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Syria: Which way?


An effort by the EU and USA is underway to engage Syria, after many years of isolation. The EU sent Javier Solana to Damascus with a package of goodies, and US, Iraqi, Syrian and Iranian representatives met in Baghdad to discuss the stabilization of Iraq, with another, higher level meeting, reportedly planned soon.

What Syria would get is an end to the isolation that has been imposed on it by the west. It is also promised the Golan Heights. US Ambassador Jones has now declared that the US is not stopping Israel from engaging in negotiations with Syria, which may or may not be true.

What Syria is expected to give in return, is to move away from Iran, keep its nose out of Iraq and its fingers out of Lebanon, and to stop supporting Palestinian terror. In Al-Ahram, Dina Ezzat explored the prospects, which are less than encouraging actually. According to Ezzat, Syrians feel on the one hand, that Syria has managed to tire the US out in the Middle East and has won its point, and on the other hand, that Syria has moved too close to Iran. Therefore, one would expect some true moves of rapprochement. One might imagine that Syrian cooperation in Iraq, for example, would extend to arresting terrorists and supplying intelligence information. That is not quite the case, but Syria is cooperating, reports Ezzat:

According to informed Syrian officials, Damascus has been cooperating a great deal on Iraq and is willing to upscale its efforts. Limitations, sources say, are being gradually imposed on the activities of Iraqi leaders who can orchestrate militant attacks in Iraq. Moreover, senior Iraqi officials say, "Syrian generals who used to operate in Iraq undercover to orchestrate militant attacks against the US are now reducing their attacks."

. This was not meant as a joke, it seems.

And what sort of cooperation might Israel expect in return for withdrawing from the Golan heights and surrendering the Sea of Galilee as well (Syria considers this to be part of the deal)? Ezzat tells us:

Syrian sources say it is the stability of the regime, the liberation of the Golan Heights occupied by Israel in 1967, and some say in Lebanese politics that Damascus would accept in return for curtailing its facilitation of the arming of Hizbullah, decreasing its assistance and accommodation of Palestinian and Iraqi militant resistance groups, and reducing its intelligence cooperation with Iran.

. In other words, in return for complete Israeli withdrawal from the Golan, Syria may slightly reduce its involvement in terror both in Lebanon and in Israel. This is not necessarily an appetizing prospect. In Lebanon, what Syria really doesn't want, Ezzat tells us, is the investigation of the Hariri murder. With good reason of course.

Salim Nazal echoes Dina Ezzat's evaluation that Syrians believe they have won the war of nerves with the USA:

The Syrian media has extensively reflected on the recent shift in European and American policy towards Syria, considering this to be proof of the wisdom of its steadfast policy, which has ensured that Syria has not changed its anti-American/Israeli positions in regard to any of the three main issues in the Middle East.

. In other words, the Syrians have interpreted the recent thaw as an unconditional surrender.

Not surprisingly, Javier Solana's mission to Damascus was apparently rebuffed. Solana offered essentially, to force Israel to return the Golan, to restore full economic and diplomatic cooperation with Syria, aid for refugees from Iraq and a package of economic incentives. But the Syrians were not interested.

The Syrians continue to prepare for war, to interfere in Lebanon, to interfere in Iraq and to discourage any progress for peace between Israel and the Palestinians. Yet on the other hand, they insist on 'negotiations,' demanding complete capitulation to their terms: they want the murderers of Hariri to walk, they want to continue supporting terror (at a lower level) in Iraq and Israel and Lebanon, and they will not give up their alliance with Iran.

The policy of alternatively pleading for negotiations and then, when the other side agrees to engage, declaring victory and presenting impossible conditions, is familiar from dictatorial regimes of past history. It does not bode well for the future. Bashar Assad's ambiguous policy is illustrated in the cartoon below, sent by an anonymous Syrian friend.

The reasons for the flip-flops are probably not mysterious. As long as it appeared that international and Arab opinion was holding firm, and that Syria had no recourse other than to accede to international opinion, Assad entertained us with visions of peace. However, as soon as it became apparent that the US is in trouble in Iraq and that the EU is ready to exchange Israeli territory for influence in Lebanon and trade advantages, Assad understood that intransigence and support for terror have their reward. As long as there remains the tiniest chance that negotiations with Syria might bring peace, nobody, including Israel, can afford to ignore that chance. However, those negotiations must be conducted from a perceived and actual position of strength and unity of purpose, not in the form of Javier Solana offering to dismember Israel for the convenience of Europe, or the US offering to abandon Lebanon in return for some compromise in Iraq.

Ami Isseroff

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Original text copyright by the author and MidEastWeb for Coexistence, RA. Posted at MidEastWeb Middle East Web Log at http://www.mideastweb.org/log/archives/00000577.htm where your intelligent and constructive comments are welcome. Distributed by MEW Newslist. Subscribe by e-mail to mew-subscribe@yahoogroups.com. Please forward by email with this notice and link to and cite this article. Other uses by permission.

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Replies: 1 Comment


What really happened in 1948?

by Sarah El Shazly, Front Page Magazine

December 28, 2004

Ever since I was a child, I've heard a range of accounts of what happened to the Palestinians and Palestine. Everyone knows the Jewish version and the Arab version. But there is a third side, that of those who lived there and still do -- the Israeli Arabs.

