Eastern States. That’s good. States. The middle east is not really one nation. they fight fight fight….)

YES they fight but nobody killed more American than the American themselves during the civil war .

One more thing , Being an Arab is not a genetic association , It is a land association in my humble opinion.

Ausamaa, Alex, QN , Offended, Enlghted one ,Shai

Any comments.

March 13th, 2008, 3:41 am


Enlightened said:


My thoughts

I have long ago traded my boyhood Arab Nationalism Tag and ideals and put them in the dustbin. My view is that it is a failed ideology. Failed in the sense because I feel (on a personal level), that this sense of Nationalism is poisonous, and has been misused,abused and above all antiquated. (see the video on the refugees in Iraq)

Question; “Do the gulf and Saudi Arabs consider the Arabs of the Levant real Arabs” I was often told by many Saudi nationals during my university days that we are not real Arabs (whatever that bloody meant)

So Norman while those ideas of yours are a utopian ideal, they will not work in reality, if they did the Arabs would have had one Nation many years ago or had some sense of confederation.

I traded in My Arab Nationalism as a 19 year old and became a humanist, 19 years later that is the best nationalism i know or would preach!

The others might give you a different opinion

March 13th, 2008, 4:13 am


youngsyria said:

blaming anti-syria on!! what does this mean?

March 13th, 2008, 4:45 am


Zenobia said:

thanks for the many interesting ideas. but as you can see from Enlightened’s comment- this is the problem… the term Arab Nation is completely over-determined at this point.
I even agree with you.. .that it does not equate to Islam. But for many… there is a threatening overlap (take Lebanon for example).
and that was an interesting tid-bit that Enlightened just mentioned that according to the Saudis.. Levantines aren’t real Arabs.

you may be on to a good perspective.. but an unworkable one.. because the language already has meaning.. Arab Nation.. is imbued forever with the ideology within the notion of Arab Nationalism. It is impossible to go and claim that now it is going to have this other meaning. And yet, Arab nationalism is no longer palatable to a large number of people all over the Middle East.

I am also very confused by certain things you brought up. Not because you weren’t clear, but because I don’t understand history. Even if you look at a famous book like Hourani’s History of the Arab Peoples.. basically he describes the Arab migrations north as the spread of Islam. He basically begins the book this way!… but I cannot figure how… this accounts for everything… if as you say.. and from what I thought… there must be migration well before the seventh century… otherwise.. what are all the people of syria… for all the thousands of years before the year 650AD. ???? I am talking about in terms of ethnicity. Semitic peoples. Is that it? Ara? and if that is true… then also one has to notice that there were many conquests into all parts of Ancient Syria.. for a long time…before Arabs from the Gulf… and the people of the Levant.. look like some amalgamation of incredibly diverse people … dropping their genetic material all over the place.

I think it is ideology to call the people of Syria and Lebanon..simply Arab.. they are… some grand mix… you don’t see as you move into Iraq and south… it is strange. All you have to do is stand around on the street and look at people and you see how incredible it is. And yet all these people call themselves arabs???? It is not enough. and I happen to think that this is where religion (Islam) and the philosophy of Arabism… that prevailed over a century… has obscured an ethnic history of greater syria that is more complicated than simply that the Arabs migrated north and now everybody is Arab.
I don’t buy it, from simple observation.. of looking at people in the region. But I even more don’t buy it…if the main period of migration is only from a period dating in the Islamic conquests. I mean…. the peoples were here… for thousands of years before that!…
somebody should explain these discrepancies…to me… sigh.

March 13th, 2008, 5:20 am


Alex said:


You made a good argument for the United States of Arabia.

My opinion … is that … you, Zenobia, and Enlightened are all wrong. : )

You see, people like to associate with winners. In August 2006, all the Shia-fearing Arabs in Cairo wanted to be led by the strongest of Shia leaders … Hassan Nasrallah… they held his posters in demonstrations at Al-Azhar mosque in Cairo.

When Syria finished negotiating a ceasefire agreement with Israel in 1974, when Hafez Assad raised the Syrian flag in Qunaitra … We had Kuwaiti and other Gulf Arabs visiting Damascus asking how can we reward you? … you made us proud to be Arabs.

But when Saddam lost Baghdad in few days … and when all analysts told us that Syria is next … the tough Arabs became a joke … at that point no one wanted to be associated in any way with the A-word.

I’m sure Somalis would love to be united with Dubai and Kuwait in the United States of Arabia … but will Dubai accept?

March 13th, 2008, 5:49 am


Zenobia said:

I am not against “the United States of Arabia”…. i wasn’t into the word ‘nation’… and… i think it was already use in such a way that it cannot be resurrected.

but i guess you are assuming.. that somebody on that side of the world is going to be a ‘winner’ some time soon?

the only winner might be Iran-Iraqistan… after which everything will be the United States of Persia.

March 13th, 2008, 6:04 am


Alex said:

I did not mean to claim that I know .. I was trying to say that we won’t know until there is a great hero that emerges somewhere in Syria or in Mauritania .. or maybe not.

March 13th, 2008, 6:08 am


offended said:

I like your enthusiasm toward Pan Arabness. I am a die hard Arabest myself, so I guess opinion on the matter is a little bit skewed.

The only thing I wish we can achieve before we collectively embark on a union project ( as Arab people and Arab regimes) is to get to a certain level of freedom, individual freedom that is. I know the introducing of democracy in the ME has to be gradual and careful (like cooking food with love and care, not your unhealthy KFC or Hardeez!). but there has to be a certain level of freedom before you decided to unite two or more Arab states, reasons being:
– Gulf Arabs currently believe that Arabism is a concept invented by Syrians, Iraqis Egyptians, Algerians and Lebanese to get their hands on the oil and the other natural fortunes in the Arabian Peninsula.
– Some Egyptians think they are unique Pharos and can’t distinguish between Iraqi and Lebanese accent even if they try.
– Some Syrians think that they are the best Arabs since our foreign policy is very honest and honorable.

And so on and so forth…
You see what I am saying Norman, statehood (Al Qutreya) has replaced the feelings and the beliefs in the Arab unity. For this you need to ask people first; like what they’ve done in Europe “do you want your country to be part of this proposed union?” a referendum on the unity is a must for its success.

I think you can be an Arabist and still be a humanist as well. : ) … my Arabism has not striped me out of my humanity, I just believe that Arabs, as the case of any other proud nation in the world, have something unique to contribute to humanity.

March 13th, 2008, 6:18 am


Shai said:


Don’t get me wrong – I absolutely agree with you. But the idea of (possibly) enabling the 400,000 Palestinian refugees in Syria full citizenship was not Israel’s, it was Syria’s! Like the Park idea on the Golan, both ideas would seem to be clearly Israeli in origin, but in fact aren’t. When I heard this, I was as surprised as you, because I certainly believe it was Israel that created the Palestinian problem, and it is Israel that should solve it. But perhaps the Syrians, wanted to show a HUGE gesture in return for the Golan, and peace, proposed this possibility. By the way, I do not understand for the life of me why Syria is not getting HUGE credit for taking in almost 2 million refugees. The world owes Syria this recognition, and is high time it gave it, publicly.

As for Israelis propaganda, I don’t know what you’re hearing or reading, but let me tell you that here inside Israel, no propaganda machine is “selling us” the notion that the Palestinians are going to so-easily give up on their right-of-return. I don’t think there is a single Israel, from the extreme Left to the extreme Right, that doesn’t know that every single Palestinian, be they in Jordan, Syria, or Australia, maintain inside their hearts and minds the right-of-return to their land. No propaganda can make that disappear. There is no real discourse inside Israel about this issue, because Israelis are terrified at the notion of Israel no longer having a Jewish majority, and as such, no longer being a Jewish state. For Israelis, who still very much suffer from Holocaust-complexes, losing their Jewish state is unacceptable.

I personally think that in the future, after Jews live in peace with Arabs around them (including the Palestinians) for some generation or two, that the notion of Jewish existence will not remain a question in the minds of Israelis, and then a lot of things will be possible. I’ve mentioned before my own wish, to one day see a sort of UME (United Middle East), looking like some combination of a U.S. and E.U. If and when that happens, then everyone will feel they have a right of return, and will de facto, and de jure, be able to live in Israel, not just Palestine. But that’s a long way off. As much as you may want to see all the refugees returning to pre-1948 Palestine, it just can’t happen yet. I imagine some symbolic right-of-return will occur, and massive financial compensation will be offered to all those that don’t return, and hopefully nations hosting those refugees will then grant them citizenships. With such massive compensation, hopefully they will not continue to be financial burden on these nations, but indeed a significant contributing part to the economy.

But I cannot imagine anyone EVER requiring, or even asking, the Palestinians to renounce their right-of-return. Still, as I type these words, more Qassam rockets were fired to Sderot (after an apparent ceasefire was in place in Gaza), probably in return for yesterday’s IDF operation in the W. Bank, killing supposedly the man in charge of the Jerusalem killings a few days ago… And so the cycle continues. At this rate, we’ll be going into Gaza with massive troops soon (a HUGE and irresponsible mistake on our part, of course), and we’ll be right back at the level of regional tension we’re all afraid of reaching. That is why I’m trying to preach my own very-strong belief that now’s not the time to talk to Abu Mazen, now’s the time to make peace with Syria. Syria is by far the easiest “case”, given that basically 80% of the deal is closed (even Bashar used that figure). If we begin withdrawing from the Golan, and make peace with Syria, that may give the kind of positive-energy and optimism we all need to progress along the Palestinian track again. Maybe that’ll pressure the Fatah and Hamas to put away their differences, and reach a consensus. That would make it much easier for Israel to finalize an agreement with a Palestinian body that can deliver, even if it means it’s represented by Hamas.

Now is the time to restart the Syrian-Isareli track, and to reach an agreement. Syria IS the key to many if not all of the conflicts in the region, and we must recognize that.

March 13th, 2008, 6:26 am


Shai said:

Hi Zenobia, good to see you again!

March 13th, 2008, 6:32 am


Zenobia said:

thanks… : ) i try to make periodic appearances just to keep my hand in!…

as with last time, I was impressed with Nir Rosen.. just read the entirety of the interview/ debate. He doesn’t pull any punches which is terrific… and that Fred Kagen is a nerdhead..parrot of course. All this wishful thinking…
i’m telling you… Iran-iraqistan is on the way… nobody is looking forward to seeing this… but we all know who to blame in the history books.

Nir Rosen. I really like him. It must be really useful… to look like you could be member of Al-Qaeda when you are trying to skulk around Iraq and get those interviews. Whereas, Kagen looks like Elmer Fudd. (we don’t think he had many military personnel around him when he did his interviewing do we?)

March 13th, 2008, 6:44 am


Shai said:


As an Israeli, I of course have certain “issues” with the name “United States of Arabia” just as you would, I suppose, with Israel being a “Jewish State”. If by united, you are referring to a model somewhere between that of the U.S., and the E.U., then I completely agree with it, and very much hope to see that become a reality one day. If it is to include Israel, then it’ll take a generation or two at least, after Jews and Arabs live in peace, and begin to trust and forgive one another. As for the name, I always called it a “UME” (United Middle East), and then you’re not referring specifically to Arab, Arabia, etc. The unity has to be based more on economic and other geo-political interests, than on nationalism, for this model to work, as I do believe that Arabs are almost by definition not united. In a way, neither are we Jews. As much as I may hate it (because it almost hints at some subdued racism), Jewish Spharadim are looked at differently by Jewish Ashkenazim. Too many centuries of being apart have made us different, especially as we were raised in different cultures altogether. I am absolutely for integration in Israel, in neighborhoods, in schools, in marriage, and thank god, this is indeed taking place much more than in previous years. But it will also take another 50-100 years, before these differences will no longer be noticed, or an issue. I suppose the same goes for the Arab world, no?

