U.S. pressures Turkcell to abandon Syria deal & other Economic News - Syria Comment

U.S. pressures Turkcell to abandon Syria deal & other Economic News

Photo: Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert shakes hands with U.S. Treasury undersecretary for terrorism and financial intelligence Stuart Levey (R) March 4, 2007 in Jerusalem, Israel. (Photo by Moshe Milner/GPO via Getty Images)

U.S. pressures Turkcell to abandon Syria deal
Wed Apr 30, 2008 2:13pm BST
By Khaled Yacoub Oweis

DAMASCUS (Reuters) – The United States is putting pressure on Turkish mobile phone operator Turkcell to abandon a $1 billion takeover of a cellphone company owned by a Syrian tycoon targeted by U.S. sanctions, diplomats and Arab financiers said on Wednesday.

The U.S. Treasury Department is warning American investors in Turkcell TCELL.IS (TKC.N: Quote, Profile, Research), which is listed on the Istanbul and New York bourse, about the company’s plan to buy the leading Syrian operator Syriatel, they told Reuters.

Syriatel is at least 69 percent owned by Rami Makhlouf, the cousin of President Bashar al-Assad. Washington imposed high profile sanctions on Makhlouf in February for alleged involvement in public corruption in Syria as relations between the Damascus government and the United States plummeted.

“The U.S. Treasury communicated indirectly with U.S. investors in Turkcell to reconsider the deal and hinted that there could be legal implications of doing a business transaction involving a huge amount of dollars upfront with Rami Makhlouf,” one of the diplomats following the deal told Reuters.

The sanctions explicitly state no U.S citizen can do business with Makhlouf. Several Turkcell executives have American citizenship and hold shares in the company, industry sources said.

Makhlouf, 39, has denied the U.S. charges, saying he does not have assets in the United States and his businesses that employ thousands of Syrians are legitimate.

“America is serious about making the sanctions against Rami (Makhlouf) stick. The way the Treasury is applying the pressure is through whispering to investors’ ears,” said the diplomat.

Makhlouf, Syria’s most powerful businessman, stands to receive close to an estimated $1 billion in cash if the deal for Turkcell to buy most of his shares goes ahead. The U.S. pressure has contributed to the delay in the deal, the sources said.

Turkcell said this month that “any possible U.S. citizenship” by its management would not affect the talks, despite the sanctions against Makhlouf, which were imposed while the deal was being negotiated.

“We are aware of the situation between the United States and Syria. But since Turkcell is a Turkey-based company and there is no legal restriction on the purchase of Syriatel, the situation does not have any impact on the talks,” Turkcell said.

Sureyya Ciliv, Turkcell’s chief executive officer, said in late February that he had expected to complete talks with Syriatel in a month.

A senior Arab banker said the deal could still be signed after Turkcell negotiated a lower price following the sanctions on Makhlouf.

“The Americans have succeeded in delaying the deal, but it is still on,” the financier said.

STRATEGIC RAMIFICATIONS?

Gulf mobile operator Zain (ZAIN.KW: Quote, Profile, Research) has said it was also interested in buying Syriatel. Saad al-Barrak, Zain’s chief executive, last week described competition to acquire Syriatel as strong but he could not be drawn on the status of any talks.

A Turkcell-Syriatel deal would be one of the largest in the region’s telecom sector. The two companies say they have a majority share of the market in their respective countries.

Political stakes are also high. Syria has been rebuilding ties with Turkey strained by Syria’s support for Kurdish separatists a decade ago, and Turkey has been mediating to relaunch peace talks between Israel and Damascus.

Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan was in the Syrian capital on Saturday to open a large Syria-Turkish business forum. Makhlouf has said that a deal with Turkcell would further improve relations with Turkey.

High-level politicians from both countries have been consulted on the takeover, the diplomats said.

“The fate of this deal has strategic ramifications for relations between Syria and Turkey and the American-led drive to isolate Syria,” another diplomat said.

The United States imposed sanctions on Syria in 2004 for supporting anti-U.S. groups in the Middle East. The Treasury Department designated Makhlouf under an expansion of the sanctions announced in an executive order by President George W. Bush on February 13 as “a regime insider whom improperly benefits from and aids the public corruption of Syrian regime officials.”

The order freezes any assets Makhlouf holds under U.S. jurisdiction and forbids American citizens or entities from doing business with him.
[end]

Price of bread to remain unchanged: There is a political decision not to increase the price of bread and of basic food items, Prime Minister Naji Al-Otri said, amid growing concerns over spiralling food prices. Read

Economic Intelligence Unit: 29 Apr 2008

The Syrian government has revised upwards the official procurement prices for the country's main crops, notably wheat, in a bid to stimulate higher production and cut down on smuggling, as farmers and traders have been lured into taking advantage of higher prices in neighbouring countries. In the face of rising prices for most foodstuffs in local markets, the government has also slapped a ban on exports of tomatoes until the end of May.

These measures show that, even though Syria meets a large portion of its food requirements, with agriculture accounting for some 24% of GDP, it is by no means immune to the effects of global food inflation. Syria claims to be the only Arab country to be self-sufficient in wheat, and since 2001 has become a significant exporter of this staple crop. However, the last two harvests have been disappointing, as a result of poor weather conditions, and the government faces the risk of available domestic supplies being further constrained by smuggling as the fixed price paid to farmers has failed to keep pace with the rapid increase in international wheat prices. The cabinet accordingly announced on April 15th that the procurement price for hard wheat was to go up to S┬ú16,500 (US$360) per tonne and that for soft wheat to S┬ú16,000/t. The prices have been fixed for several years at Syp 11,800/t and Syp10,080/t respectively. Prices for barley and maize have beenvirtually doubled to Syp 11,800/t and Syp10,080/t respectively. Prices for barley and maize have beenvirtually doubled to S┬ú15,000/t, the cotton price has risen by 30% to Syp 35,000/t, and the price for sugar-beethas gone up by a similar margin to syp 3,500/t.

Prior to 2007 the price that Syria's state-owned General Establishment for Cereals Trade and Processing (Hoboob) paid to farmers for their wheat was comfortably above world prices. However, that situation has been turned around, and even with the latest increases the government procurement price is still some way short of the current world market price of some US$440/t. Farmers have been turning increasingly to private traders to buy their wheat, rather than selling to Hoboob. In announcing the new prices, the government said that it would seek to stamp out the activities of private wheat traders.

Syria's wheat production ranged between 4.7m t/y and 4.9m t/y between 2001 and 2005, but it slipped to about 4.2m tonnes in 2006 and to barely 4m tonnes last year. In the meantime, consumption has been rising fast, partly as a result of the influx of Iraqi refugees, and reached an estimated 4.7m tonnes in 2007. Syria has only been able to meet its export commitments through drawing on its stocks, which have shrunk from over 5.1m tonnes in 2005 to less than half that figure now. In 2007 Syria exported 1.2m tonnes of wheat to Egypt, Jordan, Iraq and Turkey, bringing in revenue of some US$270m, according to the government. Export volumes are likely to be significantly lower in 2008….

Mortgages for Syrians

Amlak Finance and Cham Holding Sign MoU to Launch Home Finance Solutions in Syria

Dubai, UAE, April 20, 2008 – Amlak Finance, the largest real estate financier in the Middle East, announced today the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with Cham Holding, with the objective of making available Amlak's innovative and pioneering home finance solutions in the Syrian market. The new venture, to be called "Amlak Finance Syria", marks another feat in Amlak 's ambitious expansion plans across the region, which is currently operational in Egypt, Saudi Arabia and will launch in 2008 in Jordan and Qatar.

"Syria has witnessed a major real estate boom in the past few years, and as a leading financier in the region we are delighted to announce our partnership with Cham Holding, in order to make available our innovative and pioneering home financing solutions and services in the Syrian market," said H.E. Nasser Bin Hassan Al-Shaikh, Chairman of Amlak Finance. "Amlak is swiftly gaining a solid ground in the region following its market leadership in the United Arab Emirates, which will ultimately re-enforce the company's strong brand positioning across the Middle East."

Regional investments into the Syrian economy, coupled with the government's introduction of a series of regulations to organize wealth sectors, notably the passing of Investment Law (10) and the drafting of the Real Estate and Mortgage laws, have placed Damascus as a regional center for real estate investment activities. All such positive factors led to a soaring 80% increase in real estate turnover in 2006, reaching US$50billion.

Commenting at the signing ceremony, Mr. Nabil Al Kouzbari, Chairman of Cham Holding, said: "The Syrian economy is one of the key emerging markets in the Middle East and North Africa region, and presents unprecedented growth opportunities. Our partnership with Amlak will result in great benefits to the Syrian citizens, and the Syrian real estate market will lend further momentum to our ambitious investment plans across the country."

According to Al-Shaikh, Cham Holding is "a key player and a reputable conglomerate in the Syrian market, and I am confident that our alliance will play a key role in the development of Syria's booming housing sector".

"The public sector is a red line that cannot be sold or privatized". Syria-News

Ehsani 2 writes: "I have news for MR. Usama Udai: "islah" or reforming this public sector WILL NOT WORK. Why on earth should the state be in the business of running 250 businesses from making biscuits to manufacturing car tires? What a hopeless case.

Exporting of tomatoes was banned for 45 days. As prices reached syp 60 a kilo internally, the government decided to ban exports. The end result is very unhappy farmers who clashed with police in Tartous (Syria-News)

Iraq and Syria have signed a transit agreement to expedite the transfer of imported food commodities from the Syrian ports by surface transport to the western provinces of Iraq, which are adjacent to the Syrian border. As part of the deal, Iraq will import Syrian products that are used in the rationing system in Iraq [which was established by Saddam Hussein to alleviate the impact of the international sanctions on Iraq in the 1990s but was kept in place by the subsequent Iraqi governments since the invasion in 2003].

Business Prevails
SYRIA | 28.04.2008
Oxfor Business Group
While political tensions are running high between the Syrian and Lebanese governments, it is a different story on the business front.
Both the Syrian state and the nation's business community have welcomed Lebanese companies. Nowhere is this enthusiasm more apparent than in the banking world. After Damascus's decision in 2001 to open up the sector, a number of overseas commercial and Islamic institutions have branched out into Syria in the past few years. Lebanese financial interests have benefited most from the new open door policy, with five separate Lebanon-based banks crossing the border and another two, Banque Libano-Française and the Bank of Beirut, having flagged their intention to join them.

The latest Lebanese entrant into the market, Fransabank Syria, has just conducted a highly successful initial public offering (IPO), after receiving a licence to operate in the Syria in April 2007.

Fransabank intends to start operations in the middle of this year, initially in Damascus, before expanding to Homs, Aleppo, Lattakia and Tartus.

In an interview with the Lebanese press on February 29, before the IPO, Kassar said the move into the Syrian market had not been affected by the possibility of increased US pressure on Syria.

"We have entered Syria because we saw a good opportunity in this market," he said.

Comments (115)


norman said:

The question that i have is , Would privatising the public Syrian companies open the Syrian economy to forign control and what can Syria do to prevent that , Any thought , Ehsani , Alex, QN , and all others , our Israeli friends who have more experience with free market can tell us about the rules in Israel.

May 1st, 2008, 1:59 am

 

Qifa Nabki said:

Norman,

That’s a good question. That depends on what you mean by “foreign control”, right? If you mean “sanctions”, then my feeling would be that privatization would have the opposite effect that you describe. By promoting decentralized and diffused ownership, it would make it more difficult to sink an economy by targeting the regime or those close to it.

But I know little about economics.

This is more my speed –> the article has a typo:

“The Treasury Department designated Makhlouf under an expansion of the sanctions announced in an executive order by President George W. Bush on February 13 as “a regime insider whom improperly benefits from and aids the public corruption of Syrian regime officials.”

