News Round Up (5 April 2009)

Erdogan Auditions as Obama Broker With Mideast Ties
By Ben Holland

April 3 (Bloomberg) — Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan says his Middle East ties make him useful to President Barack Obama in his quest to connect with the region. Erdogan’s quarrels with the West may be his best asset.

For his first visit to the Muslim world, Obama picked a country that angered the U.S. by refusing to be a staging ground for the 2003 invasion of Iraq, reaching an energy accord with Iran over American objections and straining relations with Israel by criticizing its December incursion into Gaza.

At the same time, Turkey is cultivating Syria and Iran just as Obama, who arrives in Ankara on April 5, pursues a thaw with those traditional U.S. adversaries. And displays of independence, such as promoting Iran’s involvement in a planned gas pipeline, have enhanced Erdogan’s status with countries suspicious of the U.S.

“Turkey is key to Washington’s design to improve relations with the Muslim world,” said Josh Landis, co-director of the Center for Middle East Studies at the University of Oklahoma in Norman.

Still, fulfilling that role requires some delicate calculations on both sides. “As Turkey becomes more democratic, its leaders will be forced to oppose U.S. interests in order to gain public approval,” Landis said.

LA Times: Ziad Haidar and Borzou Daragahi:

Bill Rammell, Britain’s minister of state for foreign and Commonwealth affairs, said in a brief interview late last week in Damascus that despite protests to the contrary, the new U.S. administration does not object to the fledgling contacts with the political wing of the Lebanon-based Shiite Muslim group, which also has a heavily armed militia…..

France, with its deep historical and cultural ties to Lebanon, has long maintained relations with Hezbollah. Rammell said the British attempt to engage Hezbollah would proceed incrementally, in an attempt at “testing the waters.”

In a meeting last week with Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Moallem, Rammell also said London was ready to engage with the Palestinian militant group Hamas, which has its political headquarters in Damascus, Syria, if it renounced violence.

“I would like to talk to Hamas, but we need change before engaging in that position,” he said at the meeting.

He added that Hezbollah must also reject violence before any dialogue could broaden.

Rammell, who ended a two-day visit to Syria on Thursday, said the West must acknowledge what he described as “positive changes” that have taken place in Lebanon over the last few months, including the formation of a unity government and the appointment of a consensus president supported by U.S.-backed political groups and the Hezbollah-led camp.

Rammell noted Hezbollah’s increased involvement in Lebanon’s ordinary political life, with “Hezbollah [lawmakers] sitting side by side with their opponents” in the legislative chamber.

Lieberman Finished as Foreign Minister – Haaretz: The corruption investigation into Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman is likely to produce charges of money laundering, fraud and breach of trust, police sources said Saturday, adding that questioning of the Yisrael Beiteinu leader was nearing an end…. Lieberman was first questioned on the matter in April 2007, but last week was the first time he was asked about thousands of documents obtained by investigators since then. Sources at Yisrael Beiteinu said this weekend the party would not leave the government even if Lieberman is forced to withdraw from the governing coalition during the investigation.

New Egyptian Generation Sees Little Benefit from Peace with Israel by Slackman for NYTimes

Iran Willing to Export Natural Gas to Syria, Oil Minister Says
2009-04-02, By Will Kennedy

April 2 (Bloomberg) — Iran is willing to export natural gas to Syria through a pipeline running through Turkey, Iranian Oil Minister Gholamhossein Nozari said today, the state run Islamic Republic News Agency reported.

Assyrian Nationalists Cooperate with Kurdish PKK Insurgents Terrorism Monitor Volume: 7 Issue: 8, April 3, 2009. By Wladimir van Wilgenburg

New Wave of Violence Targets Christians in Iraq
The Middle East Times

A recent string of killings in Iraq is raising fear among Iraqi Christians after four Assyrian Christians were killed in areas ranging from Kirkuk in Northern Iraq to the capital, Baghdad.

Col. Pat Lang argues that Feltman is too preoccupied with an “Iranian-Syrian Conspiracy” to be even handed in the region and carry out Obama’s objectives.

RJC curious about Carter meeting
By Eric Fingerhut
March 31, 2009

The Republican Jewish Coalition wants the White House to “disclose the role of former President Jimmy Carter” in advising the administration on “critical foreign policy issues.” That’s after Seymour Hersh, in an article in this week’s New Yorker magazine, reports that Carter and President Obama discussed the Middle East for an hour during a meeting the two men had shortly before the inauguration.

The article says Carter refused to get into any details of his meeting, but did write in an e-mail that he hoped the new President “would pursue a wide-ranging dialogue as soon as possible with the Assad government.” An understanding between Washington and Damascus, he said, “could set the stage for successful Israeli-Syrian talks.”

“Carter believes that pressuring Israel will result in peace between Israel and those still openly dedicated to her destruction,” said RJC executive director Matt Brooks. “If this is the kind of advice that President Obama is turning to, that is indeed of great concern to us, to the Jewish community, and to the vast majority of Americans who support our ally Israel.”

Ignatius in the Washington Post

….The Obama administration has proceeded more cautiously with Syria. The issues were explored early this year by an Arab intermediary trusted by both sides. Through this channel, the Americans signaled their desire to talk about Syria’s role in Iraq, joint Syrian-American action against jihadists, and the future of Lebanon, including the role of Hezbollah. The emissary signaled that the United States couldn’t discuss return of the Golan Heights, which is a matter for Israel, or the international tribunal to investigate the murder of former Lebanese prime minister Rafiq al-Hariri, which is under U.N. jurisdiction……

Is Syria getting ready to come in from the cold?

President Assad is caught between America’s peaceful overtures and the bellicose language of Israel’s new leader. Donald Macintyre reports from Damascus …..

… Israel would no doubt like to see the displacement of Hamas and Islamic Jihad offices in Damascus as a precursor of any thaw. But some Western diplomats believe a more realistic olive branch might be a firm commitment to seal fully its border with Iraq to insurgents as American forces prepare to leave. “It’s a way of helping America and it’s a card that only has a limited shelf life”, said one. “They might as well play it now.” Some statements from Syrian officials have suggested it is only the US that needs to change its attitude to Syria, not vice versa.

On the other hand, John Kerry, the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, is among those arguing that he is “willing to do the things that he needs to do” to change the relationship with the US.

Either way, average Syrians seem pleased at Bush’s replacement. “I am very happy about Obama,” said taxi driver Salah Qadri, 56. “I hope with a new [US] President things will change.” And no, on balance this was not only a matter of the US altering its attitude to Syria, “Maybe we need to change some small things on our side too.”

Netanyahu’s father discusses the peace process: excerpts from the exclusive Maariv interview (part I)

A: “I don’t see any signs that the Arabs want peace… we will face fierce attacks from the Arabs, and we must react firmly. If we don’t, they will go on and Jews will start leaving the country… we just handed them a strong blow in Gaza, and they still bargain with us over one hostage… if we gave them a blow that would really hurt them, they would have given us Gilad Shalit back.”

Q: Operation “cast Lead” was one of the worst blows we handed on a civilian population.

A: “That’s not enough. It’s possible that we should have hit harder.”….

UNRWA Breaks American Law by Holding Accounts with Commercial Bank of Syria, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon grilled on Capitol Hill.

اقتصاد السوق الاجتماعي وعقدة التطبيقات المجتزأة
طباعة أرسل لصديق
د. جمال الطحان : ( كلنا شركاء )

Comments (52)


Innocent Criminal said:

This is significant

Muslim Brotherhood has pulled out from the Syrian opposition coalition (National Salvation Front)

http://www.aljazeera.net/NR/exeres/E2CE00C6-5ECE-443D-ADD5-7DC3C40CBF2B.htm

April 5th, 2009, 9:39 am

 

majid said:

Dogs are in control of streets in the the Syrian capital and other Syrian cities.

كلب عقر 52 شخصًا على مسافة 11 كم
الكلاب الشاردة تفرض “منعًا للتجول” في العاصمة السورية

ظاهرة باتت تثير الذعر في بعض أحياء دمشق

دمشق- دب أ

ذكر تقريرٌ إخباري 5-4-2009 أن نوعًا من منع التجول يتم فرضه في بعض أحياء العاصمة السورية من قِبل كلاب شاردة تثير الذعر بين المواطنين.

وقال موقع إخباري سوري إن حملة عدم التجول التي تفرضها الكلاب الشاردة والمسعورة على الأحياء الجبلية في قاسيون تبدأ بعد العاشرة من مساء كل يوم، وقد امتدت هذه الحملة إلى بعض الأحياء التي يُفترض أن تُصنف (بالراقية) ومن المتوقع أن تصل إلى وسط العاصمة في ظل تغاضي البلديات عن هذه الظاهرة.

وأضاف التقرير أن الكلاب تثير في هذه الأحياء الرعب والهلع، إضافةً إلى حرمان الأهالي من النوم عند منتصف كل ليل، وبلغ الأمر ذروته عندما اجتاح كلبٌ مسعور أحياء دمشق، مخلفًا وراءه ا52 إصابة بعد أن قطع مسافة 11 كيلو مترًا ضمن المدينة مرورًا بمركزها، قبل أن تتمكن الشرطة من قتله بعد أكثر من ساعتين.

كما تشارك أحياء قاسيون بهذه الظاهرة كل من شبعا وببيلا وصحنايا وقدسيا والعديد من الضواحي المحيطة بدمشق، فيما انتشرت مسبقًا ولا تزال بشكلٍ كبير في مختلف المحافظات والمناطق حيث بلغ عدد المصابين بعضَّات الكلاب الشاردة في محافظة حلب وحدها خلال الأشهر الثلاثة الأولى من العام الماضي 549 شخصًا، بينما خلال عام 2007 بلغ عدد المصابين 2030 شخصًا، وبلغت كلفة علاج هؤلاء المصابين في العام الماضي 45 مليون ليرة.

كما سجل في محافظة طرطوس حادثة تعرض فيها ثلاث نساء في قرية الشيخ بدر للعض من كلاب مسعورة، كما سجل في محافظة إدلب هجوم كلب مسعور على قريةٍ عضّ فيها سبعة أطفال، كما ازدادت تفشي هذه الظاهرة في قرى الجولان وسجلت العديد من الحالات، لتقف دمشق مع مثيلاتها من المدن بانتظار تصدق المحافظة عليها وتخليص سكانها من العض.

April 5th, 2009, 2:41 pm

 

norman said:

US congressmen see joint regional interests with Syria

A visiting US congressional team met Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad on Sunday and voiced optimism that the two countries could work together to advance their common interests in the region.

“We had a candid and constructive meeting,” the delegation made up of Stephen Lynch, a Democrat, and Republican Bob Inglis said in a statement issued by the American embassy after the talks.

They said the talks covered Lebanon, the security situation on the Syrian-Iraqi border, the Middle East peace process and humanitarian relief efforts in Gaza.

“We are optimistic that, although we have substantial differences, we nonetheless have shared interests in the region,” they said.

“With genuine effort on all sides, we are hopeful that we can work constructively towards our mutual goals.”

Syria’s state news agency SANA said Assad and the congressmen discussed ways “to advance Syrian-US relations through a serious and constructive dialogue … to achieve just and peaceful solutions to the region’s problems.”

The delegation arrived in the Syrian capital on Saturday, the embassy said.

Damascus-Washington ties, long strained over Syria’s alliance with Iran and support for anti-Israel groups such as Lebanon’s Hezbollah and the Palestinian Islamist movement Hamas, have improved under US President Barack Obama.

Relations sank to their lowest ebb under former president George W. Bush’s administration.

