“Syria Talks Spur Speculation” by Jim Lobe & More…

BEEN THERE, GOT THE SNAPSHOT – Lebanon’s President Michel Suleiman (left) returned from his visit to the United States with little more than this snapshot and some promises after his meeting with U.S. President George W. Bush (right) in Washington. (Sipa Press via Newscom)

Syria Talks Spur Speculation: Jim Lobe
By Jim Lobe, Antiwar.com (October , 2008)

…. “It’s clearly time for a rethink of [Syria] policy, and I think Rice and others in the administration are trying to shepherd it forward,” said Joshua Landis, a Syria specialist at the University of Oklahoma who publishes the widely read Syria Comment blog. “Rice is definitely open to it – and the whole Department of Defense has been kicking for this for a long time – but she can’t get it past the White House.”….
… In addition, Damascus has long insisted that a final peace accord could be reached only if Washington strongly endorsed the deal and normalized ties, something that the White House, despite the urging from the State Department and several former senior U.S. diplomats – including the ex-head of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) – has so far ruled out.

Meanwhile, however, Washington’s efforts to isolate Syria have eroded significantly in recent months. Hezbollah’s victory over pro-Western forces in Beirut last spring followed by the Doha Accord that gave pro-Syrian forces there a virtual veto over major policy decisions marked a major political defeat for Washington’s Lebanon policy…

…. According to Landis, the U.S. commander in Iraq, Gen. David Petraeus, pressed the White House last December to go there himself but was rebuffed. Now head of U.S. Central Command and a White House favorite, Petraeus could decide to renew his request which, if granted, would likely be seen as evidence of serious shift.

Saturday’s car-bombing that killed some 17 people in Damascus itself could bolster the Pentagon’s long-standing case that greater intelligence cooperation with Syria could serve the interests of both countries. Most analysts have pointed to Sunni extremists, possibly tied to al-Qaeda, as the most likely perpetrators.

“With its Lebanon policy a shambles and its efforts to isolate Syria defied by France, Turkey, and Israel itself, it really doesn’t make sense for the White House to continue stiffing the Syrians,” said Landis. “It’s really just pure stubbornness at this point.” [Read the whole article]

Jim Lobe, Washington bureau chief for Inter Press Service, is one of the keenest observers of Washngton’s Mid East policy. Read his other articles at Lobelog. For example, he informs us that …

The New York Sun published its last issue Tuesday, ending a six-year run that offered a strong and consistently neo-conservative or Likudist voice for Gotham’s print media consumers. I have to confess that I will miss the often-outstanding, if sometimes credulous, reporting of Eli Lake, although I’m sure he’ll land at a publication (hopefully less ideological than ‘Commentary’ or its blog) that appreciates his professional talents. Of course, a major backer of the ‘Sun’ was Bruce Kovner, the chairman of the Board of Trustees of the American Enterprise Institute (AEI).

Or that:

American Enterprise Institute (AEI) fellow Joshua Muravchik [is certain] that “if McCain is president, there will be an attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities.”

OLmert: Israel should give the Golan Heights back to Syria in order to achieve peace

Olmert, who resigned about 10 days ago but remains as a caretaker until a new government forms, has been on a self-reflection and atonement kick lately.  In the process he has issued harsh critiques of Israeli political psychology and confessed to the wrongness of some of the policies he held dear during a 35-year political career.



In calling it “a decision we have been refusing for 40 years to look at open-eyed,” Olmert all but apologized for his long-standing opposition to any division of Jerusalem. “For a large portion of these years, I was unwilling to look at the reality in all its depth.”He went on to state that Israel should give the Golan Heights back to Syria in order to achieve peace there and spoke out harshly against any local sentiment to preemptively attack Iranian nuclear sites. Read on »

an interview published Monday in the Yediot Aharanoth newspaper, Olmert flatly stated that Israel  would have to give up the vast majority of the occupied West Bank and accept the division of Jerusalem in order to achieve peace with the Palestinians.


Qifa Nabki has started his own blog!! QN has been a regular contributor to SC on Lebanese matters and mixes biting satire with fine judgement and a unique sensibility that would make Rumi evaporate into nothingness and everythingness.


Nasrallah to Lebanese Army: When All Else Fails, Turn East!
By NICHOLAS NOE, September 30, 2008

BEIRUT — Wasting little time in capitalizing on the continued unwillingness of the U.S. George W. Bush administration to provide the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF) with the advanced equipment it says it needs, Hezbollah leader Sayed Hassan Nasrallah suggested late Friday that the government of Fouad Siniora should simply go to the international arms market and procure the desired equipment.

His proposal, of course will not be an easy one to execute, even if the government agrees to it. The national budget devotes precious little to procurement (estimated at less than $10 million per year), while the United States has banked (but not delivered) hundreds of millions of dollars in grants for U.S.-made equipment, training and spare parts purchases – an attractive incentive for hewing to the constraints of what U.S. officials euphemistically call “what we can do” for LAF.

Still, the recent fiasco this month surrounding the transfer (now apparently delayed, downgraded or denied, no one seems certain) of Cobra attack helicopters has nevertheless provided Nasrallah ….. Indeed, a quick review of the Cobra controversy shows exactly why this is, and apparently will remain, the case……

…both Russia and Iran offered large amounts of hardware (albeit without training and support) during the Nahr al-Barid battle – offers which the Siniora government successfully refused.

Should the opposition in fact gain the majority, however, we might very well see the LAF turning not toward the black market, as headlines suggested after Nasrallah’s speech, but East, toward the rising foes of U.S. influence in the Middle East.

To stave off this scenario, U.S. officials must break the logjam over supplying Lebanon by moving quickly to articulate a comprehensive vision for Congress and the Israelis as to how a strong LAF (linked to an ending of the Shebaa Farms and overflights issues) would be a risk worth taking, especially in light of the alternative where only Hezbollah is seeing its military power grow exponentially…..

Strategic analysis from the experts of the Polish Institute of International Affairs
Polish Institute of International Affairs, September 2008 #5
Syria-Israel Talks: High Stakes and Low Expectations
by Patrycja Sasnal

WaPo, here (Via FLC)

“..Across Baghdad, leaders of the groups speak about the transition in similarly apocalyptic terms. Some have left Baghdad, saying they fear that the Iraqi government will conduct mass arrests after the handover. Others are obtaining passports and say they will flee to Syria…”

Damascus car bomb kills 17
By Mitchell Prothero in Beirut and Peter Beaumont
The Observer, September 28, 2008

A powerful car bomb ripped through a suburb of the Syrian capital, …..The bombing comes as senior Lebanese military sources told The Observer that jihadis – some based in the Lebanese city of Tripoli – had launched a series of attacks against the Syrian regime of Bashar al-Assad.

According to Syrian television and news agencies, the car, packed with about 200kg of explosives, was detonated at 8.45am close to the Shia Saydah Zeinab shrine, which is visited by pilgrims from Iran and Iraq. One witness reported Iranian pilgrims were among the casualties.

Syrian officials yesterday suggested they believed the attack was the responsibility of Islamist militants. Unusually for Syria, whose media is closely policed, details of the attack were reported immediately, with rolling updates on the casualties and investigation. The bombing – the third major attack this year – was similar to terrorist attacks launched by the Muslim Brotherhood in the Eighties before Assad’s father, Hafez, launched a bloody crackdown…

Obama’s Man on the Middle East
The New York Sun, September 29, 2008

Senator Obama’s leading voice on Middle East policy, Dennis Ross, is one of America’s most talented, creative, and clear-eyed diplomats, tirelessly seeking paradigm-shifting ideas, breakthroughs, and new openings to achieve his goals. And as he told a small group of pro-Israeli Obama donors, activists, and reporters at the United Nations, the goal is peace.

Mr. Ross, who climbed the ladder at Foggy Bottom from the days of President Reagan until the end of the Clinton administration and is most identified with President Clinton’s unsuccessful push for an Arab-Israeli peace agreement, said he believes that America should be in the lead wherever international diplomacy is being conducted. Right now, he said, Turkey, France, and Qatar are involved in indirect mediation between Israel and Syria, while America is sitting it out: So “who is thinking of Israel’s interests?”

But he may be miscast in the Obama campaign. To a team dominated by American exceptionalists, as Mr. McCain’s is, Mr. Ross would have added a calming presence, offered creative alternatives to military force, and injected realism when idealism got too far ahead of the possible. Instead, he is arguably the toughest diplomat in a would-be multilateralist administration stressing “tough diplomacy,” which seems to be Mr. Obama’s only policy tool.

European leaders are discovering how ineffective organizations such as the United Nations can be when their goals stray too far from America’s interests. “This is not the best period for people who are addicted, like I am, to multilateralism and the U.N.,” the French foreign minister, Bernard Kouchner, told reporters last week.

A number of Europeans have told me over the last several days that since the presidential election here is so crucial for the world, they too should have a vote…

 Al Sadr supports quotas for minorities, Khaleej Times

Anti-U.S. Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr strongly supports demands by Iraqi Christians and other minorities for guaranteed seats on regional governing councils, his chief spokesman said Tuesday….

… Iraq’s parliament approved a new law last week that paves the way for the first provincial elections in four years, a move widely praised as a sign of progress in the U.S.-backed government’s efforts to promote national unity.

But the law removed a measure that reserved a few provincial council seats for Christians and other religious minorities – sparking outrage among the Christians and Yazidis, a small Kurdish-speaking sect, who argued they should have a voice in the mostly Muslim country.

Global Bankers Anxiously Watch U.S.
By Craig Whitlock and Mary Jordan
The Washington Post, October 1, 2008

Central bankers and elected leaders around the world acknowledged Tuesday that they lacked a comprehensive strategy to protect their countries from the global financial crisis and were as dependent as ever on Washington to come up with a solution.

In Europe, France and Belgium propped up another failing bank Tuesday, and French President Nicolas Sarkozy invited his counterparts from Britain, Germany and Italy to an emergency summit. But officials, exasperated by the defeat of the $700 billion rescue plan in Washington, said they were quickly realizing how little power they had to act on their own to confront a rising threat to their economies and financial markets.

“The Americans have no choice,” Christian Noyer, head of the French central bank and a member of the governing council of the European Central Bank, told Germany’s RTL radio network. “We must have a comprehensive solution…”

Many European leaders said they were horrified at the political infighting that has marked the U.S. Congress’s handling of the rescue plan. “I feel they’ve taken leave of their senses,” said Peter Mandelson, the E.U. trade commissioner. “I hope that in Europe, we will not see politicians and parliamentarians replicating the sort of irresponsibility and political partisanship that we have seen in Washington.”….

…Steffen Kampeter, a parliamentary leader on budget issues for Merkel’s Christian Democratic Party, said German lawmakers might be receptive to such an approach if Congress is unable to act in the next few days. “This was and is a global problem that requires international solutions,” he said. “We expect a signal from the Americans for what type of strategy to follow…” 

Tension grows between Syria and Lebanon after bombings
By Ian Black
The Guardian, October 1, 2008

Syrian and Lebanese political leaders have traded angry accusations after terrorist bombings in both countries fuelled fears of a new crisis between them.

Saad Hariri, leader of the western-backed Sunni Future Movement, lashed out at Bashar al-Assad after the Syrian president warned that northern Lebanon had become “a base for extremism and constitutes a danger for Syria”.

Hariri retorted that it was Syria that was “a clear and direct threat” to Lebanon, bluntly accusing Damascus of “infiltrating extremists to north Lebanon to carry out terrorist attacks targeting the Lebanese army and civilians”. Last week thousands of Syrian troops reportedly gathered on Lebanon’s northern border, sparking concerns of a large-scale incursion.

Seven Lebanese, including four soldiers, died on Monday in a bus bomb attack in Tripoli, the country’s second-largest city. Similar to a bombing in August, it was widely blamed on Fatah al-Islam, an extremist Sunni group the Lebanese military fought last year in a nearby Palestinian refugee camp, Nahr el-Bared. Lebanese sources insisted it has, or had, links to Syrian intelligence.

On Saturday, 17 people died in a suicide car bombing near Damascus – Syria’s worst terrorist incident in more than 20 years. Officials said it had been carried out by a “Takfiri” group – standard terminology for al-Qaida – and hinted that the perpetrators came from Iraq, where the US military “surge” has put al-Qaida under pressure.

Analysts suggested the Damascus attack may have been an act of retaliation, after the Syrian government, anxious to improve its image in the west, tightened control of its long border with Iraq. The apparent target was a Syrian intelligence office near the Shia shrine of Sayyida Zeynab, where many Iraqi refugees live.

Syrian opposition sources have claimed that one of the victims was an intelligence officer, fuelling speculation about whether the bombing was linked to some internal squabble.

“It is possible that there is no connection between the incidents in Tripoli and Damascus,” said Nadim Shehadi, a Middle East expert at Chatham House in London. “But the perception in Lebanon is that terrorists who cross the border and blow themselves up are sent from Damascus. And in Syria, they are keen to show that Lebanon cannot function without them and that when they were in charge there they managed to keep a lid on all these terrorist groups.”

Assad’s comments have heightened concerns that Syria could have designs on its smaller neighbour.

In Beirut, Hariri denounced the deployment of Syrian troops along Lebanon’s northern borders. He urged the international community not to allow Syria to intervene in Lebanese affairs under the guise of fighting extremism.

Brief History Of The Golan Heights, By Alyssa Fetini. Time, September 30, 2008

Caught in between four countries and sixty years of conflict, the disputed territory of the Golan Heights seems closer than ever to a permanent resolution, after decades of tug-of-war between Israel and Syria over its rightful ownership. Israel’s new Prime Minister, Tzipi Livni, has expressed a commitment to resolving the Golan issue once and for all, while outgoing Prime Minister Ehud Olmert mentioned the impossibility of ever hoping for peace with the Syrians without giving up the Golan Heights in a recent interview…..

Easier Business
Oxford Business Group, September 30, 2008

Syria climbed eight places in the latest comparative report released by the World Bank and the International Finance Corporation (IFC), indicating strong progress in certain key areas to facilitate conducting business.

Syria moved from 145th to 137th in the overall rankings of the “Doing Business 2009” report, issued in mid-September. The report assessed a total of 181 national economies, studying the status of business regulations and their enforcement over ten separate categories, with the stated aim of “measuring the regulation and red tape relevant to the life cycle of a domestic small to medium size firm”

Much of the credit for Syria’s rise in the rankings comes from its improvement in ease of starting up a new business. In the past year, the government has put in place a series of reforms aimed at cutting through the red tape required to register and open a new company.

These measures included reducing the number of processes that have to be completed; making many of the forms available from the Ministry of Economy and Trade, rather than from multiple agencies; and reducing approval times. In total, in Syria there are eight steps required to open a business, which can be completed in 17 days, well below the regional average of 23.5

Additionally, Syria has introduced a new commercial code that has simplified business start-up by taking lawyers and the court out of the registration process, and has enacted reforms at the tax directorate by simplifying tax registration for new businesses.

These reforms saw Syria jump 47 places in the rankings for ease of starting a business, coming in 124th overall and 11th among the 19 countries assessed in the Middle East and North Africa region….

Book ban ends rare Arab-Israeli cultural exchange, By Joseph Nasr. Reuters, October 1, 2008

For 15 years Israeli Saleh Abbasi has traded books between the Jewish state and its Arab neighbours, fostering a rare cultural link. But in August Israeli authorities suddenly refused to renew his trading licence because he was trading with “enemy” states Lebanon and Syria, …..

“How can the People of the Book be against books?” Abbasi asked, …… Abbasi’s original aim was to cater for Israel’s 1.2 million minority Arab citizens, ….. But he branched out, and over the past 10 years has sold over half a million copies of some 16 Hebrew titles to Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and other Arab countries, where the translated books reach Arab readers mainly through public libraries and universities.

Syrian bombing: A jihadi attack?
By Nicholas Blanford
Christian Science Monitor, September 29, 2008

As the Syrian authorities begin investigating a bomb attack that killed 17 people in Damascus Saturday, initial suspicion points to Islamist militants, either home-grown or foreign….there are plenty of potential perpetrators.

“As usual in the Middle East, there are three or four credible culprits and this is what is so frustrating. The region is chronically and increasingly violent,” says Rami Khouri, director of the Issam Fares Center for Lebanon, a think tank. “Who knows who did it, but in a way it’s surprising that no one has tried to do this stuff before because so many people are angry with Syria.”….

Signs of trouble seen before Syria bombing
By Borzou Daragahi
The Los Angeles Times, September 29, 2008

When Syria deployed thousands of soldiers along its frontier with northern Lebanon this month, some here feared that the Syrians were preparing to retake a country their military had dominated until it was pushed out in 2005.

But now, after a bombing Saturday that was the deadliest in Syria since 1986, analysts are wondering whether the troops were defensive, meant to stop an imminent attack from Lebanon-based Sunni Muslim militants inspired by Al Qaeda and sometimes trained in Iraq.

“The handwriting has been on the wall for a while,” Sami Moubayed, a political analyst in Damascus, the Syrian capital, said Sunday. “There have been signs of trouble coming in from Iraq or Lebanon.”…. It came as Syria performs delicate balancing acts in navigating the region’s sectarian and political fault lines…

Going for Broke
By Ian Munroe
Trends Magazine, September 2008

The town of Quneitra is on hiatus. Once a prosperous center in the fertile Golan Heights region, for the last 35 years it has lain destroyed. Israel won the town from Syria during the Six Day War in 1967. When the two countries fought again in 1973 it was returned to Damascus, only this time patrolled by UN forces as part of a ceasefire agreement. By then Quneitra had been reduced to rubble. And instead of helping residents rebuild, Damascus left it in ruins, hoping it would become a symbol of Israeli brutality.

Now, however, there’s a glimmer of hope that Quneitra will return to life. Since May, when Syrian President Bashar al-Assad endorsed the Doha agreement to fix Lebanon’s 18-month political standoff, he’s been busy jet-setting from the Gulf to the Asian subcontinent to Europe trying to win allies. When he visited the UAE this summer, he appealed for Arab solidarity.When he was invited to India – on the first state visit by a Syrian leader in three decades – he asked the emerging giant to encourage Middle East stability. After a quiet eight years, al-Assad’s government has also restarted indirect peace talks with Israel.

