News Round Up (17 Oct. 2008)

Bush Administration Explores Possible Opening With Long-Shunned Syria
By Thomas Omestad
US News and World Report, 15 October 2008

Mustapha and Bush

Late in the life span of the Bush administration, U.S. officials have cautiously reached out to Syria through contacts that, until recently, they had shunned because of alleged Syrian support for terrorists and for efforts to destabilize Lebanon and Iraq.

It is too early to tell whether recent high-level meetings involving State Department officials, including Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, and senior Syrian officials will lead to any breakthrough in relations. But Syria clearly hopes so.

The unexpected moves amount to “a tentative opening,” Syria’s ambassador to the United States, Imad Moustapha, said in an interview with U.S. News. He interprets the contacts as perhaps reflecting an administration now disposed to “reconsider U.S. policies toward Syria.”

They also reflect a shift in Syrian thinking. Just this week, Syria formally established diplomatic ties with Lebanon for the first time since independence six decades ago, shaking off a long-held reluctance to acknowledge a French colonial decision to carve Lebanon from territory that had been Syrian…

… Moustapha says he hopes the new contacts will continue and will “let us narrow the differences.” He adds, “For the past four years, we have told the U.S. that we want to improve relations.”

Moustapha says he found particularly encouraging the administration’s support for a Syrian-Israeli peace track, given that U.S. officials have focused instead on trying to move along Palestinian-Israeli talks, where Washington plays a key brokering role. U.S. officials, the Syrian ambassador added, even encouraged him to keep them briefed on Syria’s perspective on how those talks are going when they resume.

Company News Alert: Carrefour Confirms Syrian Entry (Syria)

Following a long period of speculation, French retail major Carrefour has confirmed that it will enter the Syrian market. Carrefour is present in the Middle East through a partnership with its local franchise operator Majid Al Futtaim Retail (MAF Retail), a part of the Majid Al Futtaim Group, which has confirmed that it will invest an initial US$1.7bn to build Syria’s largest ever mixed-use development. The hotel, residential and commercial complex will be anchored by a Carrefour Hypermarket and will be located outside of Damascus on the Beirut to Damascus Highway which has been identified as a key development area.

Hugh Macleod, Extremists turn their wrath on Syria, Lebanon,” in San Fran Chronicle

After years of watching Baghdad burn while turning a blind eye to their own Muslim extremists, Lebanese and Syrian officials are now worried that al Qaeda-linked violence has gripped both nations. Two car bombs in two… 

Robert Worth in the NYTimes, here

“In the past, Syria has killed many people here under the pretext of fighting terrorism,” said Mr. Daqmaq, the cleric. “But the difference now is that there is a big lion called Al Qaeda, and the Syrians fear it.”

Boston Globe

Syrian Diplomacy: In an editorial, the paper comments on the establishment for the first time of diplomatic relations between Lebanon and Syria, and says the U.S. too has an opportunity to revive diplomacy with Syria – and needs to make the most of it.

Washington Times

Anti-Arab Bigotry: Edward Ayoob, a lobbyist, says he was right to fear that this presidential campaign was going to result in anti-Arab American bigotry because Barack Obama’s middle name is Hussein. … What really has been shocking and outrageous is how the media, the political establishment and the candidates themselves have so openly tolerated racism and bigotry against Arabs.

Syria’s Choice by Hassan Mneimneh, a native of Beirut, is a visiting fellow at the American Enterprise Institute in the Weekly Standard

Damascus should not be rewarded for its ‘nuanced’ position on Islamist terrorism.  …. Syria’s choice should be simple: an end to support for all terrorism and respect for Lebanon’s independence, or America will sit on the sidelines and watch a dictatorship that lived by the sword die by it.

What is Behind the Veil — a Deeper Look into Syria,” by Sondja at The Agonist

…Yet as an American girl on my own, I was cautious about visiting Syria. After all, they are the opposite of us, for we symbolize democracy, freedom, women’s rights, and they … well how can such liberties exist when women’s faces have been blacked out as if by an eraser?….

Orhan Pamuk, Turkish Novelist Denounces Government at Book Fair, NYTimes


 — A Syrian author and opposition figure has been indicted on a charge of spreading lies undermining the state, a human rights group said on Thursday.

Habib Saleh, who was arrested in May “has been indicted for having spread lies aimed at weakening national sentiment,” the Syrian League for the Defence of Human Rights (SLDHR) said. Saleh, 61, is also accused of having provoked “dissension aimed at triggering confessional strife,” and is due to appear before a Damascus criminal court, at an unspecified time, a statement added.

In 2001 he was arrested along with nine other opposition militants and jailed for three years. He was again arrested in May 2005 for posting “lies” on the Internet and released in September 2007.

Saudi Arabia hosts Taliban talks to bolster Pakistan.

Saudi Arabia is mediating between Taliban and Afghan officials to prevent its ally Pakistan from sliding into Islamist violence and to wean the Taliban away from al Qaeda, diplomats said on Wednesday. Saudi Arabia is mediating between Taliban and Afghan officials to prevent its ally Pakistan from sliding into Islamist violence and to wean the Taliban away from al Qaeda, diplomats said on Wednesday

U.S. protests to Syria over detained journalists
Reuters, 15 October 2008

The United States has officially protested to Syria for not immediately notifying Washington about the arrest of two American journalists, the State Department said on Wednesday.

The two journalists complained to diplomats that their request to notify the U.S. government of their arrest immediately was ignored, said State Department spokesman Sean McCormack.

140 Iraqi refugees in Syria head home
By Albert Aji
The Associated Press, 15 October 2008

Some 140 Iraqi refugees living in Syria headed home Wednesday on a free trip organized by the Iraqi government. Many cited improved security in Iraq and dwindling savings as reasons for their return.

The refugees boarded a chartered Iraqi Airways flight to take them to Baghdad, where they will receive an official reception at the airport. The Iraqi Embassy says it is planning several such trips in the coming weeks. …

An official at the Iraqi Embassy, Adnan al-Shourifi, said Wednesday’s trip — which was organized for the first time in cooperation with the U.N. agency for refugees — reflects international recognition of the improved security situation in Iraq. He urged all refugees to return home to take part in rebuilding their country, saying they will be given cash and other incentives. Ayman Gharabiyah, a UNHCR official, said most of the Iraqis were returning home because their savings have run out.

Each returning family, he said, will receive around $850 in cash along with an extra monthly payment of $145 for the next six months. The returnees would also get their houses and jobs back, he added.

Hamid al-Dulaimi, a 50-year-old who has been living in Syria for the last two years, was returning with his wife, three children and mother.

“But if I find the security situation in Iraq is still bad, I will be back here,” he said….

Damascus has said the cost of the Iraqi refugees’ stay in Syria is estimated at $1.6 billion per year.

Syria-Turkey Gas Link Extension Planned
Moscow Times, 15 October 2008

Stroitransgaz, a Russian pipeline builder partly owned by Gazprom, plans to extend a gas link from Syria to Turkey that may help supply a project to Europe.

Stroitransgaz has signed an accord with state-owned Syrian Gas and the new pipeline will link Aleppo, in northern Syria, with the Turkish border, Syrian Oil Minister Sufian al-Alao said in comments published late Monday by the Syrian state-run news service Sana.

Syria began receiving gas from Egypt this year through a pipe that crosses Jordan and plans to import gas from Iraq’s Akkas field, which is close to the border, by 2010. Stroitransgaz, which built the Syrian section of the pipeline from Egypt, will now construct the 62-kilometer extension in 18 months, at a cost of 52 million euros ($71.2 million), Alao said.

Cristobal Burgos-Alonso, an adviser at the European Union’s Energy Directorate, on Oct. 2 said Iraq and Egypt might provide gas for Nabucco, a pipeline project to supply Europe through Turkey, bypassing Russia.

n National Iranian Oil managing director Seifollah Jashnsaz was to visit Moscow on Tuesday for talks with Gazprom, including on a joint venture to build a pipeline from the Caspian Sea to the Sea of Oman, the Tehran Times newspaper reported.

Comments (54)

wizart said:

Great news, Thanks for the continued updates 🙂

Carrefour alone could improve living standards!

I look forward to welcoming Obama and HomeDepo in Damascus next 🙂

I hope the Syrian embassy in Beirut will have a large reception area with a coffee shop and a tourism/business resource section.

It can become a profit center even if Lebanese don’t need visas.


