11.6.07

The بندوق pecking order

Israeli newspapers today covered the appearance of a certain Farid Ghadry before the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee of the Knesset. A brief bio on Mr. Ghadry:
  1. born in the Republic of Syria
  2. emigrated to the Republic of Lebanon as a child, holds Lebanese citizenship
  3. awarded citizenship in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (later revoked)
  4. emigrated to the United States and earned American citizenship
One might ask, on what basis would such an individual, who at one time carried 4 passports, be asked to speak to the Israeli Knesset?

Well, ynet News says:
"Ghadry, who heads the Syrian Reform Party – composed of Syrians living in Europe and the United States – arrived in Israel to convince the government not to negotiate with the Syrian president."

Thus, the visit is framed as an appeal from a respected opposition leader of exiled Syrian patriots. But this is a self-serving lie perpetrated by Ghadry. For certain, there are honorable members of the Syrian opposition, but not even a remote connection between any of those individuals and Ghadry.

الحقيقة: "Frank" Ghadry is nothing but a 4th-rate Lebanese con-man.
He might be slick enough to fool unqualified nepotistic neocons like Liz Cheney (the cheapest date in Washington for sleazy foreign agents posing as US citizens) into thinking that he was even Syrian at all - let alone that he had any kind of following - but I expected the Israelis to have more discerning eyes. At least in 1982 they fell for a 1st-rate con-job. (continued...)
For the record, here is the بندوق pecking order:
  • 4th rate: "Frank" Ghadry, staunch defender of the Caledonians
  • 3rd rate: Ziad Abdelnour, a self-obsessed hack who fancies himself one of the "300 most prominent Lebanese-Americans", but then asks people to shell out $50 so he can show off his "friendship" with former CIA head James Woolsey
  • 2nd rate: Ahmad Chalabi, Donald Rumsfeld's Iraqi pet who peddled lots of the bad WMD intelligence that led the US into this disastrous war
  • 1st rate: Amin "Mr. 2%" Gemayel, former Lebanese President who predicted a few years back that the Iraq War "will bring fundamental change to the area, and there will be a kind of Pax Americana...The U.S. will build on its relations to spread new ideas and a new mentality in the area, as well as reconciling with the people of the region." uh huh.

Likud MK (Member of Knesset) Yuval Steinitz - a close ally of Bibi Netanyahu - organized Ghadry's visit, ostensibly to offer a different perspective than the one given by Syrian-American Ibrahim Suleiman 2 months ago. Yet by using his influence to give credibility to a nobody, Steinitz has turned himself into Israel's Nancy Pelosi, because his independent diplomacy has made him look foolish and unqualified. No doubt that Bashar Assad and his cronies are all laughing like hell today, thinking: "Is this the best they can do? He's not even Syrian!"

Predictably, Ghadry was totally disregarded by Israel's left, including Danny Yatom from the Labor Party, and as indicated by MK Zahava Gal-On from the Meretz Party:

"Ghadry's proposal to negotiate with the Syrian people and not Bashar Assad is improbable because political talks must be held with the regime controlling the country. So the regime in Israel must speak to that in Damascus. If we had waited for someone else to rise to power instead of Sadat, we wouldn't have peace with Egypt today. Israel must ignore Ghadry's proposal and announce it wants direct negotiations with Assad."

The Jerusalem Post, which reflects Israel's more hawkish thinking, bought Frank Ghadry's pitch hook, line, and sinker. But Haaretz's Arab Affairs correspondent Yoav Stern has Ghadry's number. He writes:

"51-year-old Ghadry left Syria at a young age and immigrated to Lebanon, and later to the United States, where he lives today. He is considered a close associate of conservative officials in Washington. Ghadry founded the Syrian Reform Party while in exile in the U.S. in [2001], with the aim of bringing down Assad's regime. He later called on the American government to invade Syria, as it did in Iraq.

Ghadry's opponents within the Syrian opposition maintain that he is an 'imposter' and has no support in Syria or outside of it. Ghadry himself maintains that he is an integral part of the Syrian opposition."

One of the most fascinating elements of the visit was the reaction of non-Jewish Arab MKs (remember about 20% of Israel's population descends from the original inhabitants of towns and villages in today's Israel who did not flee in 1948). For example, MK Ahmad Tibi confronted Ghadry outside the committee chambers and asked him:

"Aren't you ashamed of yourself? You come here as a cheap tool in the hands of Netanyahu and ask the Defense and Foreign Affairs Committee not to cede the Golan, your homeland, when more than half the Israelis want to withdraw. This is despicable."

Tibi is correct about Ghadry being a cheap tool of Bibi (and the Washington neocons), but I have to wonder if Ghadry even understood what was said to him in Arabic. Other Syrian opposition members have told me that Ghadry's Arabic language skills are pathetic (mine are too, but even I have seen typos on his website) and he made a fool of himself during an al-Jazeera debate, in which his opponent was constantly correcting his speech. He may not remember this from his childhood years, but Syrian citizens tend to be quite finicky about the Arabic language.