Damascus could gain a lot from its diplomatic putsch. With the Bush administration preparing to pack it in, al-Assad may be able to wriggle out from under a four-year-old American embargo. Plus, getting back into the international community’sgood graces would help Syria implement crucial free market reforms.

“There are two trends. One’s a slow liberalization of the economy,” says Joshua Landis, co-director of the Center for Middle East Studies at the University of Oklahoma and the creator of Syria Comment, a popular website that covers current events there. “Number two is a Western attempt to isolate Syria, and to strangle it economically…”

A BBC survey shows that citizens in 22 out of 23 countries polled see futility in the American-led “war on terrorism”.

US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said in remarks published on Monday that all issues related to the Lebanese-Israeli track must be resolved before any direct talks can be held between Lebanon and the Jewish state.

Comments (106)

norman said:


Patience, persistence pays off with visit to Syria
Acquiring visa proves difficult, but seeing Damascus is well worth the wait
By F. Brinley Bruton
updated 9:42 a.m. ET, Wed., Oct. 1, 2008
Inshallah, which means “if Allah wills it” in Arabic, is a useful expression in an uncertain world. I’ve employed it in versions of the following:

“I’ll finish this article by this afternoon, inshallah.”

“My flight leaves, inshallah, tomorrow at 6:45 a.m.”

“Inshallah, we’ll be together again soon.”

And most recently:

“I’m going to Syria on vacation, inshallah.”

For years I’ve wanted to visit Syria and its capital, Damascus, which is thought to be the world’s oldest, continuously occupied city.

I’d heard about Damascus souks — or markets — where buyers and sellers bustle beneath bullet-hole speckled roofs, the remnants of a nationalist rebellion about 80 years ago. Visitors rave about the Umayyad Mosque, one of the most important religious sites in Islam. Then there’s the cuisine, considered by many to be the best in the region.

Apparently, though, Syria didn’t want me. Not surprisingly, the government is wary of American-passport-wielding journalists. The country is officially at war with Israel, which has held Syria’s Golan Heights since the 1967 Six Day War. Alleged support for militant group Hezbollah in neighboring Lebanon has further soured relations with the West.

So the people in charge probably don’t see me as friendly. Damascus, however, has its share of noisy American college students, many there with the help of the U.S. government, so Syria clearly welcomes some Americans.

‘Syria is not North Korea’
I told an embassy official here in London that I wanted to visit his country purely for pleasure. He assured me that any snags processing the application would be due entirely to bureaucracy. “Syria is not North Korea,” he said.

I didn’t get the visa in London. Still hoping for the best, I flew to Jordan — Syria’s neighbor — and met a friend who was traveling in the region. We decided to wait there to see if visas came through. It was the most expensive wait I’d endured. Prices at Jordan’s largely mediocre restaurants and hotels were ludicrous.

More than a week later and nearly out of hope, word came from a friend of a friend that I should travel to the border at Jaber, where visas would be waiting. In Syria, like so many parts of the world, knowing someone who knows someone helps enormously. But at the risk of sounding Pollyanna-ish, a ready smile is also useful. I smiled a lot on the border with Syria.

The journey began at the hot and dusty Abdalli bus station in Jordan’s capital, Amman, haggling for a taxi to Damascus. Eventually we agreed to pay 50 Jordanian dinar ($70) for a trip that should take just over two hours before factoring in the actual crossing.

We passed signs to Iraq while traveling through the parched landscape, a reminder of how delicate this neighborhood is. Our driver stopped at a small building on the side of the road for an unscheduled — for his passengers at least — coffee break.

We eventually arrived at the border and waited for hours in crowded and dusty rooms. I wasn’t convinced they would admit us, but I relaxed when a Syrian border official looked at me and held up his right hand while drawing together his fingertips, a gesture that means “just a little while.”

Immediately across the border I noticed how green and ordered the countryside was. Olive groves stretched out on either side of the road and tractors dotted the fields.

Damascus, finally!
We arrived on the outskirts of Damascus in about an hour. Initially, Syria’s capital simply reminded me of other sprawling cities in developing countries: Low-rise buildings dominated the landscape, dilapidated cars zipped around and market stalls lined the streets.

We caught a second car on the side of a wide road and set out toward the ancient center of Damascus, known as the Old City. After several cell phone calls to the hotel — beware of roaming charges! — we again stopped on a busy intersection, this time next to a stall laden with melons.

A golf cart driven by a man in a black suit eventually appeared — our ride to the hotel. This mode of transport delighted me and I swayed happily as we rounded sharp corners. My companion, however, was miffed — this did not fit the image of intrepid, hard-man traveler.

The cart burrowed through narrowing stone-paved lanes into the Old City’s traditional Jewish quarter. Late-afternoon sky shone between the tops of buildings leaning in over us. As my guidebook told me, the Old City is essentially a medieval town. In other words, it can feel pretty disorganized, what with its crooked lanes and dead-end streets.

All of a sudden we stopped at an anonymous-looking doorway in an alleyway’s wall. Inside lay the Talisman, a traditional Damascene mansion transformed into a hotel. Seventeen rooms sat around a courtyard with a small swimming pool. The walls were deep red, and carvings and mosaics dotted the many stone arches.

As we settled in for the evening, the call to prayer resounded around us, haunting and melancholy. Gradually it was joined by similar voices from around the city. In the room, chandeliers hung heavy with colored glass and maroon-infused carpets lay on the floors.

The next morning we ate breakfast in the courtyard. After a meal of flat bread, honey, salty cheese, tomatoes, cucumber, hummus, olives and an omelet, we decided to go back to the room for a nap.

I haven’t stayed in too many boutique hotels, but this fit the description perfectly. Even my hardened companion melted after two nights there and admitted that another visit would be nice.

To eat again
Someone advised me to not pay too much attention to maps while in Damascus, so on our first evening we decided to discover a restaurant, preferably one that served wine.

We picked our way through the narrow streets, avoiding young boys careening along on bicycles. Surprises greeted us throughout. A Roman arch stood around one corner, an ancient covered souk around another. We passed a tiny two-seater barbershop where a Koran shared a shelf with a jar of Gentle Facial Scrub.

Cats gazed at us throughout our walk. Some believe that jinns — mischievous or evil spirits — take the form of cats, so Damascus felt a bit haunted at times.

Locals were polite and friendly, but other Westerners tended to look away when we passed. This is the sort of place where tourists appear unwilling to speak to other foreigners, perhaps unwilling to admit that they don’t have the city to themselves.

Soon enough we found a place to eat. I later found out that Naranj, full of sleek, well-heeled Syrians, has the reputation as the best restaurant in the city, deservedly in my opinion. The fish was served on a bed of rice of rice flavored with a hint of what I think was saffron. A mild white fish, in a light sauce of chili, onion and cashews, lay on top. But dessert — a platter of 15 or so different dishes, all delicately flavored and not laden with honey and rosewater — trumped.

The next night we ventured out of the Old City to go to Shameat, where we sat at small tables and feasted on piles of fresh vegetables, meat, chicken rice and bread. Shameat, frequented by “regular” Syrians, does not serve alcohol.

Travel happens
I’m not a turbo-charged tourist, dashing around with a checklist of must-do activities. I prefer to let a place happen to me. Having said that, one thing a visitor must do in Damascus is visit the Ummayyad Mosque.

People of many faiths have worshiped in this spot since around the ninth century B.C. The complex in the northwest of the Old City has been an exclusively Islamic site for more than 1,000 years — around the time Damascus became center of the Muslim world.

For modesty’s sake, most foreigners and a few locals have to rent huge beige cloaks before entering. Visitors take off their shoes at the Bab al-Barid, or Western Gate, and most carry them throughout the visit. I made the mistake of letting a friendly local commandeer mine and check them into a shoe repository. I tried to ignore him politely as he pointed out different aspects of the buildings, which is divided roughly between a prayer hall and courtyard. Finally, I told him flat out to leave me and my companion alone. He stared at me with moist eyes before wandering off, doubtless in search of another tourist to ensnare.

Having gotten rid of my companion, I ventured into the prayer hall, where kneeling worshippers were scattered on vast red carpets. A small crowd sat around a man as he stood chanting in the center of the room. Around him, men and women exclaimed and struck their heads with their palms.

In the large courtyard, I gazed at the shimmering gold and green mosaics, apparently depicting ancient Damascus’ gardens, villas and fountains. But watching families enjoy a day out in the huge courtyard was the most fun. Young men leaned against pillars, women chatted and children chased each other across the limestone floor. It felt a little bit like a huge picnic, except without the sandwiches and Coke.

We eventually drifted out of the mosque and into a huge covered souk that lay just beyond the gate. The transition from awesome place of worship to bustling place of commerce jarred.

Though we had just scratched the surface, it was already time to leave Damascus.

We have vowed, though, to return to Syria and spend time outside the Old City and in the rest of the country.


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October 1st, 2008, 1:55 pm


Akbar Palace said:

From the above thread:

Jim Lobe, Washington bureau chief for Inter Press Service, is one of the keenest observers of Washngton’s Mid East policy.

So am I. And if his articles are available on “Anti-War.com”, I have to wonder how objective this keen observer really is.

More eye-opening commentary from above:

Senator Obama’s leading voice on Middle East policy, Dennis Ross, is one of America’s most talented, creative, and clear-eyed diplomats, tirelessly seeking paradigm-shifting ideas, breakthroughs, and new openings to achieve his goals. And as he told a small group of pro-Israeli Obama donors, activists, and reporters at the United Nations, the goal is peace.

Yes, Dennis Ross, one of the Oslo Accord dupes who thought one can make peace in the Middle East without requiring a final contract nor a way to enforce it. Just what we need!;)

And what about Obama’s other foreign policy advisors like former President Jimmy Carter and Zbigniew Brzezinski? And you thought Ross was naive…

October 1st, 2008, 3:49 pm


Zenobia said:

I like the Ian Munroe piece a lot. It was very evenhanded and thoughtful.

October 1st, 2008, 4:16 pm


Observer said:

CNN arabic claims that two Syrian generals died in the car bombing that occurred on Saturday. The official site that may have been targeted was the Secret Service branch responsible for Palestine. I am not sure what that means.

I am not sure why Syria North Korea or anyone else for that matter is negotiating with the current US administration. This administration has put itself into a corner and is climbing down rather fast:

1. The current credit crisis and its proposed rescue are nothing more than a reassurance to the rest of the world to
1.1 continue to use the US dollar as the reserve and trade currency
1.2 continue to finance the trade and budget deficits of a consumer society gone amock

2. The US is one of several economies and has an impact because of the dollar position that is larger than its actual size. I like the way the GDP is calculated these days as the sum of products and services. As production of goods has been offshored around the world, the bean counters have added services to the economy, jobs that do not produce anything intrinsic, such as the huge number of desk people doing billings or working in banks or in insurance industry or what have you. If the base of the system is no dependent on bartending jobs and nursing home health aides, then it is not possible to sustain so many service employees that are supposed to depend on the productivity of such low paying jobs. This is the same situation as the one in other countries where the price of real estate has gone through the roof while the average payday income has stagnated.

3. Europe will now inact legislation to protect its institutions from free for all market economics and the reality is that they are very good at this type of regulation. This will shield them from the predatory practices of the free market US economics. This will limit the US ability to wheel and deal across the globe. If China as they said today is worried about the US financial crisis it means that they may decide not to lend or to shift away from the dollar: a scenario that means that we will have to start begging on the streets here.

4. If Ross is advising Obama God help us.

5. Can anyone say anything about the number of people going bankrupt in Egypt and Jordan in this crisis? I heard 100 000 in Jordan and the economy has tanked in Egypt.

6. I have a sense that the US in order to get a SOFA agreement in Iraq has sold out the Sahwa groups. Once again if you are Sunni these days you are the most stupid category on the face of the earth.

October 1st, 2008, 5:25 pm


norman said:

Observer ,

With what is going on on wall street , I am happy that Syria does not have a stock market , many people would have lost everything , now they are happy , they kept buying Gold .

What you said about taking advantage of the Sunni then throwing them away is so right , the west did that to the Arabs since the early 1900 .

October 1st, 2008, 5:47 pm


Majhool said:

Happy Eid everyone.

October 1st, 2008, 7:24 pm


norman said:


Your comments are desired,!

Skip to main content, accesskey ‘s’
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Financial Times FT.com
WorldCloseSyria’s next step to reform
By Andrew England

Published: October 1 2008 18:09 | Last updated: October 1 2008 18:09

The way Abdullah Dardari tells it, he was adamant. “Before the end of this year, even on a chalk board, you have to start dealing,” he recounts.

The recipients of the ultimatum from Mr Dardari, Syria’s deputy prime minister for economic affairs, were officials tasked with setting up the Damascus Stock Exchange.

“So they are running like mad,” Mr Dardari, a central figure behind a still-tentative opening up of Syria’s economy, tells the Financial Times.

The re-establishment of a stock exchange in Syria, which has run for decades under a quasi-socialist regime, is seen as a crucial step to take the economic reform process forward. The creation of the exchange has faced long delays and, in spite of Mr Dardari’s words, it is realistically not expected to be functioning until the first quarter of next year – at the earliest.

Still, once it is up and running it will be a symbolic success for those promoting liberalisation in Syria, an issue that has become more pressing as the country’s limited oil reserves decline.

“One has to look at the Syrian reform programme in a historical context. In four years what we have done is a miracle. But from the point of view of what needs to be done and the final objective, we are still a long way short of the target,” says Mr Dardari, who was appointed in 2005 but is not a member of the ruling Ba’ath party.

“The creation of a stock market sends a strong signal we are moving towards our objective of a social market economy.”

Since the 1960s, when the Ba’ath party seized power and nationalised all leading industries, Syria’s economy has been closed.

An earlier bourse was shut down four decades ago. Until 2004, the financial services sector consisted of half a dozen state banks that did little but service the public sector, while private-sector entities conducted much of their business outside the country.

But in the past four years, nine private-sector banks have opened and restrictions on foreign currency transactions have been relaxed. As sectors have been opened and the business climate has improved, the contribution of the private sector to the growth of non-oil gross domestic product has risen to more than 80 per cent, according to an International Monetary Fund report.

The stock market is the next piece of the puzzle, says Mr Dardari.

The opening of a bourse has been delayed by a series of issues, ranging from finding a location to recruiting qualified staff to choosing trading systems.

DSE officials say they were initially in talks with OMX, the Nordic exchanges group. But that avenue was closed when earlier this year OMX was acquired by Nasdaq, the US exchange. That created uncertainty about whether any deal would be able to go ahead, Syrian officials say, because the US maintains sanctions against Damascus.

OMX officials declined to comment, while Syrians involved in the exchange decline to say where they will be obtaining their trading and settlement systems.

“We have other ideas and we are working on them . . . We have a programme and some other companies will be providing us with a system,” says Rateb Shallah, chairman of the exchange. “It is all very tight and we are working towards the schedule.”

He hopes the exchange will be up and running in January or February in a temporary headquarters, while a permanent building is completed at a new business centre being constructed on the highway between Damascus and Beirut.

Mr Shallah says there are between 26 and 45 companies ready to list. Others expect the initial listing to be far smaller.

Companies will require a minimum market capitalisation of S£250m ($5m) and three years of audited financial statements.

The market will be open to foreign investors, but some question how much trading will take place. The fear is that there will be an imbalance between a mass of buyers and relatively few sellers, an issue highlighted when private-sector banks launched a series of over-the-counter initial public offerings that were heavily over-subscribed.

There are also questions about how willing family businesses will be to open up their books. And, in spite of the reforms that have taken place, there is no suggestion that the government is ready to privatise state entities.

Bassel Hamwi, general manager of Bank Audi and deputy chairman of the exchange, says the real significance of the opening of the stock exchange lies not just in attracting foreign investment but in the signal it sends to the Syrian bureaucracy.

“I think with the stock market, Syria will be very much on its way to becoming an emerging market and an important indication that we are open for investment,” he says.

“This signalling effect could also have an important internal impact. Today, if you were to talk to government, you would probably hear divergent views on the need and speed to open up and reform the market, and it may even convince those sitting on the sidelines.”

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October 1st, 2008, 7:28 pm


EHSANI said:


What is there to say? One cannot but feel a sense of disappointment with the speed of this project. Namibia, Botswana and the Mauritius islands have full fledged equity markets of their own already.

To suggest that “the opening of a bourse has been delayed by a series of issues, ranging from finding a location to recruiting qualified staff to choosing trading systems” is frankly troubling.

The fact is that only six companies have complied with the accounting and auditing requirements for listing. Most companies continue to refuse to assign market values to their machinery and real estate assets.

Mr. Hamwi states that “today, if you were to talk to government, you would probably hear divergent views on the need and speed to open up and reform the market”.

Well, this is not exactly very comforting to hear, is it?

October 1st, 2008, 9:34 pm


norman said:


It is ashamed that everything seems to take forever to get done in Syria , even building a building that will take about 6 to 9 month to be done in the US seems to take years in Syria , They just have no value to time and the money that they are losing by not having things and projects done on time, That is the most frustrating thing to me about Syria,

October 1st, 2008, 11:27 pm


trustquest said:

Some news from Syria are very distressing to me as immigrant.

Here is a letter from renounce Syrian lawyer.
Lawyer Nabil Elmaleh, send the following plea from the mothers of the prisoners in Sydnaya prison, to all media outlets:

“To the President of the republic, Dr. Bahar Alassad with respect,

We the mothers of the prisoners held in Sednaya prison – from town of Katana – signatories to this plea confirm the following:

Our children had been sentenced unfairly by the supreme State Security Court, whom its rules are not up to the international standards of fair trials, our children had been sentenced different terms and they have been in Sednaya for few years.

Months since the unfortunate events that occurred in the prison of Sednaya, we know that the incident took the lives of number of prisoners including others and the authority have blacked out on these events without issuing any statement until now or delivering of the bodies of the victims to their families.

Mr. President, you know the value of the son to his family and especially to his mother, but until now we do not know the fate of our children.