March 13th, 2008, 7:31 am


MSK said:

Ya Alex et al-

So those Palestinians are STILL caught at the border?

Can someone explain to me why Syria would take in 1.5 Million Iraqis but not 1,500 Palestinians? There are barely any Palestinians left in Iraq, so there’s not really a threat of “if those at the border are admitted, it will lead to a mass movement of Palestinians from Iraq to Syria”.

As for treatment of Palestinians … obviously Jordan treats them best, as they got citizenship. 😉

The worst treatment is in Lebanon, followed by Egypt. But life for Palestinians in Syria isn’t all hunky-dory, either. And I think we have to distinguish between treatment from the population (which only in Lebanon is shit, but is the same in Egypt & Syria) and treatment by the state (which in Syria is better than elsewhere, except Jordan, but there’s still harassment and tight political control). In the end, the Syrian regime has been and is using “its” Palestinians for Syrian goals, had sold them out where expedient and supported whichever Palestinian faction best serves Syria’s own interests – and the situation in Palestine be damned.

Just as Egypt, Jordan, and the rest of the Arab countries have done.


March 13th, 2008, 7:46 am


Shai said:


I think you said it right, it’s a “regime” that may have sold out the Palestinians, but not the country itself. Though Egypt and Jordan made peace with Israel, clearly the people of these two countries haven’t. No Israeli feels safe walking around the streets of Cairo, or Amman, with a big “I’m an Israeli” t-shirt on. In that sense, the Arab people of the Middle East haven’t, and never will, sell our their brethren Palestinians. I very much hope that this time next year, we’ll be looking at a very different situation between Israel and Syria – perhaps even peace. Israel will begin to withdraw from the Golan, and normalization will begin to take place between our two nations. But it is absolutely clear to me, that until the Israeli-Palestinian conflict isn’t resolved, no Syrian is going to “love” me either. This is one of the reasons why my conscience is clean about talking to Syria now, and signing a peace agreement with her. I too, don’t feel that we’re selling out the Palestinians. In fact, as Alon Liel mentioned in the past, the Palestinians themselves are telling us to go ahead and make peace with Syria. They realize how difficult it is right now for us to finalize an agreement, while Fatah and Hamas are at such odds. So while on the surface it may seem that the Palestinians are being sold out, I think within the hearts and minds of every Arab in this region, they are still very much alive, and important. I understand what you’re saying about the differences in treatment they receive in the various host countries.

March 13th, 2008, 8:20 am


offended said:

MSK said:
supported whichever Palestinian faction best serves Syria’s own interests – and the situation in Palestine be damned.

You are being totally unfair toward Syria here MSK, as far as I can remember; Syria has only supported the rightful representatives of the Palestinian people. There were questions before Hamas got elected on Jan 2006, like why Syria is supporting a terrorist organization that doesn’t have a political agenda to serve the Palestinian people? (Of course, lame neo-con questions), but it turned out that those who Syria have poltically courted were the real representation of the Palestinians people INSIDE Palestine.

Now you are not telling me that the Mukhabrat can rig the elections inside as well, can they?

March 13th, 2008, 10:13 am


Akbar Palace said:

I think you said it right, it’s a “regime” that may have sold out the Palestinians, but not the country itself. Though Egypt and Jordan made peace with Israel, clearly the people of these two countries haven’t. No Israeli feels safe walking around the streets of Cairo, or Amman, with a big “I’m an Israeli” t-shirt on. In that sense, the Arab people of the Middle East haven’t, and never will, sell our their brethren Palestinians. …

In fact, as Alon Liel mentioned in the past, the Palestinians themselves are telling us to go ahead and make peace with Syria.


Indeed, we are saddened that your brethren have been “sold out” by the peace treaties of Jordan and Eygpt, and that you can’t wear an “I’m an Israeli” t-shirt while walking the streets of Cairo.

But now that the Palestinians are telling you to make peace, I am sure this is softening the effects of your despair.

Good Luck

March 13th, 2008, 10:59 am


Shai said:


What on earth are you talking about? What softening? What despair?

March 13th, 2008, 11:10 am


offended said:

He’s trying to sound funny.

March 13th, 2008, 11:32 am


Shai said:

Oh, ok. Laugh laugh…

March 13th, 2008, 11:40 am


Shai said:


It reminds me of my youngest. She sometimes cries for no apparent reason… 🙂

March 13th, 2008, 11:46 am


offended said:


March 13th, 2008, 12:02 pm


offended said:

btw Shai, do you know this guy?

March 13th, 2008, 12:10 pm


MSK said:


Remember Syria’s cultivation of its own Palestinian faction & militia (al-Sa’iqa) and its war against Fatah in Lebanon?

Ditto during the 1990s, when it hosted Hamas although the PLO was the (elected) leadership …

The Syrian regime’s regional politics are no less machiavellian than those of other states, and that includes the policy towards Palestinians in- & outside Syria.

And as far as Hamas being the “real representation of the Palestinians people INSIDE Palestine” … let’s wait ’till the next elections. 😉

(No, of course there had been no need for any outsider to rig the Palestinian elections in favor of Hamas. Fatah/PLO had squandered all support, particularly with its massive corruption and Hamas was the logical alternative.)


March 13th, 2008, 12:13 pm


Shai said:


No, I didn’t know of him. Seems interesting though… I’ll read some more on his blog. Thanks!

March 13th, 2008, 12:21 pm


Akbar Palace said:

More “piece process” news the MSM will not print nor will any US administration (including the Bush Administration) admit to…

I Am Against the Armed Struggle; However, in Future Stages Things may Change

“About the resistance, Abbas said: It was I who, in 1965, had the honor of firing the first bullet. Many people, locally and abroad, know the resistance for what it is, how and under what circumstances it brings pride – and when it does not, what benefit can be derived from it, and what constitutes serious, genuine, and effective resistance. It is also commonly known when resistance may cause harm, and when the time, place, and circumstances are auspicious.

“[Abbas continued:] We [Fatah] had the honor of leading the resistance. We instructed everyone, including Hizbullah, as to what the resistance means. They were educated in our camps… At this time, I object to the armed struggle, since we are unable to conduct it; however, in future stages things may change…”

March 13th, 2008, 1:17 pm


Shai said:


Part of the “peace process” (which I agree, is not very “peaceful”), is reminding us Israelis that it doesn’t necessarily have to go or end the way we want it to. Obviously Abbas was talking both to the extremists on his side, reminding them that he is no less familiar to the concept of resistance than they are, and talking to us, warning of what may happen if we take the Palestinians for granted. He is truly fighting a battle of survival, even more so than the Palestinian people. I can understand his comments, and I think you can too.

March 13th, 2008, 1:44 pm


Alex said:

No Shai,

AP can not understand.


Hafez Assad arrived in 1970 already not willing to work with Arafat. It was not necessarily a question of using the Palestinian card, but a question of trust.

I was told by someone who watched Hafez (defense minister at the time) and Syrian President Al-Atassi and Yasser Arafat disembarking off the plane that brought them back from Nasser’s funeral in Cairo (Sep 1970), that Arafat was going down the stairs first, right next to President Atassi. Hafez who was supposed to follow (as defense minister) intentionally pushed Arafat to the back in an obvious way, and disembarked first.

He never trusted him and he did not like what he did in Jordan. And later in Lebanon … Assad wanted the Palestinian leaders to know that being present in Syria in large numbers does not mean they can try to influence Syrian politics in any way.

If you have not noticed, Syria’s allies are usually the reliable types … the types that can not be flipped through American/Saudi/Egyptian/Israeli incentives.

George Habash, Nayef Hawatmeh, Salim Hoss, Nasrallah, Sleiman Frangieh, and even Michel Aoun these days (although not a Syrian ally by definition) … add to that list: Turkish leaders, Iran … and of course Hamas.

None of these can be flipped .. Syria is always paranoid about Arab brothers who are really Israeli spies (like parts of Fatah is today) or anything less dramatic, but equally dangerous.

So, it is more about being very selective in trusting Palestinian leaders, rather than picking the ones that fit your mentality. Afterall, Nayef Hawatmeh and Hamas are not exactly the same .. and they are not the puppets types either. They are simply trustworthy to the Syrians.

March 13th, 2008, 2:48 pm


MSK said:

Ya Alex,

You said “If you have not noticed, Syria’s allies are usually the reliable types … the types that can not be flipped through American/Saudi/Egyptian/Israeli incentives.”

Just look at the Lebanese Civil War – Syria was allied with all sorts of groups, from Jumblat (Sr. & Jr.) to Hobeika …

Aoun has done a complete 180 degrees – if that’s “reliable” to you …

I understand that the Syrian regime is paranoid to be sold out. Everyone in the region is. But it is also selling out, if it serves their purposes. Again, that’s just like everyone else.

I’m not sure why & how you think that the Syrian regime is different from everyone else, that it alone is virginal when it comes to power politics, to shady deals, to atrocities.

Maybe one day you’ll let us all know … 🙂


March 13th, 2008, 3:43 pm


Norman said:

Didn’t the Hebrew come from Arabia, lead by Abraham.
I look around in the US and I see a lot more different people , in my development , there are Egyptians , Indians Jews Italian , Russian,
I am trying to say many different people in the Us like in the Arab world .
i am sure New Jersey feels about Alabama the Same and Arkansas as Dubai feels about Somalia or Mauritania ,

We should remember that One for all and all for , without collective work for all we can not advance ,If you do not keep your neighbor healthy you catch his ills,

Enlighted one

Nationalism is only poisonous if you condescendent to others , if it is only to improve your house it is poisonous.

Is is sad that whenever somebody asks me where i am from and i say Syria , they say , you are an Arab , they know who we are more than we like to admit and feel ourselves .

March 13th, 2008, 3:55 pm


Akbar Palace said:

Responding to Shai:

Part of the “peace process” (which I agree, is not very “peaceful”)…

(Which is solely Israel’s fault?)

… is reminding us Israelis that it doesn’t necessarily have to go or end the way we want it to.

Israelis disagree vastly on this, including some Israelis (hard leftists and Israeli Arabs) who would prefer to see an end to Israel.
Tell me more about this “end”. Do you think this “end” would be violent – why or why not?

Obviously Abbas was talking both to the extremists on his side, reminding them that he is no less familiar to the concept of resistance than they are, and talking to us, warning of what may happen if we take the Palestinians for granted. He is truly fighting a battle of survival, even more so than the Palestinian people. I can understand his comments, and I think you can too.

What extremists did King Hussein of Jordan and Anwar Sadat talk to before they signed peace treaties with Israel? What make Abbas different than these 2 leaders other than your belief that Abbas has no personal security.

If Abbas is fighting a “battle of survival” as you claim, it seems to me that the logical thing to do is for him to fight his battle for survival first, before expecting him to make the difficult decisions required to make peace with Israel.

