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Getting mad at the wrong people
By Ray Hanania — The PLO representative last week Maen Areikat reportedly announced that he was “distancing” the PLO office from the American Task Force on Palestine (ATFP) because the group does not support the Palestinian push for statehood at the United Nations.
Well, that’s the buzz in the Palestinian world this week.
Palestinians rarely make news but when they do, it is usually about some internal squabble that most of the people who can influence the future of Palestine disregard.
It’s typical of the problems Palestinians face and raises questions about issues that often are not openly discussed.
Some of those issues, for example, that are rarely discussed publicly include: How significant should the Shatat or the Palestinian “Diaspora” be in terms of how Palestinians officials should react?
Another is more complicated. Is the Shatat even worth acknowledging, especially since most of the loudest activists in the Palestinian expatriot community are extremists and fanatics who oppose everything the Palestinians do towards peace. They excessively criticize Israeli actions especially when those actions involve violence against Palestinians under occupation, and turn a blind eye to Palestinian violence by groups like Hamas and the Popular Front – which, by the way, is less “popular” and more of a “front?”
Should a government that claims to be seeking Democracy be “severing ties” with its own people in or out of the Shatat?
The reality is the American Task For on Palestine is probably one of the most effective organizations representing Palestinian interests in the United States. There are several groups that self-proclaim that title, such as: the American Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC), the Arab American Institute (AAI), the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR).
As a former ADC board member, I can tell you up front that the organization lives and breathes under the constant heel of the fanatics in America. Never mind that ADC is supposed to focus on fighting discrimination but spends most of its time on international politicking at its conventions.
As a former AAI activist, I can tell you that despite the brilliance of its leader, Jim Zogby, the organization is pretty much a one-man dog-and-pony show. It has no real grass roots base and is very undemocratic.
As for CAIR, it is an Islamic group that focuses on Muslim issues. I’ve tried to get CAIR, one of the most effective lobbying groups out there representing Muslim and “Arab” issues, to expand their base to include Christian Arabs – but that contradicts their mandate apparently.
So when it comes to getting something done, ATFP headed by Ziad Assali is about the only real Palestinian voice in America with any significance or common sense.
Not to mention that among its talents is the deeply knowledgeable Hussein Ibish who I have often had on my radio show. Ibish is by far one of the most brilliant minds in the Palestinian and pan-Arab community.
So why would the PLO Ambassador in Washington DC, who is very smart, severe ties with the ATFP while leaving the door open to the rest?
Arab World politics is not driven by what’s best for the public, but rather by what needs to be done to survive. My guess is that Areikat has as big of a challenge trying to survive in the back-stabbing, cutthroat world of internal Palestinian and Arab politics than he does trying to convince Israeli settlers that they should return the lands they took to build their communities.
So it’s easier to face the ATFP than it is to respond to the real fanatics like the equally brilliant Ali Abunimeh, whose activism is driven but unreason and the one-state pipe dream – which is really more of a nightmare for Palestinians. Abunimeh’s website viciously assaulted Areikat in a recent posting accusing him of “ethnic cleansing.”
That circle also includes the nut jobs who spend their time tearing down the community leadership, like Ikhras and KabobFest, to havens of vicious anti-Arab and anti-Jewish sentiments.
Ikhras calls Palestinians like me “House Arabs.” But they represent the real house Arabs who represent the dictatorship cabal that controls Syrian President Bashar a-Assad. (I don’t believe that Assad is really in charge of Syria. He’s just being bullied by the fanatics that have a stranglehold on his government.)
The ATFP is the only organization that has the courage to give a platform to Salam Fayyad, the Palestinian Prime Minister. Many of the other groups would rather stay away and avoid the whole issue of whether or not Fayyad is the prime minister of Palestine or whether Ismael Haniyeh of Hamas is the prime minister.
I can tell you that the bigger problem for Fayyad is that he is an avowed moderate driven by reason and common sense, virtues missing from most Arab leaders.
My advice to Mr. Areikat is to drop the ATFP boycott and instead confront the fanatics who hold the Palestinian leadership hostage.
Palestinians don’t know how to make things happen, but they sure now how to prevent things from happening.
While Israel’s mantra has always been “take whatever we can get,” the Palestinian mantra has been “it’s all or nothing.” And when Palestinians do not get “all” they always end up with nothing.
Which is where the Palestinian leadership is today. Lording over a domain of virtually nothing.
(Ray Hanania is an award winning Palestinian columnist. He can be reached at www.Hanania.com.)
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Hanania writes weekly columns on Middle East and American Arab issues for the Arab News in Saudi Arabia at www.ArabNews.com, and at www.TheArabDailyNews.com, www.TheDailyHookah.com and at SuburbanChicagoland.com. He has also published weekly columns in the Jerusalem Post newspaper, YNetNews.com, Newsday Newspaper in New York, the Orlando Sentinel Newspapers, and the Arlington Heights Daily Herald.
Palestinian, American Arab and Christian, Hanania’s parents originate from Jerusalem and Bethlehem.
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, Hanania 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. He was honored for his writing skills with two (2) Chicago Stick-o-Type awards from the Chicago Newspaper Guild. In 1990, Hanania was nominated by the Chicago Sun-Times editors for a Pulitzer Prize for his four-part series on the Palestinian Intifada.
His writings have also been honored by two national Awards from ADC for his writing, and from the National Arab American Journalists Association.
The managing editor of Suburban Chicagoland Online News website www.SuburbanChicagoland.com, Hanania's columns also appear in the Southwest News Newspaper Group of 8 newspapers.
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