Yoav Stern discusses his coverage of Syrian affairs

Posted by Alex – a note sent by Yoav Stern
Haaretz reporter, Yoav Stern.

Haaretz reporter, Yoav Stern.

Let me begin with technicalities, in which I’m sure you won’t be interested.

When I write a news item, I write it in Hebrew. The item you see in English is translated, and the translation process can sometimes cause inaccuracies.

A good example is the story about Jihad Makdissi and his letter to Alex.

Reading the content carefully, you’ll see that such an inaccuracy did take place here. Those things happen, unfortunately, but I don’t think that in this case the damage is that big.

As for the selective quotes in Haaretz from Ambassador Mustapha’s interview on Syria Comment, I think that he was extremely cautious in choosing his words in the interview. It is understandable when you’re a diplomat, especially in such a sensitive position, but this means that you’re taking the risk of not saying anything that stands out.

I was trying to get the most interesting and new statements from the interview, and not quote again the known Syrian positions on peace which everyone now knows by heart. But in any case, the item you’ve read in English is done by the news editor (and this is why I’m not signed on it) and is different from what I’ve written in Hebrew.

A more interesting question is the one about how to describe Alex and Sami Moubayed.

Covering Syrian (and other Arab states) affairs for an Israeli journalist is a very challenging task, not to say impossible, if you don’t want to quote SANA and Tishreen every day.

But imagine what would happen to a Syrian or even a foreign visitor in Damascus if I pick up the phone and call him from here in Israel to chat, just like a diligent journalist should do.

If one wants to keep the Syria – Israel story alive, and it is alive, very alive, behind closed doors, one goes for other possibilities.

A very important channel that has developed gradually over the past years is Syria Comment. Where else can you see Israelis and Syrians, officials, semi officials, academics and just civilians, exchange views like they do here?

I think that the interview Ambassdor Mustafa gave Alex is a good example for the level of interest on the Syrian official side in the possibilities of forwarding messages through this channel. The letter of Mr. Makdissi is even a better example. And for this reason, Alex, I would describe you as someone “close” in his views and analysis to the Syrian regime.

The same goes for Sami Moubayad. Yes, I know he is “an independent writer, historian, professor, and political analyst”, like he himself has written to you. But following Syria for the last 5 and half years or so, through the media, I realized that senior analysts from Damascus represent the regime views, informally, better than any one else.

It can be Sami Moubayed in Asia Times, Imad Fawzi Shoueibi with Arabic BBC, Samir At-taki in Al-Jazeera int’l or others. And it is probably for this reason that all media call them again and again and ask them to comment on the events.

I can only respect what Sami Moubayed says in his letter to you. Still, when he writes his article next week in Asia times, I would still describe him as an analyst who’s views (on foreign policy / Israel / peace process) represent the Syrian regime views.

Comments (182)

Alex said:

Quick comments from my side, since I have been involved in all the four stories

1) The “close” description I got is not an issue for me. I hope that as I try to write about Syria’s real positions that I do get close enough sometimes. But it is certainly not a proven fact that I am getting it right … I might be often wrong.

2) Covering Imad’s interview would have been more useful if it the whole interview was translated. While no single answer was shocking or highly revealing, the whole thing was valuable in my opinion. It was the many subtle hints that were missed.

More over … When thousands of Haaretz readers in Israel conclude that Imad was only talking threats to them, we might have lost many votes next time a peace proposal is subject to popular approval in Israel.

But unfortunately … if stories and opinion pieces are limited to 800 words each, in Haaretz or in most other newspapers, then one can not expect comprehensive coverage.

3) Sami was branded recently as “a regime spokesman” by more that one party. I think it was healthy for him to explain the difference between doing a good job analyzing the policies of the Syrian leadership, and representing them officially.

4) finally .. I can imagine that Arab diplomats who might read Haaretz (many do) will be calling their Syrian counterparts to inquire about Syria’s new position on the Arab peace plan …

November 9th, 2008, 12:39 am


norman said:

Mr stern,

You seem to write well in English so instead of letting others translate your Hebrew , you should writ in Hebrew and English and Arabic of you can so nobody can misunderstand you,

Can we all call you a close source to the Israeli Labour party and Barack , as I think Haaretz is liberal paper.or you like to be called independent mind Israeli journalist, please do to others what you like to be done to you ,calling a mouthpiece for Labour will restrict your contact to that part of the politecal spectrum and i do not think you would like that.

November 9th, 2008, 1:28 am


Rumyal said:

Here is free a translation of Yoav’s excuses from common-spoken-Israeli:

This gig that I do in the newspaper is hardly rewarding enough that I should feel any responsibility to make sure the English translations are accurate. Yeah, I know this is almost an exclusive source of English news from Israel and is read throughout the world, and I understand that what Haaretz says carries weight at this delicate times, but come-on, how much can I stretch myself for those peanuts they’re throwing at me?

Plus with all due respect to “history in the making”, this job isn’t quite satisfying from a journalistic perspective because I can’t just pick up the phone and double-check my facts. Everything is so rumor based and those Syrians have those different shades of affiliation with the regime that it is impossible to get it right, then they get all caught up on this. Can’t it be more straightforward?! Jesus!

Also, to tell you the truth, you know my readers. Unless somebody threatens them with annihilation or, on the other hand, flatters them unconditionally, they don’t think it’s interesting. Syria’s ambassador to the US reiterated Syria’s commitment to comprehensive peace? boring… Second deputy of water and hygiene affairs in the Kom municipality said that “Israel is a reeking beggar who needs to be committed to an asylum”? Now that’s a piece of news that gets me 17,536 talkbacks!

(Yoav, I’m sorry for being harsh, but you must take your *very important* job a little bit more seriously.)

November 9th, 2008, 3:40 am


jad said:

Hi Rumyal,
Thank you for being straightforward and honest.
I totally agree with you, having such important job needs to be very careful in the word you choose to write since it has a long lasting influence.

November 9th, 2008, 4:17 am


AIG said:


First, Haaretz does not carry any special weight. Ynet is also translated to English and of course there is the Jerusalem post.

Second, if the Syrians want to be quoted accurately they should make available a spokesman for Israeli reporters to contact. Is that too much to ask? Why do you immediately blame Yoav and not the Syrian regime? Do you expect one Israeli reporter to be more worried about portraying the Syrians in a true light than the Syrian regime itself??? Really, how deep can your self hatred go?

The bottom line is VERY simple. It is the reponsibility of the Syrian regime to manage its press contacts and to make itself available to reporters. If they choose not to do it, then they have only themselves to blame. Yoav is doing his job and just providing the facts as best as he can interpret them given the opaque nature of the Syrian regime.

November 9th, 2008, 4:40 am


Shai said:


I fully concur, and I would also add: “… and my readers (on Ha’aretz) are already so far to the Left, that nothing can upset their automatic support in anything peace-wise, so I’m less concerned about potential misinterpretations by some…”


Sorry, but when you’re one of the few Israeli journalists writing so often about Syria, you must be more careful. Your words, when posed incorrectly, can also be used by those (very strong forces) who are opposed to concessions and to peace. You can bet the article on Imad’s “threats”, and on Syria’s spokesman’s rejection of the Arab Initiative, are hanging up on Efi Eitam’s (perhaps also on Bibi’s) bulletin board, for near-future use… And that’s a shame.

November 9th, 2008, 4:48 am


Shai said:


“how deep can your self hatred go”

I’m so glad you said this. Some said Obama chose Rahm Emanuel for the Chief of Staff position, so that good Jews like you couldn’t call him a “self-hating Jew” when he’ll tell Bibi to shut down illegal settlements in the West Bank. I guess with you guys, when an Israeli or a Jew gives harsh criticism that is due internally (even if justified also externally), your knee-jerk proclamation is “self-hating”, isn’t it? Tell me AIG, are you even capable of understanding this, or is this very criticism of you ALSO defining me as a self-hating Jew?

Is the definition of self-hating Jew any or all of the following:

1. Any Jew that criticizes his own people more than I, AIG, would like him to?

2. Any Jew that criticizes his own people, and not also the Syrian regime?

3. Any Jew that criticizes me.

November 9th, 2008, 4:56 am


Shai said:

FOX News did an amazing job on you guys (AIG, AP). You actually believe that “criticism” is “hatred”, and “unpatriotic”, especially when given by “our side”.

November 9th, 2008, 5:00 am


offended said:

Our official media outlets are incompetent. I wish they were more open, professional and forthcoming.

But in the meantime Yoav will have to make do with whatever is available. I read the letter of Jihad and the subsequent article in Haaretz, and honestly, there’s a little bit of dramatization on Yoav’s part.

November 9th, 2008, 5:13 am


AIG said:

I believe criticism is extremely important. It is the only way to advance. But in some cases criticism is misplaced or misallocated and then it is also a must to criticize the criticism. Everything can be criticized including criticism.

Most of the blame in this case lies with the Syrian regime for not cooperating with journalists. If you can’t see that, you have a serious problem and so does Rumyal.

You are very confused. The Syrians on this blog believe that criticizing the oppressive Syrian regime is “unpatriotic”, yet you blame me of that??? Try getting your friends Norman and Alex to criticize Bashar. Good luck with that.

When a non-Jew holds Jews to higher standards than he holds others, that is a form of antisemitism. And when a Jew does it, it is a form of self-hatred, exactly what you and Rumyal are sufferring from. You are trying to hold the Israeli press to unreasonable standards. You should be ashamed of yourself.

November 9th, 2008, 5:24 am


Rumyal said:

The thing that bothers me the most, which I was able to explain to myself only now, is the “bait and switch” scheme in those pieces. The title is chosen to sound sensational, by choosing a one that subtly expresses a threat, then the content contains enough objective material such that the piece is deemed acceptable from a journalistic perspective. The flashy title is designed to draw the Israeli crowd, which is scouring the headlines for the endless bipolar acceptance/rejection theme that we’re obsessed with. I have a feeling many talkbackers didn’t bother to read or understand the subtleties before responding with “Wow, I’m Really Scared Now!”.

Syria rejects Israel’s calls to pursue Saudi peace plan. The reader is invited to assume that Syria is rejecting peace. Period. We’re back to the three No’s. You have to read the fine print to understand that it’s not the case, quite the contrary.

Syria envoy: Future generations will pay if Israel scuttles peace talks. The reader is again invited to instinctively assume that the Syrians will make us Israelis pay if we refuse peace. Had the title been “Future Israeli and Arab generations will pay a dear price…”, that would have sent a totally different message: that the Syrian ambassador is lumping our futures together, in a sort of subtle recognition that we will be here alongside each other for the long-term.

I wouldn’t say that Yoav Stern screw-up big time, just that there can be a little more attention to details and nuances, and less sensationalism/dramatization. It would be interesting to see whether his reporting evolves now and how.

November 9th, 2008, 5:32 am


AIG said:

And by the way, you are an excellent example of why the left in Israel is so unsuccessful. I am quite sure that if the Syrians on this blog would take a moment to analyze objectively what you write, they will see that you are either a suck-up or a self loather. Everything the Syrians do is smart, justified or understandable and everything Israel or any of its leaders does is stupid. Hamas is justified in shooting rockets into Israel and Asad is smart for supporting terrorism and you would do the same in their place. Arabs are tolerant inspite of the continuos flood of antisemitic press, but Israel that sends Dana International to represent it in the Eurovision contest is not. Are you for real???

November 9th, 2008, 5:33 am


offended said:

Dana who?

November 9th, 2008, 5:39 am


Shai said:

AIG said: “You should be ashamed of yourself”

Taken straight out of FOX News lingo. When will start using “back to you guys…”? Give me a fricken break – you have the chutzpah to call ME a self-hating Jew??? Where have you situated your comfortable little Jewish/Israeli backside? In Israel? In the land and amongst the people that have, are, and will be paying the consequences of racism, intolerance, misinterpretations, missed-opportunities, low-intensity warfare, high-intensity wars, etc.? No, you live in the U.S. So yes, do criticize criticism. That’s also allowed. But do look in the mirror every now and then, if not for shaving, at least to check yourself a little better, before your knee-jerk labeling kicks in.

November 9th, 2008, 5:41 am


Shai said:

Jesus AIG, you bring in a transvestite (Dana International) to exhibit tolerance? Do you think most Israelis that support the continued Occupation of Palestine (and the subjugation and suffocation that comes along with it) were proud to see Dana win the Eurovision contest? Or were they making some racist remark under their breath like “… feygale” (“gay”)?

I wish Israel was as tolerant towards Arab-Israelis and Palestinians as they are towards you, AIG. How’s that for tolerance? 🙂

And yes, it was a nice try to depict me as a regime-lover, Hamas-supporter, self-hating Israeli. But no, once again it didn’t work. The readers here on Syria Comment are a little smarter than that. You should give them a little more respect AIG.

November 9th, 2008, 5:49 am


jad said:

I agree with Offended, we need to know who is Dana?

November 9th, 2008, 5:53 am


AIG said:

How many times will you lie about where I live?
And I see that even though you like criticizing others, you don’t much like being criticized. Instead of answering my criticsm all I get back is the same spurt of leftish BS that very few in Israel buy. It is as if you are on LSD when you write your hallucinations in which you are proud of not being consistent or logical and being overly optimistic. So keep looking into your magic mirror in which Asad is the best politician ever who has never missed any opportunity and in which Shimon Peres is 10 times worse than him and keep hoping that anyone in Israel will take you seriously.

November 9th, 2008, 5:56 am


Shai said:

Ya JAD, she/he is an Israeli transvestite, who won the Eurovision contest a number of years back. Many of us (Israeli liberals) were indeed proud of Israel and of Dana that glorious night. But to use this as an example of general tolerance in Israel (ya’ani, look, if we can send a transvestite to sing in Europe, imagine how tolerant we are with the Palestinians!…) is ludicrous. But maybe it’s the LSD I’m on… 🙂

November 9th, 2008, 6:01 am


Alex said:


1) Bashar is not doing well fighting corruption. Fighting corruption should be a more serious priority for Syria.

2) Over the past 8 years Bashar appointed many idiots or corrupt people as ministers… also, something to criticize.

3) Syria (you are right) is partially to blame for the way Haaretz reports these stories. You are absolutely right that Syria should invite Israeli journalists to be part of news conferences and to interview Syrian officials.


Now can you please allow Shai to criticize Israel without repeating the “self hating Jew” label? .. yes, absolutely even criticism can be criticized, but objectively … not by awarding them with the same boring label.

Do you remember the time Shai and SimoHurtta used to write pages and pages of comments .. SH attacking Israel and Shai defending Israel?

No one here thinks Shai and Rumyal hate Israel .. to the contrary, the fact these two highly intelligent individuals are spending all this time communicating on this blog indicates how much they love their country …

AIG .. For the same reason you are giving hours of your day to be here, Shai and AIG are also giving this blog a valuable part of their time .. they also love Israel like you do.

November 9th, 2008, 6:02 am


AIG said:

Of course Israelis were proud to see Dana International win the Eurovision contest. I was very proud. I think Dana’s sexuality is her business. It is only in your self-loathing mind that all the support from the Israeli public that Dana received was artificial and hypocritical. Tolerance is measured by facts on the ground, not by what you think people think. If there is a gay parade in Tel-Aviv every year and nobody interferes with it, that means people in Tel-Aviv are tolerant of gays. Of course there are sectors of Israeli public that are less tolerant especially the haredim. But show me ONE Arab city that hosted a gay parade. Even a minor one, not of the stature of Tel-Aviv which is the most important city in Israel. Yes, there was anger by the religious people at the gay parade planned in Jerusalem. But it went through! The state made sure that gays could exercise their rights. That is tolerance in action.

November 9th, 2008, 6:05 am


Alex said:


Here is .. Dana

And Dana reminded me of … Amanda Lear! … for those of you who are old enough to have been teens in 1980

November 9th, 2008, 6:06 am


AIG said:

It must be the LSD together with the mushrooms. The general public of Israel voted for Dana from among many options (like they do in american idol) to represent Israel in the Eurovision contest. Do you really deny that this is a strong sign of how tolerant the Israeli public is? Are you sucking-up or is this self loathing?

November 9th, 2008, 6:15 am


jad said:

AIG, you want to see a gay parade in the Arab world? Straight people doesn’t have the right to have a normal parade to ask for a gay one..LOL
I’m sorry AIG, you are talking funny tonight, are you ok?

Thank you Shai, now we know who is the famous Dana.

November 9th, 2008, 6:23 am


Rumyal said:

AIG is working with the assumption that we need to constantly compare what we do in Israel to what the Arabs do, and if Israel is in a much better standing, then it would be unwise or unpatriotic to complain about the state of affairs in Israel. For example we are finding relatively small problems in Yoav’s reporting compared with the total lack of free press in Syria, so why do we need to complain?

I don’t see myself here taking part in a pissing match. My job here, the way I see it, is not to criticize Arab countries but to explain Israeli situations and processes, to the best of my ability, to my Arab counterparts, so that they can better understand whom they’re dealing with (with the ultimate goal of peace, of course).

If I were to think of myself as a negotiator representing the Israeli side I would probably be much less critical and much more demanding of the Arab side because as I have said many times before, you have a lot to work on folks! I have noticed sometimes that when discussion touches on topics that are not comfortable to the Arab folks here they can resort to the AIG-tactic of reverting to saying “is Israel any better?”. I would hope that we would develop a culture where this type of tactic is deemed un-intellectual and we could just discuss matters without turning everything into a pissing contest (my favorite phrase of the day).

I will also admit to being too self-critical of my society sometimes. It’s possible I have overstated the negatives on occasion.

November 9th, 2008, 6:26 am


AIG said:

You are of course very wrong. There have been many anti-Israel and anti-US parades in the Arab world. There are also many parades in support of the governments. So, there are quite a few parades in the Arab world.

As usual, you put your head in the sand and invent ridiculous excuses. Why don’t you admit to yourself that gays would not have been allowed to march even if the government would let them? They would have been stopped by force and the media would have supported such intolerance and even incited it.

November 9th, 2008, 6:30 am


Alex said:

OK, forget Dana please.


If I can sum up opinions here

Your Haaretz editor seems to prefer more sensational titles for articles.

Readers here probably do not know that editors, and not the authors or articles, are the ones who pick those titles.

I agree with Rumyal that most of your readers who participated in the comments section after these Syria articles seem to have concluded that Syria is threatening them and that Syria does not want peace …etc.

But then again .. these are the readers who are angry enough to leave a comment. Maybe the ones who read the whole article did not feel angry anymore and that’s why they did not feel the urge to respond to the Syrians.

Finally … why not leave the whole “close to Syrian official position” out? .. can’t you simply describe Sami as “a political analyst living in Damascus”

Or when you quote Camille Alexandre in the future, simply describe him as “the smartest man on planet earth” ..etc.

Ya3ni is that too difficult, ya Yoav?

November 9th, 2008, 6:30 am


jad said:

Why you are attacking everybody tonight?
I can be rude too if you prefer that…

November 9th, 2008, 6:37 am


AIG said:


Thank you for being honest and realistic.

Let me make it clear that I do not think that Israel should be judged according to Arab standards. It should be judged against how other democracies acquitted themselves during war. For example, how is Israel doing relative to how the French were doing during the war in Algier? Is the Israeli press, better or worse than the French one then? If you want a nearer example, how well did the Dutch press and public analyze the dutch contingent in the former Yugoslavia? How well is the British press covering what the Brits are doing in Iraq and how is the British army doing relative to the Israeli army on the moral front?

Let’s criticize ourselves constantly, but let’s not forget that we are just a normal country in a difficult situation and should be judged according to reasonable standards.

Pissing contests are usually a waste of time. But occasionally, they may cause some poor brainwashed soul to have an epiphany and understand that the Arabs have to work at peace just as much as Israel does. That the problem is not only Israel or mainly Israel.

November 9th, 2008, 6:43 am


Alex said:

No, Jad, AIG will stop attacking everybody and will stop posting for tonight because he is again not realizing that if there is no 6 comments per day limit then he can not control himself from attacking everybody.

November 9th, 2008, 6:43 am


Shai said:


I completely agree with you – Israeli society is much more tolerant of gays than Arab societies are. And I AM proud of that. So we win this comparison test – 1-0 for Israel.

But what about tolerance for 3 million Palestinian citizens living under our control? Do they have equal rights? Do they have near-equal rights? Are most Israelis in favor of Palestinian freedoms and rights, like they are in gay freedoms and rights? And, between us (don’t share this with anyone please), will we only start to change our treatment of Arabs in Israel and in the Territories, when Assad allows gay parades in Damascus, or Hanniyeh in Gaza?

Rumyal, you could be Israel’s number-one ambassador, diplomat, or negotiator, day-in, day-out. You, my wise and truly-tolerant friend, have my vote, from this moment on!

AIG, a nation should be judged against one’s own set of principles, not against other nations’ record. If Israeli society is still racist, should we generate some ease from recognizing that for the majority of its history, so were most nations on earth?

November 9th, 2008, 6:49 am


Shai said:

Rumyal, AIG,

I have also admitted to be heavily unbalanced in my critique here, on SC, of Israel as opposed to the Arab world. Because, as I see it, my role here is not to dodge bullets by shooting back. I’m done doing that – I did it for enough years in my life, and for real, not using words.

I’m here to show Arabs (my so-called enemies) that there are voices in Israel that are aware of our faults, that can call some of them “crimes”, that recognize Israeli intolerance as often plain racism, that are unafraid to self-criticize (not self-hate), and to muster the courage necessary to change. By doing so, I am hoping to begin bridging some of the deep emotional gaps that exist between the sides of our conflict. I am doing my share, not demanding others do theirs first, in parallel, or last. Of course I hope Arab societies become free, become democracies, enable all their citizens freedoms and rights enjoyed by people throughout the Western world. Of course I want to see corruption end in Syria and in Lebanon, no less than in Israel. All these things affect us as well.

But voicing my recognition in our part, in what Israel and Israelis have to do, I am hopefully contributing to renewed hope amongst those who no longer believed Israel could change. If I attack back, by telling our Syrian bloggers what awful societies they live in, and how intolerant they are, as opposed to Israelis, what do I achieve? Fairness and balance? I’m not a reporter, and I don’t aim for these. I aim to first establish trust, and open communication, and hope. I do it knowingly, at the expense of balance.

November 9th, 2008, 7:14 am


Rumyal said:

Shai my friend,

>> Rumyal, you could be Israel’s number-one ambassador, diplomat, or negotiator, day-in, day-out

Giving up the t-shirt and jeans would be too much… Do you know what they pay? I may be talked into it 🙂

However I thought only Syria appoints computer scientists as ambassadors 🙂

November 9th, 2008, 7:23 am


Rumyal said:

AIG said:

>>> Shai,
>>> How many times will you lie about where I live?

I just want to remind all the readers here that “Another Israeli Guy” is always shying away from providing any sort of biographic detail which will allow us to ascertain with any level of credibility whether he lived/lives in Israel and for how long, and whether he has family there.

November 9th, 2008, 7:28 am


Shai said:

Mr. Rumyal,

As a computer scientist, you are required to have an open-mind, great imagination, thoroughness, attentiveness, and of course high intelligence. Hmmm… sounds to me like a perfect ambassador, no? 🙂 Yeah, the pay is crap, but the cocktail parties more than make up for the poor-diet… Then again, perhaps humble servants like you and I were meant more for work in the “virtual world” than in the “real one”? 🙂 I bet I communicate with a hell of a lot more Arabs than ANY of Israel’s diplomats do! There you go…

November 9th, 2008, 7:38 am


SimoHurtta said:

Do you remember the time Shai and SimoHurtta used to write pages and pages of comments .. SH attacking Israel and Shai defending Israel?