October 17th, 2008, 7:44 am


Shai said:


Good to hear your voice again… Question is, will it be easier for Israelis to get a Syrian visa in Tel-Aviv/W. Jerusalem, or in Beirut…? 🙂 Yes, I do tend to suffer from “wishful thinking” every now and then.

October 17th, 2008, 11:46 am


Akbar Palace said:

Dear Forum,

President Bush has spoken out about the return of the Golan!

He wants Israel to return the Golan in exchange for Syria’s dissolution of their alliance with Iran!

Let’s see… Golan … or throw Iran under the bus …

Hmmmmm … what’s more important … ???


Are you laughing yet?,7340,L-3609907,00.html

October 17th, 2008, 12:00 pm


Off the Wall said:

Dear AP

It is a tough question, i believe we argued it many times over this forum. But with only 3 months remaining in power, Bush’s challenge is a non-starter. If McCain is our next president, he is likely to take a much tougher stance on Syria and would probably even ask the Israelis to stop the negotiations with Syria until the US and Israel find a way to diminish Iran’s power in the region, which by extension will significantly limit Syria’s options. If Obama wins, he is likely to encourage the two sides to continue negotiations without pre-conditions from the US and his argument would be, the Israelis know their interests and they are capable of negotiating. We will support them and even participate in providing guarantees.

So Bush’s attempts to bolster the hardliners in Israel is not as effective as some may want. I agree with you that it is a nice slogan (golan or throw Iran under the Bus), but that is all what it is for now.

For now It would probably be easier to get the visa in Anqara 🙂

But sharing your debilitating wishful thinking ailment, I hope for the day when a visa is not needed 🙂

October 17th, 2008, 3:04 pm


Atassi said:

Syria as a state has a complete historical and an absolute legitimate claim to rightfully gain back the GOLAN with an Exchange of a concrete and respectful peace treaty with the state of Israel ..
The US in its current state and maybe in near future, has NO political authority to manipulate the Syrians and tell them who should be conceder for friend\ foes
… Please keep in mind the Syrian regime are brilliantly playing the courteous political game in Lebanon for now…

October 17th, 2008, 3:11 pm


Off the Wall said:

Dear AP
i was guilty of attempting to answer your question before reading the article. Now, having read the article on Ynet, and recognizing that we both are rational people, do we seriously think that Bush is capable of delivering on this promise. What about the Israeli public opinions. Is the current leadership in Israel capable of delivering what Bush “allegedly” promises in this “secret” letter. Not even Bibi can do that in such a short time frame without risking his career and god forbid probably more than that.

October 17th, 2008, 3:19 pm


EHSANI2 said:


The Syrians are very practical:

They throw “Iran under the bus”.
Make sure that bus drives very slowly over the body.
Get the Golan back.
Rush back to the bus scene with an ambulance
End up back with Iran and the Golan.

October 17th, 2008, 3:25 pm


Off the Wall said:


Good one :).

October 17th, 2008, 3:29 pm


Akbar Palace said:


Thank you for all the excuses for not wanting the Golan back in exchange for peace. I am not surprised.

Rush back to the bus scene with an ambulance
End up back with Iran and the Golan.


Thank you for the very clear example. That’s exactly why the Israelis are so skeptical about a piece treaty that doesn’t hold up to verification; like Oslo, a bad agreement will be ignored and Israel will be left with armies and missiles closer to her population centers.

What about the Israeli public opinions. Is the current leadership in Israel capable of delivering what Bush “allegedly” promises in this “secret” letter.


For a good agreement (like the ones with Eygpt and Jordan), it can be completed with whatever Israeli and American government is in power. You just sign on the dotted like Habib.

October 17th, 2008, 3:40 pm


SimoHurtta said:

Akbar Bush can speak what he wants about Iran. The reality is that Bush has no means to attack Iran, because it would destroy all the efforts of saving US and world’s economy what have been done. And China is so pissed off that there is no way to create more sanctions through UN.

That new war, obviously much more serious that Gulf War II, would create an unseen financial crisis. And the depression would hurt most USA and USD would be history as the dominant currency. After that Israel is totally alone.

Promising Golan back to Syria, if it joins the vassal states of USA, doesn’t cost Bush a cent. Well some billions in help to Israel in form of weapons (= work to Americans).

PS Akbar an interesting view by an Israeli historian that Zionist history has the same value as superman comic books. Fiction you know.

Book refuting Jewish taboo on Israel’s bestseller list

Have you Akbar and AIG read the book?

Are Akbar the stories what the Voice of the White House told about 400 Billion sent to Israeli banks prior to Lehman Bros. bankruptcy true?

October 17th, 2008, 3:49 pm


Off the Wall said:


First of all, you are thanking the entire forum and it was only three out of many who answered your argument. Please do not attempt to generalize my own answer as an answer of all Syrians and run with it saying the Syrians do not want the Golan. I only represent myself, and there are many on this forum who would vehemently disagree even with my reconciliatory language and attempt to engage you in a serious argument. Clearly you are one of them.

Second, where in any of the responses you found that we do not want the Golan back. My own answer was only skeptical of Bush’s capacity to deliver, which means that I do want it so bad that I am not willing to rely on a lame duck’s promisses. I have not even discussed the merit or lack thereof regarding Iran vs Golan. Ehsani’s answer was an attempt at humor to demonstrate the absurdity of the premise itself, and Attassi’s answer was a re-affirmation of Syria’s rights to the Golan, which runs counter to your assertion. If you are only seeking a sound bite to affirm your preconceived notions, there is nothing in what we said that remotely justifies such a sound bite.

I have tried, honest to whatever deity, to engage you in serious discussion. But now I am more skeptical of your sincerity. Let me assure you that you have not exposed , nor have you discovered an Aha moment. It is same old same, present an unacceptable, logically and politically flawed proposal, and then argue that the other side is not for peace for daring to expose the fallacies and the disingenuous attempt. We know the trick and it runs so thin here, and unluckily for you, on any serious forum other than the one-liner gutcha types. You have not gutcha any one here.

You are not the only one with the right to decide the terms for peace. This is what negotiations are all about. Take it or leave it approach does not work in complex international relationship and your attempts to simplify it into sound bites is akin to not wanting peace and to derailing the attempts of serious people who do.

October 17th, 2008, 4:19 pm


wizart said:

Shai thanks I believe in building a healthy borderless world free of visas & religious requirements with high standards of non- polluted living through economic, political and tech integration!!

I feel the world is living way bellow its potential because bad thinking habits are passed on to new generations thru incompetence and people’s tendency to obssess with nationalism 🙂

People love to label themselves according to what countries they belong to and end up forgetting how we’re all human w/ many common interests and common challenges that can best be solved by real on-going communication, not faulse pride, ego and repeated media soundbites that keep us in status quo.

Thanks for all shared insights, attitudes and ideas that work 🙂

October 17th, 2008, 4:42 pm


norman said:

Syria Blames Lebanese Extremists of Attack

Beirut, Oct 17 (Prensa Latina) Syria blamed Lebanese extremists, who want to turn the country into a corridor between Lebanon and Iraq, of carrying out a recent attack that killed 17 and wounded 14, As Safir reported on Friday.

The newspaper quoted Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad, who told Arab personages that his country “is threatened” and that some armed fundamentalist groups are trying to turn Syria into “a scenario of their actions”.

The extremists mentioned by the president operate in northern Lebanon and were supported by sectors linked to political forces in Parliament that are hostile to Syria, particularly the March 14 bloc.

Al-Assad said Syrian intelligence agencies had arrested several suspected members of the network, including the group’s leader, who perpetrated the attack on the outskirts of Damascus on September 27.

As Safir’s report was published two days after Syria and Lebanon established official diplomatic relations for the first time since they became independent more than 60 years ago, and amid actions carried out by groups opposed to bilateral ties.


October 17th, 2008, 6:42 pm


Shai said:


I’ll raise a toast to you and to your wise words tonight! You are very right.


Wallahi, I think this is the first time I find myself wishing a Syrian like you sat on BOTH sides of the negotiating table. Your coherent delivery never ceases to amaze me. AP, AIG: please note, this (OTW) is a person we call our “enemy”. What a waste of 60 years! Oh, but maybe the Syrians don’t want the Golan back… They haven’t accepted our (or Bush’s) simplest of terms – ending their strategic relationship with Iran. OTW, you guys just aren’t serious. Do you want peace, or not? 🙁 (I apologize for the my-way-or-no-way attitude exhibited by “my side”)

October 17th, 2008, 7:46 pm


Akbar Palace said:

Are Akbar the stories what the Voice of the White House told about 400 Billion sent to Israeli banks prior to Lehman Bros. bankruptcy true?


