Prisoner Swap; Golan; Negotiations

Prime Minister Fouad Siniora said on Tuesday that a prisoner swap between Israel and Hizbullah constituted a "huge failure" for the Jewish state and a "national success" for the Lebanese party. "The release of the prisoners, thanks to the German mediator … is a huge failure for the policies of Israel," Siniora said in a public/official statement. "The success of Hizbullah in the negotiations led by a third party is a national success for the party and for the struggle of the Lebanese because it secured national goals which Israel always refused to respect."

Lebanese youths decorate a street in Sidon with posters of Lebanese prisoner Samir Kantar. A prisoner exchange deal with Hezbollah will go ahead only once Israel receives information on an airman who went missing in Lebanon in 1986. (AFP Mahmoud Zayat)
Hassan Nasrallah, the leader of Hezbollah, said “I congratulate all Lebanese on this achievement and I hope that all the Lebanese consider it their achievement. If it is completed, Lebanon will be the first Arab country in the Israeli-Arab struggle to close the detainee file after liberating the land.''
Walid Jumblatt said the prisoner exchange was not linked to the issue of Hizbullah's weapons. He said: "We don't want to provoke Hizbullah sensitivities.

Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said his government was forced to agree to the prisoner swap deal with Hizbullah out of its desire to uncover the fate of the two Israeli soldiers

When Arabs were asked to identify the leader they admire most (in an open-ended question), the number one answer overall in a recent poll, (and especially in predominantly Sunni countries such as Egypt, Morocco, and Jordan) was Hasan Nasrallah, Hezbollah’s leader. The Palestinian problem continues to rank as "most important" problem among non-Palestinian Arabs.

France is a captive to its ties with Syria by Michael Young in the Daily Star – He blames Lebanon's woes on France and suggests that Kouchner is impeding the Hariri court to help Syria.

The French approach to Lebanon has been characterized by remarkable incompetence in the past eight months, and by the absence of any discernible strategy. After trashing Resolution 1559 last November by pleading with Syria to permit a Lebanese presidential election (one the Elysee Palace had thought to follow up with a triumphal Christmas visit to Beirut by Sarkozy), the French stepped back when Assad rebuffed them. Humiliation was swiftly swallowed, however, after the Doha agreement, when the Syrians received the visit of Sarkozy adviser Claude Gueant, their reward for briefly failing to obstruct the Lebanese Constitution.

France: The Gate of Europe: Tishreen, Damascus (Translation thanks to

On July 2, the state-controlled daily Teshreen carried the following editorial by Chief Editor Issam Dari: “It is impossible to mention France without mentioning its revolution, which changed the course of history. We cannot talk about France without coming across its scientists, scholars, innovators and leaders who enriched the human culture and raised the slogan of freedom and entrenched the meanings of independence and patriotism.

“We cannot but mention the founder of the fifth French Republic, late President Charles De Gaulle, who has become a headline for resisting the Nazi occupiers and a school to fight for freedom and independence and a model to be pursued in steadfastness in the face of pressures, dictates and calls for “realism”.

“When General De Gaulle led the French resistance from London and through the radio and while he was subjected to pressures and dictates from Winston Churchill, he said: “I was too weak to surrender.” De Gaulle did not surrender. France gained its independence and freedom and De Gaulle established the fifth republic. That was a profound lesson that affirms that freedom does not come from surrendering to the fait accompli, and that no matter how immense the pressures are, they can never force righteous people to surrender.

“We recall General De Gaulle while France is close to commemorating its Independence Day. President Bashar al-Assad will visit Paris, a first visit in many years – upon the invitation of President Nicolas Sarkozy.

“Syria is placing much hope on a balanced French policy in the Middle East, and on an active French role in the issues of the region, in what pushes the peace process forward and entrenches security and stability. Syria realizes that France is Europe’s gate and that, along with Germany, they constitute the dynamo for the European Union, which maintains good relations with the Arabs and huge interests that require this union to carry out its influential and effective role in finding solutions to the crisis – which if continued – will negatively affect the interests of the European and Arab sides equally…..

Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said on Thursday peace talks between Israel and Syria, now mediated by Turkey, would have to be conducted face-to-face "very soon."

"With the Syrians, we are talking seriously and in my estimation very soon the negotiations will have to be direct. They will not be able to continue in the mode in which they are currently being held," Olmert told an economic conference in the southern resort city of Eilat.

U.S. Ambassador Richard Jones said Thursday that Washington would not intervene over Israel's renewed negotiations with Syria, calling it a private Israeli matter. Jones said that the U.S., like many Israeli officials, were wary of establishing contacts with Damascus, but would not opposed the renewed negotiations.

Analyze This: Laying down the law on the Golan:

A Golan returned to a Syrian regime headed by the likes of Bashar Assad, who serves as valuable partner of Iran, an invaluable supporter of Hizbullah and Hamas, and a brutal oppressor of his own people, would never pass muster with the Israeli people – whether or not it actually comes to a vote.

"The Necessary Steps for a Responsible Withdrawal from Iraq"

Rep. James McGovern (MA-03), who wrote the preface, said the report provides "a road map for the next administration and Congress to follow". According to McGovern, the report outlines "what it would take to leave – what is required in terms of a cease-fire, reconciliation, recovery and security when the day comes for our troops to begin coming home." The report was authored by a Massachusetts- and Washington-based "task force" working with an advisory group of 14 international experts. These met together in a March workshop at Harvard University’s Weatherhead Center for International Affairs.

We welcome reviews and commentary on the Task Force findings. Sincerely, Charles Knight, Project on Defense Alternatives, Commonwealth Institute, for the Task Force Organizing Committee. 617-547-4474

Salma Al-Shami write about a Syria play she saw in NY City: []

Hi again, Josh,

A couple of months ago I saw an incredible play called Damascus that was featured as part of the "Brits Off Broadway" series in NYC. It's written by Scottish playwright David Greig, and I was truly impressed by how many of the subtle nuances of Syrian culture he was able to pick up on and write into his characters and plot. The story follows Paul, a salesman who has come to Damascus on Valentine's Day to sell English language textbooks to an indifferent dean of a school and his beautiful assistant Muna. Paul's plane back home keeps getting delayed, and in the meanwhile, he develops relationships with Muna and Zacharia, the young hotel porter who is girl-and-party-obsessed. In the background is Elena, a Ukrainian pianist who acts as a Greek chorus, narrating the moral and theoretical backdrop of the scenes. As the synopsis of the play concludes, "In Damascus, a city of transformations, Paul grapples with language and love, meanings and misconceptions. And as his flight home is delayed by a bomb at Beirut Airport, he begins to wonder, will he ever leave?"

Greig offers all types of social commentary, weaving in elements of what happened to the pre-Ba'ath intelligentsia (the "old generation") after the rise of the party, of the Palestinian narrative and its effects on the thinking and thought processes of Damascines, of the nature of gender relations etc…
In any case, it's an excellent and quick read. I was able to track a copy of the play down from the UK. Don't know if it's available in the US, but if it sounds like something you'd be interested in reading and can't find it here, I'll happily loan you my copy of it.
Here's a link to an interview that features Greig talking about his play and about his experiences working with young Syrian playwrights. 

2008-07-02 11:21:16 –

LONDON (AP) – The British government has added the military wing of Hezbollah to a list of terrorist groups banned in Britain.
Home Office minister Tony McNulty said in a Wednesday statement that the entire military section of the organization has been listed as a proscribed group under British terrorism laws.
The department says that Hezbollah's social and political work in Britain would be unaffected. But the ban will place tight limits on any fundraising _ particularly if funds are suspected to be intended for military action.

Individuals can be prosecuted for becoming a member of a proscribed group under British laws.

Revue de presse: Politique extérieure
M. Walid EL-MOUALLEM, Ministre des Affaires étrangères, a indiqué que tout progrès sur le volet syro-israélien des négociations ne devrait pas se faire au détriment du volet palestinien ou bien être utilisé à son encontre. suite

Revue de presse: Actualité nationale
Des sources bien informées ont déclaré à Al-Hayat que le gouvernement syrien publierait des rapports périodiques sur le niveau de la corruption dans le pays et ce à la lumière de l’approbation du Conseil des Ministres du Traité international sur la lutte contre la corruption qui nécessite des engagements précis de la part de Damas. suite

Bangkok Post | Spectacular SYRIA:  Forget everything you have ever heard about Syria; it is a surprising country. Anyone who has been there can tell you the ancient ruins are beautiful, the food delicious, and the natural scenery very attractive. The nightlife is lively and the daylife intriguing. What more could you want on a holiday?

Comments (81)

EHSANI2 said:

Dr. Landis,

I also attended the play Damascus in NYC with my wife. It was enjoyable and parts of it were pretty fun. The very visible picture of Bashar was hanging at the wall of the hotel where the play takes place.