I have noticed that Shai has lately advanced positively in his “learning curve” about Israel’s role in the Middle East’s problematic situation. 🙂

If only Shai would admit that Israel nukes and politics are problem also for Europe. Europe can’t say it directly because of the past history and because the “AIG’s” always start that anti-Semitism screaming when Israel’s behaviour is criticized. Israelis (in general) and pro-Israelis (all of them) are terrible in tolerating criticism.

For example, how is Israel doing relative to how the French were doing during the war in Algier? Is the Israeli press, better or worse than the French one then?

AIG that Algerian war era was 45 year ago. That time homosexuality was in West Europe categorized as an sickness and as a crime (gay parades are a phenomena of the last decade in Western countries). Indeed I must say that I agree with you AIG, that Israel’s “behaviour” has certain resemblance with Europe’s behaviour 50 – 70 years ago. So you are right to compare modern days Israel with the end of colonial Europe and partly even WW2 Europe. The colonial period of Ersatz Israel is ending, which I assume you are also foreseeing but not wanting yet to admit yourself.

November 9th, 2008, 7:53 am


Rumyal said:


>>> The colonial period of Ersatz Israel…

I think you are trying to say “Eretz Yisrael” (in Hebrew, “the land of Israel”). The Hebrew word Eretz is related to the Arabic “Ardh”, also “land”.

November 9th, 2008, 8:06 am


SimoHurtta said:

Rumyal you are right. I was trying to refer to the “Greater Israel” as we can see for example in the Emblem of the Irgun.

Well we had/have (still) some over nationalistic lunatics also in Finland. Some of those dreamed the east border of Finland should be in Ural or at least Kola Peninsula and other considerable parts of North West Russia belong to “us”. 1000 years ago (which is 1000 years less than with “your” territorial claims) most of North Russia belonged to Finno-Ugrian tribes. Not any more…

November 9th, 2008, 8:41 am


Shai said:


Always glad to be showing a “learning curve”… 🙂

Israeli-European relations are indeed complex because of our history there. After all, most Jews escaped Europe in the previous century, via chimney, or boat (the lucky ones). So by definition it is still difficult for an Israeli diplomat to sit across his German or Austrian counterpart, and not have the subtle tension just under the surface. This is both good and bad for Israel, but I fear it is more bad than good. Indeed when the issues of morality come into discussion, it’s as if Europe cannot blast Israel for its horrific policies with the Palestinians. But in reality, European behavior towards Israel must also change. We cannot live in either extreme. It cannot be assumed that Europe will always shy away from harsh criticism, or that when it gives it, it will always side with the Arabs (for instance).

As for Israeli nuclear capabilities, I don’t think that worries too many leaders of European nations. The only thing we’ve ever launched Westward have been our satellites (we’re the only nation on earth that has to do that, most others launch Eastward!) It is a myth that has been propagated by some Israeli-“lovers”, that Israel is a threat to Europe.

I do want to correct myself about Israel threatening Europe – it can certainly be the case that many Europeans are worried that trigger-happy Israeli generals or politicians will lead the region, and hence the world, into extremely dangerous places, where the safety and security of ALL citizens will be in question. Just to clarify.

November 9th, 2008, 8:44 am


offended said:

We have a famous Syrian singer who’s also a big time junkie; we send him all over the world. The Swedes are having him as a guest at the moment. Will that pass for tolerance? 🙂

November 9th, 2008, 10:30 am


Shai said:

Yoav Stern writes today in Ha’aretz about Assad’s claim that Israel is not genuine about peace. http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/1035651.html

Assuming this was indeed the message delivered during his speech to Arab parliamentarians in Damascus today, I believe President Assad is making a mistake. While justified, his rationale could be to make Israelis face up to their own image, to what their leaders are saying, and not doing. But there is an underlying assumption there, which I believe is in error, namely that Israelis, once they understand the mixed messages their leaders are sending, will “shape up”, and even push from underneath to make their peaceful intentions heard loud and clear.

But unfortunately, the Israeli public is far from ready to make peaceful overtures to Syria. It isn’t opting to make peace with Syria, and most are not supportive of Olmert’s decision to engage Syria in negotiations. Most Israelis will agree with Assad’s claim, but will see nothing wrong with it. And that is the problem that must be addressed. Syria, whether it likes it or not, must deal with this public, not with another. They must deal with a majority of Israelis who believe in the “Axis-of-Evil”, and in Syrians as terrorist-supporters who still dream of throwing us to the sea. It is their hearts and minds that Syria must hope to change, not those of Meretz voters. Syria of course can claim it isn’t her job to do this, it is the job of Israeli leaders.

But as we’ve said before, when the same Israeli leaders are themselves not ready for peace, change can only come from underneath. There are times to take advantage of Israel’s democratic system, and now is such a time. Knowing that the next election (in less than 90 days from now) will usher in a new PM in Israel, who may well occupy that post until the year 2013, Syria should consider its own abilities to change the Israeli voter’s choice for PM. By repeating the “Israelis are not ready for peace” mantra, Syria is not bringing any Israeli closer. It may well be doing the opposite. If Syria’s strategic interests are effected by the Israeli voter (and I believe they are), now’s the time to hire some excellent marketing advisers in Damascus, and create and deliver a marketing campaign that targets none other than their enemy voters!

This is my humble opinion…

November 9th, 2008, 12:22 pm


Alia said:


Actually, in the Arabic text, Assad said more than the above: The 3 paragraphs that addressed the issue of Peace talks seemed to me personally to be the clearest in the whole discourse..

Following what you quoted, he said :

“It is very clear that Peace has not been the priority of Israel, it is rather national security defined very narrowly; a security which is achievable at the expense of our own rights and our own security….It is not reasonable for us to continue to express our desire for Peace, as we have done repeatedly for decades and esp. since Madrid; it is for the Israelis to bring forward proofs (of their commitment to Peace) by expressing their readiness for Peace with their own deeds in the face of their continued occupation of our lands, the exile of millions of our people …they continue doing all this and continue demanding security and guarantees which they place as a mask in front of their face in order to gain more concessions from us……

Their desire for Peace appears more of a tactical step than a strategic step.

We have continued the indirect talk intitiave all the while realistic about……and the fact that Israel has never completely abandoned the notion of possible aggression (against us) which stems from its insitictive fear of Peace….esp. at this time where we see an increase in sectarian, religious and ethnic extremism among the Israelis…such “as throwing out the Arabs” and similar statements.”

I agree and you seem to agree that the onus is on the population of democratic Israel to show that the balance/ the choice is for Peace with all that it entails of concessions on the part of Israel as a nation and on the part of each Israeli citizen. If things are improving Shai, if there are people like you, Rumayl and Enlightened …please show us..( this is said in all sincerity)

November 9th, 2008, 1:15 pm


yaser said:

I stopped using the term “Syrian regime”, I use instead the term “Syrian rule”
I think you either oppose to the rule (which I see no real Syrian opposition ,certainly not among the authors or commentators featured here). or you recognize its legitemacy and try to critisize it constructively in which case it is more appropriate to use the term “Syrian rule” as i have pointed out.

November 9th, 2008, 1:20 pm


Shai said:

Dear Alia,

As always, many thanks for the wonderfully thorough and informative comments. Yes, precisely, it is Israelis that need to change our “peace-for-peace” attitude. We need to understand why the Arabs have been in conflict with us all these years. We need to accept responsibility for our action, and realize that no peace will ever come our way, until we do the absolute minimum, the physical recognition in the Occupied lands as being someone else’s, not ours. And of course, we can only do that, by dismantling the tens and hundreds of illegal settlements, by withdrawing from the West Bank, and from the Golan. But most Israelis (with regards to Syria), are not ready to do this now. They don’t find it necessary. They hate, and distrust, and suspect the Syrian leadership, and the Syrian people.

So it is THEY, the Israeli public, that Syria should target when it speaks about peace. Forget Livni, or Netanyahu. Both are first going to look at their voters, and sense out what they are ready for and, more importantly, what they’re not. If our peace movements in Israel gain reinforcement, gain momentum, by amongst other things pointing to Syria’s peaceful words towards our people, this task will be much easier, and indeed another 20-30% of Israelis will switch back to the pro-peace stance.

I am asking Syria to help us help ourselves. We can begin to change, when we know who Syria is, and who Syrians are. We know nothing about you, except through 3rd-hand interpretations, like you’ve seen above via Yoav Stern, or a Kuwaiti newspaper quoted in Israel. Why should Israelis consider peace with a nation and a people that are described merely through Netanyahu, or even Livni? (who themselves know Syria through our media, not much beyond). Do you see what I mean? Open up as little, or as much as you can. Exchange journalists, do interviews, have cultural exchanges on any level (kids chess tournament, I don’t care). But allow us to finally see, hear, and “feel” who it is that we’re supposed to give the Golan back to. Most Israelis don’t know you…

November 9th, 2008, 1:35 pm


Alia said:

Yaser and Avi Salam,

very good for you both, as you define yourselves.

This shows that we are not a bloc of Syrians, rather a spectrum. Each one of us arrived where he/she did through their own personal history and choices.

Some of us : ) have also multiple identities functioning in parallel, and feel quite comfortable with that, and with the multiple languages/expressions that we find appropriate to use. That has always been the one advantage of the recent post-modern history of displacement, and loss.

November 9th, 2008, 1:37 pm


Alia said:


Thanks for your kind words.

I was thinking along the same lines as I read your initial post #40.
Most Syrians know “the Israelis” as a dark entity, there is no differentiation in there. And for better and for worse, many of us feel immense pain for the Palestinian suffering and the injustice done to them and for most of us it is not something that we can give up, try as we may.

It has been a catch 22, if we do not have Peace we cannot exchange real views and we cannot have Peace as we are right now unless we exchange views. Since as I am understanding it, you do not feel appropriately represented by your government and needless to point out that I have nothing to say about how my government makes its decisions.

But seeing the nonchalance of Mr. Stern about his role, I would be willing to help him check out and correct the accuracy of his translated Syrian/Arabic quotations : )

I don’t know what more to say, Shai. Perhaps Joshua and Alex can move us a little bit further as they have provided this forum..

November 9th, 2008, 1:54 pm


Yaser said:

Shai, Alia,
I actually think that us Syrians should reach out to Israelis and really offer them with an alternative view of Syria, it has been said that in order to reach real peace we have to bypass our political leaders who are more or less interseted in playing games and wasting time and instead have people to people dialogue in order to establish real peace ,I know because I have done it and actually I have reached a draft peace deal with an Israeli ,it still needs a little modifications .
but for those of you who are interested in seeing it go to:
scroll down to the very end and some comments above read my comment which starts by “The Good Nieghbors Accord”

November 9th, 2008, 2:09 pm


norman said:


I did not read the whole thing but from the first few lines i can tell you that 1948 border is not acceptable as it leaves Syria behind 1967 border and that will never happen , It has to be 1967 border.

November 9th, 2008, 2:19 pm


yaser said:

I know !
but you have to read all the comment and ALL the discussion that come before it to see how we got there .
I tottaly recognize your point ,however if you care to discuss this I am tottaly willing to explain to you my position .

November 9th, 2008, 2:23 pm


AIG said:

You are just a plain liar though why you bother to lie is not clear to me. I have said enough times on this blog that I and most of my family live in Ramat-Hasharon and that I was 10 years in the IDF. Now, you and Shai are perfectly welcome to keep lying about this, but do not expect me to keep pointing out that you are just plain liars. Even if I lived in Alaska, I am not sure how this would have helped your argument as most Israelis think about the issues like me (except democracy) and most of your Syrian interlocutors are ex-pats themselves!

AS for Asad’s latest statement, let me demontrate how laughable it is. First, I and most Israelis believe that the Golan belongs to Israel. It was taken in a war in which the Syrians were the aggressors and it was annexed by Israeli law which for me trumps any other law. The Golan is a valuable peace of real estate that Israel in principle can negotiate about, but it better receive very concrete and tangible benefits for giving it up. What these could be has not been aticulated and anything put forward is asking Israel to bank on the future good will and success of Syria. As the rating on Syria’s bonds show, Syria is a bankrupt country in which I have very little faith. It has not shown any signs of reform or willingness to curb its population growth and I believe it will deteriorate into chaos in the next 5 to 20 years. Therefore, a deal with any such country has to be extra good for Israel in order to be worth the Golan. Naturally, I expect Syrians to have a different view of the future than me. That is fine. If we cannot reach a deal, we cannot reach a deal. Let’s talk again in 10 years. Maybe then one of the sides will be more “serious”.

And I have several direct questions to King Asad II:
1) Do you really think you will get far by belittling Israel’s security concerns?
2) Why should our trust in you grow if regarding the Golan you are advocating international law and a need for a “peace” attitude while internally in Syria you disregard international law completely and rule with an iron fist? Don’t you think we could have trusted you more if you practiced what you preach? As things stand you are just seen by most Israelis as a ruthless hypocrite who has no real principles. Not a good partner for a deal.

The bottom line is simple. If you want to get nowhere fast, keep speaking about international law, good intentions and all the other kumbaya stuff. They never much mattered to you and they do not matter to us. We in Israel want only one thing, a list of the things we will gain from giving the Golan back. Then we can have an internal discussion whether it is worthwhile or not.

November 9th, 2008, 6:00 pm


Shai said:


I don’t see why you keep referring to me as “liar”, when all I’ve ever done is assume you live in the U.S., and not where you may have lived in the past, Ramat Hasharon. Is this a lie?

I want you to know that I actually do agree with you on the last thing you said: “We in Israel want only one thing, a list of the things we will gain from giving the Golan back. Then we can have an internal discussion whether it is worthwhile or not.”

This is a perfectly legitimate request of yours and, believe it or not, I share it along with you. This is what you called the “tangible” list of things. I gave you a list of such tangible gains in return for the Golan, and you accepted some of them. So then, why can’t we put aside the Assad the “ruthless hypocrite” (as you called him), and in fact develop a proper national discourse on whether peace is worthwhile or not. I am absolutely for exactly that. But you see, despite the fact that you and I are discussing the merits of such a peace for almost a year now, here on SC, very few if any Israelis are doing the same. What the media is doing, and certainly what the political leadership has always done (from all parties, not just the Right), is feed into people’s innate fear and hatred of Arabs. No courageous leader (if you think about it, not even Rabin, with regards to Syria) has come out and said “Let’s have a national discussion on whether peace is worth it, or not.”

Will you help me push for that? Will you support the idea of open discourse amongst our people, with not only analyses attempting to depict the “true nature” of the regime we are debating partnership with (peace agreement), but indeed also possible merits of such an agreement. What say you?

November 9th, 2008, 6:33 pm


AIG said:

I tell you I live in Ramat-Hasharon and you keep “assuming” I don’t for your arguments, which makes you a blatant liar. It is really quite simple.

Of course I am for open discourse among people as long as these people do not have the explicit intent of killing me like Hamas. Then it is just a waste of time. It also makes for very entertaining television. And the Israeli press and media constantly addresses the issue of peace and are we doing enough to get there. Do you really believe that we will have to “push” for anything if Syria sends Israel a list of benefits from peace with it? The Israeli media will be all over it for days and weeks without need for any nudging.

As for the list you sent, there was nothing concrete on it as I see it.

November 9th, 2008, 7:22 pm


Shai said:


Assuming you live in the U.S. makes me a “blatant liar”? It’s just that you never seem to be “in Israel”… you know what I mean? To be honest, I neither know exactly where you live, nor do I particularly care. It does SEEM to me, that you do not spend most of your time in Israel. Am I wrong?

I was talking about national discourse, not one between Hamas and Israelis, though clearly I find it absolutely necessary to engage your enemy, even (and especially) if he is intent on continuing to fight you. Who do you want Israel to talk to about peace, its friends?

When I said “will you help me push…”, I meant that the media certainly is not doing enough to bring the topic onto the level of national discourse. Yoav Stern quotes Assad as saying “Israelis are not genuine about peace…”, but Ha’aretz does little to encourage us to ask ourselves why, and to discuss it.

I don’t know what your definition of “concrete” is (to me, only two things are “concrete” – death, and taxes). But why can we not expect peace with Syria to bring about a cessation of arms shipments through Syria, end of military support by Syria to Hezbollah, beginning of diplomatic, economic, and cultural relationship with Syria and with Syrians, which certainly can help our mutual societies? Is there a reason to suspect any of these won’t happen? Or that their contribution is unwanted? Offer these explicitly to Israel, and see the majority of the Golan’s residents willing to leave. Some of them are already willing to leave now, with only a vague definition of “peace” in return.

November 9th, 2008, 8:24 pm


AIG said:


“just that you never seem to be “in Israel”… you know what I mean?”
No, I don’t know what you mean. It seems you are trying to justify your lying. That is mainly your problem, if something seems true to you because it supports your peculiar convictions, it becomes true to you.

We cannot expect the Syrian regime to treat Israel and Israelis better than it treats Syrians. The regime is corrupt and if someone there after peace will be paid to smuggle weapons to Hizballah, he will do it and then of course the regime will claim that it is not reponsible and doing all it can. Or the bleeding Syrian liberals on this blog will ask how you expect the poor people on the border not to help smuggle things to Hizballah, as this is how they make a living? Why do you think the Egyptians are not “finding” all the tunnels into Gaza? Bakshish makes the Arab world go round. We have heard all the excuses before and have ZERO trust until we see real reform.

The Syrians used “plausible deniability” before a peace agreement and they will use it after a peace agreement. Only ultra ideological people like you that view Asad as better than Shimon Peres really believe things will significantly change after a peace agreement which does not solve the FUNDAMENTAL problems, democracy and economic advancement in the Arab countries that helps their average citizen.

November 9th, 2008, 8:49 pm


Shai said:


Alright, let’s relax the “liar”, “blatant liar”, rhetoric.

You said: “Only ultra ideological people like you that view Asad as better than Shimon Peres really believe things will significantly change after a peace agreement which does not solve the FUNDAMENTAL problems, democracy and economic advancement in the Arab countries that helps their average citizen.”

I beg to differ. I believe you are the “ultra ideological” person. I’m for flexibility, for compromise, for changing our perception, for empathizing with an enemy. You’re for none of those, because of an “ultra ideology” that is called “democracy, or nothing.”

I never claimed Assad was “better” than Shimon Peres. I personally wouldn’t let either babysit my daughters… 🙂 And to make it perfectly clear, I don’t know if things will “significantly change” after a peace agreement is reached. Maybe they won’t, like they didn’t with Egypt and Jordan. Maybe things will change significantly once we end the Occupation of Palestine. But I do believe very strongly that things will continue to “significantly change” for the worse, if we choose no-peace as our option.

November 9th, 2008, 9:07 pm


SimoHurtta said:

AIG have Syrians (normal Syrians not the elite) any reason to believe that Israelis would treat them any better as you treat Palestinians? I suppose that is an even more important question as speculating what Israeli Jews (in USA as you) believe and want from Arabs. Considering that the aggressor and stronger side is Israel.

As an Israeli Jew AIG supporting modern days Israel’s policy you should not speak anything about corruption, political prisoners, poverty, treating badly fellow humans, respecting property rights etc. As a Finn I can with some moral basis (seen from on the country “level”) do that.

Two headers of Haaretz news flashes
19:35 Kadima activist petitions court to allow division of Arab town Baka-Jat (Haaretz)
18:03 Olmert: Israel will never forgive or forget the crimes of the Nazi regime (AP)

Do you AIG believe that Palestinians will forget and forgive or even believe that Israel will “grow up” instead turning fast to a “Fourth Reich”? Should they?

AIG your famous Golani Brigade (motto:”The No. 1 Brigade”) boys and girls arranged again a good PR show for Israel. Did you see that clip of your “heroes” torturing that helpless human being (BCC showed it and hopefully several others around the world). It demands a real “man” to do with a riffle in his hand accompanied with several same minded racists. Olmert never forgives the crimes of Nazis but turns a blind eye to the own Nazis doing exactly the same.

By the way what will be AIG the name of Golani Brigade when you have to give up Golan? Would you like Syrian and Egyptian army having formations named Tel Aviv brigade after a final peace treaty? You should begin to consider naming the “baby” again. Maybe Camel brigade would be a good name. It shows your new commitment to the region and the name is almost like Carmeli Brigade which was an ancestor Golani Brigade. 🙂

November 9th, 2008, 9:52 pm


Saghir said:


You said that you are “open for discourse among people as long as these people do not have the explicit intent of killing me like Hamas”.

Did you stop and wonder why Hamas has that intent?

Do you think that killing and violence is in their DNA?

Could it conceivably be because they have been subjected to living in conditions where they have little left to lose?

The Israeli leaders and public are not ready to change. The word peace gets thrown around like a real close possibility within reach. The reality is far different. The mistrust and hate is real.

In the earlier post, I did list why I feel the way I did and offered specific examples.

Shai replied that “Our problems are emotion-based, not logical. Find the way to people’s hearts, and their mind will change accordingly, I am absolutely convinced of that”.

The Palestinian hearts have been stabbed. The Arabs are overwhelmingly clear that it is Israel and its people that are at fault. This is not a perception problem. It is not a marketing issue. It is real. Till we stop sugar-coating the issue and admit that the differences remain deep, there will not be a solution in our life time.

November 9th, 2008, 10:00 pm


Shai said:


Interesting point about renaming the Golani brigade… I never quite thought of that… 🙂 Btw, when I read Olmert’s words today, 70 years exactly to the day after Kristallnacht, I thought the same thing you did… It isn’t Nazism, but it is our-own version of dehumanization of another people. My uncle once, in an argument with some Likud-supporters about what the Occupation is doing to our own society, pulled out a photo of two very young settler kids yelling at an old Palestinian woman. He asked them if they could tell the difference between that, and another famous photo we’ve all seen, of two German kids doing the same next to an old Jewish man, in Nazi Germany…

The notion that the people who lost a third of their total population in the Holocaust, six million Jews, could act the way we do towards the Palestinians, for so long, is something I can never understand. No excuse is acceptable. None.

November 9th, 2008, 10:07 pm


Shai said:


I won’t repeat my comments to your earlier posting, but you know we agree. However, you said: “Till we stop sugar-coating the issue and admit that the differences remain deep, there will not be a solution in our life time.”

Indeed our differences remain deep. But merely “admitting” it will not lead to a solution. There is action that needs to be taken, to change this reality, to bridge over these differences. I can repeat the mantra “not in our lifetime” together with you, until I’m blue in the face. But that certainly won’t bring us closer to a solution, will it? What do you want to do, leave it to our children? Maybe they’ll know how to take off the “sugar-coating”? Yes, you’re right, sometimes we do sugar-coat. Sometimes, when I say to Norman, or OTW, or JAD, that Arabs and Jews are also very much alike, much more than many know, I’m sugar-coating our differences. But I’m trying to depict hope, not to coverup reality.

The people in this forum know the reality, so I don’t need to stress it 24/7. But if our societies are suffering from hatred, and suspicion, and fear, we may need to come up with a good “pill” for them to take. And, sometimes, sugar-coating a pill makes it easier to swallow. I’m not trying to play with words, I’m seriously addressing your concern that by not sticking to our differences, we’ll get nowhere. Yes, we need to solve those differences, and they are indeed very deep. But where will people find the energy and courage to do so, if nothing gives them hope? This is our job. We must also give people hope, by pointing to what today may seem unreal to most, which is a better future.