May 1st, 2008, 2:04 am

 

norman said:

QN,

What i worry about is Gulf rich KSA or other forign investors having a good percentage of shares in Syrian companies and then controlling these companies ,and having monopoly, should there be a limit to ownership ?.

May 1st, 2008, 2:13 am

 

Rowan Berkeley said:

My own impression is that privatisation is always a prelude to the draining of the real assets overseas. It is the debt burden incurred by borrowing from the IMF and the World Bank that leads to these privatisations, since at a certain point, privatisation (i.e. sale of real assets to foreign investors) becomes a condition written into roll-over of the loans. Therefore, what you need to do is look at the debt status of the country, and you will find these roll-over agreements with their conditionalities already in place, almost certainly. Anyone who repudiates them will be tarred as a “rogue” and all sorts of international agreements will be revoked, so unless you (a) have oil, and (b) have the guts to sell outside the dollar system, you can be humbled.

May 1st, 2008, 2:20 am

 

Qifa Nabki said:

Many countries require 50.1% local ownership of businesses, silent partners, that kind of thing.

Maybe I’m naive, ya Ammo Norman, but I feel that encouraging foreign investment can only be a good thing for Syria, in the long run.

Plus, foreign ownership doesn’t have to mean monopolies. Currently the state has a monopoly on most industries, and this is not working to Syria’s interests.

May 1st, 2008, 2:21 am

 

Qifa Nabki said:

Rowan

I believe Syria’s debt status is nil, right Alex? Didn’t you say that they have significant cash reserves?

May 1st, 2008, 2:23 am

 

norman said:

Rowan , QN ,
Yes Syria’s debt is Nil which keeps Syria with independent mind and decision,

In my humble opinion , I think Syria should not change the status of the public companies that can act as a safety ,but should make it very easy for Syrians and others to start businesses with about 15% flat tax on profit, no tax on profit made by export and invested or deposited in Syrian banks , and duty free importation of factory machines and raw materials ,encouragement to go public to raise funds by giving some kind of extra tax break for Syrian majority owned companies .

May 1st, 2008, 2:31 am

 

norman said:

QN,
forign investments are good if they do not control enough of the economy and control the decision makings

May 1st, 2008, 2:45 am

 

ugarit said:

Norman said: “..start businesses with about 15% flat tax on profit, ”

I would rather see a lower flat tax rate but on *gross* earnings. This would guarantee taxes even if the company tries to scam the system as many US large corporations do. As an example Microsoft pays virtually no taxes.

I always wondered why persons in the US have to pay income taxes on their *gross* earnings but corporations don’t. Why can’t I claim expenses and pay only taxes on my net earnings? This is a rhetorical question. Personal tax exemptions are relatively insignificant in this discussion

I hope everyone knows that most large US corporations pay virtually no taxes because taxes are only paid on what remains after all claimed expenses are paid. The trick that most US companies play is to claim as many expenses as possible and hence virtually pay no taxes. One would hope that Syria would not permit such loop holes and would closely monitor the huge potential for corporate corruption.

There are many ways to scam the government and of course it citizens. These make for good reading:
http://www.theregister.co.uk/2000/10/16/it_giants_who_dont_pay_2/
http://www.fool.com/portfolios/rulemaker/2000/rulemaker000217.htm
http://www.crosscut.com/microsoft/11167/Microsoft's+%24528+million+Washington+tax+break/

May 1st, 2008, 3:00 am

 

Rowan Berkeley said:

Wow! No debt! No wonder USA hates you!

May 1st, 2008, 3:07 am

 

ugarit said:

Without debt an entity is harder to control. I would hope that Syria doesn’t get into the IMF/WB economy reengineering scheme of things. Since the US controls the IMF a country becomes beholden to the whims of the master.

May 1st, 2008, 3:13 am

 

trustquest said:

Before talking about privatizing the public companies, we should first look into the discrepancies created in the public domain by Syriatel. The communication sector was always with the government, and all of the sudden, given away to the cousin of the president creating open free market on its own without yet implementing the diversion to open market, this sudden change to private sector (based on nepotism reason and not planning), created chaos in the gradual converting into market economy. The hallmark of the chaos is that they can not apply the same rules to other sectors (like farmers, commerce or even the new companies and new entities). The state did not settle yet the question of the privatization ( to go to local of foreign investors) and Mr. Makhloof is doing his own thing negotiating with foreign Turkish company to sell the new telecommunication sector, and we know he is too powerful that the state have little to stop him. The question is not if should Syria privatize the public sector (the profitable and the non profitable) the question should be how long the system can hide his cronyism which on a scale that could create downfall to the system since it can not stand on legal feet. The telecommunication private sector created by Syriatel is an anomaly in the gradual change to market economy and the state can not afford to give away to foreign country in this phase of development. Selling this company is like selling ¼ of Syrian economy to a state not far ago was one of the enemies of Syria, as have been called by the same regime for the last 40 years. Actually, people been taught to think of Turkey as not a friendly country and the Turks always thought of Syria as an easy bite to swallow and regain control.

May 1st, 2008, 3:17 am

 

norman said:

Ugarit,

The problem with higher tax or tax on Gross income is that it will push companies to decrease gross income by accepting cash only transaction and avoid hiring people or investment in R and D , having estimated tax return done like in the US every three months certified by a public accountant will make it difficult to avoid paying taxes , having low tax rate and steep punishment will make it worthless to avoid paying taxes and risk jail.

May 1st, 2008, 3:17 am

 

norman said:

Ugarit,

It would be interesting if the sanctions that the US imposed on Makhloof will protect a big part of the Syrian economy from being sold to Turkey,

May 1st, 2008, 3:23 am

 

ugarit said:

Norman: “having estimated tax return done like in the US every three months certified by a public accountant will make it difficult to avoid paying taxes ,”

Are you kidding Norman? CPA’s work hard to claim as many corporate expenses as possible such that taxes are lowered, hence reduction of taxes every three months. I’m sure you know how complicated taxes are because corporate taxation is not on gross earnings? Corporate taxation on net earnings is of course by design.

Where is the evidence that taxes on gross earnings would reduce growth, R&D, etc? Do you reduce your personal income, research, productivity because you’re taxed on your gross income?

May 1st, 2008, 3:24 am

 

norman said:

Ugarit,

I can tell you my experience,
I have about 25 employees , i pay for their health insurance , i pay for a profit sharing and a defined benefit plan for me and them , without a deduction for these expenses i will be more inclined to keep everything for myself as spending on them will not make sense for me or my business , I still pay a lot in income tax and yes every three months ,

As a person you can deduct your morgage which is there to increase home ownership , you can deduct home equity lawn interest which you can use to buy a car or send your kids to college , you can also deduct state tax and municipal tax ,

I think that is a better System.

May 1st, 2008, 3:38 am

 

norman said:

Good Night.

May 1st, 2008, 3:40 am

 

ugarit said:

Norman:

Good night 🙂

The scam doesn’t work for small companies like yours. Imagine if every company has to pay on their gross earnings instead, let’s say 5% everyone would be on the same level playing field, while the method you favor will benefit the ones that can get a savvy CPA.

May 1st, 2008, 3:48 am

 

AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Since in Syria it would be very easy to bribe the IRS guy or local bureaucrat, your whole discussion is purely academic. You cannot collect taxes if there is no rule of law and no accountability.

May 1st, 2008, 5:16 am

 

Rowan Berkeley said:

oh, right – not like in Israel…

May 1st, 2008, 7:16 am

 

Akbar Palace said:

oh, right – not like in Israel…

Rowan Berkeley,

It doesn’t sound to me you know very much about Israel.

Israel’s judicial system is light years ahead of any other Arab country. Tax evaders and white collar criminals get punished at the highest level of government. Just ask Ariel Sharon’s son or Itzhak Rabin’s wife.

Example 1 – Israeli democracy in action:

http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-3538233,00.html

Meanwhile, back in Baathist Damascus:

http://www.memri.org/bin/latestnews.cgi?ID=SD191208

May 1st, 2008, 10:40 am

 

Rowan Berkeley said:

haha, he said politely

btw. i have moved a whole lot of posts about my personal needs to the front of my blog, so that you can ridicule them

May 1st, 2008, 10:46 am

 

SimoHurtta said:

The irony is that a Turkcell is a Nordic (TeliSonera), Turkish and Russian owned company. The biggest shareholder is TeliaSonera. On the other hand TeliSonera is on sale list, when the the Swedish and Finnish governments want to change their ownership to cash. Several telecom companies are fighting of TeliaSonera. At least French and Norwegian companies have shown their interest.

It is impossible to understand the US policy in this case. Wouldn’t it be in “western” interests to get Syrian telecommunication under a “western” control? The owners of SyriaTel hardly donate the payment to Hamas, Hizbollah or Iran.

It is interesting to notice how the free trade propaganda has lately dramatically diminished in the US and European politicians speeches. They have suddenly realized that the free trade works in “two ways”. Not only US and European can buy foreign assets, foreigners can buy their companies. Especially not so “friendly viewed” foreigners.

It also complete “bullshit” that European, US and even Israeli industries had been created and developed in complete free trade spirit. These industries have been created and flourished behind custom barriers, with state owned companies, standardization “differences”, price regulation etc. Free trade ideology is a relative new invention.

In future years we will see a dramatical U turn when western powers begin to protect their core industries. They will not allow Arabs, Chinese, Indians and Russians to buy their crown jewellery. Free trade was “fun” so long western companies had the upper hand, but now they are on defence.

The financial meltdown has made the game interesting. Now those who have cash (Arabs, China and Russia) can relative easily and cheaply buy the big financial institutions which are the real power centres of the industrial world.

—-

Since in Syria it would be very easy to bribe the IRS guy or local bureaucrat, your whole discussion is purely academic. You cannot collect taxes if there is no rule of law and no accountability.

That is pure BS AIG. In the situation of no rule of law and no accountability the collecting of taxes is the most easy thing. Then everybody with a kalashnikov can collect taxes. Like those IDF soldiers on the Palestinian checkpoints have “realized”. Any interesting looking or valuable gadget slips as a “tax” in the pocket of a heroic Jewish soldier. (security guaranty: I do not claim that all IDF soldiers steal (= collect illegal “taxes”) but many do.)

May 1st, 2008, 11:42 am

 

norman said:

Print | Close this window

Turkcell denies U.S. pressure against Syrian deal

Thu May 1, 2008 7:32am EDT
ISTANBUL (Reuters) – Turkey’s leading mobile operator, Turkcell TCELL.IS(TKC.N: Quote, Profile, Research), denied on Thursday there was U.S. pressure on the company to abandon a takeover of a Syrian operator, saying that the talks were continuing.

“The U.S. has put no written or spoken pressure on Turkcell or made such a statement … There is no warning on investment (in Syria),” said one Turkcell official, who declined to be named.

Diplomats and Arab financiers on Wednesday told Reuters the U.S. Treasury Department was warning American investors in Turkcell, which is listed on the Istanbul and New York bourse, about the company’s plan to buy leading Syrian mobile operator Syriatel.

Syriatel is at least 69 percent owned by Rami Makhlouf, the cousin of President Bashar al-Assad. Washington imposed high-profile sanctions on Makhlouf in February for alleged involvement in public corruption in Syria as relations between the Damascus and the U.S. plummeted.

Makhlouf, Syria’s most powerful businessman, stands to receive an estimated payment of close to $1 billion in cash if the deal for Turkcell to buy most of his shares goes ahead.

The U.S. sanctions on Syria explicitly state no U.S citizen can do business with Makhlouf. Several Turkcell executives have American citizenship and hold shares in the company, industry sources said in April.