I believe I understand Abbas’s comments and those from other terrorist organizations, and I believe I have the data showing that these comments are not only uttered regularly, they’re also acted upon regularly too. Yes, actions do speak louder than words.

March 13th, 2008, 4:50 pm


Alex said:


The regime’s degree of “paranoia” in this regard, varies.

For example Bashar is even more cautious than his father. his dad reached a point in the 90’s were very few would dare to take him for granted or try to trick him. This was not the case with Bashar .. many Arabs treated him as a temporary kid on his way out soon. How would you feel when Mubarak and the Jordanian king and the Saudi king and the Palestinian President keep meeting without wanting to invite the Syrian president to any o those meetings?

Could it be that they … are planning things against the interests of Syria or the Syrian regime?

Of course they are.

There is no paranoia today. The list of allies I gave you are not the type you can flip through one of the typical ways

1) money
2) PR support.

That’s how they flipped many Arab leaders … receive them warmly in the White House … financial help …

Aoun flipped because HE WANTED TO … not because Prince Bandar made him a good offer.

What I stated is very valid today. Syria is allied to the stubborn set of leaders who are not easily swayed from what they believe in.

AND … Syria never sold out any of them. You are assuming things.

Did Syria sell Iran when the whole world (including the United States) really wanted Saddam to win that war in the 80’s?

Did Syria kick Mashaal out in 2004/2005 when there was huge pressure on Damascus to do so? .. with a very real US invasion threat (right after Baghdad fell with ease).

If you want to know what Syria DID NOT DO .. look at what Al-Syassa tried to tell us about what Syria did:
“Assad offers to sell Hizbollah to the Americans”

MSK my friend, I am not trying to say Syria is doing so because the regime is made of a collection of saints. But it is simply good politics … out of all the alliances in the Middle East, Syria’s alliance with the group I described above remained very solid for years and years … unlike all the other shifting alliances and shifting allies.

I’ll tell you one piece of real information (at least I heard it from a reliable source): When Bashar was being trained to take over his father’s job … when he got to know all the Lebanese leaders … he went back to his father and told him: “The only one I can trust to work with is Salim Hoss”

In 1998 Hariri was replaced with Salim hoss, by Hafez.

But in year 2000 Jacques Chirac and King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia convinced Bashar that he needs to bring him back if he wants Lebanon to function properly.

March 13th, 2008, 4:59 pm


Zenobia said:

Norman. Unfortunately, Dubai does not feel about Somalia like Alabama does about Arkansas.
I think it is a ridiculous comparison of the middle east to the United States. it lacks pretty much everything socio-political and social that america has going for it.

have you been there lately? The only thing connected in the middle east ARE the ethnic bonds. Kurds to Kurds, ARabs to Arabs, and religious bonds, Shia to Shia and Christians to Christians etc so on and so forth.

America is exactly the opposite. Alabama has very little in common socially and culturally to Massachusetts or Utah, or Montana. However, the founding of the States is precisely built upon the notion of federalism and limited states rights (the boundaries of these rights -of which were always disputed and most viciously fought over in a civil war) so that – in the end- all americans have agreed to forfeit a certain amount of their regionalism and sectarian identifications and desires in order to be a part of a social contract forged in one nation of states.
I believe people feel American first and a Pennsylvanian second. And even if in certain states- the people identify first as Texan and Californian and second as American… basically it is a very close call. Ultimately, being a nation comes first. Thats what we have given up.

In contrast, Lebanon has spent practically its entire existence fighting against being a part of the greater arab world. And even in Lebanon- they can’t stop being Maronites first and Lebanese second. or attempting to make their sectarian group the one that is synonymous with being lebanese… the REAL lebanese.

but even leaving Lebanon as the most extreme example. Syrians who are the most arab nationalistic of them all… would be hard pressed to give up some amount of their identity as Syrians to be United Middle Easterners. And Egyptians and Saudis etc… can you imagine??? Can you imagine.. the Saudis…giving up some of their sovereign rights as a state to a higher federal body??

the EU model is some possibility because it is a union based on economic sharing- but does not infringe on the sovereignty of each of the member states as individual nations. The EU is not one country.

the United states is completely different. That is actually one nation. Nation is a very specific word. You cannot just grab it and start using it to describe a non-existent Arab Nation.. based on some sentiment of cultural connection.

It is precisely the non-Tribal mentality of Americans and the people who come here to become Americans that allows them to come together as a Nation… to join under LAW.
Is the Middle East ready to join under LAW????? all these power mongering leaders going to give up some of their power to have their people join a union of states???

I think maybe only when the Desert freezes over…….

March 13th, 2008, 5:11 pm


Qifa Nabki said:

Alex said:

Aoun flipped because HE WANTED TO … not because Prince Bandar made him a good offer.

No, I think it was because Bashar made him a good offer:

“Come back to Lebanon, work with us, and we’ll make you president. Otherwise, try setting your foot back on Lebanese soil and you’ll be dead within a month.”

An offer he couldn’t refuse. 😉

March 13th, 2008, 5:38 pm


Norman said:

I guess you think all is lost and there is no hope for the people of the Arab world to be as free with self government as the these same people when they come to the US and forget all their tribal connection .

I disagree ,

I think they can do better and they have to do better.

March 13th, 2008, 5:43 pm


Alex said:

Qifa Nabki,

Ya 3ammo ya 7abibi …Go study.

Bashar is a president, not a prince.

And more seriously

Think after Hariri was assassinated, Syria humiliated, Syria accused, Syria out of Lebanon, Syria in next after Iraq, Syria boycotted and in Washington they were preparing Farid Ghadry to replace BAshar … Would Aoun respond positively to this Syrian offer/Threat?

He did not cooperate when Syria was in a much better perceived position of power in Lebanon pre-2004… why would he now accept an offer from a Syrian regime that is on its way out?

March 13th, 2008, 5:51 pm


offended said:

Damascus has always been the big heart that will ‘engulf’ all Arabs, even those who are at odd with her:

Syria has invited the prime minister of Lebanon to an Arab summit in March, in the absence of a Lebanese president.

March 13th, 2008, 6:05 pm


Norman said:

Beirut PM invited to Syria summit
Syria has invited the prime minister of Lebanon to an Arab summit in March, in the absence of a Lebanese president.
Lebanon has been in crisis and without a president for months, with pro- and anti-Syrian factions deadlocked.

There had been speculation over which side would be invited. Prime Minster Fouad Siniora is a leading anti-Syrian.

Egypt and Saudi Arabia are said to be threatening to boycott the talks, blaming stalled attempts to elect a new president on Syrian interference.

It is not clear if Mr Siniora will accept Syria’s invitation to the 29 March summit.

He was in Senegal at the time the invitation was issued, and it was not delivered directly to his office.

It was instead given by Syria’s Assistant Foreign Minister Ahmad Arnous, the first Syrian official to visit Lebanon for 18 months, to the pro-Syrian, outgoing Lebanese Foreign Minister Fawzi Salloukh.

“Due to the presidential void, Lebanon will choose the person who will represent it at the summit and Syria will receive them cordially,” a Syrian foreign office quoted Mr Arnous as saying.

Mr Saloukh is one of six pro-Syrian Cabinet ministers who resigned in November 2006 in one of the many twists in the drawn-out power struggle between the pro- and anti-Syrian factions.


The political process had been paralysed since pro-Syrian President Emile Lahoud stepped down at the end of his presidency in November 2006.

Although the two sides eventually agreed late last year on a compromise candidate, army commander General Michel Suleiman, all attempts to elect him have failed.
The pro-Syrian faction – led by the Shia Muslim group Hezbollah and a Christian party – has refused to back his election unless their demands for increased powers in government are also met.

Mr Siniora heads the US-backed, anti-Syrian bloc, which brings together Christian, Sunni Muslim and Druze parties.

Sixteen parliamentary sessions have failed to break the deadlock. A new session is scheduled for 25 March, just days before the Damascus summit.

Syria ended its 29-year presence in Lebanon in 2005, after popular protests in the wake of the death of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri in a car bombing.

Damascus has been implicated in the death by the UN, but denies involvement.

Story from BBC NEWS:

Published: 2008/03/13 17:22:00 GMT


March 13th, 2008, 6:08 pm


Qifa Nabki said:

He accepted the offer, ya 3ammo, because Saad al-Hariri is an idiot, and he allowed himself to be swayed by Geagea and the other Christian leaders into not trusting Aoun.

He didn’t fit with them, because he saw himself as Lebanon’s saviour who was going to “open all the books” and hold everyone accountable for the corruption. (By the way, Hizbullah was not going to be spared this purge of terror; Aoun wanted them to be disarmed immediately). He was, in other words, too much too soon for the political class that had arisen in Lebanon since Aoun left. He is too big a personality to fit under the March 14 umbrella, and instead of getting a bigger umbrella, Hariri rebuffed him.

But most importantly, Aoun probably cut the deal with the Syrians before returning, so it was impossible for him to sign on with Hariri.

A humiliated, accused, endangered Syria is much more dangerous than a confident and powerful one.

March 13th, 2008, 6:08 pm


Nour said:

I believe that the idea of an Arab nation is flawed because it is not based on any scientific understanding of a nation and what constitutes a nation, but rather on an emotional desire to create a large Arab/Islamic state and resuscitate the old Arab/Islamic Empire. Arab nationalists have never given a clear definition of a nation and how the various peoples of the Arab World constitute a single nation. They have merely relied on slogans and empty rhetoric. “oumma 3arabia wa7ida zatou risalatin khalida,” “min al-mou7eet ila al-khaleej”, and so on and so forth. In fact to further demonstrate the complete lack of clarity in Arab nationalism, they even go as far as declaring “zoukhran lil-oummatein el-3arabiya wal-Islamiya” as if there can be two different nations encompassed within each other. The bottom line is that Arab Nationalism is an amalgamation of contradictory and confused thoughts, that aim somehow to give meaning to the so-called “Arab Nation”, whether racial, religious, or linguistic, and thus has utterly failed in truly unifying the peoples of the Arab World or creating any sort of organization that includes all Arabic-speaking peoples.

I long ago dropped Arab Nationalism for a more well-defined, clearly-structured nationalism, namely Syrian Nationalism, based on the philosophy of Antoun Saadeh. Saadeh was clear in defining that a nation is a group of people which, through years of intermixing and social interaction on a particular geographic territory, and through a process of evolution, develops characteristics differentiating it from other groups. This led to the conclusion that the people of geographic Syria form a single nation, as throughout history, they have formed a socio-economic unity, in which their interaction with each other, as well as their interaction with the single piece of land was consistent and continuous. For this reason we saw that historically the political entities that arose tended to stretch to the natural boundaries of the Syrian homeland and stop there.

In addition, Syrian nationalism does not rely on a racial, religious, or linguistic basis in forming its definition of a nation. Rather it relies on the idea of a continuous social interaction between groups inhabiting a single geographic territory. As such, being Syrian is not linked to any particular group, but rather to the belonging to a single society. Thus, anyone who inhabits the Syrian homeland and interacts with and eventually melts into its society becomes a Syrian national by definition. Therefore, Kurds, Armenians, Circassians, or any other ethnic, racial, or religious minorities can become Syrian without having to fan any “Aramaic” blood loyalty, contrary to “true” Arabs having to come from Arab lineage. I believe such nationalism to be much more realistic and inclusive, allowing for any member of Syrian society to feel that they are an equal member of a single nation.

