News Round Up (Mon Aug. 10, 2009)

The Dutch and some other EU members have been hesitant to let Damascus into its Mediterranean trade agreement because of its human rights violations. All other countries bordering the Mediterranean Sea are members, no matter how egregious their human rights violations are.

It might be right to keep Syria out if this were to produce results, but it is unlikely to. I have argued on these pages that Europe is likely to have better success in bringing liberalism to Syria if it follows a China policy. By drawing Syria into the global economy and producing a larger middle class that has a real interest in abiding by international laws, the West is likely to have a greater impact than through sanctionsRound

Britain backs Syria-EU pact despite concerns
By Khaled Yacoub Oweis, Wed Aug 5, 2009

DAMASCUS (Reuters) – Britain supports signing an economic pact between Syria and the European Union despite its concerns about human rights violations by Damascus, a British official said Tuesday.

Ivan Lewis, a deputy Foreign Office minister, called for a “new beginning” with Syria and said Damascus should be encouraged to change policies, despite its alliance with Iran and support for the Palestinian Hamas and Lebanese Hezbollah militant groups.

“(Britain) will try and play a positive role to help that happen, although some European countries still have concerns about elements of Syrian policy. We still hope we can overcome those concerns and that an agreement be signed,” Lewis said after meeting Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moualem…..

Fred Hoff Visits Damascus to discuss the Obama peace plan and lay foundations for next steps. He is accompanied by a delegation to carry out discussions with various Syrians (although the following article does not say who is accompanying Hoff in the delegation, it is likely that they are military and will develop the new security agreement on Iraq.

يستبق خطة أوباما عن السلام …هوف يزور دمشق خلال أيام لإجراء محادثات “مهمة”

تزامناً مع زيادة الحديث عن احتمال إطلاق الرئيس الأميركي باراك أوباما خطته للسلام الشامل في الشرق الأوسط، نقلت وكالة الأنباء الألمانية عن مصادر مطلعة مواكبة للعلاقات السورية الأميركية أمس عن أن السفير فريدريك هوف نائب المبعوث الأميركي للسلام في الشرق الأوسط السيناتور جورج ميتشل يعتزم زيارة سورية خلال الأيام القليلة المقبلة.
وأكدت المصادر التي لم تسمها الوكالة أن وفداً غير سياسي سيرافق هوف في زيارته إلى دمشق بهدف إجراء محادثات مهمة مع المسؤولين السوريين استكمالاً لزيارات سابقة قام بها ميتشل وهوف في الأشهر القليلة الماضية في إطار “خريطة طريق بين واشنطن ودمشق” كما اصطلح على تسميتها في وقت سابق.
وتدور محادثات مباشرة بين إدارة الرئيس أوباما والقيادة السورية من خلال ميتشل منذ عدة أشهر تشمل العلاقات الثنائية ومسارات السلام في المنطقة والوضع في العراق والأراضي الفلسطينية ولبنان والملف الإيراني.

PR-Inside, VIA FLC

“Engagement with Syria has emerged as a high priority for US President Obama’s administration, as evidenced by the flurry of diplomatic activity since the new president took office in January. We expect these efforts to bear some fruit, not least because of the poor state of the Syrian economy. The prospect of improved trade ties and the likelihood of increased inward investment will act as a major incentive………

The path to peace will not be easy for Syria, as illustrated in its spiky relationship with Israel. Binyamin Netanyahu, Israel´s prime minister, had declared himself hostile to the return of the Golan Heights to Syria – one of Damascus´s key demands of the regional peace process …. There are also still plenty of questions hanging over Syria´s commitment to the US vision of peace: its support of Iran, Hamas and Hizbullah is popular at home, and there is some suggestion that Syria has concealed the extent of its nuclear research facilities. Washington has also called on Syria to take action against al-Qaeda fighters entering Iraq from its territory. The Syrian economy is under attack on several fronts in 2009, and we are forecasting a slump in real GDP growth to just 1.4%, down from an estimated 4.1% in 2007. Conditions will remain tough in 2010, when we see growth rising only slightly to 1.8%, before recovering further to 2.6% in 2011. A poor growth outlook, twin deficits on the fiscal and current accounts and a lack of inward investment are likely to exert downside pressure on the currency during our forecast period.


Syrian tourism grows fast amidst economic crisis 2009-08-10

DAMASCUS, Aug. 10 (Xinhua) — Despite the global financial crisis, Syria saw a 23 percent increase of Arab and European tourists in July compared to the same month last year, showed the latest official statistics released by the Ministry of Tourism.

According to the statistics, Bahrain accounted for 55 percent of the tourists, followed by Saudi Arabia and Kuwait.

Tourism in Syria has recorded strong growth in recent years. Minister of Tourism Saadallah Agha al-Qalaa told a Brazilian commercial delegation last month that visitors to Syria increased by 9 percent in the first half this year even amidst the international financial crisis, compared to the same period last year.

According to the minister, tourism has accounted for 11 percent of Syria’s gross domestic product (GDP) in recent years and Syria is now receiving 5.4 million visitors per year on average.

So far, Syria has tended to attract visitors from other parts of the Middle East, but promotion campaigns by the state and tour operators last year have targeted Asian and European tourists.

One important partner with Syria in the sector is Turkey, and relations between the two countries have grown significantly in recent years.

Turkey and Syria have signed deals to foster bilateral tourism and jointly promote the two countries as tourist destinations abroad, which means Turkish and Syrian operators could sell packages including both countries.

US Fines DHL express for Dealings with Syria
German express delivery company DHL has been fined USD 9.4 million by the US Treasury for dealing with countries under sanctions, including Syria.

Syria: Slow and Steady
Oxford Business Group, 7 August 2009

In March, the long-anticipated Damascus Stock Exchange (DSE) was launched and now, some six months into trading, the DSE has 11 companies listed, with three more currently undertaking initial public offerings. …

As further encouragement to entice Syria’s major privately owned family groups to list, Al Jleilati explained to OBG that, “Companies who restructure to have more than 51% of their ownership held by multiple shareholders will be taxed at 14% compared to historical rates that sometimes reached as high as 65%. Companies will also be forced to recalculate their past incomes, with the government granting immunity on all reporting discrepancies by imposing a flat back-tax of 1%, which we see as a very fair compromise.”

Despite the incentives provided, many companies are still reluctant to report their earnings, according to Sofian Haikal, the director of brokerage firm Cham Capital. “Family companies lack trust in the authorities and many are afraid to be the first guinea pigs in reporting their taxable incomes. That said, I am optimistic of the eventual transition from family to public business, as it only needs a few successful examples to gain collective popularity,” he told OBG.

Investors also face difficulties in measuring the intangible assets earned by these companies, such as brand equity, and there is reluctance on the part of investors to sell-off shares. According to research produced by Bemo Finance, share prices have risen 57% over the past four months. As a result of this upward trend, combined with a perception that due to the 2% daily fluctuation cap most listed companies are currently undervalued, many investors are holding onto their stocks. …

QNB Syria unit $37 mln IPO oversubscribed

Mon Aug 10, 2009 (Reuters) – The Syrian unit of Qatar National Bank QNBK.QA (QNB) has raised at least 1.7 billion Syrian pounds ($37 million) through a public offering that is closing on Monday evening, a person close to the matter said.

QNB on June 30 said it aimed to raise 1.7 billion Syrian pounds by selling a 34 percent stake in its Syrian unit. The shares are offered to Syrian private investors at 500 pounds a share in an IPO running from July 12 to Aug. 10.


Jumblat: I Alone Am ‘Entitled’ to Set a Date for Syria Visit

MP Walid Jumblat reiterated that he was the only person “entitled” to set the date for his visit to Damascus, according to comments published Monday in al-Anbaa newspaper. “I am the only one entitled to set the date, nature, circumstances and timing of my visit to Damascus. I will also study – at a later time – the possibility of visiting any other capital,” Jumblat said in his weekly interview with the daily. He said pending issues between Lebanon and Syria “can be resolved between the two states according to protocol.”

An excellent article by Sami.
U-turn puts Hezbollah in the driving seat
By Sami Moubayed

DAMASCUS – Those who rejoiced at the election results in Lebanon on June 7 had a big surprise this week, as the tables seemed to turn on the pro-Western coalition in favor of the Hezbollah-led opposition, and Damascus.

During the elections, the March 14 Coalition, which is close to the United States and France, won 71 seats in parliament, while the opposition, backed by Syria and Iran, came out with 57, maintaining the minority they had held since 2005. On August 2, however, Druze leader Walid Jumblatt, head of the Progressive Socialist Party in Lebanon and one of the March 14 heavyweights, sent shockwaves throughout Beirut by announcing that his alliance with March 14 had been “driven by necessity and must end”. ….

…Jumblatt has also changed his views on who killed Rafik Hariri in 2005. He had previously accused Syria, but he told the magazine that he was no longer certain who had carried out the assassination. ….

Why did Jumblatt – known to be a political chameleon – change his colors so dramatically? The Druze warlord was a strong ally of Syria during Lebanon’s civil war, and was royally rewarded for his services with government posts for him and his entourage throughout the 1990s. But when he realized that Syria’s fortunes were turning in 2004 – shortly after the war on Iraq – he shifted towards the opposition, calling on the Syrians to leave Lebanon, though more than anyone else it was him that helped legitimize the Syrian presence in Lebanon, for nearly 20 years.

Jumblatt managed to read the political landscape in Washington well , realizing that the Bush White House was at daggers end with the Syrian government, because of its lack of cooperation in the war on Iraq. ….

Jumblatt is a political animal who follows the prevailing wind, whether it comes from Moscow, Washington or Damascus. When Syria and the US were allies in the 1990s, he reasoned that it was best to be on Syria’s side, due to its excellent relations with the Bill Clinton administration. When he saw that relations were irreparable between the Syrians and George W Bush, he decided to abandon ship – especially after the passing of resolution 1559, seeing that a head-on collusion between Damascus and Washington loomed on the horizon.

That happened when Hariri was killed in 2005, and Jumblatt tried to ally himself with Washington’s “regime change” movement, but by late 2008 it was clear that Bush was leaving, having repeatedly failed at toppling – or even weakening – the Syrians. Now with Obama in power, there is no sense in maintaining hostility with the Syrians, since Obama is interested neither in regime change, not even instability in Damascus.

Obama’s focus is on Iraq, Iran, Pakistan and Afghanistan – not the worries of Lebanon, and Jumblatt has realized this from day one. The Americans are willing to tolerate a reborn Syrian influence in Lebanon, if it guarantees peace and quiet in Beirut and Iraq. ….

Israel PM Warns Against Including Hizbullah in Lebanon Government

Israel warned on Monday that the Lebanese government as a whole would be blamed for any attack from its territory if Hizbullah is part of the new government. “If Hizbullah joins the government it will be clear that the Lebanese government will be held responsible for any attack coming from its territory against Israel,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said.


Baath party leader and former Saddam Hussein aide Izzat al-Douri called on both armed and unarmed groups in Iraq to engage in politics. Al-Douri claimed that the formation of a national council would create a forum for promoting a unified Iraqi political platform and facilitate a greater political role for many actors in Iraq.

Comments (100)

Shai said:

“The Two-State Solution Doesn’t Solve Anything”

THE two-state solution has welcomed two converts. In recent weeks, Benjamin Netanyahu, the Israeli prime minister, and Khaled Meshal, the head of Hamas’s political bureau, have indicated they now accept what they had long rejected. This nearly unanimous consensus is the surest sign to date that the two-state solution has become void of meaning, a catchphrase divorced from the contentious issues it is supposed to resolve. Everyone can say yes because saying yes no longer says much, and saying no has become too costly. Acceptance of the two-state solution signals continuation of the Israeli-Palestinian struggle by other means.

Bowing to American pressure, Mr. Netanyahu conceded the principle of a Palestinian state, but then described it in a way that stripped it of meaningful sovereignty. In essence, and with minor modifications, his position recalled that of Israeli leaders who preceded him. A state, he pronounced, would have to be demilitarized, without control over borders or airspace. Jerusalem would remain under Israeli sovereignty, and no Palestinian refugees would be allowed back to Israel. His emphasis was on the caveats rather than the concession.
As Mr. Netanyahu was fond of saying, you can call that a state if you wish, but whom are you kidding?

As for Hamas, recognition of the state of Israel has always been and remains taboo. Until recently, the movement had hinted it might acquiesce to Israel’s de facto existence and resign itself to establishing a Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza. This sentiment has now grown from hint to certitude.
President Obama’s June address in Cairo provoked among Hamas leaders a mixture of anticipation and apprehension. The American president criticized the movement but did not couple his mention of Hamas with the term terrorism, his recitation of the prerequisites for engagement bore the sound of a door cracked open rather than one slammed shut, and his acknowledgment that the Islamists enjoyed the support of some Palestinians was grudging but charitable by American standards. All of which was promising but also foreboding, prompting reflection within the Hamas movement over how to escape international confinement without betraying core beliefs.

The result of this deliberation was Hamas’s message that it would adhere to the internationally accepted wisdom — a Palestinian state within the borders of 1967, the year Israel occupied the West Bank and Gaza. Hamas also coupled its concession with caveats aplenty, demanding full Israeli withdrawal, full Palestinian sovereignty and respect for the refugees’ rights. In this, there was little to distinguish its position from conventional Palestinian attitudes.
The dueling discourses speak to something far deeper than and separate from Palestinian statehood. Mr. Netanyahu underscores that Israel must be recognized as a Jewish state — and recalls that the conflict began before the West Bank or Gaza were occupied. Palestinians, in turn, reject recognition of Israel as a Jewish state, uphold the refugees’ rights and maintain that if Israel wants real closure, it will need to pay with more than mere statehood.

The exchange, for the first time in a long while, brings the conflict back to its historical roots, distills its political essence and touches its raw emotional core. It can be settled, both sides implicitly concur, only by looking past the occupation to questions born in 1948 — Arab rejection of the newborn Jewish state and the dispossession and dislocation of Palestinian refugees.

Both positions enjoy broad support within their respective communities. Few Israelis quarrel with the insistence that Israel be recognized as a Jewish state. It encapsulates their profound aspiration, rooted in the history of the Jewish people, for a fully accepted presence in the land of their forebears — for an end to Arab questioning of Israel’s legitimacy, the specter of the Palestinian refugees’ return and any irredentist sentiment among Israel’s Arab citizens.
Even fewer Palestinians take issue with the categorical rebuff of that demand, as the recent Fatah congress in Bethlehem confirmed. In their eyes, to accept Israel as a Jewish state would legitimize the Zionist enterprise that brought about their tragedy. It would render the Palestinian national struggle at best meaningless, at worst criminal. Their firmness on the principle of their right of return flows from the belief that the 1948 war led to unjust displacement and that, whether or not refugees choose or are allowed to return to their homes, they can never be deprived of that natural right. The modern Palestinian national movement, embodied in the Palestine Liberation Organization, has been, above all, a refugee movement — led by refugees and focused on their plight.

It’s easy to wince at these stands. They run against the grain of a peace process whose central premise is that ending the occupation and establishing a viable Palestinian state will bring this matter to a close. But to recall the origins of the Israeli-Palestinian clash is not to invent a new battle line. It is to resurrect an old one that did not disappear simply because powerful parties acted for some time as if it had ceased to exist.

Over the past two decades, the origins of the conflict were swept under the carpet, gradually repressed as the struggle assumed the narrower shape of the post-1967 territorial tug-of-war over the West Bank and Gaza. The two protagonists, each for its own reason, along with the international community, implicitly agreed to deal with the battle’s latest, most palpable expression. Palestinians saw an opportunity to finally exercise authority over a part of their patrimony; Israelis wanted to free themselves from the burdens of occupation; and foreign parties found that it was the easier, tidier thing to do. The hope was that, somehow, addressing the status of the West Bank and Gaza would dispense with the need to address the issues that predated the occupation and could outlast it.

That so many attempts to resolve the conflict have failed is reason to be wary. It is almost as if the parties, whenever they inch toward an artful compromise over the realities of the present, are inexorably drawn back to the ghosts of the past. It is hard today to imagine a resolution that does not entail two states. But two states may not be a true resolution if the roots of this clash are ignored. The ultimate territorial outcome almost certainly will be found within the borders of 1967. To be sustainable, it will need to grapple with matters left over since 1948. The first step will be to recognize that in the hearts and minds of Israelis and Palestinians, the fundamental question is not about the details of an apparently practical solution. It is an existential struggle between two worldviews. For years, virtually all attention has been focused on the question of a future Palestinian state, its borders and powers. As Israelis make plain by talking about the imperative of a Jewish state, and as Palestinians highlight when they evoke the refugees’ rights, the heart of the matter is not necessarily how to define a state of Palestine. It is, as in a sense it always has been, how to define the state of Israel.

Hussein Agha is a co-author, with Ahmed S. Khalidi, of “A Framework for a Palestinian National Security Doctrine.” Robert Malley, the director of the Middle East Program at the International Crisis Group, was a special assistant for Arab-Israeli affairs to President Bill Clinton from 1998 to 2001.