On another note, now that Hillary is out of the way:

July 3rd, 2008, 10:14 pm


why-discuss said:

Many of these links don’t work, they bring to a “…”
please correct if possible

July 3rd, 2008, 10:20 pm


norman said:

Israel pushes for direct talks with Syria “very soon”
By Zerin Elci
Thursday, July 3, 2008
ANKARA: Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert called on Thursday for quickly starting face-to-face negotiations with Syria after a third round of indirect peace talks mediated by Turkey ended with an agreement to meet again.

“With the Syrians, we are talking seriously and, in my estimation, very soon the negotiations will have to be direct,” Olmert told an economic conference in the southern Israeli resort city of Eilat. “They will not be able to continue in the mode in which they are currently being held.”

The third round of talks between the long-time foes started in Istanbul on Tuesday and ended on Thursday with an agreement to hold a fourth round of indirect negotiations in Turkey in late July, a Turkish government source told Reuters.

At that meeting, the sides will decide whether to move to direct talks starting in August, when the fifth and sixth rounds are scheduled to take place, the source said.

A Turkish foreign ministry statement described the talks, the first in eight years, as constructive. The government source said the negotiators were beginning to discuss “core issues”.

There was no immediate comment from Syria or Olmert’s office on the latest round of talks.

The talks centre on the fate of the Golan Heights, a strategic plateau which Israel occupied from Syria in the 1967 Middle East war. Damascus is firm in demanding all the Golan.

Olmert has been hazy in public on whether his government would do so, saying only that “difficult concessions” may be required for peace with Syria but that he has made no promises regarding the territory.

Israel, in turn, wants Syria to scale back ties with the Jewish state’s main foes — Iran, Palestinian Hamas and Lebanese Hezbollah. Syrian officials have rejected this precondition.

“The problems are less complex than they appear,” Olmert said without elaborating.

He said a peace deal with Syria would have wide-ranging implications for both Israel and the region.

“I think the strategic significance of such a move cannot be ignored,” he added.

A diplomatic breakthrough on Syria could also help shore up Olmert at home, where he faces a corruption scandal that threatens to force him from office.

Israeli officials have played down the chances of a meeting between Olmert and Syrian President Bashar al-Assad at a Paris conference later this month.

The last direct talks — between then Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak and Syrian Foreign Minister Farouq al-Shara — stalled in 2000 in a dispute over how much of the Golan should go back to Syria.


July 4th, 2008, 12:08 am


Majhool said:

النجم السوري ياسين باقوش رهن الاعتقال


أكدت مصادر موثوقة في دمشق، نبأ اعتقال النجم الكوميدي السوري ياسين بقوش بتهمة سب وشتم السلطات العامة.

يذكر أنه في الفترة الأخيرة اعتقل عدد كبير من السوريين بالتهمة ذاتها، وذلك بسبب تذمرهم من الغلاء المعيشي والظروف الاقتصادية المتردية.

الفنان السوري ياسين بقوش موجود في سجن عدرا المركزي منذ حوالي الشهر ومحال إلى القضاء، فيما لم تعرف تفاصيل أكثر عن خلفية القضية وملابساتها.

بقوش متزوج ولديه 11 ولدا، أكبرهم هيثم مهندس مدني. ينتمي الممثل السوري «الليبي الأصل والجذور» إلى جيل مؤسسي الكوميديا السورية، الذي انطلق في بداية ستينيات القرن الماضي مع أقطاب الكوميديا السورية: دريد لحام، رفيق سبيعي، ناجي جبر، نهاد قلعي وغيرهم.. قدم عشرات الأعمال التلفزيونية والسينمائية الكوميدية، حيث اشتهر بشخصية «ياسينو» على الشاشة الفضية. وفي السنوات الأخيرة شارك بقوش في عدد من الأعمال الكوميدية والتاريخية، منها ما اعتمد عليه كممثل رئيسي مثل «ياسين تورز» و«ياسين في المطبخ»، وشارك بدور حاخام يهودي في المسلسل التاريخي «سيف بن ذي يزن»، كما يعمل حالياً في بطولة مسرحيات كوميدية تقدم على مسارح العاصمة السورية دمشق.

July 4th, 2008, 1:23 am


Majhool said:

In these troubled times one has to wonder, what is considered credible when it comes to reporting on Syrian detainees?

Tishreen? I don’t think so

I am open to remarks. In the meantime:

Syrian writer arrested, held incommunicado; blogger given three-year sentence
Syria, Politics, 6/16/2008
The following is an abridged Human Rights Watch press release from June 12th saying Repression of activists continues in Syria unabated engagement with damascus should include human rights.

The release said that western countries looking to increase engagement with Syria should know that Syrian authorities continue to arrest, try, and harass political and human rights activists, Human Rights Watch said. In May 2008, Syrian authorities detained a political writer, began the trial of two activists, and restricted the travel of at least seven others. Amidst increasing calls in Western countries to increase engagement with Syria, Human Rights Watch urged that an improvement in the treatment of these activists be at the heart of any future talks with the Syrian authorities.

The French daily Le Monde reported on June 9, 2008, that President Nicholas Sarkozy of France plans to send two senior envoys, Jean-David Lévitte and Claude Guéant, to Syria as early as June 12, as ties suspended last year over Lebanon’s political crisis start to thaw. Last week, US senators John Kerry and Chuck Hagel co-wrote an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal calling for increased engagement with Syria following “the recent announcement of peace negotiations between Israel and Syria through Turkey, and the agreement between the Lebanese factions in Qatar.”

“Any engagement with Syria must include an open discussion of human rights concerns, including the fate of political prisoners and other Syrians who suffer abuse,” said Sarah Leah Whitson, Human Rights Watch’s Middle East and North Africa director. “The authorities in Damascus are still harassing anyone who dares criticize them.”

On May 7, members from Syria’s security services arrested Habib Saleh, 60, a writer and political analyst, and took him to an undisclosed location where he remains in incommunicado detention. Saleh had written articles critical of the Syrian regime, including an article defending Syrian opposition figure Riad al-Turk. Saleh has already been jailed twice in the past for his writings.

A few days later, on May 11, the State Security Court, a special court with almost no due process protections, issued a three-year sentence against Tarek Biasi, 23, a blogger whom the government detained in July 2007 accusing him of “insulting security services” online, and charging him with “weakening national sentiment.”

On May 12, a military court began the trial of Muhammad Badi’ Dek al-Bab, a member of the National Organization for Human Rights, on the charge of “spreading false information that harms the prestige of the state” because he wrote an article criticizing the Syrian authorities for detaining writers and intellectuals while celebrating Damascus as the 2008 “Arab Capital of Culture.” He has been in detention since March 2, and his next trial hearing is scheduled for June 11. Dek al-Bab has previously been jailed for his activities. In 2000, he was sentenced to 15 years on charges of belonging to the Muslim Brotherhood, but was released in 2005 following a presidential amnesty.

Meanwhile, a group of 13 notable political activists, including former parliamentarian Riad Seif, remain in detention following their arrest in December 2007 for attending a meeting of opposition groups. They are awaiting their trial on charges of “weakening national sentiment and awakening sectarian strife,” “spreading false or exaggerated news which would affect the morale of the country,” and “membership in an organization formed with the purpose of changing the structure of the state.”

“These activists are in jail because they dared to express their opinions,” said Whitson. “We hope that Western diplomats talking to Syria will show the same courage and tell the Syrian authorities that they need to release these activists.”

Syrian authorities also continue to restrict hundreds of activists from leaving the country. Seven political and human rights activists were directly affected by these restrictions in May. For example, the authorities barred Muhannad al-Hasani, president of the Syrian Human Rights Organization, from traveling to Beirut on May 21 to participate in a show on the al-‘Alam TV channel to discuss the situation of Syrian detainees in Saudi Arabia. They also prevented Radif Mustafa, the chairperson of the Kurdish Committee for Human Rights, from traveling to Paris to participate in a workshop organized by the Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Network from May 19-23.

Other forms of harassment include preventing gatherings and meetings. The activist Mazen Darwish, president of the Syrian Center for Media and Freedom of Expression, had obtained a permit from the Ministry of Culture to organize a conference on “press freedom” at the Arab Cultural Center in Damascus on May 25, but an official from the same ministry called the venue 15 minutes prior to the start of the event and ordered its cancellation.

Yassir al-Saqa died in mysterious circumstances in prison last month, most likely under torture | 27 Jun 08

Ali al-Abdullah has been subjected to additional and double punishments in Adra prison | 27 Jun 08

The Syrian Authorities arrested Mr. Hashem Othman, editor of the “International Spaces” Magazine on 20/6/2008 for

Source The Syrian Human Rights Committee

July 4th, 2008, 3:11 am


Majhool said:

مصادر فنية سورية رفيعة المستوى نبأ اعتقال الفنان السوري المعروف ياسين بقوش على خلفية سياسية أو حقوقية، وأكدت أنه لم يعتقل ولم يتعرض لأي سوء من الأجهزة الأمنية على خلفية انتقادات وجهها للحكومة بسبب ظاهرة غلاء الأسعار.

