GUEST OP-ED: Obama’s election can open door for Middle East peace, FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE, 11-10-08

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ARAB AMERICAN WRITERS GROUP SYNDICATION
OP-ED, Distribution, Monday Nov. 10, 2008
Obama’s election can open new door for Middle East peace and improved relations
By Mohamed Hedi Triki — Barack Obama promised the American people to bring “change” with his election as president of the United States, but the anticipation for real change is greatest among the people in the Arab World.

The people of the Arab World have long felt left out by the policies pursued by past American presidents during the past decade but especially so in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.

This desire for change has been mischaracterized in the West as being anti-American. Nothing can be further from the truth. The people of the Arab World admire the United States, long for the promises of freedom that are its foundation and hope to improve their relations in a world where justice prevails not just in America but in the Middle East, too.

The election of Barack Obama has not only created a new hope that the United States will not bring real change based on justice to the World, but it has created an opportunity, a doorway to improved relations and understanding between Arab countries and the United States.

This opportunity is not here because Obama is presumed Muslim, or that he has an Arab middle name, Hussein, or that he knows some Arab Americans that he worked with during his years after college.

Although these facts were used as instruments of criticism by his foes in the last election, for the Arab World, these are not the criteria we seek in a great leader.

To be a great leader, you don’t have to be Muslim. You don’t have to be Arab. Your middle name need not be Hussein. All you have to be is fair. All you have to be is just. All you have to is recognize that the Arab people are no different than the American people when it comes to seeking a better life and peace.

As I sat in Chicago watching the election results Nov. 4, I recognized Barack Obama not only won the election, he may have also won the hearts and minds of people throughout the Arab World. That includes in my country, Tunisia, where people believe that in his heart, Obama is a just and a fair man.

I know Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, the president of Tunisia, and the Tunisian people are encouraged there will be better and stronger mutual relations with the American people because of Obama.

For far too long, countries of the Middle East have been at odds with the United States over foreign policy decisions involving not only Israel and Palestine, but also other Arab countries from Iraq to Egypt.

Much of this conflict has been driven by a misunderstanding of the Arab people and the inaccurate belief that Arabs support violence against American interests. In reality, the violent extremists are a minority who are outside of the Arab culture. But because of politics and regional conflicts, this minority of extremists have exploited the frustrations that dominate the majority of the Arab people. What Middle East peace, and what Barack Obama can provide, is a renewed belief among the people of the Arab World that the United States will understand our needs, our dedication to justice and our perspective on all issues including the Palestine-Israel conflict.

Barack Obama is not Arab, not Muslim and not an activist for Arab causes.

But Barack Obama is a man of peace, hope and justice who we in the Arab World believe has the power to do that which no other American president has achieved in many years: to win over the hearts and minds of the Arab people and usher in genuine peace in the Middle East. Peace not only in Palestine. Peace not only in Iraq. But peace throughout the Arab World.

We know this and that is why the people of the Arab World are waiting in anticipation for Barack Obama to do the right thing that is the corner stone of his heart.

(Mohamed Hedi Triki is a veteran journalist from Tunisia. He was the former editor-in-chief of al-Hurriya Newspaper and the former general manager of Tunisian-African News. He can be reached at trikiomar@yahoo.com.)

[Editor’s Note: Distributed by the National Arab American Journalists Association and the Arab American Writers Group Syndicate, coordinator Ray Hanania,  rayhanania@comcast.net. To contact the author Mohamed Hedi Triki directly, please call  312-391-8912  or email Omar Triki, trikiomar@yahoo.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