August 11th, 2009, 6:59 am


Shai said:

“Damascus and the Road to Mideast Peace”

Though in recent months some have derided the power of dialogue, the truth is that strategic engagement with our enemies remains absolutely essential for our national security. Talking to our adversaries with a clear purpose in mind is not a sign of weakness. At the same time, diplomacy should never be carried out in a way that indicates a lack of United States resolve. While President Ronald Reagan stigmatized the Soviet Union as the “evil empire,” his administration carried out tough-minded negotiations with the Communist regime and achieved positive results.

The often adversarial relationship between the U.S. and Syria is a case in point. The Syrian regime could undermine security in southern Lebanon, hinder progress in Iraq, and continue to support Hezbollah, Palestinian Islamic Jihad and Hamas. It also has the potential to play a constructive role in the region—a possibility that has yet to be fully explored. A high-level bilateral dialogue could enhance our national security interests, as demonstrated by U.S. diplomacy in the recent past.

When I was ambassador to Syria (1988-1991), my major task was to implement the policy of strategic engagement established by President George H.W. Bush and Secretary of State James A. Baker III. Our relationship with Syria in the late 1980s was troubled. But we understood that without Syria we could not help end the civil war in Lebanon, make progress on Arab-Israeli peace talks, curtail certain terrorist groups, control drug trafficking, promote regional security, and advance our human-rights agenda. We sought common ground through serious dialogue.

Despite many obstacles, tangible goals were reached. Our consultations in Damascus facilitated the end of the tragic Lebanese civil war. Syrian President Hafez Assad responded positively to President Bush and Secretary Baker’s direct request for him to lend Syria’s political and military support to Operation Desert Storm. In a major breakthrough, U.S.-Syrian cooperation on Desert Storm helped to lead to Assad’s agreement to enter into face-to-face negotiations with Israel, which in turn led to the Madrid Peace Conference in 1991.

On the human-rights front, we also made progress. Syrian Jews were granted the same right to freely travel abroad as other Syrian citizens. And in close coordination with the Syrian government in Damascus, American hostages in Lebanon began to be released. While the historic context is different today than in the early 1990s, the basic rationale for promoting U.S. interests by engaging Syria remains valid. Engagement with Syria would promote peace negotiations between Jerusalem and Damascus. It would also distance Syria from its close relationship with Iran—and thereby reduce Iran’s influence in the Levant.

U.S. dialogue with Syria could lead to diminished support for Hamas, Palestinian Islamic Jihad and Hezbollah. It would consolidate Lebanon’s sovereignty. And it could secure the Syria-Iraq border. On a broader level, a stronger relationship with the U.S. could create the conditions to promote economic and political reform within Syria. Our countries could also resume intelligence cooperation against al Qaeda and other radical Islamic groups that have threatened the Syrian regime in the past.

The Syrians are not interested in a piecemeal dialogue with the U.S., but they seek a comprehensive dialogue where all the major issues can be discussed. This so-called “realist” approach would do more to advance our human-rights agenda than a policy of nonengagement and attempted isolation. While there are many important issues to be discussed, the key agenda item is the prospect for Israeli-Syrian peace. Syrian President Bashar Assad has reiterated his father’s “strategic option for peace,” which is based on the principle of land for peace. Though the heart of the Arab-Israeli conflict is the issue of Palestine, the geopolitical core of the conflict is the Israeli-Syrian front.

Without an Israeli-Syrian agreement, there will be no comprehensive peace between Israel and its Arab neighbors. An Israeli-Lebanese agreement would quickly follow if there were progress on the Israeli-Syrian track. Therefore, the initiation of peace talks between Israel and Syria should be a high priority for President Barack Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Ever since the Madrid Peace Conference, much progress has been made on the issues of land, normalization of relations, security arrangements and access to water. Both Syrian and Israeli negotiators have indicated that at least 80% of the issues have either been resolved or areas of disagreement narrowed.

In the past, the U.S. has been the essential interlocutor for the two sides in these negotiations. More recently, in the absence of the U.S., Turkey has conducted indirect talks between the Israelis and Syrians with some success.
The Baker-Hamilton Iraq Study Group Report, published in 2006, called on Syria to take specific action on key issues dealing with Iraq, Iran, Hamas and Hezbollah. The report also said that the regime should take action on the matter of Lebanon’s sovereignty, including by cooperating with the United Nations Commission’s investigation of the assassination of Rafik Hariri. In exchange for these actions, and in the context of a final peace agreement, the report called on Israel to return the Golan Heights. The report also offered a security guarantee for Israel that could include an international force on the border. If requested by both parties, it would comprise U.S. troops.

The Arab-Israeli conflict and the struggle between the forces of moderation and extremism within the Muslim world are the two major issues that are exploited by the Islamic extremists for their own political ends. Thus, U.S. policy should focus on promoting a comprehensive Arab-Israeli peace settlement, and on supporting the moderates in the region by the judicious use of soft and hard power to marginalize the extremists. U.S. engagement with Syria could be a key component of this strategy.

Mr. Djerejian, U.S. ambassador to Syria from 1988-91 and to Israel from 1993-94, is the author of “Danger and Opportunity—An American Ambassador’s Journey Through the Middle East” (Simon & Schuster, 2008). He is the founding director of the Baker Institute for Public Policy at Rice University.

August 11th, 2009, 7:08 am


Akbar Palace said:

Arab village 3rd in matriculation eligibility

The principal attributed the change mostly to the additional teaching hours his school received from the Education Ministry and the local council.,7340,L-3760308,00.html

August 11th, 2009, 11:30 am


Akbar Palace said:

Barack Obama sacks adviser over talks with Hamas

Shai, Alex,

Just a thought, but a link (instead of cutting and pasting a complete article) would cut down on the length of the threads.

August 11th, 2009, 11:49 am


SimoHurtta said:

Akbar why shouldn’t USA talk with Hamas? USA is even making “protocols” and a document that included US recognition of the Iraqi resistance with Iraqi Sunni (baathist) insurgents in Turkey behind Iraq’s governments back. Strange isn’t it Akbar, “they” seem to miss Baath party rule in Iraq.

Secular democratic Israel combating swine flu:
Dozens of rabbis fly over Israel praying to defeat swine flu

“We are certain that, thanks to the prayer, the danger is already behind us,” added Batzri.

Hmmm I wonder did the rabbis and other horn blowers also get the divine swine flu vaccination for Israeli Arabs. Why other countries do not use this cost effective method?

August 11th, 2009, 4:28 pm


Shai said:


Thank you for the suggestion, but the reason entire articles are sometimes copied, is because not everyone has the ability to open up every link posted. In general, however, it is a good idea to use links.

As for Obama sacking Malley, clearly this is because at the moment Washington is not yet ready to talk to Hamas or Hezbollah. Obama has his own plan, and his own timetable, also for Hamas. Personally, I think each day this enemy isn’t engaged (both by the U.S. and of course Israel), is another day wasted. Whom do we make peace with, if not our enemy? You don’t make peace only with “nice enemies”, or “soft enemies”, or “non-violent enemies”. You also make peace with enemies that swear to destroy you (as we swear to destroy them, incidentally). Engagement and discussion is the only way forward. Not isolation. Aren’t North Korea and Iran enough examples of that failed policy?

But don’t take this liberal’s word for it, listen to people “closer to you”, such as James Baker, General Brent Scrowcroft, and Dr. Zbigniew Brzezinski. They don’t use the term “enemy” in some general sense – they talk specifically about Hamas, Syria, and others. Here’s the link you’d want:

If you think Peace in the Middle East can happen without Hamas, Hezbollah, Iran, or Syria, you’re wrong. I know you’d rather have some John McCain be forced into dialogue with “the enemy”, but it is already happening under Obama. North Korea, Iran, and Syria are proof of just that. Hamas and Hezbollah will be next… but Obama will decide when and where, not Malley.

August 11th, 2009, 6:07 pm


Akbar Palace said:

Akbar why shouldn’t USA talk with Hamas?


I don’t know. Perhaps the USA doesn’t talk with Hamas for the same reasons the Finnish FM didn’t want to talk with Hamas.

It’s all very puzzling.

There will be no contacts with Hamas until the three conditions set by the Quartet, and fully supported by the EU, are met”, Tuomioja specified.,0,1512406.story

Hmmm I wonder did the rabbis and other horn blowers also get the divine swine flu vaccination for Israeli Arabs. Why other countries do not use this cost effective method?


Because Israel has freedom of religion, anyone can pray to whomever they want. But to answer your question, the GOI is committed to vaccinations for all Israelis: Arab, Jew and even anti-semites.

August 11th, 2009, 6:59 pm


Akbar Palace said:

But don’t take this liberal’s word for it, listen to people “closer to you”, such as James Baker, General Brent Scrowcroft, and Dr. Zbigniew Brzezinski.


You forgot to add Pat Buchanan.

Yes, the hard right and hard left always find Israel to be their favorite meeting place and destination for political love-making.

No surprise here.

Well, now that Obama has succeeded in destroying GWB’s victory in Iraq, he now wants to win in Afghanistan.

Good Luck Barrack!,2933,538949,00.html

August 11th, 2009, 7:07 pm


Nour said:

بيان الشعبة السياسية في الشام تاريخ 7 اب 2009
اخبار القومي – الفروع
الثلاثاء, 11 أغسطس/آب 2009 18:48
عقدَتْ الشعبة السياسية في الشام، جلستها الدورية لشهر آب 2009. ومن موقع الراصد اليقِظ والمنبِّه الدائم لخطورة تحرّكات العدوّ اليهودي، ومنها المناورات العسكرية التي يجريها جيشه الآن على مرتفعات الجولان السوري المحتلّ، وما سبقها من مناورات أجراها في أرضنا المحتلة المحاذية لجنوب لبنان، وعبور غوّاصته النووية قناة السويس وصولاً إلى البحر الأحمر وتصريحات قادته … فإن الشعبة السياسية للحزب السوري القومي الاجتماعي في الشام، تضع كلّ هذه التحرّكات العسكرية للعدوّ اليهودي، موضع الاستعدادات لشنّ عدوان محتمل يقوم به العدوّ على الشام أو لبنان أو كليهما، قد يأتي بعد فترة زمنية قصيرة من إنهاء جيشه مناوراته العسكرية التي يجريها الآن في الجولان المحتلّ، وقد يستغلّ شهر رمضان لشنّ عدوانه الذي يصدر عن نفسية العداء اليهودي الدائم لشعبنا، ومن وعد “يهوه” لهم باحتلال المزيد من أرضنا أولاً .

ومن ناحية ثانية يكون العدوان العسكري بمثابة صفعة للرئيس الأميركي أوباما، لمطالبته بوقف الاستيطان في أرضنا المحتلة، وإحراجًا لإخراج الإدارة الأمريكية من سياسة الانفتاح على الشام، وتحجيمًا للدور التركي عند الوساطة غير المباشرة بين الشام والعدوّ اليهودي، ولكسر شوكة حليف من الحلف الثلاثي ـ دمشق ـ طهران ـ حزب الله، لإضعاف أو فكفكة هذا الحلف، وأخيرًا لإخراج حكومة العدوّ من أزماتها الداخلية والعالمية وكذلك ردّ الاعتبار لقيادته العسكرية.

وأمام هذه المعطيات فإن الحزب السوري القومي الاجتماعي يطلق نداءه إلى القيادة السياسية والعسكرية في الشام، وإلى قيادة الجيش والمقاومة الوطنية في لبنان، لاتخاذ أعلى درجات الجهوزية القتالية لمواجهة عدوان يهوديّ محتمل قد يقوم به العدوّ مستغلاً شهر الصيام…

ولتزامن انعقاد جلسة الشعبة السياسية للحزب السوري القومي الاجتماعي في الشام، مع انعقاد المؤتمر السادس لحركة ” فتح ” في بيت لحم، فإن الشعبة السياسية ترى أن ما بين “حماس” و “فتح” من خلاف هو نتاج إسفينٍ دقته المخابرات المصرية بين الحركتين بما هما حركة مقاومة وحركة مساومة.

وهنا يدعو الحزب السوري القومي الاجتماعي، جميع أبناء شعبنا في فلسطين و”فصائل” مقاومته، إلى التعالي فوق الجراح وفوق المصالح الضيّقة، والمباشرة فورًا بردم التراب على الأحقاد والصراعات البينيّة، وغسل اليد من نصائح المخابرات الكامبديفيديّة، وإلى وعي حقيقة وجودهم وإدارة وجههم إلى بيئتهم الطبيعية… وبكل تأكيد سيجدون في الشام حضنًا دافئًا تذوب في حنانه كلُّ خلافاتهم، وسيجدون في الشام جذورهم الطبيعية، وشعورًا موحِّدًا بينهم وبين أهل الشام، بأنهم شعب واحد في وحدة حياة ووحدة مصير.

وتوقفت الشعبة السياسية عند ما يتمّ طرحه الآن عن عزم الجهات المعنية في الشام تعديل وتطوير عدد من القوانين النافذة فيها. وهنا يهيب الحزب السوري القومي الاجتماعي بالمواطنين الأفاضل، ذوي الاختصاص الذين أسندت أو أوكلت إليهم مهمّة الشروع في تعديل القوانين المنوي تطويرها، أن يضعوا نصب أعينهم مصلحة الشعب السوري، والنهوض به إلى ما يتناسب والمرتبة الحضارية التي نبتغيها، والتي تليق بشعبنا .

ومن الأمور المهمة جدًا التي ناقشتها الشعبة السياسية، موضوع “التقنين الكهربائي المستمر” وهنا تدعو الشعبة السياسية وزارة الكهرباء والحكومة الشامية، بشكل عام إلى معالجة هذا الأمر فهو من مهامها الأساسية، وليس أسهل من حلّ مشكلة من هذا النوع في ظلّ مفهوم الدولة الراعية، وذلك بمنع التعديات على الشبكة العامة للكهرباء، ورفع مستوى الصيانة وفق برامج محددة مسبقًا، وإقامة محطات توليد كهربائية جديدة …اللهم إلا أذا كان وراء الأكمة ما وراءها … وأن وراء التقنين الكهربائي فتح قنوات عبورٍ لمنتفعي القطاع الخاص، إلى مجال الكهرباء، مما يشكِّل خطرًا كبيرًاعلى إستراتيجية الدولة ومصلحة الشعب، وهذا ما يحذر منه الحزب السوري القومي الاجتماعي .

وفي مسألة العلاقات مع القوى والأحزاب السياسية في الشام، فإن الحزب السوري القومي الاجتماعي يعلن موقفه الثابت والمبدئي، بأن نسج أية علاقات مع القوى والأحزاب السياسية، يجب أن يكون تحت سقف وحدة الوطن ووحدة المجتمع وسلامتهما.

دمشق في 7 آب 2009

رئيس الشعبة السياسية في الشام

عبد القادر العبيد

August 12th, 2009, 12:20 am


Nour said:

Pretty good article from Syria Today on the new personal status law proposal that was shelved by the government. But notice the nonsensical arguments made by Khalid Rashwani, who is defending the proposed law. Who said that personal status matters have to be governed by Sharia? And who is Khalid Rashwani to decide who should be allowed to marry and who should not? The civil state should not be differentiating between citizens based on their personal beliefs. The civil state should view people on one basis and one basis only; their citizenship. So the fact that Mr. Rashwani believes that a “murtad” should not be allowed to marry a Muslim woman does not bind the state. He is free to believe what he wishes, but the state is not going to speculate on and interfere in people’s personal beliefs. A Syrian citizen an be a devil worshiper for all I care, but the state should only view them as Syrian; nothing more, nothing less.

August 2009
Personal Status Matters

By Fay Ferguson and Nadia Muhanna
Photo Fadi al-Hamwi

Syria’s civil rights movement is celebrating a successful campaign to freeze proposed changes to the country’s personal status code which they say would have reversed years of hard fought advances for women’s rights and secular personal liberties.

The campaign, heavily utilising social media forums such as Facebook, was launched three months ago after a new draft law written to replace the entire Personal Status Law of 1953 was leaked to the public. Shocked civil rights groups, MPs and religious figures argued the draft law reinforced old laws in desperate need of amendment and added new clauses which took Syria backwards. Activists described the proposed law as “frightening” and accused the committee responsible for writing it of trying to impose extremist Islamic views “similar to those of the Taliban” on Syria.

Meanwhile, shades of grey in the draft about whether or not the laws would apply to all of the country’s different religious communities added more fuel to the flames.

Arguing that the draft law contradicted the Syrian constitution, interfered with the rulings of Syria’s religious courts and reversed forward thinking on women’s and children’s rights, civil society groups compelled the government to recently declare the draft, officially at least, cancelled. The relentless campaign launched on the web in opposition to the draft stands as a milestone for the country’s civil society movement.

“The campaign that activists launched against this draft law signified progress for civil society,” Antoine Mousleh, head of St. John’s Church in Damascus, said. “The boundaries were lifted when it came to criticism of the law, people were more open. A few years ago this may not have happened.”