ووصف نقيب الفنانين وعضو البرلمان السوري صباح عبيد في تصريحات خاصة لـ “قدس برس” وضع ياسين بقوش بأنه “الابن المدلل لسورية”، وقال: “بالأمس فقط كنت والفنان ياسين بقوش في وزارة لزراعة التي منحته قطعة أرض بثمن رمزي، فهو الفنان المدلل للدولة السورية، وليست عليه أي رقابة من الأجهزة الأمنية، وكل ما في الأمر أنه قبل أيام جرى حادث بين سيارة الفنان ياسين بقوش ومواطن سوري آخر، فجاء الأمن للتحقيق في طبيعة الحادث، وانتهى الأمر خلال ساعتين تقريبا، وعاد الفنان ياسين بقوش إلى بيته”.

وكانت مصادر حقوقية سورية قد تحدثت عن اعتقال النجم الكوميدي السوري ياسين بقوش بتهمة سب وشتم السلطات العامة، وقالت بأن الفنان السوري ياسين بقوش موجود في سجن عدرا المركزي منذ حوالي الشهر ومحال إلى القضاء، وهو ما نفاه صباح عبيد جملة وتفصيلا.

يذكر أن الفنان بقوش متزوج ولديه 11 ولدا، أكبرهم هيثم مهندس مدني، وهو ممثل سوري من أصل ليبي ينتمي إلى جيل مؤسسي الكوميديا السورية، الذي انطلق في بداية ستينيات القرن الماضي مع أقطاب الكوميديا السورية: دريد لحام، رفيق سبيعي، ناجي جبر، نهاد قلعي وغيرهم.

المصدر :خدمة قدس برس – أية اعادة نشر من دون ذكر المصدر تسبب ملاحقه قانونيه

دبي- العربية.نت

اتهم الممثل السوري ياسين بقوش نقيب الفنانين صباح عبيد بأنه وجه إليه شتائم قبيحة وسبّ عائلتي قائلا أنه لو تشاجر مع أحد “الزعران (السوقيين)” في الشارع لما سمع مثل هذا الكلام الذي يخجل من تكراره على حد تعبيره، بينما نفى عبيد هذه الاتهامات مطالبا بقوش بتقديم اثباتات على ذلك.

وقال بقوش إنه قصد النقابة بغرض استكمال معاملة إدارية، إذ أراد أن يسجّل ابنه في المدرسة الفندقية، فقيل له أن هناك مقاعد مخصصة لأعضاء نقابة الفنانيين، وللحصول عليها ينبغي توجيه كتاب من النقابة إلى وزارة السياحة، وتابع قائلا: “دخلت مكتب نقيب الفنانين ووضعت الكتاب بين يديه، لكنه استفزّني وصدمني بالقول أنه لا يتعامل مع وزارة السياحة وأخذ يتحدث في شكل غير لائق أبداً عن السياحة والوزارة”.

وبحسب صحيفة “الحياة “اللندنية الخميس 30-8-2007 فإن بقوش وعندما أراد الخروج من مكتب نقيب الفنانين سمع شتائم مخجلة موجهة له ولعائلته، واستطرد بقوش قائلا: “فعدت أستوضحه مبررات كل ذلك فزاد غضبه وأراد المضي إلى المشاجرة”. ويتابع بقوش موضحاً أن بعض أعضاء مجلس إدارة النقابة أخذوه إلى مكاتب مجاورة وقاموا بتهدئته معتذرين عما حصل.

وأكد ياسين بقوش، الذي شارك دريد لحام والراحل نهاد قلعي الكثير من أعمالهم مثل “صح النوم” و”مقالب غوار” وغيرهما، أن “مسؤولين عدة في النقابة كانوا موجودين عندما حصلت المشكلة”، مستغرباً أن تخرج مثل هذه “الألفاظ النابية من نقيب فنانين وعضو مجلس الشعب(البرلمان) ولا أظن أن الهيئات النقابية في البلد ترضى بذلك”. واعتبر أن وجود عبيد على رأس نقابة الفنانين “في هذا الشكل هو محاولة لهدم النقابة والثقافة”.

وقد نفى صباح عبيد تلك “الاتهامات”، مؤكداً أنه “لا يوجد نهائياً أي إشكال بيني وبين الفنان الكبير ياسين بقوش”، وأضاف أن الوقائع التي ساقها الأخير “كلها ادعاء وليقدّم إثباتاً على ذلك”.

يشار إلى أن ترؤس صباح عبيد النقابة تسبب بمسلسل من القضايا التي أثارت ضجة واسعة في الأوساط الفنية. بدأت بوقف قيد مجموعة فنانين سوريين في النقابة، وبينهم أسماء كبيرة، بذريعة أنهم “لم يسددوا اشتراكاتهم المالية”، ولاحقاً أفادت النقابة أن هناك مجموعة من المخرجين الشباب، بعضهم حقق حضوراً قوياً في الدراما السورية، لا يحق لهم العمل لأنهم “لا يتمتعون بصفة مخرج” وهو ما تمت تسويته لاحقاً عبر منحهم “أذونات عمل”.

أما القضية التي لقيت الضجة الأكبر فجاءت بعد تصريحات أطلقها نقيب الفنانين، معلناً أنه سيمنع مجموعة مغنيات مثل هيفاء وهبي وروبي وأليسا من إحياء أي حفلات فنية في سورية لحمايتها من “التلوث الأخلاقي”.

July 4th, 2008, 3:26 am


offended said:

Why SC has turned into a tabloid about actors and their endless rows?

July 4th, 2008, 6:55 am


norman said:

The people of the Mideast are winners with peace making while they are losers with war , everybody is a winner with peacemaking deals.

So Siniora is wrong as usual.

July 4th, 2008, 1:24 pm


norman said:

President Bush needs a Damascene experience.

Mostly Muslim Syria marks ‘year of St Paul’

Published: July 04, 2008
A portrait of Saint Paul hangs on the side of the eponymous Church in the Bab Kisan district of old Damascus, July 1. Predominantly Muslim Syria has launched a celebration to mark 2,000 years since the birth of Saint Paul, who converted to Christianity on the road to Damascus and helped spread the new religion to the non-Jewish world. (AFP null)

DAMASCUS (AFP) Predominantly Muslim Syria has launched a celebration to mark 2,000 years since the birth of Saint Paul, who converted to Christianity on the road to Damascus and helped spread the new religion to the non-Jewish world.
A mass was attended by both Christians and Muslims in the capital of officially secular Syria, with other events being organised over the next 12 months with the help of the tourism ministry.

“Syria is an example of brotherhood between Christians and Muslims,” Tourism Minister Saadallah Agha Qalaa told the official SANA news agency. “This is down to its location at the crossroads between Asia, Europe and Africa.”

The mufti of Syria, Sheikh Badreddin Hassun, called Syria “the cradle of the monotheistic religions.”

This week a walk was organised “in the footsteps of St. Paul” in the Old City of Damascus, including a visit to the underground Hanania Church where the Jew born as Saul of Tarsus converted to Christianity.

The Melkite Greek Catholic Church will organise conferences, exhibitions and other cultural events in line with the Pauline Year announced by the Vatican to pay tribute to the saint.

Paul was born in Tarsus, in what is now Turkey, somewhere around seven to 10 AD. He died in Rome, where tradition holds that he was beheaded on the orders of the Emperor Nero.

In the New Testament, the Acts of the Apostles recount how Paul, born as Saul, was travelling to Damascus from Jerusalem with letters authorising him to persecute Christians there.

The Bible says he was surrounded by a bright light which caused him to fall from his horse, blinded. A voice from Heaven, believed to be that of Jesus, said “Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me?”

It was from that experience that Saul converted to Christianity, being baptised a few days later in Damascus after he recovered his sight.

In an allusion to Paul’s experience, dramatic conversions to Christianity are often called a Damascene experience.

© 2008 Agence France-Presse

July 4th, 2008, 6:23 pm


Karim said:

Norman, this is not more than hypocritical comedy ,we all know ,muslim and christian syrians that the muslim sheikhs and christian clerics who are close to the regime take orders from the mukhabarat.The honest people among them and they still exist can hardly hold important position.The catholic church in Vatican knows the reality in Syria and they should not be deluded by such manipulations.Freedom for both christians and muslims are a necessity for building strong and guenine ties.This is what Syria has lost ….and that’s why such shows are misleading.