Again, I always say this, but think of yourself as a grandfather, asked by your grandchildren years from now, “Grandpa, what did you do to help bring peace?” I know I want to have an answer for them, even if minute and seemingly inconsequential. But I have to have an answer. I owe it to them, no less than to myself.

November 9th, 2008, 10:25 pm


Enlightened said:

Article from Sydney Morning Herald:

UN vote: Rudd breaks with Howard on Israel

Phillip Hudson
November 10, 2008

AUSTRALIA has switched its position to vote against Israel on two resolutions at the United Nations, ending the Howard government’s unswerving alignment with the United States and raising concern from the Jewish community.

The move also signals to the incoming Obama administration that the Rudd Government plans to take a different approach to the Howard government on the international stage.

In the weekend vote in New York, Australia supported a resolution calling on Israel to stop establishing settlements in the Palestinian territories and a resolution calling for the Geneva Conventions to apply in the Palestinian territories.

The resolutions on the Middle East peace process are held annually and the Howard government had backed both from 1996 to 2002 but in 2003 began to vote against or abstain. It was a move that aligned Australia with only the US, Israel, the US Marshall Islands, Nauru, Palau and Micronesia and put the country at odds with Britain, Canada, New Zealand and France.

Australian officials told the UN the Government had changed its position because it supported a two-state resolution of the conflict to deliver a secure Israel living beside a viable Palestinian state and that Australia believed both sides should abide by their obligations under the Road Map for Peace.

Australia said it was concerned activity in the disputed settlements undermined confidence in the negotiations. It was among 161 countries that supported both resolutions, with two abstaining and six against.

The president of the Executive Council of Australian Jewry, Robert Goot, last night was concerned over the Government’s switch. “We are concerned that the vote has changed, we do not understand the basis for the change,” he said.

The Foreign Affairs Minister, Stephen Smith, last night said there had been no change to Australia’s policy on the Middle East. He said he had met the Israeli Prime Minister, Ehud Olmert, and the Foreign Minister, Tzipi Livni, in Jerusalem two weeks ago and told them Australia was a strong supporter of Israel and the Middle East peace process.

“Australia’s friendship with Israel is longstanding and enduring and we understand completely Israel’s legitimate security concerns,” he said.

“As a staunch and longstanding friend of Israel, we want its people to be able to enjoy the fruits of a normal, peaceful existence, within a Middle East that recognises Israel’s right to live within secure and internationally recognised boundaries. That is an approach that has strong bipartisan support in Australia and it’s an approach that will continue.”

The Opposition foreign affairs spokeswoman, Helen Coonan, called on Mr Smith to explain why Australia changed its vote. “The change in emphasis is concerning unless it can be better explained as giving effect to a bipartisan and balanced approach,” she said.

Australia maintained its vote on seven other UN resolutions relating to Israel, in particular opposing a resolution criticising Israel on Palestinian human rights. Australia said it believed the resolution was too one-sided against Israel and failed to take account of Israel’s legitimate security concerns or reflect the responsibility of Palestinians to end attacks against Israel. Australia was one of eight countries, including Canada, to vote against this resolution that was supported by 87 countries with 70 abstaining.

Last month Australia announced new sanctions on Israel’s rival Iran but backed down on a pledge to force the Iranian President, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, before an international court on charges of inciting genocide.

November 9th, 2008, 10:48 pm


Saghir said:

AIG cannot help but fancy himself and his bravado. Why not? I don’t blame him. He looks around and sees close to 400 million Arabs and over a Billion Moslems totally hapless to put up a fight against his tiny country. There is no denying that our leaders failed us over the years. Since Israel came into existence, mistake after mistake led us into the sad state of affairs we find ourselves in.

A person like AIG epitomizes our failures. Here he is dictating to us the type of governments we should have before his racist people and government decides to sit down and return land. In the meantime, their settlements continue. Their razing of homes is at full speed. Their treatment of the people of Gaza shows racism at its worst.

Given the energy resources under the ground of the Arab and Moslem Gulf region, one would think that we would have more influence in the geopolitical chess game. Sadly, infighting and idiotic Sunni-Shia divide have split and weakened the region and stripped it of any sense of power and authority.

While Arab leader were asleep at the wheel, Israel has invested time and energy in solidifying its racist project. Her defenders dominated the political scene in the west. Her advocates fought hard to secure her the needed military strength and even nuclear weapons to ensure her survival.

While Israel has secured the military and political authority, her moral authority has been lacking. It is this lack of moral authority that Israelis have been too blinded to see and feel.

November 9th, 2008, 11:02 pm


why-discuss said:

Yoav Stern like most wannabe famous journalist are looking for scoops and follows blindly the current mood of the western media. Anything not dramatic or negative is boring, so it is often necessary to pick one or two dramatic sentences out of context, and use them. Of course, they can always invoke the fact that they have to be concise and they chose whatever they feel is important. The question is: Important for the reader to have a balanced view or for the journalist’s career or for the newspaper sales or for the political party he is ‘close’ to? The western media is full of attempts to manipulate the readers. ( As an example, just read the titles about Iran, Syria etc.., all are negatively presented, even the good news). Yoav Stern is just doing that.

November 9th, 2008, 11:08 pm


AIG said:

This is one over the limit and I will not post more today, but I understand if you erase it.

I am not being cynical when I say that when I read your last post I became slightly more optimistic. I expect Arabs to hate Israelis so this aspect of your attitude does not bother me. What I found nice in your post is your acknowledgement and good analysis of some of the problems facing the Arab world. That is how you start solving your problems, by analyzing them. I strongly urge you, make Israel and arrogant Israelis like me eat crow by making the Arab world strong. You will do that only by addressing its fundamental problems and I sincerely wish you the best of luck in doing this. Unlike the other posters in this blog, you at least do not spew the kumbaya BS. If I have to sit across someone and make peace it would be someone like you and not the rest of the LSD day dreaming gang on this blog.

November 9th, 2008, 11:15 pm


SimoHurtta said:

Kristalnacht episode started from expelling “illegal” Jews living in Germany (like what Lieberman and his fellows want with your “floor cleaners”) and the assassination of the German embassy employee in France by a Jew (terrorist you Israelis call them, well not Jews performing those acts but other people murdering the your civilians). That all gave an excuse to start. And the rest is history.

Shai your Israel is now living in many ways the year between 1933 – 1938 of Nazi Germany. Shall it continue to the year 1945?

Shai I am not so convinced that the analogy between Nazi Germany and Zionist Israel (what it is now) can’t be made. There are numerous reasons to make that analogy
* overblown nationalism added with own racial supremacy ideology and massive propaganda
* areal expansion and dreams of more
* unfounded (from defensive perspective) armament
* unwanted population isolated in ghettos and marked by a new form of David stars
* “legal” racial discrimination
* concentration camps and illegal detentions
* confiscation land and property of non chosen people
rather “valid”.

What is still missing is genocide on industrial scale. But “you” have surely plans and tested equipments ready to do that any day if your “corporal” demands it.

November 9th, 2008, 11:18 pm


Saghir said:

The story below is an example of our failure to put our region’s resources to good use. What a waste.


November 9th, 2008, 11:33 pm


Rumyal said:


This is the first time I read that you are from Ramat Hasharon, have family there and been to the army for more than 10 years. Last time I asked you (here: https://joshualandis.com/blog/?p=1365&cp=all#comment-220261) you failed to respond. I don’t doubt it that you have said so before, I probably have missed it (I don’t read all of your comments).

November 10th, 2008, 12:23 am


Ford Prefect said:

Shai has been artfully articulating a case of peace for a long time now while many others are still arguing of how and why peace cannot happen.

Yes, our differences are deep. Our emotions are high. There are many players, cultures, and special interests groups in action. We can sit down and discuss these divisions until, as Shai said, we are blue in the face. Syrians are waiting for the Israelis to change and the Israelis are waiting for the Syrians to “flip”. Good luck and good night.

We need to start somewhere. What we now need is an open people-to-people dialogue, We don’t want to talk about the Golan or Jerusalem or the right of return. We don’t want to talk about who is right or who is wrong. And the people certainly do not want to talk about how and when they will change.

The Syrian people and the Israeli people should be free to have a dialogue about science, culture, education, history, and basic human aspirations.

We need to bring these psychological walls down. Israelis need to see the human side of Syria and Syrians need to see the human side of Israelis.

While many are talking about the myriads of problems facing peace (and rightfully so), how about publishing some articles about a Palestinian soccer team that is being cheered by Israelis?

Or how about the warm reception American Jews have received in Syria – not by the government, but by ordinary people in the streets.

Let’s highlight the positives – as few of these as there are. it is a start.

November 10th, 2008, 12:27 am


Off the Wall said:

Dear Saghir, Sorry i posted this in the wrong thread.


Few on this site are as critical of KSA as I am, but I can not find the negative in the FORBES article. To the contrary, i think that what the article describes is a wonderful development in ARAMCO that is working deligently to utilize advanced technologies to improve the effeciency, productivity, and long term sustainability of resource extraction based economy.

I guess one man’s trash is another man’s treasure. What I read in that article was a desctription of a state or the art monitoring and prediction system that uses scientific methods and high tech instruments to assess and monitor oil fields. Where is the waste in that. These are giant oil fields located in complex geological formation that are the hardest to quantify and model. What the article refers to as a number of cells is astounding and anyone who did some work on solving partial differential equations commonly used in ground water and oil motion simulations can tell you that they are probably at shock and owe at this marvelous accomplishment. Just consider the notion of pre-development simulation of the oil field for purposes of cost benefit assessment. One single simulation would easily pay the cost of the whole system by identifying the optimal way of developing this precious resource.

Another thing I read in the article is ambitious plans for future economic sustainability. This by far is much superior, IMHO, to the cities of salt, and useless towers being built in Dubai. I have to say here, and i find it very strange coming from me, KUDOS ARAMCO.

Finally, one might say, it is not developed by Arab engineers. I have a little different take on that. As much as I detest the segregation of sexes in KSA, i had the chance to study with one of the graduates from KSA’s flagship university of petrol and minerals university. The fellow, a saudi from middle class family, was the most oustanding student during graduate school, we, his fellow graduate students ate his dust as the saying goes. He impressed all of our professors and I am sure that his students now at that university are lucky to have him as their professor. I would not be surprised if he has a hand in some of this system development, and I would not be surprised if some of his students are now running big part of the system.

November 10th, 2008, 12:58 am


Saghir said:


It is an impressive article. Perhaps I did not explain what I meant. The Arab world should have a lot more strength and resources to influence world opinion. Incidentally, Schlumberger is the company that makes everything you read in the article possible.

November 10th, 2008, 1:15 am


jad said:

Dear OTW,
I’m very impressed by your technical knowledge and your way of analyzing the subject at hand in all of your comments, even the not so serious ones…KUDOS OTW….

On the other hand for AIG, it seems that he just learn the word “Kombaya BS” and he is using it since yesterday in all of his comments and I’m also impressed that all of them were stunning ‘Kombaya BS’

Shai, I have a big surprise for you too, my chopstick and Chinese character knowledge are as impressive as OTW comments, you will be toasted up there…

November 10th, 2008, 1:21 am


norman said:

Saghir,OTW, Shai, Alex , JAd, FP, Rumyal, WD I should say all

This should make you all happy.

Source: Obama secretly pledged cooperation with Syria
Said to favor Israel’s retreat from strategic Golan Heights

Posted: November 09, 2008
6:33 pm Eastern

By Aaron Klein
© 2008 WorldNetDaily

Syrian Ambassador Imad Moustapha

JERUSALEM – Representatives of President-elect Barack Obama recently told Syrian officials that Obama supports ending their county’s isolation and that as president he would work to bring Damascus into the international community, a Syrian diplomatic source revealed to WND.

The source said the pledges were made this past summer in a meeting in Washington, D.C., between Obama’s policy aids and Syrian Ambassador Imad Moustapha. The source said Moustapha was asked at the time by Obama’s camp not to comment on the meeting.

The source said Moustapha was told that Obama favors engagement and economic cooperation with Syria as opposed to the Bush administration’s policy of isolating the country and imposing economic sanctions.

The source also disclosed Obama’s team said the president-elect favors talks between Israel and Syria leading to an Israeli withdrawal from the Golan Heights, strategic, mountainous territory looking down on Israeli population centers that was twice used in the past by Syria to mount ground invasions into the Jewish state.

(Story continues below)

The information comes at a time when U.S.-Syrian relations seem to be reaching a low point following a U.S. military raid on Syrian soil last month that reportedly targeted elements of a robust foreign fighter logistics network operating from Syria and planning attacks against U.S. troops in Iraq. A U.S. military official said the raid was carried out due to Syrian inaction against insurgents working in its country.

The U.S. has long accused Syria of failing to halt insurgents from using Syrian territory to smuggle weapons into Iraq or to stage attacks against U.S. troops in Iraq.

Syria is accused of fomenting instability in Lebanon and has been widely blamed for a series of political assassinations there against anti-Syrian leaders, including the 2005 car bomb murder of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri.

Syria also openly hosts the chiefs of the Hamas and Islamic Jihad terror groups.

Yesterday, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad called on the U.S. to pull its troops out of Iraq, claiming the troops pose a threat to neighboring states.

“The presence in Iraq of American forces of occupation is a permanent threat to neighboring countries and an element of instability in the region,” Assad said in a speech to Arab parliamentarians in Damascus.

Obama has been a harsh critic of the war in Iraq and has pledged to make ending the war a top priority.

After the Illinois senator won last week’s election, the official Syrian state-run SANA news agency quoted Syrian Information Minister Mohsen Bilal as expressing hope that Obama would “change US foreign policy from a policy of war and siege to one of diplomacy and dialogue.”

Bilal made the comments during a trip to Cuba last Wednesday, the report said.

While the Syrian diplomatic source speaking to WND said his country was told Obama supports diplomacy over sanctions, it wasn’t immediately clear what was asked of Syria in return for U.S. engagement.

Last April, a top Syrian official told WND his country floated a proposal to the Bush administration stating that if the U.S. helps facilitate billions of dollars in business for Syria and builds up Damascus as the primary American ally in the Arab world in place of Saudi Arabia, the Syrians would be willing to discuss scaling back alliances with Iran and making peace with Israel.

He said Syria also demanded as a key condition for considering altering its alliances that the U.S. cease opposing Syrian influence in Lebanon.

“Syria is the key to the Arab world. We have influence with Hezbollah and Lebanon and hold many cards in the Palestinian and Iraqi arenas,” said the official, who spoke by phone from Damascus on condition his name be withheld. “The U.S. needs to rethink the value of the investment it places in Saudi Arabia.”

The official said Syria is asking the U.S. to end its opposition to a trade and association agreement between Damascus and the European Union drafted in 2004 that is said to be worth about $7 billion per year for the Syrian economy. The agreement was not signed or implemented, largely due to American pressure, said the Syrian official.

Syria is also asking the U.S. not to object to Syrian “influence” in Lebanon, which was occupied for nearly 30 years by Syrian forces until protests prompted by Hariri’s assassination. Pro-democracy Lebanese leaders accuse Syria of meddling in Lebanon’s affairs by directing the Hezbollah terrorist group, which holds key parliamentary seats, to interfere in the election of a new Lebanese president.

The main Syrian request is that America uphold Damascus as its main “partner” in the Arab world instead of Saudi Arabia, said the Syrian official.

He said in exchange Damascus would discuss severing “many ties” with Iran, but he would not specify which ties and whether Syria is willing to cut off all coordination with the Iranians.

“We are ready to significantly and deeply reduce relations with our Iranian brothers if conditions are met,” the official said.

He said Syria is willing to sign a treaty with Israel and come to some sort of accommodation regarding the strategic Golan Heights, mountainous territory looking down on Israeli population centers which Syria used twice to launch ground invasions into the Jewish state.

The official claimed the Golan was not “the biggest obstacle” in preventing a Syrian-American-Israeli agreement.

He claimed Syria would “not categorically reject the idea of leasing some sections of the Golan to Israel for up to 99 years.”

Just yesterday, Israeli leaders, including sitting Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Foreign Minister Tzippi Livni, expressed public willingness to engage in direct negotiations with Syria regarding the Golan Heights.

Security officials in Jerusalem confirmed in April to WND their knowledge of the Syrian offers to the U.S., which they said prompted a major crisis between Syria and Saudi Arabia.

According to the security officials, Saudi Arabia earlier this year began shipping weapons to the anti-Syrian leadership in Lebanon to bolster them against Damascus’ influence and the Syrian-backed Hezbollah.

The Syrian-Saudi crisis was highlighted at last March’s Arab Summit, a major annual meeting of Arab leaders, which was held this year in Damascus. Saudi Arabia sent only a low-level representative – which was seen as a major snub to Syria – and used the platform to blast Syria.

According to knowledgeable Arab diplomatic sources, Saudi Arabia wanted to boycott the event altogether, but sent the low-level delegation to uphold its record of attending every Arab Summit.


To interview Aaron Klein, contact M. Sliwa Public Relations by e-mail, or call 973-272-2861 or 212-202-4453.


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November 10th, 2008, 1:24 am


Rumyal said:

Simo Hurtta,

You said:

>>> What is still missing is genocide on industrial scale. But “you” have surely plans and tested equipments ready to do that…

When you talk about plans and equipments, are you talking about WMD’s, or are you seriously suggesting that Israel is building gas chambers or other facilities for the mass extermination of civilian population, like the nazis did? Because that would be total and utter non-sense.

Please clarify!

November 10th, 2008, 2:25 am


Off the Wall said:

Dear Saghir

Thank you for the clarification, also for the company’s name. I fully agree with your comment. It is shame arab countries do not have that much influence. I guess the real problem is that the leadership subjugate the long-term interest of their countries to their own narrow interest, and with that lose any chance for real influence as their positions are seldom grounded in principles.

Dear Jad
Thank you very much for the nice words. Please see my response to AIG on the other thread. I must say that despite of all of us being “Hypocritical floor mopping arabs (incluing Shai and Rumyal off course) 🙂 “, I am very proud of the depth of analysis I read from all of the posters here. I would like to see us, at some point in time, take these arguments to other forums everyonce in a while. I bett you that we will make a good showing showing that may cause our dear AIG even more anxiety and force him to look for new term that is more powerful than Kumbaya BS.

Thank you very much for the posting. Wow, this is a lot to digest. I have to read it few more times to see exactly what are the Syrian compromises. Take for example the lease issue, it is quite out of the box concept and out of the traditional way of thinking, before forming my own oppinion about that, it carries a possible win-win situation, but the final judgment has to be that of legal scholars who know the intricacies of international laws and of the ramification of such agreement. Nontheless, Obama’s willingness to consider possible reproachment is very incouraging. In fact, with Rahm emanuel as his COS, possible congressinal sticks in the tires are less likely. Who know, as the Quran says, you may hate “something that turns out to be better for you”. Yet I now have a guarded optimisim.

Dear Simo
I join my voice with Rumyal. I find the notion of gas chambers in Israel very unbleievable. Please clarify

November 10th, 2008, 3:17 am


Shai said:


Though much of what you said is true, Zionism is still not Nazism. There is no mass extermination taking place, and I can’t believe there ever will be. Unlike in Germany of the 1930’s, if a politician will be elected to head the State of Israel, who will carry out a “Final Solution” program to exterminate the 3 million Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza, we will have civil war in Israel. Saying that, of course, does not justify even a single bullet shot by Israeli soldiers at any of the innocent Palestinians that have been killed or injured over the past 40 years. And we are most certainly committing crimes all these years.

I suppose you could call the “slow killing” of Palestinians over so many decades Genocide. But I doubt any court of law would accept that. There is no systematic genocide of Palestinians in Palestine. If there was, I would fight my own people to end it. I know some Palestinians disagree with me (also on this forum). I can understand how, from their point of view, it does seem like Israel is carrying out a systemic policy.

Btw, as far as I know, and I’ve served in the Territories myself as a soldier, never have any civilians (or even combatants) been forced to wear a “yellow star”, or certainly been tattooed, or branded, for “easy processing”. There are, unfortunately, jails that hold thousands of Palestinians. But these have no crematoriums, no rail-road tracks leading in, but not out. There are no gas chambers ready to eliminate people quickly in their masses. There are no gallows for hanging criminals. And prison guards don’t go around shooting prisoners at will. Again, I’m not justifying what IS taking place. I’m merely making a clear distinction between what is, and Nazism.

November 10th, 2008, 5:08 am


Alex said:

Jihad Makdissi (In Arabic) answering questions about the recent confessions on Syrian television:

November 10th, 2008, 6:12 am


SimoHurtta said:

Shai the essential answer is that Nazis and Israel use many same methods and have a nationalistic “ethnic” based aggressive ideology. So the discussion is about the foundation and used methods. It is waste of time to argue is an Israel Zionist exactly the same as a German Nazi in the 30’s. I do not claim that. I claim that there are many equalities how both societies have/had radicalised and become slowly more and more brutal and extreme. Like Nazi Germany did not achieve the the Auschwitz stage at once, Israel has not become more constructive and peaceful – on the contrary.

Does anybody seriously doubt that Israel has no different plans and scenarios to solve the Palestinian problems. I suppose Jenin, Shatila and Sbara massacres were examples that Israel is ready and capable also to very “radical” solutions. Can anyone imagine what a direct massive military attack (which is constantly demanded) against Gaza would cost in human lives? Especially using gas and low radiation level nuclear weapons (which Israel has).

Surely Israel will never build Auschwitz (it would be impossible for any nation in these times) but influential Israeli “circles” have shown a great desire of the same goal as Nazis had. Which is “purifying” the own territory of the not wanted part of population. The goal is the same, the brutality of methodes and speed of the process differ.

The fight of Palestine is also a long PR struggle in a completely different world what the 30’s and 40’s were. Israel uses the level of brutality and means that are just under the level that the outside world could not tolerate. So far the Israeli strategy has been making occupied Palestinians life so hard as possible and slowly annexing their territory. With citizen Palestinians Israel has done very little in reality to unite the country’s population groups and how we have seen in resent times tensions are high and severe confrontations wait to happen. A nationwide Kristalnacht of Israel could happen any day when religious extremists attack the Palestinians businesses and residential areas in a larger scale. As we saw just on Yom Kippur riots in Akko not much is demanded.

From a “constructive” point for example it is impossible to see any rational reason why Israel doesn’t allow Gaza open borders to Egypt and starting a normal life again, if peace and co-existence is the goal.

November 10th, 2008, 10:24 am


Shai said:


Yes, I agree with you, much of what we do is 100% in contradiction to anyone’s stated (god-forbid sincere) goal of peaceful coexistence. I too have concluded in recent years that the majority of my people either do not know how to achieve peaceful coexistence, or are simply not interested in it. Certainly that could also be said about peace with Syria, or Lebanon.

You are also right that there are circles inside Israel, made of fanatic extremists, who do dream of an Arab-free (as opposed to free-Arab) Greater Israel. Some of them, including the late Rehevahm Ze’evi, and Yivette Lieberman, have publicly voiced options that included a physical transfer of Arabs. They did not speak of Genocide, but did speak of Transfer, which to me is absolutely horrific to even utter out loud, let alone contemplate. But, I am absolutely confident, that these radical circles are in an extreme minority in Israel. They are nowhere near powerful enough to carry out any of these unthinkable “dreams”. True, with each day that passes, extremism is growing, not only in our region, but also in Israel. Still, as of today, I do not identify early-signs of such dangerous takeover.