A fiery debate

For supporters of the draft – publicly few and far between – the controversy is without merit. They deny the draft is extremist, arguing it complies with sharia law as all personal status matters should.

“I wasn’t surprised by the draft law, it’s very similar to the current one,” Khalid Rashwani, a lawyer specialising in criminal and sharia law, said. “Certain people interested in women’s rights issues made a big fuss about the matter, but there was no need. Personal status laws should follow sharia law and in sharia law the rights of women are specified, so we should accept this. Why is it being likened to the Taliban? Most people in Syria agree that sharia should be applied in personal and family law.”

Rashwani’s position is rejected by activists such as Bassam Kadi, director of the Syrian Women’s Observatory. Kadi said the draft does not represent the views of the majority of Syrians, but those of a minority who are abusing the term sharia to impose their extremist views.

“This draft law doesn’t represent the views of society or the government,” he said. “Sharia is too broad a term to apply here. Sharia is everything that has been laid down as laws by Muslims, so if you say this draft complies with sharia laws then you must specify which ones. Sharia can be what Osama Bin Laden or anyone says it is. In this case, sharia is being used as an excuse to apply extremist Islamic laws.”

One of the most controversial articles in the draft law was Article 21. It prescribed the creation of a legal body with, among other powers, the authority to divorce a couple without their consent if one of them is deemed to be a murtad, a Muslim who has renounced his or her faith.

According to Rashwani, the authority of such a body is both necessary and legitimate. “If a man is considered a murtad, of course he should be divorced from his wife,” he said. “A Muslim woman can’t be married to a non-Muslim man, so an independent body should be able to divorce them.”

Contrary to this view, critics such as Kadi argue that nobody has the right to speculate about another person’s beliefs or to interfere in a marriage without at least one of the partner’s consent.

Pressure on moderates

Mohammed al-Habash, a member of parliament and director of the Islamic Studies Centre in Damascus, said the proposed law was an attempt to pressure moderate Muslims to conform to more conservative teachings. “This legal body could be used as a weapon to put pressure on moderate Muslims,” Habash said. “Either they follow the same beliefs and actions as the legal body does or they will be considered a murtad and consequently divorced from their partner.”

Other parts of the proposed law lambasted by critics include Articles 63 and 92 which prohibit secular people from marrying. “Every person has the right to marry regardless of his or her beliefs,” Habash said. “Therefore, I disagree with the attempt to prevent secular people from being allowed to marry.”

Restrictions were also proposed for interfaith wedlock outside the Islamic courts. Article 38 in the draft law states that a non-Muslim woman married to a Muslim man outside the Islamic courts cannot legally register the marriage unless her husband agrees. A Muslim man, on the other hard, can register a marriage even if his alleged wife denies it exists. “This law is completely unacceptable,” Mousleh said. “If a Muslim man says a woman is his wife, that’s it, she’s his wife no matter what she says. Her word counts for nothing. This law treats Christian women like women in the old days of war, when they were captured as trophies.”

Another cause for alarm was Article 140, which states: “A husband is obliged to pay expenses for his wife’s education according to his financial ability and as long as the wife’s study does not contradict with her family obligations”. Critics argue this article would mean young girls could lose their right to education, adding that it runs contrary to reforms that have raised the age of compulsory education to 15. “This law means that a husband can prevent his 13-year-old wife from studying, using the excuse that it affects her household duties,” Kadi said. “It tries to undermine progress made via reform of Syria’s education laws.

Activists were also angry the draft law still contained several clauses which they have long campaigned to change. Just like the current law, Article 45 in the draft law permits boys to marry at the age of 15 and girls at the age of 13. The reinforcement of this law dealt activists, who have worked hard to raise the age of marriage to 18, a huge blow. “Children at such an early age don’t even know what marriage means, let alone what it is to create a family of their own,” Kadi said. “The law should have been changed.”

Rashwani, however, said allowing marriage to take place at the ages of 13 for a girl and 15 for a boy was not only suitable in certain cases, but sometimes a necessity. “Boys and girls living in Deir ez-Zor, for example, become mature earlier due to the tough circumstances in the Jazeera region, therefore they should be allowed to marry younger,” he said. “Sometimes it’s even necessary for a young girl to marry earlier because when both parents die, she has nobody to look after her.”

Drafted in secret

Critics of the proposed law are also deeply concerned about the manner in which it was drafted – it was drawn up in secret by a committee of anonymous sharia scholars, without the knowledge or input of other interested social and religious parties, and sent directly to the prime minister’s cabinet instead of parliament for public discussion.

“I call it a conspiracy because the draft wasn’t sent to parliament,” Kadi said, “The committee knew the reaction the draft would get which is why they didn’t put it to the press. They sent the draft to a few interested ministries and bodies with a note which gave a deadline for comments within a week. A week is not enough time to read such a large law, let alone comment.”

Habash echoed similar concerns. “The prime minister gave permission to the [former] minister of justice to choose the committee, but unfortunately he only chose from one corner of Syrian society,” he said. “Most Syrians believe we should follow our religion when it comes to personal status matters. But that doesn’t mean we should only ask one sect. All groups need to be consulted when it comes to such a significant law.”

There has been much speculation about why such a select committee was given the authority to write the draft law. According to Kadi, the government was just as surprised by the content of the draft law as civil rights groups. “The government followed procedures and asked the justice minister at the time to set up the committee,” he said. “However, they didn’t keep checks on the committee and what it was writing. Before they knew it, this crazy draft law had been written and was causing controversy.”

While the proposed law has been shelved by the government – Syria’s Foreign Minister Walid al-Mu’allem told the regional English-language newspaper The National last month it would never be passed – civil rights campaigners like Kadi say his fellow activists cannot rest on their laurels. Ultimately, Kadi said the blame for why such a draft law was able to reach such an advanced stage lies with civil society.

“The problem is that civil society organisations in Syria have a phobia of Islam – many dare not criticise wild interpretations of it because they’re scared of being labelled non-believers,” he said. “The content of this draft is civil society’s fault, because it hasn’t kept checks on extremist figures trying to infiltrate the system.”

August 12th, 2009, 2:27 am


Akbar Palace said:


How is the Syrian Social National Party different than the Baath Party?
How can the Zionists break “the backbone of the triple alliance ally Damascus Iranian Hezbollah”?

August 12th, 2009, 12:08 pm


Shai said:

Though not directly related to Syria, I found this article a wonderful testimony to the fact that more and more professional Israelis (in this case a diplomat) are waking up and starting to talk. The apparent “clash” taking place between Washington and Jerusalem may yet prove a blessing in disguise:

August 12th, 2009, 2:13 pm


Akbar Palace said:


cc: Mr. Liel

Let’s make a trade for the betterment of our 2 great countries.

You can have Barrack Obama, and we’ll take BB.


August 12th, 2009, 2:34 pm


Shai said:


That FOX had difficulties portraying Obama’s “Yes We Can” attitude is one thing. But now you want Bibi’s “No We Can’t” one for America? Is this how conservatives move forward in life, by defining for themselves what is NOT possible? 🙂

If open-minded “realists” like you were in charge, America would have landed on the Moon already by 1869, not a century later!

August 12th, 2009, 2:59 pm


Alex said:

Syria won’t go for direct talks until the Netanyahu government indicates it understands the price of peace (returning the Golan to Syria in full), Israel won’t engage in anything less than direct talks and Netanyahu’s cabinet members are making it clear they will not return the whole Golan to Syria.

Where do we go from here?

Deputy FM: Israel ruling out indirect Syria talks
By Reuters
Tags: Middle East peace, Syria

Israel will not resume Turkish-mediated peace talks with Syria under Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, insisting that any new negotiations be direct, a senior Israeli government official said on Wednesday.

“We have enormous respect and great appreciation for the Turkish efforts. But they have not succeeded – not because of the Turks,” Deputy Israeli Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon told Reuters in an interview.

“It’s because of Syrian intransigence,” he added, saying there would be no new recourse to Turkish mediation.
Netanyahu’s centrist predecessor Ehud Olmert engaged Damascus through Ankara last year, with all sides reporting some progress. A political scandal that forced Olmert from office, and Israel’s January war in Gaza, put those contacts on hold.

In power since March, Netanyahu has offered direct talks without preconditions – a reference to the Syrian demand that Israel commit itself in advance to returning the Golan Heights, which it captured from Syria in the 1967 Six Day-War.

Jerusalem also insists Syria distance itself from Iran and from Islamist guerrillas arrayed against Israel in Lebanon and Gaza. Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has been dismissive of that demand and predicted no breakthroughs with Netanyahu.

Asked if the Netanyahu government was ruling out a return to the mediated talks, which both Turkey and Syria have proposed reviving, Ayalon said: “Correct.”

“We have just benefited from the experience that shows that proximity talks did not work,” he said.

“If they [Syria] are really serious on peace, and not just a peace process which may serve them to extricate them from international isolation, if they are really serious, they will come and sit with us.”

The overtures to Olmert helped Assad’s relations with the West, long frayed over Syrian involvement in neighboring Lebanon and Iraq, alleged pursuit of weapons of mass destruction, and sponsorship of Palestinian militants.

U.S. President Barack Obama, who is trying to advance Israeli-Palestinian peacemaking as well as stabilize Iraq, has sent envoys to coax Syria into the circle of diplomacy.

Like Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, Ayalon is from the far-right Yisrael Beitenu party, junior partner to Netanyahu’s conservative Likud in the coalition government.

Lieberman keeps a low media profile and has largely ceded public diplomacy to Ayalon, a former Israeli ambassador to Washington.

August 12th, 2009, 5:05 pm


Akbar Palace said:

Yes we Can’t

Syria won’t go for direct talks until the Netanyahu government indicates it understands the price of peace…


You have to say “Yes, we can” in order to make the Israeli liberals happy! 😉

Just kidding. That requirement only stands for Israelis.

August 12th, 2009, 5:29 pm


Shai said:

I admire you, I really do. You look up to people who don’t just “sell out” their nation, their property (occupied or not), their souls. You identify with their toughness. They don’t seem to be dreamers not in touch with reality, but responsible pragmatists who truly can lead us out of our misery.

So far so good. Only problem is, that these “pragmatists” really are the Dreamers. If you think that Peace could be had with Syria without giving back the entire Golan (THEIR territory, not ours), or that peace could have been had with Egypt without the entire Sinai returned, then you’re dreaming, no matter how many times the Buffoon-for-Deputy-Minister Danny Ayalon can repeat his mantra. Some men never grow up, it’s true. But some do. Ariel Sharon and Ehud Olmert are such examples. Probably not a gram under-hawkish as compared with, say, this Ayalon character. For over 50 or 60 years of their lives, they were for Settlement buildup, for Occupying and turning Territories into Israel de facto and de jure. And yet, one fine morning they woke up, and completely changed their views. Sharon was elected to withdraw from Gaza and the West Bank. He was going to do it, all the way. And Olmert was elected to do the same. The same Olmert that was against handing back the Sinai, even in return for Peace with Egypt. He voted “AGAINST” in Knesset, when Menachem Begin brought up the proposal.

So what happened to these hawkish Likudnicks? Why did they shed their “tough skin” one day, and at once morph into irresponsible, dreaming liberals? And why did Netanyahu offer Syria to withdraw from the Golan, back in August of 1998, through his friend Lauder? And why is it that the Likud seems so “protective” of Israel and of her interests, and the Left (Labor) so irresponsible? When it is precisely under Barak’s government that more settlements were created in the West Bank than ever before or since! Isn’t it clear that it is the same Likud that is going to deliver the Golan, as it will the West Bank one day? Was only part-of-Sinai returned? Will only parts of the Golan be given back?

You asked before “If I (AP) just knew what Syria will give back in return…” As if you really expected Syria to publicly announce: “In return for the Golan, we will disassociate ourselves from Iran, Hezbollah, Hamas, North Korea, and anyone else that doesn’t like Israel…” In your mind, this is perfectly possible, and in fact necessary. That Syria will deliver peace by not arming Israel’s enemies is not “an obvious” to you (or that they would specifically agree to this in negotiations behind closed-doors). You actually fear Syria would give back nothing in return. No security, no guarantees, nothing. As if you have Egypt or Jordan to show for, as supporting evidence to your “genuine” concerns. What did Egypt deliver? Nothing, just peace. What did Jordan deliver? Nothing, just peace. Both nations have political and other relations with Israel’s enemies (Iran included), and yet, somehow, they don’t aid them in threatening Israel. Why would Syria be any different? I’m not sure you’re asking yourself this.

But have you truly ever tried putting yourself in Syria’s shoes? What would you negotiate over, if you were them? Would you accept anything less than 100% of your Golan? Just as Israel will not accept 95% no-arming of Hezbollah (and 5% yes-continued arming). Just as Israel would not accept 2.5% continued military relationship with Iran. There are absolutes here that should not be toyed around with, as Ayalon for some odd reason is trying to do. As do other MK’s who probably want a few more votes from Golan residents in an upcoming election. And yet, their voices seem more convincing to you. More than Sharon’s or Olmert’s, or Begin’s.

August 12th, 2009, 6:14 pm


Akbar Palace said:

You actually fear Syria would give back nothing in return. No security, no guarantees, nothing. As if you have Egypt or Jordan to show for, as supporting evidence to your “genuine” concerns. What did Egypt deliver? Nothing, just peace. What did Jordan deliver? Nothing, just peace.


When will you grow up and face reality?

Egypt completely demilitarized the Sinai, which provides a HUGE buffer between the two countries. American forces have a permanent base there.

You forgot to mention the Yossi Beilin initiated “Oslo Accords”. Why? Perhaps because this is the little data point that shows what happens when you embrace a thug as a peace partner. And now you want the GOI to trust Assad for a hope and a prayer? No, land for peace must be negotitated simultaneously.

Get real! More proof why Israelis consider your ideas to be “schtoyot”.

Smart Power NewZ

Iran wants a ban on attacking nuclear facilities. Surprised?,2933,539228,00.html?test=latestnews

August 13th, 2009, 11:06 am


Amir in Tel Aviv said:


In March 2008, the Syrian authorities ordered Internet café users to provide their names and identification cards and the times they use the Internet café to Internet café owners who will subsequently present them to the authorities”.

I’m more than sure, that Asma and husband have super-Duper-fast-connection,
and unmonitored, censorship free, Internet (in the palace overlooking Damascus).

August 13th, 2009, 11:52 am


Aboud said:

Uh, Amir, I was in Syria last week, and no one asked me for an ID card when I used the Internet cafes.

August 13th, 2009, 1:02 pm


Shai said:


As usual, you avoid the tougher questions. I asked you why did the hawkish Begin, Sharon, and Olmert change their minds? You didn’t answer, you diverted attention to Oslo. But Sharon and Olmert changed their mind AFTER the Oslo failure – they had that in the background, and in consideration. And yet they changed. Why? Can you answer that?

As for Egypt demilitarizing the Sinai, please don’t disrespect the forum by suggesting that Syria is not ready to do the same on the Golan. Or that no one really knows if that is the case, or not. Ever since the early 90’s (that’s almost two decades, AP), Syria has offered not only to demilitarize the entire Golan, but to in fact pull back troops somewhere along a 4-to-1 ratio, in favor of Israel. An international force will take the place of the IDF on the Heights, as it did in the Sinai. If you were REALLY interested in what Syria “offered” in return for peace, or what type of arrangements had already been proposed, you would have easily known this by now. Need I again remind you that it was Syria who brought up the idea of the Peace Park on 1/3 of the Golan? They did this, on their own initiative, at the very FIRST meeting with Alon Liel.

But again, you fail to explain why Assad should be viewed as “just another Arafat”, and not as an Anwar Sadat or a King Hussein. Arafat was not a responsible leader of an entire nation. Sadat, Hussein, and Assad are. You’re worried about corrupt “thugs”? What about outright murderers? Who was responsible for more Israeli deaths – Arafat or Anwar Sadat? Sadat was, from Israel’s point of view at the time, the Devil incarnate. He was the WORST possible enemy. And yet, we knew that when he talked of peace, he meant it. There’s no sound reason on earth to believe Assad would be any different.

By the way, from the shores of New Jersey it must be easy to forget, but “most Israelis” have voted into power, in this decade alone, two hawkish ex-Likud Prime Ministers, to give back land to precisely the same “thugs” you’re so worried about. And the current PM, Bibi himself, has already offered the Golan to Hafez Assad (surely no less a “thug” in your book). And long after Oslo, he not only met, talked, and negotiated with Yasser Arafat, but even kissed him on a few occasions, and referred to him as “a friend”.

So you see, Akbar Palace, it really isn’t ME who is saying and doing all these things with “thugs”, it is the same people you’ve supported all these years. So I’m puzzled why you’re engaged in selective-memory games with this forum, and attempting to depict Liberals as the ultimate threat to Israel, instead of the overwhelming majority of Likud leaders. Only Shamir never gave anything back, never negotiated with “thugs”, never forced Jews out of their homes. But every other Likud PM before and since then, has. Your frustration should be with your own political “home”, not with mine.