July 4th, 2008, 7:29 pm


norman said:


I understand that this is a good way to bring tourists to Syria but does not underestimate the harmony that the Christians and Muslims live in Syria , and that , you should be proud of no matter who is in power , It is Syria that is celebrating not the regime. .

July 4th, 2008, 7:34 pm


offended said:

Karim, Syria is lost???
I thought it had a GPS?

July 4th, 2008, 10:36 pm


aussama said:

President Bush (current day Emperor Niron) needs to do few things ASAP; try to back to Texas before causing more damage to whatever is left of what America is supposed to stand for, and then consider immediately shooting -or to at least criminaly sue- the guy who planted into his strategic brain the initial seed of running as a the Prersident of the US. And the, he needs to pray real heard for forgiveness. Real, real hard, maybe GOD will consider a special Pardon in his case!

July 4th, 2008, 11:11 pm


Karim said:

Offended of Aleppo ;on which model of Syria are you talking about ?
Syrian professor cycles to celebrate Turkish-Syrian friendship

A Syrian professor will cycle approximately 6,000 kilometers in a bid to draw attention to the advance of Turkish-Syrian relations over the past several years.

July 4th, 2008, 11:39 pm


offended said:

Thanks for link re:Professor Yehya Ka’keh.

July 5th, 2008, 3:34 am


Alex said:

Back to tabloid news, … Julio Iglesias is going to sing in Damascus.

Julio sang in Egypt after Sadat signed a Peace treaty with Israel.

During his stay in Cairo, he visited (and highly praised) Sadat.

July 5th, 2008, 6:44 am


Jamal said:

Sickening, stupid, more shame for Syria – one way to clean up the political dissidents


NICOSIA (AFP July 5 2008 ) — At least 25 inmates were shot dead by Syrian security forces during a riot in a jail for political prisoners in the mountains outside Damascus on Saturday, according to a human rights group.

“Islamist prisoners started a riot inside the prison this morning,” the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said in a statement received in Nicosia, quoting a political prisoner in the jail contacted by mobile phone.

“Shooting is continuing against the prisoners,” the London-based group said, adding that a number of inmates had climbed the roof of the military prison in Saydnaya, north of Damascus, to escape the violence.

It said the number of dead was now 25.

The group said it had received phone calls from relatives of prisoners asking Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to intervene to stop the clashes in Saydnaya, an ancient town with biblical connections.

There was no immediate comment from the Syrian authorities.

July 5th, 2008, 9:42 am


Majhool said:

قتل نحو 25 سجينا في سجن صيدنايا (شمال) القريب من دمشق السبت 5-7-2008 بعد وقوع “عصيان” نفذه معتقلون اسلاميون، بحسب ما أعلنه المرصد السوري لحقوق الانسان.

وجاء في بيان للمرصد ومقره في لندن “علم المرصد السوري لحقوق الانسان من سجين سياسي في سجن صيدنايا العسكري قرب دمشق ان عصيانا وقع داخل السجن صباح السبت نفذه معتقلون اسلاميون”.

واضاف ان “اطلاق الرصاص الحي على السجناء من قبل عناصر الشرطة العسكرية لا يزال مستمرا”. واوضح ان “عدد القتلى بلغ 25 شخصا”. وتابع البيان ان “السجناء صعدوا الى سطح السجن خوفا من القتل”.

وقال المرصد انه “تلقى اكثر من اتصال هاتفي من اهالي المعتقلين الاسلاميين في سجن صيدنايا وجهوا فيه نداء استغاثة عبر المرصد للرئيس السوري بشار الاسد من اجل التدخل لوقف عملية القتل المستمرة داخل السجن”.

وطالب المرصد الرئيس السوري “التدخل الفوري لوقف هذه المجزرة ومحاكمة كل من اطلق الرصاص الحي على السجناء”.

ويذكر أن معتقلي سجن صيدنايا هم سياسيين إسلاميين وأكراد بشكل أساسي.

ويعد سجن صيدنايا المدني من أكبر وأحدث السجون السورية أنهت الحكومة بناءه عام 1987، ويقع السجن في قرية صيدنايا الجبلية الواقعة شمالي العاصمة السورية دمشق، ويتكون المبنى من ثلاثة طوابق على شكل ثلاثة أجنحة تلتقي في المركز على شكل إشارة “المرسيدس”.

ويتكون كل جناح في كل طابق من عشرين مهجعا جماعيا بقياس 8 أمتار طولا وستة أمتار عرضا، ويحوي الطابق الأول مائة زنزانة.

Source Arabiya

July 5th, 2008, 9:49 am


Majhool said:

If this is true, then indeed the change in Syria under the current regime is impossible. I am saying this while not being supportive of prison riot. The Syrian regime has a history of storming into prisons and shooting mercilessly, they did it once in Palmyra and it seems they were not ashamed to do it again.

But let’s act like positive victors and make a denotation for the Mukhabarat to buy some high pressure water hoses and tear gas for next time.

July 5th, 2008, 10:22 am


Dolmades said:

دور سـوري
ساطع نور الدين
جاء الضغط من سوريا، فشكلت الحكومة، أو هي صارت على وشك التشكيل خلال ساعات او اكثر، وذللت العقد التي وضعها العماد ميشال عون طوال الاسابيع الخمسة الماضية، وكادت تطيح كل ما أرسي في اتفاق الدوحة من تفاهمات سياسية، تعكس موازين القوى الداخلية، بقدر ما تعبر عن سلوك القوى الخارجية المعنية بالأزمة اللبنانية.
لم يكن الضغط الآتي هذه المرة من دمشق مباشرا، وحسب الاساليب والتقاليد التي سادت طوال اكثر من ثلاثين عاما من الوصاية السورية. لم يستقبل العماد عون اي زائر سوري سري في بعبدا، ولم يتلق اي اتصال من دمشق. تدخل سعاة الخير المقربون من القيادة السورية، وهم كثر بين السياسيين اللبنانيين، ونقلوا استياءها من الشروط والمطالب الخاصة بحقائب وزارية فارغة من اي ميزانيات مالية او من مؤثرات سياسية يمكن ان تخدم في معركة الانتخابات النيابية العام المقبل.
قبل هذا الاستياء، كان حلفاء العماد عون، لا سيما في حزب الله وحركة أمل قد عبروا مرارا عن ضيقهم من ذلك الصراع العبثي على تشكيلة وزارية لن يكون لها اي دور في تحديد الاحجام الانتخابية المقبلة، بل ربما ساهمت في تخفيض هذه الاحجام من الآن وحتى موعد الانتخابات في أيار المقبل… وقلقهم من ذلك الفراغ القاتل الذي لا يسده سوى التوتر الأمني في المناطق الإسلامية بين السنة والشيعة تحديدا.
المهم الآن أن الضغط السوري قد ثبت ظهوره شرعا، كما ان العماد عون الذي طالما أنكره قد تأثر به حكما ومن دون تردد طويل: لم يكن لدى أحد شك في ان دمشق لا تزال مؤثرة في اللعبة الداخلية اللبنانية، وحتى على التيار الوطني الحر تحديدا، إن لم يكن مباشرة فعلى الأقل مواربة ومن خلال حلفائه الذين يتنقلون يوميا على خط الشام، وإن بشكل خفي، يتلاءم مع متطلبات المرحلة الراهنة التي لا تسمح بلقاءات ومشاورات علنية كما في الايام الخوالي.
لماذا جاء الضغط السوري في هذا الوقت بالذات؟ الاجابة لا تقتصر على الربط الفوري بين الانفراج الحكومي الوشيك وبين زيارة الرئيس السوري بشار الاسد الاسبوع المقبل الى باريس في اول خطوة من نوعها منذ ما قبل اغتيال الرئيس رفيق الحريري، للقاء الرئيس نيكولا ساركوزي وحضور قمة الاتحاد من اجل المتوسط. ثمة تعديل في تعامل دمشق مع الشأن الداخلي اللبناني، بدأ لحظة سيطرة حزب الله وحلفائه على بيروت في السابع من أيار الماضي، وهو يعبر ربما عن ان القيادة السورية بلغت ذروة مواجهتها مع المشروع اللبناني المعادي لها الذي حصل في اتفاق الدوحة على اعتراف بوجوده وشرعيته وشراكته، بعدما كان، من وجهة نظر سورية، صدى لمشروع اميركي، او في لحظات التوتر مجرد منتج اسرائيلي.
هذا التحول في الموقف السوري، ليس بسيطا حسب المعايير السياسية والامنية اللبنانية، التي لم يكن هوس العماد عون بالسلطة سوى مؤشر على استقرارها على سوية جديدة، تنقطع عن كل ما ساد في السنوات الثلاث او الاربع الماضية.

July 5th, 2008, 11:51 am


offended said:

Majhool, you missed out the part where the news article says that the rioters are holding 400 imprisoned conscript soldiers as hostages.

