“Syrian Economy in Downturn,” by Ehsani

Syrian Economy in Downturn
by Ehsani 2
April 1, 2008 for Syria Comment

According to a number of Syrian industrialists that I have spoken to lately, business conditions seem to have deteriorated markedly as of late. 

Set below are some of the explanations that were offered to explain the reasons why:

1-      Iraqi authorities have made it very difficult for Syrian trucks to transport goods from Syria and back.

2-      Trade with Lebanon and Jordan has suffered a setback as well

3-      Increased import and other duties on Syrian importers.

4-      General lack of liquidity in the economy.

5-      The recent slide in the dollar and its impact on trade.

The domestic purchasing power was never adequate to satisfy the industrial production capacity. Syrian industrialists have long relied on increasing demand from neighboring countries.  Clearly, the drop in demand from Iraq has had a noticeable negative impact on sales of various Syrian producers.  Due to the tightening fiscal situation, the finance ministry has recently increased the fees on the import of raw materials as well as finished imported goods. Such fees now make up almost 30% of the total value of such imports. Given that Syrian merchants look to turn their capital close to three times per annum, this would mean that after one year’s worth of business, fees will equal total capital committed.  Such fees would require a substantial profit margin to make up for the taxes levied.  The slide in the value of the US dollar and the recent gyrations in the value of the Euro have added to the risks involved with such imports.  Passing on the higher costs to the already stretched domestic consumers has become a real challenge. The response of the business community has been to wait and see in the hope that conditions would improve. Nevertheless, this morning, two large manufacturers reported that they have no choice but to lay off a number of their employees. Having seen production lower for a number of months now, they have finally decided to reduce their payroll count.

On another note, the launch of the Syria stock market is now officially postponed for another eight months.  Supposedly, it is due to the lack of finding a supplier of the software system that would operate the exchange. This of course was the same excuse offered a few months ago when another delay was made official. Moreover, the official in charge of the project (Mr. Imadi) has made it clear that when the market does officially start it will be for “investors” and not “speculators”. Those who buy shares on day one will not be able to sell on the same day they were purchased. Somehow, we are led to believe that if you sell 24 hours later, then you must be an “investor” and not just a “speculator”. This is total nonsense.  Today, people are only allowed to sell 24 hours after they purchase. What is to stop the authorities in charge from changing the allowed time to sell for an extra week or month if sellers seem to overwhelm the buyers at the time? This initiative has been a disaster from day one. One is hard pressed to find anything optimistic to write about on this subject matter.

The average Syrian citizen is feeling the strains of rising prices and the slow lifting of subsidies. The Prime Minister has hinted a new wave of wage increases that would add close to SYP 20 billion to the budget deficit. Fuel prices (Mazot) have raised the cost of a liter of that key commodity to SYP 50 per liter. The subsidy program dictates that it is sold to the public in the range of SYP 7. This will cost the Syrian treasury SYP 1.2 billion a day. The government seems to have decided to subsidize only 1000 liters a year to each family (supposedly 82% of the family’s consume this much per annum).  This will be impractical if not imposible to implement. The general rise in the cost of raw materials and inflation will supposedly be met with “an iron hand against anyone who dares play with the public’s economic well being”. 

Were the government to succeed in raising the salaries of the state employees, private sector employees will not be as lucky. The high national unemployment rate will continue place downward pressure on private wages as unemployed continue to underbid the wages of the employed.

In sum, the recent performance of the Syrian economy and the manufacturing sector in particular has suffered a clear deterioration. The Government is also under tremendous pressure to contain the recent hike in prices. The subsidy program will continue to put tremendous strain on the government’s ability to meet its obligations. While most observers are happy to see Emaar ‘s latest dazzling commercial real estate brochures, it is important to highlight the fact that underneath all this, the economy’s future outlook does not look so bright.

 This story in Syria-news (Arabic) is about Syrian trucks that have been held for weeks at the Iraqi border.  عشرات الشاحنات السورية محتجزة في العراق وسط ظروف إنسانية سيئة
For a contrasting interpretation of Syria's economic outlook, this story by Oxford Business Group is interesting. Notice that it does point to US port restrictions and a possible impediment to Syria becoming a major regional transport entrepot.
April 1, 2008
Having gone through a series of ups and downs over the past decade and a half, Syrian-Iraqi relations are experiencing a definite upturn of late.

In the past few years, the heaviest traffic along Syria's border with Iraq has been a human one, with more than 1.5m Iraqis seeking sanctuary over the border. However, that seems set to change, with ties between Damascus and Baghdad thawing and trade set to soar.

On March 16, Amer Hosni Lutfi, Syria's minister of economy, met with Fawzi Francois Hariri, the Iraqi minister of industry and minerals, to discuss the need to increase trade links between the two countries. Apart from agreeing to promote joint investments in the textile and agriculture sectors, the talks focused on the possibility for opening the Syrian ports of Latakia and Tartus for both Iraqi imports and as an export outlet.

Evidence of Syria's link to Iraq is the oil pipeline running from the Kirkuk fields in the north of Iraq to the Syrian port of Banias on the Mediterranean. The pipeline was put out of action in the early days of the 2003 US-led invasion and none of the bomb or corrosion damage it suffered has been repaired since.

However, on March 26, Russian energy firm Stroytransgaz announced it had signed a deal with Iraq to reactivate the pipeline, which has the capacity to carry 300,000 barrels per day (bpd).

The pipeline would do more than give Iraq another export option for its oil. If restored to full operational capacity, analysts predict transshipments would earn Syria between $1bn and $1.5bn in transit fees annually.

In mid December, Syrian Oil Minister Sufian Allaw said after a meeting with Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister Barham Ahmad Salih that the section of the pipeline running through his country had been upgraded and was ready to receive shipments, though he acknowledged that repairs to the Iraqi section could take up to two years.

The same month, Syria announced it had completed the first stage of a free trade zone covering 2.5m square metres at al-Ya'robya on its border with Iraq. According to Ahmed Abdulaziz, head of Syria's Free-Trade Zones Authority, the new facility was part of efforts to increase trade exchanges between the two neighbours.

Another development that will have a major impact on the Syrian economy in the future is Iraq's plan to open up a large natural gas field close to their joint border. In mid-March, the Iraqi oil ministry called for tenders to develop the Akkas gas field in the province of Anbar. Once operational, it is intended that some of the field's output be exported directly to Syria for domestic use, with the remainder possibly being shipped to Europe or Turkey, with Syria again a likely route for transshipment.

Another factor that may further improve Syria's trade relations with Iraq was the visit to Baghdad by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in early March. While in Baghdad, Ahmadinejad proposed to assist with the rehabilitation of the run-down Iraqi rail network, and in particular the establishing of a direct rail link connecting Iran, Iraq and Syria.

If undertaken, the project would allow the rapid movement of Syrian exports to Iran, as well as speed up the flow of imports by avoiding the circuitous route presently used through Turkey.

However, Syria's plans to become a major transit route for Iraqi exports could run into difficulties, not least of which are the ramping up of sanctions and restrictions from Washington.

In early March, the US included Syria on its Port Security Advisory List, meaning that any vessels that include a Syrian port among its last five points of docking could be subject to additional security measures by the US Coast Guard when traveling to or arriving in an American port.

"The latest move to put pressure on Syria was prompted by concerns over links between Syria and international terrorist organisations," US State Department deputy spokesman Tom Casey was reported as saying on March 7.

While not preventing shipping from using Syrian ports, the decision could serve to discourage some maritime lines from operating through Syria due to the delays the security measures could impose.

However, to date, US-imposed sanctions have proved to be more of a nuisance than a real impediment to the Syrian economy. With Syria's exports to Iraq having broken through the $1bn mark in 2006, and believed to have performed even better in 2007, Damascus sees its neighbour as a willing customer and, in time to come, a significant trade partner.

On the Israeli economy:

"The main basis for our buy stance on all of the four banks over here that we cover is because the domestic economy is still booming — fixed investment is growing, household investment is growing, and things actually on the ground here are not suffering. That said there's a big link between the Israel and U.S. economy so we have to be careful on a slowdown in the second half of the year. So far there are no real signs of a slowdown.''

Comments (221)

AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

The 30% taxes are value added taxes or just plain fees?

April 2nd, 2008, 5:08 pm


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

The problem with the stock exchange is that it is a manifestation of the idiom “put your money where your mouth is”. Following some event, it will be hard for the Asad regime to give it a positive spin if the exchange tanks 5% because of it. For example, if the Saudis say they won’t come to the summit and the exchange tanks, the Syrian spin would look much less believable to the public who would be losing money that day.

Since Asad is not stupid, I would not expect a Damascus exchange in the next few years. Exchanges have their own form of freedom of speech that Asad’s regime cannot tolerate.

April 2nd, 2008, 5:21 pm


wizart said:


5% fee to recover the Golan. 20% value added fee to sell it through initial public offering so it becomes like Solidaire. You will not be allowed to buy or sell any shares. By the way the Syrian pound has been stronger than your shekel lately as the Euro strengthens and Israel’s economy tracks the sinking U.S pretty well.

Also there must be more “crooks” per capital from Israel than from anywhere else and considering it’s a criminal state nobody should be surprized . Olmert himself is indicted with corruption charges. Check out the interpol database to find out the number of international Israeli criminals wanted by Interpol. Compare it to any other country its size and you win being number 1 hands down!

April 2nd, 2008, 6:11 pm


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

My my. The truth hurts doesn’t it?

By the way, just last week or so the Israeli central bank intervened in the trading and bought tons of dollar in order to weaken the shekel. A strong shekel is not good for an export oriented economy like Israel.

What Ehsani quoted is accurate in my opinion. The current boom in Israel continues because so far the US slowdown has not influenced exports. This may change in the second half of the year if the slow down is more significant and also hits Europe, Israel’s major trading partner.

Just think for a second what it means that Asad is afraid to open a stock exchange. Let it sink in slowly. Isn’t it time to make some real changes in Syria instead of just complaining about Israel?

I will ignore your generalizations and implications that Israelis are more prone to be criminals than other people. Alex does not like me pointing out this stuff.

April 2nd, 2008, 6:30 pm


wizart said:


There’s a lot of reason to be careful about opening the economy too fast the way Russia did and screwed up big time before Putin came in and cleaned up the scene by breaking the Israeli criminal gang!

Do Americans Even Care?
Russia, Israel and Media Omissions


As is often the case with AP’s coverage of news having to do with Israel, there’s a serious omission in its reporting on the Russia-Israel connection even when it involves oil and the United States.

The day after the State of the Union Address, two Interpol fugitives attended the “National Prayer Breakfast” held in Washington DC. The day before that, these fugitives from the law were the guests of honor at an hour-long meeting of the International Relations Committee on Capitol Hill, invited by ranking Democrat Tom Lantos (Calif.)

You would think it would be hot news when wanted men being hunted by European police suddenly pop up in the US particularly on Capitol Hill and at events attended by the US president.

Yet, there was not a single AP story in the US on any of this. Not a single national network television or radio news program even mentioned these facts. In fact, Google and LexisNexis searches four days after these events took place turned up only three newspaper articles on them anywhere in the entire country.

Who are these fugitives from the law, wanted by Interpol, who are meeting at the highest levels of the US government? And why didn’t we learn of them?

Therein lies the story. These two men, it turns out, are just the tips of a colossal iceberg. And this iceberg doesn’t just have 90 percent of its mass hidden under water; this iceberg is almost entirely submerged.

They are Mikhail Brudno and Vladimir Dubov, Israeli-Russian partners in the giant Russian oil company Yukos. They, along with a number of their cronies, are wanted by Interpol for allegedly bilking Russian citizens out of billions of dollars. To elude Russian prosecution, these men have taken up residence in Israel.

As the Israeli newspaper Ha’aretz explains: “In recent years Russian authorities began investigating [Yukos], its managers and major stockholders, many of whom are of Jewish origin. The probes caused several of the managers to flee to Israel, and resulted in Khodorkovski’s [Yukos CEO] arrest and a Kremlin attack on Yukos.”

The fact is that Israel is an important factor in the ongoing, nation-shaking power struggle now going on in Russia. Yet AP virtually never reports this connection. For example, a few months ago in a typical AP story on this power struggle, “Report: Russia again charges Berezovsky,” Moscow AP Bureau Chief Judith Ingram makes no mention anywhere that Berezovsky is an Israeli citizen, or of his many connections to Israel.

Such omissions by AP and large swaths of the American media leave Americans seriously disadvantaged in deciphering what is going on in Russia, and its profound significance for the world.

In order to make sense of this Russian power struggle, and to understand its importance to the rest of us, it is necessary to understand the usually omitted Israeli subtext. When this is understood, the friendship of such pro-Israel Congressional leaders as Rep. Lantos to fugitive Russian oil tycoons begins to make sense.

To explore this background it is often useful to turn to the Israeli press. In July a major Israeli publication, the Jerusalem Post, carried an article headlined: “Boris Berezovsky: Putin’s Russia dangerous for Israel.” Before describing what this contained, let us first go into a little of the background.

The Oligarchs

Boris Berezovsky is one of seven “oligarchs,” as they are known both inside and outside Russia: massively rich, powerful manipulators who through violence, theft and corruption acquired a mammoth percentage (reports range from 70 to 85 percent) of Russia’s resources, from its oil to the auto industry to mass media outlets.

At the same time, the group steadily gained control over much of the country’s political apparatus. Using extraordinary financial resources and insider dealing, the oligarchs handpicked prime ministers and governmental leaders and barely even bothered to do this behind the scenes.

In 1997 Yukos founder Mikhail Khodorkovsky, one of the group and Russia’s sometimes richest man (several of the oligarchs trade the top spot back and forth) told an interviewer before he was arrested and imprisoned by Putin last year:

“If we rank all the fields of man’s activity by profitability, politics will be the most lucrative business. When we see a critical situation in the government, we draw lots in order to pick out a person from our milieu for work in power.”

Almost all of these oligarchs, it turns out, have significant ties to Israel. In fact, Berezovsky himself has Israeli citizenship a fact that caused a scandal of Watergate proportions in Russia in 1996 when it was exposed by a Russian newspaper. [6]

Do Berezovsky’s dual loyalties really matter? Yes. In the realm of global dominance, Israel’s interests and Russia’s are considerably divergent. It is in Israel’s interests to bring to power a regime in Russia friendly to Israel, rather than the current one under Putin, which Israeli leaders feel is supportive of its enemies. Not long ago, for example, Putin met with Syrian leaders an action highly disturbing to Israel.

Having an Israeli citizen at the highest levels of the Russian government is ideal, from Israel’s point of view. In Berezovsky they had such a man. The Jerusalem Post article mentioned above is revealing. It describes Berezovsky as “the Godfather of the Oligarchs’ and Kingmaker of Russia’s Politics'” and reports Berezovsky’s statement that “Putin’s Russia is dangerous for Israel.” Berezovsky goes on to assert that Putin “supports terror” in the Middle East through Russia’s previous relations with Iraq and current relations with Iran.

While Israelis may have been delighted at Berezovsky’s position in Russia, It is not surprising that Russian citizens were somewhat less so. Finding that a powerful leader and member of the Russian Security Council was an Israeli citizen was disconcerting, at best.

As a result of the media uproar over Berezovsky’s Israeli citizenship and other events, the Oligarchs’ connections to Israel are widely known in Russia and elsewhere. In Israel they are covered frequently, often with adulation, including a recent hit Israeli TV series called “The Oligarchs.”

“Some of its episodes,” according to Israeli writer Uri Avnery, “are simply unbelievable or would have been, if they had not come straight from the horses’ mouths: the heroes of the story, who gleefully boast about their despicable exploits. The series was produced by Israeli immigrants from Russia.”

Avnery writes that the oligarchs used “cheating, bribery and murder,” as they “exploited the disintegration of the Soviet system to loot the treasures of the state and to amass plunder amounting to hundreds of billions of dollars. In order to safeguard the perpetuation of their business, they took control of the state. Six out of the seven are Jews.”

According to a Washington Post story by David Hoffman, the group bought and controlled Russian governmental officials at the highest levels. After financing Yeltsin’s election in 1996, Hoffman writes: “The tycoons met and decided to insert one of their own into government. They debated who and chose [Vladimir] Potanin, who became deputy prime minister. One reason they chose Potanin was that he is not Jewish, and most of the rest of them are, and feared a backlash against the Jewish bankers.”

In Russia, the oligarchs are deeply loathed, considered villains who worked to bleed the country dry; during their reign many Russian citizens saw their life savings disappear overnight. A new term was coined for their dominance, “semibankirshchina” (the rule of the seven bankers), and they were widely known to have wielded small, murderous armies. There are rumors that Berezovsky, subject of the respectful AP article, was even responsible for the gunning down of an American journalist, Forbes Moscow editor Paul Klebnikov.

While no one has been charged with the murder of Klebnikov, who had written a book on Berezovsky, many suspect a Berezovsky connection. As a friend of Klebnikov wrote: “Experienced expatriates in Russia shared an essential rule: Don’t cross these brutal billionaires, ever, or you’re likely to go home in a box.”

The Chechnya Connection

There is evidence that Berezovsky’s responsibility for death and tragedy may be vastly greater.

“Berezovsky boasts that he caused the war in Chechnya,” Avnery reports, “in which tens of thousands have been killed and a whole country devastated. He was interested in the mineral resources and a prospective pipeline there. In order to achieve this he put an end to the peace agreement that gave the country some kind of independence. The oligarchs dismissed and destroyed Alexander Lebed, the popular general who engineered the agreement, and the war has been going on since then.

“In the end,” Avnery writes, “there was a reaction: Vladimir Putin, the taciturn and tough ex-KGB operative, assumed power, took control of the media, put one of the oligarchs (Mikhail Khodorkovsky) in prison, caused the others to flee (Berezovsky is in England, Vladimir Gusinsky is in Israel, another, Mikhail Chernoy, is assumed to be hiding here.)”

Yet, apart from the Washington Post, American media report on almost none of this. Instead, US coverage largely portrays Berezovsky and his crowd as American-style entrepreneurs who are being hounded by a Russian government whose actions are, to repeat the media’s commonly used phrase, “politically motivated.”

US news stories, even when they occasionally do hint at questionable practices, tend to use such phrases as “brash young capitalists” to describe the oligarchs. For example, a long series co-produced by FRONTLINE and the New York Times referred to these men as “shrewd businessmen,” and asked “what it’s like to be young, Russian and newly affluent?” Massive violence, dual loyalties, and control of resources are rarely, if ever, part of the picture.

When AP Moscow bureau chief Ingram was asked for this article about Berezovsky’s Israeli citizenship, she claimed to know nothing about it, a curious contention for someone who has been an AP news editor in Moscow since 1999. When Ingram was queried further, she hung up the phone.

An examination of Ingram’s reporting on the Berezovsky story cited above raises serious questions. Though she is located in Moscow, Ingram interviewed only two people for her news story: Berezovsky, who is in London, and Berezovsky associate Alex Goldfarb, in New York. One wonders why she interviewed none of the Russians residing around her.

Similarly, one wonders why not a single AP story has identified Berezovsky’s considerable connection to Israel.

Further, nowhere does Ingram’s article convey the ruthlessness of the oligarchs’ actions, or the significance of their holdings, including control of its media. Unnoted in Ingram’s report is the fact that her subject and fellow oligarch Vladimir Gusinsky have been two of Russia’s most powerful media tycoons.

Before Putin’s crackdown, according to the Washington Post, oligarchs had succeeded in seizing “the reins of Russia’s print and broadcast media, vital to the evolution of the country’s fledgling democracy and growth of its nascent civil society.” Berezovsky crony Gusinsky, who is close friends with Rupert Murdoch and was about the launch a satellite network, fled to Israel when it appeared he would be arrested.”

Somehow, AP’s bureau chief seems to have missed all this.

Does this matter to Americans?

AP is the major news source for the thousands of news outlets around the country who cannot afford to have their own foreign correspondents. When AP chooses not to cover something, its omission is felt throughout the nation. When national news networks and others leave out the same facts, the cover-up is almost total.

Russia, despite its current turmoil, contains enormous power. Its natural resources are gargantuan: it possesses the world’s largest natural gas reserves, the second largest coal reserves, and the eighth largest oil reserves. It is the world’s largest exporter of natural gas, the second largest oil exporter, and the third largest energy consumer.[1Russia’s significance on the world stage now, as in the past, is immense.

Similarly, the United States is currently the most powerful nation on earth. It is therefore essential that its citizens be accurately informed on issues of significance. Israeli citizens, Russian citizens, and citizens of nations throughout the world know the information detailed above. It is critical that American citizens be no less well informed.

For years, the neocons’ push for war against Iraq was largely uncovered by the US media. For even longer, the neocons’ close connections to Israel have gone largely unmentioned in mainstream American news reports. As a result, very few Americans know to what degree many of those responsible for the tragic US invasion and occupation of Iraq have been motivated by Israeli concerns.

The omission in coverage of Iraq has been profoundly disastrous, both for the Middle East and for Americans. In fact, it is quite likely that only history will show the true extent of this disaster. It is deeply troubling to see the same kind of omission occurring on Russia.

Alison Weir is Executive Director of If Americans Knew

P.S: Israel is known for never extraditing Jewish citizens, no matter what their crime. Even requests for such cooperation by the US, which gives Israel over $10 million per day, go unheeded by the Israeli government. Private citizens wanted for committing murder in the US, for example, are not returned for trial.

April 2nd, 2008, 6:49 pm


trustquest said:

Ehsani, couples of comments on your post.
– I wished you have realized from the beginning that any change requires new blood and new sheriff to implement, which both are not there. Same oldies will not be successful especially this social looting officials sitting on their chairs since the 1970s.
-You should have realized from the time Rami Makhloof, openly invested his money (or his looting), in Syria (which is great on one side), that he has exposed the regime and the system. No real investor will come and put his money in a country of thieves. Do not forget how Rami got the contract from the Egyptian guy and then use the power of the relatives (the President) to kick him out. He started on the wrong foot, and he established the bad precedent of the way the open economy will work.
-It seems that you have been taken by couple of architecture schematic presentation (like you never been to architecture college exhibition before), and may be you bought the current system propaganda and have disarray from the logic usually brought by Mr. Atasi on this blog, cheers to him and his relatives from civil society).
– It seems that you are coming back to rational and start giving us balance views.
I follow up on your post, like many other Syrians who like to know about the health of Syrian economy since we born there, and all still have attachment there. So, please be careful with your posting, because last year one of my friend, got deceived and went there according to your recommendation, and he is eating his fingers in regret.
For me, I’m an average American, Syrian native, who does not take to much analysis when I see a lady like Feda Hourani (after all she is an investor) in prison, then I can tell what economic and political future is holding for Syria. It is like AIG (thanks AIG), describe the idiom, Assad system will behave like: “I will put any one in prison if he open his mouth, and I do not care about sock or what ever”. I do not think this system will work.

April 2nd, 2008, 7:05 pm


Shai said:


Thank you for the update on the status of the Syrian economy. How do Syrians see the economic effects peace with Israel will have? Is it viewed positively? With suspicion? Are those who are dependent on the corrupt system afraid that a so-called opening to the West, or further liberalization of the economy, is a major threat to them? How will corruption in Syria be dealt with, long term? (On all levels, from the post-office worker, to the highest levels of business and political leadership)? Are these issues discussed openly in Syria nowadays?

April 2nd, 2008, 8:54 pm


ausamaa said:

Holly Sh….t; Something needs to be done immediately about the Syrian economy before it collapses alltogether.

Carefull “objective” comparisons indicates that the Syrian economy is performing very poorly compared with the “flourishing” ecomnomies of Jordan, Lebanon, Egypt, and the “menial” inflation rates in the Gulf countries (7.8% in Feb 2008 in ol rich Saudi) where governments are scrambling under public pressures to increase wages, hold prices and increase subsidies….Never mind also the fact oil prices are wrecking havoc on all economies left and right and that the US banking sector is crumbling and that the whole country is sliding into a recession. Those all are irrelevant facts. What matters now
is that something really needs to be done about the Gross Missmangement of the Syrian economy by the Syrian “regiem”!!!!

April 2nd, 2008, 9:15 pm


bilal said:

What is more important that Ramy is doing great and this is priority ONE for the Syrian government if not the ONLY priority. What do you expect when one genius person happen to hold a major part of the Syrian economy. Because how genius he is I would advice him to clone himself that will bring him even more money but this will be clean money for a change. With the way he got his money, do you expect his is paying the due taxes he should be paying?

April 2nd, 2008, 9:26 pm


EHSANI2 said:

To blame the shortfall in the Syrian economy on corruption in general and on Mr. Makhlouf in particular is an oversimplification. The problems with the Syrian economy run deeper. The state is involved in over 250 businesses. Close to 245 of them end up in the red year in and year out. The state treasury ends up having to make up the difference. If that was not enough, the state buys Mazot for close to SYP 50 and ends up selling it to 20 million people (and rising) for SYP 7. This type of transaction covers many other commodities as well. The intention was/is to help the poor. Regrettably, they end up hurting the very people that they were designed to help. Once the private sector is crowded out of the economy, growth stagnates and jobs typically don’t get created. The rising unemployment ends up hurting the people at the bottom the most. The subsidies may act as a short term fix but they are nothing but Advils given to a cancer struck patient. Mr. Makhlouf can decide to immigrate to South Africa tomorrow. This is unlikely to change anything. The economy will continue to suffer from the burden of red tape, bureaucracy, too much central planning and too little private enterprise.

Other economies in the region and globally do have their ups and down. None is immune to the business cycle. The situation in Syria is different. The leadership knows that socialism has failed it. Yet, it has shown no conviction, will or commitment to make a clean break from the past. To be sure, changes have taken place but way too slowly. The fundamental problem in Syria is the inability to create enough jobs. Those that do get created come with a wage level that simply cannot keep pace with inflation.

Dear Trustquest,

I had no idea my writing on the Syrian economy is so important. You claim that one of your friends went back to the country and invested based on my recommendation. That is remarkable to say the least. I suggest that your friend does more due diligence with his investments (certainly more than reading SC) before pulling the trigger next time. Incidentally, I had long argued that investing in land on the coast is a wise decision. I stick to my suggestion. Did your friend do that and lose?

Those who love Syria on this forum ought not be disappointed or get angry with my post. I think that it is important that we report what we hear. There is no reason to be cynical and assume that there is a hidden agenda behind the note.

Those of us who choose to criticize some of the things we feel passionate out ought to do so without entering the “Takhween” title.

April 2nd, 2008, 11:44 pm


Qifa Nabki said:

Every now and then a rumor emerges in Beirut that diplomats have been having all these secret meetings, and that a peace deal with Israel “is around the corner”, so people should buy up the super-cheap land in the south because its value will sky-rocket “once there is peace.”

(I guess people imagine that Israeli tourists will be streaming over the border into the Bekaa, eating our grapes, buying our water, drinking our wine, grilling our lamb, driving through our fragrant Biblical forests, taking it all in.)

I’ve been hearing that rumor for years.


April 3rd, 2008, 12:18 am


Honest Patriot said:

QN, “I’ve been hearing that rumor for years.
How many years? I’m looking for good investment instruments. The interest rates in the US stink.

April 3rd, 2008, 12:22 am


Qifa Nabki said:


At least 8 years (i.e. since the Israelis withdrew).

I don’t know how good an investment it would be… plus, if peace was around the corner, I’d imagine that the Hariris and Murrs and Jumblatts would know about it well in advance, and would make sure that all that land was bought.

Still, there are some lovely spots down near the border (around Deir Mimas, Marjayoun, etc.) and the prices are low. My family’s own modest plots near Baalbek are dirt cheap.

By contrast, the real estate market in Beirut keeps on climbing… it’s kind of amazing.

Where are you from in the bilad, HP?

April 3rd, 2008, 12:41 am


Naji said:

it seems that that’s all that anybody is doing aqround here these days, investing in land/real estate, on the coast and everywhere else…!! The laziest and least productive type of investment, and the least needed by Syria (or the Lebanon).

I have given several talks to Syrian expats arguing that investment in Syria, at least at the moment and for most types of investment, cannot be based solely on getting the BEST rate of return anywhere… you can do better in many other places throughout today’s globalized economy. However, if you do have some other vested interest in Syria, such as wishhing to invest in your HOME country for emotional and other more practical reasons, then, from my 15 year successful business experience around here, I contend that you can do so quite profitably, safely, and without the taint of corruption. Moreover, if you can assume a somewhat longish-term investment horizon, the potential can be quite staggering… there is virgin ground in almost EVERY field here…!

Another theme that I often repeat is that if you do not like the way things are going around here and you have some ideas about how it can be done better, then come over and “put your mony where your mouth is”… you will never find easier access to government officials (ministers and up !) than you can in Syria, and without “wasta” or anything else… Everyone in the government is so eager for new ideas these days that it is almost scary. But, nobody wants to hear advice not backed-up by investment…!

I have also long argued that if Syria is going to make a “complete break with past” as you suggest, it should not be towards simply imitating what has been done before, which leads to starting where everybody else started 30 years ago and trying to catch up with them, but towards building on the lessons of everybody else and starting where they left off. Thus, the idea of a socially and environmentally responsible market economy becomes more of an advantage over competitors and “a complete break with past”, rather than some half-hearted compromise or mediocre attempt at catching up.

Before I start sounding like our Alex, I have admit that what I am outlining above is not exactly the FULL picture about what is happening (and in my last response to Majhool I mention other major limitions), but this “social market economy” that every is making fun of is something of a daring attempt… and if people like you join in, maybe we can go somewhere with it…!?

April 3rd, 2008, 12:54 am


Nur al-Cubicle said:

I must say, I can only be circumspect concerning Ehsani’s outlook for the Syrian economy. Just a few months ago, we were talking here about the injection of wealth from affluent Iraqi refugees, a new university campus, booming housing and other positive economic trends. Gone to hell in a handbasket in a mere 6 months??

Checking at the UN’s ESCWA website, the official economic outlook says this:

“…the Syrian Arab Republic is experiencing a period of robust economic growth. Owing to a strong performance of the non-oil sector, real GDP growth is expected to decrease only slightly from 5.0 per cent in 2006 to 4.5 per cent in 2007 and 4.3 percent in 2008.

The service sector, particularly trade, finance and insurance, social and personal services, and tourism, continues to be the main driver of growth, benefiting considerably from the economic boom in the GCC countries and from the large influx of Iraqi expatriates over recent years.”

But there is a caveat:

“While the general outlook for the Syrian economy remains largely positive, national authorities face several major policy challenges. Most prominently, the fiscal deficit has steadily increased during recent years and is estimated to have surpassed 5 per cent of GDP in 2006, mainly as a result of the soaring cost of fuel and other subsidies. Given that fiscal revenues from oil production, which currently account for 20-30 per cent of total revenues, are expected to decrease further, authorities face the need to strengthen other revenue sources.”

And a silver lining:

“…the abandonment of the exchange rate peg to the United States dollar are likely to have resulted in lower inflationary pressures in 2007.

Read the rest here:

April 3rd, 2008, 12:56 am


Naji said:

I also have to add that I am a so-called industrialist and, despite everything that happened last year, I do not know of any colleagues that did not achieve at least a 20% growth last year…! That is not to bad for a fairly mature industry in Syria…!!!?

April 3rd, 2008, 1:01 am


Enlightened said:


Some sound advice…. Dont invest in Lebanon just yet, I just had a cousin return with his family after a failed (permanent) soujourn to Lebanon prior to 2006, he just arrived back to Aus last week and $500k lighter in his pocket. Despite my warnings to him he just didn’t listen.

I just made a investment here in Sydney last week, in a property adjoining mine in the Hills (bringing my land holdings here to 2000 sq meters) for development down the track. I could not see that i would have had a return in Lebanon or Syria for that matter. My parents have been burned quite a few times in the eighties and nineties with buying land, with people and adjoining property holders squatting on the land, and causing them misery when trying to sell.

Keep your money in your pocket, or find some investment tool in the states for a return, Do not under any circumstances invest in Lebanon or Syria now, its just too volatile, if you are conservative with your investments.

My wife tells me what QN states to you about the South being a magical place, very picturesque , also the coastal regions in Syria, when peace comes these will be the Hotspots.

April 3rd, 2008, 1:07 am


Honest Patriot said:

Thanks Enlightened. Sounds like really sound advice 😉

QN: “Where are you from in the bilad, HP?
Beiruti 2u7 – Born/raised @ Gemmayze. Apartment right across “Sacre-Coeur” over Samir bookstore. Sacre-Coeur + Mont La Salle. But that’s eons ago…
AUB BS ’79 then 2 yrs teaching @ IC (where I met Josh) – then Yale PhD ’88 – rest is history. 25+ years in CT. Then now in NC but travel all over US. Full disclosure: I’m really an ignoramus in politics. All this SC contribution was just common sense and fun.

April 3rd, 2008, 1:30 am


Ford Prefect said:

Bravo Ehsani for an excellent and informative post. And thanks for bringing a sense of reality to a topic that is otherwise taken for granted. One of the most important sentences Ehsani mentioned is the following: “The leadership knows that socialism has failed it. Yet, it has shown no conviction, will or commitment to make a clean break from the past.”

Precisely! The root cause of Syria’s economic ills can be, single-handedly, traced to the disastrous economic engineering policies of Ba’athist brand of socialism. Socialism would have been bad enough for an agrarian society like Syria; but to have inept, corrupt and monumentally ignorant Ba’athists administer it for 40 years is nothing short of complete disaster.

Those Ba’athists are, unfortunately, still alive and well (and fat) in Syria. And they are in positions where they continue to inflict considerable harm to the Syrian economy – not to mention their horrific contributions to Syrian intellects and ingenuity.

Years of systematic degradation of the Syrian young minds, through a failed educational system and Ba’athist indoctrination coupled with complete linguistic isolation to Western-anything have produced a generation of young Syrians that are ill-prepared to compete in an economy driven by global consumerism.

When Ehsani mentions the slow growth of jobs in Syria, one contributing factor can be traced to (in addition to a myriad of other ones) the severe shortage of needed skills in the available Syrian labor pool.

It is truly unfortunate to see the ignorance and arrogance of the Syrian Ba’athists combined with socialism best suited for an advanced industrialized state being applied in Syria.

The results that we see today should surprise no one. However, I firmly believe that there is light at the end of the tunnel. The old Ba’athist guards are beginning to show signs of Alzheimer, thank goodness.

April 3rd, 2008, 1:47 am


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

The best investment in Syria is to marry into the Assad family. I hear the returns are phenomenal. Too bad I am already spoken for.

April 3rd, 2008, 1:51 am


Qifa Nabki said:

Have you been back in the past 30 yrs?