August 13th, 2009, 1:25 pm


Akbar Palace said:

I asked you why did the hawkish Begin, Sharon, and Olmert change their minds?


Because the situations changed over the years and nothing is static.

Today, no Israeli leader except Yossi Beilin would contemplate returning to the lands recommended by the ’47 Partition Plan.

But Sharon and Olmert changed their mind AFTER the Oslo failure – they had that in the background, and in consideration. And yet they changed. Why? Can you answer that?

I’m not sure what “change” Olmert made after Oslo. If you can remind me, perhaps you can also explain why he failed to make peace.

Sharon made a calculation that Gaza was not worth the price protecting, and was worth more as a political statement: giving land away for free will not buy any moderation and will not buy any political points. Returning Gaza answers the question posed by outsiders, “If you give back land and they still attack you, you can always go back in and take it back”. Easier said than done.

The conclusion (IMO) is Israel’s reason for NOT doing anything unilaterally in the future unless it benefits Israel.

As for Egypt demilitarizing the Sinai, please don’t disrespect the forum by suggesting that Syria is not ready to do the same on the Golan. Or that no one really knows if that is the case, or not.

If you don’t know, don’t assume.

Ever since the early 90’s (that’s almost two decades, AP), Syria has offered not only to demilitarize the entire Golan…

I would be happy to study their proposal. Do you have a link? Returning the Golan will require LOTS of negotiations that include military redeployment, water rights, diplomatic assurances and gestures, economic guarantees, foreign and bi-lateral oversight, and, um, peace.

By the way, from the shores of New Jersey it must be easy to forget, but “most Israelis” have voted into power, in this decade alone, two hawkish ex-Likud Prime Ministers, to give back land to precisely the same “thugs” you’re so worried about. And the current PM, Bibi himself, has already offered the Golan to Hafez Assad (surely no less a “thug” in your book). And long after Oslo, he not only met, talked, and negotiated with Yasser Arafat, but even kissed him on a few occasions, and referred to him as “a friend”.

Thanks for the info Shai. I’ll make sure to enter this important information into my ME scrapbook.

So I’m puzzled why you’re engaged in selective-memory games with this forum, and attempting to depict Liberals as the ultimate threat to Israel, instead of the overwhelming majority of Likud leaders.


It seems to me liberals, yefeh nefesh and the like get all excited because BB shook hands with Arafat, or because Olmert said Israel must be willing to make concessions, or because Livni called BB a warmonger, or Begin made peace with Sadat or because Israelis left Gaza.

In the game of politics words are cheap. Real action is another thing. Israel has seen many many leaders come and go. Liberal and conservative, it doesn’t matter. It will always be Israel’s fault for not signing on the dotted line on some hypothetical piece of paper.

Admit it. The Arabs have a “Get out of Jail Free” card and can do whatever they desire. No accountability. It is the same mentality which is disgusted by Israel’s “murder of 3000” in gaza and Lebanon, but totally silent about the millions killed by Arabs. Excuse me while I puke.

Only Shamir never gave anything back, never negotiated with “thugs”, never forced Jews out of their homes. But every other Likud PM before and since then, has. Your frustration should be with your own political “home”, not with mine.

I’m not frustrated except from the “hate-Israel-first” crowd that seems to have lost so much political power in Israel.

August 13th, 2009, 2:17 pm


Shai said:


Your continued character-assassination of liberals, yefe-nefesh, or whoever else happens to disagree with your impotent foreign policy recommendations is, at best, a pitiful attempt that impresses very few. Someone, perhaps from AIPAC, perhaps with some FOX-background, taught you that Liberals are emotional little doves that are easily-excitable, easily-manipulated, and easily-self-hating. That they are quite the farthest thing from Patriotic citizens, who seem to care more about kisses on the cheek than about safeguarding and securing the interests of their state and of their children’s future.

If you knew any of these “Liberals” in person, up close, and didn’t fear them so much, you’d find there are people amongst us who gave their lives for this country, who served in places you’d fear sending your dog to, who lost precious years of life in the service of their country. They gave REAL service, not LIP service like some people I know around here, who convince themselves that theirs is the patriotic way, while others’ is not. Your phraseology never impressed me much, and your argumentation even less. One sentence response, or one link attachments, have about as much value.

You have perfected the art of closed-mindedness, and have joined along with the rest of the “sheep” that acts first, and thinks later, if at all. You cheered those IAF F-15i’s as they blasted away hundreds of innocent civilians in just hours. You didn’t consider for even a moment that you could be wrong, that you could be supporting a horrific crime that has no justification whatsoever. And of course you continue to blind yourself to the consequences of the actions you support. You’d kill a thousand, to save one life, a Jewish life. But would you kill a thousand of your own, I wonder, to save a single Muslim or a Christian life. I think I know the answer to that question.

There is no “hate-Israel-first” crowd Akbar, it is a figment of your imagination. It is a concept only you and your like have created, to sleep better at night with the crimes you’ve supported. It is a rationale you’ve created out of thin air, which presumes truth and justice residing purely with one side, yours. It is a mentality of us-vs-them, with us – or – against us, which artificially divides up your world into good and bad. Except, that despite all the self-deception you seem to be exercising, I believe that you know the truth. You know that all of those typical Bush-era arguments, all those one-sentence answers, and all of your FOX news links, all have a molecular weight of… zero.

August 13th, 2009, 7:23 pm


Amir in Tel Aviv said:


This is not a question of ‘Patriotism’.
Neville Chamberlain was not less patriotic than Winston Churchill.

August 13th, 2009, 9:51 pm


Akbar Palace said:


Yes. Exactly. Neville “Peace in Our Time” Chamberlain trusted Hitler. The rest is history.

Beilin started the same foolishness with an opened-ended agreement with Arafat. The same thing…

Now Shai is asking Israeli to repeat the “fashla” again.

That is why we call them “Yefeh Nefesh”. In all it is really just dangerous folly.

August 14th, 2009, 1:10 am


abbas said:

I am glad that Israelis are using this forum for discussions among themselves

August 14th, 2009, 3:55 am


jad said:

Its happening, we are just waiting for the date of the public and historical meeting between the government and the MB..Syria is becoming another Egypt…very refreshing..

إخوان سوريا يعلقون أنشطتهم المعارضة
العماد اول حكمت الشهابي في حلب

Something else, what’s the deal with Jumblat being forgiven that easily by the Syrian media and the system as he wasn’t responsible for the killing of many Syrian workers in Lebanon or being the reason for many of them to lose their jobs and being kicked out just because of his comments, its disgusting how the government is driving us the Syrian to agree with whatever works well with the hybrid Security+Religious system they built around us.

Norman, Nour, Alex, OTW, does anybody of you have thoughts of the issue?

I’m sorry to say that but your comment is allover the place, Mr Soubai didn’t penetrate anything but his reputation, he is back to stay and he is not going to do anything because he only represent himself so I wont give his political position that much importance, something else, It’s not 5years its less than one year for Zenobia TV tasteless and brainless programs, it is a failure.

August 14th, 2009, 5:35 am


Shai said:


With all due respect to your knowledge of history, are you suggesting any of the Arab leaders in the region are equivalent to Adolf Hitler, or to Nazi Germany’s capabilities and intentions towards the rest of Europe? Because if not, then your comparison of any of Akbar’s “yefeh nefesh” to Chamberlain is not in place.

I believe all those who trusted in Arafat were wrong. But to remind ourselves (or some of us who practice selective-memory), Yossi Beilin is not the only person who trusted Arafat. So did leaders from Labor (Rabin, Peres, Barak), all the way to Likud itself (Our very own Netanyahu, and Sharon). Akbar of course remembers only Beilin, not the others. He’ll criticize only Beilin, not the rest, certainly not the current PM. He won’t mention that, unlike the ex-Likud super-hawkish Ariel Sharon, Yossi Beilin was actually AGAINST the unilateral withdrawal from Gaza. Akbar mentions only Beilin’s Oslo. He won’t mention that Rabin, Peres, Netanyahu, Barak, Sharon, and Olmert, ALL kept negotiating with the same “thugs” that took part in Oslo. They ALL had Akbar’s great “insight” about Liberal-driven Israeli mistakes. And yet, somehow, they all kept making them.

But Akbar remembers Beilin…

August 14th, 2009, 10:21 am


Shai said:


You’re right, more often than necessary, we Israelis and American Jews do seem to “hijack” this forum.

But at times I think it’s important for “your side” to also see and hear the differences between us. You are more than welcome to join in our discussion. It is no less important for me to hear your opinion, than AP’s.

August 14th, 2009, 10:50 am


Amir in Tel Aviv said:


I don’t agree with Your interpretation of the last Israeli PMs.
If I understand you correctly, you argue that when they’re in power, they
suddenly realize that the Beilin’s were right all along, and those
PM’s adopt the Beilin way. I don’t think this is the case.

Barak and Sharon made their unilateral withdrawals, because they thought
there’s no point in staying in those hornet’s nests.
Unlike Beilin plans, this was unilateral, and with no official agreement.
This withdrawal did not change the strategic situation. It was tactical move.

Olmert talked about “realignment” before the 2006 elections. This did
not happened.
Then, he talked with Abu Mazen and Assad, and talked and talked and talked.
Talking is cheap (if not free), and is harmless, so why not talking some more.?

How long do you think, it should take to finalize a deal with Syria.?
20 minutes.? .. 40 minutes.? .. 50 minutes.? .. less than i hour, I think.
The fact that there’s no deal, shows that there’s no will.
Beilin’s irrelevance couldn’t have been more clear.

August 14th, 2009, 11:20 am


Nour said:


With respect to the MB, obviously the regime would welcome any reduction in any threat against it, so if the MB is willing to forge an understanding with the regime, then I’m sure the regime wouldn’t mind. I pesonally believe this is related to the rapprochement between KSA and Syria, as KSA has always used the MB as a tool in its quarrels with the Syrian regime. I don’t believe that this is going to turn Syria into another Egypt, as our civil society and secular orgnizations in Syria are stronger than that in Egypt and the Syrian regime will never allow extremist Islamists to get a real foothold in the country, as opposed to Egypt where the regime is willing to direct the extremism of the MB toward vulnerable segments of the population in order to keep it away from targeting the regime.

As for Jumblatt, the bottom line for the Syrian regime is that a dog who barks with them is better than a dog who barks against them. They apparently would like to use Jumblatt to create a positive atmosphere in Lebanon toward Syria.

In any case, these are all petty politics that really have no bearing in the long run for our nation. Regardless of partial political developments we have to deal with the fundamental issues that continue to harm our society, the main one being our lack of national consciousness. We have allowed all these corrupt groups to rise in our nation due to our loss of national identity and the resulting direction of our national energies toward apathy and strife. Once we attain true national consciousness, all these symptoms of our sickness will naturally cease to exist.

August 14th, 2009, 12:23 pm


Shai said:


This may come as a shock to you, but I never particularly agreed with Beilin’s ideas. I was of course excited to find out about Oslo, as did the overwhelming majority of Israelis, but I never expected Arafat to turn out to be another Sadat. When he didn’t, few were truly surprised, myself included.

I’m not suggesting any PM followed Beilin’s plans. But there’s no doubt that Likudnicks and ex-Likudnicks actually engaged and negotiated with the same “thugs” (as AP calls them) that Beilin was trusting all along. That’s my point, not that Sharon became a Liberal all of a sudden. So to suggest that negotiating with Syria, or with Assad, is Beilin-like, is simply untrue. It is just as much Begin, Bibi, Olmert, and Sharon-like.

The fact that there’s no will has nothing to do with Beilin. The entire nation of Israel has moved farther to the right, and our impotent politicians are either afraid of going against popular public opinion, or are simply uninterested in peace, or both.

I don’t know about you, but my ears and eyes saw a very different leader of Syria these past 5 years, asking and offering to make peace with Israel through just about every media form possible. It is us, Israel, that keeps turning him down… We should ask ourselves why. Not point at Beilin’s Oslo failures.

August 14th, 2009, 12:31 pm


jad said:

Thank you for the input, I agree with the fact that we lost our national identity and I appreciate that you always point out that as the core of our sickness and I agree that when we get back that sense of national responsibility we can easily get rid of all the problems breeding on our nation’s weakness.
What I look at differently than you is these points in your analyzing:

1- MB is already in the country and is already taking over a huge portion of our government, organizations and the society, seculars, communits and arab nationalism is already defeated in the battle with GOD’s rules and his army who enlighten the Syrians everywhere they meet them even if they belong to a different sect or religion, Syria as we know it or at least as we paint it in our vision of being a secular country with open minded citizens doesn’t exist or at least lost the foundation to become one, therefore it become another Egypt in the negative way of the comparison.
I disagree with you on your note that “our civil society and secular orgnizations in Syria are stronger than that in Egypt” because we don’t have any strong civil society and we don’t have any strong secular organization that we can depend on, you have a strong security system, a strong money manipulation and a strong conservative religious organizations that directing the future of Syria at the moment, so a civil society with 10 Syrians wont and can’t change a thing other than those three agendas, the Security system to control people, Religious system to control people, Money to control people, that is the real Syria today or at least as I see it.

2- Jumblat is a clear example of how the system is driving us and dictating us to write and do whatever works for its benefits regardless of ours. when Jumblat start attacking the government from its top down with the strongest and most provocative way the Syrian media attacks him in a vicious ways as if every word he says was about Syria the country not the system and now after he start glorifying the same government and the same people he attack couple months ago the Syrian media is saying that he admit that he was wrong about SYRIA and therefore he is forgiven, well, I’m Syrian and I don’t want to forgive him not because he attack the government and the politicians in my country because he has the right to do so but because his action lead to many Syrians to be killed and become out of work and being treated like criminals. so for me when the MEDIA treat us as retarded and force us to believe what works for the politicians best interest and not the country then I have the right to tell them “not in my name”
What do you think?

August 14th, 2009, 2:27 pm


Nour said:


I agree with your above two points and analyses. I didn’t say that we have a strong civil society, what I meant was that our civil society organizations and secular organizations are stronger than those in Egypt.

Yes, we have an uphill battle in terms of fighting the religious, sectarian mentality, but believe it or not, on the popular level the current strongest party in Syria is the SSNP. Now of course there aren’t as many social nationalists as there are religious people, but in terms of an organized party, the SSNP has more true popular support than any other party (The Baath has more in numbers but that’s more due to their hold on power and the benefit derived from supporting them rather than from a real conviction in their ideology). This at least gives you an idea that secular ideals are alive and well in Syria even if the current religious fervor overshadows them.

I think it was also refreshing (although it’s unfortunate to have to come to this) that our civil society organizations and secular organizations mounted an effective campaign to at least shelve the proposed farcical personal status law. I think this is also an indicator of support for secularism found in Syria, and it is something that should at minimum give us some hope for the future.

August 14th, 2009, 4:53 pm


Shami said:

Dear Nour,the today SSNP people in Syria ,most of them belong to minorities and the alawites among them are the most sectarian people that you may meet.
Nour ,they control most of the syrian security apparatuses ,the army and even large parts of the economy.
SSNP already has the power in Syria.
Anyway as Jad noticed,(he is from Syria you are from today Lebanon)
The trend is going towards the post Baath,post Nasserism and post SSNP and the other ideologies of this kind that ruined this region.

The future is obvious ,Syria will be ruled by liberal democratic forces (of leftist background included)and muslim conservative people.As Turkey today.

August 14th, 2009, 7:35 pm


norman said:


The MB are supporting Syria and it’s policies not the other way around ,

About Jumblat,

look at the prise , Lebanon , he can deliver that , actually , i am glad that Syria is thinking before acting and she is keeping the goals in sight.

August 14th, 2009, 8:45 pm


Nour said:


You have no way of knowing that because the SSNP does not conduct censuses to determine what the sectarian makeup of its members is. Suffice it to say that the SSNP includes members from all different segments of Syrian society.

And just to clarify things, there is an institute that calls itself the Syrian Social Nationalist Party, which has allied with the regime, although they most certainly do not control most of the security apparatuses, but this institute does not in any way represent the Social Nationalist ideology as outlined by Antoun Saadeh. The Syrian Social Nationalist Party is a truly independent party that never allied with the Baath, or any other group within the nation, and that has a clear ideology and clear aim for which it works tirelessly, for the benefit of the nation in its entirety. The current president of this party is Dr. Ali Haidar.

And the Party is growing in popularity because it is the one party with a well-defined and clearly-structured ideology that offers the only real solution to our national ailments. Its members are highly disciplined, non-corrupt, and courageous in their stands concerning matter affecting Syrian society. If you read some of the statements made by the political wing of the SSNP in Sham (Syrian Arab Republic) you would see the truth in my statement.