July 5th, 2008, 12:31 pm


ausamaa said:

But what do we really know about this riot in the prison?? There was a riot in Romyeh prison in Lebanon a month ago and we still do not know what happened.

Incidently, I do not see many remarks about the new Liberation of the POW’s by Hizbullah. Is that sort of a trivial event for us here?

July 5th, 2008, 3:28 pm


Majhool said:

If what you are saying is true, then how many soldiers are dead? i couldn’t find your story anywhere.

Mayur Pahilajani – AHN News Writer
Damascus, Syria (AHN) – Several people are dead in a jail riot between guards and prisoners in Syria, a human rights group has said.

According to the reports the exact number of people killed during the clashes is not known as Syrian authorities refused to comment on the incident, but sources said at least 25 had died.

Islamist inmates started a riot inside the prison this morning after military police fired live bullets at them, the London-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said on Saturday.

The group is in contact with a political prisoner in Saydnaya jail, who also revealed that prisoners were being shot at as some of the inmates were fleeing the military prison from the roof to escape the violence.

The human rights group said the inmates have requested it to halt the clashes with the help of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

“Based on what my staff saw, the administration of the prison has canceled visits today,” Muhanad al-Hasni of the Syrian Human Rights Organization, told Al Jazeera.

“We could see columns of smoke from inside the prison. We can’t tell if it is gas bombs or fire. We were denied access into the prison.”

He added that ambulances were carrying the wounded to the hospital from the jail, which is located in an ancient town with biblical connections.

The group also said that around 400 detained security troops were being held hostage in the jail, which can hold at least 10,000 prisoners, to negotiate with the Syrian authorities.

Over the past few months, Syria began detaining political dissidents, a move which was condemned by the West.

Most of the arrests were carried out based on still active 45-year-old emergency laws

July 5th, 2008, 4:23 pm


offended said:

Majhool, don’t play dumb. The same article of Al Arabiya which you’ve selectively cut and pasted above talked about 400 hostages. I initially thought you left out that bit unintentionally. Now it’s clear it’s been done on propaganda basis.

Do you even know that the 25 prisoners/rioters are really dead? Ammar Kurabi came out and denied the reports that his office has issued these numbers, he said 25 is still exaggerated compared to what his sources had told him. You wouldn’t hear of any murdered innocent soldiers so soon because either: 1- none have been killed (hopefully) BUT THEY ARE STILL HOSTAGES, or 2- Their casulaties are not reported because they took place inside the prison and there is no way we can tell what’s happening inside as it is still ‘under the control’ of the rioters according to BBC arabic which’s spoken on the phone with one of them.

July 5th, 2008, 5:42 pm


Majhool said:


I don’t like your tone. I pasted the article as is. I even checked their website thinking that maybe there was an update.

Here it is again

دمشق، نيقوسيا- وكالات

أعلنت جماعات سورية معنية بحقوق الانسان السبت 5-7-2008 أن عددا من نزلاء سجن سوري قتلوا وأصيبوا عندما أحبطت سلطات السجن أعمال عصيان قام بهاسجناء سياسيون إسلاميون في سجن صيدنايا شمال دمشق بسبب الظروف السيئة فى السجن.

وقال عمار قربي رئيس المنظمة الوطنية لحقوق الانسان في سوريا “من الصعب معرفة عدد الاشخاص الذين أصيبوا وقتلوا لان السلطات السورية صادرت كل التليفونات المحمولة داخل السجن”، ونفى قربي رئيس المنظمة ومقرها سوريا التقارير الاعلامية التي تكهنت بمقتل 25 شخصا وقال إن هذا العدد كبير ومن الصعب تأكيده.

وكان المرصد السوري لحقوق الانسان قال فى موقعه على شبكة الانترنت ان السجناء الاسلاميين نظموا احتجاجا صباح اليوم فى سجن صيدنايا مما دفع رجال الشرطة العسكرية الى فتح النار عليهم.

ونقل المرصد ومقره لندن عن نزيل سوري في السجن قوله ان عشرات النزلاء قتلوا وآخرين هربوا إلى سطح السجن.

وقال المرصد السورى ان عائلات النزلاء ناشدت من خلاله الرئيس السوري بشار الاسد التدخل فورا، وقال قربي إن السجن الذي يقع في قرية صيدنايا الجبلية شهد من قبل اضطرابات استمرت لقرابة شهرين.

وأضاف أن النزلاء بدأوا أعمال التمرد بعد اندلاع حريق عن عمد وأضاف أن السجن أغلق لمدة أسبوع وأن عددا من النزلاء المصابين نقلوا إلى مستشفى قريب، وأوضح أن أعمال شغب أخرى اندلعت في سجن عدرا أكبر سجون سوريا بعد وقت قصير من اندلاع أعمال الشغب في صيدنايا.

واستبعد قربي أن تكون أعمال الشغب التي اندلعت اليوم ذات دوافع سياسية وقال إن فقر حالة السجن هي السبب على الارجح، ومن بين الشكاوى المعتادة التي توجه للسجون في سوريا إساءة معاملة السجناء وعدم وجود كميات كافية من الطعام والاسرة.

وقال قربي إن السلطات السورية يجب أن تنظر في أمر هذه الشكاوى بتلبية مطالب السجناء بدلا من فتح النار عليهم.

وتشتكي جماعات حقوق الانسان من أن السجون السورية تديرها وزارة الداخلية وليست وزارة العدل. وأشارت المنظمة الوطنية لحقوق الانسان إلى أن الجيش السوري يدير عددا من السجون

Now get lost.

July 5th, 2008, 6:34 pm


offended said:

Like wise. Thanks for proving that the article you’ve pasted just now is different than the one pasted earlier on, albeit from the same revered source of Al Arabiya.

So next time when I say something don’t give me the “if what you’re saying is true…” because I’ve read it there before the update and I don’t lie. You’ve purposely left that part out.

July 5th, 2008, 7:20 pm


Karim said:

Aussama if you had to choose between the qardahist or the zionist prisons which ones would you prefer?

July 5th, 2008, 11:19 pm


Karim said:

Offended,what is happening is very sad there is no need to have a quarrel with Majhoul on details, these people could be your own relatives.You are from Aleppo and there are few families in Aleppo which have not been hurt by this regime .

July 5th, 2008, 11:25 pm


Akbar Palace said:

Looks like our pal Ahmadinejad is resorting to more anti-semitism.

Looks like we should negotiate more…

July 6th, 2008, 1:05 am


Shai said:

Looks like our pals The Settlers are resorting to more anti-Palestinianism.

Looks like the Arabs should want to make peace with us more…

July 6th, 2008, 3:55 am


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

What the settlers did is despicable, but what I also find quite despicable is how easily you find explanations for a Palestinian killing three Israelis.

Let me try your argument: The Palestinians just killed another 3 Israeli civillians, that should make Israelis want to make peace with them more… Do you support this argument?

There are 400,000 settlers. Some of them are crazy. But the vast majority of them are normal people and your generalizations about “The Settlers” are quite bigoted.

July 6th, 2008, 4:19 am


Shai said:

You’re a sad case, AIG. You can do nothing but continue to put words in people’s mouths. Now I “… easily find explanations for a Palestinian killing three Israelis.” A few days ago it was “the rational Ayatollahs”. What will you bring tomorrow? Maybe next you’ll suggest I “clearly justify the Holocaust”? Where will your AIPAC-style labels and characterizations take you next?

I’d like to think that even your limited imagination could find similarities between what I wrote (hint: and how I wrote it) to what your colleague-in-arms Akbar Palace tried to do with Ahmadinejad’s antisemitism.

July 6th, 2008, 4:37 am


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

It is quite simple. You don’t justify the killing, of course not. But you UNDERSTAND it and EXPLAIN it by what Israel is doing. And I am not puting words in your mouth.

Ahmadinajad is the LEADER of an 80 million people nation, he is not some idiot from Kiryat Arba. He puts his antisemitism on national TV and it is given legitimacy. Very very few people in Israel would view positively what the guys in the article you posted did. See the difference? I guess not.

July 6th, 2008, 4:42 am


Shai said:

Dearest AIG,

If you still don’t get it, the similarity was not in the CONTENT, it was in the USE of the example. That is, AP used the words of Ahmadinejad to suggest that the West should continue to isolate Iran. My example was intended in the same way, to show how idiotic it would be for the world to punish an entire nation based on what one person says, EVEN if it is its leader. Olmert and Sharon have both said they’re willing to make “painful sacrifices” to the Arabs (without your democracy preconditions), and I imagine you didn’t take them too seriously, because you believed most Israelis do not support them. Do you think most Iranians support Ahmadinejad’s ideas of erasing Israel off the map? I think probably as many as support those settlers beating up the Palestinian, or as many Palestinians that support murdering innocent Israelis.

