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By Ray Hanania — On the same day that two prominent American presidential candidates swore their allegiance to the political agenda of Israel, a foreign country, 12 other Americans swore out a conviction for an Arab American who did what every other political fundraiser has done. Days before, the Palestinian American Congress, once the foundation of a growing moderate Palestinian American movement (which I headed), collapsed in political emotion endorsing the unrealistic demand that all the Palestinian refugees be returned to their homes and lands in Israel, rather than accept compensation and an apology. It was a bad week for the “Moderate voices” in the Arab American community. A bad week for them means a good week for the smaller but more influential high profile and loud-mouth extremists who are now turning to the community and saying, “See, we have to fight and use violence. Talking doesn’t work. We can’t get a fair deal in a country that is unfair.”Both Democrats Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton told a huge gathering of AIPAC, the American Israel Public Affairs Council, that Israel’s political agenda is “sacrosanct,” the words used by Obama.
Jerusalem has always been an occupied city. The first half of Jerusalem was occupied in a conflict in 1948 – it was never a part of the UN Partition Plan — and the second half of the city was occupied in conflict in 1967.
But you can’t run for president and expect to win in this country unless you get AIPAC’s blessing.
Instead of reassuring supporters of Israel that peace will come through non-violence, compromise and a just end to the conflict where all rights are recognized and weighed fairly, Obama promised he would support all their demands, including the extreme.
“Let me be clear,” Obama reportedly told AIPAC members. “Israel’s security is sacrosanct. It is non-negotiable. The Palestinians need a state that is contiguous and cohesive and that allows them to prosper. But any agreement with the Palestinian people must preserve Israel’s identity as a Jewish state, with secure, recognized and defensible borders. Jerusalem will remain the capital of Israel, and it must remain undivided.”
Arab Americans don’t have an organization similar in stature or power to AIPAC. We have some groups, but their influence is overshadowed by the rising influence of the Islamicist and other religious groups tugging at the Middle East conflict and declaring Israel will “disappear” and Jerusalem will be an “Islamic city.”
There are only two ways to view Obama’s comments. First, he is pandering to secure Jewish votes. Who can blame him? Arabs Americans do not vote as a cohesive block. Second, Obama means what he says, and just doesn’t agree with the international view that Jerusalem must be shared, which undermines any motivation for Palestinians to return to the peace table and invigorates the extremists to believe that violence is the only solution.
In either case, it’s not good for Middle East peace.
About 600 miles from Washington D.C., in a courtroom in Chicago, 12 jurors, seated under a judge notorious for her anti-Arab rulings, convicted Syrian American Antoin “Tony” Rezko, of the unbelievable crime of getting jobs in exchange for campaign contributions.
Rezko was convicted for the very same thing that every politician and elected official in Chicago and Illinois does themselves. Every politician gives jobs to those who donate money to their campaigns. There isn’t one politician who doesn’t reward his contributors, who know they must raise cash to keep their jobs. It is clearly hypocrisy.
Some, like Rezko, are targeted for selective prosecution, or what Arab Americans are now calling Rezko’s “extra-judicial” prosecution.
There has been a pattern of Arab Americans targeted for corruption and even “terrorism,” although in most of the “terrorism” cases, the terrorism charges have been thrown out or withdrawn, and the defendants have been convicted on lesser charges unrelated to the original terrorism complaints.
In Arab American eyes, that is the result of another form of public hypocrisy, racism.
Rezko was brought down in part by another Arab American, Ali Ata, who worked the system on the Republican side of Illinois government for years, and who pled guilty to similar corruption charges.
Ata was the former longtime head of the Chicago Board of the American Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC). Ata and several of his colleagues on the former Chicago-ADC board have been charged or named in the ongoing “corruption” probe.
One former ADC National board member is in the Rezko mix, Aiham Alsammarae. He served in the post Saddam Hussein government in Iraq, but fled when he was accused of corruption. He is wanted by InterPol, but is protected by the U.S. Government.
Although the National ADC office has remained aloof from the scandal involving their former Chicago officer, the national office has had nothing to do with any of Ata’s actions or with Rezko’s turmoil.
In addition to having been pals with many politicians, from Obama to Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich, Rezko was also one of the primary fundraisers for Arab Americans seeking to run for public office.
With him gone, American voters who see a “terrorist” under every rock, won’t have to worry about Arab Americans winning offices in Illinois and influencing American Foreign Policy by insisting on such ridiculous notions like ending the Middle East conflict through justice, fairness and non-violence.
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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
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