August 14th, 2009, 9:17 pm


Shami said:

Nour ,i’m not irrational ,besides my own experience, we have clear indicators for example the popularity of SSNP in their homeland in Lebanon and especially in their centers in the coastal part of North lebanon in which they lost in the elections and what do they represent on the national level?.Most probably you would not make a better score in Syria .(the most syrian regions in Lebanon are Tripoli and Saida) so it gives you an idea.
As for the sectarian and ethnic composition inside the asadian and makhloufian SSNP in Syria ,even the orthodox and sunni SSNPers(not those puppets of the syrian regime) i have met told me what i wrote above.I dont know Ali Haidar very well but as i said i know SSNPers who hate the regime and they also have sectarian judgment(anti alawito-mulhabarati) because of the sad realities inside Syria.
Anyway as a man who believe in democracy ,plurality and freedom ,i would be happy to compete with your party democratically and if you get close score of 10 % ,you deserves to be part of the future post Asadian democratic government and parliement.
When i see post Baath Syria ,that doesnt mean ,that the party should be prohibited ,but there is a trend in the society which is obvious and from this visible phenomenon we can foresee the future.

August 14th, 2009, 9:58 pm


Shami said:

Nour ,other thing ,the hatred of Saudi Arabia against the brotherhood is an historical fact, avoid such apriori.
If it was the case ,they would have been in power long time ago ,not only in Syria but most countries of the arab world.
Saudi Arabia always had close ties with Asad familly members ,they are of familly nature.They got billions of US dolalrs from Saudi Arabia during the events.

August 14th, 2009, 10:12 pm


Akbar Palace said:

I don’t know about you, but my ears and eyes saw a very different leader of Syria these past 5 years, asking and offering to make peace with Israel through just about every media form possible. It is us, Israel, that keeps turning him down… We should ask ourselves why. Not point at Beilin’s Oslo failures.


So there you have it. The talks with Syria failed because of you Israelis.

Shai, has never found it necessary to criticize anyone else.

Of course, Shai doesn’t have a clue as to what the Syrians have offered, because Shai will accept anything.

August 14th, 2009, 11:39 pm


Nour said:


The SSNP is a renaissance party with an all-encompassing ideology and philosophy laid down clearly by its founder and leader, Antoun Saadeh. If you want to know what the Party is and what it represents, then go and read Saadeh’s writings; they’re there for everyone to see.

Social Nationalists, i.e. those who adhere to the Social Nationalist ideology and who have taken an oath of membership in the SSNP, cannot be sectarian, because Social Nationalism is an entirely secular philosophy which views society as a single, organic unit, and not a conglomeration of sects coexisting on the same land. Should an SSNP member exhibit any sectarian tendencies, they would be expelled from the Party as such exhibitions are contradictory to the Party principles and constitute a deviation from its thought. It is of course very possible that some individuals bring diseases prevalent in our society into the Party with them, but as I said they are normally expelled and the Party institute maintains a strict adherence to Saadeh’s philosophy and ideology.

As for the MB, they may very well be disliked by the Saudi regime, but this doesn’t mean that they were not used as a tool by the Saudis to apply pressure on the Syrian regime. The funding and support for the MB to carry out their terror activities in Syria during the late 70’s and early 80’s came mainly from the US, Jordan, and KSA.

August 15th, 2009, 6:18 am


Shami said:

Dear Nour,i’m sorry ,we have more knowledgeable and interessting than Saadeh to read.If he is so important as thinker,he would have occupied many in Harvard or Oxford ,but so is not the case.
Instead you would see many academic researches on Said Hawwa ,who was a MB thinker but also a Sufi sheikh. (the friend of Jad)
.You are free to think as you like but explain me how the ssnpers who work for the syrian regime ,as mukhabarat ,army officers and the so many makhlufs and asads among them are non sectarian people?
I dont think it’s fair to speak about terror activities of the brotherhood if there were some and for sure some of them did mistakes and killed innocent people as could make any population subjected to same injustice and state terror,it was mostly an answer to this state terror by young people who heard that syrian muslim girls were raped ,people were killed ,tortured,kidnapped…,it’s not 0,001 % compared to the terror of your friendly regime.most of those were university students ,academics with good education .
They received only logistical support from Jordan yes and Saddam helped them with money and weapons ,but for KSA you are wrong …dont try to put KSA everywhere there are muslims.
And dont be blind by your hatred for the MB.They are Syrians may be more than you are.

August 15th, 2009, 8:01 am


Shami said:

Other thing nour ,when we expose the sectarian behavior of this regime that doesnt mean we are sectarian ,any clear mind who want to speak about the syrian realities ,can not ignore this fact ,whatever he is SSNPer,Communist Atheist…
Nour ,you are soft towards them and harsh toward their opponents,those are the sectarians who destroyed the life of 10 000’s of Syrians.Do you remember in our past history in which a syrian ruler massacred syrian innocent civilians by thousands as Asad brothers did in Hama,Tadmor …Aleppo?Could you see in our history such minority paranoid sectarianism ?we also had in the past a minority rule too ,but unlike the Asads they were not paranoid sectarians,like the Hamdanids and Bani Mirdass in Aleppo ,the Fatimids in Damascus and Cairo and not long time ago the Druze family of Al Maan.

August 15th, 2009, 8:25 am


Nour said:


Your sectarianism is based on your inherent view of society. You see yourself as a Sunni Muslim first and foremost, and you believe that because Sunni Muslims are the majority in Syria, that they should therefore rule the country. This is inherently sectarian.

Regarding Antoun Saadeh, Harvard and Oxford are definitely not going to support or advocate his thought because there is a material and intellectual war against the SSNP by the west and by corrupt groups inside the country. But you can’t claim that there are more knowledgeable and more interesting people to read without first having read Saadeh. If you decide beforehand that Saadeh isn’t interesting then you are approaching the issue from a prejudicial viewpoint. Antoun Saadeh is in fact the greatest thinker of our time; and I don’t say this merely because I am an SSNPer, but because I have read Antoun Saadeh’s works and studied his philosophy.

As for the MB, I do not hate them, and never did. I don’t hate anyone in our nation, but I oppose their views and their methods. The MB is an inherently sectarian, ultra-religious organization, which I believe cannot possbly serve the interest of the Syrian nation. The MB supports the creationg of a Sharia-based Islamic state, a concept I completely oppose and which I believe is highly detrimental to society. And they did in fact engage in terror activities, not because “Muslim girls were being raped,” as this is utter nonsense, but because they wanted to impose a “Sunni” Islamic state and viewed he Syrian regime as a “kafer” Alawi regime. And KSA has provided material support to the MB on many occasions; this is a fact, as much as you would like to deny it. I don’t state it because I “hate” the MB, as I do not, but merely because it is true.

With respect to the regime, I agree that the regime behaves in a sectarian manner, and that’s largely because in order to secure its hold on power, it feels it can only trust members of its own sect. However, in principle, the regime does not differentiate between one Syrian and another.

Finally, the Makhlouf and Assad SSNPers you are talking about are not SSNPers. Some in the Makhlouf family were SSNP members a while back, and so the SSNP label continued to be applied to the family, but they are most definitely not adherents of Saadeh’s philosophy. The SSNP is a party with a president and an organized institute, and it is the only authority that should be reviewed to see what the Party positions are. In addition, the SSNP had always been banned and persecuted by the Baath regime, as well as previous Syrian regimes. The SSNP is highly principled organization with a clear independent policy.

August 15th, 2009, 2:17 pm


Shai said:


It is true that I certainly criticize you much more than, say, Alon Liel. That’s because you yap and yap, but have no plan. You character assassinate Yossi Beilin, but for things that were done and supported also by most Likud leaders (which of course you fail to acknowledge, as part of your selective-memory campaign). By the way, did you know that Bibi voted FOR the unilateral withdrawal from Gaza in 2005? Did you know that Beilin was AGAINST it? So who’s the Yefe Nefesh Akbar? And, more specifically, who’s the Hypocrite here, who says nothing about Bibi’s decisions? He votes FOR leaving Gaza, he talks and negotiates with Arafat, he hands Arafat control over major Palestinian cities, and all this… AFTER Oslo! Do you say anything against Bibi? Not in this lifetime.

Do I think Syria made or is making mistakes? Of course. I think Hafez Assad should have found a way to close a deal with Bibi, who was apparently ready to give back the Golan in August 1998. I think Syria is continuously making the mistake of underestimating the power of public opinion in Israel, and isn’t targeting it nearly enough. I think it is not finding the ways to create CBM’s that would speak directly to our public. And they are expecting our corrupt and impotent political leadership to do something most of our public is currently against. Syria is expecting our leadership to lead. It is wrong in assuming they can.

Am I critical of Syria’s continued engagement with Hezbollah and Iran? Yes and No. Yes, because they are making it tougher for the average Israeli to vote “FOR” the return of the Golan. The average person isn’t very intelligent about what or why nations do what they do. The average Israeli doesn’t know 90% of what Syria does, has done, and is proposing to do. You barely know what they’ve offered over the years, and you spend about 10 hours / day on SC, so you think the average Israeli knows?

But also No, because unlike you I do understand why Syria is hanging on to these alliances. I don’t have to like it, or benefit from it in any way, but if I’ve got half a brain (as apparently all the recent Heads of Israeli Intelligence do), I’d understand Syria’s motivation. And, like the same Heads of Intelligence have concluded and recommended over the past half-decade, I too would suggest that Syria IS serious about peace, and will undoubtedly change its stance once Israel returns the Golan. Did you know that during the 2006 war in Lebanon, our Intelligence heads recommended engaging Syria in peace talks? The rockets that Hezbollah launched against Israel passed right through Syria, en route from Iran. And yet, Aman and Mossad suggest Syria IS serious about Peace? How can that be?

I assume you know about as much about current and previous Heads of Intelligence in Israel as you do about me, so maybe you’d consider them also Beilin-supporters? 🙂 Do a little research dear AP, you might learn a thing or two about what those whose profession it is to collect and assess Intelligence, and then to provide recommendations, have to say about Syria and Peace. But maybe you know something they don’t…

August 15th, 2009, 3:19 pm


Shami said:

Dear Nour
I’m a muslim yes but a liberal ,i hate homogeneity even inside Sunnism,i love all good people ,whatever they are atheists ,shias,nusayris,christians.My ideal Umma ,is democratic, non sectarian ,non clerical ,pluralist ,modern ,open to the world and moderately secular.

sectarianism is useless for me ,i dont need it,for example as Sunni,it’s not only the majority in Syria ,it’s probably the largest religious group in the world so whatever happens ,the worse or the better scenarios ,Sunnis will remain important in number/potential everywhere on this planet.
Unlike those of your friendly regime who use umamist ideologies as the syrian social nationalism and Baath as cover,Nour,you are not of that kind,i got confirmation from your writings here or on your blog.

August 15th, 2009, 3:42 pm


Nour said:

Dear Shami,

I definitely respect your religious views, as I do all religious views of my fellow compatriots. However, I believe it is dangerous to mix between religious views and national identity. I believe you are a Syrian first and foremost, and view you as such before anything else, regardless of your personal views on any matter.

Shami, when you say that sectarianism is useless for you because Sunni Muslims are the largest religious group, this in itself is a sectarian sentiment. I’m not saying that you have a hostile attitude toward other sects, but from your writings it appears that your view of society is one made up of different sects and religious groups. On the other hand, I view society as a single organic unit that transcends religions and sects.

Now, I would like to clarify something, as I have written before, I don’t believe the Baath is a truly secular party, even though it is not overly religious in its ideological leanings. However, I do believe its view of society is based to a great extent on religion. I oppose the Baathist ideology because I believe it too is detrimental to our society. I strongly believe that our nation needs a national renaissance whereby we become conscious of our national identity, and the fact of the matter is that the Baath cannot lead such a renaissance.

August 15th, 2009, 3:57 pm


jad said:

kareem, that is so funny, comparing Saadeh to Hawwa, a very “fair” comparison between an ultra sectarian with tones of complexity who doesn’t know anything out of his hatred sectarian messages of separating Syrians and treat them as brainless objects who are created just to pray God all day long and do nothing else beside looking at each other sects and judge, to an ultra secular smart and great human who promote a uniting philosophy for all Syrian regardless of their sect, race and backgrounds to live under one modern and working nation. That is plain stupid!

Your comments are reflecting to who you are so I’m not surprise of them, they are another masterpiece of your writing with the classy use of ‘assadian, maskhloufian, Alawites’ and sects other than yours, how lovely and productive is that! Adding the raping Muslim women crappy story (where do you get those story from? some crappy movie?)
You also contradict yourself in your comments try to be honest and show your sectarian self ,everybody on SC knows that so no need to write some meaningless and repeated comments as this “I’m a Muslim yes but a liberal” because you are not, come out of that closet, we all already see you in it,

Please keep including my name in your comments until you get some nice classic answers you love!

August 15th, 2009, 4:44 pm


jad said:

Nour wrote
“I’m not saying that you have a hostile attitude toward other sects”

Jad write:
I AM and HE is period

Kareem is full of hostility toward any sect other than his own he is hostile toward Alawites, Shias, Christians, Athiests and any other sects in this world.

August 15th, 2009, 4:52 pm


Shami said:

Jad,what should we say instead the baathist regime ?

It’s an ultra minority alawite family regime ,and nothing else ,and this is not a sectarian statement ,it’s the reality and we should not avoid to say the truth as it is.And,i will be among those who will do their possible in order to protect the alawite community from any harm in the future.And i repeat ,i love all good people ,the good among the jews ,the atheists,the yazidis,the nusayris ,the shias,the buddhists ….and i hate the bad people among the Sunnis.
Jad ,i’m not in love with Said Hawwa ideology ,i only noticed that Saadeh’s thinking did not draw attention in the respectable academic cirlces.
Nour,that doesnt mean sectarianism ,pluralism is impossible to avoid,we should find the better way to live together,christians,muslims,sunnis,shias,jews through a rationalist approach ,your ideologies who call for homogenization remind us the worst kind of fascistic ,stalinist and socialist nationalist regimes.This is an utopia.
it’s nice on the paper but always bad on the ground.
unlike you i’m not an idealist but a realist.

August 15th, 2009, 5:14 pm


Shami said:

Jad,not only women were raped in hama (after the material and human destructions)and syrian prisons…this is not unknown ,do you ignore it really ?if one of those was a christian girl ,i’m sure that you would have adopted the same stance than these young people who fought the regime .
I would not repeat it at any occasion but i wanted to give an explain to the reaction of some young people to state terror because we are sure of one thing ,the Syrian brotherhood exist in Syria since the 30’s and it was a respectable party during the democratic era.
So who brought this mess to Syria ?Alex as regime propagandist would say in a pavlovian reflex …Saudi Arabia or Egypt or Israel and USA ,but he knew inwardly the true answer ,he knew it.he would say the truth of his thought once he is freed from the world of lies of this mukhabarati dictature.

August 15th, 2009, 5:33 pm


Nour said:


You have a tendency to just mix between various contradictory ideologies, only because you believe they are generally secular. Social Nationalism has nothing to do with communism or fascism, and its view of society is completely different than the view of the above two ideologies. The bottom line is that your religious beliefs have nothing to do with your national identity or your social belonging. You are Syrian because you are a member of a single Syrian society in whose single life you naturally partake. The fact that you adhere to the Muslim religion does not change this fact. It is your nation that gives you your character, temperment and social psyche, and not your religious conviction. There are Muslims who are Pakistani, Afghani, Indonesian, etc., but they each are part of a distinct society, completely different from your own. The fact that you share their religious beliefs does not make you part of their nation or society.

Moreover, the civil state should not view its people except through their national belonging and citizenship. This is the basis of all modern political systems and it is why someone like you and I can live normally in the US or in European countries. We are viewed as equal citizens under the law and our religious, ethnic, or racial background has absolutely no bearing on our status. This is not fascism or stalinism, it is the basis of having an advanced, modern, unified nation where the national energies can be guided toward serving the national interest, rather than toward divisiveness, fragmentation, disintegration, and internal strife.

August 16th, 2009, 2:23 am


Nour said:


If we are to accept your claim of rapes following the Hama battles for the sake of argument, that would still weaken your above argument, where you claimed that the MB engaged in terror attacks in response to reports of regime men raping Muslim girl, as that would have preceded Hama.

However, those reports of rapes are intended specifically to incite sectarian hatred. The maim message sent is that “Alawites are raping Muslim girls,” and this is enough to provoke severe animosities within Syrian society. It is a dangerous practice and we ought to refuse to participate in it.

August 16th, 2009, 2:36 am


Shami said:

Nour ,you are playing the devil’s advocate here,even lebanese (from all sects) were raped by your friendly regime,you are aware of it i’m sure of that ,ok in the context of the civil war and the overbid in terror in leb it was more soluble but in Syria it was an abrupt act of agression against innocent civilians that translate a deep sectarian hatred from the alawites of asad against the cities and especially ,the gem of the orontes ,hama ,as if the massacres and destruction of a city on the head of its men , women and children was not enough to pin up their hatred.Dont be satisfied with these slogans if not consider yourself as passive accomplice,i’m speaking about 10 000’s of syrian civilians massacred ,historic sites destroyed ,urban historic fabric erased…it happened few years ago.
Forget law and fiqh, my religion is in the same time a civilization,an art,architecture,way of life ,a culture which is a wonderful mixture of influences from China to Al Andalus,from Sassanian persia,Syriac and the Classical greek culture ,it’s a wonderful synthesis of great culture ,for this reason ,in my opinion a muslim can not be other than a liberal.(middle eastern christians and jews are also part of this culture).
Other thing Nour,when you visit Damascus ,you will see the wonderful shrines of Saladin ,Nur al Din Zanki ,Zahir Baybars ,all of those took part to our prestige and they were of non Arab origin.The Ottomans also had an huge influence on us.
You have to take into account this past.

