The Quandary!

Ahmadinejad of Iran is with us because a certain large percentage of the Iranian population thought he can create jobs ad improve their livelihood.

The Syrian people had hopes in Bashar, because they, too, believed he can improve their living conditions. Rights were not the main thing on their minds.

Indeed, and in such desperate economic times, people across our haggard region seem willing to err again and again by backing existing regimes, for all their dismal human rights records and all their corrupt practices and authoritarian predilections, so long as these regimes seem to represent the more viable promise of a better future in the economic sense.

Besides, people are always afraid of change, but their fears are amplified even more when the heralded change purports to affect just about every aspect of their lives, and at a time when everything around seems to inform them to expect disaster whenever the status quo is challenged. The examples of Yugoslavia and Iraq are the oft quoted ones in this regard of course.

Moreover, the peoples of our region are diverse, and they have long learned to suspect each other and have ample historical justification for that, their historical memories in this regard being rather vast and expansive. As such, they are indeed quite aware of the implication of a collapse of law and order, no matter how momentary.

For all these reasons, most of the peoples of this region would rather support the status quo and endorse the ruling regimes, even at the expense of having to “tough it out,” every now and then, by undergoing a period of economic hardships and international isolation. People would rather blame the rest of the world for such developments and would still hold out hopes that their rulers will eventually “see the light” and be willing and able to deliver on economic reforms.

Reformers and advocates of change, therefore, have to contend with a very grim reality and have to overcome a huge amount of inertia in order to get where they want to go and drag their societies and polities along with them. Neither the regimes, nor the peoples of the region will endorse reform and change (for indeed, change will also challenge quite a few ingrained social and cultural attitudes as well, there are no such things as purely economic or political change).

But, if the Arab Human Development Reports produced by the United Nation Development Program in cooperation with Arab intellectuals, reformers, technocrats and activists underscore anything it is the need for change, drastic change. Studies and reports with regard to Iran paint no less a grim image.

So, what can reformers and activists do other than issuing such periodic warnings?

Not much really. In fact, the best they could do under these circumstances is to survive and try to keep a certain secular liberal and liberating torch alive in the midst of a seemingly inevitable mayhem when all different sorts of primordial forces and atavistic identities are bound to emerge and clash in a process complicated by the needs and interests of external actors.

But then, and in order not to come out as too resigned and fatalistic, a quality that tends to offend the liberal tendencies of those of us who are truly liberal in mind and spirit, some of us to watch for possible “windows of opportunity,” no matter how unlikely they appear to be, and try to push something through them, a reform or two, which could be used as the basis for future reforms.

But regional realities are frankly much harsher than to allow even for this kind of “opportunism.” The incestuous cliquish nature of some regimes often makes them so inflexible and oppressive that, sooner or later, a reformer or an activist ends up finding himself a marginalized and disgusted figure in an equally marginalized and disgusted (and, occasionally, disgusting) opposition.

In this new role, the activist-turned-opposition figure can call more loudly for reforms now, and might have the luxury of even sounding “unreasonable” in his demands. Then, and at a certain point, he might even advocate regime change, through a popular revolution of all things, albeit on the more flowery side – a Jasmine Revolution.

But this is a tough sell to the people, and the resources are little. The small team he puts together is itself unready and is as diverse and, hence, fractions, as the population that it represents. And the times, the times are unforgiving. And his tongue, oh, his damned tongue, is well-nigh beyond control.

So one day, the hapless activist-turned-opposition figure comes out of a hurried a meeting realizing that he will soon need to add the little title of “exile” to his growing list of well-nigh useless titles (author, blogger, poet, analyst, advisor, consultant, team leader, coordinator, director, fellow, etc. ad absurdum, ad nauseam. Ah, and lest we forget: son, husband and father, well, stepfather anyway).

Now, sitting in his little 2-bedroom exile, in a rather quiet suburb, not too far from the center of all alleged conspiracies and the focus of most existing conspiracy theories, our hapless activist etc. has now to deal with the awesome task of figuring some new purpose to his to life, so he can be relevant again. This is just not the right time for a return to the erstwhile bohemian subsistence.

So, how can we change a world that does not want to be changed, that militates against even, albeit change is what it needs most? How can we save a world from itself? Or do we? Or are we just destined to manage a never ending crisis, to minimize the losses, pull something out of the ashes and breathe life back into it, so it can disintegrate again, sometimes as we watch?

