Upping Diplomatic, Judicial, Economic and Military Pressure on Syria is Unlikely to Work

Bushra al-Assad, the President's sister and wife of security chief Asef Shawkat, has not asked for refugee status in France, authorities told As-sharq al-Awsat newspaper. The Kuwaiti newspaper "Assiyaseh" and National Salvation Front boss Abdel Halim Khaddam have been insisting that the Syrian presidential family is a daggers drawn and that Bushra is seeking political asylum in France while her husband, Shawkat, is under house arrest in Damascus. 

The following paragraph is taken from one of those "intelligence circulars" that companies pay lots of money for:

Syria initiated secret contacts with the Bush administration  last month under the auspices of Turkey. The Syrian side that met with  American envoys in Ankara was headed by military intelligence boss  Assef Shawkat, brother-in-law of president Bashar al Assad.  But in proposing to withdraw Syrian support from Hezbollah in Lebanon for  two years in return for a freeze on preparatory work for the future  International Penal Tribunal on the assassination of Rafic Hariri  Shawkat was accused by the regime’s stalwarts in Damascus of overstepping  his powers. If accepted, his proposal would have been tantamount to  breaking Syria’s strong ties with Tehran. Disavowed, Shawkat is being  gradually eclipsed by the chief of the Presidential Guard and  brother of the president, Maher al Assad. Rivalry has long simmered  between the two. An inquiry into the assassination of the head of Hezbollah’s  external security chief, Imad Mughniyeh in Damascus on Feb. 12 was  assigned to a close associate of Maher, Hafez Makhlouf, who is also  a cousin of president al Assad on his mother’s side. Another figure close  to Maher, general Mohamed Mansoura, alias Abu Jassem, chief  of the Political Security department, could shortly replace Bassam  Abdul-Majid as interior minister. General Amine Charabi, head  of the “Palestine” section – known as section 253 – at the Military  Intelligence department, has been assigned to monitoring the work of the  future International Penal Tribunal. The key figure in Syria’s  counter-espionage service, Charabi will see that Damascus hires the best  lawyers to defend Syrian suspects.  

As far as I can tell, this speculation is based on fabrications presented by Khaddam and Assiyaseh. These rumors seem to be part of a concerted effort to increase psychological, diplomatic, judicial, economic and even military pressure on Syria in order to keep the Lebanon issue on the front burner. Previously, the US and Saudi Arabia sought to use the Arab Summit as leverage to force Syria to abandon Hizbullah. Syria accepted the rubbishing of the summit in order to stand by Hizb and the Lebanese opposition. After all, nothing positive was being offered Syria to put the squeeze on the Lebanese opposition and to allow March 14 to take Lebanon out of Syria's sphere of influence. Hizbullah is too valuable to Syria. Despite their best efforts Washington and Saudi have failed to convince Syria or Hizbullah to allow for a pro-March 14 government to function in Lebanon.

Pretending that the Assad family is at daggers drawn is but a method to prevent all sides from engaging with Syria. It would be natural for European and Arab countries to re-engage Syria if Washington's efforts fail. Failure is exactly what Washington seems to be looking at. But, if foreign capitals can be made to believe that Damascus is in disarray and the Assad household on the verge of collapse, the calculus of engagement changes. Foreign dignitaries will stay away from Damascus.

Israeli military maneuvers and daily articles about the likelihood of war between Israel and either Hizbullah or Syria augment the psychological pressure on Syria and will delay thinking about engagement. So do reiterations that the international tribunal is making political connections between Syria and Hariri's assassins. The international tribunal seems is the only card the US still has up its sleeve, but little suggests that there is much more than circumstantial evidence linking Syria to the assassins.

The Lebanese opposition have offered a new deal to the March 14th bloc to resolve the presidential crisis. Both Nabih Berri and Michel Aoun are offering to elect Michel Suleiman as President and to drop their demand for a larger share of cabinet members if the March 14 group agrees to carry out elections according to the 1960 electoral law. The Daily Star writes

The Free Patriotic Movement leader MP Michel Aoun was quoted as proposing on Friday that the commander of the Lebanese Armed Forces, General Michel Suleiman, lead an interim Lebanese government that would oversee the 2009 parliamentary elections. George Arraj of the Liberal Tigers group, a faction that separated from the National Liberal Party, told reporters that he discussed with Aoun on Friday the idea of Suleiman heading an interim government.

Meanwhile, Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri told As-Safir newspaper on Friday that the opposition was ready to forego bargaining over the shape of the next government if the March 14 Forces agree to adopt the 1960 electoral law in the 2009 parliamentary elections.

Berri said he recently told former President Amin Gemayel the opposition is ready to "forgive the majority regarding the unity government issue" in return for a written commitment that the majority would not mind adopting the 1960 law.

Berri said that opposition groups Hizbullah and Amal have been open to all sorts of proposals regarding the electoral law.

"Despite the fact that we prefer larger electoral constituencies, we have decided to accept the 1960 law in order to satisfy Bkirki and to secure the rights of Christians," Berri said. "Those who object to the 1960 law want to secure 46 MPs without having to head to election."

"They want to guarantee that MP Saad Hariri would have the largest parliamentary bloc. They can only do that through the 2000 electoral law," Berri added.

The 2000 electoral law, which also governed the 2005 elections, gives the anti-Syrian March 14 Forces the upper hand in electoral constituencies in Beirut and the North.

The opposition earlier proposed adopting the 1960 electoral law in the next parliamentary elections, but the ruling coalition has turned down the opposition's demand. 

مصادر فرنسية لـ«الشرق الأوسط»: بشرى الأسد لم تتقدم بطلب لجوء.. وهي في بلد عربي

لندن: «الشرق الأوسط»

«الشرق الأوسط»كذبت مصادر فرنسية رفيعة المستوى المعلومات التي أفادت بأن بشرى الأسد، شقيقة رئيس الجمهورية السورية، وزوجة اللواء آصف شوكت، موجودة في فرنسا، أو أنها قد تقدمت بطلب للجوء السياسي الى فرنسا، أو أن طلبها رفض. وقالت ذات المصادر الرسمية، ردا على سؤال لـ«الشرق الأوسط» عن هذه المعلومات إنها «تنفي نفيا قاطعا هذه المعلومات». وأفادت هذه المصادر بأن السيدة بشرى الأسد «موجودة في بلد عربي»، غير أنها امتنعت عن تسمية هذا البلد.

وبحسب المعلومات المتوافرة فإن السيدة بشرى الأسد كانت تتردد على العاصمة الفرنسية وعلى مدينة نيس الساحلية. وتربط اللواء آصف شوكت «علاقات عمل» مع بعض المسؤولين الفرنسيين من بينهم أمين عام القصر الجمهوري كلود غيون منذ كان يشغل فيه منصب مدير مكتب وزير الداخلية (آنذاك) نيكولا ساركوزي، وذلك حتى وقت قصير من موعد الانتخابات الرئاسية الفرنسية في مايو (أيار) الماضي.

«علاقات عمل» مع بعض المسؤولين الفرنسيين من بينهم أمين عام القصر الجمهوري كلود غيون منذ كان يشغل فيه منصب مدير مكتب وزير الداخلية (آنذاك) نيكولا ساركوزي، وذلك حتى وقت قصير من موعد الانتخابات الرئاسية الفرنسية في مايو (أيار) الماضي.

«علاقات عمل» مع بعض المسؤولين الفرنسيين من بينهم أمين عام القصر الجمهوري كلود غيون منذ كان يشغل فيه منصب مدير مكتب وزير الداخلية (آنذاك) نيكولا ساركوزي، وذلك حتى وقت قصير من موعد الانتخابات الرئاسية الفرنسية في مايو (أيار) الماضي.

«علاقات عمل» مع بعض المسؤولين الفرنسيين من بينهم أمين عام القصر الجمهوري كلود غيون منذ كان يشغل فيه منصب مدير مكتب وزير الداخلية (آنذاك) نيكولا ساركوزي، وذلك حتى وقت قصير من موعد الانتخابات الرئاسية الفرنسية في مايو (أيار) الماضي.

«علاقات عمل» مع بعض المسؤولين الفرنسيين من بينهم أمين عام القصر الجمهوري كلود غيون منذ كان يشغل فيه منصب مدير مكتب وزير الداخلية (آنذاك) نيكولا ساركوزي، وذلك حتى وقت قصير من موعد الانتخابات الرئاسية الفرنسية في مايو (أيار) الماضي.


The National Salvation Front, led by Abdal Halim Khaddam and Ali Sadraddine Bayanouni, is lauching a satalite TV station to be named, "The New Syria."
It will reveal "the crimes of the Syrian Regime" and explain the goals and the direction ahead for the opposition front.

Shortly after an office for the NSF was opened in Washington a year ago, word began to spread that Khaddam was not financing it with his own money and that it was being maintained with only $10,000 a month, which wasn't enough money to pay for salaries. The Washington lobbyest who was retained left the organization after 3 months and supposedly began to work for the Palestinian Authority instead. Khaddam's was unwillingness to spend large amounts of money led many to believe that he was not really committed to the effort and had little faith in it.

Now, it seems, a new effort is being made to get the office moving with new money is being committed to the effort. The following story in Arabic explains:


أعلنت جبهة الخلاص الوطني السورية المعارضة عن عزمها إطلاق قناة فضائية باسم "سورية الجديدة" خلال الأسابيع القادمة، تبث من خارج البلاد، وتهدف بشكل أساسي "فضح جرائم النظام السوري" وفق لبيان إطلاق القناة

والجبهة التي يتزعمها عبد الحليم خدام النائب السابق المنشق للرئيس السوري، وعلي صدر الدين البيانوني المراقب العام لجماعة الإخوان المسلمين المحظورة في سورية، وينضوي تحت رايتها عدة أحزاب سورية معارضة في الخارج، أوضحت أن القناة الفضائية ستكون ناطقة باسم الجبهة، وستبث برامج لـ "فضح جرائم النظام"، بالإضافة إلى برامج لـ "شرح أهداف وخطة عمل الجبهة"، كما ستقدم مقابلات وندوات حوار مع شخصيات سياسية ومفكرين مثقفين بالإضافة إلى برامج وثائقية وترفيهية

The Economist Intelligence Unity writes:

The Ministry of the Interior has announced that a new system for rationing the supply of subsidised diesel heating fuel for households would go into effect from April 12th. The system will entail the holder of the household ration card to obtain the monthly allocationÔÇöbased on an annual ration of 1,000 litres per householdÔÇöfor a period of 15 days at the subsidised price of SP 7 (15 US cents) per litre. This price is about 10% of the price paid for diesel in neighbouring countries, and the heavy subsidy has fostered smuggling on a large scale. The rationing so far appears to be restricted to consumption of diesel for domestic use. Considerable amounts of diesel are also consumed for road transport and for agricultural machinery. It has also not been made clear whether households will be entitled by buy more diesel once they have used up their monthly ration, and, if so, at what price. Earlier plans for a gradual increase in diesel prices across the board, linked to compensation payments for poorer households, seem to have been dropped.

The government has also increased gasoline prices for the second time in five months. The new gasoline price of SP 40 (83 US cents) per litre went into effect on March 22nd. This marked an 11% increase on the previous price of SP 36/litre, which came into force in November 2007 following a 20% price hike. The latest increase was broadly in line with the rise in world oil prices over the intervening period, Syria relies on imports for about 20% of its annual consumption of some 2.5bn litres/year of gasoline. However, this only represents about one-sixth of Syria's total petroleum products consumption, and gasoline prices in Syria are relatively high (the new price is equivalent to about US$3.1 per US gallon). By contrast, diesel accounts for some 50% of petroleum products consumption.

Resurrecting the Wall of Fear: The Human Rights Situation in Syria By Robert Grace

Over the past several months, Syrian authorities have engaged in a harsh campaign of repression against leading dissidents and human rights activists. The crackdown, overshadowed by developments elsewhere in the region, has received scant media coverage in the U.S. and Europe. To shed light on recent developments in the Syrian political scene, USIP recently convened a public discussion on human rights in Syria, featuring the Institute's Radwan Ziadeh, Mona Yacoubian, and Steven Heydemann, and Joe Stork of Human Rights Watch. This USIPeace Briefing summarizes their presentations and the subsequent discussion.