March 13th, 2008, 6:12 pm


Seeking the Truth said:

Alex says: “He never trusted him and he did not like what he did in Jordan”, meaning Hafez and Arafat.
Well, have a look at this link:
in particular, the following paragraph, which I know is indeed what happened at that time:
“Finally, Hussein had had enough. In September 1970 — the month Palestinian radicals would come to call Black September — the 34-year-old monarch ordered his army to drive the PLO out of the country. Syrian troops came to the aid of the Palestinians, while Israeli soldiers massed across the border.”

March 13th, 2008, 6:12 pm


Zenobia said:

No, Norman. I do have hope that there are many possibilities for improvement and prosperity.

But it will not be called the Arab Nation, for one thing.

and, i just want to be clear what it is that can bring that prosperity, and not allow people to sink into some sentimentality – which is what i feel when i hear about the Arab Nation scenario. I have cousins who talk about the “Arab Nation” .. but they have no sense of anything more than… some great mythological dream about ethnic pride.
i want to drive people away from that.

And the answer is.. finally mentioned by you in your last comment to me… “self -government”.. you never said that once in your whole descriptions of Arab unity.

Essentially, I think there is the possibility for economic collaboration and union while there remains monarchs and dictators and oligarchic governments, but there will be no united governing under such circumstances. Ultimately, you must have social democratic states in order to form greater unions. How can dictatorial governments give up power to a larger federation is they are not even accountable to their own people. And those people have not given consent to be represented. There is no rule of law on a lower level, and thus there can be no rule of law on a higher level.
so, i am not hopeful that this is in any near future. there would have to be very dramatic change in the middle east that is not very likely anytime soon.

but does that mean i think the arab world is incapable? No, i would never say that. I believe all things are possible. but we can’t begin by talking about sentimental ideas. I feel it is always necessary to really define what we are talking about in realistic terms.

March 13th, 2008, 6:14 pm


Qifa Nabki said:


You are correct, in my opinion.

March 13th, 2008, 6:18 pm


Alex said:


Absolutey … But you think Hafez supported Syria’s interventon in Jordan at the time? … it was the last straw that convinced him that he will be successful if he decided to overthrow the previous marxist regime in Syria .. he was defense minister, I know. But he was against the Jordan intervention.

Here is what Wikipedia has on that event:

The Corrective Revolution or more often Corrective Movement is also the name used for the military-pragmatist faction’s takeover within the Baath party regime of Syria in 1970, bringing Hafez al-Assad to power. It was directed against a dominant ultra-leftwing faction of the party, and to some extent provoked by what Assad and his supporters saw as adventureous and irresponsible foreign policies (notably the Syrian intervention in the Black September conflict in Jordan, after which the Black September Palestinian faction was named). As a result of the coup, de facto leader Salah Jadid was ousted and the party was purged.

March 13th, 2008, 6:26 pm


Zenobia said:

and… I just read Nour’s comment in the interim… and I like it very much. It says in the first part- more eloquently a lot of what i wanted to get at too.

and the second part about defining what a nation is. interesting. I am not sure what completely constitutes a nation. I certainly think that everything Nour included is very true.
i would add that- there is something about power also and the social contract. This is what i was suggesting in my own comment. that when you accept to be part of a Nation…. you are identifying with others who are also defining themselves as part of that nation. And, you are agreeing to give up some individual freedom, i believe, and rights to your smaller identifications of tribal affiliation, group, family etc.. you.. choose to give power to the nation that might conflict with the smaller identification. One chooses to privilege the nation in that way…for the betterment of that nation over the smaller entity. It doesn’t mean the smaller identification recedes, but it must take a backseat.
and this is why i kept emphasizing law.. because the law of the nation has to be more powerful…hold power… over the smaller groups within it…

otherwise, you get conflict and secession. Norman, the united states fought a civil war over the power of states to make their own laws and define themselves apart from the nation verses submit to the federal authority.. only 150 years ago. And then they had to duke it out again over states rights and the challenge of state laws that conflicted with federal laws protecting minority rights.. in the 1960’s !… a lot has happened in our short history.

so anything is possible. But people have to have power to decide.. to rebel. otherwise there is no change.

March 13th, 2008, 6:32 pm


Alex said:


in other words, you are saying that Aoun is indeed a man who does not compromise on his principles (besids having some ego issues).

And also .. he is more capable than the other smart ones .. like Jumblatt who bet everything on American and Saudi assurances that Syria is soon to be finished in a spectacular way.

Not bad, no?

March 13th, 2008, 6:36 pm


Qifa Nabki said:

Bi-l-3aks ya Alex

I’m saying that Aoun would not have compromised on his principles had he not had a gun to his head and an offer on the table.

With March 14, he would not have compromised, and that’s why he didn’t fit with them.

With Syria, he had a gun to his head, and a promise of glory in Baabda.

So he did compromise on his principles, big time.

Aoun is just as flippable as Jumblatt, and just as ego-maniacal. Ma fi 7ada edame ya 3ammo, don’t imagine otherwise.


March 13th, 2008, 6:49 pm


Alex said:

Qifa naki

Are you telling me that only Syria could “point a gun” to Aoun’s head?

then you are SURE only Syria killed Hariri plus ALL the others… including Francois el-Hajj.

If you are not sure, then it is possible for others to have guns, and to use them effectively .. and therefore, the “Syria pointed a gun to Aoun’s head” is not consistent with reality… others could have also threatened him if he is the type one can intimidate with a gun.

Besides .. Rafiq Hariri did not get threatened by Syria’s gun?

March 13th, 2008, 6:59 pm


Qifa Nabki said:


I don’t think Syria killed all of them. I think they killed Hariri and maybe a couple of other figures, but who knows? However, at some point, others joined in the assassination game.

But the “others” who did were probably groups like Fatah al-Islam, and they did so in order to create chaos in Lebanon. They weren’t trying to put pressure on politicians.

I don’t understand your argument.

March 13th, 2008, 7:10 pm


Naji said:

It really is sad to see people like Qafa talk about The General in this “flippant” way…! Flipping, …Aoun …??!!

What this young Qafa, unfortunately, does not realize is what a truly historic figure the General really is…!! To understand how ridiculous the notion of Aoun being beholden to Syrian interests is, it is enough to know that, as popular as our Bibo is in Syria, there actually are a couple of local leaders more popular than he is: Nassrallah and THE General…!!

In their own petty nationalistic way, most Syrians believe that the Lebanese simply do not deserve the likes of Nasrallah and The General… their rise being the result of freedoms that we had long ago delegated to our Lebanese kin. To ordinary Syrians, this is ample proof that the Lebanon does merit being a separate country from mother Syria…! Reluctantly, and after reading this brightest Lebanese Qafa for the past few weeks, I am now inclined to agree…!!!

I will not even comment on MSK’s Aoun remaks… They are too trivial to bother with, obviously…!

March 13th, 2008, 7:31 pm


Alex said:

My argument is that if Aoun was the type that could be intimidated by Syrian threates, he could have been intimidated by other threats that would force him to flip again … but he did not.

Anyway .. we really don’t know. Besids, I started by saying that Aoun was not exactly “a Syria ally” … I was referring to the others in the group of Syrian allies.

March 13th, 2008, 7:33 pm


Qifa Nabki said:

Naji habibna,

Once upon a time, just a few years ago in his very long life, Aoun hated Syria’s guts.

He was traveling to the U.S. begging the Americans to change the regime in Syria so that he could come back to Lebanon and take his rightful place as president.

He called Hizbullah and Hamas terrorists, and said that the Syrians were harboring them.

In other words, he was a neocon avant la lettre, so to speak.

Now he’s not.

Sounds like a pretty big flip to me.

The adulation of Syrians is not a testament to a person’s moral uprightness. They like the General because he’s following Bashar. Bokra that may change, and they will hate him, in the same way they hate all the ex-Syrian flunkies who are now Saudi flunkies.

As I said before: ma fi 7ada edame.

March 13th, 2008, 7:44 pm


why-discuss said:

Invitation to Siniora to attend the arab summit in Damascus and the Hariri Tribunal

Very embarassing situation for Siniora, very smart move from the syrians. If Siniora does not go to the Arab Summit ( as Jumblatt is calling for) he will miss the chance to legitimate his ‘illegal’ government and would let Syria take the lead and confirm that this Siniora government does not perceive itself as legal. If he goes, it is a total humiliation for him, for Saad Hariri, his godfather and the 14 mars activists. As Berry has refused to go, Siniora had desperately wished he would not be invited.
In another register, Jamil Seyyed has praised the UN official about the plan for the Hariri International Tribunal to indict people who have falsed the investigation by bringing in false witnesses ( the Mehlis biased investigation}. This could turn out to be very embarassing for Hariri and his friends who have brought in a witness whose testimony was crucial in emprisonning Seyyed and who later reversed his stances. Until he is brought back to testify is there any chance he could be eliminated him to avoid compromising Hariri himself?
“L’orient le jour 13 mars 2008
L’ancien directeur de la Sûreté générale, Jamil Sayyed, s’est « félicité de la position d’un haut responsable de l’ONU qui avait assuré que certains avaient tenté, grâce à de faux témoins, de brouiller les pistes dans l’affaire de l’assassinat de l’ancien Premier ministre, Rafic Hariri, et que ceux-là, aussi haut placés soient-ils, seront jugés en même temps que les faux témoins », a indiqué un communiqué de son bureau de presse.”

March 13th, 2008, 7:56 pm


Alex said:


It is even more complicated … some Maronite M14 supporters are calling on Seniora to not go to Damascus .. because attending the Arab Summit is one of the functions of the President, the Maronite President … they feel that it would set a dangerous precedent for a Prime Minister to act in place of the President.

March 13th, 2008, 8:25 pm


Seeking the Truth said:


The following quotation is from Patrick Seale’s biography of Asad, 1988, p. 158:
“There could have been no armed intervention in Jordan of which Asad did not approve: in fact intervention was his policy and on this score he was not in dispute with Jadid.”