These are some interesting questions, don’t you think?

The view is really nice from my balcony on the fifth floor. The bits of Rock Creek Park that I can glimpse are rather alluring. But the keyboard beckons, and its appeal is still powerful enough to drag me back inside. I am not that tapped out yet. I still have some answers to find and the will to keep on looking for them. There is still a role for me to play here, and I won’t accept anything less than positive.

34 thoughts on “The Quandary!

  1. Ammar,I respect you passion and dedication. I have no idea how you find the time to do what you do but you seem to do it, which is commendable. I do, however, feel that your energies ought to be directed elsewhere.If I were you, I would spend my energy on making contacts and cultivating relationships at the capital next door. I have said it before and I will said it again:Only if the U.S. makes the unilateral and uncompromising decision to topple this regime, would anything change in Syria. Let us stop kidding ourselves. We can opine, write, criticize, argue and agree all we want. It will change nothing. At best, we can go to bed thinking that we at least are trying. May be your conscience is clear in knowing that you at least are doing something. Regrettably, this is not going to give Bashar sleepless nights. He knows and you know that the bloggers from far away lands do not have the keys to the critical tanks division stationed outside the capital. Without access to those tanks, sir, nothing will trouble this team. To get to these tanks, you will need the nod from the capital close to your balcony. To get this nod, you have to spend your energy putting forward a credible alternative to Mr. Bashar. This alternative cannot be made of soft speaking thoughtful liberals only. It has to include tough boys who can command an army, respect and law and order. This task is monumental. Such a team could already be forming as we speak. None of us know what the future holds for this lovely country of ours. I think the only the thing that some of us at least are sure about is that something needs to be done, and if not now, then when?

  2. Ammar, (1) EHSANI2’s observation regarding a US role might not be farfetched. Only yesterday I was reading the June issue of REASON which has a rather lengthy essay by M. Young. In it he states that he met with a major civil rights activist in Damascuss in 2003 and was shocked when the activist relayed to him that the night before at a meeting of many such figures of the opposition he asked for a show of hands about who would oppose a US intervention to change the regime. Not one hand went up.(2) Aldo Leopold , the great environmental ethicist, said that an educated ecologist”lives in a world of wounds”. Substitute the words reformer/activist for ecologist. You know something, living in a world of wounds isn’t that bad, it lends life meaning and offers a solid prset of principles to guide ones actions.

  3. I have good relations with the people next door, I believe these relations saved my life and allowed for the possibility of having me sent into exile, instead of being liquidated like a lesser fortunate colleague by the name of Mashouq Khaznawi. Still I hesitate to push for a military solution at this stage. I believe we still have a chance, a small one though, at breaking the regime from the inside, and I believe people are poised to take it.

  4. I guess the keyboard pulled me too.I promised myself I will not add any more repetitive comments, but after reading Ammar’s post, I can not wait till tomorrow to say:I’m totally impressed! … I would like to say “I am speechless” .. but I guess I am “speaking” now, so that would be an exaggeration.You have clearly read and analyzed every thing written today by all those who, to various degrees, disagreed with you. It is so much more difficult to read long comments by people disagreeing with one’s opinions. I often skip the comments I don’t like, convincing myself that the reason I skipped them is that they are repetitive or predictable. And I actually started to quickly read your latest post, then I realized that this particular one deserves to be read very slowly, twice.After this long intro, here is what I can add:Even those of us who are “resisting change” are aware of the looming economic challenges. So we are really not resisting change in general … it is only 1) “regime change”… 2) in a hurry… to not miss this “window of opportunity” I do not believe this is a window of opportunity for regime change. It is a window of opportunity for more Mideast chaos … the France/USA agreement to corner the regime? teh Lebanese “majority” helping them? the security council resolutions? … none of these makes it a window of opportunity, in my humble opinion.As Ehsani said … will any outsiders move tanks downtown Damascus? … I seriously doubt.Ehsani earlier made a comparison between the Syrian and Pakistani leaders. I would like to look at another comparison:Presidents Bashar and George W:- Both were helped by their family name in getting the job- Both did not fight for their country (in the army).- Six years later, both called “morons” by some of their opponents- Both did not do well economically- Both gave their country a bad name in the international community.- Both still in power.The difference is (besides the democracy part)- People will accept to wait few more years until “change takes place” in Washington … but many want change in Damascus to take place NOW… at any risk.Ehsani asked earlier: Bashar has been in power for six years … how much longer do we have to give him before we give up on him.I believe that both presidents Assad and Bush need more time to finish their difficult tasks … And I believe they can help each other a lot. Yet sadly, I have to feel like a naive dreamer for this belief. With all the killing and destruction going on in the Middle East, my calling for dialogue and cooperation is not in fashion these days.Ammar, my advice for someone who is as capable and wise as you are is to do more things and to be in more places and to remain open to dialogue with more sides. You are fully aware that many (most?) of the characters in the NSF are not very wise or ethical, but you are willing to go and try to influence them into moving their positions to a better place. I wish you can find some reasonable “regime figure”, that you don’t totally dislike, to continue a constructive dialogue with that side too…You can start by asking that regime figure: What assurances do you need before you feel more comfortable with my bicameral assembly+alawite president Sunni elected prime minister proposal?Then because you are an independant, you can go to the NSF and propose to them things they can do to help produce those assurances, then you can go to your neighbors in Washington, and see what they can do to make things happen …

