Hezbollah, Israel, Lebanon

Master and Pupil

At some point in 2006, I recall asking a friend of mine what he thought of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who had recently been elected President of Iran. This friend (known to readers of this blog as “Abbas“) is a Lebanese Shiite living in Beirut, and a devoted partisan of Hizbullah. The conversation went something like this:

QN: So what do you think of this new Iranian president? Ahmadinejad?

Abbas: Fantastic. I love him.

QN: You like him better than Khatami?

Abbas: Definitely.

QN: How do you think Hizbullah feels about him? Will he serve the party’s interests?

Abbas: Of course he will. Who do you think brought him to power?

That’s right. Such is the mystique of Hizbullah in Lebanon that it wouldn’t be completely outlandish for someone to claim that the Iranian president’s rise was facilitated by the influence of his Lebanese allies. Nasrallah, after all, was a regional rock star while Ahmadinejad was revoking parking tickets as mayor of Tehran. (This was the gist of the discussion that followed, between me and Abbas).

Obviously, Abbas’s point was just another silly conspiracy theory (which we absolutely never tolerate on this blog), but it raises an interesting question. For the past few years, Iran’s reputation in Lebanon seems to have been tied to the fortunes of Hizbullah. Nasrallah was the public face of Iranian ambitions in the Levant, enjoying a 10% lead in popularity across the region over Ahmadinejad (according to the University of Maryland and Zogby International’s Arab Public Opinion Poll). This meant that more Arabs admired Nasrallah than they did Ahmadinejad, and anecdotally this struck one as true: Nasrallah’s popularity across the region was untouchable from the end of the July War through at least March 2008, and both Ahmadinejad and Bashar al-Assad seemed to be riding on Nasrallah’s coattails.

In 2009, something happened. Nasrallah and Ahmadinejad took a major beating in the regional popularity polls (conducted in April-May 2009), while Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez shot from 9th place to 1st. How to explain this reversal of fortunes? Here’s my highly unscientific hypothesis:

  1. After the May 2008 events in Lebanon (which occurred after the 2008 poll was conducted), Hizbullah’s reputation among Sunnis across the region was (temporarily) tarnished.
  2. In early 2009, the region watched Israel attack Gaza as Hizbullah sat on its hands, unwilling to provoke another confrontation in Lebanon.
  3. Meanwhile, Hugo Chavez accused Israel of committing genocide and expelled the Israeli ambassador from Caracas. Presto: instant celebrity.

Now, Chavez’s resistance credentials in the Arab-Israeli conflict are nothing compared to Hizbullah’s and Iran’s. But the fact of his turnaround seemed to count for something. Iran couldn’t dismiss its Israeli ambassador because it doesn’t have one. And if Ahmadinejad blamed Israel for committing genocide, no one would notice because he does this on his way to work each day. Meanwhile, the Chavez effect repeated itself this year. Who was the most admired leader in the Arab world  in 2010? Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. Where was he in the polls in 2008 and 2009? Last place and second-to-last, respectively. While he also criticized the Gaza assault, his real surge in popularity was almost certainly tied to the flotilla incident.

This is a very circuitous way of saying that I found myself wondering today, as I listened to Nasrallah’s speech welcoming Ahmadinejad to Beirut, whether Iran is trying to step out of Hizbullah’s shadow in Lebanon. That sounds odd to hear, given the nature of their relationship. But I think that it’s not that far-fetched to imagine that Iran’s ambitions include winning over non-Shi’a Lebanese through a mixture of investment projects, military aid, assistance in energy exploration and infrastructure development.

After all, as we’ve seen, even Hizbullah’s popularity can take a hit. The party cannot keep Lebanon in Iran’s orbit all by itself. Thoughts?
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528 thoughts on “Master and Pupil

  1. AP says ” IMO, it will take the “air” of the rejectionist cause, and destabilize the rejectionist states and organizations. ”

    I agree with this and believe that by taking this “air” out, many a conflict will be deflated and, among others, the conflicts in Lebanon will become easier to resolve. I’m emphasizing this agreement because every time I brought such a point in the past AIG objected that the resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian issue will not facilitate anything in Lebanon. I think AP is on my side of that argument. At least that’s what I infer from his opinion.

    Posted by Honest Patriot | October 21, 2010, 9:34 am
  2. HP:
    I clicked on the link to the video and because I had the sound turned off and little time just scanned some random sections. From what I could see, it looks like a long piece of agitprop meant to inflame the converted rather than help someone understand the issue, but I could be mistaken. As I think you know, those kinds of productions are the least useful thing someone who is interested in a solution to a problem would watch, except out of interest in a sociological artifact. I will try to watch (and listen) to the whole thing as I am curious, though frankly I am much more interested in the Arab perspective than in the Western leftist perspective.
    In any event, I am sure the Israelis have produced similar pieces of agitprop.

    Posted by dontgetit | October 21, 2010, 9:51 am
  3. HP,

    Your answer to usedtopost epitomizes why liberal ideas have a hard time taking hold in the Arab world. It implies that if the Israeli military were less strong and Israel had less international support then you would be for trying to take Israel out. A liberal response should be something else altogether. It is very easy to counter your claims as they stand and portray you as a “defeatists” by others.

    Maybe this is not what you mean, but believe me that this is the message that comes out and what the other side hears and understands.

    Posted by AIG | October 21, 2010, 10:02 am
  4. Thanks for the answer HP. Obviously I disagree but I ask out of curiosity not to berate or argue. But hey, even the resident uber Zionist doesnt like your answer.

    As for Sadat, well thats for a different thread, but whether you believe in peace with Israel or not, the manner he went about it was a betrayal to the Arab world. Without Egypt to worry about, the Israelis massively accelerated the settlement program (and can be argued would not have attacked Lebanon). Did you know that only 3 Arab countries sent representatives to his funeral? Those were the days that the Arab govts had a smidgen of backbone

    Posted by usedtopost | October 21, 2010, 10:36 am
  5. AIG, Sadat used these arguments to convince his constituency and succeeded.
    One can advance other arguments but with today’s feelings and thoughts in the Arab world, I don’t think they will fly. What would these arguments be? Convince them that the Jews have a right to a homeland in Palestine which includes the already achieved displacement of the locals??
    What do you propose is an argument that will sell?

    Posted by Honest Patriot | October 21, 2010, 10:46 am
  6. UTP, Sadat had valid arguments. If the other Arab countries had negotiated along with him maybe a full solution would have already been found. Instead, everyone called him a traitor and took a hardline. The problem is that this hardline has led nowhere so far other than a lot of suffering.
    How much more suffering before a solution that is handed to the next generation is found?
    Sadat basically said: I’m not fighting Israel, I’m fighting the USA. I cannot fight the USA, I must find a compromise and an accommodation.

    This is still the case!

    Now, there is a way to change that. It is (a) rejection of any and all terrorism and (b) engaging with “marketing” and persuasion to the American public the way the Israel-supporters have so successfully done. Alas, I don’t see the competence nor the will to get that done. If it is done, at least a civil debate would result that may lead to a reasoned resolution.

    The complaints and accusations about the U.S. are not leading anywhere. How about persuasion?

    Posted by Honest Patriot | October 21, 2010, 10:52 am
  7. HP,

    Please tell me what you believe, not what you think will convince people. What is it you believe then? Do you believe that if the US were not backing Israel then the Arab strategy should be different?

    Sadat didn’t convince the Egyptian public, he coerced them. As for the elites, he bought their silence using the American aid.

    Posted by AIG | October 21, 2010, 11:17 am
  8. I have no idea how I came across this, but it was linked from somewhere else and focuses on what seems to be the only real obstacle to a simple settlement of the “Israel” Palestinian conflict. The part about I.F.Stone is an interesting sidebar for those of you who follow American leftist politics.


    Sol Stern
    The Nakba Obsession
    The Palestinian national narrative is the biggest obstacle to peace in the Middle East.

    A specter is haunting the prospective Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations—the specter of the Nakba. The literal meaning of the Arabic word is “disaster”; but in its current, expansive usage, it connotes a historical catastrophe inflicted on an innocent and blameless people (in this case, the Palestinians) by an overpowering outside force (international Zionism). The Nakba is the heart of the Palestinians’ backward-looking national narrative, which depicts the creation of the State of Israel in 1948 as the original sin that dispossessed the land’s native people. Every year, on the anniversary of Israel’s independence, more and more Palestinians (including Arab citizens of Israel) commemorate the Nakba with pageants that express longing for a lost paradise. Every year, the legend grows of the crimes committed against the Palestinians in 1948, crimes now routinely equated with the Holocaust. Echoing the Nakba narrative is an international coalition of leftists that celebrates the Palestinians as the quintessential Other, the last victims of Western racism and colonialism.

    There is only one just compensation for the long history of suffering, say the Palestinians and their allies: turning the clock back to 1948. This would entail ending the “Zionist hegemony” and replacing it with a single, secular, democratic state shared by Arabs and Jews. All Palestinian refugees—not just those still alive of the hundreds of thousands who fled in 1948, but their millions of descendants as well—would be allowed to return to Jaffa, Haifa, the Galilee, and all the villages that Palestinian Arabs once occupied.

    Such a step would mean suicide for Israel as a Jewish state, which is why Israel would never countenance it. At the very least, then, the Nakba narrative precludes Middle East peace. But it’s also, as it happens, a myth—a radical distortion of history.

    If words have any meaning, it is certainly accurate to describe the outcome of the 1948 war as a catastrophe for the Palestinians. Between 600,000 and 700,000 men, women, and children—even more, depending on who is telling the story—left their homes. Palestinian civil society disintegrated. At the war’s end, the refugees dispersed to the Jordanian-occupied West Bank, the Egyptian-occupied Gaza Strip, and neighboring Arab countries. Many lived in tents, eking out a bare subsistence, and were then denied the right to return to their homes by the new State of Israel.

    During the 1948 war and for many years afterward, the Western world—including the international Left—expressed hardly any moral outrage about the Palestinian refugees. This had nothing to do with Western racism or colonialism and much to do with recent history. The fighting in Palestine had broken out only two years after the end of the costliest military conflict ever, in which the victors exacted a terrible price on the losers. By that, I don’t mean the Nazi officials and their “willing executioners,” who received less punishment than they deserved, but the 11 million ethnic Germans living in Central and Eastern Europe—civilians all—who were expelled from their homes and force-marched to Germany by the Red Army, with help from the Czech and Polish governments and with the approval of Roosevelt and Churchill. Historians estimate that 2 million died on the way. Around the same time, the Indian subcontinent was divided into two new countries, India and Pakistan; millions of Hindus and Muslims moved from one to the other, and hundreds of thousands died in related violence. Against this background, the West was not likely to be troubled by the exodus of a little more than half a million Palestinians after a war launched by their own leaders.

    In the 1940s, moreover, most of the international Left actually championed the creation of a Jewish state in Palestine. It was widely noted that the new state would be led by self-proclaimed socialists. Statehood for the Jews was supported by the Soviet Union and by the Truman administration’s most progressive elements. The Palestinians were also compromised by the fact that their leader in 1948, Grand Mufti Haj Amin al-Husseini, had been a Nazi collaborator during the war.