Thank you for your astute summary of the current world situation. I must say, with the views you have, you’d make an excellent choice to sit at the UNGA or even the Obama foreign policy desk.

As far as your question goes, I haven’t heard this story (as well as the other stories we’ve heard from you over the past few years), but I’m sure you’ll continue the investigation until you get the answers you need;)

Please do not attempt to generalize my own answer as an answer of all Syrians and run with it saying the Syrians do not want the Golan.


I never came close to saying “the Syrian do not want the Golan”. Now it’s you putting words in my mouth. What I said is that if the Syrians have to opt between the Golan and “throwing Iran under the bus”, they will turn away from the Golan and opt in favor of Iran.

I only represent myself, and there are many on this forum who would vehemently disagree even with my reconciliatory language and attempt to engage you in a serious argument. Clearly you are one of them.


Sorry for the generalization. So let’s ask the forum:

Who here believes Syria will opt for the Golan and also break ties with Iran?

Second, where in any of the responses you found that we do not want the Golan back.

No where.

My own answer was only skeptical of Bush’s capacity to deliver…

I’m sort of at a loss to understand how Bush delivers the Golan. I thought the Golan was IOT (Israel Occupied Terrortory).

… which means that I do want it so bad that I am not willing to rely on a lame duck’s promisses.

Again, I would rely on the Israeli government. Governments are always open; even on Saturdays and Sundays;)

I have not even discussed the merit or lack thereof regarding Iran vs Golan. Ehsani’s answer was an attempt at humor to demonstrate the absurdity of the premise itself, and Attassi’s answer was a re-affirmation of Syria’s rights to the Golan, which runs counter to your assertion.


Now you’re sbeaking for Eshani. How am I supposed to know Eshani is joking? Eshani, were you joking?? What was your joke (assuming you were)?


Would it be possible for me to assume that all the participants here affirm Syria’s rights to the Golan? I don’t think that would be a “stretch” here on Syria Comment.

But just remember, anyone can make a claim about anything. I claim that I own Brazil. I can claim that my employer owes me $1 Million dollars. This is freedom of speech, and I would never take that away or deny it.

If you are only seeking a sound bite to affirm your preconceived notions, there is nothing in what we said that remotely justifies such a sound bite.

Not a sound bite, just an excellent example showing what is more important to some people: 1.) land for peace, or 2.) continued “resistance”

I have tried, honest to whatever deity, to engage you in serious discussion.

Keep up the good work.

But now I am more skeptical of your sincerity. Let me assure you that you have not exposed , nor have you discovered an Aha moment.

I know. I never will. It’s too difficult here. Sim can attest to that.

We know the trick and it runs so thin here…


Yes, making peace without making peace is very tricky. Damned-near impossible IMHO;)

You are not the only one with the right to decide the terms for peace.


I only present my opinion just like you and everyone else here.

Thanks for the reply,


October 17th, 2008, 7:57 pm


Shai said:


According to Israel, the Golan is not an IOT (Israeli Occupied Territory), but rather an IT (Israeli Territory). We annexed the Golan in December of 1981. As far as I know, no nation on earth recognizes this annexation. I just read recently that Great Britain has instructed Israel’s Elbit to stop all test-flights of its ordered UAV’s in the Golan, because they do see it as an occupied territory, and not as part of Israel. It’s pretty clear which way the tide is shifting, isn’t it? And no one, besides Israel and the U.S., will ever make such idiotic demand of Syria, to abandon its most significant strategic ally Iran.

Btw, have you considered the following scenario: Suppose Iran gets a nuclear weapon (or more than one). Which would you prefer:

1. To have peace with Syria that is Iran’s closest ally.

2. To have peace with Syria that has recently slammed the door on Iran.

Call me crazy, but I’m leaning towards the first… 😉

October 17th, 2008, 8:32 pm


why-discuss said:

Is Syria about to face proliferation of small internal conflicts involving palestinians, iraqis, iranian dissident and islamic extremists possibly flowing from Iraq and Lebanon?
Could the government control this before it becomes uncontrollable?
As reported by Syrie Revue de presse:

” Damas : des hommes sont tombés lors d’affrontements avec des hommes armés au camp de Yarmouk
10 octobre 2008

Des hommes armés ont été tués ou blessés lors d’un affrontement qui a eu lieu, hier, à Damas, avec les forces de sécurité syrienne, au camp de Yarmouk. Des informations contradictoires sur les circonstances de l’incident et les arrestations qui l’ont suivi, se sont multipliées. Tandis que les autorités syriennes n’ont pas commenté officiellement cet incident, des témoins oculaires et des habitants de la région du camp de Yarmouk, à Damas, ont signalé à As-Safir que des heurts avaient eu lieu, hier à midi, entre les forces de sécurité syrienne et un groupe armé non identifié. Deux membres du groupe ont été tués. Des informations contradictoires ont circulé sur la mort probable d’un élément des forces de sécurité. Alors qu’un témoin oculaire a indiqué que tous les tués étaient des Irakiens, l’agence Reuters, citant des témoins oculaires, a indiqué que le nombre de tués était de quatre personnes et que l’affrontement avait eu lieu après que le groupe avait essayé de franchir un barrage de sécurité. Les témoins ont indiqué que l’un des tués était un Arabe iranien opposant au régime de Téhéran. Un témoin oculaire a indiqué à As-Safir qu’un échange de tirs avait eu lieu dans une des rues secondaires, limitrophes de la Rue Loubia, appartenant au camp de Yarmouk, précisément près de la cafétéria Abou Hachich. Ceux qui étaient présents n’ont pas confirmé si un troisième élément du groupe avait été arrêté. Plusieurs témoins oculaires ont indiqué que plusieurs ceintures d’explosifs avaient été confisquées dans la région. Il s’agit du deuxième incident connu, au cours du mois, après l’explosion qui a coûté la vie à 17 personnes dans la région d’Al-Qazzaz. Il intervient également quelques semaines après l’intensification des mesures prises par les autorités syriennes sur les postes frontaliers, notamment avec le Liban. (As-Safir, page 1, Damas)

October 17th, 2008, 11:15 pm


Akbar Palace said:

And no one, besides Israel and the U.S., will ever make such idiotic demand of Syria, to abandon its most significant strategic ally Iran.


I suppose the other “idiotic demand” is peace, whatever that means. To me “peace” means dropping relations with countries that support terrorism. But, of course, if Israel wants to pretend there is peace (like they did with Arafat), then they are free to do so at their own peril.

Btw, have you considered the following scenario: Suppose Iran gets a nuclear weapon (or more than one). Which would you prefer:

1. To have peace with Syria that is Iran’s closest ally.

2. To have peace with Syria that has recently slammed the door on Iran.


Since in both cases, there is a hypothetical peace with Syria, I would opt to isolate Iran, rather than allowing her to build alliances with other pro-terror groups and countries. Thanks for asking; that was easy.

Call me crazy, but I’m leaning towards the first… 😉

Again, no surprise Shai.

October 18th, 2008, 6:00 pm


SimoHurtta said:

Akbar do you seriously believe that “terrorism supporting countries” propaganda you write? On the other hand I could ask you how do you see in your “Flash Gordon” history the role of Irgun and Stern Gang and later the Jewish terrorism? Surely you have done at least your share of terrorism and still actively provide it with weapons in many countries (Lebanon, Kurdistan, Sudan, Iran etc).

What do you see this kind of behaviour, is it terrorism or giving reasons for the victims to use terrorism.

Settlers burn 3,000 olive trees in southern Nablus

Ocotber 18, 2008

Nablus / PNN – Fires set by Israeli settlers in southern Nablus olive groves are up this year, reports journalist Ali Daraghmeh. “This year settlers south of the city of Nablus burned about 3,000 olive trees. The settlers are also burning cars and beating farmers. This week four people were hospitalized.”

Ghassan, a local official in municipal affairs, described “masked gunmen attacking farmers in 33 basin areas in Salfit and 39 in Nablus.”

Israeli settlements in the West Bank are most often built on hills and then spread down. Palestinian agricultural lands are afflicted from the initial land confiscation to the eventual threat in the basin areas. Fields just beyond those overtaken are particularly dangerous.

Officials note that the coordination between the Israeli army and Palestinian residents does not provide security to the farmer. Ghassan said today, “The initial dates for protection were not abided under the pretext of the Jewish holidays and closures. We are in contact with each village under attack by settlements and monitor all ongoing damage. The reports go to the President and Prime Minister.”