  5. Thanks Alex. Yeah, I have to say, I am enjoying this exercise. I don’t know how long I can keep it up, but for now, it’s both enjoyable and useful. Indeed, I have no problem with the concept of establishing a dialogue with certain figures within the regime. I believe such a dialogue is already taking place between other members of NSF and regime figures. After all, Khaddam still maintains certain contacts inside the country, and many members of the opposition inside the country are dialoguing with some figures themselves. During the period of interrogations that followed the return from my first stint at the Brookings Institution in early 2005, I managed to establish a certain rapport with some of my interrogators, and I know from my conversations with other dissidents that they too had made similar encroachments. The reality is that there are quite a few people within the regime who would endorse a major change in the current political structure of the country. But they don’t dare come out and say it in public. They won’t take the risk, if not for actual fear for their lives, then for their economic interests. Some of them who tried to push for some change from within, had the door slammed shut in their face by one or another of the Assads. Can you see now why I insist that the Assads are the problem?

  6. Sounds like Alex wants you to become a “Statesman”…….which…it seems you decidely have the makings of……Still…..a true statesman….should be able to withstand the pressure to seek the ever so tempting “nod from capital” close to your balcony…..Dont’ do it!Aren’t the examples of Yugoslavia and Iraq…something realistically to be feared. Why does ehsani2 not see that all military actions…have dire results. Everybody always thinks that they can predict the level of harm. They think they can minimize it..and control it…and change what they want without unforseen spiraling consequences. You will say that the people already suffer, so what if there is a little more pain. But if the US sets one soldier’s foot down on that land…..you have NO IDEA what will happen. People could suffer ten fold with no certain outcome at all. As usual.Change your regime! Go ahead. But do it another way …and become Statesmen……yourselves.

  7. stated:Aren’t the examples of Yugoslavia and Iraq…something realistically to be feared. Why does ehsani2 not see that all military actions…have dire results. Everybody always thinks that they can predict the level of harm. They think they can minimize it..and control it…and change what they want without unforseen spiraling consequences. You will say that the people already suffer, so what if there is a little more pain.actually my thoughts of the syrian support for palestinian & iraqi suicide bombers, look at the arab world, by allowing and supporting such actions it is now standard practices by all islamic insurgents, this virus will spread, unless it’s source say NO…

  8. Pork rinds,You are partially right, but you have to realize that there is a difference …. Syria says that they only support “legitimate resistance” in occupied Iraq and “palestine” (the pre-1967 parts, don’t ask me to define them please).I am totally against any violence … I think the Palestinians did much better in their first intifada where they only used rocks against Israeli soldiers, unlike the stupid second Intifada with tall the suicide bombings targeting Israeli civilians, often. BUT you will not find many Arab symphathizers to stopping all “resistance” against Israel, and even the United States in Iraq. I think most Arabs would1) Accept the “legitimate rights” of resisting occupation2) Oppose targeting civilians in those attacks.Of course, feelings change when Israel retaliates for 3 Israelis killed by killing 20 Palestinian childrenI do not expect this to develope into a useful conversation, as Ammar says, this will not lead to narrowing the great divide …. but it is another cheap attempt on my side to use the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as an example to how using violence solves nothing (for regime change by force in Syria) If you really care about about innocent Israeli civilians killed by those terrorists, give the Palestinans back their land and freedoms … Ask for all the assurances you feel you need (no Palestinian Army, Israeli monitoring stations for the first ten years inside the west bank …etc) … but don’t let your “apparent” superiority fool you into thinking you are safe. The whole Middle East could likely be on fire … and it will reach you …if you don’t do your part in calming down emotions.As I said, I will not turn this into a long debate because we will not agree, but I will read your reply if you wish to write one… especially that your recent comments are much more reasonable.