It accused Syria of being a gateway for “foreign terrorists” into Iraq to fight alongside Al-Qaeda, of meddling in Lebanon, and also imposed sanctions on Damascus in 2004.

But several high-profile US envoys have visited Damascus this year as the Obama administration pursues a policy of engaging with all countries in the region, even long-time foes.

Last month, Assad said he was ready to act as a mediator with Iran over its controversial nuclear drive, provided Western countries came up with a clear plan to submit to Tehran.

The Syrian president also praised Obama as a man of his word for having honoured promises over a pullout from Iraq and ordering the shutdown of the detention centre at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba.

©2009 AFP
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April 5th, 2009, 3:19 pm

 

majedkhaldoun said:

To ally with Turkey,is a good move.I doubt that there will be a split from Iran.
I found it hard for Netanyaho to return the Golan heights to Syria,he has been against it all the time,I think he will waist time.
This blog has been invaded with A.P., Christ,Majid,and the rest of zionists.

April 5th, 2009, 6:16 pm

 

Akbar Palace said:

This blog has been invaded with A.P., Christ,Majid,and the rest of zionists.

Majedkhaldoun,

You’re upset at 3 posters: Chris, Majid and myself?

What about these anti-Zionist posters:

– Yourself
– Professor Josh
– Alex
– Observer
– Of the Wall
– Nour
– Ehsani2
– Shai
– Yossi
– Norman
– Why-Discuss
– JAD
– Qunfuz
– Offended
– Alia
– Innocent Criminal
– Simohurtta
– Nafdik
– Truthquest

So much for an “invasion”…

April 5th, 2009, 6:58 pm

 

Shai said:

Yossi,

AP calls us “anti-Zionists”… 🙂 (And he forgot to add Zenobia, Enlightened, Joe M., Ford Prefect, QN, Honest Patriot, and many others…)

In the words of one Chris: “What nerve! What gall! What chutzpah!”

April 5th, 2009, 7:09 pm

 

Chris said:

Majedkhaldoun,

you wrote:
“This blog has been invaded with A.P., Christ,Majid,and the rest of zionists”

While not accepting your premise that those named are zionists, I must hope that you don’t want this blog to be an echo chamber where you will only encounter people who reinforce your own views. One of the great things about the blogosphere is the diversity of opinion. For example, on Syria Comment I can interact with people who believe that Syria ought to include Iraq, Cyprus, Jordan, Israel, and Lebanon (Hatay?). The only place I know of where I can meet people who think that Syria should include all of those places is Syria. Instead of going all the way to the Syria, I can sit in my apartment and interact with people who have views that are very different than my own. I wouldn’t want this blog to be filled with only people like me who support a two-state settlement and believe that negotiating is better than blowing up buses. I want to interact with people who have other views. It would be a bit boring if it were just me and others who shared my values. I imagine that the same goes for you. It would be a bit boring if everyone on Syria Comment wanted the Gaza War to be expanded or if everyone here wanted Syria to send more jihadists to Iraq (as you’ve stated previously).

April 5th, 2009, 8:35 pm

 

majid said:

AP, in your comment #5 you have shown that what Majed called an invasion cannot be called as such. But you’ve failed to prove that it may not be a prelude to a full scale real invasion. He is entitled to sound a warning. Don’t you think?

April 5th, 2009, 9:38 pm

 

Off the Wall said:

Ap, Chris, and Delightful Majid

It may not be an invasion, but it sure feels like carpet bombing with cluster bombs. You folks are expert at that.

Chris

You try to sound rational and logical. And yet, bias oozes out from your choice of words and phrases. Simpy looked on, why not argue to your Israeli friends that negotiation is better than blowing up 1200 innocent poeple including 300 kids and better than opressing 4 million poeple and better than disecting a nation into small disconnected enclaves and calling that aberration a state. You are biased, and your orientalist attitude is very abvious. It is is this single sided approach that endears you to many of us on this site.

That said, I am happy that we, here on SC, are sparing our syrian brothers and sisters the honors of your visits by keeping you busy with us in your appartment. Good luck observing the natives on line.

April 5th, 2009, 10:37 pm

 

majedkhaldoun said:

A.P.
out of the nine previous comments, six are written by zionist, also several names you mentioned have not made any comment today,this is what I meant by invasion.

Christ
I would deny that I am zionist,if I was a zionist, it is a shame.

April 5th, 2009, 11:47 pm

 

Akbar Palace said:

AP, in your comment #5 you have shown that what Majed called an invasion cannot be called as such. But you’ve failed to prove that it may not be a prelude to a full scale real invasion. He is entitled to sound a warning. Don’t you think?

Majid,

In the Utopia of 72 virgins, there are no Zionists. In the real world, we’re all stuck in the same boat, and, I would hope, we all learn to live together.

Expecting everyone to agree is comfortable, but not reality outside of Syrian, Chinese, and Iranian airspace.

It may not be an invasion, but it sure feels like carpet bombing with cluster bombs. You folks are expert at that.

Off the Wall,

That’s the feeling of hearing something we don’t naturally want to hear. And to that, I say, “Join the Club”.

out of the nine previous comments, six are written by zionist, also several names you mentioned have not made any comment today,this is what I meant by invasion

Majedkhaldoun,

I would suggest you get Professor Josh to write more posts. He has a doctorate and is very smart. He could help the anti-Zionist cause immensely.

Chris, Majid, et al,

Just to be clear, I labeled those who accept the notion of Israel and a Jewish State “Zionist”, and those who don’t, anti-Zionist. Just my attempt at simplifying things.

April 6th, 2009, 12:04 am

 

majid said:

AP said, “Chris, Majid, et al,

Just to be clear, I labeled those who accept the notion of Israel and a Jewish State “Zionist”, and those who don’t, anti-Zionist. Just my attempt at simplifying things.”

It wasn’t you AP who labelled us “Zionists”. It was Majed. You labelled the others anti-Zionists.

So I went back to the nine comments prior to MajedKhaldoun’s comment # 10 and the most I could count was 4 “Zionist” comments (he said in his comment #10 there are six Zionist comments prior to his comment). Who are the two other “Zionists”? Could MAJED have considered SHAI a Zionist? That makes 5 “Zionist” comments. So who’s the sixth “Zionist” in this case? We’re only left with IC, Norman and OTW!!! Kindly MAJED could you solve this puzzle for us? Thanks in advance.

April 6th, 2009, 1:09 am

 

Off the Wall said:

AP

can you please point me to a clear statement in which Professor Landis expressed an Anti Zionist sentiment. Not expressing a pro zionist sentiment is not synonymous with being an anti zionist. This is simply the rubbish we are used to from Bush and co (with us or against us). I have no way of knowing whether Joshua is pro or anti zionist. All I know is that he tries to provide analyses from a geopolitical point of view based on knowledge that far exceeds mine about my own country of origin. For that I respect him. When has he ever gotton into our discussion except to provide an historical footnote or to clear a point. This is irresponsible at best. I understand that you are trying to simplify things, but I believe that lumping him with the rest of us was a a gross over simplification.

Ploease recall that it is the good professor who is providing you and me with this open venue and wonderful opportunty to be our true “semite” selves by going into tortuous and endless arguments. He is our host, so please let us give hime the curtesy he deserves and not drag him, undeservingly into our arguments, especially name calling.

April 6th, 2009, 2:39 am

 

Off the Wall said:

Norman,
You will like this, it is from the link provided by the good professor above (The economy of the social market). From the interview with Dr. Saad Al-Kadi

**هناك ستة نقاط أساسية فيما يخص التنمية الإدارية يجب معالجتها بجرأة وشفافية:
1-عدم التدخل في تعيين مدراء القطاع العام، ومدراء البنوك إنما تسند مهمة إدارتهم لشركات إدارية خاصة مستقلة عن الحكومة دون شرط بيع هذه الهيئات العامة، شريطة أن تعطى الصلاحيات والالتزامات المادية، وهذا يمكن أن يتم بالاتفاق مع الشركة المستأجرة لإدارة القطاع العام لضمان بقاء العمال، والموظفين، والحرص على رفع كفاءاتهم، وتأمين احتياجاتهم لإنجاح هذه الشركات الضخمة.إن هذا الأمر كما ينطبق على مؤسسات القطاع العام، ينطبق على المصارف الحكومية والتي يمكن أن تبقى ملكاً للقطاع العام ولكنها تدار بإدارة قطاع خاص تتمتع بالخبرة الدولية، والكفاءة، وتقوم هيئة من المتخصصين في الوزارة بدراسة أفضل عرض يُقدم لإدارة المصارف.
2- التخلي عن عقلية الوصاية الحكومية وضمان حرية انتخابات الاتحادا ت والنقابات من مثل نقابة العمال والفلاحين والأطباء والمحامين والفنانين والكتاب…
3- يجري انتخاب المحافظين انتخاباً حقيقاً دون تعيين حكومي لأنه سيعكس رغبات المجتمع الحقيقية والذي سيكون مسؤولاً تجاه ناخبيه أبناء بلده، وأهله ويجري حينها تنافس طيب بين المحافظين بما سيحققه كل محافظ تجاه محافظته، والذي ألزم نفسه به في بيانه الانتخابي، وهذا لايتم دون وجود صحافة حرة تراقب أي تجاوزات من المحافظين.
4- يجرى انتخاب رؤساء البلديات وأعضائها انتخاباً حقيقياً، وليس تعييناً من قبل الإدارة ،إن سورية تعاني من خلل حقيقي ضمن المحافظات على صعيد البلديات والخدمات الأساسية بحيث لايمكن استثناء أي محافظة على الإطلاق من العناية.
5- السماح للصحافة الحرة في المحافظات من التواجد دون تضييق على الصحفيين وذلك حماية للمجتمع من إساءة المحافظين ورؤساء البلديات ومدراء القطاع العام والمصارف من أي استغلال لمناصبهم لأجل مصالحهم الشخصية، وبنفس الوقت تقوم بحمايتهم من أي عملية ابتزاز أو تهديد من قبل المتنفذين في الإدارة الحكومية والمسؤولين أياً كان منصب المسيء.
6- تفعيل هيئة مكافحة البطالة –أو إعادة إحيائها بعدما أُقفلت- والإصرار على استقلاليتها عن أية وزارة، بحيث تسند إدارتها إلى أشخاص أصحاب كفاءة وجرأة وتعطى لهم الصلاحية في الإقراض للمشروعات الخاصة السورية للنهوض بالقاعدة الشعبية التي تريد أن تتحول إلى أصحاب مشروعات تتراوح بين 100ألف وحتى 3 مليون ليرة سورية، والتي هي بهذه القروض البسيطة ترفع من مستويات الشعب المعيشي وتخلق فرص عمل سريعة كعلاج سريع للبطالة من جهة، وبنفس الوقت فإن رفع مستوى دخل الأفراد سيساعد على تنمية بقية المنتجات السورية التي تبحث عن مستهلكين محليين كي تستمر في التوظيف ورفع كفاءة عمالها والتوسع في أعمالها لتساهم في التنمية الاقتصادية السورية.
*كان لديكم توصية لهيئة تخطيط الدولة فيما يخص الخطط الخمسية القادمة، أسميتموه “سيناريو الحكومة الرشيدة، فهل لكم إيضاح تلك التوصية؟
**لقد أوصيت أن تأخذ هيئة تخطيط الدول في اعتبارها ضمن إعداد الخطط الخمسية المقبلة مؤشرات الحكم الرشيد المعتمدة من قبل البرنامج الإنمائي للأمم المتحدة، فمثلاً تكون من أساسيات الخطة الخمسية تحسين مؤشرات الصوت وتحمل المسؤولية. أعتقد أن معرفتي بالدكتور تيسير رئيس هيئة تخطيط الدولة الحالي يوم كان أستاذاً للتنمية في جامعة حلب تسمح لي أن أكون متفائلاً في تبني هذه المؤشرات ضمن الخطة الخمسية القادمة.
*ما هي نصيحتكم للفريق الاقتصادي الحكومي؟
**نصيحتي لأخوتي في الفريق الاقتصادي إذا أرادوا لجهودهم أن تتكلل بالنجاح، إقناع القيادة السياسية بالسعي لتبني الحزمة الخماسية لاقتصاد السوق الاجتماعي من خلال احترام قيم الحريات العامة وعدم استبعاد الفكرة الديمقراطية والحريات العامة من الأبجديات الاقتصادية والسياسات التخطيطية لأن السياسة الإصلاحية الناجحة يجب أن تكون منسجمة مع ذاتها سياسياً واقتصادياً، تأسياً بالفكر الألماني الذي ابتدع فكرة “اقتصاد السوق الاجتماعي”، والجدير بالذكر أن المفكرين الليبراليين الجدد لم يعطلوا سياستهم ويؤخروا دخول الحريات والفكر الديمقراطي بحجة الخصوصية الألمانية ويومها ألمانيا خارجة من حرب طاحنة فقدت ملايين الألمان ومنهكة اقتصادياً حيث بلغ تضخم العملة الألمانية لأكثر من 10ألف بالمائة لدرجة لم يسبق لها مثيل في تاريخ الأرض، بل والأنكى من هذا وجود قواعد أمريكية عسكرية فيها، ورغم كل ذلك تبنى إيرهارد وزملاؤه الليبرالية بشقيها السياسي والاقتصادي.
إن روح “اقتصاد السوق الاجتماعي” الليبرالية المشبع بالحريات العامة بما فيها حرية نظام السوق وآلياته والتي تمثل الأصل في النهوض الاقتصادي تمثل تعارضاً جذرياً يجب إصلاحه مع مواد الدستور ولاسيما المادة 13 التي تقول أن اقتصاد سورية اقتصاد اشتراكي، والحقيقة إن ضيق أفق الحريات العامة يجعل من التبني الحقيقي لاقتصاد السوق الاجتماعي في سورية كسياسة عامة مستعصياً على التطبيق.