USIP Senior Fellow Radwan Ziadeh's account of the current situation in Syria underscored that the regime often uses national security concerns as a pretext to silence all forms of dissent. Placing recent repression in historical context, Ziadeh noted that government repression of political and human rights activists has come in several waves in the past decade.

Axis of adventure: Syria

Damascus has had a corner in conversions for 2,000 years, since Saul of Tarsus saw the light and metamorphosed into St Paul the Apostle. I too underwent a transformation on the road to Damascus, not Pauline exactly, but definitely opinion-changing. My revelation was Syria.

Finding Common Ground in an Uncommon Nation
By Edward O'Connell and Cheryl Benard

RAND researchers Cheryl Benard and Ed O'Connell have been to the far points of the Muslim world as a part of developing the think tank's Alternative Strategy Initiative, which addresses the effects of extremism and sectarianism on those too often are hiding in plain sight: youth, women and refugees. But after a recent trip to Syria where they found themselves happening one night upon an unsettling and perception-busting TV program, they went back there to find out how a director in a country known for defending terrorism could produce "entertainment" that portrayed quite the opposite. They tell Malibu Magazine their story.

Oxford Business Group: The World Bank's Knowledge Economy Index, released at the end of March, showed that Lebanon had fallen 16 places in the global rankings to 66th out of 140, and had slumped four rungs on the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) ladder to eighth out of the 17 regional countries surveyed.

Malek Jandali, Composer & Pianist, has just released a new album named, "Echoes from Ugarit." Give it a listen at his site. http://www.malekjandali.com/ The theme song is an arrangement of the oldest song in the world, based on music notations discoverd in Syria.

This is what Malek writes about it:

Ugarit, Syria is the birthplace of alphabet and music notation. Excavations of the ancient Phoenician city, Ugarit, in what is now modern Ras Shamra north of Latakia on the Mediterranean coast of Syria, uncovered cuneiform tablets that date back to approximately 3400 BC. This is the oldest music notation in the world! The interpretation of the music notation of Ugarit is a challenge and several "reconstructions" have been published.

Comments (98)

Qifa Nabki said:

Dear Joshua,

To what extent do you think the US-Syrian standoff is a zero-sum game?

You say: “Syria accepted the rubbishing of the summit in order to stand by Hizb and the Lebanese opposition. After all, nothing positive was being offered Syria to put the squeeze on the Lebanese opposition and to allow March 14 to take Lebanon out of Syria’s sphere of influence.”

You’ve made this point before, and I always find myself wondering what kind of positive offering could be made to Syria in exchange for her to “put the squeeze” on the opposition. It’s counter-intuitive to me, because first of all, I can’t really think of any positive measure that Syria would accept (like lifting sanctions, for example) short of calling off the Tribunal, and that would be clearly unacceptable to the U.S. and its allies. Secondly, I wonder how much control Syria has over the opposition, given that Iran will oppose seeing Hizbullah’s power curtailed.

You also say: “Hizbullah is too valuable to Syria. Despite their best efforts Washington and Saudi have failed to convince Syria or Hizbullah to allow for a pro-March 14 government to function in Lebanon.”

Given that Hizbullah is too valuable to Syria, do you then read the conflict between the U.S. and Syria as a zero-sum game? Or is there some room for accommodation?

The way I see it, Syria is in a tough position, strategically speaking. While “failure is exactly what Washington seems to be looking at,” as you say, I think it would be helpful to remember what kind of failure this is, namely: a failure to strip the Syrian regime of all of its strategic assets and perhaps even knock Bashar off his throne.

That Washington has failed to do this does not mean that Syria has come out of its ordeal stronger than it was pre-2005 (or pre-2003, for that matter). It still faces the challenge of trying to pursue peace while being yoked to the most militantly anti-peace groups/nations in the region. It still faces the challenge of keeping the Hizbullah threat alive while seeing the militia group gradually being transformed into a political player (which means accountability and mortality rather than infallibility and starry-eyed “resistance” cache).

Syria may weather the storm, but I have yet to see any signs that it won’t still be aimlessly adrift at sea at the end of it.

April 12th, 2008, 1:13 am


T said:

Wonderful photos and writeup on Tedmor and Ugarit! Thanks as always for the history. It is fascinating.

Anyone out there see this regarding the Sept 6 IDF/US strike on Deir Ez Zor? The anti-Syria campaign is fast sinking to the level of farce.

* * * NOT SATIRE * * *
‘Report on Sept. 6 strike to show Saddam transferred WMDs to Syria’

Jerusalem Post April 7, 2008

“An upcoming joint US-Israel report on the September 6 IAF strike on a Syrian facility will claim that former Iraqi president Saddam Hussein transferred weapons of mass destruction to the country, Channel 2 stated Monday.”

US Col. Sam Gardiner long ago debunked that one as a propaganda item.

Keep that in mind as they push the latest set of Iran-missile site satt photos.

April 12th, 2008, 2:25 am


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Success for Syria means that the regime stays in power. Nothing else matters. It is difficult dealing with ruthless people who have a personal army and are billionaires and have a bunch of sheep that obey when the magic word “resistance” is uttered. Until the Syrian regime becomes accountable to the Syrian people, nothing but regime change will work. Talking won’t work nor sanctions that don’t put the regime in danger.

April 12th, 2008, 2:50 am


T said:


Lets play with that thought:

“Success for Syria [America] means that the regime stays in power. Nothing else matters. It is difficult dealing with ruthless people who have a personal army and are billionaires and have a bunch of sheep that obey when the magic word “resistance” [terrorism] is uttered.”

April 12th, 2008, 2:53 am


Enlightened said:

This is Interesting!

From Now Lebanon!

Today In Lebanon
Israel might exchange the Shebaa Farms for two Israeli soldiers
April 11, 2008

The Lebanese daily Sada Al-Balad quoted a high-ranking French diplomatic source in Paris as saying that Israel has suggested ending its occupation of the Shebaa Farms in return for the release of the two Israeli soldiers kidnapped by Hezbollah on July 12, 2006.

The Al-Nabaa Iranian news agency said that the French source refuses to give further details on the date of the swap deal or on the mediating party.

The same French source ruled out the possibility of the outbreak of war in Lebanon or between Israel and Hezbollah, despite the fact the Hezbollah is stocking its military arsenal with sophisticated missiles.

April 12th, 2008, 3:16 am


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

The US administration is leaving the end of the year. The American people will freely elect the next adminstration. There is a good chance a Democrat will win because the people do not like the current administration. Asad will leave when he dies or there is a coup or regime change by force. Asad is not accountable to the Syrian people and does not care what they think. And if he doesn’t like how they think, he puts them in jail.

And by the way, check out Obama’s new blog in Hebrew:

I hope you vote for Nader.

April 12th, 2008, 4:09 am


T said:

However I vote, Knesset’s got the veto power. Whichever token wins, the zionist monopoly will continue. Whats best for Israel will be the priority rather than what is best for America.

Unprecedented influence: Almost 10 percent of superdelegates are Jewish
by jennifer siegel
special to jta

According to a new survey conducted by the Forward, a disproportionately large share of the Democratic Party’s superdelegates are Jewish.

And many of them have declared their support for Hillary Clinton, accounting for more than 15 percent of her current backers.

All told, more than 70 Jewish superdelegates will make the trip to Denver this summer for the Democrats’ nominating convention. They account for about 9 percent of the party’s nearly 800 so-called superdelegates, the informal term for elected and party officials whose status as delegates to the convention does not depend on state primaries and caucuses.

If the Democratic presidential primary comes down to a photo finish, these Jewish insiders could play a role in anointing a nominee at the party’s August convention.

It would be a history-making experience: Although Jews, who make up about 2 percent of the U.S. populations, have long been considered a formidable voting bloc, they have only more recently become common as Democratic establishment insiders, with unprecedented numbers of both Jewish elected officials and party leaders.

“Politics in America has become a Jewish profession, just like arts and the law,” said Ira Forman, executive director of the National Jewish Democratic Council and the author of a book about Jews and American politics. “We now are overrepresented in all these areas.”

The relatively high number of Jews among superdelegates highlights a larger political shift that has occurred in recent decades, according to Forman. Although Jews have always been well represented on the American left, he said, historically they have tended to gravitate toward causes, such as the labor and civil rights movements, rather than active participation in party politics.

In the years since World War II, however, the number of Jewish politicians has grown significantly, with 33 Jewish members elected to Congress in 2006, up from 13 in 1950. In addition, over the past 15 years, the Democratic National Committee has been led by three Jewish chairs — Americans for Peace Now head Debra DeLee; Massachusetts-based party activist Steve Grossman and Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell, all of whom are now backing Clinton — while the current chairman, former Vermont governor Howard Dean, is married to a Jewish woman and has raised his children as Jews. Of the DNC’s nine national officers, three are currently Jewish.

Susan Turnbull, who became a vice chair of the DNC in 2005, said she has begun organizing get-togethers for Jewish DNC members at the party’s national meetings in recent years, and occasionally communicates via email on issues of mutual concern, as when, several years ago, she was helping to pass a DNC resolution against divestment from Israel.

To compile a list of Jewish superdelegates, the Forward included elected officials and DNC members known by the paper to be Jewish. Turnbull identified additional Jewish DNC members, and the Forward’s list was vetted by the Clinton and Obama campaigns. This list may omit Jewish superdelegates whose religious affiliation is not widely known.

In the current presidential primary, the support of Jewish party insiders is particularly critical for Clinton, who won contests in New York, New Jersey and California and has pledged support from a preponderance of Jewish superdelegates in the Golden State and the Northeast — including nearly a dozen in New York.

In recent weeks, as Sen. Barack Obama has won more new superdelegates and snatched away some superdelegates who had previously committed to Clinton, Clinton’s backers have worked to shore up her existing support and counter the growing perception by many in the party that if Obama maintains his current lead in the popular vote, as well as in total states and delegates won, the superdelegates should fall in line behind him.

The superdelegates “were not selected by the national party to be either potted plants or rubber stamps,” wrote Grossman, a top fundraiser for Clinton, in an open letter he sent out earlier this month to DNC members. The letter urged those who are still uncommitted to suspend making a judgment in the race until all state contests are concluded in early June.

In an interview with the Forward, Grossman argued that if the result from the disputed Florida primary is counted, and Clinton performs strongly in upcoming primaries, the results of primary season would be inconclusive and it would be the responsibility of superdelegates to vote their conscience.

But despite the efforts to ensure their support in recent weeks, several Jewish superdelegates who are currently committed told the Forward that they were open to changing their vote.

“I’m on the horns of an emotional dilemma,” said June Fischer, 76, a member of the DNC from New Jersey who worked for several Democrats during a long career in politics and currently serves as a part-time special projects coordinator for N.J. Sen. Bob Menendez.

While Fischer originally endorsed Clinton after her initial choice, Delaware Sen. Joseph Biden, dropped out of the race, she said she was open to revisiting the decision — despite two phone calls from former president Bill Clinton, one in the past two weeks.

Rachel Binah, a longtime Democratic activist from Mendocino County, said she committed to the New York senator after some “heavy arm-twisting,” which included phone calls from both Chelsea and Hillary Clinton. Binah explained her quandary a bit more bluntly.

“Anybody who had any sense wouldn’t have declared, and if I were smart, I wouldn’t have,” Binah told the Forward. “But how can you say no to the former first lady, and potentially the first woman president, who personally talks to you for 20 minutes on the phone?

Jennifer Siegel is a staff writer for the Forward.com, where this piece previously appeared.

April 12th, 2008, 4:17 am


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

At least you are clear about your belief that for you Zionist is just a code name for Jew.

Do you think Jews in the US should be banned or limited from participating in politics? Do you think they care more about Israel’s interests than the US interests?

April 12th, 2008, 4:37 am


Naji said:

And this is all the commemoration that Deir Yassin had… 30 seconds at UNHRC and all remained seated…!! Notice the cruel and completely unrepentant tone of the reporting… the inverted commas… the sneering disregard for the victims… THE GLOATING… this in Israel’s most liberal newspaper…!!!


UN rights body holds moment of silence for Gaza ‘martyrs’
By The Associated Press
Last update – 20:39 04/03/2008

GENEVA (AP) – The United Nations Human Rights Council held a moment of silence Tuesday for martyrs in Gaza killed in an Israel Defense Forces offensive in the Strip, after a request by Iran’s foreign minister.

Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki called for the gesture on behalf of the women and children who are “nowadays under attack by the Zionist regime,” the term Iranian officials use for Israel because they do not recognize its right to exist.

“I would like … to request one minute silence and ask my Muslim brothers and sisters to read the Fatah for those martyrs in Gaza,” he asked the council president, referring to the opening verse in the Koran.

The room was silent for about 30 seconds. Those present said no one stood.

Israel’s UN ambassador in Geneva, Yitzhak Levanon, said, the news is that the international community did not respond and all the members of the Human Rights Council remained seated. He said he would have stood himself if the silence had been devoted to victims of Iranian human rights abuses.

The U.S. mission in Geneva said it had no comment on what happened.

The council, created in 2006, is dominated by a bloc of African and Islamic countries, and has denounced Israel in a series of resolutions. The body has no power beyond international scrutiny.

[thanks to Annie for bringing this to attention]

April 12th, 2008, 6:27 am


T said:


You can stop the “anti-semitic” smear behind your insinuation. I didnt pen the above article. It is from the Jewish Forward newspaper. I am not responsible for what they write.

But I do think Dual-nationals should pick one country and be loyal to that choice.

No one should be banned- or censored- as I told you long ago. But concentrating too much power in one groups’ hands is dangerous, whether it be Muslim hands, Jewish hands, Christian hands, etc etc. Also as I told you long ago.

I am American. My top priority is my own nation, the USA, not Israel. We dont owe Israel anything more than we owe any other country in the world.

There is nothing in the US Constitution requiring I take an oath of allegiance to Israel. And no reason why Americans should consider some foreign country’s interests to be more important to them than their own.

Israel doesnt.

April 12th, 2008, 7:26 am


ale said:

does bushra normally reside in syria or abroad, in “an arab country”? i suspect the former, since i recall someone told me about her (large) house in damascus. but what is she doing abroad then?

and why is it that el-siyasa in kuwait has become the no. 1 info/disinfo source on all things syrian regime?

April 12th, 2008, 11:28 am


John said:


A bloody era of Syria’s history informs a writer’s banned novel
By Robert F. Worth

Saturday, April 12, 2008

PEOPLE still talk about what happened here in the 1980s as “the Events,” as if they were too awful to describe. The Syrian military’s bloody struggle with militant Islamists left at least 10,000 dead in the city of Hama, and produced a trauma the authorities do not like to hear discussed.

So when Khaled Khalifa decided to write about it in his latest novel, “In Praise of Hatred,” he knew he was touching a taboo subject. The book, a Balzacian tale full of romance and murder that ranges from Afghanistan to Yemen to Syria, was promptly banned when it was first published here in 2006.

Last month, the novel, republished in Beirut in 2007, became a finalist for the International Prize for Arabic Fiction, a new award modeled on Britain’s Man Booker Prize. It is now being translated into English and other languages.

All that has given Khalifa, who is better known here for his television screenplays, a new prominence as one of the rising stars of Arab fiction, and a rare public voice on a largely forbidden topic.

“If I had won the Booker, the regime would have had a huge problem,” he said with a barrel-chested laugh. “I think the culture minister breathed a big sigh when I lost.” (The top prize went to an Egyptian novelist, Bahaa Taher, the éminence grise of Arab letters.)

A bearish man with a boiling corona of steel-gray hair, Khalifa, 44, has a clownish humor that undercuts his large literary ambitions. He smoked, drank and plowed through a table full of appetizers during a late-night interview at Ninar, a Damascus restaurant popular with Syrian artists and intellectuals, his long answers interrupted by bursts of raucous laughter.

THE novel, he said, took him 13 years to write, and draws on his early years growing up in Aleppo. There he watched the conflict between the Islamists and the security forces of Syria’s secular Baath Party become steadily more violent, with what he calls a “culture of elimination” developing on both sides.

“The main thing I wanted to get at was the struggle of two fundamentalisms,” he said. “I remember that heaviness, that feeling of death dominating the whole city. You were always surrounded by armed men who agreed on only one thing: If you’re not with us, you’re against us.”

Although the novel is centered on a single Aleppo family, it encompasses the broader global story of political Islam over the past three decades. Some real people make appearances, including Abdullah Azzam, a leader of the Afghan jihad against the Soviet Union and a mentor of Osama bin Laden.

But Khalifa insists he has no interest in social realism or didactic fiction. Political ideology infected the work of too many Arab writers in the 1960s and ’70s, he said. His own aims are purely aesthetic, and his heroes are William Faulkner and Gabriel García Márquez. He chose to write about “the Events” not to make a political point, but to give artistic life to the increasingly brutal realities of the world he grew up in.

“In Praise of Hatred” is narrated by a young woman, and its title comes from an observation she makes about the way hatred filters from the violent streets outside into her own quiet life: “Hatred possessed me. I was excited by it, I felt it was saving me; it gave me a sense of superiority I had been seeking for a long time.”

Khalifa said he knew the book was crossing what are universally called “red lines” in the Arab world, and he was frightened when it came time to publish.

Not for the first time, he added. His second novel, “The Gypsy Notebooks,” includes material about Syria’s Baath Party. It was banned for four years, not by the government, but by the Union of Arab Writers, which “tries to be more royal than the king,” he said, with a disparaging chuckle.

The subject of censorship provokes an irreverent outburst from Khalifa.

“Banning books is normal for us here, it’s funny, even a little absurd,” he said with an impish smile. “It’s not like Europe — ‘Ooh, I’ve been censored!’ ” He fluttered his hands in mock anxiety. A book is not better just because it has been banned, he said. And Western talk of censorship seems to strike him as a little moralistic.

“Here, we know people in the censorship office,” he went on, laughing, in phrases studded with profanity. “So you might call them: ‘Why the hell did you censor my book?’ And he’ll respond, ‘Why the hell did you have to write about this?’ ”

In fact, Khalifa hints that he has made some compromises. (“We don’t want to live outside Syria, and we know how to avoid this.”) The Alawites, for instance, the religious minority to which the ruling Assad family belongs, are described in his latest novel as the “mountain people,” and a military leader who resembles the feared brother of former President Hafez al-Assad is left unnamed.

The book also scarcely mentions Hama, the city where the deadliest battle between the Syrian military and the Islamists took place, in 1982. Instead, it is set largely in Aleppo, which had its own share of violence during those years.

“For me, Aleppo was the main struggle, because the violence there happened over a long period of time, not overnight, like in Hama,” he said.

Literary celebrity is new to Khalifa. He spent much of his 20s living in his middle-class family’s home in Aleppo, a miserable time during which he wrote fiction from midnight to 6 a.m., when the house was quiet. His mother gave him the equivalent of a few dollars for cigarettes and coffee every day. His first novel, “The Guard of Deception,” was not published until 1993, when he was almost 30.

Four years later his first television screenplay was broadcast, and he moved to Damascus and got an apartment of his own. He started doing television work as a way to make money (“I needed a way to pay for alcohol”), but he is now one of the writers who have helped Syrian TV serials rival Egyptian shows in their popularity across the Arab world.

HE tries to focus on fiction now, writing all afternoon at home or at the Journalists’ Club, a local hangout. He is a well-known figure in the Damascus art scene; he got up several times during the interview to greet fellow writers or actors with hugs and kisses on the cheek as they arrived at Ninar. His cellphone buzzed, and once — recognizing the number — he answered it in Arabic with a familiar “What’s up, jerk?”

He is not married (“I have been lucky,” he said) and when he commented on the beauty of a woman passing the table, a translator tut-tutted him, drawing a big Falstaffian grin in response.

But the frivolity dropped when Khalifa returned to the subject of his novel.

“Syria has a long history as a cosmopolitan and commercial place; its traditions are tolerant and diverse,” he said. “This is what prevented the victory of the Islamists in the 1980s.”

The violence of that period eroded those traditions, he said, tincturing the whole society with intolerance and brutality. “We haven’t had a setback like this in 1,000 years,” he added. And though the Muslim Brotherhood, the group that led the armed rebellion in the 80s, is banned, Islamic fundamentalism “has grown and penetrated our society, especially among the young.”

“All this has harmed Syrian society so much,” he said sadly. “If what happened in the 1980s were to happen again, I think the Islamists would win.”

April 12th, 2008, 1:47 pm


Joshua Landis said:

QN asks:

“What kind of positive offering could be made to Syria in exchange for her to “put the squeeze” on the opposition?”

The opposition wants more power over government. Syria wants a veto over any Lebanese policies that could hurt Syria. It needs Lebanon to remain aligned with Syria in its struggle against Israel.

It seems quite possible that some compromise can be arrived at through Nabih Berri’s present proposal. He is offering to move ahead with Suleiman’s election in exchange for March 14 accepting the 1960 voting law.

The opposition believes that it can win through elections if March 14 is not able to gerrymander before elections. It wants larger districts.

IN the last comment section, you recommended March 14 taking this deal, but doubted that they would. I think they will explore it. What other choice is there?

You are right that this could turn into a zero sum game, if there is not a compromise. I also agree with you that Syria will not be an absolute winner if the US fails to wrest Lebanon away from it. It will only be a winner in the sense that the US is frustrated in its designs, but the US can easily turn this into a Pyrrhic victory for Syria. Syria does not come out ahead of where it was in 2003, when the US set out to re-arrange the Greater Middle East. It will only have frustrated the goals of its enemies, which were to isolate Syria, push it from Lebanon, destroy its ability to support Palestinian and Lebanese groups that are anti-Israel, and break its ability to oppose Israel on the Golan.

Syria and the region will come out poorer and more filled with anger and hate.

Syria and the opposition are willing to compromise. Syria has pulled its troops from Lebanon and will keep them out. It is now looking for a means to replace that military influence by strengthening the constitutional powers of its allies in Lebanese society.

In the end, this will require a serious re-appraisal of Taif. Nobody wants to say this openly, because it is too big to think about, but that is what is going on. Once the Shiites gain greater power in government, they will surely work to reapportion the distribution of deputies among the sects. After all, Shiites get only 21% of parliamentary deputies. We can all agree that they make up somewhere around 35% of the population.

The rest of Lebanon does not trust them because of their Islamism, militia, and resistance ideology — all of which will be very difficult to change. Just as importantly, the rest of Lebanon does not want to trust them because the remaining religious communities do not want to give up power to Shiites.

April 12th, 2008, 2:12 pm


Qifa Nabki said:

Hi Joshua

Thanks for the response. I agree with pretty much everything you said, but here are some comments on a few points.

The opposition wants more power over government. Syria wants a veto over any Lebanese policies that could hurt Syria. It needs Lebanon to remain aligned with Syria in its struggle against Israel.

I agree completely with this statement. The problem is — and this is where the issue of Syria’s strategic position comes in — that Syria needs Lebanon to remained aligned with it against Israel, but Syria is simultaneously (allegedly) trying to make peace. This will be a much more difficult proposal now that Lebanon is not moving in lockstep with Syria. Even if the opposition gets a veto, that is hardly the kind of control that Syria used to wield in Lebanon. Do you see what I mean? Preventing threats is not the same as being able to say: “Jump!” to the Lebanese, and having them respond “How high?”

IN the last comment section, you recommended March 14 taking this deal, but doubted that they would. I think they will explore it. What other choice is there?

I think that March 14 will and SHOULD explore this deal. Indeed, I think they should take it, since no one is contemplating the best electoral law (Boutros). However, Aoun is still playing spoiler, by adding the condition that there be an neutral interim government until elections are held in three months time. This means that he is not really offering any concessions at all: it’s the old opposition demand, dressed up in a new way. I hope that Berri will be able to override him.

[Syria] is now looking for a means to replace that military influence by strengthening the constitutional powers of its allies in Lebanese society.

I agree. The trouble is, strengthened constitutional powers are not a perfect substitute for military influence. Once you go down that road, you are committing yourself to a whole new political game, with different laws and less predictability. I’m not saying that this is a stupid move by Syria; I feel that it doesn’t really have a choice. But this is why I believe we are entering uncharted waters.

In the end, this will require a serious re-appraisal of Taif.

