Syria: Talkin’ ‘Bout a Revolution This Time?
News from Syria is grim, with over 100 people killed after Friday prayers in mass protests against the authoritarian rule of Bashar Assad and the forty-year dynasty his family has maintained in Syrian politics. Another 11 people were killed on Saturday at funerals for those killed on Friday. NPR news reported on outraged mourners toppling statues of Assad’s father and dynastic founder in various communities and ripping down pictures of the son in acts of defiance that would’ve been unthinkable only a month ago. Activists were heard on air committing themselves to freedom or death.
Syria, like the earlier burgeoning protests of Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, and Yemen seems to be in a middle phase, in which they have become widespread and perhaps unstoppable, but not yet on such a scale that they can imminently threaten to topple the regime. The people of Syria, despite the willingness of the security forces to shed blood on a mass scale, have passed the point of fear and self-preservation inhibiting their participation. They are clearly willing to die for their freedom and in large numbers. This probably indicates that they will eventually succeed. The only question becomes how many more need to die before the ruler and his elites get the message that the holiday is over. And how precisely will this scenario play out.
For Israel and Syria’s other neighbors an added question becomes, who will take over if Assad and his Alawite minority are swept from power? Will it be a caretaker continuing roughly the same policies, but perhaps with a softer hand? Or will it be a marked departure, perhaps a true movement toward democracy? Can this even happen in a society which has known firm control at the hands of the intelligence and security services for decades?
If a democratic force of some kind assumes power in Syria, what will happen to its allegiances with Iran and Hezbollah? And how will it impact relations with Israel? Bibi Netnayahu has been crying in his beer about the big bad Arab revolutions on his border which have made his life such a living hell, not knowing whether the Arab leaders Israeli has bought off will stay bought; and what it will take to re-buy them if new Pharaohs assume the throne. The Israeli PM doesn’t like this Arab democracy thing one bit. Too messy. Too out of control. Too democratic. Who knows what these Arabs might do if you give them democracy and freedom. They might toss out the Sinai treaty in Egypt. They might become even more implacable enemies of Israeli Occupation and supporters of Palestinian freedom. What a terrible thought. That may be why Bibi’s demanding from the U.S. ironclad security guarantees in the event of serious (is that an oxymoron?) peace negotiations, that Arab democracy won’t be allowed to spoil Israel’s party (or threaten its security).
It seems a terrible irony that Bibi Netanyahu and Ehud Olmert may yet live to rue the day that they looked coldly on Bashar Assad’s outstretched hand and spurned it. Imagine that Olmert had the possibility of peace with Syria in his back pocket and instead chose to invade Gaza. What a terrible waste! Now, instead of peace Israel gets a big imponderable question mark. Things could get worse, far worse under a successor. And if they do, Israel will have only itself to blame for what might have been.
47 thoughts on “Syria: Talkin’ ‘Bout a Revolution This Time? – Tikun Olam תיקון עולם إصلاح العالم”
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bashar’s outstretched hand ?
he refused to begin negotiations until israel first promised a withdrawel from the golan heights.
ah, even explaining it to you is worthless, you’re just spouting the same old stuff by people who refuse to face reality or are just misinformed\ignorant.
Virtually every Israeli PM except Bibi has accepted that Israel will return the Golan. It’s no big hidush for Assad to demand the return of Golan. You & virtually every Israeli knows the Golan will be returned whatever views about this you might have. It is Syrian territory conquered in war. It has to be returned acc. to international law.
aside from the debate i might have with you on the golan’s ownership, let’s talk about the peace negotiations themselves :
why did rabin fail, and barak and olmert ?
they are not bibi the evil, they are good leftists souls.
so why did they fail if they offered what “everyone” knows is the price ?
They didn’t “fail.” They chose for the negotiations to fail. In Olmert’s case it was a choice to make war on Gaza. In Barak’s case, he simply lost the will to expend the political capital to sell the deal to the Israeli people.
