June 26, 2008 Special Dispatch No. 1970

Liberal Syrian Journalist Abi Hassan: My Day in Haifa

June 26, 2008
Syria | Special Dispatch No. 1970

On May 30, 2008, the liberal Arab website Al-Awan published an article by Syrian journalist Abi Hassan, in which he describes what he would do if he were in Haifa.

The following are excerpts: [1]

"I Have Been Saturated Ever Since My Youth… With Hatred for Israel and Love for Palestine"

"Our EgyptAir flight was en route from the Cairo airport to the airport in Damascus. In front of the passengers' seats was a screen showing the flight trajectory and the place over which the plane was flying.

"From the screen, it seemed to us as though the plane would be passing over Palestine – over Haifa, in particular. Just before we reached Haifa's airspace, the widescreen stopped showing the flight trajectory and the place over which it was flying. Instead, it started to show announcements about the importance of the hijab and encouragement to wear it, and so on.

"It seems that the flight crew had stopped showing the flight trajectory over Haifa out of respect for the sentiments of the Syrian passengers. But even now I don't know what the point was of putting on an announcement about the hijab and its 'importance,' precisely at that time and in that place. Did those in charge want to remind the 'believers' among the passengers that the 'liberation' of Haifa starts from the hijab and being scrupulous in wearing it?

"Whatever the reason, I imagined that the plane had encountered technical difficulties, forcing the captain to land in Haifa, or anywhere else in Israel.

"What would I do? In truth, a number of distressing thoughts drew me in – especially since I have been saturated ever since my youth, in my school education and my social education, with hatred for Israel and love for Palestine. Nonetheless, I was assailed by satanic thoughts whose allure I was unable to overcome, despite their bitterness."

I Would Like to Ask the 1948 Arabs If They Would Rather Live in Mecca or Qom

"If we landed in Israel, I would definitely try to walk in the streets of its cities and neighborhoods – not with intent to seek out 'the memory of the vanquished' and the weary that Faisal Darraj conjured up [in his book by that name]. Rather, I would want to see whether there are, in any of Israel's cities, neighborhoods like Bulaq or Imbaba in Cairo… I would want to see whether there are Israeli citizens who live in cemeteries, as people do in the Cairo of Muhammad Hosni Mubarak. Researchers put the number of those living in Cairo's cemeteries at 500,000.

"I don't know whether I would see in Haifa neighborhoods of misery like those surrounding Damascus, the capital of Syria…

"Yes, I hoped to land in Haifa, to see if I would run up against religious police, like the infamous Saudi Wahhabi-terrorist police that goes by the name of 'The Authority for the Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice.'

"How nice it would be to run across a rabbi, so I could ask him if he believes the earth is round – it is well known that to his dying day the late Mufti of Saudi Arabia, 'Abd Al-'Aziz bin Baz, declared anyone who says the earth is round an apostate."

I Would Like to Ask an Israeli Politician How It Is that They Have Free and Fair Elections

"No doubt, it would be tempting to land in Haifa. Perhaps I would run into one of the 1948 Arabs [i.e. Israeli Arabs] – not in order to ask him whether he would prefer to live in the West Bank or Gaza rather than in the state of the artificial 'entity,' but to ask him whether he would prefer living in Mecca or Qom to living in Haifa…

"Yes, it would be nice to land in Haifa. Perhaps there I would run across emergency laws like those (permanent) laws that hinder the natural development of human society in most of the Arabic-speaking countries.

"How lucky I would be if I chanced to meet an Israeli politician, so I could ask him the secret of how it is that their country – sorry, I mean their artificial entity – is the only one to hold free and fair elections and to have peaceful handovers of government. Not to mention that any of their officials can be held accountable – and all of that in contrast with their Arab cousins…"

"I Had No Thoughts Whatsoever of Throwing this Neighbor… Into the Sea"

"[I would like to ask a rabbi] if the rabbis there meddle in the compiling of the school curricula, as do the patriarchs of Islam in a not insignificant number of Arab and Islamic countries – where through their meddling in the educational curricula they place an impenetrable barrier between the rational mind and the students – all for nothing, just out of fear of Allah!...

"I wanted to land in Haifa so that I could find out what the Jewish clergy though of the great scientist Einstein's scorn for the texts of the Torah, and why they don't stand up as one to curse Einstein from their pulpits, as is the case with us? It would be tempting to hear their views on the Jewish-Israeli archaeologist who stated recently that he thought that Moses was on drugs.

"Lastly, it was truly strange that I was not drawn in by any thoughts on the extinction of the Hebrew state – or the Zionist entity, as some like to call it. I had no thoughts whatsoever of throwing this neighbor, which asks the friendship of the Arabs, in secret and openly, into the sea, as the pan-Arab and Islamist slogans have called for. And I am much amazed that I did not think about any of the proclamations of Iranian President Mahmud Ahmadinejad threatening Israel with extinction!

"I was drawn in by many idle dreams above Haifa. They were interrupted suddenly by the plane's landing at the Damascus airport. I learned that there are limits to my dreams, even if they are just idle ones."


[1], May 30, 2008.

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