We learned few days ago that undercover operations with secrecy is ongoing to bury at night the bodies of the victims in Katana, we do not know if the victims’ bodies become that cheap? and it is not faraway since the exchange of bodies between the Israelis with HizbAlla in Lebnon.

Regardless of what the indictment place by the judiciary system on the prisoners, the prisoners are still humans have rights enshrined in the constitution, local laws and the international treaties.

We – from our positions as mothers – appeal to you, Mr. President, put yourself in our place and recognize how mothers feel toward their children, we urge you to order the disclosure of the fate of the our children and if they still alive to allow us to visit them, in the name of right and justice.

Names: Amneh Badr al-Din, Hadia Eltaki, Halima Saalook, Mariam Eltaki, Fatima Abd Elraheem,

Wasfia Damha, Rahmeh Saboora, Dalal Eldiri, Hadia Elkadri,

Amera Damha, Nadima Abo Ismael, Khadiga Shahadeh, Khadiga Daboor

Seham Omar, Ferial Nader, Omaya Naji Abar, Rokia Zen Elarab

Here the original arabic:

السيد رئيس الجمهورية د: بشار الأسد المحترم
نحن أمهات معتقلين في سجن صيدنايا – ومن أهالي قطنا، الموقعات على هذا النداء نبين
ما يلي:
حُكم أبناؤنا بأحكام جائرة من قبل محكمة أمن الدولة العليا التي لا ترقى محاكماتها إلى المعايير الدولية للمحاكمة العادلة، بمدد متفاوتة وقد مضى عليهم في سجن صيدنايا بضع سنوات.
منذ أشهر وقعت أحداث مؤسفة في هذا السجن ذهب ضحيتها فيما علمنا عدد غير قليل من المساجين وغيرهم، وجرى التعتيم على هذه الأحداث دون أن تعمد السلطة المختصة حتى الآن لإذاعة أي بيان أو تسليم جثث الضحايا إلى ذويهم.
تعلمون ياسيادة الرئيس منزلة الابن من أهله وخاصة من الوالدة، ونحن لا نعلم مصير أبنائنا حتى الآن.
منذ أيام علمنا بعمليات دفن جثث في قطنا تجري ليلاً وبتعتيم شديد، ونحن لا ندري هل أضحت جثث المواطنين رخيصة إلى هذا الحد؟ وليس عنا ببعيد تبادل الجثث الذي جرى بين حزب الله في لبنان ودولة العدوان إسرائيل.
فبغض النظر عما أسند للسجين من قبل القضاء، فهو إنسان وله حقوق كفلها الدستور والقوانين المحلية والمعاهدات الدولية.
إننا – من موقعنا أمهات- نناشدكم ياسيادة الرئيس أن تضعوا أنفسكم مكاننا وتقدروا مدى شعور الأمهات تجاه أبنائهم، ونطالبكم بالأمر بالكشف عن مصير أبنائنا وفي حال كونهم أحياء الأمر لنا بالسماح لنا بزيارتهم، وفي ذلك حق وعدل.
آمنة بدر الدين هدية التقي حليمة صعلوك مريم التقي فاطمة عبد الرحيم
وصفية دمعه رحمه صبورة دلال الديري هدية القادري
أميرة دمعه نديمة أبو اسماعيل خديجة شحادة خديجة دبور
سهام عمر فريال نادر

October 2nd, 2008, 1:06 am


Qifa Nabki said:

Ammo Norman

That may be the most unpatriotic thing you’ve ever said. 🙂

October 2nd, 2008, 5:49 am


idaf said:

Conflicting reports on the ongoing battle between the US and Iran on the IAEA board membership. The US is arm-twisting members to vote for Afghanistan and Syria is struggling for the seat.

Iran withdraws bid for IAEA board membership
Source: Xinhua | 10-02-2008 12:34
VIENNA, Oct. 1 (Xinhua) — Iran announced Wednesday that it would give up its board membership bid in the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and would support Syria to become a board member instead, a move that has aroused strong opposition from some western countries.

Ali Asghar Soltanieh, the Iranian ambassador to IAEA, made the announcement while speaking to an Arabic radio station Al-Alam here.

“Iran has officially given up the competition for the membership of board of IAEA and will support Syria for the coming election,” he was quoted as saying by local media.

As Pakistan’s term in the 35-nation board has already expired, a new member must be elected from the Middle Eastern and South Asian (MESA)-Group at the ongoing 52nd General Conference of IAEA, which started Monday here.

The MESA-Group has a right to fill a rotating board seat this year. Under the IAEA rule, a new member country for the board seat should be decided by negotiations internally inside the MESA-Group.

Now due to Iran’s withdrawal and the support for Syria, Syria now has a strong backing from those Arab countries to replace Pakistan on the board, the policy-making body of IAEA.

Syria, Afghanistan battle for seat on IAEA board
VIENNA (AFP) — Despite opposition from the West and the United States in particular, Syria appears determined to pursue its bid for a seat on the UN atomic watchdog’s board, now that Iran is officially out of the running.

But in a looming clash at the International Atomic Energy Agency’s general conference here this week, Afghanistan — a US ally — also announced its candidature on Wednesday.

Diplomats said Kabul enjoys the support of most of the IAEA’s 145 member countries.

The matter comes up for discussion on Friday and could be forced to a vote.

Members of the IAEA’s 35-strong board of governors are designated and elected each year by the body’s highest policy-making body, the General Conference.

Decisions are traditionally adopted by consensus, but if no consensus is possible, it goes to a vote.

A seat has become free for the so-called Middle East and South Asia (MESA) group with the expiry of Pakistan’s one-year term.

Iran had also been seen as a potential candidate, but it pulled out in favour of its staunch regional ally Syria.

If MESA cannot agree on a single country, it will be up to the general conference to vote between the different candidates.

For the US and others, however, Syria would be unacceptable because of current allegations it was building a covert nuclear facility at a remote desert site called Al-Kibar until it was destroyed by Israeli bombs in September 2007.

Damascus has yet to clear up the allegations, which it has simply dismissed as “ridiculous”.

Apart from allowing IAEA experts to inspect the suspect site in a one-off visit in June, Syria has not undertaken any further action to actively disprove the accusations.

“Having Syria on the board would be like having a suspected arsonist oversee the fire brigade,” one conference participant told AFP on condition of anonymity.

Syria, for its part, refuses to withdraw its candidacy, in spite of US-led opposition, saying it has the support of the Arab League.

But Afghanistan had the wider backing of other Islamic countries, a diplomat close to the IAEA said.

“In the OIC (Organisation of Islamic Conference), you can go through the list and you’ll see the majority of people would vote for Afghanistan,” the diplomat said.

“Albania is an Islamic country, so is Aberzaijan. There are countries in Africa that are Islamic and members of OIC that would certainly support Afghanistan, because we are an Islamic republic with a better, progressive constitution,” the diplomat said.

The hope was that “by Friday, Syria will come to an understanding” and back down, the diplomat continued.

“It’s simple maths. If 89 are for Afghanistan, out of a total 145, that’s 56 countries there for Syria.”

The diplomat said Afghanistan had approached numerous delegations and had already received great many letters of support from various capitals.

A conference participant, who also spoke on condition of anonymity, said Syria was running into a great deal of resistance.

“The Syrian ambassador is frantically canvassing IAEA members — and learning that he will lose,” the participant said.

Kabul’s permanent representative to the IAEA, Wahid Monawar, told AFP that he thought the time was right for Afghanistan to take a seat on the board.

“We believe that as a progressive nation, and a developing nation (we will) bring a better understanding of Islamic countries, the Islamic understanding, to the West and articulate the issues that need to be articulated,” Monawar said.

“We believe this opportunity is right, the year is right. It’s an opportunity for the Afghan people to benefit from the technology that is afforded by the agency.”

October 2nd, 2008, 10:05 am


norman said:


It is good to see you again ,
I always said that Syria has problems but i do not blame everything on the government , people should take responsibility and do for themselves.

October 2nd, 2008, 1:09 pm


Qifa Nabki said:

7ader ya bek. I was just teasing you a little.

Biden has a sense of humor:

His reputation for long-windedness produced a memorable debate moment last year. Biden was asked, at a South Carolina forum, about his reputation for “uncontrolled verbosity” and as a “gaffe machine” and whether he had the discipline for the world stage.

“Yes” was his one-word reply, which prompted knowing laughter from the audience.

(From the Baltimore Sun)

October 2nd, 2008, 2:56 pm


Shai said:


What are the plans for the Syrian stock-market at the moment? Wasn’t it supposed to happen sometime soon?

October 2nd, 2008, 4:05 pm


OFF the Wall said:

Busy, as usual, I have been reading but not commenting. I am very happy to see that the discussion getting deaper and more thoughtful by the day. Seems that we at SC community are honing our tallent pool. Kudos to all

On the Syrian Stock Market, I believe that the departing financial “free for all” system would have been catastrophic to syrian investors. With Europe moving towarads more “protective” financial market, and the US being forced to acknowledge the need for major regulatory reforms, Syria’s chance of building a stable market is better now than a year ago. The US would have no excuse anymore to request fully openned and speculative market as a sign of “democracy” or freedom and the norms of IMF and World Bank would be shifting as they have been instrumental in exporting the bankrupt system to developing countries.

The bail out, or as Rachel Maddow calls it “Bailout-Rescue thing” is only the start. The next administration will have to deal with countless legislations aiming at re-arranging the collapsing system. True assets will probably get back to being the main instrument of valuation as opposed to speculation. Free market is good, but regulations are needed to ensure that free market is really free and is not being manipulated as happenned over the past 30 years.

May be what I am saying is Gibrish. My be not, Unfortunately, I do not have a vast variety of sources, I read some of them, not all of them as Sarah Palin does. 🙂

October 2nd, 2008, 4:18 pm


EHSANI2 said:

A new Hedge Fund – Owned in part by you (if you are an American tax payer)


October 2nd, 2008, 4:24 pm


Shai said:

Dear OTW,

What you say about the Syrian stock market makes sense. But when is it supposed to be created? Are they now on a wait-and-see hold? Who are they dependent on? I thought I read once that Syria was asking the British-European exchange to build it, no?

As for the “bail out”, Palin believes it has to do with the healthcare system… (did you see those amazing clips on YouTube? Unbelievable…)

October 2nd, 2008, 5:59 pm


norman said:


It is very difficult for Syria to have a stock market that is safe from forign speculators and raiders ,

The question i have for everybody is , why does Syria needs a stock market , is it to have forign investment or to have traders and that is the question that we should answer before moving forward .

Syrians can not tolerate a loss like what is happing in the US stock market , we saw that in Egypt ,and people who are wealthy enough to invest are doing that in forign stock markets.

October 3rd, 2008, 1:44 am


Enlightened said:

Interesting Article from The Guardian:

Prophecy of retribution:

The 1907 writings of one traveller to Palestine vividly describe the roots of the region’s enmity

* David Goldberg
* The Guardian,
* Thursday May 29 2008
* Article history

The 60th anniversary of the state of Israel provoked a slew of media coverage, predominantly focused on the intractable Israel-Palestine conflict. As a consequence of the 1948 war of independence (for Arabs the nakba, or catastrophe), up to 750,000 Palestinians were dispossessed. Their continuing homelessness, so the standard version goes, has been the cause of all subsequent wars, Arab terrorism, Israeli incursions and civilian casualties.

That is grim enough, but unfortunately the root of the enmity goes back even further, to the first small-scale Zionist immigration to Palestine in the 1880s. The fact is that never in history has one people willingly invited another into its territory. The unresolved dilemma at the heart of Zionism has been how to respond to that unpalatable truth and reach an accommodation with the native Arab population.

While Jewish pioneers were few, it could be evaded. Writing in 1907, when there were about 10,000 settlers, Isaac Epstein, a Russian-born teacher who had come to Palestine in 1886, called attitudes towards the Arabs “the hidden question”. He criticised the leaders of the Zionist movement who engaged in politics while ignoring that “there resides in our treasured land an entire people which has clung to it for hundreds of years … The Arab, like all other men, is strongly attached to his homeland”.

Epstein, like so many of his background, was a disciple of Achad Ha’am – “One of the People”, the pen name of Asher Ginsberg – the intellectual doyen of Russian Jewry and mentor to a galaxy of talented younger admirers. He was, wrote the poet Chaim Nachman Bialik, the star around which the lesser planets revolved. He was also the bitter rival and implacable critic of Theodor Herzl, the feted crowd-pleaser who announced after his starring role at the first Zionist Congress in 1897: “At Basel I founded the Jewish state.” Ha’am noted, “At Basel I sat solitary among my friends, like a mourner at a wedding feast.”

In 1891, Ha’am had made his first visit to the Jewish settlements in Palestine. It resulted in an important essay, The Truth from the Land of Israel. What distinguished his report from the gushing accounts of other Jewish visitors was the sober realism with which he noted the many problems. High among them was the existence of an indigenous population. “We tend to believe abroad that Palestine is nowadays almost completely deserted, an uncultivated wilderness, and anyone can come there and buy as much land as his heart desires. But in reality this is not the case. It is difficult to find anywhere in the country Arab land which lies fallow.”

Ha’am makes short work of the argument that lesser breeds can be duped about Zionist intentions and bought off with the benefits of colonialism. “The Arab, like all Semites, has a sharp mind and is full of cunning … [They] understand very well what we want and what we do in the country, but … at present they do not see any danger for themselves or their future in what we are doing and therefore are trying to turn to their advantage these new guests … But when the day will come in which the life of our people in the Land of Israel will develop to such a degree that they will push aside the local population by little or by much, then it will not easily give up its place.”

In contrast, Herzl has the Arab spokesman in his utopian novel Altneuland (Old-new land) proclaim that Jewish settlement had been a blessing. Landowners have gained from higher prices, peasants from regular employment and welfare benefits. “The Jews have made us prosperous, why should we be angry with them? They live with us as brothers, why should we not love them?”

Ha’am has no truck with such wishful thinking. The behaviour of settlers disturbed him. They had not learned from experience as a minority, but, like a slave who has become king, “behave towards the Arabs with hostility and cruelty, infringe upon their boundaries, hit them shamefully without reason, and even brag about it”. The Arab did indeed respect strength, but only when the other side used it justly. When his opponent’s actions were unjust and oppressive, then “he may keep his anger to himself for a time … but in the long run he will prove to be vengeful and full of retribution”. Prophetic words.

In 1913, after a correspondent had complained of the contemptuous attitude of settlers and the Zionist Organisation’s Palestine Office, Ha’am wrote back, “When I realise that our brethren may be morally capable of treating another people in this fashion and of crudely abusing what is sacred to them, then I cannot but reflect: if such is the situation now, how shall we treat others if one day we actually become the rulers of Palestine?”

·Dr David J Goldberg is emeritus rabbi of The Liberal Jewish Synagogue, London comment@guardian.co.uk

October 3rd, 2008, 2:33 am


Rumyal said:

Ehsani, Norman,

On the stock exchange question, from a technical perspective, a delay in selecting and setting up a system is not necessarily a bad thing. While I’m not an expert on the issue, I happened to visit a competitor of Nasdaq in Wall Street a couple of months ago. The OM/OMX software according to these folks (which did have a vested interest in trashing the competitors :-)) is on life support, being built on ancient VAX computers that virtually nobody knows how to program these days. A lot of acquisitions and shakeouts happening in that market (providers of exchange systems) with both US and foreign players pledging to build next-gen systems. The long and short of it is that betting on a particular horse at this point may prove a mistake but if it’s either that or using a blackboard and a chalk then maybe the technical success bar isn’t set too high 😉

October 3rd, 2008, 5:59 am


Rumyal said:


Thanks for sharing, this is a very good article. Most of the comments are good too. Here is the original reference:


October 3rd, 2008, 6:56 am


Leila Abu-Saba said:

I’m checking in from a cafe in Saida, Lebanon, in the Sunni district. We’re all here together: Palestinians, Hariri partisans, Shi’a, Christians… it’s an uneasy truce around here. I depart for Damascus by Taxi on Tuesday insha’allah.

I had no problem getting a Syrian visa in the states using an expediter. Now it turns out that I could have traveled on my expired but still perfectly useful Lebanese ID. Oh well.

Things are quiet here except for the ‘eid festivities but that’s all over now. My relatives are working hard harvesting olives – they had no help because their usual hired hands are Muslims and have been on holiday, whereas my relatives all have teaching jobs and are using the holiday to harvest – they have to go back to work on Monday. Lots of fuss with pounding olives, going to the press, sorting, gathering, lugging bags around. I do nothing but talk, take pictures, and eat the food they prepare for me. The American cousin, utterly useless.

Best wishes to all of you from South Lebanon.

October 3rd, 2008, 8:48 am


Qifa Nabki said:

Dear Laila,

I may be in Saida on Monday, at the Serail. If you’re around perhaps we could get a coffee?

October 3rd, 2008, 11:23 am


Joshua said:

Drat, I want to be in Saida being useless, drinking coffee with QN and Layla, hearing about the struggles with Olives.

There is a terrible olive blight in Syria – some kind of rust on the leaves. And now the worst draught in 40 years. Alas.

(AFP)–Syria has been hit by the worst drought in 40 years, endangering the livelihoods of 1 million people, the U.N. warned Friday as it appealed for $20 million in aid.

“Syria is currently experiencing a drought that is by far the worst over the past four decades and it is facing the risk of rising malnutrition,” said Elisabeth Byrs, spokeswoman of the U.N.’s humanitarian bureau, OCHA.

October 3rd, 2008, 2:07 pm


Akbar Palace said:


Thank you for the article by Rabbi Dr. David J. Goldberg of
“The Liberal Jewish Synagogue” (The Guardian)

The confusing thing for me is that the article almost makes Achad Ha’Am to seem like an “anti-Zionist”. But after reading his bio, it doesn’t seem as though he was an anti-Zionist at all. BTW – He died and was buried in Israel as well.

After unsuccessfully attempting to study in Vienna and Germany, he returned in his early thirties to Odessa where he was influenced by Leon Pinsker, a leader of the Hovevei Zion (Lovers of Zion) movement. Hovevei Zion began as independent study circles in the late 19th century, and formed a philanthropic confederation called Hibbat Zion (love for Zion). Their practical aim was settlement of Jews in Palestine, and they produced the settlements of the first Aliyah (immigration wave).

