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Extremists exploit emotions to destroy moderate Arab institutions
By Ray Hanania — Some may view the recent “controversy” involving the decision by the American Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC) to try to censor entertainer Malek Jandali’s performance of a song perceived as being too harshly critical of the Syrian dictatorship as an example of how American Arabs can wield their own powers of protest.
Or, you could see it the way I do that while ADC National clearly made a mistake to prevent Jandali from performing his song “Watani Ana,” the real issue is the growing threat of extremist voices who are willing to destroy anything to get their selfish ways.
For full disclosure, I am a member of ADC’s National Board and an elected member of the Chicago ADC Chapter Board where I have been a member since ADC’s inception in 1980. But I was not involved in the Jandali decision and didn’t know about it until Politico.com, a mainstream news website, broke the story.
I didn’t agree with the decision, but immediately it was apparent that the haters of ADC and other mainstream organizations were mustering their strength to use the error in judgment to destroy ADC.
Within hours, leaders of extremist groups including a few of the activists set to speak at the ADC Convention which began Friday (June 10) began pillorying not just the decision, but the organization itself, attacking its very character and targeting individuals in their hateful way of defaming people.
Because the decision was wrong, many of the mainstream Arab activists also joined in, such as the longtime ADC rival the American Arab Institute (AAI), giving a false augmented sense of tenor to the extremist voices. Some of the extremists declared war on ADC and vowed to take it over. Their actions tried to disguise themselves in the aura of the phenomenal pro-Democracy protests that have erupted in the Middle East, pro-Democracy protests that the United States has sought to manipulate, targeting countries it dislikes while trying to protect those that are its allies.
For me though, despite the usual screams of hatred from the extremists Arab Peanut Gallery (APGs), were some substantive issues that were raised.
1 – Syria is a dictatorship, but it’s not the only one in the Middle East. It’s tyrants have been ruling the country not since Bashar al-Assad’s father, the late Hafez al-Assad, took over the country in 1971 from other dictators who took it over from French control in 1946. Why aren’t the protests targeting all of the Arab regimes in the Middle East?
2 – The targeting of Syria has become the latest cornerstone in anti-Arab pro-Israel foreign policy of the United States. America has set the stage for an embargo and assault against Syria, and only because it is engaged in wars in two other Arab countries — Iraq and Libya — it hasn’t invaded and attacked the country.
3 – The mainstream American news media has placed regime-change in Syria on the front burner of its anti-Arab and anti-Palestinian news coverage, coverage that has fueled the foundations of the American decisions in the Arab World to target Libya, for example, while avoiding all involvement in Egypt until it was too late; too push for change in Yemen, but to temper any criticism of the Jordanian Monarchy where protests have been met with brutal power.
4 – Moderate Arabs can criticize Israel’s government policies while supporting peace based on compromise, non-violence and two sovereign states, Israel and Palestine. you can’t examine the turmoil in the Arab World without gauging its impact on the Palestine-Israel conflict.
The events in Syria are horrible, but questions have been raised that none of the extremists who are pushing for regime change in Syria have answered.
The Christian minority has a status that is more protected in Syria than it has been in any other country, except maybe Jordan and Egypt, although in Egypt, tensions against the Coptic Orthodox Christian minority are constantly inflamed.
When I refer to the extremists, I am not taking about the larger moderate voices in the Arab World and American community who also support regime-change. I am referring to the small but loud voices of hypocrisy who have played a key role in preventing the achievement of peace between Israel and Palestine, notwithstanding the extremist and anti-peace posture of Israel’s current government.
These extremists use conflicts like the protests against ADC not only to focus on issues such as censorship and free speech, but to achieve their goals of not only destroying the corrupt Arab government regimes, but to also destroy the instruments of Arab moderation, those voices who want change in the Arab World but who also want peace based on two-states and compromise with Israel.
And then there are the opportunists like AAI, which is run in the same political mode of an Arab World tyranny by a president-for-life who would love for ADC fail or, better yet, come under their control — which for those who have been involved in this long enough know as “the original plan.”
Not addressed by the extremists are the issues. The scream in general terms of rhetorical hatred and anger. That anger appeals to victims who legitimately support regime change, but not to the extent sought by the fanatics.
A good example is the issue of the Christians. Remember, I have nothing to do with the Jandali decision and I even believe he should have been able to perform his song. But I am Christian Arab and in today’s extremist world Christians are prohibited from expressing views unless they toe the line of the extremist rhetoric of hatred and oppose peace with Israel and the creation of two-states.
Pope Benedict this weekend issued a strong appeal of support for the Government of Syria, too. Is the Pope a traitor to the cause of freedom? Or, is the Pope’s action a reinforcement of the concerns that trouble many Arabs throughout the world who are concerned about how the extremists in the Middle East abuse Christians.
In his message, Pope Benedict strongly called for reform in Syria, but he said what other Christian Arabs are saying, too: “Reform and social progress, however, must not be brought about through actions that are discriminatory, intolerant or violent, but must be achieved in ways that respect the rights and dignity of all individuals and communities as well as respect truth and peaceful coexistence.”
But that’s not what the extremists want. They want destruction, not on principle but on the basis of which countries are their priorities. In a way, their strategies parallel the strategies of the rightwing government of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu who wants change in Libya, Syria, is concerned about Egypt but wants nothing to happen to the Jordanian Monarchy that has been so acquiescent of their anti-Palestinian purges and brutality.
(One of the leaders of the fanatics attacking me is the son of a prominent Jordanian diplomat. You wouldn’t hear him calling for regime change in Jordan or the ouster of the King there. It’s an example of the extremist hypocrisy that tolerates the very things it despises in others.)
Moderate, secular and especially Christian Arabs are conflicted about the events in Syria. And because I wrote that, I was singled out for attacks, as were others at ADC. No one among the extremists care about the truth. All they care about is undermining anything that prevents them from achieving their goal, a goal that defines the very essence of extremism — selective application of principle.
Killing Israeli civilians is okay to them, but not Arab civilians. It’s a reflection of the hypocrisy of the United States that labors in anguish over the killing of a civilian in Syria if it will help them topple the anti-Israeli government of Bashar al-Assad, but they stand steadfast with Israel’s government in defending Israel’s oppressive and brutal crackdowns on Palestinians which have killed more civilians.
When the United States stands up to denounce an Arab government, Arabs should take pause from their emotions to see through the hypocrisy and the strategic politics that the West is pursuing. America isn’t about bringing Democracy to the Middle East. It is about bringing an acceptance of Israel without any compromise from the Israelis. That’s why they went slow in Egypt, but full speed ahead in Libya and they are laying the concrete for an eventual invasion of Syria.
And when the extremists target an organization like ADC that has and continues to champion the rights of Arabs who have been the targets of discrimination in America over the playing of a song they even admit is not so terribly anti-Syrian to begin with, moderate Arab voices, Christian Arabs, secular Muslims and those who embrace reason in their mission must stand up.
Last year, ADC confronted the highest number of discrimination cases filed since 2003. More importantly, 70 percent of those cases have been resolved.
That’s worth fighting for.
(Ray Hanania is an award winning columnist and media consultant. His columns are distributed by Creators Syndicate. He can be reached at www.hanania.com.)
MORE: A response to Ali Abunimah’s lies. Click here.
This post has already been read 6 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