Gemmayze is a different place. 🙂

April 3rd, 2008, 1:56 am


Zenobia said:

“Too bad I am already spoken for.”

someone actually married you?

April 3rd, 2008, 1:58 am


Honest Patriot said:

QN, yes I heard. Only been back twice ’91 and ’97, before the “renaissance” of Gemmayze as I hear. We left the apartment a long time ago – probably new (happy) tenants there. Plunged fully into the neurotic US rat race. SC is a relief of sorts. Best part is the challenge of discovering your identity 😉

April 3rd, 2008, 2:04 am


Qifa Nabki said:

Ouch. That’s just mean.

Speaking of April Fools’ jokes, here’s a good one.

April 3rd, 2008, 2:07 am


Zenobia said:

reap what you sow, as they say

April 3rd, 2008, 2:15 am


norman said:

The Syrian Government continue to make the same mistakes time and time again , Instead of subsiding the poor they are subsidising the products and making the poor pay for rich , Syria should give food stamps to poor Syrian families leaving the rich to pay market prices , they can subsidise Mazzot by leaving the price of Mazzot and natural gas free as these can be transported to neighbouring countries and over-subsidising Electricity that can not be smuggled ,

It is still very difficult for me to understand the rational of putting high tariff on the import of raw materials needed to produce products that can be used by Syrians instead of importing fully made products ,machinery should have the same treatment, Syria should not have any tariff on importation of raw materials and should exempt any profit on products made in Syria and sold outside the country,

I am not an economist but these notes sounds like common sense .

April 3rd, 2008, 2:55 am


Enlightened said:

Zen YEP!

I am Told that Mrs AIG is a very nice woman, superior intellect,charming, gorgeous and a model person.

This is AIG for those that dont know who he really is!


April 3rd, 2008, 2:58 am


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

That guy is already married into Assad’s family. They have pet nuclear projects together.

But on the serious side, when I go to a supermarket in the US all the hummus and middle eastern salads are from Israel. I mean, what gives? Did we bomb all the hummus plants in all Arab countries? I thought we only got lait du liban but not the hummus stuff.

This was a wide open market. How did the late comers corner it? There is nothing high-tech about hummus. What hummus do they sell in the super-markets down under?

April 3rd, 2008, 4:27 am


Shai said:


QN is worried that the FG is reuniting us… 🙂 We have to prove him wrong… quick, think of something!

April 3rd, 2008, 4:48 am


Enlightened said:


Interesting, I never buy prepared Salads or Tabouli from outside we prepare them at home, much better tasting and authentic.

Yes there is a market in Aus, of prepared Mid East cuisine, the example I gave you of the Isreali produced pickled cucumbers, in one of the other posts shows you what diversity is available here. Cortas Brand is the major Hummus available here in cans but you have to add the ingredients, its ok if you are having some mates over for a bbq, but at religious and family gatherings if you don’t prepare it the traditional way over a few days of soaking the beans etc the you just dont serve the canned stuff.

There is a lot of available food stuffs sold here from Syria and Lebanon, i think the Arabic manufacturers are trumped by the Isrealis when it comes Distribution and Savvy marketing in the states, it is something they need to look at, I remember buying a falafel roll at Bondi from a jewish shop and he told me that it was a Israeli food, I laughed at him and told him that my parents were Leb, he blushed and said he thought I was greek. But you cant beat the Jews for their Business Savvy, I marvel at it often.

I worked for the biggest Food Giant for 5 years here Goodman Fielder in Marketing here in Aus so I understand the food market here well, but Israeli goods are not as widely available as imported Arab Foodstuffs. So to answer your question no you did not bomb all the Hummus factories, but put that down on your list of things to do! (lol)

You still need to fess up your role in the Syrian plant in the desert! Whats was your role AIG, since you are married into the Assad clan, tell us please, and Il forget that April fools is two days old!

April 3rd, 2008, 4:52 am


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

It is always good to be reminded by people like Sim why the Jews need a country of their own where they can safely argue as much as they want. After all, that is the Jewish favorite pastime.

April 3rd, 2008, 4:56 am


Shai said:


Good one! Funny how we “simple minds” reconsider once we’re faced with a bad experience. I, for instance, am looking at my Nokia N95 completely differently now, after the FG anomaly I’ve come across… 🙂 You know, he’s starting to get into personal stuff again. I mean, how would he feel if all I did on SC was go on and on about Finland’s world’s highest suicide rate, or its recent young citizen who destroyed one of the ancient statues on Easter Island, or their Foreign Minister who had to be kicked out because of 200 SMS messages to a stripper, etc.? If I wanted to, I could go verbal-bashing Finalnd and this FG into high-heaven, every day, every hour. But would that contribute to anything? Would that make me a better person? You know, I apologized to him personally in an earlier comment, in a way that really wasn’t easy or comfortable for me. He had been pushing my buttons since day one, from the very first comment he made to me. I was hoping he’d get the message. But he didn’t, and he still doesn’t. What shall I do? I have relatives in Australia, who could take me in, but there’s internet there as well… I can’t escape him! It’s becoming a haunting experience…

Aside from him, I actually happened to like Finland. I think it’s a nation we could all learn a lot from. Not only from its Nokia success story, but also from a lot of what that nation stands for. But you see, this guy could never say anything like that about Israel. If he was in a good enough, and sarcastic mood, he might slip a “I’m sure there are some good people there, like anywhere in the world…”, but aside from that, it’s all criminals, corrupt people, concentration-camp guards (his words), etc. So what do I do? I try not to engage him, and he continues Israel-bashing, but this time with AIG. So I throw in a comment to AIG about my N95 turning off every few days, perhaps “sensing my Zionism”, and he goes back to attacking me personally. What do you say, Enlightened, you’re objective enough from where you stand… what to do??? 🙂

April 3rd, 2008, 4:58 am


Shai said:


I beg to differ… 🙂 (I don’t know how to do the wink emoticon).

April 3rd, 2008, 5:02 am


Enlightened said:


Answered you on previous thread!

April 3rd, 2008, 5:04 am


Shai said:


Thank you – I read it. Say, are you still willing to fly over to Istanbul, or Nicosia, for the upcoming SC get-together? Oh, I really should update Alex about this… Now on a serious note, just a month or two ago a bunch of us were contemplating doing this thing. I’m still very much for it, including bringing in some expert speakers (Alon Liel, Rime Allaf, perhaps Sami Moubayed, Boaz Wachtel, etc.) Assuming some 20-30 SC regulars would show up, having 3-4 days of seminars involving Syria’s main challenges, could be great, no? I know the rise in tension in the region is not helping right now, but perhaps that’s an even better reason to do it, no? Obviously, this would leak out to the media, and maybe in some odd way, will shed a bit of optimism into our little area of the world… What do you say?

April 3rd, 2008, 5:33 am


Enlightened said:


Sounds Good, anything to promote peace! But I have one little problem, we just found out last week that we are expecting our second child end of October /Early november, as long as it does not conflict with that I am cool with whatever is proposed.

I will go as long as you sit between me and AIG! (lol)

It would be good, I was under the impression that the idea was swept under the carpet? What has been going on behind closed doors, that I am unaware of? Let me know!

April 3rd, 2008, 5:45 am


Shai said:


First of all, and most importantly, Mazal Tov! My youngest daughter is only a year and 8 months old, so I still remember the excitement. Thank god we also have the ability to bring life to this world, not only take it…

I too think it was swept under, but I’m starting to consider “reviving” it, and you’re the first I turned to. I don’t know about timing, given the current tensions, but in any case this was not to be anything “official”, so it’s not like anyone would need permission (I imagine), nor would official policies be presented. It would be, in fact, just a get-together of those regular SC cybernauts that can show up, together with some good guest speakers. Perhaps now is precisely the time to have it, in light of the existing mood. The event would be leaked to the media in some fashion, and the message that “youngster” bloggers from all angles get together to discuss Syria’s various challenges (Internal, Lebanon, Israel, U.S., Iraq, etc.) could cause quite a few readers in the ME a moment of pause. And maybe now such a moment is needed more than ever.

I don’t know, maybe most who were in favor originally would now be against it. But can’t hurt to try, right? I’ll start running it by people here, and see their reactions. I don’t know what Alex and Joshua would say about it now, but clearly it cannot happen without their blessing, and participation. Let’s see… At least I can say that Enlightened and Shai are in. I’m sure we could get at least another 8-10 right now, hopefully more.

And yes, I’d be willing to sit between you and AIG… but only if he wears his North Korean pin on his jacket…

April 3rd, 2008, 6:15 am


bilal said:


If Ramy was not Ramy Makhlouf then the State would have taken the right charges from Syriatel & other Co. We all know how much he had to pay for Syriatel and how he got it. Mr. Riad Seif who was at the time a MP with immunity has lost his freedom only because he dared ask WHY & HOW? What I am trying to say is that if the State takes from Ramy what they should take then this money will help in great deal to solve Syrian problems. Furthermore, his actions are making a lot of investors loose trust in the Syrian system.
Even Syria News is reporting some of what to come ahead http://www.syria-news.com/readnews.php?sy_seq=74066

April 3rd, 2008, 6:46 am


why-discuss said:


The economy in Syria is making a big turn, let’s us wait and see if they will remain pragmatic and socially conscious or they will fly high like Egypt and forgetting the poor.
I am not sure Iran’s influence is any good at this stage: Iran is producing pollution by the tons in manufacturing low cost cars that invade the streets of all iranian cities. Is Syria going to fall in the same pattern with the production of the new low cost “sham” car?
While Iran has implemented a rather efficient smart card for refueling your tank, I am not sure Syria is planning the same. They should concentrate more on public transportation, trains, tramways etc… as most european cities are. But if Kuwait, Dubai and KSA are the main investors we are likely to see more towers with expensive appartments and more and more SUV and limited public transport!

April 3rd, 2008, 9:07 am


Enlightened said:


Thanks for the Mazol tov, I reciprocate with Ha Belok ( Loooking forward to your second)

Get my email adress of Alex, and drop me a line, we can discuss off site. Anyone else interested still in the proposal (hint hint HP ) voice your opinion or forever stay silent! ( That includes you AIG )

April 3rd, 2008, 10:35 am


Enlightened said:


The slow boat to the Hariri tribunal
By Michael Young
Daily Star staff
Thursday, April 03, 2008

When Syria’s foreign minister and one of its Lebanese marionettes both mention the Hariri tribunal in the space of two days, you know the topic is gaining ground in the Syrian attention span. In an interview with the ANB television station the foreign minister, Walid Moallem, stated that Syria had been offered “deals” by “friends of the tribunal and others,” in exchange for facilitating a presidential election in Lebanon. Moallem specified that the offers ranged from “killing the tribunal and freezing it for several years to not participating in its financing.” He insisted Syria had rejected all options, because it “has no connection to the crisis in Lebanon or the tribunal.”

On Tuesday former Minister Wiam Wahab, one of Syria’s licensed spokesmen, released a statement saying that Muhammad Zuheir al-Siddiq, who is both a key witness and suspect in the Hariri murder and who now resides in France, had vanished and “may have been kidnapped and liquidated.” Nothing suggested the story was correct.

Moallem’s comments were interesting because he protested too much. His insistence that Syria had nothing to do with the crisis in Lebanon and Hariri’s murder affirmed that it did. That was the point. The fact is that Syrian President Bashar Assad has repeatedly brought up the tribunal with his Arab interlocutors, including Arab League Secretary General Amr Moussa. Moussa’s statement on the matter to an Arab foreign ministers’ gathering several weeks ago was leaked to the Kuwaiti Al-Qabas daily. He told the ministers that when he had traveled to Damascus to ask for help in resolving the stalemate in Beirut, Assad showed no interest in Lebanon, instead inquiring about the tribunal. Assad’s message was clear, as was Moallem’s in his interview: As long as the tribunal question remains unresolved to Syria’s satisfaction, the deadlock in Lebanon will persist.

But Moallem’s statement, like Wahhab’s implied threat, could signal something else as well. As the tribunal goes forward, the Syrian regime may find that it has to clean house in preparation for an accusation. By underlining again that Syria was not involved in the Hariri killing, was the foreign minister laying the groundwork for a time when such involvement cannot be proven because all suspects will have by then disappeared?

Certainly the former Syrian vice president, Abdel-Halim Khaddam, was playing on that theme when speaking to an Italian news agency. He noted that a prime suspect in the Hariri assassination, the head of Syrian military intelligence, Assef Shawqat, had also gone missing and would, Khaddam predicted, meet the same fate as the late interior minister, Ghazi Kanaan, who either committed suicide or received help in doing so. This could have been Khaddam just throwing a firecracker into the chambers of the paranoid Syrian leadership; or it could have been a preventive measure to avoid Shawqat’s elimination. Whichever it was, the old serpent knows the tribunal is beginning to hit home in Damascus.

Not that there was much in the most recent report of Daniel Bellemare, the latest United Nations commissioner investigating the Hariri assassination, to either alarm or reassure the Syrians. The document was destined more to avoid providing information than the contrary, and showed that one could be even more taciturn than Serge Brammertz.

Bellemare insulted our intelligence by telling us more than two years after the UN investigation began that the “Commission can now confirm, on the basis of available evidence, that a network of individuals acted in concert to carry out the assassination of Rafik Hariri and that this criminal network – the “Hariri Network” – or parts thereof are linked to some of the other cases within the Commission’s mandate.”

What’s new here? This obvious conclusion was consistently confirmed in all previous reports, including those written by Brammertz. And why did Bellemare use the awkward term “criminal network,” suggesting a mafia hit, when he implicitly endorsed the view of Brammertz (and his predecessor Detlev Mehlis) that Hariri’s murder was political, if only by virtue of being linked to other crimes in Lebanon that were plainly political?

But most remarkable was Bellemare’s informing us that the “priority is now to gather more evidence about the Hariri network.” Well what on earth was the priority in 2006 and 2007? That phrase should have belonged to an earlier report on the investigation, not one put out three months from the investigation deadline set by the UN Security Council.

But even in Bellemare’s catalogue of elision, revealing titbits did come through. For example, when he wrote that the commission had “accelerated the pace of its operations” by increasing its Requests for Assistance (RFA) sent to Lebanon and other states from 123 to 256, you again had to wonder what Brammertz was doing while commissioner. This increase could partly be explained by the so-called “new practices” Bellemare has introduced, but for him to more than double RFAs after just three months in office suggested there was a delay to be overcome.

And in the event we didn’t get that gathering speed had become a main concern, the commissioner told us that he had increased the number of laboratories his team would have access to, and had put in place a system “offering a new approach to cooperation” beyond issuing specific RFAs, whereby states have been informed of “generic areas of assistance that could match their capabilities and the Commissions requirements.” It was not apparent what a “generic area of assistance” was, but it sounded suspiciously like Bellemare was widening his net of inquiry, introducing flexibility in how states responded to his needs, to get whatever more he could on the case. That would have been reasonable in 2005, but not in 2008.

Bellemare also told us, without really telling us, that his deadline for putting together a recommendation for an accusation may not come as soon as many would like. Already, in his meetings with foreign representatives, the commissioner has said that if he needs to extend his deadline beyond June to tighten his prosecution case, he will do so. The report suggested that he is quite likely to act on that basis.

What is one to make of the UN report? The most charitable thing one might say about it is that Bellemare did his best to conceal the fact that Brammertz had worked too slowly. But we won’t know how true that interpretation is before the new commissioner puts together an indictment. However, if the Syrians start cleaning the decks to neutralize a legal accusation against the regime, then Bellemare had better hurry up.

April 3rd, 2008, 10:53 am


Honest Patriot said:

Enlightened, sab7-el-khayr 🙂
Anyone else interested still in the proposal (hint hint HP)
The meeting is doable but has to start, in my opinioin, with a position paper (scope, time, etc.) and to be realistic must shoot for no less than 1.5 to 2 yrs from now to get all the logistics done. Cyprus or Montreal are likely the best options. As in all things “All Glory Comes From Daring To Begin.” Without a position paper posted – to frame the proposal – followed by comments, iterations, then fundraising, etc., it would just be a fun topic of conversation on SC. There indeed can be a vision here of a completely innovative way to have ordinary citizen shift the paradigm of “business as usual” and have voices heard and movements started at the grassroots level — with an important difference: involvement of neutral expatriates.
The position paper is indispensable to allow an objective look at the feasibility of such a project. Need that crystal seed (or catalyst if you will). Man, do I like to hear myself or what 😉
Cm’on HP – snap back to reality. The dawn is breaking.

April 3rd, 2008, 11:10 am


Shai said:

HP, Enlightened,

I’m in. We’ll check with Alex and Joshua, and if there’s interest, let’s do it. Do you really believe a position paper, and the logistics, will take that long to prepare? Can we not do a crash-course project, aiming at something like half that time? Two years from now, we may be well into formal peace talks, or surveying our damaged cities. Do you really believe the situation can stay more or less the same for that long?

April 3rd, 2008, 11:31 am


Enlightened said:


My Favourite saying: ( The crystal seed)

” Sometimes you have to get on, to get in, and when you get in, you go absolutely off, and when you have absolutely gone off, you get out”

If you can decipher this, , then you can start on this position paper, please note however the most obvious answer is not the answer!

Look forward to your response. Have a good day,il log in at nine in the morning.

April 3rd, 2008, 11:33 am


Qifa Nabki said:

This guy should be president.

Suleiman Tired of Ongoing Bickering: I will Step Down in August

Army chief Gen. Michel Suleiman said on Thursday he would step down next August as commander of the military and expressed resentment over the continued bickering on his nomination for the presidency.
“I’m tired of the ongoing bickering over my name as a consensus presidential candidate,” Suleiman said in an interview with As Safir daily.

“If one side nominates me, the other objects. If one country backs my nomination, other countries object…Every time we make a step forward, we find ourselves” facing more demands, he said.

The election of a president has reached a point where it “needs to cross mountains of conditions and counter conditions…all that at the expense of the presidential vacuum,” the army chief added.

The military commander said he will “benefit from his annual vacations that have piled up in the past three years to step down on August 21 instead of November 21.”

He informed the military council of his “final decision” of his intended retirement three months before the end of his term, he told As Safir.

“I have no intention of extending my term. I did my job the best I could and preserved the unity of the military institution during the hardest times,” he added.

“The Army has succeeded in defending the country against occupation and terrorism and safeguarded internal peace and stability and we will not throw away these achievements,” Suleiman stressed.

The Army chief made clear in his interview that if his retirement would “facilitate choosing another consensus candidate then I will support such efforts with all the power I have and I will never be an obstacle.”

Suleiman ruled out the possibility of a new Israeli war but stressed that the Lebanese army would defend Lebanon if such an attack took place.

Suleiman also rejected rumors that summer 2008 will be shaky, warning from attempts to target Lebanon’s tourism season.

“Had we had stability we would have taken advantage of Gulf investments,” he said.

He also welcomed the 1960 electoral law, yet he ruled out any possibility of taking power in a non-violent military coup.

“Lebanon in not a country of military coups,” he said. “All we can do as Lebanese is to keep calm and be patient.”

April 3rd, 2008, 11:59 am


Naji said:

I am glad you agree about Suleiman… how about convincing your M14 buddies now…?! 😉

Btw, I don’t know where you got the above translation (NOW?!), but it is quite bad and only repotrs half-scentences…?! The original can be found in Arabic at Al-Safir’s site.

April 3rd, 2008, 12:05 pm


Shai said:

QN, Naji,

Are you guys interested in an SC get-together? We brought up the idea a month or two ago… when more positive spirits were roaming our plains. Enlightened, HP, and I are reviving the idea. What do you think?

April 3rd, 2008, 12:35 pm


Naji said:

Isn’t there supposed to be a war or something starting April 6th….??! Can we fit this get-together between now and April 6th…?! 🙂

Anyway, I am always for a good get-together, but I like QN’s (if I remember correctly) idea of an extended week-end barbecue, rather than the ultra-formal, ultra-organized conference that HP is proposing…!

Is it even legal for Israeli and Syrian citizens to be organizing conferences and meetings… just like that…??! We are supposed to enemies in a state of war, you know…!! Cavorting with the enemy during a time of war probably counts as treason (or some sort of a crime) in both Israel and Syria…??!

April 3rd, 2008, 1:05 pm


Honest Patriot said:

Naji said “QN,I am glad you agree about Suleiman… how about convincing your M14 buddies now…?!
Duh? I thought M14 was ready a long time ago to vote for Suleiman and it is Aoun (as front) and Berri and HA who are putting preconditions that – contrary to Aoun’s desire to strengthen the presidency – actually diminishes it to the point of irrelevance.

April 3rd, 2008, 1:05 pm


Naji said:

Actually, Suleiman started out as “the Syrian Candidate”, supported by both HA and Auon. I am not going to argue with you about who is holding up the election, …each side claims it is the other… (even if logical evidence points much more against the M14 gang), but I found Amr Mousa’s contention that BOTH sides prefer things to remain the way they are for now to be most convincing. He said that, to all the Lebanese parties, the current situation does actually boil down to the “la ghaleb wala maghloub” status that everyone is seeking…!!

April 3rd, 2008, 1:16 pm


Honest Patriot said:

Naji, of course you’re right about how Suleiman’s candidacy started out and in hindsight it was a big mistake for M14 not to acquiesce to it from the beginning. (Not that I am an M14er! – which I’m not). However I don’t agree with Moussa if indeed he claims that both sides prefer the status quo. While this may perhaps be true of some M14ers I doubt it is true of their majority. My personal view on this – reading through and between the lines – is that the real hold-up is Aoun and his (maybe subconscious) personal ambition. He appears to have the stubborness of a mule – likely stemming from his military background – and none of the indispensable finesse required in politics. Of course this plays well into HA’s and Syria’s game since they prefer it that way instead of having no other excuse but to proceed with the Suleiman plan.

April 3rd, 2008, 1:27 pm


Honest Patriot said:

Naji, on another note, you have encouraged us in the past to listen to the declarations of Mouallem. There is no doubt that Mouallem projects a superbly calm demeanor while reflecting remarkable logic and accommodation. He is truly an outstanding diplomat as far as executing the official policy of his regime. It is also evident that his persuasiveness is extremely effective with local folks, both in Syria and in Lebanon. I would really be delighted if the picture he is painting is in fact reality. I don’t believe it is and I’ll tell you why. Naji, there have been too many coincidences in the past to acquit the Syrian regime of more than just heavy-handedness in dealings with Lebanon. I’ll give you one (and there are many): the timing of the Shiite ministers’ resignation just before a cabinet vote would have cemented Lebanon’s request for the tribunal. The official story, of course, is that the tribunal will be political and there will be unfair charges against Syria, etc. etc., but to me that flies against the history of international tribunals and the trust some of us have in the decency, honesty, and intelligence, of non-aligned international investigators and judges. As I said, there are many more coincidences and concordances that can be cited.

Of course, none of this “proves” anything. I can’t help the suspicions though and, while there is a tremendous amount of issues with some M14 leaders, and issues with Lebanon in general, not the least of which is the utter lack of any civic sense, I believe, and have always expressed here, that the “game” they are being subjected to is far above any justified punishments for those sins. At the same time, 14 March 2005 was a truly historic day in Lebanon – unprecedented and not predictable as QN reminds us – a day that marks (at least in my mind) the emergence of a true Lebanese nationalism transcending any other religious, social, or political affiliation.
(As a reminder, Gibran Tueini was assassinated – By whom? Why?)

I believe this is what brings some of us together here: QN, Enlightened, MSK, probably other silent readers. I know that this is what has driven so many otherwise politically passive Lebanese – including members of my extended family who have never wanted anything to do with politics or demonstration – to join in the march of 14 March. It is somewhat unfortunate that the term M14 has been somewhat hijacked to go beyond the simple statement that the majority of these demonstrators were making – at least the simple statement that I read in their action and which I believe history will record as one of unity and nationalism and nothing more, statement that leads to activism to shed these other divisions as we see here:

And Naji, Syria is a beautiful country and many Lebanese, including me, have origins that at least from one of the parents trace back to Syria. There is no issue any Lebanese could have with the Syrian people (except for the inevitable criminal exceptions on both sides), nor is the long-term prospect of a federation or even union something that any of us claims should be banned for ever. It is just that at this time, the Lebanese nation must rise, define itself, achieve stability, define its rightful and successful place in the order of the world before any other consideration is pursued. A few things are getting in the way 😉
Such is life.

April 3rd, 2008, 1:44 pm


Shai said:


I’m not sure if a BBQ in Cyprus will sound attractive enough to bring all our N. American friends all this distance, but you may also be right that it needn’t be all too formal. What I had in mind is not “Track II” talks, but rather an SC get-together, something like a 3-4 day thing (maybe long weekend), where about 20-30 of us regulars show up, plus guest speakers like Alon Liel, Rime Allaf, Sami Moubayed, Boaz Wachtel, etc. This would include a number of seminars, each discussing the various issues and challenges Syria has at the moment (Internal, Lebanon, Israel, U.S., Iraq, etc.) So it’s not a purely Syria-Israel (it must not be, in fact). HP correctly suggested that even such an “informal” undertaking needs to be serious enough to first have a proposal paper drafted, so as to see how we bring this whole thing about. And to do this paper properly, together with all its categories, does take time (probably months). Taking everything into consideration, he estimated 1.5-2 years from now, but I was hoping we could do it either much sooner, or within about a year from now.

I don’t know what’s planned for April 6th, though if you know something… please let me know, so that I can store some mineral water in the basement. That seems to be the one commodity that skyrockets in price during wartime. The supermarkets, and kiosks, make a killing (not just the IDF) off these… As for the legality issue, I think the idea is for official people not to meet without permission. Obviously, many Israelis meet many Syrians (and other enemies) all the time, in the U.S., in Europe, everywhere really. And there are quite a few Syrians with other nationalities that have even been to Israel. Ibrahim Soliman, for instance, is a very famous example. He was, in fact, invited to speak at one of the most important committees in Knesset, the Foreign and Security Affairs Committee. Everyone was there, from the extreme Right to the extreme Left. It was a very exciting visit.

Naji, look how ridiculous this whole things is. You and I are officially enemies, even sworn enemies. Our nations have done terrible things to one another, fought in wars, conquered territory, killed innocent civilians, and young soldiers at the battlefield. We’ve been enemies for 60 years. Isn’t it time to end this? If you and I can speak in such a way, respecting one another, showing empathy towards each other, wanting to see the day our children no longer serve in the army, or are drafted to reserve duty, and can instead focus on their future, on bettering our lives, our economy, our education, our standard of living, all those things that all other peaceful people around the world enjoy. Why can’t our leaders already do the same, and put an end to this ridiculous conflict?

April 3rd, 2008, 1:47 pm


Qifa Nabki said:

Suleiman’s presidency is not the issue. Both M14 and the opposition have endorsed him as a suitably equidistant candidate.

The issue is, rather, the demand for a blocking veto.

Since 2005, March 14 has been hampered in its project of pursuing 1559, this because Lahoud provided an effective block against any threatening legislation (but also because the threat of a Shiite walk-out was there from the beginning).

Now that Lahoud is gone, March 14 is determined to replace him with a president sympathetic to their various programs, among them the disarmament of Hizbullah (or at least the increased credibility of a threat to disarm them, thereby achieving a more stable balance of power).

Hizbullah cannot allow this to happen, hence the standoff. All of the opposition’s criticisms of the government of being anti-reform, corrupt, and useless, while true, are mere icing on the cake. The core issues are foreign-strategic, not domestic. I for one would welcome a Hizbullah veto if the issues were purely things like corruption, reform, etc., as they would inject a much-needed dose of accountability into Lebanese politics, and also pave the way for Hizbullah’s normalization. In reality, the veto will be used for Syria’s benefit, not Lebanon’s, and not Hizbullah’s.

As for the Syria Comment get-together, I’m all for it. But I’d rather have it be social, and less academic. But if you all want to be academic, I’ll be the guy in the last row of the hall, listening to my iPod and eating peanuts.

April 3rd, 2008, 1:48 pm


AusLeb84 said:


I can relate, a relative of mine also just returned from Lebanon after moving there and lost a similar amount of hard earned cash.

Melbourne is also booming and I cannot see the need to go to such volatile areas for investment. Brisbane & Perth are also ripe for investment. Half a million can get you some decent property.

Weren’t much of the investments made in Lebanon by the government that brought on such steep debts for the country based on the fact that peace with Israel was expected soon?

April 3rd, 2008, 1:49 pm


Shai said:


I’m not sure it has to be THAT academic. That’s why I still call it a “get-together”. Though if people are already flying from Australia and N. America, we do need to make it slightly more interesting and fun than a BBQ in Cyprus. Though Suvlaki there could be great… I’m not sure it’s an undertaking that needs such a long time to organize, but we need to draft some proposal to see what we want out of it. Apparently you’re not the only iPod lover, I am too (also other Mac products), but more importantly, Bashar Assad is one as well! Blood-thirsty, terrorist-supporting, iPod-lover! The most lethal combination… 🙂

April 3rd, 2008, 1:59 pm


Honest Patriot said:

OK Enlightended and Shai,

Here’s a strawman:
1- You need a conference chair, a program chair, and local arrangements chair.
2- It may be advisable, unless the local arrangement person has time and experience, to get a professional conference organizing company which can be had at reasonable cost, which $ is recouped in savings from effective negotiations with the hotel hosting the conference
3- First Draft choices:
Conference Chair – Joshua
Program Chair – Shai
Local Arrangements – Alex
4- Suggested Location – Montreal

Draft Top-Level Program

Saturday 19 July 2009 – Early Arrivals
Sunday 20 July 2009 – Optional Social Outing (Organized Tour of Montreal)
Monday 21 July 2009 – 9:00 a.m. start (Welcome, Plenary, Break, first panel discussion, lunch, afternoon breakout sessions, early reception followed by banquet dinner)
Tuesday 22 July 2009 – 9:00 a.m. start (second panel discussion, break, second breadout sessions, lunch, Rump session all afternoon controlled by professional moderator, dinner on your own (mix with your fellow attendees))
Wednesday 23 July 2009 – 9:00 a.m. start ( summary presentations from selected volunteers to distill any conclusions of the previous 2 days, followed by final panel discussion, lunch, and adjournment)

Build on the seed innovation started by SC to widen the conversation on ME peace – with focus on Syria, Lebanon, Israel – by involving non-expert citizens and intellectuals some of whom are participants in the SC blog

Create a new approach that shifts the disputes (at least temporarily) from politicians and reporters to a new group that may add creative ideas and approaches

1- Vacation 😉
2- Building of friendships and bridges
3- Discover Montreal in July (a subset of (1) ;-))
4- Give Josh good material to build on for intellectual and academic output that may actually make a difference (for a change 😉


I say, Now…

Without taking this strawman and then having a multi-page, well written, well conceived, position paper (dont’ look at me, I’m not the “Liberal Arts” guy to do this – I’m just the concepts guy who created this SC conference idea [if you don’t believe me, research the blog]), I say that without having this committed to paper and then seriously having a few folks make commitments to put the framework together, then we should really not pursue it seriously further (although I’m OK with continuing some humor about it).

April 3rd, 2008, 2:07 pm


Shai said:


You see? We already have the schedule. Now we need the content. I’ll do that tonight, and we can change your dates to 2008, no?… No, of course you’re right, this is not going to be a BBQ, and if it’s to be serious enough, it needs to be done right. Let’s first run the idea by Alex and Joshua, as I believe without their blessing and commitment, there’s not much point continuing to get excited… Still, I think you’ve proven yourself, yet again, to be a doer, not just a talker. Don’t discount yourself so easily… you’re much more than “just the concepts guy…”

April 3rd, 2008, 2:21 pm


Honest Patriot said:

Shai, you can try for 2008. My July is open for now. My travel is realtively straightforward. Not sure about others, nor about others’ ease of travel on (relatively) short notice – mainly for those for whom this is a really long distance and may require visas. Depending on the size of the group, booking of the facilities may also be constrained.

April 3rd, 2008, 2:30 pm


Qifa Nabki said:


One thing that you need to keep in mind is that contacts with Israelis in such a capacity is actually illegal (I believe) in Syria. So some people might be squeamish about attending an event that has enough formality to it to be leaked to to the press. It’s one thing to discuss issues anonymously over the Internet; it’s another thing to fly halfway across the world. (But Alex should correct me if I’m wrong).

Rather than a conference, I’d say that a colloquium would be better. Draw up a list of six speakers (for example Joshua, Rime Allaf, Sami Moubayed, Imad Moustapha, Ehsani, Gary Gambill, and maybe a Lebanese analyst like Bilal Saab or Paul Salem), and have two lectures per day, one before lunch, and one before dinner. We could cover various subjects: economy, Iran, Lebanon, reforms, Israel/peace, etc. People could then discuss the subject matter with the distinguished speakers, over fabulous food (whether it is Cypriot suvlaki or Monreal pouding chomeur).

Just an idea.

April 3rd, 2008, 2:33 pm


Shai said:


I think your point about meeting with Israelis is very important. This is why I’m stressing that we do not turn this into a Syria-Israel event, but rather as you and HP suggested. I don’t think there should be any formal or “official” flavor to it whatsoever, aside from the legal issues, it would also contradict exactly the idea HP was talking about. It needs to be a colloquium about topics in the ME, but conducted in such a way, like they say in Monty Python “And now, for something COMPLETELY different…” From my point of view, better if the Israeli profile will not be so high. We don’t want, after all, to scare away visitors that would otherwise come from our region. Syria-Israel would be just one of many topics discussed. The guest speakers you mentioned sound very good.

But let’s run this by Alex and Joshua first.

April 3rd, 2008, 2:58 pm


Shai said:


I don’t think we can make it happen this summer, it’s much too soon. Maybe later in 2008, or beginning 2009? While I agree that it cannot be too serious-sounding, as that will likely scare certain people away, it does need a good bit of work done, as you suggested. If Alex and Joshua give their blessing to such an event, we can get started thinking more seriously about it. Let’s see what they think…

April 3rd, 2008, 3:24 pm


Naji said:

In partial response to some of the comments about the economy:

Arabs without oil hard hit by food price spiral
Thu Apr 3, 2008 8:48am EDT
By Alistair Lyon, Special Correspondent

BEIRUT (Reuters) – While Gulf Arab oil producers reap windfall earnings, their poorer cousins elsewhere in the Arab world are struggling with soaring energy and food bills.

Inflation has surged in Gulf countries, fuelled partly by lavish spending of record oil and gas revenues. This is also spurring demand for everything from housing to power and water.

Gulf states with currencies pegged to the dollar have also been hit by the global weakness of the U.S. currency, which is driving inflation by making some imports more expensive.