I recall that you and I have argued few times that mayors and city managers must be elected. I am very happy to see Dr. Kadi arguing for the same. I hope that he findes a few linstening ears. I like what he says.

Thank you Josh for posting this.

By the way, how do you right justify text in this window?

April 6th, 2009, 3:19 am

 

Shai said:

Majedkhaldoun,

Just as I don’t choose who to make peace with on your side (well, to be fair, some on my side do think we can choose), I don’t believe you can choose to make peace only with anti-Zionists. If you want to make peace with Israel in the next 50 years, you’ll need to do so with Zionists.

But do be aware that Zionism has many colors to it. Not all Zionists are AIPAC-supporters, or wish to kick Arabs off their land, or to occupy, subjugate, and suffocate another 4 million Palestinians. Some Zionists believe in the State of Israel, believe there’s a need for a safe haven for Jews around the world, and yet also recognize the rights of all Arabs who live on this land, those that have been kicked out, and are perfectly ready to see a future with non-Jewish majority in Israel (even if not immediately). People who cannot envision this, tend to refer to such Israelis or Jews as anti-Zionists.

But just as our enemy cannot choose us, we cannot choose our enemy. And as you know, peace is made between enemies, who are tired of fighting and want to move on.

April 6th, 2009, 5:19 am

 

Off the Wall said:

Shai
I have read the very thoughtful exchange between you and Yossi about claims and about who are “we” from both Jewish and Israeli points of view. It is very interesting and important for us to know about and to understand this profound dialogue. I am one who would argue that what goes in your society is important and that even philosophical and social arguments you have will impact the intellectual definition of the wider “we”.

Your state has a hard road ahead. This road, which took us more than 150 years to travel in the US, is still being traveled in South Africa, in the US, and will likely be traveled by many other countries for as long as the nation states exist and as long as people choose to leave their place of birth and settle somewhere else and call it home.

The most crucial luggage you must carry is hope. Your Arab citizens and those under your control must have hope that things will be better and that equality will become the norm, not in the distant future so that individuals have no hope for themselves, but in the real immediate future. I believe that your Arab compatriots may eventually take pride in Israel as a safe haven for Jewish people, as long as that does not result in their own dispossession. As a Syrian, my country of origin has been a safe haven for Armenians, Palestinians, Lebanese, and more recently Iraqis, and I do take pride in that. As American, my adopted country has been a safe haven for all, and I again take pride in that despite of the less than honorable start. As I said before, by choosing to emigrate to US, I assumed to myself all the guilt leading to the creation of my country, and by that, I am indicating my willingness to help remedy the impact of the “original” sin.

It is unfortunate that we the citizens of various countries must rely on our so called leaders to represent us. But the world being what it is, we must rely on them to make the necessary legal agreements and to establish procedures and baselines for non aggression. However, once they do that, it gets out of their hands and it becomes our own to do whatever we please with it. Just look at your peace agreement with Egypt, or with Jordan. It granted your country some reprieve on two crucial fronts. But at the popular level, it did nothing to make you feel that the others recognize that you belong. Peace with Syria will be the same unless the Palestinian issue is addressed and I am afraid that without a true recognition of the need for a viable, truly sovereign Palestinian state, or the complete abandonment of the two states solution and adoption of one country for all, a Syrian Israeli peace accord will be no different than that you have with Egypt, or Jordan.

Some in Israel may want that. The argument would be that Israel, left alone, can do wonderful things and will eventually be integrated into the European community which given modern communication and transportation is just next door. But at the end, yours is a middle eastern country, and your choice would have to be as to whether you will be a front for Europe, and a guardian of western interests in the region against the interest of its people, or yours would be a country of the region. I can not tell you what to chose, but I know that if you chose to separate yourself from your region, history tells us that your experiment will end very much like its previous colonialist counterparts in our region. You will leave. I know that you are keenly aware of that, otherwise, who in their right mind would nowadays call for a greater middle east. You and I share that dream, among many other things.

So far, and on every major international issue, Israel has acted in the interests of the west and has stood with the north against the south, with the rich against the poor, and the west against the east, and with the powerful against the powerless. Even here in the US, Israel has been the source of technologies and training that has contributed to converting our own Jails into places of continuous dehumanization of a sizeable number of our citizens, played a major role in converting our generally law abiding detention into a game of breaking the will of people and borderline torture if not outright torture, and contributed to our own adoption of unnecessary fear mongering tactics in airports and in developing many a war for profit outfits such as black water and other suspicious, borderline criminal outfits. Many of which were either established by former senior members of your armed forces or by former members of your intelligence apparatus. Do you not see that Israel has become a key player in a global security industry that thrives on oppression, humiliation, and fear.

I am saying this not to demonize your country or to criticize it, I am saying this to highlight that to belong, you must really belong. You must abandon your role as enforcer of the agendas of others, and you must come home. This, of course, does not mean that you should abandon your democracy and follow the bad examples of your neighbors. To the contrary, you and Turkey can present the better example. It just means that you join your neighbors, and act in the interest of your region. It does not mean sacrificing your national interest, but it means recognizing that your national interests are not that different from those of your next door neighbors.

Of all Israelis I had the pleasure to know in person, to work with, and to establish more than a passing acquaintance with, you and Yossi, along with a dear Arab Israeli friend are perhaps the ones who made the greatest impacts on the way I think about our region. I wish not only that many Israelis are like you, but also that many Syrians are as well.

That said, I must recognize that, although diametrically opposing, I am not much different from Akbar Palace. I have emotional and heritage attachment to the region, but I no longer live in the region or call it home. When I say our, I am thinking more of my family who still lives in Syria, Egypt, KSA, and or the UAE. Like AP, I can pontificate, but you my dear friend, have to live with your choices and with the choices of your societies. I believe it is hard, and I wish all of you the best. When I talk to you, I have the odd feeling that I am preaching to the choir, please forgive me, for through you, I try to reach others in your country.

April 6th, 2009, 7:44 am

 

Akbar Palace said:

can you please point me to a clear statement in which Professor Landis expressed an Anti Zionist sentiment.

OTW,

cc: Professor Josh

To my recollection, there aren’t a whole lot of “statements” the good Professor has made regarding to whether of not he is a pro-, anti- or “neutral” Zionist. That is why I CHANGED the definition to my own as someone who can “accept the notion of Israel and a Jewish State”.

Since Professor Josh posts the majority of the articles and threads, and since the overwhelming majority of them are pro-Syrian and anti-Israel, I concluded Professor Josh is an “anti-Zionist”. Of course Professor Josh can disagree with me if he wants to. We call it dialogue…

Not expressing a pro zionist sentiment is not synonymous with being an anti zionist.

Agreed.

This is simply the rubbish we are used to from Bush and co (with us or against us).

In this instance, Bush was talking about the war against terrorism, and I still agree that nations and countries have to show their hand in this regard, and this is why Syria is still on the State Dept’s “shit list”.

I have no way of knowing whether Joshua is pro or anti zionist.

OK. I have.

All I know is that he tries to provide analyses from a geopolitical point of view based on knowledge that far exceeds mine about my own country of origin.

Please change “geopolitical POV” to “Baathist POV” for greater accuracy. Thanks.

For that I respect him.

I’m more stiff-necked than you are;)

When has he ever gotton into our discussion except to provide an historical footnote or to clear a point.

When has he ever objectively pointed out something positive about AIPAC or the Israeli government? You’d think Shai was whispering in his ear!

This is irresponsible at best. I understand that you are trying to simplify things, but I believe that lumping him with the rest of us was a a gross over simplification.

OK.

Ploease recall that it is the good professor who is providing you and me with this open venue and wonderful opportunty to be our true “semite” selves by going into tortuous and endless arguments.

Yes, and I appreciate that. Freedom of speech is a good thing, wherever you can find it.

He is our host, so please let us give hime the curtesy he deserves and not drag him, undeservingly into our arguments, especially name calling.

Well, maybe I need to cut down on the sarcasm. Let me ponder this. You know if I give up on sarcasm, I have more difficulty communicating.

BTW OTW,

What does this mean?

I am saying this not to demonize your country or to criticize it, I am saying this to highlight that to belong, you must really belong.

Thanks.

April 6th, 2009, 12:05 pm

 

Yossi (AKA Rumyal) said:

OTW,

First I want to say that if it were down to people like you and Shai and others in this blog then there would be no wars in the world. We are very well aware of the militarization of Israel and how it has become a major export industry for Israel and a career path for ex-generals. This is indeed one of the reasons we don’t get to a solution to the conflict—the “defense” system is now extremely powerful and it has more clout than any politician to determine what reality looks like on the ground. Israel channel 8 had a remarkable documentary on the outbreak of the 2nd intifada and how it was something like a prophecy of the military system that has made itself true by preparations to avert it. (Unfortunately I couldn’t find it with English subtitles.) The creation of the Gaza open air prison and other fenced enclaves is similar—as a reaction to terror, that then breads more terror, and brings harsher reactions etc.