The olive harvest season is meant to be a major source of income but yearly the obstacles increase. After the olives are picked they must be made into oil and taken to market, neither of which is undertaken without additional risk.


Surely you understand the reason for Palestinians “terrorism” (= armed resistance) and others motive to support it. Can a civilized person avoid understanding the reasons for armed resistance of Palestinians? Well suicide bombings against civil population can’t approved but on the other hand they can be understood how indiscriminately Israeli Jews have killed and exploited Palestinian civil population for over 60 years.

Akbar the difference between Jewish terrorism and Palestinian terrorism was/is that Israelis used it to get others’ land, the Palestinians use it to protect what was theirs and the little what is left. Would you have condemned a Jew who had attacked against Germans, even civil population, during WW2 using for example suicide bombing?

October 18th, 2008, 10:21 pm


Shai said:


Akbar, AIG, and most other conservatives on the Right, are just like my grandmother. I’ll explain…

Since the birth of my nation, my grandmother was always an avid Leftist. She was a true ideologist, believer in socialism, equality, the whole lot. She supported a separate state for the Palestinians, years before we entered the West Bank or Gaza. And then, one bright morning, 1973 came about, and the Yom Kippur War. And the Arabs, finally, showed Israel what they were made of. And that they were powerful and dangerous rivals. They surprised us, and proved that our fate in this region could be influenced also by others. And like for so many other Israelis, for my grandmother this was “too much”. Her innate racism ((Arab=Schwartze)<Weiss) was ignited to the point of no return. Where she used to have pictures on her wall of leaders from the Left, she now replaced them with pictures of Sharon, and Shamir, and Begin. Around the table, she would basically consider us all idiots, for still believing the Arabs want anything other than to destroy all Jews. Her self confidence was shattered, and her shock from 1973 was transformed into pure hatred and fear, which followed her until her last day. We were all saddened by this, but seeing how many other Israelis had changed in this way, we realized it was useless trying to change her. Her emotional shell had hardened to the point where it couldn’t be penetrated.

Many Jews in the U.S. experienced a similar transformation after 1973. The Jewish state they had always supported came close to ending its existence (never mind if true or not, but this was the general feeling), and “they” weren’t there to help it. The associated guilt morphed into a two-part behavior: First, American Jews would from now on take financial donations to Israel much more seriously (it was now an existential thing), and indeed the money coming from the Jewish community has sky rocketed to unprecedented figures every since. And second, the various Jewish lobbyist groups (AIPAC foremost) would, from now on, almost never question Israel and, essentially, support its policy blindly. After all, how can American Jews criticize the Jewish state, that almost disappeared once more? In my own family, my American father-in-law was just like that. He too hardened, became blinded with Jewish “right” to this land, donated more than anyone, and of course viewed me as close to traitor as one could be (but, like AIG, couldn’t bring himself to calling me that). The fact that I had patrolled the streets of Gaza in my military service, and could tell him firsthand how the Arabs are suffering, didn’t matter. The fact that my entire family had served in the army, fought in all the wars, and yet befriended Arabs, and learned to empathize and understand them, and could tell him things he never knew, never heard about an Arab, let alone from an Arab, didn’t matter. He knew better. And he also never changed his mind, until his last day.

I’m no psychologist, and I claim to have no deep understanding of the human psyche. But I’ve always had a hunch, that at the bottom of all this is self confidence, and quite likely a good mix of innate racism. How else can you explain these people changing their minds after 1973, or after 1987 (1st Intifada), Oslo, or 2000 (2nd Intifada)? Why is it that when the Arabs (or Arab resistance) shows us Jews that they won’t take this shit forever, we suddenly get all angry, pull out our moral-guide (which we normally keep hidden well during all those years of Occupation), and begin teaching the whole world about terrorism, instead of trying to first understand why this is happening. The only cause-effect explanation I’ve ever heard someone on the Right use has been “The Arabs innately hate all Jews, therefore they kill us.” Simple and easy. Only the blind or foolish can’t understand this.

So, with people like that, there is no hope. They’ll never change, because they can’t.

October 19th, 2008, 5:12 am


Rumyal said:

I want to recommend the absolutely excellent memoire from the amazing Sari Nusseibeh: “Once Upon a Country: A Palestinian Life”. This should be a relevant read for anybody who’s interested in Palestine/Israel but I would recommend it especially to AIG and AP.

Available in paperback!

October 19th, 2008, 8:37 am


jad said:

Great piece you wrote.
You said that people couldn’t change; I say people don’t want to change; it will be too hard for them to see what they are doing.
The big mystery for me is that I do understand the hate Palestinians have toward Israelis since they are the occupiers but the hate from Israelis toward Palestinian is unexplained.
What is also sad in your comment is that you are part of that community and you can’t say what you really believe in, even though it is true, you will be labelled as a traitor.
How come the majority of your society became this much disconnected with reality surrounding them? What is the problem that people don’t want to open their eyes and see?
I’m sure many Israelis share your views but no body can say it that loud, the majority are people like AP and AIG who don’t want to change, don’t want to open their eyes, and don’t want to believe in peace.
I’m usually optimistic but this picture you draw is too dark to even dream of peace.

October 19th, 2008, 10:17 am


Shai said:


Your comments are unfortunately very true. The only explanation I’ve ever been able to come up with, which doesn’t take me too close to the we’re-all-naturally-racist arena (which I’m still hoping is not the case), is the innate fear that has been installed in Jewish genes over the past 2000 years, which says “Your safety is never guaranteed, and what seems a certain way today may change in an instant tomorrow, for the worse.” If you think about it, Jews have been living as a minority, often a persecuted minority, throughout the past two millennium. They’ve never felt safe. And of course the Holocaust reaffirmed that belief in the most extreme and physical fashion – in merely 5-6 years, one third of our people were killed. So there is a very real sense of fear, that must be overcome by most Jews, before they can feel confident enough in their existence. Iran’s recent belligerent statements towards Israel, and its drive to achieve nuclear capabilities, haven’t exactly “helped” to say the least.

How am I any different from most Israelis? In two main and perhaps important respects. First, I’ve lived long enough abroad, in peaceful nations, to know what “the day after” can look like. And second, I’ve interacted with many many Arabs over my lifetime, and have gotten to hear their concerns firsthand, uncensored, and not through the interpretation of someone else (the media, political leaders, etc.) I’ve always initiated contact with Arabs, in honest attempt to get closer, to understand them (you) better, and to enable myself the chance to learn to empathize with my so-called enemy. This, I believe, is an absolutely necessary prerequisite to making peace with the other side. Without empathy, it can’t happen. Both ways, by the way.

So why am I still hopeful? Or why am I still here, and not in the U.S. for instance, where I can certainly earn more money, and raise my family in relative safety as compared to here? Because I still believe in a few making a difference. At the end of the day, it is not most people that make the biggest changes. It isn’t most who come up with a revolutionary cure for a disease, and it isn’t most who’ll come up with the formula for peace. One bright, open-minded, and courageous leader is all it takes. This is why he/she are called “leaders” – because they’re supposed to lead their people to a brighter and safer future. They don’t really ask the majority of people what they think, they only ask for their confidence in bringing them to power. Begin didn’t ask most Israelis if they supported the return of Sinai, Sharon didn’t ask the same about Gaza, and Rabin didn’t about talking to the Palestinians. True, the return of the Golan will be tougher, because it will require a 2/3 majority in Knesset, or a simple majority in a national referendum. But at the moment, there are 30% for giving back the Golan, and 70% against it. That means, we need another 21% to support peace. I strongly believe this is a possibility, given the right leader, and the right “delivery” of the idea. We saw it happen 30 years ago, with an “enemy” no less powerful (Egypt), and it can happen again.

As a final note JAD, I refuse to stop dreaming. What is life for, if not for dreaming, and trying to make our dreams a reality? When my grandchildren will one day sit on my lap and ask me “Saba, what did you do all those years, to bring about peace between Jews and Arabs?”, I want to have an answer. Hopefully, it’ll be already years after peace has been established. We cannot give up, for otherwise we are leaving a deposit of further pain and suffering for our children, and leaving them not with a solution, but with the problem. Is that what we want for them? Wouldn’t that be our utmost failure as parents?

October 19th, 2008, 10:45 am


Shai said:


By the way, I didn’t mean that ALL people cannot change. I did express disappointment in knowing that people like AP and AIG cannot change. But there are almost always some 20-30% who are not extreme in their views. Who do tend to sit on the fence and decide this way or the other, based on what they are told, not on what they strongly believe. Perhaps the numbers are even greater than that. It is true about both sides of the fence, of course.