But wrestling with rising prices is a grimmer business in Arab capitals not cushioned by oil wealth. From Cairo in Egypt to Sanaa in Yemen, mostly authoritarian governments have to weigh the fiscal costs of subsidizing fuel and food against the explosive political risks of social discontent.

“Nothing’s inexpensive any more,” griped Jihad al-Amin, who owns a dry-cleaning store in Damascus, Syria. “Even parsley, which has been dirt cheap for as long as I can remember, has tripled.”

Food price rises hit the poor hardest in the Middle East, as in other food-importing developing countries around the world, but any instability here could ripple far beyond the region.

“Because the Middle East is such a sensitive area, we have to watch it that much more closely,” said Robin Lodge, a Rome-based spokesman for the World Food Program (WFP), a U.N. agency which feeds nearly four million people in Egypt, Iraq, Syria, Yemen and the Israeli-occupied Palestinian territories.

“The consequences of discontent, anger in the Middle East can be more geo-political than they may be elsewhere — the huge wealth disparity is another thing to take into account.”

In the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain, the combination of rising prices and falling dollar purchasing power has sparked riots and protests by migrant workers, many of whom live in squalor among the skyscrapers and sports car showrooms.

Inflation has jumped across the region. In Saudi Arabia, the yearly rate hit 8.7 percent in February, a 27-year high.

A regional average compiled by the Economist Intelligence Unit and not weighted for gross domestic product put inflation in the Middle East and North Africa at 8.9 percent last year.

“We see it going up to 9.9 percent this year and 8.5 percent next,” said Caroline Bain, an editor at the EIU in London. “It’s not that high a figure, but it’s coming from a region where historically inflation was negligible, with some exceptions.”


Discontent may be rising as inflation erodes the living standards of Arab middle classes and makes the poor hungrier, but some analysts doubt this will lead to political upheaval.

“The effect is poverty, social unrest, people living more miserably,” said Louis Hobeika, an economics professor at Lebanon’s Notre Dame University. “But it won’t go beyond that because of political repression by Arab dictatorships.”

Nevertheless, the problem is global and will not go away.

“Largely because of rising fuel prices, growing demand from developing economies and to some extent the effect of the biofuels industry, we are seeing rapidly declining food stocks and sharply rising prices,” said the WFP’s Lodge.

The U.N. agency has seen prices rise 40 percent in the past nine months for the grains, pulses and vegetable oil it buys.

Food prices in Syria have risen 20 percent in the last six months, Lodge said. In Yemen, one of the Arab world’s poorest countries, the price of wheat has doubled since February, while rice and vegetable oil have gone up 20 percent in two months.

Consumers face tough choices as food takes a bigger chunk of family budgets, perhaps leaving less for health and education.

Nidal Makhloof, a wholesale merchant in the West Bank city of Ramallah, said his customers were cutting back on all but essential items. “This mad global surge of prices has curbed the purchasing appetite,” he added.

In Lebanon, Central Bank Governor Riad Salameh said the purchasing power of the Lebanese was a “major concern” after it declined 10 to 15 percent last year due to higher oil and commodity prices and the dollar’s weakness against the euro.

Pierre Zoghbi, managing director of Mainspring, a food and beverage supplier, said prices of imported food, including dairy products, had risen 145 percent since late 2007.

“It is both amazing and horrible at the same time,” he said, blaming the strong euro. The Lebanese pound is effectively pegged to the dollar. “The currency changes affect us a lot.”


The response from Arab governments has varied.

Several Gulf oil producers have tempered the impact of higher food and housing costs by raising wages of their nationals — at the risk of fuelling domestic inflation.

But many Saudis were disappointed by a five percent wage hike for public employees in January after Gulf neighbors had already increased salaries by bigger margins.

This week, Saudi Arabia said it was cutting import tariffs on food, such as frozen poultry, dairy goods and vegetable oils, and building materials.

Countries like Egypt, Syria and Yemen — all modest oil exporters whose output is declining — are straining their budgets by maintaining subsidies deemed vital to their people.

Jordan, unable to meet the cost, removed fuel subsidies in February, sending diesel and kerosene prices up 76 percent overnight. The government is promising to soften the impact with public sector wage increases and social safety nets.

In Egypt, where more than 14 million people live on less than $1 a day, inflation jumped to an 11-month high of 12.1 percent in February, largely due to rising food prices.

For decades, Egypt has provided cheap bread to its working poor to help them survive and to ward off discontent. This year queues for subsidized bread have lengthened, tempers have flared and 11 Egyptians have died in the lines since early February.

Prime Minister Ahmed Nazif told Reuters in March that people who were once willing to pay extra for free-market bread could no longer afford it, adding to demand for subsidized loaves.

The Egyptian government has banned rice exports from April to October to hold down local prices.

Wealthy Gulf countries could come under pressure to increase aid flows to less well-off Arab countries to compensate for the pain of rocketing oil and food import bills, but in the past such assistance has often been tied to political considerations.

The WFP says Gulf states should consider donating more to international agencies trying to assuage poverty in the region.

“With oil wealth should come a degree of responsibility — especially since the price of oil that is making them even wealthier is one of the forces driving more and more people into poverty over food,” Lodge said.

(Additional reporting by Tom Perry in Beirut, Will Rasmussen and Jonathan Wright in Cairo, Khaled Yacoub Oweis in Damascus and Mohammed Assadi in Ramallah; Editing by Clar Ni Chonghaile)

© Reuters 2007.

April 3rd, 2008, 4:12 pm


Naji said:

19:05 Cyprus tears down Nicosia barrier which has divided Greeks, Turks for 44 years (AP)

Hope, friends,…hope…!

April 3rd, 2008, 4:31 pm


norman said:

Syrian army moves worry Israel

By Amos Harel, Avi Issacharoff, Yuval Azoulay and Barak Ravid

Israel is concerned that recent actions by the Syrian armed forces are a possible preamble for a Hezbollah operation against the northern border and a broader conflagration.

The Deputy Chief of Staff, Major-General Dan Harel, warned yesterday that Israel will respond with a heavy hand against anyone trying to target Israel. Advertisement

In a further sign that tensions are mounting along the Israel-Syrian border, Defense Minister Ehud Barak has canceled a scheduled visit to Germany.

The London-published daily Al-Quds al-Arabi reported yesterday that the Syrians have recently deployed three armored divisions because Damascus is concerned about an Israeli attack.

Sources in the defense establishment say the report in the Arabic-language paper are exaggerated, but note that Syria has taken some unusual steps recently.

One of the possible explanations for the Syrian actions is that Damascus is aware of Hezbollah’s plans to carry out a revenge attack against Israel for what it claims is Jerusalem’s responsibility in the assassination of terrorist mastermind Imad Mughniyah in February.

According to defense sources in Israel, the Syrians are preparing for the likelihood that Israel’s response to a Hezbollah attack will be severe and may result in a regional confrontation.

Senior political sources told Haaretz that Syria and Hezbollah are in close and constant coordination. They say that Hezbollah will not carry out an offensive operation against Israel without Syria being fully updated on the group’s plans.

In recent months the Syrian army has held a defensive posture on a fairly broad level. This posture has been bolstered after the Mughniyah’s assassination, and are reminiscent of the preparations made by the Syrian armed forces in the summer of 2007, before the Israel Air Force attack in northeast Syria.

Israel sees the Syrians’ readiness mostly in their missile units, as well as in artillery and rocket battalions. There is also a bolstering of forces along the border with Lebanon, which seems to follow growing domestic tensions there as a result of a deadlock in the process for selecting a new president.

Smaller units have also been deployed in other areas, and an effort is evident to raise the level of preparedness of reserve units.

In recent months, the Syrian army has been carrying out more training than in earlier periods, a process that coincides with a bolstering of the armed forces with the procurement of sophisticated arms, much of it paid for by Iran.

The visit by Defense Minister Barak to the northern border on Tuesday was not coincidental and was directly linked to the growing tensions.

Barak said that Israel is the most powerful country in the Middle East and warned against challenging it.

At the same time, Israel sent messages to Damascus along secret channels that it has no offensive intentions, but warned that it would not hold back if attacked, even if Hezbollah and Syria argue that the attack was a retaliation for Mughniyah’s assassination.

Israeli security sources said there is no intelligence that shows Syria is planning offensive action against Israel, but it pointed out that the Syrian deployment is troubling and requires a high level of readiness by the IDF.

At Northern Command, the readiness is at high level, especially to counter possible Hezbollah attacks seeking to avenge the killing of Mughniyah.

Intelligence concerned by assassination possibility

According to intelligence assessments, Hezbollah may – in coordination with Syria and Iran – try to assassinate senior Israeli public figures.

The defense establishment is particularly worried about attacks against Israeli targets in the developing world, where Hezbollah may use local terrorist infrastructure affiliated with extremist Islamic organizations.

In its report, Al-Quds al-Arabi noted that the Syrians are preparing not only for an Israeli offensive against Syria, but also in Lebanon against Hezbollah.

The newspaper reported that Syria is following IDF movements very closely as well as the statements by Israeli leaders in the media. Here they see incitement and an attempt to ready Israeli and international public opinion toward war against Syria.

The report noted that the Syrian army is carrying out extensive exercises and that it has called up some reserves for a possible confrontation.

Syria also deployed three armored divisions, special forces and nine infantry brigades near the border in an area near Lebanon’s Beka’a Valley, because of concerns that Israel may attack through its flanks, the newspaper reported.

Deputy Chief of Staff Harel discussed the reports in the Arab press on the elevated state of readiness in the Syrian army during a briefing with reporters yesterday.

“I see no reason at all for unusual tension in the North and I do not think that any side is interested in a military confrontation,” he said.

But Harel also struck a threatening note when he reiterated what has lately become a favorite statement among the top IDF brass and Defense Minister Barak: “Anyone who tries to harm Israel needs to keep in mind that Israel is the most powerful country in the region and its response will be hard and painful. We are constantly vigilant and ready for action.”

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April 3rd, 2008, 4:55 pm


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

The hotels and guest houses in the Golan are reporting 93% occupancy for Passover. A war is highly unlikely since it is in no one’s interest. HA will not retaliate for Mugniyeh because they cannot risk an Israeli response in the magnitude of July 2006. Everybody can take it easy and work on improving the economy.

April 3rd, 2008, 5:47 pm


offended said:

All this talk about hummus and BBQ made me hungry; I am off to buy some canned fool (fava beans). There are two types: the Syrian blend, and the Lebanese blend. I called the toll free number once to ask what the difference is. They told me they are almost the same, but while the Syrian blend is stable; the Lebanese blend has more ingredients and is irritating and gassy to the digestive system 😛

April 3rd, 2008, 6:02 pm


offended said:

You are lying once again. Those hotel guests are undercover Sayeret Matkal warriors. You ain’t gonna daunt our vigilance with your ‘improve your economy’ bullshit.

April 3rd, 2008, 6:09 pm


kamali said:

this is a deep sound analysis contrary to the one posted a few months before. syria will be in big trouble in the near future because they do not have infrastructure within the economy to support any unpredicted incidents. while assad had control over the golan front by keeping it quite he cannot dig deeper to find more oil in the ground. he forgot it will run out one day in his life time not his son. for his regime opening the economy for investors and fighting corruption is like dethroning him and his family from power. this is a tricky situation.

all the talk about EU partnership and Damas stock Exchnage is really out of this world. it will never work where most of the economy is owned by a handful of poeple who relate to each other in a way or another. once, a high official told me: “we do not open the economy for the fear that israeli investors would sneak into the country and the reason why Mr makhloof is dominating the comm in the country because they need a trusted person… and who is better than Astaz Rami?” i feel the econmy is heading towrads A Zimbabowian style of collapse if nothing is done to save/ cover the sitation….a resue plan or a ‘war’ perhaps!!!!

as for finding Israeli products (and those falsely labelled as made in israel) in US & EU supermarket, i can tell you that this is not because the Israeli economy is strong (which can be) but because the Israeli products are exempt from the EU and US quota for exports.

April 3rd, 2008, 6:21 pm


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Good point about the products, we do have excellent bilatteral open trade agreements with the EU and the USA.

April 3rd, 2008, 6:25 pm


Seeking the Truth said:


I think the probability of HA initiating an attack against Israel in the near future as a retaliation in support for the Palestinians, is low enough to make your feared doomsday scenario unlikely, but again one can never tell with certainty.

April 3rd, 2008, 7:18 pm


Nur al-Cubicle said:

02:05 Cyprus reinstalls Nicosia barrier which has divided Greeks, Turks for 44 years (AP)

April 3rd, 2008, 7:59 pm


Naji said:

Marcel is interviewing Franjieh on LBC (Kalam AlNas) right now… extremely revealing and highly recommended straight talk (as you know, neither pulls any punches)… might answer many of your puzzlements about the whole picture, and about the Suleiman issue in particular…

Btw, you will find out that the WHOLE issue is about the election law… if M14 will agree to the 1960 election districts (dropping the election law that they blame the Syrians for), Suleiman can be elected TOMORROW, with NO further conditions…!

The issues are local… do trust your Lebanese compatriots and give them some credit… and do be proud of them… they are currently the only hope for the democratic future of our region…!

Also, today’s country-wide teachers’ strike was a really good sign and a cause for optimism… BOTH M14 and M8 participated and the thing was perfectly peaceful and successful… Perhaps it won’t be long before the Lebanese politicians will finally start worrying about the price of onions… 🙂

April 3rd, 2008, 8:01 pm


Shai said:


First, I hope you’re right. Second, in my so-called doomsday scenario, I didn’t see Hezbollah initiating anything, but rather responding to a Lebanon 2006-style operation in Gaza, with a huge toll in innocent civilian life (much greater than the 120 killed in 4 days during the last operation). If Hamas, or even Islamic Jihad, lob some Qassams that end up killing 8-9 children in a kindergarten in Sderot, the next day the Israeli cabinet could issue an order for a massive ground operation into Gaza. And then we’re back in Summer 2006, but far worse. And if HA responds in support, we’re plunged into a regional war, quiet likely. This is the scenario I fear most right now. It can happen so easily, without anyone intending it to get out of control.

April 3rd, 2008, 8:10 pm


Qifa Nabki said:


Unfortunately, I don’t have access to LBC here in the US. I have to wait until Marcel’s interviews are put on YouTube (which they usually are).

But please do report on the interview, if you are so inclined. I actually greatly respect Marcel’s show; he really puts people on the spot, regardless of their affiliations.

As for the election law, you’re right that this is one of the major issues. It seems that the opposition believes that they can gain the upper hand in parliament with the use of this law, and I believe that they are right. The March 14 landslide in 2005 was largely the result of anti-Syrian sentiment piggy-backing on top of a corrupt law. The next parliament will probably fall into the hands of Hizbullah/FPM, although I don’t think they will achieve anything close to a super-majority, nor do I think that they can make that many positive gains besides thwarting the disarmament of HA.

What the FPM is counting on is that Hizbullah will ‘normalize’ itself, over time. As long as there is no regional peace deal, however, Hizbullah’s normalization is a red line for Syria. Meanwhile, as long as the Lebanese political system remains unreformed (with respect to quotas, electoral system, Taif agreement stagnation, etc.) Hizbullah will not abandon its weapons which represent a principal source of political leverage for the Shiites. Therefore, both Syria and Hizbullah are playing for time, but for different reasons.

What March 14 haven’t figured out how to do yet is to bring Hizbullah and the FPM back into the fold, taking disarmament off the table in exchange for a hands-off agreement on the Tribunal. It may be that they have tried this, but the Syrians torpedoed it; or it may be that the opposition tried this, but the Americans torpedoed it. We have no way of knowing.

April 3rd, 2008, 8:17 pm


Naji said:

… 🙁

April 3rd, 2008, 8:21 pm


SimoHurtta said:

China to build oil refinery in Syria near alleged nuclear plant bombed by Israel

Agreement to establish petroleum refinery part of plans to bolster cooperation between countries in oil and gas industry.

Hmmmm strange that China is investing in building a refinery on land which should be heavily polluted by radioactive materials if there was a nuclear site. Strange isn’t it.

I think the probability of HA initiating an attack against Israel in the near future as a retaliation in support for the Palestinians

Has Hizbollah ever acted against Israel only for support for Palestinians and especially Hamas? If it has that shows that the drift between Sunnis and Shias is not so big as some would like it to be. A show of that ecumenical development is that the bad Shia regime is financing and controlling a major bad Sunni organization. Some reliable un-named sources say Vatican financed and supported the North Irish Protestants in their terrorism to hurt their arch-enemy the English Anglican Church. 🙂

April 3rd, 2008, 8:50 pm


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

If the electoral law is not changed the Lebanese parlaiment will not have an FPM/HA majority in the next elections especially if the christian vote is only 50% FPM and not 70% as all the indications show.

FPM’s worst nightmare is a majority in parlaiment with HA. Let’s see them get one cent for Lebanon either by international loans or handouts from the Gulf countries. They know this very well and will not form a government without March 14. But March 14 will not join any government in which FM does decide on the PM. So an opposition win in parlaiment will lead to total chaos in Lebanon and FPM are fully aware of it.

I really do not understand what Aoun is doing. He is in a no win situation once the argument escalated to replacing the government from sharing power within it.

April 3rd, 2008, 9:01 pm


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Sim is quoting Israeli papers again.
Who said there was nuclear material in the plant? The Osirak nuclear plant was bombed BEFORE there was nuclear material there so that there would not be any radiation hazard. The same was done in this case.

Did you notice in the article you quoted that Israel told Japan that it was a nuclear reactor? Did you also notice the “huge” $3 million dollar cooperation deal that Syria struck with China? And did you notice that nobody mentioned how the refinery is going to be financed?

I am sad to report that Maccabi lost to Barcelona in the second game and will have to beat them at home in the NOKIA arena in order to get to the Final Four of the european basketball championship.

April 3rd, 2008, 9:10 pm


Honest Patriot said:

AIG, I really do not understand what Aoun is doing.
Join the Club!
Actually Aoun’s name means “assistance” as in “My actions are crying out for someone to give my brains some assistance to protect me from its workings.”

— Maybe Iran will give assistancen under your scenario.
It might expand the smartcard program to Lebanon to provide cheap petrol. Then, as its nuclear program develops (for power generation of course), it will innovate min-reactors that are safe and efficient. Those will be individual household totally silent generators that will replace all those noisy and messy ones that are currently used in Lebanon to supplement the state-supplied electricity. So you see, AIG, there is future in this and it can also be technology based. I think we will all be so impressed that we will then follow the spiritual leadership of Nasrallah and become all (or at least those lucky ones of us who live in Lebanon or choose to return there), we will become all just happy, serenely happy, contentedly happy, tranquilly happy.
Some will run in the streets jumping and shouting Happy Happy Joy Joy.

April 3rd, 2008, 9:20 pm


Naji said:

Oh…Oh… I don’t know if HP knows how sensitive I get when someone mentions The General with anything less than complete reverence…!! Just ask QN… 😉 [ https://joshualandis.com/blog/?p=629#comment-124967 ] [ https://joshualandis.com/blog/?p=629#comment-124998 ]

Now you have gotten me too upset to report on the Marcel interview…:), but you guys really really must watch it… Lebanese politics are just too intricate to report on with a few words, especially to expats who are not able to follow its daily convolutions…and who, so far, have a complete mis-understanding/sub-understanding of what is going on…!

I do recommend, though, that you guys supplement your NOW readings with some Al-Akhbar for balance.

April 3rd, 2008, 9:47 pm


Naji said:

No SC conference without the Offended…humor 😀 The above comments were hilarious.

April 3rd, 2008, 9:51 pm


SimoHurtta said:

Sim is quoting Israeli papers again.
Who said there was nuclear material in the plant? The Osirak nuclear plant was bombed BEFORE there was nuclear material there so that there would not be any radiation hazard. The same was done in this case.

Did you notice in the article you quoted that Israel told Japan that it was a nuclear reactor? Did you also notice the “huge” $3 million dollar cooperation deal that Syria struck with China? And did you notice that nobody mentioned how the refinery is going to be financed?

AIG I did choose the YNET article, because it in “funny” style linked the “nuclear” site to this refinery news. Not because it was the only. Well here is a link to Forbes

The agreements were signed by representatives of the China National Petroleum Corp and Syrian oil ministry officials on the sidelines of a visit to Damascus by a Chinese communist party delegation, the agency added.

In July, Chinese state media reported that Beijing was planning a series of oil-related projects in Syria, including a $1 billion oil refinery.

Over the past years Syria has signed several oil and gas deals with foreign companies and launched tenders for exploration in both sectors in a bid to boost its dwindling energy output.

Gas production has risen from 2 million cubic metres a day in 1995 to 14.2 million in 2007, while oil output has fallen to around 400,000 barrels per day last year from about 600,000 bpd in 1996.

Hmmm AIG, you forgot that North Korean little ship which arrived three days before the attack “full of radioactive” material of which your unnamed sources briefed the loyal media. Japanese buy the way said that Israel did not show any evidence only make claims. Well, well we are used to those claims but not to claims + evidence made by Israel.

Osirak, do you AIG know what it was? A small research reactor UNDER IAEA control. Only the Israeli folklore, and after Kuwait later the US, tells that it was a nuclear bomb factory and a heroic attack at the last moment. By the way could any neighbour country attack Dimona and would you see that pre-emptive attack heroic? Well many would see it to be.

Do you seriously claim that the Chinese do not have that money to finance those investments worth billions. Maybe they lend the money from you IGs. 🙂 You did read rather bad the article, as usual, the 3 million investment was “alongside” with the bigger deal. Maybe that additional packet is a lubrication “fee”.

By the way AIG do you know the size of China’s foreign exchange reserves? Maybe you should update your “vision” of the world.

China National Petroleum Corporation

What is Israel doing in European Basketball Championship tournament? Is Israel in Europe? Well we Europeans should ask Zimbabwe, Burma and China also to participate. Then you “human rights activist countries” could form an “European” sub-league. 🙂

April 3rd, 2008, 9:57 pm


Qifa Nabki said:

I do recommend, though, that you guys supplement your NOW readings with some Al-Akhbar for balance.

What are you talking about? I only read Tishreen.

April 3rd, 2008, 10:05 pm


Honest Patriot said:

Naji, sorry – no offense was meant, especially not to you. It is in fact this genuine respect of what General Aoun could be for Lebanon, coupled with the mystery of his positions to some, that makes some of us so utterly baffled by his behavior. There may well be some deep analysis that argues that Aoun is in fact enabling the removal of any confessional element to the crisis — and we saw what that element did in the disaster of the 1975-1990 period. Maybe. I don’t know.
Suffice it to say he is an enigma wrapped in a mystery and convolved into multi-dimensional puzzles not only to may Lebanese expats but as well to a large contingency of Western diplomats – paticularly Europeans who want nothing but the best for Lebanon.

Now, please blame this latest gaffe in offending you on me and don’t punish QN. Do give us the benefit of the digest of the Marcel interview.

Same7na ya zalameh, ma 2assadna n’za3lak

April 3rd, 2008, 10:06 pm


Naji said:

Actually, I think that Israel in a league of its own in these matters… 😉

April 3rd, 2008, 10:07 pm


Naji said:

That explains all… 😉

April 3rd, 2008, 10:09 pm


Majhool said:

Does anyone live in California (Just moved in)? Maybe there should be a regional (Just like the NCAA) SC get-together before SC goes international. QN, I believe we can arrange for peanuts.

April 3rd, 2008, 10:54 pm


Enlightened said:


The straw man is good but you didnt attempt to solve the riddle!

Shai: QN highlighted the difficulty of meeting formally, and the dangers, I agree with him that this needs to be very very informal.


Although Australias economy is slowing your analysis of investment opportunities here is spot on. Are you in Melb? My inlaws live there, where abouts?

April 3rd, 2008, 11:00 pm


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

China could finance many things, but let’s see if it in fact funds the Syrian refinery. Why would they?
Most european countries have admitted that it was very important that Israel bombed Osirak and delayed Saddam’s progress for 10 years, yet you continue to believe your own fairy tales.

As for Israel being in Europe, have you heard of NOKIA, the oompany that sponsors the NOKIA arena in Tel-Aviv? Please go to their site: http://www.nokia.com
Then press Europe. You won’t believe your eyes! Even Nokia puts Israel in the list of European countries.

What to do Sim? You can’t even convince your fellow countrymen of anything.

April 3rd, 2008, 11:08 pm


Qifa Nabki said:


In all of our discussions of the SC conference, you have never weighed in.

So, are you going to come?

I promise to seat you next to Zenobia.

April 3rd, 2008, 11:16 pm


Joe M. said:


I don’t think your “doomsday” scenario is very likely at all. Hizbullah did not expect the last war, and have absolutely no intention of being involved in another one. But Israel is the world’s most violent state, so it could easily attack anyone at any time. It’s possible for a regional war, but not very possible. Syria hardly has an army that is able to be mobilized, Iran is 1000 miles away (so they are not sending troops any time soon), Lebanon is a destroyed country, and the puppets would rather fight against the Arab nationalists than fight with them. The Palestinians have been left to suffer enough already without a war breaking out, it’s hard for me to believe that anyone would come to their direct aid even if they were being exterminated totally. Hizbullah alone would defend them, but as I said above, they are in no mood for more war…

But since you are the resident peace maker, let me ask you a very basic question. Do you think Oslo was good or bad? Was it a move towards or away from peace? I assume that you were very excited by Oslo when it was first announced. I, on the other hand, knew it was doomed to fail. It is clear now that it was a total and utter failure. In my opinion it was a major setback for peace. Israel went on to tighten is occupation, empower an extremely corrupt group of “nationalists”, solidify its control of the Palestinians, Expand the settlements to such a degree that a “two-state solution” is now impossible, assassinate Arafat, and many many other vicious crimes. I don’t see any reason to think that Israel is more ready for peace now than it was in the early 90s. Similarly, i don’t see any reason to believe that any “peace” with Israel could be anything more than a tightening of their control (just as Camp David solidified their position, and the “peace” with the Jordanian puppet did as well). In that respect I believe that peace can only be won by the Palestinian and their allies (through violent or possibly non-violent direct action), not given by useless negotiations with an enemy who does not want peace (but only wants its own dominance).

April 3rd, 2008, 11:33 pm


Honest Patriot said:

Enlightened said:

HP:The straw man is good but you didnt attempt to solve the riddle!

Ya Enlightened shoo hayda you want me to spin my head into dementia. I told you I’m a simple guy who likes to boil things down to the most basic Physics principle, like H*Psi=E*Psi and such. I have a feeling that contorted sentence of yours has a strong seasoning of down-under idioms or other. Either that or my mind has lost its edge because of the unavaiability of manakeesh bi-za3tar where I live. Nothing like za3tar to perk up that grey matter. All this to stay I have no clue. Give a hint if you want to keep stringing me along, or just bi2 el bahssa 😉

April 4th, 2008, 1:25 am


Enlightened said:


you just gave me hunger pains, I haven’t had manakeesh for 3 years as I don’t live anywhere near the Arab areas in Sydney. Il have to take the wife and boy for a drive on Sunday.

Anyways, the sentence has no Aussie idioms, it was told to me by a guy who went on to be a hotshot advertising guy, it is simply a maxim that can be used everyday in any situation…….. that manakeesh is making my mouth water.

Oh ok here is the riddle. (The straw man) Its an expression of a general TRUTH, a principle or rule of conduct.

I haven’t figured out how to apply a physics formula to it as I failed physics at school.

Now having this principle you can now write the white paper and agenda, and if the grey matter gets you a bit more confused then a sprinkling of more Zahtar will restore your perkiness. (If still confused see a doctor). Now time for my tablets!

April 4th, 2008, 2:11 am


Qifa Nabki said:


Do you believe that the Palestinians should be given citizenship in Lebanon?

April 4th, 2008, 2:43 am


Joe M. said:

Qifa Nabki,

No, I do not believe they should be given citizenship in any country where they reside (except israel). But i do believe they should be given equal rights.

According to international law refugees have the right to return to their land. it is an absolute right. But if you accept citizenship to another country you are no longer formally considered a refugee. so I agree with the policy of not giving Palestinians citizenship, but i obviously disagree with the policy of discriminating against them.

April 4th, 2008, 3:49 am


Enlightened said:

Joe M:

“No, I do not believe they should be given citizenship in any country where they reside (except israel). But i do believe they should be given equal rights.”

Joe sorry to interrupt the conversation with QN, but I also have a question for you, given that the Lebanese state treats the refugees appallingly if they were given rights should they also give up the armed struggle and the guns they have in Lebanon?

Do you think they would trade in their weapons and their armed camps for more rights?

April 4th, 2008, 4:09 am


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:


With that promise, I am definitely not coming 🙂

I don’t believe the world needs another conference in the US about the problems of the middle east. What is required is a dialog in the Arab world about where it wants to be in 20 years. You are giving this a go by patiently engaging people like Joe M.

The right question to ask Joe M. is not whether the Palestinians should be given citizenship in Lebanon or where ever they reside. That is a no brainer, after 3 generations there they have earned the right to be citizens.

The question is: Why are you against giving the Palestinians the option of becoming citizens? Do not force them, but give them a choice. And if they choose to become citizens, then let them become citizens. Why the total disregard to what the Palestinians want in this personal matter? And if you say they would not take the citizenship, then I say what have you got to lose by oferring it to them? We won’t really know what they want until they have a real option.

April 4th, 2008, 4:41 am


Joe M. said:

Armed struggle against Israel is also the right of Palestinians under international law (even more, it is a right of Palestinians that transcends international law). So, whether they should give up their right to fight is a non-starter. Would Israel give up its military? Only if Israel disarms do I support disarming Palestinians.

As a practical matter, I do not think the Palestinians have been effective or very organized in their use of armed struggle. I think that a more effective form of armed struggle would have prevented much of the hostility that the Palestinians historically and currently face in Lebanon. Hizbullah’s general popularity is a perfect example. Hizbullah has shown that armed struggle can be popular if done well. Basically all Lebanese (and Arabs), with the exception of Antoine Lahad and his gang, were proud and applauded Hizbullah’s fight (and ability) to drive Israel from most of occupied Lebanon. This popularity was the result of the honorable way in which they fought the occupation. I am sure the same would have been true if the Palestinians would have been so dedicated, organized and humble as Hizbullah has. The discrimination they face today is largely due to the arrogance and cruelty of many of the PLO after they lost in Jordan. Of course, there is a large fascist segment of Lebanese society, and they would likely pose some level of problem regardless of the circumstances, but even this could be tempered given proper Palestinian behavior. I don’t think it is too late to repair this problem, and especially with Hizbullah’s help, but they are in a deep hole.

As for AnotherIsraeliGuy’s suggestion that the Palestinians should be given the option of citizenship in Arab countries, he is completely wrong and disingenuous. Arab people should work together to fight Zionist crimes and should not be fooled by such false compassion. BUT, USING THE SAME STANDARDS AS HIS SUGGESTION, ISRAEL SHOULD GIVE THE PALESTINIAN REFUGEES THE CHOICE TO HAVE CITIZENSHIP IN ISRAEL. I would be perfectly happy seeing Palestinians offered citizenship in Arab countries if they were given the full freedom to decide where, their homeland, they wanted their citizenship. Without a choice that includes Israel, AnotherIsraeliGuy’s suggestion is a farce. Gandhi once said, “There are people in the world so hungry that God cannot appear to them except in the form of bread.” Similarly, if you give a refugee the choice between scraps of dignity and their full rights and dignity, it is logical that some may feel compelled to accept the bare minimum. Yet this is really no choice at all, a false generosity. And AnotherIsraeliGuy exposes his utter hypocrisy when he continues to make suggestions for other people that he is too cowardly to accept for himself. He believes in democracy when he gets to choose who votes! If Israel is to be a democracy, it must accept that democracy even includes undesirable people. Prior to suffrage for women in the USA (a time that included massive crimes and denial of the vote for black people as well), it would be impossible to consider the USA as a democracy. Even with limited elections, South Africa was not a democracy under Apartheid either. Similarly Israel is not a democracy until it accepts all those people who it rules into its political system (and all those who would have been under the political system had they not been forced to flee).

April 4th, 2008, 5:35 am


Naji said:

Is there much value in an SC conference unless also attended by Joe M…??!

April 4th, 2008, 8:28 am


MSK said:

Dear all,

Since SC now also includes talking about Palestine/Israel (which, after all, is just southern Syria anyway ;)) … I’m posting this here piece:

‘Marching toward total ruin’

By Avi Issacharoff

JENIN – “When you see Zakariya, maybe you’ll be surprised, but he looks like just any other Palestinian man now. Without armed men, without a weapon, just an ordinary guy,” related an acquaintance of Zakariya Zubeidi, until not long ago the commander of the Al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades in Jenin.

Though Zubeidi is no longer hiding from the Israel Defense Forces, for a number of hours the people at the theater where he works tried to find him. Zubeidi didn’t answer his mobile phone even when the commander of the Palestinian security forces in Jenin, Suleiman Umran, called him. In the end, a woman who works at the theater explained that he usually sleeps late and maybe that’s what he was doing.

In the past, Zubeidi used to show up briefly at his house, in the Jenin refugee camp, together with his wanted colleagues, before disappearing for fear that Israelis would ambush him. The only reminder of those days are the framed pictures of the “martyrs” killed recently in the camp, and the huge poster of Saddam Hussein posted in one of the alleys leading to Zubeidi’s home. The door is opened by his son Mohammed, who immediately summons his father. He comes down in sandals and a black T-shirt, and promises that in a few minutes he will come to the theater offices. Zubeidi arrives in his officer’s “battle” jacket and mountaineering shoes, but without a weapon and without his erstwhile colleagues from the brigades.

What are you doing these days?

Zubeidi: “Nothing special. We’ve shut down the Al-Aqsa brigades and I haven’t yet received a full pardon from Israel. I’m at home a bit, at the theater a bit.”

Why haven’t you received a pardon?

“They lied to us, Israel and the Palestinian Authority. The PA promised us that after we spent three months in PA facilities and if we didn’t get involved in actions, we would receive a pardon. The three months ended and nothing happened. We still need to sleep at the headquarters of the security organizations. They promised us jobs and they haven’t materialized either. Some of us are getting a salary of NIS 1,050 a month. What can you do with that? Buy Bamba for your children? They lied to everyone, they made a distinction between those who were really in the Al-Aqsa Brigades, whom they screwed, and groups that called themselves by that name, but in fact were working on behalf of the PA.”