Exactly! This is my point. The more time Hizbullah spends in the Lebanese government, the more seats it fills in Parliament, the more column inches are written about Hizbullah politicians in Lebanese newspapers, the more airtime Hizbullah MP’s get on political talk shows… the more Hizbullah will become “normalized”. They will lose their resistance cache over time, and become more accountable to the Lebanese public, who (I believe) overwhelmingly want a peace deal, or at the very least, some much-earned stability.

You are correct that Ta’if needs to be revisisted, if only to fully implement all of its neglected clauses! The whole point of Ta’if was to move Lebanon towards a nonconfessional system. Now, if Syria is indeed serious about peace in the very near term, then perhaps everything is going according to plan: Hizbullah is transitioning into politics, and will therefore not suffer too badly from an end to hostilities with Israel.

If Syria is just “talking peace” but is envisioning a much larger time horizon, then Hizbullah may not represent the potent card it needs to play, by the time the important negotiations take place.

April 12th, 2008, 3:24 pm


Qifa Nabki said:

Here’s the latest. Looks like M14 is going to bite.

The “updates” they are talking about are necessary. The 1960 law cannot be adopted wholesale… the country has changed in 50 years, after all! Also, the 1960 law was designed to elect a smaller parliament, so some modifications are required.

It looks like this is now the break in the dam that we’ve been waiting for. Everybody hold their breath and cross their fingers. If this works, then we will finally have an election campaign in the Middle East that is worth following carefully! I am, honestly, excited and optimistic.

March 14 Not Against Modified 1960 Electoral Law
The pro-government March 14 coalition said it is not against adopting the 1960 parliamentary elections law but after making amendments to the qada-based law.
The pan-Arab daily Al Hayat, citing high-ranking March 14 officials, said Saturday that the alliance “does not object to accepting qada as electoral constituency but that can only happen after re-evaluating the 1960 law.”

The officials said the majority was open to a “fair and balanced solution even though laws are not equal to all people, meaning that they cannot please all Lebanese.”

“Therefore, agreement on a law that satisfies the majority of them (Lebanese) is needed,” one official said.

The officials were responding to a call by Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri who announced his willingness to elect Army Commander Gen. Michel Suleiman as President “immediately” if March 14 approved the 1960 electoral law at the same parliament session scheduled to choose a new head of state for Lebanon.

Information Minister Ghazi Aridi said Berri’s offer is being examined by March 14.

“The problem is a political one, and any settlement should be political,” Aridi said in remarks published by the daily An Nahar on Saturday.

April 12th, 2008, 3:36 pm


offended said:

Do you ever not get tired of regurgitating the same crap over and over again?
It is obvious that it is the priority of any ruling power in the world to stay in power. What makes Syria any different? And oh please: is Syria the only undemocratic country in the world? Give me a break.

I said this to you once but it is seems that your thick head is not allowing any logic to permeate through it: Syria is despised by you and your likes because it supports Hezbollah and Hamas. PERIOD.

April 12th, 2008, 4:01 pm


Qifa Nabki said:


Have I ever told you that my dream is to acquire a Syrian passport?

Just thought you should know.

Mabsout ya Alex?

April 12th, 2008, 4:19 pm


offended said:

but that shouldn’t be very tough QN, get married to a syrian and your dream will come true. 😛

April 12th, 2008, 4:28 pm


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Have you heard of facts? Every democratic adminstration wants to be RE-ELECTED. Dictatorships just want to stay in power. Democracies are accountable to their people. Dictatorships aren’t.

The facts are that the two Asads do not care about the Syrian people. They do not mind that Syrians are poor and technologically backward as long as they stay in power. That is a fact. Just look at what the Asads achieved in their reign. Syria has CONSISTENTLY fallen behind any other country you care to compare to. Now, how do you explain this away?

Of course I am not happy to that Syria supports Hamas and Hizballah. But that does not mean that the Asad regime is not accountable to its people. Both facts are correct. The Asads just want to keep their mafia going. The rest of the Syrians can go to hell or have fun doing “resistance”. So can the Lebanese.

April 12th, 2008, 4:35 pm


norman said:

QN, Joshua,

I think that the Lebanese should get an American university to divide Lebanon into districts of about 100,000 people after a full senses of all Lebanese who consider Lebanon their permanent residence , then have an election in these districts ,

Lebanon will not settle until people vote for their representative directly not through voting for a party or a sect.

April 12th, 2008, 6:54 pm


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Let’s get real. The Christians will agree to a census after the Second Coming.

The bottom line is the following:
Since everybody agrees that the Syrians will not allow the Lebanese to have an independent foreign policy the only solution is either for Syria to control Lebanon or for Syria to be defeated. We are in the middle of the process with the outcome unclear. Either for all practical purposes Lebanon will be a district of Syria or it will be a real independent state with grave implications for the standing and isolation of Syria in the region.

April 12th, 2008, 7:04 pm


Qifa Nabki said:


I actually believe that Lebanon is a small enough country for there to be a single electoral district. People should vote for the entire parliament, on the same day, via electoral lists comprised of candidates from various allying parties.

Based on the percentage of votes that a list gets, this determines the number of seats they receive. (This is similar to the format in Israel).

Under the present system, people vote in different gerrymandered districts, on different days, and often having to commute to their “ancestral” home (which is just a cynical way of preventing members of one sect from tipping a delicate balance in certain districts). This means that if I want to vote, for example, I have to leave my home in Beirut and drive to Saida just because my grandparents lived there up until the Israeli invasion. It’s completely ludicrous.

I’d also prefer that there were no confessional quotas whatsoever for the parliament, with minority rights being protected in a “senate”.

This is the only way we will evolve from a confession based system to a party based system.

A census is not the answer to our problems; it’s actually an obstacle, because it encourages people to keep thinking in those terms (i.e. confessional demoGRAPHY rather than party-based demoCRACY).

Under a true democracy, the Lebanese would be capable of achieving their tremendous potential.

April 12th, 2008, 7:19 pm


Qifa Nabki said:


I agree with you, to some extent, about the implications of Lebanese independence for Syrian standing.

I feel that this issue is so often cast in terms of “interests” and it is really much more than that. Syrians on this blog often like to say that Syria will not (and should not!) tolerate a hostile regime on its borders, and that Lebanese independence would mean that the West would use Lebanon “as a base to destabilize Syria.”

This is far too vague for me. What would the West gain in the way of destabilizing measures and tactics from an independent Lebanon that it wouldn’t have otherwise? As we’ve seen, Lebanon is far easier to destabilize than Syria.

I believe that the Syrian regime’s *real* anxieties about Lebanese independence are related to the prospects of having a functioning, democratic, prosperous country on its borders whose people are virtually indistinguishable from Syrians. “Why not us?”, Syrians would ask. In the past, it was easy to counter this question by saying: “Ahh but look at the Lebanese: they are quarrelsome, fractuous types, and they need Syria to run their country. So we should be glad that we are not like them.”

Things are changing. If only Syria would change too.

April 12th, 2008, 7:54 pm


norman said:


I think you just became Christian by waiting for the second coming,
The only way out is to have complete peace in the Mideast and to solve the Palestinian problem ,

QN, I disagree with you , representative democracy needs homogeneous people like in Israel ,
Having Representative democracy will push people to vote for the religion or the ethnic backgroud instead of voting for specific people ,

What you said about having to go their ancestor’s home to vote is a major part of the problem and is relate to tribalism , that is something should change and with a senses people will register where they live and vote where they live for somebody they know and live between them and is accountable to them,

The problem for having a whole country election is that the candidate of the minorities will have no chance no matter how good they are .

April 12th, 2008, 8:10 pm


Qifa Nabki said:


You say:

I disagree with you , representative democracy needs homogeneous people like in Israel. Having Representative democracy will push people to vote for the religion or the ethnic backgroud instead of voting for specific people

First of all, I agree that in the short term, people will vote for members of their own sect. But I also believe that this will change quickly over time.

The United States has a far more heterogenuous population than Lebanon’s, and yet representative democracy works. There’s no reason to believe that the Lebanese can’t build their own such system, despite the diversity of sects. Over time, sectarian identification will become less important.

And this is already happening, by the way! Read this quote, from Dr. Mark Farha (a Lebanese historian and friend of mine):

“A case can be made that the most underrepresented constituency in Lebanon is not the Shiites, Sunnis, or Christians, but the considerable number of Lebanese who do not identify primarily with the sect or creed into which they are born (or particularly care how many seats it is allotted). Interestingly, the proportion of Lebanese who privilege their national identity over their confessional identity (34%, according to a 2005 survey) compares positively with virtually all Arab and Middle Eastern countries. If the strengthening of an inter-communal civic identity is the only exit out of the vicious cycles of confessional conflict, temporary compromise, and renewed contestation, then finally lending a voice and official, constitutional recognition to what Jawad Adra calls the “hidden third” of Lebanese society is one of the most sensible steps to secure Lebanon’s future stability and prosperity.”

April 12th, 2008, 8:23 pm


Naji said:

“I believe that the Syrian regime’s *real* anxieties about Lebanese independence are related to the prospects of having a functioning, democratic, prosperous country on its borders whose people are virtually indistinguishable from Syrians. “Why not us?”, Syrians would ask. In the past, it was easy to counter this question by saying: “Ahh but look at the Lebanese: they are quarrelsome, fractuous types, and they need Syria to run their country. So we should be glad that we are not like them.”

Things are changing.”

I am disappointed in you QN. Either this really is the limit of your understanding of the situation, or you are really grasping now…!!?? This is the most simplistic thing I have heard in a long time… not even the most naive M14-ner would dream it… You really think the Syrian regime cares about “examples” (all Arabs have much better example in Israel after all, and they look more like us than the Lebanese, if that is the criterea), or that the Syrian people are so silly as to be fooled by such logic…??! You really think that the regime spends a lot of time and energy giving them such baby-talk…??! Is that all that is keeping these gullible Syrians from pouncing on the heads of their dictators…!!! Oh dear… 😀 LOL

LOL. I forgot about your sense of humor, so the joke is on me, I guess…!!?? 😀 (please say yes!)

I guess things are so much more complex, and both Syrians and Lebanese are so much more sophisticated, than even the most precocious 17-year old in America can comprehend…! 🙂

Honestly…LOL 😀

I needed this before going to bed. Thanks and bon nuit…

April 12th, 2008, 8:23 pm


Qifa Nabki said:


It’s true that things are much more complicated than that, so you’re right.

But this aspect of the Syrian-Lebanese relationship is never discussed here.

We talk about the Israel question, the Hizbullah question, the “using Lebanon as a base to destabilize Syria” question, the “shway shway approach to political reform” question, etc. ALL THE TIME! So there’s no need for me to bother with those issues again, is there?

So, no, the example of Lebanon is not “all that is keeping these gullible Syrians from pouncing on the heads of their dictators.” For that, we have to thank the mukhabarat, the army, and the famous iron fist of Senor Assad.

But the Lebanese example is a factor, in my opinion. Every time my Arab/Syrian nationalist colleagues remind me of how much Syria and Lebanon *share* …. how we are basically one country, one people, one culture, one history, etc… I can’t help but be reminded of the fact that 80% of this “one country” lives under a dictator, and 20% does not.

How long is that situation sustainable?

April 12th, 2008, 8:35 pm


Naji said:

I don’t know how long is this sustainable, but at this time, I am afraid (and pissed off at the Lebanese for wasting their chances and not taking advantage of the General), it is looking a hell of a lot more likely that the 20% will join the 80% in their predicament, than the other way around…!! And quite eagerly, I might add…!

April 12th, 2008, 8:45 pm


Naji said:

Btw, did you see my response to your comment on the previous post?

The “example” argument, btw, would sound a hell of lot less absurd had general Aoun been president now…!!! Perhaps you can now appreciate a little of the odds the man had against him…?!

April 12th, 2008, 8:46 pm


Joshua said:

You write:

[Making Peace for Syria] will be a much more difficult proposal now that Lebanon is not moving in lockstep with Syria. Even if the opposition gets a veto, that is hardly the kind of control that Syria used to wield in Lebanon. Do you see what I mean? Preventing threats is not the same as being able to say: “Jump!” to the Lebanese, and having them respond “How high?”

You are absolutely right. Syria has “lost” strategic advantage by having been forced to withdraw its troops by US and March 14 pressure. As one Syrian official said to me recently, “Lebanon is no longer a card that Syria can play. It is a card that is played against Syria. This is why we must be able to neutralize it.”

