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April 21, 2014

Andrew Silow-Carroll: Passoverkill? Suggestions to make next year's seders even more culturally sensitive

Sara Israelsen Hartley: Seeking the Divine: An ancient connection in a new context

Christine M. Flowers: Priest's execution in Syria should be call to action

Courtnie Erickson: How to help kids accept the poor decisions of others

Lizette Borreli: A Glass Of Milk A Day Keeps Knee Arthritis At Bay

Lizette Borreli: 5 Health Conditions Your Breath Knows Before You Do

The Kosher Gourmet by Betty Rosbottom Coconut Walnut Bars' golden brown morsels are a beautifully balanced delectable delight

April 18, 2014

Rabbi Yonason Goldson: Clarifying one of the greatest philosophical conundrums in theology

Caroline B. Glick: The disappearance of US will

Megan Wallgren: 10 things I've learned from my teenagers

Lizette Borreli: Green Tea Boosts Brain Power, May Help Treat Dementia

John Ericson: Trying hard to be 'positive' but never succeeding? Blame Your Brain

The Kosher Gourmet by Julie Rothman Almondy, flourless torta del re (Italian king's cake), has royal roots, is simple to make, . . . but devour it because it's simply delicious

April 14, 2014

Rabbi Dr Naftali Brawer: Passover frees us from the tyranny of time

Greg Crosby: Passing Over Religion

Eric Schulzke: First degree: How America really recovered from a murder epidemic

Georgia Lee: When love is not enough: Teaching your kids about the realities of adult relationships

Cameron Huddleston: Freebies for Your Lawn and Garden

Gordon Pape: How you can tell if your financial adviser is setting you up for potential ruin

Dana Dovey: Up to 500,000 people die each year from hepatitis C-related liver disease. New Treatment Has Over 90% Success Rate

Justin Caba: Eating Watermelon Can Help Control High Blood Pressure

The Kosher Gourmet by Joshua E. London and Lou Marmon Don't dare pass over these Pesach picks for Manischewitz!

April 11, 2014

Rabbi Hillel Goldberg: Silence is much more than golden

Caroline B. Glick: Forgetting freedom at Passover

Susan Swann: How to value a child for who he is, not just what he does

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Financial Tasks You Should Tackle Right Now

Sandra Block and Lisa Gerstner: How to Profit From Your Passion

Susan Scutti: A Simple Blood Test Might Soon Diagnose Cancer

Chris Weller: Have A Slow Metabolism? Let Science Speed It Up For You

The Kosher Gourmet by Diane Rossen Worthington Whitefish Terrine: A French take on gefilte fish

April 9, 2014

Jonathan Tobin: Why Did Kerry Lie About Israeli Blame?

Samuel G. Freedman: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Jessica Ivins: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Kim Giles: Asking for help is not weakness

Kathy Kristof and Barbara Hoch Marcus: 7 Great Growth Israeli Stocks

Matthew Mientka: How Beans, Peas, And Chickpeas Cleanse Bad Cholesterol and Lowers Risk of Heart Disease

Sabrina Bachai: 5 At-Home Treatments For Headaches

The Kosher Gourmet by Daniel Neman Have yourself a matzo ball: The secrets bubby never told you and recipes she could have never imagined

April 8, 2014

Lori Nawyn: At Your Wit's End and Back: Finding Peace

Susan B. Garland and Rachel L. Sheedy: Strategies Married Couples Can Use to Boost Benefits

David Muhlbaum: Smart Tax Deductions Non-Itemizers Can Claim

Jill Weisenberger, M.S., R.D.N., C.D.E : Before You Lose Your Mental Edge

Dana Dovey: Coffee Drinkers Rejoice! Your Cup Of Joe Can Prevent Death From Liver Disease

Chris Weller: Electric 'Thinking Cap' Puts Your Brain Power Into High Gear

The Kosher Gourmet by Marlene Parrish A gift of hazelnuts keeps giving --- for a variety of nutty recipes: Entree, side, soup, dessert

April 4, 2014

Rabbi David Gutterman: The Word for Nothing Means Everything

Charles Krauthammer: Kerry's folly, Chapter 3

Amy Peterson: A life of love: How to build lasting relationships with your children

John Ericson: Older Women: Save Your Heart, Prevent Stroke Don't Drink Diet

John Ericson: Why 50 million Americans will still have spring allergies after taking meds

Cameron Huddleston: Best and Worst Buys of April 2014

Stacy Rapacon: Great Mutual Funds for Young Investors

Sarah Boesveld: Teacher keeps promise to mail thousands of former students letters written by their past selves

The Kosher Gourmet by Sharon Thompson Anyone can make a salad, you say. But can they make a great salad? (SECRETS, TESTED TECHNIQUES + 4 RECIPES, INCLUDING DRESSINGS)

April 2, 2014

Paul Greenberg: Death and joy in the spring

Dan Barry: Should South Carolina Jews be forced to maintain this chimney built by Germans serving the Nazis?

