HANANIA: Arabs, Muslims see past Ahmadinejad’s rhetoric, For Immediate Release 9-27-07

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Arabs, Muslims and minorities hear different message from Ahmadinejad

By Ray Hanania — Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s visit to the United Nations stirred a chorus of criticism from mainstream American leaders and activists. But Arabs and Muslims listened with receptive understanding, believing American society is biased and the problems in the Middle Easr are compounded by improper translation of concepts from Middle Eastern languages to English. 

From the Arab and Muslim standpoint, Ahmadinejad squarely answered many of the charges he faced, though not all. Ahmadinejad represents an oppressive government and he is not articulate, especially in English, something his critics exploited to distort an open discussion of the underlying issues he chose to address.For Arabs and Muslims, Ahmadinejad put the spotlight on the hypocrisy of the American claim to be the “leader of the Free World.” In truth, Ahmadinejad was pilloried in much the same way that Arabs and Muslims in America are daily slandered, persecuted and even harassed out of jobs simply for expressing unpopular views.

This was demonstrated by Columbia University President Lee Bollinger who claimed Ahmadinejad was invited because of America’s “Free Speech” principles, but proved in his disgraceful colloquy that free speech is not free for those who address unpopular issues.

During his trip, did Ahmadinejad “deny” the Holocaust, as has been repeatedly asserted?

Ahmadinejad said what nearly every Arab and Muslim believes. The Holocaust did happen. Millions of Jews and non-Jews were murdered.

But Ahmadinejad rejected the practice of Israel’s supporters who “use” the Holocaust and the charge of “anti-Semitism” as a battering ram to silence and destroy the lives of people who criticize Israeli government policies.

Ahmadinejad made this point clearly, but it was not reported in one newspaper story on his visit. Recently, a Jewish professor in Chicago and son of Holocaust survivors who raised this issue, was forced from his job and denounced as denying the Holocaust, which he did not do.

The real issue is not Holocaust denial, but denial of the right to challenge Israel’s government practices without being slandered, vilified or demonized.

Ahmadinejad was pilloried for allegedly saying Israel must be “destroyed.” Admadinejad is both a “foe of Israel” and a “champion of Palestinian demands for justice.” His words reflect a growing feeling among Arabs and Muslims that an injustice occurred in 1948 when a “Jewish State” was established in a land where the majority population was Christian and Muslim.

Not all Arabs or Muslims agree with me that the passing of time requires us to set aside irresolvable issues of “justice” in favor of reasoned compromise to end violence by both Israelis and Arabs. Many believe Christian and Muslim of Palestinians who lost their homes in 1948 have, under international law, a legitimate claim.

Without even permitting debate, Israel’s extremist supporters have brushed those issues aside as “anti-Semitic.”

It is a preposterous charge, except in the mainstream American media and among American government leaders bullied by the pro-Israel lobby into acquiescence.

Ahmadinejad is not the best spokesman for Palestinians. He is a petty tyrant, but is he different from the petty tyrants allied to our government?

Arabs and Muslims saw through Ahmadinejad’s inflamed rhetoric seeing the truth of issues he addressed, and the hypocrisy of American policies.

What passes for “free speech” in America is just another form of oppression no better or worse than censorship in Iran or the Middle East.

(Ray Hanania is an award winning journalist and author. Copyright Arab Writers Group Syndicate, www.ArabWritersGroup.com.)


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Ray Hanania

Ray Hanania is an award winning former Chicago City Hall reporter and Columnist who began writing in 1975 when he published The Middle Eastern Voice newspaper in Chicago (1975-1977). He covered Chicago City Hall from 1976 through 1992 (Mayor Daley to Mayor Daley) and has expanded to writing for newspapers around the world focussed on Middle East and American politics.

Hanania loves to write about American Arabs in politics, and focuses on Arab life in America.

Currently, he writes weekly columns on Middle East and American Arab issues for the Arab News in Saudi Arabia at www.ArabNews.com. He writes on American politics for the Des Plaines Valley News, Southwest News-Herald, The Regional News newspaper and the Reporter Newspapers. He also writes for the online websites TheArabDailyNews.com and NewsAmericaNetwork.com (Illinois News Network at IllinoisNewsNetwork.com).

Palestinian, American Arab and Christian, Hanania’s parents originate from Jerusalem and Bethlehem. Hanania began in journalism as an activist publishing Chicago’s first English-language American Arab Newspaper “The Middle Eastern Voice” from 1975 through 1977. In 1976, he was hired by the Chicago community newspaper The Southtown Economist (Daily Southtown) and in 1985 was hired by the Chicago Sun-Times and covered Chicago City Hall for both. In 1993, he launched the “The Villager” Newspapers which covered 12 Southwest Chicagoland suburban regions. In 2004, he published “The National Arab American Times” monthly newspaper which was distributed through 12,500 Middle East ethnic food stores in 48 American States.

Hanania is the recipient of four (4) Chicago Headline Club “Peter Lisagor Awards” for Column writing. In November 2006, he was named “Best Ethnic American Columnist” by the New American Media;In 2009, he received the prestigious Sigma Delta Chi Award for Writing from the Society of Professional Journalists. He is the recipient of the MT Mehdi Courage in Journalism Award. Hanania has also received two (2) Chicago Stick-o-Type awards from the Chicago Newspaper Guild, and in 1990 was nominated by the Chicago Sun-Times for a Pulitzer Prize for his four-part series on the Palestinian Intifada.

Hanania’s writings have been published in newspapers around the world. Formerly syndicated by Creators Syndicate, Hanania also has written news, features and Opinion Columns for Al Jazeera English, the Jerusalem Post, YNetNews.com, Arab News, Saudi Gazette, Newsday in New York, the Orlando Sentinel, the Houston Chronicle, The Daily Star, the News of the World, the Daily Yomimuri in Tokyo, Chicago Magazine, the Arlington Heights Daily Herald, and Aramco Magazine. His political columns are published in the Southwest News-Herald and Des Plaines Valley News, Regional News and Palos Reporter newspapers in Chicagoland. Hanania is the President/CEO of Urban Strategies Group media and public affairs consulting which has clients in Illinois, Florida, Michigan and Washington D.C.

Hanania is Palestinian Christian from prominent Bethlehem and Jerusalem families. His wife and son are Jewish and he performs standup comedy lampooning Arab-Jewish relations, advocating for peace based on non-violence, mutual recognition and Two-States.

His Facebook Page is Facebook.com/rghanania

Email him at: RGHanania@gmail.com