The bigger issue, however, remains why none of them have pointed out the obvious: Ghadry is Lebanese and any discussion with him on anything pertaining to Syria is as good an exercise in futility as one could ever hope to find.

Those familiar with the region know that some of the most virulently anti-Syrian Lebanese citizens are those whose families, like Ghadry's, fled from cities like Aleppo and Damascus when the Baath Party came to power. While they identify passionately with a Lebanese identity, Ghadry decided after 2001 that an ideal con job would be to wind back the clock, re-assume a Syrian identity, and set himself up as a "reformer". And it worked on the hapless neocons and most journalists, not to mention much of the Knesset.

I look forward to reading the full transcripts of the Frank Ghadry circus. But I would have loved to have heard him come up with answers to the following questions, which I doubt were asked:
  1. With which passport did he travel to Israel? Was it his American one? Why not his Syrian one? Does he even have a Syrian passport?
  2. Is his organization, the so-called Reform Party of Syria, an actual Syrian political party, or an American group?
  3. Did he testify before the Knesset committee as a Syrian citizen, or as an American citizen?
  4. When he testified before the US Congress, did he do so as a Syrian citizen, or as an American citizen?
  5. When he donated thousands of dollars to the Chairwoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen of the subcommittee before which he was called - by an amazing coincidence - to testify, did he do so as an American citizen? (because otherwise it would be illegal)
  6. When his teenage daughter contributed $2,000 to the same Congresswoman, did she do so out of her own volition? (because otherwise it would be illegal)

addendum:

I had to add this fascinating etymology lesson from translator Grégoire Bali, as posted in the comments section (see CLICK TO DISCUSS below).

Just a word though on بندوق (Banduq). I don't know if you're aware that this word came into use in Aleppo under the Ottomans, when Aleppo was the 3rd most important city in the Empire, after Istanbul and Cairo, and a major crossroad of international trade. There used to be various trade delegations, the most important one of which was the Venetian trading post. Considering Venice in Arabic is البندقية (Al-Bunduqiah, and here's another interesting etymology I can tell you about later), the people of Aleppo under the Ottomans were not used to the way of living of the Venetians, whose wives accompanied them and were often seen in public mingling with the other men. They therefore thought all their sons were bastards, and so the word بندوق (Banduq, or little Venetian) became the word you most commonly use to say bastard in the Levantine culture. By the same token, in Ghadry's case, you can substitute the Venetians for the Americans and you will know who the بندوق's daddies are.

14 comments:

Nouri said...

Don't forget that you actually have an excuse for your bad Arabic; you're American. If this fellow wants to lead the way to changing Syria, he's going to have to Syrian himself up a bit. He sounds and looks like an American trying to become Syria's Ahmed Chalabi. Bad idea for us and the Syrian people.

Anyhow, have you seen the article titled "Beyond Hegemony" in the recent issue of the National Interest? I think you would find it quite interesting. I'm going to post about it either tonight or tomorrow.

yaman said...

This is a very strong and informative post. Good job.

SimoHurtta said...

It is astonishing that US regime (and Israel's) bothers to use these kind of persons for their own propaganda aims. Using frequently these kind of Quislings, who have no support in the target country and whose ties to the target country are mildly said weak, and calling them as opposition "leaders", is possible only if

A) Either Americans to not find more reliable figures who would work against their own country by supporting USA's agenda or
B) USA's political elite is completely incompetent and would fit better to lead a country with the size of Lichtenstein instead of the world's superpower.

Persons like Ghadry, Chalabi etc certainly do not increase USA's possibilities in its "democracy crusade". USA only looses the little credibility it has left. The only thing what the US regime gets from these guys is that they tell the paying masters stories which the masters want to hear. Facts and truth are not important in those stories.

Samer said...

What else to say but آخ من هيك زبون?

The likes of Ghadry and Khad'daam being seen as legitimate opposition figures and ones of respectable importance by other countries is somewhat surreal.

Ford Prefect said...

George, great posting, thanks! Actually, it is not Ghadry that is to blame for his sorry behavior (ok, you can, but he is not the policy-maker ideologue who wrote the Clean Break doctrine, after all!)

He was and continues to be hacked by promises of liberation, democracy, and the American hot dogs in the streets of Damascus.

He is a manifestation of a seriously-flawed ideology that exists in the guts of this quasi-neoconservative administration. This ideology is crystallized in the alliance of another axis of as evil: the petro-military industrial complex, a hapless strain of neo-conservatism, and ultra American nationalism. Combined, they have caused the most irreparable harm to US national interests since the Vietnam War.

This axis of as evil feels joyous when the media gives attention to insignificant (and irrelevant) characters like Ghadry.

We are all better off if we don’t fall into the traps of Faux News and glorify insignificant events and people, thus diverting attention from the real villains whose ignorance, incompetence, and arrogance are spreading mayhem and disasters all over the Middle East – Israel included.

Nevertheless, I love your postings George and appreciate your sensible and passionate writings. In fact, you are proving to me that there exists one smart Republican. I never thought this could be true.

Cheers George!