March 13th, 2008, 9:00 pm


offended said:

For those who can read Arabic, please read this interesting critical analysis of the union between Syria and Egypt (Dr. Yousef Makki is a Saudi author and an Arab Nationalist to the bones):

صحيح أن الوطن العربي يشكل وحدة جغرافية، لكن مفهوم الوحدة هنا لا يعني التماثل، بل التكامل. كما هي وظائف أعضاء الجسم مختلفة، ويؤدي كل عضو فيها وظيفته بشكل مختلف، فكذلك الأقطار العربية، التي تشكل وحدة جغرافية من حيث تكامل خارطتها الطبيعية.
وعودة إلى موضوع الاختلاف في البنية الاجتماعية بين مصر وسوريا، يجدر التذكير بأن وادي النيل قد شهد قيام أقدم دولة مركزية، عرفها التاريخ. نقول أقدم دولة مركزية، ولا نقول أقدم حضارة لسببين رئيسيين. الأول هو أن الحضارة التي قامت في وادي النيل، قد شهدت بالتوازي معها قيام حضارات أخرى في ما بين النهرين. والثاني، أن موضوع العوامل المادية التي أسهمت بشكل رئيسي في عراقة هذه الدولة هي ما يهمنا في هذه القراءة.
إن تغييب مفهوم التكامل، بدلاً عن التماثل، كان أحد الإشكاليات الرئيسية التي واجهت دولة الوحدة. وقد تركت بصماتها واضحة على الطريقة التي تشكلت فيها الهياكل الاجتماعية والسياسية في مصر وسوريا.
لقد اعتمدت الزراعة في مصر، منذ القدم، على مصدر واحد هو مياه النيل، الذي يشق البلاد من الجنوب إلى الشمال. وكان من نتيجة ذلك، أن أرض الكنانة بقيت في الغالب أراض صحراوية، واستمر اعتمادها إلى حد كبير على مياه النهر، كمصدر رئيسي وحيد لمنح البلاد الحياة والرخاء. فالنيل على هذا الأساس، ظل يسيطر على حياة مصر، وبقي وحده مشيد أوديتها. إنه بمعنى آخر، كما يقول الدكتور جمال حمدان “ليس فقط مانح الحياة في مصر ولكنه موزع الحياة على وجهها”.

(The article is one of several articles on the same subject; links to the other articles are provided at the end of the article …)

March 13th, 2008, 9:19 pm


offended said:

I am glad and proud of the fair coverage of Al Khaleej newspaper to the events in Palestine, Al Khaleej is one media institution that stood immune to the invasion of Lebanese neocon media personalities:

بأسلوب الخداع الذي لازمها منذ تأسيسها ودعا إلى استخدامه مؤسسها تيودور هيرتزل، فاوضت “إسرائيل” مباشرة، أو بوساطة مصرية، لتحقيق “التهدئة” في قطاع غزة الذي وضعته بخبث تحت أجواء الهدوء المفاجئ بعد محرقة “الشتاء الساخن”، وتركت العالم يتحدث عن جهود “التهدئة”، وأرسلت قواتها الخاصة لتتسلل إلى مدينتين في الضفة الغربية وتعدم بدم بارد خمسة فلسطينيين. في مدينة بيت لحم جنوب الضفة، استشهد القيادي في حركة الجهاد الإسلامي محمد شحادة وثلاثة مقاومين من كتائب شهداء الأقصى التابعة لحركة “فتح”، أمس، بنيران قوة “إسرائيلية” خاصة. وذكرت مصادر إعلامية وشهود عيان أن جنود الاحتلال، يتخفون بملابس عربية، أعدموا شحادة بدم بارد، إضافة لثلاثة آخرين من المقاومين كانوا برفقته وهم عماد كامل، أحمد البلبول، وعيسى مرزوق. وفي وقت سابق، أمس، قتل قائد سرايا القدس في طولكرم عصام كركور، في توغل “إسرائيلي” بالمدينة.
وأعلنت كتائب شهداء الأقصى في الضفة أنها في حل من التهدئة وان دماء الشهداء دين في عنقها، في حين اعتبر عضو المجلس الثوري لحركة “فتح”، محمد الحوراني، أن هذه الجريمة تكشف مدى الإجرام والإيغال “الإسرائيلي” في الدم الفلسطيني.

March 13th, 2008, 9:22 pm


Alex said:

Syria expands “iron censorship” over Internet

By Khaled Yacoub Oweis


(c) 2008 Reuters Limited

DAMASCUS, March 13 (Reuters) – Syrian authorities have ordered Internet cafe users to reveal their identity, the latest measure in their “iron censorship” of cyberspace, a Syrian monitoring group said on Thursday.

Security officials ordered Internet cafe owners this week to take down the names and identification cards of their clients as well as the times they come and leave, Mazen Darwich, head of the Syrian Media Centre, told Reuters.

The records are to be presented regularly to the authorities, who targeted bloggers and Internet writers in recent months as part of a renewed campaign against dissent.

“These steps are designed to terrorise Internet users and spread fear and self censorship in violation of the right to privacy and free expression,” Darwich said.

“The government has been methodical in extending the scope of its iron censorship,” he said.

There was no comment from the government. Officials had said Internet controls were needed to guard against what they described as attempts to spread sectarian divisions and “penetration by Israel”.

Several Internet cafes confirmed the new regulations.

Restrictions have also increased on surfing the World Wide Web and online publishing. An increasing number of Syrians who have voiced opinions on the Internet were being jailed, Darwich said.

The Syrian Media Centre, an independent body that tracks curbs on media, said at least 153 Internet sites are blocked in Syria with bans expanding over the past few weeks to Googleblog and the Arab Maktoobblog.

“Open forums have been used by thousands of Syrians to launch a counteroffensive against the government’s curbs on public expression,” Darwich said.

The forums also provide a way for users to share information on how to bypass government blocking of sites through what is known as Internet proxies, he said.

Facebook and Youtube are already banned as well as sites for Syrian opposition parties, Lebanese newspapers and Lebanese groups opposed to what they call Syrian interference in Lebanon. The site of the Saudi Asharq al-Awsat newspaper is blocked although the daily has a correspondent in Damascus.

The government last year ordered Internet sites based in Syria to provide the “clear identity and name” of those behind any article or comment they publish.

A poet is facing trial at a state security course for publishing articles on a civic society forum. Another writer spent a week in prison for an Internet piece about fuel and electricity shortages, Syrian human rights organisations said.

A teacher from the farming province of Reka is facing trial for criticising online what he described as patronage and nepotism in the state-run education system.

The Internet spread in Syria after President Bashar al-Assad succeeded his late farther, Hafez al-Assad in 2000. The country is ruled by the Baath Party, which took power in a coup in 1963, imposed emergency law and banned all opposition. (Editing by Dominic Evans)

March 13th, 2008, 9:23 pm


offended said:

I know this is a bit off-topic, but the mention of Rakka province in the article reminded me of a post of Ammar Abdulhamid a while ago about the students’ riots in Munboj university, when he said that Munboj falls in Rakka province!

Deep knowledge of Syria’s geography ….

March 13th, 2008, 9:40 pm


Naji said:


QN dearest,
I only pointed out the Syrian’s adulations of The General as one of a million illustrations of how much more, during the last few difficult years, the Syrian regime needed the cover of the legitimate popular forces in Lebanon than they needed him…! Remember that Nassrallah, right after the 2006 war, publically and proudly declared that he and his clan are ETERNALLY indebted to The General and his followers for their support and “cover”…! The indebtedness of the Syrian regime to HA during those difficult times is beyond estimation or dispute…!

The fact is, despite your unfortunate misunderstanding, what endears The General to the Syrian leadership and populace is The General’s perceived remarkable CONSISTENCY and his always PRINCIPLED stances…! It is completely understandable that he would campaign against Syria when he saw it as illegally occupying his country, and for Syria when it became apparent that it is now a neighbor that could use some help…!

Being the only socio-political “free-zone” for our region (including Israel), the Lebanon is not only the place where we exorcise our daemons, it is also where we find our heroes… may you not crucify them this time…!

(Sorry, but I could not help the melodrama… it is almost midnight around here…!! 🙂 )

March 13th, 2008, 9:50 pm


Shai said:


I never said that it is solely Israel’s fault that the process isn’t “peaceful”. Why are you putting words in my mouth?

As soon as you say that hard leftist Israelis would prefer to see an end to Israel, you begin to sound either out of touch with reality, or plain disrespectful. Do you honestly think that you, Akbar Palace, care more about Israel’s existence, Jewish existence in Israel, than Yossi Beilin, or even Uri Avneri? Though I don’t side with either one, I at least respect them enough to know they’re fighting for our long term existence no less than you and I are. If you want people to respect you, even when they strongly disagree with you, do the same to them.

I won’t enter a discussion about this “end”, and whether it would be violent or not (of course it would be), because I won’t be dragged into a conversation where you’d do anything to paint me as an anti-Israeli. I feel you’re trying to set me up, and I won’t partake in such games.

What makes Abbas different from Sadat or Hussein, is that he doesn’t have full control over his people, they did. Today, Abbas cannot deliver. He is fighting for his survival. He thinks, erroneously I believe, that by signing an agreement with Israel soon, he’ll become stronger and may survive longer. I happen to believe exactly the opposite. Perhaps his statements were an attempt to prepare for a serious deterioration in relations, which is basically beginning to take place. In that, you and I completely agree. We should not be discussing a final agreement with Abbas right now. No point talking to someone that can’t deliver. If and when he works out the Fatah’s differences with Hamas, and a governing body is formed, that truly controls the situation on the ground, then we should talk to him/this new body.

I agree that actions speak louder than words, which is why I challenge you to come up with an action plan to move us closer to peace, than to war. Don’t just tell me all the reasons not to trust the Arabs, tell me how to make peace with them, or at least with some of them (Syria, for instance).

March 13th, 2008, 9:56 pm


Qifa Nabki said:

Naji, thx for the clarification. I understand your point now. Fair enough.

March 13th, 2008, 10:32 pm


Alex said:


I also remembered the brilliant commentators who thought that you are me “Alex, we know that offended is you … tla3 min hal bouab ya ghaleez”

March 13th, 2008, 10:54 pm


jo6pac said:

I didn’t read all comments but this human leaving at this time isn’t good. I’m truely sorry what is about to happen in the next 8 months. It’s sad that most of you don’t get it after what has already happened, it’s history but is just from a few years ago.

March 14th, 2008, 12:26 am


Enlightened said:

My Fellow SC’s

My response to Norman’s idea might have tickled a few sensitivities. Let me explain.

Zen: I think we are on a similar plane with our thoughts.

Alex: Sorry to disagree , but 3 of us can not be all wrong, we cannot all be losers and winners using your analogy, but using your example of Hafez raising the flag at Quneitra and the Kuwaitis asking how they can reward him?? (please). He got back a few measly meters of the Golan back. Please re read KARFANS episode on the return of the Golan and lets put it into perspective ( a very very funny perspective)

Offended: Point taken about being a Arabist and humanist, but not in that order.

Norman: You still haven’t convinced me that Arab Nationalism isn’t poisonous ( I believe that anything attached with a word and ISM on the back of it is dangerous). We have had close to 63 years with some Arab states being independent, Wars, Lack of freedoms, Lack of Human rights, No respect for Laws, no sense of social and economic justice etc etc etc. I still believe the idea of a loose federation of Arab states and other minorities in the ME is a great idea, I just dont see how you can overcome the nature of the people or its inhabitants to overcome it. It is still a utopian Idea, and i fear it will remain that.

Some Historical perspective for you, I cant recall the book but it had 1 chapter devoted to it, but i will try and find it in my collection if I haven’t lent it to some one, the origins of the Arabs chronologically went something like this from Abraham to Ishmael, then descendents.

I cannot believe any of it with certainty however, because even within the Koran, there are passages that talk about The bedouins in the Desert with different language and customs ( The Ar that you speak )

“Muslims of Medina referred to the nomadic tribes of the deserts as the A’raab, and considered themselves sedentary, but were aware of their close racial bonds. The term “A’raab’ mirrors the term Assyrians used to describe the closely related nomads they defeated in Syria.