U.S. pressure has contributed to the delay in the deal, the sources said.

(Reporting by Ercan Ersoy; Editing by Quentin Bryar)

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May 1st, 2008, 12:12 pm

 

AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Rowan,
Anything that Israelis tell you that does not fit your isoteric and narrow world view you dismiss without an argument or judge to be irony.

That you don’t realize that in Israel there is rule of law and a well functioning tax system shows just how ignorant you are of the situation on the ground. Israel is just miles ahead of any Arab country in this aspect and is on par with European countries. Take a look at the recent UN Human Develoment Index rankings:
http://hdr.undp.org/en/media/hdr_20072008_en_indicator_tables.pdf

Israel is the 23 most developed country in the world, right up there with the European countries. Also Israel has been invited to join the OECD, the club of the most economically advanced countries. So your “ha ha” is just lame cover up for lack of knowledge and prejudice about Israel.

May 1st, 2008, 12:26 pm

 

AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Sim,
You can claim what you want but it is just false. Your slander of Israeli soldiers is just a pure lie and prejudice on your side. Why don’t you back it with evidence? Please show us that “many” Israeli soldiers steal from Palestinians at checkpoints.

What I wrote about Syria is just the truth. You see, I do not invent things. I just wrote what Syrians had previously reported on this blog and in other places. Corruption is a major issue in Syria and without rule of law, you cannot collect taxes.

May 1st, 2008, 12:35 pm

 

AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

AP,
Thanks for the link.
Here is the video clip:
http://www.memritv.org/clip/en/1749.htm

I will let people decide for themselves if syrian culture is an oxymoron.

Alex,
How can you say that Syria wants peace with Israel if the Syrian government believes Israel will be gone in 10 years? How can you say that Syria wants peace if the Syrian minister of culture says that any contact with Israeli officials is an act of treason even if the syiran government does it?

May 1st, 2008, 12:52 pm

 

norman said:

AIG,

Freedom of speach.

May 1st, 2008, 1:13 pm

 

wizart said:

Simo,

Syrians pay indirect taxes and fees which are easier to collect so it’s based on consumption and for sure there can be abuses in any country although I suspect those in Gaza pay much more than their fair share. Not only that, the Israeli government routinely withholds funds due the Palestinians not to mention blockades on food and medicine.

AIG,

I don’t think you provided any evidence yourself to dispute the charges leveled against your corrupt, illegal and abusive government.

There’s also no evidence the video link you just provided doesn’t lead the reader to download some malicious key-logger software as a condition for reading that unrelated propaganda piece you posted.

May 1st, 2008, 1:22 pm

 

Akbar Palace said:

Norman said:

Freedom of speach [sic].

Norman –

Nice try. Let me correct you. It’s “freedom to demonize Israel”*;)

*Syrian Comment’s favorite passtime

Let’s see what happens when someone in the Baathist Utopia dares to criticize Syria.;)

May 1st, 2008, 1:36 pm

 

wizart said:

How to Avoid Cons

May 1, 2008; Page D1

When most people think about Internet security problems, they focus on viruses and spyware — technological attacks that can usually be mitigated by technological defenses. But the most insidious Internet security problems today rely on human gullibility, not tricky software. While technological defenses can help you fend off these newer types of attacks, your best weapons against them are common sense, alertness, and careful email and Web-surfing practices.

These types of attacks are called “social engineering,” and they are used by criminals to steal your money and identity, and to plant on your computer malicious software that can be used to keep ripping you off. Social engineering is the online equivalent of an old-fashioned con game, in which a crook frightens people with false warnings, or tempts them with false promises, and then robs them.

Walt Mossberg talks about internet security, specifically attacks called “social engineering,” which can be used to steal your money and identity.

While viruses and spyware overwhelmingly afflict Windows users and spare users of Apple’s Macintosh computers, social-engineering schemes can ensnare Mac users as well. There’s nothing inherent in Macs that makes their owners more resistant to falling for social-engineering scams.

The most common form of social engineering is called phishing, a one-two punch using both email and Web browsing to trick people into typing confidential information into Web sites that look like the sites of real companies, especially financial institutions. But these phishing sites are actually skillfully designed fakes that transmit your sensitive data to criminals, often in distant countries. Once these creeps have your passwords and account numbers, they can loot your funds and steal your identity.

Here are some tips to help you avoid being the victim of social engineering, updated from a similar column I wrote in 2006. It includes information on some antiphishing software that wasn’t available back then. But remember: Security software alone can’t save you from scams.

1. Never, ever click on a link embedded in an email that appears to come from a financial institution, even if it’s your own bank or brokerage and even if it looks official right down to the logo. The same goes for payment or auction services, like PayPal or eBay. Don’t do this even if the email asserts that your account has a problem, or that the bank has to verify your information. And certainly don’t enter any passwords, Social Security numbers or account numbers directly in an email.

These types of emails are almost always fakes, and the links they contain almost always lead to phony Web sites run by criminals. The only exception might be a confirmation email from a brokerage firm concerning a trade you know you made minutes before. Even legitimate-looking addresses in emails or in the address bar of Web browsers can be fakes that hide the crooks’ true Web addresses. The lock icon on a Web site can also be falsified.

If you are truly worried about your account, call the bank or company, or go to its Web site by manually typing in its address or by using a well-established bookmark in your browser that you created yourself.

2. Don’t click on links to offers for free software or goods that you receive in an email, especially from a sender or company you’ve never heard of.

3. Never download software from unfamiliar Web sites unless you are absolutely sure you need it and it’s legitimate. Even if it claims to be a useful program, it may very well be a malicious application like a “key logger,” which can report back to crooks everything you type into your computer. If you really want the program, do a Web search on it first, to see if others have reported it as a malicious fake.

4. If a Web site tells you that you need to download special viewing software to see its videos, don’t do it. Even if it claims to be giving you legitimate viewing software, like Microsoft’s Silverlight, Adobe’s Flash or Apple’s QuickTime, don’t download it there. Go to the official Microsoft, Adobe or Apple Web sites to get these viewers.

5. Use a Web browser, like Internet Explorer 7 on Windows, or Firefox 2.0 on Windows or Mac, that includes built-in features to warn you about, or block access to, known phishing sites. The next versions of these two browsers will have even stronger features that will detect sites that are not only fake, but which are known to distribute malicious software.

Unfortunately, the third major browser, Apple’s otherwise excellent Safari for Mac and Windows, lacks any such antiphishing detection, though I expect Apple to add the feature in a future version. So, for now, Mac users worried about phishing should rely on Firefox.

6. Consider security software that tries to detect and block phishing sites. McAfee’s free Site Advisor and paid Site Advisor Plus products do a good job. Symantec has similar features built into its large security suites, Norton 360 2.0 and Norton Internet Security 2008.

7. Educate yourself by reading about social engineering and phishing and how to avoid being a victim. Microsoft has a very good guide at: microsoft.com/protect/yourself/phishing/identify.mspx and Symantec has one at: symantec.com/norton/clubsymantec/library/article.jsp?aid=cs_phishing.

Follow these tips and you’ll be a happier — and safer — surfer.

May 1st, 2008, 1:39 pm

 

AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Norman,
What do you mean?

Wizart,
The clip is from the well known memri site and is an interview with the Syrian minsiter of culture. There is nothing malicious behind it but I understand why you would feel uncomfortable at having Syrian “culture” exposed. For convenience here is the link again:
http://www.memritv.org/clip/en/1749.htm

Why don’t we discuss what the minister has to say? Do you support him?

May 1st, 2008, 1:40 pm

 

wizart said:

AIG,

Syria is a living museum of history and human culture.

Just for your information: (source is the Wall Street Journal)

4. If a Web site tells you that you need to download special viewing software to see its videos, don’t do it. Even if it claims to be giving you legitimate viewing software, like Microsoft’s Silverlight, Adobe’s Flash or Apple’s QuickTime, don’t download it there. Go to the official Microsoft, Adobe or Apple Web sites to get these viewers.

I’m sure people have heard of the Wall Street Journal. You and Memri can go fishing all day long and enjoy another hell of a coast day as you keep promoting, aiding and assisting more atrocities in Gaza today.

May 1st, 2008, 1:50 pm

 

AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Wizart,
People can listen directly to what the Syrian culture minister has to say and decide for themselves. Trying to brand memri as a phishing site shows your desparation. Why are you so uncomfortable with the truth? It can only help you improve.

http://www.memritv.org/clip/en/1749.htm

Now, instead of attacking the site, why don’t you address the message of the your minister? What do you think about it?

May 1st, 2008, 1:56 pm

 

Rowan Berkeley said:

AIG is sounding a lot like “Friend In America” today. It’s funny, because I had put a note on my own blog about how people should come here and watch the “would-be expert propagandists,” then I took it off because it seemed unfair. An “expert propagandist” is my own term for someone who is still a propagandist but tries to blind you with what LOOKS like expert knowledge. I also have a category of people I call “expert disinformationalists,” which is similar but more systematic and planned, where they have a specific task, to plant a specific idea.

Also, the fact that it’s “Holocaust Day” will make these guys extra rigid.

p.s. – whoever recommended Lisa Goodman’s blog – it’s nice, but I noticed that she didn’t let me link back to my own blog. Given that she is probably aware of the stuff I post on Haaretz talkbacks, it isn’t too surprising, I suppose. But she did let me post my question, which was asking who is the girl rapper who sings with Hadag Nachash. There’s always an angle I can come in on, you know.

May 1st, 2008, 2:00 pm

 

AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Rowan,
Enough mumbo jumbo and insinuations. If you think anything I posted is not true, just show it to be so. I have made several concrete claims. If you think any are false lets discuss. But general dismissals without addressing concrete points just expose what a light weight you are and that you are not willing to really tackle the issues.

May 1st, 2008, 2:07 pm

 

AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Bondo,
Thank you for reminding everyone, especially today, why a Jewish state is essential for the well being of Jews.

May 1st, 2008, 2:31 pm

 

Qifa Nabki said:

The memri clip is actually quite amusing.

I love the guys they put in charge of the soft ministries, like information, culture, etc., all around the Arab world.

They’re usually so slimy.

May 1st, 2008, 2:41 pm

 

AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Bondo,
Don’t worry your little mind about it. Most people understood what I wrote. Thank you again.

May 1st, 2008, 2:54 pm

 

wizart said:

A Humanist Manifesto Turns Seventy-Five
by Fred Edwards
Published in the Humanist, May/June 2008

Adolf Hitler was appointed chancellor of Germany in January, Franklin Delano Roosevelt was inaugurated as president of the United States in March, Mohandas Gandhi carried out a hunger strike in May on behalf of the lower castes of India, the Vatican signed an accord with the Nazi regime in July, physicist and humanist Leó Szilárd conceived of the nuclear chain reaction in September, and the Twenty-first Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, repealing Prohibition, went into effect in December. This was 1933, a watershed year in history when both humanistic and anti-humanistic trends were sprinting from opposing starting lines, heading on a collision course that would transform the world by mid century.

In the midst of this, on May 1, 1933, A Humanist Manifesto was released under the auspices of the New Humanist, the predecessor magazine to the Humanist.

The document wasn’t prescient. It didn’t foretell the coming global struggle that would force the world to lose what remaining innocence it had. Rather, this statement of seventy-five years ago was an expression of a scientific and technological optimism, and the spirit of social reform and revolution that had been growing since the middle of the nineteenth century. It was also a culmination of liberalizing traditions within American religion, as blended with popular freethought and deepened by early twentieth-century innovations in philosophy. This first humanist manifesto–comprised of fifteen affirmations on cosmology, biological and cultural evolution, human nature, epistemology, ethics, religion, self-fulfillment, and the quest for freedom and social justice–delineated the leading ideas and aspirations of its day.