October 19th, 2008, 10:54 am


Shai said:


Here’s something our American readers should consider:

October 19th, 2008, 11:35 am


norman said:

Israel’s Barak: Israeli leaders discussing Saudi peace plan, considering how to respond
Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak says Israeli leaders have been discussing a comprehensive Saudi peace plan and debating how to respond to it.

Barak told Israel’s Army Radio on Sunday that with individual negotiations with Syria and the Palestinians making little headway, it may be time to pursue an overall peace deal for the region.

Barak says President Shimon Peres is in agreement and he has spoken about the matter with Prime Minister-designate Tzipi Livni as well.

The Saudi peace initiative was first proposed in 2002. It offers pan-Arab recognition of Israel in exchange for Israel’s withdrawal from Arab lands captured in 1967

October 19th, 2008, 12:30 pm


norman said:

A neighbourly option for IranAllowing Iran to become a full player in the regional economy will help to overcome its siege mentalityComments () Vartan Oskanian, Sunday October 19 2008 13.00 BST larger | smaller Article historyFor years, debate about Iran has oscillated between two bad alternatives. Some are convinced that a nuclear Iran is the worst of all possible scenarios, worse even than the fall-out from a pre-emptive strike. But neither a nuclear-armed Iran nor air strikes against it are wise options, certainly not for this region.

The repercussions of bombing Iran should be clear: closure of the Strait of Hormuz, rocketing oil prices, possible retaliation against Israel (regardless of the origin of the attack), and even greater turmoil in Iraq and Afghanistan. Indeed, the only certainty of any pre-emptive strike is irreparable and long-lasting damage to regional security and political and economic stability.

Of course, the alternative is no safer. A nuclear-armed Iran would change the entire region’s security environment, and, given the enmity between Israel and Iran, two such nuclear powers facing off against each other would pose a threat.

The way out of this dilemma is to understand what Iran wants – and how to accommodate it without jeopardising anyone’s security.

President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has said that Iran wants to develop uranium enrichment technology for industrial use. Everyone agrees that Iran has the right to do so. But the world is split over whether to believe that Iran is actually doing what it says.

If, as some argue, Iran is being disingenuous, then once it achieves this first phase – uranium enrichment for industrial purposes – it can easily slide into weapons-grade enrichment, leaving the international community out in the cold, with no channels of communication, no observation teams in place, and no monitors ready to sound the whistle.

That is why the world must not remain focused on the already-lost first phase. Iran has more than 3,000 centrifuges despite all the international sanctions and threats. Instead, the world must focus on the second phase, because it is weapons potential that is the looming danger, and it is here that internationally-mandated mechanisms for oversight and supervision exist.

The Iranians have always said that they will continue to honour their commitments and open their doors to observation as members of the non-proliferation community. But the international community must be more respectful of Iran’s current industrial aims if it wants Iranian cooperation.

The first step is to assuage Iran’s feeling of being besieged. Fortunately, there are voices in America and elsewhere that advocate engaging Iran at the highest level. But to talk with Iran effectively one must understand Iranian values and thinking.

Iranians have a sense of seniority, if not superiority, born of a rich and ancient culture that has survived into modern times. But they also have a historically ingrained sense of insecurity, owing to frequent conquest and domination, which is being aggravated today by the presence of American troops to their west in Iraq and to their east in Afghanistan. Their outlook nowadays is the product of these two worldviews – suspicious of others’ motives and proud of themselves as smart, tough negotiators and not without their own resources.

In my meetings with the current and past leaders of Syria and Iran, as well as in my meeting with Saddam Hussein, I heard them all say the same thing: the west is out to get them. Their explanation was that the west is uncomfortable with the motives and behaviour of ideological states _ Syria, Iran, and Iraq under Saddam were states with causes _ Islam, Arab unity, or anti-Zionism.

For Iranians, as bearers of faith and national pride, responses that seem to others self-righteous and irrational are, in fact, necessary and acceptable.

The case of Saddam’s weapons of mass destruction is a historic example of a willingness to go to hell with your head held high. Saddam knew that he didn’t have weapons of mass destruction, but he was unwilling to concede the right of inspectors to ask.

As in North Korea, Iran’s neighbours might provide the right mechanism to create a more transparent relationship between Iran and the world. In the so-called “six-party talks”, North Korea’s neighbours offered tangible incentives to Kim Jong-il’s regime to abandon its nuclear programme. The most prominent of these was an end to North Korea’s economic isolation.

Iran, too, feels besieged, though it is not isolated: it depends heavily on trade, and not just as a seller of oil. Two-thirds of its population is under the age of 30, and unemployment is high; it needs to attract foreign investment for its oil and gas industry, and to finance road construction and other infrastructure projects.

Comparisons with neighbouring Turkey are instructive. Before Iran’s Islamic revolution, it led Turkey in foreign direct investment, income per head, and GDP growth. Now Turkey has moved ahead, and may even join the European Union.

Other regional comparisons further reinforce that trend. The Qataris have outstripped the Iranians in exploiting the huge gas field they share. Tiny Dubai draws in far more foreign investment: Iranians go there for banking, trade, and fun.

Iran’s neighbours need to convince Iran’s rulers that Iranians, too, can participate in the region’s growth, and even become regional leaders. Only an open Iran, fully integrated into the regional economy and granted a role commensurate to its size and economic potential, will be able to moderate its siege mentality.

Here, a vital step would be for the west to begin to envisage Iran as a potential alternative supplier of gas, by offering to link Iran to the proposed White Stream and Nabucco pipelines that are currently under development to bring Central Asian gas to Europe.

The world’s judgments about Iran’s motives and actions should not be distorted by Iranian pride. We can only understand Iran’s real intentions by engaging the Iranians – not cornering them.

Vartan Oskanian, Armenia’s minister of foreign affairs from 1998 until April 2008, is the founder of the Yerevan-based Civilitas Foundation.

October 19th, 2008, 12:50 pm


norman said:

Israel denies knowledge of Bush offer to Assad for Golan pullout

By Jack Khoury and Barak Ravid, Haaretz Correspondents

Tags: George W. Bush, Israel News

Jerusalem sources denied over the weekend any knowledge of a U.S. proposal to Syria, to the effect that Israel would pull out of the Golan if Syria severs its ties with Iran, as reported in the Kuwaiti newspaper al-Jarida on Friday.

President George W. Bush reportedly made the offer in a secret letter that was delivered to Syrian President Bashar Assad by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas during his recent visit to Damascus. Bush wants to advance the Israel-Syria negotiations before leaving the White House in January, al-Jarida reported.

According to the report, Bush made the offer in a handwritten letter transferred to Assad by Abbas.

A Palestinian source close to Abbas told the newspaper that the U.S. had presented the offer in a meeting with Syrian officials a day earlier.

If Assad agrees to the American proposal, he will carry out his end of the deal in the coming weeks, said the report.

Bush is keen on implementing the deal before the upcoming U.S. elections, said the newspaper, in order to significantly advance the peace process before the end of his term.

The Palestinian source said that Abbas and his entourage were unaware of the content of Bush’s letter, as it was meant to remain covert and away from diplomatic eyes, according to the report.

Even the American envoy in Damascus was not privy to this information, said the newspaper.

Despite this, the Palestinian source said that Abbas’ latest visit to Damascus was intended for the principle purpose of passing on this letter, said the newspaper. While on the visit, he scheduled no meetings with Palestinian officials or other diplomats in the area.

Related articles:

Hamas-Fatah reconciliation tops agenda in Abbas-Assad meeting

Syria envoy to U.S.: Israel has chance for peace with all Arabs

Olmert: I can persuade U.S. to sponsor Israel-Syria talks

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October 19th, 2008, 12:53 pm


Shai said:


Very interesting what Vartan Oskanian is saying. It is important to listen to people like him, but I have a feeling that if McCain wins, no such ideas would ever be considered, at least not in Washington. Obama, of course, is a different story.

As for Iran’s case against Israel, Iran has often said “It is up to the Palestinians” which, to me, seems to open the door to possible relations one day with “the Zionist entity”. After all, let’s suppose Fatah and Hamas reconcile their differences, and reinstall an agreed-upon government, which then moves ahead and find a solution to a peace agreement with Israel. What further cases would Iran have against Israel? Scholars and religious leaders could proclaim a Palestinian state the end of Zionism, hence the achievement of their stated goal, and then claim there are no reasons left for not talking to the Israelis. Wishful thinking? I’m not sure. If I had to bet on it, I’d say Iranian leaders are already contemplating the way to one day engage Israel, and not only militarily… What do you think?