Syria is trying to neutralize, but it must also try to keep Lebanon hospitable to Hizbullah’s resistance game.

If your argument is that Syria is weaker today in its ability to pressure Israel and to tell Lebanese how high to jump as a result of Western and March 14 pressure, you are correct. They have “won” a battle. But Syria and the Lebanese opposition have also been successful in keeping the West from winning the war. Lebanon is not a functioning state allied with the West, at peace with Israel, and immune to the demands of the Palestinian movements.

Syria is succeeding in “neutralizing” the Lebanese threat.

You also argue that so long as Syria has an authoritarian regime, it will be reluctant to allow Lebanon to become a functioning democracy, whether out of jealousy, anxiety, arrogance, or pigheadedness. There is doubtlessly something to this argument, but I think much of it is just Lebanese bellyaching. Certainly Syrians take some comfort in being able to say that Lebanon is not a nation but a collection of four warring tribes.

All the same, Turkey is a democracy, so is Israel, as Naji pointed out. Syria lived alongside Lebanon when it was a functioning democratic-sectarian state and only managed to step in when the state collapsed, threatening Syria’s security. Syria manages to get along with all sorts of diverse states — Islamist (Iran), democraticish (Turkey,) and Monarchist (Qatar).

One could just as easily argue that democracies cannot abide authoritarian states by pointing to Bush and company, who have openly declared their mission to be transforming all authoritarian regimes to look more like America. One could probably argue with some justification that democrats are less tolerant of alternative government configurations that most others.

But I take your point. Regimes, like people, are not tolerant on the whole. They like their neighbors to emulate them. They are proud, arrogant, and meddling.

April 12th, 2008, 9:15 pm


norman said:


I think that the US is not a representative democracy but a Republic , Iraq is made to look like Israel and England , I hope you agree with me that the democracy in Iraq is not something anybody should immolate ,

there are many states in the US with less population than Lebanon and they a System of government depending on election in districts ,

Joshua ,
Can you please explain to us all how the system of government work in each American state ,

I think a system like that will be the solution to all politecal problems in the Arab states.

April 12th, 2008, 9:34 pm


Qifa Nabki said:

Thanks Joshua.

You’re right. I’m probably just belly-aching.


April 12th, 2008, 9:54 pm


norman said:

This refreshing,
somebody is apreciating Syria,

News Releases Articles Editorials Reports Books Maps Forums Letters Search Permissions Services Links Contact

European Commission, UNICEF Praise Syria’s Hosting of Iraqi Refugees
Posted GMT 4-12-2008 20:54:32
Damascus — Director of the Brussels-based European Commission Crises Management Department, Christian Berger, said that Syria had born a big economic burden because of hosting large numbers of displaced Iraqis, praising the efforts which have been exerted by the Syrian government in this framework.

He underlined the cooperation projects between his department and the Syrian government to help the Iraqi families.

For his part , Director of the Education Programs of the United Nations Children Education Fund, UNICEF, in Syria, mounsef Moalla, underlined the standing cooperation with the Syrian government in sphere of education and in providing the basic education needs of the Iraqi children.


© 2008, Assyrian International News Agency. All Rights Reserved. Terms of Use.

April 12th, 2008, 10:16 pm


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

I agree that Asad has both short term and long term anxieties. But I think his immediate concern is that if Lebanon becomes free he loses completely the Hizballah card and then his position relative to Israel goes from weak to hopeless.

Your stoic composure vis a vis the cynicism displayed by the “Syrians” on this blog is quite commendable. They are explicitly saying that Syria’s aim is to neutralize Lebanon and that Syria is justified in using Lebanon as part of its fight with Israel. I strongly believe that no compromise is possible at this stage.

As for elections, do you really believe Syria would agree to an independent Lebanon even if the electoral system was as you suggest a real one man one vote system with a senate? Even in that constellation, how can Syria guarantee a free hand for Hizballah when all the Sunnis and all the Christians, including FPM, are against it? The more accountable and democratic the Lebanese system becomes, the less likely it will be to tolerate an independent Hizballah.

Sometimes you can pick your battles. Sometimes you can’t. I think March 14 and fair minded Lebanese have to fight it through. A win is not guaranteed but neither is a loss. I view the chances as 75% for March 14 and 25% for the Syrians (a win for Syria is the current status quo). Let’s wait and see what the tribunal brings and how well Syria can handle its economic problems.

April 12th, 2008, 10:59 pm


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Following the new post, I have changed the odds in the bet I have with myself about which country is going to go islamist first, Egypt or Syria, and I now think it is even odds. Previously I favored Egypt.

April 12th, 2008, 11:28 pm


Qifa Nabki said:


First of all, I don’t think that Lebanon is in any danger of becoming “free” for the time being. This is because: (a) Syrian influence remains strong; (b) various Lebanese groups have an interest in making sure that Syrian influence remains strong; (c) the parties who are against Syrian influence are not organized enough to resist it effectively.

However, I do still feel that we have crossed a major threshold. In certain ways, I believe that the political game in Lebanon has changed permanently, and that Syria has recognized this. Even if we don’t achieve my preferred scenario for a while (one-man one-vote + senate) the amazing thing is that people are actually talking about such ideas today, in Lebanon. Unless I’m going to be completely cynical about everything the politicians and analysts say, I can’t but conclude that we are moving towards a situation in which democratic reforms are inevitable. So, the train has already left the station.

In this new situation, Hizbullah will have to transform itself, in order to survive (and actually thrive) politically. Similarly, Ta’if will have to be implemented fully, or replaced, in order for Lebanon to function. We are now at that point, and everybody recognizes it… possibly even Syria.

So, on my good days I feel that Syria’s leadership is looking for ways to parlay these changes in Lebanon to its own benefit (like accelerating peace talks with Israel, while allowing Hizbullah to start its own transition to pure politics). On my bad days, I think that Syria is going to throw the brakes on in Lebanon, as soon as the immediate threats are avoided.

Who knows?

April 12th, 2008, 11:43 pm


Qifa Nabki said:


What do you mean, exactly? How would Aoun’s presidency have changed things for the better, in your eyes?

Also, which response on the other post are you talking about?

(feel free to quote yourself) 😉

April 13th, 2008, 12:01 am


Qifa Nabki said:

سوريا في الواجهة: أمن وسياسة وأخطاء (4/4)
إبراهيم الأمين

ليس في إمكان أحد في لبنان أو سوريا الدفاع عن مسلسل الأخطاء التي ارتكبتها سوريا في لبنان. ودفتر الحساب المفتوح من الجانبين على مستوى القادة هو غير دفاتر الحساب المفتوحة على مستوى الجمهور والقواعد. لبنان ليس وحده منبراً لأصوات تنتقد سلوك الاستخبارات السورية، بل في سوريا نفسها منتقدون. وإذا كان بين رجالات الحكم والسياسيين والإعلاميين في لبنان وسوريا من لديه موقف مما حصل، فإن الجمهور لديه ما شاهده وعايشه وأحسّ به طوال عقدين وأكثر.
بالطبع، يحلو لفريق 14 آذار وحلفاء الولايات المتحدة وإسرائيل في لبنان الكلام على سلطة الوصاية التي استمرت ثلاثة عقود. إنهم يريدون تجاهل الجرائم التي ارتكبتها عصابات تشكل القوة الضاربة في الفريق الأميركي ـــــ الإسرائيلي في لبنان، ويريدون تجاهل كون الجيش الأميركي ــــ ومعه جيوش من فرنسا وإيطاليا وبريطانيا ــــ قد احتل لبنان إلى جانب الاحتلال الإسرائيلي الذي دمر كل لبنان. ويريدون تجاهل ما رتّبوه هم من صفقات مع رجال الاستخبارات السورية في لبنان. لكن ذلك لا يمنع الحديث عن أخطاء يمكن مقاربتها بالآتي:
1ـــــ تصوّر المشرفون على عمل الاستخبارات السورية في لبنان أنهم سوف يحكمون لبنان إلى ما لا نهاية، وتدخلوا في كل شاردة وواردة، لهم كلمتهم العليا في تشكيل المؤسسات التنفيذية والتشريعية في الدولة، ولهم نفوذهم القوي على أجهزة الأمن والقوى العسكرية، ولهم حضورهم القوي في أندية السياسيين وأحزاب كثيرة، وكان لديهم الوقت الطويل لاستقبال هذا أو ذاك من السياسيين، وأظهرت معلومات مصدرها سوريا أو لجنة التحقيق الدولية أو معلومات الأغنياء من اللبنانيين الذين سرقوا الخزينة، أن بعض كبار ضباط الاستخبارات كوّنوا ثروات لا تتناسب ودخلهم الرسمي في الجيش السوري، ولا صلة لها بإرث في بلادهم، بل هي جزء من عملية الرشوة التي ازدهرت، وإذا كان صحيحاً أن في لبنان من تولى إفساد هؤلاء، فالأصح أنه لم يكن في سوريا من يمنع هذا الفساد أو يضع حدّاً له. وعلى ما كان يقول نجاح واكيم، إن حلفاً قوياً قام بين فاسدين ومرتشين على جانبي الحدود.
2ـــــ استسهل السوريون الإقرار بالتوزيع الطائفي للقوى السياسية في لبنان، وترك لعبد الحليم خدام وفريق سياسي وأمني إدارة الملف اللبناني على قاعدة أن من الأسهل حصر الإدارة اللبنانية ببعض الشخصيات التي تمثل رأس الطوائف، وكان خدام يقول إن الترويكا كفيلة بإدارة البلاد. أما الآخرون من معارضين وقوى سياسية فيمكن متابعة أوضاعهم من خلال قنوات جانبية. حتى وصل الأمر بأي قوة سياسية تريد تثبيت حضورها، إلى الاختيار بين أمرين: إما الالتحاق بهذه التركيبة وحجز مقعد هناك، وإما تلقّي العقاب تهميشاً واضطهاداً وإبعاداً. وهي السياسة التي جعلت البلاد محكومة بيد مجموعة، ما إن شعرت بتبدّل الأجواء والأهواء حتى نقلت البندقية من كتف إلى كتف. وإلا فمن يفسّر لنا سر صمود كل النافذين في قوى 14 آذار (ما عدا القوات اللبنانية) في فترة الوجود السوري ثم في قيادة التيار الذي يدّعي أنه أخرج سوريا من لبنان؟
3ـــــ تجاهل السوريون أهمية الملفات المشتركة بين الشعبين، واختاروا الموقف السياسي بديلاً من التفاعل في قضايا الاقتصاد والتعليم والتجارة. وحتى اللحظة لم يفهم أحد سبب عدم قيام أي مشروع صناعي بين البلدين، ولماذا استمرت مشكلة المياه، وكيف لم يفد لبنان بخبراته في القطاعات السياحية والمصرفية والطبية وحتى التعليمية، وكيف لم تساعد سوريا اللبنانيين على التعايش مع فكرة دولة ومجتمع وولاء لدولة أو وطن. وظلت الاتفاقات الموقّعة بين البلدين عبارة عن عبء مفترض عند قسم من اللبنانيين ظنوا أنها لمصلحة سوريا، فيما لم تفرض سوريا على إداراتها ولا على حلفائها في لبنان التعامل مع هذه الاتفاقات على أساس أنها بوابات العبور نحو تفاهم يتجاوز عنواناً عاماً اسمه المسار والمصير المشتركان.
4ـــــ وفّرت سوريا حماية لطبقة من السياسيين الفاسدين في لبنان، وفيها الآن من يأكل أصابعه ندماً عندما يشعر بأن من معه، هو بالضبط من كان عرضة لكل أشكال القمع من قبله أو من قبل حلفائه في لبنان: هل هناك الآن من يجيب عن سبب إخضاع المقاومة للعبة الابتزاز في وسطها الشيعي الضيق أو على مستوى الدولة ككل؟ وهل هناك من يجيبنا عن سبب «منطق العفو» الذي استخدمه العماد ميشال عون مع سوريا حكومة وشعباً ومؤسسات بعد كل ما تعرض له هو ومناصروه؟ وهل في وسع أحد أن يشرح للشعب اللبناني سبب عدم إيجاد حل شامل يقفل ملف المفقودين الذين تُتّهم سوريا بالمسؤولية عنهم، وأن تقول سوريا ما لديها عن جرائم قوى لبنانية؟ وهل يصعب على سوريا أن تشرح للبنانيين نوعية الطلبات التي كان يرسلها الحريري الأب مع عبد الحليم خدام أو إلى عنجر مع غسان بلعة، أو الرسائل التي كان يطلب وليد جنبلاط من وئام وهاب نقلها إلى رستم غزالة، أو جدول أعمال مفاوضات بطرس حرب ونائلة معوض وفارس سعيد وسمير فرنجية مع غازي كنعان؟
تبدو العلاقات اللبنانية اليوم رهينة أحداث الأعوام الثلاثة الماضية، كما ان الحديث عن الأخطاء التي ارتكبت كبير وطويل جداً، ومن الصعب تمزيق صفحات هذه الأخطاء من تاريخ العلاقة بين البلدين، وكل ما يحصل حالياً، أن هناك من يطوي هذه الصفحات أو بعضها، وهناك من ينبش بعضها الآخر. وإذا كانت ارتكابات 14 آذار وجماعة أميركا وإسرائيل كبيرة إلى حدّ أن في لبنان وفي سوريا من يقدر على تجاهل المرحلة الماضية، فإن ذلك لا يعفي المعنيين في البلدين من الشروع ومن دون استئذان أحد في مراجعة شاملة للعلاقات بين دولتين وبين شعبين وبين فريقين، ولا بأس بالعودة إلى عبارة الراحل الكبير جوزف سماحة: «نحو مراجعة وتوزيع عادل للمسؤوليات عما آلت إليه العلاقات اللبنانية ـــــ السورية»!