While settlement and offsetting of population balance in the West Bank have been the policies of all our major political parties since 1967 (and in that, they are all guilty of criminal behavior in my opinion), a policy of mass “purification” of Palestinians on their territory has not been exercised. Most Israeli army generals, down to the individual “corporal” (as you called it), have not demonstrated a Baruch Goldstein-like behavior. But, they are assisting in carrying out the crimes of our governments over the years.

We are, for over 40 years, continuing to subjugate and suffocate millions of Palestinians. We are controlling another people’s lives and fate, and that is a horrific crime that must come to an end. I give no excuse for this, and I fight within my own country to change this terrible reality.

November 10th, 2008, 10:49 am


Shai said:


I want to clarify one point, however. I believe that by comparing crimes committed in the name of Zionism to Nazism, you are not contributing positively to its end. This is because when most people think of Nazism, they don’t think of the “lighter” crimes of the ghettos, Lebensraum, or mass-deportation, but rather of the concentration camps, their gas chambers and crematoriums that were used to exterminate millions of people in just a few years. They think not of a democratically-elected leader that occupied other lands because he wanted “living space” for his own people, but of the systematic killing machine he created, which worked nonstop with its goal of genocide.

And when people hear someone compare Israeli crimes to those of the Nazis mentioned above, they may find the comparison so extreme, that they’ll dismiss the whole notion, and not focus even on the “lighter” crimes that might be in common between the two. This, I believe, is the natural reaction you’ll get amongst most in the West, but certainly amongst Jews and Israelis. If I tell an Israeli that he’s acting as a Nazi (without specifying exactly what I mean), I lose that person’s attention in an instant. Perceived over-exaggeration is often dismissed in total, not in part. When I read carefully your words, I understand better what you mean. But at firsthand, my instinctive reaction is also to dismiss it completely. And most people, I dare say, would not even have my patience.

November 10th, 2008, 11:12 am


SimoHurtta said:

Shai hard core Nazis were a minority in the basically civilized Germany. The problem was that the majority (who wanted only peace and better prosperity) fell in the trap to believe in some of Nazis election promises and then it was to late. The greatest lesson for the world of the Nazi era was how civilized countries can rather fast turn to rather horrible societies. You add to the soup overblown nationalism, religion, blurry political ideology, racial theories of own supremacy, propaganda against certain population groups, past historical injustice, own history interpretations etc and a new “Germany” is ready. Much of that has happened and is happening in Israel.

The genocide in larger form, as I see it, includes also ethic cleansing and emptying the country of not wanted people. It is not simply killing a certain (undefined percentage) portion of the population group. For example if Israel decides to transfer all Palestinians (own and occupied) to Jordan and in the process 15.000 Palestinians are killed, is it an illegal population transfer or genocide. What is the right term?

The “West” called Kosovo events a genocide even the amount of dead was rather minimal and most of them actually were killed by the rebels. The West also calls Dafur a genocide even most of the people are expelled, robed and rapped instead of direct killing.

I would call Palestine situation a slow rate genocide were the danger it transforming to a higher rate genocide is extremely high. I you do not agree that is OK. It is difficult to admit own countries “core problems”. In Finland during WW2 thousands of Russian war prisoners (soldiers and civilians, collected from occupied areas) died in prison camps to hunger, diseases and brutal treatment. Some say that it was an unplanned genocide some do not approve that term to be used. There is a “historical” process in finding out what actually happened and why in East Karelia.

Shai Lieberman’s military grade is corporal. So was Hitler’s. From that corporal phrase. (I suppose a smile mark is not acceptable)

November 10th, 2008, 11:45 am


Shai said:

Simo, very good points you made. Indeed it is our responsibility to be on our guard, that such a future will not develop. The thought is horrifying, but no less the numbness that preceded it amongst the “civilized” people. Btw, I am as suspicious and fearful of Liebermann as you are.

November 10th, 2008, 12:04 pm


SimoHurtta said:

Simo Hurtta,

You said:

>>> What is still missing is genocide on industrial scale. But “you” have surely plans and tested equipments ready to do that…

When you talk about plans and equipments, are you talking about WMD’s, or are you seriously suggesting that Israel is building gas chambers or other facilities for the mass extermination of civilian population, like the nazis did? Because that would be total and utter non-sense.

Please clarify!

Did I really say that Israel has build gas chambers? Well I did not claim that. I hope this clarifies the absurd accusation of yours.

I did mean that Israel military (and political circles) has certainly plans how to clean the country and portions of it from Palestinians if needed / wanted. Sure that kind of shipment of hundreds of thousands if not millions would be a crime and genocide on industrial scale. And most certainly Palestinians would not react to that peacefully and military has plans how to react to the resistance.

Israel certainly has plans to carry through a major military intrusion (which is frequently demanded) to Gaza with minimum own casualties, which most certainly include the usage of battle gases. Lethal or not. There are ready plans and tools in usage. That is essential.

Rumyal please clarify the “utter nonsense” Lieberman and those several like-minded people mean with their ethnic cleansing comments. How is that process of separation and mass dispossess intended to be performed? Sure it will cost lives and plenty of those. And demand much planing and resources.

It is utter non-sense to claim that the settlement policy has not been planed and controlled. It is utter non-sense claim that the constant destruction of Palestinian administrative systems and infrastructures, not to mention the civil livelihood conditions, is not planned and coordinated.

Shatila, Sabra and Genin did not happen unplanned and by accident. They were tests how far Israel can go and how Israel can control the PR problems.

Rumyal can you give any guaranty that Lieberman and those like him will not be in power in the future? Do you really know how they are going in reality to do that what they have hinted in so many occasions? I doubt that. As said the will and tools exist. Let’s hope the tide turns.

November 10th, 2008, 12:52 pm


Akbar Palace said:

Some said Obama chose Rahm Emanuel for the Chief of Staff position, so that good Jews like you couldn’t call him a “self-hating Jew” when he’ll tell Bibi to shut down illegal settlements in the West Bank.


It wouldn’t be the first time a Jew has told Israelis to curb settlements. I can think of Madeline Albright (though she is a practicing Christian has always been thought of as a Jew on this website) and of course, Henry Kissinger.

More likely, as Chief-of-Staff, Rahm Emmanuel will probably concur with whoever Obama picks as his Secretary of State.

I guess with you guys, when an Israeli or a Jew gives harsh criticism that is due internally (even if justified also externally), your knee-jerk proclamation is “self-hating”, isn’t it?

There could be several reason why a Jew would want to critize Israel:

1.) It’s fun and it brings happiness to many people, especially non-Americans.

2.) Israel deserves it.

3.) It shows American “even-handedness”.

The bottom line is that the parties to the conflict have to negotiate the peace themselves. America can’t force peace (except in Iraq and Afghanistan;).

A self-hating Jew, IMHO Shai, is a Jew that can’t be “even-handed” and always critizes Israel, first, at every opportunity. Moreover, the said self-hating Jew cannot bring himself/herself to criticize an Arab government for the same thing. Do you think that is a fair definition, or do you have a better one?

Is the definition of self-hating Jew any or all of the following:

1. Any Jew that criticizes his own people more than I, AIG, would like him to?

2. Any Jew that criticizes his own people, and not also the Syrian regime?

3. Any Jew that criticizes me.


Honestly, were you being honest with those 3 criteria above or not? If not, what is your REAL criteria Shai?

FOX News did an amazing job on you guys (AIG, AP). You actually believe that “criticism” is “hatred”, and “unpatriotic”, especially when given by “our side”.

Please refer to my definition above. I welcome criticism. IMHO, Israelis are the most self-critical people in the Middle East. I’m proud of it. Americans are self-critical too.

Just a year ago Michele Obama was proud to be an American “for the first time in my [her] life”. At age 40 something….

November 10th, 2008, 12:54 pm


norman said:


‘America’s Role Is Central’
Syria has great hopes that President-elect Barack Obama can help push the Middle East peace process forward. “This truly is the time to come to a comprehensive peace,” Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moallem tells SPIEGEL ONLINE in an interview. He also wants to see direct talks with Iran.

Horses roam the Golan Heights: “It is out right to bring the line back to where it was on June 4, 1967.”

SPIEGEL ONLINE: Mr. Minister, what do you think of the vote that America has cast?

Moallem: I am happy about the result of the American election and I congratulate President-elect Barack Obama. I hope that he will help us make a dream come true: a Middle East of peace, of stability and prosperity. There is no way around it: To achieve this, America’s role is central.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: Syria is a neighbor of Iraq, Israel, the Palestinian territories — and it is Iran’s best friend. Which Middle East conflict would you like to see Obama tackle first?

Moallem: The Arab-Israeli one because this conflict aggravates and fuels all others. This truly is the time to come to a comprehensive peace between Syria, Lebanon, Israel and the Palestinians.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: Obama is hardly in a position to solve this alone. What can Syria offer him?

Moallem: Our readiness for dialogue, our moderation.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: The new US president would probably even be happier if you stated that you are fundamentally opposed to a nuclear-armed Iran.

Moallem: I am even advocating a whole Middle East without weapons of mass destruction. Israel has nuclear weapons …

SPIEGEL ONLINE: … but you have particularly close ties to Iran. How do you want to counter the concerns of the world and the incoming US administration about Iran’s nuclear program?

Moallem: The Iranians have assured us that their program is peaceful and that they need nuclear energy. We trust them.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: Do you have have any first indications as to how Iran’s leadership feels about Obama’s election?

Moallem: We have not discussed this with our friends directly but I think that they understand quite well what this change in America means — and how to deal with it. I am sure that the result of this election will improve dialogue.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: The US isn’t the only country that will soon have new leadership; Israel also faces new elections. Could you imagine reaching a peace treaty with Benjamin Netanyahu if he were to become prime minister again?

Moallem: If it is based on (United Nations) Security Council resolutions and on the land-for-peace concept we will sign a deal with any prime minister of Israel.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: You are currently engaged in indirect negotiations with Israel in Turkey. Will these hold through the 10-week transition period until the new US administration enters office?

Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moallem: “The Iranians have assured us that their program is peaceful and that they need nuclear energy. We trust them.”
Moallem: These negotiations are now in the hands of the Turks. We hope that they can bring them back on track as they promised. Israel had asked the Turks to interrupt these talks because of the political situation in Israel.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: What do you see as the main sticking points in those talks, and where do you see room to maneuver?

Moallem: There is no room for maneuver. The Golan Heights, the territories occupied by Israel, are Syrian and it is our right to bring the line back to where it was on June 4, 1967.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: What about the question of the refugees?

Moallem: The right of return, as laid down in Resolution 194, does not mean that the 4 million Palestinians will return at once. Their right is clear, but they have to decide.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: Wouldn’t this be a good time for Syria to get rid of the Hamas leaders whom you still harbor in Damascus?

Moallem: The Hamas leaders in Damascus are refugees. We are hosting them just as we are hosting a half-million other Palestinians. All of them, no doubt, are seeking to return to their homeland, but for that to happen they need to have their own state back.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: The new American president would likely welcome any move by Syria to cut its support for Hezbollah.

Moallem: We are currently seeking good relations with Lebanon as a state. This does not contradict our good relations with Hezbollah. As long as there are Lebanese territories occupied (by Israel), Hezbollah will remain a legitimate movement of resistance.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: What happened in the US last week and what will probably happen in Israel soon are democratic decisions. When will Syria become democratic? When will the Syrian government change as routinely as in the US, according to a democratic vote?

Moallem: God gave it that Syria is in the center of three major crises: Iraq with the Americans, Palestine (with its neighbor) Israel — and Lebanon. This imposes on us the necessity to reform our country gradually and according to the challenges of our neighborhood.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: Will Syria stick with its plan to open embassies in Baghdad and Beirut?

Moallem: Yes.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: Even though US commandos started an air raid on a Syrian target from Iraqi territory two weeks ago?

Moallem: Yes. We know that Iraq is under occupation. It was American troops who violated our sovereignty. I hope that our good, neighborly relations with the Iraqis will not suffer.

‘We Don’t Want Syria to Experience What Iraq Has’

SPIEGEL ONLINE: American sources say that Syria knew in advance of the commando operation. Is that true?

Moallem: This is a fabricated story by the Americans. It has nothing of truth to it. They were confused, and they were late with their own statement from Washington. And then they leaked this story to the media. It is totally untrue.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: If it is untrue, then why didn’t the Syrian army respond? Why didn’t you protect your citizens?

Moallem: Frankly, we did not expect such an aggression. We don’t understand why (it happened) — especially now that Syria is exerting enormous efforts to tighten its side of the border. Anyway, we are not Georgia. We were seeking wisdom not to escalate the situation.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: The situation would improve even further if Damascus gave the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) access to all the facilities in Syria it wants to inspect.

Moallem: Seven months after an aggression against a Syrian military position near Deir al-Zor, Israel went to the IAEA and claimed that Syria intended to build a nuclear reactor. This is totally untrue. We have allowed inspectors to visit the site. They spent three days there, they took samples and analyzed them. I assure you: They did not find the materials needed to build a reactor — graphite, for example. They came to Damascus fulfilling a memorandum of understanding between Syria and the agency in which we allowed them to visit the site once.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: The IAEA would like to see three other sites as well.

Moallem: We do not want Syria to experience what Iraq has experienced. You remember the big American lies before the war in Iraq. Now they want to see this location, then they want to see three other locations and then, maybe, another four. We are not ready to repeat this. This will harm our national security.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: Part of Iraq’s tragedy was that Saddam Hussein failed to clear up any doubts.

Moallem: We assure the world that we do not have any nuclear intention, no intention to build a nuclear military capability. It costs a lot of money, it is useless — and the only country in the world that ever dared to use nuclear weapons was the United States.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: Do you think the changing of the guard in Washington will present greater opportunities?

Moallem: We have always been ready for dialogue with the Americans. Just six weeks ago I sat with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice in New York. It was a very positive discussion and we agreed to follow up. But certain people in this administration disliked this opening and they wanted to block it — with this air raid on Syrian territory.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: Do you think it is possible that the outgoing administration could repeat such a strike?

Moallem: With this Bush administration all possibilities are open. But this administration has a moral duty to pave the way for the new government in a positive manner. And the European leaders have a double responsibility to encourage stability in the Middle East and to inform the new administration about the need for cooperation between the US, Europe and the regional powers.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier wants to engage Syria in dialogue …

Moallem: We appreciate Minister Steinmeier highly because he was the first who opened up to Syria. I myself negotiated with him. We admit that we have gaps in our positions but we were determined to continue this dialogue.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: Chancellor Merkel, however, is skeptical.

Moallem: I don’t know why she is skeptical. If I knew why, I would address her concern.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: She has repeatedly criticized Syria for its role in Lebanon.

Moallem: After the agreement of Doha, which Syria supports, after electing a new president and composing a government of national unity in Lebanon, after our determination to establish diplomatic relations with Lebanon — after all this, I think, Madam Merkel would serve Lebanon better by opening up to Syria.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: In a best-case scenario, how do you see the Middle East in four years, when the US next goes to the polls?

Moallem: This will depend on America’s new vision of the Middle East — it cannot be a black-and-white one — and it will depend on Israel’s political will to come to a comprehensive peace agreement. It will also depend on whether we regional powers act accordingly.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: Do you have a last word for the outgoing Bush administration?

Moallem: Bye-Bye.

Interview conducted by Bernhard Zand.

US Attack in Syria: Are More Cross-Border Attacks on the Way? (11/03/2008)
Special Forces in Syria: Damascus Outraged by US Cross-Border Raid (10/27/2008)
Wooing the Pariah: How Syria’s Assad Is Steering His Country out of Isolation (09/23/2008)
Germany’s Divided Government: A Recipe for Foreign Policy Impotence (05/15/2008)
All Rights Reserved
Reproduction only allowed with the permission of SPIEGELnet GmbH

November 10th, 2008, 1:12 pm


Shai said:

Akbar Palace,

I already explained up above, in comment #31, why I am not “fair and balanced” on SC. See https://joshualandis.com/blog/?p=1500&cp=all#comment-220672

If that makes me a “self-hating Jew” in your eyes, I’m happy to oblige. You are certainly not amongst the people I feel a need to prove my patriotism or evenhandedness to. If I felt you belonged to those “most self-critical people”, it might be a different story. Btw, Israelis fit more the description “most critical people” than “most self-critical…” I don’t know what Israelis you’re referring to, but from my near-30 years in this country (and another 10 in the U.S.), I don’t quite find your description fitting. Perhaps you can share some examples of self-critical people you know in Israel.

November 10th, 2008, 2:15 pm


Qifa Nabki said:

AIG said to Saghir:

If I have to sit across someone and make peace it would be someone like you and not the rest of the LSD day dreaming gang on this blog.

AIG, do you mind if I join Saghir on that day when you are negotiating? I promise not to take any LSD in the morning or to sing kumbaya during the negotiations.

November 10th, 2008, 3:09 pm


Shai said:

QN, you might be waiting a while… I’d first bet on Bibi, or Livni. They’re not demanding “Democracy-First”… 🙂

November 10th, 2008, 3:14 pm


SAGHIR said:


I am sure AIG would mind.

Israelis don’t like negotiating with Harvard PhD students. They would rather sit across people with less academic and intellectual capabilities. I think that you are out of luck on this one.

November 10th, 2008, 3:15 pm


Ford Prefect said:

O bummer! I think I am going to miss out on that friendly negotiation meeting with AIG – since I remain high on my LSD (Life Sucks Disorder) and still practice day dreamin’ about peace in the Middle East.

Years of watching Fox News and listening to Cheney have not yet brain-washed me to accept that peace can happen only with the use of military power and that democracy will happen after a regime change.

November 10th, 2008, 3:32 pm


Shai said:


From reading your comments over the past few weeks, I gather you’re not “terribly optimistic” about the prospects for peace anytime soon. I believe we are in agreement about the wrongs that need to be fixed. By now, you also know my views. But I want to ask you – must these be fixed first? Must the Occupation first end, before Israel and Syria sign a peace treaty? Must you see a significant change in Israeli society, as AIG demands to see in Syrian society, before peace is made? Is it preferable to have even superficial-peace (like with Egypt and Jordan), than no-peace, like we have now? What are our choices, if we assume that by doing nothing, we may find ourselves in a terribly painful regional war?

November 10th, 2008, 3:35 pm


Shai said:

Ford Prefect,

I believe it against the laws of Israel and of Syria for both of us to be on LSD together… even in cyberspace. So please, one of us must quit… Tfadal, you first. 🙂

November 10th, 2008, 3:37 pm


AIG said:

FP, QN and Saghir,

Ynet found in their monthly poll about “peace” issues that 2/3 of the Israelis do not think that Olmert has the authority to negotiate with Syria and should stop. Livni is for direct negotiations which means Israelis and Syrians sitting accross each other on the same table, something that Asad is reluctant to do, and Netanyahu and to 60+ right coalition he will have (not including half of Kadima that support his views) are against any talks at all unless they follow the famous Mofaz plan, “peace for peace”. The Palestinians are hopelessly divided and Hamas cannot control the rockets from Gaza. It does not matter how much LSD is imbued, these facts will remain the same.

There are also additional facts that Saghir and QN are well aware of but FP refuses to take into account in his calculations. The lack of reforms in the Arab world and the fact that Syria and Egypt are regressing, not progressing. Let’s add some more fun facts. There is not going to be peace with Syria unless there is a comprehensive peace. But at the very least, peace with the Palestinians will mean that the US and the international community will have to pony up billions of dollars to compensate the refugees. I do not see any western politician being able to do so in this financial climate. Then, there is not one Israeli or US politician in power that does not want Syria to “flip”, which it claims it can’t. Let’s see what else? I really miss Ehsani in order to provide us with real information about the Syrian economy. If Asad expects billions from the US, he is sorely mistaken. He has missed that train.

Since Obama and his advisors are way smarter than me, they know all the stuff above and they will not waste time on pushing anything forward in the middle east. Obama knows that in order to win you cannot fight on too many fronts. He will focus on internal issues in the US. So how about we discuss this reality instead of some LSD induced magic world? Let’s face it. There will not be serious negotiations in the next year or more.

November 10th, 2008, 3:54 pm


Off the Wall said:

I have seen the argument “self hating Jew” thrown at many Jewish intellectuals and peace advocates many times. But from where I stand, Shai may not be a practicing Jew (I have no way of knowing that), but I can easily see that he is a nationalist and a proud Israeli. Is it possible that he represents a breed of Zionists who like many Arab nationalists want to go back to the root of their national movement, which initially did strongly stipulate peaceful existence with the indigenous people and minorities and the respect for their lives, rights, and properties.

From where I stand, as an advocate of peace between people, such attitude succeeds in addressing one of the major issues in the Arab Israeli conflict and that is the ability to recognize the wrongs done to Palestinians without demonizing them and insulting them in every turn as many Israeli politicians do. With that, Shai is making significant headways towards a more secure Israel, and in my opinion secured ME as he manages, in a calm and empathic manner to peal a way, slowly, decades of misunderstanding many of us have. Although unhappy about the way his society treats Palestinians, he manages to draw a picture of his country that makes it more human and less threatening. In my books, this is a noteworthy accomplishment.

There is no more powerful example, IMHO, than the on-going discussion between Shai and Simo regarding Zionism and Nazism. To many readers, who are willing to read Shai’s arguments carefully, a new concept is thoughtfully introduced as to the differences between the two movements. To any Israeli, the mere mention of the two words in the same sentence is outright insulting, and I do understand that, but if some of us (enemies) now think once before making this analogy because of what Shai wrote, and because we trust him to be fair, he would have been successful in addressing one of the most critical issues in this struggle and even in showing us why the attempts to equate the two has and will continue to fail miserably as a way to garner public opinion and support for Palestinians. He did not need to hit back, in a knee jerk reaction and argue that Zionism is righteous because Arab Nationalist have mistreated minorities here and there and because most Arab countries are governed by autocratic government, that would have been logically a false equivalency and would have rendered his argument mute from the “get-go”. This is not a touchy feely approach as some may argue, it is a highly intelligent, deliberative, and thoughtful approach.

November 10th, 2008, 3:58 pm


SAGHIR said:

I am not immersed in the details of the peace negotiations. I am not privy to how close the parties are. Hopefully, they are much closer than I think and that my pessimism is misplaced.

Having said that, negotiations can only succeed when the parties at the table have a startegic balance of power . I still get the sense that Israel feels too strong to make the necessary concessions that are required for a peace deal. The outgoing U.S. administration did not help matters in this regard.

The late Hafez Assad understood that strategic parity with Israel was a prerequistie for peace. Syria’s weak economy will make it difficult to achieve the above parity objective. The Syrian missile program is a step in that direction. So is the brilliant strategic alliance with Iran. Syria needs to get stronger militarity, economically and strategically (Hamas, HA and Iran are all a plus). Only when Israel is convinced that Syria’s strength are worrisome enough, would she be convinced to sit across the table and offer the needed concessions. Calls for Syria to severe ties with Iran, Hamas and HA is nonesense. Indeed, it is only because Syria has taken the time to build such alliances that peace talks are even discussed presently.

November 10th, 2008, 3:58 pm


Off the Wall said:

How about cool-aid instead of LSD. I heard it used many times during the recent election. This way the sugar rush will help us get the negotiation done fast.

November 10th, 2008, 4:06 pm


Akbar Palace said:

OTW said:

cc: Shai

I have seen the argument “self hating Jew” thrown at many Jewish intellectuals and peace advocates many times. But from where I stand, Shai may not be a practicing Jew (I have no way of knowing that), but I can easily see that he is a nationalist and a proud Israeli. Is it possible that he represents a breed of Zionists who like many Arab nationalists want to go back to the root of their national movement, which initially did strongly stipulate peaceful existence with the indigenous people and minorities and the respect for their lives, rights, and properties.