You want peace with Syria without a withdrawal from the Golan Heights? Keep on dreaming.
1/12th of 1% of the entire land mass of Syria. Virtually uninhabitted except by a few Druze Villages whose inhabatants have as many relatives in Israel as they do in Syria.
The only thing Syria needs the Golan for is to threaten Israel.
THey should keep dreaming about getting it back. If they truely want peace, theywill come to the table with more.
I see, they should offer you more of their territory than just a measly 1%. Good luck in the negotiations…
Israel wants to negotiate without preconditions.
Israel doesn’t want to negotiate with Syria at all under any conditions. Bibi has spurned negotiations with Assad on various pretexts. Olmert did negotiate & almost came to an agreement but turned to war instead of signing it. Barak had an agreement on his desk which he spurned as well when he got cold feet.
even if i said yes, the syrians always backed down.
rabin almost reached an agreement with them, bibi almost reached an agreement with them, barak almost reached an agreement with them.
see a pattern ?
assad prefers to supports hizballa and hold lebanon a hostage then have peace.
than have peace, not then.
(just to be sure i’m not misunderstood).
You’re ignorant. Assad NEVER backed down. Barak had a treaty sitting on his desk waiting for a signature. HE backed down, not Assad. See a pattern? Where do you get yr twisted history? Who told you such bubbe meisehs?
He did back down, but it was mostly due to Bush’s administration “Axis of Evil” policy, which literally forbade the negotiations.
Of course, a great part of it also relied on Barak Incompetence as a politician and his lack of human relations skills.
Do not suspect me as some sort of a Barak supporter, as I would be glad to see this murderous maniac disappear into the trash can of history.
However, Barak was pressing towards a peace agreement with Syria, and continued doing so, not due to some moral responsibility or concern for the Arab villages as to his tactical belief that such an agreement will disconnect Syria’s relations with Iran.
you’re embarrasing yourself.
barak went to shpherdstown, assad didn’t.
so he sent his foreign minister who refused even to shake his hand.
the syrians refuse to have peace, why did rabin fail ?
he gave assad a letter with promises, why did rabin fail ??
The treaty was sitting on Barak’s desk. The Syrians had signed on. You can spin this any way you wish, but the plain fact is that Barak had a treaty & refused to sign.
i reply to me , cause i can’t to richard for some reason.
this “signed agreement on the table” :
where the hell is this coming from ?
Geez, you musta missed this. Where were you in 2000? In yr mama’s womb? And this is from a right wing pro Israel source:
You are right…Assad never backed down….He never showed up.
I don’t care where Assad was or wasn’t or whether he showed up or didn’t. You know as well as I because it’s common knowledge that Barak had the peace agreement on his table & refused to sign it. This will be the last comment on this subject. I’m getting tired of hearing such nonsense. If you want to believe the moon is made of green cheese that’s your prerogative. But don’t bore us with your false notions. I’ve got better things to do here.
Richard, stop dragging Israel into everything. Israel didn’t “buy off” any Arab leader, that’s nonsense. I see that you resent Mubarak because he maintained the peace treaty with Israel, but that has nothing to do with Israel anyone off.
I too hope that a Democracy will emerge in Syria. I’m not placing any bets on it. Before a society can become a Democracy, it must go through a gradual process of liberalization. Unfortunately, the Syrian society does not appear to be at that stage.
And as a comment, I find it quite odd that a so-called “lover” of Israel wishes that Egypt breaks its peace treaty with Israel.
Israel didn’t “buy off” Mubarak & his cronies? Then why are he & his former oil ministers being questioned about the sweetheart gas deal negotiated bet. Egypt & Israel?? C’mon. Israel will use whatever tool is at its disposal to buy the acquiescence of its potential enemies. If not, it simply bulldozes them with its military power.