The Qur’an does not use the word ʿarab, only the nisba adjective ʿarabiy. The Qur’an calls itself ʿarabiy, “Arabic”, and Mubin, “clear”. The two qualities are connected for example in ayat 43.2-3, “By the clear Book: We have made it an Arabic recitation in order that you may understand”. The Qur’an became regarded as the prime example of the al-ʿarabiyya, the language of the Arabs. The term ʾiʿrāb has the same root and refers to a particularly clear and correct mode of speech. The plural noun ʾaʿrāb refers to the Bedouin tribes of the desert who resisted Muhammad, for example in ayat 9.97, alʾaʿrābu ʾašaddu kufrān wa nifāqān “the Bedouin are the worst in disbelief and hypocrisy”.

Based on this, in early Islamic terminology, ʿarabiy referred to the language, and ʾaʿrāb to the Arab Bedouins, carrying a negative connotation due to the Qur’anic verdict just cited. But after the Islamic conquest of the 8th century, the language of the nomadic Arabs became regarded as the most pure by the grammarians following Abi Ishaq, and the term kalam al-ʿArab, “language of the Arabs”, denoted the uncontaminated language of the Bedouins.”

Confused yet Norman? We have a bastardized language, bastardized ancestary, and we are bastards by nature. (please note humour)

While we cant claim with any certainty our origins,language,culture etc, it would be hard to forge one, and the last 65 years have proved this.

March 14th, 2008, 12:46 am


norman said:

Enlighte one ,
Yes you confused me ,

Zenobia, Nour ,

I do not mind if you want to start with SYRIA first with all the states that it includes , after all the US started with seven states and when the rest of the states saw how good the new nation was , they joined .

Alex is right , Hafiz Assad took over because he was against the interference in Jordon .

Political reform should should be implemented for any united states to be a reality ,

I have Ideas about that too , for the right time.

March 14th, 2008, 1:44 am


Zenobia said:

Dear Enlightened,
thanks for this brief culture linguistic history lesson. this is the kind of thing that i really really want to know…
i am not sure if you saw my comment earlier in the day when i was complaining about my own confusion about such discrepancies… in claims about how after thousands of years.. then the arabs migrate north with the Islamic conquests and suddenly…everywhere they went.. everybody is now considered an arab.. except if you have a very distinct group like Kurds or Armenians.. or arrived later coming from the north…and what not….

i mean how many nomads could have come for christsakes.. ???

why aren’t the syrians still considered Assyrians…? and by the way… if you go to the tiny garbage dump of an Island of Arwad…you see these little children that look sort of like the offspring of some Viking… i mean.. there are genes of Arameans and then Assyrians… of Turks and genes of Crusaders… genes left over from invading Persians, and maybe, maybe even those ancient genes of Pheonicians.. who were just as much in Latakia as in Beirut… and…and so… how can the nomadic Arab blood just drop down after all that time… and somehow dominate the whole picture…as if all the rest of this pre-islamic history just disappeared…

Frankly, i think it is nonsense. i think that you are completely right… follow the linguistics, follow the texts… and you see that everything is bastardized through and through…. it is absurd this purist ideology.

i would really like to know if anybody wrote an ethno-cultural history of syria… that doesn’t begin with Islam and arab migrations.. and act like that is the entirety of significant history. and i would like to see some actual numbers.
I mean the spanish invaded,conquered, and settled in latin america. but nobody would say… that latin america is just spanish like the people in spain. forget it. We all know that there were people there before that… native american people. but that was denigrated by all those who wanted to call themselves Spanish instead of “indian”…. but truth is.. most people in south america are a mix of native american and spanish.
As well, most black american are part ‘white’ european genetically speaking.. they look nothing like black africans! and you can see that very obviously. but this racial weirdness (or just racist thing) is to say… ANY black is all black. and this is a prejudice against africaness, but the same can be in reverse…like as a perjorative.. any arab is all arab. or as a matter of pride… as if the people of the Levant do not have in fact many genetic roots.

anyway, you get my point.

March 14th, 2008, 2:29 am


Akbar Palace said:

Shai said:

I never said that it is solely Israel’s fault that the process isn’t “peaceful”. Why are you putting words in my mouth?

No, but you’ve never criticized anyone else except Israel. Isn’t that the same thing?

As soon as you say that hard leftist Israelis would prefer to see an end to Israel, you begin to sound either out of touch with reality, or plain disrespectful. Do you honestly think that you, Akbar Palace, care more about Israel’s existence, Jewish existence in Israel, than Yossi Beilin, or even Uri Avneri?

No. I just consider them to be misguided.

Though I don’t side with either one, I at least respect them enough to know they’re fighting for our long term existence no less than you and I are.

Please be so kind to provide me (and the audience) a few sentences or a short paragraph how you are “fighting for our long term existence”.


If you want people to respect you, even when they strongly disagree with you, do the same to them.

I’ll try. This is a difficult thing for me though;)

I won’t enter a discussion about this “end”, and whether it would be violent or not (of course it would be), because I won’t be dragged into a conversation where you’d do anything to paint me as an anti-Israeli. I feel you’re trying to set me up, and I won’t partake in such games.

I believe we are all here to understand each other as well as ourselves. There is nothing to fear.

What makes Abbas different from Sadat or Hussein, is that he doesn’t have full control over his people, they did.

They said the same about Arafat Shai. Then Arafat went to the White House and shook hands with Rabin. Then Arafat went to Wye River. Then to Camp David. The “noose” was pulled and there was no civil war in Palestine.

I do not believe for one minute that a Palestinian president with 17 security forces is in any danger, certainly no more than the Jordanian King or the Eygptian president.

Moreover, what is the Palestinian leader Abbas doing to prepare his people for peace? What did Arafat do? Judging from the translations of the Palestinian media: nothing.

Today, Abbas cannot deliver. He is fighting for his survival. He thinks, erroneously I believe, that by signing an agreement with Israel soon, he’ll become stronger and may survive longer.

Shai, you describe Abbas as if he were a good friend of yours. I don’t think you know what he is “fighting for”, I don’t have factual data supporting that his “survival” is at stake, and I have no data showing he is preparing his people for peace.

We should not be discussing a final agreement with Abbas right now. No point talking to someone that can’t deliver. If and when he works out the Fatah’s differences with Hamas, and a governing body is formed, that truly controls the situation on the ground, then we should talk to him/this new body.

OK Shai, we are in agreement. Yoffe! Now, please give me your opinion on what the Government of Israel should do about Hamas’s indiscriminant shelling of Israeli towns in the South.

I agree that actions speak louder than words, which is why I challenge you to come up with an action plan to move us closer to peace, than to war.

Here’s the data:

1.) Israel made peace with Eygpt. How? If Israel lost the wars she fought with Eygpt, there would be no peace with Eygpt.

2.) Israel made peace with Jordan. See above. Israel probably guarantees the security of Jordan and the monarchy there.

Another piece of factual “data” is that you cannot force a people to make peace. Yossi Beilin can’t, Yael Dayan can’t, Shulamit Alloni can’t, nor can Uri Avnery.

In the meantime, Israel has a duty to safeguard her towns and cities by all appropriate means at her disposal. The longer Israel survives and prospers, the better the chance for peace. Not the other way around.

Layla Tov,


March 14th, 2008, 2:48 am


Enlightened said:


Thanks for agreeing with me that we are all a bunch of Bastards! (lol)

There is a difference, between the words “Arab” and “Arabised”

March 14th, 2008, 2:49 am


Zenobia said:

yes, i understand … ME…is certainly Arabised everywhere…

and … Sorry to belabor the point, but I just pulled this paragraph below out of the beginning of an essay of the history of Syrians in Canada. I think it pretty much says it all……

“The inhabitants of the greater Syria area, like most other Arabs, are a racially and culturally mixed group who can claim as their ancestors such ancient peoples as the Akkadians, Amorites, Aramaeans, Assyrians, Babylonians, Canaanites/Phoenicians, Eblans, Nabateans, Persians, Greeks, Romans and Byzantines. Nevertheless, it was the Arabs who came out of the Arabian Peninsula in the seventh century who had the greatest part in moulding the modern Syrian Arab. They brought with them their dynamic religion, Islam, and laid the basis of the culture found in today’s Syria. In later centuries, Crusaders, Mongols, Turks, French and British occupied the Middle East, but they left only minuscule traces.”

except if you happen to see these little blond vikings running around on Arwad…then you will change your mind about saying that the Crusaders only left a minuscule trace. Not surprisingly, I think Arwad was the last stronghold of the crusaders before they left for good…. but if you can’t conquer…well…leave your seed..i guess is the next best thing.. : )

March 14th, 2008, 2:51 am


norman said:

This might be of iterest,

Semitic Genetics.
With a new technique based on the male or Y chromosome, biologists have traced the diaspora of Jewish populations from the dispersals that began in 586 B.C. to the modern communities of Europe and the Middle East.

The analysis provides genetic witness that these communities have, to a remarkable extent, retained their biological identity separate from their host populations, evidence of relatively little intermarriage or conversion into Judaism over the centuries.

Jews, Palestinians, and Syrians share a genetic link.

Another finding, paradoxical but unsurprising, is that by the yardstick of the Y chromosome, the world’s Jewish communities closely resemble not only each other but also Palestinians, Syrians and Lebanese, suggesting that all are descended from a common ancestral population that inhabited the Middle East some four thousand years ago.

Dr. Lawrence H. Schiffman, chairman of the department of Hebrew and Judaic Studies at New York University, said the study fit with historical evidence that Jews originated in the Near East and with biblical evidence suggesting that there were a variety of families and types in the original population. He said the finding would cause “a lot of discussion of the relationship of scientific evidence to the manner in which we evaluate long-held academic and personal religious positions,” like the question of who is a Jew.

The study, reported in today’s Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, was conducted by Dr. Michael F. Hammer of the University of Arizona with colleagues in the United States, Italy, Israel, England and South Africa. The results accord with Jewish history and tradition and refute theories like those holding that Jewish communities consist mostly of converts from other faiths, or that they are descended from the Khazars, a medieval Turkish tribe that adopted Judaism.

The analysis by Dr. Hammer and colleagues is based on the Y chromosome, which is passed unchanged from father to son. Early in human evolution, all but one of the Y chromosomes were lost as their owners had no children or only daughters, so that all Y chromosomes today are descended from that of a single genetic Adam who is estimated to have lived about 140,000 years ago.

In principle, all men should therefore carry the identical sequence of DNA letters on their Y chromosomes, but in fact occasional misspellings have occurred, and because each misspelling is then repeated in subsequent generations, the branching lineages of errors form a family tree rooted in the original Adam.

These variant spellings are in DNA that is not involved in the genes and therefore has no effect on the body. But the type and abundance of the lineages in each population serve as genetic signature by which to compare different populations.

Based on these variations, Dr. Hammer identified 19 variations in the Y chromosome family tree.

The ancestral Middle East population from which both Arabs and Jews are descended was a mixture of men from eight of these lineages.

Among major contributors to the ancestral Arab-Jewish population were men who carried what Dr. Hammer calls the “Med” lineage. This Y chromosome is found all round the Mediterranean and in Europe and may have been spread by the Neolithic inventors of agriculture or perhaps by the voyages of sea-going people like the Phoenicians.