Continue the article here: http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/971604.html

Personally, my only hope is that Marwan Barghouthi gets released from Israeli prison …


April 4th, 2008, 8:40 am


MSK said:

Dear all-

I’m all for a social-intellectual meeting somewhere on the eastern Med. Those people who can afford plane tickets seem to be living in North America and Australia, while us “locals” also get paid local salaries … and the inflation is hitting everyone.

I don’t think we need big speakers – nor would they come to meet with a bunch of comment section guys.

I think it would be much more productive & interesting if just a bunch of us were to meet up, have good food, and talk things through.



April 4th, 2008, 8:47 am


Naji said:

خالد صاغية
بما أنّ الكذب والتكاذب منتشران، لا بدّ من التحدّث بصدق وصراحة في الأوّل من نيسان:
أوّلاً، تبيّن أنّه منذ الاستقلال، يتمتّع لبنان حالياً بأفضل رئيس جمهوريّة. رئيس لا يرتشي، لا يزوّر انتخابات، لا يسخّر لخدمته أجهزة المخابرات، لا يشعل حرباً أهليّة، لا يرتهن للخارج، لا يؤلّف ميليشيات. وهو مدين بمركزه للبنانيّين كافّة ولسلوكهم السياسي. فضلاً عن ذلك، لم يأتِنا هذا الرئيس من خلفيّة عسكريّة، ولا من خلفيّة مدنيّة. إنّه فراغ، لا خلفيّة له إلا الطبيعة نفسها.
ثانياً، الشلل الموجود حالياً يوفّر أفضل الأجواء النفسيّة للّبنانيّين. فقبل سنوات، كانت كلّ زيادة في الدين العام تثير نقاشات طويلة وتوقّعات بتدنّي مستوى المعيشة والخراب الاقتصادي للبلاد. اليوم، وأمام الأهوال التي نعيشها، باتت الديون تتراكم ملياراً فوق مليار، من دون أن يستثير ذلك نقمة أحد.
ثالثاً، أثبت نزع صفة الشرعيّة عن الحكومة وإقفال المجلس النيابي فاعليّتهما. فليس بمقدور فؤاد السنيورة ممارسة هوايته المفضّلة في فرض ضرائب على الفقراء.
رابعاً، الظروف السريعة التي أُجريت فيها الانتخابات النيابية الأخيرة أفرزت لنا طقماً جديداً من النوّاب الذين يمكن التأكيد أنّهم من أظرف المجموعات التي شهدتها مجالسنا النيابية. وكلّما مرّ الوقت من دون أن يتدرّبوا على الحياة البرلمانيّة، ازداد ظُرفهم ظُرفاً.
خامساً، لم يؤثّر الوضع السياسي على السياحة. فـ«السيرك» المتنقّل من قريطم إلى الرابية إلى السرايا يجذب العديد من الباصات السياحيّة.

عدد الثلاثاء ١ نيسان ٢٠٠٨

April 4th, 2008, 11:20 am


wizart said:

What if an SC conference takes place at a Palestinian refugee camp?

The seeds for a Middle East Union may have to be planted through ongoing religious tolerance seminars highlighting similarities among the cultures and the economic value of a shared geographic destiny.

Let’s invite some AIGs to start a synagogue there so people can apply to join a new 21st century one integrated nation of the Middle East.

Cheers! 🙂

April 4th, 2008, 11:25 am


Naji said:

I always maintained that the Wiz is a peace-artist. Creative solutions is what is needed… 🙂 (and I don’t mean by that peace-parks and peace-canals… leave those to water-resources engineers and urban planners…)

April 4th, 2008, 11:41 am


Shai said:

Joe M.,

I think I now understand better how we differ. But let me first say what I do agree with:

1. Oslo was a failure. It failed because both sides found ways not to deliver. It would have been easier, perhaps, if Israel had been run by a dictatorship, who would have interpreted its part in only one way. Successive governments in Israel, with very different leaders, did not help the process. But neither did Arafat, who didn’t estimate correctly how complex the situation might be, and how little control he may have over Israel’s role (and vice-versa). But for Israel, some good did come out of Oslo, such as the opening to China, India, certain European markets, the lifting of the Arab embargo, etc. This, however, was not a great benefit to the Palestinians, unfortunately.

2. Israelis are not interested in returning land right now, not the West Bank, nor the Golan. The level of suspicion, distrust, and hatred towards Arabs right now, is far higher than it was in the 1990’s. Most Israelis, for all practical purposes, do not want to make peace right now with Assad, or with Fatah/Hamas. This is the public opinion that we must change, for there to be peace. While the Olmert government is ya’ani negotiating with Abu Mazen, in fact, it is not negotiating with the Palestinians, and will therefore never be able to withdraw from the West Bank in this situation, until a major change occurs between Fatah/Hamas. The rift between them is enabling a “puppet”-like situation to exist. This is not good for you, nor for us. Better to release Marwan Bargouti, let him take control of the West Bank and Gaza, and then begin talking to him. He would be far better than Abu Mazen, not because of his pro-Israel stance, but because of the exact opposite.

3. Given that Israel is not withdrawing from the West Bank, the Palestinians must continue their struggle. We didn’t withdraw from Gaza because we suddenly fell in love with you – we did so because you fought us to the bitter end. When Sharon realized that he cannot win in Gaza, he ordered our troops, and Jewish settlers, out. He was going to do the same in the West Bank, but as we know, never made it that far. Your struggle must continue, but not from Gaza, as that causes Israelis the opposite reaction from what you want. There are many who say “You see, this is how they react when we withdraw – they don’t really want peace.” It can sound ridiculous to you, or not, but you need Israelis to believe that if they withdraw, their situation will be better, and more stable, than if they don’t. So the struggle must continue, but from the West Bank. Abu Mazen is making a terrible mistake by maintaining a “peaceful” stance. With each wink and pat on the back, he becomes weaker, and less relevant, to the Palestinians. It’s a shame he doesn’t understand this. And it’s a shame our leaders don’t either.

4) The just solution to the Palestinian history of the past 60 years would be a complete right of return to their homes and towns. Justice would prevail when every Palestinian, refugee or not, would be able to choose his/her citizenship, and whether to return, or stay. Only a one-state solution will bring final justice to the Palestinians.

But here’s where we differ:

1. While continuing your struggle is essential, it will not get you what you’re seeking – Justice. A one-state solution is not possible right now. If it ever will be, it’ll happen via my so-called UME, where a de facto solution would enable a right-of-return to any citizen. But this is no less than 15-20 years from now, after Israelis, Palestinians, and other Arabs have been living in peace next to one another. While some 30% of Israelis still believe we should withdraw from the Golan right now, almost 0% accept a one-state solution. Most, however, do believe in a two-state solution. You will not find justice for now. The one-state solution is a justified dream, but not a reality, I’m afraid.

2. You believe that an Israel-Syria peace would be counter to Palestinian best interest. I believe that the Arab world should unite enough to push Israel to make peace with Syria as soon as possible, recognizing that only this will apply the right pressure, and will bring about a renewed sense of optimism so desperately needed right now. This peace will be superficial, like the ones with Egypt and Jordan, until the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is resolved. But it will give us the kind of hope again (to Israelis), that could well cause a major change in public opinion, and lead to dramatic developments (e.g. release of Bargouti, agreeing to talk to Hamas, etc.) We need this peace much more than I believe you are aware of.

3. Because you believe HA is not interested in war, my “doomsday scenario” is unlikely. While I agree with the first, and in fact am not attributing likelihood or not to this scenario, I do think you underestimate how such a war could develop. Hezbollah has completely rebuilt itself, and has, according to Israeli intelligence, even better strategic capabilities than it did a mere two years ago. We’re not the only ones that know this, so does HA’s supporters. If god-forbid a massive ground operation into Gaza brings about the deaths of many many innocent Palestinians, I’m not sure Hezbollah will be able to sit by watching this, without responding somehow. And how could it respond, in a way that would be deemed “effective” by its supporters, if not by using its rockets? And if it did, we’d probably find ourselves in a regional war, even if not intended by any of the sides. There are simply too many parties to this conflict, making this a very different scenario than a cold war detente between the U.S. and U.S.S.R. We have two militias (one well equipped), one strong army (with a “score to settle”), a weaker army (but with strategic capabilities nonetheless), and another distant stronger army (but also with long-range capabilities). While I hope the likelihood for war is zero, and though none of the parties may in fact intend to start war, the chain-of-reactions leading to it could, I believe, be started very easily. I think you’re underestimating the volatility at the moment.

April 4th, 2008, 11:55 am


Honest Patriot said:

Joe M., having read enough at this point, while you display a compelling literary style and are clearly of superior intelligence, I have come to the subjective conclusion that you hold completely impractical and radical views while not offering any alternative solution that carries any potential for peace.

Your suggestions are not self-consistent and fail to acknowledge the rights of others who do not hold your views. Just as one example, you are advocating the right of Palestinians to military struggle against Israel from Lebanon. They tried it. The result was a disaster. Now you say they should try it again but behave more like HA. Who the hell are you to speak for the Lebanese? Those you call fascist in Lebanon are likely the ones who want to work on economic development, on openness to the Western civilization, on the kind of development that improves the lives of all in Lebanon.

You indirectly condone what the Palestinians tried in Jordan in 1970. I’m sorry but at this point I’m reading you as a rigid radical with stubborn views that have no hope of ever coming to pass. At the same time, you strike me as someone averse to taking personal risks or even putting your money where your mouth is. You espouse rejectionism – but not the peaceful, effective, Gandhi type (even though you try to hint at adopting Gandhi approaches) – but rather the violent one. The problem is that you do not recognize the history of this violence, a history which reflects a consistently wrong approach that has so far yielded nothing. On the other hand, you condemn those who have followed successfully alternative approaches to peace (Sadat and King Hussein), and you condemn in a demeaning manner that goes as far as rejoicing at the assassination of Sadat.

As long as there as thought leaders like you in the ME I suppose that Israel can rest assured that no effective struggle can emerge.

Some of the SC contributors here are trying to engage you in a polite way to point to your contradictions. At this point I think this is a futile exercise. You have clearly demonstrated the inflexibility of your thoughts and the sad mistaken path that you advocate. All this with what I believe is an utter lack of personal commitment — not to the fight of the word — but to the real dirty fights and suffering that would ensue from following your approach. I guess you think it’s OK as long as you yourself are safe. That, to me, represents the exact opposite of courage.

April 4th, 2008, 12:37 pm


wizart said:

Thanks Naji 🙂

Blessed are the peacemakers for they shall inherit the earth. I’ve been inspired like you and others to reach for peace because it’s the right thing to do despite all difficulties. It takes two to tango!


April 4th, 2008, 12:42 pm


Honest Patriot said:

OK, maybe I was harsh on Joe M. above, but what is it about the non-viability of the one-state solution that isn’t clear? After all this is really the crux of Joe M.’s request. Yet, one-state solution (or whatever lead-in he’s willing to admit to), based on established historical, social, religious, and anthropological facts of the region will never be accepted by Israel. Given Israel’s military superirority (which they see as the necessary condition of their survival), it cannot come to pass. Period.
If that reasoning is defeatist, how about then idealistically beginning to reclaim the rights of native Indians in the U.S. ?

April 4th, 2008, 12:52 pm


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Joe M.,
The Palestinians are my enemies, but your brothers.
Israel fought a bitter war with them in 1948, a war that could have gone either way, a war in which 1% of the Israeli population died. In spite of that fact, Israel eventually gave the Palestinians in its territory citizenship. Now you want Israel to committ suicide by agreeing to take in a huge population of its bitter enemies before you are willing to treat your brothers with basic decency and kindness.

Your position is completely and utterly morally bankrupt. You would not grant your brothers the option of becoming citizens because you feel they are weak and may succumb to this “temptation”. You are not willing to let them decide what is good for them and are claiming to know better than them what their interests are. You are willing to let them languish because otherwise, you believe Israel will gain something.

Giving the Palestinians the option of becoming citizens in Arab countries is no option at all? Who are you to decide for them? It is a valuable option that by denying it you dehumanize the Palestinians and reduce them to a weapon against Israel. I am not claiming the Palestinians are my brothers or that I care for them. They are my enemies. It is only natural that I would not give them citizenship in Israel. But you claim to see them as your brothers and you claim to care for them but at the best you treat them as little children that do not know what is good for them and at worst they are just another weapon like the AK-47 to fight Israel.

When a million Jewish refugees from Arab countries came to Israel, Israel didn’t hesitate for one second, it gave them citizenship. The Arabs should have done the same with their fellow Arabs. It is as simple as that.

April 4th, 2008, 1:08 pm


wizart said:


Native indians are American citizens to my knowledge with full rights!

Anyway, all Joe did was speak for a large segment of the Palestinians.

Just because a couple of Israelis are on this blog doesn’t mean any of them or us for that matter can represent what most Isrealis wish for.

Everybody in my estimation wants a viable long term productive peace.

Why do you choose to represent one side when everything is negotiable?

April 4th, 2008, 1:14 pm


Naji said:

“Martin Luther King Jr. at least left behind a model of how to repair the social fabric. He was scholarly, formal, assertive and meticulously self-controlled in public. If Barack Obama’s presidential campaign represents anything, it is the triumph of King’s early-60s style of activism over the angry and reckless late-60s style.”

(From an op-ed article in todays’s NYT…!)

April 4th, 2008, 1:15 pm


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

The problem is that any Syrian MLK would be immediately put in jail. Even a very benign one. And then you would agree with the regime that this is ok in Syria, but other countries you would criticize for doing this. Go figure.

April 4th, 2008, 1:24 pm


Naji said:

You fool…!! If you did not have such a closed one-track mind, and some corrupt mission to sabotage any intelligent meaningful discussion on this blog, you would have noticed that I always spared my cruelest jabs and my strongest, but not indiscriminate, criticism for the Syrian regime, but… who cares anyway…!

I wish you would go away, and that whoever sent you would find a more honest replacement, but… I know that this is not going to happen, so I will just have to be more vigilant about ignoring you… 🙁

April 4th, 2008, 1:41 pm


Qifa Nabki said:

Naji said:

I always spared my cruelest jabs and my strongest, but not indiscriminate, criticism for the Syrian regime…

Naji, care to provide a few quotations? (I know you love to quote yourself).


April 4th, 2008, 1:46 pm


Naji said:

As you know, I wouldn’t miss an opportunity to quote myself, especially when it is by invitation… 😉 So, I’ll have to find some quotes, but not while this AIG is watching… 🙂 Anyway, you can just assume that “I always spared my cruelest jabs and my strongest, but not indiscriminate, criticism for the Syrian regime…”, and if I have been short on these lately, I’ll try to make up for it in the future…

There you go… I did manage to quote myself after all… 🙂

April 4th, 2008, 2:01 pm


wizart said:


You seem to represent the views of Israelis no more than Bilandin represents the views of Arabs. You also seem to be on a search and destroy mission to take out any possibility than can lead to real peace in the region so I’m just getting more curious about your philosophy in life and how you became this way. Can you tell us?

Are you a nihilistic type of an atheist with difficulty imagining real peace happening? What role models have influenced your thinking and what are you going to do if real peace took place?

April 4th, 2008, 2:03 pm


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

When you stop contradicting yourself, the discussion on this blog will be meaningful. You either fully support MLK like activism in all countries or you accept excuses from all regimes in all countries to be against MLK type activism. It does not make sense to support such activism except in the case of Syria.

And it is not meaningful to say I support the Syrian regime in spite of it putting the MLK’s in jail which I don’t support. Because without the MLK’s, there is never change in any society. Without free public discussion of issues, the status quo always prevails. You don’t trust the US and other democracies to change without public criticism and yet you are fully confident that can happen in Syria without public debate. Again, that is not meaningful, it is plain nonsense.

April 4th, 2008, 2:04 pm


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

What do you mean? My views are those of about 30%-40% of the Israelis or so. Shai can confirm that for you.

I am certainly an atheist but not a nihilist. Where did you come with that idea?

Nihilism is as HP suggested, sticking to the one state solution. I am an eternal optimist that believes that through hard work and entrepreneurship we can build a much better world. And I have no problem imagining peace via the two state solution, though I think it is highly unlikely that the Palestinians will agree to giving up the right of return.

April 4th, 2008, 2:13 pm


SimoHurtta said:

The right question to ask Joe M. is not whether the Palestinians should be given citizenship in Lebanon or where ever they reside. That is a no brainer, after 3 generations there they have earned the right to be citizens.

Only an extreme Israeli majority man can suggest such a thing. People who whose ancestors lived for 50 generations in the area of Israel can’t get citizenship, but people with the right religion whose ancestors have not lived there for 50 generations or never can get a citizenship of Israel. The more “amusing” is that passport demand when it is made by a “nation” whose members have in their back pockets two or more passports.

I personally see it extremely amusing how how you IGs are demanding high “standards” from Arabs but do not see any problems in your own nations behaviour or setting no moral demands on your own people. Well after reading Rabbi Eliyahu thoughts

“The Talmud states that if gentiles rob Israel of silver they will pay it back in gold, and all that is taken will be paid back in folds, but in cases like these there is nothing to pay back, since as I said – the life of one yeshiva boy is worth more than the lives of 1,000 Arabs,” added Rabbi Eliyahu.

it is not so difficult to understand why you behave like that. Imagine AIG what you would say if a Muslim or Christian priest would say one of us is worth more than 1000 Jews. Then analyse what you say about Rabbi Eliyahu. Without doubt you say that well it is only one Rabbi and his opinion doesn’t matter. But in reality Rabbi Eliyahu’s thoughts are also your thoughts. You may not express your inner thoughts so directly as the Rabbi, but the “ûbermensch” attitude is clearly there.

Even how many times you and other IGs say that you are secular Jews (what ever that means, is an atheist Christian a Christian?) that doesn’t erase the extreme racist religious nature of present days Israel. Only with a relative successful propaganda Israel has succeeded to to create the image that the problem is Islamic religious extremism and so hide its own numerous religious extrimists and the religious nature of Israel.

You IGs, even the Bibi peace man, avoid clearly to speak about the essential moral, military and security issues in this Middle East problem, when the discussion is turned to Israel. However when the problems of Middle East are discussed it is impossible to avoid the Israel topic. You IGs here “analyse” without problems the neighbours regimes, behaviour and speculate with their strategies and make direct demands to them. But when your “country” is on table you use the traditional Israeli defence style (you begin “demonize” the critic’s person – like in that Shai’s latest pathetic burst above) instead of discussing in a rational way of the problem. The Palestine problem is solved only either by giving them the Palestine portion of the land or by driving all of them out or by killing them. That is the fact.

You demand security and the right to defend the Jewish population, but when it is asked don’t the Palestinians and Arabs in neighbouring countries have the same right, you are silent. You (not you but some of you) speak about peace and good relations, but you do not have any answers/solutions what Israel is offering in return in the essential issues like Palestinians, nukes and borders.

It is good AIG that you make so much noise about Nokia and Israel. The more public attention this issue gets the sooner the stadium will be Ariel Sharon stadium.

By the way AIG isn’t that Israeli basketball team you mentioned an Israeli Arab team. Maybe that is the reason why Nokia supports it. 🙂

April 4th, 2008, 2:19 pm


wizart said:


So should we presume Shai (the good guy) represents 60-70% then?

If you’re the eternal optimist representing 40% of Israel and Shai who must be even more optimistic representing between both of you perhaps all of Israel and yet despite your optimism you’re still not able to achieve peace in the region then we surely need to know how honest you are about what you truly represent and why you selectively answer questions and use every opportunity to attack “your enemy” here, etc.

April 4th, 2008, 2:24 pm


Honest Patriot said:

Dear Wizart, you said “HP, Native indians are American citizens to my knowledge with full rights! Anyway, all Joe did was speak for a large segment of the Palestinians. Just because a couple of Israelis are on this blog doesn’t mean any of them or us for that matter can represent what most Isrealis wish for. Everybody in my estimation wants a viable long term productive peace. Why do you choose to represent one side when everything is negotiable?

There is a lot of wisdom in what you say, and you are correct, I have no right to make pretenses to speak on behalf of Israelis. I also agree that fundamentally, “everybody (…)wants a viable long term productive peace.”

My beef is with those who do not propose workable solutions but instead simply engage in criticism, negative criticism, complaints, declaration of failure of earlier initiatives, condemnation of leaders who devoted their lives to make something real happen on the front of peace. These include Sadat, but they also include the sincere Palestinians who were behind Oslo.

What has Joe M. proposed? where is his plan? Is the plan to just criticise and shoot down any plan?

Folks like Zenobia for example, contribute deeply thought principles for a workable solution. You do. Shai does. Even AIG, in his own way, also does. Sim does. Joe M. criticises. He is the critic “par excellence.” And you know what they say about critics: “If all the critics in the world were to die tomorrow there would still be too many of them.”

I will make one offer to retract everything I have said about Joe M.:
Joe M., please give us a detailed plan of how you see a peace process unfolding within one generation, a plan that respects the human rights and dignity of all involved, including both Palestinians and Israelis. The rules are that you are not allowed to criticise anybody in this plan. It is a plan of forward action. We can then have our turn at evaluating and criticising you and your plan.

April 4th, 2008, 2:32 pm


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Thank you again for making my point. Let’s first begin with the fact that you quote an Israeli paper, which again shows that Israel is in fact criticizing itself and striving to get better. Just as I am a bitter political opponent of Shai, I am a bitter political opponent of Rabbi Eliyahu and I think he is gravely mistaken in his world view and that he is hurting Israel. But what to do? There is freedom of speech in Israel and he is entitled to his opinions. By the way, what he was trying to say in a totally inappropriate manner is that killing Arabs as revenge is not worth it.

What do you mean it is impossible to analyze Israel? How can you say that with a straight face when you constantly quote Israeli sources? Of course you can analyze Israel. Israelis do it all the time and have no problem bringing ALL the news, even if it is not favorable to Israel. If you don’t discuss problems in public, you can never improve.

But you claiming to know what I and other Israelis REALLY believe is just plain racist and a generalization about Israelis. I write exactly what I believe yet you cannot bring yourself to accept that. The Israelis vote by a huge margin for secular parties, yet you say Israel is not a secular country. Ok, the sky is green, you win.

PS My point about Nokia stadium is simple. If anybody in Finland was listening to you or agreeing with you, there would not be the NOKIA Arena in Tel-Aviv, the FIRST JEWISH City, founded by Jews leaving Jaffa, the major symbol of Zionist Israel.

April 4th, 2008, 2:38 pm


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Which questions have I not answered? Just ask again. As you know I shy away from no question.

The Israeli right is about 30-40% of Israelis. I would estimate that Shai’s views represent less than 1% of Israeli Jews.
Why don’t you take time to look at how many represenatives each Iraeli party has in the Knesset? I take time to read and understand the political system in Arab countries. Why don’t you do it about Israel? Maybe then you will have some real understanding of Israel.

April 4th, 2008, 2:44 pm


Naji said:

You asked for it… Here are a few quotes just from my first exchange on SC… and I even managed to get Alex to agree with me…!!!! 🙂

Naji said:
Hariri left with 16 Billion, not a mere 12…! But you and Josh should not fret this much, really…!! You can rest assured that there are plenty of other middlemen and new marriage alliances to take over the Makhloufs’ function for the regime… Mostly Sunnis and Christians this time… some are even very close to the Saudi regime…(think Yamamah, for example…!!) These high-stakes games make for strange bed-fellows, you know…!!
But, as I said before, let history record that this is the first “master-stroke” (darbet moallem) that the Bush administration has managed to muster in all of its Levantine adventures,,,!! This is the first move that could gain W and, by extension, US policy any sympathy in Syria and the region…!! But what would really make everybody in the region (including HA and Hamas!!) raise an American flag on his roof, is the application of similar sanctions to all/some corrupt crooks in Lebanon, Saudi, Egypt, Israel…etc. (Perhaps in Obama times…!!??) […]
February 22nd, 2008, 9:21 am

Naji said:
One hopes that Damascus-Beirut would be one gigantic cultural and artistic continum one day…,but my friend, the ESSENTIAL requirement (yes,…even before white facades on buildings!) for that is …FREEDOM …!!!
February 22nd, 2008, 10:05 am

Naji said:
“the Syrian regime is not more evil than any other regime among the active powers in the middle east.”
Common, …this is all that a “regime cheerleader” can muster these days…??! …I have never been a supporter of this regime, but I can EASILY state that it is the BEST in the region, including Israel…!! This is just a sad commentary on the current state of affairs in this God-forsaken pit of religion, hate, greed, corruption, treachery, and sheer backwardness…!
February 22nd, 2008, 5:57 pm

Naji said:
You are right, …let’s survive the next few months, and then we can discuss everything else…! But I agree with Ehsani… You get too carried away…! About the only thing that I am willing to give the Assads credit for is keeping Syria relatively independent up to this point and for relying for their legitimacy on the defense of national dignity and aspirations (at the expense of individual dignity and aspirations, but…) and this just might (or might not?) be enough to atone for all the sins they share with the other local despots who have also added grand treason to their repertoire…!! …and what makes them “better” than their contemporary Israeli/Saudi leaders is that at least they built a national self-image based on a christeo-islamic inclusivist model, versus an archaic talmudic exclusivist model…!!
February 22nd, 2008, 7:17 pm

Alex said:
I agree.

April 4th, 2008, 2:54 pm


why-discuss said:


Lebanon, Syria and other arab countries are not signatory of the 1951 UN refugee convention therefore their acceptance of refugees in their land is completely out of compassion. They can deport them anytime. Now you are saying that since Lebanon has acted humanly ( unlike Israel who acted inhumanly) on palestinians, they should be forced to give the citizenship to these refugees. You are rewarding inhumanity and justice. The justice is that the Palestinian problem is Israel’s problem as they have created. It is Israel who has the obligation to find a solution and not on the account of the arabs. Yet Israeli seems to behave as this is an arab problem and they come up with these silly solution of obliging the arabs to integrate the refugees and some financial compensation and bye bye!
No, my dear Israelis, the palestinian refugee problem as well as the disaster you have caused in stealing their land and expelling the inhabitants is YOURS and only YOURS. It is your responsibility and the one of all the generation of Issrelis to come. You can’t escape from that reality and it will haunt your life until you realize that YOU must solve it and not expect the arabs to do it for you.

April 4th, 2008, 2:56 pm


Akbar Palace said:


You can put this in your “the sky is green” file:

Why-Discuss said:

Now you are saying that since Lebanon has acted humanly ( unlike Israel who acted inhumanly) on palestinians, they should be forced to give the citizenship to these refugees.


April 4th, 2008, 3:29 pm


Majhool said:

قال وزير الخارجية وليد المعلم في تصريح لوكالة الانباء السودانية إن “سورية ستسعى إلى إنهاء الأزمة اللبنانية موضحا أنه “لا بد من تضافر الجهود السورية والسعودية لحل الأزمة، دون الضغط على طرف دون الآخر

My Guess is that the”Arab” pressure will actually work thsi time. and the Syrians will help elect a new president in Lebanon.

April 4th, 2008, 4:07 pm


Naji said:

For QN and HP,
A couple of articles that may clarify for you one more framework for the internal Lebanese conflict…

«إعلان دمشق»: ما لم يُكتب فيه أخطر
جان عزيز
لم يكن الصمت والهدوء السعوديان في قمة دمشق إلاَّ ظاهريين، فيما التشدد والتصلّب كانا سمتي العلاقات السعودية ــ السورية، في القمة، كما قبلها، وكما ينتظر لما بعدها، وخصوصاً في الملف اللبناني. صحيح أن الرياض لم تفتح النقاش بشأن الأزمة الرئاسية داخل القمة، باستثناء، كلام وزير خارجيتها حول الموضوع، من على أرضها، وعلى طريقة الحوار عن بعد. وصحيح أيضاً، كما أكدت مصادر متطابقة، أن الرئيس السوري سعى في الجلسة المغلقة مساء السبت، إلى فتح الموضوع، محرّضاً على تلقّي الردود حول كلمته الافتتاحية، فظل الصمت الجواب الوحيد. غير أن السفير السعودي لدى الجامعة ورئيس وفد بلاده إلى القمة، أحمد القطان، لم يضبط نفسه حين سئل في إحدى الحلقات الدردشية على هامش الجلسات، عن جوهر المأزق اللبناني، فسأل جازماً: في النهاية، ما هي الغاية من الإصرار على الثلث المعطّل في أي حكومة؟ قبل أن يجيب بالجزم نفسه: الهدف منه أمران، تعطيل المحكمة الدولية وعدم نزع سلاح حزب الله، هذه هي القضية.
وكأن المعنيين بالأمر في سوريا لم يكونوا غافلين عن هذا الموقف السعودي البالغ الدلالة، وخصوصاً أن التدقيق في مضمونه يكشف مرامي أساسية: الكلام عن المحكمة يعني استهداف النظام في دمشق، والكلام عن نزع سلاح حزب الله يعني استهداف دور طهران، تمهيداً لاستهداف نظامها نفسه.
هكذا تبدو الصورة لدى طرفي الصراع، لا مجّرد حذر وشك في النيات المتبادلة، بل اقتناع راسخ بأن اللعبة باتت نزالاً على طريقة «الوسترن» وإدارة الظهر للآخر، التي بدأت قبل مدة، ليست غير بدء العدّ العكسي للحظة الاستدارة ومعرفة من سيقضي على الآخر أولاً.
والمشهد القاتل، يجد في دمشق كل أجزائه التركيبية، وأبرزها كلام كثير عن دخول الحركة الوهابية بالمال المغدق والمغرق، على الساحتين الأصوليتين في كل من دمشق وبيروت، وأحاديث عن مئات الملايين تصرف لتأسيس مجموعات أمنية وإرهابية وتخريبية، تماماً على طريقة «الحرب القذرة» التي وصفها ووثّقها دايفيد روز على الساحة الفلسطينية الداخلية.
وتبلغ تفاصيل المشهد نفسه حداً «رفيع المستوى»، حين يصير الكلام عن «استيعاب» لمسؤولين كبار في أكثر من مؤسسة وإطار عربيين، كما عن تحريض مدروس على النغمة المذهبية والعرقية، فتكشف معلومات مثلاً عن ذلك، مفاده أن العلاقات الثنائية والشخصية داخل مجلس وزراء الخارجية العرب لم تبدأ بعد من حادثة معبّرة شهدها اجتماع المجلس المذكور في القاهرة في 27 شباط الماضي، حين ارتفعت فجأة لهجة مسؤول عربي بارز، منتقداً أحد السياسيين اللبنانيين قائلاً: كيف له أن يعلّمنا معاني اللغة العربية ودلالاتها، وهو يتحدث اللغة الفارسية، أكثر مما يتحدث بلغتنا. وتضيف المعلومات نفسها، أن تلك الملاحظة لم تمر من دون أكثر من رد مستنكر ومدين. على ضوء ذلك، يبدو التحرك السوري داخل القمة وبعدها، أكثر وضوحاً وفهماً، وتبدو محاور استعداداته الوقائية والدفاعية، محاولة للجمع بين التصدي والاحتواء. التصدي أولاً عبر رفع سقف الخطاب فلسطينياً، ما يمثّل «حصانة قومية» يصعب على أي كان إطلاق النار عليها، والتصدي ثانياً عن طريق توجيه الرسائل المتعددة، عبر القناة الليبية. فشبك الأيدي بين الأسد والقذافي، والدخول معاً إلى جلسة الافتتاح وإعطاء الكلمة الأولى للزعيم الليبي الثائر الدائم… كل ذلك بدا نوعاً من الغمز من قناة الرياض، على خلفية الإشكال الشهير بين القذافي والأمير عبد الله في حينه في قمة شرم الشيخ، كما بدا نوعاً من الرسالة الإيجابية نحو واشنطن، على خلفية التحسّن الكبير في العلاقات بينها وبين طرابلس الغرب، الذي غالباً ما أطلق عليه توصيف «النموذج الليبي»، مقارنة بالنموذج العراقي الشهير.
أما مساعي الاحتواء، فتمثّلت في نجاح دمشق في نقل القمة المقبلة إلى قطر بعد حديث كان قد تردد حول عودة القمة إلى مقر الجامعة، وهذه الخطوة ليست معزولة عن متانة العلاقات بين الدوحة ودمشق وطهران من جهة، وبينها وبين واشنطن من جهة أخرى، من دون نسيان الحركة القطرية العمانية على الخط السعودي في الآونة الأخيرة. والمساعي نفسها لم تكن بعيدة عن تعزيز علاقة سوريا بدول المغرب العربي، عبر البوابة الليبية وسواها، وهو ما انعكس فوراً في الوساطة الجزائرية لدى القاهرة، في ظل كلام عن فهم أكبر من جانب هذه الدول للحساسيات السورية حيال الحركات الأصولية. فإذا كانت الرياض مهجوسة بتماسها النزاعي مع طهران ومع الجماعات الشيعية في السعودية والدول الخليجية الأخرى، فإن تماس دول المغرب، كما مصر نفسها، هو مع الأصوليات السنّية نفسها داخلها، بما يمكن أن تمثّل مصلحة مشتركة، أو فهماً وتفهماً مشتركين على الأقل، مع الهواجس السورية.
«إعلان دمشق» الأخير، فيه بند مكتوب بالصمت والكلام المسكوت عنه، وهو إعلان الشرق الأوسط الكبير على قاعدة اصطفافات جديدة، دفنت قمة أنشاص وألغت لاءات الخرطوم، ولم تبق غير نعم واحدة كبيرة، لصراع البقاء بين جماعات ما تحت الدول، أو ما قبلها.