April 13th, 2008, 12:24 am


Enlightened said:


The current excercise by Berri is pure Banter, humour it, because it is going no where. M14 are too stupid, and the opposition too intransigent for any deal to be reached.

Pigs will fly before any compromise is reached, or when Bush leaves office!

Buckle down it is only smoke and mirrors at this stage!

April 13th, 2008, 1:56 am


Qifa Nabki said:

Naji (et al)

Did you catch the interview on Kalam al-Nas with Uqab Saqr?

I love this guy. He is a true moderate… and very very smart.

Here’s a clip from the interview. He criticizes the opposition’s “sit-in” in downtown Beirut, but he also calls for giving the opposition a veto (which I also argued for in my post last month ). He is critical of both sides.

April 13th, 2008, 2:48 am


T said:


Is this or is it not, going to be the next tactic to ‘explain’ the Deir Ez zor hit? As a military honcho- what do you think? Can they make it seem viable? Will they trot out the original purveyor of the bit- Bolton- to help recirculate it?

* * * NOT SATIRE * * *
‘Report on Sept. 6 strike to show Saddam transferred WMDs to Syria’
Jerusalem Post April 7, 2008

An upcoming joint US-Israel report on the September 6 IAF strike on a Syrian facility will claim that former Iraqi president Saddam Hussein transferred weapons of mass destruction to the country, Channel 2 stated Monday.

Now about your anti-semitc insinuation re my first post. Here is what others have to say on a related score:

Haim Cohen, a former judge of the Supreme Court of Israel stated: “The bitter irony of fate decreed that the same biological and racist argument extended by the Nazis, and which inspired the inflammatory laws of Nuremberg, serve as the basis for the official definition of Jewishness in the bosom of the state of Israel” (quoted in Joseph Badi, Fundamental Laws of the State of Israel NY, 1960, P.156)

April 13th, 2008, 3:33 am


Qifa Nabki said:


I’m more optimistic than you, but then again I have two pet flying pigs in my back yard.

April 13th, 2008, 3:54 am


Qifa Nabki said:

This week’s New Yorker has an excellent article about the tenure debacle of Nadia Abu El-Haj, at Barnard.

You can read the article here.

I am particularly interested in AIG and AP’s takes on it.

April 13th, 2008, 3:59 am


Shami said:

Norman:The problem for having a whole country election is that the candidate of the minorities will have no chance no matter how good they are .

This is not true at all ,Syria a majority muslim country had a christian prime minister during the pre dictatorial era.It’s clear that after 1400 years of islamic christian co existence when christian played a major role in all fields and only few years of asad rule were enough to erase any christian influence on the syrian society.
If we have a democratic regime in Syria today, a great syrian like Michel Kilo would be an important figure of the intellectual and political life as was Faris Khoury.
Syria will never see light under this minority sectarian family regime

April 13th, 2008, 4:03 am


norman said:

Farris Al khoury always mentioned , he was an aberrancy not a beginning of a trend , you mentioning the government in Syria as minority government indicate to me that you will look at a christian president the same way , a minority government ,
I think Syria will do well by decentralisation and have representatives for certain number of population in addition to two senators from each county .
divide a county like Homs into small cities with mayors and city counsel in each to rule themselves.

April 13th, 2008, 4:44 am


Enlightened said:


A couple of posts ago I wrote about the campaign against Massad, and Pipes coming to Australia (and his and Kramers) campaign against him at Columbia. Interesting that you should post this, I was not aware of this one! ( You starting to impress me)

A Couple of points after reading it:

1. The Jewish groups are not interested in a different perspective or a balanced approach to teaching their narrative? They have the media narrative sown up, they are now challenging alternate views in the classrooms at university campuses

2. The attacks against Nadia has exposed the links of these interest groups out into the open. (questions by some in the article who are these people, what do they want with her etc?)
The campus watch programme, and other groups are playing a dangerous game in their perceived ability to influence and control academic discussions an American campuses. Put simply it is a game they should not or be able to play in or influence, and goes against learning principles.

April 13th, 2008, 4:57 am


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Unless you are exceptionally dense, you would have figured out by now that for every opinion you can think of, some Jew voiced it. Does it make it right or does it justify that opinion? Of course not. So why do you keep bringing irrelevant quote? The fact that some Jews said them does not make them right.

And boy do you not understand what Haim Ha’Cohen said. He is commenting on the irony of the fact that Gentiles and even the most hostile ones took part in defining what a Jew is. Many people who did not know they were Jewish were surprised to die in the concentration camps. Yes, the history of the last 200 years forged the modern Jewish nation and its identity, and it is influenced strongly by how Jews view gentiles and by the inability of Jews to assimilate either in Europe or in Arab countries because they were rejected.

April 13th, 2008, 5:07 am


Shami said:

Norman those in power are in power against the will of the syrian people but Faris Khoury became head of the state trough democratic process.If a christian had used state terror and ordered the christian community members to be spies on the syrian people we would call this illegitimate minority sectarian regime too.

April 13th, 2008, 5:20 am


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:


Did anybody act against the law in the process? No. Was violence used? No. So what is the problem? I read her book and think her work is junk. Others think otherwise. So what?

This is how democracies work. If you write about a controversial subject that other people care about, you will get a reaction. Freedom of speech means freedom of speech for Nadia and for all those who care to criticize her.

The time that people like Sim and T could could frighten Jews and make them shut-up is long gone, except in countries like Syria where Tlass can publish a best seller claiming that Jews kill Christians for their rituals and nobody in Syria objects. If you want to argue something, you better make sure that you won’t make a fool of yourself because we are taking 0 shit from anyone.

April 13th, 2008, 5:41 am


Zenobia said:

QN, and anyone interested:
the New Yorker piece about Nadia Abu el-Haj was quite amazing . An excellent read.

actually, her work wasn’t a controversial subject to most of the academics and scholars – and not to the Israeli archeologists.

“so what? ” …. hmmm. how about the fact of potentially ruining someone’s career because of political views and causing unnecessary harm.
this wasn’t a book review that was sort of negative. This was a group of people intruding on the internal processes of a huge academic institution that has its own system of review.

anyhow, it didn’t work, because it was baseless. but the point of the article was not about the content of this woman’s work and whether you like it. It is about people inflicting harm on her and on a University.

April 13th, 2008, 7:28 am


T said:


You’re ignoring the question. Running away? That does not become a military man. Is there anything to the JPost story above?

April 13th, 2008, 7:50 am


SimoHurtta said:

The time that people like Sim and T could could frighten Jews and make them shut-up is long gone, except in countries like Syria where Tlass can publish a best seller claiming that Jews kill Christians for their rituals and nobody in Syria objects. If you want to argue something, you better make sure that you won’t make a fool of yourself because we are taking 0 shit from anyone.

Well, well AIG, on bad mood today? Not enough queuing Palestinian women and children to be kicked and threatened on your check point?

Have I ever frightened you or any other atheistic (or religious) Jew or told you to shut up? Do Jews really kill Christians in their rituals? Well that is new for me, never heard about it before, tell more about it AIG.

Doesn’t AIG free speech mean free speech even when the opinions are controversial. So you do not like free speech in Syria. I just saw yesterday a BBC report of a settlement fight on an old Palestinian women owned hill, where the settlers screamed that there were no Palestinians in Israel when “they” came to Israel. That “empty” theory is widely used in Israeli propaganda.

0 shit from you???? Hmmm are you AIG going to nuke us, if and when you loose the debate?

April 13th, 2008, 8:25 am


Majhool said:


I need to thank you for you comments on this post. Your arguments are extremely logical and balanced. You are not blinded with patriotism (unlike many on this forum)


I understand that you irritate many on this forum, but I tend to enjoy reading your comments. I happen to know and work with many Israelis and they tend to share your views. Thank you for keeping it real.

April 13th, 2008, 8:34 am


offended said:

ok, i made a comment and now it’s erased…
this is not fair…

April 13th, 2008, 9:06 am


Qifa Nabki said:


I have to say that I’m a little disappointed in your response.

Surely the issue is not one of legality. Rather, it is about precisely what you mentioned in your last comment, namely intimidation:

The time that people like Sim and T could could frighten Jews and make them shut-up is long gone…

You’re right. It seems that it’s been replaced by a time when Jews can frighten scholars they disagree with and make them shut up.

April 13th, 2008, 11:00 am


Qifa Nabki said:

PS: I agree with Zenobia on this.

This woman (Nadia Abu El-Haj) is not some hack academic with a political bone to pick. She has a Duke Ph.D., taught at the University of Chicago, was an Academy Scholar at Harvard, and a fellow at the Institute for Advanced Study at Princeton. These are among the most competitive and selective institutions in the world… It is impossible to be admitted unless your credentials and scholarship are solid, hardly “junk”.

Now, you may disagree with her work. But how can you defend the actions of some crazy settler woman who waged a slanderous campaign against Abu El-Haj, attacking her scholarship, her competence, and her character? Paula Stern isn’t an archaeologist! And yet she felt justified in organizing a witch hunt just because she is somehow more informed than Abu El-Haj on account of her own Zionism?

April 13th, 2008, 12:53 pm


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

The small difference is the following. I have no problem at all with Nadia publishing her book. Nobody should stop her from doing it, and no physical harm was done to her or threatened to her. The Jews were constantly threatened with physical violence and/or government prosecution. Is any of this happening here?

All you see is people organizing legally and without any recourse to threats and violence to make their side of the story heard and to voice their opinion about what a university should do. When Jews do it, it is held against them. Even you have fallen into this trap. Even you it seems are not comfortable with Jews being assertive. I guess we still have a long way to go.

April 13th, 2008, 1:01 pm


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Whether or Nadia is a hack or not is totally irrelevant. You are totally missing the point. The “settler woman”, whether she is right or not, has every right to organize any campaign within the law, and I would vehemently support her right to do so, just as I would support the rights of any Arab to launch such a campaign against any academic they want. She is justified to launch the campaign because that is what she believes and because she is only doing legal things. In a democracy you need no more justification than that. Who are you to deny her basic rights?

April 13th, 2008, 1:09 pm


Qifa Nabki said:


I’m not asking you to deny Paula Stern her rights to organize a campaign. Nor do I have any problem with Jews or anybody else being “assertive”. Your playing of the “this is a democracy and this is free speech” card is rather silly.

Do I support the freedom of speech of KKK members? Neo-Nazis? Islamic fundamentalists? Absolutely. Do I like what they have to say? No.

Just because somebody has a right to express themselves, doesn’t mean what they say is valid. I’m surprised that you are unwilling to concede this point, and to criticize the campaign against Abu El-Haj as cruel and ill-informed. I would do the same about a campaign to smear an Israeli professor who was undeserving of the such vicious and ideological criticism, on the basis of lack of understanding, bad credentials, poor methodology, etc.

