HANANIA: Facebook defines a policy of fairness in an unfair world, For Immediate Release, March 16, 2008

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Facebook defines a policy of fairness in an unfair world
By Ray Hanania —
In this age of Israeli domination of the news media, and most of the political debate in the American dominated world, it is refreshing to find an objective face in the crowd. That objective face is Facebook, the popular Internet social networking site that began as a place for college students to gather in Cyber Space, but that has fast transformed into one of the most popular of online gathering places for people of all ages, even surpassing the more political MySpace. No longer restricted to college students, Facebook is open to the entire world. As a result, the “entire world” now has a say in terms of how that “entire world” should be portrayed on the Internet.

Not surprisingly, the Arab-Israeli conflict has followed the record users to Facebook where haters from both sides have been waging campaigns to “deny” each other.

Although Facebook does not take political sides, it applies the existing international rules or world order when it asks people to identify where they live.

Well, that may be easy for people in Chicago to accept: Chicago is in Illinois which is in the United States.

But if you happen to live in one of Israel’s many illegal settlements created after 1967 in the Occupied West Bank, it’s a problem. And it is now a growing war of words.

For many years, Israeli and Jewish settlers living in the Jewish-only illegal settlements founded in the West Bank since 1967, have identified themselves as living in “Israel.”

But, Israel only officially exists within the borders of the 1949 Armistice Line, or “the Green Line” as defined by the rest of the civilized world. And just as many Palestinian insist Israel doesn’t exist, many Israelis insist Palestine doesn’t exist. In reality, Israel does not exist in the Occupied West Bank.

It’s not a black and white issue, though. Israel’s government “annexed” parts of the West Bank around East Jerusalem to sidestep peace and force the world to recognize Arab East Jerusalem as part of Israel. East Jerusalem, which is today closed to most Christian and Muslim Arabs and Palestinians especially, remains a part of the West Bank. It is on the negotiation table.

Most of the civilized world agrees with that. Which is why most nations refuse to move their embassies to Jerusalem. Which suggests that West Jerusalem, occupied by Israel in the 1948, is also as disputed as is East Jerusalem.

But outside of the issue of disputed Jerusalem, East and West, the settlements in the West Bank, including those around East Jerusalem an outside of 1948 Israel, remain a part of the West Bank.

That means if you happen to live in one of those settlements in the West Bank, such as Ariel, or Ma’aleh Adumim, and you are a member of Facebook, you can’t claim you live in Israel.

Not all settlers are bad people. Although the settlements were created by fanatics, Israeli policy of excluding Christian and Muslim Arabs from living in those settlements and the building of settlement roads has made it easy for many good Israelis to move there.

Yet, as much as they may wish that they live in Israel, they don’t. And Facebook has recognized that fact by defining their territory of residence as being in “Palestine,” which was defined during the 1993 Camp David Peace accords signed by Israel and Palestine.

Palestine is not yet a member nation of the United Nations and won’t be until a peace accord is finally reached. But the West Bank and Gaza Strip are identified as “Palestine,” supposedly governed by the Palestine National Authority, the government of Palestine that remains in peace talks with Israel.

Now, I know this upsets many Israelis who insist that whatever they do is right, and who never acknowledge doing any wrong. But the reality is that the settlements in the West Bank are in “Palestine.”

If they don’t want to live in “Palestine,” until a peace accord is finally signed, they could leave their illegal settlements and move back to pre-1967 Israel, across the Green Line.

Israelis reject this because they are used to imposing their will on everyone, under a strategic policy called “fait accompli.” Despite principle, morality, the rule of law and world opinion, Israel does whatever it wishes, which in a way has helped to fuel the conflict and keep it going.

It is clear that Israel does not want to give up any territory at all, although in fairness to Israel, the same is true of the mirror fanatics and terrorists who live among the Palestinians.

It is hard for either side to be objective, of course. Israeli extremists want it their way and moderate Israelis are afraid to speak up against that fanaticism. And Palestinian extremists want it the other way, and many Palestinian moderates are afraid to speak up, too, fearing the violent vengeance of the Islamicists who have offered a third option: create a Palestinian State that is an Islamicist haven for religious fanatics, and throw the “Jews” into the sea, along with all secular Muslims and all Christian Palestinians.

Somewhere in the middle of all that hatred, vengeance, double-standards, hypocrisy and extremism, is the moderate middle ground.

And it seems that Facebook is one of the few forces in this world that has found that middle ground.

I know my friends in Ma’aleh Adumim are not happy with that, but then, well, join the rest of us who are not happy with a lot of things in the Israel-Palestine tragedy that continues till this day. Unresolved. Drowning in extremism. And overwhelmed by violence and hate.

It is possible that Israeli extremists may threaten Facebook and force the Internet giant to change its policies. We’ve seen that happen before. The Bush administration, for example, under political pressure, changed its official description of the West Bank from “occupied” to “disputed.”

Of course, there are extremists among the Palestinians and Arabs, too. The effort to “de-list” Israel from Facebook is just as wrong. The sad reality is there are just as many Israeli extremists as there are Palestinian extremists. Moderates who only criticize the other side and not their own, are not moderates at all.

But that doesn’t change the reality of the settlements. Because even if the West Bank is disputed, that does not mean the settlements are in Israel.

Of course, there is one more possibility. Moderate Israelis might one gain the upperhand in Israel and stop supporting the settlers and stop supporting policies that are deny Palestinian rights in the West Bank, outside of 1948 Israel.

That might be asking for a lot, but it is worth hoping for along with genuine peace.

(Ray Hanania is an award winning columnist, author and radio talk show host. He can be reached at www.RadioChicagoland.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