April 4th, 2008, 4:22 pm


Naji said:

نهاية الحقبة السعوديّة
*ناهض حتر

من المفارقات أن تكون القمة العربية في دمشق ـ التي مارس السعوديون ضغوطاً هائلة لإفشالها ـ هي نفسها المسمار الأخير في نعش الحقبة السعودية المستمرة منذ 1973. فالرياض لم تستطع ابتزاز سوريا سياسياً بالتهديد بإفشال القمة، ولم تستطع منع انعقادها أو تأجيلها. وبالمحصلة، ظهر جلياًَ مدى تراجع النفوذ السعودي حتى في دول مجلس التعاون الخليجي، التي لم تتبنَّ السياسة السعودية إزاء دمشق. ويمكننا أن نرسم لوحة قلقة لحلفاء الرياض العرب: جبهة 14 آذار في لبنان، العاجزة عن الحسم وربما الصمود في الصراع الداخلي، والنظام المصري المعزول شعبياً، والمرجّح، حسب تقديرات محمد حسنين هيكل، ألّا يستمر في السلطة أكثر من سنة واحدة، والقصر الأردني المشدود موضوعياً إلى علاقات خاصة مع سوريا، تحكمها المصالح الثنائية والمخاوف من المشاريع الإسرائيلية، ولا تكبحها سوى الضغوط السعودية المعززة بالمساعدات المالية الضرورية لإنعاش الاقتصاد الأردني المريض.
لقد تقلص مدى الهيمنة السعودية، إذن، إلى حدود مأزومة ومتغيرة ومنحسرة. وإذا ما قررت الرياض مواصلة الصراع مع سوريا والمعارضة اللبنانية إلى الحد الأقصى، فلن يبقى لها حلفاء في المنطقة سوى أمراء الحرب الأهلية اللبنانيين… وإسرائيل. فالشعبان المصري والأردني لن يسمحا بأيّ مواجهة مع سوريا، ولا النظامان في البلدين لهما المصلحة أو القدرة على الاشتباك مع سوريا أو الانضمام إلى حلف مع إسرائيل ضدها.
لا غنى للرياض عن إسرائيل في مواجهة مفتوحة مع سوريا. فأدوات الصراع اللبنانية أعجز من المغامرة بمجابهة عسكرية مع حلفاء سوريا في لبنان. والطرفان يعوّلان على تدخل عسكري أميركي، ليس وارداً بالنظر إلى فشل التجربة العراقية التي تقيّد القوة الأميركية. واقتراح واشنطن لتجاوز هذا المأزق هو إنشاء حلف عربي ـ إسرائيلي في مواجهة الحلف الإيراني ـ السوري. وأزمة هذا الحلف تكمن في العقدة الفلسطينية، إذ لا تجد إسرائيل نفسها مضطرة إلى تقديم تنازلات على هذا المسار، إنّما تريد الحصول على معظم الضفة الغربية وشطب قضية اللاجئين والاعتراف بها كـ«دولة يهودية» لقاء دورها في حلف مع السعودية ضد سوريا.
إسرائيل، في المقابل، ترى أنّ لها مصلحة أساسيّة في الاستفادة من الضغوط السعوديّة على دمشق، للتوصّل إلى سلام مع السوريّين يكفل إغلاق الجبهة الشمالية، حيث الحرب مكلفة وغير مضمونة النتائج، سواء على جبهة الجنوب أو على جبهة الجولان. وتجد إسرائيل في هذا السلام ـ الممنوع أميركياً ـ فرصة تاريخية للتفرغ لتصفية القضية الفلسطينية، وتهجيرها إلى الأردن.
هذه التعقيدات هي التي تضع السعودية في دائرة مغلقة، تستهلك نفوذها، وتهوي بأدائها إلى حدود التطابق مع أداء الميليشيات اللبنانية. ويعبّر هذا التطابق، في النهاية، عن أزمة النظام السعودي في ظل المتغيّرات الإقليمية.
بدأت الحقبة السعودية عام 1973، بُعيد حرب تشرين. وكان من شروط نجاحها ما يأتي:
1 ـ اتخاذ السعودية قراراً مستقلا بقطع الإمدادات البترولية عن الغرب تضامناً مع الدولتين العربيتين المحاربتين، مصر وسوريا، وما تلا ذلك من ارتفاع أسعار النفط، وتحسين شروط إنتاجه وعوائده.
2 ـ أتاح ذلك للسعودية فائضاً مالياً كبيراً استخدمت قسماً منه في إمداد البلدان العربية والحركات والهيئات الاجتماعية الدينية بالمساعدات، في إطار مستقل نسبياً، للعلاقات في الداخل العربي والإسلامي.
3 ـ انتقال مصر المنهَكة إلى المعسكر الأميركي، ما حرّر السعودية من القطب المضاد، ووضعها في الموقع الأول داخل الحلف الأميركي ـ العربي،
4 ـ بدء مسيرة السلام مع إسرائيل، وصولاً إلى كامب ديفيد 1978 ـ 1979، وعزل مصر، والانفراد بالهيمنة على العالم العربي.
5 ـ توظيف الوهابية والحركات الدينية الجهادية في القتال ضد الشيوعية في أفغانستان.
6 ـ الحرب العراقية الإيرانية التي حيّدت العراق، وجعلته مضطراً إلى الخضوع للمساعدة السعودية.
7 ـ العدوان الإسرائيلي على لبنان 1982، ما أتاح إعلان المبادرة السعودية للسلام في قمة فاس في السنة نفسها، وصيرورتها عنواناً للسياسات العربية.
8 ـ إعادة مصر الضعيفة إلى الجامعة العربية معترفة بالقيادة السعودية من دون لبس، ما أتاح تعزيز الترويكا الثلاثية مع سوريا، وهي التي سيطرت على الاتجاهات الأساسية للسياسة العربية بما فيها، بل عنوانها، إنهاء الحرب الأهلية اللبنانية وذيولها في «الطائف» على أساس تقاسم النفوذ في هذا البلد بين الرياض ودمشق.
9 ـ وكانت الفترة من بدء العدوان والحصار الأميركي على العراق عام 1991، حتى غزو البلد في 2003، فترة الذروة في الحقبة السعودية، قبل أن تبدأ بالتلاشي.
لقد كان من أبرز نتائج غزو العراق ظهور إيران كقوة إقليمية أساسية منافسة، معززة بالانقلاب «الشيعي» العراقي المدعوم أميركياً. وهو ما جعل السعودية تظهر بمظهر المتحفّظ على سياسات الاحتلال الأميركي في العراق. لكنها في الممارسة السياسية داخل البلد تساوقت كلياً مع برنامج المحتلّين لتمزيق الشعب والمقاومة في العراق على أسس مذهبية. وهي الخطة نفسها التي سعت الرياض إلى تنفيذها في لبنان وسوريا، لكنها فشلت. وأساس هذه الخطة هو إحداث انقلاب «سنّي» في البلدين، في مقابل الانقلاب «الشيعي» في العراق، بحيث تأتي إلى السلطة في بلاد الشام قوى سنّية من الطينة نفسها التي جاءت منها القوى الشيعية إلى كراسي الحكم في بلاد الرافدين، أي ذلك الخليط من الإقطاعيين ورجال الأعمال الكومبرادوريّين والميليشيات الإجرامية.
ومسلسل الأحداث اللاحقة معروف للقارئ، من «ثورة الأرز» التي كان مخطّطاً لها أن تمتد داخل سوريا، إلى شبكة الحريري الانقلابية في النظام السوري، إلى مسعى ضرب حزب الله وحلفائه بالعصا الإسرائيلية عام 2006، إلى التصعيد الداخلي في محاولة إشعال الحرب الأهلية المذهبية في لبنان أيضاً. وقد أحاق الفشل الذريع بكل تلك المساعي. وبدلاً من إحراق لبنان وسوريا بنار الاحتراب المذهبي، تراجع هذا الاحتراب في العراق نفسه، وانتقل الصراع في ذلك البلد، إلى ميدان جديد، هو الحرب الأهلية داخل الشيعة على أساس الموقف من الاحتلال الأميركي والنفوذ الأجنبي، مما يفتح أفقاً لنشوء المقاومة الوطنية العراقية الشاملة، وهي التي ستلحق الاضطراب بالأوراق الإقليمية، وتعزل السعودية وتضعف النفوذ الإيراني، وتالياً الصراع بين البلدين، وتضع الرياض في مواجهة بلد تصهره المقاومة، وتستعيد له مكانته الإقليمية، وربما تصحّح الخلل القائم في التعاطي الانتهازي للسياسة الإيرانية مع المشروع الأميركي في العراق.
الحقبة السعودية كانت موافقة لزمن الصعود الإسرائيلي الخشن والهيمنة الأميركية الناعمة، لكنها تتفكك في زمن التراجع الإسرائيلي والسيطرة الأميركية التي لم تعد ممكنة إلا بقوة السلاح، ما يجعل وجودها مسألة وقت لا غير. وعلينا أن نلاحظ أن السياقات الإقليمية التي كانت تكفل للسعودية حضورها القوي قد تلاشت هي أيضاً. فالمقاومة اللبنانية لم تعد أسيرة التفاهم مع وكلاء السعودية في لبنان (آل الحريري وشركائهم)، بينما (بتحررهم المتصاعد من فتح ونهجها)، تحرر الفلسطينيون من الهيمنة السعودية التقليدية على العمل الفلسطيني، وباءت محاولات الرياض لاستيعاب المقاومة العراقية مذهبياً بالفشل. فالمقاومة العراقية تتحول إلى حركة وطنية خارج أي إطار إقليمي. وفي الوقت نفسه فإن إحكام السيطرة الأميركية على القرار والنفط السعوديين يجعل أيادي الرياض مغلولة في التحرك للحصول على حلفاء خارج التعليمات اليومية للإدارة الأميركية.
لقد كانت الحقبة السعودية، على بؤسها الشديد، محيرة فعلاً. فليس لدى السعودية ما تقدمه سوى المال. وهي لا تتوافر على أي عنصر من عناصر القوة العسكرية أو السياسية أو الاجتماعية أو الثقافية، سوى الأنموذج الوهابي البدائي في نتاجيه المتشابكين: الرجعية الدينية المتأمركة والرجعية الدينية الإرهابية. وقد أظهر الأمير بندر بن سلطان في تهديداته نصف العلنية باستخدام الإرهاب عند اللزوم، أن الحبل السري لم ينقطع قطّ بين النتاجين الأسودين للحقبة السعودية. ومع نهاية تلك الحقبة، تكون ترويكا النظام العربي قد أصبحت من الماضي البعيد، بينما تهل ضرورة إنشاء ترويكا المقاومات العربية. ولدى سوريا الآن فرصة ذهبية لإنشاء حلف المقاومات، جدارها الأخير ولكن الأقوى
* كاتب وصحافي أردني

عدد الثلاثاء ١ نيسان

April 4th, 2008, 4:33 pm


Naji said:

تاريخ السجال السعودي ـ السوري في لبنان
كيف انتهت الهدنة بين البلدين وضاعت نقاط الالتقاء التي جسّدها رفيق الحريري؟

عفيف دياب
تاريخ السجال السعودي ــ السوري في لبنان لم تكن العلاقة السعودية ــ السورية يوماً سليمة، وإن مرت بفترات غزل وهدوء. فالعلاقة التي كانت تستتر بورقة توت سقطت بعد اغتيال الرئيس رفيق الحريري وأُطلق العنان للخلاف بين النظامين على أرض لبنان الذي أصبح رهينة هذا الصراع وساحة لتصفية الحسابات.
وجدت العلاقة الملتبسة بين دمشق والرياض، منذ زمن طويل، في لبنان متنفساً لإدارة الصراع السياسي بأدوات لبنانية، ترجم ذلك في أكثر من مرة ومحطة بمواجهات عسكرية وأمنية خلال الحرب «الأهلية» اللبنانية. فرغم فترات الهدوء الكبيرة التي كانت تخيم على التفاهم السعودي ـ السوري في شأن لبنان وأزماته منذ اندلاع الحرب في عام 1975، بقيت دمشق ترفض التدخل السعودي في لبنان إلا عبر بوابتها، ونجحت بعد اتفاق الطائف 1989 في منع السعودية، ومعها كل العرب، من التدخل في إدارتها للملف اللبناني الذي بقي جمراً تحت الرماد في العلاقة مع السعودية، إلى أن خرج الحريق إلى العلن بعد التمديد للرئيس إميل لحود الذي كانت تعارضه الرياض، واغتيال الرئيس رفيق الحريري، إلى أن أخذ منحىً تصاعدياً بعدما رأى الملك السعودي عبد الله بن عبد العزيز وصف الرئيس بشار الأسد لبعض القادة العرب بأنهم أنصاف رجال مسّاً به شخصياً.
ويقول متابعون للعلاقات السعودية ـ السورية إن التنسيق بين البلدين في شتى المجالات والمواقف أسبغ هدوءاً على العلاقة استمر أكثر من ثلاثة عقود رغم التباين في الكثير من الأمور، و«لكن بقي لبنان هو نقطة الخلاف الأساسية، إذ كانت ترسل عبر أزماته الرسائل المتبادلة أو الاعتراضية على هذا الموقف أو ذاك».
أزمات لبنان كانت دوماً محط تشاور بين دمشق والرياض للوصول إلى حل يرضي الجميع ويرضيهما أولاً وأخيراً. ولكن بعد غياب الرئيس حافظ الأسد، الذي كان يتعامل بحذق مع الحساسية السعودية ويدرك أهمية التواصل مع الرياض في ما يتعلق بقضايا المنطقة، ووراثة بشار للسلطة، تعرضت العلاقة لانتكاسات شديدة، كان لبنان سببها. فالخلاف بين البلدين على ملفات العراق وفلسطين وإيران وغيرها من القضايا لم تؤد إلى توتُّر في العلاقة، بينما الخلاف حوّل لبنان كان هو الصاعق الذي فجر العلاقة، وتحديداً بعد اغتيال الحريري الذي ترى الرياض أن قضيته مركزية بالنسبة إليها، وجاءت لاحقاً حرب تموز الإسرائيلية على لبنان صيف 2006 لترفع حدة التوتر الذي انحصر الآن بالاستحقاق الرئاسي من دون تجاهل المحكمة الدولية التي تقلق دمشق.
هل الصراع السعودي ـ السوري على أرض لبنان ينحصر في هذه الملفات، وهل هو جديد أم أنه صراع قديم متجدد؟
يقول سياسي لبناني مقرب من «المناخ السعودي» إن العلاقات السورية ـ السعودية ظلت هادئة، حتى انفجرت الحرب في لبنان عام 1975 فكان للسعودية الدور البارز لوقف هذا الاقتتال الذي «وجدت فيه سوريا تهديداً لأمنها ولا يحق لعرب غيرها التدخل ما لم يحصل التفاهم معها». ويضيف أن «الموقف السوري هذا أحدث في بدايات الحرب الأهلية اللبنانية امتعاضاً وسوء فهم بين البلدين انتهى بأن سلّمت الرياض بوجهة نظر الرئيس حافظ الأسد وشرّعت وجود جيشه في لبنان من خلال قوات الردع العربية بعد القمة المصغرة في الرياض عام 1976 وتوجتها بقمة موسعة في القاهرة، حيث وقفت السعودية إلى جانب سوريا رغم الاعتراض المصري يومذاك».
ويرى أن الدور السعودي في لبنان و«تصادمه» في أحيان كثيرة مع أدوار عربية أخرى، ولا سيما مع سوريا أحدث خلافات بين البلدين ترجمت في لبنان سياسياً وأمنيا خلال فترة الحرب الأهلية، فلم تطل إقامة القوات السعودية في لبنان التي كانت في عداد قوات السلام العربية و«كلنا يعرف كم تعرضت هذه القوة السعودية لاعتداءات كان يقف خلفها مناصرون لسوريا».
ويقول «مقرب» من الحكم السوري إن التصادم السعودي ـ السوري في لبنان ليس جديداً، بل «يعود إلى ما قبل الحرب الأهلية. ولكن بعد الحرب اتفق البلدان على تولي سوريا الشأن اللبناني بكل تفاصيله، وكانت دمشق حريصة طوال عهد الرئيس الراحل حافظ الأسد على نيل ثقة السعودية في كل ما تفعله وتقرره في لبنان. والرياض تعرف جيداً الدور السوري الإيجابي في إنجاح مؤتمر الطائف ووقف الحرب، ولولا هذا الدور لفشلت السعودية في عقد المؤتمر وإنجاحهإ.
ويتابع: «بقيت العلاقة بين البلدين ودية رغم بعض التحفظات عن بعض الأمور، وكلنا يعرف كيف وصل الحريري إلى السلطة، فلولا التفاهم السعودي ـ السوري لما وصل الى رئاسة الحكومة، ومن هنا لا يمكننا وصف ما يجري اليوم من خلافات بين البلدين في شأن لبنان بأنه صراع واقتتال، بل هو اختلاف في وجهات النظر التي سرعان ما ستلتقي».
وفي مقابل هذا الرأي، فإن من يراقب في الوسط يجد أن الخلاف جاء بعد هدنة طويلة «انتهى مفعولها مع اغتيال الرئيس رفيق الحريري الذي كان يمثِّل نقطة التقاء بين الدولتين وما اصطلح على تسميته جوهر اتفاق الطائف، أي تقاسم النفوذ السوري ـ السعودي في لبنان حيث تسيطر سوريا وتمول السعودية وتعطي الشرعية العربية والدولية، لم يعد موجوداً، وخاصة أن الانسحاب العسكري السوري السريع من لبنان أعطى الرياض انطباعاً أن دور دمشق في لبنان انتهى وعليها ملء الفراغ. وهذا ما أدى إلى وقوع الصراع الذي نشهده الأن وهو صراع حول: الأمر لمن في لبنان».
ويضيف أن دور المملكة تاريخياً كان له صلات وثيقة مع مجموعات لبنانية سنية، ولكن هذا الدور تراجع لحساب النفوذ المصري ـ السوري في أعقاب الوحدة التي كانت تراها الرياض موجهة ضدها، و«بعد هزيمة 1967 وجدت السعودية الفرصة متاحة أمامها لإعادة بسط نفوذها في لبنان الذي لم يكد ينتعش حتى وصل حافظ الأسد إلى السلطة وأعاد نفوذ سوريا إلى لبنان».


ضغط وتلاق
لم تعارض السعودية الدخول السوري إلى لبنان عام 1976. لقمع «الحركة الوطنية»، إذ كانت تجد في «الجبهة اللبنانية» ضماناً للبنان. ولكن مع حصار مخيم تل الزعتر ووقوف سوريا إلى جانب القوات المهاجمة، حصل امتعاض سعودي ترجم بتجميد 700 مليون دولار من الإعانات السعودية السنوية لسوريا، كما أوقفت تمويل مشاريع استثمارية بقيمة 500 مليون دولار، وضغطت الرياض على العراق لوقف ضخ نفطه عبر الأراضي السورية ما حرم دمشق 300 مليون دولار عائدات سنوية.
ما بين 1970 و2000 اتفقت السعودية وسوريا على موضوعات عديدة أبرزها حرب تشرين 1973، وحرب لبنان 1975، وزيارة السادات إلى القدس، في كامب دايفيد، وانتصار الثورة الإيرانية والحرب الإيرانية ـ العراقية، والاجتياح العراقي للكويت وحرب تحريرها.

عدد الاربعاء ٢ نيسان ٢٠٠٨

April 4th, 2008, 4:41 pm


Naji said:

QN, HP, Alex,
Finally, I URGE you to find a COMPLETE copy or transcript of last night’s Marcel interview/debate with Frenjieh, and to listen/read carefully… it really contained and explained a lot…

April 4th, 2008, 4:45 pm


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

The facts are simple. About the same number of refugees came from Arab countries to Israel as from Israel to Arab countries. Israel assimilated its refugees and solved the problem. The Arabs decided to dehumanize the Palestinians and use them as a weapon instead of integrating them into their societies as citizens with full rights.

You think the Palestinians are stupid and don’t know this? Of course they do and that is why they don’t appreciate and trust their “brothers” who would rather cut the Palestinian legs off in an attempt to hurt an Israeli finger nail. In addition to the Palestinians, Lebanon has also paid a heavy price for the strategy that the Arab world choose to deal with its refugees. 60 years and nothing is learned. Yep, if you say for 60 years that the sky is green you will start believing it.

April 4th, 2008, 5:14 pm


Qifa Nabki said:


What exactly about those two articles do you find illuminating (or likely) in the least?

How long do you imagine Syria keeping up its “resistance” image?

The Saudi = bad while Syria = good argument gets old.

April 4th, 2008, 5:15 pm


Joe M. said:

To the Honest [Zionist] Patriot,

First, I am not going to respond to your ridiculous attempt to get me to play by your rules. In fact, that is exactly why you are so off base with your discussions. Your entire view of the conflict is one from a position where Israel has the ABSOLUTE RIGHT to determine its own fate, while the Palestinians must (like a playful dog at the dinner table) happily accept the garbage you give us to eat. Are you so blind and nationalistic not to realize that continuing oppression under the label “peace” is no peace at all?

What is so juvenile about your positions is that you fail to realize that you do not control the world. You act as though forcing someone to make “peace” when you have a boot on their neck really qualifies as peace. Further, you admonish me for not recognizing the gains of Sadat or Hussein, but what gains have they really made? Obviously, for Israel their gains were tremendous, but for their own people they were massive losses. The case of Sadat is more complex (and i don’t want to write too long to fully explain), but just look at both Jordan and Egypt and ask whether the average person has gained much? Ask yourself whether it’s a fair trade to live under an externally controlled authoritarian dictatorship, and whether this is a fair price to pay for their so called “peace”? At least under Nasser the people had pride that the government was largely their own.

Let me further say that you are absolutely ignorant of the facts when you condemn me for not accepting the logic of negotiations. I can simply point to your Israeli counterpart SHAI, when he said “Israelis are not interested in returning land right now, not the West Bank, nor the Golan.” So you ask me to be practical, you call me radical, you ask me to accept negotiations… but why would I? There is absolutely no chance that said negotiations will succeed in the near future. Israel kills 200 Palestinians for 1 of their own deaths, every day it is expanding its system of control over the occupied territories, it relies more and more heavily on its power to maintain Palestinian weakness. Israel simply does not want peace and this is the radicalism in the conflict, not my desires to maintain some dignity in my advocacy. Currently Israel bares a very very minimal cost to continue war against all parties that object to its unyielding hostility. You condemn me for not accepting negotiations, but you are delusional if you actually believe that any negotiations will actually bring peace. They might bring a temporary halt to violence, but that will just create a more violent reaction further down the road. Palestinians and Arabs can only have so much patience and good will toward empty negotiations before they realize that many more years have passed without any significant progress on fundamental issues. Since Israel is in a position of power, it wants to slam its version of “peace” (which, by definition, can only be a cold peace of absence of violence, rather than a true peace born of justice) down the throats of its adversaries. At some point you will see that your view is truly radical, not mine!

By the way, the level of anger your have towards me exposes your essential racism and arrogance. That you can’t even comprehend democracy with the Palestinians shows that you don’t think of the 20% of Israel own population who are already Palestinians as legitimate citizens. That you can’t even fathom the idea of full democracy is testament to your arrogance in believing that you own the land your state is sitting on, and dismissing the righteousness of the Palestinians cause (even if you dispute the methods by which they seek to realize that cause). Your mentality or exclusion and Jewish superiority, my friend, is the true impediment to peace. not my calls for equality.

to AnotherIsraeliGuy,
Palestinians are only your enemy because of the actions of Israel. There is nothing inherently antagonistic about a Palestinians. Israel even has Jewish Neo-Nazis as citizens (who are greater enemies fundamentally to a Jews than Palestinians). And this position you take of excluding the Palestinians from Israel is simply against the basic facts. Israel has invented a history, Invented a state, a language, an identity… All of it in a effort to defend themselves, but ultimately it will be Israel’s own destruction. It was not the choice of the Arabs where Israel was founded, your forefathers decided that. And you (of course, the Palestinians too) are baring the consequences of it. Yet they choose to found their state on the heads of another people, and destroy the other people in the process. The white South Africans did the same, and they were able to maintain their false reality for a long time. But in the end they were forced by reality to succumb to the truth. Israel will eventually be forced recognize that they are part of the world and that they must accept reality as well. Israel simply can’t self-define itself as though the Palestinians do not have rights to the land your state sits on. This is an utterly myopic and delusion. And maintaining it will only force your hand eventually. Either you can peacefully and humbly accept that the founding of your state was a massive crime against another people (in accepting that, you must also accept the responsibility it entails), or you can continue to ignore it. But if you ignore it, you must realize that you can’t ask the 350 million Arabs (and 1.2 billion Muslims, and 5 billion poor and oppressed people) of this world to ignore it as well. Eventually your strategic memory loss will come back to you in a form much more painful than if you were just to come to terms with reality. If you didn’t want this problem, then maybe Israel should have been founded on the moon, or some other place where there is no alternative land claims! You have to face democracy as it is, not as you would like it to be.

You seem like an honestly good person. You are right, we disagree on “how” to achieve peace, but i do not think there is much difference in our views of what peace is. But even the “how” seems to be closer than you thought at first. Maybe you are becoming “radical”.

April 4th, 2008, 5:25 pm


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Joe M.,

You say: “Israel has invented a history, Invented a state, a language, an identity…”

Who is this Israel that invented things? There was no invention but a well researched historical process that brought the Jewish people to self-determine themselves as a Jewish nation in the Jewish nation state. You got the causality wrong. Because these things emerged over about 150 years, Israel is a cohesive and strong society that is able to defend itself.

Israel was founded by a UN resolution that was rejected by the Arabs, and this is what led to the Palestinian loss. If you start a war and lose, you pay a price.

And then come the threats about what will eventually happen to us. If you don’t mind more generations of Palestinians suffering for your utopian vision, why should I? Have it your way. The fact of the matter is that for 60 years we have been hearing the same argument and all you can show for it is more Palestinian and Arab losses. Whatever works for you.

April 4th, 2008, 5:51 pm


Shai said:

Joe M.,

What I fear, is that too many Israelis are also like you, seeking justice. That is, they’ve been claiming for 60 years (and haven’t stopped) that all the Arabs want to do is throw us to the sea. That behind every “moderate” Arab that speaks about peace, there are a thousand extreme ones, that hate us and want us gone. To these Israelis, “justice” would be to see all the dictatorships in the ME replaced by Western-style democracies, where Arabs will at last feel true freedom, will see what they have to lose, and will “shape up”. Then, they’ll be willing to talk about peace with the Arabs. Perhaps these same Arabs won’t even demand a return of all the territories, or the right-of-return, accepting them as losses in war. As unrealistic as this may sound to you, many in Israel view this as “justice”.

Although I agree with you about what justice would be for the Palestinians, I think that you’re as likely to see it happen in the next 10-15 years as those Israelis I just mentioned seeing theirs. If there will be peace in this region in the next few years, it’ll come from people/leaders whose beliefs reside in the gray “pragmatic” area between the two justices. It will happen only if both sides are willing to compromise over what they’d like to happen with the other. Such is the nature of peace between enemies. But I agree, many or perhaps most Palestinians, will not forgive us Israelis, unless a solution is found to their right-of-return. Personally, I believe the biggest hurdle now in our region is indeed the refugee issues. But do not expect any Israelis to agree to a one-state solution anytime soon.

There are many out there who truly believe that given enough pressure, Israel will in the end succumb. But when we ask ourselves “succumb to what”, we should be aware of the fact that Israelis still view themselves as living in a nation under existential threat. As such, almost no Israeli would be willing to take in hundreds of thousands of people who are considered his enemy, no matter what right they have to this land. Israelis might be willing to leave the West Bank and the Golan, but they will only do so if they sense their security will be increased, not decreased, by so doing. And, unfortunately, security in Israel is all too often related to how “Jewish” the state is. Namely, if the demographics begin to shift dramatically in favor of the Arab population (let’s even say nearing 50%), most Israelis will view this (today) as perhaps the most dangerous threat to our existence. Hence, they will not allow this to happen.

So how DO the Palestinians achieve their goals? First, by accepting that if justice will ever be served completely, it’ll have to wait a few decades further. Only once Jews and Arabs live in peace for a while, and see that they can indeed benefit from one another, will there be a possibility for considering opening up the borders in some fashion (like my UME). Second, by accepting that their best alternative to war and continued suffering is the two-state solution. And third, that no matter how illogical it may be to them, that the strongest party to this conflict, the occupier and the criminal, actually feels just as threatened as the Palestinians do. And as such, needs to have his fears allayed as well (by having Hamas be willing to recognize Israel, etc.)

All these are very difficult to achieve right now. As I speak, more people in Israel think like AIG, than like me. I believe they’re wrong, and it may be an uphill battle to change public opinion, but it’ll have to be done if peace is to be achieved in the next few years. Unlike some on this forum, I truly do not believe that any of us have the time to wait. It is the tendency of this region, to have terrible things happen, if only given enough time… Not the other way around. So I’m willing to be called a radical, and am willing to listen carefully to your radical views, and not dismiss them so quickly, but both of us still have to make peace happen, realistically, and not let the generals or militia commanders determine our fate. They weren’t taught compromise and diplomacy, but rather, how to fight to the last drop. We can’t afford to be inflexible, even if we’re the weaker or the stronger side.

Again, I believe we now have to be smart, not right.

April 4th, 2008, 6:48 pm


Honest Patriot said:

Joe M., aside from your accusations and epithet-throwing, what is your plan for a solution?

April 4th, 2008, 7:13 pm


Naji said:

Qifa Nabki said:

What exactly about those two articles do you find illuminating (or likely) in the least?”

Well, I thought, and said, that I was trying to illuminate at least ONE dimension of the Lebanese problem as a fight between Saudi Arabia and Syria for regional hegemony…, but I guess you already know everything there is to know, so I won’t bother you anymore…!

As for:
“How long do you imagine Syria keeping up its “resistance” image?
The Saudi = bad while Syria = good argument gets old.”

I have no idea what on earth you are talking about and where it came from…??!! Jean Aziz has built his reputation on being as vehemently and dogmatically anti-Syrian as they come…! Perhaps your lunch did not agree with you…!!? 🙁

April 4th, 2008, 7:30 pm


trustquest said:

Here is an example of what I said about the nepotism in Syrian regime open economy position which the regime can not rid itself from. The president this week issued (actually sneaked a faraman), a decree, excluding the previous violators of the land law limits on land ownership), and which work in reverse to include only those large land sale by (what they claim gulf investor, whom in reality partners for Mr. Makhloof) foreign investors.


In this new decree you can exceed the law limit if it is belong to investors and invested according to investor law. That is mean you can own beyond the limit if you are foreigner but not Syrian Citizen. If you remember the law issued back in the sixties to confiscate lands from legitimate owners, it would be really like treason in the eyes of the Syrians. These actions will broil the atmosphere against the regime that passes laws only to serve its small circle. We are still waiting to hear from the labor and farmer revolution of Baath party regarding this in their ineffective conferences.
Do not get me wrong, I’m not against investing and opening the country to investors, but I’m against this mentality of smiling to new bourgeoisie and still frowning on the old bourgeoisie large farm owners. Which as you see in the last prices hike, that only local large land owners can feed and provide for the country and when they cut out that middle man Baathis who is sitting there doing bad planning for the country.
If rich companies and rich men is the engine of the economy, you can not exclude some and look down on others.

April 4th, 2008, 7:36 pm


EHSANI2 said:

What does the link have to do with the comment? I am confused.

April 4th, 2008, 7:43 pm


Qifa Nabki said:


Sorry, I didn’t mean to be rude. With respect to the argument I alluded to, it was in reference to the second article, and the alleged imminent fall of Saudi primacy.

By all means, keep the articles coming. I know little more than zift, don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.


April 4th, 2008, 7:53 pm


Joe M. said:


Like you I am not happy about being forced to wait, but unlike you I do not see another alternative. If some empty negotiations were conducted (even ones that resulted in an Oslo II situation), this would also be a form of waiting. No one that I know thinks that Israel is prepared to recognize even the most basic of Palestinians rights. While I agree with some aspects of your analysis (like, in terms of Israeli fears), I do not think there is a benefit for papering over those with empty negotiations. These negotiations, that you feel will help peace be “achieved in the next few years”, seem only to me to further stall true efforts at peace.

In South Africa, all the same recriminations of fears and destruction were repeated ad nauseum prior to the destruction of Apartheid in 1994. Israel makes the same claims today. I recognize the huge gap between the current conditions and the goals. I just prefer to wait rather than give up. Oslo was a failure for two major reasons 1) Israel is diverse and the majority of Israelis had no intention of giving even nominal independence to the Palestinians, 2) Israel used Oslo as a means to solidify its control over the Palestinians by cloaking its control with the language of local autonomy. The same would happen with any negotiations completed today.

When you request that Hamas recognize Israel, you are making an absurd request of the weak side. It is impossible for the weak to prove anything to the powerful. There will always be a new and more radical request by the oppressor on the oppressed. It is not the duty of the weak to comply with the requests of the oppressor. The Palestinians should take their positions totally independent of the dictates of Israel and the USA. And if they decide to come to the table for negotiations, it should be as equals, not with the strong side declaring that it will only accept negotiations after the weak side has already been defeated. Why on earth would Israel negotiate honestly when it knows it can force the Palestinian puppets to accept its terms unconditionally? This is the current situation! Israel fears Hamas for exactly this reason. Not because they actually think their useless qassam firecrackers are an existential threat, but because they know Hamas represents an ideology that requires Israel to make concessions. This is the strength of Hamas and this is the position I support.

Now, further, It is up to the Palestinians to change the Israelis. You SHAI seem to believe that the best way to do that is by making nice with them. I disagree. I do not believe that the Israelis will accept Palestinian rights even if they were perfectly peaceful and loving to their oppressors. I think the Palestinians must confront the racism and viciousness of Israel directly. In some cases this will be with arms, in other cases this will be non-violently. I personally think the best method philosophically and strategically is to advocate the one-state. This forces the Jews to see the essential injustice and violence of their ideology. It also builds on 100 years of democracy promotion as an key form of conflict resolution. Lastly, IT IS OUR BASIC AND FUNDAMENTAL RIGHT TO HAVE EQUALITY IN OUR OWN LAND! If we Palestinians can create enough democratic pressure on Israel, then maybe we can gain concessions in other respects. It is possible that advocating the one-state solution is the best way to reach other intermediate “peace” agreements of the kind that you (SHAI) seem so eager for. That could potentially be beneficial as long as we do not lose sight of our ultimate rights and a more complete realization of justice. But simply begging for some useless “peace” treaty is worthless in both the short and long run. whether it is done by Puppet Abu Mazin, Marwan, or Hamas. Too many Palestinians have lost sight of the forest by focusing on the trees.

SHAI, your fears of war are just another way to make us focus on the trees. How many negotiations have we already had? How many peace treaties does Israel currently have? But does it really feel safe with its relations with Egypt and Jordan? have these really brought the reduction of the likelihood of war? WHy are the Islamic parties so dominant in both Egypt and Jordan today? Why are they relatively much weaker in Syria? Doesn’t Hizbullah represent the will of the majority of the Lebanese people? Is not Muqtada Sadr more powerful than the Americans and their puppets in Iraq? These are not coincidences of some random religious revival, but the results of policies that have left the religious parties as the sole opposition fronts to the dominance of Israel and the USA. Every day that the Puppet Abu Mazin meets with rice and olmert is a day he loses popularity. So, those like AnotherIsraeliGuy can beg for “democracy” but we know his pleas are hollow. Because democracy in the Arab world would only make Apartheid Israel (which relies on force for its strength) less safe, not more. But If Israel was open to a real democracy, then it would have nothing to fear!