Seems like the Guardian and Rabbi Goldberg are parsing words (and deeds).


October 3rd, 2008, 3:52 pm


Friend in America said:

I hate to bring up the tender subject of non-proliferation but … who in the government is pushing for nuclear capability? the military? the old guard? the pro iran faction? Would a treaty with Israel change Damascus’ primary concern from national security to economic development? Or, are the negotiations an intended distraction?
Something happened that prompted Israel to harden in those indirect negotiations

October 3rd, 2008, 5:22 pm


Leila Abu-Saba said:

Joshua wa Qifa, ahlan wa sahlan. I now possess a thermos for Arabic coffee with the words “ahlan wa sahlan” printed on it in gilt (Arabic) letters. A relative was serving us in the olive groves and when I said how much I admired the thermos, she gave it to me. Probably the best souvenir of the trip.

I wish I could serve you all coffee in our olive groves. The breeze was from the southwest today and the sky was mostly clear. Exquisite.

Today my cousins harvested something like 300 KILOS of olives among the five of them – all middle-aged schoolteachers. No outside help because of the Eid.

For lunch they served kibbeh, cabbage salad, mana’eesh bi za’atar (our own za’atar and first press fresh olive oil from this week) and mana’eesh bi lebneh (mixed with onions and mint). Also basboosa and other sticky sweets from a pastry shop in Sidon. Coffee, naturally. I turned down coffee from about six other cousins in different plots of land. It’s a fabulous party. Insha’allah we can all meet here next year. My cousins will have more help by then (‘eid will be earlier) and they won’t be so tired.

Also on the lunch menu at my uncle’s house – pomegranates, laban and lahm b3ajin from Marjayoun (aunt’s sister has a house there – they harvested olives too), fresh mint and labneh on marquq bread, and all the white coffee, black coffee, and zohorat I want.

Yesterday I drank jellab in Nabatiyeh.

Tuesday in Damascus, insha’allah!

October 3rd, 2008, 6:13 pm


Leila Abu-Saba said:

Oh dear, it’s pretty tasteless of me to brag about all the food when people are threatened with hunger in Syria. I am sorry about that. All should be reading Rami Zurayk’s blog Land and People about food issues.

I know that there is poverty practically on my doorstep here in LEbanon but what I see is money, money, pastry shops, cafes, food markets, banana groves, food food. Nobody looks thin. Even the poor girls of Ain el Helweh are in new dresses. And I’m not in Beirut, I am in Mieh-Mieh and Saida.

October 3rd, 2008, 6:18 pm


Qifa Nabki said:


Ya hala fik.

October 3rd, 2008, 7:12 pm


ugarit said:


I just hope Syrian stock exchange doesn’t make the same mistake as the London Stock Exchange and pick .NET. They should use open source solutions that even the NYSE is using.


October 3rd, 2008, 9:16 pm


Alex said:


I used to program on a VAX system at University! … Fortran.

I’ve written thousands of pages of code.

Am I that old then? : (

Ugarit .. you remind me of another Syrian friend who goes around warning all other friends (business owners) to never rely on .NET but to go for open source solutions.

Leila, enjoy the Lebanese food ! sa7tain.

You just made my usually yummy Sushi dinner ( which I will will have in 30 minutes) sound boring.

No one wants to write about Sarah’s debate yesterday??

It was so boring … she managed to memorize enough things to fill the 90 seconds allocated to each question.

She survived it.

October 3rd, 2008, 10:31 pm


Alex said:

Friday, Oct. 03, 2008
Why Syria Will Keep Provoking Israel
By Robert Baer / TIME

Oddly enough, Saturday’s car bombing in Damascus will serve Iran’s interests. Tehran thrives on chaos, which presents it an opportunity to come to the aid of friendly regimes and causes in the Middle East that need backing. More than likely, Iranian leaders were on the phone with counterparts in Damascus all Saturday, telling the Syrians not to lose heart. The Iranian message to Damascus is simple: If Israel and the United States see any weakness in the Assad regime, they will drive a truck through it and bring it down. And, if history is anything to go by, that’s a message Damascus will listen to.

What we tend to ignore is why Syria has had an uninterrupted record of attaching itself to radical causes and countries like Iran. For starters, Syria is ruled by a besieged and insecure minority, the Alawites, a heterodox-Shi’ite ethnic minority. About 12% of Syria’s population, the Alawites are looked at by extremist Sunni Muslims as heretics, fallen-away Muslims, usurpers who should be put to the sword. In the late ’70s and early ’80s, the Sunni extremists came close to getting their way. During a February 1982 Muslim Brotherhood insurrection in Hama, Syria’s third largest city, Hafez al-Assad felt compelled to flatten it in order to stay in power.

But it wasn’t until the 1982 Israeli invasion of Lebanon that Syria finally beat the Muslim Brothers. By joining Iran in the so-called “Islamic resistance” against Israel, Assad associated the Alawites with a cause larger than themselves. It was not unlike the ’60s and ’70s when Syria backed radical Palestinian groups — and fought Israel head-on in 1967 and 1973. The 18-year war in Lebanon (1982-2000) decisively undercut the Muslim Brothers’ charge that the Alawites were apostate traitors and dupes of Israel and the United States. Had the Muslim Brothers continued to kill Alawites, they would have been considered the traitors. There’s nothing like a good war to stabilize an unstable regime.

Given a choice, the Alawites would be happy to skirt the 21st century, satisfied with ruling a Third World backwater. But geography won’t allow it. Syria is at the center of the Arab-Israeli conflict, in which Syria has no choice but take sides. Since the Alawites cannot settle with Tel Aviv and survive the wrath of the Muslim Brothers, it remains reliant on its alliance with Tehran. And this is not to mention that with the division between Shi’ites and Sunnis widening, the Alawites will feel they need Iran and its message of belligerence to Israel more than ever. So if, for instance, Iran suggests that Syria respond to Saturday’s bombing by shipping more weapons to Hizballah, Syria will be inclined to agree. Having been embraced as honorary Shi’ites by Tehran, a regime whose survival depends on its maintaining some sort of Islamic credentials, in the face of accusations of heresy and apostasy, needs its relationship with Tehran, and to be seen to be shoring up fellow Shi’ites.

To Americans, it may appear reckless for the Syrians to provoke Israel by beefing up Hizballah —especially with Israel now constrained in how it can respond to Iran’s nuclear program. (The U.S. has made clear to the Israelis that getting into a war with Iran is the proverbial bridge too far, and that Washington therefore won’t support or enable an Israeli military strike on the Islamic Republic.) But, again, Americans don’t understand the Alawites’ dark insecurity — and the fact that they will risk war with Israel if they believe their survival requires it.


October 3rd, 2008, 10:41 pm


norman said:

Look at this jock, two contractors die in Iraq with hundreds of thousands of Iraqis and Syria is blamed for their death, that is making our Judaical system look so stupid , it is ashamed,
as usual Arabs do not count , we should multiply the people that are killed in Iraq by the US or their friends by 200 million and ask for compensation , how about the Syrians or the Palestinians who died their , I think the Palestinians can have their own state if they get compensated for their death in Palestine or Iraq,

Judge orders Syria to pay families of hostages
Associated Press 10.03.08, 5:23 PM ET

ATLANTA – A federal judge has ordered Syria to pay more than $400 million to the families of two American men kidnapped and decapitated while working as civilian contractors in Iraq.

The families of Jack Hensley of Georgia and Eugene “Jack” Armstrong of Michigan filed a 2006 lawsuit against Syria, which they claimed supported the group that killed the two men in 2004.

The two were private subcontractors working in Baghdad for an American consortium supporting U.S. efforts to rebuild Iraq.

A federal judge in Washington handed down the award Sept. 26. Syria never answered the claims or appeared to contest them.

A message at the Syrian Embassy in Washington said it was closed Friday to mark the end of the Ramadan fasting month.

Copyright 2008 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed

October 3rd, 2008, 11:16 pm


norman said:


Syria has one enemy who is occupying it’s land and denying the Palestinians their right for self determination and that is Israel , so with a peace treaty between Israel on one side and Syria, Palestine , Lebanon and Iran on the other side there will be no need military buildup or nuclear weapons for all the parties involved , it is unfortionate that Israel does not respond except to force , We can see that from the resistance that we see in Israel to leaving the Golan heights ,

Syria might have reached the conclusion the i have reached years ago that Israel will respond only to force and a settlement will be only reached if it feels that it’s existence in question and that could be the benefit of the Iranian or the Syrian nuclear direction , a way for the Israeli leaders to convince it’s people of what Olmert said recently and that the only way for Israel to survive is to go to 1967 border , I hope they can understand that before the extreemist make it impossible for peaceful solution.

October 3rd, 2008, 11:40 pm


Enlightened said:


Thanks, I enjoyed reading the article. What was interesting was the first hand experience(written from a humanist perspective), I think as time goes by more works like this will come out.

A while ago on mesh ( April fools) there was a very interesting article titled “Disraelia” An alternative take on what a fully secular multi ethnic state would have looked like ( and this would make Akbar happy ) with far bigger borders and oil wealth.

Akbar, what are the alternatives to parsing? How would you have handled the translation? I often find that translating from Arabic to English a thankless task sometimes, how would you have handled it? or do you think that the translations in the article are inadequate?

PS: Your link does not work

October 4th, 2008, 12:28 am


norman said:

Enlighted one ,

Are you in Australia and is the market open there Saturday or the same as the US ?.

October 4th, 2008, 12:44 am


Enlightened said:

Ya Ammo Norman!

Where was your help when I have been in treatment for the last three weeks taking Naproxen for my very very bad sciatica problem?????

Market is closed today, re opens Tuesday after the Long weekend Holiday.

Rates are coming down here ( Im paying 8.61% on our two mortgages), the banks have acted independent of the reserve here for the last year planning because of the high borrowing costs.

I have been reading what has been going on in the US and have noted Ehsani’s comments. We are insulated here a little bit in Australia, our Banking laws are very strict since the Financial markets were de regulated in the mid 80’s. And following the reporting season the Big 4 as they are known here made combined net profits of $28 billion ( remember our population here is only 20 million), The government budget surplus will be in the range of $22-$32 billion because of the mining boom also.

Where we have been seeing some problems because of the credit squeeze in the construction area. We are seeing a massive surge in rents here and most are predicting a shortfall of 250,000 dwelling shortfall in the country. (Australia will let in 200,000 migrants also next year).

Most of Australia problems relate to infrastructure and services which both at the Federal and state level have been neglected for over the last 40 years, another side effect of the credit crisis has seen a lot of people savings via superannuation eroded considerably this last year.

However on one note something that is close to your heart Norman (education), there is a National conference at the end of the year to standardize the national school curriculum, I will keep you posted on the results when they come through as I told you Five months ago.

On a side note spent a lovely day last Saturday evening with my Syrian Friends Rana and Fadi- she has been in Australia 2 years her and my wife were reminiscing about their shopping experiences in Damascus.

Quite interesting about the haggling! (lol)

October 4th, 2008, 2:22 am


Alex said:

Palestinian Pres. Abbas to meet with Assad in Syria this month

By Reuters

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas will visit Damascus this month to discuss efforts to reconcile his Fatah movement with Islamist Hamas rivals and peace talks with Israel, Palestinian officials said on Friday.

MK Ahmed Tibi, an Israeli Arab lawmaker and Abbas’ confidant, told Reuters the Palestinian leader would visit Damascus on October 12 for consultations.

Tibi said Abbas has been in close contact with Syrian President Bashar Assad to coordinate positions on issues including efforts to reconcile Fatah with Hamas since the Islamists seized control of Gaza from forces loyal to Abbas last year.

Fatah officials said Egypt would host reconciliation talks among several Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) factions and Hamas on October 14, then submit a report to the Arab League, which has been trying to resolve the feud.

Saeb Erekat, the top Palestinian negotiator, also confirmed Abbas’ plans to meet Assad, saying they would seek to “coordinate positions on all issues.”

Abbas’s ties with Syria had long been strained over the location of Hamas headquarters in Damascus, but have improved recently with Abbas’ visit to Damascus in July and his talks this year with Assad in European and Arab capitals.

Abbas and Assad have each held separate inconclusive talks with Israel in the past year. The talks with Syria were indirect, with Turkish mediation.

October 4th, 2008, 4:04 am


Alex said:

UN General Assembly chief: Some Security Council members worse than Iran

By Reuters

Some members of the UN Security Council have done things “infinitely worse” than Iran, which is seeking a seat on the council, the president of the UN General Assembly said on Friday.

Miguel D’Escoto Brockmann, who was foreign minister in the left-wing Sandinista government that ruled Nicaragua from 1979-1990, was asked whether he thought Iran should be on the 15-nation Security Council when the country is under UN sanctions over its nuclear program.

“There are members of the Security Council right now who have done things infinitely worse than Iran could ever do,” D’Escoto told a news conference.
When asked who he was referring to, D’Escoto, who has a history of criticizing U.S. administrations, quoted a Spanish saying: “For those who have the power of understanding, you need only a few words.”

The United States supported Nicaragua’s right-wing Contra rebels against the Sandinistas in the early 1980s, first openly and later covertly after the U.S. Congress withdrew its approval.

A reporter asked D’Escoto what could be worse than saying that Israel, a UN member, should be wiped off the map, as Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has said.

“Verbally there’s hardly anything that could be worse” than Ahmadinejad’s comments, D’Escoto said.

“Verbally. But the world is not destroyed by words but by actions … I put more importance to deeds than words,” he said.

“To say that is one thing and to commit crimes against the sovereign rights and independence of another country is something else … I think we all have to agree that no one dies because of words.”

The Security Council has passed three rounds of sanctions on Iran because of its refusal to halt uranium enrichment, which Western nations fear is aimed at making a nuclear bomb. Tehran says it is pursuing only civilian nuclear power and that it has a right to enrich uranium.

In a General Assembly election on Oct. 17, Iran will be running against Japan for a non-permanent Asian seat on the Security Council that falls vacant at the end of the year. Japan is widely expected to win the seat and a two-year term on the council.

The United States, China, Britain, France and Russia are the only permanent members of the Security Council, with the power of a veto.

October 4th, 2008, 4:06 am


Alex said:

Israeli General (commander of the northern front) threatens Syria and Lebanon with the Da7ieh treatment (total destruction) during the next military confrontation.

استراتيجية قتالية أنتجتها دوائر التخطيط في جيش الاحتلال
قدّم قائد المنطقة الشمالية في الجيش الإسرائيلي، غادي آيزنكوت، أمس، عرضاً لافتاً لعضلات قواته، كشف خلاله عن مبادئ الخطط العسكرية التي سيجري اعتمادها في أي مواجهة مقبلة على الجبهة اللبنانية. تتلخّص هذه المبادئ بعبارة واحدة هي «نموذج الضاحية». دلالة العبارة هو استنساخ التدمير الوحشي الذي مارسته آلة الحرب الإسرائيلية إبّان عدوان تموز بحق الضاحية وتعميمه على بقية المناطق اللبنانية، وخصوصاً قرى وبلدات الجنوب التي تحوّلت، «إلى مواقع عسكرية كاملة التجهيز تابعة للمقاومة». أمّا المنطق الذي يرتكز عليه هذا النهج فهو إدراك إسرائيل أن التلويح بالقتل الجماعي للمدنيين هو الأمر الوحيد الذي يمكن أن يكون فاعلاً في ردع حزب الله

