Lions and Syria and Falafel, Oye Vey!

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Falafel and Lions and Syria, oh my!
By Ray Hanania — JERUSALEM POST — A day never passes when an Arab doesn’t complain about Israel. Of course, a day never passes when an Israeli doesn’t complain about the Arabs, either.

The complaints vary widely and cover everything from stealing food to violence.

A common complaint is Israel “stole” the falafel. Maybe. Israel has stolen Palestinian lands belong to Palestinians. But, can you really steal food?

I read recently where an Israeli official countered: did Israel also steal Italian food? Another Palestinian activist said he “snickers” whenever he sees a sign boasting of “Israeli falafel.”

In fairness, though, Israelis don’t go around bragging “Try our Israeli spaghetti” the way Israelis promote “Israeli falafel.”

But to be even more fair – is that allowed in the Arab-Israeli conflict? — many Israeli Jews are from Arab countries (Sephardic) and have been making falafel and other food delicacies for centuries, too.

If this were just about the battle of who controls food, it might be funny. But that’s not the case. What’s not so funny, though, is how when pushed against the wall, Arab dictators quickly start to sound like the Israelis they often frequently denounce.

For example, I recall the first time I ever heard the phrase “iron fist,” it was used by then General Yitzhak Rabin. He vowed to break the arms of Palestinian protestors during the First Intifadah.

Last week, I heard Syria’s strongman Bashar al-Assad, whose last name means “Lion” in Arabic, vow to crush the pro-Democracy protesters with an “iron fist.”

I didn’t hear a lot of Arabs complaining about that. In fact many Arabs are cheering Assad, the feeble-voiced eye doctor, with their usual double-vision and hypocrisy.

Assad’s army is also firing “rubber bullets” at protesters. I thought rubber bullets were an Israeli invention?

Next thing you know, Assad will probably be declaring in typical Arab world bluster that if the protesters don’t shut-up and accept their restrictive unfree lives, that he will “drive them into the sea.”

Or, he might start building a 28 foot tall concrete wall around the most disruptive Arab areas where protesters have been most active. Assad will probably also call the “Wall” a “Fence,” too, to soften the political impact.

If there are any Jews left in Syria, Assad could have them build the “Oppression Wall” the way Israel has Arabs building their Wall — err, fence, err barrier, err, whatever!

Maybe the United Nations might find a few moments to organize a UN Inquiry into the Syrian Uprising. They could have some renowned Arab jurist as its lead author outline the war crimes that Assad is engaging in as he orders his tanks and planes to fire missiles on civilians.

That is a war crime, isn’t it? (There’s even a debate on that in the Arab-Israeli conflict. When is killing a civilian a war crime?)

Of course, there is a long list of things the UN could do but doesn’t. It could order similar inquiries into the brutal oppression against protesters in Egypt, Bahrain, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Yemen and well, let’s name everyone of the 22 Arab countries.

If they find an Arab to lead the inquiries, maybe they can convince former jurist Richard Goldstone to do it. He could follow up on the Gaza War Report he did in 2009. We could have The Goldstone Report Part II: Syria. And The Goldstone Report Part III: Egypt. And the Goldstone Report Part VI: Saudi Arabia.

It could become an encyclopedia of alleged oppression, easily a 22 volume set.

Oye vey! There is so many crimes being committed against civilians in the Arab World, it would all become a blur. Or maybe, the “blur of oppression” might be given a formal name. We can just call it the “Arab League.”

This “fog of conflict” in the Arab World is actually very easy to see.

In fact, although the Arab World claims ownership of falafel, there is one dish that it serves often that it didn’t event but it could just as easily claim ownership.

That dish is called Hypocrisy.

Arabs are always pointing to Israel and claiming they are “hypocrites.” They might be. But, I don’t hear the Arabs screaming that Israel “stole” the “hypocrisy” from the Arab World the way they scream that Israel “stole” their falafel, or the way they close their eyes to brutality in the Arab World but have 20-20 vision when it involves brutality by Israel.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying Israel is any kind of angel in this whole mess. I mean, when Israel announced last week that it would take in Syria protesters and refugees, that sounded a little shallow considering Israel refuses to take in Palestinian refugees from 1948 and 1967 and refuses to recognize Arabs as citizens who marry Israelis.

But I am saying that the very Arab critics pointing fingers at Israel are doing the exact same thing that they claim Israel has done.

Syria’s Assad says the heart of the issue is that Syria has been the champion of Arab Nationalism and the Palestinian cause. Is the Assad regime really the “champion” of the Palestinian cause when it oppresses its own people? How can they be?

(Ray Hanania is an award winning columnist, radio talk show host.

This post has already been read 83 times!

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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