Some Jews want us out of Israel, and some Arabs believe that we are an extension of the Zionists. Yet we Israeli Arabs keep our culture and traditions. Mahshy, or stuffed grape leaves, remains our favorite meal. We love Arabic music; we sing old folk songs, including "Wein aa Ramallah" about a famous Palestinian city, and songs from all over the Arab world. We are unique among the Arabs, though. We have vested interests on both sides -- and are angry at both sides.

Israeli Arabs have lived alongside Jews for as long as this generation can remember. We became Israeli citizens in 1948. Before that, the region wasn't quite as divided. Families lived in an area that includes the West Bank, Gaza, and Amman, and in other Arab cities in areas where borders were created later. We were divided by boundaries set by the Europeans, and those within the boundaries of Israel became "Israeli Arabs". Now, these Arabs are the unwanted, unloved, illegitimate, and have become the biracial step-child of the Middle East conflict. We have to apologize for our very existence.

Misinformation surrounds the story of 1948. Palestinians who fled their homes are angry, bitter and distraught. No one can blame them. Yet they seem to have been taught who they are supposed to hate, who is the guilty party and who should be punished for their problems. People's memories are so short. It is easier to focus on one enemy especially an enemy who does not belong to the same "tribe" -- than to analyze a complex situation such as the Palestinian refugee disaster.

It is not my intent to discuss who belongs in that tiny region called Israel, but I will risk being shunned by my own community to set the record straight. The question is: why did Arabs flee the area that became Israel? After all, the ones who remained in their homes still live there today and prosper.

The fact is that the Arab world warned the Palestinians against staying with the Jews. They also warned them that Arabs were going in to fight the Zionists and that the Palestinians should leave to avoid getting hurt.

Many Palestinians trusted these Arab leaders and left as instructed. Those who had lived with Jews for a long time were not as easily convinced of the danger, and these Arabs stayed home. Among them was my family, which saw cars traveling the area. The cars contained Jews. They reassured Arabs that they would not be harmed. Thus, we had a situation where Jews begged Arabs to stay and live with them, while Arabs from foreign countries told them to leave right away.

Palestinians have gotten the short end of the stick in Arab society. It suits Arab leaders to keep this group in a state of poverty and conflict, and to channel all resentment toward the Jews. You don't believe me? Ask yourself why Jordan or Egypt or Syria never gave the Palestinians a country? If I hear another non-Palestinian, especially an American Muslim, repeat the phrase "over 50 years of the Zionist occupation," I'm going to burst. Can no one actually read history? It’s not ancient history, just 1948-1967. Who had that land? Even if Arabs want Palestinians to have "all" the land, this is no excuse for denying them an independent state. And yet, we blame Israel!

As a child, I watched a Syrian play about the war of October 1973. A famous Syrian comedian played a young man who fought in the war and was taken prisoner. After his release, he was detained by his own government. At one point, the guards slapped him and he started crying.

“Why are you crying?” asked a fellow prisoner, deeply puzzled. “That was only a slap. I've seen the enemies do much more to you, and you just laughed it off.”

The comedian replied, “The enemy is an enemy, and I expect that of them. Yes, a slap is only a slap -- but from a brother, it's a slap in the heart.”

Let's take this a step further. The Arab world pretends to care, watching a young Palestinian get killed by Israel on TV, justifying Jew-hatred right before they go to their cozy beds. This is the Arab world that has taught Palestinians to fight, and yet it will not give them citizenship. Where is that love -- or, for that matter, where is the passion used to justify the Palestinian issue?

Let's go to the refugees. Arab governments first used scare tactics, and then took whatever they could get from the United States and Israel. Finally, they stuck Palestinians in camps with deplorable living conditions. Why didn't they leave them alone in their homes? Why promise them refuge and reward them with nothing more than prison camps? And, most of all, why didn't they provide Palestinians with homes in the West Bank, Gaza and the Golan Heights when Arabs had control over them?

Please do not speak of money. Palestinian refugees receive aid from all over the world, and yet their living conditions don’t seem to improve. The "hosting" governments siphon off some money to line their pockets, and the Palestinian Authority -- or lack of it -- siphons off the rest … and the poor people get nothing.

As a Palestinian, I ask the world to please stop exploiting our issue. If you want a do a good deed, find your own. To the singers romanticizing Palestinian suffering, it is not romantic. There is nothing dreamy about it. Where’s the heroism in a small child throwing rocks at a tank? Either warn the child to stay away or just shut up! How dare you do this to our children? Does our suffering give you such good video footage and high ratings?

To the average Arab citizen, stop crying crocodile tears for us. We thank you for your kind feelings, but please, don’t offer us your pity. To the Arab and Islamic governments, fix your own problems. Do not use our misery to blind your subjects to domestic problems. Are you afraid that the people will wise up, and stop hating Israel, and turn on you? You, who have condoned so much hatred, may one day pay the price. You've created monsters, and you won't be able to handle them. Worry about creating jobs for your own poor people and educating the children, and leave us alone. In short, to all those invested in driving our children to die, please, stay away from us.

Posted by Saleem Abdelaziz @ 04/01/2007 08:13 AM CST

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