  9. Alex,I never said “will any outsiders move tanks downtown Damascus”Please read my comment carefully. I said the bogglers do not have access to these tanks. To get to these tanks, “you” need a nod from the capital close to your balcony. The comparison between Bashar and W.Bush is absurd. One was elected twice. Bush’s economic record has been astonishing. Look at economic facts, which I will be very happy to list for you. Look at the job creation. Look at the wealth creation. Look at the GDP growth rate in spite of shockingly negative exogenous factors. Your last comment was the most bizarre. W.Bush WILL walk away into retirement in two years. Can you give me an end date for Bashar? I am truly shocked by your attempt to start a comparison of this sort.

  10. Ehsani2I am sure you can impress me with a lot of economic figures. But please try to accept that there is more than “the economy” to the way people think.You found my comparison with the two presidents “absurd” … that means it was not only useless, it was totally erroneous, and it was utterly illogical. Selective attention? Selective retention? … you could not tell me instead: “Alex, I agree with point 1, 2, and 3, partially with 4, and 5, but I have to correct your points 6, and 7?I do not know how old you are, but you will learn at some point in your life the beauty and advantages of balance. Why is it that Ammar still reads my endless long comments which often diametrically oppose his arguments? He also reads Zenobia’s, Norman’s … even if his automatic reaction is “this is absurd”, he reads it again and tries to learn something from it.Going back to your specific objections1) You are right about my distorting your earlier statement about who can move the tanks. But at least I did you a service by making your statement more logical .. that a nod from the capital next door can move those tanks …. You must be joking, right? You are pathetic bizarre, ridiculous … TOTALLY ABSURD!Ok, I‘m joking. Here is the more serious answer: the last time the capital next door “moved tanks” (APCs actually) in another Middle Eastern capital (Baghdad) they destroyed it, and they made many people in that capital want to get back their ruthless dictator…. And another thing: they tried for many years but could not move the IRAQI army tanks … and the same holds for Syria: if you meant to imply that Washington DC can move Syrian army tanks into Damascus … then I think you don’t know much bout the structure of the Syrian army, its different divisions, their selected leaders, their army intelligence network … unless you will surprise me with a detailed plan as to how the US can do it.2) regarding the US economy’s incredible performance which is so impressive that it made all my other Bahsar-Bush comparison ”absurd” … I will have to admit to you that I got a “C+” in economics in my grad school … I will therefore not make the mistake of taking on you in that field, I can see that all your life is centered around money, you obviously know better. But I would like to point out that your selective attention perceptual limitations are obviously widespread. If many economic indicators are good today, anything about the wider picture? The future effects and penalties of the wonderful war spending and tax cuts for the ultra rich?You probably also do not mind Hariri’s wonderful economic performance at the expense of 45 Billion dollars that the 4 million Lebanese people will somehow pay, while now having to start spending a couple billion more every year as they establish their own army (having kicked out the syrian army and its services)But of course, you can blame it all on “the shockingly negative exogenous factors” whereas you do not accept the same argument when some of us partially (not fully) accept to blame “the shockingly negative exogenous factors” when analyzing the reasons Bashar did not do too well with reforms the past few years …Do you want another comparison? … when I make a long distance call to Syria these days, my friends on the other side now can discuss politics much more freely than they could before Bashar came to power (within limitations of course). On the other hand, sadly, when I get anywhere near mideast politics, or when I even mention the words “Palestinian” “Hizbollah” .. or even “allah” … my Arab American friends panic and change the subject immediately. 3) regarding the “Bush was elected twice” … I already said “despite the democracy difference” … that was not enough for you? …. And about that second election, if you tried to pay attention to my point, you might have understood that I wanted to say: even if Bush was elected democratically, the fact is (I was listing similarities, remember?) the fact is: TODAY both presidents have a lot of people who would like to see them changed, but in the US, they will accept to wait for two years, whereas many of you want Bshar removed BY FORCE TODAY relying on a nod from the capital next door if needed. And if you read my other comments elsewhere (at Syria comment) you would have realized that I was telling my friend Atassi that I believe the Syrian regime should accelerate its timetable for political reform to start in have proper elections in 2-5 years. And even though I do not know for a fact, but I have the impression that Bashar can accommodate parliamentary election that lead to a democratically elected strong Sunni prime minister in less than 5 years … oh, before forget: Provided there is some cooperation form “the shockingly negative exogenous factors” .. like the current attitude of those in the opposition who are threatening the regime to overthrow them, or like the pre-programmed international pressure coming in a continuous stream over the next few months for example.Ehsani, my comparison was simple and clear and limited, but you made me write two pages to explain more … and this is really not needed. You could have accepted that Bush now has a 65% “opposition” and Bashar probably (personally) has much less than that … why do you need to make things “absurd” if they don’t fit to the narrow definition of a word you examined in your handy mighty dictionary.

