I woke up on Friday morning--a weekend in the Arab and Muslim world--and turned on the TV in customary fashion, to hear the news. The normal stories were being mercilessly debated to death: Iran, Gaza, Iraq, Lebanon, Sudan. In a small note, running on the news bar of al-Jazeera, were the words, "American pop icon, Michael Jackson, dies at 50." I could not believe what I was reading, and grabbed the remote control to switch to CNN, NBC, and BBC. The world was ablaze with news that the King of Pop had died in Los Angeles.
June 26, 2009 3:21 PM
June 24, 2009 2:20 PM
I think that the Iranian elections should make everybody sit back, take a deep breath, and try to see whether they really understand the dynamics of Iranian politics. Some are covering the "developing Iranian story" from the luxury of faraway places like Washington, D.C., London, and Paris. From their air conditioned offices, they write story after story on Iran, typing away on their laptops, frantic either to meet publication deadlines, make an extra buck (if they are freelancers), or simply, add spice to an event that is seen by everybody as "a hot topic." Most of those who are writing on Iran have never been to Tehran, and never met a post-1979 Iranian politician in their lives. They fall in the trap of getting "taken away" by what Western audiences want to hear and see, basically, that the Iranian regime is about to collapse, because of fraud and corruption, any minute now.
Reading stories in the Western press reminded me of a cartoon showing ten U.S. presidents, from Dwight Eisenhower to George W. Bush, saying: "Any minute now, Fidel Castro will fall!" Castro actually survived all of them, and stepped down at will because of illness and old age, bequeathing power to his brother, and neither the cunning of Kennedy nor the might of Reagan or the diplomacy of Clinton, were able to bring down America's cigar-chomping nemesis. Cuba was simply too strong to fall that easily. And the same applies to Iran, which has survived every US administration since Jimmy Carter. It has outlived two Reagan presidencies, Bush Senior, two Clinton administrations, two Bush administrations, and is likely to survive, Barack Obama as well. Simply put, Iran--like Cuba--is too strong to fall that easily.
January 23, 2009 10:55 AM
The Current Discussion:What's the biggest mistake Barack Obama could make in his first six months in foreign policy?
PostGlobal asks what mistakes Barack Obama should avoid during his first 6 months in office. The answer seems crystal clear to observers from Damascus. Ask any ordinary Syrian, and he or she would reply: turning a blind eye to Israel's war machine in the Arab world would ruin Barack Obama's image in the eyes of ordinary Arabs.
January 12, 2009 2:32 PM
The Current Discussion: What's the most likely outcome of Israel's invasion of Gaza? A wider war? A Hamas defeat? Just more of the same?
Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert seemed to be living on another planet when he recently said, "We have never agreed that anyone decide for us if we are allowed to strike at those who send missiles into our kindergartens and schools, and we never will."
One week ago, Israeli President Shimon Peres appeared on Al-Jazeera TV, saying that no Palestinian civilians were being targeted in Gaza, and asking the anchor, Mohammad Kreshan, "Why are they doing this to us; why don't they want us to live in peace? We are not targeting children; they are!" The Doha-based Arabic channel--running the interview live on air--immediately sliced the screen in half and showed footage of blood-stained Palestinian children, some blown into pieces, challenging the Israeli President's argument.
The President of Israel and his Prime Minister were seemingly not watching the news to see whose kindergartens and schools were being hit by missiles. As of the afternoon of January 11, the death counter in Gaza has reached 919, including 275 Palestinian children. Olmert added, "No country in the world, even those preaching morals to us, would have shown the tolerance and restraint that we have!"
What restraint, the Arabs were loudly asking? Israel was using absolute and unacceptable force, violating every law there was to break in the Geneva Convention. As of this weekend, nearly 1,000 Palestinians have perished, as compared to 13 Israelis, in addition to 4263 Palestinians wounded. Of the Palestinians killed, nearly 225 died on the first day of the offensive, December 27, 2008. A total of 46 were killed--in cold blood--in one strike on an UNRWA school in Gaza, and on January 3, the IDF attacked the Ibrahim al-Maqadna mosque in Beit Lahiya packed with 200 Palestinian worshippers during evening prayer. Thirteen people, including six children, were killed.
November 5, 2008 3:47 PM
At this stage, the talks can be seen from different angles. From the Saudi point of view, or that of the March 14 Coalition, these talks are a threat that the Syrians are back on their way to re-establishing themselves in the Middle East. Many in Lebanon are not comfortable with that, thinking that any peace deal with the Israelis would also mean eventual normalization with the US as well. This normalization, they believe, would be at the expense of Lebanon, the Harriri Tribunal and the Syrian Accountability Act. But except for the lip service offered by Condoleezza Rice to Foreign Minister Mouallem, the United States has offered little interest in the talks. This plays nicely into the hands of the Saudis and Lebanese who do not want Bush on board in the talks; because as long as the Americans do not support the talks, they will never materialize.
October 6, 2008 12:53 PM
The Current Discussion: A London publishing house was firebombed for agreeing to publish 'The Jewel of Medina', a controversial novel about Muhammad's wife, which Random House dropped earlier this year because it feared terrorist threats. In hindsight, was Random House in the right? Does this justify censorship of this kind in the future?
The latest controversy over the book, "The Jewel of Medina" has caused a storm among intellectual circles worldwide. It is a novel by Sherry Jones, scheduled for publication by Random House in August 2008. The project was canceled, and moved to the U.K., because it tells a fictitious tale about Aisha Bint Abu Bakr, the daughter of Islam's first Caliph and second wife of the Prophet Mohammad.