I didn’t say I wanted the treaty broken. Read more carefully & characterize my views more precisely. I’d like to see a new Egyptian gov’t use the treaty as a lever to promote good behavior on Israel’s part. And yes, if Israel refused to negotiate a peace treaty with Palestine & Syria, then I think threatening to break the Sinai treaty would be appropriate.
richard silverstein is not an israeli lover.
if you look to the left he has a link to zochrot, an israeli crazy people org. which calls for the right of return.
this fake jew silverstein would like millions of arabs to return to israel, while he sips tea and whatever in california.
he is not an israeli lover, make no mistakes here.
The right of return definitely isn’t incompatible with love for Israeli people. It’s an act of love for everyone. As Zochrot’s founder put it so eloquently in the open letter he wrote to the Palestinian refugees last Nakba Day:
“Our humanity is bound up with your right to return. The day we expelled you from your land you carried a part of it with you…When you return these empty towns and villages will be filled with people, they will be bursting with life and will stop being only a testimony for death and sad memories as they have been for 62 years. Filling up these spaces will also fill up the empty space in my own humanity.
Your right to return is my opportunity and that of all Israelis to begin restoring our humanity.”
These aren’t the words of a crazy person, just a very compassionate one. You only see him as crazy because you see Palestinians as a threat, and you don’t understand why anybody would view them differently. Eitan Bronstein and the Zochrot members have moved beyond fear. They would like their fellow Israelis to move beyond it as well.
influx of 3-5 millions of people to israel ?
it will ruin the economy, sky rocket tensions, excite the palestinians.
it will mean civil war in israel, and the north front along with the palestinian will combust.
you are deluded if you think this will bring anything other than war and much much bloodshed.
(for the record it is also unjust for the jews, but what the hell do you care about that ?)
God,we’ve already discussed this. Here we go again: NO ONE estimates anywhere near that number would actually return. The best estimates I’ve heard claim several hundred thousand would return over a multi yr period. Israel has absorbed far more over the yrs
Richard is right. The most generous estimate on the number of returnees that I have heard is one million. There are Diaspora Palestinians who have crafted lives for themselves away from Palestine and who would not go back; what they want is just the acknowledgement that a crime was committed against them, the right to visit (currently many of them are forbidden even from doing that), and finally what Dr Ghada Karmi (a ’48 refugee from Qatamon) calls ‘the right to say goodbye’. Under the terms of a just peace, those refugees who have built lives for themselves elsewhere and do not want to return permanently to Palestine could choose to receive financial compensation instead.
As for the right of return being ‘unjust to Jews’, please bear in mind that under current aliyah laws an orthodox rabbi from Sweden, an American convert to liberal Judaism, and a totally secular descendent of Jewish grandparents are all entitled to move to Israel – even if they have no family there and have never set foot in the place in their lives. The Israeli government sets no cap on the number of olim. Yet it is somehow ‘unjust to Jews’ for Palestinians who were forcibly driven out to return to the homes that they actually lived in. The end of Zionism means the end of special privileges for Jews that are not accorded to Palestinians. I know that some Israelis see this as a terrible injustice, but that is only because they are used to the idea that privilege and prejudice are their inalienable right.
As for there being much bloodshed, I will tell you a story from the Shatila refugee camp. In 2006 a British playwright, Guy Mortimer, established a girls’ drama group in the camp. They had never heard of a theatre before or even seen a play, but within weeks they were rehearsing a performance of Guy’s folktale ‘Croak, the King, and a Change in the Weather’. In the play, Croak and the King are wicked tyrants who oppress their people, and at the end justice is served when they die. But the girls performing the play in Shatila weren’t happy with the ending. They asked Peter to make the king and Croak turn out good so that they could live as well.
There is not one family in Shatila who didn’t lose a loved one during the massacre. The camp is chronically overcrowded and destitute, with no privacy, no sanitation system, a terribly high rate of unemployment, and a school so severely underresourced and crowded that the children have to go to school in shifts. Yet these same children made it clear to the world that they aren’t interested in harming anybody, not even those who have harmed them. The play was edited accordingly and performed to a packed theatre in Beirut. The girls have subsequently toured the UK with it. There is a beautiful article about them here:
It’s on page 36.