April 4th, 2008, 7:54 pm


Joe M. said:

Honest Patriot,

My plan is for the Palestinians to adopt a medium-term no-negotiation, equality through a one-state solution approach. I believe it is our duty to force Israel to either accept us as full and equal citizens, or to fully ethnically cleanse us (including the 20% who are currently citizens). If we can gain strategic strength from this position, only then do I believe it is justified to negotiate. Currently negotiations serve no purpose, as Israel is not negotiating honestly, and even so is doing it from a position of total power. I believe a sustained and organized movement for our equality is our best effort to achieve justice in the short, medium and long terms. at the same time, I have no problem with strategic use of armed resistance (But i think it should be much better coordinated and targeted than it is currently).

April 4th, 2008, 8:01 pm


EHSANI2 said:

Joe M,

You are yet to describe an end game. You seem to suggest that the Palestinian side is too weak to talk peace with a more powerful adversary. Surely, they are just as weak to carry out an armed struggle. The type of armed struggle that has been managed has resulted in walls and long check point lines. In a strategic sense, such an armed resistance has done precious little on the ground.

You now suggest that you would like a posture of no negotiation and a unified stand behind a one state solution. What would the next step be when Israel balks?

April 4th, 2008, 8:07 pm


Naji said:

Stop the presses… I have found the perfect time and place for the SC conference/get-together…: Durban, SA, in early 2009… absolutely perfect in every possible way.. perfect getaway from the miserable winter (since most of you guys seem to be living in Yankee-land), not too far off in the future, …plus it overcomes all the objections/obstacles that various people raised so far… EUREKA… I am proud of myself… 🙂

But, again, I see no point of the thing if Joe won’t attend…!! What do you say Joe…??!
Israel, U.S. to coordinate on boycott of Durban II conference
By Barak Ravid, Haaretz Correspondent

Israel and the U.S. decided a few weeks ago to boycott the Durban II conference scheduled for early 2009 and likely to harshly criticize Israel’s human rights record unless they receive firm guarantees that the event will not turn into anti-Israel festival.

According to a senior government official, the joint decision was made after discussions among senior U.S. State Department and local Foreign Ministry officials, and after being raised in talks between Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni and U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.

Israel and the U.S. decided to make their participation in the conference conditional on guarantees the event would not become a rerun of the previous United Nations rights conference in Durban in 2001.

“The burden of proof will be on the UN and the organizers,” a Jerusalem source stated.

The September 2001 conference in Durban, South Africa had been slated to deal with racism and xenophobia, sponsored by South Africa, the UN Human Rights Commission and the UN non-aligned states a body dominated by Arab states.

The conference was attended by official government delegations, as well as non-government organizations who dictated a hard anti-Israel and anti-Semitic line.

The attacks on Israel included accusations of apartheid, that Zionism is racism, and that the Holocaust is not a unique event but similar to other events in history.

Delegates also said Israel was “born in sin,” the result of ethnic cleansing of Arabs and that in the present, it is committing genocide against Palestinians.

U.S. and Israel’s representatives walked out of the conference in protest at these attacks.

Israel and world Jewish organizations have begun a campaign against the upcoming conference, although it still has no final date or location. In February, the Foreign Ministry held its first coordinating meeting and another will be held next month in Geneva, under the auspices of the UN Watch monitoring group, and will discuss strategies to prevent anti-Semitism and attacks on Israel at the follow-up conference.

So far, Canada has announced plans to boycott the conference and Israel is trying to convince other countries to make their participation conditional on preventing a similar agenda.

Jerusalem estimates that conference organizers will try to blur the real agenda until the last minute to draw in as many UN members as possible. “We are concerned this time too there will be criticism and an anti-Semitic attack,” a Foreign Ministry official said. “What can you expect from a conference whose organizers include Cuba, Iran and North Korea.”

On Wednesday, many major U.S. newspapers ran an advertisement signed by 25 public figures including former politicians, religious leaders and intellectuals, calling on the government to boycott the conference. Signatories included Nobel Prize laureate Elie Wiesel, former CIA chief James Woolsey and law professor Alan Dershowitz. The signatories called on Rice to announce a boycott of the conference, denouncing it as a platform for anti-Semitism “slated to encourage hatred of Israel and the U.S.”

The U.S. decision to boycott the conference came in coordination with Israel. The two countries agreed to publish a joint statement similar to Livni’s recent announcement that Israel plans to boycott the conference as long as it serves as a platform for anti-Semitism and anti-Israel sentiment.

A Jerusalem official expressed regret that there appears to be no change in the conference’s agenda. “Israel is sorry that the UN secretary general and the UN Human Rights Commission are not doing enough to change the content despite their dissatisfaction.

“This is another example of how a UN-sponsored conference to fight racism and xenophobia is about to become an arena for extreme political Israel-bashing, while ignoring areas in the world where racism, religious persecution and intolerance of foreigners, are rampant.”

Israel plans to continue combating the planned conference content together with Jewish groups and the U.S. and Canadian governments.

Related articles:

Senator: U.S. to boycott UN anti-racism meet due to anti-Israel agenda

Canada to skip UN racism conference due to expected ‘anti-Semitism’

Wiesel, Dershowitz want U.S. to boycott Durban conference

April 4th, 2008, 8:10 pm


Honest Patriot said:

Joe M., for your plan to work (and notice that I’m not rejecting it outright), what is needed is a build-up of Arab unity and strength to a point of a credible balance of military power with Israel. Do you think this can be done?
Sadat had come to the conlcusion that he was really fighting not only Israel, but Israel+U.S.A., then decided that there was no way to overcome that strength and sought peace by compromising changes that he would otherwise have liked to see (which is the rolling back of the existence of Israel as a Jewish nation).
Is it any different now?
Actually, even AIG is saying the same thing as you, believe it or not. He is saying that the Arabs could strengthen themselves through education, economic power, development, unity, etc., until they can really take on Israel in battle. AIG’s claim is that once that level of parity is achieved, he believes the mentality and disposition of the people will be towards an accommodation of a solution and not war. I agree with that assessment.
So, it would seem we are all in agreement, except for one inconvenient detail:
What happens in the interim? What happens while the Arab countries build up to that level of strength?
What IS happening now is that Hamas wants to continue lobbing rockets into Israel. Israel retaliates – savagely – under the pretext of self-defense. Who’s right? Who’s wrong? Does it matter? All we have as a result is sheer misery and catastrophy with the 200-to-1 casualties ratio that you quote.
What COULD (and should) happen now? Cease-fire – across the board.
Then debate the solutions. Then get to work implemeeting them.

April 4th, 2008, 8:13 pm


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

You have accurately portrayed my position.

I ask Joe M., if you think democracy in the Arab world is bad for Israel, than call our bluff and implement it in the Arab world. What are you waiting for? Democracy in the Arab world is the only long term security option for Israel.

April 4th, 2008, 8:26 pm


Shai said:

Joe M.,

Let me make some things clear (which I think you’re reading me wrong on). I am NOT for the Palestinians “making nice” with Israel. Earlier, I stated that Marwan Bargouti would be a better partner not because he’s pro-Israel, but because he’s not pro-Israel. If we negotiated peace with Hamas, we’d have a much better peace. But when I say “recognition”, I don’t mean recognizing our crimes, or resigning themselves to injustice. I mean recognizing Israel’s right to exist, with or without Palestinians in it (as you said, there already are 20% here). By continuing to preach for the destruction of Israel, Hamas nullifies itself from participation in peacemaking with Israel. Even Syria, and the rest of the Arab world, offered to recognize Israel if we withdraw to the 1967 lines. Hamas hasn’t yet. Second, I never suggested that you should end your struggle. The opposite, I very clearly said that I would expect you to continue your struggle, but think it would serve your interests better if it was waged from the West Bank, rather than from Gaza. As I said, you need to send a message to us Israelis, which says “if you continue to oppress us and occupy our land, you have more to lose, than to gain”. You cannot say that by sending Qassams from Gaza – the message we hear is not one you wish to make, I believe.

Lastly, while we both agree that superficial peace does not bring about security, nor truly end the conflict, I do believe that Egypt and Jordan were positive steps at least in the sense that had we still been in a state of war with them (at least with Egypt), the chances for peace with the Arab world, and with the Palestinians would actually be less today. The reason, I believe, is that no Israeli would ever have been able to consider that our enemies also want peace, and are also sincere about it. We would have fought another 3 wars, perhaps catastrophic ones, and tens of thousands of people would have lost their lives unnecessarily. Don’t forget, that wars in this century are likely to be far more dangerous than in the previous one. Imagine that in 2000, aside from a second Intifada, Egypt, Syria, Jordan, and Iraq, would have launched a surprise attack against Israel. Except, that this time, missiles would have rained down on every major town and city in Israel, and our citizens would have felt this so-called “existential threat” in as real a sense as one could feel. How do you think Israel would have reacted? Perhaps with its most powerful weapons? If under enough distress, one often makes radical decisions, right? And then, you and I wouldn’t be cybersurfing with each other right now, because it is doubtful there would have been any ISP’s in Israel, or in the entire region. We might have been living a few decades back in time, and still cleaning up the mess. I know you think this is all apocalyptic “Armageddon” talk, but let’s not forget, something like this did happen once, only 63 years ago, when one nation felt it needed to teach another one lesson it would never forget. And it did.

Joe M., you also sound to me like an honestly good person, and the fact that we’re still communicating with one another, despite our major differences, does clearly attest to our deep desire to see peace between our people, and in our region. We both want our children to have the kind of life you and I didn’t get to enjoy – a safer life, not fearing tomorrow, in dignity and pride. Your children deserve it, no less than mine. And I believe it is our earthly duty to find the way to end our miserable conflict, once and for all. You rightly point to the endless injustices that have been forced (and are still forced) upon your people, by mine. And please know that I am not proud of my nation in what it has done to the Palestinians, in fact, I am quite ashamed. But I do want to seek a feasible solution, even if it is a compromise. Not because I don’t believe it’s possible to reach a better, more just, solution (especially for the Palestinians), but because I’d rather do the “waiting”, as you called it, in peace, than in war. It really can, and very much might, get far worse for all of us. There are too many ways that can bring so much more suffering upon our people than is necessary. If I didn’t think so, I’d be willing to wait another 50 years. But I do, and quite strongly.

April 4th, 2008, 8:30 pm


offended said:

Honest Patriot,
The kind of development AIG is looking for is something similar to what’s going on in Iraq; complete anarchy and chaos, militias fighting biased police and military forces… and so on…

There is no doubt that better freedom of speech and less heavy handedness are required in the Arab world. I don’t see how can that relate to the question of the Palestinians’ rights? In fact, it’s more likely for the Arab masses to pressure their proverbial ‘democratic’ government to take an action against Israel if the onslaught on the Palestinians continues till that imagined point in the future.

April 4th, 2008, 8:39 pm


Naji said:

H [Zionist 😉 ] P,
Since you have the intellectual rights to the SC conference/get-together idea, what do you think about Durban, SA, early 2009…?

Shai, QN, …all …??!

April 4th, 2008, 8:50 pm


Qifa Nabki said:


Hamas and Hizbullah have publicly committed themselves to the destruction of Israel. Do you regard this as a sincere position or as strategic rhetoric?

April 4th, 2008, 9:22 pm


Honest Patriot said:

Naji, I hereby sign over any and all intellectual rights to the SC conference to our patriarch Josh the great 😉
As far as Durban, the resort-like largest city in KwaZulu-Natal, I would personally be quite interested although I wouldn’t want to have Alex in an awkward position since Canada has officially decided to boycott the place, at least for that “other” conference. But if everyone else is OK I won’t object.

I tell you Naji, I haven’t found that Marcel inteview yet. Any hint or help as to how to stream a copy will be appreciated.

BTW, I have a long lost cousin named NAJI whom I haven’t been in touch with for over 32 years. You’re not him by any chance, are ya? 😉
Last I hear was that he married a Cypriot lady. Not sure where they’re living.

April 4th, 2008, 10:09 pm


Qifa Nabki said:

Cluster Bombs Kill 40, Wound 252

Forty people have been killed and 252 wounded by Israeli cluster bombs dropped during the 2006 war in Lebanon, the U.N. de-mining organization said on Friday.
“Twenty-seven civilians have been killed and 218 wounded by the explosion of these devices since the end of the war on August 14, 2006,” said Mine Action Coordination Center spokeswoman Dahlia Farran, adding that “the majority of the wounded have been permanently disabled.”

“Among de-mining personnel, 13 people have been killed and 34 wounded, including Lebanese soldiers and members of international organizations and the U.N. Interim Force in Lebanon,” she added.

Farran said that so far de-miners had managed to clear 42 percent of the estimated 39 million square meters (420 million square feet) of south Lebanon that had been littered with cluster bomb sub-munitions.

The munitions dropped by Israel during its devastating air war against Lebanon in 2006 included at least a million cluster bomblets, according to the United Nations(AFP-Naharnet)

April 5th, 2008, 1:27 am


norman said:

سورية تذيع نتائج التحقيق في اغتيال مغنية


لندن ـ القدس العربي : عُلم من مصادر مطلعة في دمشق ان نتائج التحقيقات في جريمة اغتيال المسؤول العسكري لـ حزب الله اللبناني عماد مغنية ستعلن صباح يوم الاحد.
وتشير التحقيقات، حسب مصادر موثوقة، باصابع الاتهام الي ضلوع اجهزة استخبارات عربية بالتعاون مع استخبارات اجنبية كانت وراء تنفيذ الاغتيال في حي كفر سوسة بدمشق.
وتقول مصادر مطلعة ان السلطات السورية كشفت ملابسات العملية بعد تحقيقات موسعة مع العشرات من المشتبهين العرب والفلسطينيين المقيمين في العاصمة، كما حققت مع مسؤولين عسكريين سوريين

April 5th, 2008, 1:46 am


Qifa Nabki said:

Damascus could say that Bozo the clown killed Mughniyeh with a gun loaned to him by King Abdullah, and nobody could prove them wrong.

This is going to be interesting (and entertaining!)

April 5th, 2008, 2:07 am


Honest Patriot said:

Offended, you said Honest Patriot, The kind of development AIG is looking for is something similar to what’s going on in Iraq; complete anarchy and chaos, militias fighting biased police and military forces… and so on…

I honestly don’t see where AIG has said or implied that. The fact is that indeed there are plenty of financial resources in Arab hands (although not uniformly distributed) to act on a plan to raise the educational and economic standards to much higher levels than they are now. This includes much better care of the Palestinian refugees than is currently the norm. Indeed, the current treatment is truly a mark of shame on all Arabs, notwithstanding the complaints that the actions of militant Palestinians are to blame. Add to that the fratricide tendencies and events that the Arabs subject themselves to. Qaddafi expressed it well at the Arab League summit in Damascus.

There is clearly a point to be made that we may very well all be on the same side here. By “all” I mean Joe M., AIG, and everyone in between: we all, at one point or another, have expressed seeking better life conditions, real democracy, better education, and justice for all. However we sure have different interpretations of what that means. What matters in the end are solutions that take into account the actual reality on the ground, solutions which are “impedance-matched” to the problems and so effective.

We may well have achieved some progress in the debates here, in spite of the sometimes intense exchanges. Unless I’m mistaken though, none of us here has any real influence in real political life. We are adding a new dimension to the debate and to the conflict, a dimension that hopefully is one leading to a collapse of the problem into a peaceful end-result.

April 5th, 2008, 2:13 am


Qifa Nabki said:


Did you happen to catch the bit in the Franjieh interview where he said: “You want the FPM to fall apart? Get rid of Samir Geagea as head of the LF.”

That was a bit of a shocker, even for Franjieh who routinely says sensationalistic things. He was basically saying that the only thing uniting the Christian leaders in the opposition was the hatred of the Christian leaders in the majority, rather than any substantive political program.

I imagine Aoun gave him a stern talking-to on the phone afterwards.

April 5th, 2008, 2:19 am


Qifa Nabki said:

Here’s a lovely editorial.

Can Lebanon’s politicians possibly be as obtuse as they seem?

By The Daily Star
Saturday, April 05, 2008

In most other countries, the remarks attributed to Speaker Nabih Berri on Friday would have constituted a bizarre exercise in needlessly emphasizing the obvious: Before he can initiate a new round of dialogue among Lebanon’s government and opposition camps, Berri said, he needs all the would-be participants to accept the idea. This is Lebanon, though, so the speaker’s comments were not prattle designed to fill the space between one sentence and the next. Instead, he was explaining why his plan might not go anywhere because at least some of the people who need to talk are refusing to do so. Worse, yet, they are not even making a secret of it: Repeatedly in the past few days, some members of both sides have indicated that dialogue is a bad thing, and/or that they will only enter into it if their rivals concede some of the most important points ahead of time.

When 12-year-olds behave this way, their parents can roll their eyes and laugh if off as part of growing up. When the petulance is that of individuals who hold an entire country’s fate in their hands, however, the natural reaction is much more complicated. It includes disbelief that anyone in such an important public position, at such a delicate period of Lebanon’s long-troubled history, would utter something so unhelpful. There is also rage at the fact that the Lebanese system allows such people to acquire power and influence out of all proportion to their abilities and accomplishments. There is resignation, too, because one knows that even at the best of times, the tribal realities of Lebanese politics make some of its most repugnant practitioners virtually impermeable to what should be the consequences of flaws large and legion.

Then there are the questions, and none of the answers are very attractive. Does one explain to supposedly grown men that compromise is the intended result of dialogue, not a prerequisite? Or does one conclude that in fact they already know this to be true but are in fact attempting to sabotage any attempt at escaping the current impasse? If the latter is the case, how does one envision the next steps? How can such irretrievably stubborn politicians be made to understand that however gargantuan their egos, they are meaningless compared to the lives and livelihoods of more than 4 million people? Can a thinking person who cares about the future of this country look on the prospect of losing another entire year to political stalemate with anything but disgust?

Nabih Berri has been around for a very long time, and his credentials as a survivor – in every sense of the term – are legendary. He knows all the tricks in the book because he wrote several of its chapters. But even he must be scratching his head at the invincible stupidity of his fellow politicos, including some of his allies in the opposition. And he has plenty of company: Mediators from several countries and international organizations have also tried their hand at brokering an end to Lebanon’s latest bout of self-destruction, and all have failed. They too must be wondering what it is about the Lebanese political elite that makes its members wholly insensate to the damage being inflicted on the country, its economy and its people.

April 5th, 2008, 2:31 am


Honest Patriot said:

QN can you post a link to the Marcel-Franjieh interview?

April 5th, 2008, 2:38 am


Qifa Nabki said:


I just caught that particular clip on YouTube.


And while you’re at it, here’s another gem:

April 5th, 2008, 2:51 am


Honest Patriot said:

LOL QN, that second video…. priceless!

btw, watched the Lebanese movie “Caramel” in the local movie-theater tonight – touching in some ways.

April 5th, 2008, 3:00 am


Enlightened said:

Joe M:

Thanks for replying to my question, and apologies for the delay due to time difference.

A few points:

Both the Arab treatment of Palestinian refugees, and the record of the PLO in its armed struggle against the State of Israel (Both in Jordan and Lebanon and later in the Territories) have been a blight on the Arab psyche for sixty years.

I wont go into examples, we will argue incessently. I have to say that Israel’s treatment of the 850,000 Jewish ( AIG says 1000000 figure slightly exaggerated) (Arab refugees) has been far more humane than the treatment the Arab countries have dealt with their Arab bretheren. The Arabs have 22 countries, The Jews 1, it was point my father made to me when teaching me about the conflict as a child.

Lets put this population transfer movement into perspective with other conflicts on the last 100 years.

Turkish/Greek population transfers 4-5 million lost their homes

India/Pakistan 60, 000 000 lost their homes

I will stop here, and wont go into the population movements just after WW2 in Europe.

All these conflicts have been settled except the Kashmir problem.

60 Years is a long time for conflict, and armed conflict has only brought misery, and I for one cannot condone it!

April 5th, 2008, 4:04 am


offended said:

Like the video which you’ve posted about Aoun interview in kalam al nas, this one seems to strip Suleiman franjeh’s words out of context….it specifically aimed at smearing him. I wonder what was his reply to Marcel’s question “ya3ni ma 3ando mashroo3 seyasy”

April 5th, 2008, 6:56 am


Naji said:

HP, QN, Alex, …

I just checked the most obvious place for the Marcel program, and they do have the whole 2h30min on their webtv… you have to register and pay though… nothing is for free in Lebanon…! 😉


I am surprised you don’t get Lebanese TV channels… they all broadcast everywhere (in fact, you can’t get away from them), especially the LBC…!

April 5th, 2008, 9:04 am


Joe M. said:

Qifa Nabki,
First, there is a great difference between the positions between Hizbullah and Hamas on this issue. I have not been watching closely, but I think Hamas has been much less aggressive against Israel in this respect (From my memory, I have not heard a top Hamas official explicitly call for Israel’s destruction and think this reference is generally based on the “Hamas Charter”). Probably because they value (and fear losing) diplomatic relations with Europe more than Hizbullah does.

That said, I think they both would like to see Israel destroyed (as basically every Arab would). I think Hamas is much less confident of itself than Hizbullah and Hizbullah also has tasted victory over Israel in the past. Hamas would make a peace treaty with Israel (and has been begging for one lately), while Hizbullah would not. But overall I think that these statements are both sincere and strategic rhetoric. But i think the level of sincerity will be largely dependent on the level of Israel’s violence.

Honest Patriot and AnotherIsraeliGuy,
I want to make it totally clear that I am not in agreement with you two. Most specifically because I think the pressure can be kept on Israel and the USA on various fronts now. I do not advocate negotiations right now, but I do not advocate a cessation of violence or giving Israel any room to move. Further, Israel has strategic assets (puppets) in the region who must be undermined. Also, importantly, I would like to see Palestinians with Israeli citizenship mobilize to disrupt Israeli society. Internationally, Israel should be sanctioned and boycotted (at least) like the Apartheid state it is. Ultimately, yes, I think there needs to be improvements in the Arab conditions before we will have the power to completely change the balance of power. But I think you are fooling yourselves to think that that would make Israel more safe. and you can just look around, there is not one single popular movement in the Arab world that is less hostile to Israel than the puppet government that suppresses it. While you two seem to advocate a 50 year plan for Arab development, I think the tides will turn much more quickly. Even one coup in a strategic country could have a huge impact.

I can’t make any commitments until I hear concrete details.

April 5th, 2008, 9:11 am


Honest Patriot said:

Joe M., I am neither Israeli nor Jewish but I do understand their position and actions and I do not agree with anyone who demonizes either outright. I have written my fair share of criticism of Israeli actions and strategy in this blog over several months (when I don’t recall your being active), condemning, in particular, the political assassinations that take the life of many Palestinian civilians. I’ve also distilled what I have seen as the obvious elements of a final settlement that a majority in the area agrees with but which seems bogged down due to continued violence brought about by spoilers. Nor am I an expert in politics. I quite simply don’t see your approach facilitating a solution. There’s a lot of hurt and sorrow in the Middle East. Israel is not the one to blame for all of it. Each country has its fair share of extremists and spoilers. Rather than fanning the flames of the conflict — as, in my opinion, your approach would — advocates of peace should be instead encouraged and supported. In short, my subjective view is that your approach seeks revenge and this will perpetuate an endless cycle of violence. A 2-state solution allowing each of Israel and Palestine to define their own country’s rules and laws (including their flavor of democracy and immigration law) is, I believe, the only viable option. It is time to let a new generation grow without the hatred and hand over to them what to make of the long term future of the area.

April 5th, 2008, 12:24 pm


Qifa Nabki said:


Do you support a one-state solution on moral or pragmatic principles, or both?

That said, would you support the 2-state solution described by, say, the Arab Peace Initiative? Let’s say that Israel were to abide by all the prescriptions (abolition of settlements, 1967 borders, etc.)?

April 5th, 2008, 1:47 pm


Honest Patriot said:

Joe M.,

Another set of questions:

1- Do you concur with the analysis of population growth in the area which project that in a one-state solution, before too long, the proportion of citizens of Arab descent in that state would overwhelm that of those of Jewish descent?
2- If you agree with (1), do you consider the fears of Israelis in such a situation warranted? Without necessarily agreeing with their position, can you concede that to them, the fear is real and is essentially a matter of their existence?

If you agree with (2) you may see that the arguments Israel uses in all its official actions — including the ones that many of us condemn — these arguments become ones of self-defense and protecting their sheer existence. As such, they end up garnering tremendous worldwide support.

What I like to point out is that groups like Hamas and countries like Iran, by continuing to provide Israel with evidence about the intent of some groups to annihilate them (or at least annihilate their own chosen way of life), then this is precisely what is generating continued support for Israel. If such positions ceased, and the focus of all energies was instead poured on the necessity for redressing the harm done to the Palestinian people while guaranteeing – in verifiable terms – long term peace and stability for Israel, it is then that the tide of worldwide public opinion would overwhelmingly side with a fair settlement for the Palestinians, including a soverign state, restitution, long term support, and protection against any aggressive actions by anyone, including either by Israel or by extremist elements within Israel who pursue their own fallacy of restoring some kind of Biblical reality.

So, Joe, I am claiming here that positions such as the ones you take are in fact perpetuating and deepening the misery of the Palestinian people. You will be surprised to know how much support the Palestinian people will garner worldwide if the right attitude and position are put forth and if the spirit of revenge and reversing the tide by eliminating Israel are dismissed.

April 5th, 2008, 3:31 pm


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Joe M.,
How would a coup in a strategic country help the Palestinians? Let’s say the Muslim Brotherhood take over Egypt. How would things change for Israel or the Palestinians? Egypt will have to conform to its agreements or be sanctioned like Hamas. The Muslim Brotherhood will not let Egyptians starve by cutting its ties to the west and even if it does, how does that help the Palestinians? The Egyptian army is based on American weapons and within three years of not receiving replacement parts will be useless.

The “puppetness” of the Arab states is much more fundamental than you care to understand.

In the end you are calling for regime changes in the middle east (in the puppet states Egypt, Jordan and Saudi) and destabilizing Israel using its Arab population. If your plans work you are looking at rivers of blood, several civil wars and at least one huge regional war with zero gain for the Palestinians. Makes no sense to me.

April 5th, 2008, 3:36 pm


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

And by the way, HP is absolutely right. Even Walt and Mearsheimer agree that during the Cold War Israel was an important ally and asset to the US. Your plan entails creating a block of countries opposing the US in the middle east. You would be creating an Israel that is even more valuable to the US and you would be weakening the Palestinian position.

April 5th, 2008, 4:15 pm


Naji said:

A couple of articles from today’s Al-Akhbar (the late and most revered Joseph Smaha’s paper) for HP and QN:

زياد الرحباني
صحيحٌ أن للبنان تركيبةً اجتماعية فريدة وخصوصيات ليس من السهل أن يجاريه فيها أحد، لذا فهو مميّز جداً عن محيطه من البلدان. لكن، ليس في هذه اللحظة بالذات.
صحيحٌ أنه كائناً مَن كان، الذي «أخذ أمّي صار عمّي»، لكن، ليس في هذه اللحظة بالذات. صحيحٌ أن لبنانَ بمساحته الصغيرة يقرّب البحر والشمسَ من الجبلِ وثلوجه، لكن، مع كل هذه الطرقات المسكّرة والمداخل والمخارج المحوَّلة أو المسدودة، يدور المواطن في الجمّيزة، يدور في عين المريسة فيرى البحر والجبل معاً، لكنه يبقى في مكانه حتى يقرِّب الوطن أيضاً، موعدَ خروجه من موعد عودته، ففي هذه اللحظة بالذات ليس لبنانُ كذلك بل كذلك أيضاً.
صحيحٌ أن الإنسانَ مهما هاجر وازدهر وطوَّر يبقى بلده بالنسبة إليه أهمّ وأغلى ما على الكرة الأرضية لكن، ليس في هذه اللحظة بالذات.
وصحيحٌ أن «الدين للّه والوطن للجميع» وأنّ «الجيش سياج الوطن» وإنما «الأمم الأخلاق…» وأنّكم «كما تكونون يولّى عليكم» لكن، ليس في هذه اللحظة أبداً.
في هذه اللحظة بالذات، لعنَ الله كلّ مَن له «أُسٌّ» بين السابع والخامس عشر من آذار…؟ ماشي!

عدد السبت ٥ نيسان ٢٠٠٨

سيّدي الرئيس، لهذه الأسباب لم أقتنع
جان عزيز
أعرف منذ المدرسة وباسكال، أن المُخاطَب المفرد مكروه. لكنّ الموضوع لا يحتمل التعميم ولا التجهيل.
أكتب إليكَ، في هذا التوقيت بالذات، لا قبل ولا بعد. عشيّة تحوّل تهويلك بالاستقالة المبكرة، ورقة ضغط، قد تكون حاسمة لحظوظك الرئاسية، سلباً أو إيجاباً. فيكون كلامي ــ الآن وهنا ــ لا استقواءً عليك إذا رحلت، ولا رجع صدى وسط كرنفالات التطبيل والتزمير، إذا وصلت. أنا بكلّ بساطة، لم أقتنع بحسن اختيارك رئيساً. وذلك لثلاثة أسباب، هي الأساسية على الأقل.
لم أقتنع أولاً، لأنني أخشى أن أظل أرى في صورتك، بعضاً من إرث الحقبة السورية. ولأنني على عكس كثيرين، سأظلّ أعتبر تلك المرحلة تأسيسية. وحدها أقامت سلّماً قياسياً لمعرفة حقائق المواقف والمعادن والرجال.
أعرف نظريات الواقعية السياسية. وأدرك مقولات المصالحات الجماعية وتطهير الذاكرات من الحروب الأهلية. لكنني أعرف أكثر مقتضيات تلك وآلياتها، مما انعدم كلياً عندنا.
تصوّر يا سيّدي لو أن أوروبا الشرقية أعادت انتخاب شيوعييها رؤساء، بعد سقوط الأخ الأكبر. تصوّر لو أن فرنسا بعد التحرير، أبقت بيتان رئيساً، وهو من كان منتخباً ديموقراطياً أصلاً، كمخرج لصراع يسارها واليمين، بطلي التحرير المتنازع على أبوّته.
دعني أصارحك يا سيدي، بأنني أخشى أن أظلّ أرى فيك بعض مسؤولية أدبية على الأقل، عن 7 آب وستة آلاف معتقل تحت مكتبك، كلهم رفاق أحبّة، وعن ظروف أسر سمير جعجع اللاإنسانية، واستدامة نفي ميشال عون في أرضه، أكثر من منفاه التعسفي. وسأظلّ أخشى أن أرى فيك بعضاً من احتفالات وداع غازي كنعان في اليرزة، ورستم غزالة في رياق، وأعياد الأول من آب في ظلّ خطاب المسار والمصير الشهير.
أصارحك يا سيدي، بأن الصراع العدمي العبثي المميت بين ضحيتي الوصاية الوحيدتين، ميشال عون وسمير جعجع، لم يكفني لأبرّر في داخلي عملية إعادة تلميع صور المرحلة الماضية ورموز ظلاميتها، ممّن لم يثبتوا رجالاً مقتنعين، ولم يعتذروا صدقاً مخطئين. فتحوّل البعض من رفاق النضال، أسرى «سندروم ستوكهولم» الشهير، ضحايا يتعاطفون مع جلّاديهم، لم يصلني بالعدوى بعد، لأمنح براءات الذمّة مجاناً. لم أقتنع يا سيدي، لأنني أخشى أن يكون انتخابك إهانة لكل من دفع نقطة عرق أو دم في التحرير، وإحباطاً لكل من يفكر في مواجهة غازٍ في المستقبل.
ثم لم أقتنع ثانياً، بانتخابك رئيساً، لأنك لا تزال في موقعك قائداً للجيش. لا لأن ذلك خرق للدستور وحسب، بل أيضاً وأصلاً لأن في الأمر التباسات بين مؤسستك والديموقراطية، رأساً ووسطاً وقاعدة. فالالتباس التاريخي على مستوى الرأس، يكمن في أن كلّاً من موقعك ورئاسة الجمهورية مرصود لماروني. وهو ما جعل التنافس ــ السلبي طبعاً ــ قاعدة العلاقة بين المركزين، منذ وجدا. وهذا الالتباس هو ما قيل إنه جدّد لبشارة الخوري، و«مدّد» لثورة 58، وجاء باتفاق القاهرة… وصولاً إلى ما نحن فيه معك. فكيف إذا ما أضيفت إلى هذا الالتباس المزمن، واقعة أن تُنتخب أنت بلا تعديل دستوري.
والتباس مؤسستك مع الديموقراطية في الوسط، أن يصير رفاقك «حكومة ظل»، في ظل رئاستك، وإدارة رديفة إلى جانب إدارتك، وتتحوّل الرؤوس الفوق النجوم، مشاريع زعامات في نظامنا المتخلِّف زبائنية حتى العظم.
ويبقى التباس موقعك مع الديموقراطية في القاعدة. تصوّر أن تكون رئيساً، وأن تقوم «حكومتك» و«إدارتك» هاتان، فيصير القطاع العام، أي نحو 250 ألف راتب شهري، قاعدة حزبك الحاكم، ويصير نحو ثلث القوى العاملة في مجتمعنا، رهن «حزب حاكم» في عالم ثالث، لا نتوهّم غير ذلك يا سيدي.
ولم أقتنع ثالثاً والأهم، نظراً إلى مستوى الوعي والسلوك السياسيين لدى طبقة «بارونات» السياسة والصالونات، والاقتصاد. هل شاهدت يا سيدي صورك المرفوعة منذ مدة؟ هل سألت عن هويات «مقدميها» و«متبرعيها»؟ هل علمت أن ذاك المتورّط في نشاطات غير قانونية مع الأجهزة السورية، كان أول داعم «صوري» لك؟ لا ليس صاحب تلك المؤسسة بالذات، ولا الآخر. غالبية أمثالهما. وهل أدركت كيف لصاحب النادي الرياضي ذاك، أن صار من أبرز المتحمسين لك، بعدما كان «راعى» خلفك، طيلة تنقّله في شوارع بيروت بمواكبة سورية؟ وهل شاهدت لافتات التأييد المرفوعة لك من رئيس تلك البلدية؟ هو نفسه من رفع لافتات مماثلة في كل العهود.
إني أخشى يا سيدي من رئاستك، أن تمدّد عهد الاستابليشمانت الأكثر تكلّساً في عصرنا، وأن تعيد نبش المومياءات المنخورة من القبور والبيوتات، وأن تحصر مفهوم الاستحقاق، بالخارجين من إخراجات القيد العائلي، أو من دفاتر الشيكات، أو من معلّقات المديح الممجوج.
لكل ما سبق، وللكثير مما يبقى في الوجدان، اسمح لي يا سيدي، إذا وصلت، بألّا أكون بين الموالين. وإن لم تسمح، فسجّلني منذ الآن مع حفنة الحالمين المعارضين، وإن لا معارضة. ولا تنسَ أن كل ما سبق، مسؤولية فردية شخصية، لا علاقة لأي فرد آخر سواي بها، فاقتضى التنويه.