September 15, 2008 10:34 AM
The Current Discussion: Australia is suffering from a drought of men - about 100,000 of them, most of whom have gone overseas to travel and work. China has the opposite problem - a shortage of women. Which is the more worrisome problem? Should we be worrying about a "depopulation bomb?"
When Syria declared its independence in 1946, an optimistic Prime Minister Jamil Mardam Bey famously declared:
"Syria has been subjected to more trial since the armistice (in 1918) than any other Near Eastern country. All is not lost, however, there is room for hope. The territory we have been left with, greater than the area covered by Belgium, Holland, and Switzerland put together, is a vast playing field for our young people and for their entrepreneurial spirit. The Syrian soil is fertile, we produce cereals, cotton, fruit. We have oil. Our artisans are some of the most ingenious in the world. Our people are sober, tough, resigned and hard-working. Syrians are found all over the world, and everywhere they occupy important positions. The past and the future are ours. We have every reason to believe that Syria will survive."
Mardam Bey never imagined that Syrians would start flocking out of Syria in large numbers as a result of the never-ending coups and counter-coups that shocked Damascus starting in 1949, and climaxed with the ill-fated Syrian-Egyptian Union of 1958. The only logical thing for an optimist like him was for Syrians to learn, live, work, and die in Syria. He never imagined that one day, during his life-time, major depopulation would start in Damascus.
July 14, 2008 10:53 AM
The Current Discussion: The G-8 summit is Bush's last hurrah as a world leader. What's one thing he can do to strengthen his legacy?
I don’t think Bush needs to strengthen his legacy. It has already been deeply engraved in the history of the Middle East. George W. Bush has in fact ruined the Middle East.
No words can describe my anger at what the United States has tolerated or promoted in the Middle East under the Bush White House. The list is long: the war on Iraq, Abu Ghraib, Haditha, Falluja, Mosul, the war on Lebanon, Qana, and not to forget, the circus in Palestine, the killing in Jenin, and the siege in Gaza, topped with the elimination of Yasser Arafat, a democratically elected leader. These images have always reminded me of Sept. 11, 2001. The blood of these children—in Lebanon, Palestine, Iraq—is no less valuable than that of Americans killed at the Twin Towers. Many Americans have been sending me “hate mail” recently, saying that the Bush Administration has been good to the Arabs and is trying to bring peace, security, and democracy to the Middle East. Sorry to tell them that this White House will be remembered for Abu Ghraib. It will be remembered for the atrocities in Gaza. It will be remembered for Qana.
June 19, 2008 11:34 AM
The Current Discussion:A new poll finds widespread mistrust of world leaders. Are trustworthy national leaders a thing of the past? If not, who's an exception?
I have always been interested in ‘role models.’ Whenever I conduct a personal interview with famous Syrians, I always wrap up with one question, “Who are your inspirational figures; who are your role models in life?” A role model by definition can be a friend or a family member, a living celebrity, or a long-gone iconic figure. I have gotten a colorful variety of answers over the years.
I once administered a survey to my students, three different classes in two consecutive semesters. These were well-to-do Syrians, students at the Faculty of International Relations, born in the mid- to late 1980s. I then administered expanded the same survey to include Syrians of a different age group and different social strata. One question was, “Who is your inspirational figure in life?” This was shortly after last summer’s war in Lebanon and I expected them to say, “Hasan Nasrallah.” So it was a surprise to me when over 60% came out with “None! We don’t have any inspirational figures in our life.” Their parents’ generation would have probably replied, “Gamal Abdul-Nasser.” These young people, however, did not have motivating figures to look up to—nobody to view as a role model. That was a sad reality.
May 23, 2008 3:23 PM
Young nations—like young people—sometimes do crazy things. The Syrian Republic was 28 years old when the Golan Heights were occupied in 1967. Young, passionate, spirited—and foolish—it dragged itself, and everybody around it, into a imbalanced war with Israel. The rest is history. Six days later, Israel occupied the Golan Heights, the Sinai Peninsula, the West Bank, and Jerusalem. Today, 41 years later, the scar and its permanent distortion of the Arab psyche remain strongly imprinted in the Syrian, Jordanian, and Egyptian mindsets.
The Syrians did go to war in 1948 or 1967 for the Golan Heights. They went to war for Palestine. Many long years have since passed, and four generations have grown up, hearing of the Golan. We still speak nostalgically about it—certain that it is going to be restored at some point in our lifetime, through a peace process that was started at Madrid after the Gulf War. We have written thousands of poems, authored hundreds of books, produced dozens of documentaries, and named endless projects, factories, and monuments, after the Golan. This week, hopes were raised, for the first time in years, that the Golan was on its way to being restored to Syria. Damascus, Tel Aviv, and Ankara announced, within an interval of no more than five minutes, that peace talks were underway between Syria and Israel, under patronage of the Turks.
- The King of Pop in the Muslim World, Too
- Learning from Cuba and Dwight Eisenhower
- Palestinian Land, Freedom, and Justice
- Israel's Leadership Out Of Touch On Gaza
- Region's Dynamic Will Change, Regardless of the Outcome
- Defending Aisha
- Syrian Population Rides Political Tides
- Bush's Mideast Dishonor
- Wanted: Inspiring Syrian Heroes
- Syria's Misguided Optimism
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