Israel policies make the extremist Arabs look good

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Israeli policies make the extremist Arabs look good
By Ray Hanania — As the Arab World undergoes its first real burst of pro-Democracy protests, is anyone surprised that Israel’s “Democratic” government is pushing its people away from Democracy?

At one point during modern history, Jews were at the forefront fighting for civil rights against restrictions. Their chief weapon was the “boycott,” and they denounced as racist laws that tried to separate people based on issues of race or religion.

Today’s Jews are not yesterday’s Jews, that’s for sure. Israel’s government is slowly but steadily making it illegal for anyone to be non-Jewish. Sounds harsh, but it’s not. Israel says it is illegal to boycott Israel or its illegal settlements, and yet the art of boycotting was developed in part by Jews who stood up against oppression during the civil rights protests during America’s era of slavery of Blacks.

Already, it’s illegal for anyone in Israel to commemorate the “Nakba,” which is merely the Arabic word describing Israel’s creation in 1948 — for the Arabs, that creation was a “catastrophe.”

In other areas of Israel, rather than fighting for civil rights, Israelis are curtailing civil rights demanding “loyalty oaths,” banning non-Jews from many neighborhoods and worse, turning what begin as non-violent protests from the Gaza Flotilla to the borders with Arab countries into confrontations that end in violence and death.

A group of Jewish zealots are lobbying Jewish women at Israeli beaches to resist making friends with non-Jews, specifically Arabs. In some places in this world, that’s called hatred and worse.

This week, the Knesset took another step towards dragging Israel away from the noble principles of Democracy expelling one of its elected Arab members, Hanan Zoabi, because she participated in last year’s Gaza Flotilla.

I don’t think most Israelis care about Democracy. They love to talk about it but they don’t seem to like to practice it. And it’s Israel’s actions that are challenging its image as a Democratic nation because in truth, the actions of the Palestinians and their Arab allies are ineffective and even pointless.

Whatever you might say about the Gaza Flotilla, it wasn’t until Israel responded that the flotilla achieved its objectives. There were no rockets being smuggled to the Hamas terrorists on any of the flotilla boats. The flotilla was a PR stunt with no other purpose except to create conflict.

Israelis haven’t yet recognized what most Palestinians have long ago recognized. The Palestinians are leaderless. They have no effective leaders. They have no new ideas, just the same old strategies that history has proven to be ineffective. Protests. Demonstrations. Name calling. Bullying. Violence.

Instead of building a state, the extremists who have put the push for peace in a deadly headlock are leading the Palestinians to non-existent existence. And the only thing standing in the way of the failure of these extremists is Israel and an increasing discriminatory society that is giving Palestinians their only real successes.

Do Israelis really think that banning Hanin Zoabi from the Knesset does anything to make Israel safer? It certainly doesn’t make Israel more Democratic. In fact, it only strengthens the hands of the extremists who will exploit it to showcase Israel’s faults.

I met Zoabi last year. She is a Palestinian working in the Israeli system, and that on its face means she recognizes Israel. But she also recognizes the rights that are denied to Palestinians. She is a fiercely courageous champion of Palestinian rights.

Instead of banning Zoabi from the Knesset, Israelis would do well to see her as the symbol of what Palestinians can become, tough but respectful adversaries who embrace the fundamentals of Democracy — protest and free expressions — as their weapons of choice.

And instead of pushing back against peaceful, non-violent protests, Israelis should view them in the context of how Israelis and Palestinians could someday move away completely from violent actions.

As it is, though, the failures of the Palestinian extremists are saved by the mistakes of the Israelis.

(Ray Hanania is an award winning columnist and media consultant. Reach him at

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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 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 and (Illinois News Network at

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,, 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.

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