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Arab World misled by Chicago officials on 2016 Olympics
By Ray Hanania — Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley and a collection of community leaders visited the Arab World recently in the hopes of winning support for the city’s bid for the 2016 Olympic Committee. The International Olympic Committee has several Arab World members and while in the Dubai, Daley boasted about how well Chicago treats it’s growing American Arab community. But the facts show that Americans Arabs have been excluded not only from real involvement in the 2016 Olympics – there are only 2 members out of an advisory board that has more than 360 members – but they have been excluded from government services and support not only in Chicago but from statewide programs tied to the city’s influence.
Worse, though, is the announcement that the United States Olympic Committee (USOC) which is the foundation of the Chicago 2016 bid, has hired one of the country’s most anti-Arab activists as its communications adviser, Ari Fleischer.
Fleischer served under former President George W. Bush for 2 ½ years until July 2003, just after the invasion of Iraq. During his tenure, he was the most confrontational White House press secretary the American Arab community has ever encountered and he regularly denounced Americans Arabs as “terrorists.”
Recently, Fleischer surfaced out from under his post-Bush rock to make this outrageous attack against President Barack Obama’s speech to the Arab and Muslim World, a speech in which Obama was trying to reach out to the Arab and Muslim people to help change the dynamics of the world’s conflicts and bring about peace based on justice and fairness.
Fleischer bluntly told CBS News recently, “The problem is the reality … [The] bottom line — the speech was balanced and that was what was wrong with it. American policy should not be balanced. It should side with those who fight terror.”
Fleischer went on to explain that the civilians of the Gaza Strip are responsible for the humanitarian crisis that is claiming the lives of thousands of women and children. He defended Israel, which intentionally started the war in Gaza to manipulate local Israeli elections, saying that Israel “withdrew” from Gaza. Fleischer, who’s anti-Arab and anti-Muslims sentiments are reflected clearly in his views, failed to note that the Israelis imprisoned Gaza and closed its borders denying the region food, water, gasoline and other resources to survive, essentially starving the imprisoned people to near death and provoking a backlash of resistance.
Obama is “too balanced?” Fleischer is exactly the problem with the Middle east. He was a part of the rightwing conservative demagogues who had a headlock on the Bush administration and pushed America into a war in Iraq in part – not the only reason but a major reason – because taking out Saddam Hussein provided more security for Israel in the Middle East than it did to do anything to undermine terrorism.
Now, Fleischer is going to bring that anti-Arab and anti-Muslim hatred to the 2016 Olympic bid, a bid that has essentially marginalized the more than 230,000 Americans Arabs who live in Chicago, according to Daley’s own statistics.
Although Mayor Daley is a decent person, he is being misled by a handful of advisers who have taken jobs in his administration and used their clout not to help the American Arab community but to help themselves and their families and their friends.
For example, in Chicago, American Arabs are at the bottom of the list of ethnic groups that receive grants and funding.
While every other ethnic group receives vast resources from the city to support their programs, American Arabs are almost completely excluded.
The 2016 Olympic Committee has only two American Arab members, one very successful businessman, and one political activist who has failed to embrace the broader agenda of the needs of American Arabs.
Additionally, the State of Illinois, which Daley has power to influence, has abandoned and ignored American Arabs. A review of the grants given by the Illinois Arts Council shows that American Arabs have been neglected and ignored while all other ethnic groups have received enormous chunks of the $19 million given away each year.
American Arabs have been in Chicago for more than 180 years, yet Chicago has consistently fought their integration, involvement and denied them representation in the political system, local government, and in activities that showcase ethnic and community pride.
American Arabs represent nearly 8 percent of the city’s population yet have only a handful of teacher, no programs for the thousands of American Arab students in the school system, and have only a fraction of one percent of the jobs in city government.
While American Arabs have a battle on their hands to change the discrimination and bias that exists, the Arab and Muslim World should not be so naïve as to believe the lies and a half-truths about Chicago’s so-called “partnership” with the American Arab community.
If Chicago wants the 2016 Olympics, they should include many more American Arabs not just from Chicago but from the Chicagoland region on the board. And, Chicago should correct it’s mistakes and embrace not exclude American Arabs.
The Arab World should express outrage at the USOC’s hiring of Ari Fleischer and force the 2016 Olympic Committee and the USOC to be more inclusive of American Arabs and Muslim Americans.
(Ray Hanania is an award winning American Palestinian columnist, author, standup comedian and morning Chicago radio talk show host. He can be reached at www.RadioChicagoland.com.)
This post has already been read 39 times!
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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