Mayra Bitsko: Save me! An alien took over my child's personality

Frank Clayton: Get happy: 20 scientifically proven happiness activities

Susan Scutti: It's Genetic! Obesity and the 'Carb Breakdown' Gene

Lecia Bushak: Why Hand Sanitizer May Actually Harm Your Health

Stacy Rapacon: Great Funds You Can Own for $500 or Less

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Ways to Save on Home Decor

The Kosher Gourmet by Steve Petusevsky Exploring ingredients as edible-stuffed containers (TWO RECIPES + TIPS & TECHINQUES)

Jewish World Review Dec. 9, 2011 13 Kislev, 5772

Syrian-American observer predicts Assad's ouster and voices concern for human rights

By Heather Robinson



http://www.JewishWorldReview.com | In the wake of the Arab League's decision to impose a battery of sanctions against the Syrian regime, I sat down with Ahmad (name has been changed for security reasons), a 37-year-old restaurateur who grew up in Syria and returns frequently to visit family there. Ahmad and I last spoke in May after Assad's government forces had killed about 1,000 protestors. The death toll is now estimated to be more than 4,000.

Supporters of human rights and democracy who value the security and rights of innocent people around the world, including in the U.S. and Israel, can't help but wonder if this rare stand on the part of the Arab League —and the likely possibility that Syrian dictator Bashar al Assad is on his way out—are positive, or whether one is smarter evaluating these developments from a cautious standpoint.

Ahmad is a Christian whose family still lives in Damascus. He returns there frequently to visit and thus can provide insight and primary source information on some of what is happening in a country that is virtually cut off from world media.

Last spring, he predicted that the government of Bashar al-Assad would continue to "crack down" harshly on pro-democracy protestors "despite all th[e regime has] said" — a reference to the pledge, in March, by Assad to reform his government.

Unfortunately, subsequent events proved Ahmad right: since last spring, Assad's government has escalated its tactics against the largely peaceful protestors, killing so many civilians in an action in the town of Hama some dubbed it the "Ramadan massacre."

Reports also surfaced of the Syrian government's allegedly murdering prominent dissidents, such as songwriter Ibrahim Qashoush, dubbed the "nightingale of the revolution," who was discovered with his throat cut out. Unthinkably, reports also surfaced of Syria's detaining, torturing, mutilating and killing even children who attended protests.

At present, 4000 Syrians are estimated to have died at the hands of their government. Given his prescience last spring, I thought now would be a good time to get in touch with Ahmad and get his take on how these events might affect not only Syria but the Gulf States, Israel, and the world.

Ahmad emigrated from Syria in 1999 and became an American citizen shortly thereafter. He has family—his mother, brother, and other relatives—in Syria, and he visits about once a year. He is owner of a terrific restaurant in a midsize Eastern seaboard city. With his friendly, warm, and uncommonly sunny personality, as well as his restaurant's significant Jewish clientele (including this journalist), Ahmad has a gift for getting along with people of all backgrounds. He tells me that he monitors the situation in Syria closely through Arab web sites and the Syrian Revolution Facebook page.

Ahmad says that he didn't experience prejudice from Muslims when he was growing up in Syria. He says that in his experience, most Syrian Muslims are moderate and do not want extremist Muslim rule.

He understands the anxiety of Israel and others of Syria's neighbors, adding, "[the Arab League and the West] gave Assad chance after chance because no one wants to see Syria de-stabilized because it could spill over."

Ahmad's sympathy is with the demonstrators, who he believes to be nonviolent pro-democracy advocates. "I am an optimist," he told me, adding that he believes that, should Assad's dictatorship fall, Syria could eventually become a moderate Muslim democracy that protects minority rights, "something like Turkey."