محمد بدير
إنه «نموذج الضاحية»، كما يطيب لقائد المنطقة الشمالية في الجيش الإسرائيلي، الجنرال غادي آيزنكوت، تسميته، موضحاً ما يعنيه بالقول «ما حصل للضاحية الجنوبية في بيروت في 2006 سيحصل لكل قرية تُطلق منها النار نحو إسرائيل. سنستخدم القوة ضدها بصورة غير تناسبية ونلحق بها دماراً هائلاً، هذه بالنسبة إلينا ليست قرى مدنية بل قواعد عسكرية». «نموذج الضاحية» هو، وفقاً لذلك، عنوان الاستراتيجة القتالية التي أنتجتها دوائر التخطيط في الجيش الإسرائيلي في ضوء هزيمة تموز 2006 والعبر التي استُخلصت في أعقابها.
ولمزيد من الإيضاح، حرص آيزنكوت، في مقابلة مع صحيفة «يديعوت أحرونوت» نُشرت أمس، على التشديد على أن الحديث ليس عن توصية قدمها الجيش إلى المستوى السياسي، بل عن «خطة جرت الموافقة عليها»، مضيفاً «لن نعمل بعد الآن على اصطياد منصات إطلاق الصواريخ، فهذه خطوة عبثية. حينما يكون في الجانب الآخر آلاف الصواريخ والقذائف لا يمكنك أن تصطادها. يمكن الانبهار بعملية هنا أو أخرى هناك ولكن الجبهة الداخلية ستبقى تتعرّض للقصف».
ورداً على سؤال عمّا إن كان هذا النهج يعني إلغاء نظرية المراحل والعمل على الحسم السريع من خلال استخدام كامل القوة من اللحظة الأولى، أجاب آيزنكوت «أجل. هذا هو الرد. نقولها بالعبرية: إن أطلقوا علينا النار من القرى الشيعية في لبنان فالخطة التي سنتّبعها هي إطلاق نار كثيف جداً»، مذكّراً بأن إسرائيل دمّرت في «حرب لبنان الثانية» 120 ألف منزل في لبنان، لافتاً إلى «أننا لن نفرق كما في الحرب السابقة بين أهداف لحزب الله وأخرى للحكومة».
ولدى اعتراض مراسلي الصحيفة على جدوى هذا النهج عبر الإشارة إلى أن الصواريخ بقيت خلال عدوان تموز تتساقط على إسرائيل رغم ذلك، قال آيزنكوت بلهجة تحذيرية «إن حزب الله يدرك جيّداً أن إطلاق النار من داخل القرى سيؤدي إلى تدميرها. قبل أن يصدر (الأمين العام لحزب الله، السيد حسن) نصر الله أوامره بإطلاق النار على إسرائيل سيكون عليه أن يفكر 30 مرة في ما إذا كان يرغب في تدمير قاعدته الشعبية داخل القرى. هذا ليس أمراً نظرياً بالنسبة إليه. إن إمكان إلحاق الأذى بالسكان هو الكابح الأساسي لدى نصر الله وسبب الهدوء في العامين الأخيرين».
ورأى الجنرال، المرشح لقيادة أركان الجيش بعد انتهاء ولاية غابي أشكنازي، أن «هناك فشلين رئيسيّين في حرب لبنان الثانية: الأول أننا لم نقصّر الحرب. والثاني أننا سمحنا خلال 33 يوماً بأن نتعرض للقصف الصاروخي، القصف الأكثر كثافة منذ حرب الاستقلال». وأضاف «الاستنتاج هو: حينما تندلع الحرب المقبلة يجب حسمها بسرعة وبقوة، من دون إيلاء أهمية للرأي العام العالمي. لدينا القدرة على تنفيذ ذلك، لدي قوة هائلة مقارنةً بما كان، وليس لدي أي مبرر لعدم تحقيق الأهداف التي تلقى على عاتقي».
ولدى سؤاله عن الجديد الذي تمتلكه إسرائيل مقارنةً بما كان لديها قبل عدوان تموز، أجاب آيزنكوت «لدينا اليوم صورة استخبارية أفضل من عام 2006. فقد قمنا بنقل جزء كبير من الموارد الاستخبارية للساحة اللبنانية. نحن نجمع معلومات بشكل أكثر أهمية والتغطية أكثر جدية، تلك إحدى العبر التي تعلّمناها بالطريقة الصعبة».
ورغم تأكيده «تغيّر الواقع» بعد عدوان تموز لجهة انتشار الجيش اللبناني على الحدود الجنوبية وتعزيز قوات اليونيفيل، الذين «يعمل بعضهم بمستوى مرتفع والبعض الآخر لا»، أقر آيزنكوت بأن حزب الله «حسّن بدرجة كبيرة قدراته الصاروخية منذ انتهاء الحرب». وأضاف إن حزب الله «تسلّم منظومات صاروخية لم تكن لديه في السابق ونحن نعرف أن حزب الله سينفّذ قصفاً بحجم أوسع مما شهدناه في الحرب الأخيرة. ويمكنك اليوم رؤية الجدران التي تختبئ خلفها الصواريخ (في القرى اللبنانية)، وهي معدّة للإطلاق. وفي الوقت المناسب سيجري إسقاط الجدران وتطلق الصواريخ»، لكنه استدرك أن «لدينا سلاحاً يفوقه مئة ضعف». وتابع «إننا في الجيش نعرف كيف نردع الطرف الآخر عن الفعل، لكننا نجد صعوبة في ردعه عن زيادة قوته».
وكشف آيزنكوت أن الجيش يبحث دائماً مسألة التوصية بتنفيذ هجوم وقائي ضد حزب الله، رافضاً الإجابة عن سؤال عمّا إذا كانت إسرائيل لا تزال ترغب في اغتيال نصر الله، مكتفياً بالقول إن حدس الأخير «سليم» في هذا الإطار.
من جهة أخرى، رفض آيزنكوت اتهام إسرائيل بانتهاك القرار الدولي 1701 من خلال الخروق الجوية للسيادة اللبنانية، معتبراً أن الطلعات الجوية ضرورية لأن «حزب الله يعزز قدراته ضدنا وهذا ينتهك الاتفاق الموقع من جانب الحكومة اللبنانية لإنهاء الحرب». وأضاف «لذلك هناك شرعية في الاستمرار في الطلعات الجوية فوق جنوب لبنان وفوق لبنان عموماً». وعن الرد المتوقع لحزب الله انتقاماً لاغتيال قائده العسكري الشهيد عماد مغنية، قال آيزنكوت «ليس لدينا في الوقت الراهن إنذار محدّد، قاعدة الافتراض لدي، ومن دون علاقة بما يقولونه (قادة الحزب)، هو مواجهة سلسلة تهديدات معيّنة. أهمها التخطيط لعملية التسلل إلى بلدة إسرائيلية والتعرض للمدنيين فيها». ورداً على سؤال عن البديل عن مغنية في قيادة الحزب، أجاب «بحسب معرفتي بحزب الله، لا يوجد أحد يمكنه أن يكون بديلاً، كانت تلك ضربة هائلة، برأيي هم يوجدون منذ ذلك الوقت في مكان آخر تماماً».
وبرغم لهجته الواثقة، رفض آيزنكوت الجزم بأن الأمور ستكون «مغايرة في المرة المقبلة»، معلّلاً ذلك بالقول «كلنا تحوّلنا إلى شكّاكين بعض الشيء. ربما من الأفضل استخدام عبارات أقل درجة مما نعتقده».

ضربات «بأضعاف مضاعفة» ضدّ سوريا

«نموذج الضاحية» سيُطبّق على سوريا أيضاً، بحسب آيزنكوت، الذي أكد أن الضربات الشديدة التي وجّهها الجيش الإسرائيلي لحزب الله «ستنفّذ بأضعاف مضاعفة» ضدّ السوريين «الذين يدركون أننا نعرف كيف نطبّق ما فعلناه في الضاحية عليهم أيضاً».
ورأى آيزنكوت أن من يقف قبالة إسرائيل على الحدود الشمالية هو محور سوريا وإيران وحزب الله، الذي يسمح بإدخال الأسلحة من دون أي كوابح.
ودعا السوريين إلى عدم النوم بهدوء إذا بدأ حزب الله إطلاق صواريخه على إسرائيل، قائلاً إن عليهم أن يشعروا بالقلق عندما «يلقون بالحجارة على إسرائيل من بيتهم الزجاجي».
ولفت إلى أن الجيش الإسرائيلي يراقب «كيف يقوم الجيش السوري بتبنّي نمط حزب الله ووسائله القتالية في الحرب الأخيرة. ولذلك هم يزيدون من أسلحتهم المضادة للدبابات والطائرات ومن منظومتهم الصاروخية عموماً».

October 4th, 2008, 4:15 am


Rumyal said:


If it makes you feel any younger how about we say that typically curriculum in CS departments lags 15 years behind the industry 🙂 I also did some coursework on the VAX and even on a PDP-11 simulator. The profs maintained these were clean architectures that illustrate good computer design to the students…


OSS code has bugs too, of course! But I generally agree that .NET is not a good platform for implementing real time software.

Enlightened, (AP),

I’ll try to find out more information about Disraelia. You may also be interested in reading about Brit Shalom/ Ta7aluf A-Salam http://www.britshalom.org/. Unfortunately this sane alternative never seemed attractive enough to either side. I don’t think that the author of the Guardian piece “parses” Ehad Ha’am’s positions in a selective manner. What matters is that at some point, Ehad Ha’am pointed out that the Zionist enterprise is taking a belligerent and oppressive track and predicted accurately the potential results of this approach. I don’t know whether he changed his assessment later or decided that the benefits of the enterprise outweigh the drawbacks, but that doesn’t really matter—his earlier observations were accurate and still apply today. Generally, what he disagreed the most with, was the *how*. How can the Jewish people have a homeland in Israel—without betraying basic humanistic and Jewish values. I agree that it’s important to shed more light on this internal debate within the Zionist movement, to help Israelis think outside the box and understand the extent of indoctrination they have been subjected to and that it’s in their best interest to go back to the basic ideas and re-examine them. We can never really know whether the Zionist migrants could have done anything different that would have not eventually provoked Arab wrath on them, but seeing the past clearly is an important prerequisite for implementing a better future.

October 4th, 2008, 7:55 am


Shai said:


In a way, much of the blame could be placed on the British, who got up and left, leaving the Jews and Arabs to fight it out. I cannot imagine a way for the Jews to have created their own state in any inhabited spot on this earth, without taking unilateral steps to ensure the existence of their state, thereby incurring the wrath of the local inhabitants who consequently paid the price. If I was in the Arabs’ shoes in the 1930’s and 1940’s, I would have resisted the same way. How could I have accepted the influx of any people other than my own, into the territory I’ve been living in for centuries?

The sad fact is, that as a Jew and an Israeli, while I completely understand the Arabs, and while I am truly sorry for the terrible price so many of them have paid (and are still paying), I am at the same time happy that I can now live in a nation I can call mine. It is sad it had to come at the expense of someone else…

October 4th, 2008, 9:22 am


norman said:


I think that the major mistake that the Jews made was that they came as Westerners who are Jews and gave the impression as superiors and following the path of the Crusades but under different religion , they should have come back as Jews returning to their ancestors land as part of the Mideast who left after the Roman expelled them .I believe they would have been welcomed back .as i hope my children would be welcomed back if they decide to return to Syria in the future.

October 4th, 2008, 1:09 pm


Abe Bird said:

You have mistaken. Jews were living in Israel land aka Palestine all the time. They renew their settlement in the land after the crusaders period, as Arabs did.

The Diaspora Jews, western and eastern, always came to settle in Palestine and the Jews won maority in Jerusalem and the shore plateau since the middle of the 19th century.

Zionism, the national movement of the Jewish people began its vision to turn Palestine into home for Jews in the Diaspora too and began to encourage and motivated Jews to come to Palestine and to build a state for the Jews. At the end of the 19th century – beginning of the 20th century there was no any Palestinian people but the Jews. The Arabs where divided into tribes and sects and religions under their “PAN Arabism”. Only the European colonization after the WWI started the “nationalization” of the ME Arabs as the British and French colonizers saw it for their own interests.

The new immigration of Jews, from Europe and from Arab lands, didn’t ignored Arabs but Arabs began to oppose the Zionist idea by escalating their violence.

October 4th, 2008, 1:39 pm


norman said:


I disagree , My mother was born in Nazareth and still has family there and she is a Palestinian , and might have been a Jew centuries ago and changed her religion .

You have no more right to the land than she does , I can say the pure Jews can have equal right but not more.

October 4th, 2008, 2:17 pm


Off the WALL said:

Some one will write about the Sarah Palin debate

She was the snake oil sales-woman.
He was the competent civil servant.

Let me explain. A few months back, I attended the funeral of a dear friend who was taken from us at the young age of 58. The man was a giant in his field, yet humble and an extraordinarily real. No ivory tower could contain his mild manners, his love for fun and life. Those of us who knew him and traveled with him knew that well.

Two distinguished colleagues spoke about him, his fantastic accomplishments, his impacts on science, and on them personally, and about the fun we all had as friends and colleagues in his presence. We cried, we laughed, and we remembered our friend and his helping hand especially those among us who benefitted significantly from his self sacrificing style of mentoring.

The atmosphere dramatically changed when the pastor took the mike. We were invited to a cheap speech not a eulogy. He was folksy, with a lot of excessive body language, and his words were offensive to our intelligence, and untrue to our memory and knowledge of our friend. Knowing that much of his audience was composed of rational scientists, he maneuvered his way into creationism, and left a bad taste that was only erased after a short film the family has compiled about our beloved friend.

A colleague of min made a comment after the pastor’s speech, “what an utter BS non-sense”. At a time when all of us, believers and non believers a like needed someone to heal our loss and lift our spirit, we were the subjects of a slick sales pitch.

Watching Sarah Palin during the debate made me sick. I remembered that pastor, and with that many a like on TBN (not all), or whatever evangelical network you are unfortunate to turn the dial to. These people can talk, yes they can. They have the gift and the ability for a fake folksy style, but you can sense their fake in you guts. They are so successful to a point where some Muslim preachers have begun imitating their style.

The worst part was her disregard for proper English. In politics words are important, and if you can not distinguish between “attributing human activities to climate change” as she said and “attributing climate change to human activities”, you do not know a squat about what you are talking about. She was simply filling time with meaningless rehearsed words. Her talk of Joe 6packs is offensive, not because of any detestation of Joe or Marry, but because of what the comment attempted to portray both Joe and Marry as static, cartoonish image of gun totting, drunk, and thoughtless individuals. Well, guess what Sarah, Joe and Marry have a lot to think about, their mortgage, their health care, the education of their children, and the food on their table. Her fake screed of “never again” sounded artificial and lacked conviction in delivery as well as in substance.

I know fake when I see it, and she is fake. The women of my country are much better than that. They do not wink when they are talking about serious issues. They do not say “darn it” and smile the way she does when they are talking about “nucular” weapons. And they read, they really read. Be it newspapers, books, and magazines, especially women with college education.

Sarah Palin is a preacher, a snake oil sales-woman. And we should be worried, really worried if she is even allowed near the white house.

October 4th, 2008, 3:15 pm


why-discuss said:

OFF the wall

The Americans have elected Bush despite his obvious ineptitude… so they may very well elect a snake oil preacher. What weird democracy is that when the people are manipulated at nausea by the media so they vote under psychological pressures? We now know that in the US, democracy has become a dollarcracy or a mediacracy, so what do you expect?

October 4th, 2008, 4:00 pm


Off the WALL said:

Dear Shai
I always appreciate your sense of fairness and your ability to recognize the “others”, their pain and suffering.

As you and I know well, the continuation of your nation will depend, largely, on your ability as a nation to detach your existence from the suffering of the Palestinians and on your nation’s active participation in ending that suffering not ending the Palestinians, and denying them their history, their land, and even denying their existance, as some have argued and continue to do so on this and countless other forumes. Walls will not do that, fairness and recognition of their rights will.

The more the peace process drags on, the less likely the two states solution will become. On principles alone, I am for one state solution. But from a pragmatic point of view, a two states solution is still more viable, for now at least. A one state solution is only possible when neither side presents existential threat to the legitimate rights and concerns of the other’s.

Yet, with two states solution, the real problem would be if the Palestinian state is constructed as a non-contiguous (especially in the west bank) poppet state, with no true sovereignty over its borders, natural resources, finances, and politics. If that is the case, you may be detached, but only in form not in substance. It would be similar to the Gaza withdrawal in which Israel, either directly, or through Egypt, retains full control of the Palestinians, and is able to suffocate them. This my friend, will only increase the suffering and with it the irrational notion, on both sides, that violense can solve it.

I am as eager as you are for the day when your nation takes it rightful place in the region. I, as you do, strongly believe in a GME. While I do not like the concept of exclusive nation state, as an Arab, whose earlier sympathy with Pan Arabism was contradicted, rather harshly, during my intellectual growth, by my recognition of the impact of such blind nationalism on the rights of Kurds, Armenians, and Assyrians in my own former country, i do not favor racially, or religiously based nationalism. I do, wholeheartedly acknowledge and fight for the rights of all to be safe, free, and happy in their home lands, including of course the Jewish and Arab people in Israel. The history of the conflict is relevant only as a lesson and as vehicle for reconciliation. More relevant to me is the current suffering and meaningless loss of life and dignity on both sides, proportional or not.

October 4th, 2008, 4:03 pm


Off the Wall said:

Dear Why Discuss

It was the flag, fear, and well documented election tampering in Ohio including suppression of minority votes, and significant criminal activities that will eventually be brought out to light.

Like any other nation, the election of 2004 occurred while the war in Iraq was fresh. The lies and deceptions leading to the war were known by many but not talked about. Not to mention the fact that Kerry was not as forceful in combating the republican machinery.

Starting with Reagan, the US has been an odd place. Middle class and poor folks have been voting against their own economic interest mainly because of the successful sales pitch of reaganomics, which is based on absolute free market, smaller civil government, and larger military. The first two parts have been completely discredited by the economic collapse, and the latter is facing a major challenge by its inability to end two rather expensive wars.

Whether Obama wins or not, we are witnessing the real death of Reagan. Cerdible economists are becoming more vocal against deregulation. Lower taxes, which has been the mantra of the republican party, is becoming a joke when middle class realizes the meager value of their own reduction compared to that of the wealthy, and the notion that cutting taxes on the wealthy will help the economy is also losing credibility when the wealthy continue to use these tax benefits to export jobs outside, to live rather extravagantly. Decline in job creation and losses of jobs are also contributing to the demise of the republican revolution. What we are seeing is that the US is beginning to take a political stance more consistent with the more liberally inclined population.

The inability of the republican ticket this year to come up with any sound and coherent economic plan is a reflection of the bankruptcy of the republican ideology more than a reflection of McCain’s own ineptitude, for he is a capable civil servant and I would not begrudge him his service.

I predict that even if McCain wins this election, the tide in American political life can not be easily reversed. We are entering the end of the Reagan era. The only reason the election is still close is the fear of the unknown. We do not yet know what the next era looks like. For five decades (listen to Reagan speech against Medicare in the 1960s, which by the way was misquoted by the new snake oil sales woman), half of the nation has been made to believe that government is the enemy. Both republicans and democrats always run as being against Washington, and everyone seems to believe that government is the problem. And here lies the critical role the little king played.

Bush demonstrated that government is not the problem, inept government is

Bush has finally shown that the republican anti-tax rhetoric does not translate into fiscal responsibility, he ran the biggest deficit.

Bush and the republican congress have finally managed to hammer the last nail in the coffin of deregulation, first by taking it so far to the point of collapse and then by engineering and then squabbling over the biggest bail out in history

Bush has demonstrated the fact that our military might has limits, and we now are hopefully more cognizant of those limits

As much as I detest him, I find myself now saying “thank you dubia, you have done your job”. Who knows, may be he was an historical inevitability that was essential to expose the intellectual bankruptcy of Reagan.

October 4th, 2008, 4:39 pm


Off the Wall said:

Dear Why Discuss

Fear of the unkwown also includes the inability of many to come to grip with the fact that a young African American is likely to become our next president. It is racism, wheather nascent or full blown. This is a problem we have not yet eradicated, but we are doing better at that now more than ever.

Palin will also play her inevitable role. She will diminish the ranks of the republican party to the fundamentalist base. If McCain wins, it will happen sooner as she will further erode any sense of moderation in the party during the next four years. If he loses, her next coming in 2012 will split the party so badly to the point that we will probably witness the creation of a strong Obama Republicans movement.

If Obama loses, Clinton will most likely be the 2012 democratic candidate, and then watch out for the final end of the Reagan Era.