    In fact, I. F. Stone, the most revered left-wing journalist of the day, was one of the most influential American advocates for the Zionist cause. I have in my possession a book by Stone called This Is Israel, distributed by Boni and Gaer, a major commercial publisher at the time. The book, based on Stone’s reporting during the 1948 Arab-Israeli war, has become a collector’s item by virtue of the fact that Stone’s fans want to forget that it ever existed. Of the four adoring biographies of the great muckraker published in the last decade, only one even mentions that Stone wrote This Is Israel—and then shrugs off its significance in a few paragraphs.

    It’s obvious why the book would be embarrassing to today’s leftist critics of Israel and Zionism. It opens with a foreword by Bartley Crum, the prominent American lawyer, businessman, and publisher of PM, the most widely read progressive newspaper of the 1940s. Crum evokes “the miracles [that the Israelis] have performed in peace and war. . . . They have built beautiful modern cities, such as Tel Aviv and Haifa on the edge of the wilderness. . . . They have set up a government which is a model of democracy.” His friend and star correspondent, Izzy Stone, has “set down what he knows and what he has seen, simply, truthfully and eloquently.” We Americans, Crum concludes, “can, through this book, warm ourselves in the glory of a free people who made a two thousand year dream come true in their own free land.”

    Accompanied by famed war photographer Robert Capa’s iconic images of male and female Israeli soldiers, Stone’s text reads like a heroic epic. He writes of newborn Israel as a “tiny bridgehead” of 650,000 up against 30 million Arabs and 300 million Muslims and argues that Israel’s “precarious borders,” created by the United Nations’ November 1947 partition resolution, are almost indefensible. “Arab leaders made no secret of their intentions,” Stone writes, and then quotes the head of the Arab League, Abdul Rahman Azzam: “This war will be a war of extermination and a momentous massacre which will be spoken of like the Mongol massacres and the Crusades.”

    Palestinian leaders reminded Stone of the fascists he had fought with his pen since the Spanish Civil War. He ticks off the names of several Nazi collaborators prominent among the Arab military units that poured into Palestine after passage of the UN’s resolution. In addition to the grand mufti, they included the head of the Arab Liberation Army, Fawzi el-Kaukji, who took part in the fascist revolt against the British in Iraq in 1940 and then escaped to Berlin, where he recruited Balkan Muslims for the Wehrmacht. Another Palestinian military commander, Sheik Hassan Bey Salameh, was a “former staff officer under Rommel,” Stone writes. “Salameh had last appeared in Palestine in 1944 when he was dropped as a Reichswehr major for sabotage duties.” For good measure, Stone adds, “German Nazis, Polish reactionaries, Yugoslav Chetniks, and Bosnian Moslems flocked [into Palestine] for the war against the Jews.”

    And how does Stone explain the war’s surprising outcome and the sudden exodus of the Palestinian Arabs? “Ill-armed, outnumbered, however desperate their circumstances, the Jews stood fast.” The Palestinians, by contrast, began to run away almost as soon as the fighting began. “First the wealthiest families went,” Stone recounts. “While the Arab guerrillas were moving in, the Arab civilian population was moving out.” Stone blames the grand mufti for giving explicit orders to the Palestinians to abandon Haifa, which had the largest Arab community of any city assigned to the Jewish state under the UN’s partition plan.

    What is most revealing about the book is the issue that Stone does not write about: the fate of the refugees after their exodus. Stone undoubtedly shared the conventional wisdom at the time: that wars inevitably produced refugees and that the problem was best handled by resettlement in the countries to which those refugees moved. Stone surely expected that the Arab countries to which the Palestinian refugees had moved would eventually absorb them as full citizens. That outcome wouldn’t be perfect justice, but it would limit Palestinian suffering and open the doors to a reasonable and permanent settlement of the conflict. Stone also knew that Israel was in the process of absorbing an almost equal number of impoverished Jewish refugees from the Arab countries, most of whom had been forced out of their homes and lost all their property in places where they had lived for hundreds of years.

    Stone could never have foreseen that for the next 62 years, the Palestinians would remain in those terrible refugee camps—not just in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip but in Lebanon, Syria, and present-day Jordan as well. Nor could Stone have imagined that not one Arab country would move to absorb the refugees and offer them citizenship, or that the Palestinians’ leaders would insist on keeping the refugees locked up in the camps for the purpose of dramatizing their Nakba narrative.

    Stone’s reporting on the 1948 war has turned out to be a pretty decent “first rough draft of history,” to quote publisher Philip Graham’s definition of journalism. But that’s a judgment that Stone himself discarded, as the Left gradually abandoned Israel over the next 30 years and accepted the Palestinians’ portrayal of their nakba as the Nakba—a capitalized instance of world-historical evil.

    In Stone’s later writing about the Arab-Israeli conflict, he was at pains to forget what he had said in This Is Israel. Moving in lockstep with the Left, he had turned into a scathing critic of Israel by 1967, castigating the Zionists for “moral myopia” and lack of compassion in The New York Review of Books. His turnabout was so complete that by 1979, the West’s foremost champion of the Palestinians, Edward Said, paid homage to Stone and to Noam Chomsky as two of the few Jewish intellectuals who had “tried to see what Zionism did to the Palestinians not just once in 1948, but over the years.” The Columbia University scholar obviously didn’t know about, or didn’t want to know about, This Is Israel.

    Revisionist historiography also appeared to nullify Stone’s earlier journalism. Starting in the mid-1980s, a group of self-styled “new historians” in Israel began debunking (or to use their favorite term, “deconstructing”) the official “Zionist narrative” about the 1948 war and the foundation of the state. The most influential of the revisionist historians was Benny Morris, whose 1987 book The Birth of the Palestinian Refugee Problem became an international sensation. Using a trove of documents in the Israeli state archives, Morris showed that not all the Palestinian refugees fled their homes in panic or were ordered out by their leaders. For example, during fierce battles between Israeli and Arab forces around the strategic towns of Lydda and Ramla, the Israelis expelled thousands of Arab residents and put them on the road to the West Bank. Morris also presented documented cases of atrocities by some Israeli soldiers and revealed that David Ben-Gurion and other Zionist leaders had discussed the feasibility of “transferring” Arabs out of the areas assigned to the Jewish state by the UN.

    Yet unlike most of his left-wing revisionist colleagues, Morris asserted that the Palestinian calamity and the refugee problem were “born of war, not by design.” Morris was—and is—a committed Zionist of the Left. He believed that his work as a truth-telling historian might have a healing effect, encouraging Palestinian intellectuals to own up to their own side’s mistakes and crimes. The process might lead to some reconciliation, perhaps even to peace. But Morris was shocked when Palestinian leaders launched the second intifada, with its campaign of suicide bombings, just as President Clinton offered them a generous two-state solution at Camp David. Morris was also dismayed to discover that his scholarship on the 1948 war was being used by Palestinian activists and Western leftist academics to build up the Nakba myth. In a 2008 letter to the Irish Times, he wrote:

    Israel-haters are fond of citing—and more often, mis-citing—my work in support of their arguments. Let me offer some corrections. . . . In defiance of the will of the international community, as embodied in the UN General Assembly Resolution of November 29th, 1947, [the Palestinians] launched hostilities against the Jewish community in Palestine in the hope of aborting the emergence of the Jewish state and perhaps destroying that community. But they lost; and one of the results was the displacement of 700,000 of them from their homes. . . . On the local level, in dozens of localities around Palestine, Arab leaders advised or ordered the evacuation of women and children or whole communities. . . .

    Most of Palestine’s 700,000 “refugees” fled their homes because of the flail of war (and in the expectation that they would shortly return to their homes on the backs of victorious Arab invaders). But it is also true that there were several dozen sites, including Lydda and Ramla, from which Arab communities were expelled by Jewish troops.

    The displacement of the 700,000 Arabs who became “refugees”—and I put the term in inverted commas, as two-thirds of them were displaced from one part of Palestine to another and not from their country (which is the usual definition of a refugee)—was not a “racist crime” . . . but the result of a national conflict and a war, with religious overtones, from the Muslim perspective, launched by the Arabs themselves.

    Coming from the dean of Israeli revisionist historians, this was a significant rejection of the Nakba narrative and, incidentally, an endorsement of Stone’s forgotten book.

    Earlier this year, another pathbreaking work of historical scholarship appeared that, if facts mattered at all in this debate, would put the final nail in the coffin of the Nakba myth. The book is Palestine Betrayed, by Efraim Karsh, head of the Middle East program at King’s College London. Karsh has delved deeper into the British and Israeli archives—and some Arab ones—than any previous historian of the period. He deftly uses this new material to seal the case that the Nakba was, to a large extent, brought on by the Palestinians’ own leaders.

    For example, using detailed notes kept by key players in Haifa, Karsh provides a poignant description of an April 1948 meeting attended by Haifa’s Arab officials, officers of the nascent Israeli military, Mayor Shabtai Levy, and Major General Hugh Stockwell, the British military commander of Haifa. Levy, in tears, begged the Arab notables, some of whom were his personal friends, to tell their people to stay in their homes and promised that no harm would befall them. The Zionists desperately wanted the Arabs of Haifa to stay put in order to show that their new state would treat its minorities well. However, exactly as Stone reported in This Is Israel, the Arab leaders told Levy that they had been ordered out and even threatened by the Arab Higher Committee, chaired by the grand mufti from his exile in Cairo. Karsh quotes the hardly pro-Zionist Stockwell as telling the Arab leaders, “You have made a foolish decision.”

    In describing the battle for Jaffa, the Arab city adjoining Tel Aviv, Karsh uses British military archives to show that the Israelis again promised the Arabs that they could stay if they laid down their arms. But the mufti’s orders again forbade it. In retrospect, it is clear that the mufti wanted the Arabs of Haifa and Jaffa to leave because he feared not that they would be in danger but that their remaining would provide greater legitimacy to the fledgling Jewish state.

    Unfortunately, no amount of documentation and evidence about what really happened in 1948 will puncture the Nakba narrative. The tale of dispossession has been institutionalized now, an essential part of the Palestinians’ armament for what they see as the long struggle ahead. It has become the moral basis for their insistence on the refugees’ right to return to Israel, which in turn leads them to reject one reasonable two-state peace plan after another. In the meantime, the more radical Palestinians continue to insist that the only balm for the Nakba is the complete undoing of the historical crime of Zionism—either eliminating Israel or submerging it into a secular democratic state called Palestine. (The proposal is hard to take seriously from adherents of a religion and a culture that abjure secularism and allow little democracy.)

    Nor will the facts about 1948 impress the European and American leftists who are part of the international Nakba coalition. The Nakba narrative of Zionism as a movement of white colonial oppressors victimizing innocent Palestinians is strengthened by radical modes of thought now dominant in the Western academy. Postmodernists and postcolonialists have adapted Henry Ford’s adage that “history is bunk” to their own political purposes. According to the radical professors, there is no factual or empirical history that we can trust—only competing “narratives.” For example, there is the dominant establishment narrative of American history, and then there is the counter-narrative, written by professors like the late Howard Zinn, which speaks for neglected and forgotten Americans. Just so, the Palestinian counter-narrative of the Nakba can now replace the old, discredited Zionist narrative, regardless of actual historical facts. And thanks to what the French writer Pascal Bruckner has called the Western intelligentsia’s new “tyranny of guilt”—a self-effacement that forbids critical inquiry into the historical narratives of those national movements granted the sanctified status of “oppressed”—the Nakba narrative cannot even be challenged.