عدد السبت ٥ نيسان ٢٠٠٨

April 5th, 2008, 6:03 pm


Qifa Nabki said:


One of the major problems with your position, in my opinion, is that it is based on an inaccurate assessment of the natural will of the Arab people vis-a-vis the conflict with Israel. Aside from being unrealistic (justice is realizable through more violence, toppling Arab puppet regimes, disruptions of Israeli society by Israeli Arabs, etc., while the West looks on passively, one presumes) you also assume that everybody else agrees with you and that you are somehow speaking the truth to power.

I disagree. I believe that the two-state solution, while less than ideal, is the only place that we can begin working towards justice and that anything else is, to use one of your favorite expressions, a non-starter. In fact, your solution is the perfect embodiment of a non-starter because it is designed precisely to avoid starting any kind of peace process until a suitable ‘balance of power’ has been reached.

Most importantly, I think that you are fooling yourself when you imagine that the rest of the Arab world is ready to embrace your vision, and that the only thing standing in its way are the ‘puppet’ governments. While “every Arab” longs for justice in Palestine, and while “every Arab” might wish that Israel had never arisen in the first place, I do not agree that “every Arab” would like to see a continuation of violent struggle. Rather, I believe that the solution outlined by the Arab peace initiative – if accepted by Israel – would be far more agreeable to far more people (Arabs) than your proposed solutions.

Are all of these people ‘puppets’ to you? What about all of those Arabs on this blog who have expressed support for a two-state solution? Are we all puppets, traitors, Zionists, collaborators?

I challenge you to go on a Aounist blog and ask people whether they would prefer the implementation of the Arab peace plan, or a bloody open war designed to bring about the massive transformations you are describing to create a new balance of power that would oblige Israel to agree to a one-state solution. I don’t think you’d have many takers.

Nor, for that matter, do I believe that many partisans of Hizbullah are (honestly, deep down) in favor of fighting Israel to the death. If given the choice between a two-state peace and continued aggression, I think that most people would opt for the former. And they would do so, not under any pressure from their ‘puppet’ regimes, but because most people are fundamentally pragmatic. And probably most people imagine that a less just two-state solution has a better chance of moving towards a more just situation (either a confederation, or a binational state, or a United Middle East, or whatever) then a continuing state of aggression.

So, I think you need to re-think your ‘puppet’ logic. Unfortunately, the world isn’t that simple.

April 5th, 2008, 6:11 pm


Joe M. said:

Walt and Mearsheimer also explicitly call for the USA to “divide and conquer” the Arab world on page 340 (i may be off with the page number, i am going from memory. but it’s in the conclusion) of their book (hardcover). They are not a moral voice in any way. Further, I disagree with much of their analysis (especially that Israel has a right to exist). But they show very conclusively in that book that the domestic situation in the USA was far more important to the relationship between Israel and the USA than any international conditions. So, even if Israel provided some strategic value, that does not mean it provided more than had the USA switched alliances. Further, the USA was a friend of South Africa (As was Israel) until the very end of Apartheid. Presumably they were allies because of strategic value (though, more honestly, violent and racist states tend to stick together…). So even if you are right about the strategic considerations, that does not justify it.

As for a situation where the Brotherhood took over the Egyptian (which is not something I consider very likely), I think they are more pragmatic than you think. Also, you greatly overestimate the problems they would have. Just look at Iran, a country which has a much more hostile government to the USA than the Brotherhood takes, and they have only minor sanctions against them. And even the light sanctions against them, they get around those sanctions by using Dubai. There are only a tiny fraction of goods that they legitimately have problems getting (like spare parts for planes and very high technology parts for other such equipment). The Brotherhood would greatly redefine the relationship between Israel and the Arab world by 1) supporting the Palestinians materially (with weapons, but also by breaking the Gaza siege) 2) putting pressure on Israel diplomatically and supporting Syria and Hizbullah, Hamas and other popular movements… 3)putting massive internal pressure on other puppet governments of the region. Which would (at least) force them to take more pro-Palestinian/Arabist positions 4) they would increase the pressure on Israeli through trade relations… These are just some of the benefits. You are right that their military supplies might become rusty within a few years, but i don’t think they would take a largely military role in the region (nor do i even think the military would be very happy about their taking over the country if it did happen). Anyway, you overestimate the power the USA has.

Honest Patriot,
I do think that reports that the Palestinian population of Israel is increasing are correct. But I think this is a strategically good thing for Israel. Both from my perspective and from theirs. I do not think the Jews have a future in the Arab world if they maintain their current policies of hostility and violence towards everyone else. I think the most likely way for them to become integrated in the region is for them to accept these Palestinians as citizens and drop all the “transfer” talk. At some point in the not too distant future there will be a Jewish minority in Israel (including the occupied territories, which is officially part of Israel now, the Jews are already a minority in their own country). And they can decide to act with hostility toward that population or they can accept reality and treat them as the equal citizens that they are. If they act with hostility, I truly think that would be the end of the Jewish presence in the region. If they accept that they are a minority and take it with humility, they could be integrated in the region as a fellow state. But clearly, they will not be a “Jewish” state any longer and that would likely lead to my preferred outcome of a one-state solution. Actually, these conditions could possibly lead to a bi-national state, and depending on the Jewish attitude towards the Palestinian citizens, I could intellectually accept that outcome if it is done from a position of Arab strength… I will add, this “demographic threat” is the only think that I think currently pressures Israel to negotiate with the Palestinians (as they expect to “transfer” their Palestinians to any possible Palestinian “state”).

Also, I want to point out your statement that Palestinians want to “annihilate their own chosen way of life”. You don’t seem to understand that this chosen way of life is as a racist and ethnically determined state, despite the reality of their situation. This, again, it completely analogous to Apartheid South Africa. The white population used violence and coercion to dominate that state as well. But eventually it was untenable and it was annihilated. My problem is not that it is “Jewish”, I would have the same attitude to a “Hindu” or “Wiccan” or “Buddhist” state that had the same policies as Israel currently does. Every time i read your statements I am shocked that you fail to understand what Israel really is. You automatically accept Israel’s “legitimacy” while seeing Arab rights and needs as being expendable. It serves as a perfect example of how dominate the Israeli narrative has become. My position is not to accept any rights for Israel unless the Palestinian right to the same thing is seen equally.

Amazingly you have the extreme audacity to say that “positions such as the ones you [I] take are in fact perpetuating and deepening the misery of the Palestinian people” or “A 2-state solution allowing each of Israel and Palestine to define their own country’s rules and laws (including their flavor of democracy and immigration law) is, I believe, the only viable option.” First, when have my positions given orders to an Israeli general to bomb a city to the ground (like Jenin, for example)? How on earth can you blame Palestinians for their suffering? Did you blame Mandela’s policies for his sitting in Robbin Island for 30 years? Or do you blame MLK’s positions for the suffering of his people or his being assassinated? You fundamentally misunderstand the conflict if you think “spoilers” are what perpetuates the violence. You fail to understand that occupation is violence and that Israel itself is a massive violence on the Palestinian people? Just listen to SHAI on this matter. He understands the conflict much more fully then you do.

Second, your statement about “A 2-state solution” completely ignores that the Palestinians will not have the freedom to determine their own country’s rules and laws if there is a two-state solution. Don’t you see that Israel prevents Palestinian self-determination by definition? How hard is it for you to understand what Israel is? What makes you think Israel has any more right to the land it sits on than the Palestinians have a rights to that land? Are you just making that judgment by virtue of its strength? Well, it might have the strength today to control that land, but so did the white South Africans, the Soviet Union over so many regions, the Nazis over Europe, the USA over Iraq, Afghanistan, Vietnam, Panama… and on and on… Even extreme power cannot maintain essential injustice forever. This is a historical fact.

Qifa Nabki,
I support the one-state solution morally, practically and strategically. I think it is most likely to lead to a long-term peace (as SHAI agreed) but I also think it is most likely to lead to short-term agreements that reduce violence. I also fundamentally think it is the most just solution. Further, it is unobstructed by the “facts on the ground” like settlements because it does not call for their abolition. Similarly, it takes into consideration the most fundamental “fact on the ground”, that you currently have two people living on one land. How do you feel about Israel becoming a democracy?

April 5th, 2008, 6:13 pm


why-discuss said:

Joe Shai

I concur with Joe on waiting instead of repeating again and again Oslo like agreements that lead to more destruction.
I believe that if Israel wants to move on to make peace they should bridge gaps:
– Israelis refuse one state solution not only because they fear palestinians but also because palestinians will be a heavy burden economically in view of the existing gap of wealth. Therefore Isreel must actively invest and encourage the economical growth of the palestinians in occupied land. This may reduce the gap and show the palestinians the other face of Israel, other than road blocks and targeted murders.

– Instead of antagonizing Iran they should seek a rapprochement by stopping their ridiculous threat of destruction of the nuclear plants. Iran is the key to peace in the area. Israel should also seek a rapprochement with Syria instead of bombing its alleged nuclear sites and provoking them.

Unfortunately the present admininistration in Israel is a copycat of the Bush admnistration who believes only in the language of threats and violence. Nothing can come out of it except more blood.

April 5th, 2008, 6:36 pm


Shai said:

Joe M.,

A recent decision in the U.S. congress determined that Jews from Arab countries that fled are also regarded as “refugees”. A new voice is being heard in Israel, and will soon be vocalized abroad, headed by our previous FM, Silvan Shalom, that does a complete 180 on the entire Palestinian refugees issue of rights. He claims, that since the Palestinians that lived in this land were the ones that attacked the Jews upon the birth of Israel (not accepting the U.N. resolution which defined a two-state solution), and fled this area as a result of losing in that War of Independence for Israel, they essentially have no rights whatsoever. And, unlike the Palestinians who initiated war against Israel, the Jews in the Arab countries who ended up fleeing, did not initiate war upon their Arab hosts, and therefore are the ones that deserve compensation, rather than the Palestinians. What would you say to this?

I agree with HP, if we don’t make peace soon, regardless of its superficiality, injustice, or uneven handedness, what this region will see, and in particular the Palestinians, is far worse suffering than it has in the past. The region is growing less stable by the hour almost, and too many sides have growing “scores to settle” (Israel with HA, HA with Israel, Syria with Israel, Israel with Hamas, Hamas with Israel, Syria with KSA/Egypt, Lebanon with Syria, etc.) The likelihood for a new regional war is greater today than it has been for the past 3 or 4 decades, I believe. And the kind of alliances that are apparently in place at the moement (Syria/HA/Hamas/Iran, Israel/U.S./France/KSA/Egypt), would suggest that if one side was seriously hurt by another, other players might well come to its rescue, causing the same to happen vice-versa, and might therefore plunge us all into a catastrophic war. You really don’t have to be an avid reader of Tom Clancey to see this happening. You just have to look two-three steps ahead, not more.

At the moment, I’m afraid, there are far too few peace-supporters out there. Most have turned either completely numb (and apathetic) or, worse, vehemently anti-everything. You seem to believe that by further pressuring Israelis into a corner (by for instance demanding the one-state solution), they will likely reconsider, or be forced to do so given enough time. I believe the opposite will happen – those moderate ones still “kicking” will harden their views, will reconsider the “true” intentions of the Palestinians, and will very likely switch camps. When that happens, you will not see a Palestinian state for a very very long time, and the Palestinians themselves will suffer greatly. Remember, it will be impossible to force a one-state solution upon an Israel that views it (today at least) as its own suicide plan. Israel would go to great lengths to see that doesn’t happen, including continuing to fight, and hurt, and punish. Surely that’s not what you want upon the Palestinians, nor I upon the Israelis who will bare the consequences as well.

I reiterate the importance of starting the wheel towards peace in this region. First, Israel makes peace with Syria. Next, Syria, together with the Arab world, Europe, and the United States, help Israel and the Palestinians end their conflict, and create a two-state solution. When we live in this “peace” for 15-20 years, and begin to dissolve that innate fear, hatred, and distrust we have towards one another, there may come a time to consider a UME-type future for this region. It is only then, that your children and mine will be able to begin thinking about the possibility of living together. It may never happen, but I believe that if peace becomes a reality, that the eyes of this region will always be towards the EU and the US, and will one day consider doing the same.

April 5th, 2008, 6:46 pm


Naji said:

As the token “Syrian” around here, I must point out how amusing, and telling, it is that the participants on SyriaComment right now are: Two Israelis, two Lebanese, one Palestinian, and one citizen of the SAR (although I suspect we are all Americans too!!)…!! I have long maintained that those living southeast of Persia and Turky, and are still in Asia, are ALL Syrians and are ALL Jews…!! Just try to have a socio-cultural discussion about our region with a Buhddist or a Hindu and see how confusing he will find the whole thing and how nuanced he will find the claimed differences between the various communities…!! The sooner that eveyone around here will come to this realization and will start to act upon it, the sooner that they will start to work for peace, justice, and, foremost, DIGNITY for all…

April 5th, 2008, 7:05 pm


Honest Patriot said:

Joe M, thank you for the very thorough responses. I don’t know what you do in real life but it is obvious to me that you are precisely the kind of advocate that is needed in public debates in the media, assuming you are skilled at being articulate in real-time as much as you are in writing. I don’t have to agree with you to wish for more such contributions in order to have your arguments be aired and shared, particularly in the U.S.

If I were to boil everything down to one major point of disagreement that I have with you, it would be about any near-term strategy having to exclude, in my opinion, the kind of attacks against civilians that have been used by Hamas and others. I don’t know if you would agree with that. No one with a fair mind can object to the right to “apply pressure” against Israel as long as the red lines that lead that pressure to be characterized as terrorism are not crossed. This is what I meant by saying your positions lead to more suffering. That statement was based on your position enciting more of these “operations” and attacks which inevitably cause Israeli retaliation, measured or not. One example – outside Palestine – is the July 2006 war of Lebanon which wreaked havoc on that country.

Except for that point of disagreement I mention in the previous paragraph, which emerges out of plain observations of facts and developments over the years, I’m really not a proper interlocutor for debating you further. If a peaceful settlement can be reached on the grounds you advocate I’m all for it. My reading is that such a settlement has no chance of happening except after another major war. I hope I’m wrong and again, I’m no expert. It took a long time, decades, for an agreement to emerge about the 2-state solution as a viable option that – modulo details to be worked out – can be acceptable to what appears to be a majority in the Arab world. Then again, you’ll probably say that majority is a government-majority and the people believe otherwise. Which then goes back to the necessity of true democracy to make those voices heard. Which then makes some of the points AIG is making. I may end up in circular arguments here, so I better stop.

Joe M, if you are articulate in person and can keep your cool in debates and be persuasive, you are the ideal person to come on US national TV and debate with Netanyahu. I always go back to the US because of its support of Israel and its status as the only world superpower. Without winning over opinions in the US, by the force of persuasion, I don’t see anything helpful happening. Who knows, you might persuade, or maybe you might end up persuaded, or some middle-of-the-way accommodation might be reached. All I’m saying is have everyone lay down their arms and use words to fight. Your weapon is pretty strong in that arena.


April 5th, 2008, 7:07 pm


Joe M. said:

Qifa Nabki,
I don’t disagree with much that you just said. But I think you are either misreading my position or I have not given suitable explanation of a particular point. let me try to clarify. I do not think anyone wants “open war” with Israel. And I do think the majority of Arabs would accept something like the Arab peace initiative (for the time being) if Israel would accept it. But my position is a reflection of two major factors: 1) I do not believe that Israel wants peace, and will not accept even the major concessions offered in that peace initiative, 2) that the effects of the dominance of Israel and the control of the USA has been very great on Arab society.

Speaking about the second point first, if you recall, the average Shia from South Lebanon was against the Palestinians during the civil war. It is even often reported that they welcomed the Israeli invasion. Yet today they comprise a major current of support for Hizbullah and its policies against Israel. Granted, they clearly don’t want additional wars, and they suffer most from said wars, but why the change was one of pragmatism to self-empowerment? I think it is largely because of the viability of Hizbullah as it increased its organization and effectiveness. Let me say too that I am as far from the philosophical ideologies of Hamas and Hizbullah as can be. But I do take pride in their accomplishments and many of their political stands, as do most other Arabs. I think that Israeli and American dominance has had such a profound effect on what most Arabs view as viable, that it has prevented us from seeing any other options. To me, the puppets are one of the foundations of that demoralization. If the puppets were replaced by even moderately nationalistic trends, I expect that many of the masses would follow. The ultimate success of such a endeavor is obviously dependent on many conditions. But so many Arabs would currently accept something like the Arab peace initiative because it is currently seen as the only option. Given other choices, I believe that the people would rally. As much as I dislike Assad, he is popular largely for this reason. And I think he could even take a more aggressive position towards Israel and it would be more popular. I think the same could be true elsewhere.

But too, I want to state very explicitly that I do not support an “open war” strategy against Israel and the USA (well, except in Iraq) as I do not think it would be successful and would be very very bloody. I do support limited resistance, but only strategic use of it (as Hizbullah has done for years. Excluding the capture of the soldiers, which was not a strategic move, but a reactionary one). But also I think even Aounists would support more general support for Palestinians if it seemed to have benefits (which, even from their perspective it would, as it could help end the refugee crisis. the Arab peace initiative does not address that problem. I don’t see anything but a one-state as being able to deal with the refugees. I don’t think Israel will allow them to return to Isrel, or to the occupied lands). You must admit though, Palestinian actions in Lebanon have generated a lot of anger, and thus there is much bias against them there. This was largely our own fault, I know. but it do not think it is insurmountable, just as the Shia have become the most ardent supporters of the Palestinians. Also, in respect to Hizbullah, they seem to be very strategic in the use of their violence. They are not unconditionally violent and have not done anything since the war. No one wants war, least of all the weak side. Even Nasrallah’s “open war” cries seem to be largely rhetorical.

as for the first point, why hasn’t Israel even considered the Arab peace initiative? Why did they unconditionally reject it? Why do they find it so ridiculous that they do not even have a discussion about it (internally or externally)? Well, the two main reasons are that 1) they have no reason to negotiate with the Arabs now (the USA controls most of the Arab governments anyway), 2) it is simply not what they want.

This Arab peace initiative is everything that Arabs can possibly offer Israel, yet they reject it so bluntly. What does that show? Do you think more begging will get Israel to accept it? They don’t think it is good enough, it’s as simple as that. The Arab peace initiative is a practical unconditional surrender, yet Israel wants even more. regardless of whether most Arabs want it, it will possible. Plus, what do you think would happen if this deal was accepted, yet the Palestinian people continued to get attacked by Israel. How stable do you think such an agreement would be? how would that effect the region? What if Arab countries became more democratic and hostility to Israel increased? I mean, I am just saying, even this plan is unacceptable to Israel, how do you propose getting them to agree to it? Obama? Not likely, and even so it would not hold. In order to get something like the Arab peace initiative to hold, the Arabs have to get stronger anyway. regardless of how just the plan itself is.

April 5th, 2008, 7:10 pm


offended said:

Naji, two citizens from Syrian Arab Republic. Although one of them is expated in Dubai, and caught behind a spam filter!

April 5th, 2008, 7:23 pm


offended said:

Naji, two citizens from Syrian Arab Republic. Although one of them is expated in Dubai, and caught behind a spam filter!!

April 5th, 2008, 7:23 pm


Qifa Nabki said:


Excellent response. I have to give it the attention it deserves. But, thanks. This is a very worthwhile discussion.

I agree with HP, with respect to the quality of your debate.

And, finally, I agree with the following statement from Shai. It appears that we are all much closer than we think, in aims. What differs is the methods, and that is something that is “bridgeable” and open to discussion. I’ll get to it later.

First, Israel makes peace with Syria. Next, Syria, together with the Arab world, Europe, and the United States, help Israel and the Palestinians end their conflict, and create a two-state solution. When we live in this “peace” for 15-20 years, and begin to dissolve that innate fear, hatred, and distrust we have towards one another, there may come a time to consider a UME-type future for this region.

April 5th, 2008, 7:25 pm


Shai said:

Joe M.,

Having said everything above, I wanted to just reiterate that I do NOT believe this is a solution that brings complete justice to the Palestinians. The Palestinians are not receiving the full justice they deserve. I wish I could change reality on the ground enough, to have most Israelis become more realistic, to understand our true part in the suffering of the Palestinians, and to remove once and for all our innate fear of annihilation. I wish I could instill these abilities and self-confidence in each and every Israeli. But I can’t. I’m a secular Jew, who sees himself first as an Israeli, then as a Jew. I believe my children’s future will be determined more by the way I act as an Israeli, than as a Jew. But I also cannot ignore, or dismiss, my fellow Israelis who still very much fear that if Jews were ever again to be in danger anywhere around the world, that they would have no place to go to, if Israel was to lose its Jewish majority (and hence lose its “Jewish state” status).

Enlightened said something which many anti-peace, pro-transfer Israelis always like to say, namely “The Arabs have 22 states, the Jews have only 1”. While nearly 100% of Israelis still need Israel to be their “Jewish state” (in that sense, AIG is right, my view is probably supported by a tiny minority), most Israelis (more than 50%) do not expect the Arab Israelis to be removed from their homes in Israel, and to be settled in a future Palestine. Like most Arabs surely wish Israel had never existed in the first place, most Israelis might wish these same Arab Israelis weren’t living inside Israel, but rather outside it. The “Jewish” racism here must be understood (not necessarily accepted), as stemming directly from Holocaust-originating complexes that are still at play in most Israeli minds. I truly wish it were otherwise, and do want to live to see the day it is no longer with us. I’ve mentioned before that although nearly 95% of my own family was exterminated by the Nazis, I no longer view myself as a “victim”, nor do I subscribe to “victim mentality”. Most Israelis, however, still do. And these are the Israelis you’ll have to “deal with” (peacefully, or not) in the next 20-30 years.

April 5th, 2008, 7:37 pm


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Joe M.,
The comparison between Iran and a Muslim Brotherhood (MB) led Egypt is not relevant as Iran is a major oil exporter and oil accounts for 50% of its GDP. Take that away, and Iran is a bankrupt country.

If the MB takes over Egypt and changes its position about peace with Israel tourism to Egypt and foreign investment in Egypt will stop. Also all foreign aid. That all will happen before sanctions. The Egyptian economy that is toterring now will completely collapse leading most probably to civil war. The worst that the MB can do is close the Suez Canal but then they will lose additional revenues. In any case the Suez Canal will be closed because by the time the leader of the MB finishes the sentence proclaiming the Egypt-Israeli peace agreement null and void, Israeli tanks will be in the Sinai and will be in 24 hours on the Canal. When we say land for peace we mean it. If there is no peace, the land will be taken back. There will be no reaction from the Egyptian army because they are completely purged from MB members following the Sadat murder and would not be happy with the MB coup. You underestimate the intrinsic strength of Arab countries without Western support.

The simple reason Israel rejects the Arab peace plan is because it is vague about the right of return.

April 5th, 2008, 7:47 pm


Joe M. said:


I am aware of the proposal of Silvan Shalom and others. And unfortunately for him, there is an official definition of “refugee” and Israeli citizens can not be refugees because you automatically give up your refugee status if you accept another citizenship. So on practical grounds this is a useless position to take. No one with even basic knowledge would disagree with what i just said.

That said, I personally believe that Arab Jews should be given restitution in their former countries (including dual citizenship) if they suffered injustices. But this should be conditional on Israel doing the same for Palestinians. I would welcome Jews going back to Iraq (under better conditions), Morocco, Egypt… if there was a genuine peace with the Palestinians. I think, this could be an aspect to your MEU theory, if it were ever to happen.

As for your general peace strategy, I just think it is too optimistic about the power or viability of interim agreements. Especially considering that the Arabs have no means to enforce any agreement. Even in the current best case, say an Obama presidency, I don’t think the pressure he could apply would radically change the situation. Say he has 4 years as president (as did Carter) and he pushed negotiations hard, as soon as he was defeated by a republican there would be a major change in Israel’s position (it annexed the Golan and invaded Lebanon just a few years after signing Camp David). I just don’t see it is viable.

I agree that the biggest impediment to the one-state solution is the immediate resistance of Israelis. But just as there was a major uproar when Jimmy Carter called Israel an Apartheid, now “Apartheid” has become a pretty common term. Similarly, I think the one-state solution would face a huge backlash early, but slowly because accepted discourse. (another example is the boycott movement, which is common in England)…

April 5th, 2008, 7:51 pm


Shai said:

Joe M.,

Though perhaps shifting a bit off course, but I strongly believe that the best candidates for making peace are the worst of enemies. Maybe the best we can hope for, is to actually have around the table in a “Madrid II” style negotiations, the following: McCain, Putin, Netanyahu, Assad, Hanniyeh, KSA/Egypt/Lebanon reps. What do you think?

Also, I agree with AIG that the main reason Israel has rejected the Arab Peace proposal has been the vagueness about the right-of-return (again, our biggest concern at the moment), but I would also add because no one significant (U.S., U.K., France, Germany, etc.) has been pushing Israel to accept it. Everyone seems to be in-line with George W. Bush, but perhaps everyone’s also waiting for him to leave, and then international attitude towards this plan will hopefully change.

April 5th, 2008, 7:59 pm


Shai said:


Hear, hear!

April 5th, 2008, 8:02 pm


wizart said:

Let’s pray it never happens again. Sabra & Shatila by Fisk.


April 5th, 2008, 8:04 pm


Joe M. said:


You do realize that the more belligerent Israel is, the more it is digging its own grave?

Also, yes, Iran has oil and Egypt does not. But the Brothers would not take a position as radical as Iran does either. They would take a pragmatic position similar to that of Syria (except they would empower Islamic movements region-wide, at least by example). And Syria does have some minor sanctions, but nothing that is limiting its ability to function. There might be some sanctions against Egypt if the Brothers took power, but they would not be much different than those against Syria. But the effect that such a nationalist movement would have on Arab society would be spectacular. Especially if they came under such a violent attack as you suggest. Do you remember what happened to Nasser in 56? If Israel is so crazy to repeat its actions in 56, you will be looking at a repeat of the 20 years of nationalism and advocacy that followed. I don’t think Israel can survive such a situation today.

April 5th, 2008, 8:05 pm


Naji said:

Sadly, your current situation says it all… 😉 🙁

Btw, in my above comment, I meant to say: “I have long maintained that those living southWEST of Persia and Turky, and are still in Asia, are ALL Syrians and are ALL Jews…!!”

April 5th, 2008, 8:05 pm


Joe M. said:


I am not in favor of negotiations now.

I do generally agree with you that enemies are better negotiating partners, but only when there is a parity in their strength. I don’t see the benefit of having a lion negotiate with a lamb.

April 5th, 2008, 8:08 pm


Shai said:

Joe M.,

Good point about the parity issue. But a lamb might be able to negotiate with a lion, if that lion innately fears it may still be a lamb… I’m telling you, Israel still suffers from a “lamb mentality”. You should take advantage of that (not by force).

April 5th, 2008, 8:15 pm


Joe M. said:


The right of return is a major aspect of why Israel does not accept the Arab initiative, but it is clearly not the only part. First, the benefits of full recognition from Arab countries would be minor. Israel already has trading relations from the key trading states and has back-door recognition for all states (only Hizbullah and Iran seriously do not recognize Israel). So Israel gains the publicity of recognition, but not much of a tangible benefit. Also, Israel knows that the Arab puppets are as weak today as they have been in decades, and knows that they face a strategic problem of negotiating with them now. Further, Israel have absolutely no intention of threatening their access to water, or of removing the settlements or wall (which are both outside of the 67 borders), or even giving the Palestinians nominal sovereignty. Plus, it does not solve the “demographic threat”. These are not minor issues.

The Arab puppets, of course, have everything to gain from such a deal. They would not fundamentally offer anything to Israel and they would divest themselves from the Palestinian issue, but they could claim they have done everything they can… Plus, they would gain the repressive advantage that closer relations with the USA and Israel would involve (just as Egypt has become more repressive by hiding behind their peace treaty).

It’s just not as simple as the refugee issue. Yet too, obviously, that would remain unresolved…

April 5th, 2008, 8:22 pm


Joe M. said:

By the way, I will just point out, in reference to the instability of the puppets that i constantly talk about, Egypt and Mubarak are facing their worst crisis in decades:


Egypt rails against general strike call

7 hours ago

CAIRO (AFP) — Egypt’s government warned Saturday it will take firm action against anyone protesting or striking, in response to snowballing calls for a general strike the following day.

The interior ministry threatened “immediate and firm measures against any attempt to demonstrate, disrupt road traffic or the running of public establishments and against all attempts to incite such acts”.

April 5th, 2008, 8:27 pm


Shai said:

Joe M.,

I tend to agree with you. I just fear the alternative is far worse…

April 5th, 2008, 8:28 pm


qunfuz said:

Below are two excellent articles relevant to the one state solution. I’m disappointed to see HP attacking Joe so fiercely. I mean, Shai is able to get on with him! Joe is articulate and logical, and his perspective is close to what seems to me to be a majority in the region. I also don’t like HP’s use of the word ‘radical’ as an insult. Too long in North America, HP! Say what you mean. And what’s this about ‘the Western civilisation’? There are plenty of Hizbullah supporters who admire the civilised bits of the West.

What else – because I’m not contributing these days, too busy writing, just a little squeak today, and to let you know that I still check in to the debates – I don’t think the SC meet-up should be in North America. That makes it much less accessible to Syrians, for visa reasons, because going to a ‘political conference’ in North America looks more suspicious to our friends in white socks, because it’s too far and too expensive to get to. Keep it informal, not centred on Israel, and nearby.

Now read these excellent and thought-provoking articles:

One state or two?
Mick Dumper
March 31, 2008 9:00 AM


The renewal of the negotiations between the Israeli government and the Palestinian National Authority, following their suspension in the wake of Israeli incursions into Gaza, remind us how close to the brink of some kind of abyss the peace process is. It forces us to ask what the alternatives are if there are no negotiations. If the PNA fails in the West Bank, will Palestinian support for the resistance lead to a Hamas-like takeover of a walled-in West Bank? Will the future lead to rockets being fired from Tulkarm onto Tel Aviv?

In this context, some analysts and planners are looking for new ways to envision a future which goes beyond the fruitless horse-trading that has characterised the post-Annapolis round of negotiations between the Israeli government and the PA, and one which avoids a collapse of the PA itself. One of the currents in the debate is that a binational state comprising both Israeli and Palestinian citizens may not be so far removed from a viable two-state solution that has been the framework for the current negotiations.

For decades the idea of a binational state has been dismissed by politicians and the wider Israeli and Palestinian public as the crazy imaginings of naive idealists – even if held by such luminaries as Martin Buber. Indeed, most Israelis and Zionists have gone so far to characterise it as a code for the extinction of Israel and accuse its supporters of anti-semitism. Similarly, some Palestinian nationalists have seen it as defeatist and a sign of complicity in the defeat and dispossession of the Palestinians that occurred in 1948.

However, since the signing of the Oslo accords in 1993 between the Palestine Liberation Organisation and the Israeli government, significant changes in the underpinning of the two-state solution have taken place – the ramifications of which are only now more clearly seen. For all its failings, the Oslo accords contained within it the crucial recognition by the Israelis of the right of the Palestinians to at least a part of the land of Palestine. The importance of this was not immediately apparent, but it precipitated, nevertheless, a debate over the future of Zionism.

If the whole of Palestine was not the birthright of Zionism, where did you draw the line? Was it the areas suggested by the Israeli government at the Camp David summit in 2000, or the armistice lines as they stood in 1949? If Palestinians exist as a people and a nation are they not entitled to equal rights as Israeli Jews? How does one reconcile the privileging of Jewishness with this entitlement to equality? In short, can Israel be a Jewish state and a democracy at the same time?

This internal reflection on the future of Zionism and Israel in the wake of a peace agreement has been compounded by the work of analysts, policy-makers and academics in the various behind-the-scenes negotiations. In putting substance onto various proposed frameworks for peace, in spelling out the fine print of any agreement, there is a growing realisation that if the agreement is to avoid the total separation suggested by the huge wall running through the West Bank and the fences surrounding Gaza, as well as the alienation of the vast majority of Palestinian refugees, a high degree of cooperation will be required.

Such comprehensive cooperation points to arrangements that are much more than your usual bilateral treaty between two states. It is already accepted that the two-state solution will consist of a range of agreements that extend way beyond intelligence and security cooperation to encompass the economy and trade, the environment, the extraction of water, regional urban planning, tourism, immigration and so on. And already there are agreements in place for a single economic zone for Israel and Palestine, for a customs union, for a unified citizen database and for the sharing of water, which point to a merging of the two states at some fundamental levels. In essence, what is being discussed is a sort of “two-state plus”, which on further analysis looks remarkably close to some variants of the one state solution.

Take, for example, how the two-state solution will work for the capital city of both states, Jerusalem. If one is to avoid dividing the city into two parts, if one is to maintain the mobility of the residents and their freedom to shop, work and worship in different parts of the city, if one is to ensure that visitors and pilgrims have access to its different sites (remember that the core economic asset of Jerusalem is its visitors) then arrangements have to be devised which satisfy both the security and economic needs of the city.

Some sort of “supranational” body, such as a regional planning commission or a grand municipal council, comprising representatives of the Palestinian and Israeli municipality and of the national ministries, will need to be set up to cooperate over flows of visitors, infrastructural development, environmental hazards and architectural design. Even if, in an act of desperate last resort to achieve some agreement, the city is divided by walls and barriers, there will still need to be cooperation across the walls to ensure that the city continues to function smoothly with regard to waste disposal, water supply and access to the holy sites.

What has not been taken on board by the wider public is that a binational state does not mean the eradication of the nations involved. There are a variety of precedents and models for political cooperation that show how national interests can be protected. These models comprise structures which range from the confederal model (two or more entities with a kind of steering committee) a federal model (two or more entities with certain powers allocated to a central body) to a consociational model (a single state structure with powers allocated to the two or more entities according to agreed criteria, such as size of population). Where these models might be relevant to the current situation in the Middle East is that they provide both concrete ideas for how the degree of cooperation between the two entities can be achieved and also a benchmark for determining the equity of any agreement. The argument being made is that the binationalism, or the one state solution, is simply the two-state solution that works well and works fairly.