But the document also marked humanism’s coming of age. For the first time the new movement, which had settled on its name only around the end of World War I, articulated its central, unifying principles and launched them into the larger society as the formulation for a new, non-theological religion. To this day, A Humanist Manifesto is reprinted in standard textbooks on religion and philosophy.

Even so, the declaration that first made humanism manifest also shows a naiveté that prevents it from aging well. As Humanist Manifesto II of 1973 states boldly in its preface:

It is forty years since Humanist Manifesto I (1933) appeared. Events since then make that earlier statement seem far too optimistic. Nazism has shown the depths of brutality of which humanity is capable. Other totalitarian regimes have suppressed human rights without ending poverty. Science has sometimes brought evil as well as good. Recent decades have shown that inhuman wars can be made in the name of peace. The beginnings of police states, even in democratic societies, widespread government espionage, and other abuses of power by military, political, and industrial elites, and the continuance of unyielding racism, all present a different and difficult social outlook. In various societies, the demands of women and minority groups for equal rights effectively challenge our generation.

But these points show only that the task of bringing the original humanist vision to fruition proved far more difficult than at first imagined. Yet the commitment expressed in A Humanist Manifesto–that the quest for a good life here and now remains the central task of human beings–represents a significant achievement for its time. And it remains worth keeping, developing, and fostering. For what humanist could disagree with the manifesto’s general tenor, well encapsulated in the concluding article fifteen?

Though values have since been added to the humanist principles set forth in the first manifesto, and while the overall philosophy has been further universalized and secularized, the thirty-four signers of 1933 would not only recognize their humanism in the humanism of today, they would embrace it–as indeed they embraced those evolutionary changes they witnessed during their lifetimes.

—————————————————————
Question: Why did this Humanism movement start to take shape just around the Holocaust and how does it reflect on people’s views on religion in Europe at that time?

May 1st, 2008, 2:54 pm

 

Rowan Berkeley said:

Wizart, “humanism” as a political force in western states goes back to about 1800, but it always just ends up as a faction in liberal capitalist coalitions. This is because it has to slot itself into the overall political spectrum somewhere, and it always ends up trading off its socialist aspects in order to join the dominant large bloc of ‘free-enterprise’ liberals opposed to monarchic and state-religious establishments. Britain is a classic example, and I think you will find the same constellation of forces everywhere that British-originated ideas about constitutional government have been implanted. The former French colonies are slightly different, in that secularism was part of the French Revolution, which was a REAL revolution, but since then the British and French systems have pretty much converged in this respect, I think.

May 1st, 2008, 3:07 pm

 

Qifa Nabki said:

I have a question for my Syrian colleagues. (This relates tangentially to what AIG was asking earlier).

Is it possible that different elements within the Syrian regime are pushing different agendas, vis-a-vis peace vs. resistance, reforms vs. status quo, etc.? Could this explain the mixed signals?

Israel is sending mixed signals too, everyday, but Israel is a democracy made up of political parties that promote agendas that are often radically different. So it’s easier to explain schizophrenic behavior, on Israel’s part. Less so, with regard to Syria.

However, when Hariri was killed, one of the theories that was floated around was that he may have been taken out by some person or group within the Syrian establishment, but without Bashar’s knowledge or approval. This suggests (if you buy this theory, which I don’t) that the regime is not monolithic.

What do you think? Or better yet, what do Syrians living in Syria think? They hear their president saying that he wants peace with Israel, and they hear their Minister of Culture saying that Israel would be no more within 10 years.

In Lebanon, such schizophrenia is par for the course; we’re used to it (and secretly like it). What about Syria?

Thoughts?

May 1st, 2008, 3:11 pm

 

wizart said:

Rowan,

Thanks for your comment. Perhaps you’re correct although in my question I was more interested in reflecting on how people looked at organized religion and how it affected their daily lives especially in Germany at that time which was mostly Jews and Christians.

I’ll repeat my question from the bottom of my last post:

Why did this Humanism movement start to take shape just around the Holocaust and how does it reflect on people’s views on religion in Europe at that time?

May 1st, 2008, 3:18 pm

 

Nour said:

This is the former Israeli minister of tourism:

Ze’evi publicly advocated the population transfer by agreement of 3.3 million Palestinians from the Israeli-occupied West Bank and Gaza to Arab nations. According to Ze’evi, this could be accomplished by making the lives of Palestinians so miserable they would relocate, by use of military force during wartime, or through an agreement with Arab nations.[3] Ze’evi first called for the expulsion speaking to the Moshe Dayan Political and Social Forum in Tel Aviv in July 1987, stating then it would be a voluntary transfer and that it was the only way to make peace with the Arabs. After the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait in 1990, Ze’evi advocated the expulsion of Palestinians to the east side of the Jordan River, where they could serve as a human shield should the Iraqi Army seek to attack Israel.

In a radio interview in July, 2001, Ze’evi claimed that 180,000 Palestinians worked and lived illegally in Israel, then referred to them as “a cancer” and said that “We should get rid of the ones who are not Israeli citizens the same way you get rid of lice”

Ze’evi believed that Israel’s more than 1 million citizens of Arab ethnicities should not be allowed to vote because they do not serve in the army. He also wanted Israel to lay claim to the country Jordan because it historically belonged to the Tribes of Israel – Gad, Reuven, and Menashe, and believed visitors to Israel must speak Hebrew.

Binyamin Elon, who has been leading the Moledet party ever since Ze’evi’s murder, has argued that Ze’evi did not hate Arabs.

Ze’evi himself often explained, since 1987 when he first announced the transfer plan and onwards, that he only intended to promote voluntary transfer of the Arab population in the West Bank, not forced actions. Ze’evi believed that this was the only way to promote peace with the Arab nations and to spare further bloodshed. He proposed to provide money incentives for the Palestinians to leave.

Ze’evi was also the cause of diplomatic rows. Serving as Minister without Portfolio, he called US President George H. W. Bush an “anti-Semite” during a Cabinet meeting in September 1991. In 1997 he called US Ambassador to Israel, Martin Indyk, who is Jewish, a “Jewboy”, and challenged him to a fistfight.

___________________________________________________________________

This goes to show you how much “culture” Israel has.

May 1st, 2008, 3:19 pm

 

Nour said:

QN,

I believe that the Syrian regime knows that Israel is not going to give them anything; and if it does it’s going to be at a very high price. However, Syria knows that it has to play the game right. Syria does not want to be pulled into a “peace” process unless it is surely getting something in return. Therefore, Assad decided to put everything out into the open in order to put the ball in Israel’s court. He is challenging Israel to prove that it is serious about returning the Golan Heights, and making it clear that he will not enter into negotiations without any guarantees that the Heights will be returned to Syria. However, knowing full well that Israel does not intend to return the Golan, Assad is merely trying to show that the lack of peace is due to Israel’s position, not Syria’s.

May 1st, 2008, 3:27 pm

 

Qifa Nabki said:

Nour,

Was he the one who came up with the new motto for Israel’s tourism ad campaign? I find it rather nauseating.

“Israel: No One Belongs Here More Than You”

May 1st, 2008, 3:37 pm

 

Alex said:

AIG said:

Alex,
How can you say that Syria wants peace with Israel if the Syrian government believes Israel will be gone in 10 years? How can you say that Syria wants peace if the Syrian minister of culture says that any contact with Israeli officials is an act of treason even if the syiran government does it?

—–
first,

Wizart,

Over the past few months “someone” already loaded all my websites with spying code, and subjected some of them to DOS attacks, and since I have been receiving 30,000 spam emails per day (true), and since my two computers suddenly got their hard drive’s boot sector corrupted (A PC and a new Mac, can’t be the same virus) … But I am sure all this is random bad luck the past few months 🙂

So I accessed Memri to watch that video clip.

AIG,

If yo ask that minister “your own president stated 65 times in one year that he wants peace with Israel and to live side by side with Israel .. how can you contradict him?” … he will probably reply with something like “this is only my personal opinion. Israel will disappear in ten years, because it is an Apartheid state. It will become one nation for Jews, Muslims and Christians”

As I told you before, I used to live in Egypt at the time of the Camp David Accords (I was 12). When Sadat shocked everyone (even members of his own government) with his 180 degree flip, everyone got confused … somehow within one week those ministers who used to speak about the Zionist enemy quickly switched to “seeking peace is part of our religious duties”. It was quite silly at times.

That was Egypt in 1977. You will not have that with Syria in 2008.

Depending on what we see from Israel .. actions, not words, Syria’s language will be moving gradually towards more believing in peace with Israel, or away towards losing hope in Israel’s intentions and in Israel’s ability to live in peace in the long run in our region.

Assad will not, overnight, silence all those who still do not trust Israel. He will not kick them out of government and out of the army …

The same way 70% of Israelis do not trust Syria, and do not want a deal with Syria, there is some unknown but large segment in Syria that does not trust Israel and/or does not want peace with Israel.

Assad, and some others in Syria, Israel and elsewhere, believe that many of those who are resisting peace today will change with time … over few years, if everything is carefully planned and if nobody’s rights and security and aspirations are ignored.

Things take time when you deal with tens of millions of people .. you can not, and you should not flip any switch that shuts off any segment… that would be artificial change, not real change.

Israel will have to earn the desired real change in Arabs’ attitudes.

Until then, that “minister of culture” will continue to represent what many writers and thinkers in Syria believe. Our “intellectuals” are often ex-communists, socialists, baathists, Naserists, revolutionaries … leftists. So, this minister comes from that group.

“THe Syrian Regime” is not democratic, but it does represent most groups …who do not want to overthrow the regime.

Don’t worry, the same way Olmert is for now tolerating this minister’s words, Bashar is tolerating many unfriendly statements from many Israeli ministers.

May 1st, 2008, 3:39 pm

 

Qifa Nabki said:

Nour, Alex:

Thanks, good answers.

May 1st, 2008, 3:43 pm

 

AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Nour,
And this is what is great about Israel. We know exactly how many Israelis supported him and his policies by voting for him (Moledet currently has 2 MK’s out of 120).

What is also great about Israel is that Ze’evi got a huge amount of criticism in the Israeli papers and media in general. Has anyone criticized the Syrian minister of “culture” in Syria? I didn’t think so.

Thank you for highlighting the huge differences between the two countries.

May 1st, 2008, 3:44 pm

 

Shai said:

Nour,

The problem is far more complex. When you say “Israel does not intend to return the Golan”, are you referring to Ehud Olmert, Ehud Barak, people that are still supporting Yitzhak Rabin’s “deposit”, all Israelis? Bashar understands that today, until a national referendum is voted into a law, Olmert can actually give back the Golan without asking his people. That would be political suicide for him, unless he was able to persuade them in advance that the deal is worth it. But the safe assumption is that Olmert will not be able to close a deal anytime soon (even if he wanted to), and that a national referendum would indeed be required when the time comes. At the moment, some 70% of Israelis are against the return of the Golan (or the West Bank for that matter).

I think Bashar and the Syrian leadership is not only trying to call the Israeli leadership’s “bluff” (if there is one), but if there isn’t, they’re trying to help create a serious public discourse about the Golan in Israel. This discourse has been, for all practical purposes, nonexistent in the past 8 years. In order to change public opinion in Israel (and we need to change about 20-30% over), such discourse is the minimal prerequisite. Syria understands this, and they’re in essence helping us out. But you should realize that there is no “one Israel”, when it comes to the Syrian-Israeli conflict. We are not united on our views about Syria, nor about the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. I still believe we can, with a lot of hard work, change enough back over to where they were in Rabin’s days.