Do you think there is such a thing as a “self-hating Jew”, or do you think that concept is a paradox and cannot occur in real life? Now, in the sentence above, remove “Jew” and add “Arab”. Is there such a thing as a “self-hating Arab”?

IMO, both a “self-hating Jew” and a “self-hating Arab” exist (and I am sure everyone here has their own definition of what this means).

I don’t know if Shai is a “self-hating Jew”, and I don’t know how important it is for me to state this. I know Shai holds Israel to a higher standard than the surrounding Arab states, and he tends to blame Israelis before he blames the Arabs. The recent example I have is the comment Shai wrote to Alex: “…if Israelis had a tenth of the respect…” (something to that effect).

I also know that Shai is a Zionist and has fought for (and believes in) Israeli independence.

Shai, let me know if I mischaracterized anything here.

All-in-all, Shai presents a heavily conciliatory, pro-peace POV. There are MANY in Israel like him. There are many Israeli organizations that espouse the same views as well. I would also like to point out that on the Arab side, the percentage of people and organziations with similar views are much fewer.

I hereby give Shai my blessing and permission to make peace with Hamas, Hezbollah, and Iran.

November 10th, 2008, 4:19 pm


Alia said:


With you comment above, you have proven that you too are addicted to LSD and Kumbaya- You accuse everyone of wishful thinkg and bad rap about Israel…Finally, it is you who are burying your head in the sand and giving Israelis a bad name. And believe it or not, that does matter, because regardless of how much or how little water you desalinate, ultimately you will be evaluated for your human values and nothing else. Look at Apartheid South Africa, does anyone care to remember how much land they farmed- Nelson Mandela, however time he spent in jail, is an inspiration and a human being deserving respect. You still have a chance to open your mind, become more realistic, influence your environment positively so that in the final count you may be counted among the victors.


Very good point about not using a word like “Nazi”in any discussion- actually all of those code words including “Arab” as a pejorative term should be avoided. A description of facts is much more useful and to the point. On the other hand, when you speak of Lebensraum and the general oppression of the Jews, I am always mystified by the lack of interest in the unique model of Russian treatment of the Jews which closely resembles the Israeli solution to the Palestinian presence among them. Anybody looked recently at the geography of the Pale settlement?



I beg to differ on the number and percentages of members of the (NASDP) Nazi party. There is extensive recent scholarship showing how already in 1933, when Hitler suspended all democratic institutions(including the right to Habeas Corpus) the party’s ranks were full of middle class and lower middle class people with some professions being overrepresented like Doctors who were University professors ( percentage being between 30-40% among them). Some of those Nazis continue to live in peace in Germany…
The only bright light that I see there is that women’s membership declined over the years from 1928- to 1945. Thank God for that.

November 10th, 2008, 4:22 pm


Shai said:


I fear you may be right. For over 60 years, two contradictory things have happened in Israel: The first, a constant brainwashing (even if unintended as such) of Israelis about both the strength and resolve of the Arab world to annihilate Israel. And second, a constant buildup of strength to counter that threat. Over the years, culminating probably in the achievement of nuclear capabilities (according to foreign sources), Israel has in fact become strong enough not to lose any war in the classic sense (to be conquered). But this has never been discussed in any national discourse. Only the first part has, is, and will be. So the Israeli public honestly thinks Syria still plans to roll its tanks off the Golan heights one day, headed towards Tel-Aviv, and our leaders know this is just not possible.

But as of recent, it does seem that Israelis are apathetic (or “numb”) to everything around them, including the ongoing mistreatment and crimes committed in our Occupation of Palestine. And the question is why. It may indeed be that they’ve become less afraid of the alternative to peace. It may be the case that they’ve gotten “used to” this low-intensity warfare that resistance movements like Hezbollah and Hamas are gaging against us. And if that is the case, perhaps the only thing that will change their mind is another terrible war (and I don’t mean Lebanon 2006), where perhaps Syria, Iran, HA, Hamas, and Israel will be involved. Where thousands if not tens of thousands of missiles will land in every city and town in Israel, and where many many innocent civilians will pay the ultimate price in all these countries.

Maybe that’s the only way. But I hope to dear god it isn’t. And I’m willing to give back the Golan to its rightful owner, the Syrian people (not only the Syrian leadership), and the West Bank to the Palestinians, sooner rather than later, to try to avoid this horrific possibility. I can never understand how people that will not be effected by such a war, because they live thousands of miles away on some safe American shore, are so easily dismissive of this possibility, and reject peace under less-than-comfortable condition without blinking an eye. But they KNOW that if we give back the Golan now, the Syrian people will never forgive us for “helping legitimize” the Syrian regime. Will you never forgive Israel, Saghir, if we give back the Golan before Syrians can vote in democratic elections?

November 10th, 2008, 4:23 pm


AIG said:

Shai is just repeating the same mistakes of Oslo. He is generating false hopes and expectations that cannot be met.

For a while, it will probably make you and other Arabs feel real good, but as is the case with drugs, this wears off, and you remain in a worse position than before. What Shai is doing is feeding the Palestinian and Arab drug addiction that results in cycles of euphoria followed by sever withdrawal systems until the next time drugs are injected into the system. The problem is that drugs do not solve the problems and the lows are dangerous to everybody especially the Palestinians themselves.

What is Shai telling you? He is basically saying: Oh, I am so bad, I really am awful, but I am doing the best I can. The best I can ofer you though is a two country solution with the hope that in 50 years there will be a United Middle East.

What I am saying is different. Yes, you can have your two state solution if you want it but it will not solve any of your problems even if we get there. You need a future where there is hope for the average Palestinian, Syrian and Egyptian. This means no Araft, Hamas, Asad or Mubarak. It means no corrupt autocratic regimes that steal all the economy for themselves. Why do I as an Israeli need this? Because otherwise there will not be peace. Israel will just be in a worse position. No territories and a frustrated Arab population that is poorer, more religious and more extreme and that hates its western neighbor even more.

The future of the Arabs is in the hands of the Arabs, not in the hands of Israel. And that future is currently very bleak because there is no real effort to change this dire future. And if Obama’s plan to reduce US dependence on foreign oil even half works, the whole house of cards which is the Arab world is going to collapse in a huge thud in the near future, it will not even be a process of 20 years.

November 10th, 2008, 4:34 pm


Off the Wall said:

Dear Saghir

I fully agree that parity is important and that has more than military aspect. Economic parity is probably more important than a one-time military parity as new weapons come along that render a weapon system either mute, or un-useable. The race for Military parity can lead to war of economic attrition. China’s military posture has always been a defensive one and they have been working very hard to project economic power not military power. Simple announcement by the Chineze government yesterday of their own stimulus package resulted in Asian stock market shooting to the roof.

If i read the article about the negotiation between Syria and the Obama team, it seems that Syria is not expecting money from the US. The real demand is to let Syria establish fair trade agreement withe Europe without American pressure to block such deals. The US tax payers are already concerned about the US aid to egypt, which many think of as an unneccesary bribe. Syria would be ill advises to seek similar package as the price for peace. It would be an unsustainable package.


From what I have been reading lately, one of tenets of the Camp David accord wit Eygept was that Israel will gurantee the rights of palestinians. This has not materialized for one reason or another. The Syrians would not want to go in history as those who sold the palestinians out not just for political apearances but also from a deep held conviction. Iran is a different issue. It is precisely for this reason that the Syrians want the US’s involvement as they know that it is the only country on earth that has enough influence on Israeli to guarantee a solution to the palestinian issu.

November 10th, 2008, 4:34 pm


Off the Wall said:

I do not want to be late to work. Therefore, I will be uncharacteristically short in my response.

I did not have my LSD or cool-aid shot this morning yet, and that is why I can see the transparent lack of logic and consistency in your argument.

Are you telling me that you are holding our terretories and poeple as hostages and/or collateral untill we civilize our selves. If you are, then the first thing you need to do to assure us that we will get our land back and that our poeple will be free when we civilize is to

1. Stope and role back all settlements in the west back and evict all settlers. No iffs no buts

2. Hand out the terretroirs including the golan to international forces under mandate to build a viable state

This would be a true unilateral disengagement and will even assist you in your inteneded isolation and separation, you are not rewarding dictators but you are simply practicting what you claim to preach. Unless you do that, I will continue to treat your argument as a delay tactic to grab more land. Nor more and no less

November 10th, 2008, 4:49 pm


Alia said:


“Rudd breaks with Howard on Israel”

Thanks that is very interesting. Australia, is probably more interested in pleasing its primary trading partners, Japan, China, South Korea and India than following a line dictated by the U.S.
We will be seeing more of that as the Far East comes to prominence.

November 10th, 2008, 4:51 pm


Shai said:


Yes, this is the reason we do not have real-peace with Egypt. If we had a Palestine established in the early 80’s, Israel would have already had peace with the entire Arab world for 25 years! I fully understand this fear of “selling out” the Palestinians. But given the current state of affairs, especially the terrible rift between Fatah and Hamas, I asked Saghir whether he thought a peace agreement was still possible with Syria first? I’m not sure that it is, nor that America can necessarily help the comprehensive agreement come about. Personally, I’ve always felt Syria could play a role of mediator between Hamas and Fatah, and then between Israel and the Palestinians, perhaps better than anyone else (Egypt has tried and consistently failed). So if this assumption is correct, there are even more reasons to make peace with Syria now.


Most Israelis have never even heard of The Pale, and the ones that still remember hearing about it from parents or grandparents, are probably dead… It is very interesting that you brought it up, and I’ll do some more reading into it, to see what relevance it may have today. The biggest problem, besides the Right of Return, will be the discontinuous patches of land that will make up the state of Palestine. I see this as a very major problem, and of course no discourse is taking place on our end about this.


You said it yourself – the future of the Palestinians, and the Syrians, and the Lebanese, is theirs to determine, not ours. But by forming preconditions like democracy-first, I am in fact effecting their future, because I am keeping their territory from them, providing them all the reasons to continue to fight for it.

I am certainly not telling Arabs that “I’m doing my best”. In fact, I’m telling them that I’m NOT doing my best, and that Israel has much more to do. I don’t want the Arabs to like me, or to like Israel. I want them to hear that there are other voices in Israel, that do recognize our action, and do recognize our responsibilities. If we do not show this, if we do not voice our self-criticism out loud (without shooting back), how can I expect Arabs to be hopeful that Israel can change? Do I need them to be hopeful? Absolutely. How will THEY change their misperceptions, or be willing to open a “new page” with Israel, if they can’t at least be hopeful about peace?

Again, democracy and freedom are indeed of utmost importance, to Arabs as to any other human being. But this battle is their to fight, not mine. And it cannot, indeed it must not, come instead or before our battle for peace.


I actually appreciate your comment. Thank you.

November 10th, 2008, 4:59 pm


Ford Prefect said:

Actually Saghir spoke my mind. Political peace is achieved when one of these two conditions is met: a complete capitulation of either party (the dream of Washington’s neocons and Israelis hardliner); or parity between the warring parties is achieved.

We all know that the first condition is hardly an option anymore with the colossal failures of the Cheney/Bush doctrines. Syria is just not about to completely disintegrate into the chaos envisioned by the hardliners at the American Enterprise Institute.

But today, the Israeli military establishment is keen to the idea of peace with Syria. Not out of fear and intimidation, but out of pragmatism and facts on the ground.

The strength of Syria, as authoritarian as it is, is actually to the benefit of Israel. Syria today can negotiate a comprehensive peace treaty with Israel – all under the Arab Peace Plan, and it actually can deliver. Syria can deliver its people, HA, Hamas, and potentially Iran as long as peace is fair and just.

AIG, however, is underscoring an interesting point. Should Israel negotiate with an authoritarian Syria or should it wait until Syria transforms itself into a full fledged democracy?

While the jury is still out on this issue, it is worth looking at the big picture. Liberalism and democracy come in stages and they will not come overnight. And in fact, peace and stability in the region is a precursor to what AIG is asking of the Arab World. Waiting for such a transformative event might not be wise or rational – considering what is at stake.

Instead, Israel should take leadership in extending its arms to peace. And Israel has little to loose from peace with Syria. Israel’s military machine ($9B in 2007 as compared to Syria’s $1B) is still going to be there for while. If peace does not work out, and if Syria’s lack of transformation bothers Israel so much, Syria will be the first and foremost looser.

We would be remiss if we couple peace with Syrian and Arab transformation and conformity to Western values.

November 10th, 2008, 5:00 pm


AIG said:

Why are you lying about me again?
In the 2006 war 1000 (one thousand) rockets landed in Kiryat Shemona!
In the end, the shelters proved excellent and the town quickly recovered. The 2006 Lebanon war was a proof that thousands of missiles on Israel are not an existential threat to Israel.
As for the larger missiles, the Syrians and Hizballah have only tens or hundreds of launchers. At most, they will be able to fire one volley before being taken out by the Israeli air-force.

But, if Lebanon and Syria should choose to fight a missile war against Israel, their infrastructure will be competely demolished and they may never recover. In the future, Syria and Lebanon will only try to work through “plausible deniability” not direct confrontation with Israel. The economical and technological disparities are too huge. It is strange that someone like you who believes Syria and Iran will not committ suicide by using a nuclear bomb against Israel believes they will launch an ineffective and suicidal missile war. No consistency whatsoever.

November 10th, 2008, 5:00 pm


Shai said:


I don’t know what you’re talking about – what I am “lying” about this time???

I’ll respond to your latest accusation of inconsistency later – gotta do some other stuff now. Btw, do you notice how you only blast others here? Have you ever self-criticized on SC, anything about Israel, about yourself? Maybe I haven’t noticed…

November 10th, 2008, 5:06 pm


Alia said:


Most people have forgotten about the Pale which was horrible and of extreme consequences over all, including the rise of Zionism and the massive migration to the U.S.- Why are most Jews in the U.S. from Lithuani, Poland etc..? No one asks but the expression ” beyond the Pale” is very much in use.

I am both unhappy and angry about the division between the Palestinians as I also see it as a result of their terrible conditions and many other geopolitical changes in the region.

I may be a minority of one here, but I do not believe that a 2 state solution is viable; that is why to me all those Peace Processes are going to fail miserably. I believe in one country for 2 people, I have watched this situation from many different angles and that is my conclusion.

November 10th, 2008, 5:11 pm


norman said:


The only way for peace is for Israel to lose a war without being destroyed and for Syria to win a war without being victorious,

The Israeli leaders need that to convince their subjects that the idea of what is mine is mine and what is yours is ours will not fly.

another way to do is for the US and the world to impose economic sanction on Israel until it recognise the right thing to do
And show the Palestinians that it cares about them.

That will wake up the Israeli to the Idea that you need to share with others to be able to live with them.

November 10th, 2008, 5:13 pm


AIG said:

You are using the worst possible argument if you want ever to convince Israelis. Basically you are saying, if peace does not work out, Israel can always recapture the territories. We would rather not have to fight more wars even if we are sure to win them. Wars cost lives and are also expensive. We would like to use our resources somewhere else, thank you very much.

And I utterly and totally reject the proposition that you and Shai are pushing that peace will help democratic reforms in the Arab world. In 60 years, through peace and war, with the territories and without them, the Arab world has regressed not progressed on this front. Egypt is an excellent example. Democratization is totally unrelated to peace with Israel just as democracy in Israel is totally unrelated to war with the Arabs. It is just a lame excuse.

By the way, your claims that Syria can deliver Hamas, Hizballah, Iran etc. are completely unsubstantiated. A corrupt regime in an economically backward country is very pliable using bribery and this will ensure that smuggling to Hizballah will continue inspite of whatever the Syrian government says. Israel has very little to gain from peace with Syria and much to lose.

November 10th, 2008, 5:16 pm


AIG said:

When will you understand that moral arguments and international law arguments from one of the most oppressive regimes in the world is one big joke???

First convince Machlouf that not everything in Syria is his and that some people should have the right to criticze the government. The syrian regime murders people in cold bold to advance its aims. Yet you dare use a moral argument? Fix your country and show that you really mean it. Otherwise just remain quiet and understand that theives and murderers cannot really advocate for a solution based on “justice” or some moral norms. Syria negotiates tough and constantly makes threats yet you find that “not nice” if Israel does something similar. Are you for real? How blind can you be? Don’t you see that it is Syria that is being sanctioned, not Israel? Did you ever stop to give yourself the real answer why?

November 10th, 2008, 5:29 pm


Ford Prefect said:


Most analysts agree that in today’s asymmetric warfare world, the Golan will not provide Israel with safety and security it needs.

Your argument was valid in the 60s and 70s. Its time has passed. Israel safety and security can only be achieved through peace. Have you not learned the lesson after 60 years of fighting?

November 10th, 2008, 5:36 pm


jad said:

AIG said (Norman,
When will you understand that moral arguments and international law arguments from one of the most oppressive regimes in the world is one big joke???)
He will understand that when you understand and admit that your occupier regime does worse to the Palestinians by killing them, steal their land, evacuate them from their homes making them live in the dark and treat them not as human, when you do that we accept your MORAL BS you are talking about…
Didn’t you finish your dozen exactly the same comments for November the 10th yet????????? Do you have any new ideas you want to share? if not spare us from reading your BS for today?

November 10th, 2008, 5:38 pm


AIG said:

The only thing that will provide Israel with long term security is to have prosperous neighbors with content populations. That is what history has taught us. So even if I agree with you that security arrangements can be put in place regarding the Golan, I still see no reason to give it back unless I get something concrete for it like real hope for prosperous neighbors and content populations. All you can promise me are more autocratic dead enders and more extremism regardless of whether Israel returns the Golan or not.

Read carefully what I am writing. Who cares who is worse? Am I proposing a solution based on moral principles or international law? No. I am proposing a solution based on the interests of the countries involved. You and norman and the syrian regime are raising the “moral” aspects. That is why you have to explain why you are not hypocrites or decievers because your track record is the opposite of moral.

November 10th, 2008, 6:00 pm


Qifa Nabki said:

The management here at Syria Comment may have to commission another comment frequency study, now that we have several prolific and esteemed new commenters on these pages, including Rumyal, Jad, OTW, and others. It would be interesting to see how the picture has evolved since the last study.

Then again, it would be scary to see how far ahead of the rest of us AIG is, despite being banned for a month and having a daily cap on his comments.


November 10th, 2008, 6:04 pm


norman said:

People like AIG make it clear that the only way for peace is force ,What Saghir said makes all the scene ,

unfortunately Shai and rumyal are the minority in Israel as it seems that Israel does not follow international law or the moral law,

I just want the so called peace camp in the Arab world to have the courage to declare the demise of the peace process and seek another way to get the Arab rights.

I doubt that they have that courage , They are after all ( HALF MEN ).

November 10th, 2008, 6:19 pm


Alia said:

AIG states:

[The only thing that will provide Israel with long term security is to have prosperous neighbors with content populations. That is what history has taught us.]

What history are you talking about? This is your continuous attempt at finding some normalcy in the miserable Israeli history.
Which country has been created by a mish-mash of people who have used all possible methods to dispossess a people and enslave it? The U.S.A, Spain, Canada and Australia did that… a few centuries ago.

Israel is a relic of another time, created and supported by external powers:
And this, which you constantly deny, from the uptodate CIA worldfact Book: “Israel usually posts sizable trade deficits, which are covered by large transfer payments from abroad and by foreign loans. Roughly half of the government’s external debt is owed to the US, its major source of economic and military aid”

November 10th, 2008, 6:43 pm


Shai said:


I can’t accept war as a solution, because it is to me the worst form of admission in failure possible. It means basically, that since I can’t make sense of this world, let’s go for chaos, for bloodshed, for damage beyond comprehension, with the hope that maybe, under the remaining rubble and skeletons we’ll find a golden path that leads us to a peaceful home in Kansas. And what if the next war will not be so “limited”? What if it will run through villages, and towns, and cities, like never before? What if many nations will participate, and will invoke all their might in the process, including perhaps massive use of WMD’s? What if Israel finds itself under a perceived existential threat, and decides to use its ultimate weapons, causing unimaginable death and destruction?

What if the result of such a war will be a return to the previous century, and 100 years of hatred and stagnation? Not all wars end like the 1973 one did. Maybe this next one won’t either.

We can’t allow ourselves the “luxury” of finding out. We are gambling not only with our own lives, but also with those of our children’s, and future generations’. It is up to us to find a solution and a way to peace. They are expecting this of us.

November 10th, 2008, 6:46 pm


Alia said:


The only way for peace is when outside support is withdrawn from Israel. That is why we should support the call for Divestment from Israel on every level- as well as increasing political sanctions-

November 10th, 2008, 6:48 pm


Shai said:


I’m not sure I want to be in that Hall of Fame once again… And this time, with AIG being banned so many times, I’m sure I’ll be way up there. That’s not necessarily a good thing, when you’ve got a wife and kids that need your attention no less… 🙂

November 10th, 2008, 6:50 pm


Shai said:

News: “IAEA finds traces of Uranium at suspected Syrian nuclear site” – http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/1036086.html

Mark my words: Once the expected storm will blow over, this will prove to be a blessing. Saghir, this is precisely the parity you are talking about, and with which I agree.

November 10th, 2008, 6:58 pm


Qifa Nabki said:

That’s not necessarily a good thing, when you’ve got a wife and kids that need your attention no less…

Ya shabab

I think we Arabs have finally found the leverage we need to face Israel at the negotiating table: blackmailing Shai by threatening to tell his wife about his disgraceful comment frequency on Syria Comment.

November 10th, 2008, 7:00 pm


norman said:


that is beautiful , but unfortunately Israel is pushing us to the wall with the likes of AIG, We are really sick and tired of Israel looking at us as second class citizens .

Israel is losing time and good well.
Alia, I agree with you.

November 10th, 2008, 7:09 pm


Jad said:

AIG, you didn’t answer any of OTW points he raised yesterday to end your repetitive issue every time you are on.
I personally find OTW comments to be one of the best written on SC lately.

Dear OTW, I do apologize for cut and past your entire comments but they need to be read twice by everybody.

P.S. I do appreciate some of your comments AIG and I prefer if you keep writing “Responsibly” on here

72. Off the Wall said:

I am always happy to learn of any country, particularly in arid and semi-arid regions, that has concrete plans to address the looming water shortage problem. Israel is not different in my book and if what you say is right, and i believe that it is, Israel is to be congratulated for such plans. I wish you all the luck in realizing these plans. May be we can, if you do not go nuts in your isolation, contract Israeli firms to develop similar plants in Syria. It would be much cheaper, and more economically rewarding to both sides.

Nonetheless, I still believe that you are preaching to the quire, and shouting in the wrong ally. I dare you to find anyone on this forum who is happy about the state of economic, political, and cultural development in the Arab world including Syria. We can see the sad state of affairs, and most of us are quite loud in condemning this sad state of affairs and in offering lessons from our own experiences, being expats, to improve the situation. The mere fact that we write here is a testament to our recognition of such state and of our deep desire to change that state of affairs. You are never going to love Syrians and Syria more than I do, nor would I be able to love Israel and Israelis more than you do. But the difference between us is that I am telling you of my grievances against you in hope that you try to address them, and you continue to condescend and lecture me and others. This is typical and we are used to it from your politicians and journalists who keep insulting us as they get more confused about how to deal with multi-dimensional Arabs that do not conform to images that were never true to begin with.