Struggle for equality
Nadia Hijab and Victoria Brittain
December 17, 2007 11:30 AM


In recent months a small group of Palestinian and Israeli academics, mainly in the diaspora, have prepared an intellectual bombshell to challenge the Palestinian leadership on the almost 40-year basic premise of an independent Palestinian state alongside the state of Israel. The division over the question of one state or two states is now as dramatic as the Hamas-Fatah fighting of the last year, which split the armed resistance.

On November 29, 2007 – the 60th anniversary of the UN plan to partition Palestine into an Arab and a Jewish state – the group issued a one state declaration and are seeking co-signatories. It was a direct challenge to the Annapolis meeting three days earlier when almost the entire international community, including the Arab world, lined up – again – with the US, Israel and the Palestinian national authority behind the goal of two states (and excluding the elected political movement, Hamas).

But is that goal now an anachronism? How many of the officials from the many nations herded to Annapolis by the US have actually visited the West Bank recently – let alone penetrated the terrible siege around Gaza?

Annapolis should have begun with a presentation on the fragmentation of the West Bank, a PowerPoint produced by the UN. This short, stark visual superimposes each piece of Israel’s illegal occupation infrastructure over a map of the West Bank – its 149 settlements, 460,000 settlers, 96 outposts, closed military areas, 27 military bases, nature reserves, the separation wall, settler-only roads, checkpoints, and tunnels. By the final overlay, the Palestinian areas look like slivers of flesh hanging off a skeleton.

It is these facts on the ground that have led an increasing number of Palestinians to argue that the two state solution is dead, and that Palestinians should push for one secular democratic state in all of Israel and Palestine. It is a goal that the Israeli leaders fear more than anything.

One state is a compelling aspiration for the long term, but putting it forward now as the end goal of the Palestinian struggle is causing new problems – for Palestinians. The one state two state debate is beginning to split both Palestinians and their supporters abroad. This is weakening one of the Palestinians’ major sources of power, as the international solidarity movement – which now takes the anti-apartheid movement with its roots in churches and trade unions as its model – is at its broadest behind a two state solution.

In addition, the call for one state lets the Israelis off the hook in an area where they are the weakest – the illegality of the occupation under international law. The Palestinians are in dire straits, but the Israelis are stuck. They need a Palestinian leadership to sign off on their conquest, but have proved unwilling to give up enough for even the most pragmatic Palestinian to do so.

Also, while the language of the one state declaration is inclusive of the Palestinian citizens of Israel, they could be accused of treason if they support this goal. Prominent Israeli Arabs, like the Knesset member Azmi Bishara, now in exile, have experienced how easily a treason charge can uproot a life. This means a major part of the Palestinian people cannot throw their weight behind the struggle, although they, like Palestinian exiles, are best placed to do so.

Finally, Israel holds all the power on the ground, a reality brought home by the government’s announcement days after Annapolis that it intends to build 300 new housing units in Arab East Jerusalem. Palestinians are light years away from achieving any of their human rights if they can’t find effective sources of power. What that power consists of, and how to get it, is the most pressing topic for Palestinian strategists.

Of course a clear goal is needed so that Palestinians and their supporters know what they are fighting for and how long to keep it up. How can clear goals be set without getting stuck in the one-state two-state debate? Palestinians can frame their goals in terms of fundamental human rights, without specifying a final outcome.

Four such rights are key:

• First, under international law, Palestinians are a recognized people with a right to self-determination. Palestinians must work towards fulfilling this right in the way the majority believes best.

• Second, also under international law, Palestinians have the right of return and compensation, both as individuals and as a people.

• Third, the occupation of the West Bank, Gaza, and East Jerusalem is illegal under international law based on the principle of the inadmissibility of the acquisition of territory by war. Calling for an end to occupation is not a call for two states. The occupation has to end irrespective of the final status solution. For far too long, the Palestinian leadership has allowed itself to be trapped in a situation of negotiating about the occupation, giving Israel the time to grab more land.

• Fourth, Palestinians have a right to equality: the Palestinian citizens of Israel must be equal citizens of the state. If and when there is a Palestinian state, its citizens too – its Christians, Muslims, and any Jews not there through force of arms – must also be equal citizens of the state. In other words, whether one state or two, both must be democratic states in which all citizens are equal under the law.

There is in fact a strategic statement of vision and goals that covers all these human rights: the July 2005 call by Palestinian civil society for boycott, divestment and sanctions. The call urges all Palestinians and their supporters to work for Palestinian self-determination, return, freedom from occupation, and equal rights for Palestinian citizens of Israel. The signatories also invite conscientious Israelis to support this call for the sake of justice and genuine peace.

The call is significant not only because it has a very clear set of goals: it also sets out a deliberately non-violent strategy to achieve those goals – boycott, divestment, sanctions. These measures are increasingly supported by churches and a range of human rights activists, many of them Jews. The call is broadly representative of the entire Palestinian people. It is endorsed by 171 coalitions, unions, and associations from across the political spectrum throughout the occupied territories, Israel and in exile. It is truly the Palestinian people speaking with one voice.

April 5th, 2008, 8:29 pm


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Joe M.,
Your position regarding Egypt is contradictory. If now the Egyptian economy is about to collapse, how much worse will the situation be under the MB with no tourism, no foreign investments, sanctions and the Egyptian economic elite leaving?

In 56 Nasser became strong because Eisenhower forced Israel to leave the Sinai. Who is going to force Israel if the MB reneg on the peace treaty? It would be 67 again, not 56. If there will be no civil war, there will be a huge economic collapse. It would just be a repeat of Gaza. And what did 20 years of nationalism bring? Weak countries that could not stand up to Israel. An MB led Egypt will only grow weaker relative to Israel.

As for your question: You do realize that the more belligerent Israel is, the more it is digging its own grave?

The answer is, no I don’t. And I can point to the last 60 years as proof. If Israel has been digging its grave for 60 years, why are we in a position that you do not want to negotiate with Israel because it is too strong?

April 5th, 2008, 8:56 pm


Naji said:

Well, amongst all the intellectual vigor above, the most exciting thing I read was Joe’s response to my invitation to the SC conference in Durban, early 2009. He said:
I can’t make any commitments until I hear concrete details.”

i.e. he did not simply say “no”…!! Now that we have a time-and-place and, potentially, a luminary attendee, we just have to fill in the concrete details in a meaningful way. I was going to suggest a series of debates rather than the the lecture series that HP proposed, but Joe seems to have already won every debate and to have won everyone to his side already (even the seemingly irredeemable AIG and my long-lost cousin H[Zionist]P). So perhaps we can meet to discuss creative concrete measures that WE can take to affect the solutions and transformations necessary to bring about the justice and dignity required for the future we dream about for our region…?! The boycott is of course but one idea.

Shai, you used to be the most enthusiastic promoter of the conference idea. Why have you become so shy about it all of a sudden…?! 😉

April 5th, 2008, 9:06 pm


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Do you actually realize that Joe M. wants regime change in Egypt? How long do you think the MB will be in power in Egypt before they start helping their brothers in Syria? I am not sure you really understand what Joe M. is speaking about. What about a regional war? You think Syria will get out of it unscathed? What Joe M. is proposing is completely against Syrian interests.

April 5th, 2008, 9:13 pm


Seeking the Truth said:


Would you mind explain to me the “demographical threat”, if Israel is improsioning the majority of Palestinians behind a wall, and will shoot anyone who attempts to break through it?

April 5th, 2008, 9:16 pm


Shai said:


Thank you for the articles. Indeed they are thought-provoking. But while I do agree with Joe M. that a one-state solution would be the most just one, and would almost at an instant begin a true process of forgiving and reconciliation between our two peoples, I just fear this is not a realistic solution right now. While many, as the articles suggest, are attempting to find a “winning formula” to market the one-state solution to leaders, and then to their people, I again agree with Joe M., such a formula is not sought by, nor will be deemed favorable, to almost any of the current leaders in the region. I don’t see any leader in Israel standing up and trying to explain to our people the advantages (let alone the justice) behind such a solution. It is deemed such a “taboo”, that despite our democratic political system, it would be sheer political suicide for any candidate/existing leader to bring it up.

The first article correctly suggests that so many arrangements are already being discussed, in a two-state solution (intelligence and security, economy and trade, environment, extraction of water, regional urban planning, tourism, immigration, single economic zone, a customs union, a unified citizen database, etc.) And that “In essence, what is being discussed… on further analysis looks remarkably close to some variants of the one state solution.” What I believe may happen, if a peaceful two-state solution is found and implemented, is that one day, just as it happened in Europe, Israel and Palestine will say to each other “Wait a second, what are we doing? This is ridiculous!… Let’s open the ‘fricken borders, let’s allow each other to reside/work wherever we want, and let’s convince the rest of our neighbors/region to do the same. Let’s create the UME.”

The French and the Germans hate each other no less than we do. Their history is FAR more bitter than ours, spanning hundreds of years, endless wars, millions of dead. Yet today, open borders, single economic union, and free movement, employment, and residence, are shared by the two, like never before in history. As Abu Amir stated, a Martian having visited during WWII, would not believe his (multiple) eyes, seeing France and Germany today. But although Germany was defeated in WWII, it still needed to have its own borders, and to be separated from the French, for quite a few decades later. The French and the Germans needed to live separately in peace for a while, before considering living together. Of course there are major differences between our case, and the EU, but there are also great similarities which we can learn from I believe. I will not be dissuaded easily from my UME dream…

April 5th, 2008, 9:21 pm


Naji said:

Do you realize that the only disagreement between us is over that silly name you keep insisting on…?! For God’s sake, the middle of what and east of what…??!! I cringe every time you say UME… Let’s compromise and call it United Syria and be done with the thing already…!

April 5th, 2008, 9:31 pm


Shai said:


Getting to SA will be too long, too expensive, and too difficult to get to especially for the ME residents here. Cyprus might work, maybe Greece (I don’t know about Syrian visas, etc.) I’m not sure it needs to be as “serious” as HP might have intended originally, but also not a mere friendly “BBQ” get-together. It needs to be something in between. I agree with Qunfuz, and others, that it must be informal, not attract the media, and not focus on Israel.

Other than that, let’s wait to hear Alex’s/Joshua’s thoughts. If we don’t have their blessing, it can’t be an SC meeting. It would have to be a “Joe M.’s Our Man!” Conference… 🙂

Naji, I’m willing to call it “United Syria” (U.S.), UME (United Middle East), or UNS (United Naji’s and Shai’s). As long as it brings us peace, and gives our children hope and a better future, I’ll go along with anything!

April 5th, 2008, 9:32 pm


Joe M. said:

Seeking the Truth,

The “demographic threat” is a term used by Israeli academics and politicians to describe the situation where Jewish citizens are eventually outnumbered by Palestinian citizens of Israel. Currently 20% of the recognized(citizens) Israeli population are Palestinian, while 80% are Jewish. But the rate of growth in Palestinian communities is much higher than the growth rate in Jewish communities. This is differences is projected to make Jews the minority even among citizens in approximately 2040-2050. Seeing this potential future, Jewish politicians and academics are obsessed with figuring out ways to maintain their majority. The propose things like the “transfer” of the Palestinian Israeli citizens to any future Palestinian state (and stripping them of their Israeli citizenship. Other proposals include increasing Jewish immigration to Israel, or to increasing Jewish birth rates. All of the proposed “solutions” that I am aware of are very problematic, even in the eyes of most Israelis.

There is a further aspect of the “demographic threat” and that is that currently Jews are an absolute minority in Israel. As the Palestinians in the occupied territories + the Palestinians with Israeli citizenship currently outnumber the Jews in Israel. This is the major reason Jews are opposed to a one-state solution, because they would not longer have majority control of Israel.

In my view there is no problem with this, and accepting the reality of this “treat” is actually the most viable means for them to make peace with the region. But, of course, I don’t think this would be easy for them. But it simply is reality.

Here is a wikipedia post about it (i didn’t read it to see whether it is accurate or not):

April 5th, 2008, 9:38 pm


SimoHurtta said:

The Egyptian army is based on American weapons and within three years of not receiving replacement parts will be useless.

An interesting piece of history AIG.


Gandhi threw up both hands as if warding off some evil and said, “Please don’t involve me!” He told me, too, how a panicky Jawaharlal Nehru had appealed to Israel for ammunition during the China war. David Ben-Gurion at once despatched 120-millimetre Tampella mortars plus ammunition and spares for two regiments. But when, in answer to questions, Nehru pretended that the consignment was a commercial purchase from some other country, Ben-Gurion put an end to the dissimulation and said he would give nothing more unless publicly asked for and acknowledged.

Tampella was a Finnish company operating on many fields. Also the Soltam M-68/-71 155mm has direct links to Tampella. Egypt has bought the Patria 155 GH 52 APU. Patria is the Finnish weapon producer, owned by Finnish state and EADS.

Isn’t the world of international arms trade mysterious. Iran was during Shah the biggest customer of Israel’s weapon industry. And the business links continued even after Gulf war one.


I am little confused reading the critics made by the “democracy supporters” of the regular blog comment writers against Joe M’s opinions (which I find very realistic). Isn’t it clear that if 98 percent of Arabs (and Muslims) are not very happy with Israel and its present policy it would reflect to democratically elected governments. Now suddenly these comment writers are somewhat irritated when pro-American dictators are called as puppets.

AIG mentioned Israel being a strategical asset to USA. Well that might have been true during cold war when Soviet block had influence in Middle East. But nowadays it is impossible to see Israel as a strategic asset for USA unless USA’s interest is to destabilize Middle-East (which it seems to bee). Israel has no considerable natural resources. Israel has without doubt much technological know-how, but nothing that could not be shipped “abroad” during a couple of months (well maybe dismantling Dimona would take longer).

The tight relations with Israel certainly do not make it for USA easier to keep good relations with the Arab countries. Especially now when the financial power of the world is dramatically changing.

For Arab countries Israel is basically completely irrelevant in economical terms. It has nothing to offer what EU, Japan, China, India and Russia could not provide. And these powers are eager to make trade to pay for the gas and oil. The recent French nuclear power station deals to Libya, Algeria and UEA are a sign of that. Germans are not so happy when their old business ties with Iran are blocked.

The only thing which makes Israel important for Arab countries is the Palestine problem and Israel’s military domination.

April 5th, 2008, 9:46 pm


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

The so called demographic threat is nonsense. Forecasts show that in 2030 1 in every 4 Israeli citizens will be an Arab.

It would take a 100 years or more for the Arabs to become a majority in Israel at the current growth rates, but extrapolating that far into the future is a fool’s game especially since the Israeli Arabs are getting richer all the time and their fertility rates are going down as is usually the case.

April 5th, 2008, 9:47 pm


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

That is an interesting historical fact. Thanks.
The point I was making was that if according to Joe M.’s plan most countries in the region become anti-US, this will be the same situation as in the cold war and the value of Israel to the US will go up.

Of course democratically elected governments in Arab countries would be against peace with Israel. No one disputes that. But, they will also be against war with Israel and any government accountable to its people will not wage war on Israel. Israel does not need more than that.

April 5th, 2008, 9:53 pm


Qifa Nabki said:

Joe said:

And I do think the majority of Arabs would accept something like the Arab peace initiative (for the time being) if Israel would accept it. But my position is a reflection of two major factors: 1) I do not believe that Israel wants peace, and will not accept even the major concessions offered in that peace initiative, 2) that the effects of the dominance of Israel and the control of the USA has been very great on Arab society.

I agree with you. Although I don’t think that all Israelis do not want peace. Probably many do want peace, but under terms not acceptable to the Arabs. Of course there are people like Shai (who are the exceptions), but even among those who would accept what Arabs deem to be an unjust solution, I believe that they can be won over to the Arab peace initiative under the right conditions, which I’ll get to below.

[Why did Lebanese Shi`a change from] pragmatism to self-empowerment? I think it is largely because of the viability of Hizbullah as it increased its organization and effectiveness.

Agreed. But, to me, there is still a highly pragmatic dimension to Shi`a politics in general and Hizbullah’s strategy specifically. The support for Palestine and the conflict with Israel – while being sincere causes for Hizbullah – function more importantly as a lightning rod and as a pretext for the maintenance of the party’s weapons. The weapons, in turn, function as a source of political leverage in Lebanon. The justified Shia paranoia about being trampled upon plays a large role in the community’s support for an armed protector in the form of Hizbullah. I think that the
Shia would be amenable to the ‘normalization’ of Hizbullah (i.e. giving up its weapons and thereby abandoning the larger struggle against Israel), if the party’s primacy could be fully channeled into the political sphere. So, while I recognize that Hizbullah is an example of what organization and effectiveness can do to self-empowerment, I also believe that this self-empowerment is really the empowerment of the Lebanese Shiite community (not Arabism in general), and the commitment to the Palestinian cause is just one piece of this. When given a choice between a two-state peace (at the cost of Hizbullah’s de-militarization but with the guarantee
of political equality in Lebanon) and continued conflict, I think the Shia will choose the former. This is what Michel Aoun is counting on, at least. And it is also what my friend Alex is counting on, incidentally. I am willing to give them the benefit of the doubt, for the time being.

As for your points about the Israeli rejectionism of the Arab peace plan, I share your frustration and some of your cynicism. But I still believe that our strategy should be based on implementing this plan, at least for the short term. If, according to you, enough pressure can be put upon Israel to accept a one-state solution, then surely enough pressure can be leveraged for them to accept the peace initiative. In fact, we are much closer to an acceptance of the peace initative than to the solution you are describing.

You said: “In order to get something like the Arab peace initiative to hold, the Arabs have to get stronger anyway.” I think that the Arabs are strong enough now, if you take into account the right Arabs! (Namely, the groups that Israel is worried about, Hamas and Hizbullah.) That is why I asked you about the sincerity of their rhetoric. If Hamas and Hizbullah came on board (unofficially, of course, signalling their assent via their silence), then Israel might just bite.

By the way, I’m not entirely sure I believe this. If you believe it isn’t true (like I do, at times), then you will find yourself at odds with all of those Syrians on this blog who are imagining that Hizbullah and Hamas will play nice, if/when Bashar gets his peace deal.

Strangely, they are happy to argue with me on this issue, but not with you!

Ahem ahem… : )

April 6th, 2008, 12:37 am


norman said:

QN ,

I do not think that Israel wants peace , I think Israel wants to keep the land of Palestine , and make the lives of the Palestinians so bad that they will immigrate , they are even doing that to the Israeli Christians and Muslims , they are playing for time , they started doing that with Oslo accord which only increased the settlers and the settlements , and opened China and other countries including Arab countries to Israel , and they are still doing that ,if we look at history we can see that Israel respond only to war and pressure , they left Lebanon not because of the US pressure or the United Nation’s resolutions , they did because of Hezbollah and the Lebanese resistance , Lebanon should be proud of what it did , Syria is still waiting for a return of the Golan , Even Hams pushed Israel out of Gaza while Israel is still in the West Bank .

Although I like the one state solution and in a country like the US we see that people of many religions and ethnic background can live together , I do not think that is possible now as there is a lot of hatred , Two states first then work on making one state when people learn to trust each other and think of better things to do with their lives than conflict and fighting .

I am very pessimistic that If Israel does not move fast to solve the Palestinian problem , more wars will be coming and as long as Israel can not occupy the Arab land and rule all of them It will not survive , we can tell that from the cost that the US is taking from being in Iraq , so can Israel suffer 8 Billion $ / Month , or do they expect the US to pay for that too.

April 6th, 2008, 2:37 am


T said:

A suggestion as per Syria and ME economies in general. If Muslims used a similar technique to Jewish community by mandating the certification of all products sold worldwide or in the West as Halal, their economies would always be protected:

The “Kosher Nostra Scam” on the American Consumer
by Ernesto Cienfuegos
La Voz de Aztlan
Los Angeles, Alta California – 4/27/2002 – (ACN) La Voz de Aztlan receives quite a few “news tips” per week from our many subscribers and readers. Some we dismiss immediately but a very few catch our attention. Last week we received an e-mail asking us if we knew the significance of the small encircled letter “U” or letter “K” that can be found printed on many food cans, food packages and on other kitchen products. The message gave us some clues and suggested that we do some research into the subject. What we found certainly was “news” to us and it both shocked and angered us.

On arriving at my residence, I immediately went to the pantry to verify that what I had just learned was actually true. Sure enough, most of the packaged and canned foods from major companies, like Proctor & Gamble and others, did have the (U), the (K) or other similar markings. The Arrowhead water bottle, the instant Folgers Coffee, the Kelloggs box, the Jiff Peanut Butter, the Pepper container, the Trader Joe’s tea box and even the Glads plastic sandwich bags carton had the (U) or (K) mark on them.

We needed a little more verification so we called two major companies to asked some questions. We chose Proctor & Gamble that markets the Folgers Coffee and the Clorox Company that manufactures the Glads plastic zip lock sandwich bags. Each of the two companies, as well as most others, have 1-800 telephone numbers printed on their packages for consumers to call in case they have any questions about their products. When we asked the Proctor & Gamble representative what the (U) meant on their Folgers Coffee container, she asked us to wait until she consulted with her supervisor. She came back and informed us that the mark meant that the coffee was ” certified kosher”. We than asked her how and who certified the coffee to be “kosher” and whether it cost any money to do so. She refused to answer these and other questions. She suggested that we write to their Corporate Public Affairs Department. We than called the Clorox Corporation to ask what the (U) meant on the package of their Glads plastic sandwich bags and she also said that the (U) meant that the plastic bags were “kosher” but refused to answer questions concerning payments the Clorox Corporation has to make in order to be able to print the (U) on their products.

What we learned next, pretty much floored me personally. I learned that major food companies throughout America actually pay a Jewish Tax amounting to hundreds of million of dollars per year in order to receive protection. This hidden tax gets passed, of course, to all non-Jewish consumers of the products. The scam is to coerce the companies to pay up or suffer the consequences of a Jewish boycott. Jewish consumers have learned not to buy any kitchen product that does not have the (U) the (K) and other similar markings.

Another shocker was learning who is actually behind these sophisticated “Kosher Nostra Scams.” It turns out that the perpetrators of these elaborate extortion schemes are actually Rabbinical Councils that are set up, not just in the U.S. but in other western countries as well. For example, the largest payola operation in the U.S. is run by those who license the (U) symbol. The (U) symbol provides protection for many products sold here in Aztlan and in the United States. This symbol is managed by the The Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations with headquarters at 333 Seventh Avenue in New York City.

The scam works like a well oiled machine and is now generating vast amounts of funds, some of which are being utilized by the Union of Orthodox Rabbis to support the Ariel Sharon Zionist government in Israel. The website of the Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations is full of pro-Israel and anti-Palestinian propaganda.

The “Kosher Nostra” protection racket starts when an Orthodox Rabbi approaches a company to warn the owners that unless their product is certified as kosher, or “fit for a Jew to eat”, they will face a boycott by every Jew in America. Most, if not all of the food companies, succumb to the blackmail because of fear of the Jewish dominated media and a boycott that may eventually culminate in bankruptcy. Also, the food companies know that the cost can be passed on to the consumer anyway. The food companies have kept secret from the general consumer the meaning of the (U) and the amount of money they have to pay the Jewish Rabbis.

It is estimated that the Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations, which manages the (U) symbol protection racket, controls about 85% of the “Kosher Nostra ” certification business. They now employ about 1200 Rabbi agents that are spread through out the U.S. Food companies must first pay an exorbitant application fee and than a large annual fee for the use of the (U) copyright symbol. Secondly, the companies must pay separate fees each time a team of Rabbis shows up to “inspect” the company’s operations. Certain food companies are required to hire Rabbis full time at very lucrative salaries.

The amount of money that the non-Jewish consumer has paid the food companies to make up for the hidden Jewish Tax is unknown, but it is estimated to be in the billions since the scam first started. The Orthodox Jewish Councils as well as the food companies keep the amount of the fees very secret. The Jewish owned Wall Street Journal wrote about the problem many years ago, but they have stopped writing about it now.

Only public awareness concerning the “Kosher Nostra Scam” will eventually help stop this swindle of the American consumer. Public education of the scam may lead to an eventual non-Jewish boycott of all products with the (U), (K) or other Jewish protection symbols. I certainly do not need to pay extra for “kosher water”, “kosher coffee” or “kosher plastic sandwich bags”. In fact, I demand my money back for all I had to pay over the years for the hidden and illegal Jewish Tax. Are there any bright attorneys out there that could bring a class action suit against the Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations on behalf of the citizens of Aztlan and other non-Jewish people?

April 6th, 2008, 3:33 am


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

QN, HP and Joe M.,
Azmi Bishara’s latest op-ed piece in Al-Ahram hits the mark squarely.

His position is very similar to Joe M.’s but his solution is the right one:
“Resistance can accomplish important partial gains while forestalling the normalisation of a colonialist condition. However, the major challenge to Israel is at the regional level and resides in the cumulative progress the Arabs can achieve towards building their capacities to withstand Israel, through the modernisation of their states and societies, through the performance of such essential tasks as building their deterrent powers, economic development and democratisation. The struggle is a long one, but it must be conducted, and at a proper pace. Time is not in favour of Israel; it is in favour of whoever uses it astutely. That is one of the most important lessons of the past 60 years.”

This is the last paragraph in the article (this is Bishara’s style, he preps his readers for the “bad” news in the end).

Joe M., the main problem with your point of view and plan is that you do not understand Israel well enough, neither its Jewish population nor its Arab population. Azmi Bishara understands Israel inside out. He is an Israeli Arab and a long time member of the Knesset. If you have a chance, read his articles, or talk to him. For example, the chances that the Israeli Arabs will revolt or rise up in any way is zero, but of course coming from me, you will not find it credible. Ask Bishara.

April 6th, 2008, 5:24 am


Shai said:


I agree with a lot of what Azmi Bishara says. I happen to think he is a very smart Arab Israeli, whether or not he passed intelligence onto the “wrong” parties, I don’t know. But I believe that one of the reasons why modernization and democratization of ME states and societies has not occurred in the past 60 years has been precisely because the leaderships have consistently used the “essential tasks (of) building their deterrent powers…” against the Zionist state, for the “resistance”, as the ultimate excuses. By shifting attention to Israel and its crimes, Arab leaders have tried fooling their populations as to their real threats. Instead of focusing on poor education, economy, corruption, standard of living, freedom of speech, basic rights, etc., they repeated the “Israel is killing our brethren, and YOU’RE next!” mantra. Not that most Arabs were fooled by this, but they simply could do little to enforce their will upon their leaderships.

As for Arab Israelis, while I agree that they’re unlikely to revolt anytime soon, I have yet to understand why they do not join hands, and embark on a “1 million Arabs march” (not 5-10,000) across Jerusalem’s power centers, government offices, etc. As you and I know, when certain minorities do not get their basic rights met in the U.S., they organize and march on the capital. Arabs in Israel should do the same. If they do it smartly, in a truly controlled and non-violent fashion, no policeman would dare shoot at them, and the TV screens will be airing it for days and weeks. Many more journalists will be flooding their towns and villages thereafter, covering their (justified) claims, frustrations, and injustices.

April 6th, 2008, 6:00 am


Naji said:

What are you and AIG doing around here this morning…?! Aren’t most Israelis supposed to be army reservists and are supposed to be on this mother of all military exercises today and for the next week…?! Are you AWOL, or did you just give yourself away as actually living in the US, not in Israel…??!! 😉

Well, good morning anyway… it should be an interesting day today…!

April 6th, 2008, 7:20 am


Shai said:


Good morning. At last I understand what you meant by April 6th… 🙂

No, most Israelis are not participating in the 4-day exercise, thank god. I have no particular desire to run around pretending to have been struck by some nanosized biological germ, nor to go plan the horrific retribution that could be expected. This drill has many purposes, as you can imagine. One is to indeed show Israelis that “someone” is thinking about “all the scenarios” (ya’ani). Another could be Barak’s nice little way of gaining a few more votes in an upcoming election. And yet another could be sending a message to Hezbollah, saying “we’re gettin’ warmed up for another round, so think carefully…” Personally, I’d like to think NONE of the scenarios will occur. I think you probably agree…

April 6th, 2008, 7:54 am


Qifa Nabki said:


Thanks for posting the piece by Azmi Bishara; it is excellent.

He doesn’t commit himself to a complete rejection of the two-state solution; he simply says that the current one manufactured by the US/Israel is not acceptable. I still believe that a two-state solution (even one that is much more far-reaching than the one on the table) would be much more amenable to Israelis than a one-state solution.

And, of course, I agree with him (and with you) about the urgent need for democratisation. What is funny to me is that we sometimes talk about it on this blog as though it were a choice… “should the Mideast democratise, or shouldn’t it? Hmmmm, good question. Well let’s say that it does, just hypothetically, how fast should it do it, etc.” And so on…

I think people haven’t sufficiently taken into account the effect that the Internet and cable news are having and will have on the region, within the next 10-20 years. I believe that it will be a bombshell.

Maybe we should all switch over to the new post… this one is getting long.

April 6th, 2008, 1:24 pm


Honest Patriot said:

Dear Qunfuz, thank you for giving my posts a read.
You say: “I’m disappointed to see HP attacking Joe so fiercely. I mean, Shai is able to get on with him! Joe is articulate and logical, and his perspective is close to what seems to me to be a majority in the region. I also don’t like HP’s use of the word ‘radical’ as an insult. Too long in North America, HP! Say what you mean. And what’s this about ‘the Western civilisation’? There are plenty of Hizbullah supporters who admire the civilised bits of the West.

You may be right that I have been in North America too long, but while there may have been a downside to such residence by bein less in-touch with the opinion of the local “masses,” one benefit is understanding the Israeli and U.S. point of view. I agree with AIG when he says to Joe M:

Joe M., the main problem with your point of view and plan is that you do not understand Israel well enough, neither its Jewish population nor its Arab population.

I would add that Joe M has also a lack of understanding of the power, commitment, and the workings of the logic and outlook of most Americans. I count myself in this crowd.

My disagreement with Joe’s approach, and what tipped the scale for me in considering his approach “radical,” are his statements about those who genuinely tried for peaceful approaches, in particular Sadat and the organizers of Oslo. I read in Joe’s apparent rejoicing at the assassination of Sadat and dismisall of the intentions, characer, honesty, intellect, and strenght of those he calls “puppets,” I read in such characterizations as a radical rejectionist position. It reminded me of the kind of emotional nationalism that – without adequate preparation – led to the defeats of ’48, ’67, and even the forced acquiescence to the accommodation post ’73. The kind of understanding I currently have — as an observer — of the conflict, of the people, including, importantly, the power and position of Israel and the U.S., leads me to the conclusion that even if a one-state solution or a UME or other integrated systems may be the long-term ideal moral and practical solutions, there is no way they can be reached without an intermediate, lengthy period of peace (through a 2-state solution or something similar) coupled with reconciliation, trade exchange, and genuing economic improvement in all the Arab countries.

Naji, ya ibn-khaleh 😉 , while I see that Joe has provided a compelling description of a one-state solution and of the principles that argue to the necessity of such approach if true justice is to be achieved, I don’t see that he has won the argument, nor that he has even convinced Shai. I think you are misreading Shai – which sometimes may be easy to do by failing to see through the veil of supreme genteelness, politeness, and smoothness of his style. I would venture to say – although I’m ready to be proven wrong – that a few of the recently silent folks here (Alex, patriarch Josh,…) have the same opinion of the impracticality of Joe’s recommended approach.

As I said before, Joe is clearly of a superior intellect, and if indeed his real-time interface can be as eloquent, then his most important contribution would be to join the debate in the national media in the US to make the case he sees. Regrettably, there is a dire lack of such effective discourse with strong advocates of the Arab positions. Part of the “war” with Israel is this persuasion war. Let’s hear Joe in those forums.

April 6th, 2008, 1:24 pm


annie said:

AIG “Why-Discuss,
The facts are simple. About the same number of refugees came from Arab countries to Israel as from Israel to Arab countries. Israel assimilated its refugees and solved the problem. The Arabs decided to dehumanize the Palestinians and use them as a weapon instead of integrating them into their societies as citizens with full rights.”

Standing logic on its head; what does a jew who leaves Morocco have in common with a Palestinian who is expelled from his land? How is the Palestinian responsible for the Moroccon et al. jews leaving their country ?

April 6th, 2008, 1:59 pm


Qifa Nabki said:


Thanks for posting the articles from al-Akhbar. I find it interesting that Jean Aziz is writing for them. He’s an odd fellow, with seemingly contradictory politics (even though he’s very smart). But such is Lebanon.

Keep them coming.

April 6th, 2008, 2:00 pm


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Thank you for proving my point. Let’s assume that the Palestinians are not responsible for anything. That only makes the fact that the Arab countries did not ofer them the option to become citizens even more reprehensible.

April 6th, 2008, 2:29 pm


ugarit said:

Joe M.

With your eloquence I’m going to have to re-learn English 🙂 Be careful you’re about to reveal you professorial roots 😉

Thank you for providing such clarity to the issues.

April 6th, 2008, 9:01 pm


wizart said:

Wall Street Access

IN A FEW WEEKS, THE MAJOR integrated energy companies will report March-quarter results. Buoyed by all-time high oil prices and strong gas prices, many companies will report record earnings — this, despite seasonal (perhaps cyclical) declines in downstream — oil refining and marketing — profits.

One can gauge the strength of March-quarter results by the price data. On a year-on-year basis, light sweet oil prices rose by $40 per barrel, and European spot gas prices — as gauged by the U.K. National Balancing Point index — doubled.

Domestic natural-gas prices rose about 20% year on year.

Like all energy analysts, we are dealing with the conundrum of high oil prices. We believe that $100-plus per-barrel oil prices cannot be sustained — not in a slowing global economy, though the pain has been cushioned by the weak dollar for most of the world (the oil trade is conducted in U.S. dollars). Some prominent market watchers have documented the flow of “hot money” spilling into commodities (see, for example, the March 28 cover story in Barron’s “Commodities: Who’s Behind the Boom?”).

Though this trend seems unsustainable to us, even unsupportable trends can sustain themselves longer than most observers realize.

The chickens may yet come home to roost, but they were massive and untamed in the first quarter — and appear equally fierce so far this quarter. Just to account for what has happened to date, we have raised our full-year 2008 oil price forecast (West Texas intermediate basis) to $80 per barrel from $75/barrel previously; this assumes a fairly sharp oil-price reversal later in the year from the first-quarter WTI average of nearly $98 per barrel.

Source: Barrons

P.S: By the way the cost to pull oil out is around $8 per barrel and Exon alone produces more oil than anyone in OPEC except for Saudi Arabia and Iran.

April 9th, 2008, 4:06 pm


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