However (and this is a serious criticism I’m going to level here at “your side”) what allowed Israel to escalate in the ladder of militarism was always the way the Arabs (both the Palestinians and Arab countries) have reacted to Israel—predictably, with knee jerk violence. (The “Geronimo Effect” as Prof. Landis labeled it here a few months ago.) For example the biggest problem of all in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is the question of refugees’ return to Israel. The refugee problem was the result of the 47-49 war (first the civil war and then the war with Arab countries, including Syria). The civil war was the initiative and “project” of the Arabs, we didn’t start it and largely throughout the Jews were on the defense. The Arabs declared that they were going to solve the problem using war for a long time before 47, but markedly after the partition plan of the UN was accepted by the Jews and a 2/3 majority of the assembly, but rejected by the Arab countries. In reading about the plan, I can definitely see why the Arabs rejected it, but once the plan was rejected, why was war deemed the only solution to the problem? Why not continue negotiating and avert a war?

The result of the war has been the consolidation of the Israeli militias into the IDF and the armament of the IDF by modern weapons from Czechoslovakia. In other words, this civil war made us step another notch in the ladder of militarization (after previous ones in 21 and 36 fueled the creation of Hagana and its expansion etc.). 48 got the ball rolling and established a pattern that justifies and fuels our militaristic outlook.

Our army can always point to incidents of Arab violence, and Arab history of violence, and say “see, they are hell bent on our destruction, the path we are on is the only one possible”. The path of “resistance” continuously works to shape the perception of the other as an enemy with whom peace is impossible. As long as the Arab struggle for justice continues to have strong violent shades we will not dismantle the walls and let go of our weapons. Doing so requires a leap of faith the Israelis, especially given their background in Europe, are not willing to make.

April 6th, 2009, 1:43 pm

 

Akbar Palace said:

As long as the Arab struggle for justice continues to have strong violent shades we will not dismantle the walls and let go of our weapons.

Yossi,

Spoken like a true Israeli “warmonger”;)

April 6th, 2009, 2:24 pm

 

Shai said:

Dear OTW,

One of the things I respect you so much for, is the amount of thought you put into our discussions, and the way you present it thereafter in words. I wish some participants on SC, who often react with knee-jerk commentary and criticism, would spend just a fraction of the time you do, in thinking about the issues, and considering other sides as well.

Your “preaching to the choir” is very important, not only to me, but indeed to all those who are reading and analyzing our dialogue. I wish I could have every single Israeli leader (and the general public) read your words. They need to see and hear what our “real” enemy is like, not only the demon-version one. We would have peace the next day.

Regarding what Yossi said in his last comment, it supports something I’ve suggested in the past which, understandably, is often rejected by “your side”. And that is, that the Arabs actually hold in their hands far greater power than they are aware of. In so many ways, you hold in your hands the power that can make or break our fears. It is no accident that Sadat was able, with a mere 30 minute flight to Ben-Gurion airport, to bring tears to the eyes of millions of Israelis. The fear Egypt instilled amongst Israelis (justifiably or not) over a period of 30 years, was suddenly, in an instant, gone. Gone, and replaced with hope. Exactly the hope you correctly suggested we so desperately need in the region.

There is obviously a great contradiction here, in claiming that the far-weaker side (militarily certainly) and the outright oppressed side are more powerful than Israel, and should initiate moves to “allay” Israeli fears. There is certainly injustice in such a notion, especially in regards to the Palestinian people who have suffered far more under Israeli rule, than otherwise. And yet, Yossi is correct. Much of the fears of Israelis over the past 60 years, rational or not, perceived or very real, are directly related to action or inaction taken by “your side”. Of course everything is related. I am not pretending that the Arabs had no sound reason to resist the Jews since 1947. But the interpretation of that resistance, has always been the same – a clear goal of annihilation of the Jews in Israel. People believe it today no less than they did in 1947. Probably even more. Indeed almost everything seems to belong to the realm of self-fulfilling prophecies.

So how do we change this reality? Who initiates what? Can any justice be served? Who are the influential players? All those questions need to be answered in the coming months, and I hope they will be. I truly hope the Obama administration will play a key role in the region, and a positive one for a change. From everything we see and hear of what is going on vis-a-vis Syria and the U.S., I think we have room for optimism. In our region, most are very afraid of being optimistic, as they are more often than not, disappointed. But I’m always willing to pay that price. I will continue to believe, to hope, and indeed to work towards our common goals.

Thank you, as always, for your very very kind words OTW!

April 6th, 2009, 3:41 pm

 

Off thye Wall said:

AP
Why does it always have to be aout you, or about Israel. This site is about Syria its economy, its art, its poeple, its history, and of course its relationship with Israel. You have to realize that the fact that you are trying to make it all about you is what really pisses off poeple.

I was not informed of the point when singing praise for AIPAC was added to the litmus test of objectitivty. As any egytian would tell you, whatever you are smoking seems to be too strong for you.

Sacrasm is good and healthy and is one of many ways to communicate punch lines. If all you want is to communicate punch lines, then keep it up with the sarcasm. If you consider Israel as nothing but a punch line of the sum of punchlines in the totality of our history, that is your own prerogative.

Ehsani is one of our most prominent and respectable posters. Had the professor been advocating baathist agenda, Our dear Ehsani would have no voice on this site. His posts are anything but batthist. But if you expect us to sit here and turn the discussion of problems ailing Syria into hurling insults at the syrian government opposition style, you are in the wrong place. This is a place for rational, technocratic arguments, and I make no appology for that. We are highly educated bunch, and we tend to avoid hyperboly.

The article I posted earlier, which I would have no way of knowing it even existed if the good professor had not linked to, is full of arguments against the Baathist economic approach, which to most syrians is more important than AIPAC and its positive aspects. The professor has linked and posted many an article from newspapers not known for their love of the Syrian regime. So your argument that he is a baathist is wrong, first becayse you have no clue what a baathist is, and second because it does not apply to the professor. It is again hurling a word that has become an insult at someone simply becasue they do not fit your own perception of how the should behave.

Yossi
Thank you for responding as ususal thoughfully and reasonably. I know for sure that many in the Arab world admire Israel’s ability to militarize and ask for the arab countries to adopt a similar program. I do not. What I like to take from Israel is the excellent social programs it has, its support of science and art. Its ability to create and support interprize, and it tollerance, at least at the official level, of opposing voices. Most importantly, its freedom of press. But the last thing i want is for Israel security aparatus to permeate the Arab world, that is the last thing we need.

As for te argument about the origin of Israel militarizm. It is natural for any country to have an army. And it does not have to be a foe. The calls for a strong military in israel is inherent in the idea of being a safe haven capable of protecting all of the Jewish poeple as much as it is grounded in the behavior of Israel’s neighbors. Although the Arab response may have contributed to Israel becoming a hyper military state that also is due to the fact that once Israel military industrial complex became joined at the hip with our own here in the US, it took on overdrive and cuased the country’s economy and livelihood (or perhaps, those of the elites) to depend on the continuous state of war.

However, I am more worried about the security complex than about the military complex. That must waite for another time.

April 6th, 2009, 4:27 pm

 

Yossi (AKA Rumyal) said:

Yossi said: As long as the Arab struggle for justice continues to have strong violent shades we will not dismantle the walls and let go of our weapons.
AP replied: Spoken like a true Israeli “warmonger”;)

AP,

This is of course not my choice, I’m just stating what I see among Israelis here. My personal choice would have been to be much more trusting and to stay the course, even in the face of sporadic violence by extremists.

April 6th, 2009, 4:29 pm

 

majid said:

SHAI said, ” But the interpretation of that resistance, has always been the same – a clear goal of annihilation of the Jews in Israel. People believe it today no less than they did in 1947. Probably even more. Indeed almost everything seems to belong to the realm of self-fulfilling prophecies.

So how do we change this reality? Who initiates what? Can any justice be served? Who are the influential players?”

You don’t seem to understand the strength of the Muslim beliefs Mr. Shai. Now, why am I singling Muslims in my comment? Like it or not, Israel is a drop in the sea of Muslims surrounding it. Now forget about so-called minorities living in the area because in the final analysis, they have very little weight. The overwhelming majority has the inertia and the mass to make its beliefs predominant when it comes to setting policies.

Muslims do believe that the Jews will gather back in Palestine as they did in 1948. It is inscribed in their holy book, believe it or not. I can get you the passages in the Book if you care. So why do they refuse to recognize Israel? The answer is very simple. Because, it is also inscribed in their holy books that the Jews will be annihilated at the hands of the Muslims on this same land of Palestine. Specifically, they’ve been told that the final battle will take place near the Jordan River, where the Muslims will be positioned on the eastern bank while the Jews will be on the Western bank. The dajjal (or what the Jews will call Messiah) will appear among the Jews and will be slain signaling the beginning of the end of the Jews. It has been prophesied that the Jews will never find shelter anywhere after that – even a stone will be given the power to speak and call upon Muslims: “O’ Muslim, true servant of Allah, a Jew is hiding behind me. Come and slay him.”
Now, can you change Holy Books, Shai? So to Muslims, it all makes sense. Jews are back to fulfill the Prophecy. If they recognize Israel, they are betraying their own beliefs. The only way out for them is to annihilate Israel fulfilling the promise.

April 6th, 2009, 4:50 pm

 

Yossi (AKA Rumyal) said:

OTW,

Here is a good write-up on the documentary I was mentioning “A Million Bullets in October”:

http://www.kibush.co.il/show_file.asp?num=23930

Red October

by Yossi Gorvitz
Nana 10
28.11.07

Yossi Gorvitz meets with the director of the film `A Million Bullets in October` which retells the beginning of the second intifada and the successful war waged by Barak and the IDF. That is, against us.

The story of the intifada, the new film of Moish Goldberg, `A Million Bullets in October`, does not bring any new material, the director admits, which had not already been published. It concentrates on a story which was already told, but which most of us prefer to ignore: the manner in which the IDF and the Prime Minster of that time, Ehud Barak, took Israel out to a war against the Palestinians which has not yet ended, the second intifada.

This is the third film of Goldberg, 31 years old, and the most political among them. He begins with the well known scene of the physical contact between Barak and Arafat at Camp David, and goes on from there directly to the most successful spin of Barak, the claim that `there is no partner` and the war which came after that. As Goldberg correctly notes, seven years after this act, Ehud Olmert still is struggling with this same claim of Barak, and needs to declare that there actually is `a partner`.

The film produces a claustrophobic feeling. It is all made up of `talking heads` and its rare action shots ? an angry crowd of Palestinians, IDF soldiers shooting ? are all taken from TV archives of the period which he is covering, at the end of the period of Barak`s office. Contrary to what is common in documentary film making in recent years, particularly the genre created by Michael Moore, Goldberg remains outside the frame and gives his interviewees the freedom to say what they want, almost without any questions; `I am not the story, they are the story`, he said to me. The result is an unusual documentary, very focussed, very dense, which does not let you rest.

Barak and the IDF want a fight

For 48 minutes, Goldberg brings out a series of personalities: from the personal assistants of Barak, to the journalists and the senior officers; from Shlomo Ben Ami on the Left, and to the former assistant head of the General Security Services and the present member of `Yisrael Beitenu`, Yisrael Hasson. All of them tell the same story. And they present a severe indictment. They all agree that Barak went to Camp David ready for it to be a failure. He behaved like someone who knew he was going to elections, and his goal was to blame Arafat for the failure. The IDF, for its part, was eager for a military conflict.

Mofaz, then the Chief of Staff, determined that the year 2000 would be critical. This decision was translated in reality to an attack upon the Palestinians even before any riots broke out. The IDF responded with unprecedented violence. During the first two weeks of the conflict, it shot one million bullets. The general staff made a frontal attack against Israeli public opinion and sold it a made-up story about how Arafat had planned this war from the beginning. The press was dragged after the army.

