HANANIA: After 60 years, Palestinians and Israelis face same challenges from extremism, For Immediate Release, May 9, 2008

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At 60, Palestinians and Israelis must apologize and speak against their extremists as one voice
By Ray Hanania–
The Hebrews fled Egyptian persecution more than 5,000 years ago, and yet their modern day ancestors continue to live in “da-nile.” Palestinians are often described as the most educated people in the Arab world, and yet they allow reason and common sense to be occupied by emotion. Israeli denial and Palestinian emotions stand in the way of peace and fuel the extremists on both sides. Neither side will acknowledge the pain they bring to the other nor will they stand up and silence the loud but small minority of extremists among their own people who exploit the conflict and have helped work against peace. What else is new after more than 60 years of conflict?

Palestinians and Israelis are so far apart that they can’t even agree on what date to celebrate or commemorate their conflicting intersections of history.

Israelis and Jews celebrate Israel’s founding this week on May 8, according to the Jewish calendar, while Palestinians commemorate their tragedy of “al-Nakba” (the catastrophe) on the secular date on which the British fled and Israel declared its statehood, May 15.

Both sides must share the blame for the failure of peace, even though each sides points a finger of blame at each other.

The Israelis say they want peace, but not enough to make serious concessions to dismantle their illegal settlements. They don’t always stand by their word. When the settlements were first built, the Israelis said they were only “temporary” and for security purposes. But the truth is Israelis never intended to “return” any of the lands confiscated in the West Bank to build them.

Israel is the master of semantics. (As a Palestinian, I’m not anti-Semitic. I am anti-Semantic.) We see examples from everything from labeling of the 28 foot tall concrete “Wall,” which they “PR-spin” as “the fence,” to the debate over whether the “occupied” lands are now only “disputed.” These word games allow their extremists supporters to immunize themselves against claims of immoral conduct.

Israeli military strikes against civilian neighborhoods target alleged “terrorists,” which results in more civilians killed than there are alleged terrorists. The alleged terrorist target are always declared guilty outside of the Rule of Law, a process the Israelis military describes as “extra-judicial killing.” Terrorism is outrageous, but when a government kills individuals accused but not convicted of crimes and then takes a dozen civilians with them in death, that shames morality.

Tragically, while Israel’s government claims to support peace, it continues to expand its settlements, confiscate more Palestinian land, expel and deny Palestinian rights, all the while claiming they are the Middle East’s “strongest Democracy.”

Palestinians and Israeli moderates must become more vocal against extremist policies and clean their own houses. And as a Palestinian, I know the challenges we face are even worse.

The Palestinian cause has been hijacked by religious fanatics on the right, and by secular extremists and the left, like the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, often called “the Jabha.”. While their longterm philosophies conflict, the Islamicists and the “Jabha” rejectionists share one short term goal, do everything possible to prevent peace.

The Jabha wants to return to 1927 Palestine and start over, blocking the wholesale immigration of Jews and creating a nation they never cared to create in the first place. Hamas and other Islamicist terrorist organizations want to create the Islamic Ummah. Palestine, to these Islamicists, is not the end game but just one small step in the Islamicization of the entire world.

Until those days arrive, however, the cement that binds them together is “rejection.” Reject peace. Reject compromise. Reject reason.

That’s why before Hamas, a terrorist organization, became the darling of people like former President Jimmy Carter who claimed they must be included in order to achieve peace, Hamas terrorists used violence targeting Israeli civilians and immoral suicide murder to block every peace effort by former Palestinian President Yasir Arafat and Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin.

Having successfully prevented peace, Hamas and their leftwing secular extremists have built in its place, an industry that exploits the conflict and Palestinian suffering.

If peace were to come today, the largest Palestinian organization would be the unemployment line. More than 95 percent of Palestinian activists who wrapped themselves in Palestinian suffering and the kiffeyeh of issues, the Right of Return, would be out of a job.

The “Palestinian Right of Return” is a rock-solid legal right. But it is not a realistic right 60 years after the conflict forced many of them to flee. In survey after survey, the refugees have said they would accept resettlement, compensation to rebuild their lost lives, and a genuine apology from Israel’s government. And yet those Palestinian activists who say they support peace, insist that the first step is to return the 3rd and 4th generation of refugees to what is now Israel, knowing the move will undermine the “two state solution.”

The Palestinian movement has transformed from one of seeking justice to one of seeking revenge and injustice. It has been hijacked by fanatics not just on the religious extreme but on the secular extreme. And the moderates are afraid to speak out against them.

Before the Islamicist hordes swept through the Arab World erasing reason, logic and morality, the secular extremists had long entrenched themselves in strategies of vengeance, embracing violence for the sake of violence. When a moderate criticizes the extremist acts of individuals who claim to speak for Islam, it is the moderates not the extremists who become the targets of the Muslim community. Although the Muslim community does oppose the extremism, their silence makes them complicit in that extremism, which goes beyond terrorism to include unIslamic conduct including forcing women to veil and wear the Berqa, a clothing item that is not a symbol of religious piety but rather the imprisonment of women by men.

Like the Israelis, the Palestinians as a people have also failed on the issue of principle and morality. It is correct for Palestinians to stand up and denounce the killing of civilians by the Israeli military. But, when they sit back on their hands when Palestinians and Islamicists murder Israeli civilians, then their cries for justice are compromised. Palestinians and Israelis must begin to denounce killing not on the basis of a victim’s religion or national origin, but on the basis of principle.

Instead, what we hear from the extremists in the face of this shocking violence, is, “How dare you ask us to denounce ourselves when so many Palestinians are suffering and being murdered by Israel?”

Palestinian suffering is in fact the shield that the failed Palestinian leadership uses to avoid their own accountability.

Meanwhile, the Palestinian masses are traumatized by a mix of failure, defeat, expulsion, emotion and frustration. A popular Palestinian food dish is “Mjaddara,” an inexpensive mix of lentils, rice with diced onions sprinkled across the top and drowned in olive oil. It has come to symbolize Palestinian existence. Convenient to make. Inexpensive and requiring no real effort. And, tasteless.

The Palestinian people need an intervention. We need to hijack ourselves back from the hijackers. Someone needs to slap us back from an insanity that accepts despondency as “a way of life.”

Instead of using reason, we embrace emotion. Our anger turns into hatred. It has to be stopped.

While we brood, Palestine is being erased. The Jews waited 2,000 years, our leaders argue. So can we. It’s only been 60 years and apparently, according to the Islamicists and secular fanatics, we haven’t suffered enough.

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