August 16th, 2009, 3:51 am


Shami said:

Nour,today the most powerfull country in the world contradict your jacobian conception of citizenship.I’m at ease with it.

August 16th, 2009, 4:07 am


jad said:

Shami, As usual you contradict yourself with what you write, your comments are the typical Syrian soapopera mould of ‘Historical Fantasia’ which is a pure fantasia with no real fact or goal to it and fiction without a meaning to support what you want and dismiss that doesn’t go well with what you are looking to prove. When you are accusing the communists and fascists political party of looking to make a homogenize the society and asking for one religion to rule over everybody because they are the majority of the world as you said that is a homogenizing in its extreme so you want what you are pretending to avoid, that is an obvious trick used toward ignorant not an educated and open minded society. When you are accusing the ‘regime’ ALONE of raping women of all sects in Lebanon and only Sunni women in Syria that is another case of delusion and propagandas from your full of hate and ignorance MB party that you are defending without mentioning what it did and that we wouldn’t be here talking about if it was a real political party not bunch of thugs and terrorist who destroy our society and gave the regime all needed tools to use them as reasons for us loosing years of freedom, your alike are the reason of that and you actually inherit that complex from your family for some obvious reasons and not as a true believer. Unfortunately, you are another Syrian failure to understand that building a society for the future needs lots of work and not by just belong to one sect who wants to take over everything and colour it with one tone.
You also wrote this paragraph about Alex that whenever you stuck looking the sectarian you are you call him and Norman as the good ‘Christian’ as if they are not Syrian!! What did change now and why accusing Alex of something he is not? Is it that you just wanted or to drag him into this fruitless repeated discussion of yours? I’m wondering?
(Alex as regime propagandist would say in a pavlovian reflex …Saudi Arabia or Egypt or Israel and USA ,but he knew inwardly the true answer ,he knew it.he would say the truth of his thought once he is freed from the world of lies of this mukhabarati dictature.)

((middle eastern christians and jews are also part of this culture) In fact it is the opposite way around, Islam is part of the whole civilization mosaic and not the whole picture, so Islam is not in anyway better or higher than any other religion and the Arabic civilization is the same and not higher than Chinese or Roman ones.

August 16th, 2009, 4:58 pm


Shami said:

Jad,i disagree with your negative judgement on our history ,this is your opinion as a christian who is not well in his today environment(this is not my fault)but you are free to think as you want ,your freedom is sacred for me.
As for my criticism of Alex,it was harsh ,i’m angry at him when he defends the regime at any price but honestly i love him very much and i have a lot of respect for his work ,i like dynamic people and his goals are noble, i’m sure that he is for a democratic Syria ,the opposite of today Syria,i’m sure of that.Unlike our brother Nour and may be you ,he is a liberal.
As for the Islamic Civilization ,its great merit it’s because it was a wonderful place of meeting of all these great cultures that preceded Muhamadian Islam ,this great synthesis had been made by the early Muslims,in Damascus,Aleppo ,Baghdad ,Hama,Cairo,Bukhara,Isfahan,Tunis,Fes ,Al Andalus,it was the first attempt of the internationalization of knowledge with the building of universities and hospitals from Al Andalus to Samarkand in which worked people from all backgrounds ,religions and ethnic groups,this great Civilization permitted later the cultural renaissance of Europe.

August 16th, 2009, 6:31 pm


jad said:

Kareem, I’ll show you how much contradictions are in your comments and how much you don’t understand what people writes you when you read something about religion and you let your religion to take over your logical analysis, you are a typical example of the failure I’m talking about:

1- (i disagree with your negative judgement on our history), I didn’t judge my history I simply point out that you are promoting homogeneity while you are calling every secular party the good and bad of them as fascist, while the ultimate fascist this world have is the religious one because you can’t argue with God?

2- (this is your opinion as a christian who is not well in his today environment(this is not my fault) but you are free to think as you want ,your freedom is sacred for me.) Here you direct your comment to me assuming that I’m Christian as if there is anything wrong with that, while you didn’t write SYRIAN, you wrote ‘christian’ then ‘who is not well in his today environment’ which is a clear indication you see that the Arab Christians are not well in today Arabic/Islamic environment and that for all those “Christians” you advise them to either become Muslims and enjoy ‘your’ world of freedom or shut up and leave, I have good news for you buddy, they are already leaving don’t worry, and if the situation of religious ignorance and the Christian immigration rate stays as it is right now in couple decades you will have none.

3- (As for my criticism of Alex,it was harsh ,i’m angry at him when he defends the regime at any price but honestly i love him very much) a contradiction again, for me you wrote that my freedom is sacred, for Alex, he doesn’t have any freedom of saying anything that doesn’t fit with your agenda and therefore he is a Propagandist who you have love/Hate feeling toward though you never meet the guy. What is that? Freedom of what? The freedom to shut up?

4- (Unlike our brother Nour and may be you ,he is a liberal) you get back to me and Nour since he is a SSNP’ers’ after you conclude that Alex is ‘FOR SURE’ for a democratic Syria while we are not and we are the opposite of liberals (you and ‘maybe’ Alex) which make us Conservative. (Not you).

5- In your finale you made couple historical mistakes:
a, The early Muslims were busy conquer new lands and spreading the Islam as a religion and they weren’t free to “great synthesis” anybody it was the language of swards at that time. The translation of the Greek philosophy and the golden age of science and art didn’t flourish until later and many of those scientists were not even Muslims.
b, You also took all the credit of any civilization before and even after Islam, I’m sorry to say that but it shows how shallow your understanding of civilizations is and how much your spirituality is taking over reality in your understanding, as I wrote before it is a typical Syrian Historical Fantasia TV.

August 17th, 2009, 12:28 am


Alex said:

Dear Shami, Nour and Jad

You are all for a democratic Syria … I honestly don’t think I remember any of the people who comment here who are NOT for a democratic Syria. The difference is that some of you are risk averse and prefer the slowest and safest approach, others are for a more aggressive, faster strategy of change, and very few are for anything, including violence if necessary, in order to change.

August 17th, 2009, 1:01 am


jad said:

Do you love kareem and Nour more than me to put their names first and me last? I’m hurt? Is it because Kareem wrote that he loves you?
Well I LOVE YOU too, can you put my name before Nour at least? 😉
Nour, you need to write that you LOVE Alex as well.

August 17th, 2009, 1:22 am


Nour said:


I don’t want to get into an argument about specific incidents you are claiming because such arguments are fruitless. However, I would like to know how the most powerful country in the world today denies my concept of citizenship. How is the concept of citizenship in the US any different from what I wrote above? In the US all American citizens are equal under the law. There are no laws that apply to one group and laws that apply to another group. There is no understanding that there is a majority group ruling a minority group. Under your concept of a state, however, a Christian citizen is different than a Muslim citizen. As such, a Christian man cannot marry a Muslim woman.

Moreover, where did you get that I am opposed to a democratic Syria? In fact, you are the one opposed to true democracy, as you merely understand democracy to be the dictatorship of the majority, which is why you say that “sectarianism is useless to you” because Muslims are the majority.

August 17th, 2009, 2:59 am


Shami said:

Dear Nour ,National Socialism (Social Nationalism of Saadeh),Baath ,Nazism,Stalinism pro Theocracy Islam ,are all ideological trends and thus abhor democracy ,multi partism ,liberalism ,criticism ,influent civil societies …this is an historical constant,if not show me otherwise through historical evidences.
Habibi Jad ,as i said you are free to think as you like ,if you consider me as anti all – orthodox Islam ,it’s your problem ,i dont feel myself obliged to show you otherwise.As for the syrian christianity state of depletion ,it make me very sad ,and i refuse it ,i will do all my possible in order to gain them back in their homeland.I got recent number which show this disaster ,they make up around 5 % in 2008.
Now i ask you and your comprade Nour ,could you provide us the main reasons of this under our eyes extinction of christianity in Syria ?And we should build on this matter a debate around the nature of the less bad kind of political regime for our country.
Your answer was ,strong jacobian secularism ,homogenization of the society around secular values and nationalism.
And when i said early muslims ,it means the first generations of muslims ,as early than the Sahaba,thanks to smart and liberal rulers like the Sahabi Muawiya Ibn Abi Sufian who was the secretary of the prophet.
Muawiya contributed by his open-mindedness ,religious tolerance,pragmatism ,realism and effeciency for laying the foundation stone of the wonderful civilization.
Many from his advicers where Syrian and Arab christians ,the christian Al Akhtal was their favorite poet ,the most important ministery of the Umayyad state was managed by Ibn Sarjon(Sergius)the father of Saint John of Damascus,the tutors of his children were christians,his favorite wife was also christian,the mother of the unfamous next caliph Yazid.
The Umayyads also built the first Bimaristans in Islam (hospitals and university of medecine) ,and under the patronage of the prince Khalid Ibn Yazid ibn Muawiya ,the first known muslim scientist in chemistry,were proceeded the first translations of Greek and Coptic manuscripts to Arabic.
The Arab and Syrian christians also took part in the reform of the Islamic army.

August 17th, 2009, 3:52 pm


jad said:

From Comrade Jad to Comrade Kareem:
You have something wrong in your way of analyzing, you start the debate with taking the side of Said Hawwa and make him a reference and better than Saadeh who is according to you some kind of fascist, then you come back with this empty statement that you want Christian to come back as if you are a Wali or a Sultan or even better a Khalifa who has the rights of bringing people back or exile them?
Didn’t you read what your Hawwa wrote and teach about Christians, Jews, Alawites and Shia and how Sunni Muslims should deal and treat them? For those who don’t know who Said Hawaa is, Google it and enjoy the lovely readings of his books.
Do you seriously telling the Syrian minorities and you specify Christians of your message that they should accept being treated as third or fourth class citizens in their own country in the 21st century if they join your holy war on the existing kind of secular regime?
Try to open your mind more Kareem and be Syrian before being a religious person, don’t mix your logical thinking with religious, it is the wrong way to move forward.

August 17th, 2009, 7:15 pm


Shami said:

Bro Jad ,

Who told you that i’m a fan of sheikh Said Hawwa?

Remove your prejudges “if you can” because your Kareem is not myself.
I only want the best regime for our society ,a regime which is based on reason,equal rights and duties ,justice and freedom for all,Muslims and non Muslims.
Muawiya was great for the 8 century standards,but was was right and good in that era and context ,had made its time …so try to understand this hsitorical approach.

August 17th, 2009, 8:23 pm


Nour said:


The Social Nationalist “3aqideh” is not an “ideology” in the sense that Marxism or National Socialism are ideologies, as it is not a set of rigid doctrines that control people’s thinking. Rather, it is more like a launching pad for free thought, rooted in a clear view of society, the nation, and the state. And the Social Nationalist view of society is the same view being implemented in most liberal democracies, where society as viewed as a single organic unit, and not a conglomeration of sects and tribes coexisting on the same land, as you would like to have it.

In addition, you have never read anything by Antoun Saadeh, so to lump his ideology with that of Nazism and Communism is quite an assumption. It is advisable that you read and learn about a particular thought before you criticize it.

August 17th, 2009, 8:47 pm


Shami said:

Nour ,who told you that i did not read on Saadeh and its ideology ?

You love him as we love the prophet,you respect his writings as the muslims respect al Quran ,and you have the equivalent of takfir ,al takhwin(yahud al dakhil).

Is the SSNP not an ideological party ?

Are the members of this party not asked to alienate their own origin and personality for the sake of a model ?

And be careful ,i didnt say “communism” ,i used instead the word Stalinism) and you should have understood that the proximity i see in common,is totalitarism and not their social or economic ideal.

August 17th, 2009, 9:01 pm


jad said:

Shami (since you don’t like Kareem anymore)
I didn’t prejudge you, I’m analyzing and judging what you wrote since I don’t know you in person I can’t and wont judge you, it’s not me.
Is it or is it not YOU who brought Hawwa into the discussion as a more ‘knowledgeable’ and more ‘interesting’ to read for than Saadeh and you called him a ‘Thinker’ and ‘Sufi Sheikh’? I’m not sure how do you call him a Sufi. Isn’t a Sufi who teach ‘Happiness’ and spreed ‘Illumination’ to people through knowing GOD? Isn’t Suffism, the Religion of the Heart?)

(Dear Nour,i’m sorry ,we have more knowledgeable and interessting than Saadeh to read.If he is so important as thinker,he would have occupied many in Harvard or Oxford ,but so is not the case.
Instead you would see many academic researches on Said Hawwa ,who was a MB thinker but also a Sufi sheikh.)

August 17th, 2009, 9:03 pm


Shami said:

his ideology sorry

August 17th, 2009, 9:11 pm


LeoLeoni said:

The question of identity has been mentioned many times in the forums. Is our identity under threat? What are we? Are we Arabs first? Muslims first? Syrians first? Syria or Greater Syria, etc? Regardless of what our answers are, any forced attempt to force that identity on the collective whole would result in drastic failure. Identities start from the individualistic level and only evolve to a collective or societal level when there is an awareness among the people that promoting such identity nationally is in the mutual interest of individual citizens.

Nour, liberal democracies do not view society as a “Single Organic Unit”. Most of these societies tend to be placed more towards the individualistic side of the individualistic-collective scale. They view society as comprised of different unique individuals affixed with natural and legal rights. One of the main rights that are guaranteed in liberal democratic constitutions is the right to belong to a group and right to assembly, regardless of faith, race, or ethnicity. Liberal democratic societies do not regard the uniqueness and differences among individuals as a threat to the state. Oppositely, it is the repression of civil and political rights that are the biggest threat to the state and the identity.

From my readings of Antun Saadeh and SSNP’s writings and comparing it with Aflaq and the Baath’s writings, I didn’t see a big difference between the two in terms of their view on civil and political liberties. “Single GREATER SYRIAN Organic unit” as SSNP are propagating is no different than the “Single Arab Organic unit” that the Baath is propagating. The only difference between the two is their definition of what comprises their nation and the position of Syria relative to this nation. Whether we are for Pan-Arab unity, Greater Syria, or just concentrating on making today’s political Syria a better place, the only way for reaching that ideal stage is to allow the people in the region to choose so from their free will. If the people choose so freely, so be it, if they choose otherwise, then no one has the right to attack them or label them as traitors or question their patriotism.

August 17th, 2009, 10:40 pm


Nour said:


I can tell you haven’t read Saadeh because your comments about his thought are way off the mark. You lump is thought with contradictory ideologies, only because that’s the way you want to see it, when it is completely and utterly inaccurate.

Saadeh is not a prophet, and none of us sees him as such. But he is a great thinker and laid down the foundation of transforming our nation from its current backwards, stagnant stage, into a modern, efficien,dynamic society.

In any case, you have failed to once respond to the issues and questions I have posed to you, and instead you always come back and just attack Saadeh and make haphazard accusations against the party like alienating “your origin and personality for the sake of a model” which is utter nonsense. I asked you above, how is it that our understanding of society is denied by the most powerful nation today, as you claimed beforehand, and you have failed to address this issue. So I ask you again to address this issue and tell me how our understanding of society is harmful, according toyou.

August 17th, 2009, 10:41 pm


Shami said:

Nour,not at all ,i was for a while very close to SSNP people and they sent to me some of their literature and the main book of saadeh that i didnt read, a quick review was enough to get an idea of the content , and it was enough for me,i was in that time more occupied with Max Weber ,Marx ,Hegel and co ,anyway,i would try to answer you by an other question.

In your ideal state is there a place for ,Christian,Jewish,Islamic,NGOs,Institutions,schools,universities,hospitals ,political parties?
Because i’m sorry ,your conception of the secular state is according to the jacobian ideal and such secular nation state concept concerns a small number in the world like France and Turkey do you know others ?

August 17th, 2009, 11:59 pm


Shami said:

Ha i forget in the meanwhile ,these two countries ,France and Turkey have put some water in their wine ,today there are Catholic universities in France and Turkey is moving quickly toward a liberal pluralistic democracy which is led today by the AKP of Erdogan,a muslim liberal party.

August 18th, 2009, 12:15 am


Shami said:

Leoleoni ,thanks ,great comment and welcome in the group,so we are 3 liberals,Alex ,Kareem and Leo.
2 SSnpers:Nour and Jad…and one Baathi:Norman.