However, this claim, presented in the film of Goldberg, is not supported by any intelligence information. The GSS estimated ? and continues in this opinion up until today ? that the riots which led to the second intifada were spontaneous and unplanned. According to the intelligence material, the riots surprised Arafat himself. In addtion, before the riots Arafat and Barak actually met, and Arafat begged him not to allow Ariel Sharon to go up onto the Temple Mount. If he had planned a war after the visit of Sharon, why would he have eliminated such a ready trigger? Never mind. Bogie and others were interviewed on every hill and in front of every microphone and waged a psychological war against the Israeli public. The war would not have succeeded if the press had not joined hands with them. Many of them ? Raviv Drucker, Ben Caspit, Avi Isscharoff ? now apologize. `I believed it all at the time,` says Isscharoff, `We were conscripted at the start of the intifada, just as we were conscripted at the start of the second Lebanese war; `We were dragged after the army`, admits Ben Caspit.

At the same time, the army accomplished a quiet coup and began to work against the actions of the government. When Barak attempted to negotiate with Arafat, Mofaz appeared in the press and announced that this was endangering Israeli security. Shlomo Ben Ami still boils with rage when he remembers this moment: `If that is the way it is, why not topple the government of Israel?` The answer is simple: Why topple it, when it is possible to simply ignore it?

No response

So, is there a partner now? Goldberg`s indictment did not bring any response. Goldberg says that Mofaz, Barak and Yaalon refused to respond to the movie, in spite of repeated requests. It is reasonable to believe that the macho-man, the watch-maker and the well-known righteous one know why. One might claim, in a reflex action, that `A Million Bullets in October` isn`t important; that it describes a dim historical moment. Seven years ago, who remembers?

Nothing could be farther from the truth. Just as the second war in Lebanon has once again proven, the IDF is a very active player in the political and journalistic field. As Drucker points out in the film, in an argument between the correspondent from the territories and the military correspondent, who depends upon the army spokesman for his material, confidence is always given to the military correspondent, despite the fact that the army showers him with false information. The psychological war against us did not stop in October 2000; it never stopped. And, thanks to the IDF, the war against the Palestinians also never stopped ? and we will never know if it was possible to stop it.

April 6th, 2009, 4:52 pm

 

Shai said:

Majid,

Jews also have certain holy and prophetic beliefs. For instance, we believe we are God’s Chosen People. By definition anyone else, Muslims, Christians, Buddhists and Shinto, are Not-Chosen. It is now a matter of interpretation what “Not-Chosen” means. Does it mean having no right to the land of Israel/Palestine? Certainly many a Jews and Israelis believe precisely that. That means, to some 4 million people, that they have no right to this land. Some believe they should be kicked out. Some ignore any or all their rights, even the most basic ones. Some are willing to go to war, indeed believe that an Armageddon-style clash is inevitable and, if so, the sooner the better (while we still have the military advantage). So how much different is that from subjective interpretations of Muslim holy scriptures, or sermons given by certain Muslim clergy?

Just as it is no secret that the majority of Jewish-Israelis wish they could wake up one morning and find the “Arab problem” gone, evaporated, never existed, so too feel the majority of Arabs (Muslims and Christians) towards Jews. We don’t need holy scriptures to tell us to hate, suspect, and distrust one another. The past 60 years provide us plenty of reasons to do so, unfortunately. So clearly, if we’re to overcome such emotional blocks, we must either ignore any such interpretations of our Holy books, or take a more secular approach altogether.

Hind Kabawat, incidentally, has helped Rabbi Marc Gopin visit Syria quite a number of times, meeting with the Grand Mufti in Damascus and other religious leaders, and speaking in front of a mass of Muslim Syrians about religion, Judaism, etc. I don’t think we can rule out the possibility that religion can actually serve as a bridge between our mostly-secular societies, that don’t seem to be able to find common-language or ground, or any other common denominator sufficient to lower our shields of hatred and distrust. There will always be extremist interpretations of the scriptures, on our side and on yours. But we must, and will, rise above them.

April 6th, 2009, 6:05 pm

 

Off the Wall said:

Dear Shai
Sorry, I did not notice your earlier response. I will try to address the issue later today after work. Which would probably be tomorrow morning your time.

AP
By the way, please do not think that I do not occasionally appreciate your humor, I genuinely laughed at this exchange

i said: For that I respect him.
You answered
I’m more stiff-necked than you are;)

It was rather witty and in fact a pleasant sarcasm and I liked it. You countered the gravity I was trying to impose superbly well. I am a great admirer of humor and I honestly wish that we Arabs learn some self deprecating, no hold barred humor. 🙂

April 6th, 2009, 6:33 pm

 

Akbar Palace said:

It has been prophesied that the Jews will never find shelter anywhere after that – even a stone will be given the power to speak and call upon Muslims: “O’ Muslim, true servant of Allah, a Jew is hiding behind me. Come and slay him.”

Majid,

Yes, I read about this in Hamas’ Charter. Strangely, you’re the only person to bring this up. I would have though a ME expert like Professor Josh might have referenced this and commented on its importance.

However, I think there’s room to get past this. Yossi Beilin and Yael Dayan are drafting a peace treaty with the stones in question.

For instance, we believe we are God’s Chosen People.

Shai,

Thank you for referring to a common anti-semitic myth. Am I surprised? No, of course not. I’ve been reading a lot of your distortions lately, and this one is just par for the course.

Here’s more clarification for you and the audience. See “Myth #4”.

http://www.antisemitism.org.il/upload/Myths%20With%20Facts.pdf

OTW,

Thanks for the feedback. I think there is much Jews can learn from Arabs and much Arabs can learn from Jews.

April 6th, 2009, 7:18 pm

 

Shai said:

AP,

Most of the People of Israel have not had the privilege of downloading the pdf-file you attached, nor would they necessarily interpret it the same way. Again, why don’t you actually ASK a few settler friends how they interpret “chosen people”? What matters is not how the ADL wants to counter antisemitism (and it’s a good thing that it does), but whether most Jews actually agree with them.

Here’s a link to a youth-organization in Israel, found by chance when googling the famous words “בחר בנו מכל העמים” (“chose us from amongst all the nations”): http://www.tariel.co.il/?CategoryID=267&ArticleID=203

The site has an activity suggested, which aims to achieve two goals:

1. The students will understand that the Mitzvahs in the Torah develop and discover the holiness (sacredness) of the nation that exists in us.

2. The students will understand that the People of Israel received more Mitzvahs than other world nations, because its holiness (sacredness) is greater.

While there’s no doubt many Jews do not find us superior or deserving of more than any other religion or group of human beings, it is either out of naivety or deceitfulness to claim that no Jew (or very few) interpret the daily-repeated phrase in ways that define us as superior and, thus, more deserving.

What do the young settler youth mean when they say “God gave it to us!“? Clearly an interpretation, just as “Chosen people” is interpreted in many ways, not only the one suggested by ADL.

April 6th, 2009, 8:01 pm

 

majid said:

SHAI said, “Hind Kabawat, incidentally, has helped Rabbi Marc Gopin visit Syria quite a number of times, meeting with the Grand Mufti in Damascus and other religious leaders, and speaking in front of a mass of Muslim Syrians about religion, Judaism, etc.”

What do these visits signify? What kind of breakthroughs are they? Such visits happened throughout history and they mean nothing. It is no secret Jews and Muslims lived together in various parts of the world for ages. Look at Morocco for example. These are protocols, no more no less. Can any Mufti come out in front of any Muslim audience and preach contrary to the common belief that Israel will be annihilated in exactly the same fashion as I described? No Mufti can do it and spare himself an instantaneous stoning ritual. Do you think AhmediNejjad speaks subjectively when he calls for the destruction of the State of Israel? Isn’t he addressing an audience which is receptive to the message? The belief in the inevitability of the destruction of the state of Israel is central to the Muslims belief. When you mention secularism, I kind of wonder if you’re really in touch with the realities in the Muslim world. Just a reminder SyriaComment is not an accurate representation of this world you’re trying to deal with. Even, the commentators on this blog will not accurately spell out their true beliefs for well known reasons. If I want to spend the time and the rules of the blog allow, I would uncover the hypocrisies of each and every commentator who’s an Arab. Secularism DOES not exist in the Arab world nor in the Muslim world.

After 1948, a new order has been created. The Jew is no longer looked upon by the Muslims as an individual that can be interacted with as a neighbor, or resident of the same locality. His allegiance (I’m talking in general) now belongs to an ‘entity’ which is regarded as an anathema to the Muslims in general.

I would suggest you try to learn more about the Muslims in order to be able to deal with the problems you’re trying to solve.

AP said, “Majid,

Yes, I read about this in Hamas’ Charter. Strangely, you’re the only person to bring this up. I would have though a ME expert like Professor Josh might have referenced this and commented on its importance.”

We all know the Professor has more important things on his mind than these ‘trivial’ beliefs that fuel the conflict.

AP said, “For instance, we believe we are God’s Chosen People.”

I’m sorry to let you know, AP, Muslims already have the anti-dote for this. You also should read more about the Muslims. But I admit you have wide knowledge of the subject. You need more though.

April 6th, 2009, 8:39 pm

 

Chris said:

You guys forgot the best part of that portion of Hamas’ Charter.

Here goes:
” …the Hamas has been looking forward to implement Allah’s promise whatever time it might take. The prophet, prayer and peace be upon him, said: The time will not come until Muslims will fight the Jews (and kill them); until the Jews hide behind rocks and trees, which will cry: O Muslim! there is a Jew hiding behind me, come on and kill him! This will not apply to the Gharqad, which is a Jewish tree (cited by Bukhari and Muslim).”
——————-

So we’ve got talking trees, which yell “O Muslim, there is a Jew hiding behind me come on and kill him!.” Not all of the trees talk though, because one of them, the Gharqad, is a Jewish tree. This stuff is nuts. Absolutely nuts. I’m really not sure if that’s my “favorite” part of their charter. This is because we also have one, er a few, parts of the charter that incorporate the most amusing conspiracy theories. I, and apparently Qifa Nabki, have a certain appreciation for conspiracy theories. Here’s another portion from Hamas’ Charter:

“They (Jews) took advantage of key elements in unfolding events, and accumulated a huge and influential material wealth which they put to the service of implementing their dream. This wealth [permitted them to] take over control of the world media such as news agencies, the press, publication houses, broadcasting and the like. [They also used this] wealth to stir revolutions in various parts of the globe in order to fulfill their interests and pick the fruits. They stood behind the French and the Communist Revolutions and behind most of the revolutions we hear about here and there. They also used the money to establish clandestine organizations which are spreading around the world, in order to destroy societies and carry out Zionist interests. Such organizations are: the Freemasons, Rotary Clubs, Lions Clubs, B’nai B’rith and the like. All of them are destructive spying organizations. They also used the money to take over control of the Imperialist states and made them colonize many countries in order to exploit the wealth of those countries and spread their corruption therein. As regards local and world wars, it has come to pass and no one objects, that they stood behind World War I, so as to wipe out the Islamic Caliphate. ”
————————-

More relevant to Syria though is the following quote:
“All those secret organizations, some which are overt, act for the interests of Zionism and under its directions, strive to demolish societies, to destroy values, to wreck answerableness, to totter virtues and to wipe out Islam. It stands behind the diffusion of drugs and toxics of all kinds in order to facilitate its control and expansion. ”

Can you guess why its relevant to Syria? We have here the mention of the druge trade, which of course the Baathist Syrian regime has a history of being involved in.