Yet, he acknowledges that many Syrian Christians, including his family, still support Assad's government. He says it is not because they like Assad but due to fear that whoever may replace him could be worse for Christians. But Ahmad says he does not share their fear, believing instead that, based on his experiences growing up, "I can't imagine a radical oppressive regime arising and holding power in Syria after this … no one will want to live with that."

Perhaps the most salient piece of information Ahmad shared with me, and something I have not seen reported in Western media, is that, as reported by al Jazeera, the elite members of Syria's military—Assad's Revolutionary Guard—stand behind the regular soldiers and tell them that if they don't shoot civilians on command, "they will be shot in the back," according to Ahmad. "It is a Stalin-style approach, to prevent the soldiers from defecting."

In terms of the Arab League's decision to impose sanctions and to kick Syria out, Ahmad thinks it signals the beginning of the end for Assad. That, he believes, is because the Gulf States including Saudi Arabia and the U.A.E. have made their wishes known.

"Usually, when the Saudis put their weight behind" something, "it has leverage, because of the money," he said. "The regime is falling."

To illustrate the nature of the Assad regime, Ahmad cited the beating of the parents of Syrian musician Malek Jandali.

In July, Jandali performed at a rally in Washington in support of the Syrian opposition. The following week, a man accosted Jandali's father, who is a doctor, outside the family home in Homs, Syria. The man asked the father if he could care for a patient. When the doctor indicated he would, the man made a phone call. Two additional men showed up with no sign of a patient. They handcuffed him, duct-taped his mouth, and dragged him upstairs, where one of them held the 73-year-old and forced him, handcuffed, to watch them beat his 66-year-old wife on the eyes and break her teeth. Jandali, who has since managed to bring his parents to the U.S., believes the attackers were members of Assad's security forces and that they targeted his parents because of his anti-regime views and music.

"Elderly people beaten nearly to death because their son sang a couple of songs in the U.S.," Ahmad said. "And people say they want to talk to this regime, and it can reform?"

Ahmad, who said one of his friends back home is a demonstrator, said his understanding is that at present, Syrian protestors are largely peaceful. "They go to demonstrations, dance, chant, get shot, then they go out again. It is amazing how courageous they are."

For one thing, they believe that the government wants them to become violent, Ahmad said, "because that would give the government legitimacy" in its brutal crackdown. "The people are being smart about it," he said.

He would understand, he says, if the people fought back with violence.

"It may come around to armed struggle because it may [ultimately] be the only thing the government understands," Ahmad said.

But while he lauds the Arab League's and the West's long-overdue recognition of Assad's abuses, Ahmad is afraid for the innocent in Syria—whether activists or not—in the short term.

The frightening thing is "how much damage [Assad] is willing to do before he goes down. It will get uglier and uglier. He's cornered, and he might just go crazy."

Regarding Israel, Ahmad says that attitudes among some of the younger generation in Syria, including the demonstrators, are less hostile--and more critical toward the anti-Israel government line.

"[Historically], the easiest thing for a Syrian leader has been to rally people around the Israeli subject," he said. "The government uses the subject of Israel to manipulate the people … to give [the government] legitimacy … They call themselves heroes because they are the last ones in the Arab world still opposing Israel."

At present, however, some younger people in Syria view their leaders' urging them to hate and fight against Israel with skepticism.

"Younger people are more accepting of others. It used to be, you are born and you die and it is your mission in life to be effective in this [Arab/Israeli] conflict," Ahmad said. "You don't have a job, your kids can't eat, it doesn't matter, you need to give yourself to this great cause. Then after 40, 50, 60 years of conflict, nothing changed.

"The young people started to realize they are way behind, and all the ideology was bull----. It was a way the dictators used to control the people and get rich. The [Syrian] people saw that, finally. The Internet opened up their eyes. Now people care about other things, the environment, music, whatever. People, from left to right, are talking about issues."

Every weekday JewishWorldReview.com publishes what many in the media and Washington consider "must-reading". Sign up for the daily JWR update. It's free. Just click here.

JWR contributor Heather Robinson is a New York City-based independent journalist. She has written for The Wall Street Journal, The New York Post, New York Magazine, Time Out New York, The Philadelphia Inquirer, The Los Angeles Daily News, Heeb magazine, and other publications. Comment by clicking here.


© 2011, Heather Robinson

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