August 18th, 2009, 12:33 am


Alex said:


That’s right, you need to mention the L word


: )

August 18th, 2009, 9:16 am


Alex said:

Before I go to sleep, I wanted to let all of you know about a new function we just finished programming into SC. Near the top of the left column and below the search box you can now click on “search comments” …. try it:

You will be able to retrieve your last 100 comments (simply enter your name in the author name field)

You can also search by keyword (“Israel”, “Hariri” …) , limit search results (faster) by specifying a range of dates that interest you (last two days for example), search comments within one specific post or all posts …

August 18th, 2009, 9:21 am


Nour said:


All modern liberal democracies are secular. Show me one advanced democratic nation that doesn’t currently have a secular system. And show me one religious state that is an advanced democracy.

Regarding Saadeh and the SSNP, you have basically admitted that you didn’t read Saadeh because your preconceived views to prejudge his thought. But your conception of the Social Nationalist ideology based purely on fantasy. What gave you the idea that under a Social Nationalist state there would be no room for religions, institutions, universities, NGO’s, etc. Antoun Saadeh called for the separation of religion from the state, not separation of religion from society.

Moreove, the Social Nationalist movement is merely a movement attemtping to bring about the renaissance of the Syrian nation by uncoverin our national identity. Upon attaining national consciousness, the people will then determine the political system that best serves the national interest. Social Nationalism does not impose any particular political system.

In any case, again, you have failed to show me how the most powerful nation on earth denies our view of society and our concept of the state.

August 18th, 2009, 11:16 am


Nour said:


You are mixing between two different issues, the individual identity and the group identity. While no one denies the importance of the rise of the individual identity and the ensuing individual righs and freedoms that came with it, it is the group identity and the identification of the individual with his/her larger environment that is an even more important development. Saadeh says in the introduction to the Genesis of Nations:

“While the emergence of the personality of the individual was a great event in the advancement of the human psyche and the development of human association, the emergence of the group personality was the greatest, most far-reaching, most genuine and delicate, and most complex event in the evolution of mankind. Group personality is a social-economic-psychological complex requiring the individual to add to the awareness of his own personality a awareness of the personality of his group and his nation; requiring him also to feel, in addition to his own needs, the needs of his society, to complement his understanding of his own self with and understanding of the psychology of his social community, to link hs own interestswith those ofhis people and to feel with every member of society, to care for it and to desire ts welfare like he desires his own.”

No one is arguing against individual rights and individual identities. However, there is such a thing as a group identity that is unique to each society, and which throughout the development of mankind, has taken precedence over the individual identity. This is why nations, especially those with advanced liberal democracies have installed laws and institutions that place the national interest above individual interests. For example, in the US, every citizen is required to pay taxes to the state, every male citizen is required to register for selective service in case of a military draft (when such drafts are implemented, as the case was in Vietnam, the individual didn’t have the right to choose not to go), and students in public schools were required to stand every morning and recite the Pledge of Allegiance, which reads “I Pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America, and to the republic for which it stands one nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.” You notice that we were required to repeat that the US was “one nation” and that it was “indivisible”.

This is not to say that the individual is not an important element in society, for he/she surely is. As Saadeh stated, each individual is a social potentiality, meaning that each individual has the potential to produce and contribute to society, which is why it is important, in order or society to advance, that individuals be afforded specific individual rights. However, it is wholly erroneous to claim that a society or a nation is merely a group of individuals, and this is not what the western understanding is. In fact, in a Systems Theory course I took in my undergraduate studies, we were taught that reductionism is not appropriate in studying a system. In one of our required texts, “System Effects” by Robery Jervis, the author asserts that “Much of sociology is similarly built on the idea that societies cannot be reduced to the sum of the individuals who compose them. Indeed, many sociologists draw the analogy between society and a living creature…”

As for the issue of national identity, it is actually very important to be fully aware of our national identity if we hope to transform and advance our society. If we seek to improve something, it is necessary that we identify that which needs to be improved. Moreover, it is impossible for society to move forward when its various particularistic groups are working for their own particularistic ambitions and interests, due to their lack of national consciousness. Therefore, it is incumbent upon us that we become conscious of our national identity so that we may work toward bettering our nation.

August 18th, 2009, 12:49 pm


jad said:

Show me one advanced democratic nation that doesn’t currently have a secular system:

And show me one religious state that is an advanced democracy:
Kingdom or Saudi Arabia KSA

August 18th, 2009, 2:11 pm


Shami said:

Nour ,i told you that there are different versions of Secularism and you keep repeating that your model of secularism(jacobean) and that of the USA are the same ,they are not.
You would find many interessting articles on the web showing these differences.
They are easy to find .

August 18th, 2009, 6:12 pm


Off the Wall said:

Excellent upgrade. Thank you very much. Now I can avoid making flip-flop comments. 🙂

I have much to say about recent arguments including a response to Yossi, but I currently have no time for much other than work. I will not be able to comment much before the middle of September. Till then, i wish all good times. I am reading all posts, daily.

August 18th, 2009, 7:41 pm


Nour said:


You keep repeating that Saadeh’s secularism is Jacobean, when it is absolutely not. You are making assumptions and wild accusations, and you haven’t even read Saadeh. Nothing in Saadeh’s writings suggests that his secular model is Jacobean. As I said, Saadeh called for the separation of religion from the state, not for the separation of religion from society. Syrians will continue to have their religious beliefs and practice their religions, but they will understand that they are all part of one nation and one society without any difference between Syrian and another. You, however, prefer the Sharia model, where citizens are treated according to their sectarian and religious backgrounds.

August 18th, 2009, 11:28 pm


Yossi (AKA Rumyal) said:


I hear you… Lots of work and whatever is left we have to give to the gods of the summer… There will be many a rainy days soon to solve humanity’s problems 🙂


I noticed in the SSNP statements (in Arabic) that you shared here, that the term that is used to refer Israel (I think) is “the Jewish enemy”, while you personally haven’t been using this terminology. Would this be a case where you adapt your language to the audience, or just a matter of personal preference? Would you say that the SSNP is anti-Jewish (i.e. “the Jews are the enemy”) or rather anti-Zionist (i.e., “the Jews on our lands are an enemy”). Or maybe the “the Jewish enemy” refers to all the global Jewish interests (Israel included) which support Zionism?

Also, if you don’t mind a two additional questions…

• Did Saadeh talk specifically about Jews in his political theory?
• In what way is Saadeh’s thinking unique to him and in what way is it a derivation of European nationalism?

Thank you.

August 19th, 2009, 12:51 am


Yossi (AKA Rumyal) said:

Here’s a response from Peace Now for the op-ed by Robert Malley that Shai copied in the first comment of this thread.

“Like many people I know, I spent a lot of time wrestling with how to react to the recent New York Times op-ed by Rob Malley (who I know well and admire…”

August 19th, 2009, 1:14 am


Shai said:


“The effort to shift the debate to the most intractable, existential elements of the conflict – the competing narratives over Israel’s creation and right to exist – is evidence not that the two-state solution is unreachable or impracticable, but that opponents of the two-state solution are petrified that it may be imminent.”

The problem is, that most on both sides belong to this group – most are petrified. The author insinuates that each side should be ready not to receive “everything” it wants, when it comes to Right of Return, or recognition in Israel as the Jewish State. But is that possible nowadays? Dr. Dan Shiftan (of Haifa University) claims it’s not. Naturally, he blames the Palestinian side.

I think the real goal here, is how to get each side to alter, or redefine using different terminology their demands, such that they can be negotiated on. As so often is the case with generalizations, here too using “simple phrases” such as Right of Return or Jewish State may be the problem itself. Perhaps it is time to more clearly define what it is that each side truly wants, and in doing so, to hint at our real “red lines”.

I have no doubt, for instance, that most Palestinians today can accept that the Jewish people need a homeland also for themselves, and that it must be here in Israel. They cannot accept that it will always be (or that laws and regulations will always ensure that it will be) a majority Jewish population. But what is it we Israelis require most – a recognition in our right to live here, or a majority guaranteed by law forever?

Likewise, I have no doubt that most Palestinians can also understand that all or most refugees probably will not return to their old homes in what is now Israel, at least not anytime in the foreseeable future. They can and may return to the newly established Palestinian State , but millions or hundreds of thousands will not return to Jaffa, Haifa, and Lod. So then is there another “kind” of Right of Return that Israelis can accept? I think so. I think we can (and will have to) accept that by creating a state for ourselves, the Palestinians were forced to pay a very heavy price. While justice can never be done for them, there is a lot we can do, certainly economically (financially), and also symbolically. As a victim of any crime or wrongdoing, the Palestinians need first and foremost recognition in their suffering. And this recognition cannot be “in spirit” alone, it must be physical as much as humanly possible. This is something we Israelis will have to understand, sooner or later.

But because we have yet to redefine our demands, to clarify to the other side, and to ourselves, what it is that we truly demand (not just want), I am not optimistic that this can be done in the near future. But this is precisely why we cannot put all our eggs in one basket – the Palestinian one. If progress can’t be made quickly enough here, we must seek it also on other fronts, namely the Syrian/Lebanese ones.

August 19th, 2009, 9:40 am


Akbar Palace said:

20 Syrian civilians killed in failed missile test?

Deputy Director of HRW Joe Stork. What a surprise…

August 19th, 2009, 3:30 pm


jad said:

Smart article by Mr Nizar Sabagh about Women in our Arabic/Islamic world.

هوية المرأة السورية على ……..الاتجاه المعاكس

نزار صباغ – كلنا شركاء
19/ 08/ 2009
قد كانت مغامرة، فالحيادي الذي يتابع متأكد من النهج الذي تتبعه قناة الجزيرة في برامجها عامة و”الحوارية” منها خاصة، كما النهج الذي يتبعه الأستاذ “فيصل القاسم” خلال إدارته لبرنامج “الاتجاه المعاكس” والذي كانت الحلقة الأخيرة تاريخ 18/8/2009 التي حملت عنوان “هوية المرأة”..

أعتقدها حلقة مميزة من خلال المتحاورين ضيفي البرنامج، الأستاذ “بسام القاضي” مدير مرصد نساء سوريا كما كان التعريف عنه ضمن البرنامج، ( ونحن نعرفه كإنسان علماني يؤمن بالله، وحقوقي مهتم بحقوق الأنثى والطفل من منظور إنساني أخلاقي حقوقي)، والأستاذ “محمد أبو الفرج صادق” كاتب ومفكر إسلامي كما عرّفه البرنامج ( وهو يعيش ويعمل في المملكة العربية السعودية ) ومن البادية السورية كما أعلن خلال الحوار ضمن الفقرة الأخيرة في البرنامج.
العنوان المحدد للحلقة “هوية المرأة” كان جاذباً، وحمالاً للكثير من الأوجه، لأن المرأة هي الواقع المأزوم في العالم العربي الإسلامي، مما يوحي ب “سخونة” اللقاء والحوار وبخاصة لمن يعرف الصديق بسام والانتماء الفكري للمحاور عدا عن الأسلوب المتبع عادة في إدارة الحوار، ويمكن لنا القول بأنه بين تيارين فكريين متناقضين تماماً – كما اسم البرنامج – ، تيار عقلاني منفتح على الحياة والواقع بنظرة شمولية ضمن أسس أخلاقية معرفية إنسانية، وتيار استطيع وصفه بأنه أحادي الفكر والنظر وبعيد عن مسيرة الحياة والواقع، رغم محاولته الظهور بشكل متطور نسبياً بلباسه الغربي الطراز ل ِ”ضرورات الحوار واللقاء” .
قد تكون الحلقة فريدة من نوعها نتيجة للصفات الشخصية لكل من الضيفين وقدرتهم على طرح أفكارهم وأسلوبهم في الحوار، وكالعادة المتبعة في برنامج الاتجاه المعاكس فقد كان التوجه الفكري الديني ومحاولات استغلال العاطفة الدينية وفرض الاتجاه والنظرة أحادية الجانب واضحاً منذ بداية الحلقة، إنما تمكن الفكر العلماني/العلمي/الإنساني من فرض وجوده وتأثيره على مجرياتها، وبشكل واضح، واضعاً حقائق الحياة في سياقها الصحيح، مبتعداً كلياً عن الانجرار في العواطف والإثارة الوهمية الكلامية، ومقدماً البراهين التي تثبت صدقية وصحة ما يدعو إليه .
طبيعي أن للإثارة موضع في مثل هكذا حوارات، وقد تؤدي أحياناً إلى نسيان بعض الوقائع التي تؤكد الأفكار، ومنها مثلاً ما كان قد حصل العام الماضي في المملكة العربية السعودية حين احترقت مدرسة للإناث واحترقت الطالبات اللواتي لم يستطعن الخروج ولم تسمح عناصر هيئة الأمر بالمعروف أيضاً بدخول المواطنين والأهالي لإخراج بناتهم وباقي الطالبات بحجة الفضيلة والشرف… كما تعرض الصحفية أسماء الغول من غزة للتهديد بالاعتقال ومصادرة جواز سفرها وحاسوبها واستجواب أصدقاؤها من قبل كتائب الفضيلة بتهمة أنها كانت تضحك على شاطئ البحر … كما تعرض الصحافية السودانية لبنى أحمد الحسين التي تكتب في صحيفة “الصحافة” اليسارية والتي تعمل أيضاً مع بعثة الأمم المتحدة في السودان، إلى التوقيف في “النظارة” في الخرطوم عاصمة دولة السودان بتهمة أن طريقة لباسها تتنافى مع قواعد النظام العام في البلاد وإلى تعرضها للجلد بـ40 جلدة في حال تمت إدانتها بهذه التهمة .. وكما طالبان في أفغانستان ومشروع قانون الأحوال الشخصية الجديد الذي تم إيقافه… وجميعها بحجة مفهوم الفضيلة والشرف، ذات المفهوم الذي يحاول تيار الإسلام السياسي فرضه على مجموع الإناث في بلادنا.
لم يتمكن الأستاذ بسام من القول بأن الكثير من الموبقات اللا أخلاقية تمارس وبشكل شبه علني تحت ستار الحجاب، والأمثلة كثيرة وكثيرة جداً، ولم يتمكن كذلك من توضيح فكرته أن الفضيلة والشرف تكمنان في الذات الإنسانية وليس في اللباس … هل أن الفضيلة والشرف خاصة بالإناث ؟ كم من رجل “متمشيخ” ذي لحية طويلة أم قصيرة يدّعي العلم بالفضيلة والشرف وهو يسرق الناس جهارة سواء في تجارته أو في قراراته، وكم من مجرم مغتصب لطفلات في عمر الورود نتيجة لنشر مفهوم خاطيء وسيء للفضيلة والشرف…؟
يقال أن الكهنوت الديني ليس موجوداً في الإسلام والفقة الإسلامي، إنما هو واقع نلمسه جهارة ممن يحاول أن يفرض وجوده كمتمكن وعالم وباحث في الإسلام ممن يمثل خير تمثيل تيار الإسلام السياسي وطروحاته وأفكاره، وهذا الوجود يتزايد في المجتمعات العربية عامة – قد يمثل الغالبية السياسية في الكثير من الدول الإسلامية – ، يحاول دائماً التلاعب بالعواطف والأفكار من خلال تركيزه على بعض القضايا التي تمس بالشعور الغرائزي العاطفي الجمعي سواء بعض القضايا الوطنية والقومية كالصراع مع إسرائيل أو الاجتماعية التي يتمكنون من الصول والجول الكلامي فيها … إنما لا يتطرق أو ينغمس بشكل جاد في تطوير الحياة والإنسانية وسبل إنهاء الكثير من المشكلات الاجتماعية والاقتصادية، جل مشاركته فيها تكون بعبارات عاطفية فضفاضة أو أسلوب خطابي عاطفي غرائزي أو محاولة تغيير بعض الأسماء أو إضافة أوصاف لنظريات اقتصادية وبطريقة لا تسمن ولا تغني عن جوع.
لم أسمع أو أقرأ لأحد منهم مجرد محاولة لمعرفة سبب تزايد جرائم اغتصاب الأطفال مثلا، إنما يرفعون الصوت عالياً حول نسب هذه الجرائم في الغرب الكافر ليقينهم أن ما من مثل هكذا إحصائيات في بلادنا إنما لو كان الأمر ذلك لتفوقنا على ذاك الغرب اللعين بسبب عدد السكان لدينا وتزايد حالات الكبت والانحلال في مجتمعاتنا نتيجة لفماهيمهم الشكلية المغلوطة التي ينشرونها عن الفضيلة والشرف… وكذلك، لم أسمع أو أقرأ لأحد منهم عن مشروعات علمية أو حتى مساعدات عملية في موضوع النظافة والبيئة، أو حلول لمشكلات اقتصادية بطرق واقعية منطقية لا غيبية. ولم أسمع وأقرأ وأشاهد أي منهم يناقش بشكل عقلاني موضوع نسب التزايد في أعداد السكان وتأثيره السلبي على الموارد الطبيعية ونسب النمو الاقتصادي والمشكلات التعليمية والتثقيفية والاجتماعية.
أتذكر ظاهرة المصارف الإسلامية في مصر، وظاهرة تشغيل الأموال بالطريقة الإسلامية في مصر أيضاً في ثمانينات القرن الماضي ونتائجها من فضائح نصب مدوية، وما كان خلال تلك الفترة من تزايد ملحوظ لنشاط التيارات الدينية وبذات الطرق التي يتم اعتمادها في بلادنا حالياً… وأرى النتائج، فقر وتخلف وجهل في أمور الحياة والدنيا لدى غالبية الشعب، وثراء وتحكم مادي ومعنوي لدى المنادين بالفضيلة والشرف.
لا يتكلمون عن قيم العلم والعمل والوقت والإصلاح في السياسة والممارسة الإدارية والاقتصاد، ولا يستطيعوا أن يكونوا قادة يأخذوا الأمة وراءهم نحو الصلاح… بل إنهم مقودين، يمضون وراء رؤية رجل الشارع ورغباته، ويقدمون له ما يرضي له أفكاره ورغباته من جانب، ويخدرونه بالغيبيات من جانب آخر، ومن هنا سمعنا بفتوى إرضاع الكبير وزواج صغيرة السن أو الطفلة وقتل ميكى ماوس وطهارة بول الإبل وزواج المسيار والمايوه الشرعي الإسلامي والجنة للفقراء الصابرين بكل ما تحمله من أنهار وحوريات من جانب، ووجوب طاعة أولي الأمر – في الإدارة والسياسة والحياة والدين – في الجانب الآخر.
صدق الأستاذ بسام عند إيراده الشيخ محي الدين بن عربي، الذي صرخ في دمشق الشام : “إلهكم تحت قدمي” (حكاية ابن عربي المشهورة في دمشق لما جمع الناس صائحا إلهكم تحت قدمي، وكان يدوس ديناراً ذهبياً). إنه لم يقل سوى أن من يحاول أن يتحكم بالمجموع باسم الدين بعيد كل البعد عن جوهر الدين … لم ينادي بالجهل إنما نادى بالعلم، ولم ينادي بالحجاب إنما نادى بالأخلاق .. لم يطلب التحكم بالمجموع باسم الدين بل طلب إعمال العقل… وهو الشيخ ذاته الذي قال: “كل ما لا يؤنث لا يعوّل عليه” ……
العقل الذي وضعه الله سبحانه في كل خلائقه من البشر والذي قال العلماء “الغربيون” أن البشر لا يستخدمون إلا الجزء اليسير من عقلهم، ذات العقل الذي استطاع غيرنا به اختراع الكثير الكثير من الأمور التي تساعدنا في الحياة، ومنها مثلاً ما كنت قرأت منذ شهرين تقريباً بأن هناك شركة استرالية اخترعت جهازاً يوفر في استهلاك الماء اللازم للوضوء وكما هي موجبات الوضوء، وقد حصلت على آلاف الطلبات لشرائه .. مجرد خبر لا نعلم صحته من عدمها يقدم فكرة واضحة جداً عن كيفية استخدام العقل، العقل الذي استخدمه الغير للانتفاع المادي من أعدادا هائلة من البشر بسبب إيقاف عقلها عن العمل، كما هو الحال في المنتج الشرق آسيوي الذي ورد بلادنا حيث نسمع آية من الذكر الحكيم عند إدارة مفتاح تشغيل المركبات الآلية “سبحان من سخر لنا هذا”.
وبالفعل سبحانه تعالى الذي وضع العقل في عموم خلائقه من الناس منهم من استفاد منه باستعماله ومنهم من عطله بوضعه حواجز أمام استخدامه.
هل هذا هو الدين …؟ أم أنه وسيلة مثلى من وسائل التحكم بالمجموع باسم الدين ..؟ وباسم المفهوم الديني ..؟
لم تكثر القيود حول المرأة..؟ هل أنها بحاجة إلى تحديد هويتها في المجتمع ..؟ في الواقع يتعامل الإسلامويون مع المرأة كشيء منفعل ليس كشخص فاعل، شيء بلا شعور أو رغبة أو عقل، وإنما لحم لمتعة الذكور وتلبية رغباتهم، أما كل تلك الشعارات التي يرفعونها فهي أكاذيب قد لا يصدقها حتى المجانين .
هوية المرأة موجودة، وهي فاعلة وحقيقة، ليست بحاجة إلى من يعيد وأدها باسم الفضيلة والأخلاق، وباسم الغزو الثقافي، وباسم الدين .. فالحياة تسير إلى الأمام ولا يمكن لها العودة للخلف، كما أن الفضيلة والشرف في الذات وفي التربية الأسرية والمجتمعية وفي مجتمع متقدم متطور مثقف، وليس في الشكل… ومن كان لا ينظر إلا إلى محطات فضائية محددة بذاتها فإنه يعاني من مركب نقص.
شكراً للأستاذ فيصل القاسم لإتاحته الفرصة لعلماني إنساني بتوضيح جزء من أفكار يؤمن بها، وبأن الدين لله والوطن للجميع ..
وشكراً للأستاذ بسام لأنه أثبت أن العقل مفتاح الحياة، وأن المرأة ليست نصف المجتمع بل أنها أمّ المجتمع.