April 6th, 2009, 10:01 pm

 

Akbar Palace said:

Majid wrote:

AP said, “For instance, we believe we are God’s Chosen People.”

I’m sorry to let you know, AP, Muslims already have the anti-dote for this. You also should read more about the Muslims. But I admit you have wide knowledge of the subject. You need more though.

Majid, et al,

Just to be clear, this was Shai’s quote. I took issue with it. Jews (and certainly myself) don’t like this this phrase because it is quite LOADED and almost always used by anti-semites to “show” that Jews think they are better than others. The link explains why people use it (e.g. Simohurtta has used this phrase in previous posts) and how it is used as a weapon.

Majid, I have NO “wide knowledge” of the Arab people or Islam. I have a few stories like my business trip to Kuwait and UAE, and a few acquaintences here are there. I do have a desire to meet different cultures and foster understanding between people who may not know Jews like myself. (Actually, I was told prior to my business trip, NOT to admit I that I am Jewish).

But I think there is a great fear of Arabs among the Jewish people. It is difficult to know who is moderate and who isn’t; who is a jihadist and who isn’t. There are no uniforms any more.

Chris,

I nominate Shai and Yossi to negotiate a peace treaty with Hamas. I’ll pay all the expenses.

April 7th, 2009, 12:16 am

 

Shai said:

Majid,

Thank you for the attempt. But I DO know a little about the Muslim world. From studying it, and from interacting with it over the past 28 years or so (since I was 11 growing up in the States). I know the differences in between the sects, between the different nations within the Middle East, and I also know which are more religious and which are less. While religion is certainly a part of society, in Syria for instance it is practiced FAR LESS and very differently than it is in KSA, Egypt, or even Jordan. Same goes for Lebanon, which has a secular society most would like to emulate. Although no Rabbi would ever get stoned by the public, I also can’t imagine a single Orthodox Rabbi lasting long in his congregation if he should ever utter words favoring the Palestinian people, or recognizing their pain and rights. From the little I know, I also can’t recall the last time anyone (criminal or not) was stoned in Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, or even Egypt, which is VERY religious.

I’m not suggesting I like or respect the religious system in KSA. It is abhorring and should be abolished. Women, for instance, enjoy EVEN less freedoms than those clergy you spoke of. And of course it will be difficult to communicate with people that believe in the destruction of Jews, as it would with those who believe in the destruction of Arabs. But to remind you, there are vast amounts of Churches and clergy around the world, and even in the United States, that each year, right around Easter (coming up), preach of the Jews’ part in the death of Christ. Continuing to preach the Jewish responsibility for Deicide, is not exactly a “good thing” for Jews, and is probably a significant source for antisemitism worldwide. And yet we communicate with the Christian world. Can we reach a stage where only a few Muftis would preach against the Jews? I certainly hope so, and I believe we can.

But Majid, what choice is there? If you’re suggesting fate is that there will be a clash of civilizations (with Islam in particular), then let’s put up the gloves, go rest, and let our children deal with the consequences. If you’re suggesting we need to “fight” these trends, then I agree with you. But it is in the definition of “fight” that we may disagree. I think it must be done with respect, not with bullets. I’m not sure you’re not suggesting the same, but then, what ARE you suggesting?

April 7th, 2009, 4:10 am

 

Shai said:

Majid,

Thank you for the attempt. But I DO know a little about the Muslim world. From studying it, and from interacting with it over the past 28 years or so, since I was 11 growing up in the States. I know the differences between the sects, between the different nations within the Middle East, and I also know which are more religious and which are less. While religion is certainly a part of society, in Syria for instance it is practiced FAR LESS and very differently than it is in KSA, Egypt, or even Jordan. Same goes for Lebanon, which has a secular society most would like to emulate. Although no Rabbi would ever get stoned by the public, I also can’t imagine a single Orthodox Rabbi lasting long in his congregation if he should ever utter words favoring the Palestinian people, or recognizing their pain and rights. From the little I know, I also can’t recall the last time anyone (criminal or not) was stoned in Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, or even Egypt, which is VERY religious.

I’m not suggesting I like or respect the religious system in KSA. It is abhorring and should be abolished. Women, for instance, enjoy EVEN less freedoms than those clergy you spoke of. And of course it will be difficult to communicate with people that believe in the destruction of Jews, as it would with those who believe in the destruction of Arabs. But to remind you, there are vast amounts of Churches and clergy around the world, and even in the United States, that each year, right around Easter (coming up), preach of the Jews’ part in the death of Christ. Continuing to preach the Jewish responsibility for Deicide, is not exactly a “good thing” for Jews, and is probably a significant source for antisemitism worldwide. And yet we communicate with the Christian world. Can we reach a stage where only a few Muftis would preach against the Jews? I certainly hope so, and I believe we can.

But Majid, what choice is there? If you’re suggesting fate is that there will be a clash of civilizations (with Islam in particular), then let’s put up the gloves, go rest, and let our children deal with the consequences. If you’re suggesting we need to “fight” these trends, then I agree with you. But it is in the definition of “fight” that we may disagree. I think it must be done with respect, not with bullets. I’m not sure you’re not suggesting the same, but then, what ARE you suggesting?

April 7th, 2009, 4:12 am

 

majid said:

SHAI asks and replies to himself, “Can we reach a stage where only a few Muftis would preach against the Jews? I certainly hope so, and I believe we can.”

If you have waited for my answer to your question, it will be a simple NO. It is not possible. The reason is simple. There is no similarity whatsoever between different church congregations that you know about and mufti-like congregations in Islam. A Mufti is not a priest. In fact, a Mufti doesn’t have any authority in Islam – temporal or otherwise. There are no congregations in Islam. The sects are not congregations. Most of the Muslim sects differ on political issues and not dogmas. A Mufti can issue a fatwa. A Muslim is not bound to abide by the fatwa. Furthermore, the rules of issuing fatwas are very well defined. Any Mufti who diverts from such rules is easily identified which, would mean the end of his career.
How did you understand the part about stoning a Mufti who may preach against commonly held beliefs? Did you understand it as a formal court handing down a sentence to stone the man? No, this is not what I meant. What I meant was a natural reaction from the audience to the speech which they regard offensive to their common sensibilities. And believe me this could happen anywhere, in Syria, Lebanon, Egypt, Jordan etc…
Where did you get your information about the Syrians being less practicing of religion than people in neighboring countries? This information is false. The Syrians are very serious about religion and are very conservative.
There is a debate about Lebanon whether it is secular or not. I could ignore it because Lebanon really doesn’t matter. But for the sake of argument, Lebanon is pseudo-secular and that’s the most you can find in the Arab world in terms of secularism. Lebanon actually is a country founded on sectarian balance of power. You go outside Beirut and the Christian mountains, the people are as religious as the rest of the Middle East. Even Beirut is now becoming more religiously oriented as a result of the civil war. It is like a natural reaction to the pre-war permissiveness and corruption that was rampant.
What am I suggesting? I’m not suggesting anything in terms of solutions. I would be very arrogant if I claim I have a solution. Personally, I believe Israel has the right to exist as a matter of fact if not out of conviction. This is just to distinguish myself from the Zionist label that was forced upon me by Majed. I cannot predict the future nor do I hold myself prisoner to self fulfilling prophecies. However, I do not foresee a bright future for the Middle East as whole including the State of Israel.

April 7th, 2009, 4:49 am

 

Shai said:

Majid,

Thank you for the in-depth response. I cannot say that I “know” there’s a bright future ahead of us in this region. Based on the past 60 years, and where we are today, there’s certainly plenty of reasons for pessimism (which you seem to be experiencing, as well as probably most). But let me ask you something – if we cannot see such a future as a possibility, aren’t we in essence giving up, and leaving the task of changing our fate to our children, or to theirs? And isn’t doing so, actually creating (or at least contributing) to our own self-fulfilling prophecy, to which you correctly suggested we do not wish to be prisoners?

I listened to an audiobook yesterday which suggested that in all of us there is the entrepreneur, the manager, and the technician. The entrepreneur lives in the future, the manager in the past, and the technician in the present. Shouldn’t we try to bring out the entrepreneur in us, when it comes to solving our conflict, rather than “managing” it? When I try to consider which role Obama is playing at the moment, as opposed to, say, Netanyahu, I think it is quite clear. Whether they can deliver in the end, is yet to be seen. But we cannot continue to live in the past, or even in the present. Our leaders, and ourselves if possible, must find the way to look forward. As a parent to two little girls, I today feel it is my duty, it is what I owe them.

April 7th, 2009, 7:06 pm

 

Majid said:

SHAI,
I do understand your concerns and actually sympathize with much of them. Certainly, your sense of duty to your two little girls is admirable. I do not believe there will be some kind of apocalyptic events that will reshape the region in a revolutionary way where some groups may perish and others may triumph. Your similitude with the manager, technician and entrepreneur is quite enlightening. I can say from personal experience, that the region is full of managers, there are very few technicians and there are no entrepreneurs. The entrepreneurs have already left seeking greener pastures. They simply cannot survive in that environment. Israel may still have few but I doubt they would be able to make any difference.
Way back in this forum, there was a discussion about the weight of history and its effects on the region. The area is consumed by history. It is also accustomed to go through fundamental changes (that often reshaped the whole world) but only at the hands of those that are regarded as ‘divinely guided’. Believe it or not the people are still the same people as they were at the time Abraham, Moses and Muhammad.
My guess about Israel is as follows. It will continue to be rejected by the people of the area until it transforms itself in a manner that will conform to the general customs of the area. At that time it will be accepted and welcomed. What that means is that instead of Israel secularizing the region, Israel itself will get de-secularized to the point that it will re-institute some form of tribalism within its society. At that point the people of Israel will be recognized by the Muslims or the Arabs as having come back home sound and healthy. Muslims/Arabs don’t care about what religion you practice. They do care however if you don’t practice any. Judaism is a well known faith to them and they feel comfortable with its adherents. But a secularized Jew to them is an alien concept and doesn’t fit in the right scheme of things.
I would say you’re lucky to have two girls that will continue to be your spur to seek the entrepreneur in you. But you would also learn how the people in that area project their selves into the future in a way that is perhaps not too different from yours. They have done it for millennia and they believe their way is the right and natural human way which has been tried and passed the test of time.

April 7th, 2009, 8:12 pm

 

Akbar Palace said:

My guess about Israel is as follows. It will continue to be rejected by the people of the area until it transforms itself in a manner that will conform to the general customs of the area. At that time it will be accepted and welcomed. What that means is that instead of Israel secularizing the region, Israel itself will get de-secularized to the point that it will re-institute some form of tribalism within its society…Judaism is a well known faith to them and they feel comfortable with its adherents. But a secularized Jew to them is an alien concept and doesn’t fit in the right scheme of things.

Majid,

In the above paragraph you told Shai that “Judaism is a well known faith to them [Arabs] amd they feel comfortable with its adherents”, whereas a “secularized Jew” ia an alien concept [aka “Shai”, “Akbar Palace”]. Moreover, you said if Israel changes in a “manner that will conform to the general customs of the area”, she will become “accepted and welcomed”.

In contrast to this, Majid, you also offered another POV which seems to contradict the above:

So why do they refuse to recognize Israel? The answer is very simple. Because, it is also inscribed in their holy books that the Jews will be annihilated at the hands of the Muslims on this same land of Palestine. Specifically, they’ve been told that the final battle will take place near the Jordan River, where the Muslims will be positioned on the eastern bank while the Jews will be on the Western bank. The dajjal (or what the Jews will call Messiah) will appear among the Jews and will be slain signaling the beginning of the end of the Jews. It has been prophesied that the Jews will never find shelter anywhere after that – even a stone will be given the power to speak and call upon Muslims: “O’ Muslim, true servant of Allah, a Jew is hiding behind me. Come and slay him.”
Now, can you change Holy Books, Shai?