I can get quite angry/frustrated when I hear Israelis talking as though returning Palestinian refugees pose some existential threat. I’m slowly learning to feel happy for you instead. You’ll have a much nicer and more cheerful life once you realise that the world’s Palestinians aren’t plotting en masse against you. It’s a wonderful discovery you’ve got waiting. 🙂
I feel privileged you are a reader & commenter here, Vicky.
Concerning Ghada Karmi:
There’s a good paper by her on the net in pdf (I don’t manage to link it): The 1948 Exodus: A Family Story.
And when you know that the Karmi family’s house in Qatamon is owned by the New York Times and actually inhabited by their Jerusalem correspondant, Ethan Bronner, one might understand if Ghada Karmi feels kind of sick …
All Ghada Karmi’s writings are recommendable – particularly her signature on the One State Proposal 😉 – and there’s a lot of good articles linked on her wikipedia entry.
Particularly, her memoir “In Search for Fatima” and her latest book “Married to Another Man: Israel’s Dilemma in Palestine”, which refers to a letter sent back to the Zionist Organization in Vienna in 1897 by two Rabbis inspecting Palestine as an eventual Jewish homeland. The letter contains the sentence (by memory): “The bride is beautiful, but she’s already married to another man” ;-(
I just found out that this has been posted on the net last week:
“Milh hadha al-bahri” (The Salt of this Sea), a film by Annemarie Jacir with Suheir Hammad and Saleh Bakri (the son of the other Bakri, Mohammad). It was selected for the Cannes Festival, and I hope that particularly the Israelis around here will see it or keep it for a rainy day):
We follow her through the airport interrogation (no body search though), the visit in the family home now inhabited by someelse …
Maybe ‘the unjust for the Jews’ would change his mind, even slightly. And then Suheir Hammad is beautiful, and Saleh Bakri, don’t even talk about it …
Der yassin, can u please elaborate on the one state proposal? Id really like to know whats proposed there.
If you lie about my views & mischaracterize them you will be moderated. Do NOT tell me what I am or am not. Your opinion earns little respect around here.
Ehud Olmert recognized the Right of Return as does the Geneva Accords. The fact that you think support for ROR is traitorous to Israel tells us eons about yr own ideological blinders & extremism.
Now, you’ve earned moderation. If you make a single slip & violate a single comment rule you will be gone. I have no patience for your nonsense. Read the rules, buddy.
California? I know Israeli sense of geography can be a bit skewed, but Calif. is only 1,000 miles from here.
The ending of the essay was a bit odd.
A suggestion that Israel might regret not having accepted Assad’s demand that the Golan be returned to Syria as a condition for talks in the same essay that suggested that the Egyptians might tear up the peace treaty that saw Israel return the Sinai in exchange for peace strikes me as being a bit unfocused.
Of course, if the focus is merely on busting Bibi’s chops (usually warranted) rather than concentrating on Syria, that’s something else.
Syria under Assad(s) has been no friend to Israel, and while returning Syrian land to Syrian control is action good in itself, as a tactical matter Israel, by having retained the land, retains the ability to reward whatever Syrian regime, Assad-led or not, willing to deal with israel in a less hostile manner.
Not having accepted Assad’s terms is likely to be something for which Israel will have no regret.
You completely mischaracterize Syria’s offer which was return of the Golan in return for peace, not in return for negotiations.
By retaining Syrian land, Israel gains nothing. By returning the land it gains peace with Syria. You can’t have peace unless you return the land. Assad has told you he would sue for peace if you return the territory & no Israeli leader has taken him up on it. Those are the facts. Deal with them & don’t twist them.
by retaining Syrian land, Israel retains the ability to return Syrian land at a time that suits Israel, Richard, and to return it as a reward and buttress to a regime that’s not a committed enemy.
and no, I do not entirely “mischaracterize” Assad’s offer. I believe that you mistake what Assad was offering. It wasn’t anything beyond a ‘thanks for the Golan” and what presently prevails.
