The IDF’s Criminal Record Again…

 

Expecting the unexpected in Lebanon—or should we say—the very expected?

By Forward Magazine

The unexpected was for this round of battle on the Lebanese-Israeli border to be between the IDF and the Lebanese Army—and not Hizbullah. The expected was for Israel to strike—four days after the Syrian-Saudi Summit in Beirut—in order to drown all Arab initiatives aimed at protecting Lebanon from slipping into chaos. Israel is setting the stage for a new war with Lebanon—clearly from the blatant violation of UNSCR 1701 and its invasion of Lebanese territory on August 2.

Earlier today, a patrol from the IDF crossed the border into Lebanon and was confronted by the Lebanese Army at the Odeissi village in the South. UNIFEL tried to halt the advancement, with little luck, leading to the death of 3 Lebanese soldiers, the wounding of 4, and according to Hizbullah’s al-Manar TV, the killing of a “senior Israeli officer.” The Lebanese Army, with full support of President Michel Suleiman and Army Commander Jean Kahwaji, has stressed self-defense, blaming the IDF for outbreak of hostilities and placing full support behind the Lebanese Army. Speaker of Parliament Nabih Berri called on the Lebanese government to take the matter to the Security Council, words echoed from the other side by Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, who said that the Lebanese Army had violated UNSCR 1701. All parties are currently waiting for a speech by Hasan Nasrallah, expected at 8:30 Beirut time, to lay out the vision for what will happen in the hours ahead.

For four years, all eyes have been on Lebanon, predicting a new war between the IDF and Hizbullah. All objectives set forth by then-Prime Minister Ehud Olmert were not met: the two Israeli soldiers were not released and far from being annihilated, Hizbullah emerged from that battle, stronger than ever before, morally, politically, and militarily. Several consecutive senior Israeli military officials were forced to resign as a result of that war, including the Chief-of-Staff.

It was reasoned for long that the US wanted that war more so than Israel. The Bush White House wanted to prevent Hizbullah-like groups from emerging in failed states throughout the world; in Pakistan, Sudan, and Iraq. The Pentagon wanted the war to test the pulse of Iran’s military abilities prior to waging war against Tehran. The State Department wanted the war because it had adopted the pro-Western cabinet of then-Prime Minister Fouad al-Siniora, which had taken a strong Hizbullah position.

Time and again, that war did not happen. Primarily this was because nobody in Lebanon wanted a new round of battle—certainly not Hizbullah. Additionally Israel was not going to venture into another war, where results were not 100% guaranteed against Hizbullah. Israel was not going to go into another war—and not win. In 1973, Golda Meir resigned from her post as Israeli Prime Minister not because Israel lost the war against Egypt and Syria. She resigned because Israel did not win.   

For months now, however, the Israelis have been setting the stage for a new war in the Middle East. It started with a November 2009 accusation that Iranian arms were discovered on a German ship headed for Hizbullah. Then came a fabricated story in mid-April 2010, claiming that Hizbullah was receiving advanced Scud missiles from Syria. More recently Israeli Army Commander Gaby Ashkenazi further provoked the Lebanese fighters by claiming that an earthquake was in store for them next September, when the Special Tribunal for Lebanon (STL) names Hizbullah officials in the 2005 murder of Rafiq al-Harriri. Last Thursday, Israeli TV came out with a blatant statement, naming a senior Hizbullah commander in the Harriri Affair. Hizbullah—which has repeatedly said that it does not want war but would be ready for it—refuses all blame for Harriri’s blood, claiming that the STL is an “Israeli project” aimed at targeting the Lebanese resistance. Hizbullah would continue to refuse the STL, its leaders stressed, so long as the international probe refuses to even consider Israeli involvement in the Harriri murder.  What Israel could not achieve through bullets and missiles, Hizbullah leader Hasan Nasrallah was saying, it would try to attain through the STL.

What is happening today brings back strong memories of the war of 2006—an Israeli army desperate to strike back at Lebanon and Hizbullah for having enforced the worse defeat on the Jewish State’s history since its creation in 1948.  

President Bashar al-Assad got on the phone with his Lebanese counterpart Michel Suleiman, expressing his country’s full support for the Lebanese in the hostilities that broke out on the border with Israel.

Echoing the Syrian leader’s words were the people of Syria and the Arab World, who have old and grey watching Israel kill whatever chances of peace and stability emerge in the Middle East.

4 Syrians arrested after the Flotilla Affair all released

By Forward Magazine

The four Syrians arrested by Israel for having been onboard the Turkish ship Marmara on Monday, have all been released from Israeli captivity and are now headed for Jordan where they will then leave to Syria.