You know, they won’t revoke your Israeli citizenship if you call a spade a spade.

But I will let you have the last word on this, because I can already feel you going into your super-charged stubborn mode, and I don’t like debating with you when you get that way. So, ma3lesh, you win.

April 13th, 2008, 1:34 pm


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Who wrote the following sentence:
“You’re right. It seems that it’s been replaced by a time when Jews can frighten scholars they disagree with and make them shut up.”

You did. Is there any way to interpret this sentence except as deligitimizing the actions of Jews like the “crazy settler woman”?
You seem to think that there is something relevant about the fact that JEWS were behind this campaign. Otherwise, why would you post it here?

So let’s call a spade a spade and ask you, why did you post the New Yorker article? What did you find relevant about it for the discussion except that the people leading it were JEWS?

I am willing to concede that the “crazy settler woman” can be wrong. But I would like to ask you so what? If she is wrong, all she did was mount a legal campaign. If you accept that the she was well within her rights what exactly are you complaining about? Can you make this clear to me?

And please do not bow out of the debate. You started it, so let’s air it out.

April 13th, 2008, 2:02 pm


Qifa Nabki said:

My what lovely curtains… Ho hum.

April 13th, 2008, 2:10 pm


wizart said:


is this from Shakespear or are you picking up Arabic in Damascus?


From now on I suggest American scholars who want to study “epistimology” should go visit the more hospitalble Damascus even if it means having to learn Arabic first.


April 13th, 2008, 2:17 pm


Qifa Nabki said:

AIG, check your inbox.

April 13th, 2008, 2:22 pm


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Among leading epistemologists in the world there are many Jews. I would argue that the leading epistemologist in the world is Alvin Goldman. There is not one Syrian among the leading epistemologists and not one Arab. How do you explain that?

April 13th, 2008, 2:41 pm


Qifa Nabki said:

AIG, what are you talking about???

Syria has the best pistachios in the world!

Therefore, it must also have the leading epistachiologists as well!

Enough with your hatred spewing comments!

April 13th, 2008, 2:49 pm


idaf said:


Thank you for posting Ibrahim Al-Amin’s article from Al-Akhbar above. Although brief, this has to be one of the most balanced reviews of lessons learned from the Syrian era in Lebanon ever published in the Lebanese media. Finally an unusually refreshing unbiased, non-sectarian, solution-driven review with no bitter or revenge-seeking language.

I think that the Syrian leadership should do its own review of its mistakes and more importantly Asad senior’s regime during the era in Lebanon and try to learn from those mistakes. As Al-Amin suggests, it was three decades of hugely wasted opportunities for both sides (the Lebanese and the Syrians) to learn a lesson or two from the other side, as both systems had their advantages and disadvantages.

April 13th, 2008, 2:54 pm


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Is there one faculty or department in the University of Damascus that is internationally recognized? When was the last time an article appearing in Nature or Science came from any university in Syria? I don’t know but would be happy to learn. Never mind, Syrians are the happiest people in the world, so what else matters?

April 13th, 2008, 3:05 pm


Qifa Nabki said:


Stop changing the subject! Do you deny that Syrian epistachiologists are not the world’s greatest?

Come on, deny it. I dare you.

April 13th, 2008, 3:12 pm


idaf said:

AIG said:
“Among leading epistemologists in the world there are many Jews.. There is not one Syrian among the leading epistemologists and not one Arab. How do you explain that?”

Enough already with your twisted analogies! You are comparing apples to oranges as you usually do. The comparison should either be between the number of Syrian and Israeli scientists, epistemologists, etc. (which Syrians would clearly loose), or Jewish and Christian or Muslim ones (in which case the latter would most likely exceed in numbers).

How many of those Jewish epistemologists were Israelis (educated, lived and produced research in Israel)? And how many of them were simply Germans or Americans who were surrounded with the right environment.. and happened to be Jews? For example, the Jewish scientists and Engineers who have been educated in the former USSR are not considered good scientists because “they’re Jews” but because they had the right formula of “carrots and sticks” to be good scientists. Enough claiming credit for someone else’s work.

April 13th, 2008, 3:14 pm


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

However you slice it or dice it the result will not be what you want. You agree that if we compare Israel to Syria, Syria will clearly lose by a huge margin. Can Israel claim credit for that?

You think that there are more Muslim epistemolgists or leading ones than Jews, even though there are 1.4 bilion Muslim and 15-20 million Jews? I think not. And on a per capita basis, which is the real comparison the difference is astronomical. And yes, you are right, it is because Arab and Muslim countries are not into freedom of speech and real debate. But as long as Syrians are happy, this is fine.

April 13th, 2008, 3:40 pm


wizart said:


I would explain it by knowing that “philosophy” is not a major preoccupation in Syria or in the Arab world. Sorry to disappoint you but the art of bulshiting is better practiced in your world.

I still think American researched can feel safer in Syria than in Israel because we don’t have any settlements or illegal”epistemologists!”

I urge to visit Iran and Syria for your next philosophy session 🙂

Distinguishing knowing that from knowing how

In this article, and in epistemology in general, the kind of knowledge usually discussed is propositional knowledge, also known as “knowledge-that” as opposed to “knowledge-how”. For example: in mathematics, it is known that 2 + 2 = 4, but there is also knowing how to add two numbers. Many (but not all) philosophers thus think there is an important distinction between “knowing that” and “knowing how”, with epistemology primarily interested in the former. This distinction is recognised linguistically in many languages, though not in modern English except as dialect (see verbs “ken” and “wit” in the Shorter Oxford Dictionary).[3] In Personal Knowledge, Michael Polanyi articulates a case for the epistemological relevance of both forms of knowledge; using the example of the act of balance involved in riding a bicycle, he suggests that the theoretical knowledge of the physics involved in maintaining a state of balance cannot substitute for the practical knowledge of how to ride, and that it is important to understand how both are established and grounded. It is worth pointing out that in recent times, some epistemologists (see the late Sosa, Zagzebski) have argued that we should not think of knowledge this way; Epistemology should evaluate people’s properties instead of propositions’ properties. This is, in short, because higher forms of knowledge (i.e., understanding) involve non cognitive features which can’t be evaluated from a justified true belief view of knowledge.

April 13th, 2008, 4:15 pm


Alex said:

ملك السعودية عبدالله وخراب لبنان وثروة المستقبل

لم يعد خافياً على أحد أن ملك السعودية شخصياً الذي ارتضى لاسمه خادم الحرمين الشريفين هو ‏سبب خراب لبنان الحالي، فإن تم الاجتماع في الرياض وتوصل المجتمعون إلى اتفاق، سقط الاتفاق ‏بعد أيام وان أراد اللبنانيون الحوار في لبنان استقبل عبدالله السنيورة الذي صرح على ‏بابه بأنه ضد الحوار اللبناني – اللبناني.

‏ لم يعد خافياً أن أموالاً سعودية تأتي الى لبنان الى تيار المستقبل للشحن الطائفي والمذهبي.

‏ باتت السعودية تغذي في كل مكان منظمات مسلحة، ففي العراق تغذي مع الاميركيين تنظيمات ‏الصحوة، وفي فلسطين تغذي مخابرات أبو مازن وجماعاته وغيرهما، وفي لبنان تغذي المذهبية ‏والطائفية وتدفع بالشحن الطائفي الى أقصاه، وفي باريس تدعم عبد الحليم خدام، وفي العالم ‏العربي والاسلامي تدعم البيانوني والاخوان المسلمين.

‏ لم يأت ملك الى السعودية أدى الى خراب لبنان مثل الملك عبدالله، ويصل احد الى الوقاحة حين ‏أعلن انه ضد الحوار مثلما أعلن السنيورة بعد اجتماعه بالملك عبدالله.

‏ يكتشف الشعب اللبناني يوماً بعد يوم ولكن ببطء الدور الخطير للسعودية، واكبر شاهد ما ‏صرفته السعودية في الانتخابات النيابية في العام 2005 في الشمال في شحن طائفي ليس له ‏مثيل وفي مناطق الضنية وعكار.

‏ اطلق الملك عبدالله المبادرة العربية، ومنذ ان قامت اسرائيل باغتصاب الارض العربية وبنت ‏الجدار العازل وضربت الشعب الفلسطيني وارتكبت المجازر، ومع ذلك زادت علاقته بأميركا ‏واجتمع موفدوه بصورة شبه علنية او سرية مع الاسرائيليين.

‏ السؤال، ما هو دور الملك عبدالله وكيف يمكن لخادم الحرمين الشريفين ان يلعب هذا الدور ‏السياسي التعطيلي في الحوار اللبناني اللبناني؟ لم يسبق ان قام ملك السعودية باستعداء فئة من اللبنانيين ضد فئة أخرى، حيث يخوض الملك ‏عبدالله معركة شرسة ضد المعارضة، اي انه فريق مع نصف اللبنانيين ضد النصف الآخر، ولم يسبق ‏لملك عربي خاصة ملك السعودية ان استنفر كما استنفر عندما خطفت المقاومة جنديين ‏اسرائيليين، فاذا بالذي يجب ان يكون خادم الحرمين الشريفين يسمي أسر الجنديين الاسرائيليين ‏مغامرة ويفتح الباب أمام عدوان إسرائيلي على لبنان تتطاير فيه أشلاء الشعب اللبناني ‏بفعل القصف الاسرائيلي على كل لبنان تنفيذاً من الإسرائيليين واسلحة من الاميركيين.

‏ واذا رأينا هذا المشهد فإننا نرى مشهداً اخر هو مشهد دعم حكومة السنيورة لمراسيم ‏الاثراء غير المشروع واطلاق الثروات على تيار المستقبل بشكل لا مثيل له.

‏ رحم الله الرئيس رفيق الحريري عندما استشهد تم الإعلان عن ثروته بأنها ثمانية مليارات دولار، ‏فاذا بسعد الحريري يشتري شركة للخليوي في تركيا بستة مليارات دولار ويمتلك مجموعة مصارف ‏تساوي 12 مليار دولار ثم يظهر ان سعد الحريري وجماعته وتيار المستقبل يملكون 15 بالمئة من ‏سوليدير ثم تغدق الأموال على المشاريع التي يقوم بها في السعودية فتصبح أوجيه سعود تساوي ‏تسعة مليارات دولار حتى باتت ثروة سعد الحريري وتيار المستقبل، طبعاً نحن لا نتكلم عن أزلام ‏تيار المستقبل، وصلت الى 40 مليار دولار اي ما يوازي ديون لبنان للخارج.

‏ فمن أين جمع سعد الحريري بلحظة كل هذه الثروات، وهل هي ثروة سعد الحريري أم الملك عبدالله ‏في بيروت، ونحن نعرف كم يملك من عقارات بأسماء مستعارة؟ لقد بات الحريري والسنيورة وعبدالله شركاء في ثروة تبلغ 40 مليار دولار اضافة الى ما يملكه ‏الملك عبدالله على حساب المسلمين من ثروة تزيد على المئة مليار دولار، وقد أصبح ما يشاع ‏حقيقة حين يعيش أمراء على أموال النفط ويملكون عشرين الى 30 مليار دولار ويقيمون ‏العلاقات مع الشركات اليهودية ويطبّعون معها وليس بطريقة مباشرة مع تل أبيب، بل في ‏أوروبا واميركا من خلال الشركات والمؤسسات على حساب المسلمين، وخاصة بشأن الوفاق ‏اللبناني على حساب لبنان.

‏ خادم الحرمين الشريفين يخدم السلام، يخدم الوفاق يخدم الحوار ولا يخدم سيل الدماء في لبنان ولا ‏التحضير لفتنة داخلية، ولا يرسل الأموال للتسلح كي تكون الطريق الى الفتنة الداخلية، ولا ‏ينتفض من أجل أسر جنديين اسرائيليين بينما يسكت عن احتلال اسرائيل 23 سنة للبنان ‏وأسرها لبنانيين وقصفها وقتل المدنيين.

‏ لم يكن للسنيورة هذه القوة وهي مجد باطل، ولم يكن للسنيورة ان يصدر اكثرمن 1400 مرسوم ‏فيها إثراء غير مشروع لولا تواطؤ ملك السعودية عبدالله مع تيار المستقبل ضد الشعب ‏اللبناني.

