HANANIA: Palestinian-Israeli Peace requires courage and compromise, For Immediate Release, 11-04-07

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Palestinian-Israeli Peace requires courage and compromise

By Ray Hanania — Israeli and Palestinian efforts to revive peace talks at Annapolis offer a new chance for peace, if courage and compromise on both sides can replace rhetoric and PR. The proposed Annapolis peace conference must not be like the Camp David “talks” where Israel offered its infamous “most generous offer.” Compared to paltry Israeli offers of the past, it was more generous, but not generous enough. But Palestinians need to do more, too.

Yasser Arafat and Ehud Barak never met face-to-face at Camp David. President Clinton’s aides, specifically pro-Israel negotiator Dennis Ross, sought to manipulate Arafat into accepting Israel’s agenda.

The Camp David collapse led to violence provoked by both sides because both sides failed to make real compromises, not withstanding Israel’s public relations spin and exaggerations on the issue. Israel’s offer to share Jerusalem was a shell game. Abu Dis is not Jerusalem. But Arafat could have pushed back. The real impediment to peace was the issue of the Palestinian right of return and Israel’s refusal to dismantle all West Bank settlements, including those around Jerusalem.

On purely legal terms, Palestinians evicted by Israel from their homes and lands in 1948 have an absolute legal right to return.

Yet, 60 years later, the reality of that right has faltered. It is as much the fault of failed Arab leadership as it is Israel’s refusal to allow Palestinian civilians to return.

We are lying to the Palestinian refugees when we imply that their “legal right of return” means they will someday return. They cannot return because the Arab leadership is incapable of making that happen, in conflict or in peace.

We can be honest, though, telling the refugees the truth, once and for all. At stake is not just “refugee rights” but the very existence of Palestinians as a people.

Palestinians do not have a state. They are imprisoned by the Israeli military occupation and by extremists’ hatred that feeds on their suffering.

Fanatics exploit Palestinians at every turn. The terrorist organization Hamas used violence, including its most heinous form, suicide bombings, to undermine all peace. They are no different than Arial Sharon, a terrorist who also used violence and provocation to undermine and block peace.

For Palestinians, it is about survival. Palestinians must be allowed to live with a dignity that can only come from having sovereignty. We need a real state now.

Israelis must also show courage and accept responsibility, apologize and compensate the refugees.

For both sides to do otherwise will condemn Palestinians and Israelis to an uncertain future where violence will worsen as the extremists become more powerful.

Extremist rhetoric on both sides feeds hatred. It denies Israel a future free of conflict, while Palestinians are being erased as a people. Israel’s supporters must drop the propaganda and start being fair. Palestinians must recognize that extremists who denounce compromise are trading a state for their uncompromising dream.

But that unachievable dream of tomorrow is the Palestinian nightmare of today, not just for the refugees but for every Palestinian. The rights of the refugees do not undermine the larger rights of the Palestinians as a people.

 (Ray Hanania is an award winning columnist 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