    This makes for a significant subculture in the West devoted to the delegitimization of Israel and the Zionist idea. To leftists, for whom Israel is now permanently on trial, Stone’s 1948 love song to Zionism has conveniently been disappeared, just as Trotsky was once disappeared by the Soviet Union and its Western supporters (of whom, let us not forget, Stone was one). Thus Tony Judt can write in The New York Review of Books—the same prestigious journal in which Stone began publishing his reconsiderations of Zionism—that Israel is, after all, just an “anachronism” and a historical blunder.

    Several years ago, I briefly visited the largest refugee camp in the West Bank: Balata, inside the city of Nablus. Many of the camp’s approximately 20,000 residents are the children, grandchildren, and even great-grandchildren of the Arab citizens of Jaffa who fled their homes in early 1948.

    For half a century, the United Nations has administered Balata as a quasi-apartheid welfare ghetto. The Palestinian Authority does not consider the residents of Balata citizens of Palestine; they do not vote on municipal issues, and they receive no PA funding for roads or sanitation. The refugee children—though after 60 years, calling young children “refugees” is absurd—go to separate schools run by UNRWA, the UN’s refugee-relief agency. The “refugees” are crammed into an area of approximately one square kilometer, and municipal officials prohibit them from building outside the camp’s official boundaries, making living conditions ever more cramped as the camp’s population grows. In a building called the Jaffa Cultural Center—financed by the UN, which means our tax dollars—Balata’s young people are undoubtedly nurtured on the myth that someday soon they will return in triumph to their ancestors’ homes by the Mediterranean Sea.

    In Balata, history has come full circle. During the 1948 war, Palestinian leaders like Haj Amin al-Husseini insisted that the Arab citizens of Haifa and Jaffa had to leave, lest they help legitimize the Jewish state. Now, the descendants of those citizens are locked up in places like Balata and prohibited from resettling in the Palestinian-administered West Bank—again, lest they help legitimize the Jewish state, this time by removing the Palestinians’ chief complaint. Yet there is a certain perverse logic at work here. For if Israel and the Palestinians ever managed to hammer out the draft of a peace treaty, Mahmoud Abbas, president of the Palestinian Authority, would have to go to Balata and explain to its residents that their leaders have been lying to them for 60 years and that they are not going back to Jaffa. Which, to state the obvious again, is one of the main reasons that there has been no peace treaty.

    Sol Stern is a contributing editor of City Journal, a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute, and the author of Breaking Free: Public School Lessons and the Imperative of School Choice.

    Posted by dontgetit | October 21, 2010, 11:21 am
  9. I don’t know about HP’s answer. But I’ll give my answer to the question posed above:

    I firmly believe in every human being’s right to a free life in dignity. That means I look first and foremost at the present. I am much more interested in both Israelis and Palestinians having peaceful and fruitful lives today than I care about what happened 60 or 30 or 10 years ago. It may sound somewhat callous, but that’s how I feel.

    So I don’t support peace because of some grander scheme or belief. I simply support peace because I think everyone living in the ME (and elsewhere) deserves to live, work, have kids, go to school, etc. without the threat of being bombed, without the threat of going hungry, etc.

    By this logic, I could give a rat’s ass as to whether it’s 2 states, one state, it’s called Jewish or Arab or Multiethnic. As long as the guns go silent, and people are safe, I’m happy.

    You can put “The Jews have a right to a homeland” under that heading. You can put “The Arabs have a right to a homeland” under that setting. You can put “Israel is going nowhere” under that heading. It amounts to the same, once the dust is settled, as long as both peoples get to move on and start living their lives.

    Posted by Bad Vilbel | October 21, 2010, 1:26 pm
  10. BV,

    I read you loud and clear yet I find this answer also quite weak. For example, would you be happy living in peace and quiet in China, but without certain freedoms?

    Posted by AIG | October 21, 2010, 1:56 pm
  11. I did mention FREEDOM in my post. Didn’t I?

    “I firmly believe in every human being’s right to a FREE life in dignity.”

    Maybe I didn’t say it as eloquently as I should have. My point was more important than the words I used. My point is that I am not looking for “justice” to something that happened years ago, or anything like that. My desire for peace does not stem from the right of a specific people for a specific homeland (be it Jews or Palestinians). I simply think that every man has the right to live in safety and freedom and pursue what most of us (in the west at least) take for granted (job, family, etc).

    I was answering a specific question about why I personally support an arab-israeli peace. Whether it as because i was “afraid” of israeli might, or whether it was because i believed the Jews deserved a homeland, or whatever. And my answer is: all of the above, none of the above.
    I want an israeli-arab peace simply because i care more about the people that live there today getting normal lives than i care about what happened to their ancestors 60 or 80 years ago.

    Simple as that.

    Posted by Bad Vilbel | October 21, 2010, 2:36 pm
  12. AIG

    I think your critique of HP is incoherent.

    You said:

    Your answer to usedtopost epitomizes why liberal ideas have a hard time taking hold in the Arab world. It implies that if the Israeli military were less strong and Israel had less international support then you would be for trying to take Israel out. A liberal response should be something else altogether.

    What does HP’s answer have to do with liberalism? The basic point that you’re making about the implications of his argument (i.e. that if Israel were not strong, perhaps HP would feel differently) is valid — or at least worth following up — but I don’t understand what liberalism has to do with it.

    What you seem to be implying is that if someone is not a Zionist, then they are inherently illiberal.

    Posted by Qifa Nabki | October 21, 2010, 2:46 pm
  13. QN,

    Not at all. Of course someone can be a liberal and anti-Zionist in particular or anti-nationalist in general.

    My point is that a liberal answer should be based on liberal principles. I could give you examples of what I think are appropriate liberal responses but I don’t want to put words in HP’s mouth. Let’s wait to see what he believes.

    Posted by AIG | October 21, 2010, 3:04 pm
  14. I don’t see where liberalism is relevant here. If I asked you why you prefer falafel to shawarma and you said that falafel were tastier, I would not berate you for not providing me with an answer based on liberal principles.

    Of course, I could come up with an answer to that question based on liberal principles (e.g. falafel are healthier for the planet; they don’t require the slaughter of defenseless animals; etc.) but I wouldn’t call you illiberal because you didn’t use one of these answers.

    If an Arab is not in the wipe-Israel-off-the-map camp, then s/he typically regards Israel as a fact on the ground, just like all of the other nation states in the region. I’m sure most Israelis are not crazy about the state of Egypt, but they are happy to be aligned with the regime there because they are a fact on the ground.

    Posted by Qifa Nabki | October 21, 2010, 3:41 pm
  15. BV said:
    “deserves to live, work, have kids, go to school, etc. without the threat of being bombed, without the threat of going hungry, etc.”

    I imagine that under etc you would include the right to a healthy environment which in a sense trumps all other rights. If you agree with the above then you have to agree to a strict population policy.

    “By this logic, I could give a rat’s ass as to whether it’s 2 states, one state, it’s called Jewish or Arab or Multiethnic. As long as the guns go silent, and people are safe, I’m happy.”

    BV, you can shrug off some details but you cannot subordinate the means for the sake of an end.Means matter a lot.( I am sure that you wouldn’t argue for slavery if it provides the slaves with peace and safety. That is exactly the argument that was used by many slave owners in the South. Need I remind you that there ain’t no such thing as a free lunch? It is not only peace but the cost of the peace must be taken into consideration.

    Posted by ghassan karam | October 21, 2010, 3:42 pm
  16. Ghassan,

    Like AIG before you, you guys insist on missing my point in niggling on the details of my wording.

    I cannot put my words into a simple comment post, as it would require a treatise ala “These are BV’s core beliefs”. This is not the venue for that.

    The point that I am trying to make is that, much like you, I am a “globalist” or whatever you call it. I believe in humanity. I do not believe in racial, ethnic, religious or even national divisions. Ultimately, if i were to frame my overall beliefs, what i would like to see is a united planet where everyone is entitled to freedom, freedom of speech, health, a normal life, equal opportunity, and personal safety etc. (and yes, I am sure I am forgetting all kinds of things here, but please humor me).
    From this belief of mine stems my answer to the above question.

    From that belief, stems my statement that I favor an Israeli-Palestinian peace, so that every person in the region can move on with their lives and focus on what we like to call “the pursuit of happiness” here in the US, rather than focus on things that happened 60, 80 or 1000 years ago.

    It’s really VERY simple as a core belief. Please stop trying to read too much into it.

    Posted by Bad Vilbel | October 21, 2010, 3:54 pm
  17. QN,

    Liberalism (by which I mean the ideology behind liberal democracy) is very relevant to this issue. I’d like to know if HP is against war because he does not think he can win it or because he believes there are better ways to solve the problems more in line with liberal principles. And if the latter, why does he not say so when arguing for peace?

    Posted by AIG | October 21, 2010, 4:02 pm
  18. AIG,

    You’re assuming that HP has to chose one of only 2 reasons you provided for being against war.
    There are COUNTLESS more reasons to be against war besides “I dont think i can win” and “I’m a liberal democrat.”

    Posted by Bad Vilbel | October 21, 2010, 4:09 pm
  19. Go on, admit it AIG. Admit you like falafel more than shawarma because they’re tastier. C’mon, admit it. What are you afraid of? Is it because it makes you a hedonist, devoid of a single ounce of liberalism? You don’t have a liberal bone in your body, you falafel-scarfing epicurean zealot.


    Why does this blog exist again? Oh yeah, to amuse me.

    Posted by Qifa Nabki | October 21, 2010, 4:15 pm
  20. I have to say, with 400+ comments here. You better be amused, QN!

    Posted by Bad Vilbel | October 21, 2010, 4:16 pm
  21. BV,

    Very well, so far we just heard the “we cannot win” argument from him. Does that mean he is not a liberal democrat? I am sure he is, and that is why I was wondering why he would not put forward an argument based on his convictions, just like you did. To generalize a little, I see this unwillingness to stand behind such beliefs as a problem for liberal democracy in Arab countries and one of the reasons the Islamists have no problem whacking the liberal democrats in debates. The liberal democrats are not consistent.

    Posted by AIG | October 21, 2010, 4:17 pm
  22. QN,

    The truth is that I like shawarma better based on hedonistic principles. I cannot resist what we call shawarma in a laffa.

    Posted by AIG | October 21, 2010, 4:25 pm
  23. Folks, I’m on the road. will post when I get to a computer vs. phone. — HP

    Posted by Honest Patriot | October 21, 2010, 4:40 pm
  24. Question: How can a liberal anti-Zionist Arab try to solve the Israeli/Palestinian problem in line with liberal principles?

    Answer: I guess (s)he would call for a one-state solution, provided certain conditions are first met. And in the meantime, a two-state solution would be a temporary one.

    Posted by Badr | October 21, 2010, 4:44 pm
  25. Check this article on Naharnet:


    It’s an interesting viewpoint which goes way beyond the usual chit-chat about STL.

    Posted by Umm iDriss | October 21, 2010, 4:46 pm
  26. AIG,
    I am not sure that we want to change QN into a ffod blog but what is a lafa? Is it the same as lavash? or is it the Yemeni bread?

    Posted by Ghassan Karam | October 21, 2010, 4:49 pm
  27. Badr,

    Sounds like a consistent and good argument. Now, at least you have a sound argument that is not contrary to your principles. You have a better chance against the Hezbollah argument now.