October 19th, 2008, 2:04 pm


Akbar Palace said:

Many Jews in the U.S. experienced a similar transformation after 1973.


Enjoyed your psycho-social dissertation to Sim. Please remind Sim that this is just your opinion. Otherwise he may get the impression there is fact mixed in with your narrative.

Anti-Zionists like Sim sometimes run and tell their other anti-Zionist friends that they have “first hand” evidence directly from an Israeli Jew as if the Israeli Jew was factually correct. For example, I know many anti-Zionist and anti-semitic websites quote Norman Finklestein and his ilk often.

Just another suggestion,


October 19th, 2008, 3:34 pm


Shai said:


I’m sorry, did you mean to say something coherent? If you did, I didn’t get it. Is there some specific point you’d like to make? And were you trying to state an “opinion”, or a “fact”? 🙂

October 19th, 2008, 3:51 pm


norman said:

It all confirm my believe that a comprehensive peace is at hand if Israel responds to the call for a total settlement with Syria , Lebanon , The Palestinians and the Iranians

October 19th, 2008, 5:00 pm


jad said:

Thanks for the explanation. As always, your comments and ideas are inspiring and make me respect my enemy for having people like you who believe in a better tomorrow and better future and overall the right of treating Palestinian as human.
I know the Jewish history and the fact that they’ve been treated terribly, suffered and prosecuted throughout history, as you said the holocaust was a prove for their fears, I also believe that they meant no evil wanting to have their own state where they can feel safe, what I disagree and condemn is the way they deliver and the illusion of fear from the Palestinians and Arab they grew, (while Arabs where no part in anyway with the holocaust, it was a pure European (white) act) and the idea of killing Arabs and taking their lands will make them feel safer. I’m not denying the bad part from our side during the beginning; we were ignorant and too simple to deal with such high level and complicated issue and the fact that we were just getting our independence made the circumstances worst.
To be honest, I do believe that if Israel from the start treated the Palestinian in a better way and tried to negotiate its existence instead of forcing it, you could’ve got a true strong, fearless, fair and mixed nation like New Zealand. But they didn’t, they went from one war to another instead, they occupied more lands and expand their state to be more than what they really need and to maintain that expansion, they asked and still asking for any Jew in the world to move to other man’s land and pretend that it is his own while the real owner is 2feet away behind a fence, in a cage, miserable, he can only look at his land if he is lucky.
After 60 years of an endless struggle I imagine that Israelis should understand that continuing the same mentality of ignoring peace wont give them a safer state but the opposite it’s giving them more enemy, and while they are still strong they should think of peace since history taught us one thing, life is not a static and history is a circles of ups and downs, what is weak now may become strong tomorrow when feeling safe is far from true. Especially when you have a country like Syria who gain it’s independent so many times and the says of one of it’s great revolt leader Sultan Basha Al Atrash is ‘What was taken by force, by force only is taken back.’ Is still alive after 90 years.

A good story related to your hope,
Last month on BBC they asked a Syrian women from the Golan, she was waiting to cross the border to see her family on the Syrian side, it was her 20 something attempt to go there but the Israelis didn’t let her go.
“Are you going to try again?” her answer was so simple, “If I don’t have the hope of seeing my family again by trying to cross this boarder, my life will end” “my HOPE is making me alive”

Again, Shai, I do respect you very much and I hope that one-day not far from now we can have your vision of a better ME.

October 19th, 2008, 6:40 pm


Shai said:


Thank you for those words, and you are of course very right. There is no justification whatsoever for the way Jews have treated the Palestinians and Arab-Israelis for these past 60 years. I of course do not think the Holocaust is an acceptable excuse. I was merely trying to understand this so-called “innate fear” that Jews seem to have especially in Israel. But we must try to focus on the future, and show our people that their “enemy” is made of the same flesh and blood, has the same aspirations, and deserves the same rights and freedoms. That if our neighbor is suffering, we cannot live happily. I think the Quran says this, and so does the Bible, that it is our duty to help our neighbor no less than ourselves. We must begin to see each other as neighbors (not to mention brothers), and as equal human beings.

JAD, with people like yourself, I have absolutely no doubt in my mind that it is merely an issue of time before we will all live in peace with one another. I am sorry that I can’t get every single one of the 7 million Israelis to see and hear what “enemies” like you are truly like. This communication makes such a difference, as it allows us to truly get closer, to listen, to understand, and to empathize with one another. I am forever grateful to Alex and to Joshua and to all the amazing commentators on SC, for allowing me (as an Israeli) this meaningful opportunity. And you and I, JAD, will one day sit as brothers. I promise you that.

October 19th, 2008, 6:58 pm


jad said:

Hi Shai, hopefully, that day wont be far..
Did you watch SNL last night? Americans are so good in letting things go and make fun…..Sarah Palin was on…it was hilarious.
BTW, whenever I see here now your name is certanly a must..
Have a great day.

October 19th, 2008, 8:20 pm


Shai said:


Yes, I saw the SNL clip this morning, very funny. It’s 10:30 pm here, so I’m heading in. Alex once called me an “early sleeper”, so I have to keep up the image… 🙂 Good night from the Middle East!

October 19th, 2008, 8:26 pm


Rumyal said:


I admire your capacity to dream about a better future. I’m also not sure that the Israeli psyche can be “flipped” but what options do we have? (1) Give up on Israel as individuals (which I have effectively done at least temporarily by moving to the US). (2) Try to see the dream come true (3) Reconcile yourself with the fact that your country (and you, directly or indirectly) is becoming more and more racist, messianic, fatalistic… You are one of few courageous people who are fighting the most important, and thankless, battle ever.

As somebody who’s been in this for a while, perhaps you can help me with a few questions:

1. Which peace NGO’s are most serious at this point? It’s “giving campaign” time (the big shnor :)) in America and the company I work for is matching any donation I make, so I don’t want to give up the opportunity to help (we are not talking millions of $’s unfortunately though… :))

2. Are you aware of other blogs that discuss Jewish/Arab relationship and the future of Israel/Palestine as the main theme? (If not, should we create one?)

3. What is your approach towards anonymity here and elsewhere?


October 19th, 2008, 9:47 pm


Alex said:

Good night Shai: )

I’m just jealous I can not sleep normal hours like you obviously can.


No one can be flipped … but opinions do change with time.

October 19th, 2008, 9:52 pm


Rumyal said:


I forget the allergy to that verb here 🙂 Whatever works, as long as it does.

October 19th, 2008, 9:58 pm


Flip Abu Flip said:


Which allergy are you talking about?

I don’t know what you are referring to…

Syria Flip! Syria Flip!

October 20th, 2008, 4:42 am


Shai said:


You haven’t given up on Israel. If you had, you wouldn’t be here. And I’ve always thought that some of us can be far better “ambassadors” abroad than in Israel. In a way, this is exactly what you are, and thank god for that. If more Arabs could see that there are also Israelis like yourself, they too might decide not to give up on Israel and on peace.

As for your questions:

1. The two organizations I support most are Alon Liel’s “Israel Syria Peace Society” (, and “OneVoice” ( For what I believe in, I find these two the best. You can donate to the latter on their website directly. To donate to the first, you may have to contact them via their site.

2. There are of course many other blogs that discuss the Israeli-Arab conflict, but absolutely none come even close to Syria Comment. The quality of writers here, the wonderful job Alex and Joshua are doing, the dedication of at least 20-30 regulars that keep coming back, and certainly the statistics generated by SC (check are astounding. The kinds of discussions I’ve had here with Syrian, Lebanese, Palestinian, and other Arab intellectuals have been amazing. I’ve learned so much, and I believe have also helped depict Israel and Israelis in a different light. Your joining us, and your wonderful comments, have undoubtedly helped in that respect. As I do not have unlimited time to blog, I’ve chosen SC as the one place I go to whenever I can. As of recent, I started visiting Qifa Nabki’s great new blog (, also highly recommended.

3. As for anonymity, I’ve learned to respect the fact that most people prefer to remain anonymous, especially if they blog frequently. We are often dealing with sensitive issues which could be misinterpreted by certain people, and in theory used against bloggers in their personal lives. So very often bloggers prefer the anonymity. Not to mention other possibilities of harassment, by various rogues (extremists who may hate what you believe it).