Yet, many of us here, with the exception of you and your supporters, and despite of our differences, have demonstrated not only flexibility, but a capacity of seeing and encouraging positive developments when they occur and have learned to be happy to embrace them. A simple example is the recent appeal court decision in Syria regarding Michel Kilo, Some of us see in that decision a step forward as the appeal court develops a spine and challenges the decision of security court. We sow similar positive development and cases where the Israeli supreme court, on rare occasions, sided with Arab citizens of Israel. But we were disappointed when that august court approved torture of Palestinian so called “terror suspects”. You are acting like Marie Antoinette, we are happy to see some bread after long period of hunger and you are asking us why aren’t we revolting for not having croissant. Your early immigrants developed democratic institutions but your allies have done their best to subvert our attempts, which were contemporary to the birth of your nation for a true democratic reforms.

I refuse to start every argument I make on this site by condemning those you want me to condemn just to receive your blessing as an enlightened Arab nor do I expect you to start every argument by condemning Israeli practices. Heaven knows, I even do not bring up the subject unless it is very necessary to highlight.

You call us hypocritical, so be it. If you think that I will lose sleep because you called me so, or that I will be intimidated by your imagined authority when you call my arguments bs, hogwash or mere crap, who gives a damn. I do not expect to change your mind as you seem to have little or no time to venture outside your bubble, and what I just read from you tells me that you want to convert your bubble into a mini metallic Dyson sphere. Go for that if you wish, but your isolation will not and can not be completed unless you reach an amicable settlement with those you oppress. This is not a threat, it is a fact of life. Your practices will forever prevent your country from full membership in civilized Europe because Europeans are less likely to vote for your membership in the EU as long as the occupation continues and a majority of European citizens continue to you’re your country, rightfully or mistakenly, as a major threat to world peace. Intimidating Europeans by threatening to call them anti-semetic will no longer work. Go ahead isolate yourself and apply for EU membership, today before tomorrow.

I am baffled at my success and the success of those who have much more intellect than I do in irritating you even when we do not try to do that. Is it because we threaten your cozy notions of self righteousness without reinforcing the cartoonish image of the hateful, violent mouth frothing Arab, and by that force you to recognize our humanity to your dismay and to the dismay of those who worked so hard to cultivate that image (on both sides) . I know your answer, please do not use four letter words, I consider them received but I do not want you banned. Contrary to what you think, I believe that you have helped all of us.

November 10th, 2008, 7:28 pm


Alia said:

Jad and OTW,

Yes, I think that the comment is exceptionally well-written and the tone and approach very balanced, it makes me proud of my countryman…but I do not agree with the last comment OTW as far as I am concerned.

What helps me is reading Shai and Enlightened…I know some of their struggles, and I cannot imagine what it takes for them to do what they are doing in reaching out to us. They always make me feel like it is worth doing more on my part, while AIG’s anger and incoherent ranting, fully based on his terror in my opinion, is contagious and exacerbates rage and frustration in me.

November 10th, 2008, 7:37 pm


norman said:


Enlighted is Lebanese Australian.not Israeli.

November 10th, 2008, 7:43 pm


AIG said:

Hallelujah! You finally got it! Until the Arabs give themselves rights, no one else is going to give them rights. You will have to fight for your rights, both from your fellow Arabs and from Israel.
But how can you fight Israel when you are still fighting among yourselves??? First make peace inside the Arab world and then come after Israel. There is no “peace” camp yet in the Arab world as all the Arab world is autocratic. First figure out your own problems and then come with demands to Israel.

What exactly is the point OTW is raising? Why would Israel want to be part of the European Union. We are the ONLY country that has a free trade agreement both with Europe and the US and it is an excellent status for. What is the point about isolation? Who is under sanctions, Syria or Israel??? So what exactly are you talking about??? Your country is completetly isolated and sanctioned and you are trying to teach us how not be isolated and sanctioned??? Are you guys for real???How about teaching yourself first how not to be isolated and sanctioned? Make Syria an example and then you will have some credibility. Your case is a little more urgent, don’t you think?

Your name is from now Pangloss. My you can put a positive spin on everything.

November 10th, 2008, 7:49 pm


Shai said:


Thank you for the kind words. But please know that I don’t find communicating on SC difficult at all. And oddly enough, I find that opening myself up to criticism here is actually easier than elsewhere in life. It’s not only because we’re in cyberspace, but it is also because I know, that people like yourself Alia, are also here to truly listen, and that generates tremendous energy in me. I too feel that I want (and can) do so much more, when I learn up close who my “enemies” really are. And when I see people like you, and like all the others on SC, I feel the greatest shame for myself, my people, and our region, for not being able to overcome our differences for so many decades and through such terrible pain and sacrifice.

As I’ve said in the past, nearly 40 years ago, in 1969, a few smart people figured out how to land humans on the moon. But we still can’t figure out how to return the Golan or the West Bank??? Sometimes we need some perspective, to understand just how much we are failing ourselves, and future generations, by continuing to invest in excuses, rather than in change.

Norman (and Alia),

I must still believe in the need to work on the emotional barriers between our people first, before we go for the negative campaigns (which we’ve all tried for years already). Let us first try to reach out to one another, let our leaderships allow contact, of any sort, that will finally enable Israelis to find out what Syrians are all about, and vice versa. I’m convinced this is the key to empathy. And empathy is the key to peace. Note I say empathy, and not sympathy.

November 10th, 2008, 7:54 pm


Jad said:

Dear Alia
I had the same feeling of being proud of my countryman reading OTW words and yours as well, you also should read his earlier comments if you didn’t notice them.

I know exactly why OTW wrote his last sentence because I have the same understanding of AIG comments and where they come from, I (I think OTW too, but he can explain himself way better than me) am talking about the “GOOD” “CONSTRUCTIVE” comments that AIG write from time to time, very few though, but they are really good to read and question your own translation of things and it helps you have a better understanding of the whole picture on the other side of the fence, Shai and Rumyal are great and they are the Israelis we want to talk and have peace with but UNFORTUNATLY, AIG is the majority right now and not understanding him better wont help us reach the goal we all want,
It may even irritate us seeing someone who doesn’t acknowledge his country mistakes and ask us to fix ours, at the same time he is showing us our weakness that we need to work on starting with human-rights, economy and every aspect of our country.
This is why I see the value of his comments regardless of how aggressive and rude my answers it may sound to his.

Finaly, AIG, Shut up

November 10th, 2008, 7:58 pm


Alex said:


Syria will tell them that Israeli ammunition typically has depleted uranium in it… Just like you can always find traces of any elements in the soil next to Iraq due to the heavy wars and areal bombardment during the several wars in the near past.

This won’t be a conclusive story.

November 10th, 2008, 8:02 pm


Ford Prefect said:

“Content population?” Let’s be careful with what you wish for. Removing injustice and providing for liberal societies is about the only thing to guarantee a “content population”.

So how do we remove injustice? Let’s start with peaceful gestures from Israel. Let’s start with a freeze on settlements. Let’s start with lifting the blockade on Gaza. Since Israel is the indisputable supreme military power in the region, Israel can analyze and remove what is perceived in all corners of the world as horrific injustice to the Palestinian people.

And how do Arabs achieve liberalism? We are slowly transforming but we need peace to help us accelerate that process. Without peace, Israel will be constantly facing an angry and restless Arabs. Let us not kid ourselves.

I am with you in a sense that Israel is really uneasy about the governments and the people around it. Israel’s suffering from Schizophrenia is understood and appreciated after the horrible treatments the Ashkenazy Jews received for centuries from colonial and racist Europeans. It is no wonder that they trust no one today.

And we in the Arab world do not give Israelis much to cheer and be restful about. We have, unfortunately, mastered the task of confused policy-making, how to guarantee disasters on ourselves, and to top it off, we have a huge ego to overcome.

So, do Israel’s neighbors need to undergo a genuine transformation towards modernity and liberalism? You bet. Does Israel need to change its militaristic and colonial view of its neighbors and start being part of its neighborhood instead the master of it? You bet. Does one happen without the other? No.

You have correctly noticed that some of us here do not spend enough time in self-criticism and self-modulation. You are correct. There aren’t enough Shai’s amongst us, and that is a shame. But, let’s not forget that Syria has come a long way since 2000. If you would to just positively communicate with some of young and emerging Syrians today, like we are communicating with some Israelis, you will find that there is more commonality that oddity with them. Shai is changing many opinions to the positive. Look at the trees for now, and put the forest on the side.

Let’s keep talking, but from the prospect of pragmatic small steps – rather than the grandiose vision of a several Switzerland bordering Israel. Let’s focus on some low hanging fruits. Things will only change if we positively influence them.

November 10th, 2008, 8:07 pm


Shai said:


Please decide, am I now a “liar”, “blatant liar”, “pangloss”, or back to “useful idiot” (your first label for me)?

What is it that so ticks you off, when you see a fellow countrymen actually communicating well with his “enemies”? Am I tricking someone? Am I making any promises? Am I selling you down the river, behind your back? What is it that bothers you conservatives so much? You KNOW that Bibi offered Hafez Assad the Golan back in August 1998, and may very well offer exactly what I’m saying yet again. You KNOW there’s a very good chance we’ll sign a peace agreement as I propose long before we’ll ever see democracy in Syria, yet you still pretend those who’ll do it are as bad as the “Oslo criminals” (as some refer to them in Israel). Why are you insisting on your omniscience? Why do you feel you have a mandate on the truth? Why can’t a liberal like myself offer a possible route to peace, and actually be right? Have only Likud-supporters been correct? And I even suggested I may vote for Bibi. You can’t figure me out, so you label me? How low will you venture, AIG? What’s next, don’t keep us in suspense.

November 10th, 2008, 8:11 pm


Shai said:


I agree, but the ambiguity that Syria should maintain here could do wonders for the parity Saghir was talking about. If indeed Syria must first be viewed by Israelis as much more menacing and threatening, let this newsbit run across our screens for days, highlighting precisely the possible future we may face, if we wait too long for the “right” conditions to magically form by themselves. Without shooting a single bullet, Syria may have just gotten a healthy dose of deterrence. In our odd-way of reasoning in the region, this may actually get us closer to peace, than farther away…

November 10th, 2008, 8:21 pm


AIG said:

I sincerely appreciate what you are trying to do. And you and QN are the only ones that are addressing head on what I am saying.

But for the life of me I cannot understand why the Arabs need peace with Israel in order to democratize. It just sounds like a big excuse. The two things are unrelated. Au contraire, as the peace Israel made with Egypt shows, it only HINDERS democratic reforms. Please provide an argument for what you say.

In what sense is Israel the master of its environment? We do not control Lebanon, Syria, Jordan or Egypt. Not even a little. Our influence in Lebanon is miniscule relative to Syria. We do not have any plans to control these countries either. We just want to defend ourselves.

And as for your way forward:
“So how do we remove injustice? Let’s start with peaceful gestures from Israel. Let’s start with a freeze on settlements. Let’s start with lifting the blockade on Gaza. Since Israel is the indisputable supreme military power in the region, Israel can analyze and remove what is perceived in all corners of the world as horrific injustice to the Palestinian people.”

It is a dead end. After the second intifada and the suicide bombing campaign all the “justice” complaints are moot to me and most Israelis. They are down right offensive even. Sorry, to us the Palestinian society is totally screwed up and until it changes we will not begin to care again about the Palestinians. It may sound harsh to you, but the people in Gaza are drinking the soup they brewed. What is happening there is TOTALLY their responsibility, and I will be happy to explain why.

Bottom line. Don’t look to Israel for any changes. First change Arab society.

November 10th, 2008, 8:31 pm


Shai said:


This has been a very long day for us (many many comments). Wanna have a cigar with me? 🙂 I think I’ll go out and have one, while toasting you, and everyone else in our SC “family”. Cheers guys, and gals! Keep the hope!

November 10th, 2008, 8:37 pm


Off the Wall said:

Enjoy the Cigar. Unfortunately, I am at work where I can see and keep my eyes on what is being written, but do not have much time to respond or comment myself. Worse yet, no cigars allowed. I am already toasting you and all the family, but with a cup of excellent Taiwanese green tea.

November 10th, 2008, 8:43 pm


Shai said:

OTW, in other words, you’re having “Shai”… 🙂 Cheers my friend, and good night! AIG, I’ll toast you as well. We ARE going to agree one day, you’ll see…

Looks interesting, from the Washington Post: http://newsweek.washingtonpost.com/postglobal/projects_1/syriaisrael/index.html

November 10th, 2008, 8:55 pm


AIG said:

I finally understand your logic. If you could you would give syria a nuclear weapon so that Israel will finally make peace with it. Right? Won’t that help peace the most according to your logic?

November 10th, 2008, 8:56 pm


Shai said:


I would never give Syria, or anyone else, a nuclear weapon. But I am actually following your rationale, and Saghir’s, which says that in order to make peace with Israel, Syria must become stronger, or at least be perceived as such. It’s one thing to accept this argument, and hence hope Syria will not be perceived as being incapable of hurting Israel, and it’s a whole other thing to physically assist her in achieving strength over my own nation. I am not looking to be Azmi B’shara, you know. Though he is a good looking man… 🙂 Yalla, Lyla Tov.

November 10th, 2008, 9:07 pm


Saghir said:

Given her resources, Syria has worked magic with the little that she has. Every strategic marriage she made has proved a trump card. Syria is like a magician pulling rabbits out of a hat whenever the need was most acute. Its deft management and understanding of the terrain that has made it very difficult for the country’s many foes to put her down.

Israel, U.S. and Saudi Arabia can make a mistake and get away with it. The Assads do not have this luxury. You commit a major error and you are out-literally. Every day you wake up, you are ready to do battle. Survival skills become honed by the minute. After 38 years experience, you are a pro and in Syria’s case it shows.

I believe that Josh is right about the oil finds. I am also led to believe that a lot of new money is contemplating a move in this embryonic and expanding market.

With its economy on the mend, helped by faster reforms, and armed with enduring alliances with Iran, Hamas, HA and even Turkey Damascus is finally feeling the wind behind its back. The headwinds have largely dissapeared. The quicker Israel and the new U.S. administration realize this, the better off everyone will be in this region.

November 10th, 2008, 9:26 pm


Ford Prefect said:

We are getting somewhere and your thoughts and questions are reasonable omes

Let me address your first question. But before I do, please note that I don’t user the word “democratize” as a verb. Democracy is not an actionable item as the current Cheney junta has led us to believe. I am advocating a liberal Middle East, Israel included, where democracy is the final circle of a liberal society. Liberalism and democracy, in my opinion, are two different and separate concepts, albeit closely related.

I can discuss the similarities and differences later, but I wanted to answer your question as soon as possible.

Peace between Syria and Israel is not a prerequisite for achieving a liberal Syrian society – a society that simply implement rules of law to protect citizens from their government and provide for separation of government powers that no one entity or political actor can have a monopoly.

But, peace is one of the critical components to achieve the transformation to a liberal society. Peace will allow Syrians to shed hard burned notions about Israel. We don’t have to love each other; but it will rid us from collectively mistrusting and fearing each other. Fear and mistrust today are occupying a prominent role in minds of Israelis and Arabs alike.

You cite the peace of Egypt and how it failed to bring liberty to the Egyptian people. True, but one must wait. Transformation to a liberal democracy does take time – Italy itself did not achieve full democracy until the early Seventies.

We just cannot just say Egypt failed to modernize even after peace; therefore peace is irrelevant. We can imagine what Egypt would be like if it was still at war with Israel – that picture is not pretty for either Egypt or Israel. It is clear that an peaceful Egypt is a much better one that is at war.

Huntington and Fukuyama often argued that the Arab and Muslim world are basically incapable of modernization and shall remain so indefinitely – which, I believe is driving some of your logic. Many right-wingers and diabolical scholars often subconsciously transmit these undertones across the Western society to a point where it became a self-perpetuating fact based on an ignorant fallacy. Subscribing to these theories does provide for continuing hostilities and wars. Even if they were true, ignoring them might save a life.

Peace and liberty are not two mutually exclusive events and they are certainly not a waterfall concepts. Do one so the other can happen. Both must be pursued and both are critically important in order to achieve stability in the region.

In fact, AIG, as Tocqueville once observed, democracies have great difficulties sustaining themselves unless people reach a point he called the “art of associating,” a point to which I am trying to reach with between our people.

I believe you know what I am trying to say. And I know that you and I are afraid of the same thing – being hijacked by the ideologues of either side who happened to have lethal weapons. What scares you as an Israeli does scare us as Arabs as well. We will need to rid ourselves of overblown and manufactured fears first, need to resize the monsters amongst us, and we need to win the argument for peace and liberty – simultaneously.

November 10th, 2008, 11:08 pm


AIG said:

When I say “democracy” I mean liberal democracy, so we agree on this.

Now to the things unclear to me. First you say that peace is not a pre-requiste and then you say it is a critical condition for transformation. What do you mean and why is it a critical condition? Why can’t Syrians liberalize while hating Israel? I do not see the connection. Israel is quite liberal with the ongoing wars it faces so it is not clear at all why peace is needed for liberalization.

As for Egypt, once you start saying that 30 years is not a long enough time to show that peace does not help liberlization, you lose me. If 30 years is not enough time, then no time is enough. Egypt is in fact less tolerant and more religious than it was 30 years ago. Saying that without peace it may have been worse is really not convincing. The situation in Egypt could not be much worse as it is horrible now. At the very least you must admit, that if peace helps, it helps very little and therefore it is not the main issue.

Frankly, I do not know if the Arab world can modernize or not. I think it can but I want to receive indications that it is. The proof of the pudding is in the eating. I have no preconceived notions but I am not willing to become a believer until I see real change for the better. Is that too much to ask?

Again, regarding liberty and peace. Why is it important to win both arguments simulateonously? Again, what is the connection? In fact liberty alone is much easier. The Arabs are in full control of that. As for peace they need Israel and are not in full control. By emphasizing peace or demanding simultaneity, you are giving the autocrats a pass.

When a suicide bomber blows himself up in a restaurant near me, my fear of suicide bombers is not overblown or manufactured. When Hamas shoot rockets at me, my fear of being hit by a rocket is not overblown or manufactured. Maybe Arabs have overblown and maufactured fears. I don’t know. I know Israelis have concrete fears. Yes, these are not existential fears but let me explain something. Peace means peace and we have no patience for ANY excuses for violence. Even one missile or terrorist attack a year is unacceptable. If you cannot guarantee 100% non-violence I am not interested in this “peace” and please do not ask me to take “risks” for peace. Because we will not. That experiment is over after Oslo. Peace means what Canada and the US have. If that is not what you have in mind or can guarantee, then let’s wait.

November 10th, 2008, 11:42 pm


Alia said:


Thanks for the correction. I still like Enlightened : )


I have known a few Israelis personally in the U.S., a few Zionist American Jews, and quite a few American Jews for whom being supportive of Israel is of the normal order of things. I have known these people as teachers, colleagues, students, close friends, very close friends…I am giving the details in order to tell you that I have experienced all shades of interaction and we have talked about Israel, Palestine and the Arabs. For some reason, the Golan was never as important to me as the fate of the Palestinians.

I learned from all those interactions that there is on both sides a barrier- cognitive as well as emotional dear Shai-which emerges eventually, and there is no going further in empathy and understanding and that is where distance starts showing until we lose contact gradually without anything being said.

At the moment, I have one American born-Israeli friend; he and his family spend their time between the U.S. and Jerusalem…We are open with each other, and have had the opportunity to be supportive of each other through personal and professional difficulties. He is like an older brother to me. On Israel, we tiptoe around each other, it is the only matter that we cannot discuss openly, I think because we both fear that we would lose our relationship.

I will walk with you Shai as much as I can and hopefully at least one step further than I have with my last Israeli friend. Let us see who will give up first.

Nevertheless, I am not a Palestinian who is handling her pain and loss personally, on an individual basis on her own behalf and on behalf of her own people. I have to speak and act on behalf of people whose existence parallel to mine all those years of my life has been miserable. Now I fear that I will die, without them having known anything different. What do I owe them? Is my friendship and empathy with 1,3.5 Israelis enough duty discharged towards them?
Therefore, you see they are 2 different things at least for now. In my mind, it is the same for you. You are trying to follow your inner road; still you are maintaining your contract with your country, as it exists.


You are good and it is good that you are. I understand what you mean, AIG can spend the rest of his life arguing here on SC on the same theme and you and OTW are sharpening your cognitive skills against his good and not so good arguments. Perhaps you need to I do not anymore. To me AIG has had an (almost)open license to pour his hatred and contempt on people (us) who by nature are not aggressive and hateful. I do not want to feel the rage that he is feeling and write angry things.

November 11th, 2008, 12:20 am


Enlightened said:


Ammo Norman filled you in:

I would clarify one point that I consider myself Australian first, of Arab Lebanese descent. We have family in Syria (mainly Damascus) but I often deny my Syrian heritage to outsiders. (note sarcasm)

Behind the political scenes here in Australia there has been minor rumblings about the plight of the Palestinians. Most notably, The Illegal settlements, the Occupation and the Harsh treatment. Now depending on your political discourse our new government might not so blindly follow the blind support of Israel as it has done in the past. Australia\’s support of Israel has been particularly strong in the past, the current government feels ( I dont know how strongly) that the Geneva convention should apply in the territories.

I think that Australia if asked to mediate the Mid East conflict would be a very honest broker.

Shai, Rumyal

You might have to make me an honorary Israeli or Jew ( as long as its not Haredi- don\’t like black suits and caps).

November 11th, 2008, 1:55 am


norman said:


I have the same experience that you have , we sometimes discuss the Mideast , The Golan and the lease of part of the Golan was first mentioned to me by one of them ,Aig does not represent the Jews , actually a Jewish friend of mine that i am building an office building with told the Israeli Jews are different kind of Jews.

Shai is more representative of the Jews that i know.

November 11th, 2008, 2:06 am


Alia said:

The Fates of Americans and Palestinians are Deeply Intertwined

A Bone in America’s Throat


Even before the voting began, Israeli politicians and pundits were asking: Will an Obama Administration be good for Israel? “Be good for Israel” is our code for “Will the US allow us to keep our settlements and continue to support our efforts to prevent negotiations with the Palestinians from ever bearing fruit?” For Americans the question should be: Will the Obama Administration understand that without addressing Palestinian needs it will not be able to disentangle itself from its broader Middle Eastern imbroglios, rejoin the community of nations and rescue its economy?

The Israel-Palestine conflict should be of central concern to Americans, near the top of the new Administration’s agenda. It may not be the bloodiest conflict in the world – its minor when compared to Iraq – but it is emblematic to Muslims and to peoples the world over of American hostility and belligerence. The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is not merely a localized one between two squabbling tribes. It lies at the epicenter of global instability. Go where you may in the world and you will encounter the same phenomenon: a sense that the suffering of the Palestinians represents all that is wrong in an American-dominated world.

As Obama comes into office, he will encounter a global reality very different from that of eight years before: a multilateral one in which a weakened and isolated US must find its place. He will discover that much of America’s isolation comes from the view that the Occupation of the Palestinian territories is, in fact, an American-Israeli Occupation. If restoring a weakened American economy depends on repairing relations with the rest of the world, he will learn that without resolving the Israeli-Palestine conflict he will not create those conditions in which the US will be accepted once more into the wider global community.