    Posted by AIG | October 21, 2010, 5:09 pm
  28. GK,
    A picture is worth more than a thousand bites( or maybe not?):
    Shawarma Laffa @ Pita Pockets

    Posted by AIG | October 21, 2010, 5:10 pm
  29. Great. Now I’m hungry…

    Posted by Bad Vilbel | October 21, 2010, 5:32 pm
  30. That picture won high praise from my kid: “That looks like the best thing ever: bagel with leek and lettuce…”

    Posted by Qifa Nabki | October 21, 2010, 6:13 pm
  31. Leek and Lettuce is what wins high praise? Sir, you need to teach your kid about proper good food, if I do say so myself!

    In more serious news. Anyone else been following this “Media Forum” about the STL? Some interesting stuff. I wish more Lebanese people would understand how a true legal system works.

    Introduction Day 0: http://www.naharnet.com/domino/tn/newsdesk.nsf/Lebanon/1B42610D2BF3B5A4C22577C20024A617?OpenDocument

    Day 1: http://www.naharnet.com/domino/tn/newsdesk.nsf/Lebanon/935E90F36623CB79C22577C2006E794B?OpenDocument

    Day 2: http://www.naharnet.com/domino/tn/newsdesk.nsf/Lebanon/03839823047DC33BC22577C30069C432?OpenDocument

    Posted by Bad Vilbel | October 21, 2010, 6:27 pm
  32. Bagel? It is an Iraqi pita.
    Show him this one:
    Pita vs. Laffa @ Pita Pockets

    And tell him it weighs more than him…

    Posted by AIG | October 21, 2010, 6:32 pm
  33. Hello back. Well I have to confess I’m lost with the labels of liberal, etc., which I frankly don’t understand and don’t care much for, so let me pass on those characterizations.

    AIG, you asked what I believe. May I first distinguish between belief and thought. I have only one belief (which by definition is based on faith). I think I differ with you on that front but fully respect your opinion/faith and your right to it. The one belief I have is in God, in a personal God. Everything else is made of thoughts, thoughts which can change if an appropriate argument or evidence make the case for their change.

    OK, so on the argument for peace with Israel which I used to answer one of UTP’s question, I still maintain it is a very reasonable argument which was used by Sadat. And you did not answer my question to you whether you had any problem with Sadat using it. Then, for that same argument, there is an old Lebanese adage that refers to the time when vineyards had guards, called in Lebanese “natoor” who patrolled vineyards to make sure the grapes don’t get stolen. So, when folks were eluding the natoors to treat themselves to some grapes which were not theirs (petty theft basically), one of them was making schemes to confront the natoor and overpower him, etc., so his companion, of the opinion that eluding detection was the way to go, asked him: “are you interested in eating grapes or in killing the natoor?”
    My perhaps obscure point here is that if I present an argument for peace with Israel, one that has proven successful in the past, and one that may indeed be adopted and lead to peace, why does it matter to you what brings this argument about and whether things would be different had the argument not been valid. It is valid. It is a fact. It has worked. It should work again. Simple!

    In the desire to really get in the minds of Arabs and want them to admit and accept Israel as a Jewish state and the rights of the Jews to a homeland in Israel, etc., you are really wanting essentially to force people to like you. This cannot be forced. This comes about from years of mutual experience and a lot of time. Sheesh, have you ever been to Quebec? Some guys there still want to fight the franco-english war! After peace (hopefully) there will still be people on one side wanting to refight the wars and wipe Israel off the map, just as there will be people on the other side still dreaming of the land of Moses and Abraham for the Jews extending from the Mediterranean to the Euphrates. It simply doesn’t matter.

    As far as my personal opinion, you and I, AIG, have had old exchanges in which I expressed the opinion (thought, not belief) that the Palestinians were wronged and ethnically cleansed in 1948. I do not think this should be reversed. Like BV, I think everyone needs to move forward. Time will heal if peace is allowed to prevail. I will also remind you that you agreed with me about the ethnic cleansing of the Palestinians in 1948. I will remind you further that the Balfour declaration clearly stated that the homeland for the Jews should be established “without prejudice to the civil and religious rights of the non-Jewish people [Arabs] in Palestine” an admonition that was NOT respected. I will not change my opinion and say that, well, ok, I think this was fine. It was not then, and it is it not now. However, I do not think it should be reversed by removing the homeland for the Jews. You know, it is not MY opinion that matters, but the opinion of the Palestinians and anyone the Palestinian want to have weigh in on this.

    Now, you asked if I thought (you said “believed” but I explained above I’ll use the word “thought”) that, had Israel not been strong, it should then be defeated and the establishment of the Jewish homeland reversed. Here again, NO, I do NOT believe that. HOWEVER, again, it is not MY opinion that matters but the opinion of the Palestinians and of the Arab countries and Armies who may then indeed decide to launch war. You know well that they have attempted that many times and would again if possible. Which is why Israel is maintaining a formidable Army.

    Anyway, that’s my rambling on all that. I’m a bit amused and somewhat puzzled that you’re attaching so much importance to my opinion, etc. I don’t mind it but I know – very humbly – that mine is just a modest personal opinion of someone who posits and enjoys commenting here most of the time but has really no influence and no desire for any activism whatsover.

    I do enjoy, of course, falafel, and shawarma, and hummus, etc., and, like you AIG, my favorite is indeed Shawarma!

    Before finishing this long comment I want to acknowledge and respect the opinions of the quelqu’unes and the usedtoposts here who clearly believe strongly in a different approach, just like I respect your opinion, AIG, as you were characterized by usedtopost, to favor the position of “uber-Zionism”

    It’s a bit unfair that folks like me, on the one side, and Shai, on the other side, get beaten upon quite a bit, when we’re in many respects centrists who favor balanced views and fair peace.


    Posted by Honest Patriot | October 21, 2010, 7:38 pm
  34. Ghassan @426 AIG in 422 used “laffa” with two f’s. The etymology is clear, from the arabic word “laffa” which means “folds.” The arabic word malfoof comes from the same root. So, from the context, it is referring to a flat bread that has been folded.
    Once again, those Israelis are adopting everything delicious that the Lebanese have created. Now, this is battle and a war that I am prepared to be very sanguine about! Falafel is ours, hummus is ours, tabbouleh is ours, and by golly shawarma is ours. And if the Israelis introduce shawarma “laffa” then the word “laffa’ is also ours! === Now I’m angry 😉

    All in good humor, of course.

    Posted by Honest Patriot | October 21, 2010, 8:02 pm
  35. HP #433
    As you might have noticed from the pictures that AIG posted this laffa is not the regular pita. It looks to be what I called Yemeni flat bread and what is also Iraqi flat bread. It is too thick and doughy for the taste that we were brought up on. I will pass on this laffa. Give me a thin warm pita any day.

    Posted by Ghassan Karam | October 21, 2010, 8:29 pm
  36. Good Vibration asks:

    Question: How can a liberal anti-Zionist Arab try to solve the Israeli/Palestinian problem in line with liberal principles?

    Good Vibration,

    By being fair and balanced. Most “liberal anti-Zionists” are often biased against Israel and turn several blind eyes against non-liberal, Arab thugs and fanatics.

    For example: Jimmy Carter

    Posted by Akbar Palace | October 21, 2010, 9:04 pm
  37. Hmm. Do we remember that Jimmy Carter is the one who made the peace between Egypt and Israel happen?

    How quickly we forget!

    Peacemakers and centrists are the ones who get blamed?

    Posted by Honest Patriot | October 21, 2010, 9:16 pm
  38. Since the man who runs this site is sort of semi-Zionist, as the March 14 crowd tend to be, the discussion of Israel sucks.

    Here’s Tony Karon in The National.

    Maybe you can all learn something.

    Posted by bored and disgusted | October 21, 2010, 10:43 pm
  39. semi-Zionist?

    Gotta love people who get accused for having opinions that differ from yours.
    It must be nice living in a closed-minded bubble.

    I guess you also like being accused of being a terrorist every time someone hears you’re from Lebanon or wherever you’re from. Stereotypes are nice, eh?

    Posted by Bad Vilbel | October 22, 2010, 12:27 am
  40. HP,

    So true. Some us “conveniently forget” about Carter, about Rabin’s Oslo that opened the economic world before Israel like never before (small countries like China and India) and, best of all, that Benjamin Netanyahu, as Prime Minister of Israel, supported Oslo! (He also kissed Arafat on the cheek, but that doesn’t count.)

    But don’t blame them. They’re busy bringing Peace to the region. They’re allowed to forget every now and then…

    Posted by Shai | October 22, 2010, 2:09 am
  41. “Gotta love people who get accused for having opinions that differ from yours.”

    ‘Scuse me? Hariri vs Hezbollah? The rich vs the poor? North vs south. Gemayel and Lady Jaja?

    Anyone who blames Hezbollah for the last war is more than a little… confused.

    I live in the US and on one side I’ve had family here for 300 years. In native terms that means fighting in every war since the war of independence. And I don’t give a damn if I end up part of a white minority. Yo soy el Norte, either way. Un Judio del Norte.
    Read Tony Karon.

    Israelis, like Germans, like right wing Lebanese?
    Why aren’t the Palestinian refugees citizens of Lebanon by now?

    Sorry but I’m just that cosmopolitan guy. And somehow I think you’re not.

    Posted by bored and disgusted | October 22, 2010, 2:25 am
  42. I didn’t say anything about Hariri vs. HA or the rich v. the poor.

    You’re the one who waltzed in here and threw a label on the author of this blog. Civilized people don’t throw around labels. Civilized people hear out the other’s opinion even if they disagree with it.

    “Cosmopolitan”. Ok. Sounds good. If you say so. You don’t know anything about me. You may think whatever you link about what I am or aren’t. Good for you.

    Moving on.

    Posted by Bad Vilbel | October 22, 2010, 3:37 am
  43. Leave Jerusalem to the Buddhists, Vulcans and the Jedi. We are the peacemakers..

    Posted by Bodhi | October 22, 2010, 3:42 am
  44. B&D,

    Maybe you should change your handle and/or merge it to “dontgetit” because I really think you have no clue! The “man who runs this site” is not March-14 and is not “sort of semi-zionist” although you are entitled to have your opinion. You are, however, not entitled to pass it as fact.

    The argument you seem to so eloquently present, namely “‘Scuse me? Hariri vs Hezbollah? The rich vs the poor? North vs south. Gemayel and Lady Jaja?” makes absolutely no sense.

    Which Hariri are you talking about? The one who left his cushy life to bring economic revival to his native country and who was murdered or his son who very reluctantly has been projected into a political life he wanted nothing to do with?

    Hezbollah? That movement which in recent past was advocating the creation of an Islamic Republic of Lebanon and which takes pride in the nutcase of Iranian presidency proclaiming that it is going to liberate Palestine? Yeah, just like all the previous advocates of the “front of No” rejecting any and all peace plans have so successfully improved the living conditions of Palestinians and helped new generations have a better life than their ancestors.

    The “rich vs. the poor?” Why the heck are you mixing “Shaaban and Ramadan” as the Lebanese expression goes? How the heck do you happen to know how any of us stand on that issue, let alone the “man who runs this site?” You adopt the rantings who want to blame all wrong and evil on whatever they happen not to like.