October 20th, 2008, 7:44 am


norman said:

Turkey: Syria-Israel talks should resume

Oct. 20, 2008
Associated Press , THE JERUSALEM POST
Turkish Foreign Minister Ali Babacan said he wants Turkish-mediated indirect talks between Syria and Israel to resume.

Speaking at a news conference with Spanish Foreign Minister Miguel Angel Moratinos on Monday, Babacan expressed hope that Israel will decide to resume meetings once a new government has been established.

“There has been progress and both sides are happy about the point they have reached,” he said.

Defense Minister Ehud Barak has said, however, that negotiations with Syria and the Palestinians have made little progress and Israel is considering a Saudi plan offering peace with the Arab world in exchange for the return of Arab lands captured in 1967.

Last month it was reported that a fifth round of indirect Israeli-Syrian talks in Turkey were postponed, but neither Israeli nor Turkish sources confirmed remarks made by Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Muallem that Israel had requested the delay.

“When Israel is ready to resume the talks, we will be, too, because we want to build a solid base that will allow the launch of direct negotiations whatever the outcome of the Kadima party elections in Israel,” the Syrian foreign minister was quoted as saying.

Israeli government sources said the delay was unrelated to the Kadima primary which took place that week. According to these sources, the Prime Minister’s Office was still waiting for authorization from the Justice Ministry allowing chief negotiator Yoram Turbowicz – who resigned as Prime Minister Ehud Olmert’s chief of staff in August – to continue this work on a voluntary basis. Turbowicz’s unclear status was said to be the factor holding up talks at present.

Turkish sources said Ankara was told that a decision regarding Turbowicz would be made by last Sunday, but that no decision was made.

Government sources in Jerusalem would only say that Turbowicz’s status would be cleared up “shortly.”

Olmert’s spokesman Mark Regev, whilst not commenting on the delay, said Israel was committed to the contacts with Syria, and that he hoped another round of indirect talks would take place ‘in the very near future.’

Herb Keinon contributed to this report.

This article can also be read at /servlet/Satellite?cid=1222017581192&pagename=JPost%2FJPArticle%2FShowFull
[ Back to the Article ]
Copyright 1995- 2008 The Jerusalem Post –

October 20th, 2008, 12:22 pm


Shai said:


From what I’ve heard, the Turbowicz delay is merely procedural, nothing more. Israelis have been celebrating the holiday of Sukkot this past week, and it ends this Wednesday. I imagine we’ll be hearing of the status of his case by early next week. There shouldn’t be any reason why the talks can’t restart, with Turjeman and Turbowicz, given Tzipi Livni’s approval. In theory, since Olmert is still PM, he actually doesn’t even have to ask for her approval, but I’m sure he notifies her.

October 20th, 2008, 12:40 pm


norman said:

Hi Shai,

you and Rumyal give me hope for the future .

October 20th, 2008, 1:55 pm


Off the Wall said:

Dear Shai
First I want to congratulate you, although belatedly, on your excellent, coherent, and thoughtful analysis. The unfortunate aspect of the whole thing is that all peace efforts since then did not have an opposite transformational effect.

What you wrote is exactly the type of things we all need to read. I does explain much of what we have witnessed over the past few decades, particularly with respect to the surprising (to many of us) shift and decline of the strong Israeli left, towards hawkish policy stance. It help explaining the splintering of the Israeli left into small, yet vocal peace movements and the emergence of middle class parties with social ideologies that once sided with the left on issues related to Arabs but now considers any soft stance a betrayal of the country.

One can only be glad that we live in the information age. A few years back I read an article on what happened to the Israeli left, I googled that and found it again, it was in the guardian.

Shai is always humble. Early in the summer, when I started posting and got engaged on this site, I was attacked a couple of times. It was Shai and Alex who encouraged me to continue and helped me realize the value of keeping the dialogue open. I am learning that the more racism I see, the more important it is for me to keep the dream alive. There are times when we are so far from realizing the dream that it becomes so important to hold on to it and to transfer it to others and to the next generation. This is how we inherited it and this may have to be the way we have to hand it to others if we can not realize it in our life time.

I fully agree with Shai on the need to depict all countries in the region in different lights. You can not imagine the impact of the real estate photos you submitted a while ago, especially in the context of the discussion them (club-med). I have used them on a couple of occasion to show some of my acquaintances that Israelis are just like us. Whenever I am in a discussion about the middle east, and some one throws a blanket condemnation, I tell them, go to Syria comment, and read the postings of AIG, AP, Shai, and more recently Rumyal to learn about brave souls and hardliners. I encourage them to follow the arguments through which there seems to be a tendency among rational thinkers on this site to acknowledge one another and to come closer every day.

The interesting thing about SC is that if you follow all of us here, you can see how our thinking as individuals is evolving. I like that.

October 20th, 2008, 3:15 pm


Alex said:

off the wall,

I also pay attention to the way opinions of different commentators here have evolved. Shai can tell you that some of those who sounded almost anti-Semitic when he first joined us here, now are always very friendly and open to communicating with him.

It is easy to send or receive a distorted message. I often write comments here that I later read and wonder “what was I thinking when I wrote this?”.

I usually take my time before I make conclusions about opinions. Some people will surprise you after the first impression you got from their first comments.

Others won’t : )

October 20th, 2008, 3:42 pm


Rumyal said:

Shai, OTW, Norman, Alex,

I am endlessly thankful for Syria Comment and its inhabitants but I can’t disguise the fact that it says something very sad about the prospect of our future/program if this is the best place for dialogue and it has managed to attract only 1.5 Israeli supporters who comment here (namely Shai and me). We need to ask ourselves why this is the case and what can be done about it. Surely there are at least dozens of thousands of people in Israel who support similar positions, why aren’t they reaching out and showing their support? Here are a few theories:

Theories about the support base:
— Most supporters are totally politically inactive. They only care to do something about the conflict when they have to cast their ballot once in X years.
— More passionate supporters are still silent, they are more comfortable with just consuming information rather than advocating for something. So they would visit this site (if they knew about it…) but they wouldn’t comment.
— Israeli supporters have been indoctrinated to fear reaching out to their “enemies”. My wife insists that I remain anonymous lest Hizballah operatives come to kidnap our kids, as was promised on Israeli news. Other people (such as my folks) are afraid to make contact with foreigners they are unsure about because it may be forbidden by the security forces.
— Language barriers (maybe this is the biggest concern).

Theories about the SC medium/technology:
— Support base may be computer illeterate
— Support base may believe in conventional rather than Internet-base means of dialogue
— It is not apparent to an outsider that “Syria Comment” is a site about fostering dialogue between Jews/Arabs.
— High-value comments are not captured and somehow “elevated” as a sort of manifesto for SC, in its capacity of fostering dialogue.

On the other hand, it’s kind of nice that it’s a little bit insular here, because we can have meaningful conversations. Not sure what would happen once the rabid commentators from YNet descend on this place…

I will probably add more tonight. Got to get to work now.

October 20th, 2008, 4:42 pm


Alex said:

You raised some good points Rumyal, I will respond later this evening.

Here is today’s column from Jihad El-Khazen in Al-Hayat .. a Lebanese journalist from Saudi owned newspaper banned in Syria. He is expressing his disappointment that Lebanon and Syria now need to exchange embassies.

I think Jihad explained, better than we all tried to explain, why there was really no need for embassies between Beirut and Damascus.

عيون وآذان (كنت أفضل البلدين كما عرفتهما صغيراً وشاباً)
جهاد الخازن الحياة – 20/10/08//

أعترف بأن شعورين متناقضين تملكاني وأنا أتابع توقيع الاتفاق على تبادل علاقات ديبلوماسية بين سورية ولبنان، فقد رحبت بالاتفاق واعترضت عليه، مع إدراكي أنه لا يجوز جمع صيف وشتاء على سطح واحد.

تبادل العلاقات الديبلوماسية دليل على سوء العلاقات لا حسنها، فالبلدان اللذان استقلاّ معاً في أربعينات القرن الماضي لم يجدا حاجة الى علاقات ديبلوماسية عقوداً متواصلة، لأن الهاتف كان يكفي، أو زيارة سريعة ورحلة بالسيارة في أقل من ساعة بين العاصمتين.

بالتأكيد، العلاقات بين البلدين في السنوات الثلاثين الأخيرة تختلف عنها في السنوات الثلاثين الأولى من الاستقلال، فالدنيا كلها تغيرت، خصوصاً الشرق الأوسط حول البلدين، وقام في كل بلد من أسباب الأمن وغيره ما يثير قلقه مما يجري في البلد الآخر.

