The Middle East is a bizarre world of contradictions and hypocrisies

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Bashar and Asma al-Assad, President and first-...

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The Middle East is a bizarre world of contradictions and hypocrisies
By Ray Hanania — When it comes to bettering themselves, people in the Middle East. whether they are Christians, Muslims or Jews, have only one real choice. It’s not a great choice and it’s the only one they have. They can accept their circumstances — which are usually bad — or, they can chose the lesser of the two evils.

That’s the choice in Syria today. The Syrian government of Bashar al-Assad is a brutal regime run by a greedy despot who was put in place by tyranny and demagoguery. When its citizens demanded freedom, the government responded with repression.

It’s not just in Syria. It happened in Egypt where protestors demanded freedom, expelled a dictator, Husni Mubarak, who profited from their suffering (to the tune of $31 billion during his 40 year dictatorship). Although Mubarak is now in detention, the future people of Egypt, many months after the protests began, remains in limbo.

Did Egypt go from one tyranny to another tyranny? We don’t know the answer to that yet. There will be change but is it the change the protestors wanted?

The fight in Syria is not as simple as it looks or is being sold. I have issues with it.

For example, the leading force demanding change on behalf of the people of Syria is the United States. That’s hypocritical since the United States doesn’t really support civil rights and freedoms for the people of the Middle East. Americans only support freedom for the people in countries that oppose.

America hasn’t said much about bringing freedoms to the Christians and Muslims who live as second class citizens in Israel, for example, and they are even less outspoken about bringing freedom to the Palestinians who continue to live under Israeli occupation.

It’s not about freedom and democracy when it comes to Israel and the Palestinians. It is about politics.

Why do we concentrate so much on what America thinks? Well, America claims to be the voice of world freedom, the champion of liberty and civil rights. The truth is that America has quietly changed. They no longer urge foreigners to immigrate to their country and they spend a lot of political time complaining about the immigrants who have entered the country “illegally.”

So, can people in the Middle East afford to look towards the United States when it comes to leading the charge to bring “freedom” to the people in that region when American rhetoric is rife with contradictions?

Syria is unique. For example. One might think that Israel would love to see the Syrian regime collapse. But that’s not true. The Israelis didn’t want to see Mubarak removed from office because he was the “lesser of the two evils.”

And they don’t want to see Bashar alAssad removed from office either because of the uncertainty of who will take his place. We all know the basics. The al-Assad family is Alawite, a small Muslim minority sect in Syria which is dominated by Sunnis and Shi’ites. If alAssad is removed from office, chances are he’ll be replaced, not by a Sunni movement but probably by a movement led by the more powerful Shi’ite sect.

The Shi’ite Syrians are allies of Hezbollah in Lebanon and Iran, both mortal enemies of the Israelis. Syria has been the host for Hamas, another Israeli mortal enemy, but Syria has used that relationship more to shield itself from its critics than as a base to attack Israel.

In fact, Syria has lost the will to attack Israel having taken a beating in the 1973 war. Yes, the Arabs lost that war, even if Israel got a black eye in the process.

Jordan long ago sold out to the Israelis and proclamations about “liberating Palestine” from the King of Jordan has become more or less self-serving political posturing. Give the people what they want to hear, especially when you don’t want to give them what they want. And Jordan does not want a Palestine State in the West Bank.

For Israel, a toothless Jordan is the lesser of two evils, and for the King of Jordan, rhetoric is far better than real action. After all, King Abdullah II is a Westernized Arab King in the British but more closely to the American political tradition.

It’s a mess in the Middle East for certain. But a messy Middle East is probably the lesser of two evils for Israeli and American interests. It could be far worse and if Syria collapses, from the American and Israeli perspective, it would get far worse.

(Ray Hanania is an award winning columnist and media consultant. He can be reached at rayhanania@comcast.net.)

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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