    “North vs. south.” Huh? “‘scuse me?” What the heck are you talking about? The U.S. civil war? Tripoli vs. Saida? What are you smoking?

    “Gemayel?” Which one? Pierre the elder, the pharmacist, who sided with his muslim partners to kick the French out? Beshir who before dying was advocating a neutral Lebanon with no confessionalism and with equal opportunity to all his citizens? (Have you listened to any of his ‘Lebanon first’ speeches?). Amin whose son was assassinated? While many of us have no love lost for the Gemayels in general, no one can question their patriotism and devotion to Lebanon. If you’re not Lebanese nor of Lebanese origin we don’t care about your opinion about the Gemayels.

    “Lady Jaja?” You mean lady Gaga? What the heck does she have to do with Lebanon.
    Or, do you mean “Geagea?” in which case, how in the world do you know what “the man who runs this site” thinks of Geagea? Each politician takes positions and makes declarations and each politician, including SHN and Gemayel and Geagea and Aoun, etc., in some positions and speeches makes sense and in others doesn’t and people fall in different camps in how they view him/her. Don’t get your point there.

    Blaming HA for the 2006 war? It takes two to tango. Israel withdrew from Lebanon in 2000. What were the operations of HA across the border for? recovering the Shebaa farms? recovering prisoners from Israel? at what cost? All that destruction in Lebanon and the over 1,000 victims? Smart, real smart. “Cut off your nose to spite your face,” eh?
    The weapons of HA have absolutely no justification. Israel is a convenient excuse for HA to keep its weapons and use them to bully the other Lebanese.

    I don’t get your reference to the Germans and the “right wing Lebanese,” which, by the way, is not defined. What is a “right wing Lebanese?”

    Settling the Palestinians in Lebanon. Huh? I thought you didn’t like Zionism and now you want those that Zionism displaced to remain displaced and be settled in Lebanon thus validating Zionism? I don’t get it. You’re contradicting yourself. The issue of whether and how to assimilate the Palestinians in Lebanon is a separate topic but I’m saying your positions are contradictory. Also, may I remind you that those Palestinians refugees destroyed my former country of Lebanon by creating a state-within-the-state and launching armed struggle against Israel from Lebanon, thus violating its sovereignty? Instead of being hard working and assimilating in an orderly manner – like for example the Armenians did in Lebanon before them and like the Jews did in America so successfully (which probably includes half your ancestors) – they became addicted to their reliance on UNRWA assistance and the activists among them took up armed struggle undermining the authority of their host nation. As I said, Palestinian refugees in Lebanon is a whole different subject and the final chapter hasn’t been written but again your are mixing “Shaaban and Ramadan!”

    And I did read Tony Karon’s article and browsed his website. He makes sense, but why does that validate any of your points about the “man who runs this site” or any of the incoherent terse rantings in your post? And, by the way, the link you posted leads nowhere. Here is the correct link to the article you referred to:

    Why am I spending time addressing such incoherence? Oh yeah, insomnia.

    Posted by Honest Patriot | October 22, 2010, 3:57 am
  45. bored and disgusted

    I think you need to read and learn a little bit more, before you feel free to give us the all-access pass to your cartoonish views of Lebanese politics. We’re not ready for that yet… the trailer was enough entertainment.

    On the subject of Palestinian refugees, have you read the many posts I’ve written and discussions hosted on this subject?

    You can start here: https://qifanabki.com/2009/11/19/naturalizing-the-palestinians/

    And find more here: https://qifanabki.com/tag/palestinian-refugees/

    Posted by Qifa Nabki | October 22, 2010, 7:33 am
  46. … and why did it take me 800+ words to address B&D’s rantings when BV and QN each took less than 100 words to make equally excellent and likely better responses? Oh yeah, ask an engineer what time it is and he/she’ll tell you who to build a watch!

    Posted by Honest Patriot | October 22, 2010, 8:49 am
  47. If you’re so bored, read a book NewZ

    Who made Netanyahu the leader of the Jewish people?

    bored and ignorant,

    The answer to Tony Karon’s question is the voters of Israel, which is the sole Jewish state in this vast world.

    Let Tony Karon move to Israel and vote if he cares so much, or better yet, maybe he can work with Hezbollah and Nejad to help destroy his object of “disgust”.

    Posted by Akbar Palace | October 22, 2010, 8:52 am
  48. HP said: “Once again, those Israelis are adopting everything delicious that the Lebanese have created. Now, this is battle and a war that I am prepared to be very sanguine about! Falafel is ours, hummus is ours, tabbouleh is ours, and by golly shawarma is ours. And if the Israelis introduce shawarma “laffa” then the word “laffa’ is also ours! === Now I’m angry”
    1)In such environment better hungry than angry
    2) I spent so much time here telling any body who care to read that “ours” here includes me and more than two million Israelis, both Arabs and Jews. Do you realy want me to start it all over again? I dont think so.

    Posted by Rani | October 22, 2010, 9:52 am
  49. Hey HP, leave me out of it.

    Posted by dontgetit | October 22, 2010, 10:21 am
  50. HP said
    “when folks were eluding the natoors to treat themselves to some grapes which were not theirs (petty theft basically), one of them was making schemes to confront the natoor and overpower him, etc., so his companion, of the opinion that eluding detection was the way to go, asked him: “are you interested in eating grapes or in killing the natoor?” It is a well known proverb, also in Hebrew.

    That is why I am here on this blog to eat and not to argue (when telling that proverb I use the words “argue” or “fight” not kill).

    As for the term “natur” the root NTR is a good biblical root used in similar situations. In the “song of Solomon” (Canticum Canticorum)
    (King James) 1:6 the girl say:…my mother children were angry with me; they make me the keeper (NORETA)of the vineyards; but mine own vineyard I have not kept (NATARTI). Obviously she is not talking about grapes. So all kind of things happened in the vineyards. By the way, presently in many places in the ME a girl may be killed for not guarding what she should and it is her brothers, mostly from the same mother, on whom she brought shame. Also in the traditional ME eating such grapes or other fruits was not realy considered a petty theft. As long as you did not put it in bag or a pocket and as long the taker was a loney walker it was kind of OK.

    Posted by Rani | October 22, 2010, 10:33 am
  51. Hi QN

    I think it’s time for a new post.
    For those of us who are bored.

    Have a good weekend.

    Posted by i | October 22, 2010, 10:54 am
  52. Yaaa time for new blog !!!

    Posted by Rani | October 22, 2010, 11:26 am
  53. dontgetit, very sorry, didn’t mean YOU, and my forgetfulness got the better of me that this was your handle and you had a different outlook. I apologize.

    Posted by Honest Patriot | October 22, 2010, 12:06 pm
  54. Rani @448, sorry, I was only kidding. Your point is well taken.

    Posted by Honest Patriot | October 22, 2010, 12:08 pm
  55. Rani, I think we should come up with a new word, like “ungry” or “hangry”

    Posted by Honest Patriot | October 22, 2010, 12:10 pm
  56. Just for fun, have a look at this exhibition at the New York Public Library: http://www.nypl.org/events/exhibitions/three-faiths-judaism-christianity-islam?utm_source=eNewsletter&utm_medium=email&utm_content=NYPLNewsThreeFaiths&utm_campaign=NYPLNews

    From the e-mail announcement:
    You are invited to attend NYPL’s latest exhibition, Three Faiths: Judaism, Christianity, Islam, in Gottesman Hall at the Stephen A. Schwarzman Building. Three Faiths explores the complementarities and differences between the three faiths with 200 of the most inspiring sacred texts from the Library’s collections. Accompanying the exhibition is a specially created Scriptorium, where you can learn about the amazing traditions of creating sacred books and scrolls. Admission is free.

    “In addition to visiting the physical galleries, you can explore the online exhibition, which is a hub for all things Three Faiths. Tour highlights, browse photos, watch videos, listen to voices from the Twitterverse, read blog posts, and find out about hundreds of events for all ages that accompany the exhibition.”

    I wish I could post the poster art that was in the email as I don’t see it on the website and it is quite beautiful.

    And the online/interactive version of the exhibition; DO LOOK AT THIS: http://exhibitions.nypl.org/threefaiths/?utm_source=eNewsletter&utm_medium=email&utm_content=NYPLNewsThreeFaiths&utm_campaign=NYPLNews

    Posted by dontgetit | October 22, 2010, 12:21 pm
  57. QN
    I learned earlier this week about a new periodical “Near East Quarterly” edited by an Irish journalist named Stephen Starr.
    The first issue seems to be an amalgam of articles about Turkey, Syria, Iraq , Israel and Lebanon. Does the name Stephen Starr mean anything to you? I am trying to decide how serious of an effort is this Near East Quarterly when the best that they can recommend about Lebanon is the post by Hanin Ghaddar in Slate?

    Posted by Ghassan Karam | October 22, 2010, 12:37 pm
  58. The US links itself to Israel, the Saudis, Mubarak, and March 14th and against Iran. The “modernists” again are backing the fascists and the most extreme reactionaries against conservatives who’ve shown themselves capable of reform. I don’t like Ahmadinejad but I’m not afraid of him. I’m not afraid of Hezbollah, or Hamas for that matter. But Israel and Saudi are arming against Iran. Mubarak is set to run again! The US defends him. Hilarious and tragic.

    More and more people are beginning to realize the obvious, that the US should be working with Turkey and Iran and moving away from the Saudis. Israel is as worried about this as the Saudis are. You can read all this at Foreign Policy (of all places!), but the kids at Friday Lunch Club are a good source, if you need an aggregator.
    On more example- Stephen Kinzer. “Reset: Iran, Turkey, and America’s Future.”

    You know there are some Al Qaeda connections to March 14, don’t you? Politics makes strange bedfellows, but I pick Shiite fundies over Salafists. They’ve shown themselves to be much more practical.

    But HP You defend the Gemayel Clan?
    “They threaten with quantity of people. We have the quality.”
    I see. I remember who won the popular vote in Lebanon last time.
    Christian fascists. Now you see maybe why I linked to the piece on the persistence of German nativism. So, as far as the refugees, my point was and is that no one gives a shit about the Palestinians. And QN, along with your comments about Hezbollah in ’06 you try as you say to separate discussion of Lebanese and Israeli politics. Taking either seriously they’re inseparable. Hezbollah defends against Israel, but the Lebanese minority party collaborates. That’s why I called you a semi-Zionist. The Europhile “civilized” Lebanese back Israel against the rabble.

    So no, there’s been no substantive discussion of Israel here. Israel’s policies are self-destructive, but you’ll blame Hezbollah, or Hamas, or the Palestinians for Israel’s drunken rage. As a great realist once said, that’s worse than a crime, it’s a mistake.

    Posted by bored and disgusted | October 22, 2010, 12:50 pm
  59. One more find from FLC

    “… On September 11, 2001, 15 Saudis, one Egyptian, one Lebanese and two citizens of the United Arab Emirates crashed hijacked airliners into American targets, murdering close to 3,000 people. All 19 were Sunni Muslims, followers of a puritanical strain of Islam developed in Saudi Arabia and Egypt. The ideology of jihad that lures recruits from the suburbs of London to the hinterlands of Waziristan is promulgated by Sunni Imams and financed overwhelmingly (if indirectly) by the Persian Gulf monarchies.
    The two architects of 9/11 and the masterminds of the global jihadist movement – Osama bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri – are Saudi and Egyptian, respectively. The captured “enemy combatants” that were locked away in Guantanamo Bay hail from Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Syria and even Australia. There is not a single Iranian among them. Nor have there been any Iranians implicated in the recent terrorist plots uncovered in Europe and the U.S. If there is going to be a terrorist attack inside the U.S. it will almost certainly originate either from Pakistan or the Persian Gulf. It will almost certainly not be sponsored or perpetrated by the government of Iran.