‏ المنتسبون الى تيار المستقبل فقراء، شعب أصابته جريمة اغتيال الحريري فانتفض، وشعب لا ‏يريد وصاية أحد ولكن المنتسبين الى تيار المستقبل سيقعون يوماً بعد يوم في إثراء فاحش ‏لقيادة المستقبل مقابل زيادة فقرهم وإن نالوا حصة من الحصص فيذهب سعد الحريري الى ‏طرابلس ليتبرع بها بتمثال الى الملك عبدالله وبعض الاموال على الضنية وعكار وغيرها، كأنه ‏يتصدق على الناس ويعطيهم صدقة.

‏ خطير دور السعودية، خطير دور خادم الحرمين الشريفين على ما يسمي نفسه.

لم تشهد السعودية ‏ذلك في زمن عبد الناصر، وهي تخوض حرباً على الساحة اللبنانية تمويلاً وتسليحاً.

لم يسبق ‏للسعودية ان كانت كذلك وهي بأموالها ستحرك تيار المستقبل ضد «الديار» وستحاول تحريك ‏القضاء كله، لكن الشعب اللبناني بات الدور السعودي مكشوفاً امامه وبات دور الملك ‏عبدالله المعطل للوفاق مكشوفاً ايضاً وعند سقوط أول قطرة دم لبنانية بسبب المخطط السعودي ‏سيسقط لقب خادم الحرمين الشريفين عن عبدالله لأن من يريد خدمة الحرمين الشريفين لا يسعى ‏للاقتتال ولا للدماء ولا للفتنة ولا لحرب داخلية لبنانية.

‏ بقلم : شارل أيوب

April 13th, 2008, 4:24 pm


Qifa Nabki said:

Can somebody explain to me how we got on the subject of epistemology?

Wizart, are you in bot mode again?

April 13th, 2008, 4:29 pm


SimoHurtta said:

AIG do you argue your claim is true because it is caused by the “right” religion. Judaism is a religion as you know and Jews are followers of that religion (even you atheistic ones). Well if it is not the right religion what might be the cause? Jews are superior in intelligence compared to other “races” or what? Interesting to hear your answer.

Is the answer really democracy and free speech? If that would be the case, the amount of Jewish epistemolgists should in proportion of the population in those countries where they live and perform their studies.

Might the cause AIG be that Jews are generally good educated and often choose an academic carrier? Or might it be that Jewish scientists are in general more interested from that epistemology than other “lower races'” scientists.

AIG if I convert do Judaism, will I be good in epistemology?

April 13th, 2008, 4:39 pm


wizart said:


You’re kidding me. How can you argue with AIG about this subject which was in the article which you quoted without knowing how to finish your assignment.

Bot: big olive Tibky 🙂

April 13th, 2008, 4:40 pm


Alex said:

AIG, WIzart and Simo

Let us switch to any other, relevant, topic.

April 13th, 2008, 4:50 pm


Qifa Nabki said:

AIG, I responded to you via email.

I’m changing the subject now, as per Alex’s request.

New Topic: Why Lebanon is Better Than Syria

That’s what you had in mind, right Alex?

April 13th, 2008, 5:09 pm


Naji said:

BEAUTIFULLY put, Simo…!! You win, again…!!

When will they ever learn…?! 🙁 I am sure there is an important epistimological question there…!!

[Sorry Alex!]

April 13th, 2008, 5:12 pm


Alex said:

Qifa Nabki,

No, I was thinking more like:

Lebanon is one of the better parts of Syria.

April 13th, 2008, 5:21 pm


Naji said:

Alex wins…!

April 13th, 2008, 5:26 pm


Zenobia said:

Epistaciology is really the best. LOl. i love it!

April 13th, 2008, 5:48 pm


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Sim, Whatever you convert to, it won’t help you I am sorry to say. But you are invited to try. I argue that my claim is true because it is a fact. This is called reality.
And you got your answer from Wiz and Naji. The syrians know best and they believe epistemology is bull shit. But for some reason Wizart contradicts himself by first introducing the subject and then saying it is bull shit.
Well then Wizart, what do you not consider bull shitting and in what academic area does Syria excel? Really, I’d like to know if there is even ONE thing that Syria is in the major leagues in academically speaking? And if not, is it really Israel’s fault? I guess so, but please explain why. You are welcome to try also Naji. But as long as Syrians are happy who cares, right?

April 13th, 2008, 6:06 pm


Naji said:

Zeno, I agree… and we have a couple of other gems: 😀

Qifa Nabki said:

My what lovely curtains… Ho hum.

April 13th, 2008, 2:10 pm

wizart said:


Is this from Shakespear or are you picking up Arabic in Damascus?

… 😀

April 13th, 2008, 6:08 pm


Qifa Nabki said:

I didn’t actually understand Wizart’s question.

He’s very botty today.

April 13th, 2008, 6:23 pm


Naji said:

Isn’t that the point…?!
The Wiz is usually at his/her best in the bot mode… 🙂

I like to think of it as absurdist commentary on the human condition… quite profound…

April 13th, 2008, 6:35 pm


wizart said:


I think QN is in potty mode :??)

He is still trying to figure out which language to concentrate his skills at and since he still doesn’t have a driver license to chase Syrian women around Damascus with so he takes the easy “potty?!” way out by pestering another Israel gal on this all Naji Syrian blog 🙂

April 13th, 2008, 6:46 pm


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

You complement Wizart well. Right after Wizart says that philosophy is bullshit, you give him marks for philosophizing (yaani absurdist commentary).

I am still waiting for you to tell me what academic subject is not bs and Syria excels in. Is there ONE?

April 13th, 2008, 6:51 pm


wizart said:


I never said philosophy is bullshit since Arabs have some of the best and first philosophers in the world (you kind of have to do your homework on google and you’ll find out plenty) I did say indirectly and quite often before that Syria has more pressing priorities to deal with. Episooffmology is not one of them 🙂

I asked you a few questions before which you feel pressed to dodge as per your “facade” / crusade for human rights in Syria.

By the way Syria excels in having a culture to dream of and nothing beats its dynamic system of stability and the ability to walk around old town at night taking photos of 2000 year old structures!

If you change your mind someone might give you a visa to go there (like if you bring Lippy your foreign minister to take a real tour of Damascus that could perhaps maybe change her Episooftology attitude…………..or whatever she does to get you in denial.

April 13th, 2008, 7:13 pm


Alex said:

From The Jewish Chronicle this week

Syrians fondly recall time when Jews lived next door

By Heidi Kingstone

The houses stand empty in the abandoned Jewish quarter, Haret al-Yehud, just outside the walls of Damascus’s old city. Years of neglect have taken their toll and decay has seeped through. Plaster has fallen off in chunks and chicken wire has replaced glass where windows once opened on to vibrant streets.

An antique shop owner delivers an impromptu history lesson when I ask about a brass object with silver inlay. The detailed craftsmanship, he explains, was a speciality of the Jews who lived for generations with their Arab neighbours, sharing kitchens and bathrooms, courtyards and family occasions. They celebrated at each other’s weddings, merging together as Syrians. The man missed his old friends and colleagues who left in 1992 when the late President Hafez al Assad finally allowed them to.

“We were brothers after all,” he says. Dapperly dressed in a well-tailored grey suit, he walks around the sprawling shop full of Syria’s rich artistic heritage, much of it far too gaudy for western tastes.

“If they came back they could just open their front doors.” But those front doors have almost fallen off their hinges, and dust blows through eerily empty Taj al Hijaar Street.

Perhaps memory blurs the reality. According to Mitchell Bard, an American foreign policy analyst, “the Jewish Quarter was under constant surveillance by the secret police, who were present at synagogue services, weddings, barmitzvahs and other Jewish gatherings”.

The absence of politics as a topic of conversation in Syria is noticeable. Pictures of Bashar al Assad stare down from posters in shop windows and billboards on rooftops. His beady blue eyes and patchy moustache are constant reminders of who is in charge.

I am invited to the three-day wedding celebration of a friend’s cousin, where women with 1970s high hair, skinny stilettos and short skirts dance with men in square-toed shoes.

At the church, the women ululate as the priest presides over the Christian ceremony where the bride is encased in layers of flowing white polyester. She walks down an aisle lined with white tulle, wilting flowers and fake white doves. Guests collect the plastic blue roses when they leave.

In the room that doubles as dining room and bedroom, the bridegroom’s father shows off photographs from their days in “Occupied Palestine” and is soon calling me “my daughter”. When I leave, he asks if I am a good Christian. I just say no.

April 13th, 2008, 7:24 pm


Qifa Nabki said:


I am confused.

(a) What makes you think I am in Damascus?

(b) What makes you think I am learning Arabic?

(c) What makes you think I’m chasing Syrian women around?

April 13th, 2008, 7:40 pm


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:


Apparently you don’t read what you write. You wrote:
“I would explain it by knowing that “philosophy” is not a major preoccupation in Syria or in the Arab world. Sorry to disappoint you but the art of bulshiting is better practiced in your world.”

You explicitly said that philosophy is bull shit.

You are a walking oxymoron factory. Here is the new one:
dynamic system of stability

A culture to dream off? A culture in which 30% of women cannot read or write is a hellish culture. I love your the sky is green arguments.

And how about just letting the western press travel to all places in Syria and report what they want? Of course you do not approve of the most obvious way to learn the truth about Syria. Syria is not downtown Damascus just as Disneyland is not the US.

Do you ever worry that nothing you say makes sense?

And what about the question of what academic discipline Syria excels in? Do you have nothing to say about that?

April 13th, 2008, 7:46 pm


Naji said:

What an ugly person, this Heidi… with ugly eyes, deformed vision, a bleak heart and a hopeless outlook…!! Wallowing in her smugness, may she never revisit.

April 13th, 2008, 7:54 pm


Zenobia said:

Syrians excel at Poetry and Humor.

no question.

April 13th, 2008, 7:55 pm


wizart said:


What makes you think I thought so ?

Please think again in BOT / Potty mode!

Awaiting results of final proceedings the jury adjourns.

April 13th, 2008, 7:59 pm


T said:


So out of the racist’s own mouth, comes the truth. Yet if a non-Jew said the EXACT same thing- they’d be stamped anti-semitic? (Or sued)

Maybe like the UN official- banned outright from entry into the Territories to do his job? You hypocrite!
Breaking News

Israel shuns U.N. official over Nazi comparison
Published: 04/09/2008 JTA news agency

Israel is blacklisting a U.N. official who compared its crackdown on the Gaza Strip to the Nazis.

The Foreign Ministry in Jerusalem said this week it will refuse an entry permit to Richard Falk, who will become the new U.N. rapporteur on human rights in the West Bank and Gaza Strip in June, over a fierce critique of Israeli policies he made last year.

In an essay titled “Slouching Toward a Palestinian Holocaust,” Falk — described in media reports as a Jewish American law professor — likened Israel’s closure of Hamas-ruled Gaza to Nazi tactics.

Falk has stood by his statements, but has cautioned that they should not be taken literally. Rather, he said, they should be taken as a warning that the Jewish state must heed 20th century history in dealing with its Palestinian neighbors.

Israel withdrew from Gaza in 2005 and imposed sanctions after Hamas, an Islamist group sworn to its destruction, took over the territory and launched hundreds of cross-border rocket salvos.

The Foreign Ministry said it wants Falk to retract his Holocaust comparison and ensure that any report he issues on Israeli-Palestinian human rights violations include censure of the Gazan rocket attacks.

April 13th, 2008, 9:48 pm


wizart said:

Is OIL really expensive?

Take a look and compare?!!

Crude Oil (Brent) 118.50
Coca Cola 126.45
Milk 163.38
Snapple 237.72
Perrier Natural Mineral Water 300.61
Tropicana Orange Juice 307.44
Budweiser Beer 447.25
Scope Mouthwash 682.34
Starbucks Venti Latte 954.24
Ben & Jerry’s Chunky Ice Cream 1,609.44
Pinot Grigio Wine 2,117.75
Bertoli Olive Oil 2,370.71
Jack Daniels Old No. 7 Whiskey 4,237.63
Tabasco Pepper Sauce 6,155.52
Visine A.C. Eye Drops 39,728.64
FLONASE Nasal Spray 902,304.00
Chanel No.5 Parfume 1,666,560.00

April 27th, 2008, 7:02 pm


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