October 4th, 2008, 5:00 pm


Shai said:


If only 51% of the people in our region were as logical as you… I agree with every word you said. But you know, I sometimes find myself thinking how when we discuss things here on SC, it’s as if I step into a time machine, move forward in time about 15-20 years, and see what my people are saying and thinking (assuming they chose correctly). The recognition and acceptance by most Israelis of the rights of the Palestinian people that have been hijacked over the past 60 years are likely to occur only a decade or two following a peace agreement, I believe. It is a classic case of chicken-or-the-egg, where obviously the Arabs rightly hope to have Israelis first acknowledge their crimes, before real peace can happen. And Israelis think the latter should occur first. The compromise – a peace agreement (not peace).

But my biggest concern at the moment, regarding the Palestinian issue, is that I see four different Palestinian “groups” – those in Gaza, those in W. Bank, those in the Diaspora, and those in Israel. Now who do you make peace with? Who do you hand over control to? Who do you involve in the talks? Clearly Abu Mazen has been a terrible mistake, not because he’s not genuinely concerned about his people’s best interests, but because as a puppet of Israel, he cannot deliver. And, without the backing of Hamas, he can barely control the W. Bank. So how can we move along the Palestinian track, without some dramatic changes occurring first on the Palestinian side (not to mention ours)?

Livni is more hopeful about the Palestinian track, than about the Syrian one. That worries me. She apparently doesn’t understand Syria’s position, nor the potential benefits Israel can reap by first making peace with Syria. If McCain-Palin win, I’m not sure someone in America will be left to convince Israel to return to the table with Syria. God help us all if that ticket wins. America will become more religious, more extreme, more xenophobic, more suspicious, more belligerent, and much, much, more dangerous. And if, god forbid, Palin should become President, then Armageddon might come about far sooner than predicted by all the great soothsayers of the world. She’ll give the same wink, as she presses that button on the nuclear (nucular) football, aiming at Iran, Russia, heck, anyone or anything that doesn’t support her beliefs. She will make Christ return, whether he’s ready for it, or not…

October 4th, 2008, 7:04 pm


SimoHurtta said:

Abe Bird did Romans “transport” all Jews from ancient Israel? I seriously doubt that tale. Why on earth would Romans bothered to deport all Jews when deporting the educated part of the population was enough to stop the rebelling.

If we consider the Jews and Palestinians right to Israel/Palestine as a genetic inheritance “right” of the relationship with the ancient inhabitants then Palestinians have at least the same and probably a bigger “genetic” right as Modern Jews. The genetic studies show that “right”.

So the only excuse that even the atheist Zionists (by the way what is an atheist Jew?) can give for invading Israel/Palestine is the religious one = God promised it to YOU. Again we return to the point who is YOU. Today’s Jews have a tiny portion of YOU, but so have Palestinians.

Even with the God’s promise Zionists are in “troubles” because the Palestinian Muslims and Christians believe in the same God.

The religious “excuse” is also somewhat dangerous for Jews in general, because one could argue rather easily that if God promised Israel for Jews he reserved the rest for us others. What should we Abe Bird do with that problem of people living in “wrong” parts?

October 4th, 2008, 8:37 pm


Off the Wall said:

Dear Shai
Thank you. I also would like to have such a time machine. But at the same time, if more of us keep holding a vision of a bright future, we make it closer, and in fact, we will be acting as a rhetorical time machine. I agree, recognition is probably more likely to be a post-peace process. A fair peace agreement would be most important as it is implicitly includes acknowledgment of legitimate rights.

On the second part, you pose one of the most difficult questions. I do not know if I can even venture to try answering this question without offending or annoying someone. But let us think strategically. Diaspora Palestinians are important, but from a very pragmatic point of view, If I am a Palestinian in the west bank, I would ask them (Diaspora Palestinians) to hold on for a while until the negotiations proceed sufficiently towards the shape and form of the Palestinian state, I would insist that as a state, I should retain full authority over my own immigration policy including the re-assimilation of Diaspora Palestinians into the state and would object strongly to any restriction on this right, even if they are given personal compensation for their suffering, homes, and lands which they lost in 1948. This of course does not negate the issue of the right of return, which as we have argued many times, will probably be an important and most tricky part of the negotiations.

I think the most significant change, and perhaps a true coup would be if Israel as a state manages to become a country where Arab Israelis are treated as truly equal citizens of the state. This would negate the need to “negotiate” with them because why negotiate if you are an equal partner in your own country. This requires very harsh anti-discrimination laws, major revision of the state’s own vision of itself as a Jewish state, but one that is able to treat all of its citizen equally well and without viewing more than 25% (I am not sure that my number is right here) of its own citizens as terrorists and traitors by default. Equal rights, municipal funding, support for housing, and job opportunities. Heck may be even military service, which can only be done if the Arab Israelis believe that the army’s objective is the defense of the homeland not the oppression of their brothers and sisters. This is easiest said, but I believe it would probably be the hardest to do. I know that some Arab Israelis enjoy higher living standards than many Arabs in other countries in the region, but as citizens of the state, they are not to be compared with their ethnic group living in the region or elsewhere, but with their own countrymen and women.

(More to come )

October 4th, 2008, 9:28 pm


norman said:


We are Arabs and believe in Arab ism or Arab nation not because we are one ethnic group or one religion but because we live in the Arab nation ( Alwatan Alarabi ) and as we are all Americans and i consider myself as an Arab American we are in this country from different places with different ethnic back ground and religions , I do not see that the Kurds or the Assyrians or the Armenians asking for a country of their own in the US , They all consider themselves American and that how everybody who lives in the Arab land should consider himself an Arab Kurd or an Arab Assyrians , Christian , Muslim Sunni , Shia , Arab Jew , They all should have as we have in the US the same obligations and opportunities and be protected under an anti discrimination laws in housing and employment with chance for free settlement anywhere in the land.

October 5th, 2008, 12:02 am


EHSANI2 said:


What is your take as to what is happening in your neighboring Republic of Iceland? It seems that greed and the nasty ills of capitalism is not restricted to the U.S.

October 5th, 2008, 12:19 am


NORMAN said:

Dear Norman

I am not an anti Arab, I am proud of being an Arab. May be my comment was not well written. I am against any suppression of the others in the name of Arabism (ala Saddam style, or the way Kurds were treated in Turkey as potential enemies of the state). I am against religious and ethnic divisions of nations, and based on that I fully support your notion of Arab Kurds or Arab Assyrians, or Arab Armenian. But this is a rather new definition that I had not heard previously except in the USA. If we can do what you are proposing, then by all means I am all for that notion of Arabism because it is the notion of a nation that I can easily support and believe in, an inclusive nation.

I must say that the official line in many Arab, and non Arab countries has been to ignore the presence of minorities. In Syria, which represents a more enlightened version, Krudish language was not allowed in schools for a while. Granted it was spoken, but those who spoke it in the presence of non Kurdish speaking were frowned upon. I agree that it is a matter of politeness to use a common language, but people have tendency to revert to their own mother language and for a short period of time, tat was not very tolerable, at least officially (60s)

Things have for sure changed, and the notion of the rights of ethnic minorities is gaining track and I am happy for that.

In Algeria, the berber were not well treated after the independence. Most of the efforts went towards the Re-arabization of the society. To my knowledge, and I can be gravely wrong here, only recently (last 15-20 years), Algeria is recognizing its nature as a multi-ethnic country, and that is to their benefit.

Think of what the Gangaweeds are doing in Sudan. Their deplorable actions are exactly what I have been talking about. Their branch of Arabism is what I would fight against and would not want to be associated with in any shape or form. It is chauvinist and murderous.

You and I agree more than my badly written comment may have indicated. I agree 100% with what you said.

October 5th, 2008, 1:47 am



Sorry Norman, I was not trying to assume or steal your identity. I just mistakingly put your name where my name should have been as I was trying to answer you.

ALEX, could you please attribute the last comment to me instead. I pushed the button too fast. 🙂

October 5th, 2008, 1:51 am


norman said:


I do not know what you are talking about

# 56 is my note not yours

it is mine because you write much better than i do .

October 5th, 2008, 2:08 am


Shai said:


You’re absolutely right about Arab-Israelis (btw they are 20% of the population, currently, but growing fast). I don’t mean that Jews have to “negotiate” with them about the future of Palestine, I mean that we have to take into account their side as well. As part of the Palestinian people who suffered and are still suffering, we cannot ignore their views. In practical terms, I as a leader of Israel, would incorporate Arab-Israeli leaders in discussions, and yes, even in final negotiations. There’s no doubt whatsoever that a future Palestine should be able to receive ANY person on earth, certainly Diaspora Palestinians. Israel would have no right in making any of those decisions. The real question is, how many Palestinians will be allowed back into Israel.

October 5th, 2008, 4:44 am


Alex said:


Don’t worry .. Norman, whose English writing is almost as miserable as mine, will be happy with your impressive comment being under his name : )

And the Palin site I liked to is indeed not an official one, and not a serious site

A Syrian friend of mine is working on it ..

And it is not finished yet.

October 5th, 2008, 6:02 am


Shai said:


Please take into account that Sarah Palin may well go to war with Canada over such activity. And, she’s well hearsed in “faren-policy” because… Alaska has two nations on its borders… Ah, this kills me. How on EARTH can so many take this woman seriously? First question to her national security adviser will be: “Are there any deer in Syria?” (banjo music in the background from Deliverance) 🙂

October 5th, 2008, 6:09 am


SimoHurtta said:


What is your take as to what is happening in your neighboring Republic of Iceland? It seems that greed and the nasty ills of capitalism is not restricted to the U.S.

Sure Eshani2 you are right about the nasty ills of capitalism and that greediness and irresponsibility are universal. By the way Eshani2 Iceland is rather far from Finland even it belongs to the same Nordic Countries group. And Iceland is an island which Finland is not.

What happens now in Iceland is happened in Finland in the beginning of 90’s, though in Iceland the aftermath will be much, much more severe considering the size of the banking sector in that tiny (by population) former and future “fisher village”.

Having followed one bank crisis from rather near, and now the second, is the reason that I have no trust in unregulated capitalism and free trade on the terms of the strong countries. Which I suppose has became clear in our former discussions.

When in Finland went “fast” in the finance sector in the 80’s during the opening of money markets and loan expansion the bankers and industrialists said that no regulation by the governmental side is needed, the markets take care of the regulation. Well when the system collapsed those some of those “bank guys” were demanding more regulation and tax money to save them. One opportunist former collage, a bank layer, who organized very shady “Cayman” deals during the good times became a public top advocate of controlled money markets. One other former collage who was group leader in a massive pressing currency based loans upon to everybody who could write his/her name on the loan papers, learned what collaterals mean so good that later became a manager of a guarantee institution.

In Finland the only ones who went to trial for that insane irresponsibility were besides a couple of bank managers of a bankrupt bank mostly elected representatives of a collapsed co-operative bank chain. Most of the trials ended after 10 years in the legal system in a not guilty verdict, which was the right decision because the accused were responsible on paper but not in reality in the financing process and planing of policy. The elected representatives were farmers, teachers, small businessmen etc.

The farce was that most of those who had the real responsibility of taking care of the “system” and biggest “fishes” escaped unharmed. I suppose the same will happen in USA. Some bank janitors will be given to the public as scape goats when those who had the responsibility and who benefited most continue unharmed.

October 5th, 2008, 6:30 am


Shai said:


Given your understanding of the Scandinavian (and European) economies, do you think Europe will be severely effected by the obviously-underestimated crisis taking place? Does panic in the U.S. and Asian markets have an equal effect in Europe, or do Europeans now tend to trust their economies more?

October 5th, 2008, 6:43 am


Rumyal said:

Shai, Norman,

Yes shame on the British for leaving us alone to manage with each other without adult supervision… Who could blame them though; 30 years with us crazies were more than enough 🙂

However Norman raises a very good point: the European background of the Zionist leadership and its contempt for everything Levantine, its inability and lack of desire to integrate culturally in the Middle East, were a major impediment on the road to true peace. This European-centric culture was (and still is) a major impediment not only in Israeli-Arab relationship (as commentators here have frequently confirmed) but also internally in the Israeli society where the Sephardic Jews have been all but stripped of their original culture and identity, then turned against their centuries-old Arab neighbors. One has to wonder whether a more inclusive Zionist leadership in the early days wouldn’t have been able to leverage the oriental Jews as a bridge between the newcomer Jews and the indigenous Arabs. Today, the Sephardic Jews in Israel have been largely trained to be the attack dogs of the right and this conditioning may be irreversible. This is lamentable. If anybody wants to read more about this Hakeshet Hamizrahit has some good essays on the topic: http://www.ha-keshet.org.il/english/english_index.html

Once the state of enmity has been established between Israel and the Arabs the Israeli trend of turning a cold shoulder to Middle Eastern culture while facing more and more towards the West has further intensified, since our allies are in the West and nothing good can come out of loving your enemy’s culture, so why bother. This in turn intensifies the sense of alienation and animosity towards the “extraneous and artificial Zionist entity”, feeding a vicious cycle of misunderstanding. When I was a child in Israel in the 70’s, there were quite a bunch of TV programs about Arabic language and culture targeted at the Israeli audience, as well as the ubiquitous Film-Arabi-Tawil on Friday nights. These shows demonstrated that there are some folks in Jerusalem who were willing to invest time and money, even if only in a somewhat perfunctory manner, to advance cross-cultural relationships. Today this is all gone both due the much deeper suspicion of Jews towards Arabs and due to the rampant market economy that has basically killed all state-sponsored PBS-like programming.

Shai’s belief in a peace-agreement as a milestone in the way to true peace hasn’t been supported by the peace agreements that have been signed so far: they haven’t resulted in better cultural exchanges between the societies (excluding an echelon of academics and diplomats). But maybe there’s a new light at the end of the tunnel, with sites like SC providing unprecedented opportunities for direct dialogue between interested parties from both sides. I know I talk about this site with my Israeli friends, and with my kids, and maybe this is how we’ll finally be able to spread the peace bug to the masses…

Abe Bird,

I don’t think anybody contests the continuity of Jewish settlement in Israel, or the connection that the Jewish people has to this land, so I’m not sure what’s the point you’re trying to make. I agree with Norman’s response to you: Jews are entitled to live in this country due to their cultural link to the land, and so is anybody else who has similar links to this land. The non-Jews wouldn’t want this to be a religious Jewish state as much as the Jews wouldn’t want it to be a religious Muslim state.


Agree on the Romans. I believe it is accepted now that most Judeans stayed in Israel and converted to Christianity and later to Islam, or moved over the centuries. People move all the time…
To answer your question: I consider myself an atheist Jew. To me this means that I have cultural Jewish background (language spoken, festivities celebrated etc.) but I don’t believe in any super natural powers. This is the same definition that Richard Dawkins uses for himself when he defines himself an atheist Christian, and I’m sure he explains this better than me. For us atheists the question of whether Judaism is a religion or a nation or a race is of lesser significance: to me it’s a smorgasbord of cultural items that I’m free to pick and choose from as I wish.
Your question of whether the “Jews” had the right to “invade” Palestine is in my opinion not interesting. What matters is that millions of Jews decided that they wanted to move to Palestine and later Israel and not too many obstacles stood in their way to prevent that. (Compare that to any major human migration—it’s not any different). Further of significance is that each immigrant made an individual decision to migrate and I believe in the striking majority of cases these decisions were made on very firm moral grounds. Here are two personal examples from my family’s history:

My paternal grandfather was born in Poland and in the early 30’s decided to immigrate to Palestine due to anti-Semitic persecution. He did so lawfully, became a Palestinian citizen and found employment with the British army. He didn’t break any law and he didn’t displace anybody. He lived peacefully all his life. What fault can you find in his actions?

My maternal grandfather was born in Iraq. He was happy to live there and didn’t want to move to Palestine/Israel until the conditions for Jews in Iraq have deteriorated so much that he was forced to leave with his family in 1952 after signing a contract with the Iraqi authorities that he forfeits all his property and his Iraqi citizenship. He found refuge in Israel. He didn’t break any law and he didn’t displace anybody. He lived peacefully all his life. What fault can you find in his actions?
Those stories add up to the 7 million strong population that we have today in Israel. Of course this doesn’t at all detract from the wrong-doing of some people, most notably the political and military leadership.

Norman, Off the Wall,

On the question of “Arabism”, and whether it can encompass Jews, Armenians, Assyrians etc. I’m not sure at all that I would agree that labeling all of us “Arabs” is the recipe for success. What does it really mean? We are not all Muslims. We do not all wish to have Arabic as our first language. We are definitely not from the Arabian Peninsula or look up to that region as a cultural reference point. So what significance does this word has to you?

In my dream of a secular state in the Levant I do not see it labeled as “Arab”. I always wonder whether the Assyrians of Maalula consider themselves Arab. If yes then in what way? And if not, then does the renewed support for their culture signify a willingness to acknowledge a more “Syriac” than “Arabic” Syria?

October 5th, 2008, 8:59 am


Shai said:


When I read your comments (like OTW’s and some others’ here), I really do wish more of us Jews and Arabs were like you. On a purely selfish “national-level”, it is a shame you’re now in the U.S. and not here. Then again, perhaps you can better serve our long term goals sitting quietly somewhere, having clarity of mind, perspective, and the ability to reach hearts and minds more effectively than you might have over here. It brings me the utmost pride to see and hear fellow Israelis such as yourself, please know that.

As for the issue of an agreement not being followed by real peace, I believe the actual hurdle was not related to the direct interrelationships between the signing parties, as it was to the understandable lack of acceptance by the Arab side of Israel’s continued occupation of the Palestinian territories, and its consequential suffering brought upon the Palestinian people. Had Israel withdrawn to the 1967 lines in 1979 (for instance), Israelis and Egyptians would have been enjoying real peace for nearly thirty years now (God, how much time has passed!). The problem, unfortunately, lies more with us than with the Egyptian or Jordanian people. But you’re right, the same should be expected of any peace “agreement”, be it with Syria, Lebanon, or Kuwait. Real peace cannot take place while the Palestinians are still suffering.