As for Alon Liel (my “friend” as you called him), I do not agree with him about flipping Syria. He thinks that Syria could be given enough incentives to leave Iran, HA, and Hamas. I think neither we, nor the US, should even try to push Syria in that direction, first because Syria is unlikely to agree, but more importantly, because it is AGAINST our best interest. If Iran does indeed go nuclear one day, I’d much rather have peace with Syria that is best-friends with such an Iran, not its “ex-wife”. After there’s peace with Syria, where would YOU prefer to see Khaled Mashaal, in Khartoum, or in Damascus? If there’s a chance that Syria can help Israel out with the rest of our conflicts (and I believe there certainly is), then it’s best Syria remains an ally of our current rivals. Alon may be right, in that this would be very difficult to “sell” this to the Israeli public. My guess is that therefore whatever leader ends up delivering a peace agreement with Syria will have to do so making Syria “seem” like it has left the infamous Axis-of-Evil.

The only exception to the above said, in terms of “flipping” Syria, relates to its current participation in enabling HA and Hamas to receive various types of support (financial, military, etc.) from Iran. This will have to end. But Syria should certainly remain a political ally of Iran (yes, the same belligerent Iran), HA, Hamas, N. Korea, S. Korea, and the British Virgin Islands. Alienating nations doesn’t solve the problem, it generally makes it worse. By enabling Ahmadinejad to speak in Columbia university, you’re not recognizing or agreeing with his anti-Israel rhetoric. The opposite – you’re putting him on the defensive, yet showing Iran that you still care about the Iranian people. If there’s a chance Khamenei will change his outlook, it is by having nations engage Iran, not isolate her. Engage does not mean appease. There’s a difference, though I’m not sure you understand it.

July 6th, 2008, 5:54 am


offended said:

I am not trying to pick up a quarrel with Majhool or Ma3loom, what happened/is happening in the prison is still wildly unknown. So there is no need to carry out propaganda on this from the first place.

And please, drop this “you’re from Aleppo….” mantra, it’s not working, FYI my family is/was mostly Nasserists.

July 6th, 2008, 9:10 am


offended said:

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights quoted a political prisoner reached by mobile phone inside the jail as saying that the riot had been started by Islamist inmates.

July 6th, 2008, 9:16 am


Akbar Palace said:

Engage does not mean appease.

Engage most certainly does mean appease. As we have been witnessing for the past several decades. The world engages Iran, and Iran continues to arm terrorists and forward their nuclear ambitions.

Engaging Iran has only provided more sophisticated weaponry in the hands of terrorist groups. Nothing less.

That is, AP used the words of Ahmadinejad to suggest that the West should continue to isolate Iran. My example was intended in the same way, to show how idiotic it would be for the world to punish an entire nation based on what one person says, EVEN if it is its leader.

We have seen what influence one leader can have on a country not beholden to democracy. But some liberals never learn.

Any comparison between the statements and actions of a government leader and his controlled media carries quite a bit more weight internationally than the actions of a group of local thugs, who have yet to face justice.

July 6th, 2008, 12:28 pm


why-discuss said:


You are absolutely right. You can’t expect new friends to dump their old time friends, just because you hope the new friends will be loyal and support you. Historically, friendship with US and many european countries come with lots of conditions and pressures to brutally change the cultural path of an country to follow the path the western community believe is the best. They seem to forget how long and painful it took them to get rid of apartheid, accept women’s vote, separation of church and state: They want a fast path to a western democracy and we see the painful results in Iraq, or Egypt.
Similarly to the jews in Israel, many moslems consider their religion not only as an identity but also as a nation “Umma”. While colonization has broken the arab world into different countries, that idea, like zionism, is still alive in the psyche of the moslem arabs and reappears regularly. The non-christians arab are torn between the western (christian) view perceived as progressive and the moslem view perceived as regressive.
If Zionism remains alive despite the fact that jews have their nation-identity, what will happen to the “umma”? Syria is one of the few arab countries who consistently have pursued that idea, with the result that they became a pariah for the western countries. Would Arabs ever renounce to that dream?

July 6th, 2008, 1:29 pm


Shai said:


You’re right. Some liberals (like myself) never learn. If only we could remove those blinding covers we put on each day, and see the simple truth, as George W. Bush does… We could learn so much, and achieve so much, as your “leader” has in the past 8 years. With Dubya in power, the world is certainly a safer place today. “Liberals never learn”? Ha! You mean foolishly stubborn god-fearing neocons “never learn”… You got the titles mixed up, my dear AP.


But you see, if Syria and Israel make peace, and Israel hasn’t made Syria dump Iran, HA, and Hamas, our Bush-supporters in the form of one AP et al will not feel that (as Netanyahu’s earlier book is titled) the “west has won”. We won’t have forced peace on our terms, hence, we surrendered to terrorism and tyranny. The harsh truth is, that certain “Israelis” don’t see Jews and Arabs as equals, and therefore assume we can force our will upon them. They cannot stand the notion that Israeli leaders will have to look eye-level at their Arab counterparts, and most bitter enemies. That’s why they keep resisting peace (suggesting its supporters are “liberals”), come up with every excuse in the book, including the best of all – democracy first! At least I can’t say SC provides no comic relief. It certainly does… to us liberals, at least… (man I feel like giving up some land right now… and hugging an Arab, any Arab…) 🙂

July 6th, 2008, 2:52 pm


Shai said:

To our Lebanese friends, today I happened to watch a documentary clip about the 2006 expedition to Everest, and found Maxime Chaya an absolutely fascinating person. He’s already climbed the 7 highest summits in the world, and the following year he reached the South Pole. Next year it’s the North Pole, and if he succeeds, he’ll become only the 14th person to achieve the Grand Slam (7 summits, 3 poles).

To all our resident neocons, here’s what “liberals” out there are doing for peace:,7340,L-3252871,00.html

What are YOU doing for it?

July 6th, 2008, 3:16 pm


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Climbing mount Everest is going to help peace? This guy can do what ever he wants but boy it is a useless and expensive gesture.

And it is really you that cannot see that all Arabs are equal with your fascination in groveling to dictators. Peace will come when Arabs have an opportunity at a good life. All Arabs. Not only those that you think are more equal and control the muchabarat and army. You are not a liberal, since you are happy courting dictators. You are certainly an appeaser. I would give the Golan back in a second to a democratic Syria. You would give it back to a dictator just because he can shoot missiles at you.

I am looking for victory for everybody which means all people have rights because that is what is good for Israel. You are willing to throw most Arabs under the truck and postpone democracy and development in these countries for decades. You are an elitist that cannot see past his own nose.

Furthermore, you like to give examples of people that support your position. Well, NOT ONE PERSON supports your position. Not even Liel. You hardly represent the left hemisphere of your brain.

July 6th, 2008, 3:32 pm


Shai said:


At least you agree that I’m not a liberal (tell that to your friend AP). Yes, I like dictators. They make me happy. I like to appease them. If I’m willing to give back the Golan to a Syria under dictatorship, can you imagine what I’d give if it was a democracy? At least the whole area up to Haifa, maybe even Zichron.

I’m just continuously amazed at your dedication to the cause of freedom for the Syrian people. My god, if our own people in Israel were as dedicated to peace, as you are to Syria, the Dali Lama would have already begged to receive Israeli honorary citizenship. What I find truly rude, is most SC commentators’ ungratefulness to you. Don’t they realize what you’re saying? Don’t they understand how much you care about THEIR well-being? It’s shameful, if you ask me. I call for a two-week ban on all Syrians in this blog and, yes, that includes you Alex! Oh, except for Bashman. He HAS shown appreciation. And, maybe also QN, who’s just a genius diplomat / high-school student.

Alon Liel, by the way, very much supports my position (and I his). The only difference between our views regards Syria’s likelihood of “flipping”. By the way, it is very difficult to get a degree in Mathematics without using the left hemisphere of the brain. So although I may not seem to “represent” it to you, I have used it before… What about you, what about your Right side? You know, the one that is much more “big picture” oriented, uses imagination, looks at present and future, and can present possibilities. Unlike the “rational” Left side. How well do you “represent” your Right hemisphere AIG?

July 6th, 2008, 3:56 pm


ugarit said:


Were Syria to become a democracy Israel would look even more abhorrent. Be careful what you wish for.

July 6th, 2008, 3:57 pm


Shai said:

Ugarit, leave him, he can’t see past his own shadow. When Syria becomes a democracy, you can erect a gigantic statue-of-liberty, with AIG holding the flame, in Lake Assad in northern Syria. Visitors would flock in their thousands… away…

July 6th, 2008, 4:01 pm


ugarit said:


I wish I can leave him. I fear that many Israelis hold his views. Am I wrong?