Majid,

I don’t think a less secular (or a more religious) Israel is going to win further acceptance from the neighborhood. I agree more with your references to Islamic holy books, the power of the Islamic clergy in Arab society, and how the Arab governments use the clergy by inciting hatred of Jews using these tools, thus fostering non-acceptance of Israel.

MEMRI.ORG has boat-loads of examples showing how the Islamic clergy is promoted in the Arab media for such purposes. This is why “incitement” was included in the Oslo accords. Of course, the PA never abided by it, because it is a rather powerful weapon that no Arab government could ever dream of following through with. If the Arab street were no longer permitted to demonize Israel (the largest Arab pastime outside of soccer), the Arab governments would fall in a heartbeat.

Anyway, that’s how I see it. Please let me know how your 2 descriptions above jive with one another, and whether my opinion is totally false and/or misleading.

Shukran.

April 8th, 2009, 11:12 am

 

Akbar Palace said:

“Jewish Plot” uncovered in Pakistan:

http://www.dailytimes.com.pk/?page=200945\story_5-4-2009_pg12_3

April 8th, 2009, 11:18 am

 

majid said:

Thanks for the comment AP. I’m aware of the contradiction between the two comments of mine. The one about holy books of course is what rules the day today. The other one is my own guess for the future as I have clearly indicated in the same comment. A guess may or may not come true. But my reasoning is based on some kind of a reality setting in and forcing itself on new generations of Arabs and Jews who would want to build human lives instead of continuing to relive the past. As I said and I say it again that is only a guess.

I also read the ADL document that you provided a link to. It was very informative and thanks.
I noticed that the section that deals with the history of Muslims ‘persecuting’ Jews is extremely brief compared to the other sections. This is ‘positive’ I’d say. But I also noticed an important inaccuracy which I hope will get corrected. Muhammad never imposed or sought to impose Islam on the Jews or the Christians. In fact, both groups are mentioned in the Qur’an as people of the BOOK – recognition of their status as believers in the same Deity as the Muslims. Voluntary conversion is a different matter. There were some frictions between Muhammad and the Jewish community at the time but that was purely due to political and military issues. These incidents are well documented by Muslim Scholars with supporting manuscripts that date back to the same period. I’m not taking sides here but we have to realize that the society from which Islam came from was a tribal society ruled by tribal laws. These are essentially the same laws that were prevalent among the Hebrew tribes of Moses.
I would also like to comment regarding the Zhimmi status of Jews and Christians among the Muslims. It is not accurate to equate that to a status of a second class citizen in today’s modern States. Of course Zhimmism is an outdated concept and is no longer valid. But at the time it was a very advanced concept that accorded these groups the right to freedom of worship and the protection of the State (and I repeat these were states in the medieval sense having evolved from a tribal system) – Multiculturalism was not possible in those societies before Zhimmism. So in a sense the Muslims have preceded even the US in this regard. You may say there was money exchanged for these rights. The Muslims answer is very direct: Yes, Muslims also pay Zakat in order to enjoy the same rights (freedom of worship and State protection) and you also pay taxes (perhaps tenfold the amount of Zhimmi money) in modern States. It was not perfect for sure. But you must admit it is a far more advanced state than the ghetto-like and pogrom regimes that were rampant in Europe at the time. I also hope that this information be made available in such documents like the ADL document in order to promote understanding and respect instead of a culture of fear and distrust. I think there’s much that can be learnt from the historical interaction of Muslims and Jews that may help to resolve the conflict.

April 8th, 2009, 4:06 pm

 

Off the Wall said:

Majid
Thank you raising the level in your recent posts. In your latest post above you mentioned

“There were some frictions between Muhammad and the Jewish community at the time but that was purely due to political and military issues.”

Could economic issues be also part of that friction. Madina, where the Jewish tribes concentrated, was more of an artisan and an area closer to agricultural communities than trade-based mecca was. The jewish tribes had historical and very strong commercial ties with the wealthy tribes of Mecca and without a predominant political figure in Madina, they were able to garnish both the protection and economic alliance with rich Quarishi traders and exhert political influence commensurable with their economic and demographic status.

Mohammad migration to e Madina caused a shift, given the state of war between the Muslims and the Quraishi tribes, Jewish tribes investments in trade caravans was put at risk. They also saw a decline in their political influence in Madina due to the presence of strong centralized authority. The muslims were also aware of these financial and economic ties, for in fact many of them, including the prophet himself had worked on these caravans.

I would love to see one scholar, on either side, take a non-religuous view of these frictions, put them in economic perspective and attempt to extend this. May be we can understand the poeple of that era better and find a more rational way to explain their behavior.

I am amazed at how little we attempt to understand our own history from an economic perspective. My analysis above may be very naive, but I believe that once we accept the role of economy as a motivator, we can understand the basis for friction and conflict without tying it to emotioinal mythic nonesense and without throwing libel at each others. In fact, there may be a lesson for us there, if we want to find one.

April 8th, 2009, 4:29 pm

 

Majid said:

OTW,

Thanks for the comment. The economic issue is definitely present as a cause in the friction between Muhammad and the Medinan Jews. However, it was not the main cause which resulted in the conflict. There is a book “Muhammad, His Life based on the Earliest Sources” written by Martin Lings that may answer many of your questions. I don’t know if it is still available. At the time I read that book it was available from Unwin Paperbacks.

April 8th, 2009, 5:25 pm

 

majid said:

AP,

I add the following to my response to you in my comment #39:

Not withstanding that I was making a guess in #36, yet the underlying reasoning for that guess is the Arabs will never accept secularism as it is presented to them by the Western powers. Israel of course is a forward post of this system and will bear the brunt of this rejection in addition to the fact that it is considered to have been founded on a land that from their perspective is legally not Jewish. The recent experiment in Iraq is a good example that will reinforce Arab (regimes and frustrate the people) perception of the validity of their system. Personally, I’m for secularism. But there are things that are within the realm of possible and there are those that are not possible. I’m using here the same argument as Shai and others are using when they argue in defense of dictatorships or more precisely their support of so-called gradual transformation of these dictatorships into Democracies which of course will never happen. So if we accept the premise that change will happen gradually, then it is going to be an accommodative change that will take into consideration the basic realities of the region and its people. And that’s how my guess came about.
In previous comments in this thread I brushed aside a comment made by Shai about Secularism in Lebanon as being an example to be emulated. The answer is yes and no. Lebanon has particularities that can be mirrored in Israel/Palestine only but not the rest of the Middle East. Lebanon is a multicultural society with almost even demographic balance among the various sects. It has a certain degree of secularism built upon a sectarian and tribal society. Its weakness stems however from its lack of a defining allegiance to a central authority and the susceptibility of its people to Trans national issues. At one time both Syria and Israel tacitly agreed to destroy this model because, even though it was weak, it was perceived to constitute a threat to both countries. Syria’s one sect rule was threatened by the power-sharing system of Lebanon with its free media and economy. On the other hand, Israel looked at Lebanon as a threat because it provides a model of coexistence among various ethnic groups as opposed to the exclusively Jewish nature of Israel. This will cause great hardship to Jews and Zionists trying to prove the virtues of Israel to Western ears thus securing vital military and financial support to the Jewish State. In addition, at one point (1970-1980 era) Israel wanted to present itself to the rest of the world as the only Democratic model in the Middle East not realizing that in the end it can only secure its future through peaceful coexistence with Democratic regimes, and it should instead seek to promote and not to compete with potential Arab models of democracy. Israel’s main source of armament prior to 1969 was France. After Israel’s attack on the Lebanese airport in 1969 and destroying 13 civilian airplanes, France imposed an arms embargo on Israel. Lebanon was considered as important to the Europeans at that time as Israel. Hence when the Lebanese civil war broke, Israel tacitly agreed to Syrian intervention because it served both countries interests.

I believe this is all coming back to haunt Israel and the rest of the region. Of course, it will affect Israel more because the rest of the region is very pleased that it doesn’t have to worry about this childish game of democratic incompetence having proven that it is not suitable as a model of government with Lebanon and Iraq in sight as well as the failed experiment of PA and Hamas.

So a gradual change is the only alternative. Having lost the first round, change will have to come now mostly from Israel and it has to adapt itself to the realities of where it chose to live. After all the Israelis have to prove that they belong to the region and they are not an outpost for outdated colonialism.

April 8th, 2009, 7:16 pm

 

Atassi said:

anti-Zionists”…where is my name …Me too please .. I am a BIG anti-Zionist .. BIG one !#1….

April 8th, 2009, 8:42 pm

 

Off the Wall said:

Majid, AP, and Shai
There is a nascent movement within several Islamic communities that is placeing less and less importance on Hadith. The same movement is also attempting to emphasize the historical context of Quran.

Granted, i sense this movement through individual conversation with my pious friends especially here in te States and it gives me comfort to realize that what happenned in Christianity and Judaism is bound to happen to their younger sibling in terms of less reliance on literal interpretation and more focus on the spiritual context of the relegion.

Hadith, no matter how authenticated, remains suspect. The historical error has been in the fact that while early scholars emphasized the bibliographic aspect, few or non attempted to study the totality of hadith in terms of its contradictions with Quran.

An added complexity is sifginicant impacts of Gnostisism on early Islamic thought. What was not said in the Quran was later filled with Jewish, and more so Gnostic christian answers. The quran is less clear about apocalypse, and most of the images and description of the latter day can be traced to several less known apocalypse that did not make it into the Christian cannon and that were later deemed heretic by the christian church. Islam’s view of christ for example is more in line with the view of the Gnostic monks in Sinai, Southern Syria (greater syria), and northern Arabia. Same thing can also be said about the notion of Mary’s divinity. In fact, i sometime dare say that Islam itself was the victory of gnostic thoughts over roman catholic christianity.

No one gathered the prophet’s sayings soon after his death like what happenned with the early versions of the new testament. It took many more decades for this to happen. Some argue that the prophet himself forbade his followers from writing down his sayings and asked them only to write what he recite as Quranic verses (even to the point of telling theme where each verse had to be placed). Again, how authentic this claim is, is a matter that you will see being discussed more and more in the next few decads, and perhaps centuries. However, it withstands logic since the collection of Quran by Abu Bakr did not include the collection of Hadith. Abu Bakr, the most faifthful of Mohammad’s followers, would have done all he could had he been commanded by the Prophet to do so. He and his generation of Sahaba knew something later generations did not. Remember also that Hadith is not only what the prophet said, but many of the Hadiths descrobe his deeds as seen by his contemproraries, and interpreted by much later generation. As such, their dogmatic context must be less important than behavioral aspects.

Many would see what I just said as herecy, but isn’t that the ongoing struggle between reform and othodox jews, episcopalians and catholics, evangelical and the rest of the world. In both Islamic and christian apocalips, the anti-jewish sentiment is plucked right out from earlier jewish prophets who repeatidly warned their own of eminent doomsday if they do not repent. I am not making a statement as to who is right or wrong. It is simply history.