October 5th, 2008, 9:36 am


why-discuss said:

Rumayl, I really appreciated your analysis and views but disagree on you rejection of the so-called arabism
On the question of “Arabism”, and whether it can encompass Jews, Armenians, Assyrians etc. I’m not sure at all that I would agree that labeling all of us “Arabs” is the recipe for success. What does it really mean? We are not all Muslims. We do not all wish to have Arabic as our first language.

Arab language is common to ALL arab countries, assyrians, armenians, kurds included ( many are ministers in arab countries). History and culture is common, music, poetry etc… Most have passed in the ottoman’s hands, in the european colonialist’s hands, most object vehemently to the 50 years injustice made to palestinians.
I doubt Israel has anything in common with that. Very few israelis speak arabic, most were living in colonialist europe, they all suffered of anti-semitism ( the arabs did not) and few object to the palestinians dreadful fate. Their history and culture is totally different coming from a mix of jewish/european backgrounds.

What makes an arab arab is not his religion or his name, it is the sum of history, culture, perception, traditions and this excludes clearly Israel whose population have ignorance, often despise for anything arab and generally prefer to identify to US and western culture, looking at arab traditions ( food, music etc) as exotic, the same way germans tourists see greek or turkish cultures.
Until I see a conscious effort to became part of the region’s culture, I’ll still perceive Israel as a foreign entity in the arab speaking region.

October 5th, 2008, 1:33 pm


Qifa Nabki said:

What makes an arab arab is not his religion or his name, it is the sum of history, culture, perception, traditions…

And the eyebrows. Don’t forget the eyebrows.

October 5th, 2008, 2:48 pm


norman said:

Rumyal,WD, Shai, OTW , QN

We are all Arabs because we live in the Arab land and if you want to back in History , Abraham came from Arabia and led the Hebrews to Palestine ,and that is why i consider the Hebrews as Arabs like the Assyrians ,the Ara means and the Phoenicians , these people are more Arab than the Germans , Italians Syrians Jews or Mexicans are Americans,

The only reason that the Jews do not speak Arabic as main language is because the left the area and were not there during the Islamic migration.

It is time for a united states of Arabia like the United states of America with similar laws.

October 5th, 2008, 2:59 pm


Qifa Nabki said:

Ammo Norman,

I agree.

But don’t forget the eyebrows.

October 5th, 2008, 3:03 pm


why-discuss said:


Eyebrows? What about the nose even though now with plastic surgery sweeping the regions, one cant tell the difference between Rachel’s or Fatma’s or Georgette’s nose and Nicole Kidman’s?

October 5th, 2008, 3:26 pm


Qifa Nabki said:


Now you’re talking. What is history, culture, poetry, music, etc. compared to the honkers and caterpillars we share in common?


By the way, I keep waiting for the “security word” in the picture to say Beirut. Alex, I can’t believe you didn’t slip a couple Lebanese towns in there just to annoy me. You’re slipping, ya zalameh.

October 5th, 2008, 4:07 pm


Off the Wall said:

I was referring to a message that is now lost to oblivion in cyberspace in which I mistakingly signed your name instead of mine. It seems that an automated protection, (good job Alex et. al.) compared the email with the name and sent it through and electronic bridge to no where. That was a comment about Arabism, I will try to recreate it later, but the gist of it was that I liked, to a degree, your notion of an inclusive Arabism, but I also pointed that it was not the way Pan Arabists have viewed ethnic minorities in many Arab countries. Rumyal has a good point on the subject. In summary, I believe more in a secular state that is brave enough to recognize and embrace its multi-ethnic heritage. For a while, Arabism was used as means to bypass or ignore the ethnic heritage of minorities, and occasionally to suppress that heritage. My comment gave a couple of examples of things that were not as good, but are now improving such as the case for the Berbers in Algeria during the re-arabization of the country after independence.


Arab language is common mainly because it is the official language in the Arab countries and because for any minority, speaking the “dominant” language is an important part of survival and of the ability to co-exist. This is in addition to the fact that it is the language of the dominant religion. I like the notion of Arabism being the sum of history, culture perception, and tradition. But that does not negate that within this sum, there are branches that have their distinct features, and those must be allowed/encouraged to maintain their distinction if they so chose. I went through 17 years of education in Syria, and throughout these years, I do not recall a single piece of Krudish, Assyrian, Hebrew, or Armenian poetry being taught as part of our literature classes. Granted, many of the notable modern Kurdish poets in the region were fierce nationalists, but that does not negate the value of their poetry as a part of Syria’s wider cultural heritage.

One question I have been asking myself lately, is how much common heritage, system of belief, and I would now add perception, do I share with the Gengaweed in Sudan, my answer has always been an easy “wala shi” “zilch” “none”, and “nada”.


Thanks for the “family tree” story. These stories and the way you told them are important for all of us to read here, they tell us a side that many of us have not been told before, a side that allows us to recognize and strengthen our bond in humanity and hope for future.

Your analysis of the European tilt of Israel is rather interesting. Do Sephardie Jews maintain connection with Arabic language, or is pretty much lost by the second generation?

I learned about the Arabic movie nights from an Israeli colleague of mine whose mother is originally from Alexandria. She told me how important these movie nights were for her mom as she would get herself ready for these movies with a box of Kleenex and some snack.
It would take time for the notion of a “Syriac” levant to sink in. Syria has been competing with Egypt for the position as the “a beating heart” of Arabism for a long time. Syrian Arabs, including occasionally myself, view Syria as the sole remaining Arab country who continues to guard the interest of our Arab brethrens by resisting the American and official Israeli plans for a divided, concurred Arab world. But both rational and romantic thinking require that your dream, which I do share, be taken very seriously. For generations, Syrian identity has been synonymous to Arab identity, and I am not sure or even knowledgeable enough to argue that ethnic minorities adopt the Arab identity as means to demonstrate loyalty, or due to real conviction. In recent years, there has been a rising acknowledgement of the Syrian identity, not in the fascist sense, but more in the uniqueness of our mixture. A case in point is the efforts by the Syrian Ambassador to the US to establish ties with the Large Syrian Jewish community in Brooklyn.

I am not arguing that Syria does not have an Arab identity, for this is rather obvious, but in addition to that identity resides a rich, wonderful, multi-lingual and multi-clutural heritage that is more unifying and enriching than we can imagine. We should be aware of it, embrace it, and enjoy it.

October 5th, 2008, 4:08 pm


Rumyal said:

Much of my family has a “united eye-brow” or a “unibrow”, so we’ll be accepted based on this criteria 🙂 More serious response coming later…

October 5th, 2008, 4:30 pm


Off the Wall said:

The discussion today sent me on a couple of hours internet search and reading on the multi-cultural heritage of Syria. I found some rather interesting material. Here are some highlights

Aleppan Jews who immigrated to the US had some problems integrating with the larger Jewish community in NYC mainly because of their Arabic Language and heritage and because of their “Arabic Accented Hebrew”. In weddings, that large community still plays Arabic Songs (for the older generation) http://www.americansephardifederation.org/PDF/articles/The_Jews_of_Aleppo.pdf I also found long list of Kurdish poets, most of whom, as I indicated earlier were Kurdish nationalists. Personally, I am against secession because the areas in which Kurds now reside, are also home for many Arabs, Assyrians, Chaldeans, and Turkmans. Syria, or Iraq, or for that matter GME or UAS, if built with the laws you argue for, would definitely be more protective of all minorities a like.

I am fond of poetry, and when I argue that the Arabs, as well as the Turks and Persians, need to read Kurdish poetry, even if it was filled with separatist sentiment, I am making an argument for improving our understanding of the fourth or fifth largest ethnic group in the ME, which lives in four different countries. May be better understanding would help get us closer.


I tried using Beirut as a code word, and I lost my post 🙂

October 5th, 2008, 4:42 pm


Off the Wall said:

Dear Norman

I may write longer paragraphs, but yours are always wiser.

I was talking about comment 58, which may look a little Absurd (Norman arguing with Dear Norman). Sorry for that.

October 5th, 2008, 6:07 pm


EHSANI2 said:

According to Israel Radio, US officials claim that the US sanctions against Syria will be lifted in the near term.

If the report is true, the young lion of Damascus can claim a massive win in his 8-year old duel with this White House.

The regional powers will take notice of this development fairly soon to be sure.

Damascus stood to the world’s superpower and won. No one can take this away from the young Syrian leader.

Though the signs have been there for a while, the lifting of these sanctions will constitute the final chapter of the attempt to isolate Syria.

October 5th, 2008, 6:29 pm


norman said:


First , thank for all the nice things you say about me , I have the same feeling about you even if i do not say it enough,

I think minority languages were not allowed because these minorities did not have another state but Syria and Syria was worry about separatism,

I think that the US had similar problem when the melting pot was the slogan during the sixties and seventies , then became a multi culture country ,

In the US there are many people who speak only Spanish but still consider themselves American , the people of the Arab land can do the same.

October 6th, 2008, 12:27 am


shibl said:

Thanks OTW,

If you have any ideas or good Palin one-liners don’t hesitate to send them over and will incorporate in the site.

October 6th, 2008, 5:37 am


Rumyal said:


Thanks, you’re kind again 🙂 There’s a very good chance we’ll return to Israel within a few years. I aspire to not leave the clarity at the gate when we do return 🙂

I agree of course about the centrality of the Palestinians’ suffering to the entire problem.

October 6th, 2008, 7:11 am


Rumyal said:


I agree with what you say about the Israelis not being a part of the Arab world in terms of culture, shared historical experiences and inability to develop empathy with the Palestinians, this is exactly the point I was trying to make about the vicious cycle of animosity between Israelis and Arabs. I think some of it is reversible/changeable, but I agree this is a long shot. Time will tell… For what it’s worth, the society in Israel is very dynamic and each generation has the potential to reinvent itself, adopt new ideas and inclinations, and there is a genuine desire to be accepted among the nations, even if people don’t have the first clue about how to achieve acceptance.

I will add more about Arabism in a seperate comment addressed to you, OTW and Norman.

October 6th, 2008, 7:36 am


Rumyal said:

Norman, Why Discuss, Off the Wall and Qifa Nabqi,

I know I may be hitting a sensitive nerve but I don’t think that the notion of a “United States of Arabia” will be more successful than a “United State of the Levant” or maybe even a “United States of the Middle East”. The point is that in my opinion Arabic identity is more coercive than you may be willing to admit. Yes, the Arabic language will remain the lingua franca of the region. Arabic culture will continue to be cherished by all, non-Arabs as well, but there will be many (millions) of people in the region who, if given the choice, will choose not to identify themselves as Arabs.

Norman, the story of Abraham tells us of an individual not from Arabia but from Mesopotamia. This is not a coincidence—it’s an allegory about the kinship between the north Semitic peoples. Hebrews, Assyrians, Phoenicians, Canaanites were all *north* Semitic people with languages that were closely related. Further apart were the Nubians, Arabians, Yemenites, Ethiopians etc. who were *south* Semitic people with languages closer to Arabic. I visited some sites for the teaching of modern Assyrian. The alphabet and the vocabulary is very close to Hebrew, much more than Arabic is.

The Turks, Kurds, Armenian and Persian are all non-Semitic people, they are all Hindu-European. The Arabic grammar book I’m trying to read now makes the very interesting observation that as a result of the Arab conquest, all countries which had a Semitic language adopted Arabic as their main language (that would include Syria, Palestine, Egypt) whereas those that had non-Semitic languages resisted Arabic. The Kurds, Armenians and all the other non-Semitic minorities do not speak Arabic as their main language in their independent regions in northern Iraq, Turkey and Armenia. They are in general very loyal citizens of Arab countries, but being Arab is not core to their identity. The Assyrians and Chaldean are very cautious about how they portray themselves but again where they ever given a true choice to select a non-Arabic identity? The same held true for the Jewish population in Arab countries, and they have all preferred to largely move out of the region, to countries with greater degrees of personal and communal freedoms, such as the US.

In essence, the Arab conquest was very successful in spreading Arabic as a language and Islam as a religion but alas what can be done about it, not everybody buys the gospel in its entirety, even if large swaths are accepted by everybody. So what can be done about it, assuming you don’t want to employ coercion? Why is it actually so important that the area is defined as Arab land? Why do we have to tell people what their identity needs to be? I just came back from LA where I saw an exhibition about the Italian immigrants and their contribution to the city. On display was a declaration of loyalty of a new immigrant from 1909. This was the substantive part of it:

“I am not an anarchist; I am not a polygamist not a believer in the practice of polygamy; and it is my intention in good faith to become a citizen of the United States of America and to permanently reside therein; SO HELP ME GOD.”

Plain and simple. I think that if we want a free ME, it needs to have a very low and inclusive ommon denominator. You think that Arabism can serve this purpose; I think it is too contentious.

In light of the recent discussion on the MB I understand how important it is at the moment to hold on to Arabism as a unifying force. The choice is either (a) “We’re all Arabs and therefore we can live peacefully together” or (b) “I’m Alawite and you’re Sunni, so we can’t possibly be living peacefully together”. So in all likelihood the juncture where we can safely get rid of our labels will take generations to materialize itself. In practical terms, Israel is very unlikely to become a Canton in an Arab federation. This just means that such federation will not exist, or will be limited to just Palestine and Israel initially, which is a good start, if we could only make it happen…

OK, enough with the impractical blabber for now.

October 6th, 2008, 8:48 am


Rumyal said:

Off the Wall,

I pretty much agree with everything you said in post #74, very well put, as always.

To answer your question: “Do Sephardie Jews maintain connection with Arabic language, or is pretty much lost by the second generation?”

Unfortunately, Arabic knowledge did get lost with the second generation, third generation max. I learned Arabic at school, not at home. This is true however for all origin languages. It was really unfashionable to speak anything but Hebrew until the Russian immigration of the 90’s, so parents did not teach their children their original languages. With the Russian immigration, we’re seeing a much more self-aware community that is not at all willing to give up the Russian heritage.

October 6th, 2008, 9:09 am


Qifa Nabki said:


I love your commentary in #83. I was just clowning around with the eyebrow business. I actually agree with you that Arabism is an impractical common denominator. Nothing has united the Arab world throughout its entire history, politically speaking, but force and autocracy.

This doesn’t mean that the current borders are the best ones nor that they are here to stay. Certain neighbors may well share dialects, customs, etc. and perhaps they ‘belong together’, under the right conditions. But I do think that too much divides us at this point to imagine that there is any kind of natural drift towards unification, on the regional level.

October 6th, 2008, 10:56 am


Off the Wall said:


As usual, your comment #83 is more than excellent. It is true and logical. I have to agree 100% with its historical underpinning and its conclusions. I think the most illuminating part of the comment was your argument about the the “citizenship” threshold. I like that very much.

I believe that the issue of MB is being resolved, at least in Syria, more using the Syrian identity than using the Arab identity. Some are trying to resolve it with an Islamic Unity approach, but given the current historical conditions, and the extreme position on religious issues that some take, an Islamic identity will only add fuel to a once extinguished fire.

I occasionally wonder whether the emphasis on socialism or Arab Unity caused the failure of post-independence reform movements in secular countries (i.e., Syria, Egypt, Algeria, Yemen (for a while)) or was it the butchered socialism. These movements failed to produce the foundation for modern states. No one can minimize the role of the regional conflict in that failure, but if one looks hard, the conflict is only one of the externalities but it is not necessary nor sufficient inherent condition.

I too agree that a unified middle east is much more viable than a United Arab States. I is also more inclusive and less likely to have an Arab ethnocentric citizenship threshold.


I agree that there is much that divide us on regional level at the moment. But if we have a sufficient period of stability, the unifying factors will re-emerge, and most likely they will have much to do about economy, energy, and water.

To a large extent, a vision of a unified state is far in the future, but a vision of a union of independent states (e.g., EU) is more likely and could be closer than we think. Even in Europe, there are issues that need to be resolved. The recent Bahraini FM call for a regional council is being rediculed by many and unfortunately, in the heat of passion, not many are giving it the attention it deserves. I am not claiming that his is a visionary view, but I do recall Bu-Rgaibeh of Tunisia, long time ago, and the price we all paid not heading his advise.

October 6th, 2008, 3:10 pm


why-discuss said:

Rumyal, QN, OTW

You are saying that the “arab” identity is inadequate and unsufficient to cater for the Kurds, the jews, the armenians, the assyrians cultural aspirationsetc.. Why is that?
Why is the american or british or french identity sufficient to cater for Scots, Wales, Jews, Arabs, indians etc.. who bear the nationality but who speak other languages than the dominant one and have different traditions. They still follow the history and traditions of the ‘dominant’ power. Do we see indian poets taught in UK schools? or arab poets taught in french school?
The dominant culture imposes its choices and the others just follow and bring some contribution to its enrichment but do not threaten it.
The USA have been created by religious people and has evolve, still keeeping strong religious connotations.. So why excluding arabism? because it has a religious connotation? Isn’t it the dominant power nowadays in the region? Otherwise who is?
My belief is that arabism is there to stay, maybe as abstract as the notion of european, but it will not be replaced by self centered nationalisms as in Turkey. This self centrism will not help anyone, in the contrary it may prevent the rebirth of the arab culture with the contribution of kurds, armenians, assyrians.

October 6th, 2008, 11:38 pm


Jad said:

Your comments are great but it happens that the answer of your observation regarding Arabism and why people here think that it doesn’t fit everybody of the minority that lives in Syria is quite simple;
It’s POWER and PRIDE; that the country should be powerful enough to protect its citizens and the citizens are proud enough to let their race, religion and ethnic background at the back and not in front of their country of residency.
I believe this is the problem Syria has, it has the greatest potential in the Middle East to be a pioneer of melting all those different background in the Syrian-Arab citizenship but it doesn’t have enough will, power and wealth to go through it and part of the blame is on the Syrian themselves, we are somehow too proud of giving our citizenship to others.

October 7th, 2008, 12:25 am


EHSANI2 said:


People may choose to disagree with your note on Arabism above. I think that few can argue that it is a very intelligent and well thought out suggestion. I happened to believe that the word Arab is too broad of an umbrella to unite the people of the region. It is no wonder that efforts to unify under this banner have failed thus far. Is a Syrian Arab necessarily closer to a Qatari or Saudi Arab than he is to an Armenian, Kurdish or (in the older days) to a Jewish Syrian? I am not so sure.

