In celebration of the Syrian Press Day, the Syria Times Online publishes the following landmark speech by H.E. President Bashar Al-Assad at the 4th General Conference of the Journalists Union- Al-Umawyeen Conference Palace, Damascus: August 15, 2006
Ladies and gentlemen members of the fourth general conference of the Journalists Union, Ladies and gentlemen,
It gives me pleasure to meet you at the opening of the proceedings of your 4th conference and to express my appreciation to you and through you to the honest and honorable journalists who have been fighting a media battle no less ferocious and dangerous than the battles fought by your brothers on the fields of honour and dignity. Your battle aims at preserving the intellect and the spirit of the nation and protecting its identity and heritage against the systematic invasion which violates its dignity, tears apart it unity, distorts its cause, and strikes at its will to resist by promoting a culture of defeatism, submission and blind adherence to agendas set by the enemy and those who support it and promote its projects.
I am glad to meet you in this new Middle East, new in the sense that we understand and the shape we want, although it is not complete yet. It is new with the achievements of the Resistance; new in that it drew clear lines between the different forces; new in uncovering the games and conspiracies and lifting their masks and fake terminology in an unprecedented manner. This is the new Middle East which Syria has been promoting again and again as the only hope for Arabs if they are to have a place under the sun in the political and material sense. You all know that it was not easy for us to convince many people of our vision of the future. We had to wait for the future to become the present and to speak for itself. Today facts speak for themselves, not only as we imagined them in the past but in a clearer and more expressive manner.
We meet today when the Middle East they aspire to and which is based on submission, humiliation and on depriving peoples of their identities and their rights, has become an illusion. It has actually turned into a popular uprising throughout the Arab world, an uprising which is ban-Arab by nature, characterized by dignity and the rejection of all pretexts and excuses for keeping us submissive so that we are killed in silence in the same way that sacrifices used to be offered in the past to avoid the wrath of the gods. But offering sacrifices in the past was considered a form of wisdom. So, are we supposed to adhere to that wisdom today? And does wisdom have a meaning if it was separated from courage? If we are supposed to follow the lead of the invasion of Iraq, the invasion which reminds us of humanity’s past, I believe that this kind of wisdom is still a valid testimony to the fact that some of our Arab sages still adhere to that wisdom today. For wisdom to exist, it has to be coupled with courage in order to give the people the stability necessary to make people wise. But when fear exists, there is no place for fake wisdom which leads those who possess it to defeat and humiliation under the mask of wisdom. In our present Arab world, we might achieve victory under another false assumption which is adventure or recklessness. If wisdom has come to mean defeat and humiliation in the lexicon of some Arabs, it is natural to find in their lexicon that victory is equal to adventure and recklessness In order not get ourselves absorbed in theoretical discourse, let us ask ourselves about what we have achieved by being unwisely, irrationally and recklessly led by some of our supposed Arab sages for many past decades. We have achieved a great deal, but against our interests. Le us take the peace process as an example; and let us ask whether it has succeeded or failed. We have been talking repeatedly recently about the failure of the peace process. And all this talk about the failure and death of the peace process is absolutely true; but it is more accurate to say that the Arabs are the ones who failed in the peace process when they did not understand the meaning of making peace a strategic choice. They did not distinguish between making peace a strategic choice and making it the only choice. When there is a certain strategic choice, it does not mean that there are not other strategic choices, or there are not other tactical, if not necessarily strategic, choices. Throughout the peace process, we the Arabs, have adopted the only choice for peace and abandoned all the other choices. We then replaced the spirit of the only choice with the choice of cheap or free peace. Under this choice we offer everything to Israel and get very little in return. In real fact, and in practice, we have offered a great deal, and some of us offered everything, and got nothing in return. That is why we see the Palestinians paying the price now, and that is why Syria refused, through its vision, to abandon any of its rights. When we say that we have made peace our strategic choice, it does not mean that we have cancelled the other choices. On the contrary, the more illusive the realization of peace becomes, the more important and necessary other ways and methods become in order to regain our rights. On the other hand, we in Syria have stressed this choice, the peace choice, from the very beginning of the peace process, but we adhered to the choice of resistance as long as peace has not been realized, particularly that the assumed partner in peace does not believe in this theory in the first place and has given us one evidence after another in confirmation of this fact. If we leave aside the many massacres perpetrated by Israel against the Arabs and other evidence, there is a clear evidence stated clearly by former Israel prime minister, Yitzhak Shamir at the beginning of the peace process when he said in 1991 that they will make the process last for ten years, which means that peace will not be achieved. That is what happened. Today, and fifteen years later, peace has not been achieved. Before the peace process, Israel used to say that Israel wanted peace while Arabs wanted war. It was a surprise for them that Arabs accepted to get involved in the peace process. That is why they reacted by making this public statement. But the received Arab wisdom used to be that we have to close our eyes in order to corner Israel before the international community, which has been reduced into a few states which support Israel, ignoring and neglecting the rest of the world which mostly supports our causes. The result was that we have become embarrassed in front of our Arab people. We lost our respect and credibility in front of our friends and enemies alike. This was the Arab responsibility for the failure of the peace process. But what about the responsibility of others, with the exception, of course, of Israel and the United States.
The whole world got interested in the Middle East after the 1973 war. They focused all their attention on our region and started to talk about peace. This continued until we started the peace process in Madrid. This went, of course, through different stages. When most countries of the world were assured that the peace process has been launched through negotiations, they handed the whole process over to the United States, which remained the sole sponsor of this process. It, in turn, handed the process over to Israel. So, every proposal made to the Arabs during that period was either and Israeli proposal or a proposal approved by the Israelis. When most countries realized that the Arabs have dropped the real choice for peace and replaced it with a peace at the pleasure of Israel and the United States, they turned their back on the peace process and on us. Only today, during these battles, they remembered the peace process and remembered us. Of course we have to exclude Israel and the United States from this category, because Israel is an enemy, and as I said, does not want peace. Peace requires that Israel return the occupied land and return the usurped rights, while it is an enemy which was built on the bases of aggression and expansion. We have always said that the United States is necessary and essential for the peace process based on its position as a superpower and through its relations with different parties. But it is not any United States. This administration adopts the principle of preemptive war that is absolutely contradictory to the principle of peace. Six years on with this administration, and there is no peace . Consequently, we do not expect peace soon or in the foreseeable future. We ask here, have they remembered us lately because of the death and destruction Israeli terrorism has caused in Lebanon? Of course not. There have been years of killing and destruction against the Palestinians, yet we have not heard of initiatives, solutions and extensive activity at the UN Security Council as is the case today. Have they moved because they are afraid of chaos or because of their concern for the security of the region which concerns them directly? The region’s security is a sufficient cause for them to move, but the region has been on the verge of an explosion for years, and they have not moved. So, why did they move at this stage? The fact of the matter is that they move only when Israel is in pain. And Israel is never in pain except when we have power.