May 1st, 2008, 3:47 pm

 

AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

QN,
What is nauseating about;
Israel: No One Belongs Here More Than You

It is a great slogan and can be interpreted in different ways by christians, jews or muslims. It sounds true for everyone.

I would doubt it if was Ze’evi’s invention as he was murdered by the Palestinians in 2001.

May 1st, 2008, 3:52 pm

 

AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

QN,
A simpler explanation is that Syria is trying to eat its cake and have it too. On the one hand it wants to reduce pressure on itself by looking to the West as if it is pursuing a peace process but on the other hand it still wants to portray itself as the leader of the “resistance”. With satteltite TV, this charade can be played for only so long. Many Lebanese are asking, if Syria is allowed to negotiate for the Golan, why does Lebanon have to fight for Sheba and suffer the consequences? They are getting no good answers.

May 1st, 2008, 3:58 pm

 

Qifa Nabki said:

AIG

Israel is not putting up posters with that slogan on it in Arabic, in Gaza and the West Bank. They’re putting it in the Sunday NYT Magazine, and other mainstream American urban media.

The “you” doesn’t refer to Palestinians. It refers to the biggest pools of prospective tourists: American Jews and evangelical Christians.

With this in mind, and given the context of the conflict and its history, such a slogan is in very bad taste to say the least. Tourism slogans don’t usually talk about “belonging”… they normally sell the idea of a utopic trip, a visit, a break from the ordinary. This slogan talks about “belonging”, which is a highly contentious subject in the context of Israeli-Palestinian history.

It seems to say: “Those others people, the ones you see on TV in bombed-out buildings… yeah, they don’t belong here any more than you, so come… come to the place where you belong!”

Extremely cynical.

May 1st, 2008, 4:02 pm

 

Alex said:

AIG,

Syria is at the center of the resistance camp .. Nasrallh and Mashal and Khamenai are all satisfied with that part. But Syria is resisting Israel’s occupation of Arab lands that Israel invaded in 1967 … exactly what the UN calls for.

Once Israel is ready to do also respect UN resolutions, Syria will resign from the resistance camp … we had enough fun resisting the past few decades.

Hizbollah, Hamas, and Iran all know that Syria is only going that far… until Israel is ready to respect and implement all UN resolutions… not only the ones concerning Syria, but the others as well.

There is no eating cakes and having it too … but if you are sure this is the case, there is a simple way to expose Syria’s hypocrisy … do the right thing and see if Syria still insists on staying in the resistance camp.

May 1st, 2008, 4:11 pm

 

Rowan Berkeley said:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Dewey

wizart – you need to bear in mind that marxism and atheism were regarded as unamerican.

May 1st, 2008, 4:13 pm

 

AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

QN,
Why are you jumping to conclusions? The “you” refers to anybody reading the ad be they muslims, jews or christians.

What is cynical about it? The Judeo-Christian tradition is tightly connected to the land of Israel. Most Christians see themselves as the New-Israelites and Paul clearly preaches as much in the New Testament. It is smart to try to create an emotive feeling from the readers of the ad to draw them to a place. It is not more cynical than any other form of advertising.

And all the stuff about excluding other people, how do you find that in the slogan? And how do you jump to the conclusion that the slogan implies that one person belongs more than another? Sorry QN, you are reading too much into this.

May 1st, 2008, 4:13 pm

 

wizart said:

Nour,

Thank you for making it clear that Israel’s national character as represented by its highly paid “diplomats and ministers” still can’t measure up to the word culture.

This may also reflect AIG’s latest desperation in attacking Syria’s culture today. A culture in the making for only a few thousand years compared to his country’s uncultured 60 year of occupation.

If their ministers and Ambassadors are Jewboys ready for fist fights as they admit it to themselves, is it any wonder why they keep acting like adult children when it comes to solving real life problems?

Alex,

That number is amazing. Glad you’re able to handle the load!

QN,

I agree. Very tasteless and uncivilized slogan from Israel.

May 1st, 2008, 4:16 pm

 

Nour said:

QN,

I was meaning to respond to one of your prior posts, but I was a little busy.

I just wanted to clarify that with respect to Lebanon, I too have an optimistic viewpoint. I didn’t want you to misunderstand me. I definitely believe in my people and that eventually we will achieve our goals and build a viable state. In fact, one of the things that I found encouraging is that the Lebanese people refused to allow the country to descend into civil war, even though there were many incidents which could have easily led to such a scenario in previous years. However, I do hold the opinion that true change is not going to come with the traditional leaders, but in spite of them. I believe those sectarian/tribal leaders will resist change as much as they can, but with time, it’s going to be forced upon them, because the people will one day wake up and see that those leaders have led them to nothing but one disaster after another.

May 1st, 2008, 4:19 pm

 

ausamaa said:

Just wondering.

What would happen if Syria announces tomorrow that it has changed its mind and that it does not want to seek peace with Israel and that the only way to regain its rights would be through force as those lands and rights were taken away by force?

What would Israel, Bush and the Arab moderates do in such a case? And what more can we lose if we sought such a course. What would they do to Syria that they are not doing now?

Why dont we just cut the all this BS and see how quick the Israelies and their covert allies would run to seek peace with us as they used to do in the old days when we were sayig no? What would they really do that they are “capable” of doing and not doing already?

Accuse us of being Terrorists and Agressive?

Accuse us of being a rouge state?

Bomb Damascus International Airport?

Impose sanctions?

Bomb Deir al Zour again?

Stop the “flow” of foreign investment?

Attack Syria after they finish off (LOL) Hizbulah and Hamas?

Demonize Syria more than they are doing now.

Sometimes, I think that things will eventually come down to this no matter what.

Just wondering!!!!

We have been saying we want PEACE for the last two decades, how would a change affect the whole scenary?

And please, dont tell me that Syria can not do that because the price would be steep. If war breaks out, the price will be steep for everyone. And dont tell me Israel will walk all over Syria if war breaks out; if Israel could, it would have done it years ago. Peace or No Peace.

Just a thought!

May 1st, 2008, 4:19 pm

 

Nour said:

AIG,

The bottom line is that you took one interview with a Syrian government official and used it to make a sweeping judgment of Syrian culture. But when I used the same method to judge “Israeli” culture, you came back and defended the act by claiming that people in Israel did not all support the Minister of Tourism. In other words you shift standards and criteria as you see fit. If you can draw such conclusions about Syrian culture based on the statements of one of its ministers, then shouldn’t we be able to do the same with “Israel?”

May 1st, 2008, 4:23 pm

 

wizart said:

How do we say enlightenment in Hebrew? Perhaps “israelis” need some of that Nour in their lives especially on a special day for them.

May 1st, 2008, 4:38 pm

 

AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Alex,
Ok, I’d like to call the Syrian bluff. Where can I find the official peace plan the Syrians are proposing to Israel?

Why can’t the syrian government put something concrete in writing for the Israeli public to discuss?

May 1st, 2008, 4:40 pm

 

ausamaa said:

AIG

What if someone wants to call ISRAEL’s bluff Hizbullah-style? They are -Hizbullah- still there with more rockets than they had before july 2006. Despite UNSC 1559, 1701 and the rest???

May 1st, 2008, 4:45 pm

 

Rowan Berkeley said:

I just KNOW the zionists are going to LOVE this – a mailing list I was on sent me a long self-important communiqué, signed by all the Anglo-Jewish leftists from Harold Pinter down, and precisely as I said when talking about punk culture versus leftist highbrow novelist culture, I sent it back with an “unsubscribe” note on it:
http://niqnaq.wordpress.com/2008/05/01/elitist-waste-of-space-and-newsprint/

May 1st, 2008, 4:47 pm

 

AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Nour,
Let’s compare apples to apples. Let’s compare what Ze’evi said and how the Israeli press and media treated him and let’s compare that to what this “culture” minister said and the reaction to it in Syria. It is in line with what the response was to what Tlass said about Jews killing christian children for their rituals. Nobody said a word against it. All the media and people were supportive. The difference between the two cultures is obvious for anyone to see. One is an open culture that fosters internal debate and the other is a closed culture that accepts any crap the government throws at it.

May 1st, 2008, 4:47 pm

 

AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Ausamma,
If you think we are bluffing, by all means call our bluff.
What is the situation now:
1) Israel has the Golan and a peaceful border with Syria.
2) Israel has the Sheba farms and a peaceful border with Lebanon. Coming on two years Hizballah have done nothing.

Israel does not need more than that. You think Hizballah or Syria attacking Israel would help your cause? Go for it. The way I see it, Israel is sitting pretty and has Syria and Hizballah exactly where it wants especially with the anti-missile systems that Israel is developing. If you don’t attack soon, you may never be able to attack so I suggest you do something in the near future.

May 1st, 2008, 4:52 pm

 

wizart said:

AIG,

Not sure you deserve much enlightening moments really for your nagging. I remember when I questioned you about Israel’s strategy for peace only to tell me you don’t believe in formulating one! back then I took you seriously. You’ve been exposed several times before and you wonder why Syrians don’t trust people like you with no culture of responsibility and nothing offered from you except hot air and bluffs.

May 1st, 2008, 5:01 pm

 

why-discuss said:

AIG

Except that Israelis live in fear ( Iran, Hamas, Hezbollah, demography etc.) and they build shelters more than they build settlements. If this is what you want for your children, then be it…

May 1st, 2008, 5:08 pm

 

ausamaa said:

AIG,

Nasrallah did. Did he not? Remember? And all those IAF choppers shufling wounded Israeli soldiers back and forth to hospitals!And the two Israeli POWs still in Hizbullah hand. And…, he lived not only to tell about it, but also to promise you more of the same sjould you try again and he is still keeping the IAF and the IDF endlessly awake at night…! A State of Hightend Alert as your Debka site like to call it.

May 1st, 2008, 5:12 pm

 

AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Wizart,
You are just lying. At the request of QN I formulated a concrete peace proposal for peace with the Palestinians and my view on Syria is very clear. I am for Israel giving the Golan to a democratic Syria as a gesture of goodwill. But not before Syria is a democracy.

Why,
Israelis do not live with fear because we control our own destiny and do not have Arabs or Europeans telling us what to do.

Ausamaa,
I remember everything. The fact is that Hizballah has been afraid to do anything the last two years. The border with Lebanon is quiet. Syria did nothing after being attacked and after the assasination of Mugniyeh. Tourism in Northern Israel is booming. Does not look to me that Israelis are scared. Israel cannot ask for more. If you think Hizballah and Syria should attack then go for it. Don’t threaten, act. All this rhetoric does is amuse Israelis but scare Lebanese shitless.

May 1st, 2008, 5:21 pm

 

wizart said:

AIG,

That doesn’t look like a viable plan which might be one reason I don’t remember it. You’re resorting to name calling because you have no real plans you can admit to. You don’t control shit if your own children you’ve stripped out of their humanity by persistently being inhumane yourself with the rightful owners of that “promised land” that you help yourself into everyday.

May 1st, 2008, 5:37 pm

 

Nour said:

AIG,

First of all, which part of the Culture Minister’s interview exactly do you want criticized?

Second, you repeatedly make this nonsensical argument. Israel massacres Palestinians, but it’s ok because some Israelis speak out against it. “Israeli” officials call Palestinians “lice” and “cockroaches,” but no problem, Haaretz ran an article denouncing the use of those terms. “Israel” bulldozes Palestinian homes and uproots their orchards, but hey, we have organizations that speak out against this type of behavior. In other words, anything and everything “Israel” does is beyond criticism merely because you claim to have people speaking out against it. Well, what difference does that make? How does that make the victims feel better? Would it have made you feel better if some Germans condemned Nazi Germany’s treatment of Jews? The bottom line is that the “Israeli” government continually and consistently engages in oppressive actions and makes racist statements, and this hasn’t changed one bit. So why should I care that there are “Israeli” publications printing articles that offer criticism of the “Israeli” government?