    So naturally, we need to help defend Saudi Arabia.

    I can’t stop laughing.

    Posted by bored and disgusted | October 22, 2010, 1:17 pm
  60. Some bad writing in the first comment. “Christian fascists” did NOT win the popular vote, the resistance bloc did. That way my point.

    Posted by bored and disgusted | October 22, 2010, 1:24 pm
  61. Ya QN-

    I’m onto your game: You’re going for 500.


    Posted by MSK* | October 22, 2010, 1:35 pm
  62. Apologies to all for no post in over a week. I’ve been busy. Will try to write something tonight.

    bored and disgusted said:

    And QN, along with your comments about Hezbollah in ’06 you try as you say to separate discussion of Lebanese and Israeli politics. Taking either seriously they’re inseparable. Hezbollah defends against Israel, but the Lebanese minority party collaborates. That’s why I called you a semi-Zionist. The Europhile “civilized” Lebanese back Israel against the rabble.

    You really do have our number, don’t you? Boy oh boy are your readings nuanced. The fascist Europhiles and their deep thinly veiled hatred of the rabble. The stoic warriors defending their country against tyranny and oppression and endless conspiracies. Mmmm… I love the smell of erudition in the morning.

    Your comments tend to remind me of the Totten-Hitchens crowd, who have equally cartoonish interpretations of Lebanese political actors: magnifying the honor and dignity of one side while dehumanizing the other. Of course, they demonize Hizbullah while glorifying March 14, while you do the opposite.

    You’re welcome to comment here, but I would ask that you try to listen a little more carefully to what people are saying instead of diagnosing them.

    PS: There are no “kids” behind FLC. It’s one person, who is a friend of mine.

    Posted by Qifa Nabki | October 22, 2010, 2:18 pm
  63. You’re right my language was too glib, but then I was talking about the Gemayels, and the history is what it is. And the recent quotes are what they are.

    I don’t celebrate “honor and dignity” I note intelligence and seriousness. I don’t subscribe to rational actor theory but its useful when dealing with people once you’ve decided that they’re capable of rational action. Hezbollah is, but they can fuck up. Israel? Not at all. Ditto the Saudis. Mubarak? Abbas? The US?
    It’s a sad mess.

    I don’t glorify anyone, but if I were a Lebanese I would have voted for March 8.

    And again there’s not much substance to your comment. I’ve offered a not very original description of the history and reasons behind various alliances and how they’re playing out. I larded it up with some rough language, but remove the language and the substance is unchanged.

    At one level I don’t even give a damn what happens in Lebanon or Israel, or the world. But there’s a casual moral authority that seems to accrue to those with economic, political and military power. That’s the one thing that offends me when I’m beyond good and evil about everything else.

    FLC: G, Z, and B are one person? I had no idea.

    Posted by bored and disgusted | October 22, 2010, 3:43 pm
  64. B&D I don’t defend the Gemayel clan. Re-read my comment. As you were advised, it would be good to “listen” sometimes and refrain from judging.

    I didn’t say “They threaten with quantity of people. We have the quality.” Who said that?

    You say “if I were a Lebanese I would have voted for March 8.” I say: NOT. You don’t know what you would do if you were a Lebanese. First you would have endured the suffering, separation, maybe exile, etc., then you would have formed your thought and impressions, colored in part by your experience, then you would have decided. I say “NOT” not because you might not vote for March 8 but because there is no way for you to know.

    Maybe it’s me but I have difficulty following your comments even though you claim that upon some kind of filtering the real eloquent message emerges. Sorry, not to me, or maybe I lack the appropriate sophistication to design those filters and use them. I still think you’re probably a decent person yourself and extend to you the fellowship of common humanhood. Peace.

    Posted by Honest Patriot | October 22, 2010, 4:03 pm
  65. B&D I do think the excerpt you quoted above from the Friday Lunch Club is a good one and is food for thought. The problem is that Iran has an extremely loud bark, has shown little respect for human rights in the past, and, to the detriment of its own interests, continues to threaten the existence of Israel, not to mention the material (and subversive, in my opinion) support for HA. At best, they are very “unsmart” about their own business and interests. I won’t venture to guess about the worst.

    Posted by Honest Patriot | October 22, 2010, 4:07 pm
  66. Apropos the discussion we had about Netanyaho’ demand to recognize Israel as a Jewish state:

    Posted by AIG | October 22, 2010, 4:12 pm
  67. “I didn’t say ‘They threaten with quantity of people. We have the quality.’ Who said that?”

    Pierre Gemayel

    And the other quote isn’t by anyone at FLC. I found it there. Mostly they [he? she?] just quote and link.

    Posted by bored and disgusted | October 22, 2010, 4:20 pm
  68. I agree with AP @447. On his website, tonykaron.com the words he uses are “Who Made Netanyahu the ‘King’ of the Jews?”

    AIG @407
    “Sadat didn’t convince the Egyptian public, he coerced them. As for the elites, he bought their silence using the American aid.”
    How do you know that?
    What I myself do know, anecdotally, is that I heard, along with many other Lebanese, the long speeches, well thought, well reasoned, that Sadat made over the radio to his people and to the whole Arab world. They were full of reasoning and persuasion.
    Interesting that you say what you do. Are you suggesting that you would have preferred that Sadat NOT make peace with Israel? You can’t have it both ways, AIG.
    [I did answer your other questions, a bit asynchronously b/c I was on travel, just in case you wanted to analyze the comments]

    Posted by Honest Patriot | October 22, 2010, 4:26 pm
  69. B&D @467 thanks for the clarifications. That would be Pierre Gemayel the grandson of Pierre Gemayel the elder (both deceased, the former assassinated). That statement was foolish and reflects a tribal kind of put-down. I don’t excuse or justify it. I could explain it by the fear emerging from the displays of the HA militias but that doesn’t justify making such a statement. One could almost also say it’s racist.

    Peace to you.

    Posted by Honest Patriot | October 22, 2010, 4:29 pm
  70. AIG,

    Ari Shavit’s article does a good job of painting Israel as The Victim here. If only Israel is recognized ALSO as a Jewish State, then the minds of the perpetrators, the evil-doers, will begin to change.

    But while I certainly see good reasons for the Palestinians to recognize the State of Israel in its pre-1967 borders, why ON EARTH should they also recognize the right of Israel to give preference to Jews over non-Jews?

    Suppose it was the other way around. Let’s assume your (I believe fantasy) idea that The Settlers would agree to remain inside a future Palestine. And hence, more than 500,000 Jews would be incorporated into Palestine, and become Palestinian citizens. Let’s assume equal-rights citizens. Would Israel ever recognize Palestine’s right to give preference to Muslims over non-Muslims? Would we not call that Racism?

    I still ponder the eternal question, where are Jews safer? In Israel, the Land created for all Jews, or today’s America, where more Jews prefer to live than in Israel? Can there be a guarantee for the eternal existence of Judaism? Is this the goal? And if so, as a Jewish people of 13 million worldwide, can we honestly see ourselves as a majority anywhere? Even if in Israel, we our overwhelmingly in a minority in our region. There are nearly half a billion Muslims all around us. Are we “safer” by acting as we do?

    Sikhism, by the way, is also a monotheistic religion. Almost twice as large as ours, with a population of some 23 million. Most of it, in Punjab, India. This religion exists, despite the fact that if it wanted, the Hindu majority could “swallow it up” in an instant.

    Our only “guarantee” for safety in this region, is Peace with all our neighbors. And if it is crucial for us to exist in a majority anywhere on this planet, then we’d better create the conditions that would be tempting enough for those around us, who may not naturally lean towards accepting this majority. Continuing The Occupation, continuing to rule over millions of people without giving them equal rights or freedoms, continuing to take whatever little land they still have left for a future state, are not very indicative of the kind of incentives that might change our enemies’ minds.

    Btw, a quick question. If the Arabs find it so difficult to “recognize” Israel as The Jewish State (which I don’t really understand why), why do we have to insist on it? Why can’t we just insist on recognition of Israel as a State on our pre-1967 borders, with whatever is inside it (majority Jewish), and whatever’s outside it?

    Do we really NEED anyone’s “recognition” to pass our own Jewish laws? Do we ask America, our best ally, if it’s okay with them that we favor Jewish emigrants over non-Jewish ones? That we grant automatic citizenship to Jews, and rarely to non-Jews? Did we demand this of Egypt or Jordan, before we made Peace with them?

    So WHY must we demand this of anyone else, Palestinians or not?

    Posted by Shai | October 22, 2010, 4:58 pm
  71. There’s no need to “Judaify” Israel any more than it already is. Netanyahu’s demands are political, his mentor Menachem Begin didn’t demand this of Egypt (the worst of our Arab enemies), and the more we bring Judaism into the equation, the more we invite outsiders to “meddle” in our internal-affairs. Let them recognize the Israeli State, not the Jewish one.



    Posted by Shai | October 22, 2010, 5:51 pm
  72. HP,

    I think that Israel accrued much dividends from peace with Sadat and it was a good move. Nevertheless, I don’t think that if there were a free referendum in Egypt about signing the peace agreement that it would have garnered a majority. Isn’t that obvious?

    I am not sure I understand what I am having “both ways”.

    Posted by AIG | October 22, 2010, 6:38 pm
  73. AIG,

    That’s an interesting point you bring up, which of course we’ve argued in the past on SC (do the majority of Syrians really want Peace with Israel), and it may well be relevant to Israel as well.

    Let’s assume we knew in retrospect that a “free referendum” taken in Egypt from 1977 on, would show more than 50% against Peace with Israel. Would you then prefer that Sadat didn’t sign a Peace agreement with Israel? And that, therefore, Egypt would not have received back the Sinai (until a referendum showed more than 50% for peace)?

    And if so, then what do you think would have taken place since then? Do we have any reason to believe anything other than continued wars, that would exact huge tolls on us all? By tolls, I mean thousands of dead people, of course.

    So if we agree that it was a good thing Sadat didn’t base his decision to make Peace with Israel on a “free referendum” (fearing of course the results might be contrary to his own wishes), is it fair to say that maybe there also shouldn’t be a referendum in Israel, for making Peace with, say, Syria? Or for withdrawing from the West Bank?

    If wars can be averted by sometimes NOT following the majority (as Israeli leaders are so reluctant to do, at least in the past 15 years), what should we expect of Bibi in these testing times? To follow the majority? Because we both know what the majority wants, and what it doesn’t, don’t we?

    Posted by Shai | October 22, 2010, 6:51 pm
  74. Shai,

    Both Ireland and Bulgaria give preference in citizenship to people coming from Irish and Bulgarian backgrounds. The only advantage that a Jewish state would give to Jews, is to those that are not citizens of Israel. It will make their road to citizenship much simpler than for anyone else. That is not racist. Using your example, if the Palestinian state grants citizenship to diaspora Palestinians but not to Jews or anyone else, that would be natural, not racist.