August 19th, 2009, 8:47 pm


Shami said:

Dear Bro Nour,i took notes of your opinion regarding Antun Saadeh principles and your understanding of this ideology, i will try to explain my own vision in the future ,as otw ,i’m very busy these days,but for an other reason (but who knows?) ,as a newly engaged man.So you understand these things related to love dont allow me to be very talkative on Syria comment.

August 20th, 2009, 2:18 am


Shami said:

Dear Shai,i like your intellectual honesty ,i will be glad to have more neighbors as you.God Bless you and alikes.
Also,as Syrian i wish for( Inshallah )the syrian jews that they would return in their homeland Syria.

August 20th, 2009, 2:41 am


Shai said:


Thank you for your kind words. If only our people could learn about one another, as we do here on SC. We’d have peace within a month…

I know for fact that there are Syrian Jews that would go back home if there was peace between our two countries. It will happen, in’shalla.

August 20th, 2009, 7:49 am


Yossi (AKA Rumyal) said:


Very good analysis. I agree with it and with its conclusions.

As I told you privately before, I listened a few weeks ago to Thomas Mitchell talking about his book comparing between North Ireland and Israel/Palestine. He referenced a conflict management expert named William Zartman who said that there are three necessary conditions for conflict resolution:

1. The parties need to be represented by a legitimate and strong leadership.
2. There is a solution that provides the sides with what they need (if not what they want…)
3. The stalemate is too hurtful.

You are talking mostly about the second necessary point: the parties must go down the painful process of recognizing what they actually need, versus what they want… Since this is a painful process, it only happens when the status quo is more painful, which is not the situation yet, definitely not for Israel, but also not for the PA or Hamas leadership.

August 20th, 2009, 3:31 pm


Alex said:

I agree Yossi … The Israelis (leadership and most people) are not going to feel much pain from the continued conflict any time soon.

The Palestinian people are definitely suffering from the occupation, but thanks to Israel’s persistent (or increasing) application of painful measures into Palestinians’ lives, many Palestinians learned to live with pain … “pain” for them ir felt at a much higher threshold…

The Palestinian leadership (Fatah) will not feel much pain … they are corrupt.

Many Hamas leaders do get regularly assassinated by Israel. One can imagine that is painful for few minutes or seconds .. but they anticipate heavenly rewards after becoming martyrs.

So … if the Israelis (leadership and people) are not going to be subjected to pain, if Fatah leaders will continue to be received as respectable state men when they visit the US, Europe and Moderate Arab countries, if the Palestinian people got used to pain, and if Hamas leaders in Gaza do not mind Israel sending them to heaven … then only a minority will be desperate for an early peace.

Another point, when comparing between North Ireland and Israel/Palestine we need to recognize the differences between Middle Easterners and the Irish.

If moving from “what I want” to “what I need” required pain, .. moving away from “what preserves my dignity” is harder … the weaker side will have to suffer much more pain to accept to compromise its dignity.

August 20th, 2009, 7:00 pm


Shai said:

Yossi, Alex,

The problem is even-more complex, because we Israelis have difficulties differentiating between the Palestinian-Israeli conflict and the individual conflicts we’ve had with other neighbors. The going mentality here is one of “Us versus The Arabs”. Most Israelis today probably view the Israeli-Syrian conflict as no less insoluble than the Israeli-Palestinian one. And everything is bunched together, disorganized under an umbrella of emotions – fear, suspicion, distrust, and hatred.

One of the main reasons I’m advocating so strongly for engaging Syria and resolving our conflict with her, is not only because I believe it is by far the easiest to resolve, but because I can foresee a direct contribution to the slow but undoubtedly required dissipation of some of those emotions as they exist and are targeted at the collective (the Arabs in general, not specific groups or conflicts). If a comprehensive solution does not seem to be “just around the corner” (and clearly it is not), we must differentiate between the conflicts, tackle and resolve each one separately, and force a minimization of generalizations, followed by pragmatic focus on our real demands of ourselves and of others.

It is impossible to make progress when Israelis still believe the Arabs want to throw us to the sea, or while Arabs still believe Israel wants to conquer all of their lands. We must “prove” that neither is the case, perhaps one step at a time, rather than all-at-once.

August 20th, 2009, 8:31 pm


Alex said:


I like your logic, but I still see similar difficulties on the Syrian front: If the Israeli people and leaders do not feel the pain due to continued conflict with Syria … why would they compromize?

Also while we are discussing psychologoical factors, on the Palestinian front … Arbas feel that Israel loves the divide an conquer approach(which has been true in the past for sure) .. If Syria is to settle alone its conflict with Israel, Israel will still need to show with solid actions that it is not planning to isolate the Palestinians and offer them much less after they are all alone after a Syrian Israeli agreement.

August 20th, 2009, 9:35 pm


Shai said:


I’ve unfortunately had to agree with you and Norman on this issue of pain, at times when it seems Israelis simply are not fearful of the alternative. When buffoon deputy-Foreign MInisters speak “on behalf” of Israel in such demeaning fashion towards our neighbors (with whom he pretends he wants peace), or when National Security “Advisers” suggest Israel must stay on the Golan because of the scenery and the wine, then indeed I do fear that we’re suffering from intoxication of power. Ofer Shelach of Ma’ariv recently suggested we’re living in 1967-73 once again. And I still hope he’s wrong.

It is a legitimate question to ask – are Israelis ready to give up on land only after they feel pain, and pay a very heavy price? One can argue “yes”, and use the 1973 October war as an example. How else would Menachem Begin have passed his proposal in Knesset just a few years later?

But I still remember the days of Rabin, not that long ago. And, despite the fact that Barak’s intentions are questioned, I still remember the Israeli public’s reaction to his victory over Netanyahu. And in both cases, the Israeli public was more ready for peace than perhaps ever before, or since. You might suggest it’s because of the pain we felt with the suicide bombings. But I believe it originated not out of fear, but out of hope. I don’t know if Madrid or Oslo did it, or whether Rabin or Barak did, but something had an effect on most Israelis then. I think Barak’s irresponsible gamble on Peace with Syria and the Palestinians, by going to early elections before completing any of his moves (the only exception being the withdrawal from Lebanon), was the beginning of sharp reversal we are witnessing today. Just look at how many seats Labor had in those days, 3 times as much as today!

Is it possible to change Israeli minds without inflicting more pain? I’d certainly like to think so. Words can sometimes be no less powerful than violence. And for Egypt, Sadat proved that with a few short sentences he can achieve what he couldn’t in 5 different wars.

But you’re right – there must also be someone on the Israeli side who’s truly ready for Peace. I can’t say that at the moment enough of us are. We must work hard to change that fact, if indeed it is true.

August 20th, 2009, 9:57 pm


Yossi said:

Alex, Shai,

“If Syria is to settle alone its conflict with Israel, Israel will still need to show with solid actions that it is not planning to isolate the Palestinians and offer them much less after they are all alone after a Syrian Israeli agreement.”

This is not something that can be codified into a peace agreement. Even if Israel did commit to a certain process with the Palestinians, it can always fizzle out without Israel taking the blame (as was in the Egyptian-Israeli case). I think that Syria should assume if and when it enters an agreement with Israel that it will not be able to extract any concrete obligations from Israel towards the Palestinians. Is a full peace deal along these lines possible? I think that potentially not, and that goes back to Shai’s concern that things are “bunched up together”. Well, of course they are because the Palestinians and the Syrians are the same people so of course they are reluctant to deal with Israeli separately. That goes back to condition #1 in Zartman’s theory—legitimacy. In the case of Syria and the Palestinians a leader who will put these constituencies across diametrically opposing interest lines cannot be considered legitimate. The question for me is whether there is something less than a full peace treaty that is possible with Syria. i.e., does it have to be all or nothing.

August 20th, 2009, 10:07 pm


Alex said:


I agree. Getting more Israelis ready for peace (and the price of peace) will require three parallel approaches:

1) Some Israelis who are feeling too confident will need to worry a bit more about their future (sounds bad, but there is no ther way)

2) Some Israelis who are worried about the hostile intentions of Arabs need to be convinced (by Arabs, and by Israeli leaders) that it ain’t so bad.

3) Israel needs a visionary leader … there is no one there since Rabin.


I also agree with you … After Camp David, Sadat told the Egyptian people that he convinced Israel to settle the Palestinian and Syrian conflicts too. Instead Prime minsiter Begin annexed the Golan two years later and he invaded Lebanon and destroyed the power of the PLO sending them to Tunis.

This time Israel will need to start with something before Syria signs … like a final halt to all settlement activities and a clear recognition of the Arab peace plan for example.

August 20th, 2009, 11:23 pm


norman said:


I am glad you agree with me and Alex , actually i like to second all what Alex said and add that Syria will not sign , i believe , without a treaty with Palestinians , we Syrians will always fear that Israel is going to force the Palestinians into submission , which i would do if i am Israel and take advantage of them , it does not make sense to do anything else ,

yossi , Shai ,

About Sadat , it is as you said Shai, it was after the 1973 war when Israel felt that it was losing everything and was saved by the US .

only full peace will save (( One region , One future )) , anything else is going to be just an excuse for the Radicals to carry the mantle for more wars.

And that is my take .

August 21st, 2009, 2:18 am


Shai said:


Let’s consider an imaginary situation for a minute:

1. Suddenly realizing that the Palestinian track is stuck, Netanyahu decides to go talk to the Syrians, offering the entire Golan. The Syrians are ready to sit with him.

2. In the talks, Syria makes it clear that for it to sign a peace agreement at the White House lawn, Israel must also make real progress with the Palestinians – not mere “promises”, not mere “memorandums of understandings”, but real physical progress on the ground.

3. Netanyahu, unlike Begin, responds with an honest answer “I simply cannot guarantee any such progress in the near future.” He goes on to say that he does not have the political power to concede even a single inch of land to the Palestinians, while they are not represented by a single, strong authoritative body that can deliver, not only in the WB, but also in Gaza. He adds that he believes Syria can play an important role in helping bridge the gaps between Fatah and Hamas, but that this will take time. He believes he can deliver on the Golan, not on E. Jerusalem.

4. What do the Syrians tell him? Sorry, but we can’t? Not until you close a deal with the Palestinians? Or, well, we’ll start normalizing relations only at a rate comparable to your progress with the Palestinians, and the same for changing our military relationships with Iran and Hezbollah?

You see, I believe Assad has already ran this through, and figured he must try to get back the Golan. That while it is true that the “type” of Peace (real peace, cold peace, no peace) may be determined by the Palestinian issue, he cannot wait for that to be resolved.

If he had to make the choice, get back the Golan “tomorrow morning”, or wait for Fatah and Hamas to join hands, and then for an Israeli leader that can convince his people to withdraw from the West Bank and enable the creation of a Palestinian state, Assad would choose the first.

There is a contradiction between what you and every Arab would say to us Israelis, which is “Guys, there ain’t gonna be Peace until you leave lands that are not yours, until you end the occupation and subjugation of our Palestinian brothers, until you prove your peaceful intentions on the ground, not with words…”, and what Syria may end up doing if the Golan is offered to her on a silver platter.

So practically speaking, what do you recommend Assad say to Netanyahu, should the unimaginable happen? (Assuming Assad does not want Bibi to turn away saying “Sorry, Mr. President, I guess we’ll have to wait then…”)

Btw, looking at it from Israel’s point of view, imagine Israel would have said to Sadat “Thank you for the offer, but we can only make peace with you once the entire Arab world is in the deal, not a minute before…” I know what you’re going to say, but for a moment imagine Sadat WAS put in that position. Clearly, there’d be no peace today, and maybe we would be after another 3 terrible wars between Israel and its neighbors. Maybe far more terrible than the 1973 one.

August 21st, 2009, 5:31 am


norman said:


i will write more later , but Syria is not Egypt,

August 21st, 2009, 11:56 am


Syria Comment » Archives » France Leads the West out of Bush Think and into Engagement with Syria said:

[…] the Euro-Med Agreement, returning the region to relations as they were before the invasion of Iraq. Holland had been resisting a final reconciliation with Syria in the name of human rights. But the notion that political […]

September 9th, 2009, 6:22 pm


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