May 1st, 2008, 5:45 pm

 

AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Wizart,

You are such a whiner. You want to fight against Israel but you complain about how Israel treats its enemies. By any standard, Israeli society is the most just and most enlightened society in the middle east. Get used to it.

It rather seems to me that syrians are raising their children to be batthist robots with inferior educations. They do nothing about the education level in Syria but keep praising the government. Instead of worrying about Israeli children, first make sure that Syrian children get one half as a good an education as Israeli children do. But that is too difficult, so instead you complain about Israel.

May 1st, 2008, 5:45 pm

 

Qifa Nabki said:

Guys, we’re heading for another snoozer. (And we’ve all had this nap before).

Let’s change the subject to economics.

PS: AIG, I disagree you with you about the slogan. But that’s what’s so great about democracy, right? We can disagree but still be sworn enemies!

😉

May 1st, 2008, 5:48 pm

 

ausamaa said:

AIG

DENIAL is a dangerous human trait..

May 1st, 2008, 5:50 pm

 

AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Nour,
You are missing the point. We were discussing Ze’evi and comparing him to the syrian culture minister. Most of the Israeli public do not support Ze’evis views and the free Israeli press criticized him severly. Nothin like that ever happens in Syria.

As for criticizing the Israeli government, of course you can do it. Killing a Palestinian for no reason is never ok. But the whole point is that in the context of a war, a free press is critical in deciding if the killing was justified or not, is the IDF covering up or not? That is the discussion we have in Israel. Any Israeli soldier that would just shoot a Palestinian would be put in jail. I would be first in line to demand that. But many cases are just colaterral damadge that you want to portray as a “massacre”. Given the intensity and years of fighting, Israel has killed much less civillians than any other modern army in the same situation. Israel goes out of its way not to kill civillians. But I know all this is falling on deaf ears.

May 1st, 2008, 5:56 pm

 

AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Ausamma,
I totally agree, as 60 years have taught the Arabs nothing.

May 1st, 2008, 5:57 pm

 

wizart said:

AIG,

I really feel no need to dignify your pathetic allegations with elaborate answers any more. Your goal is to occupy life with hate and remove any evidence of wrong doing so your children never find out.

You’re really living such amazing delusions. Time to go back to the future and get yourself some real education and a second enlightenment since you seem to have slept through it last time when you were so geographically dispersed and perhaps religiously hypnotized as well.

May 1st, 2008, 6:00 pm

 

AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

QN,
Exactly. You can say whatever you want and I will say whatever I want and as long as each one is within the law, all is fair. I suggest you drink some Cammomile Tea while reading the NYT. Maybe you will feel less of a nausea. Or perhaps you should read Tishrin as an antidote.

May 1st, 2008, 6:01 pm

 

antika said:

AIG,

I am still laughing on the clip you sent about this Na’ssan. there are a lot of this version within syria.

did you taste the Baklawa sent by the Syrian President to Mr Olmert? i am sure in israel you have better quality.

May 1st, 2008, 6:05 pm

 

Qifa Nabki said:

Nour,

You said: I believe those sectarian/tribal leaders will resist change as much as they can, but with time, it’s going to be forced upon them, because the people will one day wake up and see that those leaders have led them to nothing but one disaster after another.

Sure, that’s true, but elites hold onto power in almost any system of governance, even democracies (cf. Clintons, Bushes, etc.) I know Lebanon is different, and that we have a more complicated and deeply entrenched problem, but we’re not reinventing the wheel.

In case you haven’t noticed, I’m a pragmatist (kinda like Shai, but not as good looking). Diagnosing problems is fun, but what really blows my hair back is thinking about how to solve them. (We don’t do a lot of that in the Arab world… we’re expert diagnosers though, no question).

Now that we’ve agreed on the outlines of the problem, how do we solve it? (Bayni wa baynak)

May 1st, 2008, 6:06 pm

 

Qifa Nabki said:

AIG

I’ll try the tea. Tishreen gives me heartburn.

May 1st, 2008, 6:11 pm

 

Shai said:

Nour,

I hate to admit it, but you do have a point. However, this is a Catch-22 situation for us “peace-seekers”, because you (justifiably) will not stop harshly and at times belligerently criticizing Israel, and we (justifiably) cannot change your image in the eyes of many Israelis, which is at the core of the problem. In order for us to bring about real change in Israel, to make most Israelis realize that we must look at Arabs and the Arab world differently, we essentially need your help. I know this sounds absurd, as we are asking the weakest side to help the strongest. But public opinion in Israel must change, and it won’t unless we’re able to show Arabs in a different light. You and I can scream all day long about Israeli atrocities, but that only feeds into the hardliners’ rhetoric against peace. We need to find a more “moderate” way of communicating. I’m not suggesting not criticizing Israel. I’m not suggesting accepting any of its crimes. I’m merely pointing also to the need to bring Israelis that might be able to change things closer, and not farther away. We need to engage one another, but in such way that would encourage continuance. The way sometimes exchanges take place here achieves the opposite, regardless of whether the content of the comments are justified or not. From my angle, at least, communicating with the other side is the first step to changing the harsh reality. Without it, we cannot develop empathy and understanding. And, without that, there’s truly no hope.

May 1st, 2008, 6:16 pm

 

Rowan Berkeley said:

Enlightenment in hebrew is ‘haskala’ or ‘haskalah’, As usual, I can only speak about the english-language books on the subject, but I have seen quite enough to be satisfied that it parallels the development of secularisation and modern thought in England, though it happens later. I admit that it is complicated by the situation of the diaspora communities of eastern and central europe, which were trapped in a ghetto relationship with the non-jewish rulers of their regions, or what I call a ‘clientilistic’ relationship. I look at this from something of a marxian point of view. Raphael Mahler is my favourite historian on the Polish haskala, and he was certainly a marxist. His arguments therefore tend to stress the way in which these clientilistic relationships, managed by the rabbinical leaders of the eastern european jewish communities, kept these communities in an artificially retarded state of cultural development so that they could be, if I may put it really cynically, ‘packaged and sold’ to the gentile rulers. The political sociology of that period is pretty complicated stuff. If I really wanted to understand it, I would have to learn yiddish instead of hebrew – and I hate yiddish!

The thing of importance today is that zionism was supposed by many to provide an escape into modernisation and for a while it did, but zionist politics have always allowed the rabbinates to occupy a sort of swing vote position, which they have used to re-impose pre-modern conditions in many respects, such as marriage law.

May 1st, 2008, 6:17 pm

 

Qifa Nabki said:

Bondo,

Not only did I swallow the hogwash wholehog (or whatever non-kosher metaphor you used), I found it delicious.

mmmmm, yummy hogwash wholehog.

someone please pass the irony? thx…

May 1st, 2008, 6:22 pm

 

Shai said:

Rowan,

This has always puzzled me. Despite what many here think (who’ve probably never set foot in Israel), Israeli society is very much secular. Yet, religion does play a very major role in politics. Our founding fathers were secular, and probably came as close to hating religion as one could be, yet were fearful of losing their (our) Jewish identity by completely separating “synagogue and state”. So they gave religious parties separate representation, power, and even its own judicial system. And, as you correctly pointed out, the religious tend to impose pre-modern conditions upon their own communities. Some of that spills over onto our secular society, such as marriage law, stores not open on Sabbath (though this is nowadays being ignored by many), various Kosher impositions on restaurants (that want to serve the religious, though many don’t care), etc. It’s a bizarre enigma, really, because so many secular Israelis almost “hate” the religious, yet desperately “need” them, to maintain their Jewish identity for them…

May 1st, 2008, 6:32 pm

 

wizart said:

Rowan,

Thanks for your insight into that complicated matter and I wish I knew what enlightenment meant in Yiddish as well although if anything like Haskala then it might be quite telling since Haskala rimes with Maskara in Arabic which means something “inferior / not to be taken seriously.” I’m looking for indications that Zionist politicians may have blocked the spread of European Haskala among the Jews of that time or other reasons that might have gotten in the way of Haskala.

May 1st, 2008, 6:41 pm

 

Rowan Berkeley said:

Wizart, excuse me while I concentrate on Shai’s reply – Shai – you spotted my point exactly! this is why I am officially unable to “become a Jew,” and this is why, in my opinion, the rightwards cultural and political drift of zionism and the jewish-israeli political culture continues!

I want to be the guinea-pig, or ice-breaker, or whatever the term should be, who damn well “becomes a Jew” without making any concessions to the rabbinate that I can help – and I am aware that the Israeli chief rabbinate is not as bad as the british one, which is notoriously the nastiest of the lot. At the moment I have a whole lot about this on my blog, because I am so desperate to power my way through this barrier somehow.

thanks for picking up the point, Shai. I may never solve this problem, but even being able to articulate it is a relief.

May 1st, 2008, 6:45 pm

 

Shai said:

Rowan,

The problem is being worked out in Israel, slowly slowly. It’s like intermarriage between Spharadic and Ashkenazi Jews. Once, it was almost taboo. Today, almost completely disregarded (especially by secular Israelis). Most of my friends, for instance, refused to wed in Israel (on principle), and flew over to Cyprus or elsewhere to get married. Various law proposals are being raised every so often, which will force interaction between secular and religious Jews, and which will limit the separate power religious groups/parties may have. Look at Reform Judaism, which once couldn’t set foot in Israel, now has many synagogues and communities all over the country. I think we’re heading in the right direction. The inner battle you’re describing is experienced by many a Jews in Israel, myself included.

May 1st, 2008, 6:52 pm

 

wizart said:

Orthodox Jewry

Orthodox Jews were against the Haskalah from the start because it went against traditional Judaism and challenged both rabbinic orthodoxy and the role of Talmud in education. They retained Torah, not secular studies, as their central value; nevertheless, the Haskalah influenced even the Orthodox Jews. The first Orthodox schools that taught both Judaic and general studies started in Halberstadt and Hamburg.

The Haskalah in Russia was in a large part based on the views of an Orthodox rabbi, Elijah b. Solomon Zalman (1720-1797), also known as the Vilna Gaon. The Vilna Gaon wrote commentaries on the Bible, the Mishnah, the Talmud, midrash, the Sefer Yetzirah, the Zohar and the Shulhan Arukh. His method was to apply an exact interpretation of the common-sense meaning of the text. He also studied secular subjects including algebra, geometry, astronomy, geography and Hebrew grammar to understand Talumudic discussions. Many Russian maskilim regarded themselves as his disciples.
Anti-Messianism

One of the ideas characterizing Haskalah thought was anti-messianism, a feeling that one should not be constantly yearning for a miraculous messiah. This was boosted by the failure of Shabbetai Zevi, a false Messiah in the 1600s. The maskil Jonathan Eybeschuetz is quoted as saying that the main achievement of the Messiah would be that the Jews “would find clemency among the nations,”4 i.e., the better legal and social status they were striving for in Europe. Mendelssohn agreed in principle to messianic hope but considered it not to have “any influence on our civic behavior,” particularly in places that “have treated the Jews with tolerance.”5 Others equated the Messiah with universal peace and toleration. Exile was no longer seen as divine, but as the result of historical factors.
Nationalism

After emancipation there was a rise in assimilation, but also in Jewish nationalism. Many maskilim identified themselves expressly as Germans. The Assembly of Jewish Notables in 1806 coined the term “Frenchmen of the Mosaic religion.” Later maskilim, however, also had a sense of Jewish nationalism and combined that attitude with Haskalah views. Much of this nationalism was fostered by anti-Semitism and led to aspirations for redemption by a natural, human effort. This was the start of modern Zionism.