Philip I said...

George, you can attack Ghadry's cheap political stands and grandiose ideas and you can certainly argue that he does not represent the Syrian people or their aspirations.

I'm not sure it is legitimate to denegrade him for his lack of "Syrian credentials" - having acquired three more citizenships alongside his Syrian one and not having lived in Syria for most of his life.

He was born in Syria to a Syrian family, which, by your logic, makes him more Syrian than you are.

There are 15 million people with Syrian roots around the world. Each one of them has a right to speak up for his motherland and attempt to rally support for his or her political views. It is up to the Syrian people, both at home and abroad to judge and decide who is best qualified to speak up for them or represent them.

BTW I happen to agree with everything you said about Ghadry's politics.

George Ajjan said...

Philip I,

There is a difference between "Syria" and the "Syrian Arab Republic". This was the essence of my article in the June issue of FW: (an english language Syrian magazine available for the amazing low price of $500 for a 1-year subscription).

My origin is from "Syria" but I have no political connection whatsoever to the Syrian Arab Republic. Nevertheless, I am as much "Syrian" as any person who traces his roots to that country (the S.A.R), the Republic of Lebanon, the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, the State of Israel, or the Palestinian Authority.

In that context, Ghadry is just as Syrian as me, and just as Syrian as Bashar Assad. Great. أهلاً وسهلاً يا بندوق

This is a historical context. But Frank Ghadry operates in a modern political context. And by any objective measure, in modern political terms, Farid Ghadry is NOT Syrian. Nor am I.

Shall we go door-to-door in the Ashrafieh and find out who of the most passionate Lebanese nationalists and Syria "detractors" have EXACTLY Ghadry's profile - families who left cities like Damascus and Aleppo shortly after the Baath Party came to power?

Again I say:

الحقيقة: "Frank" Ghadry is nothing but a 4th-rate Lebanese con-man. He is not Syrian.

Rime said...

I never thought I'd be enjoying reading about Ghadry, this was fun! And I thought I was tough on some people. Love the Cheney lines George! Great post.

And I'm glad someone else noticed the cheapness of the Forward magazine subscription.

Anonymous said...

Philip,

True, we can not generalize, no need to get into who holds what passport and whose family left Syria when, But it is obvious to me that Frank Ghadry is 5% Syrian. George is 50% Syrian*.

Alex
_______________________________
*My scientific estimates.

Zenobia said...

this is indeed, a really hilarious post...

and i think it obvious too that one can be syrian in the sense of cultural affiliation or heritage and have no standing whatsoever to politically represent syria.
i mean he went in front of the Knesset for christsakes...claiming to represent syrians.. and/ or syria.. This is on such another level of and definitely deserves the term "con man".
Of course the Israelis know the difference, just some obviously want to use him and exploit him to serve their viewpoints.

MD said...

This Ghadry visit to the Israeli Knesset represents nothing but another way of advertising the real Israeli point of view regarding the Golan Heights and their real desire of keeping that piece of land. It is really ridiculous to believe that Ghadry’s visit and requests (however the guy identify himself , Syrian, leb or American) might have any effect on the Israeli “pre-set” plan for the Golan area unless they are looking for a cheap excuse to change the plan which they definitely do not need, knowing that Israeli can change their plan anytime they want with no need for an excuse.
As much as I want to see Syria punished for all the mess it is causing in Lebanon, I strongly believe that this guy did nothing in his visit but put himself in a needless position that we shall all( leb, Syrian and American) remember when the time comes.

boston david said...

sgpznnxCousin - by far your best post yet. The passion and sarcasm are perfectly appropriatte regarding Ghadry and the other frauds like Gemayel (Mr 2%)! I do think ghadry, and by extension the neo-con succored "syrian opposition", that he was a guest of the Knesset essentially echoing the position of the God of Amrican neo-cons, Bibi Netanyahu regarding policy towards Syria. The marginal credibility that this absurd coalition of reprobates had was officially eviscerated as the opposition face was cuddling up to Israeli likudniks.

boston david said...

sorry for the ommsion of "did all a favor" subsequent to "syrian opposition".
BTW - speaking of dual citizens, add young Harriri to that list as i believe he is also a Saudi citizen

Grégoire said...

George,

Brilliant thoughts, as always! Just a word though on بندوق (Banduq). I don't know if you're aware that this word came into use in Aleppo under the Ottomans, when Aleppo was the 3rd most important city in the Empire, after Istanbul and Cairo, and a major crossroad of international trade. There used to be various trade delegations, the most important one of which was the Venetian trading post. Considering Venice in Arabic is البندقية (Al-Bunduqiah, and here's another interesting etymology I can tell you about later), the people of Aleppo under the Ottomans were not used to the way of living of the Venetians, whose wives accompanied them and were often seen in public mingling with the other men. They therefore thought all their sons were bastards, and so the word بندوق (Banduq, or little Venetian) became the word you most commonly use to say bastard in the Levantine culture. By the same token, in Ghadry's case, you can substitute the Venetians for the Americans and you will know who the بندوق's daddies are.