To be more specific, the Israel-Palestine conflict directly affects Americans in at least five ways:

• It isolates the US from major global markets, forcing it to embark on aggressive measures to secure markets rather than peaceful accommodation;

• It thereby diverts the American economy into non-productive production (tanks not roads), making it dependent upon deficit spending which only increases dependency upon foreign financing while diverting resources into the military rather than into education, health and investment;

• Support for the Israeli military costs US taxpayers more than $3 billion annually at a time of deepening recession and crumbling national infrastructure;

• It leads to an American involvement in the world that is mainly military, thus begetting hostility and resistance which produce the threats to security Americans so greatly fear; and

• It ends up threatening American civil liberties by encouraging such legislation as the Patriot Act and by introducing Israeli “counterinsurgency” tactics and weaponry developed in the West Bank and Gaza into American police forces.

For many peoples of the world, the Palestinians represent the plight of the majority. They are the tiny grains of sand resisting what most Americans and privileged people of the West do not see. They are a people who are denied the most fundamental right: to a state of their own, even on the 22% of historic Palestine that Israel has occupied since 1967. For the majority of humanity that lives in economic and political conditions unimaginable in the West, the suffering caused by Israel’s occupation – impoverishment and a total denial of freedom that can only be sustained by total American support – is emblematic of their own continued suffering. Israel’s oppression of the Palestinians with the active backing of the US shows demonstrably the existence of a global system of Western domination that prevents others from achieving their own dreams of political and economic well-being.

Like a bone in the throat, the issue of Israel’s occupation can be neither ignored nor by-passed. If it is not addressed, the US – even under Obama – will remain mired in conflicts with Muslim peoples, will continue to be reviled by peoples seeking genuine freedom and will not find the security and even the prosperity it so craves. We live in a global reality, not a Pax Americana. The logic of the Bush Administration has run its course. No longer can the US throw its weight around in a War Against Terror. No longer can its involvement be purely military. The new logic that will accompany Obama into office can be summarized in one word: accommodation. And the US will not get to first base until it achieves accommodation with the Muslim world, which means ending the Israeli Occupation. What happens to the Palestinians takes on a global significance. Clearing the bone in the throat – that is, ending the Israeli Occupation and allowing the Palestinians a state and a future of their own – should be a top priority of the next American administration. Indeed, America’s attempt to restore its standing in the world depends on it. In the global reality in which we live, the fate of Americans and Palestinians, it turns out, are closely intertwined.

Jeff Halper is the Director of the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions. He can be reached at jeff@icahd.org.

November 11th, 2008, 2:17 am


Off the Wall said:

Dear Jad and Alia

Thank you both very much, you honor me by your kind words,. I must say that I like your writings and believe that the beauty of what we have here on SC is our diverse experiences and our different approaches to them.

I view AIG’s argument (for he only has a single one) in its various forms as merely a variant of orientalism. The us “democracies” against them “undemocratic” Arabs. It replaces the exotic backward sleepy Arab, who is incapable of identifying with 18’th century science and progress, with a new cartoon of an Arab who is incapable of truly understanding the superior “democratic” values of AIG, and who needs to constantly profess obedience at AIG’s ideological altar or be ready for AIG’s neocon friends’ interference to “democratize”. This was very evident during the summer time discussions of the Surge. FP’s excellent comment captures the essence of this notion rather eloquently. I do not tolerate that, and while I know that a democratic government is superior to an autocratic one, I find AIG’s insistence on this notion akin to a wife beating westerner declaring that Muslim women are oppressed because they cover their hair. This is why I use words like “civilize” us because under the guise of liberal democracy, the colonialist notion of “civilizing” the natives is replaced by AIG’s word “democratic reforms”. The motive and intentions are the same, not matter how much he protests. It is condescending colonialist view, at best.

How does he help us all, his is an intellectually corrupt philosophy that we can not afford to let dominate the narrative. Banning him will be counterproductive and responding to him forcefully is essential, his argument is shared by the whole neocon enterprise and we have witnessed the horror of not standing up to it. It is the argument of Daniel Pipes, Steve Emerson, and their ilk. Not all of us must respond, but some of us must be as arrogant, but better informed than he is.

November 11th, 2008, 5:19 am


Shai said:


You said: “and please do not ask me to take “risks” for peace”

But haven’t we been doing all these years, if not “taking risks for non-peace”? Why are you willing to take those risks, but not the ones for peace? Does it not make sense that the current state of relations between Israel and Egypt is far better than it would have been for nearly 30 years if we hadn’t signed a peace agreement in 1979? How many wars with Egypt (and quite possibly other Arab nations) would we have endured over these past 3 decades? Was it not worth it to return the Sinai, even in hindsight, knowing today that we don’t have the same “peace” we had hoped for? Put aside the internal problems in Egypt. Answer these questions from Israel’s point of view. We can’t ignore the alternative to peace – we’ve been living with it, and taking risks for it (for non-peace), for over 60 years. Are the risks worth not making peace?

November 11th, 2008, 5:23 am


AIG said:

You are completely confused. Where do you get all these strange notions? I have stated many times that the life of one Israeli soldier (or American for that matter) is not worth the adventure of democratizing Syria. You are perfectly civilized and I wish you the best of luck with your autocratic regimes. Don’t change, keep things that way they are. Always blame others for why there is not one single democracy in the Arab world. You are on the right path.

As for me, it is my right to believe that democracy is the best form of government and the only one that truly will eventually solve the problems of the Arab world. And until that happens, I will be very suspicious of peace with countries on the verge of implosion.

How many times do I have to say that peace with Egypt was great for Israel but that it royally screwed the average Egyptian because it cemented Mubarak in power and shut all hope for democracy in Egypt? But now 30 years have passed and the middle east will soon blow up in our face because of lack of democracy. A few things like population doubling, more extremism and such have happened in the last 30 years. We need to hunker down and get ready for the Islamic Tsunami that will last perhaps even several decades. 30 years ago the Islamic Tsunami was not inevitable. After 30 years of abysmal development and no democracy in the Arab world, it is inevitable and it is nearing faster than expected because of climate change. If democratization takes generations, the Arabs should have started generations ago and we should have helped them. But the Arabs did not help themselves and we did not help them (we cemented Mubarak) and ourselves and all of us in the middle east will have to suffer, some more some less.

November 11th, 2008, 5:58 am


Shai said:

Dear Alia,

You said: “there is on both sides a barrier- cognitive as well as emotional… and there is no going further in empathy and understanding and that is where distance starts showing until we lose contact gradually without anything being said.”

You’re absolutely right. But by chance we have the near-ideal partners to work with – Jews and Arabs. At the risk of offending some non-Semites (apologies in advance), we happened to be a very emotional people, for bad but also for good. We can get angry and offended in an instant, but also soften up just as fast. I’ve seen endless amount of times in my life. I’d have an argument with a Jewish friend, or with an Arab friend, and tempers would rise and strangers around us would think we’re about to kill one another (Americans or Europeans), and minutes later, we’d be hugging and laughing, because one of us said “the right thing”. We are a people that have forgiveness embedded deep in our DNA’s (now I’m starting to make racial comments… I’ll be careful). We therefore, CAN and WILL find the way to each other’s hearts, and we will change together.

Alia, I know of only one way to move forward – communication. We cannot even know each other’s fears and concerns, if we’re not communicating. And if we don’t know, we can’t understand, and we can’t empathize. And if we can’t empathize, we can’t change. This is something I wish our leaders would finally realize. Imagine, our peace has been hijacked by leaders over the past 60 years, who have not allowed us to interact with one another, in any form other than war. They’ve made laws that forbid contact between us, even when outside of our region! To speak to their relatives, Golan residents of Druze origin have had to walk to a hill we call the “Shouting Hill”, where they would yell out to their cousins, or uncles, or parents, back and forth. They couldn’t even pick up the phone, and talk. So many basic freedoms have been taken from us, disabling any kind of development of understanding that wasn’t government-approved first. In other words, brainwashing. It’s that simple.

Even with the Palestinians, whose pain and suffering over the past 40 years should have been much clearer to us (God knows we patrol those streets, and see and feel these poor people up close), a cognitive-barrier has been put up by successive governments, which called for “security” as the chief excuse for our continued Occupation of Palestine and its 3 million citizens. So young soldiers, 18 years old, would be told to beat up a Palestinian holding a stone, because of “security” reasons. And the ongoing brainwashing has led these kid-soldiers to believe that a stone threatened our existence. That if we showed “weakness” (humanity), certainly the Arabs would exploit this to the fullest, and eventually annihilate us all. These are all exactly the cognitive and emotional barriers you described.

But it is only through interaction with Arabs that I began to question some of these barriers, indeed to even recognize them. I’ve been blessed enough, by growing up in the U.S. for part of my life. I’ve lived in areas where Arabs lived, I’ve studied in school and in university with Arabs, and I’ve always interacted with them. As a child, for me it was almost a challenge to “sneak” into Arab circles and bravely announce that I was an Israeli. Once or twice, mainly in the early 80’s, some Syrian or Palestinian would say “You’re a criminal” (I was 12 or 13 at the time…) And of course that made me want to understand why he/she said what they said. But the overwhelming majority of interactions have ALWAYS been positive. I’ve made friends with Palestinians, Jordanians, Egyptians, Syrians, Lebanese, Saudis, UAE’s, and even an Iraqi PhD student, that was sent by Saddam’s own regime to study in the U.S. (We met together continuously, every single day, during the first Gulf War!)

And you know what, with almost every single one of my friends, it took a while before we could both muster the courage to truly listen, and to truly begin to empathize. But, when there is sincere desire to reach out, to understand, and a willingness to change, everything is suddenly doable. Once we cross that barrier (the readiness to truly listen), there’s no turning back. I see it here on SC myself almost on a daily basis. I’l be very frank, at first I had great difficulties reading some of Simo’s comments. He and I clashed like to stubborn titans. I allow myself to say, we almost hated each other in those first exchanges. I thought he was a racist, and he thought the same of me. And neither one of us could figure out how to communicate anything different. Yet, we both wanted to also listen, not just be heard, I’m convinced of that. And so we kept at it, slowly but surely. And today it’s different. Speaking for myself, I can listen to Simo in ways I couldn’t before. I can, because I finally TRULY want to. He’s not an Arab, but he has an important perspective that I can benefit greatly by listening to, and considering. He may see things through Arab’s eyes, that I cannot, or have not (is more correct to say). I imagine, that when he hears some of the things I say, he may explain to Arabs he knows a few things he sees through my eyes, that maybe they cannot, or haven’t.

Alia, you said “I will walk with you Shai as much as I can and hopefully at least one step further than I have with my last Israeli friend. Let us see who will give up first.” I promise you, Alia, that neither one of us will give up. This is one “battle” (battle for peace) where all of us are winners. Believe in it, as I do, and we will always find the energy, the willingness, and the ability, to listen, to learn, and to change.

November 11th, 2008, 6:07 am


Shai said:


“We need to hunker down and get ready for the Islamic Tsunami that will last perhaps even several decades.”

Where is this omniscience from? Islamic Tsunami? Why the declaration of inevitability? Have you seen such things before? Have we even a single case in history where such a Tsunami appeared? Have we a record of correctly predicting such Tsunamis? Ever?

And even if you are, somehow, absolutely correct, and an Islamic Tsunami is about to reap through every village, town, and city in the Arab world, why does “hunker down” have to mean “not make peace”? What if it’s the opposite – that the best way to prepare (all of us) for this Tsunami, is to do so jointly, with all our forces together? What if making peace with Syria, and beginning interaction and cooperation between our governments and our people, is precisely what can ease the effects of this Tsunami on both of us? What if intelligence shared between Israel and Syria could help prevent (or reduce) the effects of internal terrorism in both countries? If an Islamic Tsunami is in the making, there are certainly plenty of “cells” that are ready to take advantage of it. Working together to identify, and possibly get rid of such destabilizing elements is certainly of mutual interest to Israel and Syria, no?

Why are you so sure, that if there was ever a time to run AWAY from peace, now’s the best time?!?

November 11th, 2008, 6:33 am


Off the Wall said:

Dear AP

I am not sure I can easily accept the notion of self hating jew or self hating arab. The reason is that I have seen the former used against many Jewish intellectuals, whom I have much admiration for in the same manner the word terrorist was used as synonym with Arab or Muslim. And as such, i am very suspecious of the term itself. I find any pegorative term suspecious. Learning to be suspecious of violent language was not easy, but when I learned that, it was a blessing for me.

I fully agree the very concileatory current is weaker on the Arab side than it is in the Israeli society, part of it is the absense of civil society institutions that would allow groups such as Shalom now to find roots in Arab countries. But i believe that within the palestinian community, which is more in direct contact with Israelies, such groups exist and work hand in hand with Israeli peace advocates. Yet, the violent language of discource continues to prevent others from taking a strong reconciliatory stance. I can easily imagine that many arab readers view my own comments, and the comments of some other Arab commentators on this site as a betryal, especially that we manage to challange some pre-packaged stereotypes. To them, I may also be called self hating arab, and for that I would stand and defend Shai when the same term is used against him. You know, I still remember the days I was angry at Sadat for daring to visit Israel. The trip from there to here was not easy or simple.

November 11th, 2008, 8:45 am


Rumyal said:


If you want to learn about conciliatory currents in the Palestinian society, their struggles within their society and with external forces, most notably Israel, then I would again highly recommend Sari Nusseibeh’s excellent memoire “Once Upon a Country: a Palestinian Life”. Like OTW, Nusseibeh constantly recognizes opportunities for the Palestinians to create a political culture that is not otherwise possible in other parts of the Arab world, seeing an opportunity in their apparently accursed entanglement with Israel.


The Zionists began the endeavor of institution-building even before the State of Israel was established in 1948. Would the Arabs in Palestine have been building similar institutions had the Jewish state not been established?
Are you asking whether we, by ourselves, would have developed the notion of Palestinian identity – and therefore pursued the aim of establishing a state in which we could express this national identity in the same way that the Jews did?
We, as a people, were not born with an identity. Most peoples – the Jews are an exception, so let’s put them aside for a moment – develop their national identities and then begin to look upon themselves as nations needing to be embodied in the form of a state. We Palestinians are no different. And one of the things that helped us forge our sense of identity as a nation was the fact that the Jews – the people we confronted in the end of the 19th and beginning of the 20th century – were a community or a group wishing to have a state with their own identity.
You know, I have a great-great-great-great-great grandfather who is buried in a mausoleum in [the Jerusalem neighborhood of] Mamilla. If you had asked him, “Are you a Palestinian?” he would probably have answered, “What do you mean, a Palestinian? No, I belong to the Muslim nation.”
But you see, what I believe you Israelis might actually be doing in asking that question is drawing the conclusion – the wrong one, in my opinion – that because we were not born one or five or six thousand years ago with an identity, we do not have an identity, or even rights.
On the contrary. Let’s assume it makes no difference what gives the Palestinians a sense of national identity or how recently they acquired that sense. Let’s say it’s totally legitimate. Then let’s imagine that we remove the proclaimed obstacle – namely “occupation” – to independent Palestinian statehood. The question is: Would the Palestinians be building highways and concert halls and art galleries?
As a state, you mean? Presumably, yes. But suppose, for instance, that we did have our own state, and suppose this state had been created when Israel was created…
If the Arabs had agreed to partition, you mean?
Yes. And suppose we and Israel had nothing to do with one another. We probably would have developed just the way that the rest of the Arab world developed. We probably would have been just as backward as the rest of the Arab states. We would have produced a state with all of the problems that Arab states have.
But, everything seems to have a positive as well as a negative side. Our interaction with Israel has had a major negative impact on us, without question. But what Palestinians don’t realize is that it has also had a positive impact. Although we came to suffer as a result of this interaction with Israelis and the Jewish people, we learned a lot. We learned a lot from you; we learned a lot about you; and we learned a lot through you about the rest of the world. And that’s very important, and a major source of power, as far as we are concerned.
In other words, seeing Israel not in the sense that is normally depicted – namely, as a dagger in the heart of the Arab world – but as a bridge to the rest of the world is something the Palestinians and the rest of the Arab peoples are in need of. We need this bridge between ourselves and the rest of the world. This is something one should be aware of as one looks to the future.

November 11th, 2008, 9:36 am


Alia said:


You said:

[I view AIG’s argument (for he only has a single one) in its various forms as merely a variant of orientalism. The us “democracies” against them “undemocratic” Arabs.]

I appreciate the quotation marks…
I rather think that, this is AIG’s wish, but not the truth and I would not dignify his argument by responding to it as if it were self-evident. In what way does Israel belong to the Occident? What kind of democracy is being promoted and practiced there? And by the way who is the Occident nowadays and what is its claim to a civilizing role? .

AIG pretense to a “mission civilisatrice” does not stand a chance because ultimately it can be argued that Israel directly and indirectly justified the continuation of undemocratic regimes in the area 1) c.f. the recent discussion of the necessity/wisdom of suspending activism for human rights in Syria,in favor of presenting a united front against external forces- an argument used by several dictatorships in the area very successfully to their advantage.. 2) The Mossad which directly reports to the Office of the Prime minister has been involved in every shady activity in the middle East, from supporting the Shah’s undemocratic rule by training and supporting the SAVAK, to agitating with the CIA in Iraq starting in the 1960, in Egypt and everywhere it could reach regardless of what type of regime is in operation.
Inside Israel, we see a military presence that gives the lie to a democratic society’s rule by the power of the law, we see 2nd class citizens, torture in prisons, illegal settlements and settlers who are used by various groupings in their quest for power, and who in turn manipulate the inner political scene and against which the law is practically helpless.
Israel is continuously cited for its abuse of human rights by humanitarian organizations. Does that count for anything?

The West started speaking of Modernity[ and I suspect that is what Edward Said was referring to when he spoke of the Occident although this was left up to us to debate] in the 18th century when Enlightenment values became functional. When 1) separation of religion from state became a possibility and an ideal. 2) When equality of human beings became self-evident. 3) When Justice became a necessity. Those are clearly goals that have not been always met by even the most “democratic” societies, but at least no one would argue that they are the ultimate goal of those societies.
How does Israel qualify on all this?

AIG has been using the argument of economic superiority when his claim to a status of democracy wears thin. Beside its irrelevance to what the definition of democracy is, this economic superiority is largely built on the work of the previous generation of European immigrants who brought with them the values and the achievements of the countries they abandoned; it is not locally produced de novo. Israel did not have to develop from a primitive stage to modern ways of production… in addition to the continuous flow of money and privileged support of every educational and scientific institution from the U.S. primarily and the reparations exacted from Germany on multiple levels.

A dear friend, Holocaust survivor, accomplished scientist, was placed on the board of a very significant charitable trust for the benefit of Israel; he told me a few years ago that he was shocked on his 2 visits to Israel to discover that the European Jewish immigrants had actually ended-up living their life in a primitive Oriental country. He was very disappointed despite his undying support for the existence and continuation of Israel.
If he happens to be reading this, I can see him chuckling…

November 11th, 2008, 2:38 pm


Alia said:


So you have relatives in Damascus…:)

It does not sound cute at all now, but when I was a child I did think that Lebanon was in Syria. Since our little summerhouse was in Lebanon and everytime my older sisters got ready to be married they chose Tripoli because: “it was so much more convenient for everyone”…No one seemed afraid we were going to move in then, it was rather the Saudis presence that was looked at askance. I am glad that I did not see for myself the rest of that movie.

November 11th, 2008, 3:02 pm


Shai said:


Your friend was right. Another shameful treatment by Israel of its citizens, this time as 10th-class (not 2nd-class Arab-Israelis), many if not most of the remaining Holocaust survivors are living in miserable poverty, despite the huge sums of money that have been coming as reparations from Germany for decades. These people, most of whom participated in building this nation from scratch, are now being forgotten, when they need us most.

November 11th, 2008, 3:17 pm


Alia said:

Dear Shai,

I wanted to take time later on to answer your earlier thoughtful post.

I have been thinking of the cognitive and emotional barriers on both sides..what keeps them in place and how do we move on?

Your story suggests that your awakening to a different reality was due to both a natural instinct and favorable circumstances. I have read Rumayl’s statement of his view that one could see a positive side for the Palestinians in viewing Israel as a bridge to modernity or something like that. I have read Alex’s constructive input on the matter.

Well, I am miles backwards in this whole thing. What do I say to myself when I am still perceiving injustice as a gaping wound? when I can have Israeli friends as individuals but the thought of Israel as a country continues to bring clouds to my vision esp. (and that is supremely important to me at least) that this country has done nothing to endear itself to me to and to my people?

Help me here please.

November 11th, 2008, 3:38 pm


AIG said:

Yes Shai,
Please help Alia who is against the Jewish state and believes that European Jews brought with them in the 1930 and 1940 the myriad of technologies that Israel developed in the eighties, nineties and this decade. Which country did Checkpoint bring its technology from? And your startup Shai, which Eurpean country did you steal your ideas from? How is it that Europe buys so much Israeli technology if our technology is really European???
I think many people on this blog need to visit Israel in order to get a reality check.

All the rest,
Economy, technology and government are all important factors in determining the outcome of conflicts between countries. Mentioning and analyzing those is critical to understanding the conflict. It is not orientalism or colonialism or whatever. Putting your head in the sand will get you nowhere. So what if the data is uncomfortable for you? It still needs to be analyzed. Also, if you do not know the price of pursuing a certain strategy, how will you make correct choices? Who are you guys fooling by trying to make things rosier than they are?

November 11th, 2008, 4:23 pm


Shai said:


You know that I am proud of being an Israeli. If I wasn’t, I’d be living as an American, raising my children and running a business, in America. I certainly want others to be proud of Israel as well, and to recognize, as Alex does (for instance) also our achievements, not only our faults.

But on this forum, we must expect that most will not be able to see the former, and will naturally focus on the latter. I used to think that anyone that questioned the existence of the Jewish state was antisemitic. That as it is clear to me that after 2000 years in the diaspora, being persecuted in almost every country, every culture, and under every ruler, the Jews had found at last the only opportunity, and seized it as anyone in our shoes would have done. And I know (as OTW has himself stated) the values that Zionism was originally about. They were not about ethnic cleansing, nor about occupying another people and robbing them of their freedom. They were about coexistence, even on the same piece of land.

Olmert yesterday, in a speech in Knesset on the 13th anniversary of Rabin’s assassination, said that the original founders, as endless generations before them, never dreamed of a binational state. That to them, the Jewish state was to be mostly Jewish. He used this argument, to make it clear that we must give up on “Greater Israel”, by returning land in Judea and Samaria, and the Golan. So far, makes sense. But in reality, our founding fathers actually did not specify that Israel cannot have its Palestinians remain in place, and that it would have to be created with a Jewish majority. The 1947 resolution that called for the creation of two separate states attempted to solve that problem. But it did not ask the 600,000-800,000 Palestinians that would be leaving their homes within 1-2 years if they accepted this resolution or not. No one anticipated what was about to happen, and only one party benefited in the end – Israel.

I’m not suggesting that Israel must now accept a one-state solution, and bring back all the Palestinians, wherever they may be, into their homes in Jaffa, Haifa, Ramleh, Lod, and another couple hundred villages that were erased since then. Now this solution, for the Jewish majority in Israel, is impossible. Perhaps it would have been, a few years after the war in 47-49. But 60 years of hatred, suspicion and fear have taken such a heavy emotional toll (and of course physical), that the two sides cannot yet live together. They must now live apart, side-by-side. Perhaps in a few decades, after there is peace in this region, and mutual cooperation in fields such as economy, culture, academia, and of course politics, we can consider the “next step”. My dream, is that this step will be the so-called UME (United Middle East). It is, for now, merely a dream.