Retaining territory conquered in war is not a favor Israel does for itself, Syria or the rest of the world & yr condesencion in so describing it is offensive.
Yes, you DO mischaracterize Assad’s offer. Again, this is at the Jewish Virtual Library, right wing pro Israel site. Here is but a small part of the treaty in which Assad allegedly offered “nothing” to Israel:
I don’t think Assad’s regime is soon to disappear. The difference between Syria, Lybia and Iran, and Egypt, is that in Egypt the military was not personally dependant on Mubarak. In Syria and in Iran the Special Forces are private armies, with highly-maintained discipline and weaponry. The protestors might be willing to die for freedom, but so long as they do not have tanks and artillery, their right cause and willingness will not help them much, sadly.
The international world should be interfering as it did in Belgrade, with air strikes and armed forces helping the protestors. Since Syria is not a great interest for the western world as it does not hold most of the oil, this is also unlikely.
It will also not interfere with the dangerous fundamental right wing regime in Israel that is endangering the whole Middle East, since it has a major effect in the U.S republican policy, and so Obama’s policy seems carful towards that government.
In Short, the bad guys still control everything,
And we are likely the ones who would pay the price for their ignorance and stupidity.
The Syrian regime may endure, but it will be challenged.
The international world is watching.
And the US and France will be pressing Assad
Yes, they will keep saying that Assad should not use violence against his people and so forth. Just as they tick off Netanyahu or the Kremlin as good friends.
I think that Obama should have taken a much more active line with relation to the Middle East revolutions and also to Israel’s refusal to promote peace. His policy starts to resemble Wilson’s and Carter’s Naivety, and seems less calculated than I thought before.
He should have actively support the demonstrations in Iran and in Syria as he did in Lybia. It Seems as if he is afraid to go into a public confrontation with the stronger and more aggressive players in the game.
you’re not correct about this admin being naive.
you might find that the O admin has been actively engaged with the Syrians. there were reasons that they decided to re-open relations with Assad and appoint an ambassador to fill a post long vacant.
and I suspect that those reasons were arising from springs far from naivete.
So you beleive that the syrians are right, and that the demonstrations were provoked by a U.S secret involvment in Syria? I find that hard to beleive, but I will beleive it if it had some evidence. So far, Obama seems reluctant to take a clear stand againts Assad regime, as he did with Mubarak.
“..Israel will have only itself to blame”
You really need to patent this one.
I was under the impression that the Golan Heights was important, directly or indirectly, in securing Israel’s water supply. For example, Sharif S. Elmusa, in his book “Water Conflict,” says (p. 56): “After Israel’s seizure of the Golan Heights, the entire trunk of the upper Jordan came under Israeli control.” Richard or anyone else have info on this, one way or the other? Thanks.
Yes, of course it gives Israel enormous control of this important natural resource. But Israel has no right to retain this territory in order to steal water rights for itself.
So Syria should get control of every feeder to the Kinneret so that it can steal water it does not need just as it did in 1964.
Duhay- if you’re talking “should” then yeah, Syria should get control of all the territory and resources that belong to Syria.
Israel doesn’t get to keep Syrian territory because Syria committed acts that violate international laws and agreements about water rights.
If that were the case, Israel would be in line to catch hell for all the water from the occupied West Bank that it takes for its own.
“So you beleive that the syrians are right, and that the demonstrations were provoked by a U.S secret involvment in Syria?”
no, I believe quite the opposite, that the US involvement was chiefly with cozying up to Assad in hope of cutting a deal that would enlarge the Syrian rift with Iran caused by the Iranians marginalizing the Syrian role in Lebanon.
the demonstrations and the publicity being given to the layers of secret police and the ruthlessness of the Baathist regime are a complication that threatens to make untenable another US deal with a dictator.