10-20-09 Moderate J-Street Voices can help re-ignite moderate Palestinian Movement

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Moderate J-Street Voices can help re-ignite moderate Palestinian Movement
By Ray Hanania —
For years, APIAC, the powerful pro-Israel lobby, has had Jewish American political thought in an extremist headlock, a new voice of Jewish American moderation is rising in strength called J Street. The organization, which is being pilloried by extremist pro-Israel conservatives, holds a major conference on Israel and Middle East next week in Washington D.C. I’ll be participating in a special blogging panel of Israelis and Palestinians who support compromise and peace based on two-states organized by Richard Silverstein of Tikun Olam.

There is no doubt that Jewish American thought on peace between Palestinians and Israelis has been driven to the far, extremist right by AIPAC and its network of pro-Israel funding mechanisms. In fact, in part because of AIPACs powerful lobbying, many Jewish Americans who normally would support peace based on compromised have been pushed into a corner embracing a one-sided peace in which Israel retains all that it has taken over the years without making any sacrifices for peace while demanding that Palestinians do everything from surrendering some West Bank Lands, compromising on Jerusalem, accepting some of the illegal all-Jewish settlements and accepting a state that lacks the true power of sovereignty over its lands.

At the same time, many Palestinians are being pushed into the corner of extremism by the failure of the Palestinian leadership to achieve any real concessions from Israel. There is a growing movement of Palestinians who are now calling for a “one-state” solution which is not a solution at all but the end of the Palestinian Revolution and claim to nationhood. The one-state agenda basically abandons the occupation as the primary evil in the current relationship between Israel and Palestine, and instead naively proposes that the Arab population will grow at such a rate that eventually Israel and Palestine will become one Arab State, the original goal of the Arab World in the 1930s and 1940s that laid the groundwork for six decades of Palestinian failures.

Palestinians live in occupation and in the diaspora for the fundamental reason that they have allowed their emotions to lead them into believing the notion that nothing less than total Jewish surrender can compensate for their suffering and their failures and military losses. In other words, Palestinians have been taught that the shame of their failures can be compensated through rejection and emotion, and in many cases, unrestrained violence of vengeance that often targeted innocent civilians.

Every time that the Palestinian leadership sought to compromise with Israel and achieve a step forward towards the two-state solution, Hamas terrorists using a bastardized distortion of Islam as their standard intentionally targeted Israeli civilians in suicide bombings. This ongoing violence gave many Palestinians the only form of fulfillment, a macabre sense of justice.

This failing among the Palestinians to develop a reasoned strategy to support a compromise that would maximize their returns pushed many Israelis and American Jews into extremism themselves. They use Palestinian failure as a justification to reject true compromise and this formula has become the foundation of AIPAC’s political assaults. It has held American public opinion hostage through ignorance of facts, leading them to believe that it is the Palestinians who refuse to compromise when in fact it is the dominant Israeli government that, even during the peace process, continues to expand settlements, confiscate Palestinian lands and provoke hostilities through policies of confrontation and even violence.

Next week in Washington, Jewish Americans who still believe in two-states, and peace based on compromise will meet to discuss how to strategically move the two-state solution out of the margins. Their success can also motivate Palestinian moderates to reinvigorate their own support of two-states and peace based on compromise.

What is that compromise? Most Palestinians know what it is. Palestinians know that they cannot defeat Israel, but they can continue to make the lives of Israelis miserable and painful, at a cost of making their own lives miserable and painful too. That’s the Hamas option.

They also know that if Israel were to become serious in peace, and if moderate Jews and Israelis can reclaim control of their public opinion, they would reciprocate and support peace based on compromise. And that compromise entails very clearly defined concessions for both sides. Israel surrenders the majority of Palestinian lands it occupied in 1967 and end its provocative military attacks not just against Hamas but other Palestinians in the West Bank. It means that Israel stop expanding its settlements and instead begin dismantling the settlements. It also means Israel accepts that there must be a Palestinian presence in Jerusalem that would represent the capitol of a Palestinian State.

It also means that Palestinians accept the reality that the right of return may be a legal legitimate right, but that it is an unrealistic right that can never be achieved. Palestinians must accept the fact that refusing to compromise on the Right of Return is in fact a form of punishment on the Palestinian people living in the diaspora with no hope other than the empty promises made to them year after year by Palestinian fanatics who refuse to compromise. Those fanatics will fight to the very last refugee to prove their point.

But before Palestinian moderation can re-establish itself, the moderate Israeli and Jewish movement must re-assert itself. They Pace Now is dead and that the leftists in Israel no longer have a voice in Israeli policy. If Jewish and Israeli moderation is dead than the future is bleak for everyone. But if it can resurrect itself, it is very possible that might reignite the moderate Palestinian movement.

And that moderate Palestinian movement is the only hope Palestinians have for the future. We can remain interlocked in an unending conflict in which Palestinians sustain far more punishment than the Israelis, with no real hope of statehood, or we Palestinians can recognize the reality and replace emotion and hate with passion and reason. If we can, we might see a sovereign Palestinian State in our lifetime.

(Ray Hanania is an award winning Palestinian American columnist and former National President of the Palestinian American Congress. 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