عندما كنت صغيراً، وذاكرتي تعود الى ما قبل المراهقة، كان في دنيا العرب بقية من خير. كانت لكل من أصدقاء الدراسة اللبنانيين الأقرب اليّ أم شامية، فقد كان من تقاليد التجار السنّة في بيروت أن يصاهروا العائلات الشامية، ولعلهم كانوا يطلبون، البنت البيضاء (بسبب الخِبِيْ، أي الاحتجاب عن الشمس) التي تميل قليلاً الى السمنة (قبل سماعنا بعارضات الأزياء من الحجم صفر وصفرين).

كنا صغاراً نذهب الى دمشق بمناسبة، أو من دون مناسبة، ومع الأهل حتى اقتربنا من نهاية المراهقة، فكنا نذهب وحدنا. وإذا كان الوقت صيفاً، فنحن ننطلق من بحمدون مبكرين، ونبدأ في دمشق بفطور من «فتّة المقادم»، والدهن سائح فوق المرق ولا أحد سمع بالكوليسترول.

وأذكر يوماً سألت بائع عصير الرمّان عند مدخل سوق الحميدية: هل الرمان حلو؟ فقال نعم، وشربت ووجدته حامضاً جداً ارتبط معه لساني، إلا أن البائع كان ضخماً فشربت ما استطعت.

حضرت افتتاح معرض دمشق الدولي في الخمسينات، ونمت مرة مع الأصدقاء في المسجد الأموي عندما لم نجد غرفاً في الفنادق الشعبية. كان على مدخل المسجد حارس ذكي، لا يسأل عن دين الداخل وإنما يقول بالعربية: بالله قدّيش (كم) الساعة، فإذا رد الزائر بالعربية، كان ذلك كافياً. لم نكن نعرف المسلم من المسيحي، والآن صار مطلوباً منا أن نعرف السنّي من الشيعي.

وكان هناك يوم وصلنا الى ساحة المرجة، وإذا بناس كثيرين متجمعين وشققنا طريقنا وسطهم لنفاجأ برجلين يتدليان من حبال المشانق، وقد لُفَّ كل منهما بغطاء أبيض كتبت عليه العبارة: ولكم في القصاص حياة يا أُولي الألباب.

وكبرت واستمرت الزيارات، وبعد عملي رئيساً لتحرير «الديلي ستار» في بيروت، كانت هناك زيارات مسائية، فأقضي ساعة أو ساعتين مع زير الإعلام أحمد اسكندر أحمد في مكتبه (كان في بناية أعتقد انها مهجورة الآن ولا تزال قائمة عبر الطريق من فندق شيراتون داخل مجمع هيئة الإذاعة والتلفزيون).

أين نحن من تلك الأيام؟ أذكر الوحدة والانفصال، ثم أذكر دخول المقاومة الفلسطينية الى لبنان من سورية قبل أيلول الأسود وبعده. وبين هذا وذاك أذكر بوظة بكداش والحميدية والشارع المستقيم، والبَرَازق والعثملية والبلورية وزنود الست، وهذه لا بد من أنها كانت بيضاء ممتلئة.

الوضع لم يكن دائماً سمناً وعسلاً، فقد بدأنا ببنك سورية ولبنان، وانتهينا ببنوك، وكانت تقوم خلافات مالية أو غيرها، ويغلق السوريون الحدود ويرفعون رسوم الترانزيت. إلا أن سماء العلاقات بين البلدين كانت صافية زرقاء في الغالب، والغيوم قليلة.

الوضع اختلف والناس تغيرت، وبعد أن كان لبنان ذا وجه عربي أعلنت وثيقة الوفاق الوطني سنة 1989 أن لبنان وطن سيد حر مستقل، وطن نهائي لجميع أبنائه، وزادت أن لبنان عربي الهوية والانتماء، وثبّت دستور 1995 العبارات نفسها. وانتهينا الآن بعلاقات ديبلوماسية لا يمكن عزلها عن اتفاقَي الطائف والدوحة، والدستور بينهما.

إذا اعتبرنا العلاقات الديبلوماسية اعترافاً سورياً بشعبين في بلدين مستقلين للمرة الأولى منذ لبنان الكبير سنة 1920، ما يعطي اللبنانيين راحة نفسية إزاء المستقبل، فإننا نجد أن لبنان يستطيع أن يرد بطمأنة السوريين الى أن لبنان لن يكون نقطة تجمع لكل من يعادي النظام السوري، أو لإرهابيين يعبرون الحدود. وهذا ليس مطلباً من وحي الإرهاب الأخير في سورية، وإنما هو ما طلب الرئيس جمال عبدالناصر من الرئيس فؤاد شهاب في اجتماع الخيمة على الحدود، ولا يزال مطلب كل حكومة سورية.

كنت أفضل البلدين كما عرفتهما صغيراً وشاباً من دون علاقات ديبلوماسية. أما وقد اتفقا عليها فلعلهما أيضاً يعقدان اتفاقات أمنية تضبط الحدود نهائياً في الاتجاهين، ولا بد من أن الرئيس ميشال سليمان، بخبرته العسكرية قادر على توفير المطلوب من لبنان.

October 20th, 2008, 4:53 pm


Qifa Nabki said:

The exchange of embassies is an important step, but perhaps not as important as the demarcation of boundaries.

Good fences (and embassies) make good neighbors. Once relations are good again, we can think about dispensing with formalities and becoming ‘familiar’ again.

October 20th, 2008, 5:32 pm


Shai said:

OTW, Rumyal, Norman, Alex,

Indeed only 2 Israelis here seem to be pro-peace. But I know that many Israelis are reading the comments on SC. I have to assume that the language barrier is enough to keep most away and that, at the end of the day, most peacenicks prefer to be “passive” rather than “active” or vociferous, especially on a site that on first impression seems more intended for Arabs than for Jews. Plus, let’s face it, most people aren’t inquisitive, don’t go out of their way to communicate with their “enemy”, and find this comfortable “voyeurism” adventurous enough. Taking the time to actually write a comment seems almost beyond some emotional or conceptual barrier perhaps, and so they shy away from it. I know personally at least 4-5 amazing people, great intellectuals who are very successful at what they do (Academia, Business), who promised me they would write, but have remained readers only. These are people who are used to writing for a living, know how to express themselves, and have no language barrier whatsoever. And yet, they choose not to. But they keep coming back to read, because they do find SC fascinating. So go figure…

Rumyal, you’re right, we don’t want the Ynet-crowd coming here. If Alex had to start censoring 100 comments a day, he’d soon have to quit his job, and wouldn’t even get the 3 hours of sleep a night that he does now… 🙂 So how are we helping the peace process? Perhaps by representing quite a few people (maybe 30% of Israelis) who are clearly for-peace, but haven’t found their way to SC yet, or to any other meaningful blog. That’s ok. But we are reaching out to the other side, and many many Syrians, Lebanese, Palestinians, and other Arabs, are reading our comments. And perhaps some high-level people on both sides are coming across SC every so often, and are generating material for thought, not to mention for decision-making. If I was an MK member, I’d certainly seek out blog like SC, to learn so much about how the other side sees me. To me, that’s often more important than how I see myself.

Don’t give up guys – this is a good thing we’re doing, and SC is the perfect place, with the perfect people. What Alex and Joshua have done is a blessed thing and we should, in our own minor way, contribute to it in whatever way we can.

October 21st, 2008, 7:38 am


Alex said:


I am still awake : ) … and it is 4-5 ours, not 3 .. don’t worry.

But Imagine … 100 more AIG’s : )

I will resign from moderation and start a different blog.

Anyway … I think you, and recently Rumyal, are doing a great job. I assure you that you made a difference.

Too bad AP does not believe me.

October 21st, 2008, 7:53 am


Rumyal said:

Alex LOL 🙂

After we bring peace to the world our next task would be to break the tyrannical shackles of the need to sleep, enough with that useless time drain already!

If you’re looking for role-model bloggers, nothing competes with the DataGrid Girl… All you wanted to know about ASP.Net DataGrid controls, in Pink/i>!

October 21st, 2008, 10:14 pm


Rumyal said:

Alex LOL 🙂

After we bring peace to world our next task would be to break the tyrannical shackles of the need to sleep, enough with that useless time drain already!

If you’re looking for role-model bloggers, nothing competes with the DataGrid Girl… All you wanted to know about ASP.Net DataGrid controls, in Pink/i>!

October 21st, 2008, 10:16 pm


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