July 6th, 2008, 4:04 pm


Shai said:


Yes, they do. But, unlike him, they’re not so innately stubborn and inflexible. Like I’ve mentioned before, we were in an almost identical situation with Egypt. 70% of Israelis then (including our current PM Olmert) were against handing back the Sinai, even in return for peace. Until PM Begin presented the peace agreement to the Israeli Knesset and its 120 representative members. After understanding that peace was truly possible, the 70% against became 70% for peace. In other words, most Israelis are certainly capable of changing their minds. Back in Rabin’s days, most Israelis were for peace with Syria. But the AIG’s out there will not change their mind. It probably has to do with pride more than anything. They close themselves off in such a way (demanding first democracy), that they know it’ll be impossible for them to back out of. Imagine, Menachem Begin, Benjamin Netanyahu, Ariel Sharon, and Ehud Olmert, were all avid Likudnicks for decades. None required democracy first. And all changed their minds about peace with the Arabs. But not AIG. No, he’s waiting for democracy… No, thank god, AIG is not like most Israelis.

July 6th, 2008, 4:10 pm


ugarit said:

If Judaism is so important to Israel just convert the Palestinians and get it over with. What’s holding them back? Why is Judaism not for conversions, in general?

July 6th, 2008, 4:24 pm


Shai said:


Judaism is a very difficult religion to be “accepted” into. We are, after all, the “chosen people”… Many of my friends refused to get married in Israel (and instead flew to Cyprus, or elsewhere) because the Rabbinate rules are so strict. A Christian wishing to convert needs to go through almost an entire year of conversion, and endure a very difficult process which includes living with a religious family, passing certain “committees”, etc. I’ve never heard of a Muslim converting to Judaism (maybe there has been a case, don’t know). But how could we possibly convert by force, even if we wanted to? It’s as likely as all the Jews in Israel converting to Islam (which is far easier to do, from what I understand, right?), and then calling Israel the “Muslim Nation”… I’m sure AP is thinking “I’m sure that liberal Shai wouldn’t mind that either…” Well he’s wrong – I’m not a liberal… 🙂

July 6th, 2008, 4:50 pm


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Go on, make Israel even more abhorrent and become a democracy. Show us how bad we are. What are you waiting for?


How many times do I have to tell you that I care about Israel’s well being and that is why I care about democracy in the middle east.

The fact is that there is not ONE person in the Israeli public domain, including Liel, that holds your point of view. But, you are satisfied by the support of 5 bloggers living in the West to vindicate your position. The big picture is simple. Peace with dictators is not peace. It is just a recipe for bigger war. The Syrian people have to vote freely for peace. As for whether the Israeli public changes its mind, we will see in the referundum won’t we if things ever come to one.

July 6th, 2008, 5:03 pm


Shai said:

“The fact is that there is not ONE person in the Israeli public domain, including Liel, that holds your point of view”

Hmmm… sounds like propaganda to me. I know Alon Liel for almost 20 years now. Our views are very close, trust me.

You know, you remind me of Yakov Smirnof’s joke about cable tv in the old Soviet Union. In your AIG-style democracy, Syrian TV would have a choice of two channels: Channel one, an AIG propaganda channel, sponsored by AIPAC and various wealthy neocons, and Channel two, with an AIG-like officer pointing a finger at the audience, telling them to go back to Channel one… The Syrians could enjoy freedom, as long as it is AIG-style freedom. I wonder how you’d react if the majority of Syrians voted for Bashar Assad. Would you then make peace with him? Ha… what a funny question, eh?

July 6th, 2008, 5:57 pm


ugarit said:


So it really comes down to “We are, … the “chosen people”…”

How can an atheist Jew think of himself as part of the “chosen people”?

July 6th, 2008, 6:11 pm


ugarit said:


“But how could we possibly convert by force, even if we wanted to? ”

Well Israel expelled Palestinians by force and spends a tremendous amount of resources to isolate jew from non-jew in the occupied territory. Is expelling of the non-chosen people more acceptable, in Judaism, than making the Paletinians part of the chosen-people?

July 6th, 2008, 6:15 pm


Shai said:


I’m not sure I follow you now. I of course do NOT believe that we are the “chosen people”. Jews are no better than anyone else on earth. Not Christians, not Muslims, not Hindus, not Shinto, not Atheists. I was being sarcastic.

And I happen to HATE and feel ashamed of the fact that my people forced hundreds of thousands of other people to leave their homes, towns and villages, and to become refugees for the past 60 years. Expelling is absolutely NOT acceptable to me, under any circumstance. And, therefore, neither is forced conversion. That belongs to some 1500-2000 years ago. Not to modern day Israel.

I hope things are clear now…

July 6th, 2008, 6:35 pm


ugarit said:


It’s much clearer now. Thank you. But wouldn’t mass conversions be better than what Israel is doing to Palestinians, now. Once they’re converted they’re automatically granted Israeli citizenship and full Israeli rights. Now they’re granted nothing.

Peace with Syria is not going to change Israel’s views of non-jews in the occupied Palestine.

July 6th, 2008, 7:46 pm


Shai said:


Israel needs to end its Occupation of the Palestinians, period. We mustn’t, and indeed can’t, force anything upon the Palestinians. We cannot convert them, any more than they can convert us. But it’s funny that you mention that… I can’t imagine how the Rabbinical courts in my country would react (puzzlement, disbelief?) But I doubt they would like the idea…

July 6th, 2008, 7:53 pm


ugarit said:


I disagree with you that you can’t force anything upon the Palestinians. Israel has been doing just that for decades.

I know conversions are unrealistic. What do Zionists want? Do they want the Palestinians to pack up and leave? That’s not going to happen so what’s the next step for Zionism? Clearly the “chosen-people” perspective is getting in the way of rational thinking.

Throughout history invaders/occupiers assimilated/get assimilated/expel. Even in those barbarous times bi-directional assimilation was/is the norm. Why are Zionist so un-accepting of assimilation. Is it the “chosen-people” issue again?

July 6th, 2008, 8:11 pm


Karim said:

offended said family is/was mostly Nasserists.

It’s your problem ,but for you Nasserism means dictatorship,one party system ,tortures ,mukhabarati system , oppression,bad managment,corruption,minority sectarianism,false slogans ,treachery,brain drain ?exactly what we have in Syria today those are the great objectives of nasserism ?
And if you disagree with this merge so where is the problem??? Be Nasserian and a free man .The qardahist prisons are/were always full of nasserists btw.

July 6th, 2008, 8:57 pm


Nour said:


Let’s not forget that the Nasserists themselves engaged in “dictatorship,one party system ,tortures ,mukhabarati system , oppression,bad managment,corruption, majority sectarianism,false slogans ,treachery,brain drain.” I don’t think Syrians are quick to forget the likes of the Nasserist Abdel Hamid el-Sarraj who was responsible for the brutal torture and killing of thousands of Syrians, and who had the head of the Lebanese Communist Party tortured to death and then burned with acid.

July 6th, 2008, 9:24 pm


norman said:


You do not have to force the Palestinians to convert , Just offer it to them for a full citizenship . the will convert in droves,

I know that this is an unlikely scenario.


Who are the Nasserists, i guess Syria was very secular when i was there in the late seventies.


i think you should express your thoughts without enticing sectarian tensions , you will be more effective .just a thought.

July 6th, 2008, 10:05 pm


Karim said:

Exactly Nour ,Farjallah al Helou.
the dictator Abdelnasser was the spiritual father of all these dictators that came to power in the 60’s and 70 ‘s among them Hafez Asad ,Khadafi and the post Faruk regime in Egypt.They destroyed our cosmopolitan and liberal culture ,that exlplain the increase of radicalism and irrationality in the arab world.Norman what you said is true but in the 70’s ,the syrians were not less religious than today becase most of them were not product of the asad era they had not yet inculcated the bad manners and hypocrisy,they had clean hearts.Today Syria is other ,because most of Syria’s inhabitants are born after 1970.

July 6th, 2008, 10:09 pm


offended said:

Let’s not forget that many communists and leftists were implicated in persecution of many other political parties throughout the recent history of the ME.

It’s amazing how people’s minds are programed in such a way that they will figure you out in fraction of a second.

Offended from Aleppo? how could you support the regime? don’t you know Aleppo is full of grieving families who were wronged by the draconian Alawaite regime? you must come from the few families who were not affected. But still, it can’t be offended, you are wrong.

Aha, you are Nasserist? fuck you and fuck Abdulnaser, this is why you support dictatorships and their mukhabarat. Don’t you know that many Nasserists are still in prisons? (here’s where i get confused, are Nasserists real freedom struggler then, or are they dictators-loving mobs??)

Karim and Nour, honestly, I feel sorry for you both. And for everyone who would let his political affiliations blind his judgment. I said my family used to be Nasserists, I didn’t say I am a Nasserist myself.

I’d like to think of myself as a free thinker. Good luck in trying to taint that school of thought now as well.