They include: Shaza Barakat (45), Hasan Rifaii (43), Mohammad Salta (47) and Hilarion Capucci (88) the famous ex-Archbishop of Jerusalem who although Palestinian, holds Syrian nationality. This brings the saga of the Freedom Flotilla, which started last Monday, to an end although justice needs to be done to the 20 civilians killed onboard the ship, 15 of them being Turks, and the 50 others wounded.

Free Shaza Barakat—the only Syrian woman onboard the Freedom Flotilla

Free Shaza Barakat—the only Syrian woman onboard the Freedom Flotilla

 By Forward Magazine, Syria

The only woman onboard the Freedom Flotilla, Shaza Barakat, has been arrested by the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) and taken to a prison within Israel. She happens to be the only Syrian woman among the hundreds of activists who were attacked by the IDF at 4 am on Monday, where 20 civilians were killed, 15 of whom were Turkish citizens.

Shaza, aged 45, was born in the northern city of Idlib in 1965. She is an amateur scriptwriter who currently works as manager of a computer systems academy in Damascus and had formerly served as an instructor of Arabic at the Pakistani International School of Damascus (PISOD). Shaza, a mother of three, dreams of writing a 30-episode drama about the life of Hamas founder Sheikh Ahmad Yassin. Her husband said that he had last spoken to her more than 24-hours ago, before the Freedom Flotilla was stormed by the IDF on May 31.

Forward Magazine calls for international solidarity with Shaza Barakat. She needs to be treated in a human and dignified manner, since she was illegally arrested by the Israelis, having committed no crime except help channel humanitarian aid to Gaza. She needs to be released from Israeli captivity and justice needs to be done to the thousands of those who were terrorized by the IDF earlier this week. Our prayers go out to the 20 civilians killed on Monday.

Heavyweight Arab investor (ART TV’s Saleh Kamel) backs investment in Syria, asks for more reforms

Heavyweight Arab investor backs investment in Syria

ART TV’s Saleh Kamel asks for more reforms

 

Heavyweight Arab investor Saleh Kamel (owner of ART satellite channels) asks for more reforms in Syria. This is an exclusive photo by Forward Magazine-Syria (captured by Nabil Nijem)

 Exclusive English text  – by Forward Magazine, Syria

 

Speaking at the 13th Arab Businessmen and Investors Conference this week in Damascus, Saudi businessman Saleh Kamel raised eyebrows with what was described as a sharp and courageous speech, dealing with investment, red-tape, and corruption in Syria.

Kamel, owner of the popular ART TV, CEO and founder of Dallah al-Baraka Group, addressed President Bashar al-Assad directly in his speech,  saying: “When you came to power, I was among the optimists regarding what lay in store for Syria – a brighter future in all domains, especially economics.” The reasons for this optimism, he noted, still firmly stand, calling, nevertheless, on President Assad to initiate “an Economic Correction Movement that demolishes bureaucracy and dismantles its complexities!”

While praising Assad’s vision and intellectual acumen, Kamel noted there were several malpractices taking place on a regular basis, obstructing the work of investors coming to do business in Syria – “obstacles to which Syria shies away from, and which your aids do not report, in fear of you and for you.”

Kamel made it clear that a heavyweight investor like himself faces no such obstacles, “since if they close the doors before me, I simply, walk in through open windows. What is required is simplifying procedure for ordinary investors!”

Such systematic change will not happen, he warned, “only by passing strict legislation and firm bylaws.” It needs a strong will from the helm of power in Syria that trickles throughout the political command, all the way down to grassroots Syrians, “employees, executives, observers, and ordinary citizens.” Kamel added, “We need to transfer your beliefs and desires to all of those mentioned above. It is high time that different branches of the state catch up with your grand aspirations!” He pointed out in order to move forward, one must not have a situation in which “one wheel is working, while the rest are rusty.”

Tourism industry in Syria: Lagging behind?

Kamel then spoke of the historic and cultural value of Syria, with all its “God-sent endowments and gifts, abilities and privileges.” Syria was a country, he added, “envied by ill-wishers and coveted by the good-willed.” Why then, he asked, “was it lagging behind neighboring Lebanon when it came to tourism? The two countries, after all, share the same eco-space, yet not the same success story, given Lebanon’s flourishing tourism industry.”

 “What is difficult here is to change the mentality of people, transforming them from bureaucrats into tourism-makers, efficient at smiling before incoming visitors at Damascus Airport.” A tourism culture and industry, he added, were no less important than beautiful landscape and historical sites.