    I have written before that we really do not need anybody’s recognition for what we are. I think though that it is a good negotiation ploy by Netanyahu. After all, the US recognizes Israel as the Jewish state so the Palestinians are in a corner trying to explain why they won’t agree to it.

    Where are Jews safer, in the US or Israel? It depends what you mean by “safe”. 50% of Jews in the US marry out of the tribe and their children are quite detached in many cases from Judaism and lose their Jewish identity. Not only that, maintaining a Jewish identity in the US is extremely expensive:

    In Israel of course, these problems do not exist. The number of Jews in Israel is growing while in the US it is shrinking.
    As for the other definition of “safe”, about 400 Jews died in 9/11.

    So where is it “safer” to be a Jew?

    Posted by AIG | October 22, 2010, 6:56 pm
  75. AIG,

    How can it be a good negotiation ploy, if it gets the negotiation stuck? Netanyahu isn’t stupid – he knows the Arab World (and the Palestinians included) have a very hard time recognizing Israel’s “Jewish State” title. So why demand it?

    You and I both agree that Israel doesn’t need to ask anyone, just like Australia doesn’t, before it gives preference to one group of emigrants over another. So what are we worried about? If the Palestinians are ready to recognize Israel in its pre-1967 borders, why demand more, knowing it may well kill the process? What do we need this last “recognition” for?

    Posted by Shai | October 22, 2010, 7:06 pm
  76. Shai,

    Isn’t that always the problem, to know when the majority makes the right decision or when the “wise philosopher king” (i.e. the tyrant) would make the better decision?

    Liberal democracy is not the best system because it always results in correct decisions, which of course it doesn’t. It is the best system because it is the only fair social agreement we can live with without. The only thing people hate more than making bad decisions is someone else making bad decisions for them. In many case, the fact that you feel responsible for the decision, is all that is needed to make it a right decision.

    As for making peace with a non-democratic Egypt, short term it was excellent for Israel, no doubt. But clearly, we have in our actions together with the US cemented a dynasty of Sadats and Mubaraks that have killed any hope for democracy in Egypt leaving only the Muslim Brotherhood as an alternative. How much has this delayed democracy taking root in the middle east? I don’t know, but suspect that for many decades.

    Posted by AIG | October 22, 2010, 7:08 pm
  77. Shai,

    Don’t you know Netanyahu by now? What you demand today, you can rescind tomorrow and maybe get a concession for it if not some sympathy from the US. Why not try?

    Posted by AIG | October 22, 2010, 7:10 pm
  78. Breaking News:

    Iran today announced it successfully conducted a series of underground nuclear explosion tests during the month of September and early October and declares itself a nuclear weapon state.

    Posted by PeterinDubai | October 22, 2010, 8:06 pm
  79. Interesting thoughts by AIG in #476 about whether a referendum should have been held in Egypt by Sadat at the time.

    A qualifier first. I was never and still is not in opposition to a peace settlement given that it would be a comprehensive one between Israel and the surrounding arab states and the Palestinians along the 67 line.

    Although Sadat may have been courageous in his approach and might have meant well, thinking that his treaty would be just the beginning of the process. The supposed following process never really materialized because Israel had no more incentive to continue the process now that they have removed the largest arab army out of the picture. Instead it gave them more confidence to bully Lebanon, Syria and the Palestinians. Settlements and all.

    I recall that the majority of the arab countries were critical of Sadat’s solo move, and his defense at the time was that it was just the beginning and that Israel promissed him and is part of the treaty obligated to finish the process.

    Results clearly indicates that Israel didn’t live up to this. Instead it set out a course to build settlements and subjucate and humiliate the Palestinians and bully Lebanon when it felt like it.

    Take Israel’s past actions in lebanon for example. Israel invaded in 82 to remove the PLO. Fine. The PLO left to Tunis. All is good so far. But then it felt that it needs to keep and occupy a large so called “security zone” in the south. I guess for protection from the the PLO who is now in Tunis. Hmmm. Hey, the Shia in the south cheered the IDF coming in as they were tired of being caught in the middle between the PLO and the IDF. But now to these folks it is nothing but a ploy to occupy the south, hence how HA came to life. The IDF stayed for 18 years while the PLO moved from Tunis to the WB with Israel’s blessing. Hmmmmm! great trust building with the lebanese, “AIG’s Liberals not withstanding”

    You have to question the not so brilliant moves by Israel. Why would anyone believe in their sincerity of wanting a just peaceful settlement, where they can live along their neighbors in harmony.

    I’ll leave the AIGs and the APs of the world with this quiz:

    Which country’s self proclaimed capital does not have one single embassy? and be honest to answer why it is so?

    Posted by Ras Beirut | October 22, 2010, 10:02 pm
  80. PeterinDubai,
    I cannot find any confirmation about the nuclear underground test that you refer to. Could you please supply a source for your information.

    Posted by Ghassan Karam | October 22, 2010, 11:21 pm
  81. GK,

    I think PiB is joking.

    Posted by Ras Beirut | October 22, 2010, 11:41 pm
  82. QN,

    Hitchens is at it again, with the anglo-american alley-cat miming MeowLebanon lullabies:

    “The leaders of all other parties and factions in Lebanon, from Christian to Druze, cringe with fear when the name of Hezbollah’s leader, Hassan Nasrallah, is mentioned.”

    Basically, it’s the satire of satyrs, redux. And thus good for a chuckle.

    Posted by david | October 23, 2010, 12:06 am
  83. Ha, QN as semi-Zionist, or is it Syrian-regime flak or Hizbullah groupie?

    People, I will say it again. QN is Baroud’s bag man (cape and other accessories included). The regional grind is just subterfuge for a campaign whose last stop is Baabda Palace. As for any good Maronite pol with sights on such, the game is in the middle.

    Middle, however, does not mean moderate. Plans for a Senate and parking tickets are no less a coup-in-the-making against the Lebanese nation.

    Blog commenters are born free but everywhere they are in chains … 🙂

    Posted by david | October 23, 2010, 12:23 am
  84. MSK*,

    Nice catch. Yes, like the Greek gods before him, He withdraws to remind us of his displeasure with our follies.

    And, in turn, we supplicants build a tower of babel to reach his lofty ear … 482 … 483 … 484 …

    Posted by david | October 23, 2010, 12:54 am
  85. David/QN
    I have forgiven Hitchens a long time ago for his ideological transgressions since no one who appreciates Orwell as much as he does can be all bad 🙂

    Posted by Ghassan Karam | October 23, 2010, 1:14 am
  86. Hitchens Shmitchens, Orwell Shmorwell, as for me, I am Waiting for Godot.

    Posted by Honest Patriot | October 23, 2010, 3:23 am
  87. #478 is PiDOnion, the Vidalia sweet kind.

    Posted by Honest Patriot | October 23, 2010, 3:26 am
  88. Just doing my part to reach the 500

    Posted by Honest Patriot | October 23, 2010, 3:26 am
  89. AIG said
    Both Ireland and Bulgaria give preference in citizenship to people coming from Irish and Bulgarian backgrounds.”
    For the record,not only, so is or were till very late Turkey, Greece, Germany, Armenia and Sweden and Norway between them. In a certain way also Jordan in regard to Palestinians. The “very late” is because lately these lawa are being changed or modified very fast and I did not follow them diligently.

    Posted by Rani | October 23, 2010, 3:35 am
  90. B&D @458, “You know there are some Al Qaeda connections to March 14, don’t you?”
    Huh? what the heck?
    This is like the theories that the U.S. actually orchestrated 9/11.
    I still respect you as a good human and like a nice fellow, but boy, now I have doubts about your gray matter.

    Posted by Honest Patriot | October 23, 2010, 3:40 am
  91. To RB

    We were asked about Jerusalem. I also have a question: Which country in the Middle East has borders with Israel, Syria and the Sea in which the only borders, surveyed completely to the mm, marked clearly on the surface and signed by the UN and Israel and in a way, in 1948-1949, also by Lebanon( a unique situation, probably less than 1% of the world borders are so well marked )are the borders with Israel. On the other hand the borders with Syria are barely surveryed to 100 m or so, if ever, totally clearly never agreed to by Syria, totally unmarked in many places and uncontrolled by the state of Lebanon in many areas. As I have said many times it is a very complex world.

    Posted by Rani | October 23, 2010, 3:55 am
  92. So the world wakes up one day to find that Iran has become a nuclear state.

    So what ?

    Korea has them. Pakistan has them. So does Israel. And soon Iran.

    What do any of them think they can do with them ?

    Posted by PeterinDubai | October 23, 2010, 3:57 am
  93. You shabab are trouble. Bored, disgusted and jewicized we almost got watching the erection of this Babel’s Tower, to borrow David’s great metaphor on the 484th floor. Seemed more like Babble’s Tower at times, but when the Queen and I (she’s the addicted one) decided, for the 350th time, to abandon watching over the contest , we realized that we almost threw away gold nuggets along with the gravel:

    “You really do have our number, don’t you? Boy oh boy are your readings nuanced. The fascist Europhiles and their deep thinly veiled hatred of the rabble. The stoic warriors defending their country against tyranny and oppression and endless conspiracies. Mmmm… I love the smell of erudition in the morning.”

    Ouch. Voila Master Qifa, the patient guru with a lightning lash! A ray of fluorescent (you decide the color) ire slashing the darkness of the bored night…

    Now if you think of it, it is not surprising that people who mostly eat at the FLC table get slightly nauseated. For my taste, the menu in that Club amounts to Fast Food. Not enough balance, not to say nuance, to render the complexity of the cuisine of ME politics, in which ingredients are plenty indeed, but difficult to handle and often heavy to stomach. You can tell your friend running that place that the Queen and I hate not knowing the origin of the food too (the links to the source don’t work or are absent too often), as well as the fact that no “livre de reclamations” is available to clients (they don’t take comments).

    Posted by mj | October 23, 2010, 4:00 am
  94. When the Americans used them against Japan, they were the only nation in the world that had them … and were therefore immune to nuclear retaliation.

    In today’s world, investing billions of dollars to build and maintain an arsenal of nuclear weapons is about as effective as impressing or scaring a veteran hooker with a big dick.

    Posted by PeterinDubai | October 23, 2010, 4:08 am
  95. Sahi said:
    “if in Israel, we our overwhelmingly in a minority in our region. There are nearly half a billion Muslims all around us. Are we “safer” by acting as we do? Sikhism, by the way, is also a monotheistic religion. Almost twice as large as ours, with a population of some 23 million. Most of it, in Punjab, India. This religion exists, despite the fact that if it wanted, the Hindu majority could “swallow it up” in an instant.”
    There are many millons of Muslims in India too. It is a well known fact that India is more tolerant, as a rull, to the “other” than most countries and cultures. What about Pakistan ? On the other hand in general Muslim countries are the least tolerant. So comparing Israel – Arabs- Muslim relation to any thing Indian is bad practice.

    New blog, ple e e e ase

    Posted by Rani | October 23, 2010, 4:16 am
  96. Actually, I think it would be interesting to aggregate/compare the net worth of individuals in Lebanon’s dueling coalitions. We could even throw out the outliers (Hariri, Mikati).

    Them would be some fun numbers.