Another lineage common in the ancestral Arab-Jewish gene pool is found among today’s Ethiopians and may have reached the Middle East by men who traveled down the Nile. But present-day Ethiopian Jews lack some of the other lineages found in Jewish communities, and overall are more like non-Jewish Ethiopians than other Jewish populations, at least in terms of their Y chromosome lineage pattern.

The ancestral pattern of lineages is recognizable in today’s Arab and Jewish populations, but is distinct from that of European populations and both groups differ widely from sub-Saharan Africans.

Each Arab and Jewish community has its own flavor of the ancestral pattern, reflecting their different genetic histories. Roman Jews have a pattern quite similar to that of Ashkenazis, the Jewish community of Eastern Europe. Dr. Hammer said the finding accorded with the hypothesis that Roman Jews were the ancestors of the Ashkenazis.

Despite the Ashkenazi Jews’ long residence in Europe, their Y signature has remained distinct from that of non-Jewish Europeans.

On the assumption that there have been 80 generations since the founding of the Ashkenazi population, Dr. Hammer and colleagues calculate that the rate of genetic admixture with Europeans has been less than half a percent per generation.

Jewish law tracing back almost 2,000 years states that Jewish affiliation is determined by maternal ancestry, so the Y chromosome study addresses the question of how much non-Jewish men may have contributed to Jewish genetic diversity.

Dr. Hammer was surprised to find how little that contribution was.

“It could be that wherever Jews were, they were very much isolated,” he said. The close genetic affinity between Jews and Arabs, at least by the Y chromosome yardstick, is reflected in the Genesis account of how Abraham fathered Ishmael by his wife’s maid Hagar and, when Sarah was then able to conceive, Isaac. Although Muslims have a different version of the story, they regard Abraham and Ishmael, or Ismail, as patriarchs just as Jews do Abraham and Isaac.

– Nicholas Wade, New York Times May 2000

Some companies now sell genealogy searches against DNA databases. One that implements this particular test is

March 14th, 2008, 3:03 am


Enlightened said:


Does that mean we are related to AIG? Man thats a hard pill to swallow, while I would hug Shai with two arms, sorry I am taking AIG being genetically related to me pretty hard!

OK I accept it now, there is an answer: “he is the black sheep of the family”, thats understandable , now we can all be one happy family!

PS: Where is AIG?

March 14th, 2008, 3:16 am


Zenobia said:

On this subject of being jewish, this is a very amusing and interesting article from the New York Times from March 2nd written by Gershom Gorenberg ( a nice writer) called:
“How do you prove you’re a Jew?”… very interesting and surprising…

March 14th, 2008, 3:21 am


norman said:

I rest My case about one country for all the inhabitants,
AIG needs rehabilitation, the above info might open his eyes , I hope.

March 14th, 2008, 3:21 am


Zenobia said:

AIG is on two week probation for his verbal misbehavior.. don’t worry, we will have the pleasure of his company soon enough…

March 14th, 2008, 3:22 am


Alex said:

One week, not two.


I am not sure which part of what I said upset you.

First, I was joking when I said “you are all wrong” … I obviously did not mean to be that arrogant. I thought it was obvious.

As for Hafez raising the flag n Qunaitra … I did not invent anything here. Syria and Egypt celebrate very year their victory in the 1973 6 of October war. It is a national holiday.

So … in reality it was a tie between Syria and Israel .. Kissinger was negotiating over 20 visits to Damascus his ceasefire agreement. So .. it was a tie, otherwise there would have been no need to negotiate a complex ceasefire agreement… and for Arabs who decisively lost the 67 war, a tie with Israel was … a victory … a victory that the Kuwaitis and other Arabs did want to be part of. You want more details? … my father was in Syrian Civil aviation at the time. I think it was Kuwait who wanted to buy Syria a few new Boeings … Syria wanted the smallest 737 at the time because that’s what Syria needed at the time .. but the Kuwaitis refused .. they insisted to buy Syria at least a couple Jumbos. My father tried to explain that he did not think Syrian airlines can make profits flying huge airplanes that are half empty … but they told him “you made us all proud and we will not accept to get you anything but the best planes in the world”


If you still do not like that example, go back to my Nasrallah example. Do you disagree with what I was saying in general? .. that Arabs like to associate with a winner?

March 14th, 2008, 3:37 am


norman said:

Everybody wants to be associated with the winner even in fotball.

March 14th, 2008, 3:43 am


Alex said:

Yes Norman … that’s my point .. Arabs are like anyone else … people try to be part of groups where the other members are of an equal or higher status.

March 14th, 2008, 3:46 am


Enlightened said:

Alex: Habibi (you are bereft of humour sometimes) re read Karfan about the Jolan thats with a J not G;

“that Arabs like to associate with a winner?” is that because we are the biggest losers??? I dont get it!

I am starting to think that you actually believe in this “culture” of resistance philosophy?

Ok he is my take: “Because the majority of Arabs lead such miserable lives, then anything associated with giving Israel a bloody nose, is a victory and all Arabs will want to associate with that victory, anything to give them a high” Sorry Alex I still don’t get it! (LOL) a cup of coffee is more stimulating.

Lets be frank this culture of resistance has got the region no where in 65 years, I think its about time we were honest with ourselves and stop deluding ourselves, that this will get us somewhere. The only place it will get us is a faster track to more misery, and another wasted 65 years. (reaching for my cup of coffee).

Self actualization is a powerful attainment, the culture of resistance has no more place in this age. It is that fact that many southerners in Lebanon are reaching for their passports today. Those citizens wont feel like winners when the proverbial hits the fan.

March 14th, 2008, 3:53 am


Zenobia said:

the martyr complex and its ideology is always present, and it is a viewpoint that is the opposite of the dictum that success is the best revenge….

i think we should blame religion for this again.

March 14th, 2008, 5:16 am


offended said:

Zenobia, for god sake being an Arab is not a DNA purity, it’s a culture, identity, language and a sense of belonging.

If you don’t want to identify as an Arab, fine. Just don’t impose your ideas on me. Or at least don’t blame me for identifying as one.

March 14th, 2008, 7:35 am


offended said:

The martyr complex?


Well yeah, actually those Palestinian women who blew themselves up at the checkpoints. They had a better choice: they were offered free vouchers to shop at Gucci and Louis Vuitton stores in Ramallah and Gaza, but they didn’t take them. Because they had this martyr complex. Stupid they.

March 14th, 2008, 7:43 am


Norman said:

Thank God ,
I thoghut i am is the last Arab standing.

March 14th, 2008, 12:56 pm


MSK said:

Dear all,

I think this fits more under “News Roundup” than the Tribunal, so I’ll post it here:

Syrian Workers Take Brunt of Lebanon Crisis

As dawn breaks each day, Joseph heads to a busy Beirut intersection where he waits for up to eight hours in the hope that someone will need him for a job.
Joseph, who is in his early 40s, is a Syrian migrant worker in Lebanon.

He has been here for years and remains although life has become tough, economically and even politically.

Syrian laborers like Joseph are an integral part of Lebanon’s economy. Their presence, however, has become increasingly controversial since 2005 when Syria was widely blamed for the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri and Damascus was forced to end its dominance over its tiny neighbor.

This has made life harder, sometimes even dangerous, for the migrants.

There are tens of thousands of Syrian workers like Joseph in Lebanon, but no official figures are available on their exact number. The labor ministry says “dozens” are registered but provides no further information.

Most Syrian migrant workers don’t know if they will make ends meet on a given day. The arduous morning wait might be fruitless or someone might come by and pick them up for 12 to 14 hours working on a construction site or in agriculture. But the boss at the end of the day might decide not to pay them their daily wage and there is no one to turn to for help.

“There is no one to protect your rights. Sometimes the employers don’t pay us or just kick us out after days of work, but we have no choice. We have to work in order to survive,” says Joseph, who has a degree and once taught Arabic in a school in the Syrian city of Aleppo.

“We leave our families behind to come here, because with wages as they are, it is too expensive to live back home.”


I think this article is important for two reasons:

One, it shows how Lebanese (and this goes for all groups, regardless if they’re M14 or M8, Sunni/Shia/Christian/Druze/whatever) are mistreating those of “lower social standing”. The article could’ve been as well about Ethiopian/Philippina/SriLankan housemaids or any other “poor”.

Two, despite the economic “surge” in Syria (where, apparently, everyone’s middle class now ;)) there are thousands of Syrians who have to work menial jobs in Lebanon in order to feed their families back home. The example of a teacher who is now working as an unskilled construction worker reminds me of the Iraqi teachers who, because they’re refugees and have no legal right to work in Syria, are forced to work as waiters in Syrian restaurants/resorts and get treated shittily and sometimes not paid. (Btw, my source on that is none other than Josh Landis.)


March 14th, 2008, 1:12 pm


Shai said:

Akbar Palace,

Before you go generalizing about people “never criticizing anyone else”, try reading their comments more carefully. I’ve criticized people here left right and center, about Israel’s policy (yes, I’m actually not afraid to look in the mirror sometimes), about Palestinian policy, about Syria’s, and about some of the way avid anti-Israelis look at us. My ability to criticize our country much more than others does not mean I’m blind to what’s going on around us. But I’d much rather focus on what I need to do in my home first, than to shoot in all directions, hoping that soothes my conscience when I go to bed each night. I know some people that have a hard time doing that, so they don’t.

It’s nice of you to consider Beilin and Avneri as “misguided” people. Last time I checked, I believe they had their own brains, and could make decisions on their own. No one “guided” them wrongly. They did whatever they could to bring peace to our region, and if we put aside their mistakes (everyone makes mistakes, everyone that tries, that is), they have undoubtedly contributed to the creation of many more moderates in the Arab world than you and I have… Before we go labeling others, let’s try to remember a few things they may have done well.

I am fighting for our long term existence by on the one hand being ready to put on my uniform should Israel face another war, while on the other, doing everything I can to try to bridge the gaps between us and the Arabs around us. By being able to truly listen to our enemies, to open up our minds and hearts to them, I’m much more likely to understand their concerns better, than people who pretend to listen, but in essence already have their “truth”, and cannot change their mind. When we understand our enemy better, we can develop empathy towards him, and maybe he can do the same towards us. When that happens, we might find that we are capable of putting away enough of our differences to make peace, and begin the long process of reconciliation. Peace, to me, is a far better guarantee of our long term existence in this region, than war. But peace doesn’t happen on its own. There are far too many people like yourself, who are not exactly “helping”, so we have to “fight” for it.

I’m sorry it’s a difficult thing for you to respect your enemy. But you will need to do that, if you want him to respect you. If you don’t care either way, then of course just sit on the side and wait. Waiting, though, doesn’t make the situation better. You say “we are all there to understand each other as well as ourselves…”, but hearing how you always seem to respond in the same way, by closing doors, not opening them, I can’t imagine how you’re truly open to understanding someone else.

I don’t understand what you’re saying about Arafat – was he in control or not? If you think the fact that we had continued terrorism means he wasn’t in control, then that’s a mistake. Araft certainly could deliver, far better than Abbas, because Arafat would not have half a percent the patience with Hamas that Abbas has. If need be, he would have finished them off with his own hands. When I say Abbas is fighting for his survival, I’m talking about his political one, not his existential one, though I’m sure there are more than a few extremists who’d be more than willing to take him out of that one as well. Abbas cannot prepare his people for peace, because half of them don’t listen to him, they listen to Hanniyeh. So when he works out his differences with Hamas, maybe his people will listen. Until that happens, we cannot sign an agreement with the Palestinians.