 Saleh Kamel floats the idea of starting a $20m company in Syria

Kamel then said that he has been involved in start-up companies that hunt for opportunities in Saudi Arabia, Mali, Senegal, Uganda, and Sudan, worth $2 billion. From the pulpit of the Businessmen Conference, he sought permission to establish a similar company in Syria, with a capital of $20 million. He personally vowed to contribute 50% of the initial capital, along with partners from other Arab states, granted that “we find serious Syrian investors to cover the other half.” The objective of the new company, which he described as “Syria Opportunities” will be to find new investment opportunities in Syria, jumpstart pending or suffocating ones, and expanding existing successful companies. He wrapped up that he wouldn’t call such a project, “Adventure Capital” but rather, “Initiative Capital,” claiming that God created Man to construct the earth, “and construction only happens when there is initiative.” If there were adventure and risk in construction, he said, “Allah the All Aware would not have ordered us to do so!”

Saleh Kamel’s speech elicited strong applause from the conference audience, which has been estimated at 1,000 businessmen from Syria and the Arab world. The 13th Arab Businessmen and Investors Conference, held in Damascus on March 3-4, 2010 is organized by a variety of players including the Arab League and the Syrian Union of Chambers of Commerce. It is held under auspices of President Bashar al-Assad, who was represented at the event, by Prime Minister Mohammad Naji al-Otari.

* Text of Saleh Kamel’s speech was originally published in Arabic in the daily al-Watan, and translated into English with modification by Forward Magazine.

U.S. names Ford as its ambassador to Syria

This is the full text of a Statement by Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs William J. Burns, that Forward Magazine, and other media oulets in Syria, received a few days ago.

February 17, 2010

Good afternoon.  I am pleased to be back in Damascus.  I am here to convey President Obama’s continuing interest in building better relations with Syria based upon mutual interest and mutual respect.  Syria plays an important role in the Middle East and this is a moment in which both Syria and the United States, despite our differences, have a stake in exploring ways in which we might cooperate.

 I had quite productive and extensive discussions with President Assad.  We talked candidly about areas in which we disagree, but also identified areas of common ground on which we can build.  The White House announced yesterday that Robert Ford will be the next American ambassador to Syria if he is confirmed by the U.S. Senate.  That is a clear sign – after five years without an American ambassador in Damascus – of America’s readiness to improve relations and to cooperate in the pursuit of a just, lasting, and comprehensive peace between Arabs and Israelis with progress on all tracks of the peace process, and in the pursuit of regional peace and stability.

To deepen our dialogue as we move forward, Ambassador Dan Benjamin, the State Department’s Coordinator for Counterterrorism, will remain here for another day of meetings.  I have no illusions about the challenges on the road ahead, but my meeting with President Assad leaves me hopeful that we can make progress together in the interest of both of our countries. 

 Thank you very much.

William Burns

Avatar: A commentary on the Palestinian saga (Reading between the lines)

Avatar movie (2009) tells the story of Palestine, according to Syrian sales professional, Soud Atassi (Photo doctored by R. Saqr)

Reading between the lines of AVATAR

By Soud Atassi

AVATAR, for many, is just an American movie about war between the humans and some strange creatures that own a strange living forest that is full of life power. The movie shows us that the American army does not care about humanity, shedding light on how the bad decisions of the highest management of the world can ruin the innocents’ homes and history (American effrontery) and how deceived are the American people!

Why pay to watch such a movie when they can see it in front of their eyes, not in imagination, but for real:

Just look at the map,

Mark on Palestine.

Enjoy the movie!

Please go and watch AVATAR and consider that you are looking at a movie about the Palestinian people, whose tree and home have been uprooted –  just like the tree and homeland of the aliens in AVATAR!

Soud Atassi is the Group Sales Manager at Forward Magazine and Haykal Media

Interview with Syrian entreprenuer Abdulsalam Haykal on ‘The Next Web’

Photo of Abdulsalam Haykal at a Transtek pavillion, Syria (posted on The Next Web)The Next Web blog, an international source of  news and views about the web, posted a recent interview with Syrian entrprenuer Abdulsalam Haykal. With sanctions on Syria getting a recent renewal by Obama’s administration, Haykal views sanctions “both as a blessing and a curse.”

He continues, “In entrepreneurship, the barrier to entry is a crucial factor. Sanctions make the barrier low because competition is less fierce. However, it gives you a cushion that might slow down innovation if all that a country or society seeks is self-sufficiency.”

“Sanctions can limit your access to resources, and your belonging to an international community of peers, and this limits the resourcefulness of a company.”

Haykal is CEO of Transtek, founder and CEO of Haykal Media (Forward Magazine’s mother company), and president and co-founder of SYEA (The Syrian Young Entrepreneurs Association).