    Regardless, it reminds of Rafik Hariri’s line about the ministers of one of his cabinets: “one third are thieves, one third donkeys.”

    This, of course, is delicious because it leaves open the question of the remaining third: neither, or both?

    494 …

    Posted by david | October 23, 2010, 4:36 am
  97. My last comment was supposed to come right after Qifa’s #462, but then I could only log on after David #484. By the time I was able to send it the tower had got 192 floors high! Not easy to catch with you people in time since you mostly post at fajr time… while we poor third world here in Lebanon have to get up early, so we can struggle with electricity cuts and failing generators!

    Posted by mj | October 23, 2010, 4:49 am
  98. PiD,

    We all felt the tremors…Just trying to get to the penthouse.. 500. 😀

    Posted by danny | October 23, 2010, 7:34 am
  99. Ras Beirut,

    Here’s one for you. What Arab nation was the first, and only, to not only recognize Israel, but also place its embassy in Jerusalem!?! (And no, this is not a fantasy – it did happen!)

    I’ll give you a hint. The embassy was closed barely a year later. And no, it’s not Morocco.


    Posted by Shai | October 23, 2010, 7:38 am
  100. SYRIA….

    Posted by Jim | October 23, 2010, 7:40 am
  101. Mauritania ?

    Posted by Rani | October 23, 2010, 8:16 am
  102. Baroud’s bag man, that one gets me every time.

    Yes, I will try my utmost to find something worth saying today, so that we can begin the countdown again.

    Posted by Qifa Nabki | October 23, 2010, 8:25 am
  103. Let’s give Ras Beirut a chance… but so far, nope! 🙂

    Posted by Shai | October 23, 2010, 9:16 am
  104. Shai, Jordan?

    Posted by Honest Patriot | October 23, 2010, 9:29 am
  105. If not Jordan, Algeria?

    Posted by Honest Patriot | October 23, 2010, 9:31 am
  106. I know Shukri Quwatli (prez of Syria in 1949) offered to sign a peace deal and open an embassy… didn’t happen.

    Posted by Qifa Nabki | October 23, 2010, 9:37 am
  107. Rani,

    #491 The answer to your question is Lebanon, with exception of the Shebaa farms (which needs to be worked out somehow with the help of Syria), and the northern part of the Ghajar village. But for the most part it was delineated by the UN, and wasn’t an easy task. Forgot, the maritime border/economic zone still needs to worked out as well.

    I also think that the border between Syria & Lebanon needs to be demarcated.

    Shai in #499,

    My guess is either Oman or Djibouti. Was not aware of this, but we learn something everyday.

    Posted by Ras Beirut | October 23, 2010, 10:02 am
  108. This just in:


    Saudi Informs Syria that Indictment Postponed Until March

    Semi-official Saudi Arabian sources recently informed Syria that Prosecutor in the Special Tribunal for Lebanon, Daniel Bellemare, is expected to postpone issuing the indictment in the investigation into the assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri until March, reported Al-Akhbar Saturday from informed sources.
    They added that prominent Lebanese sides have also been informed of this in recent days.
    They attributed the delay to further research needed by the international investigation.
    The paper added that the possible postponement came amid new reports from prominent Arab and western intelligence that extremists similar to Al-Qaida may have been behind Hariri’s assassination and not Hizbullah.
    Other intelligence still maintain that undisciplined Hizbullah members were behind the crime, it noted.

    Beirut, 23 Oct 10, 09:14

    Posted by Honest Patriot | October 23, 2010, 12:30 pm
  109. Those behind ALL the assassinations in the Levant since 2002 are the goons of the infamous White House Murder INC,…and their local associates/puppets….headed by the criminal Asef SHAWKAT and their Deep State operatives within Lebanon’s military intelligence….
    Since Asef Shawkat’s elimination of Imad F. MOUGHNIEH in Kafarsoussa in 2008….Syria was shielded from STL and will remain so for good.

    Posted by Jim | October 23, 2010, 1:34 pm
  110. I thought it was appropriate to bring up this “riddle” on this forum because, my friends, that nation was LEBANON!

    Dr. Alon Liel, former Israeli Ambassador to Turkey and South Africa and Director General of the Foreign Ministry, was responsible for helping the Lebanese “Ambassador” find an appropriate location in Jerusalem. The Lebanese ambassador had brought a bunch of cash in a suitcase, and could pick any place of choice. He also asked of Alon Liel to find a… Lebanese flag! That’s right, the first Arab national flag to fly over Jerusalem was Lebanese! Amazing, isn’t it?

    Of course, when Gemayel’s government fell, so did the Jerusalem Lebanese Embassy…

    Posted by Shai | October 23, 2010, 1:47 pm
  111. “that nation was LEBANON”

    No it wasn’t. It was a representative of an illegitimate Israeli puppet govt. led by a illegitimate president Israel installed.

    Posted by usedtopost | October 23, 2010, 2:19 pm
  112. I figured someone was going to say that… 🙂

    UTP, just out of curiosity, when you think of “legitimate”, are you referring mainly to democratically-elected governments, or also to dictatorships, military coups, etc.? Because last time I checked, the first and truly free and democratic elections in the Arab World took place amongst the Palestinians, five years ago.

    Posted by Shai | October 23, 2010, 2:35 pm
  113. Say what you want of Beshir Gemayel, the fact is that he was elected according to the Lebanese Constitution. When the term of former President Lahoud was extended, twists and turns were imposed by pressure from the Syrians to allow this to happen. Although dissatisfied, no one said it was illegitimate. The argument about the illegitimacy of Beshir’s government does not hold. Furthermore, if one puts aside for a moment past deeds of Beshir and focuses on what his intentions and plans were around and after his election as President, one sees a purely national plan meant to benefit all Lebanese. Which is what a Lebanese government should have loyalty for, first and foremost.

    Who killed Beshir and why? It was no one with the best interest of Lebanon in mind.

    Good story, Shai. Very interesting.

    Posted by Honest Patriot | October 23, 2010, 2:55 pm
  114. … and before I get some outraged complaints about my perceived “support” for Beshir, may I please ask that those who plan to do so first do some homework on the speeches, declarations and plans of Beshir around his Presidency.
    Then, before criticizing me, tell us specifically which of the statements in these declarations you have issue with. That should elucidate any real intentions from these critics and where their allegiance rests.

    Posted by Honest Patriot | October 23, 2010, 2:58 pm
  115. HP,

    For me Bashir will always be connected to Sabra and Shatila. As I see it, he was head of a fascist movement that took Israel for a ride. Begin and Sharon wanted to believe what you believe about Bashir. They ignored many voices in Israel that warned them otherwise. I shudder to think how many more Sabra and Shatila incidents there would have been in Lebanon if Bashir would have consolidated power.

    Posted by AIG | October 23, 2010, 3:18 pm
  116. Since many comments have been made about the number of comments and the number of commentators I have spent the last 30 minutes tabulating:
    Total Comments (excluding this one) 514
    Total number of participants………45

    Gold goes to AIG , by a nose………88
    Silvergoes to HP (no cigar :-))……87
    Bronze goes to BV (solid performance)76

    Note that the three posted 251 out of a total of 514 .

    Ras Beirut..7
    Plus Sixteen individuals with one comment each.

    I hope that no one is looking forward to breaking this record of sorts:-)

    Posted by Ghassan Karam | October 23, 2010, 3:27 pm
  117. Utter bullshit again from AIG…
    Read the book of Alain Menargues, ” Les secrets de la guerre du Liban ” and you will discover the true horrors of Sabra Shatila, IDF and the SLA…after the sweep of the Sayaret Metkal’s forces in the firts 24 hours after Bashir’s assassination.

    Posted by Jim | October 23, 2010, 3:29 pm
  118. GK,

    Last time it was QN who published these kind of statistics about Syria Comment and it was used as an excuse to censor me…

    I demand that you do not include this comment in your statistics. 🙂

    Posted by AIG | October 23, 2010, 3:31 pm
  119. Good memory y’all and in case you’re curious here are the statistics that QN had accumulated on Syriacomment.com:

    I moved up in the hierarchy! within a hair of the record setter. If nothing else we should all, with no exception, admire his stamina.

    Posted by Honest Patriot | October 23, 2010, 4:30 pm
  120. AIG, Sabra and Shatila occurred after Beshir Gemayel’s assassination. How can he be blamed for them? As I said, analyzing his far past is a different discussion but the positions and plans he had as he ascended to the presidency were going to indeed transform Lebanon into the Switzerland of the Middle East and put the true interest of the Lebanese, ALL Lebanese, first.

    I don’t know how he would have dealt with the Palestinians but definitely the first order of business was going to be that the State is the only power in the country and so would likely have required the complete disarmament of all militias and all Palestinian guerillas.

    It’s all a moot point now, of course, but the question is who foiled this chance and what were their motivations and what were they afraid of. I can tell you one thing, nowhere in these motivation were the best interests of the Lebanese, nowhere.

    Posted by Honest Patriot | October 23, 2010, 4:35 pm
  121. Jim,

    Why not, quote a book by a known antisemite that was fired from RFI for his racist position. I grant you, it is a little more subtle than the Protocols and Mein Kampf. Why stop a Sabra and Shatila when you can quote from books that show that Jews plan world domination?

    Posted by AIG | October 23, 2010, 4:35 pm
  122. HP,

    Come on, be serious. Bashir’s men were trained and indoctrinated by him. There were many reprisals by Christian militias against innocent Palestinians while Bashir was alive and Bashir never put a stop to that. His followers just did what they thought he would want them to do.

    By the way, were Begin and Sharon thinking of Lebanon’s interests when they hatched their plans of making him king? In fact, I do not know what they were thinking because their whole plan was nonsense and based on the false assumption that Israel has the capabilities to manipulate Lebanese politics.

    Israel does not have the natural connections and sympathies that Syria has nor are we ruthless enough. We also have a government that is too transparent and accountable for these kind of shenanigans. And that is a price I am happy to pay.

    Posted by AIG | October 23, 2010, 4:46 pm
  123. Thanks GK for being the blog secretary.

    Everyone else, take your conversation to the new post. I’m going to shut this one down before it shuts down the Internet.

    Posted by Qifa Nabki | October 23, 2010, 5:08 pm
  124. HP look up the Phalange please? And while you’re at it look up the Falange.

    And I almost regretted throwing around the words “christian fascist”.
    Now I’m sure I don’t.

    Jesus F. Christ.

    Posted by bored and disgusted | October 23, 2010, 7:09 pm
  125. HP,
    Sadat then Bashir? You seem to have a penchant for Arab leaders that betray their own.

    “the fact is that he was elected according to the Lebanese Constitution”
    Seriously? The narrowest election win of any Lebanese President and only so because when the Israelis realised that not enough MP’s had shown up, they rounded up more by gun point.

    That’s legitimate in your eyes?


    “true interest of the Lebanese, ALL Lebanese, first”

    Well, of course all Lebanese except the 10,000 odd that died at the hands of the Israelis in an invasion he co-operated and collaborated in.

    And you don’t consider him a murderer? Samir Geageas mentor, why not ask Tony Frangieh’s little daughter if he is? Oh thats right you can’t, he had her thrown from a window…..

    Posted by usedtopost | October 23, 2010, 7:28 pm
  126. On that note…

    Posted by Qifa Nabki | October 23, 2010, 8:09 pm


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