  11. Alex,If the word absurd offended you, it is regrettable. As to my age, I am much older than you seem to think. IC on Syria comment just wrote expressing his frustration with me. He feels that I have no “real world experience” and that all I do is read books of Adam Smith and type away. In effect, he seems to think that I am an empty suit, which is perfectly ok.As I said to him there, I am very confident that my profession and practical experience makes me ideally suited to make comments about economic matters that are anything but academic. Unfortunately, I had stopped being a professional student 25 years ago. My long career since then has been sufficient to form my views about life in general and economic matters in particular. If my views seem too extreme to you and others, then I can do nothing about that. As I said to you once before, life is more black and white that most people want to admit. Finally, I can assure that I am VERY aware of the different structures of the Syrian army and its different divisions. You can trust me on that.My tanks reference has drawn a lot of criticisms here and elsewhere. Let me clarify what I said:In order to militarily topple the regime from within, access to the tanks division is a prerequisite. You may not like the whole subject but what I am saying is that if a military coup were to ever be successful, the tanks will be the only way to do it. Maher knows this very well. He is in charge of this division. He has been very clever at the way he has protected this asset. Let us just leave it at that.

  12. Alex said…Syria says that they only support “legitimate resistance” in occupied Iraq and “palestine” (the pre-1967 parts, don’t ask me to define them please).If this is true, are Arabs, :”occupying” Berber Lands?Are Arabs “Occupying” Kurdish Lands?Are Arabs “Occupying” Coptic Christian Lands?Are Turkish Moslems “Occupying” Cyprus?Are Palestinians “Occupying” Jewish lands?alex: I am totally against any violence … I think the Palestinians did much better in their first intifada where they only used rocks against Israeli soldiersFrom Wikipedi: Much of the Palestinian violence was low-tech; dozens of Palestinian teenagers would confront patrols of Israeli soldiers, showering them with rocks. However, at times this tactic gave way to Molotov cocktail attacks, over 100 hand grenade attacks and more than 500 attacks with guns or explosives. Many Israeli civilians and soldiers were killed this way. The IDF, in contrast, possessed the latest weaponry and defense technologies.Additionally, an estimated 1,000 alleged informers were killed by Arab civilian militias, though Palestinian Arab human rights groups contend many were not “collaborators” but victims of revenge murders.not quite, but that’s what the press would have you believe…alex: I think most Arabs would1) Accept the “legitimate rights” of resisting occupation2) Oppose targeting civilians in those attacks.Of course, feelings change when Israel retaliates for 3 Israelis killed by killing 20 Palestinian childrenwell i agree, could you site me of an example specifically where israel attacked 20 children and killed them?alex: I do not expect this to develope into a useful conversation, as Ammar says, this will not lead to narrowing the great divide …. but it is another cheap attempt on my side to use the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as an example to how using violence solves nothing (for regime change by force in Syria) I do, if there is a chance i can get you to understand that if the arab world promotes “legit resistance” to disputes all the arab world will get back is destruction.alex: If you really care about about innocent Israeli civilians killed by those terrorists, give the Palestinans back their land and freedoms …actually, there were several attempts to give the palestinians a country, but in 1966 gaza was controlled by egypt and the west bank by jordan and noone wanted statehood for these palestinains.now, is gaza not occupied? is there not a open border with egypt? and yet since the unilateral withdrawl from gaza rockets are fired daliy….alex: The whole Middle East could likely be on fire … and it will reach you …if you don’t do your part in calming down emotions.actually, the entire middle east has done it’s best to destroy israel for 50 yrs… i doubt some ied’s in iraq or a syrian general being blown up is going to harm israel, not with a never ending series of attacks my arabs on israel.