Abbas is not my friend, he is Israel’s friend. And that is PRECISELY our problem. We cannot, should not, MUST NOT, make peace with our friends. You don’t pick a nice guy amongst the Palestinian leadership, give him tons of money, give him arms, give him protection in his own territory, and then negotiate an end to war with him. I’ve seen how most people here have labeled you and AIG “neocons”, and whether you are or not, I believe one of the biggest problems neocons seem to suffer from, is a lack of understanding of who you make peace with. After the Soviet Union fell, and suddenly the U.S. found itself the only superpower left in the world, her entire foreign policy began to change. Today, many in Washington feel that the U.S. can afford to divide the world into “good guys” and “bad guys”, and make peace with the “good ones”, while fighting the “bad guys”. For Israel, we cannot afford to do that. We can only make peace with the “bad guys”. We’ve seen time and again how making with “good guys” has boomeranged back later, with devastating effects.

While we wait for this “bad guy” to finally appear that represents the Palestinian people, we have no choice but to continue to fight Hamas. That’s a real shame, because it doesn’t move us closer to peace, only farther. But it does take two to make peace, or at least to begin talking about one, and we do need to wait to see such a body (that can deliver) on the other side.

While it is true that you cannot force the other side to make peace with you, you can do everything possible on your end first. There’s no doubt in anyone’s mind that the West Bank and the Golan need to return to their rightful owners. If we cannot return the West Bank now, let us start with the Golan. Syria is ready to make peace with us, and it’s time we don’t turn down an enemy that is reaching out to us. Never in Israel’s history did we turn down such an enemy, until now, when the current US administration is telling us to further isolate Syria for its own interests (GWOT and the like), that we’re adopting this silly and irresponsible response. Opportunities don’t come knocking down our doorstep every other Monday in this part of the world, and as we’ve been paying very heavy prices for missing them over the years, it is our responsibility to explore every single one to the fullest, and not turn them down because we want peace to happen “our way”.

March 14th, 2008, 1:14 pm


Nour said:


The idea of a nation has nothing to do with genetics, except in the racial or ethnic nationalist ideologies. Many nations may share certain genetic lineages, as there were always interactions between various nations, especially neighboring ones. France for example, is made up largely of the Frank tribe, which is of Germanic stock. The French and Germans thus share a genetic origin. Yet, they are two different, distinct nations.

The peoples of the Arab World are not one nation. They are divided into four distinct nations, namely Arabia, Syria, Egypt and the Nile Valley, and the Maghreb. The Syria nation was actually formed prior to the Arab conquests and has a distinct character of its own that is different than that of the Arabs. As Zenobia quoted above, Syrians are a mixture of all the various groups that inhabited this area at one point or another. However, the fallacy in the very quote Zenobia posted is that the Arab influence was larger than any other and is what today makes up he Syrian “Arab”. This is actually not the case, as the Syrians do indeed have a distinct character, which no doubt included influence from Arab tribes, but which remains unique and distinguishable from the other Arabs. The social psyche of the Arabs, which is derived from their bedouin nature, is vastly different from that of the Syrians, who were driven to struggle with the land on which they lived and mold it into a productive territory able to provide them with sustenance. As such, Syrians have a different mindset than the people of the Arabian peninsula, which has repeatedly manifested itself in their social attitudes and political positions.

Now, the idea of making a unified state between all the Arab nations is not a bad idea, but there needs to be a full awakening within those nations before we can embark on such a project. Antoun Saadeh himself stated in the Aim of the Syrian Social Nationalist Party, that one of the aims of the Party was the endeavor to create an Arab Front which would protect our common interests and shield us against foreign threats. However, working for such a union, as the Europeans did in their continent, is different from outlining specific social realities, namely that we, the Syrians, form a distinct nation and have a distinct national cause completely separate from any other cause.

March 14th, 2008, 2:51 pm


Akbar Palace said:

My ability to criticize our country much more than others does not mean I’m blind to what’s going on around us. But I’d much rather focus on what I need to do in my home first, than to shoot in all directions, hoping that soothes my conscience when I go to bed each night.


Thanks for the response. I will try to focus in on your criticisms of the other parties to the conflict (other than the usual whipping boy, Israel), but at least you admit that the brunt of your criticism IS focused on Israel “first”.

I have discussed the Arab-Israel conflict much in the past, and you certainly wouldn’t be the first Israeli or Jew to hold that attitude. I just find it interesting that I have never met anyone from the opposing, pro-Palestinian side who was able to do the same.

I am fighting for our long term existence by on the one hand being ready to put on my uniform should Israel face another war, while on the other, doing everything I can to try to bridge the gaps between us and the Arabs around us.

I find that very commendable, and I congratulate you on this. Hopefully you won’t have to put on your uniform.

But you will need to do that, if you want him to respect you.

Sadat bravely fought wars against Israel, and he also bravely made accomodation and peace with her as well. The only difference between Sadat and King Hussein, is that they never took their people down the road to never-ending martyrdom just to spite Israel.

…I can’t imagine how you’re truly open to understanding someone else.

I can truly understand someone else when they stop hurting and terrorizing me. Anything else is equivalent to “battered-wife sydrome”.

Abbas cannot prepare his people for peace, because half of them don’t listen to him, they listen to Hanniyeh. So when he works out his differences with Hamas, maybe his people will listen. Until that happens, we cannot sign an agreement with the Palestinians.

What the people want has never stopped a Palestinian president. So really, I do not buy this. However, if what you say is true, and if Abbas can’t move away from “resistance”, than it is the Palestinians who are not ready for peace and there is little the Israelis can do.

Abbas is not my friend, he is Israel’s friend. And that is PRECISELY our problem. We cannot, should not, MUST NOT, make peace with our friends.

I think this is an exaggeration on your part. I don’t think he’s a friend, I think he’s a difficult negotiating partner. An “enemy” with a tie.

We can only make peace with the “bad guys”.

I disagree. The GOI will NEVER make peace with Hamas, Hezbollah, Iran and scores of other rejectionist organizations. Their “raison d’etre” is tied to Israel’s destruction.

While it is true that you cannot force the other side to make peace with you, you can do everything possible on your end first.

Again, I disagree. Israel should never unilaterally withdraw from land “hoping” peaceful overtures will result. Israel already has several data point proving this “pipe-dream” patently false. Unfortunately, land-for-peace has to be negotiated assuming someone is interested in the land.

March 14th, 2008, 4:22 pm


Alex said:

Enlightened said:

Alex: Habibi (you are bereft of humour sometimes) re read Karfan about the Jolan thats with a J not G;

“that Arabs like to associate with a winner?” is that because we are the biggest losers??? I dont get it!

I am starting to think that you actually believe in this “culture” of resistance philosophy?


Let’s just say that you are not able to understand me at all here … or that I failed miserably in explaining what I am trying to say.

It’s ok … we’ll move to other topics.

March 14th, 2008, 5:09 pm


Enlightened said:


Ya maskeen:

Maybe I misread it, I just dont think that resistance will get the Jolan back, we tried and failed, it is better to use other means mainly negotiations.

March 14th, 2008, 11:43 pm


Zenobia said:

Offended, don’t be offended.
but you are misinterpreting me or misrepresenting me.

I am not taking issue with anyone identifying as Arab. I am happy and proud to identify myself with this heritage.

the issue started with Norman’s support for the idea of the “Arab Nation”… and that was where I took issue.

I dont’ think it wise to identify a Nation along ethnic terms. this is about words that are highly symbolic and weighted. And overdetermined.
Have you heard of the Aryan Nation???? Helloooooo….
It automatically comes out with connotation of DNA more than culture.

so let me just ditto Nour.. who got it right again. A nation should be based on culture, ok. but the entire Middle East cannot be lumped into one culture at all….

March 15th, 2008, 7:56 pm


wizart said:


Could peace not finally emerge in our lifetime through appreciating cultural similarities between various Mid-Eastern countries? After all isn’t the U.S and Europe both made up of various sub cultures?

A quote from NY times article about how to prove you’re a jew..

“The traditional willingness to trust a person who said he was Jewish, Ehrentreu asserts, presumed that no one had anything to gain by it. Today, he told me, there are ulterior motives — to be able to leave another country and come to Israel, “to be recognized here as Jewish, to be able to get married.” That is, Israel’s prosperity, its attractiveness to immigrants, is now a reason for doubt.

Friedman, the reigning academic expert on ultra-Orthodox society in Israel, suggests that the deeper reasons for doubt are difficult for the rabbis to articulate. In contrast to Orthodox Jews like Farber, the ultra-Orthodox have little sense of risk that by raising doubts they might exclude a person who is really Jewish. “If you don’t keep the Torah and the commandments, O.K., so I excluded you. In any case you weren’t a complete Jew,” is how Friedman explains the attitude.

The policy of suspicion is applied to all immigrants. Rabbi Rasson Arussi, chairman of the Chief Rabbinate’s committee on marriage, told me that “populations where there is doubt about Jewishness” include those from Western countries, specifically “the sectors connected to Reform Jews.” The rabbinate’s expectations, however, are a poor fit with the United States. American Jews generally don’t have government papers testifying to their Jewishness. While a British Jew might turn to his country’s chief rabbinate for certification that he is Jewish, the very idea of a chief rabbi sounds outlandish in the United States.”

It seems like all various refugees have to do to obtain Israeli’s citizenship is to become jewish by religious conversion! If this is possible and your nation is defined by having a common culture then it seems logical to conclude the entire Arabic Israeli conflict could be redefined in terms of religious tolerance or the lack of.

April 4th, 2008, 10:50 am


wizart said:

So what’s the idea of jews migrating to Israel?

is it to establish a religion based country?

isn’t that what Binladin and the Talibans aspire to do?

The nation of Israel is like the nation of Islam with real teeth 🙂

April 10th, 2008, 8:05 pm


wizart said:

“Afghanistan does not have the resources and neither does Osama have the strength or resources. He is not in contact with anyone and neither have we given permission to anyone to use the Afghan land against anyone.

We have not tried to create friction with America. We have had several talks with the present and past American governments and we are ready for more talks.

We have told America that we have taken all resources from Osama and he cannot contact the outside world. And we have told America that neither the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan or Osama are involved in the American events. But it is sad that America does not listen to our word. America always repeats threats and makes various accusations and now it is threatening military attack.

This is being done in circumstances in which we have offered alternatives on the Osama issue. We have said, if you have evidence against Osama, give it to the Afghan Supreme Court or the ulema (clerics) of three Islamic countries, or have OIC (Organisation of Islamic Countries) observers keep an eye on Osama.

But America rejected these, one by one. If America had considered these suggestions there would not have been a chance of such a great misunderstanding. We appeal to the American government to exercise complete patience, and we want America to gather complete information and find the actual culprits.

We assure the whole world that neither Osama nor anyone else can use the Afghan land against anyone else.

And if even after this, America wants to use force and wants to attack Afghanistan and our innocent and oppressed people and wants to destroy the Islamic emirate, we seek your guidance and a fatwa (ruling) on the issue in the light of Islamic Sharia.”

Speech above was given by Mullah Omar in Afganistan in 2001.

April 11th, 2008, 9:56 am


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