October 7th, 2008, 1:04 am


why-discuss said:


Are you suggesting to wipe out the common history of the people in this region ( the islamic era, the ottomans, the arab culture, architecture, litterature, cinema etc..) and start from scratch under the pretext that it did not work and does not include alien cultures like the one of present Israel?
Let Arab governments give just a little more attention to developing and encouraging culture instead of focusing on politics and money then you will see the revival of arab culture and pride in the arab identity. The post colonialism arab world has been pleagued by inept leaders brought by the colonial powers or as a reactions to them just to do what you are suggesting: break the arab unity and create mini center of powers competing with each other and ultimately ruled by the most intellectually, homogeneous and industrially powerful one in the region.. and they have succeeded until now, but future could be different. They also have succeeded to convince many people that it is the ‘right’ way!

October 7th, 2008, 1:39 am


norman said:


I agree with you ,
there is more to unite the people of the Mideast than the people in the US , The EU , China or India ,

It is time for the people of the Mideast and north Africa to have a country that can influence the world ,


I am considered Aramaic , I still consider myself an Arab because I am from Syria which is an Arab country ,and I have the same rights and obligation that any other Syrian has , OK not become president, but that is OK and will change ,


The Syrian Arab is closer to the family who lives next door to him no matter what religion or ethnicity it belongs to.

October 7th, 2008, 2:16 am


EHSANI2 said:


I don’t think that I said what you accused me of saying.

October 7th, 2008, 3:24 am


why-discuss said:


“I happened to believe that the word Arab is too broad of an umbrella to unite the people of the region. It is no wonder that efforts to unify under this banner have failed thus far.”

please clarify this as I interpret it as a suggestion to have another umbrella than the Arab one as promoted convincingly to some by Rumyal.
Rumyal is an Israeli and as such is bound to reject the “Arab” word because Israelis are unique, superior and too powerful to get under the “arab” umbrella that they despise and that is a ‘failure’ anyway in your words…
Whether Rumyal wants it or not, Arabs are totally different from Israelis, they have almost nothing in common, neither language, nor culture, nor history. A syrian arab or kurd or assyrian has much more in common with a qatari than with a jewish settler!

October 7th, 2008, 5:03 am


Rumyal said:


I’m not sure the Arab label will not work. It may in the fullest of time. Some of my questions in my earlier posts may seem rhetorical, but they weren’t. I really want to know more about what it means for folks here to identify themselves as Arabs (I now know it’s all about the eyebrows…) I also want to know whether it’s a prerequisite to integration in your world, that I should need to be an Arab. Nobody questions the dominance of the Arabic culture in the region, but does it have to be homogenously Arab for you to feel that the Jewish mass in Palestine is not a sore in your eye? Suppose this population was much more open and receptive to the Arabic culture and that it really practiced full equality with non-Jewish citizens. But also assume that it retained Hebrew as the first language, TV in Hebrew, Jewish official holidays etc. Is it good enough or would it still be unwelcome?

October 7th, 2008, 6:41 am


why-discuss said:


I wrote a long message adressed to Ehsani that for some reasons was not posted. I understand very well your attempts to conciliate the jewish entity to the arab entity.
Suppose this population was much more open and receptive to the Arabic culture and that it really practiced full equality with non-Jewish citizens.

This is one of the sticking point. While armenians, assyrians, Kurds and other ethnicities have integrated themselves in the ‘arab’ umbrella despite some resistances, Israelis consider themselves too superior, too powerful to accept the arab umbrella. As their history is based on a long influence and persecution in the Christian western cultures( except for sepharades) and more recently a strong antagonism to arabs, I have the feeling they consider themselves as more ‘advanced’ and ‘civilized’ than the arab Islam based culture. I agree that the arab culture has been suffering from neglect but is still alive and have a potential to grow. Therefore I doubt your supposition will work. Israel naturally cultivates and need a sense of superiority toward arabs.
Renouncing to that attitude is almost impossible as it is part of the psyche of Israelis that has been built in centuries as a natural reaction to fear and persecution.
This is the key issue that may prevent what you are hoping for.

As I mentionned it before, Israel is perceived by many as a huge Club Med, totally estranged to the region, with different culture, different history, different language and different set of values with almost nothing in common. Trying to merge it harmoniously to a region that is itself in cultural and political turmoils is a huge challenge that may require a long long time.

October 7th, 2008, 12:49 pm


norman said:


Being an Arab for me like being an American , I am an American because I live in the United states Of American , and an Arab should include everybody who lives in the Mideast and north Africa , It is inclusive to everybody ,everybody can eat what he wants and can have a wedding the way he wants and should have the same laws as in the US , so you can have different TV stations with different Languages , and you do not have to learn Arabic if you do not want , but if you want to use the vast market of more than 300 million , you probably should,

in summery , just have the same laws as in the US , they are making everybody in the US happy and can make everybody in the Mideast happy too,
you might have some resistance but if people happy financially they would not care .

About the eyebrow , I know now why my mother’s Jewish friend kept saying to my mom that I am Jewish.

I thought it was the nose!.

October 7th, 2008, 1:08 pm


Rumyal said:


Thanks for your answer. I’m painfully aware of the xenophobic feelings in Israel. As you mention, it is in part an evolutionary response to persecution and rejection. There are also areas where Israel has done remarkably well, better than its neighbors (and yes maybe sometimes at the expense of its neighbors). At the same time this economic disparity is feeding the already existing animosity towards the Israelis, which in turn intensifies the xenophobic feelings in Israelis, in a vicious cycle… As I said it’s a long shot whether it can be resolved peacefully but I don’t have doubt in my mind what can be done to help: talk, talk, talk and get to know the other side. We connect remarkably well on a personal level.

For example, this picture of Israel of as a huge Club Med that is so different from let’s say Lebanon is not true. I suspect the streets of Haifa and Tel Aviv and the people you’re going to see there are more similar to the ones you’ll see in Beirut, than the ones you’d see in Dubai. There is no need to exaggerate the differences where they don’t truly exist.

(Just to illustrate here’s a link to a real-estate site in Israel that apparently took pictures of *all* residential houses in some neighborhoods of Haifa and other cities, this is the street I used to live in up till I moved to the US 8 years ago. Is it a huge Club Med? http://www.zoomap.co.il/search.asp?citiesText=%D7%97%D7%99%D7%A4%D7%94&streetsText=%D7%93%D7%95%D7%93+%D7%A4%D7%99%D7%A0%D7%A1%D7%A7%D7%99 This is a typical mid-income street in a big Israeli city)

October 7th, 2008, 4:08 pm


norman said:

I agree ,

The difference between Jews and non Jews in the Mideast much less than people think , we are in the US closer to our Jewish friends a lot more than to the gentiles , yes that was not the case when i first came to the US but during my time in the US i was helped more by Jews than any other group .they always knew where i came from.

There is more to unite us than divide us,

October 7th, 2008, 4:36 pm


norman said:

This what makes the Syrian and Lebanese angry with Israel,

Lebanon to sue Israel for marketing hummus as its ownLebanese says Israel claimed ownership of traditional dishes such as falafel and tabboulehJenny Percival and agencies guardian.co.uk, Tuesday October 07 2008 14:14 BST Article historyA new war has broken out between Lebanon and Israel – but this time it is over chickpeas and fava beans rather than guns and territory.

A Lebanese official says Lebanon is preparing to file an international lawsuit against Israel for claiming ownership of traditional dishes it believes are originally Lebanese.

The president of the Lebanese Industrialists\’ Association, Fadi Abboud, accuses Israel of \”stealing\” Lebanon\’s cuisine by marketing dishes such as hummus as its own.

He says that while Lebanon is partly to blame because it has never registered its main food trademarks, Israel\’s adoption of these dishes causes Lebanon to lose millions of dollars in trade.

Reports in the Arabic media say Abboud is also concerned about Israel\’s marketing of not just of hummus but falafel and tabbouleh.

Abboud said the lawsuit would be based on the 2002 case in which Greece won a ruling that only its cheese can be called Feta.

Hummus, falafel and tabbouleh are common across the Middle East and attempts to identify their origins are complicated. One legend says that hummus was first prepared in the 12th century by Saladin, Sultan of Egypt and Syria.

The Egyptians are often credited with inventing falafel, while tabbouleh is said to be a product of Ottoman Syria which includes the modern states of Syria, Lebanon, Palestine and Jordan.
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Kibbee Recipes

October 7th, 2008, 5:14 pm


why-discuss said:


Thanks for your honest reply.
You are right to mention the disparity due to the economical situations. It is certainly an important factor in the negative perception arabs have of Israel. For arabs, Israel lives at the expenses of the rich US jewish diaspora and the US governement annual gifts of billions of dollars. When we know that the largest industry of Israel is weapons production, it does not give a very positive image of how Israel is making its money and does not instillate much admiration or respect.
I mentionned several times that Israel should show its contribution to the areas by helping palestinians develop their agriculture, flower industry etc.. But Israel is perceived as self concerned and not ready to share its expertise in useful areas. If only Israel gets involved in one project with an arab country or even better in Palestine occupied lands and well publicized, that could show that they are more than war mongers and weapon producers, and it may change the perception. Unfortunately I don’t see that. I see a country living in economical autism towards its neighbours and more interested in making money by using their expertise to the West and not to their direct neighbours.
By the way, I mentionned ClubMed because what we see of Israel in the news are mostly this “cute california” settlers villages in total contrast with the miserable state of the housing in the West bank and in Gaza. In addition as these villages have security guarded doors, they do look like Club Med villages for rich tourists seeking sun in poor countries.
In fact an upper middle class street in Amman or Beirut may look like the photos you showed. ( people in Beirut live mostly in appartments.. the country is too small)
I wish we could see more of a human Israel, especially that the jews have produced most of the extraordinary men and women in culture, arts and humanism in the history of the world. From Israel we do not see many men or women of that stature, we unfortunately see mostly hysterical war mongers and corrupted leaders.
I believe Jews are having a problem with Israel as a nation, as instead of letting Jews bloom in a “safe” environment, it seems to have made them loose their way and throw them in doubts about what they are and when they are going. That is my perception from the anxiety, the gloomy faces, the confusion disguised in agressivity I see in Israelis in the media. I may be totally wrong.

October 8th, 2008, 3:37 am


Rumyal said:


Thanks for you support. If your model is that of the US, then I still don’t know if it will be successful or not (maybe too liberal for our traditional peoples??) but I’d be glad and proud to be part of such an experiment, whatever it’s called, as long as it offers extensive personal and communal freedoms.

October 8th, 2008, 6:28 am


norman said:


I do not know of any Syrian between the age of 20 to 40 who would not prefer to live in the US than in KSA or Pakistan,.

October 8th, 2008, 12:59 pm


Rumyal said:


You said in your post #93 (that for some reason got stuck for a while):

Rumyal is an Israeli and as such is bound to reject the “Arab” word because Israelis are unique, superior and too powerful to get under the “arab” umbrella that they despise…

Many Israelis are indeed bound to feel this way. But I don’t. I don’t feel superior, I don’t feel too powerful (need to do more Judo :-)) and to be completely honest I also don’t feel extremely Jewish or Israeli. As Theodore Sturgeon said “90% of everything is crap”, and in my opinion this applies recursively, so I’m careful not to buy wholesale into anything. Whenever people tell me I’m “bound” to do something or believe something I feel compelled to break the bonds. I do feel unique, and I believe most people are unique and I cherish that. I think I made my *personal* positions abundantly clear before, so there is no need to distort and lump me together with some mean average over 6.5 million people, please.

With respect to your post #100, I pretty much agree with everything you said, with just a few clarifications.

The fact that Israel has stifled grass root economic growth and political leadership in the occupied territories is nothing short of a crime and we all foot the bill. (But here are some encouraging news http://www.nytimes.com/2008/09/12/world/middleeast/12jenin.html?pagewanted=1&8dpc&_r=1. I know, too little too late…) At the same time, doing business with Arab countries has been all but impossible. The state cannot really sponsor such activities, it must come from the private sector, unless we are talking about oil purchase or things of that scale. It took decades to sign a natural gas supply deal with Egypt and I think it’s still stuck somewhere. Both sides were very suspicious of each other and you can expect Israel to always hedge its dependence on Egyptian gas as long as there is no normalization. On the private sector, business is conditioned on manageable risks and the free flow of money, goods and people. None of this has been possible with Jordan and Egypt, not to mention other Arab countries, and the private sector just goes elsewhere.

I agree with your point about the settlers. You should know that a very large segment of Israeli society is not happy at all with what they’re doing and how they’re living but the state is unfortunately in a state of paralysis.

The houses I showed you are also apartment houses. Typically around 100 sq meters, about 6 units per building, with 2 or 3 bedrooms. These are not villas (I wish!) By the way a few streets south of there is an Ahmedi neighborhood, called Kababir and we all live together in what I would call “low-key harmony”. Kababir has new development with stunning views of the sea. So by no means is this a Jewish-only Club Med.

The challenges you brought to me in this post are all real and relevant but at the same time they are not insurmountable. This encourages me. Thank you.

October 8th, 2008, 2:52 pm


Off the Wall said:

NORMAN, WD, and Rumyal
I only wish there is a way to publicize our last exchange. I think it is rather wonderful. We started disagreeing and arguing about a highly sensitive issue. And while we may not have resolved the entire issue, we have found so much common ground. When I read WD last comment, which is honest, and straightforward, and Rumyal and Norman’s compassionate responses to each others, I feel proud of all of us. No one played a spoiler, and no one had any interest but in honest and open discussion.

WD sincere question I wish we could see more of a human Israel made my day. It goes both ways. I also wish that Israelis see more of human us (Arabs). Of course, this wonderful question comment came after an honest listing of facts that are behind much of the Arab perception of Israel. But I think our discussion here is opening doors for many to recognize that our “neighborhood does not have to be tough” and goes long way to counter the misguided and untrue argument that Arabs and Jews have been fighting for millennia. I find both assertions to be racist and anti-Semitic thrown at us as hopeless bunch with no chance of being “civilized”

Let us prove them wrong.

Thank you Norman, thank you WD and thank you Rumyal.

October 8th, 2008, 3:09 pm


Rumyal said:

(A previous version of this comment was either blocked or lost…)

Off the Wall, Norman, Why-Discuss,

Yep, that’s very encouraging. I want to thank everybody too, especially WD that hasn’t lost his patience with me despite his positions. It’s much easier to have civilized discussions when you agree, much more challanging when you have differences.


With respect your post #100, I pretty much agree with everything you said, with just a few clarifications.

The fact that Israel has stifled grass root economic growth and political leadership in the occupied territories is nothing short of a crime and we all foot the bill. (But here are some encouraging news http://www.nytimes.com/2008/09/12/world/middleeast/12jenin.html?pagewanted=1&8dpc&_r=1. I know, too little too late…) At the same time, doing business with Arab countries has been all but impossible. The state cannot really sponsor such activities, it must come from the private sector, unless we are talking about oil purchase or things of that scale. It took decades to sign a natural gas supply deal with Egypt and I think it’s still stuck somewhere. Both sides were very suspicious of each other and you can expect Israel to always hedge its dependence on Egyptian gas as long as there is no normalization. On the private sector, business is conditioned on manageable risks and the free flow of money, goods and people. None of this has been possible with Jordan and Egypt, not to mention other Arab countries, and the private sector just goes elsewhere.

I agree with your point about the settlers. You should know that a very large segment of Israeli society is not happy at all with what they’re doing and how they’re living but the state is unfortunately in a state of paralysis. Many settlers too, that went to West Bank specifically for the cheap real-estate, are looking for an “out”, and they will get one from the government (as did those who lived in Gaza). The ones you really have quarel with are those crazies religious fanatics living in mobile homes on hill-tops without anybody’s persmission. Those would be the ones that will require more force and persistence to move.

The houses I showed you in Haifa are also apartment houses. I think you thought they were private houses. They’re typically around 100 sq meters, about 6 units per building, with 2 or 3 bedrooms. By the way a few streets south of there is an Ahmedi neighborhood, called Kababir and we all live together in what I would call “low-key harmony”. Kababir has new development with stunning views of the sea. So by no means is this a Jewish-only ClubMed.

The challenges you brought up in this post are all real and relevant but at the same time not insurmountable. This encourages me. Thank you.

October 9th, 2008, 3:10 am


why-discuss said:


Thanks so much for your patience with me because sometimes I can be blunt and i can hurt. I do get mad seeing the waste in lives and energy in the regions trying to solve the historical miscalculations imposed on us. I also reject any country in the region feeling superior to the others and wanting to impose its view. As such, I have no sympathy for KSA. Sunni Saudis were never persecuted (contrary to Shia) and their passive-aggressivity in pouring money to create ‘moslem charities’ that end up by becoming nests of wahhabi proselytism and terrorists is just despicable. They believe that their money and their beliefs make them superior to other arab countries.
On the other hand Jews who were persecuted in history by christians europeans could not have better friends than arabs. The presence of the jews in Egypt, Syria, Morocco etc.. became a problem only after the creation of Israel. Until that time, they were safe and did not suffer any ostracism during the hell years 1939-1946 when other jews in Europe were killed in millions.
Yet , the mere creation of Israel by European Jews, fleeing hatred, and carrying their fear and suspicion of non-jews have created a situation where their best potential allies, the arabs, became their worst enemy.
How to turn the wheel?
I think israelis should remember why europe persecuted them and why arabs became their ennemies. One was because of many centuries of deep-rooted christian anti-semitism, still highly present in Europe and the other was because the lands of the arabs were stolen only 60 years ago and arabs suffered injustice. Big difference! If Israel gives back the land and show cooperation in compensations, arabs won’t have a reason to remain enemies. They may not become magically best friend, but there is no inherent atavistic hatred towards Jews and with time, they could develop strong relationships as they did when the jews lived in arab countries in harmony before Israel’ birth.
While if a jew goes back to Europe, he/she could feel under the politically correctness, many centuries rooted christian atavism against Jews still present.
Arabs could become jews best allies in the region…

October 9th, 2008, 9:23 pm


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