  13. alright, Thanks.I definitely do not doubt your expertese in economics. But I hope you can take a probabilistic approach to the political situation, instead of the B&W assumptions.Black and white is the reason many people called you a neocon, and one person assumed I wake up everyday and chant “belro7 bil damm, nafdika ya ….”

  14. I have not yet read the June issue of Reason magazine to which Ghassan Karam´s comment referred, although I look forward to seeing the piece by Young that discusses Syria.However, the fact that a major opinion leader amongst conservatives like Reason comments on public opinion in Syria using a second hand conversation about a meeting of 12 anonymous people from 3 years ago suggests just how ill equipped Washington remains to make sound decisions in the region.By the way, Ehsani, it is exactly because of these unsound decisions that a president with a very strong economic record, as you mentioned, currently has a 31% approval rating.

  15. The problem that America has in the midleast come from the fact that the US gov looks after it,s own interest anywhere in the world except in the midleast ,In the midleast it looks only after Israel,s interest even when it contradict America,s one.

  16. norman states: The problem that America has in the midleast come from the fact that the US gov looks after it,s own interest anywhere in the world except in the midleast ,In the midleast it looks only after Israel,s interest even when it contradict America,s one.norman, then please explain why george bush is the 1st american president to advocate a “viable” palestinian state?

  17. Ehsani2 ,i enjoy you economic thoghts but disagree with your politecal ones and i understand Somohutta cocern ,In the economic point Syria needs simple changes without selling the country,The gov should provide good roads ,uninterepted elecrisity good alimentry to high school education ,affordable post high school education ,Railroad system , good airport ,seaport,establish contract law and enforce it ,establish a fair tax system with a flat tax of about 17% after the first 60,000.00 Syrian pounds with deduction for buisness expense, morgage on first home and donation to charities approved by the Goverment ,provide low iterest rate lowns to small buisnesses ,establish a stock market with rules that will prevent speculations and encourage Syrian companies to enlist with preffered contracting status forign companies who enlist will have a preffered treatment to a lesser extend divedents that are payed to Syrians from these companies will be subjected to the same tax rate ie 17% but on Syrian copanies the tax on divedents and capital gain will be 10% to improve investment in Syrian companies no syrian companies should be owned by more than half by a forign firm without regulatery Syrian approval,and at the end the Syrian goverment should get out of trying to regulate what Syria needs and leave that to the market so if i want to open a farmasutical factory they should give the prmit if i am qualified and get out of deciding what drug i can make because other people making simmiler drug and leave that to the market,if i am better i will stay in buisness and the other will get out of buisness ,the gov could make it easier to export Syrian products by frier and fairer trade.some people thing that Syria needs heavy industries to have a good economy but the american economy and many other economies are composed of small buisnesses where most the jobs are and that is easy to acheive if the goverment gets out of the way and be happy collecting the 17% tax.Tax should be estimated and certified only by certified accountants,that will prevent bribery and make Syrians willing to pay their fair taxes as everybody will be paying.

  18. President Bush idea of a viable Palestenian state is simmeler to Sharon,s ,big prisons with Palestenians in charge of keeping the Palastenians in the cities and providing the Israelies with cheep labour,that is not a plan that will make the US respected or loved in the area.do you still think that the US goverment works for the American people in the Middleast.?