July 6th, 2008, 10:50 pm


why-discuss said:

Nasserism was the consequence of the persistancy of colonial powers to control the region and benefit gratis of its resources( Suez canal at at time). It was also a reaction to the weak, pathetic and corrupted rule of King Farouk.
Nasserism started with great ideas on sharing of wealth under charismatic Nasser and turned out to be a total failure if we judge from where the country is after more than 50 years. This is due on one side to the violent reactions of the frustrated western countries loosing their grip and on the other side by lack of a real pragmatism in the rulers of Egypt. Destructions of institutions, repressions, disposessions, giving power to uneducated people, sanctions , all contribute to weaken even more the average egyptian. A new even more corrupted class of officers took over the country and brought it from disaster to disasters. Egypt has not yet recovered from that dark period of its history.

July 6th, 2008, 11:26 pm


norman said:

Stupid me ,I thought Nasirism is a religion. Now i got it ,

I agree with you ( Why-Discuss ), Nasser ruled Syria during the union like a Calif with rulers from Egypt instead of letting the Syrians rule themselves through a federal system like the US , That would have had a better chance., Don’t you think ?.

July 6th, 2008, 11:34 pm


why-discuss said:


That’s what I mean… Egyptian leaders were unexperienced, lacked elementary pragmatism. They were under the strong influence of the Soviets and subject to ramping corruption. This contributed to discredit the noble revolutionary ideals and aborted attempts to unite the arab world.

July 7th, 2008, 2:40 am


Nour said:


It was nothing against you, and I don’t want you to take my post the wrong way. I’m only intending to show that Syria’s problems did not begin with the Assads and that removing Bashar al-Assad from power will not necessarily bring a better system. I think some people, unfortunately, are more interested in experiencing the gratification of satisfying a personal vendetta than they are in improving the country and creating a better system. That’s why many Iraqi so-called “opposition” figures were only interested in getting rid of Saddam, regardless of the consequences and disasters that would befall Iraq as a result. Likewise some Syrians are more interested in seeing Assad removed from power than they are in building a good system for Syria.

July 7th, 2008, 3:30 am


Shai said:


This particular invader (Israel), will have to leave the Palestinian territories, not assimilate the Palestinian people. Talking of forcing anything conversion/assimilation upon them is purely academic – it’s just not going to happen. 10 years from now (hopefully much sooner), there will not be a single Jew or Israeli living in the West Bank, with the exception of whatever Israeli towns remain in a negotiated agreement between the two sides (probably following a swap of land). No Palestinian will be offered Israeli citizenship, and no Israeli will be offered Palestinian citizenships. At least not until my fantasy UME (United Middle East) is created…

July 7th, 2008, 3:32 am


ugarit said:


I appreciate your optimism about Israel leaving the WB and Gaza but I think you’re being unrealistic.

July 7th, 2008, 3:52 am


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

What is a Syrian “free thinker”? Is that someone that freely thinks like Bashar Asad without the muchabarat threatning him? Or is there a political party in Syria called the Free Thinkers that you support? Or maybe you are a free thinker because you do not get paid to think?

I am quite sure that free thought is allowed in Syria as Asad does not yet have the technology to read people’s minds. The trouble is with free speech and free actions.

July 7th, 2008, 3:53 am


Shai said:


It’s not going to happen tomorrow, and may in fact not happen before Israel and Syria sign a peace treaty. But sooner or later, it’ll have to happen. Otherwise, you’re left with the one-state solution, and though many Palestinians and Arabs are starting to look at that as the only solution left (given Israel’s unwillingness to withdraw from the WB), this is far more unrealistic, because it means either the end of a Jewish majority in Israel, or a fully-functioning Apartheid forever. I don’t think Israelis could live with either one for long. Mark my words, 10 years from now, most of the WB is Palestinian (belonging to a nation-state called Palestine). We’ve already withdrawn from Gaza – there’s not a single settler there… it’s all about the West Bank now.

July 7th, 2008, 4:11 am


offended said:

AIG, you do like to kick a fuss with everything I say don’t you?
Let me make it clear for you: Syria is NOT paradise; it is a country with lots of combined problems least of which is the freedom of speech. You’d be surprised to see how many like-minded Syrian youth are there similar to my point of view. I was trying to point out to Nour and Karim that I am not affiliated with any political school; I think it is fair to call that free thinking.
Don’t worry AIG, more freedom will not make me see the crimes of your country any less abhorent. Put your puny mind to rest.
Muchabarat? the last time I met a ‘muchaber’ was when I attended a football match for Al Ittihad, every other spectator was ‘mechaber’ taba3o.

July 7th, 2008, 5:15 pm


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

When you realize that your greatest problem is freedom of speech and not “the least of your problems” you will have a chance of changing something. It is quite simple really, unless you can talk about and discuss problems freely and openly, you cannot solve them. Heck, you will not even know they exist.

July 7th, 2008, 6:03 pm


offended said:

AIG, knowing that problems exist precedes talking about them.
i.e. you know when you can’t get a hard-on that you need to talk to your doctor about popping some aphrodisiacs or probably remarrying once again.
i.e. when you know your insurance company is screwing you, you talking them out of it, or else you talk to one of their competitors.
And so on….

July 7th, 2008, 6:50 pm


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

We are not talking about personal problems here. The press and freedom of speech are essential in bringing public issues to the conciousness of people and as a means to discuss them.

For example, how can the public know the real conditions in Syrian prisons without a journalist writing about it? How could you fix the problem without a public debate? I can give you tons of examples.

July 7th, 2008, 6:57 pm


why-discuss said:

I heard on TV that the two Israelis soldiers captured in 2006 are alive!
If true that is an extraordinary PR success for Hezbollah in the eyes of the Israelis and the Lebanese. Contrary to what Olmert said, Israelis will be able to celebrate their return with the same joy Lebanon will of Samir Kantar and the other lebanese prisonners. Olmert ‘s rate must have gone up! Hezbollah has been very very smart!
I hope it’s true.

July 7th, 2008, 8:42 pm


ausamaa said:

In his last interview couple of days ago, Nassrallah never refered to them “specificaly” as being dead. The news that they are dead came from Israel since the begining.

Maybe Olmert & Company intended they are “dead” story thinking that for once he at least once hand his people a “nice” surprise. If this is the case, I think it is a gross miscalculation on the part ot the entire Israeli Political Elite who are in-the-real-know (despite being a nice surprise if they turn out tobe alive) because it will further erode the trust in what Israeli officials declare be it good or bad news.

With Bush and Olmert, usually, when it raines, it pours….

July 7th, 2008, 9:49 pm


Qifa Nabki said:


Who are the other Lebanese prisoners? How many alive? I’ve only heard reports about corpses.

As for Samir Kantar, how popular do you think he is in Lebanon? My own anecdotal experience (totally random sample: Aounis, LFers, Sunnis) is that he’s not exactly a hero. Responses range from “he’s a criminal” to “he did nothing worse than any Israeli has done to us”, etc. But nothing glowing.

Your thoughts?

July 7th, 2008, 10:58 pm


offended said:


The discussion was personal, it all started when you picked up on the point of my person being free thinker and all.


July 8th, 2008, 9:16 am


why-discuss said:

Russian FM: IDF soldiers held in Lebanon alive, in good condition

Strange that this news is dated 2006! Not much media attention is given to that extraordinary news. It is probably better to hammer that Kantar was a murderer (There are many conflicting reports about the veracity of the sadistic killing of the little girl) than to show that a “terrorist” organization would bother keeping two IDF war prisoners alive.


“Israel approved the swap June 29. It will hand over Samir Kantar, serving multiple life terms for a 1979 attack in Israel’s north, as well as four Hezbollah prisoners and dozens of bodies of fighters. In return, Israel is to receive two soldiers captured by Hezbollah in a 2006 cross-border raid that set off a fierce 34-day war.

I don’t know how much Kantar was perceived as a hero, but getting out of a Israeli jail after 29 years makes him a hero. I read that even Jumblatt said he’ll go to the ceremonies.. weird

July 8th, 2008, 2:08 pm


Karim said:

QN:As for Samir Kantar, how popular do you think he is in Lebanon? My own anecdotal experience (totally random sample: Aounis, LFers, Sunnis) is that he’s not exactly a hero. Responses range from “he’s a criminal” to “he did nothing worse than any Israeli has done to us”, etc.

Bro QN ,they say that Samir Kuntar killed civilians in his attack in north Palestine ,it may be true but we should put into the context in which this attack happened,so he was young and idealist but Samir Kuntar as Anwar Yacin before him have changed in prison and i think that Samir has acquired a PHD in prison(that show that the qardahists and other arab regimes are worse against this people than the zionists),Anwar refused to be an easy pray for Hizbollah propaganda and i think it will be the same with Samir.

July 8th, 2008, 9:51 pm


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