What Some Arabs Tell Their Children

Understanding Dictators and Extortion
One Should Learn from Samar Yazbek
Why the Syrian Opposition is in Turmoil

First, this thought.

Many Syrians in the dissident community are adamant about Assad’s intransigence and lack of cooperation when it comes to peeling him from Iran or sustaining a policy that would contain or convert his policies. For every act of western engagement, there is a reciprocal act of defiance on Assad’s part whether in the form of moving his SCUD missiles to Hezbollah or the more recently discovered installation of new sophisticated radars, provided by Iran, which more than likely violates the terms of the radar provider.

Notice that all of these transfers move west, never east. It’s all about fighting Israel and not defending Iran whether the arms are defensive or offensive in nature. This trend will continue for the months and even years to come no matter what some of the innovative minds at the US State Department cook-up to sway Assad. It is a losing battle but someone needs to realize this the way we, Syrians, have realized it long time ago. Assads’ eggs are too fragile to move to another basket but the one of terror, resistance, and survival.

So rather than delve into the same old stuff to warn and educate, it seems more appropriate now, while we wait for another US administration, to sometimes talk about smaller and quite interesting matters.

When I was a boy growing-up in Syria, I never heard the eternal words most children hear in the US “You Can be President” because in Syria that privilege was and still is reserved for the Assad thugs. The good parents spared their children the pain of unattainable dreams and instead told them “When You Grow-up, We Want You to Live Abroad to Have a Better Life”. Americans tell their children “You Could Be a President” and Syrians tell their children “Get the Hell Out”. In the case of the Assad rule in Syria, Syrian brain drain is an understatement.

Having held a Saudi passport for many years and traveled extensively to that country, Saudi parents tend to do one of two things. If they are rich, their children are told, at the tender age of 21 “You Are the Managing Director of My Business Now”. If in America, the drinking age is 21, in Saudi Arabia the Managing Director age is 21. This is Saudi Bar Mitzvahs in all its glorious underpinnings. Experience is irrelevant because losses are replenished from the generosity of their rulers and western extractions of their wealth. Every young rich Saudi is a Managing Director of his father’s business with no exception (Watch this video to see what some Saudi fathers do while their sons are managing their businesses). If you want to understand the effects of “Learning On The Job” means, just poll Saudi businesses without the knowledge of the Managing Director.

The not so off Saudis have a different view of the world, one that proclaims a divine presence on earth not too dissimilar from believing they are the chosen people. This comes from the belief that G*d has regulated vast wealth in the belly of their lands, which is testimony to their path to greatness. Many short-circuit that belief by taking-up violent Jihad. The less violent of them build Mosques around the world and stand guard against building Christian Churches or Jewish Synagogues or Buddhist Temples on their land. So, a father of a communal family tells his son “Go Build a Mosque” and the father of a Jihadist family tells his son “Conquer With Your Sword”. Both tell their 12-year old daughters to marry the 70-year old man next door who managed to get overpaid by his ruler for his dying goats. Often though, transitioning from building a Mosque to conquering with a sword is as easy as marrying their cousins.

Not all Saudis are that degenerate. Some, in fact, are quite liberal and efficient. I know quite a few of them. But their impact on the Saudi society is not too dissimilar from the impact of the Syrian dissident community on today’s US State Department. So they wait in the wings for their moment in the sun and hope that squeezed between a ruling family with tentacles reaching far and beyond their lands and some ill-advised policy of a western bureaucrat, they will overcome and finally move Saudis to modernize their souls and not just buildings and bridges. Not too far in the distant future, we will see Saudis visiting Israel as a gesture of rebellion; the first ones will be sacrificed but the latter ones will make a difference.

In Lebanon, a great little country that adopted me during my teen years, I saw fathers of three kinds.

Those who are skeptical and tell their sons “Don’t Vote, Don’t Work, Just go to the Beach”. They do so by setting a very visible example for their children. Can’t blame them because if there is anything more beautiful to look at than Lebanese women are the Lebanese Mediterranean beaches. To imbue further this doctrine of a Lebanese Dolce Vita, the Lebanese Government work day starts at 9:00am and ends at 2:00pm, which really means 10 to 1, then off to the beach.

Then, there are those fathers who tell their children “Work Hard, Play Hard”, which probably constitute the majority of the Lebanese fathers. This mentality resonates well beyond the Lebanese borders and has a tantalizing effect on people in Europe and the US because many believe that the two cannot be combined but to their shock, almost all successful and overachieving Lebanese young women and men have this Je ne sais quoi in their eyes that scintillates with optimism and confidence inherited probably from their Phoenicians ancestral accomplishments.

The last category belongs to fathers who see their lives through the prism of oppression, guilt, and blame. Such are the fathers who tell their children “Don’t Believe Your Government or Your Elected Officials”. They either live in misery all their lives or they join Hezbollah whose success is built on taking advantage of the lost and the wretched.

On that sour note, I wonder what Israelis tell their children? Probably something like “While Inventing Your New Technology, Watch for Hamas” or “Don’t Ride the Bus and Read at the Same Time”.

I would be interested in hearing more about this.


  • Esther 10 years ago

    First of all, it’s a pleasure to read your posts. And to your wondering about what Israelis tell their children, Here is what Israeli Moms say to their children: “I wish that when you reach the age of 18 you won’t have to go to the army, because there will be peace by then, and there will be no need for an army anymore. Well… that day has’t come yet, for 60 long and bloody years our tiny homeland still regarded as illegitimate in the neighborhood.

    • It is hard for us to conceive of the day when your children can dedicate themselves to matters of their own choosing and our children can be free to think for themselves and not be forced as well to become slaves of an army equipped to only protect the Assad family first. But have faith that as long as free Syrians like myself are able to express what millions of Syrians think is the right thing to do but cannot act upon, we will all eventually prevail. Israel and Israelis will have their peace and Syria and Syrians will have their freedom. Thank you for your comment. Farid Ghadry

  • Dear Mr. Ghadry just so you know, Israeli fathers tell their children ” I hope G-d gives you the chance to grow up” and also ” May you be blessed to reach the Chupa ( wedding canopy) and do good deeds”, thats what we wish for our children, to be able to grow up in peace in OUR land, with our history and our customs in peace with our neighbors sharing the wealth and the knowledge we have achieved for the betterment of humanity. We hope there will come a day when they wont have to enlist in the IDF or watch behind their backs all the time looking with suspicion and fear, not knowing what’s around the corner or if they will get home safe and in one piece…We hope for a future were Arab and Jew (sons of Abraham) will kiss and forgive each other like Ishmael and Isaac did at their father’s funeral, recognizing their commonalities and not their differences, sharing coffe and prayers for our children’s joint futures.

    • Farid Ghadry 10 years ago

      Dear Ary.. I learned a little bit more from your email. Thank you.
      Nothing that we both, Syrians and Israelis, do today to commit to peace will do us any good if Syrians are not free to understand the dilemma every Israeli lives. Peace and stability are not mutually exclusive if not for violent Arab dictators living off hate against Israelis just so they escape accountability from their own people. But keep the faith. Many of us are out there working hard for positive change and maybe during our time, we will honor Israelis for their accomplishments while remaining true to a newborn Muslim faith welcoming others and supporting harmony rather than violence.

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