  19. norman said…President Bush idea of a viable Palestenian state is simmeler to Sharon,s ,big prisons with Palestenians in charge of keeping the Palastenians in the cities and providing the Israelies with cheep labour,sorry, norman couple of points:1. most big prisons dont get hundreds of millions of dollars in free aid every year2. most big prisons dont shoot rockets on a daily basis3. most big prisons dont have international border crossings with egypt.4. as for “cheap labor: israel under sharon has started to eliminate all palestinian labor from israel, period.norman, please show me where this is incorrectnorman stated: the us has that is not a plan that will make the US respected or loved in the area.do you still think that the US goverment works for the American people in the Middleast.?norman, not sure what you were trying to say, please restate…

  20. norman said…The american gov is working willingly or unwillingly for Israel,s interest.wow, i am convinced….really norman, try taking my points apart, go ahead…try reason and logic, not “cause i say so”

  21. W.I.O.First, bravo for the new name.But I still will not argue often with you. Not because your arguements are all not to my liking (many are quite fair) but because you only catch the injustice done to your people, you don’t seem to be too interested in fighting Israel’s violence …

  22. First, bravo for the new name.But I still will not argue often with you. Not because your arguements are all not to my liking (many are quite fair) but because you only catch the injustice done to your people, you don’t seem to be too interested in fighting Israel’s violence …alex.there are 300 million arabs, with 21 nations, and a 22nd about to be born.there are 1.2 billion moslemsthere is only one jewish state, israel, and there is barely 11 million jews in the entire worldthe arab world has a land mass 1000 times larger than israel and it has 1/3 of the worlds oilthe nonjewish population of israel is 25%the jewish population of the arab world is zero.maybe if the greater population of moslems could simply allow israel to live israel would not have to do any violence…just a thought

  23. W.I.O.Go to wikipedia and look at all the other religions who have small numbers and proud history. Many of them (the Armenians, the Assyrians, the Yazidis …) were subjected to organized violence throughout history … the Armenians lost over 1 million in 1915 for example. While I am full of respect for the greatest jewish scientists, doctors, musicians, and writers … I still can not accept that Jews, or any other religion, can justify agression because they need to protect their small numbers… one man dead is one man dead regardless of religion or nationality.It gets too complicated otherwise, no?

  24. Alex said… I still can not accept that Jews, or any other religion, can justify agression because they need to protect their small numbers… one man dead is one man dead regardless of religion or nationality.It gets too complicated otherwise, no?actually very odd… somehow you are upset with jews defending themselves against being attacked. in the last 5 yrs the palestinians have committed 21,000 terror attacks, and yet you are upset that israel responds. because they are “small numbers”, your point does not make sense. if a palestinian is upset and wants to “throw a freedom fighter’s firebomb” at a civilian car, you feel it’s aggressive for israel to set up a road block?no my friend, the palestinians proved their intentions at camp david with arafat and barak, offered 98% of the west bank, 100% of gaza and 1/2 of jerusalem the palestinians have choosen war. This SMALL NUMBER of war like people are CHOOSING to continue war. Jews are allowed to protect themselves after the history of BOTH arab/islamic and christian murder. The numbers of jewish dead by both their hands is staggering. The HISTORY of repeated aggressive action BY the arab world towards jews is immense. sorry if you dont like israel/jews fighting back. but get used to it, the jewish world has thrown off the yoke of islamic oppression (and christian oppression) and does not intend to become a dhimmi any time soon.

  25. WIO said:”actually very odd… somehow you are upset with jews defending themselves against being attacked”You see why this discussion is a useless process?I will try to put it in the most simple terms:Israelis and Palestinians: be nice to each other for a while … it does not matter what happened in the past, and it does not matter if you do not see an immediate positive reciprocal action from their side … keep trying to give the other side lessons in how civilized, caring, and peaceful you are … it will pay off.Sorry, I liked that “turn the other Cheek” thing that Jesus said and not too many people understand or implement.And I liked how Gandhi successfully used non-violence to liberate his country.Until you had enough enjoying your country’s apparent short-term power, you won’t understand what damage your mentality, actions and policies are ensuring your side will continue to get in the future. You are correct in blaming some of the more violent Arabs, but you are equally, if not more, to blame.Anyway, I am semi optimistic that the new government in Israel is a wiser one than the previous group.Too bad they killed Rabin. Both the Palestinians and the Syrians were going to reach an agreement with him a year later at most.