May 1st, 2008, 7:04 pm

 

wizart said:

Is this a case of obscuring the obscure or does it look like the Orthodox Jews have rejected Haskala (Enlightenment/Nour in Arabic) in favor of Zionism?

May 1st, 2008, 7:11 pm

 

AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Shai,
What are you puzzled about??? Ben-Gurion explicitly stated that he did not impose a Jeffersonian like consititution on Israel because he didn’t know how to handle the religious issues. Judaism is the only religion that is also a nation. Read the Book of Ruth. It is quite illuminating on the subject. It is a deep point that needs to be understood and that explains alot. If you fail to understand this point, you fail to understand what the Jews are.

May 1st, 2008, 7:13 pm

 

Shai said:

AIG,

That Jews are both a people and a nation is something I of course understand. The “puzzlement” refers to exactly what you said about Ben-Gurion, which is still “haunting” us until this very day – namely not knowing how to handle the religious issues. We (secular Israelis) feel Jewish, yet don’t want to exercise Judaism as others tell us to. We hate any religious Jew that dares tell us we’re not Jewish “enough”, especially the ones that don’t serve in the army, yet we need that same ultra-orthodox yeshiva guy to study Torah and keep the “torch lit” so-to-speak, so that you and I can feel we’re living in a Jewish state. If it wasn’t for that yeshiva boy, I’m not sure Israel could be a Jewish state. It would just be a regular, typical secular state. So part of the enigma is, where is secular Judaism (some here will find this notion contradictory) heading? Where is Israel heading, putting aside the demographic Arab/Jew dimension? If, in theory, we now have peace in the ME for 50 years, and Jews no longer fear destruction or annihilation, will Israel allow for a situation where there are more non-Jews than Jews? I don’t know the answers to many of these questions.

May 1st, 2008, 7:21 pm

 

norman said:

More cmpetetion in Syria,

سورية تعلن عزمها إدخال مشغل ثالث للخليوي هذا العام

May 1st, 2008, 7:24 pm

 

AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Shai,
You are contradicting yourself. Since you and I identify ourselves as Jewish why won’t Israel be a Jewish state if all the ultra-orthodox left? Won’t we talk Hebrew? Won’t Yom Kipur be still a special day? Won’t we celebrate Passover? Won’t we study mostly Jewish history in school?

I don’t need the ultra-orthodox to feel I live in a Jewish state. In fact I soundly reject their ideology and do not think of it as the essence of Judaism.

May 1st, 2008, 7:27 pm

 

Qifa Nabki said:

AIG,

What’s the essence of Judaism (besides the idea that anyone and everyone belongs in Israel)?

Feel free to send me a reading list.

May 1st, 2008, 7:32 pm

 

Shai said:

AIG,

I do agree with you, but then how do we explain the fact that in our democracy the ultra-orthodox have their own judicial system, and can impose certain laws upon their own communities? We’ve allowed that, for 60 years, because many of us view them as “holier” Jews. Most secular Israelis I know, almost blindly accept the inequalities afforded to the religious (both good and bad). I’m not sure most Israelis would feel as Jewish, if this so-called “upper limit” was removed. Its preservation, in their eyes, is what enables them to feel and exercise Judaism the way you and I do. Take that boundary away, and I’m not sure Hebrew, Yom Kipur, and Passover, will suffice for most.

May 1st, 2008, 7:37 pm

 

AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

QN,
HP was right on the mark with this book:
“The Reason for Antisemitism, Why the Jews?”, Dennis Prager and Joseph Telushkin

It is a good place to start. Though it deals with antismeitism it explains Judaism well in my opinion. Make sure to get the 2003 edition and not the 1983 one.

May 1st, 2008, 7:37 pm

 

AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Shai,
We allowed the Ultra-Orthodox their own courts because of the 1948 “Status Quo” decree which was basically a compromise. Why is public transportation allowed today on Shabat in Haifa and not Tel-Aviv? Because the was the case on 15 May 1948. Stupid, yes, but so are most compromises. It is just a rule we agreed upon and allowed the secular and religious communities to get along fairly well.

I disagree with your conclusion completely. The ultra-orthodox play a very small part if any at all in why secular Jews see themselves as Jewish. To me, the moment they closed up to non-religious studies in the 19th century, they lost the essence of Judaism which is respect for knowledge of all kinds. The ultra-orthodox detract from the Jewishness of the state of Israel.

May 1st, 2008, 7:45 pm

 

Alex said:

I’m happy “Haskalah” means enlightenment.

We have Hasakah in Syria, but it is not the same thing : )

What about Kabbalah from Safed?

http://www.mideastimage.com/viewimages/viewimage.aspx?id=421

Photograph of the market area of Safed,1920’s.Safed,located north of Tiberias and close to the Lake of Meron [Buhayrat al-Hula], fed by the Jordan River, was the center of Jewish teaching,thought, and Intellectual life, in the 16 th century,following the expulsion from Spain. Its Jewish population was estimated at 7525 in 1555, Jerusalem’s was only 2282.It thrived on trade between Beirut and Damascus.[ Stanford J. Shaw:THE JEWS OF THE OTTOMAN EMPIRE].Circassians from the Caucasses were later settled there in the 19th. century by the Ottoman Governmet. Moslem and Christian Arabs formed the rest of the population. Safed of the 16th. century was a leading center for Halakhists and Kabalists Scholars. R.Jacob Berab was the first to ordain Rabbis in Safed , he fled later to Syria.He was followed by his student R.Joseph Caro [ 1488-1578 ].Other Kabalists included R.Moses Cordevero [1522-1570 ], and R. Issac Luria Ashkenazi.

May 1st, 2008, 7:49 pm

 

Shai said:

AIG,

I look at ultra-orthodox the same way you do. I also don’t need them to “hold the torch” for me. My points were regarding many (perhaps most) Israelis, who I believe haven’t come to this conclusion yet. But one thing seems to be quite clear, take away the ultra-orthodox, or their political control, and you’ll find Judaism (in Israel at least) being redefined in quite a few ways. Personally, I think Judaism has a better chance of survival if it becomes a more flexible religion. Some argue with me, claiming the opposite, that it is precisely because of these ultra-orthodox that Judaism is still alive. I’m merely pointing to this dichotomy, and its effect on many Israelis who are a little less “confident” than you and I are.

May 1st, 2008, 7:53 pm

 

Shai said:

Hi Alex,

Not that I’m against the topic (the opposite), but I’m wondering if your visitors are going to feel this is becoming a Jewish Enlightenment blog… 🙂

May 1st, 2008, 7:57 pm

 

Naji said:

I can’t imagine why someone found this thoughtful letter from honorable and honest individuals more distasteful than amicably engaging with unrepentant Zionists…!!?
_________________________________
We’re not celebrating Israel’s anniversary
The Guardian, Wednesday April 30 2008

In May, Jewish organisations will be celebrating the 60th anniversary of the founding of the state of Israel. This is understandable in the context of centuries of persecution culminating in the Holocaust. Nevertheless, we are Jews who will not be celebrating. Surely it is now time to acknowledge the narrative of the other, the price paid by another people for European anti-semitism and Hitler’s genocidal policies. As Edward Said emphasised, what the Holocaust is to the Jews, the Naqba is to the Palestinians.

In April 1948, the same month as the infamous massacre at Deir Yassin and the mortar attack on Palestinian civilians in Haifa’s market square, Plan Dalet was put into operation. This authorised the destruction of Palestinian villages and the expulsion of the indigenous population outside the borders of the state. We will not be celebrating.

In July 1948, 70,000 Palestinians were driven from their homes in Lydda and Ramleh in the heat of the summer with no food or water. Hundreds died. It was known as the Death March. We will not be celebrating.

In all, 750,000 Palestinians became refugees. Some 400 villages were wiped off the map. That did not end the ethnic cleansing. Thousands of Palestinians (Israeli citizens) were expelled from the Galilee in 1956. Many thousands more when Israel occupied the West Bank and Gaza. Under international law and sanctioned by UN resolution 194, refugees from war have a right to return or compensation. Israel has never accepted that right. We will not be celebrating.

We cannot celebrate the birthday of a state founded on terrorism, massacres and the dispossession of another people from their land. We cannot celebrate the birthday of a state that even now engages in ethnic cleansing, that violates international law, that is inflicting a monstrous collective punishment on the civilian population of Gaza and that continues to deny to Palestinians their human rights and national aspirations.

We will celebrate when Arab and Jew live as equals in a peaceful Middle East.

Seymour Alexander
Ruth Appleton
Steve Arloff
Rica Bird
Jo Bird
Cllr Jonathan Bloch
Ilse Boas
Prof. Haim Bresheeth
Tanya Bronstein
Sheila Colman
Ruth Clark
Sylvia Cohen
Judith Cravitz
Mike Cushman
Angela Dale
Ivor Dembina
Dr. Linda Edmondson
Nancy Elan
Liz Elkind
Pia Feig
Colin Fine
Deborah Fink
Sylvia Finzi
Brian Fisher MBE
Frank Fisher
Bella Freud
Catherine Fried
Uri Fruchtmann
Stephen Fry
David Garfinkel
Carolyn Gelenter
Claire Glasman
Tony Greenstein
Heinz Grunewald
Michael Halpern
Abe Hayeem
Rosamine Hayeem
Anna Hellman
Amy Hordes
Joan Horrocks
Deborah Hyams
Selma James
Riva Joffe
Yael Oren Kahn
Michael Kalmanovitz
Paul Kaufman
Prof. Adah Kay
Yehudit Keshet
Prof. Eleonore Kofman
Rene Krayer
Stevie Krayer
Berry Kreel
Leah Levane
Les Levidow
Peter Levin
Louis Levy
Ros Levy
Prof. Yosefa Loshitzky
Catherine Lyons
Deborah Maccoby
Daniel Machover
Prof. Emeritus Moshe Machover
Miriam Margolyes OBE
Mike Marqusee
Laura Miller
Simon Natas
Hilda Meers
Martine Miel
Laura Miller
Arthur Neslen
Diana Neslen
Orna Neumann
Harold Pinter
Roland Rance
Frances Rivkin
Sheila Robin
Dr. Brian Robinson
Neil Rogall
Prof. Steven Rose
Mike Rosen
Prof. Jonathan Rosenhead
Leon Rosselson
Michael Sackin
Sabby Sagall
Ian Saville
Alexei Sayle
Anna Schuman
Sidney Schuman
Monika Schwartz
Amanda Sebestyen
Sam Semoff
Linda Shampan
Sybil Shine
Prof. Frances Stewart
Inbar Tamari
Ruth Tenne
Martin Toch
Tirza Waisel
Stanley Walinets
Martin White
Ruth Williams
Naomi Wimborne-Idrissi
Devra Wiseman
Gerry Wolff
Sherry Yanowitz

May 1st, 2008, 8:00 pm

 

AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Haskalah means education. Maskil – someone with an education. It comes from the same root as school – Latin schola, Greek scholē and is not a semitic root.

Te’nu’at Ha’Haskalah – “the education movement” is the name for the enlightment or embracement of secular studies in Jewish circles.

May 1st, 2008, 8:01 pm

 

ziad said:

Jailed Syrian rights activist wins award from Ireland

By SHAWN POGATCHNIK – 1 hour ago

DUBLIN, Ireland (AP) — One of Syria’s most prominent pro-democracy activists won an Irish award Thursday for his work trying to promote human rights for prisoners, political parties and journalists in his homeland.

But Anwar al-Bunni has yet to hear of the accolade. The 49-year-old lawyer has been imprisoned since May 2006 after Syrian President Bashar Assad launched a crackdown against opposition voices demanding greater freedoms.