Although I am a secular humanist, I tend to agree with Majid on the notion that religion will continue to play a major role in moving the ME conflict one way or another. So far, it has fed only the two extreme sides, the question is, can it be used to counter them, I dare say yes, but with greater efforts than we have now, and with much more seriousness and more genuine work than the proforma attempt by the king of KSA. In that context, we must applaud the efforts of a group of scholars at the University of Southern California, they established a center for Jewish Islamic Engagement. Supporting their afforts and publicizing their work. If it was for me, i would not give religion any weight and focus on human right issues like my dear friend Yossi has been arguing for a while now. However, one must recognize the environment we operate at

The USC center for Muslim Jewish Engagement

http://www.usc.edu/schools/college/crcc/engagement/

And at risk of having to pay Norman and now Jad a big summ of money, I say, That is my take

April 9th, 2009, 3:34 pm

 

Off the Wall said:

Folks
In my previous post above, i said
Hadith, no matter how authenticated, remains suspect. The historical error has been in the fact that while early scholars emphasized the bibliographic aspect, few or non attempted to study the totality of hadith in terms of its contradictions with Quran.

Please correct this to
Hadith, no matter how authenticated, remains suspect. The historical error has been in the fact that while early scholars emphasized the bibliographic aspect, few or non attempted to study the totality of hadith in terms of its contradictions with the totality of the spirit of Islam .

This is very similar to the great mismatch between the spirit of christianity and the apocalyptic vision of the latter days. The vengeful god is always ad odds with the merciful one. And this notion will continue to be the earliest cause of doubt among poeple of any dogma.

But taken together, and Given that everyone gets sick, many become poor, and war continues, with the supreme being not lifting a finger to stop the mayham on this earth, only an apocalipitic vision will be able to deliver the comforting notion that justice is forthcoming. The longer these poeple had to waite for justice, the harsher god’s punishment would be to the unjust.

April 9th, 2009, 3:53 pm

 

Majid said:

OTW,
Thanks for bringing the issue of Hadith into the dialog. There are groups that refuse any hadith as authentic and they insist on the Qur’an as the only source for Islamic beliefs. I’m sorry to disappoint you OTW that al-Azhar already declared them as heretics outside the fold of Islam. I think we all know the position of al-Azhar in the Mulsim world. Other authorities did follow suit with the Azhar’s edict.
The subject of hadiths requires an expert whom I don’t believe is available on SC. What we know is the bare minimum about something that is as vast as the Religion itself. However, its authenticity as we all know is beyond question at least among the Muslims. This is not the first time that different schools of thought appear among the Muslims and challenge orthodoxy. For example you can point to the Batinis that appeared in the middle ages and posed a greater threat to orthodoxy than these later groups. There are also the Mu’tazilah that were even more sophisticated than anything you may think of what you see in today’s various splinters like these deniers of hadith, the Ahmadis and others. What has been proven through the ages is that orthodoxy has always reclaimed its supremacy despite all the challenges that it faced. The Mu’tazilah for example had the support of the political authorities at the time, Al-Maamoun himself through his Wazir. They were disproven by one person who is actually a Syrian from Damascus and that is Ahmad ibn Hanbal (So OTW ibn Hanbal is not Saudi he is from your own country). The Batinis in fact were able to take over Najd and then after they were kicked out took over Egypt and North Africa. Later on they were vanquished by the Ayyubis.

One final point, the collection of the Hadiths did not take centuries as OTW pointed out. The collection began immediately after the death of the Prophet. Muawiya for example is called the compiler of revelation which includes hadith (Katib al-Wahy). He lived within the life span of the Prophet. There are others, like ibn Massoud, who are companions and have collected their own sayings and later formed part of the final compilation. Hadith was completed and compiled around the time Bukahri lived (which is considered the most authentic). He was born 194 AH which means around 180 after the death of the Prophet. On the contrary the first book of the New Testament appeared 50 years after the passing away of Christ. And then the other books appeared in stages that stretched over 300 years. There were about 27 books that were written, and then were later reduced to the four books that we currently have after the Nicean assembly by the order of the emperor. Furthermore, the versions that we have bear no resemblance whatsoever to the earliest texts having been written in Greek which was the dominant language of the time. In addition Christ himself did not speak Greek to his disciples but he spoke Aramaic.
One expert on hadith once remarked to me, that from a scientific point view the weakest hadith you find in the collection has more authenticity than any of the four books that are currently in circulation as a New Testament. I’m not going to argue in his favor or against him but this is certainly a claim to be examined before we make judgement that we don’t know much about. I believe we don’t have the qualified expertise on SC to deal with the subject. Neither do I think SC should be involved in an exhaustive discussion on the subject.

April 10th, 2009, 1:34 am

 

Off the Wall said:

Majid
Now you’r cooking. This is what I like, a very well written, superbly informed argument. You’ll be surprized how much we agree.

Over the centuries, orthoxy managed to win the day, or the century. But given our modern age and the bind muslims find themselves at in modern days, unorthoxy may be out of the box. New schools can not be intimidated by rulers or even by the Azhar, whose recent gaffs, including the recent ban on demonstration, which was requested by the egyptian version of arab dictators, is distancing this hotbed of rigidity from the poeple by the day.

As for ibn Hanbal being from Syria and not from Hijaz, I never said he was, all I said was that the wahabis, whose thinking are rooted in Hanbali fiqh banned smoking. That cleared, Syria also was the source of many of the more rigid scholars of modern ages. Just think of the Micky Mouse Saudi Sheikh Mohammed Salah al Munjid, who is Syrian born. Syria was also the home of Al-Kawakibi, a daring reformer and a believer of western democratic values. We are diverse, theologically and ethnically.

Finally, authentic or not is not the issue. Whats at issue is whether Hadiths should be part of the Islamic cannon or not.

April 10th, 2009, 4:34 am

 

Shami said:

OTW ,Ibn Hanbal was not from Syria ,i think you meant the great Hanbali theologian Ibn Taymiyya ,born in Harran near Urfa then during his childhood moved to Damascus in which he studied and died in the Prison of the citadel of Damascus.
His students ,most of them Syrians ,were also among the most important scholars of Islam(Ibn Kathir,Al Dhahabi,Ibn al Qayyim..)

April 10th, 2009, 6:12 am

 

Off the Wall said:

Majid
Are you aware of Dr. Muhammad Shahrour, also a Syrian. He is one of those declared as heretic by the Azhar, and was fatwad (to the best of my knowledge), ala Salman Rushdi. Dr. Shahrour, a professor in Damascus university school of engineering, and by clerics definition, is a layman, is leading a new school of thought that is less concerned with philosophical arguments the way the Mutazilas did but more focussed on Quran both linguistically and rationally. His books are selling like hot cakes and he is very well respected among the educated who are finding their religion, as interpreted by clerics, at odd with modernity and with peace.

Shami
I knew I can count on you always to help me out and correct my factual erros. I am indepted to you, by now quite few times. Thanks

April 10th, 2009, 6:14 am

 

majid said:

You’re right Shami.

OTW, I do not support such specialists like a Doctor in Engineering to become all of a sudden experts on the Qur’an and Islam. I have nothing against Engineering but I think straying outside your field of specialty is not a sign of competence. I’m aware of an Arab (Egyptian) who was a scientist at Nasa. He is also a Dr. and his name is Ahmad Rashad. The guy came up with a theory about the Qur’an that forced him to conclude that three verses have to be deleted from the Book in order to satisfy his scientific curiosity about the Qur’an (the last three verses of Touba). I was once visiting a prominent Pakistani who presented to me the book written by this Doctor as a gift which I found to be full of nonsense. In addition he claimed to be some kind of a prophet and he came up with supporting material from the Qur’an based on his so-called scientific theory of interpreting the Qur’an. I don’t know if I still have the book or I threw it away. But I am going to look for it now that you have reminded me.
I have scientific background and I do respect science. However, I don’t believe the Qur’an can be looked at as a book of science or that it may be used to interpret physical phenomena of the physical world. The Qur’an is the Book of Certainty (kitab al – Yaqin). This is the first verse you read in the Book: ALM, This is THE Book. In it there is no doubt (it is all certain). Guidance to those who believe. Science is not the field of certainty a condition you as a human attain only after you pass away. Having said that, the Qur’an can also easily guide those who have the inclination (or the fitra) of the father of Islam Ibrahim through the observation of the physical world. You may show a scientist millions of the signs of creation, yet he may still not believe in the creator and would want more proofs and the Qur’an has promised: “We will show them our signs on the horizons as well as in themselves until it becomes clear to them that it is the Truth.” Ibrahim saw only three signs and immediately declared: I turned myself to Him who created the heavens and the earth turning away from falsehood, a Muslim and I’m not of those who associate gods with God. And Allah loves most those who have the likeness of Ibrahim. Since you know Arabic you should know what al-Kahlil means.
I would suggest to this Doctor that he should either restrict himself to his specialty or if he is interested in religion then he should seek formal training from recognized sources.

April 10th, 2009, 7:21 am

 

Off the Wall said:

Majid,

I may not have expressed myself clearly. I am not an advocate of mixing science and quran far from it. In fact, from what i read so far, Shahrour’s argument is rather similar to that. He simply uses his outstanding linguistic skills and rational thinking to read the Quran and to identify areas that went a miss by the succession of scholars. He, my friend may agree with you and me on that point. I was reading some segments of his articles online, and he is no snake oil salesmatn like the guy you are describing.

This is where science and religion part ways in terms of tools and methods. In science, and more specifically, in mathematics, you will make no progress unless you start from very few basic axioms. And based on these fundamentals you start building the blocks. Physical sciences, are slightly different in the sence that one search’s for refutation, occasionally even of some taken for granted priniciples. Shai, Norman, and I had a long exchange about that nearly a year ago. Still, in science you have to learn the tools from the well established sources, for these tools, include the most rigorous approaches for search of refutation (e.g., statistics, research methods, applied mathematics, etc.) and so on. The language of science is mathematics. The livelyhood of a scientist, in general, depends on challanging accepted arguments, and in attempting to refute her/his own hyupotheses as well as others’.

In religion, the most fundamental reforms can only occure if one challanges both the fundamental principles, and the tools. However, In most cases, the most basic priniciples are not necessarily the problem, but the scope of what defines principles and tools is. Most religuous scholars mix tools and principles, and by that become exactly the opposite of scientists as their livelyhood becomes dpendant on propagating the status quo. As such rigidity becomes self propagating in the sence that any new interpretation must come only from within the small circle of accepted, frozen in time, sources, and by that it is not even new and is simply an extension of the old and religion becomes the worship of religion itself. Unless the authority of these poeple is seriously challanged, Islam is going no where. And at best, it will remain forzen where it is. Granted, some of these authority figures try now and then to beautify the image of Islam, (or better yet, their own image) by engaging in dialogue with other reliegions, but that is only for them to escape the real essential dialogue they do not want to have, which is within Islam itself.

As a secular humanist, reforms in islamic thoughts will have little or no impacts on my own thinking. However, as a person living in our age, such reforms are of great interest to me. For that, i would say, I am all for poeple like Shahrour giving it a shot. His conclusions, or at least those I have read so far are reasonable, democratic, and they may lead to significant reforms. However, the only problem that may arize from his work is the fact that some of his arguments are deaply rooted in the arabic language and by that, they are less accessible, barring major efforts, to the hundreds of millions of muslims who do not know arabic.

April 10th, 2009, 3:30 pm

 

Off the Wall said:

Majid and Others
Sorry for the typos and spelling errors in my recent posts. Despite of my modest stature, i have wide fingers, and frequently, characters get mixed up, not to mention my own bad spelling. I will try to write in word processor and then post to avoid such errors. Google browser has a spell checker, but it remains too buggy and less reliable than what I am using now.

April 10th, 2009, 3:42 pm

 

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