  26. Gideon Levy from Haaretz today …http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/715444.htmlThis was an especially short masked ball: Two or three months and the “boycott” party of the Palestinian Authority ended. It was also an especially stupid masked ball: Hamas can now brandish a real achievement. Israel and the world have surrendered unconditionally, and the flow of money to the territories is being renewed. The problem is that some of the masks have remained, and the foolishness continues: Israel and the world will not transfer monies “directly” to the Hamas government, but rather by means of a special “Hamas bypass” mechanism. This unnecessary mask will also be removed quickly. What has Israel gained from this game? Nothing. It has only lost. The pictures of shortages and distress have been chalked up, and rightly so, to Israel. And how does the world look when it dances, just like that, automatically, to Israel’s pipe? Apart from another several thousand families who have joined the circle of poverty in the occupied territories, nothing has come of this cat-and-mouse game that the world played, under Israel’s coaching, with the elected Palestinian government. A Nobel Prize that was given to an Israeli for game theory was certainly not intended for games like these. Now the world needs to pause for a moment and ask itself, how come one small country can make a mockery of it in this way and cause great powers to act in such an unintelligent way? Anyone who examines the decision by the Quartet to boycott the Hamas government cannot but wonder where Israel gets the power to squeeze out more and more decisions that are contrary to the international interest and, in fact, to its own interests. The world, which is not interested in a humanitarian disaster in Rafah, should have immediately rejected the Israeli demand to stop transferring aid to the territories, instead of being dragged into this farce that has not yet ended. Will Israel’s imagined diplomatic strength serve it in the long term? Certainly not. The day will come when the world will tire of the unnecessary games Israel and the United States force upon it. It is necessary to go back to the two eternal verities: First of all, the Palestinian people elected Hamas in democratic elections, which were held at the initiative of the United States and with Israel’s agreement; secondly, the state of Israel bears the responsibility for the fate of the population in the occupied territories. You wanted elections? Hamas was elected. You wanted to topple the Palestinian Authority under the leadership of the Palestine Liberation Organization? Here are the results. You want occupation? You have to pay the price. There is no way of escaping this. The 165,000 families whose meager living comes from the PA have had to live for the past two months without a salary. In such a poor and shaky economy this is of tremendous significance. The vast majority of 3.5 million Palestinians are living in acute economic distress, to which the shortage that derives from the aid freeze has now been added. In the occupied territories a people is living that has no way to support itself, as all of the possibilities are closed to it, it has no way of entering the labor market in Israel, it has no sea port or airport and scores of barriers prevent it from moving around. It has no way out. The world has chosen to take indirect responsibility for what is happening: Instead of bringing about an end to the occupation, it prefers to grant aid. For the fans of the occupation in Israel this is a very convenient solution, so it is impossible to understand why Israel has tried to sabotage this, too. Why is transferring money through the incorrupt Hamas unacceptable and transferring money through the corrupt Fatah acceptable? The assumption that economic pressure on the PA will lead to the fall of the elected government was a crazy idea. Pressure of this kind only reinforces Hamas and hostility toward Israel. There is no “Hamas bypass” road. Israel and the world must recognize this. Any diplomatic or economic progress will henceforth go through the headquarters of the movement that was elected to govern. Just as the economic boycott held up for only a few weeks, the diplomatic boycott will also not last long. Sweden has already welcomed in its territory two representatives of Hamas, the other European countries will follow suit, the United States will have to join in, and Israel’s turn will also come, hideously late, of course, and it will recognize the Hamas government. Therefore, it is necessary to ask: Why wait? The lesson from the short-lived economic boycott must be learned now. Israel has already missed the Abu Mazen train and he is now the Palestinian Shimon Peres: It’s pleasant to talk to him but what he says no longer has much influence or significance. Yet, nevertheless, having allotted half a year to diplomatic negotiations, Israel must immediately initiate a meeting with Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen) if it really wants to negotiate. Instead of traveling to Washington and Cairo, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert should have gone to Ramallah first.

  27. By blogging you are helping people who can’t read Arabic get a picture of a world we don’t otherwise see.As you know, what we Americans are shown of Syria and the MidEast by the media is nutcases, political posturing, and violence. You also know many Americans are becoming somewhat polarized about it, leaping to conclusions that may seem to them warranted by what they see.But great numbers of us are flocking to blogs, because we have trouble believing the picture the media portrays. A blog such as yours reassures us that yes, Syrians and people in the region are real people, for the most part operating under motivations we can understand. I think there will come a day that will make a difference. It is very important that not all of us allow people from that region to become demonized.So it is not the objective you yearn for, yet still the purpose you serve here is relevant and valuable.

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