Irish President Mary McAleese presented the annual Front Line Award for Human Rights Defenders at Risk to al-Bunni’s wife, Ragheda Issa Refki, at a Dublin City Hall ceremony attended by politicians and ambassadors. Refki received two standing ovations, as well as a hug from the Irish head of state.

McAleese said promoting human rights in a one-party state like Syria was “a very, very lonely place. It takes a very, very special person like Anwar al-Bunni to confront the extraordinary range of forces arrayed against him.”

She expressed hope that the award would “send a message to his oppressors.”

In an interview with The Associated Press, Refki said she did not risk telling her husband he had won the prize during their most recent prison visit a week ago because a guard, as usual, was standing beside them. She hopes to tell him of his honor next week.

“It is very important for Anwar’s work and sacrifice to be recognized, for him to be seen as a defender of human rights. It will remind the world there are prisoners of conscience in Syria,” Refki said through an Arabic translator.

Al-Bunni gained prominence in the 1990s by defending opponents of the Syrian regime and helping to organize a group called the Free Political Prisoners Committee.

He was arrested in 2006 after joining about 500 Syrian and Lebanese intellectuals in signing the so-called “Damascus Declaration,” which challenged the Syrian government to improve ties with neighboring Lebanon.

He is due for release in May 2011.

Since entering prison, al-Bunni has kept promoting political freedom, authoring hypothetical legislative bills that spell out how opposition political parties and elections should be organized.

After their publication, Refki said, guards “confiscated all his writing materials and said he was not permitted to write.”

She said her husband is kept in a room with more than 30 other prisoners, among them convicted killers, but is kept separate from any inmates convicted of political offenses.

Front Line is a Dublin-based group founded in 2001 to provide support for human rights activists operating in dangerous situations.

May 1st, 2008, 8:06 pm

 

SimoHurtta said:

Sim,
You can claim what you want but it is just false. Your slander of Israeli soldiers is just a pure lie and prejudice on your side. Why don’t you back it with evidence? Please show us that “many” Israeli soldiers steal from Palestinians at checkpoints.

AIG I hoped that you want evidence. Will you reverse your word and ask me for forgiveness for calling me a liar? If not I recommend moderators take action against you along the new rules. 🙂

Well here you have the evidence.

This is from an Israeli Jewish newspaper.
Testimonies from Hebron: Soldiers choke, beat Palestinians

Theft:

Soldier: “There was a lot of theft… Once we were at these rich people’s house in Hebron. We found a ton of dollar bills in one of the drawers. Insane. The commander said to the two senior guys in the unit, ‘Okay, we’ll split the money.’ They split it. Left a little there and told me, ‘If you talk we’ll come back and slaughter you.'”

Interviewer: “Was looting normal?”

Soldier: “A little looting was normal. Backgammon and cigarettes, everything… Everything that looked nice we took. Other guys took presents for their girlfriends from stores.”

more

http://www.breakingthesilence.org.il/testimonies_category_e.asp

AIG remember these are from an Israeli Jewish site testimonies given by your fellow Jews.

Rank: Staff sergeant
Place of incident: Village of Najba
Description:

April-May 2002

The Palestinians] would take stuff to pass through the checkpost. In a certain case, there was someone who had pita bread in the car…full with pita. So one of the officers said: “well…give [us] a package of pita and then you can pass through”. This was at the village of Najba at the time of a sudden curfew. This incident was never reported and was never informed to higher ranks.
In another case, one of the commanders took sweets from someone in order to let him through at the checkpost. I now know that the NCO sat in prison for a week or two for this. Other people were walking around with all sorts of Arab beads (Masbaha = praying beads) that they used to take at the checkpoints. If one’d ask them why they took it they’d answer: “what, he gave it to me…”
Regulations were that it is totally forbidden to take anything. Not a present and certainly not [something taken] by force. The officer who took the pita bread at the checkpoint was himself the one who lectured and briefed [the soldiers] on that matter!

Rank: First lieutenant
Unit: Redgiment 932, Nahal brigade
Place of incident: Ramallah
Description: During a search of a residence building of 7-8 floors, we found a locked empty apartment. As a result of using too much explosive (due to inexperience), blowing up the door caused serious damage to many apartments, and caused the the break up of all the water pipes in the building and the windows in the stairway.

The entrance room to the flat we broke into was totally destroyed. I was the last one to leave the apartment, as I noticed a laptop PC, on the TV set in the living room.

A few hours after the Platoon under my command had searched the building, Chen Livni, The commander of regiment 932 arrived at the scene. When he asked me about the serious damage caused to the building, he also asked about a broken TV, a smashed up bathroom and broken ceramic tiles. When I asked, he said there was no laptop in the living room.
In other words , and concisely: a force which arrived after me Stole a laptop, broke a TV set and destroyed a bathroom and a living room in a luxury apartment in Ramalla

May 1st, 2008, 8:09 pm

 

SimoHurtta said:

Sim,
You can claim what you want but it is just false. Your slander of Israeli soldiers is just a pure lie and prejudice on your side. Why don’t you back it with evidence? Please show us that “many” Israeli soldiers steal from Palestinians at checkpoints.

AIG I hoped that you want evidence. Will you reverse your word and ask me for forgiveness for calling me a liar? If not I recommend moderators take action against you along the new rules. 🙂

Well here you have the evidence.

This is from an Israeli Jewish newspaper.
Testimonies from Hebron: Soldiers choke, beat Palestinians

Theft:

Soldier: “There was a lot of theft… Once we were at these rich people’s house in Hebron. We found a ton of dollar bills in one of the drawers. Insane. The commander said to the two senior guys in the unit, ‘Okay, we’ll split the money.’ They split it. Left a little there and told me, ‘If you talk we’ll come back and slaughter you.'”

Interviewer: “Was looting normal?”

Soldier: “A little looting was normal. Backgammon and cigarettes, everything… Everything that looked nice we took. Other guys took presents for their girlfriends from stores.”

more

http://www.breakingthesilence.org.il/testimonies_category_e.asp

AIG remember these are from an Israeli Jewish site testimonies given by your fellow Jews.

Rank: Staff sergeant
Place of incident: Village of Najba
Description:

April-May 2002

The Palestinians] would take stuff to pass through the checkpost. In a certain case, there was someone who had pita bread in the car…full with pita. So one of the officers said: “well…give [us] a package of pita and then you can pass through”. This was at the village of Najba at the time of a sudden curfew. This incident was never reported and was never informed to higher ranks.
In another case, one of the commanders took sweets from someone in order to let him through at the checkpost. I now know that the NCO sat in prison for a week or two for this. Other people were walking around with all sorts of Arab beads (Masbaha = praying beads) that they used to take at the checkpoints. If one’d ask them why they took it they’d answer: “what, he gave it to me…”
Regulations were that it is totally forbidden to take anything. Not a present and certainly not [something taken] by force. The officer who took the pita bread at the checkpoint was himself the one who lectured and briefed [the soldiers] on that matter!

Rank: First lieutenant
Unit: Redgiment 932, Nahal brigade
Place of incident: Ramallah
Description: During a search of a residence building of 7-8 floors, we found a locked empty apartment. As a result of using too much explosive (due to inexperience), blowing up the door caused serious damage to many apartments, and caused the the break up of all the water pipes in the building and the windows in the stairway.

The entrance room to the flat we broke into was totally destroyed. I was the last one to leave the apartment, as I noticed a laptop PC, on the TV set in the living room.

A few hours after the Platoon under my command had searched the building, Chen Livni, The commander of regiment 932 arrived at the scene. When he asked me about the serious damage caused to the building, he also asked about a broken TV, a smashed up bathroom and broken ceramic tiles. When I asked, he said there was no laptop in the living room.
In other words , and concisely: a force which arrived after me Stole a laptop, broke a TV set and destroyed a bathroom and a living room in a luxury apartment in Ramalla

Well AIG waiting. 🙂

May 1st, 2008, 8:12 pm

 

Nur al-Cubicle said:

a regime insider whom improperly benefits from and aids the public corruption of Syrian regime officials.

Gee, this so aptly fits Dick Cheney.

May 1st, 2008, 9:09 pm

 

AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Sim,
You are a liar. These are examples of a few not many soldiers acting inappropriately. These soldiers as you attest were disciplined because other soldiers complained about their action. This is exactly why so few of these things happen. It is against the norm of most Israeli soldiers and if they see other soldiers do it, they will complain. The fact that this was news in Israel shows you how irregular these actions are deemed to be.

May 1st, 2008, 9:37 pm

 

SimoHurtta said:

AIG again you call me a liar. Alex and other moderators HELP, do something. 🙂

One soldier clearly says in the article that looting and theft was widespread. Look also at the several testimonies about unnecessary violence, murders etc at breaking the silence. WARNING not pretty reading.

It was AIG a news in Israel because some soldiers had finally the courage to stand up. By the way AIG they have to anonymously the testimonies so that fellow IDF “heroes” and the state do not retaliate. There is no honour among thieves.

Do you AIG seriously think that normal IDF cannon food or higher ranking IDF characters tell the truth of this when they are in the “business” high up in the command chain. Most of the thieves never confess and IDF generals do not care.

BTW AIG what happens to those numerous olive tries stolen from Palestinian farmers? Tell me more about that “Israeli” business. I remember you or another IG bragging in an comment not long ago that Israel was the only country where amount of trees did grow.

Ask Shai did he see or hear of thefts and looting by IDF “heroes”. He was there…

May 1st, 2008, 10:18 pm

 

AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Sim,
The soldier says it was widespread in his unit, not in the IDF. As usual you distort. And then you invent things about the IDF leadership. You are just plain wrong.

May 1st, 2008, 10:30 pm

 

Nur al-Cubicle said:

looting and theft was widespread

Don’t be in denial, AIG. Noam Chomsky documents it in “Fateful Triangle”. And I saw that the IDF did to Orient House and Palestinian banks.

May 1st, 2008, 10:44 pm

 

AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Nur,
I was in the IDF about 10 years. There are a few bad apples everywhere, but saying there are many is just a lie. Israelis are not more or less likely to steal than any other people. Implying otherwise is just plain bigotry.

May 1st, 2008, 11:12 pm

 

Enlightened said:

Alex:

I want to change my name To Haskalah!

May 2nd, 2008, 12:03 am

 

Rowan Berkeley said:

Naji, I’m English, I know these people. They are very comfortably off, genuine examples of latte-sipping Hamstead Village socialism (Hampstead is a perpetually trendy upper middle class inner suburb of London) posing as the conscience of the Anglo-Jewish community, which understands them perfectly and makes sure they get their annual ration of honours, titles, professoriates, knighthoods and damehoods from the British state. It’s a token gesture. If they really gave a damn, they wouldn’t have sent their letter to the so-called “Guardian,” they would have sent it to “The Independent” – especially since Johann Hari put his entire journalistic career on the line there four days ago, by writing an article about the Territories of a frankness that you will NEVER see in the sold-out cynical Guardian (and he is only in his twenties).

I’ll tell you another thing about Harold Pinter. When I was at a demonstration against the war in Trafalgar Square, last year, which was heavily attended by Muslims, including a number of women wearing hujub, Pinter did not bother to turn up, but sent a “poem” to be read on his behalf, which was so obscene – I mean really, deliberately, disgustingly obscene – that the entire Muslim community in attendance was visibly embarrassed and humiliated, but no one dared to say a word against it, either then or afterwards. This is absolutely typical of the anglo-jewish left – so much so that I think it is deliberate, like the trade-off between support for Muslims and support for “gay rights activists.”

May 2nd, 2008, 3:42 am

 

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