But AIG, we must also recognize those who find it difficult to accept the existence of the state of Israel. Because it did come at the expense of their people, their past, present, and future. How can we not understand a Palestinian whose grandparents were run out of their homes (give a few minutes to pack up all their belongings) by some Israeli soldiers 60 years ago? And now, in that same beautiful home in Jaffa, lives some rich Jew, who spends 90% of his year sunbathing on the shores of the French Riviera, while the rightful owners of his house are living in a shack with barely running water, in some refugee camp in Lebanon or Syria, for the past 60 years?

And the worst part, is that these same Palestinians are told they are about to get their own state finally, but not be able to return to their homes. No, that’s for the Jews. Their new homes, if they choose to go build them, will be in Rafah, Gaza, Ramallah, Jenin, or Tulkarem. It is as if a solution is forced upon them again, erasing their history, eternalizing the crimes committed against them, by not providing them with the most basic justice – a right of return.

If you and I were in their shoes, or even in the shoes of their Arab brethren in the nations around our region, there is a very good chance we would also not recognize the state of Israel. But, reality is often stronger than us, and Israel exists, and will continue to exist, despite what some out there may wish for, or not wish for. And slowly, with time and hopefully peace, all will come to accept and recognize that the Jews have returned to their historical home, and are here to stay. If we succeed in also transforming our fears and hatred into trust and hope, we may well find ourselves redefining our own state one day, into something more closely resembling a nation-state, than a religious-state. In such an Israel, it will not matter whether there are 60% Jews and 40% Muslims, or the other way around.

November 11th, 2008, 7:03 pm


Shai said:


While I’m no psychologist, I can tell you that I am sure what you and I are now doing, sharing our deepest feelings with one another, is an important part of the process of healing our wounds. I think one of the biggest obstacles to peace is recognition of responsibility. If you never hear Israel recognize its part in your suffering, how can you be expected to ever forgive, or accept Israel? I can’t even imagine what it is like to be in your shoes.

By the time I was born, it had been 24 years since Nazism fell. And since then, Germany had changed, and had normal relations with Israel, and was even paying huge sums of money as reparations. I grew up looking at Nazism as something of the past. Although the stories told, and my seeing the actual tattooed numbers on my grandmother’s only sister that survived Auschwitz, did create a sense of hatred towards Germany, I couldn’t apply it emotionally towards Germans of my time.

But for Palestinians today, their history, and their present fate, are still controlled by Israel. Their freedom is still being robbed from them, day and night, year by year, decade after decade. The memories are fresh, because they are in the present, not only the past. So your trauma is ongoing, and healing its wounds cannot begin until the trauma is over.

I cannot yet, unfortunately, tell you that your nightmare is over. I cannot promise that tomorrow will be a better day for Palestinians. I cannot even suggest that we are headed towards a brighter future. Though I am an optimist, and strongly believe in our ability to shape our future and influence our fate, I am also a realist. And under the current state of affairs, with Israelis still undecided about what kind of nation they seek for themselves, a predominantly Jewish one, an Apartheid, or a “normal” nation, with whatever natural demographic development brings, and with no Palestinian leadership to represent the Palestinian people, there is little chance to move forward.

Personally, I don’t see this as a doomed future of another 60 years of suffering. I do see other possibilities, and other hopes. As I’ve stated on endless occasions, and one of the main reasons for my continued efforts on this forum, I do believe strongly in the potential (not promise) peace with Syria can bring to our entire region, and specifically also to the seemingly insurmountable Israeli-Palestinian conflict. I don’t need to imagine something 50 years from now, I can envision it happening 2-3 down the line, not more! We can find ourselves in a completely different reality, I believe, very soon, if only we are ready to take the chances peace requires.

Alia, don’t give up, that’s all I can ask of you. Please know that there are many many Israelis that ask the same of you. And many more wish for a peaceful future, for all people in our region, but do not yet know how to voice it. We are not innately racist, nor are inherently hateful. We do know how to live amongst other peoples (we’ve done it throughout our entire history), and once we are rid of those cognitive and emotional barriers, we will change to our old selves. Keep an open communication with Israelis, and with Jews, and help us (as you do) help ourselves.

November 11th, 2008, 7:37 pm


Off the Wall said:

Dear Alia
I was merely attempting to describe the way that ideology work without assessing whether its claims are viable or even remotely true. I never intended it as self evident truth, but rather to the contrary as self evident lie and untruth, because as i mentioned in an earlier post, it is merely an argument used to delay the inevitable and to continue land grab. Perhaps my problem is that I see my posts, scattered here and there as a continuum, and that why some ideas i post look out of place when taken individually. Since I am no AIG, it is hard for me to keep repeating the same idea again and again (Israel being undemocratic towards 25% of her own citizen, militaristic, an occupier thug towards Palestinians, and as you have clearly highlighted enjoys a highly subsidized economy) because I hold these to be self evident. In the same post, i tried to expose the hypocrisy of AIG’s position by a metaphoric comparison of AIG and his ilk with a wife beating westerner who talks loudly about women freedom in Muslim and Arab countries. And this is also the thread I was following in arguing that AIG’s Israel, which he described as having succeeded by leaving the “screwed arab” world and orienting itself towards the west, will never truly be viewed as a country with “modern, post post-colonialist (yes there are two posts here) Occidental values. And that was the essence in my challenge to him regarding joining the EU. In his reply to Jad regarding these comments, AIG completely forgot the meaning of his own post. But that is common from him.

I fully agree with you that his “mission civilisatrice” does not stand a chance for the reason you have articulated. But neocons have appointed themselves arbiters of values they constantly violate, which is what orientalists did then, and their illegitimate neo-con offspring do now. I was merely trying to point that out.

That said, and while I do not believe that the fundamentals of the Israeli economy are invincible as AIG would like us to believe, I respectfully disagree with you regarding Israel’s ability to advance technologically. Where a country gets talents is less important than what it does with these talents. On the one hand, and office politics aside, as a country, Israel celebrates its “Jewish” talents and the government works very hard to acquire capital investment so that these talents enrich the country instead of driving them out. Yet, we must also recognize that a sizable portion of Israel’s technological advances are heavily subsidized by the Israeli army, which has become, like all modern armies, an incubator of technologies (please see document below), and by the now unbreakable ties between the US and Israeli military industrial complex, not to mention the strong alliance between Israel’s security industry apparatus and the expanding inhumane prison industry here in the US.


Israel has adopted a business friendly growth oriented model, and with help from AIPAC and similar lobbying groups in Europe, and from wealthy venture capitalists worldwide managed to cerate a thriving high-tech and information technology industry. Contrast that with Syria’s push for heavy investment in tourism, which is the most volatile, least paying (in terms of employee income) economical sector and with Dubai’s investment in artificial palm islands and towers of salt. Is there something in the Israeli experiment for us to learn from. I respectfully argue that there is. What is so sad about Israel experiment is that it was born with the reality of occupation, subjugation, and war crimes.

November 11th, 2008, 7:53 pm


Off the Wall said:

Dear Alia

We can also learn similar, and perahps more relevant lessons from Soth Korea, Singapore, and several other experiments. But for heaven’s sake, let us start somewhere.

November 11th, 2008, 8:00 pm


AIG said:

Just like your family, huge chunks of my family were killed by the Germans and a smaller number just lost all their property to the Poles and came to Israel as refugees with basically nothing. So unlike you, I do not understand how someone can carry a grudge for 60 years. I don’t hate Germans or Poles. I understand that history has no rewind button. 60 years is long enough time to stop being a refugee. The way I see it, the Palestinians just have no excuse. My famiy has walked in their shoes just that many more were killed. We did not then wallow in self pity for 60 years or harbor resentment for Germans and Poles. Life is short and self pity is useless and pathetic. I know exactly what property my wife’s family had in the suburbs of Warsaw. I have no illusions of ever getting it back. Let’s all wake up and smell the coffee and understand that history has no rewind bottom.

I understand what you are trying to do but read the following carefully. By trying to gloss over things and emphasizing very low probablilty pictures of the future you will hurt peace long term. It only builds expectations that later cannot be met and result in war. You need to be able to say to your Arab interlocutor’s that there is a very low chance of a UME or a one state solution and that they have to understand, no matter how much it is difficult for them to do so, that there most probably will not be a right of return.

November 11th, 2008, 8:23 pm


Alex said:

AIG said:

“So unlike you, I do not understand how someone can carry a grudge for 60 years. I don’t hate Germans or Poles. I understand that history has no rewind button. 60 years is long enough time to stop being a refugee.”

60 years?

So … AIG, are you saying you will stop talking about and exaggerating the “1948 pogrom” in Aleppo?

2008 – 1948 = ??

November 11th, 2008, 8:35 pm


jad said:

Dear Alia, OTW

It’s so true that Israel didn’t start from scratch as you wrote
“Beside its irrelevance to what the definition of democracy is, this economic superiority is largely built on the work of the previous generation of European immigrants who brought with them the values and the achievements of the countries they abandoned; it is not locally produced de novo. Israel did not have to develop from a primitive stage to modern ways of production… in addition to the continuous flow of money and privileged support of every educational and scientific institution from the U.S. primarily and the reparations exacted from Germany on multiple levels.”
I think that we can do something similar by encouraging Syrians who lived abroad to come back and build their country and bring with them their experiences to be learned from instead of loosing them one after the other, and by encouraging the creative and talented young Syrian to do their best instead of putting all kind of obstacles in their ways. The big puzzle is how can we achieve that.

I also agree with OTW that Israel is a success example in many ways that we need to learn from its experiments in industry, education, agriculture and many other fields.
“We can also learn similar, and perhaps more relevant lessons from South Korea, Singapore, and several other experiments. But for heaven’s sake, let us start somewhere.”
You are absolutely right OTW; we must start somewhere and soon.

November 11th, 2008, 8:44 pm


AIG said:

I will give you a pass on the tons of falsehoods that you have written because of your ability to introspect. If in order to improve you need to lie about Israel to yourself, that is fine with me.

By the way, what statistics lead you to believe that Israel is a “highly subsidized economy”? All the statistics I know show that it is not, and certainly the OECD would not have accepted Israel if it were a highly subsidized economy. I would also like to point out that the Israeli economy is far from invincible but giver the fact that it relies on the talent of its people and not natural resources, it is quite reselient. Since Israel will always be a Jewish country it cannot ever be and does not aspire to be a post anything country. We will always have our peculiar identity that will never fit into any post-modernist future and if the gentiles don’t like it, that is sad, but we can live with it.

November 11th, 2008, 8:45 pm


AIG said:

You were not born in 1948. Neither were 99% of Syrians living today. So carrying a grudge would be very stupid. I use the Aleppo pogrom as one historical fact to counter your continued allegations that Jews have been treated well in Syria and that there is no antisemitism in Syria. The Aleppo pogrom also shows that Arabs never made a real distinction between Zionism and Judaism. The non-Zionist Jews living in Aleppo were murdered and their stores were all burnt because of what Zionist Jews did in Israel. The Aleppo Jews were attacked because they were Jews, not because they were anything else.

November 11th, 2008, 9:01 pm


Shai said:


I’ve said on numerous occasions here that I don’t believe a one-state solution is possible anytime soon. From my point of view, I am not telling anyone here how bright and pretty our future will be, nor how likely it is that peace will indeed deliver such a future. In that sense, I don’t see myself as creating any high expectations, for anyone.

My message is the same – we must choose between alternatives, even if none are great. And to me, the continuation of non-peace, low-intensity war, or of course high-intensity war, are alternatives that are far worse than peace. With all its risks (and indeed there are certainly risks, I am not blind to that), peace seems to me to be the best gamble. It is the only alternative that begins to create a reality that makes its preservation more logical than its demise. This is why Egypt, despite the non-benefits it reaped over the past 30 years, has not reneged on its commitment. Had we chosen non-peace with Egypt, the reality since could have easily included a number of disastrous and painful wars.

I guarantee nothing, and I claim to have no omniscience. But I do try to convince our “enemies” that a future together seems to me significantly safer and more logical, than apart.

November 11th, 2008, 9:06 pm


Off the Wall said:

Spare me your pass. I do not need your approval for anything

CIA Fact Book

Israel has a technologically advanced market economy with substantial, though diminishing, government participation. It depends on imports of crude oil, grains, raw materials, and military equipment. Despite limited natural resources, Israel has intensively developed its agricultural and industrial sectors over the past 20 years. Israel imports substantial quantities of grain but is largely self-sufficient in other agricultural products. Cut diamonds, high-technology equipment, and agricultural products (fruits and vegetables) are the leading exports.

Israel usually posts sizable trade deficits, which are covered by large transfer payments from abroad and by foreign loans. Roughly half of the government’s external debt is owed to the US, its major source of economic and military aid.

Israel’s GDP, after contracting slightly in 2001 and 2002 due to the Palestinian conflict and troubles in the high-technology sector, has grown by about 5% per year since 2003. The economy grew an estimated 5.4% in 2007, the fastest pace since 2000. The government’s prudent fiscal policy and structural reforms over the past few years have helped to induce strong foreign investment, tax revenues, and private consumption, setting the economy on a solid growth path.

The review is mixed. Excellent and sound growth potential on one side but sizable trade deficits, covered by large infusion of money from abroad.

However, good that you asked me to look for stats. Given the recent stats from the Israeli Central Bureau of statistics, such has not been the case since 2002. With a rather impressive growth of Trade/GDP ratio from 66.78% in 1995 to 89.32% in 2007 and normalized trade balance falling sharply from nearly -16% to -2% during the same period. The trend is clearly upward. We need Ehsani to translate the numbers. But the facts are undeniable. The Olmert must have done a good job. Why the heck are you kicking him out.

November 11th, 2008, 9:28 pm


AIG said:

Maybe you do not intend to do this, but you are creating the impression that eventually, if it was up to you, then yes, the one state solution will finally happen and you are quite optimistic that it will. You always leave it as an open possibility and spend about 25% of your posts on the subject talking about that and the UME.

But in fact, the chances of the one state solution are 0. If the Belgians want to split Belgium, if the Scots want autonomy that chances of a one state solution are 0. Let’s say it out loud.

If you have only two options possible, a one state solution or what we have today, what do you prefer? Can you give a straight answer to this question?

November 11th, 2008, 9:29 pm


AIG said:

Nobody is arguing against:
“The review is mixed. Excellent and sound growth potential on one side but sizable trade deficits, covered by large infusion of money from abroad.”

You are right about that. But the infusion of money from abroad is NOT subsidies. It is capital investments. It is Americans and europeans investing in Israeli VC funds. It is Warren Buffet buying and Israeli company. It is Israelis selling stock in their companies on the NASDAQ. So where you are wrong is when you say that Israel is “a highly susidized economy”. Do you still think the stats support that claim of yours?

The person who did a good job was Netanyahu the minister of the treasury under Sharon. He even more liberalized the Israeli economy and made important reforms.

November 11th, 2008, 9:37 pm


Shai said:


I believe you are depicting my quest here incorrectly. I do not spend 25% of my time marketing my belief in a UME. In fact, I keep reiterating each time that it is a fantasy of mine, not some easily or likely-conceived plan. While OTW, JAD, and myself might be able to envision ourselves smoking a cigar together one day, none of us see a United Middle East as a likely possibility in the near future. I hope it could happen while I’m still able to comprehend it, in my late 80’s or 90’s… I can’t see it happening in 10 years from now. But unlike you, I find no reason to attribute a 0% probability to it. What do I gain by so doing? Destroying any dream any of us might have? Is that a desirable goal? Why would it be?

As for your last question, it is unfair. It’s as if I said to you, AIG, if you only had two choices, nuke all the nations around us, or give up your nukes altogether, which would you choose? So my answer to your question is, of course, neither. Because at the moment, there does seem to be a third choice, if not more.

November 11th, 2008, 9:43 pm


Alia said:


Some things are definitely lost through the medium. I apologize if there was any mirepresentation of your position in my post.
I like Singapore as a role model very much.

Israel insists on receiving its 3 billions of U.S. dollars in USAID at the beginning of the year and invests them immediately…3 more Billions are estimated to come in from donations.

AIG as usual deforms what people say in order to maintain his level of indignation. What I clearly said and what Jad seems to have understood perfectly is that Israel did not start from Zero, it received a lot of help from the talented immigrants that came in, so that the process of development was shortened drastically.

November 11th, 2008, 9:54 pm


Off the Wall said:

My answer to your question was very clear in the last paragraph, NO i do not believe that the Israeli economy is subsidized now anymore, especially in the past few years. It is a very healthy economy, with solid foundation for future growth at least in the foreseeable future. I spent few minutes looking at the tables and stats from the ICBS and I have no reason to dispute their accuracy. The numbers clearly dispute the findings of the CIA fact book. I guess it should be corrected. Whoever is responsible for the fiscal policy must be congratulated. Also those implementing that policy and contributing their innovation are also to be congratulated. They have earned that.

November 11th, 2008, 9:57 pm


Alia said:

Dear Shai,

This is the level of discussion that is needed. What is the use of peddling lies at this stage ? AIG cannot force me to believe anything quite the contrary.

November 11th, 2008, 9:58 pm


AIG said:

The question I asked you is very fair. It is clear you prefer a third option but still you can say which of two other options you prefer, so I repeat:
If you have ONLY two options possible, a one state solution or what we have today, what do you prefer?

And I will answer your question. If my only two options today were to either nuke all the nations around us, or give up our nukes altogether, I would of course give up our nukes altogether. You kind of gave me an easy one, so you get another try.

November 11th, 2008, 10:03 pm


jad said:

Dear Alex,
Did the US and Canada make any difference between their Japanese citizens when putting all of them in camps during WW2?
Did the Israeli army and settlers make any differences between kids and adults when they kill them?
I also learned that 6% of the syrians are over 60 not 1%.

November 11th, 2008, 10:05 pm


Off the Wall said:

Dear Alia

I live in the US and I follow the news very closely. While true in the past, Israel is not the one asking for money anymore. It is the congress dolling that money out. This amount, continues as a symbolic gesture from politicians and as an indication of their solidarity with AIPAC causes. If someone gives you 3 Billion dollars, would you refuse it.

I fully agree that Israel did not start from scratch, and that is why i added the comment regarding other, more relevant examples to us and to our ground level or below ground condition. The task for us is way more difficult than that for Israel, which also make it much more urgent. We are starting from scratch, and we are also burdened by huge population growth, severe mismanagement of resources (including human capital), and a geopolitical situation, some of it is of our own making and some is external. But we fail, one time after another in finding our way. In retrospect, i believe that AIG was right in asking us why the issue of drought in Syria did not take as much attention from us as the continuous discussion of Israel and its faults. Of course, his comments are part of the reason, but our emotion and our rush to discuss Israel is also to blame. I may feel good about exposing AIG hypocricy, but on a site dedicated to Syria, I believe that my contributions can be much more than having discourse, intellectual or otherwise with Israeli friends and foes alike. We now have a solid vision of our preferred Israel, how about a vision of our preferred Syria, and Lebanon.

I believe that our conversations on the site are invaluable. But let us ask ourselves the question. Many of us here have advanced degrees in different fields, and continuing to discuss the Israeli Arab conflict is ingrained in our blood with anonymity being important to all of us for obvious reasons, but can we take on ourselves the task of thinking of ourselves as a seed for an informal “Syria-oriented” think tank. Can we really start looking at numbers, analyzing UN development reports. I would like to spend much less time arguing with AIG about Israel’s faults, and spend more time contemplating, loudly and constructively, how can each of us add her or his own contribution to getting us out of the rut we are in.

If Syria had an industry that is important for other major industries in Europe or the USA, does anyone of us think that AIPAC or for that matter, any other lobby, would have been able to pass all the anti-Syria legislations in the US. How many binding legislations have been passed against KSA in the past 10 years, despite of their abysmal record on human rights. Please do not take my last words as support for human rights abuses anywhere, all I am arguing here is that time is running out.

November 11th, 2008, 10:35 pm


Alia said:


We are in agreement-

I am not looking for another discussion about Israel,but I am not a business person, I work with humanitarian health organizations…. I am very replaceable and irreplaceable :). But nobody in Congress would be interested in sponsoring me for anything for sure.

November 11th, 2008, 10:49 pm


Off the Wall said:

Dear Alia

But wealthy Syrians in LA, Detroit, or Dallas may be interested, or arm-twisted 🙂 into sponsoring your humanitarian work. I believe that you are one of the few really contributing, quite in tangible manner, and I raise my hat to you. In fact my last comment was more addressed to myself than to you.

How about EU programs, USAID or USDHHS. I know that despite of the ongoing problems between the US and Iran, academic cooperation never stopped in non-security areas including humanitarian health work.

November 11th, 2008, 11:09 pm


Shai said:


The reason your question is not fair, is because no one in Israel is taking about a one-state solution, but only about a two-state one. The alternatives, as posed by a number of successive governments to the Israeli people, are between no-solution and two-state solution. In your question to me, you brought in the one-state and removed the two-state, because you think that if I choose one-state over the current situation, it will demonstrate my support for it, or insinuate that I think it is likely to happen. Well, to make it very clear to you, and others, I do NOT think a one-state solution is possible anytime soon.

But in an AIG-produced hypothetical situation, I would of course choose a one-state solution over a no-state solution. And I would also choose to remove all my nukes, rather than nuke everyone around me, risking perhaps my own destruction in so doing. But in a hypothetical world, I can also sprout wings and fly to Damascus this morning to serve Naji hot tea and biscuits.

November 12th, 2008, 5:01 am


AIG said:

So Shai, let me get this clear, if it turned out that the large majority of the Palestinians refused a two state solution, and the only solution was either one state or continuing the current situation, you would agree to the one state solution?

November 12th, 2008, 5:05 am


Shai said:


Now you’re adding back the third possibility, the two-state solution, and giving all three to me and to the Palestinians. That’s simply not realistic today. But even if it were, the Palestinians make their choices, and I make mine. The only decision we can make unilaterally, is the no-peace one.

November 12th, 2008, 5:21 am


alia said:


The Syrian people in Syria itself are extremely generous to charitable organizations and this is across the board. The Islamic charities receive millions of the money of the Zakat (religious tithe)the Christian Churches have been supporting whole families including housing, work opportuniies…and have been able to do good work over all.
The WHO has had several ongoing major initiatives most notably the one for the eradication of tuberculosis that has been ongoing since the 1960’s. But we are plagued with internal problems, bureaucracy and lack of infrastructure to support charitable organizations that have to put everything in place before being able to do the work they set up to do. They need more freedom of action and at the same time more support; it is happening but on a much smaller scale than what is needed.

November 12th, 2008, 9:15 am


Off the Wall said:

Dear Alia
I know you have much more experience in humanitarian work than I would ever have. I am also happy to hear of the generousity of the Syrian poeple whether at personal level or through their churches and islamic charity. But I was told by several of my friends who worked for various UN organization that their work in developing countries can be made a little easier by using the photo-op approach. Have a photo op, invite the local official, be it a party leader, a mayor, a cheif of police, or the director of health services (mudeer al sa77a) to cut some ribbon and deliver a short speach, and make sure that the local paper is there to take photos and a journalist is there to report on the government support for charitable work. You now have a political benefactor whose own carreer can benefit by helping your organization. The higher the level, the better it is. You will not get money, but your administrative and beurocratic hurdles will be less significant. This will not address the Infrastructure issue, but at least will smooth things a little. And for a small investment in time, you may gain the ability to do the work you want to do.

November 12th, 2008, 3:57 pm


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